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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 16


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Meantime Bouille, distracted at the news which captain Deslons gave him, resolved to force his way into Varennes, and pursue the royal carriage for three or four leagues; if possible, to overtake it, and rescue the captives. But he soon found this impossible. The patriots had broken down several arches of the bridge; and, when he attempted to cross the river, his soldiers gave him unmistakable proof that €hey did not share in his enthusiasm. They declared themselves worn out by the rough march from Stenay, and would go no further. At the same time, Bouille could see great numbers of men under arms in Varennes, and was informed that the revolutionary troops from Metz and Verdun were marching against him with their cannon. The whole country was clearly in motion; the chance was lost; and Bouille sorrowfully marched back to Stenay. There, having quartered his troops, he assembled his principal officers, and, assuring them that nothing but flight would save them from arrest, for the troops were no longer to be trusted, he and twenty others that very night rode off for the frontier. This they did not pass without being fired upon by patriots, but they escaped into the territory of Luxembourg, and were safe.

The mob of patriots were, about the same time, entering Chalons, with their royal prize, in great triumph, though we are of the opinion of Napoleon, that " the national assembly never committed so great an error as in bringing back the king from Varennes. A fugitive and powerless, he was hastening to the frontier, and in a few hours would have been out of the French territory. What should they have done in these circumstances? Clearly, have facilitated his escape, and declared the throne vacant by desertion. They would thus have avoided the infamy of a regicide government, and have attained their great object - a republican institution. Instead of which, by bringing him back, they encumbered themselves with a sovereign whom they had no just reason for destroying, and lost the inestimable advantage of getting quit of the royal family without an act of cruelty."

On the 23rd the escorting party, continually replaced by fresh national guards, entered Epernay, where they met the commissioners dispatched by the national assembly to take charge of the royal family, and to see them again safely lodged in the Tuileries. These commissioners were Barnave, Petion, and Latour-Maubourg. Barnave we have seen amongst the most thorough-going of the revolutionists. He was the son of a very rich attorney at Grenoble, and was sent by the tier stat of that town as deputy to the states- general. He was from the beginning one of the most implacable enemies of the court. He warmly supported the tennis-court oath, and declared loudly in favour of the assertion of the rights of man. In 1790 he voted for the abolition of the religious orders. At the meeting of the 22nd of May, he was of the party that declared that the king should be deprived of the right of making peace and war. He voted for the abolition of all feudal rights and titles, and he opposed Mirabeau in many of his moderating measures. This contact with the royal family, however, produced a great change in his opinions, and was, in the end, fatal to him.

As for Petion, he was a blunt and vulgar jacobin; a poor lawyer of Chartres. He was a man of narrow intellect, who had made his way with the mob by his surly conduct towards everything aristocratic and royal. He had, according to Dumont, neither wit, vivacity, force of thought, nor expression; yet he had contrived to get a great name in the revolution, and, coming over to England, was wonderfully feted by the Foxite party, which prided itself on its discernment. "The very first man that ever came over to England from the assembly," says Dumont, " was Petion. I had known him so well in Paris that I avoided him in London; but he was so eagerly received and so much sought after that the chances of seeing him were rare indeed. People disputed the honour of entertaining him; they loaded him with invitations; they showered upon him the most flattering attentions." He knew no English, and remained only three weeks, during which time he professed to be studying the management of trial by jury in both civil and criminal cases; but he, in truth, was engaged in fraternising with our republican clubs. Yet, on his return, he pretended to great knowledge of the jury law, was listened to by the assembly as an oracle upon it, and contributed especially to make the system which they adopted what it was. He was continually uttering, as a profound sentiment, that opposition was very troublesome; that the assembly suffered much from the revolt of the minority against the majority.

Latour-Maubourg was an aristocrat by birth and education; he was a colonel in the king's army. He was a friend of La Fayette's, and was, perhaps, somewhat ashamed of his present mission, as well as fearful, from his rank, of being suspected, on this occasion, of having conversed too much with the royal family. He, therefore, did not take his place in the royal carriage on resuming the journey next morning, but conceded that honour to Barnave and Petion; Thiers says, because he wished to interest these men of the tiers- etat in behalf of fallen greatness. He followed in a second carriage with madame de Tourzel, and Barnave was placed at the back in the berline betwixt the king and queen; Petion in front, betwixt madame Elizabeth and the little princess. The dauphin sate on the lap of first one and then another. " Such," says Thiers, " had been the rapid course of events: a young advocate of only about twenty years of age, remarkable only for his abilities, and another distinguished by the sternness of his principles, were seated beside a prince, lately the most absolute in Europe, and governed all his movements."

