himself ‘too old,’ being turned of fifty-four; and declines. He had gained great honour once, defending Rohan the Necklace-Cardinal; but will gain none here. Advocate Tronchet, some ten years older, does not decline. Nay behold, good old Malesherbes steps forward voluntarily; to the last of his fields, the good old hero! He is grey with seventy years: he says, ‘I was twice called to the Council of him who was my Master, when all the world coveted that honour; and I owe him the same service now, when it has become one which many reckon dangerous.’ These two, with a younger Deseze, whom they will select for pleading, are busy over that Fifty-and-sevenfold Indictment, over the Hundred and Sixty-two Documents; Louis aiding them as he can.
A great Thing is now therefore in open progress; all men, in all lands, watching it. By what Forms and Methods shall the Convention acquit itself, in such manner that there rest not on it even the suspicion of blame? Difficult that will be! The Convention, really much at a loss, discusses and deliberates. All day from morning to night, day after day, the Tribune drones with oratory on this matter; one must stretch the old Formula to cover the new Thing. The Patriots of the Mountain, whetted ever keener, clamour for despatch above all; the only good Form will be a swift one. Nevertheless the Convention deliberates; the Tribune drones,–drowned indeed in tenor, and even in treble, from time to time; the whole Hall shrilling up round it into pretty frequent wrath and provocation. It has droned and shrilled wellnigh a fortnight, before we can decide, this shrillness getting ever shriller, That on Wednesday 26th of December, Louis shall appear, and plead. His Advocates complain that it is fatally soon; which they well might as Advocates: but without remedy; to Patriotism it seems endlessly late.
On Wednesday, therefore, at the cold dark hour of eight in the morning, all Senators are at their post. Indeed they warm the cold hour, as we find, by a violent effervescence, such as is too common now; some Louvet or Buzot attacking some Tallien, Chabot; and so the whole Mountain effervescing against the whole Gironde. Scarcely is this done, at nine, when Louis and his three Advocates, escorted by the clang of arms and Santerre’s National force, enter the Hall.
Deseze unfolds his papers; honourably fulfilling his perilous office, pleads for the space of three hours. An honourable Pleading, ‘composed almost overnight;’ courageous yet discreet; not without ingenuity, and soft pathetic eloquence: Louis fell on his neck, when they had withdrawn, and said with tears, Mon pauvre Deseze. Louis himself, before withdrawing, had added a few words, “perhaps the last he would utter to them:” how it pained his heart, above all things, to be held guilty of that bloodshed on the Tenth of August; or of ever shedding or wishing to shed French blood. So saying, he withdrew from that Hall;–having indeed finished his work there. Many are the strange errands he has had thither; but this strange one is the last.
And now, why will the Convention loiter? Here is the Indictment and Evidence; here is the Pleading: does not the rest follow of itself? The Mountain, and Patriotism in general, clamours still louder for despatch; for Permanent-session, till the task be done. Nevertheless a doubting, apprehensive Convention decides that it will still deliberate first; that all Members, who desire it, shall have leave to speak.–To your desks, therefore, ye eloquent Members! Down with your thoughts, your echoes and hearsays of thoughts: now is the time to shew oneself; France and the Universe listens! Members are not wanting: Oration spoken Pamphlet follows spoken Pamphlet, with what eloquence it can: President’s List swells ever higher with names claiming to speak; from day to day, all days and all hours, the constant Tribune drones;–shrill Galleries supplying, very variably, the tenor and treble. It were a dull tune otherwise.
The Patriots, in Mountain and Galleries, or taking counsel nightly in Section-house, in Mother Society, amid their shrill Tricoteuses, have to watch lynx-eyed; to give voice when needful; occasionally very loud. Deputy Thuriot, he who was Advocate Thuriot, who was Elector Thuriot, and from the top of the Bastille, saw Saint-Antoine rising like the ocean; this Thuriot can stretch a Formula as heartily as most men. Cruel Billaud is not silent, if you incite him. Nor is cruel Jean-Bon silent; a kind of Jesuit he too;–write him not, as the Dictionaries too often do, Jambon, which signifies mere Ham.
But, on the whole, let no man conceive it possible that Louis is not guilty. The only question for a reasonable man is, or was: Can the Convention judge Louis? Or must it be the whole People: in Primary Assembly, and with delay? Always delay, ye Girondins, false hommes d’etat! so bellows Patriotism, its patience almost failing.–But indeed, if we consider it, what shall these poor Girondins do? Speak their convictions that Louis is a Prisoner of War; and cannot be put to death without injustice, solecism, peril? Speak such conviction; and lose utterly your footing with the decided Patriot? Nay properly it is not even a conviction, but a conjecture and dim puzzle. How many poor Girondins are sure of but one thing: That a man and Girondin ought to have footing somewhere, and to stand firmly on it; keeping well with the Respectable Classes! This is what conviction and assurance of faith they have. They must wriggle painfully between their dilemma-horns. (See Extracts from their Newspapers, in Hist. Parl. xxi. 1-38, &c.)
Nor is France idle, nor Europe. It is a Heart this Convention, as we said, which sends out influences, and receives them. A King’s Execution, call it Martyrdom, call it Punishment, were an influence! Two notable influences this Convention has already sent forth, over all Nations; much to its own detriment. On the 19th of November, it emitted a Decree, and has since confirmed and unfolded the details of it. That any Nation which might see good to shake off the fetters of Despotism was thereby, so to speak, the Sister of France, and should have help and countenance. A Decree much noised of by Diplomatists, Editors, International Lawyers; such a Decree as no living Fetter of Despotism, nor Person in Authority anywhere, can approve of! It was Deputy Chambon the Girondin who propounded this Decree;–at bottom perhaps as a flourish of rhetoric.
The second influence we speak of had a still poorer origin: in the restless loud-rattling slightly-furnished head of one Jacob Dupont from the Loire country. The Convention is speculating on a plan of National Education: Deputy Dupont in his speech says, “I am free to avow, M. le President, that I for my part am an Atheist,” (Moniteur, Seance du 14 Decembre 1792.)–thinking the world might like to know that. The French world received it without commentary; or with no audible commentary, so loud was France otherwise. The Foreign world received it with confutation, with horror and astonishment; (Mrs. Hannah More, Letter to Jacob Dupont (London, 1793); &c. &c.) a most miserable influence this! And now if to these two were added a third influence, and sent pulsing abroad over all the Earth: that of Regicide?
Foreign Courts interfere in this Trial of Louis; Spain, England: not to be listened to; though they come, as it were, at least Spain comes, with the olive-branch in one hand, and the sword without scabbard in the other. But at home too, from out of this circumambient Paris and France, what influences come thick-pulsing! Petitions flow in; pleading for equal justice, in a reign of so-called Equality. The living Patriot pleads;–O ye National Deputies, do not the dead Patriots plead? The Twelve Hundred that lie in cold obstruction, do not they plead; and petition, in Death’s dumb-show, from their narrow house there, more eloquently than speech? Crippled Patriots hop on crutches round the Salle de Manege, demanding justice. The Wounded of the Tenth of August, the Widows and Orphans of the Killed petition in a body; and hop and defile, eloquently mute, through the Hall: one wounded Patriot, unable to hop, is borne on his bed thither, and passes shoulder-high, in the horizontal posture. (Hist. Parl. xxii. 131; Moore, &c.) The Convention Tribune, which has paused at such sight, commences again,–droning mere Juristic Oratory. But out of doors Paris is piping ever higher. Bull-voiced St. Huruge is heard; and the hysteric eloquence of Mother Duchesse: ‘Varlet, Apostle of Liberty,’ with pike and red cap, flies hastily, carrying his oratorical folding-stool. Justice on the Traitor! cries all the Patriot world. Consider also this other cry, heard loud on the streets: “Give us Bread, or else kill us!” Bread and Equality; Justice on the Traitor, that we may have Bread!
The Limited or undecided Patriot is set against the Decided. Mayor Chambon heard of dreadful rioting at the Theatre de la Nation: it had come to rioting, and even to fist-work, between the Decided and the Undecided, touching a new Drama called Ami des Lois (Friend of the Laws). One of the poorest Dramas ever written; but which had didactic applications in it; wherefore powdered wigs of Friends of Order and black hair of Jacobin heads are flying there; and Mayor Chambon hastens with Santerre, in hopes to quell it. Far from quelling it, our poor Mayor gets so ‘squeezed,’ says the Report, and likewise so blamed and bullied, say we,–that he, with regret, quits the brief Mayoralty altogether, ‘his lungs being affected.’ This miserable Amis des Lois is debated of in the Convention itself; so violent, mutually-enraged, are the Limited Patriots and the Unlimited. (Hist. Parl. xxiii. 31, 48, &c.)
Between which two classes, are not Aristocrats enough, and Crypto- Aristocrats, busy? Spies running over from London with important Packets; spies pretending to run! One of these latter, Viard was the name of him, pretended to accuse Roland, and even the Wife of Roland; to the joy of Chabot and the Mountain. But the Wife of Roland came, being summoned, on the instant, to the Convention Hall; came, in her high clearness; and, with few clear words, dissipated this Viard into despicability and air; all Friends of Order applauding. (Moniteur, Seance du 7 Decembre 1792.) So, with Theatre-riots, and ‘Bread, or else kill us;’ with Rage, Hunger, preternatural Suspicion, does this wild Paris pipe. Roland grows ever more querulous, in his Messages and Letters; rising almost to the hysterical pitch. Marat, whom no power on Earth can prevent seeing into traitors and Rolands, takes to bed for three days; almost dead, the invaluable People’s- Friend, with heartbreak, with fever and headache: ‘O, Peuple babillard, si tu savais agir, People of Babblers, if thou couldst but act!’
To crown all, victorious Dumouriez, in these New-year’s days, is arrived in Paris;–one fears, for no good. He pretends to be complaining of Minister Pache, and Hassenfratz dilapidations; to be concerting measures for the spring campaign: one finds him much in the company of the Girondins. Plotting with them against Jacobinism, against Equality, and the Punishment of Louis! We have Letters of his to the Convention itself. Will he act the old Lafayette part, this new victorious General? Let him withdraw again; not undenounced. (Dumouriez, Memoires, iii. c. 4.)
And still, in the Convention Tribune, it drones continually, mere Juristic Eloquence, and Hypothesis without Action; and there are still fifties on the President’s List. Nay these Gironde Presidents give their own party preference: we suspect they play foul with the List; men of the Mountain cannot be heard. And still it drones, all through December into January and a New year; and there is no end! Paris pipes round it; multitudinous; ever higher, to the note of the whirlwind. Paris will ‘bring cannon from Saint-Denis;’ there is talk of ‘shutting the Barriers,’–to Roland’s horror.
Whereupon, behold, the Convention Tribune suddenly ceases droning: we cut short, be on the List who likes; and make end. On Tuesday next, the Fifteenth of January 1793, it shall go to the Vote, name by name; and, one way or other, this great game play itself out!
The Three Votings.
Is Louis Capet guilty of conspiring against Liberty? Shall our Sentence be itself final, or need ratifying by Appeal to the People? If guilty, what Punishment? This is the form agreed to, after uproar and ‘several hours of tumultuous indecision:’ these are the Three successive Questions, whereon the Convention shall now pronounce. Paris floods round their Hall; multitudinous, many sounding. Europe and all Nations listen for their answer. Deputy after Deputy shall answer to his name: Guilty or Not guilty?
As to the Guilt, there is, as above hinted, no doubt in the mind of Patriot man. Overwhelming majority pronounces Guilt; the unanimous Convention votes for Guilt, only some feeble twenty-eight voting not Innocence, but refusing to vote at all. Neither does the Second Question prove doubtful, whatever the Girondins might calculate. Would not Appeal to the People be another name for civil war? Majority of two to one answers that there shall be no Appeal: this also is settled. Loud Patriotism, now at ten o’clock, may hush itself for the night; and retire to its bed not without hope. Tuesday has gone well. On the morrow comes, What Punishment? On the morrow is the tug of war.
Consider therefore if, on this Wednesday morning, there is an affluence of Patriotism; if Paris stands a-tiptoe, and all Deputies are at their post! Seven Hundred and Forty-nine honourable Deputies; only some twenty absent on mission, Duchatel and some seven others absent by sickness. Meanwhile expectant Patriotism and Paris standing a-tiptoe, have need of patience. For this Wednesday again passes in debate and effervescence; Girondins proposing that a ‘majority of three-fourths’ shall be required; Patriots fiercely resisting them. Danton, who has just got back from mission in the Netherlands, does obtain ‘order of the day’ on this Girondin proposal; nay he obtains further that we decide sans desemparer, in Permanent-session, till we have done.
And so, finally, at eight in the evening this Third stupendous Voting, by roll-call or appel nominal, does begin. What Punishment? Girondins undecided, Patriots decided, men afraid of Royalty, men afraid of Anarchy, must answer here and now. Infinite Patriotism, dusky in the lamp-light, floods all corridors, crowds all galleries, sternly waiting to hear. Shrill-sounding Ushers summon you by Name and Department; you must rise to the Tribune and say.
Eye-witnesses have represented this scene of the Third Voting, and of the votings that grew out of it; a scene protracted, like to be endless, lasting, with few brief intervals, from Wednesday till Sunday morning,–as one of the strangest seen in the Revolution. Long night wears itself into day, morning’s paleness is spread over all faces; and again the wintry shadows sink, and the dim lamps are lit: but through day and night and the vicissitude of hours, Member after Member is mounting continually those Tribune-steps; pausing aloft there, in the clearer upper light, to speak his Fate-word; then diving down into the dusk and throng again. Like Phantoms in the hour of midnight; most spectral, pandemonial! Never did President Vergniaud, or any terrestrial President, superintend the like. A King’s Life, and so much else that depends thereon, hangs trembling in the balance. Man after man mounts; the buzz hushes itself till he have spoken: Death; Banishment: Imprisonment till the Peace. Many say, Death; with what cautious well-studied phrases and paragraphs they could devise, of explanation, of enforcement, of faint recommendation to mercy. Many too say, Banishment; something short of Death. The balance trembles, none can yet guess whitherward. Whereat anxious Patriotism bellows; irrepressible by Ushers.
