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Title: Lectures on the French Revolution
Author: Acton, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, Baron, 1834-1902
Language: English
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LECTURES

ON THE

FRENCH REVOLUTION



MACMILLAN AND CO., Limited

LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO
ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd.
TORONTO



LECTURES
ON THE
FRENCH REVOLUTION

BY

JOHN EMERICH EDWARD DALBERG-ACTON

First Baron ACTON

D.C.L., LL.D., ETC. ETC.

REGIUS PROFESSOR OF MODERN HISTORY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

EDITED BY
JOHN NEVILLE FIGGIS, C.R., Litt.D.

HONORARY FELLOW OF ST. CATHARINE'S COLLEGE

AND

REGINALD VERE LAURENCE, M.A.

FELLOW AND TUTOR OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON
1910



PREFATORY NOTE


The following Lectures were delivered by Lord Acton as Regius
Professor of Modern History at Cambridge in the academical years
1895-96, 1896-97, 1897-98, 1898-99. The French Revolution, 1789-95,
was in those years one of the special subjects set for the Historical
Tripos, and this determined the scope of the course. In addition some
discussion of the literature of the Revolution generally took place
either in a conversation class or as an additional lecture. Such
connected fragments of these as remain have been printed as an
appendix. For the titles of the Lectures the editors are responsible.

                                            J. N. F.
                                            R. V. L.

                                            _August 10, 1910_



CONTENTS


LECT.                                            PAGE

    I. The Heralds of the Revolution                1

   II. The Influence of America                    20

  III. The Summons of the States-General           39

   IV. The Meeting of the States-General           57

    V. The Tennis-Court Oath                       68

   VI. The Fall of the Bastille                    77

  VII. The Fourth of August                        94

 VIII. The Constitutional Debates                 109

   IX. The March to Versailles                    126

    X. Mirabeau                                   141

   XI. Sieyès and the Constitution Civile         159

  XII. The Flight to Varennes                     174

 XIII. The Feuillants and the War                 193

  XIV. Dumouriez                                  210

   XV. The Catastrophe of Monarchy                224

  XVI. The Execution of the King                  240

 XVII. The Fall of the Gironde                    256

XVIII. The Reign of Terror                        269

  XIX. Robespierre                                284

   XX. La Vendée                                  301

  XXI. The European War                           317

 XXII. After the Terror                           331

Appendix: The Literature of the Revolution        345

Index                                             375



I

THE HERALDS OF THE REVOLUTION


The revenue of France was near twenty millions when Lewis XVI.,
finding it inadequate, called upon the nation for supply. In a single
lifetime it rose to far more than one hundred millions, while the
national income grew still more rapidly; and this increase was wrought
by a class to whom the ancient monarchy denied its best rewards, and
whom it deprived of power in the country they enriched. As their
industry effected change in the distribution of property, and wealth
ceased to be the prerogative of a few, the excluded majority perceived
that their disabilities rested on no foundation of right and justice,
and were unsupported by reasons of State. They proposed that the
prizes in the Government, the Army, and the Church should be given to
merit among the active and necessary portion of the people, and that
no privilege injurious to them should be reserved for the unprofitable
minority. Being nearly an hundred to one, they deemed that they were
virtually the substance of the nation, and they claimed to govern
themselves with a power proportioned to their numbers. They demanded
that the State should be reformed, that the ruler should be their
agent, not their master.

That is the French Revolution. To see that it is not a meteor from the
unknown, but the product of historic influences which, by their union
were efficient to destroy, and by their division powerless to
construct, we must follow for a moment the procession of ideas that
went before, and bind it to the law of continuity and the operation
of constant forces.

If France failed where other nations have succeeded, and if the
passage from the feudal and aristocratic forms of society to the
industrial and democratic was attended by convulsions, the cause was
not in the men of that day, but in the ground on which they stood. As
long as the despotic kings were victorious abroad, they were accepted
at home. The first signals of revolutionary thinking lurk dimly among
the oppressed minorities during intervals of disaster. The Jansenists
were loyal and patient; but their famous jurist Domat was a
philosopher, and is remembered as the writer who restored the
supremacy of reason in the chaotic jurisprudence of the time. He had
learnt from St. Thomas, a great name in the school he belonged to,
that legislation ought to be for the people and by the people, that
the cashiering of bad kings may be not only a right but a duty. He
insisted that law shall proceed from common sense, not from custom,
and shall draw its precepts from an eternal code. The principle of the
higher law signifies Revolution. No government founded on positive
enactments only can stand before it, and it points the way to that
system of primitive, universal, and indefeasible rights which the
lawyers of the Assembly, descending from Domat, prefixed to their
constitution.

Under the edict of Nantes the Protestants were decided royalists; so
that, even after the Revocation, Bayle, the apostle of Toleration,
retained his loyalty in exile at Rotterdam. His enemy, Jurieu, though
intolerant as a divine, was liberal in his politics, and contracted in
the neighbourhood of William of Orange the temper of a continental
Whig. He taught that sovereignty comes from the people and reverts to
the people. The Crown forfeits powers it has made ill use of. The
rights of the nation cannot be forfeited. The people alone possess an
authority which is legitimate without conditions, and their acts are
valid even when they are wrong. The most telling of Jurieu's seditious
propositions, preserved in the transparent amber of Bossuet's reply,
shared the immortality of a classic, and in time contributed to the
doctrine that the democracy is irresponsible and must have its way.

Maultrot, the best ecclesiastical lawyer of the day, published three
volumes in 1790 on the power of the people over kings, in which, with
accurate research among sources very familiar to him and to nobody
else, he explained how the Canon Law approves the principles of 1688
and rejects the modern invention of divine right. His book explains
still better the attitude of the clergy in the Revolution, and their
brief season of popularity.

The true originator of the opposition in literature was Fénelon. He
was neither an innovating reformer nor a discoverer of new truth; but
as a singularly independent and most intelligent witness, he was the
first who saw through the majestic hypocrisy of the court, and knew
that France was on the road to ruin. The revolt of conscience began
with him before the glory of the monarchy was clouded over. His views
grew from an extraordinary perspicacity and refinement in the estimate
of men. He learnt to refer the problem of government, like the conduct
of private life, to the mere standard of morals, and extended further
than any one the plain but hazardous practice of deciding all things
by the exclusive precepts of enlightened virtue. If he did not know
all about policy and international science, he could always tell what
would be expected of a hypothetically perfect man. Fénelon feels like
a citizen of Christian Europe, but he pursues his thoughts apart from
his country or his church, and his deepest utterances are in the mouth
of pagans. He desired to be alike true to his own beliefs, and
gracious towards those who dispute them. He approved neither the
deposing power nor the punishment of error, and declared that the
highest need of the Church was not victory but liberty. Through his
friends, Fleury and Chevreuse, he favoured the recall of the
Protestants, and he advised a general toleration. He would have the
secular power kept aloof from ecclesiastical concerns, because
protection leads to religious servitude and persecution to religious
hypocrisy. There were moments when his steps seemed to approach the
border of the undiscovered land where Church and State are parted.

He has written that a historian ought to be neutral between other
countries and his own, and he expected the same discipline in
politicians, as patriotism cannot absolve a man from his duty to
mankind. Therefore no war can be just, unless a war to which we are
compelled in the sole cause of freedom. Fénelon wished that France
should surrender the ill-gotten conquests of which she was so proud,
and especially that she should withdraw from Spain. He declared that
the Spaniards were degenerate and imbecile, but that nothing could
make that right which was contrary to the balance of power and the
security of nations. Holland seemed to him the hope of Europe, and he
thought the allies justified in excluding the French dynasty from
Spain for the same reason that no claim of law could have made it
right that Philip II. should occupy England. He hoped that his country
would be thoroughly humbled, for he dreaded the effects of success on
the temperament of the victorious French. He deemed it only fair that
Lewis should be compelled to dethrone his grandson with his own guilty
hand.

In the judgment of Fénelon, power is poison; and as kings are nearly
always bad, they ought not to govern, but only to execute the law. For
it is the mark of barbarians to obey precedent and custom. Civilised
society must be regulated by a solid code. Nothing but a constitution
can avert arbitrary power. The despotism of Lewis XIV. renders him
odious and contemptible, and is the cause of all the evils which the
country suffers. If the governing power which rightfully belonged to
the nation was restored, it would save itself by its own exertion; but
absolute authority irreparably saps its foundations, and is bringing
on a revolution by which it will not be moderated, but utterly
destroyed. Although Fénelon has no wish to sacrifice either the
monarchy or the aristocracy, he betrays sympathy with several
tendencies of the movement which he foresaw with so much alarm. He
admits the state of nature, and thinks civil society not the primitive
condition of man, but a result of the passage from savage life to
husbandry. He would transfer the duties of government to local and
central assemblies; and he demands entire freedom of trade, and
education provided by law, because children belong to the State first
and to the family afterwards. He does not resign the hope of making
men good by act of parliament, and his belief in public institutions
as a means of moulding individual character brings him nearly into
touch with a distant future.

He is the Platonic founder of revolutionary thinking. Whilst his real
views were little known, he became a popular memory; but some
complained that his force was centrifugal, and that a church can no
more be preserved by suavity and distinction than a state by liberty
and justice. Lewis XVI., we are often told, perished in expiation of
the sins of his forefathers. He perished, not because the power he
inherited from them had been carried to excess, but because it had
been discredited and undermined. One author of this discredit was
Fénelon. Until he came, the ablest men, Bossuet and even Bayle,
revered the monarchy. Fénelon struck it at the zenith, and treated
Lewis XIV. in all his grandeur more severely than the disciples of
Voltaire treated Lewis XV. in all his degradation. The season of scorn
and shame begins with him. The best of his later contemporaries
followed his example, and laid the basis of opposing criticism on
motives of religion. They were the men whom Cardinal Dubois describes
as dreamers of the same dreams as the chimerical archbishop of
Cambray. Their influence fades away before the great change that came
over France about the middle of the century.

From that time unbelief so far prevailed that even men who were not
professed assailants, as Montesquieu, Condillac, Turgot, were
estranged from Christianity. Politically, the consequence was this:
men who did not attribute any deep significance to church questions
never acquired definite notions on Church and State, never seriously
examined under what conditions religion may be established or
disestablished, endowed or disendowed, never even knew whether there
exists any general solution, or any principle by which problems of
that kind are decided. This defect of knowledge became a fact of
importance at a turning-point in the Revolution. The theory of the
relations between states and churches is bound up with the theory of
Toleration, and on that subject the eighteenth century scarcely rose
above an intermittent, embarrassed, and unscientific view. For
religious liberty is composed of the properties both of religion and
of liberty, and one of its factors never became an object of
disinterested observation among actual leaders of opinion. They
preferred the argument of doubt to the argument of certitude, and
sought to defeat intolerance by casting out revelation as they had
defeated the persecution of witches by casting out the devil. There
remained a flaw in their liberalism, for liberty apart from belief is
liberty with a good deal of the substance taken out of it. The problem
is less complicated and the solution less radical and less profound.
Already, then, there were writers who held somewhat superficially the
conviction, which Tocqueville made a corner-stone, that nations that
have not the self-governing force of religion within them are
unprepared for freedom.

The early notions of reform moved on French lines, striving to utilise
the existing form of society, to employ the parliamentary aristocracy,
to revive the States-General and the provincial assemblies. But the
scheme of standing on the ancient ways, and raising a new France on
the substructure of the old, brought out the fact that whatever growth
of institutions there once had been had been stunted and stood still.
If the mediæval polity had been fitted to prosper, its fruit must be
gathered from other countries, where the early notions had been
pursued far ahead. The first thing to do was to cultivate the foreign
example; and with that what we call the eighteenth century began. The
English superiority, proclaimed first by Voltaire, was further
demonstrated by Montesquieu. For England had recently created a
government which was stronger than the institutions that had stood on
antiquity. Founded upon fraud and treason, it had yet established the
security of law more firmly than it had ever existed under the system
of legitimacy, of prolonged inheritance, and of religious sanction. It
flourished on the unaccustomed belief that theological dissensions
need not detract from the power of the State, while political
dissensions are the very secret of its prosperity. The men of
questionable character who accomplished the change and had governed
for the better part of sixty years, had successfully maintained public
order, in spite of conspiracy and rebellion; they had built up an
enormous system of national credit, and had been victorious in
continental war. The Jacobite doctrine, which was the basis of
European monarchy, had been backed by the arms of France, and had
failed to shake the newly planted throne. A great experiment had been
crowned by a great discovery. A novelty that defied the wisdom of
centuries had made good its footing, and revolution had become a
principle of stability more sure than tradition.

Montesquieu undertook to make the disturbing fact avail in political
science. He valued it because it reconciled him with monarchy. He had
started with the belief that kings are an evil, and not a necessary
evil, and that their time was running short. His visit to Walpolean
England taught him a plan by which they might be reprieved. He still
confessed that a republic is the reign of virtue; and by virtue he
meant love of equality and renunciation of self. But he had seen a
monarchy that throve by corruption. He said that the distinctive
principle of monarchy is not virtue but honour, which he once
described as a contrivance to enable men of the world to commit almost
every offence with impunity. The praise of England was made less
injurious to French patriotism by the famous theory that explains
institutions and character by the barometer and the latitude.
Montesquieu looked about him, and abroad, but not far ahead. His
admirable skill in supplying reason for every positive fact sometimes
confounds the cause which produces with the argument that defends. He
knows so many pleas for privilege that he almost overlooks the class
that has none; and having no friendship for the clergy, he approves
their immunities. He thinks that aristocracy alone can preserve
monarchies, and makes England more free than any commonwealth. He lays
down the great conservative maxim, that success generally depends on
knowing the time it will take; and the most purely Whig maxim in his
works, that the duty of a citizen is a crime when it obscures the duty
of man, is Fénelon's. His liberty is of a Gothic type, and not
insatiable. But the motto of his work, _Prolem sine matre creatam_,
was intended to signify that the one thing wanting was liberty; and he
had views on taxation, equality, and the division of powers that gave
him a momentary influence in 1789. His warning that a legislature may
be more dangerous than the executive remained unheard. The _Esprit des
lois_ had lost ground in 1767, during the ascendancy of Rousseau. The
mind of the author moved within the conditions of society familiar to
him, and he did not heed the coming democracy. He assured Hume that
there would be no revolution, because the nobles were without civic
courage.

There was more divination in d'Argenson, who was Minister of Foreign
Affairs in 1745, and knew politics from the inside. Less acquiescent
than his brilliant contemporary, he was perpetually contriving schemes
of fundamental change, and is the earliest writer from whom we can
extract the system of 1789. Others before him had perceived the
impending revolution; but d'Argenson foretold that it would open with
the slaughter of priests in the streets of Paris. Thirty-eight years
later these words came true at the gate of St. Germain's Abbey. As the
supporter of the Pretender he was quite uninfluenced by admiration for
England, and imputed, not to the English Deists and Whigs but to the
Church and her divisions and intolerance, the unbelieving spirit that
threatened both Church and State. It was conventionally understood on
the Continent that 1688 had been an uprising of Nonconformists, and a
Whig was assumed to be a Presbyterian down to the death of Anne. It
was easy to infer that a more violent theological conflict would lead
to a more violent convulsion. As early as 1743 his terrible foresight
discerns that the State is going to pieces, and its doom was so
certain that he began to think of a refuge under other masters. He
would have deposed the noble, the priest, and the lawyer, and given
their power to the masses. Although the science of politics was in its
infancy, he relied on the dawning enlightenment to establish rational
liberty, and the equality between classes and religions which is the
perfection of politics. The world ought to be governed not by
parchment and vested rights, but by plain reason, which proceeds from
the complex to the simple, and will sweep away all that interposes
between the State and the democracy, giving to each part of the nation
the management of its own affairs. He is eager to change everything,
except the monarchy which alone can change all else. A deliberative
assembly does not rise above the level of its average members. It is
neither very foolish nor very wise. All might be well if the king made
himself the irresistible instrument of philosophy and justice, and
wrought the reform. But his king was Lewis XV. D'Argenson saw so
little that was worthy to be preserved that he did not shrink from
sweeping judgments and abstract propositions. By his rationalism, and
his indifference to the prejudice of custom and the claim of
possession; by his maxim that every man may be presumed to understand
the things in which his own interest and responsibility are involved;
by his zeal for democracy, equality, and simplicity, and his dislike
of intermediate authorities, he belongs to a generation later than his
own. He heralded events without preparing them, for the best of all he
wrote only became known in our time.

Whilst Montesquieu, at the height of his fame as the foremost of
living writers, was content to contemplate the past, there was a
student in the Paris seminary who taught men to fix hope and
endeavour on the future, and led the world at twenty-three. Turgot,
when he proclaimed that upward growth and progress is the law of human
life, was studying to become a priest. To us, in an age of science, it
has become difficult to imagine Christianity without the attribute of
development and the faculty of improving society as well as souls. But
the idea was acquired slowly. Under the burden of sin, men accustomed
themselves to the consciousness of degeneracy; each generation
confessed that they were unworthy children of their parents, and
awaited with impatience the approaching end. From Lucretius and Seneca
to Pascal and Leibniz we encounter a few dispersed and unsupported
passages, suggesting advance towards perfection, and the flame that
brightens as it moves from hand to hand; but they were without mastery
or radiance. Turgot at once made the idea habitual and familiar, and
it became a pervading force in thoughtful minds, whilst the new
sciences arose to confirm it. He imparted a deeper significance to
history, giving it unity of tendency and direction, constancy where
there had been motion, and development instead of change. The progress
he meant was moral as much as intellectual; and as he professed to
think that the rogues of his day would have seemed sanctified models
to an earlier century, he made his calculations without counting the
wickedness of men. His analysis left unfathomed depths for future
explorers, for Lessing and still more for Hegel; but he taught mankind
to expect that the future would be unlike the past, that it would be
better, and that the experience of ages may instruct and warn, but
cannot guide or control. He is eminently a benefactor to historical
study; but he forged a weapon charged with power to abolish the
product of history and the existing order. By the hypothesis of
progress, the new is always gaining on the old; history is the
embodiment of imperfection, and escape from history became the
watchword of the coming day. Condorcet, the master's pupil, thought
that the world might be emancipated by burning its records.

Turgot was too discreet for such an excess, and he looked to history
for the demonstration of his law. He had come upon it in his
theological studies. He renounced them soon after, saying that he
could not wear a mask. When Guizot called Lamennais a malefactor,
because he threw off his cassock and became a freethinker, Scherer,
whose course had been some way parallel, observed: "He little knows
how much it costs." The abrupt transition seems to have been
accomplished by Turgot without a struggle. The _Encyclopædia_, which
was the largest undertaking since the invention of printing, came out
at that time, and Turgot wrote for it. But he broke off, refusing to
be connected with a party professedly hostile to revealed religion;
and he rejected the declamatory paradoxes of Diderot and Raynal. He
found his home among the Physiocrats, of all the groups the one that
possessed the most compact body of consistent views, and who already
knew most of the accepted doctrines of political economy, although
they ended by making way for Adam Smith. They are of supreme
importance to us, because they founded political science on the
economic science which was coming into existence. Harrington, a
century before, had seen that the art of government can be reduced to
system; but the French economists precede all men in this, that
holding a vast collection of combined and verified truths on matters
contiguous to politics and belonging to their domain, they extended it
to the whole, and governed the constitution by the same fixed
principles that governed the purse. They said: A man's most sacred
property is his labour. It is anterior even to the right of property,
for it is the possession of those who own nothing else. Therefore he
must be free to make the best use of it he can. The interference of
one man with another, of society with its members, of the state with
the subject, must be brought down to the lowest dimension. Power
intervenes only to restrict intervention, to guard the individual from
oppression, that is from regulation in an interest not his own. Free
labour and its derivative free trade are the first conditions of
legitimate government. Let things fall into their natural order, let
society govern itself, and the sovereign function of the State will be
to protect nature in the execution of her own law. Government must not
be arbitrary, but it must be powerful enough to repress arbitrary
action in others. If the supreme power is needlessly limited, the
secondary powers will run riot and oppress. Its supremacy will bear no
check. The problem is to enlighten the ruler, not to restrain him; and
one man is more easily enlightened than many. Government by
opposition, by balance and control, is contrary to principle; whereas
absolutism might be requisite to the attainment of their higher
purpose. Nothing less than concentrated power could overcome the
obstacles to such beneficent reforms as they meditated. Men who sought
only the general good must wound every distinct and separate interest
of class, and would be mad to break up the only force that they could
count upon, and thus to throw away the means of preventing the evils
that must follow if things were left to the working of opinion and the
feeling of masses. They had no love for absolute power in itself, but
they computed that, if they had the use of it for five years, France
would be free. They distinguished an arbitrary monarch and the
irresistible but impersonal state.

It was the era of repentant monarchy. Kings had become the first of
public servants, executing, for the good of the people, what the
people were unable to do for themselves; and there was a reforming
movement on foot which led to many instances of prosperous and
intelligent administration. To men who knew what unutterable suffering
and wrong was inflicted by bad laws, and who lived in terror of the
uneducated and inorganic masses, the idea of reform from above seemed
preferable to parliamentary government managed by Newcastle and North,
in the interest of the British landlord. The economists are outwardly
and avowedly less liberal than Montesquieu, because they are
incomparably more impressed by the evils of the time, and the need of
immense and fundamental changes. They prepared to undo the work of
absolutism by the hand of absolutism. They were not its opponents,
but its advisers, and hoped to convert it by their advice. The
indispensable liberties are those which constitute the wealth of
nations; the rest will follow. The disease had lasted too long for the
sufferer to heal himself: the relief must come from the author of his
sufferings. The power that had done the wrong was still efficient to
undo the wrong. Transformation, infinitely more difficult in itself
than preservation, was not more formidable to the economists because
it consisted mainly in revoking the godless work of a darker age. They
deemed it their mission not to devise new laws, for that is a task
which God has not committed to man, but only to declare the inherent
laws of the existence of society and enable them to prevail.

The defects of the social and political organisation were as
distinctly pointed out by the economists as by the electors of the
National Assembly, twenty years later, and in nearly all things they
proposed the remedy. But they were persuaded that the only thing to
regenerate France was a convulsion which the national character would
make a dreadful one. They desired a large scheme of popular education,
because commands take no root in soil that is not prepared. Political
truths can be made so evident that the opinion of an instructed public
will be invincible, and will banish the abuse of power. To resist
oppression is to make a league with heaven, and all things are
oppressive that resist the natural order of freedom. For society
secures rights; it neither bestows nor restricts them. They are the
direct consequence of duties. As truth can only convince by the
exposure of errors and the defeat of objections, liberty is the
essential guard of truth. Society is founded, not on the will of man,
but on the nature of man and the will of God; and conformity to the
divinely appointed order is followed by inevitable reward. Relief of
those who suffer is the duty of all men, and the affair of all.

Such was the spirit of that remarkable group of men, especially of
Mercier de la Rivière, of whom Diderot said that he alone possessed
the true and everlasting secret of the security and the happiness of
empires. Turgot indeed had failed in office; but his reputation was
not diminished, and the power of his name exceeded all others at the
outbreak of the Revolution. His policy of employing the Crown to
reform the State was at once rejected in favour of other counsels; but
his influence may be traced in many acts of the Assembly, and on two
very memorable occasions it was not auspicious. It was a central dogma
of the party that land is the true source of wealth, or, as Asgill
said, that man deals in nothing but earth. When a great part of France
became national property, men were the more easily persuaded that land
can serve as the basis of public credit and of unlimited assignats.
According to a weighty opinion which we shall have to consider before
long, the parting of the ways in the Revolution was on the day when,
rejecting the example both of England and America, the French resolved
to institute a single undivided legislature. It was the Pennsylvanian
model and Voltaire had pronounced Pennsylvania the best government in
the world. Franklin gave the sanction of an oracle to the constitution
of his state, and Turgot was its vehement protagonist in Europe.

A king ruling over a level democracy, and a democracy ruling itself
through the agency of a king, were long contending notions in the
first Assembly. One was monarchy according to Turgot, the other was
monarchy adapted to Rousseau; and the latter, for a time, prevailed.
Rousseau was the citizen of a small republic, consisting of a single
town, and he professed to have applied its example to the government
of the world. It was Geneva, not as he saw it, but as he extracted its
essential principle, and as it has since become, Geneva illustrated by
the Forest Cantons and the Landesgemeinde more than by its own
charters. The idea was that the grown men met in the market-place,
like the peasants of Glarus under their trees, to manage their
affairs, making and unmaking officials, conferring and revoking
powers. They were equal, because every man had exactly the same right
to defend his interest by the guarantee of his vote. The welfare of
all was safe in the hands of all, for they had not the separate
interests that are bred by the egotism of wealth, nor the exclusive
views that come from a distorted education. All being equal in power
and similar in purpose, there can be no just cause why some should
move apart and break into minorities. There is an implied contract
that no part shall ever be preferred to the whole, and minorities
shall always obey. Clever men are not wanted for the making of laws,
because clever men and their laws are at the root of all mischief.
Nature is a better guide than civilisation, because nature comes from
God, and His works are good; culture from man, whose works are bad in
proportion as he is remoter from natural innocence, as his desires
increase upon him, as he seeks more refined pleasures, and stores up
more superfluity. It promotes inequality, selfishness, and the ruin of
public spirit.

By plausible and easy stages the social ideas latent in parts of
Switzerland produced the theory that men come innocent from the hands
of the Creator, that they are originally equal, that progress from
equality to civilisation is the passage from virtue to vice and from
freedom to tyranny, that the people are sovereign, and govern by
powers given and taken away; that an individual or a class may be
mistaken and may desert the common cause and the general interest, but
the people, necessarily sincere, and true, and incorrupt, cannot go
wrong; that there is a right of resistance to all governments that are
fallible, because they are partial, but none against government of the
people by the people, because it has no master and no judge, and
decides in the last instance and alone; that insurrection is the law
of all unpopular societies founded on a false principle and a broken
contract, and submission that of the only legitimate societies, based
on the popular will; that there is no privilege against the law of
nature, and no right against the power of all. By this chain of
reasoning, with little infusion of other ingredients, Rousseau applied
the sequence of the ideas of pure democracy to the government of
nations.

Now the most glaring and familiar fact in history shows that the
direct self-government of a town cannot be extended over an empire. It
is a plan that scarcely reaches beyond the next parish. Either one
district will be governed by another, or both by somebody else chosen
for the purpose. Either plan contradicts first principles. Subjection
is the direct negation of democracy; representation is the indirect.
So that an Englishman underwent bondage to parliament as much as
Lausanne to Berne or as America to England if it had submitted to
taxation, and by law recovered his liberty but once in seven years.
Consequently Rousseau, still faithful to Swiss precedent as well as to
the logic of his own theory, was a federalist. In Switzerland, when
one half of a canton disagrees with the other, or the country with the
town, it is deemed natural that they should break into two, that the
general will may not oppress minorities. This multiplication of
self-governing communities was admitted by Rousseau as a preservative
of unanimity on one hand, and of liberty on the other. Helvétius came
to his support with the idea that men are not only equal by nature but
alike, and that society is the cause of variation; from which it would
follow that everything may be done by laws and by education.

Rousseau is the author of the strongest political theory that had
appeared amongst men. We cannot say that he reasons well, but he knew
how to make his argument seem convincing, satisfying, inevitable, and
he wrote with an eloquence and a fervour that had never been seen in
prose, even in Bolingbroke or Milton. His books gave the first signal
of a universal subversion, and were as fatal to the Republic as to the
Monarchy. Although he lives by the social contract and the law of
resistance, and owes his influence to what was extreme and systematic,
his later writings are loaded with sound political wisdom. He owes
nothing to the novelty or the originality of his thoughts. Taken
jointly or severally, they are old friends, and you will find them in
the school of Wolf that just preceded, in the dogmatists of the Great
Rebellion and the Jesuit casuists who were dear to Algernon Sidney, in
their Protestant opponents, Duplessis Mornay, and the Scots who had
heard the last of our schoolmen, Major of St. Andrews, renew the
speculations of the time of schism, which decomposed and dissected the
Church and rebuilt it on a model very propitious to political
revolution, and even in the early interpreters of the Aristotelian
Politics which appeared just at the era of the first parliament.

Rousseau's most advanced point was the doctrine that the people are
infallible. Jurieu had taught that they can do no wrong: Rousseau
added that they are positively in the right. The idea, like most
others, was not new, and goes back to the Middle Ages. When the
question arose what security there is for the preservation of
traditional truth if the episcopate was divided and the papacy vacant,
it was answered that the faith would be safely retained by the masses.
The maxim that the voice of the people is the voice of God is as old
as Alcuin; it was renewed by some of the greatest writers anterior to
democracy, by Hooker and Bossuet, and it was employed in our day by
Newman to prop his theory of development. Rousseau applied it to the
State.

The sovereignty of public opinion was just then coming in through the
rise of national debts and the increasing importance of the public
creditor. It meant more than the noble savage and the blameless South
Sea islander, and distinguished the instinct that guides large masses
of men from the calculating wisdom of the few. It was destined to
prove the most serious of all obstacles to representative government.
Equality of power readily suggests equality of property; but the
movement of Socialism began earlier, and was not assisted by Rousseau.
There were solemn theorists, such as Mably and Morelly, who were
sometimes quoted in the Revolution, but the change in the distribution
of property was independent of them.

A more effective influence was imported from Italy; for the Italians,
through Vico, Giannone, Genovesi, had an eighteenth century of their
own. Sardinia preceded France in solving the problem of feudalism.
Arthur Young affirms that the measures of the Grand Duke Leopold had,
in ten years, doubled the produce of Tuscany; at Milan, Count Firmian
was accounted one of the best administrators in Europe. It was a
Milanese, Beccaria, who, by his reform of criminal law, became a
leader of French opinion. Continental jurisprudence had long been
overshadowed by two ideas: that torture is the surest method of
discovering truth, and that punishment deters not by its justice, its
celerity, or its certainty, but in proportion to its severity. Even in
the eighteenth century the penal system of Maria Theresa and Joseph
II. was barbarous. Therefore no attack was more surely aimed at the
heart of established usage than that which dealt with courts of
justice. It forced men to conclude that authority was odiously stupid
and still more odiously ferocious, that existing governments were
accursed, that the guardians and ministers of law, divine and human,
were more guilty than their culprits. The past was branded as the
reign of infernal powers, and charged with long arrears of unpunished
wrong. As there was no sanctity left in law, there was no mercy for
its merciless defenders; and if they fell into avenging hands, their
doom would not exceed their desert. Men afterwards conspicuous by
their violence, Brissot and Marat, were engaged in this campaign of
humanity, which raised a demand for authorities that were not vitiated
by the accumulation of infamy, for new laws, new powers, a new
dynasty.

As religion was associated with cruelty, it is at this point that the
movement of new Ideas became a crusade against Christianity. A book by
the Curé Meslier, partially known at that time, but first printed by
Strauss in 1864, is the clarion of vindictive unbelief; and another
abbé, Raynal, hoped that the clergy would be crushed beneath the ruins
of their altars.

Thus the movement which began, in Fénelon's time, with warnings and
remonstrance and the zealous endeavour to preserve, which produced one
great scheme of change by the Crown and another at the expense of the
Crown, ended in the wild cry for vengeance and a passionate appeal to
fire and sword. So many lines of thought converging on destruction
explain the agreement that existed when the States-General began, and
the explosion that followed the reforms of '89, and the ruins of '93.
No conflict can be more irreconcilable than that between a
constitution and an enlightened absolutism, between abrogation of old
laws and multiplication of new, between representation and direct
democracy, the people controlling and the people governing, kings by
contract and kings by mandate.

Yet all these fractions of opinion were called Liberal: Montesquieu,
because he was an intelligent Tory; Voltaire, because he attacked the
clergy; Turgot, as a reformer; Rousseau, as a democrat; Diderot, as a
freethinker. The one thing common to them all is the disregard for
liberty.



II

THE INFLUENCE OF AMERICA


The several structures of political thought that arose in France, and
clashed in the process of revolution, were not directly responsible
for the outbreak. The doctrines hung like a cloud upon the heights,
and at critical moments in the reign of Lewis XV. men felt that a
catastrophe was impending. It befell when there was less provocation,
under his successor; and the spark that changed thought into action
was supplied by the Declaration of American Independence. It was the
system of an international extra-territorial universal Whig, far
transcending the English model by its simplicity and rigour. It
surpassed in force all the speculation of Paris and Geneva, for it had
undergone the test of experiment, and its triumph was the most
memorable thing that had been seen by men.

The expectation that the American colonies would separate was an old
one. A century before, Harrington had written: "They are yet babes,
that cannot live without sucking the breasts of their mother-cities;
but such as I mistake if, when they come of age, they do not wean
themselves; which causes me to wonder at princes that like to be
exhausted in that way." When, in 1759, the elder Mirabeau announced
it, he meant that the conquest of Canada involved the loss of America,
as the colonists would cling to England as long as the French were
behind them, and no longer. He came very near to the truth, for the
war in Canada gave the signal. The English colonies had meditated the
annexation of the French, and they resented that the king's government
undertook the expedition, to deprive them of the opportunity for
united action. Fifty years later President Adams said that the
treatment of American officers by the British made his blood boil.

The agitation began in 1761, and by the innovating ideas which it
flung abroad it is as important as the Declaration itself, or the
great constitutional debate. The colonies were more advanced than
Great Britain in the way of free institutions, and existed only that
they might escape the vices of the mother country. They had no
remnants of feudalism to cherish or resist. They possessed written
constitutions, some of them remarkably original, fit roots of an
immense development. George III. thought it strange that he should be
the sovereign of a democracy like Rhode Island, where all power
reverted annually to the people, and the authorities had to be elected
anew. Connecticut received from the Stuarts so liberal a charter, and
worked out so finished a scheme of local self-government, that it
served as a basis for the federal constitution. The Quakers had a plan
founded on equality of power, without oppression, or privilege, or
intolerance, or slavery. They declared that their holy experiment
would not have been worth attempting if it did not offer some very
real advantage over England. It was to enjoy freedom, liberty of
conscience, and the right to tax themselves, that they went into the
desert. There were points on which these men anticipated the doctrines
of a more unrestrained democracy, for they established their
government not on conventions, but on divine right, and they claimed
to be infallible. A Connecticut preacher said in 1638: "The choice of
public magistrates belongs unto the people, by God's own allowance.
They who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in
their power, also, to set the bounds and limitations of the power and
place unto which they call them." The following words, written in
1736, appear in the works of Franklin: "The judgment of a whole
people, especially of a free people, is looked upon to be infallible.
And this is universally true, while they remain in their proper
sphere, unbiassed by faction, undeluded by the tricks of designing
men. A body of people thus circumstanced cannot be supposed to judge
amiss on any essential points; for if they decide in favour of
themselves, which is extremely natural, their decision is just,
inasmuch as whatever contributes to their benefit is a general
benefit, and advances the real public good." A commentator adds that
this notion of the infallible perception by the people of their true
interest, and their unerring pursuit of it, was very prevalent in the
provinces, and for a time in the States after the establishment of
American independence.

In spite of their democratic spirit, these communities consented to
have their trade regulated and restricted, to their own detriment and
the advantage of English merchants. They had protested, but they had
ended by yielding. Now Adam Smith says that to prohibit a great people
from making all they can of every part of their own produce, or from
employing their stock and industry in the way that they judge most
advantageous for themselves, is a manifest violation of the most
sacred rights of mankind. There was a latent sense of injury which
broke out when, in addition to interference with the freedom of trade,
England exercised the right of taxation. An American lately wrote:
"The real foundation of the discontent which led to the Revolution was
the effort of Great Britain, beginning in 1750, to prevent diversity
of occupation, to attack the growth of manufactures and the mechanic
arts, and the final cause before the attempt to tax without
representation was the effort to enforce the navigation laws." When
England argued that the hardship of regulation might be greater than
the hardship of taxation, and that those who submitted to the one
submitted, in principle, to the other, Franklin replied that the
Americans had not taken that view, but that, when it was put before
them, they would be willing to reject both one and the other. He knew,
however, that the ground taken up by his countrymen was too narrow. He
wrote to the French economist, Morellet: "Nothing can be better
expressed than your sentiments are on this point, where you prefer
liberty of trading, cultivating, manufacturing, etc., even to civil
liberty, this being affected but rarely, the other every hour."

These early authors of American independence were generally
enthusiasts for the British Constitution, and preceded Burke in the
tendency to canonise it, and to magnify it as an ideal exemplar for
nations. John Adams said, in 1766: "Here lies the difference between
the British Constitution and other forms of government, namely, that
liberty is its end, its use, its designation, drift and scope, as much
as grinding corn is the use of a mill." Another celebrated Bostonian
identified the Constitution with the law of Nature, as Montesquieu
called the Civil Law, written Reason. He said: "It is the glory of the
British prince and the happiness of all his subjects, that their
constitution hath its foundation in the immutable laws of Nature; and
as the supreme legislative, as well as the supreme executive, derives
its authority from that constitution, it should seem that no laws can
be made or executed that are repugnant to any essential law in
Nature." The writer of these words, James Otis, is the founder of the
revolutionary doctrine. Describing one of his pamphlets, the second
President says: "Look over the declaration of rights and wrongs issued
by Congress in 1774; look into the declaration of independence in
1776; look into the writings of Dr. Price and Dr. Priestley; look into
all the French constitutions of government; and, to cap the climax,
look into Mr. Thomas Paine's _Common Sense_, _Crisis_, and _Rights of
Man_. What can you find that is not to be found in solid substance in
this 'Vindication of the House of Representatives'?" When these men
found that the appeal to the law and to the constitution did not avail
them, that the king, by bribing the people's representatives with the
people's money, was able to enforce his will, they sought a higher
tribunal, and turned from the law of England to the law of Nature, and
from the king of England to the King of kings. Otis, in 1762, 1764
and 1765, says: "Most governments are, in fact, arbitrary, and
consequently the curse and scandal of human nature; yet none are of
right arbitrary. By the laws of God and nature, government must not
raise taxes on the property of the people without the consent of the
people or their deputies. There can be no prescription old enough to
supersede the law of Nature and the grant of God Almighty, who has
given all men a right to be free. If a man has but little property to
protect and defend, yet his life and liberty are things of some
importance." About the same time Gadsden wrote: "A confirmation of our
essential and common rights as Englishmen may be pleaded from charters
clearly enough; but any further dependence on them may be fatal. We
should stand upon the broad common ground of those natural rights that
we all feel and know as men and as descendants of Englishmen."

The primitive fathers of the United States began by preferring
abstract moral principle to the letter of the law and the spirit of
the Constitution. But they went farther. Not only was their grievance
difficult to substantiate at law, but it was trivial in extent. The
claim of England was not evidently disproved, and even if it was
unjust, the injustice practically was not hard to bear. The suffering
that would be caused by submission was immeasurably less than the
suffering that must follow resistance, and it was more uncertain and
remote. The utilitarian argument was loud in favour of obedience and
loyalty. But if interest was on one side, there was a manifest
principle on the other--a principle so sacred and so clear as
imperatively to demand the sacrifice of men's lives, of their families
and their fortune. They resolved to give up everything, not to escape
from actual oppression, but to honour a precept of unwritten law. That
was the transatlantic discovery in the theory of political duty, the
light that came over the ocean. It represented liberty not as a
comparative release from tyranny, but as a thing so divine that the
existence of society must be staked to prevent even the least
constructive infraction of its sovereign right. "A free people," said
Dickinson, "can never be too quick in observing nor too firm in
opposing the beginnings of alteration either in form or reality,
respecting institutions formed for their security. The first kind of
alteration leads to the last. As violations of the rights of the
governed are commonly not only specious, but small at the beginning,
they spread over the multitude in such a manner as to touch
individuals but slightly. Every free state should incessantly watch,
and instantly take alarm at any addition being made to the power
exercised over them." Who are a free people? Not those over whom
government is reasonably and equitably exercised; but those who live
under a government so constitutionally checked and controlled that
proper provision is made against its being otherwise exercised. The
contest was plainly a contest of principle, and was conducted entirely
on principle by both parties. "The amount of taxes proposed to be
raised," said Marshall, the greatest of constitutional lawyers, "was
too inconsiderable to interest the people of either country." I will
add the words of Daniel Webster, the great expounder of the
Constitution, who is the most eloquent of the Americans, and stands,
in politics, next to Burke: "The Parliament of Great Britain asserted
a right to tax the Colonies in all cases whatsoever; and it was
precisely on this question that they made the Revolution turn. The
amount of taxation was trifling, but the claim itself was inconsistent
with liberty, and that was in their eyes enough. It was against the
recital of an act of Parliament, rather than against any suffering
under its enactment, that they took up arms. They went to war against
a preamble. They fought seven years against a declaration. They saw in
the claim of the British Parliament a seminal principle of mischief,
the germ of unjust power."

The object of these men was liberty, not independence. Their feeling
was expressed by Jay in his address to the people of Great Britain:
"Permit us to be as free as yourselves, and we shall ever esteem a
union with you to be our greatest glory and our greatest happiness."
Before 1775 there was no question of separation. During all the
Revolution Adams declared that he would have given everything to
restore things as before with security; and both Jefferson and Madison
admitted in the presence of the English minister that a few seats in
both Houses would have set at rest the whole question.

In their appeal to the higher law the Americans professed the purest
Whiggism, and they claimed that their resistance to the House of
Commons and the jurisprudence of Westminster only carried forward the
eternal conflict between Whig and Tory. By their closer analysis, and
their fearlessness of logical consequences, they transformed the
doctrine and modified the party. The uprooted Whig, detached from his
parchments and precedents, his leading families and historic
conditions, exhibited new qualities; and the era of compromise made
way for an era of principle. Whilst French diplomacy traced the long
hand of the English opposition in the tea riots at Boston, Chatham and
Camden were feeling the influence of Dickinson and Otis, without
recognising the difference. It appears in a passage of one of
Chatham's speeches, in 1775: "This universal opposition to your
arbitrary system of taxation might have been foreseen. It was obvious
from the nature of things, and from the nature of man, and, above all,
from the confirmed habits of thinking, from the spirit of Whiggism
flourishing in America. The spirit which now pervades America is the
same which formerly opposed loans, benevolences, and ship-money in
this country, is the same spirit which roused all England to action at
the Revolution, and which established at a remote era your liberties,
on the basis of that grand fundamental maxim of the Constitution, that
no subject of England shall be taxed but by his own consent. To
maintain this principle is the common cause of the Whigs on the other
side of the Atlantic, and on this. It is the alliance of God and
Nature, immutable, eternal, fixed as the firmament of heaven.
Resistance to your acts was necessary as it was just; and your vain
declarations of the omnipotence of parliament, and your imperious
doctrines of the necessity of submission will be found equally
impotent to convince or enslave your fellow-subjects in America."

The most significant instance of the action of America on Europe is
Edmund Burke. We think of him as a man who, in early life, rejected
all generalities and abstract propositions, and who became the most
strenuous and violent of conservatives. But there is an interval when,
as the quarrel with the Colonies went on, Burke was as revolutionary
as Washington. The inconsistency is not as flagrant as it seems. He
had been brought forward by the party of measured propriety and
imperative moderation, of compromise and unfinished thought, who
claimed the right of taxing, but refused to employ it. When he urged
the differences in every situation and every problem, and shrank from
the common denominator and the underlying principle, he fell into step
with his friends. As an Irishman, who had married into an Irish
Catholic family, it was desirable that he should adopt no theories in
America which would unsettle Ireland. He had learnt to teach
government by party as an almost sacred dogma, and party forbids
revolt as a breach of the laws of the game. His scruples and his
protests, and his defiance of theory, were the policy and the
precaution of a man conscious of restraints, and not entirely free in
the exertion of powers that lifted him far above his tamer
surroundings. As the strife sharpened and the Americans made way,
Burke was carried along, and developed views which he never utterly
abandoned, but which are difficult to reconcile with much that he
wrote when the Revolution had spread to France.

In his address to the Colonists he says: "We do not know how to
qualify millions of our countrymen, contending with one heart for an
admission to privileges which we have ever thought our own happiness
and honour, by odious and unworthy names. On the contrary, we highly
revere the principles on which you act. We had much rather see you
totally independent of this crown and kingdom, than joined to it by so
unnatural a conjunction as that of freedom and servitude. We view the
establishment of the English Colonies on principles of liberty, as
that which is to render this kingdom venerable to future ages. In
comparison of this, we regard all the victories and conquests of our
warlike ancestors, or of our own times, as barbarous, vulgar
distinctions, in which many nations, whom we look upon with little
respect or value, have equalled, if not far exceeded us. Those who
have and who hold to that foundation of common liberty, whether on
this or on your side of the ocean, we consider as the true and the
only true Englishmen. Those who depart from it, whether there or here,
are attainted, corrupted in blood, and wholly fallen from their
original rank and value. They are the real rebels to the fair
constitution and just supremacy of England. A long course of war with
the administration of this country may be but a prelude to a series of
wars and contentions among yourselves, to end at length (as such
scenes have too often ended) in a species of humiliating repose, which
nothing but the preceding calamities would reconcile to the dispirited
few who survived them. We allow that even this evil is worth the risk
to men of honour when rational liberty is at stake, as in the present
case we confess and lament that it is."

At other times he spoke as follows:--"Nothing less than a convulsion
that will shake the globe to its centre can ever restore the European
nations to that liberty by which they were once so much distinguished.
The Western world was the seat of freedom until another, more Western,
was discovered; and that other will probably be its asylum when it is
hunted down in every other part. Happy it is that the worst of times
may have one refuge still left for humanity. If the Irish resisted
King William, they resisted him on the very same principle that the
English and Scotch resisted King James. The Irish Catholics must have
been the very worst and the most truly unnatural of rebels, if they
had not supported a prince whom they had seen attacked, not for any
designs against their religion or their liberties, but for an extreme
partiality for their sect. Princes otherwise meritorious have violated
the liberties of the people, and have been lawfully deposed for such
violation. I know no human being exempt from the law. I consider
Parliament as the proper judge of kings, and it is necessary that they
should be amenable to it. There is no such thing as governing the
whole body of the people contrary to their inclination. Whenever they
have a feeling they commonly are in the right. Christ appeared in
sympathy with the lowest of the people, and thereby made it a firm and
ruling principle that their welfare was the object of all government.

"In all forms of government the people is the true legislator. The
remote and efficient cause is the consent of the people, either actual
or implied, and such consent is absolutely essential to its validity.
Whiggism did not consist in the support of the power of Parliament or
of any other power, but of the rights of the people. If Parliament
should become an instrument in invading them, it was no better in any
respect, and much worse in some, than any other instrument of
arbitrary power. They who call upon you to belong wholly to the people
are those who wish you to belong to your proper home, to the sphere of
your duty, to the post of your honour. Let the Commons in Parliament
assembled be one and the same thing with the Commons at large. I see
no other way for the preservation of a decent attention to public
interest in the representatives, but the interposition of the body of
the people itself, whenever, it shall appear by some flagrant and
notorious act, by some capital innovation, that those representatives
are going to overleap the fences of the law and to introduce an
arbitrary power. This interposition is a most unpleasant remedy; but
if it be a legal remedy, it is intended on some occasion to be
used--to be used then only when it is evident that nothing else can
hold the Constitution to its true principles. It is not in Parliament
alone that the remedy for parliamentary disorders can be completed;
hardly, indeed, can it begin there. A popular origin cannot therefore
be the characteristic distinction of a popular representative. This
belongs equally to all parts of government, and in all forms. The
virtue, spirit, and essence of a House of Commons consists in its
being the express image of the feelings of the nation. It was not
instituted to be a control upon the people. It was designed as a
control for the people. Privilege of the crown and privilege of
Parliament are only privilege so long as they are exercised for the
benefit of the people. The voice of the people is a voice that is to
be heard, and not the votes and resolutions of the House of Commons.
He would preserve thoroughly every privilege of the people, because it
is a privilege known and written in the law of the land; and he would
support it, not against the crown or the aristocratic party only, but
against the representatives of the people themselves. This was not a
government of balances. It would be a strange thing if two hundred
peers should have it in their power to defeat by their negative what
had been done by the people of England. I have taken my part in
political connections and political quarrels for the purpose of
advancing justice and the dominion of reason, and I hope I shall never
prefer the means, or any feelings growing out of the use of those
means, to the great and substantial end itself. Legislators can do
what lawyers can not, for they have no other rules to bind them but
the great principles of reason and equity and the general sense of
mankind. All human laws are, properly speaking, only declaratory; they
may alter the mode and application, but have no power over the
substance, of original justice. A conservation and secure enjoyment of
our natural rights is the great and ultimate purpose of civil society.

"The great inlet by which a colour for oppression has entered into the
world is by one man's pretending to determine concerning the happiness
of another. I would give a full civil protection, in which I include
an immunity from all disturbance of their public religious worship,
and a power of teaching in schools as well as temples, to Jews,
Mahometans, and even Pagans. The Christian religion itself arose
without establishment, it arose even without toleration, and whilst
its own principles were not tolerated, it conquered all the powers of
darkness, it conquered all the powers of the world. The moment it
began to depart from these principles, it converted the establishment
into tyranny, it subverted its foundation from that very hour. It is
the power of government to prevent much evil; it can do very little
positive good in this, or perhaps in anything else. It is not only so
of the State and statesman, but of all the classes and descriptions of
the rich: they are the pensioners of the poor, and are maintained by
their superfluity. They are under an absolute, hereditary, and
indefeasible dependence on those who labour and are miscalled the
poor. That class of dependent pensioners called the rich is so
extremely small, that if all their throats were cut, and a
distribution made of all they consume in a year, it would not give a
bit of bread and cheese for one night's supper to those who labour,
and who in reality feed both the pensioners and themselves. It is not
in breaking the laws of commerce, which are the laws of nature and
consequently the laws of God, that we are to place our hope of
softening the divine displeasure. It is the law of nature, which is
the law of God."

I cannot resist the inference from these passages that Burke, after
1770, underwent other influences than those of his reputed masters,
the Whigs of 1688. And if we find that strain of unwonted thought in a
man who afterwards gilded the old order of things and wavered as to
toleration and the slave trade, we may expect that the same causes
would operate in France.

When the _Letters of a Pennsylvanian Farmer_ became known in Europe,
Diderot said that it was madness to allow Frenchmen to read such
things, as they could not do it without becoming intoxicated and
changed into different men. But France was impressed by the event more
than by the literature that accompanied it. America had made herself
independent under less provocation than had ever been a motive of
revolt, and the French Government had acknowledged that her cause was
righteous and had gone to war for it. If the king was right in
America, he was utterly wrong at home, and if the Americans acted
rightly, the argument was stronger, the cause was a hundredfold
better, in France itself. All that justified their independence
condemned the Government of their French allies. By the principle that
taxation without representation is robbery, there was no authority so
illegitimate as that of Lewis XVI. The force of that demonstration was
irresistible, and it produced its effect where the example of England
failed. The English doctrine was repelled at the very earliest stage
of the Revolution, and the American was adopted. What the French took
from the Americans was their theory of revolution, not their theory of
government--their cutting, not their sewing. Many French nobles served
in the war, and came home republicans and even democrats by
conviction. It was America that converted the aristocracy to the
reforming policy, and gave leaders to the Revolution. "The American
Revolution," says Washington, "or the peculiar light of the age, seems
to have opened the eyes of almost every nation in Europe, and a spirit
of equal liberty appears fast to be gaining ground everywhere." When
the French officers were leaving, Cooper, of Boston, addressed them in
the language of warning: "Do not let your hopes be inflamed by our
triumphs on this virgin soil. You will carry our sentiments with you,
but if you try to plant them in a country that has been corrupt for
centuries, you will encounter obstacles more formidable than ours. Our
liberty has been won with blood; you will have to shed it in torrents
before liberty can take root in the old world." Adams, after he had
been President of the United States, bitterly regretted the Revolution
which made them independent, because it had given the example to the
French; although he also believed that they had not a single principle
in common.

Nothing, on the contrary, is more certain than that American
principles profoundly influenced France, and determined the course of
the Revolution. It is from America that Lafayette derived the saying
that created a commotion at the time, that resistance is the most
sacred of duties. There also was the theory that political power comes
from those over whom it is exercised, and depends upon their will;
that every authority not so constituted is illegitimate and
precarious; that the past is more a warning than an example; that the
earth belongs to those who are upon it, not to those who are
underneath. These are characteristics common to both Revolutions.

At one time also the French adopted and acclaimed the American notion
that the end of government is liberty, not happiness, or prosperity,
or power, or the preservation of an historic inheritance, or the
adaptation of national law to national character, or the progress of
enlightenment and the promotion of virtue; that the private individual
should not feel the pressure of public authority, and should direct
his life by the influences that are within him, not around him.

And there was another political doctrine which the Americans
transmitted to the French. In old colonial days the executive and the
judicial powers were derived from a foreign source, and the common
purpose was to diminish them. The assemblies were popular in origin
and character, and everything that added to their power seemed to add
security to rights. James Wilson, one of the authors and commentators
of the constitution, informs us that "at the Revolution the same fond
predilection, and the same jealous dislike, existed and prevailed. The
executive, and the judicial as well as the legislative authority, was
now the child of the people, but to the two former the people behaved
like stepmothers. The legislature was still discriminated by excessive
partiality." This preference, historic but irrational, led up
naturally to a single chamber. The people of America and their
delegates in Congress were of opinion that a single Assembly was every
way adequate to the management of their federal concerns, and when the
Senate was invented, Franklin strongly objected. "As to the two
chambers," he wrote, "I am of your opinion that one alone would be
better; but, my dear friend, nothing in human affairs and schemes is
perfect, and perhaps this is the case of our opinions."

Alexander Hamilton was the ablest as well as the most conservative of
the American statesmen. He longed for monarchy, and he desired to
establish a national government and to annihilate state rights. The
American spirit, as it penetrated France, cannot well be described
better than it was by him: "I consider civil liberty, in a genuine,
unadulterated sense, as the greatest of terrestrial blessings. I am
convinced that the whole human race is entitled to it, and that it can
be wrested from no part of them without the blackest and most
aggravated guilt. The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged
for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a
sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the
Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

But when we speak in the gross of the American Revolution we combine
different and discordant things. From the first agitation in 1761 to
the Declaration of Independence, and then to the end of the war in
1782, the Americans were aggressive, violent in their language, fond
of abstractions, prolific of doctrines universally applicable and
universally destructive. It is the ideas of those earlier days that
roused the attention of France, and were imported by Lafayette,
Noailles, Lameth, and the leaders of the future revolution who had
beheld the lowering of the British flag at Yorktown. The America of
their experience was the America of James Otis, of Jefferson, of _The
Rights of Man_.

A change followed in 1787, when the Convention drew up the
Constitution. It was a period of construction, and every effort was
made, every scheme was invented, to curb the inevitable democracy. The
members of that assembly were, on the whole, eminently cautious and
sensible men. They were not men of extraordinary parts, and the genius
of Hamilton failed absolutely to impress them. Some of their most
memorable contrivances proceeded from no design, but were merely half
measures and mutual concessions. Seward has pointed out this
distinction between the revolutionary epoch and the constituent epoch
that succeeded: "The rights asserted by our forefathers were not
peculiar to themselves. They were the common rights or mankind. The
basis of the Constitution was laid broader by far than the
superstructure which the conflicting interests and prejudices of the
day suffered to be erected. The Constitution and laws of the Federal
Government did not practically extend those principles throughout the
new system of government; but they were plainly promulgated in the
Declaration of Independence."

Now, although France was deeply touched by the American Revolution, it
was not affected by the American Constitution. It underwent the
disturbing influence, not the conservative.

The Constitution, framed in the summer of 1787, came into operation in
March 1789, and nobody knew how it worked, when the crisis came in
France. The debates, which explain every intention and combination,
remained long hidden from the world. Moreover, the Constitution has
become something more than the original printed paper. Besides
amendments, it has been interpreted by the courts, modified by
opinion, developed in some directions, and tacitly altered in others.
Some of its most valued provisions have been acquired in this way, and
were not yet visible when the French so greatly needed the guiding
lessons of other men's experience. Some of the restrictions on the
governing power were not fully established at first.

The most important of these is the action of the Supreme Court in
annulling unconstitutional laws. The Duke of Wellington said to Bunsen
that by this institution alone the United States made up for all the
defects of their government. Since Chief Justice Marshall, the
judiciary undoubtedly obtained immense authority, which Jefferson, and
others besides, believed to be unconstitutional; for the Constitution
itself gives no such power. The idea had grown up in the States,
chiefly, I think, in Virginia. At Richmond, in 1782, Judge Wythe
said: "Tyranny has been sapped, the departments kept within their own
spheres, the citizens protected, and general liberty promoted. But
this beneficial result attains to higher perfection when, those who
hold the purse and the sword differing as to the powers which each may
exercise, the tribunals, who hold neither, are called upon to declare
the law impartially between them, if the whole legislature--an event
to be deprecated--should attempt to overleap the boundaries prescribed
to them by the people, I, in administering the justice of the country,
will meet the united powers at my seat in this tribunal, and, pointing
to the Constitution, will say to them: 'Here is the limit of your
authority; hither shall you go, but no further.'" The Virginian
legislature gave way, and repealed the act.

After the Federal Constitution was drawn up, Hamilton, in the
seventy-eighth number of the _Federalist_, argued that the power
belonged to the judiciary; but it was not constitutionally recognised
until 1801. "This," said Madison, "makes the judiciary department
paramount, in fact, to the legislature, which was never intended, and
can never be proper. In a government whose vital principle is
responsibility, it never will be allowed that the legislative and
executive departments should be completely subjected to the judiciary,
in which that characteristic feature is so faintly seen." Wilson, on
the other hand, justified the practice on the principle of the higher
law: "Parliament may, unquestionably, be controlled by natural or
revealed law, proceeding from divine authority. Is not this superior
authority binding upon the courts of justice? When the courts of
justice obey the superior authority, it cannot be said with propriety
that they control the inferior one; they only declare, as it is their
duty to declare, that this inferior one is controlled by the other,
which is superior. They do not repeal an act of Parliament; they
pronounce it void, because contrary to an overruling law." Thus the
function of the judiciary to be a barrier against democracy, which,
according to Tocqueville, it is destined to be, was not apparent. In
the same manner religious liberty, which has become so much identified
with the United States, is a thing which grew by degrees, and was not
to be found imposed by the letter of the law.

The true natural check on absolute democracy is the federal system,
which limits the central government by the powers reserved, and the
state governments by the powers they have ceded. It is the one
immortal tribute of America to political science, for state rights are
at the same time the consummation and the guard of democracy. So much
so that an officer wrote, a few months before Bull Run: "The people in
the south are evidently unanimous in the opinion that slavery is
endangered by the current of events, and it is useless to attempt to
alter that opinion. As our government is founded on the will of the
people, when that will is fixed our government is powerless." Those
are the words of Sherman, the man who, by his march through Georgia,
cut the Confederacy into two. Lincoln himself wrote, at the same time:
"I declare that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states,
and especially the right of each state to order and control its own
domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is
essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and
endurance of our political fabric depend." Such was the force with
which state rights held the minds of abolitionists on the eve of the
war that bore them down.

At the Revolution there were many Frenchmen who saw in federalism the
only way to reconcile liberty and democracy, to establish government
on contract, and to rescue the country from the crushing preponderance
of Paris and the Parisian populace. I do not mean the Girondins, but
men of opinions different from theirs, and, above all, Mirabeau. He
planned to save the throne by detaching the provinces from the frenzy
of the capital, and he declared that the federal system is alone
capable of preserving freedom in any great empire. The idea did not
grow up under American influence; for no man was more opposed to it
than Lafayette; and the American witness of the Revolution, Morris,
denounced federalism as a danger to France.

Apart from the Constitution, the political thought of America
influenced the French next to their own. And it was not all
speculation, but a system for which men died, which had proved
entirely practical, and strong enough to conquer all resistance, with
the sanction and encouragement of Europe. It displayed to France a
finished model of revolution, both in thought and action, and showed
that what seemed extreme and subversive in the old world, was
compatible with good and wise government, with respect for social
order, and the preservation of national character and custom. The
ideas which captured and convulsed the French people were mostly
ready-made for them, and much that is familiar to you now, much of
that which I have put before you from other than French sources, will
meet us again next week with the old faces, when we come to the
States-General.



III

THE SUMMONS OF THE STATES-GENERAL


The condition of France alone did not bring about the overthrow of the
monarchy and the convulsion that ensued. For the sufferings of the
people were not greater than they had been before; the misgovernment
and oppression were less, and a successful war with England had
largely wiped out the humiliations inflicted by Chatham.

But the confluence of French theory with American example caused the
Revolution to break out, not in an excess of irritation and despair,
but in a moment of better feeling between the nation and the king. The
French were not mere reckless innovators; they were confiding
followers, and many of the ideas with which they made their venture
were those in which Burke agreed with Hamilton, and with his own
illustrious countrymen, Adam Smith and Sir William Jones. When he said
that, compared to England, the government of France was slavery, and
that nothing but a revolution could restore European liberty,
Frenchmen, saying the same thing, and acting upon it, were unconscious
of extravagance, and might well believe that they were obeying
precepts stored in the past by high and venerable authority. Beyond
that common ground, they fell back on native opinion in which there
was wide divergence, and an irrepressible conflict arose. We have to
deal with no unlikely motives, with no unheard of theories, and, on
the whole, with convinced and average men.

The States-General were convoked because there was no other way of
obtaining money for the public need. The deficit was a record of bad
government, and the first practical object was the readjustment of
taxes. From the king's accession, the revival of the old and neglected
institution had been kept before the country as a remedy, not for
financial straits only, but for all the ills of France.

The imposing corporation of the judiciary had constantly opposed the
Crown, and claimed to subject its acts to the judgment of the law. The
higher clergy had raised objections to Turgot, to Necker, to the
emancipation of Protestants; and the nobles became the most active of
all the parties of reform. But the great body of the people had borne
their trouble in patience. They possessed no recognised means of
expressing sentiments. There was no right of public meeting, no
liberty for the periodical press; and the privileged newspapers were
so tightly swaddled in their official character that they had nothing
to say even of an event like the oath in the Tennis Court. The
feelings that stirred the multitude did not appear, unless they
appeared in the shape of disorder. Without it France remained an
unknown quantity. The king felt the resistance of the privileged and
interested classes which was the source of his necessity, but he was
not apprehensive of a national opposition. He was prepared to rely on
the Third Estate with hopefulness, if not with confidence, and to pay
a very high price for their support. In a certain measure their
interest was the same. The penury of the State came from the fact that
more than half the property of France was not taxed in its proportion,
and it was essential for the government to abolish the exception, and
to bring nobles and clergy to surrender their privilege, and pay like
the rest. To that extent the object of the king was to do away with
privilege and to introduce equality before the law. So far the Commons
went along with him. They would be relieved of a heavy burden if they
ceased to pay the share of those who were exempt, and rejected the
time-honoured custom that the poor should bear taxation for the rich.
An alliance, therefore, was indicated and natural. But the extinction
of privilege, which for monarchy and democracy alike meant fiscal
equality, meant for the democracy a great deal more. Besides the money
which they were required to pay in behalf of the upper class and for
their benefit and solace, money had to be paid to them. Apart from
rent for house or land, there were payments due to them proceeding
from the time, the obscure and distant time, when power went with
land, and the focal landholder was the local government, the ruler and
protector of the people, and was paid accordingly. And there was
another category of claims, proceeding indirectly from the same
historic source, consisting of commutation and compensation for
ancient rights, and having therefore a legal character, founded upon
contract, not upon force.

Every thinking politician knew that the first of these categories, the
beneficial rights that were superfluous and oppressive, could not be
maintained, and that the nobles would be made to give up not only that
form of privilege which consisted in exemption from particular taxes,
but that composed of superannuated demands in return for work no
longer done, or value given. Those, on the other hand, which were not
simply mediæval, but based upon contract, would be treated as lawful
property, and would have to be redeemed. Privilege, in the eyes of the
state, was the right of evading taxes. To the politician it meant,
furthermore, the right of imposing taxes. For the rural democracy it
had a wider significance. To them, all these privileges were products
of the same principle, ruins of the same fabric. They were relics and
remnants of feudalism, and feudalism meant power given to land and
denied to capital and industry. It meant class government, the
negation of the very idea of the state and of the nation; it meant
conquest and subjugation by a foreign invader. None denied that many
great families had won their spurs in the service of their country;
everybody indeed knew that the noblest of all, Montmorency, bore the
arms of France because, at the victory of Bouvines, where their
ancestor was desperately wounded, the king laid his finger on the
wound and drew with his blood the lilies upon his shield. When we
come, presently, to the Abbé Sieyès, we shall see how firmly men
believed that the nobles were, in the mass, Franks, Teutonic tyrants,
and spoilers of the Celtic native. They intended that feudalism should
not be trimmed but uprooted, as the cause of much that was infinitely
odious, and as a thing absolutely incompatible with public policy,
social interests, and right reason. That men should be made to bear
suffering for the sake of what could only be explained by very early
history and very yellow parchments was simply irrational to a
generation which received its notion of life from Turgot, Adam Smith,
or Franklin.

Although there were three interpretations of feudal privilege, and
consequently a dangerous problem in the near future, the first step
was an easy one, and consisted in the appeal by the Crown to the
Commons for aid in regenerating the State. Like other princes of his
time, Lewis XVI. was a reforming monarch. At his accession, his first
choice of a minister was Machault, known to have entertained a vast
scheme of change, to be attempted whenever the throne should be
occupied by a serious prince. Later, he appointed Turgot, the most
profound and thorough reformer of the century. He appointed
Malesherbes, one of the weakest but one of the most enlightened of
public men; and after having, at the Coronation, taken an oath to
persecute, he gave office to Necker, a Protestant, an alien, and a
republican. When he had begun, through Malesherbes, to remove
religious disabilities, he said to him, "Now you have been a
Protestant, and I declare you a Jew"; and began to prepare a measure
for the relief of Jews, who, wherever they went, were forced to pay
the same toll as a pig. He carried out a large and complicated scheme
of law reform; and he achieved the independence of revolted America.
In later days the Elector of Cologne complained to an _émigré_ that
his king's policy had been deplorable, and that, having promoted
resistance to authority in the Colonies, in Holland, and in Brabant,
he had no claim on the support of European monarchs.

But the impulse in the direction of liberal improvement was
intermittent, and was checked by a natural diffidence and infirmity of
purpose. The messenger who was to summon Machault was recalled as he
mounted his horse. Turgot was sacrificed to gratify the queen.
Necker's second administration would have begun a year and a half
earlier, but, at the last moment, his enemies intervened. The war
minister, Saint Germain, was agreeable to the king, and he wished to
keep him. "But what can I do?" he wrote; "his enemies are bent on his
dismissal, and I must yield to the majority." Maurepas, at his death,
left a paper on which were the names of four men whom he entreated his
master not to employ. Lewis bestowed the highest offices upon them
all. He regarded England with the aversion with which Chatham, and at
that time even Fox, looked upon France, and he went to war in the just
hope of avenging the disgrace of the Seven Years' War, but from no
sympathy with the American cause. When he was required to retrench his
personal expenditure, he objected, and insisted that much of the loss
should be made to fall on his pensioners. The liberal concessions
which he allowed were in many cases made at the expense, not of the
Crown, but of powers that were obstructing the Crown. By the abolition
of torture he incurred no loss, but curbed the resources of opposing
magistrates. When he emancipated the Protestants and made a Swiss
Calvinist his principal adviser, he displeased the clergy; but he
cared little for clerical displeasure. The bishops, finding that he
took no notice of them, disappeared from his _levée_. He objected to
the appointment of French cardinals. English travellers at Versailles,
Romilly and Valpy, observed that he was inattentive at mass, and
talked and laughed before all the court. At the Council he would fall
asleep, and when the discussion was distasteful, he used to snore
louder than when he slept. He said to Necker that he desired the
States-General because he wanted a guide. When, in 1788, after
skirmishing with magistrates and prelates, he took the memorable
resolution to call in the outer people, to compel a compromise with
the class that filled his court, that constituted society, that ruled
opinion, it was the act of a man destitute of energy, and gifted with
an uncertain and indistinct enlightenment. And Necker said, "You may
lend a man your ideas, you cannot lend him your strength of will."

The enterprise was far beyond the power and quality of his mind, but
the lesson of his time was not lost upon him, and he had learnt
something since the days when he spoke the unchanging language of
absolutism. He showed another spirit when he emancipated the serfs of
the Crown, when he introduced provincial and village councils, when he
pronounced that to confine local government to landowners was to
offend a still larger class, when he invited assistance in reforming
the criminal code in order that the result might be the work, not of
experts only, but of the public. All this was genuine conviction. He
was determined that the upper class should lose its fiscal privileges
with as little further detriment as possible. And, to accomplish this
necessary and deliberate purpose, he offered terms to the Commons of
France such as no monarch ever proposed to his subjects. He declared
in later days, and had a right to declare, that it was he who had
taken the first step to concert with the French people a permanent
constitution, the abolition of arbitrary power, of pecuniary
privilege, of promotion apart from merit, of taxation without consent.
When he heard that the Notables had given only one vote in favour of
increased representation of the Third Estate, he said, "You can add
mine." Malouet, the most high-minded and sagacious statesman of the
Revolution, testifies to his sincerity, and declares that the king
fully shared his opinions.

The tributary elements of a free constitution which were granted by
Lewis XVI., not in consultation with deputies, not even always with
public support, included religious toleration, Habeas Corpus, equal
incidence of taxes, abolition of torture, decentralisation and local
self-government, freedom of the press, universal suffrage, election
without official candidates or influence, periodical convocation of
parliament, right of voting supplies, of initiating legislation, of
revising the constitution, responsibility of ministers, double
representation of the Commons at the States-General. All these
concessions were acts of the Crown, yielding to dictates of policy
more than to popular demand. It is said that power is an object of
such ardent desire to man, that the voluntary surrender of it is
absurd in psychology and unknown in history. Lewis XVI. no doubt
calculated the probabilities of loss and gain, and persuaded himself
that his action was politic even more than generous. The Prussian
envoy rightly described him in a despatch of July 31, 1789. He says
that the king was willing to weaken the executive at home, in order to
strengthen it abroad; if the ministers lost by a better regulated
administration, the nation would gain by it in resource, and a limited
authority in a more powerful state seemed preferable to absolute
authority which was helpless from its unpopularity and the irreparable
disorder of finance. He was resolved to submit the arbitrary
_government of his ancestors to the rising forces of the_ day. The
royal initiative was pushed so far on the way to established freedom
that it was exhausted, and the rest was left to the nation. As the
elections were not influenced, as the instructions were not inspired,
the deliberations were not guided or controlled. The king abdicated
before the States-General. He assigned so much authority to the new
legislature that none remained with the Crown, and its powers, thus
practically suspended, were never recovered. The rival classes, that
only the king could have reconciled and restrained, were abandoned to
the fatal issue of a trial of strength.

In 1786 the annual deficit amounted to between four and five millions,
and the season for heroic remedies had evidently come. The artful and
evasive confusion of accounts that shrouded the secret could not be
maintained, and the minister of finance, Calonne, convoked the
Notables for February 1787. The Notables were a selection of important
personages, chiefly of the upper order, without legal powers or
initiative. It was hoped that they would strengthen the hands of the
government, and that what they agreed to would be accepted by the
class to which they belonged. It was an experiment to avert the evil
day of the States-General. For the States-General, which had not been
seen for one hundred and seventy-five years, were the features of a
bygone stage of political life, and could neither be revived as they
once had been, nor adapted to modern society. If they imposed taxes,
they would impose conditions, and they were an auxiliary who might
become a master. The Notables were soon found inadequate to the
purpose, and the minister, having failed to control them, was
dismissed. Necker, his rival and obvious successor, was sent out of
the way, and the Archbishop of Toulouse, afterwards of Sens, who was
appointed in his place, got rid of the Assembly. There was nothing
left to fall back upon but the dreaded States-General. Lafayette had
demanded them at the meeting of the Notables, and the demand was now
repeated far and wide.

On August 8, 1788, the king summoned the States-General for the
following year, to the end, as he proclaimed, that the nation might
settle its own government in perpetuity. The words signified that the
absolute monarchy of 1788 would make way for a representative monarchy
in 1789. In what way this was to be done, and how the States would be
constituted, was unknown. The public were invited to offer
suggestions, and the press was practically made free for publications
that were not periodical. Necker, the inevitable minister of the new
order of things, was immediately nominated to succeed the Archbishop,
and the funds rose 30 per cent in one day. He was a foreigner,
independent of French tradition and ways of thought, who not only
stood aloof from the Catholics, as a Genevese, but also from the
prevailing freethinkers, for Priestley describes him as nearly the
only believer in religion whom he found in intellectual society at
Paris. He was the earliest foreign statesman who studied and
understood the modern force of opinion; and he identified public
opinion with credit, as we should say, with the city. He took the
views of capitalists as the most sensitive record of public
confidence; and as Paris was the headquarters of business, he
contributed, in spite of his declared federalism, to that predominance
of the centre which became fatal to liberty and order.

Necker was familiar with the working of republican institutions, and
he was an admirer of the British model; but the king would not hear of
going to school to the people whom he had so recently defeated, and
who owed their disgrace as much to political as to military
incapacity. Consequently Necker repressed his zeal in politics, and
was not eager for the States-General. They would never have been
wanted, he said, if he had been called to succeed Calonne, and had had
the managing of the Notables. He was glad now that they should serve
to bring the entire property of the country, on equal terms, under the
tax-gatherer, and if that could have been effected at once, by an
overwhelming pressure of public feeling, his practical spirit would
not have hungered for further changes.

The _Third_ Estate was _Invoked_ for a _great fiscal_ operation. If it
brought the upper class to the necessary sense of their own
obligations and the national claims, that was enough for the keeper of
the purse, and he would have deprecated the intrusion of other
formidable and absorbing objects, detrimental to his own. Beyond that
was danger, but the course was clear towards obtaining from the
greater assembly what he would have extracted from the less if he had
held office in 1787. That is the secret of Necker's unforeseen
weakness in the midst of so much power, and of his sterility when the
crisis broke and it was discovered that the force which had been
calculated equal to the carrying of a modest and obvious reform was as
the rush of Niagara, and that France was in the resistless rapids.

Everything depended on the manner in which the government decided that
the States should be composed, elected, and conducted. To pronounce on
this, Necker caused the Notables to be convoked again, exposed the
problem, and desired their opinion. The nobles had been lately active
on the side of liberal reforms, and it seemed possible that their
reply might relieve him of a dreaded responsibility and prevent a
conflict. The Notables gave their advice. They resolved that the
Commons should be elected, virtually, by universal suffrage without
conditions of eligibility; that the parish priests should be electors
and eligible; that the lesser class of nobles should be represented
like the greater. They extended the franchise to the unlettered
multitude, because the danger which they apprehended came from the
middle class, not from the lower. But they voted, by three to one,
that each order should be equal in numbers. The Count of Provence, the
king's next brother, went with the minority, and voted that the
deputies of the Commons should be as numerous as those of the two
other orders together. This became the burning question. If the
Commons did not predominate, there was no security that the other
orders would give way. On the other hand, by the important innovation
of admitting the parish clergy, and those whom we should call
provincial gentry, a great concession was made to the popular element.
The antagonism between the two branches of the clergy, and between the
two branches of the _noblesse_, was greater than that between the
inferior portion of each and the Third Estate, and promised a
contingent to the liberal cause. It turned out, at the proper time,
that the two strongest leaders of the democracy were, one, an ancient
noble; the other, a canon of the cathedral of Chartres. The Notables
concluded their acceptable labours on December 12. On the 5th the
magistrates who formed the parliament of Paris, after solemnly
enumerating the great constitutional principles, entreated the king to
establish them as the basis of all future legislation. The position of
the government was immensely simplified. The walls of the city had
fallen, and it was doubtful where any serious resistance would come
from.

Meantime, the agitation in the provinces, and the explosion of pent-up
feeling that followed the unlicensed printing of political tracts,
showed that public opinion moved faster than that of the two great
conservative bodies. It became urgent that the Government should come
to an early and resolute decision, and should occupy ground that might
be held against the surging democracy. Necker judged that the position
would be impregnable if he stood upon the lines drawn by the Notables,
and he decided that the Commons should be equal to either order
singly, and not jointly to the two. In consultation with a
statesmanlike prelate, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, he drew up and
printed a report, refusing the desired increase. But as he sat
anxiously watching the winds and the tide, he began to doubt; and when
letters came, warning him that the nobles would be butchered if the
decision went in their favour, he took alarm. He said to his friends,
"If we do not multiply the Commons by two, they will multiply
themselves by ten." When the Archbishop saw him again at Christmas,
Necker assured him that the Government was no longer strong enough to
resist the popular demand. But he was also determined that the three
houses should vote separately, that the Commons should enjoy no
advantage from their numbers in any discussion where privilege was at
stake, or the interest of classes was not identical. He hoped that the
nobles would submit to equal taxation of their own accord, and that he
would stand between them and any exorbitant claim of equal political
power.

