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education, not the mere advocates of political knowledge, should have risen up against a tax which obstructs all their enlightened and humane efforts ? Can we any longer sneer at the name given to the stamp—and which designates it as a 'tax upon knowledge?'
Why, then, should this impost be continued any longer ? There were two reasons stated by Lord Brougham in presenting the London Petition, and which he appears to have fully answered. The first is, the loss apprehended to the revenue—the second, the encouragement supposed to result from the removal of the tax to the production of noxious papers.
1. The revenue could suffer little, if it did not rather gain. No free country has so few newspapers in proportion to its population as Great Britain. The Islands in the Channel have fifteen times as many, and the United States thirty times—there being no tax on newspapers in either. No one can doubt, then, that the repeal would multiply papers tenfold at the least ; and that instead of thirty millions of papers a-year, or less than six for every adult male-fifty or sixty for every such adult would be printed and sold. This would greatly augment the excise upon paper-the revenue of the post-office—and above all, the advertisement duties. It is, we are told, the opinion of persons the best informed upon the question, that the revenue would on the whole gain considerably by the change.
2. The fear of increasing sedition, profaneness, and immorality, is altogether chimerical, and the argument drawn from thence is exposed at once. Those vile publications, at present having no stamp at all, ninety-nine in every hundred of them, are printed wholly without stamps, and therefore sold at a penny or twopence; while the more respectable papers, which pay the stamp, must be charged sixpence or sevenpence. Thus the wicked and unwholesome article enjoys a monopoly at the expense of the innocent and beneficial commodity—the contraband dealer is supported and encouraged by a premium-while the regular and honest trader is loaded with a duty of two hundred per cent! Never yet was there a more absurd and iniquitous tax imposed—but the argument employed in its defence is, if possible, more absurd still
Let us hope that this evil will soon be removed, and the incalculable advantages secured to us of cheap and universal information. But our wishes will certainly be altogether fruitless if we do not bestir ourselves; and having already shown that the existing newspapers are not very willing to assist in obtaining this reform, it is the more necessary for all other periodical publications which favour the cause of improvement to exert themselves in its support.
Art. XI.-Mémoires Biographiques, Littéraires et Politiques de
Mirabeau ; ecrits par Lui-même, par son Père, son Oncle, et
son Fils Adoptif. 5 tomes, 8vo. Paris : 1834. THE THE great celebrity of Mirabeau, the brilliant part which he
performed in the beginning of the French Revolution, and the influence which he exerted over the early course of that memorable event, have given an interest to his private history, which belongs to that of hardly any other individual who never mounted a throne. Accidental circumstances combined with these considerations at once to excite and to gratify the curiosity of the world respecting him. The domestic quarrels of which he was, if not the cause, certainly the occasion, and the disclosures to which the temper and the indiscretion of the parties led, had made the name and the fortunes of this remarkable person familiar to all Europe, as a son, a husband, and a lover, long before he was known upon the great theatre of state affairs, or even in the republic of letters. That he has been more admired for his genius than he deserved is a probable, although we are far from thinking it a clear proposition. That his moral character has been blackened by prejudice and by party, while it has been misunderstood through ignorance of his circumstances and situation, we think a matter of no doubt at all; and we believe there is no second instance of an individual whose faults have been committed under such a pressure of ill-treatment to besiege and force his virtue, rather than of temptation to seduce and betray it. Still less does history present any parallel to the injustice which has been done him by the world, even by those who had no prepossession against him—by the public and by individuals--an injustice which has consisted in uniformly listening to all that his enemies, chiefly of his own forming, said against him-never to any of his own statements—nor even to any of the proofs that existed against these enemies. There is this peculiar to the family quarrels of the Mirabeaus, that in all other such controversies, it has become a kind of maxim with the world to punish the parties, if not for their private dissensions, at least for their public disclosures, by believing that all of them were more or less to blame; by declining to be very nice in apportioning their several shares of the censure; and by generally considering those shares as nearly equal. In the instance of Mirabeau alone, this rule has been excluded; and the whole blame being cast upon him, his father and his family have escaped all visitation.
It is an agreeable thing, however, for every one who hates op
pression and injustice to find, that at length the world is put in a condition to render a tardy justice to Mirabeau, and express its disapprobation of the persecutions which he endured : not indeed that he is guiltless, or any thing approaching to guiltless, but that he erred and sinned in circumstances of most peculiar illusage-nay, of cruelty and ill-treatment almost without example —and that they who the most severely visited his frailties, were those who, more than most others, had occasion for indulgence to their own. The work now before us places within our reach the materials upon which to ground, if not a reversal of the sentenee hitherto pronounced against Mirabeau, yet certainly a mitigation of the former judgment. It is farther of great interest, as throwing a new light upon the character and the talents of others very imperfectly known to mankind. Nor is it a trifling advantage obtained from this publication, that it brings us acquainted, in the most striking manner, with the dreadful state of society during the times of the legitimate monarchy of France; when the most frightful oppression could be praetised by every nobleman with impunity, under the protection, and with the aid, of the constituted authorities; and when the most virtuous and accomplished, and even enlightened, of the Aristocracy could, without a doubt, take advantage of these facilities to work the misery of their fellow-creatures, and could, without a pang, carry such cruel projects into execution.
As a composition--that is, an original work of its nominal author, Mirabeau's adopted son—the book has fewer claims to our attention, than as a collection of documents. The editor writes comparatively little himself—though what he does is both cleverly done and very useful in connecting the parts of the story, which is, as the title-page states, chiefly told by extracts from the letters of the family; and we may also observe, that he shows, with much real affection towards his parent, also great discretion in not overstating his defence, or under-rating the charges brought against him, and denying the weight of the blame to which he stands, after every deduction that can be made, justly exposed. But the life of Mirabeau here given, is in reality the correspondence of his family, and especially of his father, his uncle, and himself. Nor was there ever presented to the world a more interesting collection of letters-we ought rather to say of extracts ; for one of the few objections that can be made to the plan of the work is that, without at all altering the language of the originals, the editor has nevertheless combined in one letter parts of half-a-dozen, so as not quite to maintain the extreme interest which would naturally belong to papers of so extraordinary a merit, and written in such singular and striking circumstances.
We are now about to make the reader acquainted with twoif not three, very intelligent individuals, hitherto unknown to him, although he has long been familiar with two of them,- at least with their names. The first is the celebrated Marquess de Mirabeau, father of the Count, head of that noble family, one of the founders of the sect of Economists in France,-indeed, after Quesnai, its chief patriarch ; also well known as the author of several important works upon its doctrines, and distinguished for his practical attention to economics as a considerable landowner and a patrician of a most ancient house. Now we will venture to say that they who had known, or fancied they knew, this distinguished individual the best, will find themselves, upon opening these volumes, in the presence of a personage entirely strange to them, and of whose nature, habits, and character they had previously no kind of knowledge. Nothing in truth can be more entirely unlike than the philosopher and the man,—the liberal enlightened Economist and the haughty aristocratic noble; the friend of Quesnai and the father of Mirabeau ; the Ami des Hommes * and the Père de Famille. But all this is not without example; indeed such discrepancies between men's public and their domestic characters are far from rare. The difference here is carried unfortunately further. Justice,-a rigorous love of the strictest justice,- is the characteristic of the Marquess and of his sect; but his treatment of his son offers one perpetual scene of all justice grossly outraged. To observe moderation,—to regard the useful end of all things,—to act as if they were born not for themselves but for mankind—was the very motto of the Economists :
Secta fuit, servare modum, finemque tenere,
Nec sibi, sed toti genitum se credere mundo. But the Marquess's predominant passion was family pride; moderation neither in this nor in any other feeling was ever for an instant the inmate of his mind, nor the regulator of his thoughts; and he always spoke, and wrote, and acted in private life as one who never for an instant of his life doubted, that the world was made for the order (not the sect) he belonged to, and that his first and highest duty was to keep the Mirabeau family at the head of that favoured class.
To follow the dictates of nature, to devote their lives to the cause of truth, was the residue of the Economist's motto. But the most cruel prepossession against his first-born,—the most refined cruelty of treatment which hisingenuity could devise for that child, the greatest finesse of every kind employed to ensnare him ;-even the expedient of leaving him in wretched circumstances, and
* The title of the Marquess's most famous work.
restoring him to liberty, in order that he might either terminate his existence in despair, or forfeit his life to the law-accompanied with an adulterous connexion which made his own wife leave his house--such are the traits of private character which these volumes represent as belonging to the lover of nature and trath, and for the most part represented under the infallible testimony of his own hand.
But under that hand we have proofs of a difference still more marvellous, and of which there is certainly no other example. The author of the most dull, heavy, uninteresting books,–in the most tiresome, insipid, almost unbearable style, is the writer of abont the very best, the most lively, the most entertaining letters, in a style which for originality, raciness, force, felicity of diction, have scarcely a rival! The account given in these volumes of his style as an author of economical works is severe, but not beyond the truth ; while the praise of his epistolary diction is quite under its real merits.
Ses lettres familières, que nous avons par milliers, et qui furent toujours remarquables par un naturel abondant et facile, par une aisance spirituelle et gaie, forment, comme nos lecteurs vont bientôt le voir, le plus inexplicable des contrastes avec ses écrits destinés à la publicité, tracés pour ainsi dire en sa présence, et dans lesquels le fond toujours très-sensé des idées, est décrédité par la couleur particulière de son style obscur, pesant, et baroque, mélangé de tropes bizarres, d'incohérentes métaphores, en un mot, il faut le dire, de galimatias intolérable.'
The Marquess was born in 1715, the eldest surviving son of a family esteemed ancient and noble even in Provence, and established there for above five centuries. It was the family of Riqueti, or Arrighetti, originally from the neighbouring territory of Italy, and which has produced several eminent men ; although it is said that the relationship of the most famous of them all, Riqueti the engineer and author of the Languedoc canal, was denied by the preposterous and barbarous pride of the clan. He was, like all the elder branches of noble French houses, placed betimes in the army; made a Chevalier de Malte at three years of age ; an ensign at fourteen ; soon after a captain; served with great credit and even distinction at the siege of Kehl and Phillipsbourg, and at the battles of Dettingen and Clusen; and in 1743, at the age of eight-and-twenty, received the cross of St Louis. The death of his father having some years before placed him in a state of independence, he now quitted the army; and leaving also the order of Malta, he married the Marquise de Saulvebeuf, a widow and a maid; for according to the admirable arrangements of the old régime in France (that perfection of patrician wisdom and felicity), she had been married exactly at twelve years old to