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Burke shows that he is ignorant of the springs and principles
of the French Revolution.

It was not against Louis XVI. but against the despotic principles of
the Government, that the nation revolted. These principles had not their
origin in him, but in the original establishment, many centuries back:
and they were become too deeply rooted to be removed, and the Augean
stables of parasites and plunderers too abominably filthy to be cleansed
by anything short of a complete and universal Revolution. When it
becomes necessary to do anything, the whole heart and soul should go
into the measure, or not attempt it. That crisis was then arrived, and
there remained no choice but to act with determined vigor, or not to
act at all. The king was known to be the friend of the nation, and this
circumstance was favorable to the enterprise. Perhaps no man bred up in
the style of an absolute king, ever possessed a heart so little disposed
to the exercise of that species of power as the present King of France.
But the principles of the Government itself still remained the same. The
Monarch and the Monarchy were distinct and separate things; and it was
against the established despotism of the latter, and not against the
person or principles of the former, that the revolt commenced, and the
Revolution has been carried.

Mr. Burke does not attend to the distinction between men and principles,
and, therefore, he does not see that a revolt may take place against the
despotism of the latter, while there lies no charge of despotism against
the former.

The natural moderation of Louis XVI. contributed nothing to alter
the hereditary despotism of the monarchy. All the tyrannies of former
reigns, acted under that hereditary despotism, were still liable to be
revived in the hands of a successor. It was not the respite of a reign
that would satisfy France, enlightened as she was then become. A casual
discontinuance of the practice of despotism, is not a discontinuance of
its principles: the former depends on the virtue of the individual who
is in immediate possession of the power; the latter, on the virtue and
fortitude of the nation. In the case of Charles I. and James II. of
England, the revolt was against the personal despotism of the men;
whereas in France, it was against the hereditary despotism of the
established Government. But men who can consign over the rights of
posterity for ever on the authority of a mouldy parchment, like Mr.
Burke, are not qualified to judge of this Revolution. It takes in
a field too vast for their views to explore, and proceeds with a
mightiness of reason they cannot keep pace with.

But there are many points of view in which this Revolution may be
considered. When despotism has established itself for ages in a country,
as in France, it is not in the person of the king only that it resides.
It has the appearance of being so in show, and in nominal authority; but
it is not so in practice and in fact. It has its standard everywhere.
Every office and department has its despotism, founded upon custom and
usage. Every place has its Bastille, and every Bastille its despot.
The original hereditary despotism resident in the person of the king,
divides and sub-divides itself into a thousand shapes and forms, till
at last the whole of it is acted by deputation. This was the case in
France; and against this species of despotism, proceeding on through
an endless labyrinth of office till the source of it is scarcely
perceptible, there is no mode of redress. It strengthens itself by
assuming the appearance of duty, and tyrannies under the pretence of
obeying.

When a man reflects on the condition which France was in from the nature
of her government, he will see other causes for revolt than those which
immediately connect themselves with the person or character of Louis
XVI. There were, if I may so express it, a thousand despotisms to be
reformed in France, which had grown up under the hereditary despotism
of the monarchy, and became so rooted as to be in a great measure
independent of it. Between the Monarchy, the Parliament, and the
Church there was a rivalship of despotism; besides the feudal despotism
operating locally, and the ministerial despotism operating everywhere.
But Mr. Burke, by considering the king as the only possible object of
a revolt, speaks as if France was a village, in which everything that
passed must be known to its commanding officer, and no oppression could
be acted but what he could immediately control. Mr. Burke might have
been in the Bastille his whole life, as well under Louis XVI. as Louis
XIV., and neither the one nor the other have known that such a man as
Burke existed. The despotic principles of the government were the same
in both reigns, though the dispositions of the men were as remote as
tyranny and benevolence.

What Mr. Burke considers as a reproach to the French Revolution (that of
bringing it forward under a reign more mild than the preceding ones)
is one of its highest honors. The Revolutions that have taken place in
other European countries, have been excited by personal hatred. The rage
was against the man, and he became the victim. But, in the instance of
France we see a Revolution generated in the rational contemplation of
the Rights of Man, and distinguishing from the beginning between persons
and principles.

