Who neither can nor will may hold his peace

THE account of the death of Madame La Fayette, which occurred in 1807,
has taken us a few years beyond the time we had reached in the history
of La Fayette’s political career, and we return to the period of his
return to France after his long imprisonment. Shortly after this, La
Fayette received the painful intelligence of the death of General
Washington. He had fondly cherished the hope of again visiting his
adored friend at Mt. Vernon, and perhaps taking his wife and family to
behold his illustrious American general. The marquis immediately wrote a
letter of condolence and sympathy to the family of Washington, and
received from them a pair of pistols which General Washington had left
to La Fayette in his will.

In 1800 La Fayette and Maubourg were presented to the First Consul at
the Tuileries. Napoleon received them with great politeness, and amidst
their expressions of personal gratitude to Bonaparte, they added many
compliments regarding his Italian campaign. Napoleon sometimes discussed
with La Fayette American matters and affairs in Europe.

Napoleon, speaking to La Fayette of his campaigns in America, once
remarked, “The highest interests of the whole world were there decided
by the skirmishes of patrols.”

One day Bonaparte said to him, “You must have found the French much
_cooled_ on the subject of liberty?”

“Yes,” replied La Fayette; “but they are in a state to receive it.”

“They are disgusted,” answered the First Consul. “Your Parisians—for
instance, the shop-keepers—oh, they want no more of it!”

“I did not use the expression lightly, General,” said La Fayette; “I am
not ignorant of the effect of the follies and crimes which have defiled
the name of liberty; but the French are perhaps more than ever in a
state to receive it. It is for you to give it; from you they await it.”

Napoleon proffered to La Fayette the office of senator, but it was
declined. The post of ambassador to the United States was then offered
him, but as he felt himself almost a citizen of America, he was not
willing to go there in such capacity as should force him to watch her
with a jealous eye in order to uphold the rights of his own country.

Concerning this offer La Fayette wrote to Masclet: “I shall not go to
America, my dear Masclet, at least not in a diplomatic capacity. I am
far from abandoning the idea of making private and patriotic visits to
the United States, and to my fellow-citizens of the New World, but at
present I am much more intent upon farming than upon embassies. It seems
to me that were I to arrive in America in any other costume than an
American uniform, I should be as embarrassed with my appearance as a
savage in breeches.”

In 1802 La Fayette met at a dinner party Lord Cornwallis, the newly
appointed British minister to France. During their conversation
Cornwallis asked La Fayette’s opinion regarding Napoleon’s
administration, as to whether it was consistent with his ideas of
liberty. La Fayette boldly replied that it was not. Spies were not long
in carrying this daring answer to Bonaparte. Napoleon was displeased;
and when next he met La Fayette, he said, “Lord Cornwallis claims that
you are not yet corrected.”

“Of what?” asked La Fayette—“of my love of liberty? What should disgust
me with that? The extravagances and crimes of terrorist tyranny have
only served to make me hate more heartily every arbitrary régime, and
attach myself more strongly to my principles.”

“But you have spoken to him of our affairs,” said the Consul, with
evident displeasure.

“No one is further than myself,” replied La Fayette, “from seeking a
foreign ambassador to censure what is passing in my own country; but if
he ask me if this is liberty, I must answer No.”

“I must say to you, General La Fayette,” said Bonaparte,—“and I perceive
it with pain,—that, by your manner of speaking of the acts of the
government, you give its enemies the weight of your name.”

“What more can I do?” was the fearless reply. “I live in the country in
retirement; I avoid, as far as I can, occasions of speaking of public
affairs; but when any one demands of me if your administration of the
government is conformable to my ideas of liberty, I shall say that it is
not. I wish to be prudent, but I cannot be false.”

“But are you not convinced,” replied he, “that in the state in which I
found France I was forced to irregular measures?”

“That is not the question,” he answered. “I speak neither of the time,
nor of this or that act; it is the tendency—yes, General, it is the
tendency of affairs—which pains me and disturbs me.”

“As to the rest,” Napoleon then replied, “I have spoken to you as the
chief of the government; and in that capacity I complain of you. But as
a private individual I ought to be content, because, in all which has
been told me concerning you, I have perceived that in spite of your
severity upon the acts of government, there has always been on your part
personal good will for me.”

“You are right,” he answered. “A free government with you at its head—I
should have nothing more to desire.”

One day La Fayette dined at the house of Madame de Staël, with Joseph
Bonaparte and some members of that ephemeral opposition, whom Napoleon
had not expelled.

