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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 33


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Just at this crisis died Leopold of Austria, and was succeeded by his nephew, Francis II.; and war became more inevitable, for Francis had not the same pacific disposition as Leopold, and the Gironde was bent on war. The internal condition of France also seemed to indicate that there must soon be war abroad or civil war at home. The ministers were soon at variance; the jacobins and Girondists were coming to an open and desperate feud; the people, both in Paris and all over the country, were excited by the jacobin publications to the utmost pitch of fury against the royalists and the priests. The more they were menaced by the royalists on the frontiers, the more they became rabid against the royalists who remained at home. In Paris, Brissot; insisted that every man should be armed with pikes, and that the bonnet-rouge, or red nightcap, on which the tricolour cockade was displayed, should be universally worn, as the true emblem of liberty. Members of assembly immediately assumed this badge; Dumouriez went to the jacobin club and put it on, and, when upbraided for this as a minister by the king and court, he replied that it was merely to keep the people in good humour. The dames de la Halle appeared at the assembly, announced that they had formed themselves into an amazonian brigade, and demanded pikes, that they might manoeuvre in the Champ de Mars in their red nightcaps. The women of the Faubourg St. Antoine appeared, already armed with pikes, to assert their patriotism.

The king, alarmed at this universal arming of the people, sent for Petion, the mayor, and requested him to take measures for putting an end to this dangerous state of things. Petion promised, but contented himself with issuing an order that the people should not appear in the streets armed, and of this order no notice was taken. Throughout all France similar demonstrations were making, and the people, in many places, did not content themselves with arming - they proceeded to frightful outrages. We have mentioned those at Avignon, under the leadership of the infamous Jourdan. Similar atrocities were reported from other quarters, and a deputation from Marseilles, headed by Charles Barbaroux - whose handsome person turned all the heads of the ladies, including that of madame Roland - declared that the people of Marseilles, armed with pikes, were ready to march to Paris, and assist the jacobin club in exterminating all internal tyrants. Joseph Ignace Guillotin, at this crisis, recommended to the assembly the instrument for cutting off by wholesale the heads of their enemies, which became known by his own name. This notorious machine was approved of by the assembly, and ordered, by a special decree of the 20th of March of this year, to be universally used. The Girondists, so many of whom fell under its axe, were as unanimous for the guillotine as the most ultra-jacobins, and thus all the revolutionists were already looking forward to the destruction of those who did not agree with them. Matters were fast ripening. After all, the guillotine was no original invention at this period. An instrument of precisely the same construction was in use in this country in the time of Edward III. It was of very ancient use on the continent, in Germany, Bohemia, and Italy, and was introduced into Scotland, under the name of " The Maiden," in 1578. The Halifax maiden was also well known. The tradition in Scotland is, that the regent Morton, who introduced the maiden, was the first to suffer by it; but Dr. Guillotin did not experience the same fate from his revival of this ancient machine. He died quietly in his bed, in 1814. He was proud of the engine, saying, that through it his name would live in history.

Work for the guillotine was fast preparing. The Gironde party, incensed at the constant opposition of Robespierre and his party, and at his evident increase of popularity, notwithstanding his opposition to the war, and his opposition to atheism - for this sanguinary man dared to denounce war in the jacobin club, and in a journal which he had now established, called " The Defender of the Constitution," though in reality it laboured to destroy the constitution, and the Gironde now determined to denounce him. Brissot, Condorcet, and Guadet were to lead the attack; but Robespierre was soon apprised of the plot, and instantly took the initiative himself. He set on Collot D'Herbois to denounce Condorcet and Rcederer, whilst he and Tallien denounced Brissot and Guadet. They declared that the jacobin society wanted purging; that these members were in league with Barnave, La Fayette, and the Lameths to betray the constitution to the court. Chabot joined in declaring that Narbonne, the ex- minister of war, was also scheming to play the Cromwell in France, and was actively supported by madame de Stael and madame Condorcet; that they had already seduced the bishop of Calvados, Fauchet, and were secretly supported by the Girondists. On the 25th of April Brissot and Guadet retaliated by a desperate attack on Robespierre and Iiis friends, but they were signally defeated; Robespierre was triumphantly supported by the club, and his victory was proclaimed by the journals of Marat, Desmoulins, Collot D'Herbois, and the rest. The Girondists saw, to their consternation, that, though they were nominally in power, there was a still more terrible power possessed by this persevering man, who knew how at once to oppose the mob, and yet to flatter and fascinate them.

Whilst the Gironde was thus weakened by this implacable and incurable feud with the jacobins, Austria was making unmistakable signs of preparation for that war which Leopold had often threatened, but never commenced. Francis received deputations from the emigrant princes, ordered the concentration of troops in Flanders, and spoke in so firm a tone of restoring Louis and the old system of things, that the French ambassador at Vienna, M. De Noailles, sent in his resignation to Dumouriez, saying that he despaired of inducing the emperor to listen to the language which had been dictated to him. Two days after, however, Noailles recalled his resignation, saying he had obtained the categorical answer demanded of the court of Vienna. This was sent in a dispatch from baron Von Cobenzel, the foreign minister of Austria. In this document» which was tantamount to a declaration of war, the court of Vienna declared that it would listen to no terms on behalf of the king of France, except his entire restoration to all the ancient rights of his throne, according to the royal declaration of the 23rd of June, 1789; to the restoration of the domains in Alsace, with all their feudal rights, to the princes of the empire. Moreover, prince Kaunitz, the chief minister of Francis, announced his determination to hold no correspondence with the government which had usurped authority in France.

Dumouriez advised the king to communicate this note to the assembly without a moment's delay. There was an immediate dissension in the royal council; Clavieres and Roland took one view, and Dumouriez, De Grave, Lacoste, and Duranthon, another. This was the first commencement of the division in the Gironde ministry, which quickly destroyed it. Dumouriez proceeded with the king, followed by the rest of the ministers, and a number of courtiers, on the 20th of April to make that announcement which was to decide the fate of France and of Europe. Roland and the more determined Girondists had recommended that the king should himself make the declaration of war; but as the war itself was most repugnant to the king, Dumouriez had advised that he should only consult with the assembly on the necessity of this declaration, and thus throw the responsibility on that body. There had been the division of opinion amongst ministers, and now Dumouriez read a detailed account of the negotiations with Austria, and then Louis, who looked jaded and anxious, stated that he had followed the recommendations of the assembly, and of many of his subjects, in various parts of France, in these negotiations, and, as they had heard the results, he put it to the assembly whether they could any longer submit to see the dignity of the French people insulted, and the national security threatened. The speech was received with loud acclamations and cries of " Vive le Roi!" The president said they would deliberate, and the result was that a decree was passed resolving upon war. This resolve the assembly justified by the declaration that the emperor of Austria had concerted with the emigrants and foreign princes to threaten the peace and the constitution of France; that he had refused to abandon these views and proceedings, and reduce his army to a peace establishment, as demanded of him by a vote of the 11th of March of this year; that he had declared his intention to restore the German princes by force to the possessions they had held in Alsace, although the French nation had never ceased to offer them compensation; and that, finally, he had closed the door to all accommodation by refusing to reply to the dispatches of the king.

The decree of the assembly was received by the galleries with loud cries of "Vive la Guerre! " " Vive la Liberte - Mort aux Tyrans!" and then Condorcet rose and read a long paper, endeavouring to prove that the French were not violating the article of their constitution which bound them not to become aggressors in war; that this war was forced on them by the acts of the foreign despots; and that they had no alternative - although it is a fact that Dumouriez had, at the very time that he and the king communicated the message from Austria, a subsequent message, in which Austria offered to depart from this apparent ultimatum, and had sent it by an agent empowered to treat on a different basis. Condorcet avowed the bold opinion that France had a right to do whatever it pleased with Alsace and Avignon; and he denied indignantly that Louis was a prisoner on the sophistical plea that he was only prisoner to the laws which to break was treason - as if these very laws had not been made in open violence to the king's free will and consent. Vergniaud recommended that this great event should be celebrated by a new oath and by a great national festival.

A festival, however, had been held only five days before in the Champ de Mars, calculated to stamp contempt and infamy on national festivals in any country except France. It had been a festival in honour of mutiny amongst the national troops, and of those members of citizens of a different political opinion - a festival calculated to destroy the last principles of order in the community. It was a part of that policy of the jacobins which had for its object the extirpation of every rank and class in the country but the mere mob, and to leave such men as Robespierre and Marat to rule over this savage and debased herd as dictators. During the last year the jacobins and the royalists, the sworn priests and the unsworn, the officers and their soldiers, had been in continual conflict. At Caen, the two parties attached to the old and new clergy fought in the very cathedral; the quarrel spread to the regular troop: and the national guards, and they fought in the streets. There were similar bloody feuds all over La Vendee, amongst the mountains of the south, La Lozere, Herault, Ardeche, &c. At Mende, a village in La Vendee, there was a sanguinary battle in the square betwixt the national guards and a body of troops sent from Lyons. But the national guard, which was royalist, beat the troops of the assembly by aid of the people of the country round; insulted the emblems of the revolution; hooted the constitution; ransacked the hall of the jacobins, and burnt down the houses of the chief members of the club. At Brest, where jacobinism prevailed, the club exerted itself to raise insurrection amongst the sailors. They attacked M. Lajaile, a captain of a vessel ordered to San Domingo to reduce the negroes to order; nearly killed and then threw him into prison. At Cambresis, the soldiers rose against the officers, and imprisoned them. Blood flowed everywhere; the clubs seduced the regiments, denounced the generals, and filled the minds of the people with suspicion against the officers. " The officer," says Lamartine, " was a prey to terror; the soldier to mistrust. The premeditated plan of the jacobins and Girondists was to destroy, in concert, this body, that was yet attached to the king; deprive the nobility of their command; substitute plebeians for nobles as officers, and then give the army to the nation. In the meantime, they surrendered it to anarchy and sedition, but finding that the disorganisation was not sufficiently rapid, they wished to sum up in one act the systematic corruption of the army, the ruin of all military discipline, and the legal triumphs of insurrection." This was the secret of arming the whole people with pikes, and of the grand festival which they had just celebrated.

The reader will recollect the mutiny of troops at Nancy, their suppression by Bouille, and the condemnation of forty- one Swiss soldiers to the galleys by a court-martial of the Swiss regiments. The amnesty proclaimed by the king, for crimes committed during the troubles of the revolution, could not apply to these Swiss; they were condemned by their own authorities, and could alone be released by them. Repeated applications had been made by the ministers to the Helvetian jurisdiction for their liberation in vain. The assembly, therefore, recently had taken upon itself to discharge them. The king had, for a little while, withheld his sanction from this decree, not to offend the Swiss confederation. This was immediately seized on by the jacobins as a crime in the ministers. "The moment is come," exclaimed Manuel, " when one must perish for the safety of all, and that man must be a minister; but they all appear to me nearly equally guilty." " All! all! " vociferated the tribunes. At this moment, Collot D'Herbois announced that the liberated Swiss were free, and advancing to Paris to thank their liberators, and that he would have the honour of presenting these heroes to the assembly. In fact, the jacobinised people all along the road were feting these men, whose only merit was rebelling against their own officers, actually murdering captain Desilles, and proposing to hang the chief royalists.

The jacobins of Paris prepared to give these liberated mutineers a grand triumph. In vain did the Feuillants and constitutionalists protest against this insult to all order and government. Andre Chenier, the poet, Dupont de Nemours, and the poet Roucher, were vehement in condemnation of it; but Robespierre, Collot D'Herbois, the player, and all the jacobins and cordeliers, were equally impatient for it, as a means of increasing the hatred to the higher classes, and of especially damaging La Fayette. Chenier, in his eloquent protest against this scandalous fete, declared them Swiss assassins, and asked, " Is the honour of Paris interested in feting the murderers of our brothers? Is it necessary to invent extravagances capable of destroying every species of government - recognise rebellion against the laws - crown foreign satellites for having shot French citizens in an erneute? " The walls of the Palais Royale were covered with placards in honour of this fete, and any counter- placards were torn down by the jacobins. Petion, the mayor, sanctioned the fete, whilst pretending, in his double- faced way, to preach moderation to the mob. Dupont de Nemours, the friend and counsellor of Mirabeau, published a severe paper on Petion, declaring that Paris was receiving from twelve to fifteen hundred bandits every day ready to seize any occasion of pillage; that the mob of Avignon had broken open the prison of the monster, Jourdan Coupetete, who would be at the fete with Mainville and Pegtavin, and all the cold-blooded scoundrels, who, in one night, had killed sixty-eight defenceless persons, and violated females before they murdered them.

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