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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 7

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The tiers was applauded continually; amongst the nobles, Orleans was alone, he lingered behind, as desirous of showing that he wished rather to belong to the tiers; the king was applauded because he had convoked the states-general.

As the procession advanced, bands of music placed at intervals rent the air with melodious sounds; military marches, the rolling of drums, the clangour of trumpets, the impressive chants of the priests alternately heard, enlivened the march to the church. There were few there who did not feel all the deep emotion arising from a scene in which a nation sought to renew itself, like the marquis de Ferrieres, who, as a spectator, says - " Plunged into the most delicious ecstasy, sublime but melancholy thoughts presented themselves to my mind. I beheld that France, my country, supported by religion, saying to us, 'Desist from your puerile quarrels; - this is the decisive moment which shall either give me new life or annihilate me for ever!' " Alas! very little genuine religion was there, but the atheistic spirit disseminated by Voltaire, or, at best, but the theism of Rousseau and of his Vicaire Savoyard.

On their arrival at St. Louis, the three orders seated themselves on benches placed in the nave. The king and queen took their places beneath a canopy of purple velvet sprinkled with golden fleurs-de-lis; the princes, the princesses, the great officers of the crown, and the ladies of the palace occupied the space reserved for their majesties. The host was carried to the altar to the sound of the most impressive music. It was an O salutaris liostia! The bishop of Nanci delivered the discourse - " Religion constitutes the prosperity of nations; religion constitutes the happiness of the people." Even the scoffing sceptics of France were touched for a moment. Such was that beautiful day - the last day of peace, the first of a tremendous future!

The next day the states-general assembled in the hall of Menus Plaisirs, a vast place, in which the court had been accustomed to enjoy its amusements. It was now prepared for this solemn purpose, and exhibited a wonderful magnificence. The king was seated on an elevated throne with the queen near him, the two privileged orders occupying each a side of the hall, the tiers at the bottom of it on seats made purposely lower than those for the clergy and noblesse. This was another of those insolences which only served to whet the fury of the tiers against their oppressors. They had come up from the country with written orders to submit to no indignities, and the blind aristocracy could not see that in thus piquing the tiers, they were goading a lion that would speedily tear them to pieces. When Mirabeau entered, there was a general movement. The man was so well known; his strange adventures of intrigue and imprisonment; his proud nature; his rejection as a candidate by his own order; and his condescending to sit as what the court in derision called " a plebeian consul." But his very look, his step, awed the assembly. He cast a threatening glance at the ranks that he was not allowed to approach. A bitter smile played on his lips, which were habitually contracted by an ironical and scornful expression. He proceeded across the hall and seated himself on those benches from which he was to hurl the thunderbolts of revolution. A gentleman strongly attached to the court, but likewise a friend of Mirabeau, who had observed the rancorous look which he darted round him when he took his seat, entered into conversation with him, and reminded him that his peculiar position closed the door of every saloon in Paris against him; that society, once wounded, was not easily appeased; and, if he wished to be pardoned, he must ask pardon. At the word " pardon " he started up, stamped violently on the floor, his bushy hair seemed to stand on end, his lips quivered and turned livid, and he exclaimed, " I came hither not to ask pardon, but to be asked!"

