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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 32


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On the 14th of January Gensonne presented a report on the last dispatch of the emperor. He declared that the treaty of alliance with Austria of 1756 was destroyed by the declaration of Pilnitz, which had raised an armed conspiracy of sovereigns against France; that the refractory emigrants were still encouraged, notwithstanding the assertions of the elector of Treves to the contrary; the white cockade was still worn beyond the Rhine, and the national one insulted. Guadet followed, and proposed that every Frenchman who should take part in a congress for the purpose of modifying the constitution should be declared a traitor. It was resolved that the king should demand a final explanation from the emperor before the 1st of March, and that no answer should be held tantamount to a declaration of war. A few days afterwards, the assembly decreed that there were reasons for believing that the king of Spain contemplated an attack on France, and orders were issued to increase the troops on the Spanish frontier. Some objections being raised to war on account of the enormous cost of it, Lacombe exclaimed, "Have no fears on the subject of money; victory will bring us plenty of money." This was the adopted principle of the revolution - to make the invaded countries pay for their own oppression; and by this principle the French were afterwards enabled to overrun Europe. Prudhomme announced in his paper that there was a grand conspiracy existing betwixt Austria, Prussia, and England with the court at the Tuileries, to invade France, and that the royalists had collected sixty pieces of cannon into Paris, simultaneously with a movement on the frontiers, to break open the prison doors, and release all the aristocrats and priests, when there would be a general massacre of the people. He reiterated these falsehoods in the journal, again and again declaring that the Feuillant club, the Barnaves, Lameths, the queen, the princess Lamballe - who had, fatally for herself, again returned to Paris - Narbonne, the minister at war, and his mistress, Madame de Stael, were all deep in the plot. The other journals joined in these cries, thus preparing the people for the bloody scenes of the following September in the prisons of Paris.

That excitable city was now in a condition of riot from the scarcity and consequent dearness of sugar and coffee. The great French colony which furnished the bulk of these articles was in open rebellion on the part of the negroes, who grew the articles, in consequence of the teachings of the declaration of the " Rights of Man," which Brissot had sent thither, for which he had been applauded by La Fayette, Condorcet, the abbé Raynal, and the other members of the society of the friends of the blacks. Two hundred thousand slaves, at this unexpected proclamation, rose to demand their liberty. The mulattoes, who were free, but without the privileges of citizens, and felt themselves despised by the whites, their fathers, put themselves at the head of the blacks. Oge, a mulatto, who had been in Europe to plead the cause of the half-castes, and had been in communication with Clarkson and Wilberforce in England, with Barnave and others in France, put himself, with two hundred mulattoes, at the head of the blacks. He was defeated, taken, imprisoned, tortured, and put to death. He died on the wheel, and his mutilated carcase was left on the highway. The mulattoes swore a terrible revenge. In one night they led on sixty thousand slaves to the massacre of their masters. Within a circuit of six leagues, they burnt down every plantation, and murdered men, women, and children. The outrages of centuries were repaid in a few hours, and that with tortures and abominations still more appalling than they themselves had suffered. They became the masters of a great part of the island, and, by the destruction of the plantations, and the black population now wielding guns and swords instead of hoes, the produce of coffee and sugar was for a time at an end. A fierce outcry arose in the faubourgs, and that of St. Antoine marched in a body to the national assembly on the 26th of January, demanding their coffee and sugar. With the constant practice of mobs, they did not perceive the true cause of the deficiency - the destruction of the plantations, and the cessation of labour amongst the slaves, now, like themselves, enjoying the rights of man - but they attributed the dearth of sugar and coffee to the conspirators, forestallers, and monopolisers, and demanded "Death to them all!" The assembly was helpless, and the jacobin club discussed the same topic, and swore to abandon the use of these articles. But they were in a very ill humour over their new abstinence, and Manuel, the introducer of the motion on this subject, fell all the more bitterly on the emigrant priests and nobles, and on the king, who, he declared, was in league wit]; them, protesting that he ought not to reign, nor even to live, and he wrote a letter to poor Louis in the same deadly strain.

Brissot and the Gironde maintained a determined war on the king's ministers, as men not to be trusted with the affairs of the country in the approaching crisis. The ministers were at strife amongst themselves. Bertrand de Molleville was jealous of the popularity of Narbonne; Narbonne complained, not only of the conduct of Molleville to him, but of his unconstitutional sentiments, and implored the king to dismiss him. Molleville and his party, on the other hand, represented the popularity of Narbonne as dangerous, and that he was aiming at governing the whole. cabinet. The king was inclined to dismiss Narbonne rather than Molleville. Brissot and the Girondists raised a loud cry in favour of Narbonne, and the generals of the three divisions of the army wrote a letter to the king, deprecating his dismissal. The king, looking on this as dictation, dismissed Narbonne at once. The assembly was greatly excited, and declared that Narbonne had retired with its full confidence. In this state of growing exasperation, Herault de Sechelles denounced Molleville as guilty of various crimes, and the assembly called on the king to dismiss him. Louis complied, for he did not dare refuse. Two days after, Brissot denounced De Lessart, the foreign minister, for having professed unconstitutional doctrines in his correspondence; and for having given Kaunitz, the Austrian minister, a false notion of the state of France. Vergniaud followed up the attack, for the Girondists were resolved to drive the ministry from office, and force their own men into their places - thus securing the government of the country. Vergniaud accused De Lessart of having delayed» when minister of the interior, the union of Avignon to France, and of having thus occasioned a horrible massacre, which had taken place there in August, 1791. In that city the secretary, Lescuyer, had been murdered by the mob. A band of volunteers had united themselves with a band of plunderers and assassins. At their head was that ruffian butcher, Jourdan, called " Coupetete," who had plucked out the hearts of Foulon and Berthier, before the Hotel de Ville, in Paris, in 1789, and who had cut off the heads of two of the body-guards at Versailles, on the 6th of October, and stuck them on pikes, reproaching the people that they had let him decapitate only two! This monster and his accomplices had, on the 30th of August, closed the gates of Avignon, broken into the houses of the citizens, and committed a frightful massacre of men, women, and children attended by the most scandalous indignities to the women. They had done all this as taking vengeance on persons whom they deemed enemies to the revolution. The assembly professed to be horrified at the details of these atrocities; the president fainted whilst reading them; yet the jacobins protected the fiend, and he was permitted to return to Avignon to avenge himself of his accusers.

These crimes, which the Gironde had not the vigour or the virtue to expiate with the blood of the arch-murderer, they now piled on the head of De Lessart, who was totally innocent of them. A decree of accusation was passed against him, and he was consigned to the prison of Versailles for trial before the high, court established at Orleans; but his trial not coming on in September, he was massacred by the mob in the general carnage which then took place.

Louis was deeply affected at this treatment of a minister whom he esteemed for his moderate and pacific sentiments. Duport-Dutertre and Cahier de Gerville, the other ministers, resigned, in terror of a like fate, and the king was left at the mercy of the Gironde. General Dumouriez, whom we have seen assisting Gensonne in the commission to La Vendue, obtained the post of minister for foreign affairs. Charles Francois Dumouriez was born at Cambray in 1739, and, consequently, was now in his fifty-third year. He v had led a life of adventure; he had fought bravely in the German wars; he had played a questionable part in the events which made over Corsica to France; he had been sent by Louis XV. into Poland to support the Poles - though not as the avowed agent of France, but, as it were, an adventurer on his own account - against their enemies, Russia, Prussia, and Austria. He found the Poles debased by misery, slavery, and the custom of bearing a foreign yoke. He found the Polish aristocracy corrupted by luxury, enervated by pleasures. He fought bravely but vainly against Russia. He saw the Polish leaders ruined by discord he saw the Russians prevail, and he quitted the country! despairing for ever of an aristocracy without a people, of a kingdom which he called "The Asiatic nation." At the outbreak of the French revolution he joined the revolutionists, having himself been a prisoner in the Bastille, and he contrived to conciliate all parties, foreseeing that in such a state of things war must come, and generals would be wanted. He had courage for anything; he was extremely fascinating in his manners; and, with a certain looseness of principle - for everything must, in him, give way to his thirst for fame and leadership - he was inclined to the good and the generous. In his intercourse with Gensonne in La Vendee, he had made a deep impression on that eloquent member of the Gironde, who introduced him to all the leaders of the party - the Rolands, Condorcet, Brissot, Vergniaud, and the rest. They were seeking able instruments, but not masters, for they were determined to rule themselves. They were enchanted with Dumouriez, who seemed calculated to serve their views admirably as a general; they had no dread of him as a dictator. Yet Dumouriez not the less continued to conciliate Robespierre, and to attend at the jacobin club.

Dumouriez saw at a glance that madame Roland was the soul and intellect of the Gironde party, and he paid all court to her. He affected to be the humble servant of the coterie; and, accustomed to compliment women, he endeavoured to win the full confidence of madame Roland; but there he failed. Her keen glance read his real character, and she felt at once that he was too able and too ambitious to remain long a subordinate. " Have an eye to that man," she said to her husband; "there is a master concealed under that smiling exterior." The Girondists had introduced Dumouriez to De Grave; De Grave introduced him to the king. When the assembly had accused De Lessart, and handed him over to the high national court, Louis offered Dumouriez the post of foreign affairs till De Lessart should prove his innocence and be restored. But Dumouriez was too experienced a diplomatist; he refused the office pro tempore, The king was pressed by circumstances, and conferred it upon him permanently.

Petion, Gensonne, and Brissot were consulted respecting the completion of the ministry. Louvet was strongly recommended by the Rolands as minister of justice; but Robespierre, whom he had totally opposed, immediately denounced him, and it was not deemed prudent to rouse still more the wrath of that man, now every day becoming more and more the idol of the people. Duranthon, advocate of Bourdeaux, but a weak man, was introduced into that post, and De Grave succeeded Narbonne as minister at war. Clavieres, a deaf stockbroker, from Geneva, and formerly an opponent of Necker, was made minister of finance, Lacoste of marine, and finally, Roland was selected as minister of the interior. Not one of the most brilliant men of the Gironde was included in this ministry, except Dumouriez. Roland was distinguished rather by his republican gravity than anything else; the rest were remarkable only for their insignificance. The courtiers dubbed them "The Sans-Culotte Cabinet." Roland, on presenting himself at court, appeared, as usual, in his round hat, and with strings in his shoes; for both he and the main part of the Girondists affected a sort of republican simplicity. The master of the ceremonies, who did not know who he was, refused to admit him, till it was explained that he was minister of the interior. The astonished master observed to Dumouriez, who entered next, "Ah, sir, no buckles in his shoes!" to which Dumouriez replied, with affected amazement, " Ah, sir, all is lost!"

Scarcely had these republicans seen and conversed with Louis, when they found him a different man to what party spirit had represented him, and, like Barnave, began to respect him. Madame Roland, who was not under the same influences, as she did not see the king daily, like the ministers, was alarmed lest they should all become royalists; and she had to labour hard to impress upon honest Roland that Louis was not to be trusted, and that the courtiers would impose on him, who was, she said, too virtuous for a courtier. Madame Roland, in fact, was the minister of the interior; Roland was her automaton. So completely did she keep at his elbow and regulate everything, that even Condorcet, one of their own party, observed, " When I wish to see the minister, I can never get a glimpse of anything but the petticoats of his wife." Notwithstanding all her caution, however, the feeling of the king's honest intentions spread amongst the members of the Gironde, and Guadet, Gensonne, and Vergniaud were soon in correspondence with him.

As for Dumouriez, he showed himself a courtier amongst the courtiers. He had none of the starch preciseness of his colleagues. His business was, after a long career of adventures with little profit or promotion, to make himself a name and a position; and when the courtiers laughed at the " sans-culotte " ministers, Dumouriez laughed too, and returned joke for joke. The king, like every one else who conversed with him, except madame Roland, was soon pleased with him, and, from his representations, the queen wished to see him. At first, she was very warm in denunciation of the continual encroachments on the royal prerogatives. Dumouriez reminded her of the necessity of the king observing the constitution. Marie Antoinette, not expecting this plain speaking, grew more angry. Dumouriez paid her some compliments on the nobility of her character, and declared that those traits of her nature had made him her firm friend. For that cause, he was anxious to maintain a good understanding betwixt the king and the people; but that, if he was in any way an obstacle to her plans, she had only to say so, and he would instantly resign. This candour appeased her, and she conversed calmly and freely on the affairs of the day. But the councils of those around, and the infamous papers continually issued by Marat and the jacobins, soon drove her into measures contrary to Dumouriez' advice.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 32

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