The journey was slow, because the carriage followed the pace of the national guards. It took four days to return from Varennes to Paris. The heat was excessive; and a scorching dust raised by the multitude, half suffocated the travellers. At first, a deep silence prevailed; the queen was too much troubled and vexed at the disastrous termination of the enterprise, and at the presence of the commissioners in the carriage, to speak. The king was the first to enter into conversation with Barnave. It turned upon all sorts of subjects, and, lastly, upon the flight to Montmedy. The queen was surprised at the superior understanding and the delicate politeness of the young Barnave. She soon threw up her veil, and joined in the conversation. Barnave was touched by the good nature of the king and the graceful dignity of the queen. Petion displayed more rudeness: he showed and received less respect.

By the time they reached Paris, Barnave was strongly attached to the royal family; and the queen had acquired a great esteem for the young tribune; and in all future intercourse with the constitutional deputies, she placed the most entire confidence in Barnave.

This is fully confirmed by the following particulars of the journey which the queen communicated to Madame Campan: - " On the very day of my arrival the queen took me into her cabinet, to tell me that she had great need of my assistance for a correspondence which she had established with Messrs. Barnave, Duport, and Alexander Lameth. She informed me that M. de J--- was her agent with these relics of the constitutional party, who had good intentions, which, unfortunately, came too late; and she added, that Barnave was a man worthy to inspire esteem. I was surprised to hear the name of Barnave uttered with such kindness. When I quitted Paris, a great number of persons never mentioned it but with horror. I made this remark to her. She was not astonished at it, but told me that he was very much changed; that this young man, full of intelligence and of noble sentiments, was of the class who are distinguished by education., and merely misled by the ambition arising from real merit. 'A feeling of pride, which I cannot blame too much in a young man of the tiers etat,' said the queen, with reference to Barnave, 'has caused him to applaud all that tends to smooth the way to honour and glory for the class in which he was born. If power should ever fall again into our hands, the pardon of Barnave is already in our hearts.'

"The queen added, that 'the same sentiments were not felt for the nobles who had thrown themselves into the revolutionary party; they who had obtained all favours, frequently to the detriment of persons of an inferior order, but of talents superior to themselves; they who were born to be the ramparts of the monarchy, had, therefore, been too culpable, in betraying, to deserve pardon.' She astonished me more and more by the warmth with which she justified the favourable opinion which she had formed of Barnave. She then told me that his conduct during the journey had been excellent, whilst the republican rudeness of Petion had been insulting; that he ate and drank in the king's carriage with little regard to delicacy, throwing fowl-bones out of the window, at the risk of hitting the king in the face; lifting up his glass when madame Elizabeth was helping him to wine, without saying a word to intimate that he had had enough; that this offensive manner was wilfully assumed, since he was a man of education; and that Barnave had been shocked at it. Being pressed by the queen to take something, ‘Madame,' replied Barnave, ' the deputies of the national assembly, under circumstances so solemn, ought to trouble your majesty solely with their mission, and by no means with their wants.' In short, his respectful behaviour, his delicate attentions, and all that he said, had won not only her good-will, but also that of madame Elizabeth.

"The king had begun to speak to Petion on the situation of France, and on the motives of his conduct, which were grounded on the necessity of giving to the executive power a force requisite for its action, for the welfare of the constitution and itself, since France could not be a republic. ' Not yet, to be sure,' replied Petion, ' because the French are not yet ripe enough for that.' This audacious and cruel reply imposed silence on the king, who maintained it till his arrival in Paris. Petion had the little dauphin on his knees; he amused himself with rolling the fair hair of the interesting child upon his fingers, and, in the heat of discussion, he pulled his locks with such force as to make him cry. ' Give me my child,' said the queen; 'he is accustomed to kindness, to respect, which unfit him for such familiarities.'

"The chevalier de Dampierre had been killed near the king's carriage as it left Varennes. A poor village cure, a few leagues from the place where this crime was committed, had the imprudence to approach for the purpose of speaking to the king. The savages who surrounded the carriage rushed upon him. 'Tigers!' cried Barnave, 'have you ceased to be French? From a nation of brave men are you changed into a nation of murderers?' Nothing but these words saved the cure, who was already struck to the ground, from certain death. Barnave, as he uttered them, had almost thrown himself out at the door, and madame Elizabeth, touched by this noble warmth, held him back by his coat. In speaking of this circumstance, the queen said that, in the most critical moments, she was always struck with odd contrasts, and that, on this occasion, the pious Elizabeth, holding Barnave by the skirt of his coat, had appeared to her a most surprising thing. The deputy had experienced a different kind of astonishment. The remarks of madame Elizabeth on the state of France, her mild and persuasive eloquence, the noble simplicity with which she conversed with Barnave, without abating an iota of her dignity, all appeared to him celestial in that divine princess, and his heart, disposed, undoubtedly, to noble sentiments, if he had not pursued the way of error, was subdued by tho most touching admiration. The conduct of the two deputies showed the queen the total separation between the republican party and the constitutional party. At the inns where she alighted, she had some private conversations with Barnave, and the result was her determination to trust him." These extracts from madame Campan make us vividly acquainted with all these parties.

