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Biographical anecdotes of the founders of the French republic, and ..., Volume 2 online

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amiable confort entered into all the details of rural
economy. The neighbouring peafantry in her found
a friend, during the hour of diftrefe, and ihe became
the phyficianof the adjacent country.

In 1789, fhe fnatched her hufband from the rava-
ges of a horrible malady; fet up fix days and nights
without either fleepirg or changing her clothes, and
nurfed him with uncommon tendernefs during a con-
valefcence of fix months.

f At this period M. Roland was well known to tfle prefent Pre-
fiiicnt of the Royal Society, and vifited frequently s»t bis hoofc.

A a 2 , At

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268 9A* ROtAN»»

At length the period of the revolution arrived,
and this refpeSable family, abandoning domeftick
eafe, prepared both to^adl and to fufFer in the caufe
of freedom. The friends of humanity, the adorers
of liberty, they fondly hoped that the epoch of me-
liorating the condition of the human race was ar-
rived 5 and that the miferies of the lower orders in
France, at which they had fo often wept, was about
to be done away. In this difpofition of mind, they
confidered the convocation of the ftates-general as
a happy augury^ and hailed that great event with

Happening to be at Lyons about this time, the
opinions of Roland converted many of his former
friends into bitter enemies. Habituated to the felfifli
calculations of commerce, they could not conceive
how it was poflible to provoke and applaud thoib
changes, by which the inferiour claffes were alone
iikely to profit !

The patriots of that .dty,.on the other hand, were
rejoiced to behold a man of femily, worth, and for-
tune, attached to their interefts, and on the iirft
formation of a municipality he was elefted one of the
officers. In this ftation he foon diftinguilbed him-
* felf by his tatents, and ftill more by his inflexible
integrity. Thefe ineftimable qualities occafioned
him to be employed in an important miffion to the
conftituent aflembly. Dlfcuifions concerning com«
merce at that period occupied the attention of the
legiflature, and it was neceffary that the fecond city
yi the empire, one too, fo famous for its population,




M* ROLAND. 269

'opulence, and ''manufaflures, fliould have a flcilful.
agent in the capital to watch over its interefts. Th^.
immenfe debts with which it was burthened? wai5
alfo another confideration of no fmall confequence. *

Roland was accordingly fixed upon, and he re»
paired with his family to Paris, where he fpent st
whole year, and (bon formed c^me^^ions that raifed
him to the higheft dignities of tbp:ftite» His cha#*
rafbr was already eftablifbed^ he Was a .meniibej q£
all the academies of the South of France^ :andfhlad»
drawn up the cahiers of the city of Lyons, on 'tho
convocation of the States General,, at the exprefs.
recommendation of the fociety of agriculture..

After faithfully difcharging the various fun£Hons
of his new appointment, he returned to his native
province, and foon after learned that the office of in^
Jpe^or was aboliflied. Thirty-eight years of con-'
ftant and affiduous fervice entitled him to Ibine pro-
vifion> and it was with a view to obtain this, that he
returned to the capital in December 179 1 5 but he
foon found that the fituation of publick affairs was
fuch, that, particular interefts mufl give way, and he
accordingly feems from that moment to have abant
doned every idea of an indemniEcatlon*

It was at that period he formed an acquaintance
with BrifTot: this circumftance contributed greatlji
to decide his future deftiny. ' By bim he was intro-
duced to the Jacobin club, then an aflemblage ol
the moft enlightened patriots of the age^ but he
never afcended the tribune* Soon after his admiffion
lie was nominated a member of the committee of
Aa3 corre«



X^9 M. ItolANtf.

coYrefpohdenCle, and as he was affifted hy his wife, his"
Induftrjr was confidefed as exemplary.

Several deputies of the aflcnrtMy were accuftomed
to meet in a large apartment tn the Plaa t^endomef
and Roland, whofe knowledge and integrity were
now generally known, was invited to repair thither %
bat ifae diftanc<^"t(te fo great from the quarter in
which he liv^, that he went but feldom. The few
fime$ he appeared there encreafed, however, the gobdi
opiAkm before conceived of him, and led to his im«
Ibediate advancement.

