The Works of Thomas Carlyle/Volume 3/The French Revolution, Volume 2/Book 5
In the last nights of September, when the autumnal equinox is past, and grey September fades into brown October, why art the Champs Élysées illuminated; why is Paris dancing, and flinging fireworks? They are gala-nights, these last of September; Paris may well dance, and the Universe: the Edifice of the Constitution is completed! Completed; nay revised, to see that there was nothing insufficient in it; solemnly proffered to his Majesty; solemnly accepted by him, to the sound of cannon-salvoes, on the fourteenth of the month. And now by such illumination, jubilee, dancing and fire-working, do we joyously handsel the new Social Edifice, and first raise heat and reek there, in the name of Hope.
The Revision, especially with a throne standing on its vertex, has been a work of difficulty, of delicacy. In the way of propping and buttressing, so indispensable now, something could be done; and yet, as is feared, not enough. A repentant Barnave Triumvirate, our Rabauts, Duports, Thourets, and indeed all Constitutional Deputies did strain every nerve: but the Extreme Left was so noisy; the People were so suspicious, clamorous to have the work ended: and then the loyal Right Side sat feeble-petulant all the while, and as it were pouting and petting; unable to help, had they even been willing. The Two Hundred and Ninety had solemnly made scission, before that, and departed, shaking the dust off their feet. To such transcendency of fret, and desperate hope that worsening of the bad might the sooner end it and bring back the good, had our unfortunate loyal Right Side now come!
However, one finds that this and the other little prop has been added, where possibility allowed. Civil-list and Privy-purse were from of old well cared for. King's Constitutional Guard, Eighteen hundred loyal men from the Eighty-three Departments, under a loyal Duke de Brissac; this, with trustworthy Swiss besides, is of itself something. The old loyal Bodyguards are indeed dissolved, in name as well as in fact; and gone mostly towards Coblentz. But now also those Sansculottic violent Gardes Françaises, or Centre Grenadiers, shall have their mittimus: they do ere long, in the Journals, not without a hoarse pathos, publish their Farewell; 'wishing all Aristocrats the graves in Paris which to us are denied.' They depart, these first Soldiers of the Revolution; they hover very dimly in the distance for about another year; till they can be remodelled, new-named, and sent to fight the Austrians; and then History beholds them no more. A most notable Corps of men; which has its place in World-History;—though to us, so is History written, they remain mere rubrics of men; nameless; a shaggy Grenadier Mass, crossed with buff-belts. And yet might we not ask: What Argonauts, what Leonidas' Spartans had done such a work? Think of their destiny: since that May morning, some three years ago, when they, unparticipating, trundled off D'Espréménil to the Calypso Isles; since that July evening, some two years ago, when they, participating and sacreing with knit brows, poured a volley into Besenval's Prince de Lambesc! History waves them her mute adieu.
So that the Sovereign Power, these Sansculottic Watchdogs, more like wolves, being leashed and led away from his Tuileries, breathes freer. The Sovereign Power is guarded henceforth by a loyal Eighteen Hundred,—whom Contrivance, under various pretexts, may gradually swell to Six Thousand; who will hinder no journey to Saint-Cloud. The sad Varennes business has been soldered up; cemented, even in the blood of the Champ-de-Mars, these two months and more; and indeed ever since, as formerly, Majesty has had its privileges, its 'choice of residence,' though, for good reasons, the royal mind 'prefers continuing in Paris.' Poor royal mind, poor Paris; that have to go mumming; enveloped in speciosities, in falsehood which knows itself false; and to enact mutually your sorrowful farce-tragedy, being bound to it; and on the whole, to hope always, in spite of hope!
Nay, now that his Majesty has accepted the Constitution, to the sound of cannon-salvoes, who would not hope? Our good King was misguided, but he meant well. Lafayette has moved for an Amnesty, for universal forgiving and forgetting of Revolutionary faults; and now surely the glorious Revolution, cleared of its rubbish, is complete! Strange enough, and touching in several ways, the old cry of Vive le Roi once more rises round King Louis the Hereditary Representative. Their Majesties went to the Opera; gave money to the Poor: the Queen herself, now when the Constitution is accepted, hears voice of cheering. Bygone shall be bygone; the New Era shall begin! To and fro, amid those lamp-galaxies of the Elysian Fields, the Royal Carriage slowly wends and rolls; everywhere with vivats, from a multitude striving to be glad. Louis looks out, mainly on the variegated lamps and gay human groups, with satisfaction enough for the hour. In her Majesty's face, 'under that kind graceful smile a deep sadness is legible.' Brilliancies, of valour and of wit, stroll here observant: a Dame de Staël, leaning most probably on the arm of her Narbonne. She meets Deputies; who have built this Constitution; who saunter here with vague communings, not without thoughts whether it will stand. But as yet melodious fiddle-strings twang and warble everywhere, with rhythm of light fantastic feet; long lamp-galaxies fling their coloured radiance; and brass-lunged Hawkers elbow and bawl, 'Grande Acceptation, Constitution Monarchique': it behoves the Son of Adam to hope. Have not Lafayette, Barnave, and all Constitutionalists set their shoulders handsomely to the inverted pyramid of a throne? Feuillans, including almost the whole Constitutional Respectability of France, perorate nightly from their tribune; correspond through all Post-offices; denouncing unquiet Jacobinism; trusting well that its time is nigh done. Much is uncertain, questionable; but if the Hereditary Representative be wise and lucky, may one not, with a sanguine Gaelic temper, hope that he will get in motion better or worse; that what is wanting to him will gradually be gained and added?
For the rest, as we must repeat, in this building of the Constitutional Fabric, especially in this Revision of it, nothing that one could think of to give it new strength, especially to steady it, to give it permanence, and even eternity, has been forgotten. Biennial Parliament, to be called Legislative, Assemblée Législative; with Seven Hundred and Forty-five Members, chosen in a judicious manner by the 'active citizens' alone, and even by electing of electors still more active: this, with privileges of Parliament, shall meet, self-authorised if need be, and self-dissolved; shall grant money-supplies and talk; watch over the administration and authorities; discharge for ever the functions of a Constitutional Great Council, Collective Wisdom and National Palaver—as the Heavens will enable. Our First biennial Parliament, which indeed has been a-choosing since early in August, is now as good as chosen. Nay it has mostly got to Paris: it arrived gradually;—not without pathetic greeting to its venerable Parent, the now moribund Constituent; and sat there in the Galleries, reverently listening; ready to begin, the instant the ground were clear.
Then as to changes in the Constitution itself? This, impossible for any Legislative, or common biennial Parliament, and possible solely for some resuscitated Constituent or National Convention, is evidently one of the most ticklish points. The august moribund Assembly debated it for four entire days. Some thought a change, or at least a reviewal and new approval, might be admissible in thirty years, some even went lower, down to twenty, nay to fifteen. The august Assembly had once decided for thirty years; but it revoked that, on better thoughts; and did not fix any date of time, but merely some vague outline of a posture of circumstances, and, on the whole, left the matter hanging. Doubtless a National Convention can be assembled even within the thirty years: yet one may hope, not; but that Legislatives, biennial Parliaments of the common kind, with their limited faculty, and perhaps quiet successive additions thereto, may suffice for generations, or indeed while computed Time runs.
Furthermore, be it noted that no member of this Constituent has been, or could be, elected to the new Legislative. So noble-minded were these Law-makers! cry some: and Solon-like would banish themselves. So splenetic! cry more: each grudging the other, none daring to be outdone in self-denial by the other. So unwise in either case! answer all practical men. But consider this other self-denying ordinance, That none of us can be King's Minister, or accept the smallest Court Appointment, for the space of four, or at lowest (and on long debate and Revision) for the space of two years! So moves the incorruptible seagreen Robespierre; with cheap magnanimity he; and none dare be outdone by him. It was such a law, not superfluous then, that sent Mirabeau to the gardens of Saint-Cloud, under cloak of darkness, to that colloquy of the gods; and thwarted many things. Happily and unhappily there is no Mirabeau now to thwart.
Welcomer meanwhile, welcome surely to all right hearts, is Lafayette's chivalrous Amnesty. Welcome too is that hard-wrung Union of Avignon; which has cost us, first and last, 'thirty sessions of debate,' and so much else: may it at length prove lucky! Rousseau's statue is decreed: virtuous Jean-Jacques, Evangelist of the Contrat Social. Not Drouet of Varennes; not worthy Lataille, master of the old world-famous Tennis-Court in Versailles, is forgotten; but each has his honourable mention, and due reward in money. Whereupon, things being all so neatly winded up, and the Deputations, and Messages, and royal and other ceremonials having rustled by; and the King having now affectionately perorated about peace and tranquillisation, and members having answered 'Oui! Oui!' with effusion, even with tears,—President Thouret, he of the Law Reforms, rises, and, with a strong voice, utters these memorable last-words: 'The National Constituent Assembly declares that it has finished its mission; and that its sittings are all ended.' Incorruptible Robespierre, virtuous Pétion are borne home on the shoulders of the people; with vivats heaven-high. The rest glide quietly to their respective places of abode. It is the last afternoon of September 1791; on the morrow morning the new Legislative will begin.
So, amid glitter of illuminated streets and Champs Élysées, and crackle of fireworks and glad deray, has the first National Assembly vanished; dissolving, as they well say, into blank Time; and is no more. National Assembly is gone, its work remaining; as all Bodies of men go, and as man himself goes: it had its beginning, and must likewise have its end. A Phantasm-Reality born of Time, as the rest of us are; flitting ever backwards now on the tide of Time; to be long remembered of men. Very strange Assemblages, Sanhedrims, Amphictyonics, Trades-Unions, Ecumenic Councils, Parliaments and Congresses, have met together on this Planet, and dispersed again; but a stranger Assemblage than this august Constituent, or with a stranger mission, perhaps never met there. Seen from the distance, this also will be a miracle. Twelve Hundred human individuals, with the Gospel of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in their pocket, congregating in the name of Twenty-five Millions, with full assurance of faith, to 'make the Constitution': such sight, the acme and main product of the Eighteenth Century, our World can witness once only. For Time is rich in wonders, in monstrosities most rich; and is observed never to repeat himself, or any of his Gospels:—surely least of all, this Gospel according to Jean-Jacques. Once it was right and indispensable, since such had become the Belief of men; but once also is enough.
They have made the Constitution, these Twelve Hundred Jean-Jacques Evangelists; not without result. Near twenty-nine months they sat, with various fortune; in various capacity;—always, we may say, in that capacity of car-borne Carroccio, and miraculous Standard of the Revolt of Men, as a Thing high and lifted up; whereon whosoever looked might hope healing. They have seen much, cannons levelled on them; then suddenly, by interposition of the Powers, the cannons drawn back; and a wargod Broglie vanishing, in thunder not his own, amid the dust and downrushing of a Bastille and Old Feudal France. They have suffered somewhat: Royal Session, with rain and Oath of the Tennis-Court; Nights of Pentecost; Insurrections of Women. Also have they not done somewhat? Made the Constitution, and managed all things the while; passed, in these twenty-nine months, 'twenty-five hundred Decrees,' which on the average is some three for each day, including Sundays! Brevity, one finds, is possible, at times: had not Moreau de St. Méry to give three thousand orders before rising from his seat?—There was valour (or value) in these men; and a kind of faith, were it only faith in this. That cobwebs are not cloth; that a Constitution could be made. Cobwebs and chimeras ought verily to disappear; for a Reality there is. Let formulas, soul-killing, and now grown body-killing, insupportable, begone, in the name of Heaven and Earth!—Time, as we say, brought forth these Twelve Hundred; Eternity was before them. Eternity behind: they worked, as we all do, in the confluence of Two Eternities; what work was given them. Say not that it was nothing they did. Consciously they did somewhat; unconsciously how much! They had their giants and their dwarfs, they accomplished their good and their evil; they are gone, and return no more. Shall they not go with our blessing, in these circumstances; with our mild farewell?
By post, by diligence, on saddle or sole; they are gone: towards the foui winds. Not a few over the marches, to rank at Coblentz. Thither wended Maury, among others; but in the end towards Rome,—to be clothed there in red Cardinal plush; in falsehood as in a garment; pet son (her last born?) of the Scarlet Woman. Talleyrand-Perigord, excommunicated Constitutional Bishop, will make his way to London: to be Ambassador, spite of the Self-denying Law; brisk young Marquis Chauvelin acting as Ambassador's-Cloak. In London too, one finds Pétion the virtuous; harangued and haranguing, pledging the winecup with Constitutional Reform-Clubs, in solemn tavern-dinner. Incorruptible Robespierre retires for a little to native Arras: seven short weeks of quiet; the last appointed him in this world. Public Accuser in the Paris Department, acknowledged highpriest of the Jacobins; the glass of incorruptible thin Patriotism, for his narrow emphasis is loved of all the narrow,—this man seems to be rising, somewhither? He sells his small heritage at Arras; accompanied by a Brother and a Sister, he returns, scheming out with resolute timidity a small sure destiny for himself and them, to his old lodging, at the Cabinet-maker's, in the Rue St Honoré: O resolute-tremulous incorruptible sea-green man, towards what a destiny!
Lafayette, for his part, will lay down the command. He retires Cincinnatus-like to his hearth and farm; but soon leaves them again. Our National Guard, however, shall henceforth have no one Commandant; but all Colonels shall command in succession, month about. Other Deputies we have met, or Dame de Staël has met, 'sauntering in a thoughtful manner'; perhaps uncertain what to do. Some, as Barnave, the Lameths, and their Duport, will continue here in Paris; watching the new biennial Legislative, Parliament the First; teaching it to walk, if so might be; and the Court to lead it.
Thus these: sauntering in a thoughtful manner; travelling by post or diligence,—whither Fate beckons. Giant Mirabeau slumbers in the Pantheon of Great Men: and France? and Europe?—the brass-lunged Hawkers sing 'Grand Acceptation, Monarchic Constitution' through these gay crowds: the Morrow, grandson of Yesterday, must be what it can, as Today its father is. Our new biennial Legislative begins to constitute itself on the first of October 1791.
THE BOOK OF THE LAW
If the august Constituent Assembly itself, fixing the regards of the Universe, could, at the present distance of time and place, gain comparatively small attention from us, how much less can this poor Legislative! It has its Right Side and its Left; the less Patriotic and the more, for Aristocrats exist not here or now: it spouts and speaks; listens to Reports, reads Bills and Laws; works in its vocation, for a season: but the History of France, one finds, is seldom or never there. Unhappy Legislative, what can History do with it; if not drop a tear over it, almost in silence? First of the two-year Parliaments of France, which, if Paper Constitution and oft-repeated National Oath could avail aught, were to follow in softly-strong indissoluble sequence while Time ran,—it had to vanish dolefully within one year; and there came no second like it. Alas! your biennial Parliaments in endless indissoluble sequence; they, and all that Constitutional Fabric, built with such explosive Federation Oaths, and its top-stone brought out with dancing and variegated radiance, went to pieces, like frail crockery, in the crash of things; and already, in eleven short months, were in that Limbo near the Moon, with the ghosts of other Chimeras. There, except for rare specific purposes, let them rest, in melancholy peace.
