Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

ing to the Genevans; and the means taken to bring them to compliance were still more offensive. Disturbances and bloodshed were indirectly either promoted or coun tenanced, by some dark intrigues, with a view to make them sensible that the only remedy for those domestic confusions, was to throw themselves into the arms of the French. But this attempt was not successful; nor even approved by numbers of the French themselves. They condemned it as manifesting an ambition incompatible with those principles of moderation on which true republicans ought to value themselves, and which the French held forth to Europe as the maxims by which they had resolved to conduct themselves. Were Europe once convinced that the ancient system of conquest and encroachment on the territories of its neighbours, which had rendered France so odious under the monarchy, were to be continued under the republic, the necessity of self-defence would gradually unite every country against it in which case, notwithstanding the brilliant career of its arms hitherto, patience and perseverance on the part of the numerous enemies that so unjustifiable a conduct would create, must in the end prevail, and both the glory and character of integrity, at which the French ought equally to aim in their political proceedings, would be forfeited.

In addition to these motives, for abstaining from a forced incorporation of Geneva with France, it was urged that the inhabitants of that city and its territory, though forming but a small state, were so jealous of their indepedency, that they would never consent to resign it. The

very circumscription of that state, made every member of it the more sensible of his personal weight in its affairs, and of the freedom which he enjoyed. To deprive him of the satis faction arising from such a situa tion, would be a wanton exertion of the superior strength of the repub. hic, which would redound much more to its disgrace than benefit. Stung with rage at a treatment which they did not deserve, the citizens of Geneva would desert it, and carry to other countries that industry to which alone it owed its flourishing situation during so many years. The mere possession of the place itself would prove a poor recompeuse for the expulsion of its inhabitants, which, however indirectly effected, would not be the less real. In the mean while, they would exhibit, in the various places of their voluntary banishment, living proofs of the ambition and tyranny of France. The nearest of its neighbours would see their own destiny in that of those unhappy fugitives, and learn from thence the obligation they were under, of embracing one of these two alternatives: either of submitting to the like treatment, or of preparing manfully to resist it. of those who would be constrained, to adopt this resolution, the first would be the Swiss, a people noted for ages on account of their love of liberty, and of their astonishing achievements in its defence. Such a people, if united, France would find a formidable enemy: nor was it indeed to be supposed they would tamely behold the annexation of Geneva to France, by compulsory means, nor even by the voluntary concession of its inhabitants. They were bound, in the former of these cases, to assist them, and inthe latter

they

I

they would hardly permit such an acquisition to France in so near a neighbourhood, and of so dangerous a tendency, without seriously interposing to prevent it. This, of course, must be attended with consequences of which the ultimate issue could not be ascertained, but which would undoubtedly be productive of many calamities.

Arguments of this nature were indiscriminately used by the Genevans, the many French individuals that espoused their cause, and by those persons in Switzerland, who foresaw the difficulties, wherein the Helvetic body must necessarily be involved, were the directory to persist in so unequitable a project. It was therefore abandoned but the iniquitous ambition that had prompt ed it still remaining ungratified, sought a revenge for its disappointment, in the harsh usage of the several agents deputed from Geneva to Paris, whom it ignominiously expelled from that city, on no other pretence, than that they did not Come with those friendly views that became the state which sent them. But the Genevans, undiscouraged by this treatment, persevered unremittingly in the determination to res main a separate state, and continued to labour with the more vigour in improving the government they had established, when they found themselves countenanced by the moderate party in France, which, happily for them, was the most numerous.

The motives that were thought to have actuated the directory in a transaction, from which they reaped finally so little honour, were the desire to signalize themselves by the acquisition of a state, which, however inconsiderable in strength and

extent, had obtained a highly deserved reputation throughout Europe, by the industry and ingenuity of its inhabitants; and, more than all, by the distinguished figure it had maintained, and the high spirit it had displayed, in those active and tempestuous scenes that were produced by the reformation. It had long been considered as the original seat of Calvinism, and the rival of Rome itself in matters of religion. Here the famous founder of that sect lived and died, after having, by his unconquerable courage, laid the foundation of the most resolute association of men that ever figured in modern ages. From the principles which he inculcated, arose that reformation in religion which was grafted on republican maxims. Hence it was immediately adopted by all that aspiréd at freedom. It filled France with the most intrepid asserters of civil as well as religious rights. It spread into the low countries, where it erected the republic of Holland. It made its way into England and Scotland, where it gradually animated the inquisitive and daring spirits of the last century in this country to those researches into the nature of government, and to those exer tions in the cause of national freedom, which, had not fanatic sm intervened, would probably have terminated so happily for all parties. Geneva, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, had been the central point of communication between the principal actors of this high-spirited party. Beza, a far greater character than Calvin, nơ less inflexible, but much less austere, added lustre and importance to this place, by his learning and many other respectable qualities. He cons IN 3]

[ocr errors]

tinued like him the oracle of his ments of knowledge and polite learnparty, and was visited and consulting, that conduce to the utility and ed by all the great champions it pro- glory of a nation. duced, both in arms and literature. All these circumstances conferred a splendour upon Geneva, that entitled it to great distinction. The first kings and states in Europe, of the protestant persuasion, treated it unanimously with every mark of respect, and it continued on this honourable footing even during the reign of Lewis the fourteenth, who strove several times in vain to subdue the spirit with which it resisted his attempts to influence its government. The annexation of so cele'brated a state to the French empire appeared to the directory an object worthy of their attention, and they were seriously chagrined at their failure.

