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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 8

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A very little time showed how vainly he had calculated. The assembly, on receiving the news of La Fayette's conduct, declared him a traitor, and issued an order for his arrest. It dispatched three other commissioners with still stronger powers, and with commands for the liberation of the three first. It instructed Dumouriez to march and seize La Fayette. Fresh commissioners were sent to the camp of Dillon; the spirit of the assembly triumphed; the municipality of Sedan gave up the imprisoned commissioners; the soldiers declared in a mass for the assembly; and La Fayette was left alone with his staff. He saw the necessity of providing instantly for his safety. His plan was to escape to England, and he trusted to escape the Austrians. He quitted the camp with all secrecy, to avoid any attempt to stop him by the soldiers; and not to increase too greatly the Company of fugitives, his companions in exile consisted only of Latour-Maubourg, and his two brothers, Bureaux de Pusy, his aid-de-camp and staff officer in the Parisian national guards, and some friends exposed to certain death, in consequence of their participation in his last efforts against anarchy. Fifteen officers of different ranks accompanied him. But they did not find it so easy to avoid the Austrians. On arriving at Rochefort, the party, considerably reduced in numbers, were stopped, and Bureaux de Pusy was compelled to ride to Namur to obtain a pass from general Moitelle, who was in command there. Before he could utter a word in explanation, Moitelle exclaimed - " What! La Fayette! La Fayette! Run instantly and inform the duke of Bourbon of it! La Fayette! Set out this moment," addressing one of his officers, "and carry this news to his royal highness at Brüssels; " and on he went muttering to himself - " La Fayette! " It was not till he had given Orders to write to all the princes and generals he could think of, that Pusy could put in his request for a pass, which, of course, was refused.

The news of the flight of La Fayette produced a great sensation of delight throughout the allied army; and the emigrant princes, instead of generously rejoicing that the man who promoted the révolution at first had seen it necessary to abandon it in defence of the king, were only too much charmed at the idea of being able to imprison and punish him. As for the Austrians, to whom he surrendered, neither they nor the Prussians had any right to regard him more, at the most, than a prisoner of war. But, as Sir Walter Scott has justly observed, they violated in his case the laws of morality, of nations, and of sound policy, and pursued towards him a petty line of policy, neither consistent with the honour nor the interests of princes or private individuals. They offered him his liberty on condition that he recanted his opinion on the abolition of nobility; but he refused, claimed his liberty as his right, as he had broken no law against them, and he declared that, if they falsely represented his words, he would find means to contradict them. He claimed for himself and friends free passage to a neutral country, seeing that they had all laid down their arms rather than injure their sovereign; but all this was unavailing. The allied sovereigns divided the group of fugitives into three sections. Those who had not served in the national guard, nor made themselves prominent in the révolution, were discharged, with Orders to leave the country with all dispatch. A second portion were consigned to the citadel of Antwerp for a certain term; and La Fayette, and those others who had been members of the states-general and constituent assembly, were sent prisoners to Luxembourg, where they were insulted and menaced by their emigrant countrymen, and where Breteuil, who was acting nominally as the ambassador of Louis XVI., is said to have demanded the execution of La Fayette, as necessary to the safety of the governments of Europe. He was handed over successively to Prussia and Austria, and remained a captive in the fortresses of Neisse and Olmütz, till he was released by the interference of Napoleon Buonaparte, at the peace of Campo Formio, in 1797.

The startling event of the 10th of August gave a sudden activity to the allied armies on the frontiers. It was evident that if the king and royal family of France were to be saved, it must be without delay. Though in Germany only the emperor of Austria, the king of Prussia, the three ecclesiastical electors, and the landgraves of the two Hesses, had taken up the cause of French royalty practically, yet they had an army of one hundred and thirty-eight thousand men, well disciplined, drawn out, that of Prussia still imposing from the prestige of the so-called great Frederick. The emperor and the king of Prussia were already in Mayence. Sixty thousand Prussians advanced 'directly against the centre of the French encampments, by Luxembourg, on Longwy. Twenty thousand Austrians, under the prince of Hohenlohe-Kirchberg, and sixteen thousand Hessians, flanked the left of the Prussians; twenty thousand Austrians, under general Clairfayt, supported them on the right, and occupied Stenay. The duke of Saxe-Teschen occupied the Netherlands, and threatened the fortresses. The prince of Condé, with six thousand French emigrants, marched on Philipsbourg, and other bodies of French were intermingled with the main divisions of the allies.

The French armies were ill prepared to receive them. The progress of jacobinism had tended to disorganise the troops, and to infuse notions of insubordination amongst them; and the expulsion of the greater part of the most experienced officers by the assembly, at the instigation of the clubs, as aristocrats and suspects, had left the command, in a great number of cases, in the hands of untried men. Dumouriez had gone to take the command of the division of La Fayette, at Sedan, leaving the forces at the camps of Maulde, Mauberge, and Lille under Beurnonville, Mouton, and Duval, who had a total of thirty thousand men. La Fayette, in his memoirs, tells us that he left his division all in good order; on the contrary, Dumouriez asserts that he found it in a very disorganised condition, and very feebly disposed. That the flight of the general had, moreover, augmented the disorganisation; and had the allies broke upon that camp any day before his assumption of the command, it must have been scattered to the winds, and the highway to Paris left open. Part of this statement probably arises from Dumouriez' enmity to La Fayette, yet there must still remain a large amount of obvious truth. Luckner's army, occupying Metz, consisted of twenty thousand men, and the command of it was now transferred to Kellerman, who had begun life as a private hussar, but was destined, as well as his son, to achieve high military honours. Luckner was sent to organise the new army of reserve. Besides these, Custine, at Landau, and Biron, in Alsace, having altogether forty-five thousand men, were too far off to effect any amount of resistance to the invading army.

If the French army, however, was badly prepared, the allies, as usual, were far from united in activity and plans. Austria was characteristically tardy. The king of Prussia was desirous of making a rapid onward movement, and cutting asunder the French army at a blow; but the duke of Brunswick, who commanded the Prussians, was far more cautious, drawing very different auguries from the revolutionary spirit than the other chiefs. The Prussians, however, steadily advanced, and on the 20th of August sate down before Longwy, one of the most advanced fortresses of the frontiers.

At this moment, Dumouriez, who had infused a decidedly bolder spirit into his troops, though he was y et comparatively an untried general, was on the point of making a rush into the Netherlands, and thus diverting the allies from the entrance into France, when Westermann arrived in his camp, and informed him of the progress of the Prussians. On the 22nd, Longwy had opened its gates to them; and, elated by the capture of La Fayette, they were more eager than ever to accelerate their march into France. Dumouriez summoned a council of war, and it was agreed to renounce the movement against Saxe-Teschen in the Netherlands, and fall back upon the Marne, entrench themselves behind it, and there wait the junction of the other divisions of the army, and thus cover the capital, which would be only forty leagues distant from the enemy.

The news of the flight of La Fayette filled Robespierre and his admirers with ecstasies; it seemed to justify the incessant tirades of the jacobin chief against him. But this, and the rapidly succeeding advance of Prussia, the fall of Longwy, and the retreat of the French forces, filled Paris with rage and terror.

We have seen how, ever since the 10th of August, the jacobins had laboured to bring about a reign of terror; how they had usurped ail executive and nearly all legislative power into their hands; how Marat, Robespierre, and Danton, had ruled at the Hôtel de Ville, as well as in the clubs; how they had sent out their emissaries to inaugurate the same state of things in the provinces; how they had continually intimated that there must be a purging of the country; how they had kept the city under arms, and ail the barriers carefully guarded. Like skilful hunters pre- paring for a battue, who drive their game into a contracted turner of the forest, in order the more effectually to shoot it down, they had kept every person of aristocratic pretensions, or of moderate views, cooped up in Paris, and it was too well understood that this was for the horrible purpose of massacring them wholesale. The French thirst of blood was growing irretrievable. The number of the insurgents who had fallen in the attack to the Tuileries had roused their longing for vengeance, and a day, unparallel in the annals of atrocious devilry, was evidently approaching. The French revolutionary leaders never omitted to seize on any occasion that offered to rouse the mob to the point of blood- heat; if such did not occur, they invented one. Longwy, and the flight of La Fayette, and the retrograde movement of the French forces, were immediately seized upon. They were such events as had been long looked for. The cry of treason, disaffection, and royalist intrigues, was raised with venomous energy, Danton, Marat, Robespierre, and their legion of satellites, declared that, though the king was a prisoner, his party was abroad, and were conspiring, as before the 10th of August, to bring the foreigners to Paris, and massacre ail the people. They declared that an active correspondence was going on between the enemies in Paris and the enemies on the frontiers; that, at a signal from the court, the gates would be thrown open, and the inhabitants would be left at the mercy of the emigrants and their allies. The terror which these representations were intended to inspire - the desire to be first with a massacre - took full hold of the populace; they were roused to the pitch of bloodthirsty fury that the jacobin leaders desired. Marat was about to be indulged in a terrible purgation of the aristocrats. The extraordinary tribunal erected for the trial of the crowd of prisoners with which the dungeons of Paris, Orleans, and Versailles, were crammed, was declared too slow. It was demanded that the prisoners at Orleans, including De Lessart, Montmorin, and others of the former ministers, should be brought to Paris, and tried at once, according to the prompt notions of the mob. The assembly at first made a resolute stand against these demands. The Girondists, both in the assembly and in the ministry opposed the proposition; but Danton, now risen into a pitch of bold- ness and demogogic energy, which carried ail before him, insisted on it, and kept the people in a fever of clamour for it. He overruled his colleagues in the ministry, Servan, Roland, and Clavières; he was the leader of the council of the municipality, which boasted such members as Robespierre and Marat; he was the daring leader of the people, and his thundering voice continually sounded in their ears – " We will not recede. We will perish in the capital, and beneath its ruins; but our enemies shall perish before us! "

On the 26th, the news of the surrender of Longwy spread consternation through Paris. The assembly decreed death to any one who should surrender any other place. On the demand of the commune it also decreed that thirty thousand men should be immediately raised and armed in Paris and the immediately surrounding country. Whilst the panic was at its height, Danton seized the moment for the grand coup de main. He induced the commune to have lists made out of ail the indigent persons in the sections; to pay and arm them. At the same time, a decree was passed to disarm and seize ail suspected persons; and ail those who had signed the petition against the 20th of June, and against the camp before Paris, were to be considered such. In fact, the palpable object was to seize and confine for the coming slaugliter every man who was not a downright jacobin. This was to be effected by a general domiciliary visit. The barriers, from the evening of the 29th of August, were to be closed for eight-and- forty hours, and no one was to be allowed to quit the city on any plea whatever. Guard-ships were to be stationed on the river, to prevent escape that way. The surrounding communes were ordered to stop every stranger found on the roads or in the fields. The capital, thus hermetically sealed down upon the victims, the drum was to announce the commencement of the Visits, and at the sound every man was to repair to his proper house, on pain of being treated as a " suspect, " that is, being thrown into prison, or murdered without ceremony, Commissioners of the communes were to go round, attended by an armed force, and search every house for arms and suspected persons; those already described, non-juring priests, and others. At ten o'clock at night, the streets were to be cleared of all carriages, and to be illuminated all night.

The intentions of the sans culottes were no secret; the dullest brains must have perceived what was preparing- The wretched victims, conscious that they were cooped up in a trap, out of which there would be no way but by death, fled to every imaginable hiding-place. Peltier describes this state of things vividly: " Let the reader fancy to himself a vast metropolis, the streets of which were, a few days before, alive with the concourse of carriages, and with citizens constantly passing and repassing. Let him fancy to himself streets so populous and so animated, suddenly struck with the dead silence of the grave, before sunset on a fine summer evening. All the shops are shut-, everybody retires into the interior of his house, trembling for life and property; all are in fearful expectation of the events of a night in which even the efforts of despair are not likely to afford the least resource to any individual. The sole object of the domiciliary visits, it is pretended, is to search for arms; yet the barriers are shut, and guarded with the strictest vigilance, and boats are stationed on the river at regular distances, filled with armed men. Every one supposes himself to be informed against; everywhere persons and property are put in concealment; everywhere are heard the interrupted sounds of the muffled hammer, with cautious knock completing the hiding-place. Roofs, garrets, sinks, chimneys - all are just the same to fear, incapable of calculating any risk. One man, squeezed up behind the wainscot, which has been nailed back on himself, seems to form a part of the wall; another is suffocated with fear and heat between two mattresses; a third, rolled up in a cask, loses all sense of existence by the tension of his sinews. Apprehension is stronger than pain. Men tremble, but they do not shed tears; the heart shivers, the eye is dull, and the breast contracted. Women, on this occasion, display prodigies of tenderness and intrepidity. It was by them that most of the men were concealed. It was one o'clock in the morning when the domiciliary visits began. Patroles, consisting of sixty pikemen, were in every street. The nocturnal tumult of so many armed men; the incessant knocks to make people open their doors; the crash of those that were burst off their hinges; and the continual uproar and revelling, which took place throughout the night in all the public-houses, formed a picture which will never be effaced from my memory."

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 8

Camille Desmoulins
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