On December 27 Necker's scheme was adopted by the Council. There was
some division of opinion; but the king overruled it, and the queen,
who was present, showed, without speaking, that she was there to
support the measure. By this momentous act Lewis XVI., without being
conscious of its significance, went over to the democracy. He said, in
plain terms, to the French people: "Afford me the aid I require, so
far as we have a common interest, and for that definite and
appropriated assistance you shall have a princely reward. For you
shall at once have a constitution of your own making, which shall
limit the power of the Crown, leaving untouched the power and the
dignity and the property of the upper classes, beyond what is
involved in an equal share of taxation." But in effect he said; "Let
us combine to deprive the aristocracy of those privileges which are
injurious to the Crown, whilst we retain those which are offensive
only to the people." It was a tacit compact, of which the terms and
limits were not defined; and where one thought of immunities, the
other was thinking of oppression. The organisation of society required
to be altered and remodelled from end to end to sustain a constitution
founded on the principle of liberty. It was no arduous problem to
adjust relations between the people and the king. The deeper question
was between the people and the aristocracy. Behind a political reform
there was a social revolution, for the only liberty that could avail
was liberty founded on equality. Malouet, who was at this moment
Necker's best adviser, said to him: "You have made the Commons equal
in influence to the other orders. Another revolution has to follow,
and it is for you to accomplish it--the levelling of onerous
privilege." Necker had no ambition of the kind, and he distinctly
guarded privilege in all matters but taxation.

The resolution of the king in Council was received with loud applause;
and the public believed that everything they had demanded was now
obtained, or was at least within reach. The doubling of the Commons
was illusory if they were to have no opportunity of making their
numbers tell. The Count of Provence, afterwards Lewis XVIII., had
expressly argued that the old States-General were useless because the
Third Estate was not suffered to prevail in them. Therefore he urged
that the three orders should deliberate and vote as one, and that the
Commons should possess the majority. It was universally felt that this
was the real meaning of the double representation, and that there was
a logic in it which could not be resisted. The actual power vested in
the Commons by the great concession exceeded their literal and legal
power, and it was accepted and employed accordingly.

The mode of election was regulated on January 24. There were to be
three hundred deputies for the clergy, three hundred for the nobles,
six hundred for the Commons. There were to be no restrictions and no
exclusions; but whereas the greater personages voted directly, the
vote of the lower classes was indirect; and the rule for the Commons
was that one hundred primary voters chose an elector. Besides the
deputy, there was the deputy's deputy, held in reserve, ready in case
of vacancy to take his place. It was on this peculiar device of
eventual representatives that the Commons relied, if their numbers had
not been doubled. They would have called up their substitutes. The
rights and charters of the several provinces were superseded, and all
were placed on the same level.

A more sincere and genuine election has never been held. And on the
whole it was orderly. The clergy were uneasy, and the nobles more
openly alarmed. But the country in general had confidence in what was
coming; and some of the most liberal and advanced and outspoken
manifestations proceeded from aristocratic and ecclesiastical
constituencies. On February 9 the Venetian envoy reports that the
clergy and nobles are ready to accept the principle of equality in
taxation. The elections were going on for more than two months, from
February to the beginning of May.

In accordance with ancient custom, when a deputy was a plenipotentiary
more than a representative, it was ordained that the preliminary of
every election was the drawing up of instructions. Every corner of
France was swept and searched for its ideas. The village gave them to
its elector, and they were compared and consolidated by the electors
in the process of choosing their member. These instructions, the
characteristic bequest to its successors of a society at the point of
death, were often the work of conspicuous public men, such as Malouet,
Lanjuinais, Dupont, the friend of Turgot and originator of the
commercial treaty of 1786; and one paper, drawn up by Sieyès, was
circulated all over France by the duke of Orleans.

In this way, by the lead which was taken by eminent and experienced
men, there is an appearance of unanimity. All France desired the
essential institutions of limited monarchy, in the shape of
representation and the division of power, and foreshadowed the charter
of 1814. There is scarcely a trace of the spirit of departing
absolutism; there is not a sign of the coming republic. It is agreed
that precedent is dead, and the world just going to begin. There are
no clear views on certain grave matters of detail, on an Upper House,
Church and State, and primary education. Free schools, progressive
taxation, the extinction of slavery, of poverty, of ignorance, are
among the things advised. The privileged orders are prepared for a
vast surrender in regard to taxes, and nobody seems to associate the
right of being represented in future parliaments with the possession
of property. On nine-tenths of all that is material to a constitution
there is a general agreement. The one broad division is that the
Commons wish that the States-General shall form a single united
Assembly, and the other orders wish for three. But on this supreme
issue the Commons are all agreed, and the others are not. An ominous
rift appears, and we already perceive the minority of nobles and
priests, who, in the hour of conflict, were to rule the fate of
European society. From all these papers, the mandate of united France,
it was the function of true statesmanship to distil the essence of a
sufficient freedom.

These instructions were intended to be imperative. Nine years before,
Burke, when he retired from the contest at Bristol, had defined the
constitutional doctrine on constituency and member; and Charles Sumner
said that he legislated when he made that speech. But the ancient
view, on which instructions are founded, made the deputy the agent of
the deputing power, and much French history turns on it. At first the
danger was unfelt; for the instructions were often compiled by the
deputy himself, who was to execute them. They were a pledge even more
than an order.

The nation had responded to the royal appeal, and there was agreement
between the offer and the demand. The upper classes had opposed and
resisted the Crown; the people were eager to support it, and it was
expected that the first steps would be taken together. The comparative
moderation and serenity of the Instructions disguised the unappeasable
conflict of opinion and the furious passion that raged below.

The very cream of the upper and middle class were elected; and the
Court, in its prosperous complacency, abandoned to their wisdom the
task of creating the new institutions and permanently settling the
financial trouble. It persisted in non-interference, and had no policy
but expectation. The initiative passed to every private member. The
members consisted of new men, without connection or party
organisation. They wanted time to feel their way, and missed a
moderator and a guide. The governing power ceased, for the moment, to
serve the supreme purpose of government; and monarchy transformed
itself into anarchy to see what would come of it, and to avoid
committing itself on either side against the class by which it was
always surrounded or the class which seemed ready with its alliance.

The Government renounced the advantage which the elections and the
temperate instructions gave them; and in the hope that the elect would
be at least as reasonable as the electors, they threw away their
greatest opportunity. There was a disposition to underrate dangers
that were not on the surface. Even Mirabeau, who, if not a deep
thinker, was a keen observer, imagined that the entire mission of the
States-General might have been accomplished in a week. Few men saw the
ambiguity hidden in the term Privilege, and the immense difference
that divided fiscal change from social change. In attacking feudalism,
which was the survival of barbarism, the middle class designed to
overthrow the condition of society which gave power as well as
property to a favoured minority. The assault on the restricted
distribution of power involved an assault on the concentration of
wealth. The connection of the two ideas is the secret motive of the
Revolution. At that time the law by which power follows property,
which has been called the most important discovery made by man since
the invention of printing, was not clearly known. But the underground
forces at work were recognised by the intelligent conservatives, and
they were assuming the defensive, in preparation for the hour when
they would be deserted by the king. It was therefore impossible that
the object for which the States-General were summoned should be
attained while they were divided into three. Either they must be
dissolved, or the thing which the middle-class deputies could not
accomplish by use of forms would be attempted by the lower class,
their masters and employers, by use of force.

Before the meeting Malouet once more approached the minister with
weighty counsel. He said: "You now know the wishes of France; you know
the instructions, you do not know the deputies. Do not leave all
things to the arbitrament of the unknown. Convert at once the demands
of the people into a constitution, and give them force of law. Act
while you have unfettered power of action. Act while your action will
be hailed as the most magnificent concession ever granted by a monarch
to a loyal and expectant nation. To-day you are supreme and safe. It
may be too late to-morrow."

In particular, Malouet advised that the Government should regulate the
verification of powers, leaving only contested returns to the judgment
of the representatives. Necker abided by his meditated neutrality, and
preferred that the problem should work itself out with entire freedom.
He would not take sides lest he should offend one party without being
sure of the other, and forfeit his chance of becoming the accepted
arbitrator. Whilst, by deciding nothing, he kept the enemy at bay, the
upper classes might yet reach the wise conclusion that, in the midst
of so much peril to royalty and to themselves, it was time to place
the interest of the state before their own, and to accept the duties
and the burdens of undistinguished men.

Neither party could yield. The Commons could not fail to see that time
was on their side, and that, by compelling the other orders to merge
with them, they secured the downfall of privilege and played the game
of the court. The two other orders were, by the imperative mandate of
many constituencies, prohibited from voting in common. Their
resistance was legitimate, and could only be overcome by the
intervention either of the Crown or the people. Their policy might
have been justified if they had at once made their surrender, and had
accomplished with deliberation in May what had to be done with tumult
in August. With these problems and these perils before them, the
States-General met on that memorable 5th of May. Necker, preferring
the abode of financiers, wished them to meet at Paris; and four or
five other places were proposed. At last the king, breaking silence,
said that it could be only at Versailles, on account of his hunting.
At the time he saw no cause for alarm in the proximity of the capital.
Since then, the disturbances in one or two places, and the open
language of some of the electors, had begun to make him swerve.

On the opening day the queen was received with offensive silence; but
she acknowledged a belated cheer with such evident gladness and with
such stately grace that applause followed her. The popular groups of
deputies were cheered as they passed--all but the Commons of Provence,
for they had Mirabeau among them. He alone was hissed. Two ladies who
watched the procession from the same window were the daughter of
Necker and the wife of the Foreign Minister, Montmorin. One thought
with admiration that she was a witness of the greatest scene in modern
history; and the other was sad with evil forebodings. Both were right;
but the feeling of confidence and enthusiasm pervaded the crowd. Near
relations of my own were at Rome in 1846, during the excitement at the
reforms of the new Pope, who, at that moment, was the most popular
sovereign in Europe. They asked an Italian lady who was with them why
all the demonstrations only made her more melancholy. She answered:
"Because I was at Versailles in 1789."

Barentin, the minister who had opposed Necker's plans and viewed the
States-General with apprehension and disgust, spoke after the king. He
was a French judge, with no heart for any form of government but the
ancient one enjoyed by France. Nevertheless he admitted that joint
deliberation was the reasonable solution. He added that it could only
be adopted by common consent; and he urged the two orders to sacrifice
their right of exemption. Necker perplexed his hearers by receding
from the ground which the Chancellor had taken. He assured the two
orders that they need not apprehend absorption in the third if, while
voting separately, they executed the promised surrender. He spoke as
their protector, on the condition that they submitted to the common
law, and paid their taxes in arithmetical proportion. He implied, but
did not say, that what they refused to the Crown would be taken by the
people. In his financial statement he under-estimated the deficit, and
he said nothing of the Constitution. The great day ended badly. The
deputies were directed to hand in their returns to the Master of
Ceremonies, an official of whom we shall soon see more. But the Master
of Ceremonies was not acceptable to the Commons, because he had
compelled them to withdraw, the day before, from their places in the
nave of the church. Therefore the injunction was disregarded; and the
verification of powers, which the Government might have regulated, was
left to the deputies themselves, and became the lever by which the
more numerous order overthrew the monarchy, and carried to an end, in
seven weeks, the greatest constitutional struggle that has ever been
fought out in the world by speech alone.



IV

THE MEETING OF THE STATES-GENERAL


The argument of the drama which opened on May 6, 1789, and closed on
June 27, is this:--The French people had been called to the enjoyment
of freedom by every voice they heard--by the king; by the notables,
who proposed unrestricted suffrage; by the supreme judiciary, who
proclaimed the future Constitution; by the clergy and the aristocracy,
in the most solemn pledges of the electoral period; by the British
example, celebrated by Montesquieu and Voltaire; by the more cogent
example of America; by the national classics, who declared, with a
hundred tongues, that all authority must be controlled, that the
masses must be rescued from degradation, and the individual from
constraint.

When the Commons appeared at Versailles, they were there to claim an
inheritance of which, by universal consent, they had been wrongfully
deprived. They were not arrayed against the king, who had been already
brought to submission by blows not dealt by them. They desired to make
terms with those to whom he was ostensibly opposed. There could be no
real freedom for them until they were as free on the side of the
nobles as on that of the Crown. The modern absolutism of the monarch
had surrendered; but the ancient owners of the soil remained, with
their exclusive position in the State, and a complicated system of
honours and exactions which humiliated the middle class and pauperised
the lower. The educated democracy, acting for themselves, might have
been content with the retrenchment of those privileges which put them
at a disadvantage. But the rural population were concerned with every
fragment of obsolete feudalism that added to the burden of their
lives.

The two classes were undivided. Together they had elected their
deputies, and the cleavage between the political and the social
democrat, which has become so great a fact in modern society, was
scarcely perceived. The same common principle, the same comprehensive
term, composed the policy of both. They demanded liberty, both in the
State and in society, and required that oppression should cease,
whether exercised in the name of the king or in the name of the
aristocracy. In a word, they required equality as well as liberty, and
sought deliverance from feudalism and from absolutism at the same
time. And equality was the most urgent and prominent claim of the two,
because the king, virtually, had given way, but the nobles had not.

The battle that remained to be fought, and at once commenced, was
between the Commons and the nobles; that is, between people doomed to
poverty by the operation of law, and people who were prosperous at
their expense. And as there were men who would perish from want while
the laws remained unchanged, and others who would be ruined by their
repeal, the strife was deadly.

The real object of assault was not the living landlord, but the
unburied past. It had little to do with socialism, or with high rents,
bad times, and rapacious proprietors. Apart from all this was the hope
of release from irrational and indefensible laws, such as that by
which a patrician's land paid three francs where the plebeian's paid
fourteen, because one was noble and the other was not, and it was an
elementary deduction from the motives of liberal desire.

The elections had made it unexpectedly evident that when one part of
territorial wealth had been taken by the State, another would be taken
by the people; and that a free community, making its own laws, would
not submit to exactions imposed of old by the governing class on a
defenceless population. When the notables advised that every man
should have a vote, this consequence was not clear to them. It was
perceived as things went on, and no provision for aristocratic
interests was included in the popular demands.

In the presence of imminent peril, the privileged classes closed their
ranks, and pressed the king to resist changes sure to be injurious to
them. They became a Conservative party. The court was on their side,
with the Count d'Artois at its head, and the queen and her immediate
circle.

The king remained firm in the belief that popularity is the best form
of authority, and he relied on the wholesome dread of democracy to
make the rich aristocrats yield to his wishes. As long as the Commons
exerted the inert pressure of delay, he watched the course of events.
When at the end of five tedious and unprofitable weeks they began
their attack, he was driven slowly, and without either confidence or
sympathy, to take his stand with the nobles, and to shrink from the
indefinite change that was impending.

When the Commons met to deliberate on the morning of the 6th of May,
the deputies were unknown to each other. It was necessary to proceed
with caution, and to occupy ground on which they could not be divided.
Their unanimity was out of danger so long as nothing more complex was
discussed than the verification of powers. The other orders resolved
at once that each should examine its own returns. But this vote, which
the nobles carried by a majority of 141, obtained in the clergy a
majority of only 19. It was evident at once that the party of
privilege was going asunder, and that the priests were nearly as well
inclined to the Commons as to the _noblesse_. It became advisable to
give them time, to discard violence until the arts of conciliation
were exhausted and the cause of united action had been pleaded in
vain. The policy of moderation was advocated by Malouet, a man of
practical insight and experience, who had grown grey in the service of
the State. It was said that he defended the slave trade; he attempted
to exclude the public from the debates; he even offered, in
unauthorised terms, to secure the claims, both real and formal, of the
upper classes. He soon lost the ear of the House. But he was a man of
great good sense, as free from ancient prejudice as from modern
theory, and he never lost sight of the public interest in favour of a
class. The most generous proposals on behalf of the poor afterwards
emanated from him, and parliamentary life in France began with his
motion for negotiation with the other orders.

He was supported by Mounier, one of the deepest minds of that day, and
the most popular of the deputies. He was a magistrate of Grenoble, and
had conducted the Estates of Dauphiné with such consummate art and
wisdom that all ranks and all parties had worked in harmony. They had
demanded equal representation and the vote in common; they gave to
their deputies full powers instead of written instructions, only
requiring that they should obtain a free government to the best of
their ability; they resolved that the chartered rights of their
province should not be put in competition with the new and theoretic
rights of the nation. Under Mounier's controlling hand the prelate and
the noble united to declare that the essential liberties of men are
ensured to them by nature, and not by perishable title-deeds.
Travellers had initiated him in the working of English institutions,
and he represented the school of Montesquieu; but he was an
emancipated disciple and a discriminate admirer. He held Montesquieu
to be radically illiberal, and believed the famous theory which
divides powers without isolating them to be an old and a common
discovery. He thought that nations differ less in their character than
in their stage of progress, and that a Constitution like the
English applies not to a region, but to a time. He belonged to
that type of statesmanship which Washington had shown to be so
powerful--revolutionary doctrine in a conservative temper. In the
centre of affairs the powerful provincial betrayed a lack of sympathy
and attraction. He refused to meet Sieyès, and persistently denounced
and vilified Mirabeau. Influence and public esteem came to him at
once, and in the great constructive party he was a natural leader, and
predominated for a time. But at the encounter of defeat, his austere
and rigid character turned it into disaster; and as he possessed but
one line of defence, the failure of his tactics was the ruin of his
cause. Although he despaired prematurely, and was vociferously
repentant of his part in the great days of June, parading his
sackcloth before Europe, he never faltered in the conviction that the
interests of no class, of no family, of no man, can be preferred to
those of the nation. Napoleon once said with a sneer: "You are still
the man of 1789." Mounier replied: "Yes, sir. Principles are not
subject to the law of change."

He desired to adopt the English model, which meant: representation of
property; an upper house founded upon merit, not upon descent; royal
veto and right of dissolution. This could only be secured by active
co-operation on the part of all the conservative elements. To obtain
his majority he required that the other orders should come over, not
vanquished and reluctant, but under the influence of persuasion.
Mirabeau and his friends only wished to put the nobles in the wrong,
to expose their obstinacy and arrogance, and then to proceed without
them. The plan of Mounier depended on a real conciliation.

The clergy were ready for a conference; and by their intervention the
nobles were induced to take part in it. There, on May 23, the
Archbishop of Vienne, who was in the confidence of Mounier, declared
that the clergy recognised the duty of sharing taxes in equal
proportion. The Duke of Luxemburg, speaking for the nobles, made the
same declaration. The intention, he said, was irrevocable; but he
added that it would not be executed until the problem of the
Constitution was solved. The nobles declined to abandon the mode of
separate verification which had been practised formerly. And when the
Commons objected that what was good in times of civil dissension was
inapplicable to the Arcadian tranquillity of 1789, the others were
not to blame if they treated the argument with contempt.

The failure of the conference was followed by an event which confirmed
Necker in the belief that he was not waiting in vain. He received
overtures from Mirabeau. Until that time Mirabeau had been notorious
for the obtrusive scandal of his life, and the books he had written
under pressure of need did not restore his good name. People avoided
him, not because he was brutal and vicious like other men of his rank,
but because he was reputed a liar and a thief. During one of his
imprisonments he had obtained from Dupont de Nemours communication of
an important memoir embodying Turgot's ideas on local government. He
copied the manuscript, presented it to the minister as his own work,
and sold another copy to the booksellers as the work of Turgot.
Afterwards he offered to suppress his letters from Prussia if the
Government would buy them at the price he could obtain by publishing
them. Montmorin paid what he asked for, on condition that he renounced
his candidature in Provence. Mirabeau agreed, spent the money on his
canvass, and made more by printing what he had sold to the king.
During the contest, by his coolness, audacity, and resource, he soon
acquired ascendency. The nobles who rejected him were made to feel his
power. When tumults broke out, he appeased them by his presence, and
he moved from Marseilles to Aix escorted by a retinue of 200
carriages. Elected in both places by the Third Estate, he came to
Versailles hoping to repair his fortune. There it was soon apparent
that he possessed powers of mind equal to the baseness of his conduct.
He is described by Malouet as the only man who perceived from the
first where the Revolution was tending; and his enemy Mounier avows
that he never met a more intelligent politician. He was always ready
to speak, and always vigorous and adroit. His renowned orations were
often borrowed, for he surrounded himself with able men, mostly
Genevese, versed in civil strife, who supplied him with facts,
mediated with the public, and helped him in the press. Rivarol said
that his head was a gigantic sponge, swelled out with other men's
ideas. As extempore speaking was a new art, and the ablest men read
their speeches, Mirabeau was at once an effective debater--probably
the best debater, though not the most perfect orator, that has
appeared in the splendid record of parliamentary life in France. His
father was one of the most conspicuous economists, and he inherited
their belief in a popular and active monarchy, and their preference
for a single chamber.

In 1784 he visited London, frequented the Whigs, and supplied Burke
with a quotation. He did not love England, but he thought it a
convincing proof of the efficacy of paper Constitutions, that a few
laws for the protection of personal liberty should be sufficient to
make a corrupt and ignorant people prosper.

His keynote was to abandon privilege and to retain the prerogative;
for he aspired to sway the monarchy, and would not destroy the power
he was to wield. The king, he said, is the State, and can do no wrong.
Therefore he was at times the most violent and indiscreet of men, and
at times unaccountably moderate and reserved; and both parts were
carefully prepared. As he had a fixed purpose before him, but neither
principle nor scruple, no emergency found him at a loss, or
embarrassed by a cargo of consistent maxims. Incalculable, and unfit
to trust in daily life, at a crisis he was the surest and most
available force. From the first moment he came to the front. On the
opening day he was ready with a plan for a consultation in common,
before deciding whether they should act jointly or separately. The
next day he started a newspaper, in the shape of a report to his
constituents, and when the Government attempted to suppress it, he
succeeded, May 19, in establishing the liberty of the press.

The first political club, afterwards that of the Jacobins, was
founded, at his instigation, by men who did not know the meaning of a
club. For, he said to them, ten men acting together can make a hundred
thousand tremble apart from each other. Mirabeau began with caution,
for his materials were new and he had no friends. He believed that
the king was really identified with the magnates, and that the Commons
were totally unprepared to confront either the court or the
approaching Revolution. He thought it hopeless to negotiate with his
own doomed order, and meant to detach the king from them. When the
scheme of conciliation failed, his opportunity came. He requested
Malouet to bring him into communication with ministers. He told him
that he was seriously alarmed, that the nobles meant to push
resistance to extremity, and that his reliance was on the Crown. He
promised, if the Government would admit him to their confidence, to
support their policy with all his might. Montmorin refused to see him.
Necker reluctantly consented. He had a way of pointing his nose at the
ceiling, which was not conciliatory, and he received the hated visitor
with a request to know what proposals he had to make. Mirabeau, purple
with rage at this frigid treatment by the man he had come to save,
replied that he proposed to wish him good morning. To Malouet he said,
"Your friend is a fool, and he will soon have news of me." Necker
lived to regret that he had thrown such a chance away. At the time,
the interview only helped to persuade him that the Commons knew their
weakness, and felt the need of his succour.

Just then the expected appeal reached him from the ecclesiastical
quarter. When it was seen that the nobles could not be constrained by
fair words, the Commons made one more experiment with the clergy. On
May 27 they sent a numerous and weighty deputation to adjure them, in
the name of the God of peace and of the national welfare, not to
abandon the cause of united action. The clergy this time invoked the
interposition of Government.

On the 30th conferences were once more opened, and the ministers were
present. The discussion was as inconclusive as before, and, on June 4,
Necker produced a plan of his own. He proposed, in substance, separate
verification, the crown to decide in last instance. It was a solution
favourable to the privileged orders, one of which had appealed to him.
He wanted their money, not their power. The clergy agreed. The
Commons were embarrassed what to do, but were quickly relieved; for
the nobles replied that they had already decided simply to try their
own cases. By this act, on June 9, negotiations were broken off.

The decision had been taken in the apartments of the Duchess of
Polignac, the queen's familiar friend, and it made a breach between
the court and the minister at the first step he had taken since the
Assembly met. Up to this point the aristocracy were intelligible and
consistent. They would make no beginning of surrender until they knew
how far it would lead them, or put themselves at the mercy of a
hostile majority without any assurance for private rights. Malouet
offered them a guarantee, but he was disavowed by his colleagues in a
way that warned the nobles not to be too trusting.

Nobody could say how far the edifice of privilege was condemned to
crumble, or what nucleus of feudal property, however secured by
contract and prescription, would be suffered to remain. The nobles
felt justified in defending things which were their own by law, by
centuries of unquestioned possession, by purchase and inheritance, by
sanction of government, by the express will of their constituents. In
upholding the interest, and the very existence, of the class they
represented, they might well believe that they acted in the spirit of
true liberty, which depends on the multiplicity of checking forces,
and that they were saving the throne. From the engagement to renounce
fiscal exemption, and submit to the equal burden of taxation, they did
not recede, and they claimed the support of the king. Montlosier, who
belonged to their order, pronounced that their case was good and their
argument bad. Twice they gave the enemy an advantage. When they saw
the clergy waver, they resolved, by their usual majority of 197 to 44,
that each order possessed the right of nullification; so that they
would no more yield to the separate vote of the three Estates than to
their united vote. Evidently the country would support those who
denied the veto and were ready to overrule it, against those who gave
no hope that anything would be done. Again, when they declined the
Government proposals, they isolated themselves, and became an
obstruction. They had lost the clergy. They now repulsed the minister.
Nothing was left them except their hopes of the king. They ruined him
as well as themselves. It did not follow that, because they supported
the monarchy, they were sure of the monarch. And it was a graver
miscalculation to think that a regular army is stronger than an
undisciplined mob, and that the turbulent Parisians, eight miles off,
could not protect the deputies against regiments of horse and foot,
commanded by the gallant gentlemen of France, accustomed for centuries
to pay the tax of blood, and fighting now in their own cause.

There was nothing more to be done. The arts of peace were exhausted. A
deliberate breach with legality could alone fulfil the national
decree. The country had grown tired of dilatory tactics and prolonged
inaction. Conciliation, tried by the Commons, by the clergy, and by
the Government, had been vain. The point was reached where it was
necessary to choose between compulsion and surrender, and the Commons
must either employ the means at their command to overcome resistance,
or go away confessing that the great movement had broken down in their
hands, and that the people had elected the wrong men. Inaction and
delay had not been a policy, but the preliminary of a policy. It was
reasonable to say that they would try every possible effort before
resorting to aggression; but it would have been unmeaning to say that
they would begin by doing nothing, and that afterwards they would
continue to do nothing. Their enemy had been beforehand with them in
making mistakes. They might hazard something with less danger now.

Victory indeed was assured by the defection among the nobles and the
clergy. Near fifty of the one, and certainly more than one hundred of
the others, were ready to come over. Instead of being equal, the
parties were now two to one. Six hundred Commons could not control the
same number of the deputies of privilege. But eight hundred deputies
were more than a match for four hundred. Therefore, on June 10, the
Commons opened the attack and summoned the garrison. Mirabeau gave
notice that one of the Paris deputies had an important motion to
submit. The mover was more important than the motion, for this was the
apparition of Sieyès, the most original of the revolutionary
statesmen, who, within a fortnight of this, his maiden speech, laid
low the ancient monarchy of France. He was a new member, for the Paris
elections had been delayed, the forty deputies took their seats three
weeks after the opening, and Sieyès was the last deputy chosen. He
objected to the existing stagnation, believing that there was no duty
to the nobles that outweighed the duty to France. He proposed that the
other orders be formally invited to join, and that the House should
proceed to constitute itself, and to act with them if they came,
without them if they stayed away. The returns were accordingly
verified, and Sieyès then moved that they should declare themselves
the National Assembly, the proper name for that which they claimed to
be.

In spite of Malouet, and even of Mirabeau, on June 17 this motion was
carried by 491 to 90. All taxes became dependent on the Assembly. The
broad principle on which Sieyès acted was that the Commons were really
the nation. The upper classes were not an essential part of it. They
were not even a natural and normal growth, but an offending
excrescence, a negative quantity, to be subtracted, not to be added
up. That which ought not to exist ought not to be represented. The
deputies of the Third Estate appeared for the whole. Alone they were
sufficient to govern it, for alone they were identified with the
common interest.

Sieyès was not solicitous that his invitation should be obeyed, for
the accession of the other orders might displace the majority. Those
who possessed the plenitude of power were bound to employ it. By
axiomatic simplicity more than by sustained argument Sieyès mastered
his hearers.



V

THE TENNIS-COURT OATH


We saw last week that much time was spent in fruitless negotiation
which ended in a deadlock--the Commons refusing to act except in
conjunction with the other orders, and the others insisting on the
separate action which had been prescribed by their instructions and by
the king.

The Commons altered their policy under the influence of Sieyès, who
advised that they should not wait for the others, but should proceed
in their absence. In his famous pamphlet he had argued that they were
really the nation, and had the right on their side. And his theory was
converted into practice, because it now appeared that they had not
only the right, but the power. They knew it, because the clergy were
wavering. Thursday, June 18, the day after the proclamation of the
National Assembly, was a festival. On Friday the clergy divided on the
question of joining. The proposal was negatived, but twelve of its
opponents stated that they would be on the other side if the vote in
common extended only to the verification of returns. The minority at
once accepted the condition, and so became the majority. Others
thereupon acceded, and by six o'clock in the evening 149 ecclesiastics
recorded their votes for the Commons. That 19th of June is a decisive
date, for then the priests went over to the Revolution. The Commons,
by a questionable and audacious act, had put themselves wrong with
everybody when the inferior clergy abandoned the cause of privilege
and came to their rescue.

The dauphin had lately died, and the royal family were living in
retirement at Marly. At ten o'clock in the evening of the vote, the
Archbishops of Paris and Rouen arrived there, described the event to
the king, and comforted him by saying that the prelates, all but four,
had remained true to their order. They were followed by a very
different visitor, whom it behoved the king to hear, for he was a man
destined to hold the highest offices of State under many governments,
to be the foremost minister of the republic, the empire, and the
monarchy, to predominate over European sovereigns at Vienna, over
European statesmen in London, and to be universally feared, and hated,
and admired, as the most sagacious politician in the world.

Talleyrand came to Marly at dead of night, and begged a secret
audience of the king. He was not a favourite at court. He had obtained
the see of Autun only at the request of the assembled clergy of
France, and when the pope selected him for a cardinal's hat, Lewis
prevented his nomination. He now refused to see him, and sent him to
his brother. The Count d'Artois was in bed, but the bishop was his
friend, and was admitted. He said it was necessary that the Government
should act with vigour. The conduct of the Assembly was illegal and
foolish, and would ruin the monarchy unless the States-General were
dissolved. Talleyrand would undertake, with his friends, some of whom
came with him and were waiting below, to form a new administration.
The Assembly, compromised and discredited by the recent outbreak,
would be dismissed, a new one would be elected on an altered
franchise, and a sufficient display of force would prevent resistance.
Talleyrand proposed to reverse the policy of Necker, which he thought
feeble and vacillating, and which had thrown France into the hands of
Sieyès. With a stronger grasp he meant to restore the royal
initiative, in order to carry out the constitutional changes which the
nation expected.

The count put on his clothes, and carried the matter to the king. He
detested Necker with his concessions, and welcomed the prospect of
getting rid of him for a minister of his own making taken from his own
circle. He came back with a positive refusal. Then Talleyrand,
convinced that it was henceforth vain to serve the king, gave notice
that every man must be allowed to shift for himself; and the count
admitted that he was right. They remembered that interview after
twenty-five years of separation, when one of the two held in his hands
the crown of France, which the other, in the name of Lewis XVIII.,
came to receive from him.

The king repulsed Talleyrand because he had just taken a momentous
resolution. The time had arrived which Necker had waited for, the time
to interpose with a Constitution so largely conceived, so exactly
defined, so faithfully adapted to the deliberate wishes of the people,
as to supersede and overshadow the Assembly, with its perilous tumult
and its prolonged sterility. He had proposed some such measure early
in May, when it was rejected, and he did not insist. But now the
policy unwisely postponed was clearly opportune. Secret advice came
from liberal public men, urging the danger of the crisis, and the
certainty that the Assembly would soon hurry to extremes. Mirabeau
himself deplored its action, and Malouet had reason to expect a
stouter resistance to the revolutionary argument and the sudden
ascendency of Sieyès. The queen in person, and influential men at
court, entreated Necker to modify his constitutional scheme; but he
was unshaken, and the king stood by him. It was decided that the
comprehensive measure intended to distance and annul the Assembly
should be proclaimed from the throne on the following Monday.

This was the rock that wrecked the Talleyrand ministry, and it
destroyed more solid structures than that unsubstantial phantom. The
plan was statesmanlike, and it marks the summit of Necker's career.
But he neglected to communicate with men whom he might well have
trusted, and the secret was fatal, for it was kept twelve hours too
long. As the princes had refused the use of their riding-school, there
were only three buildings dedicated to the States-General, instead of
four, and the Commons, by reason of their numbers, occupied the great
hall where the opening ceremony was held, and which had now to be made
ready for the royal sitting.

Very early in the morning of Saturday, June 20, the president of the
Assembly, the astronomer Bailly, received notice from the master of
ceremonies that the hall was wanted, in order to be prepared for
Monday, and that the meetings of the Commons were meanwhile suspended
for that day. Bailly was not taken by surprise, for a friend, who went
about with his eyes open, had warned him of what was going on. But the
Assembly had formally adjourned to that day, the members were
expecting the appointed meeting, and the message came too late. Bailly
deemed that it was a studied insult, the angry retort of Government,
and the penalty of the recent vote, and he inferred, most erroneously
as we know, that the coming speech from the throne would be hostile.
Therefore he gave all the solemnity he could to the famous scene that
ensued. Appearing at the head of the indignant deputies, he was denied
admission. The door was only opened that he might fetch his papers,
and the National Assembly that represented France found itself, by
royal command, standing outside on the pavement, at the hour fixed for
its deliberations.

At that instant the doubts and divisions provoked by the overriding
logic of Sieyès disappeared. Moderate and Revolutionist felt the same
resentment, and had the same sense of being opposed by a power that
was insane. There were some, and Sieyès among them, who proposed that
they should adjourn to Paris. But a home was found in the empty Tennis
Court hard by. There, with a view to baffle dangerous designs, and
also to retrieve his own waning influence, Mounier assumed the lead.
He moved that they should bind themselves by oath never to separate
until they had given a Constitution to France; and all the deputies
immediately swore it, save one, who added "Dissentient" to his name,
and who was hustled out by a backdoor, to save him from the fury of
his colleagues. This dramatic action added little to that which had
been done three days earlier. The deputies understood that a
Constituent Assembly must be single, that the legislative power had,
for the purpose, been transferred to them, and could not be restrained
or recalled. Their authority was not to be limited by an upper house,
for both upper houses were absorbed; nor by the king, for they
regarded neither his sanction nor his veto; nor by the nation itself,
for they refused, by their oath, to be dissolved.

The real event of the Tennis Court was to unite all parties against
the crown, and to make them adopt the new policy of radical and
indefinite change, outdoing what Sieyès himself had done. The
mismanagement of the court drove its friends into the van of the
movement. The last Royalist defender of safe measures had vanished
through the backdoor.

Malouet had tendered a clause saving the royal power; but it was
decided not to put it, lest it should be refused. Mirabeau, in whose
eyes the decree of the 17th portended civil war, now voted,
reluctantly, with the rest.

Whilst the Assembly held its improvised and informal meeting at
Versailles, the king sat in council at Marly on Necker's magnanimous
proposal. After a struggle, and with some damaging concessions, the
minister carried his main points. They were gathering their papers,
and making ready to disperse, when a private message was brought to
the king. He went out, desiring them to wait his return. Montmorin
turned to Necker and said, "It is the queen, and all is over." The
king came back, and adjourned the council to Monday at Versailles. And
it was in this way that the report of what had happened that morning
told upon the Government, and the enthusiasm of the Tennis Court
frustrated the pondered measures of the most liberal minister in
Europe. For it was, in truth, the queen, and in that brief interval it
was decreed that France, so near the goal in that month of June,
should wade to it through streams of blood during the twenty-five most
terrible years in the history of Christian nations.

The council of ministers, which was adjourned in consequence of the
meeting in the Tennis Court, went over to the _noblesse_, and restored
in their interest the principles of the old régime. It resolved that
the king should rescind the recent acts of the Assembly; should
maintain inviolate the division of orders, allowing the option of
debate in common only in cases where neither privilege nor the
Constitution were affected; that he should confirm feudal rights and
even fiscal immunities, unless voluntarily abandoned, and should deny
admission to public employment irrespective of class. Necker's
adversaries prevailed, and the ancient bulwarks were set up again, in
favour of the aristocracy.

Still, a portion of the great scheme was preserved, and the
concessions on the part of the crown were such that some weeks earlier
they would have been hailed with enthusiasm, and the consistent logic
of free institutions exercises a coercive virtue that made many think
that the King's Speech of June 23 ought to have been accepted as the
greater charter of France. That was the opinion of Arthur Young; of
Gouverneur Morris, who had given the final touches to the American
Constitution; of Jefferson, the author of the _Declaration of
Independence_; and afterwards even of Sieyès himself.

On this account, Necker wavered to the last moment, and on the Tuesday
morning prepared to attend the king. His friends, his family, his
daughter, the wonder of the age, made him understand that he could not
sanction by his presence, at a solemn crisis, an act which reversed
one essential half of his policy. He dismissed his carriage, took off
his court suit, and left the vacant place to proclaim his fall. That
evening he sent in his resignation. His significant absence; the
peremptory language of the king; the abrogation of their decrees,
which was effectual and immediate, while the compensating promises
were eventual, and not yet equivalent to laws; the avowed resolve to
identify the Crown with the nobles, struck the Assembly with
consternation. The removal of the constitutional question to the list
of matters to be debated separately was, in the existing conditions
of antagonism, the end of free government. And indeed the position
occupied by the king was untenable, because the division of orders
into three Houses had already come to an end. For on Monday the 22nd,
in the Church of St. Lewis, 149 ecclesiastical deputies, the
Archbishops of Bordeaux and Vienne at their head, had joined the
Commons. It was a step which they were legally authorised and
competent to take, and the Revolution now had a majority not only of
individual votes, but of orders. It was a forlorn hope, therefore, to
separate them by compulsion.

Lewis XVI. ended by declaring that he was determined to accomplish the
happiness of his people, and that if the deputies refused to
co-operate he would accomplish it alone; and he charged them to
withdraw. The Commons were in their own House, and, with the majority
of the clergy, they resumed their seats, uncertain of the future.
Their uncertainty was all at once auspiciously relieved. Dreux Brézé,
the master of ceremonies, reappeared, and as he brought a message from
the king he wore his plumed hat upon his head. With clamorous outcries
he was told to uncover, and he uttered a reply so insolent that his
son, describing the scene in public after many years, declined to
repeat his words. Therefore, when he asked whether they had heard the
king's order to depart, he received a memorable lesson. Mirabeau
exclaimed, "Yes, but if we are to be expelled, we shall yield only to
force." Brézé answered, correctly, that he did not recognise Mirabeau
as the organ of the Assembly, and he turned to the president. But
Bailly rose above Mirabeau, and said, "The nation is assembled here,
and receives no orders." At these words the master of ceremonies, as
if suddenly aware of the presence of majesty, retired, walking
backwards to the door. It was at that moment that the old order
changed and made place for the new. For Sieyès, who possessed the good
gift of putting a keen edge to his thoughts, who had begun his career
in Parliament ten days before by saying, "It is time to cut the
cables," now spoke, and with superb simplicity thus defined the
position: "What you were yesterday you are now. Let us pass to the
order of the day." In this way the monarchy, as a force distinct from
a form, was not assailed, or abolished, or condemned, but passed over.
Assault, abolition, condemnation were to follow, and already there
were penetrating eyes that caught, in the distance, the first gleam of
the axe. "The king," said Mirabeau, "has taken the road to the
scaffold."

The abdication of prerogative, which the king offered on June 23, went
far; but the people demanded surrender in regard to privilege. The
Assembly, submitting to the geometrical reasoning of Sieyès and to the
surprise of the Tennis Court, had frightened him into an alliance with
the nobles, and he linked his cause to theirs. He elected to stand or
fall with interests not his own, with an order which was powerless to
help him, which could make no return for his sacrifice in their
behalf, which was unable for one hour to defend itself, and was about
to perish by its own hand. The failure of June 23 was immediately
apparent. The Assembly, having dismissed Dreux Brézé, was not molested
further. Necker consented to resume office, with greatly increased
popularity. Under the influence of the royal declaration forty-seven
nobles, being a portion only of the Liberal minority, went over to the
Commons, and Talleyrand followed at the head of twenty-five prelates.
Then the king gave way. He instructed the resisting magnates to join
the National Assembly. In very sincere and solemn terms they warned
him that by such a surrender he was putting off his crown. The Count
d'Artois rejoined that the king's life would be in danger if they
persisted. There was one young nobleman rising rapidly to fame as a
gracious and impressive speaker, whom even this appeal to loyal hearts
failed to move. "Perish the monarch," cried Cazalès, "but not the
monarchy!"

Lewis underwent the humiliation of revoking, on June 27, what he had
ceremoniously promulgated on the 23rd, because there was a fatal
secret. Paris was agitated, and the people promised the deputies to
stand by them at their need. But what could they effect at Versailles
against the master of so many legions? Just then a mutiny broke out in
the French guards, the most disciplined body of troops in the capital,
and betrayed the key to the hollow and unstable counsels of the
Government. The army could not be trusted. Necker suspected it as
early as February. In the last week of June, the English, Prussian,
and Venetian envoys report that the crown was disabled because it was
disarmed. The regiments at hand would not serve against the national
representatives. It was resolved to collect faithful bands of Swiss,
Alsatians, and Walloons. Ten foreign regiments, near 30,000 men in
all, were hurried to the scene. They were the last hope of royalism.
Trusty friends were informed that the surrender was only to last until
the frontier garrisons could be brought to Versailles. D'Artois
confided to one of them that many heads must fall. And he uttered the
sinister proverb which became historic in another tragedy: If you want
an omelette you must not be afraid of breaking eggs.



VI

THE FALL OF THE BASTILLE


After the dramatic intervention of the Marquis de Brézé, the king's
speech of June 23 was never seriously considered by the Assembly. Yet
the concessions, which it made to the spirit of political progress,
satisfied philosophic observers, and there had been no time in English
history where changes so extensive, proceeding from the Crown, would
have failed to conciliate the people. It was a common belief in those
days, expressly sanctioned by the Economists, that secondary
liberties, carried far enough, are worth more than formal securities
for the principle of self-government. One is of daily use and
practical advantage; the other is of the domain of theory, dubiously
beneficial, and without assurance of enlightenment and justice. A
wise, honest, and intelligent administration gives more to men than
the established reign of uncertain opinion. These arguments had more
weight with philosophers than with the deputies, for it was already
decided that they must make the Constitution. All the king offered,
and a great deal more, they intended to take. Much that he insisted on
preserving they were resolved to destroy. The offer, at its best, was
vitiated by the alloy: for the most offensive privileges, immunities,
and emoluments of rank were to be perpetuated, and it was against
these that the fiercest force of the revolutionary movement was
beating. In order that they might be abolished, the nation tendered
its indefeasible support, its unconquerable power, to its
representatives.

If the Assembly, content with the advantage gained over the king, had
surrendered unconditionally to the nobles, and assented, for a few
political reforms, to the social degradation of the democracy, they
would have betrayed their constituents. On that consideration they
were compelled to act. They acted also on the principle, which was not
new, which came down indeed from mediæval divines, but which was newly
invested with universal authority, that the law is not the will of the
sovereign that commands, but of the nation that obeys. It was the very
marrow of the doctrine that obstruction of liberty is crime, that
absolute authority is not a thing to be consulted, but a thing to be
removed, and that resistance to it is no affair of interest or
convenience, but of sacred obligation. Every drop of blood shed in the
American conflict was shed in a cause immeasurably inferior to theirs,
against a system more legitimate by far than that of June 23. Unless
Washington was an assassin, it was their duty to oppose, if it might
be, by policy, if it must be, by force, the mongrel measure of
concession and obstinacy which the Court had carried against the
proposals of Necker. That victory was reversed, and the success of the
Commons was complete. They had brought the three orders into one; they
had compelled the king to retract his declaration and to restore his
disgraced minister; they had exposed the weakness of their oppressors,
and they had the nation at their back.

On June 27, in the united Assembly, Mirabeau delivered an address of
mingled triumph and conciliation, which was his first act of
statesmanship. He said that the speech from the throne contained large
and generous views that proved the genuine liberality of the king. He
desired to receive them gratefully without the drawbacks imposed by
unthinking advisers, and to respect the just rights of the _noblesse_.
He took the good without the evil, extricating Lewis from his
entanglement, and tracing the line by which he might have advanced to
great results. "The past," he said, "has been the history of wild
beasts. We are inaugurating the history of men; for we have no weapon
but discussion, and no adversary but prejudice."

Their victory brought loss as well as gain to the Commons, and there
was reason to think that the counsel of Sieyès, to let the other
orders take their own separate course, was founded on wisdom. Their
opponents, joining under compulsion, had the means as well as the will
of doing them injury.

For the clergy there was a brief season of popular favour. The country
priests, sprung from the peasantry, and poorly off, shared many of
their feelings. The patronage of the State went to men of birth; and
one of these, the Archbishop of Aix, had proclaimed his belief that,
if anybody was to be exempt from taxation, it ought to be the
impoverished layman, not the wealthy ecclesiastic. When it chanced
that the Committee of Constitution was elected without any member of
the clergy upon it, the Commons raised a cry that they should be
introduced in their proportion. They, in a fraternal spirit, refused.
And the second Committee, the one that actually drew up the scheme,
was composed of three churchmen to five laymen. The nobles were not
reconciled, and refused to unite with men of English views in a Tory
party. To them, the separation of orders was a fundamental maxim of
security, which they had inherited, which they were bound to hand
down. They looked on debate in common as provisional, as an exception,
to be rectified as soon as might be. They kept up the practice of also
meeting separately. On July 3 there were one hundred and thirty-eight
present; and on the 11th there still were eighty. They refused to vote
in the divisions of the joint Assembly, because their instructions
forbade. The scruple was sincere, and was shared by Lafayette; but
others meant it as a protest that the Assembly was not lawfully
constituted. Therefore, July 7, Talleyrand moved to annul the
instructions. They could not be allowed to control the Assembly; they
ought not to influence individuals. The constituencies contribute to a
decision; they cannot resist it. Whatever the original wish of the
electors, the final act belonged to the legislature. The king himself,
on June 27, had declared the imperative mandates unconstitutional.
But the deputies, in declaring themselves permanent, had cut
themselves adrift from their constituents. The instructions had become
the sole security that the Constitution would remain within the limits
laid down by the nation, the sole assurance against indefinite change.
They alone determined the line of advance, and gave protection to
monarchy, property, religion, against the headlong rush of opinion,
and the exigencies of popular feeling.

Sieyès, who expected no good from the co-operation of the orders which
he condemned, and who thought a nobleman or prelate who did not vote
better than one who voted wrong, urged that the question did not
affect the Assembly, but the constituencies, and might be left to
them. He carried his amendment by seven hundred to twenty-eight.

Meantime the party that had prevailed on June 23 and had succumbed on
the 27th was at work to recover the lost position. Lewis had retained
the services of Necker, without dismissing the colleagues who baffled
him. He told him that he would not accept his resignation now, but
would choose the time for it. Necker had not the acuteness to
understand that he would be dismissed as soon as his enemies felt
strong enough to do without him. A king who deserted his friends and
reversed his accepted policy because there was no force he could
depend on, was a king with a short shrift before him. He became the
tool of men who did not love him, and who now despised him.

The resources wanting at the critical moment were, however, within
reach, and the scheme proposed to the Count d'Artois by the wily
bishop a few nights before was revived by less accomplished plotters.
On July 1 it became known that a camp of 25,000 men was to be formed
near Versailles under Marshal de Broglie, a veteran who gathered his
laurels in the Seven Years' War, and soon the Terrace was crowded with
officers from the north and east, who boasted that they had sharpened
their sabres, and meant to make short work of the ambitious lawyers,
the profligate noblemen, and unfrocked priests who were ruining the
country.

In adopting these measures the king did not regard himself as the
originator of violence. There had been disturbances in Paris, and at
Versailles the archbishop of Paris had been assaulted, and compelled
to promise that he would go over to the Assembly. The leader on the
other side, Champion de Cicé, archbishop of Bordeaux, came to him, and
entreated him not to yield to faction, not to keep a promise extorted
by threats. He replied that he had given his word and meant to keep
it.

Forty years later Charles X. declared that his brother had mounted the
scaffold because, at this juncture, he would not mount his horse. In
truth Lewis believed that the deputies, cut off from Paris by visible
battalions, would be overawed, that the army of waverers would be
accessible to influence, to promises, remonstrances, and rewards, that
it would be safer to coerce the Assembly by intimidation than to
dissolve it. He had refused to listen to Talleyrand; he still rejected
the stronger part of his scheme. By judicious management he hoped that
the Assembly might be brought to undo its own usurping and unwarranted
work, and that he would be able to recover the position he had taken
up on June 23, the last day on which his policy had been that of a
free agent.

Necker knew no more than everybody else of the warlike array. On July
7 thirty regiments were concentrated; more were within a few days'
march, and the marshal, surrounded by an eager and hurried staff,
surveyed his maps of suburban Paris at his headquarters at Versailles.

The peril grew day by day, and it was time for the Assembly to act.
They were defenceless, but they relied on the people of Paris and on
the demoralisation of the army. Their friends had the command of
money, and large sums were spent in preparing the citizens for an
armed conflict. For the capitalists were on their side, looking to
them to prevent the national bankruptcy which the Court and the nobles
were bringing on. And the Palais Royal, the residence of the Duke of
Orleans, was the centre of an active organisation. Since the king had
proved himself incompetent, helpless, and insincere, men had looked to
the Duke as a popular prince of the Blood, who was also wealthy and
ambitious, and might avail to save the principle of monarchy, which
Lewis had discredited. His friends clung to the idea, and continued to
conspire in his interest after the rest of the world had been repelled
by the defects of his character. For a moment they thought of his son,
who was gifted for that dangerous part as perfectly as the father was
unfit, but his time was to be in a later generation.

The leading men in the Assembly knew their position with accuracy, and
did not exaggerate the danger they were in. On July 10 their shrewd
American adviser, Morris, wrote: "I think the crisis is past without
having been perceived; and now a free Constitution will be the certain
result." And yet there were 30,000 men, commanded by a marshal of
France, ready for action; and several regiments of Swiss, famed for
fidelity and valour, and destined, in the same cause, to become still
more famous, were massed in Paris itself under Besenval, the trusted
soldier of the Court.

On July 8, breaking through the order of debate, Mirabeau rose and the
action began--the action which changed the face of the world, and the
imperishable effects of which will be felt by every one of us, to the
last day of his life. He moved an address to the king, warning him
that, if he did not withdraw his troops, the streets of Paris would
run blood; and proposing that the preservation of order should be
committed to a civic guard. On the following day the Assembly voted
the address, and on the 10th the Count de Clermont Tonnerre, at the
head of a deputation, read it to the king. On the morning of Saturday,
11th, his reply was communicated to the Assembly. He had had three
days to hasten his military preparations. At Paris, the agitators and
organisers employed the time in arranging their counter measures.

The king refused to send away troops which there had been good reason
to collect, but he was ready to move, with the Assembly, to some town
at a distance from the turbid capital. The royal message was tipped
with irony, and the deputies, in spite of Mirabeau, resolved not to
discuss it. After this first thrust Lewis flung away the scabbard.
That day, at council, it was noticed that he was nervous and uneasy,
and disguised his restlessness by feigning sleep. At the end, taking
one of the ministers aside, he gave him a letter for Necker, who was
absent. The letter contained his dismissal, with an order for
banishment.

Necker, who for some days had known that it must come, was at dinner.
He said nothing to his company, and went out, as usual, for a drive.
Then he made for the frontier, and never stopped till he reached
Brussels. Two horsemen who had followed, keeping out of sight, had
orders to arrest him if he changed his course. He travelled up the
Rhine to his own country, on the way to his home by the lake of
Geneva. At the first Swiss hotel he found the Duchess de Polignac. He
had left her at Versailles, the Queen's best friend and the heart of
the intrigue against him; and she was now ruined and an exile, and the
forerunner of the emigration. From her, and from the letters that
quickly followed, forwarded by the Assembly, he learned the events
that had happened since his fall, learned that he was, for one
delirious moment, master of the king, of his enemies, and of the
country.

The astounding news that Necker heard at "The Three Kings" at Bâle was
this. His friends had been disgraced with him, and the chief of the
new ministry was Breteuil, who had been the colleague of Calonne and
Vergennes, and had managed the affair of the Diamond Necklace. He had
directed the policy of those who opposed the National Assembly,
holding himself in the twilight, until strong measures and a strong
man were called for. He now came forward, and proposed that the nobles
should depart in a body, protesting against the methods by which the
States-General had been sunk in the National Assembly. In one day he
brought round twenty-six of the minority to his views. A few remained,
who would make a light day's work for a man of conviction and
resource. But resolute as Breteuil was, the Parisian democracy acted
with still greater quickness and decision, and with a not less certain
aim. On the 12th it became known that Necker had been sent out of the
country, and that the armaments were in the hands of men who meant to
employ them against the people. Paris was in disorder, but the middle
class provided a civic guard for its protection. There were encounters
with the troops, and some blood was shed.

New men began to appear who represented the rising classes: Camille
Desmoulins, a rhetorical journalist, with literary but not political
talent, harangued the people in the garden of the Palais Royal; and
one of the strong men of history, Danton, showed that he knew how to
manage and to direct the masses.

The 13th was a day wasted by Government, spent by Paris in busy
preparation. Men talked wildly of destroying the Bastille, as a sign
that would be understood. Early on July 14 a body of men made their
way to the Invalides, and seized 28,000 stand of arms and some cannon.
At the other extremity of Paris the ancient fortress of the Bastille
towered over the workmen's quarter and commanded the city. Whenever
the guns thundered from its lofty battlements, resistance would be
over, and the conquered arms would be unavailing.

The Bastille not only overshadowed the capital, but it darkened the
hearts of men, for it had been notorious for centuries as the
instrument and the emblem of tyranny. The captives behind its bars
were few and uninteresting; but the wide world knew the horror of its
history, the blighted lives, the ruined families, the three thousand
dishonoured graves within the precincts, and the common voice called
for its destruction as the sign of deliverance. At the elections both
nobles and commons demanded that it should be levelled with the
ground.

As early as the 4th of July Besenval received notice that it would be
attacked. He sent a detachment of Swiss, that raised the garrison to
one hundred and thirty-eight, and he did no more. During the morning
hours, while the invaders of the Invalides were distributing the
plundered arms and ammunition, emissaries penetrated into the
Bastille, under various pretexts, to observe the defences. One
fair-spoken visitor was taken to the top of the dreaded towers, where
he saw that the guns with which the embrasures had bristled, which
were beyond the range of marksmen, and had Paris at their mercy, were
dismantled and could not be fired.

About the middle of the day, when this was known, the attack began. It
was directed by the _Gardes Françaises_, who had been the first to
mutiny, and had been disbanded, and were now the backbone of the
people's army. The siege consisted in efforts to lower the drawbridge.
After several hours the massive walls were unshaken, and the place was
as safe as before the first discharge. But the defenders knew that
they were lost. Besenval was not the man to rescue them by fighting
his way through several miles of streets. They were not provisioned,
and the men urged the governor to make terms before he was compelled.
They had brought down above a hundred of their assailants, without
losing a man. But it was plain that the loss neither of a hundred nor
of a thousand would affect the stern determination of the crowd,
whilst it might increase their fury. Delauney, in his despair, seized
a match, and wanted to fire the magazine. His men remonstrated and
spoke of the dreadful devastation that must follow the explosion. The
man who stayed the hand of the despairing commander, and whose name
was Bécard, deserved a better fate than he met that day, for he was
one of the four or five that were butchered. The men beat a parley,
hoisted the white flag, and obtained, on the honour of a French
officer, a verbal promise of safety.

Then the victors came pouring over the bridge, triumphant over a
handful of Swiss and invalids--triumphant too over thirteen centuries
of monarchy and the longest line of kings. Those who had served in
the regular army took charge of as many prisoners as they could
rescue, carried them to their quarters, and gave them their own beds
to sleep in. The officers who had conducted the unreal attack, and
received the piteous surrender, brought the governor to the Hôtel de
Ville, fighting their way through a murderous crowd. For it was long
believed that Delauney had admitted the people into the first court,
and then had perfidiously shot them down. In his struggles he hurt a
bystander, who chanced to be a cook. The man, prompted, it seems, less
by animosity than by the pride of professional skill, drew a knife and
cut off his head. Flesselles, the chief of the old municipality,
appointed by the Crown, was shot soon after, under suspicion of having
encouraged Delauney to resist.

Dr. Rigby, an Englishman who was at the Palais Royal, has described
what he saw. First came an enormous multitude bearing aloft the keys
of the conquered citadel, with the inscription, "The Bastille is
taken." The joy was indescribable, and strangers shook his hand,
saying, "We too are free men, and there will never more be war between
our countries." Then came another procession, also shouting and
rejoicing; but the bystanders looked on with horror, for the trophies
carried by were the heads of murdered men. For the nation had become
sovereign, and the soldiers who fired upon it were reckoned rebels and
traitors. The foreign envoys were all impressed with the idea that the
vengeance wrought was out of all proportion with the immensity of the
thing achieved. At nightfall the marshal gave orders to evacuate
Paris. Besenval was already in full retreat, and the capital was no
longer in the possession of the king of France.

Meanwhile the National Assembly, aware of the strength of popular
feeling around them, were calm in the midst of danger. Theirs was a
diminished part, while, almost within sight and hearing, history was
being unmade and made by a power superior to their own. On the morning
of the 14th they elected the Committee of Eight who were to draw up
the Constitution. Mounier and the friends of the English model still
prevailed. By evening their chance had vanished, for the English model
includes a king.

Late in the day Noailles brought authentic news of what he had
witnessed; and the Assembly learned, in agitated silence, that the
head of the governor of the impregnable Bastille had been displayed on
a pike about the streets of Paris. Lafayette took the chair, while the
President hurried with Noailles to the palace. They made no impression
there. Lewis informed them that he had recalled his troops, and then
he went to bed, tranquil, and persistently ignoring what it was that
had been done, and what it was that had passed away.

But in the morning, when the Assembly met in disorder, and were about
to send one more deputation, it was found that a change had taken
place in the brief hours of that memorable night. At two o'clock the
king was roused from sleep by one of the great officers of the
household. The intruder, La Rochefoucauld, Duke de Liancourt, was not
a man of talent, but he was universally known as the most benevolent
and the most beneficent of the titled nobles of the realm. He made his
master understand the truth and its significance, and how, in the
capital that day, in every province on the morrow, the authority of
government was at an end. And when Lewis, gradually awaking,
exclaimed, "But this is a great revolt!" Liancourt replied, "No, sir,
it is a great Revolution!" With those historic words the faithful
courtier detached the monarch from his ministers, and obtained control
over him in the deciding days that were to follow. Guided by the duke,
and attended by his brothers, but without the ceremonious glories of
regality, Lewis XVI. went down to the Assembly and made his
submission. In the pathetic solemnity of the scene, the deputies
forgot for a moment their righteous anger and their more righteous
scorn, and the king returned to the palace on foot, in a sudden
procession of triumph, amnestied and escorted by the entire body.

The struggle was over, and the spell was broken; and the Assembly had
to govern France. To establish order a vast deputation repaired to the
Hôtel de Ville, where Lally Tollendal delivered an oration thrilling
with brotherhood and gladness, and appeared, crowned with flowers,
before the people.

To cement the compact between Paris and Versailles, Bailly, the first
president, was placed at the head of the new elective municipality,
and the vice-president, Lafayette, became commander of the National
Guard. This was the first step towards that Commune which was to
exercise so vast an influence over the fortunes of France. It came
into existence of necessity, when the action of Government was
paralysed, and the space which it occupied was untenanted.

The National Guard was an invention of great import, for it was the
army of society distinct from the army of the state, opinion in arms
apart from authority. It was the middle class organised as a force,
against the force above and the force below; and it protected liberty
against the Crown, and property against the poor. It has been ever
since the defence of order and the ruin of governments; for, as it was
the nation itself, nobody was bold enough to fight it. Before the
altar of Notre Dame Lafayette took the oath of fidelity to the people,
and not to the king. He never displayed real capacity for peace or
war; but in the changes of a long life he was true to the early
convictions imbibed in Washington's camp.

On their return from Paris the great deputation reported that the
people demanded the recall of Necker. At last the king dismissed
Breteuil, and charged the Assembly to take charge of a letter to the
banished statesman. His banishment had lasted five days; it was now
the turn of his enemies. On the same night, July 16, the baffled
intriguers went into exile. Lewis himself sent his brother away, for
the safety of himself and of the dynasty. The others followed. The
queen was compelled to dismiss Madame de Polignac, whom she had too
confidently trusted, and she was left alone amongst her enemies. This
was the first emigration. The remaining nobles announced that they
abandoned resistance, and the Assembly was at last united. The fight
was lost and won, and the victor claimed the spoils.

But the Assembly was not the victor, and had contributed little to the
portentous change between the dismissal of Necker and the despatch of
the fleet messenger with his recall. Whilst the deputies served the
national cause by talking, there were plainer men at Paris who had
died for it. The force that risked life and conquered was not at
Versailles. It was Paris that held the fallen power, the power of
governing itself, the Assembly, and France. The predominance of the
capital was the new feature that enabled the monarchy to pass into a
Republic.

The king had become a servant of two masters. Having recanted before
his master at Versailles, it became necessary that he should submit
himself to the new and mysterious authority at the Hôtel de Ville. He
had yielded to representative democracy. He had to pay the same
recognition to direct democracy. It was not safe to leave the Orleans
stronghold entirely in their hands. Between the ministry that was gone
and the ministry to come, Lewis acted by the advice of Liancourt.

Early on July 17 he made his will, heard mass, received communion, and
set out to visit his good city. The queen remained behind, with all
her carriages ready, in order that, at the first signal, she might fly
for her life. At the barrier the king's eye fell, for the first time,
on innumerable armed men, who lined the streets for miles, and wore
strange colours, and did not own him as their chief. Neither the
National Guard, nor the dense crowd behind them, uttered a sound of
welcome. Not a voice was raised, except for the nation and its
deputies.

The peace made between the king and the Assembly did not count here.
All men had to know that there was a distinct authority, to which a
further homage was due, even from the sovereign. At the Hôtel de Ville
the homage was paid. There the king confirmed the new mayor, and
approved what had been done, and he showed himself to the people with
the new cockade, devised by Lafayette, to proclaim that the royal
power which had ruled France since the conversion of Clovis ruled
France no more. He made his way home amid acclamations, regulated by
the commander of the National Guard, like the gloomy and menacing
silence in which he had been received.

A new reign commenced. The head of the great house of Bourbon, the
heir of so much power and glory, on whom rested the tradition of Lewis
XIV., was unfit to exert, under jealous control, the narrow measure of
authority that remained. For the moment there was none. Anarchy in the
capital gave the signal for anarchy in the provinces, and anarchy at
that moment had a terrible meaning.

The deputies who came to Paris, to share the enthusiasm of the moment,
failed to notice the fact that the victorious army which gave liberty
to France and power to the Assembly was largely composed of assassins.
Their crimes disappeared in the blaze of their achievements. Their
support was still needed. It seemed too soon to insult the patriot and
the hero by telling him that he was also a ruffian. The mixed
multitude was thereby encouraged to believe that the slaughter of the
obnoxious was a necessity of critical times. The Russian envoy wrote
on the 19th that the French people displayed the same ferocity as two
centuries before.

On the 22nd, Foulon, one of the colleagues of Breteuil, and his
son-in-law Berthier, also a high official, were massacred by
premeditation in the streets. Neither Bailly, nor Lafayette with all
his cohorts, could protect the life of a doomed man; but a dragoon who
had paraded with the heart of Berthier was challenged, when he came
home to barracks, and cut down by a comrade.

Lally Tollendal brought the matter before the Assembly. His father
inherited the feelings of an exiled Jacobite against Hanoverian
England. He was at Falkirk with Charles Edward, and charged with the
Irish Brigade that broke the English column at Fontenoy. During the
Seven Years' War he commanded in India, and held Pondicherry for ten
months against Coote. Brought home a prisoner, he was released on
parole, that he might stand his trial. He was condemned to death; and
his son, who did not know who he was, was brought to the place of
execution, that they might meet once on earth. But Lally stabbed
himself, and lest justice should be defrauded, he was brought out to
die, with a gag in his mouth to silence protest, some hours before the
time.

The death of Lally is part of the long indictment against the French
judiciary, and his son strove for years to have the sentence reversed.
He came over to England, and understood our system better than any of
his countrymen. Therefore, when Mounier, who was no orator, brought
forward his Constitution, it was Lally who expounded it. By his
emotional and emphatic eloquence he earned a brief celebrity; and in
the Waterloo year he was a Minister of State, _in partibus_, at Ghent.
He became a peer of France, and when he died, in 1830, the name
disappeared. Not many years ago a miserable man, whom nobody knew and
who asked help from nobody, died of want in a London cellar. He was
the son of Lally Tollendal.

It is said that when, on July 22, he denounced the atrocities in
Paris, he overdid the occasion, speaking of himself, of his father, of
his feelings. Barnave, who was a man of honour, and already
conspicuous, was irritated to such a pitch that he exclaimed: "Was
this blood, that they have shed, so pure?"

Long before Barnave expiated his sin upon the scaffold he felt and
acknowledged its enormity. But it is by him and men like him, and not
by the scourings of the galleys, that we can get to understand the
spirit of the time. Two men, more eminent than Barnave, show it still
more clearly. The great chemist Lavoisier wrote to Priestley that if
there had been some excesses, they were committed for the love of
liberty, philosophy, and toleration, and that there was no danger of
such things being done in France for an inferior motive. And this is
the view of Jefferson on the massacres of September: "Many guilty
persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent.
These I deplore as much as anybody. But--it was necessary to use the
arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs,
but blind to a certain degree--was ever such a prize won with so
little innocent blood?" There is a work in twelve stout volumes,
written to prove that it was all the outcome of the Classics, and due
to Harmodius, and Brutus, and Timoleon.

But you will find that murder, approved and acknowledged, is not an
epidemic peculiar to any time, or any country, or any opinion. We need
not include hot-blooded nations of the South in order to define it as
one characteristic of modern Monarchy. You may trace it in the Kings
of France, Francis I., Charles IX., Henry III., Lewis XIII., Lewis
XIV., in the Emperors Ferdinand I. and II., in Elizabeth Tudor and
Mary Stuart, in James and William. Still more if you consider a class
of men, not much worse, according to general estimate, than their
neighbours, that is, the historians. They have praise and hero-worship
for nearly every one of these anointed culprits. The strong man with
the dagger is followed by the weaker man with the sponge. First, the
criminal who slays; then the sophist who defends the slayer.

The royalists pursued the same tradition through the revolutionary
times. Cérutti advised that Mirabeau and Target should be removed by
poison; Chateaubriand wished to poniard Condorcet, and Malesherbes
admired him for it; the name of Georges Cadoudal was held in honour,
because his intended victim was Napoleon; La Rochejaquelein
entertained the same scheme, and made no secret of it to the general,
Ségur. Adair found them indignant at Vienna because Fox had refused to
have the Emperor murdered, and warned him of the plot.

Those who judge morality by the intention have been less shocked at
the crimes of power, where the temptation is so strong and the danger
so slight, than at those committed by men resisting oppression.
Assuredly, the best things that are loved and sought by man are
religion and liberty--they, I mean, and not pleasure or prosperity,
not knowledge or power. Yet the paths of both are stained with
infinite blood; both have been often a plea for assassination, and the
worst of men have been among those who claimed to promote each sacred
cause.

Do not open your minds to the filtering of the fallacious doctrine
that it is less infamous to murder men for their politics than for
their religion or their money, or that the courage to execute the deed
is worse than the cowardice to excuse it. Let us not flinch from
condemning without respite or remission, not only Marat and Carrier,
but also Barnave. Because there may be hanging matter in the lives of
illustrious men, of William the Silent and Farnese, of Cromwell and
Napoleon, we are not to be turned from justice towards the actions,
and still more the thoughts, of those whom we are about to study.

Having said this, I shall endeavour, in that which is before us, to
spare you the spectacles that degrade, and the plaintive severity that
agitates and wearies. The judgment I call for is in the conscience,
not upon the lips, for ourselves, and not for display. "Man," says
Taine, "is a wild beast, carnivorous by nature, and delighting in
blood." That cruel speech is as much confirmed by the events that are
crowding upon us as it has ever been in royal or Christian history.

The Revolution will never be intelligibly known to us until we
discover its conformity to the common law, and recognise that it is
not utterly singular and exceptional, that other scenes have been as
horrible as these, and many men as bad.



VII

THE FOURTH OF AUGUST


We come to-day to the most decisive date in the Revolution, the fall
of the social system of historic France, and the substitution of the
Rights of Man.

When the Assembly was fully constituted, it had to regulate its
procedure. Sir Samuel Romilly, a friend of Dumont, and occasionally of
Mirabeau, sent over an account of the practice of the British
Parliament, with the cumbrous forms, the obstacles to prompt action,
the contrivances to favour a minority, and to make opposition nearly
equal to government. The French required more expeditious methods.
They had a single Assembly with a known and well-defined commission,
and the gravest danger of the hour was obstruction and delay. Every
member obtained the right of initiative, and could submit a motion in
writing. The Assembly might, after debate, refuse to consider it; but
if not arrested on the threshold, it might be discussed and voted and
passed in twenty-four hours. The security for deliberation was in the
Bureaux. The Assembly was divided into thirty groups or committees, of
nearly forty members each, who met separately, the Assembly in the
morning, the Bureaux in the evening. This plan ensured thorough and
sincere discussion, for men spoke their genuine thoughts, where there
was no formality, no reporter, no stranger in the gallery. The Bureaux
were disliked and suspected by the excluded public. The electorate,
experiencing for the first time the sensation of having deputies at
work to do their will, desired to watch them, and insisted on the
master's right to look after his man. Representation was new; and to
every reader of Rousseau, of Turgot, or of Mably, it was an object of
profound distrust. The desire to uphold the supremacy of the deputing
power over the deputed, of the constituent over his member, was
distinctly part of the great literary inheritance common to them all.
As the mandate was originally imperative, the giver of the mandate
claimed the right of seeing to its execution. The exercise of powers
that were defined and limited, that were temporary and revocable,
called for scrutiny and direct control.

The Bureaux did not last, and their disappearance was a disaster.
Party, as the term is used in the constitutional vocabulary, was not
yet developed; and no organisation possessed the alternate power of
presenting ministers to the Crown. The main lines that divided opinion
came to light in the debates of September, and the Assembly fell into
factions that were managed by their clubs. The President held office
for a fortnight, and each new election indicated the movement of
opinion, the position of parties, the rise of reputations. The united
Assembly did honour to the acceding orders. The first presidents were
prelates and men of rank. Out of six elections only one fell to a
commoner, until the end of September, when the leader of the Liberal
Conservatives, Mounier, was chosen, at what proved a moment of danger.
In the same way, the thirty chairmen of the Bureaux were, with
scarcely an exception, always taken from the clergy or the nobles.

As Mounier, with his friends, had dominated in the constitutional
committee of thirty, and was now paramount in the new committee of
eight, there was some prospect of a coalition, by which, in return for
their aid in carrying the English model, the nobles would obtain easy
terms in the liquidation of privilege. That is the parliamentary
situation. That is the starting-point of the transactions that we have
now to follow.

During the days spent in making terms between the king, the Assembly,
and the capital, the provinces were depending on Paris for news, for
opinions, and direction. They were informed that the Parisians had
made themselves masters of the royal fortress, and had expelled the
royal authority; that the king and the Assembly had accepted and
approved the action; that there was no executive ministry, either old
or new; and that the capital was providing for its own security and
administration. The towns soon had imitations of the disorders that
had been so successful, and quickly repressed them; for the towns were
the seat of the middle class, the natural protectors of acquired
property, and defenders of order and safety. In country districts the
process of disintegration was immediate, the spontaneous recovery was
slow. For the country was divided between the nobles who were rich,
and their dependents who were poor. And the poverty of one class was
ultimately due to innumerable devices for increasing the wealth of the
other. And now there was nobody in authority over them, nobody to keep
peace between them.

The first effect of the taking of the Bastille, the effacement of
royalty, the suspension of the ministerial office, was the rising of
the cottage against the castle, of the injured peasant against the
privileged landlord, who, apart from any fault of his own, by
immemorial process of history and by the actual letter of the law, was
his perpetual and inevitable enemy. The events of the week between
July 11 and 17 proclaimed that the authorised way to obtain what you
wanted was to employ the necessary violence. If it was thorough and
quick enough, there would be no present resistance, and no subsequent
complaint. And if there was some excess in the way of cruelty and
retribution, it was sure of amnesty on the ground of intolerable
provocation and of suffering endured too long. The king had accepted
his own humiliation as if it had been as good as due to him. He could
not do more for others than for himself. His brief alliance with the
aristocracy was dissolved. He was powerless for their defence, as they
were for their own. By their formal act of submission to the Assembly
on July 16, they acknowledged that their cause was lost with the
Bastille. They neglected to make terms with the enemy at their homes.

The appalling thing in the French Revolution is not the tumult but the
design. Through all the fire and smoke we perceive the evidence of
calculating organisation. The managers remain studiously concealed and
masked; but there is no doubt about their presence from the first.
They had been active in the riots of Paris, and they were again active
in the provincial rising. The remnant of the upper classes formed a
powerful minority at Versailles; and if they acted as powerful
minorities do, if they entered into compacts and combinations, they
could compound for the loss of fiscal immunity by the salvation of
social privilege. The people would continue to have masters--masters,
that is, not of their own making. They would be subject to powers
instituted formerly, whilst the Government itself obtained its
credentials for the day, and there would still be an intermediate body
between the nation and the sovereign. Wealth artificially constituted,
by means of laws favouring its accumulation in a class, and
discouraging its dispersion among all, would continue to predominate.

France might be transformed after the likeness of England; but the
very essence of the English system was liberty founded on inequality.
The essence of the French ideal was democracy, that is, as in America,
liberty founded on equality. Therefore it was the interest of the
democratic or revolutionary party that the next step should be taken
after the manner of the last, that compulsion, which had answered so
well with the king, should be tried on the nobles, that the methods
applied at Paris should be extended to the Provinces, for there the
nobles predominated. A well-directed blow struck at that favoured and
excepted moment, when the country was ungoverned, might alter for
ever, and from its foundation, the entire structure of society.
Liberty had been secured; equality was within reach. The political
revolution ensured the prompt success of the social revolution. Such
an opportunity of suppressing compromise, and sweeping the historical
ruin away, had never been known in Europe.

While the local powers were painfully constituting themselves, there
was a priceless interval for action. The king had given way to the
middle class; the nobles would succumb to the lower, and the rural
democracy would be emancipated like the urban. This is the second
phase of that reign of terror which, as Malouet says, began with the
Bastille. Experience had shown the efficacy of attacking castles
instead of persons, and the strongholds of feudalism were assailed
when the stronghold of absolutism had fallen.

It is said that one deputy, Duport, a magistrate of the parliament of
Paris, had 400,000 francs to spend in raising the country against the
nobles at the precise moment of their weakness. The money was scarcely
needed, for the rioters were made to believe that they were acting in
obedience to the law. One of their victims wrote, August 3, to
Clermont Tonnerre that they were really sorry to behave in that way
against good masters, but they were compelled by imperative commands
from the king. He adds that seven or eight castles in his
neighbourhood were attacked by their vassals, all believing that the
king desired it. The charters and muniments were the main object of
pillage and destruction, for it was believed that claims which could
not be authenticated could not be enforced. Often the castle itself
was burnt with the parchments it contained, and some of the owners
perished.

The disorders raged in many parts of France. A district east and
south-east of the centre suffered most. Those provinces had continued
long to be parts of the Empire; and we shall see hereafter what that
implies. The peasants of Eastern France rose up in arms to overthrow
the ancient institutions of society, which the peasants of the West
gave their lives to restore.

