With morals as corrupt, he is a hypocrite, a despot, and a persecutor just like his father. He sent Anne du Bourg to the scaffold, and gave to the parliament the handsome warrant that ordered all Huguenots be killed wherever they may be found.
In a reign of eighteen months, Francis II was bankrupted, prohibited his creditors, under pain of death, to ask for their payment; he strived to plant the Inquisition in France, gave the most atrocious edicts against the Protestants, made perish thousands of citizens, and fought against his own kin. But, it is shouted to me, it is the Cardinal of Lorraine who did everything wrong. Eh! What does that matter to the people? The ministers are the crimes of princes, and it is to the pastor to not entrust the sheep with a rabid dog.
What a monster succeeded him! He exterminated one hundred thousand of his subjects in one night. He shot his people from the palace; and one will rave about the softness, the kindness, the hereditary virtues of this incomparable unique family. But Nero, Vitellius, Caracalla, Commodus were not of the same family. Oh! yes, it is a unique family.
Henri III proves that an effective prince is the worst of kings. The softness of a Sardanapalus and the imbecile superstition of a Talapoin seem the foundation of his character. Of the three son of Henry II, it is unclear which caused the greatest harm to France, one year after another. They were surpassed only by their mother, Catherine de Medici, who cannot be named without horror, who built her power on our calamities; who, raising her sons in Italian cunning, taught them only to envelope themselves in despicable cunning and dangerous intrigues, showed so well, by the infinite evils of this reign, that to know how to be king is only to know how to dissimulate and betray.
We suffer to place Henry IV, as Louis XII, in such a gallery. Even Sully was threatened with disgrace fifteen times; even he was constantly besieged by a crowd of bursal edicts, extorted by the courtiers and mistresses; even the hunting code and the flight of the Princess of Conde show how difficult it is, even for Henry IV, to not abuse his authority.
Louis XIII. More wretched than the rois fainéants, whose reign of one hundred and fourteen years gave only eighteen years of majority, he never quit, though being adult, the edges of his childhood. The word he said at the last hour of Cinq-Mars, taking out his watch, the coolness with which he regarded this favorite so dear, and that letter that he snatched from Madame de Hautefort, enough of a despot to demand and take in her womb, enough of a devout to dare to take it by hand, using kid gloves; these portray his character. He stopped his ears when spoken to of the privileges of the provinces. He is called the Just, and yet he gives grace to his brother, the most guilty, as he beheaded Montmorency. The blood of the virtuous de Thou, and even of Concini and his scheming wife, cry out against his iniquity. He is called the Just, and he performs the judgments of commissioners. He borrows the costume of justice to disguise his tyranny. He has in his wake a band of judges, vice-despots and travelling torturers. The interlocutory order of the infamous Laubardemont, which, to stifle the cries of public outrage, forbade all persons, under penalty of a fine of ten thousand livres, to say that the nuns of Loudun are not possessed by the devil, is a unique feature of judicial tyranny and stupidity; and when the unhappy Grandier, bones broken by torture and unable to utter a word, was carried to his execution, what about the hot iron crucifix that a monk applied to the lips, so that the pain would force him to divert his face, the priest seeming to the people a sorcerer and an apostate? We do not only attribute to Louis the Just public assassinations. How would it be if he was charged with all the secret crimes of his Minister, if asked to account for all the blood that flowed into the underground butchery of Ruel? O kings! yes, I have a horror of you! How is it you are not hated, tigers that you are? What does it matter to me whether it is Louis XI or Louis XIII who occupies the throne? The difference between a weak king and a tyrant is zero. The calculation of murder, violence and injustice, does it not come to the same sum under either rule?
Louis the Great. This prince with whom the French Academy was so infatuated and whom we have deified for a century; to the eyes of reason, to the court of posterity and judged on the facts, irrefutable witnesses, what is he really? A poor kinsman, who found it bourgeois to love his family; a poor friend, an egoist, who recommended to Philippe V to love no one; a poor husband, to which Marie Thérèse testified to on the day of his death, that she had not had a single happy day since her marriage, when the king was forced to make her one so different, that his loss was the first subject of grief he received from her; a poor brother: it is known he was jealous of the victory of Cassel, victory that was lost forever to Philippe the commander of armies; a poor father, who saw his daughters as nothing: we know the open word of callousness that escaped him among the great basin, when Madame de Lade brought him the distressing news of the danger of the Duchess of Burgundy; a prince vindictive and cruel, who, in violation of international law, removed a foreigner, the unfortunate gazetteer of Hollande, and made him spend 11 years in an iron cage where rats gnawed at his gouty feet, for the crime of having attempted to the glory of an enemy; a deceitful prince, who gave instruction for the dauphin to violate the confidence of treaties; jealous of the meanest glory, to the point of giving as his own verses he had made Benserade or Dangeau dictate; verses after all that belonged to him as much as the victories of Turenne or of Luxembourg did, and of which he had as much right to pride himself in. A prince so blinded by success, so infatuated by flattery, he was convinced it was not his generals winning the battles, but his reign, and he thought it indifferent whether he put at the head of armies one of his valets or a great man. For the price of eulogies of the nation, and of his senseless administration, he crushed it with his pomp, he indebted it forever; he gave us the capitation and the dixième tax, he strained the state, in twenty years, with fifteen hundred million annuity; he created two million in offices and left more than four billion in debt. But it was his despotism that makes his memory so abominable to citizens. He found nothing so fine as being the sage, and what sage was ever so absolute? He governed the people through lettres de cachet. He dared to forbid us, on pain of the galleys, to leave the kingdom, as if we were the serfs and slaves attached to his house. Persecutor to the point of insanity, the Jesuit king commanded his dragoons to convert three million heretics. He made nearly ten thousand perish by the wheel, by the rope, by fire, not to mention a million runaways which France lost forever. Despot to the point of frenzy, he could not handle that the English might be freer than we; he avowed to force them to take a tyrant. Such was the scorn that was this sultan of a nation then illustrated by so many heroes and great personages, that, young, he dared to come to parliament in boots with whip in hand; and old, to appoint for master of the fruit of his debauchery.
