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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 17


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Such was this unfortunate journey to Varennes. The failure had been the result of the want of punctuality in keeping the appointments made, by which the soldiers had been withdrawn from their posts, and by the imprudence of the king showing himself. The king's brother, afterwards Louis XVIII., and his wife, who departed at the same time by another route, made their escape in safety. Prisoner as Louis had been before, from this day he ceased to be a king. The republic had gained a huge stride by his flight, which had destroyed the last remnant of confidence in him, and turned the mind of the mass to the idea of a republic.

The strictest and even the most extraordinary surveillance was maintained over the king and queen, without any regard to decency. The wardrobe-woman, the spy and mistress of Gouvion, was again set over them; and everything was so arranged, that nobody could approach the queen except through this woman, her sister, and her sister's daughter. The queen's own attendants could with difficulty reach her.

Gouvion had this woman's portrait placed at the foot of the staircase leading to the queen's apartments, in order that the sentinels might not permit any other women to effect an entrance. The king sent for La Fayette, and demanded freedom in his household, and that this woman and her familiars should be sent out of the palace, and the commandant was compelled to comply.

But, though this she-dragon was removed, the king and queen were left under the more indecent watch of soldiers. This is madame Campan's account: - " The commandants of battalions, stationed in the saloon called the grand cabinet, and which preceded the queen's bed-chamber, were ordered to keep the door of it always open, in order that they might always have their eyes on the royal family. The king shut this door one day; the officer of the guard opened it, and told him such were his orders, and that he would always open it; so that his majesty, in shutting it, gave himself useless trouble. It remained open even during the night, when the queen was in bed, and the officer placed himself in an arm-chair, between the two doors, with his head turned towards her majesty. They only obtained permission to have the inner door shut when the queen was rising and dressing. The queen had the bed of her first femme-de-chambre placed near her own. This bed, which ran on castors, and was furnished with curtains, hid her from the officer's sight.

" Madame de Jarjaie, my companion, who continued her functions during the whole of my absence, told me that, one night, the commandant of battalion, who slept between the two doors, seeing that she was sleeping soundly, and that the queen was awake, quitted his post and went close to her majesty to advise her as to the line of conduct she was to pursue. Although she had the kindness to desire him to speak lower, in order that he might not disturb madame de Jarjaie's rest, the latter awoke, and was near dying with the shock of seeing a man in the uniform of the Parisian guard so near the queen's bed."

The queen bade her not alarm herself, for the officer was friendly to the king. Marie Antoinette, indeed, had a wonderful power, by her gentleness and kindness, in softening down these guards. One of the officers dared to speak insolently to her in her own apartment. M. Callot, commandant of the battalion, said he would complain to M. La Fayette, and have him broken. The queen opposed this, and condescended to say a few words of explanation to the man, who instantly became one of her most devoted partisans.

"The first time that I saw her majesty," continues madame Campan, " after the unfortunate catastrophe of the Varennes journey, I found her getting out of bed. Her features were not very much altered; but, after the first kind words she uttered to me, she took off her cap, and desired me to observe the effect which grief had produced upon her hair. It became, in one single night, as white as that of a woman of seventy. Her majesty showed me a ring she had just had mounted for the princess de Lamballe; it contained a lock of her whitened hair, with the inscription, ' Blanchispar le malheur' – 'Bleached by sorrow.'"

