Read CHAPTER VI - LOUIS XV-THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR - MINISTRY OF THE DUKE OF CHOISEUL. 1748-1774. of A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume VI., free online book, by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot, on

It was not only in the colonies and on the seas that the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle had seemed merely a truce destined to be soon broken; hostilities had never ceased in India or Canada; English vessels scoured the world, capturing, in spite of treaties, French merchant-ships; in Europe and on the continent, all the sovereigns were silently preparing for new efforts; only the government of King Louis XV., intrenched behind its disinterestedness in the negotiations, and ignoring the fatal influences of weakness and vanity, believed itself henceforth beyond the reach of a fresh war.  The nation, as oblivious as the government, but less careless than it, because they had borne the burden of the fault committed, were applying for the purpose of their material recovery that power of revival which, through a course of so many errors and reverses, has always saved France; in spite of the disorder in the finances and the crushing weight of the imposts, she was working and growing rich; intellectual development was following the rise in material resources; the court was corrupt and inert, like the king, but a new life, dangerously free and bold, was beginning to course through men’s minds the wise, reforming instincts, the grave reflections of the dying Montesquieu no longer sufficed for them; Voltaire, who had but lately been still moderate and almost respectful, was about to commence with his friends of the L’Encyclopedie that campaign against the Christian faith which was to pave the way for the materialism of our own days.  “Never was Europe more happy than during the years which rolled by between 1750 and 1758,” he has said in his Tableau du Siecle de Louis XV. The evil, however, was hatching beneath the embers, and the last supports of the old French society were cracking up noiselessly.  The Parliaments were about to disappear, the Catholic church was becoming separated more and more widely every day from the people of whom it claimed to be the sole instructress and directress.  The natural heads of the nation, the priests and the great lords, thought no longer and lived no longer as it.  The public voice was raised simultaneously against the authority or insensate prodigality of Madame de Pompadour, and against the refusal, ordered by the Archbishop of Paris, of the sacraments.  “The public, the public!” wrote M. d’Argenson; “its animosity, its encouragements, its pasquinades, its insolence ­that is what I fear above everything.”  The state of the royal treasury and the measures to which recourse was had to enable the state to make both ends meet, aggravated the dissension and disseminated discontent amongst all classes of society.  Comptrollers-general came one after another, all armed with new expedients; MM. de Machault, Moreau de Sechelles, de Moras, excited, successively, the wrath and the hatred of the people crushed by imposts in peace as well as war; the clergy refused to pay the twentieth, still claiming their right of giving only a free gift; the states-districts, Languedoc and Brittany at the head, resisted, in the name of their ancient privileges, the collection of taxes to which they had not consented; riots went on multiplying; they even extended to Paris, where the government was accused of kidnapping children for transportation to the colonies.  The people rose, several police-agents were massacred; the king avoided passing through the capital on his way from Versailles to the camp at Compiègne; the path he took in the Bois de Boulogne received the name of Revolt Road.  “I have seen in my days,” says D’Argenson, “a decrease in the respect and love of the people for the kingship.”

Decadence went on swiftly, and no wonder.  At forty years of age Louis XV., finding every pleasure pall, indifferent to or forgetful of business from indolence and disgust, bored by everything and on every occasion, had come to depend solely on those who could still manage to amuse him.

Madame de Pompadour had accepted this ungrateful and sometimes shameful task.  Born in the ranks of the middle class, married young to a rich financier, M. Lenormant d’Etioles, Mdlle.  Poisson, created Marchioness of Pompadour, was careful to mix up more serious matters with the royal pleasures.  The precarious lot of a favorite was not sufficient for her ambition.  Pretty, clever, ingenious in devising for the king new amusements and objects of interest, she played comedy before him in her small apartments and travelled with him from castle to castle; she thus obtained from his easy prodigality enormous sums to build pleasaunces which she amused herself by embellishing; Bellevue, Babiole, the marchioness’ house at Paris, cost millions out of the exhausted treasury.  Madame de Pompadour was fond of porcelain; she conceived the idea of imitating in France the china-work of Saxony, and founded first at Vincennes and then at Sevres the manufacture of porcelain, which the king took under his protection, requiring the courtiers to purchase the proceeds of it at high prices.  Everybody was anxious to please the favorite; her incessantly renewed caprices contributed to develop certain branches of the trade in luxuries.  The expenses of the royal household went on increasing daily; the magnificent prodigalities of King Louis XIV. were surpassed by the fancies of Madame de Pompadour.  Vigilant in attaching the courtiers to herself, she sowed broadcast, all around her, favors, pensions, profitable offices, endowing the gentlemen to facilitate their marriage, turning a deaf ear to the complaints of the people as well as to the protests of the States or Parliaments.  The greedy and frivolous crowd that thronged at her feet well deserved the severe judgment pronounced by Montesquieu on courtiers and courts.  “Ambition amidst indolence, baseness amidst pride, the desire to grow rich without toil, aversion from truth, flattery, treason, perfidy, neglect of all engagements, contempt for the duties of a citizen, fear of virtue in the prince, hope in his weaknesses, and more than all that, the ridicule constantly thrown upon virtue, form, I trow, the characteristics of the greatest number of courtiers, distinctive in all places and at all times.”  The majesty of Louis XIV. and the long lustre of his reign had been potent enough to create illusions as to the dangers and the corruptions of the court; the remnants of military glory were about to fade out round Louis XV.; the court still swarmed with brave officers, ready to march to death at the head of the troops; the command of armies henceforth depended on the favor of Madame the Marchioness of Pompadour.

The day had come when the fortune of war was about to show itself fatal to France.  Marshal Saxe had died at Chambord, still young and worn out by excesses rather than by fatigue; this foreigner, this Huguenot, as he was called by Louis XV., had been the last to maintain and continue the grand tradition of French generals.  War, however, was inevitable; five months of public or private negotiation, carried on by the ambassadors or personal agents of the king, could not obtain from England any reparation for her frequent violation of the law of nations; the maritime trade of France was destroyed; the vessels of the royal navy were themselves no longer safe at sea.  On the 21st of December, 1755, the minister of foreign affairs, Rouille, notified to the English cabinet, “that His Most Christian Majesty, before giving way to the effects of his resentment, once more demanded from the King of England satisfaction for all the seizures made by the English navy, as well as restitution of all vessels, whether war-ships or merchant-ships, taken from the French, declaring that he should regard any refusal that might be made as an authentic declaration of war.”  England eluded the question of law, but refused restitution.  On the 23d of January, an embargo was laid on all English vessels in French ports, and war was officially proclaimed.  It had existed in fact for two years past.

A striking incident signalized the commencement of hostilities.  Rather a man of pleasure and a courtier than an able soldier, Marshal Richelieu had, nevertheless, the good fortune to connect his name with the only successful event of the Seven Years’ War that was destined to remain impressed upon the mind of posterity.  Under his orders, a body of twelve thousand men, on board of a squadron, commanded by M. de la Galissonniere, left Toulon on the 10th of April, 1756, at the moment when England was excited by expectation of a coming descent upon her coasts.  On the 17th, the French attacked the Island of Minorca, an important point whence the English threatened Toulon, and commanded the western basin of the Mediterranean.  Some few days later, the English troops, driven out of Ciudadela and Mahon, had taken refuge in Fort St. Philip, and the French cannon were battering the ramparts of the vast citadel.

On the 10th of May an English fleet, commanded by Admiral Byng, appeared in the waters of Port Mahon; it at once attacked M. de la Galissonniere.  The latter succeeded in preventing the English from approaching land.  After an obstinate struggle, Admiral Byng, afraid of losing his fleet, fell back on Gibraltar.  The garrison of Fort St. Philip waited in vain for the return of the squadron; left to its own devices, it nevertheless held out; the fortifications seemed to be impregnable; the siege-works proceeded slowly; the soldiers were disgusted, and began to indulge to excess in the wine of Spain.  “No one who gets drunk shall have the honor of mounting the breach,” said Richelieu’s general order.  Before long he resolved to attempt the assault.

Fort St. Philip towered up proudly on an enormous mass of rock; the French regiments flung themselves into the fossés, setting against the ramparts ladders that were too short; the soldiers mounted upon one another’s shoulders, digging their bayonets into the interstices between the stones; the boldest were already at the top of the bastions.  On the 28th of June, at daybreak, three of the forts were in possession of the French; the same day the English commandant decided upon capitulation.  The Duke of Fronsac, Marshal Richelieu’s son, hurried to Versailles to announce the good news.  There was great joy at court and amongst the French nation; the French army and navy considered themselves avenged of England’s insults.  In London Admiral Byng was brought to trial; he was held responsible for the reverse, and was shot, notwithstanding the protests of Voltaire and of Richelieu himself.  At the same time the king’s troops were occupying Corsica in the name of the city of Genoa, the time-honored ally of France.  Mistress of half the Mediterranean, and secure of the neutrality of Holland, France could have concentrated her efforts upon the sea, and have maintained a glorious struggle with England, on the sole condition of keeping peace on the Continent.  The policy was simple, and the national interest palpable; King Louis XV. and some of his ministers understood this; but they allowed themselves to drift into forgetfulness of it.

For a long time past, under the influence of Count Kaunitz, a young diplomat equally bold and shrewd, “frivolous in his tastes and profound in his views,” Maria Theresa was inclining to change the whole system of her alliances in Europe; she had made advances to France.  Count Kaunitz had found means of pleasing Madame de Pompadour; the empress put the crowning touch to the conquest by writing herself to the favorite, whom she called “My cousin.”  The Great Frederick, on the contrary, all the time that he was seeking to renew with the king his former offensive and defensive relations, could not manage to restrain the flow of his bitter irony.  Louis XV. had felt hurt, on his own account and on his favorite’s; he still sought to hold the balance steady between the two great German sovereigns, but he was already beginning to lean towards the empress.  A proposal was made to Maria Theresa for a treaty of guarantee between France, Austria, and Prussia; the existing war between England and France was excepted from the defensive pact; France reserved to herself the right of invading Hanover.  The same conditions had been offered to the King of Prussia; he was not contented with them.  Whilst Maria Theresa was insisting at Paris upon obtaining an offensive as well as defensive alliance, Frederick II. was signing with England an engagement not to permit the entrance into Germany of any foreign troops.  “I only wish to preserve Germany from war,” wrote the King of Prussia to Louis XV.  On the 1st of May, 1756, at Versailles, Louis XV. replied to the Anglo-Prussian treaty by his alliance with the Empress Maria Theresa.  The house of Bourbon was holding out the hand to the house of Austria; the work of Henry IV. and of Richelieu, already weakened by an inconsistent and capricious policy, was completely crumbling to pieces, involving in its ruin the military fortunes of France.

The prudent moderation of Abbe de Bernis, then in great favor with Madame de Pompadour, and managing the negotiations with Austria, had removed from the treaty of Versailles the most alarming clauses.  The empress and the King of France mutually guaranteed to one another their possessions in Europe, “each of the contracting parties promising the other, in case of need, the assistance of twenty-four thousand men.”  Russia and Saxony were soon enlisted in the same alliance; the King of Prussia’s pleasantries, at one time coarse and at another biting, had offended the Czarina Elizabeth and the Elector of Saxony as well as Louis XV. and Madame de Pompadour.  The weakest of the allies was the first to experience the miseries of that war so frivolously and gratuitously entered upon, from covetousness, rancor, or weakness, those fertile sources of the bitterest sorrows to humanity.