On the whole, how unknown is a man to himself; or a public Body of men to itself! Æsop's fly sat on the chariot-wheel, exclaiming, What a dust I do raise! Great Governors, clad in purple with fasces and insignia, are governed by their valets, by the pouting of their women and children; or, in Constitutional countries, by the paragraphs of their Able Editors. Say not, I am this or that; I am doing this or that! For thou knowest it not, thou knowest only the name it as yet goes by. A purple Nebuchadnezzar rejoices to feel himself now verily Emperor of this great Babylon which he has builded; and is a nondescript biped-quadruped, on the eve of a seven-years course of grazing! These Seven Hundred and Forty-five elected individuals doubt not but they are the first biennial Parliament, come to govern France by parliamentary eloquence: and they are what? And they have come to do what? Things foolish and not wise!
It is much lamented by many that this First Biennial had no members of the old Constituent in it, with their experience of parties and parliamentary tactics; that such was their foolish Self-denying Law. Most surely, old members of the Constituent had been welcome to us here. But, on the other hand, what old or what new members of any Constituent under the Sun could have effectually profited? There are first biennial Parliaments so postured as to be, in a sense, beyond wisdom; where wisdom and folly differ only in degree, and wreckage and dissolution are the appointed issue for both.
Old-Constituents, your Barnaves, Lameths, and the like, for whom a special Gallery has been set apart, where they may sit in honour and listen, are in the habit of sneering at these new Legislators; but let not us! The poor Seven Hundred and Forty-five, sent together by the active citizens of France, are what they could be; do what is fated them. That they are of Patriot temper we can well understand. Aristocrat Noblesse had fled over the marches, or sat brooding silent in their unburnt Châteaus; small prospect had they in Primary Electoral Assemblies. What with Flights to Varennes, what with Days of Poniards, with plot after plot, the People are left to themselves; the People must needs choose Defenders of the People, such as can be had. Choosing, as they also will ever do, 'if not the ablest man, yet the man ablest to be chosen'! Fervour of character, decided Patriot-Constitutional feeling; these are qualities: but free utterance, mastership in tongue-fence; this is the quality of qualities. Accordingly one finds, with little astonishment, in this First Biennial, that as many as Four hundred Members are of the Advocate or Attorney species. Men who can speak, if there be aught to speak: nay here are men also who can think, and even act. Candour will say of this ill-fated First French Parliament, that it wanted not its modicum of talent, its modicum of honesty; that it, neither in the one respect nor in the other, sank below the average of Parliaments, but rose above the average. Let average Parliaments, whom the world does not guillotine, and cast forth to long infamy, be thankful not to themselves but to their stars!
France, as we say, has once more done what it could: fervid men have come together from wide separation; for strange issues. Fiery Max Isnard is come, from the utmost Southeast; fiery Claude Fauchet, Te-Deum Fauchet Bishop of Calvados, from the utmost Northwest. No Mirabeau now sits here, who had swallowed formulas: our only Mirabeau now is Danton, working as yet out of doors; whom some call 'Mirabeau of the Sansculottes.'
Nevertheless we have our gifts,—especially of speech and logic. An eloquent Vergniaud we have; most mellifluous yet most impetuous of public speakers; from the region named Gironde, of the Garonne: a man unfortunately of indolent habits; who will sit playing with your children, when he ought to be scheming and perorating. Sharp-bustling Guadet; considerate grave Gensonné; kind-sparkling mirthful young Ducos; Valazé doomed to a sad end: all these likewise are of that Gironde or Bordeaux region: men of fervid Constitutional principles; of quick talent, irrefragable logic, clear respectability; who will have the Reign of Liberty establish itself, but only by respectable methods. Round whom others of like temper will gather; known by and by as Girondins, to the sorrowing wonder of the world. Of which sort note Condorcet, Marquis and Philosopher; who has worked at much at Paris Municipal Constitution, Differential Calculus, Newspaper Chronique de Paris, Biography, Philosophy; and now sits here as two-years Senator: a notable Condorcet, with stoical Roman face and fiery heart; 'volcano hid under snow'; styled likewise, in irreverent language, 'mouton enragé,' peaceablest of creatures bitten rabid! Or note, lastly, Jean-Pierre Brissot; whom Destiny, long working noisily with him, has hurled hither, say, to have done with him. A biennial Senator he too; nay, for the present, the king of such. Restless, scheming, scribbling Brissot; who took to himself the style de Warville, heralds know not in the least why;—unless it were that the father of him did, in an unexceptionable manner, perform Cookery and Vintnery in the Village of Ouarville? A man of the windmill species, that grinds always, turning towards all winds; not in the steadiest manner.
In all these men there is talent, faculty to work; and they will do it: working and shaping, not without effect, though alas not in marble, only in quicksand!—But the highest faculty of them all remains yet to be mentioned; or indeed has yet to unfold itself for mention: Captain Hippolyte Carnot, sent hither from the Pas de Calais; with his cold mathematical head, and silent stubbornness of will: iron Carnot, far-planning, imperturbable, unconquerable; who, in the hour of need, shall not be found wanting. His hair is yet black; and it shall grow grey, under many kinds of fortune, bright and troublous; and with iron aspect, this man shall face them all.
Nor is Côté Droit, and band of King's friends, wanting: Vaublanc, Dumas, Jaucourt the honoured Chevalier; who love Liberty, yet with Monarchy over it; and speak fearlessly according to that faith;—whom the thick-coming hurricanes will sweep away. With them let a new military Theodore Lameth be named;—were it only for his two Brothers' sake, who look down on him, approvingly there, from the Old-Constituents' Gallery. Frothy professing Pastorets, honey-mouthed conciliatory Lamourettes, and speechless nameless individuals sit plentiful, as Moderates, in the middle. Still less is a Côté Gauche wanting: extreme Left; sitting on the topmost benches, as if aloft on its speculatory Height or Mountain, which will become a practical fulminatory Height, and make the name of Mountain famous-infamous to all times and lands.
Honour waits not on this Mountain; nor as yet even loud dishonour. Gifts it boasts not, nor graces, of speaking or of thinking; solely this one gift of assured faith, of audacity that will defy the Earth and the Heavens. Foremost here are the Cordelier Trio: hot Merlin from Thionville, hot Bazaire, Attorneys both; Chabot, disfrocked Capuchin, skilful in agio. Lawyer Lacroix, who wore once as subaltern the single epaulette, has loud lungs and a hungry heart. There too is Couthon, little dreaming what he is;—whom a sad chance has paralysed in the lower extremities. For, it seems, he sat once a whole night, not warm in his true-love's bower (who indeed was by law another's), but sunken to the middle in a cold peat-bog, being hunted out from her; quaking for his life, in the cold quaking morass; and goes now on crutches to the end. Cambon likewise, in whom slumbers undeveloped such a finance-talent for printing of Assignats; Father of Paper-money; who, in the hour of menace, shall utter this stern sentence, 'War to the Manor-house, peace to the Hut, Guerre aux Châteaux, paix aux Chaumières!' Lecointre, the intrepid Draper of Versailles, is welcome here; known since the Opera-Repast and Insurrection of Women. Thuriot too; Elector Thuriot, who stood in the embrasures of the Bastille, and saw Saint-Antoine rising in mass; who has many other things to see. Last and grimmest of all, note old Ruhl, with his brown dusky face and long white hair; of Alsatian Lutheran breed; a man whom age and book-learning have not taught; who, haranguing the old men of Rheims, shall hold up the Sacred Ampulla (Heaven-sent, wherefrom Clovis and all Kings have been anointed) as a mere worthless oil-bottle, and dash it to sherds on the pavement there; who, alas, shall dash much to sherds, and finally his own wild head by pistol-shot, and so end it.
Such lava welters redhot in the bowels of this Mountain; unknown to the world and to itself! A mere commonplace Mountain hitherto; distinguished from the Plain chiefly by its superior barrenness, its baldness of look: at the utmost it may, to the most observant, perceptibly smoke. For as yet all lies so solid, peaceable; and doubts not, as was said, that it will endure while Time runs. Do not all love Liberty and the Constitution? All heartily;—and yet with degrees. Some, as Chevalier Jaucourt and his Right Side, may love Liberty less than Royalty, were the trial made; others, as Brissot and his Left Side, may love it more than Royalty. Nay again, of these latter some may love Liberty more than Law itself; others not more. Parties will unfold themselves; no mortal as yet knows how. Forces work within these men and without: dissidence grows opposition; ever widening; waxing into incompatibility and internecine feud; till the strong is abolished by a stronger; himself in his turn by a strongest! Who can help it? Jaucourt and his Monarchists, Feuillans, or Moderates; Brissot and his Brissotins, Jacobins, or Girondins; these, with the Cordelier Trio, and all men, must work what is appointed them, and in the way appointed them.
And to think what fate these poor Seven Hundred and Forty-five are assembled, most unwittingly, to meet! Let no heart be so hard as not to pity them. Their souls' wish was to live and work as the First of the French Parliaments; and make the Constitution march. Did they not, at their very instalment, go through the most affecting Constitutional ceremony, almost with tears? The Twelve eldest are sent solemnly to fetch the Constitution itself, the printed Book of the Law. Archivist Camus, an Old-Constituent appointed Archivist, he and the Ancient Twelve, amid blare of military pomp and clangour, enter, bearing the divine Book: and President and all Legislative Senators, laying their hand on the same, successively take the Oath, with cheers and heart-effusion, universal three-times-three. In this manner they begin their Session. Unhappy mortals! For, that same day, his Majesty having received their Deputation of welcome, as seemed, rather drily, the Deputation cannot but feel slighted, cannot but lament such slight: and thereupon our cheering swearing First Parliament sees itself, on the morrow, obliged to explode into fierce retaliatory sputter of anti-royal Enactment as to how they, for their part, will receive Majesty; and how Majesty shall not be called Sire any more, except they please: and then, on the following day, to recall this Enactment of theirs, as too hasty, and a mere sputter, though not unprovoked.
An effervescent well-intentioned set of Senators; too combustible, where continual sparks are flying! Their History is a series of sputters and quarrels; true desire to do their function, fatal impossibility to do it. Denunciations, reprimandings of King's Ministers, of traitors supposed and real; hot rage and fulmination against fulminating Emigrants; terror of Austrian Kaiser, of 'Austrian Committee' in the Tuileries itself; rage and haunting terror, haste and doubt and dim bewilderment!—Haste, we say; and yet the Constitution had provided against haste. No Bill can be passed till it have been printed, till it have been thrice read, with intervals of eight days;—'unless the Assembly shall beforehand decree that there is urgency.' Which, accordingly the Assembly, scrupulous of the Constitution, never omits to do: Considering this, and also considering that, and then that other, the Assembly decrees always 'qu'il y a urgence'; and thereupon 'the Assembly, having decreed that there is urgence,' is free to decree—what indispensable distracted thing seems best to it. Two thousand and odd decrees, as men reckon, within Eleven months! The haste of the Constituent seemed great; but this is treble-quick. For the time itself is rushing treble-quick; and they have to keep pace with that. Unhappy Seven Hundred and Forty-five: true-patriotic, but so combustible; being fired, they must needs fling fire: Senate of touchwood and rockets, in a world of smoke-storm, with sparks wind-driven continually flying!
Or think, on the other hand, looking forward some months, of that scene they call Baiser de Lamourette! The dangers of the country are now grown imminent, immeasurable; National Assembly, hope of France, is divided against itself. In such extreme circumstances, honey-mouthed Abbé Lamourette, new Bishop of Lyons, rises, whose name, l'amourette, signifies the sweetheart, or Delilah doxy,—he rises, and, with pathetic honeyed eloquence, calls on all august Senators to forget mutual griefs and grudges, to swear a new oath, and unite as brothers. Whereupon they all, with vivats, embrace and swear; Left Side confounding itself with Right; barren Mountain rushing down to fruitful Plain, Pastoret into the arms of Condorcet, injured to the breast of injurer, with tears: and all swearing that whosoever wishes either Feuillant Two-Chamber Monarchy or Extreme-Jacobin Republic, or any thing but the Constitution and that only, shall be anathema maranatha. Touching to behold! For, literally on the morrow morning, they must again quarrel, driven by Fate; and their sublime reconcilement is called derisively the Baiser de Lamourette, or Delilah Kiss.
Like fated Eteocles-Polynices Brothers, embracing, though in vain; weeping that they must not love, that they must hate only, and die by each other's hands! Or say, like doomed Familiar Spirits; ordered, by Art Magic under penalties, to do a harder than twist ropes of sand: 'to make the Constitution march.' If the Constitution would but march! Alas, the Constitution will not stir. It falls on its face; they tremblingly lift it on end again: march, thou gold Constitution! The Constitution will not march.—'He shall march, by ——!' said kind Uncle Toby, and even swore. The Corporal answered mournfully: 'He will never march in this world.'
A Constitution, as we often say, will march when it images, if not the old Habits and Beliefs of the Constituted, then accurately their Rights, or better indeed their Mights;—for these two, well understood, are they not one and the same? The old Habits of France are gone: her new Rights and Mights are not yet ascertained, except in Paper-theorem; nor can be, in any sort, till she have tried. Till she have measured herself, in fell death-grip, and were it in utmost preternatural spasm of madness, with Principalities and Powers, with the upper and the under, internal and external; with the Earth and Tophet and the very Heaven! Then will she know.—Three things bode ill for the marching of this French Constitution: the French People; the French King; thirdly, the French Noblesse and an assembled European World.
But quitting generalities, what strange Fact is this, in the far Southwest, towards which the eyes of all men do now, in the end of October, bend themselves? A tragical combustion, long smoking and smouldering unluminous, has now burst into flame there.
Hot is that Southern Provençal blood: alas, collisions, as was once said, must occur in a career of Freedom; different directions will produce such; nay different velocities in the same direction will! To much that went on there, History, busied elsewhere, would not specially give heed: to troubles of Uzez, troubles of Nismes, Protestant and Catholic, Patriot and Aristocrat; to troubles of Marseilles, Montpellier, Arles; to Aristocrat Camp of Jalès, that wondrous real-imaginary Entity, now fading pale-dim, then always again glowing forth deep-hued (in the imagination mainly);—ominous magical, 'an Aristocrat picture of war done naturally'! All this was a tragical deadly combustion, with plot and riot, tumult by night and by day; but a dark combustion not luminous, not noticed; which now, however, one cannot help noticing.
Above all places, the unluminous combustion in Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin was fierce. Papal Avignon, with its Castle rising sheer over the Rhone-stream; beautifulest Town, with its purple vines and gold-orange groves; why must foolish old rhyming , the last Sovereign of Provence, bequeath it to the Pope and Gold Tiara, not rather to Louis Eleventh with the Leaden Virgin in his hatband? For good and for evil! Popes, Antipopes, with their pomp, have dwelt in that Castle of Avignon rising sheer over the Rhone-stream: there Laura de Sade went to hear mass; her Petrarch twanging and singing by the Fountain of Vaucluse hard by, surely in a most melancholy manner. This was in the old days.
