A4r

Impartial Reflections
on the
Present Situation
of the
Queen of France;

by a Friend to Humanity Mrs. Mary Robinson.


London:
Printed by
John Bell, British Library, Strand,
Bookseller to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
1791M DCC XCI.

[Price: One Shilling and Sixpence.]

A4v
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Impartial Reflections,
&c. &c. &c.

That the poison of popular prejudice too
often subdues the influence of reason, and
that impressions made by the fabulous Tales
of misguided enthusiasm at length become
habitual associates of the mind, and operate
on the judgment, as forcibly as conviction
itself――are facts not to be controverted.――
Neither the eloquence of a Cicero, nor the
pen of a Junius, could diffuse the pure light
of impartiality over feelings rendered callous
by the persevering malignity of reiterated
calumnies. That prejudice, in its most inveterate
form, is now spreading its increasing
mischiefs over Europe, too evidently B B1v 6
appears to the impartial observer; the absurd
fabrications, the ridiculous inuendoes,
the cruel sarcasms and unprecedented reproaches
thrown upon the conduct of an
illustrious Character, call forth from every
feeling mind both indignation and pity.

That an enlightened nation, emancipating
from slavery by the most sublime and
dignified enthusiasm, bursting through the
bonds of galling subjection by an effort of
celestial energy, and scarcely yet recovered
from the agonies of corroding oppression,
should suffer the standard of liberty to fan
the embers of persecution, and re-illumine
the dying flame of popular frenzy, is a contradiction
as extraordinary as it is undefinable.

To rule, is one of the most acknowledged
propensities of human nature; but where B2r 7
there is not judgment to circumscribe, and
philanthropy to harmonize the insatiable
craving after power; reason becomes the
dupe of supposed pre-eminence, and the
proudest faculties of the soul degenerate
into mere instruments, for the purpose of
ungovernable ambition.

To the generality of mankind there are
strong fascinations in the tinsel blandishments
of worldly superiority. The petty
tyrant, who lords it over his vassal, feels as
exquisitely gratified, as supremely elevated,
as the possessor of a throne, who beholds
millions groaning under the ponderous yoke
of despotism, waiting his mandate, and bowing
the knee of subservience before the footstool
of his vaunted omnipotence.――From
the man whose mind is warped by the barbarous
exercise of mistaken severity, or chilled
into apathy by an uninterrupted series B2v 8
of reiterated sway――the writer of these
pages turns with indignation and abhorrence;
the Philosopher, the Philanthropist,
the Patriot, the Christian, shudders at the
bare semblance of such a character. Eloquence
cannot adorn him, nor sophistry
render him amiable in the opinion of enlightened
men; such a being, though possessed
of intellects the most powerful, and
talents the most exalted, degenerates into a
brute, and, by the perversion of the most
brilliant attributes of nature, renders himself
a disgrace to his country, and an outcast
of society.

The present situation of France awakens
the feelings, and calls forth the attention of
all nations: that the Revolution is the most
glorious achievement in the annals of Europe,
is universally felt and acknowledged.
That “oppression often rouses distress to B3r 9
vengeance,”
is incontrovertible: that the
seeds of liberty are implanted in every human
heart, cherished in every climate, and
form a part of our instinctive minds, even
from the earliest infancy, cannot be denied.
Man is a Commoner of Nature, his soul is
impregnated with the spirit of independence,
and revolts at the attacks of oppression,
in whatever garb or shape it may preent
itself. The liberal and enlightened
Philanthropist looks down with pity on the
hardened insensibility of the misguided oppressor;
Virtue shrinks from the goading
trammels of the sordid depredator; and
Humanity shudders at the ravages of dauntless
Ambition.

The man who preaches humility, and
practices submission, to the varying fluctuations
of capricious fortune, when the former
is the offspring of necessity, and the B3v 10
latter the effect of obligation, cannot impose
upon the meanest understanding; but to
bear the fullest sunshine of prosperity; to
bask in the radiant beams of unlimited
power, and to guide the helm of dispassionate
reason through the broad torrent of
popularity, with unassuming urbanity; is
more than philosophy, it is the very essence
of Virtue; the perfection of Intellect;
the glory of Humanity!

That every instrument of good may be
perverted into the basest uses, has been
evinced on a variety of occasions: Wealth,
Power, Eloquence, and Beauty, have too
often proved the destruction and disgrace
of those who have possessed them: the
wealthy villain never fails to find a needy
slave, ready to become the instrument of
his depravity; the tyrant commands the
creature of his power, who, in his turn, B4r 11
becomes the petty oppressor: the smooth-
tongued sycophant, beguiles you with his
sophistry; and the canker of seduction, too
often preys upon the roseate bloom of unsuspecting
innocence; inordinate and low
desires, are generally the strong characteristics
of weak and sordid minds; yet, we
have seen instances, where the finest graces
of nature, the united gifts of genius and
penetration, aided by all the cultivations of
education and experience, have been so corrupted
by example, and so tarnished by the
breath of adulation, that scarce a single ray
of virtue spread its influence over the sullen
obscurity of a disgraceful existence.

A vacuity of Mind, is the most dangerous
calamity that can threaten humanity;
active by nature, formed for perpetual avocation,
impregnated with the fertility of
reason, and capable, if properly exercised, B4v 12
of the most extensive cultivation, when once
suffered to derive its resources from trivial
dissipation, and unsubstantial enjoyment;
satiety produces languor; languor sinks into
apathy, little better than total annihilation;
every faculty of the soul partakes of
the poisonous torpidity; the weakness of
idiotism freezes the whole system of human
knowledge; and the strength of animated
reason, dwindles into the vapid insipidity of
childish insignificance.

We look back with a mixture of admiration
and pity, on the characters of some of
the most distinguished personages whose
names are enrolled on the records of this
country. The personal bravery, perseverance,
and political penetration of a Cromwell,
serve as luminaries, to point out the
shadowy defects of pride, presumption, and
an insatiable thirst after power.――The C1r 13
magnanimity of Elizabeth, whose strength
of mind, elevated almost to a degree of masculine
fortitude, often yielded to the very
lowest influence of puerile vanity, and feminine
weakness: the meanness of suspicion,
the humiliation of jealousy, and the
gratification of implacable revenge, spread
the dark veil of reproach over her reign,
and she frequently was known to sacrifice
the most exquisite feelings of pity and generosity,
to the capricious extravagancies of
a vain and imperious nature.

Let us for a moment take an impartial
retrospect of the striking contrast between
the victorious, the fortunate, the vain Elizabeth,
and the amiable, the illustrious
Queen of France: born the daughter of
an Empress, nursed in the bosom of imperial
power――gifted by the prolific hand of
nature, with all the fascinating graces of C C1v 14
transcendent beauty, blended with an innate
dignity of mind, approaching to divinity
itself; transplanted from her native soil,
where she had enjoyed the adoration of all
who had witnessed her growing perfections,
to a Court where despotism had usurped
uncontrouled dominion for a long series of
years; where flattery and dissimulation were
considered as the surest passports to prosperity;
and cherished as the leading principles
of its surrounding sycophants; where
vice, avarice, levity, and oppression revelled
in the plentitude of power, and bore
down every barrier of reason and of justice;
the unaffected and artless vivacity of her
mind, was but feebly armed against the
united machinations of envy and detraction.
The rapaciousness of needy dependants; the
jealousy of the then reigning Sultana; the
weakness of Louis the Fifteenth; the universal
struggle for pre-eminence that existed C2r 15
amongst the favourites of that monarch;
but ill accorded with the simplicity of manners,
the unsuspecting temper, and the elevated
soul, of the beauteous Antoinetta!
Scarcely emerged from the tenderness of
childhood, unpractised in the arcanum of a
despotic government, which she had neither
strength to oppose or judgment to reform;
she had no path to choose but the beaten
track; she found it besprinkled with roses,
nor thought of the pointed thorns cautiously
concealed unter the gaudy parterre of dazzling
magnificence. In this seeming bower
of eternal delight, this witching semblance
of a terrestrial paradise, the opening blossoms
of fascinating pleasure presented themselves
before her; the poisonous weeds that
overspread an oppressed country, met not
her eye, the wide waste of desolating horrors
was unknown to her; or if, by chance,
the plaints of sorrow assailed her, she was C2v 16
taught to consider them as the frenzied
tones of faction, of the murmuring accents
of fretful discontent. The vivacity of her
youth, the spendours of her exalted situation,
the artifice of her enemies, and, above
all, the rectitude of her own feelings, drew
a veil over the penetrating eye of critical
observation: it was not the interest of
courtly sycophants to remove it; feeding
on the vitals of a groaning people; revelling
in the luxuries wrested from the helpless
million, they profited by the darkness of
fanaticism, and, under the mask of obedience,
enjoyed the friend-like triumphs of
avarice and duplicity: the eyes of an enlightened
multitude pointed out the sordid
ministers of mischief, the hand of unerring
justice snatched off the cloak of hypocrisy;
and the sun of truth, darting through the
cloud of superstition, revealed to the illumined C3r 17
globe the monstrous deformity of
inordinate ambition.

Defeated, even beyond the hope of recovery,
sickening with despair, and overwhelmed
with conscious accusation, the propagators
of evil sought for safety in flight.
Guilt has a thousand wings; they escaped;
while the lovely victim of their infernal machinations
remained, exposed to all the horrors
of mistaken vengeance.

What has been the conduct of this august
woman, since the memorable journey
from Versailles? Has she not borne her sufferings,
her humiliations, her anxieties, with
the magnamity of a Heroine, the philosophy
of a Stoick? Has she not been loaded
with reproaches, and branded with epithets,
disgraceful to the enlightened humanity of
a nation instinctively gifted with the most C3v 18
refined gallantry? Of what has she been
accused, to authorise the virulence of rage,
or the indecency of public insult?――Nothing!!
Malice cannot criminate her, or
the most industrious calumniator attach a
single vice to the dignity of her nature!――
That she is rich in all the fine feelings of
divine philanthropy, the fate of Captain
Asgil
will bear eternal testimony; that she
was liberal to an extreme, her most inveterate
enemies cannot deny. Her affability,
politeness, and condescension, all foreign
nations have experienced. The rigid formalities,
the pedantic customs, the tiresome
and constrained etiquette of a German court,
were by her shaken off, as the uneasy fetters
of social life, and the vapid associates of
little and contracted minds. Yet there was
a dignity in her condescension, a grace in
her affability, a propriety in her pleasures,
and a delicacy in her vivacity, that commanded C4r 19
respect, and wrested the tribute of
affection from every heart capable of estimating
her value! Avarice never chilled the
warmth of her generosity, nor did idle ostentation
dim the lustre of her munificence!
Well may she exclaim, with our immortal
Bard―― “Have I liv’d thus long, let me speak for myself,Since Virtue finds no friends, a wife, a true one?Have I with all my full affectionsStill met the King? lov’d him next heav’n, obey’d him,Been out of fondness superstitious to him?And am I thus rewarded? ’Tis not well.Bring me a constant woman to her husband,One that ne’er dream’d of joy beyond his pleasure;And to that woman, when she has done most,Yet will I add an honour――a great patience!”

The members of the National Assembly,
by their eloquent debates, and temperate
proceedings, have done honour to the French
nation. The mildness of their sentiments; C4v 20
the firmness of their patriotism; the noble
enthusiasm of their feelings; the dignified
philanthropy of their souls; and the circumspect
propriety evinced on a late event;
claim the admiration of surrounding kingdoms,
and the unbounded applauses of an
enlightened world. To the invincible resolution,
and calm intrepidity, of some illustrious
characters, may be attributed the present
safety of the Royal Family of France.
Popular frenzy is not easily quelled: the
torch of maddening sedition once lighted
up, is seldom totally extinguished till it
consumes itself by its own fire. That the
royal captive had nothing dangerous to apprehend,
inimical to justice and humanity,
from the inspired patriots of France, was
most certain; but let reason compare the
vast inequality between the numbers of
those who are are really and dispassionately
devoted to the interests of their country; D1r 21
and the illiterate, unsteady, factious multitude,
actuated by principles of interest, and
too often led on by private resentment, or
public temerity, to the commission of crimes
too horrible to contemplate.

In the Marquis de la Fayette mankind
may behold a brilliant example of private
virtue, and personal intrepidity! America,
long since, bore witness to his courage
and magnanimity; he has now proved that
his zeal was the offspring of an expanded
mind, cherished by reason and tempered by
humanity! Rousseau says, “There is a
dignity of character which a brave man
will never lose; whether he resists the
terrors of the tented field, or the temptations
of luxurious life; whether he fights
with the armed enemy, or with himself,
the most dangerous of all enemies; in
vain will the warrior turn all the attention D D1v 22
of a wise man to the acclamations of his
soldiers, if he disgraces his public triumphs
by sinking beneath private misfortunes.
The bravery of battle is often
mechanical; the fear of disgrace, the apprehension
of punishment, the spirit of
emulation, even the power of sympathy,
may make a man brave for the occasion;
but the true principle of courage, supports
the character whom it inspires, at
all times, and on all occasions; the mind of
that man is above fear, and it is not in
the power of human events to make him
shrink from his purpose.”

The gallantry of the French nation has
ever been proverbial; the protection afforded
to the softer sex has been the boast of
ages; it has even been extended to the most
unworthy objects, and been productive of
the most pernicious consequences; the triumphs D2r 23
of beauty have frequently disgraced
the dignity of its councils and sullied the
fame of its most illustrious characters. Let
the Patriots of France take a retrospect of
the last, and present century; let them examine
the dark and intricate mazes of court
intrigue, the rapacity of avarice, the insolence
of assumed authority. The preposterous
extravagancies of vulgar favourites,
and the wanton indulgence of unprovoked
barbarity: they will instantly discover the
vast expanse between the malignity of vicious
depredators, and the juvenile vivacity of
an elegant and munificent mind. Let it be
remembered that “against imputed guilt,
the humblest, wrong’d, rise bold in innocence,”
let them welcome the dawn of conviction,
and tear the bandeau of prejudice,
from before the radiant eye of manly reason.

D2v 24

In the early part of the national commotions,
the Queen of France might indisputably
have escaped from the scene of impending
vengeance――but having the shield
of innocence before her heart, and armed
at all points with the conscious rectitude of
her sentiments, she dreaded not the shafts
of calumny, nor the overwhelming storms
of popular phrenzy. Had she been less lovely,
less amiable, she might have escaped the
arrows of insidious envy; but when the
tide of patriotic reformation flowed with
impetuous fury, every private enemy, every
petty detractor, enjoyed the triumph of
revenge, and exultingly heaped the load of
recreant malevolence on the defenceless
bosom of a fallen and unfortunate woman.

To the observation of dispassionate minds,
the Queen of France’s conduct has been
unexampled! Patient in adversity, and unshaken D3r 25
under the weight of the most unparallelled
humiliations; transcendently discreet,
though perpetually taunted with the
barbarous insults of irritating malice; she
has never, even for a moment, forgot that
true, that innate dignity of character, which
places the human soul far above the reach
of sublunary calamity.

Confidence is the most unequivocal trait
of an honourable mind; it ensures esteem,
it cements the bonds of social intercourse,
and proves the best security against the
machinations of deceit: To suspect is to
convey the strong imputation of guilt; and
many have become avowedly depraved,
from the repeated accusations of supposed
criminality.

That the Queen of France should consent
to accompany her husband on his late flight, D3v 26
was more than reasonable, it was natural;
duty claimed her acquiescence, and common
sense must justify the propriety of her obedience.
Was it consistent with the character
of a Wife, a Mother, or a Woman, to refuse
what virtue, nature, and affection dictated
to her feelings? The question will not
admit of an argument; the fact speaks for
itself; and the deed is sanctioned by all the
laws of God and humanity. Whatever degree
of criminality may be imputed to the
event, certainly the Queen was not the aggressor;
it was the criterion of conjugal
virtue, to share the fate and follow the fortunes
of a man who adored her to enthusiasm,
and to whom she was united by every
bond human and divine.

Never may it be inscribed on the records
of France, that a lovely, innocent, and magnanimous
woman, was stigmatized with reproach, D4r 27
or exposed to insult, for observing
an implicit obedience to the will of her husband.
Let it be asked, what might have
been the situation of the Queen had she
been left in Paris, exposed to the frenzy of
the multitude, and perhaps (dreadful reflection)
marked as the helpless victim of an
enraged populace. Events, at which nature
shudders, might then have tarnished the
expanding glories of a nation just emancipated
from the shackles of ignominious slavery;
horrors might have been perpetrated
which even the moderation, virtue, and discretion
of the National Assembly could not
have prevented. It is now in the power of
that august Tribunal to prove, that “the
Days of Chivalry”
are not “at an end;” that
as they have given innumerable testimonies
of their patriotism and judgment, they also
cherish the laudable and dignified sentiment
of justice and humanity!

D4v 28

Who can reflect on the present situation
of the Queen, and, without dropping a
tear of pity, compare it to that which she
enjoyed but a very few years since. She was
then the idol of the French nation; universal
adoration breathed around her, and
called forth the splendors of her youthful
mind, as the morning Sun warms the expanding
Rose, and tints it to perfection!
She was “the pride of the garden,” and
claimed the undivided admiration of all beholders!
Time flew by her on the downy
pinions of delight, and every inferior constellation
in the courtly circle, borrowed
radiance from the refulgence of her superior
brightness! What is she now? A forlorn
and mournful Captive; immured within
the walls of a palace, but a short time since
the scene of domestic joy, and splendid festivity!
Who can mark, unmoved, the
hourly decay of exquisite beauty; the E1r 29
bloom of youth fading in the blast of detraction;
that eye which beamed with benignity
or glistened with the gem of sensibility,
downcast, dejected, and sunken,
with the resistless fatigues of daily disquietude
and nightly watching; that heart,
the throne of divine benevolence and unaffected
generosity, now chill’d by the icy
touch of neglect and scorn, and labouring
under the agonizing pressure of impending
despondency.

Yet, through the sombre shadows of
obscurity, her fortitude, her resignation,
and her talents, dart with redoubled lustre!
The obtrusive clouds of a a tempestuous sky,
veil for a time the burning orb, only to
adorn its beams with renovated splendour.
The diamond sparkles even on the dark
bosom of the mine: and the woodbine
scatters its odours as spontaneously through EE1v30
the untrodden labyrinths of the forest, as
in the luxurious gardens of cultivated taste!
Innate greatness of soul, preserves its sublimity,
whether it reposes on the purple of
a throne; or enjoys the felicity of conscious
worth on the flinty pallet of a loathsome
dungeon!

The writer of these pages, fears that the
arguments they contain, will prove but
feeble antidotes to the poison of calumniating
malice; yet, if they make a single convert
to the cause of a persecuted and amiable
woman their end will be attained, and the
trouble of a few hours amply recompenced.

There is not a doubt that all good men,
whatever their political sentiments may be,
feel deeply interested in the fate of the captive
Queen. Every impartial eye has a tear E2r 31
for her sufferings and looks forward with
eager solitude to a Decision, that, it is to
be hoped, for the honour of human nature,
will add dignity to the French nation, and
stamp immortal celebrity on the wisdom,
virtue, and judgment of the National
Assembly
!

Finis.