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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 12

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Thus encouraged, Mirabeau renewed his motion in the national assembly. He demanded that the troops should be withdrawn from the neighbourhood of Versailles and Paris, and a burgher guard substituted. He also moved that the " discussion on the constitution should be suspended till the security of the capital and the assembly were effected." He moved for an address to the king, praying him to dismiss the troops, and rely on the affections of his people. The motion was carried, and a committee appointed to draw up the address. This office was assigned to Mirabeau, who produced one written by Dumont, which was greatly applauded. The address stated that, every day, more and more troops were advancing; all the roads were intercepted; the bridges and promenades turned into military posts; that they saw more soldiers gathered around them than were necessary even for a foreign invasion, and ten times more than would have been necessary to preserve the alliance with Holland, which had been so dearly purchased and so shamefully lost. The address breathed the warmest loyalty to the king, though it condemned severely the counsels of his ministers, and it added a startling warning. This army, it said, brought so near the centre of discussion, this very army, were but men, and might catch the popular contagion; but that the king might rely on the assembly, which would go straightforward in the work of regeneration, in spite of snares, plots, difficulties, or dangers.

The address was presented by a deputation of twenty- four members. The king replied, that the troops had been assembled to preserve public tranquillity and to protect the national assembly; but that, if the assembly felt any apprehension, he would send away the troops to Noyon or Soissons, and would go himself to Compiegne. This answer was anything but satisfactory, for this would be to withdraw the assembly much farther from Paris, for Compiegne was fifty miles from the capital, and the movement would thus weaken the influence of the assembly, cut off in a much greater degree the communication with the Parisians, and, at the same time, place the king between two powerful armies - the one under Broglie, at Soissons, and another which lay on the river Oise, under the marquis de Bouille, a relative of Lafayette, but a most determined royalist. The assembly was greatly disconcerted when this reply was reported. The count de Crillon believed there was no cause for alarm; that they might rely on the word of the king, who was an honest man. Mirabeau said, " The word of an honest king is a bad guarantee for the conduct of his ministers. Our blind confidence in our king has been our ruin. We demanded the withdrawal of those troops, not that we should fly before them. We must insist again and again." The earnest recommendation of Mirabeau was not supported. The people of Paris were indignant at what they called the apathy of the assembly. They believed that the infusion of so many aristocrats and clergy had weakened the patriotism of that body. The assembly increased this feeling by dismissing the subject of the removal of the troops, and discussing a paper on the rights of man, presented by Lafayette. Guillotin, one of the very moderates of the assembly, hastened to Paris to reassure the electors. He declared all went well; that Necker was more firm in power than ever. The electors, like the assembly, were lulled to security. They received Guillotines news with applause, and heard with joy that the assembly were preparing an admirable paper on the national rights, which they were going to send immediately to the electors.

At the very moment that the electors were thus felicitating themselves on the tidings brought by Guillotin, Necker was receiving his dismissal. His situation at court had been most painful. The people surrounded the palace, crying, " Vive Necker!" " Vive le ministre du peuple! " He was more popular than ever, because he had not appeared to support the coup-d'etat. At the same time, when the queen appeared on the balcony with a child in her arms, the fiercest execrations were uttered amid curses on the aristocrats. This made Necker all the more unpopular within the palace. He was accused of having produced all the mischiefs existing by advising the king to summon the states-general. He, on his part, retorted that the nobles and bishops were the cause, by preventing the king following the plans he had laid down. Necker, therefore, begged to resign; but he had been always desired to remain, for the court apprehended an outbreak if he were dismissed. But now, matters being deemed sufficiently safe - the army being in grand force - the king, on the 11th of July, suddenly took him at his word. Necker was just sitting down to dinner when he received the king's note, which begged him to keep his retirement secret, and to get across the frontiers as expeditiously as possible. He had sufficient self-command to conceal his feelings, and after dinner, asking his wife to accompany him in a drive to visit a friend, he took his leave without even making his daughter aware of the real fact.