Rumours of all this desolation soon penetrated to the Assembly, and on
August 3 it was officially reported that property was at the mercy of
gangs of brigands, that no castle, no convent, no farm-house was safe.
A committee moved to declare that no pretext could justify the
refusal to pay the same feudal dues as before. Duport proposed that
the motion be sent back to the Bureaux. The Assembly came to no
conclusion. In truth, the thing proposed was impossible. The Commons,
who now prevailed, could not, after sitting three months, re-impose,
even provisionally, burdens which were odious, which their
Instructions condemned, and which they all knew to be incapable of
defence. There had been time to provide: the crisis now found them
unprepared. The Court advised the nobles that nothing could save them
but a speedy surrender. They also were informed, by Barère; that some
of his friends intended to move the abolition of fiscal and feudal
privilege. They replied that they would do it themselves. Virieu, who
afterwards disappeared in a sortie, during the siege of Lyons, said to
a friend: "There are only two means of calming an excited populace,
kindness and force. We have no force; we hope to succeed by kindness."
They knew that precious time had been lost, and they resolved that the
surrender should be so ample as to be meritorious. It was to be not
the redress of practical grievances, but the complete establishment of
the new principle, equality.

At a conference held on the evening of August 3 it was agreed that the
self-sacrifice of the ancient aristocracy of France, and the
institution in its place of a society absolutely democratic, should be
made by the Duke d'Aiguillon, the owner of vast domains, who was about
to forfeit several thousands a year. But on August 4 the first to
speak was Noailles; then d'Aiguillon, followed by a deputy from
Brittany. You cannot repress violence, said the Breton, unless you
remove the injustice which is the cause of it. If you mean to proclaim
the Rights of Man, begin with those which are most flagrantly
violated. They proposed that rights abandoned to the State should be
ceded unconditionally, and that rights abandoned to the people should
be given up in return for compensation. They imagined that the
distinction was founded on principle; but nobody ever ascertained the
dividing line between that which was property and that which was
abuse. The want of definiteness enabled the landlords afterwards to
attempt the recovery of much debatable ground, and involved, after
long contention, the ultimate loss of all.

The programme was excessively complicated, and required years to be
carried out. The nobles won the day with their demand to be
compensated; but Duport already spoke the menacing words: "Injustice
has no right to subsist, and the price of injustice has no right to
subsist." The immensity of the revolution, which these changes
implied, was at once apparent. For it signified that liberty, which
had been known only in the form of privilege, was henceforward
identified with equality. The nobles lost their jurisdiction; the
corporation of judges lost their right of holding office by purchase.
All classes alike were admitted to all employments. When privilege
fell, provinces lost it as well as orders. One after the other,
Dauphiné, Provence, Brittany, Languedoc, declared that they renounced
their historic rights, and shared none but those which were common to
all Frenchmen. Servitude was abolished; and on the same principle,
that all might stand on the same level before the law, justice was
declared gratuitous.

Lubersac, bishop of Chartres, the friend and patron of Sieyès, moved
the abolition of the game laws, which meant the right of preserving on
another man's land. It was a right which necessarily followed the
movement of that night; but it led men to say that the clergy gave
away generously what belonged to somebody else. It was then proposed
that the tithe should be commuted; and the clergy showed themselves as
zealous as the laity to carry out to their own detriment the doctrine
that imposed so many sacrifices.

The France of history vanished on August 4, and the France of the new
democracy took its place. The transfer of property from the upper
class to the lower was considerable. The peasants' income was
increased by about 60 per cent. Nobody objected to the tremendous
loss, or argued to diminish it. Each class, recognising what was
inevitable, and reconciled to it, desired that it should be seen how
willingly and how sincerely it yielded. None wished to give time for
others to remind them of inconsistency, or reserve, or omission, in
the clean sweep they had undertaken to make. In their competition
there was hurry and disorder. One characteristic of the time was to be
unintelligent in matters relating to the Church, and they did not know
how far the clergy was affected by the levelling principle, or that in
touching tithe they were setting an avalanche in motion. At one
moment, Lally, much alarmed, had passed a note to the President
begging him to adjourn, as the deputies were losing their heads. The
danger arose, as was afterwards seen, when the Duke du Chatelet
proposed the redemption of tithe.

The nobles awoke next day with some misgiving that they had gone too
far, and with some jealousy of the clergy, who had lost less, and who
had contributed to their losses. On August 7 Necker appeared before
the Assembly and exposed the want of money, and the need of a loan,
for the redistribution of property on August 4 did nothing to the
immediate profit of the Exchequer. But the clergy, vying with their
rivals in generosity, had admitted the right of the nation to apply
Church property to State uses.

On the following day the Marquis de Lacoste proposed that the new debt
should be paid out of the funds of the clergy, and that tithe should
be simply abolished. He expressed a wish that no ecclesiastic should
be a loser, and that the parish clergy should receive an accession of
income. The clergy offered no resistance, and made it impossible for
others to resist. They offered to raise a loan in behalf of the State;
but it was considered that this would give them a position of undue
influence, and it would not have satisfied the nobles, who saw the way
to recover from the clergy the loss they had sustained. In this debate
the Abbé Sieyès delivered his most famous speech. He had no
fellow-feeling with his brethren, but he intended that the tithe
should enrich the State. Instead of that it was about to be given
back to the land, and the landowners would receive a sum of nearly
three millions a year, divided in such a way that the richest would
receive in proportion to his wealth. It would indemnify the laity. Not
they, but the clergy, were now to bear the charge of August 4. There
was one deputy who would be richer by 30,000 francs a year upon the
whole transaction. The landlords who had bought their estates subject
to the tithe had no claim to receive it. As all this argument was
heard with impatience, Sieyès uttered words that have added no little
to his moral stature: "They fancy that they can be free and yet not be
just!" He had been, for three months, the foremost personage in the
nation. He was destined in after years, and under conditions strangely
altered, to be once more the dictator of France. More than once,
without public favour, but by mere power of political thinking, he
governed the fortunes of the State. He never again possessed the heart
of the people.

The Assembly deemed it a good bargain to restore the tithe to the
land; and the clergy knew so well that they had no friends that, on
August 11, they solemnly renounced their claim. In this way the
Assembly began the disendowment of the Church, which was the primitive
cause of the Reign of Terror and the Civil War.

All these things are an episode. The business of the Assembly, from
the end of July, was the Constitution. The first step towards it was
to define the rights for which it exists. Such a declaration,
suggested by America, had been demanded by the electors in several of
the instructions, and had been faithfully reproduced by Mounier, July
9. It appeared, on the following day, that Lafayette had already got
the required document in his pocket. Another text was produced, ten
days later, by Sieyès, and another by Mounier, which was a revision of
Lafayette's. Several more came out soon after.

On July 27 the archbishop of Bordeaux, in laying down the outline of
the new institutions, observed that it was necessary to found them on
principles defined and fixed. On the same day Clermont Tonnerre
brought forward his analysis of the available ideas contained in the
instructions. He went at once to the heart of the matter. Some
instructions, he said, contemplated no more than the reform of
existing institutions, with the maintenance of controlling tradition
and the historic chain. Others conceived an entirely new system of
laws and government. The distinction between the two was this, that
some required a code of principles which must be the guide in
preparing the Constitution; the others wished for no such assistance,
but thought it possible to bind past and future together. The main
conflict was between the authority of history and the Rights of Man.
The Declaration was the signal of those who meant to rescue France
from the ancestors who had given it tyranny and slavery as an
inheritance. Its opponents were men who would be satisfied with good
government, in the spirit of Turgot and the enlightened reformers of
his time, who could be happy if they were prosperous, and would never
risk prosperity and peace in the pursuit of freedom.

Those who imagined that France possessed a submerged Constitution that
might be extracted from her annals had a difficult task. Lanjuinais
desired to sail by a beacon and to direct the politics of 1789 by a
charter of 864. There was a special reason, less grotesque than the
archæology of Lanjuinais, which made men averse to the Declaration.
Liberty, it was said, consists in the reign of the national will, and
the national will is known by national custom. Law ought to spring
from custom, and to be governed by it, not by independent, individual
theory that defies custom. You have to declare the law, not to make
it, and you can only declare what experience gives you. The best
government devised by reason is less free than a worse government
bequeathed by time. Very dimly, ideas which rose to power in other
days and evolved the great force of nationality, were at work against
a system which was to be new and universal, renouncing the influence
both of time and place. The battle was fought against the men of the
past, against a history which was an unbroken record of the defeat
and frustration of freedom. But the declaration of rights was more
needful still against dangers on the opposite side, those that were
coming more than those that were going out. People were quite resolved
to be oppressed no more by monarchy or aristocracy, but they had no
experience or warning of oppression by democracy. The classes were to
be harmless; but there was the new enemy, the State.

No European knew what security could be needed or provided for the
individual from the collected will of the people. They were protected
from government by authority or by minority; but they made the
majority irresistible, and the _plébiscite_ a tyranny.

The Americans were aware that democracy might be weak and
unintelligent, but also that it might be despotic and oppressive. And
they found out the way to limit it, by the federal system, which
suffers it to exist nowhere in its plenitude. They deprived their
state governments of the powers that were enumerated, and the central
government of the powers that were reserved. As the Romans knew how
monarchy would become innocuous, by being divided, the Americans
solved the more artful problem of dividing democracy into two.

Many Frenchmen were convinced that Federalism would be the really
liberal policy for them. But the notion was at once pushed aside by
Mounier, and obtained no hearing. And the division of powers, which he
substituted, was rejected in its turn. They would not admit that one
force should be checked and balanced by another. They had no resource
but general principles, to abolish the Past and secure the Future. By
declaring them, they raised up an ideal authority over the government
and the nation, and established a security against the defects of the
Constitution and the power of future rulers. The opponents of the
Declaration fought it on the proposal to add a declaration of duties.
The idea was put forward by the most learned of the deputies, the
Jansenist Camus, and the clergy supported him with energy. The
Assembly decided that a system of rights belonged to politics, and a
system of duties to ethics, and rejected the motion, on the morning of
the 4th of August, by 570 to 433.

This was the deciding division on the question of the Rights of Man.
After some days, absorbed by the crisis of aristocracy, the distracted
and wearied Assembly turned again from the excitement of facts and
interests to the discussion of theory. A new committee of five was
appointed to revise the work of the committee of eight, which dealt
with the entire Constitution.

On August 17 Mirabeau reported their scheme. His heart was not in it;
and he resented the intrusion of hampering generalities and moralities
into the difficult experimental science of government. He advised that
the Constitution should be settled first, that the guide should follow
instead of preceding. The Assembly rejected the proposals of its
committees, and all the plans which were submitted by the celebrities.
The most remarkable of these was by Sieyès, and it met with favour;
but the final vote was taken on a less illustrious composition, which
bore no author's name. The selected text was less philosophical and
profound, and it roused less distant echoes than its rival; but it was
shorter, and more tame, and it was thought to involve fewer doubtful
postulates, and fewer formidable consequences. Between the 20th and
26th of August it was still further abridged, and reduced from
twenty-four propositions to the moderate dimension of seventeen. These
omissions from a document which had been preferred to very remarkable
competitors are the key to the intentions of the National Assembly,
and our basis of interpretation.

The original scheme included a State Church. This was not adopted. It
distinguished the inequality of men from the equality of rights. This
was deemed self-evident and superfluous. It derived the mutual rights
of men from their mutual duties--and this terrestrial definition also
disappeared, leaving the way open to a higher cause. The adopted code
was meagre and ill-composed, and Bentham found a malignant pleasure
in tearing it to pieces. It is, on the whole, more spiritual than the
one on which it was founded, and which it generally follows; and it
insists with greater energy on primitive rights, anterior to the State
and aloof from it, which no human authority can either confer or
refuse. It is the triumphant proclamation of the doctrine that human
obligations are not all assignable to contract, or to interest, or to
force.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man begins with an appeal to heaven,
and defines them in the presence, and under the auspices, of Almighty
God. The Preamble implies that our duties towards Him constitute our
rights towards mankind, and indicates the divine origin of Law,
without affirming it. The Declaration enumerates those rights which
are universal, which come from nature, not from men. They are four:
Liberty, Property, Security, and Self-defence. Authorities are
constituted, and laws are made, in order that these original,
essential, and supreme possessions of all mankind may be preserved.

The system of guarantees is as sacred as the rights which they
protect. Such are the right of contributing by representatives to
legislation and taxation, religious toleration, the liberty of the
press. As the rights are equal, the power of ensuring them must be
equal. All men alike have a share in representation, all alike are
admissible to office, all must be taxed in the same proportion. The
law is the same for all. The principle of equality is the idea on
which the Declaration most earnestly insists. Privilege had just been
overthrown, and the duty of providing against indirect means for its
recovery was the occupation of the hour. That this may be secured, all
powers must be granted by the people, and none must be exercised by
the people. They act only through their agents. The agent who
exercises power is responsible, and is controlled by the sovereign
authority that delegates it. Certain corollaries seem to follow:
restricted suffrage, progressive taxation, an established church, are
difficult to reconcile with equality so profoundly conceived. But this
is not explicit. Questions regarding education, poverty, revision,
are not admitted among the fundamentals and are left to future
legislation. The most singular passage is that which ordains that no
man may be molested for his opinions, even religious. It would appear
that Toleration was that part of the liberal dogma for which the
deputies were least prepared.

The Declaration passed, by August 26, after a hurried debate, and with
no further resistance. The Assembly, which had abolished the past at
the beginning of the month, attempted, at the end, to institute and
regulate the future. These are its abiding works, and the perpetual
heritage of the Revolution. With them a new era dawned upon mankind.

And yet this single page of print, which outweighs libraries, and is
stronger than all the armies of Napoleon, is not the work of superior
minds, and bears no mark of the lion's claw. The stamp of Cartesian
clearness is upon it, but without the logic, the precision, the
thoroughness of French thought. There is no indication in it that
Liberty is the goal, and not the starting-point, that it is a faculty
to be acquired, not a capital to invest, or that it depends on the
union of innumerable conditions, which embrace the entire life of man.
Therefore it is justly arraigned by those who say that it is
defective, and that its defects have been a peril and a snare.

It was right that the attempt should be made; for the extinction of
privilege involved a declaration of rights. When those that were
exclusive and unequal were abandoned, it was necessary to define and
to insist on those that were equal and the property of all. After
destroying, the French had to rebuild, and to base their new structure
upon principles unknown to the law, unfamiliar to the people,
absolutely opposed to the lesson of their history and to all the
experience of the ages in which France had been so great. It could not
rest on traditions, or interests, or any persistent force of
gravitation. Unless the idea that was to govern the future was
impressed with an extreme distinctness upon the minds of all, they
would not understand the consequences of so much ruin, and such
irrevocable change, and would drift without a compass. The country
that had been so proud of its kings, of its nobles, and of its chains,
could not learn without teaching that popular power may be tainted
with the same poison as personal power.



VIII

THE CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATES


When the Assembly passed the Rights of Man, they acted in harmony for
the last time. Agreement on first principles did not involve agreement
in policy, and in applying them to the Constitution, a week later, the
division of parties appeared.

From the tennis court to the great constitutional debate, the
Moderates, who may be called the Liberals, were predominant. Mounier
was their tactician, Clermont Tonnerre and Lally Tollendal were their
orators, Malouet was their discreet adviser. They hoped, by the
division of powers and the multiplication of checks, to make their
country as free as England or America. They desired to control the
Representatives in three ways: by a Second Chamber, the royal veto,
and the right of dissolution. Their success depended on the support of
Ministers and of reconciled Conservatives. Whilst the Constitution for
them was a means of regulating and restraining the national will, it
was an instrument for accomplishing the popular will for their rivals
rising to power on the crest of the wave.

The Democrats refused to resist the people, legitimately governing
itself, either by the English or the American division of power. There
was little concentration yet of the working class in towns, for the
industrial age had hardly dawned, and it was hard to understand that
the Third Estate contained divergent interests and the material of a
coming conflict. The managers of the democratic party were Duport,
Lameth, and Barnave, aided sometimes by Sieyès, sometimes by
Talleyrand, and by their sworn enemy Mirabeau.

The nobles, weak in statesmanship, possessed two powerful debaters:
Cazalès, who reminded men of Fox, but who, when not on his legs, had
little in him; and Maury, afterwards Cardinal and Archbishop of Paris,
a man whose character was below his talents. Numbering nearly a third
of the Assembly, and holding the balance, it was in their power to
make a Constitution like that of 1814.

How these three parties acted in that eventful September, and what in
consequence befell, we have now to consider.

The five weeks from August 27 to October 1 were occupied with the
constitutional debates. They were kept within narrow limits by the
Rights of Man, which declared that the nation transmits all powers and
exercises none. On both sides there were men who were impatient of
this restriction, and by whom it was interpreted in contrary ways.
Some wished for security that the national will should always prevail,
through its agents; the others, that they should be able to obstruct
it. They struggled for an enlarged construction, and strove to break
the barrier, in the republican or the royalist direction.

The discussion opened by a skirmish with the clergy. They observed the
significant omission of a State church in the Declaration of Rights,
and feared that they would be despoiled and the Church disestablished.
The enthusiasm of the first hour had cooled. One after another,
ecclesiastics attempted to obtain the recognition of Catholicism. Each
time the attempt was repulsed. The clergy drifted fast into the temper
which was confessed by Maury when he said, "The proposed measure would
enable the Constitution to live: we vote against it."

The scheme of the Committee was produced on August 31, and was
explained by Lally in a speech which is among the finest compositions
of the time. He insisted on the division of the legislative, and the
unity of the executive, as the essentials of a free government. On
the following day Mirabeau spoke on the same side. He said that the
danger was not from the Crown, but from the representatives; for they
may exclude strangers and debate in secret, as the English law allows,
and these may declare themselves permanent, and escape all control.
Through the king, the public possesses the means of holding them in
check. He is their natural ally against usurping deputies, and the
possible formation of a new aristocracy. The legislature enjoys a
temporary mandate only. The perpetual representative of the people is
the king. It is wrong to deny him powers necessary for the public
interest. It is the partial appearance of a view that was expanded by
Napoleon.

Mounier defended his plan on September 4. On several points there was
no large variety of opinion. It was practically admitted that there
could be no governing without Parliament, that it must meet annually,
that its acts require the royal assent, that it shall be elected
indirectly, by equal districts, and a moderate property franchise.
Mounier further conceded that the Constitution was not subject to the
royal veto, that Ministers should not be members of the Assembly, that
the Assembly, and not the king, should have the initiative of
proposing laws, and that it should have the right of refusing
supplies. The real question at issue was whether the representatives
of the people should be checked by an Upper House, by the king's power
of dissolution, and by an absolute or a temporary veto.

Mounier had private friends among his opponents, and they opened a
negotiation with him. They were prepared to accept his two Houses and
his absolute veto. They demanded in return that the Senate should have
only a suspensive veto on the acts of the representatives, that there
should be no right of Dissolution, that Conventions should be held
periodically, to revise the Constitution. These offers were a sign of
weakness. The Constitutional party was still in the ascendant, and on
August 31 the Bishop of Langres, the chief advocate of a House of
Lords, was chosen President by 499 to 328. If the division of the
legislature into two was sure of a majority, then the proposed bargain
was one-sided, and the Democrats would have taken much more than they
gave. Mounier, counting on the support of those whose interest was
that he should succeed, rejected the offer. He had already been
forced, by the defection of friends, to abandon much that he would
have wished to keep; and the plan which he brought forward closely
resembled that under which France afterwards prospered.

Nevertheless, the failure of that negotiation is a fatal date in
constitutional history. With more address, and a better knowledge of
the situation, Mounier might have saved half of the securities he
depended on. He lost the whole. The things he refused to surrender at
the conference were rejected by the Assembly; and the offers he had
rejected were not made again. When the legislature was limited to two
years, the right of dissolution lost its value. The right of revision
would have caused no more rapid changes than actually ensued; for
there were fourteen Constitutions in eighty-six years, or a
fundamental revision every six or seven years. Lastly, the veto of the
Senate had no basis of argument, until it was decided how the Senate
should be composed.

The disastrous ruin of the cause was brought on by want of management,
and not by excess of conservatism. Mounier inclined to an hereditary
House of Peers; and that, after August 4, was not to be thought of.
But he knew the difficulty, and, however reluctantly, gave way. And he
attached undue importance to the absolute veto; but that was not the
point on which the conference broke up. He was supported by Lafayette,
who dreaded as much as he did the extinction of the royal power; at
times by Mirabeau, whom he detested. Even Sieyès was willing to have
two Houses, and even three, provided they were, in reality, one House,
deliberating in three divisions, but counting all the votes in common.
He also proposed that there should be a renewal of one-third at a
time; so that there would be three degrees of the popular infusion and
of proximity to Mother Earth.

Mounier, with some of his friends, deserves to be remembered among
the men, not so common as they say, who loved liberty sincerely; I
mean, who desired it, not for any good it might do them, but for
itself, however arduous, or costly, or perilous its approach might be.
They subordinated the means to the end, and never regarded conditional
forms as an emanation of eternal principles. Having secured the Rights
of Man, they looked with alarm at future legislation, that could not
improve, and might endanger them. They wished the Constituent Assembly
to bind and bar its successors as far as possible; for none would ever
speak with so much authority as the genuine voice of the entire
people.

By an extraordinary fortune, the nation, this time, had responded
wisely. It was certain that it would not always do so well. It had
passions; it had prejudices; it was grossly ignorant; it was not
disinterested; and it was demoralised by an evil tradition. The French
were accustomed to irresponsible power. They were not likely to
consent that the power in their hands should be inferior to that which
had been exercised over them, or to admit that an entire people is not
above the law which it obeys. It was to be expected that they would
endeavour by legislation to diminish those securities for the minority
and the weaker cause which were appointed by the Rights of Man.
Opinion was changing rapidly, and had become more favourable to
violence, more indulgent to crime. A draft project of the Rights of
Man had appeared, in which the writer avowed that, by the law of
nature, a man may do what he likes in the pursuit of happiness, and,
to elude oppression, may oppress, imprison, and destroy.

The man who wrote thus quickly acquired a dread ascendancy over the
people, and was able to defy police and governments and assemblies,
for it was the beginning of Marat. Lists of proscription were
circulated; threatening letters poured in on the deputies; and Paris,
at the end of August, was preparing to march upon Versailles, to expel
obnoxious members, and, when they ceased to be inviolable, to put them
on their trial. These were first-fruits of liberty, and the meed and
reward of Liberals. No man can tell in what country such things would
remain without effect. In France it was believed that civic courage
was often wanting. De Serre, the great orator of the Restoration, once
affirmed, from the tribune, that the bulk of the representatives had
always been sound. He was interrupted by a furious outcry, and
challenged by his legitimist audience to say whether he included the
Convention, which, by a majority, condemned the king to death. His
answer, very famous in parliamentary history, was, "Yes, even the
Convention. And if it had not deliberated under poniards, we should
have been spared the most terrible of crimes."

The opposition presented a united front, but was rent by many stages
of gravitation towards Democracy. They also were generally anxious to
establish political freedom, even by the greatest sacrifices. By
freedom they meant, first, deliverance from known and habitual causes
of oppression. True, there might be others; but they were less clear
and less certain. All European experience proclaimed that the
executive constantly masters the legislative, even in England. It was
absurd to suppose that every force that, for centuries, had helped to
build up absolutism, had been destroyed in two months. They would rise
again from the roots, and the conflict would be constantly renewed.

The salvation seemed to lie in the principle that all power is derived
from the people, and that none can exist against the people. The
popular will may be expressed by certain forms; it cannot be arrested
by obstacles. Its action may be delayed; it cannot be stopped. It is
the ultimate master of all, without responsibility or exemption, and
with no limit that is not laid down in the Rights of Man. The limits
there defined are sufficient, and individual liberty needs no further
protection. Distrust of the nation was not justified by the manner in
which it had chosen and instructed its deputies.

In studying this group of public men, men to whom the future belonged,
we are forced to admit the element of national character. No
philosophy is cheaper or more vulgar than that which traces all
history to diversities of ethnological type and blend, and is ever
presenting the venal Greek, the perfidious Sicilian, the proud and
indolent Spaniard, the economical Swiss, the vain and vivacious
Frenchman. But it is certainly true that in France the liberty of the
press represents a power that is not familiar to those who know its
weakness and its strength, who have had experience of Swift and
Bolingbroke and Junius. Maury once said, "We have a free press: we
have everything." In 1812, when Napoleon watched the grand army
crossing the Niemen to invade Russia, and whistled the tune of
Malbrook, he interrupted his tune to exclaim, "And yet all that is not
equal to the songs of Paris!" Chateaubriand afterwards said that, with
the liberty of the press, there was no abuse he would not undertake to
destroy. For he wrote French as it had never been written, and the
magnificent roll of his sentences caught the ear of his countrymen
with convincing force. When, in 1824, he was dismissed from the
Foreign Office, his friend, the editor of the _Journal des Débats_,
called on the Prime Minister Villèle and warned him, "We have
overthrown your predecessor, and we shall be strong enough to
overthrow you." Villèle replied, "You succeeded against him by aid of
royalism: you cannot succeed against me but by aid of revolution."
Both prophecies came true. The alliance of Chateaubriand with the
newspaper turned out the Ministry in 1827, and the Monarchy in 1830.

In September 1789, the liberty of the press was only four months old,
and the reign of opinion was beginning on the Continent. They fancied
that it was an invincible force, and a complete security for human
rights. It was invaluable if it secured right without weakening power,
like the other contrivances of Liberalism. They thought that when men
were safe from the force above them, they required no saving from the
influence around them. Opinion finds its own level, and a man yields
easily and not unkindly to what surrounds him daily. Pressure from
equals is not to be confounded with persecution by superiors. It is
right that the majority, by degrees, should absorb the minority. The
work of limiting authority had been accomplished by the Rights of Man.
The work of creating authority was left to the Constitution. In this
way men of varying opinions were united in the conclusion that the
powers emanating from the people ought not to be needlessly divided.

Besides Sieyès, who found ideas, and Talleyrand, who found expedients,
several groups were, for the time, associated with the party which was
managed by Duport. There were some of the most eminent jurists, eager
to reform the many systems of law and custom that prevailed in France,
who became the lawgivers of successive Assemblies, until they
completed their code under Napoleon. Of all the enemies of the old
monarchical _régime_, they were the most methodical and consistent.
The leader of the Paris Bar, Target, was their most active politician.
When he heard of a plan for setting the finances in order he said, "If
anybody has such a plan, let him at once be smothered. It is the
disorder of the finances that puts the king in our power." The
Economists were as systematic and definite as the lawyers, and they
too had much to destroy. Through Dupont de Nemours their theories
obtained enduring influence.

There were two or three of the future Girondins who taught that the
people may be better trusted than representatives, and who were ready
to ratify the Constitution, and even to decide upon the adoption of
laws, by the popular vote. And there were two men, not yet distinctly
divided from these their future victims, who went farther in
opposition to the Rights of Man, and towards the confusion of powers.
In their eyes, representation and delegation were treason to true
democracy. As the people could not directly govern itself, the
principle exacted that it should do so as nearly as possible, by means
of a perpetual control over the delegates. The parliamentary vote
ought to be constantly brought into harmony with the wish of the
constituency, by the press, the galleries and the mob. To act
consciously in opposition to the delegating power was a breach of
trust. The population of Paris, being the largest collected portion of
sovereign power, expresses its will more surely than deputies at
second hand. Barère, who was one of these, proposed an ingenious plan
by which every law that passed remained suspended until after the next
elections, when the country pronounced upon it by imperative mandate.
Thus he disposed of royal veto and dissolution.

Robespierre would not suspend the law, but left it to the next
legislature to rectify or revoke the errors of the last. He argued
that powers require to be checked in proportion to the danger they
present. Now the danger from a power not representative exceeds that
from a power that represents, and is better acquainted with the needs
and wishes of the mass. A nation governs itself, and has a single
will, not two. If the whole does not govern the part, the part will
govern the whole. Robespierre conceived that it was time to constitute
powers sufficient to conquer the outward foe, and also the inward; one
for national safety, and one for national progress, and the elevation
of the poor at the expense of the minorities that have oppressed them.
He stands at the end of the scale, and the idea of liberty, as it runs
through the various sets of thought, is transformed into the idea of
force. From Sieyès to Barnave, from Barnave to Camus, from Camus to
Buzot, and from Buzot the Girondin to Robespierre the Jacobin who
killed the Girondins, we traverse the long line of possible politics;
but the transitions are finely shaded, and the logic is continuous.

In the second week of September the Constitution of Mounier was
defeated by the union of these forces. The main question, the
institution of a Senate, was not seriously debated. It was feared as
the refuge of the defeated classes, and was not defended by those
classes themselves. They were not willing that a new aristocracy
should be raised upon their ruins; and they suspected that Government
would give the preference to that minority of the nobles who went over
in time, and who were renegades in the eyes of the rest. It was felt
that a single Chamber is stronger in resistance to the executive than
two, and that the time might come for a senate when the fallen
aristocracy had ceased to struggle, and the Crown was reconciled to
its reduced condition.

On September 9 the President of the Assembly, La Luzerne, bishop of
Langres, was driven by insult to resign. The next day the Assembly
adopted the single Chamber by 499 to 89, the nobles abstaining.

On September 11 the decisive division took place. Mounier had insisted
on the unlimited right of veto. The debate went against him. It was
admitted on his own side that the king would, sooner or later, have to
yield. The others agreed that the king might resist until two
elections had decided in favour of the vetoed measure. He might reject
the wish of one legislature, and even of two; he would give way to the
third. The Ministers themselves were unable to insist on the absolute
veto in preference to the suspensive thus defined. A letter from the
king was sent to the Assembly, to inform them that he was content with
the temporary veto. Mounier did not allow the letter to be read, that
it might not influence votes. He was defeated by 673 to 325. The
Conservatives had deserted him when he defended the Upper House; and
now the king deserted him when he defended the rights of the Crown. It
was a crushing and final disaster. For he fell, maintaining the cause
of aristocracy against the nobles, and the cause of prerogative
against the monarch. The Democrats triumphed by 410 votes one day, and
350 the next. The battle for the Constitution on the English model was
fought and lost.

On September 12 Mounier and his friends retired from the Committee. A
new one was at once elected from the victorious majority. At this
critical point a secret Council was held, at which the royalists
advised the king to take refuge in the provinces. Lewis refused to
listen to them. The majority, elated with success, now called on him
to sanction the decrees of August 4. His reply, dated September 18,
is drawn up with unusual ability. He adopted the argument of Sieyès on
the suppression of tithe. He said that a large income would be granted
to the land, and that the rich, who ought to contribute most, would,
on the contrary, receive most. Small holders would profit little,
while those who possessed no land at all would now be mulcted for
payment of the clergy. Instead of relieving the nation, it would
relieve one class at the expense of another, and the rich at the
expense of the poor.

The Assembly insisted that the abolition of feudalism was part of the
Constitution, and ought to receive an unconditional sanction. But they
promised to give most respectful attention to the remarks of the king,
whenever the decrees came to be completed by legislation. The royal
sanction was accordingly given on the following day. Thereupon the
Assembly made a considerable concession. They resolved, on September
21, that the suspensive veto should extend over two legislatures. The
numbers were 728 to 224.

The new Committee, appointed on the 15th, took a fortnight to complete
their scheme, on the adopted principles that there should be one
Chamber, no dissolution, and a power of retarding legislation without
preventing it. On the 29th it was laid before the Assembly by their
reporter, Thouret. The voice was the voice of Thouret, but the hand
was the hand of Sieyès. At that juncture he augured ill of the
Revolution, and repented of his share in it. His Declaration of Rights
had been passed over. His proposal to restore the national credit by
the surrender of tithe had been rejected. His partition of the
Assembly, together with partial renewal, which is favourable to the
executive, by never allowing the new parliament to rise, like a giant
refreshed, from a general election, had encountered no support. It
remained that he should compose the working machinery for his
essential doctrine, that the law is the will of him that obeys, not of
him that commands. To do this, the Abbé Sieyès abolished the historic
Provinces, and divided France into departments. There were to be
eighty, besides Paris; and as they were designed to be as nearly as
possible equal to a square of about forty-five miles, they differed
widely in population and property. They were to have an average of
nine deputies each: three for the superficial area, which was
invariable; three, more or less, for population; and again three, more
or less, according to the amount which the department contributed to
the national income. In this way territory, numbers and wealth were
represented equally.

Deputies were to be elected in three degrees. The taxpayers, in their
primary assemblies, chose electors for the Commune, which was the
political unit, and a square of about fifteen miles; the communal
electors sent their representatives to the department, and these
elected the deputy. Those who paid no taxes were not recognized as
shareholders in the national concern. Like women and minors, they
enjoyed the benefit of government; but as they were not independent,
they possessed no power as active citizens. By a parallel process,
assemblies were formed for local administration, on the principle that
the right of exercising power proceeds from below, and the actual
exercise of power from above.

This is mainly the measure which has made the France of to-day; and
when it became law, in December, the chief part of the new
Constitution was completed. It had been the work of these two months,
from August 4 to September 29. The final promulgation came two years
later. No legislative instrument ever failed more helplessly than this
product of the wisdom of France in its first parliamentary Assembly,
for it lasted only a single year.

Many things had meanwhile occurred which made the constructive design
of 1789 unfit to meet the storms of 1792. The finances of the State
were ruined; the clergy and the clerical party had been driven into
violent opposition; the army was almost dissolved, and war broke out
when there was not a disciplined force at the command of Government.
After Varennes, the king was practically useless in peace, and
impossible in times of danger and invasion; not only because of the
degradation of his capture and of his imprisonment on the throne, but
because, at the moment of his flight, he had avowed his hostility to
the institutions he administered.

The central idea in the plan of September 29, the idea of small
provinces and large municipalities, was never appreciated and never
adopted. Sieyès placed the unit in the Commune, which was the name he
gave to each of the nine divisions of a department. He intended that
there should be only 720 of these self-governing districts in France.
Instead of 720, the Assembly created 44,000, making the Commune no
larger than the parish, and breaking up the administrative system into
dust. The political wisdom of the village was substituted for that of
a town or district of 35,000 inhabitants.

The explanation of the disastrous result is as much in the Court as in
the Legislature, and as much in the legislation that followed as in
the policy of the moment in which the great issues were determined,
and with which we are dealing. No monarchical constitution could
succeed, after Varennes; and the one of which we are speaking, the
object of the memorable conflict between Mounier and Sieyès, is not
identical with the one that failed. The repudiation of the English
model did not cause the quick passage from the Constitution of 1791 to
the Republic. Yet the scheme that prevailed shows defects which must
bear their portion of blame. Political science imperatively demands
that powers shall be regulated by multiplication and division. The
Assembly preferred ideas of unity and simplicity.

The old policy of French parliaments nearly suggested a court of
revision; but that notion, not yet visible in the Supreme Court of the
United States, occurred to Sieyès long after. An effective Senate
might have been founded on the provincial assemblies; but the ancient
provinces were doomed, and the new divisions did not yet exist, or
were hidden in the maps of freemasonry.

Power was not really divided between the legislative and the
executive, for the king possessed no resource against the majority of
the Assembly. There was no Senate, no initiative, no dissolution, no
effective veto, no reliance on the judicial or the Federal element.
These are not defects of equal importance; but taken together, they
subverted that principle of division which is useful for stability,
and for liberty is essential.

The reproach falls not only on those who carried the various measures,
but also on the minority that opposed them. Mounier encouraged the
suspicion and jealousy of Ministers by separating them from the
Assembly, and denying to the king, that is to them, the prerogative of
proposing laws. He attributed to the absolute veto an importance which
it does not possess; and he frustrated all chance of a Second Chamber
by allowing it to be known that he would have liked to make it
hereditary. This was too much for men who had just rejoiced over the
fall of the aristocracy. In order to exclude the intervention of the
king in favour of a suspensive veto, he accepted the argument that the
Constitution was in the hands of the Assembly alone. When Lewis raised
a just objection to the decrees of August 4, this argument was turned
against him, and the Crown suffered a serious repulse.

The intellectual error of the Democrats vanishes before the moral
error of the Conservatives. They refused a Second Chamber because they
feared that it would be used as a reward for those among them to whose
defection they partly owed their defeat. And as they did not wish the
Constitution to be firmly established, they would not vote for
measures likely to save it. The revolutionists were able to count on
their aid against the Liberals.

The watchword came from the Palace, and the shame of their policy
recoils upon the king. Late in September one of his nobles told him
that he was weary of what he saw, and was going to his own country.
"Yes," said the king, taking him aside; "things are going badly, and
nothing can improve our position but the excess of evil." On this
account Royer Collard, the famous _Doctrinaire_, said, in later times,
that all parties in the Revolution were honest, except the
Conservatives.

From the end of August the Paris agitators, who managed the mob in
the interest of a dynastic change directed a sustained pressure
against Versailles. Thouret, one of the foremost lawyers in the
Assembly, who was elected President on August 1, refused the honour.
He had been warned of his unpopularity, and gave way to threats.
Yielding to the current which, as Mirabeau said, submerges those who
resist it, he went over to the other side, and soon became one of
their leaders. The experience of this considerable man is an instance
of the change that set in, and that was frequent among men without
individual conviction or the strength of character that belongs to it.

The downward tendency was so clearly manifest, the lesson taught by
successful violence against the king and the aristocracy was so
resolutely applied to the Assembly, that very serious politicians
sought the means of arresting the movement. Volney, who was no orator,
but who was the most eminent of the deputies in the department of
letters, made the attempt on September 18. He proposed that there
should be new elections for a parliament that should not consist of
heterogeneous ingredients, but in which class interests should be
disregarded and unknown. He moved that it should represent equality.
They reminded him of the oath not to separate until France was a
constitutional State, and the protest was ineffectual. But in
intellectual France there was no man more perfectly identified with
the reigning philosophy than the man who uttered this cry of alarm.

On October 2 the first chapters of the Constitution were ready for the
royal assent. They consisted of the Rights of Man, and of the
fundamental measures adopted in the course of September. Mounier, the
new President, carried to the king the articles by which his cause had
been brought to its fall. Lewis undertook to send his reply; and from
Mounier came no urging word. They both fancied that delay was
possible, and might yet serve. The tide had flowed so slowly in May,
that they could not perceive the torrent of October. On the day of
that audience of the most liberal of all the royalists, the respite
before them was measured by hours.

All through September, at Paris, Lafayette at the head of the forces
of order, and the forces of tumult controlled by the Palais Royal had
watched each other, waiting for a deadly fight. There were frequent
threats of marching on Versailles, followed by reassuring messages
from the General that he had appeased the storm. As it grew louder,
he made himself more and more the arbiter of the State. The
Government, resenting this protectorate, judged that the danger of
attack ought to be averted, not by the dubious fidelity and the more
dubious capacity of the commander of the National Guard, but by the
direct resources of the Crown. They summoned the Flanders regiment,
which was reputed loyal, and on October 1 it marched in, a thousand
strong. The officers, on their arrival, were invited by their comrades
at Versailles to a festive supper in the theatre. The men were
admitted, and made to drink the health of the king; and in the midst
of a scene of passionate enthusiasm the king and queen appeared. The
demonstration that ensued meant more than the cold and decent respect
with which men regard a functionary holding delegated and not
irrevocable powers. It was easy to catch the note of personal devotion
and loyalty and the religion of the Cavalier, in the cries of these
armed and excited royalists. The managers at Paris had their
opportunity, and resolved at once to execute the plot they had long
meditated.

Whilst the Executive, which alone upheld the division of powers and
the principle of freedom, was daily losing ground at the hands of its
enemies, of its friends, and at its own, a gleam of hope visited the
forlorn precincts of the Court. Necker had informed the Assembly that
he could not obtain a loan, and he asked for a very large increase of
direct taxation. He was heard with impatience, and Mirabeau, who spoke
for him, made no impression. On September 26 he made another effort,
and gained the supreme triumph of his career. In a speech that was
evidently unprepared, he drew an appalling picture of the coming
bankruptcy; and as he ended with the words "These dangers are before
you, and you deliberate!" the Assembly, convulsed with emotion, passed
the vote unanimously, and Necker was saved. None knew that there could
be such power in man.

In the eighteen months of life that remained to him, Mirabeau
underwent many vicissitudes of influence and favour; but he was able,
in an emergency, to dominate parties. From that day the Court knew
what he was, and what he could do; and they knew how his imperious
spirit longed to serve the royal cause, and we shall presently see who
it was that attempted to flatter and to win him when it was too late,
and who had repelled him when it might yet have been time.

We have reached the point at which the first part of the Revolution
terminates, and the captivity of the monarch is about to begin. The
events of the next two days, October 5 and 6, form a complete and
coherent drama, that will not bear partition, and must occupy the
whole of our attention next week.



IX

THE MARCH TO VERSAILLES


The French Revolution was approved at first by the common judgment of
mankind. Kaunitz, the most experienced statesman in Europe, declared
that it would last for long, and perhaps for ever. Speaking less
cautiously, Klopstock said: "I see generations crushed in the
struggle; I see perhaps centuries of war and desolation; but at last,
in the remote horizon, I see the victory of liberty." Even at St.
Petersburg the fall of the Bastille was hailed with frantic joy. Burke
began by applauding. He would not listen to Tom Paine, who had been
the inspirer of a revolution himself, and who assured him that the
States-General would lead to another. He said, afterwards, that the
Rights of Man had opened his eyes; but at Holland House they believed
that the change came a few days earlier, when the Church was attacked.
The Americans were not far from the opinion of Burke. By the middle of
the summer Jefferson thought that all that was needful had been
obtained. Franklin took alarm at the events of July. Washington and
Hamilton became suspicious soon after.

For the September decrees were directed not only against the English
model, but still more against the American. The Convention of 1787 had
constructed a system of securities that were intended to save the
Union from the power of unchecked democracy. The National Assembly
resolutely swept every security away. Nothing but the Crown was left
that could impede the direct operation of the popular will, or that
could make the division of powers a reality. Therefore the Liberal
party looked to the king as much as the Conservative, and wished as
much as they, and even more than they, to strengthen his hands. Their
theory demanded a divided legislature. Having lost that, they fell
back on Montesquieu, and accepted the division of legislative,
executive, and judicial powers. These theoretic subtleties were
unintelligible to the people of France. Men who were as vehement for
the king in October as they had been vehement against him in June
appeared to them to be traitors. They could not conceive that the
authority which had so long oppressed them, and which it had required
such an effort to vanquish, ought now to be trusted and increased.
They could not convince themselves that their true friends were those
who had suddenly gone over to the ancient enemy and oppressor, whose
own customary adherents seemed no longer to support him.

Public opinion was brought to bear on the Assembly, to keep up the
repression of monarchy which began on June 23. As the Crown passed
under the control of the Assembly, the Assembly became more dependent
on the constituencies, especially on that constituency which had the
making of French opinion, and in which the democratic spirit was
concentrated. After the month of August the dominant fact is the
growing pressure of Paris on Versailles. In October Paris laid its
hand on its prey. For some weeks the idea of escaping had been
entertained. Thirty-two of the principal royalists in the Assembly
were consulted, and advised that the king should leave Versailles and
take refuge in the provinces. The late minister, Breteuil, the
Austrian ambassador, Mercy, were of the same opinion, and they carried
the queen with them. But Necker was on the other side.

Instead of flight they resolved upon defence, and brought up the
Flanders regiment, whose Colonel was a deputy of the Left. In the
morning the Count d'Estaing, who held command at Versailles, learnt
with alarm that it had been decided to omit the health of the nation.
The Prussian envoy writes that the officers of the Guards, who had
not yet adopted the Tricolor, displayed the utmost contempt for it. It
required no exaggeration to represent the scene in a light odious to
the public. When Madame Campan came home and described with admiration
what she had just beheld, Beaumetz, a deputy, and friend of
Talleyrand, became very grave, and took his leave, that he might make
up his mind whether he should not emigrate at once. Hostile witnesses
reported the particulars to the press next day, and it was stated,
figuratively or literally, that the Royal Guards had trampled the
national colours under foot. Marat came over to inquire, and Camille
Desmoulins says that he hurried back to Paris making as much noise as
all the trumpets of the Last Day.

The feast had been held on a Thursday. On the Sunday, October 4, Paris
was in a ferment. The insult to the nation, the summoning of troops,
the projected flight, as was now supposed, to the fortress of Metz,
were taken to mean civil war, for the restoration of despotism. At the
Palais Royal the agitators talked of going out to Versailles, to
punish the insolent guards. On the evening of Sunday, one district of
the city, the Cordeliers, who were governed by Danton, were ready to
march. The men of other districts were not so ready for action, or so
zealous to avenge the new cockade. To carry the entire population more
was required than the vague rumour of Metz, or even than the
symbolical outrage.

There was hunger among the 800,000 inhabitants of Paris, between last
year's corn that was exhausted, and the new harvest that was not yet
ground. Nobody, says Dumont, could wonder if so much suffering led to
tumult. The suffering was due to poverty more than to scarcity; but
Lafayette asserted that above £2000 a week were paid to bakers, or to
millers, to create discontent by shortening supplies. There were
people who thought that money spent in this way would rouse
indignation against the incompetent and inactive Assembly. Upon
sixteen days in the course of September the bakers' shops had to be
guarded by troops. The reduced noble families were putting down their
establishments; and 200,000 passports were issued to intending
_émigrés_ in the two months following the fall of the Bastille.

The primary offender, responsible for subsistence, was the
municipality of the capital; and their seat of office was the first
object of attack. Early on the Monday morning a multitude of excited
women made their way into the Hôtel de Ville. They wanted to destroy
the heaps of papers, as all that writing did them no good. They seized
a priest, and set about hanging him. They rang the tocsin, bringing
all the trained battalions and all the ragged bands of the city to the
Place de Grève. They carried away several hundreds of muskets, and
some useless cannon; and they fetched torches, that they might burn
the building to the ground. It was the headquarters of the elected
municipality; but the masses were becoming conscious that they were
not the Third Estate, that there was a conflict of interest between
property and labour, and they began to vent their yet inarticulate
rage upon the middle class above them. It presently appeared that
these revolutionary heroines, knitting companions of the future
guillotine, were not all infuriated or implacable. Parcels of
banknotes that they took away were brought back; the priest was left
unhung; the torches that were to have lighted the conflagration were
extinguished without difficulty. They were easily persuaded that their
proper sphere of action was Versailles, with its Assembly, that was
able to do everything, and did nothing for the poor. They played the
genuine part of mothers whose children were starving in their squalid
homes, and they thereby afforded to motives which they neither shared
nor understood the aid of a diamond point that nothing could
withstand. It was this first detachment of invading women that allowed
Stanislas Maillard to lead them away.

Maillard was known to all the town as a conqueror of the Bastille.
Later, he acquired a more sinister celebrity. But on that 5th of
October, as the calculating controller of dishevelled tumult, he left
on those who saw him an impression of unusual force. Whilst he
mustered his army in the Champs Elysées, and recruiting parties were
sent through the streets, an emissary from the Hôtel de Ville
hastened to warn the Government at Versailles. He was able to announce
that the National Guard were coming.

Lafayette appeared late upon the scene, and did nothing to hinder the
expedition of Maillard. He thought the danger contemptible, and
believed that there were resources at Versailles enough to stop it,
although there were seven or eight thousand women and some hundreds of
men among them. Both Necker and Mounier, the President of the
Assembly, confirm the fact.

When the news of what they must be prepared for reached ministers, the
king was out shooting, some miles away, and nothing could be done
without him. The queen was found at the Trianon, which she never saw
again. An officer who came on foot from Paris told the king of his
danger. He refused his name, but stated that there was no man in the
service who had greater reason to complain. A mounted messenger
arrived from the Minister of the Interior, and Lewis took horse and
galloped to Versailles. The streets were already crowded with
disorderly people, and shots were fired as he rode by.

The roads from Paris to Versailles cross the Seine at three points,
and the general officers who were in the ministry declared that they
might be defended with the troops that were at hand. St. Priest, the
Minister of the Interior, advised the king to meet the army of Paris
at Sèvres, and order it to retire. If they refused, he thought that
they could be beaten.

Necker was against giving battle, and two important colleagues were
with him. He was ready to take the king to Paris, seeing the
objections, as he always did to every proposal, but hoping that public
opinion, stimulated by the presence of the Court, which had not been
seen there for generations, would sustain the Crown against the
Assembly. He had held that opinion from the first, and he refused to
be answerable for civil war. Lewis, unable to decide, went to consult
the queen. She would be sent away, with her children, if there was a
fight. She declared that she would remain if the king remained, and
would not allow him to incur dangers which she did not share. This
resolution made it impossible for him to adopt a manly or spirited
course. The Council broke up without deciding anything.

Whilst this was going on, between three and four in the afternoon
Maillard reached Versailles with his column of women. Their quality
had deteriorated by the recruits made on the way, and there had been a
large accession of ferocity. Besides the women who followed Maillard
from the Hôtel de Ville, some of whom believed that hunger is caused
by bad government, and can be appeased by good, others displayed the
aprons in which they meant to carry the queen to Paris, bit by bit.
And there was a group, more significant than either, who were well
supplied with money, to be distributed among the soldiers of the
Flemish regiment, and who effectually performed their office.

Maillard, who had prevented depredation by the way, made straight for
the Assembly, and was admitted with a deputation of his followers.
They arrived at a moment of excitement. The king had accepted the
nineteen paragraphs of the Constitution, with the proviso that he
retained the executive power undiminished. He had put off the Rights
of Man until it should be seen how they were affected by the portions
of the constitution yet to pass. The reply was not countersigned by a
minister; and the deputies saw in it an attempt to claim the right of
modifying the fundamental laws. They brought up the imprudences of the
dinner of welcome, and argued that there must be a plot.

Mirabeau had never stood in a more difficult position. He clung to the
monarchy, but not to the king. He was ready to serve the Count of
Provence, or even the Duke of Orleans, but not a feeble executive; and
he judged that, as things were going, there would soon be no king to
serve. Through his friend La Marck he had attempted to terrify the
Court, and to induce them to accept his services. La Marck had
represented to the queen the immense value of the aid of such a man;
and the queen had replied, decisively, that she hoped they would
never fall so low as to need help from Mirabeau.

He defended the king's answer on the ground he had held before, that
the Declaration ought to follow the Constitution, and ought not to
precede it. Speaking of the scene at the officers' dinner, he said
that the king was inviolable--the king, and no other person. The
allusion was so clear that the royalists were reduced to silence. The
Assembly resolved that the king should be requested to give his
assent, unconditionally. Before the deputation had left, Maillard
entered the Assembly.

Mirabeau had received early notice of the intended attack by a large
body of Parisians, and had advised Mounier to adjourn in time. Mounier
fancied that Mirabeau was afraid, and said that every man must die at
his post. When Maillard appeared with a few women, he allowed him to
speak. As the orator of the women whom he had brought from the Hôtel
de Ville, Maillard asked for cheap bread, denounced the artificial
famine and the Royal Guards. When rebuked by Mounier for using the
term "citizens," he made a very effective point by saying that any man
who was not proud to be a citizen ought at once to be expelled. But he
admitted that he did not believe all the imputations that were made by
his followers; and he obtained a cheer for the Royal Guard by
exhibiting a regimental cocked hat with the tricolor cockade.

The Assembly gave way, and sent Mounier at the head of a deputation to
invite the king's attention to the demands of his afflicted subjects.
Whilst the deputies, with some of the women, stood in the rain,
waiting for the gates to be opened, a voice in the crowd exclaimed
that there was no want of bread in the days when they had a king, but
now that they had twelve hundred they were starving. So that there
were some whose animosity was not against the king, but against the
elect of the people.

The king at once conceded all that Mounier asked for his strange
companions, and they went away contented. Then their friends outside
fell upon them, and accused them of having taken bribes; and again it
became apparent that two currents had joined, and that some had
honestly come for bread, and some had not. Those who had obtained the
king's order for provisioning Paris, and were satisfied, went back to
bring it to the Hôtel de Ville. They were sent home in a royal
carriage. Maillard went with them. It was fully understood that with
all his violence and crudity he had played a difficult part well.

Mounier remained at the Palace. He was not eager to revisit the scene
of his humiliation, where vociferous women had occupied the benches,
asking for supper, and bent on kissing the President. He wished the
king now to accept the Rights of Man, without waiting for the
appointed deputation from the Assembly. Although they were in part his
work, he was no longer wedded to them as they stood, and thought, like
Mirabeau, that they were an impediment. But a crisis had arrived, and
this point might be surrendered, to save the very existence of
monarchy. He waited during many eventful hours, and returned after ten
at night to find that the bishop of Langres, disgusted with the scene
before him, had adjourned the Assembly. Mounier instantly convoked
them, by beat of drum. He had other things to speak of besides the
Rights of Man; for he knew that an invader more formidable than
Maillard with his Amazonian escort was approaching.

For the later weeks of September Lafayette had cast his influence on
the side of those who designed to strengthen the executive. He had
restrained his men when they threatened to come to support the
National Assembly. To yield to that movement was to acknowledge
defeat, and loss of available popularity and power. When he came to
the Hôtel de Ville and found that his army was resolved to go, he
opposed the project, and for many hours held his ground. The men whom
he commanded were not interested on their own account in the daily
allowance of food. Their anger was with the Royal Guards, and their
purpose was to take their place. Then there would be less danger of
resistance to the decrees, or of flight to the provinces.

Lafayette could not appear before the king at their head without
evident hostility and revolt; for their temper was threatening, and he
was rapidly losing control. By delay and postponement he gained
something. Instead of arriving as an assailant, he came as a
deliverer. When he remonstrated, his soldiers said that they meant no
injury to the king, but that he must obey or abdicate. They would make
their general Regent; but if he refused to put himself at their head,
they would take his life. They told him that he had commanded long
enough, and now he must follow. He did not yield until the tumult had
risen high, and the strain on his authority was breaking.

Early in the afternoon the watchers who followed the march of the
women from the rare church towers reported that they had crossed the
Seine without opposition. It was known, therefore, that the road was
open, that the approach of the army would be under cover of the
contingent that had preceded, that there was no danger of collision.

About four o'clock Lafayette sent word to the Hôtel de Ville--for his
men would not allow him out of sight--that it was time to give him his
orders, as he could not prevent the departure. They were brought to
him where he sat in the saddle in the Place de Grève, and he read them
with an expression of the utmost alarm. They contained all that
ambition could desire, for the four points which he was directed to
insist on made him Dictator of France. But it was added that the
orders were given because he demanded them. Lafayette never produced
that document; and he left it to the commissaries sent with him to
urge the one demand in which he was interested, the establishment of
the Court at Paris.

He started about five o'clock, with nearly 20,000 men. From the
barrier by which he left Paris he sent a note in pencil to reassure
the Government as to his intentions. It was a march of seven hours.
At the passage of the Seine, he sent on an officer with further
explanations; and he declared that he was coming under compulsion, and
would have gone back if the bridge had been held in force. Before
Versailles he halted his men, and made them take the oath of fidelity
to the king and the Assembly.

The news of his coming had been received with terror. A man, dressed
like a workman, who had been on the march with him, hurried forward to
the Palace, and was at once admitted. It was the future Duke de
Richelieu, twice, in after years, Prime Minister. What he told of the
mood of the men added to the alarm. Another Council was held, at which
the majority were in favour of flight. "Sir," said St. Priest, "if you
go to Paris, it may cost you your crown." "That advice," said Necker,
"may cost you your head." Nobody doubted that flight signified civil
war. But St. Priest carried his point, and rode off to prepare
Rambouillet for the royal family. As he knew that the decision was the
gravest that could be taken, and that Necker's words were probably
true, he dropped into a walk, and was overtaken by his wife. From her
he learnt that the hazardous decision had been reversed, and that the
king would remain at Versailles. His interview with the deputation of
women had had a momentary success, and provoked cries of "Vive le
Roi!" Thereupon Necker recovered the lost ground, with the aid of
Liancourt, who first brought the king to Paris in the summer. The
carriages, which were ready, were countermanded. Later on, they were
again sent for, but this time they were stopped by the people.

The confusion of counsel was such that one of the ministers afterwards
declared that, if the Duke of Orleans had appeared and pressed his
demands, he would have obtained everything. It is said that the
managers of his party saw this, and showed him his opportunity, during
the panic that preceded Lafayette. It is even stated that they brought
him to the very door of the council chamber, and that he flinched,
with the regency within reach of his hand. When the National Guard
arrived, his chances vanished.

Lafayette never was able to prove the Duke's complicity in the crime
of that night. When the Duke asked him what evidence he had, he
replied that if he had had evidence he would have sent him for trial;
but that he had enough reason for suspicion to require that he should
leave the country. Thrice the Duke, forcibly encouraged by Mirabeau,
refused to go. Thrice the general insisted, and the Duke started for
England. Mirabeau exclaimed that he would not have him for a lackey. A
long inquiry was held, and ended in nothing. The man who knew those
times best, Roederer afterwards assured Napoleon that, if there was an
Orleanist conspiracy, Orleans himself was not in it.

The women who invaded Versailles were followed by groups of men of the
same description as those who committed the atrocities which followed
the fall of the Bastille. As night fell they became formidable,
skirmished with the guard, and tried to make their way into the
Palace. At first, when his captains asked for orders to disperse the
crowd, Lewis, against the advice of his sister, replied that he did
not make war on women. But the men were armed, and evidently
dangerous. The command, at Versailles, was in the hands of d'Estaing,
the admiral of the American war, who at this critical moment showed no
capacity. He refused to let his men defend themselves, and ordered
them to withdraw. St. Priest grew impatient. Much depended on their
having repressed the riot without waiting to be rescued by the army of
Paris. He summoned the admiral to repel force by force. D'Estaing
replied that he waited the king's orders. The king gave none. The
minister then said: "When the king gives no orders, a general must
judge and act for himself." Again the king was silent. Later, the same
day, he adopted the words of St. Priest, and made them his own. He
said that the Count d'Estaing ought to have acted on his own
responsibility. No orders are needed by a man of spirit, who
understands his duty. It was the constant wish of Lewis XVI. to be in
the hands of stronger men, who would know how to save him in spite of
himself.

Mounier had obtained his unqualified assent to the Rights of Man, and
urged him to seize the moment to take refuge in some faithful
province. It was the dangerous, but the honourable course, and there
was hope that the Assembly, standing by him, would prevent an outbreak
of war. He conveyed the royal message to the Assembly, at a night
sitting, much hindered by the continued presence of the visitors from
Paris. Just then Lafayette arrived, with his overwhelming force. He
assured Mounier and his friends that the men he commanded would now be
easy to satisfy. But he said nothing of the real purpose of his
presence there. From the Assembly he passed on to the king. Leaving
his 20,000 men behind him in the darkness, he appeared at the Palace
gate, accompanied only by the commissaries from the Hôtel de Ville.

The Swiss behind the bars warned him to reflect what he was about to
do. For he was entering a place crowded with men passionately excited
against the revolutionary general, who, whether he came to save or to
destroy, was no longer a subject, but a master. The general told them
to let him in. As he passed, a voice called out, "There goes
Cromwell." Lafayette stood still and answered, "Cromwell would not
have come alone." Madame de Staël watched him as he entered the royal
presence. His countenance, she says, was calm. Nobody ever saw it
otherwise. Lewis received him with a sensation of relief, for he felt
that he was safe. At that moment the sovereign indeed had perished,
but the man was safe. The language of Lafayette was respectful and
satisfactory. He left to his companions the disagreeable duty of
imposing terms, and they exposed to the king the object of this
strange interposition of the middle class in arms. He replied that he
had already sanctioned the Rights of Man, that the minister would
arrange with the municipality for the provisioning of Paris, that he
himself would trust his person to the custody of the National Guard.
The fourth, and only essential matter, the transfer of the Court to
Paris, was left unsettled. That was to be the work reserved for the
morrow. Word was sent to the Hôtel de Ville that all was well.

Lafayette, holding the issue in his hands, betrayed no impatience, and
abstained from needless urging. His men undertook the outer line of
defence, but the Palace itself was left to the Royal Guards. The king
did not at once realise the position, and attempted to combine the old
order with the new. For the remainder of the night there was a divided
command and an uncertain responsibility. Between Lafayette outside and
D'Estaing within, there was an unguarded door.

The general believed that he had done enough, and would easily gather
the ripe fruit in the morning. Having informed the President of the
Assembly, still ostensibly sitting, that order was restored, he went
home to bed. He had had a long and trying day. His rest was destined
to be short. Before daybreak a small band of ruffians, of the kind
which the Revolution furnished as a proper instrument for
conspirators, made their way by the garden entrance into the Palace.
Those who aimed at the life of the king came upon a guard-room full of
sleeping soldiers, and retired. The real object of popular hatred was
the queen, and those who came for her were not so easily turned from
their design. Two men on guard who fired upon them were dragged into
the street and butchered, and their heads were borne as trophies to
the Palais Royal. Their comrades fled for safety to the interior of
the Palace. But one, who was posted at the door of Marie Antoinette,
stood his ground, and his name, Miomandre de Sainte Marie, lives as a
household word. One of the queen's ladies, whose sister has left a
record of the scene, was awakened by the noise and opened the door.
She saw the sentry, his face streaming with blood, holding a crowd at
bay. He called to her to save the queen and fell, with the lock of a
musket beaten into his brain. She instantly fastened the lock, roused
the queen, and hurried her, without stopping to dress, to the king's
apartment.

The National Guard from Paris, who were outside, had not protected the
two first victims; but then they interfered, and the Gardes
Françaises, who had been the first mutineers, and had become the solid
nucleus of the Parisian army, poured into the Palace. As they had made
their expedition of the day before for no other purpose than to drive
the royal troops away and to take their place, none could tell what
the meeting of the two corps would be, and the king's men barricaded
themselves against the new comers. But an officer reminded the Gardes
Françaises of the day when the two regiments had withstood the
English, side by side, and theirs had been rescued by the Gardes du
Corps. So they called out, "Remember Fontenoy"; and the others
answered the challenge and unbarred the door.

By the time that Lafayette appeared, roused from untimely slumber, his
men were masters of the Palace, and stood between the royal family and
the raging mob of baffled murderers. He made the captured guardsmen
safe; but although he was in supreme command, he did not restore order
outside. The last of the four points he had been instructed to obtain,
the removal of the Court to his custody at the Tuileries and his own
permanent elevation to a position superior to the throne, was not yet
conceded. Until that was settled, the loyalty of his forces was
restrained. Nobody was arrested. Men whose hands were red with the
blood of Varicourt and Miomandre were allowed to defy justice, and a
furious crowd was left for hours without molestation under the windows
of the king. The only cry left for them to raise was "Paris," and it
was sure in time to do its work. The king could not escape, for
Lafayette held every gate. He could not resist, for Lafayette
commanded every soldier. The general never pressed the point. He was
too cautious to attend the council where the matter was considered, as
if the freedom of choice was left. This time Necker had his way, and
he came forward and announced to the assembled people that the Court
was about to move to Paris. Lewis, who had wandered, helpless and
silent, between his chair and the balcony, spoke at last, and
confirmed it.

In that moment of triumph Lafayette showed himself a man of instinct
and of action. The multitude had sufficiently served his purpose; but
their own passions were not appeased, and the queen personified to
them all the antagonistic and unpopular forces. The submission of the
king was a foregone conclusion: not so the reconciliation of the
queen. He said to her, "What are your Majesty's intentions?" She
answered, "I know my fate, I mean to die at the feet of the king."
Then Lafayette led her forward, in the face of the storm, and, as not
a word could be heard, he respectfully kissed her hand. The populace
saw and cheered. Under his protectorate, peace was made between the
Court and the democracy.

In all these transactions, which determined the future of France, the
Assembly had no share. They had had no initiative and no counsel.
Their President had not known how to prevent the irruption of the
women; he had supplied them with bread, and had been unable to turn
them out until the National Guard arrived. After two in the morning,
when he heard that all was quiet at the Palace, he adjourned the
sitting. Next day he proposed that they should attend the king in a
body; but Mirabeau would not allow it to be done. One hundred deputies
gave a futile escort to the royal family, and the Assembly followed
soon after. The power was passing from them to the disciplined people
of Paris, and beyond them and their commander to the men who managed
the masses. Their reign had lasted from July 16 to October 6.

It took seven hours to bring the royal family from Versailles to
Paris, at a foot pace, surrounded by the victorious women, who cried:
"We bring the baker, the baker's wife, and the baker's boy." And they
were right. Supplies became abundant; and the sudden change encouraged
many to believe that the scarcity had not been due to economic causes.



X

MIRABEAU


The transfer of the Government to Paris, which degraded and obscured
the king, at once made the queen the foremost person in the State.
Those days of October are an epoch in her character as well as in her
life, and we must turn our thoughts to her, who had so much influence
and so much sorrow, and who beyond all women in European history,
excepting one, has charmed and saddened mankind. She had proved
inferior to her position during the years of her prosperity, and had
disgraced herself, even in her mother's eyes, by her share in the
dismissal of Turgot. The Court was filled with stories injurious to
her good name, and the calumny of the diamond necklace showed so
clearly what a Prince of the Church thought her capable of, staking
his existence on his belief, that her own sister suspected her, and
they remained long estranged. Her frivolity was unchecked by religion;
but a year or two before her misfortunes began, she became more
serious; and when they were about to end, a priest found his way into
the prison, and she was prepared to die. At first, she was dreaded as
the most illiberal influence near the throne, and the Parliament of
Paris denounced her as the occult promoter of oppression. In the
decisive days of June 1789 she induced Lewis to sacrifice to the cause
of aristocracy the opportune reforms that might have retrieved his
fortunes. The emigration left her to confront alone the vengeance of
the people. The terrific experience of October, when she saw death so
near, and was made to feel so keenly the hatred she inspired, sobered
in a moment the levity of her life, and brought out higher qualities.
It was on that day that she began to remind those around her whose
daughter she was. Ignorant as she was and passionate, she could never
become a safe adviser. But she acquired decision, vigour, and
self-command, and was able sometimes to strengthen the wavering mind
of her husband. Too brave to be easily frightened, she refused at
first the proffered aid of Mirabeau; and when, too late, she bent her
pride to ask for it, she acted with her eyes open, without confidence
or hope. For the surging forces of the day, for the idea that might
have saved her, the idea of a government uniting the best properties
of a monarchy with the best properties of a republic, she had neither
sympathy nor understanding. Yet she was not wedded to the maxims that
had made the greatness of her race, and the enmity of the princes and
the _émigrés_ saved her from the passions of the old _régime_. Condé
spoke of her as a democrat; and she would have been glad to exchange
the institutions of 1791 for something like the British constitution
as it existed in those Tory days. She perished through her insincerity
more than through the traditional desire for power. When the king was
beheaded, the Prince Bishop of Bamberg and Würzburg, reputed the most
sagacious and enlightened among the prelates of the empire, was heard
to say, "It ought to have been the queen." We who see farther may
allow the retribution that befell her follies and her errors to arrest
our judgment.

Marie Antoinette's negotiation with Mirabeau, and the memorable
endeavour of Mirabeau to restore the constitutional throne, is the
central feature in the period now before us.

By the compulsory removal to Paris the democracy became preponderant.
They were strengthened by the support of organized anarchy outside,
and by the disappearance of their chief opponents within. Mounier was
the first to go. The outrage at Versailles had occurred while he
presided, and he resigned his seat with indignation. He attempted to
rouse his own province against the Assembly, which had betrayed its
mandate, and renounced its constituents; but Dauphiné, the home and
basis of his influence, rejected him, and he went into exile. His
example was followed by Lally Tollendal and a large number of moderate
men, who despaired of their country, and who, by declining further
responsibility, helped to precipitate the mischief they foresaw.

The constitutional cause, already opposed by Conservatives, was now
deserted by the Liberals. Malouet remained at his post. He had been
less prominent and less eager than Mounier, and he was not so easily
discouraged. The Left were now able to carry out in every department
of the State their interpretation of the Rights of Man. They were
governed mainly by two ideas. They distrusted the king as a
malefactor, convicted of the unpardonable sin of absolutism, whom it
was impossible to subject to too much limitation and control; and they
were persuaded that the securities for individual freedom which are
requisite under a personal government are superfluous in a popular
community conducting its affairs by discussion and compromise and
adjustment, in which the only force is public opinion. The two views
tended to the same practical result--to strengthen the legislative
power, which is the nation, and weaken the executive power, which is
the king. To arrest this tendency was the last effort that consumed
the life of Mirabeau. The danger that he dreaded was no longer the
power of the king, but the weakness of the king.

The old order of things had fallen, and the customary ways and forces
were abolished. The country was about to be governed by new
principles, new forms, and new men. All the assistance that order
derives from habit and tradition, from local connection and personal
credit, was lost. Society had to pass through a dangerous and chaotic
interval, during which the supreme need was a vigorous administration.
That is the statesmanlike idea which held possession of Mirabeau, and
guided him consistently through the very tortuous and adventurous
course of his last days. He had no jealousy of the Executive.
Ministers ought to be chosen in the Assembly, ought to lead the
Assembly, and to be controlled by it; and then there would be no
motive to fear them and to restrict their action. That was an idea not
to be learnt from Montesquieu, and generally repudiated by theorists
of the separation of powers. It was familiar to Mirabeau from his
experience of England, where, in 1784, he had seen the country come to
the support of the king against the parliament. Thence he gathered the
conception of a patriot king, of a king the true delegate and
mandatory of the nation, in fact of an incipient Emperor. If his
schemes had come to anything, it is likely that his democratic monarch
might have become as dangerous as any arbitrary potentate could be,
and that his administration would have proved as great an obstacle to
parliamentary government as French administration has always been
since Napoleon. But his purpose at the time was sincerely politic and
legitimate, and he undertook alone the defence of constitutional
principles. During the month of September Mirabeau raised the question
of a parliamentary Ministry, both in the press and in the Assembly. He
prepared a list of eminent men for the several offices, assigning to
himself a seat in the Cabinet without a portfolio. It was a plan to
make him and Talleyrand masters of the Government. The Ministers of
the day did not trust him, and had no wish to make way for him, and
when, on November 6, he proposed that Ministers be heard in the
National Assembly, the Archbishop of Bordeaux instigated Montlosier
and Lanjuinais to oppose him. Both were men of high character, and
both had some attainments; and in their aversion for him, and for his
evident self-seeking, they carried a motion forbidding deputies to
take office. By this vote, of November 7, which permanently excluded
Mirabeau from the councils of the king, the executive was deprived of
authority. It is one of the decisive acts of the Constituent Assembly,
for it ruined the constitutional monarchy.

Mirabeau was compelled to rely on a dissolution as the only prospect
of better things. He knew that the vote was due as much to his own bad
name as to a deliberate dislike of the English practice. The question
for him now was whether he could accomplish through the Court what was
impossible through the Assembly. He at once drew up a paper, exhorting
the king to place himself at the head of the Revolution, as its
moderator and guide. The Count of Provence refused to submit his plans
to the king, but recommended him for the part of a secret adviser.
Just then an event occurred, which is mysterious to this day, but
which had the effect of bringing Mirabeau into closer relations with
the king's brother. At Christmas, the Marquis de Favras was arrested,
and it was discovered that he was a confidential agent of the Prince,
who had employed him to raise a loan for a purpose that was never
divulged--some said, to carry off the king to a frontier fortress,
others suspected a scheme of counter-revolution. For the electoral law
excluded the ignorant and the indigent from the franchise, limiting
the rights of active citizenship to those who paid a very moderate sum
in taxes. It was obvious that this exclusion, by confining power to
property, created the raw material for Socialism in the future. Some
day a dexterous hand might be laid on the excluded multitude
congregated at Paris, to overthrow the government of the middle class.
The Constituent Assembly was in danger of being overtrumped, and was
necessarily suspicious.

By Mirabeau's advice, the Count of Provence at once made a public
declaration of sound revolutionary sentiments, and disavowed Favras.
His speech, delivered at the Hôtel de Ville, was well received and he
rose in popular favour. Meantime, his unhappy confederate was tried
for treason against the nation, and found guilty. Favras asked
whether, on a full and explicit confession, his life would be spared.
He was told that nothing could save him. The judge exhorted him to die
in silence, like a brave man. The priest who assisted him afterwards
professed that he had saved the life of the Count of Provence. Favras
underwent his fate with fortitude, keeping his secret to the end. The
evidence which would have compromised the prince was taken away, and
no historian has seen it. The fatal documents were restored to him
when he became king by the daughter of the man who had concealed them.

For some weeks the Count of Provence was ambitious of power, and
allowed Mirabeau to put him forward as a kind of Prime Minister, or
for a position analogous to that of the Cardinal-nephew in
seventeenth-century Rome. He had ability, caution, and, for the
moment, popularity; but he was irresolute, indolent, and vain. If
anything could be made of him, it was clear that the active partner
would be Mirabeau. He was neither loved nor trusted by the king and
queen, and with such a confederate at his elbow he might become
formidable. Necker devised a plan by which his scheming was easily
frustrated. The king appeared before the Assembly, without
preliminaries, and delivered an unexpected statement of policy,
adopting the entire work of the Revolution, as far as it had gone, and
praising in particular the recent division of Provinces into
departments.

Every step, until that day, had been taken reluctantly, feebly, under
compulsion. Every concession had been a defeat and a surrender. On
February 4, under no immediate pressure, Lewis deliberately took the
lead of the movement. It was an act, not of weakness, but of policy,
not a wound received and acquiesced in, but a stroke delivered. The
Assembly responded by at once taking the civic oath to maintain the
Constitution. As that instrument did not yet exist, none could say
what the demonstration would involve. It was adopted for the sake of
committing the remnant of the privileged orders who yielded under
protest.

Mirabeau's aristocratic brother threw away his sword, saying that
there was nothing else for a gentleman to do, when the king abandoned
his sceptre. Mirabeau himself was indignant with what he called a
pantomime; for he said that Ministers had no right to screen their own
responsibility behind the inviolate throne. He saw that his patron was
ingeniously set aside and stranded, and he conceived that his own
profound calculations were baffled. Yet the perspicacity that he
seldom wanted failed him at that moment. For the reconciliation of
the people with the king, the executive triumphing in its popularity,
guiding the Revolution to its goal, was the exact reproduction of his
proposals, and was borrowed from his manifestoes.

The significance of this was at once felt by the foreign advisers of
the queen. Mercy Argenteau, who had been Austrian ambassador
throughout the reign, and who was a faithful and intelligent friend,
suggested that if they sincerely accepted the policy, they would do
well to take the politician with it, that the Count of Provence could
be best disabled by depriving him of his prompter, that the magic is
not in the wand but in the hand that waves it. The queen hesitated,
for Mirabeau had threatened her in the last days at Versailles, and it
was not yet proved that he was not concerned in the attempt to murder
her. She declared that nothing would induce her to see him, and she
wished for somebody who could undertake to manage him, and who would
be responsible for his conduct. Mercy, regardless of her scruples,
sent for La Marck, who was at his Belgian home, opposing the Emperor,
and fostering a Federal republic, and who in consequence was not in
favour with Marie Antoinette. La Marck was intimate with Mirabeau, and
kept him in pocket money. He undertook the negotiation, with little
hope of a profitable result; and at his house Mercy and Mirabeau had a
secret meeting. They parted, well pleased with each other. Mirabeau
advised that the king should leave Paris, and the advice bore fruit.
Mercy did not declare the intentions of the Court, and Mirabeau
continued to act in his own way, treating with Lafayette for money or
an embassy, and attacking the clergy, with whose cause Lewis was more
and more identified. To this interval belongs the famous scene where
he exclaimed that from the place where he stood he could see the
window from which a king of France fired on his Protestant subjects.
Maury, not perceiving the snare, bounded from his seat, and cried out,
"Nonsense! it is not visible from here."

When he made that speech it is clear that Mirabeau was not exerting
himself to secure confidence at Court; and for some weeks in spring
the negotiation hung fire. At length, La Marck convinced the queen
that his friend had been falsely accused of the crime of October, and
the king proposed that he should be asked to write down his views. He
peremptorily rejected La Marck's advice that the Ministers should be
admitted to the secret. He avowed to Mercy that he intended soon to
change them for men who could co-operate with Mirabeau; but he was
resolved not to place himself at once irrevocably in the power of a
man in whom he had no confidence, and who was only the subject of an
experiment. Consequently, Mirabeau's first object of attack was the
Ministry, and the king's forces were divided. The position was a false
one from end to end; but this hostility to Necker served to disguise
the reality. On the 10th of May, 1790, he drew up a paper which La
Marck carried to the queen, and which at once had the effect of making
the Court zealous to complete the bargain. La Marck asked Mirabeau
what were his conditions. He replied that he would be happy on £1000 a
year, if his debts could be paid; but he feared that they were too
heavy for him to expect it. On inquiry, it turned out that they were a
little over £8000. Lewis XVI. offered to clear them off, to give him
£3000 a year while the Assembly lasted, and a million francs down
whenever it came to an end.

