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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 16

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The great event of the reduction of the Bastille, and the disturbed state of Paris since that great day, the 14th of July, had suspended the activity of the national assembly, but now these very events stimulated it to renewed action. Consternation had seized the court and the aristocracy; they were ready to make enormous sacrifices to avoid utter spoliation; but the assembly, too, was in augmented fear of the people, and it was divided in itself. The chief advocate of the aristocracy there was a young captain in the queen's dragoons, named Cazales; the abbé Maury was the great defender of the church; the national party was split into several factions. Mounier, Lally-Tollendal, Malouet, and others were advocates of a constitution resembling that of England, consisting of a house of commons, a house of peers, and the king as the ultimate umpire on all great questions. They went with Necker. A set of young men, Barnave, an advocate of Grenoble, Duport, a young councillor to the parliament, and the two Lamethes, were for a far more deraocratical constitution - only one chamber; the people as almost everything; the king was not, even in their view, to have a veto on the acts of the chamber. The popular chamber was to legislate, the king to execute. Mirabeau was a party in himself. He mixed with all parties and learned all their objects; but he still, in reality, stood alone - sometimes agreeing with one party, sometimes with another; sometimes opposing both, but always denouncing the aristocracy, whom he hated for their rejection of him; but he was always for maintaining the monarchy. He hated the brutal and ignorant tyranny of mobs as much as that of nobles; but he tolerated the excesses of the people, that through them he might destroy the aristocrats. His genius, his ambition, his vices, and his poverty were hurrying him towards an unknown future; but while floating towards his own destiny, he controlled more than any other man the destinies of France.

It was time that the assembly should settle something, for everything in town and country was unsettled and running fast towards universal anarchy. The people of Paris had shaken off their fetters, and the impulse thus given had acted on all the country. Strange rumours were spread, as it was supposed, from the coteries in Paris, to induce the people everywhere to arm themselves. It was declared that bands of lawless men were traversing the country, treading down and cutting the corn before the harvest, so as to produce universal famine. These brigands were expected everywhere, and seen nowhere; but the result was the one desired - the people had everywhere armed themselves. With arms in their hands, they now put in practice all that their atheistic philosophers and novelists - the Voltaires, Rousseaus, Diderots, &c. - had taught all France. They refused to pay any feudal obligations; they turned upon the landholders, burnt down their mansions, ravaged their fields, and made, in razing their houses, an especial quest after all title- deeds, to prevent the possibility of future reclamation of property. An accident furnished a pretext for indulgence in the most diabolical cruelties towards these ancient possessors of the soil. The lord of Quincey, the sieur de Mesmai, one of the judges of the parliament of Besancon, gave a fete in the grounds of his chateau; the peasantry were assembled there, and enjoying their dances, when a barrel of gunpowder exploded and killed several of them. A cry was immediately raised that it was designed, and the story soon ran, with ample exaggerations, all over the country. De Mesmai proved, by the testimony of numbers of persons there, that the explosion was purely accidental; but the mischief was already done. The chateau of Do Mesmai was reduced to ashes, his estate ravaged, the houses and property of his neighbours soon suffered the same fate, and the calumny, bearing terror and destruction, spread with the wings of hatred and vengeance. The work of destruction ran riot throughout Burgundy, Franche Comte, Dauphiny, Champagne, Alsace, Brittany, and other provinces. The plunder and destruction were attended by all the horrors which cruelty, lust, and devilry could invent and perpetrate. The details of these horrible ferocities are too vile for description. The mobs - as French mobs in all ages have been - were excited to a frenzy of ferocity and obscenity which hell itself could not surpass. The proprietors, men, women, and children, were tortured, to compel them to give up their title-deeds, and for the mere enjoyment of cruelty, in every form of insolence and horror which distinguished the first Jacquerie. In most places the aristocracy fled, if possible, and left all they had to the ravagers; but in others they united, and repelled and extensively slaughtered their assailants, as in the Maconnois and Beaujolois. But the national assembly, which had not uttered a word of condemnation of the barbarities of the people, instantly sent orders to stop the retaliation of the landholders. The assembly dared not incur the resentment of the people. " They had," says Dumont, " triumphed by means of the people, and could not be severe against them. They had put themselves under the necessity of either fearing the noblesse, or of making the noblesse fear them. They condemned for decency's sake, but they managed and conciliated the mob for policy."

