may smile; and, using him as bandog now to be muzzled, now to be let bark, name him, as Desmoulins does, ‘Maximum of Patriotism’ and ‘Cassandra- Marat:’ but were it not singular if this dirk-and-muff plan of his (with superficial modifications) proved to be precisely the plan adopted?
After this manner, in these circumstances, do august Senators regenerate France. Nay, they are, in very deed, believed to be regenerating it; on account of which great fact, main fact of their history, the wearied eye can never be permitted wholly to ignore them.
But looking away now from these precincts of the Tuileries, where Constitutional Royalty, let Lafayette water it as he will, languishes too like a cut branch; and august Senators are perhaps at bottom only perfecting their ‘theory of defective verbs,’–how does the young Reality, young Sansculottism thrive? The attentive observer can answer: It thrives bravely; putting forth new buds; expanding the old buds into leaves, into boughs. Is not French Existence, as before, most prurient, all loosened, most nutrient for it? Sansculottism has the property of growing by what other things die of: by agitation, contention, disarrangement; nay in a word, by what is the symbol and fruit of all these: Hunger.
In such a France as this, Hunger, as we have remarked, can hardly fail. The Provinces, the Southern Cities feel it in their turn; and what it brings: Exasperation, preternatural Suspicion. In Paris some halcyon days of abundance followed the Menadic Insurrection, with its Versailles grain- carts, and recovered Restorer of Liberty; but they could not continue. The month is still October when famishing Saint-Antoine, in a moment of passion, seizes a poor Baker, innocent ‘Francois the Baker;’ (21st October, 1789 (Moniteur, No. 76).) and hangs him, in Constantinople wise;–but even this, singular as it my seem, does not cheapen bread! Too clear it is, no Royal bounty, no Municipal dexterity can adequately feed a Bastille- destroying Paris. Wherefore, on view of the hanged Baker, Constitutionalism in sorrow and anger demands ‘Loi Martiale,’ a kind of Riot Act;–and indeed gets it, most readily, almost before the sun goes down.
This is that famed Martial law, with its Red Flag, its ‘Drapeau Rouge:’ in virtue of which Mayor Bailly, or any Mayor, has but henceforth to hang out that new Oriflamme of his; then to read or mumble something about the King’s peace; and, after certain pauses, serve any undispersing Assemblage with musket-shot, or whatever shot will disperse it. A decisive Law; and most just on one proviso: that all Patrollotism be of God, and all mob- assembling be of the Devil;–otherwise not so just. Mayor Bailly be unwilling to use it! Hang not out that new Oriflamme, flame not of gold but of the want of gold! The thrice-blessed Revolution is done, thou thinkest? If so it will be well with thee.
But now let no mortal say henceforth that an august National Assembly wants riot: all it ever wanted was riot enough to balance Court-plotting; all it now wants, of Heaven or of Earth, is to get its theory of defective verbs perfected.
With famine and a Constitutional theory of defective verbs going on, all other excitement is conceivable. A universal shaking and sifting of French Existence this is: in the course of which, for one thing, what a multitude of low-lying figures are sifted to the top, and set busily to work there!
Dogleech Marat, now for-seen as Simon Stylites, we already know; him and others, raised aloft. The mere sample, these, of what is coming, of what continues coming, upwards from the realm of Night!–Chaumette, by and by Anaxagoras Chaumette, one already descries: mellifluous in street-groups; not now a sea-boy on the high and giddy mast: a mellifluous tribune of the common people, with long curling locks, on bourne-stone of the thoroughfares; able sub-editor too; who shall rise–to the very gallows. Clerk Tallien, he also is become sub-editor; shall become able editor; and more. Bibliopolic Momoro, Typographic Pruhomme see new trades opening. Collot d’Herbois, tearing a passion to rags, pauses on the Thespian boards; listens, with that black bushy head, to the sound of the world’s drama: shall the Mimetic become Real? Did ye hiss him, O men of Lyons? (Buzot, Memoires (Paris, 1823), p. 90.) Better had ye clapped!
Happy now, indeed, for all manner of mimetic, half-original men! Tumid blustering, with more or less of sincerity, which need not be entirely sincere, yet the sincerer the better, is like to go far. Shall we say, the Revolution-element works itself rarer and rarer; so that only lighter and lighter bodies will float in it; till at last the mere blown-bladder is your only swimmer? Limitation of mind, then vehemence, promptitude, audacity, shall all be available; to which add only these two: cunning and good lungs. Good fortune must be presupposed. Accordingly, of all classes the rising one, we observe, is now the Attorney class: witness Bazires, Carriers, Fouquier-Tinvilles, Bazoche-Captain Bourdons: more than enough. Such figures shall Night, from her wonder-bearing bosom, emit; swarm after swarm. Of another deeper and deepest swarm, not yet dawned on the astonished eye; of pilfering Candle-snuffers, Thief-valets, disfrocked Capuchins, and so many Heberts, Henriots, Ronsins, Rossignols, let us, as long as possible, forbear speaking.
Thus, over France, all stirs that has what the Physiologists call irritability in it: how much more all wherein irritability has perfected itself into vitality; into actual vision, and force that can will! All stirs; and if not in Paris, flocks thither. Great and greater waxes President Danton in his Cordeliers Section; his rhetorical tropes are all ‘gigantic:’ energy flashes from his black brows, menaces in his athletic figure, rolls in the sound of his voice ‘reverberating from the domes;’ this man also, like Mirabeau, has a natural eye, and begins to see whither Constitutionalism is tending, though with a wish in it different from Mirabeau’s.
Remark, on the other hand, how General Dumouriez has quitted Normandy and the Cherbourg Breakwater, to come–whither we may guess. It is his second or even third trial at Paris, since this New Era began; but now it is in right earnest, for he has quitted all else. Wiry, elastic unwearied man; whose life was but a battle and a march! No, not a creature of Choiseul’s; “the creature of God and of my sword,”–he fiercely answered in old days. Overfalling Corsican batteries, in the deadly fire-hail; wriggling invincible from under his horse, at Closterkamp of the Netherlands, though tethered with ‘crushed stirrup-iron and nineteen wounds;’ tough, minatory, standing at bay, as forlorn hope, on the skirts of Poland; intriguing, battling in cabinet and field; roaming far out, obscure, as King’s spial, or sitting sealed up, enchanted in Bastille; fencing, pamphleteering, scheming and struggling from the very birth of him, (Dumouriez, Memoires, i. 28, &c.)–the man has come thus far. How repressed, how irrepressible! Like some incarnate spirit in prison, which indeed he was; hewing on granite walls for deliverance; striking fire flashes from them. And now has the general earthquake rent his cavern too? Twenty years younger, what might he not have done! But his hair has a shade of gray: his way of thought is all fixed, military. He can grow no further, and the new world is in such growth. We will name him, on the whole, one of Heaven’s Swiss; without faith; wanting above all things work, work on any side. Work also is appointed him; and he will do it.
Not from over France only are the unrestful flocking towards Paris; but from all sides of Europe. Where the carcase is, thither will the eagles gather. Think how many a Spanish Guzman, Martinico Fournier named ‘Fournier l’Americain,’ Engineer Miranda from the very Andes, were flocking or had flocked! Walloon Pereyra might boast of the strangest parentage: him, they say, Prince Kaunitz the Diplomatist heedlessly dropped;’ like ostrich-egg, to be hatched of Chance–into an ostrich-eater! Jewish or German Freys do business in the great Cesspool of Agio; which Cesspool this Assignat-fiat has quickened, into a Mother of dead dogs. Swiss Claviere could found no Socinian Genevese Colony in Ireland; but he paused, years ago, prophetic before the Minister’s Hotel at Paris; and said, it was borne on his mind that he one day was to be Minister, and laughed. (Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 399.) Swiss Pachc, on the other hand, sits sleekheaded, frugal; the wonder of his own alley, and even of neighbouring ones, for humility of mind, and a thought deeper than most men’s: sit there, Tartuffe, till wanted! Ye Italian Dufournys, Flemish Prolys, flit hither all ye bipeds of prey! Come whosesoever head is hot; thou of mind ungoverned, be it chaos as of undevelopment or chaos as of ruin; the man who cannot get known, the man who is too well known; if thou have any vendible faculty, nay if thou have but edacity and loquacity, come! They come; with hot unutterabilities in their heart; as Pilgrims towards a miraculous shrine. Nay how many come as vacant Strollers, aimless, of whom Europe is full merely towards something! For benighted fowls, when you beat their bushes, rush towards any light. Thus Frederick Baron Trenck too is here; mazed, purblind, from the cells of Magdeburg; Minotauric cells, and his Ariadne lost! Singular to say, Trenck, in these years, sells wine; not indeed in bottle, but in wood.
Nor is our England without her missionaries. She has her live-saving Needham; to whom was solemnly presented a ‘civic sword,’–long since rusted into nothingness. Her Paine: rebellious Staymaker; unkempt; who feels that he, a single Needleman, did by his ‘Common Sense’ Pamphlet, free America;–that he can and will free all this World; perhaps even the other. Price-Stanhope Constitutional Association sends over to congratulate; (Moniteur, 10 Novembre, 7 Decembre, 1789.) welcomed by National Assembly, though they are but a London Club; whom Burke and Toryism eye askance.
On thee too, for country’s sake, O Chevalier John Paul, be a word spent, or misspent! In faded naval uniform, Paul Jones lingers visible here; like a wine-skin from which the wine is all drawn. Like the ghost of himself! Low is his once loud bruit; scarcely audible, save, with extreme tedium in ministerial ante-chambers; in this or the other charitable dining-room, mindful of the past. What changes; culminatings and declinings! Not now, poor Paul, thou lookest wistful over the Solway brine, by the foot of native Criffel, into blue mountainous Cumberland, into blue Infinitude; environed with thrift, with humble friendliness; thyself, young fool, longing to be aloft from it, or even to be away from it. Yes, beyond that sapphire Promontory, which men name St. Bees, which is not sapphire either, but dull sandstone, when one gets close to it, there is a world. Which world thou too shalt taste of!–From yonder White Haven rise his smoke- clouds; ominous though ineffectual. Proud Forth quakes at his bellying sails; had not the wind suddenly shifted. Flamborough reapers, homegoing, pause on the hill-side: for what sulphur-cloud is that that defaces the sleek sea; sulphur-cloud spitting streaks of fire? A sea cockfight it is, and of the hottest; where British Serapis and French-American Bon Homme Richard do lash and throttle each other, in their fashion; and lo the desperate valour has suffocated the deliberate, and Paul Jones too is of the Kings of the Sea!
The Euxine, the Meotian waters felt thee next, and long-skirted Turks, O Paul; and thy fiery soul has wasted itself in thousand contradictions;–to no purpose. For, in far lands, with scarlet Nassau-Siegens, with sinful Imperial Catherines, is not the heart-broken, even as at home with the mean? Poor Paul! hunger and dispiritment track thy sinking footsteps: once or at most twice, in this Revolution-tumult the figure of thee emerges; mute, ghost-like, as ‘with stars dim-twinkling through.’ And then, when the light is gone quite out, a National Legislature grants ‘ceremonial funeral!’ As good had been the natural Presbyterian Kirk-bell, and six feet of Scottish earth, among the dust of thy loved ones.–Such world lay beyond the Promontory of St. Bees. Such is the life of sinful mankind here below.
But of all strangers, far the notablest for us is Baron Jean Baptiste de Clootz;–or, dropping baptisms and feudalisms, World-Citizen Anacharsis Clootz, from Cleves. Him mark, judicious Reader. Thou hast known his Uncle, sharp-sighted thorough-going Cornelius de Pauw, who mercilessly cuts down cherished illusions; and of the finest antique Spartans, will make mere modern cutthroat Mainots. (De Pauw, Recherches sur les Grecs, &c.) The like stuff is in Anacharsis: hot metal; full of scoriae, which should and could have been smelted out, but which will not. He has wandered over this terraqueous Planet; seeking, one may say, the Paradise we lost long ago. He has seen English Burke; has been seen of the Portugal Inquisition; has roamed, and fought, and written; is writing, among other things, ‘Evidences of the Mahometan Religion.’ But now, like his Scythian adoptive godfather, he finds himself in the Paris Athens; surely, at last, the haven of his soul. A dashing man, beloved at Patriotic dinner-tables; with gaiety, nay with humour; headlong, trenchant, of free purse; in suitable costume; though what mortal ever more despised costumes? Under all costumes Anacharsis seeks the man; not Stylites Marat will more freely trample costumes, if they hold no man. This is the faith of Anacharsis: That there is a Paradise discoverable; that all costumes ought to hold men. O Anacharsis, it is a headlong, swift-going faith. Mounted thereon, meseems, thou art bound hastily for the City of Nowhere; and wilt arrive! At best, we may say, arrive in good riding attitude; which indeed is something.
So many new persons, and new things, have come to occupy this France. Her old Speech and Thought, and Activity which springs from those, are all changing; fermenting towards unknown issues. To the dullest peasant, as he sits sluggish, overtoiled, by his evening hearth, one idea has come: that of Chateaus burnt; of Chateaus combustible. How altered all Coffeehouses, in Province or Capital! The Antre de Procope has now other questions than the Three Stagyrite Unities to settle; not theatre-controversies, but a world-controversy: there, in the ancient pigtail mode, or with modern Brutus’ heads, do well-frizzed logicians hold hubbub, and Chaos umpire sits. The ever-enduring Melody of Paris Saloons has got a new ground-tone: ever-enduring; which has been heard, and by the listening Heaven too, since Julian the Apostate’s time and earlier; mad now as formerly.