When it was known at court that Necker was gone, even Broglie and Breteuil were somewhat dismayed. Broglie did not wish that Necker should go. Breteuil said, " In this case, we shall want a hundred thousand men and a hundred million of francs." " You shall have them," gaily replied the queen; and secret orders were given to make paper money. Besenval, who for eight years had had the command of the army of the interior, and who was ordered to put himself under the command of the old marshal Broglie, now in his seventy-first year, represented to the marshal the real danger of the situation: that it was no ordinary campaign in the field, but a conflict with a city of eight hundred thousand souls in the highest condition of enthusiasm. But Broglie was too busy to listen. His house was like a fair; full of aides-de-camp, couriers, clerks; orders were flying in all directions; horses stood ready saddled for mounting with dispatches; ä list of general officers was in preparation; an order of battle was discussed.

On the morning of the next day, Sunday, the 12th of July, the news was all over Paris that Necker was dismissed, as well as Montmorin, De la Luzerne, De Puysegur, and St. Priest; that their successors were Breteuil, Broglie as war minister as well as commander-in-chief, De la Vauguyon, Foulon, and Damecoret, all notorious for their opposition to the popular cause. The alarm was intense. Governeur Morris urged marshal de Castries, a great friend of the king, to hasten to Versailles and open the eyes of Louis to the truth: that the troops would not fight; that the people would stand by the national assembly; and that to attempt to crush the revolution by arms would be fatal to him. De Castries replied that it was useless; and unquestionably it was, for nothing but the truth in all its frightful actuality could prove to the court its folly. That truth was at hand! All Paris was in an uproar. The Palais- Royal was choked with people in a frenzy of excitement. All at once a young man leaped upon a table and shouted, " To arms! to arms! whilst we are talking, foreign troops are gathering round us to massacre us!"

This orator, whose loud voice and dramatic action stopped in a moment the loud buzz of tongues, and the voices of lesser orators, mounted on chairs and tables, was Benoit Camille Desmoulins, already a favourite orator of the people on this spot. He was a man of talent, but of the most rabid republicanism, and on fire with all the atheistic dogmas of the philosophers; so much so, that when asked his age, when he was afterwards arrested by his own murderous compatriots, and hurried to the guillotine, he replied, "The same as the ragged Jesus, thirty-three!" He had been a fellow-student with the sanguinary Robespierre; and he was ready, in his mad desire to overturn everything of the past, to wade, like that tyrant, through scenes of blood. This fanatic revolutionist, whom Thiers calls " a young man endowed with a tender heart but an impetuous spirit," now held up a brace of pistols; and, snatching a green twig from a tree, stuck it into his hat as a cockade. There was an instantaneous imitation of the act by the whole mass of people. The trees were all stripped naked, and a woman brought out a great roll of green ribbon, and cut off cockades for the patriots as far as it would go.

The mob speedily broke into the shop of M. Curtius, a Swiss, who modelled busts in wax; this Curtius being the uncle of madame Tussaud, of London fame, in the same line. They seized on the busts of Necker and of the duke of Orleans, who, it was said, was to be banished; and, covering them with black crape, carried them through the streets, crying, "Hats off! hats off!" The cry was, " No theatres! no dancing! It is a day of woe!" The mob, armed with pistols, clubs, swords, and axes, continued their procession along the rue Richelieu; then turning on the Boulevard, along the rues St. Martin, St. Denis, St. Honors, to the Place Vendöme, where they paraded the busts round the statue of Louis XIV., which stood where the Bonaparte column now stands. There a German squadron was drawn up before the hotel of the farmers-general, and attacked the crowd, destroyed the busts, and killed a soldier of the French guard who stood his ground. The commandant, Bezenval, remained inactive in the Ecole Militaire; he was without orders from Broglie; and, besides, dared not trust the French guards, but kept them close in their barracks. But he had three foreign regiments at his disposal, one of Swiss and two of German cavalry. Towards afternoon, seeing the disorder increase, he sent the Swiss into the Champs Elysées with four pieces of cannon, and the German cavalry into the Place Louis Quinze, adjoining. Towards evening, the crowd, returning from the Champs Elysées, entered the gardens of the Tuileries, where they saw the German cavalry drawn up, but continued to pass on. It is said that some of the mob insulted the Germans, and some boys threw stones; whereupon Bezenval, who had been accused at Versailles of doing nothing, ordered the prince Lambesc to charge them with the cavalry, and drive them back. Lambesc at first attempted to repel the throng by advancing only at a foot-pace, but he was opposed by a barricade of the chairs, which are let out in thousands in 'these resorts, and was assailed by showers of stones. He then fired over the heads of the people. The women raised piercing shrieks, the men pressed on to close the gates behind him. Lambesc rushed forward, overturning an old schoolmaster who was not alert enough to get behind the railing, and so was severely injured. As Lambesc was marching along the Chaussee d'Antm, he was met by a body of the French guards, who had escaped from their barracks to avenge their slain comrade. They fired on him and killed three of the German cavalry, and wounded numbers more. They then advanced with fixed bayonets to the Place Louis Quinze, where the Swiss guards were posted. There they and the Swiss remained facing each other under arms all night, the people feasting and encouraging the French guards; who, however, did not come to blows with the Swiss. Lambesc had continued his route to St. Cloud, leaving the city all night in the hands of the mob, who burnt the barriers at the different entrances, so as to allow free access to the people from the country; and broke open the gunsmiths' shops, and carried off the arms.

