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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 4

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The convention was debating the question of Louis's trial. On the 6th of November Valazé, a Girondist, presented to it the report of the committee of twenty-four. This report charged Louis Capet with high treason against the nation, and declared that his punishment ought to be more than simple deposition. The next day Mailhe, another Girondist, presented the report of the committee of legislation, and accompanied it by a speech, in which he accused Louis of all the crimes which had been committed during the revolution, and recommended the trial of Charles I. as the model for his trial. The queen, he said, ought to be tried by an ordinary tribunal, observing that the heads of queens were no more inviolable than other women's heads. This was as plainly intimating the wishes of the Girondists for the execution of the king and queen as any jacobins could do. In fact, so completely did his remarks coincide with the views of the jacobins, that he was applauded by jacobins, Girondists, and Plain. It was voted that the report should be printed and circulated through the departments; that a committee should be appointed to collect the necessary papers and other evidence; that these should be submitted to Louis, or his counsel; that the convention should fix the day of trial, and should pronounce sentence by every member voting separately, and aloud.

This, however, was not done until these questions had undergone long debate. In these debates, which lasted from the 6th of November to the 11th of December, Morrison began by declaring that the convention had no right or power to try the king; that the constitution of 1791 had provided for his déchéance, and nothing more, and that only for appearing at the head of an army against the people. St. Just, a gloomy fanatic, of Picardy, delivered a ferocious speech in reply to this. He called on them to put an end to him at once,- on the ground that all kings were no better than wild beasts, and that every man in France had the same right to destroy him as Brutus had to destroy Caesar. Fauchet, on the contrary, denounced the trying or injuring of Louis at all. To punish him, he said, was to raise a host of zealots in his favour; and the only politic course was to allow him to go about his business, and wander, weak and insignificant, through every department of France, showing what a poor, contemptible thing was a king without his usual environments - his police, his armies, and his gilded state. The abbé Gregoire declared such reasoning only political cowardice. Thomas Paine addressed the convention by letter, treating the inviolability of kings as a sorry burlesque; and Robespierre ridiculed the idea of being bound by the constitution of 1791: that, he said, no longer existed. The people were the constitution; they demanded the death of the tyrant, and that he must die in order that France might live! The convention was urged on by deputations from the commune and from other quarters, and it was decreed that Louis should be brought to the bar of the convention on the 11th of December.

In order to furnish evidence against the king, there was a great rummaging amongst official papers, and rewards were offered for the production of criminatory evidence. Then came forward one Gamain, a locksmith, who had been employed by Louis to construct the secret closet in the wall, of which we have already spoken, and which was now called " the iron chest." This was constructed in the wall of the king's bedchamber, behind the wainscot, and so well concealed, that no one could discover it without being first shown it. Marie Antoinette had warned the king, that if this depository of important papers was discovered, it would be fatal to him; and Gamain, the constructor of it, now came forward to betray its existence. Roland took the opportunity to accompany Gamain, with only one or two municipal clerks. He had the papers tied up in napkins and carried to a Girondist committee, where they were examined for several days before they were announced to the convention. The moment this fact was known there was a terrible outcry amongst the jacobins. They declared that Roland had only too justly feared the revelations which these papers would make against the intrigues of the Girondists with the court, and had thus taken care to abstract the proofs of guilt. This appeared only too probable; but if the Girondist ministers screened themselves and party, they look no care to screen the reputation of Mirabeau. The evidences of his long-purchased collusion with the court were speedily dragged to light amid howls of execration. The convention ordered the bust of Mirabeau in its hall to be covered with black crape; but the jacobin club went further. Robespierre proclaimed Mirabeau a venal and infamous traitor; demanded that his bust should be pulled down and cast into the street, and that every other bust, except those of Brutus and Rousseau, should be removed, together with all civic crowns and garlands which had been suspended on the walls in honour of men who had only proved themselves traitors and intriguants. This was speedily done: all these garlands and crowns were torn down, and trodden, and kicked, and stamped upon in the street with Mirabeau's bust, which was pounded to atoms. Gamain was voted a pension of twelve hundred livres for betraying the master who had once paid him bountifully, and trusted him in too much confidence.

