OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 5

Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10 11

Meantime, a violent debate had taken place in the convention on Louis's demand for counsel. It was vehemently opposed by the Mountain. Billaud-Varennes, whom Napoleon afterwards declared of all the base creatures of the révolution the worst, Tallien, who began as the son of a noble- man's porter, and the rest of them, deprecated the allowance of any counsel whatever. Treilhard, Garat, Petion, and other Girondists, argued for it, as what the meanest prisoner was entitled to. Chabot, Merlin, Thuriot, and others, were furious for the refusal of this indulgence, but at length it was decreed that he should have counsel allowed him, and Target and Tronchet were named. Tronchet at once accepted the duty; but Target, with a cowardice which rendered him contemptible, even to the enemies of the king, declined, on pretence of having been obliged to give up his practice, though he had only given up this to be a judge. Malesherbes, though upwards of seventy, intimated that, as he had twice been counsel for him who was once his master, in times when that duty was coveted by every one,, he was desirous to pay him the same service now that many people deemed it dangerous. The king at once accepted the aid of these two accomplished and honest men; and though Sourdat - a lawyer of Troyes, who had held office under the king - and others came forward to offer themselves, Louis declared himself perfectly satisfied with Tronchet and the venerable Malesherbes. On the 14th the two counsel were admitted to the king. On seeing Malesherbes, the king ran forward to meet him; the old man sank at the king's feet, and burst into tears. Louis raised him, and embraced him warmly.

The king demanded that he should be supplied with pens, ink, and paper, and again that he should be permitted to see his family. A great debate took place again on this head. It was at once decided that he should have the writing materials, and eventually, that he should see his family. But the commune persisted in maintaining its order, in defiance of the convention, as they had also ordered that the counsel should not be admitted to Louis without undergoing a strict search each time. These proceedings of the commune excited the indignation of the convention, many of its members declaring that its dignity was compromised. Tallien said, no matter whether the convention decreed it or not, the commune would pursue its own course. The agitation was intense: it was decreed that the counsel should be admitted to the king free of the indignity of search, and this point the commune conceded; but they persisted in the refusal to allow the king to see his family, declaring that the women would concoct with him arguments, which would create delay and embarrassment. The assembly descended to a compromise, and it was ordered that the king should be allowed to see the children. To this the commune demurred, asserting that the children were very cunning, and would carry plans and arguments from one party to the other.

When, at last, the commune admitted the order for the children to be with the father, but that they should remain there altogether, Louis said to Clery: - " You see the cruel dilemma in which they have placed me. In this way I cannot think of having my children with me; as for my daughter, she is out of the question, and I know what pain the queen would suffer in giving up my son: I must make the sacrifice." And he generously gave up this satisfaction of seeing his children.

Whilst the trial of the king was proceeding, the two factions of the Gironde and the jacobins were engaged in a deadly warfare with each other. The Girondists, alarmed at the power and the vindictive spirit of the jacobins, were more than half inclined to take the part of the king. They accused the jacobins of the crimes of September, though they themselves had taken no steps to prevent them. They declared that the jacobins were preparing for a general anarchy, and only wished to sacrifice the king in order to set up a triumvirate of their own. Guadet nearly succeeded in driving the jacobins from the convention, where the Gironde, supported by the federalists from the south, had still a. great party. Ho demanded that the electoral assemblies of all France should be convoked to confirm or cashier their deputies. The jacobins were greatly alarmed at this, especially as federalists continued to arrive from all quarters, and the municipalities to send up addresses, which, while they congratulated the convention on the approval of a republic, condemned the crimes and excesses which had been committed. They - some of them - denounced the mother society, and declared themselves ready to fly to Paris to support the convention against it. The jacobins, in their turn, returned the accusations on the Girondists; they issued addresses to the affiliated jacobins throughout the country, calling on them to keep united, and support the mother society in denouncing the traitor Roland, who, they said, abused the post by circulating through it false representations.