Ex-Censor Suard, Ex-Censor, for we have freedom of the Press; he may be seen there; impartial, even neutral. Tyrant Grimm rolls large eyes, over a questionable coming Time. Atheist Naigeon, beloved disciple of Diderot, crows, in his small difficult way, heralding glad dawn. (Naigeon: Addresse a l’Assemblee Nationale (Paris, 1790) sur la liberte des opinions.) But, on the other hand, how many Morellets, Marmontels, who had sat all their life hatching Philosophe eggs, cackle now, in a state bordering on distraction, at the brood they have brought out! (See Marmontel, Memoires, passim; Morellet, Memoires, &c.) It was so delightful to have one’s Philosophe Theorem demonstrated, crowned in the saloons: and now an infatuated people will not continue speculative, but have Practice?
There also observe Preceptress Genlis, or Sillery, or Sillery-Genlis,–for our husband is both Count and Marquis, and we have more than one title. Pretentious, frothy; a puritan yet creedless; darkening counsel by words without wisdom! For, it is in that thin element of the Sentimentalist and Distinguished-Female that Sillery-Genlis works; she would gladly be sincere, yet can grow no sincerer than sincere-cant: sincere-cant of many forms, ending in the devotional form. For the present, on a neck still of moderate whiteness, she wears as jewel a miniature Bastille, cut on mere sandstone, but then actual Bastille sandstone. M. le Marquis is one of d’Orleans’s errandmen; in National Assembly, and elsewhere. Madame, for her part, trains up a youthful d’Orleans generation in what superfinest morality one can; gives meanwhile rather enigmatic account of fair Mademoiselle Pamela, the Daughter whom she has adopted. Thus she, in Palais Royal saloon;–whither, we remark, d’Orleans himself, spite of Lafayette, has returned from that English ‘mission’ of his: surely no pleasant mission: for the English would not speak to him; and Saint Hannah More of England, so unlike Saint Sillery-Genlis of France, saw him shunned, in Vauxhall Gardens, like one pest-struck, (Hannah More’s Life and Correspondence, ii. c. 5.) and his red-blue impassive visage waxing hardly a shade bluer.
As for Constitutionalism, with its National Guards, it is doing what it can; and has enough to do: it must, as ever, with one hand wave persuasively, repressing Patriotism; and keep the other clenched to menace Royalty plotters. A most delicate task; requiring tact.
Thus, if People’s-friend Marat has to-day his writ of ‘prise de corps, or seizure of body,’ served on him, and dives out of sight, tomorrow he is left at large; or is even encouraged, as a sort of bandog whose baying may be useful. President Danton, in open Hall, with reverberating voice, declares that, in a case like Marat’s, “force may be resisted by force.” Whereupon the Chatelet serves Danton also with a writ;–which, however, as the whole Cordeliers District responds to it, what Constable will be prompt to execute? Twice more, on new occasions, does the Chatelet launch its writ; and twice more in vain: the body of Danton cannot be seized by Chatelet; he unseized, should he even fly for a season, shall behold the Chatelet itself flung into limbo.
Municipality and Brissot, meanwhile, are far on with their Municipal Constitution. The Sixty Districts shall become Forty-eight Sections; much shall be adjusted, and Paris have its Constitution. A Constitution wholly Elective; as indeed all French Government shall and must be. And yet, one fatal element has been introduced: that of citoyen actif. No man who does not pay the marc d’argent, or yearly tax equal to three days’ labour, shall be other than a passive citizen: not the slightest vote for him; were he acting, all the year round, with sledge hammer, with forest-levelling axe! Unheard of! cry Patriot Journals. Yes truly, my Patriot Friends, if Liberty, the passion and prayer of all men’s souls, means Liberty to send your fifty-thousandth part of a new Tongue-fencer into National Debating- club, then, be the gods witness, ye are hardly entreated. Oh, if in National Palaver (as the Africans name it), such blessedness is verily found, what tyrant would deny it to Son of Adam! Nay, might there not be a Female Parliament too, with ‘screams from the Opposition benches,’ and ‘the honourable Member borne out in hysterics?’ To a Children’s Parliament would I gladly consent; or even lower if ye wished it. Beloved Brothers! Liberty, one might fear, is actually, as the ancient wise men said, of Heaven. On this Earth, where, thinks the enlightened public, did a brave little Dame de Staal (not Necker’s Daughter, but a far shrewder than she) find the nearest approach to Liberty? After mature computation, cool as Dilworth’s, her answer is, In the Bastille. (See De Staal: Memoires (Paris, 1821), i. 169-280.) “Of Heaven?” answer many, asking. Wo that they should ask; for that is the very misery! “Of Heaven” means much; share in the National Palaver it may, or may as probably not mean.
One Sansculottic bough that cannot fail to flourish is Journalism. The voice of the People being the voice of God, shall not such divine voice make itself heard? To the ends of France; and in as many dialects as when the first great Babel was to be built! Some loud as the lion; some small as the sucking dove. Mirabeau himself has his instructive Journal or Journals, with Geneva hodmen working in them; and withal has quarrels enough with Dame le Jay, his Female Bookseller, so ultra-compliant otherwise. (See Dumont: Souvenirs, 6.)
King’s-friend Royou still prints himself. Barrere sheds tears of loyal sensibility in Break of Day Journal, though with declining sale. But why is Freron so hot, democratic; Freron, the King’s-friend’s Nephew? He has it by kind, that heat of his: wasp Freron begot him; Voltaire’s Frelon; who fought stinging, while sting and poison-bag were left, were it only as Reviewer, and over Printed Waste-paper. Constant, illuminative, as the nightly lamplighter, issues the useful Moniteur, for it is now become diurnal: with facts and few commentaries; official, safe in the middle:– its able Editors sunk long since, recoverably or irrecoverably, in deep darkness. Acid Loustalot, with his ‘vigour,’ as of young sloes, shall never ripen, but die untimely: his Prudhomme, however, will not let that Revolutions de Paris die; but edit it himself, with much else,–dull- blustering Printer though he be.
Of Cassandra-Marat we have spoken often; yet the most surprising truth remains to be spoken: that he actually does not want sense; but, with croaking gelid throat, croaks out masses of the truth, on several things. Nay sometimes, one might almost fancy he had a perception of humour, and were laughing a little, far down in his inner man. Camille is wittier than ever, and more outspoken, cynical; yet sunny as ever. A light melodious creature; ‘born,’ as he shall yet say with bitter tears, ‘to write verses;’ light Apollo, so clear, soft-lucent, in this war of the Titans, wherein he shall not conquer!
Folded and hawked Newspapers exist in all countries; but, in such a Journalistic element as this of France, other and stranger sorts are to be anticipated. What says the English reader to a Journal-Affiche, Placard Journal; legible to him that has no halfpenny; in bright prismatic colours, calling the eye from afar? Such, in the coming months, as Patriot Associations, public and private, advance, and can subscribe funds, shall plenteously hang themselves out: leaves, limed leaves, to catch what they can! The very Government shall have its Pasted Journal; Louvet, busy yet with a new ‘charming romance,’ shall write Sentinelles, and post them with effect; nay Bertrand de Moleville, in his extremity, shall still more cunningly try it. (See Bertrand-Moleville: Memoires, ii. 100, &c.) Great is Journalism. Is not every Able Editor a Ruler of the World, being a persuader of it; though self-elected, yet sanctioned, by the sale of his Numbers? Whom indeed the world has the readiest method of deposing, should need be: that of merely doing nothing to him; which ends in starvation!
Nor esteem it small what those Bill-stickers had to do in Paris: above Three Score of them: all with their crosspoles, haversacks, pastepots; nay with leaden badges, for the Municipality licenses them. A Sacred College, properly of World-rulers’ Heralds, though not respected as such, in an Era still incipient and raw. They made the walls of Paris didactic, suasive, with an ever fresh Periodical Literature, wherein he that ran might read: Placard Journals, Placard Lampoons, Municipal Ordinances, Royal Proclamations; the whole other or vulgar Placard-department super-added,– or omitted from contempt! What unutterable things the stone-walls spoke, during these five years! But it is all gone; To-day swallowing Yesterday, and then being in its turn swallowed of To-morrow, even as Speech ever is. Nay what, O thou immortal Man of Letters, is Writing itself but Speech conserved for a time? The Placard Journal conserved it for one day; some Books conserve it for the matter of ten years; nay some for three thousand: but what then? Why, then, the years being all run, it also dies, and the world is rid of it. Oh, were there not a spirit in the word of man, as in man himself, that survived the audible bodied word, and tended either Godward, or else Devilward for evermore, why should he trouble himself much with the truth of it, or the falsehood of it, except for commercial purposes? His immortality indeed, and whether it shall last half a lifetime, or a lifetime and half; is not that a very considerable thing? As mortality, was to the runaway, whom Great Fritz bullied back into the battle with a: “R–, wollt ihr ewig leben, Unprintable Off-scouring of Scoundrels, would ye live for ever!”
This is the Communication of Thought: how happy when there is any Thought to communicate! Neither let the simpler old methods be neglected, in their sphere. The Palais-Royal Tent, a tyrannous Patrollotism has removed; but can it remove the lungs of man? Anaxagoras Chaumette we saw mounted on bourne-stones, while Tallien worked sedentary at the subeditorial desk. In any corner of the civilised world, a tub can be inverted, and an articulate-speaking biped mount thereon. Nay, with contrivance, a portable trestle, or folding-stool, can be procured, for love or money; this the peripatetic Orator can take in his hand, and, driven out here, set it up again there; saying mildly, with a Sage Bias, Omnia mea mecum porto.
Such is Journalism, hawked, pasted, spoken. How changed since One old Metra walked this same Tuileries Garden, in gilt cocked hat, with Journal at his nose, or held loose-folded behind his back; and was a notability of Paris, ‘Metra the Newsman;’ (Dulaure, Histoire de Paris, viii. 483; Mercier, Nouveau Paris, &c.) and Louis himself was wont to say: Qu’en dit Metra? Since the first Venetian News-sheet was sold for a gazza, or farthing, and named Gazette! We live in a fertile world.
Where the heart is full, it seeks, for a thousand reasons, in a thousand ways, to impart itself. How sweet, indispensable, in such cases, is fellowship; soul mystically strengthening soul! The meditative Germans, some think, have been of opinion that Enthusiasm in the general means simply excessive Congregating–Schwarmerey, or Swarming. At any rate, do we not see glimmering half-red embers, if laid together, get into the brightest white glow?
In such a France, gregarious Reunions will needs multiply, intensify; French Life will step out of doors, and, from domestic, become a public Club Life. Old Clubs, which already germinated, grow and flourish; new every where bud forth. It is the sure symptom of Social Unrest: in such way, most infallibly of all, does Social Unrest exhibit itself; find solacement, and also nutriment. In every French head there hangs now, whether for terror or for hope, some prophetic picture of a New France: prophecy which brings, nay which almost is, its own fulfilment; and in all ways, consciously and unconsciously, works towards that.
Observe, moreover, how the Aggregative Principle, let it be but deep enough, goes on aggregating, and this even in a geometrical progression: how when the whole world, in such a plastic time, is forming itself into Clubs, some One Club, the strongest or luckiest, shall, by friendly attracting, by victorious compelling, grow ever stronger, till it become immeasurably strong; and all the others, with their strength, be either lovingly absorbed into it, or hostilely abolished by it! This if the Club- spirit is universal; if the time is plastic. Plastic enough is the time, universal the Club-spirit: such an all absorbing, paramount One Club cannot be wanting.
What a progress, since the first salient-point of the Breton Committee! It worked long in secret, not languidly; it has come with the National Assembly to Paris; calls itself Club; calls itself in imitation, as is thought, of those generous Price-Stanhope English, French Revolution Club; but soon, with more originality, Club of Friends of the Constitution. Moreover it has leased, for itself, at a fair rent, the Hall of the Jacobin’s Convent, one of our ‘superfluous edifices;’ and does therefrom now, in these spring months, begin shining out on an admiring Paris. And so, by degrees, under the shorter popular title of Jacobins’ Club, it shall become memorable to all times and lands. Glance into the interior: strongly yet modestly benched and seated; as many as Thirteen Hundred chosen Patriots; Assembly Members not a few. Barnave, the two Lameths are seen there; occasionally Mirabeau, perpetually Robespierre; also the ferret-visage of Fouquier-Tinville with other attorneys; Anacharsis of Prussian Scythia, and miscellaneous Patriots,–though all is yet in the most perfectly clean-washed state; decent, nay dignified. President on platform, President’s bell are not wanting; oratorical Tribune high-raised; nor strangers’ galleries, wherein also sit women. Has any French Antiquarian Society preserved that written Lease of the Jacobins Convent Hall? Or was it, unluckier even than Magna Charta, clipt by sacrilegious Tailors? Universal History is not indifferent to it.
These Friends of the Constitution have met mainly, as their name may foreshadow, to look after Elections when an Election comes, and procure fit men; but likewise to consult generally that the Commonweal take no damage; one as yet sees not how. For indeed let two or three gather together any where, if it be not in Church, where all are bound to the passive state; no mortal can say accurately, themselves as little as any, for what they are gathered. How often has the broached barrel proved not to be for joy and heart effusion, but for duel and head-breakage; and the promised feast become a Feast of the Lapithae! This Jacobins Club, which at first shone resplendent, and was thought to be a new celestial Sun for enlightening the Nations, had, as things all have, to work through its appointed phases: it burned unfortunately more and more lurid, more sulphurous, distracted;–and swam at last, through the astonished Heaven, like a Tartarean Portent, and lurid-burning Prison of Spirits in Pain.
