ii.213), &c. &c.) and very significant.
As all Delineation, in these ages, were it never so Epic, ‘speaking itself and not singing itself,’ must either found on Belief and provable Fact, or have no foundation at all (nor except as floating cobweb any existence at all),–the Reader will perhaps prefer to take a glance with the very eyes of eye-witnesses; and see, in that way, for himself, how it was. Brave Jourgniac, innocent Abbe Sicard, judicious Advocate Maton, these, greatly compressing themselves, shall speak, each an instant. Jourgniac’s Agony of Thirty-eight hours went through ‘above a hundred editions,’ though intrinsically a poor work. Some portion of it may here go through above the hundred-and-first, for want of a better.
‘Towards seven o’clock’ (Sunday night, at the Abbaye; for Jourgniac goes by dates): ‘We saw two men enter, their hands bloody and armed with sabres; a turnkey, with a torch, lighted them; he pointed to the bed of the unfortunate Swiss, Reding. Reding spoke with a dying voice. One of them paused; but the other cried Allons donc; lifted the unfortunate man; carried him out on his back to the street. He was massacred there.
‘We all looked at one another in silence, we clasped each other’s hands. Motionless, with fixed eyes, we gazed on the pavement of our prison; on which lay the moonlight, checkered with the triple stancheons of our windows.
‘Three in the morning: They were breaking-in one of the prison-doors. We at first thought they were coming to kill us in our room; but heard, by voices on the staircase, that it was a room where some Prisoners had barricaded themselves. They were all butchered there, as we shortly gathered.
‘Ten o’clock: The Abbe Lenfant and the Abbe de Chapt-Rastignac appeared in the pulpit of the Chapel, which was our prison; they had entered by a door from the stairs. They said to us that our end was at hand; that we must compose ourselves, and receive their last blessing. An electric movement, not to be defined, threw us all on our knees, and we received it. These two whitehaired old men, blessing us from their place above; death hovering over our heads, on all hands environing us; the moment is never to be forgotten. Half an hour after, they were both massacred, and we heard their cries.’ (Jourgniac Saint-Meard, Mon Agonie de Trente-huit heures (reprinted in Hist. Parl. xviii. 103-135).)–Thus Jourgniac in his Agony in the Abbaye.
But now let the good Maton speak, what he, over in La Force, in the same hours, is suffering and witnessing. This Resurrection by him is greatly the best, the least theatrical of these Pamphlets; and stands testing by documents:
‘Towards seven o’clock,’ on Sunday night, ‘prisoners were called frequently, and they did not reappear. Each of us reasoned in his own way, on this singularity: but our ideas became calm, as we persuaded ourselves that the Memorial I had drawn up for the National Assembly was producing effect.
‘At one in the morning, the grate which led to our quarter opened anew. Four men in uniform, each with a drawn sabre and blazing torch, came up to our corridor, preceded by a turnkey; and entered an apartment close to ours, to investigate a box there, which we heard them break up. This done, they stept into the gallery, and questioned the man Cuissa, to know where Lamotte (Necklace’s Widower) was. Lamotte, they said, had some months ago, under pretext of a treasure he knew of, swindled a sum of three-hundred livres from one of them, inviting him to dinner for that purpose. The wretched Cuissa, now in their hands, who indeed lost his life this night, answered trembling, That he remembered the fact well, but could not tell what was become of Lamotte. Determined to find Lamotte and confront him with Cuissa, they rummaged, along with this latter, through various other apartments; but without effect, for we heard them say: “Come search among the corpses then: for, nom de Dieu! we must find where he is.”
‘At this time, I heard Louis Bardy, the Abbe Bardy’s name called: he was brought out; and directly massacred, as I learnt. He had been accused, along with his concubine, five or six years before, of having murdered and cut in pieces his own Brother, Auditor of the Chambre des Comptes at Montpelier; but had by his subtlety, his dexterity, nay his eloquence, outwitted the judges, and escaped.
‘One may fancy what terror these words, “Come search among the corpses then,” had thrown me into. I saw nothing for it now but resigning myself to die. I wrote my last-will; concluding it by a petition and adjuration, that the paper should be sent to its address. Scarcely had I quitted the pen, when there came two other men in uniform; one of them, whose arm and sleeve up to the very shoulder, as well as the sabre, were covered with blood, said, He was as weary as a hodman that had been beating plaster.
‘Baudin de la Chenaye was called; sixty years of virtues could not save him. They said, “A l’Abbaye:” he passed the fatal outer-gate; gave a cry of terror, at sight of the heaped corpses; covered his eyes with his hands, and died of innumerable wounds. At every new opening of the grate, I thought I should hear my own name called, and see Rossignol enter.
‘I flung off my nightgown and cap; I put on a coarse unwashed shirt, a worn frock without waistcoat, an old round hat; these things I had sent for, some days ago, in the fear of what might happen.
‘The rooms of this corridor had been all emptied but ours. We were four together; whom they seemed to have forgotten: we addressed our prayers in common to the Eternal to be delivered from this peril.
‘Baptiste the turnkey came up by himself, to see us. I took him by the hands; I conjured him to save us; promised him a hundred louis, if he would conduct me home. A noise coming from the grates made him hastily withdraw.
‘It was the noise of some dozen or fifteen men, armed to the teeth; as we, lying flat to escape being seen, could see from our windows: “Up stairs!” said they: “Let not one remain.” I took out my penknife; I considered where I should strike myself,’–but reflected ‘that the blade was too short,’ and also ‘on religion.’
Finally, however, between seven and eight o’clock in the morning, enter four men with bludgeons and sabres!–‘to one of whom Gerard my comrade whispered, earnestly, apart. During their colloquy I searched every where for shoes, that I might lay off the Advocate pumps (pantoufles de Palais) I had on,’ but could find none.–‘Constant, called le Sauvage, Gerard, and a third whose name escapes me, they let clear off: as for me, four sabres were crossed over my breast, and they led me down. I was brought to their bar; to the Personage with the scarf, who sat as judge there. He was a lame man, of tall lank stature. He recognised me on the streets, and spoke to me seven months after. I have been assured that he was son of a retired attorney, and named Chepy. Crossing the Court called Des Nourrices, I saw Manuel haranguing in tricolor scarf.’ The trial, as we see, ends in acquittal and resurrection. (Maton de la Varenne, Ma Resurrection (in Hist. Parl. xviii. 135-156).)
Poor Sicard, from the violon of the Abbaye, shall say but a few words; true-looking, though tremulous. Towards three in the morning, the killers bethink them of this little violon; and knock from the court. ‘I tapped gently, trembling lest the murderers might hear, on the opposite door, where the Section Committee was sitting: they answered gruffly that they had no key. There were three of us in this violon; my companions thought they perceived a kind of loft overhead. But it was very high; only one of us could reach it, by mounting on the shoulders of both the others. One of them said to me, that my life was usefuller than theirs: I resisted, they insisted: no denial! I fling myself on the neck of these two deliverers; never was scene more touching. I mount on the shoulders of the first, then on those of the second, finally on the loft; and address to my two comrades the expression of a soul overwhelmed with natural emotions. (Abbe Sicard: Relation adressee a un de ses amis (Hist. Parl. xviii. 98-103).)
The two generous companions, we rejoice to find, did not perish. But it is time that Jourgniac de Saint-Meard should speak his last words, and end this singular trilogy. The night had become day; and the day has again become night. Jourgniac, worn down with uttermost agitation, has fallen asleep, and had a cheering dream: he has also contrived to make acquaintance with one of the volunteer bailiffs, and spoken in native Provencal with him. On Tuesday, about one in the morning, his Agony is reaching its crisis.
‘By the glare of two torches, I now descried the terrible tribunal, where lay my life or my death. The President, in grey coats, with a sabre at his side, stood leaning with his hands against a table, on which were papers, an inkstand, tobacco-pipes and bottles. Some ten persons were around, seated or standing; two of whom had jackets and aprons: others were sleeping stretched on benches. Two men, in bloody shirts, guarded the door of the place; an old turnkey had his hand on the lock. In front of the President, three men held a Prisoner, who might be about sixty’ (or seventy: he was old Marshal Maille, of the Tuileries and August Tenth). ‘They stationed me in a corner; my guards crossed their sabres on my breast. I looked on all sides for my Provencal: two National Guards, one of them drunk, presented some appeal from the Section of Croix Rouge in favour of the Prisoner; the Man in Grey answered: “They are useless, these appeals for traitors.” Then the Prisoner exclaimed: “It is frightful; your judgment is a murder.” The President answered; “My hands are washed of it; take M. Maille away.” They drove him into the street; where, through the opening of the door, I saw him massacred.
‘The President sat down to write; registering, I suppose, the name of this one whom they had finished; then I heard him say: “Another, A un autre!”
‘Behold me then haled before this swift and bloody judgment-bar, where the best protection was to have no protection, and all resources of ingenuity became null if they were not founded on truth. Two of my guards held me each by a hand, the third by the collar of my coat. “Your name, your profession?” said the President. “The smallest lie ruins you,” added one of the judges,–“My name is Jourgniac Saint-Meard; I have served, as an officer, twenty years: and I appear at your tribunal with the assurance of an innocent man, who therefore will not lie.”–“We shall see that,” said the President: “Do you know why you are arrested?”–“Yes, Monsieur le President; I am accused of editing the Journal De la Cour et de la Ville. But I hope to prove the falsity”‘–
But no; Jourgniac’s proof of the falsity, and defence generally, though of excellent result as a defence, is not interesting to read. It is long- winded; there is a loose theatricality in the reporting of it, which does not amount to unveracity, yet which tends that way. We shall suppose him successful, beyond hope, in proving and disproving; and skip largely,–to the catastrophe, almost at two steps.
‘”But after all,” said one of the Judges, “there is no smoke without kindling; tell us why they accuse you of that.”–“I was about to do so”‘– Jourgniac does so; with more and more success.
‘”Nay,” continued I, “they accuse me even of recruiting for the Emigrants!” At these words there arose a general murmur. “O Messieurs, Messieurs,” I exclaimed, raising my voice, “it is my turn to speak; I beg M. le President to have the kindness to maintain it for me; I never needed it more.”–“True enough, true enough,” said almost all the judges with a laugh: “Silence!”
‘While they were examining the testimonials I had produced, a new Prisoner was brought in, and placed before the President. “It was one Priest more,” they said, “whom they had ferreted out of the Chapelle.” After very few questions: “A la Force!” He flung his breviary on the table: was hurled forth, and massacred. I reappeared before the tribunal.
‘”You tell us always,” cried one of the judges, with a tone of impatience, “that you are not this, that you are not that: what are you then?”–“I was an open Royalist.”–There arose a general murmur; which was miraculously appeased by another of the men, who had seemed to take an interest in me: “We are not here to judge opinions,” said he, “but to judge the results of them.” Could Rousseau and Voltaire both in one, pleading for me, have said better?–“Yes, Messieurs,” cried I, “always till the Tenth of August, I was an open Royalist. Ever since the Tenth of August that cause has been finished. I am a Frenchman, true to my country. I was always a man of honour.
‘”My soldiers never distrusted me. Nay, two days before that business of Nanci, when their suspicion of their officers was at its height, they chose me for commander, to lead them to Luneville, to get back the prisoners of the Regiment Mestre-de-Camp, and seize General Malseigne.”‘ Which fact there is, most luckily, an individual present who by a certain token can confirm.
‘The President, this cross-questioning being over, took off his hat and said: “I see nothing to suspect in this man; I am for granting him his liberty. Is that your vote?” To which all the judges answered: “Oui, oui; it is just!”‘
And there arose vivats within doors and without; ‘escort of three,’ amid shoutings and embracings: thus Jourgniac escaped from jury-trial and the jaws of death. (Mon Agonie (ut supra), Hist. Parl. xviii. 128.) Maton and Sicard did, either by trial, and no bill found, lank President Chepy finding ‘absolutely nothing;’ or else by evasion, and new favour of Moton the brave watchmaker, likewise escape; and were embraced, and wept over; weeping in return, as they well might.
Thus they three, in wondrous trilogy, or triple soliloquy; uttering simultaneously, through the dread night-watches, their Night-thoughts,– grown audible to us! They Three are become audible: but the other ‘Thousand and Eighty-nine, of whom Two Hundred and Two were Priests,’ who also had Night-thoughts, remain inaudible; choked for ever in black Death. Heard only of President Chepy and the Man in Grey!–
But the Constituted Authorities, all this while? The Legislative Assembly; the Six Ministers; the Townhall; Santerre with the National Guard?–It is very curious to think what a City is. Theatres, to the number of some twenty-three, were open every night during these prodigies: while right- arms here grew weary with slaying, right-arms there are twiddledeeing on melodious catgut; at the very instant when Abbe Sicard was clambering up his second pair of shoulders, three-men high, five hundred thousand human individuals were lying horizontal, as if nothing were amiss.
As for the poor Legislative, the sceptre had departed from it. The Legislative did send Deputation to the Prisons, to the Street-Courts; and poor M. Dusaulx did harangue there; but produced no conviction whatsoever: nay, at last, as he continued haranguing, the Street-Court interposed, not without threats; and he had to cease, and withdraw. This is the same poor worthy old M. Dusaulx who told, or indeed almost sang (though with cracked voice), the Taking of the Bastille,–to our satisfaction long since. He was wont to announce himself, on such and on all occasions, as the Translator of Juvenal. “Good Citizens, you see before you a man who loves his country, who is the Translator of Juvenal,” said he once.–“Juvenal?’ interrupts Sansculottism: “who the devil is Juvenal? One of your sacres Aristocrates? To the Lanterne!” From an orator of this kind, conviction was not to be expected. The Legislative had much ado to save one of its own Members, or Ex-Members, Deputy Journeau, who chanced to be lying in arrest for mere Parliamentary delinquencies, in these Prisons. As for poor old Dusaulx and Company, they returned to the Salle de Manege, saying, “It was dark; and they could not see well what was going on.” (Moniteur, Debate of 2nd September, 1792.)