The convention had taken no trouble to inform Louis of their decree to bring him to trial, much less of the time fixed; but his faithful Clery had learned these particulars, and, fearing to communicate them to the king, had communicated them to madame Elizabeth. She imparted the mournful tidings to him, and also that during the trial it was determined entirely to separate him from his family. The only possible chance of communication would be through Clery, and that would be made extremely difficult by the constant vigilance of the municipal officers. The commune had ordered that, on the morning of the 11th, all the sections should be under arms; that the guards at all public places should be doubled, numerous reserves be stationed at various points with strong artillery, and that the carriage which conveyed the king to the convention should be also strongly guarded. Accordingly, on the morning of this day, so early as five o'clock, the drums were heard beating through Paris; a squadron of horse, attended by cannon, took post in the gardens of the Temple, and battalions of infantry drew up in front, with a great galloping of orderlies and aides-de-camp from place to place.

Amid all this noise of preparation, calculated to crush the hearts of the doomed family within, the king sate down to breakfast with his wife, his children, and his sister for the last time. Much as they must have had to say to each other, the presence of their watchful gaolers made them dumb, except on the most indifferent subjects. After breakfast, Louis took the dauphin with him down to his own room. The little boy would have him to play at draughts with him, and Louis, with an aching heart, but with an outward air of composure, played several games with him. The dauphin took his lesson-books, and began reading, as usual, to his father. At eleven o'clock, whilst thus engaged, two municipal officers appeared, and said they must take the boy up to his mother. This is Clery's own account: - " The king desired to know why he was taken away. The commissioners replied they were executing the orders of the council of the commune. The king tenderly embraced his son, and charged me to conduct him. On my return, I assured his majesty I had delivered the prince to the queen, which appeared a little to relieve his mind. His majesty afterwards for some minutes walked about his room in much agitation, then sate down in an arm-chair at the head of the bed. The door stood ajar, but the officer did not like to go in, wishing, he told me, to avoid questions; but half an hour passing in this dead silence, he became uneasy at not hearing the king move, and went softly in. He found him leaning with his head upon his hand, apparently in deep thought. The king, on being disturbed, said, 'What do you want with me?' 'I was afraid,' answered the officer, ' that you were unwell.' 'I am obliged to you,' replied the king, in an accent replete with anguish, but the manner in which they have taken my son from me cuts me to the heart.' The municipal officer withdrew without saying a word."

It was not till one o'clock that Chambon, the mayor, made his appearance, accompanied by Chaumette, now the procureur of the commune in place of Manuel, and many other municipals, as well as by Santerre, commander-in- chief of the national guards, and his staff. The mayor informed Louis of the nature of his errand, and the secretary of the commune read the decree of the convention, summoning Louis Capet to take his trial. " Capet!" said the king!" that is not my name, though it is the name of one of my ancestors." He then said to the mayor, " Sir, I wish your commissaries had left my son with me during the two hours that I have been waiting for you; but this treatment is of a piece with that which I have met with during these last four months. I am ready to follow you, not in obedience to the convention, but because my enemies have the power in their hands." Clery handed him his hat and greatcoat, and they descended to the gateway. There he was handed into the mayor's carriage, which was preceded and followed by cannon loaded with grape-shot, and surrounded by a strong body of jacobin guards; and thus they drove slowly to the convention, amongst crowds and bodies of national guards, who sung the " Marseillaise Hymn," dooming tyrants to death, as he passed.

Whilst the king was approaching, the convention employed itself in consulting how they should try him; and numbers of the jacobin members, amongst them Drouet, the postmaster of Varennes, who was now a member, Marat, Sergent, and Petion, continued to heap upon the king all the crimes which had been committed by the royalists since the revolution, and many which had not been committed. Petion lyingly declared that on the 10th of August he had been at the palace, and not only was Louis anxious to massacre the people by the Swiss, but that his own life had been in danger. Legendre moved that no petition should be heard, no deputy allowed to speak, no token of approbation or disapprobation given. " We must awe him," he said, " by the silence of the grave." This inhuman sentiment - uttered, not against a king in his full power, and surrounded by warriors and courtiers, but against a weak, stripped, and friendless man - excited some murmurs of indignation. Manuel then, with a ridiculous vanity, proposed that they should try him on the order of the day, that they might not appear to be occupied with the king alone, and this suggestion was adopted. They began to discuss a law regarding the emigrants.