In this way both parties were secure. Mirabeau could not play false,
without losing, not only his income, but an eventual sum of £40,000.
The king could not cast him off without wasting the considerable sum
paid to his creditors. The Archbishop of Toulouse undertook the
delicate task of dealing with them; and meeting his debtor constantly,
a strange intimacy arose between the two men.

Mirabeau, wild with the joy of his deliverance, forgot all prudence
and precaution. He took a town house and a country house; he bought
books and pictures, carriages and horses, and gave dinner-parties at
which six servants waited on his guests. After a few months he wanted
money, and more was given without question. The Government proposed at
last to buy him an annuity, with one-fourth of the capital which was
to fall due at the dissolution; but the intention was not carried out.
The entire sum that Mirabeau received, up to his death, from the king
amounted to about £12,000. In return, between June 1 and February 16
he wrote fifty-one notes for the Court discussing the events of the
day, and exposing by degrees vast schemes of policy. When they came to
be known, half a century ago, they added immeasurably to his fame, and
there are people who compare his precepts and prescriptions with the
last ten years of Mazarin and the beginning of the Consulate, with the
first six years of Metternich or the first eight of Bismarck, or, on a
different plane, with the early administration of Chatham.

Mirabeau himself was proud of his new position, and relied on this
correspondence to redeem his good name. He was paid to be of his own
opinion. The king had gone over to him; he had changed nothing in his
views to meet the wishes of the king. His purpose throughout had been
the consolidation of representative monarchy on the ruins of
absolutism. To the king in league with privilege he was implacably
opposed. To the king divested of that complicity he was a convinced
and ardent friend.

The opportunity of proving his faith was supplied by Captain Cook. In
his last voyage the navigator visited the island since named after his
lieutenant Vancouver, and sailed into Nootka Sound, to which, in his
report, he drew the attention of the Government. Three or four years
before, the Spaniards had been there, and had taken formal possession;
and the Russians, spreading southward along the coast, acknowledged
their right, and withdrew. But the place was far north of the regions
they actually occupied; and English adventurers, with the sanction of
the Government, settled there, and opened a trade in peltry with
China. After a year or two, the Spaniards came in force, and carried
them off, with their ships and their cargoes; and claiming the entire
Pacific seaboard from Cape Horn to Alaska, they called on the English
Ministers to punish their intruding countrymen. They also equipped a
fleet of forty sail of the line, assuring the British _chargé
d'affaires_ that it was only to protect themselves against the
Revolution. Pitt was not lulled by these assurances, or by the
delivery of the confiscated ships. He had authorised the proceedings
of the traders with the intention of resisting the Spanish claim
beyond the limits of effective occupation. He now demanded reparation,
and fitted out a fleet superior to that with which Nelson crushed the
combined navies of France and Spain. Under the treaty of 1761 Spain
demanded the support of France. If the French armed, as the Spaniards
were arming, there was reason to hope that England, in so very dubious
a question, would listen to terms; and if France refused to stand by a
manifest engagement, Spain would be free to seek new friends. The
Emperor sustained the appeal. It would be well for him if England was
diverted from the concerns of Eastern Europe, and if France was
occupied in the West. The French Ministers admitted their obligation
and began to arm.

On May 14, just after the first negotiation between Mirabeau and the
Court, the matter came before the Assembly. It was a common belief
that war would strengthen the executive. The democratic leaders
repudiated the Family Compact, and resented an alliance which was not
national but dynastic and of the essence of those things which they
were sweeping away. They sent pacific messages to the British embassy,
and claimed for the representative assembly the right of pronouncing
on peace and war.

Mirabeau, unlike many others, regarded a European war as a danger to
the throne. But he was preparing for civil war, and meant to secure
the army and navy on the royal side. He demanded for the king the
exclusive right of declaring war and making peace. That is the
principle under a constitution where the deputies make the Ministers.
In France, Ministers were excluded from parliament and the principle
did not apply. Barnave answered Mirabeau, and defeated him. On May 22,
in the most powerful constitutional argument he ever delivered,
Mirabeau insisted that, if the ultimate decision rested with the
Assembly, it could act only on the proposition of the Crown. In
legislation, the king had no initiative. Mirabeau established the
royal initiative in peace and war. It was the first-fruit of the
secret compact. The new ally had proved not only that he was capable
and strong, but that he was faithful. For by asking more than he could
obtain he had incurred, for the moment, a great loss of credit. The
excess of his unwonted royalism made him an object of suspicion from
that day. To recover the ground, he issued an amended version of his
first speech; but others printed the two texts in parallel columns,
and exposed the fraud. He had rendered an important service, and it
was done at serious cost to himself. The event cemented the alliance,
and secured his position with the king.

The Assembly voted a solemn declaration, that France would never make
war for conquest, or against freedom. After that, Spain had little to
hope for, and Pitt became defiant. Negotiations lasted till October.
The Assembly appointed a Committee on Foreign Affairs, in which
Mirabeau predominated, casting all his influence on the side of peace,
and earning the gratitude and the gold of England. At last, the
mutinous temper of the Brest fleet settled the question.

The great Bourbon alliance was dissolved, and Pitt owed a signal
triumph to the revolutionary spirit and the moderating influence of
Mirabeau. His defence of the prerogative deserved a reward, and he was
received in a secret audience by Marie Antoinette. The interview took
place at St. Cloud, July 3. The statesman did not trust his new
friends, and he instructed the nephew who drove him, in disguise, to
the back door, to fetch the police if he did not reappear in
three-quarters of an hour. The conversation was satisfactory, and
Mirabeau, as he kissed the queen's hand, declared with chivalrous
fervour that the monarchy was saved. He spoke sincerely. The comedian
and deceiver was not the wily and unscrupulous intriguer, but the
inexperienced daughter of the Empress-queen. She never believed in his
truth. When he continued to thunder against the Right, the king and
queen shook their heads, and repeated that he was incorrigible. The
last decision they came to in his lifetime was to reject his plans in
favour of that which brought them to Varennes. But as the year wore
on, they could not help seeing that the sophistical free-lance and
giver of despised advice was the most prodigious individual force in
the world, and that France had never seen his like. Everybody now
perceived it, for his talent and resource increased rapidly, since he
was steadied by a definite purpose, and a contract he could never
afford to break. The hostile press knew of his visit to St. Cloud
three days after it occurred, and pretended to know for how many
millions he had sold himself. They were too reckless to obtain belief,
but they were very near the truth; and the secret of his
correspondence was known or guessed by at least twenty persons.

With this sword hanging over him, with this rope round his neck, in
the autumn and winter of 1790, Mirabeau rose to an ascendancy in which
he outweighed all parties. He began his notes by an attempt to
undermine the two men who stood in his way. Lafayette was too strong
for him. On the first anniversary of the Bastille he received an
ovation. Forty thousand National Guards assembled from all parts of
France for the feast of Federation. At an altar erected in the Champ
de Mars, Talleyrand celebrated his last Mass, and France sanctioned
the doings of Paris. The king was present, but all the demonstration
was for the hero of two hemispheres, on his white charger. In November
a new Ministry took office, composed of his partisans. Mirabeau
attempted a coalition, but Lafayette did not feel the need of his
friendship. He said, "I have resisted the king of England in his
power, the king of France in his authority, the people in its rage; I
am not going to yield to Mirabeau."

Necker was less tenacious of office, and rather than consent to an
increased issue of _assignats_, resigned, much to his honour, and
retired obscurely. Mirabeau triumphed. He had opposed the _assignats_
at first, although Clavière defended them in his newspaper. He now
changed his attitude. He not only affirmed that the Church lands would
be adequate security for paper, making it equivalent to gold, but he
was willing that the purchase money should be paid in _assignats_,
doing away with bullion altogether. But the cloven hoof appeared when
he assured the king that the plan which he defended would fail, and
would involve France in ruin. He meant that it would ruin the
Assembly, and would enable the king to dissolve. The same
Machiavellian purpose guided him in Church questions. He was at heart
a Liberal in matters of conscience, and thought toleration too weak a
term for the rights inseparable from religion. But he wished the
constitutional oath to be imposed with rigour, and that the priests
should be encouraged to refuse it. He declined to give a pledge that
the Assembly would not interfere with doctrine, and he prepared to
raise the questions of celibacy and of divorce in order to aggravate
the irritation. He proposed to restore authority by civil war; and the
road to civil war was bankruptcy and persecution. Meantime, the court
of inquiry vindicated him from aspersions connected with the attack on
Versailles; as chairman of the Diplomatic Committee, he was the
arbiter of foreign policy. Necker and all his colleagues save one had
gone down before him; he was elected President of the Jacobins in
November, and when he asked for leave of absence, the Assembly, on the
motion of Barnave, requested him not to absent himself. Montmorin, the
only member of Necker's Ministry who remained at his post, made
overtures to him, and they came to an understanding. The most
remarkable of all the notes to the king is the one that records their
conversation. They agreed on a plan of united action. Mirabeau
thereupon drew up the 47th note, which is a treatise of constitutional
management and intrigue, and discloses his designs in their last phase
but one, at Christmas 1790.

Mirabeau never swerved from the fundamental convictions of 1789, and
he would have become a republican if Lewis had gone over to the
reactionary _émigrés_. But he wished him to retire to some provincial
town, that he might not be in the power of the Assembly, and might be
able to disperse it, backed by the growing anger of the country.
Meantime, opinion was to be worked and roused by every device. He set
himself strenuously to form a central party out of the various groups
of deputies. Montmorin was in friendly touch with some of them, and he
had the command of money. Mirabeau laboured to gain over others. Late
one night he had a long conference with Malouet, whom he dazzled, and
who influenced a certain number of votes.

On the other hand, the action of Montmorin extended to Barnave. It
seemed reasonable to suppose that a combination which reached from
Barnave on the Left to Malouet on the Right would be strong enough
either to retrieve its errors, or to break it up, in conjunction with
the Court.

At the end of January, 1791, Mirabeau became President for the first
time, and he occupied the chair with unforeseen dignity and
distinction. He had attained the summit of his career. Just then, the
king's aunts announced their departure for Rome. There was much
discontent, because, if they could be detained, it would be more easy
to keep the king at Paris. Mirabeau made the Assembly feel that
interference with the princesses would be contemptible. Twice they
were stopped on their way, and twice released. Everybody saw what this
implied, and Paris was agitated. A tumult broke out in the Tuileries
garden, which Mirabeau, summoned from table, at once appeased. He was
confident in his strength, and when the Assembly discussed measures
against emigration, he swore that he would never obey a body guilty of
inquisitorial dictation. He quelled the murmurs of the Left by
exclaiming, "_Silence aux trente voix!_" This was the date of his
breach with the Democrats. It was February 28, and he was to dine with
the Duke d'Aiguillon. When he came, the door was shut in his face. By
La Marck's advice, he went that night to the Jacobins, hoping to
detach the club from the leaders. But he had shown his hand, and his
enemies knew how to employ their opportunity. Duport and Lameth
attacked him with extreme violence, aiming at his expulsion. The
discussion is not reported. But three of those who were present agree
that Mirabeau seemed to be disconcerted and appalled by the strength
of the case against him, and sat with the perspiration streaming down
his face. His reply was, as usual, an oratorical success; but he did
not carry his audience with him, and he went home disheartened. The
Jacobin array stood unbroken.

On March 4, Lord Gower wrote that the governing power was passing to
Mirabeau. But on the same day he himself avowed to La Marck that he
had miscalculated, and was losing courage. On the 25th there was a
debate on the Regency, in which he spoke with caution, and dissembled.
That day the ambassador again wrote that Mirabeau had shown that he
alone was fit for power. Then the end came. Tissot, meeting him soon
after the scene at the Jacobins, thought that he looked like a dying
man. He was sinking under excess of work combined with excess of
dissipation. When he remonstrated with his brother for getting drunk,
the other replied, "Why grudge me the only vice you have not
appropriated?" It was remembered afterwards, when suspicion arose,
that he had several attacks of illness during that month of March. On
the 26th he was brought in to Paris from his villa in an alarming
condition. La Marck's interests were concerned in a debate on mineral
property which was fixed for the following day. Fortified with a good
deal of Tokay, Mirabeau spoke repeatedly. It was the last time. He
came back to his friend and said, "Your cause is won, but I am lost."
When his danger became known, it seemed that nothing had occurred to
diminish public confidence, or tarnish the lustre of his fame. The
crowd that gathered in the street made it almost impossible to
approach his door. He was gratified to know that Barnave had called,
and liked to hear how much feeling was shown by the people of Paris.
After a consultation, which was held on April 1, he made up his mind
to die, and signed his will. Talleyrand paid him a long visit, and
took away a discourse on the law of Inheritance, which he read in the
Assembly before the remains of his friend were cold, but which did not
deserve the honour, being, like about thirty of his speeches, the work
of a stranger. The presence of Talleyrand, with whom he had
quarrelled, was welcome to Mirabeau, who, though not a believer, did
not wish it to be thought that he had rejected the consolations of
religion. The parish priest came, but, being told of the prelate's
presence, went away; and a report spread that the dying sinner had
received the ministrations of a more spiritual ecclesiastic than the
Bishop of Autun.

Mirabeau never knew how little the royal personages whom he served
esteemed his counsels; and he died believing that he alone could have
saved the monarchy, and that it would perish with him. If he had
lived, he said that he would have given Pitt trouble, for there was a
change in his foreign policy. On January 28 he still spoke of the
eternal fraternity of England; but in March he was ready to call out
the fleet, in the interest of Russia, and was only prevented by the
attack of which he died. Whether he supported England against Spain,
or Russia against England, his support was paid for in gold. To his
confederates, his illness was a season of terror. If an enemy
disguised as a creditor caused seals to be set upon his papers, a
discovery must have ensued that would ruin many reputations and
imperil many lives. He clung to the secret documents on which he
intended that his fame should rest. On the day of his death, when they
were deposited with La Marck, the secretary who had transcribed them
stabbed himself. On the morning of Saturday, April 2, there was no
hope, and Mirabeau asked for opium. He died before the prescription
was made up. Several doctors who made the post-mortem examination
believed that there were marks of poison; but when they were warned
that they would be torn to pieces, and the king also, they held their
peace.

Odious as he was, and foredoomed to fail, he was yet the supreme
figure of the time. Tocqueville, who wrote the best book, or one of
the two best books, on the subject, looking to the permanent result,
describes the Revolution as having continued and completed the work of
the monarchy by intensifying the unity of power. It is more true to
say that the original and essential spirit of the movement was
decentralisation--to take away from the executive government, and to
give to local authorities. The executive could not govern, because it
was obliged to transmit orders to agents not its own, whom it neither
appointed nor dismissed nor controlled. The king was deprived of
administrative power, as he had been deprived of legislative power.
That distrust, reasonable in the old régime, ought to have ceased,
when the Ministers appointed by the king were deputies presented by
the Assembly. That was the idea by which Mirabeau would have preserved
the Revolution from degenerating through excess of decentralisation
into tyranny. As a Minister, he might have saved the Constitution. It
is not to the discredit of the Assembly that the horror which his life
inspired made his genius inefficient, and that their labours failed
because they deemed him too bad for power.

If Mirabeau is tried by the test of public morals, the only standard
of political conduct on which men may be expected to agree, the
verdict cannot be doubtful. His ultimate policy was one vast intrigue,
and he avowedly strove to do evil that good might come. The thing is
hardly less infamous in the founder of the Left Centre than in Maury
and his unscrupulous colleagues of the Right. There was at no time a
prospect of success, for he never had the king or the queen for one
moment with him.

The answer is different if we try him by a purely political test, and
ask whether he desired power for the whole or freedom for the parts.
Mirabeau was not only a friend of freedom, which is a term to be
defined, but a friend of federalism, which both Montesquieu and
Rousseau regarded as the condition of freedom. When he spoke
confidentially, he said that there was no other way in which a great
country like France could be free. If in this he was sincere, and I
believe that he was sincere, he deserves the great place he holds in
the memory of his countrymen.



XI

SIEYÈS AND THE CONSTITUTION CIVILE


Before coming to the conflict between Church and State, with which the
legislation of 1790 closes, I must speak of a man memorable far beyond
Mirabeau in the history of political thought and political action, who
is the most perfect representative of the Revolution. I mean the Abbé
Sieyès. As a priest without a vocation, he employed himself with
secular studies, and mastered and meditated the French and the English
writers of the age, politicians, economists, and philosophers.
Learning from many, he became the disciple of none, and was thoroughly
independent, looking beyond the horizon of his century, and farther
than his own favourites, Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Turgot. He
understood politics as the science of the State as it ought to be, and
he repudiated the product of history, which is things as they are. No
American ever grasped more firmly the principle that experience is an
incompetent teacher of the governing art. He turned resolutely from
the Past, and refused to be bound by the precepts of men who believed
in slavery and sorcery, in torture and persecution. He deemed history
a misleading and useless study, and knew little of its examples and
its warnings. But he was sure that the Future must be different, and
might be better. In the same disdainful spirit he rejected Religion as
the accumulated legacy of childhood, and believed that it arrested
progress by depreciating terrestrial objects. Nevertheless he had the
confidence of Lubersac, Bishop of Tréguier, and afterwards of
Chartres, who recommended him to the clergy of Montfort as their
deputy.

Sieyès preferred to stand for the Third Estate at Paris, where he was
elected last of all the candidates. One of his preliminary tracts
circulated in 30,000 copies, and had promptly made him famous, for it
was as rich in consequences as the ninety-five theses of Wittenberg.
His philosophy of history consisted in one idea. Barbarians had come
down from Germany on the people of civilised and imperial Gaul, and
had subjugated and robbed them, and the descendants of the invading
race were now the feudal nobles, who still held power and profit, and
continued to oppress the natives. This identification of privileged
noble with conquering Frank was of older date; and in this century it
has been made the master-key to modern history. When Thierry
discovered the secret of our national development in the remarks of
Wamba the Witless to Gurth, under the Sherwood oaks, he applied to us
a formula familiar to his countrymen; and Guizot always defined French
history as a perpetual struggle between hostile nations until the
eighteenth century made good the wrong that was done in the fifth.

Right or wrong, the theory of Sieyès was adopted by his most learned
successors, and must not be imputed to ignorance. His argument is that
the real nation consisted of the mass of men enjoying no privilege,
and that they had a claim for compensation and reprisal against those
who had been privileged to oppress and to despoil them. The Third
Estate was equal to the three Estates together, for the others had no
right to be represented. As power exercised otherwise than by consent,
power that does not emanate from those for whose use it exists, is a
usurpation, the two first orders must be regarded as wrongdoers. They
ought to be repressed, and the means of doing harm taken from them.

Although Sieyès neither wrote well nor spoke well, yet within a
fortnight of his maiden speech he had vanquished the ancient order of
things in France. The Court, the Church and the _Noblesse_ had gone
down before the imposing coherence of his ideas. He soon lost
confidence in the Assembly, as it fell under the control of intruding
forces, and he drew back into an attitude of reserve and distrust.
Many of his measures were adopted, but he deemed that they were spoilt
in the process, and that men who sought popular applause were averse
from instruction.

Sieyès was essentially a revolutionist, because he held that political
oppression can never be right, and that resistance to oppression can
never be wrong. And he was a royalist, not as believing in the
proprietary right of dynasties, but because monarchy, justly limited
and controlled, is one of many forces that secure the liberty which is
given by society and not by nature. He was a Liberal, for he thought
liberty the end of government, and defined it as that which makes men
most completely masters of their faculties, in the largest sphere of
independent action. He was also a democrat, for he would revise the
constitution once in a generation; and he described the law as the
settled will of those who are governed, which those who govern have no
share in making. But he was less a democrat than a Liberal, and he
contrived scientific provision against the errors of the sovereign
nation. He sacrificed equality by refusing the vote to those who paid
no taxes, and he preferred an elaborate system of indirect and
filtered election. He broke the direct tide of opinion by successive
renewals, avoiding dissolution. According to his doctrine, the genuine
national will proceeds from debate, not from election, and is
ascertained by a refined intellectual operation, not by coarse and
obvious arithmetic. The object is to learn not what the country
thinks, but what it would think if it was present at the discussion
carried on by men whom it trusted. Therefore there is no imperative
mandate, and the deputy governs the constituent. He mitigated
democracy by another remarkable device. The Americans have made the
guardians of the law into watchers on the lawgiver, giving to the
judiciary power to preserve the Constitution against the legislature.
Sieyès invented a special body of men for the purpose, calling them
the constitutional jury, and including not judges, for he suspected
those who had administered the ancient law of France, but the _élite_
of veteran politicians.

Thus, although all power emanates from the nation alone, and very
little can be delegated to an hereditary and irresponsible monarch, he
intended to restrict its exercise at every point, and to make sure
that it would never be hasty, or violent, and that minorities should
be heard. In his sustained power of consistent thinking, Sieyès
resembles Bentham and Hegel. His flight is low, and he lacks grace and
distinction. He seems to have borrowed his departments from
Harrington, the distilled unity of power from Turgot, the rule of the
mass of taxpayers over the unproductive class above them, from the
notion that labour is the only source of wealth, which was common to
Franklin and Adam Smith. But he is profoundly original, and though
many modern writers on politics exceed him in genius and eloquence and
knowledge, none equal him in invention and resource. When he was out
of public life, during the Legislative Assembly, he acted as adviser
to the Girondins. Therefore he became odious to Robespierre who, after
the fall of Danton, turned against him, and required Barère to see
what he could be charged with. For, he said, Sieyès has more to answer
for as an enemy to freedom than any who have fallen beneath the law.

The Abbé's nerves never quite recovered from the impressions of that
time. When he fell ill, forty years later, and became feverish, he
sent down to tell the porter that he was not at home, if Robespierre
should call. He offered some ideas for the Constitution of 1795, which
found no support. He patiently waited till his time came, and refused
a seat on the Directory. In 1799, when things were at the worst, he
came back from the embassy at Berlin, took the command, and rendered
eminent service. He had no desire for power. "What I want," he said,
"is a sword." For a moment he had thought of the Duke of Brunswick and
the Archduke Charles; at last he fixed on Joubert, and sent him to
fight Suworow in Italy. If he had come home crowned with victory, the
remnant of the National Assembly was to have been convoked, to place
the daughter of Lewis on her father's throne.

At Novi, in the first action, Joubert fell, and Moreau commanded the
retreat. Sieyès now applied to him. Moreau was not yet the victor of
Hohenlinden. His ascendancy was doubtful, and he hesitated. They were
conferring together when news came that Bonaparte had escaped from
Egypt, and would soon be at Paris. Sieyès exclaimed, rather
impudently, "Then France is saved!" Moreau retorted, "I am not wanted.
That is the man for you." At first Bonaparte was reserved, and took so
much time to feel his way that Sieyès, who was the head of the
government, called him an insolent fellow who deserved to be shot.
Talleyrand brought them together, and they soon came to an
understanding. The conspiracy of Brumaire would have failed at the
deciding moment but for the Abbé. For Bonaparte, when threatened with
outlawry, lost his head, and Sieyès quietly told him to drive out the
hostile deputies. Thereupon the soldier, obeying the man of peace,
drew his sword and expelled them.

Everybody now turned to the great legislator of 1789 for the
Constitution of the hour. With incomparable opportunities for
observation, he had maturely revolved schemes for the government of
France on the lines of that which was rejected in 1795. He refused to
write anything; but he consented to dictate, and his words were taken
down by Boulay de la Meurthe, and were published long after, in a
volume of which there is no copy at Paris or in London.

What I have just said will give you a more favourable view of Sieyès
than you may find in books. The Abbé was not a high-minded man, and he
has no friends in his own country. Some dislike him because he was a
priest, some because he was an unfrocked priest. He is odious to
royalists as a revolutionist, and to republicans as a renegade. I have
spoken of him as a political thinker, not as a writer, an orator, or
an administrator. Mr. Wentworth Dilke and Mr. Buckle[1] have pointed
out something more than specks in the character of Burke. Even if much
of what they say is true, I should not hesitate to acknowledge him as
the first political intellect of his age. Since I first spoke of
Sieyès, certain papers have come to light tending to show that he was
as wicked as the rest of them. They would not affect my judgment on
his merit as a thinker.

    [1] Dilke, _Papers of a Critic_, vol. ii. pp. 309-384; Buckle,
        _History of Civilisation_, ed. J. M. Robertson, pp. 258-269.

In this oracular manner the Constitution of 1799 came into existence,
and it was not his fault that it degenerated in the strong hands of
Napoleon. He named the three Consuls, refusing to be one himself, and
he passed into ceremonious obscurity as president of the Senate.

When the Emperor had quarrelled with his ablest advisers he regretted
that he had renounced the aid of such an auxiliary. He thought him
unfit to govern, for that requires sword and spurs; but he admitted
that Sieyès often had new and luminous ideas, and might have been
useful to him beyond all the ministers of the Empire. Talleyrand, who
disliked Sieyès, and ungenerously reproached him with cupidity, spoke
of him to Lord Brougham as the one statesman of the time. The best of
the political legacy of the Revolution has been his work. Others
pulled down, but he was a builder, and he closed in 1799 the era which
he had opened ten years before. In the history of political doctrine,
where almost every chapter has yet to be written, none will be more
valuable than the one that will show what is permanent and progressive
in the ideas that he originated.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the function of the constituent Assembly to recast the laws in
conformity with the Rights of Man, to abolish every survival of
absolutism, every heirloom of inorganic tradition, that was
inconsistent with them. In every department of State they were obliged
to make ruins, to remove them, and to raise a new structure from the
foundation. The transition from the reign of force to the reign of
opinion, from custom to principle, led to a new order through
confusion, uncertainty, and suspense. The efficacy of the coming
system was nowhere felt at first. The soldiers, who were so soon to
form the finest army ever known, ran away as soon as they saw a shot
fired. The prosperous finances of modern France began with bankruptcy.
But in one division of public life the Revolution not only made a bad
beginning, but went on, step by step, to a bad end, until, by civil
war and anarchy and tyranny, it had ruined its cause. The majority of
the clergy were true to the new ideas, and on some decisive occasions,
June 19 and August 4, promoted their victory. Many prelates were
enlightened reformers, and even Robespierre believed that the inferior
clergy were, in the bulk, democratic. Nevertheless the Assembly, by a
series of hostile measures, carefully studied, and long pursued,
turned them into implacable enemies, and thereby made the Revolution
odious to a large part of the French people.

This gradual but determined change of front, improbable at first, and
evidently impolitic, is the true cause of the disastrous conflict in
which the movement of 1789 came to ruin. Had there been no
ecclesiastical establishment to deal with, it may be that the
development of Jacobin theory, or the logic of socialism, would have
led to the same result. As it was, they were secondary causes of the
catastrophe that was to follow. That there was a fund of active
animosity for the church, in a generation tutored by Voltaire,
Diderot, Helvétius, Holbach, Rousseau and Raynal, none could doubt.
But in the men of more immediate influence, such as Turgot, Mirabeau
and Sieyès, contempt was more visible than resentment; and it was by
slow degrees that the full force of aversion predominated over liberal
feeling and tolerant profession. But if the liberal tendency had been
stronger, and tolerant convictions more distinct, there were many
reasons which made a collision inevitable between the Church and the
prevailing ideas. The Gallican Church had been closely associated with
the entire order of things which the Assembly, at all costs, was
resolved to destroy. For three centuries from the time when they
became absolute the French kings had enjoyed all the higher patronage.
No such prerogative could be left to the Crown when it became
constitutional, and it was apparent that new methods for the
appointment of priest and prelate, that a penetrating change in the
system of ecclesiastical law, would be devised.

Two things, chiefly, made the memory of monarchy odious: dynastic war
and religious persecution. But the wars had ended in the conquest of
Alsace, and in the establishment of French kings in Spain and Naples.
The odium of persecution remained; and if it was not always assignable
to the influence of the clergy, it was largely due to them, and they
had attempted to renew it down to the eve of the Revolution. The
reduction of the royal power was sure to modify seriously the position
of men upon whom the royal power, in its excess, had so much relied,
and who had done so much to raise up and to sustain it. People had
come to believe that the cause of liberty demanded, not the
emancipation, but the repression of the priesthood. These were
underlying motives; but the signal was given by financial interests.
The clergy, being a privileged order, like the nobles, were involved
in the same fate. With the nobles, at the same night sitting of August
4, they surrendered the right of taxing, and of not being taxed.

When the principle of exemption was rejected, the economists computed
that the clergy owed 100 millions of arrears. Their tithes were
abolished, with a promise of redemption. But this the landowners would
not suffer, and they gained largely by the transaction. It followed
that the clergy, instead of a powerful and wealthy order, had to
become salaried functionaries. Their income was made a charge on the
State; and as the surplice fees went with the abolished tithe, the
services of the parish priest to his parishioners were gratuitous. It
was not intended that the priests should be losers, and the bargain
was a bad one for the public. It involved an expenditure of at least
two millions a year, at a time when means were wanting to pay the
national creditor. The consequences were obvious. The State, having
undertaken to remunerate the inferior clergy out of a falling revenue,
had a powerful motive to appropriate what remained of the Church
property when the tithes were lost. That resource was abundant for the
purpose. But it was concentrated in the hands of the higher clergy and
of religious orders--both under the ban of opinion, as nobles or as
corporations. Their wealth would clear off the debts of the clergy,
would pay all their salaries and annuities, and would strengthen the
public credit. After the first spoliation, in the month of August,
these consequences became clear to all, and the secularisation of
Church property was a foregone conclusion.

On October 10 Talleyrand moved that it be appropriated by the State.
He computed that after ample endowment of the clergy, there would be a
present and increasing surplus of £2,000,000 a year. It was difficult
for the clergy to resist the motion, after the agreement of August,
that the State should make provision for them. The Archbishop of Paris
had surrendered the tithe to be disposed of by the nation; and he
afterwards added the gold and silver vessels and ornaments, to the
value of several millions. Béthizy, Bishop of Usez, had declared the
Church property a gift of the nation, which the nation alone could
recall. Maury, loosely arguing, admitted that property is the product
of law; from which it followed that it was subject to modification by
law. It was urged in reply that corporate property is created by law,
but not private, as the individual has his rights from nature. The
clergy complained that the concessions of August were applied to their
destruction in November, but they suffered by their change of front.
Boisgelin, Archbishop of Aix, proposed a practical and statesmanlike
arrangement. As the credit of the Church stood better than the credit
of the State, he offered to advance £16,000,000 as a loan to the
Government on the security of Church property, which it would thus
become impossible for the Assembly to tamper with. The State would be
rescued from its present difficulties; the Church would secure the
enjoyment of its wealth for the future.

By restoring the finances, and the authority of government, it was
believed that this plan would ensure the success of the Revolution,
and would prevent the collapse that was already threatening. Necker,
for a moment, was fascinated. But his wife reminded him that this
compact would establish Catholicism for ever as the State Church in
France, and he broke off the conference. Talleyrand's motion was
altered and reproduced in a mitigated form; and on November 26, 1789,
568 votes to 346 decided that the possessions of the clergy were at
the disposal of the nation. On December 19 it was resolved that the
sum of 16 millions should be raised by the sale of the new national
property, to be the basis for an issue of paper money. That was the
beginning of the _assignats_ that rendered signal service at first,
and fell rapidly after two years. It was made apparent that more was
at work below the surface than the financial purpose. There was the
desire to break up a powerful organisation, to disarm the aristocratic
episcopate, and to bind the individual priest to the Revolution.
Therefore Malouet made no impression when he urged that they were
taking on themselves the maintenance not only of the priesthood, but
of the poor; and that no surplus would be available as long as there
was a Frenchman starving.

In August, 1789, a committee on Church questions had been appointed,
and in February, as it did not agree, its numbers were increased, and
the minority was swamped. Thereupon they reported against the
religious orders. Monasticism for some time had been declining, and
the monks fell, in a few years, from 26,000 to 17,000. Nine religious
orders disappeared in the course of twelve years. On February 13,
1790, the principle that the civil law supported the rule against the
monk was abandoned. Members of monastic orders were to depart freely
if they liked, and to remain if they liked. Those who elected to leave
were to receive a pension. The position of those who remained was
regulated in a series of decrees, adverse to the system, but
favourable to the inmate. It was not until after the fall of the
throne that all monastic orders were dissolved, and all their
buildings were seized.

When the property of the Church became the property of the State, the
committee drew up a scheme of distribution. They called it the Civil
Constitution of the Clergy, meaning the regulation of relations
between Church and State under the new Constitution.

The debate began on May 29, and the final vote was taken on July 12.
The first object was to save money. The bishops were rich, they were
numerous, and they were not popular. Those among them who had been
chosen by the Church itself for its supreme reward, the Cardinal's
hat--Rohan, Loménie de Brienne, Bernis, Montmorency and
Talleyrand--were men notoriously of evil repute. Here then the
Committee proposed to economise, reducing the number by fifty, and
their income to a thousand a year. Each of the departments, just
created, was to become a diocese. There were no archbishops. This was
not economy, but theory. By putting all bishops on the same level,
they lowered the papacy. For the Jansenists influenced the Assembly,
and the Jansenists had, for a century, borne persecution, and had
learnt to look with aversion both on papacy and prelacy, under which
they had suffered, and they had grown less averse to presbyterianism.
As they took away the patronage from the king, and did not transfer it
to the Pope who was a more absolute sovereign than the king, and
besides was a foreigner, they met the difficulty by the principle of
election, which had been upheld by high authorities, and had played a
great part in earlier times. The bishop was to be chosen by the
departmental electors, the parish priest by the district electors; and
this was to be done in the Church after Mass. It was assumed, but not
ordained, that electors of other denominations would thereby be
excluded. But at Strasburg a bishop was elected by a Protestant
majority. In conformity with the opinion of Bossuet, the right of
institution was taken away from Rome.

It was the office of the king to negotiate with the Pope, and he
might have saved the Revolution, the limited monarchy, and his own
life, if he had negotiated wisely. The new dioceses, the new revenues,
were afterwards accepted. The denial of papal institution was in the
spirit of Gallicanism; and the principle of election had a great
tradition in its favour, and needed safeguards. Several bishops
favoured conciliation, and wished the measure to be discussed in a
National Council. Others exhorted the Pope to make no concession.
Lewis barely requested him to yield something; and when it became
clear that Rome wished to gain time, on August 24 he gave his
sanction. At the same time he resolved on flight, relying on
provincial discontent and clerical agitation to restore his throne.

On November 27 the Assembly determined to enforce acceptance of the
Civil Constitution. Every ecclesiastic holding preferment or
exercising public functions was required to take an oath of fidelity
to the Constitution of France, sanctioned by the king. The terms
implicitly included the measure regarding the Church, which was now
part of the Constitution, and which a large majority of the bishops
had rejected, but Rome had not. Letters had come from Rome which were
suppressed; and after the decree of November and its sanction by the
king on December 26, the Pope remained officially silent.

On the 4th of January 1791 the ecclesiastical deputies were summoned
to take the prescribed oath. No conditions or limitations were
allowed, Mirabeau specially urging rigour, in the hope of reaction.
When the Assembly refused to make a formal declaration that it meant
no interference with the exclusive domain of religion, the great
majority of clerical deputies declined the oath. About sixty took it
unconditionally, and the proportion out of doors was nearly the same.
In forty-five departments we know that there were 13,426 conforming
clergy. It would follow that there were about 23,000 in the whole of
France, or about one-third of the whole, and not enough for the
service of all the churches. The question now was whether the Church
of France was to be an episcopal or a presbyterian Church. Four
bishops took the prescribed oath; but only one of them continued to
act as the bishop of one of the new sees. Talleyrand refused his
election at Paris, and laid down his mitre and the ecclesiastical
habit. Before retiring, he consecrated two constitutional bishops, and
instituted Gobel at Paris. He said, afterwards, that but for him the
French constitutional Church would have become presbyterian, and
consequently democratic, and hostile to the monarchy.

Nobody could be more violently opposed to royalism than some of the
elected prelates, such as Fauchet, Bishop of Calvados, who acted with
the Girondins and perished with them, or Grégoire, the Bishop of
Blois, Grégoire was the most conspicuous, and is still the best known
of the constitutional clergy. He was a man of serious convictions, and
as much sincerity as is compatible with violence. With much general
information, he was an inaccurate writer, and in spite of the courage
which he manifested throughout the Reign of Terror, an unimpressive
speaker. He held fast to the doctrines of an elementary liberalism,
and after the fall of the Terrorists he was active in the restoration
of religion and the establishment of toleration. He was absent on a
mission, and did not vote for the death of the king; but he expressed
his approval, and dishonoured his later years by dissembling and
denying it. Gobel, the Bishop of Paris, was far inferior to Grégoire.
Hoping to save his life, he renounced his office under the Convention,
after having offered his retractation to the Pope for £12,000. For a
time it was believed that the clergy of the two churches could
co-exist amicably, and a moderate pension was granted to the
nonjurors. But there was disorder and bloodshed at Nîmes, and in other
parts of France, and it was seen that the Assembly, by its
ecclesiastical legislation, had created the motive and the machinery
for civil war. The nonjuring clergy came to be regarded as traitors
and rebels, and the mob would not suffer them to celebrate mass in the
only church that remained to them at Paris. Bailly said that when the
law has spoken conscience must be silent. But Talleyrand and Sieyès
insisted on the principle of toleration, and succeeded in causing the
formula to be adopted by the Assembly. It was not observed, and was
entirely disregarded by the second legislature.

The Civil Constitution injured the Revolution not only by creating a
strong current of hostile feeling in the country, but by driving the
king to seek protection from Europe against his people. The scheme of
negotiation which led to the general war in 1792, having been delayed
by disunion among the powers and the extreme caution of the Emperor
Leopold, began in the midst of the religious crisis in the autumn of
1790. The problem for us is to discover why the National Assembly, and
the committee that guided it, did not recognise that its laws were
making a breach in the established system of the Church, whether
Gallican or Roman, that they were in flagrant contradiction with the
first principles of the Revolution; and why, in that immense explosion
of liberal sentiment, there was no room for religious freedom. They
believed that there was nothing in the scheme to which the Pope would
not be able to consent, to avoid greater evils, if the diplomacy of
the king was conducted wisely. What was conceded by Pius VII. to
Bonaparte might have been conceded by Pius VI. to Lewis XVI. The
judgment of Italian divines was in many instances favourable to the
decree of the National Assembly, and the College of Cardinals was not
unanimous against it. Their opinions found their way to Paris, and
were bought up by Roman agents. When the Concordat of 1801 was
concluded, Consalvi rejoiced that he had done so well, for he was
empowered, if necessary, to make still greater concessions. The
revolutionary canonists were persuaded that the Pope, if he rejected
the king's overtures, would be acting as the instrument of the
aristocratic party, and would be governed by calculated advantage, not
by conscience. Chénier's tragedy of Charles IX. was being played, and
revived the worst scenes of fanatical intolerance. The hatred it
roused was not allayed by the language of Pius VI. in the spring of
1791, when, too late to influence events, he condemned the Civil
Constitution. For he condemned liberty and toleration; and the
revolutionists were able to say that there could be no peace between
them, and that Rome was the irreconcilable adversary of the first
principles on which they stood. The annexation of the papal dominions
in France was proposed, in May 1791, when the rejection of the Civil
Constitution became known. It was thrown out at first, and adopted
September 14. We shall see, later on, that the conflict thus
instituted between the Revolution and the Church hastened the fall of
the throne, and persecution, and civil war.

I have repeatedly pointed to the jealousy of the executive as a source
of fatal mischief. This is the greatest instance of the harm it did.
That the patronage could not be left in the hands of the king
absolutely, as it was by the Concordat of Leo X., was obvious; but if
it had been given to the king acting through responsible ministers,
then much of the difficulty and the danger would have been overcome,
and the arrangement that grew out of the Concordat of Napoleon would
have been anticipated. That idea was consistently rejected, and,
stranger still, the idea of disestablishment and separation was almost
unperceived. A whole generation later, under the influence of American
and Irish examples, a school of Liberals arose among French Catholics
who were as distinct from the Gallicans as from the Ultramontanes, and
possessed the solution for the perpetual rivalry of Church and State.
For us, the great fact is that the Revolution produced nothing of the
sort, and went to ruin by its failure in dealing with the problem.



XII

THE FLIGHT TO VARENNES


The direct consequence of the ecclesiastical laws was the flight of
the king. From the time of his removal to Paris, in October 1789, men
began to study the means by which he might be rescued, and his
ministers were ready with the necessary passports. During the summer
of 1790, which he spent at St. Cloud, various plans were proposed, and
constantly rejected. The queen was opposed to them, for she said:
"What can the king do, away from Paris, without insight, or spirit, or
ascendancy? Say no more about it." But a change came over them on
August 24, when the Civil Constitution was sanctioned. As soon as it
was voted in July, Mirabeau informed Lewis that he undertook to convey
him, publicly, to Rouen, or Beauvais, or Compiègne, where he would be
out of reach, and could dissolve the Assembly and proclaim a better
system of constitutional laws. Civil war would inevitably follow; but
Mirabeau believed that civil war would lead to the restoration of
authority, if the king put himself in the hands of the Marquis de
Bouillé, the general commanding at Metz. Bouillé had acquired a high
reputation by his success against the English in the West Indies, and
he increased it at this moment by the energy with which he suppressed
a mutiny in the garrison of Nancy. _For_ the service thereby rendered
to the State and the cause of order, he received, under pressure from
Mirabeau, the thanks of the Assembly. The king begged him to nurse his
popularity as he was reserved for greater things. This is the first
intimation of the secret; and it is confirmed by the Princess
Elizabeth, within a week of the sanction given to the Civil
Constitution. But although, in that month of September, Lewis began to
meditate departure from Paris, and accepted the general proposed to
him, he did not adopt the rest of the scheme which would have made him
dependent on Mirabeau. At that moment his strongest motive was the
desire to be released from the religious entanglement; and he hoped to
restore the Church to its lost position on condition of buying up the
_assignats_ with the property of the suppressed orders. It had been
computed that the Church would be able to save the public credit by a
sacrifice of forty millions, or to ruin the revolutionary investor by
refusing it. Therefore the king would not entertain the proposals of
Mirabeau, who was not the man to execute a policy favourable to the
influence of the priesthood. It was committed to a different
politician.

Breteuil, the rival of Necker, was the man preferred to Mirabeau. He
was living at Soleure as the acknowledged head of the Royalists who
served the king, and who declined to follow the princes and the
_émigrés_ and their chief intriguer Calonne. Breteuil was now
consulted. He advised the king to depart in secret and to take refuge
in a frontier fortress among faithful regiments, within reach of
Austrian supports. In this way Breteuil, not Mirabeau, would be
master, and the restoration would have been in favour of the old
_régime_, not of the constitutional monarchy. On one point only the
two advisers agreed: Breteuil, like Mirabeau, recommended Bouillé as
the man of action. His reply was brought by the Bishop of Pamiers, an
eighteenth-century prelate of the worldly sort, who was afterwards
selected to be the minister of finance if Brunswick had conquered. On
October 23 the bishop was sent to Metz to initiate Bouillé.

In point both of talent and renown, Bouillé was the first man in the
army as the emigration had left it. He served reluctantly under the
new order, and thought of making himself a new career in Russia. But
he was ambitious, for he had been always successful, and the emissary
from the king and from Breteuil opened a tempting future. He proposed
three alternatives. The king was to choose between Valenciennes, which
would be the safest and swiftest journey; Besançon, within reach of
the friendly Swiss who were under agreement to supply a large force on
demand; and Montmédy, a small fortified town close to the frontier,
and not far from Luxemburg which was the strongest of the imperial
fortresses. All this meant plainly Montmédy. Besançon was so far that
there was time to be overtaken, and Valenciennes was not in Bouillé's
territory. Nothing could be done before the spring, for the emperor
was not yet master of his revolted provinces; and a long
correspondence was carried on between the general at Metz, and Count
Fersen at Paris, who acted for Lewis XVI. and controlled the whole. At
Christmas, Bouillé sent his eldest son to Paris to arrange details
with him.

During the first months of 1791, which were the last of his life, the
ascendancy of Mirabeau rose so rapidly that the king wavered between
him and Breteuil. In February, La Marck appeared at Metz, to lay
Mirabeau's bolder plan before the soldier on whose sword its execution
was to depend. Bouillé at once preferred it to Breteuil's and was
ready to carry it out. But Fersen was so confident in pledging himself
to contrive the departure from Paris at night and in secret, he was so
resolute and cool, that he dispelled all doubts, and early in March he
announced that the king had finally decided for Montmédy. His
hesitation was over, and Mirabeau was rejected. Lewis could not have
taken his advice without surrendering his own main object, the
restoration of the Gallican Church. It was the essence of Mirabeau's
policy to sacrifice the priesthood. His last counsels were given on
February 23, five weeks before he died. He advised that the king, when
driving out, should be forced by the people to go home; or better
still, that a mob should be gathered in the court of the Tuileries to
prevent him from going out. He hoped that such an outrage would cause
the Assembly to secure greater liberty of movement, which would serve
his purpose at the proper time.

The opportunity was found on April 18, when it became known that the
royal family were moving to St. Cloud. Easter was at hand; and at
Easter, the king of France used to receive communion in public. But
Lewis could not receive communion. He was responsible for the Civil
Constitution which he had sanctioned, and for the schism that was
beginning. With that on his conscience he was required to abstain, as
people would otherwise infer that neither he nor the priest who
absolved him saw anything to regret in the rising storm. Therefore to
avoid scandal it was well to be out of the way at the time. The royal
family were stopped at their very door, as Mirabeau had desired. For
more than an hour they sat in the carriage, hooted and insulted by the
mob, Lafayette vainly striving to clear the way. As they returned to
the palace, the queen indiscreetly said to those about them: "You must
admit now, gentlemen, that we are not free." The case for flight was
strengthened by the events of that day, except in the eyes of some
who, knowing the suggestion of Mirabeau, suspected a comedy, and
wondered how much the king had paid that a howling mob might call him
a fat pig to his face.

The emperor could no longer refuse aid to his sister without the
reproach of cruelty. He was now requested to move troops near enough
to the frontier to justify Bouillé in forming a camp in front of
Montmédy, and collecting supplies sufficient for the nucleus of a
royal army. He was also asked to advance a sum of money for first
expenses. Leopold, who scarcely knew Marie Antoinette, showed extreme
reserve. His hands were not free in the East. He sympathised with much
of the work of the Revolution; and he was not sorry to see France
weakened, even by measures which he disapproved. His language was
discouraging throughout. He would promise nothing until they succeeded
in escaping; and he believed they could not escape. The queen resolved
to discover whether the gross indignity to which she had been
subjected had made some softening impression on her brother; and the
Count de Durfort was sent to seek him in his Italian dominions, with
ample credentials. The agent was not wisely chosen. He found Leopold
at Mantua, conferring with the Count d'Artois, and he fell into the
hands of Calonne. On his return he produced a paper in twenty-one
paragraphs, drawn up by Calonne, with the emperor's replies, showing
that Leopold would invade France in the summer, with 100,000 men, that
the royal family were to await his coming, and that, in effect, he had
accepted the programme of the _émigrés_.

The queen was persuaded that she would be murdered if she remained at
Paris while her brother's forces entered France. She believed that the
_émigrés_ detested her; that they were prepared to sacrifice her
husband and herself to their own cause; and that if their policy
triumphed, the new masters would be worse than the old. She wrote to
Mercy that it would become an intolerable slavery. She resolved to
incur the utmost risk rather than owe her deliverance to d'Artois and
his followers. Marie Antoinette was right in her estimate of feeling
in the _émigré_ camp. Gustavus III. spoke for many when he said, "The
king and queen, personally, may be in danger; but that is nothing to a
danger that threatens all crowned heads."

After their arrest at Varennes, Fersen was amazed at the indecent joy
of the French in Brussels, of whom many avowed their satisfaction that
the king and queen were captured. For the plan concerted with Bouillé
was to serve monarchy, not aristocracy. In her passionate resistance
to the party of d'Artois, Condé, and Calonne, the queen felt herself
the champion of popular royalism. In the language of the day, she was
for a counter-constitution, they for a counter-revolution. There was a
personal question also. The queen relied on Breteuil to save her from
Calonne, whom she suspected of having tampered with the king's
confessor to learn Court secrets. When she saw the answer from Mantua,
she at once knew his hand. If that was her brother's policy, it was
time to make a rush for freedom. The Jacobin yoke could be borne, not
the yoke of the _émigrés_. Breteuil warned them to lose no time, if
they would escape from thraldom to their friends. When Marie
Antoinette resolved that flight with the risk of capture would be
better than rescue by such hands, she knew but half the truth. The
document brought back from Mantua by Durfort was a forgery. It
governed history for 100 years; and the genuine text was not published
until 1894. And we know now that Calonne, behind the back of the Count
d'Artois, fabricated the reply which lured the king and queen to their
fate. On June 9 Mercy wrote that they were deceived. In their terror
and uncertainty, they fled. The first motive of Lewis had been the
horror of injuring a religion which was his own. When he signed the
decree imposing the oath on the clergy, which began the persecution,
he said, "At least, it is not for long."

The elections to the next Assembly were appointed for July 5. If the
first Assembly was allowed to accomplish its work, all that had been
done to discredit one party and to conciliate another, all the fruit
of Mirabeau's expensive intrigues, would be lost. The final
determination that sent them along the road to Varennes was the
treason hatched at Mantua. They ran the gauntlet to the Argonne in the
cause of limited monarchy, to evade revolution and reaction. That was
the spirit in which Mirabeau urged departure, and in which Bouillé
came to the rescue; and it is that which made the queen odious to the
expatriated nobles. But it was not the policy of Breteuil. He refused
to contemplate anything but the restoration of the unbroken crown. The
position was ambiguous. Contrary forces were acting for the moment in
combination. Between the reactionary statesman and the constitutional
general, there was no security in the character of the king.

The calculation on which the flight to Montmédy was undertaken was
not, in itself, unreasonable. There was a strong party in the Assembly
with which it was possible to negotiate. In the Rhone district, along
the Loire, in parts of western and southern France, hundreds of
thousands of the most intrepid men on earth were ready to die for the
altar and the throne. But they were not willing to expose themselves
for a prince in whose hands the best cause was doomed to fail, and
whose last act as king was to betray his faithful defenders.
Instigated by Bouillé, the queen asked her brother to lend some
regiments to act with the royal forces as auxiliaries in case of
resistance. She wished for 30,000 men. That is the significant fact
that justifies the postmaster of St. Ménehould and the patriots of
Varennes. The expedition to Montmédy was a first step towards civil
war and foreign invasion. That is what these men vaguely understood
when they stopped the fugitives.

For the management of the journey the best advice was not always
taken. Instead of two light carriages, the royal party insisted on
travelling in one large one, which Fersen accordingly ordered. The
route by Rheims would have been better, because Varennes was off the
post road. But Varennes was preferred on the ground that Rheims was
the coronation city, and the king might be recognised. The shortest
way to Montmédy passed through Belgian territory; but it was thought
dangerous to cross the frontier. It was urged that a military display
on the road would lead to trouble, but it was decided that it was
necessary beyond Châlons. Bouillé's advice was not always sound, but
there was one point on which it proved fatal to reject it. He wished
the travellers to be accompanied by an experienced officer, whom he
knew to be masterful, energetic, and quick in an emergency. The king
thought of several, but the queen was disinclined to have a stranger
in the carriage. But she asked for three able-bodied officers, to be
employed as couriers, adding that they need not be unusually
intelligent. In those words the coming story is told. The three
couriers answered too faithfully the specified qualification.

The departure had been fixed for the second week of June. Bouillé
still hoped for a movement among the imperialists, and he requested a
delay. On the 16th he was informed that the royal family would start
at midnight on the 20th. He had sent one of his colonels, the Duke de
Choiseul, to Paris for the last instructions. Choiseul's horses were
to fetch the king at Varennes, and he was to entertain him in his
house at Montmédy. He had the command of the farthest detachment of
cavalry on the road from Montmédy to Châlons, and it was his duty to
close up behind the royal carriage, to prevent pursuit, and to gather
all the detachments on the road, as the king passed along. He would
have arrived at the journey's end with at least 400 men. His last
orders were to convey the king across the frontier, if Bouillé should
fall. The great abbey of Orval was only a few miles away, and it was
thought that, at the last moment, it might be found safer than the
hostile soil of France.

Choiseul was not equal to the difficult part he had to perform. He set
out for his post on the Monday afternoon, carrying with him a
marshal's baton, which had belonged to his uncle, and the queen's
hairdresser, Léonard. For Thursday was the solemn festival of Corpus
Christi, when a military mass would be celebrated in the camp, and, in
the presence of the assembled army, Bouillé was to be made a marshal
of France. The queen could not be allowed to appear at such a function
without the artist's help, and he was hurried away, much against his
will, without a word of explanation. The king's sister learned the
same day what was before her. There had been an idea of sending her on
with the children, or with the Countess of Provence. The Princess, who
was eminently good, and not always gracious, did not enjoy the
confidence of the queen. She was one of those who regarded concession
as surrender of principle, and in the rift between the Princes and
Marie Antoinette she was not on the side of compromise. Provence came
to supper, and the brothers met for the last time. That night their
ways parted, leading the one to the guillotine, and the other to the
throne which had been raised by Napoleon above every throne on earth.
The Count and Countess of Provence both started at the same time as
the rest, and reached Belgium in safety.

Fersen, directing matters with skill and forethought, made one
mistake. Two attendants on the royal children were taken, in a hired
carriage, to Claye, the second stage on the eastern road; and it was
their driver who made known, on his return, which way the fugitives
had taken.

When everybody was in bed, and the lights were out, the royal family
went out by a door that was not in use, and got into a hackney coach.
The last to come was the queen, who had been frightened by meeting
Lafayette. Afterwards she asked him whether he had recognised her. He
replied that if he had met her not once but thrice, he could never
have recognised her, after what she had told him the day before; for
she had said that they were not going away. Bailly, who was at home,
ill, had taken alarm at the persistent rumours of departure, and urged
Lafayette to redouble his precautions. After a last inspection the
general assured the mayor that Gouvion was on guard, and not a mouse
could escape. The journalists, Marat and Fréron, had also been warned.
Fréron went to the Tuileries late at night, and satisfied himself that
all was quiet. Nobody took notice of a coachman, chatting and taking
snuff with a comrade, or guessed that it was the colonel of Royal
Swedes, who in that hour built himself an everlasting name. It was
twelve when the queen arrived; and the man, who had made her heart
beat in happier years, mounted the box and drove away into the
darkness. Their secret was known, and their movements had been
observed by watchful eyes. The keeper of the wardrobe was intimate
with General Gouvion. She had warned him in good time, and had given
notice to persons about the queen that she knew what was going on. The
alarm was given at two in the morning, but that she might not be
compromised it was given by devious ways. A traveller from Marseilles
was roused at his lodgings by a friendly voice. He refused to get up,
and went to sleep again. Some hours later the visitor returned, and
prevailed with the sleeper. He came from the palace, and reported that
the king was gone. They took the news to one of the deputies, who
hastened to Lafayette, while the man from the palace disappeared.
Lafayette, as soon as he was dressed, conferred with the mayor and
with the president of the Assembly, Beauharnais, the first husband of
the Empress Josephine, and they persuaded him that nothing could avert
civil war but the capture of the king. Thereupon Lafayette wrote an
order declaring that Lewis had been carried off, and calling on all
good citizens to bring him back. He believed that too much time had
been lost; but nothing less than this, which was a warrant for arrest,
would have appeased the rage of the people at his lack of vigilance.
He despatched his officers, chiefly towards Lille. One of them,
Romeuf, whom he directed to follow the road to Valenciennes, was
stopped by the mob, and brought before the Assembly. There he received
a new commission, with authority to make the king a prisoner. As he
rode out, after so much delay, he learned that the fugitives had been
seen on the road to Meaux, and that they had twelve hours' start.

There is much in these transactions that is strangely suspicious.
Lafayette did not make up his mind that there was anything to be done
until others pressed him. He sent off all his men by the wrong roads,
while Baillon, the emissary of the Commune, struck the track at once.
He told Romeuf that it was too late, so that his heavy day's ride was
only a formality. Romeuf, who was the son of one of his tenants, got
into many difficulties, and did not give his horse the spur until the
news was four hours old. At Varennes he avowed that he had never meant
to overtake them, and the king's officers believed him. Gouvion,
second in command of the guard, knew by which door the royal party
meant to leave, and he assured the Assembly that he had kept watch
over it, with several officers, all night. Lewis had even authorised
Mme. de Tourzel to bring Gouvion with her, if she met him on her way
to the carriage. Burke afterwards accused Lafayette of having allowed
the departure, that he might profit by the arrest. Less impassioned
critics have doubted whether the companion of Washington was preparing
a regency, or deemed that the surest road to a republic is by a vacant
throne.

The coach that was waiting beyond the gates had been ordered for a
Russian lady, Madame de Korff, who was Fersen's fervent accomplice.
She supplied not only the carriage, but £12,000 in money, and a
passport. As she required another for her own family, the Russian
minister applied to Bailly. The mayor refused, and he was obliged to
ask Montmorin, pretending that the passport he had just given had been
burnt by mistake. The numbers and description tallied, but the
destination was Frankfort. As the travellers quitted the Frankfort
road at Clermont, the last stage before Varennes, this was a
transparent blunder. Half an hour had been lost, but the first stage,
Bondy, was reached at half-past one. Here Fersen, who had sat by his
coachman, flourishing the whip, got down, and the family he had
striven so hard to save passed out of his protection. He wished to
take them all the way, and had asked Gustavus for leave to travel in
the uniform of the Swedish Guard. But Lewis would not allow him to
remain, and underrated the value of such an escort. Fersen took the
north road, and reached Belgium without difficulty. In the following
winter he was again at the Tuileries. As a political adviser he was
unfortunate, for he was one of those concerned in the Brunswick
proclamation which cost the king his crown.

The travellers pursued their way without molestation to Châlons, and
there, as they were about to meet their faithful soldiery, they
fancied that the danger was over. In reality the mischief was already
done, and by their own fault their fate was sealed. As they were sure
to be pursued, safety depended on celerity. The point of peril was
Varennes, for a good horseman at full speed might ride 146 miles in
less than thirteen hours, and would arrive there about nine at night,
if he started at the first alarm. It was calculated that the royal
family, at 7-1/2 miles an hour, would reach Varennes between 8 and 9.
The margin was so narrow that there was no time to lose. The king
thought it sufficient to reach Bouillé's outposts before he could be
overtaken, and they would be met a stage beyond Châlons. To secure the
meeting it was necessary to keep time. The hours were exactly
determined; and as the agreement was not observed, the troopers were
useless. Before Châlons four hours had been lost--not by accident, as
the royalist legend tells, for Valory the outrider testifies that it
took but a few minutes to repair. Bouillé knew the ignoble cause of
his own ruin and of so much sorrow, but never revealed it. When he
came to England he misled questioners, and he exacted an oath from his
son that he would keep the miserable secret for half a century. The
younger Bouillé was true to his word. In 1841 he confided to a friend
that the story whispered at the time was true, and that the king
stopped a couple of hours at Étoges, over an early dinner at the house
of Chanilly, an officer of his household, whose name appears in his
will. When people saw what came of it, there was a generous conspiracy
of concealment, which bewildered posterity, until Bouillé's tale was
told.

At Pont de Somme-Vesle, 8 or 9 miles beyond Châlons, Choiseul was in
command. His men had been badly received at St. Ménehould, and their
presence perturbed the country people. Nobody believed the pretence
that so many horsemen were required to protect the passage of
treasure, and they began to suspect that the treasure was the queen
herself, flying to Austria. Choiseul took alarm; for if the king
arrived in the midst of sedition, the worst might be expected. He had
been positively instructed that the king would pass at half-past two.
Fersen had said that he might rely on it, and there was to be a
courier riding an hour ahead. When three o'clock came, without any
sign of king or courier, Choiseul resolved to move away, hoping that
his departure would allay the ferment and secure safe passage. He sent
Léonard forward, with instructions to the officers in command at St.
Ménehould, Clermont, and Varennes, that all seemed to be over for the
day, and that he was starting to join Bouillé; and after some further
watching, he withdrew with all his men. For this Bouillé afterwards
demanded that he should be tried by court-martial.

It had been settled that if the king did not appear at Bondy by
half-past two in the morning, the courier who had preceded him was to
push on, and warn the officers that there was no more to be done. As
no courier made his appearance in the afternoon, it was certain that
the fugitives had got out of Paris, where the danger lay. If Choiseul
found it necessary to move his men, he was to leave a staff officer,
Goguelat, to wait the king's coming, and to be his guide. But Choiseul
took Goguelat with him, leaving no guide; and instead of keeping on
the high road, to block it at a farther point, he went off into
byways, and never reappeared until all was over at Varennes. His error
is flagrant, but it was due to the more tragic folly of his master.
Not long after he had abandoned his post the king arrived, and passed
unhindered. Again he changed horses without resistance at the next
post-town, which was St. Ménehould, and went on to Clermont en
Argonne. Some of the bystanders thought they had recognised him under
his disguise, and the loudest of them was Drouet, who, as postmaster,
had just had a quarrel with one of the officers, and was in the
dangerous mood of a man who has his temper to recover. The town
council assembled, and on hearing the grounds of his suspicion,
commissioned him to follow the travellers and stop their flight. They
did not doubt that Lewis was about to throw himself into the arms of
Austria. It was not his first intention, for he hoped to make a stand
at Montmédy; but the prospect of effective action on French soil had
diminished.

Bouillé's command was narrowed. He could not trust his men; and
Leopold did not stir. The basis of the scheme had crumbled. Whether
within the frontier or beyond it, success implied an Austrian
invasion. Bouillé's plan, from its inception, had no other meaning;
and it was executed under conditions which placed Lewis more
completely in the hands of the calculating emperor. It became more and
more apparent that his destination was not the camp of Montmédy, but
the abbey of Orval in Luxemburg. The men of St. Ménehould who resolved
to prevent his escape acted on vague suspicion, but we cannot say
that, as Frenchmen, they acted wrongly. They had no certainty, and no
authority; but while they deliberated a pursuing horseman rode into
the town, bringing what they wanted. An officer of the National Guard,
Baillon, had got away from Paris early in the day, with orders from
Bailly and Lafayette, and took the right road. He was delayed for two
hours by an encounter with M. de Briges, one of the king's men, whom
he succeeded in arresting. To save time he sent forward a fresh rider,
on a fresh horse, to stop the fugitives; and this messenger from
Châlons brought the news to St. Ménehould, not long after the coach
had rolled away.

When Drouet started on the ride that made his fortune, he knew that it
was the king, and that Paris did not mean him to escape. An hour had
been lost, and he met his postboys returning from Clermont. From them
he learnt that the courier had given the word Varennes, and not
Verdun. By a short cut, through the woods, he arrived just in time.
Meantime St. Ménehould was seething; the commanding officer was put
under arrest, and his troops were prevented from mounting. One man,
Lagache, warned by the daughter of his host that the treasure for the
army chest had evaporated and the truth was out, sprung on his horse
and opened a way through the crowd with a pistol in each hand.

Drouet told the story to the National Assembly more to his own
advantage, claiming to have recognised the queen whom he had seen at
Paris, and the king by his likeness on an _assignat_. On a later day
he declined all direct responsibility, and said that he followed the
coach in consequence of orders forwarded from Châlons, not on his own
initiative or conjecture. When he gave the second version he was a
prisoner among the Austrians, and the questioner before whom he stood
was Fersen. At such a moment even a man of Drouet's fortitude might
well have stretched a point in the endeavour to cast off odium.
Therefore the account recorded by Fersen has not supplanted the
popular tradition. But it is confirmed by Romeuf, who says,
distinctly, that the postmaster of St. Ménehould was warned by the
message sent on by Baillon. Romeuf's testimony, contained in the
protocols of the Assembly, where I have seen it, was omitted in the
_Moniteur_, in order that nothing might deface the legend of the
incautious traveller, the treacherous banknote, and the vigilant
provincial patriot, who was the idol of the hour as the man who had
preserved his country from invasion and civil war.

Clermont, like the other post towns, was agitated by the presence of
cavalry; and after the king had pursued his journey, the authorities
despatched a messenger to rouse Varennes. Passing the royal party at
full speed, he shouted something which they did not understand, but
which made them think that they were detected. He was superseded by
the superior energy and capacity of Drouet, and plays no part in the
adventure. There was an officer at Clermont who knew his business; but
his men deserted him, and he reached Varennes alone. At Varennes the
two men in the secret, Bouillé's younger son and Raigecourt, were with
the horses, at the farther end of the town, over the bridge, keeping
no look-out. They relied on Goguelat, on Choiseul, on d'Andouins who
commanded at St. Ménehould, on Damas at Clermont, and above all on the
promised courier, who was to ride an hour ahead to warn them in time.
But they expected no warning that night. If there was any watchfulness
in them, it was put to sleep by Léonard, who had gone through an hour
before with Choiseul's fatal letter. The king was arrested a few
hundred yards from their inn, and they were aware of nothing. When
they heard, they galloped away on the road to Stenay, where they knew
that the general was keeping anxious vigil. Drouet passed the carriage
near the entrance of the town, where the couriers were wrangling with
the postilions and looking about in the dark for the relays. With the
help of half a dozen men who were finishing their wine at the inn, he
barricaded the bridge.

There the king's passport betrayed him, for it was made out for
Frankfort, and Varennes was not on the road to Frankfort. The party
were therefore detained and had to spend the night at the house of
Sauce, municipal officer and grocer, while the drums beat, the tocsin
rang, the town was roused with the cry of fire, and messengers were
sent to bring in national guards from the country round. At first
Sauce beguiled the king over a bottle of wine, and then introduced a
travelled fellow-townsman who identified him. A scene of emotion
followed, and loyal citizens pressed their sovereign in their arms.
They talked of escorting him to Montmédy, a hundred strong, and Lewis,
ready to believe them, declared he would be content with fifty. As
night wore on, a number of officers collected: Choiseul and Goguelat,
after their long ride from Pont de Somme-Vesle; the Count de Damas
from Clermont; and at last Deslon, a captain of the German horse that
Bouillé chiefly trusted. Choiseul's men, and some of those quartered
at Varennes, were faithful, and it was thought possible to clear the
street. Urged by the queen, Damas wished to attempt it, and long after
he assured an English friend that he regretted that he did not lead
the charge, in defiance of the king's optimism, and of his reluctance
to be saved by the sword. He said to Deslon in German, "Mount and
attack!" But Deslon saw that it was too late. Goguelat threatened to
cut his way out, and was unhorsed by a pistol shot.

Drouet was master of the situation. It was he who managed the
hesitating soldiers and the hesitating townsmen. At five in the
morning Romeuf and Baillon arrived, with Lafayette's order, and the
decree of the sovereign Assembly. There was no more illusion then
about pursuing the journey, and all the king's hope was that he might
gain time for Bouillé to deliver him. Bouillé was at Stenay, twenty
miles off. He spent the night watching the road, with his arm through
his horse's bridle. Long after every possible allowance for delay, his
son came up with the tidings of Varennes. The trumpets roused the
Royal Germans, but their colonel was hostile, and precious hours were
lost. Bouillé gave all his money to his men, told them what manner of
expedition they were on, told them that their king was a prisoner, and
led them to the rescue. It was past nine when he reached the height
that looks down on the valley of the Aire. The horses were tired, the
bridge was barricaded, the fords were unknown. All was quiet at
Varennes, and the king was already miles away on the road to Clermont.
It was the end of a bright dream, and of a career which had been noted
for unvarying success.

As the unhappy man, who had so narrowly missed the prize, turned his
horse's head in the direction of exile, he said to his son, "Do you
still praise my good fortune?" That evening he rode across the
frontier with a group of officers, and his men fired on him as he
passed. He issued an angry declaration, and composed a defence of his
conduct, saying that nobody had remained at his post except himself.
But he knew that king and constitution were lost because he was not on
the spot, and had posted inexperienced men where his own presence was
needed. He could not recover his balance, and became as unwise and
violent as the rest. The _émigrés_ did not trust him, and assigned him
no active part in the invasion of the following year. His fame stood
high among the English who had fought him in the West Indies, and Pitt
offered him the command in San Domingo, which the Duke of Portland
obliged him to relinquish.

Lewis XVI. was brought back to Paris by an insolent and ferocious
crowd, and looked back with gratitude to the equivocal civilities of
Sauce. The journey occupied four days, during which the queen's hair
turned grey. Three deputies, sent by the Assembly, met the dolorous
procession half way, and took charge of the royal family. The king at
once assured them that he had intended to remain at Montmédy, and
there to revise the Constitution. "With those words," said Barnave,
"we shall save the monarchy." Latour Maubourg refused his turn in the
royal carriage, on the plea that his legs were too long for comfort,
and advised the king to employ the time in domesticating his
companions. The advice partly succeeded, for Barnave was made a
friend. Nothing could be made of Pétion, who states in his narrative
that the princess fell in love with him. General Dumas assumed
command, and, by posting cavalry on one of the bridges, managed to
bring the horses to a trot, and left the crowd behind.

When they came to the forest of Bondy, the Hounslow Heath of France, a
band of ruffians from the capital made a determined attack, and were
with difficulty beaten off. At last, Lefebvre, the future Marshal Duke
of Dantzick, met them with a company of grenadiers. As there was
danger in the narrow streets of Paris, Lafayette took them round
through the Champs Elysées. Word had been passed that not a sign of
hatred or of honour should be given, and a horseman rode in front,
commanding silence. The order was sullenly obeyed. The day before this
funereal scene the Prussian envoy wrote home that the king might be
spared, from motives of policy, but that nothing could save the queen.
They had reached the terrace of the Tuileries when there was a rush
and a struggle, in which Dumas lost his hat and his belt and his
scabbard, and nearly had his clothes torn from his back. A group of
deputies came to his assistance, and no blood was shed. A carriage
came after, with Drouet conspicuous on high and triumphant. He
received a grant of £1200, and was elected to the Convention in the
following year. Taken prisoner by the Prussians, he impressed Goethe
by his coolness in adversity. The Austrians took him at the siege of
Maubeuge, and he was exchanged for the king's daughter. In the
communistic conspiracy of Babeuf he nearly lost his life, and for a
time he lived in a cavern, underground. Napoleon gave him the Legion
of Honour, made him subprefect of St. Ménehould, and was his guest
when he visited Valmy. In the Hundred Days Drouet was again a deputy,
and then vanished from sight and changed his name. When he died, in
1824, his neighbours learned with surprise that they had lived with
the sinister contriver of the tremendous tragedy.



XIII

THE FEUILLANTS AND THE WAR


Tuesday, June 21, the day on which the departure of the king became
known, was the greatest day in the history of the Assembly. The
deputies were so quick to meet the dangers of the situation, they were
so calm, their measures were so comprehensive, that they at once
restored public confidence. By the middle of the day the tumult in the
streets was appeased, and the ambassadors were astonished at the
tranquillity of Paris. They wrote home that all parties put aside
their quarrels, and combined in a sincere endeavour to save the State.
That was the appearance of things on the surface and for the moment.
But the Right took no share in acts which they deemed a usurpation of
powers calculated to supersede monarchy, and to make the crisis serve
as the transition to a Republic. To the number of almost 300 they
signed a protest, declaring that they would take no further part in
the deliberations. Their leader, Cazalès, went away to Coblenz, and
was coldly received as a man who had yielded too much to parliamentary
opinions, whose services had been unavailing, and who repented too
late.

The king's flight, while it broke up the Conservative party, called
the Republican party into existence. For Lewis had left behind him a
manifesto, meditated during many months, urging the defects of the
Constitution, and denouncing all that had been effected since he had
suffered violence at Versailles. Many others besides Lewis were aware
of the defects, and desired their amendment. But the renunciation of
so much that he had sanctioned, so much that he had solemnly and
repeatedly approved, exposed him to the reproach of duplicity and
falsehood. He not only underwent the ignominy of capture and exposure;
he was regarded henceforth as a detected perjurer. If the king could
never be trusted again, the prospects of monarchy were hopeless. The
Orleans party offered no substitute, for their candidate was
discredited. Men began to say that it was better that what was
inevitable should be recognised at once than that it should be
established later on by violence, after a struggle in which more than
monarchy would be imperilled, and which would bring to the front the
most inhuman of the populace. To us, who know what the next year was
to bring, the force and genuineness of the argument is apparent; but
it failed to impress the National Assembly. Scarcely thirty members
shared those opinions, and neither Barère nor Robespierre was among
them. The stronghold of the new movement was the Club of the
Cordeliers. The great body of the constitutional party remained true
to the cause, and drew closer together. Lameth and Lafayette appeared
at the Jacobins arm in arm; and when the general was attacked for
negligence in guarding the Tuileries, Barnave effectually defended
him. This was the origin of the Feuillants, the last organisation for
the maintenance of monarchy. They were resolved to save the
Constitution by amending it in the direction of a strengthened
executive, and for their purpose it was necessary to restore the king.
If his flight had succeeded, it was proposed to open negotiations with
him, for he would have it in his power to plunge France into foreign
and domestic war. He was more formidable on the frontier than in the
capital. Malouet, the most sensible and the most respected of the
royalists, was to have been sent to treat, in the name of the
Assembly, that, by moderating counsels, bloodshed might be averted,
and the essentials of the Revolution assured. But, on the second
evening, a tired horseman drew rein at the entrance, and the joyous
uproar outside informed the deputies before he could dismount that he
came with news of the king. He was the Varennes doctor, and he had
been sent at daybreak to learn what the town was to do with its
prisoners.

The king, ceasing to be a danger, became an embarrassment. He could
not at once be replaced on the throne. Without prejudging the future,
it was resolved that he be detained at the Tuileries until the
Constitution, completed and revised, was submitted to him for his free
assent. Thus, for ten weeks, he was suspended. The Assembly governed
and legislated, without reference to his sanction; and the interregnum
was so prolonged that the monarchy could never recover. When, in
September, Lewis resumed his royal function, he was no longer an
integral element in the State, but an innovation and an experiment. On
the day when, standing uncovered before the legislators, he promised
fidelity to their Constitution, it seemed natural to them, in the
presence of tarnished and diminished majesty, to sit down and put
their hats on. The triumvirs, who had foiled Mirabeau, began
immediately after his death to sustain the royal cause in secret.
Montmorin called on Lameth before he was up, and began the
negotiation. Barnave frequented the house of Montmorin, but took care
always to come accompanied, in order to prevent a bribe. His two days'
journey in the royal company confirmed him in his design. Having
reduced the prerogative when it was excessive, they revived it when it
had become too weak, and the king could no longer inspire alarm. They
undertook to devise props for the damaged throne. "If not Lewis XVI.,"
said Lafayette, "then Lewis XVII." "If not this king," said Sieyès,
"find us another." This was the predominant feeling.

When an attack was made on the king at the Jacobins, all the deputies
present, excepting six, seceded in a body, and founded a new club at
the Feuillants. On July 15, in a speech which was considered the
finest heard in France since Mirabeau, Barnave carried an overwhelming
vote in favour of monarchy. He said that the revolutionary movement
could go no farther without carrying away property. He dreaded the
government of the poor over the rich; for Barnave's political
philosophy consisted in middle-class sovereignty--government by that
kind of property which depends on constant labour, integrity,
foresight, and self-denial, excluding poverty and opulence. Defeated
at the Jacobins and in the Assembly, the republicans prepared a
demonstration on the Champ de Mars, where a petition was signed for
the dethronement of the king. The Assembly, fearing a renewal of the
scenes at Versailles, commissioned Bailly and Lafayette to disperse
the meeting. On July 17 a collision ensued, shots were fired, and
several petitioners were killed. The Jacobins, for the moment, were
crushed. Robespierre, Marat, even Danton, effaced themselves, and
expected that the Feuillants would follow up their victory. It seemed
impossible that men who had the resolution to shoot down their
masters, the people of Paris, and were able to give the law, should be
so weak in spirit, or so short of sight, as to throw away their
advantage, and resume a contest on equal terms with conquered and
injured adversaries.