Roland writes indignant messages, in the name of Order, Humanity, and the Law; but there is no Force at his disposal. Santerre’s National Force seems lazy to rise; though he made requisitions, he says,–which always dispersed again. Nay did not we, with Advocate Maton’s eyes, see ‘men in uniform,’ too, with their ‘sleeves bloody to the shoulder?’ Petion goes in tricolor scarf; speaks “the austere language of the law:” the killers give up, while he is there; when his back is turned, recommence. Manuel too in scarf we, with Maton’s eyes, transiently saw haranguing, in the Court called of Nurses, Cour des Nourrices. On the other hand, cruel Billaud, likewise in scarf, ‘with that small puce coat and black wig we are used to on him,’ (Mehee, Fils (ut supra, in Hist. Parl. xviii. p. 189).) audibly delivers, ‘standing among corpses,’ at the Abbaye, a short but ever- memorable harangue, reported in various phraseology, but always to this purpose: “Brave Citizens, you are extirpating the Enemies of Liberty; you are at your duty. A grateful Commune, and Country, would wish to recompense you adequately; but cannot, for you know its want of funds. Whoever shall have worked (travaille) in a Prison shall receive a draft of one louis, payable by our cashier. Continue your work.” (Montgaillard, iii. 191.)–The Constituted Authorities are of yesterday; all pulling different ways: there is properly not Constituted Authority, but every man is his own King; and all are kinglets, belligerent, allied, or armed- neutral, without king over them.
‘O everlasting infamy,’ exclaims Montgaillard, ‘that Paris stood looking on in stupor for four days, and did not interfere!’ Very desirable indeed that Paris had interfered; yet not unnatural that it stood even so, looking on in stupor. Paris is in death-panic, the enemy and gibbets at its door: whosoever in Paris has the heart to front death finds it more pressing to do it fighting the Prussians, than fighting the killers of Aristocrats. Indignant abhorrence, as in Roland, may be here; gloomy sanction, premeditation or not, as in Marat and Committee of Salvation, may be there; dull disapproval, dull approval, and acquiescence in Necessity and Destiny, is the general temper. The Sons of Darkness, ‘two hundred or so,’ risen from their lurking-places, have scope to do their work. Urged on by fever- frenzy of Patriotism, and the madness of Terror;–urged on by lucre, and the gold louis of wages? Nay, not lucre: for the gold watches, rings, money of the Massacred, are punctually brought to the Townhall, by Killers sans-indispensables, who higgle afterwards for their twenty shillings of wages; and Sergent sticking an uncommonly fine agate on his finger (‘fully meaning to account for it’), becomes Agate-Sergent. But the temper, as we say, is dull acquiescence. Not till the Patriotic or Frenetic part of the work is finished for want of material; and Sons of Darkness, bent clearly on lucre alone, begin wrenching watches and purses, brooches from ladies’ necks ‘to equip volunteers,’ in daylight, on the streets,–does the temper from dull grow vehement; does the Constable raise his truncheon, and striking heartily (like a cattle-driver in earnest) beat the ‘course of things’ back into its old regulated drove-roads. The Garde-Meuble itself was surreptitiously plundered, on the 17th of the Month, to Roland’s new horror; who anew bestirs himself, and is, as Sieyes says, ‘the veto of scoundrels,’ Roland veto des coquins. (Helen Maria Williams, iii. 27.)–
This is the September Massacre, otherwise called ‘Severe Justice of the People.’ These are the Septemberers (Septembriseurs); a name of some note and lucency,–but lucency of the Nether-fire sort; very different from that of our Bastille Heroes, who shone, disputable by no Friend of Freedom, as in heavenly light-radiance: to such phasis of the business have we advanced since then! The numbers massacred are, in Historical fantasy, ‘between two and three thousand;’ or indeed they are ‘upwards of six thousand,’ for Peltier (in vision) saw them massacring the very patients of the Bicetre Madhouse ‘with grape-shot;’ nay finally they are ‘twelve thousand’ and odd hundreds,–not more than that. (See Hist. Parl. xvii. 421, 422.) In Arithmetical ciphers, and Lists drawn up by accurate Advocate Maton, the number, including two hundred and two priests, three ‘persons unknown,’ and ‘one thief killed at the Bernardins,’ is, as above hinted, a Thousand and Eighty-nine,–no less than that.
A thousand and eighty-nine lie dead, ‘two hundred and sixty heaped carcasses on the Pont au Change’ itself;–among which, Robespierre pleading afterwards will ‘nearly weep’ to reflect that there was said to be one slain innocent. (Moniteur of 6th November (Debate of 5th November, 1793).) One; not two, O thou seagreen Incorruptible? If so, Themis Sansculotte must be lucky; for she was brief!–In the dim Registers of the Townhall, which are preserved to this day, men read, with a certain sickness of heart, items and entries not usual in Town Books: ‘To workers employed in preserving the salubrity of the air in the Prisons, and persons ‘who presided over these dangerous operations,’ so much,–in various items, nearly seven hundred pounds sterling. To carters employed to ‘the Burying- grounds of Clamart, Montrouge, and Vaugirard,’ at so much a journey, per cart; this also is an entry. Then so many francs and odd sous ‘for the necessary quantity of quick-lime!’ (Etat des sommes payees par la Commune de Paris (Hist. Parl. xviii. 231).) Carts go along the streets; full of stript human corpses, thrown pellmell; limbs sticking up:–seest thou that cold Hand sticking up, through the heaped embrace of brother corpses, in its yellow paleness, in its cold rigour; the palm opened towards Heaven, as if in dumb prayer, in expostulation de profundis, Take pity on the Sons of Men!–Mercier saw it, as he walked down ‘the Rue Saint-Jacques from Montrouge, on the morrow of the Massacres:’ but not a Hand; it was a Foot,–which he reckons still more significant, one understands not well why. Or was it as the Foot of one spurning Heaven? Rushing, like a wild diver, in disgust and despair, towards the depths of Annihilation? Even there shall His hand find thee, and His right-hand hold thee,–surely for right not for wrong, for good not evil! ‘I saw that Foot,’ says Mercier; ‘I shall know it again at the great Day of Judgment, when the Eternal, throned on his thunders, shall judge both Kings and Septemberers.’ (Mercier, Nouveau Paris, vi. 21.)
That a shriek of inarticulate horror rose over this thing, not only from French Aristocrats and Moderates, but from all Europe, and has prolonged itself to the present day, was most natural and right. The thing lay done, irrevocable; a thing to be counted besides some other things, which lie very black in our Earth’s Annals, yet which will not erase therefrom. For man, as was remarked, has transcendentalisms in him; standing, as he does, poor creature, every way ‘in the confluence of Infinitudes;’ a mystery to himself and others: in the centre of two Eternities, of three Immensities,–in the intersection of primeval Light with the everlasting dark! Thus have there been, especially by vehement tempers reduced to a state of desperation, very miserable things done. Sicilian Vespers, and ‘eight thousand slaughtered in two hours,’ are a known thing. Kings themselves, not in desperation, but only in difficulty, have sat hatching, for year and day (nay De Thou says, for seven years), their Bartholomew Business; and then, at the right moment, also on an Autumn Sunday, this very Bell (they say it is the identical metal) of St. Germain l’Auxerrois was set a-pealing–with effect. (9th to 13th September, 1572 (Dulaure, Hist. de Paris, iv. 289.) Nay the same black boulder-stones of these Paris Prisons have seen Prison-massacres before now; men massacring countrymen, Burgundies massacring Armagnacs, whom they had suddenly imprisoned, till as now there are piled heaps of carcasses, and the streets ran red;–the Mayor Petion of the time speaking the austere language of the law, and answered by the Killers, in old French (it is some four hundred years old): “Maugre bieu, Sire,–Sir, God’s malison on your justice, your pity, your right reason. Cursed be of God whoso shall have pity on these false traitorous Armagnacs, English; dogs they are; they have destroyed us, wasted this realm of France, and sold it to the English.” (Dulaure, iii. 494.) And so they slay, and fling aside the slain, to the extent of ‘fifteen hundred and eighteen, among whom are found four Bishops of false and damnable counsel, and two Presidents of Parlement.’ For though it is not Satan’s world this that we live in, Satan always has his place in it (underground properly); and from time to time bursts up. Well may mankind shriek, inarticulately anathematising as they can. There are actions of such emphasis that no shrieking can be too emphatic for them. Shriek ye; acted have they.
Shriek who might in this France, in this Paris Legislative or Paris Townhall, there are Ten Men who do not shriek. A Circular goes out from the Committee of Salut Public, dated 3rd of September 1792; directed to all Townhalls: a State-paper too remarkable to be overlooked. ‘A part of the ferocious conspirators detained in the Prisons,’ it says, ‘have been put to death by the People; and it,’ the Circular, ‘cannot doubt but the whole Nation, driven to the edge of ruin by such endless series of treasons, will make haste to adopt this means of public salvation; and all Frenchmen will cry as the men of Paris: We go to fight the enemy, but we will not leave robbers behind us, to butcher our wives and children.’ To which are legibly appended these signatures: Panis, Sergent; Marat, Friend of the People; (Hist. Parl. xvii. 433.) with Seven others;–carried down thereby, in a strange way, to the late remembrance of Antiquarians. We remark, however, that their Circular rather recoiled on themselves. The Townhalls made no use of it; even the distracted Sansculottes made little; they only howled and bellowed, but did not bite. At Rheims ‘about eight persons’ were killed; and two afterwards were hanged for doing it. At Lyons, and a few other places, some attempt was made; but with hardly any effect, being quickly put down.
Less fortunate were the Prisoners of Orleans; was the good Duke de la Rochefoucault. He journeying, by quick stages, with his Mother and Wife, towards the Waters of Forges, or some quieter country, was arrested at Gisors; conducted along the streets, amid effervescing multitudes, and killed dead ‘by the stroke of a paving-stone hurled through the coach- window.’ Killed as a once Liberal now Aristocrat; Protector of Priests, Suspender of virtuous Petions, and his unfortunate Hot-grown-cold, detestable to Patriotism. He dies lamented of Europe; his blood spattering the cheeks of his old Mother, ninety-three years old.
As for the Orleans Prisoners, they are State Criminals: Royalist Ministers, Delessarts, Montmorins; who have been accumulating on the High Court of Orleans, ever since that Tribunal was set up. Whom now it seems good that we should get transferred to our new Paris Court of the Seventeenth; which proceeds far quicker. Accordingly hot Fournier from Martinique, Fournier l’Americain, is off, missioned by Constituted Authority; with stanch National Guards, with Lazouski the Pole; sparingly provided with road-money. These, through bad quarters, through difficulties, perils, for Authorities cross each other in this time,–do triumphantly bring off the Fifty or Fifty-three Orleans Prisoners, towards Paris; where a swifter Court of the Seventeenth will do justice on them. (Ibid. xvii. 434.) But lo, at Paris, in the interim, a still swifter and swiftest Court of the Second, and of September, has instituted itself: enter not Paris, or that will judge you!–What shall hot Fournier do? It was his duty, as volunteer Constable, had he been a perfect character, to guard those men’s lives never so Aristocratic, at the expense of his own valuable life never so Sansculottic, till some Constituted Court had disposed of them. But he was an imperfect character and Constable; perhaps one of the more imperfect.
Hot Fournier, ordered to turn thither by one Authority, to turn thither by another Authority, is in a perplexing multiplicity of orders; but finally he strikes off for Versailles. His Prisoners fare in tumbrils, or open carts, himself and Guards riding and marching around: and at the last village, the worthy Mayor of Versailles comes to meet him, anxious that the arrival and locking up were well over. It is Sunday, the ninth day of the month. Lo, on entering the Avenue of Versailles, what multitudes, stirring, swarming in the September sun, under the dull-green September foliage; the Four-rowed Avenue all humming and swarming, as if the Town had emptied itself! Our tumbrils roll heavily through the living sea; the Guards and Fournier making way with ever more difficulty; the Mayor speaking and gesturing his persuasivest; amid the inarticulate growling hum, which growls ever the deeper even by hearing itself growl, not without sharp yelpings here and there:–Would to God we were out of this strait place, and wind and separation had cooled the heat, which seems about igniting here!
And yet if the wide Avenue is too strait, what will the Street de Surintendance be, at leaving of the same? At the corner of Surintendance Street, the compressed yelpings became a continuous yell: savage figures spring on the tumbril-shafts; first spray of an endless coming tide! The Mayor pleads, pushes, half-desperate; is pushed, carried off in men’s arms: the savage tide has entrance, has mastery. Amid horrid noise, and tumult as of fierce wolves, the Prisoners sink massacred,–all but some eleven, who escaped into houses, and found mercy. The Prisons, and what other Prisoners they held, were with difficulty saved. The stript clothes are burnt in bonfire; the corpses lie heaped in the ditch on the morrow morning. (Pieces officielles relatives au massacre des Prisonniers a Versailles (in Hist. Parl. xviii. 236-249).) All France, except it be the Ten Men of the Circular and their people, moans and rages, inarticulately shrieking; all Europe rings.
