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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 9

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But, unfortunately for the counsels which Necker was ready to adopt, the clergy were at this moment debating the propriety of going over to the tiers, and the multitude were waiting outside in eager anticipation of the issue. The junction was carried through the cures by a majority of one hundred and forty-nine votes against one hundred and twenty-five, and the news was received by the populace with shouts of exultation.

This alarming event produced an instant and zealous union of the court and the nobles. The heads of the aristocracy and of the dignified clergy - amongst them the duke of Luxembourg, the cardinal de Larochefoucauld, and the archbishop of Paris - threw themselves at the feet of the king, declaring the monarchy lost, if he did not at once dismiss the states. The utmost confusion reigned in the palace. The unhappy Louis, never able to form a resolution of his own, was made to sway to and fro like a pendulum betwixt opposite recommendations. In order to secure him in one determination, the queen and princes induced him to go with them to Marley, where he would be separated from these contending influences, and thrown more entirely into their hands. The council followed to Marley, and on the 19th of June there was a violent discussion in the chamber of the nobles, in which the duke of Orleans advised that they should join the tiers as the clergy had done. Necker's plan was laid before the council; it was discussed, some modifications made, and it was on the point of being accepted, when an officer of the household entered, and spoke with the king in a whisper. Louis arose and went out. M. de Montmorin said to Necker, " It is all over; the queen alone could presume to interrupt a council of state; the princes have evidently circumvented us." It was, no doubt as suspected. The council was adjourned; an announcement was made of a royal seance to take place on the 22nd at the hall of assembly, and, on pretext of this, the hall was found closed on the 20th. The real cause, no doubt, was, first to prevent the union of the clergy with the tiers, and ultimately to destroy the states-general.

The assembly had adjourned on the 19th to the next day, and Bailly, on reaching the door of the hall, attended by many other deputies, found it not only closed, but surrounded by soldiers of the French guard, who had orders to refuse admittance to every one. Some of the fiercer young spirits amongst the deputies proposed to force their way in; but the officer in command ordered his men to stand to their arms, and showed that he would make use of them. Bailly induced the young men to be patient, and obtained leave from the officer to enter a court and write a protest. A brisk conference was then held, while standing in the Avenue de Paris, in the midst of pouring rain, as to whither they should betake themselves. Some cried, "To the Place d' Armes!" others," To Marley!" some, " To Paris!" There was a violent excitement. The deputy Guillotin recommended that they should go to Old Versailles, to the Jeu de Paume, or tennis-court, and this plan was adopted.

Before leaving, the courteous officer permitted Bailly and about half-a-dozen deputies to enter, and bring out their papers. The carpenters were already at work, making preparations for the royal seance, and as the body of the deputies, now nearly completing their six hundred, marched through the streets, they heard the heralds proclaiming it for Monday, the 22nd. Bailly felt that there was more indignity intended than even that of turning them so unceremoniously out of their house, for a message had been sent to him from the king, announcing the seance, but it had not been delivered to him, as etiquette required, at the hall, but at his private house, and not by a written dispatch, but verbally by De Breze, the master of ceremonies. When the deputies, with their president at their head, reached the tennis-court, they found it a very spacious apartment, but naked, unfurnished, and desolate. There were no seats for the deputies, and a chair being offered to Bailly he declined it, saying he would not sit whilst the other members were standing. A wooden bench was brought, and served for a desk, two deputies were stationed as doorkeepers, and the keeper of the court appeared and offered them his services. Great numbers. of the populace crowded in, and the deliberations commenced. There were loud complaints of the interruption of their sitting, and many proposals to prevent such accidents in future. It was proposed to adjourn to Paris, where they would have the support of the people, and this project was received with enthusiasm; but Bailly feared that they might be attacked on the way, and, moreover, that such a measure would give an advantage to their enemies, looking like a desertion of their ground. Mounier then proposed that the deputies should bind themselves by an oath never to separate till they had completed the constitution. This was hailed with enthusiasm. The oath was drawn up, and Bailly, standing on the bench, read it aloud: - " You solemnly swear never to separate, and to re-assemble whenever circumstances shall require it, until the constitution of the kingdom is founded and established on a solid basis." As he read this all the deputies held up their right hands, and repeated after him the words, "We swear!" The formula was read so loud that not only the spectators within but numbers without heard it, and all joined in the cry, " We swear!" Then followed loud acclaims of " Vive l'Asemblee!" Vive le Roi!"

The deputies then proceeded to sign the declaration, and out of the six hundred there was but one dissentient. This was one Martin D'Auch, of Castelnaudery, in Languedoc, who would neither swear nor sign; but being dragged to the table, and in danger of injury from the indignant populace, at length signed, but added the word opposer. A terrible tumult arose, D'Auch was in danger of being torn to pieces, but Bailly protected and smuggled him out at a back door. His protest was allowed to stand on the paper, as a proof of freedom of action in the assembly.

The assembly then adjourned to Monday, the day of the royal seance, but to an earlier hour. The next day being Sunday, vast crowds poured into Versailles from Paris, where the news of the insult offered to the assembly, by shutting it out of its proper hall, had excited the wildest indignation.

Threats of the fiercest kind had been uttered against the very highest persons. It should be recollected that at this time the whole of the tiers etat, if, perhaps, we except the yet but little conspicuous Robespierre, were royalists; but the court was now, by every fresh movement, destroying that attachment to the old traditions of monarchy. The first effect of these fatal measures of the court had been to induce the minority of eighty to swear along with the rest of the tiers.

In the meantime, there were busy plannings and discussions at the palace. The nobility, alarmed at the resolution shown by the tiers, went on the Sunday thither, to excuse themselves for having prevented the union of the states- general, by introducing restrictions into the plan of conciliation. But the minority consisted of forty - seven members, including the duke of Liancourt, a warm friend of the king; the duke de Rochefoucauld, a man of high character and talents; Lally-Tollendal, Clermont-Tonnere, both eloquent men; the brothers Lameth, both colonels, brave and intelligent; Duport, of great firmness and sagacity; and the marquis Lafayette, too well known for his part in the American revolution, to merit particular mention here. At the council at court, Necker urged his plan of conciliation, which, however, if accepted by the king, would produce little effect. Although Necker, in his works, has assured us that his plan was an extremely bold one, it merely amounted to this: - Those necessary reforms, which the court had so long refused, he would concede, through the king, thus making the national liberties a royal gift instead of a right demanded and established by the states; and he continued to expect the accomplishment of this from the king, though he knew that he was a mere puppet in the hands of the queen and courtiers. He proposed that there should be two legislative chambers, in imitation of the English ones; thus the clergy, or at least the titled ones, would sit with the lords. The king would permit the three orders to deliberate on general affairs; but there was to be no general discussion of anything relating to privileges, rights attached to fiefs, &c.; the very matters into which, of all things, it was necessary to admit the searching force of public opinion. Necker would retain the old and lumbering machinery of provincial parliaments, useless if there were a proper general one, and in all cases destroying unity of action. His parliaments were to sit with closed doors; there should be no publicity. As to the monstrous abuses of the law and of the executive, he would not at once abolish the detestable lettres de cachet, but merely endeavour to find some means of superseding them. The odious prisons of state, the Bastille, &c., were to remain. This was all that Necker, who dreamed that he was a great statesman, required the king to promise, when the whole country was ripe for a thorough cleansing, and knowing, as he did, that what the king promised solemnly the court laughed at as he promised, and would take the first opportunity of inducing him to retract.

But Necker was not able to obtain even so much from the king. We have seen that the king was called away to counsel with the queen and the princes, and the result we shall immediately see. It was resolved, in the first place, to postpone the royal stance from Monday the 22nd, to Tuesday the 23rd, and, to prevent the tiers meeting on Monday in the tennis court, the count d'Artois thought it would be an admirable plan for the princes to occupy the place themselves, on pretence of playing on that day. This was agreed; the master of the court, who had been so polite to the commons, was now equally polite to the court, and engaged to keep the place secure for the princes. At midnight, betwixt Sunday and Monday, Bailly was called up to receive three noble deputies from the court, D'Aguillon, De Menou, and De Montmorency, who informed him that the tennis court was engaged for the whole of Monday by the princes, for a grand match, and that M. Necker had determined not to be at the royal stance on Tuesday, and that they believed he would retire from office. The court had hoped to throw the blame of the intended royal declarations on that day on Necker, who, if present, would be supposed to have originated or approved them; but Necker was not so compliant, and he resolved to absent himself, and let the court bear its own odium. Bailly, early in the morning, hastened to acquaint the deputies of their being shut out of the tennis court. They then proceeded to the church of the Hecollets, but it was found too small, and they adjourned to that of St. Louis, where they were joined by the majority of the clergy, headed by the archbishop of Vienne and the bishop of Autun, the afterwards famous Talleyrand. The clergy of this party, amounting to upwards of one hundred and forty, were chiefly the unbeneficed ones - the cures. They declared that they came to verify in common with them, and were received with delight.

Thus united, the two orders, on the morning of the 23rd, marched in procession to the hall of the Menus, where they found fresh humiliations prepared for them by the insolent court. Louis had gone there at the head of a courtly train, clad in all its splendour, and flushed with the assurance of a speedy victory over the tiers. "I went," says Dumont, "to the palace, to see the magnificent procession. I remember yet the hostile and triumphant looks of many of the courtiers, who made sure of conquest. I saw the king's ministers come out. The count d'Artois, the king's brother, was bold and proud. The king appeared sadly dejected. The crowd was immense, and the silence profound. When the king entered his carriage, there was a roll of drums and a flourish of military instruments, but no plaudits from the people - not a single 'Vive le Roi!'"

When the deputies arrived, they found that the nobles and the minority of the clergy, consisting chiefly of the bishops, abbots, deans, &c., had been admitted earlier by the great doors, which were now closed, and the commons were ordered round to a side door, where they were allowed to wait in pouring rain, part of them finding shelter in a shed least exposed to the drenching wet. After waiting a long time, Bailly knocked; it was not opened. He knocked again; some of the garde-du-corps, who were stationed within safe from the rain, looked out. Bailly ordered them to open the door. The guards replied, " All in good time," and closed it again. Bailly knocked more vigorously; the door opened, and he demanded where was De Breze, the master of the ceremonies. The guards replied, " We don't know," and shut the door in their faces. On this the deputies cried out, "Let us go! let us go away at once,"

But Bailly persisted, knocking louder than ever, and insisted that the master of the ceremonies should appear, as the deputies would wait no longer; they would go. This was effective. De Breze appeared; the deputies were admitted, and found the two other orders already seated, the soldiers standing round, and the rest of that vast hall empty, from the exclusion of the people. The king had sent word-that no discussion could be allowed; all was melancholy and brooding silence. Such were the indignities which this doomed and haughty court so madly adopted to insult the representatives of a people already stung by oppression to fury, and which leave no wonder at the vengeance taken in return.

The king, from his elevated throne, read the speech whicl> had been prepared for him by the princes. In this he told them that he was come, as the father of his people, to put an end to their divisions, and he then ordered the keeper of the seals to read the declarations of his will. This the keeper did on his knees; and the matter was nothing less than an entire annulment of the resolutions of the tiers etat on the 17th of June, and of all that they had done since, as illegal and unconstitutional. The king then said, that though he had found it incumbent on him to abrogate what was done only by a section of the states-general, he should be most ready to confirm whatever was done by the whole; but the next moment he ordered the keeper of the seals to read a second paper, in which he presented to the states just what he would have done, in the most despotic manner. In this declaration was contained the resolves put into the king's mouth in place of the proposals of Necker. These were divisible into two parts: first, the maintenance of all the ancient privileges and feudalities; second, the reforms proposed, called the King's Intentions. In the first part, Louis was made to set aside everything done by the tiers; to reassert the separate deliberations of the three orders - that is, that two hundredths of the nation should bind the whole nation; that the states should not touch on any of the ancient privileges of the crown, the church, or the nobles, and should do nothing affecting the rights of future states- general; moreover, that the clergy should have a special veto as related to everything affecting their order against both the nobles and the tiers. In short, all the old evils were carefully preserved. The reforms were these: - The king would sanction the publication of the state of the finances, the rate of taxes, the limitation of expenditure - if he found them agreeable to his regal dignity, and the promotion of the public service. He would oppose the general imposition of taxes on the clergy and noblesse, if these orders were willing to renounce their privileges. That all property should be respected, especially of tithes and all feudal services. The abolition of lettres de cachet, of the restrictions on the press, and an admission to the higher ranks of the church and of the army to the plebeian class, were all refused, though in equivocal language.

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