And now in these new days such issues do come from a squirt of the pen by some foolish rhyming Réné, after centuries,—this is what we have: Jourdan Coupe-tête, leading to siege and warfare an Army, from three to fifteen thousand strong, called the Brigands of Avignon; which title they themselves accept, with the addition of an epithet, 'The brave Brigands of Avignon!' It is even so. Jourdan the Headsman fled hither from that Châtelet Inquest, from that Insurrection of Women; and began dealing in madder: but the scene was rife in other than dye-stuffs; so Jourdan shut his madder-shop, and has risen, for he was the man to do it. The tile-beard of Jourdan is shaven off; his fat visage has got coppered and studded with black carbuncles; the Silenus trunk is swollen with drink and high living: he wears blue National uniform with epaulettes, 'an enormous sabre, two horse-pistols crossed in his belt, and other two smaller sticking from his pockets'; styles himself General, and is the tyrant of men. Consider this one fact, O Reader; and what sort of facts must have preceded it, must accompany it! Such things come of old Réné; and of the question which has risen, Whether Avignon cannot now cease wholly to be Papal, and become French and free?
For some twenty-five months the confusion has lasted. Say three months of arguing; then seven of raging; then finally some fifteen months now of fighting, and even of hanging. For already in February 1790, the Papal Aristocrats had set up four gibbets, for a sign; but the People rose in June, in retributive frenzy; and, forcing the public Hangman to act, hanged four Aristocrats, on each Papal gibbet a Papal Haman. Then were Avignon Emigrations, Papal Aristocrats emigrating over the Rhone River; demission of Papal Consul, flight, victory: reëntrance of Papal Legate, truce, and new onslaught; and the various turns of war. Petitions there were to National Assembly; Congresses of Townships; threescore and odd Townships voting for French Reunion and the blessings of Liberty; while some twelve of the smaller, manipulated by Aristocrats, gave vote the other way: with shrieks and discord! Township against Township, Town against Town: Carpentras, long jealous of Avignon, is now turned out in open war with it;—and Jourdan Coupe-tête, your first General being killed in mutiny, closes his dye-shop; and does there visibly, with siege-artillery, above all with bluster and tumult, with the 'brave Brigands of Avignon,' beleaguer the rival Town, for two months, in the face of the world.
Feats were done, doubt it not, far-famed in Parish History; but to Universal History unknown. Gibbets we see rise, on the one side and on the other; and wretched carcasses swinging there, a dozen in the row; wretched Mayor of Vaison buried before dead. The fruitful seedfields lie unreaped, the vineyards trampled down; there is red cruelty, madness of universal choler and gall. Havoc and anarchy everywhere; a combustion most fierce, but unlucent, not to be noticed here!—Finally, as we saw, on the 14th of September last, the National Constituent Assembly,—having sent Commissioners and heard them; having heard Petitions, held Debates, month after month ever since August 1789; and on the whole 'spent thirty sittings' on this matter,—did solemnly decree that Avignon and the Comtat were incorporated with France, and his Holiness the Pope should have what indemnity was reasonable.
And so hereby all is amnestied and finished? Alas, when madness of choler has gone through the blood of men, and gibbets have swung on this side and on that, what will a parchment Decree and Lafayette Amnesty do? Oblivious Lethe flows not above ground! Papal Aristocrats and Patriot Brigands are still an eye-sorrow to each other; suspected, suspicious, in what they do and forbear. The august Constituent Assembly is gone but a fortnight, when, on Sunday the Sixteenth morning of October 1791, the unquenched combustion suddenly becomes luminous. For Anti-constitutional Placards are up, and the Statue of the Virgin is said to have shed tears, and grown red. Wherefore, on that morning, Patriot l'Escuyer, one of our 'six leading Patriots,' having taken counsel with his brethren and General Jourdan, determines on going to Church, in company with a friend or two: not to hear mass, which he values little; but to meet all the Papalists there in a body, nay to meet that same weeping Virgin, for it is the Cordeliers Church; and give them a word of admonition. Adventurous errand; which has the fatalest issue! What L'Escuyer's word of admonition might be, no History records; but the answer to it was a shrieking howl from the Aristocrat Papal worshippers, many of them women. A thousand-voiced shriek and menace; which, as L'Escuyer did not fly, became a thousand-handed hustle and jostle; a thousand-footed kick, with tumblings and tramplings, with the pricking of sempstress stilettoes, scissors and female pointed instruments. Horrible to behold; the ancient Dead, and Petrarchan Laura, sleeping round it there: high Altar and burning tapers looking down on it; the Virgin quite tearless, and of the natural stone-colour!—L'Escuyer's friend or two rush off, like Job's Messengers, for Jourdan and the National Force. But heavy Jourdan will seize the Town-Gates first; does not run treble-fast, as he might: on arriving at the Cordeliers Church, the Church is silent, vacant; L'Escuyer, all alone, lies there, swimming in his blood, at the foot of the high Altar; pricked with scissors, trodden, massacred;—gives one dumb sob, and gasps out his miserable life for evermore.
Sight to stir the heart of any man; much more of many men, self-styled Brigands of Avignon! The corpse of L'Escuyer, stretched on a bier, the ghastly head girt with laurel, is borne through the streets; with many-voiced unmelodious Nenia; fimeral-wail still deeper than it is loud! The copper-face of Jourdan, of bereft Patriotism, has grown black. Patriot Municipality despatches official Narrative and tidings to Paris; orders numerous and innumerable arrestments for inquest and perquisition. Aristocrats male and female are haled to the Castle; lie crowded in subterranean dungeons there, bemoaned by the hoarse rushing of the Rhone; cut out from help.
So lie they; waiting inquest and perquisition. Alas, with a Jourdan Headsman for Generalissimo, with his copper-face grown black, and armed Brigand Patriots chanting their Nenia, the inquest is likely to be brief. On the next day and the next, let Municipality consent or not, a Brigand Court-Martial establishes itself in the subterranean storeys of the Castle of Avignon; Brigand Executioners, with naked sabre, waiting at the door for a Brigand verdict. Short judgment, no appeal! There is Brigand wrath and vengeance; not unrefreshed by brandy. Close by is the Dungeon of the Glacière, or Ice-Tower: there may be deeds done—? For which language has no name!—Darkness and the shadow of horrid cruelty envelops these Castle Dungeons, that Glacière Tower: clear only that many have entered, that few have returned. Jourdan and the Brigands, supreme now over Municipals, over all authorities Patriot or Papal, reign in Avignon, waited on by Terror and Silence.
The result of all which is, that, on the 15th of November 1791, we behold friend Dampmartin, and subalterns beneath him, and General Choisi above him, with Infantry and Cavalry, and proper cannon-carriages rattling in front, with spread banners, to the sound of fife and drum, wend, in a deliberate formidable manner, towards that sheer Castle Rock, towards those broad Gates of Avignon; three new National-Assembly Commissioners following at safe distance in the rear. Avignon, summoned in the name of Assembly and Law, flings its Gates wide open; Choisi with the rest, Dampmartin and the 'Bons Enfans, Good Boys, of Baufremont,'—so they name these brave Constitutional Dragoons, known to them of old,—do enter, amid shouts and scattered flowers. To the joy of all honest persons; to the terror only of Jourdan Headsman and the Brigands. Nay next we behold carbuncled swollen Jourdan himself show copper-face, with sabre and four pistols; affecting to talk high; engaging, meanwhile, to surrender the Castle that instant. So the Choisi Grenadiers enter with him there. They start and stop, passing that Glacière, snuffing its horrible breath; with wild yell, with cries of 'Cut the Butcher down!'—and Jourdan has to whisk himself through secret passages, and instantaneously vanish.
Be the mystery of iniquity laid bare, then! A Hundred and Thirty Corpses, of men, nay of women and even children (for the trembling mother, hastily seized, could not leave her infant), lie heaped in that Glacière; putrid, under putridities: the horror of the world. For three days there is mournful lifting out, and recognition; amid the cries and movements of a passionate Southern people, now kneeling in prayer, now storming in wild pity and rage: lastly there is solemn sepulture, with muffled drums, religious requiem, and all the people's wail and tears. Their Massacred rest now in holy ground; buried in one grave.
And Jourdan Coupe-tête? Him also we behold again, after a day or two: in flight, through the most romantic Petrarchan hill-country; vehemently spurring his nag; young Ligonnet, a brisk youth of Avignon, with Choisi Dragoons, close in his rear! With such swollen mass of a rider no nag can run to advantage. The tired nag, spur-driven, does take the River Sorgue; but sticks in the middle of it; firm on that chiaro fondo di Sorga; and will proceed no farther for spurring! Young Ligonnet dashes up; the Copper-face menaces and bellows, draws pistol, perhaps even snaps it; is nevertheless seized by the collar; is tied firm, ankles under horse's belly, and ridden back to Avignon, hardly to be saved from massacre on the streets there.
Such is the combustion of Avignon and the Southwest, when it becomes luminous. Long loud debate is in the august Legislative, in the Mother Society, as to what now shall be done with it. Amnesty, cry eloquent Vergniaud and all Patriots: let there be mutual pardon and repentance, restoration, pacification, and, if so might anyhow be, an end! Which vote ultimately prevails. So the Southwest smoulders and welters again in an 'Amnesty,' or Non-remembrance, which alas cannot but remember, no Lethe flowing above ground! Jourdan himself remains unhanged; gets loose again, as one not yet gallows-ripe; nay, as we transiently discern from the distance, is 'carried in triumph through the cities of the South.' What things men carry!
With which transient glimpse, of a Copper-faced Portent faring in this manner through the cities of the South, we must quit these regions;—and let them smoulder. They want not their Aristocrats; proud old Nobles, not yet emigrated. Arles has its 'Chiffonne,' so, in symbolical cant, they name that Aristocrat Secret-Association; Arles has its pavements piled up, by and by, into Aristocrat barricades. Against which Rebecqui, the hot-clear Patriot, must lead Marseillese with cannon. The Bar of Iron has not yet risen to the top in the Bay of Marseilles; neither have these hot Sons of the Phoceans submitted to be slaves. By clear management and hot instance, Rebecqui dissipates that Chiffonne, without bloodshed; restores the pavement of Arles. He sails in Coast-barks, this Rebecqui, scrutinising suspicious Martello-towers, with the keen eye of Patriotism; marches overland with despatch, singly, or in force; to City after City; dim scouring far and wide;—argues, and if it must be, fights. For there is much to do; Jalès itself is looking suspicious. So that Legislator Fauchet, after debate on it, has to propose Commissioners and a Camp on the Plain of Beaucaire; with or without result.
Of all which, and much else, let us note only this small consequence, that young Barbarous, Advocate, Town-Clerk of Marseilles, being charged to have these things remedied, arrives at Paris in the month of February 1792. The beautiful and brave: young Spartan, ripe in energy, not ripe in wisdom; over whose black doom there shall flit nevertheless a certain ruddy fervour, streaks of bright Southern tint, not wholly swallowed of Death! Note also that the Rolands of Lyons are again in Paris; for the second and final time. King's Inspectorship is abrogated at Lyons, as elsewhere: Roland has his retiring-pension to claim, if attainable; has Patriot friends to commune with; at lowest, has a Book to publish. That young Barbaroux and the Rolands came together; that elderly Spartan Roland liked, or even loved the young Spartan, and was loved by him, one can fancy: and Madame ——? Breathe not, thou poison-breath. Evil-speech! That soul is taintless, clear as the mirror-sea. And yet if they two did look into each other's eyes, and each, in silence, in tragical renunciance, did find that the other was all-too lovely? Honi soit! She calls him 'beautiful as Antinous': he 'will speak elsewhere of that astonishing woman.'—A Madame d'Udon (or some such name, for Dumont does not recollect quite clearly) gives copious Breakfast to the Brissotin Deputies and us Friends of Freedom, at her House in the Place Vendôme; with temporary celebrity, with graces and wreathed smiles; not without cost. There, amid wide babble and jingle, our plan of Legislative Debate is settled for the day, and much counselling held. Strict Roland is seen there, but does not go often.
Such are our inward troubles; seen in the Cities of the South; extant, seen or unseen, in all cities and districts, North as well as South. For in all are Aristocrats, more or less malignant; watched by Patriotism; which again, being of various shades, from light Fayettist-Feuillant down to deep-sombre Jacobin, has to watch even itself.
Directories of Departments, what we call County Magistracies, being chosen by Citizens of a too 'active' class, are found to pull one way; Municipalities, Town Magistracies, to pull the other way. In all places too are Dissident Priests; whom the Legislative will have to deal with; contumacious individuals, working on that angriest of passions; plotting, enlisting for Coblentz; or suspected of plotting: fuel of a universal unconstitutional heat. What to do with them? They may be conscientious as well as contumacious: gently they should be dealt with, and yet it must be speedily. In unilluminated La Vendée the simple are like to be seduced by them; many a simple peasant, a Cathelineau the wooldealer wayfaring meditative with his woolpacks, in these hamlets, dubiously shakes his head! Two Assembly Commissioners went thither last Autumn; considerate Gensonné, not yet called to be a senator; Gallois, an editorial man. These Two, consulting with General Dumouriez, spake and worked, softly, with judgment; they have hushed down the irritation, and produced a soft Report,—for the time.
The General himself doubts not in the least but he can keep peace there; being an able man. He passes these frosty months among the pleasant people of Niort, occupies 'tolerably handsome apartments in the Castle of Niort,' and tempers the minds of men. Why is there but one Dumouriez? Elsewhere you find, South or North, nothing but untempered obscure jarring; which breaks forth ever and anon into open clangour of riot. Southern Perpignan has its tocsin, by torchlight; with rushing and onslaught: Northern Caen, not less, by daylight; with Aristocrats ranged in arms at Places of Worship; Departmental compromise proving impossible; breaking into musketry and a Plot discovered! Add Hunger too: for bread, always dear, is getting dearer: not so much as Sugar can be had; for good reasons. Poor Simoneau, Mayor of Étampes, in this Northern region, hanging out his Red Flag in some riot of grains, is trampled to death by a hungry exasperated People. What a trade this of Mayor, in these times! Mayor of Saint-Denis hung at the Lanterne, by Suspicion and Dyspepsia, as we saw long since; Mayor of Vaison, as we saw lately, buried before dead; and now this poor Simoneau the Tanner, of Étampes,—whom legal Constitutionalism will not forget.
With factions, suspicions, want of bread and sugar, it is verily what they call déchiré, torn asunder, this poor country: France and all that is French. For, over seas too come bad news. In black Saint-Domingo, before that variegated Glitter in the Champs Élysées was lit for an Accepted Constitution, there had risen, and was burning contemporary with it, quite another variegated Glitter and nocturnal Fulgor, had we known it: of molasses and ardent-spirits; of sugar-boileries, plantations, furniture, cattle and men: sky-high; the Plain of Cap Français one huge whirl of smoke and flame!
What a change here, in these two years; since that first 'Box of Tricolor Cockades' got through the Custom-house and atrabiliar Creoles too rejoiced that there was a levelling of Bastilles! Levelling is comfortable, as we often say: levelling, yet only down to oneself. Your pale-white Creoles have their grievances:—and your yellow Quarteroons? And your dark-yellow Mulattoes? And your Slaves soot-black? Quarteroon Ogé, Friend of our Parisian-Brissotin Friends of the Blacks, felt, for his share too, that Insurrection was the most sacred of duties. So the tricolor Cockades had fluttered and swashed only some three months on the Creole hat, when Ogé's signal conflagrations went aloft; with the voice of rage and terror. Repressed, doomed to die, he took black powder or seedgrains in the hollow of his hand, this Ogé; sprinkled a film of white ones on the top, and said to his Judges, 'Behold, they are white'; then shook his hand, and said, 'Where are the whites, Où sont les blancs?'
