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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 29

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The great difficulty lay in the repugnance of the queen to enter into personal communication with a man of Mirabeau's debauched character. Mirabeau, with all his ambition, was the veriest slave of his passions. No sooner did he obtain the ample allowance from the king, than he quitted his obscure lodgings for a magnificent house in the Chaussee d'Antin, which he fitted up most sumptuously. He had the most elegant servants; he gave the finest dinner parties; he indulged in all the licentious pleasures possible; he lived on the freest terms with madame Jay, the wife of his publisher; and, besides, kept a number of opera-girls, with whom he passed his leisure hours. All this time he knew the royal coffers, from which his extravagance was supplied, were next to empty, and that the court itself was often at its wits' end for money. Though his father was dead, and the money that he received from the court was ostensibly to enable him to clear off the debts from the family estate, that was the very last thing Mirabeau thought of. He was aware that to assist the monarchy would require not only all his talent and sagacity, but all his most earnest thought, time, and watchfulness: he never stinted his debaucheries till nature sank under them. He was, in fact, now fast exhausting his constitution by his excesses, and he knew it, and he knew too that he never could do anything for the court in return for the large sums that he received. At times, these reflections would burst in upon him, as they will on such passionate, sensual natures, without the power of warning them to reform. " He felt," says his friend Dumont, "so well that, if he had enjoyed personal consideration, all France would have been at his feet, that, in certain moments, he would have consented to pass through fire and flames to purify the name of Mirabeau. I have seen him weeping, and half suffocated with grief, as he said, with bitterness, 'I cruelly expiate the errors of my youth.' " But they were not the errors of his youth only, they were the vices of his whole life, that tyrannised over him.

Such was the man whom Marie Antoinette, notwithstanding her deep repugnance, consented to meet and to flatter, in the last vain hope of arousing him to do what he ought to do for the escape of the royal family. The revolt of the troops at Nancy had shown that no time was to be lost, for the contagion might spread to the whole army. Accordingly, Mirabeau was admitted to the park at St. Cloud with the utmost secrecy, and the queen met him in what is called les Hauteurs, or the Heights. She observed to him, " that, with an ordinary enemy, with a man who had sworn the ruin of the monarchy, without being capable of appreciating its usefulness for a great people, the step she was taking would be altogether improper and out of place; but with a Mirabeau," &c. Mirabeau was easily attacked on the side of his vanity, and the charm of a woman like Marie Antoinette made that flattery tenfold as impressive. He showed that she had saved the monarchy, as he took leave of her; and, whatever hopes he might have excited in the queen, he certainly entertained the idea that he had only to secure the escape of the royal family to become the prime minister and dictator of France. He was persuaded that the king once out of their hands, the assembly would go to pieces, and that Paris would be compelled, by famine, to submit to Bouille. The nobles were all to be united by the restoration of their privileges; the clergy would exert their influence over the people by regaining theirs! Five of the southern provinces, he said, would be loyal to a man.

Dumont pointed out to him the folly of the whole scheme. The power of the clergy was gone, because the people were become atheistical, and had got the estates of the church; the nobles, were, as they ever had been, imbecile and impracticable; and, worst of all, the king was destitute of the vigour of character to carry him through such a crisis. " But," interrupted Mirabeau, " you forget the queen! she has a force of mind that is prodigous; she is a man in courage!" Dumont reminded him of La Fayette and the national guards; but Mirabeau replied, that if La Fayette thought, under such circumstances, to play Washington, he would be swept to destruction. Last of all, Dumont bade him reflect that the moment he had succeeded in liberating the court from danger, he himself would be the first object of its vengeance; that the aristocracy would immediately claim their old privilege of ruling everything, and that they would never forgive him either his genius or his past castigations. "But," said Mirabeau, " the court has promised me everything." "And, if they should not keep their word?" "Then," retorted Mirabeau, indignantly, "I will soon turn them into a republic! "

