Category Archives: Europe

Item of the Day: A Gloomy Catastrophe (1805)

Found In: A Northern Summer; or Travels round the Baltic, through Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Part of Germany, in the Year 1804. By John Carr, Esq. London: Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge Street, Blackfriars, by T. Gillet, Salisbury square, 1805.

 

CHAP. XIV.

A GLOOMY CATASTROPHE.

IT is with deep regret that I approach the delicate and awful subject of this chapter. Humanity would gladly cover it with the pall of oblivion; but justice to the memory of an unhappy monarch, and to the chief of the august family of Russia, demand a candid though careful developement [sic] of the events which preceded the fall of the last Emperor. The original source of my information is from one who beheld the catastrophe which I am about to relate, whom I can neither name nor doubt; a catastrophe which is too near the period in which I write, not to render an unrestrained disclosure of all the particulars with which I  have been furnished, unfair if not imprudent. The causes that first created those well-known prejudices which Catherine II. cherished against her son, have perished with her; but all the world knows, that, during the many years which rolled away between the Grand Duke’s arrival at the age of maturity and his elevation to the throne, his august mother never admitted him to any participation of power, but kept him in a state of the most abject and mortifying separation from the court, and in almost total ignorance of the affairs of the empire. Although Paul, by his birth, was generalissimo of the armies, he never was permitted to head a regiment; and although, by the same right, grand admiral of the Baltic, he was interdicted from even visiting the fleet at Cronstadt. To these painful privations may be added, that when he was recommended, that is offered, to travel, during his absence Catherine seized and sent to Siberia one of his most cherished friends, because she discoverd that he had informed her son of some inconsiderble state affair. Thus Paul beheld himself not only severed from the being who gave him birth, but from all the ordinary felicities of life. The pressure of his hand excited suspicion; peril was in his attachment, and in his confidence guilt and treason. He could not have a friend, without furnishing a victim.

A gentleman nearly connected with me, now no more, a man of talent and acute observation and veracity, had several years since the honour of spending a short period at the little secluded court of Gatchina, upon which, as the dazzling beams of imperial favour never shone, the observer was left in the tranquillity of the shade, to make a more calm, steady, and undiverted survey. At this time, Paul displayed a mind very elegantly inclined, without being brilliant, highly cultivated, accomplished and informed, frank and generous, brave and magnanimous, a heart tender and affectionate, and a dispositon very sweet, though most acutely and poignantly susceptible: his person was not handsome, but his eye was penetrating, and his manners such as denoted the finished gentleman. In his youth he was seen by the bed-side of the dying Panin, the hoary and able minister of Catherine, and his tutor, kissing and bathing his hand with tears. As an evidence of his intellectual vigour, let the elaborate and able ukase, by which he settled the precedence and provision of the imperial family, unquestionably his own unassisted composition, be referred to. He loved his amiable princess, and his children, with the most ardent, the most indulgent fondness, and it was the labour of their love, as well as of his servants, who were devotedly attached to him, to requite his affections and graciousness, and to endeavour to fill up with every endearing, every studied attention, the gloomy chasm which had been formed by an unnatural and inexplicable neglect; but this chasm was a bottomless abyss, upon the brink of which his wounded spirit was ever wandering! Paul possessed a high martial inclination, and, reflecting that he might one day mount the throne of a military empire, he made the art of war the principal object of his studeis; but neither this pursuit, so copious, so interesting, nor the endearments of those who surrounded him, could expel from his mind the sense of his injuries. He beheld himself, the second personage the the destined ruler of the empire, postponed to the periodical favourite of his mother, the minister of her unbounded voluptiousness, not unfrequently elevated to the presidency of the Hermitage from the ranks, with no other pretensions than vigorous health and a mighty frame; whilst, on the other hand, the bleeding shade of his father was for ever, in his morbid imagination, pointing to his wound, and whispering revenge. Thus exiled from the heart of his mother, is it a matter of surprise that he should exclude her from his own?

