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Title: Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Volume I.
Author: Scott, Walter
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Napoleons Logement Qua Cont]




The extent and purpose of this Work, have, in the course of its
progress, gradually but essentially changed from what the Author
originally proposed. It was at first intended merely as a brief and
popular abstract of the life of the most wonderful man, and the most
extraordinary events, of the last thirty years; in short, to emulate the
concise yet most interesting history of the great British Admiral, by
the Poet-Laureate of Britain.[1] The Author was partly induced to
undertake the task, by having formerly drawn up for a periodical
work--"The Edinburgh Annual Register"--the history of the two great
campaigns of 1814 and 1815; and three volumes were the compass assigned
to the proposed work. An introductory volume, giving a general account
of the Rise and Progress of the French Revolution, was thought
necessary; and the single volume, on a theme of such extent, soon
swelled into two.

As the Author composed under an anonymous title, he could neither seek
nor expect information from those who had been actively engaged in the
changeful scenes which he was attempting to record; nor was his object
more ambitious than that of compressing and arranging such information
as the ordinary authorities afforded. Circumstances, however,
unconnected with the undertaking, induced him to lay aside an
_incognito_, any farther attempt to preserve which must have been
considered as affectation; and since his having done so, he has been
favoured with access to some valuable materials, most of which have now,
for the first time, seen the light. For these he refers to the Appendix
at the close of the Work, where the reader will find several articles of
novelty and interest. Though not at liberty, in every case, to mention
the quarter from which his information has been derived, the Author has
been careful not to rely upon any which did not come from sufficient
authority. He has neither grubbed for anecdotes in the libels and
private scandal of the time, nor has he solicited information from
individuals who could not be impartial witnesses in the facts to which
they gave evidence. Yet the various public documents and private
information which he has received, have much enlarged his stock of
materials, and increased the whole work to more than twice the size
originally intended.

On the execution of his task, it becomes the Author to be silent. He is
aware it must exhibit many faults; but he claims credit for having
brought to the undertaking a mind disposed to do his subject as
impartial justice as his judgment could supply. He will be found no
enemy to the person of Napoleon. The term of hostility is ended when the
battle has been won, and the foe exists no longer. His splendid personal
qualities--his great military actions and political services to
France--will not, it is hoped, be found depreciated in the narrative.
Unhappily, the Author's task involved a duty of another kind, the
discharge of which is due to France, to Britain, to Europe, and to the
world. If the general system of Napoleon has rested upon force or fraud,
it is neither the greatness of his talents, nor the success of his
undertakings, that ought to stifle the voice or dazzle the eyes of him
who adventures to be his historian. The reasons, however, are carefully
summed up where the Author has presumed to express a favourable or
unfavourable opinion of the distinguished person of whom these volumes
treat; so that each reader may judge of their validity for himself.

The name, by an original error of the press, which proceeded too far
before it was discovered, has been printed with a _u_,--Buonaparte
instead of Bonaparte. Both spellings were indifferently adopted in the
family; but Napoleon always used the last,[2] and had an unquestionable
right to choose the orthography which he preferred.

EDINBURGH, _7th June, 1827._


Sir Walter Scott left two interleaved copies of his LIFE OF NAPOLEON, in
both of which his executors have found various corrections of the text,
and additional notes. They were directed by his testament to take care,
that, in case a new edition of the work were called for, the annotations
of it might be completed in the fashion here adopted, dates and other
marginal elucidations regularly introduced, and the text itself,
wherever there appeared any redundancy of statement, abridged. With
these instructions, except the last, the Editor has now endeavoured to

"Walter Scott," says Goëthe, "passed his childhood among the stirring
scenes of the American War, and was a youth of seventeen or eighteen
when the French Revolution broke out. Now well advanced in the fifties,
having all along been favourably placed for observation, he proposes to
lay before us his views and recollections of the important events
through which he has lived. The richest, the easiest, the most
celebrated narrator of the century, undertakes to write the history of
his own time.

"What expectations the announcement of such a work must have excited in
me, will be understood by any one who remembers that I, twenty years
older than Scott, conversed with Paoli in the twentieth year of my age,
and with Napoleon himself in the sixtieth.

"Through that long series of years, coming more or less into contact
with the great doings of the world, I failed not to think seriously on
what was passing around me, and, after my own fashion, to connect so
many extraordinary mutations into something like arrangement and

"What could now be more delightful to me than leisurely and calmly to
sit down and listen to the discourse of such a man, while clearly,
truly, and with all the skill of a great artist, he recalls to me the
incidents on which through life I have meditated, and the influence of
which is still daily in operation?"--Goëthe's _Posthumous Works_, vol.
vi., p. 253.

                    Sed non in Cæsare tantum
    Nomen erat, nec fama ducis; sed nescia virtus
    Stare loco: solusque pudor non vincere bello.
    Acer et indomitus; quo spes quoque ira vocasset,
    Ferre manum, et nunquam temerando parcere ferro:
    Successus urgere suos: instare favori
    Numinis: impellens quicquid sibi summa petenti
    Obstaret: gaudensque viam fecisse ruina.

        LUCANI, _Pharsalia_, Lib. I.[4]


[1] Southey's _Life of Nelson_, 2 vols. fcap. 8vo. 1813.

[2] Barras, in his official account of the affair of the 13th
Vendémiaire, (Oct. 5, 1795,) calls him General _Buonaparte_; and in the
contract of marriage between Napoleon and Josephine, still existing in
the registry of the second arrondissement of Paris, dated March 9, 1796,
his signature is so written. No document has ever been produced, in
which the word appears as _Bonaparte_, prior to Napoleon's appointment
to the command of the Army of Italy.

[3] [Sir Walter Scott's Notes have the letter S affixed to them, all of
the others having been collected by the Editor of the 1843 Edition.]


    "But Cæsar's greatness, and his strength, was more
    Than past renown and antiquated power;
    'Twas not the fame of what he once had been,
    Or tales in old records and annals seen;
    But 'twas a valour restless, unconfined,
    Which no success could sate, nor limits bind;
    'Twas shame, a soldier's shame, untaught to yield,
    That blush'd for nothing but an ill-fought field;
    Fierce in his hopes he was, nor knew to stay
    Where vengeance or ambition led the way;
    Still prodigal of war whene'er withstood,
    Nor spared to stain the guilty sword with blood;
    Urging advantage, he improved all odds,
    And made the most of fortune and the gods;
    Pleased to o'erturn whate'er withheld his prize,
    And saw the ruin with rejoicing eyes."--ROWE.