This was wild talk, when we consider what was the state of France at this moment - the close of 1790. The national assembly was engaged in a fierce contest with the clergy, whom it proposed to make elective by the people, bishops and all, and to impose on them an oath binding them to approve of this institution, as well as of all other parts of the constitution. This was on a par with the government of king William in England, compelling the English clergy to swear to his supremacy in ecclesiastical matters, and his title to the throne, which produced the schism of the nonjurors. In this case the French clergy became to a great extent non-jurors. The dispute was not terminated till the spring of 1791, to which date we shall refer the account of it. But this dispute affrighted the timid conscience of the king, and from that moment he began to think in earnest of flying. Whilst the king and the clergy were thus both in renewed resistance to the constitution - the king secretly, the clergy openly - the emigrants were plotting with particular activity, but were divided into a number of parties amongst themselves. The emigrant court at Turin was a scene of perfect anarchy. The princes and higher nobility, incapable of change, at once haughty and imbecile, looked down on the gentry, who, in return, despised them. The princes and nobles were for employing only foreign forces; the gentry were for employing all the royalists of the south. The gentry who raised troops in the south would call them royal militia; the princes and bishops objected to that, and insisted on calling them bourgeois corps, or citizen militia. In this wrangling, an attempt was yet made to raise an insurrection at Lyons, which it was proposed to make the capital instead of Paris, which had become odious to the princes and nobles by its democracy. The insurrection failed at the end of 1790, and the princes then removed from Turin to Coblentz, on the Rhine, to be nearer the Austrians, whom they hoped to engage in their cause. They settled in the territory of the elector of Treves, whose authority they almost wholly usurped. Some few subordinate agents were left at Turin; but even these were at variance. On the Rhine, too, the prince of Conde separated from the princes at large, and formed a military camp and corps, preferring the idea of fighting rather than of intriguing with foreign courts. The indignation at the fine put upon the clergy at this period augmented the tide of emigration. Numbers flocked to take up arms under Conde; women, as indignant as the men, deemed it their duty to quit the soil of France. It became a fashion to emigrate; and Chateaubriand, in his Memoirs of the Duke of Berri, draws a curious picture of these emigrants on the Rhine: - "Many of the emigrants had joined the army in a state of complete destitution; others were spending improvidently the last relics of their fortunes. Several corps, composed wholly of officers, served as private soldiers. The naval officers were mounted; country gentlemen formed themselves into companies, distinguished by the names of their native provinces. All were in good spirits, for the camp life was free and joyous. Some became drawers of water, some hewers of wood; others provided and dressed the provisions; and everywhere the inspiring note of the trumpet 'resounded; the camp, in fact, was a perfect kingdom. There were princes dwelling in wagons, magistrates on horseback, missionaries preaching the Bible and administering justice. The poor nobles conformed with careless philosophy to this state of things, cheerfully enduring present privations in the sanguine expectation of speedily regaining all they had lost. They confidently believed that the end of autumn would find them restored to their splendid houses, to their groves, their forests, and to their old dovecotes!