So now, in the Autumn of 1791, looking from the sky-windows of Cap Français, thick clouds of smoke girdle our horizon, smoke in the day, in the night fire; preceded by fugitive shrieking white women, by Terror and Rumour. Black demonised squadrons are massacring and harrying, with nameless cruelty. They fight and fire 'from behind thickets and coverts,' for the Black man loves the Bush; they rush to the attack, thousands strong, with brandished cutlasses and fusils, with caperings, shoutings and vociferation,—which, if the White Volunteer Company stands firm, dwindle into staggerings, into quick gabblement, into panic flight at the first volley, perhaps before it. Poor Ogé could be broken on the wheel; this fire-whirlwind too can be abated, driven up into the Mountains: but Saint-Domingo is shaken, as Ogé's seedgrains were; shaking, writhing in long horrid death-throes, it is Black without remedy; and remains, as African Haiti, a monition to the world.
O my Parisian Friends, is not this, as well as Regraters and Feuillant Plotters, one cause of the astonishing dearth of Sugar! The Grocer, palpitant, with drooping lip, sees his Sugar taxé; weighed out by female Patriotism, in instant retail, at the inadequate rate of twenty-five sous, or thirteen pence a pound. 'Abstain from it?' Yes, ye Patriot Sections, all ye Jacobins, abstain! Louvet and Collot-d'Herbois so advise; resolute to make the sacrifice; though 'how shall literary men do without coffee?' Abstain, with an oath; that is the surest!
Also, for like reason, must not Brest and the Shipping Interest languish? Poor Brest languishes, sorrowing, not without spleen; denounces an Aristocrat Bertrand-Moleville, traitorous Aristocrat Marine-Minister. Do not her Ships and King's Ships lie rotting piecemeal in harbour; Naval Officers mostly fled, and on furlough too, with pay? Little stirring there; if it be not the Brest Galleys, whip-driven, with their Galley-Slaves,—alas, with some Forty of our hapless Swiss Soldiers of Château-Vieux, among others! These Forty Swiss, too mindful of Nanci, do now, in their red wool caps, tug sorrowfully at the oar; looking into the Atlantic brine, which reflects only their own sorrowful shaggy faces; and seem forgotten of Hope.
But, on the whole, may we not say, in figurative language, that the French Constitution which shall march is very rheumatic, full of shooting internal pains, in joint and muscle; and will not march without difficulty?
KINGS AND EMIGRANTS
Extremely rheumatic Constitutions have been known to march, and keep on their feet, though in a staggering sprawling manner, for long periods, in virtue of one thing only: that the Head were healthy. But this Head of the French Constitution! What King Louis is and cannot help being, Readers already know. A King who cannot take the Constitution, nor reject the Constitution: nor do anything at all, but miserably ask, What shall I do? A King environed with endless confusions; in whose own mind is no germ of order. Haughty implacable remnants of Noblesse struggling with humiliated repentant Barnave-Lameths; struggling in that obscure element of fetchers and carriers, of Half-pay braggarts from the Café Valois, of Chambermaids, whisperers, and subaltern officious persons; fierce Patriotism looking on all the while, more and more suspicious, from without: what, in such struggle, can they do? At best, cancel one another, and produce zero. Poor King! Barnave and your Senatorial Jaucourts speak earnestly into this ear; Bertrand-Moleville, and Messengers from Coblentz, speak earnestly into that: the poor Royal head turns to the one side and to the other side; can turn itself fixedly to no side. Let Decency drop a veil over it: sorrier misery was seldom enacted in the world. This one small fact, does it not throw the saddest light on much? The Queen is lamenting to Madame Campan: 'What am I to do? When they, these Barnaves, get us advised to any step which the Noblesse do not like, then I am pouted at; nobody comes to my card-table; the King's Couchee is solitary.' In such a case of dubiety, what is one to do? Go inevitably to the ground!
The King has accepted this Constitution, knowing beforehand that it will not serve: he studies it, and executes it in the hope mainly that it will be found inexecutable. King's Ships lie rotting in harbour, their officers gone; the Armies disorganised; robbers scour the Highways, which wear down unrepaired; all Public Service lies slack and waste: the Executive makes no effort, or an effort only to throw the blame on the Constitution. Shamming death, 'faisant la mort!' What Constitution, use it in this manner, can march? 'Grow to disgust the Nation,' it will truly, unless you first grow to disgust the Nation! It is Bertrand de Moleville's plan, and his Majesty's; the best they can form.
Or if, after all, this best-plan proved too slow; proved a failure? Provident of that too, the Queen, shrouded in deepest mystery, 'writes all day, in cipher, day after day, to Coblentz'; Engineer Goguelat, he of the Night of Spurs, whom the Lafayette Amnesty has delivered from Prison, rides and runs. Now and then, on fit occasion, a Royal familiar visit can be paid to that Salle de Manége, an affecting encouraging Royal Speech (sincere, doubt it not, for the moment) can be delivered there, and the Senators all cheer and almost weep;—at the same time Mallet du Pan has visibly ceased editing, and invisibly bears abroad a King's Autograph, soliciting help from the Foreign Potentates. Unhappy Louis, do this thing or else that other,—if thou couldst!
The thing which the King's Government did do was to stagger distractedly from contradiction to contradiction; and wedding Fire to Water, envelope itself in hissing and ashy steam. Danton and needy corruptible Patriots are sopped with presents of cash: they accept the sop; they rise refreshed by it, and—travel their own way. Nay, the King's Government did likewise hire Hand-clappers, or claqueurs, persons to applaud. Subterranean Rivarol has Fifteen Hundred Men in King's pay, at the rate of some 10,000l. sterling per month; what he calls 'a staff of genius': Paragraph-writers, Placard Journalists; 'two hundred and eighty Applauders, at three shillings a day': one of the strangest Staffs ever commanded by man,—the muster-rolls and account-books of which still exist. Bertrand-Moleville himself, in a way he thinks very dexterous, contrives to pack the Galleries of the Legislative; gets Sansculottes hired to go thither, and applaud at a signal given, they fancying it was Pétion that bade them: a device which was not detected for almost a week. Dexterous enough; as if a man, finding the Day fast decline, should determine on altering the Clock-hands: that is a thing possible for him.
Here too let us note an unexpected apparition of Philippe d'Orléans at Court: his last at the Levee of any King. D'Orléans, some time in the winter months seemingly, has been appointed to that old first-coveted rank of Admiral,—though only over ships rotting in port. The wished-for comes too late! However, he waits on Bertrand-Moleville to give thanks: nay to state that he would willingly thank his Majesty in person; that, in spite of all the horrible things men have said and sung, he is far from being his Majesty's enemy; at bottom, how far! Bertrand delivers the message, brings about the royal Interview, which does pass to the satisfaction of his Majesty; D'Orleans seeming clearly repentant, determined to turn over a new leaf. And yet, next Sunday, what do we see? 'Next Sunday,' says Bertrand, 'he came to the King's Levee; but the Courtiers ignorant of what had passed, the Crowd of Royalists who were accustomed to resort thither on that day specially to pay their court, gave him the most humiliating reception. They came pressing round him; managing, as if by mistake, to tread on his toes, to elbow him towards the door, and not let him enter again. He went down-stairs to her Majesty's Apartments, where cover was laid; so soon as he showed face, sounds rose on all sides, "Messieurs, take care of the dishes," as if he had carried poison in his pockets. The insults, which his presence everywhere excited, forced him to retire without having seen the Royal Family: the crowd followed him to the Queen's staircase; in descending, he received a spitting (crachat) on the head, and some others on his clothes. Rage and spite were seen visibly painted on his face': as indeed how could they miss to be? He imputes it all to the King and Queen, who know nothing of it, who are even much grieved at it; and so descends to his Chaos again. Bertrand was there at the Château that day himself, and an eye-witness to these things.
For the rest, Non-jurant Priests, and the repression of them, will distract the King's conscience; Emigrant Princes and Noblesse will force him to double-dealing: there must be veto on veto; amid the ever-waxing indignation of men. For Patriotism, as we said, looks on from without, more and more suspicious. Waxing tempest, blast after blast, of Patriotic indignation, from without; dim inorganic whirl of Intrigues, Fatuities, within! Inorganic, fatuous; from which the eye turns away. De Staël intrigues for her so gallant Narbonne, to get him made War-Minister; and ceases not, having got him made. The King shall fly to Rouen; shall there, with the gallant Narbonne, properly 'modify the Constitution.' This is the same brisk Narbonne, who, last year, cut out from their entanglement, by force of dragoons, those poor fugitive Royal Aunts: men say he is at bottom their Brother, or even more, so scandalous is scandal. He drives now, with his De Staël, rapidly to the Armies, to the Frontier Towns; produces rose-coloured Reports, not too credible; perorates, gesticulates; wavers poising himself on the top, for a moment, seen of men; then tumbles, dismissed, washed away by the Time-flood.
Also the fair Princess de Lamballe intrigues, bosom-friend of her Majesty: to the angering of Patriotism. Beautiful Unfortunate, why did she ever return from England? Her small silver-voice, what can it profit in that piping of the black World-tornado? which will whirl her, poor fragile Bird of Paradise, against grim rocks. Lamballe and De Staël intrigue visibly, apart or together: but who shall reckon how many others, and in what infinite ways, invisibly! Is there not what one may call an 'Austrian Committee,' sitting invisible in the Tuileries; centre of an invisible Anti-National Spiderweb, which, for we sleep among mysteries, stretches its threads to the ends of the Earth? Journalist Carra has now the clearest certainty of it: to Brissotin Patriotism, and France generally, it is growing more and more probable.
O Reader, hast thou no pity for this Constitution? Rheumatic shooting pains in its members; pressure of hydrocephale and hysteric vapours on its Brain: a Constitution divided against itself; which will never march, hardly even stagger! Why were not Drouet and Procureur Sausse in their beds, that unblessed Varennes Night? Why did they not, in the name of Heaven, let the Korff Berline go whither it listed? Nameless incoherency, incompatibility, perhaps prodigies at which the world still shudders, had been spared.
But now comes the third thing that bodes ill for the marching of this French Constitution: besides the French People, and the French King, there is thirdly—the assembled European World. It has become necessary now to look at that also. Fair France is so luminous: and round and round it, is troublous Cimmerian Night. Calonnes, Breteuils hover dim, far-flown; overnetting Europe with intrigues. From Turin to Vienna; to Berlin, and utmost Petersburg in the frozen North! Great Burke has raised his great voice long ago; eloquently demonstrating that the end of an Epoch is come, to all appearance the end of Civilised Time. Him many answer: Camille Desmoulins, Clootz Speaker of Mankind, Paine the rebellious Needleman, and honourable Gaelic Vindicators in that country and in this: but the great Burke remains unanswerable; 'the Age of Chivalry is gone,' and could not but go, having now produced the still more indomitable Age of Hunger. Altars enough, of the Dubois-Rohan sort, changing to the Gobel-and-Talleyrand sort, are faring by rapid transmutations to—shall we say, the right Proprietor of them? French Game and French Game-Preservers did alight on the Cliffs of Dover, with cries of distress. Who will say that the end of much is not come? A set of mortals has risen, who believe that Truth is not a printed Speculation, but a practical Fact; that Freedom and Brotherhood are possible in this Earth, supposed always to be Belial's, which 'the Supreme Quack' was to inherit! Who will say that Church, State, Throne, Altar are not in danger; that the sacred Strongbox itself, last Palladium of effete Humanity, may not be blasphemously blown upon, and its padlocks undone?
The poor Constituent Assembly might act with what delicacy and diplomacy it would; declare that it abjured meddling with its neighbours, foreign conquest, and so forth; but from the first this thing was to be predicted: that old Europe and new France could not subsist together. A Glorious Revolution, oversetting State-Prisons and Feudalism; publishing, with outburst of Federative Cannon, in face of all the Earth, that Appearance is not Reality, how shall it subsist amid Governments which, if Appearance is not Reality, are—one knows not what? In death-feud, and internecine wrestle and battle, it shall subsist with them; not otherwise.
Rights of Man, printed on Cotton Handkerchiefs, in various dialects of human speech, pass over to the Frankfort Fair. What say we, Frankfort Fair? They have crossed Euphrates, and the fabulous Hydaspes; wafted themselves beyond the Ural, Altai, Himalayah; struck off from wood stereotypes, in angular Picture-writing, they are jabbered and jingled of in China and Japan. Where will it stop? Kien-Lung smells mischief; not the remotest Dalai-Lama shall now knead his dough-pills in peace.—Hateful to us, as is the Night! Bestir yourselves, ye Defenders of Order! They do bestir themselves: all Kings and Kinglets, with their spiritual temporal array, are astir; their brows clouded with menace. Diplomatic emissaries fly swift; Conventions, privy Conclaves assemble; and wise wigs wag, taking what counsel they can.
Also, as we said, the Pamphleteer draws pen, on this side and that: zealous fists beat the Pulpit-drum. Not without issue! Did not iron Birmingham, shouting 'Church and King,' itself knew not why, burst out, last July, into rage, drunkenness and fire; and your Priestleys, and the like, dining there on that Bastille day, get the maddest singeing; scandalous to consider! In which same days, as we can remark, High Potentates, Austrian and Prussian, with Emigrants, were faring towards Pilnitz in Saxony; there, on the 27th of August, they, keeping to themselves what further 'secret Treaty' there might or might not be, did publish their hopes and their threatenings, their Declaration that it was 'the common cause of Kings.'
Where a will to quarrel is, there is a way. Our readers remember that Pentecost-Night, Fourth of August 1789, when Feudalism fell in a few hours? The National Assembly, in abolishing Feudalism, promised that 'compensation' should be given; and did endeavour to give it. Nevertheless the Austrian Kaiser answers that his German Princes, for their part, cannot be unfeudalised; that they have Possessions in French Alsace, and Feudal Rights secured to them, for which no conceivable compensation will suffice. So this of the Possessioned Princes, 'Princes possessionés,' is bandied from Court to Court; covers acres of diplomatic paper at this day: a weariness to the world. Kaunitz argues from Vienna; Delessarts responds from Paris, though perhaps not sharply enough. The Kaiser and his Possessioned Princes will too evidently come and take compensation,—so much as they can get. Nay might one not partition France, as we have done Poland, and are doing; and so pacify it with a vengeance?
From South to North! For actually it is 'the common cause of Kings.' Swedish Gustav, sworn Knight of the Queen of France, will lead Coalised Armies;—had not Ankarström treasonously shot him; for, indeed, there were griefs nearer home. Austria and Prussia speak at Pilnitz; all men intensely listening. Imperial Rescripts have gone out from Turin; there will be secret Convention at Vienna. Catherine of Russia beckons approvingly; will help, were she ready. Spanish Bourbon stirs amid his pillows; from him too, even from him, shall there come help. Lean Pitt, 'the Minister of Preparatives,' looks out from his watch-tower in Saint James's, in a suspicious manner. Councillors plotting, Calonnes dim-hovering;—alas, Sergeants rub-a-dubbing openly through all manner of German market-towns, collecting ragged valour! Look where you will, immeasurable Obscurantism is girdling this fair France; which, again, will not be girdled by it. Europe is in travail; pang after pang; what a shriek was that of Pilnitz! The birth will be: War.