But this intestine war of factions extended even to the jacobin leaders, Marat and Robespierre. These two sanguinary monsters were in direct and fierce conflict with each other, and their partisans carried the feud into the very bosom of the mother society, the jacobin club. Many of the affiliated societies demanded that both Marat and Robespierre should be expelled from the club; others demanded the erasure of Marat's name alone, as a man whose bloody violence compromised the party. A furious discussion took place in the club on the question of expelling Marat; but it ended in his being allowed to remain. Both Marat and Robespierre were anxious that the federalists should quit Paris, where, they said, they supported the Girondists, and march to the army. The check which Beurnonville and Custine had received on the frontiers and in Germany added fresh anxiety to these demands. Marat accused the generals of being traitors; and Robespierre accused the Girondist ministers of controlling the convention and thwarting the measures of the commanders. He declared that the traitor Roland, the intriguing Brissot, the scoundrels Louvet, Guadet, and Vergniaud, were the authors of all the calamities of France. They fettered, he said, both Dumouriez and Custine, and had no object but to destroy the society of the jacobins, and butcher all who dared to oppose them. " As for me," he exclaimed, " I desire to be assassinated by Roland! "

War to the death was declared betwixt the Girondists and jacobins, and the latter bound themselves by an oath, on the 12th of December, never to be reconciled to the Gironde. The war was carried into the convention. Thuriot proposed a decree of death against any one who should attempt to break the unity of the republic, by separating any portion of it from the rest. This was aimed at the Girondists, and meant their drawing the federalists to themselves. Buzot immediately proposed a decree for the banishment of all the Bourbons. This was aimed at the duke of Orleans, who, he declared, the jacobins, when they had sacrificed Louis, meant to put into his vacant throne. Buzot adduced the bravery of Orleans' sons, then in the army, as a reason for this banishment, because their merits rendered them dangerous to liberty. Louvet called upon Orleans, who was present, to exile himself for the good of his country. Lanjuinais referred to the election of Orleans, which, he declared, was carried under the very bayonets of the jacobin faction. Bazire, St. Just, Chabot, and other jacobins defended Orleans, but banishment, nevertheless, was decreed by acclamation. To this the jacobins replied by immediately demanding the banishment of all dangerous men, and first and foremost of Roland and Pache. But then it was asked, whether a representative of the people could be banished, and it was resolved that the confirmation of the decree should stand over till after the trial of Louis; and all parties then turned their keenest attention to that great event.

It was ordered that Louis should be brought to the bar on the 26th of December. In the afternoon of the 16th, four commissioners, who had been members of the committee of the twenty-four, appeared, and presented him with a copy of his impeachment, and also submitted to him a number of papers that were to be produced against him. Most of these were such as had been found in the iron chest. The whole day till midnight was spent in examining these papers, and in Louis signing them with his affirmative or denial. When it was late, he took pity on the commissioners, and had supper brought up for them. When they retired, Tronchet alone remained with him, except a fellow as watch over him, who, in a dirty working dress, seated himself in the king's arm-chair, with his hat on, and talked to Tronchet and the king with all the insolence of equality, " thouing " them most familiarly. The commissioners, before retiring, expressed their disgust at this fellow's conduct, yet they dared not to remove him, lest they, too, should be accused of being in favour of royalty. Louis through the whole displayed the utmost equanimity, except when certain depositions of his own servants were laid before him. By these wretches, pretended conversations betwixt the king and queen, likely to damage them, were sworn to. Louis was deeply affected at this treachery and ingratitude.