Its style of eloquence? Rejoice, Reader, that thou knowest it not, that thou canst never perfectly know. The Jacobins published a Journal of Debates, where they that have the heart may examine: Impassioned, full- droning Patriotic-eloquence; implacable, unfertile–save for Destruction, which was indeed its work: most wearisome, though most deadly. Be thankful that Oblivion covers so much; that all carrion is by and by buried in the green Earth’s bosom, and even makes her grow the greener. The Jacobins are buried; but their work is not; it continues ‘making the tour of the world,’ as it can. It might be seen lately, for instance, with bared bosom and death-defiant eye, as far on as Greek Missolonghi; and, strange enough, old slumbering Hellas was resuscitated, into somnambulism which will become clear wakefulness, by a voice from the Rue St. Honore! All dies, as we often say; except the spirit of man, of what man does. Thus has not the very House of the Jacobins vanished; scarcely lingering in a few old men’s memories? The St. Honore Market has brushed it away, and now where dull- droning eloquence, like a Trump of Doom, once shook the world, there is pacific chaffering for poultry and greens. The sacred National Assembly Hall itself has become common ground; President’s platform permeable to wain and dustcart; for the Rue de Rivoli runs there. Verily, at Cockcrow (of this Cock or the other), all Apparitions do melt and dissolve in space.
The Paris Jacobins became ‘the Mother-Society, Societe-Mere;’ and had as many as ‘three hundred’ shrill-tongued daughters in ‘direct correspondence’ with her. Of indirectly corresponding, what we may call grand-daughters and minute progeny, she counted ‘forty-four thousand!’–But for the present we note only two things: the first of them a mere anecdote. One night, a couple of brother Jacobins are doorkeepers; for the members take this post of duty and honour in rotation, and admit none that have not tickets: one doorkeeper was the worthy Sieur Lais, a patriotic Opera-singer, stricken in years, whose windpipe is long since closed without result; the other, young, and named Louis Philippe, d’Orleans’s firstborn, has in this latter time, after unheard-of destinies, become Citizen-King, and struggles to rule for a season. All-flesh is grass; higher reedgrass or creeping herb.
The second thing we have to note is historical: that the Mother-Society, even in this its effulgent period, cannot content all Patriots. Already it must throw off, so to speak, two dissatisfied swarms; a swarm to the right, a swarm to the left. One party, which thinks the Jacobins lukewarm, constitutes itself into Club of the Cordeliers; a hotter Club: it is Danton’s element: with whom goes Desmoulins. The other party, again, which thinks the Jacobins scalding-hot, flies off to the right, and becomes ‘Club of 1789, Friends of the Monarchic Constitution.’ They are afterwards named ‘Feuillans Club;’ their place of meeting being the Feuillans Convent. Lafayette is, or becomes, their chief-man; supported by the respectable Patriot everywhere, by the mass of Property and Intelligence,–with the most flourishing prospects. They, in these June days of 1790, do, in the Palais Royal, dine solemnly with open windows; to the cheers of the people; with toasts, with inspiriting songs,–with one song at least, among the feeblest ever sung. (Hist. Parl. vi. 334.) They shall, in due time be hooted forth, over the borders, into Cimmerian Night.
Another expressly Monarchic or Royalist Club, ‘Club des Monarchiens,’ though a Club of ample funds, and all sitting in damask sofas, cannot realise the smallest momentary cheer; realises only scoffs and groans;– till, ere long, certain Patriots in disorderly sufficient number, proceed thither, for a night or for nights, and groan it out of pain. Vivacious alone shall the Mother-Society and her family be. The very Cordeliers may, as it were, return into her bosom, which will have grown warm enough.
Fatal-looking! Are not such Societies an incipient New Order of Society itself? The Aggregative Principle anew at work in a Society grown obsolete, cracked asunder, dissolving into rubbish and primary atoms?
Je le jure.
With these signs of the times, is it not surprising that the dominant feeling all over France was still continually Hope? O blessed Hope, sole boon of man; whereby, on his strait prison walls, are painted beautiful far-stretching landscapes; and into the night of very Death is shed holiest dawn! Thou art to all an indefeasible possession in this God’s-world: to the wise a sacred Constantine’s-banner, written on the eternal skies; under which they shall conquer, for the battle itself is victory: to the foolish some secular mirage, or shadow of still waters, painted on the parched Earth; whereby at least their dusty pilgrimage, if devious, becomes cheerfuller, becomes possible.
In the death-tumults of a sinking Society, French Hope sees only the birth- struggles of a new unspeakably better Society; and sings, with full assurance of faith, her brisk Melody, which some inspired fiddler has in these very days composed for her,–the world-famous ca-ira. Yes; ‘that will go:’ and then there will come–? All men hope: even Marat hopes– that Patriotism will take muff and dirk. King Louis is not without hope: in the chapter of chances; in a flight to some Bouille; in getting popularized at Paris. But what a hoping People he had, judge by the fact, and series of facts, now to be noted.
Poor Louis, meaning the best, with little insight and even less determination of his own, has to follow, in that dim wayfaring of his, such signal as may be given him; by backstairs Royalism, by official or backstairs Constitutionalism, whichever for the month may have convinced the royal mind. If flight to Bouille, and (horrible to think!) a drawing of the civil sword do hang as theory, portentous in the background, much nearer is this fact of these Twelve Hundred Kings, who sit in the Salle de Manege. Kings uncontrollable by him, not yet irreverent to him. Could kind management of these but prosper, how much better were it than armed Emigrants, Turin-intrigues, and the help of Austria! Nay, are the two hopes inconsistent? Rides in the suburbs, we have found, cost little; yet they always brought vivats. (See Bertrand-Moleville, i. 241, &c.) Still cheaper is a soft word; such as has many times turned away wrath. In these rapid days, while France is all getting divided into Departments, Clergy about to be remodelled, Popular Societies rising, and Feudalism and so much ever is ready to be hurled into the melting-pot,–might one not try?
On the 4th of February, accordingly, M. le President reads to his National Assembly a short autograph, announcing that his Majesty will step over, quite in an unceremonious way, probably about noon. Think, therefore, Messieurs, what it may mean; especially, how ye will get the Hall decorated a little. The Secretaries’ Bureau can be shifted down from the platform; on the President’s chair be slipped this cover of velvet, ‘of a violet colour sprigged with gold fleur-de-lys;’–for indeed M. le President has had previous notice underhand, and taken counsel with Doctor Guillotin. Then some fraction of ‘velvet carpet,’ of like texture and colour, cannot that be spread in front of the chair, where the Secretaries usually sit? So has judicious Guillotin advised: and the effect is found satisfactory. Moreover, as it is probable that his Majesty, in spite of the fleur-de-lys- velvet, will stand and not sit at all, the President himself, in the interim, presides standing. And so, while some honourable Member is discussing, say, the division of a Department, Ushers announce: “His Majesty!” In person, with small suite, enter Majesty: the honourable Member stops short; the Assembly starts to its feet; the Twelve Hundred Kings ‘almost all,’ and the Galleries no less, do welcome the Restorer of French Liberty with loyal shouts. His Majesty’s Speech, in diluted conventional phraseology, expresses this mainly: That he, most of all Frenchmen, rejoices to see France getting regenerated; is sure, at the same time, that they will deal gently with her in the process, and not regenerate her roughly. Such was his Majesty’s Speech: the feat he performed was coming to speak it, and going back again.
Surely, except to a very hoping People, there was not much here to build upon. Yet what did they not build! The fact that the King has spoken, that he has voluntarily come to speak, how inexpressibly encouraging! Did not the glance of his royal countenance, like concentrated sunbeams, kindle all hearts in an august Assembly; nay thereby in an inflammable enthusiastic France? To move ‘Deputation of thanks’ can be the happy lot of but one man; to go in such Deputation the lot of not many. The Deputed have gone, and returned with what highest-flown compliment they could; whom also the Queen met, Dauphin in hand. And still do not our hearts burn with insatiable gratitude; and to one other man a still higher blessedness suggests itself: To move that we all renew the National Oath.
Happiest honourable Member, with his word so in season as word seldom was; magic Fugleman of a whole National Assembly, which sat there bursting to do somewhat; Fugleman of a whole onlooking France! The President swears; declares that every one shall swear, in distinct je le jure. Nay the very Gallery sends him down a written slip signed, with their Oath on it; and as the Assembly now casts an eye that way, the Gallery all stands up and swears again. And then out of doors, consider at the Hotel-de-Ville how Bailly, the great Tennis-Court swearer, again swears, towards nightful, with all the Municipals, and Heads of Districts assembled there. And ‘M. Danton suggests that the public would like to partake:’ whereupon Bailly, with escort of Twelve, steps forth to the great outer staircase; sways the ebullient multitude with stretched hand: takes their oath, with a thunder of ‘rolling drums,’ with shouts that rend the welkin. And on all streets the glad people, with moisture and fire in their eyes, ‘spontaneously formed groups, and swore one another,’ (Newspapers (in Hist. Parl. iv. 445.)–and the whole City was illuminated. This was the Fourth of February 1790: a day to be marked white in Constitutional annals.
Nor is the illumination for a night only, but partially or totally it lasts a series of nights. For each District, the Electors of each District, will swear specially; and always as the District swears; it illuminates itself. Behold them, District after District, in some open square, where the Non- Electing People can all see and join: with their uplifted right hands, and je le jure: with rolling drums, with embracings, and that infinite hurrah of the enfranchised,–which any tyrant that there may be can consider! Faithful to the King, to the Law, to the Constitution which the National Assembly shall make.
Fancy, for example, the Professors of Universities parading the streets with their young France, and swearing, in an enthusiastic manner, not without tumult. By a larger exercise of fancy, expand duly this little word: The like was repeated in every Town and District of France! Nay one Patriot Mother, in Lagnon of Brittany, assembles her ten children; and, with her own aged hand, swears them all herself, the highsouled venerable woman. Of all which, moreover, a National Assembly must be eloquently apprised. Such three weeks of swearing! Saw the sun ever such a swearing people? Have they been bit by a swearing tarantula? No: but they are men and Frenchmen; they have Hope; and, singular to say, they have Faith, were it only in the Gospel according to Jean Jacques. O my Brothers! would to Heaven it were even as ye think and have sworn! But there are Lovers’ Oaths, which, had they been true as love itself, cannot be kept; not to speak of Dicers’ Oaths, also a known sort.
To such length had the Contrat Social brought it, in believing hearts. Man, as is well said, lives by faith; each generation has its own faith, more or less; and laughs at the faith of its predecessor,–most unwisely. Grant indeed that this faith in the Social Contract belongs to the stranger sorts; that an unborn generation may very wisely, if not laugh, yet stare at it, and piously consider. For, alas, what is Contrat? If all men were such that a mere spoken or sworn Contract would bind them, all men were then true men, and Government a superfluity. Not what thou and I have promised to each other, but what the balance of our forces can make us perform to each other: that, in so sinful a world as ours, is the thing to be counted on. But above all, a People and a Sovereign promising to one another; as if a whole People, changing from generation to generation, nay from hour to hour, could ever by any method be made to speak or promise; and to speak mere solecisms: “We, be the Heavens witness, which Heavens however do no miracles now; we, ever-changing Millions, will allow thee, changeful Unit, to force us or govern us!” The world has perhaps seen few faiths comparable to that.
So nevertheless had the world then construed the matter. Had they not so construed it, how different had their hopes been, their attempts, their results! But so and not otherwise did the Upper Powers will it to be. Freedom by Social Contract: such was verily the Gospel of that Era. And all men had believed in it, as in a Heaven’s Glad-tidings men should; and with overflowing heart and uplifted voice clave to it, and stood fronting Time and Eternity on it. Nay smile not; or only with a smile sadder than tears! This too was a better faith than the one it had replaced : than faith merely in the Everlasting Nothing and man’s Digestive Power; lower than which no faith can go.
Not that such universally prevalent, universally jurant, feeling of Hope, could be a unanimous one. Far from that! The time was ominous: social dissolution near and certain; social renovation still a problem, difficult and distant even though sure. But if ominous to some clearest onlooker, whose faith stood not with one side or with the other, nor in the ever- vexed jarring of Greek with Greek at all,–how unspeakably ominous to dim Royalist participators; for whom Royalism was Mankind’s palladium; for whom, with the abolition of Most-Christian Kingship and Most-Talleyrand Bishopship, all loyal obedience, all religious faith was to expire, and final Night envelope the Destinies of Man! On serious hearts, of that persuasion, the matter sinks down deep; prompting, as we have seen, to backstairs Plots, to Emigration with pledge of war, to Monarchic Clubs; nay to still madder things.
The Spirit of Prophecy, for instance, had been considered extinct for some centuries: nevertheless these last-times, as indeed is the tendency of last-times, do revive it; that so, of French mad things, we might have sample also of the maddest. In remote rural districts, whither Philosophism has not yet radiated, where a heterodox Constitution of the Clergy is bringing strife round the altar itself, and the very Church-bells are getting melted into small money-coin, it appears probable that the End of the World cannot be far off. Deep-musing atrabiliar old men, especially old women, hint in an obscure way that they know what they know. The Holy Virgin, silent so long, has not gone dumb;–and truly now, if ever more in this world, were the time for her to speak. One Prophetess, though careless Historians have omitted her name, condition, and whereabout, becomes audible to the general ear; credible to not a few: credible to Friar Gerle, poor Patriot Chartreux, in the National Assembly itself! She, in Pythoness’ recitative, with wildstaring eye, sings that there shall be a Sign; that the heavenly Sun himself will hang out a Sign, or Mock-Sun,– which, many say, shall be stamped with the Head of hanged Favras. List, Dom Gerle, with that poor addled poll of thine; list, O list;–and hear nothing. (Deux Amis, v. c. 7.)
