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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 19


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At the rumour of this alleged conspiracy, and the tumult in consequence of it, La Fayette advanced to the spot with his national guards, and some pieces of artillery; but, as all was found quiet, he marched back again. Both the jacobin and the cordeliers clubs, alarmed at the appearance of the soldiers, and. at the many wild rumours of a plot, and an intention to massacre the spectators, kept away with their petitions, and the people, tired of waiting, drew up a petition themselves, declaring that the king had committed a monstrous crime, that the assembly was near its close, and it ought to secure the constitution before retiring, by abolishing royalty. This petition has been preserved in the municipal archives of Paris, and the paper, the signatures, and the orthography, present a curious specimen of the popular want of education, and they record the names of some of the most bloody men of the reign of terror. The signing continued till five o'clock in the evening, and numerous messages had already arrived at the Hotel de Yille, saying that there was much excitement in consequence of the carrying about the heads of the two murdered men; that the mob had insulted the national guards, and that there was danger of riot. The business of this gathering being in defiance of the national assembly, that body had charged mayor Bailly to see that no disturbance took place, and, if necessary, to disperse the crowd. Accordingly, a commissioner was dispatched to order the throng to disperse, but they refused. The red flag was then hung out of the windows of the Hotel de Ville, as the sign of martial law, and mayor Bailly, after six o'clock, marched to the Champ de Mars with a strong detachment of the national guards, a body of cavalry, three cannon, and the red flag displayed. No sooner did the mob see them than they shouted, " Down with the red flag! Down with those bayonets!" The entrance to the Champ de Mars was barricaded, and the people began to pelt the soldiers with stones. La Fayette broke down the barricades, and marched steadily forwards towards the altar, commanding the people to disperse; but they only assailed the soldiers the more actively for their forbearance. La Fayette then ordered the national guards to fire into the air, which for a moment dispersed the crowd, but the most part of it came again, perceiving no mischief done, and attacked the soldiers with such fury, firing several balls near La Fayette, that he at length ordered the soldiers to fire with ball. A number of people were killed, a great many more wounded; the accounts are so various that no particular account can be relied on. Report made the number of killed and wounded some hundreds, then some thousands, but the real amount would appear to have been somewhere about thirty. a number of others were seized, and by ten o'clock all was quiet, and Bailly and La Fayette returned to the Hotel de Ville.

For a moment this severity had the effect of cowing the people. The noisiest demagogues, Marat, Robespierre, Brissot, the Rolands, &c., fled in consternation into the country, or concealed themselves in obscure nooks; but very soon they ventured out again, and filled Paris with terrible outcries of the sanguinary plots that had been laid for the people, and boldly charged these and the massacre of the citizens on Bailly and La Fayette. It was clear that there was an end to their popularity with the mob, and that the jacobin orators and journalists would never rest till they had spilled their blood, or made them fly to save it. The days were over when La Fayette talked of the divine right of insurrection; it had long ago assumed an aspect which had nothing divine in it, but menaces of blood and anarchy.

The next morning Bailly and the municipal body appeared at the bar of the assembly to present a report of the proceedings of the day before. The assembly expressed its full approval, and Barnave declared that it was time to defend the monarchy, and to hunt out and bring to justice the instigators of these unconstitutional proceedings, and compel obedience to the laws. The assembly passed several very stringent decrees against all instigations to breach of the law, whether by placards, handbills, journals, or speeches. Petion opposed these decrees, as destructive of the liberty of the press; but some were carried out hostile to Marat, Danton, Laclos, Brissot, &c. The cote gauche appeared silent and intimidated, and, had the assembly now had the courage and perseverance to arrest and capitally punish the authors of incessant stimulus to murder and anarchy, torrents of blood might have been spared. For a time, the assembly showed much spirit. It seized the types of most of the journals, though those of Brissot escaped. It arrested a number of fiery demagogues, but the chief agitators had escaped. The assembly and municipality now turned the press against its own champions, and through the columns of Le Chant du Coq, or " Crowing of the Cock," a journal which they set up, they denounced the authors of anarchy, and published many infamous details of their lives. This produced a very yell of fury from these concealed jacobins. Brissot exclaimed, in his journal, " Patriots! a frightful conspiracy is a-foot against all who have developed any energy in defence of the people; who have unmasked the traitors and enemies of the constitution. Their ruin is sworn: gold is flowing in torrents to pay the infamous libellers of the friends of their country." Marat emerged from his hiding-place to send forth his paper; Freron, his Orateur; Labinette., his Devils Journal; in which they charged Bailly and La Fayette with being allied with the assembly to destroy the liberty of the people, and with having attacked and shot them down in the Champ de Mars, when peaceably petitioning the assembly. Camille Desmoulins also, from his hiding-place, made the most atrocious charges against Bailly and La Fayette. He declared that they had got up the plot at the Champ de Mars to massacre the people, and that the number they had killed was four hundred; that there had been no firing at La Fayette, but that he had set one of his own men to fire at him, without a ball, for a pretext to butcher the people, and that he and Bailly had delayed the massacre till late in the evening, in the hope that the clubs would be there, signing, so that he might dispatch them altogether; he had penetrated the league of Barnave with the court, and protested that he and the Lameths were bribed to restore the ancient despotism.

A great schism took place in the jacobin club, in consequence of the violence of the members. Numbers of the more moderate quitted the club and joined the Feuillants. The assembly particularly favoured this going over to the Feuillants; it circulated an address throughout the country, recommending all the affiliated societies in the provinces to acknowledge the Feuillant club as their head; and this succeeded to a certain extent. But Robespierre read an address at the jacobin club, in which he warned these societies against the Feuillants, as enemies of the liberties of the people, and reminded them that the days of the assembly were numbered, and that true jacobins would succeed them, and perhaps modify the constitution. The consequence was that the affiliated societies again rallied round the mother society, and the jacobins recovered, in a great measure, the power and boldness that they had lost. The heads of the popular hydra had escaped, and the members of the assembly and of the municipality were soon to feel their vengeance. The assembly had, indeed, just performed a piece of blasphemous mummery, the apotheosis of Voltaire, which tended wonderfully to increase the influence of the jacobins and of the mob. They had decreed that the bones of the impious poet should be brought from the abbey of Scellieres, and carried in state to the Pantheon. In Voltaire's lifetime it was boasted that he had buried the priests and the Christian religion, but now the priests were going to bury him, having very little of the Christian religion left amongst them. It is to the credit of a minority in the Parisians that a public protest against this honour to a man who heaped ribaldry and obscenity on everything sacred was made and placarded on the walls. The writers of this protest were declared to be fools and Jansenists. The assembly fixed the day of the procession for the 10th of July; but the 10th was a deluging, rainy day, and the ceremony was postponed to the next day, or till the weather should be fine. The officer of the commune to whom this message of postponement was delivered, remarked that it was the low jealousy of the aristocracy of heaven which had sent this deluge to prevent the triumph of the great man who had been the rival and conqueror of the Divinity! Such was the atheistic madness to which the doctrines of Voltaire had by this time reduced the French. The next day was as wet, and the assembly was about to renew the postponement, when about two o'clock at noon it cleared up. The coffin was placed on a car of the true classic form, and being received at the barrier of Charenton, it was borne first to the spot on which the Bastille had stood, and where Voltaire had been confined by lettre-de-cachet. The ground was converted into a temporary garden by turf and shrubs, and boughs of trees, and the sarcophagus containing the coffin of the great infidel was placed on a platform in the centre, being covered with myrtles, roses, and wild flowers, and bearing the following inscriptions: - " If man is born free, he ought to govern himself." " If man has tyrants placed over him, he ought to dethrone them." This was plain speaking. Besides these there were various other inscriptions in different parts of the area, and on a huge block of stone, in large letters: - "Receive, O Voltaire! on this spot, where despotism once held thee in chains, the honours thy country renders thee!"

From the Bastille to the Pantheon all Paris seemed to be following the procession. Soldiers, lawyers, doctors, each made their part of the train, carrying banners with devices in honour of the hero of the occasion. The assembly, the municipal body, marched in their places of honour; the learned academies with a crowd of poets, literary men, and artists, carried a gilded chest containing the seventy volumes of Voltaire's works; the men who had taken part in the demolition of the Bastille carried chains, fetters, and cuirasses found in the prison; a bust of Voltaire, surrounded by those of Rousseau, Mirabeau, and Desilles, was borne by the actors from the different theatres, in ancient costume; then came the car which at the Bastille had been surmounted by a statue of the philosopher which France was crowning with a wreath of immortelles; this fresh inscription on the sides of the sarcophagus: - " He avenged Calas, La Barre, Sirven, and Montbailly: poet, philosopher, and historian, he made the human mind take a high flight, and prepared us to become free." The immense procession was preceded and closed by national guards.

The procession halted at various places for the poet to receive particular honours. At the opera houses, the actors and actresses were waiting to present a laurel crown, and to sing a hymn to his glory; at the house of M. Villette - where was yet deposited the heart of the great man previous to being sent to Fernay - four tall poplars were planted and adorned with wreaths and festoons of flowers, and on the front of the house was written, in large letters: - " His genius is everywhere, and his heart is here!" Madame Villette, who had been so much celebrated by Voltaire as the good and beautiful, also appeared and placed another crown on the statue. Near this was raised a sort of amphitheatre, on which were seated a crowd of young girls in white dresses with blue sashes, crowned with roses, and holding wreaths in honour of the poet in their hands, whilst they sang another hymn to his glory; madame Villette and some members of the family of Calas then walked before the car to the Theatre Francaise, where the names of Voltaire's works were written on the front of the building, and the columns of its portico were also garlanded with flowers, and hung with medallions. A similar halt was made on the site of the former theatre, Comedie Francaise, and a statue of the poet was there crowned, by actors costumed as Tragedy and Comedy; the actors then sang a chorus from his opera of " Samson," and then the procession advanced to the Pantheon, where the mouldering remains of Voltaire were placed beside those of Descartes and Mirabeau. All Paris that evening was one festal scene; illuminations blazing on the busts and figures of the patriot of equality, the Creator himself having been, in imagination, dethroned by him, and by quotations from his works, which were deemed to have swept away for ever all the old superstitions of the Bible.

Three days after this, the 14th of July, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille was kept, and bishop Gobel celebrated mass at the altar of the cemetery in the Champ de Mars; and, just three days later, La Fayette fired on the assembled people, in the same spot - a curious concurrence of circumstances, and suggestive of serious thoughts on the tendency of the revolution.

The assembly now took upon itself the education of the dauphin. Poor Louis complained in vain that he should not be allowed to dictate the education of his own child; but individual feelings, or rights of nature in a monarch, were things that the revolutionists of France took no account of. A king or a prince was, with them, only a piece of machinery to be fashioned and used as they pleased, and, accordingly, to manufacture a prince answerable to their ideas, the assembly piled on the poor boy's head a crowd of teachers, enough to drive any child mad. There were no less than sixty-eight preceptors of one kind or another! Amongst them were St. Pierre, the author of the " Studies of Nature," and of " Paul and Virginia;" Ber- quin, the author of " The Children's Friend; " Dacier, chief secretary of the Academy of Belles Lettres; Ducis, translator of Shakespeare; Lacepede, the naturalist; Lacra- telle, the historian; Malesherbes, formerly minister; De Quincey, writer on art and antiquities; Pieyres, author of " The School of Fathers; " Segur, the diplomatist; and the abbé Sicard, the improver of the art of teaching the deaf and dumb. If the king complained of the appointment of many of these teachers, the jacobins complained of more, and declared that the boy ought to be put into the patriotic hands of Marat and Robespierre.

And now, prior to its own dissolution, the assembly commenced the great work of the revision of the constitution. A report of a committee was brought up on this subject. Men of all politics were on this committee; there were Thouret, Target, Chapelier, Sieyes, Talleyrand, St. Etienne, Barnave, Duport, Alexander Lameth, Clermont- Tonnere, Buzot, Petion, &c. The discussion of this report continued till the 1st of September. Malouet, Barnave, and the Lameths, resolved, on this occasion, to make a determined stand for the restoration of the most important of the royal prerogatives. Malouet was to take the lead; Barnave and the Lameths to appear to oppose him; but, in the course of their speeches, to admit that certain concessions to the crown were necessary to the independent working of the constitution. It is possible that something might have been gained by this plan, but, unfortunately, the moderates had ruined all hope of it, by refusing to vote any more in the assembly, thus leaving the matter in the hands of the cote gauche, or ultra-revolutionists. Malouet made a daring and uncompromising attack on the constitution, and demanded, first of all, that the declaration of the Rights of Man should be expunged. It is not to be supposed that he could for a moment hope to succeed in this demand, but that, by his extreme demands, he might render the points of revision suggested by Barnave and the Lameths moderate in appearance. The most terrible outcries were raised around him by the cote gauche; but he went on, and denounced the clubs and their influence. He adverted to the proposition that no alteration should be made in the constitution till 1800, and contended that it was intolerable to expect France to groan under such a tyrannous constitution for that length of time; that they had pared down the royal power to an absolute nullity; had reduced the king to a prisoner and a puppet, and thus destroyed all his moral influence in the state; that the legislative had usurped the executive, and was itself the slave of the clubs and the mob. "Have you taken any measures," he demanded, amid the most violent interruptions, yellings, and hootings, "for compelling that multitude of tyrannical clubs, which corrupt and subdue public opinion, which exercise an entire influence over elections, which domineer over all the authorities, to restore to us that liberty and peace which they have torn from us? Have you taken any measures to restrain within the due limits of the law those masses of armed men which cover the whole of France as national guards? If your constitution does not check the abuses of the extraordinary means that have been made use of to establish it, you can yet propose to us a long interval, before any alterations or reforms shall be permitted? "

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 19

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