The New Student's Reference Work/Mirabeau, Honoré Gabriel Riquette, Count de

The New Student's Reference Work (1914)
Mirabeau, Honoré Gabriel Riquette, Count de

Mirabeau (mē̇′rȧ′bō″), Honoré Gabriel Riquette, Count de, a great French statesman, was born at Bignon in Provence, March 9, 1749. He was badly scarred by smallpox at three years of age, and had a twisted foot and an unusually ugly face. Yet his great ability and a personal power of fascination made him the idol of his companions. His father, a tyrant in his home, placed him in the army and twice secured his imprisonment. His life was wild, and at one time he was condemned to death for his flight with a married woman. While in prison he wrote his famous essay on State Prisons. After his release he succeeded in having the sentence against him repealed, and made himself famous by his eloquent appeal in his own behalf. He spent his next years in writing pamphlets and books, and while on a secret mission for his government to Berlin obtained the materials for his History of the Prussian Monarchy under Frederick the Great. His political life began with the stormy days preceding the Revolution; and in the national assembly, when the king commanded the deputies to separate, he made the memorable answer: “We shall yield to nothing but bayonets.” His dream was to place the king at the head of the Revolution and reform the government by a new constitution, guarded by a ministry, somewhat after the pattern of the English parliament. He tried to make terms with Lafayette and Necker, suggesting their names for the new ministry. He labored incessantly and with great power, but was opposed by the queen and mistrusted by the better classes in either party. “The sins of my youth,” he bitterly exclaimed, “are giving me their full punishment now.” In 1790 he was made president of the Jacobin Club and administrator of the Seine department, and later one of its eight directors. In January, 1791, he was made president of the national assembly. He opposed the law against emigration and the proposal that at the king's death a regent be elected by the French assembly. His health, ruined by his early excesses and his tremendous labors, was failing, and with prophetic foresight he said: “I carry with me the ruin of the monarchy.” He died at Paris in his 43rd year, April 2, 1791, and was buried in the Panthéon. “Do not rejoice over the death of Mirabeau,” said the king to his wife; “we have suffered a greater loss than you imagine.” His was the one influence that might still have saved the throne. See History of the French Revolution by Carlyle; by Michelet; and by Taine.