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‘ [45] down the human race? And, deranging the beautiful
Chap. I.} 1778.
equipoise, will you beard the whole world, and be free?’1 Mirabeau wrote a fiery invective against despotism from a prison, of which his passionate imploring for leave to serve in America could not open the doors.

Until chastened by affliction, Marie Antoinette wanted earnestness of character, and suffered herself to be swayed by generous caprices, or family ties, or the selfish solicitations of her female companions. She had an ascendency over the mind of the king, but never aspired to control his foreign policy, except in relation to Austria; and she could not always conceal her contempt for his understanding. It was only in the pursuit of offices and benefits for her friends that she would suffer no denial. She did not spare words of angry petulance to a minister who dared to thwart her requests; and Necker retained her favor by never refusing them. To find an embassy for the aged, inexperienced, and incompetent father-in-law2 of the woman whom she appeared to love the most, she did not scruple to derange the diplomatic service of the kingdom. For the moment her emotions ran with the prevailing enthusiasm for the new republic; but they were only superficial and occasional, and could form no support for a steady conduct of the war.

It was the age of personal government in France. Its navy, its army, its credit, its administration, rested absolutely in the hands of a young man of fourand-twenty, whom his Austrian brother-in-law described

1 Épitre aux Insurgents. Oeuvres de Parny, ed. 1862, 343.

2 Goltz to Frederic, 9 October, 1777.

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