PubHck affairs, at this period^ afltimed a doudy
afpeft, and much jealoufy had been excited by the fud
pfcious condu£b of the court. The adminiftratiom
was compofed of men unfriendly to the caufc of li-
berty, arid l>y their aftions they appeared far from
being Indifpoftd to overturn a conftitution whidi the
King had relu^ntJy fworn to maintain, and which
Ife feemedi defirous'to overthrow on the firft favour*
able ep()©rtunity. His fecret advifers, however,
began to be afraid of the confequences ; for the
whole nation was aroufed. It was firid^ that if
Louis were fincere, inftead of choofing his minifter^
from among the adherents of the ancient fyftem, he
wiHild Mtfit ptiblick functionaries, whofe iivifm wa»
unspotted* i

FcHar of wi»knefs atiength inclined the covrt to
kfteit to the gene#i) wifli) and it vras decided with
#i|uil fetfeoy Mid cifnning, either to gaki over thif
new mniftersy or diimift them. It was accordinglf
a^rded up#ft> that a jpatl^iot admkuftratioii fliouM be




foroied; and as fotne of th« Girondifis were confultedi
as to the proper peribns to be put in noniin3tion> the
committee of the Place Vendime inftand/ pointed
out Roland, a$ an able man who had written on fe*
veral different branches of adminiftration) who pof-
fefled experience, enjoyed an unfuUied reputation,-
and who, to a proper age and exemplary morals, added
a decided attachment to liberty, the principles of
^ich he had inculcated in his writings, anteriour to>
the connnencement of the revolution.

The King, who was not unacquainted with thefe
ia£ts, coniented, and BrifTot waited on Madame Ro^
]and, in order to found her about the inclinations of
her hulband, refpefiing fo important a charge as that
of Minifter of the-Home Department

Roland was not infenfibk either to the refponfibi-*
Uty attached to fuch an office, or the dangers and
difficulties accompanying bis acceptance of it, at
fuch a critical period. But he was convinced, on
the other hand, that his intentions were pure, his de-
figcB honourable; and he accordingly accepted Ae
appointment, with a fixed determination to exercife
his fun£lions no longer than he could prove fervice-
able to the ftate.

The very next day Dumouriez, then at the head
of the foreign department, called on Roland, in com*
pany with Briflbt, to announce that the King had
chofeii him minifter of the interibur ; he at the fanie
time aiTured his new colleague of the fincere iaten-
tions on the part of his Msjefty^ to fijpfwrt the c >r-
ftitution, and hoped that the political machine wouM





move with uniformity, as but one opinion wSulcf
thenceforth prevail in the c^ibinet.

The fucceeding morning was tKe time fixed for
prefenting the new minifter, after which he was to
take the oaths, and his feat at the council board.' It*
was ufual on thofe occafions to repair thither in what
was termed a court drefs ; but this did not fuit the
ftmple manners of the philofopher to whom the horiie
department was now entrufted. On the contrary,
he went to the palace, arrayed as ufual, with a few thin
filvery hairs,' fimply combed down his venerable head,
a round hat, a plain brown coat, and his {hoes tied with
black ribands ♦. No fooner did the courtiers receive
intimation of this event, and beheld a philofopher
difdaining to fubje£l htmfelf to their miferable r//-
fuetu, than they furveye^d him with a certain degree
of horrour, and complained of the fcandal likely to
enfue from his conduct f*

* When Dr. Franklin had a conference M^ith Louia XVXv he
coald not be prevailed upon to alter any part o£ his drefs.

f ** Ces valets de la cour^ qui attacbolent la plus^ande impor«
tance }l Tetiquette dont lis tesoient leur exigence, le confiderent
avec fcandaTe et mSme une forte d*effroi $ Tun d'e\ix s^approche de
Dumouriez en fron^ant le fourcil, et lui dit a Toreilie, en montfaiit
des yeux Tobjet de fa conftemation :
' — »^« Monfieur 1 point de boucles a fts fouliers!— — >**

