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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 23


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Brissot at this time, however, was the leading figure of the Gironde party. Although he had failed to obtain an entrance into the first assembly, he had become a member of this, and, both in the tribune and in his newspaper, the Republican, attacked the monarchy with the most undisguised and most unrelenting virulence. Brissot was the son of a poor pastrycook of Ouarville, near Chartres, in which city he had been educated with Petion. He had early taken to literature, in which he assumed the name of Warville, from the place of his birth, Ouarville. He edited, before the revolution, the Courrier de VEurope, a newspaper of Boulogne. He became author of various works, as "Rome Unmasked;" "Philosophical Letters on the Life and Writings of St. Paul," which he professed to be a translation from the English; "The Theory of Criminal Law;" the outline of a work on "Universal Pyrrhonism," with essays on Metaphysics and on Legislation. In all these, so far as laws and institutions were concerned, he had studied those of England, and he then proceeded - as Frenchmen have been so fond of doing for the last hundred years - to declare the ruin of England at hand. Notwithstanding this, when the French government suppressed the Courrier of Boulogne, he came over to England, where he set up a Lyceum in Newman-street, Oxford-street, which was to spread over the world enlightenment on all matters that concerned the government and social progress of the human race. He issued thence the Journal of the Lyceum, in which he attempted to teach to his own countrymen the free institutions of that England which was so soon to perish. By means of this Lyceum pretence he managed to swindle a M. Desforges, a money-lender, out of thirteen thousand livres, and was in close connection with Morande, alternately a French libeller of the government and a French spy, and with the marquis de Pelleport, the author of Le Diable dans un Benitier, "The Devil in the Holy Water Vessel." Being obliged to quit London to avoid arrest for the money so fraudulently obtained, he returned to France, and was seized by lettre de cachet and lodged in the Bastille. Yet he is accused at the same time of having been, whilst in London, in the pay of Vergennes, and, notwithstanding, writing against the French government. The Courrier de l'Europe, on which he had been engaged, it appears, was published really in London by a Mr. Swinton, and sent over to Boulogne for circulation. At this Swinton's house he became first acquainted with Morande. " He was one of those mercenary scribes," says Lamartine, " who write for those who pay best. He had written on all subjects, for every minister, especially for Turgot - criminal law, political economy, diplomacy, literature, philosophy, even libels. Seeking the support of celebrated and influential men, he had circulated round all from Voltaire and Franklin down to Marat." On being liberated from the Bastille in 1785 he went again to England, and thence to America, and wrote a work on the United States. On the breaking out of the revolution he returned to France, and started, first, the Patriote Frangais, and we have had occasion to notice his truculent articles, and his equally fiery speeches in the jacobin club. He had formerly lauded and supported Bailly and La Fayette; he was now equally active for the republic in the assembly, and in the salons of Roland, Condorcet, and Bidermann the banker. Robespierre was excessively angry with him, declaring that, with his " republic," he was throwing division amongst the patriots, and playing into the hands of their enemies by announcing that there was a party in France pledged to destroy the monarchy and the constitution. Marat, in his Ami du Peuple, and Manuel, in Pere Duchesne, were equally violent against him, and so were much better men. He had won, in truth, a most unenviable name. " Brissot's old allies," says Lamartine, "returned from London, especially Morande, under cover of the troublous times, and revealed to the Parisians in the Argus, and in placard's, the secret intrigues and disgraceful literary career of their former associate. They quoted actual letters in which Brissot had lied unblushingly as to his name, the condition of his family, and his father's fortune, in order to acquire Swinton's confidence, to gain credit, and make dupes in England. The proofs were damning. The sum extorted from Desforges, under pretence of an institution in London, and expended on himself, was a mere trifle compared with the whole iniquity. Brissot, on quitting England, had left in the hands of Desforges twenty-four letters, which but too plainly established his participation in the infamous trade of libels carried on by his allies. It was proved to demonstration that Brissot had connived at the sending into France, and at the propagation of odious pamphlets by Morande. He was, besides, accused of having extracted from the funds of the district of the Filles-Saint Thomas, of which he was president, a sum for his own purse, long forgotten. Thus appeared upon the scene for the first time, amid the hootings of both parties, this man, who attempted in vain to escape from the general contempt accumulated on his name." It required all the enthusiasm and the necessities of party to render such a man the guest and coadjutor of a madame Roland. From the time of his sojourn in America Brissot assumed the habit of a quaker, and was the first to abandon the wearing of hair-powder. He was the first victim of Robespierre.

