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as if they were to to provide for the rebuilding of an hofpital that had been burned down. What was this, but to unchain the fury of rafh fpeculation amongst a people, of itself but too apt to be guided by a heated imagination, and a wild fpirit of adventure?
The fault of Mr. Mounier and Mr. Lally was very great; but it was very general. If thofe gentlemen ftopped when they came to the brink of the gulf of guilt and public mifery, that yawned before them in the abyfs of thefe dark and bottomlefs fpeculations, I forgive their firft error; in that they were involved with many. Their repentance was their
They who confider Mounier and Lally as deferters, muft regard themfelves as murderers and as traitors: for from what else than murder and treafon did they defert? For my part, I honour them for not having carried mistake into crime. If, indeed, I thought that they were not cured by experience; that they were not made fenfible that those who would reform a ftate, ought to affume fome actual conftitution of government which is to be reformed; if they are not at length fatisfied that it is become a neceffary preliminary to liberty in France, to commence by the reeftablishment of order and property of every kind, through the re-establishment of their monarchy, of every one of the old habitual diftinctions and claffes of the ftate; if they do not fee that these classes are not to be confounded in order to be afterwards revived and feparated; if they are not convinced that the scheme of parochial and club governments takes up the state at the wrong end, and is a low and fenfelefs contrivance (as making the fole conftitution of a fupreme power) I fhould then allow, that their early rafhnefs ought to be remembered to the laft moment of their lives.
You gently reprehend me, becaufe in holding out
the picture of your difaftrous fituation, I fuggeft no plan for a remedy. Alas! Sir, the propofition of plans, without an attention to circumftances, is the very cause of all your misfortunes; and never fhall you find me aggravating, by the infufion of any fpeculations of mine, the evils which have arifen from the fpeculations of others. Your malady, in this refpect, is a diforder of repletion. You feem to think, that my keeping back my poor ideas, may arife from an indifference to the welfare of a foreign, and fometimes an hoftile nation. No, Sir, I faithfully affure you, my referve is owing to no fuch causes. Is this letter, fwelled to a fecond book, a mark of national antipathy, or even of national indifference? I fhould act altogether in the fpirit of the fame caution, in a fimilar ftate of our own domeftic affairs. If I were to venture any advice, in any cafe, it would be my best. The facred duty of an advifer (one of the moft inviolable that exifts) would lead me, towards a real enemy, to act as if my best friend were the party concerned. But I dare not rifque a fpeculation with no better view of your affairs than at prefent I can command; my caution is not from difregard, but from folicitude for your welfare. It is fuggefted folely from my dread of becoming the author of inconfiderate counfel.
It is not, that as this strange series of actions has paffed before my eyes, I have not indulged my mind in a great variety of political fpeculations concerning them. But compelled by no fuch pofitive duty as does not permit me to evade an opinion; called upon by no ruling power, without authority as I am, and without confidence, I fhould ill answer my own ideas of what would become myself, or what would be ferviceable to others, if I were, as a volunteer, to obtrude any project of mine upon a nation, to whole circumstances I could not be fure it might be appli
Permit me to fay, that if I were as confident, as ought to be diffident in my own loofe, general ideas, I never fhould venture to broach them, if but at twenty leagues distance from the centre of your affairs. I muft fee with my own eyes, I muft, in a manner, touch with my own hands, not only the fixed, but the momentary circumftances, before I could venture to fuggeft any political project whatsoever. I muft know the power and difpofition to accept, to execute, to perfevere. I muft fee all the aids, and all the obstacles. I must see the means of correcting the plan, where correctives would be wanted. I muft fee the things; I must fee the men. Without a concurrence and adaptation of thefe to the defign, the very beft fpeculative projects might become not only ufelefs but mifchievous. Plans must be made for men. We cannot think of making men, and binding nature to our defigns. People at a distance muft judge ill of men. They do not always anfwer to their reputation when you approach them. Nay, the perfpective varies, and fhews them quite otherwife than you thought them.At a diftance, if we judge uncertainly of men, we muft judge worfe of opportunities, which continually vary their shapes and colours, and pafs away like clouds. The Eastern politicians never do any thing without the opinion of the aftrologes on the fortunate moment. They are in the right, if they can do no better; for the opinion of fortune is fomething towards commanding it. Statesmen of a more judicious prefcience, look for the fortunate moment too; but they feek it, not in the conjunctions and oppofitions of planets, but in the conjunctions and oppofitions of men and things. Thefe form their almanack.
To illuftrate the mifchief of a wife plan, without any attention to means and circumftances, it is not neceffary to go farther than to your recent history. In the condition in which France was
found three years ago, what better fyftem could be propofed, what lefs, even favouring of wild theory, what fitter to provide for all the exigencies, whilft it reformed all the abufes of government, than the convention of the ftates general? I think nothing better could be imagined. But I have cenfured, and do still prefume to cenfure your Parliament of Paris, for not having fuggefted to the king, that this proper measure was of all measures the moft critical and arduous; one in which the utmost circumfpection, and the greatest number of precautions, were the most abfolutely noceffary. The very confeflion that a government wants either amendment in its conformation, or relief to great diftrefs, caufes it to lofe half its reputation, and as great a proportion of its ftrength as depends upon that reputation. It was therefore neceffary, firft to put government out of danger, whilft at its own defire it fuffered fuch an operation, as a general reform at the hands of thofe who were much more filled with afenfe of the difcafe, than provided with rational means of a cure.
It may be faid, that this care, and thefe precautions, were more naturally the duty of the king's minifters, than that of the parliament. They were fo; but every man muft anfwer in his eftimation for the advice he gives, when he puts the conduct of his measure into hands who he does not know will execute his plans according to his ideas. Three or four minifters were not to be trusted with the being of the French monarchy, of all the orders, and of all the diftinctions, and all the property of the kingdom. What must be the prudence of those who could think, in the then known temper of the people of Paris, of affembling the states at a place fituated as. Verfailles?
The parliament of Paris did worfe than to infpire this blind confidence into the king. For, as if names
were things, they took no notice of (indeed they rather countenanced) the deviations which were manifeft in the execution, from the true antient principles of the plan which they recommended. These deviations (as guardians of the antient laws, ufages, and conftitution of the kingdom) the parliament of Paris ought not to have fuffered, without the strongest remonftrances to the throne. It ought to have founded the alarm to the whole nation, as it had often done on things of infinitely lefs importance. Under pretence of refufcitating the antient conftitution, the parliament faw one of the strongest acts of innovation, and the moft leading in its confequences, carried into effect before their eyes; and an innovation through the medium of defpotifm; that is, they fuffered the king's minifters to new model the whole reprefentation of the tiers etat, and, in a great measure that of the clergy too, and to destroy the antient proportions of the orders. Thefe changes, unquestionably the king had no right to make; and here the parliaments failed in their duty, and along with their country, have perifhed by this failure.
What a number of faults have led to this multitude of misfortunes, and almoft all from this one fource, that of confidering certain general maxims, without attending to circumftances, to times, to places, to conjectures, and to actors! If we do not attend fcrupulously to all thefe, the medicine of to day becomes the poifon of to-morrow. If any measure was in the abstract better than another, it was to call the ftates-ea vifa falus morientibus una.-Certainly it had the appearance.-But fee the confequences of not attending to critical moments, of not regarding the symptoms which difcriminate difeafes, and which diftinguifh conftitutions, complexions, and humours.