The poor Girondins, many of them, under such fierce bellowing of Patriotism, say Death; justifying, motivant, that most miserable word of theirs by some brief casuistry and jesuitry. Vergniaud himself says, Death; justifying by jesuitry. Rich Lepelletier Saint-Fargeau had been of the Noblesse, and then of the Patriot Left Side, in the Constituent; and had argued and reported, there and elsewhere, not a little, against Capital Punishment: nevertheless he now says, Death; a word which may cost him dear. Manuel did surely rank with the Decided in August last; but he has been sinking and backsliding ever since September, and the scenes of September. In this Convention, above all, no word he could speak would find favour; he says now, Banishment; and in mute wrath quits the place for ever,–much hustled in the corridors. Philippe Egalite votes in his soul and conscience, Death, at the sound of which, and of whom, even Patriotism shakes its head; and there runs a groan and shudder through this Hall of Doom. Robespierre’s vote cannot be doubtful; his speech is long. Men see the figure of shrill Sieyes ascend; hardly pausing, passing merely, this figure says, “La Mort sans phrase, Death without phrases;” and fares onward and downward. Most spectral, pandemonial!
And yet if the Reader fancy it of a funereal, sorrowful or even grave character, he is far mistaken. ‘The Ushers in the Mountain quarter,’ says Mercier, ‘had become as Box-openers at the Opera;’ opening and shutting of Galleries for privileged persons, for ‘d’Orleans Egalite’s mistresses,’ or other high-dizened women of condition, rustling with laces and tricolor. Gallant Deputies pass and repass thitherward, treating them with ices, refreshments and small-talk; the high-dizened heads beck responsive; some have their card and pin, pricking down the Ayes and Noes, as at a game of Rouge-et-Noir. Further aloft reigns Mere Duchesse with her unrouged Amazons; she cannot be prevented making long Hahas, when the vote is not La Mort. In these Galleries there is refection, drinking of wine and brandy ‘as in open tavern, en pleine tabagie.’ Betting goes on in all coffeehouses of the neighbourhood. But within doors, fatigue, impatience, uttermost weariness sits now on all visages; lighted up only from time to time, by turns of the game. Members have fallen asleep; Ushers come and awaken them to vote: other Members calculate whether they shall not have time to run and dine. Figures rise, like phantoms, pale in the dusky lamp- light; utter from this Tribune, only one word: Death. ‘Tout est optique,’ says Mercier, ‘the world is all an optical shadow.’ (Mercier, Nouveau Paris, vi. 156-59; Montgaillard, iii. 348-87; Moore, &c.) Deep in the Thursday night, when the Voting is done, and Secretaries are summing it up, sick Duchatel, more spectral than another, comes borne on a chair, wrapt in blankets, ‘in nightgown and nightcap,’ to vote for Mercy: one vote it is thought may turn the scale.
Ah no! In profoundest silence, President Vergniaud, with a voice full of sorrow, has to say: “I declare, in the name of the Convention, that the Punishment it pronounces on Louis Capet is that of Death.” Death by a small majority of Fifty-three. Nay, if we deduct from the one side, and add to the other, a certain Twenty-six, who said Death but coupled some faintest ineffectual surmise of mercy with it, the majority will be but One.
Death is the sentence: but its execution? It is not executed yet! Scarcely is the vote declared when Louis’s Three Advocates enter; with Protest in his name, with demand for Delay, for Appeal to the People. For this do Deseze and Tronchet plead, with brief eloquence: brave old Malesherbes pleads for it with eloquent want of eloquence, in broken sentences, in embarrassment and sobs; that brave time-honoured face, with its grey strength, its broad sagacity and honesty, is mastered with emotion, melts into dumb tears. (Moniteur (in Hist. Parl. xxiii. 210). See Boissy d’Anglas, Vie de Malesherbes, ii. 139.)–They reject the Appeal to the People; that having been already settled. But as to the Delay, what they call Sursis, it shall be considered; shall be voted for to-morrow: at present we adjourn. Whereupon Patriotism ‘hisses’ from the Mountain: but a ‘tyrannical majority’ has so decided, and adjourns.
There is still this fourth Vote then, growls indignant Patriotism:–this vote, and who knows what other votes, and adjournments of voting; and the whole matter still hovering hypothetical! And at every new vote those Jesuit Girondins, even they who voted for Death, would so fain find a loophole! Patriotism must watch and rage. Tyrannical adjournments there have been; one, and now another at midnight on plea of fatigue,–all Friday wasted in hesitation and higgling; in re-counting of the votes, which are found correct as they stood! Patriotism bays fiercer than ever; Patriotism, by long-watching, has become red-eyed, almost rabid.
“Delay: yes or no?” men do vote it finally, all Saturday, all day and night. Men’s nerves are worn out, men’s hearts are desperate; now it shall end. Vergniaud, spite of the baying, ventures to say Yes, Delay; though he had voted Death. Philippe Egalite says, in his soul and conscience, No. The next Member mounting: “Since Philippe says No, I for my part say Yes, Moi je dis Oui.” The balance still trembles. Till finally, at three o’clock on Sunday morning, we have: No Delay, by a majority of Seventy; Death within four-and-twenty hours!
Garat Minister of Justice has to go to the Temple, with this stern message: he ejaculates repeatedly, “Quelle commission affreuse, What a frightful function!” (Biographie des Ministres, p. 157.) Louis begs for a Confessor; for yet three days of life, to prepare himself to die. The Confessor is granted; the three days and all respite are refused.
There is no deliverance, then? Thick stone walls answer, None–Has King Louis no friends? Men of action, of courage grown desperate, in this his extreme need? King Louis’s friends are feeble and far. Not even a voice in the coffeehouses rises for him. At Meot the Restaurateur’s no Captain Dampmartin now dines; or sees death-doing whiskerandoes on furlough exhibit daggers of improved structure! Meot’s gallant Royalists on furlough are far across the Marches; they are wandering distracted over the world: or their bones lie whitening Argonne Wood. Only some weak Priests ‘leave Pamphlets on all the bournestones,’ this night, calling for a rescue; calling for the pious women to rise; or are taken distributing Pamphlets, and sent to prison. (See Prudhomme’s Newspaper, Revolutions de Paris (in Hist. Parl. xxiii. 318).)
Nay there is one death-doer, of the ancient Meot sort, who, with effort, has done even less and worse: slain a Deputy, and set all the Patriotism of Paris on edge! It was five on Saturday evening when Lepelletier St. Fargeau, having given his vote, No Delay, ran over to Fevrier’s in the Palais Royal to snatch a morsel of dinner. He had dined, and was paying. A thickset man ‘with black hair and blue beard,’ in a loose kind of frock, stept up to him; it was, as Fevrier and the bystanders bethought them, one Paris of the old King’s-Guard. “Are you Lepelletier?” asks he.–“Yes.”– “You voted in the King’s Business?”–“I voted Death.”–“Scelerat, take that!” cries Paris, flashing out a sabre from under his frock, and plunging it deep in Lepelletier’s side. Fevrier clutches him; but he breaks off; is gone.
The voter Lepelletier lies dead; he has expired in great pain, at one in the morning;–two hours before that Vote of no Delay was fully summed up! Guardsman Paris is flying over France; cannot be taken; will be found some months after, self-shot in a remote inn. (Hist. Parl. xxiii. 275, 318; Felix Lepelletier, Vie de Michel Lepelletier son Frere, p. 61. &c. Felix, with due love of the miraculous, will have it that the Suicide in the inn was not Paris, but some double-ganger of his.)–Robespierre sees reason to think that Prince d’Artois himself is privately in Town; that the Convention will be butchered in the lump. Patriotism sounds mere wail and vengeance: Santerre doubles and trebles all his patrols. Pity is lost in rage and fear; the Convention has refused the three days of life and all respite.
Place de la Revolution.
To this conclusion, then, hast thou come, O hapless, Louis! The Son of Sixty Kings is to die on the Scaffold by form of law. Under Sixty Kings this same form of Law, form of Society, has been fashioning itself together, these thousand years; and has become, one way and other, a most strange Machine. Surely, if needful, it is also frightful this Machine; dead, blind; not what it should be; which, with swift stroke, or by cold slow torture, has wasted the lives and souls of innumerable men. And behold now a King himself, or say rather Kinghood in his person, is to expire here in cruel tortures;–like a Phalaris shut in the belly of his own red-heated Brazen Bull! It is ever so; and thou shouldst know it, O haughty tyrannous man: injustice breeds injustice; curses and falsehoods do verily ‘return always home,’ wide as they may wander. Innocent Louis bears the sins of many generations: he too experiences that man’s tribunal is not in this Earth; that if he had no Higher one, it were not well with him.
A King dying by such violence appeals impressively to the imagination; as the like must do, and ought to do. And yet at bottom it is not the King dying, but the Man! Kingship is a coat; the grand loss is of the skin. The man from whom you take his Life, to him can the whole combined world do more? Lally went on his hurdle, his mouth filled with a gag. Miserablest mortals, doomed for picking pockets, have a whole five-act Tragedy in them, in that dumb pain, as they go to the gallows, unregarded; they consume the cup of trembling down to the lees. For Kings and for Beggars, for the justly doomed and the unjustly, it is a hard thing to die. Pity them all: thy utmost pity with all aids and appliances and throne-and-scaffold contrasts, how far short is it of the thing pitied!
A Confessor has come; Abbe Edgeworth, of Irish extraction, whom the King knew by good report, has come promptly on this solemn mission. Leave the Earth alone, then, thou hapless King; it with its malice will go its way, thou also canst go thine. A hard scene yet remains: the parting with our loved ones. Kind hearts, environed in the same grim peril with us; to be left here! Let the Reader look with the eyes of Valet Clery, through these glass-doors, where also the Municipality watches; and see the cruellest of scenes:
‘At half-past eight, the door of the ante-room opened: the Queen appeared first, leading her Son by the hand; then Madame Royale and Madame Elizabeth: they all flung themselves into the arms of the King. Silence reigned for some minutes; interrupted only by sobs. The Queen made a movement to lead his Majesty towards the inner room, where M. Edgeworth was waiting unknown to them: “No,” said the King, “let us go into the dining- room, it is there only that I can see you.” They entered there; I shut the door of it, which was of glass. The King sat down, the Queen on his left hand, Madame Elizabeth on his right, Madame Royale almost in front; the young Prince remained standing between his Father’s legs. They all leaned towards him, and often held him embraced. This scene of woe lasted an hour and three-quarters; during which we could hear nothing; we could see only that always when the King spoke, the sobbings of the Princesses redoubled, continued for some minutes; and that then the King began again to speak.’ (Clery’s Narrative (London, 1798), cited in Weber, iii. 312.)–And so our meetings and our partings do now end! The sorrows we gave each other; the poor joys we faithfully shared, and all our lovings and our sufferings, and confused toilings under the earthly Sun, are over. Thou good soul, I shall never, never through all ages of Time, see thee any more!–NEVER! O Reader, knowest thou that hard word?
For nearly two hours this agony lasts; then they tear themselves asunder. “Promise that you will see us on the morrow.” He promises:–Ah yes, yes; yet once; and go now, ye loved ones; cry to God for yourselves and me!–It was a hard scene, but it is over. He will not see them on the morrow. The Queen in passing through the ante-room glanced at the Cerberus Municipals; and with woman’s vehemence, said through her tears, “Vous etes tous des scelerats.”
King Louis slept sound, till five in the morning, when Clery, as he had been ordered, awoke him. Clery dressed his hair. While this went forward, Louis took a ring from his watch, and kept trying it on his finger; it was his wedding-ring, which he is now to return to the Queen as a mute farewell. At half-past six, he took the Sacrament; and continued in devotion, and conference with Abbe Edgeworth. He will not see his Family: it were too hard to bear.
At eight, the Municipals enter: the King gives them his Will and messages and effects; which they, at first, brutally refuse to take charge of: he gives them a roll of gold pieces, a hundred and twenty-five louis; these are to be returned to Malesherbes, who had lent them. At nine, Santerre says the hour is come. The King begs yet to retire for three minutes. At the end of three minutes, Santerre again says the hour is come. ‘Stamping on the ground with his right foot, Louis answers: “Partons, let us go.”‘– How the rolling of those drums comes in, through the Temple bastions and bulwarks, on the heart of a queenly wife; soon to be a widow! He is gone, then, and has not seen us? A Queen weeps bitterly; a King’s Sister and Children. Over all these Four does Death also hover: all shall perish miserably save one; she, as Duchesse d’Angouleme, will live,–not happily.
At the Temple Gate were some faint cries, perhaps from voices of pitiful women: “Grace! Grace!” Through the rest of the streets there is silence as of the grave. No man not armed is allowed to be there: the armed, did any even pity, dare not express it, each man overawed by all his neighbours. All windows are down, none seen looking through them. All shops are shut. No wheel-carriage rolls this morning, in these streets but one only. Eighty thousand armed men stand ranked, like armed statues of men; cannons bristle, cannoneers with match burning, but no word or movement: it is as a city enchanted into silence and stone; one carriage with its escort, slowly rumbling, is the only sound. Louis reads, in his Book of Devotion, the Prayers of the Dying: clatter of this death-march falls sharp on the ear, in the great silence; but the thought would fain struggle heavenward, and forget the Earth.
