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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 26


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But the ferment spread out of doors. The jacobin journals declared that the king had now thrown off the mask, and that the assembly ought at once to convoke the high national court, and proceed to carry out the decrees against the king's brothers, the emigrants, and the priests. Petitions poured into the assembly to this effect from different sections of Paris. Amongst the persons who presented themselves at the bar of the house with these petitions were Legendre, a butcher of Paris, and the notorious Camille Desmoulins, the Aristophanes of the revolution. This was the first appearance of Legendre, and, in presenting his petition, he made a speech in which vulgarity and bombast strove for the preeminence. He declared that the brave twenty-four millions of free Frenchmen would overthrow all the thrones of the world's despots, and roll the tyrants in the dust; he called on them to hang all the king's ministers, and arm the whole of the people. "Representatives!" he shouted, "let the eagle of victory and fame soar over your heads and arms. Say to the ministers, 'We love the people.' Let your punishment begin; the tyrants must die! "

Camille Desmoulins, who was accustomed to harangue the noisy mobs of the Palais Royale and the faubourgs, here complained of the weakness of his voice, and requested that the abbé Fauchet might give his address the benefit of his sonorous tones. The address was nearly as grandiloquent as that of the butcher. He declared that nothing was more natural than for a king to veto the best decrees. Nothing was more natural than that the municipality of Paris, who had fired on the citizens in the Champ de Mars, should implore the king to protect the refractory priests, and should send their address to be signed by all the robbers, all the slaves, all the idiots, and all the fanatics of the eighty-three departments. He held the whole directory up to the vengeance of the nation. As for the priests and emigrants, he exclaimed, " So many grounds of accusation! The crime of these men is settled. Strike, then! If the head sleeps, shall the arm act? Raise not that arm again; do not rouse the national club only to crush insects. A Varnier or a De Lätre! Did Cato and Cicero accuse Cethegus or Catiline? It is the leaders we should assail. Strike at the head!" These ferocious addresses were clamorously applauded by the galleries, and the assembly voted that the report of the day's debate, including these fiery documents, should be printed and sent to all the departments. But the next day the constitutional party succeeded in revoking this order, to the infinite disgust of Brissot and the jacobins and Girondists.

But though the constitutional party obtained this single advantage, it was striving in vain to re-establish its ascendancy in the nation. Barnave, Lameth, and Duport were in communication with Louis, who vainly hoped that they would be able to put down the new and formidable enemies whom he saw in the Girondists. But it was too late. Their central place of meeting was the club of the Feuillants. The national guard, the directory of the department of Paris, the late mayor, Bailly, and all that party in the nation, still supported them. It was a party of repentance and terror. La Fayette, madame De Stael, and M. Narbonne, had a secret understanding with the Feuillants, and the object was to make Narbonne minister. This young man, count Louis Lara Narbonne, was of the royal blood, but of illegitimate birth. He had been educated by the aunts of the king, who were intensely attached to him, and therefore shared betwixt them the rumour of his parentage. He was very handsome, only thirty-six years of age, courteous, vain, witty, and ambitious. Madame de Stael, though married, was passionately in love with him, and her imagination invested him with all the qualities calculated to save a nation. " He was," says Lamartine, " but a brilliant, active, high-couraged man; she pictured him a politician and a hero. She magnified him with all the endowments of her dreams, in order to bring him up to her ideal standard. She found patrons for him; surrounded him with a prestige; created a name for him; marked him out a course. She made him a living type of her politics. To disdain the court, gain over the people, command the army, intimidate Europe, carry away the assembly by his eloquence, to struggle for liberty, to save the nation, to become, by his popularity alone, the arbiter between the throne and the people, to reconcile them by a constitution at once liberal and monarchical - such was the perspective that she opened for herself and M. de Narbonne. They were for war, and filled by their influence the personal staff of the diplomacy exclusively devoted to the emigrants or the king. They filled foreign courts with their adherents. M. de Marbois was sent to the Diet of Ratisbon; M. Barthelemy, to Switzerland; M. Talleyrand, to London; M. de Segur, to Berlin. They hoped to win England to their interests; they relied much on the enthusiasm of the Fox party for the revolution; they trusted, in the end, to obtain a second chamber, and thus control the jacobinism of the assembly. They hoped to secure as the generalissimo of their army the duke of Brunswick, the pupil of Frederick of Prussia, and who had won so much fame in the wars of Germany. Negotiations for this purpose were secretly carried on by madame de Stael, Narbonne, La Fayette, and Talleyrand. M. Custine was their agent; and he bore letters offering Ferdinand the generalissimoship of the French armies, three millions of francs annually, and princely rank equal to his own in Germany. These letters were signed by the minister of war and by Louis himself. Custine even held out hopes of Ferdinand succeeding to the crown, should Louis be deposed; but the duke was too wise to listen to these startling overtures.

These secret proceedings did not entirely escape the keen vision of the Girondist party. Their newspapers waged war against the coalition with strong animosity. Brissot, in his journal, exclaimed, " Number them! name them! Their names denounce them. They are the relics of the dethroned aristocracy, who would fain resuscitate a constitutional nobility, establish a second legislative chamber and a senate of nobles, and who implore, in order to gain their ends, the armed intervention of the powers. They have sold themselves to the Tuileries, and sell there a great portion of the members of the assembly. They have amongst them neither men of genius nor men of resolution; their talent is but treason, their genius but intrigue." It was thus that jacobins and Girondists prepared those enmities which, at no distant period, were destined to disperse the Feuillants.

Meantime, the spirit of the revolution was marching on. The constitutional priests had many of them begun to marry, and now those of them who were not quite so bold applied to the assembly for a decree to sanction the marriage of the clergy. It was contended that, as there was no article in the new constitution against it, nor any new law to that effect, there required no law to sanction it. It was constitutional, and the administrators had no right to deprive married priests of their salaries or their cures. On this ground, the assembly passed to the order of the day, and the clergy thenceforward acted on this sanction - such as it was.

There was now also a demand made that the forty-one soldiers of the Swiss regiment of Chateau Vieux, who had been condemned to the galleys for their concern in the insurrection at Nancy, should be released. The jacobin club took up their cause, and sent Collot d'Herbois to the minister Montmorin to demand their liberation. The minister refused; and the jacobin club began a subscription for these soldiers, to aid one set on foot by the jacobin club of Brest, which declared them the victims of Bouille's tyranny. The matter was then introduced to the assembly by Goupilleau, and the assembly ordered their liberation. The refusal of Montmorin to gratify the jacobins on this head seems to have added double fury to their hatred of the king's ministers. Duportail was so bitterly assailed that he resigned. Duport-Dutertre, minister of justice, and Bertrand de Molleville were pursued with equal rancour, and Fauchet then fell on M. De Lessart, the minister of the interior, and accused him of high treason to the assembly; but, on the 22nd of December, De Lessart appeared in the assembly, and completely justified himself. We shall see, however, that Fauchet and Brissot never relaxed their persecutions till they had ruined him, and caused him to be massacred by the people. If there were any men in France more miserable than all others, they were the king and his ministers.

For a time, the leading Girondists frequented the jacobin club; Brissot even became its president. The members of the Cordeliers, too, fraternised frequently with the Societe Mere, though the mother society neither sought the Girondists as a body nor the Cordehers. The members of both clubs jointly set up a monthly review, after the fashion of the English reviews, in which not only the leaders of both parties, but several English people, as John Oswald, Helen Maria Williams, and Home Tooke, as well as Thomas Paine, wrote. Towards the end of the year a deputation of English admirers of the French revolution, accompanied by some Americans, presented an address to the club, and another to Petion, the new mayor of Paris. They were received at the jacobin club with wonderful eclat; the flags of England, France, and America were suspended together, and very fine speeches were made to the deputation - one from a woman, who presented the English with a box containing a map of France, divided into the eighty-three departments, a cap of liberty, the new French constitution, their tricolour flags, the national cockade, ears of wheat, a civic crown, &c. The club also ordered, as proper ornaments for their hall, busts of Rousseau, the abbé Mably, Algernon Sidney, and Dr. Price.

Whilst the nation was growing every day more jacobinical, and the danger was becoming more imminent, the queen sent a secret agent to London to sound Pitt. She hoped to win him to an announcement of supporting the throne of France in conjunction with the continental sovereigns; but Pitt showed his usual reserve. He declared that England would not allow the revolutionary spirit to put down the monarchy, but he said nothing expressly of supporting the monarch himself; and the queen, who was always suspicious that the duke of Orleans was aiming at the crown, and that he had made himself a party in England, was filled with alarm, lest Pitt's words only concealed the idea of such a king. Still the attitude of the continental powers became more menacing. The troops of the emperor, in Belgium and Luxembourg, pressed upon the very frontiers of France, and the emigrants were constantly augmenting in the territories of the electors of Treves, Mayence, and Speir. Two hundred thousand men, in fact, formed a line along the French frontiers from Basle to the Scheldt.

The French, exasperated beyond further endurance, on the 22nd of November entered on the question of war in the assembly in earnest. Koch, of Strasburg, the well- known historian, declared that no time was to be lost; that the German nations were every day violating the frontiers of France, and that the minister for foreign affairs was not to be trusted. He presented a report from the diplomatic committee, recommending the plans to be adopted, and concluded by demanding that the electors of Treves and Mayence, the bishop of Speir, and other German princes, should be called upon to disperse the armed emigrants collected in their states, and give instant satisfaction for the insult offered to French citizens. Isnard followed, on the 29th, in a very martial speech. He declared that a people in a state of revolution were in the very tone for achieving victories; that there was nothing to be feared except that the nation should think the assembly too slow. The enemies of France, he said, wanted to bring back the old state of things, the old noblesse, with famine, fire, and sword. They wanted to augment the prerogatives of a man who devoured thirty millions year, whilst millions of citizens, better than himself, languished in poverty and distress. He desired them to tell the king that he must reign by the people and for the people, and must stand by the constitution, which was, in truth, his only palladium; that he must proclaim to all Europe, that when the French took the sword, they would fling away the scabbard; that the war, once commenced, would not be a war of kings against peoples, but of peoples against kings; that the battles which nations fight at the command of despots, are like the blows which two friends, excited by a perfidious instigator, strike at each other in the dark. The moment a light appears they embrace, and take vengeance on him who deluded them. In like manner, if, when the hostile armies shall be engaged with ours, the light of philosophy bursts upon their sight, the nations will embrace one another before the face of dethroned tyrants, of consoled earth, of delighted heaven.

The enthusiasm which this speech excited was such, that the members crowded around Isnard to embrace him. His decree was instantly adopted. Twenty-four members, at the head of whom was M. Vaublanc, were deputed to carry this decree to the king. They were this time insitantly admitted, for the king was anxious to do away with the effect of his exercise of the veto. M. Vaublanc, in delivering the decree, said that it became the king to use the firmest language towards the emigrants and the princes who encouraged them; that the language of his ministers had not been hitherto sufficiently decisive; that if the French, driven from their country by the revocation of the edict of Nantes, had been protected by German princes, Louis XIV. would have speedily punished them; that the interests of the king and the grandeur of the nation demanded a language different to that of diplomacy; and that he must assure the German princes that, unless they dispersed the emigrants, the French would carry into their territories, not fire and sword, but the rights of man.

Louis promised everything, and, on the 14th of December, he went to the assembly, and assured them that he not only sympathised with them, but had already anticipated them in their wishes. He had sent requisitions to the German princes to remove the emigrants; the emperor Leopold had at once attended to it; and that he would now reiterate his demands to the electors of Treves and the rest, and that, if they did not attend quickly to his request, he would proclaim war against them. He retired amid loud applause, and, after his departure, the new minister of war, the count Narbonne, came forward to support these views. Madame de Stael and her party had succeeded in their design - Narbonne was minister. Madame de Condorcet, a very beautiful and fascinating woman, had lent all her influence to the same object. The point of union betwixt the constitutional party - that of madame de Stael - and the Girondist party, was their equal desire for war, but from different motives; and hence their co-operation for the elevation of Narbonne. De Lessart and De Molleville, Narbonne's colleagues, saw with consternation Narbonne's appointment. It overthrew all their own policy. The king, as usual, was all indecision, going first with one minister's counsel, and then with that of another. Narbonne, from the moment of his appointment, had been all activity and courtesy. He expressed the highest confidence in the assembly, and he now came forward to announce that Rochambeau, Luckner, and La Fayette, were appointed commanders of the troops, and that he had the utmost confidence in both soldiers and officers. He obtained twenty millions of francs for the necessary preparations for the war, and the rank of marshal for Luckner and Rochambeau.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 26

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