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1797. FALL OF VENICE. 125
mountains, who were as anti-revolutionist as the Tyrolese. The French commander opposed this measure, as dangerous to himself. Venice asked him whether the friendly disposition of the French might be relied on. He replied by advising the senate to modify its aristocratic constitution, and satisfy, in some measure, the popular party. This was in fact the only expedient that remained to pacify the troubles, and save the state; for, in an open quarrel, the French could neither act nor be considered as neutral. The aristocratic party would not J)end. It roused, in its turn, insurrections of the mountaineers and agricultural peasants to oppose those of the townsfolk; and they, feeling themselves warranted by the governing authority, proceeded to all kinds of atrocity. The French were not spared. All those found at Verona were massacred, even to the sick in the hospital; and throughout the states the same example was followed.
Bonaparte, who at Leoben had, previous to this, meditated \nd proposed the dismemberment of the Venetian territory t was relieved from having to bear the blame of an unwarranted spoliation, by the pretext thus afforded him. He instantly grasped at it, and declared that "the hour of Venice was come." He declared war against the unfortunate city, and brought cannon to the edge of the lagoons. The panic-struck senate, and the pusillanimous doge, terrified by his menaces, passed a decree, dissolving their ancient constitution, and establishing a kind of municipal democracy in its stead. This was mere anarchy, and produced tumult, with menaces of a general plunder, which the French were of course called in to quell. Thus fell Venice in jlotage, after an existence of more than a thousand years.
CHAP. VI. 1797—1799.
FROM THE FIRST CESSATION OF WAR WITH AUSTRIA AT LEOBEN TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CONSULATE.
Whilst the army of Italy was immortalizing itself by humbling the first power of the continent, the five directors of France could not vindicate for themselves the least share of its fame. They continued to hold their footing, indeed, as sovereigns, on the narrow pedestal of their immediate party, the conventionalists and regicides. They relied on the army. too, as auxiliaries; but they soon found that public opinion was irrevocably averse to their persons and their maxims; and that, with liberty of election still left to the country, they could never be friends with or stand before its representation.
The newly chosen third of the legislative body, all allowed to be re-elected, had, from the first, formed an opposition, together with the most respectable of the conventionalists; and it was evident, when the eighteen months, the interval fixed by the constitution for the re-election of another third, should elapse, a majority would be found against the old conventionalists. This was insufferable in their eyes; and they used every means to provide against it. Their principal weapon was the declaration that their opponents were royalists at heart, and consequently traitors to the constitution, and tha* they themselves were the only genuine republicans.
No doubt the thorough royalists, the partisans of the house of Bourbon, did rally to this new opposition, did mingle covertly with its councils, and give some truth to the inculpation. It was unwise of the republican opposition not to repudiate them, at least as yet. "Had I been consulted," said madame de Stael, "I never would have counselled the establishment of a republic in France. At the same time, when it was established, I certainly would not have counselled its overthrow." To this opinion an impartial mind may rally: and it was, in a great measure, that of the party at first in opposition to the directory; but when the second third of the legislative council was re-elected, and thereby a fresh infusion of anti-conventionalists admitted to power, then indeed a royalist party began decidedly to form and to show itself. Thus, in 1797, there were three distinct shades of political opinions,—the conventionalists or regicides, the constitutional republicans, and the royalists. The latter composed a very small minority, that looked up to Pichegru as its head; but as it voted and acted with the constitutionalists in opposition to the directory, the parties became mingled in a great measure, and compounded. They came to form a club, called that of Clichy, in which the plan of parliamentary conduct was discussed and arranged; and, as is generally the case, the ex treme opinions soon gave a color to the entire association.
"In civil dissensions, men always come to adopt the opinions of which they are accused." Thus the conventionalists accusing all their enemies, that is, the majority of the nation, of being royalist, the latter accepted the reproach; and public opinion, in despite and despair at seeing the name of republic monopolized by a faction, did turn towards monarchy. This, nowever, was but a tendency, a prospect, a last resource, kept 1797. ROYALISM REVIVED. 127
in reserve to be produced as soon as the republican form had demonstrated its impracticability. The* conventional or directorial party, instead of displaying moderation and forbearance in the commencement, irritated their opponents by their injustice and suspicion, forced them to swear hatred to tyranny, and kept in force the laws of proscription against even the relatives of emigrants, which included all the respectable class of the kingdom, and against those who had opposed the perpetuation of regicide authority in Vendemiaire. In return, the opposition aimed at relaxing the laws against emigrants; in restoring to the peasantry their worship, their priesthood; and their church bells; in repealing the most violent of the revolutionary laws; and healing, in fact, the wounds of the country. The directorial party called this counter-revolution and royalism.
When the second third of the legislative body was reelected, the conventionalists became the minority. And here instantly appeared the mortal defect of the system. The legislature held one opinion, the executive another; and the constitution had provided no means for restoring harmony. A monarch, in his supreme indifference for aught but the good and wishes of his people, may change his opinion with his ministry; but five Jacobins clothed with authority could not in this play the king. Force could alone decide the quarrel, by compelling the weakest to yield. This is what the French call a republic;—such was their third or fourth attempt at organizing freedom. Their manifest failure, already flagrant, was full excuse enough for the more ardent republicans to turn in despair towards monarchy, as the only means of preserving a vestige of liberty.
Anarchy, in fact, became once more probable. The only two principles conservative of order are—loyalty to a monarch, or respect towards the representative majority. It should seem that age was required to hallow the latter, as well as the former: for the French never showed the least espect for a system, the form of which indeed they borrowed from us, but left the spirit behind. In every successive phase and scene of the revolution, the same fact recurs of a rational majority overpowered by a factious minority, allied with some band of assassins or soldiers. Now, it may be safely asserted, that when this once takes place, it will be repeated, until the auxiliary force is strong and wise and systematic enough to keep the ascendency that it was momentarily called to exercise. The mob could never organize itself for this purpose. No sooner, howeve1*, was the army called to da the old work of the mob, than v did it at once and for ever,
The election of the second third of the legislature took place in the early part of 1797. Up to this period, the directors, masters of the majority, and united among each other, held the reins of state with some vigor. A royalist conspiracy had been discovered, and the punishment of its chiefs served to counterbalance that of Babceuf and the democrats, and to give an appearance of impartiality to the government. Now began the struggle betwixt the executive and the legislative majority. Three of the directors—Barras, Reubel, and Lepaux,—were cordially united in upholding the interest of what they called the "revolution," by which they meant the permanence of the conventionalists and of the old revolutionary laws. Carnot differed from them in being attached solely to liberty and the republic, in not insisting on the predominance of any faction, and in the necessity of stooping to the constitutional majority in all short of royalism. Carnot undoubtedly took the honest view of the question; and, despite his old career with the terrorists, he was looked up to by the constitutional party. Letourneur followed Carnot's opinions. The period had now arrived for one of the directors to go out. The lot unfortunately fell, or was made to fall, on Letourneur; and thus, although Barthelemy was elected by the councils to replace him, Barras, Reubel, and Lepaux still had the majority in the executive.
Barras presented the singular union of a furious Jacobin with the manners and despotic habits of an ancient noble. He resembled his friend Danton, coated with court varnish. Reubel was a pragmatic lawyer, endued with the oBstinacy of dullness; Lepaux a visionary, who aspired to form a sect called the Theophilanthropists. This scheme of becoming a prophet gave a certain vigor to a mind naturally puerile, and led Lepaux from the moderation natural to him (for he had been a Girondist) to adopt extreme Jacobinism. He could not pardon the constitutionalists their tolerance of priests and temples. Such was the mean trio, with their meaner motives, destined to tread out the last shadow of liberty in France, to shut the door in the face of returning royalty, which could alone ally with free representation, and to prepare the way for military despotism.
The session, which commenced in April, 1797, after the election of the second third of the legislature, was marked by mistrust and odium towards the directory, which was not only, mortified in its political views by the return of the emigrants, the re-establishment of priests, and by the severe animadversion passed upon the conduct of its emissaries in the colonies; but was also shorn of power, and controlled in the J 797. CLUB OF CLICHY. 129
management of the revenue. The opposition, obedient to the club of Clichy, in many instances lost sight of both prudence and moderation; many members displaying, too soon and too openly, the wish to undo the whole work of the revolution. This alarmed the vanity as well as the interests of the nation, and served to rally the democratic party out of doors to the directory. One motive of the Clichians was especially ill advised; it was that of accusing the generals of the armies of Italy and the Rhine—Bonaparte and Hoche—of divers arbitrary and illegal acts; the }<wying and disposing of funds; but more especially the destruction by Bonaparte of the old republics of Venice and Genoa. The gravity of this latter accusation almost excused its temerity; but its unfortunate effect was to outrage the armies, and to attach their fidelity to the directorial cause. Bonaparte had the means in his hands of taking instant vengeance. He had seized on the papers of the count d'Atraigues, containing strong traces, if not proofs, of Pichegru's being in correspondence with the Bourbons. Pichegru was the president of the five hundred, and one of the leaders of the club of Clichy. Bonaparte thus supplied the directory with a pretext for the blow they meditated. Hoche shared in the sentiment of his brother general; and, under pretence of drafting troops to Brittany for his Irish expedition, he brought divisions of his army to menace the capital and support the directory.
"The government," says Thibaudeau, "had two ways of crushing the royalists,—either by violence and the interference of the armies, or by uniting itself with the constitution alists. The first destroyed the republic, and rendered liberty impossible; the latter might have saved both." Divers attempts were made to reconcile the directory—that is, Barras, Reubel, and Lepaux,—with the constitutionalists; for Carnot, though not their personal friend, agreed with their maxims. Madame de Stael exercised her influence to bring about this reconciliation, of which a change of ministry was to be the seal. The constitutionalists, however, refused to swear fealty to regicide supremacy, or to regard the revolution as represented exclusively by its most sanguinary faction. Barras and his friends preferred the army, as a more obsequious ally; and although they must have known that this would prove the death-blow even to the semblance of liberty that yet remained, they said, Perish liberty, rather than that we should not reign out our day! Madame de Stael, whilst pleading for the con* stitutionalists, pleaded also for her private friend, M. de Talleyrand, whom she recommended as foreign minister. The directory granted this last request; Talleyrand was appointed