The Feuillants were thenceforward predominant and held their ground
until the Girondins overthrew them on March 18. It was the rule at
their club to admit none but active citizens, paying taxes and
possessing the franchise. The masses were thus given over to the
Jacobins. By their energy at the Champ de Mars, July 17, Lafayette and
his new friends had aroused the resentment of a vindictive party; and
when they took no advantage of the terror they inspired, the terror
departed, and the resentment remained. It was agreed that Malouet
should move amendments to the Constitution. The Feuillants were to
oppose, and then to play into his hands. But Malouet was deserted by
his friends, the agreement was not carried out, and the revision
failed in the Assembly. The Committees proposed that the famous decree
of November 7, by which no deputy could accept office, should be
revoked. The exclusion was maintained, but ministers were allowed to
appear and answer for their departments. No other important amendment
was carried, and no serious attempt was made to adjust and harmonise
the clauses voted during two hurried years. Various reforms were
vainly brought forward; and they indicate, as well as the sudden
understanding between Malouet and Barnave, that the deputies had
little faith in the work they had accomplished. They were tired of it.
They were no longer on the crest of the wave, and their power had
passed to the clubs and to the press. They were about to disappear. By
an unholy alliance between Robespierre and Cazalès the members of the
National Assembly were ineligible to the Legislature that was to
follow. None of those who drew up the Constitution were to have a
share in applying it. The actual rulers of France were condemned to
political extinction. Therefore the power which the Feuillants
acquired by their very dexterous management of the situation produced
by the king's flight could not last; their radical opponents had time
on their side, and they had logic.

Lewis, after his degradation, was an impossible king. And the
republicans had a future majority in reserve, whenever the excluded
class was restored to the right of voting which it had enjoyed in 1789
before equality was a fundamental law, and which the Rights of Man
enabled them to claim. And now the incident of Varennes supplied the
enemies of the throne with a new argument. The wretched incompetence
of Lewis had become evident to all, and to the queen herself. She did
not hesitate to take his place, and when people spoke of the Court, it
was the queen they meant. The flight, and the policy that led to it,
and that was renewed by the failure, was the policy of relying on
foreign aid, especially that of the emperor. The queen was the
connecting link, and the chief negotiator. And the object she pursued
was to constrain the French people, by means of the emperor's
influence on the Powers, either by the humiliating parade of power at
a congress, or by invasion. That is what she was believed to be
contriving, and the sense of national independence was added to the
motive of political liberty to make the Court unpopular. People
denounced the Austrian cabal, and the queen as its centre. It was
believed that she wished to govern not only through the royal
authority restored, but through the royal authority restored by
foreign oppressors. The Revolution was confronted with Europe. It had
begun its work by insurrection, and it had to complete its work by
war. The beginning of European complications was the flight to
Varennes.

Early in September the Constitution was presented to Lewis XVI. The
gates were thrown open. The guards who were his gaolers were
withdrawn. He was ostensibly a free man. If he decided to accept, his
acceptance would be voluntary. The Emperor, Kaunitz, Malesherbes,
advised him to accept. Malouet preferred, as usual, a judicious middle
course. Burke was for refusal. He said that assent meant destruction,
and he thought afterwards that he was right, for the king assented and
was destroyed. Burke was not listened to. He had become the adviser of
Coblenz, and great as his claims were upon the gratitude of both king
and queen, he was counted in the ranks of their enemies. Mercy, who
transmitted his letter, still extant in the archives of France, begged
that it might not influence the decision. After ten days of leisurely
reflection, but without real hesitation, for everything had been
arranged with Lameth and Barnave, the leaders of the majority, Lewis
gave his sanction to the Constitution of 1791, which was to last until
1792, and the National Assembly was dissolved. Political delinquents,
including the accomplices of Varennes, received an amnesty.

By right of the immense change they made in the world, by their energy
and sincerity, their fidelity to reason and their resistance to
custom, their superiority to the sordid craving for increase of
national power, their idealism and their ambition to declare the
eternal law, the States-General of 1789 are the most memorable of all
political assemblies. They cleared away the history of France, and
with 2500 decrees they laid down the plan of a new world for men who
were reared in the old. Their institutions perished, but their
influence has endured; and the problem of their history is to explain
why so genuine a striving for the highest of earthly goods so
deplorably failed. The errors that ruined their enterprise may be
reduced to one. Having put the nation in the place of the Crown, they
invested it with the same unlicensed power, raising no security and no
remedy against oppression from below, assuming, or believing, that a
government truly representing the people could do no wrong. They acted
as if authority, duly constituted, requires no check, and as if no
barriers are needed against the nation. The notion common among them,
that liberty consists in a good civil code, a notion shared by so
famous a Liberal as Madame de Staël, explains the facility with which
so many revolutionists went over to the Empire. But the dreadful
convulsion that ensued had a cause for which they were not
responsible. In the violent contradiction between the new order of
things in France and the inorganic world around it, conflict was
irrepressible. Between French principles and European practice there
could be neither conciliation nor confidence. Each was a constant
menace to the other, and the explosion of enmity could only be
restrained by unusual wisdom and policy.

The dissolution of the Whig party in England indicates what might be
expected in the continental monarchies where there were no Whigs. We
shall presently see that it was upon this rock, in the nature of
things, that the Revolution went to pieces. The wisest of the
statesmen who saw the evil days, Royer Collard, affirmed long after
that all parties in the Revolution were honest, except the Royalists.
He meant that the Right alone did wrong with premeditation and design.
In the surprising revulsion that followed the return from Varennes,
and developed the Feuillants, it was in the power of the Conservatives
to give life to constitutional monarchy. That was the moment of their
defection. They would have given much to save an absolute king: they
deliberately abandoned the constitutional king to his fate.

The 1150 men who had been the first choice of France now pass out of
our sight. The 720 deputies of the Legislative Assembly were new and
generally obscure names. Nobles, clergy, conservatives did not
reappear, and their place was taken by the Feuillants, who, in the
former Assembly, would have belonged to the Left. The centre of
gravity shifted far in the revolutionary direction. The Constitution
was made. The discussion of principles was over, and the dispute was
not for doctrines but for power. The speakers have not the same
originality or force; they are not inventors in political science;
they are not the pioneers of mankind. In literary faculty, if not in
political, they surpass their predecessors, and are remembered for
their eloquence if not for statecraft.

Reinhard, a German traveller who fell in with a group of the new
deputies on their way to Paris, fell under their charm, and resolved
to cast his lot with a country about to be governed by such men.
Whilst he rose to be an ambassador and minister of foreign affairs,
his friends were cut off in their prime, for they were the deputies
who came from Bordeaux, and gave the name of their department to the
party of the Gironde. By their parliamentary talents they quickly
obtained the lead of the new Assembly; and as they had few ideas and
no tactics, they allowed Sieyès to direct their course.

Robespierre, through the Jacobin Club, which now recovered much of the
ground it had lost in July, became the manager of the Extreme Left,
which gradually separated from Brissot and the Girondins. The ministry
was in the hands of the Feuillants, who were guided by Lameth, while
Barnave was the secret adviser of the queen. She followed his counsels
with aversion and distrust, looking upon him as an enemy, and longing
to throw off the mask, and show him how he had been deceived. As she
could not understand how the same men who had depressed monarchy
desired to sustain it, she played a double and ignoble part. The
tactics of the Feuillant advisers brought a revival of popular feeling
in favour of the Court, which seemed inconceivable at the epoch of the
arrest. King and queen were applauded in the streets, and at the
theatre the cry "Long live the king!" silenced the cry "Long live the
nation!" This was in October 1791, before the Legislative Assembly had
divided into parties, or found a policy.

When the Assembly summoned the _émigrés_ to return by the month of
January, the king fully agreed with the policy though not with the
penalty. But when a Commission reported on the temper of the clergy,
and described the mischief that was brewing in the provinces between
the priests of the two sections, and severe measures of repression
were decreed against nonjurors, he interposed a veto. The First
Assembly had disendowed the clergy, leaving them a pension. The
Second, regarding them as agitators, resolved to proceed against them
as against the _émigrés_. Lewis, in resisting persecution, was
supported by the Feuillants. But the Assembly was not Feuillant, and
the veto began its estrangement from the king. A new minister was
imposed on him. The Count Narbonne de Lara was the most brilliant
figure in the _noblesse_ of France, and he lived to captivate and
dazzle Napoleon. Talleyrand, who thought the situation under the
Constitution desperate, put forward his friend; and Madame de Staël,
the queen of constitutional society, obtained for him the ministry of
war. The appointment of Narbonne was a blow struck at the Feuillants,
who still desired to reform the institutions, and who were resolute in
favour of peace. At the same time, Lafayette laid down his command of
the National Guard, and stood as a candidate to succeed Bailly in the
office of mayor. But Lafayette had ordered the capture of the royal
family, and could not be forgiven. The queen obtained the election of
Pétion instead of Lafayette; and behind Pétion was Danton. What the
Feuillants lost was added to the Girondins, not yet distinct from the
Jacobins; and as the Feuillants were for two chambers, for peace, and
for an executive independent of the single Assembly and vetoing its
decrees, the policy of its opponents was to bring the king into
subjection to the Legislature, to put down the discontented clergy,
and to make the emigration a cause for war.

The new minister, Narbonne, was accepted as a war minister, while his
Feuillant colleague at the Foreign Office, Delessart, was obstinately
pacific. On December 14 Lewis came down to the Legislature, and
announced that he would insist that the _émigrés_ should receive no
encouragement beyond the frontier. It was the first act of hostility
and defiance, and it showed that the king was parting with his
Feuillant friends. But Delessart spoilt the effect by keeping back the
note to the emperor for ten days, and communicating it then with
precautions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Leopold II. was one of the shrewdest and most cautious of men. He knew
how to wait, and how to give way. He had no wish that his
brother-in-law should again be powerful, and he was not sorry that
France should be disabled by civil dissension. But he could not
abandon his sister without dishonour; and he was afraid of the
contagion of French principles in Belgium, which he had reconciled and
pacified with difficulty. Moreover, a common action in French affairs,
action which might eventually be warlike, was a means of closing the
long enmity with Prussia, and obtaining a substitute for the family
alliance with France, which had become futile. Therefore he was
prepared, if they had escaped, to risk war for their restoration, and
induced the Prussian agent to sign an undertaking which went beyond
his instructions.

When the disastrous news reached him from Varennes, Leopold appealed
to the Powers, drew up an alliance with Prussia, and joined in the
declaration of Pilnitz, by which France was threatened with the
combined action of all Europe unless the king was restored to a
position worthy of kings. The threat implied no danger, because it was
made conditional on the unanimity of the Powers. There was one Power
that was sure not to consent. England was waiting an opportunity to
profit by French troubles. It had already been seriously proposed by
Bouillé, with the approval of Lewis, to purchase aid from George III.
by the surrender of all the colonies of France. Therefore Leopold
thought that he risked nothing by a demonstration which the _émigrés_
made the most of to alarm and irritate the French people. But when the
king freely accepted the Constitution, the manifesto of Pilnitz fell
to the ground. If he was content with his position, it could not be
the duty of the Powers to waste blood and treasure in attempting to
alter it. The best thing was that things should settle down in France.
Then there would be no excitement spreading to Belgium, and no reason
why other princes should be less easily satisfied than Lewis himself.
"The king," said Kaunitz, "the king, good man, has helped us out of
our difficulty himself." Still more, when he obtained a revival of
popularity which seemed a marvel after the events of June, when he
freely vetoed acts which he disapproved, and appeared to be acting in
full agreement with a powerful and still dominant party, the imperial
government hoped that the crisis was over. And this was the state of
things in October and November.

The _émigrés_, conscious of their repulse at Pilnitz, made it their
business to undeceive the emperor, and to bring him back to the scheme
of intervention. The Spanish Bourbons were with them, and had recalled
their ambassador, and fitted out a fleet in the Mediterranean.
Gustavus of Sweden was eager to invade France with a Swedish army to
be conveyed in Russian ships, and paid for in Mexican piastres, and
with Bouillé by his side. Catherine II. gave every encouragement to
the German Powers to embroil themselves with France, and to leave her
to deal uncontrolled with Poland and Turkey. The first to emigrate had
been the Comte d'Artois and his friends, who had conspired against
Necker and the new Constitution. They fled, because their lives were
in danger. Others followed, after the rising of the peasants and the
spoliation of August. As things grew more acute, and the settlement of
feudal claims was carried out with unsparing hostility, the movement
spread to the inferior _noblesse_. After the breach with the clergy
and the secularisation of Church property, the prelates went into
exile, and were followed by their friends. In the winter of 1790-1791
they began to organise themselves on the Rhine, and to negotiate with
some of the smaller Powers, especially Sardinia, for an invasion. The
later arrivals were not welcomed, for they were men who had accepted
constitutional government. The purpose of the true _émigrés_ was the
restoration of the old order, of the ancient principles and
institutions, not without reform, but without subversion. That was the
bond between them, and the basis on which they sought the aid of
absolute princes. They denied that the king himself, writhing in the
grip of democracy, had the right to alter the fundamental laws. Some
of the best and ablest and most honourable men had joined their ranks,
and they were instructed and inflamed by the greatest writer in the
world, who had been the best of Liberals and the purest of
revolutionary statesmen, Edmund Burke. It was not as a reactionist,
but as a Whig who had drunk success to Washington, who had dressed in
blue and buff, who had rejoiced over the British surrender at
Saratoga, who had drawn up the address to the Colonists, which is the
best State paper in the language, that he told them that it was lawful
to invade their own country, and to shed the blood of their
countrymen.

The _émigrés_ of every grade of opinion were united in dislike of the
queen and in depreciation of the king, and they wished to supersede
him by declaring his brother Regent. They hoped to save them both; but
they thought more of principles than of persons, and were not to be
diverted from their projects by consideration of what might happen at
Paris. When the emperor spoke of the danger his sister and her husband
were running, Castelnau replied, "What does it matter, provided the
royal authority is preserved in the person of d'Artois?" They not only
refused obedience to Lewis, but they assiduously compromised him, and
proclaimed that he meant the contrary of what he said, making a
reconciliation between him and his people impossible. Even his
brothers defied him when in this extremity, he entreated them to
return. It was the _émigré_ policy to magnify the significance of what
was done at Pilnitz; and as they have convinced posterity that it was
the announcement of an intended attack, it was easy to convince their
contemporaries at home. The language of menace was there, and France
believed itself in danger. How little the Princes concerned meant to
give effect to it remained a secret.

The French democracy might have found its advantage in the
disappearance of so many nobles; but as they were working, with
apparent effect, to embroil the country with its neighbours, attempts
were made to compel their return, first by a threefold taxation, then
by confiscation, and at last, November 9, by threatening with death
those who did not return. The nonjuring clergy were associated with
the _émigrés_ in the public mind as enemies and conspirators who were
the more dangerous because they remained at home. The First Assembly
had provoked the hostility on the frontier; the Second provoked
hostilities at home. The First had left nonjuring priests with a
pension, and the use of parish churches where successors had not been
appointed. The Legislative Assembly decreed, November 29, that in all
cases where it seemed good to the authorities, they might be deprived
of their pensions and sent away. The great insurrection of the West
was caused by this policy. It was religious rather than political, and
was appeased by the return of the priests.

The head of the war party in the Assembly was Brissot, who was reputed
to know foreign countries, and who promised certain success, as no
really formidable Power was ready to take the field. Meantime he
endeavoured to isolate Austria, and Ségur was sent to Berlin,
Talleyrand to London, to surround France with her natural allies.
Brissot's text was the weakness and division of other countries; the
first man who divined the prodigious resources and invincible energy
of France was the declamatory Provençal Isnard. He spoke on November
29, and this was his prophetic argument: the French people exhibited
the highest qualities in war when they were treated as slaves by
despotic masters; there was no fear that they had degenerated in
becoming free men; only let them fight for principle, not for State
policy, and the force that was in them would transform the world.
Hérault de Séchelles divulged the political motive of the war party.
He said a foreign conflict would be desirable for internal reasons. It
would lead to measures of precaution stronger than peace time would
admit, and changes otherwise impossible would then be justified by the
plea of public safety. It is the first shadow cast by the coming reign
of terror. But neither Girondin violence nor _émigré_ intrigue was the
cause that plunged France into the war that was to be the most
dreadful of all wars. The true cause was the determination of Marie
Antoinette not to submit to the new Constitution. At first she wished
that France should be intimidated by a congress of the united Powers.
She warned her friends abroad not to be taken in by the mockery of her
understanding with the Feuillant statesmen; and when Leopold treated
the accepted Constitution seriously, as a release from his
engagements, she accused him of betraying her. On September 8, just
before accepting, Lewis, in confidence, wrote that he meant to
tolerate no authority in France besides his own, and that he desired
to recover it by foreign aid.

The idea of an armed Congress persisted until the end of November. But
during the week from the 3rd to the 10th of December the king and
queen wrote to the Powers, desiring them not to regard their official
acts, beseeching them to resist the demands they made in public and to
make war, and assuring them that France would be easily subdued and
cowed. They hoped, by this treason, to recover their undivided power.
All these letters were inspired, were almost dictated, by Fersen.

As Leopold began to see more clearly what it was his sister meant, he
modified his pacific policy. On the 25th of October he speaks of
increasing the royal authority by a counter-revolution in France. On
the 17th of November he invites Prussia to help him with 20,000 men.
On the 10th of December he denounces the annexation by France of the
German domains in Alsace. In conformity with this gradual change,
Kaunitz became more rigid, and he made known that any assault on the
Elector of Treves, for the protection he gave to the warlike
_émigrés_, would be resisted by the imperial forces. Each step was as
short as possible. The transition from peace to war, from pointless
remonstrance to vigorous defiance, was slow and gradual. It began late
in October, when the real meaning of the acceptance of the
Constitution became known, but down to the month of January the change
was not decisive, and the tone was still ambiguous. On the 3rd of
January a letter from the queen at length carried the emperor over. On
the way this appeal had converted Mercy, and Mercy, on January 7,
wrote a letter which compelled Kaunitz to give way. Kaunitz had grown
grey in the idea of the French alliance and of rivalry with Prussia.
He laughed at Mr. Burke and the theory of contagion. He desired to
perpetuate a state of things which paralyzed France, by the rivalry
between the king and the democracy. To restore the king's power at
home was to increase it abroad. Kaunitz was willing that it should be
kept in check by the legislature; but a moment came when he perceived
that the progress of the opposition, of the Jacobins as men
indiscriminately called them, more properly of the Girondins, had
transferred the centre of gravity. What had been cast down in the
Monarch rose again in the Second Assembly, and the power of the
nation, the nation united with its representatives, began to appear.

Kaunitz, though he had no eye for such things, took alarm at last, and
resolved that the way to depress France was to assist the king of
France. On January 5, after the queen's letter of December 16 had been
received, he declared that Austria would support the elector of
Treves, and would repel force by force, if he was attacked for the
harbouring of _émigrés_. At the same moment Leopold resolved on an
offensive alliance with Prussia. He explained his change of policy by
the letters which showed him the true mind of the queen. On January 16
Kaunitz still believed that the other Powers would refuse to
co-operate. But Prussia was willing to accept the new alliance, if
Austria abandoned the new Polish Constitution of May 3. Leopold paid
the stipulated price. On February 7 he gave up the Poles, that he
might be strong against France. Already, January 25, Kaunitz had
taken the deciding step, passing over from the defensive to attack. He
speaks no more of the king's liberty of action. He demands restitution
of the papal territory at Avignon, annexed in consequence of the
Pope's action against the ecclesiastical laws. He requires that the
German princes shall have their Alsatian domains given back to them,
and that there shall be no trespass on the imperial dominions. And in
general terms he requires the restoration of monarchy. Again he wrote,
in the same warlike and defiant spirit, on February 17, when the
Prussian signature had been received, and when he expected English aid
for the preservation of Belgium. Meantime Simolin, the Russian
minister who had been helpful in procuring the fatal passport, arrived
at Vienna with a last appeal from the queen. At that time she did not
feel that their lives were in jeopardy, but their power. To the
faithful Fersen she wrote that she hoped the enemy would strike home,
so that the French, in their terror, might pray the king to intercede.

Kaunitz, having despatched his ultimatum on the international grounds
of quarrel, declined to interfere in internal affairs. But Simolin saw
Leopold on the 25th, and then the emperor admitted what his chancellor
denied, that the cause was the common cause of all crowned heads. With
those significant words he quits the stage. Five days later he was
dead.

Each step forward taken by Austria aggravated the warlike feeling in
the French legislature. But Delessart, through whom the government
communicated with foreign powers, mitigated everything, and avoided
provocation. Even the note of the 17th, which was delivered at Paris
on the 27th, produced no immediate commotion. But Narbonne thought the
time had come to carry into effect his policy of war, for the majority
was now with him. He threatened to resign unless Bertrand retired, who
was the king's nominee among the six ministers; and he only withdrew
his threat at the instance of Lafayette and the other generals who
were to be in command. Lewis, indignant at this intrigue, dismissed
not Bertrand, but Narbonne. The Girondins, in reply, impeached
Delessart, who was sent to prison, March 10, and perished there in
September. The Feuillant minister resigned. Robespierre, who divined
the calculations of the Court, and feared that war might strengthen
the arm that bore the banner, resisted the warlike temper, and carried
the Jacobins with him. On this issue Girondins and Jacobins separated
into distinct parties. The Girondins inclined to an inevitable
Republic, because they distrusted the king; but they accepted the
Constitution, and did not reject a king at low pressure, such as had
been invented by the Whigs. They were persuaded that, in case of war,
Lewis would intrigue with the enemy, would be detected, and would be
at their mercy. "It is well that we should be betrayed," said Brissot,
"because then we shall destroy the traitors." And Vergniaud, whose
dignity and elevation of language have made him a classic, pointed to
the Tuileries and said, "Terror has too often issued from that palace
in the name of a despot. Let it enter, to-day, in the name of the
law." They suspected, and suspected truly, that the menacing note from
Vienna was inspired at Paris. They formed a new ministry, with
Dumouriez at the Foreign Office. Dumouriez gave Austria a fixed term
to renounce its policy of coercing France by a concert of Powers; and
as Kaunitz stood his ground, and upheld his former statements of
policy, on April 20 Lewis declared war against his wife's nephew,
Francis, king of Hungary. Marie Antoinette triumphed, through her
influence on her own family. Formally it was not a war for her
deliverance, but a war declared by France, which might be turned to
her advantage. To be of use to her, it must be unsuccessful; and in
order to ensure defeat, she betrayed to the Court of Vienna the plan
of operations adopted in Council the day before.



XIV

DUMOURIEZ


As the war was more often a cause of political events than a
consequence, it will be convenient to follow up the progress of
military affairs to the fall of Dumouriez, postponing the catastrophe
of monarchy to next week.

On the 17th of February 1792 Pitt informed the House of Commons that
the situation of Europe had never afforded such assurance of continued
peace. He did not yet recognise the peril that lay in the new French
Constitution. Under that Constitution, no government could be deemed
legitimate unless it aimed at liberty, and derived its powers from the
national will. All else is usurpation; and against usurped authority,
insurrection is a duty. The Rights of Man were meant for general
application, and were no more specifically French than the
multiplication table. They were not founded on national character and
history, but on Reason, which is the same for all men. The Revolution
was essentially universal and aggressive; and although these
consequences of its original principle were assiduously repressed by
the First Assembly, they were proclaimed by the Second, and roused the
threatened Powers to intervene. Apart from this inflaming cause the
motives of the international conflict were indecisive. The emperor
urged the affair of Avignon, the injury to German potentates who had
possessions in Alsace, the complicity of France in the Belgian
troubles, and the need of European concert while the French denied the
foundations of European polity.

Dumouriez offered to withdraw the French troops from the frontier, if
Austria would send no more reinforcements, but at that moment the
queen sent word of an intended attack on Liége. The offer seemed
perfidious, and envenomed the quarrel. Marie Antoinette despatched
Goguelat, the man who was not at his post on the flight to Varennes,
to implore intervention. She also gave Mercy her notions as to an
Austrian manifesto; and in this letter, dated April 30, there is no
sign of alarm, and no suggestion yet that France might be cowed by the
use of exorbitant menaces. Dumouriez, who desired war with Austria,
endeavoured to detach Prussia from the alliance. He invited the king
to arbitrate in the Alsatian dispute, and promised deference to his
award. He proposed that the prerogative should be enlarged, the
princes indemnified, the _émigrés_ permitted to return. Frederic
William was unmoved by these advances. He relied on the annexation of
Alsace and Lorraine to compensate both allies, and he expected to
succeed, because his army was the most illustrious of all armies in
Europe. He wished to restore the _émigrés_, who would support him
against Austria, and the _émigrés_ looked to him to set up the order
of society that had fallen. "Better to lose a province," they said,
"than to live under a constitution."

The allied army was commanded by the Duke of Brunswick, the most
admired and popular prince of his time. His own celebrity disabled
him. Many years ago Marshal Macmahon said to an officer, since in high
command at Berlin, that an army is best when it is composed of
soldiers who have never smelt gunpowder, of experienced
non-commissioned officers, and of generals with their reputation to
make. Brunswick had made his reputation under the great king, and he
feared to compromise it. Want of enterprise made him unfit for his
position, although nobody doubted his capacity. In France, they
thought of him for the command of their armies, and even for a still
higher post. In spite of the disasters I am about to describe, the
Prussians believed in him, and he was again their leader when they met
Napoleon. The army which he led across the Rhine fell short of the
stipulated number by 35,000 men. Francis, the new emperor, did not
fulfil his engagements, and entered on the expedition with divided
counsels.

Kaunitz, who was eighty-two years of age, and knew the affairs of
Europe better than any other man, condemned the policy of his new
master. He represented that they did not know what they were going to
fight for; that Lewis had never explained what changes in the
Constitution would satisfy him; that nothing could be expected from
disaffection, and nothing could be done for a system which was
extinct. On August 2 he resigned office, and made way for men who
speculated on the dismemberment of France, and expected to see a
shrunken monarchy in the north and a confederate republic in the
south.

The entire force brought together for the invasion amounted to about
80,000 men, of which half were Prussians. When they were assembled on
the Rhine, it became necessary to explain to the French people why
they were coming, and what they meant to do. Headquarters were at
Frankfort, when a confidential emissary from Lewis XVI., Mallet du
Pan, appeared on the scene. Mallet du Pan was neither a brilliant
writer like Burke and De Maistre and Gentz, nor an original and
constructive thinker like Sieyès; but he was the most sagacious of all
the politicians who watched the course of the Revolution. As a
Genevese republican he approached the study of French affairs with no
prejudice towards monarchy, aristocracy, or Catholicism. A Liberal at
first, like Mounier and Malouet, he became as hostile as they; and his
testimony, which had been enlightened and wise, became morose and
monotonous when his cause was lost, until the Austrian statesmen with
whom he corresponded grew tired of his narrowing ideas. He settled in
England, and there he died. As he was not a man likely to propose a
foolish thing, he was heard with attention. He proposed that the
allies should declare that they were warring on Jacobinism, not on
liberty, and would make no terms until the king regained his rightful
power. If he was injured, they would inflict a terrible vengeance.

Whilst Mallet's text was being manipulated by European diplomacy at
Frankfort, Marie Antoinette, acting through Fersen, disturbed their
counsels. The queen understood how to control her pen, and to repress
the language of emotion. But after June 20 she could not doubt that
another and a more violent outrage was preparing, and that the
republicans aimed at the death of the king. The terms in which she
uttered her belief outweighed the advice of the sober Genevese. "Save
us," she wrote, "if it is yet time. But there is not a moment to
lose." And she required a declaration of intention so terrific that it
would crush the audacity of Paris. Montmorin and Mercy were convinced
that she was right. Malouet alone among royalist politicians expected
that the measure she proposed would do more harm than good. Fersen, to
whom her supplications were addressed, employed an _émigré_ named
Limon to draw up a manifesto equal to the occasion, and Limon, bearing
credentials from Mercy, submitted his composition to the allied
sovereigns. He announced that the Republicans would be exterminated,
and Paris destroyed. Already Burke had written: "If ever a foreign
prince enters into France, he must enter it as into a country of
assassins. The mode of civilised war will not be practised; nor are
the French, who act on the present system, entitled to expect it."
Mallet du Pan himself had declared that there ought to be no
pernicious mercy, and that humanity would be a crime. In reality, the
difference between his tone and the fanatic who superseded him was not
a wide one.

The manifesto, which proceeded from the queen, which had the sanction
of Fersen, of Mercy, of Bouillé, was accepted at once by the emperor.
The Prussians introduced some alterations, and Brunswick signed it on
July 25. His mind misgave him at the time, and he regretted afterwards
that he had not died before he set his hand to it. Mercy, when it was
too late, wished to put another declaration in its place. The Prussian
ministers would not suffer the text to be published at Berlin. They
allowed the author to fall into poverty and obscurity. He had acted in
the spirit of the _émigrés_.

On July 27 the Princes issued a declaration of their own, to the
effect that not Paris only should suffer the extremity of martial law,
but every town to which the king might be taken if he was removed from
the capital. Breteuil, although he complained that the invaders
exhibited an intolerable clemency, disapproved the second
proclamation. But Limon demanded the destruction of Varennes, and the
_émigrés_ expected that severities should be inflicted on the
population as they went along. The idea of employing menaces so awful
as to inspire terror at a distance of 300 miles was fatal to those who
suggested it; but the danger was immediate, and the consequences of
inaction were certain, for the destined assailants of the Tuileries
were on the march from Toulon and Brest. It was not so certain that
the king would be unable to defend himself. The manifesto was a
desperate resource in a losing cause, and it is not clear that wiser
and more moderate words would have done better. The text was not
published at Paris until August 3. The allies were too far away for
their threats to be treated seriously, and they are not answerable for
consequences which were already prepared and expected. But their
manifesto strengthened the hands of Danton, assured the triumph of the
violent sections, and suggested the use to which terror may be put in
revolutions. It contributed to the fall of the monarchy, and still
more to the slaughter of the royalists three weeks later. The weapon
forged by men unable to employ it was adopted by their enemies, and
served the cause it was intended to destroy.

The Declaration united the French people against its authors. The
Republicans whom it threatened and denounced became the appointed
leaders of the national defence, and the cause of the Republic became
identified with the safety of the nation. In order to withstand the
invasion, and to preserve Paris from the fate of Jerusalem, the army
gave itself to the dominant faction. The royalist element vanished
from its ranks. Lafayette made one last attempt to uphold the
Constitution, but his men repulsed him. He went over to imperial
territory, and was detained in prison as the guilty author of the
Revolution. Dumouriez succeeded to his command, and adhered to the new
government. Out of 9000 officers in the king's service, 6000 had
resigned, and, for the most part, had emigrated. Their places were
filled by new men. In 1791, 100,000 volunteers had been enrolled, and
enjoyed the privilege of electing their own officers. This became the
popular force, and recruits preferred it to the line, where discipline
was sterner and elected commanders were unknown. The men who now rose
from the ranks proved better professional soldiers than the fine
gentlemen whom they replaced. Talent could not fail to make its way.
Those volunteer officers of 1791 and 1792 included most of the men
whom the long war raised to eminence. Seventeen of the twenty-six
marshals of Napoleon were among them.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 19th of August, four months after war had been declared, the
allies entered France by the line of the Moselle. There was one French
army to their left at Metz, and another to their right along Vauban's
chain of fortresses, with an undefended interval between. To widen the
gap they laid siege to Longwy, the nearest fortified place, and took
it, after a feeble resistance, on August 24. When the news spread
there was a moment of alarm, and the Council of Defence proposed to
retire from the capital. Danton declared that he would burn Paris to
the ground rather than abandon it to the enemy. Lavergne, who made so
poor a defence at Longwy, was afterwards condemned to death. He was
disheartened by disaster, but his wife cried out that she would perish
with him, and the judges granted her prayer. She strove to give him
comfort and courage along the way, and they were guillotined together.

From Longwy the Prussians advanced upon Verdun, which surrendered
September 2, after one day's bombardment, and there was not a rampart
between them and the capital. A few miles beyond Verdun the roads to
the west traversed the Argonne, a low wooded range of hills pierced
in five places by narrow defiles, easy to defend. Then came the open
country of Champagne, and the valley of the Marne, leading, without a
natural or artificial obstacle, to Paris.

On the 7th of September Pitt wrote that he expected Brunswick soon to
reach his goal. There was no enemy in his front, while on his flank
Dumouriez clung to his frontier strongholds, persuaded that he would
arrest the invasion if he threatened the Austrians at Brussels, where
they were weakened by recent insurrection and civil war. The French
government rejected his audacious project, and ordered him to move on
Châlons, and cover the heart of France. At Sedan, Dumouriez could hear
heavy firing at a distance, and knew that Verdun was attacked, and
could not hold out. He quickly changed his plan, postponing Belgium,
but not for long, and fell back on the passes of the forest that he
was about to make so famous. "They are the Thermopylæ of France," he
said, "but I mean to do better than Leonidas."

Brunswick, delaying his cumbrous march for ten days, while Breteuil
organised a new administration at Verdun, gave time for the French to
strengthen their position. Before moving forward, he pointed out on
the map the place where he intended to halt on the 16th, and men heard
for the first time the historic name, Valmy. On the 14th Clerfayt,
with the Austrians, forced one of the passes, and turned the French
left. At nightfall, Dumouriez evacuated his Thermopylæ more
expeditiously than became a rival Leonidas, and established himself
across the great road to Châlons, opposite the southern defile of the
Argonne, which extends between Clermont and St. Ménehould, where
Drouet rode in pursuit of the king. His infantry encountered Prussian
troopers and ran away. Ten thousand men, he wrote, were put to flight
by fifteen hundred hussars.

Napoleon said, at St. Helena, that he believed himself to be bolder
than any general that ever lived, but he would never have dared to
hold the position that Dumouriez took up. He was outnumbered, three to
one. He had been outmanoeuvred, and driven from his fastness by the
most enterprising of the allied generals; and his recruits refused to
face the enemy. He never for a moment lost confidence in himself, for
the time wasted at Verdun had given him the measure of his opponents.
He summoned Kellermann, with the army of Metz, and Beurnonville, with
10,000 men, from Lille, and they arrived, just in time, on the 19th.
Beurnonville, when his telescope showed him a regular army in order of
battle, took alarm and fell back, thinking it must be Brunswick. It
proved to be Dumouriez; and on the morning of September 20 he was at
the head of 53,000 men, with the allies gathering in his front. The
Prussians had come through the woods by the pass he had abandoned, and
as they turned to face him, they stood with their backs to the great
Catalaunian plain, which was traversed by the high road to Paris. They
had been for a month in France, and had met with no resistance.
Lafayette had deserted. The military breakdown was so apparent that
the colonel of infantry, as he marched out of Longwy, threw himself
into the river, and the governor of Verdun blew out his brains.

Clerfayt's success on the 14th and the rout of the following day
raised the hopes of the Germans, and they wrote on the 19th that they
were turning the enemy, and were sure of destroying him, if he was
rash enough to wait their attack. From his prison at Luxemburg
Lafayette urged them onward, and hinted that Dumouriez might be
induced to unite with them for the rescue of the king.

Therefore, on the morning of September 20, when the mist rose over the
French army drawn up on the low hills before them, there was joy in
the Prussian camp, and the battalions that had been trained at
Potsdam, under the eye of the great king, to the admiration of Europe,
received for the first time the republican fire. They were 34,000.
Kellermann opposed them with 36,000 men, and 40 guns against 58. It
soon appeared that things were not going as the invaders had expected.
The French soldiers were not frightened by the cannonade. Beurnonville
rode up to one of his regiments and told them to lie down, to make
way for shot. They refused to obey whilst he exposed himself on
horseback. After time had been allowed for artillery to produce its
effect on republican nerve, the Prussian infantry made ready to
attack. Gouvion St. Cyr, the only general of his time whom Napoleon
acknowledged as his equal, believed that the French would not have
stood at close quarters. But the word to advance was never given.

The secret of war, said Wellington, is to find out what is going on on
the other side of the hill. When Brunswick rode over the field some
days later, a staff officer asked him why he had not moved forward. He
answered, "Because I did not know what was behind the hill." There was
Dumouriez's reserve of 16,000 men. He had sent to the front as many as
were needed to fill Kellermann's line, and left to his colleague the
part for which he was fitted. For his conduct that day Kellermann was
named a marshal of the Empire and duke of Valmy; but the whole world
was aware that the event was due to the brain of the man in the
background. When the French had lost 300 men without wavering, the
Prussians ceased firing, and broke off the engagement. Their loss was
only 184. Yet this third-rate and mediocre action is counted, with
Waterloo and Gettysburg, among the decisive battles of history; and
Goethe was not the only man there who knew that the scene before him
was the beginning of a new epoch for mankind. With 36,000 men and 40
guns the French had arrested the advance of Europe, not by skilful
tactics or the touch of steel, but by the moral effect of their
solidity when they met the best of existing armies. The nation
discovered that the Continent was at its mercy, and the war begun for
the salvation of monarchy became a war for the expansion of the
Republic. It was founded at Paris, and consolidated at Valmy. Yet no
military event was less decisive. The French stood their ground
because nobody attacked them, and they were not attacked because they
stood their ground. The Prussians suffered a strategic, though not a
tactical defeat. By retiring to their encampment they renounced the
purposes for which they went to war, the province they occupied, and
the prestige of Frederic. They no longer possessed the advantage of
numbers, and without superior numbers there could be no dash for
Paris.

The object of the invasion was unattainable by force, but something
might be got by negotiation, if it was undertaken before force had
definitely failed. They were losing heavily, by disease and want,
while French recruits were pouring in. Therefore Dumouriez wished for
time. The king's secretary had been captured, and he sent him with
overtures, representing that the intended advance upon Paris was
hopeless, and that Prussia had more interests in common with France
than with Austria. Frederic William at once surrendered the original
demands. He made no stipulations now regarding the future government
of France or the treatment of the _émigrés_. He only demanded that
Lewis should be restored, in such manner as might seem good to France,
and that the propaganda of revolution should be put an end to. That
propaganda was one of the weapons by which the French checked and
embarrassed the champions of European absolutism, and it was obvious
that it would receive encouragement from their success at Valmy. And
it was a point of honour to speak for the imprisoned monarch. But it
had become a vain thing. Dumouriez produced a newspaper with the
decree of the new Assembly abolishing monarchy. It was hard to say
what the allies were now doing on French soil. "Only do something for
the king," said Brunswick, "and we will go." The Austrians would be
satisfied if he was only a stadtholder. Kellermann promised that peace
might be obtained if he was sent back to the Tuileries. It was all too
late. The Prince, in whose behalf the allies invaded France, was now a
hostage in the power of their enemies; all that they could obtain was
a pledge not to carry the revolution into foreign countries. Their
position grew more dangerous every day, and Dumouriez grew stronger.

At the end of September Frederic William abandoned Lewis to his fate.
He had contributed to his dethronement by entering France, and he
contributed to his execution by leaving it. He did not feel that he
had deserved so prodigious a humiliation. If the Austrians had joined
as they promised with 100,000 men, the march upon the capital would
have been conceivable with energetic commanders. And the king could
justly say that he had favoured spirited schemes, and had been baffled
by the faltering commander-in-chief. He attempted, by throwing out
hints of neutrality, to escape without further loss. Dumouriez
calculated that every attack would weld the allies more closely
together, and refrained from molesting them. Early in October they
evacuated the conquered province, and retreated to the Rhine, pursued
by a few random shots, while Dumouriez hastened to Paris, to be hailed
as the saviour of his country.

       *       *       *       *       *

The invasion of 1792 roused a crouching lion; and the French, after
their easy and victorious defence, went over to the attack. Whilst the
invaders were standing still, too weak to advance and too proud to
withdraw, the conquest of Europe began. The king of Sardinia, as the
father-in-law of the Comte d'Artois, had thrown himself into the
counter-revolutionary policy, and the scheme for attacking Lyons. Of
all European monarchs, since the murder of Gustavus, he was the most
hostile. An army under Montesquieu occupied Savoy and Nice without
resistance, and the people readily adopted the new system. A week
later Custine seized the left bank of the Rhine, where diminutive
secular and ecclesiastical territories, without cohesion, were an easy
prey. The Declaration of Rights, said Gouverneur Morris, proved quite
as effectual as the trumpets of Joshua. Mentz fell, October 21, and
Custine occupied Frankfort and replenished his military chest. This
excursion into the middle of the Empire was not authorised by State
policy. The idea was already taking shape that the safety of France
required the defensible and historic, or, as they unscientifically
called it, the natural frontier of the Rhine, and that the grand
conflict with Austria should be transferred to Italy. Germany was a
nation of armed men, and was best let alone. In Italy, the Austrians
would have only their own resources for war. Their most vulnerable
point was the outlying principality of Belgium, so distant from Vienna
and so near to Paris.

Dumouriez was now at liberty to deliver the stroke by which he had
hoped to stop the invasion, as Scipio drove Hannibal from Italy by
landing in Africa. By carrying the war in that direction he would
occupy the Imperialists, and would not excite the resentment of
Prussia. The country had not long been pacified, and it presented the
unusual feature that Conservatives and Liberals alike were patriotic
and rebellious. As a place where disaffection would assist war, it was
there that the process of European revolution would properly begin. On
October 19 Dumouriez assumed the command of 70,000 men, in the region
he had held before his flank march to the Argonne. One of his
lieutenants was the Peruvian adventurer Miranda, whose mission it was
to apply the movement in Europe to the rescue of Spanish America. The
other was known as Prince Égalité, senior, whose wonderful future was
already foreseen both by Dumouriez and Danton.

During the operations in Champagne the Austrians had begun the siege
of Lille, and at the turning of the tide they withdrew across the
frontier, and took up a strong position at Jemmapes, in front of Mons,
with 13,000 men. Clerfayt, again, was at their head; and when, on
November 6, he saw the French army approaching, nearly 40,000 strong,
like Nelson in the hour of death he appeared in all his stars and gold
lace, that his men, seeing him, might take heart. He was defeated, and
the next evening, at the theatre of Mons, Dumouriez was acclaimed by
the Flemish patriots. A week later he was at Brussels, and before the
end of the month he was master of Belgium. Holland was undefended, and
he proposed to conquer it; but Antwerp was already in the power of the
French, and his government feared that England would come to the
defence of the Dutch. They directed him to march upon Cologne and
complete the conquest of the Rhine.

By a decree of November 19 the Convention proffered sympathy and
succour to every people that struck a blow for freedom; but the cloven
hoof of annexation soon appeared, and it was avowed that the war would
be carried on, that the financial needs of France might be supplied,
at the expense of the populations which the French arms delivered.
These things offended the political, if not the moral sense of
Dumouriez. He became alienated from the Convention; and as England
went to war on the death of the king, there was no consideration of
policy protecting Holland. The invasion was undertaken, and
immediately failed. The Austrians, under the duke of Coburg, who on
that day founded the great fortunes of his house, came back in force,
and gave battle at Neerwinden, close to the fields of Landen and of
Ramillies. Here, March 18, Clerfayt crushed Dumouriez's left wing, and
recovered the Belgic provinces as suddenly as he had lost them four
months earlier.

Dumouriez had already resolved to treat with the Imperialists for
common action against the Regicides. Five days after his defeat he
informed Coburg that, with his support, he would lead his army against
Paris, disperse the Convention, and establish a constitutional
monarchy without the _émigrés_. He promised that the better part of
his force would follow him. The volunteers were Jacobinical; but the
regulars were jealous of the volunteers, and would obey their general.
As he felt his way, hostile officers watched him, and reported what
was going on in the camp of the new Wallenstein. Twice the Jacobins
attempted to avert the peril. They invited Dumouriez to Paris, that he
might place himself at their head and overpower the Girondin majority,
and they employed men to assassinate him. At last they sent the
minister of war, accompanied by four deputies, to arrest him. There
was to have been a fifth, but he did not arrive in time, and his
absence saved France. For Dumouriez seized the envoys of the
Convention, and handed them over to Coburg, to be hostages for the
life of the queen. The deputy who failed to appear was Carnot. After
that, Dumouriez was deserted by his men, and fled to the Austrian
camp. He survived for thirty years. He became one of the shrewdest
observers of Napoleon's career, and was the confidential correspondent
of Wellington on the art they understood so well. The future "king of
the French," who went over with him, remained true to his chief during
the strange vicissitudes of their lives; and at the Restoration he
asked that he should be made a marshal. "How could you think," was the
proud comment of Dumouriez, "that they have forgotten the Argonne?"

On the 20th of June in the following year Louis Philippe drove into
town from Twickenham to learn the news from the Low Countries. His
sons still know the spot where he found his old commander
gesticulating on the pavement at Hammersmith, and learned from him how
the great war, which began with their victory at Valmy, had ended
under Napoleon at Waterloo.



XV

THE CATASTROPHE OF MONARCHY


The calculations of the Girondins were justified by the event. Four
months after the declaration of war the throne had fallen, and the
king was in prison. Next to Dumouriez the principal members of the new
ministry were the Genevese Clavière, one of Mirabeau's advisers, and
the promoter of the assignats, Servan, a meritorious officer, better
known to us as a meritorious military historian; and Roland, whose
wife shared, on a lower scale, the social influence and intellectual
celebrity of Madame de Staël.

Dumouriez, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is one of the great
figures of the Revolution. He was excessively clever rather than
great, agreeable, and abounding in resource, not only cool in danger,
as a commander should be, but steadfast and cheerful when hope seemed
lost, and ready to meet the veterans of Frederic with undisciplined
volunteers, and officers who were the remnant of the royal army.
Without principle or conviction or even scruple, he had none of the
inhumanity of dogmatic revolutionists. To the king, whom he despised,
he said, "I shall often displease you, but I shall never deceive you."
He was not an accomplice of the conspiracy to compromise him and to
ruin him by war, and would have saved him if the merit and the reward
had been his own. He did not begin well, in the arts either of war or
peace. He employed all his diplomacy, all his secret service money, in
the endeavour to make Prussia neutral. Nothing availed against the
indignation of the Prussians at French policy, and their contempt for
French arms. The officers received orders to make ready for a march to
Paris, and were privately told that it would be a mere parade. The
first encounter with Austrians on Belgian soil confirmed this
persuasion, for the French turned and fled, and murdered one of their
generals.

Dumouriez's credit was shaken, and the Girondin leaders, who could not
rely on him to make the coming campaign turn towards the execution of
their schemes, revived the question of the clergy. On May 27 Vergniaud
carried a decree placing nonjurors at the mercy of local authorities,
and threatening them with arbitrary expulsion as public enemies in
time of national peril. If the king sanctioned, he would be isolated
and humiliated. If the king vetoed, they would have the means of
raising Paris against him, without waiting for the vicissitudes of war
or the co-operation of Dumouriez. Madame Roland wrote a letter to the
king, and her husband signed it, on June 10, representing that it was
for the safety of the priests themselves that they should be sent out
of the way of danger. Roland, proud of the composition, sent it to the
papers. The Girondin ministry was at once dismissed. Dumouriez
remained, attempted to form an administration without the Girondin
colleagues, but could not overcome the king's resistance to the act of
banishment. On June 15 he resigned office, and took a command on the
frontier. The majority in the Assembly was still faithful to the
Constitution of 1791, and opposed to further change; but the rejection
of their decree against the royalist clergy alienated them at the
critical moment. Lewis had lost ground with his friends; he had
angered the Girondins; and he had lost the services of the last man
who was strong enough to save him.

On June 15 a high official in the administration of the department was
at Maubeuge, on a visit to Lafayette. His name was Roederer, and we
shall meet him again. He rose high under Napoleon, and is one of those
to whom we owe our knowledge of the Emperor's character, as well as of
the events I am about to relate. His interview with the general was
interrupted by a message from Paris. Lafayette was called away; and
Roederer, from the next room, heard the joyful exclamations of the
officers. The news was the fall of the Girondin ministry; and
Lafayette, to strengthen the king's hands, wrote to the Assembly
remonstrating against the illiberal and unconstitutional tendencies of
the hour. His letter was read on the 18th. A new ministry had been
forming, consisting of Feuillants and men friendly to Lafayette, one
of whom, Terrier de Montciel, enjoyed the confidence of the king. On
the opposition side were the Girondins angry and alarmed at their fall
from power, the more uncompromising Jacobins, Pétion at the head of
the Commune, and behind Pétion, the real master of Paris, Danton,
surrounded by a group of his partisans, Panis and Sergent in the
police, Desmoulins and Fréron in the press, leaders of the populace,
such as Santerre and Legendre, and above them all, the Alsatian
soldier, Westermann.

With Danton and his following we reach the lowest stage of what can
still be called the conflict of opinion, and come to bare cupidity and
vengeance, to brutal instinct and hideous passion. All these elements
were very near the surface in former phases of the Revolution. At this
point they are about to prevail, and the man of action puts himself
forward in the place of contending theorists. Robespierre and Brissot
were politicians who did not shrink from crime, but it was in the
service of some form of the democratic system. Even Marat, the most
ghastly of them all, who demanded not only slaughter but torture, and
whose ferocity was revolting and grotesque, even Marat was obedient to
a logic of his own. He adopted simply the state of nature and the
primitive contract, in which thousands of his contemporaries believed.
The poor had agreed to renounce the rights of savage life and the
prerogative of force, in return for the benefits of civilisation; but
finding the compact broken on the other side, finding that the upper
classes governed in their own interest, and left them to misery and
ignorance, they resumed the conditions of barbaric existence before
society, and were free to take what they required, and to inflict
what punishment they chose upon men who had made a profit of their
sufferings. Danton was only a strong man, who wished for a strong
government in the interest of the people, and in his own. In point of
doctrine, he cared for little but the relief of the poor by taxing the
rich. He had no sympathy with the party that was gathering in the
background, whose aim it was not only to reduce inequalities, but to
institute actual equality and the social level. There was room beyond
for more extreme developments of the logic of democracy; but the
greatest change in the modern world was wrought by Danton, for it was
he who overthrew the Monarchy and made the Republic.

When Lewis dismissed his ministers, Danton exclaimed that the time had
come to strike terror, and on June 20 he fulfilled his threat. It was
the anniversary of the Tennis Court. A monster demonstration was
organised, to plant a tree of liberty or to present a petition--in
reality to overawe the Assembly and the king. There was an expectation
that the king would perish in the tumult, but nothing definite was
settled, and no assassin was designated. It was enough that he should
give way, abandon his priests, and receive his ministers from the
populace. That was all the Girondins required, and they would assent
to no more. The king would have to choose between them and their
temporary confederates, the Cordeliers. If he gave way, he would be
spared; if he resisted, he would be slain. It was not to be
apprehended that he would resist and would yet come out alive. The
king understood the alternative before him, made his choice, and
prepared to die. After putting his house in order, he wrote, on the
19th, that he had done with this world.

Lewis XVI. had not ability to devise a policy or vigour to pursue it,
but he had the power of grasping a principle. He felt at last that the
ground beneath his feet was firm. He would drift no longer, sought no
counsel, and admitted no disturbing inquiries. If he fell, he would
fall in the cause of religion and for the rights of conscience. The
proper name for the rights of conscience is liberty, and therefore he
was true to himself, and was about to end as he had begun, in the
character of a liberal and reforming king. When the morning came,
there was a moment of hesitation. The pacific rioters asked what would
happen if the guards fired upon them. Santerre, who was at their head,
replied, "March on, and don't be afraid; Pétion will be there." They
presented their petition, defiled before the Assembly, and made their
way to the palace. It was not to be thought of that, after they had
been admitted by the representatives of the nation, an inferior power
should deny them access. One barrier after another yielded, and they
poured into the room where the king awaited them, in the recess of a
window, with four or five guards in front of him. They shielded him
well, for although there were men in the crowd who struck at him with
sword and pike, he was untouched. Their cry was that he should restore
Roland and revoke his veto, for this was the point in common between
the Girondins and their violent associates. Legendre read an insulting
address, in which he called the king a traitor. The scene lasted more
than two hours. Vergniaud and Isnard appeared after some time, and
their presence was a protection. At last Pétion came in, borne aloft
on the shoulders of grenadiers. He assured the mob that the king would
execute the will of the people, when the country had shown that it
agreed with the capital; he told them that they had done their duty,
and then, with lenient arts, turned them out.

That trying humiliation marks the loftiest moment in the reign of
Lewis XVI. He had stood there, with the red cap of liberty on his
powdered head, not only fearless, but cheerful and serene. He had been
in the power of his enemies and had patiently defied them. He made no
surrender and no concession while his life was threatened. The
Girondins were not recalled, and the movement failed. For the moment
the effect was injurious to the revolutionary party, and useful to the
king. It was clear that menace and outrage would not move him, and
that more was wanted than the half-hearted measures of the Gironde.

The outrage of June 20 was a contumelious reply to Lafayette's letter
of the 16th, and the time had come for more than the writing of
letters. His letter had been well received, and the Assembly had
ordered it to be printed. The Girondins, by pretending that it could
not be authentic, had prevented a vote on the question of sending it
to the departments. He could count on the Feuillant majority, on the
ministry composed of his partisans, on his popularity with the
National Guard. As he was at the head of an army, his advice to the
king to adopt a policy of resistance implied that he would support him
in it. He now wrote once more, that he could never maintain his ground
against the Prussians unless there was a change in the state of things
in the capital. On the morning of June 28, immediately after his
letter, he appeared in the Assembly, and denounced the sowers of
disorder who were disorganising the State. Having obtained a vote of
approval, by 339 to 234, he appealed to the National Guard to stand by
him against his Jacobins. He summoned a meeting of his friends, but
the influence of the Court caused it to fail, and he was compelled to
return to his camp, having accomplished nothing. He imagined one
chance more. He now put forward his colleague, General Luckner, who
was incompetent but, not being a politician, was not distrusted, and
they were jointly to rescue the king, and bring him to a city of
refuge.

The revolutionists could now lay their plans without fear of the army.
They summoned _fédérés_ from the departments for the anniversary of
July 14, and it was arranged that sturdy men should be sent from Brest
and Marseilles to be at their orders when they struck the final blow.
Paris could not be relied on. The failure there had been complete. On
June 21, and on the 25th, the Cordeliers attempted to renew, with
better effect, the attack which had been baffled by a divided purpose
on the 20th. But their men would not move. The minister, Montciel,
gave orders that the departments should not send _fédérés_ to Paris,
and he succeeded in stopping all but a couple of thousand. Nothing
could be done until the contingents from the seaports arrived. The
crisis was postponed, and some weeks of July were spent in
parliamentary warfare. Here the Girondins had the lead; but the
Feuillants were the majority in the Assembly, while the Jacobins were
supreme in Paris. The Girondins were driven into a policy both
tortuous and weak. The Republic would give power to one of their
enemies as the Monarchy gave it to the other. All they could do was to
increase hostile pressure on the king, in the hope of bringing him to
terms with them. They oscillated between open attack and secret
negotiation and offers of defence.

Lewis was inclined to accept a scheme for his deliverance which was
arranged by his ministers in conjunction with the generals. He was to
have been taken to Compiégne, within reach of the army. But the army
meant Lafayette, and Lafayette would only consent to restore the king
as the hereditary chief of a commonwealth, who should reign, but
should not govern. The queen refused to reign under such conditions,
or to be saved by such hands. The security for her was in power, not
in limitations to power. The sacred thing was the ancient Crown, not
the new Constitution. Lally Tollendal came over from England,
conferred with Malouet and Clermont Tonnerre, and exhorted her to
consent. Morris, whose ready pen had put the American Constitution
into final shape five years before, aided them in drawing up an
amended scheme of government to be proclaimed when they should be
free. But the strong will and stronger passion of the queen prevailed.
When all was accurately combined, and the Swiss troops were on the
march to the rendezvous, the king revoked his orders, and on July 10
the Feuillant ministry resigned, and the Girondins saw power once more
within their grasp. They had vehemently denounced the king as the
cause of all the troubles of the State, and on July 6 the assault had
been interrupted for a moment by a scene of emotion, when the bishop
of Lyons obtained a manifestation of unanimous feeling in the presence
of the enemy.

On July 11 the Assembly passed a vote declaring the country in
danger, and on the 22nd it was proclaimed, to the sound of cannon. It
was a call to arms, and placed dictatorial power in the hands of
government. Different plans were proposed to keep that power distinct
from the executive, and the idea which afterwards developed into the
Committee of Public Safety now began to be familiar. On July 14 the
anniversary of the Bastille and of the Federation of 1790 was
celebrated on the Champ de Mars; the king went up to the altar, where
he swore fidelity to the Constitution, with a heavy heart; and the
people saw him in public for the last time until they saw him on the
scaffold. It was near the end of July when the Girondins saw that the
king would not take them back, and that the risk of a Jacobin
insurrection, as much against them as against the throne, was fast
approaching. Their last card was a regency, to be directed by them in
the name of the Dauphin. Vergniaud suggested that the king should
summon four conspicuous members of the Constituent Assembly to his
Council, without office, to make up for the obscurity of his new
ministers. At that moment Brunswick's declaration became known, some
of the forty-eight sections in which the people of Paris deliberated
demanded the dethronement of the king, and the Marseillais, arriving
on the 30th, five or six hundred strong, made it possible to
accomplish it.

These events, coinciding almost to a day, conveyed power from the
Assembly to the municipality, and from the Girondins to the Jacobins,
who had the municipality in their hands, and held the machinery that
worked the sections. In a letter written to be laid before the king,
Vergniaud affirmed that it was impossible to dissociate him from the
allies who were in arms for his sake, and whose success would be so
favourable to his authority. That was the argument to which no
royalist could reply. The country was in danger, and the cause of the
danger was the king. The Constitution had broken down on June 20. The
king could not devote himself to the maintenance of a system which
exposed him to such treatment, and enabled his adversaries to dispose
of all forces in a way that left him at the mercy of the most
insolent and the most infamous of the rabble. He had not the instincts
of a despot, and would easily have been made content with reasonable
amendments. But the limit of the changes he sought was unknown,
unsettled, unexplained, and he was identified simply with the reversal
of the Constitution he was bound by oath to carry out.

The queen, a more important person than her husband, was more openly
committed to reaction. The failure of the great experiment drove her
back to absolutism. As she repudiated the _émigrés_ in 1791, so she
now repudiated the constitutionalists, and chose rather to perish than
to owe her salvation to their detested aid. She looked for deliverance
only to the foreigners slowly converging on the Moselle. Her agents
had excluded a saving allusion to constitutional liberty in the
manifesto of the Powers; and she had dictated the threats of vengeance
on the inhabitants of Paris.

The king himself had called in the invaders. His envoy, concealed in
the uniform of a Prussian major, rode by the side of Brunswick. His
brothers were entering France with the heavy baggage of the enemies,
and Breteuil, the agent whom he trusted more than his brothers, was
preparing to govern, and did in September govern, the provinces they
occupied, under the shelter of their bayonets. For him the blow was
about to fall--not for his safety, but for his plenary authority. The
purpose of the allied sovereigns, and of the _émigrés_ who prompted
them, stood confessed. They were fighting for unconditional
restoration, and both as invaders and as absolutists the king was
their accomplice. The country could not make war with confidence, if
the military power was in the hands of traitors. The king could
protect them from the horrors with which they were threatened on his
account, not as the head of the executive, but as a hostage. He was a
danger in his palace; he would be a security in prison. All this was
obvious at the time, and the effect it had was to disable and disarm
the friends of the constitutional king, so that no resistance was
offered when the attack came, although it was the act of a very small
part of the population. The Girondins no longer displayed a distinct
policy, and scarcely differed from their former associates, of June,
except by their wish to suspend the king, and not to dethrone him. The
final question, as to monarchy, regency, or republic, was to be left
to the Convention that was to follow. Pétion was persuaded that he
would soon be the Regent of France. He received a large sum of money
from the Court; and it was in reliance on him, and on some less
conspicuous men, that the king and queen remained obstinately in
Paris. At the last moment Liancourt offered them a haven in Normandy;
but Liancourt was a Liberal of the Constituante, and therefore
unforgiven. Marie Antoinette preferred to trust to Pétion and
Santerre.

Early in August the most revolutionary section of Paris decided that
the king should be deposed. The Assembly rescinded the vote. Then the
people of that section and some others made known that they would
execute their own decree, unless the Assembly itself made it
unnecessary and accomplished legally what would otherwise be done by
the act of the sovereign people, superseding all powers and standing
above law. Time was to be allowed until August 9. If the king was
still on the throne upon the evening of that day, the people of Paris
would sound the tocsin against him.

On August 8 the Assembly came to a vote on the conduct of Lafayette,
in abandoning his army in time of war to threaten his enemies at home.
He was justified by 406 votes to 224. It was the last appearance of
the Liberal party. Four hundred deputies, a majority of the entire
body, kept out of the way in the moment of danger, and allowed the
Girondin and republican remnant to proceed without them. The
absolution of Lafayette proclaimed the resolve not to dethrone the
king. The Gironde had no constitutional remedy for its anxieties. The
next step would be taken by the democracy of Paris, and their victory
would be a grave danger to the Gironde and a triumph for the extreme
revolutionary faction. Up to this time they had struggled for mastery;
they would now have to struggle for existence. They accepted what was
inevitable. After the flight of the Feuillants, the Gironde, now
supreme in the legislature, capitulated to the revolution which they
dreaded, and appeared without initiative or policy.

On August 9 the Jacobin leaders settled their plan of action. Their
partisans in each section were to elect three commissaries to act with
the Commune for the public good, and to strengthen, and, if necessary,
eventually to supersede, the existing municipality. About one-half of
Paris sent them, and they assembled in the course of the night at the
Hôtel de Ville, apart from the legal body. In the political science of
the day the constituency suspended the constituted authorities and
resumed all delegated powers. The revolutionary town-councillors, who
now came to the front, are the authors of the atrocities that
afflicted France during the next two years. They were creatures of
Danton. And as we now enter the company of malefactors and the Chamber
of Horrors, we must bear this in mind, that our own laws punish the
slightest step towards absolute government with the same supreme
penalty as murder; so that morally the difference between the two
extremes is not serious. The agents are ferocious ruffians, and the
leaders are no better; but they are at the same time influenced by
republican convictions, as respectable as those of the _émigrés_. The
function of this supplementary Commune was not to lead the
insurrection or direct the attack, but to disable the defence; for the
commander of the National Guard received his orders from the Hôtel de
Ville, and he was a loyal soldier.

The forces of the Revolution were not overwhelming. The men from
Marseilles and Brest were intent on fighting, and so were some from
the departments. But when the tocsin rang from the churches soon after
midnight, the Paris combatants assembled slowly, and the event might
be doubtful. Ammunition was supplied to the insurgent forces from the
Hôtel de Ville, but not to the National Guard. It is extremely
dangerous, said Pétion, to oppose one public force to another. At the
Tuileries there were less than a thousand Swiss mercenaries, who were
sure to do their duty; one or two hundred gentlemen, come to defend
the king; and several thousand National Guards of uncertain fidelity
and valour. Pétion showed himself at the palace, and at the Assembly,
and then was seen no more. By a happy inspiration he induced Santerre
to place him under arrest, with a guard of four hundred men to protect
him from the dangers of responsibility. He himself tells the story,
and is mean enough to boast of his ingenuity. But if the mayor was a
traitor and a coward, the commanding general, Mandat, knew his duty,
and was resolved to do it. He prepared for the defence of the palace,
and there was great probability that his men would fight. If they did,
they were strong enough to repulse attack. Therefore, early in the
morning of August 10, Mandat was summoned by his lawful superiors to
the Hôtel de Ville. He appeared before them, made his report, and was
then taken to the revolutionary committee sitting separately. He
declared that he had orders to repel force by force, and that it would
be done. They required him to sign an order removing half of the
National Guard from the place they were to defend. Mandat refused to
save his life by an act of treachery, and by Danton's order he was
shot dead. He was in flagrant insurrection against the people
themselves and abetting constituted authorities in resistance to their
master. By this first act of bloodshed the defence of the palace was
deprived of half its forces. The National Guards were without a
commander, and, left to themselves, it was uncertain how many would
fire on the people of Paris.

Having disposed of the general commanding, the new Commune appointed
Santerre to succeed him, and then took the place of the former
Commune. There was no obstacle now to the concentration and advance of
the insurgents, and they appeared in the space between the Louvre and
the Tuileries, which was crowded with private houses. It was between
seven and eight in the morning. All night long the royal family
expected to be attacked, and the king did nothing. Some thousands of
Swiss were within reach, at Courbevoie, and were not brought up in
time. At last, surrounded by his family, the king made a forlorn
attempt to rouse his guards to combat. It was an occasion memorable
for all time, for it was the last stand of the monarchy of Clovis. His
wife, his children, his sister were there, their lives depending on
the spirit which, by a word, by a glance, he might infuse into the
brave men before him. The king had nothing to say, and the soldiers
laughed in his face. When the queen came back, tears of rage were
bursting from her eyes. "He has been deplorable," she said, "and all
is lost." Others soon came to the same conclusion. Roederer went
amongst the men, and found them unwilling to fight in such a cause. He
was invested with authority as a high official; and although the
ministers were present, it was he who gave the law. The disappearance
of Mandat and the hesitation of the artillery convinced him that there
was no hope for the defenders.

There was a looker-on who lived to erect a throne in the place of the
one that fell that day, and to be the next sovereign who reigned at
the Tuileries. In 1813 Napoleon told Roederer that he had watched the
scene from a window on the Carrousel, and assured him that he had made
a fatal mistake. Many of the National Guard were staunch, and the
royal forces were superior to those with which he himself conquered in
Vendémiaire. He thought that the defence ought to have been
victorious. I do not suppose he seriously resented the blunder to
which he owed so much. Roederer was a clever man, and there is some
reason to doubt whether he was single-minded in desiring to prevent
the uncertain conflict. The queen was eager to fight, and spoke brave
words to every one. Afterwards, when she heard the cannonade from her
refuge in the reporter's box, she said to d'Hervilly: "Well, do you
think now that we were wrong to remain in Paris?" He answered, "God
grant, madam, that you may not repent of it!" Roederer had detected
what was passing in her mind. Defeat would be terrible, for nothing
could save the royal family. But victory would also be a perilous
thing for the revolution, for it would restore the monarchy in its
power, and the old nobles collected in the palace would gain too much
by it. They were indeed but a residue: 7000 had been expected to
appear at the supreme moment; there were scarcely 120. Charette, the
future hero of Vendée, was among them, unconscious yet of his
extraordinary gifts for war.

Roederer, vigorously backed by his colleagues of the department,
informed the king of what he had seen and heard, assured him that the
Tuileries could not be defended with the forces present, and that
there was no safety except in the Assembly, the only authority that
was regarded. It was but two days since the deputies, by an immense
majority, had approved the act of Lafayette. He thought they might be
trusted to protect the king. As there was nothing left to fight for,
he affirmed that those who remained behind would be in no danger. He
would not allow the garrison to retire, and he left the Swiss, without
orders, to their fate. Marie Antoinette resisted vehemently, and Lewis
was not easy to convince. At last he said that there was nothing to be
done, and gave orders to set out. But the queen in a fury turned upon
him, and exclaimed: "Now I know you for what you are!" Lewis told his
valet to wait his return; but as they crossed the garden, where the
men were sweeping the gravel, he remarked: "The leaves are falling
early this year." Roederer heard, and understood.

A newspaper had said that the throne would not last to the fall of the
leaf; and it was by those trivial but significant words that the
fallen monarch acknowledged the pathetic solemnity of the moment, and
indicated that the footsteps which took him away from his palace would
never be retraced. A deputation met him at the door of the Assembly,
and he entered, saying that he came there to avert a great crime. The
Feuillants were absent. The Girondins predominated, and the president,
Vergniaud, received him with stately sentences. From his retreat in
the reporter's box he placidly watched the proceedings. Vergniaud also
moved that he be suspended, as he had been before, and that a
Convention should be convoked, to pronounce on the future government
of France. It was decided that the elections should be held without a
property qualification. Roland and the other Girondin ministers
returned to their former posts, and Danton was appointed Minister of
Justice by 222 votes. For Danton was the victor. While Pétion kept out
of the way, it was he who issued commands from the Hôtel de Ville, and
when Santerre faltered, it was Danton's friend Westermann who brought
up his men to the tryst at the Carrousel. After the king was gone they
made their way into the Tuileries, holding parley with the defenders.
If there had been anybody left to give orders, bloodshed might have
been averted. But the tension was extreme; the Swiss refused to
surrender their arms; a shot was fired, and then they lost patience
and fell upon the intruders. In ten minutes they cleared the palace
and the courtyard. But the king heard the fusillade, and sent orders
to cease firing. The bearer of the order was d'Hervilly; but he had
the heart of a soldier; and finding the position by no means
desperate, he did not at once produce it. When he did, it was too
late. The insurgents had penetrated by the long gallery of the Louvre,
near the river, and then there was no escape for the Swiss. They were
killed in the palace, and in the gardens, and their graves are under
the tall chestnuts. Of the women, some were taken to prison, and some
to their homes. The conquerors slaked their thirst in the king's wine,
and then flooded the cellars, lest some fugitive aristocrat should be
lurking underground. Their victims were between 700 and 800 men, and
about 140 of the assailants had fallen.

The royalists did not at first perceive that the monarchy was at an
end. They imagined that the king was again in the same condition as
after Varennes, only occupying the Luxembourg instead of the
Tuileries, and that he would be again restored, as the year before.
The majority of the Legislature was loyal, and it was hoped that
France would resent the action of the capital. But Paris, represented
by the intruding municipality, held its prey. The allowance promised
by the Assembly was suppressed, and the Temple was substituted for the
Luxembourg which was deemed unsafe because of the subterranean
galleries. A sum of £20,000 was voted for expenses, until the
Convention in September disposed of the king.

With no severer effort than the signing of an order, Lewis might have
called up other regiments of Swiss, who would have made the stronghold
of monarchy impregnable. And it would have been in his power, before
sunset that day, to march out of Paris at the head of a victorious
army, and at once to proclaim reforms which enlightened statesmen had
drawn up. His queen was active and resolute; but she had learnt, in
adversity, to think more of the claims of authority and the historic
right of kings. She shared Burke's passionate hatred for men whose
royalism was conditional. At every step downward they were the authors
of their own disaster. The French Republic was not a spontaneous
evolution of social elements. The issue between constitutional
monarchy, the richest and most flexible of political forms, and the
Republic one and indivisible (that is, not federal), which is the most
rigorous and sterile, was decided by the crimes of men, and by errors
more inevitably fatal than crime. There is another world for the
expiation of guilt; but the wages of folly are payable here below.



XVI

THE EXECUTION OF THE KING


The constitutional experiment, first tried on the Continent under
Lewis XVI., failed mainly through distrust of the executive and a
mechanical misconstruction of the division of power. Government had
been incapable, the finances were disordered, the army was
disorganised; the monarchy had brought on an invasion which it was now
the mission of the Republic to repel. The instinct of freedom made way
for the instinct of force, the Liberal movement was definitely
reversed, and the change which followed the shock of the First
European Coalition was more significant, the angle more acute, than
the mere transition from royal to republican forms. Unity of power was
the evident need of the moment, and as it could not be bestowed upon a
king who was in league with the enemy, it had to be sought in a
democracy which should have concentration and vigour for its dominant
note. Therefore supremacy was assured to that political party which
was most alert in laying its grasp on all the resources of the State,
and most resolute in crushing resistance. More than public interests
were at stake. Great armies were approaching, guided by vindictive
_émigrés_, and they had announced the horrors they were prepared to
inflict on the population of Paris.

Beyond the rest of France the Parisians were interested in the
creation of a power equal to the danger, and were ready to be saved
even by a dictatorship. The need was supplied by the members of the
new municipality who expelled the old on the night of August 9. They
were instituted by Danton. They appointed Marat their organ of
publicity. Robespierre was elected a member of the body on August 11.
It was the stronghold of the Revolution. Strictly, they were an
illegal assembly, and their authority was usurped; but they were
masters of Paris, and had dethroned the king. The _Législative_,
having accepted their action, was forced to obey their commandments,
and to rescind its decrees at their pleasure. By convoking the
constituencies to elect a Convention, it had annulled itself. It was
no more than a dying assembly whose days were exactly numbered, and
whose credit and influence were at an end.

Between a king who was deposed and an assembly that abdicated, the
Commune alone exhibited the energy and force that were to save the
country. Being illegitimate, they could quell opposition only by
violence; and they made it clear what violence they meant to use when
they gave an office to Marat. This man had been a writer on science,
and Goethe celebrates his sagacity and gift of observation in a
passage which is remarkable for the absence of any allusion to his
public career. But he considered that the rich have no right to
enjoyments of which the masses are deprived, and that the guilt of
selfishness and oppression could only be expiated by death. A year
before he had proposed that obnoxious deputies should be killed by
torture, and their quarters nailed to the walls as a hint to their
successors. He now desired to reconcile mercy with safety, and
declared himself satisfied if the Assembly was decimated. For
royalists, and men who had belonged to privileged orders, he had no
such clemency. If, he said, the able-bodied men become soldiers and
are sent to guard the frontier, who is to protect us from traitors at
home? Either thousands of fighting men must be kept away from the army
in the field, or the internal enemy must be put out of the way. On
August 10 Marat began to employ this argument, and a company of
recruits protested against being sent to the front whilst their
families were at the mercy of the royalists. The cry became popular
that France would be condemned to fight her enemies with one arm, if
she had to guard the traitors with the other. And this was the plea
provided to excuse the crimes that were about to follow. It was the
plea, but not the motive. If the intended destruction of royalists
could be represented as an act of war, as a necessity of national
defence, moderate men would be unable to prevent it without incurring
reproach as unpatriotic citizens.

When the Jacobins prepared the massacre in the prisons, their purpose
was to fill France with terror and to secure their majority in the
Convention. That is the controlling idea that governed the events of
the next few weeks. After the decree which assigned the Luxemburg
palace as a residence to the king, the Commune claimed him; and he was
delivered up to them, and confined in the Temple, the ancient fortress
in which the Valois kept their treasure. They proceeded to suppress
the newspapers that were against them, disfranchised the voters who
had signed opposing or reactionary petitions, and closed the barriers.
They threw their enemies into prison, erected a new tribunal for the
punishment of crimes against the Revolution, and supplied it with a
new and most efficient instrument which executed its victims
painlessly, expeditiously, and on terms conforming to the precept of
equality. From the moment of his appearance at the Hôtel de Ville, the
day after the fight was over, Robespierre became the ruling spirit and
the organiser, and it was felt at once that, behind the declamations
and imprecations of Marat, there was a singularly methodical,
consistent, patient, and systematic mind at work, directing the action
of the Commune.

The fall of Longwy was known at Paris on August 26. On that day the
Minister of Justice, Danton, revised the list of prisoners;
domiciliary visits were carried out, all over the city, to search for
arms, and for suspected persons. Nearly 3000 were arrested by the
28th, and a thing still more ominous was that many prisoners were
released. Nobody doubted, nobody seriously denied, the significance of
these measures. The legislature, seeing that this was not the mere
frenzy of passion, but a deliberate and settled plan, dissolved the
Commune, August 30, and ordered that it should be renewed by a fresh
election. They also restored the governing body of the department, as
a check on the municipality. They had the law and constitution on
their side, and their act was an act of sovereignty. It was the
critical and deciding moment in the struggle between the Girondins and
the Hôtel de Ville. On the following day, August 31, the Assembly
revoked the decree. Tallien read an address, drawn up by Robespierre,
declaring that the Commune, just instituted by the people of Paris,
with a fresh and definite mandate, could not submit to an assembly
which had lost its powers, which had allowed the initiative to pass
away from it. The Assembly was entirely helpless, and was too much
compromised by its complicity since the 10th of August to resist its
master. Robespierre, at the Commune, threatened the Girondins with
imprisonment, and, to complete their discomfiture, Brissot's papers
were examined, and Roland, Minister of the Interior, was subjected to
the same indignity.

In the last days of August, whilst every house was being searched for
fugitives, the primary elections were held. The Jacobins were much
opposed to the principle of indirect election, but they did not
succeed in abolishing it. They instituted universal suffrage for the
first stage, and they gave to the primary assemblies a veto on the
choice of the second. For the rest, they relied on intimidation. The
800 electors met at the bishop's palace on September 2. But here there
was no stranger's gallery, and it was requisite that the nominees of
the people should act in the presence of the public that nominated
them to do its work. Robespierre proposed that the electoral body
should hold its sittings at the Jacobin Club, in the full enjoyment of
publicity. On the following day they met at the same place, and
proceeded to the Jacobins. Their way led them over the bridge, where a
spectacle awaited them which was carefully calculated to assist their
deliberations. They found themselves in the presence of a great number
of dead men, deposited from the neighbouring prison.

For this is what had happened. On the 2nd of September Verdun had
fallen. This was not yet known at Paris; but it was reported that the
Prussians had appeared before the fortress, and that it could not hold
out. Verdun was the last barrier on the road to Paris, and the first
scene of the war in Belgium made it doubtful whether the new levies
would stand their ground against battalions that had been drilled by
Frederic. Alarm guns were fired, the tocsin sounded, the black flag
proclaimed that the country was in danger, and the men of Paris were
summoned by beat of drum to be enrolled for the army of national
defence.