But, all this time, the aspect of things in Paris was growing more formidable to such dreamers. The mob, under the inspirations of the fierce democrat journalists, Marat, Freron, Prudhomme, and others, was every day becoming more ripe for the execution of the most terrible deeds, and for overriding all forms of order - even king, ministers, assembly, and magistracy. The clubs and the democratic journals overawed the assembly and the magistracy, and the mob were, through them, the masters of the country. In eighteen months the revolution had risen to the very point of making all France one great blood-bath. The court of justice at the Chatelet was denounced by the clubs and the journalists as sold to the respectabilities, and as the sink of corruption; and the assembly, in the spirit of compliance, proposed to abolish it, and to erect a new court, to be called The High National Court, to try all treasons against the nation, and five judges were to be taken from the Court of Cassation, that is, the court of appeal, having power to casser, or break, the decision of all inferior courts. These five judges were to preside in the new court, and to decide by a jury. Thus the assembly was actually playing into the hands of the democrats - of such men as Marat and Robespierre, and sharpening the axe with which they were to take off the heads of all that they chose to proscribe. Barnave was made president of the assembly in October; but even Barnave did not escape the suspicions and denunciations of Marat. Mirabeau was also denounced by Marat and his confreres, who, by their mouchards, or spies, whom they had everywhere, had detected his interview with the queen; and the fury of this blear-eyed monster was doubly whetted against the orator through his own foolish ostentation. He had been made one of the administrators of the department of the capital, and also head of the battalion of the national guard to which he belonged; and he gave a grand dinner to the officers of the battalion, followed by a ball and a fete, with illuminations and fireworks, said altogether to cost ten thousand livres. Marat asked the people, in his journal, where all this money came from with a man who, till lately, only existed by writing for the booksellers? Whether they did not know that it all came from the court, and from the Austrian woman, by whom he was paid to betray them? Mirabeau ascended the tribunal, and made a fiery protest against these attacks. He demanded whether such infamous accusations were to be tolerated by the assembly against its most patriotic members? He enumerated his sufferings in the cause of the people, recalling the fact of the numerous dungeons of France he had been in under arrest by lettres-de-cachet, declaring that he had seen fifty-four lettres-de-cachet in his family, and that seventeen of them had been served on himself. This brought down the applauses of the assembly; but it did not at all awe the journalists, or deceive the people, as to what was the real fact, that the count was retained by the court.

La Fayette, Bailly, and all the chief municipal authorities, were denounced as traitors. " Those who are your enemies," said Marat, in his Ami du People, " are not the nobles and the clergy so much as those who make the laws. Those who head the band are the king's atrocious ministers; are the deputies of the people, seduced by promises, or corrupted by presents. They are the Mirabeaus, the Montmorencys, the Clermont-Tonnerres, the Lanjuinais, the Chopeliers, the Sieyes, the Thourists, the Torgets, the Liancourts, the Desmouniers, the Duponts, those vile and cowardly deserters of their country; it is they who have rallied, with the courtiers, the municipal administrators, and the staff of the Paris national guard, round the king, to make the executive power triumph, and to sacrifice the nation to one who is only its servant."

Thus was this sanguinary wretch already pointing out to the mob its victims. La Fayette was obliged, by his office of commandant of the national guard, to take care that the court did not escape. He was responsible, and he was also obliged to see the king and queen frequently; and the queen, though she put little confidence in La Fayette, as too muck himself in the power of the people, and bound by his principles to a thorough reform, yet sometimes conversed with him on the state of affairs, and on the measures necessary for the safety of the royal family. This was enough, in the eyes of the blood-hounds of the republican press, to stamp him as a traitor. The revolution, on the crest of which he and Bailly first rode, had now assumed that furious current which would soon carry them on to the rocks of perdition, if they were not fortunate enough to escape from the hands of the once-applauded mob. To conciliate the all-powerful faction, La Fayette and the Feuillans returned to the jacobin club; but it was too late. Marat howled in malignant triumph over this humiliation, for it was nothing less. "Now they have ruined the country," he wrote, " these vile deserters have returned to the jacobin club; and some imprudent journalists have celebrated their return as a reinforcement brought to the patriotic party. But will not these rogues, without virtue, without honour, without shame, continue to sell the interests of the country, as they have always done? They want now to take refuge in public opinion. Having passed their lives in shame, they would fain die on the field of honour."

The duke of Orleans also appeared at the jacobin club, and introduced his son, the duke of Chartres (afterwards Louis Philippe, king of the French), who made a patriotic speech, which was received with rapturous applause, and printed. This caused the furious journalists to flame with indignation. They thought the jacobins themselves had learned little of the real principle of equality, to make this adulatory reception of a ci-devant prince, instead of giving him some proper lessons on the occasion. Yet, so much equality existed at the jacobin's, that the duke of Chartres immediately after took his turn, like any other member, as one of the door-keepers of the club. About this time Robespierre was elected president of the tribunal of the district of Versailles; Petion, another ultra jacobin, was elected president of the tribunal of Chartres; and Buzot, a third, was made a judge. The jacobins were every way rapidly rising into power. At the same time, there were rumours of royalist plots at Rouen and in the south, which kept up the alarm of the people.

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