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first of these centuries, and one for about every twenty years during the two succeeding centuries. During the same interval, the English parliament assembles every year, sometimes twice in the year-a contrast which is alone enough to suggest much as to the wide difference between the parliamentary history of France in those times and our own. But the States-General, in common with the English parliament, consisted of clergy, nobles, and commoners -the latter representing what were called the third estate.' The commoners, too, were chosen upon a scheme of suffrage much broader than obtained at that time in England. But experience demonstrated in this case, as it had often done before, and will no doubt often do again, that social institutions of this nature have little chance of keeping their footing, in the face either of a powerful aristocracy, or of a powerful monarchy, except as sustained by a large amount of public intelligence and public virtue. On these occasions, the kings professed themselves willing to hear the grievances of their subjects; and as the condition of obtaining money-grants from the States, promises of better laws, or better regulations, were generally made, which were sometimes remembered, but much more frequently forgotten. The last meeting of the States-General, preceding that which took place a little before the outburst of the first French Revolution, was in 1614. We shall leave Sir James Stephen to state the causes of the failure which had led to this utter disuse of a constitutional polity in France.
From age to age, assemblies of the representatives of the people of that kingdom had but repeated the exhibition of the same imposing, but delusive spectacle. Arrayed in all the theatrical pomp of an ancient monarchy-embellished with the noblest names, and the most illustrious titles-connected, by no doubtful traditions, with the national comitia of Clovis, of Charlemagne, and of St. Louis-elected by a substantially free and an almost universal suffrage, what was wanting to enable the States-General to establish a constitutional government? And yet, what did they really accomplish for the freedom of their nation, during the long centuries in which they had so often been summoned to meet, and to advise, their sovereigns?
'It is to be acknowledged, in their favour, that they constantly and faithfully laid bare the diseases of the realm, and depicted, in the most vivid colours, the wrongs of their constituents-that they pronounced orations of surpassing eloquence-that they gave birth to many brilliant aphorisms-that they recognised the most profound principlesand that they formed and announced the loftiest designs. Nor is that all. They have the further merit of having occasionally made some conquests of constitutional franchises, and of having lent their authority to codes of laws which have immortalized the compilers of them. Their condemnation is, that they left all these diseases unhealed-that
THE STATES-GENERAL-WHY A FAILURE.
their eloquence proved to be at last but so many sonorous declamations that their aphorisms, their principles, and their projects, were gradually relegated from the senate to the schools-that the laws enacted at their instance remained dormant and ineffectual-and that the abuses which they condemned sprang up, after each renewed censure of them, with even greater vigour than before; like so many noxious plants, pruned, but not eradicated.
And whence this continually recurring frustration of so much public spirit, though animated by so much ability, and exerted, as it was, with such assiduous diligence? That public spirit was profitless, because the three orders of the States met there, not as allies, but as antagonists-because the impassable barriers of privilege, and rank, and prejudice, prevented their fusion into one harmonious body, the different members of which could co-operate together for the general good because, on the contrary, the king always found in one or another of those members, a counterpoise against the authority of the rest-because they contentedly acquiesced in the humble office of suggesting and imploring remedies, and left to the king the higher function of enacting, and, therefore, the means of defeating, thembecause the embarrassing multitude and the rhetorical vagueness of their proposals afforded always a pretext, often a justification, for the royal disregard of the greater number of their complaints-because the possession of an usurped, but undisputed, legislative power enabled the king to avoid the meetings of the States-General, except at some great, infrequent, and distant intervals-and because, during the many intervening years in which the representatives of the people exercised no superintendence or control over the executive and legislative government, the French monarchs committed, and the French people expiated, those habitual and grievous faults, from which, in the exercise of unrestrained authority, man never has been exempt, and never will be exempted; unless, indeed, the nature of man himself shall hereafter be delivered from the corruptions and the infirmities to which it has hitherto been in bondage.'-pp. 471-473.