Whilst these abominations were enacting, the assembly was discussing a declaration of the rights of man. The Americans had preceded their constitution by such a declaration, and La Fayette insisted that France must do the same. Jefferson, who was still there, strongly recommended it; and the assembly, on the 4th of August, voted that such a declaration should be drawn up, and should head the constitution, which now also was on the anvil. The deputies were already deep in a slough of metaphysical arguments on this question when the committee appointed to inquire into the provincial outrages and the best mode of putting an end to them brought in its report. M. Leguen de Kerengal, a landowner of Bretagne, appeared in the tribunal in the dress of a farmer, and drew a frightful picture of the feudal system. He was followed by Lapoule, a deputy of Franche Comte, who amplified the statements of M. Kerengal, descriptive of the detestable and oppressive customs of the aristocrats sanctioned by feudal usage. A sudden fit of generosity seemed to seize the nobles in the assembly - which, in fact, was a fit of terror - for they had come to the conclusion that no protection was to be expected from the assembly against the fury and cupidity of the people. They saw that the assembly was the slave of the people; that the army had fraternised with the people; and that they were at the mercy of the merciless populace. Their burning mansions, their violated wives and daughters, their murdered children, their own terrible experience - some of them having been suspended for whole days in wells, or forced to yield their title-deeds with bayonets or scythes at their throats - were all too vivid in their memories or their imaginations; every one was in a hurry to be first to sacrifice these feudalities to save their houses and their acres. Never was such a scene of frenzied, impetuous, wholesale renunciation of rights witnessed since the world began. These aristocrats, who had refused all concession to demands most reasonable till they had roused the people into masters in the shape of furies, now stood up clamorous to strip themselves of all honours and privileges in a feigned paroxysm of generosity!

The viscount de Noailles and the duke d'Aiguillon declared that it would be wicked and absurd to employ force to quiet the people. They must destroy the cause of their sufferings, and all would be accomplished. The nobles hastened to renounce their privileges. They crowded round the table to enumerate what they surrendered. The commons, having nothing of their own to give up, surrendered the privileges and charters of towns and provinces. Some offered up their pensions; and one deputy, having nothing else, surrendered his personal convenience, pledging himself to devote his energies to the public welfare. The whole assembly was in a ferment and fever-heat paroxysm of renunciation, such as could only be witnessed in France. Lally-Tollendal, unable to approach the tribunal, sent up a note to the president. " Everything is to be apprehended from the enthusiasm of the assembly. Break up the sitting!" He knew very well that in these fits of emotion, which seize Frenchmen, the reaction is always proportionate. A member, running to him, grasped his hand, and said, " Procure us the royal sanction to our sacrifices, and we are friends." Lally moved that the king should be proclaimed the restorer of French liberty, which was carried by acclamation; that a Te Deum should be performed for this joyful event; and the assembly broke up about midnight in a bewilderment of rapture and wonder at its own deed. The assembly had, on this memorable night, decreed nothing less than -

The abolition of all serfdom.
The right of compounding for the seignorial dues; and abolition of seignorial jurisdictions.
The suppression of exclusive rights of hunting, shooting, keeping warrens, dovecotes, &c.
The abolition of tithes; the equality of taxes.
The admission of all citizens to civil and military employments; the abolition of the sale of offices.
The suppression of all the privileges of towns and provinces.
The reformation of wardenships; and the suppression of pensions obtained without just claims.
That was the work of one night! There was reform enough for the legitimate performance of years. To such an extent had this French sentiment carried the assembly, that the duke of Liancourt proposed that a medal should be struck to commemorate this glorious sitting of the 4th of August; and the marquis of Goury, that a national fete should be established for all ages on that day; and both were carried by acclamation. But with the light of day came reflection, and numbers of the deputies felt like men recovering from a wild intoxication, in which they had given away their privileges without any guarantee for the retention of their property. There remained now to carry these resolutions into formal decrees, and those who had been so lavish of their possessions began to show no little reluctance to confirm their first impulses. They had made no stipulations for the redemption of any of the rights surrendered by an equitable payment, and now, when put to the vote, the inexorable majority, which had nothing to lose, paid no regard to arguments or prayers. Then the assembly proceeded to abolish altogether personal services, and many quit-rents into which personal services had been changed. It abolished such tributes imposed upon land as were the relics of servitude, but made redeemable perpetual rents, which were the price for which the nobles had formerly ceded a portion of their lands to the cultivators. It abolished seignorial courts. These were stoutly defended as property; but it was replied

