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Capefigue a Pirate and Plagiarist.
himself, over and over again, in the most wearisome iteration. From this censure the History of the Restoration, of the Consu late, and of Louis Philippe must be excepted; but in all his other works M. Capefigue is a regular literary pirate, a plagiary seizing on the thoughts and views of others, and too often disfiguring and defacing them. This must necessarily be so with a literary journeyman, who is equally ready to undertake a life of Mahomet, or the Apostle Paul, of Philippe Augustus, or Augustus Cæsar, of Nadir Shah, or of Nicholas of Russia.
To exhaust a gallon of schoolmaster's ink, to cut up a gross of grey-goose quills, and to scribble over six reams of French foolscap, or bank post, is with M. Capefigue the work of a very few months. Should any taking subject arise, or should any great work be in preparation, he issues out to Dufey, to Vezard, or to Amyot, lays down his views, sketches his plans, and undertakes, foi d'honnête homme, to have his three volumes launched in the literary market long before any rival is more than three-fourths through the task which has occupied him for six, eight, or ten years. This was the manner in which Capefigue set himself up as a kind of rival, and procured the publication of his works, in an opposite sense to M. Thiers and to M. Mignet, on the History of the Consulate and of the Reformation. No one acquainted with the literature of France, for a moment, of course, supposed that Capefigue would produce works to compare with those of Thiers or Mignet, but he regarded Napoleon and the Reformation in a different point of view from those popular and successful authors; and there were not wanting a sufficient number of dissidents among the French public to give M. Capefigue a hearing, and therefore the sale of a paying number of copies.
France having, during the last three or four years, become a stock-jobbing, share-holding, railway-brokering, and highly speculative country, in which men and women dabble in the funds with a view to become suddenly rich, the bustling Capefigue bethought him it would be a good speculation to give a history of financial operations-of banks, exchanges, and loans, of bankers, contractors, and purchasers of national property, and the result appears in the volume at present before us.
In the first volume, published about seven or eight months ago, we were given a history of the Fermiers Généraux, which was for the most part a compilation; in this volume we have what M. Capefigue, with modest assurance, calls a history of the finances and financiers of the French Republic, with various statements as to the system of assignats, and a great many illarranged details as to English finance. From the manner in which M. Capefigue speaks of the Revolution of 1789, and the
men who figured between that epoch and 1792, one would conceive that he was a regular talon rouge-a duke or peer de la vieille cour, at the very least. Every one at that period showed a 'pitiful spirit,' if we are to believe this one-sided writer. Nothing was apparent in the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies but vain mediocrity; all the financial Acts of these two assemblies were marked by ignorance and weakness. Mirabeau was the 'most corrupt and declamatory of men'-the financial committee was composed of economists, philanthropists, and cliqueistsclasses of persons at whom M. Capefigue turns up his aristocratic nose with utter disdain. With more reason he objects to the abolition of the impôts indirects, which were not very onerous and easily collected, and to the repeal of the taxes on wines, salt, the dixième, vingtième, péages barrières, octrois, &c.
The dons patrioques,' he terms a farce, and certainly they do not appear to have been very considerable. For instance, patriotic women laid on the altar of their country, as it was called, their ear-rings and silk stuffs-the men, old worn-out fire-arms -and the priests, their chalices and pyxs. These, it must be confessed, were not very valuable in a national point of view. The seizure of the silver utensils of the corporations and churches, M. Capefigue denounces as sacrilege. The decree directing the melting down of church bells, he calls odious and ridiculous. The spoliators, however, were disappointed in the metal of the church bells; it was found that it was composed of five-sixths of copper and one-sixth of pewter, mixed with a little antimony, so that it was useless for money, except for the copper it contained.
M. Capefigue holds that the first Revolution inundated France with two classes of people who were marked with the mark of the beast. These were first, les financiers Suisses, whom this senseless bigot says reproachfully were always Protestants; and the second class were les Juifs des bords du Rhin et d'Allemagne. These Swiss Bankers, this senseless author says, had none of the grace-the prodigalités artistiques (such abominable French is untranslateable) of the Fermiers Généraux of the age of Louis XV. and Louis XVI., those noble protectors of the intelligence, the luxury, and the intoxication of civilization, 'ces nobles protecteurs de l'intelligence, du luxe, et des ivresses de la civilisation. To this and to many other such stupid platitudes there is a foot note, Voyez mon Louis XV. This is an artifice of advertisement to which this literary tradesman has on every occasion recourse. If he be writing of Napoleon, Louis XVIII., or Charles X., you are sure to find a foot note, Voyez mon Louis XIV., or mon Louis Philippe, or if he be only on Louis
Jews, Swiss Protestants, Game, Tapestry.
181 Philippe, or on Louis Napoleon, there is a foot note, Voyez mon Richelieu, or Mazarin, or mon Histoire Constitutionnelle, or Administrative. It is difficult to say whether Protestants or Jews are the most obnoxious to M. Capefigue. The Jews, he tells us, began in Paris, after the Revolution, by the petit commerce, by horse dealing, usury, and the purchasing of assignats. They did not so early appear as bankers, or enter into rivalry with the Genoese, but contented themselves with purchasing old furniture of châteaux and churches, jewels, &c. In Alsace and Lorraine they became mortgagees of a great deal of property. In Paris they had a kind of Ghetto, where they were protected by the Abbé Gregoire, who had maintained their rights in an academical discourse.
After the great issue of assignats in 1794, everything was paid in paper money, government contracts, debt dividend, &c. Fabre d'Eglantine Chabot, the ex-Capuchin, and his two brothersin-law, the German bankers Frey, were the great speculators in Indian bonds and securities. The Convention, Capefigue tells us, hastened the sale of the Biens Nationaux. This species of property was sold at a fabulous cheapness, and payment of the one-tenth was allowed in assignats. In Paris, the patriots of the Danton party, such as Fabre d'Eglantine, the Count of Redern, Saint Simon, the two German bankers Frey, and the ex-Capuchin Chabot, purchased with handfulls of worthless assignats, the finest mansions, estates, and old fiefs. M. Capefigue mourns, as a preux chevalier, that coveys of game were destroyed and the underwood which protected them remorselessly cut down. He weeps over the destruction of tapestry de haute et basse lisse with the zealous, woful countenance of an old curiosity shopkeeper who has lost some valuable old China or point lace, and laments the destruction of those boxes and cabinets inlaid with ivory, of those China bowls, now so much regretted. Such is the trash which a man of five-and-fifty puts forward near the close of what is called this enlightened nineteenth century.
The two financial Committees of the National Convention meet with the special objurgation of M. Capefigue, and he denounces Vidallin, Pelletier, Freciné, Fouché, Français de Nantes, as well as Cambon, Legendre, and a score of others.
Before the convocation of the States-General there was much gambling on the Bourse of Paris. The two most inveterate dabblers in the public stocks were the Abbés d'Espagnac and Talleyrand, both friends of the Minister Calonne. The pretension of each age is to be better than the age which preceded it. At the period of the first French Revolution some of the leading
reformers announced that gambling was to be driven from the earth, yet the evil existed during the Convention in a more hideous form than at any period during the reign of Louis XVI.
Three revolutions, and half a dozen changes in forms of government, have taken place since the Convention; but Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, we regret to say, of our own day, are far worse as gamblers on the Bourse than the men of 1790 and 1794. In 1791, the constitutional prelate, Talleyrand, speculated in Assignats in the Catsse d'Escompte, in shares in the India Company, and in the shares of the Banks of St. Charles, then directed by Cabarras, (the father of Mdlle. Tallien); and his friend, the Abbé d'Espagnac, after having run the round of the funds, and rigged the market in every possible way, became a contractor for the army. If we are to give credit to the details of M. Capefigue (which we confess we do not), Talleyrand, while engaged in a diplomatic mission in England, played on the Exchange, alternately for a rise or a fall, till such time as he had established a commercial house in America, to which country he retired in 1792.
The Abbé d'Espagnac was not so fortunate. He became compromised as a contractor for the army of Belgium and Piedmont, was summoned to the bar of the Revolutionary Tribunal, and perished on the scaffold. Bazire, son of a merchant of Dijon, and Chabot, the ex-Capuchin, shared a like fate. Chabot, according to the unsupported assertion of Capefigue, was very fond of money. Be this as it may, it is certain-which Capefigue does not state-that he was of a humane and merciful disposition. During the September massacres he saved many priests, and the Abbé de Sicard, who so distinguished himself in teaching the deaf and dumb, owed to him his life.
During the year 1791,' says Capefigue, a multitude of Jews, 'Protestants, and Faiseurs d'affaires, crowded Paris, from 'Geneva, Neufchâtel, Bâle, Berlin, Vienna, and Frankfort. Among these were the brothers Frey, before mentioned, who 'gained in the space of a year, by dealing in assignats, near 'eighteen millions of francs.' The brothers Frey allied themselves with the Dantonists, and were sworn friends with Camille Desmoulins, Fabre d'Eglantine, Chabot, Bazire, &c. The Freys lived in a fine mansion in the Place Vendôme. Their sister married Chabot, and in this way they knew all that was passing in the Committees of Public Safety, and could regulate their stock-jobbing accordingly. The most active instruments of the bankers Frey were Fabre d'Eglantine and Delauney d'Angers.
Of the Dantonists, Capefigue says, that they were always actuated by the double desire of realizing money and enjoying
Hebert, Chaumette, Anacharsis Clootz.
themselves in the grossest way. Hebert, who had been a tickettaker at a small theatre on the Boulevards, had acquired more than a million. Chaumette, the son of a shoemaker, who wished to pull down the mansions in the Faubourg St. Germain and plant potato-fields on the ruins, realized a considerable fortune; and Anacharsis Clootz, while preaching liberty and equality, realized somewhat near 8000l. a year of our money. Sergent and Paris, both members of the Commune, who signed the orders for the September massacres, received into their hands the effects of the Fermiers Généraux, of the Directors of the Caisse d'Escompte, the diamonds of the Garde meuble, and the jewels of the' victims massacred in the prisons.
The value of the property acquired to the nation by the arrêts of the Revolutionary Tribunal Capefigue counts at more than two hundred millions. After the payment of the first twelfth, the purchaser of national property entered into possession; the remaining eleven-twelfths were paid at long intervals of time. Such facilities of purchasing, coupled with the power of paying in assignats, gave immense advantages to the buyers of national property. A number of strangers and adventurers were attracted to Paris, and among them, says the Ultramontane Capefigue, who never omits an opportunity of having a fling at Protestantismthe Swiss Protestants and the German Jews. The largest purchasers were Claude Henri, Count of St. Simon, who claimed to be descended of the Counts of Vermandois, and the Count de Redern, a Prussian. Between them these two speculators purchased to the tune of seventeen millions in Paris, and it is estimated that they each acquired about 200,000 francs a year, or 8000l. of our money, by their speculations.
In the chapter entitled La Banque et l'Industrie, M. Capefigue introduces the name of Cambon. The principal reproach he has to make against him is that he was a Protestant; these are his words: Cambon d'origine du midi était Protestant; or l'on sait l'esprit d'aide mutuelle et de fraternité que lie tous les membres de l'Eglise Calviniste.'
In the chapter on the Fournisseurs, a history is given of the contracts of the Abbé d'Espagnac. This Abbé undertook to provision the army of the Alps in 1792, and acquitted himself with ability. In 1793, he further engaged to furnish the army of Dumouriez with wagons. In this undertaking he made a great deal of money, but when the star of Dumouriez was no longer in the ascendant, d'Espagnac was dragged before the Revolutionary Tribunal, and condemned, before he had attained the age of forty. Among the mercantile men engaged as army contractors at this period was M. Perregaux, a Swiss of the