“It is said that the King of Prussia’s troops are on the march,” wrote the Duke of Luynes in his journal (September 3, 1756); “it is not said whither.”  Frederick II. was indeed on the march with his usual promptitude; a few days later, Saxony was invaded, Dresden occupied, and the Elector-king of Poland invested in the camp of Pirna.  General Braun, hurrying up with the Austrians to the Saxons’ aid, was attacked by Frederick on the 1st of October, near Lowositz; without being decisive, the battle was, nevertheless, sufficient to hinder the allies from effecting their junction.  The Saxons attempted to cut their way through; they were hemmed in and obliged to lay down their arms; the King of Prussia established himself at Dresden, levying upon Saxony enormous military contributions and otherwise treating it as a conquered country.  The unlucky elector had taken refuge in Poland.

The empress had not waited for this serious reverse to claim from France the promised aid.  By this time it was understood how insufficient would be a body of twenty-four thousand men for a distant and hazardous war.  Recently called to the council by King Louis XV., Marshal Belle-Isle, still full of daring in spite of his age, loudly declared that, “since war had come, it must be made on a large scale if it were to be made to any purpose, and speedily.”  Some weeks later, preparations were commenced for sending an army of a hundred thousand men to the Lower Rhine.  The king undertook, besides, to pay four thousand Bavarians and six thousand Wurtemburgers, who were to serve in the Austrian army.  Marshal d’Estrees, grandson of Louvois, was placed at the head of the army already formed.  He was not one of the favorite’s particular friends. a Marshal d’Estrees,” she wrote to Count Clermont, “is one of my acquaintances in society; I have never been in a position to make him an intimate friend, but were he as much so as M. de Soubise, I should not take upon myself to procure his appointment, for fear of having to reproach myself with the results.”  Madame de Pompadour did not continue to be always so reserved, and M. de Soubise was destined before long to have his turn.  M. de Belle-Isle had insisted strongly on the choice of Marshal d’Estrees; he was called “the Temporizer,” and was equally brave and prudent.  “I am accustomed,” said the king, “to hear from him all he thinks.”  The army was already on the march.

Whilst hostilities were thus beginning throughout Europe, whilst negotiations were still going on with Vienna touching the second treaty of Versailles, King Louis XV., as he was descending the staircase of the marble court at Versailles on the 5th of January, 1757, received a stab in the side from a knife.  Withdrawing full of blood the hand he had clapped to his wound, the king exclaimed, “There is the man who wounded me, with his hat-on; arrest him, but let no harm be done him!” The guards were already upon the murderer and were torturing him pending the legal question.  The king had been carried away, slightly wounded by a deep puncture from a penknife.  In the soul of Louis XV. apprehension had succeeded to the first instinctive and kingly impulse of courage; he feared the weapon might be poisoned, and hastily sent for a confessor.  The crowd of courtiers was already thronging to the dauphin’s.  To him the king had at once given up the direction of affairs.

Justice, meanwhile, had taken the wretched murderer in hand.  Robert Damiens was a lackey out of place, a native of Artois, of weak mind, and sometimes appearing to be deranged.  In his vague and frequently incoherent depositions, he appeared animated by a desire to avenge the wrongs of the Parliament; he burst out against the Archbishop of Paris, Christopher de Beaumont, a virtuous prelate of narrow mind and austere character.  “The Archbishop of Paris,” he said, “is the cause of all this trouble through ordering refusal of the sacraments.”  No investigation could discover any conspiracy or accomplices; with less coolness and fanatical resolution than Ravaillac, Damiens, like the assassin of Henry IV., was an isolated criminal, prompted to murder by the derangement of his own mind; he died, like Ravaillac, amidst fearful tortures which were no longer in accord with public sentiment and caused more horror than awe.  France had ceased to tremble for the life of King Louis XV.

For one instant the power of Madame de Pompadour had appeared to be shaken; the king, in his terror, would not see her; M. de Machault, but lately her protege, had even brought her orders to quit the palace.  Together with the salutary terrors of death, Louis XV.’s repentance soon disappeared; the queen and the dauphin went back again to the modest and pious retirement in which they passed their life; the marchioness returned in triumph to Versailles.  MM. de Machault and D’Argenson were exiled; the latter, who had always been hostile to the favorite, was dismissed with extreme harshness.  The king had himself written the sealed letter “Your services are no longer required.  I command you to send me your resignation of the secretaryship of state for war, and of all that appertains to the posts connected therewith, and to retire to your estate of Ormes.”  Madame de Pompadour was avenged.

The war, meanwhile, continued; the King of Prussia, who had at first won a splendid victory over the Austrians in front of Prague, had been beaten at Kolin, and forced to fall back on Saxony.  Marshal d’Estrees, slowly occupying Westphalia, had got the Duke of Cumberland into a corner on the Weser.

On the morning of July 23, 1757, the marshal summoned all his lieutenant-generals.  “Gentlemen,” he said to them, “I do not assemble you to-day to ask whether we should attack M. de Cumberland and invest Hameln.  The honor of the king’s arms, his wishes, his express orders, the interest of the common cause, all call for the strongest measures.  I only seek, therefore, to profit by your lights, and to combine with your assistance the means most proper for attacking with advantage.”  A day or two after, July 26, the Duke of Cumberland, who had fallen back on the village of Hastenbeck, had his intrenchments forced; he succeeded in beating a retreat without being pursued; an able movement of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, and a perhaps intentional mistake on the part of M. de Maillebois had caused a momentary confusion in the French army.  Marshal d’Estrees, however, was not destined to enjoy for long the pleasure of his victory.  Even before he had given battle the Duke of Richelieu had set out from Versailles to supersede him in his command.

The conquest of Port Mahon had thrown around Richelieu a halo of glory; in Germany, he reaped the fruits of Marshal d’Estrees’ successes; the Electorate of Hanover was entirely occupied; all the towns opened their gates; Hesse Cassel, Brunswick, the duchies of Verden and of Bremen met with the same fate.  The marshal levied on all the conquered countries heavy contributions, of which he pocketed a considerable portion.  His soldiers called him “Father La Maraude.”  The pavilion of Hanover at Paris was built out of the spoils of Germany.  Meanwhile, the Duke of Cumberland, who had taken refuge in the marshes at the mouth of the Elbe, under the protection of English vessels, was demanding to capitulate; his offers were lightly accepted.  On the 8th of September, through the agency of Count Lynar, minister of the King of Denmark, the Duke of Cumberland and the marshal signed at the advanced posts of the French army the famous convention of Closter-Severn.  The king’s troops kept all the conquered country; those of Hesse, Brunswick, and Saxe-Gotha returned to their homes; the Hanoverians were to be cantoned in the neighborhood of Stade.  The marshal had not taken the precaution of disarming them.

Incomplete as the convention was, it nevertheless excited great emotion in Europe.  The Duke of Cumberland had lost the military reputation acquired at Fontenoy; the King of Prussia remained alone on the Continent, exposed to all the efforts of the allies; every day fresh reverses came down upon him; the Russian army had invaded the Prussian provinces and beaten Marshal Schwald near Memel; twenty-five thousand Swedes had just landed in Pomerania.  Desertion prevailed amongst the troops of Frederick, recruited as they often were from amongst the vanquished; it was in vain that the king, in his despair, shouted out on the battle-field of Kolin, “D’ye expect to live forever, pray?” Many Saxon or Silesian soldiers secretly left the army.  One day Frederick himself kept his eye on a grenadier whom he had seen skulking to the rear of the camp.  “Whither goest thou?” he cried.  “Faith, sir,” was the answer, “I am deserting; I’m getting tired of being always beaten.” " Stay once more,” replied the king, without showing the slightest anger; “I promise that, if we are beaten, we will both desert together.”  In the ensuing battle the grenadier got himself killed.

For a moment, indeed, Frederick had conceived the idea of deserting simultaneously from the field of battle and from life.  “My dear sister,” he wrote to the Margravine of Baireuth, “there is no port or asylum for me any more save in the arms of death.”  A letter in verse to the Marquis of Argens pointed clearly to the notion of suicide.  A firmer purpose, before long, animated that soul, that strange mixture of heroism and corruption.  The King of Prussia wrote to Voltaire, ­

          “Threatened with shipwreck though I be,
          I, facing storms that frown on me,
          Must king-like think, and live, and die.”

Fortune, moreover, seemed to be relaxing her severities.  Under the influence of the hereditary grand-duke, a passionate admirer of Frederick II., the Russians had omitted to profit by their victories; they were by this time wintering in Poland, which was abandoned to all their exactions.  The Swedes had been repulsed in the Island of Rügen, Marshal Richelieu received from Versailles orders to remain at Halberstadt, and to send re-enforcements to the army of the Prince of Soubise; it was for this latter that Madame de Pompadour was reserving the honor of crushing the Great Frederick.  More occupied in pillage than in vigorously pushing forward the war, the marshal tolerated a fatal license amongst his troops.  “Brigandage is more prevalent in the hearts of the superior officers than in the conduct of the private soldier, who is full of good will to go and get shot, but not at all to submit to discipline.  I’m afraid that they do not see at court the alarming state of things to their full extent,” says a letter from Paris-Duverney to the Marquis of Cremille, “but I have heard so much of it, and perhaps seen so much since I have been within eyeshot of this army, that I cannot give a glance at the future without being transfixed with grief and dread.  I dare to say that I am not scared more than another at sight of abuses and disorder, but it is time to apply to an evil which is at its height other remedies than palliatives, which, for the most part, merely aggravate it and render it incurable as long as war lasts.  I have not seen and do not see here anything but what overwhelms me, and I feel still more wretched for having been the witness of it.”

Whilst the plunder of Hanover was serving the purpose of feeding the insensate extravagance of Richelieu and of the army, Frederick II. had entered Saxony, hurling back into Thuringia the troops of Soubise and of the Prince of Hildburghausen.  By this time the allies had endured several reverses; the boldness of the King of Prussia’s movements bewildered and disquieted officers as well as soldiers.  “Might I ask your Highness what you think of his Prussian majesty’s manoeuvring?” says a letter to Count Clermont, from an officer serving in the army of Germany; “this prince, with eighteen or twenty thousand men at most, marches upon an army of fifty thousand men, forces it to recross a river, cuts off its rear guard, crosses this same river before its very eyes, offers battle, retires, encamps leisurely, and loses not a man.  What calculation, what audacity in this fashion of covering a country!” On the 3d of November the Prussian army was all in order of battle on the left bank of the Saale, near Rosbach.

Soubise hesitated to attack; being a man of honesty and sense, he took into account the disposition of his army, as well as the bad composition of the allied forces, very superior in number to the French contingent.  The command belonged to the Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen, who had no doubt of success.  Orders were given to turn the little Prussian army, so as to cut off its retreat.  All at once, as the allied troops were effecting their movement to scale the heights, the King of Prussia, suddenly changing front by one of those rapid evolutions to which he had accustomed his men, unexpectedly attacked the French in flank, without giving them time to form in order of battle.  The batteries placed on the hills were at the same time unmasked, and mowed down the infantry.  The German troops at once broke up.  Soubise sought to restore the battle by cavalry charges, but he was crushed in his turn.  The rout became general; the French did not rally till they reached Erfurt; they had left eight thousand prisoners and three thousand dead on the field.