As the clocks strike ten, behold the Place de la Revolution, once Place de Louis Quinze: the Guillotine, mounted near the old Pedestal where once stood the Statue of that Louis! Far round, all bristles with cannons and armed men: spectators crowding in the rear; d’Orleans Egalite there in cabriolet. Swift messengers, hoquetons, speed to the Townhall, every three minutes: near by is the Convention sitting,–vengeful for Lepelletier. Heedless of all, Louis reads his Prayers of the Dying; not till five minutes yet has he finished; then the Carriage opens. What temper he is in? Ten different witnesses will give ten different accounts of it. He is in the collision of all tempers; arrived now at the black Mahlstrom and descent of Death: in sorrow, in indignation, in resignation struggling to be resigned. “Take care of M. Edgeworth,” he straitly charges the Lieutenant who is sitting with them: then they two descend.
The drums are beating: “Taisez-vous, Silence!” he cries ‘in a terrible voice, d’une voix terrible.’ He mounts the scaffold, not without delay; he is in puce coat, breeches of grey, white stockings. He strips off the coat; stands disclosed in a sleeve-waistcoat of white flannel. The Executioners approach to bind him: he spurns, resists; Abbe Edgeworth has to remind him how the Saviour, in whom men trust, submitted to be bound. His hands are tied, his head bare; the fatal moment is come. He advances to the edge of the Scaffold, ‘his face very red,’ and says: “Frenchmen, I die innocent: it is from the Scaffold and near appearing before God that I tell you so. I pardon my enemies; I desire that France–” A General on horseback, Santerre or another, prances out with uplifted hand: “Tambours!” The drums drown the voice. “Executioners do your duty!” The Executioners, desperate lest themselves be murdered (for Santerre and his Armed Ranks will strike, if they do not), seize the hapless Louis: six of them desperate, him singly desperate, struggling there; and bind him to their plank. Abbe Edgeworth, stooping, bespeaks him: “Son of Saint Louis, ascend to Heaven.” The Axe clanks down; a King’s Life is shorn away. It is Monday the 21st of January 1793. He was aged Thirty-eight years four months and twenty-eight days. (Newspapers, Municipal Records, &c. &c. (in Hist. Parl. xxiii. 298-349) Deux Amis (ix. 369-373), Mercier (Nouveau Paris, iii. 3-8).)
Executioner Samson shews the Head: fierce shout of Vive la Republique rises, and swells; caps raised on bayonets, hats waving: students of the College of Four Nations take it up, on the far Quais; fling it over Paris. Orleans drives off in his cabriolet; the Townhall Councillors rub their hands, saying, “It is done, It is done.” There is dipping of handkerchiefs, of pike-points in the blood. Headsman Samson, though he afterwards denied it, (His Letter in the Newspapers (Hist. Parl. ubi supra).) sells locks of the hair: fractions of the puce coat are long after worn in rings. (Forster’s Briefwechsel, i. 473.)–And so, in some half-hour it is done; and the multitude has all departed. Pastrycooks, coffee-sellers, milkmen sing out their trivial quotidian cries: the world wags on, as if this were a common day. In the coffeehouses that evening, says Prudhomme, Patriot shook hands with Patriot in a more cordial manner than usual. Not till some days after, according to Mercier, did public men see what a grave thing it was.
A grave thing it indisputably is; and will have consequences. On the morrow morning, Roland, so long steeped to the lips in disgust and chagrin, sends in his demission. His accounts lie all ready, correct in black-on- white to the uttermost farthing: these he wants but to have audited, that he might retire to remote obscurity to the country and his books. They will never be audited those accounts; he will never get retired thither.
It was on Tuesday that Roland demitted. On Thursday comes Lepelletier St. Fargeau’s Funeral, and passage to the Pantheon of Great Men. Notable as the wild pageant of a winter day. The Body is borne aloft, half-bare; the winding sheet disclosing the death-wound: sabre and bloody clothes parade themselves; a ‘lugubrious music’ wailing harsh naeniae. Oak-crowns shower down from windows; President Vergniaud walks there, with Convention, with Jacobin Society, and all Patriots of every colour, all mourning brotherlike.
Notable also for another thing, this Burial of Lepelletier: it was the last act these men ever did with concert! All Parties and figures of Opinion, that agitate this distracted France and its Convention, now stand, as it were, face to face, and dagger to dagger; the King’s Life, round which they all struck and battled, being hurled down. Dumouriez, conquering Holland, growls ominous discontent, at the head of Armies. Men say Dumouriez will have a King; that young d’Orleans Egalite shall be his King. Deputy Fauchet, in the Journal des Amis, curses his day, more bitterly than Job did; invokes the poniards of Regicides, of ‘Arras Vipers’ or Robespierres, of Pluto Dantons, of horrid Butchers Legendre and Simulacra d’Herbois, to send him swiftly to another world than theirs. (Hist. Parl. ubi supra.) This is Te-Deum Fauchet, of the Bastille Victory, of the Cercle Social. Sharp was the death-hail rattling round one’s Flag- of-truce, on that Bastille day: but it was soft to such wreckage of high Hope as this; one’s New Golden Era going down in leaden dross, and sulphurous black of the Everlasting Darkness!
At home this Killing of a King has divided all friends; and abroad it has united all enemies. Fraternity of Peoples, Revolutionary Propagandism; Atheism, Regicide; total destruction of social order in this world! All Kings, and lovers of Kings, and haters of Anarchy, rank in coalition; as in a war for life. England signifies to Citizen Chauvelin, the Ambassador or rather Ambassador’s-Cloak, that he must quit the country in eight days. Ambassador’s-Cloak and Ambassador, Chauvelin and Talleyrand, depart accordingly. (Annual Register of 1793, pp. 114-128.) Talleyrand, implicated in that Iron Press of the Tuileries, thinks it safest to make for America.
England has cast out the Embassy: England declares war,–being shocked principally, it would seem, at the condition of the River Scheldt. Spain declares war; being shocked principally at some other thing; which doubtless the Manifesto indicates. (23d March (Annual Register, p. 161).) Nay we find it was not England that declared war first, or Spain first; but that France herself declared war first on both of them; (1st February; 7th March (Moniteur of these dates).)–a point of immense Parliamentary and Journalistic interest in those days, but which has become of no interest whatever in these. They all declare war. The sword is drawn, the scabbard thrown away. It is even as Danton said, in one of his all-too gigantic figures: “The coalised Kings threaten us; we hurl at their feet, as gage of battle, the Head of a King.”
Cause and Effect.
This huge Insurrectionary Movement, which we liken to a breaking out of Tophet and the Abyss, has swept away Royalty, Aristocracy, and a King’s life. The question is, What will it next do; how will it henceforth shape itself? Settle down into a reign of Law and Liberty; according as the habits, persuasions and endeavours of the educated, monied, respectable class prescribe? That is to say: the volcanic lava-flood, bursting up in the manner described, will explode and flow according to Girondin Formula and pre-established rule of Philosophy? If so, for our Girondin friends it will be well.
Meanwhile were not the prophecy rather that as no external force, Royal or other, now remains which could control this Movement, the Movement will follow a course of its own; probably a very original one? Further, that whatsoever man or men can best interpret the inward tendencies it has, and give them voice and activity, will obtain the lead of it? For the rest, that as a thing without order, a thing proceeding from beyond and beneath the region of order, it must work and welter, not as a Regularity but as a Chaos; destructive and self-destructive; always till something that has order arise, strong enough to bind it into subjection again? Which something, we may further conjecture, will not be a Formula, with philosophical propositions and forensic eloquence; but a Reality, probably with a sword in its hand!
As for the Girondin Formula, of a respectable Republic for the Middle Classes, all manner of Aristocracies being now sufficiently demolished, there seems little reason to expect that the business will stop there. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, these are the words; enunciative and prophetic. Republic for the respectable washed Middle Classes, how can that be the fulfilment thereof? Hunger and nakedness, and nightmare oppression lying heavy on Twenty-five million hearts; this, not the wounded vanities or contradicted philosophies of philosophical Advocates, rich Shopkeepers, rural Noblesse, was the prime mover in the French Revolution; as the like will be in all such Revolutions, in all countries. Feudal Fleur-de-lys had become an insupportably bad marching banner, and needed to be torn and trampled: but Moneybag of Mammon (for that, in these times, is what the respectable Republic for the Middle Classes will signify) is a still worse, while it lasts. Properly, indeed, it is the worst and basest of all banners, and symbols of dominion among men; and indeed is possible only in a time of general Atheism, and Unbelief in any thing save in brute Force and Sensualism; pride of birth, pride of office, any known kind of pride being a degree better than purse-pride. Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood: not in the Moneybag, but far elsewhere, will Sansculottism seek these things.
We say therefore that an Insurrectionary France, loose of control from without, destitute of supreme order from within, will form one of the most tumultuous Activities ever seen on this Earth; such as no Girondin Formula can regulate. An immeasurable force, made up of forces manifold, heterogeneous, compatible and incompatible. In plainer words, this France must needs split into Parties; each of which seeking to make itself good, contradiction, exasperation will arise; and Parties on Parties find that they cannot work together, cannot exist together.
As for the number of Parties, there will, strictly counting, be as many Parties as there are Opinions. According to which rule, in this National Convention itself, to say nothing of France generally, the number of Parties ought to be Seven Hundred and Forty-Nine; for every unit entertains his opinion. But now as every unit has at once an individual nature, or necessity to follow his own road, and a gregarious nature or necessity to see himself travelling by the side of others,–what can there be but dissolutions, precipitations, endless turbulence of attracting and repelling; till once the master-element get evolved, and this wild alchemy arrange itself again?
To the length of Seven Hundred and Forty-nine Parties, however, no Nation was ever yet seen to go. Nor indeed much beyond the length of Two Parties; two at a time;–so invincible is man’s tendency to unite, with all the invincible divisiveness he has! Two Parties, we say, are the usual number at one time: let these two fight it out, all minor shades of party rallying under the shade likest them; when the one has fought down the other, then it, in its turn, may divide, self-destructive; and so the process continue, as far as needful. This is the way of Revolutions, which spring up as the French one has done; when the so-called Bonds of Society snap asunder; and all Laws that are not Laws of Nature become naught and Formulas merely.
But quitting these somewhat abstract considerations, let History note this concrete reality which the streets of Paris exhibit, on Monday the 25th of February 1793. Long before daylight that morning, these streets are noisy and angry. Petitioning enough there has been; a Convention often solicited. It was but yesterday there came a Deputation of Washerwomen with Petition; complaining that not so much as soap could be had; to say nothing of bread, and condiments of bread. The cry of women, round the Salle de Manege, was heard plaintive: “Du pain et du savon, Bread and Soap.” (Moniteur &c. (Hist. Parl. xxiv. 332-348.)
And now from six o’clock, this Monday morning, one perceives the Baker’s Queues unusually expanded, angrily agitating themselves. Not the Baker alone, but two Section Commissioners to help him, manage with difficulty the daily distribution of loaves. Soft-spoken assiduous, in the early candle-light, are Baker and Commissioners: and yet the pale chill February sunrise discloses an unpromising scene. Indignant Female Patriots, partly supplied with bread, rush now to the shops, declaring that they will have groceries. Groceries enough: sugar-barrels rolled forth into the street, Patriot Citoyennes weighing it out at a just rate of eleven-pence a pound; likewise coffee-chests, soap-chests, nay cinnamon and cloves-chests, with aquavitae and other forms of alcohol,–at a just rate, which some do not pay; the pale-faced Grocer silently wringing his hands! What help? The distributive Citoyennes are of violent speech and gesture, their long Eumenides’ hair hanging out of curl; nay in their girdles pistols are seen sticking: some, it is even said, have beards,–male Patriots in petticoats and mob-cap. Thus, in the streets of Lombards, in the street of Five- Diamonds, street of Pullies, in most streets of Paris does it effervesce, the livelong day; no Municipality, no Mayor Pache, though he was War- Minister lately, sends military against it, or aught against it but persuasive-eloquence, till seven at night, or later.
On Monday gone five weeks, which was the twenty-first of January, we saw Paris, beheading its King, stand silent, like a petrified City of Enchantment: and now on this Monday it is so noisy, selling sugar! Cities, especially Cities in Revolution, are subject to these alternations; the secret courses of civic business and existence effervescing and efflorescing, in this manner, as a concrete Phenomenon to the eye. Of which Phenomenon, when secret existence becoming public effloresces on the street, the philosophical cause-and-effect is not so easy to find. What, for example, may be the accurate philosophical meaning, and meanings, of this sale of sugar? These things that have become visible in the street of Pullies and over Paris, whence are they, we say; and whither?–
That Pitt has a hand in it, the gold of Pitt: so much, to all reasonable Patriot men, may seem clear. But then, through what agents of Pitt? Varlet, Apostle of Liberty, was discerned again of late, with his pike and his red nightcap. Deputy Marat published in his journal, this very day, complaining of the bitter scarcity, and sufferings of the people, till he seemed to get wroth: ‘If your Rights of Man were anything but a piece of written paper, the plunder of a few shops, and a forestaller or two hung up at the door-lintels, would put an end to such things.’ (Hist. Parl. xxiv. 353-356.) Are not these, say the Girondins, pregnant indications? Pitt has bribed the Anarchists; Marat is the agent of Pitt: hence this sale of sugar. To the Mother Society, again, it is clear that the scarcity is factitious; is the work of Girondins, and such like; a set of men sold partly to Pitt; sold wholly to their own ambitions, and hard-hearted pedantries; who will not fix the grain-prices, but prate pedantically of free-trade; wishing to starve Paris into violence, and embroil it with the Departments: hence this sale of sugar.
And, alas, if to these two notabilities, of a Phenomenon and such Theories of a Phenomenon, we add this third notability, That the French Nation has believed, for several years now, in the possibility, nay certainty and near advent, of a universal Millennium, or reign of Freedom, Equality, Fraternity, wherein man should be the brother of man, and sorrow and sin flee away? Not bread to eat, nor soap to wish with; and the reign of perfect Felicity ready to arrive, due always since the Bastille fell! How did our hearts burn within us, at that Feast of Pikes, when brother flung himself on brother’s bosom; and in sunny jubilee, Twenty-five millions burst forth into sound and cannon-smoke! Bright was our Hope then, as sunlight; red-angry is our Hope grown now, as consuming fire. But, O Heavens, what enchantment is it, or devilish legerdemain, of such effect, that Perfect Felicity, always within arm’s length, could never be laid hold of, but only in her stead Controversy and Scarcity? This set of traitors after that set! Tremble, ye traitors; dread a People which calls itself patient, long-suffering; but which cannot always submit to have its pocket picked, in this way,–of a Millennium!