Danton, who knew English, and read English books, seems to have
remembered a passage in Spenser, when he declared that France must be
saved at Paris, and told his terrified hearers to be bold, to be bold,
and again to be bold. Then he went off to see to the enrolments, and
left the agents of the Commune to accomplish the work appointed for
the day. Twenty-four prisoners at the Mairie were removed to the
Abbaye, which was the old Benedictine monastery of St. Germain, in
hackney coaches; twenty-two of them were priests. Lewis XVI. had
fallen because he refused to proscribe the refractory clergy who were
accused of spreading discontent. Beyond all men they were identified
with the lost cause, and it had been decided that they should be
banished. They were imprisoned in large numbers, as a first step
towards their expulsion. That group, escorted by Marseilles from the
Mairie to the Abbaye, were the first victims. The people, who did not
love them, let them pass through the streets without injury; but when
they reached their destination, the escorting Marseillais began to
plunge their swords into the carriages, and all but three were killed.
Two made their way into a room where a commission was sitting, and, by
taking seats among the rest, escaped. Sicard, the teacher of the deaf
and dumb, was recognised and saved: and it is through him that we know
the deeds that were done that day. They were directed by Maillard who
proceeded from the abbey to the Carmelites, a prison filled with
ecclesiastics, where he sent for the Register, and had them murdered
orderly and without tumult. There was a large garden, and sixteen of
the prisoners climbed over the wall and got away; fourteen were
acquitted; 120 were put to death, and their bones are collected in the
chapel, and show the sabre cuts by which they died.

During the absence of Maillard, which lasted three hours, certain
unauthorised and self-constituted assassins appeared at the Abbaye and
proposed to go on with the work of extermination which he had left
unfinished. The gaolers were obliged to deliver up a few prisoners, to
save time. When Maillard returned, he established a sort of tribunal
for the trial of prisoners, while the murderers, in all something
under 200, waited outside and slaughtered those that were given up to
them. In the case of the clergy, and of the Swiss survivors of the 4th
of August, little formality was observed. At the Abbaye, and at La
Force, there were many political prisoners, and of these a certain
number were elaborately absolved. Several prisons were left unvisited;
but at Bicêtre and the Saltpêtrière, where only the most ignoble
culprits were confined, frightful massacres took place.

As this was utterly pointless and unmeaning, it has given currency to
the theory that all the horrors of that September were the irrational
and spontaneous act of some hundreds of gaolbirds, whose eyes were
stained with the vision of blood, and who ran riot in their impunity.
So that criminal Paris, not revolutionary Paris, was to blame. In
reality, the massacres were organised by the Commune, paid for by the
Commune, and directed by its emissaries. We know how much the various
agents received, and what was the cost of the whole, from the 2nd of
September to the 5th. At first, all was deliberate and methodical, and
the women were spared. Several were released at the last moment; some
were dismissed by the tribunal before which they appeared. The
exception is the Princess de Lamballe, who was the friend of the
queen. But as Madame de Tourzel was spared, the cause of her death
remains unexplained. Her life had not been entirely free from
reproach; and it has been supposed that she was in possession of
secrets injurious to the duke of Orleans.

But the problem is not to know why murderers were guilty of murder,
but how they allowed many of their captives to be saved. One man made
friends with a Marseillais by talking in his native patois. When asked
what he was, he replied, "A hearty royalist!" Thereupon Maillard
raised his hat and said, "We are here to judge actions, not opinions,"
and the man was received with acclamation outside by the thirsty
executioners. Bertrand, brother of the royalist minister, had the same
reception. Two men interrupted their work to see him home. They waited
outside whilst he saw his family, and then went away, thanking him for
the sight of so much happiness, and refusing a reward. Another
prisoner was taken to his house in a cab, with half a dozen dripping
patriots crowded on the roof, and hanging on behind. They would accept
nothing but a glass of spirits. Few men were in greater danger than
Weber, the foster-brother of the queen. He had been on guard at the
Tuileries, and was by her side on the funereal march across the
gardens from palace to prison. As he well knew what she was leaving,
and to what she was going, he was so overcome that Princess Elizabeth
whispered to him to control his feelings and be a man. Yet he was one
of those who lived to tell the tale of his appearance before the dread
tribunal of Maillard. When he was acquitted, the expectant cut-throats
were wild with enthusiasm. They cheered him; they gave him the
fraternal accolade; they uncovered as he passed along the line; and a
voice cried, "Take care where he walks! Don't you see he has got white
stockings on?"

One acquittal is remembered beyond all the rest. In every school and
in every nursery of France the story continues to be told how
Sombreuil, the governor of the Invalides, was acquitted by the judges,
but would have been butchered by the mob outside if his daughter had
not drunk to the nation in a glass filled with the warm blood of the
last victim. They were taken home in triumph. Sombreuil perished in
the Reign of Terror. His daughter married, and died at Avignon in
1823, at the height of the royalist reaction. The fame of that heroic
moment in her life filled the land, and her heart was brought to
Paris, to be laid in the consecrated ground where she had worshipped
as a child, and it rests under the same gilded canopy that covers the
remains of Napoleon. Many people believe that this is one of the
legends of royalism which should be strung with the mock pearls of
history. No contemporary mentions it, and it does not appear before
1801. Mlle. de Sombreuil obtained a pension from the Convention, but
this was not included in the statement of her claims. An Englishman,
who witnessed the release of Sombreuil, only relates that father and
daughter were carried away swooning from the strain of emotion. I
would not dwell on so well-worn an anecdote if I believed that it was
false. The difficulty of disbelief is that the son of the heroine
wrote a letter affirming it, in which he states that his mother was
never afterwards able to touch a glass of red wine. The point to bear
in mind is that these atrocious criminals rejoiced as much in a man to
save as in a man to kill. They were servants of a cause, acting under
authority.

Robespierre, among the chiefs, seems to have aimed mainly at the
destruction of the priests. Others proposed that the prisoners should
be confined underground, and that water should be let in until they
were drowned. Marat advised that the prisons should be burnt, with
their inmates. "The 2nd of September," said Collot d'Herbois, "is the
first article of the creed of Liberty. Without it there would be no
National Convention." "France," said Danton, in a memorable
conversation, "is not republican. We can only establish a Republic by
the intimidation of its enemies." They had crushed the Legislature,
they had given warning to the Germans that they would not save the
king by advancing on the capital when it was in the hands of men
capable of such deeds, and they had secured a Jacobin triumph at the
Paris election. Marat prepared an address exhorting the departments to
imitate their example, and it was sent out under cover from the
Ministry of Justice. Danton himself sent out the same orders. Only one
copy seems to have been preserved, and it might have been difficult to
determine the responsibility of Danton, if he had not avowed to Louis
Philippe that he was the author of the massacres of September.

The example of Paris was not widely followed, but the State prisoners
at Orleans were brought to Versailles, and there put to death. The
whole number killed was between thirteen and fourteen hundred. We have
touched low-water mark in the Revolution, and there is nothing worse
than this to come. We are in the company of men fit for Tyburn. I need
spend no words in impressing on you the fact that these republicans
began at once with atrocities as great as those of which the absolute
monarchy was justly accused, and for which it justly perished. What we
have to fix in our thoughts is this, that the great crimes of the
Revolution, and crimes as great as those in the history of other
countries, are still defended and justified in almost every group of
politicians and historians, so that, in principle, the present is not
altogether better than the past.

The massacre was successful at Paris, but not in the rest of France.
Under its influence none but Jacobins were elected in the capital.
President and vice-president of the Electoral Assembly were
Robespierre and Collot d'Herbois, with Marat for secretary.
Robespierre was the first deputy returned, Danton was second, Collot
third, Manuel fourth, Billaud-Varennes fifth, Camille Desmoulins
sixth, and Marat seventh, with a majority over Priestley, who was
chosen in two departments, but refused the seat. The twentieth and
last of the deputies for Paris was the duke of Orleans.

While the people of Paris sanctioned and approved the murders, it was
not the same in the country. In many places the proceedings began with
mass, and concluded with a Te Deum. Seventeen bishops were sent to
the Convention, and thirty-one priests. Tom Paine, though he could not
speak French, was elected in four places. Two-thirds were new members,
who had not sat in the previous assemblies. Four-fifths of the primary
electors abstained.

The Convention began its sittings, September 20, in the Riding School,
where the Législative had met; in the month of May 1793 it adjourned
to the Tuileries. There were about fifty or sixty Jacobins. The
majority, without being Girondins, were prepared generally to follow,
if the Girondins led. Pétion was at once elected president, and all
the six secretaries were on the same side. The victory of the Gironde
was complete. It had the game in its hands. The party had little
cohesion and, in spite of the whispered counsels of Sieyès, no sort of
tactics. Excepting Buzot, and perhaps Vergniaud, they scarcely deserve
the interest they have excited in later literature, for they had no
principles. Embarrassed by the helpless condition of the Législative,
they made no resistance to the massacres. When Roland, Condorcet,
Gorsas, spoke of them in public, they described them as a dreadful
necessity, an act of rude but inevitable justice. Roland, Minister of
the Interior, had some of the promoters to dine with him while the
bloodshed was going on, and he proposed to draw a decent veil over
what had passed. Such men were unfit to compete with Robespierre in
ruthless villainy, but they were equally unfit to denounce and to
expose him. That was the policy which they attempted, and by which
they perished.

The movement towards a permanent Republic was not pronounced, beyond
the barrier of Paris. The constituencies made no demand for it, except
the Jura. Two others declared against monarchy. Thirty-four
departments gave no instructions; thirty-six gave general or unlimited
powers. Three, including Paris, required that constitutional decrees
should be submitted to popular ratification. The first act of the
Convention was to adopt that new principle. By a unanimous vote, on
the motion of Danton, they decided that the Constitution must be
accepted by the nation in its primary assemblies. But some weeks
later, October 16, when Manuel proposed to consult the people on the
question of a Republic, the Convention refused. The abolition of
monarchy was carried, September 21, without any discussion; for the
history of kings, said Bishop Grégoire, is the martyrology of nations.
On the 22nd the Republic was proclaimed, under the first impression of
the news from Valmy, brought by the future king of the French. The
repulse of the invasion provoked by the late government coincided with
the establishment of the new.

The Girondins, who were in possession, began with a series of personal
attacks on the opposite leaders. They said, what everybody knew, that
Marat was an infamous scoundrel, that Danton had not made his accounts
clear when he retired from office on entering the Convention, that
Robespierre was a common assassin. Some suspicion remained hanging
about Danton, but the assailants used their materials with so little
skill that they were worsted in the encounter with Robespierre. The
Jacobins expelled them from their Club, and Louvet's motion against
Robespierre was rejected on November 5. Thus they were weakened
already when, on the following day, the question of the trial of the
king came on. It was not only the first important stage in the strife
of the parties, but it was the decisive one. The question whether
Lewis should live or die was no other than the question whether
Jacobin or Girondin should survive and govern.

A mighty change occurred in the position of France and in the spirit
of the nation, between the events we have just contemplated and the
tragedy to which we are coming. In September the German armies were in
France, and at first met with no resistance. The peril was evidently
extreme, and the only security was the life of the king. Since then
the Prussians and Austrians had been ignominiously expelled; Belgium
had been conquered; Savoy had been overrun; the Alps and the Rhine as
far as Mentz were the frontiers of the Republic. From the German Ocean
to the Mediterranean not an army or a fortress had been able to
resist the revolutionary arms. The reasonable alarm of September had
made way for an exorbitant confidence. There was no fear of all the
soldiery of Europe. The French were ready to fight the world, and they
calculated that they ran no graver risk than the loss of the sugar
islands. It suited their new temper to slay their king, as it had been
their policy to preserve him as a hostage. On the 19th of November
they offered aid and friendship to every people that determined to be
free. This decree, really the beginning of the great war, was caused
by remonstrances from Mentz where the French party feared to be
abandoned. But it was aimed against England, striking at the weakest
point, and reducing its warlike power by encouraging Irish
disaffection.

On the 12th of August Rebecqui had proposed that the king should be
tried by the Convention that was to meet, and that there should be an
appeal to the people. On October 1 the question was brought before the
Convention, and a Commission of twenty-four was appointed to examine
the evidence. They reported on the 6th of November; and from that
moment the matter did not rest. On the following day, Mailhe, in the
name of the jurists, reported that there was no legal obstacle, from
the inviolability acknowledged by the Constitution. Mousson replied
that since Lewis was deposed, he had no further responsibility. A very
young member sprang suddenly into notoriety, on the 13th, by arguing
that there was no question of justice and its forms; a king deserved
death not for what he did, but for what he was. The speaker's name was
St. Just. On November 20, before the debate had gone either way,
Roland appeared, with news of an important discovery. The king had an
iron safe in his palace, which the locksmith had betrayed. Roland had
found that it contained 625 documents. A committee of twelve was
directed to examine them, and they found the proofs of a great scheme
of corruption, and of the venality of Mirabeau. On December 3 it was
resolved that the king should be tried by the Convention; the order of
proceedings was determined on the 6th, and on the 10th the indictment
was brought in. On the next day Lewis appeared before his judges, and
was interrogated by the President. He said, in his replies, that he
knew nothing of an iron safe, and had never given money to Mirabeau,
or to any deputy. When he got back to prison the unhappy man
exclaimed, "They asked questions for which I was so little prepared
that I denied my own hand." Ten days were allowed to prepare the
defence. He was assisted by Malesherbes, by the famous jurist
Tronchet, and by Desèze, a younger man, who made the speech. It was
unconvincing, for the advocates perceived, no better than their
client, where the force and danger of the accusation lay.

Everybody believed that Lewis had brought the invader into the
country, but it was not proved in evidence. If the proofs since
published had been known at the time, the defence must have been
confined to the plea that the king was inviolable; and the answer
would have been that he is covered by the responsibility of ministers,
but responsible for what he does behind their back. At the last moment
several Girondins proposed that sentence should be pronounced by the
nation, in primary assemblies--an idea put forward by Faure on
November 29. This was contrary to the spirit of representative
democracy, which consults the electors as to men, and not as to
measures properly the result of debate. It was consistent with the
direct action of Democracy, which was the theory of Jacobinism. But
the Jacobins would not have it. By compelling the vote on the capital
question, they would ruin their adversaries. If the Girondins voted
for death, they would follow the train of the party that resolutely
insisted on it. If they voted against, they could be accused of
royalism. When the question "Guilty or not guilty?" was put, there was
no hesitation; 683 voted guilty, one man, Lanjuinais, answering that
he was a legislator, not a judge. The motion, to leave the penalty to
the people, which was made in the interest of the Girondins, not of
the king, failed by 423 to 281, and ruined the party that contrived
it. The voting on the penalty began on the evening of January 17, and
as each man gave his voice from the tribune, it lasted far into the
following day. Vergniaud declared the result; he said that there was a
majority of five for death. Both parties were dissatisfied, and
suspected fraud. A scrutiny was held, and it then appeared that those
who had voted simply for the capital penalty were 361, and that those
who had voted otherwise were 360. Majority, 1. But when the final vote
was taken on the question of delay, there was a majority of 70 for
immediate execution.

That the decision was the result of fear has been stated, even by
Brissot and Carnot. The duke of Orleans had written to the President
that he could not vote at the trial of his kinsman. The letter was
returned to him. He promised his son that he would not vote for death,
and when they met again exclaimed, "I am not worthy to be your
father!" At dinner, on the fatal day, Vergniaud declared that he would
defend the king's life, even if he stood alone. A few hours later he
voted for death. Yet Vergniaud was soon to prove that he was not a man
whom intimidation influenced. The truth is, that nobody had a doubt as
to guilt. Punishment was a question rather of policy than of justice.

The army was inclined to the side of mercy. Custine had offered,
November 23, to save Lewis, if Prussia would acknowledge the Republic.
The offer was made in vain. Dumouriez came to Paris in January, and
found that there was nothing to be done. He said afterwards, "It is
true he was a perfidious scoundrel, but it was folly to cut his head
off." The Spanish Bourbons made every effort to save the head of the
house. They offered neutrality and mediation, and they empowered their
agent to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in opportune bribery.
They promised, if Lewis was delivered up to them, that they would
prevent him from ever interfering in French affairs, and would give
hostages for his good behaviour. They entreated George III. to act
with them in a cause which was that of monarchy and of humanity.
Lansdowne, Sheridan, and Fox urged the government to interpose.
Grenville made known that peace would be preserved if France gave up
her conquests, but he said not a word for the king. Information was
brought to Pitt, from a source that could be trusted, that Danton
would save him for £40,000. When he made up his mind to give the
money, Danton replied that it was too late. Pitt explained to the
French diplomatist Maret, afterwards Prime Minister, his motive for
hesitation. The execution of the king of France would raise such a
storm in England that the Whigs would be submerged.

Lewis was resigned to his fate, but he expected that he would be
spared, and he spoke of retiring to the Sierra Morena, or of seeking a
retreat for his old age among the faithful republicans of Switzerland.
When his advocates came to tell him that there was no hope, he refused
to believe them. "You are mistaken," he said; "they would never dare."
He quickly recovered his composure, and declined to ask permission to
see his family. "I can wait," he said; "in a few days they will not
refuse me." A priest who applied for leave to attend him was sent to
prison. As a foreigner was less likely to be molested, the king asked
for the _abbé_ Edgeworth, of Firmount, who had passed his life in
France, but might be considered an Irishman. Garat, the Minister of
the Interior, went to fetch him. On their way he said, "He was weak
when in power; but you will see how great he is, now that he is in
chains."

On the following day Lewis was taken through a vast parade of military
and cannon to the scaffold in the Place de la Concorde, a little
nearer to the Champs Elysées than the place where the obelisk of Luxor
stands. He was nearly an hour on the way. The Spanish envoy had not
made terms with the agents who were attracted by the report of his
unlimited credit, and he spent his doubloons in a frantic attempt at
rescue as the prisoner passed, at a foot pace, along the Boulevard. An
equivocal adventurer, the Baron de Batz, who helped to organise the
rising of Vendémiaire, which only failed because it encountered
Bonaparte, had undertaken to break the line, with four or five
hundred men. They were to make a rush from a side street. But every
street was patrolled and every point was guarded as the coach went by
carrying the prisoner. De Batz was true to the rendezvous, and stood
up waving a sword and crying, "Follow me and save the king!" It was
without effect; he vanished in the crowd; one companion was taken and
guillotined, but the police were able to report that no incident had
occurred on the way.

Not the royalists but the king served the royal cause on that 21st of
January. Unequal to his duties on the throne, he found, in prison and
on the scaffold, a part worthy of the better qualities of his race,
justifying the words of Louis Blanc, "None but the dead come back." To
absolve him is impossible, for we know, better than his persecutors,
how he intrigued to recover uncontrolled authority by bringing havoc
and devastation upon the people over whom he reigned. The crowning
tragedy is not that which Paris witnessed, when Santerre raised his
sword, commanding the drums to beat, which had been silenced by the
first word of the dying speech; it is that Lewis XVI. met his fate
with inward complacency, unconscious of guilt, blind to the
opportunities he had wasted and the misery he had caused, and died a
penitent Christian but an unrepentant king.



XVII

THE FALL OF THE GIRONDE


The Constitution of 1791 had failed because it carried the division of
powers and the reaction against monarchical centralisation so far as
to paralyse the executive. Until the day when a new system should be
organised, a series of revolutionary measures were adopted, and by
these the Convention governed to the end. Immediately after the death
of Lewis XVI. they began to send out representatives with arbitrary
powers to the departments. The revolutionary tribunal was appointed in
March to judge political cases without appeal; and the Secret
Committee of Public Safety in April, on the defeat and defection of
Dumouriez. All this time, the Girondins had the majority. The issue of
the king's trial had been disastrous to them, because it proved their
weakness, not in numbers, but in character and counsel. Roland at once
resigned, confessing the defeat. But they stood four months before
their fall. During that memorable struggle, the question was whether
France should be ruled by violence and blood, or by men who knew the
passion for freedom. The Girondins at once raised the real issue by
demanding inquiry into the massacres of September. It was a valid but
a perilous weapon. There could be no doubt as to what those who had
committed a thousand murders to obtain power would be capable of doing
in their own defence.

The Girondins calculated badly. By leaving crime unpunished they could
have divided their adversaries. Almost to the last moment Danton
wished to avoid the conflict. Again and again they rejected his
offers. Open war, said Vergniaud, is better than a hollow truce. Their
rejection of the hand that bore the crimson stain is the cause of
their ruin, but also of their renown. They were always impolitic,
disunited, and undecided; but they rose, at times, to the level of
honest men. Their second line of attack was not better chosen. Party
politics were new, and the science of understanding the other side was
not developed; and the Girondins were persuaded that the Montagnards
were at heart royalists, aiming at the erection of an Orleanist
throne. Marat received money from the Palais Royal; and Sieyès to the
last regarded him as a masked agent of monarchy. Danton himself
assured the young Duc de Chartres that the Republic would not last,
and advised him to hold himself in readiness to reap, some day, what
the Jacobins were sowing.

The aim of the Jacobins was a dictatorship, which was quite a new
substitute for monarchy, and the Orleans spectre was no more than an
illusion on which the Gironde spent much of its strength. In
retaliation, they were accused of Federalism, and this also was a
false suspicion. Federal ideas, the characteristic of America, had the
sanction of the greatest names in the political literature of
France--Montesquieu and Rousseau, Necker and Mirabeau. The only
evident Federalist in the Convention is Barère. A scheme of federation
was discussed at the Jacobins on September 10, and did not come to a
vote. But the idea was never adopted by the Girondin party, or by any
one of its members, with the exception of Buzot. They favoured things
just as bad in Jacobin eyes. They inclined to decentralisation, to
local liberties, to restraint on the overwhelming activity of Paris,
to government by representatives of the sovereign people, not by the
sovereign itself. All this was absolutely opposed to the concentration
of all powers, which was the prevailing purpose since the alarm of
invasion and treason, and was easily confounded with the theory of
provincial rights and divided authority, which was dreaded as the
superlative danger of the time. That which, under the title of
Federalism, was laid to their charge, must be counted to their credit;
for it meant that, in a limited sense, they were constitutional, and
that there were degrees of power and oppression, which even a Girondin
would resist.

The Jacobins had this superiority over their fluctuating opponents,
that they fell back on a system which was simple, which was
intelligible, and which the most famous book of the previous
generation had made known to everybody. For them there was no
uncertainty, no groping, and no compromise. They intended that the
mass of the people should at all times assert and enforce their will,
over-riding all temporary powers and superseding all appointed agents.
As they had to fight the world with a divided population, they
required that all power should be concentrated in the hands of those
who acted in conformity with the popular will, and that those who
resisted at home, should be treated as enemies. They must put down
opposition as ruthlessly as they repelled invasion. The better Jacobin
would not have denied liberty, but he would have defined it
differently. For him it consisted not in the limitation, but the
composition of the governing power. He would not weaken the state by
making its action uncertain, slow, capricious, dependent on alternate
majorities and rival forces; but he would find security in power
exercised only by the whole body of the nation, united in the
enjoyment of the gifts the Revolution had bestowed on the peasant.
That was the most numerous class, the class whose interests were the
same, which was identified with the movement against privilege, which
would inevitably be true to the new institutions. They were a minority
in the Convention, but a minority representing the unity and security
of the Republic, and supported by the majority outside. They drew to
themselves not the best or the most brilliant men, but those who
devoted themselves to the use of power, not to the manipulation of
ideas. Many good administrators belonged to the party, among whom
Carnot is only the most celebrated. Napoleon, who understood talent
and said that no men were so vigorous and efficient as those who had
gone through the Revolution, gave office to 127 regicides, most of
whom were Montagnards.

The Girondins, vacillating and divided, would never have made the
Republic triumph over the _whole_ of Europe and the half of France.
They were immediately confronted by a general war and a formidable
insurrection. They were not afraid of war. The great military powers
were Austria and Prussia, and they had been driven to the Rhine by
armies of thirty or forty thousand men. After that, the armies of
Spain and England did not seem formidable. This calculation proved to
be correct. The audacity of the French appeared in their declaration
of war against the three chief maritime powers at once--England,
Spain, and Holland. It was not until 1797, not for four years, that
the superiority of the British fleet was established. They had long
hoped that war with England could be avoided, and carried on
negotiations through a succession of secret agents. There was a notion
that the English government was revolutionary in character as it was
in origin, that the execution of the king was done in pursuance of
English examples, that a Protestant country must admire men who
followed new ideas. Brissot, like Napoleon in 1815, built his hopes on
the opposition. Mr. Fox could not condemn the institution of a
Republic; and a party that had applauded American victories over their
own countrymen might be expected to feel some sympathy with a country
which was partly imitating England and partly America.

War with continental absolutism was the proper price of revolution;
but the changes since 1789 were changes in the direction of a Whig
alliance. When the Convention were informed that George III. would not
have a regicide minister in the country, they did not debate the
matter, but passed it over to a committee. They acted not only from a
sense of national dignity, but in the belief that the event was not
very terrible. The Girondins thought that the war would not be popular
in England, that the Whigs, the revolutionary societies, and the
Irish, would bring it to an early termination. Marat, who knew this
country, affirmed that it was an illusion. But there was no opposition
to the successive declarations of war with England, Holland, and the
Spanish and Neapolitan Bourbons, which took place in February and
March. Eight hundred million of _assignats_ were voted at once, to be
secured on the confiscated property of the _émigrés_. France, at that
moment, had only 150,000 soldiers in the field. On February 24, a
decree called out 300,000 men, and obliged each department to raise
its due proportion. The French army that was to accomplish such
marvels in the next twenty years, begins on that day. But the first
consequence was an extraordinary diminution in the military power of
the State. The Revolution had done much for the country people, and
had imposed no burdens upon them. The compulsory levy was the first.
In most places, with sufficient pressure, the required men were
supplied. Some districts offered more than their proper number.

On March 10, the Conscription was opened in the remote parishes of
Poitou. The country had been agitated for some time. The peasants, for
there were no large towns in that region, had resented the overthrow
of the nobility, of the clergy, and of the throne. The expulsion of
their priests caused constant discontent. And now the demand that they
should go out, under officers whom they distrusted, and die for a
government which persecuted them, caused an outbreak. They refused to
draw their numbers, and on the following day they gathered in large
crowds and fell upon the two sorts of men they detested--the
government officials, and the newly established clergy. Before the
middle of March about three hundred priests and republican officials
were murdered, and the war of La Vendée began. And it was there, and
not in Paris, that liberty made its last stand in revolutionary
France.

But we must see first what passed in the Convention under the shadow
of the impending struggle. A committee had been appointed, October 11,
to draw up a constitution for the Republic. Danton was upon it, but
he was much away, with the army in Belgium. Tom Paine brought
illumination from America, and Barère, generally without ideas of his
own, made others' plausible. The majority were Girondins, and with
them Sieyès was closely associated. On February 15, Condorcet produced
the report. It was the main attempt of the Girondins to consolidate
their power, and for three months it occupied the leisure of the
Convention. The length of the debate proved the weakness of the party.
Robespierre and his friends opposed the work of their enemies, and
talked it out. They devoted their arguments to the preamble, the new
formula of the Rights of Man, and succeeded so well that no part of
the Constitution ever came to a vote. The most interesting portion of
the debate turned upon the principle of religious liberty, which the
draft affirmed, and which was opposed by Vergniaud. Whilst this
ineffectual discussion proceeded, the fight was waged decisively
elsewhere, and the Jacobins delivered a counterstroke of superior
force.

Dumouriez's reverses had begun, and there was new urgency in the
demand for concentration. Danton came to an understanding with
Robespierre, and they decided on establishing the revolutionary
tribunal. It was to consist of judges appointed by the Convention to
try prisoners whom the Convention sent before it, and to judge without
appeal. Danton said that it was a necessary measure, in order to avert
popular violence and vengeance. He recommended it in the name of
humanity. When the Convention heard Danton speak of humanity there was
a shudder, and in the midst of a dead silence Lanjuinais uttered the
word "September." Danton replied that there would have been no
massacres if the new tribunal had been instituted at the time. The
Convention resolved that there should be trial by jury, and that no
deputies should be tried without their permission. The object of
Robespierre was not obtained. He had meant that the revolutionary
tribunal should judge without a jury, and should have jurisdiction
over the deputies. The Girondins were still too strong for him.
Danton next addressed himself to them. They agreed that there should
be a strong committee to supervise and control the government. On
March 25 they carried a list of twenty-five, composed largely of their
own friends, and, by thus subjecting the Assembly at large to a
committee, they once more recovered supreme power. Immediately after,
the defection of Dumouriez was reported at Paris, and the Convention
rightly believed that they had narrowly escaped a great danger. For
Dumouriez had intended to unite all the forces he could collect in the
Dutch and Belgian Netherlands, and to march into France at their head,
to establish a government of his own. He had been in close
communication with Danton, and the opportunity of attacking Danton was
too good to be lost. On April 1 Lasource accused him of complicity in
the treason. The truce between them was at an end, and the
consequences were soon apparent. The committee of twenty-five was too
bulky, and was made up from different parties. A proposal was made to
reduce the number, and on April 6 a new committee of nine, the real
Committee of Public Safety, was elected, and no Girondins were
included in it. On the same day the first execution took place of a
prisoner sentenced by the new tribunal. The two chief instruments of
the revolutionary government were brought into action at the same
time. But they did not enable the Jacobins to reach their enemies in
the Assembly, for the deputies were inviolable. Everybody else was at
the mercy of the public accuser.

The Girondins, having failed in their attack on Danton, now turned
against Marat, and by 220 to 132 votes sent him before the
revolutionary tribunal to be tried for sedition. On the 24th he was
acquitted. Meantime his friends petitioned against the Girondins, and
demanded that twenty-two of them should be expelled. The petition was
rejected, after a debate in which Vergniaud refused to have the fate
of his party decided by primary assemblies, on the ground that it
would lead to civil war. Vendée was in flames, and the danger of
explosion was felt in many parts of France.

Down to the month of May, the Girondins had failed in their attacks
on individual deputies, but their position in the Assembly was
unshaken. By their divisions, and by means of occasional majorities,
especially by the uncertain and intermittent help of Danton,
Robespierre had carried important measures--the Revolutionary
Tribunal, the Committee of Public Safety, the employment of
commissaries from the Convention to enforce the levies in each
department. By a series of acceptable decrees in favour of the
indigent, he had established himself and his friends as the authors of
a new order of society, against the representatives of the middle
class. The people of Paris responded by creating an insurrectionary
committee to accomplish, by lawful pressure or otherwise, the purpose
of the deputation which had demanded the exclusion of the twenty-two.
On May 21 a commission of twelve was appointed to vindicate the
supremacy of the Convention against the municipality. The Girondins
obtained the majority. Their candidates received from 104 to 325
votes. No Jacobin had more than 98. It was their last parliamentary
victory. There was no legal way of destroying them. The work had to be
left to agitators like Marat, and the committee of insurrection. When
this came to be understood, the end was very near. The committee of
twelve, the organ of the Convention and of the moderate part of it,
arrested several of the most violent agitators. On May 26, Robespierre
summoned the people of Paris against the traitorous deputies. Next day
they appeared, made their way into the Convention, and stated their
demands. The men were released, and the commission of twelve was
dissolved. But on the 28th the Assembly, ashamed of having yielded
tamely to a demonstration which was not overwhelming, renewed the
commission, by 279 votes to 239.

A more decisive action was now resolved upon, and the Jacobins
prepared what they called a moral insurrection. They desired to avoid
bloodshed, for the tenure by which the Revolutionary Tribunal existed
was that it prevented the shedding of blood otherwise than by legal
forms. The Girondins, after expulsion, could be left to the enjoyment
of all the securities of a trial by jury. Meanwhile, the Girondin
scheme of Constitution was dropped, and five new members were
appointed to draw up a new one; and on May 30, for the first time, a
president was taken from the deputies of the Mountain. On May 31 the
insurrectionary masses invaded the Assembly. There was no actual
violence, and no resistance. The Girondins did nothing to defend their
cause, and their commission of twelve was again dissolved. The
deputies remained uninjured; but Roland fled, and his wife was sent to
prison. Two days later, June 2, the victory of moral force was
completed. The Tuileries were surrounded with cannon, the deputies
were not permitted to go out, and some of the Girondins agreed to
resign their seats in order to prevent an outbreak. It was called a
voluntary ostracism.

In the extreme weakness of the party Lanjuinais alone spoke and acted
with courage and decision. Legendre went up to the Tribune while he
was speaking, and threatened to kill him. As Legendre was a butcher,
Lanjuinais replied, "First decree that I am a bullock." When Chabot,
who had been a Capuchin, reviled the fallen statesmen, Lanjuinais
exclaimed, "The ancients crowned their victims with flowers, and the
priest did not insult them." This brave man lived through it all,
lived to witness the destruction of his enemies, to be the elect of
many departments, and to preside over the Chamber that decreed the
downfall of Napoleon. At the last moment, an obscure supporter of the
Girondins saw Danton, and called on him to interfere to save the
Convention from violence. Danton answered that he could do nothing,
for they had no confidence in him. It is a redeeming testimony. On the
evening of June 2 the more conspicuous Girondins, without being sent
to prison, were placed under arrest. In the capital, the victory of
the Jacobins was complete. They had conquered by the aid of the
insurrectionary committee, to which no man was admitted who did not
swear approval of the September murders.

Rout and extermination ensued upon the fall of the Gironde. They had
been scrupulous not to defend themselves by force, and preferred the
Republic to their party. While some remained as hostages in the power
of the foe, others went away to see what France would think of the
mutilation of its parliament. Their strength was in departments, and
in several departments the people were arming. In the west there was
no hope for them, for they had made the laws against which La Vendée
rebelled. They turned to the north. In Normandy the royalists were
forming an army, under the famous intriguer, Puisaye. Between such a
man and Buzot no understanding could subsist. There was no time for
them to quarrel, for the movement broke down at once. The people of
Normandy were quite indifferent. But there was one among them who had
spirit, and energy, and courage, and passion enough to change the face
of France. This extraordinary person was the daughter of M. d'Armont,
and she passed into the immortality of history as Charlotte Corday.
She was twenty-four. Her father was a royalist, but she had read
Raynal, and had the classical enthusiasm which was bred by Plutarch in
those as well as in other days. She had refused the health of Lewis
XVI., because, she said, he was a good man, but a bad king. She
preferred to live with a kinswoman, away from her own family, and her
mind was made up never to marry. Her bringing up had been profoundly
religious, but that influence seems to have been weakened in her new
home. There is no trace of it during the five days on which a fierce
light beats. In her room they found her Bible lying open at the story
of Judith. From the 31st of May she had learnt to regard Marat as the
author of the proscription of the Girondins, some of whom had appeared
at Caen in a patriotic halo. When the troops were paraded, on July 7,
those who volunteered for the march against Paris were so few that the
hope of deeds to be done by armed men utterly vanished. It occurred to
Charlotte that there may be something stronger than the hands and the
hearts of armed men. The Girondins were in the power of assassins, of
men against whom there was no protection in France but the dagger. To
take a life was the one way of saving many lives. Not a doubt ever
touched her that it is right to kill a murderer, an actual and
intending murderer, on condition of accepting the penalty. She told no
one of the resolution in her mind, and said nothing that was pathetic,
and nothing that was boastful. She only replied to Pétion's clumsy
pleasantries: "Citizen, you speak like that because you do not
understand me. One day, you will know." Under a harmless pretext she
went to Paris, and saw one of the Girondin deputies. In return for
some civility, she advised him to leave at once for Caen. His friends
were arrested, and his papers were already seized, but he told her
that he could not desert the post of duty. Once more, she cried,
"Believe me, fly before to-morrow night!" He did not understand, and
he was one of the famous company that mounted the scaffold with
Vergniaud. Next morning, Saturday July 13, Charlotte purchased her
dagger, and called on Marat. Although he was in the bath where he
spent most of his time, she made her way in, and explained her
importunity by telling him about the conspirators she had seen in
Normandy. Marat took down their names, and assured her that in a few
days he would have them guillotined. At that signal she drove her
knife into his heart. When the idiotic accuser-general intimated that
so sure a thrust could only have been acquired by practice, she
exclaimed, "The monster! He takes me for a murderess." All that she
felt was that she had taken one life to preserve thousands. She was
knocked down and carried through a furious crowd to prison. At first
she was astonished to be still alive. She had expected to be torn in
pieces, and had hoped that the respectable inhabitants, when they saw
her head displayed on a pike, would remember it was for them that her
young life was given. Of all murderers, and of all victims, Charlotte
Corday was the most composed. When the executioner came for the
toilette, she borrowed his shears to cut off a lock of her hair. As
the cart moved slowly through the raging streets, he said to her, "You
must find the way long." "No," she answered, "I am not afraid of
being late." They say that Vergniaud pronounced this epitaph: "She has
killed us, but she has taught us all how to die."

After the failure in Normandy, of which this is the surviving episode,
Buzot and his companions escaped by sea to the Gironde. Having been
outlawed, on July 28, they were liable to suffer death without a
trial, and had to hide in out-houses and caverns. Nearly all were
taken. Barbaroux, who had brought the Marseillais, shot himself at the
moment of capture, but had life enough to be carried to the scaffold.
Buzot and Pétion outlived their downfall for a year. Towards the end
of the Reign of Terror, snarling dogs attracted notice to a remote
spot in the south-west. There the two Girondins were found, and
recognised, though their faces had been eaten away. Before he went out
to die, Buzot placed in safety the letters of Madame Roland. Seventy
years later they came to light at a sale, and the suspected secret of
her life told in her _Memoirs_, but suppressed by the early editors,
was revealed to the world. She had been executed on November 10, 1793,
four days after the Duke of Orleans, and the cheerful dignity of her
last moments has reconciled many who were disgusted with her
declamatory emphasis, her passion, and her inhumanity. Her husband was
safe in his place of concealment near Rouen; but when he heard, he ran
himself through with a sword-cane. The main group had died a few days
earlier. Of 180 Girondin deputies, 140 were imprisoned or dispersed,
and 24 of these managed to escape; 73 were arrested at Paris, October
3, but were not brought to trial; 21, among whom were many
celebrities, went before the revolutionary tribunal, October 24, and a
week later they were put to death. Their trial was irregular, even if
their fate was not undeserved. With Vergniaud, Brissot, and their
companions the practice began of sending numbers to the guillotine at
once. There were 98 in the five months that followed.

During the agony of his party, Condorcet found shelter in a
lodging-house at Paris. There, under the Reign of Terror, he wrote
the little book on Human Progress, which contains his legacy to
mankind. He derived the leading idea from his friend Turgot, and
transmitted it to Comte. There may be, perhaps, a score or two dozen
decisive and characteristic views that govern the world, and that
every man should master in order to understand his age, and this is
one of them. When the book was finished, the author's part was played,
and he had nothing more to live for. As his retreat was known to one,
at least, of the Montagnards, he feared to compromise those who had
taken him in at the risk of their life. Condorcet assumed a disguise,
and crept out of the house with a Horace in one pocket and a dose of
poison in the other. When it was dark, he came to a friend's door in
the country. What passed there has never been known, but the fugitive
philosopher did not remain. A few miles outside Paris he was arrested
on suspicion and lodged in the gaol. In the morning they found him
lying dead. Cabanis, who afterwards supplied Napoleon in like manner,
had given him the means of escape.

This was the miserable end of the Girondin party. They were easily
beaten and mercilessly destroyed, and no man stirred to save them. At
their fall liberty perished; but it had become a feeble remnant in
their hands, and a spark almost extinguished. Although they were not
only weak but bad, no nation ever suffered a greater misfortune than
that which befell France in their defeat and destruction. They had
been the last obstacle to the Reign of Terror, and to the despotism
which then by successive steps centred in Robespierre.



XVIII

THE REIGN OF TERROR


The liberal and constitutional wave with which the Revolution began
ended with the Girondins; and the cause of freedom against authority,
of right against force was lost. At the moment of their fall, Europe
was in arms against France by land and sea; the royalists were
victorious in the west; the insurrection of the south was spreading,
and Précy held Lyons with 40,000 men. The majority, who were masters
in the Convention, had before them the one main purpose of increasing
and concentrating power, that the country might be saved from dangers
which, during those months of summer, threatened to destroy it. That
one supreme and urgent purpose governed resolutions and inspired
measures for the rest of the year, and resulted in the method of
government which we call the Reign of Terror. The first act of the
triumphant Mountain was to make a Constitution. They had criticized
and opposed the Girondin draft, in April and May, and only the new
declaration of the Rights of Man had been allowed to pass. All this
was now re-opened. The Committee of Public Safety, strengthened by the
accession of five Jacobins, undertook to prepare a scheme adapted to
the present conditions, and embodying the principles which had
prevailed. Taking Condorcet's project as their basis, and modifying it
in the direction which the Jacobin orators had pointed to in debate,
they achieved their task in a few days, and they laid their proposals
before the Convention on June 10. The reporter was Hérault de
Séchelles; but the most constant speaker in the ensuing debate was
Robespierre. After a rapid discussion, but with some serious
amendments, the Republican Constitution of 1793 was adopted, on June
24. Of all the fruits of the Revolution this is the most
characteristic, and it is superior to its reputation.

The Girondins, by their penman Condorcet, had omitted the name of God,
and had assured liberty of conscience only as liberty of opinion. They
elected the executive and the legislative alike by direct vote of the
entire people, and gave the appointment of functionaries to those whom
they were to govern. Primary assemblies were to choose the Council of
Ministers, and were to have the right of initiating laws. The plan
restricted the power of the State in the interest of decentralisation.
The Committee, while retaining much of the scheme, guarded against the
excess of centrifugal forces. They elected the legislature by direct
universal suffrage, disfranchised domestic servants, and made the
ballot optional, and therefore illusory. They resolved that the
supreme executive council of twenty-four should be nominated by the
legislature from a list of candidates, one chosen by indirect voting
in each department, and should appoint and control all ministers and
executive officers; the legislature to issue decrees with force of law
in all necessary matters; but to make actual laws only under popular
sanction, given or implied. In this way they combined direct democracy
with representative democracy. They restricted the suffrage, abolished
the popular initiative, limited the popular sanction, withdrew the
executive patronage from the constituency, and destroyed secret
voting. Having thus provided for the composition of power, they
proceeded in the interest of personal liberty. The Press was to be
free, there was to be entire religious toleration, and the right of
association. Education was to become universal, and there was to be a
poor law; in case of oppression, insurrection was declared a duty as
well as a right, and usurpation was punishable with death. All laws
were temporary, and subject to constant revision. Robespierre, who had
betrayed socialist inclinations in April, revoked his earlier
language, and now insisted on the security of property, proportionate
and not progressive taxation, and the refusal of exemptions to the
poor. In April, an unknown deputy from the Colonies had demanded that
the Divinity be recognised in the preamble, and in June, after the
elimination of the Girondins, the idea was adopted. At the same time,
inverting the order of things, equality was made the first of the
Rights of Man, and Happiness, instead of Liberty, was declared the
supreme end of civil society. In point of spiritual quality, nothing
was gained by the invocation of the Supreme Being.

Hérault proposed that a Grand Jury should be elected by the entire
nation to hear complaints against the government or its agents, and to
decide which cases should be sent for trial. The plan belonged to
Sieyès, and was supported by Robespierre. When it was rejected, he
suggested that each deputy should be judged by his constituency, and
if censured, should be ineligible elsewhere. This was contrary to the
principle that a deputy belongs to the whole nation, and ought to be
elected by the nation, but for the practical difficulty which compels
the division into separate constituencies. The end was, that the
deputies remained inviolable, and subject to no check, although the
oldest member, a man so old that he might very well have remembered
Lewis XIV., spoke earnestly in favour of the Grand Jury.

The Constitution wisely rescinded the standing offer of support to
insurgent nations, and renounced all purpose of intervention or
aggression. When the passage was read declaring that there could be no
peace with an invader, a voice cried, "Have you made a contract with
victory?" "No," replied Bazire; "we have made a contract with death."
A criticism immediately appeared, which was anonymous, but in which
the hand of Condorcet was easily recognised. He complained that judges
were preferred to juries, that functionaries were not appointed by
universal suffrage, that there was no fixed term of revision, that the
popular sanction of laws was reduced to a mere form. Condorcet
believed that nearly all inequality of fortune, such as causes
suffering, is the effect of imperfect laws, and that the end of the
social art is to reduce it. There were others who objected that the
Constitution did not benefit the poor. In regard to property, as in
other things, it was marked by a pronounced Conservatism. It was
adopted by a national vote of 1,801,918 to 11,610, and, with solemn
rites, was inaugurated on August 10. No term was fixed for it to come
into operation. The friends of Danton spoke of an early dissolution,
but the Convention refused to be dissolved, and the Constitution was
never executed. Although other acts of the legislature at that time
are still good law, French jurists do not appeal to the great
constitutional law of June 24 and August 10, 1793. In the course of
the autumn, October 10 and December 4, it was formally suspended, and
was never afterwards restored. France was governed, not by this
instrument, but by a series of defining enactments, which created
extraordinary powers, and suppressed opposition.

After the integrity of the Assembly, the next thing to perish was the
liberty of the Press. The journalists could not claim the sanctity
which had been violated in the representatives, and gave way. Marat
remained, and exercised an influence in Paris which his activity on
June 2 increased. He had his own following, in the masses, and his own
basis of power, and he was not a follower of either Danton or
Robespierre. By his share in the fall of the Girondins he became their
equal. When he died, the vacant place, in the Press and in the street,
was at once occupied by a lesser rival, Hébert. In a little time,
Hébert acquired enormous power. Marat's newspaper had seldom paid its
way; but Hébert used to print 600,000 copies of the _Père Duchesne_.
Through his ally Chaumette, he controlled the municipality of Paris,
and all that depended from it. Through Bouchotte and Vincent, he
managed the War Office, with its vast patronage and command of money,
and distributed his journal in every camp. To a man of order and
precision like Robespierre, the personage was odious, for he was
anarchical and corrupt, and was the urgent patron of incapable
generals; but Robespierre could not do without his support in the
Press, and was obliged to conciliate him. Between Hébert and Danton
there was open war, and Danton had not the best of it. He had been
weakened by the overthrow of the Girondins whom he wished to save, and
was forced to abandon. In the Convention, he was still the strongest
figure, and at times could carry all before him. But when he lost his
seat on the governing Committee, and was without official information,
he was no match at last for Robespierre. All through the summer he was
evidently waning, whilst the Confederates, Chaumette, Hébert, and
Vincent, became almost invincible.

On the 10th of July the Committee of Public Safety, after acting as a
Committee of Legislation, was recomposed as an executive body. There
had been fourteen members, there were now nine. Barère had the highest
vote, 192; St. Just had only 126; and Danton was not elected. The
influence of Robespierre was supreme; he himself became a member, on a
vacancy, July 27. The fortunes of France were then at their lowest.
The Vendeans were unconquered, Lyons was not taken, and the Austrians
and English had broken through the line of fortresses, and were making
slowly for Paris. A few months saw all this changed, and those are the
earlier months of the predominance of Robespierre, with his three
powerful instruments, the Committee of Public Safety, the
Revolutionary Tribunal, and the Jacobin Club, which made him master of
the Convention. On July 27, the day before he was elected to the
Committee, an important change occurred. For the first time, an order
was sent from the Tuileries to the army on the frontier, in a quarter
of an hour. This was the beginning of the semaphore telegraph, and
science was laying hold of the Revolution. On August 1, the metrical
system was introduced, and the republican calendar followed; but we
shall speak of it in another connection.

In the middle of August, Prieur, an engineer officer, was elected to
the Committee, to conduct the business of war; but Prieur protested
that he was the wrong man, and advised them to take Carnot. Therefore,
August 15, very much against the wish of Robespierre, the organiser of
victory joined the government. The Hébertists had proposed that the
entire population should be forced into the army, more particularly
the richer class. Danton modified the proposal into something
reasonable, and on August 23, Carnot drew up the decree which was
called the _levée en masse_. It turned France into a nominal nation of
soldiers. Practically, it called out the first class, from eighteen to
twenty-five, and ordered the men of the second class, from twenty-five
to thirty, to be ready. It is to Danton and Carnot that France owed
the army which was to overrun the Continent; and by the end of the
year the best soldiers in the world, Hoche, Moreau, Masséna,
Bonaparte, were being raised to command.

On August 9, an event occurred in the civil order which influenced the
future of mankind as widely as the creation of the French army. While
the Committee of Public Safety was busy with the Constitution, the
Committee of Legislation was employed in drawing up a Code of Civil
Law, which was the basis of the Code Napoleon. Cambacérès, who, with
the same colleagues, afterwards completed the work, presented it in
its first form on that day. Lastly, August 24, Cambon, the financial
adviser of the Republic, achieved the conversion and unification of
the Public Debt.

These were the great measures, undertaken and accomplished by the men
who accepted the leadership of Robespierre, in the first weeks of his
government. We come to those by which he consolidated his power.

At the beginning of September, the Committee was increased by the
admission of Billaud-Varennes, and of Collot d'Herbois, of whom one
afterwards overthrew Danton, and the other, Robespierre. The
appointment of Collot was a concession to Hébert. The same party were
persuaded that the hands of government were weak, and ought to be
strengthened against its enemies. Danton himself said that every day
one aristocrat, one villain, ought to pay for his crimes with his
head. Two measures were at once devised which were well calculated to
achieve that object. September 5, the Revolutionary Tribunal was
remodelled, and instead of one Revolutionary Tribunal, there were
four. And on September 17 the Law of Suspects was passed, enabling
local authorities to arrest whom they pleased, and to detain him in
prison even when acquitted. In Paris, where there had been 1877
prisoners on September 13, there were 2975 on October 20. On September
25, the mismanagement of the Vendean War, where even the Mentz
garrison had been defeated, led to a sharp debate in the Convention.
It was carried away by the attack of the Dantonists; but Robespierre
snatched a victory, and obtained a unanimous vote of confidence. From
that date to the 26th of July 1794, we count the days of his
established reign, and the Convention makes way for the Committee of
Public Safety, which becomes a Provisional government.

The party of violence insisted on the death of those whom they
regarded as hostages, the Girondins, for the rising in the south, the
queen for the rising in the west. An attempt to save the life of Marie
Antoinette had been made by the government, with the sanction of
Danton. Maret was sent to negotiate the neutrality of minor Italian
States by offering to release her. Austria, not wishing the Italians
to be neutral, seized Maret and his companion Sémonville, in the
passes of the Grisons, and sent them to a dungeon at Mantua. The queen
was sent to the Conciergerie, which was the last stage before the
Tribunal; and as her nephew, the emperor, did not relent, in October
she was put on her trial, and executed. The death of the queen is
revolting, because it was a move in a game, a concession by which
Robespierre paid his debts to men at that time more violent than
himself, and averted their attack. We have already seen that the
advice she gave in decisive moments was disastrous, that she had no
belief in the rights of nations, that she plotted war and destruction
against her own people. There was cause enough for hatred. But if we
ask ourselves who there is that comes forth unscathed from the trials
that befell kings and queens in those or even in other times, and
remember how often she pleaded and served the national cause against
royalist and _émigré_, even against the great Irishman[2] whose
portrait of her at Versailles, translated by Dutens, was shown to her
by the Duchess of Fitzjames, we must admit that she deserved a better
fate than most of those with whom we can compare her.

    [2] Burke, _Reflections on the French Revolution_.

That month of October, 1793, with its new and unprecedented
development of butchery, was a season of triumph to the party of
Hébert. The policy of wholesale arrest, rapid judgment, and speedy
execution was avowedly theirs; and to them Robespierre seemed a
lethargic, undecided person who only moved under pressure. He was at
last moving as they wished; but the merit was theirs, and theirs the
reward. One of them, Vincent, was of so bloodthirsty a disposition
that he found comfort in gnawing the heart of a calf as if it was that
of a royalist. But the party was not made up of ferocious men only.
They had two enemies, the aristocrat and the priest; and they had two
passions, the abolition of an upper class and the abolition of
religion. Others had attacked the clergy, and others again had
attacked religion. The originality of these men is that they sought a
substitute for it, and wished to give men something to believe in that
was not God. They were more eager to impose the new belief than to
destroy the old. Indeed, they were persuaded that the old was hurrying
towards extinction, and was inwardly rejected by those who professed
it. While Hébert was an anarchist, Chaumette was the glowing patriarch
of irreligious belief. He regarded the Revolution as essentially
hostile to Christian faith, and conceived that its inmost principle
was that which he now propounded. The clergy had been popular, for a
day, in 1789; but the National Assembly refused to declare that the
country was Catholic. In June 1792 the Jacobin Club rejected a
proposal to abolish the State-Church, and to erect Franklin and
Rousseau in the niches occupied by Saints, and in December a member
speaking against divine worship met with no support. On May 30, 1793,
during the crisis of the Gironde, the procession of Corpus Christi
moved unmolested through the streets of Paris; and on August 25,
Robespierre presiding, the Convention expressly repudiated a petition
to suppress preaching in the name of Almighty God.

On September 20, Romme brought the new calendar before the Assembly,
at a moment when, he said, equality reigned in heaven as well as on
earth. It was adopted on November 24, with the sonorous nomenclature
devised by Fabre d'Eglantine. It signified the substitution of Science
for Christianity. Winemonth and fruitmonth were not more unchristian
than Julius and Augustus, or than Venus and Saturn; but the practical
result was the abolition of Sundays and festivals, and the supremacy
of reason over history, of the astronomer over the priest. The
calendar was so completely a weapon of offence, that nobody cared
about the absurdity of names which were inapplicable to other
latitudes, and unintelligible at Isle de France or Pondicherry. While
the Convention wavered, moving sometimes in one direction and then
retracing its steps, the Commune advanced resolutely, for Chaumette
was encouraged by the advantage acquired by his friends in September
and October. He thought the time now come to close the churches, and
to institute new forms of secularised worship. Supported by a German
more enthusiastic than himself, Anacharsis Cloots, he persuaded the
bishop of Paris that his Church was doomed like that of the Nonjurors,
that the faithful had no faith in it, that the country had given it
up. Chaumette was able to add that the Commune wanted to get rid of
him. Gobel yielded. On November 7, he appeared, with some of his
clergy, at the bar of the Convention, and resigned to the people what
he had received from the people. Other priests and bishops followed,
and it appeared that some were men who had gone about with masks on
their faces, and were glad to renounce beliefs which they did not
share. Sieyès declared what everybody knew, that he neither believed
the doctrines nor practised the rites of his Church; and he
surrendered a considerable income. Some have doubted whether Gobel was
equally disinterested. They say that he offered his submission to the
Pope in return for a modest sum, and it is affirmed that he received
compensation through Cloots and Chaumette, to whom his solemn
surrender was worth a good deal. The force of his example lost
somewhat, when the bishop of Blois, Grégoire, as violent an enemy of
kings as could be found anywhere, stood in the tribune, and refused to
abandon his ecclesiastical post. He remained in the Convention to the
end, clad in the coloured robes of a French prelate.

Three days after the ceremony of renunciation, Chaumette opened the
Cathedral of Notre Dame to the religion of Reason. The Convention
stood aloof, in cold disdain. But an actress, who played the leading
part, and was variously described as the Goddess of Reason or the
Goddess of Liberty, and who possibly did not know herself which she
was, came down from her throne in the church, proceeded to the
Assembly, and was admitted to a seat beside the President, who gave
her what was known as a friendly accolade amid loud applause. After
that invasion, the hesitating deputies yielded, and about half of them
attended the goddess back to her place under the Gothic towers.
Chaumette decidedly triumphed. He had already forbidden religious
service outside the buildings. He had now turned out the clergy whom
the State had appointed, and had filled their place with a Parisian
actress. He had overcome the evident reluctance of the Assembly, and
made the deputies partake in his ceremonial. He proceeded, November
23, to close the churches, and the Commune resolved that whoever
opened a church should incur the penalties of a suspect. It was the
zenith of Hébertism.

Two men unexpectedly united against Chaumette and appeared as
champions of Christendom. They were Danton and Robespierre.
Robespierre had been quite willing that there should be men more
extreme than he, whose aid he could cheaply purchase with a few
cartloads of victims. But he did not intend to suppress religion in
favour of a worship in which there was no God. It was opposed to his
policy, and it was against his conviction; for, like his master,
Rousseau, he was a theistic believer, and even intolerant in his
belief. This was not a link between him and Danton who had no such
spiritualist convictions, and who, so far as he was a man of theory,
belonged to a different school of eighteenth-century thought. But
Danton had been throughout assailed by the Hébertist party, and was
disgusted with their violence. The death of the Girondins appalled
him, for he could see no good reason which would exempt him from their
rate. He had no hope for the future of the Republic, no enthusiasm,
and no belief. From that time in October, his thoughts were turned
towards moderation. He identified Hébert, not Robespierre, with the
unceasing bloodshed, and he was willing to act with the latter, his
real rival, against the raging exterminators. From the end of
September he was absent in his own house at Arcis. At his return he
and Robespierre denounced the irreligious masquerades, and spoke for
the clergy, who had as good a right to toleration as their opponents.

When Robespierre declared that the Convention never intended to
proscribe the Catholic worship, he was sincere, and was taking the
first step that led to the feast of the Supreme Being. Danton acted
from policy only, in opposition to men who were his own enemies.
Chaumette and Hébert succumbed. The Commune proclaimed that the
churches were not to be closed; and early in December the worship of
Reason, having lasted twenty-six days, came to an end. The wound was
keenly felt. Fire and poison, said Chaumette, were the weapons with
which the priests attack the nation. For such traitors, there must be
no mercy. It is a question of life and death. Let us throw up between
us the barrier of eternity. The Mass was no longer said in public. It
continued in private chapels throughout the winter until the end of
February. In April, one head of accusation against Chaumette was his
interference with midnight service at Christmas.

Robespierre had repressed Hébertism with the aid of Danton. The
visible sign of their understanding was the appearance in December of
the _Vieux Cordelier_. In this famous journal Camille Desmoulins
pleaded the cause of mercy with a fervour which, at first, resembled
sincerity, and pilloried Hébert as a creature that got drunk on the
drippings of the guillotine, Robespierre saw the earlier numbers in
proof; but by Christmas he had enough of the bargain. The Convention,
having shown some inclination towards clemency on December 20,
withdrew from it on the 26th, and Desmoulins, in the last of his six
numbers, loudly retracted his former argument. The alliance was
dissolved. It had served the purpose of Robespierre, by defeating
Hébert, and discrediting Danton. In January, the _Vieux Cordelier_
ceased to appear.

Robespierre now stood between the two hostile parties--Danton,
Desmoulins, and their friends, on the side of a regular government;
Hébert, Chaumette, and Collot, returned from a terrible proconsulate,
wishing to govern by severities. The energy of Collot gave new life to
his party, whilst Danton displayed no resource. Just then, Robespierre
was taken ill, and from February 19 to March 13 he was confined to his
room. Robespierre was a calculator and a tactician, methodical in his
ways, definite and measured in his ends. He was less remarkable for
determination and courage; and thus two men of uncommon energy now
took the lead. They were Billaud-Varennes and St. Just. When St. Just
was with the army, his companion Baudot relates that they astonished
the soldiers by their intrepidity under fire. He adds that they had no
merit, for they knew that they bore charmed lives, and that cannon
balls could not touch them. That was the ardent and fanatical spirit
that St. Just brought back with him. During his leader's illness he
acquired the initiative, and proclaimed the doctrine that all factions
constitute a division of power, that they weaken the state, and are
therefore treasonable combinations.

On March 4, Hébert called the people to arms against the government
of Moderates. The attempt failed, and Robespierre, by a large
expenditure of money, had Paris on his side. At one moment he even
thought of making terms with this dangerous rival; and there is a
story that he lost heart, and meditated flight to America. In this
particular crisis money played a part, and Hébert was financed by
foreign bankers, to finish the tyranny of Robespierre. On March 13 he
was arrested, Chaumette on the 18th; and on the 17th, Hérault de
Séchelles, Danton's friend, on coming to the Committee of Public
Safety, was told by Robespierre to retire, as they were deliberating
on his arrest. On the 19th the Dantonists caused the arrest of Héron,
the police agent of Robespierre, who instantly had him released. March
24, Hébert was sent to the scaffold. On the way he lamented to Ronsin
that the Republic was about to perish. "The Republic," said the other,
"is immortal." Hitherto the guillotine had been used to destroy the
vanquished parties, and persons notoriously hostile. It was an easy
inference, that it might serve against personal rivals, who were the
best of Republicans and Jacobins. The victims in the month of March
were 127.

Danton did nothing to arrest the slaughter. His inaction ruined him,
and deprived him of that portion of sympathy which is due to a man who
suffers for his good intentions. Billaud and St. Just demanded that he
should be arrested, and carried it, at a night sitting of the
Committee. Only one refused to sign. Danton had been repeatedly and
amply warned. Thibaudeau, Rousselin, had told him what was impending.
Panis, at the last moment, came to him at the opera, and offered him a
place of refuge. Westermann proposed to him to rouse the armed people.
Tallien entreated him to take measures of defence; and Tallien was
president of the Convention. A warning reached him from the very grave
of Marat. Albertine came to him and told him that her brother had
always spoken with scorn of Robespierre as a man of words. She
exclaimed, "Go to the tribune while Tallien presides, carry the
Assembly, and crush the Committees. There is no other road to safety
for a man like you!" "What?" he replied; "I am to kill Robespierre and
Billaud?" "If you do not, they will kill you." He said to one of his
advisers, "The tribunal would absolve me." To another, "Better to be
guillotined than to guillotine." And to a third, "They will never
dare!" In a last interview, Robespierre accused him of having
encouraged the opposition of Desmoulins, and of having regretted the
Girondins. "Yes," said Danton, "it is time to stop the shedding of
blood." "Then," returned the other, "you are a conspirator, and you
own it." Danton, knowing that he was lost, burst into tears. All
Europe would cast him out; and, as he had said, he was not a man who
could carry his country in the soles of his shoes. One formidable
imputation was to call him a bondsman of Mr. Pitt; for Pitt had said
that if there were negotiations, the best man to treat with would be
Danton. He was arrested, with Camille Desmoulins and other friends, on
the night of March 31. Legendre moved next day that he be heard before
the Convention, and if they had heard him, he would still have been
master there. Robespierre felt all the peril of the moment, and the
Right supported him in denying the privilege. Danton defended himself
with such force that the judges lost their heads, and the tones of the
remembered voice were heard outside, and agitated the crowd. The
Committee of Public Safety refused the witnesses called for the
defence, and cut short the proceedings. The law was broken that Danton
and his associates might be condemned.

There was not in France a more thorough patriot than Danton; and all
men could see that he had been put to death out of personal spite, and
jealousy, and fear. There was no way, thenceforth, for the victor to
maintain his power, but the quickening of the guillotine. Reserving
compassion for less ignoble culprits, we must acknowledge that the
defence of Danton is in the four months of increasing terror that
succeeded the 5th of April 1794, when Robespierre took his stand at
the corner of the Tuileries to watch the last moments of his partner
in crime.

The sudden decline of Danton, and his ruin by the hands of men
evidently inferior to him in capacity and vigour, is so strange an
event that it has been explained by a story which is worth telling,
though it is not authenticated enough to influence the narrative. In
June 1793, just after the fall of the Girondins, Danton was married.
His bride insisted that their union should be blessed by a priest who
had not taken the oaths. Danton agreed, found the priest, and went to
confession. He became unfitted for his part in the Revolution, dropped
out of the Committees, and retired, discouraged and disgusted, into
the country. When he came back, after the execution of the queen, of
Madame Roland, and the Girondins, he took the side of the proscribed
clergy, and encouraged the movement in favour of clemency. In this way
he lost his popularity and influence, and refused to adopt the means
of recovering power. He neglected even to take measures for his
personal safety, like a man who was sick of his life. At that time,
seven of the priests of Paris, whose names are given, took it by turns
to follow the carts from the prison to the guillotine, disguised as
one of the howling mob, for the comfort and consolation of the dying.
And the abbé de Keravenant, who had married Danton, thus followed him
to the scaffold, was recognised by him, and absolved him at the last
moment.



XIX

ROBESPIERRE


We reach the end of the Reign of Terror, on the 9th of Thermidor, the
most auspicious date in modern history. In April Robespierre was
absolute. He had sent Hébert to death because he promoted disorder,
Chaumette because he suppressed religion, Danton because he had sought
to restrain bloodshed. His policy was to keep order and authority by
regulated terror, and to relax persecution. The governing power was
concentrated in the Committee of Public Safety by abolishing the
office of minister, instead of which there were twelve Boards of
Administration reporting to the Committee. That there might be no
rival power, the municipality was remodelled and placed in the hands
of men attached to Robespierre. The dualism remained between
representation in the Assembly and the more direct action of the
sovereign people in the Town Hall. When the tocsin rings, said a
member of the Commune, the Convention ceases to exist. In other words,
when the principal chooses to interfere, he supersedes his agent. The
two notions of government are contradictory, and the bodies that
incorporated them were naturally hostile. But their antagonism was
suspended while Robespierre stood between.

The reformed Commune at once closed all clubs that were not Jacobin.
All parties had been crushed: Royalists, Feuillants, Girondins,
Cordeliers. What remained of them in the scattered prisons of France
was now to be forwarded to Paris, and there gradually disposed of. But
though there no longer existed an opposing party, there was still a
class of men that had not been reduced or reconciled. This consisted
chiefly of deputies who had been sent out to suppress the rising of
the provinces in 1793. These Commissaries of the Convention had
enjoyed the exercise of enormous authority; they had the uncontrolled
power of life and death, and they had gathered spoil without scruple,
from the living and the dead. On that account they were objects of
suspicion to the austere personage at the head of the State; and they
were known to be the most unscrupulous and the most determined of men.

Robespierre, who was nervously apprehensive, saw very early where the
danger lay, and he knew which of these enemies there was most cause to
dread. He never made up his mind how to meet the peril; he threatened
before he struck; and the others combined and overthrew him. He had
helped to unite them by introducing a conflict of ideas at a time
when, apparently, and on the surface, there was none. Everybody was a
Republican and a Jacobin, but Robespierre now insisted on the belief
in God. He perished by the monstrous imposture of associating divine
sanction with the crimes of his sanguinary reign. The scheme was not
suggested by expediency, for he had been always true to the idea. In
early life he had met Rousseau at Ermenonville, and he had adopted the
indeterminate religion of the "vicaire Savoyard." In March 1792 he
proposed a resolution, that the belief in Providence and a future life
is a necessary condition of Jacobinism. In November, he argued that
the decline of religious conviction left only a residue of ideas
favourable to liberty and public virtue, and that the essential
principles of politics might be found in the sublime teaching of
Christ. He objected to disendowment, because it is necessary to keep
up reverence for an authority superior to man. Therefore, on December
5, he induced the Club to break in pieces the bust of Helvétius.

Although Rousseau, the great master, had been a Genevese Calvinist,
nobody thought of preserving Christianity in a Protestant form. The
Huguenot ministers themselves did nothing for it, and Robespierre had
a peculiar dislike of them. Immediately after the execution of Danton
and before the trial of Chaumette, the restoration of religion was
foreshadowed by Couthon. A week later it was resolved that the remains
of Rousseau, the father of the new church, should be transferred to
the Pantheon.

On May 7, Robespierre brought forward his famous motion that the
Convention acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being. His argument,
stripped of parliamentary trappings, was this. The secret of the life
of a Republic is public and private virtue, that is, integrity, the
consciousness of duty, the spirit of self-sacrifice, submission to the
discipline of authority. These are the natural conditions of pure
democracy; but in an advanced stage of civilisation they are difficult
to maintain without the restraint of belief in God, in eternal life,
in government by Providence. Society will be divided by passion and
interest, unless it is reconciled and controlled by that which is the
universal foundation of religions. By this appeal to a higher power
Robespierre hoped to strengthen the State at home and abroad. In the
latter purpose he succeeded; and the solemn renunciation of atheism
impressed the world. It was very distinctly a step in the Conservative
direction, for it promised religious liberty. There was to be no
favour to churches, but also no persecution. Practically, the
advantage was for the Christian part of the population, and
irreligion, though not proscribed, was discouraged. The Revolution
appeared to be turning backwards, and to seek its friends among those
who had acquired their habits of life and thought under the fallen
order. The change was undoubted; and it was a change imposed by the
will of one man, unsupported by any current of opinion.

A month later, June 8, the Feast of the Supreme Being was held with
all the solemnity of which Paris was capable. Robespierre walked in
procession from the Tuileries to the Champ de Mars, at the head of the
Convention. As the others fell back, he marched alone with his hair
powdered, a large nosegay in his hands, wearing the sky-blue coat and
nankeens by which he is remembered, for they reappeared in the crisis
of Thermidor. He had attained the loftiest summit of prosperity and
greatness that was ever given to man. Not a monarch in Europe could
compare with him in power. All that had stood in his way during the
last five years had been swept to destruction; all that survived of
the Revolution followed obedient at his heels. At the last election of
a President in the Convention there had been 117 votes; but 485 had
voted for Robespierre, that he might parade at their head that day. It
was there, in that supreme and intoxicating moment, that a gulf opened
before him, and he became aware of the extremity of his peril. For he
could hear the hostile deputies in the front rank behind him,
muttering curses and sneering at the enthusiasm with which he was
received. Those fierce proconsuls who, at Lyons, Nevers, Nantes,
Toulon, had crushed all that they were now forced to venerate by their
master, vowed vengeance for their humiliation. They said that this was
to be a starting-point for divine right, and the excuse for a new
persecution. They felt that they were forging a weapon against
themselves, and committing an act of suicide. The decree of the month
before would have involved no such dire consequences; but the
elaborate and aggressive ceremonial was felt as a declaration of war.

Experienced observers at once predicted that Robespierre would not
last long. He lost no time in devising a precaution equal to the
danger. He prepared what is known as the law of the 22nd of Prairial,
which was presented by Couthon, and carried without a division on June
10, two days after the procession. It is the most tyrannical of all
the acts of the Revolution, and is not surpassed by anything in the
records of absolute monarchy. For the decree of Prairial suppressed
the formalities of law in political trials. It was said by Couthon,
that delays may be useful where only private interests are at stake,
but there must be none where the interest of the entire public is to
be vindicated. The public enemy has only to be identified. The State
despatches him to save itself. Therefore the Committee was empowered
to send whom it chose before the tribunal, and if the jury was
satisfied, no time was to be lost with witnesses, written depositions,
or arguments. Nobody whom Robespierre selected for execution would be
allowed to delay judgment by defence; and that there might be no
exception or immunity from arbitrary arrest and immediate sentence,
all previous decrees in matter of procedure were revoked. That article
contained the whole point, for it deprived the Convention of
jurisdiction for the protection of its own members. Robespierre had
only to send a deputy's name to the public accuser, and he would be in
his grave next day. The point had been so well concealed that nobody
perceived it. Afterwards, the deputies, warned by the great jurist
Merlin, saw what they had done, and on June 11, they stipulated that
no member should be arrested without leave of the Convention. Couthon
and Robespierre were not present. On the 12th, by threatening that the
Committees would resign, they caused the decree of the previous day to
be rescinded, but they assured the Assembly that it was superfluous,
and their design had been misunderstood. They maintained their text,
and gained their object; but the success was on the other side. The
scheme had been exposed, and the Convention had resisted, for the
first time. The opposing deputies had received warning, and showed
that they understood. From that moment they were on the watch, and
their enemy shrank from employing against them a clause the validity
of which he had denied. He gave them time to combine. Over the rest of
the nation he exerted his new power without control. The victims
increased rapidly in number. Down to the middle of June, in fourteen
months, the executions had been about 1200. In seven weeks, after the
law of Prairial, they were 1376; that is, an average of 32 in a week
rose to an average of 196. But the guillotine was removed to a distant
part of the city, where a deep trench was dug to carry away such
quantities of blood.

During this time the Tribunal was not acting against men actually in
public life, and we are not compelled to study its judgments, as if
they were making history. Whilst inoffensive people were suffering
obscurely, the enemies of the tyrant were plotting to save themselves
from the dreadful fate they saw so near them. Nothing bound them
together but fear and a common hatred for the obtrusive dogmatist at
the head of affairs; and it was not evident to each that they were
acting in the same cause. But there was a man among them, still
somewhat in the background, but gifted with an incredible dexterity,
who hurled Napoleon from power in 1815 and Robespierre in 1794.

Fouché, formerly an Oratorian, had been one of the most unscrupulous
deputies on missions, and had given the example of seizing the
treasure of churches. For he said there were no laws, and they had
gone back to the state of nature. After the execution of Hébert he was
recalled from Lyons; and Robespierre, whose sister he had asked in
marriage, defended him at the Jacobins on April 10. Being an unfrocked
ecclesiastic, he was elected president of the Club on June 6, as a
protest against the clerical tendencies of Robespierre. On the 11th,
immediately after the procession, and the law of Prairial, Fouché
attacked him in a speech in which he said that it is to do homage to
the Supreme Being to plunge a sword into the heart of a man who
oppresses liberty. This was the first opening of hostilities, and it
seems to have been premature. Fouché was not supported by the club at
the time, and some weeks later, when Robespierre called him the head
of the conspiracy against him, he was expelled. He was a doomed man,
carrying his life in his hand, and he adopted more subtle means of
combat. July 19, five days after his expulsion, Collot was elected
President of the Convention. He and Fouché were united in sacred bands
of friendship, for they had put 1682 persons to death at Lyons. About
the same day others joined the plotters, and on July 20, Barère, the
orator of the Committee, who watched the turning of the tide, made an
ambiguous declaration portending a breach. No plan of operations had
been agreed upon, and there was yet time for Robespierre, now fully
awake to the approaching danger, to strike an irresistible blow.

During the last few weeks the position of the country had undergone a
change. On the 1st of June, Villaret Joyeuse had given battle to the
English off Ushant. It was the beginning of that long series of fights
at sea, in which the French were so often successful in single combat,
and so often defeated in general actions. They lost the day, but not
the object for which they fought, as the supplies of American grain
were brought safely into port. That substantial success and the
opportune legend of the Vengeur saved the government from reproach. At
the end of the month St. Just brought news of the French victory over
the Austrians at Fleurus, the scene of so many battles. It was due to
Jourdan and his officers, and would have been lost if they had obeyed
St. Just; but he arrived in time to tell his own story. Many years
were to pass before an enemy's guns were again heard on the Belgian
frontier. St. Just entreated his colleague to seize the opportunity,
and to destroy his enemies while the people were rejoicing over
victory. It appeared, afterwards, that the battle of Fleurus, the
greatest which the French had won since the reign of Lewis XIV.,
rendered no service to the government under whom it was fought. The
soil of France was safe for twenty years, and with the terror of
invasion, the need for terror at home passed away. It had been borne
while the danger lasted; and with the danger, it came to an end.

The Committee of Public Safety resented the law of Prairial; and when
asked to authorise the proscription of deputies refused. Robespierre
did nothing to conciliate the members, and had not the majority. And
he threatened and insulted Carnot. As the powers were then constituted
he was helpless against his adversaries. The Commune and the Jacobins
were true to him; but the Convention was on its guard, and the two
Committees were divided. Lists of proscription had been discovered,
and those who knew that their names were upon them made no surrender.

Two days after the speech which showed that Barère was wavering, when
Collot had been chosen President, and Fouché was at work underground,
a joint sitting of both Committees was called at night. St. Just
proposed that there should be a dictator. Robespierre was ready to
accept, but there were only five votes in favour--three out of eleven
on one Committee, two out of twelve on the other. The Jacobins sent a
deputation to require that the Convention should strengthen the
executive; it was dismissed with words by Barère. One resource
remained. It might still be possible, disregarding the false move of
Prairial, to obtain the authority of the Convention for the arrest,
that is, for the trial and execution of some of its members. They had
delivered up Danton and Desmoulins, Hérault and Chaumette. They would
perhaps abandon Cambon or Fouché, Bourdon or Tallien, four months
later.

The Committees had refused Robespierre, and were in open revolt
against his will. His opponents there would oppose him in the
Assembly. But the mass of the deputies, belonging not to the Mountain
but to the Plain, were always on his side. They had no immediate cause
for fear, and they had something to hope for. Seventy of their number
had been under arrest ever since October, as being implicated in the
fall of the Girondins. Robespierre had constantly refused to let them
be sent to trial, and they owed him their lives. They were still in
prison, still in his power. To save them, their friends in the
Assembly were bound to refuse nothing that he asked for. They would
not scruple to deliver over to him a few more ruffians as they had
delivered over the others in the spring. That was the basis of his
calculation. The Mountain would be divided; the honest men of the
Plain would give him the majority, and would purge the earth of
another hatch of miscreants. On his last night at home he said to the
friends with whom he lived, "We have nothing to fear, the Plain is
with us."

Whilst Robespierre, repulsed by the committees which had so long
obeyed him, sat down to compose the speech on which his victory and
his existence depended, his enemies were maturing their plans. Fouché
informed his sister at Nantes of what was in preparation. On the 21st
of July he is expecting that they will triumph immediately. On the
23rd he writes: "Only a few days more, and honest men will have their
turn.--Perhaps this very day the traitors will be unmasked." It is
unlike so sagacious a man to have written these outspoken letters, for
they were intercepted and sent to Paris for the information of
Robespierre. But it shows how accurately Fouché timed his calculation,
that when they arrived Robespierre was dead.

