« ZurückWeiter »
and fled. Theobald Dillon, who commanded one, was murdered by his troops in the streets of Lille. Thus, in the army, as in the capital, panic produced those acts of ferocity and crime which must for ever sully the pages of the national history.
After this unpromising commencement of the war, politica and private dissensions occupied he French generals, and par alyzed their armies. Dumouriez, after ousting his colleague from the ministry, was compelled himself to retire. La Fay ette turned his attention more against the Jacobins in Paris than against Austrians or Prussians. He expostulated with the assembly by letter and in person. After the 10th of August he took upon him to resist the government established by that revolution; and, failing to prevail on his soldiers, was obliged to fly, accompanied merely by his staff*. He then fell into the hands of the enemy, and was detained by them for a long time in the prisons of Olmutz. The dexterous Dumouriez had known how to profit by these blunders and misfortunes of La Fayette. On quitting the ministry, he had joined the army as lieutenant-general, and was intrusted with an inferior command. Here he contrived to thwart the plans and disobey the orders of La Fayette, a circumstance that endeared him to the now dominant party in the convention; and Dumouriez was appointed commander-in-chief.
The allies in the meantime had not shown any activity in profiting by the dissensions and disorganization of the French. The emperor Francis, having but lately ascended his throne, had not sufficiently matured his preparations; and the summer was far advanced ere the campaign commenced. On the 25th of July was issued the famed manifesto of the duke of Brunswick, summoning the French to return to their allegiance. It concluded by threatening that if the chateau of the Tuilleries was forced or insulted, or any violence offered to the royal family, the emperor and king would take exemplary vengeance by delivering up the city of Paris to military execution and total subversion. This imprudent threat indicated the very time that could most fully set it at naught: in a few days after the receipt of the manifesto at Paris, the Tuilleries were stormed, and the king hurled from his throne into a dungeon. The insurrection of the 10th of August was the reply of the Parisians to the duke of Brunswick, or rather to Calonne, who had drawn up the document. The rapid march of an overwhelming army upon the French capital could alone have given weight or sense to so haughty a menace.
The duke of Brunswick, however, had not this overwhelming force. His army, including the corps of emigres* did not i79£ DEFENCE IN THE ARGONNE. 1 1
exceed 80,000 men, whilst the Austrians, prepared to support him on the right and left, did not muster half the stipulated number. The failure of this invasion is universally and exclusively attributed to the duke; whereas a great part of the cause lies in the simple fact, that the potent monarchies of Prussia and Austria thought proper to attempt the conquest of France with no greater force than that which their enemies could without eifort oppose to them. The task of invasion requires something more than equality of strength. This the duke knew, and hence the feebleness, the incertitude, the tardiness of his operations.
The French army seemed no doubt to oifer itself as an easy prey. Its first feat was a panic flight. It was distracted by the disorders of the capital La Fayette tampered with his troops, and sought to array them against the anarchists. Failtrig in this, he fled, and the army remained without a leader until the appointment of Dumouriez. The duke of Brunswick might indeed have taken advantage of this disorganized state of the French army, have attacked and routed the portion of it under La Fayette. A Buonaparte would not have hesitated. The duke, over wary, feared to leave the smallest fortress unreduced behind him0 He laid siege to Longwy, took it, then invested Verdun with the same success. In the capture of these towns was spent the month of August; and early in September Dumouriez, promoted to the chief command, was able to take active measures of defence.
It was just at this moment, when the French had recovered unity and force, under a talented leader, that the Prussian monarch and his general thought fit to shake off dilatoriness. and march boldly towards the capital. The duke of Brunswick, indeed, still deprecated the hardihood of the scheme, for which he deemed his army not sufficiently strong. A month previous, it would have been more practicable; now, Dumouriez, with the quick eye of military genius, had, by forced marches, occupied all the passes of the forest of Argonne, the only route of the allied army towards the capital, French historians narrate with pride the occupation of these defiles by Dumouriez. The manoeuvre is represented as something miraculous and heroic, and as having, in fact, saved the kingdom from invasion; and yet, in a few days, we find the Prussians penetrating through them, and breaking without difficulty through the boasted line of defence; leaving Dumouriez to decamp, and repair the disaster by some new stratagem. The grand merit of that general was his mora] courage. When all his countrymen despaired of their cause, —when the Parisian legislature meditated a retreat behind the Loire, and the Parisian mob made what they considered to be the last use of their sovereignty, in massacring- their imprisoned enemies, Dumouriez never once lost confidence. "Argonne is the French Thermopylae," wrote he; "but I shall be more fortunate than Leonidas." The ministry wrote to him in a panic to retreat, to come to their aid, to retire behind the Marne. Dumouriez mocked their fears; and even when the passages of the Argonne were forced, he took another position at St. Menehould, and summoned the several divisions of the army, scattered by the Prussians, having forced their lines, to rally thither, and stand again on the defensive. The tardiness of the Prussians here again saved the French. Strong detachments from Metz and from Lille wTere allowed to join Dumouriez; who, thus reinforced, determined to hold firm in the camp and position which he occupied, and which formed a line of heights protected by the Aisne and the Auve, and by the marshes on their banks.