Yes, Reader, here is a miracle. Out of that putrescent rubbish of Scepticism, Sensualism, Sentimentalism, hollow Machiavelism, such a Faith has verily risen; flaming in the heart of a People. A whole People, awakening as it were to consciousness in deep misery, believes that it is within reach of a Fraternal Heaven-on-Earth. With longing arms, it struggles to embrace the Unspeakable; cannot embrace it, owing to certain causes.–Seldom do we find that a whole People can be said to have any Faith at all; except in things which it can eat and handle. Whensoever it gets any Faith, its history becomes spirit-stirring, note-worthy. But since the time when steel Europe shook itself simultaneously, at the word of Hermit Peter, and rushed towards the Sepulchre where God had lain, there was no universal impulse of Faith that one could note. Since Protestantism went silent, no Luther’s voice, no Zisca’s drum any longer proclaiming that God’s Truth was not the Devil’s Lie; and the last of the Cameronians (Renwick was the name of him; honour to the name of the brave!) sank, shot, on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh, there was no partial impulse of Faith among Nations. Till now, behold, once more this French Nation believes! Herein, we say, in that astonishing Faith of theirs, lies the miracle. It is a Faith undoubtedly of the more prodigious sort, even among Faiths; and will embody itself in prodigies. It is the soul of that world-prodigy named French Revolution; whereat the world still gazes and shudders.
But, for the rest, let no man ask History to explain by cause-and-effect how the business proceeded henceforth. This battle of Mountain and Gironde, and what follows, is the battle of Fanaticisms and Miracles; unsuitable for cause-and-effect. The sound of it, to the mind, is as a hubbub of voices in distraction; little of articulate is to be gathered by long listening and studying; only battle-tumult, shouts of triumph, shrieks of despair. The Mountain has left no Memoirs; the Girondins have left Memoirs, which are too often little other than long-drawn Interjections, of Woe is me and Cursed be ye. So soon as History can philosophically delineate the conflagration of a kindled Fireship, she may try this other task. Here lay the bitumen-stratum, there the brimstone one; so ran the vein of gunpowder, of nitre, terebinth and foul grease: this, were she inquisitive enough, History might partly know. But how they acted and reacted below decks, one fire-stratum playing into the other, by its nature and the art of man, now when all hands ran raging, and the flames lashed high over shrouds and topmast: this let not History attempt.
The Fireship is old France, the old French Form of Life; her creed a Generation of men. Wild are their cries and their ragings there, like spirits tormented in that flame. But, on the whole, are they not gone, O Reader? Their Fireship and they, frightening the world, have sailed away; its flames and its thunders quite away, into the Deep of Time. One thing therefore History will do: pity them all; for it went hard with them all. Not even the seagreen Incorruptible but shall have some pity, some human love, though it takes an effort. And now, so much once thoroughly attained, the rest will become easier. To the eye of equal brotherly pity, innumerable perversions dissipate themselves; exaggerations and execrations fall off, of their own accord. Standing wistfully on the safe shore, we will look, and see, what is of interest to us, what is adapted to us.
Culottic and Sansculottic.
Gironde and Mountain are now in full quarrel; their mutual rage, says Toulongeon, is growing a ‘pale’ rage. Curious, lamentable: all these men have the word Republic on their lips; in the heart of every one of them is a passionate wish for something which he calls Republic: yet see their death-quarrel! So, however, are men made. Creatures who live in confusion; who, once thrown together, can readily fall into that confusion of confusions which quarrel is, simply because their confusions differ from one another; still more because they seem to differ! Men’s words are a poor exponent of their thought; nay their thought itself is a poor exponent of the inward unnamed Mystery, wherefrom both thought and action have their birth. No man can explain himself, can get himself explained; men see not one another but distorted phantasms which they call one another; which they hate and go to battle with: for all battle is well said to be misunderstanding.
But indeed that similitude of the Fireship; of our poor French brethren, so fiery themselves, working also in an element of fire, was not insignificant. Consider it well, there is a shade of the truth in it. For a man, once committed headlong to republican or any other Transcendentalism, and fighting and fanaticising amid a Nation of his like, becomes as it were enveloped in an ambient atmosphere of Transcendentalism and Delirium: his individual self is lost in something that is not himself, but foreign though inseparable from him. Strange to think of, the man’s cloak still seems to hold the same man: and yet the man is not there, his volition is not there; nor the source of what he will do and devise; instead of the man and his volition there is a piece of Fanaticism and Fatalism incarnated in the shape of him. He, the hapless incarnated Fanaticism, goes his road; no man can help him, he himself least of all. It is a wonderful tragical predicament;–such as human language, unused to deal with these things, being contrived for the uses of common life, struggles to shadow out in figures. The ambient element of material fire is not wilder than this of Fanaticism; nor, though visible to the eye, is it more real. Volition bursts forth involuntary; rapt along; the movement of free human minds becomes a raging tornado of fatalism, blind as the winds; and Mountain and Gironde, when they recover themselves, are alike astounded to see where it has flung and dropt them. To such height of miracle can men work on men; the Conscious and the Unconscious blended inscrutably in this our inscrutable Life; endless Necessity environing Freewill!
The weapons of the Girondins are Political Philosophy, Respectability and Eloquence. Eloquence, or call it rhetoric, really of a superior order; Vergniaud, for instance, turns a period as sweetly as any man of that generation. The weapons of the Mountain are those of mere nature: Audacity and Impetuosity which may become Ferocity, as of men complete in their determination, in their conviction; nay of men, in some cases, who as Septemberers must either prevail or perish. The ground to be fought for is Popularity: further you may either seek Popularity with the friends of Freedom and Order, or with the friends of Freedom Simple; to seek it with both has unhappily become impossible. With the former sort, and generally with the Authorities of the Departments, and such as read Parliamentary Debates, and are of Respectability, and of a peace-loving monied nature, the Girondins carry it. With the extreme Patriot again, with the indigent millions, especially with the Population of Paris who do not read so much as hear and see, the Girondins altogether lose it, and the Mountain carries it.
Egoism, nor meanness of mind, is not wanting on either side. Surely not on the Girondin side; where in fact the instinct of self-preservation, too prominently unfolded by circumstances, cuts almost a sorry figure; where also a certain finesse, to the length even of shuffling and shamming, now and then shews itself. They are men skilful in Advocate-fence. They have been called the Jesuits of the Revolution; (Dumouriez, Memoires, iii. 314.) but that is too hard a name. It must be owned likewise that this rude blustering Mountain has a sense in it of what the Revolution means; which these eloquent Girondins are totally void of. Was the Revolution made, and fought for, against the world, these four weary years, that a Formula might be substantiated; that Society might become methodic, demonstrable by logic; and the old Noblesse with their pretensions vanish? Or ought it not withal to bring some glimmering of light and alleviation to the Twenty-five Millions, who sat in darkness, heavy-laden, till they rose with pikes in their hands? At least and lowest, one would think, it should bring them a proportion of bread to live on? There is in the Mountain here and there; in Marat People’s-friend; in the incorruptible Seagreen himself, though otherwise so lean and formularly, a heartfelt knowledge of this latter fact;–without which knowledge all other knowledge here is naught, and the choicest forensic eloquence is as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Most cold, on the other hand, most patronising, unsubstantial is the tone of the Girondins towards ‘our poorer brethren;’–those brethren whom one often hears of under the collective name of ‘the masses,’ as if they were not persons at all, but mounds of combustible explosive material, for blowing down Bastilles with! In very truth, a Revolutionist of this kind, is he not a Solecism? Disowned by Nature and Art; deserving only to be erased, and disappear! Surely, to our poorer brethren of Paris, all this Girondin patronage sounds deadening and killing: if fine-spoken and incontrovertible in logic, then all the falser, all the hatefuller in fact.
Nay doubtless, pleading for Popularity, here among our poorer brethren of Paris, the Girondin has a hard game to play. If he gain the ear of the Respectable at a distance, it is by insisting on September and such like; it is at the expense of this Paris where he dwells and perorates. Hard to perorate in such an auditory! Wherefore the question arises: Could we not get ourselves out of this Paris? Twice or oftener such an attempt is made. If not we ourselves, thinks Guadet, then at least our Suppleans might do it. For every Deputy has his Suppleant, or Substitute, who will take his place if need be: might not these assemble, say at Bourges, which is a quiet episcopal Town, in quiet Berri, forty good leagues off? In that case, what profit were it for the Paris Sansculottery to insult us; our Suppleans sitting quiet in Bourges, to whom we could run? Nay even the Primary electoral Assemblies, thinks Guadet, might be reconvoked, and a New Convention got, with new orders from the Sovereign people; and right glad were Lyons, were Bourdeaux, Rouen, Marseilles, as yet Provincial Towns, to welcome us in their turn, and become a sort of Capital Towns; and teach these Parisians reason.
Fond schemes; which all misgo! If decreed, in heat of eloquent logic, to- day, they are repealed, by clamour, and passionate wider considerations, on the morrow. (Moniteur, 1793, No. 140, &c.) Will you, O Girondins, parcel us into separate Republics, then; like the Swiss, like your Americans; so that there be no Metropolis or indivisible French Nation any more? Your Departmental Guard seemed to point that way! Federal Republic? Federalist? Men and Knitting-women repeat Federaliste, with or without much Dictionary-meaning; but go on repeating it, as is usual in such cases, till the meaning of it becomes almost magical, fit to designate all mystery of Iniquity; and Federaliste has grown a word of Exorcism and Apage- Satanas. But furthermore, consider what ‘poisoning of public opinion’ in the Departments, by these Brissot, Gorsas, Caritat-Condorcet Newspapers! And then also what counter-poisoning, still feller in quality, by a Pere Duchesne of Hebert, brutallest Newspaper yet published on Earth; by a Rougiff of Guffroy; by the ‘incendiary leaves of Marat!’ More than once, on complaint given and effervescence rising, it is decreed that a man cannot both be Legislator and Editor; that he shall choose between the one function and the other. (Hist. Parl. xxv. 25, &c.) But this too, which indeed could help little, is revoked or eluded; remains a pious wish mainly.
Meanwhile, as the sad fruit of such strife, behold, O ye National Representatives, how between the friends of Law and the friends of Freedom everywhere, mere heats and jealousies have arisen; fevering the whole Republic! Department, Provincial Town is set against Metropolis, Rich against Poor, Culottic against Sansculottic, man against man. From the Southern Cities come Addresses of an almost inculpatory character; for Paris has long suffered Newspaper calumny. Bourdeaux demands a reign of Law and Respectability, meaning Girondism, with emphasis. With emphasis Marseilles demands the like. Nay from Marseilles there come two Addresses: one Girondin; one Jacobin Sansculottic. Hot Rebecqui, sick of this Convention-work, has given place to his Substitute, and gone home; where also, with such jarrings, there is work to be sick of.
Lyons, a place of Capitalists and Aristocrats, is in still worse state; almost in revolt. Chalier the Jacobin Town-Councillor has got, too literally, to daggers-drawn with Nievre-Chol the Moderantin Mayor; one of your Moderate, perhaps Aristocrat, Royalist or Federalist Mayors! Chalier, who pilgrimed to Paris ‘to behold Marat and the Mountain,’ has verily kindled himself at their sacred urn: for on the 6th of February last, History or Rumour has seen him haranguing his Lyons Jacobins in a quite transcendental manner, with a drawn dagger in his hand; recommending (they say) sheer September-methods, patience being worn out; and that the Jacobin Brethren should, impromptu, work the Guillotine themselves! One sees him still, in Engravings: mounted on a table; foot advanced, body contorted; a bald, rude, slope-browed, infuriated visage of the canine species, the eyes starting from their sockets; in his puissant right-hand the brandished dagger, or horse-pistol, as some give it; other dog-visages kindling under him:–a man not likely to end well! However, the Guillotine was not got together impromptu, that day, ‘on the Pont Saint-Clair,’ or elsewhere; but indeed continued lying rusty in its loft: (Hist. Parl. xxiv. 385-93; xxvi. 229, &c.) Nievre-Chol with military went about, rumbling cannon, in the most confused manner; and the ‘nine hundred prisoners’ received no hurt. So distracted is Lyons grown, with its cannon rumbling. Convention Commissioners must be sent thither forthwith: if even they can appease it, and keep the Guillotine in its loft?
Consider finally if, on all these mad jarrings of the Southern Cities, and of France generally, a traitorous Crypto-Royalist class is not looking and watching; ready to strike in, at the right season! Neither is there bread; neither is there soap: see the Patriot women selling out sugar, at a just rate of twenty-two sous per pound! Citizen Representatives, it were verily well that your quarrels finished, and the reign of Perfect Felicity began.
On the whole, one cannot say that the Girondins are wanting to themselves, so far as good-will might go. They prick assiduously into the sore-places of the Mountain; from principle, and also from jesuitism.
