William O'Connor Morris.

The French revolution and first empire : an historical sketch online

. (page 23 of 26)
Online LibraryWilliam O'Connor MorrisThe French revolution and first empire : an historical sketch → online text (page 23 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of Wellington does not rest on the campaign of 181 5 as
a whole ; his real title to renown depends on the ad-
mirable sagacity with which he perceived the weak point
in Napoleon's strategy, and illustrated a discovery, big
with great results, by his memorable defence of Torr©s

1815. The Hundred Days. 273

Napoleon abdicated after the rout of


Waterloo, the French Chambers, already
hostile, rising against him in the hour of disaster ; and
before long he was on his way to the last scene of his
eventful history, the solitary island of St. Helena. France,
trodden under foot by the allied hosts, accepted the Bour-
bons in 181 5, as she had accepted them the year before;
but though Louis XVIII. was a sagacious ruler, such a
dynasty could not become permanent. A sudden heave
of the revolutionary forces which, though long quiescent,
retained life, deprived Charles X. of his crown ; and a
Constitutional Monarchy was set up in his stead, in favor
of the son of the Duke of Orleans, the Royal Jacobin
of 1793. This government, of which the chief feature
was a corrupt and weak parliamentary system, met the
fate of its immediate forerunner, and it was followed by
a short-lived Republic, which, after agitating Europe in
1848, perished unlajnented in 1851. Long before this
time the great name of Napoleon had regained its magi-
cal power in France, and the nephew of the departed
conqueror, a grandson of the divorced Josephine, was
raised to the throne as Emperor of the French, assuming
the title of Napoleon III. The Second Empire was a
feeble image of the first, without the military genius of
its chief; and it disappeared in the great war of 1870, in
which Prussia, heading a united Germany, more than
avenged the disaster of Jena, and has torn from France
Alsace and Lorraine, spared in 1814 and 181 5. A pro-
visional Republic has been since in power, its history
marked by a national defence as gallant as that of 1793,
but less noticed because a failure, and by a terrific out-
break of Jacobin frenzy which awed Europe in 1871 ; but
this settlement is felt to be only for a time ; and France
remains torn by revolutionary troubles kept under only

274 The Hundred Days. ch. xv.

by the power of the sword in the hands of a soldier brave
indeed, but not a chief of the first order. The general
results of these events, which all run up to 1789-1815,
are that Government in France is never secure, and that
the nation appears to have lost some essential elements
of general welfare ; and though the great convulsion of
the last century is not the only, it certainly is a principal
cause of this evil disorder. If the material progress of
France, too, since the fall of Feudalism has been im-
mense, there has been no corresponding moral improve-
ment ; and if, within the memory of living man, she
swayed Europe from the Tagus to the Baltic, her military
reverses have since that time been awful, and the Tri-
color has been plucked down from Metz and Strasburg,
which once floated on Madrid and Moscow. The conse-
quences of the Revolution outside France, have been, on
the whole, more fruitful of good ; they have tended to
civilization and national progress, but they have been
accompanied all over Europe by frightful wars and
general disturbance ; and we see the evils in the prodi-
gious armaments and fierce animosities of the Continent,
and in the disregard of the rights of the weak, and the
ignoble flattery of force and success, too characteristic
of modern politics. We end as we began ; it is at least
doubtful whether the mischief done by the French Revo-
lution does not preponderate over its benefits. The
greatest of English historians remarked, a few years
before 1789, that the era of wars seemed about to close,
and that Europe would be for all time secure from the
barbarism of the savage hordes which had overturned
Imperial Rome. What would Gibbon have said had he
lived to witness Borodino, Leipsic, Waterloo, Sedan, and
the atrocities of the Reign of Terror, and of the Com-
mune of Paris in 1871 !






Among the things which most astonished Arthui
Young, as he looked upon the first stir of the French
Revolution, he notes, especially, the flood of Revolution-
ary literature issuing from the press.

From that day to this that stream has continued — ■
growing less in breadth, but greater in depth, until its
volume is enormous.

In all this great current four phases may be clearly

The first of these includes the works of the Philoso-
phers of the Eighteenth Century, and the whole mass of
writings by those interested in the Revolution, down to
the overthrow of the Triumvirate in 1794. The main
characteristic of this literature, of whatever tendency,
is clearness of conviction and earnestness of purpose.
From Voltaire defending Calas, to Marat clamorous for

2 7S

276 Appendix.

Lafayette's head, it is a militant literature — ^looking back~
ward to some principles and forward to some policy.

