Page images
[ocr errors]

and your own names surpass in splendour the names of those whom you have rendered illustri,

What glory ever equalled that of Homer, whose poësy served to regulate the ancient Republics of Greece, and whose genius, after a lapse of twenty-six centuries, still continues to preside among us over Literature, over the fine Arts, over Theatres and over Academies.

Art thou, after all, but an obscure peasant doomed to the culture of the ground? O! reflect that thou exercisest the most noble, the most lovely, the most necessary, the most sacred of all Arts, seeing it is the Art of GOD himself. But if that poison of glory, instilled from infancy into all conditions of men among us by the principle of emulation, is fermenting in thy veins; if the vain applause of inen is necessary to thee, in the midst of thy peaceful orchards: meditate on the endless succession of woes which follow in the train of glory, the envy of the little, the jealousy of equals, the perfidy of the great, the intolerance of

corps, the neglect and indifference of Kings. Meditate on the fate of those men whom I have prodụced as instances of persons who have merited the best of their country and of posterity; on the head of Cicero, cut off by his own client Popinius Lena, and nailed to that very pulpit which he had dignified by his eloquence; on Demosthenes, pursued by order of the Athenians whom he had defended against Phi, lip, as far as the temple of Neptune in the island of Calauria, and hastening to swallow poison, to find in death a refuge more certain than altars could afford. Think on the poniard which stab, bed to death one of the Medicis in that very City


which they had loaded with benefits; on the irons which bound Christopher Columbus on returning from his second Voyage to the New World, and which in his dying moments he ordered to be put into the tomb with him as a monument of the ingratitude of the Princes to whom he had rendered a service so magnificent; on Galileo in the prisons of the inquisition, obliged to retract on his knees the sublime truth which he had demonstrated; on Homer, blind and a mendicant, singing from door to door his sublime Poems, among those very Greeks who were one day to trace up to them the origin of their Laws, and of their most illustrious Repub. lics. Look at Poussin in his country, France, crowned with glory all over Europe, his own country excepted, forced to seek in a foreign land consideration and bread; at Descartes a fugitive in Sweden, after having illumined his Country with the first rays of Philosophy; at Fenelon exiled into his Diocese, for having loved GOD more than his Ministers, and Nations more than Kings. In a word, represent to thyself that innumerable multitude of illustrious and unfortunate men who, torn in secret by the very calumnies of their own professed friends, languished in poverty and contempt, and without having so much as the consolation be pitied, had the mortification of beholding the honours and rewards due to themselves bestowed on most unworthy rivals. Then thou wilt bless thy obscurity which permitteth thee at last to reap the fruit of thy labours with the esteem of the vicinity; to rear a guiltless offspring under the shade of thy orchards, to attain, in a life so tempestuous, the only portion of happiness which Nature has allotted

to Man. While the storm breaks in pieces the cedar on the summit of the mountain, the herbage escapes the fury of the winds, and flourishes in peace at the bottom of the valley.


THE Nation is formed of the harmony of the three Orders, of the Clergy, of the Nobility and of the People, under the influence of the King, who is the Moderator of it. The deputies of these three orders are now met in the National Assembly, in the proportion nearly of 30of for the Clergy, of 300 for the Nobility, and of 600 for the People.

As the two first orders have for several ages united their interests, they may be considered as forming a single body which balances that of the People: from this therefore result two powers which re-act against each other, and whose counterpoise is necessary, as has been said, to the harmony of every modern Government. The King then is enabled to hold the monarchical balance in equilibrium, by casting his power into the popular scale, in case the Clergy and Nobility should discover a tendency, toward Aristocracy; or into that of the two first Orders, should the People incline toward Democracy, On this hypothesis, I have compared the State to a Roman balance; the two powers, to two levers of unequal magnitude ; and Royalty to the noveable weight on the longer lever, for the purpose of ascertaining the quantity weighed. VOL. IV.



We have considered the People, from superiority in point of number, as representing the longer arm of the balance, and the Clergy with the Nobility the shorter; but this small arm possesses a weight so powerful, that the effect of the greater is reduced to nothing, unless the King press on that side. On the side of the Clergy and Nobility are the ecclesiastical and military dignities and benefices, the better part of the lands of the kingdom, the disposal of all employments, and even the influence of Parliaments, those ancient fathers of the people, as well as the inclinations of multitudes of plebeians who aspire after approximation to the first by the acquisition of Nobility, or who suffer themselves to be enthralled by the hope of protection, and by the respect simply which high birth commands.

If the power of the People, whose number is at least forty times as considerable as that of the Clergy ånd Nobility, has been diminishing from age to age, so as to lose all it's prerogatives, and it's equi. librium against their united power, I conclude that the Deputies of the People are not sufficiently numerous in the National Assembly, in which they are only equal in number to those of the other Orders.

It is indeed computed that in the body of the Clergy, the parochial incumbents will incline towards the Deputies of the Commons, from the ties of blood; but will they not rather be disposed to incline toward their Bishops, from the ties of interest? Does not the spirit of corps generally absorb thatof family? The Deputies of the Commons then have nothing to oppose to the Deputies of the two


first Orders, except the misery of twenty millions of men, or the despair which results from it.

They can balance the sentiment of interest in those corps only by the sentiment of the interest of the People, on which the public safety depends. Thus whether they vote as an order or individually, the struggle is unequal on their part; for they have reason to fear on the part of the other two Orders, the loss of votes from the attractions of fortune, whereas they have no hopes of gaining any but by those of virtue.

We have compared the State to a tree, of which the particular corps diverged into branches, and of which the People constituted the trunk. We have seen that the more the branches are multiplied, the more the trunk is enfeebled: but if, by a monstrosity of which Nature exhibits no example, the branches were more powerful than the trunk itself, the fall of that tree must be very easily effected.

In order to render still more sensible the harmony necessary to the different members of the State, I shall employ an image now of very ancient standing. The Nation may be represented as a ship; the People, with their labours, their arts and their commerce, is the hull of it, loaded with the naval stores, the provisions and the merchandize, of which the cargo constitutes the object of the voyage. To the hull must be proportioned all the other parts of the ship. The Nobility may be considered as the batteries which defend it; the Clergy as the nasts and sails which put and keep it in motion the opinions political, moral and religious, as the




« PreviousContinue »