But though the States-General ceased from these causes to exist, our author is far from regarding their labour as having been altogether without effect.
"Are we then to conclude that the States-General were an unprofitable element in the constitution of the French monarchy? Assuredly not. For, first, they moderated and restrained in practice, as well as in theory, the reckless increase, and the prodigal expenditure, of the public revenue. It had been a maxim of the feudal age, that no impost could be lawfully levied on free men except with their own consent; and reverence for that maxim was kept continually alive by the meetings of the representatives of the people, or by the traditions of such assemblies. In process of time, indeed, the kings of France triumphed over this, as well as all the other constitutional principles of earlier generations, and promulgated edicts under which
new imposts were exacted, and old imposts were increased, at the royal pleasure. But in the very plenitude of the power of Louis XIV. such edicts were condemned, even when they were not resisted, as a lawless usurpation.'-pp. 473, 474.
We wish our space would allow of our making our readers acquainted with the substance of the lectures On the Sources and Management of the Revenues of France'-'On the Power of the Purse' and 'On the Wars of Religion' in that country. Among popular fallacies, there is hardly another more prevalent, or more pernicious, than that which presumes on such a vitality in great principles, as to expect to see them triumph independently of a wise and generous fidelity towards them on the part of those who profess them. Truth is imperishable, but we have no guarantee for its proving imperishable in this place or in that. The world may not lose it, but particular communities may lose it utterly. The power of falsehood, aided by circumstances, is often mightier than it. The following are some of the reasons assigned by Sir James Stephen as accounting for the failure of Protestantism as the opponent of despotism in France.
The Calvinistic type which Protestantism assumed in France was alien from the national character. While yet a novelty, indeed, it was also a fashion. To sing the hymns of Marot in the Pré aux Clercs, or to join the multitude which thronged the pulpit of Theodore Beza, was the mode in a country where that capricious power has ever erected the chief seat of her dominion. But, ere long, the national spirit reasserted its indefeasible authority. Turning away from the cold, unimpressive worship of Geneva, the great, the noble, and the rich, followed by the crowd which usually follows them, joined again in theatrical processions to the shrines of their patron saints, and knelt as before around the altars, where the dramatic solemnities of the mass were celebrated amidst clouds of incense, and strains of sacred harmony. In religion, as in everything else, the craving of the French mind for spectacle, for representation, and for effect, is, and ever has been, insatiable.
The Calvinistic system was distinguished from that of all the other reformed churches, by the extent to which it rejected ecclesiastical tradition, and erected the whole superstructure of belief and worship on the Holy Scriptures, as interpreted by Calvin himself. Not content to sever those bonds which, reaching back to the most remote Christian antiquity, should hold together the churches of every age in one indissoluble society, he imposed on his disciples and on their spiritual progeny in all future times, other bonds, wrought by himself from his study of the Bible, and embracing the whole compass, not of theology alone, but of moral philosophy also. His Christian Institutes claimed and acquired for a season, in his Church, an empire resembling that which the logic and ethics of Aristotle had so long enjoyed in the
schools. But Calvin was not an Aristotle. His vivacious, inquisitive, sceptical fellow-countrymen were not schoolmen. Ere many years had passed, they became impatient of the dogmatism even of their great patriarch himself. By attempting to bring all moral science within the sphere of theology, and by converting scientific principles into articles of faith, he had exposed to the attacks of that ingenious and versatile people, a long line of positions, many of which, even when found to be defenceless, could not be abandoned with safety to the rest. The reaction which took place hurried the insurgents from one extreme to the other. Servetus may be said to have at length obtained his revenge. The doctrines for which he died were widely diffused throughout the churches founded by the author of his death. For, in the history of Calvinism in France, we have the most impressive of all illustrations of the truth, that no Christian society can sever itself from the ancient and once universal commonwealth of the Christian Church, except at the imminent risk of sacrificing the essence of Christianity to the spirit of independence. The Socinianism of the later Protestant Church of France was at once the proof of its inherent weakness, and the cause of its further decline.