Notable however was that ‘magnetic vellum, velin magnetique,’ of the Sieurs d’Hozier and Petit-Jean, Parlementeers of Rouen. Sweet young d’Hozier, ‘bred in the faith of his Missal, and of parchment genealogies,’ and of parchment generally: adust, melancholic, middle-aged Petit-Jean: why came these two to Saint-Cloud, where his Majesty was hunting, on the festival of St. Peter and St. Paul; and waited there, in antechambers, a wonder to whispering Swiss, the livelong day; and even waited without the Grates, when turned out; and had dismissed their valets to Paris, as with purpose of endless waiting? They have a magnetic vellum, these two; whereon the Virgin, wonderfully clothing herself in Mesmerean Cagliostric Occult- Philosophy, has inspired them to jot down instructions and predictions for a much-straitened King. To whom, by Higher Order, they will this day present it; and save the Monarchy and World. Unaccountable pair of visual- objects! Ye should be men, and of the Eighteenth Century; but your magnetic vellum forbids us so to interpret. Say, are ye aught? Thus ask the Guardhouse Captains, the Mayor of St. Cloud; nay, at great length, thus asks the Committee of Researches, and not the Municipal, but the National Assembly one. No distinct answer, for weeks. At last it becomes plain that the right answer is negative. Go, ye Chimeras, with your magnetic vellum; sweet young Chimera, adust middle-aged one! The Prison-doors are open. Hardly again shall ye preside the Rouen Chamber of Accounts; but vanish obscurely into Limbo. (See Deux Amis, v. 199.)
Solemn League and Covenant.
Such dim masses, and specks of even deepest black, work in that white-hot glow of the French mind, now wholly in fusion, and confusion. Old women here swearing their ten children on the new Evangel of Jean Jacques; old women there looking up for Favras’ Heads in the celestial Luminary: these are preternatural signs, prefiguring somewhat.
In fact, to the Patriot children of Hope themselves, it is undeniable that difficulties exist: emigrating Seigneurs; Parlements in sneaking but most malicious mutiny (though the rope is round their neck); above all, the most decided ‘deficiency of grains.’ Sorrowful: but, to a Nation that hopes, not irremediable. To a Nation which is in fusion and ardent communion of thought; which, for example, on signal of one Fugleman, will lift its right hand like a drilled regiment, and swear and illuminate, till every village from Ardennes to the Pyrenees has rolled its village-drum, and sent up its little oath, and glimmer of tallow-illumination some fathoms into the reign of Night!
If grains are defective, the fault is not of Nature or National Assembly, but of Art and Antinational Intriguers. Such malign individuals, of the scoundrel species, have power to vex us, while the Constitution is a- making. Endure it, ye heroic Patriots: nay rather, why not cure it? Grains do grow, they lie extant there in sheaf or sack; only that regraters and Royalist plotters, to provoke the people into illegality, obstruct the transport of grains. Quick, ye organised Patriot Authorities, armed National Guards, meet together; unite your goodwill; in union is tenfold strength: let the concentred flash of your Patriotism strike stealthy Scoundrelism blind, paralytic, as with a coup de soleil.
Under which hat or nightcap of the Twenty-five millions, this pregnant Idea first rose, for in some one head it did rise, no man can now say. A most small idea, near at hand for the whole world: but a living one, fit; and which waxed, whether into greatness or not, into immeasurable size. When a Nation is in this state that the Fugleman can operate on it, what will the word in season, the act in season, not do! It will grow verily, like the Boy’s Bean in the Fairy-Tale, heaven-high, with habitations and adventures on it, in one night. It is nevertheless unfortunately still a Bean (for your long-lived Oak grows not so); and, the next night, it may lie felled, horizontal, trodden into common mud.–But remark, at least, how natural to any agitated Nation, which has Faith, this business of Covenanting is. The Scotch, believing in a righteous Heaven above them, and also in a Gospel, far other than the Jean-Jacques one, swore, in their extreme need, a Solemn League and Covenant,–as Brothers on the forlorn-hope, and imminence of battle, who embrace looking Godward; and got the whole Isle to swear it; and even, in their tough Old-Saxon Hebrew-Presbyterian way, to keep it more or less;–for the thing, as such things are, was heard in Heaven, and partially ratified there; neither is it yet dead, if thou wilt look, nor like to die. The French too, with their Gallic-Ethnic excitability and effervescence, have, as we have seen, real Faith, of a sort; they are hard bestead, though in the middle of Hope: a National Solemn League and Covenant there may be in France too; under how different conditions; with how different developement and issue!
Note, accordingly, the small commencement; first spark of a mighty firework: for if the particular hat cannot be fixed upon, the particular District can. On the 29th day of last November, were National Guards by the thousand seen filing, from far and near, with military music, with Municipal officers in tricolor sashes, towards and along the Rhone-stream, to the little town of Etoile. There with ceremonial evolution and manoeuvre, with fanfaronading, musketry-salvoes, and what else the Patriot genius could devise, they made oath and obtestation to stand faithfully by one another, under Law and King; in particular, to have all manner of grains, while grains there were, freely circulated, in spite both of robber and regrater. This was the meeting of Etoile, in the mild end of November 1789.
But now, if a mere empty Review, followed by Review-dinner, ball, and such gesticulation and flirtation as there may be, interests the happy County- town, and makes it the envy of surrounding County-towns, how much more might this! In a fortnight, larger Montelimart, half ashamed of itself, will do as good, and better. On the Plain of Montelimart, or what is equally sonorous, ‘under the Walls of Montelimart,’ the thirteenth of December sees new gathering and obtestation; six thousand strong; and now indeed, with these three remarkable improvements, as unanimously resolved on there. First that the men of Montelimart do federate with the already federated men of Etoile. Second, that, implying not expressing the circulation of grain, they ‘swear in the face of God and their Country’ with much more emphasis and comprehensiveness, ‘to obey all decrees of the National Assembly, and see them obeyed, till death, jusqu’a la mort.’ Third, and most important, that official record of all this be solemnly delivered in to the National Assembly, to M. de Lafayette, and ‘to the Restorer of French Liberty;’ who shall all take what comfort from it they can. Thus does larger Montelimart vindicate its Patriot importance, and maintain its rank in the municipal scale. (Hist. Parl. vii. 4.)
And so, with the New-year, the signal is hoisted; for is not a National Assembly, and solemn deliverance there, at lowest a National Telegraph? Not only grain shall circulate, while there is grain, on highways or the Rhone-waters, over all that South-Eastern region,–where also if Monseigneur d’Artois saw good to break in from Turin, hot welcome might wait him; but whatsoever Province of France is straitened for grain, or vexed with a mutinous Parlement, unconstitutional plotters, Monarchic Clubs, or any other Patriot ailment,–can go and do likewise, or even do better. And now, especially, when the February swearing has set them all agog! From Brittany to Burgundy, on most plains of France, under most City-walls, it is a blaring of trumpets, waving of banners, a constitutional manoeuvring: under the vernal skies, while Nature too is putting forth her green Hopes, under bright sunshine defaced by the stormful East; like Patriotism victorious, though with difficulty, over Aristocracy and defect of grain! There march and constitutionally wheel, to the ca-ira-ing mood of fife and drum, under their tricolor Municipals, our clear-gleaming Phalanxes; or halt, with uplifted right-hand, and artillery-salvoes that imitate Jove’s thunder; and all the Country, and metaphorically all ‘the Universe,’ is looking on. Wholly, in their best apparel, brave men, and beautifully dizened women, most of whom have lovers there; swearing, by the eternal Heavens and this green-growing all- nutritive Earth, that France is free!
Sweetest days, when (astonishing to say) mortals have actually met together in communion and fellowship; and man, were it only once through long despicable centuries, is for moments verily the brother of man!–And then the Deputations to the National Assembly, with highflown descriptive harangue; to M. de Lafayette, and the Restorer; very frequently moreover to the Mother of Patriotism sitting on her stout benches in that Hall of the Jacobins! The general ear is filled with Federation. New names of Patriots emerge, which shall one day become familiar: Boyer-Fonfrede eloquent denunciator of a rebellious Bourdeaux Parlement; Max Isnard eloquent reporter of the Federation of Draguignan; eloquent pair, separated by the whole breadth of France, who are nevertheless to meet. Ever wider burns the flame of Federation; ever wider and also brighter. Thus the Brittany and Anjou brethren mention a Fraternity of all true Frenchmen; and go the length of invoking ‘perdition and death’ on any renegade: moreover, if in their National-Assembly harangue, they glance plaintively at the marc d’argent which makes so many citizens passive, they, over in the Mother- Society, ask, being henceforth themselves ‘neither Bretons nor Angevins but French,’ Why all France has not one Federation, and universal Oath of Brotherhood, once for all? (Reports, &c. (in Hist. Parl. ix. 122-147).) A most pertinent suggestion; dating from the end of March. Which pertinent suggestion the whole Patriot world cannot but catch, and reverberate and agitate till it become loud;–which, in that case, the Townhall Municipals had better take up, and meditate.
Some universal Federation seems inevitable: the Where is given; clearly Paris: only the When, the How? These also productive Time will give; is already giving. For always as the Federative work goes on, it perfects itself, and Patriot genius adds contribution after contribution. Thus, at Lyons, in the end of the May month, we behold as many as fifty, or some say sixty thousand, met to federate; and a multitude looking on, which it would be difficult to number. From dawn to dusk! For our Lyons Guardsmen took rank, at five in the bright dewy morning; came pouring in, bright-gleaming, to the Quai de Rhone, to march thence to the Federation-field; amid wavings of hats and lady-handkerchiefs; glad shoutings of some two hundred thousand Patriot voices and hearts; the beautiful and brave! Among whom, courting no notice, and yet the notablest of all, what queenlike Figure is this; with her escort of house-friends and Champagneux the Patriot Editor; come abroad with the earliest? Radiant with enthusiasm are those dark eyes, is that strong Minerva-face, looking dignity and earnest joy; joyfullest she where all are joyful. It is Roland de la Platriere’s Wife! (Madame Roland, Memoires, i. (Discours Preliminaire, p. 23).) Strict elderly Roland, King’s Inspector of Manufactures here; and now likewise, by popular choice, the strictest of our new Lyons Municipals: a man who has gained much, if worth and faculty be gain; but above all things, has gained to wife Phlipon the Paris Engraver’s daughter. Reader, mark that queenlike burgher-woman: beautiful, Amazonian-graceful to the eye; more so to the mind. Unconscious of her worth (as all worth is), of her greatness, of her crystal clearness; genuine, the creature of Sincerity and Nature, in an age of Artificiality, Pollution and Cant; there, in her still completeness, in her still invincibility, she, if thou knew it, is the noblest of all living Frenchwomen,–and will be seen, one day. O blessed rather while unseen, even of herself! For the present she gazes, nothing doubting, into this grand theatricality; and thinks her young dreams are to be fulfilled.
From dawn to dusk, as we said, it lasts; and truly a sight like few. Flourishes of drums and trumpets are something: but think of an ‘artificial Rock fifty feet high,’ all cut into crag-steps, not without the similitude of ‘shrubs!’ The interior cavity, for in sooth it is made of deal,–stands solemn, a ‘Temple of Concord:’ on the outer summit rises ‘a Statue of Liberty,’ colossal, seen for miles, with her Pike and Phrygian Cap, and civic column; at her feet a Country’s Altar, ‘Autel de la Patrie:’–on all which neither deal-timber nor lath and plaster, with paint of various colours, have been spared. But fancy then the banners all placed on the steps of the Rock; high-mass chaunted; and the civic oath of fifty thousand: with what volcanic outburst of sound from iron and other throats, enough to frighten back the very Saone and Rhone; and how the brightest fireworks, and balls, and even repasts closed in that night of the gods! (Hist. Parl. xii. 274.) And so the Lyons Federation vanishes too, swallowed of darkness;–and yet not wholly, for our brave fair Roland was there; also she, though in the deepest privacy, writes her Narrative of it in Champagneux’s Courier de Lyons; a piece which ‘circulates to the extent of sixty thousand;’ which one would like now to read.
But on the whole, Paris, we may see, will have little to devise; will only have to borrow and apply. And then as to the day, what day of all the calendar is fit, if the Bastille Anniversary be not? The particular spot too, it is easy to see, must be the Champ-de-Mars; where many a Julian the Apostate has been lifted on bucklers, to France’s or the world’s sovereignty; and iron Franks, loud-clanging, have responded to the voice of a Charlemagne; and from of old mere sublimities have been familiar.
How natural, in all decisive circumstances, is Symbolic Representation to all kinds of men! Nay, what is man’s whole terrestrial Life but a Symbolic Representation, and making visible, of the Celestial invisible Force that is in him? By act and world he strives to do it; with sincerity, if possible; failing that, with theatricality, which latter also may have its meaning. An Almack’s Masquerade is not nothing; in more genial ages, your Christmas Guisings, Feasts of the Ass, Abbots of Unreason, were a considerable something: since sport they were; as Almacks may still be sincere wish for sport. But what, on the other hand, must not sincere earnest have been: say, a Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles have been! A whole Nation gathered, in the name of the Highest, under the eye of the Highest; imagination herself flagging under the reality; and all noblest Ceremony as yet not grown ceremonial, but solemn, significant to the outmost fringe! Neither, in modern private life, are theatrical scenes, of tearful women wetting whole ells of cambric in concert, of impassioned bushy-whiskered youth threatening suicide, and such like, to be so entirely detested: drop thou a tear over them thyself rather.
At any rate, one can remark that no Nation will throw-by its work, and deliberately go out to make a scene, without meaning something thereby. For indeed no scenic individual, with knavish hypocritical views, will take the trouble to soliloquise a scene: and now consider, is not a scenic Nation placed precisely in that predicament of soliloquising; for its own behoof alone; to solace its own sensibilities, maudlin or other?–Yet in this respect, of readiness for scenes, the difference of Nations, as of men, is very great. If our Saxon-Puritanic friends, for example, swore and signed their National Covenant, without discharge of gunpowder, or the beating of any drum, in a dingy Covenant-Close of the Edinburgh High- street, in a mean room, where men now drink mean liquor, it was consistent with their ways so to swear it. Our Gallic-Encyclopedic friends, again, must have a Champ-de-Mars, seen of all the world, or universe; and such a Scenic Exhibition, to which the Coliseum Amphitheatre was but a stroller’s barn, as this old Globe of ours had never or hardly ever beheld. Which method also we reckon natural, then and there. Nor perhaps was the respective keeping of these two Oaths far out of due proportion to such respective display in taking them: inverse proportion, namely. For the theatricality of a People goes in a compound-ratio: ratio indeed of their trustfulness, sociability, fervency; but then also of their excitability, of their porosity, not continent; or say, of their explosiveness, hot- flashing, but which does not last.