The crowds who had dispersed themselves over Paris carried everywhere the most horrible reports of the savage cruelty of the German cavalry; of their firing upon, and running over women and children. The indignation became furious. Thousands rushed to the Hotel de Ville, demanding arms and ringing the tocsin. The few electors who were there endeavoured to calm them; but fresh crowds came pouring in, and crying " Arms! arms!" The electors shrank from the responsibility of giving out the arms there, but the people forced their way in, and began to seize them for themselves. The electors were compelled to give way, and soon was seen a man clad only in his shirt, without shoes or stockings, placing himself, with a musket on his shoulder, as sentinel at the door of the hall.

On the Monday morning, by six o'clock, the alarm bells were ringing from all the churches in the city; the tocsin was sounding from the Hötel de Ville, and the crowds again ran thither, demanding arms and ammunition. The electors, in despair, declared that they could not issue arms without the order of the provost of trades. " Then send for him!" cried the mob; and Flesselles, the provost, was sent for. He had just been sent for by the king to Versailles, but he felt the necessity of obeying the people first, for the crowd was thickly interspersed with the thieves which figured so prominently at the destruction of Reveillon's house, and which always seem to start out of the ground on these occasions. He was received with loud applause in the Place de Gräve, and he was patronisingly polite. " You shall be satisfied, my children; I am your father." He declared that he would not wish to hold office except by the election of the people. (Fresh applause.) Flesselles assured the crowd that he had made a contract with a gunsmith for a large quantity of muskets; a thing, considering the shortness of the time since the disturbances began, wholly incredible. Yet he promised them twelve thousand that day, and more the next. He demanded who should be their general. Some of the electors proposed Lafayette, some one, some another. The people grew rabid with impatience; they wanted arms, not arguments. The famishing multitude, hearing that there was a great hoard of corn at the monastery of St. Lazare, rushed away, broke in, found corn enough to load fifty carts, which were sent to the market, and there distributed. They seized sixty barrels of gunpowder on the Seine; attacked the Guarde Meuble, and seized the arms there, which, however, were old and nearly useless. They grew impatient, and demanded that Flesselles should inform them where the thirty thousand stand of arms which the intendant Berthier had had made were concealed. He promised to discover, and send them to the Hotel de Ville. About five o'clock in the evening, a number of carts were seen traversing the Greve, with large chests, marked "Artillery." Behold the expected muskets! they cried. The chests were broken open, and they were discovered to be only chests of old rags! There was a terrible cry of rage, and exclamations of treachery. Flesselles stood confounded; but some one near him, to extricate him from his perilous situation, declared that there was a great and concealed depot of arms at the monastery of the Celestins, the Chartreux. The crowd hastened thither; the monks had none, and the fury now rose to a tremendous pitch. To avert sanguinary consequences, the electors gave orders for the manufacture of fifty thousand pikes, of which thirty-six thousand were made in as many hours. During all this night, however, Paris was in the hands of the mob, who tore up the pavements and carried the stones into the houses, to be dropped on the heads of the military, should they enter the city; dug deep trenches, and threw up barricades. All round the Hotel de Tille carriages were stopped, wagons intercepted, and travellers were waiting permission to proceed on their way. The powder seized on the Seine was brought to the Hotel de Ville; there it was distributed amid circumstances of the most imminent peril to the place and all in it. The abbé Lefebre d'Onnesson, a man of the highest courage, charged himself with the task of distributing the powder to the furious crowd. During eight-and-forty hours he remained on an actual mine. The insensate claimants fought and struggled for the combustible material amid the light of lanterns and candles, and one drunken fellow sate and smoked on the open casks of powder!

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