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from among the nobility, dignified clergy, the parliaments, and the pays d' etat, or country landholders.
It was proposed to establish a land tax, without any exception in favor of the nobility or clergy. This proposal being followed by a general refusal, the assembly of the notables was dissolved, and Necker, the minister, thought he could make a more advantageous bargain with the parliaments. But as the latter remonstrated, and advanced the opiņion that the right of imposing new taxes belonged only to the States General, the king convoked them in 1789.
Necker's indiscreet measure, by which it was stipulated that the members of the tiers etat (the third order) should be, at least, equal to the other two orders conjointly, threw the preponderance into the scale of the former, who did not fail to find many adherents in the superior classes. As soon as the deputies of the third order had formed themselves into a National Assembly, the other orders were overruled, and the balance of the legislative branches of the government was thus entirely destroyed.
The storm of popular fury gathered and broke rapidly. The Bastile was taken and destroyed in July, as stated. On the 4th of August the privileges of the nobility were suppressed. On the 5th of October, 1789, the king, queen, and royal family were forced from Versailles by the mob, and brought captive to the capital. However, the monarch disconcerted the schemes of his adversaries by a free acceptance of the new constitution, which abolished the foudal system and the titles of nobility
The situation of Louis and his family became so insupportable under the harsh restraints which were imposed, that they contrived to escape from their implacable enemies; but the unfortunate monarch, being recognised at St. Menehould, by Drouet, the postmaster, was stopped at Varennes, constrained to return to Paris with his family, and to become a mere prisoner.
While the king was preparing to surrender his throne and life, the jacobins caused a decree to be enacted, suppressing the chasseurs and grenadiers, of whom they were afraid, as well as the staff of the national guard. All the measures which they pursued, till the 10th of August 1792, had, for their sole aim, the overthrow of the monarchy.
On that day, the Marseillese, who had been invited to Paris to form the advanced guard in the attack on the palace of the Tuilleries, in conjunction with the national guards, fired on the devoted Swiss who composed the royal body-guard, and almost annihilated them. The king and his family sought refuge in the assembly; it was decreed that they should be imprisoned in the Temple, and they were conducted thither.
The national convention was opened on the 21st of September, and, in the first sitting, abolished royalty, and proclaimed the Republic. The king was tried and condemned, and on the 21st of January, 1793, he perished on the scaffold. The last words which his confessor, the Abbe Edgeworth, addressed to him were, "Son of St. Louis, ascend to heaven!”
Against the French republic, the emperor of Austria and the king of Prussia had already de
clared war; and, on the death of Louis, their example was followed by Great Britain and Holland, and speedily after by Spain and Russia. While France was pressed on all sides by the different powers of Europe, this unfortunate country was a prey to all kinds of internal disorders, and to the most unbounded licentiousness.
Robespierre and Danton obtained a decree by which all the sans-culottes—the common people were to be armed with pikes and muskets at the expense of the rich, who were themselves to be disarmed, as suspected persons. Towards the close of June, 1793, the new constitution was adopted, and great disturbances broke out at Lyons, Marseilles, and in La Vendee.
About this period the Committee of Public Safety was established, which proceeded to desolate France by the most horrid butcheries and persecutions. They apprehended all suspected persons, and tried them by revolutionary committees, the powers of which were so unlimited, that they could readily seize on four fifths of the population of France.
One of their early victims was the unhappy Marie Antoinette, the widow of the murdered Louis. Her death was followed by the destruction of those who belonged to a party called Girondists. The infamous duke of Orleans, a relative of the king, was brought up to Paris from Marseilles, and, being tried and condemned, braved the insults of the multitude on the way to execution.
Brittany and a great part of Normandy being filled with the royalists, who had acquired the denomination of chouans, Carrier, one of the most
atrocious monsters of the revolution, was sent to Nantes, where he spared neither age nor sex, but put to death the aged, the infirm, and even infants. The atrocities committed by the satellites of the convention in the city of Lyons, exceeded all that can be conceived, at the end of five months, nearly 6,000 persons had perished.
In Paris the executions were now multiplied to such a degree that eighty persons were frequently conveyed in the same vehicle to the place where they suffered. To cite the names of all the illustrious victims who fell, would far exceed our limits, and, at the same time, present too horrid a picture of human depravity. At length Robespierre, Couthon, and St. Just, the leaders in these murders, were themselves brought to condign punishment.
A form of government was afterwards settled by the convention; and a council of ancients, a council of five hundred, and five rulers, called a directory, were appointed; but the other powers of Europe being still in league against France, and the new government being unfortunate in the field, the executive power was, in 1799, vested in three consuls, of whom the first was the victorious Napoleon Buonaparte.
It is not necessary to trace the history of this remarkable individual. It is sufficient to say that he soon overturned the government that had risen upon the wreck of the monarchy, and established a military despotism, of which he became the head. He was crowned emperor in 1808, and, from this period, devoted himself with amazing energy to the formation of a system of laws, the improvement of roads, and other internal improve
ments; the extension of commerce and manufactures, and to foreign conquest. In all these he was generally successful, till, having been defeate ed in an invasion of Russia, he was driven back to France, and after various events was finally defeated at Waterloo, in 1815. • Louis XVIII., brother of Louis XVI., was restored to the throne of his family; but in 1825 he died, and was succeeded by his brother, Charles X. The misfortunes of the Bourbons had not taught them wisdom; and Charles, fancying that he could exercise tyranny as his father had done, caused an edict to be issued restraining the liberty of the press.
An insurrection immediately broke out, and in three glorious days a revolution was achieved. Charles fled to England, and Louis Philippe, duke of Orleans, was chosen king. A charter, or constitution, was formed, and is now the basis of the government. The crown is hereditary, but its power is limited by a parliament consisting of a house of commons, chosen by the people, and a house of lords, consisting of peers, whose titles continue only during their lives.
This recent history of France is full of instruction. It shows that tyranny, carried to a certain point, is sure to bring those who exercise it to destruction, while it involves whole nations in unutterable miseries.
The French revolution was the necessary result of the accumulated wrongs which the nation had suffered for ages from their rulers. The people by one act hurled the monarchy to the earth; but, unaccustomed to self-government, themselves vicious and corrupt, they became the dupes of other