How true also, once more, is it that no man or Nation of men, conscious of doing a great thing, was ever, in that thing, doing other than a small one! O Champ-de-Mars Federation, with three hundred drummers, twelve hundred wind-musicians, and artillery planted on height after height to boom the tidings of it all over France, in few minutes! Could no Atheist-Naigeon contrive to discern, eighteen centuries off, those Thirteen most poor mean- dressed men, at frugal Supper, in a mean Jewish dwelling, with no symbol but hearts god-initiated into the ‘Divine depth of Sorrow,’ and a Do this in remembrance of me;–and so cease that small difficult crowing of his, if he were not doomed to it?
Pardonable are human theatricalities; nay perhaps touching, like the passionate utterance of a tongue which with sincerity stammers; of a head which with insincerity babbles,–having gone distracted. Yet, in comparison with unpremeditated outbursts of Nature, such as an Insurrection of Women, how foisonless, unedifying, undelightful; like small ale palled, like an effervescence that has effervesced! Such scenes, coming of forethought, were they world-great, and never so cunningly devised, are at bottom mainly pasteboard and paint. But the others are original; emitted from the great everliving heart of Nature herself: what figure they will assume is unspeakably significant. To us, therefore, let the French National Solemn League, and Federation, be the highest recorded triumph of the Thespian Art; triumphant surely, since the whole Pit, which was of Twenty-five Millions, not only claps hands, but does itself spring on the boards and passionately set to playing there. And being such, be it treated as such: with sincere cursory admiration; with wonder from afar. A whole Nation gone mumming deserves so much; but deserves not that loving minuteness a Menadic Insurrection did. Much more let prior, and as it were, rehearsal scenes of Federation come and go, henceforward, as they list; and, on Plains and under City-walls, innumerable regimental bands blare off into the Inane, without note from us.
One scene, however, the hastiest reader will momentarily pause on: that of Anacharsis Clootz and the Collective sinful Posterity of Adam.–For a Patriot Municipality has now, on the 4th of June, got its plan concocted, and got it sanctioned by National Assembly; a Patriot King assenting; to whom, were he even free to dissent, Federative harangues, overflowing with loyalty, have doubtless a transient sweetness. There shall come Deputed National Guards, so many in the hundred, from each of the Eighty-three Departments of France. Likewise from all Naval and Military King’s Forces, shall Deputed quotas come; such Federation of National with Royal Soldier has, taking place spontaneously, been already seen and sanctioned. For the rest, it is hoped, as many as forty thousand may arrive: expenses to be borne by the Deputing District; of all which let District and Department take thought, and elect fit men,–whom the Paris brethren will fly to meet and welcome.
Now, therefore, judge if our Patriot Artists are busy; taking deep counsel how to make the Scene worthy of a look from the Universe! As many as fifteen thousand men, spade-men, barrow-men, stone-builders, rammers, with their engineers, are at work on the Champ-de-Mars; hollowing it out into a natural Amphitheatre, fit for such solemnity. For one may hope it will be annual and perennial; a ‘Feast of Pikes, Fete des Piques,’ notablest among the high-tides of the year: in any case ought not a Scenic free Nation to have some permanent National Amphitheatre? The Champ-de-Mars is getting hollowed out; and the daily talk and the nightly dream in most Parisian heads is of Federation, and that only. Federate Deputies are already under way. National Assembly, what with its natural work, what with hearing and answering harangues of Federates, of this Federation, will have enough to do! Harangue of ‘American Committee,’ among whom is that faint figure of Paul Jones ‘as with the stars dim-twinkling through it,’–come to congratulate us on the prospect of such auspicious day. Harangue of Bastille Conquerors, come to ‘renounce’ any special recompense, any peculiar place at the solemnity;–since the Centre Grenadiers rather grumble. Harangue of ‘Tennis-Court Club,’ who enter with far-gleaming Brass-plate, aloft on a pole, and the Tennis-Court Oath engraved thereon; which far gleaming Brass-plate they purpose to affix solemnly in the Versailles original locality, on the 20th of this month, which is the anniversary, as a deathless memorial, for some years: they will then dine, as they come back, in the Bois de Boulogne; (See Deux Amis, v. 122; Hist. Parl. &c.)–cannot, however, do it without apprising the world. To such things does the august National Assembly ever and anon cheerfully listen, suspending its regenerative labours; and with some touch of impromptu eloquence, make friendly reply;–as indeed the wont has long been; for it is a gesticulating, sympathetic People, and has a heart, and wears it on its sleeve.
In which circumstances, it occurred to the mind of Anacharsis Clootz that while so much was embodying itself into Club or Committee, and perorating applauded, there yet remained a greater and greatest; of which, if it also took body and perorated, what might not the effect be: Humankind namely, le Genre Humain itself! In what rapt creative moment the Thought rose in Anacharsis’s soul; all his throes, while he went about giving shape and birth to it; how he was sneered at by cold worldlings; but did sneer again, being a man of polished sarcasm; and moved to and fro persuasive in coffeehouse and soiree, and dived down assiduous-obscure in the great deep of Paris, making his Thought a Fact: of all this the spiritual biographies of that period say nothing. Enough that on the 19th evening of June 1790, the Sun’s slant rays lighted a spectacle such as our foolish little Planet has not often had to show: Anacharsis Clootz entering the august Salle de Manege, with the Human Species at his heels. Swedes, Spaniards, Polacks; Turks, Chaldeans, Greeks, dwellers in Mesopotamia: behold them all; they have come to claim place in the grand Federation, having an undoubted interest in it.
“Our ambassador titles,” said the fervid Clootz, “are not written on parchment, but on the living hearts of all men.” These whiskered Polacks, long-flowing turbaned Ishmaelites, astrological Chaldeans, who stand so mute here, let them plead with you, august Senators, more eloquently than eloquence could. They are the mute representatives of their tongue-tied, befettered, heavy-laden Nations; who from out of that dark bewilderment gaze wistful, amazed, with half-incredulous hope, towards you, and this your bright light of a French Federation: bright particular day-star, the herald of universal day. We claim to stand there, as mute monuments, pathetically adumbrative of much.–From bench and gallery comes ‘repeated applause;’ for what august Senator but is flattered even by the very shadow of Human Species depending on him? From President Sieyes, who presides this remarkable fortnight, in spite of his small voice, there comes eloquent though shrill reply. Anacharsis and the ‘Foreigners Committee’ shall have place at the Federation; on condition of telling their respective Peoples what they see there. In the mean time, we invite them to the ‘honours of the sitting, honneur de la seance.’ A long-flowing Turk, for rejoinder, bows with Eastern solemnity, and utters articulate sounds: but owing to his imperfect knowledge of the French dialect, (Moniteur, &c. (in Hist. Parl. xii. 283).) his words are like spilt water; the thought he had in him remains conjectural to this day.
Anacharsis and Mankind accept the honours of the sitting; and have forthwith, as the old Newspapers still testify, the satisfaction to see several things. First and chief, on the motion of Lameth, Lafayette, Saint-Fargeau and other Patriot Nobles, let the others repugn as they will: all Titles of Nobility, from Duke to Esquire, or lower, are henceforth abolished. Then, in like manner, Livery Servants, or rather the Livery of Servants. Neither, for the future, shall any man or woman, self-styled noble, be ‘incensed,’–foolishly fumigated with incense, in Church; as the wont has been. In a word, Feudalism being dead these ten months, why should her empty trappings and scutcheons survive? The very Coats-of-arms will require to be obliterated;–and yet Cassandra Marat on this and the other coach-panel notices that they ‘are but painted-over,’ and threaten to peer through again.
So that henceforth de Lafayette is but the Sieur Motier, and Saint-Fargeau is plain Michel Lepelletier; and Mirabeau soon after has to say huffingly, “With your Riquetti you have set Europe at cross-purposes for three days.” For his Counthood is not indifferent to this man; which indeed the admiring People treat him with to the last. But let extreme Patriotism rejoice, and chiefly Anacharsis and Mankind; for now it seems to be taken for granted that one Adam is Father of us all!–
Such was, in historical accuracy, the famed feat of Anacharsis. Thus did the most extensive of Public Bodies find a sort of spokesman. Whereby at least we may judge of one thing: what a humour the once sniffing mocking City of Paris and Baron Clootz had got into; when such exhibition could appear a propriety, next door to a sublimity. It is true, Envy did in after times, pervert this success of Anacharsis; making him, from incidental ‘Speaker of the Foreign-Nations Committee,’ claim to be official permanent ‘Speaker, Orateur, of the Human Species,’ which he only deserved to be; and alleging, calumniously, that his astrological Chaldeans, and the rest, were a mere French tag-rag-and-bobtail disguised for the nonce; and, in short, sneering and fleering at him in her cold barren way; all which, however, he, the man he was, could receive on thick enough panoply, or even rebound therefrom, and also go his way.
Most extensive of Public Bodies, we may call it; and also the most unexpected: for who could have thought to see All Nations in the Tuileries Riding-Hall? But so it is; and truly as strange things may happen when a whole People goes mumming and miming. Hast not thou thyself perchance seen diademed Cleopatra, daughter of the Ptolemies, pleading, almost with bended knee, in unheroic tea-parlour, or dimlit retail-shop, to inflexible gross Burghal Dignitary, for leave to reign and die; being dressed for it, and moneyless, with small children;–while suddenly Constables have shut the Thespian barn, and her Antony pleaded in vain? Such visual spectra flit across this Earth, if the Thespian Stage be rudely interfered with: but much more, when, as was said, Pit jumps on Stage, then is it verily, as in Herr Tieck’s Drama, a Verkehrte Welt, of World Topsyturvied!
Having seen the Human Species itself, to have seen the ‘Dean of the Human Species,’ ceased now to be a miracle. Such ‘Doyen du Genre Humain, Eldest of Men,’ had shewn himself there, in these weeks: Jean Claude Jacob, a born Serf, deputed from his native Jura Mountains to thank the National Assembly for enfranchising them. On his bleached worn face are ploughed the furrowings of one hundred and twenty years. He has heard dim patois- talk, of immortal Grand-Monarch victories; of a burnt Palatinate, as he toiled and moiled to make a little speck of this Earth greener; of Cevennes Dragoonings; of Marlborough going to the war. Four generations have bloomed out, and loved and hated, and rustled off: he was forty-six when Louis Fourteenth died. The Assembly, as one man, spontaneously rose, and did reverence to the Eldest of the World; old Jean is to take seance among them, honourably, with covered head. He gazes feebly there, with his old eyes, on that new wonder-scene; dreamlike to him, and uncertain, wavering amid fragments of old memories and dreams. For Time is all growing unsubstantial, dreamlike; Jean’s eyes and mind are weary, and about to close,–and open on a far other wonder-scene, which shall be real. Patriot Subscription, Royal Pension was got for him, and he returned home glad; but in two months more he left it all, and went on his unknown way. (Deux Amis, iv. iii.)
As in the Age of Gold.
Meanwhile to Paris, ever going and returning, day after day, and all day long, towards that Field of Mars, it becomes painfully apparent that the spadework there cannot be got done in time. There is such an area of it; three hundred thousand square feet: for from the Ecole militaire (which will need to be done up in wood with balconies and galleries) westward to the Gate by the river (where also shall be wood, in triumphal arches), we count same thousand yards of length; and for breadth, from this umbrageous Avenue of eight rows, on the South side, to that corresponding one on the North, some thousand feet, more or less. All this to be scooped out, and wheeled up in slope along the sides; high enough; for it must be rammed down there, and shaped stair-wise into as many as ‘thirty ranges of convenient seats,’ firm-trimmed with turf, covered with enduring timber;– and then our huge pyramidal Fatherland’s-Altar, Autel de la Patrie, in the centre, also to be raised and stair-stepped! Force-work with a vengeance; it is a World’s Amphitheatre! There are but fifteen days good; and at this languid rate, it might take half as many weeks. What is singular too, the spademen seem to work lazily; they will not work double-tides, even for offer of more wages, though their tide is but seven hours; they declare angrily that the human tabernacle requires occasional rest!
Is it Aristocrats secretly bribing? Aristocrats were capable of that. Only six months since, did not evidence get afloat that subterranean Paris, for we stand over quarries and catacombs, dangerously, as it were midway between Heaven and the Abyss, and are hollow underground,–was charged with gunpowder, which should make us ‘leap?’ Till a Cordelier’s Deputation actually went to examine, and found it–carried off again! (23rd December, 1789 (Newspapers in Hist. Parl. iv. 44).) An accursed, incurable brood; all asking for ‘passports,’ in these sacred days. Trouble, of rioting, chateau-burning, is in the Limousin and elsewhere; for they are busy! Between the best of Peoples and the best of Restorer-Kings, they would sow grudges; with what a fiend’s-grin would they see this Federation, looked for by the Universe, fail!
Fail for want of spadework, however, it shall not. He that has four limbs, and a French heart, can do spadework; and will! On the first July Monday, scarcely has the signal-cannon boomed; scarcely have the languescent mercenary Fifteen Thousand laid down their tools, and the eyes of onlookers turned sorrowfully of the still high Sun; when this and the other Patriot, fire in his eye, snatches barrow and mattock, and himself begins indignantly wheeling. Whom scores and then hundreds follow; and soon a volunteer Fifteen Thousand are shovelling and trundling; with the heart of giants; and all in right order, with that extemporaneous adroitness of theirs: whereby such a lift has been given, worth three mercenary ones;– which may end when the late twilight thickens, in triumph shouts, heard or heard of beyond Montmartre!