“You are dissatisfied,” Joseph said to him, in the midst of the
conversation. “You are not with us; but permit me to say to you that you
are no more with these gentlemen. They desire a rotation of directors
who differ in their striking of the shoulder. To-day it is one man;
to-morrow it will be another; in place of that, if we have a régime
conformed to your principles, you would be pleased that my brother
should remain chief.”

When La Fayette was asked to vote for the decree declaring Napoleon
First Consul for life, he replied:—

“I cannot vote for such a magistracy until public liberty has been
sufficiently guaranteed. Then I will give my vote to Napoleon

[Illustration: JOSEPH BONAPARTE.]

La Fayette addressed to the First Consul the following letter at this

“LA GRANGE, May 20, 1802.

“GENERAL: When a man filled with the gratitude which he owes you, and
too much alive to glory not to admire yours, has placed restrictions on
his suffrage, those restrictions will be so much the less suspected when
it is known that none more than himself would delight to see you chief
magistrate for life of a free republic. The 18th _Brumaire_ saved
France, and I felt that I was recalled by the liberal professions to
which you have attached your honor. We afterwards beheld in the consular
power that restorative dictatorship, which, under the auspices of your
genius, has achieved such great things—less great, however, than will be
the restoration to liberty. It is impossible that you, General, the
first in that order of men (whom, to quote and compare, would require me
to retrace every page of history) can wish that such a revolution, so
many victories, so much blood and miseries, should produce to the world
and to ourselves no other results than an arbitrary system. The French
people know their rights too well to have entirely forgotten them. But
perhaps they are better able to recover them now with advantage than in
the heat of effervescence; and you, by the power of your character and
the public confidence; by the superiority of your talents, your
situation, and your fortune, may, by re-establishing liberty, subdue our
dangers and calm our inquietudes. I have no other than patriotic and
personal motives in wishing for you, as the climax of our glory, a
permanent magistrative post; but it is in unity with my principles, my
engagements, the actions of my whole life, to ascertain, before I vote,
that liberty is established on a basis worthy of the nation and of you.
I hope you will now acknowledge, General, as you have already had
occasion to do, that to firmness in my political opinions are joined my
sincere sentiments of my obligations to you.”

This memorable letter was never answered.

La Fayette, in his “Mémoires,” thus comments upon his opposition to
Napoleon: “It appears that Bonaparte had for a long time preserved his
good-will towards me; and even after my letter, when one had declared
before him, that there had not been any opposition to the Consulate for
life, except from the Jacobin votes:—

“‘No,’ said he, ‘there were the enthusiasts for liberty: La Fayette, for

“M. de Vaines, a member of the Cabinet Council, to whom he addressed his
remark, observed that without doubt, I had believed it to be my duty to
vote according to my principles, because no one could doubt of my
personal attachment to Bonaparte.

“‘Really,’ replied he, ‘he ought to be content with the government.’

“The blame of this rupture has often been laid entirely to my charge;
but his resolution and his character left me no hope of being useful. As
he advanced farther in his fatal course, the rupture was more
inevitable. If any one has the desire of tracing for himself the good
will of my feelings towards Bonaparte, he has only to search through my
correspondence with my friends. It suffices that these letters, written
at different times, free me from all reproach of ambition or caprice.

“The foreigners who most desired to see me in office, were not tardy in
feeling that I was right. But I will never despair of liberty.

“‘The character of General La Fayette,’ said Klopstock, a little while
after my release from Olmütz, ‘prevents him from well knowing his
nation; how could he believe them capable of possessing free

“His judgment was an error, which the excesses of the Jacobins had but
too far scattered. Later, one of his friends, who was also mine, wrote
to me thus: ‘Klopstock died with his old attachment for you. We had
together a long conversation regarding you, when I made to him my last,
visit; he approved of you, and besought me that I should write to you,
and salute you most cordially for him. I present to you this last
homage, coming, so to speak, from the other world.’

“I was also touched, without doubt, to read in a letter written from
Rome (by Madame de Staël): ‘I shall hope always for the human race as
long as you exist. I address you this sentiment from the sublime
Capitol, and the benedictions of its shades come to you through my

“To multiply such citations, and to repeat the most flattering opinions
from Europe and America, I should have the appearance of giving way to a
vanity from which it is easy to defend one’s self after one has acted
amidst great circumstances; and particularly, after one has been the
butt of some enthusiasm, one feels that there is nothing but a true
esteem which is worthy of regard. I have myself said elsewhere, ‘There
is, then, some good in my retirement, since it publishes and maintains
the idea that liberty is not abandoned without exception and without

La Fayette thus describes his meeting with Charles Fox:—

“The Peace d’Amiens brought over a great number of Englishmen. ‘They are
all malecontents,’ observed the ambassador Livingston; ‘some have
expected to find France wild; they have found her flourishing: the
others hoped to see here traces of liberty; all are disappointed.’ I was
at Chavaniac when Charles Fox and General Fitzpatrick arrived in Paris.
They wished to send for me, as I was one of the principal objects of
their visit. I hastened to join them. M. and Madame Fox, Fitzpatrick,
MM. John and Trotter, passed several days at La Grange. I met at Paris
the Lords Holland and Lauderdale, the new Duke of Bedford, M. Adair, and
M. Erskine, whom I pressed in vain to write regarding the jury of
England and of France. ‘The first years of the Revolution,’ said they,
‘we had great hopes; but the excesses have ruined the good cause.’