  CHAP. I.--Review of the state of Europe after the Peace of
  Versailles--England--France--Spain--Prussia--Imprudent Innovations
  of the Emperor Joseph--Disturbances in his
  Dominions--Russia--France--Her ancient System of Monarchy--how
  organised--Causes of its Decay--Decay of the Nobility as a body--The
  new Nobles--The Country Nobles--The Nobles of the highest Order--The
  Church--The higher Orders of the Clergy--The lower Orders--The
  Commons--Their increase in Power and Importance--Their Claims
  opposed to those of the Privileged Classes,                          1

  CHAP. II.--State of France continued--State of Public Opinion--Men
  of Letters encouraged by the Great--Disadvantages attending this
  Patronage--Licentious tendency of the French Literature--Their
  Irreligious and Infidel Opinions--Free Opinions on Politics
  permitted to be expressed in an abstract and speculative, but not in
  a practical Form--Disadvantages arising from the Suppression of Free
  Discussion--Anglomania--Share of France in the American
  War--Disposition of the Troops who returned from America,           22

  CHAP. III.--Proximate Cause of the Revolution--Deranged State of the
  Finances--Reforms in the Royal Household--System of Turgot and
  Necker--Necker's Exposition of the State of the Public Revenue--The
  Red-Book--Necker displaced--Succeeded by Calonne--General State of
  the Revenue--Assembly of the Notables--Calonne dismissed--Archbishop
  of Sens Administrator of the Finances--The King's Contest with the
  Parliament--Bed of Justice--Resistance of the Parliament and general
  Disorder in the Kingdom--Vacillating Policy of the Minister--Royal
  Sitting--Scheme of forming a Cour Plénière--It proves
  ineffectual--Archbishop of Sens retires, and is succeeded by
  Necker--He resolves to convoke the States-General--Second Assembly
  of Notables previous to Convocation of the States--Questions as to
  the Numbers of which the Tiers Etat should consist, and the Mode in
  which the Estates should deliberate,                                39

  CHAP. IV.--Meeting of the States-General--Predominant Influence of
  the Tiers Etat--Property not represented sufficiently in that
  Body--General character of the Members--Disposition of the Estate of
  the Nobles--And of the Clergy--Plan of forming the Three Estates
  into two Houses--Its advantages--It fails--The Clergy unite with the
  Tiers Etat, which assumes the title of the National Assembly--They
  assume the task of Legislation, and declare all former Fiscal
  Regulations illegal--They assert their determination to continue
  their Sessions--Royal Sitting--Terminates in the Triumph of the
  Assembly--Parties in that Body--Mounier--Constitutionalists--
  Republicans--Jacobins--Orleans,                                     58

  CHAP. V.--Plan of the Democrats to bring the King and Assembly to
  Paris--Banquet of the Garde du Corps--Riot at Paris--A formidable
  Mob of Women assemble to march to Versailles--The National Guard
  refuse to act against the Insurgents, and demand also to be led to
  Versailles--The Female Mob arrive--Their behaviour to the
  Assembly--To the King--Alarming Disorders at Night--La Fayette
  arrives with the National Guard--Mob force the Palace--Murder the
  Body Guards--The Queen's safety endangered--Fayette's arrival with
  his Force restores Order--Royal Family obliged to go to reside at
  Paris--The Procession--This Step agreeable to the Views of the
  Constitutionalists, Republicans, and Anarchists--Duke of Orleans
  sent to England,                                                    88

  CHAP. VI.--La Fayette resolves to enforce order--A Baker is murdered
  by the Rabble--One of his Murderers executed--Decree imposing
  Martial Law--Introduction of the Doctrines of Equality--They are in
  their exaggerated sense inconsistent with Human Nature and the
  progress of Society--The Assembly abolish titles of Nobility,
  Armorial bearings, and phrases of Courtesy--Reasoning on these
  Innovations--Disorder of Finance--Necker becomes unpopular--Seizure
  of Church lands--Issue of Assignats--Necker leaves France in
  unpopularity--New Religious Institution--Oath imposed on the
  Clergy--Resisted by the greater part of the Order--General View of
  the operations of the Constituent Assembly--Enthusiasm of the People
  for their new Privileges--Limited Privileges of the Crown--King is
  obliged to dissemble--His Negotiations with Mirabeau--With
  Bouillé--Attack on the Palace--Prevented by Fayette--Royalists
  expelled from the Tuileries--Escape of Louis--He is captured at
  Varennes--Brought back to Paris--Riot in the Champ de Mars--Louis
  accepts the Constitution,                                          102

  CHAP. VII.--Legislative Assembly--Its Composition--Constitutionalists--
  Girondists or Brissotins--Jacobins--Views and Sentiments of Foreign
  Nations--England--Views of the Tories and Whigs--Anacharsis
  Clootz--Austria--Prussia--Russia--Sweden--Emigration of the French
  Princes and Clergy--Increasing Unpopularity of Louis from this
  Cause--Death of the Emperor Leopold, and its Effects--France
  declares War--Views and Interests of the different Parties in France
  at this Period--Decree against Monsieur--Louis interposes his
  Veto--Decree against the Priests who should refuse the
  Constitutional Oath--Louis again interposes his Veto--Consequences
  of these Refusals--Fall of De Lessart--Ministers now chosen from the
  Brissotins--All Parties favourable to War,                         128

  CHAP. VIII.--Defeats of the French on the Frontier--Decay of
  Constitutionalists--They form the Club of Feuillans, and are
  dispersed by the Jacobins--The Ministry--Dumouriez--Breach of
  confidence betwixt the King and his Ministers--Dissolution of the
  King's Constitutional Guard--Extravagant measures of the
  Jacobins--Alarms of the Girondists--Departmental Army proposed--King
  puts his Veto on the decree, against Dumouriez's
  representations--Decree against the recusant Priests--King refuses
  it--Letter of the Ministers to the King--He dismisses Roland,
  Clavière, and Servan--Dumouriez, Duranton, and Lacoste, appointed in
  their stead--King ratifies the decree concerning the Departmental
  Army--Dumouriez resigns, and departs for the Frontiers--New
  Ministers named from the Constitutionalists--Insurrection of 20th
  June--Armed Mob intrude into the Assembly--Thence into the
  Tuileries--La Fayette repairs to Paris--Remonstrates in favour of
  the King--But is compelled to return to the Frontiers--Marseillois
  appear in Paris--Duke of Brunswick's manifesto,                    152

  CHAP. IX.--The Day of the Tenth of August--Tocsin sounded early in
  the Morning--Swiss Guards, and relics of the Royal Party, repair to
  the Tuileries--Mandat assassinated--Dejection of Louis, and energy
  of the Queen--King's Ministers appear at the Bar of the Assembly,
  stating the peril of the Royal Family, and requesting a Deputation
  might be sent to the Palace--Assembly pass to the Order of the
  Day--Louis and his Family repair to the Assembly--Conflict at the
  Tuileries--Swiss ordered to repair to the King's Person--and are
  many of them shot and dispersed on their way to the Assembly--At the
  close of the Day almost all of them are massacred--Royal Family
  spend the Night in the Convent of the Feuillans,                   172

