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and loyal. He made his appearance at the palace, promised tranquillity, and demanded that, as a mark of confidence, the external guard of the château should be committed to his troops. No doubt the general made this arrangement with the best intentions; but he was not sufficiently suspicious of the sanguinary and anarchic party that was now raising its head, supported by the money and the confidence of Orleans. That prince was seen amongst the midnight groups, and on the road: his agency must be allowed, though history cannot as yet assign the measure of his influence. All remained quiet through the night; the soldiers, the rabble, the women, round their fires. La Fayette had retired to rest, but in a lodging far from the château. A friend, an officer in whom he had confidence, should have watched. The person and guards of his sovereign were intrusted to his care, and their safety was neglected. No uprightness of character can here shelter him from censure. About half an hour after five, some of the boldest of the mob, bribed, there can be little doubt, to an act that no popular object could prompt, roamed along the vast extent of the palace, trying the possibility of entrance at one of its many gates. They found an avenue unguarded, summoned their chosen comrades, and rushed up the staircase. A garde du corps, perceiving the movement, had already fired from the window: and now this faithful troop, though not numbering more than a dozen, defended each door and apartment against the mob, under whose blows they fell one by one. The shouts and horrid imprecations of the ruffians indicated plainly that the queen was the object of their fury. “We will cut off her head : Tear out her heart!” Mismandre, the survivor of the gardes du corps, had time to gain the apartments occupied by the queen, opening and crying to her attendants, “I am alone against 2000 tigers: we are conquered; save the queen!” As the unfortuniate princess fled, he who had just spoke the generous word of warning fell under the blows of his pursuers. They mangled his remains with disappointment and rage, on perceiving that their prey was flown. A more numerous troop of the body-guard occupied the doors through which Marie Antoinette had retreated: the assassins had but the satisfaction of making villanous jibes upon her yet warm couch. La Fayette at this moment arrived, and by his exertions prevented a renewal of their attempt, or of the slaughter. The rest of the gardes du corps were spared: the ruffians contenting themselves with decapitating the dead, and fixing their gory heads on pikes to adorn their triumph. . The mob and Parisian army outside now exulted in the
I (99. ROYAL FAMILY BROUGHT TO PARIS. 24 |
achievement of this barbarous feat. “The king to Paris!” was the universal cry: denial was vain. The monarch assented, and showed himself in the balcony in token of obsequiousness. The queen was then called for, with the same shout that the Romans were wont to hail a gladiator into their circus: Marie Antoinette appeared, the dauphin in her arms. “No child ! no child !” cried the barbarians. The meaning was evident: they wanted a victim. With unshaken courage, the queen appeared alone: a musket was pointed at her; but the heart of the assassin failed through awe, not through mercy. La Fayette knelt, and kissed her hand: he, indeed, did his utmost to repair the fatal negligence of the morning. At midday took place the removal of the royal family to the Tuilleries. Historians dispute the greater or less hideousness of the procession: it was worthy of the victors. Thus the authority of the king was first destroyed, then his power, now all respect for him. The imprudence of the courtiers had served both as cause and pretext to this disaster, which the popular force effected, stirred in part by the gold of Orleans and the intrigues of agitators. La Fayette and the national assembly were mere spectators: the tide was too strong for this middle party; its leaders kept themselves indeed afloat, but the wind and tide of circumstances wafted them on a headlong course. There was but one man at that epoch who truly understood the crisis, and saw whither things tended: this was Mirabeau, a profligate, but not altogether a politically dishonest man. He received afterwards pecuniary aid from the court, but not until his conviction had led him to unite with it. As for the constitutionalists, their ideas were excellent, and their reasoning plausible; but, struggling against the spirit of the nation, they neutralized efforts which, more wisely directed, might still have supported the middle class and the friends of order against the conspirators and ultra-revolutionists. Aristocracy, not such as conquest or feudality might found, but such as great and illustrious qualities give birth to, and time fosters into dignity—is indeed a natural element of every society. It is wise to uphold its existence: but if a feudal aristocracy, like that of France, abuse its superiority, and grind, by its oppression, deep hate of its name into the feelings and prejudices of the people, it is vain to hope for the continuance or re-establishment of that noblesse. The dire necessity of circumstances must be submitted to. This Mirabeau saw : this Mounier, Necker, Lally, did not see. They were theorists, doctrinaires, to use a modern expression,-pursuing their one idea athwart the opposed and bristling prejudices of the nation. This is necessary to explain their ill success, as well as the irritation and hostility excited by efforts which, to Englishmen, appear at first sight honest, bold, and wise. They were all, except the last. . Twenty months now elapsed of comparative tranquillity. There is no striking event; much intrigue, indeed, fiery debating, the training, dividing, and forming of parties. The revolutionary monster slumbered, stirring at times, and showing life by starts, but not awakening fully. La Fayette possessed most power out of the assembly; and he exercised it with a firmness, a disinterestedness and courage, that did him immortal honor. His first act was to drive the duke of Orleans to exile. It is not well known whether his departure was procured by menace or inducement. His absence had certainly the effect of allowing agitation to subside. The assembly pursued its legislative labors. They appropriated to the state all ecclesiastical property. As it was impossible to bring such a prodigious portion at once to sale, the church-lands were made over to each commune or parish, which was allowed time to sell and pay into the treasury the price. The want of supply and specie soon after obliged the assembly to represent this debt due to the government by the different