Nay, the worst feature of the business is this last, still to be named; the Emigrants at Coblentz. So many thousands ranking there, in bitter hate and menace: King's Brothers, all Princes of the Blood except wicked D'Orléans; your duelling De Castries, your eloquent Cazalès; bull-headed Malseigne, a wargod Broglie; Distaff Seigneurs, insulted Officers, all that have ridden across the Rhine-stream;—D'Artois welcoming Abbé Maury with a kiss, and clasping him publicly to his own royal heart! Emigration, flowing over the Frontiers, now in drops, now in streams, in various humours of fear, of petulance, rage and hope, ever since those first Bastille days when D'Artois went, 'to shame the citizens of Paris,'—has swollen to the size of a Phenomenon for the world. Coblentz is become a small extra-national Versailles; a Versailles in partibus: briguing, intriguing, favouritism, strumpetocracy itself, they say, goes on there; all the old activities, on a small scale, quickened by hungry Revenge.
Enthusiasm, of loyalty, of hatred and hope, has risen to a high pitch; as, in any Coblentz tavern you may hear, in speech and in singing. Maury assists in the interior Council; much is decided on: for one thing, they keep lists of the dates of your emigrating; a month sooner, or a month later, determines your greater or your less right to the coming Division of the Spoil. Cazalès himself, because he had occasionally spoken with a Constitutional tone, was looked on coldly at first: so pure are our principles, And arms are a-hammering at Liége; 'three thousand horses' ambling hitherward from the Fairs of Germany: Cavalry enrolling; likewise Foot-soldiers, 'in blue coat, red waistcoat and nankeen trousers.' They have their secret domestic correspondences, as their open foreign: with disaffected Crypto-Aristocrats, with contumacious Priests, with Austrian Committee in the Tuileries. Deserters are spirited over by assiduous crimps; Royal-Allemand is gone almost wholly. Their route of march, towards France and the Division of the Spoil, is marked out, were the Kaiser once ready. 'It is said, they mean to poison the sources; but,' adds Patriotism making report of it, 'they will not poison the source of Liberty'; whereat on applaudit, we cannot but applaud. Also they have manufactories of False Assignats; and men that circulate in the interior, distributing and disbursing the same; one of these we denounce now to Legislative Patriotism: 'a man Lebrun by name; about thirty years of age, with blonde hair and in quantity; has,' only for the time being surely, 'a black-eye, œil poché; goes in a wiski with a black horse,' always keeping his Gig!
Unhappy Emigrants, it was their lot, and the lot of France! They are ignorant of much that they should know: of themselves, of what is around them. A Political Party that knows not when it is beaten, may become one of the fatalest of things, to itself, and to all. Nothing will convince these men that they cannot scatter the French Revolution at the first blast of their war-trumpet; that the French Revolution is other than a blustering Effervescence, of brawlers and spouters, which, at the flash of chivalrous broadswords, at the rustle of gallows-ropes, will burrow itself, in dens the deeper the welcomer. But, alas, what man does know and measure himself, and the things that are round him;—else where were the need of physical fighting at all? Never, till they are cleft asunder, can these heads believe that a Sansculottic arm has any vigour in it: cleft asunder, it will be too late to believe.
One may say, without spleen against his poor erring brothers of any side, that above all other mischiefs, this of the Emigrant Nobles acted fatally on France. Could they have known, could they have understood! In the beginning of 1789, a splendour and a terror still surrounded them: the Conflagration of their Châteaus, kindled by months of obstinacy, went out after the Fourth of August; and might have continued out, had they at all known what to defend, what to relinquish as indefensible. They were still a graduated Hierarchy of Authorities, or the accredited similitude of such: they sat there, uniting King with Commonalty; transmitting and translating gradually, from degree to degree, the command of the one into the obedience of the other; rendering command and obedience still possible. Had they understood their place, and what to do in it, this French Revolution, which went forth explosively in years and in months, might have spread itself over generations; and not a torture-death but a quiet euthanasia have been provided for many things.
But they were proud and high, these men; they were not wise to consider. They spurned all from them in disdainful hate, they drew the sword and flung away the scabbard. France has not only no Hierarchy of Authorities, to translate command into obedience; its Hierarchy of Authorities has fled to the enemies of France; calls loudly on the enemies of France to interfere armed, who want but a pretext to do that. Jealous Kings and Kaisers might have looked on long, meditating interference, yet afraid and ashamed to interfere: but now do not the King's Brothers, and all French Nobles, Dignitaries and Authorities that are free to speak, which the King himself is not,—passionately invite us, in the name of Right and of Might? Ranked at Coblentz, from Fifteen to Twenty thousand stand now brandishing their weapons, with the cry: On, on! Yes, Messieurs, you shall on;—and divide the spoil according to your dates of emigrating.
Of all which things a poor Legislative Assembly, and Patriot France, is informed: by denunciant friend, by triumphant foe. Sulleau's Pamphlets, of the Rivarol Staff of Genius, circulate; heralding supreme hope. Durosoy's Placards tapestry the walls; Chant du Coq crows day, pecked at by Talien's Ami des Citoyens. King's-Friend Royou, Ami du Roi, can name, in exact arithmetical ciphers, the contingents of the various Invading Potentates; in all, Four hundred and nineteen thousand Foreign fighting men, with Fifteen thousand Emigrants. Not to reckon these your daily and hourly desertions, which an Editor must daily record, of whole Companies, and even Regiments, crying Vive le Roi, Vive la Reine, and marching over with banners spread:—lies all, and wind; yet to Patriotism not wind; nor, alas, one day, to Royou! Patriotism, therefore, may brawl and babble yet a little while: but its hours are numbered: Europe is coming with Four hundred and nineteen thousand and the Chivalry of France; the gallows, one may hope, will get its own.
BRIGANDS AND JALES
We shall have War, then; and on what terms! With an Executive 'pretending,' really with less and less deceptiveness now, 'to be dead'; casting even a wishful eye towards the enemy: on such terms we shall have War.
Public Functionary in vigorous action there is none; if it be not Rivarol with his Staff of Genius and Two hundred and eighty Applauders. The Public Service lies waste; the very Taxgatherer has forgotten his cunning: in this and the other Provincial Board of Management (Directoire de Département) it is found advisable to retain what Taxes you can gather, to pay your own inevitable expenditures. Our Revenue is Assignats; emission on emission of Paper-money. And the Army; our Three grand Armies, of Rochambeau, of Lückner, of Lafayette? Lean, disconsolate hover these Three grand Armies, watching the Frontiers there; three Flights of longnecked Cranes in moulting-time;—wrecked, disobedient, disorganised; who never saw fire; the old Generals and Officers gone across the Rhine. War-Minister Narbonne, he of the rose-coloured Reports, solicits recruitments, equipments, money, always money; threatens, since he can get none, to 'take his sword,' which belongs to himself, and go serve his country with that.
The question of questions is: What shall be done? Shall we, with a desperate defiance which Fortune sometimes favours, draw the sword at once, in the face of this inrushing world of Emigration and Obscurantism; or wait, and temporise and diplomatise, till, if possible, our resources mature themselves a little? And yet again, are our resources growing towards maturity; or growing the other way? Dubious: the ablest Patriots are divided; Brissot and his Brissotins, or Girondins, in the Legislative, cry aloud for the former defiant plan; Bobespierre, in the Jacobins, pleads as loud for the latter dilatory one: with responses, even with mutual reprimands; distracting the Mother of Patriotism. Consider also what agitated Breakfasts there may be at Madame d'Udon's in the Place Vendôme! The alarm of all men is great. Help, ye Patriots; and O at least agree; for the hour presses. Frost was not yet gone, when in that 'tolerably handsome apartment of the Castle of Niort,' there arrived a Letter: General Dumouriez must to Paris. It is War-Minister Narbonne that writes; the General shall give counsel about many things. In the month of February 1792, Brissotin friends welcome their Dumouriez Polymetis,—comparable really to an antique Ulysses in modem costume; quick, elastic, shifty, insuppressible, a 'many-counselled man.'
Let the Reader fancy this fair France with a whole Cimmerian Europe girdling her, rolling in on her, black, to burst in red thunder of War; fair France herself hand-shackled and foot-shackled in the weltering complexities of this Social Clothing, or Constitution, which they have made for her; a France that, in such Constitution, cannot march! And Hunger too; and plotting Aristocrats, and excommunicating Dissident Priests: 'the man Lebrun by name' urging his black wiski, visible to the eye; and, still more terrible in his invisibility, Engineer Goguelat, with Queen's cipher, riding and running!
The excommunicatory Priests give new trouble in the Maine and Loire; La Vendée, nor Cathelineau the wool-dealer, has not ceased grumbling and rumbling. Nay behold Jalès itself once more: how often does that real-imaginary Camp of the Fiend require to be extinguished! For near two years now, it has waned faint and again waxed bright, in the bewildered soul of Patriotism: actually, if Patriotism knew it, one of the most surprising products of Nature working with Art. Royalist Seigneurs, under this or the other pretext, assemble the simple people of these Cevennes Mountains; men not unused to revolt, and with heart for fighting, could their poor heads be got persuaded. The Royalist Seigneur harangues; harping mainly on the religious string: 'True Priests maltreated, false Priests intruded, Protestants (once dragooned) now triumphing, things sacred given to the dogs'; and so produces, from the pious Mountaineer throat, rough growlings:—'Shall we not testify, then, ye brave hearts of the Cevennes; march to the rescue? Holy Religion; duty to God and the King?'—'Si fait, si fait, Just so, just so,' answer the brave hearts always: 'Mais il y a de bien bonnes choses dans la Révolution, But there are main good things in the Revolution too!'—And so the matter, cajole as we may, will only turn on its axis, not stir from the spot, and remains theatrical merely.
Nevertheless deepen your cajolery, harp quick and quicker, ye Royalist Seigneurs; with a dead-lift effort you may bring it to that. In the month of June next, this Camp of Jalès will step forth as a theatricality suddenly become real; Two thousand strong, and with the boast that it is Seventy thousand: most strange to see; with flags flying, bayonets fixed; with Proclamation, and D'Artois Commission of civil war! Let some Rebecqui, or other the like hot-clear Patriot; let some 'Lieutenant-Colonel Aubry,' if Rebecqui is busy elsewhere, raise instantaneous National Guards, and disperse and dissolve it; and blow the Old Castle asunder, that so, if possible, we hear of it no more!
In the Months of February and March, it is recorded, the terror, especially of rural France, had risen even to the transcendental pitch: not far from madness. In Town and Hamlet is rumour, of war, massacre: that Austrians, Aristocrats, above all, that The Brigands are close by. Men quit their houses and huts; rash fugitive, shrieking, with wife and child, they know not whither. Such a terror, the eye-witnesses say, never fell on a Nation; nor shall again fall, even in Reigns of Terror expressly so called. The Countries of the Loire, all the Central and Southeast regions, start up distracted, 'simultaneously as by an electric shock';—for indeed grain too gets scarcer and scarcer. 'The people barricade the entrances of Towns, pile stones in the upper stories, the women prepare boiling water; from moment to moment, expecting the attack. In the Country, the alarm-bell rings incessant; troops of peasants, gathered by it, scour the highways, seeking an imaginary enemy. They are armed mostly with scythes stuck in wood; and, arriving in wild troops at the barricaded Towns, are themselves sometimes taken for Brigands.'
So rushes old France: old France is rushing down. What the end will be is known to no mortal; that the end is near all mortals may know.
CONSTITUTION WILL NOT MARCH
To all which our poor Legislative, tied up by an unmarching Constitution, can oppose nothing, by way of remedy, but mere bursts of parliamentary eloquence! They go on, debating, denouncing, objurgating: loud weltering Chaos, which devours itself.
But their two thousand and odd Decrees? Reader, these happily concern not thee, nor me. Mere Occasional-Decrees, foolish and not foolish; sufficient for that day was its own evil! Of the whole two thousand there are not now half a score, and these mostly blighted in the bud by royal Veto, that will profit or disprofit us. On the 17th January, the Legislative, for one thing, got its High Court, its Haute Cour, set up at Orléans. The theory had been given by the Constituent, in May last, but this is the reality: a Court for the trial of Political Offences; a Court which cannot want work. To this it was decreed that there needed no royal Acceptance, therefore that there could be no Veto. Also Priests can now be married; ever since last October. A patriotic adventurous Priest had made bold to marry himself then; and not thinking this enough, came to the bar with his new spouse; that the whole world might hold honeymoon with him, and a Law be obtained.
Less joyful are the Laws against Refractory Priests; and yet not less needful! Decrees on Priests and Decrees on Emigrants; these are the two brief Series of Decrees, worked out with endless debate, and then cancelled by Veto, which mainly concern us here. For an august National Assembly must needs conquer these Refractories, Clerical or Laic, and thumbscrew them into obedience: yet, behold, always as you turn your legislative thumbscrew, and will press and even crush till Refractories give way,—King's Veto steps in with magical paralysis; and your thumbscrew, hardly squeezing, much less crushing, does not act!
Truly a melancholy Set of Decrees, a pair of Sets; paralysed by Veto! First, under date the 28th of October 1791, we have Legislative Proclamation, issued by herald and bill-sticker; inviting Monsieur, the King's Brother, to return within two months, under penalties. To which invitation Monsieur replies nothing; or indeed replies by Newspaper Parody, inviting the august Legislative 'to return to common sense within two months,' under penalties. Whereupon the Legislative must take stronger measures. So, on the 9th of November, we declare all Emigrants to be 'suspect of conspiracy'; and, in brief, to be 'outlawed,' if they have not returned at Newyear's-day:—Will the King say Veto? That 'triple impost' shall be levied on these men's Properties, or even their Properties be 'put in sequestration,' one can understand. But further, on Newyear's-day itself, not an individual having 'returned,' we declare, and with fresh emphasis some fortnight later again declare. That Monsieur is déchu, forfeited of his eventful Heirship to the Crown; nay more, that Condé, Calonne, and a considerable List of others are accused of high treason; and shall be judged by our High Court of Orléans: Veto!—Then again as to Non-jurant Priests: it was decreed, in November last, that they should forfeit what Pensions they had; be 'put under inspection, under surveillance,' and, if need were, be banished: Veto! A still sharper turn is coming; but to this also the answer will be, Veto.
Veto after Veto; your thumbscrew paralysed! Gods and men may see that the Legislative is in a false position. As, alas, who is in a true one? Voices already murmur for a 'National Convention.' This poor Legislative, spurred and stung into action by a whole France and a whole Europe, cannot act; can only objurgate and perorate; with stormy 'motions,' and motion in which is no way; with effervescence, with noise and fuliginous fury!
What scenes in that National Hall! President jingling his inaudible bell; or, as utmost signal of distress, clapping on his hat; 'the tumult subsiding in twenty minutes,' and this or the other indiscreet Member sent to the Abbaye Prison for three days! Suspected Persons must be summoned and questioned; old M. de Sombreuil of the Invalides has to give account of himself, and why he leaves his Gates open. Unusual smoke rose from the Sèvres Pottery, indicating conspiracy; the Potters explained that it was Necklace-Lamotte's Mémoires, bought up by her Majesty, which they were endeavouring to suppress by fire, which nevertheless he that runs may still read.