A sympathetic population will wait, next day, with eagerness, till the tools are free. Or why wait? Spades elsewhere exist! And so now bursts forth that effulgence of Parisian enthusiasm, good-heartedness and brotherly love; such, if Chroniclers are trustworthy, as was not witnessed since the Age of Gold. Paris, male and female, precipitates itself towards its South-west extremity, spade on shoulder. Streams of men, without order; or in order, as ranked fellow-craftsmen, as natural or accidental reunions, march towards the Field of Mars. Three-deep these march; to the sound of stringed music; preceded by young girls with green boughs, and tricolor streamers: they have shouldered, soldier-wise, their shovels and picks; and with one throat are singing ca-ira. Yes, pardieu ca-ira, cry the passengers on the streets. All corporate Guilds, and public and private Bodies of Citizens, from the highest to the lowest, march; the very Hawkers, one finds, have ceased bawling for one day. The neighbouring Villages turn out: their able men come marching, to village fiddle or tambourine and triangle, under their Mayor, or Mayor and Curate, who also walk bespaded, and in tricolor sash. As many as one hundred and fifty thousand workers: nay at certain seasons, as some count, two hundred and fifty thousand; for, in the afternoon especially, what mortal but, finishing his hasty day’s work, would run! A stirring city: from the time you reach the Place Louis Quinze, southward over the River, by all Avenues, it is one living throng. So many workers; and no mercenary mock-workers, but real ones that lie freely to it: each Patriot stretches himself against the stubborn glebe; hews and wheels with the whole weight that is in him.
Amiable infants, aimables enfans! They do the ‘police des l’atelier’ too, the guidance and governance, themselves; with that ready will of theirs, with that extemporaneous adroitness. It is a true brethren’s work; all distinctions confounded, abolished; as it was in the beginning, when Adam himself delved. Longfrocked tonsured Monks, with short-skirted Water- carriers, with swallow-tailed well-frizzled Incroyables of a Patriot turn; dark Charcoalmen, meal-white Peruke-makers; or Peruke-wearers, for Advocate and Judge are there, and all Heads of Districts: sober Nuns sisterlike with flaunting Nymphs of the Opera, and females in common circumstances named unfortunate: the patriot Rag-picker, and perfumed dweller in palaces; for Patriotism like New-birth, and also like Death, levels all. The Printers have come marching, Prudhomme’s all in Paper-caps with Revolutions de Paris printed on them; as Camille notes; wishing that in these great days there should be a Pacte des Ecrivains too, or Federation of Able Editors. (See Newspapers, &c. (in Hist. Parl. vi. 381-406).) Beautiful to see! The snowy linen and delicate pantaloon alternates with the soiled check-shirt and bushel-breeches; for both have cast their coats, and under both are four limbs and a set of Patriot muscles. There do they pick and shovel; or bend forward, yoked in long strings to box-barrow or overloaded tumbril; joyous, with one mind. Abbe Sieyes is seen pulling, wiry, vehement, if too light for draught; by the side of Beauharnais, who shall get Kings though he be none. Abbe Maury did not pull; but the Charcoalmen brought a mummer guised like him, so he had to pull in effigy. Let no august Senator disdain the work: Mayor Bailly, Generalissimo Lafayette are there;–and, alas, shall be there again another day! The King himself comes to see: sky-rending Vive-le-Roi; ‘and suddenly with shouldered spades they form a guard of honour round him.’ Whosoever can come comes, to work, or to look, and bless the work.
Whole families have come. One whole family we see clearly, of three generations: the father picking, the mother shovelling, the young ones wheeling assiduous; old grandfather, hoary with ninety-three years, holds in his arms the youngest of all: (Mercier. ii. 76, &c.) frisky, not helpful this one; who nevertheless may tell it to his grandchildren; and how the Future and the Past alike looked on, and with failing or with half-formed voice, faltered their ca-ira. A vintner has wheeled in, on Patriot truck, beverage of wine: “Drink not, my brothers, if ye are not dry; that your cask may last the longer;” neither did any drink, but men ‘evidently exhausted.’ A dapper Abbe looks on, sneering. “To the barrow!” cry several; whom he, lest a worse thing befal him, obeys: nevertheless one wiser Patriot barrowman, arriving now, interposes his “arretez;” setting down his own barrow, he snatches the Abbe’s; trundles it fast, like an infected thing; forth of the Champ-de-Mars circuit, and discharges it there. Thus too a certain person (of some quality, or private capital, to appearance), entering hastily, flings down his coat, waistcoat and two watches, and is rushing to the thick of the work: “But your watches?” cries the general voice.–“Does one distrust his brothers?” answers he; nor were the watches stolen. How beautiful is noble-sentiment: like gossamer gauze, beautiful and cheap; which will stand no tear and wear! Beautiful cheap gossamer gauze, thou film-shadow of a raw-material of Virtue, which art not woven, nor likely to be, into Duty; thou art better than nothing, and also worse!
Young Boarding-school Boys, College Students, shout Vive la Nation, and regret that they have yet ‘only their sweat to give.’ What say we of Boys? Beautifullest Hebes; the loveliest of Paris, in their light air-robes, with riband-girdle of tricolor, are there; shovelling and wheeling with the rest; their Hebe eyes brighter with enthusiasm, and long hair in beautiful dishevelment: hard-pressed are their small fingers; but they make the patriot barrow go, and even force it to the summit of the slope (with a little tracing, which what man’s arm were not too happy to lend?)–then bound down with it again, and go for more; with their long locks and tricolors blown back: graceful as the rosy Hours. O, as that evening Sun fell over the Champ-de-Mars, and tinted with fire the thick umbrageous boscage that shelters it on this hand and on that, and struck direct on those Domes and two-and-forty Windows of the Ecole Militaire, and made them all of burnished gold,–saw he on his wide zodiac road other such sight? A living garden spotted and dotted with such flowerage; all colours of the prism; the beautifullest blent friendly with the usefullest; all growing and working brotherlike there, under one warm feeling, were it but for days; once and no second time! But Night is sinking; these Nights too, into Eternity. The hastiest Traveller Versailles-ward has drawn bridle on the heights of Chaillot: and looked for moments over the River; reporting at Versailles what he saw, not without tears. (Mercier, ii. 81.)
Meanwhile, from all points of the compass, Federates are arriving: fervid children of the South, ‘who glory in their Mirabeau;’ considerate North- blooded Mountaineers of Jura; sharp Bretons, with their Gaelic suddenness; Normans not to be overreached in bargain: all now animated with one noblest fire of Patriotism. Whom the Paris brethren march forth to receive; with military solemnities, with fraternal embracing, and a hospitality worthy of the heroic ages. They assist at the Assembly’s Debates, these Federates: the Galleries are reserved for them. They assist in the toils of the Champ-de-Mars; each new troop will put its hand to the spade; lift a hod of earth on the Altar of the Fatherland. But the flourishes of rhetoric, for it is a gesticulating People; the moral-sublime of those Addresses to an august Assembly, to a Patriot Restorer! Our Breton Captain of Federates kneels even, in a fit of enthusiasm, and gives up his sword; he wet-eyed to a King wet-eyed. Poor Louis! These, as he said afterwards, were among the bright days of his life.
Reviews also there must be; royal Federate-reviews, with King, Queen and tricolor Court looking on: at lowest, if, as is too common, it rains, our Federate Volunteers will file through the inner gateways, Royalty standing dry. Nay there, should some stop occur, the beautifullest fingers in France may take you softly by the lapelle, and, in mild flute-voice, ask: “Monsieur, of what Province are you?” Happy he who can reply, chivalrously lowering his sword’s point, “Madame, from the Province your ancestors reigned over.” He that happy ‘Provincial Advocate,’ now Provincial Federate, shall be rewarded by a sun-smile, and such melodious glad words addressed to a King: “Sire, these are your faithful Lorrainers.” Cheerier verily, in these holidays, is this ‘skyblue faced with red’ of a National Guardsman, than the dull black and gray of a Provincial Advocate, which in workdays one was used to. For the same thrice-blessed Lorrainer shall, this evening, stand sentry at a Queen’s door; and feel that he could die a thousand deaths for her: then again, at the outer gate, and even a third time, she shall see him; nay he will make her do it; presenting arms with emphasis, ‘making his musket jingle again’: and in her salute there shall again be a sun-smile, and that little blonde-locked too hasty Dauphin shall be admonished, “Salute then, Monsieur, don’t be unpolite;” and therewith she, like a bright Sky-wanderer or Planet with her little Moon, issues forth peculiar. (Narrative by a Lorraine Federate (given in Hist. Parl. vi. 389-91).)
But at night, when Patriot spadework is over, figure the sacred rights of hospitality! Lepelletier Saint-Fargeau, a mere private senator, but with great possessions, has daily his ‘hundred dinner-guests;’ the table of Generalissimo Lafayette may double that number. In lowly parlour, as in lofty saloon, the wine-cup passes round; crowned by the smiles of Beauty; be it of lightly-tripping Grisette, or of high-sailing Dame, for both equally have beauty, and smiles precious to the brave.
Sound and Smoke.
And so now, in spite of plotting Aristocrats, lazy hired spademen, and almost of Destiny itself (for there has been much rain), the Champ-de-Mars, on the 13th of the month is fairly ready; trimmed, rammed, buttressed with firm masonry; and Patriotism can stroll over it admiring; and as it were rehearsing, for in every head is some unutterable image of the morrow. Pray Heaven there be not clouds. Nay what far worse cloud is this, of a misguided Municipality that talks of admitting Patriotism, to the solemnity, by tickets! Was it by tickets we were admitted to the work; and to what brought the work? Did we take the Bastille by tickets? A misguided Municipality sees the error; at late midnight, rolling drums announce to Patriotism starting half out of its bed-clothes, that it is to be ticketless. Pull down thy night-cap therefore; and, with demi- articulate grumble, significant of several things, go pacified to sleep again. Tomorrow is Wednesday morning; unforgetable among the fasti of the world.
The morning comes, cold for a July one; but such a festivity would make Greenland smile. Through every inlet of that National Amphitheatre (for it is a league in circuit, cut with openings at due intervals), floods-in the living throng; covers without tumult space after space. The Ecole Militaire has galleries and overvaulting canopies, where Carpentry and Painting have vied, for the upper Authorities; triumphal arches, at the Gate by the River, bear inscriptions, if weak, yet well-meant, and orthodox. Far aloft, over the Altar of the Fatherland, on their tall crane standards of iron, swing pensile our antique Cassolettes or pans of incense; dispensing sweet incense-fumes,–unless for the Heathen Mythology, one sees not for whom. Two hundred thousand Patriotic Men; and, twice as good, one hundred thousand Patriotic Women, all decked and glorified as one can fancy, sit waiting in this Champ-de-Mars.
What a picture: that circle of bright-eyed Life, spread up there, on its thirty-seated Slope; leaning, one would say, on the thick umbrage of those Avenue-Trees, for the stems of them are hidden by the height; and all beyond it mere greenness of Summer Earth, with the gleams of waters, or white sparklings of stone-edifices: little circular enamel-picture in the centre of such a vase–of emerald! A vase not empty: the Invalides Cupolas want not their population, nor the distant Windmills of Montmartre; on remotest steeple and invisible village belfry, stand men with spy- glasses. On the heights of Chaillot are many-coloured undulating groups; round and far on, over all the circling heights that embosom Paris, it is as one more or less peopled Amphitheatre; which the eye grows dim with measuring. Nay heights, as was before hinted, have cannon; and a floating- battery of cannon is on the Seine. When eye fails, ear shall serve; and all France properly is but one Amphitheatre: for in paved town and unpaved hamlet, men walk listening; till the muffled thunder sound audible on their horizon, that they too may begin swearing and firing! (Deux Amis, v. 168.) But now, to streams of music, come Federates enough,–for they have assembled on the Boulevard Saint-Antoine or thereby, and come marching through the City, with their Eighty-three Department Banners, and blessings not loud but deep; comes National Assembly, and takes seat under its Canopy; comes Royalty, and takes seat on a throne beside it. And Lafayette, on white charger, is here, and all the civic Functionaries; and the Federates form dances, till their strictly military evolutions and manoeuvres can begin.
Evolutions and manoeuvres? Task not the pen of mortal to describe them: truant imagination droops;–declares that it is not worth while. There is wheeling and sweeping, to slow, to quick, and double quick-time: Sieur Motier, or Generalissimo Lafayette, for they are one and the same, and he is General of France, in the King’s stead, for four-and-twenty hours; Sieur Motier must step forth, with that sublime chivalrous gait of his; solemnly ascend the steps of the Fatherland’s Altar, in sight of Heaven and of the scarcely breathing Earth; and, under the creak of those swinging Cassolettes, ‘pressing his sword’s point firmly there,’ pronounce the Oath, To King, to Law, and Nation (not to mention ‘grains’ with their circulating), in his own name and that of armed France. Whereat there is waving of banners and acclaim sufficient. The National Assembly must swear, standing in its place; the King himself audibly. The King swears; and now be the welkin split with vivats; let citizens enfranchised embrace, each smiting heartily his palm into his fellow’s; and armed Federates clang their arms; above all, that floating battery speak! It has spoken,–to the four corners of France. From eminence to eminence, bursts the thunder; faint-heard, loud-repeated. What a stone, cast into what a lake; in circles that do not grow fainter. From Arras to Avignon; from Metz to Bayonne! Over Orleans and Blois it rolls, in cannon-recitative; Puy bellows of it amid his granite mountains; Pau where is the shell-cradle of Great Henri. At far Marseilles, one can think, the ruddy evening witnesses it; over the deep-blue Mediterranean waters, the Castle of If ruddy-tinted darts forth, from every cannon’s mouth, its tongue of fire; and all the people shout: Yes, France is free. O glorious France that has burst out so; into universal sound and smoke; and attained–the Phrygian Cap of Liberty! In all Towns, Trees of Liberty also may be planted; with or without advantage. Said we not, it is the highest stretch attained by the Thespian Art on this Planet, or perhaps attainable?
