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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 12


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There were one or two attempts to say something in reply; but the assembly, completely carried away by this fine speech, so full of noble-sounding sentiments, would not listen, but passed the decree amid a thunder of acclamation. On the following day Barnave moved that the members of one legislature may be re-elected to another; but not till after an interval of two years - that is, till after the full course of a particular assembly. This was carried, too, and then Robespierre astonished them further by proposing universal suffrage. Nothing could be more proper, where liberty and equality reigned; but here the assembly could not go along with the orator; they rejected the proposition, and, no doubt, quite according to the expectation, and much to the satisfaction of Robespierre, who, through all this, was not speaking according to the dictates of a sound and noble nature, but was purposely seeking to dazzle and flatter the people, to make them paramount of an assembly of mere commonplace men, and himself in reality the dictator through the passions of the mob, to whom he presented himself as their patron and their martyr. This tiger, smooth and mild, who, in so short a time, was reeking with the blood of his compatriots, ascended a scale higher in virtue and philanthropy in a debate on the penal code, on the 30th of May. He proposed to abolish the punishment of death. After adverting again to Greece, he said, "I come to pray, not the gods, but this legislature, who ought to be the organised interpreters of the eternal laws which the Divinity has dictated to man, to expunge from the code of the French those laws of blood which order judicial murder, and which are repulsive to the manners, and morals, and the new constitution of the French people!" He undertook to prove that the punishment of death was unjust, and at the same time ineffectual; that it did by no means prevent crimes; and lie was particularly pathetic on the sufferings of men subjected for a long period in solitude to its terrors.

Robespierre was followed by other members in the same strain, who afterwards became as sanguinary. The assembly abolished the punishment of death, except in the case of an enemy to the country, which left the door open for all the horrors which followed.

The progress of anarchy now grew every day more rapid. Prudhomme boldly proposed the abolition of royalty, as the greatest curse and plague which ever desolated mankind. Rousseau, he said, had rightly declared it a government against nature. Whilst these things were passing in the assembly, the municipality were busy without, removing the old names of streets, especially of royal ones, and naming them after the heroes of the revolution. The Chaussee d'Antin was already converted into the Rue de Mirabeau, and now the Quai des Theatins became the Quai Voltaire, and the Rue Plätriere, the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. On the anniversary of the funeral of Voltaire, the assembly voted that his remains should be removed to the Pantheon, and statues should be erected to him and Rousseau, as the real fathers of the revolution. The clubs every day more palpably, more undisguisedly, dictated to the assembly and denounced every remaining person and principle which stood betwixt them and general anarchy. Those, like La Fayette and Bailly, who had led on the early stages of the revolution, were now rapidly hurried towards that crisis in which they must flee, or be crushed under the fabric which they had raised. Danton, that hideous lawyer - and all the leaders of the ultra- revolutionists, Mirabeau, this Danton, Marat, and Robespierre, were hideously ugly - Danton denounced La Fayette and Bailly, in the Cordeliers, as traitors, for having ordered the national guards to fire on the people when the king wished to go to St. Cloud. Bailly immediately shut up the hall where they met; but they only removed to another, the Paris Tennis Court, and changed the name of the club to that of the Rights of Man. The jacobin club established a newspaper, their Journal des Debats, to report their proceedings, with the principal speeches at full length. This was an inducement for Robespierre to attend still more sedulously, as thus his sentiments were constantly diffused amongst the people; and there was a regular meeting of a central committee of all the clubs. The clubs were becoming the real government of the nation. Whatever was determined ' in them was immediately afterwards introduced by some of their members into the assembly.