But neither did Danton shriek; though, as Minister of Justice, it was more his part to do so. Brawny Danton is in the breach, as of stormed Cities and Nations; amid the Sweep of Tenth-of-August cannon, the rustle of Prussian gallows-ropes, the smiting of September sabres; destruction all round him, and the rushing-down of worlds: Minister of Justice is his name; but Titan of the Forlorn Hope, and Enfant Perdu of the Revolution, is his quality,–and the man acts according to that. “We must put our enemies in fear!” Deep fear, is it not, as of its own accord, falling on our enemies? The Titan of the Forlorn Hope, he is not the man that would swiftest of all prevent its so falling. Forward, thou lost Titan of an Enfant Perdu; thou must dare, and again dare, and without end dare; there is nothing left for thee but that! “Que mon nom soit fletri, Let my name be blighted:” what am I? The Cause alone is great; and shall live, and not perish.–So, on the whole, here too is a swallower of Formulas; of still wider gulp than Mirabeau: this Danton, Mirabeau of the Sansculottes. In the September days, this Minister was not heard of as co-operating with strict Roland; his business might lie elsewhere,–with Brunswick and the Hotel-de-Ville. When applied to by an official person, about the Orleans Prisoners, and the risks they ran, he answered gloomily, twice over, “Are not these men guilty?”–When pressed, he ‘answered in a terrible voice,’ and turned his back. (Biographie des Ministres, p. 97.) Two Thousand slain in the Prisons; horrible if you will: but Brunswick is within a day’s journey of us; and there are Five-and twenty Millions yet, to slay or to save. Some men have tasks,–frightfuller than ours! It seems strange, but is not strange, that this Minister of Moloch-Justice, when any suppliant for a friend’s life got access to him, was found to have human compassion; and yielded and granted ‘always;’ ‘neither did one personal enemy of Danton perish in these days.’ (Ibid. p. 103.)
To shriek, we say, when certain things are acted, is proper and unavoidable. Nevertheless, articulate speech, not shrieking, is the faculty of man: when speech is not yet possible, let there be, with the shortest delay, at least–silence. Silence, accordingly, in this forty- fourth year of the business, and eighteen hundred and thirty-sixth of an ‘Era called Christian as lucus a non,’ is the thing we recommend and practise. Nay, instead of shrieking more, it were perhaps edifying to remark, on the other side, what a singular thing Customs (in Latin, Mores) are; and how fitly the Virtue, Vir-tus, Manhood or Worth, that is in a man, is called his Morality, or Customariness. Fell Slaughter, one the most authentic products of the Pit you would say, once give it Customs, becomes War, with Laws of War; and is Customary and Moral enough; and red individuals carry the tools of it girt round their haunches, not without an air of pride,–which do thou nowise blame. While, see! so long as it is but dressed in hodden or russet; and Revolution, less frequent than War, has not yet got its Laws of Revolution, but the hodden or russet individuals are Uncustomary–O shrieking beloved brother blockheads of Mankind, let us close those wide mouths of ours; let us cease shrieking, and begin considering!
September in Argonne.
Plain, at any rate, is one thing: that the fear, whatever of fear those Aristocrat enemies might need, has been brought about. The matter is getting serious then! Sansculottism too has become a Fact, and seems minded to assert itself as such? This huge mooncalf of Sansculottism, staggering about, as young calves do, is not mockable only, and soft like another calf; but terrible too, if you prick it; and, through its hideous nostrils, blows fire!–Aristocrats, with pale panic in their hearts, fly towards covert; and a light rises to them over several things; or rather a confused transition towards light, whereby for the moment darkness is only darker than ever. But, What will become of this France? Here is a question! France is dancing its desert-waltz, as Sahara does when the winds waken; in whirlblasts twenty-five millions in number; waltzing towards Townhalls, Aristocrat Prisons, and Election Committee-rooms; towards Brunswick and the Frontiers;–towards a New Chapter of Universal History; if indeed it be not the Finis, and winding-up of that!
In Election Committee-rooms there is now no dubiety; but the work goes bravely along. The Convention is getting chosen,–really in a decisive spirit; in the Townhall we already date First year of the Republic. Some Two hundred of our best Legislators may be re-elected, the Mountain bodily: Robespierre, with Mayor Petion, Buzot, Curate Gregoire, Rabaut, some three score Old-Constituents; though we once had only ‘thirty voices.’ All these; and along with them, friends long known to Revolutionary fame: Camille Desmoulins, though he stutters in speech; Manuel, Tallien and Company; Journalists Gorsas, Carra, Mercier, Louvet of Faublas; Clootz Speaker of Mankind; Collot d’Herbois, tearing a passion to rags; Fabre d’Eglantine, speculative Pamphleteer; Legendre the solid Butcher; nay Marat, though rural France can hardly believe it, or even believe that there is a Marat except in print. Of Minister Danton, who will lay down his Ministry for a Membership, we need not speak. Paris is fervent; nor is the Country wanting to itself. Barbaroux, Rebecqui, and fervid Patriots are coming from Marseilles. Seven hundred and forty-five men (or indeed forty-nine, for Avignon now sends Four) are gathering: so many are to meet; not so many are to part!
Attorney Carrier from Aurillac, Ex-Priest Lebon from Arras, these shall both gain a name. Mountainous Auvergne re-elects her Romme: hardy tiller of the soil, once Mathematical Professor; who, unconscious, carries in petto a remarkable New Calendar, with Messidors, Pluvioses, and such like;- -and having given it well forth, shall depart by the death they call Roman. Sieyes old-Constituent comes; to make new Constitutions as many as wanted: for the rest, peering out of his clear cautious eyes, he will cower low in many an emergency, and find silence safest. Young Saint-Just is coming, deputed by Aisne in the North; more like a Student than a Senator: not four-and-twenty yet; who has written Books; a youth of slight stature, with mild mellow voice, enthusiast olive-complexion, and long dark hair. Feraud, from the far valley D’Aure in the folds of the Pyrenees, is coming; an ardent Republican; doomed to fame, at least in death.
All manner of Patriot men are coming: Teachers, Husbandmen, Priests and Ex-Priests, Traders, Doctors; above all, Talkers, or the Attorney-species. Man-midwives, as Levasseur of the Sarthe, are not wanting. Nor Artists: gross David, with the swoln cheek, has long painted, with genius in a state of convulsion; and will now legislate. The swoln cheek, choking his words in the birth, totally disqualifies him as orator; but his pencil, his head, his gross hot heart, with genius in a state of convulsion, will be there. A man bodily and mentally swoln-cheeked, disproportionate; flabby-large, instead of great; weak withal as in a state of convulsion, not strong in a state of composure: so let him play his part. Nor are naturalised Benefactors of the Species forgotten: Priestley, elected by the Orne Department, but declining: Paine the rebellious Needleman, by the Pas de Calais, who accepts.
Few Nobles come, and yet not none. Paul Francois Barras, ‘noble as the Barrases, old as the rocks of Provence;’ he is one. The reckless, shipwrecked man: flung ashore on the coast of the Maldives long ago, while sailing and soldiering as Indian Fighter; flung ashore since then, as hungry Parisian Pleasure-hunter and Half-pay, on many a Circe Island, with temporary enchantment, temporary conversion into beasthood and hoghood;– the remote Var Department has now sent him hither. A man of heat and haste; defective in utterance; defective indeed in any thing to utter; yet not without a certain rapidity of glance, a certain swift transient courage; who, in these times, Fortune favouring, may go far. He is tall, handsome to the eye, ‘only the complexion a little yellow;’ but ‘with a robe of purple with a scarlet cloak and plume of tricolor, on occasions of solemnity,’ the man will look well. (Dictionnaire des Hommes Marquans, para Barras.) Lepelletier Saint-Fargeau, Old-Constituent, is a kind of noble, and of enormous wealth; he too has come hither:–to have the Pain of Death abolished? Hapless Ex-Parlementeer! Nay, among our Sixty Old- Constituents, see Philippe d’Orleans a Prince of the Blood! Not now d’Orleans: for, Feudalism being swept from the world, he demands of his worthy friends the Electors of Paris, to have a new name of their choosing; whereupon Procureur Manuel, like an antithetic literary man, recommends Equality, Egalite. A Philippe Egalite therefore will sit; seen of the Earth and Heaven.
Such a Convention is gathering itself together. Mere angry poultry in moulting season; whom Brunswick’s grenadiers and cannoneers will give short account of. Would the weather only mend a little! (Bertrand-Moleville, Memoires, ii. 225.)
In vain, O Bertrand! The weather will not mend a whit:–nay even if it did? Dumouriez Polymetis, though Bertrand knows it not, started from brief slumber at Sedan, on that morning of the 29th of August; with stealthiness, with promptitude, audacity. Some three mornings after that, Brunswick, opening wide eyes, perceives the Passes of the Argonne all seized; blocked with felled trees, fortified with camps; and that it is a most shifty swift Dumouriez this, who has outwitted him!
The manoeuvre may cost Brunswick ‘a loss of three weeks,’ very fatal in these circumstances. A Mountain-wall of forty miles lying between him and Paris: which he should have preoccupied;–which how now to get possession of? Also the rain it raineth every day; and we are in a hungry Champagne Pouilleuse, a land flowing only with ditch-water. How to cross this Mountain-wall of the Argonne; or what in the world to do with it?–there are marchings and wet splashings by steep paths, with sackerments and guttural interjections; forcings of Argonne Passes,–which unhappily will not force. Through the woods, volleying War reverberates, like huge gong- music, or Moloch’s kettledrum, borne by the echoes; swoln torrents boil angrily round the foot of rocks, floating pale carcasses of men. In vain! Islettes Village, with its church-steeple, rises intact in the Mountain- pass, between the embosoming heights; your forced marchings and climbings have become forced slidings, and tumblings back. From the hill-tops thou seest nothing but dumb crags, and endless wet moaning woods; the Clermont Vache (huge Cow that she is) disclosing herself (See Helen Maria Williams. Letters, iii. 79-81.) at intervals; flinging off her cloud-blanket, and soon taking it on again, drowned in the pouring Heaven. The Argonne Passes will not force: by must skirt the Argonne; go round by the end of it.
But fancy whether the Emigrant Seigneurs have not got their brilliancy dulled a little; whether that ‘Foot Regiment in red-facings with nankeen trousers’ could be in field-day order! In place of gasconading, a sort of desperation, and hydrophobia from excess of water, is threatening to supervene. Young Prince de Ligne, son of that brave literary De Ligne the Thundergod of Dandies, fell backwards; shot dead in Grand-Pre, the Northmost of the Passes: Brunswick is skirting and rounding, laboriously, by the extremity of the South. Four days; days of a rain as of Noah,– without fire, without food! For fire you cut down green trees, and produce smoke; for food you eat green grapes, and produce colic, pestilential dysentery, (Greek). And the Peasants assassinate us, they do not join us; shrill women cry shame on us, threaten to draw their very scissors on us! O ye hapless dulled-bright Seigneurs, and hydrophobic splashed Nankeens;– but O, ten times more, ye poor sackerment-ing ghastly-visaged Hessians and Hulans, fallen on your backs; who had no call to die there, except compulsion and three-halfpence a-day! Nor has Mrs. Le Blanc of the Golden Arm a good time of it, in her bower of dripping rushes. Assassinating Peasants are hanged; Old-Constituent Honourable members, though of venerable age, ride in carts with their hands tied; these are the woes of war.
Thus they; sprawling and wriggling, far and wide, on the slopes and passes of the Argonne;–a loss to Brunswick of five-and-twenty disastrous days. There is wriggling and struggling; facing, backing, and right-about facing; as the positions shift, and the Argonne gets partly rounded, partly forced:–but still Dumouriez, force him, round him as you will, sticks like a rooted fixture on the ground; fixture with many hinges; wheeling now this way, now that; shewing always new front, in the most unexpected manner: nowise consenting to take himself away. Recruits stream up on him: full of heart; yet rather difficult to deal with. Behind Grand-Pre, for example, Grand-Pre which is on the wrong-side of the Argonne, for we are now forced and rounded,–the full heart, in one of those wheelings and shewings of new front, did as it were overset itself, as full hearts are liable to do; and there rose a shriek of sauve qui peut, and a death-panic which had nigh ruined all! So that the General had to come galloping; and, with thunder-words, with gesture, stroke of drawn sword even, check and rally, and bring back the sense of shame; (Dumouriez, Memoires, iii. 29.)– nay to seize the first shriekers and ringleaders; ‘shave their heads and eyebrows,’ and pack them forth into the world as a sign. Thus too (for really the rations are short, and wet camping with hungry stomach brings bad humour) there is like to be mutiny. Whereupon again Dumouriez ‘arrives at the head of their line, with his staff, and an escort of a hundred huzzars. He had placed some squadrons behind them, the artillery in front; he said to them: “As for you, for I will neither call you citizens, nor soldiers, nor my men (ni mes enfans), you see before you this artillery, behind you this cavalry. You have dishonoured yourselves by crimes. If you amend, and grow to behave like this brave Army which you have the honour of belonging to, you will find in me a good father. But plunderers and assassins I do not suffer here. At the smallest mutiny I will have you shivered in pieces (hacher en pieces). Seek out the scoundrels that are among you, and dismiss them yourselves; I hold you responsible for them.”‘ (Ibid., Memoires iii. 55.)