  CHAP. X.--La Fayette compelled to Escape from France--Is made
  Prisoner by the Prussians, with three Companions--Reflections--The
  Triumvirate, Danton, Robespierre, and Marat--Revolutionary Tribunal
  appointed--Stupor of the Legislative Assembly--Longwy, Stenay, and
  Verdun, taken by the Prussians--Mob of Paris enraged--Great Massacre
  of Prisoners in Paris, commencing on the 2d, and ending 6th
  September--Apathy of the Assembly during and after these
  Events--Review of its Causes,                                      182

  CHAP. XI.--Election of Representatives for the National
  Convention--Jacobins are very active--Right hand Party--Left hand
  side--Neutral Members--The Girondists are in possession of the
  ostensible Power--They denounce the Jacobin Chiefs, but in an
  irregular and feeble manner--Marat, Robespierre, and Danton,
  supported by the Commune and Populace of Paris--France declared a
  Republic--Duke of Brunswick's Campaign--Neglects the French
  Emigrants--Is tardy in his Operations--Occupies the poorest part of
  Champagne--His Army becomes sickly--Prospects of a
  Battle--Dumouriez's Army recruited with Carmagnoles--The Duke
  resolves to Retreat--Thoughts on the consequences of that
  measure--The retreat disastrous--The Emigrants disbanded in a great
  measure--Reflections on their Fate--The Prince of Condé's Army,    199

  CHAP. XII.--Jacobins determine upon the Execution of Louis--Progress
  and Reasons of the King's Unpopularity--Girondists taken by
  surprise, by a proposal for the Abolition of Royalty made by the
  Jacobins--Proposal carried--Thoughts on the New System of
  Government--Compared with that of Rome, Greece, America, and other
  Republican States--Enthusiasm throughout France at the
  Change--Follies it gave birth to--And Crimes--Monuments of Art
  destroyed--Madame Roland interposes to save the Life of the
  King--Barrère--Girondists move for a Departmental
  Legion--Carried--Revoked--and Girondists defeated--The Authority of
  the Community of Paris paramount even over the Convention--Documents
  of the Iron-Chest--Parallel betwixt Charles I. and Louis
  XVI.--Motion by Pétion, that the King should be Tried before the
  Convention,                                                        208

  CHAP. XIII.--THE TRIAL OF LOUIS--Indecision of the Girondists, and
  its Effects--The Royal Family insulted by the Agents of the
  Community--The King deprived of his Son's society--The King brought
  to Trial before the Convention--His First Examination--Carried back
  to Prison amidst Insult and Abuse--Tumult in the Assembly--The King
  deprived of Intercourse with his Family--Malesherbes appointed as
  Counsel to defend the King--and De Seze--Louis again brought before
  the Convention--Opening Speech of De Seze--King remanded to the
  Temple--Stormy Debate--Eloquent attack of Vergniaud on the
  Jacobins--Sentence of DEATH pronounced against the King--General
  Sympathy for his Fate--Dumouriez arrives in Paris--Vainly tries to
  avert the King's Fate--LOUIS XVI. BEHEADED on 21st January,
  1793--MARIE ANTOINETTE on the 16th October thereafter--The Princess
  ELIZABETH in May 1794--The Dauphin perishes, by cruelty, June 8th,
  1795--The Princess Royal exchanged for La Fayette, 19th December,
  1795,                                                              236

  CHAP. XIV.--Dumouriez--His displeasure at the Treatment of the
  Flemish Provinces by the Convention--His projects in
  consequence--Gains the ill-will of his Army--and is forced to fly to
  the Austrian Camp--Lives many years in retreat, and finally dies in
  England--Struggles betwixt the Girondists and Jacobins--Robespierre
  impeaches the Leaders of the Girondists, and is denounced by
  them--Decree of Accusation against Marat--Commission of
  Twelve--Marat acquitted--Terror of the Girondists--Jacobins prepare
  to attack the Palais Royal, but are repulsed--Repair to the
  Convention, who recall the Commission of Twelve--Louvet and other
  Girondist Leaders Fly from Paris--Convention go forth in procession
  to expostulate with the People--Forced back to their Hall, and
  compelled to Decree the Accusation of Thirty of their
  Body--Girondists finally ruined--and their principal Leaders
  perish--Close of their History,                                    258

  CHAP. XV.--Views of Parties in Britain relative to the
  Revolution--Affiliated Societies--Counterpoised by Aristocratic
  Associations--Aristocratic Party eager for War with France--The
  French proclaim the Navigation of the Scheldt--British Ambassador
  recalled from Paris, and French Envoy no longer accredited in
  London--France declares War against England--British Army sent to
  Holland, under the Duke of York--State of the Army--View of the
  Military Positions of France--in Flanders--on the Rhine--in
  Piedmont--Savoy--on the Pyrenees--State of the War in La
  Vendée--Description of the Country--Le Bocage--Le Louroux--Close
  Union betwixt the Nobles and Peasantry--Both strongly attached to
  Royalty, and abhorrent of the Revolution--The Priests--The Religion
  of the Vendéans outraged by the Convention--A general Insurrection
  takes place in 1793--Military Organisation and Habits of the
  Vendéans--Division in the British Cabinet on the Mode of conducting
  the War--Pitt--Wyndham--Reasoning upon the subject--Vendéans
  defeated--They defeat, in their turn, the French Troops at
  Laval--But are ultimately destroyed and dispersed--Unfortunate
  Expedition to Quiberon--La Charette defeated and executed, and the
  War of La Vendée finally terminated--Unsuccessful Resistance of
  Bourdeaux, Marseilles, and Lyons, to the Convention--Siege of
  Lyons--Its Surrender and dreadful Punishment--Siege of Toulon,     274

  CHAP. XVI.--Views of the British Cabinet regarding the French
  Revolution--Extraordinary Situation of France--Explanation of the
  Anomaly which it exhibited--System of Terror--Committee of Public
  Safety--Of Public Security--David the Painter--Law against Suspected
  Persons--Revolutionary Tribunal--Effects of the Emigration of the
  Princes and Nobles--Causes of the Passiveness of the French People
  under the Tyranny of the Jacobins--Singular Address of the Committee
  of Public Safety--General Reflections,                             307

  CHAP. XVII.--Marat, Danton, Robespierre--Marat poniarded--Danton and
  Robespierre become Rivals--Commune of Paris--their gross
  Irreligion--Gobel--Goddess of Reason--Marriage reduced to a Civil
  Contract--Views of Danton--and of Robespierre--Principal Leaders of
  the Commune arrested--and Nineteen of them executed--Danton arrested
  by the influence of Robespierre--and, along with Camille Desmoulins,
  Westermann, and La Croix, taken before the Revolutionary Tribunal,
  condemned, and executed--Decree issued, on the motion of
  Robespierre, acknowledging a Supreme Being--Cécilée
  Regnault--Gradual Change in the Public Mind--Robespierre becomes
  unpopular--Makes every effort to retrieve his power--Stormy Debate
  in the Convention--Collot D'Herbois, Tallien, &c., expelled from the
  Jacobin Club at the instigation of Robespierre--Robespierre
  denounced in the Convention on the 9th Thermidor, (27th July, 1794,)
  and, after furious struggles, arrested, along with his brother,
  Couthon, and Saint Just--Henriot, Commandant of the National Guard,
  arrested--Terrorists take refuge in the Hotel de Ville--Attempt
  their own lives--Robespierre wounds himself--but lives, along with
  most of the others, long enough to be carried to the Guillotine, and
  executed--His character--Struggles that followed his Fate--Final
  Destruction of the Jacobinical System--and return of
  Tranquillity--Singular colour given to Society in Paris--Ball of the
  Victims,                                                           321