The importance of the neutral men of the Plain was as obvious to one
side as to the other, and the Confederates attempted to negotiate with
them. Their overtures were rejected; and when they were renewed, they
were rejected a second time. The Plain were disabled by consideration
for their friends, hostages in the grasp of Robespierre, and by the
prospect of advantage for religion from his recent policy. They loaded
him with adulation, and said that when he marched in the procession,
with his blue coat and nosegay, he reminded them of Orpheus. They even
thought it desirable that he should live to clear off a few more of
the most detestable men in France, the very men who were making
advances to them. They believed that time was on their side. Tallien,
Collot, Fouché were baffled, and the rigid obstinacy of the Plain
produced a moment of extreme and certain danger.

Whilst they hesitated, Tallien received a note in a remembered
handwriting. That bit of paper saved unnumbered lives, and changed the
fortune of France, for it contained these words: "Coward! I am to be
tried to-morrow." At Bordeaux, Tallien had found a lady in prison,
whose name was Madame de Fontenay, and who was the daughter of the
Madrid banker Cabarrus. She was twenty-one, and people who saw her
for the first time could not repress an exclamation of surprise at her
extraordinary beauty. After her release, she divorced her husband, and
married Tallien. In later years she became the Princesse de Chimay;
but, for writing that note, she received the profane but unforgotten
name of Notre Dame de Thermidor.

On the night of July 26, Tallien and his friends had a third
Conference with Boissy d'Anglas and Durand de Maillane, and at last
they gave way. But they made their terms. They gave their votes
against Robespierre on condition that the Reign of Terror ended with
him. There was no condition which the others would not have accepted
in their extremity, and it is by that compact that the government of
France, when it came into the hands of these men of blood, ceased to
be sanguinary. It was high time, for, in the morning, Robespierre had
delivered the accusing speech which he had been long preparing, and of
which Daunou told Michelet that it was the only very fine speech he
ever made. He spoke of heaven, and of immortality, and of public
virtue; he spoke of himself; he denounced his enemies, naming scarcely
any but Cambon and Fouché. He did not conclude with any indictment, or
with any demand that the Assembly would give up its guilty members.
His aim was to conciliate the Plain, and to obtain votes from the
Mountain, by causing alarm but not despair. The next stroke was
reserved for the morrow, when the Convention, by voting the
distribution of his oration, should have committed itself too far to
recede. The Convention at once voted that 250,000 copies of the speech
should be printed, and that it should be sent to every parish in
France. That was the form in which acceptance, entire and unreserved
acceptance, was expressed. Robespierre thus obtained all that he
demanded for the day. The Assembly would be unable to refuse the
sacrifice of its black sheep, when he reappeared with their names.

Then it was seen that, in naming Cambon, the orator had made a
mistake. For Cambon, having had the self-command to wait until the
Convention had passed its approving vote, rose to reply. He repelled
the attack which Robespierre had made upon him, and turned the entire
current of opinion by saying, "What paralyses the Republic is the man
who has just spoken."

There is no record of a finer act of fortitude in all parliamentary
history. The example proved contagious. The Assembly recalled its
vote, and referred the speech to the Committee. Robespierre sank upon
his seat and murmured, "I am a lost man." He saw that the Plain could
no longer be trusted. His attack was foiled. If the Convention refused
the first step, they would not take the second, which he was to ask
for next day. He went to the Jacobin Club, and repeated his speech to
a crowded meeting. He told them that it was his dying testament. The
combination of evil men was too strong for him. He had thrown away his
buckler, and was ready for the hemlock. Collot sat on the step below
the president's chair, close to him. He said, "Why did you desert the
Committee? Why did you make your views known in public without
informing us?" Robespierre bit his nails in silence. For he had not
consulted the Committee because it had refused the extension of
powers, and his action that day had been to appeal to the Convention
against them. The Club, divided at first, went over to him, gave him
an ovation, and expelled Collot and Billaud-Varennes with violence and
contumely. Robespierre, encouraged by his success, exhorted the
Jacobins to purify the Convention by expelling bad men, as they had
expelled the Girondins. It was his first appeal to the popular forces.
Coffinhal, who was a man of energy, implored him to strike at once. He
went home to bed, after midnight, taking no further measures of
precaution, and persuaded that he would recover the majority at the
next sitting.

Collot and Billaud, both members of the supreme governing body, went
to their place of meeting, after the stormy scene at the Club, and
found St. Just writing intently. They fell upon him, and demanded to
know whether he was preparing accusations against them. He answered
that that was exactly the thing he was doing. When he had promised to
submit his report to the Committee of Public Safety before he went to
the Assembly, they let him go. In the morning, he sent word that he
was too much hurt by their treatment of him to keep his promise.
Barère meanwhile undertook to have a report ready against St. Just.

Before the Assembly began business on the morning of Sunday the 9th of
Thermidor, Tallien was in the lobby cementing the alliance which
secured the majority; and Bourdon came up and shook hands with Durand,
saying, "Oh! the good men of the Right." When the sitting opened, St.
Just at once mounted the tribune and began to read. Tallien, seeing
him from outside, exclaimed, "Now is the moment, come and see. It is
Robespierre's last day!" The report of St. Just was an attack on the
committee. Tallien broke in, declaring that the absent men must be
informed and summoned, before he could proceed. St. Just was not a
ready speaker, and when he was defied and interrupted, he became
silent. Robespierre endeavoured to bring him aid and encouragement;
but Tallien would not be stopped, Billaud followed in the name of the
government; Barère and Vadier continued, while Robespierre and St.
Just insisted vainly on being heard. The interrupters were turbulent,
aggressive, out of order, being desperate men fighting for life.
Collot d'Herbois, the President, did not rebuke them, and having
surrendered his place to a colleague whom he could trust, descended to
take part in the fray. If the Convention was suffered once more to
hear the dreaded voice of Robespierre, nobody could be sure that he
would not recover his ascendency. These tactics succeeded. Both
parties to the overnight convention were true to it, and Robespierre
was not allowed to make his speech. The galleries had been filled from
five in the morning. Barère moved to divide the command of Hanriot,
the general of the Commune, on whose sword the triumvirs relied; and
the Convention outlawed him and his second in command as the
excitement increased. This was early in the afternoon; and it was on
learning this that the Commune called out its forces, and Paris began
to rise.

All this time Robespierre had not been personally attacked. Decrees
were only demanded, and passed, against his inferior agents. The
struggle had lasted for hours; he thought that his adversaries
faltered, and made a violent effort to reach the tribune. It had
become known in the Assembly that his friends were arming, and they
began to cry, "Down with the tyrant!" The President rang his bell and
refused to let him speak. At last his voice failed him. A Montagnard
exclaimed, "He is choking with the blood of Danton." Robespierre
replied, "What! It is Danton you would avenge?" And he said it in a
way that signified "Then why did you not defend him?" When he
understood what the Mountain meant, and that a motive long repressed
had recovered force, he appealed to the Plain, to the honest men who
had been so long silent, and so long submissive. They had voted both
ways the day before, but he knew nothing of the memorable compact that
was to arrest the guillotine. But the Plain, who were not prepared
with articulate arguments for their change of front, were content with
the unanswerable cry, "Down with the tyrant!" That was evidently
decisive; and when that declaration had been evoked by his direct
appeal the end came speedily. An unknown deputy moved that Robespierre
be arrested, nobody spoke against it; and his brother and several
friends were taken into custody with him. None made any resistance or
protest. The conflict, they knew, would be outside. The Commune of
Paris, the Jacobin Club, the revolutionary tribunal were of their
party; and how many of the armed multitude, nobody could tell. All was
not lost until that was known. At five o'clock the Convention, weary
with a heavy day's work, adjourned for dinner.

The Commune had its opportunity, and began to gain ground. Their
troops collected slowly, and Hanriot was arrested. He was released,
and brought back in triumph to the Hôtel de Ville, where the arrested
deputies soon assembled. They had been sent to different prisons, but
all the gaolers but one refused to admit them. Robespierre insisted on
being imprisoned, but the turnkey at the Luxembourg was unmoved, and
turned him out. He dreaded to be forced into a position of illegality
and revolt, because it would enable his enemies to outlaw him. Once
outlawed, there was nothing left but an insurrection, of which the
issue was uncertain. There was less risk in going before the
revolutionary tribunal, where every official was his creature and
nominee, and had no hope of mercy from his adversaries, when he ceased
to protect. The gaoler who shut the prison door in his face sealed his
fate; and it is supposed, but I do not know, that he had his
instructions from Voulland, on the other side, in order that the
prisoner might be driven into contumacy, against his will. Expelled
from gaol, Robespierre still refused to be free, and went to the
police office, where he was technically under arrest.

St. Just, who had seen war, and had made men wonder at his coolness
under heavy fire, did not calculate with so much nicety, and repaired,
with the younger Robespierre, to the municipality, where a force of
some thousands of men were assembled. They sent to summon their
leader, but the leader declined to come. He felt safer under arrest;
but he advised his friends at the Commune to ring the tocsin, close
the barriers, stop the Press, seize the post, and arrest the deputies.
The position of the man of peace encouraging his comrades to break the
law, and explaining how to do it, was too absurd to be borne.
Coffinhal, who was a much bigger man, came and carried him away by
friendly compulsion.

About ten o'clock the arrested deputies were united. Couthon, who was
a cripple, had gone home. The others sent for him, and Robespierre
signed a letter by which he was informed that the insurrection was in
full activity. This message, and the advice which he forwarded from
his shelter with the police prove that he had made up his mind to
fight, and did not die a martyr to legality. But if Robespierre was
ready, at the last extremity, to fight, he did not know how to do it.
The favourable moment was allowed to slip by; not a gun was fired, and
the Convention, after several hours of inaction and danger, began to
recover power. By Voulland's advice the prisoners out of prison were
outlawed, and Barras was put at the head of the faithful forces.
Twelve deputies were appointed to proclaim the decrees all over Paris.
Mounted on police chargers, conspicuous in their tricolor scarves, and
lighted by torches, they made known in every street that Robespierre
was now an outlaw under sentence of death. This was at last effective,
and Barras was able to report that the people were coming over to the
legal authority. An ingenious story was spread about that Robespierre
had a seal with the lilies of France. The western and wealthier half
of Paris was for the Convention but parts of the poorer quarters,
north and east, went with the Commune. They made no fight. Legendre
proceeded to the Jacobin Club, locked the door, and put the key in his
pocket, while the members quietly dispersed. About one in the morning,
Bourdon, at the head of the men from the district which had been the
stronghold of Chaumette made his way along the river to the Place de
Grève. The insurgents drawn up before the Hôtel de Ville made no
resistance, and the leaders who were gathered within knew that all was
over.

The collapse was instantaneous. A little earlier, a messenger sent out
by Gaudin, afterwards Duke of Gaëta and Napoleon's trusted finance
minister, reported that he had found Robespierre triumphing and
receiving congratulations. Even in those last moments he shrank from
action. A warlike proclamation was drawn up, signed by his friends,
and laid before him. He refused to sign unless it was in the name of
the French people. "Then," said Couthon, "there is nothing to be done
but to die." Robespierre, doubtful and hesitating, wrote the first two
letters of his name. The rest is a splash of blood. When Bourdon, with
a pistol in each hand, and the blade of his sword between his teeth,
mounted the stairs of the Hôtel de Ville at the head of his troops,
Lebas drew two pistols, handed one to Robespierre, and killed himself
with the other. What followed is one of the most disputed facts of
history. I believe that Robespierre shot himself in the head, only
shattering the jaw. Many excellent critics think that the wound was
inflicted by a gendarme who followed Bourdon. His brother took off his
shoes and tried to escape by the cornice outside, but fell on to the
pavement. Hanriot, the general, hid himself in a sewer, from which he
was dragged next morning in a filthy condition. The energetic
Coffinhal alone got away, and remained some time in concealment. The
rest were captured without trouble.

Robespierre was carried to the Tuileries and laid on a table where,
for some hours, people came and stared at him. Surgeons attended to
his wound, and he bore his sufferings with tranquillity. From the
moment when the shot was fired he never spoke; but at the Conciergerie
he asked, by signs, for writing materials. They were denied him, and
he went to death taking his secret with him out of the world. For
there has always been a mysterious suspicion that the tale has been
but half told, and that there is something deeper than the base and
hollow criminal on the surface. Napoleon liked him, and believed that
he meant well. Cambacérès, the archchancellor of the Empire, who
governed France when the Emperor took the field, said to him one day,
"It is a cause that was decided but was never argued."

Some of those who felled the tyrant, such as Cambon and Barère, long
after repented of their part in his fall. In the north of Europe,
especially in Denmark, he had warm admirers. European society believed
that he had affinity with it. It took him to be a man of authority,
integrity, and order, an enemy of corruption and of war, who fell
because he attempted to bar the progress of unbelief, which was the
strongest current of the age. His private life was inoffensive and
decent. He had been the equal of emperors and kings; an army of
700,000 men obeyed his word; he controlled millions of secret service
money, and could have obtained what he liked for pardons, and he lived
on a deputy's allowance of eighteen francs a day, leaving a fortune of
less than twenty guineas in depreciated assignats. Admiring enemies
assert that by legal confiscation, the division of properties, and the
progressive taxation of wealth, he would have raised the revenue to
twenty-two millions sterling, none of which would have been taken from
the great body of small cultivators who would thus have been for ever
bound to the Revolution. There is no doubt that he held fast to the
doctrine of equality, which means government by the poor and payment
by the rich. Also, he desired power, if it was only for
self-preservation; and he held it by bloodshed, as Lewis XIV. had
done, and Peter the Great, and Frederic. Indifference to the
destruction of human life, even the delight at the sight of blood, was
common all round him, and had appeared before the Revolution began.
The transformation of society as he imagined, if it cost a few
thousand heads in a twelvemonth, was less deadly than a single day of
Napoleon fighting for no worthier motive than ambition. His private
note-book has been printed, but it does not show what he thought of
the future. That is the problem which the guillotine left unsolved on
the evening of June 28, 1794. Only this is certain, that he remains
the most hateful character in the forefront of history since
Machiavelli reduced to a code the wickedness of public men.



XX

LA VENDÉE


The remorseless tyranny which came to an end in Thermidor was not the
product of home causes. It was prepared by the defeat and defection of
Dumouriez; it was developed by the loss of the frontier fortresses in
the following July; and it fell when the tide of battle rolled away
after the victory of Fleurus. We have, therefore, to consider the
series of warlike transactions that reacted so terribly on the
government of France. At first, and especially in the summer of 1793,
the real danger was not foreign, but civil war. During four years the
Revolution always had force on its side. The only active opposition
had come from emigrant nobles who were a minority, acting for a class.
Not a battalion had joined Brunswick when he occupied a French
province; and the mass of the country people had been raised, under
the new order, to a better condition than they had ever known. For the
hard kernel of the revolutionary scheme, taken from agrarian Rome, was
that those who till the land shall own the land; that they should
enjoy the certainty of gathering the fruits of their toil for
themselves; that every family should possess as much as it could
cultivate. But the shock which now made the Republic tremble was an
insurrection of peasants, men of the favoured class; and the democracy
which was strong enough to meet the monarchies of Europe, saw its
armies put to flight by a rabble of field labourers and woodmen, led
by obscure commanders, of whom many had never served in war.

One of Washington's officers was a Frenchman who came out before
Lafayette, and was known as Colonel Armand. His real name was the
Marquis de La Rouerie. His stormy life had been rich in adventure and
tribulation. He had appeared on the boards of the opera; he had gone
about in company with a monkey; he had fought a duel, and believing
that he had killed his man had swallowed poison; he had been an inmate
of the monastery of La Trappe, after a temporary disappointment in
love; and he had been sent to the Bastille with other discontented
Bretons. On his voyage out his ship blew up in sight of land, and he
swam ashore. But this man who came out of the sea was found to be full
of audacity and resource. He rose to be a brigadier in the Continental
army; and when he came home, he became the organiser of the royalist
insurrection in the west. Authorised by the Princes, whom he visited
at Coblenz, he prepared a secret association in Brittany, which was to
co-operate with others in the central provinces.

While La Rouerie was adjusting his instruments and bringing the
complicated agency to perfection, the invaders came and went, and the
signal for action, when they were masters of Châlons, was never given.
When volunteers were called out to resist them, men with black
cockades went about interrupting the enrolment, and declaring that no
man should take arms, except to deliver the king. Their mysterious
leader, Cottereau, the first to bear the historic name of Jean Chouan,
was La Rouerie's right hand. When the prospect of combination with the
Powers was dissolved by Dumouriez, the character of the conspiracy
changed, and men began to think that they could fight the Convention
single-handed, while its armies were busy on the Rhine and Meuse.
Brittany had 200 miles of coast, and as the Channel Islands were in
sight, aid could come from British cruisers.

La Rouerie, who was a prodigy of inventiveness, and drew his lines
with so firm a hand that the Chouannerie, which broke out after his
death, lasted ten years and only went to pieces against Napoleon,
organised a rising, almost from Seine to Loire, for the spring of
1793. Indeed it is not enough to say that they went down before the
genius of Napoleon. The "Petite Chouannerie," as the rising of 1815
was called, contributed heavily to his downfall; for he was compelled
to send 20,000 men against it, whose presence might have turned the
fortune of the day at Waterloo.

But in January 1793 La Rouerie fell ill, the news of the king's death
made him delirious, and on the 30th he died. That the explosion might
yet take place at the appointed hour, they concealed his death, and
buried him in a wood, at midnight, filling the grave with quicklime.
The secret was betrayed, the remains were discovered, the accomplices
fled, and those who were taken died faithful to their trust.

The Breton rising had failed for the time, and royalists north of the
Loire had not recovered from the blow when La Vendée rose. The corpse
in the thicket was found February 26; the papers were seized March 3;
and it was March 12, at the moment when Brittany was paralysed, that
the conscription gave the signal of civil war. The two things are
quite separate. In one place there was a plot which came to nothing at
the time; in the other, there was an outbreak which had not been
prepared. La Vendée was not set in motion by the wires laid north of
the Loire. It broke out spontaneously, under sudden provocation. But
the Breton plot had ramified in that direction also, and there was
much expectant watching for the hour of combined action. Smugglers,
and poachers, and beggar men had carried the whispered parole, armed
with a passport in these terms: "Trust the bearer, and give him aid,
for the sake of Armand"; and certain remote and unknown country
gentlemen were affiliated, whose names soon after filled the world
with their renown. D'Elbée, the future commander-in-chief, was one of
them; and he always regarded the tumultuous outbreak of March, the
result of no ripened design, as a fatal error. That is the reason why
the gentry hung back at first, and were driven forward by the
peasants. It seemed madness to fight the Convention without previous
organisation for purposes of war, and without the support of the far
larger population of Brittany, which had the command of the coast,
and was in touch with the great maritime Power. Politics and religion
had roused much discontent; but the first real act of rebellion was
prompted by the new principle of compulsory service, proclaimed on
February 23.

The region which was to be the scene of so much glory and so much
sorrow lies chiefly between the left bank of the Loire and the sea,
about 100 miles across, from Saumur to the Atlantic, and 50 or 60 from
Nantes towards Poitiers. Into the country farther south, the Vendeans,
who were weak in cavalry and had no trained gunners, never penetrated.
The main struggle raged in a broken, wooded, and almost inaccessible
district called the Bocage, where there were few towns and no good
roads. That was the stronghold of the grand army, which included all
that was best in Vendean virtue. Along the coast there was a region of
fens, peopled by a coarser class of men, who had little intercourse
with their inland comrades, and seldom acted with them. Their leader,
Charette, the most active and daring of partisans, fought more for the
rapture of fighting than for the sake of a cause. He kept open
communication by sea, negotiated with England, and assured the
Bourbons that, if one of them appeared, he would place him at the head
of 200,000 men. He regarded the other commanders as subservient to the
clergy, and saw as little of them as he could.

The inhabitants of La Vendée, about 800,000, were well-to-do, and had
suffered less from degenerate feudalism than the east of France. They
lived on better terms with the landlords, and had less cause to
welcome the Revolution. Therefore, too, they clung to the nonjuring
clergy. At heart, they were royalist, aristocratic and clerical,
uniting anti-revolutionary motives that acted separately elsewhere.
That is the cause of their rising; but the secret of their power is in
the military talent, a thing more rare than courage, that was found
among them. The disturbances that broke out in several places on the
day of enrolment, were conducted by men of the people. Cathelineau,
one of the earliest, was a carrier, sacristan in his village, who had
never seen a shot fired when he went out with a few hundred neighbours
and took Cholet. By his side there was a gamekeeper, who had been a
soldier, and came from the eastern frontier. As his name was
Christopher, the Germans corrupted it into Stoffel, and he made it
famous in the form of Stofflet. While the conflict was carried on by
small bands there was no better man to lead them. He and Charette held
out longest, and had not been conquered when the clergy, for whom they
fought, betrayed them.

The popular and democratic interval was short. After the first few
days the nobles were at the head of affairs. They deemed the cause
desperate, that one of them had promoted the rising, scarcely one
refused to join in it. The one we know best is Lescure, because his
wife's memoirs have been universally read. Lescure formed the bond
between gentry and clergy, for the cause was religious as much as
political. He would have been the third generalissimo, but he was
disabled by a wound, and put forward his cousin, Henri de la
Rochejaquelein, in preference to Stofflet. We shall presently see that
a grave suspicion darkens his fame. Like Lescure, d'Elbée was a man of
policy and management; but he was no enthusiast. He desired a
reasonable restoration, not a reaction; and he said just before his
death that when the pacification came it would be well to keep
fanatics in order.

Far above all these men in capacity for war, and on a level with the
best in character, was the Marquis de Bonchamps. He understood the art
of manoeuvring large masses of men; and as his followers would have
to meet large masses, when the strife became deadly, he sought to
train them for it. He made them into that which they did not want to
be, and for which they were ill-fitted. It is due to his immediate
command that the war could be carried on upon a large scale; and that
men who had begun with a rush and a night attack, dispersing when the
foe stood his ground, afterwards defeated the veterans of the Rhine
under the best generals of republican France. Bonchamps always urged
the need of sending a force to rouse Brittany; but the day when the
army crossed the Loire was the day of his death.

La Vendée was far from the route of invading armies, and the district
threatened by the Germans. There were no fears for hearth and home, no
terrors in a European war for those who kept out of it. If they must
fight, they chose to fight in a cause which they loved. They hated the
Revolution, not enough to take arms against it, but enough to refuse
to defend it. They were compelled to choose. Either they must resist
oppression, or they must serve it, and must die for a Government which
was at war with their friends, with the European Conservatives, who
gave aid to the fugitive nobles, and protection to the persecuted
priests. Their resistance was not a matter of policy. There was no
principle in it that could be long maintained. The conscription only
forced a decision. There were underlying causes for aversion and
vengeance, although the actual outbreak was unpremeditated. The angry
peasants stood alone for a moment; then was seen the stronger
argument, the greater force behind. Clergy and gentry put forward the
claim of conscience, and then the men who had been in the royalist
plot with La Rouerie, began to weave a new web. That plot had been
authorised by the princes, on the _émigré_ lines, and aimed at the
restoration of the old order. That was not, originally, the spirit of
La Vendée. It was never identified with absolute monarchy. At first,
the army was known as the Christian army. Then, it became the Catholic
and royal army. The altar was nearer to their hearts than the throne.
As a sign of it, the clergy occupied the higher place in the councils.
Some of the leaders had been Liberals of '89. Others surrendered
royalism and accepted the Republic as soon as religious liberty was
assured. Therefore, throughout the conflict, and in spite of some
intolerant elements, and of some outbursts of reckless fury, La Vendée
had the better cause. One Vendean, surrounded and summoned to give up
his arms, cried: "First give me back my God."

Bernier, the most conspicuous of the ecclesiastical leaders, was an
intriguer; but he was no fanatical adherent of obsolete institutions.
The restoration of religion was, to him, the just and sufficient
object of the insurrection. A time came when he was very careful to
dissociate La Vendée from Brittany, as the champions, respectively, of
a religious and a dynastic cause. He saw his opportunity under the
Consulate, came out of his hiding-place, and promoted a settlement. He
became the agent and auxiliary of Bonaparte, in establishing the
Concordat, which is as far removed from intolerance as from
legitimacy. As bishop of Orleans he again appeared in the Loire
country, not far from the scene of his exploits; but he was odious to
many of the old associates, who felt that he had employed their
royalism for other ends, without being a royalist.

The country gentlemen of La Vendée had either not emigrated, or had
returned to their homes, after seeing what the emigration came to. As
far as their own interests were concerned, they accepted the
situation. With all the combative spirit which made their brief career
so brilliant, few of them displayed violent or extreme opinions. La
Vendée was made illustrious mainly by men who dreaded neither the
essentials of the Revolution nor its abiding consequences, but who
strove to rescue their country from the hands of persecutors and
assassins. The rank and file were neither so far-sighted nor so
moderate. At times they exhibited much the same ferocity as the
fighting men of Paris, and in spite of their devotion, they had the
cruel and vindictive disposition which in France has been often
associated with religion. It was seen from the outset among the wild
followers of Charette; and even the enthusiasts of Anjou and of Upper
Poitou degenerated and became bloodthirsty. They all hated the towns,
where there were municipal authorities who arrested priests, and
levied requisitions and men.

The insurrection began by a series of isolated attacks on all the
small towns, which were seats of government; and in two months of the
spring of 1793 the republicans had been swept away, and the whole
country of La Vendée belonged to the Vendeans. They were without
order or discipline or training of any sort, and were averse to the
sight of officers overtopping them on horseback. Without artillery of
their own, they captured 500 cannon. By the end of April they were
estimated at near 100,000, a proportion of fighting men to population
that has only been equalled in the War of Secession. When the signal
was given, the tocsin rang in 600 parishes. In spite of momentary
reverses, they carried everything before them, until, on the 9th of
June, they took Saumur, a fortress which gave them the command of the
Loire. There they stood on the farthest limit of their native
province, with 40,000 soldiers, and a large park of artillery. To
advance beyond that point, they would require an organisation stronger
than the bonds of neighbourhood and the accidental influence of local
men. They established a governing body, largely composed of clergy;
and they elected a commander-in-chief. The choice fell on Cathelineau,
because he was a simple peasant, and was trusted by the priests who
were still dominant. As they were all equal there arose a demand for a
bishop who should hold sway over them. Nonjuring bishops were scarce
in France; but Lescure contrived to supply the need of the moment.
Here, in the midst of so much that was tragic, and of so much that was
of good report, we come to the bewildering and grotesque adventure of
the bishop of Agra.

At Dol, near St. Malo, there was a young priest who took the oath to
the Constitution, but afterwards dropped the cassock, appeared at
Poitiers as a man of pleasure, and was engaged to be married. He
volunteered in the republican cavalry, and took the field against the
royalists, mounted and equipped by admiring friends. On May 5, he was
taken prisoner, and as his card of admission to the Jacobins was found
upon him, he thought himself in danger. He informed his captors that
he was on their side; that he was a priest in orders, whom it would be
sacrilege to injure; at last, that he was not only a priest, but a
bishop, whom, in the general dispersion, the Pope had chosen as his
vicar apostolic to the suffering Church of France. His name was
Guyot, and he called himself Folleville. Such a captive was worth more
than a regiment of horse. Lescure carried the republican trooper to
his country house for a few days; and on May 16 Guyot reappeared in
the robes proper to a bishop, with the mitre, ring, and crozier that
belonged to his exalted dignity.

It was a great day in camp under the white flag; and the enemy,
watching through his telescope, beheld with amazement the kneeling
ranks of Vendean infantry, and a gigantic prelate who strode through
them and distributed blessings. He addressed them when they went into
action, promising victory to those who fought, and heaven to those who
fell, in so good a cause; and he went under fire with a crucifix in
his hand, and ministered to the wounded. They put him at the head of
the council, and required every priest to obey him, under pain of
arrest. Bernier, who had been at school with Guyot, was not deceived.
He denounced him at Rome, through Maury, who was living there in the
enjoyment of well-earned honours. The fraud was at once exposed. Pius
VI. declared that the bishop of Agra did not exist; and that he knew
nothing of the man so called, except that he was an impostor and a
rogue.

From the moment when Bernier wrote, Guyot was in his power; but it was
October before he translated the papal Latin to the generals. They
resolved to take no notice, but the detected pretender ceased to say
Mass. La Rochejaquelein intended to put him on board ship and get rid
of him at the first seaport. They never reached the sea. To the last,
at Granville, Guyot was seen in the midst of danger, and his girdle
was among the spoils of the field. Though the officers watched him,
the men never found him out. He served them faithfully during his six
months of precarious importance, and he perished with them. He might
have obtained hope of life by betraying the mendacity of his
accomplices, and the imbecility of his dupes. He preferred to die
without exposing them.

In June, when the victorious Vendeans occupied Saumur, it was time
that they should have a policy and a plan. They had four alternatives.
They might besiege Nantes and open communications with English
cruisers. They might join with the royalists of the centre. They might
raise an insurrection in Brittany, or they might strike for Paris. The
great road to the capital opened before them; there were the prisoners
in the Temple to rescue, and the monarch to restore. Dim reports of
their exploits reached the queen, and roused hopes of deliverance. In
a smuggled note, the Princess Elizabeth inquired whether the men of
the west had reached Orleans; in another, she asked, not unreasonably,
what had become of the British fleet. It is said that Stofflet gave
that heroic counsel. Napoleon believed that if they had followed it,
nothing could have prevented the white flag from waving on the towers
of Notre Dame. But there was no military organisation; the troops
received no pay, and went home when they pleased. The generals were
hopelessly divided, and Charette would not leave his own territory.
Bonchamps, who always led his men, and was hit in every action, was
away, disabled by a wound. His advice was known. He thought that their
only hope was to send a small corps to rouse the Bretons. With the
united forces of Brittany and Vendée they would then march for Paris.
They adopted a compromise, and decided to besiege Nantes, an open
town, the headquarters of commerce with the West Indies, and of the
African slave trade. If Nantes fell it would be likely to rouse
Brittany; and it was an expedition in which Charette would take a
part. This was the disastrous advice of Cathelineau. They went down
from Saumur to Nantes, by the right bank of the Loire, and on the
night of June 28, their fire-signals summoned Charette for the morrow.
Charette did not fail. But he was beyond the river, unable to make his
way across, and he resented the arrangement which was to give the
pillage of the wealthy city to the pious soldiers of Anjou and Poitou,
whilst he looked on from a distance.

During the long deliberations at Saumur, and the slow march down the
river, Nantes had thrown up earthworks, and had fortified the hearts
of its inhabitants. The attack failed. Cathelineau penetrated to the
market place, and they still show the window from which a cobbler shot
down the hero of Anjou. The Vendeans retreated to their stronghold,
and their cause was without a future. D'Elbée was chosen to succeed,
on the death of Cathelineau. He admitted the superior claims of
Bonchamps, but he disliked his policy of carrying the war to the
north. The others preferred d'Elbée because they had less to fear from
his ascendancy and strength of will. They were not only divided by
jealousy, but by enmity. Charette kept away from the decisive field,
and rejoiced when the grand army passed the Loire, and left their
whole country to him. Charette and Stofflet caused Marigny, the
commander of the artillery, to be executed. Lescure once exclaimed
that, if he had not been helpless from a wound, he would have cut down
the Prince de Talmond. Stofflet sent a challenge to Bonchamps; and
both Stofflet and Charette were ultimately betrayed by their comrades.
Success depended on the fidelity of d'Elbée, Bonchamps, and Lescure to
each other, through all divergences of character and policy. For two
months they continued to hold the Republic at bay. They never reached
Poitiers, and they were heavily defeated at Luçon; but they made
themselves a frontier line of towns, to the south-west, by taking
Thouars, Parthenay, Fontenay, and Niort. There was a road from north
to south by Beaupréau, Châtillon, and Bressuire; and another from east
to west, through Doué, Vihiers, Coron, Mortagne. All these are names
of famous battles. At Cholet, which is in the middle of La Vendée,
where the two roads cross, the first success and the final rout took
place.

The advantage which the Vendeans possessed was that there was no good
army to oppose them, and there were no good officers. It was the early
policy of Robespierre to repress military talent, which may be
dangerous in a republic, and to employ noisy patriots. He was not
duped by them; but he trusted them as safe men; and if they did their
work coarsely and cruelly, imitating the practice that succeeded so
well at Paris, it was no harm. That was a surer way of destroying
royalists _en masse_ than the manoeuvres of a tactician, who was
very likely to be humane, and almost sure to be ambitious and
suspicious of civilians. Therefore a succession of incompetent men
were sent out, and the star of d'Elbée ascended higher and higher.
There had been time for communication with Pitt, who was believed to
be intriguing everywhere, and the dread of an English landing in the
west became strong in the Committees of government at Paris.

At the end of July, a serious disaster befell the French armies. Mentz
surrendered to the Prussians, and Valenciennes immediately after to
the Austrians. Their garrisons, unable to serve against the enemy
abroad, were available against the enemy at home. The soldiers from
Mayence were sent to Nantes. They were 8000, and they brought Kléber
with them. It was the doom of La Vendée. By the middle of September
the best soldiers and the best generals the French government
possessed met the veterans of Bonchamps and d'Elbée. In a week, from
the 18th to the 23rd, they fought five battles, of which the most
celebrated is named after the village of Torfou. And with this
astonishing result, that the royalists were victorious in every one of
them, and captured more than 100 cannon. On one of these fields,
Kléber and Marceau saw each other for the first time. But it seemed
that Bonchamps was able to defeat even Kléber and Marceau, as he had
defeated Westermann and Rossignol. Then a strange thing happened. Some
men, in disguise, were brought into the Vendean lines. They proved to
be from the Mayence garrison; and they said that they would prefer
serving under the royalist generals who had beaten them, rather than
under their own unsuccessful chiefs. They undertook, for a large sum
of money, to return with their comrades. Bonchamps and Charette took
the proposals seriously, and wished to accept them. But the money
could only be procured by melting down the Church plate, and the
clergy made objection. Some have thought that this was a fatal
miscalculation. The other causes of their ruin are obvious and are
decisive. They ought to have been supported by the Bretons, and the
Bretons were not ready. They ought to have been united, and they were
bitterly divided and insubordinate. They ought to have created an
impregnable fastness on the high ground above the Loire; but they had
no defensive tactics, and when they occupied a town, would not wait
for the attack, but retired, to have the unqualified delight of
expelling the enemy. Above all, they ought to have been backed by
England. D'Elbée's first letter was intercepted, and four months
passed before the English government stirred. The _émigrés_ and their
princes had no love for these peasants and stay-at-home gentry and
clergy, who took so long to declare themselves, and whose primary or
ultimate motive was not royalism. Puisaye showed Napier a letter in
which Lewis XVIII. directed that he should be put secretly to death.

England ought to have been active on the coast very early, during the
light winds of summer. But the English wanted a safe landing-place,
and there was none to give them. With more enterprise, while Charette
held the island of Noirmoutier, Pitt might have become the arbiter of
France. When he gave definite promises and advice, it was October, and
the day of hope had passed.

In the middle of October Kléber, largely reinforced, advanced with
25,000 men, and Bonchamps made up his mind that the time had come to
retreat into Brittany. He posted a detachment to secure the passage of
the Loire at St. Laurent, and fell back with his whole force to
Cholet, whilst he sent warning to Charette of the decisive hour.
There, on October 16, he fought his last fight. D'Elbée was shot
through the body. He was carried in safety to Noirmoutier, and still
lingered when the Republicans recovered the island in January. His
last conversation with his conqueror, before he suffered death, is of
the highest value for this history. Lescure had already received a
bullet through the head, and at Cholet, Bonchamps was wounded
mortally. But there had been a moment in the day during which fortune
wavered, and the lost cause owed its ruin to the absence of Charette.
Stofflet and La Rochejaquelein led the retreat from Cholet to the
Loire. It was a day's march, and there was no pursuit. Bonchamps was
still living when they came to the river, and still able to give one
last order. Four thousand five hundred prisoners had been brought from
Cholet; they were shut up in the church at St. Laurent, and the
officers agreed that they must be put to death. At first, the
Convention had not allowed the men whom the royalists released to
serve again. But these amenities of civilised war had long been
abolished; and the prisoners were sure to be employed against the
captors who spared them. Bonchamps gave these men their lives, and on
the same day he died. When, at the same moment, d'Elbée, Lescure and
Bonchamps had disappeared, La Rochejaquelein assumed the command,
Kléber, whom he repulsed at Laval, described him as a very able
officer; but he led the army into the country beyond the Loire without
a definite purpose. The Prince de Talmond, who was a La Tremoille,
promised that when they came near the domains of his family, the
expected Bretons would come in. More important was the appearance of
two peasants carrying a stick. For the peasants were _émigrés_
disguised, and their stick contained letters from Whitehall, in which
Pitt undertook to help them if they succeeded in occupying a seaport;
and he recommended Granville, which stands on a promontory not far
from French Saint Michael's Mount. The messengers declined to confirm
the encouragement they brought; but La Rochejaquelein, heavily
hampered with thousands of women and children who had lost their
homes, made his way across to the sea, and attacked the fortifications
of the place. He assaulted in vain; and although Jersey listened to
the cannonade, no ships came. The last hope had now gone; and the
remnant of the great army, cursing the English, turned back towards
their own country. Some thousands of Bretons had joined, and Stofflet
still drove the republicans before him. With La Rochejaquelein and
Sapinaud he crossed the Loire in a small boat. The army found the
river impassable, and wandered helplessly without officers until, at
Savenay, December 26, it was overtaken by the enemy, and ceased to
exist. Lescure had followed the column in his carriage, until he heard
of the execution of the queen. With his last breath, he said: "I
fought to save her: I would live to avenge her. There must be no
quarter now."

In this implacable spirit Carrier was acting at Nantes. But I care not
to tell the vengeance of the victorious republicans upon the brave men
who had made them tremble. The same atrocities were being committed in
the south. Lyons had overthrown the Jacobins, had put the worst of
them to death, and had stood a siege under the republican flag.
Girondins and royalists, who were enemies at Nantes, fought here side
by side; and the place was so well armed that it held out to October
9. On the 29th of August, the royalists of Toulon called in a joint
British and Spanish garrison, and gave up the fleet and the arsenal to
Lord Hood. The republicans laid siege to the town in October. The
harbour of Toulon is deep and spacious; but there was, and still is, a
fort which commands the entrance. Whoever held l'Aiguillette was
master of every ship in the docks and of every gun in the arsenal. On
December 18, at midnight, during a violent storm, the French attacked
and carried the fort. Toulon was no longer tenable. Hastily, but
imperfectly, the English destroyed the French ships they could not at
once take away, leaving the materials for the Egyptian expedition, and
as fast as possible evacuated the harbour, under the fire of the
captured fort. The fortunes of Bonaparte began with that exploit, and
the first event of his career was the spectacle of a British fleet
flying before him by the glare of an immense conflagration. The year
1793 thus ended triumphantly, and the Convention was master of all
France, except the marshes down by the ocean, where Charette defied
every foe, and succeeded in imposing his own terms on the Republic.
But the danger had come that disturbed the slumber of Robespierre, and
the man was found who was to make the Revolution a stepping-stone to
the power of the sword.



XXI

THE EUROPEAN WAR


The French Revolution was an attempt to establish in the public law of
Europe maxims which had triumphed by the aid of France in America. By
the principles of the Declaration of Independence a government which
obstructs liberty forfeits the claim to obedience, and the men who
devote their families to ruin and themselves to death in order to
destroy it do no more than their duty. The American Revolution was not
provoked by tyranny or intolerable wrong, for the Colonies were better
off than the nations of Europe. They rose in arms against a
constructive danger, an evil that might have been borne but for its
possible effects. The precept which condemned George III. was fatal to
Lewis XVI., and the case for the French Revolution was stronger than
the case for the American Revolution. But it involved international
consequences. It condemned the governments of other countries. If the
revolutionary government was legitimate, the conservative governments
were not. They necessarily threatened each other. By the law of its
existence, France encouraged insurrection against its neighbours, and
the existing balance of power would have to be redressed in obedience
to a higher law.

The successful convulsion in France led to a convulsion in Europe; and
the Convention which, in the first illusions of victory, promised
brotherhood to populations striking for freedom, was impolitic, but
was not illogical. In truth the Jacobins only transplanted for the use
of oppressed Europeans a precedent created by the Monarchy in favour
of Americans who were not oppressed. Nobody imagined that the new
system of international relations could be carried into effect without
resistance or sacrifice, but the enthusiasts of liberty, true or
false, might well account it worth all that it must cost, even if the
price was to be twenty years of war. This new dogma is the real cause
of the breach with England, which did such harm to France. Intelligent
Jacobins, like Danton and Carnot, saw the danger of abandoning policy
for the sake of principle. They strove to interpret the menacing
declaration, until it became innocuous, and they put forward the
natural frontier in its stead. But it was the very essence of the
revolutionary spirit, and could not be denied.

England had remained aloof from Pilnitz and the expedition under
Brunswick, but began to be unfriendly after the 10th of August. Lord
Gower did not at once cease to be ambassador, and drew his salary to
the end of the year. But as he was accredited to the king, he was
recalled when the king went to prison, and no solicitude was shown to
make the step less offensive. Chauvelin was not acknowledged. He was
not admitted to present his new credentials, and his requests for
audience were received with coldness. Pitt and Grenville were not
conciliatory. They were so dignified that they were haughty, and when
they were haughty they were insolent. The conquest of Belgium, the
opening of the Scheldt for navigation, and the trial of the king,
roused a bitter feeling in England, and ministers, in the course of
December, felt that they would be safe if they went along with it. The
opening of the Scheldt was not resisted by the Dutch, and gave England
no valid plea. But France was threatening Holland, and if out of
English hatred to the Republic, to republican principles of foreign
policy, to the annexation of the Netherlands, war was really
inevitable, it was important to get possession at once of the Dutch
resources by sea and land.

The idea of conciliating England by renouncing conquest, and the idea
of defying England by the immediate invasion of the United Provinces,
balanced each other for a time. By renunciation, the moderate or
Girondin party would have triumphed. The Jacobins, who drew all the
consequences of theories, and who were eager to restore the finances
with the spoils of the opulent Dutchmen, carried their purpose when
they voted the death of the king. That event added what was wanting to
make the excitement and exasperation of England boil over. Down to the
month of January the government continued ready to treat on condition
that France restored her conquests, and several emissaries had been
received. The most trustworthy of these was Maret, afterwards Duke of
Bassano. On the 28th of January Talleyrand, who was living in
retirement at Leatherhead, informed ministers that Maret was again on
the way to herald the approach of Dumouriez himself, whose presence in
London, on a friendly mission, would have been tantamount to the
abandonment of the Dutch project. But Maret came too late, and
Dumouriez on his journey to the coast was overtaken by instructions
that Amsterdam, not London, was his destination.

The news from Paris reached London on the evening of the 23rd, and the
audience at the theatre insisted that the performance should be
stopped. There was to be a drawing-room next day. The drawing-room was
countermanded. A Council was summoned, and there a momentous decision
was registered. Grenville had refused to recognise the official
character of the French envoy, Chauvelin. He had informed him that he
was subject to the Alien Act. On the 24th he sent him his passports,
with orders to leave the country. Upon that Dumouriez was recalled. On
the 29th Chauvelin arrived at Paris, and told his story. And it was
then, February 1, that the Convention declared war against England.
With less violent counsels in London, and with patience to listen to
Dumouriez, the outbreak of the war might have been postponed. But
nothing that England was able to offer could have made up to France
for the sacrifice of the fleet and the treasure of Holland.

Our ministers may have been wanting in many qualities of negotiators,
and the dismissal of Chauvelin laid on them a responsibility that was
easy to avoid. They could not for long have averted hostilities. It is
possible that Fox might have succeeded, for Fox was able to understand
the world of new ideas which underlay the policy of France; but the
country was in no temper to follow the Whigs. They accused Pitt
unjustly when they said that he went to war from the motive of
ambition. He was guiltless of that capital charge. But he did less
than he might have done to prevent it, perceiving too clearly the
benefit that would accrue. And he is open to the grave reproach that
he went over to the absolute Powers and associated England with them
at the moment of the Second Partition, and applied to France the
principles on which they acted against Poland. When the Prince of
Coburg held his first conference with his allies in Belgium, he
declared that Austria renounced all ideas of conquest. The English at
once protested. They made known that they desired to annex as much
territory as possible, in order to make the enemy less formidable. Our
envoy was Lord Auckland, a man of moderate opinions, who had always
advised his government to come to terms with the Republic. He exhorted
Coburg not to rest until he had secured a satisfactory line of
frontier, as England was going to appropriate Dunkirk and the
Colonies, and meant to keep them. George III., on April 27, uttered
the same sentiments. France, he said, must be greatly circumscribed
before we can talk of any means of treating with that dangerous and
faithless nation. In February Grenville definitely proposed
dismemberment, offering the frontier fortresses and the whole of
Alsace and Lorraine to Austria. It was the English who impressed on
the operations, that were to follow, the character of a selfish and
sordid rapacity.

The island kingdom alone had nothing to fear, for she had the rest of
the maritime Powers on her side, and the preponderance of the naval
forces was decisive. The French began the war with 76 line-of-battle
ships. England had 115, with 8718 guns to 6002. In weight of metal
the difference was not so great, for the English guns threw 89,000
lbs. and the French 74,000. But England had the Spanish fleet, of 56
ships-of-the-line, and the Dutch with 49--the Spaniards well built,
but badly manned; the Dutch constructed for shallow waters, but with
superior crews. To these must be added Portugal, which followed
England, and Naples, whose king was a Bourbon, brother to the king of
Spain. Therefore, in weight of metal, which is the first thing, next
to brains, we were at least 2 to 1; and in the number of ships 3 to 1,
or about 230 to 76. That is the reason why the insular statesmen went
to war, if not with greater enterprise and energy, yet with more
determination and spirit, than their exposed and vulnerable allies
upon the Continent. The difference between them is that between men
who are out of reach and are 2 to 1, and men whose territories are
accessible to an enemy greatly superior to themselves in numbers.
Therefore it was Pitt who from his post of vantage pushed the others
forward, and, when they vacillated, encouraged them with money and the
promise of spoil. The alliance with the maritime states was important
for his policy, but it accomplished nothing in the actual struggle.
The Dutch and the Spaniards were never brought into line; and the
English, though they owed their safety at first to their system of
alliances, owed their victories to themselves. And those victories
became more numerous and splendid when, after two years of
inefficacious friendship with us, the Spaniard and the Dutchman joined
our enemies. England was drawn into the war, which it maintained with
unflagging resolution, by the prospect of sordid gain. It brought
increase of rents to the class that governed, and advantage to the
trader from the conquest of dependencies and dominions over the sea.

The year 1793 brought us no profit from the sea. We occupied Toulon on
the invitation of the inhabitants, and there we had in our possession
half of the naval resources of France. But before the end of the year
we were driven away. The French dominions in India fell at once into
our hands, and in March and April 1794 we captured the Windward
Islands in the West Indies, Martinique, Santa Lucia, and at last
Guadeloupe. But a Jacobin lawyer came over from France and reconquered
Guadeloupe, and the French held it with invincible tenacity till 1810.
They lost Hayti, but it never became English, and drifted into the
power of the negroes, who there rose to the highest point they have
attained in history. In the summer of the same year, 1794, Corsica
became a British dependency, strengthening enormously our position in
the Mediterranean. We were not able to retain it. Our admirals did
nothing for La Vendée. So little was known about it that on December
19 there was a question of sending an officer to serve under
Bonchamps, who at that time had been dead two months.

In all this chequered and inglorious history there is one day to be
remembered. On April 11, 1794, 130 merchantmen, laden with
food-supplies, sailed from Chesapeake Bay for the ports of France.
Lord Howe went out to intercept them; and on May 16 the French fleet
left Brest to protect them. Howe divided his force. He sent Montagu to
watch for the merchantmen, and led the remainder of his squadron
against Villaret Joyeuse. After a brush on May 28, they met, in equal
force, on the 1st of June, 400 miles from land. The French admiral had
an unfrocked Huguenot divine on board, who had been to sea in his
youth, and was now infusing the revolutionary ardour into the fleet,
as St. Just did with the army. The fight lasted three hours and then
ceased. Villaret waited until evening, but Lord Howe had several ships
disabled, and would neither renew the battle nor pursue the enemy. The
French had lost seven ships out of twenty-six. The most famous of
these is the _Vengeur du Peuple_. It engaged the _Brunswick_, and the
rigging of one ship became so entangled with the anchors of the other
that they were locked together, and drifted away from the line. They
were so close that the French could not fire their lower deck guns,
having no space to ram the charge. The English were provided for this
very emergency with flexible rammers of rope and went on firing into
the portholes of the enemy, while the French captain, calling up his
men from below, had the advantage on the upper deck. At last the
rolling of the sea forced the unconquered enemies to part. The
_Brunswick_ had lost 158 out of a crew of 600 and 23 of her guns out
of 74 were dismounted. She withdrew out of action disabled, and went
home to refit. The _Vengeur_ remained on the ground, with all her
masts gone. Presently it was seen that she had been hit below the
water-line. The guns were thrown overboard, but after some hours the
_Vengeur_ made signals that she was sinking. English boats came and
rescued about 400 men out of 723. Those of the survivors who were not
wounded were seen standing by the broken mast, and cried "Vive la
république," as the ship went down. That is the history, not the
legend, of the loss of the _Vengeur_, and no exaggeration and no
contradiction can mar the dramatic grandeur of the scene.

The battle of the 1st of June is the one event by land or sea that was
glorious to British arms in the war of the first Coalition. The
ascendancy then acquired was never lost. Our failures in the West
Indies, at Cape Verde Islands, in the Mediterranean, and on the coasts
of France, and even the defection of our maritime allies, did not
impair it. And later on, when all were against us, admirals more
original and more enterprising than Howe increased our superiority.
The success was less brilliant and entire than that which Nelson
gained against a much greater force at Trafalgar, when France lost
every ship. Montagu did not intercept the French merchantmen, and did
not help to crush the French men-of-war. Villaret Joyeuse and the
energetic minister from Languedoc lost the day, but they gained the
substantial advantage. Under cover of their cannon, the ships on which
the country depended for its supplies came into port. Although during
those two years the French fought against great odds at sea, their
loss was less than they had expected, and did not weaken their
government at home. They had reason to hope that whenever their
armies were brought to close quarters with Spain and the Netherlands,
the fortune of war at sea would follow the event on land.

The war with which we have now to deal passed through three distinct
phases. During the year 1793, the French maintained themselves with
difficulty, having to contend with a dangerous insurrection. In 1794
the tide turned in their favour; and 1795 was an epoch of
preponderance and triumph. The Republic inherited from the Monarchy a
regular army of 220,000 men, seriously damaged and demoralised by the
emigration of officers. To these were added, first, the volunteers of
1791, who soon made good soldiers, and supplied the bulk of the
military talent that rose to fame down to 1815, and the like of which
was never seen, either in the American Civil War, or among the Germans
in 1870. The second batch of volunteers, those who responded to the
Brunswick proclamation and the summons of September, when the country
was in danger, were not equal to the first. The two together supplied
309,000 men. At the beginning of the general war, in March 1793, the
Conscription was instituted, which provoked the rising in Vendée, and
was interrupted by troubles in other departments. Instead of 300,000
men, it yielded 164,000. In the summer of 1793, when the fortresses
were falling, there was, first, the levy _en masse_, and then, August
23, the system of requisition, by which the levy was organised and
made to produce 425,000 men. Altogether, in a year and a half, France
put 1,100,000 men into line; and at the critical moment, at the end of
the second year, more than 700,000 were present under arms. That is
the force which Carnot had to wield. He was a man of energy, of
integrity, and of professional skill as an engineer, but he was not a
man of commanding abilities. Lord Castlereagh rather flippantly called
him a foolish mathematician. Once, having quarrelled with his former
comrade Fouché and having been condemned to banishment, he had this
conversation with him: "Where am I to go, traitor?" "Wherever you
like, idiot." As an austere republican he was out of favour during
the empire; but his defence of Antwerp is a bright spot in the decline
of Napoleon. He became Minister of the Interior on the return from
Elba, and his advice might have changed the history of the world. For
he wished the emperor to fall upon the English before they could
concentrate, and then to fight the Prussians at his leisure. One
night, during a rubber of whist, the tears that ran down his cheek
betrayed the news from Waterloo.

Carnot owed his success to two things--arbitrary control over
promotion, and the cheapness of French lives. He could sacrifice as
many men as he required to carry a point. An Austrian on the Sambre,
1,000 miles from home, was hard to replace. Any number of Frenchmen
were within easy reach. Colonel Mack observed that whenever a
combatant fell, France lost a man, but Austria lost a soldier. La
Vendée had shown what could be done by men without organisation or the
power of manoeuvring, by constant activity, exposure, and courage.
Carnot taught his men to win by a rush many times repeated, and not to
count their dead. The inferior commanders were quickly weeded out,
sometimes with help from the executioner, and the ablest men were
brought to the front. The chief army of all, the army of Sambre et
Meuse, was commanded by Kléber, Moreau, Reynier, Marceau, and Ney.
Better still, on the Rhine were Hoche, Desaix, and St. Cyr. Best of
all, in the Apennines, the French were led by Bonaparte and Masséna.

All these armaments had scarcely begun when the victory of Neerwinden
and the flight of Dumouriez brought the Austrians up to the Belgian
frontier. Carnot was not discovered, the better men had not risen to
command, the levy _en masse_ had not been thought of. The French could
do nothing in the field while the Prince of Coburg, supported by the
Dutch, and by an Anglo-Hanoverian army under the Duke of York, sat
down before the fortresses. By the end of July Condé and Valenciennes
had fallen, and the road to Paris was open to the victors. They might
have reached the capital in overwhelming force by the middle of
August. But the English coveted, not Paris but Dunkirk, and the Duke
of York withdrew with 37,000 men and laid siege to it. Coburg turned
aside in the opposite direction, to besiege Le Quesnoy. He proposed to
conquer the fortified towns, one after another, according to
Grenville's prescription, and then to join hands with the Prussians
whom it was urgent to have with him when penetrating to the interior.
The Prussians meanwhile had taken Mentz, the garrison, like that of
Valenciennes, making a defence too short for their fame. But the
Prussians remembered the invasion of the year before, and they were in
no hurry. The allies, with conflicting interests and divided counsels,
gave the enemy time. Some years later, when Napoleon had defeated the
Piedmontese, and was waiting for them to send back the treaty he had
dictated at Cherasco, duly signed, he grew excessively impatient at
their delay. The Piedmontese officers were surprised at what seemed a
want of self-restraint, and let him see it. His answer was, "I may
often lose a battle, but I shall never lose a minute."

The French put to good account the time their enemies allowed them.
Carnot took office on August 14, and on the 23rd he caused the
Convention to decree what is pleasantly called the levy _en masse_ but
was the system of requisition, making every able-bodied man a soldier.
The new spirit of administration was soon felt in the army. The forces
besieging Le Quesnoy and Dunkirk were so far apart that the French
came between and attacked them successively. The Dunkirk garrison
opened the sluices and flooded the country, separating the English
from the covering force of Hanoverians, and leaving the Duke of York
no means of retreat except by a single causeway. On September 8 the
French defeated the Hanoverians at Hondschooten and relieved Dunkirk.
The English got away in great haste, abandoning their siege guns; but
as they ought not to have got away at all, the French cut off the head
of their victorious commander. Jourdan, his successor, turned upon the
Prince of Coburg, and, by the new and expensive tactics, defeated him
at Wattignies on October 16. Carnot, who did not yet trust his
generals, arrived in time to win the day by overruling Jourdan and
his staff. And every French child knows how he led the charge through
the grapeshot, on foot, with his hat at the end of his sword. From
that day to the peace of Bâle he held the army in his grasp. He had
stopped the invasion. No one in the allied camp spoke any more of the
shortest road to Paris; but they still held the places they had
conquered. Two months later, Hoche, who had distinguished himself at
Dunkirk, took the command in the Vosges, and stormed the lines of
Weissenburg at the scene of the first action in the war of 1870. By
the end of December the Prussians were shut up in Mayence, and Wurmser
had retired beyond the Rhine. By that time, too, La Vendée, and Lyons,
and Toulon had fallen. The campaign of 1794 was to be devoted to
foreign war.

During that autumn and winter, Carnot, somewhat unmindful of what went
on near him and heedless of the signatures he gave, was organising the
enormous force the requisition provided, and laying the plans that
were to give him so great a name in the history of his country. He
divided the troops into thirteen armies. They call them fourteen, I
believe, because there were _cadres_ for an army of reserve. Two were
required for the Spanish war, for the Pyrenees are impassable by
artillery except at the two ends, where narrow valleys lead from
France to Spain near San Sebastian, and by a strip of more open
country near the Mediterranean. What passed there did not influence
events; but it is well to know that the Spaniards under Ricardos
gained important advantages in 1794, and fought better than they ever
did in the field during their struggle with Napoleon. A third army was
placed on the Italian frontier, a fourth on the Rhine, and a fifth
against the allies in Flanders. Carnot increased the number because he
had no men who had proved their fitness for the direction of very
large forces. He meant that his armies should be everywhere
sufficient, but in Belgium they were to be overwhelming. That was the
point of danger, and there a great body of Austrians, Dutch, English,
and Hanoverians had been collected. The Emperor himself appeared
among them in May; and his brother, the Archduke Charles, was the best
officer in the allied camp.

At the end of April Coburg took Landrecies, the fourth of the line of
fortresses that had fallen. On May 18 the French were victorious at
Tourcoing, where the English suffered severely, and the Duke of York
sought safety in precipitate flight. There was even talk of a court
martial. The day was lost in consequence of the absence of the
Archduke, who suffered from fits like Julius Cæsar, and is said to
have been lying unconscious many miles away. For a month longer the
allies held their ground and repeatedly repressed Jourdan in his
attempts to cross the Sambre. At last, Charleroi surrendered to the
French, and on the following day, June 26, they won the great battle
of Fleurus. Mons fell on July 1, and on the 5th the allies resolved to
evacuate Belgium. The four fortresses were recovered in August; and
Coburg retired by Liége into Germany, York by Antwerp into Holland. In
October Jourdan pursued the Austrians, and drove them across the
Rhine. The battle of Fleurus established the ascendancy of the French
in Europe as the 1st of June had created that of England on the ocean.
They began the offensive, and retained it for twenty years. Yet the
defeat of Fleurus, after such varying fortunes and so much alternate
success does not explain the sudden discouragement and collapse of the
allies. One of the great powers was about to abandon the alliance.
Prussia had agreed in the spring to accept an English subsidy. For,
£300,000 down, and £150,000 a month, a force of fifty to sixty
thousand Prussians was to be employed in a manner to be agreed upon
with England,--that meant in Belgium. Before Malmesbury's signature
was dry the whole situation altered.

The Committee of Public Safety had created a diversion in the rear of
the foe. Kozsiusko, with the help of French money and advice, had
raised an insurrection in Poland, and the hands of the Prussians were
tied. The Polish question touched them nearer than the French, and all
their thoughts were turned in the opposite direction. The Austrians
began to apprehend that Prussia would desert them on the Rhine, and
would gain an advantage over them in Poland, while they were busy with
their best army in Flanders. Pitt increased his offers. Lord Spencer
was sent to Vienna to arrange for a further subsidy. But the Prussians
began to withdraw. Marshal Moellendorf informed the French in
September that the Austrians were about to attack Treves. He promised
that he would do no more than he could help for his allies. On the
20th, Hohenlohe, who was not in the secret, having fought Hoche at
Kaiserslautern and defeated him, the commander-in-chief sent
explanations and apologies. In October, Pitt stopped the supplies, and
the Prussians disappeared from the war.

The winter of 1794-95 was severe, and even the sea froze in Holland.
In January, Pichegru marched over the solid Rhine, and neither Dutch
nor English offered any considerable resistance. The Prince of Orange
fled to England; the Duke of York retreated to Bremen, and there
embarked; and on the 28th the French were welcomed by the democracy of
Amsterdam. A body of cavalry rode up to the fleet on the ice, and
received its surrender. There was no cause left for it to defend.
Holland was to be the salvation of French credit. It gave France
trade, a fleet, a position from which to enter Germany on the
undefended side. The tables were turned against Pitt and his policy.
His Prussian ally made peace in April, giving up to France all Germany
as far as the Rhine, and undertaking to occupy Hanover, if George
III., as elector, refused to be neutral. Spain almost immediately
followed. Manuel Godoy, lately a guardsman, but Prime Minister and
Duke of Alcudia since November 1792, had declined Pitt's proposals for
an alliance as long as there were hopes of saving the life of Lewis by
the promise of neutrality. When those hopes came to an end, he
consented. The joint occupation of Toulon had not been amicable; and
when George III. was made King of Corsica, it was an injury to Spain
as a Mediterranean Power. The animosity against regicide France faded
away; the war was not popular, and the Duke of Alcudia became, amid
general rejoicing, Prince of the Peace.

We saw how the first invasion in 1792, brought the worst men to power.
In 1793, the Reign of Terror coincided exactly with the season of
public danger. Robespierre became the head of the government on the
very day when the bad news came from the fortresses, and he fell
immediately after the occupation of Brussels, July 11, 1794, exposed
the effects of Fleurus. We cannot dissociate these events, or disprove
the contention that the Reign of Terror was the salvation of France.
It is certain that the conscription of March 1793, under Girondin
auspices, scarcely yielded half the required amount, whilst the levies
of the following August, decreed and carried out by the Mountain,
inundated the country with soldiers, who were prepared by the
slaughter going on at home to face the slaughter at the front. This,
then, was the result which Conservative Europe obtained by its attack
on the Republic. The French had subjugated Savoy, the Rhineland,
Belgium, Holland, whilst Prussia and Spain had been made to sue for
peace. England had deprived France of her colonies, but had lost
repute as a military Power. Austria alone, with her dependent
neighbours, maintained the unequal struggle on the Continent under
worse conditions, and with no hope but in the help of Russia.



XXII

AFTER THE TERROR


It remains for us to pursue the course of French politics from the
fall of the Terrorists to the Constitution of the year III., and the
close of the Convention in October 1795. The State drifted after the
storm, and was long without a regular government or a guiding body of
opinion. The first feeling was relief at an immense deliverance.
Prisons were opened and thousands of private citizens were released.
The new sensation displayed itself extravagantly, in the search for
pleasures unknown during the stern and sombre reign. Madame Tallien
set the fashion as queen of Paris society. Men rejected the modern
garment which characterised the hateful years, and put on tights. They
buried the chin in folded neckcloths, and wore tall hats in protest
against the exposed neck and the red nightcap of the enemy. Powder was
resumed; but the pigtail was cut off straight, in commemoration of
friends lost by the fall of the axe. Young men, representing the new
spirit, wore a kind of uniform, with the badge of mourning on the arm,
and a knobstick in their hands adapted to the Jacobin skull. They
became known afterwards as the _Jeunesse Dorée_. The press made much
of them, and they served as a body to the leaders of the reaction,
hustling opponents, and denoting the infinite change in the conditions
of public life.

These were externals. What went on underneath was the gradual recovery
of the respectable elements of society, and the passage of power from
the unworthy hands of the men who destroyed Robespierre. These, the
Thermidorians, were faithful to the contract with the Plain, by which
they obtained their victory. Some had been friends of Danton, who, at
one moment of the previous winter, had approved a policy of moderation
in the use of the guillotine. Tallien had domestic as well as public
reasons for clemency. But the bulk of the genuine Montagnards were
unaltered. They had deserted Robespierre when it became unsafe to
defend him; but they had not renounced his system, and held that it
was needful as their security against the furious enmity they had
incurred when they were the ruling faction.

The majority in the Convention, where all powers were now
concentrated, were unable to govern. The irresistible resources of the
Reign of Terror were gone, and nothing occupied their place. There was
no working Constitution, no settled authority, no party enjoying
ascendancy and respect, no public men free from the guilt of blood.
Many months were to pass before the ruins of the fallen parties
gathered together and constituted an effective government with a real
policy and the means of pursuing it. The chiefs of the Commune and of
the revolutionary tribunal, near one hundred in number, had followed
Robespierre to the scaffold.

The Committees of government had lost their most energetic members,
and were disabled by the new plan of rapid renewal. Power fluctuated
between varying combinations of deputies, all of them transient and
quickly discredited. The main division was between vengeance and
amnesty. And the character of the following months was a gradual drift
in the direction of vengeance, as the imprisoned or proscribed
minority returned to their seats. But the Mountain included the men,
who by organising, and equipping, and controlling the armies had made
France the first of European Powers, and they could not at once be
displaced. Barère proposed that existing institutions should be
preserved, and that Fouquier should continue his office. On August 19,
Louchet, the man who led the assault against Robespierre, insisted
that it was needful to keep up the Terror with all the rigour that
had been prescribed by the sagacious and profound Marat. A month
later, September 21, the Convention solemnised the apotheosis of
Marat, whose remains were deposited in the Pantheon, while those of
Mirabeau were cast out. Three weeks later, the master of Robespierre,
Rousseau, was brought, with equal ceremony, to be laid by his side.
The worst of the remaining offenders, Barère, Collot d'Herbois, and
Billaud-Varennes, were deprived of their seats on the Committee of
Public Safety. But in spite of the denunciations of Lecointre and of
Legendre, the Convention refused to proceed against them.

All through September and a great part of October the Mountain held
its ground, and prevented the reform of the government. Billaud,
gaining courage, declared that the lion might slumber, but would rend
his enemies on awaking. By the lion, he meant himself and his friends
of Thermidor. The governing Committees were reconstructed on the
principle of frequent change; the law of Prairial, which gave the
right of arbitrary arrest and unconditional gaol delivery, was
abrogated; and commissaries were sent out to teach the Provinces the
example of Paris.

Beyond these measures, the action of the State stood still. The fall
of the men who reigned by terror produced, at first, no great
political result. The process of change was set in motion by certain
citizens of Nantes. Carrier had sent a batch of 132 of his prisoners
to feed the Paris guillotine. Thirty-eight of them died of the
hardships they endured. The remainder were still in prison in
Thermidor; and they now petitioned to be put on their trial. The trial
took place; and the evidence given was such as made a reaction
inevitable. On September 14, the Nantais were acquitted. Then the
necessary consequence followed. If the victims of Carrier were
innocent, what was Carrier himself? His atrocities had been exposed,
and, on November 12, the Convention resolved, by 498 to 2, that he
should appear before the tribunal. For Carrier was a deputy,
inviolable under common law. The trial was prolonged, for it was the
trial not of a man, but of a system, of a whole class of men still in
the enjoyment of immunity.

Everything that could be brought to light gave strength to the
Thermidorians against their enemies, and gave them the command of
public opinion. On December 16 Carrier was guillotined, he had
defended himself with spirit. The strength of his case was that his
prosecutors were nearly as guilty as himself, and that they would all,
successively, be struck down by the enemies of the Republic. He did
his best to drag down the party with him. His associates, acquitted by
the revolutionary tribunal on the plea that their delinquencies were
not political, were then sent before the ordinary courts. On the day
on which the convention resolved that the butcher of Nantes must stand
his trial, they closed the Jacobin Club, and now the reaction was
setting in.

On December 1, after hearing a report by Carnot, the assembly offered
an amnesty to the insurgents on the Loire, and on the 8th those
Girondins were recalled who had been placed under arrest. This measure
was decisive. With the willing aid of the Plain they were masters of
the Convention, for they were seventy-three in number, and, unlike the
Plain, they were not hampered and disabled by their own iniquities.
They were not accomplices of the Reign of Terror, for they had spent
it in confinement. They had nothing to fear from a vigorous
application of deserved penalties, and they had a terrible score to
clear off. There were still sixteen deputies who had been proscribed
with Buzot and the rest. They were now amnestied, and three months
later, March 8, they were admitted to their seats. There they sat face
to face with the men who had outlawed them, who had devoted them to
death by an act the injustice of which was now proclaimed.

The cry for vengeance was becoming irresistible as the policy of the
last year was reversed. In the course of that process La Vendée had
its turn. On the 17th of February, at La Jaunaye, the French Republic
came to terms with Charette. He was treated as an equal power. He
obtained liberty for religion, compensation in money, relief from
conscription, and a territorial guard of 2000 men, to be paid by the
government, and commanded by himself. The same conditions were
accepted soon after by Stofflet, and by the Breton leader, Cormatin.
In that hour of triumph Charette rode into Nantes with the white badge
of Royalism displayed; and he was received with honour by the
authorities, and acclaimed by the crowd. Immediately after the treaty
of La Jaunaye which, granted the free practice of religion in the
west, it was extended to the whole of France. The churches were given
back some months later; there is one parish, in an eastern department,
where it is said that the church was never closed, and the service
never interrupted.

In March the Girondins were strong enough to turn upon their foes. The
extent of the reaction was tested by the expulsion of Marat from his
brief rest in the Pantheon, and the destruction of his busts all over
the town, by the young men stimulated by Fréron. In March, the great
offenders who had been so hard to reach, Collot d'Herbois, Billaud,
and Barère, were thrown into prison. Carnot defended them, on the
ground that they were hardly worse than himself. The Convention
resolved that they should be sent to Cayenne. Barère escaped on the
way. Fouquier-Tinville came next, and his trial did as much harm to
his party in the spring as that of Carrier in the preceding autumn. He
pleaded that he was but an instrument in the hands of the Committee of
Public Safety, and that as the three members of it, whom he had
obeyed, were only transported, no more could be done to himself. The
tribunal was not bound by the punishments decreed by the Assembly, and
in May Fouquier was executed.

The Montagnards resolved that they would not perish without a
struggle. On April 1 they assailed the Convention, and were repulsed.
A number of the worst were thrown into prison. A more formidable
attack was made on May 20. For hours the Convention was in the power
of the mob, and a deputy was killed in attempting to protect the
president. Members who belonged to the Mountain carried a series of
decrees which gratified the populace. Late at night the Assembly was
rescued. The tumultuous votes were declared non-existent, and those
who had moved them were sent before a military commission. They had
not prompted the sedition, and it was urged that they acted as they
did in order to appease it, and to save the lives of their opponents.
Romme, author of the republican Calendar, was the most remarkable of
these men; and there is some doubt as to their guilt, and the legality
of their sentence. One of them had been visited by his wife, and she
left the means of suicide in his hands. As they left the court, each
of them stabbed himself, and passed the knife in silence to his
neighbour. Before the guards were aware of anything, three were dead,
and the others were dragged, covered with blood, to the place of
execution. It was the 17th of June, and the Girondins were supreme.
Sixty-two deputies had been decreed in the course of the reaction, and
the domination of the Jacobin mob, that is, government by equality
instead of liberty, was at an end. The middle class had recovered
power, and it was very doubtful whether these new masters of France
were willing again to risk the experiment of a republic. That
experiment had proved a dreadful failure, and it was more easy and
obvious to seek relief in the refuge of monarchy than on the
quicksands of fluttering majorities.

The royalists were wreaking vengeance on their enemies in the south,
by what was afterwards known as the White Terror; and they showed
themselves in force at Paris. For a time, every measure helped them
that was taken against the Montagnards, and people used publicly to
say that 8 and 9 are 17, that is, that the revolution of 1789 would
end by the accession of Lewis XVII. Between Girondin and royalist
there was the blood of the king, and the regicides knew what they must
expect from a restoration. The party remained irreconcilable, and
opposed the idea. Their struggle now was not with the Mountain, which
had been laid low, but with their old adversaries the reforming
adherents of Monarchy. But there were some leading men who, from
conviction or, which would be more significant, from policy began to
compound with the exiled princes. Tallien and Cambacérès of the
Mountain, Isnard and Lanjuinais of the Gironde, Boissy d'Anglas of the
Plain, the successful general Pichegru, and the best negotiator in
France Barthélemy, were all known, or suspected, to be making terms
with the Count of Provence at Verona. It was commonly reported that
the Committee was wavering, and that the Constitution would turn
towards monarchy. Breton and Vendean were ready to rise once more,
Pitt was preparing vast armaments to help them; above all, there was a
young pretender who had never made an enemy, whose early sufferings
claimed sympathy from royalist and republican, and who shared no
responsibility for _émigré_ and invader, whom, for the best of
reasons, he had never seen.

Meantime the Republic had improved its position in the world. Its
conquests included the Alps and the Rhine, Belgium, and Holland, and
surpassed the successes of the Monarchy even under Lewis XIV. The
confederacy of kings was broken up. Tuscany had been the first to
treat. Prussia had followed, bringing with it the neutrality of
Northern Germany. Then Holland came, and Spain had opened
negotiations. But with Spain there was a difficulty. There could be no
treaty with a government which detained in prison the head of the
House of Bourbon. As soon as he was delivered up, Spain was ready to
sign and to ratify. Thus in the spring of 1795, the thoughts of men
came to be riveted on the room in the Temple where the king was slowly
and surely dying. The gaoler had asked the Committee what their
intention was. "Do you mean to banish him?" "No." "To kill him?" "No."
"Then," with an oath! "what is it you want?" "To get rid of him." On
May 3, it was reported to the government that the young captive was
ill. Next day, that he was very ill. But he was an obstacle to the
Spanish treaty which was absolutely necessary, and twice the
government made no sign. On the 5th, it was believed that he was in
danger, and then a physician was sent to him. The choice was a good
one, for the man was capable, and had attended the royal family. His
opinion was that nothing could save the prisoner, except country air.
One day he added: "He is lost, but perhaps there are some who will not
be sorry." Three days later Lewis XVII. was living, but the doctor was
dead, and a legend grew up on his grave. It was said that he was
poisoned because he had discovered the dread secret that the boy in
the Temple was not the king. Even Louis Blanc believed that the king
had been secretly released, and that a dying patient from the hospital
had been substituted for him. The belief has been kept alive to this
day. The most popular living dramatist[3] has a play now running at
Paris, in which the king is rescued in a washerwoman's linen basket,
which draws crowds. The truth is that he died on June 8, 1795. The
Republic had gained its purpose. Peace was signed with Spain; and the
friends of monarchy on the Constitutional Committee at once declared
that they would not vote for it.

    [3] Sardou.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the very moment when the Constitution was presented to the Assembly
by Boissy d'Anglas, a fleet of transports under convoy appeared off
the western coast. Pitt had allowed La Vendée to go down in defeat and
slaughter, but at last he made up his mind to help, and it was done on
a magnificent scale. Two expeditions were fitted out, and furnished
with material of war. Each of them carried three or four thousand
_émigrés_ armed and clad by England. One was commanded by d'Hervilly,
whom we have already seen, for it was he who took the order to cease
firing on August 10; the other by young Sombreuil, whose father was
saved in September in the tragic way you have heard. At the head of
them all was the Count de Puisaye, the most politic and influential
of the _émigrés_, a man who had been in touch with the Girondins in
Normandy, who had obtained the ear of ministers at Whitehall, and who
had been washed in so many waters that the genuine, exclusive,
narrow-minded managers of Vendean legitimacy neither understood nor
believed him. They brought a vast treasure in the shape of forged
_assignats_; and in confused memory of the services rendered by the
titular of Agra, they brought a real bishop who had sanctioned the
forgery.

The first division sailed from Cowes on June 10. On the 23rd Lord
Bridport engaged the French fleet and drove it into port. Four days
later the _émigrés_ landed at Carnac, among the early monuments of the
Celtic race. It was a low promontory, defended at the neck by a fort
named after the Duke de Penthièvre, and it could be swept, in places,
by the guns of the fleet. Thousands of Chouans joined; but La Vendée
was suspicious and stood aloof. They had expected the fleet to come to
them, but it had gone to Brittany, and there was jealousy between the
two provinces, between the partisans of Lewis XVIII. and those of his
brother the Count d'Artois, between the priests and the politicians.
The clergy restrained Charette and Stofflet from uniting with Puisaye
and his questionable allies, whom they accused of seeking the crown of
France for the Duke of York; and they promised that, if they waited a
little, the Count d'Artois would appear among them. They effectively
ruined their prospects of success; but Pitt himself had contributed
his share. Puisaye declined to bring English soldiers into his
country, and his scruples were admitted. But, in order to swell his
forces, the frugal minister armed between 1000 and 2000 French
prisoners, who were republicans, but who declared themselves ready to
join, and were as glad to escape from captivity as the government was
to get rid of them. The royalist officers protested against this
alloy, but their objections did not prevail, and when they came to
their own country these men deserted. They pointed out a place where
the republicans could pass under the fort at low water, and enter it
on the undefended side. At night, in the midst of a furious tempest,
the passage was attempted. Hoche's troops waded through the stormy
waters of Quiberon bay, and the tricolor was soon displayed upon the
walls.

