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• All the parts of this strange proceeding were to be traced back to the invisible hand of the duke of Choiseul, who was the director of the whole : it was he who caused a commission to be given to the parliament to inquire into this affair. The metropolis was not in. clined to a punishment of this kind, particularly for crimes committed more than two thousand leagues off. It was necessary to rouse the public, and direct against the general all the means of mi. nisters whose power is in danger, or enraged, or in a state of actual intoxication. Lally was accused of having betrayed the interests of the king, and the India company at Pondicherry.
. The five magistrates, who were commissioned to make their report on the cause, declared at first among themselves, after a long examination, that general Lally was innocent. Yet, on the day when their report was finally to be given, two of them condemned him to death, and two others declared him not guilty. It was still in the power of the fifth to have saved him : but wavering between the two opinions, like a man who gropes his way blindfold, now inclining this way, now that, and now turning about, he at last said, to get rid of his doubts" Let him die, that at any rate we may make an end of our business.”
In the parliament Lally had the warmest partisans of the duke of Choiseul against him, and they went so far as to propose, that he should be condemned to the wheel. “ If you really intend he should die," observed one of the most cunning, “ sentence him to some other kind of death, for this the king will never be brought to suffer.” Lally was condemned to be beheaded, for having betrayed the interests of the king and the India company. “ The nation requires an example,” said the judges; “ and not finding facts to lay before the public, it is upon the whole taken together we have cona demned him.” They had eluded the military testimonies of the Crillons and Montmorencys, who were the general's companions in India, and who listened to the depositions of Lally's groom and cook, who were offended with a master that had treated them with austerity.
• The animosity of the judges against the general was so great, that one of them went to the king, to request him not to grant Lally a pardon. Among his numerous relations in France, mademoiselle Dillon alone had the courage to write to the king, requesting him to hear MM. de Montmorency and de Crillon, occular writ. nesses of the courage and zeal of the unfortunate Lally. The king, governed and watched by the duke of Choiseul, was inflexible. Ma dame de la Heuse went and threw herself at his feet, supplicating his pardon : but the king was not to be prevailed upon, the duke of Choiseul never ceasing to beset him at Choisy.
« On the day of execution this minister shut up every avenue, to prevent the repentance of a king whom he mistrusted. In the mean time the hour of his death was hastened at Paris : the general was thrust into the first cart; and that he might not acquaint the people with the nature of his case, the executioner put a gag into his mouth by order of Pasquier. Consternation, and affright spread through the capital : examples of such cruelty were to be found only in the annals of Rome brutalised under Nero.
When general Lally arrived at the place of execution, he began to offer up his prayers. Before he lead finished, the hangman made a stroke at him, which was ineffectual; on which three others laid hold of him and sawed off his head. ::The son of general Lally, then at college, was informed, at the very instant only of the tragical scene, who was the author of his days: he fies from his tutors to pay his first and last homage to his parent, presses through the crowd, and finds nothing but his blood. At this news, the rage of the duke of Choiseul and of the parliament revived. The boy was sent abroad, and the proofs of his birth were destroyed.' Vol. i. P. 46.
Choiseul was succeeded by his rival, who had formerly also been banished from court, and confined to the army, because his uncle the marshal Richelieu wanted his mistress for the king. The leading feature in these antagonist administrations consists in this circumstance, that it was the perpetual object of the duke of Choiseul to unite the great states, and enable them to enlarge their boundaries at the expense of the weak; while the duke d’Aiguillon assisted the weaker states, in conformity with the celebrated maxim of the dauphin, father of Lewis XVI., so politically sage in itself, and upon which the present chief consul has so invariably acted-assist and protect the weak-humble the strong. It was the perpetual object of the former, moreover, to advance the interests of Austria, and preserve the peace of Europe by a strict alliance between the courts of Versailles and Vienna; while the latter evinced an implacable jealousy against the Austrian family, and sought for the safety and aggrandisement of his country by humiliating it in every possible manner. As to the rest, there does not appear to have been any great degree of -difference between them; and in point of moral virtue no twins could be more on a par. We have read much of the profligacy of the court of St. James's under the Stuarts; but perhaps nothing in history can equal the bare-faced debauchery, corruption of manners, and indulgence in every species of low and lascivious gratification, which prevailed at the court of Versailles during the administration of these men; and the temptations which were offered by them to seduce and dæmonise the mind of the dauphin, afterwards Lewis XVI., and his unfortunate consort Marie Antoinette. As the chief seeds of the revolution were sown at this period, we must not close our account without being more explicit. ,
While Choiseul held the reins of government, he was, as we have already observed, strongly opposed by d'Aiguillon; and when d'Aiguillon at length displaced him, Choiseul still retained a party sufficiently large to keep the court and the nation in a state of perpetual chaos. The king was, excepting by acts of occasional interference, a mere cipher in political concerns; his ministers, whoever happened to be in office, found it their interest to gratify his libidinous inclinations; and he who could procure for
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him the most beautiful and lascivious woman was sure to possess the greatest portion of the royal favour. The new mistress was the real prime-minister ; she was systematically initiated by her employers into the plans they intended to execute; and it was expressly stipulated between them, that she should leave no effort unattempted, in her moments of most captivating dalliance, to obtain these ends. The different courts of Europe beheld the distracted and voluptuous state of public affairs at Versailles; and Austria, Russia, Prussia, and occasionally England, all had their separate emissaries and factions, supported by an enormous expense, and infinitely augmenting the profligacy and corruption of the day. Every one was to be hired by every one : the king purchased his pleasures by stipulations with his mistresses; his mistresses their rank in life (several of them, as madame Dubarry for example, from work-houses and common brothels) by compacts with the ministers; the ministers their respective factions and reciprocal triumphs by the bribery of foreign powers. The church was as corrupt and as much brutalised as the court. The Jesuits were at perpetual war with the Jansenists, the Jansenists with the Molinists. The king, whose superstition and timidity of mind, joined to a consciousness of the depravity of his conduct, made him as much a religionist as he was a debauchee, was almost the only one in higher life who made any professions of public devotion whatever. On this point our author is entitled to peculiar credit, as well from his personal knowledge of the facts he enumerates, as from his known attachment to the old régime and the religion of his country. We shall therefore introduce his own words.
· Towards the end of the reign of Lewis XV., opinions favourable to religion were nearly confined to the king, and a weak party at court. The attendance on public worship was left to tradesmen and the lower classes of the people. Those persons of fashion who did not turn religion into ridicule confined themselves to three ways of showing their adherence to it, and that only from a remainder of respect which diminished daily. On Sundays, they went from home, and paid their visits, to avoid an attendance on the celebration of mass: hence they were thought to have been present at that ceremony. The time restricted for the Easter communion they every year divided into two portions; the former of which they passed at Paris, and the latter in the country. By this means they bewildered those who were on the watch, from the curiosity of discovering whether the Easter communion was received by them or not. Finally, in cases of death-bed sickness, the husband or wife, who was to be the survivor, kept the confessor at a distance. There were objections to the vicar's being let into the secrets of the dying party, who, most commonly, had been faithless to the marriage vows, in an age during which a strict adherence to moral duties was considered in no other light than as a matter of jest. The children, the relations, the husband, or the wife, concealed the danger of the sick party from the priest, or sent for a confessor when it was too late.
• Except in the above predicaments, I hardly ever saw persons in high life, before the revolution, give proofs of any attachment to the cause of religion; unless, perhaps, a few old men, or, more commonly, aged female devotees, living retired from court, and in the habits of frequenting the church of St. Sulpice, that being the parish-church resorted to by persons of distinction.' Vol. i. p. 195.
Amidst this general destruction of all the sober and dignified principles of civil society, this equal corruption and dissipation of the church and state, it cannot seem very surprising that wits and superficial philosophers should attack the establishments which were thus egregiously perverted, and in many instances express doubts of the truth or propriety of the principles upon which they were founded. Frederic of Prussia, who had a deep game to play, and in his plans of aggrandisement found it difficult to keep Russia and Austria in a state of quiescence by his own personal exertions, saw plainly that the sect of wits and philosophists might be of essential service to him, by so far augmenting the involved politics of France as to render the ministers of that country incapable of adding to his difficulties. Some of them he therefore complimented with the most adulatory professions of friendship; others he took into actual pay; and over the whole he obtained a vast ascendency, by pretending to enter into all their infidelities and absurdities. The philosophers were therefore duped in their turn : they were in reality the mere tools of Frederic, and afterwards of Catharine of Russia, while they thought themselves the only independent men in the world. The higher dignitaries of the church began at length, however, to tremble for their offices : it was necessary, on their own account, to stay the torrent of infidel pube lications; and a remonstrance was presented to the king,
through the medium,' says our author, 'of a prelate who did NOT believe even in the existence of a God—M.Loménie, archbishop of Toulouse,' in favour of the Gospel, and the intolerant edicts of 1542, 1547, and 1551! " Your majesty is too well apprised,' observe these pious petitioners,' of the advantages which religion confers on nations, and, above all, of the powerful support it yields to the authority of kings; not to consider impiety, which endeavours to annihilate that support, as the greatest scourge that can afflict your reign. We are on the eve of the fatal moment when the press will overturn the church and the state.'
After the very able observations of M. Mounier on the influçnce of the philosophers in accomplishing the revolution, of which an account was given in our last number, we cannot avoid thinking that our author attributes too much to the operation of this fanciful and absurd junto. He unites, however, with the author of the Millennium, in opposition to the abbé Barruel and the bishop of Rochester, in confining their technical phrases • religion of infamy,' ' crush the infamous system' (écrases
l'infame)—to the religion and the religious system of the Gallican church alone, or, at most, to the Roman-catholic faith.
• During a space of fifteen years, the king of Prussia, Catharine II, Voltaire, d'Alembert, Diderot, and Condorcet, invariably distinguished the Roman-catholic religion by the appellation of “the religion of infamy.” Voltaire and d'Alembert ended all their let. ters by the following abbreviations, ecr. L'INF., which for a long time alarmed and puzzled the police officers by whom their letters were opened. Vol. i. P. 193.
. This religion of infamy was that of the Gallican Church, of which the dignitaries composed the first order of a state, still formidable to all the potentates of Europe an order which formed one of the three foundations of a government, which the philosophy of Frederic, of Catharine II. of Voltaire, and Diderot, was endeavouring to overturn.' Vol. i. P. 194.
Thus limited, there certainly was no impropriety in the term; for never could there be a more infamous religion under the
On May 10, 1774, the besotted, lascivious, and superstitious Lewis XV. closed his iniquitous career ; his body being, for several days prior to his decease, one uniform mass of putrid sores, exhaling the most intolerable stench, and his mind agonised with all the recollection of his abominable misdeeds. The solemnity of the scene, however, was not sufficient to diminish the animosity of the different factions by which the dying monarch was surrounded. D’Aiguillon, Richelieu, Fronsac, all the Molinists, and the friends of madame Dubarry, were strenuous against his confession and participation of the sacraments: the adherents of Choiseul, and of Beaumont archbishop of Paris, pressed him however so strenuously to the point, and exhibited so superior a degree of circumvention to their opponents, that they at length prevailed; and the hoary lecher, withdrawing his putrid hands from the bosom of madame Dubarry, took his leave of her for ever with the following address.
“ My dear, I have the small-pox, and my situation is very critical, on account of my age, and other distempers: I must not forget that I am the most Christian king, and the oldest son of the church : I am in my sixty-fourth year ; in a very short time, perhaps, we must be separated for ever. I wish to guard against a scene similar to that which took place at Metz: tell the duke of Aiguillon what I say to you, that, should my disorder increase, he may concur with you in such measures as may enable us to part without scandal and pub. licity.” Vol. i. P. 144.
· Lewis XV. at his death, bequeathed to the French monarchy a number of legacies, which, after the lapse of eighteen years, were doomed to overturn and destroy it to its very foundation.
• When the daughter of Maria Theresa became queen of France,