municipalities in bonds, called assignats. These they passed to a prodigious amount, forming a paper money not without advantage, had not the facilities of its supply been grossly abused. The constituent assembly divided France into departments, breaking up the old distinction and frontiers betwixt provinces. It abolished parliaments, and remodelled the judicature. Tithes and feudal services had been previously done away with. Titles of honor were now abolished, Matthieu de Montmorency being foremost to make the sacrifice. This career of legislation was, one should think, sufficiently democratic. It fully satisfied the middle classes, La Fayette, and those who rallied round him, as well as the majority of the assembly. Within its precincts, the demagogues, who designed to form and head a popular party, with difficulty found an opportunity to develop their sentiments or forward their plans. They succeeded, however, in becoming masters of a club, first established by the moderate friends of liberty. This, on the removal of the king and assembly to Paris, had installed itself in the Convent of the Jacobins. Here, as violence gained ground, the moderates, such as La Fayette, seceded and formed a separate club. Barnave, a young Protestant barrister, and the Lameths, assumed the lead in the Jacobins at their departure. This trio envied and detested
1790. SINCERITY OF LOUIS. 243
equally Mirabeau and La Fayette, and seemed actuated more by the ambition of pre-eminence than by any profound conviction or principle, to separate and form a schism. They coquetted with the genuine party of the lower orders rather than embraced it. Talents alone gave them support. Mirabeau was actuated by more independent opinions. Towards the end of 1789 he began to rein in the zeal which itherto had borne him headlong in the path of revolution. His ardor cooled, and he could not but disapprove of that constitution which he had contributed to form. “He thought it too democratic for a monarchy; for a democracy there was a king too much.” His sagacity saw the impracticability of the existing system. He, consequently, leagued secretly with the court to support the crown, and recover for it a portion of strength requisite for its existence. La Fayette, on the contrary, held firm to the constitution now established. It was not in the power of the king to unite in his behalf two such powerful men, who in fact represented the same cause,_that of the middle orders. Louis XVI. is accused of irresolution by some writers, of insincerity by others. Never was a man more deserving of commiseration and excuse. In February, 1790, we find him embarked frankly with the nation, coming down spontaneously to the assembly, and giving an uncalled-for adhesion to its acts, that excited universal enthusiasm. In July of the same year he presided over the famous Federation, or union of the Parisians with deputations from the provinces, to swear to the constitution on the altar of the country. Talleyrand was the officiating bishop in this ceremony, so minutely detailed and honored by French historians, though in itself a pomp of little importance, a fête at once to celebrate the anniversary of the destruction of the Bastile, and to honor the birth of a constitution destined to be ephemeral. Many weeks of the same summer were passed by the royal family at St. Cloud; escape from thence would have been most practicable, but was not once contemplated. Hence we may infer, that Louis had resigned himself to his humbled position, and resolved to look for no other than legislative support. The emigrant noblesse, collecting first at Turin, and afterwards at Coblentz, endeavored with their wonted imbecility and ill success to stir up rebellion in the provinces, for which the discontent of the clergy, and consequently of the devout, gave them ample facilities. They solicited Louis to sanction their plans and join their meditated armaments. He had already suffered too much by their coun* * listen to them again. The marquis de Bouillé at that .—16
time fixed he attention and hopes of the royalists within the kingdom. He still commanded at Metz, restraining the frcward spirit of the soldiers, and even mastering a sedition amongst them, by his firmness. A similar mutiny broke out at Nancy. Bouillé marched against it at the head of troops, of which he had so little reason to be confident. Nevertheless, when remonstrance failed to bring the mutineers to a sense of duty, Bouillé charged them, beat them, and sen the ringleaders captive to Paris. This was alone sufficient to raise the monarch's hopes. Bu how could he resist the opinions and counsel of Mirabeau, when this leader of the redoubtable assembly owned as his opinion, that royalty, in order to exist, must be raised from its present prostrate condition; that this must be effected by a force foreign to the assembly; and that the only means to bring about this end was, that the king should retire to Metz, beyond the power of the Parisians, and there, at the head of an independent force, treat with the nation, if he could not with its present representatives, and conclude some more equitable adjustment between the rights of the crown and those of the people? Such was the plan of Mirabeau, and it gained at once the monarch's approbation. But a fatal event came to retard it, and deprived Louis of what he most wanted,—a man of capacity to conduct him. Mirabeau kept his ascendency in the assembly to the last. Barnave and the Lameths in vain endeavored to shake his supremacy. On the great question, whether the power of deciding on war or peace should rest with the monarch or the nation, Mirabeau took the monarchic side. His enemies saw the opportunity, and attacked him with a virulence and truth that would have overborne any other man. The Jacobins made use of their arm, and the “great treason of count Mirabeau” was cried through the streets. “I had no need of this example,” cried the orator, “to learn, that there is but one step from the capitol to the Tarpeian rock.” Mirabeau's eloquence conquered in the assembly, and even partially exculpated him with the multitude. The 28th of February, 1791, was the day of his most memorable triumph.* The emigrants, collected at Coblentz, were menacing France with their own force, and with that of the
* It was that of La Fayette also, who in the morning attacked and lispersed an insurrectionary force that menaced Vincennes, and in the evening disconcerted a similar kind of movement of the royalists who frequented the Tuilleries. Thus, inside and outside the national assembly, the leaders pf the middle class were triumphant over those of the lower orders. The death of Mirabeau and t = unsuccessful flight to Varennes destroyed this superiority. .