« ZurückWeiter »
FLIGHT OF THE ROYAL FAMILY.
sovereigns of Europe. It was proposed to stop the tide of emigration, by intrusting the power of granting passports to a committee of three persons. Mirabeau exclaimed against such an inquisition. “As for me,” cried he, “ I should feel myself absolved from my oath of allegiance to any government, that had the infamy to propose this dictatorial commission. I swear it—” (loud cries interrupted him). “The popularity that I have so ambitioned, and that I have enjoyed like many others, is not a feeble reed. I will fix it deep in the earth. I will make it vegetate and live in the soil of justice and reason.” This bold allusion, more to his purposes than to the question, was received with a blind applause, that maddened the popular leaders. They cried out against Mirabeau as a dictator. Silence, ye thirty voices !" was his rejoinder. His last triumph was his greatest
. The orator died, like a general, in his crowning victory. He returned thence to a bed of sickness, from which he never arose. That organic disease of the heart, supposed principally to affect men of strong passions and eloquence, carried him off. “ After my death," said he, " the factions will soon tear the last shreds of the monarchy."
Though deranged in his plans by this loss, Louis still persevered in them, and meditated escape. The severity of the assembly towards the priesthood who refused to take the oaths wounded the king's conscience; and even the most meek, when touched in that point, become stubborn and determined. In the month of April the royal carriages were ordered to the palace; Louis and his queen descended for the purpose of visiting St. Cloud. At the sight the populace collected, surrounded the carriage, and forbade it to advance. La Fayette came in time to preserve his sovereigns from insult, but not to procure their liberty. They were obliged to return to their apartments. A more secret mode of escape was then planned. The emperor Joseph at this time promised to march an army to the relief of his unfortunate brother. The emigrants, on their side, proffered their aid and counsels. But Louis preferred depending upon Bouillé, who, under his direction, formed a camp of some faithful regiments on the frontier near Mont medy. The king hoped, by reaching it in safety, to avoid the reproach, at least, of emigration; and without foreign aid, as he afterwards asserted, to raise up liberty upor, a firmer basis.
The time of flight was fixed for the night of the 19th of June. Bouillé gave orders, in consequence, for troops and detachments to meet the king at the bridge of Sommeville and at St. Menehould, to escort and protect his progress
should we succeed in reaching those towns. Unfortunately owing to some difficulty excited by the female attendants or the royal family, the departure was put off to the following night, by which means, although word was sent to Bouillé, the detachments were no longer in waiting for the king when he arrived. A private door in her apartment had been prepared by the queen; issuing by this in three parties, the oyal family gained the courts, and crossed them, the king with his children reaching the rue de l'Echelle without impediment. Here a fiacre awaited them. But the queen had in the mean time lost her way, the garde du corps who conducted her, being ignorant of Paris. She chanced to meet La Fayette, but passed unrecognized by him, and joined the rest at length after much wandering and trouble. The hackney-coach, driven by M. de Fersen in disguise, then bore them to a distant part of the city. At the gate St. Martin they quitted it for a berlin drawn by post-horses, and were soon on the road to Chalons. The king's brother, afterwards Louis XVIII.,, took, on the same night, the road to Flanders, and succeeded in reaching the frontier.
The carriage bearing the royal family reached Chalons in safety, and subsequently St. Menehould. The detachments of Bouillé, weary of waiting, had already taken their departure. At St. Menehould Louis was recognized by Drouet, son of the post-master; but the carriage was then setting off. Drouet set off also by a cross-road, and reached Varennes, the next place of halt, and within but two stages of Bouillé's camp, before the fugitives. There were no post-horses in Varennes, but an officer of Bouillé was appointed to have a relay in waiting. There were no symptoms of horses or guards about the hour of eleven at night when the royal family entered the town. They were obliged to alight, to question, to parley with the postilions; whilst Drouet had aroused the municipal officer, and called together the national guards of the canton. Whilst the carriage was slowly proceeding under an arch that crossed the road, Drouet, with the well-known Billaud,
nd one or two others, stopped it, demanding their passports. The gardes du corps on the box wished to resist. The king forbade them. Here the presence of a man of resolution was wanted. Bouillé had designed the marquis d'Agoult to ac company the monarch, but his place had been usurped by an obstinate old woman, governess of the prince and princess. They were now conducted before the procureur of the town; and, the national guards crowding in, Louis was arrested. The troops of Bouillé's army arrived also, but refused to rescue him. An aide-de-camp of general la Fayette soon
LOUIS RECONDUCTED TO PARIS.
after made his appearance, bearing a decree of the national assembly for the reconveyance of the fugitives to Paris.
Thus within an hour, a league, of safety, the unfortunate Louis and his family found themselves captive, and on their return to a capital, which, if it had before loaded them with contumely, would now, most likely, observe no moderation in cruelty. The assembly already showed that its opinions had taken a deeper dye of republicanism since the flight. Petior, a rude and rigid democrat, with Barnave, the rival of Mirabeau, were the commissaries who reconducted the king. Seated in the royal carriage, Barnave, with the sensibility ever attendant upon talent, felt his sympathy awakened for the sufferings of the fallen family.