The Thespian Art, unfortunately, one must still call it; for behold there, on this Field of Mars, the National Banners, before there could be any swearing, were to be all blessed. A most proper operation; since surely without Heaven’s blessing bestowed, say even, audibly or inaudibly sought, no Earthly banner or contrivance can prove victorious: but now the means of doing it? By what thrice-divine Franklin thunder-rod shall miraculous fire be drawn out of Heaven; and descend gently, life-giving, with health to the souls of men? Alas, by the simplest: by Two Hundred shaven-crowned Individuals, ‘in snow-white albs, with tricolor girdles,’ arranged on the steps of Fatherland’s Altar; and, at their head for spokesman, Soul’s Overseer Talleyrand-Perigord! These shall act as miraculous thunder-rod,– to such length as they can. O ye deep azure Heavens, and thou green all- nursing Earth; ye Streams ever-flowing; deciduous Forests that die and are born again, continually, like the sons of men; stone Mountains that die daily with every rain-shower, yet are not dead and levelled for ages of ages, nor born again (it seems) but with new world-explosions, and such tumultuous seething and tumbling, steam half way to the Moon; O thou unfathomable mystic All, garment and dwellingplace of the UNNAMED; O spirit, lastly, of Man, who mouldest and modellest that Unfathomable Unnameable even as we see,–is not there a miracle: That some French mortal should, we say not have believed, but pretended to imagine that he believed that Talleyrand and Two Hundred pieces of white Calico could do it!
Here, however, we are to remark with the sorrowing Historians of that day, that suddenly, while Episcopus Talleyrand, long-stoled, with mitre and tricolor belt, was yet but hitching up the Altar-steps, to do his miracle, the material Heaven grew black; a north-wind, moaning cold moisture, began to sing; and there descended a very deluge of rain. Sad to see! The thirty-staired Seats, all round our Amphitheatre, get instantaneously slated with mere umbrellas, fallacious when so thick set: our antique Cassolettes become Water-pots; their incense-smoke gone hissing, in a whiff of muddy vapour. Alas, instead of vivats, there is nothing now but the furious peppering and rattling. From three to four hundred thousand human individuals feel that they have a skin; happily impervious. The General’s sash runs water: how all military banners droop; and will not wave, but lazily flap, as if metamorphosed into painted tin-banners! Worse, far worse, these hundred thousand, such is the Historian’s testimony, of the fairest of France! Their snowy muslins all splashed and draggled; the ostrich feather shrunk shamefully to the backbone of a feather: all caps are ruined; innermost pasteboard molten into its original pap: Beauty no longer swims decorated in her garniture, like Love-goddess hidden-revealed in her Paphian clouds, but struggles in disastrous imprisonment in it, for ‘the shape was noticeable;’ and now only sympathetic interjections, titterings, teeheeings, and resolute good-humour will avail. A deluge; an incessant sheet or fluid-column of rain;–such that our Overseer’s very mitre must be filled; not a mitre, but a filled and leaky fire-bucket on his reverend head!–Regardless of which, Overseer Talleyrand performs his miracle: the Blessing of Talleyrand, another than that of Jacob, is on all the Eighty-three departmental flags of France; which wave or flap, with such thankfulness as needs. Towards three o’clock, the sun beams out again: the remaining evolutions can be transacted under bright heavens, though with decorations much damaged. (Deux Amis, v. 143-179.)
On Wednesday our Federation is consummated: but the festivities last out the week, and over into the next. Festivities such as no Bagdad Caliph, or Aladdin with the Lamp, could have equalled. There is a Jousting on the River; with its water-somersets, splashing and haha-ing: Abbe Fauchet, Te- Deum Fauchet, preaches, for his part, in ‘the rotunda of the Corn-market,’ a Harangue on Franklin; for whom the National Assembly has lately gone three days in black. The Motier and Lepelletier tables still groan with viands; roofs ringing with patriotic toasts. On the fifth evening, which is the Christian Sabbath, there is a universal Ball. Paris, out of doors and in, man, woman and child, is jigging it, to the sound of harp and four- stringed fiddle. The hoariest-headed man will tread one other measure, under this nether Moon; speechless nurselings, infants as we call them, (Greek), crow in arms; and sprawl out numb-plump little limbs,–impatient for muscularity, they know not why. The stiffest balk bends more or less; all joists creak.
Or out, on the Earth’s breast itself, behold the Ruins of the Bastille. All lamplit, allegorically decorated: a Tree of Liberty sixty feet high; and Phrygian Cap on it, of size enormous, under which King Arthur and his round-table might have dined! In the depths of the background, is a single lugubrious lamp, rendering dim-visible one of your iron cages, half-buried, and some Prison stones,–Tyranny vanishing downwards, all gone but the skirt: the rest wholly lamp-festoons, trees real or of pasteboard; in the similitude of a fairy grove; with this inscription, readable to runner: ‘Ici l’on danse, Dancing Here.’ As indeed had been obscurely foreshadowed by Cagliostro (See his Lettre au Peuple Francais (London, 1786.) prophetic Quack of Quacks, when he, four years ago, quitted the grim durance;–to fall into a grimmer, of the Roman Inquisition, and not quit it.
But, after all, what is this Bastille business to that of the Champs Elysees! Thither, to these Fields well named Elysian, all feet tend. It is radiant as day with festooned lamps; little oil-cups, like variegated fire-flies, daintily illumine the highest leaves: trees there are all sheeted with variegated fire, shedding far a glimmer into the dubious wood. There, under the free sky, do tight-limbed Federates, with fairest newfound sweethearts, elastic as Diana, and not of that coyness and tart humour of Diana, thread their jocund mazes, all through the ambrosial night; and hearts were touched and fired; and seldom surely had our old Planet, in that huge conic Shadow of hers ‘which goes beyond the Moon, and is named Night,’ curtained such a Ball-room. O if, according to Seneca, the very gods look down on a good man struggling with adversity, and smile; what must they think of Five-and-twenty million indifferent ones victorious over it,–for eight days and more?
In this way, and in such ways, however, has the Feast of Pikes danced itself off; gallant Federates wending homewards, towards every point of the compass, with feverish nerves, heart and head much heated; some of them, indeed, as Dampmartin’s elderly respectable friend, from Strasbourg, quite ‘burnt out with liquors,’ and flickering towards extinction. (Dampmartin, Evenemens, i. 144-184.) The Feast of Pikes has danced itself off, and become defunct, and the ghost of a Feast;–nothing of it now remaining but this vision in men’s memory; and the place that knew it (for the slope of that Champ-de-Mars is crumbled to half the original height (Dulaure, Histoire de Paris, viii. 25).) now knowing it no more. Undoubtedly one of the memorablest National Hightides. Never or hardly ever, as we said, was Oath sworn with such heart-effusion, emphasis and expenditure of joyance; and then it was broken irremediably within year and day. Ah, why? When the swearing of it was so heavenly-joyful, bosom clasped to bosom, and Five-and-twenty million hearts all burning together: O ye inexorable Destinies, why?–Partly because it was sworn with such over-joyance; but chiefly, indeed, for an older reason: that Sin had come into the world and Misery by Sin! These Five-and-twenty millions, if we will consider it, have now henceforth, with that Phrygian Cap of theirs, no force over them, to bind and guide; neither in them, more than heretofore, is guiding force, or rule of just living: how then, while they all go rushing at such a pace, on unknown ways, with no bridle, towards no aim, can hurlyburly unutterable fail? For verily not Federation-rosepink is the colour of this Earth and her work: not by outbursts of noble-sentiment, but with far other ammunition, shall a man front the world.
But how wise, in all cases, to ‘husband your fire;’ to keep it deep down, rather, as genial radical-heat! Explosions, the forciblest, and never so well directed, are questionable; far oftenest futile, always frightfully wasteful: but think of a man, of a Nation of men, spending its whole stock of fire in one artificial Firework! So have we seen fond weddings (for individuals, like Nations, have their Hightides) celebrated with an outburst of triumph and deray, at which the elderly shook their heads. Better had a serious cheerfulness been; for the enterprise was great. Fond pair! the more triumphant ye feel, and victorious over terrestrial evil, which seems all abolished, the wider-eyed will your disappointment be to find terrestrial evil still extant. “And why extant?” will each of you cry: “Because my false mate has played the traitor: evil was abolished; I meant faithfully, and did, or would have done.” Whereby the oversweet moon of honey changes itself into long years of vinegar; perhaps divulsive vinegar, like Hannibal’s.
Shall we say then, the French Nation has led Royalty, or wooed and teased poor Royalty to lead her, to the hymeneal Fatherland’s Altar, in such oversweet manner; and has, most thoughtlessly, to celebrate the nuptials with due shine and demonstration,–burnt her bed?
Dimly visible, at Metz on the North-Eastern frontier, a certain brave Bouille, last refuge of Royalty in all straits and meditations of flight, has for many months hovered occasionally in our eye; some name or shadow of a brave Bouille: let us now, for a little, look fixedly at him, till he become a substance and person for us. The man himself is worth a glance; his position and procedure there, in these days, will throw light on many things.
For it is with Bouille as with all French Commanding Officers; only in a more emphatic degree. The grand National Federation, we already guess, was but empty sound, or worse: a last loudest universal Hep-hep-hurrah, with full bumpers, in that National Lapithae-feast of Constitution-making; as in loud denial of the palpably existing; as if, with hurrahings, you would shut out notice of the inevitable already knocking at the gates! Which new National bumper, one may say, can but deepen the drunkenness; and so, the louder it swears Brotherhood, will the sooner and the more surely lead to Cannibalism. Ah, under that fraternal shine and clangour, what a deep world of irreconcileable discords lie momentarily assuaged, damped down for one moment! Respectable military Federates have barely got home to their quarters; and the inflammablest, ‘dying, burnt up with liquors, and kindness,’ has not yet got extinct; the shine is hardly out of men’s eyes, and still blazes filling all men’s memories,–when your discords burst forth again very considerably darker than ever. Let us look at Bouille, and see how.
Bouille for the present commands in the Garrison of Metz, and far and wide over the East and North; being indeed, by a late act of Government with sanction of National Assembly, appointed one of our Four supreme Generals. Rochambeau and Mailly, men and Marshals of note in these days, though to us of small moment, are two of his colleagues; tough old babbling Luckner, also of small moment for us, will probably be the third. Marquis de Bouille is a determined Loyalist; not indeed disinclined to moderate reform, but resolute against immoderate. A man long suspect to Patriotism; who has more than once given the august Assembly trouble; who would not, for example, take the National Oath, as he was bound to do, but always put it off on this or the other pretext, till an autograph of Majesty requested him to do it as a favour. There, in this post if not of honour, yet of eminence and danger, he waits, in a silent concentered manner; very dubious of the future. ‘Alone,’ as he says, or almost alone, of all the old military Notabilities, he has not emigrated; but thinks always, in atrabiliar moments, that there will be nothing for him too but to cross the marches. He might cross, say, to Treves or Coblentz where Exiled Princes will be one day ranking; or say, over into Luxemburg where old Broglie loiters and languishes. Or is there not the great dim Deep of European Diplomacy; where your Calonnes, your Breteuils are beginning to hover, dimly discernible?
With immeasurable confused outlooks and purposes, with no clear purpose but this of still trying to do His Majesty a service, Bouille waits; struggling what he can to keep his district loyal, his troops faithful, his garrisons furnished. He maintains, as yet, with his Cousin Lafayette, some thin diplomatic correspondence, by letter and messenger; chivalrous constitutional professions on the one side, military gravity and brevity on the other; which thin correspondence one can see growing ever the thinner and hollower, towards the verge of entire vacuity. (Bouille, Memoires (London, 1797), i. c. 8.) A quick, choleric, sharply discerning, stubbornly endeavouring man; with suppressed-explosive resolution, with valour, nay headlong audacity: a man who was more in his place, lionlike defending those Windward Isles, or, as with military tiger-spring, clutching Nevis and Montserrat from the English,–than here in this suppressed condition, muzzled and fettered by diplomatic packthreads; looking out for a civil war, which may never arrive. Few years ago Bouille was to have led a French East-Indian Expedition, and reconquered or conquered Pondicherri and the Kingdoms of the Sun: but the whole world is suddenly changed, and he with it; Destiny willed it not in that way but in this.
Arrears and Aristocrats.
Indeed, as to the general outlook of things, Bouille himself augurs not well of it. The French Army, ever since those old Bastille days, and earlier, has been universally in the questionablest state, and growing daily worse. Discipline, which is at all times a kind of miracle, and works by faith, broke down then; one sees not with that near prospect of recovering itself. The Gardes Francaises played a deadly game; but how they won it, and wear the prizes of it, all men know. In that general overturn, we saw the Hired Fighters refuse to fight. The very Swiss of Chateau-Vieux, which indeed is a kind of French Swiss, from Geneva and the Pays de Vaud, are understood to have declined. Deserters glided over; Royal-Allemand itself looked disconsolate, though stanch of purpose. In a word, we there saw Military Rule, in the shape of poor Besenval with that convulsive unmanageable Camp of his, pass two martyr days on the Champ-de- Mars; and then, veiling itself, so to speak, ‘under the cloud of night,’ depart ‘down the left bank of the Seine,’ to seek refuge elsewhere; this ground having clearly become too hot for it.
But what new ground to seek, what remedy to try? Quarters that were ‘uninfected:’ this doubtless, with judicious strictness of drilling, were the plan. Alas, in all quarters and places, from Paris onward to the remotest hamlet, is infection, is seditious contagion: inhaled, propagated by contact and converse, till the dullest soldier catch it! There is speech of men in uniform with men not in uniform; men in uniform read journals, and even write in them. (See Newspapers of July, 1789 (in Hist. Parl. ii. 35), &c.) There are public petitions or remonstrances, private emissaries and associations; there is discontent, jealousy, uncertainty, sullen suspicious humour. The whole French Army, fermenting in dark heat, glooms ominous, boding good to no one.
