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as Isocrates is said to have done; nor was there much room to apprehend that orations would savor of the lamp, in an assembly where the most momentous questions were often proposed and decided without the intervention of a single night. To direct the storm of such deliberations required the highest degree of eloquence, understood in its proper sense, as the faculty of extemporizing with power and effect. It required not only a mental energy sufficient to grapple with and master the greatest questions in philosophy and politics, and an imagination rich enough to afford upon demand an unbounded flow of elegant and forcible words; but the moral qualities that were necessary for bringing these talents, at any moment, into immediate action, dauntless courage, and unshaken self-possession. The very début of Mirabeau in his legislative career, clearly proved that he had these latter qualities of a consummate orator, in at least as high perfection as the former. His famous reply to the master of the ceremonies, coming by order of the king to dissolve the Assembly, is one of the shortest orations on record, but it is far from being the one that affords the least conclusive evidence, in regard to the moral and intellectual qualities of its author; Tell your master, that we were sent here by the people; and that nothing but the bayonet shall compel us to separate.' a time and in a country where the king was still a god, and the master of the ceremonies his high priest, it required a prodigious force of character to break at once, in this way, the charm of their ascendency; and it is no wonder that the person, who was guilty of such sacrilege, should have been regarded at court, as the incarnate spirit of evil; although this opinion is not quite so natural in a philosophical observer, like Madame de Stael.


Mirabeau had reached the age of forty before he commenced his career as an active politician. The maturity of thought and talent, supposed by this age, was probably favorable to his success as an orator; but the antecedent events of his life, while they tended to sharpen his intellect by exasperating his feelings, were unfortunately well fitted for the same reason to give his efforts a dangerous direction. The natural ardor and extravagance of his character, led him in early youth into irregularities, not very unusual in young men of high birth and large expectations, but which, it is said, were repressed by his father, with a hardship, which had

The pater

but little tendency to conciliate so lofty a spirit. nal authority in the higher ranks of French society was, at that time, nearly as extensive as in ancient Rome. A man of rank could obtain at pleasure an order for the imprisonment of his children for an unlimited period; and we are told that Mirabeau was deprived of his liberty seventeen times in this arbitrary way. He was confined three years in succession in the castle of Vincennes, and during this period he wrote, among other things, his essay on Lettres de Cachet, on the blank leaves of the books which were furnished him for reading. It is easy to conceive that under these circumstances he treated the subject with feeling, and in the French phrase, avec connoissance de cause; and, also, that when it came to his turn to lead on the attack of the popular host upon the existing establishments, he did it with a good will, and in the spirit of revenge as well as justice. When, however, the revolution began to take an unfavorable turn, Mirabeau exhibited some symptoms of a disposition to relent in his pursuit of vengeance; and on several occasions defeated the attempts of the demagogues in the assembly, without losing his ascendency over the popular party. It is even certain that there existed at the close of his career an understanding between him and the court, brought about either by corruption, or by a real conviction in his mind, that the revolution had gone far enough, and that it was necessary for the public good, that he should throw the weight of his influence into the scale of government. I am dying,' he said upon his death bed, and the monarchy will perish with me.' It may be doubted whether even his influence, great as it was, would have been sufficient, at this period, to check the current of events; and very possibly it was only his untimely death, which prevented him from adding another to the victims of the guillotine. Yet it is difficult not to feel some regret that the experiment could not be tried; and it seems a strange fatality that the only man whose influence afforded the country any hope of deliverance, should have descended to the grave at the early age of forty-two, in the fulness of his strength, and the complete exercise of all his faculties. But the task which Providence had assigned him was to destroy and not to restore. He lived just long enough to complete the essential work of the revolution, and at the very moment of his death was employed in laying the axe at the

real root of the old abuses, by introducing the equal division of estates among the children, in lieu of the feudal system of primogeniture. A speech which he had prepared upon this subject was read from the tribune a few hours after his death, by Mr de Talleyrand, and the measure was adopted. This single law, independently of any other, contained within itself the whole revolution. Mirabeau retained his lofty and inflexible spirit, and the proud consciousness he always felt of his powers, to the last moment of his life. Hearing, just before he expired, the report of a cannon, What,' said he, are they celebrating already the funeral of Achilles?' His remains were entombed in the Pantheon, from which, however, they were subsequently removed upon the discovery of his understanding with the court. Whatever may be thought of his private morals, or even of his political principles, those who like him least must admit the splendor of his talents, and the aspiring grandeur of his character:


His form had not yet lost

All its original brightness, nor appeared

Less than archangel ruined, or the excess
Of glory obscured.

The following account of the person of Mirabeau and his manner in debate is given by Lemercier, a living French writer of some distinction.