Catherine more than once observed, that her son would not long occupy the throne after her decease; and it has been the fashion to say, that her alienation from him was justified by the events which succeeded her death. With this prophetic spirit, she devoted all her care to the education of her grandsons, Alexander and Constantine, and exercised all the powers she possessed towards the consummation of her prediciton. She foretold that the flower which she had planted would wither early: she shook it till every blossom fell, and shaded it so, that the dew of Heaven should never visit it more: she pressed and pierced the delicate and ardent mind of her son until she subverted it. Was it then a proof of inspiration, to prognosticate the brevity of his reign over an empire, the history of which has too often and fatally proved, that however despotic its government, and there is not one under heaven more absolute, a cautious and dexterous cultivation of the interest, feelings, prejudices, and affections of the people is inseparable from the safety of the ruler? . . .

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, Europe, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Rights of Man (1791)

Full Title: Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke’s Attack on the French Revolution.  Second Edition.  By Thomas Paine, Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Congress in the American War, and Author of the Work Intitled “Common Sense.”  London: Printed for J. S. Jordan, No. 166.  Fleet-Street.  MDCCXCI.

Preface to the English Edition.

From the part Mr. Burke took in the American Revolution, it was natural that I should consider him a friend to mankind; and as our acquaintance commenced on that ground, it would have been more agreeable to me to have had cause to continue in that opinion, than to change it.

At that time Mr. Burke made his violent speech last winter in the English Parliament against the French Revolution and the National Assembly, I was in Paris, and had written him, but a short time before, to inform him how prosperously matters were going on.  Soon after this, I saw his advertisement of the Pamphlet he intended to publish: As the attack was to be made in a language he little studied, and less understood, in France, and as every thing suffers by translation, I promised some of the friends of the Revolution in that country, that whenever Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet came forth, I would answer it.  This appeared to m the more necessary to be done, when I saw the flagrant misrepresentations which Mr. Burke’s Pamphlet contains; and that while it is an outrageous abuse on the French Revolution, and the principles of Liberty, it is an imposition on the rest of the world.

I am the more astonished and disappointed at this conduct of Mr. Burke, as (from the circumstance I am going to mention), I had formed other expectations.

I had seen enough of the miseries of war, to wish it might never more have existence in the world, and that some other mode might be found out to settle the differences that should occasionally arise in the neighborhood of nations.  This certainly might be done if Courts were disposed to set honestly about it, or if countries were enlightened enough to not be made the dupes of Courts.  The people of America had been bred up in the same prejudices against France, which at that time characterized the people of England; but experience and an acquaintance with the French Nation have most effectually shown to the Americans the falsehood of those prejudices; and I do not believe that a more cordial and confidential intercourse exists between any two countries than between America and France. 

When I came to France in the Spring of 1787, the Archbishop of Thoulouse was then Minister, and at that time highly esteemed.  I became much acquainted with the private Secretary of that Minister, a man of an enlarged and benevolent heart; and found, that his sentiments and my own perfectly agreed with respect to the madness of war, and the wretched impolicy of two nations, like England and France, continually worrying each other, to no other end than that of a mutual increase of burdens and taxes.  That I might be assured I had not misunderstood him, nor he me, I put the substance of our opinions into writing, and sent it to him; subjoining a request, that if I should see among the people of England, any disposition to cultivate a better understanding between the two nations than had hitherto prevailed, how far I might be authorized to say that the same disposition prevailed on the part of France?  He answered me by letter in the most unreserved manner, and that not for himself only, but for the Minister, with whose knowledge the letter was declared to be written.

I put this letter into the hands of Mr. Burke almost three years ago, and left it with him, where it still remains; hoping, and at the same time naturally expecting, from the opinion I had conceived of him, that he would find some opportunity of making good use of it, for the purpose of removing those errors and prejudices, which two neighboring nations, from the want of knowing each other, had entertained, to the injury of both.

When the French Revolution broke out, it certainly afforded to Mr. Burke an opportunity of doing some good, had he been disposed to it; instead of which, no sooner did he see the old prejudices wearing away, than he immediately began sowing the seeds of a new inveteracy, as if he were afraid that England and France would cease to be enemies.  That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrel of Nations, is as shocking as it is true; but when those who are concerned in the government of a country, make it their study to sow discord, and cultivate prejudices between Nations, it becomes more unpardonable.