that all these things, however indefensible, had become property. When the right of hunting was put to the vote, those who had so freely yielded it now contended that it would be most dangerous to yield the right, because it would put arms into the hands of the whole population; but this afterthought availed nothing.

The redemption of tithes was stoutly contested. The bishops of Nancy and of Chartres, the night before, had spoken like primitive apostles; that they were ready to give up everything, and trust to God and the people for what was necessary for the simple subsistence of preachers of the gospel. They did not foresee how soon the gospel itself would be renounced; but, to-day, there was a strong demand from the clergy that the tithes should be redeemable. Garat, a public journalist, declared that the state would in reality redeem them by charging itself with the maintenance of the ministers of religion. The abbé Sieyes, who had been from the first so thorough a reformer, who had written and spoken so admirably on the rights of man, and had attacked so vigorously the exclusive rights of crown and nobility, was now seen, much to the surprise of his followers, to flinch when his own turn came. He was the recipient, as the vicar-general of the good bishop of Chartres, of rich emoluments, and he declared that to touch tithe would be a sacrilegious robbery. " You wish," he said, " to be free, and you know not how to be just!" The sentence was received with derisive applause by numbers, for it applied so completely to the whole progress of the revolution, which went on confiscating property and rights with more regard to revolution than justice. But the abbe's epigrammatic sentiment did not save the tithes. "My dear Sieyes," said Mirabeau, "you let loose the bull, and now you complain that 'he gives you a touch of his horns.'" He showed that, even were the imposition just, the imposition of it on a part only of the public, the landed proprietors, was most unjust; that, as religion concerned all, the support of it should be incumbent on all. The cur<5s, who had no tithes, voted to a man against them, and they were abolished, but were to be levied till the state allowance to the clergy was settled. On the 11th, all the articles were presented to the monarch, who accepted the title of Restorer of French liberty, and walked in procession to the Te Deum, with Chapelier, the president of the assembly, at his right hand. But Louis was far from pleased with these wholesale demolitions of feudality. He procrastinated in giving his sanction to them, and endeavoured to show that many of them were rash, ill- considered, and mischievous; but the assembly stood firm, and he was constrained to confirm them.

He hoped, however, that such extreme concessions would satisfy the people, and put an end to the disturbances. " But, unfortunately," observes Thiers, " a nation never knows how to resume with moderation the exercise of its rights." He might have added, especially the French nation. So far from this, the people everywhere seemed to regard the proceedings of the assembly as a justification of all their past, and a sanction of all future, outrages. The most atrocious and wholesale violence continued to be perpetrated all over the kingdom. The people still continued to burn the chateaux, and to lay waste woods, parks, and copses, at pleasure. The fields and forests swarmed with rustic sportsmen, who did not content themselves with killing deer and partridges, but committed plunder of all kinds; and were so reckless in the use of their firearms that it was dangerous to travel along the highways. Fresh statements were laid before the assembly of the fearful state of the country, and of the fatal accidents that occurred. Paris continued as disorderly as the country. On the night of the 6th of August a fierce mob broke into the Hotel de Ville to murder the marquis de la Salle and others, for being suspected of sending gunpowder out of the capital. The marquis was warned in time, and got out of Paris; but a fellow had already mounted the fatal lamp-post with a lantern and a rope, showing what would have been his fate had he been taken. La Fayette found his guards scattered by the mob; and, in spite of his popularity, they would not take his word for the victim being away till they had searched the hotel from cellar to garret. Like Sieyes, La Fayette found it easier to stir up a revolution than to guide or check it. Other scenes of like character succeeded; in fact, the mob was the ruling power of Paris and of France.

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