Besides this unmanly and indecent watch over the king and queen during every hour of their existence, the assembly sent three deputies, d'Andre, Tronchet, and Duport, to demand, from both king and queen, declarations regarding their journey. This was an act of assumption that none but a monarch like Louis would have submitted to. But Barnave was consulted, and he dictated the answer. That of the king was as follows: "I see, gentlemen, by the object of the mission given to you, that there is no question of an examination; I will, therefore, answer the inquiries of the assembly. I shall never be afraid of making public my conduct. It was the insults and menaces offered to my family and myself on the 18th of April that were the cause of my departure from Paris. Several publications have endeavoured to provoke acts of violence against my person and my family. I deemed that there would not be safety, nor even decency, in my remaining longer in this city; yet, never was it my intention to leave the kingdom. I had had no concert on this subject, either with foreign powers, or with my relatives, or with any of the French emigrants. I can state, in proof of my intentions, that apartments were prepared at Montmedy for my reception. I had selected this place because, being fortified, my family would be safer there; and because, being near the frontiers, I should have been better able to oppose every kind of invasion of France, had a disposition been shown to attempt any. One of the principal motives for quitting Paris was to set at rest the argument of my non-freedom, which was likely to furnish occasion for disturbances. If I had harboured any intention of quitting the kingdom, I should not have published my memorial on the very day of my departure; I should have waited till I was beyond the frontiers. But I always desired to return to Paris. It is in this sense that the last sentence of my memorial must be taken, where it is said, 'Frenchmen, and, above all, Parisians, what pleasure shall I feel in finding myself again in the midst of you!' "

Louis then noticed, in confirmation, that he had taken with him only three thousand louis in gold, and fifty-six thousand livres in assignats; that his brother had only gone into another country, because it was advisable to take different routes, and that he was to meet him again in France. The fact of the passport being made out for a foreign country he explained by the necessity of one in passing provincial towns, and yet that the office for foreign affairs granted no passports for the interior of the kingdom. That the road to Frankfort, mentioned in it, was not even taken. All these reasons, after the many statements made by Louis at different times, which were all swept away by his memorial, could not appear very convincing to the assembly, and then he came upon the sore question of the strong protests which he had made in that memorial. That protest," he said, " does not bear, as the tenor of it attests, upon the principles of the constitution, but on the little liberty that I appeared to enjoy, and on the circumstance that, as the decrees had not been laid before me en masse, I could not judge of the constitution as a whole. The chief reproach in the memorial relates to the means of administration and execution. I have ascertained during my journey that public opinion was decidedly in favour of the constitution; I did not conceive that I could judge fully of this public opinion in Paris; but, from the observations which I have personally made during my journey, I am convinced how necessary it is for the support of the constitution to give strength to the powers established for the maintenance of public order. As soon as I had ascertained the general will I hesitated not, as I never have hesitated, to make a sacrifice of everything that is personal to me. The happiness of the people has always been the object of my wishes. I will gladly forget all the crosses that I have experienced, if I can but insure the peace and felicity of the nation."

The declaration of the queen, of course, entered into no reasons of state. Her reason for accompanying the king was simply her duty, which she had always shown; namely, that she would not quit him. In all the rest, she supported the assertions of the king, that he did not mean to quit the kingdom, and even added that, had such been his wish, she would have used her influence to dissuade him. She made the same assertion regarding monsieur and madame. She screened madame de Tourzel and the three gardes-du-corps, by declaring that they knew nothing whatever of their intentions, or the object of the journey. The gardes-du- corps had already, by order of the assembly, been conveyed from the Tuileries to a common prison.

These declarations were taken on the 27th of June, and, on the 30th, the assembly, after receiving these from the commissioners, and leaving them for the present unnoticed, decreed, on the motion of Menou, afterwards distinguished as a general in Egypt, that the white flag of the Bourbons should be for ever abolished, and the tricolour become that of the nation, and be borne by every regiment.

This being done, the president announced the receipt of two letters from marshal Bouille, late commandant of the forces on the frontiers: one to himself, in a few words, inclosing another to the assembly; but he observed that it appeared to him to be a very insolent letter. The assembly, however, resolved on hearing it. In fact, Bouille tells us, in his memoirs, that his motive in writing that letter was to turn the rage of the assembly from the king upon himself. He feared for the king's life, and determined to take all the blame of planning the attempt at escape on himself, although he had really opposed the plan which Louis adopted. He wished, moreover, to impress on the assembly, that any injury done to the king would be avenged by all Europe. He commenced by telling them that he shuddered to think that a blind destiny had put the king and queen at the mercy of a people whom the assembly had made at once ferocious and the scorn of the universe. He declared that it was necessary for all parties that the truth should be known, and that he was now resolved to speak it, though he knew they would not listen to it: - " The king was become the prisoner of his people. Attached to my sovereign, though detesting arbitrary power, I groaned at the frenzy of the people. I blamed your proceedings; but, for a long time, I hoped that, in the end, the wicked would be confounded, and the anarchy cease; and that we should have some sort of government that would be, at least, supportable. My attachment to my king and country gave me strength to support the humiliation of corresponding with you. But then I saw that the spirit of faction was becoming dominant; that some wished for a civil war; that some wished for a republic; and that amongst the latter was M. La Fayette. Jacobin clubs were established to destroy the army; the populace were led on by cabal and intrigue. The king was without power and without respect; the army without chiefs and without discipline; and I then proposed to the king and queen to quit Paris, in the persuasion that this might operate a useful change. They declined; but the day of poniards induced me to renew my solicitations, and, after the 18th of April, when the king was not even permitted to go to St. Cloud, I was able to induce him to see the necessity of going to Montmedy, whence he would be able to prevail on the foreign powers, who were arriving, to suspend their vengeance against France." (At this declaration the cote gauche laughed in affected derision.) Bouille then stated the beneficial changes which he had hoped the king would be able to effect by this step; that the people, to avert an invasion, would choose a new and very different assembly, by whose higher sagacity a system of rational liberty would be wrought out in conjunction with the king. And Bouille then concluded thus: - " Believe me, all the princes of the universe know that they are threatened by the monsters you have generated, and they will soon fall upon our unhappy country, for I cannot prevent myself calling it still my country. I know our forces. Every kind of hope is chimerical, and soon will your chastisement serve as a memorable example to posterity. It is in this way that a man ought to speak, who, all along, has had pity for you. Do not accuse any one of a plot against your infernal constitution. The king did not draw up the orders which were given; it was I alone who ordered everything; it is against me alone that you ought to sharpen your daggers and prepare your poisons. You will answer for the life of the king and queen to all the kings of Europe. If you touch a hair of their heads, one stone will not be left on another in Paris. (At this, yells of laughter arose.) I know the roads; I will guide the foreign armies. This letter is but the forerunner of the manifestoes of the sovereigns of Europe; they will warn you, in a more emphatic manner, of the war which you will have to fear. Adieu! messieurs."

This letter was treated by the assembly with affected contempt. They passed to the order of the day; but they soon showed how deeply they felt his stinging remarks, by setting a price upon his head. But he was safe beyond their power, and his generous letter was read in every quarter of Europe. Had the sovereigns of Europe been really as earnest in behalf of the king of France, and had immediately marched into the country, they could scarcely have failed of making themselves masters of Paris; but. they might have precipitated the deaths of the king and queen. But, in truth, the kings of Europe were in no such chivalrous mood; they were thinking more of their own interests, and actually, some of them, planning the most disgraceful robberies of their neighbours. Spain, seeing no sign of coalition amongst the northern sovereigns, expressed its friendly disposition towards the French government, and prevented an attempt on its southern provinces, in which the knights of Malta were to assist with two frigates. The insurgents at Brussels and Coblentz were in a state of agitation, declaring that monsieur, who had now joined them, was the regent of the kingdom, seeing that the king was a prisoner, and had no will of his own. The poor king was compelled by the assembly to write to them, disavowing these proceedings. As to the powers in general, Pitt made pretences of great sympathy, but did nothing; Leopold of Austria, who had the most direct interest in the rescue of his sister and her family, was, notwithstanding his recent declarations, desirous rather of peace, and by no means pleased with the emigrants. A declaration of allied sovereigns was, indeed, made at Pilnitz, that Prussia, and Austria, and Russia, would advance to the rescue of Louis XVI.; but the more immediate object of the agreement made there was, the dismemberment of Poland, which was determined in secret articles. Austria, in fact, had to purchase the assistance of Prussia against France, by offering it a share in this national plunder; and this scheme soon assumed a more lively interest with these northern vultures than the ostensible one of aiding the suffering family of France.

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