It was he especially who took the pleasure from war, like one taking pleasure from the hunt, and all his life exposed his people as one would launch a pack of dogs. I will never forget that, in taking part in the war between the Aetolians and Acarnanians, the Romans claimed, in their manifesto, that they were descendants of Aeneas, while the Acarnanians had not been at the siege of Troy. Such were, if we except that of succession, all the wars of Louis XIV, where he made twenty million men perish. What are these obscure assassinations, the burning of a house that criticizes the law, compared to the burning of the Palatinate and his massacres in pitched battle? "I loved war too much," he said. No, you did not love war. This was, if it can be made, the excuse of Charles XII; the whistling of bullets was his music; but you, you were a coward; you fled far from danger, to be around the carriage of a prostitute; you gave them the spectacle of a St Bartholomew in the open field. No, you did not love war; you loved only yourself; you saw only yourself; you believed that all was yours, including the lives of your subjects and their women. Oh! If I was the Marquis de Montespan, instead of foolishly mourning, instead of writing to the pope to ask for a second marriage, I would have done as Senator Maximus or as the cobbler of Messina, whom I am always surprised have so few imitators.
Since Richelieu, ministerial and fiscal oppression have reached the final stage and have remained fixed. The nation was shaped to despotism, and our academies themselves appeared not to have any other idea of the monarch than the Jews, the rough and ignorant people: "He will take your wives and children, and charge you like beasts of burden. Hoc erit jus regis qui vobis imperaturus est” Like those fools who perfectly understand everything else, in whom one only notice insanity on one point, the French nation gave lessons to Europe in all the sciences, and yet talked nonsense, was a true child to the principles of natural law, the only science we do not need to learn, for it is engraved in all hearts. The Regent seems to surpass in audacity all of the terrible kings that came before; while at least the despotism of Louis XIV ennobled the nation, that of the Regency degraded us in the eyes of the universe. Could this prince push further the outrage of giving religion a bishop, the nation a duke and peer, to use his own phrase, in ch…? He seeks out in the dark places of the capital the most villainous profligate, a man whose name sullies the imagination and calls to mind the idea of all vices, all baseness, and all filth combined. He makes him a priest and places him on the seat of virtuous Fénelon. Without doubt this atheist prince sought to challenge the dead, and strengthen his disbelief in another life, as the spirit of Fénelon did not rise from the grave to reject the infamous Dubois. Like Amasis, the Regent places a chamber pot on the altar, and commands the people to prostrate themselves. But what fear of those people who received paper in place of their gold, and contented themselves with singing of bankruptcy? Thank heavens, at last, we make no more songs!
All positions sold, the mask lifted by the courtesans; recordings forced countlessly; parliaments launching so many orders of arrest against the Molinists that Fleury dispatched lettres de cachet against the Jansenists; a king raising on his subjects more taxes than all his predecessors combined; the most violent and infamous thefts repaired with nothing, because the whims of one day engulf the lootings of the day before; the comptroller general publicly confessing he was only in place to plunder, at which he excelled. The Nation attached to the charade of a prostitute, who equally decided the fate of princes and of peoples, of the duke and peer, and of the satirist, who mocked the Cardinal as a coward, an old archbishop if he kissed his the d .. .... and the Chancellor of France, if he didn’t applied rouge and serve as his jester. Inside, oppression and misery; outside, weakness and contempt; the flag of Jean Bart, of Duguay-Trouyn, of Duquesne, dishonored on every sea; and finally, horrible to think of, the King publically monopolized grain and starved his people, to enjoy a girl! A hundred thousand lettres de cachet. Such was the reign of Louis the Beloved, and yet he was not a villain. And what more would he have done, exclaimed Mirabeau, had he been? Neither was Tarquin, cried Cicero, a villain. He was not cruel, he was only proud * , and our fathers persecuted him; but they were Romans. And we .... pardon, fellow citizens, when I attended the National Assembly, I said: We're better than the Romans, and Cineas saw nothing like this in the Senate.
Such were our kings. I have shown only most public man, the monarch. What would happen if, rummaging through their private life, I had painted their domestic crimes? Isabella of Bavaria, unnatural mother; Louis XI, parricide; Catherine de Medici, poisoning the dauphin; Marie de Medici, murdering her husband; her son Louis XIII avenging his father of parricide and leaving her to die of starvation; and, in our days, the deaths of the queen, the Dauphin, and the Dauphine that made Louis XV and Choiseul so odious. How can I more appropriately conclude this chapter than in the touching words with which the dauphin, whom we have just lost, once addressed his master, after a lesson of French history, “Father Corbin, in all these kings I see nothing good?”