  CHAP. XVIII.--Retrospective View of the External Relations of
  France--Her great Military Successes--Whence they arose--Effect of
  the Compulsory Levies--Military Genius and Character of the
  French--French Generals--New Mode of Training the Troops--Light
  Troops--Successive Attacks in Column--Attachment of the Soldiers to
  the Revolution--Also of the Generals--Carnot--Effect of the French
  principles preached to the Countries invaded by their Arms--Close of
  the Revolution with the fall of Robespierre--Reflections upon what
  was to succeed,                                                    364




    _Review of the state of Europe after the Peace of
    Innovations of the Emperor Joseph--Disturbances in his
    Dominions--Russia--France--Her ancient System of Monarchy--how
    organized--Causes of its Decay--Decay of the Nobility as a
    body--The new Nobles--The Country Nobles--The Nobles of the
    highest Order--The Church--The higher Orders of the Clergy--The
    lower Orders--The Commons--Their increase in Power and
    Importance--Their Claims opposed to those of the Privileged

When we look back on past events, however important, it is difficult to
recall the precise sensations with which we viewed them in their
progress, and to recollect the fears, hopes, doubts, and difficulties,
for which Time and the course of Fortune have formed a termination, so
different probably from that which we had anticipated. When the rush of
the inundation was before our eyes, and in our ears, we were scarce able
to remember the state of things before its rage commenced, and when,
subsequently, the deluge has subsided within the natural limits of the
stream, it is still more difficult to recollect with precision the
terrors it inspired when at its height. That which is present possesses
such power over our senses and our imagination, that it requires no
common effort to recall those sensations which expired with preceding
events. Yet, to do this is the peculiar province of history, which will
be written and read in vain, unless it can connect with its details an
accurate idea of the impression which these produced on men's minds
while they were yet in their transit. It is with this view that we
attempt to resume the history of France and of Europe, at the conclusion
of the American war--a period now only remembered by the more advanced
part of the present generation.

[Sidenote: STATE OF EUROPE.]

The peace concluded at Versailles in 1783, was reasonably supposed to
augur a long repose to Europe. The high and emulous tone assumed in
former times by the rival nations, had been lowered and tamed by recent
circumstances. England, under the guidance of a weak, at least a most
unlucky administration,[5] had purchased peace at the expense of her
North American Empire, and the resignation of supremacy over her
colonies; a loss great in itself, but exaggerated in the eyes of the
nation, by the rending asunder of the ties of common descent, and
exclusive commercial intercourse, and by a sense of the wars waged, and
expenses encountered for the protection and advancement of the fair
empire which England found herself obliged to surrender. The lustre of
the British arms, so brilliant at the Peace of Fontainbleau, had been
tarnished, if not extinguished. In spite of the gallant defence of
Gibraltar, the general result of the war on land had been unfavourable
to her military reputation; and notwithstanding the opportune and
splendid victories of Rodney, the coasts of Britain had been insulted,
and her fleets compelled to retire into port, while those of her
combined enemies rode masters of the channel.[6] The spirit of the
country also had been lowered, by the unequal contest which had been
sustained, and by the sense that her naval superiority was an object of
invidious hatred to united Europe. This had been lately made manifest,
by the armed alliance of the northern nations, which, though termed a
neutrality, was, in fact, a league made to abate the pretensions of
England to maritime supremacy. There are to be added to these
disheartening and depressing circumstances, the decay of commerce during
the long course of hostilities, with the want of credit and depression
of the price of land, which are the usual consequences of a transition
from war to peace, ere capital has regained its natural channel. All
these things being considered, it appeared the manifest interest of
England to husband her exhausted resources, and recruit her diminished
wealth, by cultivating peace and tranquillity for a long course of time.
William Pitt, never more distinguished than in his financial operations,
was engaged in new modelling the revenue of the country, and adding to
the return of the taxes, while he diminished their pressure. It could
scarcely be supposed that any object of national ambition would have
been permitted to disturb him in a task so necessary.

Neither had France, the natural rival of England, come off from the
contest in such circumstances of triumph and advantage, as were likely
to encourage her to a speedy renewal of the struggle. It is true, she
had seen and contributed to the humiliation of her ancient enemy, but
she had paid dearly for the gratification of her revenge, as nations and
individuals are wont to do. Her finances, tampered with by successive
sets of ministers, who looked no farther than to temporary expedients
for carrying on the necessary expenses of government, now presented an
alarming prospect; and it seemed as if the wildest and most enterprising
ministers would hardly have dared, in their most sanguine moments, to
have recommended either war itself, or any measures of which war might
be the consequence.

Spain was in a like state of exhaustion. She had been hurried into the
alliance against England, partly by the consequences of the family
alliance betwixt her Bourbons and those of France, but still more by the
eager and engrossing desire to possess herself once more of Gibraltar.
The Castilian pride, long galled by beholding this important fortress in
the hands of heretics and foreigners, highly applauded the war, which
gave a chance of its recovery, and seconded, with all the power of the
kingdom, the gigantic efforts made for that purpose. All these immense
preparations, with the most formidable means of attack ever used on such
an occasion, had totally failed, and the kingdom of Spain remained at
once stunned and mortified by the failure, and broken down by the
expenses of so huge an undertaking. An attack upon Algiers, in 1784-5,
tended to exhaust the remains of her military ardour. Spain, therefore,
relapsed into inactivity and repose, dispirited by the miscarriage of
her favourite scheme, and possessing neither the means nor the audacity
necessary to meditate its speedy renewal.

Neither were the sovereigns of the late belligerent powers of that
ambitious and active character which was likely to drag the kingdoms
which they swayed into the renewal of hostilities. The classic eye of
the historian Gibbon saw Arcadius and Honorius, the weakest and most
indolent of the Roman Emperors, slumbering upon the thrones of the House
of Bourbon;[7] and the just and loyal character of George III.
precluded any effort on his part to undermine the peace which he signed
unwillingly, or to attempt the resumption of those rights which he had
formally, though reluctantly, surrendered. His expression to the
ambassador of the United States,[8] was a trait of character never to be
omitted or forgotten:--"I have been the last man in my dominions to
accede to this peace, which separates America from my kingdoms--I will
be the first man, now it is made, to resist any attempt to infringe it."

The acute historian whom we have already quoted seems to have
apprehended, in the character and ambition of the northern potentates,
those causes of disturbance which were not to be found in the western
part of the European republic. But Catherine, the Semiramis of the
north, had her views of extensive dominion chiefly turned towards her
eastern and southern frontier, and the finances of her immense, but
comparatively poor and unpeopled empire, were burdened with the expenses
of a luxurious court, requiring at once to be gratified with the
splendour of Asia and the refinements of Europe. The strength of her
empire also, though immense, was unwieldy, and the empire had not been
uniformly fortunate in its wars with the more prompt, though less
numerous armies of the King of Prussia, her neighbour. Thus Russia, no
less than other powers in Europe, appeared more desirous of reposing her
gigantic strength, than of adventuring upon new and hazardous conquests.
Even her views upon Turkey, which circumstances seemed to render more
flattering than ever, she was contented to resign, in 1784, when only
half accomplished; a pledge, not only that her thoughts were sincerely
bent upon peace, but that she felt the necessity of resisting even the
most tempting opportunities for resuming the course of victory which she
had, four years before, pursued so successfully.

[Sidenote: GERMANY.]

Frederick of Prussia himself, who had been so long, by dint of genius
and talent, the animating soul of the political intrigues in Europe, had
run too many risks, in the course of his adventurous and eventful reign,
to be desirous of encountering new hazards in the extremity of life. His
empire, extended as it was from the shores of the Baltic to the
frontiers of Holland, consisted of various detached portions, which it
required the aid of time to consolidate into a single kingdom. And,
accustomed to study the signs of the times, it could not have escaped
Frederick, that sentiments and feelings were afloat, connected with, and
fostered by, the spirit of unlimited investigation, which he himself had
termed philosophy, such as might soon call upon the sovereigns to arm in
a common cause, and ought to prevent them, in the meanwhile, from
wasting their strength in mutual struggles, and giving advantage to a
common enemy.

If such anticipations occupied and agitated the last years of
Frederick's life, they had not the same effect upon the Emperor Joseph
II., who, without the same clear-eyed precision of judgment, endeavoured
to tread in the steps of the King of Prussia, as a reformer, and as a
conqueror. It would be unjust to deny to this prince the praise of
considerable talents, and inclination to employ them for the good of the
country which he ruled. But it frequently happens, that the talents, and
even the virtues of sovereigns, exercised without respect to time and
circumstances, become the misfortune of their government. It is
particularly the lot of princes, endowed with such personal advantages,
to be confident in their own abilities, and, unless educated in the
severe school of adversity, to prefer favourites, who assent to and
repeat their opinions, to independent counsellors, whose experience
might correct their own hasty conclusions. And thus, although the
personal merits of Joseph II. were in every respect acknowledged, his
talents in a great measure recognised, and his patriotic intentions
scarcely disputable, it fell to his lot, during the period we treat of,
to excite more apprehension and discontent among his subjects, than if
he had been a prince content to rule by a minister, and wear out an
indolent life in the forms and pleasures of a court. Accordingly, the
Emperor, in many of his schemes of reform, too hastily adopted, or at
least too incautiously and peremptorily executed, had the misfortune to
introduce fearful commotions among the people, whose situation he meant
to ameliorate, while in his external relations he rendered Austria the
quarter from which a breach of European peace was most to be
apprehended. It seemed, indeed, as if the Emperor had contrived to
reconcile his philosophical professions with the exercise of the most
selfish policy towards the United Provinces, both in opening the
Scheldt, and in dismantling the barrier towns, which had been placed in
their hands as a defence against the power of France. By the first of
these measures the Emperor gained nothing but the paltry sum of money
for which he sold his pretensions,[9] and the shame of having shown
himself ungrateful for the important services which the United Provinces
had rendered to his ancestors. But the dismantling of the Dutch barrier
was subsequently attended by circumstances alike calamitous to Austria,
and to the whole continent of Europe.

In another respect, the reforms carried through by Joseph II. tended to
prepare the public mind for future innovations, made with a ruder hand,
and upon a much larger scale.[10] The suppression of the religious
orders, and the appropriation of their revenues to the general purposes
of government, had in it something to flatter the feelings of those of
the Reformed religion; but, in a moral point of view, the seizing upon
the property of any private individual, or public body, is an invasion
of the most sacred principles of public justice, and such spoliation
cannot be vindicated by urgent circumstances of state-necessity, or any
plausible pretext of state-advantage whatsoever, since no necessity can
vindicate what is in itself unjust, and no public advantage can
compensate a breach of public faith.[11] Joseph was also the first
Catholic sovereign who broke through the solemn degree of reverence
attached by that religion to the person of the Sovereign Pontiff. The
Pope's fruitless and humiliating visit to Vienna furnished the shadow of
a precedent for the conduct of Napoleon to Pius VII.[12]

Another and yet less justifiable cause of innovation, placed in peril,
and left in doubt and discontent, some of the fairest provinces of the
Austrian dominions, and those which the wisest of their princes had
governed with peculiar tenderness and moderation. The Austrian
Netherlands had been in a literal sense dismantled and left open to the
first invader, by the demolition of the barrier fortresses; and it seems
to have been the systematic purpose of the Emperor to eradicate and
destroy that love and regard for their prince and his government, which
in time of need proves the most effectual moral substitute for moats and
ramparts. The history of the house of Burgundy bore witness on every
page to the love of the Flemings for liberty, and the jealousy with
which they have, from the earliest ages, watched the privileges they had
obtained from their princes. Yet in that country, and amongst these
people, Joseph carried on his measures of innovation with a hand so
unsparing, as if he meant to bring the question of liberty or arbitrary
power to a very brief and military decision betwixt him and his


His alterations were not in Flanders, as elsewhere, confined to the
ecclesiastical state alone, although such innovations were peculiarly
offensive to a people rigidly Catholic, but were extended through the
most important parts of the civil government. Changes in the courts of
justice were threatened--the great seal, which had hitherto remained
with the chancellor of the States, was transferred to the Imperial
minister--a Council of State, composed of commissioners nominated by the
Emperor, was appointed to discharge the duties hitherto intrusted to a
standing committee of the States of Brabant--their universities were
altered and new-modelled--and their magistrates subjected to arbitrary
arrests and sent to Vienna, instead of being tried in their own country
and by their own laws. The Flemish people beheld these innovations with
the sentiments natural to freemen, and not a little stimulated certainly
by the scenes which had lately passed in North America, where, under
circumstances of far less provocation, a large empire had emancipated
itself from the mother country. The States remonstrated loudly, and
refused submission to the decrees which encroached on their
constitutional liberties, and at length arrayed a military force in
support of their patriotic opposition.