Patience, O Dumouriez! This uncertain heap of shriekers, mutineers, were they once drilled and inured, will become a phalanxed mass of Fighters; and wheel and whirl, to order, swiftly like the wind or the whirlwind: tanned mustachio-figures; often barefoot, even bare-backed; with sinews of iron; who require only bread and gunpowder: very Sons of Fire, the adroitest, hastiest, hottest ever seen perhaps since Attila’s time. They may conquer and overrun amazingly, much as that same Attila did;–whose Attila’s-Camp and Battlefield thou now seest, on this very ground; (Helen Maria Williams, iii. 32.) who, after sweeping bare the world, was, with difficulty, and days of tough fighting, checked here by Roman Aetius and Fortune; and his dust-cloud made to vanish in the East again!–
Strangely enough, in this shrieking Confusion of a Soldiery, which we saw long since fallen all suicidally out of square in suicidal collision,–at Nanci, or on the streets of Metz, where brave Bouille stood with drawn sword; and which has collided and ground itself to pieces worse and worse ever since, down now to such a state: in this shrieking Confusion, and not elsewhere, lies the first germ of returning Order for France! Round which, we say, poor France nearly all ground down suicidally likewise into rubbish and Chaos, will be glad to rally; to begin growing, and new-shaping her inorganic dust: very slowly, through centuries, through Napoleons, Louis Philippes, and other the like media and phases,–into a new, infinitely preferable France, we can hope!–
These wheelings and movements in the region of the Argonne, which are all faithfully described by Dumouriez himself, and more interesting to us than Hoyle’s or Philidor’s best Game of Chess, let us, nevertheless, O Reader, entirely omit;–and hasten to remark two things: the first a minute private, the second a large public thing. Our minute private thing is: the presence, in the Prussian host, in that war-game of the Argonne, of a certain Man, belonging to the sort called Immortal; who, in days since then, is becoming visible more and more, in that character, as the Transitory more and more vanishes; for from of old it was remarked that when the Gods appear among men, it is seldom in recognisable shape; thus Admetus’ neatherds give Apollo a draught of their goatskin whey-bottle (well if they do not give him strokes with their ox-rungs), not dreaming that he is the Sungod! This man’s name is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He is Herzog Weimar’s Minister, come with the small contingent of Weimar; to do insignificant unmilitary duty here; very irrecognizable to nearly all! He stands at present, with drawn bridle, on the height near Saint- Menehould, making an experiment on the ‘cannon-fever;’ having ridden thither against persuasion, into the dance and firing of the cannon-balls, with a scientific desire to understand what that same cannon-fever may be: ‘The sound of them,’ says he, ‘is curious enough; as if it were compounded of the humming of tops, the gurgling of water and the whistle of birds. By degrees you get a very uncommon sensation; which can only be described by similitude. It seems as if you were in some place extremely hot, and at the same time were completely penetrated by the heat of it; so that you feel as if you and this element you are in were perfectly on a par. The eyesight loses nothing of its strength or distinctness; and yet it is as if all things had got a kind of brown-red colour, which makes the situation and the objects still more impressive on you.’ (Goethe, Campagne in Frankreich (Werke, xxx. 73.)
This is the cannon-fever, as a World-Poet feels it.–A man entirely irrecognisable! In whose irrecognisable head, meanwhile, there verily is the spiritual counterpart (and call it complement) of this same huge Death- Birth of the World; which now effectuates itself, outwardly in the Argonne, in such cannon-thunder; inwardly, in the irrecognisable head, quite otherwise than by thunder! Mark that man, O Reader, as the memorablest of all the memorable in this Argonne Campaign. What we say of him is not dream, nor flourish of rhetoric; but scientific historic fact; as many men, now at this distance, see or begin to see.
But the large public thing we had to remark is this: That the Twentieth of September, 1792, was a raw morning covered with mist; that from three in the morning Sainte-Menehould, and those Villages and homesteads we know of old were stirred by the rumble of artillery-wagons, by the clatter of hoofs, and many footed tramp of men: all manner of military, Patriot and Prussian, taking up positions, on the Heights of La Lune and other Heights; shifting and shoving,–seemingly in some dread chess-game; which may the Heavens turn to good! The Miller of Valmy has fled dusty under ground; his Mill, were it never so windy, will have rest to-day. At seven in the morning the mist clears off: see Kellermann, Dumouriez’ second in command, with ‘eighteen pieces of cannon,’ and deep-serried ranks, drawn up round that same silent Windmill, on his knoll of strength; Brunswick, also, with serried ranks and cannon, glooming over to him from the height of La Lune; only the little brook and its little dell now parting them.
So that the much-longed-for has come at last! Instead of hunger and dysentery, we shall have sharp shot; and then!–Dumouriez, with force and firm front, looks on from a neighbouring height; can help only with his wishes, in silence. Lo, the eighteen pieces do bluster and bark, responsive to the bluster of La Lune; and thunder-clouds mount into the air; and echoes roar through all dells, far into the depths of Argonne Wood (deserted now); and limbs and lives of men fly dissipated, this way and that. Can Brunswick make an impression on them? The dull-bright Seigneurs stand biting their thumbs: these Sansculottes seem not to fly like poultry! Towards noontide a cannon-shot blows Kellermann’s horse from under him; there bursts a powder-cart high into the air, with knell heard over all: some swagging and swaying observable;–Brunswick will try! “Camarades,” cries Kellermann, “Vive la Patria! Allons vaincre pour elle, Let us conquer.” “Live the Fatherland!” rings responsive, to the welkin, like rolling-fire from side to side: our ranks are as firm as rocks; and Brunswick may recross the dell, ineffectual; regain his old position on La Lune; not unbattered by the way. And so, for the length of a September day,–with bluster and bark; with bellow far echoing! The cannonade lasts till sunset; and no impression made. Till an hour after sunset, the few remaining Clocks of the District striking Seven; at this late time of day Brunswick tries again. With not a whit better fortune! He is met by rock- ranks, by shouts of Vive la Patrie; and driven back, not unbattered. Whereupon he ceases; retires ‘to the Tavern of La Lune;’ and sets to raising a redoute lest he be attacked!
Verily so: ye dulled-bright Seigneurs, make of it what ye may. Ah, and France does not rise round us in mass; and the Peasants do not join us, but assassinate us: neither hanging nor any persuasion will induce them! They have lost their old distinguishing love of King, and King’s-cloak,–I fear, altogether; and will even fight to be rid of it: that seems now their humour. Nor does Austria prosper, nor the siege of Thionville. The Thionvillers, carrying their insolence to the epigrammatic pitch, have put a Wooden Horse on their walls, with a bundle of hay hung from him, and this Inscription: ‘When I finish my hay, you will take Thionville.’ (Hist. Parl. xix. 177.) To such height has the frenzy of mankind risen.
The trenches of Thionville may shut: and what though those of Lille open? The Earth smiles not on us, nor the Heaven; but weeps and blears itself, in sour rain, and worse. Our very friends insult us; we are wounded in the house of our friends: “His Majesty of Prussia had a greatcoat, when the rain came; and (contrary to all known laws) he put it on, though our two French Princes, the hope of their country, had none!” To which indeed, as Goethe admits, what answer could be made? (Goethe, xxx. 49.)–Cold and Hunger and Affront, Colic and Dysentery and Death; and we here, cowering redouted, most unredoubtable, amid the ‘tattered corn-shocks and deformed stubble,’ on the splashy Height of La Lune, round the mean Tavern de La Lune!–
This is the Cannonade of Valmy; wherein the World-Poet experimented on the cannon-fever; wherein the French Sansculottes did not fly like poultry. Precious to France! Every soldier did his duty, and Alsatian Kellermann (how preferable to old Luckner the dismissed!) began to become greater; and Egalite Fils, Equality Junior, a light gallant Field-Officer, distinguished himself by intrepidity:–it is the same intrepid individual who now, as Louis-Philippe, without the Equality, struggles, under sad circumstances, to be called King of the French for a season.
But this Twentieth of September is otherwise a great day. For, observe, while Kellermann’s horse was flying blown from under him at the Mill of Valmy, our new National Deputies, that shall be a NATIONAL CONVENTION, are hovering and gathering about the Hall of the Hundred Swiss; with intent to constitute themselves!
On the morrow, about noontide, Camus the Archivist is busy ‘verifying their powers;’ several hundreds of them already here. Whereupon the Old Legislative comes solemnly over, to merge its old ashes Phoenix-like in the body of the new;–and so forthwith, returning all solemnly back to the Salle de Manege, there sits a National Convention, Seven Hundred and Forty- nine complete, or complete enough; presided by Petion;–which proceeds directly to do business. Read that reported afternoon’s-debate, O Reader; there are few debates like it: dull reporting Moniteur itself becomes more dramatic than a very Shakespeare. For epigrammatic Manuel rises, speaks strange things; how the President shall have a guard of honour, and lodge in the Tuileries:–rejected. And Danton rises and speaks; and Collot d’Herbois rises, and Curate Gregoire, and lame Couthon of the Mountain rises; and in rapid Meliboean stanzas, only a few lines each, they propose motions not a few: That the corner-stone of our new Constitution is Sovereignty of the People; that our Constitution shall be accepted by the People or be null; further that the People ought to be avenged, and have right Judges; that the Imposts must continue till new order; that Landed and other Property be sacred forever; finally that ‘Royalty from this day is abolished in France:’–Decreed all, before four o’clock strike, with acclamation of the world! (Hist. Parl. xix. 19.) The tree was all so ripe; only shake it and there fall such yellow cart-loads.
And so over in the Valmy Region, as soon as the news come, what stir is this, audible, visible from our muddy heights of La Lune? (Williams, iii. 71.) Universal shouting of the French on their opposite hillside; caps raised on bayonets; and a sound as of Republique; Vive la Republique borne dubious on the winds!–On the morrow morning, so to speak, Brunswick slings his knapsacks before day, lights any fires he has; and marches without tap of drum. Dumouriez finds ghastly symptoms in that camp; ‘latrines full of blood!’ (1st October, 1792; Dumouriez, iii. 73.) The chivalrous King of Prussia, for he as we saw is here in person, may long rue the day; may look colder than ever on these dulled-bright Seigneurs, and French Princes their Country’s hope;–and, on the whole, put on his great-coat without ceremony, happy that he has one. They retire, all retire with convenient despatch, through a Champagne trodden into a quagmire, the wild weather pouring on them; Dumouriez through his Kellermanns and Dillons pricking them a little in the hinder parts. A little, not much; now pricking, now negotiating: for Brunswick has his eyes opened; and the Majesty of Prussia is a repentant Majesty.
Nor has Austria prospered, nor the Wooden Horse of Thionville bitten his hay; nor Lille City surrendered itself. The Lille trenches opened, on the 29th of the month; with balls and shells, and redhot balls; as if not trenches but Vesuvius and the Pit had opened. It was frightful, say all eye-witnesses; but it is ineffectual. The Lillers have risen to such temper; especially after these news from Argonne and the East. Not a Sans- indispensables in Lille that would surrender for a King’s ransom. Redhot balls rain, day and night; ‘six-thousand,’ or so, and bombs ‘filled internally with oil of turpentine which splashes up in flame;’–mainly on the dwellings of the Sansculottes and Poor; the streets of the Rich being spared. But the Sansculottes get water-pails; form quenching-regulations, “The ball is in Peter’s house!” “The ball is in John’s!” They divide their lodging and substance with each other; shout Vive la Republique; and faint not in heart. A ball thunders through the main chamber of the Hotel- de-Ville, while the Commune is there assembled: “We are in permanence,” says one, coldly, proceeding with his business; and the ball remains permanent too, sticking in the wall, probably to this day. (Bombardement de Lille (in Hist. Parl. xx. 63-71).)
The Austrian Archduchess (Queen’s Sister) will herself see red artillery fired; in their over-haste to satisfy an Archduchess ‘two mortars explode and kill thirty persons.’ It is in vain; Lille, often burning, is always quenched again; Lille will not yield. The very boys deftly wrench the matches out of fallen bombs: ‘a man clutches a rolling ball with his hat, which takes fire; when cool, they crown it with a bonnet rouge.’ Memorable also be that nimble Barber, who when the bomb burst beside him, snatched up a shred of it, introduced soap and lather into it, crying, “Voila mon plat a barbe, My new shaving-dish!” and shaved ‘fourteen people’ on the spot. Bravo, thou nimble Shaver; worthy to shave old spectral Redcloak, and find treasures!–On the eighth day of this desperate siege, the sixth day of October, Austria finding it fruitless, draws off, with no pleasurable consciousness; rapidly, Dumouriez tending thitherward; and Lille too, black with ashes and smoulder, but jubilant skyhigh, flings its gates open. The Plat a barbe became fashionable; ‘no Patriot of an elegant turn,’ says Mercier several years afterwards, ‘but shaves himself out of the splinter of a Lille bomb.’
Quid multa, Why many words? The Invaders are in flight; Brunswick’s Host, the third part of it gone to death, staggers disastrous along the deep highways of Champagne; spreading out also into ‘the fields, of a tough spongy red-coloured clay;–like Pharaoh through a Red Sea of mud,’ says Goethe; ‘for he also lay broken chariots, and riders and foot seemed sinking around.’ (Campagne in Frankreich, p. 103.) On the eleventh morning of October, the World-Poet, struggling Northwards out of Verdun, which he had entered Southwards, some five weeks ago, in quite other order, discerned the following Phenomenon and formed part of it:
‘Towards three in the morning, without having had any sleep, we were about mounting our carriage, drawn up at the door; when an insuperable obstacle disclosed itself: for there rolled on already, between the pavement-stones which were crushed up into a ridge on each side, an uninterrupted column of sick-wagons through the Town, and all was trodden as into a morass. While we stood waiting what could be made of it, our Landlord the Knight of Saint-Louis pressed past us, without salutation.’ He had been a Calonne’s Notable in 1787, an Emigrant since; had returned to his home, jubilant, with the Prussians; but must now forth again into the wide world, ‘followed by a servant carrying a little bundle on his stick.
‘The activity of our alert Lisieux shone eminent; and, on this occasion too, brought us on: for he struck into a small gap of the wagon-row; and held the advancing team back till we, with our six and our four horses, got intercalated; after which, in my light little coachlet, I could breathe freer. We were now under way; at a funeral pace, but still under way. The day broke; we found ourselves at the outlet of the Town, in a tumult and turmoil without measure. All sorts of vehicles, few horsemen, innumerable foot-people, were crossing each other on the great esplanade before the Gate. We turned to the right, with our Column, towards Estain, on a limited highway, with ditches at each side. Self-preservation, in so monstrous a press, knew now no pity, no respect of aught. Not far before us there fell down a horse of an ammunition-wagon: they cut the traces, and let it lie. And now as the three others could not bring their load along, they cut them also loose, tumbled the heavy-packed vehicle into the ditch; and, with the smallest retardation, we had to drive on, right over the horse, which was just about to rise; and I saw too clearly how its legs, under the wheels, went crashing and quivering.