But Mr. Burke appears to have no idea of principles when he is
contemplating Governments. "Ten years ago," says he, "I could have
felicitated France on her having a Government, without inquiring what
the nature of that Government was, or how it was administered." Is this
the language of a rational man? Is it the language of a heart feeling as
it ought to feel for the rights and happiness of the human race? On
this ground, Mr. Burke must compliment all the Governments in the world,
while the victims who suffer under them, whether sold into slavery, or
tortured out of existence, are wholly forgotten. It is power, and
not principles, that Mr. Burke venerates; and under this abominable
depravity he is disqualified to judge between them. Thus much for his
opinion as to the occasions of the French Revolution. I now proceed to
other considerations.

I know a place in America called Point-no-Point, because as you proceed
along the shore, gay and flowery as Mr. Burke's language, it continually
recedes and presents itself at a distance before you; but when you have
got as far as you can go, there is no point at all. Just thus it is with
Mr. Burke's three hundred and sixty-six pages. It is therefore difficult
to reply to him. But as the points he wishes to establish may be
inferred from what he abuses, it is in his paradoxes that we must look
for his arguments.

As to the tragic paintings by which Mr. Burke has outraged his own
imagination, and seeks to work upon that of his readers, they are
very well calculated for theatrical representation, where facts are
manufactured for the sake of show, and accommodated to produce, through
the weakness of sympathy, a weeping effect. But Mr. Burke should
recollect that he is writing history, and not plays, and that his
readers will expect truth, and not the spouting rant of high-toned
exclamation.

When we see a man dramatically lamenting in a publication intended to be
believed that "The age of chivalry is gone! that The glory of Europe is
extinguished for ever! that The unbought grace of life (if anyone knows
what it is), the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment
and heroic enterprise is gone!" and all this because the Quixot age of
chivalry nonsense is gone, what opinion can we form of his judgment, or
what regard can we pay to his facts? In the rhapsody of his imagination
he has discovered a world of wind mills, and his sorrows are that there
are no Quixots to attack them. But if the age of aristocracy, like that
of chivalry, should fall (and they had originally some connection) Mr.
Burke, the trumpeter of the Order, may continue his parody to the end,
and finish with exclaiming: "Othello's occupation's gone!"

Notwithstanding Mr. Burke's horrid paintings, when the French Revolution
is compared with the Revolutions of other countries, the astonishment
will be that it is marked with so few sacrifices; but this astonishment
will cease when we reflect that principles, and not persons, were the
meditated objects of destruction. The mind of the nation was acted
upon by a higher stimulus than what the consideration of persons could
inspire, and sought a higher conquest than could be produced by the
downfall of an enemy. Among the few who fell there do not appear to be
any that were intentionally singled out. They all of them had their fate
in the circumstances of the moment, and were not pursued with that long,
cold-blooded unabated revenge which pursued the unfortunate Scotch in
the affair of 1745.

Through the whole of Mr. Burke's book I do not observe that the Bastille
is mentioned more than once, and that with a kind of implication as if
he were sorry it was pulled down, and wished it were built up again. "We
have rebuilt Newgate," says he, "and tenanted the mansion; and we have
prisons almost as strong as the Bastille for those who dare to libel the
queens of France."*[2] As to what a madman like the person called Lord
George Gordon might say, and to whom Newgate is rather a bedlam than a
prison, it is unworthy a rational consideration. It was a madman that
libelled, and that is sufficient apology; and it afforded an opportunity
for confining him, which was the thing that was wished for. But certain
it is that Mr. Burke, who does not call himself a madman (whatever other
people may do), has libelled in the most unprovoked manner, and in
the grossest style of the most vulgar abuse, the whole representative
authority of France, and yet Mr. Burke takes his seat in the British
House of Commons! From his violence and his grief, his silence on some
points and his excess on others, it is difficult not to believe that Mr.
Burke is sorry, extremely sorry, that arbitrary power, the power of the
Pope and the Bastille, are pulled down.

Not one glance of compassion, not one commiserating reflection that I
can find throughout his book, has he bestowed on those who lingered out
the most wretched of lives, a life without hope in the most miserable of
prisons.



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