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HISTORY OF FRANCE.
It is strange to find, but impossible not to see, a considerable resemblance between the reign of Louis the Fourteenth and that of the Convention. Both were supreme and terrible dictatorships; the one of a personage who concentrated in himself all the pride, prejudice, and powers of a dominant upper class; the other of the very antipodes in the social scale, of not merely the people, but of the most destitute and reckless of the people—the very dregs, in fact.
It would be difficult to say which was more intolerant or more cruel, the monarch or the mob; for St. Just had reason to plead that the republic sacrificed no more victims than the monarchy. Louis striped, branded, and slaughtered, chiefly the middle and lower class of the south. These, brutalised by his persecutions and proscriptions, took, after a century's lapse, their revenge, the hordes of Marseilles and Avignon bringing
to the capital their frantic taste for bloodshed. dominant passion of the monarchy, military conq was that of the Convention also; and the result same-exulting triumphs followed by menacing reve which demanded of the country to meet them alı its last man and its last coin. The financial exhaus of both periods was the same; in what fashion b ruptcy could be best committed being the problem to their successors by the grand monarch and the ę assembly.
The trade and industry of the country almost as much annihilated at one epoch as at the of Nor was the internal administration very diffei The royal intendants were the conventional comm ries, equally arbitrary; and if not equally oppressiv was because the intendants had merely to press d the weight that already existed, whilst the Conver had to reverse it. This placing of the poor in the 1 tion which the rich had held produced the aggrav horrors of social revolution, the more horrible becau was in some degree called for; each class when it uppermost abusing its power, and effacing the Chri law of fraternity by that of the wild beasts which re each other but as objects of rivalry or prey. Not could be more similar than the principles which actu Louis the Fourteenth and the Convention. Both lieved that they had each the right to dictate the m religious, and political opinions of their subjects. To loyalty was treason to the king, to profess it was tre to the republic. The worship of birth enjoined in epoch was a capital crime in the other. An embroid coat betokened authority at the beginning of the cent rags were the garb of sovereignty in 1792. Bu nothing perhaps did the exaggerated systems come i closely together than in their ultimate consequei which were in both cases to destroy utterly, and re next to impossible, the principles and political sy which they strove to found. Louis the Fourte
strained the sinews of absolute monarchy till they broke. CHAP.
. His successor sate upon the throne, but without force to hold the sceptre.
The convention so degraded and disgraced democratic government, that a free general election at its close would have extinguished the republic at once. The Conventionalists, however, managed to prolong their own reign, and by so doing merely gave time to enable a soldier to found a military empire, in the place of the constitutional one, which might much more easily have been established in 1796 than it was twenty years later.
If the Convention bears such strong resemblance to the most brilliant reign of the monarchy, the likeness between the governments which each begot as its successor is stronger still. The Regency and the Directory are twins. Under both oppressed mankind began to breathe, to talk and to live more freely, yet it was to make no good use of such freedom. The austerity of Louis and the terror of the Convention had suppressed all vice save that of cruelty and servile fear. Society, the moment it was freed from both, rushed into the extreme of dissoluteness and pleasure. Religion, scoffed at one epoch, was proscribed in the other. The Convention had abolished it, as well as the ties of marriage. Barras, the director, was a man of much the same stamp as Cardinal Dubois.
The Luxemburg became a Palais Royal. The fall of assignats, and the attempt to replace or bolster them up, led to jobbery as frantic as that which Law inaugurated. Wealth became the sole aim and worship.
worship. And complete epicureanism succeeded to the fanaticism, religious or antireligious, of the preceding epochs. The epicureanism of the Regency differed indeed from that of the Directory. In the former epoch it was young, sanguine in its inoral and political aspirations; it was looked to as a principle that might regenerate mankind, and save it from bigotry if not from despotism. It produced Voltaire, grew and
CHAP became developed during the progress of the centui
until it broke out in an extravagance and fanaticism its own.
All this had been worn out and evaporat during the terrible experience of the Convention. T epicureanism or disbelief in all things, which follow was no longer the young elastic sentiment of t commencement of the century. It was old, effete, a capable of inspiring little more than a few books drivelling philosophy. As the Convention had destroy all schools and all studies, and as Napoleon himself, wh he reached power, could but establish priests as unec cated as the age throughout the land, its sons continu to hold the revolutionary faith; but it was a negative dead faith, not a living one-that utter distrust of this and men which still continues the character of 1 principal portion of the population. Nothing inde could have vivified the epoch, or reawakened the thusiasm of such a people, save military glory. T Napoleon gave, and by it he came to supersede all ot] idols and all other influence. His history in fact beg where that of the revolution ends, and the image of Five Directors forms but the frontispiece to his roman story.
It has been before remarked that hope was the char teristic of the National Assembly, and fear that of Convention. Its fears indeed often produced the cour of despair. The consciousness that they had m: enemies of all the world, and that any change of n in the legislature or the government must necessai bring punishment upon themselves, impelled them prolong their power, by the decree which rendered compulsory that the old Conventionalists should fo two-thirds, thus constituting the majority of the n assemblies, and consequently should have the power choosing the members of the coming government.
T was indeed put to the vote in the primary assembl But the provinces refrained from voting, believing t
they could not reverse the decisions of Paris. And these were enforced against the express will of its own citizens, who hated the very name of the Convention, by the cannon of Bonaparte.
On the 27th of October, 1795, the members of the new legislature met. Instead of 500 members, the two-thirds, to be chosen from the members of the convention, the elections had returned but 379. As the deputies for the colonies were to retain their seats, 104 new members were left to be chosen by their colleagues. These were of course the dregs of the Convention, which the country refused to name, and of these, “the least bad,” according to the expression of Thibaudeau, were selected. The number of 750 being thus completed, the one-third, consisting of the elder and of the married, were set apart to form the Council of the Ancients, and allowed to occupy the hall of the assembly in the Tuileries. The remaining 500 adjourned to the old Manège, or place of sitting, where the present Rue de Rivoli is situated.*
A more important act than even the completion of the assemblies was the choice of the Five Directors who were to form the new government.
By the constitution the choice lay with the Council of the Ancients, out of a list presented by the Cinq Cents. These agreed to place at the top of the list the five of their own selection, and name after them the most obscure and incapable members of the Convention, such as the ancients could not approve. All, they resolved, should be regicides, and yet not members of the old terrorist committees. The men they fixed upon were La Reveillere Lepaux, Barras, Rewbell, Sièyes, and Letourneur. La Reveillere, deformed, studious, and retiring, was the philosopher of the party; he was one of the seventy-three expelled from the Convention for
* Moniteur, Thibaudeau