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FrRevol_251-300.indd 15 3/16/12 1:07 PM CHAPTER XX Death ofMirabeau. A man ofgreat family from Brabant, ofa sagacious and penetratingmind,1 acted as the medium between the Court and Mirabeau: he had prevailed on him to correspond secretly with the Marquis de Bouille, the General in whom the royal family had the most confidence. The project of Mirabeau was, it seems, to accompany the King to Compiegne in the midst ofthe regiments ofwhose obedience M. de Bouille was certain, and to call thither the Constituent Assembly in order to disengage it from the influence of Paris and bring it under that of the Court. But Mirabeau had, at the same time, the intention of causing the English constitution to be adopted; for never will a truly superior man desire the re-establishment of arbitrary power. An ambitious character might take pleasure in such power if assured of holding it during the whole of his life; but Mirabeau was perfectly aware that if he succeeded in re-establishing an unlimited monarchy in France, the direction of such a government would not long be granted him by the Court; he desired, therefore, a representative government , in which men of talent, being always necessary, would always be of weight. I have had in my hands a letter of Mirabeau written for the purpose of being shown to the King: in it he offered all his means of restoring to France an efficient and respected, but a limited, monarchy; he made use, among others, of this remarkable expression: "I would not want to have worked only toward a vast destruction." The whole letter did honor to the justness of his views. His death was a great misfortune at the time it happened; a transcendant superiority in the career ofthought always offers great resources. "You have too much capacity," said M. Necker one day r. Auguste de La Marek (17)0- 1833), a friend ofMirabeau's. FrRevol_251-300.indd 16 3/16/12 1:07 PM PART II to Mirabeau, "not to acknowledge, sooner or later, that morality is in the nature of things." Mirabeau was not altogether a man of genius; but he was not far from being one by the force of talent. I will confess, then, notwithstanding the frightful faults of Mirabeau, notwithstanding the just resentment which I felt for the attacks that he allowed himself to make on my father in public (for, in private, he never spoke of him but with admiration), that his death struck me with grief, and all Paris experienced the same sensation. During his illness an immense crowd gathered daily and hourly before his door: that crowd made not the smallest noise, from dread of disturbing him; it was frequently renewed in the course of the twenty-four hours, and persons ofdifferent classes all behaved with equal respect. A young man, having heard it said that on introducing fresh blood into the veins ofa dying man a recovery might be effected, came forward and offered to save the life ofMirabeau at the expense ofhis own. We cannot, without emotion, see homage rendered to talent: so much does it differ from that which is lavished on power! Mirabeau knew that his death was approaching. At that moment, far from sinking under affliction, he had a feeling of pride: the cannon were firing for a public ceremony; he called out, "I hear already the funeral of Achilles." In truth, an intrepid orator, who should defend with constancy the cause of liberty, might compare himself to a hero. "After my death," said he again, "the factious will share among themselves the shreds ofthe monarchy."2 He had conceived the plan of repairing a great many evils; but it was not given to him to be the expiator of his faults. He suffered cruelly in the last days ofhis life; and, when no longer able to speak, wrote to Cabanis, his physician, for a dose ofopium, in these words ofHamlet: "to die--to sleep." He received no consolation from religion; he was struck by death in the fullness ofthe interests ofthis world and when he thought himselfnear the object to which his ambition aspired. There is in the destiny ofalmost all men, when we take the trouble ofexaminingit, amanifest 2. Mirabeau's physician, Dr. Cabanis, recorded the following sentence: "! carry in my heart the death ofthe monarchy, the corpse ofwhich will become the prey ofthe factions." (quoted in Luttrell,Mirabeau, 270-71) 266 FrRevol_251-300.indd...


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