‘Horse and foot endeavoured to escape from the narrow laborious highway into the meadows: but these too were rained to ruin; overflowed by full ditches, the connexion of the footpaths every where interrupted. Four gentlemanlike, handsome, well-dressed French soldiers waded for a time beside our carriage; wonderfully clean and neat: and had such art of picking their steps, that their foot-gear testified no higher than the ancle to the muddy pilgrimage these good people found themselves engaged in.
‘That under such circumstances one saw, in ditches, in meadows, in fields and crofts, dead horses enough, was natural to the case: by and by, however, you found them also flayed, the fleshy parts even cut away; sad token of the universal distress.
‘Thus we fared on; every moment in danger, at the smallest stoppage on our own part, of being ourselves tumbled overboard; under which circumstances, truly, the careful dexterity of our Lisieux could not be sufficiently praised. The same talent shewed itself at Estain; where we arrived towards noon; and descried, over the beautiful well-built little Town, through streets and on squares, around and beside us, one sense-confusing tumult: the mass rolled this way and that; and, all struggling forward, each hindered the other. Unexpectedly our carriage drew up before a stately house in the market-place; master and mistress of the mansion saluted us in reverent distance.’ Dexterous Lisieux, though we knew it not, had said we were the King of Prussia’s Brother!
‘But now, from the ground-floor windows, looking over the whole market- place, we had the endless tumult lying, as it were, palpable. All sorts of walkers, soldiers in uniform, marauders, stout but sorrowing citizens and peasants, women and children, crushed and jostled each other, amid vehicles of all forms: ammunition-wagons, baggage-wagons; carriages, single, double, and multiplex; such hundredfold miscellany of teams, requisitioned or lawfully owned, making way, hitting together, hindering each other, rolled here to right and to left. Horned-cattle too were struggling on; probably herds that had been put in requisition. Riders you saw few; but the elegant carriages of the Emigrants, many-coloured, lackered, gilt and silvered, evidently by the best builders, caught your eye. (See Hermann and Dorothea (also by Goethe), Buch Kalliope.)
‘The crisis of the strait however arose further on a little; where the crowded market-place had to introduce itself into a street,–straight indeed and good, but proportionably far too narrow. I have, in my life, seen nothing like it: the aspect of it might perhaps be compared to that of a swoln river which has been raging over meadows and fields, and is now again obliged to press itself through a narrow bridge, and flow on in its bounded channel. Down the long street, all visible from our windows, there swelled continually the strangest tide: a high double-seated travelling- coach towered visible over the flood of things. We thought of the fair Frenchwomen we had seen in the morning. It was not they, however, it was Count Haugwitz; him you could look at, with a kind of sardonic malice, rocking onwards, step by step, there.’ (Campagne in Frankreich, Goethe’s Werke (Stuttgart, 1829), xxx. 133-137.)
In such untriumphant Procession has the Brunswick Manifesto issued! Nay in worse, ‘in Negotiation with these miscreants,’–the first news of which produced such a revulsion in the Emigrant nature, as put our scientific World-Poet ‘in fear for the wits of several.’ There is no help: they must fare on, these poor Emigrants, angry with all persons and things, and making all persons angry, in the hapless course they struck into. Landlord and landlady testify to you, at tables-d’hote, how insupportable these Frenchmen are: how, in spite of such humiliation, of poverty and probable beggary, there is ever the same struggle for precedence, the same forwardness, and want of discretion. High in honour, at the head of the table, you with your own eyes observe not a Seigneur but the automaton of a Seigneur, fallen into dotage; still worshipped, reverently waited on, and fed. In miscellaneous seats, is a miscellany of soldiers, commissaries, adventurers; consuming silently their barbarian victuals. ‘On all brows is to be read a hard destiny; all are silent, for each has his own sufferings to bear, and looks forth into misery without bounds.’ One hasty wanderer, coming in, and eating without ungraciousness what is set before him, the landlord lets off almost scot-free. “He is,” whispered the landlord to me, “the first of these cursed people I have seen condescend to taste our German black bread.” (Ibid. 152.) (Ibid. 210-12.)
And Dumouriez is in Paris; lauded and feasted; paraded in glittering saloons, floods of beautifullest blond-dresses and broadcloth-coats flowing past him, endless, in admiring joy. One night, nevertheless, in the splendour of one such scene, he sees himself suddenly apostrophised by a squalid unjoyful Figure, who has come in uninvited, nay despite of all lackeys; an unjoyful Figure! The Figure is come “in express mission from the Jacobins,” to inquire sharply, better then than later, touching certain things: “Shaven eyebrows of Volunteer Patriots, for instance?” Also “your threats of shivering in pieces?” Also, “why you have not chased Brunswick hotly enough?” Thus, with sharp croak, inquires the Figure.–“Ah, c’est vous qu’on appelle Marat, You are he they call Marat!” answers the General, and turns coldly on his heel. (Dumouriez, iii. 115.–Marat’s account, In the Debats des Jacobins and Journal de la Republique (Hist. Parl. xix. 317- 21), agrees to the turning on the heel, but strives to interpret it differently.)–“Marat!” The blonde-gowns quiver like aspens; the dress- coats gather round; Actor Talma (for it is his house), and almost the very chandelier-lights, are blue: till this obscene Spectrum, or visual Appearance, vanish back into native Night.
General Dumouriez, in few brief days, is gone again, towards the Netherlands; will attack the Netherlands, winter though it be. And General Montesquiou, on the South-East, has driven in the Sardinian Majesty; nay, almost without a shot fired, has taken Savoy from him, which longs to become a piece of the Republic. And General Custine, on the North-East, has dashed forth on Spires and its Arsenal; and then on Electoral Mentz, not uninvited, wherein are German Democrats and no shadow of an Elector now:–so that in the last days of October, Frau Forster, a daughter of Heyne’s, somewhat democratic, walking out of the Gate of Mentz with her Husband, finds French Soldiers playing at bowls with cannon-balls there. Forster trips cheerfully over one iron bomb, with “Live the Republic!” A black-bearded National Guard answers: “Elle vivra bien sans vous, It will probably live independently of you!” (Johann Georg Forster’s Briefwechsel (Leipzig, 1829), i. 88.)
France therefore has done two things very completely: she has hurled back her Cimmerian Invaders far over the marches; and likewise she has shattered her own internal Social Constitution, even to the minutest fibre of it, into wreck and dissolution. Utterly it is all altered: from King down to Parish Constable, all Authorities, Magistrates, Judges, persons that bore rule, have had, on the sudden, to alter themselves, so far as needful; or else, on the sudden, and not without violence, to be altered: a Patriot ‘Executive Council of Ministers,’ with a Patriot Danton in it, and then a whole Nation and National Convention, have taken care of that. Not a Parish Constable, in the furthest hamlet, who has said De Par le Roi, and shewn loyalty, but must retire, making way for a new improved Parish Constable who can say De par la Republique.
It is a change such as History must beg her readers to imagine, undescribed. An instantaneous change of the whole body-politic, the soul- politic being all changed; such a change as few bodies, politic or other, can experience in this world. Say perhaps, such as poor Nymph Semele’s body did experience, when she would needs, with woman’s humour, see her Olympian Jove as very Jove;–and so stood, poor Nymph, this moment Semele, next moment not Semele, but Flame and a Statue of red-hot Ashes! France has looked upon Democracy; seen it face to face.–The Cimmerian Invaders will rally, in humbler temper, with better or worse luck: the wreck and dissolution must reshape itself into a social Arrangement as it can and may. But as for this National Convention, which is to settle every thing, if it do, as Deputy Paine and France generally expects, get all finished ‘in a few months,’ we shall call it a most deft Convention.
In truth, it is very singular to see how this mercurial French People plunges suddenly from Vive le Roi to Vive la Republique; and goes simmering and dancing; shaking off daily (so to speak), and trampling into the dust, its old social garnitures, ways of thinking, rules of existing; and cheerfully dances towards the Ruleless, Unknown, with such hope in its heart, and nothing but Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood in its mouth. Is it two centuries, or is it only two years, since all France roared simultaneously to the welkin, bursting forth into sound and smoke at its Feast of Pikes, “Live the Restorer of French Liberty?” Three short years ago there was still Versailles and an Oeil-de-Boeuf: now there is that watched Circuit of the Temple, girt with dragon-eyed Municipals, where, as in its final limbo, Royalty lies extinct. In the year 1789, Constituent Deputy Barrere ‘wept,’ in his Break-of-Day Newspaper, at sight of a reconciled King Louis; and now in 1792, Convention Deputy Barrere, perfectly tearless, may be considering, whether the reconciled King Louis shall be guillotined or not.
Old garnitures and social vestures drop off (we say) so fast, being indeed quite decayed, and are trodden under the National dance. And the new vestures, where are they; the new modes and rules? Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: not vestures but the wish for vestures! The Nation is for the present, figuratively speaking, naked! It has no rule or vesture; but is naked,–a Sansculottic Nation.
So far, therefore, in such manner have our Patriot Brissots, Guadets triumphed. Vergniaud’s Ezekiel-visions of the fall of thrones and crowns, which he spake hypothetically and prophetically in the Spring of the year, have suddenly come to fulfilment in the Autumn. Our eloquent Patriots of the Legislative, like strong Conjurors, by the word of their mouth, have swept Royalism with its old modes and formulas to the winds; and shall now govern a France free of formulas. Free of formulas! And yet man lives not except with formulas; with customs, ways of doing and living: no text truer than this; which will hold true from the Tea-table and Tailor’s shopboard up to the High Senate-houses, Solemn Temples; nay through all provinces of Mind and Imagination, onwards to the outmost confines of articulate Being,–Ubi homines sunt modi sunt! There are modes wherever there are men. It is the deepest law of man’s nature; whereby man is a craftsman and ‘tool-using animal;’ not the slave of Impulse, Chance, and Brute Nature, but in some measure their lord. Twenty-five millions of men, suddenly stript bare of their modi, and dancing them down in that manner, are a terrible thing to govern!
Eloquent Patriots of the Legislative, meanwhile, have precisely this problem to solve. Under the name and nickname of ‘statesmen, hommes d’etat,’ of ‘moderate-men, moderantins,’ of Brissotins, Rolandins, finally of Girondins, they shall become world-famous in solving it. For the Twenty-five millions are Gallic effervescent too;–filled both with hope of the unutterable, of universal Fraternity and Golden Age; and with terror of the unutterable, Cimmerian Europe all rallying on us. It is a problem like few. Truly, if man, as the Philosophers brag, did to any extent look before and after, what, one may ask, in many cases would become of him? What, in this case, would become of these Seven Hundred and Forty-nine men? The Convention, seeing clearly before and after, were a paralysed Convention. Seeing clearly to the length of its own nose, it is not paralysed.
To the Convention itself neither the work nor the method of doing it is doubtful: To make the Constitution; to defend the Republic till that be made. Speedily enough, accordingly, there has been a ‘Committee of the Constitution’ got together. Sieyes, Old-Constituent, Constitution-builder by trade; Condorcet, fit for better things; Deputy Paine, foreign Benefactor of the Species, with that ‘red carbuncled face, and the black beaming eyes;’ Herault de Sechelles, Ex-Parlementeer, one of the handsomest men in France: these, with inferior guild-brethren, are girt cheerfully to the work; will once more ‘make the Constitution;’ let us hope, more effectually than last time. For that the Constitution can be made, who doubts,–unless the Gospel of Jean Jacques came into the world in vain? True, our last Constitution did tumble within the year, so lamentably. But what then, except sort the rubbish and boulders, and build them up again better? ‘Widen your basis,’ for one thing,–to Universal Suffrage, if need be; exclude rotten materials, Royalism and such like, for another thing. And in brief, build, O unspeakable Sieyes and Company, unwearied! Frequent perilous downrushing of scaffolding and rubble-work, be that an irritation, no discouragement. Start ye always again, clearing aside the wreck; if with broken limbs, yet with whole hearts; and build, we say, in the name of Heaven,–till either the work do stand; or else mankind abandon it, and the Constitution-builders be paid off, with laughter and tears! One good time, in the course of Eternity, it was appointed that this of Social Contract too should try itself out. And so the Committee of Constitution shall toil: with hope and faith;–with no disturbance from any reader of these pages.
To make the Constitution, then, and return home joyfully in a few months: this is the prophecy our National Convention gives of itself; by this scientific program shall its operations and events go on. But from the best scientific program, in such a case, to the actual fulfilment, what a difference! Every reunion of men, is it not, as we often say, a reunion of incalculable Influences; every unit of it a microcosm of Influences;–of which how shall Science calculate or prophesy! Science, which cannot, with all its calculuses, differential, integral, and of variations, calculate the Problem of Three gravitating Bodies, ought to hold her peace here, and say only: In this National Convention there are Seven Hundred and Forty- nine very singular Bodies, that gravitate and do much else;–who, probably in an amazing manner, will work the appointment of Heaven.
Of National Assemblages, Parliaments, Congresses, which have long sat; which are of saturnine temperament; above all, which are not ‘dreadfully in earnest,’ something may be computed or conjectured: yet even these are a kind of Mystery in progress,–whereby we see the Journalist Reporter find livelihood: even these jolt madly out of the ruts, from time to time. How much more a poor National Convention, of French vehemence; urged on at such velocity; without routine, without rut, track or landmark; and dreadfully in earnest every man of them! It is a Parliament literally such as there was never elsewhere in the world. Themselves are new, unarranged; they are the Heart and presiding centre of a France fallen wholly into maddest disarrangement. From all cities, hamlets, from the utmost ends of this France with its Twenty-five million vehement souls, thick-streaming influences storm in on that same Heart, in the Salle de Manege, and storm out again: such fiery venous-arterial circulation is the function of that Heart. Seven Hundred and Forty-nine human individuals, we say, never sat together on Earth, under more original circumstances. Common individuals most of them, or not far from common; yet in virtue of the position they occupied, so notable. How, in this wild piping of the whirlwind of human passions, with death, victory, terror, valour, and all height and all depth pealing and piping, these men, left to their own guidance, will speak and act?