In all this period there is little attempt at writing trea-
tises strictly historical. The first series of the history by
Deux Amis de la Liberie, and that by Rabaut are the
only histories of importance, and these are thoroughly
tinged by the earnest spirit of the time.

The second phase extends from the downfall of the
Triumvirate to the death of Louis XVIII. in 1824. This
is the first reaction, — the period of hopes crushed, of il-
lusions lost, of grudges to be fed, of disgust taking refuge
in luxury and ceremony and cynicism ; and by this the
literature of the times is thoroughly tainted. There is no
historian of the Revolution during this period who
reaches the first rank, and few who reach the second.
Lacretelle and Montgaillard are the best the time affords.

The third phase extends from the accession of Charles
X. in 1824, — through the Revolution of 1830, — to the
Revolution of 1848. This is the time of reaction against
reaction ; dislike of the monarchy has revived, justice
begins to be done to many Revolutionists, and, often,
more than justice. Disappointed old statesmen and
ambitious young politicians see that here is a current
which may carry them to power, — that deification of the
military genius of Hoche, or Moreau, or Bonaparte, is
the best means of bringing contempt on the memory of
Louis XVIII. , who could not mount on horseback, — that
deification of the patriotic devotion of Lafayette, and
Bailly, and Condorcet, is the best means of bringing
contempt on Charles X., who is the incarnation of dynas-
tic views as opposed to patriotic, — that deification of the
patriotic enthusiasm of Mirabeau, and Vergniaud, and
Danton, is the best means of bringing contempt on
Louis Philippe, who is cold and shrewd, — and, finallyi

Appendix. 277

that by glorifying the strength, and stir, and triumphs,
and disasters of the Revolution, they can best bring con-
tempt upon the common-place hum-drum Bourbon and
Orleans Restoration.

Therefore, this is by far the richest period in brilliant
histories, and among their authors are such as Mignet,
Thiers, Guizot, Louis Blanc, Michelet, Henri Martin
Barante, and Quinet. In almost all these there is a
tendency to pamphleteering ; party spirit runs high, and
the roots of parties strike down into the Revolution, still
every one of these men has too much regard for the
position of a historian to sink into the mere party attor-
ney. Whatever partizanship there may be is generally
compensated by a clearness in drawing and vigor in
color, which enables us to get at the truth all the better.

The next phase extends from the Revolution of 1848
to the present day. It is not the time of great histories.
There has been a surfeit of glowing pictures and dra-
matic effects ; new men have taken pens ; the old party
struggles have comparatively little personal bearing ; it
is the period of close study of particular events and in-
dividuals, of revision of judgments made in anger or
enthusiasm, of search for exactness and fairness ; and
of the writers who best represent the historical research
of this period are such as De Tocqueville, Mortimer
Ternaux, Janet, Lanfrey and Von Sybel.

Of course, these phases are not absolutely defined divi-
sions. There are many cross-currents of thought, and
many counter-currents ; there appeared some cool, in-
triguing writings in the hottest period of the Revolution,
and some filled with a true enthusiasm during the Restora-
tion ; treatises aiming at judicial fairness appeared before
1848, and treatises brilliant in party advocacy have
appeared since ; but the whole body of historical litera-

278 Appendix.

ture of the Revolution is unquestionably divided, as has
been stated.

The following bibliographical sketch has been prepared
to give useful hints to those who seek profit or pleasure
in studying a period which a very thoughtful writer has
pronounced "the best worth studying since the Crusades.
This sketch may be thought, by some, to omit too much ;
to such I would say that my aim is to give a practical aid,
not an exhaustive treatise. Some may think that this
sketch includes too much ; to such, when I say that my
own collection alone, of works relating to the Revolution,
numbers more than six thousand titles, it will, perhaps,
appear that less than the present number was hardly to
be expected.

The period treated has been narrowed to its smallest
limits, beginning at the events immediately leading to
the calling of the States-General, and ending with the

The historical works named are mainly those of recog-
nized value.

As to Memoirs, but few have been named. A student
who reads any of the standard histories will find in them
the best clews to this part of the Revolution Literature.

As to newspapers, I have given a small selection of the
most influential. The names of others can be iound in
Hatin or Gallois.