[blocks in formation]

Desirous of giving this revival of the encouragements, due to literature, all the solemnity of which it was susceptible, the directory ap pointed the fourth of April, 1796, for a public meeting of all the members of the national institute, established the preceding year, at the era of the new constitution. The meeting was held in the largest ball of the ancient palace of the Louvre. All the literati, and all the men of genius and reputation in the polite and liberal arts attended. The directory, the councils, and all persons in the principal departments of government were present, together with the foreign ministers, and as many spectators as the hall could contain. The purpose of the meet. ing was formally announced, in a speech made by the president of the directory. France, he said, delivered from past miseries, had now resolved to revive those arts, through the cultivation of which the nation had risen to so high a degree of reputation, and commanded the respect of all Europe. It was the determination of government, to pay them all the attention, and give them all the encouragement and recompense which they could possibly claim from a free and enlightened people. The president of the national institute, citizen Dusaulx, replied, in the name of his brethren, that they were all equally animated with the love of freedom, of knowledge, and of arts; that they were firmly attached to the republic from principle, and the consciousness that in the bosom of freedom all those great sentiments are generated and nurtured, that dignify human nature,

and

nations.

and constitute the true grandeur of the most boundless restraint: as these latter had been experimentally found the staunchest friends to liberty, and the former its most inveterate foes, it was natural to conclude, that the ecclesiastics, adhering to the church of Rome, who were the spiritual guides of these, were also the instigators of this rancour. Hence the strictness and severity: with which they were constantly watched. Hence too the averseness of the constituted authorities, to per mit any species of authority to reside in any ecclesiastical body, lest, as the experience of all times had invariably shewn, it should gradually obtain an influence over the minds of men incompatible with the rights of government.

The solemnity of this day, and the hopes it inspired, that a renewal was at hand of the arts and occupa tions of peace, filled the public with the highest satisfaction. Discerning people observed, on this occasion, that the liberty of thinking and publishing, so carefully fettered under the former government, was an advantage of much more consequence than the generality seemed to perceive. Exclusively of those apprehensions for personal safety, which were now removed, remunerations would flow in equal proportion to persons of all religious persuasions, and neither dignity nor income would be appropriated to any particular sect. This would at once destroy all other motives, in the investigation of truth, than that of arriving at a discovery. While the champions of only one sect were salaried for maintaining its doctrines, and all others precluded from opposing them, by the severest penalties, with what face could any man pretend to assert their rectitude? It was solely by freedom of disquisition that truth was discoverable: and the most valuable consequence of the revolution was the abrogaHon of that exclusive privilege, which ignorance and imbecility had conferred upon the clergy of the established church, that of silencing, without any other argument than threats and terror, all those who dared to dissent from their opinions. The fact, at this period, was, that though a prodigious mass of the French nation still remained enslaved to the Romish tenets, multitudes in all classes had imbibed a propensity to think and speak on subjects relating to religion, with

The spirit that brought about the revolution was in direct opposition to those claims of implicit belief, on which all spiritual authority is founded. While the monarchy continued part of the constitution, finding the priesthood, either from interest or bigotry, its most faithful and firmest supporters, it repaid their assistance with its own. It was this alliance, between the church and the crown, that finally ruined both; and induced their destroyers to consider them as inimical, from their very essence, to political liberty; and inadmissible, on this account, into any system founded on that principle. After the king's death, the clergy underwent the severest persecution, those only excepted who had taken the oaths of fidelity to the republic. During the stormy and tyrannical government of Robespierre, the civil establishment of the Gallican church was formally annulled, and even those ecclesiastics, who adhered to the republican government, were deprived of the [N 4]

regular

regular maintenance hitherto allowed them.

After the fall of the tyrant, the convention decreed a variety of mitigations in the laws that had been enacted against the nonjuring: clergy. It proclaimed the fullest liberty of worship, and required no other than a simple declaration of submission to the laws, from those clergymen who exercised their professional functions, together with an acknowledgment of the sovereignty. of the people. But those who subscribed to these conditions, together with their followers, were branded, by the nonjuring clergy and their adherents, as guilty of apostacy. Much of that spiritual antipathy took place between those dissenting parties, which has so long proved the disgrace and the bane of religion. But the ruling powers, faithful to their determination of impartiality, paid no attention to those dissentions; and as they had formally declared, that no particular mode of worship should be maintained at the public expence, nor be: protected exclusively to any other, they went no farther than to prevent those animosities from breaking out to the disturbance of the peace of the community; and to this end enacted penalties to punish and repress them.

As that part of the French clergy and nation, which openly professed allegiance to government, by conforming to its ordinances, and making the declarations prescribed, could not fail of being viewed with a favourable eye, it ventured to take some steps which were thought hazardous, in the opinion of those who dreaded the jealousy they might occasion. A meeting of

some of those bishops, who were called constitutional, from their having taken the civic oaths enjoined by the constituent assembly, so styled from having framed the first constitution, was beld in the beginning of 1795, in order to consult how to restore order and regularity in the worship and discipline of the church, and to replace it on a footing of sta bility, after the confusions that had so violently disturbed its peace. They made a declaration, at the same time, which was highly ac ceptable to the friends of harmony and universal toleration in religious matters. They frankly and explicitly avowed their assent to the separation of the church from the state, acknowledging it to be the most effectual means of eradicating those corruptions and scandalous practices that had been produced by their union, and so deplorably tainted that purity of manners, and integrity of life, which ought to accompany the ecclesiastical profession. Religion, they said, when unconnected with politics, would resume that influence over mankind, which arises from innocence and virtue. The great and the powerful would respect it the more for demanding from them only the protection of the state in return for its obedience and confor mity to the laws of the land.

These were declarations very uncommon in the ecclesiastical assem blies of modern ages. But numbers of the most zealous friends to Christianity, applauded them with fervent sincerity, as tending to divest religion of those appendages, which made it doubtful whether its asserters and followers were influenced by conviction, or by interest ; and to bring it back to the princi

ples,

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »