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he was economical, just, severe, the constant fnV.nd of his people. Did they demand the abolition of an enormous tax1 —he abolished it. Did they complain of the remains of servitude]—he did away with its last vestiges in his domains. Complaints were made of the criminal legislation; they were met by reform. Thousands of French, previously deprived of the rights and privileges of citizens, recovered those rights by the laws of Louis. The people demanded liberty; he granted the boon. He anticipated their demands; he sacrificed all to them: and yet it is in the name of this people that
some this day stand forth to demand Citizens, I cannot go
on, I leave the task to history. Reflect, that history will pass judgment upon your sentence, and that hers will be also that of eternity!"
No sooner had Louis withdrawn, than the furious and contending passions of the assembly burst forth. Lanjuinais, unable to contain his emotion, rushed to the tribune, and made the wild demand that the whole process should be annulled. His voice was drowned with the cry of " Traitor!" Debate on this day was impossible. On the next, the Gironde declared its opinion by the mouth of Salles: he proposed to decree Louis guilty, but to leave the punishment to be fixed by the people in their primary assemblies. Salles drew a picture of the consequences of the king's execution:—the hatred of foreign nations, the depreciation of liberty, and the abhorrence of its name excited amongst them; at home the probable elevation of a revolutionary chief, "whom the very emigrants would return to support, and become his valets, provided he avenged them by the destruction of liberty, and rewarded them by a restoration of their titles." The too faithful prophecy passed unhearkened to. Robespierre was the principal orator of the extreme opinion: he stigmatized the proposal of appealing to the people as an excitement to civil war; indulged in a warm panegyric of minorities; and as the spokesman of one, demanded the immediate execution of Louis. Vergniaud replied with that matchless eloquence, those powers of logic and persuasion, before which the cant and casuistry of the Jacobins shrunk away. He defended the proposal of an appeal to the people, and denied that civil war or discord could spring from it; he deprecated the execution of Louis, and followed Salles, in depicting its consequences, in a higher, a truer, and still more prophetic tone. The effects of a war against Europe he described as if a vision had placed the subsequent twenty years before his eyes.
"I do not presage defeat," said he, "in case of war; but even by the natural concourse of the most prosperous events,
1792, ELOQUENCE OF VERGNIAUD. 31
the country must be consumed by her efforts. The population will be devoured by the ravages of war; not a family but must lament a son or a father. Agriculture will want arms, manufacture hands. Your treasures will flow in imposts: the social system, wearied with shocks, will fall under the influence of a mortal languor. Beware, lest in the midst of her triumphs France should come to resemble those famed Egyptian monuments that had subdued time. The passing stranger is astounded by their grandeur; but, if he penetrate within them, what doth he find 1—lifeless ashos, and the silence of the tomb!"
Vergniaud's warning to the convention is still more prophetic. "When Cromwell sought to prepare the dissolution of that parliament, by the aid of which he had upset the throne and sent Charles to the scaffold, he brought forward insidious propositions, which he knew would disgust the nation, but which he supported by hired applause and clamor. The parliament yielded; the fermentation became general; and Cromwell broke, without effort, that parliament which he had used as the footstool to climb to power.
"Have you not heard in these very precincts men crying out with fury, * If bread be dear, the cause is in the Temple. If money be scarce, if the armies in want, the cause is in the Temple.' The cause of all ill, in short, is in the Temple. Yet those who uttered this know right well, that the dearness of bread, the want of money, or the bad state of the armies, had naught whatever to do with the Temple. What then was their object ]—and who will guaranty to me that these same men, who are continually striving to degrade the convention, —these same men, who proclaim everywhere that a new revolution is necessary, that the sections ought to rise in permanent insurrection;—who harangue in the municipality, that when the convention succeeded to Louis, there was but a change of tyrants,—who clamor for another 10th of August,— who speak but of plots, death, treasons, and proscription,—who argue the necessity of a defender, or a dictator;—who will guaranty to me that these same men, as soon as Louis is sent from the Temple to the scaffold, will not resume their cry, and changing but one word, repeat, * If bread is dear, the cause is in the convention; if money be scarce, and the armies unprovided, the cause is in the convention,'" &c.
This warning, the solemnity of which is to us increased by a knowledge of its speedy fulfilment, had not its due effect. Barrere, as usual, got up to state or lead the sentiments of the Plain; he thought the plan of the Gironde dangerous and the convention agreed with him. An appeal to the r ***► pie as to the fate of Louis was rejected by a great majority The final question of the sentence was put on the evening of the 16th of January. Each member was called to the tribune to give his vote aloud, in presence of the applause or execration of the galleries. Of the party of the Mountain the universal vote was, of course, death; still that of Egalite, duke of Orleans, as he pronounced the fatal word against his rela tion and sovereign, jarred upon the feelings even of that hard ened assembly. Of the Gironde, many voted simply fo death, in fear and despair, it should seem: twenty-six of their number, amongst whom was Vergniaud, voted for death with reprieve or delay of execution. How deeply must they have rued their vote, on hearing the result of the scrutiny! The number present was 721. The bare majority was thus 361, and but 361 voices were for death without condition. But Vergniaud and his friends had declared their vote independent of their condition, which was but a vow and recommendation; and by this means their faintheartedness raised the majority to 387 against 334 voices, which were for imprisonment during war, and exile after peace. In vain the Girondists endeavored to amend their weakness by again agitating the question of reprieve: the hour of useful resolve was passed. Well might Mignet, speaking of this party, in another part of his history, assert, that "it is not with talent, but with conduct, that political fortune is achieved; and that persevering mediocrity is far more formidable than irresolute genius."