The news of the defeat at Rosbach came bursting on France like a clap of thunder; the wrath, which first of all blazed out against Soubise, at whose expense all the rhymesters were busy, was reflected upon the king and Madame de Pompadour.

          “With lamp in hand, Soubise is heard to say
          ’Why, where the devil can my army be? 
          I saw it hereabouts but yesterday: 
          Has it been taken? has it strayed from me? 
          I’m always losing-head and all, I know: 
          But wait till daylight, twelve o’clock or so! 
          What do I see?  O, heavens, my heart’s aglow: 
          Prodigious luck !  Why, there it is, it is! 
          Eh! ventrebleu, what in the world is this? 
          I must have been mistaken ­it’s the foe.’”

Frederick II. had renovated affairs and spirits in Germany; the day after Rosbach, he led his troops into Silesia against Prince Charles of Lorraine, who had just beaten the Duke of Bevern; the King of Prussia’s lieutenants were displeased and disquieted at such audacity.  He assembled a council of war, and then, when he had expounded his plans, “Farewell, gentlemen,” said be; “we shall soon have beaten the enemy, or we shall have looked on one another for the last time.”  On the 3d of December the Austrians were beaten at Lissa, as the French had been at Rosbach, and Frederick II. became the national hero of Germany; the Protestant powers, but lately engaged, to their sorrow, against him, made up to the conqueror; admiration for him permeated even the French army.  “At Paris,” wrote D’Alembert to Voltaire, “everybody’s head is turned about the King of Prussia; five months ago he was trailed in the mire.”

“Cabinet-generals,” says Duclos, “greedy of money, inexperienced and presumptuous; ignorant, jealous, or ill-disposed ministers; subalterns lavish of their blood on the battle-field and crawling at court before the distributors of favors ­such are the instruments we employed.  The small number of those who had not approved of the treaty of Versailles declared loudly against it; after the campaign of 1757, those who had regarded it as a masterpiece of policy, forgot or disavowed their eulogies, and the bulk of the public, who cannot be decided by anything but the event, looked upon it as the source of all our woes.”  The counsels of Abbe de Bernis had for some time past been pacific; from a court-abbe, elegant and glib, he had become, on the 25th of June, minister of foreign affairs.  But Madame de Pompadour remained faithful to the empress.  In the month of January, 1758, Count Clermont was appointed general-in-chief of the army of Germany.  In disregard of the convention of Closter-Severn, the Hanoverian troops had just taken the field again under the orders of the Grand-Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick; he had already recovered possession of the districts of Luneberg, Zell, a part of Brunswick and of Bremen.  In England, Mr. Pitt, afterwards Lord Chatham, had again come into office; the King of Prussia could henceforth rely upon the firmest support from Great Britain.

He had need of it.  A fresh invasion of Russians, aided by the savage hordes of the Zaporoguian Cossacks, was devastating Prussia; the sanguinary battle of Zorndorf, forcing them to fall back on Poland, permitted Frederick to hurry into Saxony, which was attacked by the Austrians.  General Daun surprised and defeated him at Hochkirch; in spite of his inflexible resolution, the King of Prussia was obliged to abandon Saxony.  His ally and rival, Ferdinand of Brunswick, had just beaten Count Clermont at Crevelt.

The new commander-in-chief of the king’s armies, prince of the blood, brother of the late Monsieur Duc, abbot commendatory of St. Germain-des-Près, “general of the Benedictines,”, as the soldiers said, had brought into Germany, together with the favor of Madame de Pompadour, upright intentions, a sincere desire to restore discipline, and some great illusions about himself.  “I am very impatient, I do assure you, to be on the other side of the Rhine,” wrote Count Clermont to Marshal Belle-Isle; “all the country about here is infested by runaway soldiers, convalescents, camp-followers, all sorts of understrappers, who commit fearful crimes.  Not a single officer does his duty; they are the first to pillage; all the army ought to be put under escort and in detachments, and then there would have to be escorts for those escorts.  I hang, I imprison; but, as we march by cantonments and the regimental (particuliers) officers are the first to show a bad example, the punishments are neither sufficiently known nor sufficiently seen.  Everything smacks of indiscipline, of disgust at the king’s service, and of asperity towards one’s self.  I see with pain that it will be indispensable to put in practice the most violent and the harshest measures.”  The king’s army, meanwhile, was continuing to fall back; a general outcry arose at Paris against the general’s supineness.  On the 23d of June he was surprised by Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick in the strong position of Crevelt, which he had occupied for two days past; the reserves did not advance in time, orders to retreat were given too soon, the battle was lost without disaster and without any rout; the general was lost as well as the battle.  “It is certain,” says the Marquis of Vogel, in his narrative of the affair, “that Count Clermont was at table in his headquarters of Weschelen at one o’clock, that he had lost the battle before six, arrived at Reuss at half past ten, and went to bed at midnight; that is doing a great deal in a short time.”  The Count of Gisors, son of Marshal Belle-Isle, a young officer of the greatest promise, had been killed at Crevelt; Count Clermont was superseded by the Marquis of Contades.  The army murmured; they had no confidence in their leaders.  At Versailles, Abbe de Bernis, who had lately become a cardinal, paid by his disgrace for the persistency he had shown in advising peace.  He was chatting with M. de Stahrenberg, the Austrian ambassador, when he received a letter from the king, sending him off to his abbey of St. Médard de Soissons.  He continued the conversation without changing countenance, and then, breaking off the conversation just as the ambassador was beginning to speak of business.  “It is no longer to me, sir,” he said, “that you must explain yourself on these great topics; I have just received my dismissal from his Majesty.”  With the same coolness he quitted the court and returned, pending his embassy to Rome, to those elegant intellectual pleasures which suited him better than the crushing weight of a ministry in disastrous times, under an indolent and vain-minded monarch, who was governed by a woman as headstrong as she was frivolous and depraved.

Madame de Pompadour had just procured for herself a support in her obstinate bellicosity.  Cardinal Bernis was superseded in the ministry of foreign affairs by Count Stainville, who was created Duke of Choiseul.  After the death of Marshal Belle-Isle he exchanged the office for that of minister of war; with it he combined the ministry of the marine.  The foreign affairs were intrusted to the Duke of Praslin, his cousin.  The power rested almost entirely in the hands of the Duke of Choiseul.  Of high birth, clever, bold, ambitious, he had but lately aspired to couple the splendor of successes in the fashionable world with the serious preoccupations of politics; his marriage with Mdlle.  Crozat, a wealthy heiress, amiable and very much smitten with him, had strengthened his position.  Elevated to the ministry by Madame de Pompadour, and as yet promoting her views, he nevertheless gave signs of an independent spirit and a proud character, capable of exercising authority firmly in the presence and the teeth of all obstacles.  France hoped to find once more in M. de Choiseul a great minister; nor were her hopes destined to be completely deceived.

A new and secret treaty had just riveted the alliance between France and Austria.  M. de Choiseul was at the same time dreaming of attacking England in her own very home, thus dealing her the most formidable of blows.  The preparations were considerable.  M. de Soubise was recalled from Germany to direct the army of invasion.  He was to be seconded in his command by the Duke of Aiguillon, to whom, rightly or wrongly, was attributed the honor of having repulsed in the preceding year an attempt of the English at a descent upon the coasts of Brittany.  The expedition was ready, there was nothing to wait for save the moment to go out of port, but Admiral Hawke was cruising before Brest; it was only in the month of November, 1759, that the marquis of Conflans, who commanded the fleet, could put to sea with twenty-one vessels.  Finding himself at once pursued by the English squadron, he sought shelter in the difficult channels at the mouth of the Vilaine.  The English dashed in after him.  A partial engagement, which ensued, was unfavorable; and the commander of the French rear-guard, M. St. Andre du Verger, allowed himself to be knocked to pieces by the enemy’s guns in order to cover the retreat.  The admiral ran ashore in the Bay of Le Croisic and burned his own vessel; seven ships remained blockaded in the Vilaine.  M. de Conflans’ job, as the sailors called it at the time, was equivalent to a battle lost without the chances and the honor of the struggle.  The English navy was triumphant on every sea, and even in French waters.

The commencement of the campaign of 1759 had been brilliant in Germany; the Duke of Broglie had successfully repulsed the attack made by Ferdinand of Brunswick on his positions at Bergen; the prince had been obliged to retire.  The two armies, united under M. de Contades, invaded Hesse and moved upon the Weser; they were occupying Minden when Duke Ferdinand threw himself upon them on the 1st of August.  The action of the two French generals was badly combined, and the rout was complete.  It was the moment of Canada’s last efforts, and the echo of that glorious death-rattle reached even to Versailles.  The Duke of Choiseul had, on the 19th of February, replied to a desperate appeal from Montcalm, “I am very sorry to have to send you word that you must not expect any re-enforcements.  To say nothing of their increasing the dearth of provisions of which you have had only too much experience hitherto, there would be great fear of their being intercepted by the English on the passage, and, as the king could never send you aid proportionate to the forces which the English are in a position to oppose to you, the efforts made here to procure it for you would have no other effect than to rouse the ministry in London to make still more considerable ones in order to preserve the superiority it has acquired in that part of the continent.”  The necessity for peace was, beginning to be admitted even, in Madame de Pompadour’s little cabinets.

Maria Theresa, however, was in no hurry to enter into negotiations; her enemy seemed to be bending at last beneath the weight of the double Austrian and Russian attack.  At one time Frederick had thought that he saw all Germany rallying round him; now, beaten and cantoned in Saxony, with the Austrians in front of him, during the winter of 1760, he was everywhere seeking alliances and finding himself everywhere rejected.  “I have but two allies left,” he would say, “valor and perseverance.”  Repeated victories, gained at the sword’s point, by dint of boldness and in the extremity of peril, could not even protect Berlin.  The capital of Prussia found itself constrained to open its gates to the enemy, on the sole condition that the regiments of Cossacks should not pass the line of enclosure.  When the regular troops withdrew, the generals had not been able to prevent the city from being pillaged.  The heroic efforts of the King of Prussia ended merely in preserving to him a foothold in Saxony.  The Russians occupied Poland.

Marshal Broglie, on becoming general-in-chief of the French army, had succeeded in holding his own in Hesse; he frequently made Hanover anxious.  To turn his attention elsewhither and in hopes of deciding the French to quit Germany, the hereditary Prince of Brunswick attempted a diversion on the Lower Rhine; he laid siege to Wesel, whilst the English were preparing for a descent at Antwerp.  Marshal Broglie detached M. de Castries to protect the city.  The French corps had just arrived; it was bivouacking.  On the night between the 15th and 16th of October, Chevalier d’Assas, captain in the regiment of Auvergne, was sent to reconnoitre.  He had advanced some distance from his men, and happened to stumble upon a large force of the enemy.  The Prince of Brunswick was preparing to attack.  All the muskets covered the young captain.  “Stir, and thou’rt a dead man,” muttered threatening voices.  Without replying, M. d’Assas collected all his strength and shouted, “Auvergne!  Here are the foe!” At the same instant he fell pierced by twenty balls. [Accounts differ; but this is the tradition of the Assas family.] The action thus begun was a glorious one.  The hereditary prince was obliged to abandon the siege of Wesel and to recross the Rhine.  The French divisions maintained their positions.