Joseph, who at the same time he thus wantonly provoked the States and
people of Flanders, had been seduced by Russia to join her ambitious
plan upon Turkey, bent apparently before the storm he had excited, and
for a time yielded to accommodation with his subjects of Flanders,
renounced the most obnoxious of his new measures, and confirmed the
privileges of the nation, at what was called the Joyous Entry.[13] But
this spirit of conciliation was only assumed for the purpose of
deception; for so soon as he had assembled in Flanders what was deemed a
sufficient armed force to sustain his despotic purposes, the Emperor
threw off the mask, and, by the most violent acts of military force,
endeavoured to overthrow the constitution he had agreed to observe, and
to enforce the arbitrary measures which he had pretended to abandon. For
a brief period of two years, Flanders remained in a state of suppressed,
but deeply-founded and wide-extended discontent, watching for a moment
favourable to freedom and to vengeance. It proved an ample store-house
of combustibles, prompt to catch fire, as the flame now arising in
France began to expand itself; nor can it be doubted, that the condition
of the Flemish provinces, whether considered in a military or in a
political light, was one of the principal causes of the subsequent
success of the French Republican arms. Joseph himself, broken-hearted
and dispirited, died in the very beginning of the troubles he had
wantonly provoked.[14] Desirous of fame as a legislator and a warrior,
and certainly born with talents to acquire it, he left his arms
dishonoured by the successes of the despised Turks, and his fair
dominions of the Netherlands and of Hungary upon the very eve of
insurrection. A lampoon, written upon the hospital for lunatics at
Vienna, might be said to be no unjust epitaph for a monarch, one so
hopeful and so beloved--"Josephus, ubique Secundus, hic Primus."

These Flemish disturbances might be regarded as symptoms of the new
opinions which were tacitly gaining ground in Europe, and which preceded
the grand explosion, as slight shocks of an earthquake usually announce
the approach of its general convulsion. The like may be said of the
short-lived Dutch revolution of 1787, in which the ancient faction of
Louvestein, under the encouragement of France, for a time completely
triumphed over that of the Stadtholder, deposed him from his hereditary
command of Captain-General of the Army of the States, and reduced, or
endeavoured to reduce, the confederation of the United States to a pure
democracy. This was also a strong sign of the times; for, although
totally opposite to the inclination of the majority of the
States-General, of the equestrian body, of the landed proprietors, nay,
of the very populace, most of whom were from habit and principle
attached to the House of Orange, the burghers of the large towns drove
on the work of revolution with such warmth of zeal and promptitude of
action, as showed a great part of the middling classes to be deeply
tinctured with the desire of gaining further liberty, and a larger share
in the legislation and administration of the country, than pertained to
them under the old oligarchical constitution.

The revolutionary government, in the Dutch provinces, did not, however,
conduct their affairs with prudence. Without waiting to organize their
own force, or weaken that of the enemy--without obtaining the necessary
countenance and protection of France, or co-operating with the
malecontents in the Austrian Netherlands, they gave, by arresting the
Princess of Orange, (sister of the King of Prussia,) an opportunity of
foreign interference, of which that prince failed not to avail himself.
His armies, commanded by the Duke of Brunswick, poured into the United
Provinces, and with little difficulty possessed themselves of Utrecht,
Amsterdam, and the other cities which constituted the strength of the
Louvestein or republican faction. The King then replaced the House of
Orange in all its power, privileges, and functions. The conduct of the
Dutch republicans during their brief hour of authority had been neither
so moderate nor so popular as to make their sudden and almost
unresisting fall a matter of general regret. On the contrary, it was
considered as a probable pledge of the continuance of peace in Europe,
especially as France, busied with her own affairs, declined interference
in those of the United States.


The intrigues of Russia had, in accomplishment of the ambitious schemes
of Catherine, lighted up war with Sweden, as well as with Turkey; but in
both cases hostilities were commenced upon the old plan of fighting one
or two battles, and wresting a fortress of a province from a
neighbouring state; and it seems likely, that the intervention of France
and England, equally interested in preserving the balance of power,
might have ended these troubles, but for the progress of that great and
hitherto unheard-of course of events, which prepared, carried on, and

       *       *       *       *       *

It is necessary, for the execution of our plan, that we should review
this period of history, the most important, perhaps, during its
currency, and in its consequences, which the annals of mankind afford;
and although the very title is sufficient to awaken in most bosoms
either horror or admiration, yet, neither insensible of the blessings of
national liberty, nor of those which flow from the protection of just
laws, and a moderate but firm executive government, we may perhaps be
enabled to trace its events with the candour of one, who, looking back
on past scenes, feels divested of the keen and angry spirit with which,
in common with his contemporaries, he may have judged them while they
were yet in progress.

We have shortly reviewed the state of Europe in general, which we have
seen to be either pacific or disturbed by troubles of no long duration;
but it was in France that a thousand circumstances, some arising out of
the general history of the world, some peculiar to that country herself,
mingled, like the ingredients in the witches' cauldron, to produce in
succession many a formidable but passing apparition, until concluded by
the stern Vision of absolute and military power, as those in the drama
are introduced by that of the Armed Head.[15]

The first and most effective cause of the Revolution, was the change
which had taken place in the feelings of the French towards their
government, and the monarch who was its head. The devoted loyalty of the
people to their king had been for several ages the most marked
characteristic of the nation; it was their honour in their own eyes, and
matter of contempt and ridicule in those of the English, because it
seemed in its excess to swallow up all ideas of patriotism. That very
excess of loyalty, however, was founded not on a servile, but upon a
generous principle. France is ambitious, fond of military glory, and
willingly identifies herself with the fame acquired by her soldiers.
Down to the reign of Louis XV., the French monarch was, in the eyes of
his subjects, a general, and the whole people an army. An army must be
under severe discipline, and a general must possess absolute power; but
the soldier feels no degradation from the restraint which is necessary
to his profession, and without which he cannot be led to conquest.


Every true Frenchman, therefore, submitted, without scruple to that
abridgement of personal liberty which appeared necessary to render the
monarch great, and France victorious. The King, according to this
system, was regarded less as an individual than as the representative of
the concentrated honour of the kingdom; and in this sentiment, however
extravagant and Quixotic, there mingled much that was generous,
patriotic, and disinterested. The same feeling was awakened after all
the changes of the Revolution, by the wonderful successes of the
Individual of whom the future volumes are to treat, and who transferred,
in many instances to his own person, by deeds almost exceeding
credibility, the species of devoted attachment with which France
formerly regarded the ancient line of her kings.

The nobility shared with the king in the advantages which this
predilection spread around him. If the monarch was regarded as the chief
ornament of the community, they were the minor gems by whose lustre that
of the crown was relieved or adorned. If he was the supreme general of
the state, they were the officers attached to his person, and necessary
to the execution of his commands, each in his degree bound to advance
the honour and glory of the common country. When such sentiments were at
their height, there could be no murmuring against the peculiar
privileges of the nobility, any more than against the almost absolute
authority of the monarch. Each had that rank in the state which was
regarded as his birth-right, and for one of the lower orders to repine
that he enjoyed not the immunities peculiar to the noblesse, would have
been as unavailing, and as foolish, as to lament that he was not born to
an independent estate. Thus, the Frenchman, contented, though with an
illusion, laughed, danced, and indulged all the gaiety of his national
character, in circumstances under which his insular neighbours would
have thought the slightest token of patience dishonourable and
degrading. The distress or privation which the French plebeian suffered
in his own person, was made up to him in imagination by his interest in
the national glory.