Again, it would seem, Duke de Brissac and the King's Constitutional-Guard are 'making cartridges secretly in the cellars': a set of Royalists, pure and impure; black cutthroats many of them, picked out of gaming-houses and sinks; in all Six thousand instead of Eighteen hundred; who evidently gloom on us every time we enter the Château. Wherefore, with infinite debate, let Brissac and King's Guard, be disbanded. Disbanded accordingly they are; after only two months of existence, for they did not get on foot till March of this same year. So ends briefly the King's new Constitutional Maison Militaire; he must now be guarded by mere Swiss and blue Nationals again. It seems the lot of Constitutional things. New Constitutional Maison Civile he would never even establish, much as Barnave urged it; old resident Duchesses sniffed at it, and held aloof; on the whole her Majesty thought it not worth while, the Noblesse would so soon be back triumphant.
Or, looking still into this National Hall and its scenes, behold Bishop Torné, a Constitutional Prelate, not of severe morals, demanding that 'religious costumes and such caricatures' be abolished. Bishop Torné warms, catches fire; finishes by untying, and indignantly flinging on the table, as if for gage or bet, his own pontifical cross. Which cross, at any rate, is instantly covered by the cross of Te-Deum Fauchet, then by other crosses and insignia, till all are stripped; this clerical Senator clutching off his skull-cap, that other his frill-collar,—lest Fanaticism return on us.
Quick is the movement here! And then so confused, unsubstantial, you might call it almost spectral: pallid, dim, inane, like the Kingdoms of Dis! Unruly Linguet, shrunk to a kind of spectre for us, pleads here some cause that he has; amid rumour and interruption, which excel human patience: he 'tears his papers, and withdraws,' the irascible adust little man. Nay honourable Members will tear their papers, being effervescent: Merlin of Thionville tears his papers, crying: 'So, the People cannot be saved by you!' Nor are Deputations wanting: Deputations of Sections; generally with complaint and denouncement, always with Patriot fervour of sentiment: Deputation of Women, pleading that they also may be allowed to take Pikes, and exercise in the Champ-de-Mars. Why not, ye Amazons, if it be in you? Then occasionally, having done our message and got answer, we 'defile through the Hall singing ça-ira'; or rather roll and whirl through it, 'dancing our ronde patriotique the while,'—our new Carmagnole, or Pyrrhic war-dance and liberty-dance. Patriot Huguenin, Ex-Advocate, Ex-Carbineer, Ex-Clerk of the Barriers, comes deputed, with Saint-Antoine at his heels; denouncing Anti-patriotism, Famine, Forestalment and Man-eaters; asks an august Legislative: 'Is there not a tocsin in your hearts against these mangeurs d'hommes!'
But above all things, for this is a continual business, the Legislative has to reprimand the King's Ministers. Of his Majesty's Ministers we have said hitherto, and say, next to nothing. Still more spectral these! Sorrowful; of no permanency any of them, none at least since Montmorin vanished: the 'eldest of the King's Council' is occasionally not ten days old. Feuillant-Constitutional, as your respectable Cahier de Gerville, as your respectable unfortunate Delessarts; or Royalist-Constitutional, as Montmorin last Friend of Necker; or Aristocrat, as Bertrand-Moleville: they flit there phantom-like, in the huge simmering confusion; poor shadows, dashed in the racking winds; powerless, without meaning;—whom the human memory need not charge itself with.
But how often, we say, are these poor Majesty's Ministers summoned over; to be questioned, tutored; nay threatened, almost bullied! They answer what, with adroitest simulation and casuistry, they can: of which a poor Legislative knows not what to make. One thing only is clear, That Cimmerian Europe is girdling us in; that France (not actually dead, surely?) cannot march. Have a care, ye Ministers! Sharp Guadet transfixes you with cross-questions, with sudden Advocate-conclusions; the sleeping tempest that is in Vergniaud can be awakened. Restless Brissot brings up Reports, Accusations, endless thin Logic; it is the man's highday even now. Condorcet redacts, with his firm pen, our 'Address of the Legislative Assembly to the French Nation.' Fiery Max Isnard, who, for the rest, will 'carry not Fire and Sword' on those Cimmerian Enemies, 'but Liberty,'—is for declaring 'that we hold Ministers responsible; and that by responsibility we mean death, nous entendons la mort.'
For verily it grows serious: the time presses, and traitors there are. Bertrand-Moleville has a smooth tongue, the known Aristocrat; gall in his heart. How his answers and explanations flow ready; jesuitic, plausible to the ear! But perhaps the notablest is this, which befell once when Bertrand had done answering and was withdrawn. Scarcely had the august Assembly begun considering what was to be done with him, when the Hall fills with smoke. Thick sour smoke: no oratory, only wheezing and barking;—irremediable; so that the august Assembly has to adjourn! A miracle? Typical miracle? One knows not: only this one seems to know, that 'the Keeper of the Stoves was appointed by Bertrand' or by some underling of his!—O fuliginous confused Kingdom of Dis, with thy Tantalus-Ixion toils, with thy angry Firefloods, and Streams named of Lamentation, why hast thou not thy Lethe too, that so one might finish?
Nevertheless let not Patriotism despair. Have we not, in Paris at least, a virtuous Pétion, a wholly Patriotic Municipality? Virtuous Pétion, ever since November, is Mayor of Paris: in our Municipality, the Public, for the Public is now admitted too, may behold an energetic Danton; further an epigrammatic slow-sure Manuel; a resolute unrepentant Billaud-Varennes, of Jesuit breeding; Tallien able-editor; and nothing but Patriots, better or worse. So ran the November Elections: to the joy of most citizens; nay the very Court supported Pétion rather than Lafayette. And so Bailly and his Feuillants, long waning like the Moon, had to withdraw then, making some sorrowful obeisance, into extinction:—or indeed into worse, into lurid half-light, grimmed by the shadow of that Red Flag of theirs, and bitter memory of the Champ-de-Mars. How swift is the progress of things and men! Not now does Lafayette, as on that Federation-day, when his noon was, 'press his sword firmly on the Fatherland's Altar,' and swear in sight of France: ah no; he, waning and setting ever since that hour, hangs now, disastrous, on the edge of the horizon; commanding one of those Three moulting Crane-flights of Armies, in a most suspected, unfruitful, uncomfortable manner.
But, at worst, cannot Patriotism, so many thousands strong in this Metropolis of the Universe, help itself? Has it not right-hands, pikes? Hammering of Pikes, which was not to be prohibited by Mayor Bailly, has been sanctioned by Mayor Pétion; sanctioned by Legislative Assembly. How not, when the King's so-called Constitutional Guard 'was making cartridges in secret'? Changes are necessary for the National Guard itself; this whole Feuillant-Aristocrat Staff of the Guard must be disbanded. Likewise, citizens without uniform may surely rank in the Guard, the pike beside the musket, in such a time: the 'active' citizen and the passive who can fight for us, are they not both welcome?—Oh my Patriot friends, indubitably Yes! Nay the truth is, Patriotism throughout, were it never so white-frilled, logical, respectable, must either lean itself heartily on Sansculottism, the black, bottomless; or else vanish, in the frightfulest way, to Limbo! Thus some, with upturned nose, will altogether sniff and disdain Sansculottism; others will lean heartily on it; nay others again will lean what we call heartlessly on it: three sorts; each sort with a destiny corresponding.
In such point of view, however, have we not for the present a Volunteer Ally, stronger than all the rest; namely, Hunger? Hunger; and what rushing of Panic Terror this and the sum-total of our other miseries may bring! For Sansculottism grows by what all other things die of. Stupid Peter Baille almost made an epigram, though unconsciously, and with the Patriot world laughing not at it but at him, when he wrote: 'Tout va bien ici, le pain manque, All goes well here, food is not to be had.'
Neither, if you knew it, is Patriotism without her Constitution that can march; her not impotent Parliament; or call it, Ecumenic Council, and General-Assembly of the Jean-Jacques Churches: the Mother Society, namely! Mother Society with her three hundred full-grown Daughters; with what we can call little Grand-daughters trying to walk, in every village of France, numerable, as Burke thinks, by the hundred thousand. This is the true Constitution; made not by Twelve hundred august Senators, but by Nature herself; and has grown, unconsciously, out of the wants and the efforts of these Twenty-five Millions of men. They are 'Lords of the Articles,' our Jacobins; they originate debates for the Legislative; discuss Peace and War; settle beforehand what the Legislative is to do. Greatly to the scandal of philosophical men, and of most Historians;—who do in that judge naturally, and yet not wisely. A Governing power must exist: your other powers here are simulacra; this power is it.
Great is the Mother Society; she has had the honour to be denounced by Austrian Kaunitz; and is all the dearer to Patriotism. By fortune and valour she has extinguished Feuillantism itself, at least the Feuillant Club. This latter, high as it once carried its head, she, on the 18th of February, has the satisfaction to see shut, extinct; Patriots having gone thither, with tumult, to hiss it out of pain. The Mother Society has enlarged her locality, stretches now over the whole nave of the Church. Let us glance in, with the worthy Toulongeon, our old Ex-Constituent Friend, who happily has eyes to see. 'The nave of the Jacobins Church,' says he, 'is changed into a vast Circus, the seats of which mount up circularly, like an amphitheatre to the very groin of the domed roof. A high Pyramid of black marble, built against one of the walls, which was formerly a funeral monument, has alone been left standing: it serves now as back to the Office-bearers' Bureau. Here on an elevated Platform sit President and Secretaries, behind and above them the white Busts of Mirabeau, of Franklin, and various others, nay finally of Marat. Facing this is the Tribune, raised till it is midway between floor and groin of the dome, so that the speaker's voice may be in the centre. From that point thunder the voices which shake all Europe: down below, in silence, are forging the thunderbolts and the fire-brands. Penetrating into this huge circuit, where all is out of measure, gigantic, the mind cannot repress some movement of terror and wonder; the imagination recalls those dread temples which Poetry, of old, had consecrated to the Avenging Deities.'
Scenes too are in this Jacobin Amphitheatre,—had History time for them. Flags of the 'Three Free Peoples of the Universe,' trinal brotherly flags of England, America, France, have been waved here in concert; by London Deputation, of Whigs or Wighs and their Club, on this hand, and by young French Citoyennes on that; beautiful sweet-tongued Female Citizens, who solemnly send over salutation and brotherhood, also Tricolor stitched by their own needle, and finally Ears of Wheat; while the dome rebellows with Vivent les trois peuples libres! from all throats:—a most dramatic scene. Demoiselle Théroigne recites, from that Tribune in mid air, her persecutions in Austria; comes leaning on the arm of Joseph Chénier, Poet Chénier, to demand Liberty for the hapless Swiss of Château-Vieux. Be of hope, ye forty Swiss; tugging there, in the Brest waters; not forgotten!
Deputy Brissot perorates from that Tribune; Desmoulins, our wicked Camille, interjecting audibly from below, 'Coquin!' Here, though oftener in the Cordeliers, reverberates the lion-voice of Danton; grim Billaud-Varennes is here; Collot d'Herbois, pleading for the forty Swiss, tearing a passion to rags. Apophthegmatic Manuel winds up in this pithy way: 'A Minister must perish!'—to which the Amphitheatre responds:'Tous, Tous, All, All!' But the Chief Priest and Speaker of this place, as we said, is Robespierre, the longwinded incorruptible man. What spirit of Patriotism dwelt in men in those times, this one fact, it seems to us, will evince: that fifteen hundred human creatures, not bound to it, sat quiet under the oratory of Robespierre; nay listened nightly, hour after hour, applausive; and gaped as for the word of life. More insupportable individual, one would say, seldom opened his mouth in any Tribune. Acrid, implacable-impotent; dull-drawling, barren as the Harmattan wind. He pleads, in endless earnest-shallow speech, against immediate War, against Wollen Caps or Bonnets Rouges, against many things; and is the Trismegistus and Dalai-Lama of Patriot men. Whom nevertheless a shrill-voiced little man, yet with fine eyes and a broad beautifully sloping brow, rises respectfully to controvert; he is, say the Newspaper Reporters, 'M. Louvet, Author of the charming Romance of Faublas.' Steady, ye Patriots! Pull not yet two ways; with a France rushing panic-stricken in the rural districts, and a Cimmerian Europe storming in on you!
About the vernal equinox, however, one unexpected gleam of hope does burst forth on Patriotism: the appointment of a thoroughly Patriot Ministry. This also his Majesty, among his innumerable experiments of wedding fire to water, will try. Quod bonum sit. Madame d'Udon's Breakfasts have jingled with a new significance; not even Genevese Dumont but had a word in it. Finally, on the 15th and onwards to the 23d day of March 1792, when all is negotiated,—this is the blessed issue; this Patriot Ministry that we see.
General Dumouriez, with the Foreign Portfolio, shall ply Kaunitz and the Kaiser, in another style than did poor Delessarts; whom indeed we have sent to our High Court of Orléans for his sluggishness. War-Minister Narbonne is washed away by the Time-flood; poor Chevalier de Grave, chosen by the Court, is fast washing away: then shall austere Servan, able Engineer-Officer, mount suddenly to the War Department. Genevese Clavière sees an omen realised; passing the Finance Hôtel, long years ago, as a poor Genevese exile, it was borne wondrously on his mind that he was to be Finance-Minister; and now he is it;—and his poor Wife, given up by the Doctors, rises and walks, not the victim of nerves but their vanquisher. And above all, our Minister of the Interior? Roland de la Platrière, he of Lyons! So have the Brissotins, public or private Opinion, and Breakfasts in the Place Vendôme, decided it. Strict Roland, compared to a Quaker endimanché, or Sunday Quaker, goes to kiss hands at the Tuileries, in round hat and sleek hair, his shoes tied with mere riband or ferrat. The Supreme Usher twitches Dumouriez aside: 'Quoi, Monsieur! No buckles to his shoes?'—'Ah, Monsieur,' answers Dumouriez, glancing towards the ferrat: 'All is lost, Tout est perdu.'
And so our fair Roland removes from her upper-floor in the Rue Saint-Jacques, to the sumptuous saloons once occupied by Madame Necker. Nay still earlier, it was Calonne that did all this gilding; it was he who ground these lustres, Venetian mirrors; who polished this inlaying, this veneering and or-moulu; and made it, by rubbing of the proper lamp, an Aladdin's Palace:—and now behold, he wanders dim-flitting over Europe; half-drowned in the Rhine-stream, scarcely saving his Papers! Vos non vobis.—The fair Roland, equal to either fortune, has her public Dinner on Fridays, the Ministers all there in a body: she withdraws to her desk (the cloth once removed), and seems busy writing; nevertheless loses no word: if, for example, Deputy Brissot and Minister Clavière get too hot in argument, she, not without timidity, yet with a cunning gracefulness, will interpose. Deputy Brissot's head, they say, is getting giddy, in this sudden height; as feeble heads do.