The road to Paris was indeed open to the Prussians, if they wished to leave Dumouriez in their rear; but their object was now to capture that general and his army. With this view the king of Prussia, by his personal order, hastened forward his divisions to cut off the retreat of the French, occupying the road betwixt them and the capital. Dispositions were then made for the attack, concerning the. success of which the monarch was sanguine, and his general by no means so. The latter, however, acted in obedience to the ardor of the king-, and, on the 20th of September, a cannonade opened on both sides, and was supposed to be the prelude to an engagement The advanced division of the French was at Valmy, an eminence surmounted by a mill. The duke of Brunswick formed his troops in column of attack, and advanced to carry this point by assault. Despite the cannonade, the Prussian bayonets already glistened at the foot of the eminence; the French unmoved showed themselves ready for the charge, and gave vent to their ardor in shouts of Vive la nation! This bold shout was sufficient to appal the duke of Brunswick, and awaken all his doubts of success. An instan order recalled the troops that were on the point of attacking The assault was abandoned, and the French were left to exul* in the irresolution, if not in the pusillanimity, of their antag onist. Such was the cannonade, miscalled the battle, of Valmy, which, however unproductive of loss or of glory, proved as decisive as a victory to Dumouriez. Henceforth the retreat of the Prussians, the unfulfilment of their high menaces and schemes, became inevitable. Unable to force the French position, or leave it behind; finding it difficult to support
1792. MASSACRE AT VERSAILLES. 13
themselves in an enemy's country, with the Argonne betwixt them and their magazines; afflicted by disease as well as went, the Prussians commenced their retreat ten days after the affair of Valmy. There were some attempts maae at negotiation; but the ruling powers at Paris would listen to none whilst an enemy trod the territory of France. The retreat of the Prussians, who but a few days since menaced Paris with destruction, was inexplicable to Europe, and has been accounted for as proceeding from a purchase or a bribe. The assertion is unproved and improbable. The duke of Brunswick retired with his troops towards the Rhine. The republicans re-entered Longwy and Verdun, and many of the inhabitants of the latter town, who had betrayed attachment to the royal cause, suffered under the guillotine; amongst these victims were six young ladies, who had offered a bouquet of flowers, in token of congratulation, to the king of Prussia.
The elections for the new assembly were taking place in the meantime, whilst the men of blood, whom their audacity had raised to power, took advantage of the interregnum to complete the work of massacre. A crowd of prisoners, those more especially guilty of high birth, had been sent to Orleans, to be judged by a court established there. An order, or rather a band of ruffians, was dispatched to transfer them to Paris. They had no sooner reached Versailles, on their road, than all the noted assassins of the capital hurried thither, to perpetrate and enjoy a renewal of the massacres of the 2d of September. In vain was Danton, minister of justice, applied to in behalf of the prisoners. He refused all interference, and repulsed with anger each mention of it. The cut-throats found no obstacle to the seizure of their prey, and the unfortunate prisoners of Orleans were massacred in the orangery of Versailles. Some fifty victims were too few to glut the rage of the executioners, and they accordingly hurried to the prisons of Versailles to act over again the scenes of the Force and Conciergerie. Commissaries, at the same time, selected by Danton, set forth in all directions from the capital, bearing as their manifesto a bold avowal of the late murders of thp, aristocrats, and preaching universally the simple mandate of" Go and do thou likewise," to the provinces. Pillage was included in the system of massacre. The spacious halls and granaries of the Hotel de YiUe were filled with the spoil of the nobles, who had been arrested or slain: even the depot of the crownjewels was broken into, and much of its precious valuables carried off Such a state of things had of course its influence in the elections, more especially of the capital, where not to be royalist, but to be noderately repuolican, brought instant denunciation and arrest. Robespierre and Danton were the first names that came from the electoral urn; the famous David, Legendre, Collot d'Herbois, Philip Egalite, and Marat were their colleagues. The members elected by the city of Paris, says Thiers, "consisting of some tradesmen, a butcher, an actor, an engraver, a painter, a lawyer, two or three journalists, and a fallen prince, did not ill represent the confusion and variety of personages that figured in this great capital."
The national convention assembled on the 20th of September, the very day in which the Prussians quailed at Valmy, and gave up victory to the cause of republicanism. The members of the Gironde had been all returned, and even their numbers reinforced; so indocile as yet were the provinces to the rule of the Jacobins. The Girondists occupied the right of the assembly: Robespierre and his comrades took post on the upper benches of the left, in. order to be near to and in communication with their supporters, the noisy audience of the public galleries. From this position the Jacobin party were called the Mountain, whilst those members who filled the middle place, both with respect to their seats and principles, were designated the Plain, or the Marsh. Barrere was considered the chief of this central and at first neutral party; principally consisting of men new to political questions or life, and whose public education was yet to be completed. These formed the majority of the convention: on their votes and leanings evidently depended the march of both legislature and government At the present moment they were inspired by extreme respect for the Gironde. • Petion, one of the most influential of that party, was elected president; whilst Vergniaud, Condorcet, and Brissot filled the office of secretaries.
The first decree of the convention was that abolishing royalty, on the motion of Collot d'Herbois, the comedian; the next was to do away with the old courts of law, to declare that all judges should be reappointed, that is, elected; and that there was no need of having studied law in order to be a judge.* Immediately after broke out the fierce war betwixt the Mountain and the Gironde, the most inveterate and fatal thai4; the annals of any assembly record, and at the same time the most important to be studied, as a phase which every revolution in its downward course is likely to present.
In common with the Jacobins, the Gironde^had warred upon royalty to its destruction. Aristocracy had been proscribed. Universal equality of political and civil rights had been de
* This, being the second decree of the convention, preserved the magis tracy, in August, 1830, from sharing the fate of the peerage, and incurring epuration.