Was a citizen of Paris postponed in rank to the lowest military officer,
he consoled himself by reading the victories of the French arms in the
Gazette; and was he unduly and unequally taxed to support the expense of
the crown, still the public feasts which were given, and the palaces
which were built, were to him a source of compensation. He looked on at
the Carousal, he admired the splendour of Versailles, and enjoyed a
reflected share of their splendour, in recollecting that they displayed
the magnificence of his country. This state of things, however illusory,
seemed, while the illusion lasted, to realize the wish of those
legislators, who have endeavoured to form a general fund of national
happiness, from which each individual is to draw his personal share of
enjoyment. If the monarch enjoyed the display of his own grace and
agility, while he hunted, or rode at the ring, the spectators had their
share of pleasure in witnessing it: if Louis had the satisfaction of
beholding the splendid piles of Versailles and the Louvre arise at his
command, the subject admired them when raised, and his real portion of
pleasure was not, perhaps, inferior to that of the founder. The people
were like men inconveniently placed in a crowded theatre, who think
little of the personal inconveniences they are subjected to by the heat
and pressure, while their mind is engrossed by the splendours of the
representation. In short, not only the political opinions of Frenchmen
but their actual feelings, were, in the earlier days of the eighteenth
century, expressed in the motto which they chose for their national
palace--"Earth hath no nation like the French--no Nation a City like
Paris, or a King like Louis."

The French enjoyed this assumed superiority with the less chance of
being undeceived, that they listened not to any voice from other lands,
which pointed out the deficiencies in the frame of government under
which they lived, or which hinted the superior privileges enjoyed by the
subjects of a more free state. The intense love of our own country, and
admiration of its constitution, is usually accompanied with a contempt
or dislike of foreign states, and their modes of government. The French,
in the reign of Louis XIV., enamoured of their own institutions,
regarded those of other nations as unworthy of their consideration; and
if they paused for a moment to gaze on the complicated constitution of
their great rival, it was soon dismissed as a subject totally
unintelligible, with some expression of pity, perhaps, for the poor
sovereign who had the ill luck to preside over a government embarrassed
by so many restraints and limitations.[16] Yet, into whatever political
errors the French people were led by the excess of their loyalty, it
would be unjust to brand them as a nation of a mean and slavish spirit.
Servitude infers dishonour, and dishonour to a Frenchman is the last of
evils. Burke more justly regarded them as a people misled to their
disadvantage, by high and romantic ideas of honour and fidelity, and
who, actuated by a principle of public spirit in their submission to
their monarch, worshipped, in his person, the Fortune of France their
common country.

During the reign of Louis XIV., every thing tended to support the
sentiment which connected the national honour with the wars and
undertakings of the king. His success, in the earlier years of his
reign, was splendid, and he might be regarded for many years, as the
dictator of Europe. During this period, the universal opinion of his
talents, together with his successes abroad, and his magnificence at
home, fostered the idea that the Grand Monarque was in himself the
tutelar deity, and only representative, of the great nation whose powers
he wielded. Sorrow and desolation came on his latter years; but be it
said to the honour of the French people, that the devoted allegiance
they had paid to Louis in prosperity, was not withdrawn when fortune
seemed to have turned her back upon her original favourite. France
poured her youth forth as readily, if not so gaily, to repair the
defeats of her monarch's old age, as she had previously yielded them to
secure and extend the victories of his early reign. Louis had perfectly
succeeded in establishing the crown as the sole pivot upon which public
affairs turned, and in attaching to his person, as the representative of
France, all the importance which in other countries is given to the
great body of the nation.

Nor had the spirit of the French monarchy, in surrounding itself with
all the dignity of absolute power, failed to secure the support of those
auxiliaries which have the most extended influence upon the public mind,
by engaging at once religion and literature in defence of its authority.
The Gallican Church, more dependent upon the monarch, and less so upon
the Pope, than is usual in Catholic countries, gave to the power of the
crown all the mysterious and supernatural terrors annexed to an origin
in divine right, and directed against those who encroached on the limits
of the royal prerogative, or even ventured to scrutinize too minutely
the foundation of its authority, the penalties annexed to a breach of
the divine law. Louis XIV. repaid this important service by a constant,
and even scrupulous attention to observances prescribed by the Church,
which strengthened, in the eyes of the public, the alliance so strictly
formed betwixt the altar and the throne. Those who look to the private
morals of the monarch may indeed form some doubt of the sincerity of his
religious professions, considering how little they influenced his
practice; and yet, when we reflect upon the frequent inconsistencies of
mankind in this particular, we may hesitate to charge with hypocrisy a
conduct, which was dictated perhaps as much by conscience as by
political convenience. Even judging more severely, it must be allowed
that hypocrisy, though so different from religion, indicates its
existence, as smoke points out that of pure fire. Hypocrisy cannot exist
unless religion be to a certain extent held in esteem, because no one
would be at the trouble to assume a mask which was not respectable, and
so far compliance with the external forms of religion is a tribute paid
to the doctrines which it teaches. The hypocrite assumes a virtue if he
has it not, and the example of his conduct may be salutary to others,
though his pretensions to piety are wickedness to Him, who trieth the
heart and reins.

On the other hand, the Academy formed by the wily Richelieu served to
unite the literature of France into one focus, under the immediate
patronage of the crown, to whose bounty its professors were taught to
look even for the very means of subsistence. The greater nobles caught
this ardour of patronage from the sovereign, and as the latter pensioned
and supported the principal literary characters of his reign, the former
granted shelter and support to others of the same rank, who were lodged
at their hotels, fed at their tables, and were admitted to their society
upon terms somewhat less degrading than those which were granted to
artists and musicians, and who gave to the Great, knowledge or amusement
in exchange for the hospitality they received. Men in a situation so
subordinate, could only at first accommodate their compositions to the
taste and interest of their protectors. They heightened by adulation and
flattery the claims of the king and the nobles upon the community; and
the nation, indifferent at that time to all literature which was not of
native growth, felt their respect for their own government enhanced and
extended by the works of those men of genius who flourished under its

Such was the system of French monarchy, and such it remained, in outward
show at least, until the peace of Fontainbleau. But its foundation had
been gradually undermined; public opinion had undergone a silent but
almost a total change, and it might be compared to some ancient tower
swayed from its base by the lapse of time, and waiting the first blast
of a hurricane, or shock of an earthquake, to be prostrated in the dust.
How the lapse of half a century, or little more, could have produced a
change so total, must next be considered; and this can only be done by
viewing separately the various changes which the lapse of years had
produced on the various orders of the state.