As to rare or curious works, only those have been
named which throw especial light into leading events and

Cornell University, Feb., 187s •

Appendix, «79


A-LISON, Sir Archibald. History of Europe. (first
Series, 1789 to 181 5. Second Series, 181 5 to 1852.)
The American edition, though wretchedly inferior to the
English in paper and print, is worth more to the American
reader on account of the valuable notes upon Alison's treat-
ment of American questions.

This work presents everything from the High Tory point of
view; but is as judicially fair as it can be under such circum-
stances. It is full in matter, honest in treatment, and in the
main, clear in style.

A student who has not access to Arthur Young's travels, and
the leading memoirs, will find the summary in the first volume
well worth reading. The later parts have also a considerable
value, at times, from the direct acquaintance of the author with
so many men and events of the period studied.

Blanc, Louis. Hist, de la Revolution Frangaise.

Paris. 12 vols., 8vo. The introduction and a portion

of the first part have been translated and republished

in the United States.

The introduction covers much ground, and is very brilliant
at times in its treatment of events which even very remotely
helped to bring on the Revolution.

The study of details in the history itself is very careful, but
their presentation as a whole is none the less readable. The
studies of character, especially in the days of the Triumvirate,
are admirable. No other writer has, for example, given so
striking a portrait of Robespierre. Despite its socialistic bias
it is the most fascinating history of the Revolution, save Car-
lyle's. The account of the downfall of Robespierre and his
associates, is, doubtless, what its author claims it to be — the
most complete in existence.

Brewer, Rev. Dr., of Trinitv Hall, Cambridge. Po-
litical, Social, and Literary History of France brought
down to the middle of the Year 1871. Lond. i2mo.

28o Appendix.

A sort of lift for the lazy ; and, as such, perhaps, not without
its uses. Its main design, as hinted in the preface, is to aid
candidates for the military, civil service, and Oxford local ex-
aminations. It would be of use to any student in reviewing
extended courses of reading in French histoiy. But it is too
much of the potted meat and desiccated vegetable sort for good
mental digestion under ordinary circumstances.

BucHEZ AND Roux. Histoire Parlementaire de la Revo-
lution Franyaise, ou Journal des Assemblees Nation-
ales depuis 1789, jusqu'en, 1815. 40 vols., Svo.
This is not only a good narration of events, but is the most
important by far among the collections of historical materials
for the Revolutionaiy history. It gives the proceedings of the
Assemblies, Societies and Clubs, with copious extracts from their
discussions, the doings, regular and irregular, of the Commune
and the Tribunal, and keeps the student in the current of the
times by large citations from newspapers, pamphlets, reports,

Carlyle, while jeering at its generalizations, gives it very
high praise as a mass of skillfully arranged material.

Carlyle, Thomas. History of the French Revolution.

(Various forms and editions.)

A prose poem, full of its author's merits and defects, — pro-
bably his most brilliant work, — not just, not complete, — yet
some of his judgments seem inspired, and many of his pictures
are marvellous. As, for example, the death of Louis XV., and
the flight of Louis XVI. to Varennes. The characteristic vice
of Carlyle is seen in his ill-treatment of such men as Bailly and
Lafayette and in the glory given Mirabeau and Danton.

CoNNY, Vicomte Felix de. Hist, de la Revolution de

France. Paris, 1834. 14 vols., i2mo.

A mass of reactionary matter, without the earnestness of De
Maistre and Gaume, or the piquancy of Veuillot.

Des Odoards, Fantin. Abrege Chronologique de la
Revolution de France, ^ T usage des Ecoles publiques.
Paris, 1802. 3 vols., i2mo.

The best thing about this book is the motto on the title page,
from Tacitus: •' Mihi Galba, Otho, Vitellius nee beneficio, nee
injuria cogniti." The author appears a goodish man, but the
book is poor. As a sample of his largeness of view, we may
take the expression of his belief that Robespierre and the rest

Appendix. 281

mingled gunpowder in wine to work up their satellites to the
pitch of fury required for the massacres of September.

Montgaillard's history, on the same general plan, is infinitely

Deux Amis de la Liberte. Histoire de la Revolution
de France. Paris, 1792. 20 vols., i8mo. (Including

Carlyle says : " It is, perhaps, worth all the others, and offers
(at least till 1792, after which it becomes convulsive, semi-
fatuous, in the remaining dozen volumes), the best, correctest,
most picturesque narration yet published." Carlyle's distinction
between the first and last series is abundantly accounted for by
their difference in authorship. Kerverseau and Clavelin only
wrote the first part. It has all the merits and surprisingly few
of the defects of a history of such a time written by men deeply
interested in the events. Alison cites largely from it. Many
others quote without acknowledgment.