Besides September, of which there is now little to be made except effervescence, we discern two sore-places where the Mountain often suffers: Marat and Orleans Egalite. Squalid Marat, for his own sake and for the Mountain’s, is assaulted ever and anon; held up to France, as a squalid bloodthirsty Portent, inciting to the pillage of shops; of whom let the Mountain have the credit! The Mountain murmurs, ill at ease: this ‘Maximum of Patriotism,’ how shall they either own him or disown him? As for Marat personally, he, with his fixed-idea, remains invulnerable to such things: nay the People’s-friend is very evidently rising in importance, as his befriended People rises. No shrieks now, when he goes to speak; occasional applauses rather, furtherance which breeds confidence. The day when the Girondins proposed to ‘decree him accused’ (decreter d’accusation, as they phrase it) for that February Paragraph, of ‘hanging up a Forestaller or two at the door-lintels,’ Marat proposes to have them ‘decreed insane;’ and, descending the Tribune-steps, is heard to articulate these most unsenatorial ejaculations: “Les Cochons, les imbecilles, Pigs, idiots!” Oftentimes he croaks harsh sarcasm, having really a rough rasping tongue, and a very deep fund of contempt for fine outsides; and once or twice, he even laughs, nay ‘explodes into laughter, rit aux eclats,’ at the gentilities and superfine airs of these Girondin “men of statesmanship,” with their pedantries, plausibilities, pusillanimities: “these two years,” says he, “you have been whining about attacks, and plots, and danger from Paris; and you have not a scratch to shew for yourselves.” (Moniteur, Seance du 20 Mai 1793.)–Danton gruffly rebukes him, from time to time: a Maximum of Patriotism, whom one can neither own nor disown!
But the second sore-place of the Mountain is this anomalous Monseigneur Equality Prince d’Orleans. Behold these men, says the Gironde; with a whilom Bourbon Prince among them: they are creatures of the d’Orleans Faction; they will have Philippe made King; one King no sooner guillotined than another made in his stead! Girondins have moved, Buzot moved long ago, from principle and also from jesuitism, that the whole race of Bourbons should be marched forth from the soil of France; this Prince Egalite to bring up the rear. Motions which might produce some effect on the public;–which the Mountain, ill at ease, knows not what to do with.
And poor Orleans Egalite himself, for one begins to pity even him, what does he do with them? The disowned of all parties, the rejected and foolishly be-drifted hither and hither, to what corner of Nature can he now drift with advantage? Feasible hope remains not for him: unfeasible hope, in pallid doubtful glimmers, there may still come, bewildering, not cheering or illuminating,–from the Dumouriez quarter; and how, if not the timewasted Orleans Egalite, then perhaps the young unworn Chartres Egalite might rise to be a kind of King? Sheltered, if shelter it be, in the clefts of the Mountain, poor Egalite will wait: one refuge in Jacobinism, one in Dumouriez and Counter-Revolution, are there not two chances? However, the look of him, Dame Genlis says, is grown gloomy; sad to see. Sillery also, the Genlis’s Husband, who hovers about the Mountain, not on it, is in a bad way. Dame Genlis has come to Raincy, out of England and Bury St. Edmunds, in these days; being summoned by Egalite, with her young charge, Mademoiselle Egalite, that so Mademoiselle might not be counted among Emigrants and hardly dealt with. But it proves a ravelled business: Genlis and charge find that they must retire to the Netherlands; must wait on the Frontiers for a week or two; till Monseigneur, by Jacobin help, get it wound up. ‘Next morning,’ says Dame Genlis, ‘Monseigneur, gloomier than ever, gave me his arm, to lead me to the carriage. I was greatly troubled; Mademoiselle burst into tears; her Father was pale and trembling. After I had got seated, he stood immovable at the carriage-door, with his eyes fixed on me; his mournful and painful look seemed to implore pity;–“Adieu, Madame!” said he. The altered sound of his voice completely overcame me; not able to utter a word, I held out my hand; he grasped it close; then turning, and advancing sharply towards the postillions, he gave them a sign, and we rolled away.’ (Genlis, Memoires (London, 1825), iv. 118.)
Nor are Peace-makers wanting; of whom likewise we mention two; one fast on the crown of the Mountain, the other not yet alighted anywhere: Danton and Barrere. Ingenious Barrere, Old-Constituent and Editor from the slopes of the Pyrenees, is one of the usefullest men of this Convention, in his way. Truth may lie on both sides, on either side, or on neither side; my friends, ye must give and take: for the rest, success to the winning side! This is the motto of Barrere. Ingenious, almost genial; quick-sighted, supple, graceful; a man that will prosper. Scarcely Belial in the assembled Pandemonium was plausibler to ear and eye. An indispensable man: in the great Art of Varnish he may be said to seek his fellow. Has there an explosion arisen, as many do arise, a confusion, unsightliness, which no tongue can speak of, nor eye look on; give it to Barrere; Barrere shall be Committee-Reporter of it; you shall see it transmute itself into a regularity, into the very beauty and improvement that was needed. Without one such man, we say, how were this Convention bested? Call him not, as exaggerative Mercier does, ‘the greatest liar in France:’ nay it may be argued there is not truth enough in him to make a real lie of. Call him, with Burke, Anacreon of the Guillotine, and a man serviceable to this Convention.
The other Peace-maker whom we name is Danton. Peace, O peace with one another! cries Danton often enough: Are we not alone against the world; a little band of brothers? Broad Danton is loved by all the Mountain; but they think him too easy-tempered, deficient in suspicion: he has stood between Dumouriez and much censure, anxious not to exasperate our only General: in the shrill tumult Danton’s strong voice reverberates, for union and pacification. Meetings there are; dinings with the Girondins: it is so pressingly essential that there be union. But the Girondins are haughty and respectable; this Titan Danton is not a man of Formulas, and there rests on him a shadow of September. “Your Girondins have no confidence in me:” this is the answer a conciliatory Meillan gets from him; to all the arguments and pleadings this conciliatory Meillan can bring, the repeated answer is, “Ils n’ont point de confiance.” (Memoires de Meillan, Representant du Peuple (Paris, 1823), p. 51.)–The tumult will get ever shriller; rage is growing pale.
In fact, what a pang is it to the heart of a Girondin, this first withering probability that the despicable unphilosophic anarchic Mountain, after all, may triumph! Brutal Septemberers, a fifth-floor Tallien, ‘a Robespierre without an idea in his head,’ as Condorcet says, ‘or a feeling in his heart:’ and yet we, the flower of France, cannot stand against them; behold the sceptre departs from us; from us and goes to them! Eloquence, Philosophism, Respectability avail not: ‘against Stupidity the very gods fight to no purpose,
‘Mit der Dummheit kampfen Gotter selbst vergebens!’
Shrill are the plaints of Louvet; his thin existence all acidified into rage, and preternatural insight of suspicion. Wroth is young Barbaroux; wroth and scornful. Silent, like a Queen with the aspic on her bosom, sits the wife of Roland; Roland’s Accounts never yet got audited, his name become a byword. Such is the fortune of war, especially of revolution. The great gulf of Tophet, and Tenth of August, opened itself at the magic of your eloquent voice; and lo now, it will not close at your voice! It is a dangerous thing such magic. The Magician’s Famulus got hold of the forbidden Book, and summoned a goblin: Plait-il, What is your will? said the Goblin. The Famulus, somewhat struck, bade him fetch water: the swift goblin fetched it, pail in each hand; but lo, would not cease fetching it! Desperate, the Famulus shrieks at him, smites at him, cuts him in two; lo, two goblin water-carriers ply; and the house will be swum away in Deucalion Deluges.
Fatherland in Danger.
Or rather we will say, this Senatorial war might have lasted long; and Party tugging and throttling with Party might have suppressed and smothered one another, in the ordinary bloodless Parliamentary way; on one condition: that France had been at least able to exist, all the while. But this Sovereign People has a digestive faculty, and cannot do without bread. Also we are at war, and must have victory; at war with Europe, with Fate and Famine: and behold, in the spring of the year, all victory deserts us.
Dumouriez had his outposts stretched as far as Aix-la-Chapelle, and the beautifullest plan for pouncing on Holland, by stratagem, flat-bottomed boats and rapid intrepidity; wherein too he had prospered so far; but unhappily could prosper no further. Aix-la-Chapelle is lost; Maestricht will not surrender to mere smoke and noise: the flat-bottomed boats must launch themselves again, and return the way they came. Steady now, ye rapidly intrepid men; retreat with firmness, Parthian-like! Alas, were it General Miranda’s fault; were it the War-minister’s fault; or were it Dumouriez’s own fault and that of Fortune: enough, there is nothing for it but retreat,–well if it be not even flight; for already terror-stricken cohorts and stragglers pour off, not waiting for order; flow disastrous, as many as ten thousand of them, without halt till they see France again. (Dumouriez, iv. 16-73.) Nay worse: Dumouriez himself is perhaps secretly turning traitor? Very sharp is the tone in which he writes to our Committees. Commissioners and Jacobin Pillagers have done such incalculable mischief; Hassenfratz sends neither cartridges nor clothing; shoes we have, deceptively ‘soled with wood and pasteboard.’ Nothing in short is right. Danton and Lacroix, when it was they that were Commissioners, would needs join Belgium to France;–of which Dumouriez might have made the prettiest little Duchy for his own secret behoof! With all these things the General is wroth; and writes to us in a sharp tone. Who knows what this hot little General is meditating? Dumouriez Duke of Belgium or Brabant; and say, Egalite the Younger King of France: there were an end for our Revolution!–Committee of Defence gazes, and shakes its head: who except Danton, defective in suspicion, could still struggle to be of hope?
And General Custine is rolling back from the Rhine Country; conquered Mentz will be reconquered, the Prussians gathering round to bombard it with shot and shell. Mentz may resist, Commissioner Merlin, the Thionviller, ‘making sallies, at the head of the besieged;’–resist to the death; but not longer than that. How sad a reverse for Mentz! Brave Foster, brave Lux planted Liberty-trees, amid ca-ira-ing music, in the snow-slush of last winter, there: and made Jacobin Societies; and got the Territory incorporated with France: they came hither to Paris, as Deputies or Delegates, and have their eighteen francs a-day: but see, before once the Liberty-Tree is got rightly in leaf, Mentz is changing into an explosive crater; vomiting fire, bevomited with fire!
Neither of these men shall again see Mentz; they have come hither only to die. Foster has been round the Globe; he saw Cook perish under Owyhee clubs; but like this Paris he has yet seen or suffered nothing. Poverty escorts him: from home there can nothing come, except Job’s-news; the eighteen daily francs, which we here as Deputy or Delegate with difficulty ‘touch,’ are in paper assignats, and sink fast in value. Poverty, disappointment, inaction, obloquy; the brave heart slowly breaking! Such is Foster’s lot. For the rest, Demoiselle Theroigne smiles on you in the Soirees; ‘a beautiful brownlocked face,’ of an exalted temper; and contrives to keep her carriage. Prussian Trenck, the poor subterranean Baron, jargons and jangles in an unmelodious manner. Thomas Paine’s face is red-pustuled, ‘but the eyes uncommonly bright.’ Convention Deputies ask you to dinner: very courteous; and ‘we all play at plumsack.’ (Forster’s Briefwechsel, ii. 514, 460, 631.) ‘It is the Explosion and New-creation of a World,’ says Foster; ‘and the actors in it, such small mean objects, buzzing round one like a handful of flies.’–
Likewise there is war with Spain. Spain will advance through the gorges of the Pyrenees; rustling with Bourbon banners; jingling with artillery and menace. And England has donned the red coat; and marches, with Royal Highness of York,–whom some once spake of inviting to be our King. Changed that humour now: and ever more changing; till no hatefuller thing walk this Earth than a denizen of that tyrannous Island; and Pitt be declared and decreed, with effervescence, ‘L’ennemi du genre humain, The enemy of mankind;’ and, very singular to say, you make an order that no Soldier of Liberty give quarter to an Englishman. Which order however, the Soldier of Liberty does but partially obey. We will take no Prisoners then, say the Soldiers of Liberty; they shall all be ‘Deserters’ that we take. (See Dampmartin, Evenemens, ii. 213-30.) It is a frantic order; and attended with inconvenience. For surely, if you give no quarter, the plain issue is that you will get none; and so the business become as broad as it was long.–Our ‘recruitment of Three Hundred Thousand men,’ which was the decreed force for this year, is like to have work enough laid to its hand.
So many enemies come wending on; penetrating through throats of Mountains, steering over the salt sea; towards all points of our territory; rattling chains at us. Nay worst of all: there is an enemy within our own territory itself. In the early days of March, the Nantes Postbags do not arrive; there arrive only instead of them Conjecture, Apprehension, bodeful wind of Rumour. The bodefullest proves true! Those fanatic Peoples of La Vendee will no longer keep under: their fire of insurrection, heretofore dissipated with difficulty, blazes out anew, after the King’s Death, as a wide conflagration; not riot, but civil war. Your Cathelineaus, your Stofflets, Charettes, are other men than was thought: behold how their Peasants, in mere russet and hodden, with their rude arms, rude array, with their fanatic Gaelic frenzy and wild-yelling battle-cry of God and the King, dash at us like a dark whirlwind; and blow the best-disciplined Nationals we can get into panic and sauve-qui-peut! Field after field is theirs; one sees not where it will end. Commandant Santerre may be sent thither; but with non-effect; he might as well have returned and brewed beer.
It has become peremptorily necessary that a National Convention cease arguing, and begin acting. Yield one party of you to the other, and do it swiftly. No theoretic outlook is here, but the close certainty of ruin; the very day that is passing over must be provided for.
It was Friday the eighth of March when this Job’s-post from Dumouriez, thickly preceded and escorted by so many other Job’s-posts, reached the National Convention. Blank enough are most faces. Little will it avail whether our Septemberers be punished or go unpunished; if Pitt and Cobourg are coming in, with one punishment for us all; nothing now between Paris itself and the Tyrants but a doubtful Dumouriez, and hosts in loose-flowing loud retreat!–Danton the Titan rises in this hour, as always in the hour of need. Great is his voice, reverberating from the domes:–Citizen- Representatives, shall we not, in such crisis of Fate, lay aside discords? Reputation: O what is the reputation of this man or of that? Que mon nom soit fletri, que la France soit libre, Let my name be blighted; let France be free! It is necessary now again that France rise, in swift vengeance, with her million right-hands, with her heart as of one man. Instantaneous recruitment in Paris; let every Section of Paris furnish its thousands; every section of France! Ninety-six Commissioners of us, two for each Section of the Forty-eight, they must go forthwith, and tell Paris what the Country needs of her. Let Eighty more of us be sent, post-haste, over France; to spread the fire-cross, to call forth the might of men. Let the Eighty also be on the road, before this sitting rise. Let them go, and think what their errand is. Speedy Camp of Fifty thousand between Paris and the North Frontier; for Paris will pour forth her volunteers! Shoulder to shoulder; one strong universal death-defiant rising and rushing; we shall hurl back these Sons of Night yet again; and France, in spite of the world, be free! (Moniteur (in Hist. Parl. xxv. 6).)–So sounds the Titan’s voice: into all Section-houses; into all French hearts. Sections sit in Permanence, for recruitment, enrolment, that very night. Convention Commissioners, on swift wheels, are carrying the fire-cross from Town to Town, till all France blaze.
