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in such cases, he read himself nearly to death. His health was partially restored by a journey in Switzerland, during which he made some efforts to commit his impressions to paper; but his enthusiasm was too buoyant to be thus fixed, and he had not sufficient command over his own feelings. Next he went to England, in the suite of the ambassador, (the Count of Lucerne,) a very likely way of taming any excess of spirits. With England he was displeased, as most foreigners, and especially most Frenchmen, may well be on short acquaintance. Yet his penetrating mind fully appreciated the strong common sense of the English people; and the contrast which he subsequently drew between the political clubs of London and those of Paris, was not at all flattering to his countrymen. It was not till 1790 that he established himself at Paris, and applied himself seriously to poetic composition. The state of public affairs soon turned his talents in another direction. The Friends of the Constitution, afterwards so formidable as the Jacobins, had in their progress towards anarchy, eliminated from themselves a number of moderate men, among whom were De Pauge and Condorcet. The result was the Society of 1789, a society whose object was pretty well indicated by its title. Chénier joined these men, and to him as the best or boldest, or both, of their writers, was the task assigned of putting forth an official statement of their principles, of “defining their position,” as our phrase is. This he did in an essay on the momentous question, “Who are the real enemies of the French " He begins with a graphic sketch of the condition of France at that time:–
“When a great nation, after having grown #. in careless error, wearied at length of evils and oppression, wakes from this long lethargy, and by a just and lawful insurrection enters upon all its rights, and overturns the order of things which violated all those rights, it cannot in an instant find itself calmly established in its new condition. The strong impulse given to so weighty a mass, makes it vacillate for some time before it can recover its equilibrium. After all that is bad has been destroyed, and those charged with the execution of reforms are pursuing their work in haste, we must not hope that a people still heated with emotion, and exalted by success, can stay quiet and wait peace
ably for the new government that is preparing for them. All imagine they have acquired the right of co-operating in the government, and demand the exercise of that right with an unreasonable impatience. Every one wishes, not merely to assist and protect, but even to preside over a part, at least, of the fabric; and as the general interest of these partial reforms is not so striking to the multitude, their unanimity is less thorough and active. The number of feet retards the general progress; the number of arms, the general action. “In this state of uncertainty, politics take hold of every mind. All other labors are suspended; all the old-fashioned kinds of industry are banished; men's heads are heated; they originate ideas, or follow those of others; they pursue them; they see nothing else; the patriots who at first made but one body, because they looked to but one end, begin to discover differences, in most cases imaginary, among themselves; every one labors and struggles; every one wishes to show himself; every one would carry the flag; every one in his principles, his speeches, his actions, wishes to go beyond all others. -k sk + + *k *k * *
“These agitations, provided that a new order of things, wisely and promptly established, does not give them time to go too far, may not be injurious, nay, may turn out a public benefit, by exciting a sort of patriotic emulation; and if while all this is going on, the nation is enlightening and fashioning itself by really liberal principles; if the representatives of the people are not interrupted in the work of forming a constitution; and if the whole political machine is tending towards a good government, all these trifling inconveniences will vanish of themselves, and there is no cause for alarm. But if we see that, far from disappearing, the germs
of political hatred are of deeper root; if we
see grave accusations and atrocious imputations multiplied at random ; if we see everywhere a false spirit and false principles working blindly, as if by some fatality, in the most numerous class of citizens; if we see at the same moment in every corner of the empire illegal insurrections brought on in the same manner, founded on the same misapprehensions, defended by the same sophistries; if we see frequent appearances in arms on the part of that lowest class of the people, who, understanding nothing, having nothing, possessing no interest in anything, can only sell themselves to whoever will buy them; then such symptoms must be alarming.”