On the 8th of June the jacobin club discussed the propriety of dismissing all the officers in the army of Bouille, because they were aristocrats, and could not be trusted. Roederer declared that nothing would secure the fidelity of the army, but wholly dis-aristocratising it; and Robespierre strongly supported thi? view. He insinuated the wisdom of suspecting almost everybody, and was, in truth, already venting that poison-breath of suspicion, which soon intensified itself into a deadliness unexampled in history since the days of Nero. As was the custom now, only two days after this discussion in the jacobin club, the same motion was made in the assembly, and Robespierre was the great champion of the measure. Some speakers recommended that if the officers were dismissed, they should, at least, retire on half-pay; but Robespierre treated this as a monstrous folly, thus increasing the enemies of the public, merely because they had found them unfaithful. He was firmly answered by Cazales, who belonged to the army. He denounced Robespierre as a black and cowardly calumniator, who was seeking to poison the minds of the people with the most dangerous suspicions. A perfect howl of fury assailed Cazales from the cote gauche, or jacobin side of the assembly, and the cry was to send him to the Abbaye. After two days' debate, it was decided to put a new oath to the officers of the army, as had been recommended by Dumouriez. But it was very evident that the clubs had obtained a perfect knowledge of the movements in the palace, and on the frontiers for the flight of the royal family.

The arrangements of the Austrian armies, the coalition of Prussia and Spain, the increasing assemblage of French emigrants on the Rhine, all were known and stated. A correspondent of the Moniteur stated that he had seen letters from the Tuileries, written to some of the German courts, in which the letter of the king to the foreign ambassadors was described as intended only to throw dust in the eyes of the public, till the king and his family could get away. That, had they succeeded in reaching St. Cloud, the next day they would have been at Compiegne, and the following one at Brussels, when Louis would have thrown off the mask; declared his acts for many months to have been solely the results of compulsion, and that they were, therefore, null and void. Montmorin, in the name of the king, wrote to the president of the assembly, protesting that this was a tissue of the most wicked falsehoods, but no one gave the smallest credit to the assertion. The assembly issued an order commanding the prince of Conde to return to France, and take the oath to obey and maintain the constitution, under penalty of being declared a traitor and rebel, with all his adherents. All this time the clubs and journals kept up the wildest clamour regarding the royal family. It was declared that all the coin in the kingdom almost had been packed off to maintain the armies about to invade France, and hence the great dearth of money. The assembly made a fresh issue of assignats, and ordered all the bells of the suppressed churches to be melted and coined into money. Freron, in his " Orateur du Peuple," exclaimed, "O Parisians! open your eyes! See the preparations that your enemies are making! The only hostage that you have is the royal family, and they are going to escape from you. It will not be by open force, for they have tried that and failed, but it will be by means of a disguise which is unknown to you. They will be beyond the frontiers before you know that they have quitted their nest."

The clubs now engaged with the utmost activity in preparing for the election of the new assembly. The idea which Robespierre had thrown out, of universal suffrage, had not been cast upon an ungenial soil. It was everywhere seized upon with avidity, and petitions were pouring into the assembly from all quarters to demand it. The idea, too, of Robespierre had taken equal root, that the new members should be wholly and solely of the people. They should not, as Brissot, in his journal " Le Patriote Francais," observed, be men who were friends of the people, but wholly of, and belonging to, the people. None of them should have any claims whatever to aristocratic "birth or connection. In fact, they were all to be not merely plebeians, but jacobins. Carra published a list in his " Annales Patriotiques" of proper men, who were jacobins, with a sprinkling of Girondists - a party now about to start into light, and to contend with the jacobins, whose party in the new assembly was about to obtain the name of the Montagne, the Mountain; both for reasons to be stated when they come into action. Amongst the Girondists figured M. Roland, the mayor of Lyons, and husband of madame Roland, a name about to assume a wonderful distinction in the revolution and the world. On the other hand, Marat employed himself in pointing out such " rogues and villains," according to his description, as were to be by all means precluded from becoming electors in Paris. These were different tradesmen, whom he painted in the blackest colours, and declared all to be paid spies of Bailly and La Fayette. Robespierre was appointed, with the assistance of Danton, to draw up for the jacobin club a report on the kind of men proper to be chosen. He reiterated the necessity of avoiding all men of genius, and such as had ever mixed with aristocrats, in which case, he contended, they would be found incurably corrupted. In fact, the lists of men recommended by the jacobins were not all of their own party, but men hitherto utterly unknown, but who speedily became known as the most extraordinary assemblage of monsters that the world had ever seen.