Readers know well that this French National Convention (quite contrary to its own Program) became the astonishment and horror of mankind; a kind of Apocalyptic Convention, or black Dream become real; concerning which History seldom speaks except in the way of interjection: how it covered France with woe, delusion, and delirium; and from its bosom there went forth Death on the pale Horse. To hate this poor National Convention is easy; to praise and love it has not been found impossible. It is, as we say, a Parliament in the most original circumstances. To us, in these pages, be it as a fuliginous fiery mystery, where Upper has met Nether, and in such alternate glare and blackness of darkness poor bedazzled mortals know not which is Upper, which is Nether; but rage and plunge distractedly, as mortals, in that case, will do. A Convention which has to consume itself, suicidally; and become dead ashes–with its World! Behoves us, not to enter exploratively its dim embroiled deeps; yet to stand with unwavering eyes, looking how it welters; what notable phases and occurrences it will successively throw up.
One general superficial circumstance we remark with praise: the force of Politeness. To such depth has the sense of civilisation penetrated man’s life; no Drouet, no Legendre, in the maddest tug of war, can altogether shake it off. Debates of Senates dreadfully in earnest are seldom given frankly to the world; else perhaps they would surprise it. Did not the Grand Monarque himself once chase his Louvois with a pair of brandished tongs? But reading long volumes of these Convention Debates, all in a foam with furious earnestness, earnest many times to the extent of life and death, one is struck rather with the degree of continence they manifest in speech; and how in such wild ebullition, there is still a kind of polite rule struggling for mastery, and the forms of social life never altogether disappear. These men, though they menace with clenched right-hands, do not clench one another by the collar; they draw no daggers, except for oratorical purposes, and this not often: profane swearing is almost unknown, though the Reports are frank enough; we find only one or two oaths, oaths by Marat, reported in all.
For the rest, that there is ‘effervescence’ who doubts? Effervescence enough; Decrees passed by acclamation to-day, repealed by vociferation to- morrow; temper fitful, most rotatory changeful, always headlong! The ‘voice of the orator is covered with rumours;’ a hundred ‘honourable Members rush with menaces towards the Left side of the Hall;’ President has ‘broken three bells in succession,’–claps on his hat, as signal that the country is near ruined. A fiercely effervescent Old-Gallic Assemblage!– Ah, how the loud sick sounds of Debate, and of Life, which is a debate, sink silent one after another: so loud now, and in a little while so low! Brennus, and those antique Gael Captains, in their way to Rome, to Galatia, and such places, whither they were in the habit of marching in the most fiery manner, had Debates as effervescent, doubt it not; though no Moniteur has reported them. They scolded in Celtic Welsh, those Brennuses; neither were they Sansculotte; nay rather breeches (braccae, say of felt or rough- leather) were the only thing they had; being, as Livy testifies, naked down to the haunches:–and, see, it is the same sort of work and of men still, now when they have got coats, and speak nasally a kind of broken Latin! But on the whole does not TIME envelop this present National Convention; as it did those Brennuses, and ancient August Senates in felt breeches? Time surely; and also Eternity. Dim dusk of Time,–or noon which will be dusk; and then there is night, and silence; and Time with all its sick noises is swallowed in the still sea. Pity thy brother, O Son of Adam! The angriest frothy jargon that he utters, is it not properly the whimpering of an infant which cannot speak what ails it, but is in distress clearly, in the inwards of it; and so must squall and whimper continually, till its Mother take it, and it get–to sleep!
This Convention is not four days old, and the melodious Meliboean stanzas that shook down Royalty are still fresh in our ear, when there bursts out a new diapason,–unhappily, of Discord, this time. For speech has been made of a thing difficult to speak of well: the September Massacres. How deal with these September Massacres; with the Paris Commune that presided over them? A Paris Commune hateful-terrible; before which the poor effete Legislative had to quail, and sit quiet. And now if a young omnipotent Convention will not so quail and sit, what steps shall it take? Have a Departmental Guard in its pay, answer the Girondins, and Friends of Order! A Guard of National Volunteers, missioned from all the Eighty-three or Eighty-five Departments, for that express end; these will keep Septemberers, tumultuous Communes in a due state of submissiveness, the Convention in a due state of sovereignty. So have the Friends of Order answered, sitting in Committee, and reporting; and even a Decree has been passed of the required tenour. Nay certain Departments, as the Var or Marseilles, in mere expectation and assurance of a Decree, have their contingent of Volunteers already on march: brave Marseillese, foremost on the Tenth of August, will not be hindmost here; ‘fathers gave their sons a musket and twenty-five louis,’ says Barbaroux, ‘and bade them march.’
Can any thing be properer? A Republic that will found itself on justice must needs investigate September Massacres; a Convention calling itself National, ought it not to be guarded by a National force?–Alas, Reader, it seems so to the eye: and yet there is much to be said and argued. Thou beholdest here the small beginning of a Controversy, which mere logic will not settle. Two small well-springs, September, Departmental Guard, or rather at bottom they are but one and the same small well-spring; which will swell and widen into waters of bitterness; all manner of subsidiary streams and brooks of bitterness flowing in, from this side and that; till it become a wide river of bitterness, of rage and separation,–which can subside only into the Catacombs. This Departmental Guard, decreed by overwhelming majorities, and then repealed for peace’s sake, and not to insult Paris, is again decreed more than once; nay it is partially executed, and the very men that are to be of it are seen visibly parading the Paris streets,–shouting once, being overtaken with liquor: “A bas Marat, Down with Marat!” (Hist. Parl. xx. 184.) Nevertheless, decreed never so often, it is repealed just as often; and continues, for some seven months, an angry noisy Hypothesis only: a fair Possibility struggling to become a Reality, but which shall never be one; which, after endless struggling, shall, in February next, sink into sad rest,–dragging much along with it. So singular are the ways of men and honourable Members.
But on this fourth day of the Convention’s existence, as we said, which is the 25th of September 1792, there comes Committee Report on that Decree of the Departmental Guard, and speech of repealing it; there come denunciations of anarchy, of a Dictatorship,–which let the incorruptible Robespierre consider: there come denunciations of a certain Journal de la Republique, once called Ami du Peuple; and so thereupon there comes, visibly stepping up, visibly standing aloft on the Tribune, ready to speak, the Bodily Spectrum of People’s-Friend Marat! Shriek, ye Seven Hundred and Forty-nine; it is verily Marat, he and not another. Marat is no phantasm of the brain, or mere lying impress of Printer’s Types; but a thing material, of joint and sinew, and a certain small stature: ye behold him there, in his blackness in his dingy squalor, a living fraction of Chaos and Old Night; visibly incarnate, desirous to speak. “It appears,” says Marat to the shrieking Assembly, “that a great many persons here are enemies of mine.” “All! All!” shriek hundreds of voices: enough to drown any People’s-Friend. But Marat will not drown: he speaks and croaks explanation; croaks with such reasonableness, air of sincerity, that repentant pity smothers anger, and the shrieks subside or even become applauses. For this Convention is unfortunately the crankest of machines: it shall be pointing eastward, with stiff violence, this moment; and then do but touch some spring dexterously, the whole machine, clattering and jerking seven-hundred-fold, will whirl with huge crash, and, next moment, is pointing westward! Thus Marat, absolved and applauded, victorious in this turn of fence, is, as the Debate goes on, prickt at again by some dexterous Girondin; and then and shrieks rise anew, and Decree of Accusation is on the point of passing; till the dingy People’s-Friend bobs aloft once more; croaks once more persuasive stillness, and the Decree of Accusation sinks, Whereupon he draws forth–a Pistol; and setting it to his Head, the seat of such thought and prophecy, says: “If they had passed their Accusation Decree, he, the People’s-Friend, would have blown his brains out.” A People’s Friend has that faculty in him. For the rest, as to this of the two hundred and sixty thousand Aristocrat Heads, Marat candidly says, “C’est la mon avis, such is my opinion.” Also it is not indisputable: “No power on Earth can prevent me from seeing into traitors, and unmasking them,”–by my superior originality of mind? (Moniteur Newspaper, Nos. 271, 280, 294, Annee premiere; Moore’s Journal, ii. 21, 157, &c. (which, however, may perhaps, as in similar cases, be only a copy of the Newspaper).) An honourable member like this Friend of the People few terrestrial Parliaments have had.
We observe, however, that this first onslaught by the Friends of Order, as sharp and prompt as it was, has failed. For neither can Robespierre, summoned out by talk of Dictatorship, and greeted with the like rumour on shewing himself, be thrown into Prison, into Accusation;–not though Barbarous openly bear testimony against him, and sign it on paper. With such sanctified meekness does the Incorruptible lift his seagreen cheek to the smiter; lift his thin voice, and with jesuitic dexterity plead, and prosper: asking at last, in a prosperous manner: “But what witnesses has the Citoyen Barbaroux to support his testimony?” “Moi!” cries hot Rebecqui, standing up, striking his breast with both hands, and answering, “Me!” (Moniteur, ut supra; Seance du 25 Septembre.) Nevertheless the Seagreen pleads again, and makes it good: the long hurlyburly, ‘personal merely,’ while so much public matter lies fallow, has ended in the order of the day. O Friends of the Gironde, why will you occupy our august sessions with mere paltry Personalities, while the grand Nationality lies in such a state?–The Gironde has touched, this day, on the foul black-spot of its fair Convention Domain; has trodden on it, and yet not trodden it down. Alas, it is a well-spring, as we said, this black-spot; and will not tread down!
May we not conjecture therefore that round this grand enterprise of Making the Constitution there will, as heretofore, very strange embroilments gather, and questions and interests complicate themselves; so that after a few or even several months, the Convention will not have settled every thing? Alas, a whole tide of questions comes rolling, boiling; growing ever wider, without end! Among which, apart from this question of September and Anarchy, let us notice those, which emerge oftener than the others, and promise to become Leading Questions: of the Armies; of the Subsistences; thirdly, of the Dethroned King.
As to the Armies, Public Defence must evidently be put on a proper footing; for Europe seems coalising itself again; one is apprehensive even England will join it. Happily Dumouriez prospers in the North;–nay what if he should prove too prosperous, and become Liberticide, Murderer of Freedom!– Dumouriez prospers, through this winter season; yet not without lamentable complaints. Sleek Pache, the Swiss Schoolmaster, he that sat frugal in his Alley, the wonder of neighbours, has got lately–whither thinks the Reader? To be Minister of war! Madame Roland, struck with his sleek ways, recommended him to her Husband as Clerk: the sleek Clerk had no need of salary, being of true Patriotic temper; he would come with a bit of bread in his pocket, to save dinner and time; and, munching incidentally, do three men’s work in a day” punctual, silent, frugal,–the sleek Tartuffe that he was. Wherefore Roland, in the late Overturn, recommended him to be War-Minister. And now, it would seem, he is secretly undermining Roland; playing into the hands of your hotter Jacobins and September Commune; and cannot, like strict Roland, be the Veto des Coquins! (Madame Roland, Memoires, ii. 237, &c.)
How the sleek Pache might mine and undermine, one knows not well; this however one does know: that his War-Office has become a den of thieves and confusion, such as all men shudder to behold. That the Citizen Hassenfratz, as Head-Clerk, sits there in bonnet rouge, in rapine, in violence, and some Mathematical calculation; a most insolent, red- nightcapped man. That Pache munches his pocket-loaf, amid head-clerks and sub-clerks, and has spent all the War-Estimates: that Furnishers scour in gigs, over all districts of France, and drive bargains;–and lastly that the Army gets next to no furniture. No shoes, though it is winter; no clothes; some have not even arms: ‘In the Army of the South,’ complains an honourable Member, ‘there are thirty thousand pairs of breeches wanting,’– a most scandalous want.
Roland’s strict soul is sick to see the course things take: but what can he do? Keep his own Department strict; rebuke, and repress wheresoever possible; at lowest, complain. He can complain in Letter after Letter, to a National Convention, to France, to Posterity, the Universe; grow ever more querulous indignant;–till at last may he not grow wearisome? For is not this continual text of his, at bottom a rather barren one: How astonishing that in a time of Revolt and abrogation of all Law but Cannon Law, there should be such Unlawfulness? Intrepid Veto-of-Scoundrels, narrow-faithful, respectable, methodic man, work thou in that manner, since happily it is thy manner, and wear thyself away; though ineffectual, not profitless in it–then nor now!–The brave Dame Roland, bravest of all French women, begins to have misgivings: the figure of Danton has too much of the ‘Sardanapalus character,’ at a Republican Rolandin Dinner-table: Clootz, Speaker of Mankind, proses sad stuff about a Universal Republic, or union of all Peoples and Kindreds in one and the same Fraternal Bond; of which Bond, how it is to be tied, one unhappily sees not.
It is also an indisputable, unaccountable or accountable fact that Grains are becoming scarcer and scarcer. Riots for grain, tumultuous Assemblages demanding to have the price of grain fixed abound far and near. The Mayor of Paris and other poor Mayors are like to have their difficulties. Petion was re-elected Mayor of Paris; but has declined; being now a Convention Legislator. Wise surely to decline: for, besides this of Grains and all the rest, there is in these times an Improvised insurrectionary Commune passing into an Elected legal one; getting their accounts settled,–not without irritancy! Petion has declined: nevertheless many do covet and canvass. After months of scrutinising, balloting, arguing and jargoning, one Doctor Chambon gets the post of honour: who will not long keep it; but be, as we shall see, literally crushed out of it. (Dictionnaire des Hommes Marquans, para Chambon.)
