« AnteriorContinuar »
too cruelly. But, for good reasons, I will yet defer the blow long since deserved. Then will I doom thee, when no man is found, so lost, so wicked, nay, so like thyself, but shall confess that it was justly dealt. While there is one man that dares defend thee, live! But thou shalt live so beset, so surrounded, so scrutinized, by the vigilant guards that I have placed around thee, that thou shalt not stir a foot against the Republic, without my knowledge. There shall be eyes to detect thy slightest movement, and ears to catch thy wariest whisper, of which thou shalt not dream. The darkness of night shall not cover thy trcason - the walls of privacy shall not stifle its voice. Bafiled on all sides, thy most secret counsels clear as noon-day, what canst thou now have in view ? Proceed, plot, conspire, as thou wilt; there is nothing you can contrive, nothing you can propose, nothing you can attempt, which I shall not know, hear and promptly understand. Thou shalt soon be made aware that I am even more active in providing for the preservation of the State, than thou in plotting its destruction !
10. CATILINE EXPELLED. - Cicero. At length, Romans, we are rid of Catiline! We have driven him forth, drunk with fury, breathing mischief, threatening to revisit us with fire and sword. He is gone; he is fled; he has escaped; he has
No longer, within the very walls of the city, shall he plot her ruin. We have forced him from secret plots into open rebellion. The bad citizen is now the avowed traitor. His flight is the confession of his treason! Would that his attendants had not been so few! Be speedy, ye companions of his dissolute pleasures; be speedy, and you may overtake him before night, on the Aurelian road. Let him not languish, deprived of your society. Haste to join the congenial crew that
say, — for who doubts that the army under Manlius expect Catiline for their leader ? And such an army! Outcasts from honor, and fugitives from debt; gamblers and felons; miscreants, whose dreams are of rapine, murder and conflagration !
Against these gallant troops of your adversary, prepare, O Romans, your garrisons and armies ; and first to that maimed and battered gladiator oppose your Consuls and Generals; next, against that miser. able, outcast horde, lead forth the strength and flower of all Italy ! On the one side chastity contends; on the other, wantonness: here purity, there pollution; here integrity, there treachery; here piety, there profaneness ; here constancy, there rage; here honesty, there baseness; here continence, there lust; in short, equity, temperance, fortitude, prudence, struggle with iniquity, luxury, cowardice, rashness; every virtue with every vice; and, lastly, the contest lies between well-grounded hope and absolute despair. In such a conflict, were even human aid to fail, would not the immortal Gods empower such conspicuous virtue to triumph over such complicated vice?
11. VERRES DENOUNCED. - Cicero.
An opinion has long prevailed, Fathers, that, in public prosecutions, men of wealth, however clearly convicted, are always safe. This opinion, so injurious to your order, so detrimental to the State, it is now in your power to refute. A man is on trial before you who is rich, and who hopes his riches will compass his acquittal; but whose life and actions are his sufficient condemnation in the eyes of all candid
I speak of Caius Verres, who, if he now receive not the sentence his crimes deserve, it shall not be through the lack of a criminal, or of a prosecutor; but through the failure of the ministers of justice to do their duty. Passing over the shameful irregularities of his youth, what does the quæstorship of Verres exhibit but one continued scene of villanies? The public treasure squandered, a Consul stripped and betrayed, an army deserted and reduced to want, a province robbed, the civil and religious rights of a People trampled on! But his prætorship in Sicily has crowned his career of wickedness, and completed the lasting monument of his infamy. His decisions have violated all law, all precedent, all right. His extortions from the industrious poor have been beyond computation. Our most faithful allies have been treated as enemies. Roman citizens have, like slaves, been put to death with tortures. Men the most worthy have been condemned and banished without a hearing, while the most atrocious criminals have, with money, purchased exemption from the punishment due to their guilt.
I ask now, Verres, what have you to advance against these charges ? Art thou not the tyrant prætor, who, at no greater distance than Sicily, within sight of the Italian coast, dared to put to an infamous death, on the cross, that ill-fated and innocent citizen, Publius Gavius Cosanus? And what was his offence ? He had declared his intention of appealing to the justice of his country against your brutal persecutions ! For this, when about to embark for home, he was seized, brought before you, charged with being a spy, scourged and tortured. In vain did he exclaim : “ I am a Roman citizen! I have served under Lucius Pretius, who is now at Panormus, and who will attest my innocence!” Deaf to all remonstrance, remorseless, thirsting for innocent blood, you ordered the savage punishment to be inflicted ! While the sacred words, “ I am a Roman citizen," were on his lips, words which, in the remotest regions, are a passport to protection, you ordered him to death, to a death upon the cross !
O liberty! O sound once delightful to every Roman ear! 0 sacred privilege of Roman citizenship! once sacred, — now trampled on! Is it come to this? Shall an inferior magistrate, a governor, who holds his whole power of the Roman People, in a Roman prorince, within sight of Italy, bind, scourge, torture, and put to an infamous death, a Roman citizen ? Shall neither the cries of innocence expiring in agony, the tears of pitying spectators, the majesty of the Boman Commonwealth, nor the fear of the justice of bis country, restrain the merciless monster, who, in the confidence of his riches, strikes at the very root of liberty, and sets mankind at defiance ? And shall this man escape ? Fathers, it must not be! It must not be, unless you would undermine the very foundations of social safety, strangle justice, and call down anarchy, massacre and ruin, on the Commonwealth !
12. AGAINST THE NOBILITY AND CLERGY OF PROVENCE, FEB. 3, 1789. —
Original Translation from Mirabeau. Honoré Gabriel Riquetti, Comte de Mirabeau, was born at Bignon, in France, on the 9th of March, 1749. The early part of his life was one of disorder and misery. The French Revolu. tion offered a field for his energies. Being rejected, at the time of the elections, by the nobility of Provence, he hired a warehouse, put up this inscription,-“ Mirabeau, woollen-draper,” and was elected deputy from the third estate of Aix. His contemporaries speak of the effect of his eloquence as surprising and irresistible. “He trod the tribune with the supreme authority of a master, and the imperial air of a king.” Personally, he was quite ugly. He himself has said, in a letter to a lady who had not seen him :-“Imagine a tiger scarred with the smallpox, and you may form some notion of my features." “He was a man," says one of his critics, “who, by his qualities no less than by the singularity of his fortune, is destined to take his place in history by the side of the Demosthenes, the Gracchi, and the other kindred spirits of an antiquity whose gigantic characteristics he so frequently reproduced.” He died 1791.
In the French National Assembly, every speaker who addresses that body formally, instead of speaking from his seat, as in the legislative halls of England and the United States, ascends an elevated platform, or pulpit, called a tribune, from which he makes his harangue.
In all countries, in all ages, have aristocrats implacably pursued the friends of the People; and when, by I know not what combination of fortune, such a friend has uprisen from the very bosom of the aristocracy, it has been at him preeminently that they have struck, eager to inspire wider terror by the elevation of their victim. So perished the last of the Gracchi by the hands of the Patricians. But, mortally smitten, he flung dust towards Heaven, calling the avenging Gods to witness: and, from that dust, sprang Maríus ; - Marius, less illustrious for having exterminated the Cimbri than for having beaten down the despotism of the nobility in Rome.
But you, Commons, listen to one, who, unseduced by your applauses, yet cherishes them in his heart. Man is strong only by union; happy only by peace. Be firm, not obstinate; courageous, not turbulent; free, not undisciplined; prompt, not precipitate. Stop not except at difficulties of moment; and be then wholly inflexible. But disdain the contentions of self-love, and never thrust into the balance the individual against the country. Above all, hasten, as much as in you lies, the epoch of those States-General, from which you are charged with flinching, the more acrimoniously charged, the more your accusers dread the results; of those States-General, through which so many pretensions will be scattered, so many rights reëstablished, so many evils reformed; of those States-General, in short, through which the monarch himself desires that France should regenerate herself.
For myself, who, in my public career, have had no other fear but that of wrong-doing, - who, girt with my conscience, and armed with my principles, would brave the universe, — whether it shall be my fortune to serve you with my voice and my exertions in the National Assembly, or whether I shall be enabled to aid you there with my prayers only, be sure that the vain clamors, the wrathful menaces, the injurious protestations, — all the convulsions, in a word, of expiring prejudices, — shall not on me impose! What! shall he now pause in his civic course, who, first among all the men of France, emphatically proclaimed his opinions on national affairs, at a time when circumstances were much less urgent than now, and the task one of much greater peril ? Never! No measure of outrages shall bear down my patience. I have been, I am, I shall be, even to the tomb, the man of tlie Public Liberty, the man of the Constitution. If to be such be to become the man of the People rather than of the Nobles, then woe to the privileged orders! For privileges shall have an end, but the People is eternal !