The news of the king's arrest had been dispatched from Varennes by M. Mangin, a surgeon of that place, and who reached Paris, by using the utmost speed, at ten o'clock at night of the 22nd. The assembly immediately appointed and sent off the three commissioners, Petion, Barnave, and Latour-Maubourg. The next morning, the 23rd, the assembly decreed that all who had assisted in carrying off the king should be pronounced traitors, as well as all who should throw obstacles in the way of his return and reunion with the representatives of the people; that all who dared to insult the king, on his return, should be put under arrest. Robespierre sneered at the care for the king's person, which he declared unnecessary, and his friend Rewbell ridiculed the word enlevement, or " carrying off," as the assembly knew very well that the king had not been carried off, but had gone off of himself. Then there was another great swearing of national guards to a new oath, and the house was in a tumult all day with the passing and repassing of all sorts of soldiers to swear, and with loud playing of ca ira! On the morning of the 24th, the aide-de-camp of La Fayette, who had carried to Varennes the order of the king's arrest, presented himself, and gave an account of his journey; and, in the evening, Drouet, the postmaster, and Guillaume, his assistant, were introduced, and received with clamorous applauses. Drouet was declared to be an honour and a glory to his country, and Robespierre moved that he should receive a civic crown. Drouet was a made man; he soon became a member of the national assembly, voted for the king's death, and figured prominently in the reign of terror.

On the evening of the 25th of June it was announced to the assembly that the king had arrived, and was surrounded by the mob, who were threatening to murder the three gardes-du-corps. A placard had been posted, by order of the municipality, all over Paris - " Whoever applauds the king, shall be flogged; whoever insults him, shall be hanged/" But this did not prevent an enormous crowd collecting, in order to insult the fallen monarch and his family, by staring with their hats on. Covered with dust and humiliation, after a suffocating drive through a fiercely hot day of June, the unhappy family arrived, a little before seven o'clock, at the barriers. To avoid passing as much as possible through the streets of Paris, the carriage was taken a circuitous route, and brought through the Champs Elysees, and then into the gardens of the Tuileries by the gate of the Pont Tournant. La Fayette went to meet them as far as Pantin, accompanied by ten thousand national guards, and by an immense throng of people. This crowd continually swelled as they advanced, and the three gardes-du-corps, who were secured to their seats in front of the coach, were in danger of being torn to pieces by the mob. As soon as the queen saw La Fayette, she cried out, " Save the gardes-du-corps!" During La Fayette's absence, a dense crowd had also forced its way into the court of the Tuileries, and fears Were entertained for the safety of the royal family as they alighted. La Fayette first sent the three gardes-du-corps, conducted under a strong escort of the national guards, into one of the halls of the palace; then the king and madame Elizabeth descended, and advanced rapidly betwixt two files of the national guards to the door of the palace. Louis, assuming an air of cheerfulness, said, " Well, here I am. I am not lost. I really never meant to go beyond the frontiers." The queen was the last to quit the carriage. The dukes of Noailles and Aiguillon advanced and supported her on each hand. They were enemies of the court, but they felt for the situation and danger of the queen, and conducted her rapidly and safely into the palace. One person, as she passed, whispered some words of sympathy and encouragement, and Marie Antoinette replied, gracefully, " Monsieur, I am prepared for everything." La Fayette then presented himself to the king, and, with an air of respect, asked whether his majesty had any orders. Louis, with a smile, replied, " It appears to me that I am more under your orders than you are under mine." La Fayette then announced the decree of the assembly, which placed a guard over the person of himself, the queen, and the dauphin, and made that guard responsible for his safety. Louis submitted quietly, but the queen said that La Fayette had better take possession of the keys of their desks, which remained in the carriage. She could not forget that it was La Fayette who had so actively sent after them the arrest. La Fayette replied, that no person thought, or would think, of opening the desks; but the queen laid down the keys on his hat, and La Fayette was compelled to request her to take them back, for that he could not touch them.

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