Santerre then announced that " Louis Capet was at the door." Barrère, a man without talent and without principle, then, as président, exclaimed, " Citizens, the eyes of Europe are upon you! Posterity will judge you with inflexible severity. Preserve, then, that dispassionate coolness befitting judges. Recollect the awful silence which attended Louis when he was brought from Varennes - a silence, the fore- runner of the judgment of kings by the nations! " And after this pompous speech he said, "Let him be brought in." The king was led in betwixt the mayor and a municipal officer. Santerre stepped for ward, took him by one arm, and general Wittingoff, a Courlander, who had joined the révolution in France, by the other, and conducted him to the bar. At the sight of the monarch thus brought in a prisoner, y et calm and dignified, all appeared moved. Barrère himself is said to have turned pale; the Girondists were greatly agitated; and even the Mountain was affected. Barrère, however, said, in insulting phrase, " Louis, the French nation accuses you. The national convention decreed, on the 3rd of December, that you shall be tried by it; and on the 6th of December you will be brought to this bar. The act containing the charges against you is about to be read. Louis, you may be seated."

The king seated himself, and looked around on the assembly, apparently in greater composure than any man there. The articles, fifty-seven in number, were read to him, and after each he was asked what he had to reply. Louis did not follow the example of Charles I. of England, whose history he had carefully studied, by denying the authority of the court; he replied calmly, and without passion or emotion, to every charge, except the one which accused him of shed- ding the blood of the people on the 10th of August, when he answered emphatically, u No, sir, no; it was not I. The palace was menaced, and, as one of the constituted authorities, I had a right to defend it and myself; but I did not even do that. I sent for a deputation of this assembly, and I took refuge here with my family."

The chief of the charges were the interruption of the sitting of the 20th of June, 1789; with the bed of justice held on the 23rd of the same month; the aristocratic conspiracy, thwarted by the insurrection of the 14th of July; the entertainments of the life guards; the insults offered to the national cockade; the refusal to sanction the declaration of rights, as well as several constitutional articles. Lastly, all the facts which indicated a new conspiracy in October, followed by the scenes of the 5th and 6th, the speeches of reconciliation which succeeded all these scenes, and which, they argued, promised a change that was not sincere; the oath, declared to be false, taken at the federation of the 14th of July; the secret practices with Talon and Mirabeau to effect a counter révolution; the money spent to bribe deputies; the assemblage of the knights of the dagger on the 28tli of February, 1791.; the flight to Varennes; the fusillade of the Champ de Mars; the silence respecting the treaty of Pilnitz; the refusal to sanction the decrees for the banishment of the priests, and for the forming the encampment of Paris; the concealment of the march of the Prussians; the organisation of secret societies in Paris; the bloodshed on the 10th of August, &c., &c.

Some of the charges Louis firmly denied; others he attributed to his ministers; but he mainly based his defence on the constitution, by which he asserted that he had carefully and continually guided himself. He was shown the papers found in the iron chest, but he denied all knowledge of them, except of some notes written by La Fayette, which, he said, merely related to the constitution while in progress. His denial of the iron chest and its contents was unwise, for it was a fact too palpable, and it tended to destroy the faith in his word; but it might be regarded as the plea of not guilty in an English court, and, seeing that he had no counsel, might be deemed a matter of mere policy. He was told that he might withdraw; but, before doing so, he demanded the aid of counsel, and then was conducted to a room where he took some refreshment. This done, he was taken back in the mayor's coach to the Temple, in the same manner in which he had come, and amid the inhuman jeers and singing of the Marseillaise by the assembled mob. Though he was visibly thinner, and his beard and dress had the negligence of misery, no symptoms of pity were visible in a public which loved blood and a spectacle more than humanity. He reached the Temple at half-past six in the evening, and demanded to see his family, but was told that was forbidden by the commune. He begged an officer to communicate his return, and that he was well; and this he did, and brought back the message, that the family were well also. He read till half-past eight, when supper was served: he then asked again whether his family were not to sup with him, to which there was no answer: he sate down alone. After supper, he again entreated to see his family, but was not allowed. The bed of his son was then carried away, and the agonised father demanded why his little boy might not sleep there, as usual. The answer was the same silence. Louis threw himself in dumb agony on his bed, and, in the few whispered words which passed between him and Clery, as his faithful valet took his leave for the night, he said he could not have conceived all the questions that the Convention had put to him. The next morning he resumed, in vain, his desire to see his family, and, when that was refused, to be allowed to kiss his children, but with no avail. When Clery expressed a hope that the convention would revoke the order for this cruel separation, Louis replied: "I expect no consideration, no justice, no mercy; but let us wait."

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