Think also if the private Sansculotte has not his difficulties, in a time of dearth! Bread, according to the People’s-Friend, may be some ‘six sous per pound, a day’s wages some fifteen;’ and grim winter here. How the Poor Man continues living, and so seldom starves, by miracle! Happily, in these days, he can enlist, and have himself shot by the Austrians, in an unusually satisfactory manner: for the Rights of Man.–But Commandant Santerre, in this so straitened condition of the flour-market, and state of Equality and Liberty, proposes, through the Newspapers, two remedies, or at least palliatives: First, that all classes of men should live, two days of the week, on potatoes; then second, that every man should hang his dog. Hereby, as the Commandant thinks, the saving, which indeed he computes to so many sacks, would be very considerable. A cheerfuller form of inventive-stupidity than Commandant Santerre’s dwells in no human soul. Inventive-stupidity, imbedded in health, courage and good-nature: much to be commended. “My whole strength,” he tells the Convention once, “is, day and night, at the service of my fellow-Citizens: if they find me worthless, they will dismiss me; I will return and brew beer.” (Moniteur (in Hist. Parl. xx. 412).)
Or figure what correspondences a poor Roland, Minister of the Interior, must have, on this of Grains alone! Free-trade in Grain, impossibility to fix the Prices of Grain; on the other hand, clamour and necessity to fix them: Political Economy lecturing from the Home Office, with demonstration clear as Scripture;–ineffectual for the empty National Stomach. The Mayor of Chartres, like to be eaten himself, cries to the Convention: the Convention sends honourable Members in Deputation; who endeavour to feed the multitude by miraculous spiritual methods; but cannot. The multitude, in spite of all Eloquence, come bellowing round; will have the Grain-Prices fixed, and at a moderate elevation; or else–the honourable Deputies hanged on the spot! The honourable Deputies, reporting this business, admit that, on the edge of horrid death, they did fix, or affect to fix the Price of Grain: for which, be it also noted, the Convention, a Convention that will not be trifled with, sees good to reprimand them. (Hist. Parl. xx. 431- 440.)
But as to the origin of these Grain Riots, is it not most probably your secret Royalists again? Glimpses of Priests were discernible in this of Chartres,–to the eye of Patriotism. Or indeed may not ‘the root of it all lie in the Temple Prison, in the heart of a perjured King,’ well as we guard him? (Ibid. 409.) Unhappy perjured King!–And so there shall be Baker’s Queues, by and by, more sharp-tempered than ever: on every Baker’s door-rabbet an iron ring, and coil of rope; whereon, with firm grip, on this side and that, we form our Queue: but mischievous deceitful persons cut the rope, and our Queue becomes a ravelment; wherefore the coil must be made of iron chain. (Mercier, Nouveau Paris.) Also there shall be Prices of Grain well fixed; but then no grain purchasable by them: bread not to be had except by Ticket from the Mayor, few ounces per mouth daily; after long swaying, with firm grip, on the chain of the Queue. And Hunger shall stalk direful; and Wrath and Suspicion, whetted to the Preternatural pitch, shall stalk;–as those other preternatural ‘shapes of Gods in their wrathfulness’ were discerned stalking, ‘in glare and gloom of that fire- ocean,’ when Troy Town fell!–
But the question more pressing than all on the Legislator, as yet, is this third: What shall be done with King Louis?
King Louis, now King and Majesty to his own family alone, in their own Prison Apartment alone, has been Louis Capet and the Traitor Veto with the rest of France. Shut in his Circuit of the Temple, he has heard and seen the loud whirl of things; yells of September Massacres, Brunswick war- thunders dying off in disaster and discomfiture; he passive, a spectator merely;–waiting whither it would please to whirl with him. From the neighbouring windows, the curious, not without pity, might see him walk daily, at a certain hour, in the Temple Garden, with his Queen, Sister and two Children, all that now belongs to him in this Earth. (Moore, i. 123; ii. 224, &c.) Quietly he walks and waits; for he is not of lively feelings, and is of a devout heart. The wearied Irresolute has, at least, no need of resolving now. His daily meals, lessons to his Son, daily walk in the Garden, daily game at ombre or drafts, fill up the day: the morrow will provide for itself.
The morrow indeed; and yet How? Louis asks, How? France, with perhaps still more solicitude, asks, How? A King dethroned by insurrection is verily not easy to dispose of. Keep him prisoner, he is a secret centre for the Disaffected, for endless plots, attempts and hopes of theirs. Banish him, he is an open centre for them; his royal war-standard, with what of divinity it has, unrolls itself, summoning the world. Put him to death? A cruel questionable extremity that too: and yet the likeliest in these extreme circumstances, of insurrectionary men, whose own life and death lies staked: accordingly it is said, from the last step of the throne to the first of the scaffold there is short distance.
But, on the whole, we will remark here that this business of Louis looks altogether different now, as seen over Seas and at the distance of forty- four years, than it looked then, in France, and struggling, confused all round one! For indeed it is a most lying thing that same Past Tense always: so beautiful, sad, almost Elysian-sacred, ‘in the moonlight of Memory,’ it seems; and seems only. For observe: always, one most important element is surreptitiously (we not noticing it) withdrawn from the Past Time: the haggard element of Fear! Not there does Fear dwell, nor Uncertainty, nor Anxiety; but it dwells here; haunting us, tracking us; running like an accursed ground-discord through all the music-tones of our Existence;–making the Tense a mere Present one! Just so is it with this of Louis. Why smite the fallen? asks Magnanimity, out of danger now. He is fallen so low this once-high man; no criminal nor traitor, how far from it; but the unhappiest of Human Solecisms: whom if abstract Justice had to pronounce upon, she might well become concrete Pity, and pronounce only sobs and dismissal!
So argues retrospective Magnanimity: but Pusillanimity, present, prospective? Reader, thou hast never lived, for months, under the rustle of Prussian gallows-ropes; never wert thou portion of a National Sahara- waltz, Twenty-five millions running distracted to fight Brunswick! Knights Errant themselves, when they conquered Giants, usually slew the Giants: quarter was only for other Knights Errant, who knew courtesy and the laws of battle. The French Nation, in simultaneous, desperate dead-pull, and as if by miracle of madness, has pulled down the most dread Goliath, huge with the growth of ten centuries; and cannot believe, though his giant bulk, covering acres, lies prostrate, bound with peg and packthread, that he will not rise again, man-devouring; that the victory is not partly a dream. Terror has its scepticism; miraculous victory its rage of vengeance. Then as to criminalty, is the prostrated Giant, who will devour us if he rise, an innocent Giant? Curate Gregoire, who indeed is now Constitutional Bishop Gregoire, asserts, in the heat of eloquence, that Kingship by the very nature of it is a crime capital; that Kings’ Houses are as wild- beasts’ dens. (Moniteur, Seance du 21 Septembre, Annee 1er (1792).) Lastly consider this: that there is on record a Trial of Charles First! This printed Trial of Charles First is sold and read every where at present: (Moore’s Journal, ii. 165.)–Quelle spectacle! Thus did the English People judge their Tyrant, and become the first of Free Peoples: which feat, by the grace of Destiny, may not France now rival? Scepticism of terror, rage of miraculous victory, sublime spectacle to the universe,– all things point one fatal way.
Such leading questions, and their endless incidental ones: of September Anarchists and Departmental Guard; of Grain Riots, plaintiff Interior Ministers; of Armies, Hassenfratz dilapidations; and what is to be done with Louis,–beleaguer and embroil this Convention; which would so gladly make the Constitution rather. All which questions too, as we often urge of such things, are in growth; they grow in every French head; and can be seen growing also, very curiously, in this mighty welter of Parliamentary Debate, of Public Business which the Convention has to do. A question emerges, so small at first; is put off, submerged; but always re-emerges bigger than before. It is a curious, indeed an indescribable sort of growth which such things have.
We perceive, however, both by its frequent re-emergence and by its rapid enlargement of bulk, that this Question of King Louis will take the lead of all the rest. And truly, in that case, it will take the lead in a much deeper sense. For as Aaron’s Rod swallowed all the other Serpents; so will the Foremost Question, whichever may get foremost, absorb all other questions and interests; and from it and the decision of it will they all, so to speak, be born, or new-born, and have shape, physiognomy and destiny corresponding. It was appointed of Fate that, in this wide-weltering, strangely growing, monstrous stupendous imbroglio of Convention Business, the grand First-Parent of all the questions, controversies, measures and enterprises which were to be evolved there to the world’s astonishment, should be this Question of King Louis.
The Loser pays.
The Sixth of November, 1792, was a great day for the Republic: outwardly, over the Frontiers; inwardly, in the Salle de Manege.
Outwardly: for Dumouriez, overrunning the Netherlands, did, on that day, come in contact with Saxe-Teschen and the Austrians; Dumouriez wide-winged, they wide-winged; at and around the village of Jemappes, near Mons. And fire-hail is whistling far and wide there, the great guns playing, and the small; so many green Heights getting fringed and maned with red Fire. And Dumouriez is swept back on this wing, and swept back on that, and is like to be swept back utterly; when he rushes up in person, the prompt Polymetis; speaks a prompt word or two; and then, with clear tenor-pipe, ‘uplifts the Hymn of the Marseillese, entonna la Marseillaise,’ (Dumouriez, Memoires, iii. 174.) ten thousand tenor or bass pipes joining; or say, some Forty Thousand in all; for every heart leaps at the sound: and so with rhythmic march-melody, waxing ever quicker, to double and to treble quick, they rally, they advance, they rush, death-defying, man-devouring; carry batteries, redoutes, whatsoever is to be carried; and, like the fire- whirlwind, sweep all manner of Austrians from the scene of action. Thus, through the hands of Dumouriez, may Rouget de Lille, in figurative speech, be said to have gained, miraculously, like another Orpheus, by his Marseillese fiddle-strings (fidibus canoris) a Victory of Jemappes; and conquered the Low Countries.
Young General Egalite, it would seem, shone brave among the bravest on this occasion. Doubtless a brave Egalite;–whom however does not Dumouriez rather talk of oftener than need were? The Mother Society has her own thoughts. As for the Elder Egalite he flies low at this time; appears in the Convention for some half-hour daily, with rubicund, pre-occupied, or impressive quasi-contemptuous countenance; and then takes himself away. (Moore, ii. 148.) The Netherlands are conquered, at least overrun. Jacobin missionaries, your Prolys, Pereiras, follow in the train of the Armies; also Convention Commissioners, melting church-plate, revolutionising and remodelling–among whom Danton, in brief space, does immensities of business; not neglecting his own wages and trade-profits, it is thought. Hassenfratz dilapidates at home; Dumouriez grumbles and they dilapidate abroad: within the walls there is sinning, and without the walls there is sinning.
But in the Hall of the Convention, at the same hour with this victory of Jemappes, there went another thing forward: Report, of great length, from the proper appointed Committee, on the Crimes of Louis. The Galleries listen breathless; take comfort, ye Galleries: Deputy Valaze, Reporter on this occasion, thinks Louis very criminal; and that, if convenient, he should be tried;–poor Girondin Valaze, who may be tried himself, one day! Comfortable so far. Nay here comes a second Committee-reporter, Deputy Mailhe, with a Legal Argument, very prosy to read now, very refreshing to hear then, That, by the Law of the Country, Louis Capet was only called Inviolable by a figure of rhetoric; but at bottom was perfectly violable, triable; that he can, and even should be tried. This Question of Louis, emerging so often as an angry confused possibility, and submerging again, has emerged now in an articulate shape.
Patriotism growls indignant joy. The so-called reign of Equality is not to be a mere name, then, but a thing! Try Louis Capet? scornfully ejaculates Patriotism: Mean criminals go to the gallows for a purse cut; and this chief criminal, guilty of a France cut; of a France slashed asunder with Clotho-scissors and Civil war; with his victims ‘twelve hundred on the Tenth of August alone’ lying low in the Catacombs, fattening the passes of Argonne Wood, of Valmy and far Fields; he, such chief criminal, shall not even come to the bar?–For, alas, O Patriotism! add we, it was from of old said, The loser pays! It is he who has to pay all scores, run up by whomsoever; on him must all breakages and charges fall; and the twelve hundred on the Tenth of August are not rebel traitors, but victims and martyrs: such is the law of quarrel.
Patriotism, nothing doubting, watches over this Question of the Trial, now happily emerged in an articulate shape; and will see it to maturity, if the gods permit. With a keen solicitude Patriotism watches; getting ever keener, at every new difficulty, as Girondins and false brothers interpose delays; till it get a keenness as of fixed-idea, and will have this Trial and no earthly thing instead of it,–if Equality be not a name. Love of Equality; then scepticism of terror, rage of victory, sublime spectacle of the universe: all these things are strong.
But indeed this Question of the Trial, is it not to all persons a most grave one; filling with dubiety many a Legislative head! Regicide? asks the Gironde Respectability: To kill a king, and become the horror of respectable nations and persons? But then also, to save a king; to lose one’s footing with the decided Patriot; and undecided Patriot, though never so respectable, being mere hypothetic froth and no footing?–The dilemma presses sore; and between the horns of it you wriggle round and round. Decision is nowhere, save in the Mother Society and her Sons. These have decided, and go forward: the others wriggle round uneasily within their dilemma-horns, and make way nowhither.
Stretching of Formulas.
But how this Question of the Trial grew laboriously, through the weeks of gestation, now that it has been articulated or conceived, were superfluous to trace here. It emerged and submerged among the infinite of questions and embroilments. The Veto of Scoundrels writes plaintive Letters as to Anarchy; ‘concealed Royalists,’ aided by Hunger, produce Riots about Grain. Alas, it is but a week ago, these Girondins made a new fierce onslaught on the September Massacres!