Tronchet and Malesherbes requested to be allowed the assistance of Desèze, a young advocate, who had acquired great distinction by the defence of Besenval after the 14th of July. This was accorded, and Louis was engaged with his counsel every evening, from the 14th to the 25th, in preparing his defence. During this time he was enabled to communicate with his family again, as he could use the pens and paper of his counsel, and his family could reply by pricking their answers with a pin on the same paper. These papers were inclosed in balls of thread, and let down from one room to the other by a string, or secretly conveyed by the person who carried in the dishes, and thrown under the table at meal-times. To such stratagems were the royal family of France reduced in order to learn of each other that each was well! The 19th was the birth-day of Louis's daughter, who was fourteen years of age, and he entreated anxiously to be allowed to see her on such an occasion; but he entreated in vain. As he was not allowed razors, he was unable to shave, and his beard became very troublesome. He therefore made a formal demand for his razors, and he was permitted to use them, under the close watch of two municipal officers whilst he did so. They need not have feared his cutting his throat. Louis was too pious, too conscious of his innocence, and too fearless of death, to attempt suicide. On the 25th (Christmas-day) he made his will, and in it solemnly, and, no doubt, sincerely, forgave all his enemies - all who had ever injured him.

At length Desèze, by incessant labour, had completed his defence, which his colleagues considered a masterpiece. The peroration was felt to be extremely affecting, for in it he had made an eloquent appeal to the sympathies of the judges. But Louis said he had a very painful request to make of M. Desèze, which was, that the peroration should be omitted. It was enough, he said, for him to show that he was innocent of the charges made against him; he could not condescend to appeal to their feelings. It was a sentiment full of self-respect.

At half-past nine in the morning of the 26th all Paris was again under arms, and Chambon, the mayor, appeared at the Temple, attended by Santerre with a strong force. Louis was conducted to the mayor's carriage, and was thus guarded to the Feuillans, the house of the convention. He appeared perfectly calm; conversed with the officers on Seneca, Livy, and about the hospitals. Seeing Santerre sitting in the carriage with his hat on, he jocularly remarked, "The last time, sir, that you conducted me to the Temple, in your hurry, you had forgotten your hat; but now, I perceive, you are determined to make up for the omission." He was accompanied into the convention by his three defenders; he seated himself by their side, and looked around with an air of composure on the members. As M. Desèze proceeded with his defence, he seemed to scrutinise the countenances of these, his judges, as if desirous to trace its effect on them. But the whole was received in the most profound silence. Desèze first laid down the law of the case, and then reviewed the facts by the test of the law. He said the convention had decreed that there should be no inviolability, but he contended that that inviolability was part and parcel of the constitution, and could not be removed without destroying the constitution altogether. He declared that the people who claimed the sovereignty had bound themselves, in 1791, by this constitution and its clause of inviolability, and Louis XVI. took his stand upon that; that, unless this inviolability were maintained, the constitution would be a barbarous snare to the king, who had consented to it in good faith, and without his consent it could not have been established. By that constitution they had no power to pronounce any sentence against the king except simple dethronement, and he demanded for the king the safeguards provided by the constitution for the simplest citizen; that his accusers should be separated from the jury which had to decide on his case; that the majority should amount to two-thirds, and the votes should be given secretly, the judges keeping silence whilst forming their opinion. Looking around on the assembly, he added that he sought everywhere for judges, but saw only accusers.

However this bold remark might be felt, the silence remained unbroken. He then discussed the charges; dividing them into those which preceded the acceptance of the constitution, and those which followed it. Those which preceded vit he declared were annulled by the acceptance of the constitution, and those which followed were covered by the inviolability. Louis might have summed up his defence by declaring that by the law he could do no wrong, and therefore could not be amenable to the judgment of any body of men. It would have been more dignified and correct, but would have availed him quite as little as any other mode of defence. M. Desèze, waiving this right, proceeded to discuss the charges. He treated the greater number of these as trivial, or as unsupported by proof. He firmly denied that of Louis having shed the blood of the people on the 10th of August. It was the people who were the aggressors. The king, as he had himself asserted before the convention, had the right to defend himself from this attack, and the magistrates had sanctioned the exertion of this right by issuing orders to repel force by force; but Louis had declined defending himself at the cost of the lives of his people, and had retired into the bosom of the assembly to avoid bloodshed. When blood was afterwards shed by the Swiss, it was directly in opposition to the order of the king, who had forbidden them to fire. On every ground, therefore, the charge against the king, on this head, was most untenable and most unjust.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 <5> 6 7 8 9 10 11

Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 5

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About