Envious men insinuate that the Wife Roland is Minister, and not the Husband: it is happily the worst they have to charge her with. For the rest, let whose head soever be getting giddy, it is not this brave woman's. Serene and queenly here, as she was of old in her own hired garret of the Ursulines Convent! She who has quietly shelled French-beans for her dinner; being led to that, as a young maiden, by quiet insight and computation; and knowing what that was, and what she was: such a one will also look quietly on or-moulu and veneering, not ignorant of these either. Calonne did the veneering: he gave dinners here, old Besenval diplomatically whispering to him; and was great: yet Calonne we saw at last 'walk with long strides.' Necker next; and where now is Necker? Us also a swift change has brought hither; a swift change will send us hence. Not a Palace but a Caravansera!
So wags and wavers this unrestful World, day after day, month after month. The streets of Paris, and all Cities, roll daily their oscillatory flood of men; which flood does nightly disappear, and lie hidden horizontal in beds and truckle-beds; and awakes on the morrow to new perpendicularity and movement. Men go their roads, foolish or wise;—Engineer Goguelat to and fro, bearing Queen's cipher. A Madame de Staël is busy; cannot clutch her Narbonne from the Time-flood: a Princess de Lamballe is busy; cannot help her Queen. Barnave, seeing the Feuillants dispersed, and Coblentz so brisk begs by way of final recompense to kiss her Majesty's hand; 'augurs not well of her new course'; and retires home to Grenoble, to wed an heiress there. The Café Valois and Méot the Restaurateur's hear daily gasconade; loud babble of Half-pay Royalists, with or without poniards. Remnants of Aristocrat saloons call the new Ministry Ministère-Sansculotte. A Louvet, of the Romance Faublas, is busy in the Jacobins. A Cazotte, of the Romance Diable Amoureux, is busy elsewhere: better wert thou quiet, old Cazotte; it is a world, this, of magic become real! All men are busy; doing they only half guess what:—flinging seeds, of tares mostly, into the 'Seed-field of Time': this, by and by, will declare wholly what.
But Social Explosions have in them something dread, and as it were mad and magical; which indeed Life always secretly has: thus the dumb Earth (says Fable), if you pull her mandrake-roots, will give a dæmonic mad-making moan. These Explosions and Revolts ripen, break forth like dumb dread Forces of Nature; and yet they are Men's forces; and yet we are part of them: the Dæmonic that is in man's life has burst out on us, will sweep us too away!—One day here is like another, and yet it is not like but different. How much is growing, silently resistless, at all moments! Thoughts are growing; forms of Speech are growing, and Customs and even Costumes; still more visibly are actions and transactions growing, and that doomed Strife of France with herself and with the whole world.
The word Liberty is never named now except in conjunction with another; Liberty and Equality. In like manner, what, in a reign of Liberty and Equality, can these words, 'Sir,' 'Obedient Servant,' 'Honour to be,' and suchlike, signify? Tatters and fibres of old Feudality; which, were it only in the Grammatical province, ought to be rooted out! The Mother Society has long since had proposals to that effect: these she could not entertain; not, at the moment. Note too how the Jacobin Brethren are mounting new Symbolical head-gear: the Woollen Cap or Nightcap, bonnet de laine, better known as bonnet rouge, the colour being red. A thing one wears not only by way of Phrygian Cap-of-Liberty, but also for convenience-sake, and then also in compliment to the Lower-class Patriots and Bastille Heroes; for the Red Nightcap combines all the three properties. Nay cockades themselves begin to be made of wool, of tricolor yarn: the riband-cockade, as a symptom of Feuillant Upper-class temper, is becoming suspicious. Signs of the times.
Still more, note the travail-throes of Europe: or rather, note the birth she brings; for the successive throes and shrieks, of Austrian and Prussian Alliance, of Kaunitz Anti-Jacobin Despatch, of French Ambassadors cast out, and so forth, were long to note. Dumouriez corresponds with Kaunitz, Metternich, or Cobentzel, in another style than Delessarts did. Strict becomes stricter; categorical answer, as to this Coblentz work and much else, shall be given. Failing which? Failing which, on the 20th day of April 1792, King and Ministers step over to the Salle de Manége; promulgate how the matter stands; and poor Louis, 'with tears in his eyes,' proposes that the Assembly do now decree War. After due eloquence, War is decreed that night.
War, indeed! Paris came all crowding, full of expectancy, to the morning, and still more to the evening, session. D'Orléans with his two sons is there; looks on, wide-eyed, from the opposite gallery. Thou canst look, O Philippe: it is a War big with issues, for thee and for all men. Cimmerian Obscurantism and this thrice-glorious Revolution shall wrestle for it, then: some Four-and-Twenty years; in immeasurable Briareus wrestle; trampling and tearing; before they can come to any, not agreement, but compromise, and approximate ascertainment each of what is in the other.
Let our Three Generals on the Frontiers look to it, therefore; and poor Chevalier de Grave, the War-Minister, consider what he will do. What is in the three Generals and Armies we may guess. As for poor Chevalier de Grave, he, in this whirl of things all coming to a press and pinch upon him, loses head, and merely whirls with them, in a totally distracted manner; signing himself at last, 'De Grave, Mayor of Paris'; whereupon he demits, returns over the Channel, to walk in Kensington Gardens; and austere Servan, the able Engineer-Officer, is elevated in his stead. To the post of Honour? To that of Difficulty, at least.
And yet, how, on dark bottomless Cataracts there plays the foolishest fantastic-coloured spray and shadow; hiding the Abyss under vapoury rainbows! Alongside of this discussion as to Austrian-Prussian War, there goes on not less but more vehemently a discussion. Whether the Forty or Two-and-Forty Swiss of Château-Vieux shall be liberated from the Brest Galleys? And then, Whether, being liberated, they shall have a public Festival, or only private ones?
Théroigne, as we saw, spoke; and Collot took up the tale. Has not Bouillé's final display of himself, in that final Night of Spurs, stamped your so-called 'Revolt of Nanci' into a 'Massacre of Nanci,' for all Patriot judgments? Hateful is that massacre; hateful the Lafayette-Feuillant 'public thanks' given for it! For indeed, Jacobin Patriotism and dispersed Feuillantism are now at death-grips; and do fight with all weapons, even with scenic shows. The walls of Paris, accordingly, are covered with Placard and Counter-Placard, on the subject of Forty Swiss blockheads. Journal responds to Journal; Player Collot to Poetaster Roucher; Joseph Chénier the Jacobin, squire of Théroigne, to his Brother André the Feuillant; Mayor Pétion to Dupont de Nemours: and for the space of two months, there is nowhere peace for the thought of man,—till this thing be settled.
Gloria in excelsis! The Forty Swiss are at last got 'amnestied.' Rejoice, ye Forty; doff your greasy wool Bonnets, which shall become Caps of Liberty. The Brest Daughter Society welcomes you from on board, with kisses on each cheek: your iron Handcuffs are disputed as Relics of Saints; the Brest Society indeed can have one portion, which it will beat into Pikes, a sort of Sacred Pikes; but the other portion must belong to Paris, and be suspended from the dome there, along with the Flags of the Three Free Peoples! Such a goose is man; and cackles over plush-velvet Grand Monarques and woollen Galley-slaves; over everything and over nothing,—and will cackle with his whole soul, merely if others cackle!
On the ninth morning of April, these Forty Swiss blockheads arrive. From Versailles; with vivats heaven-high; with the affluence of men and women. To the Townhall we conduct them; nay to the Legislative itself, though not without difficulty. They are harangued, bedinnered, begifted,—the very Court, not for conscience-sake, contributing something; and their Public Festival shall be next Sunday. Next Sunday accordingly it is. They are mounted into a 'triumphal Car resembling a ship'; are carted over Paris, with the clang of cymbals and drums, all mortals assisting applausive; carted to the Champ-de-Mars and Fatherland's Altar; and finally carted, for Time always brings deliverance,—into invisibility for evermore.
Whereupon dispersed Feuillantism, or that Party which loves Liberty yet not more than Monarchy, will likewise have its Festival: Festival of Simoneau, unfortunate Mayor of Étampes, who died for the Law; most surely for the Law, though Jacobinism disputes; being trampled down with his Red Flag in the riot about grains. At which Festival the Public again assists, unapplausive: not we.
On the whole. Festivals are not wanting; beautiful rainbow-spray when all is now rushing treble-quick towards its Niagara Fall. National Repasts there are; countenanced by Mayor Pétion; Saint-Antoine, and the Strong Ones of the Halles defiling through Jacobin Club, 'their felicity,' according to Santerre, 'not perfect otherwise'; singing many-voiced their ça-ira, dancing their ronde patriotique. Among whom one is glad to discern Saint-Huruge, expressly 'in white hat,' the Saint-Christopher of the Carmagnole. Nay a certain Tambour, or National Drummer, having just been presented with a little daughter, determines to have the new Frenchwoman christened, on Fatherland's Altar, then and there. Repast once over, he accordingly has her christened; Fauchet the Te-Deum Bishop acting in chief, Thuriot and honourable persons standing gossips: by the name, Pétion-National-Pique! Does this remarkable Citizeness, now past the meridian of life, still walk the Earth? Or did she die perhaps of teething? Universal History is not indifferent.
THE HEREDITARY REPRESENTATIVE
And yet it is not by carmagnole-dances, and singing of ça-ira, that the work can be done. Duke Brunswick is not dancing carmagnoles, but has his drill-sergeants busy.
On the Frontiers, our Armies, be it treason or not, behave in the worst way. Troops badly commanded, shall we say? Or troops intrinsically bad? Unappointed, undisciplined, mutinous; that, in a thirty-years peace, have never seen fire? In any case, Lafayette's and Rochambeau's little clutch, which they made at Austrian Flanders, has prospered as badly as clutch need do: soldiers starting at their own shadow; suddenly shrieking, 'On nous trahit,' and flying off in wild panic, at or before the first shot;—managing only to hang some two or three prisoners they had picked up, and massacre their own Commander, poor Theobald Dillon, driven into a granary by them in the Town of Lille.
And poor Gouvion: he who sat shiftless in that Insurrection of Women! Gouvion quitted the Legislative Hall and Parliamentary duties, in disgust and despair, when those Galley-slaves of Château-Vieux were admitted there. He said, 'Between the Austrians and the Jacobins there is nothing but a soldier's death for it;' and so, 'in the dark stormy night,' he has flung himself into the throat of the Austrian cannon, and perished in the skirmish at Maubeuge on the ninth of June. Whom Legislative Patriotism shall mourn, with black mort-cloths and melody in the Champ-de-Mars: many a Patriot shiftier, truer none. Lafayette himself is looking altogether dubious; in place of beating the Austrians, is about writing to denounce the Jacobins. Rochambeau, all disconsolate, quits the service: there remains only Lückner, the babbling old Prussian Grenadier.
Without Armies, without Generals! And the Cimmerian Night has gathered itself; Brunswick preparing his proclamation; just about to march! Let a Patriot Ministry and Legislative say; what in these circumstances it will do? Suppress internal enemies, for one thing, answers the Patriot Legislative; and proposes, on the 24th of May, its Decree for the Banishment of Priests. Collect also some nucleus of determined internal friends, adds War-Minister Servan; and proposes, on the 7th of June, his Camp of Twenty-thousand. Twenty-thousand National Volunteers; Five out of each Canton, picked Patriots, for Roland has charge of the Interior: they shall assemble here in Paris; and be for a defence, cunningly devised, against foreign Austrians and domestic Austrian Committee alike. So much can a Patriot Ministry and Legislative do.
Reasonable and cunningly devised as such Camp may, to Servan and Patriotism, appear, it appears not so to Feuillantism; to that Feuillant-Aristocrat Staff of the Paris Guard; a Staff, one would say again, which will need to be dissolved. These men see, in this proposed Camp of Servan's, an offence; and even, as they pretend to say, an insult. Petitions there come, in consequence, from blue Feuillants in epaulettes; ill received. Nay, in the end, there comes one Petition, called 'of the Eight-thousand National Guards': so many names are on it, including women and children. Which famed Petition of the Eight-thousand is indeed received: and the Petitioners, all under arms, are admitted to the honours of the sitting,—if honour or even if sitting there be; for the instant their bayonets appear at the one door, the Assembly 'adjourns,' and begins to flow out at the other.
Also, in these same days, it is lamentable to see how National Guards, escorting Fête-Dieu or Corpus-Christi ceremonial, do collar and smite down any Patriot that does not uncover as the Hostie passes. They clap their bayonets to the breast of Cattle-butcher Legendre, a known Patriot ever since the Bastille days; and threaten to butcher him; though he sat quite respectfully, he says, in his Gig, at a distance of fifty paces, waiting till the thing were by. Nay orthodox females were shrieking to have down the Lanterne on him.
To such height has Feuillantism gone in this Corps. For indeed, are not their Officers creatures of the chief Feuillant, Lafayette? The Court too has, very naturally, been tampering with them; caressing them, ever since that dissolution of the so-called Constitutional Guard. Some Battalions are altogether 'pétris, kneaded full' of Feuillantism, mere Aristocrats at bottom: for instance, the Battalion of the Filles-Saint-Thomas, made up of your Bankers, Stockbrokers, and other Full-purses of the Rue Vivienne. Our worthy old Friend Weber, Queen's Foster-brother Weber, carries a musket in that Battalion,—one may judge with what degree of Patriotic intention.
Heedless of all which, or rather heedful of all which, the Legislative, backed by Patriot France and the feeling of Necessity, decrees this Camp of Twenty-thousand. Decisive though conditional Banishment of malign Priests it has already decreed.
It will now be seen, therefore, Whether the Hereditary Representative is for us or against us? Whether or not, to all our other woes, this intolerablest one is to be added; which renders us not a menaced Nation in extreme jeopardy and need, but a paralytic Solecism of a Nation; sitting wrapped as in dead cerements, of a Constitutional-Vesture that were no other than a winding-sheet; our right hand glued to our left: to wait there, writhing and wriggling, unable to stir from the spot, till in Prussian rope we mount to the gallows? Let the Hereditary Representative consider it well: The Decree of Priests? The Camp of Twenty-thousand?—By Heaven, he answers, Veto! Veto!—Strict Roland hands-in his Letter to the King; or rather it was Madame's Letter, who wrote it all at a sitting; one of the plainest-spoken Letters ever handed-in to any King. This plain-spoken Letter King Louis has the benefit of reading overnight. He reads, inwardly digests; and next morning, the whole Patriot Ministry finds itself turned out. It is the 13th of June 1792.
Dumouriez the many-counselled, he, with one Duranthon called Minister of Justice, does indeed linger for a day or two; in rather suspicious circumstances; speaks with the Queen, almost weeps with her: but in the end, he too sets off for the Army; leaving what Un-Patriot or Semi-Patriot Ministry and Ministries can now accept the helm, to accept it. Name them not; new quick-changing Phantasms, which shift like magic-lantern figures; more spectral than ever!
Unhappy Queen, unhappy Louis! The two Vetos were so natural: are not the Priests martyrs; also friends? This Camp of Twenty-thousand, could it be other than of stormfulest Sansculottes? Natural; and yet, to France, unendurable. Priests that coöperate with Coblentz must go elsewhither with their martyrdom: stormful Sansculottes, these and no other kind of creatures will drive back the Austrians. If thou prefer the Austrians, then, for the love of Heaven, go join them. If not, join frankly with what will oppose them to the death. Middle course is none.
