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her Belgic and Lombard possessions, by States despoiled from Venice, the conqueror hastened to the shores of the Adriatic to complete the overthrow of that ancient oligarchy, dating its origin from another invader, the ferocious Attila.*
Intestine dissensions, artfully fomented, had prepared Venice for her hapless fate. Superstition arrayed against Infidelity-Patriotism against Sedition waged an unequal conflict. Her haughty aristocracy sought safety in submission. Their prayers, their lamentings, their concessions were heard only to be scoffed. The policy of France would not endure any other institutions than such as she should impose; and, amidst the broils of her citizens with the foreign mercenaries of the Senate, a peace was signed, by which a provisional government was established; a protecting army of Frenchmen introduced her fleet surrendered-the defenders of the State
delivered to summary vengeance. This invasion and subversion of an ancient, unoffending, neutral power, was excused by the allegations, that her Lagunes were her only natural possessions; that her iniquitous Constitution, and aged, abhorred, and gloomy despotism gave her no right to sympathy or existence.
Without these poor pretexts, Genoa was doomed to a similar revolution. The adherents of France, miscalled the Patriots, rose against the people and were beaten down; but the timely advance of a French force ended the contest, while the Doge was considering a proposal to modify the constitution.
Amid the ruin of ancient and the creation of new States, Bonaparte sat on his throne at Milan, (thus again an imperial city,) deciding the destinies of Europe, while
* Gibbon, iii. 357.
the perspective of universal empire was opening before him.
Of the powerful coalition which had menaced France, England alone remained in arms. The condition of her allies left her no longer any obligation or inducement to protract the contest. Overtures of peace were made, and accepted; and, while Austria was negotiating at Undine, conferences between these ancient enemies were commenced at Lisle.
France, in all her interests, required repose, and fondly cherished the prospect of tranquillity. The wishes of the nation were responded to by the two Councils, sincerely desirous of peace, and intent upon confining the Directory within their legitimate sphere. But the Executive power of that great, unhappy nation, was the representative of war. Peace would be fatal to its existence. To exist, it must be absolute-unlimited. It could not ad
mit of opposition.
The press had denounced the subversion of Venice. The Councils inquired how the Directory, without legislative concurrence, had dared this procedure? The inquiry was referred to the same Committee which were consulting of the depredations on the United States. The French people had begun again to reason, and the Directory took refuge in the arms of the soldiery. Troops were seen approaching Paris. Addresses from the army avowed their readiness to "fly with the rapidity of the eagle to maintain the Constitution!-defend liberty! protect the republicans!" Another revolution was resolved.
At a concerted signal, the legislative halls were surrounded with soldiers. The Councils were dissolved, and the minority, composed of the adherents of a majority of the Directory, assembled at a different place, and as
sumed to represent the nation. Carnot and Barthelimi, condemned to deportation, gave place to Merlin and Neufchateau. A new ministry was formed; and Talleyrand, recently proscribed, was charged with the foreign department. Throughout nearly two-thirds of France the elections were annulled. More than one hundred members were expelled the "Council of Five Hundred," and forty from the "Council of Elders." Not an individual had the benefit of a hearing or trial. Men of distinguished merit, the Constitutional representatives of a large majority of the nation, were banished, on the plea, that they were the agents of Royalty. To silence complaint, the popular journals were suppressed-their proprietors exiled.
This Revolution was not stained with blood, nor marked with tumult. Accustomed to despotism, Paris remained a calm spectator of this extraordinary usurpation. Her pleasures were not interrupted. A few scattered groups, uttering popular cries, alone showed the existence of any remaining national sentiment. Yet, as regarded the opinions of France, it was a more flagrant, open, undisguised violation of the public will, than either of those which it succeeded.
Such was the fate of a Constitution founded on the broadest theory of popular rights. An institution based upon the principle of universal suffrage, it was supposed, would secure to the people a pure and independent representation. The majority of the suffrages were given without regard to the public interests, or were corruptly purchased. Its Judiciary were elected by the people. Their decisions were prostituted to the malefactor and the pirate. Distrust had created a plural executive. There was no unity of counsels, and the minority were expelled by the majority. The Executive had no consti.
tutional negative on the legislature.
it resorted to force. tative democracy, one potism.
To protect itself,
For a theoretically pure represennight substituted a military des
Yet this usurping government, with no other support than the bayonet, was defended by the Democratic press of the United States, as the assertor of liberty against the plots of the Royalists. The same press insisted, that with her power thus consolidated, her policy would be pacific; and that America had only to wait a short interval the adjustment of all their controversies. Hamilton saw a different result. He declared at this moment, that "Power alone could reorganize the discordant materials of Europe; that there could be no pacific accommodation of its disturbances; that France must seek repose under a throne; and that some Bonaparte or Pichegru, with half a million of veterans at his heels, would parcel out monarchies, principalities, and tributary States at pleasure." *
As to the United States, the majority of the former Directory were in favor of war. Their successors were not less hostile. The only question was, whether it should be open, or, as it had been, "war only on one side." "If France makes war," they said, "it will be on the Government, not on the people. The Government cannot succeed in raising armies, equipping a fleet, or laying taxes to pay them. Had Madison been appointed Envoy, it would have drawn closer the connection of seventeen hundred seventy-eight; as it is, she will not commit the error of England by advancing into the United States. The Directory can have, by proper agents, the preponderance there assigned to her."
Thus is seen the force of Talleyrand's pithy remark as to Hamilton, "Mais il avoit diviné l'Europe."
Intelligence of this Revolution reached America late in the Autumn. A few days after it was received, on the twenty-third of November, Congress assembled.
The President, in his speech, remarked, that nothing had occurred since their adjournment to render inexpedient the precautionary measures he had before recommended. That the reasons for their adoption were strengthened by increasing depredations, and, though the negotiation with France should issue favorably, that the disorders of the world indicated the necessity of protecting and defending their commerce. Spain, he observed, still occupied the territory of the United States, with her garrisons; and had not commenced to define the boundary; a delay to be regretted, as tending to influence the Indians prejudicially. He mentioned the attempts of foreign agents to excite them to a confederate hostility, and suggested the propriety of a law for the punishment of this interference. The proceedings to fulfil the treaty with Great Britain were adverted to, and Congress were advised to make provision for the awards they had engaged to pay. As to revenue, he urged the danger of funding systems and loans; and advised a resort to "immediate taxes." The importance of unanimity in the peculiar situation of the country was earnestly indicated.
The decisive language of the President greatly disappointed the hopes of the opposition. Their efforts to gain time had thus far failed, and the most anxious apprehensions were indulged, that the very qualities of his character, through which they had expected to rule him, would prove the most formidable obstacles to their purposes.
A short time after this Speech had reached Madison, he penned this contrast between Washington and Adams;