So that, in the general social dissolution and revolt, we are to have this deepest and dismallest kind of it, a revolting soldiery? Barren, desolate to look upon is this same business of revolt under all its aspects; but how infinitely more so, when it takes the aspect of military mutiny! The very implement of rule and restraint, whereby all the rest was managed and held in order, has become precisely the frightfullest immeasurable implement of misrule; like the element of Fire, our indispensable all-ministering servant, when it gets the mastery, and becomes conflagration. Discipline we called a kind of miracle: in fact, is it not miraculous how one man moves hundreds of thousands; each unit of whom it may be loves him not, and singly fears him not, yet has to obey him, to go hither or go thither, to march and halt, to give death, and even to receive it, as if a Fate had spoken; and the word-of-command becomes, almost in the literal sense, a magic-word?
Which magic-word, again, if it be once forgotten; the spell of it once broken! The legions of assiduous ministering spirits rise on you now as menacing fiends; your free orderly arena becomes a tumult-place of the Nether Pit, and the hapless magician is rent limb from limb. Military mobs are mobs with muskets in their hands; and also with death hanging over their heads, for death is the penalty of disobedience and they have disobeyed. And now if all mobs are properly frenzies, and work frenetically with mad fits of hot and of cold, fierce rage alternating so incoherently with panic terror, consider what your military mob will be, with such a conflict of duties and penalties, whirled between remorse and fury, and, for the hot fit, loaded fire-arms in its hand! To the soldier himself, revolt is frightful, and oftenest perhaps pitiable; and yet so dangerous, it can only be hated, cannot be pitied. An anomalous class of mortals these poor Hired Killers! With a frankness, which to the Moralist in these times seems surprising, they have sworn to become machines; and nevertheless they are still partly men. Let no prudent person in authority remind them of this latter fact; but always let force, let injustice above all, stop short clearly on this side of the rebounding-point! Soldiers, as we often say, do revolt: were it not so, several things which are transient in this world might be perennial.
Over and above the general quarrel which all sons of Adam maintain with their lot here below, the grievances of the French soldiery reduce themselves to two, First that their Officers are Aristocrats; secondly that they cheat them of their Pay. Two grievances; or rather we might say one, capable of becoming a hundred; for in that single first proposition, that the Officers are Aristocrats, what a multitude of corollaries lie ready! It is a bottomless ever-flowing fountain of grievances this; what you may call a general raw-material of grievance, wherefrom individual grievance after grievance will daily body itself forth. Nay there will even be a kind of comfort in getting it, from time to time, so embodied. Peculation of one’s Pay! It is embodied; made tangible, made denounceable; exhalable, if only in angry words.
For unluckily that grand fountain of grievances does exist: Aristocrats almost all our Officers necessarily are; they have it in the blood and bone. By the law of the case, no man can pretend to be the pitifullest lieutenant of militia, till he have first verified, to the satisfaction of the Lion-King, a Nobility of four generations. Not Nobility only, but four generations of it: this latter is the improvement hit upon, in comparatively late years, by a certain War-minister much pressed for commissions. (Dampmartin, Evenemens, i. 89.) An improvement which did relieve the over-pressed War-minister, but which split France still further into yawning contrasts of Commonalty and Nobility, nay of new Nobility and old; as if already with your new and old, and then with your old, older and oldest, there were not contrasts and discrepancies enough;–the general clash whereof men now see and hear, and in the singular whirlpool, all contrasts gone together to the bottom! Gone to the bottom or going; with uproar, without return; going every where save in the Military section of things; and there, it may be asked, can they hope to continue always at the top? Apparently, not.
It is true, in a time of external Peace, when there is no fighting but only drilling, this question, How you rise from the ranks, may seem theoretical rather. But in reference to the Rights of Man it is continually practical. The soldier has sworn to be faithful not to the King only, but to the Law and the Nation. Do our commanders love the Revolution? ask all soldiers. Unhappily no, they hate it, and love the Counter-Revolution. Young epauletted men, with quality-blood in them, poisoned with quality-pride, do sniff openly, with indignation struggling to become contempt, at our Rights of Man, as at some newfangled cobweb, which shall be brushed down again. Old officers, more cautious, keep silent, with closed uncurled lips; but one guesses what is passing within. Nay who knows, how, under the plausiblest word of command, might lie Counter-Revolution itself, sale to Exiled Princes and the Austrian Kaiser: treacherous Aristocrats hoodwinking the small insight of us common men?–In such manner works that general raw-material of grievance; disastrous; instead of trust and reverence, breeding hate, endless suspicion, the impossibility of commanding and obeying. And now when this second more tangible grievance has articulated itself universally in the mind of the common man: Peculation of his Pay! Peculation of the despicablest sort does exist, and has long existed; but, unless the new-declared Rights of Man, and all rights whatsoever, be a cobweb, it shall no longer exist.
The French Military System seems dying a sorrowful suicidal death. Nay more, citizen, as is natural, ranks himself against citizen in this cause. The soldier finds audience, of numbers and sympathy unlimited, among the Patriot lower-classes. Nor are the higher wanting to the officer. The officer still dresses and perfumes himself for such sad unemigrated soiree as there may still be; and speaks his woes,–which woes, are they not Majesty’s and Nature’s? Speaks, at the same time, his gay defiance, his firm-set resolution. Citizens, still more Citizenesses, see the right and the wrong; not the Military System alone will die by suicide, but much along with it. As was said, there is yet possible a deepest overturn than any yet witnessed: that deepest upturn of the black-burning sulphurous stratum whereon all rests and grows!
But how these things may act on the rude soldier-mind, with its military pedantries, its inexperience of all that lies off the parade-ground; inexperience as of a child, yet fierceness of a man and vehemence of a Frenchman! It is long that secret communings in mess-room and guard-room, sour looks, thousandfold petty vexations between commander and commanded, measure every where the weary military day. Ask Captain Dampmartin; an authentic, ingenious literary officer of horse; who loves the Reign of Liberty, after a sort; yet has had his heart grieved to the quick many times, in the hot South-Western region and elsewhere; and has seen riot, civil battle by daylight and by torchlight, and anarchy hatefuller than death. How insubordinate Troopers, with drink in their heads, meet Captain Dampmartin and another on the ramparts, where there is no escape or side- path; and make military salute punctually, for we look calm on them; yet make it in a snappish, almost insulting manner: how one morning they ‘leave all their chamois shirts’ and superfluous buffs, which they are tired of, laid in piles at the Captain’s doors; whereat ‘we laugh,’ as the ass does, eating thistles: nay how they ‘knot two forage-cords together,’ with universal noisy cursing, with evident intent to hang the Quarter- master:–all this the worthy Captain, looking on it through the ruddy-and- sable of fond regretful memory, has flowingly written down. (Dampmartin, Evenemens, i. 122-146.) Men growl in vague discontent; officers fling up their commissions, and emigrate in disgust.
Or let us ask another literary Officer; not yet Captain; Sublieutenant only, in the Artillery Regiment La Fere: a young man of twenty-one; not unentitled to speak; the name of him is Napoleon Buonaparte. To such height of Sublieutenancy has he now got promoted, from Brienne School, five years ago; ‘being found qualified in mathematics by La Place.’ He is lying at Auxonne, in the West, in these months; not sumptuously lodged–‘in the house of a Barber, to whose wife he did not pay the customary degree of respect;’ or even over at the Pavilion, in a chamber with bare walls; the only furniture an indifferent ‘bed without curtains, two chairs, and in the recess of a window a table covered with books and papers: his Brother Louis sleeps on a coarse mattrass in an adjoining room.’ However, he is doing something great: writing his first Book or Pamphlet,–eloquent vehement Letter to M. Matteo Buttafuoco, our Corsican Deputy, who is not a Patriot but an Aristocrat, unworthy of Deputyship. Joly of Dole is Publisher. The literary Sublieutenant corrects the proofs; ‘sets out on foot from Auxonne, every morning at four o’clock, for Dole: after looking over the proofs, he partakes of an extremely frugal breakfast with Joly, and immediately prepares for returning to his Garrison; where he arrives before noon, having thus walked above twenty miles in the course of the morning.’
This Sublieutenant can remark that, in drawing-rooms, on streets, on highways, at inns, every where men’s minds are ready to kindle into a flame. That a Patriot, if he appear in the drawing-room, or amid a group of officers, is liable enough to be discouraged, so great is the majority against him: but no sooner does he get into the street, or among the soldiers, than he feels again as if the whole Nation were with him. That after the famous Oath, To the King, to the Nation and Law, there was a great change; that before this, if ordered to fire on the people, he for one would have done it in the King’s name; but that after this, in the Nation’s name, he would not have done it. Likewise that the Patriot officers, more numerous too in the Artillery and Engineers than elsewhere, were few in number; yet that having the soldiers on their side, they ruled the regiment; and did often deliver the Aristocrat brother officer out of peril and strait. One day, for example, ‘a member of our own mess roused the mob, by singing, from the windows of our dining-room, O Richard, O my King; and I had to snatch him from their fury.’ (Norvins, Histoire de Napoleon, i. 47; Las Cases, Memoires (translated into Hazlitt’s Life of Napoleon, i. 23-31.)
All which let the reader multiply by ten thousand; and spread it with slight variations over all the camps and garrisons of France. The French Army seems on the verge of universal mutiny.
Universal mutiny! There is in that what may well make Patriot Constitutionalism and an august Assembly shudder. Something behoves to be done; yet what to do no man can tell. Mirabeau proposes even that the Soldiery, having come to such a pass, be forthwith disbanded, the whole Two Hundred and Eighty Thousands of them; and organised anew. (Moniteur, 1790. No. 233.) Impossible this, in so sudden a manner! cry all men. And yet literally, answer we, it is inevitable, in one manner or another. Such an Army, with its four-generation Nobles, its Peculated Pay, and men knotting forage cords to hang their quartermaster, cannot subsist beside such a Revolution. Your alternative is a slow-pining chronic dissolution and new organization; or a swift decisive one; the agonies spread over years, or concentrated into an hour. With a Mirabeau for Minister or Governor the latter had been the choice; with no Mirabeau for Governor it will naturally be the former.
Bouille at Metz.
To Bouille, in his North-Eastern circle, none of these things are altogether hid. Many times flight over the marches gleams out on him as a last guidance in such bewilderment: nevertheless he continues here: struggling always to hope the best, not from new organisation but from happy Counter-Revolution and return to the old. For the rest it is clear to him that this same National Federation, and universal swearing and fraternising of People and Soldiers, has done ‘incalculable mischief.’ So much that fermented secretly has hereby got vent and become open: National Guards and Soldiers of the line, solemnly embracing one another on all parade-fields, drinking, swearing patriotic oaths, fall into disorderly street-processions, constitutional unmilitary exclamations and hurrahings. On which account the Regiment Picardie, for one, has to be drawn out in the square of the barracks, here at Metz, and sharply harangued by the General himself; but expresses penitence. (Bouille, Memoires, i. 113.)
Far and near, as accounts testify, insubordination has begun grumbling louder and louder. Officers have been seen shut up in their mess-rooms; assaulted with clamorous demands, not without menaces. The insubordinate ringleader is dismissed with ‘yellow furlough,’ yellow infamous thing they call cartouche jaune: but ten new ringleaders rise in his stead, and the yellow cartouche ceases to be thought disgraceful. ‘Within a fortnight,’ or at furthest a month, of that sublime Feast of Pikes, the whole French Army, demanding Arrears, forming Reading Clubs, frequenting Popular Societies, is in a state which Bouille can call by no name but that of mutiny. Bouille knows it as few do; and speaks by dire experience. Take one instance instead of many.
It is still an early day of August, the precise date now undiscoverable, when Bouille, about to set out for the waters of Aix la Chapelle, is once more suddenly summoned to the barracks of Metz. The soldiers stand ranked in fighting order, muskets loaded, the officers all there on compulsion; and require, with many-voiced emphasis, to have their arrears paid. Picardie was penitent; but we see it has relapsed: the wide space bristles and lours with mere mutinous armed men. Brave Bouille advances to the nearest Regiment, opens his commanding lips to harangue; obtains nothing but querulous-indignant discordance, and the sound of so many thousand livres legally due. The moment is trying; there are some ten thousand soldiers now in Metz, and one spirit seems to have spread among them.
Bouille is firm as the adamant; but what shall he do? A German Regiment, named of Salm, is thought to be of better temper: nevertheless Salm too may have heard of the precept, Thou shalt not steal; Salm too may know that money is money. Bouille walks trustfully towards the Regiment de Salm, speaks trustful words; but here again is answered by the cry of forty-four thousand livres odd sous. A cry waxing more and more vociferous, as Salm’s humour mounts; which cry, as it will produce no cash or promise of cash, ends in the wide simultaneous whirr of shouldered muskets, and a determined quick-time march on the part of Salm–towards its Colonel’s house, in the next street, there to seize the colours and military chest. Thus does Salm, for its part; strong in the faith that meum is not tuum, that fair speeches are not forty-four thousand livres odd sous.
Unrestrainable! Salm tramps to military time, quick consuming the way. Bouille and the officers, drawing sword, have to dash into double quick pas-de-charge, or unmilitary running; to get the start; to station themselves on the outer staircase, and stand there with what of death- defiance and sharp steel they have; Salm truculently coiling itself up, rank after rank, opposite them, in such humour as we can fancy, which happily has not yet mounted to the murder-pitch. There will Bouille stand, certain at least of one man’s purpose; in grim calmness, awaiting the issue. What the intrepidest of men and generals can do is done. Bouille, though there is a barricading picket at each end of the street, and death under his eyes, contrives to send for a Dragoon Regiment with orders to charge: the dragoon officers mount; the dragoon men will not: hope is none there for him. The street, as we say, barricaded; the Earth all shut