And so there is Flag of Fatherland in Danger waving from the Townhall, Black Flag from the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral; there is Proclamation, hot eloquence; Paris rushing out once again to strike its enemies down. That, in such circumstances, Paris was in no mild humour can be conjectured. Agitated streets; still more agitated round the Salle de Manege! Feuillans-Terrace crowds itself with angry Citizens, angrier Citizenesses; Varlet perambulates with portable-chair: ejaculations of no measured kind, as to perfidious fine-spoken Hommes d’etat, friends of Dumouriez, secret- friends of Pitt and Cobourg, burst from the hearts and lips of men. To fight the enemy? Yes, and even to “freeze him with terror, glacer d’effroi;” but first to have domestic Traitors punished! Who are they that, carping and quarrelling, in their jesuitic most moderate way, seek to shackle the Patriotic movement? That divide France against Paris, and poison public opinion in the Departments? That when we ask for bread, and a Maximum fixed-price, treat us with lectures on Free-trade in grains? Can the human stomach satisfy itself with lectures on Free-trade; and are we to fight the Austrians in a moderate manner, or in an immoderate? This Convention must be purged.
“Set up a swift Tribunal for Traitors, a Maximum for Grains:” thus speak with energy the Patriot Volunteers, as they defile through the Convention Hall, just on the wing to the Frontiers;–perorating in that heroical Cambyses’ vein of theirs: beshouted by the Galleries and Mountain; bemurmured by the Right-side and Plain. Nor are prodigies wanting: lo, while a Captain of the Section Poissonniere perorates with vehemence about Dumouriez, Maximum, and Crypto-Royalist Traitors, and his troop beat chorus with him, waving their Banner overhead, the eye of a Deputy discerns, in this same Banner, that the cravates or streamers of it have Royal fleurs- de-lys! The Section-Captain shrieks; his troop shriek, horror-struck, and ‘trample the Banner under foot:’ seemingly the work of some Crypto- Royalist Plotter? Most probable; (Choix des Rapports, xi. 277.)–or perhaps at bottom, only the old Banner of the Section, manufactured prior to the Tenth of August, when such streamers were according to rule! (Hist. Parl. xxv. 72.)
History, looking over the Girondin Memoirs, anxious to disentangle the truth of them from the hysterics, finds these days of March, especially this Sunday the Tenth of March, play a great part. Plots, plots: a plot for murdering the Girondin Deputies; Anarchists and Secret-Royalists plotting, in hellish concert, for that end! The far greater part of which is hysterics. What we do find indisputable is that Louvet and certain Girondins were apprehensive they might be murdered on Saturday, and did not go to the evening sitting: but held council with one another, each inciting his fellow to do something resolute, and end these Anarchists: to which, however, Petion, opening the window, and finding the night very wet, answered only, “Ils ne feront rien,” and ‘composedly resumed his violin,’ says Louvet: (Louvet, Memoires, p. 72.) thereby, with soft Lydian tweedledeeing, to wrap himself against eating cares. Also that Louvet felt especially liable to being killed; that several Girondins went abroad to seek beds: liable to being killed; but were not. Further that, in very truth, Journalist Deputy Gorsas, poisoner of the Departments, he and his Printer had their houses broken into (by a tumult of Patriots, among whom red-capped Varlet, American Fournier loom forth, in the darkness of the rain and riot); had their wives put in fear; their presses, types and circumjacent equipments beaten to ruin; no Mayor interfering in time; Gorsas himself escaping, pistol in hand, ‘along the coping of the back wall.’ Further that Sunday, the morrow, was not a workday; and the streets were more agitated than ever: Is it a new September, then, that these Anarchists intend? Finally, that no September came;–and also that hysterics, not unnaturally, had reached almost their acme. (Meillan, pp. 23, 24; Louvet, pp. 71-80.)
Vergniaud denounces and deplores; in sweetly turned periods. Section Bonconseil, Good-counsel so-named, not Mauconseil or Ill-counsel as it once was,–does a far notabler thing: demands that Vergniaud, Brissot, Guadet, and other denunciatory fine-spoken Girondins, to the number of Twenty-two, be put under arrest! Section Good-counsel, so named ever since the Tenth of August, is sharply rebuked, like a Section of Ill-counsel; (Moniteur (Seance du 12 Mars), 15 Mars.) but its word is spoken, and will not fall to the ground.
In fact, one thing strikes us in these poor Girondins; their fatal shortness of vision; nay fatal poorness of character, for that is the root of it. They are as strangers to the People they would govern; to the thing they have come to work in. Formulas, Philosophies, Respectabilities, what has been written in Books, and admitted by the Cultivated Classes; this inadequate Scheme of Nature’s working is all that Nature, let her work as she will, can reveal to these men. So they perorate and speculate; and call on the Friends of Law, when the question is not Law or No-Law, but Life or No-Life. Pedants of the Revolution, if not Jesuits of it! Their Formalism is great; great also is their Egoism. France rising to fight Austria has been raised only by Plot of the Tenth of March, to kill Twenty- two of them! This Revolution Prodigy, unfolding itself into terrific stature and articulation, by its own laws and Nature’s, not by the laws of Formula, has become unintelligible, incredible as an impossibility, the waste chaos of a Dream.’ A Republic founded on what they call the Virtues; on what we call the Decencies and Respectabilities: this they will have, and nothing but this. Whatsoever other Republic Nature and Reality send, shall be considered as not sent; as a kind of Nightmare Vision, and thing non-extant; disowned by the Laws of Nature, and of Formula. Alas! Dim for the best eyes is this Reality; and as for these men, they will not look at it with eyes at all, but only through ‘facetted spectacles’ of Pedantry, wounded Vanity; which yield the most portentous fallacious spectrum. Carping and complaining forever of Plots and Anarchy, they will do one thing: prove, to demonstration, that the Reality will not translate into their Formula; that they and their Formula are incompatible with the Reality: and, in its dark wrath, the Reality will extinguish it and them! What a man kens he cans. But the beginning of a man’s doom is that vision be withdrawn from him; that he see not the reality, but a false spectrum of the reality; and, following that, step darkly, with more or less velocity, downwards to the utter Dark; to Ruin, which is the great Sea of Darkness, whither all falsehoods, winding or direct, continually flow!
This Tenth of March we may mark as an epoch in the Girondin destinies; the rage so exasperated itself, the misconception so darkened itself. Many desert the sittings; many come to them armed. (Meillan (Memoires, pp. 85, 24).) An honourable Deputy, setting out after breakfast, must now, besides taking his Notes, see whether his Priming is in order.
Meanwhile with Dumouriez in Belgium it fares ever worse. Were it again General Miranda’s fault, or some other’s fault, there is no doubt whatever but the ‘Battle of Nerwinden,’ on the 18th of March, is lost; and our rapid retreat has become a far too rapid one. Victorious Cobourg, with his Austrian prickers, hangs like a dark cloud on the rear of us: Dumouriez never off horseback night or day; engagement every three hours; our whole discomfited Host rolling rapidly inwards, full of rage, suspicion, and sauve-qui-peut! And then Dumouriez himself, what his intents may be? Wicked seemingly and not charitable! His despatches to Committee openly denounce a factious Convention, for the woes it has brought on France and him. And his speeches–for the General has no reticence! The Execution of the Tyrant this Dumouriez calls the Murder of the King. Danton and Lacroix, flying thither as Commissioners once more, return very doubtful; even Danton now doubts.
Three Jacobin Missionaries, Proly, Dubuisson, Pereyra, have flown forth; sped by a wakeful Mother Society: they are struck dumb to hear the General speak. The Convention, according to this General, consists of three hundred scoundrels and four hundred imbeciles: France cannot do without a King. “But we have executed our King.” “And what is it to me,” hastily cries Dumouriez, a General of no reticence, “whether the King’s name be Ludovicus or Jacobus?” “Or Philippus!” rejoins Proly;–and hastens to report progress. Over the Frontiers such hope is there.
Let us look, however, at the grand internal Sansculottism and Revolution Prodigy, whether it stirs and waxes: there and not elsewhere hope may still be for France. The Revolution Prodigy, as Decree after Decree issues from the Mountain, like creative fiats, accordant with the nature of the Thing,–is shaping itself rapidly, in these days, into terrific stature and articulation, limb after limb. Last March, 1792, we saw all France flowing in blind terror; shutting town-barriers, boiling pitch for Brigands: happier, this March, that it is a seeing terror; that a creative Mountain exists, which can say fiat! Recruitment proceeds with fierce celerity: nevertheless our Volunteers hesitate to set out, till Treason be punished at home; they do not fly to the frontiers; but only fly hither and thither, demanding and denouncing. The Mountain must speak new fiat, and new fiats.
And does it not speak such? Take, as first example, those Comites Revolutionnaires for the arrestment of Persons Suspect. Revolutionary Committee, of Twelve chosen Patriots, sits in every Township of France; examining the Suspect, seeking arms, making domiciliary visits and arrestments;–caring, generally, that the Republic suffer no detriment. Chosen by universal suffrage, each in its Section, they are a kind of elixir of Jacobinism; some Forty-four Thousand of them awake and alive over France! In Paris and all Towns, every house-door must have the names of the inmates legibly printed on it, ‘at a height not exceeding five feet from the ground;’ every Citizen must produce his certificatory Carte de Civisme, signed by Section-President; every man be ready to give account of the faith that is in him. Persons Suspect had as well depart this soil of Liberty! And yet departure too is bad: all Emigrants are declared Traitors, their property become National; they are ‘dead in Law,’–save indeed that for our behoof they shall ‘live yet fifty years in Law,’ and what heritages may fall to them in that time become National too! A mad vitality of Jacobinism, with Forty-four Thousand centres of activity, circulates through all fibres of France.
Very notable also is the Tribunal Extraordinaire: (Moniteur, No. 70, (du 11 Mars), No. 76, &c.) decreed by the Mountain; some Girondins dissenting, for surely such a Court contradicts every formula;–other Girondins assenting, nay co-operating, for do not we all hate Traitors, O ye people of Paris?–Tribunal of the Seventeenth in Autumn last was swift; but this shall be swifter. Five Judges; a standing Jury, which is named from Paris and the Neighbourhood, that there be not delay in naming it: they are subject to no Appeal; to hardly any Law-forms, but must ‘get themselves convinced’ in all readiest ways; and for security are bound ‘to vote audibly;’ audibly, in the hearing of a Paris Public. This is the Tribunal Extraordinaire; which, in few months, getting into most lively action, shall be entitled Tribunal Revolutionnaire, as indeed it from the very first has entitled itself: with a Herman or a Dumas for Judge President, with a Fouquier-Tinville for Attorney-General, and a Jury of such as Citizen Leroi, who has surnamed himself Dix-Aout, ‘Leroi August-Tenth,’ it will become the wonder of the world. Herein has Sansculottism fashioned for itself a Sword of Sharpness: a weapon magical; tempered in the Stygian hell-waters; to the edge of it all armour, and defence of strength or of cunning shall be soft; it shall mow down Lives and Brazen-gates; and the waving of it shed terror through the souls of men.
But speaking of an amorphous Sansculottism taking form, ought we not above all things to specify how the Amorphous gets itself a Head? Without metaphor, this Revolution Government continues hitherto in a very anarchic state. Executive Council of Ministers, Six in number, there is; but they, especially since Roland’s retreat, have hardly known whether they were Ministers or not. Convention Committees sit supreme over them; but then each Committee as supreme as the others: Committee of Twenty-one, of Defence, of General Surety; simultaneous or successive, for specific purposes. The Convention alone is all-powerful,– especially if the Commune go with it; but is too numerous for an administrative body. Wherefore, in this perilous quick-whirling condition of the Republic, before the end of March, we obtain our small Comite de Salut Public; (Moniteur, No. 83 (du 24 Mars 1793) Nos. 86, 98, 99, 100.) as it were, for miscellaneous accidental purposes, requiring despatch;–as it proves, for a sort of universal supervision, and universal subjection. They are to report weekly, these new Committee-men; but to deliberate in secret. Their number is Nine, firm Patriots all, Danton one of them: Renewable every month;–yet why not reelect them if they turn out well? The flower of the matter is that they are but nine; that they sit in secret. An insignificant-looking thing at first, this Committee; but with a principle of growth in it! Forwarded by fortune, by internal Jacobin energy, it will reduce all Committees and the Convention itself to mute obedience, the Six Ministers to Six assiduous Clerks; and work its will on the Earth and under Heaven, for a season. ‘A Committee of Public Salvation,’ whereat the world still shrieks and shudders.