With respect to a paragraph in this Work alluding to Mr. Burke’s having a pension, the report has been some time in circulation, at least two months; and as a person is often the last to hear what concerns him the most to know, I have mentioned it, that Mr. Burke may have an opportunity of contradicting the rumour, if he thinks proper.

THOMAS PAINE.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Common sense, Eighteenth century, Europe, Foreign Relations, French Revolution, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams, Revolution

Item of the Day: The Universal Merchant (1797)

Full Title: The Universal Merchant, in Theory and Practice: Improved and Enlarged by W. J. Alldridge . . . First American Edition. Philadelphia: Printed by Francis and Robert Bailey, at Yorick’s=Head, No. 116, High-Street, M,DCC,XCVII. [1797]

DEDICATION,

TO THE

CITIZENS

OF THE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

I FEEL the greatest pleasure in presenting the following work to your consideration and use, from the hope I entertain, that amongst others it may contribute to advance our national interests; –from a reflection on that uncommon degree of patronage it has obtained, amongst the most respectable and patriotic characters; –as it furnishes an opportunity of thus testifying my gratitude for the participation with you, in the benefits derived from a just administration of wise and equal laws; –and from a sense of that encouragement which our happy mode of government presents to industry, skill and virtue.

To this cause must we attribute the attainment of that conspicuous situation America now holds in the commercial system, and her elevated rank among the nations.

The respect which commerce commands, is infinitely preferable to that which conquest excites: –those with whom we negociate, naturally become our friends, –those we conquer, as natually become our enemies: –the first address us with an open, bounteous benevolence, –the last approach us with tardy steps, and yield their compulsive tribute with a retracting hand.

While commerce enriches individuals with all that is comprized in the epithet of wealth–it enriches a nation with a fixed and lasting reputation; but conquest, merely amuses with an imaginary, impermanent, inglorius fame, –leaving its security ever quesionable, and obnoxious to those open or secret attacks, which a just resentment of injuries invariably inspires.

No position can be more evident, than, that war is destructive of commerce, and ruinous to the prosperity of a country, –therefore, a nation or state, the professed objects of whose aim are, prosperity and happiness, must avoid war, –encourage industry, — cultivate virtue, –and preserve good order at home.

Until the European nations shall imitate the United States, in the adoption of the same means, they will have no legitimate hope of obtaining the same end, in the participation of those substantial blessings, which form her distinguishing characteristics, and constitute her true honor, happiness and glory.

May the universal co-operation of individual virtue, secure and perpetuate these blessings, until her illustrious example shall have taught all nations duly to appreciate their value, that they may participate the possession; and with her to unite in transmitting them, by such individual virtue, to all succeeding generations.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Commerce, Eighteenth century, Europe, Foreign Relations, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

Item of the Day: Cui bono? (1781)

Full Title: Cui Bono? Or, An Inquiry, What Benefits Can Arise Either to the English or the Americans, the French, Spaniards, or Dutch, from the Greatest Victories, or Successes, in the Present War? Being a Series of Letters, Addressed to Monsieur Necker, Late Controller General of the Finances of France. By Josiah Tucker, D.D. Dean of Glocester. Glocester: Printed by R. Raikes, for T. Cadell, in the Strand; Sold also by Evans and Hazell, in Glocester, M.DCC.LXXXI. [1781]

LETTER I.

TO MONSIEUR NECKER.

Cui Bono?

SIR,

A MAN who has distinguished himself in such critical Times as the present, in the difficult and envied Station of Controller-General of the Finances of France, is certain of being attacked, and as sure of being defended, by Multitudes of Writers. You have experienced the Effects of both Parties; and are, perhaps, by this Time, sufficiently cloyed with the Flattery of the one, and grown callous to the Censures of the other. Therefore it is natural for you to conclude, that when any other Writer is bringing your Name again before the Public, he is only repeating what you have so often heard. —But if you, Sir, will honour these Letters with a careful Perusal, you will find hardly one Thing in them similar to what you have read before, and yet many of them, perhaps, not unworthy of your serious Attention.

As I wish to treat you with all the Respect due to your distinguished Character; and as my Aim, in the Prosecution of my Subject, is entirely the Good of Mankind; I presume it is unnecessary, as a Stranger to your Person, to apologize for the Liberty I take in thus addressing you. And here allow me to observe, that I was favoured with the Correspondence of your Predecessor, Mons. Turgot, both during the Time he was in Office, and after his Resignation; —and that I am the same Person, of whose Writings Mons. Necker himself has sometimes condescended to make mention; and more particularly at that Juncture, when the idle Project of invading England, became the general Topic of Conversation throughout Europe.

Setting, therefore, all Apologies aside, and endeavouring to divest myself of national Partialities, and local Prejudices, to the utmost of my Power, I now enter on the Work proposed, not as an Englishman, but as a Citizen of the World; not as having an inbred Antipathy against France, but as a Friend of the whole human Species.

Whatever were your private Views, either of Interest, or of Honour, in publishing your Compte Rendu, the Example you have set deserves universal Commendation. And it is greatly to be wished, that it were made a fundamental Law in all arbitrary Governments, that each Minister, in the grand Departments of Trust and Power, should publish annual Accounts of his respective Administration; —Accounts I mean, which could stand the Test of an open and impartial Scrutiny, free from those false Colourings, and wilful Misrepresentations, with which yours have been so frequently and expressly charged; and from which I fear you have not yet been able to clear yourself to general Satisfaction.

But waving every Thing of this Nature, (because I do not intend to be either your Advocate, or your Accuser) and taking for granted, what you do not wish to conceal, that the grand Design of the Government, under which you live, in ordering your Account to be made Public, was to shew the World, that France had so many Resources still remaining, as would exhaust and ruin England in the Progress of this war; —I will here suppose, for Argument Sake, that every Thing has succeeded, or shall succeed according to the warmest Wishes of the most bigotted Frenchman, Poor England is no more! Non modo delenda, sed penitus deleta est Carthage! In short, the Lillies of France, like the Eagles of Rome, are every where triumphant!

Well, my good Sir, after all this Expence and Trouble, after so much Hurry and Confusion in subduing this devoted Island, after such repeated Victories, and immortal Fame, —will you permit us to rest a while, and to take a Breath: —And since the French have now raised their Nation to this Pinnacle of Glory, let us pause a little, to view the extended Prospect so far below us? —This is all the Boon I ask, and in granting this, I hope we shall be induced to think in the next Place, (for we have not yet thought upon the Matter) what would be the inevitable Consequences of these mighty Revolutions, now so ardently desired by every Frenchman, were Providence to permit them to pass.

Such a Subject is surely of Importance, to the Welfare and Happiness of Mankind. And this is the Subject I propose for the ensuing Letter. In the mean Time, I own I am under a strong Temptation to add a few Words concerning the infatuated Conduct of my own Country-men, the English, in the former War, as a Warning and Memento [sic] to future Politicians.

Almost thirty Years ago, when the Colonists in America were at least fifty to one more in Number than the Handful of Men, who could have invaded them from Canada, —I say, when these fifty undaunted Heroes, of the true English Breed, pretended to be afraid of one Frenchman — Common Sense might have taught us to have suspected the Truth of such pretended Fears; — Common Sense also might have suggested the Expediency of pausing a while, and of examining into Facts, particualry relating to the Fur-trade, before we rushed into Hostilities on such weak and frivolous Pretences: —Lastly, Common Sense might have told us that it would be bad Policy to put these turbulent and factious Colonies above Controul, (if we really thought them worth the keeping) and of placing them in that very State of Independance [sic], which they had ever wished for, and had been constantly aiming at. —I say, Common Sense might have suggested all these Things, if we had not disdained to ask the Advice of such a Counsellor. Nay more; —there was a Man at that very Time, who remonstrated strongly against the Absurdity, not to say Injustice of such Proceedings. —He shewed, with an Evidence not attempted to be invalidated, that the Americans had not assigned a sufficient Cause for going to War for their Sakes; —and that their pretended Dangers either of being driven into the Sea, or of being put between two Fires (the constant Cry, and Clamour at that Juncture in all our Public Papers) were mere Imposture, and Grimace. —And what is beyond all, he offered to prove from the English Custom-House Books of Entries or Imports, that the Quantity of Furs brought into England from America was almost double to what it had been in former Times, instead of being monopolized (as was asserted) by the French: —Though I must own, that had this really been the Case, it would have been something new in the Annals of the World, that a great Nation, and a civilized People had made War on another Natin, because the latter had bought more Skins of Cats, Foxes, Badgers, and of such Sort of Vermin, than the former had been able to do. —Lastly the same Person ventured to foretel in the most direct Terms, that the driving of the French from the English back Settlements would be the Signal to the Colonies, to meditate a general Revolt. But alas! he was preaching to the Winds and Waves: —Some would not vouchsafe an Answer to his Letters; —others were pleased to tell him that the American Colonists were better Judges of their own Dangers, than he had any Right to pretend to be; —and that the Reflections cast upon them for harbouring thoughts of Independance, and of planning Schemes of Rebellion, were base and scandalous, and utterly void of Foundation. Moreover, not a few plainly declared, that whosoeve should attempt to raise such Suspicions against the best of loyal Subjects, the faithful Americans, could be no other than a Spy in Disguise, and a Pensioner to France. (You, Sir, who so justly complain, that the several Pensions on the French List amount to the enormous Sum of Twenty-eight Millions of Livres, or about £.1,272,727. Sterling; —you, I say, can best tell, whether you have met with the Name of Tucker among the long Roll of English Mock Patriots, and French Pensioners.)

Now, as we have such a recent Example, before our Eyes of those fatal Consequences, which might have been prevented by a cool and timely Reflection; it is to be hoped, that the like blind, infatuated Part will not be acted over again; —but that the Powers at War will take Warning by the past, and consider, ‘ere it is too late, what would be the Effects of the present furious Contests, were they even to be crowned with all that Brilliancy and Success, which their own fond Hearts can wish, or desire.

With these Sentiments, and with just Esteem for your great Talents, I have the Honour to be,

SIR,

Your most obedient,

Humble Servant,

J.T.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1780's, Eighteenth century, England, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

Item of the Day: Carr’s Travels (1805)

Full Title: A Northern Summer; or Travels round the Baltic, through Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, and Part of Germany, in the Year 1804. By John Carr, Author of The Stranger in France, &c. &c. London: Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge Street, Blackfriars, by T. Gillet, Salisbury-square, 1805.

CHAP. I.

TIME OF SETTING FORTH—A WESTERN TOWN—HARWICH—THE POOR NORWEGIAN’S TOMB—HELOGOLAND—FLOATING MERRY FACES—HUSUM—A STUHLWAGGON–THE FAIR–THE WONDER–NOVEL APPLICATION OF A CHURCH–WALTZES–A SHOCKING SECRET.

IT was on the 14th of May, 1804, that, impelled by an ardent desire of contemplating the great and interesting volume of man, and by the hope of ameliorating a state of health which has too often awakened the solicitude of maternal affection, and of friendly sympathy, the writer of these pages bade adieu to a spot in which the morning of life had rolled over his head, and which a thousand circumstances had endeared to him. I cannot quit England without casting a lingering look upon my favourite little town of Totnes, where, as a characteristic, family alliances are so carefully preserved that one death generally stains half the town black; and where Nature has so united the charms of enlightened society, to those of romantic scenery, that had a certain with but tasted of the former, he would have spared the whole country in which it stands, and would not have answered, when requested to declare his opinion of the good people of Devon, that the further he travelled westward, the more persuaded he was that the wise men came from the east.

The angry decrees of renovated war had closed the gates of the south; the north alone lay expanded before me; if she is less enchanting, thought I perhaps she is the less known, and whereever [sic] man is, (women of course included) there must be variety: she has hitherto been contemplated, clad in fur, and gliding with the swiftness of a light cloud before the wind, upon her roads of shining snow. I will take a peep at her in her summer garb, and will endeavor to form a nosegay of polar flowers.

There is always a little bustle of action and confusion of ideas, when a man, about to slip from his friends, is in the agonies of packing up. My mind alternately darted from my portmanteau, to the political appearances with which I was surrounded; and, with all the vanity which generally belongs to a traveller, I resolved to commemorate the period of my flight, by a cursory comment upon the state of my country, which, by the time the last strap was buckled, was simply this: A great man had succeeded a good one in the direction of its august destinies, and another being who may be considered as the wonder of the west, was preparing amidst the blaze of brilliant novelties to mount the throne of a new dynasty; amongst them was a threat to cover the shores of England, with his hostile legions. Nine hundred and ninety-nine Englishmen, out of one thousand, had started into martial array, on the sound of the haughty menace—patriotism, with the bright velocity of a wild-fire, ran through the valley and over the mountain, till at last it was discovered that we might be invaded whenever we pleased. Ministers were more puzzled by their friends, than their enemies; where streams were expected to flow, torrents rolled headlong, and whatever may be our animosities, we are at least under an everlasting obligation to the French, for having enabled us to contemplate such a spectacle of loyalty. How I happened to leave my country at this time, it may be proper to explain: Devonshire offered, to her lasting honour, twenty thousand volunteer defenders of their homes and altars, nine thousand were only wanted or could be accepted; in the later, a spirited body of my fellow-townsmen, who honoured me by an election to command them, were not included; after encountering (and it was equal to a demi-campaign) the scrutinizing eye of militia-men, and the titter of nursery-maids, until awkwardness yielded to a good discipline, and improvement had taught our observers to respect us, we found that our intended services were superfluous, and I was at full liberty to go to any point of the compass; so, after the touching scene of bidding adieu to an aged and beloved mother, whilst she poured upon me many a half-stifled prayer and benediction, I hastened to the capital, where, having furnished myself with the necessary passports and letters of introduction to our embassadors [sic] from the minister of foreign affairs, a circular letter of credit and bills from the house of Ransom, Morland, and company, upon their foreign correspondents, and with a packet of very handsome letters of private introduction, which were swelled by the kindness of Mr. Gill, the Swedish consul, and a passport (indispensably necessary to the visitor of Sweden) from the baron Silverhjelm. the enlightened and amiable representative of a brave and generous nation, I proceeded to Harwich, and at midnight passed under the barrier arch of its watch-tower, which was thrown into strong picturesque varieties of shade, by the propitious light, which from the top flung its joyous lustre over many a distant wave, so gladdening to the heart of the homeward mariner. . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1800's, England, Europe, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Williams’ Tour in Switzerland (1798)

Full Title: A Tour in Switzerland; or A View of the Present State of the Governments and Manners of those Cantons: With Comparative Sketches of the Present State of Paris. By Helen Maria Williams. Vol. I. London: Printed For G. G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row. MDCCXCVIII.

PREFACE.

In presenting to the Public a View of Switzerland, a country of which so much has been already written, it may perhaps become me to clear myself of the charge of presumption. The descriptive parts of this journal were rapidly traced with the ardor of a fond imagination, eager to seize the vivid colouring of the moment ere it fled, and give permanence to the emotions of admiration, while the solemn enthusiasm beat high in my bosom; but when the sensations excited by those views of majestic grandeur had subsided, I recollected, with regret, that the paths which I had delighted to tread had been trodden before; and that the objects on which I had gazed with astonishment had been already described. It is true, that the sketch I have penciled of that sublime scenery, however rude, will be found to be an original drawing, copied from nature, and not from books; yet I should scarcely have presumed to obtrude that unfinished outline on the public eye, if the other parts of my journal offered nothing new to its observation. It is the present moral situation of Switzerland that justifies the appearance of these volumes, in which an attempt is made to trace the important effects which the French Revolution has produced in that country, and which are about to unfold a new aera in its history. The governmetns of Switzerland, placed within reach of the electrical fire of that Revolution, flashing around all their borders, behold the subtle spark, which finds a conductor in the human heart, escaping beyond its prescribed limits, and feel its strong concussion in every agitated nerve.

