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Miraheau

Miraheau, Honore Gabriel Riquetti, Comte de (1749-91), one of the greatest of French statesmen, was educated for the army at a Paris pension, and here he already began to display those social gifts which, in spite of his ugliness, gave him an almost miraculous power over the wills and affections of men. On obtaining his commission he was sent to the little town of Saintes, where he became entangled in the first of his disastrous love affairs, and was in consequence imprisoned by lettre de cachet (q.v.) in the lie de Re. His father relented after a while, and allowed him to join the expedition to Corsica against Paoli. After his return he consented to marry a rich heiress (1772); but his extravagance and unruly conduct caused a fresh estrangement, and he was imprisoned successively in the Chateau d'lf and the castle of Joux, where he formed a connection with the wife of a citizen of .Pontarlier, with whom he fled to Switzerland, and thence to Holland; but in 1777 he was seized and condemned to solitary confinement in the castle of Vincennes. Here he wrote his brochure on Lettres de Cachet, a far more powerful work than the previous Essai sur le Bespotisme (1774). After his release (1780), failing to obtain a restitution of his conjugal rights, he formed a new connection with a Madame de Nehra, who seems to have exercised a wholesome influence over him. He now turned to literature as a means of gaining a livelihood, and visited Holland and England, where, through his old friend Sir Gilbert Elliot (afterwards Lord Minto), he became intimate with Romilly, Lord Lansdowne, and other public men. In 1786 he was sent on a secret mission to the Prussian court, and while there obtained materials for his Monarchic Prussicnne (1788). In 1789 the States-General was summoned, and the Revolution began. Mirabeau was elected deputy by the tiers-etat of both Aix and Marseilles, and preferred to sit for the former. His rhetorical powers at once gained him a hearing in the Assembly; but his ascendency, though great, was not paramount. He could not check the reckless enthusiasm which found vent in the destructive legislation of August 4th, or raise the apathy which was content to waste two precious months in discussing the wording of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man." Soon after the disturbances of October 5-6 he was invited by his friend the Count de la Marck, a trusted counsellor of Marie Antoinette, to draw up a Memoirc for the king's guidance. In this document his constitutional views were clearly set forth, but Louis could not understand his aims. The queen was averse to any course which seemed to threaten a limitation of the royal prerogative, and his design of a representative ministry was frustrated by a decree of the Assembly enacting that none of its members could become a minister (November 7). Five months later, however, the queen again sought his advice, and from this time forward he occupied an unofficial and anomalous, but recognised position at court, although the queen always disliked him and only had recourse to his counsel as a last resort. His support of the king's prerogative in regard to the veto and right of declaring peace and war did not increase his popularity; but his influence in the Assembly remained sufficiently strong to afford a very substantial bulwark of the royal power. He was the real author of the foreign policy of Montrnorin, the purpose of which was to prevent all interference with the course of the Revolution on the part of foreign nations. But towards the end of 1790 his health, undermined by his youthful excesses, gave way, and he died on April 2, 1791.