“One day Fox, with his amiable goodness of heart, said to me in the
presence of my son, that I should not be too much affected by an
unavoidable delay. ‘Liberty will return,’ said he, ‘but not for us; for
George, perhaps, and surely for his children.’”

About this time La Fayette met with a severe injury, caused by a fall
upon the ice. His hip-bone was broken, and the accident was followed by
a long and painful illness.

In 1803 President Jefferson offered to appoint La Fayette governor of
the newly acquired territory of Louisiana. The land allotted to La
Fayette as a former major-general in the American army was selected from
the fertile fields of that territory. But notwithstanding La Fayette’s
love for America, he felt constrained to remain in France, and therefore
declined the kindly proffered honor.

After Napoleon had been crowned emperor, he is reported to have said to
his Council, one day: “Gentlemen, I know your devotion to the power of
the throne. Every one in France is corrected; I was thinking of the only
man who is not,—La Fayette. He has never retreated from his line. You
see him quiet; but I tell you he is quite ready to begin again.”

[Illustration: CHARLES FOX.]

During the brief reign of Louis XVIII. and the banishment of Napoleon to
Elba, La Fayette appeared only once at court. When the sudden return of
Bonaparte startled the world, and the trembling King Louis saw his power
depart, one of the king’s minister’s exclaimed: “All is lost! There is
no endurance, no indignity, to which the king would not submit, to
retain his throne.”

“What!” said another; “even La Fayette?”

“Yes,” replied the first; “even La Fayette himself.”

When Napoleon again resumed the reins of power and re-established an
hereditary peerage, La Fayette was pressed to take his seat by Joseph
Bonaparte, who had been sent to the marquis by Napoleon; but La
Fayette’s reply to the offered honor was consistent with all his former

“Should I ever again appear on the scene of public life, _it can only be
as the representative of the people_.”

Regarding the efforts of Joseph Bonaparte in his behalf, La Fayette
says: “I was preparing to return to Chavaniac in September, 1804, when
my relative and friend, Ségur, Grand Master of Ceremonies, wrote to me
that Joseph Bonaparte had charged him with a message for me.

“‘The Prince Joseph,’ said he to me, at Paris, some time afterwards,
‘wishes to attribute your retirement to a sentiment of the philosopher;
but he observes with pain and disquietude that his brother regards it as
a state of hostility. The friendship of Prince Joseph for you, presses
you to place a limit to this situation. He regretted that you have not
wished to be a senator. He asked only your name. You would not have to
leave La Grange. His idea to-day is still less exceptional. There is a
question of your being one of the dignitaries of the Legion of Honor; in
short, said he, your military record in America and Europe is such as
gives this thing but the consequence adapted to your retirement, which
in refusing will have a hostile effect. But before going farther, he
wished to be assured that you will not refuse it.’

“I began to reply, but Ségur besought me to reflect, and the following
is what I repeated the next day: ‘I am greatly touched by the good will
of Prince Joseph; but he will permit me to observe to him that in my
singular position, the Grand Cordon, although I am well pleased that he
should offer it, would seem to me to be ridiculous, admitting even that
it were the accompaniment of an office. But it follows that I am to be
nothing, and in being that, it follows so much the more, as this is
nothing more than the chivalry of an order of things contrary to my
principles; I cannot therefore accept it. The qualification given to my
retirement is strange when one compares the imperial power to my little
influence; but if it is indispensable that I should be something, I
should be less repugnant to the Senate; where, however, my opinions
would oblige me to incur, on the other hand, a more just title of
reproach than the emperor gives to me. I demand, then, that the
friendship of his brother should remove from me all these conditions.’

“My response was well carried. ‘For the present,’ said Prince Joseph,
‘when I know the intentions of M. de La Fayette, I will profit by the
occasions to serve him, but in accordance with his opinions.’”

Having thus declined the peerage, La Fayette being warmly urged by the
inhabitants of his district, accepted the appointment as their
representative to the elective body, instituted to sit in connection
with the Peers. As a member of the Chamber of Deputies, he continued to
maintain and uphold his liberal principles with fearless eloquence
whenever occasion demanded it. After the overthrow at Waterloo, La
Fayette stipulated in the Assembly that the liberty and life of Napoleon
should be guaranteed by the nation, and endeavored to obtain for him two
frigates to conduct Bonaparte safely to the United States; but it was
too late. La Fayette was sent by the Assembly to meet the victorious
generals, and prevent, if possible, their coming to Paris, by proposing
terms of capitulation. Lord Stewart said to La Fayette: “I must inform
you, sir, that there can be no peace with the allied powers, unless you
deliver up Bonaparte to us.” “I am surprised,” replied La Fayette, with
calm dignity and suppressed scorn, “that to propose so base an act to
the French nation, you address yourself by choice to a prisoner of

Louis XVIII. was again forced upon the French people by the allies,
contrary to the wishes of both the nation and La Fayette; and the
marquis accordingly once again retired to La Grange. Here he received
his many friends and visitors with the most stately and yet warm-hearted
cordiality, blending the courtesy of the gentleman of noble family with
the sincerity and frankness of the man of the people.

An English lady who enjoyed the pleasure of being a guest at La Grange
in 1818 thus pictures the life there:—

“Charming days, more charming evenings, flow on in a perpetual stream of
enjoyment here. In the mornings Madame George La Fayette, the Countess
Lasteyrie, and the Countess Maubourg are busy with the children, and do
not appear. The visitors amuse themselves or are with the general,
unless his occupations prevent. Then comes a walk or drive—sometimes a
long excursion. After dinner at four o’clock, conversation; in the
evening, music or talking. Before breakfast I find all the young people
at their easels, painting from models in the anteroom; then they go to
their music (there are three pianos, and a music-master and an English
governess live in the house); then they all turn out into the beautiful
park for two hours, and then resume their studies for two hours more.
But I never saw such happy children; they live without restraint, and
except while at their lessons, are always with the grown people. If the
little ones are noisy, they are sent into the anteroom; but their
gentleness and good conduct are astonishing, considering, too, that
eleven of the twelve are always with us.” All of La Fayette’s children
continued to make their home with him until the time of his death; and
his grandchildren were a constant source of delight to him.

Another delightful description of the home life at La Grange is given by
Lady Morgan, who visited France about this time. She says:—

“General La Fayette has not appeared in Paris since the return of the
Bourbon dynasty to France. And I should have left that country without
having seen one of its greatest ornaments, had not a flattering
invitation from the Château La Grange enabled me to gratify a wish, long
and devoutly cherished, of knowing, or at least of beholding, its
illustrious master. Introduced by proxy to the family of La Fayette, by
the young and amiable Princess Charlotte de B——, we undertook our
journey to La Grange with the same pleasure as the pilgrim takes his
first unwearied steps to the shrine of sainted excellence.

“In the midst of a fertile and luxuriant wilderness, rising above
prolific orchards and antiquated woods, appeared the five towers of La
Grange, tinged with the golden rays of the setting sun. Through the
branches of the trees appeared the pretty village of Aubepierre, once,
perhaps, the dependency of the castle, and clustering near the
protection of its walls. A remoter view of the village of D’Hieres, with
its gleaming river and romantic valley, was caught and lost alternately
in the serpentine mazes of the rugged road; which, accommodated to the
grouping of the trees, wound amidst branches laden with ripening fruit,
till its rudeness suddenly subsided in the velvet lawn that immediately
surrounded the castle. The deep moat, the drawbridge, the ivied tower
and arched portals, opening into the square court, had a feudal and
picturesque character; and combined with the reserved tints and fine
repose of evening, associated with that exaltation of feeling which
belonged to the moment, preceding a first interview with those on whom
the mind has long dwelt with admiration or interest.

“We found General La Fayette surrounded by his patriarchal family—his
excellent son and daughter-in-law, his two daughters (the sharers of his
dungeon in Olmütz) and their husbands, eleven grandchildren, and a
venerable granduncle, the ex-grand prior of Malta, with hair as white as
snow, and his cross and his order worn as proudly as when he had issued
forth at the head of his pious troops against the ‘paynim foe,’ or
Christian enemy.

“Such was the group that received us in the _salon_ of La Grange; such
was the close-knit circle that made our breakfast and our dinner party,
accompanied us in our delightful rambles through the grounds and woods
of La Grange, and constantly presented the most perfect unity of family
interests, habits, tastes, and affections.

“We naturally expect to find strong traces of time in the form of those
with whose names and deeds we have been long acquainted, of those who
had obtained the suffrages of the world, almost before we had entered
it. But, on the person of La Fayette, time has left no impression; not a
wrinkle furrows the ample brow; and his unbent and noble figure is still
as upright, bold, and vigorous as the mind that informs it. Grace,
strength, and dignity still distinguish the fine person of this
extraordinary man; who, though more than forty years before the world,
engaged in scenes of strange and eventful conflict, does not yet appear
to have reached his climacteric.

“Bustling and active in his farm, graceful and elegant in his _salon_,
it is difficult to trace, in one of the most successful agriculturists,
and one of the most perfectly fine gentlemen that France has produced, a
warrior and a legislator. The patriot, however, is always discernible.

“In the full possession of every faculty and talent he ever possessed,
the memory of M. La Fayette has all the tenacity of unworn youthful
recollections; and, besides these, high views of all that is most
elevated in the mind’s conception. His conversation is brilliantly
enriched with anecdotes of all that is celebrated, in character and
event, for the last fifty years. He still talks with unwearied delight
of his short visit to England, to his friend Mr. Fox, and dwelt on the
witchery of the late Duchess of Devonshire with almost boyish
enthusiasm. He speaks and writes English with the same elegance he does
his native tongue. He has made himself master of all that is best worth
knowing in English literature and philosophy.

“I observed that his library contained many of our most eminent authors
upon all subjects. His elegant and well-chosen collection of books
occupies the highest apartments in one of the towers of the château;
and, like the study of Montaigne, hangs over the farm-yard of the
philosophical agriculturist. ‘It frequently happens,’ said M. La
Fayette, as we were looking out of the window at some flocks which were
moving beneath, ‘it frequently happens that my merinos and my hay carts
dispute my attention with your Hume or our own Voltaire.’

“He spoke with great pleasure of the visit paid him at La Grange some
years ago by Mr. Fox and General Fitzpatrick. He took me out, the
morning after my arrival, to show me a tower richly covered with ivy.
‘It was Mr. Fox,’ he said, ‘who planted that ivy! I have taught my
children to venerate it.’

“The Château La Grange does not, however, want other points of
interest…. Founded by Louis Le Gros, and occupied by the Princes of
Lorraine, the mark of a cannon-ball is still visible in one of its
towers, which penetrated the masonry, when attacked by Maréchal Turenne.
Here in the plain, but spacious, _salon-à-manger_, the peasantry of the
neighborhood and the domestics of the castle assemble every Sunday
evening in winter to dance to the violin of the _concierge_, and are
regaled with cakes and _eau sucrée_. The general is usually, and his
family are always, present at these rustic balls. The young people
occasionally dance among the tenantry, and set the example of the new
steps, freshly imported by their Paris dancing-master.

“In the summer this patriarchal reunion takes place in the park, where a
space is cleared for the purpose, shaded by the lofty trees which
encircle it. A thousand times, in contemplating La Fayette, in the midst
of his charming family, the last years of the life of the Chancellor de
l’Hopital recurred to me, … he whom the _naïve_ Brantome likens to
Cato! and who, loving liberty as he hated faction, retired from a court
unworthy of his virtues, to his little domain of Vignay, which he
cultivated himself.”

In 1819 La Fayette was again chosen a member of the Chamber of Deputies.
His many stirring and eloquent speeches in favor of liberty, and his
fearless denunciations of despotic tyranny, aroused the fear and hatred
of Louis XVIII. In 1823 the king ordered his solicitor-general to accuse
La Fayette of treason. The charge was made publicly in the Chamber of
Deputies, and for a moment was received with profound silence. Then La
Fayette slowly rose from his seat, and with calm and commanding dignity
took his stand upon the tribune. With folded arms he surveyed the
assembly with unquailing eye; and then he spoke: “In spite of my
habitual indifference to party accusations and animosities, I still
think myself bound to say a single word upon this occasion. During the
whole course of a life entirely devoted to liberty, I have constantly
been an object of attack to the enemies of that cause; under whatever
form, despotic, aristocratic, or anarchic, they have endeavored to
combat it. I do not complain, then, because I observe some affectation
in the use of the word ‘proved,’ which the solicitor-general has
employed against me; but I join my honored friends in demanding a public
inquiry, within the walls of this chamber, and in the face of the
nation. Then, I and my adversaries, to whatever rank they belong, may
declare, without reserve, all that we have mutually had to reproach each
other with for the last thirty years.”

His accusers recoiled from such a daring, and to them condemnatory,
challenge, and La Fayette was acquitted; but the government, by
intrigues and bribery, defeated his re-election.

The following speech of La Fayette, delivered in the Chamber of Deputies
in 1821, and published in the _New York American_, of July, that same
year, will give some idea of the fearless eloquence of the marquis,
which dauntless frankness so incensed the corrupt court and enraged the
Bourbon king.

The _New York American_ thus comments upon the speech:—

“We have allotted a considerable portion of our paper to-day to a speech
of General La Fayette, delivered last month in the French Chamber of
Deputies; and, in doing so, we shall gratify, as we hope, that deep
feeling of interest with which every act of that ‘soldier of America,’
as he proudly calls himself, is looked upon by his fellow-citizens of
the United States. It will be seen that, true to his early principles,
this veteran friend of freedom still maintains the doctrines to which
this country owes its existence and glory, and which, shackled and
fettered indeed, but still prevailing, he has the high honor of having
transplanted, sheltered, and under all changes adhered to in France. It
has, indeed, been truly and beautifully said of La Fayette that he was
among those who took an active part in the French Revolution, perhaps
the only one ‘who had nothing to ask of oblivion.’ Pure and
disinterested in his views and in his conduct, the public good has ever
been his object and his sole aim; and the blessings of this great
nation, in whose favor he early drew his noble sword, and the respect of
every lover of liberty in every clime, bear testimony to the consistency
of a life which, midst every variety of changes and perils, has never
been sullied by meanness nor dishonored by crime.”


During the discussions on the budget on the 4th of June, which, in
making appropriations for the expenditures of the country, laid open to
remark all the various interests of France, M. La Fayette, having been
called on to speak, presented himself at the tribune, and, after the
lively expressions of interest which his presence there excited in the
Chamber had subsided, spoke as follows:—

“The general discussion of the budget gives us the right of making some
summary remarks upon each of its provisions. The public debt, however
contracted, is sacred. I regret, in common with others, its recent
increase; but without recriminations here, as the errors of the first
restoration, which produced the 20th March, or as to the fatal landing
which came to mingle itself with the progress of a more salutary and
less turbulent resistance, or as to the conditions of the last treaty of
peace, stipulated exclusively between the powers at war with France and
the august ally of those powers, I will confine myself to drawing from
the past an important lesson for the future, which is, that it would
have cost, as I said at the time, much less to expel the coalition of
foreigners than to treat with it; and that, if ever such a state of
things should recur, and that, following the example of Napoleon and the
provisional government, the rulers of France should hesitate to call out
the people _en masse_, it would be alike the duty and the safety of that
people themselves to leap to their arms, and combining with one accord
the million arms of her warlike generation and devoted youth, to bury
beneath them, as she might do, the violators of her independence.

“The civil list has been voted for the whole duration of this reign; but
when, in consequence of encroachments and dilapidations forty million
francs of personal revenue for the monarch and his family begin to be
considered as insufficient, it is allowable to look at—I will not say
that country of ten millions of inhabitants, where the salary of the
chief magistrate is not equal to that of a French minister, but at the
monarchical, aristocratic, and expensive government of England; where,
nevertheless, the provision for the princes is smaller than in France;
and where more than half the civil list is employed in paying the
diplomatic corps, ministers, and judges; where the sum for which the
king is not bound to account does not exceed a million and a half of
francs…. Whatever may have been the losses and the pressure caused by
a just defence against the aggressions of European cabinets, and which
the ambition of a conqueror provoked, it must be owned, by more than one
act of perfidy on the part of those courts, has since immeasurably
increased; the enormous amount of the pension list arises from other
causes. These are to be found in the rapid succession of the different
governments in France, each anxious to create vacancies in favor of its
friends; and, above all, in the recent irruption of a crowd of
pretenders, all claiming rewards for having, either in will or in deed,
in foreign pay or in domestic insurrections, on the highways or in
obscure idleness, and even beneath the imperial liveries, manifested or
dissembled their opposition to those governments which, each flattered
in its turn, are now all called illegitimate. It is thus, that by
deviations and apostasies from a revolution of liberty and equality, we
have finished by seeing Europe during some years inundated with two
complete assortments of dynasties,—nobility and privileged classes….

“I come now, gentlemen, to the second part of our expenses, the
contingent part of the budget; but before remarking upon its items
separately, I would ask how we can conscientiously support, by voting
the ways and means, a government so scandalously expensive, and of which
the system is hostile to the rights and to the wishes of almost all
those who contribute to its support; and who, doubtless, only pay these
contributions with a view to be honestly served, and by those who will
study the national interest. It is to be hoped that this year the
special application of every sum to the object for which it was voted
will be closely scrutinized, as is the case in other countries….

“My unwillingness to vote for the expenses of foreign affairs arises
from the conviction that our diplomacy at present is an absurdity. In
truth, gentlemen, the system, the agents, the language, all appear to me
foreign to regenerated France; she is again subjected to doctrines that
she had branded, to powers she had so often conquered, to habits
contracted among her enemies, to obligations for which, on her own
account at least, she has no cause to blush. In the meanwhile, Europe,
aroused by us thirty years ago to liberty, checked indeed since, as it
must be confessed, by the view of our excesses and the abuse of our
victories, has resumed, and will preserve, notwithstanding recent
misfortunes, that great march of civilization, at the head of which our
French place is marked, a place in which the eyes of all people who are
free, or aspiring to become so, should not seek us in vain.

“Well, gentlemen, in this division of Europe between two banners,—on the
one side, despotism and aristocracy; on the other, liberty and
equality,—that liberty and equality which we first proclaimed
there,—where do we find the _soi-disant_ organs of France? exempt, it is
true, and I am happy to acknowledge it, from a hostile co-operation, in
the aggression of the satellites of Troppau and Laybach, whom a success
of little duration, as I hope, will only render more odious; they are
also entitled to our thanks for not having insulted France by any
positive participation in those recent declarations of the three powers,
which, in order not to offend the majority in this house, I will only
characterize by repeating my ardent wishes, the wishes of my life, for
the emancipation of the people, the independence of nations, and the
morality and dignity of the true social order. We have, nevertheless,
seen the agents of the French government, in their subaltern
participation in the first deliberation of these congresses, not even to
raise themselves to the level, so easily attained, of liberality evinced
by the British diplomatists….

“Such are not the doctrines of France. I speak not now of my personal
incredulity of the doctrine of the divine right of kings; but I recall
to you that already, long before ’89, the era of the European
revolution, when we SOLDIERS OF AMERICA felt honored by the name of
_rebels_ and insurgents then lavished upon us, all in virtue of social
order by the English government, Louis XVI. and his ministers had
expressly recognized the sovereignty of the United States, founded as it
was upon the principles of their immortal declaration of independence.

“These principles, since received into the bosom of the constituent
assembly, proclaimed in a degree, sworn to by the king and his august
brother amidst the greatest of our patriotic solemnities, have been
since acknowledged, even in the usurpations of the imperial
despotism,—they were since repeated from this tribune as a protecting
truth by the friends of the charter and the royal throne on the 19th of
March, 1815, for then it was not said that the charter was the
counter-revolution; and, indeed, in order to ascertain the share due to
the revolution of the rights recognized by the charter, that share which
has so often been denied, it would suffice to read again an august
proclamation, dated from Verona in July, 1795. These principles,
professed at this day among that people who are our natural allies,
outweigh all the exploded pretensions which we have since renewed, the
moment that a noble effort of the nations subjected by our arms had
forced their old governments in spite of themselves to recover the
independence which they had so completely, so servilely, so
affectionately alienated for the benefit of their conqueror; to whom, in
a recent note from Troppau, they have preserved the noblest title he
ever bore, in calling him the _soldier of the Revolution_.

“In truth, gentlemen, the crimes and misfortunes which we deplore are no
more the Revolution than the Saint Bartholomew was religion, or those
you would call monarchical, the eighteen thousand judicial murders of
the Duke of Alva….

“I will only make one remark as to the public instruction. The
constitution of ’91 said, ‘There shall be organized a system of public
instruction open to all citizens, gratuitous with respect to the
indispensable parts of education, and widely disseminated.’ Your
committee, on the contrary, exalting themselves to the height of the
emperor of Austria’s address to the professors at Laybach, look upon
gratuitous instruction as a _social disorder_, and are particularly
desirous to suppress the amount destined for the encouragement of
elementary instruction, principally because it serves to favor the
Lancasterian system, which your committee does not think will harmonize
with the spirit of our institutions. Now, gentlemen, the Lancasterian
system is, since the invention of printing, the greatest step which has
been made for the extension of prompt, easy, and popular instruction….

“The expenses of the navy department are enormous. The navy of the
United States has already been cited to you; that navy, whose flag,
since its establishment and during two spirited wars against the flag of
Britain, has never once failed with equal, and often with inferior,
force, to gain the advantage. The provisions, the pay,—everything there,
as has been observed to you,—are higher than with us. Its cruisers
amounted lately to two ships of the line, nine frigates and fifteen
smaller vessels, protecting a commerce of more than 1,200,000 tons,
without including the fisheries or the coasting trade. The expenses of
their navy department were fixed last session at two and one-half
millions of dollars, and half a million more to build new vessels,
making sixteen millions of francs, calculated, indeed, for twelve
vessels of the line and twenty frigates, etc. But what a difference
between this sum and fifty millions of francs, which are said to be
insufficient for our navy!…

“I shall not consider it as a departure from the question under
discussion as to the general administration of the kingdom, if, by a
rapid examination of the ancient régime, I shall endeavor to furnish an
answer to the wishes and regrets of which it still seems the object. It
was from the destruction of this régime that we saw disappear that
corporation of clergy which, exercising all sorts of influences and
refusing all share in the common burdens, increased continually and
never alienated its immense riches, but divided them among themselves;
which, rendering the law an accomplice in vows too frequently forced,
covering France with monastic orders devoted to a foreign head,
collected contributions both in the garb of wealth and mendicity; and
which, in its secular organization, formed so considerable a portion of
the idle and unproductive class that the daily ministers of the altar
were the most insignificant portion of what was called the first order
of the state.