During the eight days of their painful journey, he continually conversed with the monarch, and felt each moment deeper respect for a character so amiable and so just. Petion, on the contrary, a man of few ideas, held rigid in those which he professed, and piqued by being obliged to play an inferior part, merely murmured that he cared for naught save a republic. Previous to the return of the king to Paris, it was placarded, that whoever insulted him should be beaten; whoever applauded him should be hanged. He was received, then, with that silence which Mirabeau called “the lesson of kings."
The national assembly suspended the king from his functions, less as a punishment than to satisfy the popular outcry: The leaders of the mere rabble, the anarchists, now showed .neir heads openly under the guise of republicans. The Jacobins, whom Barnave and the Lameths deserted, started into full activity under the guidance of the most furious demagogues. In the assembly they argued, that the king's flight was abdication, and that nothing remained but to proclaim the republic. The majority were, however, still attached to their constitution, and pleaded that the monarch was irresponsible. Enraged at their want of predominance in the assembly, the Jacobins endeavored to agitate the people, and caused a petition to be prepared for dethroning Louis
. This v'as to be laid on the altar of the country in the Champ de Mars for universal signature, an apt organization of sedition Iramediately La Fayette and Bailly, by the orders of the municipality, marched at the head of troops to the scene of tumult, carrying a red flag, as a token that martial law was in force. They in vain endeavored to disperse the mob. Two invalids were torn in pieces by them, out of hatred to military uniform; and the troops were threatened with attack. La Fayette first ordered them to fire in the air to intimidat je
rioters. It had no effect. And at last, beneath a serious and well-directed discharge, several hundreds fell, slain or wounded, and the rest dispersed. The leading Jacobins slunk in terror to their hiding-places. Robespierre did not show himself for many days.
This triumph, however, or the necessity of having recourse to it, served but to render the assembly unpopular. The public was weary of them, and longed for its successor, as it was wont to hail a new reign. The assembly determined to show itself disinterested. It proceeded to complete and give tn last touches to the constitution, the immortality of which it fondly augured. Barnave, in the access of his late loyalty, had hoped to have modified its democratic principles: and the right side, or partisans of the English constitution, are accused of having marred his efforts by their hostility or neglect. But Barnave could never have executed his purpose. The time had gone by. And the fatal article, which excluded the present representatives from being elected members of the next assembly, was one which, in that day of affected disinterestedness, could certainly not be recalled. This part of the law had been decreed before the affair of Varennes, that is, before the anarchists and republicans had gathered strength. The members of the constituent assembly expected that their successors would be inheritors of their opinions and their parties. It totally lost sight of the natural progress of popular feelings, when agitated and excited. Their self-denying ordonnance was at once a reply to accusations of selfishness and tenacity for power, and at the same time an act of pride, as if the sages, who had framed the constitution, might intrust to younger and inferior hands the task of obeying and executing it. Having fulfilled its task of presenting the conctitution to the king, and having received his solemn acceptance of it, the assemblée constituante declared itself dissolved, on the 30th of September, 1791.
THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.
Had the united wisdom of the first national assembly applied itself to put together a constitution of the least pos sible durability, on the same principles that cardinals are wont to elect an octogenarian pope, they could scarcely have fixed upon one more likely than that decreed, to attain the desired
end. Even the plan of Sieyes, that the nation should will, and the monarch execute, was more practicable, if such a monarch could be found. But here the king was left with precisely that particle of legislative power, the suspensive veto, that loaded him with the responsibility of assent, and exposed him to the peril of dissent. The very originators of the system condemned and despaired of it; they knew, even before they launched it, that the vessel must founder. Still, in this moment did they abdicate all power, and abandon the country to a set of new and unknown rulers.
The three natural parties of a country, those of the upper, the middle, and lower classes, were all represented in the constituent. The first, considerable at the commencement, lost its force by splitting into the pure and unaccommodating royalists, and those who favored the English system of two nouses: it disappeared towards the close, as the last gathered boldness and force. Those who leaned on the middle ranks, that widely extended but inactive mass of the population, were, by their large majority, complete masters of the country; but private jealousies and piques kept them asunder, and hence they lent themselves to elevate their future antagonists from the rank beneath them. Barnave hated Mirabeau; Mirabeau, La Fayette; both the former at least flattering the popular party,—the existence of which, indeed, they did not suspect till late at the expense of their own. Thus in the assembly, the revolution, or, in other words, the descent of power through the successive ranks of society, advanced gradually and slowly: now, however, betwixt the constituent and the legislative, which followed, it proceeded per saltum, with astounding and fatal celerity.
One great cause of this was the little experience which the country had of liberty. Men with political knowledge were rare. The notables, in this respect, had been chosen in the first assembly, and their re-election being denied, the electors were at a loss where to look. The moderate and the timid shrunk at such a time from the public eye; and those whose zeal had distinguished them in the clubs, claimed and obtained universal preference. Elected under such influence, the legislative assembly soon displayed a totally new scheme of opirions and divisions. The upholders of even a mitigated aristocracy had disappeared: in their place, as the band most favorable to royalty, sat, now in minority, the majority of the jate assembly. They were called constitutionalists or Feuillans, from the name of their club. Next in order sat the republicans men who despised the vain shadow of royalty that the constitutionalists had preserved, ang with reason;