13. NECKER'S FINANCIAL PLAN, SEPT. 26, 1789. — Mirabeau. Orig. Translation.
Necker, the minister of finance, having proposed an income tax of twenty-five per cent., with (ther ineasures, in view of the desperate state of the financial affairs of France, the proposition was advocated by Mirabeau, who did not, however, profess to comprehend or endorse all its details. Although a known enemy to the minister, he magnanimously made two speeches in behalf of his measure ; without, however, inducing the Assembly to pass it, until, on the eve of its being rejected, Mirabeau rushed to the Tribune, and poured forth a last appeal, an abrids ment of which is here given. This speech proved effectual. The Assembly received it with shunts of enthusiasm ; and Necker's plan was adopted. Madame de Stael (Necker's daughter), who was near Mirabeau at the time of the delivery of this speech, says that “its effect was prodigious.”
The minister of finance has presented a most alarming picture of the state of our affairs. He has assured us that delay must aggravate the peril ; and that a day, an hour, an instant, may render it fatal. We have no plan that can be substituted for that which he proposes. On this plan, therefore, we must fall back. But, have we time, Gentlemen ask, to examine it, to probe it thoroughly, and verify its calculations ? No, no! a thousand times no ! Hap-hazard conjectures, insignificant inquiries, gropings that can but mislead, — these are all that we can give to it now. Shall we therefore miss the decisive moment ? Do Gentlemen hope to escape sacrifices and taxation by a plunge into national bankruptcy? What, then, is bankruptcy, but the inost cruel, the most iniquitous, most unequal and disastrous of imposts? Listen to me for one moment !
Two centuries of plunder and abuse have dug the abyss which threatens to engulf the Nation. It must be filled up — this terrible chasm. But how? Here is a list of proprietors. Choose from the wealthiest, in order that the smallest number of citizens may be sacrificed. But choose! Shall not a few perish, that the mass of the People may be saved? Come, then! Ilere are two thousand Notables, whose property will supply the deficit. Restore order to your finances, peace and prosperity to the Kinglom! Strike! Immolate, without mercy, these unfortunate victims! Hurl them into the abyss: - It closes !
You recoil with dismay from the contemplation. Inconsistent and pusillanimous! What! Do you not perceive that, in decreeing a public bankruptcy, or, what is worse, in rendering it inevitable with.
out decreeing it, you disgrace yourselves by an act a thousand times more criminal, and — folly inconceivable ! - gratuitously criminal ? For, in the shocking alternative I have supposed, at least the deficit would be wiped off. But do you imagine that, in refusing to pay, you shall cease to owe ? Think you that the thousands, the millions of men, who will lose in an instant, by the terrible explosion of a bankruptcy, or its revulsion, all that formed the consolation of their lives, and perhaps their sole means of subsistence, think you that they sül leave you to the peaceable fruition of your crime? Stoical spectators of the incalculable evils which this catastrophe would disgorge upon France; impenetrable egotists, who fancy that these convulsions of despair and of misery will pass, as other calamities have passed, and all the more rapidly because of their intense violence,
are you, indeed, certain that so many men without bread will leave you tranquilly to the enjoyment of those savory viands, the number and delicacy of which you are so loth to diminish? No! you will perish; and, in the universal conflagration, which you do not shrink from kindling, you will not, in losing your honor, save a single one of your detestable indulgences. This is the way we are going. And I say to you, that the men who, above all others, are interested in the enforcement of these sacrifices which the Government demands, are you yourselves! Vote, then, this subsidy extraordinary; and may it prove sufficient !
Vote it, inasmuch as whatever doubts you may entertain as to the means, - doubts
and unenlightened, — you can have none as to the necessity, or as to our inability to provide – immediately, at least — a substitute. Vote it, because the circumstances of the country admit of no evasion, and we shall be responsible for all delays. Beware of demanding more time! Misfortune accords it never. Why, Gentlemen, it was but the other day, that, in reference to a ridiculous commotion at the Palais-Royal,*
* --a Quixotic insurrection, which never had any importance save in the feeble imaginations or perverse designs of certain faithless men,- you heard these wild words: “Catiline is at the gates of Rome, and yet you deliberate!” And verily there was neither a Catiline nor à Rome ; neither perils nor factions around you. But, to-day, bankruptcy, hideous bankruptcy, is there before you, and threatens to consume you, yourselves, your property, your honor, — and yet you deliberate!
14. ON THE REFUSAL OF THE CHAMBER OF VACATIONS OF RENNES TO OBEY
THE DECREES OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, Jan. 9, 1790. — Original Translation from Mirabeau.
WHEN, during our session yesterday, those words which you have taught Frenchmen to unlearn — orders, privileges — fell on my ears ; when a private corporation of one of the Provinces of this Empire
* The s in Palais is mute, and the diphthong ai has the sound of ai in air, before the r is reached. The French pronunciation of Royal may be expressed in English thus : Roh-ah-ce-ahl; bu' the syllables must be fused rapidly in the utteranoe.