** Dumouriez, prSte a la reparcie^ et fe revetant d*ua (erieux.
comlquf s*£crie.

—— *« Monflenr! tout eft perdu I**-

« Le valct counit bientdt ct fit lire ccux qui en avoient Ic m<rin»


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M» ROLAND. 273

, Loui^, who had now admitted the patriots into the
adminiflration of publick affairs, endeavoured to gain
their confidence, and be fucceeded fo effe£iuaily dur-
ing the Hvil three week^ that they were enchanted
with his conduct, and aflually began to felicitate
themfelves on having miftaken his charadlen His
Majefty, however, did not feem difpofed to proceed
to bufmefs, and employed the time fpent at the coun-
cil table in joking withDumouriez,afking queftipns
refpefting commerce and manufeSures from Ro-
land, and in reading the French gazettes, or the
Englifh journals.

Whenever the new minlft^rs wilhed to decide re*
lutive to the condu<9: of the Auftrians, he carefuHy
eluded the difcuiHon, but at the fame time manifefted
the moi^ marked repugnance to hoftilities.

At length the menacing attitude afliimed by the
court of Vienna produced a crifis. SerVan, the mi-
nifter at war,Vpropofed to the affembly the format
tion of a camp of twenty thoufand men, under th^-
walls of Paris. This fchemc was adopted with en-
thufiafm, as was alfo another for repreiEng the refrac-
tory clergy, who wifhed to ftir up a Ipirit of &nati-
cifm among the people. - * *

All the fix minifters fcpported theJTe two decrees^
as abfolutely neceflary in the then pofture of affairs |
but the court, which had fchemed the return of thfc
ancient defpotifm, by means of partial revolts on anm
hand, and a fecret communication with the foreign
enemy on the otlier, became excelEvely alarmed oa


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5t74 - ^- ROLANBr.

hearing of meafures fo admirably calculated to fruf-
tr2(te ill their plans.

. The King had determined to refufe his fandionv
but he did not wifli to- give a direft negative, and
therefore delayed to fignify his- refoiution, in order
to ^ain. time, and form a new mlniftry^. To enable
him to accomplifli this, the Queen fent for Dumbu^*
riez>and had feveral conferences with that crafty^ene-
ralj-who had become tired of colleagues who were too
afuftere in their manners to be agreeable to him, a:nd
too well acquainted with the world, to be im^ofed
upon by his intrigues. They did not approve of the
appointment of Bonne-Carrere,for whom be had pro-
cured t]ie crofs of St. Louis, and had nominated di^
redor-general of foreign affairs, becaufe they conii-
dered him. as a mere intriguer^ equally deftitute d£
talents and character. Roland alfo, had reproached
the minifter himfelf with hts condu£t, as he had dif*
covered. that one hundred thoufand livres were lodged
at a notary's, by way of payment for a publick office,
which money was to be ihared between his confident
tial fecretiry and his miftrefs Madamc« Beativert. *
- No fooner did the minifter at the head of the fo-
reign department find himfelf deteSed, and perceive
at the fame time that the greater part of the other
minifters werQ difagreeable to the King, than he de*-
fermined to procure their difmiffioh, and proceed to
« Rew nomination. Roland, on the other hand, be-
ing refolved to come to an immediate explanation
with his Majefty, and, either prevail- upon him to af-


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M» ROi-AND, 275

fcnt to the two decrees, or, in the event of a refufal,
cive in his own refignation, determined to tranfmit
his fentiments on this fubjefl. Accordingly, when
the King requefted the written opinions of all the
members of the council^ Roland feized that opportu-
nity of conveying the famous letter * to the £xecu->
tive; a performance written with a boldnefs to
which Louis had been unaccuftomed, and evidently
compofed in the confidence that the Prince was
unfiripdly to the conftitution he had fworn to
maintain :

« Sire,
" The prefent ftate of affairs iaFrance cannot bp
of long duration. . It is a crifls at its htgheft degree
of violence, and muft terminate in a fhock that intt-
refls your Majefty as. much as it does the whole em-
pire* Honoured with your confidence, and placed
in a fituation in which it behoves me to (peak the
truth to you, I venture to do it without difguife ; it

* Madame Roland appears to have held the pen on this oc*
cafion !
♦ " Je fis la femeufe lettre, &c.

*' Je reviens I la lettre, qui ft tracee d*un trait^ comme a-pcu-
pr^ tout ce que jt feifpis de ce genre; car fentir la necefllte, la cdd-
venance d'une chofe, conccvoir ion bon efTet, deArcr de ie pro*
duire, et jeter au moiile ^o^jet dont cet f ffet devoit refuker, n*eu>it
pour moi qu^une vc.^jfu: operation. 11 etoit p'is dans le cabinet
de mon nuri, ce Pacbe^ qui dans la m#me ann^e, fit calomnier Roland,
«t nous fait pourfuivre aujovrd'hoi comme £nnemis -de la llberf^.*
Lorfque nous li^mcs cette lettre entre nous: <* C'e(l une <ietiuirciiej
luenhardiel" ** Difoit alors cet hypociite que je prenois poiir )Ui
Age.— — Hardic ! (kns dotitej mals elle eft juftc ct neciffairci
^u'lmportclereite?** . J • •


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2j6 M. ROLAND.

18 indeed an obligation under which your Majefty
yourfelf has laid me.

•* The French have given thcmfclves a conftitu-
tion, and it has produced malecontents and rebels.—-
The majority of the nation approve of and have
fworn to maintain it at the expence of their lives.

" They have confidered die war with fatisfaSion,
as the grand expedient for eftabli(hing the conftitu-
tion'j yet, buoyed up by hopes, the minority have
exerted their united efforts againft it. Hence arifes
that inteftine conlift with the laws, that anarchy
which all good citizens lament, and of which ill-
difpofed people have not failed to take the advantage,
in order to countenance their afperfions againft the
new government.

** Hence thofe opinions which are every where
fpread abroad, and every where fomented ; for in no
part is indifference of opinion to be found. The
friumph or the change of Ihe conftitution is the cry
of all;- they labour either to maintain or to new-
model it. I fliall only touCh upon what the prefent
circumfhmces of things require, and with the ptmofl
impartiality fuggeft an idea of the turn affairs may
beexpeded to take, and what nxeafures would be
prudent to adopt. »

* You enjoyed. Sire, great prerogatives, and
which, indeed, your Majefty conceived to be inherent
ta royalty. Bred up under the idea of preferving
fbofc psemgatives, you could not fee yourfelf de-
fhrived of them with fatisfeaion. The defire of re-
covecing them was as natural as the regret you felt




, ^ M. ROLAKD. 4.1'J

at their diflblution. Thefe ientiment^, which are
natural to the human hearty have had their proper in«^
duence on the minds of the anti*revoIutionifts«

" They have, accordingy, depended upon being fc-.
cretly favoured by your Majefty, until circumftances
permitted an open declaration in their behalf. This^
pofture of things could not but have been evident to
the whole nation; and it was fufficient to put men
upon their guard. Your Majefty has then been al-
ways under the neceifity, of ,either yielding to the
force of habit and private inclination, or of making
fecrifices dilated by philofophy, and called for by
ucceiHty. *

** Every thing has Its term of duration, and that
of uncertainty has at length arrived. Can your Ma-
jefty openly ally yourfelf with the pretenc|ed reform- ,
ers of the conftitution ? or is it incumbent upon you
generoufly to give yourfelf entirely up to promote its
triumph f Such is the true ftatement of a queftion,
the fohition of which the prefent ftate of things ren-
ders of inevitable neceffity.-

" As to the metapbyfical query, * Whether the
French are^ipe for liberty?* it is foreign to th«
fubjeft before us: for it is not our bufinefs to con-
fider what we fliould become in a century hence, but
to fee what the prefent generation are capable of.