The custom was that the tiers should take off their hats when the king ascended the throne, though the other orders remained covered, but they now remained covered too. The king observing this took off his hat, to mark the difference, but the tiers remained calmly retaining their hats. These were in themselves small matters, but they showed a great deal - they showed the spirit of the people. The king, with an air of cheerfulness, read a speech, in which he expressed his regard and admiration for the two higher orders, who, he said, were prepared to renounce their pecuniary privileges, and declared his affection for his people generally. He was occasionally applauded; but there appeared very little heart, either in the royal address, or in the responses to it. He was then followed by the keeper of the seals, not now Lamoignon, who had been dismissed, and soon after committed suicide, but Barentin, late president of the court of aids. He spoke chiefly of the necessities of the finance department. He was followed by Necker on the same subject, in a speech of three hours' length. It was written, and, when he had read till he was tired, he begged leave to allow a clerk to read the remainder. This would have appeared a strange proceeding on the part of a chancellor of the exchequer in England. The finances were the chief theme of this long treatise; there was very little of the subject of reform; Necker admitted a deficit of fifty millions of livres, and tired every one out with his prolixity. He calculated, like the king, on the privileged orders voluntarily submitting themselves to taxation, but this was a rather gratuitous assumption. Some of the more liberal or prudent nobles had proposed that this should be done, and many of the clergy, but contrary to the opinion of the majority of that body, had expressed such a wish; but as for the assembly at large, it was silent, ominously silent on the subject. It was not till after two months of terrible conflict, in fact, till after the victory of the tiers, that the clergy, on the 26th of June, declared their acquiescence in this principle of self-sacrifice, and that the nobles promised to concede.

When the king rose, there were pretty warm cries of Vive le Roi! but very faint ones on the rising of the queen. The queen had been excited to tears by the applause which the king received, and there were others present who augured well for the progress of affairs in the states-general, but there were others more profound. Two ladies sate side by side in the gallery of the great hall of the Menus Plaisirs, which, besides the one thousand two hundred members, could accommodate four thousand spectators. These were madame de Stael, the daughter of Necker, and madame de Montemorin, the wife of the minister of foreign affairs. De Stael was all exultation at the prospect of renovation and prosperity under the administration of her father, but madame de Montemorin replied, " You are wrong to rejoice; this event forebodes much misery to France and to ourselves." What must have been the horror, however, of this lady could she then have foreseen all that awaited herself personally! Her husband was massacred in prison on the 2nd of September; one of her sons was drowned, another died on the scaffold; one daughter perished in prison, another died of a broken heart; and she herself fell beneath the axe of the guillotine!

The next morning the states met to verify their returns of the members; but when the tiers entered the general hall, they found that the two other orders had retired, each to an apartment by themselves. This was in accordance with the determination of those orders to maintain a superiority of rank over the tiers, and not to admit that they were a part of that body, or that body of them. The verification of the returns thus separately was voted by the nobles by a majority of one hundred and thirty-three to one hundred and fourteen; and by the clergy by a majority of one hundred and eighty-eight to one hundred and fourteen. But the tiers were resolved not to recognise any such separation, which would have necessitated a voting by order, and not by head in the general assembly. The question was of the most vital importance; for this separate deliberation permitted, the two orders voting one way on any subject, would have thrown the tiers into the minority, in spite of their superior numbers. Here, then, the great battle of the revolution began. Had the tiers entered into discussion on this point, it might have appeared to recognise some ground for such a-discussion. On the contrary, they assumed that the states-general formed only one aggregate body, and they sent word only to the two other orders that they were waiting for their presence to proceed to the verification.

The clergy, which contained a large proportion of poor cures, who had been returned by the people, were disposed to entertain the question, and offered to appoint commissioners to discuss and settle it with the tiers. The clergy in this displayed great magnanimity, for, as a class, they had been the most severely handled by the philosophers, and their very existence as a political body denied. On the contrary, the nobles received the invitation with scorn and fury. This order, which denounced all exhibition of passion in others, displayed the utmost licence of rage in themselves. Cazales and D'Espremenil, who had been recently ennobled, like all proselytes and parvenus, were most violent. They were men not without talent, but vain, heady, and impetuous, and they made the most insolent and mischievous motions. The tiers remained quiet, steadfast, and in an expectant attitude. They knew that they had at least fifty of the nobles and a hundred of the clergy already with them in their views. In this position of things, the parties divided themselves, but in what unequal proportions! The two orders betook themselves to the king, the head of the privileged; the tiers relied on the people. On the one part, there was an active running to the palace, whose doors stood open to all such access; and on the other, there was as constant and active a passing to and fro betwixt Versailles and Paris. The assembly of electors in Paris was in great agitation, and sent almost hourly expresses to learn all that passed in the hall or at the palace. The court, on the other hand, continually surrounded itself more and more with soldiers. The tiers relied as its guard on the press, which was heard all over the kingdom; and the court, therefore, attempted to fetter the press. Mirabeau published " A Journal of the States-General," in which he gave a regular report of the proceedings of that body. The court ordered its suppression; and by a second order, forbade any publication of a journal without its permission. This was a most ill-advised proceeding, to revive the thraldom of the press in the very face of the states-general, since the publication of its transactions was absolutely necessary as a means of communication betwixt it and its constituents. Mirabeau immediately altered the title of his journal to " Letters to my Constituents," and no one dared to say that a deputy should not correspond with his constituents.

Six days had passed. On the 12th of May, Rabaud de St. Etienne, the protestant deputy of Nismes, son of the venerable martyr of the Cevennes, proposed a conference with the other orders, to endeavour to establish union. Chapelier, of Brittany, proposed, as an amendment, that there should not be an invitation to confer, as that might argue a right of separate sitting, but a notification that the tiers were astonished that the other orders did not attend to verify, and that the states being once assembled, there could be no separate deputies of orders or provinces, but simply the representatives of the nation. The clergy thereupon addressed a letter to the tiers, but they refused to open it, or any other communications from either of the orders; they declared themselves a meeting of citizens assembled by legitimate authority to wait for other citizens. At length the nobles as well as the clergy consented to a conference. At the conference, the two privileged orders declared that they renounced their privileges. The tiers accepted the renunciation, but refused to proceed to business till the returns were verified in common, asserting that it was necessary that all should witness the verification of all. The nobles refused, and again retired, each party more embittered than before.

On the 27th of May, Mirabeau declared that it was high time to begin business; and, as the noblesse continued immovable, he proposed that they should send an invitation to the clergy, to summon them to join the friends of the people u in the name of the God of peace, and for the interests of the nation." This was at once acceded to, and Target, a lawyer of Paris, was sent up to that order, attended by a numerous deputation from the tiers, who demanded, in those very words, whether the clergy would join the tiers or not. The solemnity of the message struck the clergy. Numbers of the cures were anxious to join. They replied by acclamations; but the prelates obtained a delay, and the answer returned was, that they would take the message into deliberation. The inexorable tiers, on receiving this reply, declared that they would not adjourn till they had the response of the clergy. As the answer did not arrive, the tiers sent a second message, that they were waiting for it. The clergy complained that this was hurrying them, and the tiers rejoined that they might take their time, that the commons would wait, if necessary, all day and all night. The clergy then begged that they might give their answer on the morrow, and the tiers then went to their dinners and their clubs. On their part, the prelates hastened to the palace, and there held a close conference with the king and nobles. The king was then persuaded to send a letter to the tiers, inviting them to meet the other orders, and renew their conferences in the presence of his keeper of the seals, and thus endeavour to come to an amicable conclusion. The tiers expressed their readiness to comply out of respect to his majesty, though they expressed little hope from the known feelings of the nobles. They sent their reply, accompanied by a loyal address, by the hands of their doyen, or president by seniority, who was Bailly, the astronomer. Bailly had been elected to this post, much to his own alarm and astonishment, and in opposition to his retired habits; but he quickly displayed a presence of mind and a firmness, which surprised nobody more than himself.

Bailly found much difficulty in obtaining access to the king, partly probably from the recent death of the dauphin, and partly, no doubt, from the endeavours of the courtiers to prevent him. Delicate, however, as was his mission at that time, the importance of the occasion made his delivery of the message imperative. He persisted and was successful. The courtiers complained that he had not respected the grief of the monarch, but this grief did not prevent the king being closeted with the prelates and nobles, and the complaint was, therefore, unjust. Bailly appears to have discharged his office with proper deference, and to have been received with courtesy by the king.

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