DuRUY. Histoire de France. Paris, 1858. 2 vols,,


Of all the short summaries of French history, this is probably
the best. Duruy was a faithful professor, and one of the best
ministers of public instruction that France ever had. His tragic
struggle with the Church for the improvement of education in
France, is too little known. The book is rendered especially
valuable by beautiful historical maps of France at various im-
portant periods, and by engravings illustrating the progress of
French art, and especially of architecture. The history is given
not only by periods, but by topics. The view taken is wisely

Gaume, Mgr. La Revolution Frangaise. 4 vols., 8vo.
Being part of " La Revolution, R^cherches Blstoriques
sur Vorigine et la Propagation du Mai en Eu'>^ope,
depuis la Renaissance JMsqu' a nos yoicrs'^ Paris,
1856. 12 vols.

Mgr. Gaume is one of the leaders in the French Hierarchy,
and this book is mainly a tirade against the Renaissance. The
author is crazed, almost, against classical learning and education,
believing it the great cause of the evils of modern society, and
especially of the Reformation and French Revolution.

He lays especial stress on the fact that the Triumvirate were
classically educated, and that Madame Roland read Plutarch
at the age of nine years, and Tacitus afterwards ; that Camille

282 Appendix.

Desmoulins knew nothing but antiquity, and that the paper
money bore portraits of Brutus, Cato and Publicola ; and of
course he finds plentiful confirmation of his view in the uni-
versal adoption of antique modes and phrases during the Revo-

It cannot be denied that the book possesses moich ability;
but with an American, it will pass simply for a curiosity of

GoNCOURT. E. and J. Histoire de la Socieie Fran^aise
pendant la Revolution. Paris, 1864. i vol. 3d Ed.
A rapid journalistic sort of account of daily life, during the

Revolution. It dwells rather too much on the vile side.

Granier " de Cassagnac " A. Histoire des causes de la
Revolution Fran^aise. Bruxelles, 1851. 2 vols. i2mo.
One of several reactionary treatises by an author whose
tongue, pen and duelling pistols, have been for forty years at
the service of slavery in the colonies, and despotism in France.
The depth of his thinking can be gauged in his statement:
that " in the first years of Louis XVI., there was in public affairs
no cause of trouble, and in men's minds no germs of sedition,"
and that " the excessive and inopportune reforms of that
prince, gave public opinion its first impulse." No one can seri-
ously consider him an authority on a subject which tasked the
ripest years of De Tocqueville,

Janet, Paul — Philosophie de la Revolution FranQaise.

Paris, 1874. Svo.

A discussion, in an excellent spirit, of the various leading
views of the Revolution, — with the conclusion so necessary of
enforcement in France, that although the main aims of the
Revolutionists were founded in ri^t reason, the despotic
methods of reaching them have proved and must always prove,
a curse to the nation. After so much screaming of parties at
each other, this book affords grounds for hope that some large
and quiet thinking will some time be done.

JOMINI, Le Lieutenant General. Histoire Critique at
Militaire des Guerres de la Revolution. Bruxelles,
1841. 4 vols. Svo.
The work universally acknowledged the best on the military

operations of the Revolutionary Epoch.

Lacombe, Paul. Petite Histoire du Peuple Fran9oiS:
Paris, 1872. I vol. i8mo.

Appendix. 283

A very thoughtful little book, giving the development of the
evils which the Revolution swept away. It has one advantage
for an American reader, over most French treatises, in that it ex-
plains many of those things of which a knowledge is generally
pre-supposed by writers for the French public.

Lacretelle. Histoire de France, pendant le iSieme.

Siecle. Paris, 1812. 6 vols. 8vo.

This history was once regarded as a classic, but is now little
read. The same may be said of other historical works by the
same author.

Lanfrey. Histoire de Napoleon. [Translated.] Paris,

1870. 4 vols. i2mo.

One of the greatest historical works of this century. Very
severe in its treatment of Napoleon ; but its severity is that of a
just judge charging against a prisoner whose guilt is clearly

Among the most interesting parts of the book, is the brief ac-
count of the early life of Bonaparte, in Corsica ; and among the
most valuable, is the exhibition of his almost supernatural dupli-
city previous to the treaties of Campo Formio and Tolentino.
Nothing could be more convincing than the comparison made
by Lanfrey between the letters to the Directory on the one
hand, and to the Venetian Senate, and the Papal court on
the other. The sketches of his false bargain with Prussia,
and his dalliance with Russia, are well done; but per-
haps best of all is the unravelling of his monster intrigue in
Spain, and the exhibition of the uprising of the Spanish pea-

Lavallee, Theophile. Histoire des Fran^ais. Paris,

1865. 4 vols. i2mo.