*' In the midft of the fermentations of the four laft
years, what has taken place ? Privileges burdenfotoe
to the lower orders of the community have been abo-
liihed; the ideas-of juftice and equality have been uni^
verfklly fprcad abroad \ they have found their way
B b every



278^ M. ROLAND.

every where. The ackrvowledgemcnt of the rightis
of the people, which has been folemnljr allowed) is
become a facred doctrine in politicks*

<* The hatred againft the nobles had been long
fmce riiTpired by tfae nature of the feudal fyftem ; it
is now increafed $nd exafperated by their manifeft
pppofidon to the conftitution. The people confi-
dered thefe nobl^ in aa odious light, on account of
the opprefBve privileges they enjoyed ; but they
would have forgot their hatred on the abolition of
thofe privileges, if the condud; of the nobility fince
that period had not aSbrded every reafon to confider
their rank with difguft, and to oppofe it as an irre*
concikable enemy to their wdl-being.

" The publick attaclunent to the conftitution in-
creafed in like proportion: the people not only dep-
rived eflential advantages from it, but wereperfuaded
flill greater benefits were preparmg, fince thofe
who were accuftomed to opprefs them were en*
deavouring with fuch earneftnefs. to deftroy or to
modify it.

, ^ The declaration of rights is become a political
gofpel, and the French conftitution a j-eligion ; in
the defence of which the people are ready to periih.
Thus their zeal fometimes went fo far as to fupply
the place of lawj and when its influence was not
fufficient ta reftrain the difturbers of the publick
peace, the citixens took upon themfelves the talk of
puiiiflung them.

" It is thus the pofllelEons of the emigrants have

been expofed to the ravages incited by vengeance.-^

5 . Thus



M. ROLAND. 279

Thus fo many departments were under the neceflity of
adopting fevere meafures in refpeft to the clergy whom
the^HiWicIc opinion had profcribed, and of whom fome
,would otherwife have been viftims to its refentment.
" Jn the collifion of intefefts, every fentiment af-
fumed the tone of paflion. Our country is not a mere
word, created by the warmth of i magi nation ; it is a
being to which we offer facrifice ; to which we are .
the more attached by the. very folicitude it brings
upon us; which we love on account of the benefits
we hope to derive from it; and every injury offered
tabur native land proves the means of incrcafing
our enthufiafm.

" To what a height did this enthufiafm rife, when
the machinatbns of foreign enemies were added to
thofe of the domeftick fo3, in order to perpetrate all
that could be conceived wicked and fatal ? The fer-"
mentation is extreme in various parts of the em-
pire J it will burft upon us with a dreadful explofion^
unlefs it be calmed by reafonable confidence in your
Majefty's intentions : but this confidence will not be
eftablifhed by mere promifes and pfoteflations^ itcsLtx
only reft upon fails.

^ The French nation know that their conftitution
call fuftain itfelf, and government will have all ne**
ceflary aid> whenever your Majefty, wifhing well to
the conftitution, (hall fupport the legiflative body,, by
, caufing their decrees to be executed, and thus do away
every pretext for popular difcontent, and every hopi
of the difaffeSed.

Bb2 <*For



" For inftance, two important decrees' have been
iflued; both eflentially concern public tranquillity
and the welfare of the empire : their not being fanc-
tioned gives birth to miftruft ; if this be put off, i t vriJl
create malecontents i and it is my duty to fayjin the
prefent pffervefcence of the people's minds, difcontent
may lead to any thing. It is no longer time to re-
cedes it is no longer, time to temporize. The revo-^
lution is eftabliflied in the publick mind; it will ba
completed by the effufion of blood, if wifdom does
not guard againft evils which can yet be warded ofK

*' If force were recurred to in order to reftrain
the National Affembly— if terrour were .fpread
through Paris, and difunion and confternation in its
vicinity — Francp would rife with indignation; and,
diffra<5led by the horrours of a civil war, fhe would
difplay that gloomy energy, the parent of virtues and
Climes, but ever fatal to thofe who provoke it. -

" Publick fafety and your Maj^fty's individual hap*
pinefs are clofely linked together; no power can di-
vide them; diftrefles and misfortunes will gather
round your throne, if it do not reft on thebafis.of the
conftitution, and be eftabliflied on that peace, which
the maintenance of it Vill at length produce in our
favour. ^ ;

" Thus the ftate of the publick mir^d, the circum-
ftances of the tim^s, political reaforis, your Majefty's
own intereft, render it indifpenfible for you to join
the legiflative body, and to concur in the nation's
;wiU* The nation confiders as a neceifity what prin*


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dpfes pofrtt otft as a duty; but Ae natural ferrfiBility
of this fond people holds out another motive. Yoct
were cruelly deceived, Sire, when wicked men en*
deavoured to excite uneafineft and miftruft in youf
breaft, injurious to this kind peeple^-<his people fo '
eafily afFeded.

" By being perpetually taught n<^ to confide in
the nation, youc own condnft alarmed them. Let
the people fee that you are willing the eonftitution
ihould take its courfe— the conftitution to which
they have united their happinefe, and you will foofi
become the objedl of thanks.

^* The condu£i of the dergy in many parts of the
kingdom, and the pretext they fiirmfli for commo-
tions, have occafioned a wife taw to be enafted
agaihft thofe difturbers of the peace. Let your Ma-
jefty's fan<Stion be given to it. The publick tranquil-
lity and the^ fafety of the clergy folicit it. If this^
law be not put in force, the departments will be
obliged to fubftitute fevere meafures, as they have '
every where done, and the people will fiipply its
place by violence^

** The attempts of our enemies, the fermentationr
in the capital,, the extreme difquietude arifing froni
the condud of your guard, and which the teftimonio'.
of fatisfa6tion given to that body> contained in your
proclamation (a meafure truly impolttick under ftich
circumftances) ftiH keep up ; the fituation of Paris ;.'
its proximity to the ffontiers, — ail contribute to Ihcw
th^ neceffity of a camp in its neighbouriiood. This'
meafure, the y/iSdom and urgency ef which i^re al-^
• B b 3 lowed



2$2 M. ROLAND*

lowed by thinking men, waits only for the fandion
of your Majefty.

** Why fliould delay create an appearance of re-'
gret on the part of your Majefty, when difpatch
would deferve gratitude on ours ? Already have the
thachinations of the StafF of the Parifian national
guards againft this meafure, caufed men to (ufpeSt
that they aft under fuperiour influence— already the
clamours of certain outrageous demagogues raife fuf-
picion} already the public opinion expofes the inten-
tions of yovir Majefty.

" A little more delay, and the afliifled people will
imagine they perceive in their King the friend and
the accomplice of confpirators.— Good heaven! are
th^ powers of the earth ftricken with blindnefs ! and
will they never attend to any counfels, but fuch as
lead thepi on to ruin !

*^ I am aware that the language of truth is feldom
well received in courts; I am likewife fenfible, that
as her voice is hardly ever heard there, revolutions
confeqiiently enfue.

•* Above all, I know that I ought to fpeak the
truth to your Majefty, not only as a citizen, fubjed
to the laws, but as a minifter honoured with your
confidence, or invefted with fiin^ions that imply it j
nor do I know what can hinder me from fulfilling a
duty which I feel to be incumbent on me ! With
the fame intentions I ihall reiterate my obfervations
to your Majefty on the utility and neceffity of en-
forcing the law, which prefcribes that there Ihould
be a ffcretary of the council. This law fpeaks fo

i power-



M. 11OLAN0, 28J

Online LibraryWisconsin. Tax CommissionBiographical anecdotes of the founders of the French republic, and ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 17 of 29)