The war went on as bloodily as monotonously and fruitlessly, but the face of Europe had lately altered.  The old King George II., who died on the 25th of September, 1760, had been succeeded on the throne of England by his grandson, George III., aged twenty-two, the first really native sovereign who had been called to reign over England since the fall of the Stuarts.  George I. and George II. were Germans, in their feelings and their manners as well as their language; the politic wisdom of the English people had put up with them, but not without effort and ill-humor; the accession of the young king was greeted with transport.  Pitt still reigned over Parliament and over England, governing a free country sovereign-masterlike.  His haughty prejudice against France still ruled all the decisions of the English government, but Lord Bute, the young monarch’s adviser, was already whispering pacific counsels destined ere long to bear fruit.  Pitt’s dominion was tottering when the first overtures of peace arrived in London.  The Duke of Choiseul proposed a congress.  He at the same time negotiated directly with England.  Whilst Pitt kept his answer waiting, an English squadron blockaded Belle-Isle, and the governor, M. de Sainte-Croix, left without relief, was forced to capitulate after an heroic resistance.  When the conditions demanded by England were at last transmitted to Versailles, the English flag was floating over the citadel of Belle-Isle, the mouth of the Loire and of the Vilaine was blockaded.  The arrogant pretensions of Mr. Pitt stopped at nothing short of preserving the conquests of England in both hemispheres; he claimed, besides, the demolition of Dunkerque “as a memorial forever of the yoke imposed upon France.”  Completely separating the interests of England from those of the German allies, he did not even reply to the proposals of M. de Choiseul as to the evacuation of Hesse and Hanover.  Mistress of the sea, England intended to enjoy alone the fruits of her victories.

The parleys were prolonged, and M. de Choiseul seemed to be resigned to the bitterest pill of concession, when a new actor came upon the scene of negotiation; France no longer stood isolated face to face with triumphant England.  The younger branch of the house of Bourbon cast into the scale the weight of its two crowns and the resources of its navy.

The King of Spain, Ferdinand VI., who died on the 10th of August, 1759, had not left any children.  His brother, Charles III., King of Naples, had succeeded him.  He brought to the throne of Spain a more lively intelligence than that of the deceased king, a great aversion for England, of which he had but lately had cause to complain, and the traditional attachment of his race to the interests and the glory of France.  The Duke of Choiseul managed to take skilful advantage of this disposition.  At the moment when Mr. Pitt was haughtily rejecting the modest ultimatum of the French minister, the treaty between France and Spain, known by the name of Family Pact, was signed at Paris (August 15, 1761).

Never had closer alliance been concluded between the two courts, even at the time when Louis XIV. placed his grandson upon the throne of Spain.  It was that intimate union between all the branches of the house of Bourbon which had but lately been the great king’s conception, and which had cost him so many efforts and so much blood; for the first time it was becoming favorable to France; the noble and patriotic idea of M. de Choiseul found an echo in the soul of the King of Spain; the French navy, ruined and humiliated, the French colonies, threatened and all but lost, found faithful support in the forces of Spain, recruited as they were. by a long peace.  The King of the Two Sicilies and the Infante Duke of Parma entered into the offensive and defensive alliance, but it was not open to any other power in Europe to be admitted to this family union, cemented by common interests more potent and more durable than the transitory combinations of policy.  In all the ports of Spain ships were preparing to put to sea.  Charles III. had undertaken to declare war against the English if peace were not concluded before the 1st of May, 1762.  France promised in that case to cede to him the Island of Minorca.

All negotiations with England were broken off; on the 20th of September, Mr. Pitt recalled his ambassador; this was his last act of power and animosity; he at the same time proposed to the council of George III. to include Spain forthwith in the hostilities.  Lord Bute opposed this; he was supported by the young king as well as by the majority of the ministers.  Pitt at once sent in his resignation, which was accepted.  Lord Bute and the Tories came into power.  Though more moderate in their intentions, they were as yet urged forward by popular violence, and dared not suddenly alter the line of conduct.  The family pact had raised the hopes ­always an easy task ­of France, the national impulse inclined towards the amelioration of the navy; the estates of Languedoc were the first in the field, offering the king a ship of war; their example was everywhere followed; sixteen ships, first-rates, were before long in course of construction, a donation from the great political or financial bodies; there were, besides, private subscriptions amounting to thirteen millions; the Duke of Choiseul sought out commanders even amongst the mercantile marine, and everywhere showed himself favorable to blue officers, as the appellation then was of those whose birth excluded them from the navy corps; the knowledge of the nobly born often left a great deal to be desired, whatever may have been their courage and devotion.  This was a last generous effort on behalf of the shreds of France’s perishing colonies.  The English government did not give it time to bear fruit; in the month of January, 1762, it declared war against Spain.  Before the year had rolled by, Cuba was in the hands of the English, the Philippines were ravaged and the galleons laden with Spanish gold captured by British ships.  The unhappy fate of France had involved her generous ally.  The campaign attempted against Portugal, always hand in hand with England, had not been attended with any result.  Martinique had shared the lot of Guadaloupe, lately conquered by the English after an heroic resistance.  Canada and India had at last succumbed.  War dragged its slow length along in Germany.  The brief elevation of the young czar, Peter III., a passionate admirer of the great Frederick, had delivered the King of Prussia from a dangerous enemy, and promised to give him an ally equally trusty and potent.  France was exhausted, Spain discontented and angry; negotiations recommenced, on what disastrous conditions for the French colonies in both hemispheres has already been remarked; in Germany the places and districts occupied by France were to be restored; Lord Bute, like his great rival, required the destruction of the port of Dunkerque.

This was not enough for the persistent animosity of Pitt.  The preliminaries of peace had been already signed at Fontainebleau on the 3d of November, 1762:  when they were communicated to Parliament, the fallen minister, still the nation’s idol and the real head of the people, had himself carried to the House of Commons.  He was ill, suffering from a violent attack of gout; two of his friends led him with difficulty to his place, and supported him during his long speech; being exhausted, he sat down towards the end, contrary to all the usages of the House, without, however, having once faltered in his attacks upon a peace too easily made, of which it was due to him that England was able to dictate the conditions.  “It is as a maritime power,” he exclaimed, “that France is chiefly if not exclusively formidable to us;” and the ardor of his spirit restored to his enfeebled voice the dread tones which Parliament and the nation had been wont to hear “what we gain in this respect is doubly precious from the loss that results to her.  America, sir, was conquered in Germany.  Now you are leaving to France a possibility of restoring her navy.”

The peace was signed, however, not without ill humor on the part of England, but with a secret feeling of relief; the burdens which weighed upon the country had been increasing every year.  In 1762, Lord Bute had obtained from Parliament four hundred and fifty millions (eighteen million pounds) to keep up the war.  “I wanted the peace to be a serious and a durable one,” said the English minister in reply to Pitt’s attacks; “if we had increased our demands, it would have been neither the one nor the other.”

M. de Choiseul submitted in despair to the consequences of the long-continued errors committed by the government of Louis XV.  “Were I master,” said he, “we would be to the English what Spain was to the Moors; if this course were taken, England would be destroyed in thirty years from now.”  The king was a better judge of his weakness and of the general exhaustion.  “The peace we have just made is neither a good one nor a glorious one; nobody sees that better than I,” he said in his private correspondence; “but, under such unhappy circumstances, it could not be better, and I answer for it that if we had continued the war, we should have made, a still worse one next year.”  All the patriotic courage and zeal of the Duke of Choiseul, all the tardy impulse springing from the nation’s anxieties, could not suffice even to palliate the consequences of so many years’ ignorance, feebleness, and incapacity in succession.

Prussia and Austria henceforth were left to confront one another, the only actors really interested in the original struggle, the last to quit the battle-field on to which they had dragged their allies.  By an unexpected turn of luck, Frederick II. had for a moment seen Russia becoming his ally; a fresh blow came to wrest from him this powerful support.  The Czarina Catherine II., Princess of Anhalt-Zerbst and wife of the Czar Peter III., being on bad terms with her husband and in dread of his wrath, had managed to take advantage of the young czar’s imprudence in order to excite a mutiny amongst the soldiers; he had been deposed, and died before long in prison.  Catherine was proclaimed in his place.  With her accession to the throne there commenced for Russia a new policy, equally bold and astute, having for its sole aim, unscrupulously and shamelessly pursued, the aggrandizement and consolidation of the imperial power; Russia became neutral in the strife between Prussia and Austria.  The two sovereigns, left without allies and with their dominions drained of men and money, agreed to a mutual exchange of their conquests; the boundaries of their territories once more became as they had been before the Seven Years’ War.  Frederick calculated at more than eight hundred thousand men the losses caused to the belligerents by this obstinate and resultless struggle, the fruit of wicked ambition or culpable weaknesses on the part of governments.  Thanks to the indomitable energy and the equally zealous and unscrupulous ability of the man who had directed her counsels during the greater part of the war, England alone came triumphant out of the strife.  She had won India forever; and, for some years at least, civilized America, almost in its entirety, obeyed her laws.  She had won what France had lost, not by superiority of arms, or even of generals, but by the natural and proper force of a free people, ably and liberally governed.

The position of France abroad, at the end of the Seven Years’ War, was as painful as it was humiliating; her position at home was still more serious, and the deep-lying source of all the reverses which had come to overwhelm the French.  Slowly lessened by the faults and misfortunes of King Louis XIV.’s later years, the kingly authority, which had fallen, under Louis XV., into hands as feeble as they were corrupt, was ceasing to inspire the nation with the respect necessary for the working of personal power:  public opinion was no longer content to accuse the favorite and the ministers; it was beginning to make the king responsible for the evils suffered and apprehended.  People waited in vain for a decision of the crown to put a stop to the incessantly renewed struggles between the Parliament and the clergy.  Disquieted at one and the same time by the philosophical tendencies which were beginning to spread in men’s minds, and by the comptroller-general Machault’s projects for exacting payment of the imposts upon ecclesiastical revenues, the Archbishop of Paris, Christopher de Beaumont, and the Bishop of Mirepoix, Boyer, who was in charge of the benefice-list, conceived the idea of stifling these dangerous symptoms by an imprudent recourse to the spiritual severities so much dreaded but lately by the people.  Several times over, the last sacraments were denied to the dying who had declined to subscribe to the bull Unigenitus, a clumsy measure, which was sure to excite public feeling and revive the pretensions of the Parliaments to the surveillance, in the last resort, over the government of the church; Jansenism, fallen and persecuted, but still living in the depths of souls, numbered amongst the ranks of the magistracy, as well as in the University of Paris, many secret partisans; several parish-priests had writs of personal seizure issued against them, and their goods were confiscated.  Decrees succeeded decrees; in spite of the king’s feeble opposition the struggle was extending and reaching to the whole of France.  On the 22d of February, 1753, the Parliament of Paris received orders to suspend all the proceedings they had commenced on the ground of refusals of the sacraments; the king did not consent even to receive the representations.  By the unanimous vote of the hundred and fifty-eight members sitting on the Court, Parliament determined to give up all service until the king should be pleased to listen.  “We declare,” said the representation, “that our zeal is boundless, and that we feel sufficient courage to fall victims to our fidelity.  The Court could not serve without being wanting to their duties and betraying their oaths.”