The motions for reprieval and delay were negatived, ana, on the 20th, all efforts to save Louis were abandoned.. Kersaint, an old sailor, resigned his seat in the assembly, refusing to herd longer with regicides. The capital was in the utmost agitation; the commune had taken every precaution to spread terror, and render the expression of pity dangerous. The middle orders commiserated, indeed, the fate of their sovereign, but knew not how to save him. The few royalists could but gnash their teeth in the powerlessness of despair. One, a garde du corps, resolved to have at least his mite of vengeance; he sought out one conventionalist that had voted for the death of Louis: Lepelletier St. Fargeau was pointed to him dining in a tavern, and the guard instantly buried his sword in the bosom of* the regicide.
Meantime the executive council, with Garat, minister of justice, at its head, repaired, in the afternoon of the 20th, to communicate to Louis his condemnation. The monarch heard it without emotion, except a smile ftf indignation at one word, that which accused him of conspiracy. He was prepared
L793. KING'S EXECUTION. 33
and taking the deci ee of condemnation from the secretary, he handed in return to that personage a written paper, asking, amongst a few other requests, three days to prepare for death, and a confessor of his choice. The convention, as soon as consulted, refused the delay, but gave orders that a confessor should be admitted to the Temple. The abbe Edgeworth being selected by the king, accordingly repaired to him. A seven in the evening his family was allowed to visit him, bu not in private. His guardians insisted on witnessing, through a glass door, this most melancholy of domestic interviews. It lasted nearly two hours. Louis spoke the greater part of the time, related the circumstances of his trial, and endeavored to soothe the distracted queen and princesses. They found utterance but in the convulsive sobs of anguish. In parting, he promised to see them early on the morrow. But no sooner had they gone than he observed, "I cannot." He resolved to spare both them and himself this further trial. He was engaged until midnight with his confessor. He then went to bed, and slept soundly till five; when he arose, heard mass in his chamber, and received the sacrament, the guards affording the means of performing these ceremonies with the greatest difficulty. Neither would they allow him a knife for his last repast, nor scissors to cut off his locks and bare his neck for execution. "The executioner is a valet good enough for him," was the observation.
At nine o'clock, drums and the rattling of vehicles announced Santerre, who came to conduct Louis to the fatal scaffold. He did not stay to be summoned, but merely handing to one of his guards a paper, that proved to be his testament, he said "Let us proceed." Placed in a coach betwixt two gendarmes, he was led across almost the whole extent of the capital, to the Place Louis Quinze. Every shop was shut and window closed. The middle classes were struck at once with pity and consternation; even the armed rabble who lined the streets observed a profound silence. The procession lasted two hours. Arrived at the place of execution, the king stripped himself of his coat and vest, and opened his shirt. The executioner approached to bind his hands. He resisted this indignity, till the abbe Edgeworth observed, " Sire, I see in this new outrage but a fresh point of resemblance betwixt your fate and that of the God who will be your recompense." On hearing this, Louis submitted, muttering with upcast eyes, "Do as you will; I must drink the cup to the dregs." He then began to ascend the scaffold, feebly at first, till finding strength as he reached the top, he stepped firmly across it tc the fron4;, and spoke with a voice that a] 1 the crowd could distinctly hear, "I die innocent of the crimes imputed-to me. I pardon the authors of my death; and my last prayer is, that the blood about to be shed may not be visited upon France."
At some minutes after ten, on the morning1 of the 21st of January, the fatal stroke fell that cut short the life of Louis the Sixteenth; a prince whose private virtues were only equalled by his misfortunes. If Providence had designed him for a martyr, it could not have bestowed a character more apt or perfect to sustain that trying part. Long will it be ere the deep stain left on the cause of liberty by the pure and guiltless blood of the royal victim shall be utterly effaced!
THE CONVENTION, FROM THE DEATH OF LOUIS XVI. TO THE FALL OF THE GIRONDE.
Of the evils which so often attend revolution, the overthrow of all government and annihilation of all law are not the worst; it destroys, likewise, those finer and unseen ligaments which hold society together. Honor, a certain measure of good-will towards our fellows, with confidence in it3 reciprocity; certain bounds put to the desires of ambition, selfinterest, and enthusiasm, by that general feeling, which can force itself to be respected by censure or ridicule; the general influence of domestic or amicable ties;—all these various motives and persuasives, that secure the peace and well-being of society more than codes, are completely lost sight of in the effervescence of a revolution. Man, by that shock, is thrown back into a state of nature. He must go armed in mistrust at least, find no friend except in the ally who fights side by side with him in the mortal combat; he must neither expect mercy, nor be weak enough to show it. The French revolution in its present advanced state offers this picture ex actly; or rather, that of an arena of wild beasts struggling for mastery, knowing no safety but in complete victory, and not even in that victory, unless it be sealed by the blood of the vanquished.
The Girondists had the misfortune of not understanding the position in which they were placed. At first masters, they stood by like lions in the magnanimity of strength, and