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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 9


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The two aunts of the king, who were aged and pious women, were not only alarmed at the position of things in France, but they were horrified at this desecration of the church, and were anxious to get out of the country, and take up their residence at Rome, near the head of their religion. They knew that the king and the rest of the royal family were actually contemplating a similar flight, and they, therefore, applied to Louis for passports, and proposed to take along with them Madame Elizabeth, the king's sister. Elizabeth, however, was too devoted to the interests of her brother and his family to quit him, and Louis, thinking that his own passports would avail little in protection of the old ladies, applied to Bailly for municipal passports. Bailly refused, and such was the alarm at the idea of the aged princesses quitting France, that Bailly and a deputation hastened to the king, and represented to him the agitation amongst the people of Paris, and the necessity of calming it by forbidding their departure. The city was filled by the most extravagant rumours. The jacobins declared that some of them had lately reconnoitred Versailles, the Trianon, and the Belle-Vue, the residences of the princesses, and that they had found things all in readiness for a general flight. In the stables at Versailles, they said, they found seven hundred horses all saddled and bridled, and prepared for an instant command; royal portmanteaus and imperials packed, and the royal arms erased from the king's carriages. They declared that they had positive information that the count d'Artois and the emperor Leopold, the king's brother, were on the frontiers, waiting to receive the king, and then march into France with Louis at their head. The jacobin journals sounded a loud alarm. Marat, never backward in publishing the most daring lies, on the 14th of February, in his l'Ami du Peuple, exclaimed, " These aunts of the king are playing the devil to get away. It would be excessively imprudent to let them. In spite of all that has been said by imbecile journalists, these women are not free. We are at war with the enemies of the revolution; we must keep these old nuns as hostages, and triple our guard over the rest of the family. It is of the greatest importance that a circular letter be immediately written to all the municipalities to stop them. Citizens! remember that these king's aunts are going to leave behind them debts to the amount of three millions of livres, and to carry with them twelve millions in gold. They are going to carry off the dauphin, and there will be hoisted up in the Tuileries a little boy, of the same age and appearance, who has been in training these eighteen months, for the express purpose of deceiving the public."

Roused to fury by these bold invectives, all the women patriots of Versailles, Sevres, Meudin, and that neighbourhood, turned out and besieged Belle-Vue, the residence of the royal aunts, night and day. The patriots of Paris were all in agitation too, and every means were adopted for stopping these ladies on their journey, by sending information for their arrest all along their route to Lyons, and from Lyons to the frontiers.

These measures did not, however, deter the king or thö princesses from attempting their escape. On the contrary, they only tended to stimulate their exertions. Colonel Berthier, commandant of the national guard of Versailles, was ordered to see the departure of the princesses secured, and on the 19th of February he marched to Belle-Vue at midnight with a strong detachment of the guards. He found the house surrounded by a furious crowd, chiefly of women, swearing that the princesses should not go. Berthier, after seeing the ladies and their attendants in their carriages, advanced to disperse the mob; but a part of his guards would not act. He then ordered the artillery to clear the way with grape-shot, but they also declined, and, so far from obeying his orders, joined the mob, and began to cut the traces of the carriages. Berthier, however, who was not a man to be easily put down, and who, by his martial talents and energies, lived to become a marshal and constable of France, prince of Neufchatel and Wagram under Napoleon, forced some of his troops to support him, and he made a way for the ladies, and saw them clear off on their journey. It is certain that he must have incurred the most imminent personal peril for this daring conduct. The refractory soldiers, as well as the mob, threatened to murder him. He was cashiered from his command of the national guard of Versailles, his native place, and for a long time was in daily jeopardy of his life.

The next morning, the king announced to the assembly the departure of his aunts. There was a sensation. Barnave moved that the strictest regulations should be made to fix the residences, duties, and obligations of all the royal family. He reiterated the outcries of Marat, regarding the contemplated flight of the king and royal family, and the consequence was a fresh erneute amongst the women of Paris. Crowds of them surrounded the Tuileries with frantic cries and menaces, and, as they were assured that monsieur, the king's brother, afterwards Louis XVIII., was on the point of starting, they surrounded the Luxembourg, where he resided, and compelled him and his wife to go under their escort to the Tuileries, that they might have all the royalties safe under one roof. Monsieur, who in reality had been on the very eve of starting, assured his rabid jailors that nothing would induce him to think of leaving the king, and they were somewhat pacified. The next day arrived the news that the king's aunts had made a rush, and passed through the town of Moret, and on the heels of this, the news that the ladies had been arrested at Arnai-le-duc, in Burgundy, by the people, and in opposition to the wishes and the efforts of the municipality. This was confirmed by a letter from the mayor of Arnai-le-duc, who stated that he had set a strong guard over the princesses, to proteot them from the excesses of the people, and awaited instructions from the assembly as to his further proceedings. The princesses also sent a letter by the same courier to the national assembly, stating that they were detained because they had no passport from the national assembly, and imploring them to furnish them with a permission to proceed; assuring the assembly they were nothing more, and desired to be nothing more, than good citizenesses. The king also sent a message to the assembly, complaining of this detention of his aunts, as an infringement of the liberty of the subject, which ought to be preserved inviolate for all, and begged the assembly to remove the impediment. A very warm discussion took place. Mirabeau denounced the violence done to the ladies by their detention, and declared that they were free to go wherever they pleased. The debate was suddenly brought to a close by Menou exclaiming, "All Europe will be astonished that the august assembly has spent several days in deciding whether two old women shall hear mass at Paris or at Rome!" The resolution to allow their departure was passed.

This, however, highly enraged the mob of Paris, who again marched in crowds to the Tuileries, to express their rage by their accustomed curses and howlings; but the guard, in good time, closed the gates, and kept them out of the court, placing cannon in conspicuous array. A proposal was then made by Chapelier, on the 28th of February, for a law restricting emigration. This was in consequence of the report of a committee already appointed for that purpose. Still, in making this motion, Chapelier declared that the report of the committee was contrary to all principles of liberty, and that such a decree would go to establish the despotism of a dictatorship. They had, he said, only conceded the project to the demands of the assembly for such a law. There was a violent debate upon the subject. Mirabeau resisted the law most energetically, which, at the dictation of a committee of three members, was to pronounce the civil death of the emigre, and the confiscation of his property. Mirabeau said, "The murmurs which the reading of this project has occasioned, testify that it is more proper to be placed in the code of Draco than in that of the national assembly of France. I declare that I should feel every oath of fidelity broken towards those who should vote for so dictatorial a commission. The popularity of which I am ambitious, and which I have the honour to enjoy, is not a mere feeble reed; I desire to make it strike its roots deep into the earth, to the very foundations of justice and liberty. If you pass such a law, I swear to disobey it." The motion was adjourned for the present.

But the disturbances continued, and if one cause flagged, such men as Marat could soon discover others. This monster of blood and mendacity, to find now a means of turning the fury of the rabble on Bailly and La Fayette, made a terrible tirade against the spies or mouchards, whom he accused them of keeping in pay against the people, and whom he represented to be the greatest gamblers and swindlers in the metropolis. There was no surer way of damaging the authorities of order than by accusing them of not only employing these gamblers, but of mingling with them in the hells, and thus spending the public money to demoralise the state. Had Marat's motive been simply public virtue, his would have been truly patriotic conduct; but, like all his malicious schemes, its real object was to ruin men much better than himself. He declared that there were in Paris not less than ten thousand gamblers, and blacklegs, and keepers of swindling gaming-tables, especially in the Palais Royal, where there were alone twenty-seven hells. Nearly all these desperate and disreputable men, he affirmed, were the spies of mayor Bailly. "There is," he said, "one Marme, formerly a lacquey and under-spy, but now spy in chief, and privileged robber to the divine Bailly, and this fellow is worth four hundred thousand livres, which he has gained by robbery. There is Charigny, a few years ago a postillion, but now chief spy and privileged robber to the divine Bailly. He is worth more than eight hundred thousand livres, the fruits of plunder, and he keeps a carriage for himself, a carriage for Margot, his wife, and a carriage for Javotte, his mistress. There is Delsanne, formerly an apothecary's boy, who has married the daughter of Lesprit, renowned for hair-dressing, and now he is chief spy and robber to the divine Bailly; has more than two hundred and fifty thousand livres, which he has got by robbery, and lives in his own great house in the Rue St. Apolline."

Marat, in his ferocious and coarse style, then ran through the catalogue of the keepers of gambling-houses, naming them distinctly. He charged Talleyrand, the virtuous- seeming bishop of Autun, with frequenting, and winning as much as six or seven thousand francs in such places. Talleyrand denied, by a letter in the newspapers, the fact of frequenting such houses, but pleaded guilty to having won, within two months, in private houses, about thirty thousand francs, and, with much affected compunction, he blamed himself for giving way to this evil practice of society, and joined in the denunciation of it. But Marat named almost every public man as a confirmed gambler in private society, and that they played with money not their own. " What would you think, "he said, "of seeing these virtuous conscript fathers, Chapelier, Emmery, Target, Thouret, Tronchet,Des- meuniers, Regnier, Daudre, Riquetti (Mirabeau), Voidel, Broglie, Desclaibes, Malouet, Montlosier, Cazales, Bailly, Mottiö (La Fayette), all fresh from their machinations, all sitting down together, covering a gaming-table with assignats, putting upon a single card the fortunes of twenty families, and wasting, whilst they seize, the property of the church, the patrimony of the poor? "

In this manner, this fierce calumniator attacked all that he hated or envied - many of them, as Bailly and Lavalette, who disliked even private play, and were amongst the most moral of the community. But it suited his purpose to brand them as public embezzlers and payers of spies, and the rabble believed everything. Whilst Paris was thus kept in agitation, there were emeutes in different parts of the country, which the jacobin journalists attributed to the ejected priests and their indignant partisans, and, no doubt, in many cases, with truth. The unresting agitator, Marat, now turned the resentment of the Paris mob on the ancient fortress of Vincennes. He gave notice, in his journal, that this old prison - a second Bastille - was being put into repair, and threw out hints that it was by order of the court, and for securing in its dungeons some of the stanchest friends of the people. It was soon whispered that the intended victims were the duke of Orleans and his family, as well as the most patriotic members of the assembly.

Vincennes had, like the Bastille, immured in its dungeons many victims of state despotism, and many under lettres de cachet from various causes. Of late years it had been more used for these purposes than the Bastille. Mirabeau had lain there; and men still more infamous in their literature, if not in their lives, Diderot - nearly as famous for his lewd tales and dramas as for his Encyclopaedia - and the marquis de Sades - one of the most immoral of patriots - who is said to have written the most profligate of his infamous novels in this prison. The mob of the Faubourg St. Antoine - which had been busy for some days burning barriers where the octrois, or duty on provisions coming into the city, were levied - on the morning of the 28th of February marched away to demolish this fortress, as they had done the Bastille. It lay, conveniently for them, only four miles on their side of the town; and they were headed by Santerre, the burly brewer, and also a hero of the Bastille, at the head of his battalion of the national guards. On arriving there, the officers on the spot assured them that the repairs were done by order of the assembly itself, in order to relieve the prisons of Paris, which were so crowded as to create a danger of fatal infections in them, which might spread into the city. This was confirmed by the municipal authorities of Vincennes; but no matter: St. Antoine was come out to destroy another Bastille, and to work they went. They snatched the hammers and crowbars from the workmen, broke into the prison, and began to destroy everything they found, and fling the fragments out of the windows. They then commenced their operations on the battlements, for they could make little impression on the towers. They were thus engaged when La Fayette arrived, at the head of several thousand national guards, and with several pieces of artillery. He commanded the mob to desist, and, as they paid no attention, he commanded Santerre to fire upon them. But the brewer was come there not to molest, but to protect the rioters, and he replied that these were the destroyers of the Bastille. La Fayette had as little influence with the municipal officers of Vincennes. They would take no responsibility, and he therefore boldly took it all on himself. Much as had been done, and still was doing, by the rabid journalists to destroy his popularity, he did not weigh this in the scale with his duty. He ordered his men to drive out the mob by force, but not to fire, unless they should come to extremity. He succeeded in clearing the place, and driving the mob before him; but, as he returned to pass through the Faubourg St. Antoine, he found the gates shut against him. He threatened to blow them open with his cannon, and then they were opened; but as he passed through the streets, several shots were fired at him and his officers, and an attempt was made to lame his horse, and thus throw him to the ground.

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