Indolent and indifferent as he was, King Louis XV. acted as seldom and as slowly as he could; he did not like strife, and gladly saw the belligerents exhausting against one another their strength and their wrath; on principle, however, and from youthful tradition, he had never felt any liking for the Parliaments.  “The long robes and the clergy are always at daggers drawn,” he would say to Madame de Pompadour “they drive me distracted with their quarrels, but I detest the long robes by far the most.  My clergy, at bottom, are attached to me and faithful to me; the others would like to put me in tutelage. . . .  They will end by ruining the state; they are a pack of republicans. . . .  However, things will last my time, at any rate.”  Severe measures against the Parliament were decided upon in council.  Four magistrates were arrested and sent to fortresses; all the presidents, councillors of inquests and of requests, were exiled; the grand chamber, which alone was spared, refused to administer justice.  Being transferred to Pontoise, it persisted in its refusal.  It was necessary to form a King’s Chamber, installed at the Louvre; all the inferior jurisdictions refused to accept its decrees.  After a year’s strife, the Parliament returned in triumph to Paris in the month of August, 1754; the clergy received orders not to require from the dying any theological adhesion.  Next year, the Archbishop of Paris, who had paid no attention to the prohibition, was exiled in his turn.

Thus, by mutually weakening each other, the great powers and the great influences in the state were wasting away; the reverses of the French arms, the loss of their colonies, and the humiliating peace of Paris aggravated the discontent.  In default of good government the people are often satisfied with glory.  This consolation, to which the French nation had but lately been accustomed, failed it all at once; mental irritation, for a long time silently brooding, cantoned in the writings of philosophers and in the quatrains of rhymesters, was beginning to spread and show itself amongst the nation; it sought throughout the state an object for its wrath; the powerful society of the Jesuits was the first to bear all the brunt of it.

A French Jesuit, Father Lavalette, had founded a commercial house at Martinique.  Ruined by the war, he had become bankrupt to the extent of three millions; the order having refused to pay, it was condemned by the Parliament to do so.  The responsibility was declared to extend to all the members of the Institute, and public opinion triumphed over the condemnation with a " quasi-indecent " joy, says the advocate Barbier.  Nor was it content with this legitimate satisfaction.  One of the courts which had until lately been most devoted to the Society of Jesus had just set an example of severity.  In 1759, the Jesuits had been driven from Portugal by the Marquis of Pombal, King Joseph I.’s all-powerful minister; their goods had been confiscated, and their principal, Malagrida, handed over to the Inquisition, had just been burned as a heretic (Sep, 1761).

The Portuguese Jesuits had been feebly defended by the grandees; the clergy were hostile to them.  In France, their enemies showed themselves bolder than their defenders.  Proudly convinced of the justice of their cause, the Fathers had declined the jurisdiction of the grand council, to which they had a right, as all ecclesiastical bodies had, and they had consented to hand over to the Parliament the registers of their constitutions, up to that time carefully concealed from the eyes of the profane.  The skilful and clear-sighted hostility of the magistrates was employed upon the articles of this code, so stringently framed of yore by enthusiastic souls and powerful minds, forgetful or disdainful of the sacred rights of human liberty.  All the services rendered by the Jesuits to the cause of religion and civilization appeared effaced; forgotten were their great missionary enterprises, their founders and their martyrs, in order to set forth simply their insatiable ambition, their thirst after power, their easy compromises with evil passions condemned by the Christian faith.  The assaults of the philosophers had borne their fruit in the public mind; the olden rancor of the Jansenists imperceptibly promoted the severe inquiry openly conducted by the magistrates.  Madame de Pompadour dreaded the influence of the Jesuits; religious fears might at any time be aroused again in the soul of Louis XV.  The dauphin, who had been constantly faithful to them, sought in vain to plead their cause with the king.  He had attacked the Duke of Choiseul; the latter so far forgot himself, it is asserted, as to say to the prince, “Sir, I may have the misfortune to be your subject, but I will never be your servant.”  The minister had hitherto maintained a prudent reserve; he henceforth joined the favorite and the Parliament against the Jesuits.

On the 6th of August, 1761, the Parliament of Paris delivered a decree ordering the Jesuits to appear at the end of a year for the definite judgment upon their constitutions; pending the judicial decision, all their colleges were closed.  King Louis XV. still hesitated, from natural indolence and from remembrance of Cardinal Fleury’s maxims.  “The Jesuits,” the old minister would often say, “are bad masters, but you can make them useful tools.”  An ecclesiastical commission was convoked; with the exception of the Bishop of Soissons, the prelates all showed themselves favorable to the Jesuits and careless of the old Gallican liberties.  On their advice, the king sent a proposal to Rome for certain modifications in the constitutions of the order.  Father Ricci, general of the Jesuits, answered haughtily, “Let them be as they are, or not be” (Sint ut sunt, aut non sint).  Their enemies in France accepted the challenge.  On the 6th of August, 1762, a decree of the Parliament of Paris, soon confirmed by the majority of the sovereign courts, declared that there was danger (abus) in the bulls, briefs, and constitutions of the Society, pronounced its dissolution, forbade its members to wear the dress and to continue living in common under the sway of the general and other superiors.  Orders were given to close all the Jesuit houses.  The principle of religious liberty, which had been so long ignored, and was at last beginning to dawn on men’s minds, was gaining its first serious victory by despoiling the Jesuits in their turn of that liberty for the long-continued wrongs whereof they were called to account.  A strange and striking reaction in human affairs; the condemnation of the Jesuits was the precursory sign of the violence and injustice which were soon to be committed in the name of the most sacred rights and liberties, long violated with impunity by arbitrary power.

Vaguely and without taking the trouble to go to the bottom of his impression, Louis XV. felt that the Parliaments and the philosophers were dealing him a mortal blow whilst appearing to strike the Jesuits; he stood out a long while, leaving the quarrel to become embittered and public opinion to wax wroth at his indecision.  “There is a hand to mouth administration,” said an anonymous letter addressed to the king and Madame de Pompadour, “but there is no longer any hope of government.  A time will come when the people’s eyes will be opened, and peradventure that time is approaching.”

The persistency of the Duke of Choiseul carried the day at last; an edict of December, 1764, declared that “the Society no longer existed in France, that it would merely be permitted to those who composed it to live privately in the king’s dominions, under the spiritual authority of the local ordinaries, whilst conforming to the laws of the realm.”  Four thousand Jesuits found themselves affected by this decree; some left France, others remained still in their families, assuming the secular dress.  “It will be great fun to see Father Perusseau turned abbe,” said Louis XV. as he signed the fatal edict.  “The Parliaments fancy they are serving religion by this measure,” wrote D’Alembert to Voltaire, “but they are serving reason without any notion of it; they are the, executioners on behalf of philosophy, whose orders they are executing without knowing it.”  The destruction of the Jesuits served neither religion nor reason, for it was contrary to justice as well as to liberty; it was the wages and the bitter fruit of a long series of wrongs and iniquities committed but lately, in the name of religion, against justice and liberty.

Three years later, in 1767, the King of Spain, Charles III., less moderate than the government of Louis XV., expelled with violence all the members of the Society of Jesus from his territory, thus exciting the Parliament of Paris to fresh severities against the French Jesuits, and, on the 20th of July, 1773, the court of Rome itself, yielding at last to pressure from nearly all the sovereigns of Europe, solemnly pronounced the dissolution of the Order.  “Recognizing that the members of this Society have not a little troubled the Christian commonwealth, and that for the welfare of Christendom it were better that the Order should disappear.”  The last houses still offering shelter to the Jesuits were closed; the general, Ricci, was imprisoned at the castle of St. Angelo, and the Society of Jesus, which had been so powerful for nearly three centuries, took refuge in certain distant lands, seeking in oblivion and silence fresh strength for the struggle which it was one day to renew.

The Parliaments were triumphant, but their authority, which seemed never to have risen so high or penetrated so far in the government of the state, was already tottering to its base.  Once more the strife was about to begin between the kingly power and the magistracy, whose last victory was destined to scarcely precede its downfall.  The financial embarrassments of the state were growing more serious every day; to the debts left by the Seven Years’ War were added the new wants developed by the necessities of commerce and by the progress of civilization.  The Board of Works, a useful institution founded by Louis XV., was everywhere seeing to the construction of new roads, at the same time repairing the old ones; the forced labor for these operations fell almost exclusively on the peasantry.  The Parliament of Normandy was one of the first to protest against “the impositions of forced labor, and the levies of money which took place in the district on pretext of repairs and maintenance of roads, without legal authority.”  “France is a land which devours its inhabitants,” cried the Parliament of Paris.  The Parliament of Pau refused to enregister the edicts; the Parliament of Brittany joined the Estates in protesting against the Duke of Aiguillon, the then governor, “the which hath made upon the liberties of the province one of those assaults which are not possible save when the crown believes itself to be secure of impunity.”  The noblesse having yielded in the states, the Parliament of Rennes gave in their resignation in a body.  Five of its members were arrested; at their head was the attorney-general, M. de la Chalotais, author of a very remarkable paper against the Jesuits.  It was necessary to form at St. Malo a King’s Chamber to try the accused.  M. de Calonne, an ambitious young man, the declared foe of M. de la Chalotais, was appointed attorney-general on the commission.  He pretended to have discovered grave facts against the accused; he was suspected of having invented them.  Public feeling was at its height; the magistrates loudly proclaimed the theory of Classes, according to which all the Parliaments of France, responsible one for another, formed in reality but one body, distributed by delegation throughout the principal towns of the realm.  The king convoked a bed of justice, and, on the 2d of March, 1766, he repaired to the Parliament of Paris.  “What has passed in my Parliaments of Pau and of Rennes has nothing to do with my other Parliaments,” said Louis XV. in a firm tone, to which the ears of the Parliament were no longer accustomed.  “I have behaved in respect of those two courts as comported with my authority, and I am not bound to account to anybody.  I will not permit the formation in my kingdom of an association which might reduce to a confederacy of opposition the natural bond of identical duties and common obligations, nor the introduction into the monarchy of an imaginary body which could not but disturb its harmony.  The magistracy does not form a body or order separate from the three orders of the kingdom; the magistrates are my officers.  In my person alone resides the sovereign power, of which the special characteristic is the spirit of counsel, justice, and reason; it is from me alone that my courts have their existence and authority.  It is to me alone that the legislative power belongs, without dependence and without partition.  My people is but one with me, and the rights and interests of the nation whereof men dare to make a body separate from the monarch are necessarily united with my own, and rest only in my hands.”