The appearance of Mirabeau was far from being attractive. His figure was clumsy and ungraceful; and it was difficult to see, for the first time, without repugnance, the cloudy, olive colored tint of his complexion, his cheeks ploughed with furrows, his haggard eyes buried in a deep excavation under his projecting forehead, his wide, il shapen mouth, and his head and breast of a size quite disproportionate to the rest of his person. Nor was there any charm in his enunciation to make up for these defects. His voice was hoarse, and he spoke with a perceptible southern accent. He generally began with slowness and hesitation; and it was not until he became in some degree warmed by his subject, that his manner assumed an ease and energy, corresponding with the copiousness and force of his conceptions. But no sooner did the superiority of his eloquence display itself, than his ugliness was forgotten. His whole person was animated by the fire and vigor of his genius, and put on an entirely new appearance. His massy stature seemed to correspond with the majesty of his language;

his sunken eyes flashed with inspiration, and the muscles of his lips and forehead quivered and palpitated with the various changes of feeling, that succeeded each other in his discourse. Never, perhaps, was there seen a more imposing exhibition, than that of Mirabeau wielding his thunders in a hall, that contained three or four thousand auditors, and breaking down whole corporations at a blow. I should have been glad to observe how Napoleon, who thought he could subdue every hostile force by corruption or violence, would have dealt with this great moral colossus.

The reported speeches of Mirabeau, as we have already observed, are far from giving an adequate idea of the powers, which produced these prodigious effects. In fact, a report by another hand must necessarily be a very incorrect representation of an able speech. If the reporter, as is generally the case, be an indifferent writer, whose skill merely reaches to the grammatical arrangement of a sentence, and who has no thoughts and feelings in common with the orator, he brings down, of course, the inspirations of the latter to his own level, and gives, as it were, the ground plat of a magnificent edifice. If, on the contrary, his genius is equal or superior to that of the speaker, his report will still be incorrect, because it will be little more than a transcript of his own views on the same subject. Chatham, for example, was perhaps the greatest orator, taking the word in its proper sense, that ever appeared in England; and Johnson was a reporter every way fitted, if the thing were possible, to give a just idea of his manner. But in the admirable report of his short and triumphant reply to the sneer of Walpole at his youth, we lose sight of the orator, and plainly recognize the sententious and epigrammatic style of the great moralist. Still, however, a representation of this sort is better than none; as it is also the only one that can be had. The speech, of which the following report is given in this collection, was reckoned one of the most powerful efforts of Mirabeau, and is well suited by its length for the purpose of extraction. His object was to recommend the adoption, without examination, of a scheme proposed by Necker, then minister of the finances, and embracing several measures of a very desperate character, one of which was a property-tax of twenty-five per cent. His principal topic is the danger of immediate national bankruptcy.

"Gentlemen, we have heard a great many violent speeches; I shall endeavor to direct your attention to a few simple questions, and earnestly entreat you to listen to them.

Has not the minister of finances drawn a most alarming picture of our present situation? Has he not told you that delay must aggravate the evil-that a day-an hour-a moment-may render it irremediable? Have we any other plan to substitute for the one he proposes? One of this assembly answers, Yes! I conjure that member to recollect that his plan is unknown, that it would require time to explain and examine it, that were it now in discussion, its author may perhaps be mistaken; or if not, that we may think he is, and that, without the concurrence of public opinion, the greatest possible talents would be of no avail in the present circumstances. I, too, am far from thinking that Mr Necker has proposed the best possible ways and means; but God forbid that at this critical moment I should place my views in opposition to his. However preferable I may think them, I know that it is in vain for me to pretend to his prodigious popularity, the reward of such distinguished services, to his long experience, to his reputation of the first financier in Europe, or to the singular and unprecedented good fortune, which has marked his career, more perhaps than that of any former statesman.

'We must therefore come back to the plan of Mr Necker.

But why adopt it without deliberation? Do you think, then, that we have time to examine it in detail, to discuss the principles, and go over all the calculations? No, no, a thousand times, no. We can only propose insignificant questions and superficial conjectures. What, then, shall we do by deliberating? Lose the decisive moment, involve ourselves in disputes about the details of a scheme, which we really do not understand, diminish, by our idle meddlings, the minister's credit, which is and ought to be greater than our own. Gentlemen, this course is certainly very impolitic. Is there even common honesty in it? Gentlemen, if we had not proved our respect for the public faith, and our horror of bankruptcy by the most solemn declarations, I could almost venture to scrutinize the secret motives, secret perhaps even to themselves, of those who talk of deliberating upon this great sacrifice, when they must know, that unless made at once, it will be utterly ineffectual. And I would ask those, who seem to be accustoming themselves to the idea of bankruptcy, in preference to excessive taxes, whether a national bankruptcy is not itself the most cruel, the most unjust, the most ruinous of all possible taxes? Gentlemen, one word more, a single word.

Two centuries of misgovernment have opened a gulf of ruin, which threatens immediate destruction to the monarchy. This gulf must be closed. Take, then, the list of the proprietors of

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