Louvet, one of the most distinguished of the Girondists, was an advocate by profession, but had distinguished himself as a novelist, and especially by " Faublas," one of the most obscene and disgusting of French fictions; but, on that account, extremely popular in France. He was living in quiet, and pursuing his authorship at about twenty leagues from Paris, when the news of the revolution carried him, like thousands of other young aspirants, to Paris. Louvet became a member of the jacobin club, threw the blame of the march to Versailles on the duke of Orleans, and continued to write romances calculated to spread the new ideas; advocating freedom of divorce, and heaping odium on the aristocrats and the emigrants. He continued to charge the duke of Orleans with selfish aims, and to denounce Robespierre and Marat; yet he contrived to escape their bloody decimation, and became a member of the council of Five Hundred.

Gorsas, who had been a schoolmaster at Versailles, and edited the Courier des Departement, was one of the most exciting and influential of the Girondists. Guadet was another; a lawyer by profession, and possessed of considerable eloquence. He was closely connected with Gensonne and Vergniaud, being from the same department. These two gentlemen were advocates of Bordeaux; they were both eloquent, but Vergniaud was deemed the most eloquent man of this second assembly. Isnard, the son of a perfumer at Grasse, a literary man formed on the old Grecian and Roman model, was a thorough republican, and of an ardent and impetuous character. He was styled the Danton of the Gironde, as Vergniaud was the Mirabeau. Ducos was another young and enthusiastic Girondist, as Garats, a literary man, was the cool and calculating one of the party, and thus escaped to become a senator and count under Napoleon Buonaparte. Such were the chief characters of the Girondist or pure republican party, which now rose into prominent notice. Yet, at first, there was little distinction between the Girondists and the jacobins. The Girondists, in fact, claimed to be the true and pure jacobins. They were all alike ultra-revolutionists, but the jacobins were contented to retain the monarch so long as they could use him as a tool; the Girondists, having formed their conceptions on the classical times, scorned to admit any use or ornament in a monarch; they deemed monarchy unsuited to the dignity of man. In fact, the left side of the first assembly had become the right of this, so far as political views were concerned; the moderate men had disappeared, men of ultra ideas had taken their places. The greater portion of this assembly consisted of young, inexperienced persons. Almost all the white heads had disappeared, and with them the proud bearing of the noblesse, the austere gravity of the old deputies of the tiers-6tat, and the dignity of the clergy and magistrates. The French had shown how ill calculated they were for self-government by clearing the house of all that had been already learned of legislation by experience, and filling it with raw enthusiasm. " The great idea of France," says Lamartine, " abdicated, if we may use the expression, with the constitutional assembly; and the government fell from its high position into the hands of the inexperience or the impulses of a new people. From the 29th of September to the 1st of October there seemed to be a new reign; the legislative assembly found themselves on that day face to face with the king, who, deprived of authority, ruled over a people destitute of moderation. They felt, on their first sitting, the oscillation of a power without a counterpoise, that seeks to balance itself by its own wisdom; and, changing from insult to repentance, wounds itself with the weapon that has been placed in its grasp."

On the 1st of October, when the assembly met, Armand Gaston Camus, one of the Paris deputies, and a thorough jacobin, presented the book of the constitution to the members, and, all standing uncovered, swore to maintain it, and live free or die. Cerutti, an Italian, and ex-Jesuit, pronounced a high encomium on the late assembly - most of the members of which were present as spectators - and, after declaring that no Roman senate, or British parliament, or American congress had done so much, moved that a place of honour should be appointed in the house, where the members of the late assembly could attend and observe the proceedings. This was not acceded to; but a great number of such members took the liberty of seating themselves in the body of the house, where they communicated with their successors, and advised them what to say or do, so that the Moniteur, the official gazette, declared that they had constituted themselves into a second chamber; " so difficult," it observed, "was it, having been something, to consent to become nothing." It declared that they formed a permanent committee - were still governing the country through their successors.

A deputation of sixty members was appointed to announce to the king the definitive formation of the new National Legislative Assembly. Duchastel was at their head. They waited on the king on the evening of the 4th of October, about six o'clock. The king informed them that he would receive them at one o'clock the next day. The deputation demanded admission immediately, and the king consented to give them audience at nine o'clock that evening. This was one of those needless irritations of the court by which it seemed to be driven by a fatality. It was desirable that the king and the new assembly should meet in mutual good- humour, but this was at once at an end. The king received them stiffly, and they showed a like stiffness. Louis asked Duchastel what were the names of his colleagues, and he replied, that he did not know. They were then retiring, when Louis called them back and said that he could not attend the house till Friday.

These proceedings excited great sensation in the assembly. Exception was taken to the word " sire," with which Duchastel had addressed the king. Sire was declared to be only a contraction of seigneur, which meant a sovereign, and a member demanded that it be abolished. Another protested against the assembly being called on to sit or stand, just as it pleased the chief magistrate. Couthon, a little lawyer from Clermont, destined to be one of Robespierre's sanguinary triumvirate, denounced the fine gilded fauteuil set for the king, and demanded that it should be removed and a chair placed for him precisely like that of the president, and side by side with it. His maiden speech was rapturously applauded, and Chabot protested against their standing when the king sate, or being uncovered when he was covered, or allowing the king to say that he would come at this or that time to the assembly, at his own pleasure. Coulon observed that this decree would induce confusion; some would remain covered, others would uncover to flatter the king. " So much the better," cried some one, u then we shall know the flatterers." It was therefore decreed that the assembly should be on a perfect equality with the king as to sitting or standing, being covered or uncovered, and that the gilded fauteuil should be removed. The report of these decrees spread consternation through the palace. It was clear that all harmony was destroyed in the very commencement, and the king summoning a ministerial council, said that he was not obliged to expose himself to the insults of the assembly, and would order ministers to preside at the opening of the legislative body.

This announcement struck the assembly with consternation on its part. When it met on the 6th, Vosgien asserted that they were giving advantage to the enemies of the public welfare, and injuring their own respect by refusing that due to the king, Vergniaud declared that the titles of sire and majesty recalled feudality, and ought not to be retained, and yet he conceded that the assembly, as a mark of respect to the chief magistrate, should rise and uncover when he did so. Herault de Sechelles demanded the repeal of the decrees of the previous day; and Champion, the deputy of the Jura, asserted that they were insulting the first assembly by refusing titles which it had thought proper to retain; that the founders of liberty were not slaves; that it was the people who had created royalty; that in honouring it they were honouring the people, whence it sprung. After a keen debate, the decrees were annulled; but the royalists were so imprudent as to triumph in the repeal as a proof of the assembly's weakness, and the returning power of the king. Some of the officers of the national guards menaced Goupilleau, Couthon, Basire, Chabot, and others, as they left the hall. " Beware?" said they; u we will not suffer the revolution to advance another step! We know you; we will watch you; you shall be hewed to pieces by us, if you dare to disturb the constitution." The people, who dreaded another struggle on the approach of a severe winter, looked on, and permitted the menace. But the jacobin members flew that evening to their club, and raised loud outcries. They declared that all this had come about through the deputies of the late assembly having, contrary to all order, mingled amongst the new ones, and instigated them to their ruin. Goupilleau affirmed that he was not allowed to speak, and that Dermigni, an officer of the national guard, had threatened him with death. Goupilleau was the sworn ally of Robespierre and Danton, and Dermigni was summoned to the bar of the club, where he appeared in a great fright, and protested his intense attachment to liberty, and declared that, if he thought any injury would come to the constitution, he would go instantly and bury himself under a stone!

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 23

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