“We saw disappear that corporation of sovereign courts where the
privilege of judging was venal of right, and, in fact, hereditary in the
nobility; when feudal judges, chosen and revocable by their _seigneurs_,
presided; when the diversity of codes and the laws of arrests made you
lose before one tribunal the cause you had gained before another.

“We saw disappear that financial corporation oppressing France beyond
endurance, and by leases, whose monstrous government exceeded in expense
and profit the receipts of the royal treasury, whose immense code, now
here recorded, formed an occult science which its agents alone had the
right or the means of interpreting, and which, in rewarding perjury and
informers, exercised over all unprotected men a boundless and
remorseless tyranny.

“We saw disappear those distinctions of provinces, _French_,
_conquered_, _foreign_, etc., each surrounded with a double row of
custom-house officers and smugglers, from whose intestine war the
prisons, the galleys, and the gibbet were recruited at the will of the
stipendiaries of him who _farmed the revenue_, and those other
distinctions of noble or common property; when the parks and gardens of
the rich paid nothing, while the land and the person of the poor man
were taxed in proportion to his industry; when the tax upon the peasant
and upon his freehold recalled to nineteen-twentieths of the citizens
that their degradation was not only territorial, but individual and

“By its destruction, that constitutional equality was consecrated which
makes the general good the only foundation of distinctions acknowledged
by law. The privileged class lost the right of distributing among
themselves exclusive privileges, and of treating with contempt all other
classes of their fellow-citizens. No Frenchman was now excluded from
office because he might not come of noble blood; or degraded, if noble,
by the exercise of a useful profession….

“What more is there to regret? Is it the scheme of taxation, regulated
by the king at the will of a minister of finance, whom I myself have
seen changed twelve times in fourteen years, and which taxation was
distributed arbitrarily among the provinces, and even among the

“Is it the capitation tax, established in 1702, to achieve the peace,
and never afterwards repealed? The two-twentieths diminished on the
contributions of the powerful and made heavier on those of the poor; the
land tax, of which the basis was in Auvergne, nine sous out of twenty,
and amounting sometimes to fourteen, on _account of the vast increase of
privileged persons created by traffic in places_? Finally, is it the
odious duties on consumption, more odious than the_ droits réunis_ of
Napoleon? Is it the criminal jurisprudence, when the accused could
neither see his family, his friends, his country, nor the documents by
which he was to be tried?… When the verdict, obscurely obtained, might
be aggravated at the pleasure of the judges by torture? for the torture
preparatory to the examination had been alone abolished….”

The _New York American_, of April, 1824, relates the following: “Our La
Fayette has, it seems, given fresh offence lately to the
ultra-royalists, which the following translation will explain. He had
been summoned as a witness on a trial; the crier being ordered to call
over the witnesses, the following scene occurred:—

“_Crier._ The Marquis de La Fayette.

“_Mr. La Fayette._ I beg to observe to the court, that in the list of
witnesses I am named by a title which, since the decree of the
Constituent Assembly in 1791 (the decree abolishing orders of nobility),
I have ceased to bear.

“_President of the Tribunal._ Crier, call Mr. La Fayette.

“This simple declaration has drawn down on the veteran all the wrath of
the ultra presses; and he has been seriously accused of having in making
it, violated the charter or constitution. This notable instrument, it
seems, sets forth ‘that the ancient nobility resume their rights’; and
because the soldier of liberty refuses to be confounded in title with
the thousand little _marquises_ about the court, he is charged with an
offence against the constitution of his country. The servile flatterers
of power, whether wielded by the self-made Corsican or the son of St.
Louis, may well rail at an example of consistency which shames their
rapid and oft-repeated tergiversations.

“It may be interesting to many to add, that on his examination in giving
his name and age, as is usual in French trials, General La Fayette
states himself to be sixty-six years old.

“We regretted at the time to observe in the resolutions passed by
Congress, that our early friend was mentioned by his title, and we see
the more reason to regret it now, as it will furnish an occasion for the
taunts of the French press, as contrasted with the declaration above