I have endeavoured to give an additional interest to my journal, by connecting the view of the manners and customs of the Swiss towns, with a comparative picture of the present state of Paris; and I offer this Work to the Public with far less hope from the experience of its past indulgence, than solicitude to obtain its future favor […]

CHAP. I.

During the period of that new species of tyranny which assumed the name of revolutionary government, I was not merely involved in the common danger which threatened every individual in France, but had claims to particular proscription. It was not only remembered by many of the satellites of Robespierre, that I had been a friend of the Gironde, of Madame Roland, matyred names which it was death to pronounce, but that I had written a work, published in England, in which I had traced, without reserve, the characters of our oppressors; whose ferocious purposes I had often heard developed with the glowing eloquence of Vergniaud, and the indignant energy of La Source. No danger could be more imminent than that of living under the very tyranny which I had the perilous honour of having been one of the first to deprecate, and to proclaim.

In this situation an opportunity presented itself of obtaining a passport for Switzerland–A passport!–they who can judge of all the blessedness that word unfolds, are not those who, at a safe distance from the government of Robespierre, have heard of its terrific influence, but those who were placed within its savage grasp. Alas! at the moment of my escape, how many, immured in the dungeons of the tyrant, vainly wished to purchase, at the price of all they possessed, the privilege of forsaking a country, composed only of executioners and of victims!

The road from Paris to Basil leads for the most part along a level country, which displays a picture of fertility, but few scenes of beauty or grandeur, except a branch of the Vosges, which we traversed near Belfort, and whose swelling mountains, presenting faint traces of those we were going to contemplate, we saw bounding our horizon, and stretching along the plains of Alsace.

I found Basil crouded with strangers of all ranks, and all nations, being, at that period, when general hostility had barred the passes from one country to another, almost the only spot left open for the transactions of commerce, the asylum of the fugitives, and the dawning negociations of peace.

The first view of Switzerland awakened my enthusiasm most powerfully–“At length,” though I, “am I going to contemplate that interesting country, of which I have never heard without emotion!–I am going to gaze upon images of nature; images of which the idea has so often swelled my imagination, but which my eyes have never yet beheld.–I am going to repose my wearied spirit on those sublime objects–to sooth my desponding heart with the hope that the moral disorder I have witnessed shall be rectified, while I gaze on nature in all her admirable perfections; and how delightful a transition shall I find in the picture of social happiness which Switzerland presents! I shall no longer see liberty profaned and violated; here she smiles upon the hills, and decorates the vallies, and finds, in the uncorrupted simplicity of this people, a firmer barrier than in the cragginess of their rocks, or the snows of their Glaciers!”

Such were my meditations when I first set my foot on the soil of Switzerland […]

Leave a comment

Filed under 1790's, Europe, France, French Revolution, Posted by Matthew Williams, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands (1673)

Full Title: Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands. By Sir William Temple . . . Second Edition Corrected and Augmented. London: Printed by A. Maxwell for sa. Gellibrand at the Golden Ball in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1673.

THE

PREFACE.

Having lately seen the state of the United Provinces, after a prodigious growth in Riches, Beauty, extent of Commerce, and number of Inhabitants, arrived at length to such a heigth [sic] by the strength of their Navies, their fortified Towns and Standing-Forces, with a constant Revenue proportion’d to the support of all this Greatness), as made them the Envy of some, the Fear of others, and the Wonder of all their Neighbors.

We have this summer past, beheld the same state, in the midst of great appearing Safety, Order, Strength, and Vigor, Almost ruin’d and broken to pieces in some few days and by very few blows; And reduced in a manner to its first Principles of Weakness and Distress; Exposed, opprest [sic] , and very near at mercy. Their Inland-Provinces swallowed up by in Invasion, almost as sudden and unresisted, as the Inundations to which the others are subject. And the remainders of their State rather kept alive by neglect or disconcert of its Enemies, than by any Strength of Naturee, or endeavours at its own recovery.