Here was enough to fix upon Chénier the fatal enmity of the Jacobins. What, the “poor and virtuous people” that Robespierre delighted to prate about, ready to “sell themselves to whoever would buy them " The young conservative was a doomed man already. He goes on to say that such a deplorable state of things must be owing to the machinations of some public enemies. Who are these enemies? Not the Austrians, fatigued and exhausted by their own wars; nor the English, “that nation about which the Parisians talk so much and know so little;” nor yet the emigrants. These last have been influenced by fear, prejudice and ignorance. The surest way to bring ... them back and make them good citizens is to present such a spectacle of order and tranquillity as will show them that their fears and prejudices are unfounded. But even admitting their hostility, what can such a faction accomplish if the State is united 2 And this leads to the first conclusion, that the real public enemies are those causes which prerent the re-establishment of public tranquillity. Now what are these , causes 2. “Everything that has been done in this revolution, good or bad, is owing to writings : in them, perhaps, then, we shall find the source of the evils that threaten us.” And, accordingly, he proceeds to show that these public enemies are the encouragers and apologists of popular ercesses. After a hasty summary of these excesses, he exclaims, with a natural and virtuous indignation—“And to think that there are writers blood-thirsty or cowardly enough to come forward as the }. and excusers of these murders' at they dare to abet them That they dare to point out this and that victim ' That they have the audacity to give the name of popular justice to these horrible violations of all justice and all law To be sure, the power of hanging, like all other powers, is ultimately referable to the people, but it is a frightful thing, if this is the only power which they are not willing to exercise by their representatives.” Then follow several pages of just and powerful invective against “those people to whom all law is burdensome, all restraint insupportable, all rule odious; people for whom an honest life is the most oppressive of yokes' They hated the old government, not because it was bad, but because it was a government; they will hate the new ; they will hate all, whatever
* Equally true this, at the present day,
be their nature.” How accurately Chénier foresaw what would be the consequence of giving in to these people may be seen from the following extract –
“Now, as I was saying, is it not evident that, on the one hand, the workmen and day-laborers of every class, who only live by constant and steady work, abandoning themselves to this turbulent indolence, will no longer be able to gain a subsistence, and before long, stimulated by hunger, and the rage which hunger inspires, will only think of seeking for money wherever they imagine it may be found On the other hand, it is hardly necessary to say that the farms and workshops thus abandoned will cease to be capable of supplying that income of individuals which alone makes the public income. No more taxes then ; consequently no more public service; consequently the upper classes reduced to misery o despair; the army disbanded and pillaging the country; the infamy of a ..". ruptcy accomplished and declared; the citizens all in arms against each other. No more taxes; consequently no more government; the National Assembly obliged to abandon its task, and put to flight; universal slaughter and conflagration; provinces, towns, and individuals mutually accusing one another of their common disasters; France torn to pieces by the convulsions of this incendiary anarchy.”
There was no want of respectable persons to laugh at these alarms and pity the alarmists. Chénier has a word for these :
“I should like these persons, for our entire satisfaction, to deign to take pen in hand, and prove that these fermentations, these tempests, these continued pangs, have not the tendency which I attributed to them ; that they do not produce a spirit of insubordination and want of discipline; or, if they please, that this spirit is not the most formidable enemy of law and liberty. I should like them also to show us what will become of France, if the bulk of the French people, wearied of their own indiscretions and the anarchy resulting from them, wearied of never arriving at the goal which they have themselves continually put further off should come to believe that liberty is only to be found in disgust of liberty, and, as the remembrance of former evils is readily effaced, should end by regretting their old yoke of quiet degradation.”
this they mean that courage, activity and union are as necessary to preserve liberty as to win it, nothing is more incontrovertible or more irrelevant; but if they understand that in both cases this courage, and activity, and union, are to manifest themselves in the same way and by the same actions, they are very much mistaken. The very contrary is the truth, for in destroying and overthrowing a colossal and unjust power, the more ardent and headlong our courage the more certain our success. But afterwards, when our ground is cleared and we have to rebuild on extensive and durable foundations, when we must make after having unmade, then our courage should be the very reverse of what it was at first. It should be calm, prudent and deliberate; it should manifest itself only in wisdom, tenacity and patience; it should fear to resemble those torrents which ravage without fertilizing. Hence it follows that the means which accomplished the Revolution, if they continue to be employed without addition or qualification, can only destroy its efficiency by hindering the constitution from being established. Hence again it follows that those wild pamphleteers, those unruly demagogues, who, enemies, as we have seen, of all government and all restraint, thundered against old abuses at the beginning of the Revolution, were then right enough,” for they found themselves for the moment united with all honest men in proclaiming the truths which have made us free; but that now they ought not to claim our confidence as a debt, or accuse our want of attention as a want of gratitude, while in using the Same expressions and the same declamations against an absolutely new order of things, they are preaching an entirely different doctrine, which would conduct us to a different end.”
What remedies and safeguards are to be adopted 2 Popular errors are apt to arise from ignorance, rather than deliberate wickedness. The real principles of civil liberty must be carefully inculcated. Here are some of the things which every citizen ought to know and feel:—
“That there can be no happiness and freedom in society without government and public order.
“That there can be no private wealth, unless the public revenue, or in other words, the public wealth, is secure.
“That the public wealth cannot be secure without public order.
