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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 18


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But whilst the sovereigns were lukewarm, the democrats in Paris, and, through them, all over France, were active. The question was no longer blinked in the clubs that there should be no king; that Louis had forfeited his throne by his flight; and that a republic was the only rational form of government for free men. In the journals, too, the jacobins not only advocated this step, but heaped the most unmeasured contempt and ridicule on the king and hatred on the queen. Camille Desmoulins styled Louis the crowned Sancho, who was always thinking of his stomach, and at Varennes lost the time in which he might have escaped by staying to eat pig's pettitoes. Freron declared that the king called for wine before entering Paris at Pantin, and entered his capital dead drunk. He described the queen as with eyes blood-shot with dust and anger, and looking like a fury that thirsted for the blood of Frenchmen. The description of Louis by Wilberforce, that he looked a strange animal of the hog kind, and that it was worth going a hundred miles to see him, especially when boar- hunting, was nothing to the portraitures of him by these rabid republicans. Brissot proposed several plans for the crisis to the consideration of Frenchmen: to abolish monarchy at once, and adopt the republican form; to put the question of king or no king to the nation at large; or to leave him as a harmless thing on the throne, and have a regent. No sooner was a regent named, than the duke of Orleans was suggested by some parties; but Orleans made haste to declare that he would not accept any office; he would remain a simple citizen. Orleans had seen that it was no desirable thing to be the chief officer of a nation of wolves; and he had learned, too, the very little weight that his name carried with it.

The Cordeliers club sent a deputation to the jacobin club to propose a republic, and it was warmly received by many; but the wily Robespierre affected at this moment to demur as to a republic, though he was secretly bent on its accomplishment. When some of the republican party of the Rolands spoke of the republic now being certain on the day of the king's flight, Robespierre said, with a laugh, " A republic! what is that?" But whilst this sanguinary hypocrite was pretending moderation, his supporters were marching, in open day, towards the object that his soul longed for. Drouet, the postmaster, was feted throughout Paris as the saviour of France, and was carried nightly from club to club to relate the story of the king's capture as he had told it to the assembly. The jacobin club, of Marseilles, also sent up a fiery address to the mother society, plainly declaring that the time was come to abandon the farce of royalty, and recommending the safety of Robespierre and Danton as of the highest importance to the state. As for Robespierre, they said, " He is the vigilant sentinel, whom nothing can take by surprise; he is the only emulator of the Roman Fabricius, whose virtues the despot Pyrrhus lauded in these celebrated words, 'It is easier to turn the sun from his course than to turn Fabricius from the paths of honour.'"

Similar language came up from most of the jacobin clubs of France, and on the evening of the 27th of June the parent society held a great debate on the best mode of treating the king. In this debate the co-editor of Brissot, a young man named Girey-Dupre, made a long and violent speech, declaring that the word of the king was not to be trusted; that he had perjured himself to the nation, and that the nation ought to punish a perjured king. Others, amongst whom was Anthoine, advocated the shutting up the king and queen for life, and appointing a regent; but, besides some violent denunciations of La Fayette, Bailly, Barnave, and the Lameths, no conclusion was arrived at.

Two days later, the cote-droit, or moderate party in the assembly, presented a protest against the usurpations of that body, signed by two hundred and seventy names, prominent amongst which were those of Maury, Malouet, Bonnay, cardinal la Rochefoucault, &c. This protest declared that the assembly had forcibly invaded all the rights of the king as secured to him by the constitution; that they had imprisoned his person, placed him under continual insults in his own palace, deprived him of the education of his own son; that they had seized the great seal, and given authority to their decrees without any sanction from the king, which was the annihilation of the constitution. Such being the case, the signers of it declared that they would take no further part in this usurping assembly, except to defend the king and his family. The reading of this protest was interrupted by a terrible clamour, and the president adjourned the house, but the supporters of the protest published and circulated it through the country. The only effect, however, was to strengthen the jacobin party, which went all the more boldly to pass their own measures, because the refusal to vote by the moderates left everything in their hands.