If we call that Revolutionary Tribunal a Sword, which Sansculottism has provided for itself, then let us call the ‘Law of the Maximum,’ a Provender-scrip, or Haversack, wherein better or worse some ration of bread may be found. It is true, Political Economy, Girondin free-trade, and all law of supply and demand, are hereby hurled topsyturvy: but what help? Patriotism must live; the ‘cupidity of farmers’ seems to have no bowels. Wherefore this Law of the Maximum, fixing the highest price of grains, is, with infinite effort, got passed; (Moniteur (du 20 Avril, &c. to 20 Mai, 1793).) and shall gradually extend itself into a Maximum for all manner of comestibles and commodities: with such scrambling and topsyturvying as may be fancied! For now, if, for example, the farmer will not sell? The farmer shall be forced to sell. An accurate Account of what grain he has shall be delivered in to the Constituted Authorities: let him see that he say not too much; for in that case, his rents, taxes and contributions will rise proportionally: let him see that he say not too little; for, on or before a set day, we shall suppose in April, less than one-third of this declared quantity, must remain in his barns, more than two-thirds of it must have been thrashed and sold. One can denounce him, and raise penalties.
By such inextricable overturning of all Commercial relation will Sansculottism keep life in; since not otherwise. On the whole, as Camille Desmoulins says once, “while the Sansculottes fight, the Monsieurs must pay.” So there come Impots Progressifs, Ascending Taxes; which consume, with fast-increasing voracity, and ‘superfluous-revenue’ of men: beyond fifty-pounds a-year you are not exempt; rising into the hundreds you bleed freely; into the thousands and tens of thousands, you bleed gushing. Also there come Requisitions; there comes ‘Forced-Loan of a Milliard,’ some Fifty-Millions Sterling; which of course they that have must lend. Unexampled enough: it has grown to be no country for the Rich, this; but a country for the Poor! And then if one fly, what steads it? Dead in Law; nay kept alive fifty years yet, for their accursed behoof! In this manner, therefore, it goes; topsyturvying, ca-ira-ing;–and withal there is endless sale of Emigrant National-Property, there is Cambon with endless cornucopia of Assignats. The Trade and Finance of Sansculottism; and how, with Maximum and Bakers’-queues, with Cupidity, Hunger, Denunciation and Paper- money, it led its galvanic-life, and began and ended,–remains the most interesting of all Chapters in Political Economy: still to be written.
All which things are they not clean against Formula? O Girondin Friends, it is not a Republic of the Virtues we are getting; but only a Republic of the Strengths, virtuous and other!
But Dumouriez, with his fugitive Host, with his King Ludovicus or King Philippus? There lies the crisis; there hangs the question: Revolution Prodigy, or Counter-Revolution?–One wide shriek covers that North-East region. Soldiers, full of rage, suspicion and terror, flock hither and thither; Dumouriez the many-counselled, never off horseback, knows now no counsel that were not worse than none: the counsel, namely, of joining himself with Cobourg; marching to Paris, extinguishing Jacobinism, and, with some new King Ludovicus or King Philippus, resting the Constitution of 1791! (Dumouriez, Memoires, iv. c. 7-10.)
Is Wisdom quitting Dumouriez; the herald of Fortune quitting him? Principle, faith political or other, beyond a certain faith of mess-rooms, and honour of an officer, had him not to quit. At any rate, his quarters in the Burgh of Saint-Amand; his headquarters in the Village of Saint-Amand des Boues, a short way off,–have become a Bedlam. National Representatives, Jacobin Missionaries are riding and running: of the ‘three Towns,’ Lille, Valenciennes or even Conde, which Dumouriez wanted to snatch for himself, not one can be snatched: your Captain is admitted, but the Town-gate is closed on him, and then the Prison gate, and ‘his men wander about the ramparts.’ Couriers gallop breathless; men wait, or seem waiting, to assassinate, to be assassinated; Battalions nigh frantic with such suspicion and uncertainty, with Vive-la-Republique and Sauve-qui-peut, rush this way and that;–Ruin and Desperation in the shape of Cobourg lying entrenched close by.
Dame Genlis and her fair Princess d’Orleans find this Burgh of Saint-Amand no fit place for them; Dumouriez’s protection is grown worse than none. Tough Genlis one of the toughest women; a woman, as it were, with nine lives in her; whom nothing will beat: she packs her bandboxes; clear for flight in a private manner. Her beloved Princess she will–leave here, with the Prince Chartres Egalite her Brother. In the cold grey of the April morning, we find her accordingly established in her hired vehicle, on the street of Saint-Amand; postilions just cracking their whips to go,– when behold the young Princely Brother, struggling hitherward, hastily calling; bearing the Princess in his arms! Hastily he has clutched the poor young lady up, in her very night-gown, nothing saved of her goods except the watch from the pillow: with brotherly despair he flings her in, among the bandboxes, into Genlis’s chaise, into Genlis’s arms: Leave her not, in the name of Mercy and Heaven! A shrill scene, but a brief one:– the postilions crack and go. Ah, whither? Through by-roads and broken hill-passes: seeking their way with lanterns after nightfall; through perils, and Cobourg Austrians, and suspicious French Nationals; finally, into Switzerland; safe though nigh moneyless. (Genlis, iv. 139.) The brave young Egalite has a most wild Morrow to look for; but now only himself to carry through it.
For indeed over at that Village named of the Mudbaths, Saint-Amand des Boues, matters are still worse. About four o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, the 2d of April 1793, two Couriers come galloping as if for life: Mon General! Four National Representatives, War-Minister at their head, are posting hitherward, from Valenciennes: are close at hand,–with what intents one may guess! While the Couriers are yet speaking, War-Minister and National Representatives, old Camus the Archivist for chief speaker of them, arrive. Hardly has Mon General had time to order out the Huzzar Regiment de Berchigny; that it take rank and wait near by, in case of accident. And so, enter War-Minister Beurnonville, with an embrace of friendship, for he is an old friend; enter Archivist Camus and the other three, following him.
They produce Papers, invite the General to the bar of the Convention: merely to give an explanation or two. The General finds it unsuitable, not to say impossible, and that “the service will suffer.” Then comes reasoning; the voice of the old Archivist getting loud. Vain to reason loud with this Dumouriez; he answers mere angry irreverences. And so, amid plumed staff-officers, very gloomy-looking; in jeopardy and uncertainty, these poor National messengers debate and consult, retire and re-enter, for the space of some two hours: without effect. Whereupon Archivist Camus, getting quite loud, proclaims, in the name of the National Convention, for he has the power to do it, That General Dumouriez is arrested: “Will you obey the National Mandate, General!” “Pas dans ce moment-ci, Not at this particular moment,” answers the General also aloud; then glancing the other way, utters certain unknown vocables, in a mandatory manner; seemingly a German word-of-command. (Dumouriez, iv. 159, &c.) Hussars clutch the Four National Representatives, and Beurnonville the War-minister; pack them out of the apartment; out of the Village, over the lines to Cobourg, in two chaises that very night,–as hostages, prisoners; to lie long in Maestricht and Austrian strongholds! (Their Narrative, written by Camus (in Toulongeon, iii. app. 60-87).) Jacta est alea.
This night Dumouriez prints his ‘Proclamation;’ this night and the morrow the Dumouriez Army, in such darkness visible, and rage of semi-desperation as there is, shall meditate what the General is doing, what they themselves will do in it. Judge whether this Wednesday was of halcyon nature, for any one! But, on the Thursday morning, we discern Dumouriez with small escort, with Chartres Egalite and a few staff-officers, ambling along the Conde Highway: perhaps they are for Conde, and trying to persuade the Garrison there; at all events, they are for an interview with Cobourg, who waits in the woods by appointment, in that quarter. Nigh the Village of Doumet, three National Battalions, a set of men always full of Jacobinism, sweep past us; marching rather swiftly,–seemingly in mistake, by a way we had not ordered. The General dismounts, steps into a cottage, a little from the wayside; will give them right order in writing. Hark! what strange growling is heard: what barkings are heard, loud yells of “Traitors,” of “Arrest:” the National Battalions have wheeled round, are emitting shot! Mount, Dumouriez, and spring for life! Dumouriez and Staff strike the spurs in, deep; vault over ditches, into the fields, which prove to be morasses; sprawl and plunge for life; bewhistled with curses and lead. Sunk to the middle, with or without horses, several servants killed, they escape out of shot-range, to General Mack the Austrian’s quarters. Nay they return on the morrow, to Saint-Amand and faithful foreign Berchigny; but what boots it? The Artillery has all revolted, is jingling off to Valenciennes: all have revolted, are revolting; except only foreign Berchigny, to the extent of some poor fifteen hundred, none will follow Dumouriez against France and Indivisible Republic: Dumouriez’s occupation’s gone. (Memoires, iv. 162-180.)
Such an instinct of Frenehhood and Sansculottism dwells in these men: they will follow no Dumouriez nor Lafayette, nor any mortal on such errand. Shriek may be of Sauve-qui-peut, but will also be of Vive-la-Republique. New National Representatives arrive; new General Dampierre, soon killed in battle; new General Custine; the agitated Hosts draw back to some Camp of Famars; make head against Cobourg as they can.
And so Dumouriez is in the Austrian quarters; his drama ended, in this rather sorry manner. A most shifty, wiry man; one of Heaven’s Swiss that wanted only work. Fifty years of unnoticed toil and valour; one year of toil and valour, not unnoticed, but seen of all countries and centuries; then thirty other years again unnoticed, of Memoir-writing, English Pension, scheming and projecting to no purpose: Adieu thou Swiss of Heaven, worthy to have been something else!
His Staff go different ways. Brave young Egalite reaches Switzerland and the Genlis Cottage; with a strong crabstick in his hand, a strong heart in his body: his Princedom in now reduced to that. Egalite the Father sat playing whist, in his Palais Egalite, at Paris, on the 6th day of this same month of April, when a catchpole entered: Citoyen Egalite is wanted at the Convention Committee! (See Montgaillard, iv. 144.) Examination, requiring Arrestment; finally requiring Imprisonment, transference to Marseilles and the Castle of If! Orleansdom has sunk in the black waters; Palais Egalite, which was Palais Royal, is like to become Palais National.
Our Republic, by paper Decree, may be ‘One and Indivisible;’ but what profits it while these things are? Federalists in the Senate, renegadoes in the Army, traitors everywhere! France, all in desperate recruitment since the Tenth of March, does not fly to the frontier, but only flies hither and thither. This defection of contemptuous diplomatic Dumouriez falls heavy on the fine-spoken high-sniffing Hommes d’etat, whom he consorted with; forms a second epoch in their destinies.
Or perhaps more strictly we might say, the second Girondin epoch, though little noticed then, began on the day when, in reference to this defection, the Girondins broke with Danton. It was the first day of April; Dumouriez had not yet plunged across the morasses to Cobourg, but was evidently meaning to do it, and our Commissioners were off to arrest him; when what does the Girondin Lasource see good to do, but rise, and jesuitically question and insinuate at great length, whether a main accomplice of Dumouriez had not probably been–Danton? Gironde grins sardonic assent; Mountain holds its breath. The figure of Danton, Levasseur says, while this speech went on, was noteworthy. He sat erect, with a kind of internal convulsion struggling to keep itself motionless; his eye from time to time flashing wilder, his lip curling in Titanic scorn. (Memoires de Rene Levasseur (Bruxelles, 1830), i. 164.) Lasource, in a fine-spoken attorney- manner, proceeds: there is this probability to his mind, and there is that; probabilities which press painfully on him, which cast the Patriotism of Danton under a painful shade; which painful shade he, Lasource, will hope that Danton may find it not impossible to dispel.
“Les Scelerats!” cries Danton, starting up, with clenched right-hand, Lasource having done: and descends from the Mountain, like a lava-flood; his answer not unready. Lasource’s probabilities fly like idle dust; but leave a result behind them. “Ye were right, friends of the Mountain,” begins Danton, “and I was wrong: there is no peace possible with these men. Let it be war then! They will not save the Republic with us: it shall be saved without them; saved in spite of them.” Really a burst of rude Parliamentary eloquence this; which is still worth reading, in the old Moniteur! With fire-words the exasperated rude Titan rives and smites these Girondins; at every hit the glad Mountain utters chorus: Marat, like a musical bis, repeating the last phrase. (Seance du 1er Avril, 1793 (in Hist. Parl. xxv. 24-35).) Lasource’s probabilities are gone: but Danton’s pledge of battle remains lying.
A third epoch, or scene in the Girondin Drama, or rather it is but the completion of this second epoch, we reckon from the day when the patience of virtuous Petion finally boiled over; and the Girondins, so to speak, took up this battle-pledge of Danton’s and decreed Marat accused. It was the eleventh of the same month of April, on some effervescence rising, such as often rose; and President had covered himself, mere Bedlam now ruling; and Mountain and Gironde were rushing on one another with clenched right- hands, and even with pistols in them; when, behold, the Girondin Duperret drew a sword! Shriek of horror rose, instantly quenching all other effervescence, at sight of the clear murderous steel; whereupon Duperret returned it to the leather again;–confessing that he did indeed draw it, being instigated by a kind of sacred madness, “sainte fureur,” and pistols held at him; but that if he parricidally had chanced to scratch the outmost skin of National Representation with it, he too carried pistols, and would have blown his brains out on the spot. (Hist. Parl. xv. 397.)
But now in such posture of affairs, virtuous Petion rose, next morning, to lament these effervescences, this endless Anarchy invading the Legislative Sanctuary itself; and here, being growled at and howled at by the Mountain, his patience, long tried, did, as we say, boil over; and he spake vehemently, in high key, with foam on his lips; ‘whence,’ says Marat, ‘I concluded he had got ‘la rage,’ the rabidity, or dog-madness. Rabidity smites others rabid: so there rises new foam-lipped demand to have Anarchists extinguished; and specially to have Marat put under Accusation. Send a Representative to the Revolutionary Tribunal? Violate the inviolability of a Representative? Have a care, O Friends! This poor Marat has faults enough; but against Liberty or Equality, what fault? That he has loved and fought for it, not wisely but too well. In dungeons and cellars, in pinching poverty, under anathema of men; even so, in such fight, has he grown so dingy, bleared; even so has his head become a Stylites one! Him you will fling to your Sword of Sharpness; while Cobourg and Pitt advance on us, fire-spitting?