This haughty affirmation of absolute power, a faithful echo of Cardinal Richelieu’s grand doctrines, succeeded for a while in silencing the representations of the Parliaments; but it could not modify the course of opinion, passionately excited in favor of M. de la Chalotais.  On the 24th of December, 1766, after having thrice changed the jurisdiction and the judges, the king annulled the whole procedure by an act of his supreme authority.  “We shall have the satisfaction,” said the edict, “of finding nobody guilty, and nothing will remain for us but to take such measures as shall appear best adapted to completely restore and maintain tranquillity in a province from which we have on so many occasions had proofs of zeal for our service.”  M. de la Chalotais and his comrades were exiled to Saintes.  They demanded a trial and a legal justification, which were refused.  “It is enough for them to know that their honor is intact,” the king declared.  A Parliament was imperfectly reconstructed at Rennes.  “It is D’Aiguillon’s bailiff-court,” was the contemptuous saying in Brittany.  The governor had to be changed.  Under the administration of the Duke of Duras, the agitation subsided in the province; the magistrates who had resigned resumed their seats; M. de la Chalotais and his son, M. de Caradeuc, alone remained excluded by order of the king.  The restored Parliament immediately made a claim on their behalf, accompanying the request with a formal accusation against the Duke of Aiguillon.  The states supported the Parliament.  “What! sir,” said the remonstrance; “they are innocent, and yet you punish them!  It is a natural right that nobody should be’ punished without a trial; we have property in our honor, our lives, and our liberty, just as you have property in your crown.  We would spill our blood to preserve your rights; but, on your side, preserve us ours.  Sir, the province on its knees before you asks you for justice.”  A royal ordinance forbade any proceedings against the Duke of Aiguillon, and enjoined silence on the parties.  Parliament having persisted, and declaring that the accusations against the Duke of Aiguillon attached (entachaient) his honor, Louis XV., egged on by the chancellor, M. de Maupeou, an ambitious, bold, bad man, repaired in person to the office, and had all the papers relating to the procedure removed before his eyes.  The strife was becoming violent; the Duke of Choiseul, still premier ­minister but sadly shaken in the royal favor, disapproved of the severities employed against the magistracy.  All the blows dealt at the Parliaments recoiled upon him.

King Louis XV. had taken a fresh step in the shameful irregularity of his life; on the 15th of April, 1764, Madame de Pompadour had died, at the age of forty-two, of heart disease.  As frivolous as she was deeply depraved and baseminded in her calculating easiness of virtue, she had more ambition than comported with her mental calibre or her force of character; she had taken it into her head to govern, by turns promoting and overthrowing the ministers, herself proffering advice to the king, sometimes to good purpose, but more often still with a levity as fatal as her obstinacy.  Less clever, less ambitious, but more potent than Madame de Pompadour over the faded passions of a monarch aged before his time, the new favorite, Madame Dubarry, made the least scrupulous blush at the lowness of her origin and the irregularity of her life.  It was, nevertheless, in her circle that the plot was formed against the Duke of Choiseul.  Bold, ambitious, restless, presumptuous sometimes in his views and his hopes, the minister had his heart too nearly in the right place and too proper a spirit to submit to either the yoke of Madame Dubarry or that of the shameless courtiers who made use of her influence.  Chancellor Maupeou, the Duke of Aiguillou, and the new comptroller-general, Abbe Terray, a man of capacity, invention, and no scruple at all, at last succeeded in triumphing over the force of habit, the only thing that had any real effect upon the king’s listless mind.  After twelve years’ for a long while undisputed power, after having held in his hands the whole government of France and the peace of Europe, M. de Choiseul received from the king on the 24th of December, 1770, a letter in these terms: ­

“Cousin, the dissatisfaction caused me by your services forces me to banish you to Chanteloup, whither you will repair within twenty-four hours.  I should have sent you much further off, but for the particular regard I have for Madame de Choiseul, in whose health I feel great interest.  Take care your conduct does not force me to alter my mind.  Whereupon I pray God, cousin, to have you in His holy and worthy keeping.”

The thunderbolt which came striking the Duke of Choiseul called forth a fresh sign of the times.  The fallen minister was surrounded in his disgrace with marks of esteem and affection on the part of the whole court.  The princes themselves and the greatest lords felt it an honor to pay him a visit at his castle of Chanteloup.  He there displayed a magnificence which ended by swallowing up his wife’s immense fortune, already much encroached upon during his term of power.  Nothing was too much for the proud devotion and passionate affection of the Duchess of Choiseul:  she declined the personal favors which the king offered her, setting all her husband’s friends the example of a fidelity which was equally honorable to them and to him.  Acute observers read a tale of the growing weakness of absolute power in the crowd which still flocked to a minister in disgrace; the Duke of Choiseul remained a power even during a banishment which was to last as long as his life.

With M. de Choiseul disappeared the sturdiest prop of the Parliaments.  In vain had the king ordered the magistrates to resume their functions and administer justice.  “There is nothing left for your Parliament,” replied the premier president, “but to perish with the laws, since the fate of the magistrates should go with that of the state.”  Madame Dubarry, on a hint from her able advisers, had caused to be placed in her apartments a fine portrait of Charles I. by Van Dyck.  “France,” she was always reiterating to the king with vulgar familiarity, “France, thy Parliament will cut off thy head too!”

A piece of ignorant confusion, due even more to analogy of name than to the generous but vain efforts often attempted by the French magistracy in favor of sound doctrines of government.  The Parliament of Paris fell sitting upon curule chairs, like the old senators of Rome during the invasion of the Gauls; the political spirit, the collected and combative ardor, the indomitable resolution of the English Parliament, freely elected representatives of a free people, were unknown to the French magistracy.  Despite the courage and moral, elevation it had so often shown, its strength had been wasted in a constantly useless strife; it had withstood Richelieu and Mazarin; already reduced to submission by Cardinal Fleury, it was about to fall beneath the equally bold and skilful blows of Chancellor Maupeou.  Notwithstanding the little natural liking and the usual distrust he felt for Parliaments, the king still hesitated.  Madame Dubarry managed to inspire him with fears for his person; and he yielded.

During the night between the 19th and 20th of January, 1771, musketeers knocked at the doors of all the magistrates; they were awakened in the king’s name, at the same time being ordered to say whether they would consent to resume their service.  No equivocation possible!  No margin for those developments of their ideas which are so dear to parliamentary minds!  It was a matter of signing yes or no.  Surprised in their slumbers, but still firm in their resolution of resistance, the majority of the magistrates signed no.  They were immediately sent into banishment; their offices were confiscated.  Those members of the Parliament from whom weakness or astonishment had surprised a yes retracted as soon as they were assembled, and underwent the same fate as their colleagues.  On the 23d of January, members delegated by the grand council, charged with the provisional administration of justice, were installed in the Palace by the chancellor himself.  The registrar-in-chief, the ushers, the attorneys, declined or eluded the exercise of their functions; the advocates did not come forward to plead.  The Court of Aids, headed by Lamoignon de Malesherbes, protested against the attack made on the great bodies of the state.  “Ask the nation themselves, sir,” said the president, “to mark your displeasure with the Parliament of Paris, it is proposed to rob them ­themselves ­of the essential rights of a free people.”  The Court of Aids was suppressed like the Parliament; six superior councils, in the towns of Arras, Blois, Chalons-sur-Marne, Lyon, Clermont, and Poitiers parcelled out amongst them the immense jurisdiction of Paris; the members of the grand council, assisted by certain magistrates of small esteem, definitively took the places of the banished, to whom compensation was made for their offices.  The king appeared in person on the 13th of April, 1771, at the new Parliament; the chancellor read out the edicts.  “You have just heard my intentions,” said Louis XV.; “I desire that they may be conformed to.  I order you to commence your duties.  I forbid any deliberation contrary to my wishes and any representations in favor of my former Parliament, for I shall never change.”

One single prince of the blood, the Count of La Marche, son of the Prince of Conti, had been present at the bed of justice.  All had protested against the suppression of the Parliament.  “It is one of the most useful boons for monarchs and of those most precious to Frenchmen,” said the protest of the princes, “to have bodies of citizens, perpetual and irremovable, avowed at all times by the kings and the nation, who, in whatever form and under whatever denomination they may have existed, concentrate in themselves the general right of all subjects to invoke the law.”  “Sir, by the law you are king, and you cannot reign but by it,” said the Parliament of Dijon’s declaration, drawn up by one of the mortarcap presidents (presidents a mortier), the gifted president De Brosses.  The princes were banished; the provincial Parliaments, mutilated like that of Paris or suppressed like that of Rouen, which was replaced by two superior councils, ceased to furnish a centre for critical and legal opposition.  Amidst the rapid decay of absolute power, the transformation and abasement of the Parliaments by Chancellor Maupeou were a skilful and bold attempt to restore some sort of force and unity to the kingly authority.  It was thus that certain legitimate claims had been satisfied, the extent of jurisdictions had been curtailed, the salability of offices had been put down, the expenses of justice had been lessened.  Voltaire had for a long time past been demanding these reforms, and he was satisfied with them.  “Have not the Parliaments often been persecuting and barbarous?” he wrote; “I wonder that the Welches [i. e., Barbarians, as Voltaire playfully called the French] should take the part of those insolent and intractable cits.”  He added, however, “Nearly all the kingdom is in a boil and consternation; the ferment is as great in the provinces as in Paris itself.”

The ferment subsided without having reached the mass of the nation; the majority of the princes made it up with the court, the dispossessed magistrates returned one after another to Paris, astonished and mortified to see justice administered without them and advocates pleading before the Maupeou Parliament.  The chancellor had triumphed, and remained master; all the old jurisdictions were broken up, public opinion was already forgetting them; it was occupied with a question more important still than the administration of justice.  The ever-increasing disorder in the finances was no longer checked by the enregistering of edicts; the comptroller-general, Abbe Terray, had recourse shamelessly to every expedient of a bold imagination to fill the royal treasury; it was necessary to satisfy the ruinous demands of Madame Dubarry and of the depraved courtiers who thronged about her.  Successive bad harvests and the high price of bread still further aggravated the position.  It was known that the king had a taste for private speculation; he was accused of trading in grain and of buying up the stores required for feeding the people.  The odious rumor of this famine pact, as the bitter saying was, soon spread amongst the mob.  Before its fall, the Parliament of Rouen had audaciously given expression to these dark accusations; it had ordered proceedings to be taken against the monopolists.  A royal injunction put a veto upon the prosecutions.  “This prohibition from the crown changes our doubts to certainty,” wrote the Parliament to the king himself; “when we said that the monopoly existed and was protected, God forbid, sir, that we should have had your Majesty in our eye, but possibly we had some of those to whom you distribute your authority.”  Silence was imposed upon the Parliaments, but without producing any serious effect upon public opinion, which attributed to the king the principal interest in a great private concern bound to keep up a certain parity in the price of grain.  Contempt grew more and more profound; the king and Madame Dubarry by their shameful lives, Maupeou and Abbe Terray by destroying the last bulwarks of the public liberties, were digging with their own hands the abyss in which the old French monarchy was about to be soon ingulfed.

For a long while pious souls had formed great hopes of the dauphin; honest, scrupulous, sincerely virtuous, without the austerity and extensive views of the Duke of Burgundy, he had managed to live aloof, without intrigue and without open opposition, preserving towards the king an attitude of often sorrowful respect, and all the while remaining the support of the clergy and their partisans in their attempts and their aspirations.  The Queen, Mary Leczinska, a timid and proudly modest woman, resigned to her painful situation, lived in the closest intimacy with her son, and still more with her daughterin-law, Mary Josepha of Saxony, though the daughter of that elector who had but lately been elevated to the throne of Poland, and had vanquished King Stanislaus.  The sweetness, the tact, the rare faculties of the dauphiness had triumphed over all obstacles.  She had three sons.  Much reliance was placed upon the influence she had managed to preserve with the king, and on the dominion she exercised over her husband’s mind.  In vain had the dauphin, distracted at the woes of France, over and over again solicited from the king the honor of serving him at the head of the army; the jealous anxiety of Madame de Pompadour was at one with the cold indifference of Louis XV. as to leaving the heir to the throne in the shade.  The prince felt it deeply, in spite of his pious resignation.  “A dauphin,” he would say, “must needs appear a useless body, and a king strive to be everybody” (un homme universel).