For, one day, among the last of October, Robespierre, being summoned to the tribune by some new hint of that old calumny of the Dictatorship, was speaking and pleading there, with more and more comfort to himself; till, rising high in heart, he cried out valiantly: Is there any man here that dare specifically accuse me? “Moi!” exclaimed one. Pause of deep silence: a lean angry little Figure, with broad bald brow, strode swiftly towards the tribune, taking papers from its pocket: “I accuse thee, Robespierre,”- -I, Jean Baptiste Louvet! The Seagreen became tallow-green; shrinking to a corner of the tribune: Danton cried, “Speak, Robespierre, there are many good citizens that listen;” but the tongue refused its office. And so Louvet, with a shrill tone, read and recited crime after crime: dictatorial temper, exclusive popularity, bullying at elections, mob- retinue, September Massacres;–till all the Convention shrieked again, and had almost indicted the Incorruptible there on the spot. Never did the Incorruptible run such a risk. Louvet, to his dying day, will regret that the Gironde did not take a bolder attitude, and extinguish him there and then.
Not so, however: the Incorruptible, about to be indicted in this sudden manner, could not be refused a week of delay. That week, he is not idle; nor is the Mother Society idle,–fierce-tremulous for her chosen son. He is ready at the day with his written Speech; smooth as a Jesuit Doctor’s; and convinces some. And now? Why, now lazy Vergniaud does not rise with Demosthenic thunder; poor Louvet, unprepared, can do little or nothing: Barrere proposes that these comparatively despicable ‘personalities’ be dismissed by order of the day! Order of the day it accordingly is. Barbaroux cannot even get a hearing; not though he rush down to the Bar, and demand to be heard there as a petitioner. (Louvet, Memoires (Paris, 1823) p. 52; Moniteur (Seances du 29 Octobre, 5 Novembre, 1792); Moore (ii. 178), &c.) The convention, eager for public business (with that first articulate emergence of the Trial just coming on), dismisses these comparative miseres and despicabilities: splenetic Louvet must digest his spleen, regretfully for ever: Robespierre, dear to Patriotism, is dearer for the dangers he has run.
This is the second grand attempt by our Girondin Friends of Order, to extinguish that black-spot in their domain; and we see they have made it far blacker and wider than before! Anarchy, September Massacre: it is a thing that lies hideous in the general imagination; very detestable to the undecided Patriot, of Respectability: a thing to be harped on as often as need is. Harp on it, denounce it, trample it, ye Girondin Patriots:–and yet behold, the black-spot will not trample down; it will only, as we say, trample blacker and wider: fools, it is no black-spot of the surface, but a well-spring of the deep! Consider rightly, it is the apex of the everlasting Abyss, this black-spot, looking up as water through thin ice;– say, as the region of Nether Darkness through your thin film of Gironde Regulation and Respectability; trample it not, lest the film break, and then–!
The truth is, if our Gironde Friends had an understanding of it, where were French Patriotism, with all its eloquence, at this moment, had not that same great Nether Deep, of Bedlam, Fanaticism and Popular wrath and madness, risen unfathomable on the Tenth of August? French Patriotism were an eloquent Reminiscence; swinging on Prussian gibbets. Nay, where, in few months, were it still, should the same great Nether Deep subside?–Nay, as readers of Newspapers pretend to recollect, this hatefulness of the September Massacre is itself partly an after-thought: readers of Newspapers can quote Gorsas and various Brissotins approving of the September Massacre, at the time it happened; and calling it a salutary vengeance! (See Hist. Parl. xvii. 401; Newspapers by Gorsas and others (cited ibid. 428.) So that the real grief, after all, were not so much righteous horror, as grief that one’s own power was departing? Unhappy Girondins!
In the Jacobin Society, therefore, the decided Patriot complains that here are men who with their private ambitions and animosities, will ruin Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood, all three: they check the spirit of Patriotism, throw stumbling-blocks in its way; and instead of pushing on, all shoulders at the wheel, will stand idle there, spitefully clamouring what foul ruts there are, what rude jolts we give! To which the Jacobin Society answers with angry roar;–with angry shriek, for there are Citoyennes too, thick crowded in the galleries here. Citoyennes who bring their seam with them, or their knitting-needles; and shriek or knit as the case needs; famed Tricoteuses, Patriot Knitters;–Mere Duchesse, or the like Deborah and Mother of the Faubourgs, giving the keynote. It is a changed Jacobin Society; and a still changing. Where Mother Duchess now sits, authentic Duchesses have sat. High-rouged dames went once in jewels and spangles; now, instead of jewels, you may take the knitting-needles and leave the rouge: the rouge will gradually give place to natural brown, clean washed or even unwashed; and Demoiselle Theroigne herself get scandalously fustigated. Strange enough: it is the same tribune raised in mid-air, where a high Mirabeau, a high Barnave and Aristocrat Lameths once thundered: whom gradually your Brissots, Guadets, Vergniauds, a hotter style of Patriots in bonnet rouge, did displace; red heat, as one may say, superseding light. And now your Brissots in turn, and Brissotins, Rolandins, Girondins, are becoming supernumerary; must desert the sittings, or be expelled: the light of the Mighty Mother is burning not red but blue!–Provincial Daughter-Societies loudly disapprove these things; loudly demand the swift reinstatement of such eloquent Girondins, the swift ‘erasure of Marat, radiation de Marat.’ The Mother Society, so far as natural reason can predict, seems ruining herself. Nevertheless she has, at all crises, seemed so; she has a preternatural life in her, and will not ruin.
But, in a fortnight more, this great Question of the Trial, while the fit Committee is assiduously but silently working on it, receives an unexpected stimulus. Our readers remember poor Louis’s turn for smithwork: how, in old happier days, a certain Sieur Gamain of Versailles was wont to come over, and instruct him in lock-making;–often scolding him, they say for his numbness. By whom, nevertheless, the royal Apprentice had learned something of that craft. Hapless Apprentice; perfidious Master-Smith! For now, on this 20th of November 1792, dingy Smith Gamain comes over to the Paris Municipality, over to Minister Roland, with hints that he, Smith Gamain, knows a thing; that, in May last, when traitorous Correspondence was so brisk, he and the royal Apprentice fabricated an ‘Iron Press, Armoire de Fer,’ cunningly inserting the same in a wall of the royal chamber in the Tuileries; invisible under the wainscot; where doubtless it still sticks! Perfidious Gamain, attended by the proper Authorities, finds the wainscot panel which none else can find; wrenches it up; discloses the Iron Press,–full of Letters and Papers! Roland clutches them out; conveys them over in towels to the fit assiduous Committee, which sits hard by. In towels, we say, and without notarial inventory; an oversight on the part of Roland.
Here, however, are Letters enough: which disclose to a demonstration the Correspondence of a traitorous self-preserving Court; and this not with Traitors only, but even with Patriots, so-called! Barnave’s treason, of Correspondence with the Queen, and friendly advice to her, ever since that Varennes Business, is hereby manifest: how happy that we have him, this Barnave, lying safe in the Prison of Grenoble, since September last, for he had long been suspect! Talleyrand’s treason, many a man’s treason, if not manifest hereby, is next to it. Mirabeau’s treason: wherefore his Bust in the Hall of the Convention ‘is veiled with gauze,’ till we ascertain. Alas, it is too ascertainable! His Bust in the Hall of the Jacobins, denounced by Robespierre from the tribune in mid-air, is not veiled, it is instantly broken to sherds; a Patriot mounting swiftly with a ladder, and shivering it down on the floor;–it and others: amid shouts. (Journal des Debats des Jacobins (in Hist. Parl. xxii. 296.) Such is their recompense and amount of wages, at this date: on the principle of supply and demand! Smith Gamain, inadequately recompensed for the present, comes, some fifteen months after, with a humble Petition; setting forth that no sooner was that important Iron Press finished off by him, than (as he now bethinks himself) Louis gave him a large glass of wine. Which large glass of wine did produce in the stomach of Sieur Gamain the terriblest effects, evidently tending towards death, and was then brought up by an emetic; but has, notwithstanding, entirely ruined the constitution of Sieur Gamain; so that he cannot work for his family (as he now bethinks himself). The recompense of which is ‘Pension of Twelve Hundred Francs,’ and ‘honourable mention.’ So different is the ratio of demand and supply at different times.
Thus, amid obstructions and stimulating furtherances, has the Question of the Trial to grow; emerging and submerging; fostered by solicitous Patriotism. Of the Orations that were spoken on it, of the painfully devised Forms of Process for managing it, the Law Arguments to prove it lawful, and all the infinite floods of Juridical and other ingenuity and oratory, be no syllable reported in this History. Lawyer ingenuity is good: but what can it profit here? If the truth must be spoken, O august Senators, the only Law in this case is: Vae victis, the loser pays! Seldom did Robespierre say a wiser word than the hint he gave to that effect, in his oration, that it was needless to speak of Law, that here, if never elsewhere, our Right was Might. An oration admired almost to ecstasy by the Jacobin Patriot: who shall say that Robespierre is not a thorough- going man; bold in Logic at least? To the like effect, or still more plainly, spake young Saint-Just, the black-haired, mild-toned youth. Danton is on mission, in the Netherlands, during this preliminary work. The rest, far as one reads, welter amid Law of Nations, Social Contract, Juristics, Syllogistics; to us barren as the East wind. In fact, what can be more unprofitable than the sight of Seven Hundred and Forty-nine ingenious men, struggling with their whole force and industry, for a long course of weeks, to do at bottom this: To stretch out the old Formula and Law Phraseology, so that it may cover the new, contradictory, entirely uncoverable Thing? Whereby the poor Formula does but crack, and one’s honesty along with it! The thing that is palpably hot, burning, wilt thou prove it, by syllogism, to be a freezing-mixture? This of stretching out Formulas till they crack is, especially in times of swift change, one of the sorrowfullest tasks poor Humanity has.
At the Bar.
Meanwhile, in a space of some five weeks, we have got to another emerging of the Trial, and a more practical one than ever.
On Tuesday, eleventh of December, the King’s Trial has emerged, very decidedly: into the streets of Paris; in the shape of that green Carriage of Mayor Chambon, within which sits the King himself, with attendants, on his way to the Convention Hall! Attended, in that green Carriage, by Mayors Chambon, Procureurs Chaumette; and outside of it by Commandants Santerre, with cannon, cavalry and double row of infantry; all Sections under arms, strong Patrols scouring all streets; so fares he, slowly through the dull drizzling weather: and about two o’clock we behold him, ‘in walnut-coloured great-coat, redingote noisette,’ descending through the Place Vendome, towards that Salle de Manege; to be indicted, and judicially interrogated. The mysterious Temple Circuit has given up its secret; which now, in this walnut-coloured coat, men behold with eyes. The same bodily Louis who was once Louis the Desired, fares there: hapless King, he is getting now towards port; his deplorable farings and voyagings draw to a close. What duty remains to him henceforth, that of placidly enduring, he is fit to do.
The singular Procession fares on; in silence, says Prudhomme, or amid growlings of the Marseillese Hymn; in silence, ushers itself into the Hall of the Convention, Santerre holding Louis’s arm with his hand. Louis looks round him, with composed air, to see what kind of Convention and Parliament it is. Much changed indeed:–since February gone two years, when our Constituent, then busy, spread fleur-de-lys velvet for us; and we came over to say a kind word here, and they all started up swearing Fidelity; and all France started up swearing, and made it a Feast of Pikes; which has ended in this! Barrere, who once ‘wept’ looking up from his Editor’s-Desk, looks down now from his President’s-Chair, with a list of Fifty-seven Questions; and says, dry-eyed: “Louis, you may sit down.” Louis sits down: it is the very seat, they say, same timber and stuffing, from which he accepted the Constitution, amid dancing and illumination, autumn gone a year. So much woodwork remains identical; so much else is not identical. Louis sits and listens, with a composed look and mind.
Of the Fifty-seven Questions we shall not give so much as one. They are questions captiously embracing all the main Documents seized on the Tenth of August, or found lately in the Iron Press; embracing all the main incidents of the Revolution History; and they ask, in substance, this: Louis, who wert King, art thou not guilty to a certain extent, by act and written document, of trying to continue King? Neither in the Answers is there much notable. Mere quiet negations, for most part; an accused man standing on the simple basis of No: I do not recognise that document; I did not do that act; or did it according to the law that then was. Whereupon the Fifty-seven Questions, and Documents to the number of a Hundred and Sixty-two, being exhausted in this manner, Barrere finishes, after some three hours, with his: “Louis, I invite you to withdraw.”
Louis withdraws, under Municipal escort, into a neighbouring Committee- room; having first, in leaving the bar, demanded to have Legal Counsel. He declines refreshment, in this Committee-room, then, seeing Chaumette busy with a small loaf which a grenadier had divided with him, says, he will take a bit of bread. It is five o’clock; and he had breakfasted but slightly in a morning of such drumming and alarm. Chaumette breaks his half-loaf: the King eats of the crust; mounts the green Carriage, eating; asks now what he shall do with the crumb? Chaumette’s clerk takes it from him; flings it out into the street. Louis says, It is pity to fling out bread, in a time of dearth. “My grandmother,” remarks Chaumette, “used to say to me, Little boy, never waste a crumb of bread, you cannot make one.” “Monsieur Chaumette,” answers Louis, “your grandmother seems to have been a sensible woman.” (Prudhomme’s Newspaper (in Hist. Parl. xxi. 314.) Poor innocent mortal: so quietly he waits the drawing of the lot;–fit to do this at least well; Passivity alone, without Activity, sufficing for it! He talks once of travelling over France by and by, to have a geographical and topographical view of it; being from of old fond of geography.–The Temple Circuit again receives him, closes on him; gazing Paris may retire to its hearths and coffee-houses, to its clubs and theatres: the damp Darkness has sunk, and with it the drumming and patrolling of this strange Day.
Louis is now separated from his Queen and Family; given up to his simple reflections and resources. Dull lie these stone walls round him; of his loved ones none with him. In this state of ‘uncertainty,’ providing for the worst, he writes his Will: a Paper which can still be read; full of placidity, simplicity, pious sweetness. The Convention, after debate, has granted him Legal Counsel, of his own choosing. Advocate Target feels