'It was the error and the misfortune of the French Protestants to confide the conduct of their cause to the Princes of the House of Bourbon. The first of them, Anthony of Navarre, deserted and betrayed it in the visionary hope that the Triumvirate would reward him by the exchange of his nominal crown for a real sovereignty. His brother, Louis de Condé, deserted and betrayed it, in the persuasion, that Catherine would confer upon him the office of lieutenant-general of France. The younger Condé deserted and betrayed it, to rescue his life from the assassins of St. Bartholomew. Henry IV. twice abjured the Protestant creed, first for the preservation of his life, and then for the preservation of his crown. These treacheries of the four Bourbons, whom the Huguenots followed in the civil wars, were only less fatal to their interests than the unrelenting persecutions of the three Bourbons, who successively occupied the French throne between the death of Henry IV. and the accession of Louis XVI.
It is to the persecutions to which the Protestants were exposed from the time of their first appearance in the city of Meaux, till the near approach of the French Revolution, that we must chiefly ascribe their failure to acquire the authority and influence necessary to their propagation of constitutional liberty in France. The story of these persecutions, so merciless, so unrelenting, and so continuous, fills vast volumes which have been dedicated to the memory of the sufferers, by the martyrologists of their own party. It is a story which no man would either willingly read, or repeat, or even abbreviate. It exhibits our common nature in its most offensive aspect. It pervades every era of the French annals. It assumes every conceivable form of cruelty and injustice, and many forms inconceivable to the darkest imagination, unaided by an actual knowledge of those horrible details. If the most terrific act of this prolonged tragedy
was the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the most revolting was the Dragonnades of Louis XIV. Catherine and her son had, at least, the excuse of believing that the enemies they destroyed were dangerous to their own safety, and their offence was not committed under the veil of any eminent devotion. Madame de Maintenon and her husband, on the other hand, neither felt nor affected to feel, any dread of the myriads of helpless victims whom they impoverished, banished, imprisoned, and destroyed. But it was at the bidding of their confessors-with the cordial support of their priesthood-with prayers continually on their lips-and in the name of the Prince of Peace, that they daily offered up these human sacrifices. The blood of the martyrs has, indeed, been the seed of the Church, but not when the hearts of the persecutors have been sufficiently steeled against all lassitude, compunction, and remorse. In almost every part of Europe, which at this day acknowledges the spiritual dominion of the Papacy, the sword, the scourge, the brand, and the axe, wielded by the secular powers, under the guidance of their spiritual advisers, have effectually arrested the progress of the Reformation. In France, those weapons were but too successfully employed by the Houses of Valois and of Bourbon, to crush religious liberty, and with it to eradicate the seeds of constitutional freedom. But they were also, however unconsciously, employed to prepare the way for the convulsions by which two whole generations of mankind have been unceasingly agitated, and by which the Capetian Dynasty has again and again been subverted from its once immovable foundations.'-pp. 147-152.
The seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth lectures are 'On the Power of the Pen in France;' and to many of our readers, these will, no doubt, be the most interesting in the series.
The first lecture is occupied with sketches of the career of Gerbert, Abélard, and St. Bernard-minds which indicate, with marked brilliancy, the science and speculation of the middle age in France. Gerbert, afterwards Pope Silvester, was the Roger Bacon of France; Abélard represents the French Nominalists; Bernard, the Realists; the writings of the former including all the germs of our modern Rationalism-the writings of the latter the germs of our modern mysticism and transcendentalism. James Stephen insists that these speculations, airy or cloudy as they may seem, supplied to the mind of France in those times some of the great principles by which its most practical affairs were more or less regulated; and maintains, under the authority of Cousin, that the two great schools of speculation in those remote times, still divide the thinkers of France between them. On some of the characteristic differences between English and French authorship Sir James Stephen thus writes:
'Every one who is at all conversant with the great writers of France,