Whilst trying to beguile his tedium at the camp of Compiègne, the dauphin, it is said, overtaxed his strength, and died at the age of thirty-six on the 20th of December, 1765, profoundly regretted by the bulk of the nation, who knew his virtues without troubling themselves, like the court and the philosophers, about the stiffness of his manners and his complete devotion to the cause of the clergy.  The new dauphin, who would one day be Louis XVI., was still a child; the king had him brought into his closet.  “Poor France!” he said sadly, “a king of fifty-five and a dauphin of eleven!” The dauphiness and Queen Mary Leczinska soon followed the dauphin to the tomb (1767-1768).  The king, thus left alone and scared by the repeated deaths around him, appeared for a while to be drawn closer to his daughters, for whom he always retained some sort of affection, a mixture of weakness and habit.  One of them, Madame Louise, who was deeply pious, left him to enter the convent of the Carmelites; he often went to see her, and granted her all the favors she asked.  But by this time Madame Dubarry had become all-powerful; to secure to her the honors of presentation at court, the king personally solicited the ladies with whom he was intimate in order to get them to support his favorite on this new stage; when the youthful Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, and daughter of Maria Theresa, whose marriage the Duke of Choiseul had negotiated, arrived in France, in 1770, to espouse the dauphin, Madame Dubarry appeared alone with the royal family at the banquet given at La Muette on the occasion of the marriage.  After each reaction of religious fright and transitory repentance, after each warning from God that snatched him for an instant from the depravity of his life, the king plunged more deeply than before into shame.  Madame Dubarry was to reign as much as Louis XV.

Before his fall the Duke of Choiseul had made a last effort to revive abroad that fortune of France which he saw sinking at home without his being able to apply any effective remedy.  He had vainly attempted to give colonies once more to France by founding in French Guiana settlements which had been unsuccessfully attempted by a Rouennese Company as early as 1634.  The enterprise was badly managed; the numerous colonists, of very diverse origin and worth, were cast without resources upon a territory as unhealthy as fertile.  No preparations had been made to receive them; the majority died of disease and want; New France henceforth belonged to the English, and the great hopes which had been raised of replacing it in Equinoctial France, as Guiana was named, soon vanished never to return.  An attempt made about the same epoch at St. Lucie was attended with the same result.  The great ardor and the rare aptitude for distant enterprises which had so often manifested themselves in France from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century seemed to be henceforth extinguished.  Only the colonies of the Antilles, which had escaped from the misfortunes of war, and were by this time recovered from their disasters, offered any encouragement to the patriotic efforts of the Duke of Choiseul.  He had been more fortunate in Europe than in the colonies:  henceforth Corsica belonged to France.

In spite of the French occupations, from 1708 to 1756, in spite of the refusals with which Cardinal Fleury had but lately met their appeals, the Corsicans, newly risen against the oppression of Genoa, had sent a deputation to Versailles to demand the recognition of their republic, offering to pay the tribute but lately paid annually to their tyrannical protectress.

The hero of Corsican independence, Pascal Paoli, secretly supported by England, had succeeded for several years past not only in defending his country’s liberty, but also in governing and at the same time civilizing it.  This patriotic soul and powerful mind, who had managed to profit by the energetic passions of his compatriots whilst momentarily repressing their intestine quarrels, dreamed of an ideal constitution for his island; he sent to ask for one of J. J. Rousseau, who was still in Switzerland, and whom he invited to Corsica.  The philosophical chimeras of Paoli soon vanished before a piece of crushing news.  The Genoese, weary of struggling unsuccessfully against the obstinate determination of the Corsicans, and unable to clear off the debts which they had but lately incurred to Louis XV., had proposed to M. de Choiseul to cede to France their ancient rights over Corsica, as security for their liabilities.  A treaty, signed at Versailles on the 15th of May, 1768, authorized the king to perform all acts of sovereignty in the places and forts of Corsica; a separate article accorded to Genoa an indemnity of two millions.

A cry arose in Corsica.  Paoli resolved to defend the independence of his country against France, as he had defended it against Genoa.  For several months now French garrisons had occupied the places still submitting to Genoa; when they would have extended themselves into the interior, Paoli barred their passage; he bravely attacked M. de Chauvelin, the king’s lieutenant-general, who had just landed with a proclamation from Louis XV. to his new subjects.  “The Corsican nation does not let itself be bought and sold like a flock of sheep sent to market,” said the protest of the republic’s Supreme Council.  Fresh troops from France had to be asked for; under the orders of Count Vaux they triumphed without difficulty over the Corsican patriots.  Mustering at the bridge of Golo for a last effort, they made a rampart of their dead; the wounded had lain down amongst the corpses to give the survivors time to effect their retreat.  The town of Corte, the seat of republican government, capitulated before long.  England had supplied Paoli with munitions and arms; he had hoped more from the promises of the government and the national jealousy against France.  “The ministry is too weak and the nation too wise to make war on account of Corsica,” said an illustrious judge, Lord Mansfield.  In vain did Burke exclaim, “Corsica, as a province of France, is for me an object of alarm!” The House of Commons approved of the government’s conduct, and England contented herself with offering to the vanquished Paoli a sympathetic hospitality; he left Corsica on an English frigate, accompanied by most of his friends, and it is in Westminster Abbey that he lies, after the numerous vicissitudes of his life, which fluctuated throughout the revolutions of his native land, from England to France and from France to England, to the day when Corsica, proud of having given a master to France and the Revolution, became definitively French with Napoleon.

Corsica was to be the last conquest of the old French monarchy.  Great or little, magnificent or insignificant, from Richelieu to the Duke of Choiseul, France had managed to preserve her territorial acquisitions; in America and in Asia, Louis XV. had shamefully lost Canada and the Indies; in Europe, the diplomacy of his ministers had given to the kingdom Lorraine and Corsica.  The day of insensate conquests ending in a diminution of territory had not yet come.  In the great and iniquitous dismemberment which was coming, France was to have no share.

Profound disquietude was beginning to agitate Europe:  the King of Poland, Augustus III., had died in 1763, leaving the unhappy country over which he had reigned a prey to internal anarchy ever increasing and systematically fanned by the avidity or jealousy of the great powers, its neighbors.  “As it is to the interest of the two monarchs of Russia and Prussia that the Polish commonwealth should preserve its right to free election of a king,” said the secret treaty concluded in 1764 between Frederick II. and the Empress Catherine, “and that no family should possess itself of the elective throne of that country, the two undermentioned Majesties engage to prevent, by all means in their power, Poland from being despoiled of its right of election and transformed into an hereditary kingdom; they mutually promise to oppose in concert, and, if necessary, by force of arms, all plans and designs which may tend thereto as soon as discovered.”

A second article secured to the dissidents, as Protestants and Greeks were called in Poland, the protection of the King of Prussia and of the empress, “who will make every effort to persuade, by strong and friendly representations, the king and the commonwealth of Poland to restore to those persons the rights, privileges, and prerogatives they have acquired there, and which have been accorded them in the past, as well in ecclesiastical as in civil matters, but have since been, for the most part, circumscribed or unjustly taken away.  But, should it be impossible to attain that end at once, the contracting parties will content themselves with seeing that, whilst waiting for more favorable times and circumstances, the aforesaid persons are put beyond reach of the wrongs and oppression under which they are at present groaning.”  In order to remain masters of Poland and to prevent it from escaping the dissolution with which it was threatened by its internal dissensions, Frederick and Catherine, who were secretly pursuing different and often contrary courses, united to impose on the Diet a native prince.  “I and my ally the Empress of Russia,” said the King of Prussia, “have agreed to promote the selection of a Piast (Pole), which would be useful and at the same time glorious for the nation.”  In vain had Louis XV. by secret policy sought for a long while to pave the way for the election of the Prince of Conti to the throne of Poland; the influence of Russia and of Prussia carried the day.  Prince Poniatowski, late favorite of the Empress Catherine, was elected by the Polish Diet; in discouragement and sadness, four thousand nobles only had responded to the letters of convocation.  The new king, Stanislaus Augustus, handsome, intelligent, amiable, cultivated, but feeble in character and fatally pledged to Russia, sought to rally round him the different parties, and to establish at last, in the midst of general confusion, a regular and a strong government.  He was supported in this patriotic task by the influence, ever potent in Poland, of the Czartoriskis.  The far-seeing vigilance of Frederick II. did not give them time to act.  “Poland must be left in her lethargy,” he had said to the Russian ambassador Saldern.  “It is of importance,” he wrote to Catherine, “that Her Majesty the empress, who knows perfectly well her own interests and those of her friends and allies, should give orders of the most precise kind to her ambassador at Warsaw, to oppose any novelty in the form of government, and, generally speaking, the establishment of a permanent council, the preservation of the commissions of war and of the treasury, the power of the king and the unlimited concession on the prince’s part of ability to distribute offices according to his sole will.”  The useful reforms being thus abandoned and the king’s feeble power radically shaken, religious discord came to fill up the cup of disorder, and to pave the way for the dismemberment, as well as definitive ruin, of unhappy Poland.

Subjected for a long time past to an increasing oppression, which was encouraged by a fanatical and unenlightened clergy, the Polish dissidents had conceived great hopes on the accession of Stanislaus Augustus; they claimed not only liberty of conscience and of worship, but also all the civil and political rights of which they were deprived.  “It is no question of establishing the free exercise of different religions in Poland,” wrote Frederick to Catherine; “it is necessary to reduce the question to its true issue, the demand of the dissident noblesse, and obtain for them the equality they demand, together with participation in all acts of sovereignty.”  This was precisely what the clergy and the Catholic noblesse were resolved never to grant.  In spite of support from the empress and the King of Prussia, the demand of the dissidents was formally rejected by the Diet of 1766.  At the Diet of 1767, Count Repnin, Catherine’s ambassador and the real head of the government in Poland, had four of the most recalcitrant senators carried off and sent into exile in Russia.  The Diet, terrified, disorganized, immediately pronounced in favor of the dissidents.  By the modifications recently introduced into the constitution of their country, the Polish nobles had lost their liberum veto; unanimity of suffrages was no longer necessary in the Diet; the foreign powers were able to insolently impose their will upon it; the privileges of the noblesse, as well as their traditional faith, were attacked at the very foundations; religious fanaticism and national independence boiled up at the same time in every heart; the discontent, secretly fanned by the agents of Frederick, burst out, sooner than the skilful weavers of the plot could have desired, with sufficient intensity and violence to set fire to the four corners of Poland.  By a bold surprise the confederates gained possession of Cracow and of the fortress of Barr, in Podolia; there it was that they swore to die for the sacred cause of Catholic Poland.  For more than a century, in the face of many misatkes and many misfortunes, the Poles have faithfully kept that oath.