At the same time, publications openly advocating the deposition of the king and the establishment of a republic appeared. Antoine Leon Saint-Just, a young man destined to a sanguinary renown, put forth an essay on this subject; and a still more remarkable document, in the form of a proclamation to the French nation, subscribed by Achille Duchatelet, who had served in America under La Fayette. This was a call to the French to seize the opportunity of the king having abandoned his post to set him aside and erect a republic. This was placarded all over Paris. The members of the assembly favourable to royalty were incensed. Malouet and Cazales demanded that Duchatelet should be prosecuted; but the assembly passed to the order of the day, leaving the public to think as it pleased on the subject. The document was not the composition of Duchatelet but of Thomas Paine, who was now extremely active at the clubs, endeavouring to introduce a republic here, as he imagined he had done in America. Paine spoke repeatedly on this head in the jacobin club. He declared that the French had, in reality, made a republic, but had not had the courage to cut away from it the absurd anomaly of a king. Paine, on account of his " Rights of Man," and his share in the American revolution, had a great reputation with the republicans of Paris, and his ideas flew abroad with great effect. He tried to bring La Fayette, Sieyes, and others of the leading revolutionists to his views; but both Sieyes and La Fayette replied that it was not yet time. He made, however, a decided convert of Condorcet, at whose house he was a frequent guest. The marquis de Condorcet was a distinguished mathematician. He was of one of the oldest families of Dauphiny, but was born at Ribemont, in Picardy, in 1743, and consequently was now forty-eight. When only twenty-two years of age, he had distinguished himself by a work on " Integral Calculations;" and during the next four years by his " Problem of the Three Bodies," and his " Analytical Essays." In 1769 he was elected member of the academy, and in 1773 its secretary. Having now adopted these republican ideas, he became as noted for the fervour of his political opinions as he already was for science. His house became the centre of union for men of like opinions. The question of a republic was continually discussed by Condorcet, Petion, Claviere, Buzot, and others, who met in private committees. They declared that the king had lost for ever the public confidence; that the nation could never forget his flight after his repeated assurances of voluntary approval of the revolution; and the king himself could never forget that he had been brought back by force, and was a prisoner in the hands of the assembly. That the elements of the monarchy were destroyed in this one man, and that there could be no restoration of it. Condorcet argued, that to allow the transition from monarchy to a republic to be made by the people rising against the court, would be a bloody and terrible affair; but that the assembly, having now all power in their hands, had only to decree the republic, and it would be done and accepted in peace. Sieyes, on the other hand, though no man had done more to curb the power of the crown, was for preserving the crown. He had a lively apprehension of the danger of putting down one tolerable king, and setting up a million of intolerable masters in a republic. He declared that, in his opinion> the best social regimen was that in which not one - not some men alone - but in which all men tranquilly enjoyed the greatest latitude of possible liberty; at the same time, he demanded to have the state and cumbrousness taken away from monarchy, and that it should be deprived of the power of corrupting and conspiring. Paine assailed him in Brissot's journal, and Sieyes replied through the Monitor; but Condorcet, who had been formerly a contributor to the Encyclopedic, now, in conjunction with Claviere, Buzot, and others, established a periodical, with the plain title of the Republican, to disseminate their ideas, and the afterwards celebrated Madame Roland was a zealous writer in it.

But Brissot, both in the jacobin club and in his journal, made the most uncompromising onslaught on royalty, for Marat, at this juncture, was ill at Vincennes. Brissot ridiculed monarchy by stating that the ancient Egyptians, to render it as innocuous as possible, put a stone block upon the throne, and that the Sheiks put on theirs a Koran and a sword. " If," said Brissot, " this stone king and this Koran are incapable of punishment, they are also incapable of offence. They cannot conspire against the nation. Our declaration of the Rights of Man demands that all citizens shall be equal before the law. Now this equality ceases the moment that one man is placed above the law, and every article of that declaration of rights will begin to lose its force the very moment people have the audacity to trample one of them under foot." He declared that he could see in a sovereign nothing but a god, and in the pretended citizens brutes or serfs. As to external dangers, he could see none; the Americans, he said, though a handful of people, had liberated themselves, beating off above thirty thousand English. Of the French, Spaniards, and Dutch engaged in the same contest against Great Britain, he took no note. As for the continental kings, they had only to lead their oppressed and degraded subjects against France, and her glorious principles would cause them all to revolt against their despots, and to carry back liberty to their different countries, as France had brought it from America.

With respect to England, Pitt saw too well that a war with France would complete the ruin of that country, already impending from its enormous debt, and from the impossibility of six thousand English retaining twenty millions of Indians in slavery. Holland and Prussia, he contended, were equally incapable of carrying on a war; and as for the emperor Leopold, he had enough on his hands to keep the fermenting and discordant provinces of his empire together. The Hungarians and Italians he represented to be in a state ripe for insurrection; and Poland was on the eve of a revolution. In short, there was no danger, neither from individual states nor from Europe combined.

On the 16th of July the committees of constitution and research made their report on the king's flight to Varennes. They declared that, if there was any crime committed, it was not against the constitution, for the king had not passed beyond the frontiers, or employed foreign troops. If there was any personal offence, the person of the king was inviolable, and, therefore, it could not be punished. A terrible outcry arose against the doctrine of inviolability. M. Vadiei' declared that with their inviolability they would make Neros and Caligulas; and he repeatedly called the king a crowned brigand, much to the delight of the galleries. Robespierre declared the king to be as much subject to the laws as any other man; that, if he committed a violent offence against any citizen, that citizen could avenge it, in spite of this fabled inviolability. " The king, you say, is inviolable," he went on; " I say the people too are inviolable. The king is only inviolable by fiction; the people are inviolable by the sacred right of nature!" and he demanded that the question should be put to the people at large, in their several departments. The committees had suggested that the governess, madame de Tourzel, Bouille, and the three gardes-du-corps were guilty of a crime against the nation, by endeavouring to carry the king off, but Robespierre very properly ridiculed this conclusion. He declared that all were alike guilty, or all innocent, and that it would be mean and cowardly to let the chief individual escape, and punish the subordinates. Goupil de Prefeln replied to Robespierre, and made a fierce attack on the clubs, and about twenty individuals, who, he said, governed those riotous bodies, meaning Robespierre, Marat, Danton, Brissot, and their confreres. He was extremely severe on Condorcet and Brissot; and he was followed by the abbé Gregoire, who declared that the king had forfeited his throne, and that it was a sacred duty to bring him to punishment. Salles, Barnave, and Dufort defended the monarchy. They declared that a republic might suit a new country like America, but could never suit an old and wealthy one like France. Salles, to make a show of binding the king, proposed three resolutions, which Barnave supported. These were, that if, when the constitution was finished, and the king had sworn to the totality of it, he should retract, this should be held to amount to abdication. If he should fiver put himself at the head of an army against the nation, or instruct any of his generals to do so, or fail in doing his utmost to prevent such a scheme, that should be held as abdication; and, having once abdicated by these or any means, the king should become an ordinary citizen, and be amenable to all forms of law for any offences committed by him after abdication. After a violent debate, these resolutions were carried, but so much to the indignation of the mob and their jacobin leaders, that there was immediately a determined opposition to them out of doors.

The resolutions passed on the evening of the 15th of July. That very night the jacobin club took up the subject, and Brissot produced a petition demanding the abolition of royalty. Robespierre thought it was too soon, and that the petition might be made the pretext for some sanguinary attack on the people. A petition was also prepared at the cordeliers club the next day, Saturday, and the walls of Paris were placarded with a call to sign it the next day in the Champ-de-Mars on the wooden altar of the country. Thither the next morning, Sunday, the 17th, all Paris seemed to be moving, and amongst them was a party now gradually rising into form and importance, afterwards called the Gironde, of which M. Roland and his wife were the heads, and Brissot, Condorcet, and Vergniaud were the chief agitators; Condorcet writing and speaking in its favour, and Vergniaud being its most eloquent speaker. This party, of which and its chiefs we shall soon speak more particularly, were amongst the most eager spectators and most prompt signers of the petition on this eventful day. At an early hour of the morning, and before the arrival of any petition, a number of people had ascended the platform on which the altar stood, and were walking about. Suddenly some one felt himself pricked under the sole of his foot. There was an outcry, an astonishment, a search, and behold, a gimlet- hole in the boards! An alarm of some plot to blow up the whole of the spectators was given; the boards were torn up, and beneath were discovered two men concealed there. They were dragged forth, and were discovered to be an invalid with a wooden leg and a journeyman hair-dresser. They had provisions with them in their concealment sufficient for the day; and being questioned why they had crept in there, they laughed, and replied, only to have a look at the ladies' legs! This was probably the real and base purpose of the fellows - for they had no combustibles or any means of annoyance more formidable than their eyes and their gimlet; but they were not believed, and they were speedily hanged at a lanterne near, their heads were cut off, stuck on poles, and paraded through the streets.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 18

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