The abbé Sieyes made a proposition in the jacobin club, although he had long before declared that he would go no more amongst them, for theirs were cavern politics. On the 19th of June he read a paper on the necessity of preserving personal freedom for all parties, and for quiet submission to the laws, and recommended, as a measure necessary to check the domineering of particular cliques, that there should be two houses of assembly instead of one. It might have been supposed that the worthy abbé had not only absented himself from the club, but that he had been asleep for the last twelve months. A more unwelcome proposition could not have been made to the jacobins. It was received with a tempest of noise and fury. Some one said that the abbé was a great man, and had rendered signal services to the revolution, and should be heard with respect; but Danton rose, and said that u amongst a people become truly great there ought to be none of these considerations for your pretended great men." He said, this was the priest Sieyes who defended tithes; who had resisted the conversion of the property of the church to the uses of the nation, and who had got a law passed in the assembly to fetter the press. He said, Sieyes had endeavoured to win him over from the jacobins, and that he only wanted an upper chamber to favour the restoration of the aristocrats. Such was the fury manifested against Sieyes, and such was the frightful language of Marat in his journal, who called on the faubourgs to rise and destroy all the incorrigible traitors to liberty and equality, that a certain number of the deputies of the assembly, who had signed his paper, declared that they had been deceived as to its real contents; and scarcely a man, except M. Gorguereau, dared to say a word on his behalf. The reign of terror was beginning.

The assertions of the journals, that the king was intending to escape to the army, received constant confirmations. The committee of research, the municipality, and La Fayette were perpetually warned that the royal family was on the eve of flight, and that a civil war would be the immediate consequence of his reaching the army on the frontiers. Freron, in his " Orateur du Peuple," published a letter professedly written by the queen to the prince of Conde. The letter, which was a very vulgar and clumsy forgery, said, " Prince, pay no attention to the decree launched against you by the assembly of swine; we shall learn how to stir up the toads and frogs (the Parisians). This is the manner in which noire gros (the king) will set out as soon as our people mount guard at the Tuileries. We have resolved to have a coach made like a hackney-coach; the coachman is to be dressed like a hackney-coachman, and will drive us two leagues from Paris. The king will set out with his son; I shall follow with madame Elizabeth and my daughter, in another sort of hackney-coach. Monsieur and madame will set out in another direction. Our fair-complexioned man (La Fayette) and M. Bailly, who have assisted us, will get out of Paris

In this letter there was a mixture of real information, as the events showed, but so managed as to throw the most deadly suspicion on Bailly, La Fayette, and others, whom the jacobins wished to see the mob destroy. Freron, who had probably fabricated the letter himself, had also procured a Flemish woman, who was to pretend to be the person intrusted with it. This woman he introduced to the committee of research, and to Camille Desmoulins, who rushed away to make Robespierre and Buzot acquainted with this alarming fact. These two worthies were at once for immolating Bailly and La Fayette; but Petion, on seeing the letter, instantly pronounced it a gross forgery. Still Freron published it in his journal, and it produced a terrible sensation. It is remarkable how near the truth, however, the forger had come; for scarcely was the letter before the public, and whilst there was the utmost commotion regarding it, when Alexandre Beauharnais, the husband of Josephine, afterwards empress of the French, appeared before the startled assembly, and announced that the royal family was actually gone. This was about ten o'clock on the morning of the 21st of June. He stated that M. Bailly had come to inform them that the king and part of his family had been carried off in the night by the enemies of the public weal. M. Bailly had put the fact in this shape as most respectful to the king.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 12

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