Now because such a Greatness, and such a Fall of this State, seem Revolutions unparallel’d in any story, and hardly conceived even by those who have lately seen them; I thought it might be worth an idle man’s time, to give some account of the Rise and Progress of this Commonwealth, The Causes of their Greatness, And the Steps towards their Fall: Which were all made by motions perhaps little taken notice of by common eyes, and almost undiscernable to any man that was not placed to the best advantage, and Something concerned, as well as enclin’d to observe them.

The usual Duty of Employments abroad, imposed not only by Custom, but by Orders of State, made it fit for me to prepare some formal Account of this Countrey [sic] and Government, after Two years Ambassy [sic], in the midst of grest Conjunctures and Negotiations among them. And such a Revolution as has since hppen’d there, though it may have made these Discourses little important to His Majesty, or His Council; Yet it will not  have render’d them less agreeable to common eyes, who, like men that live near the Sea, will run out upon the Cliffs to gaze at it in a Storm, though they would not look out of their Windows to see it in a Calm.

Besides, at a time when the Actions of this Scene take up so generally the eyes and discourses of their Neighbours; And the Maps of their Countrey [sic] grow so much in request: I thought a Map of their State and Goverment would not be unwelcome to the World, since it is full as necessary as the others, To understand the late Revolutions and Changes among them. And as no man’s Story can be well written till he is dead; so the account of this State could not be well given till its fall, which may justly be dated from the Events of last Summer (whatever fortunes may further attend them), Since therein we have seen the sudden and violent dissolution of that more Popular Government, which had continued and made so much noise for above Twenty years in the World, without the exeercise or influence of the Authority of the Princes of Orange, A part so essential in the first Constitutions of their State. Nor can I wholly lose my pains in this Adventure, when I shall gain the ease of answering this way at once; those many Questions I have lately been used to upon this occasion: Which made me first observe and wonder, how ignorant we were generaly in the Affairs and Constitutions of a Countrey so much in our eye, the common road of our travels, as well as subject of our talk; and which we have been of late not only curious, but concerned to know.

I am sensible how ill a Trade it is to write, where much is ventur’d, and little can be gain’d; since whoever does it ill, is sure of contempt, and the justliest that can be, when no man provokes him to discover his own follies, or to trouble the world. If he writes well, he raises the envy of those Wits that are possest [sic] of the Vogue, and are jealous of their Preferment there, as if it were in Love, or in State; And have found, that the nearest way to their own Reputation, lyes [sic] right, or wrong, by the derision of other men. But however, I am not in pain: for ’tis the affectation of Praise, that makes the fear of Reproach; And I write without other design than of entertaining very idle men, and among them my self. For I must confess, that being wholly useless to the Publique, And unaquainted with the cares of encreasing Riches (whichbusie [sic]the World): Being grown cold to the pleasures of younger or livelier men; And having ended the Entertainments of Building and Planting (which use to succeed them); Finding little taste in common Conversation; And trouble in much Reading, from the care of my eyes (since an illness contracted by many unnecessary filigences in my Employment abroad): There can hardly be found an idler man than I; Nor consequently one more excusable for giving way to such amusements as this: Having nothing to do, but to enjoy the ease of a private Life and Fortune; which as I know no man envies, so (I thank God) no man can reproach.

I am not ignorant, that the vein of Reading never run lower than in this Age; and seldom goes further than the design of raising a Stock to furnish some Calling or Conversation. The desire of Knowledge being either laught out of doors by the Wit that pleases the Age; or beaten out by Interest, that so much possesses it: And the amusement of Books giving way to the liberties of refinements of Pleasure, that were formerly less known, or less avowed than now. Yet some there will always be found in the world, who ask no more at their idle hours, than to forget themselves. And whether that be brought about by Drink or Play, by Love or Business, or by some diversions as idle as this, ‘Tis all a case. . . .

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1670'S, Europe, History, Netherlands, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel