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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 11


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The funeral of Mirabeau took place the day after his death, namely, on the 21st of April, 1791. It was attended Ly one hundred thousand people, including the assembly, the municipality, the king's ministers, the jacobin club, and all other persons of note. The streets were lined with national guards and other soldiers, and there was besides a procession of constitutional clergy. The body was carried by the battalion of guards of which he was the commandant. As the old church of St. Genevieve was in a dilapidated condition, the service was performed at the church of St, Eustache, and when the coffin was at length deposited in the vault of old St. Genevieve, beside the remains of Descartes, Gobel, the bishop of Paris, pronounced an oration over it, in which, not contented with praising Mirabeau for his talents and services to the state, he adorned him with all possible virtues. Perhaps a satire more blasphemous was never pronounced in the face of Heaven and an assembled people under the name of an eulogium! Governeur Morris could not conceal, in his letters home, his disgust at this hideous prostitution of language over a man whose vices were both degrading and detestable. Even a lady of Paris, writing to Sir Samuel Romilly, could not avoid remarking, " We have nothing more to learn from the Greek and Roman republics with respect to the honour to be awarded to great men. It is only a great pity that some virtues are not to be found amongst the things for which this illustrious man is regretted; and that, on the contrary, talent should be obscured by all that is most disgusting in human nature."

Mirabeau, as might be expected, died insolvent, and the assembly contented itself with decreeing him honours; they voted nothing to discharge his debts. The journalists did not pay him even honours; they discharged on him rejoicing abuse. They knew that it was he who had of late restrained their headlong career to blood and universal confusion, so far as it had been restrained. The royalists, for the same reason, really lamented his death at this moment, because they needed his aid to secure the escape of the royal family from the jaws of the popular lion, which, every day, were opening wider to devour them. Robespierre, in his usual philosophical and didactic strain, which often reminds one of the diction of the Chinese, condemned all the honours paid him, and their Pantheon as a trumpery affair. But, as usual, Marat, in his " Ami du Peuple," concentrated all the abuse of all the other journals; - a People! render thanks to the gods! Your greatest enemy is dead! Riquetti is no more! He has died the victim of his numerous treasons, victim to his too tardy remorse, victim to the barbarous foresight of his atrocious accomplices, who were terrified to see him go about with all their frightful secrets in his breast." Marat, too, pronounced him to be assuredly poisoned; but then he charged it on the royalists, as the royalists charged it on him and his accomplices. He sneered at the pretence of weeping over him. " The life of Riquetti," he said, " was stained with a thousand crimes; let a black veil cover it. But take heed, O people! do not prostitute your incense; keep your tears for your honest defenders; bear in mind that he was one of the born valets of despotism; that he quarrelled with the court only to captivate your suffrages, and that, as soon as he was elected your deputy to defend your interests, he basely sold your most sacred rights!"

There was much truth mingled with much malice in this diatribe. Of Mirabeau's crimes there could be no question; but he had also his splendid talents, and had rendered services to the revolution by acting as a drag on its desperate course. We shall find a more horrid class of men, who stood in awe of him, now raising their heads, and assuming awful shapes. From this moment Robespierre expanded into gigantic dimensions; and even Maury felt to breathe freer in his defence of the church. On entering the tribune, soon after, he exclaimed - " Mirabeau is no longer here; I shall not be prevented speaking!"

The absence of the influence of Mirabeau on the king's fortunes was immediately apparent. The clubs and journalists, who now entirely ruled France through the mob, raised a loud clamour against the king's employing in the palace unsworn, and therefore unconstitutional, priests. The congregation at the church of the Theatins, where the non- juring class had been permitted to worship, were attacked by the mob, and there was a terrible riot. On that same Sunday (the 17th of April), Danton, the great hero of the Cordelier club, placarded the streets of Paris with a fierce denunciation of the king on this account, declaring that the first public functionary should be charged with this open breach of the constitution to the assembly. The next day the royal family were setting off for St. Cloud to spend the Easter. The king's health was indifferent - as was no wonder, from his confinement and constant anxieties - and he naturally wished to have the quiet enjoyment of his religion, and the priests whom he did not consider schismatical. He had apprised Bailly and La Fayette of his intention; they had fully acquiesced, and La Fayette was in attendance in the count of the Tuileries with a strong body of the national guards to escort the royal family. They were already in their coaches, and about to start, when a furious mob, containing, as usual, a great proportion of women, rushed forward, crying, " Down with that coach! Down with it! No St. Cloud! " They threw themselves before the horses, and threatened to kill the postillions if they moved. It was in vain that Bailly and La Fayette argued with them, contending that the short sojourn at St. Cloud was necessary for the royal health. The mob replied that they should not go; for they only wanted to escape, and bring the armies of the emigrants and the emperor upon them. La Fayette desired the king to sit quietly, and he would open a way for him with his guards; but part of the guards refused to act, and the king, fearing bloodshed, got out with the queen, his sister, and children, and they all returned to the palace in the deepest humiliation; the queen all the way being pursued by the vilest epithets.

Such was already the condition of monarchy in France: it was in the condition of the most pitiable and most absolute slavery to a mob, which was continually boasting of every man being free!

The next day Louis went to the assembly, and complained indignantly of this violence done to his personal freedom, and declared that he still would go. But though the assembly affected to sympathise with him, they said not a word about supporting him in going; and when one of the members expressed his astonishment at this, he was menaced with being sent to the Abbaye. In fact, one half of the assembly was of the same opinion as the mob, and the other half was intimidated by it.

The king, as if afraid of his own boldness, made a miserable attempt, which could deceive nobody, to appear resigned. He dictated a letter to his foreign minister, Montmorin, addressed to the ambassadors of all the foreign powers, declaring that he was free and happy in the midst of his people, and that all rumours of his desiring to quit Paris and bring about a counter-revolution, were entirely false, and a foul calumny upon him. At the same time, when Louis put this letter into the hands of the ambassador of the emperor, he said how it was to be understood, and when the emperor, who was at this time travelling in Italy, sent to him a private messenger to ascertain his real sentiments, he told him he might understand them by the language that was forced from him, and that he had no hopes now that Mirabeau was gone. This explanation was the more necessary, because De Breteuil, Louis's ambassador at Vienna, was violently opposed to Calonne, who was the minister of the court of the emigrants, and who, having seen Leopold at Mantua, had cast some suspicions on the representations of De Breteuil. Leopold, once satisfied that the king was ready to fly, promised to set in motion thirty-five thousand men in Flanders, and fifteen thousand in Alsace. He declared that an equal number of Swiss should march upon Lyons, as many Piedmontese upon Dauphine, and that Spain would assemble twenty thousand men. The emperor likewise promised the co-operation of Prussia and the neutrality of England. These were the plans which were maturing at the very moment that Louis was making his public professions of resignation. Unfortunately for him, he was urged by contrary advice from Breteuil and Calonne. The emperor desired him not to move till all was ready, and Calonne gave this same advice; but Breteuil advised the king to get away as soon as he could, because

lie was jealous of the influence which Calonne might acquire with the emperor whilst in Italy. Louis determined to set out soon. To throw the populace the more off their guard, he went with all his family to hear mass in one of the parish churches where the sworn priests officiated; but this did not deceive the mob, for they observed that they did not take the Easter sacrament in public, and they were therefore quite satisfied that they received it from the non-juring priests in private.

La Fayette was so indignant at the opposition of the mob, and at the insubordination of the national guards, that he threw up his command, and it was only at the most earnest entreaties of the municipality that he resumed it, and on condition that the national guards should swear to obey all commands in future, and that such as refused should be disbanded. The centre grenadiers refused, and were broken up; but they were almost immediately received individually into other corps. Those soldiers who had shown the most disrespect to the royal family were to be punished; but this was not found practicable from fear of the people, and, on the contrary, one of the most insolent of them was, on being dismissed from his company, patronised by Danton, and was crowned in the Cordeher club with a wreath of flowers. All law, in fact, was now trodden under foot; no government but such as pleased the lowest mob was tolerated. The workmen began to combine in what we now call trades' unions, and fixed the rate of their own wages, declaring that, according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, their masters had no right to be richer than they were. Bailly issued a manifesto, warning the trades against these illegal proceedings, and showing them the ultimate embarrassment and misery to which such ideas would drive the public; but the workmen paid no attention, but went on extending their unions, and remorselessly persecuting such men as refused to join them.

At the beginning of May the pope's bull arrived, excommunicating the new elective bishops, Talleyrand, Gobel, De Brienne, Fauchet, and the rest. The people of Paris seized the opportunity to demonstrate what they really thought of the pope. They burnt him in effigy in the Palais Royal, with the bull in his hand, amid a vast concourse of shouting spectators, amongst whom were some who had formerly figured as counts and marquises. There could be no misunderstanding, after that, the popular predilection for popery, or, indeed, for any religion.

Robespierre, now risen into the ascendant in the absence of Mirabeau, on the 16th of May, rose and made a most extraordinary motion. It was nothing less than that, as the constitution was nearly complete, the assembly should pledge itself, immediately on that completion, to dissolve itself. He did not think it just or constitutional that the same body which had made the laws should continue in the direction of them. But what more astonished the assembly was that he moved that none of the present members should be re- eligible to the next assembly. This apparently wonderful self-denying ordinance, like that of Cromwell in the long parliament, naturally astounded the whole assembly, and Robespierre, as he wished, became regarded as a miracle of disinterestedness. All at once, he was developing as an example of sublime truth and virtue. The assembly received the proposition with raptures of applause. Every one, for the moment, was seized with the spirit of self- sacrifice for the public good. The motion was seconded by the mild-seeming Petion. Merlin alone doubted whether the election of an entirely new assembly might not produce a body of novices, who might undo all that they had done. He could not conceive that such another collection of wise and great legislators could be found as themselves. But Robespierre was, on the contrary, of opinion that the country had, in these two unparalleled years, made such progress in political knowledge and judgment that it would elect far better men. He referred to antiquity - to Greece and Rome, to Solon, and Lycurgus, and Numa, and showed that it had always been the practice of truly great lawgivers to retire from the exercise of a constitution when they had once completed it. " I have no need," he said, " to lose myself in subtle reasonings to find the solution of this fact; it exists in the first principles of my integrity and my conscience."

He recommended, above all things, disinterestedness and a philosophical calmness. Of all things, he was afraid of the denunciation of a few subtle and glittering orators. An assembly no longer enjoyed liberty and equality when a little knot of orators swayed it. When they controlled deliberations, there was no longer a representation. lie related the anecdote of Themistocles showing his child, and exclaiming, "Here is what governs Greece! This baby governs its mother; its mother governs me; I govern the Athenians; and the Athenians govern all Greece!" "Thus," he said, " a nation of twenty-five millions of men would be governed by the assembly; the assembly would be governed by a few adroit orators; and by whom would these orators sometimes be governed? " He continued, "I like not the idea that a few able men should domineer over the true representatives of the people, or perpetuate a system of coalition which is already the scourge öf liberty." He contended that no assembly should sit longer than two years. He was for having the representative always under the influence and guidance of the electors; and he concluded a speech which threw the assembly into paroxysms of wonder and self-renunciation, with the most generous of motions - " Let us, then, retire like victorious but wearied athletse. Let us leave the arena to fresh and vigorous successors, who will follow our footsteps under the eyes of an attentive nation! As for us, we shall serve our country better out of the assembly than if we remained in it. Returned to our departments, spread over all the parts of this empire, we will illuminate such of our fellow-citizens as may yet need illumination. We will propagate everywhere patriotism and public spirit, the love of peace, the love of order, of law, and of liberty!"

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 11

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