Volume 4 is devoted to the Revolution, and is a fair sum-

Leo, Dr. Heinrich. Geschichte der Franzosichen Re-
volution. Halle, 1842. I vol., 8vo.
This is a slice from Leo's " Weltgeschichte," and, like that, is
characterized by fullness of knowledge and vigor in presenta-
tion ; but all is subordinated to North German pietistic conser-

■ Histoire de France \ I'usage de la Jeunesse. A.

M. D. G, * * *. 6i6me. Edition, Lyons, 1820. 2
vols., i8mo.

284 Appendix.

This is the famous history of France written by Father Lori-
quet of the Society of Jesus, and prepared, as the A. M. D. G.
* * * indicates, for the glory of God and the inculcation of
what was considered, at the Restoration, as " sound knowledge."
Its purpose was to put safe views into the youthful mind of
France regarding French history in general, but especially re-
garding the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. In the
final table of contents, the name of Napoleon is carefully left
out of the list of French sovereigns, and Louis XVII. follows
closely upon Louis XVI. Five small pages contain the history
of the Empire down to the Spanish catastrophe ; and at the
close of the history of the Empire, the downfall of Napoleon is
compared with that of Nero.

For a very characteristic touch, see Vol. II., page 242, note^
on the fate of the relics of Saint Genevieve in the hands of the
sans-culottes. It was this work which Prince Napoleon quoted
with such bitterness against the Ultramontane party in the
French Senate, when they claimed to be supporters of the
Second Empire. But it is only fair to say that the book has
been made to appear much worse than it is. Father Loriquet
has successfully defended himself against the charge of having
represented Napoleon as simply " Le Marquis Bonaparte Gene-
ral des armees du Roi," — a calumny which at one time it was
republican orthodoxy in France to believe and spread.

Martin, Henri. Histoire de France. Paris, 1867.

16 vols., 8vo.

There is an American translation in four octavo volumes,
covering the period from Louis XIII. to the Revolution. The
last two of these volumes are most directly important for the
student of the French Revolution. Public sentiment seems to
have settled down upon Martin's History as the most useful of
the extended works on French History in the large.

MiCHELET, J. Histoire de la Revolution Fran9aise.

Paris, 1847. 7 vols., 8vo., (translated).

Pictures of the Revolution from a democratic point of view, —
sometimes with miraculous exactness in lines and coloring, —
sometimes wildly fantastic, yet always on a groundwork of solid
knowledge of men and events. The praise won by Michelet
from John Stuart Mill, would of itself raise a very strong pre-
sumption against those who choose to call him a declaimer.

MiGNET, F. A. Histoire de la Revolution Frangaise.
Paris, 1836. 2 vols. English translation in one small
volume, published in Bohn's series.

Appendix. 285

Thorough enough for the general student, thoughtful, just,
clear in style, compact in matter; the best, by far, of all the
short histories. Carlyle confesses this, while he scolds that
Mignet "jingles and jumbles a quantity of mere abstractions and
dead logical formulas and calls it thinking," — by which is meant
simply that Mignet believes in the desirability of Constitutional
Liberty, and gives honor to Statesmanship rather than brute
force, and presents the result of calm and wise thinking rather
than philosophical pyrotechny.

MoNTGAiLLARD. Histolrc dc France, ou Revue Chro-
nologique depuis la premiere convocation des Nota-
bles jusqu' au depart des troupes etrangeres, 1787-
i8r8. Paris, 1823. 8vo.

A very valuable chronological summary, giving the events
day by day as above, with tables of statistics short and to the
point, when needed. Its prejudices, which are strong, do little
harm in a book of its kind, which is used mainly to get the bear-
ings of facts upon each other by their relations in time, — very
little more harm than geographical relations presented in an
atlas made by a strong partisan.

QuiNET, Edgar. La Revolution. Paris, i860. 2 vols.,

8vo. [6th Edition.]

Takes up suggestive thoughts and discourses upon them ; and

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 25 26

Online LibraryWilliam O'Connor MorrisThe French revolution and first empire : an historical sketch → online text (page 23 of 26)