The Mountain is loud, the Gironde is loud and deaf; all lips are foamy. With ‘Permanent-Session of twenty-four hours,’ with vote by rollcall, and a dead-lift effort, the Gironde carries it: Marat is ordered to the Revolutionary Tribunal, to answer for that February Paragraph of Forestallers at the door-lintel, with other offences; and, after a little hesitation, he obeys. (Moniteur (du 16 Avril 1793, et seqq).)
Thus is Danton’s battle-pledge taken up: there is, as he said there would be, ‘war without truce or treaty, ni treve ni composition.’ Wherefore, close now with one another, Formula and Reality, in death-grips, and wrestle it out; both of you cannot live, but only one!
It proves what strength, were it only of inertia, there is in established Formulas, what weakness in nascent Realities, and illustrates several things, that this death-wrestle should still have lasted some six weeks or more. National business, discussion of the Constitutional Act, for our Constitution should decidedly be got ready, proceeds along with it. We even change our Locality; we shift, on the Tenth of May, from the old Salle de Manege, into our new Hall, in the Palace, once a King’s but now the Republic’s, of the Tuileries. Hope and ruth, flickering against despair and rage, still struggles in the minds of men.
It is a most dark confused death-wrestle, this of the six weeks. Formalist frenzy against Realist frenzy; Patriotism, Egoism, Pride, Anger, Vanity, Hope and Despair, all raised to the frenetic pitch: Frenzy meets Frenzy, like dark clashing whirlwinds; neither understands the other; the weaker, one day, will understand that it is verily swept down! Girondism is strong as established Formula and Respectability: do not as many as Seventy-two of the Departments, or say respectable Heads of Departments, declare for us? Calvados, which loves its Buzot, will even rise in revolt, so hint the Addresses; Marseilles, cradle of Patriotism, will rise; Bourdeaux will rise, and the Gironde Department, as one man; in a word, who will not rise, were our Representation Nationale to be insulted, or one hair of a Deputy’s head harmed! The Mountain, again, is strong as Reality and Audacity. To the Reality of the Mountain are not all furthersome things possible? A new Tenth of August, if needful; nay a new Second of September!–
But, on Wednesday afternoon, twenty-fourth day of April, year 1793, what tumult as of fierce jubilee is this? It is Marat returning from Revolutionary Tribunal! A week or more of death-peril: and now there is triumphant acquittal; Revolutionary Tribunal can find no accusation against this man. And so the eye of History beholds Patriotism, which had gloomed unutterable things all week, break into loud jubilee, embrace its Marat; lift him into a chair of triumph, bear him shoulder-high through the streets. Shoulder-high is the injured People’s-friend, crowned with an oak-garland; amid the wavy sea of red nightcaps, carmagnole jackets, grenadier bonnets and female mob-caps; far-sounding like a sea! The injured People’s-friend has here reached his culminating-point; he too strikes the stars with his sublime head.
But the Reader can judge with what face President Lasource, he of the ‘painful probabilities,’ who presides in this Convention Hall, might welcome such jubilee-tide, when it got thither, and the Decreed of Accusation floating on the top of it! A National Sapper, spokesman on the occasion, says, the People know their Friend, and love his life as their own; “whosoever wants Marat’s head must get the Sapper’s first.” (Seance (in Moniteur, No. 116 (du 26 Avril, An 1er).) Lasource answered with some vague painful mumblement,–which, says Levasseur, one could not help tittering at. (Levasseur, Memoires, i. c. 6.) Patriot Sections, Volunteers not yet gone to the Frontiers, come demanding the “purgation of traitors from your own bosom;” the expulsion, or even the trial and sentence, of a factious Twenty-two.
Nevertheless the Gironde has got its Commission of Twelve; a Commission specially appointed for investigating these troubles of the Legislative Sanctuary: let Sansculottism say what it will, Law shall triumph. Old- Constituent Rabaut Saint-Etienne presides over this Commission: “it is the last plank whereon a wrecked Republic may perhaps still save herself.” Rabaut and they therefore sit, intent; examining witnesses; launching arrestments; looking out into a waste dim sea of troubles.–the womb of Formula, or perhaps her grave! Enter not that sea, O Reader! There are dim desolation and confusion; raging women and raging men. Sections come demanding Twenty-two; for the number first given by Section Bonconseil still holds, though the names should even vary. Other Sections, of the wealthier kind, come denouncing such demand; nay the same Section will demand to-day, and denounce the demand to-morrow, according as the wealthier sit, or the poorer. Wherefore, indeed, the Girondins decree that all Sections shall close ‘at ten in the evening;’ before the working people come: which Decree remains without effect. And nightly the Mother of Patriotism wails doleful; doleful, but her eye kindling! And Fournier l’Americain is busy, and the two Banker Freys, and Varlet Apostle of Liberty; the bull-voice of Marquis Saint-Huruge is heard. And shrill women vociferate from all Galleries, the Convention ones and downwards. Nay a ‘Central Committee’ of all the Forty-eight Sections, looms forth huge and dubious; sitting dim in the Archeveche, sending Resolutions, receiving them: a Centre of the Sections; in dread deliberation as to a New Tenth of August!
One thing we will specify to throw light on many: the aspect under which, seen through the eyes of these Girondin Twelve, or even seen through one’s own eyes, the Patriotism of the softer sex presents itself. There are Female Patriots, whom the Girondins call Megaeras, and count to the extent of eight thousand; with serpent-hair, all out of curl; who have changed the distaff for the dagger. They are of ‘the Society called Brotherly,’ Fraternelle, say Sisterly, which meets under the roof of the Jacobins. ‘Two thousand daggers,’ or so, have been ordered,–doubtless, for them. They rush to Versailles, to raise more women; but the Versailles women will not rise. (Buzot, Memoires, pp. 69, 84; Meillan, Memoires, pp. 192, 195, 196. See Commission des Douze (in Choix des Rapports, xii. 69-131).)
Nay, behold, in National Garden of Tuileries,–Demoiselle Theroigne herself is become as a brownlocked Diana (were that possible) attacked by her own dogs, or she-dogs! The Demoiselle, keeping her carriage, is for Liberty indeed, as she has full well shewn; but then for Liberty with Respectability: whereupon these serpent-haired Extreme She-Patriots now do fasten on her, tatter her, shamefully fustigate her, in their shameful way; almost fling her into the Garden-ponds, had not help intervened. Help, alas, to small purpose. The poor Demoiselle’s head and nervous-system, none of the soundest, is so tattered and fluttered that it will never recover; but flutter worse and worse, till it crack; and within year and day we hear of her in madhouse, and straitwaistcoat, which proves permanent!–Such brownlocked Figure did flutter, and inarticulately jabber and gesticulate, little able to speak the obscure meaning it had, through some segment of that Eighteenth Century of Time. She disappears here from the Revolution and Public History, for evermore. (Deux Amis, vii. 77-80; Forster, i. 514; Moore, i. 70. She did not die till 1817; in the Salpetriere, in the most abject state of insanity; see Esquirol, Des Maladies Mentales (Paris, 1838), i. 445-50.)
Another thing we will not again specify, yet again beseech the Reader to imagine: the reign of Fraternity and Perfection. Imagine, we say, O Reader, that the Millennium were struggling on the threshold, and yet not so much as groceries could be had,–owing to traitors. With what impetus would a man strike traitors, in that case? Ah, thou canst not imagine it: thou hast thy groceries safe in the shops, and little or no hope of a Millennium ever coming!–But, indeed, as to the temper there was in men and women, does not this one fact say enough: the height SUSPICION had risen to? Preternatural we often called it; seemingly in the language of exaggeration: but listen to the cold deposition of witnesses. Not a musical Patriot can blow himself a snatch of melody from the French Horn, sitting mildly pensive on the housetop, but Mercier will recognise it to be a signal which one Plotting Committee is making to another. Distraction has possessed Harmony herself; lurks in the sound of Marseillese and ca- ira. (Mercier, Nouveau Paris, vi. 63.) Louvet, who can see as deep into a millstone as the most, discerns that we shall be invited back to our old Hall of the Manege, by a Deputation; and then the Anarchists will massacre Twenty-two of us, as we walk over. It is Pitt and Cobourg; the gold of Pitt.–Poor Pitt! They little know what work he has with his own Friends of the People; getting them bespied, beheaded, their habeas-corpuses suspended, and his own Social Order and strong-boxes kept tight,–to fancy him raising mobs among his neighbours!
But the strangest fact connected with French or indeed with human Suspicion, is perhaps this of Camille Desmoulins. Camille’s head, one of the clearest in France, has got itself so saturated through every fibre with Preternaturalism of Suspicion, that looking back on that Twelfth of July 1789, when the thousands rose round him, yelling responsive at his word in the Palais Royal Garden, and took cockades, he finds it explicable only on this hypothesis, That they were all hired to do it, and set on by the Foreign and other Plotters. ‘It was not for nothing,’ says Camille with insight, ‘that this multitude burst up round me when I spoke!’ No, not for nothing. Behind, around, before, it is one huge Preternatural Puppet-play of Plots; Pitt pulling the wires. (See Histoire des Brissotins, par Camille Desmoulins (a Pamphlet of Camille’s, Paris, 1793).) Almost I conjecture that I Camille myself am a Plot, and wooden with wires.–The force of insight could no further go.
Be this as it will, History remarks that the Commission of Twelve, now clear enough as to the Plots; and luckily having ‘got the threads of them all by the end,’ as they say,–are launching Mandates of Arrest rapidly in these May days; and carrying matters with a high hand; resolute that the sea of troubles shall be restrained. What chief Patriot, Section-President even, is safe? They can arrest him; tear him from his warm bed, because he has made irregular Section Arrestments! They arrest Varlet Apostle of Liberty. They arrest Procureur-Substitute Hebert, Pere Duchesne; a Magistrate of the People, sitting in Townhall; who, with high solemnity of martyrdom, takes leave of his colleagues; prompt he, to obey the Law; and solemnly acquiescent, disappears into prison.
The swifter fly the Sections, energetically demanding him back; demanding not arrestment of Popular Magistrates, but of a traitorous Twenty-two. Section comes flying after Section;–defiling energetic, with their Cambyses’ vein of oratory: nay the Commune itself comes, with Mayor Pache at its head; and with question not of Hebert and the Twenty-two alone, but with this ominous old question made new, “Can you save the Republic, or must we do it?” To whom President Max Isnard makes fiery answer: If by fatal chance, in any of those tumults which since the Tenth of March are ever returning, Paris were to lift a sacrilegious finger against the National Representation, France would rise as one man, in never-imagined vengeance, and shortly “the traveller would ask, on which side of the Seine Paris had stood!” (Moniteur, Seance du 25 Mai, 1793.) Whereat the Mountain bellows only louder, and every Gallery; Patriot Paris boiling round.
And Girondin Valaze has nightly conclaves at his house; sends billets; ‘Come punctually, and well armed, for there is to be business.’ And Megaera women perambulate the streets, with flags, with lamentable alleleu. (Meillan, Memoires, p. 195; Buzot, pp. 69, 84.) And the Convention-doors are obstructed by roaring multitudes: find-spoken hommes d’etat are hustled, maltreated, as they pass; Marat will apostrophise you, in such death-peril, and say, Thou too art of them. If Roland ask leave to quit Paris, there is order of the day. What help? Substitute Hebert, Apostle Varlet, must be given back; to be crowned with oak-garlands. The Commission of Twelve, in a Convention overwhelmed with roaring Sections, is broken; then on the morrow, in a Convention of rallied Girondins, is reinstated. Dim Chaos, or the sea of troubles, is struggling through all its elements; writhing and chafing towards some creation.
Accordingly, on Friday, the Thirty-first of May 1793, there comes forth into the summer sunlight one of the strangest scenes. Mayor Pache with Municipality arrives at the Tuileries Hall of Convention; sent for, Paris being in visible ferment; and gives the strangest news.
How, in the grey of this morning, while we sat Permanent in Townhall, watchful for the commonweal, there entered, precisely as on a Tenth of August, some Ninety-six extraneous persons; who declared themselves to be in a state of Insurrection; to be plenipotentiary Commissioners from the Forty-eight Sections, sections or members of the Sovereign People, all in a state of Insurrection; and further that we, in the name of said Sovereign in Insurrection, were dismissed from office. How we thereupon laid off our sashes, and withdrew into the adjacent Saloon of Liberty. How in a moment or two, we were called back; and reinstated; the Sovereign pleasing to think us still worthy of confidence. Whereby, having taken new oath of office, we on a sudden find ourselves Insurrectionary Magistrates, with extraneous Committee of Ninety-six sitting by us; and a Citoyen Henriot, one whom some accuse of Septemberism, is made Generalissimo of the National Guard; and, since six o’clock, the tocsins ring and the drums beat:–Under which peculiar circumstances, what would an august National Convention please to direct us to do? (Compare Debats de la Convention (Paris, 1828), iv. 187-223; Moniteur, Nos. 152, 3, 4, An 1er.)
Yes, there is the question! “Break the Insurrectionary Authorities,” answers some with vehemence. Vergniaud at least will have “the National Representatives all die at their post;” this is sworn to, with ready loud acclaim. But as to breaking the Insurrectionary Authorities,–alas, while we yet debate, what sound is that? Sound of the Alarm-Cannon on the Pont Neuf; which it is death by the Law to fire without order from us!
It does boom off there, nevertheless; sending a sound through all hearts. And the tocsins discourse stern music; and Henriot with his Armed Force has enveloped us! And Section succeeds Section, the livelong day; demanding with Cambyses’-oratory, with the rattle of muskets, That traitors, Twenty- two or more, be punished; that the Commission of Twelve be irrecoverably broken. The heart of the Gironde dies within it; distant are the Seventy- two respectable Departments, this fiery Municipality is near! Barrere is for a middle course; granting something. The Commission of Twelve declares that, not waiting to be broken, it hereby breaks itself, and is no more. Fain would Reporter Rabaut speak his and its last-words; but he is bellowed