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our consideration, by which government may be sub verted. The moneyed men, merchants, principal tradesmen, and men of letters (hitherto generally thought the peaceable and even timid part of society) are the chief actors in the French Revolution. But the fact is, that, as money increases and circulates, and as the circulation of news in politics and letters becomes more and more diffused, the persons who diffuse this money and this intelligence become more and more important. This was not long undiscovered. Views of ambition were in France, for the first time, presented to these classes of men: objects in the state, in the army, in the system of civil offices of every kind. Their eyes were dazzled with this new prospect. They were, as it were, electrified, and made to lose the natural spirit of their situation. A bribe, great without example in the history of the world, was held out to them,the whole government of a very large kingdom.
There are several who are persuaded that Grounds of the same thing cannot happen in England, posed for because here (they say) the occupations of merchants, tradesmen, and manufacturers are not held as degrading situations. I once thought that the low estimation in which commerce was held in France might be reckoned among the causes of the late Revolution; and I am still of opinion that the exclusive spirit of the French nobility did irritate the wealthy of other classes. But I found long since, that persons in trade and business were by no means despised in France in the manner I had been taught to believe. As to men of letters, they were Literary so far from being despised or neglected, that there was no country, perhaps, in the universe,
in which they were so highly esteemed, courted, caressed, and even feared : tradesmen naturally were not so much sought in society, (as not furnishing so largely to the fund of conversation as they do to the revenues of the state, but the latter description got forward every day. M. Bailly, who made himself the popular mayor on the rebellion of the Bastile, and is a principal actor in the revolt, before the change possessed a pension or office under the crown of six hundred pound English a year, — for that country, no contemptible provision; and this he obtained solely as a man of letters, and on no other
title. As to the moneyed men, whilst the
monarchy continued, there is no doubt, that, merely as such, they did not enjoy the privileges of nobility ; but nobility was of so easy an acquisition, that it was the fault or neglect of all of that description who did not obtain its privileges, for their lives at least, in virtue of office. It attached under the royal government to an innumerable multitude of places, real and nominal, that were vendi. ble; and such nobility were as capable of everything as their degree of influence or interest could make them, – that is, as nobility of no considerable rank or consequence. M. Necker, so far from being a French gentleman, was not so much as a Frenchman born, and yet we all know the rank in which he stood on the day of the meeting of the States.
As to the mere matter of estimation of
the mercantile or any other class, this is regulated by opinion and prejudice. In England, a security against the envy of men in these classes is not so very complete as we may imagine. We must not impose upon ourselves. What institutions and
manners together had done in France manners alone do here. It is the natural operation of things, where there exists a crown, a court, splendid orders of knighthood, and an hereditary nobility, where there exists a fixed, permanent, landed gentry, continued in greatness and opulence by the law of primogeniture, and by a protection given to family settlements, — where there exists a standing army and navy, — where there exists a Church establishment, which bestows on learning and parts an interest combined with that of religion and the state ;- in a country where such things exist, wealth, new in its acquisition, and precarious in its duration, can never rank first, or even near the first : though wealth has its natural weight further than as it is balanced and even preponderated amongst us, as amongst other nations, by artificial institutions and opinions growing out of them. At no period in the history of England have so few peers been taken out of trade or from families newly created by commerce. In no period has so small a number of noble families entered into the counting-house. I can call to mind but one in all England, and his is of near fifty years' standing. Be that as it may, it appears plain to me, from my best observation, that envy and ambition may, by art, management, and disposition, be as much excited amongst these descriptions of men in England as in any other country, and that they are just as capable of acting a part in any great change.
What direction the French spirit of pros- Progress of elytism is likely to take, and in what order spirit
. it is likely to prevail in the several parts of Europe, it is not easy to determine. The seeds are sown almost everywhere, chiefly by newspaper circu.
lations, infinitely more efficacious and extensive than ever they were. And they are a more important instrument than generally is imagined. They are a part of the reading of all; they are the whole of the reading of the far greater number. There are thirty of them in Paris alone. The language diffuses them more widely than the English, - though the English, too, are much read. The writers of these papers, indeed, for the greater part, are either unknown or in contempt, but they are like a battery, in which the stroke of any one ball produces no great effect, but the amount of continual repetition is decisive. Let us only suffer any person to tell us his story, morning and evening, but for one twelvemonth, and he will become our master.
All those countries in which several states are comprehended under some general geographical description, and loosely united by some federal constitution, - countries of which the members are small, and greatly diversified in their forms of government, and in the titles by which they are held, — these countries, as it might be well expected, are the principal objects of their hopes and machinations. Of these, the chief are Germany and Switzerland; after them, Italy has its place, as in circumstances somewhat similar.
As to Germany, (in which, from their re
lation to the Emperor, I comprehend the Belgic Provinces,) it appears to me to be, from several circumstances, internal and external, in a very critical situation, and the laws and liberties of the Empire are by no means secure from the contagion of the French doctrines and the effect of French in. trigues, or from the use which two of the greater
German powers may make of a general derangement to the general detriment. I do not say that the French do not mean to bestow on these German states liberties, and laws too, after their mode; but those are not what have hitherto been understood as the laws and liberties of the Empire. These exist and have always existed under the principles of feodal tenure and succession, under imperial constitutions, grants and concessions of sovereigns, family compacts, and public treaties, made under the sanction, and some of them guarantied by the sovereign powers of other nations, and particularly the old government of France, the author and natural support of the Treaty of Westphalia.
In short, the Germanic body is a vast mass of heterogeneous states, held together by that heterogeneous body of old principles which formed the public law positive and doctrinal. The modern laws and liberties, which the new power in France proposes to introduce into Germany, and to support with all its force of intrigue and of arms, is of a very different nature, utterly irreconcilable with the first, and indeed fundamentally the reverse of it: I mean the rights and liberties of the man, the droit de l'homme. That this doctrine has made an amazing progress in Germany there cannot be a shadow of doubt. They are infected by it along the whole course of the Rhine, the Maese, the Moselle, and in the greater part of Suabia and Franconia. It is particularly prevalent amongst all the lower people, churchmen and laity, in the dominions of the Ecclesias- Ecclesiastitical Electors. It is not easy to find or to conceive governments more mild and indulgent than these Church sovereignties; but good government