The Bishop of Kaminck, Kraminski, had gone to Versailles to solicit the support of France.  The Duke of Choiseul, at first far from zealous in the cause of the Polish insurrection, had nevertheless sent a few troops, who were soon re-enforced.  The Empress Catherine had responded to the violence of the confederates of Barr by letting loose upon the Ukraine the hordes of Zaporoguian Cossacks, speedily followed by regular troops.  The Poles, often beaten, badly led by chieftains divided amongst themselves, but ever ardent, ever skilful in seizing upon the smallest advantages, were sustained by the pious exhortations of the clergy, who regarded the war as a crusade; they were rejoiced to see a diversion preparing in their favor by the Sultan’s armaments.  “I will raise the Turks against Russia the moment you think proper,” was the assurance given to the Duke of Choiseul by the Count of Vergennes, French ambassador at Constantinople, “but I warn you that they will be beaten.”  Hostilities broke out on the 30th of October, 1768; a Turkish army set out to aid the Polish insurrection.  Absorbed by their patriotic passions, the Catholic confederates summoned the Mussulmans to their assistance.  Prince Galitzin, at the head of a Russian force very inferior to the Ottoman invaders, succeeded in barring their passage; the Turks fell back, invariably beaten by the Russian generals.  Catherine at the same time summoned to liberty the oppressed and persecuted Greeks; she sent a squadron to support the rising which she had been fomenting for some months past.  After a few brilliant successes, her arms were less fortunate at sea than on land.  A French officer, of Hungarian origin, Baron Tott, sent by the Duke of Choiseul to help the Sublime Porte, had fortified the Straits of the Dardanelles; the Russians were repulsed; they withdrew, leaving the Greeks to the vengeance of their oppressors.  The efforts which the Empress Catherine was making in Poland against the confederates of Barr had slackened her proceedings against Turkey; she was nevertheless becoming triumphant on the borders of the Vistula, as well as on the banks of the Danube, when the far-sighted and bold policy of Frederick II. interfered in time to prevent Russia from taking possession of Poland as well as of the Ottoman empire.

Secretly favoring the confederates of Barr whom he had but lately encouraged in their uprising, and whom he had suffered to make purchases of arms and ammunition in Prussia, Frederick II. had sought in Austria a natural ally, interested like himself in stopping the advances of Russia.  The Emperor, Maria Theresa’s husband, had died in 1764; his son, Joseph II., who succeeded him, had conceived for the King of Prussia the spontaneous admiration of a young and ardent spirit for the most illustrious man of his times.  In 1769, a conference which took place at Neisse brought the two sovereigns together.  “The emperor is a man eaten up with ambition,” wrote Frederick after the interview; “he is hatching some great design.  At present, restrained as he is by his mother, he is beginning to chafe at the yoke he bears, and, as soon as he gets elbow-room, he will commence with some ’startling stroke; it was impossible for me to discover whether his views were directed towards the republic of Venice, towards Bavaria, towards Silesia, or towards Lorraine; but we may rely upon it that Europe will be all on fire the moment he is master.”  A second interview, at Neustadt in 1770, clinched the relations already contracted at Neisse.  Common danger brought together old enemies.  “I am not going to have the Russians for neighbors,” the Empress Maria Theresa was always repeating.  The devastating flood had to be directed, and at the same time stemmed.  The feeble goodwill of France and the small body of troops commanded by Dumouriez were still supporting the Polish insurrection, but the Duke of Choiseul had just succumbed to intrigue at home.  There was no longer any foreign policy in France.  It was without fear of intervention from her that the German powers began to discuss between them the partition of Poland.

She was at the same time suffering disseverment at her own hands through her intestine divisions and the mutual jealousy of her chiefs.  In Warsaw the confederates had attempted to carry off King Stanislaus Augustus, whom they accused of betraying the cause of the fatherland; they had declared the throne vacant, and took upon themselves to found an hereditary monarchy.  To this supreme honor every great lord aspired, every small army-corps acted individually and without concert with the neighboring leaders.  Only a detachment of French, under the orders of Brigadier Choisi, still defended the fort of Cracow; General Suwarrow, who was investing it, forced them to capitulate; they obtained all the honors of war, but in vain was the Empress Catherine urged by D’Alembert and his friends the philosophers to restore their freedom to the glorious vanquished; she replied to them with pleasantries.  Ere long the fate of Poland was about to be decided without the impotent efforts of France in her favor weighing for an instant in the balance.  The political annihilation of Louis XV. in Europe had been completed by the dismissal of the Duke of Choiseul.

The public conscience is lightened by lights which ability, even when triumphant, can never altogether obscure.  The Great Frederick and the Empress Catherine have to answer before history for the crime of the partition of Poland, which they made acceptable to the timorous jealousy of Maria Theresa and to the youthful ambition of her son.  As prudent as he was audacious, Frederick had been for a long time paving the way for the dismemberment of the country he had seemed to protect.  Negotiations for peace with the Turks became the pretext for war-indemnities.  Poland, vanquished, divided, had to pay the whole of them.  “I shall not enter upon the portion that Russia marks out for herself,” wrote Frederick to Count Solms, his ambassador at St. Petersburg.  “I have expressly left all that blank in order that she may settle it according to her interests and her own good pleasure.  When the negotiations for peace have advanced to a certain stage of consistency, it will no longer depend upon the Austrians to break them off if we declare our views unanimously as to Poland.  She cannot rely any further upon France, which happens to be in such a fearful state of exhaustion that it could not give any help to Spain, which was on the point of declaring war against England.  If that war do not take place, it must be attributed simply to the smash in the finances of France.  I guarantee, then, to the Russians all that may happen to suit them; they will do as much for me; and, supposing that the Austrians should consider their share of Poland too paltry in comparison with ours, and it were desirable to satisfy them, one would only have to offer them that strip of the Venetian dominions which cuts them off from Trieste in order to keep them quiet; even if they were to turn nasty, I will answer for it with my head that our union with Russia, once clearly established, will tide them over all that we desire.  They have to do with two powers, and they have not a single ally to give them a shoulder.”

Frederick said truly; his sound and powerful judgment took in the position of Europe:  France, exhausted by the lingering decay of her government and in travail with new and confused elements which had as yet no strength but to shatter and destroy; Spain, lured on by France and then abandoned by her; England, disturbed at home by parliamentary agitation, favorably disposed to the court of Russia and for a long while allied to Frederick; Sweden and Denmark, in the throes of serious events; there was nothing to oppose the iniquity projected and prepared for with so much art and ability.  It was in vain that the King of Prussia sought to turn into a joke the unscrupulous manoeuvres of his diplomacy when he wrote to D’Alembert in January, 1772, “I would rather undertake to put the whole history of the Jews into madrigals than to cause to be of one mind three sovereigns amongst whom must be numbered two women.”  The undertaking was already accomplished.  Three months later, the first partition of Poland had been settled between Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and on the 2d of September, 1772, the treaty was made known at Warsaw.  The manifesto was short.  “It is a general rule of policy,” Frederick had said, “that, in default of unanswerable arguments, it is better to express one’s self laconically, and not go beating about the bush.”  The care of drawing it up had been intrusted to Prince Kaunitz.  “It was of importance,” said the document, “to establish the commonwealth of Poland on a solid basis whilst doing justice to the claims of the three powers for services rendered against the insurrection.”  The king and the senate protested.  The troops of the allies surrounded Warsaw, and the Diet, being convoked, ratified by a majority of two voices the convention presented by the spoilers themselves.  Catherine assigned to herself three thousand square leagues, and one million five hundred thousand souls, in Lithuania and Polish Livonia; Austria took possession of two thousand five hundred square leagues, and more than two million souls, in Red Russia and the Polish palatinates on the left of the Vistula; the instigator and plotter of the whole business had been the most modest of all; the treaty of partition brought Prussia only nine hundred square leagues and eight hundred and sixty thousand souls, but he found himself master of Prussian Poland and of a henceforth compact territory.  England had opposed, in Russia, the cession of Dantzick to the Great Frederick.  “The ill-temper of France and England at the dismemberment of Poland calls for serious reflections,” wrote the King of Prussia on the 5th of August, 1772:  “these two courts are already moving heaven and earth to detach the court of Vienna from our system; but as the three chief points whence their support should come are altogether to seek in France, and there is neither system, nor stability, nor money there, her projects will be given up with the same facility with which they were conceived and broached.  They appear to me, moreover, like the projects of the Duke of Aiguillon, ébullitions of French vivacity.”

France did not do anything, and could not do anything; the king’s secret negotiators, as well as the minister of foreign affairs, had been tricked by the allied powers.  “Ah! if Choiseul had been here!” exclaimed King Louis XV., it is said, when he heard of the partition of Poland.  The Duke of Choiseul would no doubt have been more clear-sighted and better informed than the Duke of Aiguillon, but his policy could have done no good.  Frederick II. knew that.  “France plays so small a part in Europe,” he wrote to Count Solms, “that I merely tell you about the impotent efforts of the French ministry’s envy just to have a laugh at them, and to let you see in what visions the consciousness of its own weaknesses is capable of leading that court to indulge.”  “O! where is Poland?” Madame Dubarry had said to Count Wicholorsky, King Stanislaus Augustus’ charge d’affaires, who was trying to interest her in the misfortunes of his country.

The partition of Poland was barely accomplished, the confederates of Barr, overwhelmed by the Russian troops, were still arriving in France to seek refuge there, and already King Louis XV., for a moment roused by the audacious aggression of the German courts, had sunk back into the shameful lethargy of his life.  When Madame Louise, the pious Carmelite of St. Denis, succeeded in awakening in her father’s soul a gleam of religious terror, the courtiers in charge of the royal pleasures redoubled their efforts to distract the king from thoughts so perilous for their own fortunes.  Louis XV., fluctuating between remorse and depravity, ruled by Madame Dubarry, bound hand and foot to the triumvirate of Chancellor Maupeou, Abbe Terray, and the Duke of Aiguillon, who were consuming between them in his name the last remnants of absolute power, fell suddenly ill of small-pox.  The princesses, his daughters, had never had that terrible disease, the scourge and terror of all classes of society, yet they bravely shut themselves up with the king, lavishing their attentions upon him to the last gasp.  Death, triumphant, had vanquished the favorite.  Madame Dubarry was sent away as soon as the nature of the malady had declared itself.  The king charged his grand almoner to ask pardon of the courtiers for the scandal he had caused them.  “Kings owe no account of their conduct save to God only,” he had often repeated to comfort himself for the shame of his life.  “It is just He whom I fear,” said Maria Theresa, pursued by remorse for the partition of Poland.

Louis XV. died on the 10th of May, 1774, in his sixty-fourth year, after reigning fifty-nine years, despised by the people who had not so long ago given him the name of Well-beloved, and whose attachment he had worn out by his cold indifference about affairs and the national interests as much as by the irregularities of his life.  With him died the old French monarchy, that proud power which had sometimes ruled Europe whilst always holding a great position therein.  Henceforth France was marching towards the unknown, tossed about as she was by divers movements, which were mostly hostile to the old state of things, blindly and confusedly as yet, but, under the direction of masters as inexperienced as they were daring, full of frequently noble though nearly always extravagant and reckless hopes, all founded on a thorough reconstruction of the bases of society and of its ancient props.  Far more even than the monarchy, at the close of Louis XV.’s reign, did religion find itself attacked and threatened; the blows struck by the philosophers at fanaticism recoiled upon the Christian faith, transiently liable here below for human errors and faults over which it is destined to triumph in eternity.