“That, while in despotic states a blind
* An application of the same principle explains what has puzzled some good men—how Protestants
may consistently join with skeptics in opposing the abuses of the Romish Church, where Romanism is the prevailing religion.
obedience to the caprices of despots is called public order, under a free constitution founded on the national sovereignty, public order is the only safeguard of persons and property, the only support of the constitution. “That there is no constitution, unless all the citizens are freed from every illegal restraint, and cordially united to bear the yoke of the law—a yoke always light when all bear it equally. “That every respectable nation respects itself. “That every nation which respects itself respects its own laws and magistrates. “That there is no liberty without law. “That there is no law if one part of society, be it the majority or not, can forcibly assail and attempt to overthrow the former general wish which has made a law, without waiting for the times and observing the forms indicated by the constitution. “That, as M. de Condorcet has very well shown in a late publication, when the constitution gives a legal way of reforming a law which experience has shown to be faulty, insurrection against a law is the greatest crime of which a citizen can be guilty; for he thereby dissolves society so far as in him lies, and this is the real crime of treason. . “That there is no liberty if all do not obey the law, and if any one is obliged to obey anything except the law and its agents. “That no one ought to be arrested, searched, examined, judged, or punished, except according to law and by the agents of the law. “That the law is only applicable to actions, and that all inquisitions upon opinions and thoughts are no less violations of liberty when exercised in the name of the people, than when exercised in the name
If these brief sentences had been written at the present day; if they had appeared, for instance, in an article of the Courier and Enquirer, or our own Review, against the anti-renters, while it could not be denied that they expressed sound political views in a bold and forcible manner, it might be said that they contained nothing very striking or remarkable, but were only a succinct and vigorous statement of what all honest and sane men believed, But composed, as they were, at a period when of the two great experiments whence we derive most of our political experience, the one was just beginning and the other had not had time to work; a period when the majority of reformers and philosophers thought with Jefferson, that “the old system of government had been tried long enough,” and the only escape from it was to rush into the opposite extreme of no government at all except the temporary will of an occasional majority, they denote uncommon sagacity and foresight, and prove that Chénier had the head of a statesman no less than the heart of a patriot. Most particularly worthy of notice is the clearness of his financial views, and the accuracy with which he traced the connection between private and public wealth. It was then a favorite delusion, that the nation might be bankrupt without affecting the fortunes of individuals. The great hero and apostle of democratic des: potism who rose out of the Revolution, fell into the contrary error of supposing that the public treasury might continue to be recruited by the appropriation of private capital, not seeing that, to use an ancient but apposite illustration, he was thus killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. It was reserved for a still more modern democracy to invent a still wiser and honester financial expedient—that of repudiating the obligations, while they enjoy the acquisitions, of past generations. o The Apis au Francais made a great sensation, which was not confined to France. Two circumstances will show the extent and force of its influence. The Polish king Stanislaus Augustus, caused it to be translated into his language, and sent a token of his esteem to the author, who returned a letter of thanks: of course, the friends of the Constitution were still more amiably disposed to him, after this royal correspondence. And Condorcet, finding that he could no longer take the lead in the Society of 1789, broke up that association so far as lay in his power, and went straight over to the Jacobins. Chenier's reputation emboldened him to present himself in the following year, (1791,) as a candidate for the assembly; but, as might have been predicted of a man so independent and so much beyond his age, he was unsuccessful. After this he continued to attack and
expose the Jacobins in the Journal de Paris, a paper professedly neutral, and publishing communications on any side as paid advertisements, but edited by men of a conservative leaning. The Jacobins were not slow to answer their bold assailant. They set upon him his own brother, Maril Joseph, the youngest of the four, who had by some means been inveigled into their ranks. The discussion, which lasted several months and was only broken off at the urgent entreaties of the rest of the family, displayed at the outset, but did not long preserve, the moderation and delicacy demanded by the uncommon position of the parties. The two brothers all but O'Connellized each other. They applied to each other's writings the epithet of infamous, then a pet word in the vocabulary of the French journalists, and more usually merited than such pet words generally are. How Joseph Chenier came to take sides with the Jacobins, is not perfectly clear. It seems probable that they flattered his vanity, and made him half believe that his brother's opposition was attributable to envy and jealousy. For when most angry with André, his bitterest taunt is to remind him of the election for deputies. A very young man among Democrats may be pardoned for supposing that office and honor are synonymous, and not reflecting that where merit is no longer the test of advancement, the correlative mentioned by Sallust is unavoidable.* If, however, the leading Jacobins supposed, that by getting up this personal issue they had succeeded in diverting or weakening Andre Chenier's attacks upon them, they were very much mistaken. In the winter of 1792, an event occurred, which, by eminently exposing them to his ridicule, specially o him out for their vengeance. Two years before, a Swiss regiment had been condemned to the galleys for mutiny. Their offences were gross and unequivocal : they had refused to swear to the Constitution, plundered the regimental chest, and fired upon the National Guard. But General Bouillé, against whom they then revolted, had now proved a traitor to
* “Verum ex his magistratus et imperia, postremo omnis cura rerum publicarum minime mihi hac tempestate capiunda videntur quoniam neque virtuti honos datur, neque illi quibus per fraudem is fuit, utique tuti auteo magis homesti sunt.”—Sallust, Bell. Jug., Cap. 3.
the popular cause. spite against him, the Swiss were pardoned ; on motion of Collot d'Herbois, the amnesty was changed into a triumph ; a fête was given to the liberated culprits, and Pétion, as mayor of Paris, presided at it. The intense absurdity of the affair threw into the shade its injustice and danger; and Chenier was not the man to let any of this absurdity be lost. He satirized and ridiculed the Jacobins in prose and verse. He sketched a plan for the new ovation —
“The Romans used to engrave on brass the names of those generals to whom they granted a triumph, and their titles to so great an honor. I suppose the city of Paris will follow this example, and the happy witnesses of the triumphal entry will read inscribed on the car of victory :
. . For having revolted with arms in their hands, and replied to the reading of the National Assembly’s decree which recalled them to their duty," that they persisted in their revolt;’
“For having been declared guilty of high treason by a decree of the National Assembly, Aug. 16, 1790;
“For having plundered the regimental chest;
“‘For having spoken these memorable words: We are not Frenchmen; we are Swiss; we must have money; “For having fired upon the National Guards of Metz and other places, who marched to Nancy in accordance with the decrees of the National Assembly.’”
And he proceeds, with unanswerable irony:
“General Bouillé deceived all France and its representatives. None but these Swiss soldiers penetrated his bad designs. They saw that he would take the first opportunity to become a perjured traitor. Accordingly they took up arms against him, and made sure of the regimental chest, for fear this money, falling into his less patriotic hands, should serve the purposes of the counter-revolutionists.
“Since General Bouillé has shown himself a cowardly and treacherous enemy of his country, it is clear that those who fired on him, and on the French citizens marching under his orders by virtue of a decree of the National Assembly, cannot but be excellent patriots.
“In every criminal case there can be but one culpable party. For example, when a murdered man is proved to have been a rogue, it is evident that his murderer must be an honest man.”
The only reply Collot d'Herbois and his myrmidons could make, was to charge Chénier with being hired by the Court,
In a fit of childish
and to threaten him with assassination— two excellent radical arguments. Chenier had already drawn a portrait of the Jacobin Club, too faithful not to provoke their fiercest indignation. This sketch was published in the supplement to the Journal de Paris, February 26, 1792, just a month before the letter from which we have been quoting:—
“There exists in the midst of Paris a numerous association, holding frequent meetings, open to all who are, or pretend to be, patriots, always governed by leaders visible or invisible, who are continually changing and mutually destroying one another, but who have always the same object—the supreme power; and the same intention—to get that power by whatever means. This society, formed at a moment when liberal principles, though sure to triumph, were not }. completely established, necessarily attracted a great number of citizens who were filled with alarm and warmly attached to the good cause. Many of these had more zeal than knowledge. With them glided in many hypocrites; so did many people who were in debt, without industry, poor through their own indolence, and seeing something to hope for in any change. Many wise and just inen who know that in a well regulated State all the citizens do not attend to public affairs, while all ought to attend to their private affairs, have since retired from it; whence it follows that this association must be chiefly composed of some skilful players, who arrange the cards and profit by them, of some subordinate intriguers with whom an habitual eagerness for mischief takes the place of talent, and a large number of idlers, honest, but ignorant and short-sighted, incapable of any bad intention themselves, but very capable of forwarding the bad intentions of others without knowing it.
“This society has generated an infinity of others; towns, boroughs, and villages are full of them. They are almost all under the orders of the parent society, with which they keep up a most active correspondence. It is a body in Paris and the head of a larger body &o. over France. In the same way did the Church of Rome plant the faith, and govern the world by its congregations of monks.
“This system was imagined and expected two years ago by men of great popularity, who saw very well that it was a means of increasing their power and preserving their popularity, but did not see how perilous an instrument it was. So long as they ruled these societies, all the errors there committed met their warmest approbation; but since they have been blown up by this mine of their own kindling, they detest the excesses which are no longer to their profit, and, talking more truth without possess