The royalists were driven to the extremity of the peninsula. Some, but
not many, escaped in English boats, and it was thought that our fleet
did not do all that it might have done to retrieve a disaster so
injurious to the fame and the influence of England. Sombreuil defended
himself until a republican officer called on him to capitulate. He
consented, for there was no hope; but no terms were made, and it was
in truth an unconditional surrender. Tallien, who was in the camp,
hurried to Paris to intercede for the prisoners. Before going to the
Convention, he went to his home. There his wife told him that she had
just seen Lanjuinais, that Sieyès had brought back from Holland, where
he had negotiated peace, proofs of Tallien's treasonable
correspondence with the Bourbons, and that his life was in danger. He
went at once to the Convention, and called for the summary punishment
of the captured _émigrés_.

Hoche was a magnanimous enemy, both by character and policy, and he
had a deep respect for Sombreuil. He secretly offered to let him
escape. The prisoner refused to be saved without his comrades; and
they were shot down together near Auray, on a spot which is still
known as the field of sacrifice. They were six or seven hundred. The
firing party awakened the echoes of Vendée, for Charette instantly put
his prisoners to death; and the Chouans afterwards contrived to cut
down every man of the four battalions charged with the execution.

The battle of Quiberon took place on July 21, and when all that ensued
was over on August 25, another expedition sailed from Portsmouth with
the Count d'Artois on board. He landed on an island off La Vendée, and
Charette, with fifteen thousand men, marched down to the coast to
receive him, among the haggard veterans of the royal cause. There, on
October 10, a message came from the Prince informing the hero that he
was about to sail away, and to wait in safety for better times. Five
days earlier the question had been fought out and decided at Paris,
and a man had been revealed who was to raise deeper and more momentous
issues than the obsolete controversy between monarchy and republic.
That controversy had been pursued in the constitutional debates under
the fatal influence of the events on the coast of Brittany. The
royalists had displayed their colours, sailing under the British flag,
and the British alliance had not availed them. And they had displayed
a strange political imbecility, contrasting with their spirit and
intelligence in war.

       *       *       *       *       *

The constitutional committee had been elected on April 23 under
different auspices, when the Convention was making terms with Charette
and Cormatin, as well as with the foreign Powers. Sieyès, of
necessity, was the first man chosen; but he was on the governing
committee, and he declined. So did Merlin and Cambacérès, for the same
reason, and the three ablest men in the assembly did not serve.

Eleven moderate but not very eminent men were elected, and the draft
was made chiefly by Daunou, and advocated by Thibaudeau. Daunou was an
ancient oratorian, a studious and thoughtful if not a strong man, who
became keeper of the archives, and lived down to 1840 with a somewhat
usurped reputation for learning. Thibaudeau now began to exhibit great
intelligence, and his writings are among our best authorities for
these later years of the Republic and for the earlier years of the
Empire. The general character of their scheme is that it is influenced
more by experience than by theory, and strives to attach power to
property. They reported on June 23; the debate began on July 4; and on
the 20th Sieyès intervened. His advice turned mainly on the idea of a
constitutional jury, an elective body of about one hundred, to watch
over the Constitution, and to be guardians of the law against the
makers of the law. It was to receive the plaints of minorities and of
individuals against the legislature, and to preserve the spirit of
the organic institutions against the omnipotence of the national
representatives. This memorable attempt to develop in Europe something
analogous to that property of the Supreme Court which was not yet
matured in America, was rejected on August 5, almost unanimously.

The Constitution was adopted by the Convention on August 17. It
included a declaration of duties, founded on confusion, but defended
on the ground that a declaration of rights alone destroys the
stability of the State. And in matters touching religion it innovated
on what had been done hitherto, for it separated Church and State,
leaving all religions to their own resources. The division of powers
was carried farther, for the legislative was divided into two, and the
executive into five. Universal suffrage was restricted; the poorest
were excluded; and after nine years there was to be an educational
test. The law did not last so long. The electoral body, one in two
hundred of the whole constituency, was to be limited to owners of
property. The directors were to be chosen by the legislature.
Practically, there was much more regard for liberty, and less for
equality, than in the former constitutions. The change in public
opinion was shown by the vote on two Houses which only one deputy
opposed.

At the last moment, that there might be no danger from royalism in the
departments, it was resolved that two-thirds of the legislature must
be taken from the Convention. They thus prolonged their own power, and
secured the permanence of the ideas which inspired their action. At
the same time they showed their want of confidence in the republican
feeling of the country, and both exasperated the royalists and gave
them courage to act for themselves. On September 23 the country
accepted the scheme, by a languid vote, but with a large majority.

The new Constitution afforded securities for order and for liberty
such as France had never enjoyed. The Revolution had begun with a
Liberalism which was a passion more than a philosophy, and the first
Assembly endeavoured to realise it by diminishing authority,
weakening the executive, and decentralising power. In the hour of
peril under the Girondins the policy failed, and the Jacobins governed
on the principle that power, coming from the people, ought to be
concentrated in the fewest possible hands and made absolutely
irresistible. Equality became the substitute of liberty, and the
danger arose that the most welcome form of equality would be the equal
distribution of property. The Jacobin statesmen, the thinkers of the
party, undertook to abolish poverty without falling into Socialism.
They had the Church property, which served as the basis of the public
credit. They had the royal domain, the confiscated estates of
emigrants and malignants, the common lands, the forest lands. And in
time of war there was the pillage of opulent neighbours. By these
operations the income of the peasantry was doubled, and it was deemed
possible to relieve the masses from taxation, until, by the immense
transfer of property, there should be no poor in the Republic. These
schemes were at an end, and the Constitution of the year III. closes
the revolutionary period.

The royalists and conservatives of the capital would have acquiesced
in the defeat of their hopes but for the additional article which
threatened to perpetuate power in the hands of existing deputies,
which had been carried by a far smaller vote than that which was given
in favour of the organic law itself. The alarm and the indignation
were extreme, and the royalists, on counting their forces, saw that
they had a good chance against the declining assembly. Nearly thirty
thousand men were collected, and the command was given to an
experienced officer. It had been proposed by some to confer it on the
Count Colbert de Maulevrier, the former employer of Stofflet. This was
refused on the ground that they were not absolutists or _émigrés_, but
Liberals, and partisans of constitutional monarchy, and of no other.

The army of the Convention was scarcely six thousand, and a large body
of Jacobin roughs were among them. The command was bestowed on Menou,
a member of the minority of nobles of 1789. But Menou was disgusted
with his materials, and felt more sympathy with the enemy. He
endeavoured to negotiate, and was deposed, and succeeded by Barras,
the victor in the bloodless battle of Thermidor.

Bonaparte, out of employment, was lounging in Paris, and as he came
out of the theatre he found himself among the men who were holding the
parley. He hurried to headquarters, where the effect of his defining
words upon the scared authorities was such that he was at once
appointed second in command. Therefore, when morning dawned, on
October 5, the Louvre and the Tuileries had become a fortress, and the
gardens were a fortified camp. A young officer who became the most
brilliant figure on the battlefield of Europe--Murat--brought up
cannon from the country. The bridge, and the quay, and every street
that opened on the palace, were so commanded by batteries that they
could be swept by grape-shot. Officers had been sent out for
provisions, for barrels of gunpowder, for all that belongs to hospital
and ambulance. Lest retreat should be cut off, a strong detachment
held the road to St. Cloud; and arms were liberally supplied to the
Convention and the friendly quarter of St. Antoine. The insurgents,
led by dexterous intriguers, but without a great soldier at their
head, could not approach the river; and those who came down from the
opulent centre of the city missed their opportunity. After a sharp
conflict in the Rue St. Honoré, they fled, pursued by nothing more
murderous than blank cartridge; and Paris felt, for the first time,
the grasp of the master. The man who defeated them, and by defeating
them kept the throne vacant, was Bonaparte, through whose genius the
Revolution was to subjugate the Continent.



APPENDIX

THE LITERATURE OF THE REVOLUTION


Before embarking on the stormy sea before us, we ought to be provided
with chart and compass. Therefore I begin by speaking about the
histories of the Revolution, so that you may at once have some idea
what to choose and what to reject, that you may know where we stand,
how we have come to penetrate so far and no farther, what branches
there are that already bear ripe fruit and where it is still ripening
on the tree of knowledge. I desire to rescue you from the writers of
each particular school and each particular age, and from perpetual
dependence on the ready-made and conventional narratives that satisfy
the outer world.

With the growing experience of mankind, the larger curiosity and the
increased resource, each generation adds to our insight. Lesser events
can be understood by those who behold them, great events require time
in proportion to their greatness.

Lamartine once said that the Revolution has mysteries but no enigmas.
It is humiliating to be obliged to confess that those words are no
nearer truth now than when they were written. People have not yet
ceased to dispute about the real origin and nature of the event. It
was the deficit; it was the famine; it was the Austrian Committee; it
was the Diamond Necklace, and the humiliating memories of the Seven
Years' War; it was the pride of nobles or the intolerance of priests;
it was philosophy; it was freemasonry; it was Mr. Pitt; it was the
incurable levity and violence of the national character; it was the
issue of that struggle between classes that constitutes the unity of
the history of France.

Amongst these interpretations we shall have to pick our way; but there
are many questions of detail on which I shall be forced to tell you
that I have no deciding evidence.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the contemporary memoirs, the first historian who wrote with
authority was Droz. He was at work for thirty years, having begun in
1811, when Paris was still full of floating information, and he knew
much that otherwise did not come out until long after his death. He
had consulted Lally Tollendal, and he was allowed to use the memoirs
of Malouet, which were in manuscript, and which are unsurpassed for
wisdom and good faith in the literature of the National Assembly. Droz
was a man of sense and experience, with a true if not a powerful mind;
and his book, in point of soundness and accuracy, was all that a book
could be in the days when it was written. It is a history of Lewis
XVI. during the time when it was possible to bring the Revolution
under control; and the author shows, with an absolute sureness of
judgment, that the turning-point was the rejection of the first
project of Constitution, in September 1789. For him, the Revolution is
contained in the first four months. He meant to write a political
treatise on the natural history of revolutions, and the art of so
managing just demands that unjust and dangerous demands shall acquire
no force. It became a history of rejected opportunities, and an
indictment of the wisdom of the minister and of the goodness of the
king, by a constitutional royalist of the English school. His service
to history is that he shows how disorder and crime grew out of
unreadiness, want of energy, want of clear thought and definite
design. Droz admits that there is a flaw in the philosophy of his
title-page. The position lost in the summer of 1789 was never
recovered. But during the year 1790 Mirabeau was at work on schemes
to restore the monarchy, and it is not plain that they could never
have succeeded. Therefore Droz added a volume on the parliamentary
career of Mirabeau, and called it an appendix, so as to remain true to
his original theory of the fatal limit. We know the great orator
better than he could be known in 1842, and the value of Droz's
excellent work is confined to the second volume. It will stand
undiminished even if we reject the idea which inspired it, and prefer
to think that the cause might have been won, even when it came to
actual fighting, on the 10th of August. Droz's book belongs to the
small number of writings before us which are superior to their fame,
and it was followed by one that enjoyed to the utmost the opposite
fate.

For our next event is an explosion. Lamartine, the poet, was one of
those legitimists who believed that 1830 had killed monarchy, who
considered the Orleans dynasty a sham, and set themselves at once to
look ahead of it towards the inevitable Republic. Talleyrand warned
him to hold himself ready for something more substantial than the
exchange of a nephew for an uncle on a baseless throne. With the
intuition of genius he saw sooner than most men, more accurately than
any man, the signs of what was to come. In six years, he said, we
shall be masters. He was mistaken only by a few weeks. He laid his
plans that, when the time came, he should be the accepted leader. To
chasten and idealise the Revolution, and to prepare a Republic that
should not be a terror to mankind, but should submit easily to the
fascination of a melodious and sympathetic eloquence, he wrote the
_History of the Girondins_. The success was the most instantaneous and
splendid ever obtained by a historical work. People could read nothing
else; and Alexandre Dumas paid him the shrewd compliment of saying
that he had lifted history to the level of romance. Lamartine gained
his purpose. He contributed to institute a Republic that was pacific
and humane, responsive to the charm of phrase, and obedient to the
master hand that wrote the glories of the Gironde. He always believed
that, without his book, the Reign of Terror would have been renewed.

From early in the century to the other day there was a succession of
authors in France who knew how to write as scarcely any but Mr. Ruskin
or Mr. Swinburne have ever written in England. They doubled the
opulence and the significance of language, and made prose more
sonorous and more penetrating than anything but the highest poetry.
There were not more than half a dozen, beginning with Chateaubriand,
and, I fear, ending with Saint Victor. Lamartine became the historian
in this Corinthian school of style, and his purple patches outdo
everything in effectiveness. But it would appear that in French
rhetoric there are pitfalls which tamer pens avoid. Rousseau compared
the Roman Senate to two hundred kings, because his sensitive ear did
not allow him to say three hundred--_trois cents rois_. Chateaubriand,
describing in a private letter his journey to the Alps, speaks of the
moon along the mountain tops, and adds: "It is all right; I have
looked up the Almanac, and find that there was a moon." Paul Louis
Courier says that Plutarch would have made Pompey conquer at Pharsalus
if it would have read better, and he thinks that he was quite right.
Courier's exacting taste would have found contentment in Lamartine. He
knows very well that Marie Antoinette was fifteen when she married the
Dauphin in 1770; yet he affirms that she was the child the Empress
held up in her arms when the Magyar magnates swore to die for their
queen, Maria Theresa. The scene occurred in 1741, fourteen years
before she was born. Histories of literature give the catalogue of his
amazing blunders.

In his declining years he reverted to this book, and wrote an apology,
in which he answered his accusers, and confessed to some passages
which he exhorted them to tear out. There was good ground for
recantation. Writing to dazzle the democracy by means of a bright
halo, with himself in the midst of it, he was sometimes weak in
exposing crimes that had a popular motive. His republicanism was of
the sort that allows no safeguard for minorities, no rights to men
but those which their country gives them. He had been the speaker who,
when the Chamber wavered, rejected the Regency which was the legal
government, and compelled the Duchess of Orleans to fly. When a report
reached him that she had been seized, and he was asked to order her
release, he refused, saying, "If the people ask for her, she must be
given up to them."

In his own defence he showed that he had consulted the widow of
Danton, and had found a witness of the last banquet of the Girondins.
In his book he dramatised the scene, and displayed the various bearing
of the fallen statesmen during their last night on earth. Granier de
Cassagnac pronounced the whole thing a fabrication. It was told by
Nodier who was a professional inventor, and by Thiers who gave no
authority, and none could be found. But there was a priest who sat
outside the door, waiting to offer the last consolations of religion
to the men about to die. Fifty years later he was still living, and
Lamartine found him and took down his recollections. An old Girondin,
whom Charlotte Corday had requested to defend her, and who died a
senator of the Second Empire, Pontécoulant, assured his friends that
Lamartine had given the true colour, had reproduced the times as he
remembered them. In the same way General Dumas approved of Thiers's
10th of August. He was an old soldier of the American war, a statesman
of the Revolution, a trusted servant of Napoleon, whose military
history he wrote, and he left memoirs which we value. But I suspect
that these lingering veterans were easily pleased with clever writers
who brought back the scenes of their early life. There may be truth in
Lamartine's colouring, but on the whole his Girondins live as
literature not as history. And his four volumes on the National
Assembly are a piece of book-making that requires no comment.

Before the thunder of the Girondins had rolled away, they were
followed by two books of more enduring value on the same side. Louis
Blanc was a socialist politician, who helped, after 1840, to cement
that union of socialists and republicans which overthrew the monarchy,
and went to pieces on the barricades of June 1848. Driven into exile,
he settled in London, and spent several years at work in the British
Museum. It was not all a misfortune, as this is what he found there:
it will give you an encouraging idea of the resources that await us on
our path. When Croker gave up his house at the Admiralty on the
accession of the Whigs, he sold his revolutionary library of more than
10,000 pieces to the Museum. But the collector's fever is an ailment
not to be laid by change of government or loss of income. Six years
later Croker had made another collection as large as the first, which
also was bought by the Trustees. Before he died, this incurable
collector had brought together as much as the two previous lots, and
the whole was at last deposited in the same place. There, in one room,
we have about five hundred shelves crowded, on an average, with more
than one hundred and twenty pamphlets, all of them belonging to the
epoch that concerns us. Allowing for duplicates, this amounts to forty
or fifty thousand Revolution tracts; and I believe that there is
nothing equal to it at Paris. Half of them were already there, in time
to be consulted both by Louis Blanc and Tocqueville. Croker's
collection of manuscript papers on the same period was sold for £50 at
his death, and went to what was once the famous library of Middle
Hill.

Louis Blanc was thus able to continue in England the work he had begun
at home, and he completed it in twelve volumes. It contains much
subsidiary detail and many literary references, and this makes it a
useful book to consult. The ponderous mass of material, and the power
of the pen, do not compensate for the weary obtrusion of the author's
doctrine and design.

An eminent personage once said to me that the parliament of his
country was intent on suppressing educational freedom. When I asked
what made them illiberal, he answered, "It is because they are
liberal." Louis Blanc partook of that mixture. He is the expounder of
Revolution in its compulsory and illiberal aspect. He desires
government to be so constituted that it may do everything for the
people, not so restricted that it can do no injury to minorities. The
masses have more to suffer from abuse of wealth than from abuse of
power, and need protection by the State, not against it. Power, in the
proper hands, acting for the whole, must not be restrained in the
interest of a part. Therefore Louis Blanc is the admirer and advocate
of Robespierre; and the tone of his pleading appears at the September
massacres, when he bids us remember St. Bartholomew.

Michelet undertook to vindicate the Revolution at the same time as
Louis Blanc, without his frigid passion, his ostentatious research,
his attention to particulars, but with deeper insight and a stronger
pinion. His position at the archives gave him an advantage over every
rival; and when he lost his place, he settled in the west of France
and made a study of La Vendée. He is regardless of proof, and rejects
as rubbish mere facts that contribute nothing to his argument or his
picture. Because Arras was a clerical town, he calls Robespierre a
priest. Because there are Punic tombs at Ajaccio, he calls Napoleon a
countryman of Hannibal. For him the function of history is judgment,
not narrative. If we submit ourselves to the event, if we think more
of the accomplished deed than of the suggested problem, we become
servile accomplices of success and force. History is resurrection. The
historian is called to revise trials and to reverse sentences, as the
people, who are the subject of all history, awoke to the knowledge of
their wrongs and of their power, and rose up to avenge the past.
History is also restitution. Authorities tyrannised and nations
suffered; but the Revolution is the advent of justice, and the central
fact in the experience of mankind. Michelet proclaims that at his
touch the hollow idols were shattered and exposed, the carrion kings
appeared, unsheeted and unmasked. He says that he has had to swallow
too much anger and too much woe, too many vipers and too many kings;
and he writes sometimes as if such diet disagreed with him. His
imagination is filled with the cruel sufferings of man, and he hails
with a profound enthusiasm the moment when the victim that could not
die, in a furious act of retribution, avenged the martyrdom of a
thousand years. The acquisition of rights, the academic theory,
touches him less than the punishment of wrong. There is no forgiveness
for those who resist the people rising in the consciousness of its
might. What is good proceeds from the mass, and what is bad from
individuals. Mankind, ignorant in regard to nature, is a righteous
judge of the affairs of man. The light which comes to the learned from
reflection comes to the unlearned more surely by natural inspiration;
and power is due to the mass by reason of instinct, not by reason of
numbers. They are right by dispensation of heaven, and there is no
pity for their victims, if you remember the days of old. Michelet had
no patience with those who sought the pure essence of the Revolution
in religion. He contrasts the agonies with which the Church aggravated
the punishment of death with the swift mercy of the guillotine, and
prefers to fall into Danton's hands rather than into those of Lewis
IX. or Torquemada.

With all this, by the real sincerity of his feeling for the multitude,
by the thoroughness of his view and his intensely expressive language,
he is the most illuminating of the democratic historians. We often
read of men whose lives have been changed because a particular book
has fallen into their hands, or, one might say, because they have
fallen into the hands of a particular book. It is not always a happy
accident; and one feels that things would have gone otherwise with
them if they had examined Sir John Lubbock's List of Best Books, or
what I would rather call the St. Helena library, containing none but
works adequate and adapted to use by the ablest man in the full
maturity of his mind. Of such books, that are strong enough, in some
eminent quality, to work a change and form an epoch in a reader's
life, there are two, perhaps, on our revolutionary shelf. One is
Taine, and the other Michelet.

The fourth work of the revolutionary party, that was written almost
simultaneously with these, is that of Villiaumé. Lamartine esteemed
Vergniaud. Louis Blanc esteemed Robespierre, Michelet, Danton.
Villiaumé went a step farther, and admired Marat. He had lived much in
the surviving families of revolutionary heroes, and received, he says,
the last breath of an expiring tradition. He had also gathered from
Chateaubriand what he remembered; and Thierry, who was blind, caused
his book to be read to him twice over.

The account of Marat in the 28th volume of Buchez was partly written
by Villiaumé, and was approved by Albertine Marat. The great
bibliographical curiosity in the literature of the Revolution is
Marat's newspaper. It was printed often in hiding-places and under
difficulties, and is so hard to find that, a few years ago, the Paris
library did not possess a complete set. A bookseller once told me that
he had sold it to an English statesman for £240. Marat's own copy,
corrected in his handwriting, and enriched with other matter, was
preserved by his sister. In 1835 she made it over to Villiaumé, who,
having finished his book, sold it in 1859 for £80 to the collector
Solar. Prince Napoleon afterwards owned it; and at last it made its
way to an ancient Scottish castle, where I had the good fortune to
find it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whilst the revolutionary historians, aided by public events, were
predominating in France, the conservatives competed obscurely, and at
first without success. Genoude was for many years editor of the
leading royalist journal, and in that capacity initiated a remarkable
phase of political thought. When the Bourbons were cast out under the
imputation of incurable absolutism, the legitimists found themselves
identified with a grudging liberality and a restricted suffrage, and
stood at a hopeless disadvantage. In the _Gazette de France_ Genoude
at once adopted the opposite policy, and overtrumped the liberal
Orleanists. He argued that a throne which was not occupied by right of
inheritance, as a man holds his estate, could only be made legitimate
by the expressed will of France. Therefore he insisted on an appeal to
the nation, on the sovereignty of the people, on the widest extension
of the franchise. When his friend Courmenin drew up the Constitution
of 1848, it was Genoude who induced him to adopt the new practice of
universal suffrage, which was unknown to the Revolution. Having lost
his wife, he took orders. All this, he said one day, will presently
come to an end, not through the act of a soldier or an orator, but of
a Cardinal. And he drank to the memory of Richelieu.

The notion of a legitimate throne, restored by democracy, which was
borrowed from Bolingbroke, and which nearly prevailed in 1873, gives
some relief and originality to his work on the Revolution. You are not
likely to meet with it. When Talleyrand's _Memoirs_ appeared, most
people learnt for the first time that he went at night to offer his
services to the king, to get the better of the Assembly. The editor
placed the event in the middle of July. Nobody seemed to know that the
story was already told by Genoude, and that he fixed the midnight bid
for power at its proper date, a month earlier.

The history of Amédée Gabourd is a far better book, and perhaps the
best of its kind. Gabourd had previously written a history of France,
and his many volumes on the nineteenth century, with no pretension in
point of research, are convenient for the lower range of countries and
events. He writes with the care, the intelligence, the knowledge of
the work of other men, which distinguish Charles Knight's _Popular
History of England_. I have known very deep students indeed who were
in the habit of constantly using him. He says, with reason, that no
writer has sought truth and justice with more perfect good faith, or
has been more careful to keep aloof from party spirit and accepted
judgments. As he was a constitutionalist, the revolution of February
was the ruin of a system which he expected to last for ever, and to
govern the last age of the world. But Gabourd remained true to his
principles. He wrote: "I shall love the people, and honour the king;
and I shall have the same judgment on the tyranny from above and the
tyranny from below. I am not one of those who set a chasm between
liberty and religion, as if God would accept no worship but that of
servile hearts. I shall not oppose the results of the event which I
describe, or deny the merit of what had been won at the price of so
much suffering."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Doctrinaires were of all men in the best position to understand
the Revolution and to judge it rightly. They had no weakness for the
ancient monarchy, none for the republic; and they accepted the results
rather than the motives. They rejoiced in the reign of reason, but
they required the monarchy duly limited, and the church as established
by the Concordat, in order to resume the chain of history and the
reposing influence of custom. They were the most intellectual group of
statesmen in the country; but, like the Peelites, they were leaders
without followers, and it was said of them that they were only four,
but pretended to be five, to strike terror by their number. Guizot,
the greatest writer among them, composed, in his old age, a history of
France for his grandchildren. It was left incomplete, but his
discourses on the Revolution, the topic he had thought about all his
life, were edited by his family. These tales of a grandfather are not
properly his work, and, like the kindred and coequal lectures of
Niebuhr, give approximately the views of a man so great that it is a
grief not to possess them in authentic form.

Instead of Guizot, our Doctrinaire historian is Barante. He had the
distinction and the dignity of his friends, their book learning, and
their experience of public affairs; and his work on the dukes of
Burgundy was praised, in the infancy of those studies, beyond its
merit in early life he had assisted Madame de la Rochejaquelein to
bring out her _Memoirs_. His short biography of Saint Priest,
Minister of the Interior in the first revolutionary year, is a
singularly just and weighty narrative. After 1848 he published nine
volumes on the Convention and the Directory. Like the rest of his
party, Barante had always acknowledged the original spirit of the
Revolution as the root of French institutions. But the movement of
1848, directed as it was against the Doctrinaires, against their
monarchy and their ministry, had much developed the conservative
element which was always strong within them.

In those days Montalembert succeeded Droz at the Academy, and took the
opportunity to attack, as he said, not 1793 but 1789. He said that
Guizot, the most eloquent of the immortals, had not found a word to
urge in reply. On this level, and in opposition to the revival of
Jacobin ideas and the rehabilitation of Jacobin character, Barante
composed his work. It was a great occasion, as the tide had been
running strongly the other way; but the book, coming from such a man,
is a disappointment. In the trial of the king adverse points are
slurred over, as if a historian could hold a brief. A more powerful
writer of conservative history appeared about the same time in
Heinrich von Sybel.

       *       *       *       *       *

About the middle of the fifties, when Sybel's earlier volumes were
coming out, the deeper studies began in France with Tocqueville. He
was the first to establish, if not to discover, that the Revolution
was not simply a break, a reversal, a surprise, but in part a
development of tendencies at work in the old monarchy. He brought it
into closer connection with French history, and believed that it had
become inevitable, when Lewis XVI. ascended the throne, that the
success and also the failure of the movement came from causes that
were at work before. The desire for political freedom was sincere but
adulterated. It was crossed and baffled by other aims. The secondary
and subordinate liberties embarrassed the approach to the supreme goal
of self-government. For Tocqueville was a Liberal of the purest
breed--a Liberal and nothing else, deeply suspicious of democracy and
its kindred, equality, centralisation and utilitarianism. Of all
writers he is the most widely acceptable, and the hardest to find
fault with. He is always wise, always right, and as just as Aristides.
His intellect is without a flaw, but it is limited and constrained. He
knows political literature and history less well than political life;
his originality is not creative, and he does not stimulate with gleams
of new light or unfathomed suggestiveness.

Two years later, in 1858, a work began to appear which was less new
and less polished than Tocqueville's, but is still more instructive
for every student of politics. Duvergier de Hauranne had long
experience of public life. He remembered the day when he saw Cuvier
mount the tribune in a black velvet suit and speak as few orators have
spoken, and carry the electoral law which was the Reform Bill of 1817.
Having quarrelled with the Doctrinaires, he led the attack which
overthrew Guizot, and was one of three on whom Thiers was relying to
save the throne, when the king went away in a cab and carried the
dynasty with him. He devoted the evening of his life to a history of
parliamentary government in France, which extends in ten volumes to
1830, and contains more profound ideas, more political science, than
any other work I know in the compass of literature. He analyses every
constitutional discussion, aided by much confidential knowledge, and
the fullest acquaintance with pamphlets and leading articles. He is
not so much at home in books; but he does not allow a shade of
intelligent thought or a valid argument to escape him. During the
Restoration, the great controversy of all ages, the conflict between
reason and custom was fought out on the higher level. The question at
that time was not which of the two should prevail, but how they should
be reconciled, and whether rational thought and national life could be
made to harmonise. The introductory volume covers the Revolution, and
traces the progress and variation of views of government in France,
from the appearance of Sieyès to the elevation of Napoleon.

Laboulaye was a man of like calibre and measurements, whom
Waddington, when he was minister, called the true successor of
Tocqueville. Like him he had saturated himself with American ideas,
and like him he was persuaded that the revolutionary legacy of
concentrated power was the chief obstacle to free institutions. He
wrote, in three small volumes, a history of the United States, which
is a most intelligent abstract of what he had learnt in Bancroft and
Hildreth. He wrote with the utmost lucidity and definiteness, and
never darkened counsel with prevaricating eloquence, so that there is
no man from whom it is so easy and so agreeable to learn. His lectures
on the early days of the Revolution were published from time to time
in a review, and, I believe, have not been collected. Laboulaye was a
scholar as well as a statesman, and always knew his subject well, and
as a guide to the times we can have none more helpful than his
unfinished course.

       *       *       *       *       *

The event of the English competition is the appearance of Carlyle.
After fifty years we are still dependent on him for Cromwell, and in
_Past and Present_ he gave what was the most remarkable piece of
historical thinking in the language. But the mystery of investigation
had not been revealed to him when he began his most famous book. He
was scared from the Museum by an offender who sneezed in the Reading
Room. As the French pamphlets were not yet catalogued, he asked
permission to examine them and to make his selection at the shelves on
which they stood. He complained that, having applied to a respectable
official, he had been refused. Panizzi, furious at being described as
a respectable official, declared that he could not allow the library
to be pulled about by an unknown man of letters. In the end, the usual
modest resources of a private collection satisfied his requirements.
But the vivid gleam, the mixture of the sublime with the grotesque,
make other opponents forget the impatient verdicts and the poverty of
settled fact in the volumes that delivered our fathers from thraldom
to Burke. They remain one of those disappointing stormclouds that
give out more thunder than lightning.

       *       *       *       *       *

The proof of advancing knowledge is the improvement in compendiums and
school books. There are three which must be mentioned. In the middle
of the century Lavallée wrote a history of France for his students at
the Military College. Quoting Napoleon's remark, that the history of
France must be in four volumes or in a hundred, he pronounces in
favour of four. During a generation his work passed for the best of
its kind. Being at St. Cyr, once the famous girls' school, for which
Racine composed his later tragedies, he devoted many years to the
elucidation of Madame de Maintenon, and the recovery of her
interpolated letters. His Revolution is contained in 230 pages of his
fourth volume. There is an abridgment of the like moderate dimensions
by Carnot. He was the father of the President, and the son of the
organiser of victory, who, in 1815, gave the memorable advice to
Napoleon that, if he made a rush at the English, he would find them
scattered and unprepared. He was a militant republican, editor of the
_Memoirs_ of his father, of Grégoire, and of Barère, and M. Aulard
praises his book, with the sympathy of a co-religionist, as the best
existing narrative. Other good republicans prefer what Henri Martin
wrote in continuation of his history of France. I should have no
difficulty in declaring that the seventh volume of the French history
by Dareste is superior to them all; and however far we carry the
process of selection and exclusion, I would never surrender it.

We have seen that there are many able works on either side, and two or
three that are excellent. And there are a few sagacious and impartial
men who keep the narrow path between them: Tocqueville for the origin,
Droz and Laboulaye for the decisive period of 1789, Duvergier de
Hauranne for all the political thinking, Dareste for the great outline
of public events, in peace and war. They amount to no more than five
volumes, and are less than the single Thiers or Michelet, and not half
as long as Louis Blanc. We can easily read them through; and we shall
find that they have made all things clear to us, that we can trust
them, and that we have nothing to unlearn. But if we confine ourselves
to the company of men who steer a judicious middle course, with whom
we find that we can agree, our wisdom will turn sour, and we shall
never behold parties in their strength. No man feels the grandeur of
the Revolution till he reads Michelet, or the horror of it without
reading Taine. But I have kept the best for the end, and will speak of
Taine, and two or three more who rival Taine, next week.

       *       *       *       *       *

After much partial and contentious writing, sagacious men attained a
reasonable judgment on the good and evil, the truth and error, of the
Revolution. The view established by constitutional royalists, like
Duvergier de Hauranne, and by men equidistant from royalist or
republican exclusiveness, such as Tocqueville and Laboulaye, was very
largely shared by intelligent democrats, more particularly by Lanfrey,
and by Quinet in his two volumes on the genius of the Revolution. At
that time, under the Second Empire, there was nothing that could be
called an adequate history. The archives were practically unexplored,
and men had no idea of the amount of labour serious exploration
implies. The first writer who produced original matter from the papers
of the Paris Commune was Mortimer Ternaux, whose eight volumes on the
Reign of Terror came out between 1862 and 1880. What he revealed was
so decisive that it obliged Sybel to rewrite what he had written on
the scenes of September.

When I describe the real study of the Revolution as beginning with
Tocqueville and Ternaux, I mean the study of it in the genuine and
official sources. Memoirs, of course, abounded. There are more than a
hundred. But memoirs do not supply the certainty of history. Certainty
comes with the means of control, and there is no controlling or
testing memoirs without the contemporary document. Down to the middle
of the century, private letters and official documents were rare.
Then, in the early summer of 1851, two important collections appeared
within a few weeks of each other.

First came the _Memoirs_ of Mallet du Pan, a liberal, independent, and
discerning observer, whom, apart from the gift of style, Taine
compares to Burke, and who, like Burke, went over to the other side.

This was followed by Mirabeau's _Secret Correspondence with the
Court_. His prevarication and double-dealing as a popular leader in
the pay of the king had long been known. At least twenty persons were
in the secret. One man, leaving Paris hurriedly, left one paper, the
most important of all, lying about in his room. Unmistakable allusions
were found among the contents of the Iron Chest. One of the ministers
told the story in his _Memoirs_, and a letter belonging to the series
was printed in 1827. La Marck, just before his death, showed the
papers to Montigny, who gave an account of them in his work on
Mirabeau, and Droz moreover knew the main facts from Malouet when he
wrote in 1842. For us the interest of the publication lies not in the
exposure of what was already known, but in the details of his tortuous
and ingenious policy during his last year of life, and of his schemes
to save the king and the constitution. For the revolutionary party,
the posthumous avowal of so much treachery was like the story of the
monk who, dying with the fame of a saint, rose under the shroud during
the funeral service, and confessed before his brethren that he had
lived and died an unrepentant hypocrite.

Still, no private papers could make up for the silence of the public
archives; and the true secrets of government, diplomacy and war,
remained almost intact until 1865. The manner in which they came to be
exhumed is the most curious transaction in the progress of
revolutionary history. It was a consequence of the passion for
autographs and the collector's craze. Seventy thousand autographs were
sold by auction in Paris in the twenty-eight years from 1822 to 1850.
From the days of the Restoration no letters were more eagerly sought
and prized than those of the queen. Royalist society regarded her as
an august, heroic, and innocent victim, and attributed the ruin of
the monarchy to the neglect of her high-minded counsels. It became a
lucrative occupation to steal letters that bore her signature, in
order to sell them to wealthy purchasers. Prices rose steadily. A
letter of the year 1784, which fetched fifty-two francs in 1850, was
sold for one hundred and seven in 1857, and for one hundred and fifty
in 1861. In 1844 one was bought for two hundred francs, and another
for three hundred and thirty. A letter to the Princess de Lamballe,
which fetched seven hundred francs in 1860, went up to seven hundred
and sixty in 1865, when suspicion was beginning to stir. In all,
forty-one letters from the queen to Mme. de Lamballe have been in the
market, and not one of them was genuine. When it became worth while to
steal, it was still more profitable to forge, for then there was no
limit to the supply.

In her lifetime the queen was aware that hostile _émigrés_ imitated
her hand. Three such letters were published in 1801 in a worthless
book called _Madame de Lamballe's Memoirs_. Such forgeries came into
the market from the year 1822. The art was carried to the point that
it defied detection, and the credulity of the public was insatiable.
In Germany a man imitated Schiller's writing so perfectly that
Schiller's daughter bought his letters as fast as they could be
produced. At Paris the nefarious trade became active about 1839.

On March 15, 1861, a facsimilist, Betbeder, issued a challenge,
undertaking to execute autographs that it would be impossible to
detect, by paper, ink, handwriting, or text. The trial came off in the
presence of experts, and in April 1864 they pronounced that his
imitations could not be distinguished from originals. In those days
there was a famous mathematician whose name was Chasles. He was
interested in the history of geometry, and also in the glory of
France, and a clever genealogist saw his opportunity. He produced
letters from which it appeared that some of Newton's discoveries had
been anticipated by Frenchmen who had been robbed of their due fame.
M. Chasles bought them, with a patriotic disregard for money; and he
continued to buy, from time to time, all that the impostor, Vrain
Lucas, offered him. He laid his documents before the Institute, and
the Institute declared them genuine. There were autograph letters from
Alexander to Aristotle, from Cæsar to Vercingetorix, from Lazarus to
St. Peter, from Mary Magdalen to Lazarus. The fabricator's imagination
ran riot, and he produced a fragment in the handwriting of Pythagoras,
showing that Pythagoras wrote in bad French. At last other learned
men, who did not love Chasles, tried to make him understand that he
had been befooled. When the iniquity came to light, and the culprit
was sent to prison, he had flourished for seven years, had made
several thousand pounds, and had found a market for 27,000 unblushing
forgeries.

About the time when this mysterious manufacture was thriving, Count
Hunolstein bought one hundred and forty-eight letters from Marie
Antoinette, of a Paris dealer, for £3400, and he published them in
June 1864. Napoleon III. and the Empress Eugénie, whose policy it was
to conciliate legitimists whom the Italian Revolution offended,
exhibited a cultivated interest in the memory of the unhappy queen;
and it happened that a high official of their Court, M. Feuillet de
Conches, was zealous in the same cause. He began his purchases as
early as 1830, and had obtained much from the Thermidorean, Courtois,
who had had Robespierre's papers in his hands. Wachsmuth, who went to
Paris in 1840 to prepare his historical work, reported in German
reviews on the value of Feuillet's collection; and in 1843 he was
described as the first of French autographophiles--the term is not of
my coining. It was known that he meditated a publication on the royal
family. He travelled all over Europe, and was admitted to make
transcripts and facsimiles in many places that were jealously guarded
against intruders. His first volume appeared two months later than
Hunolstein's, and his second in September. During that summer and
autumn royalism was the fashion, and enjoyed a season of triumph.
Twenty-four letters were common to both collections; and as they did
not literally agree, troublesome people began to ask questions.

The one man able to answer them was Arneth, then deputy keeper of the
archives at Vienna, who was employed laying down the great history of
Maria Theresa that has made him famous. For the letters written by
Marie Antoinette to her mother and her family had been religiously
preserved, and were in his custody. Before the end of the year Arneth
produced the very words of the letters, as the Empress received them;
and then it was discovered that they were quite different from those
which had been printed at Paris.

An angry controversy ensued, and in the end it became certain that
most of Hunolstein's edition, and part of Feuillet's, was fabricated
by an impostor. It was whispered that the supposed originals sold by
Charavay, the dealer, to Hunolstein came to him from Feuillet de
Conches. Sainte Beuve, who had been taken in at first, and had
applauded, thereupon indignantly broke off his acquaintance, and
published the letter in which he did it. Feuillet became more wary.
His four later volumes are filled with matter of the utmost value; and
his large collection of the illegible autographs of Napoleon were sold
for £1250 and are now at The Durdans.

It is in this way that the roguery of a very dexterous thief resulted
in the opening of the imperial archives, in which the authentic
records of the Revolution are deposited. For the emperors, Joseph and
Leopold, were the queen's brothers; her sister was regent in the Low
Countries, the family ambassador was in her confidence, and the events
that brought on the great war, and the war itself, under Clerfayt,
Coburg, and the Archduke Charles, can be known there and there only.
Once opened, Arneth never afterwards allowed the door to be closed on
students. He published many documents himself, he encouraged his
countrymen to examine his treasures, and he welcomed, and continues to
welcome, the scholars of Berlin. Thirty or forty volumes of Austrian
documents, which were brought to light by the act of the felonious
Frenchman, constitute our best authority for the inner and outer
history of the Revolution and of the time that preceded it. The French
Foreign Office is less communicative. The papers of their two ablest
diplomatists, Barthélemy and Talleyrand, have been made public,
besides those of Fersen, Maury, Vaudreuil, and many _émigrés_; and the
letters of several deputies to their constituents are now coming out.

Next to the Austrian, the most valuable of the diplomatists are the
Americans, the Venetians, and the Swede, for he was the husband of
Necker's illustrious daughter. This change in the centre of gravity
which went on between 1865 and 1885 or 1890, besides directing renewed
attention to international affairs, considerably reduced the value of
the memoirs on which the current view of our history was founded. For
memoirs are written afterwards for the world, and are clever,
apologetic, designing and deceitful. Letters are written at the
moment, and are confidential, and therefore they enable us to test the
truth of the memoirs. In the first place, we find that many of them
are not authentic, or are not by the reputed author. What purports to
be the memoirs of Prince Hardenberg is the composition of two
well-informed men of letters, Beauchamp and d'Allouville. Beauchamp
also wrote the book known as the _Memoirs of Fouché_. Those of
Robespierre are by Reybaud, and those of Barras by Rousselin. Roche
wrote the memoirs of Levasseur de la Sarthe, and Lafitte those of
Fleury. Cléry, the king's confidential valet, left a diary which met
with such success that somebody composed his pretended memoirs. Six
volumes attributed to Sanson, the executioner, are of course spurious.

When Weber's _Memoirs_ were republished in the long collection of
Baudoin, Weber protested and brought an action. The defendant denied
his claim, and produced evidence to prove that the three first
chapters are by Lally Tollendal. It does not always follow that the
book is worthless because the title-page assigns it to a man who is
not the author. The real author very often is not to be trusted.
Malouet is one of those men, very rare in history, whose reputation
rises the more we know him; and Dumont of Geneva was a sage observer,
the confidant, and often the prompter, of Mirabeau. Both are
misleading, for they wrote long after, and their memory is constantly
at fault. Dumouriez wrote to excuse his defection, and Talleyrand to
cast a decent veil over actions which were injurious to him at the
Restoration. The Necker family are exasperating, because they are
generally wrong in their dates. Madame Campan wished to recover her
position, which the fall of the Empire had ruined. Therefore some who
had seen her manuscript have affirmed that the suppressed passages
were adverse to the queen; for the same reason that, in the Fersen
correspondence, certain expressions are omitted and replaced by
suspicious asterisks. Ferrières has always been acknowledged as one of
the most trustworthy witnesses. It is he who relates that, at the
first meeting after the oath, the deputies were excluded from the
tennis-court in order that the Count d'Artois might play a match. We
now find, from the letters of a deputy recently published, that the
story of this piece of insolence is a fable. The clergy had made known
that they were coming, and it was thought unworthy of such an occasion
to receive a procession of ecclesiastics in a tennis-court; so the
deputies adjourned to a neighbouring church.

Montlosier, who was what Burke called a man of honour and a cavalier,
tells us that his own colleague from Auvergne was nearly killed in a
duel, and kept his bed for three months. Biauzat, the fellow-townsman
of the wounded man, writes home that he was absent from the Assembly
only ten days. The point of the matter is that the adversary whose
hand inflicted the wound was Montlosier himself.

The narrative which Madame Roland drew up in prison, as an appeal to
posterity, is not a discreet book, but it does not reveal the secret
of her life. It came out in 1863, when three or four letters were put
up for sale at auction, and when, shortly after, a miniature, with
something written on it, was found amid the refuse of a greengrocer's
shop. They were the letters of Madame Roland, which Buzot had sent to
a place of safety before he went out and shot himself; and the
miniature was her portrait, which he had worn in his flight.

Bertrand, the Minister of Marine, relates that the queen sent to the
emperor to learn what he would do for their deliverance, and he
publishes the text of the reply which came back. For a hundred years
that document has been accepted as the authentic statement of
Leopold's intentions. It was the document which the messenger brought
back, but not the reply which the emperor gave. That reply, very
different from the one that has misled every historian, was discovered
by Arneth, and was published two years ago by Professor Lenz, who
lectures on the Revolution to the fortunate students of Berlin. Sybel
inserted it in his review, and rewrote Lenz's article, which upset an
essential part of his own structure.

The Marquis de Bouillé wrote his recollections in 1797, to clear
himself from responsibility for the catastrophe of Varennes. The
correspondence, preserved among Fersen's papers, shows that the
statements in his _Memoirs_ are untrue. He says that he wished the
king to depart openly, as Mirabeau had advised; that he recommended
the route by Rheims, which the king rejected; and that he opposed the
line of military posts, which led to disaster. The letters prove that
he advised secret departure, the route of Varennes, and the cavalry
escort.

       *       *       *       *       *

The general characteristic of the period I am describing has been the
breakdown of the Memoirs, and our emancipation from the authority of
the writers who depended on them. That phase is represented by the
three historians, Sybel, Taine, and Sorel. They distanced their
predecessors, because they were able to consult much personal, and
much diplomatic, correspondence. They fell short of those who were to
come, because they were wanting in official information.

Sybel was Ranke's pupil, and he had learnt in the study of the Middle
Ages, which he disliked, to root out the legend and the fable and the
lie, and to bring history within the limits of evidence. In early life
he exploded the story of Peter the Hermit and his influence on the
Crusades, and in the same capacity it was he who exposed the
fabrication of the queen's letters. Indeed he was so sturdy a critic
that he scorned to read the fictitious Hardenberg, although the work
contains good material. He more than shared the unspiritual temper of
the school, and fearing alike the materialistic and the religious
basis of history, he insisted on confining it to affairs of state.
Having a better eye for institutions than his master, and an intellect
adapted to affairs, he was one of the first to turn from the study of
texts to modern times and burning questions. In erudition and remote
research he fully equalled those who were scholars and critics, and
nothing else; but his tastes called him to a different career. He said
of himself that he was three parts a politician, so that only the
miserable remnant composed the professor. Sybel approached the
Revolution through Burke, with essays on his French and Irish policy.
He stood firmly to the doctrine that men are governed by descent, that
the historic nation prevails invincibly over the actual nation, that
we cannot cast off our pedigree. Therefore the growth of things in
Prussia seemed to him to be almost normal, and acceptable in contrast
with the condition of a people which attempted to constitute itself
according to its own ideas. Political theory as well as national
antagonism allowed him no sympathy with the French, and no wonder he
is generally under-estimated in France. He stands aloof from the
meridian of Paris, and meditates high up in Central Europe on the
conflagration of 1789, and the trouble it gave to the world in
general. The distribution of power in France moves him less than the
distribution of power in Europe, and he thinks forms of government
less important than expansion of frontier. He describes the fall of
Robespierre as an episode in the partition of Poland. His endeavour is
to assign to the Revolution its place in international history.

Once it was said, in disparagement of Niebuhr and other historians,
that when you ask a German for a black coat he offers you a white
sheep, and leaves you to effect the transformation yourself. Sybel
belongs to a later age, and can write well, but heavily, and without
much light or air. His introduction, published in 1853, several years
before the volume of Tocqueville, has so much in common with it, that
it was suggested that he might have read the earlier article by
Tocqueville, which John Mill translated for the _Westminster Review_.
But Sybel assured me that he had not seen it. He had obtained access
to important papers, and when he became a great public personage,
everything was laid open before him. In diplomatic matters he is very
far ahead of all other writers, except Sorel. Having been an
opposition leader, and what in Prussia is called a Liberal, he went
over to Bismarck, and wrote the history of the new German Empire under
his inspiration, until the Emperor excluded him from the archives, of
which, for many active years, he had been the head. His five volumes,
not counting various essays written in amplification or defence,
stand, in the succession of histories, by dint of constant revision,
at a date near the year 1880. For a time they occupied the first
place. In successive editions errors were weeded out as fast as they
could be found; and yet, even in the fourth, Mounier, who, as
everybody knows, was elected for Dauphiné, is called the deputy from
Provence. Inasmuch as he loves neither Thiers nor Sieyès, Sybel
declares it absurd to compare, as Thiers has done, the Constitution of
1799 to the British Constitution. In the page alluded to, one of the
most thoughtful in the Consulate and Empire, Thiers is so far from
putting the work of Sieyès on the British level, that his one purpose
is to display the superiority of a government which is the product of
much experiment and incessant adaptation to the artificial outcome of
political logic.

Sybel's view is that the Revolution went wrong quite naturally, that
the new order was no better than the old, because it proceeded from
the old, rose from an exhausted soil, and was worked by men nurtured
in the corruption of the old _régime_. He uses the Revolution to
exhibit the superiority of conservative and enlightened Germany. And
as there is little to say in favour of Prussia, which crowned an
inglorious war by an inglorious peace, he produced his effect by
piling up to the utmost the mass of French folly and iniquity. And
with all its defects, it is a most instructive work. A countryman, who
had listened to Daniel Webster's Bunker Hill oration, described it by
saying that every word weighed a pound. Almost the same thing might be
said of Sybel's history, not for force of language or depth of
thought, but by reason of the immense care with which every passage
was considered and all the evidence weighed. The author lived to see
himself overtaken and surpassed, for internal history by Taine, and
for foreign affairs by Sorel.

Taine was trained in the systems of Hegel and Comte, and his
fundamental dogma was the denial of free will and the absolute
dominion of physical causes over the life of mankind. A violent effort
to shape the future by intention and design, and not by causes that
are in the past, seemed to him the height of folly. The idea of
starting fresh, from the morrow of creation, of emancipating the
individual from the mass, the living from the dead, was a defiance of
the laws of nature. Man is civilised and trained by his surroundings,
his ancestry, his nationality, and must be adapted to them. The
natural man, whom the Revolution discovered and brought to the
surface, is, according to Taine, a vicious and destructive brute, not
to be tolerated unless caught young, and perseveringly disciplined and
controlled.

Taine is not a historian, but a pathologist, and his work, the most
scientific we possess, and in part the most exhaustive, is not
history. By his energy in extracting formulas and accumulating
knowledge, by the crushing force with which he masses it to sustain
conclusions, he is the strongest Frenchman of his time, and his
indictment is the weightiest that was ever drawn up. For he is no
defender of the Monarchy or of the Empire, and his cruel judgments
are not dictated by party. His book is one of the ablest that this
generation has produced. It is no substitute for history. The
consummate demonstrator, concentrated on the anatomy of French brains,
renounces much that we need to be told, and is incompetent as to the
literature and the general affairs of Europe. Where Taine failed Sorel
has magnificently succeeded, and he has occupied the vacant place both
at the Academy and in his undisputed primacy among writers on the
Revolution. He is secretary to the Senate, and is not an abstract
philosopher, but a politician, curious about things that get into
newspapers and attract the public gaze. Instead of investigating the
human interior, he is on the look-out across the Alps and beyond the
Rhine, writing, as it were, from the point of view of the Foreign
Office. He is at his best when his pawns are diplomatists. In the
process of home politics, and the development of political ideas, he
does not surpass those who went before him. Coming after Sybel, he is
somewhat ahead of him in documentary resource. He is more friendly to
the principles of the Revolution, without being an apologist, and is
more cheerful, more sanguine, and pleasanter to read. A year ago I
said that, Sybel and Taine being dead, Sorel is our highest living
authority. To-day I can no longer use those words.

On Ranke's ninetieth birthday, Mommsen paid him this compliment: "You
are probably the last of the universal historians. Undoubtedly you are
the first." This fine saying was double-edged, and intended to
disparage general histories; but it is with a general history that I
am going to conclude what I have to say on the literature of the
Revolution. In the eighth volume of the _General History_, now
appearing in France, Aulard gives the political outline of the
Revolution. It may be called the characteristic product of the year
1889. When the anniversary came round, for the hundredth time, and
found the Republic securely established, and wielding a power never
dreamed of by the founders, men began to study its history in a new
spirit. Vast pains and vast sums were expended in collecting,
arranging, printing, the most authentic and exact information; and
there was less violence and partiality, more moderation and sincerity,
as became the unresisted victor. In this new school the central figure
was M. Aulard. He occupies the chair of revolutionary history at
Paris; he is the head of the society for promoting it; the editor of
the review, _La Révolution_, now in its thirty-first volume; and he
has published the voluminous acts of the Jacobin Club and of the
Committee of Public Safety. Nobody has ever known the printed material
better than he, and nobody knows the unpublished material so well. The
cloven hoof of party preference appears in a few places. He says that
the people wrought vengeance after the manner of their kings; and he
denies the complicity of Danton in the crimes of September. As Danton
himself admitted his guilt to no less a witness than the future king
of the French, this is a defiance of a main rule of criticism that a
man shall be condemned out of his own mouth. Aulard's narrative is not
complete, and lacks detail; but it is intelligent and instructive
beyond all others, and shows the standard that has been reached by a
century of study.

Where then do we now stand, and what is the elevation that enables us
to look down on men who, the other day, were high authorities? We are
at the end, or near the end, of the supply of Memoirs; few are known
to exist in manuscript. Apart from Spain, we are advanced in respect
of diplomatic and international correspondence; and there is abundant
private correspondence, from Fersen downwards. But we are only a
little way in the movement for the production of the very acts of the
government of revolutionary France.

To give you an idea of what that means. Thirty years ago the Cahiers,
or Instructions, of 1789 were published in six large volumes. The
editors lamented that they had not found everything, and that a dozen
cahiers were missing in four provinces. The new editor, in his two
volumes of introduction, knows of 120 instructions that were
overlooked by his predecessors in those four regions alone; and he
says that there were 50,000 in the whole of France. One collection is
coming out on the Elections for Paris, another on the Paris Electors,
that is, the body entrusted with the choice of deputies, who thereupon
took over the municipal government of the city and made themselves
permanent. Then there is the series of the acts of the Commune, of the
several governing committees, of the Jacobins, of the war department,
and seven volumes on Vendée alone.

In a few years all these publications will be completed, and all will
be known that ever can be known. Perhaps some one will then compose a
history as far beyond the latest that we possess as Sorel, Aulard,
Rambaud, Flammermont are in advance of Taine and Sybel, or Taine and
Sybel of Michelet and Louis Blanc; or of the best that we have in
English, the three chapters in the second volume of Buckle, or the two
chapters in the fifth volume of Lecky. In that golden age our
historians will be sincere, and our history certain. The worst will be
known, and then sentence need not be deferred. With the fulness of
knowledge the pleader's occupation is gone, and the apologist is
deprived of his bread. Mendacity depended on concealment of evidence.
When that is at an end, fable departs with it, and the margin of
legitimate divergence is narrowed.

Don't let us utter too much evil of party writers, for we owe them
much. If not honest, they are helpful, as the advocates aid the judge;
and they would not have done so well from the mere inspiration of
disinterested veracity. We might wait long if we watched for the man
who knows the whole truth and has the courage to speak it, who is
careful of other interests besides his own, and labours to satisfy
opponents, who can be liberal towards those who have erred, who have
sinned, who have failed, and deal evenly with friend and foe--assuming
that it would be possible for an honest historian to have a friend.



INDEX


Adams, John, 23

Agra, bishop of, 308-9

Aiguillon, Duc de, 99, 154

Alsace, 206, 208, 211

Amsterdam, 329

Anglas, Boissy d', 293, 337-8

Archives, Austrian, 364

Argenson, d', 8-9

Argenteau, Mercy, 147

Armand, Colonel, the Marquis de la Rouerie, 302-3

Arneth, 364

Artois, Comte d', 59, 69, 178-9, 204, 339

Auckland, Lord, 320

Aulard, 371-2


Baillon, 183, 187, 189

Bailly, 71, 74, 88

Bâle, peace of, 327

Barante, 355

Barbaroux, 267

Barentin, 55

Barère, 99, 117, 257, 273, 289, 295, 332, 335

Barnave, 91-3, 109, 191, 195, 200

Barras, 298, 344

Barthélemy, 337, 365

Bastille, 84, 85

Batz, Baron de, 354

Baudot, 280

Bazire, 271

Beaumetz, 128

Bécard, 85

Beccaria, 18

Belgium, 330

Bentham, 106

Bernier, 307-9

Bertrand, 246

Besenval, 84

Beurnonville, 217

Billaud-Varennes, 284, 274, 280-2, 294-5, 333-5

Blanc, Louis, 349-50

Bonchamps, Marquis de, 305, 310-312 ff.

Bordeaux, archbishop of, 102

Bouillé, Marquis de, 174-5, 181, 367

Bouillé, de, the younger, 185

Bourbon, House of, 260, 337, 340

Bourdon, 298

Breteuil, 83, 175, 231

Bridport, Lord, 339

Brissot, 205, 209, 226, 243, 259

Broglie, Marshal de, 80

Brunswick, Duke of, 211, 231

Brussels, 221

Burke, Edmund, 29, 31, 126, 183, 204, 213

Buzot, 249, 267, 334, 367


Cabanis, 268

Calonne, 45, 178-9

Cambacérès, 274, 299, 337, 341

Cambon, 293-4

Campan, Madame, 128

Camus, 105

Carlyle, 358

Carnac, 339

Carnot, 258, 274, 290, 318, 324-6, 334

Carnot the younger, 359

Carrier, 93, 315, 333, 334

Cassagnac, Granier de, 349

Castlereagh, Lord, 324

Cathelineau, 304, 308, 310-11

Cazalès, 75, 110, 193

Cérutti, 92

Chabot, 264

Charette, 237, 304, 307, 310-14, 335, 339-40

Charleroi, 328

Charles, Archduke, 328

Chartres, Duc de, 257

Chateaubriand, 115, 348, 353

Chatelet, Duc de, 101

Chatham, 26-7

Chaumette, 272, 276-7, 278, 280

Chauvelin, 318-19

Choiseul, Duc de, 181, 185

Cholet, battle of, 313

Chouans, Chouannerie, 302, 303, 339-340

Clerfayt, 216-17, 221-2

Clermont, Count Tonnerre de, 82, 98, 102, 230

Clermont, 188-90

Cloots, Anacharsis, 277

Coburg, Prince of, 320, 325-6, 328

Coffinhal, 294, 297, 299

Collot, 289, 292

Condé, 325

Condorcet, 261, 267-8

Cook, Captain, 149

Corday, Charlotte, 265-7, 349

Cordeliers, the, 128, 227, 229

Cormatin, 335, 341

Corsica, 322

Cottereau, 302

Courier, Paul Louis, 348

Courmenin, 354

Couthon, 286, 297-8

Croker, 350

Custine, 220, 253

Cuvier, 357


Damas, 188, 189, 191

Danton, 84, 226, 234, 238, 241, 242-4, 257, 261, 273-8, 282-3, 318, 349,
  352, 372

Dareste, 359

Daunou, 341

Delauney, 85, 86

Delessart, 202, 208-9

Desaix, 325

Desèze, 252

Desmoulins, Camille, 84, 226, 248, 280, 282

Diderot, 31

Domat, 2

Dreux-Brézé, 74

Drouet, 186-8, 191-2

Droz, 346-7, 350

Dumouriez, 209, 215, 221, 222-3, 262, 319, 366

Dunkirk, 320, 326

Dupont de Nemours, 51, 62, 116

Duport, 98, 99, 100, 155


Égalité, Prince, 221

Eglantine, Fabre de, 277

Elbée, de, 303, 305

Elizabeth, Princess, 181, 246

_Émigrés_, the, 129, 178, 201, 240, 260, 313-14, 338-40

Estaing, Count, 127, 136


Favras, Marquis de, 145

_Féderés_, the, 229

Fénelon, 3, 4

Fersen, Count, 176, 182-4, 188, 206, 213, 365-7

Feuillants, 194, 226, 230

Fleurus, battle of, 290, 328

Fontenoy, Madame de, her note to Tallien, 293

Fouché, 289 ff., 324

Foulon, 90

Fouquier-Tinville, 332, 335

Fox, 259, 320

Francis, king of Hungary, 209

Franklin, 126

Frederic William, 211, 219

Fréron, 226


Gabourd, Amédée, 354

Garat, 254

Genoude, 353

George III., 202, 259, 320, 329

Gobel, 171, 277

Godoy, Manuel, 329

Goethe, 218

Goguelat, 189

Gouvion, General, 182-3

Gower, Lord, 155, 318

Grégoire, bishop of Blois, 171, 278

Grenville, 318, 320

Guadeloupe, 322

Guizot, 355

Gustavus III., 178

Guyot, bishop of Agra, 309


Hamilton, Alexander, 34, 36

Hanriot, 295-6, 299

Hauranne, Duvergier de, 357, 359-60

Hayti, island of, 322

Hébert, 272, 276, 281

Herbois, Collot de, 247, 274, 295, 333-335

Hervilly, de, 236, 238, 338

Hoche, 244

Hohenlohe, 329

Holland, 260, 329

Hood, Lord, 315

Howe, Lord, 322

Hunolstein, 363


Isnard, 205, 228, 337


Jansenists, the, 2, 169

Jefferson, 92, 126

Jourdan, 326, 328

Joyeuse, Villaret, 322-3

Jurieu, 2


Kaiserslautern, battle of, 329

Kaunitz, 126, 203, 207-8, 212

Kellermann, 217-28

Kléber, 312-13, 314, 325

Klopstock, 126

Korff, Madame de, 184

Kozsiusko and the Polish insurrection, 328


Laboulaye, 359-360

Lafayette, General, 32, 38, 88, 124, 130, 134, 137, 152, 182, 183, 196,
  201, 229-30, 233

Lally Tollendal, 88, 90-91, 101, 110, 143, 230, 346

La Marck, 131, 147, 155

Lamartine, 345, 347-8

Lamballe, Princess de, 245

Lameth, 109, 155

Lanfrey, 360

Langres, bishop of, 111, 118, 133

La Jaunaye, treaty of, 335

Lanjuinais, 103, 144, 252, 261, 264, 337, 340

Lasource, 262

Latour Maubourg, 191

Lavallée, 359

Lavergne, 215

Lavoisier, 91

Lecointre, 333

Legendre, 226, 228, 264, 298, 333

Léonard, 181, 185, 188

Leopold, 177-8, 202-3, 208, 367

Le Quesnoy, 326

Lescure, 305, 308, 311, 313-15

Lewis XIV., 337

Lewis XVI., 40-43, 49, 72, 75, 87, 89, 118, 140, 170, 180-90, 195, 198,
  204, 206, 227, 228, 231, 232, 233-5, 236-7, 242, 251-3, 255, 346

Lewis XVII., 338

Lewis XVIII., 313, 339

Liancourt, Duc de Rochefoucauld, 87, 233

Limon, 213

Longwy, 215, 242

Louchet, 332

Louis Philippe, 223

Louvet, 250

Lubbock, Sir John, 352

Lubersac, bishop of Chartres, 100, 159

Luckner, General, 229

Luxemburg, Duke of, 61

Lyons, 315, 327


Machault, 42

Mack, Colonel, 325

Mailhe, 251

Maillane, Durand de, 293, 295

Maillard, 129, 131-2, 244

Malesherbes, 42, 252

Mallet du Pan, 212, 361

Malmesbury, 328

Malouet, 51, 54, 230, 346, 366

Mandat, 235

Mantua, 178, 179

Manuel, 248

Marat, 93, 113, 128, 226, 241, 262, 266, 333-5, 353

Marceau, 312, 325

Maret, 275, 319

Marie Antoinette, 55, 59, 131, 138, 140, 141-2, 177-8, 197, 180, 200,
  206-7, 213, 275, 348, 363-4

Marigny, 311

Martin, Henry, 359

Masséna, 274, 325

Maulevrier, Count Colbert de, 343

Maultrot, 3

Maurepas, 43

Maury, Cardinal, 110, 147

Mayence, 312

Menou, 343

Mentz, 326

Mercier de la Rivière, 13

Merlin, 288, 341

Michelet, 351, 360

Mirabeau, 37, 62, 63, 64, 82, 105, 110, 125, 131, 148, 151, 153, 154,
  156-7, 347, 361

Moellendorf, Marshal, 329

Mons, 328

Montagu, 322, 323

Montalembert, 356

Montciel, Terrier de, 226, 229

Montesquieu, 7, 220

Montlosier, 65, 144, 366

Montmédy, 180

Montmorin, 153

Moreau, 274, 325

Morris, 82, 230

Mounier, 60, 61, 95, 109, 111, 118, 122-3, 132-3, 137, 143

Mousson, 251

Murat, 344


Nantes, 311, 333

Napier, 313

Naples, 321

Napoleon Bonaparte, 61, 115, 216, 236, 259, 274, 316, 325-6, 344

Narbonne de Lara, Count, Minister of War, 201-2, 208

Necker, 43, 46, 47, 49, 56, 64, 70, 73, 75, 83, 88, 101, 124, 135

Neerwinden, 325

Ney, Marshal, 325

Niebuhr, 355, 369

Noailles, 87, 99


Orange, the Prince of, 329

Orleans, the Duke of, 135-6, 253

Orleans, the Duchess of, 349


Paine, Tom, 126, 249

Pamiers, bishop of, 175

Panis, 226, 281

Panizzi, 358

Paris, archbishop of, 81, 167

Penthièvre, Duc de, 339

Pétion, 201, 226, 235, 249, 267

Pichegru, 329, 337

Pilnitz, declaration of, 202

Pitt, 210, 216, 254, 314, 318, 321, 329, 338, 346

Pius VI. and the Civil Constitution of the clergy, 170, 172-3

Plain, the deputies of the, 291

Poland, 320

Polignac, the Duchess of, 65, 83, 88

Pontécoulant, 349

Portugal, 321

Précy, 269

Priestly, 248

Prieur, 274

Provence, the Count of, 48, 50, 145-6, 181, 337

Prussia, 329

Puisaye, Count de, 265, 313, 338


Quiberon, battle of, 340

Quinet, 360


Ranke, 371

Raynal, Abbé, 18

Rebecqui, 251

Reinhard, 200

Reynier, 325

Richelieu, Duc de, 135

Rigby, Dr., 86

Robespierre, 117, 226, 270, 273, 275, 278, 280, 284, 285, 294, 298,
  299-300, 330, 332, 351

Rochefoucauld, La, Duke de Liancourt, 87, 233

Rochejaquelein, Henri de la, 305, 309, 314

Roederer, 225, 236-7

Roland, 228, 238, 243, 249, 251, 264

Roland, Madame, 225, 267, 367

Romeuf, 183, 188

Romilly, Sir Samuel, 94

Romme, 277, 336

Rouerie, Marquis de la, 302-3

Rousseau, 14-17, 285, 333, 348

Royer Collard, 122


Saint Victor, 348

Sainte Marie, Miomandre de, 138

Santerre, 226-8, 235

Sardinia, the king of, 220

Sauce, 189

Saumur, 308

Savenay, 315

Scheldt, opening of the, 318

Séchelles, Hérault de, 269, 271, 281

Sémonville, 275

Sergent, 226

Serre, De, 114

Sieyès, 67, 101-2, 110, 119, 121, 159-62, 163, 249, 261, 340-41

Simolin, 208

Smith, Adam, 22

Sombreuil, 246, 338-40

Sorel, 367, 371

Spain, 260, 321, 329, 337

Spencer, Lord, 329

St. Cyr, 325

St. Just, 251, 273, 280-81, 290, 295, 297

St. Ménehould, 186-7

St. Priest, 130, 135-6, 355

Staël, Madame de, 137, 201

Stofflet, 305, 310-11, 314-15, 335, 339

Swiss Guard, 238

Sybel, Heinrich von, 356, 360-70


Taine, 93, 353, 360, 367, 370-71

Talleyrand, bishop of Autun, 69, 75, 79, 110, 156, 167, 171, 319,
  347, 365-6

Tallien, 243, 281, 292, 295, 332, 337, 340

Tallien, Madame, 331

Talmond, Prince de, 314

Target, 116

Ternaux, Mortimer, 360

Thibaudeau, 341

Thierry, 353

Thiers, 357, 369

Thouret, 119, 123

Tocqueville, 157, 350, 356, 359-60

Torfou, 312

Torquemada, 352

Toulon, 315, 321

Toulouse, archbishop of, 46, 148

Tourzel, Madame de, 245

Tronchet, 252

Turgot, 10, 11, 14, 42

Tuscany, 337


Ushant, 290


Vadier, 295

Valenciennes, 312, 325

Valmy, 216, 218

Vancouver Island, 149, 150

Varennes, 120, 179, 189

Vendée, La, 260, 303-4, 334, 337

Verdun, 215, 244

Vergniaud, 209, 225, 223, 231, 238, 249, 253, 261, 267

Versailles, the march to, 129-30

Villaret-Joyeuse, 290

Villiaumé, 353

Vincent, 273, 276

Virieu, 99

Volney, 123

Voulland, 297, 298


Washington, 126

Wattignies, 326

Weber, 246, 365

Webster, Daniel, 25

Weissenburg, 327

Westermann, 226, 238, 281

Wilson, James, 35, 36

Windward Islands, 322

Wurmser, 327


York, the Duke of, 325-6, 328-9, 339


THE END


_Printed by_ R. & R. Clark, Limited, _Edinburgh_.



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

_8vo. 10s. net each._

THE HISTORY OF FREEDOM
AND OTHER ESSAYS

EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

JOHN NEVILLE FIGGIS, Litt.D.
SOMETIME LECTURER IN ST. CATHARINE'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

AND

REGINALD VERE LAURENCE, M.A.
FELLOW AND LECTURER OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE


HISTORICAL
ESSAYS AND STUDIES

EDITED BY

JOHN NEVILLE FIGGIS, Litt.D.
SOMETIME LECTURER IN ST. CATHARINE'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

AND

REGINALD VERE LAURENCE, M.A.
FELLOW AND LECTURER OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

SOME PRESS OPINIONS.

     _GUARDIAN._--"The publication of the literary remains of Lord Acton
     is gradually showing the world his true greatness as an historian,
     and for this we owe our warmest thanks to Mr. Figgis and Mr.
     Laurence. The two volumes before us reveal better than anything
     that has yet been published the extent of Lord Acton's knowledge
     and the force of his mind.... Powerful and closely reasoned essays
     and lectures, which bear on every page the stamp of learning and
     judgment and righteousness, which are worthy of a great scholar and
     a good man."

     _TIMES._--"These volumes must be regarded, not as the support of
     an existing reputation, or as a bid for the establishment of
     posthumous renown, but as the record and memorial of a rare and
     attractive personality. The accurate, insatiable, and broad-minded
     student is revealed; the generous champion of a noble cause which
     has suffered temporary defeat is seen on the field of his eager
     endeavour in controversy with Popes and Cardinals for the sake of
     freedom and truth; and the principles which he brought to the study
     of history or elicited from his observation of men and affairs
     throughout the centuries are set forth for all to read. The
     resulting picture of the great student, the partisan striving for
     impartiality, is admirably put together in a sympathetic and lucid
     introduction supplied by the editors."

     _ATHENÆUM._--"We have said enough to indicate the varied
     attractions of this volume. It shows us, indeed, the great scholar
     at his best, in his wide knowledge, sound judgment, and intense but
     restrained moral fervour. It is a book which does more than add to
     our information: it strengthens and inspires."

     _SPECTATOR._--"These thirty-seven lectures, essays, and reviews are
     but a small part, the editors tell us, of Lord Acton's literary
     'output.' Let us say at once that they are sufficient to convince
     us, if we had needed conviction, of the prodigious learning, the
     consummate literary ability, and the unfailing candour of the
     writer."

     Mr. Oscar Browning in the _CAMBRIDGE REVIEW_.--"The perusal of the
     volumes before us will confirm the opinion already formed by those
     who are best acquainted with Lord Acton, that he was one of the
     most distinguished men of his age, and that he claims to be placed
     in the first rank of English historians."

     _ACADEMY._--"We can imagine no better mental training for any
     reader of history than a study of Lord Acton's methods of inquiry
     and criticisms as exemplified in these learned treatises. The
     teacher of history will find that these two volumes have a value as
     books of reference, which will aid his judgment on many constantly
     recurring historical problems--a reference made easy by the
     admirable indexes, which in themselves are a testimony to the
     immense range of Lord Acton's erudition."

     _DAILY NEWS._--"The present volumes, prefaced by an admirable
     editorial essay, contain a large number of the writings by which
     Acton won the reputation of the most learned Englishman of his
     time, together with addresses and unsigned articles that are little
     known.... The articles and reviews which he contributed to the
     pages of the _English Historical Review_ are reprinted in these
     volumes, and contain the ripest and most valuable work of his life.
     There is, indeed, nothing like them in English historical
     literature."

     _NATION._--"It is no exaggeration to say that Lord Acton's Essays
     are the book of the season, and that their publication is an event.
     Their author stood in the first rank of _Gelehrte_. His reading was
     immense, his memory unfailing. He added to his learning a
     considerable knowledge of affairs and an almost passionate moral
     energy. The former kept him in touch with life, the latter with
     principle; he lived in the world of men without descending to its
     level; he raised and inspired. The works of such a man are of
     public, it is not too much to say of European, interest."

     _MORNING POST._--"Nobody can read these two volumes, so massive in
     their learning, so moving in their grave and eloquent appeal,
     without feeling the moral grandeur of the life of which they form
     the most adequate commemoration. Only one of the papers printed in
     this collection, an address upon the causes of the Franco-Prussian
     War, positively sees the light for the first time, but we question
     whether any one of the other essays was known to the general
     reading public, or whether there are ten historical experts in the
     country who had tracked Lord Acton through the many devious
     periodicals in which he deposited the results of his genius and
     industry. These volumes, then, to all intents and purposes form a
     new book. It is to them, and not to the 'Cambridge Lectures,' that
     we should look for Lord Acton's most finished literary work, for
     the expression of his deepest convictions upon the most profound
     problems of faith and morals, and for the most convincing proofs of
     the wide span of his interests and the inexhaustible arsenal of his
     knowledge. They enable us to understand the animating conception
     which guided his life of arduous toil, and indicate the lines of a
     historical apologetic for the Catholic Church more just, original,
     and profound than any which the writers of the Ultramontane School
     have offered."

     _DAILY TELEGRAPH._--"There is so much of fine thought and brilliant
     expression in these volumes, and so diverse a variety of themes,
     that it is difficult to do more than indicate the treasures which
     they offer to intelligent readers."

_Globe 8vo. 2s. 6d._

A LECTURE ON
THE STUDY OF HISTORY

DELIVERED AT CAMBRIDGE,
JUNE 11, 1895


BY THE SAME AUTHOR

_8vo. 10s. net._

LECTURES
ON
MODERN HISTORY

EDITED WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

JOHN NEVILLE FIGGIS, Litt.D.
SOMETIME LECTURER IN ST. CATHARINE'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

AND

REGINALD VERE LAURENCE, M.A.
FELLOW AND LECTURER OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

SOME PRESS OPINIONS.

     _TIMES._--"The treatment is personal, fresh, and original
     throughout. Lucidity is unfailing. Learning is marshalled behind
     _every_ paragraph, and almost behind every sentence, and yet is
     never obtrusive. The lectures are equally adapted to illuminate the
     scholar and to introduce the novice to the study of the mighty
     scheme of human affairs in its dynamic flow. The selection of
     detail is governed by consummate judgment; and frequently
     information drawn from sources alien to the matter in hand is
     dropped into its place with a sureness and precision which
     astonishes; controversial questions, when introduced, are
     legitimately brought forward as an illustration of historical
     method, and not as the diversions and digressions of an overstocked
     mind."

     _ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW._--"Three hundred years of European
     history are covered in these nineteen lectures, masterpieces of
     lucid statement, of suggestive and stimulating criticism.
     Everywhere, whether the lecturer be sketching the salient features
     of the sixteenth century or of the eighteenth, whether he be
     dealing with Italy or America, we feel the sureness of touch of one
     who is familiar with every detail. Although we may often not agree
     with his trenchant judgments, with his paradoxes, or even with his
     interpretation of the teaching of history, we are made to feel that
     his ample knowledge would never have been at a loss for weighty
     arguments in answer to every objection."

     _TRIBUNE._--"The pages abound in indispensable corrections of
     popular and pedagogic errors, and in revelations of new facts. No
     one could do this so well as Acton, because no historical scholar
     who ever lived kept himself so well abreast of Continental research
     or so completely in touch with the world of scholars. All archives
     were open to him, and all archivists put their knowledge at his
     disposal; wealth, social position, and leisure gave him advantages
     denied to almost every other scholar."

MACMILLAN AND CO., Ltd., LONDON.





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