Or, alas, what extreme course was there left now for a man like Louis? Underhand Royalists, Ex-Minister Bertrand-Moleville, Ex-Constituent Malouet, and all manner of unhelpful individuals, advise and advise. With face of hope turned now on the Legislative Assembly, and now on Austria and Coblentz, and round generally on the Chapter of Chances, an ancient Kingship is reeling and spinning, one knows not whitherward, on the flood of things.
PROCESSION OF THE BLACK BREECHES
But is there a thinking man in France who, in these circumstances, can persuade himself that the Constitution will march? Brunswick is stirring; he, in few days now, will march. Shall France sit still, wrapped in dead cerements and grave-clothes, its right hand glued to its left, till the Brunswick Saint-Bartholomew arrive; till France be as Poland, and its Rights of Man become a Prussian Gibbet?
Verily it is a moment frightful for all men. National Death; or else some preternatural convulsive outburst of National Life;—that same dæmonic outburst! Patriots whose audacity has limits had, in truth, better retire like Barnave; court private felicity at Grenoble. Patriots whose audacity has no limits must sink down into the obscure; and, daring and defying all things, seek salvation in stratagem, in Plot of Insurrection. Roland and young Barbaroux have spread out the Map of France before them, Barbaroux says 'with tears': they consider what Rivers, what Mountain-ranges are in it: they will retire behind this Loire-stream, defend these Auvergne stone-labyrinths; save some little sacred Territory of the Free; die at least in their last ditch. Lafayette indites his emphatic Letter to the Legislative against Jacobinism; which emphatic Letter will not heal the unhealable.
Forward, ye Patriots whose audacity has no limits; it is you now that must either do or die! The Sections of Paris sit in deep counsel; send out Deputation after Deputation to the Salle de Manége, to petition and denounce. Great is their ire against tyrannous Veto, Austrian Committee, and the combined Cimmerian Kings. What boots it? Legislative listens to the 'tocsin in our hearts'; grants us honours of the sitting, sees us defile with jingle and fanfaronade; but the Camp of Twenty-thousand, the Priest-Decree, be-vetoed by Majesty, are become impossible for Legislative. Fiery Isnard says, 'We will have Equality, should we descend for it to the tomb.' Vergniaud utters, hypothetically, his stern Ezekiel-visions of the fate of Anti-national Kings. But the question is: Will hypothetic prophecies, will jingle and fanfaronade demolish the Veto; or will the Veto, secure in its Tuileries Château, remain undemolishable by these? Barbaroux, dashing away his tears, writes to the Marseilles Municipality, that they must send him 'Six hundred men who know how to die, qui savent mourir.' No wet-eyed message this, but a fire-eyed one;—which will be obeyed!
Meanwhile the Twentieth of June is nigh, anniversary of that world-famous Oath of the Tennis-Court: on which day, it is said, certain citizens have in view to plant a Mai or Tree of Liberty in the Tuileries Terrace of the Feuillants; perhaps also to petition the Legislative and Hereditary Representative about these Vetos;—with such demonstration, jingle and evolution, as may seem profitable and practicable. Sections have gone singly, and jingled and evolved: but if they all went, or great part of them, and there, planting their Mai in these alarming circumstances, sounded the tocsin in their hearts?
Among King's Friends there can be but one opinion as to such a step: among Nation's Friends there may be two. On the one hand, might it not by possibility scare away these unblessed Vetos? Private Patriots and even Legislative Deputies may have each his own opinion, or own no-opinion: but the hardest task falls evidently on Mayor Pétion and the Municipals, at once Patriots and Guardians of the public Tranquillity. Hushing the matter down with the one hand; tickling it up with the other! Mayor Pétion and Municipality may lean this way; Department-Directory with Procureur-Syndic Rœderer, having a Feuillant tendency, may lean that. On the whole, each man must act according to his one opinion or to his two opinions, and all manner of influences, official representations cross one another in the foolishest way. Perhaps after all, the Project, desirable and yet not desirable, will dissipate itself, being run athwart by so many complexities; and come to nothing?
Not so; on the Twentieth morning of June, a large Tree of Liberty, Lombardy Poplar by kind, lies visibly tied on its car, in the Suburb Saint-Antoine. Suburb Saint-Marceau too, in the uttermost Southeast, and all that remote Oriental region, Pikemen and Pikewomen, National Guards, and the unarmed curious are gathering,—with the peaceablest intentions in the world. A tricolor Municipal arrives; speaks. Tush, it is all peaceable, we tell thee, in the way of Law; are not Petitions allowable, and the Patriotism of Mais? The tricolor Municipal returns without effect: your Sansculottic rills continue flowing, combining into brooks: towards noontide, led by tall Santerre in blue uniform, by tall Saint-Huruge in white hat, it moves westward, a respectable river, or complication of still-swelling rivers.
What Processions have we not seen: Corpus-Christi and Legendre waiting in his Gig; Bones of Voltaire with bullock chariots, and goadsmen in Roman Costume; Feasts of Château-Vieux and Simoneau; Gouvion Funerals, Rousseau Sham funeral, and the Baptism of Pétion-National-Pike! Nevertheless this Procession has a character of its own. Tricolor ribands streaming aloft from Pike-heads; ironshod batons; and emblems not a few; among which see specially these two, of the tragic and the untragic sort: a Bull's Heart transfixed with iron, bearing this epigraph, 'Cœur d'Aristocrate, Aristocrat's heart'; and, more striking still, properly the standard of the host, a pair of old Black Breeches (silk, they say), extended on cross-staff, high overhead, with these memorable words: 'Tremblez, tyrans; voilà les Sansculottes, Tremble, tyrants; here are the Sans-indispensables!' Also, the Procession trails two cannons.
Scarfed tricolor Municipals do now again meet it, in the Quai Saint-Bernard, and plead earnestly, having called halt. Peaceable, ye virtuous tricolor Municipals, peaceable are we as the sucking dove. Behold our Tennis-Court Mai. Petition is legal; and as for arms, did not an august Legislative receive the so-called Eight-thousand in arms, Feuillants though they were? Our Pikes, are they not of National iron? Law is our father and mother, whom we will not dishonour; but Patriotism is our own soul. Peaceable, ye virtuous Municipals;—and on the whole, limited as to time! Stop we cannot; march ye with us.—The Black Breeches agitate themselves, impatient; the cannon-wheels grumble: the many-footed Host tramps on.
How it reached the Salle de Manége, like an ever-waxing river; got admittance after debate; read its Address; and defiled, dancing and ça-ira-ing, led by tall sonorous Santerre and tall sonorous Saint-Huruge: how it flowed, not now a waxing river but a shut Caspian lake, round all Precincts of the Tuileries; the front Patriot squeezed by the rearward against barred iron Grates, like to have the life squeezed out of him, and looking too into the dread throat of cannon, for National Battalions stand ranked within: how tricolor Municipals ran assiduous, and Royalists with Tickets of Entry; and both Majesties sat in the interior surrounded by men in black: all this the human mind shall fancy for itself, or read in old Newspapers, and Syndic Rœderer's Chronicle of Fifty Days.
Our Mai is planted; if not in the Feuillants Terrace, whither is no ingate, then in the Garden of the Capuchins, as near as we could get. National Assembly has adjourned till the Evening Session: perhaps this shut lake, finding no ingate, will retire to its sources again; and disappear in peace? Alas, not yet: rearward still presses on; rearward knows little what pressure is in the front. One would wish, at all events, were it possible, to have a word with his Majesty first!
The shadows fall longer, eastward; it is four o'clock: will his Majesty not come out? Hardly he! In that case. Commandant Santerre, Cattle-butcher Legendre, Patriot Huguenin with the tocsin in his heart; they, and others of authority, will enter in. Petition and request to wearied uncertain National Guard; louder and louder petition; backed by the rattle of our two cannons! The reluctant Grate opens: endless Sansculottic multitudes flood the stairs; knock at the wooden guardian of your privacy. Knocks, in such case, grow strokes, grow smashings: the wooden guardian flies in shivers. And now ensues a Scene over which the world has long wailed; and not unjustly; for a sorrier spectacle, of Incongruity fronting Incongruity, and as it were recognising themselves incongruous, and staring stupidly in each other's face, the world seldom saw.
King Louis, his door being beaten on, opens it; stands with free bosom; asking, 'What do you want?' The Sansculottic flood recoils awestruck; returns however, the rear pressing on the front, with cries of 'Veto! Patriot Ministers! Remove Veto!'—which things, Louis valiantly answers, this is not the time to do, nor this the way to ask him to do. Honour what virtue is in a man. Louis does not want courage; he has even the higher kind called moral-courage; though only the passive-half of that. His few National Grenadiers shuffle back with him, into the embrasure of a window: there he stands, with unimpeachable passivity, amid the shouldering and the braying; a spectacle to men. They hand him a red Cap of Liberty; he sets it quietly on his head, forgets it there. He complains of thirst; half-drunk Rascality offers him a bottle, he drinks of it. 'Sire, do not fear,' says one of his Grenadiers. 'Fear?' answers Louis: 'feel then,' putting the man's hand on his heart. So stands Majesty in Red woollen Cap; black Sansculottism weltering round him, far and wide, aimless, with inarticulate dissonance, with cries of 'Veto! Patriot Ministers'!
For the space of three hours or more! The National Assembly is adjourned; tricolor Municipals avail almost nothing: Mayor Pétion tarries absent; Authority is none. The Queen with her Children and Sister Elizabeth, in tears and terror not for themselves only, are sitting behind barricaded tables and Grenadiers, in an inner room. The Men in black have all wisely disappeared. Blind lake of Sansculottism welters stagnant through the King's Château, for the space of three hours.
Nevertheless all things do end. Vergniaud arrives with Legislative Deputation, the Evening Session having now opened. Mayor Pétion has arrived; is haranguing, 'lifted on the shoulders of two Grenadiers.' In this uneasy attitude and in others, at various places without and within, Mayor Pétion harangues; many men harangue; finally Commandant Santerre defiles; passes out, with his Sansculottism, by the opposite side of the Château. Passing through the room where the Queen, with an air of dignity and sorrowful resignation, sat among the tables and Grenadiers, a woman offers her too a Red Cap; she holds it in her hand, even puts it on the little Prince Royal. 'Madame,' said Santerre, 'this People loves you more than you think.'—About eight o'clock the Royal Family fall into each other's arms amid 'torrents of tears.' Unhappy Family! Who would not weep for it, were there not a whole world to be wept for?
Thus has the Age of Chivalry gone, and that of Hunger come. Thus does all-needing Sansculottism look in the face of its Roi, Regulator, King or Able-man; and find that he has nothing to give it. Thus do the two Parties, brought face to face after long centuries, stare stupidly at one another, This, verily, am I; but, good Heaven, is that Thou?—and depart, not knowing what to make of it. And yet. Incongruities having recognised themselves to be incongruous, something must be made of it. The Fates know what.
This is the world-famous Twentieth of June, more worthy to be called the Procession of the Black Breeches. With which, what we had to say of this First French biennial Parliament, and its products and activities, may perhaps fitly enough terminate.
- Toulongeon, ii. 56, 59.
- Hist. Parl. xiii. 73.
- De Staël, Considérations, i. c. 23.
- Choix de Rapports, etc. (Paris, 1825), vi. 239–317.
- Moniteur (in Hist. Parl. xi. 473).
- Dumouriez, ii. 150, etc.
- Dumouriez, ii. 370.
- Choix de Rapports, xi. 25.
- Moniteur, Séance du 4 Octobre 1791.
- Montgaillard, iii. 1, 237.
- Moniteur, Séance du 6 Juillet 1792.
- Dampmartin, Événemens, i. 267.
- Barbaroux, Mémoires, p. 26.
- Lescène Desmaisons, Compte rendu à l'Assemblée Nationale, 10 September 1791 (Choix des Rapports, vii. 273–93).
- Procès-verbal de la Commune d'Avignon, etc. (in Hist. Parl. xii. 419–23).
- Ugo Foscolo, Essay on Petrarch, p. 35.
- Dampmartin, i. 251–94.
- Dampmartin, ubi suprà.
- Deux Amis (Paris, 1797), vii. pp. 59–71.
- Barbarous, p. 21; Hist. Parl. xiii. 421–4.
- Dumont, Souvenirs, p. 374.
- Dumouriez, ii. 129.
- Hist. Parl. xii. 131, 141; xiii. 114, 417.
- Deux Amis, x. 157.
- Débats des Jacobins, etc. (Hist. Parl. xiii. 171, 92–8).
- Campan, ii. 177, 202.
- Bertrand-Moleville, i. c. 4.
- Ibid. i. 370.
- Bertrand-Moleville, i. c. 17.
- Montgaillard, iii. 41.
- Bertrand-Moleville, i. 177.
- Toulongeon, i. 256.
- 30th March 1792 (Annual Register, p. 11).
- Toulongeon, ii. 100–117.
- Montgaillard, iii. 5–17; Toulongeon, ubi suprà.
- See Hist. Parl. xiii, 11–38, 41–61, 358, etc.
- Moniteur, Séance du 2 Novembre 1791 (Hist. Parl. xii. 212).
- Ami du Roi Newspaper (in Hist. Parl. xiii. 175).
- Moniteur, Séance du 23 Janvier 1792; Biographie des Ministres, § Narbonne.
- Dumouriez, ii. c. 6.
- Dampmartin, i. 201.
- Moniteur, Séance du 15 Juillet 1792.
- Newspapers, etc. (in Hist. Parl. xiii. 325).
- December 1791 (Hist. Parl. xii. 257).
- Moniteur, Séance du 28 Mai 1792; Campan, ii. 196.
- Dumouriez, ii. 168.
- Campan, ii. c. 19.
- Moniteur, du 7 Avril 1792; Deux Amis, vii. 111.
- See Moniteur, Séances (in Hist. Parl. xiii. xiv.).
- Dumouriez, ii. 137.
- 16th February 1792 (Choix des Rapports, viii. 375–92).
- Courrier de Paris, 14 Janvier 1792 (Gorsas's Newspaper), in Hist. Parl. xiii. 83.
- Discours de Bailly, Réponse de Pétion (Moniteur du 20 Novembre 1791).
- Barbaroux, p. 94.
- Moniteur, Séance du 20 Mars 1792.
- Toulongeon, ii. 124.
- Débats des Jacobins (Hist. Parl. xiii. 259, etc.).
- Dumont, c. 20, 21.
- Madame Roland, ii. 80–115.
- Deux Amis, vii. 146–66.
- Dumont, c. 19, 21.
- Newspapers of February, March, April 1792; Iambe d'André Chénier sur la Fête des Suisses; etc. etc. (in Hist. Parl. xiii. xiv.)
- Patriote-Français (Brissot's Newspaper), in Hist. Parl. xiii. 451.
- Toulongeon, ii. 149.
- Moniteur, Séance du 10 Juin 1792.
- Débats des Jacobins (in Hist. Parl. xiv. 429).
- Madame Roland, ii. 115.
- Moniteur, Séance du 18 Juin 1792.
- Barbaroux, p. 40.
- Rœderer, etc. etc. (in Hist. Parl. xv. 98–194).
- Toulongeon, ii. 173; Campan, ii. c. 20.