First, then, it is to be observed, that in these latter times the
wasting effects of luxury and vanity had totally ruined the greater part
of the French nobility, a word which, in respect of that country,
comprehended what is called in Britain the nobility and gentry, or
natural aristocracy of the kingdom. This body, during the reign of Louis
XIV., though far even then from supporting the part which their fathers
had acted in history, yet existed, as it were, through their
remembrances, and disguised their dependence upon the throne by the
outward show of fortune, as well as by the consequence attached to
hereditary right. They were one step nearer the days, not then totally
forgotten, when the nobles of France, with their retainers, actually
formed the army of the kingdom; and they still presented, to the
imagination at least, the descendants of a body of chivalrous heroes,
ready to tread in the path of their ancestors, should the times ever
render necessary the calling forth the Ban, or Arrière-Ban--the feudal
array of the Gallic chivalry. But this delusion had passed away; the
defence of states was intrusted in France, as in other countries, to the
exertions of a standing army; and, in the latter part of the eighteenth
century, the nobles of France presented a melancholy contrast to their

The number of the order was of itself sufficient to diminish its
consequence. It had been imprudently increased by new creations. There
were in the kingdom about eighty thousand families enjoying the
privileges of nobility; and the order was divided into different
classes, which looked on each other with mutual jealousy and contempt.

The first general distinction was betwixt the Ancient, and Modern, or
new noblesse. The former were nobles of old creation, whose ancestors
had obtained their rank from real or supposed services rendered to the
nation in her councils or her battles. The new nobles had found an
easier access to the same elevation, by the purchase of territories, or
of offices, or of letters of nobility, any of which easy modes invested
the owners with titles and rank, often held by men whose wealth had been
accumulated in mean and sordid occupations, or by farmers-general, and
financiers, whom the people considered as acquiring their fortunes at
the expense of the state. These numerous additions to the privileged
body of nobles accorded ill with its original composition, and
introduced schism and disunion into the body itself. The descendants of
the ancient chivalry of France looked with scorn upon the new men, who,
rising perhaps from the very lees of the people, claimed from superior
wealth a share in the privileges of the aristocracy.

Again, secondly, there was, amongst the ancient nobles themselves, but
too ample room for division between the upper and wealthier class of
nobility, who had fortunes adequate to maintain their rank, and the much
more numerous body, whose poverty rendered them pensioners upon the
state for the means of supporting their dignity. Of about one thousand
houses, of which the ancient noblesse is computed to have consisted,
there were not above two or three hundred families who had retained the
means of maintaining their rank without the assistance of the crown.
Their claims to monopolize commissions in the army, and situations in
the government, together with their exemption from taxes, were their
sole resources; resources burdensome to the state, and odious to the
people, without being in the same degree beneficial to those who enjoyed
them. Even in military service, which was considered as their
birth-right, the nobility of the second class were seldom permitted to
rise above a certain limited rank. Long service might exalt one of them
to the _grade_ of lieutenant-colonel, or the government of some small
town, but all the better rewards of a life spent in the army were
reserved for nobles of the highest order. It followed as a matter of
course, that amidst so many of this privileged body who languished in
poverty, and could not rise from it by the ordinary paths of industry,
some must have had recourse to loose and dishonourable practices; and
that gambling-houses and places of debauchery should have been
frequented and patronised by individuals, whose ancient descent, titles,
and emblems of nobility, did not save them from the suspicion of very
dishonourable conduct, the disgrace of which affected the character of
the whole body.

There must be noticed a third classification of the order, into the
Haute Noblesse, or men of the highest rank, most of whom spent their
lives at court, and in discharge of the great offices of the crown and
state, and the Noblesse Campagnarde, who continued to reside upon their
patrimonial estates in the provinces.

The noblesse of the latter class had fallen gradually into a state of
general contempt, which was deeply to be regretted. They were ridiculed
and scorned by the courtiers, who despised the rusticity of their
manners, and by the nobles of newer creation, who, conscious of their
own wealth, contemned the poverty of these ancient but decayed families.
The "bold peasant" himself not more a kingdom's pride than is the plain
country gentleman, who, living on his own means, and amongst his own
people, becomes the natural protector and referee of the farmer and the
peasant, and, in case of need, either the firmest assertor of their
rights and his own against the aggressions of the crown, or the
independent and undaunted defender of the crown's rights, against the
innovations of political fanaticism. In La Vendée alone, the nobles had
united their interest and their fortune with those of the peasants who
cultivated their estates, and there alone were they found in their
proper and honourable character of proprietors residing on their own
domains, and discharging the duties which are inalienably attached to
the owner of landed property. And--mark-worthy circumstance!--in La
Vendée alone was any stand made in behalf of the ancient proprietors,
constitution, or religion of France; for there alone the nobles and the
cultivators of the soil held towards each other their natural and proper
relations of patron and client, faithful dependents, and generous and
affectionate superiors.[17] In the other provinces of France, the
nobility, speaking generally, possessed neither power nor influence
among the peasantry, while the population around them was guided and
influenced by men belonging to the Church, to the law, or to business;
classes which were in general better educated, better informed, and
possessed of more talent and knowledge of the world than the poor
Noblesse Campagnarde, who seemed as much limited, caged, and imprisoned,
within the restraints of their rank, as if they had been shut up within
the dungeons of their ruinous chateaux; and who had only their titles
and dusty parchments to oppose to the real superiority of wealth and
information so generally to be found in the class which they affected to
despise. Hence, Ségur describes the country gentlemen of his younger
days as punctilious, ignorant, and quarrelsome, shunned by the
better-informed of the middle classes, idle and dissipated, and wasting
their leisure hours in coffee-houses, theatres, and billiard-rooms.[18]

The more wealthy families, and the high noblesse, as they were called,
saw this degradation of the inferior part of their order without pity,
or rather with pleasure. These last had risen as much above their
natural duties, as the rural nobility had sunk beneath them. They had
too well followed the course which Richelieu had contrived to recommend
to their fathers, and instead of acting as the natural chiefs and
leaders of the nobility and gentry of the provinces, they were
continually engaged in intriguing for charges round the king's person,
for posts in the administration, for additional titles and
decorations--for all and every thing which could make the successful
courtier, and distinguish him from the independent noble. Their
education and habits also were totally unfavourable to grave or serious
thought and exertion. If the trumpet had sounded, it would have found a
ready echo in their bosoms; but light literature at best, and much more
frequently silly and frivolous amusements, a constant pursuit of
pleasure, and a perpetual succession of intrigues, either of love or
petty politics, made their character, in time of peace, approach in
insignificance to that of the women of the court, whom it was the
business of their lives to captivate and amuse.[19] There were noble
exceptions, but in general the order, in every thing but military
courage, had assumed a trivial and effeminate character, from which
patriotic sacrifices, or masculine wisdom, were scarcely to be expected.

While the first nobles of France were engaged in these frivolous
pursuits, their procureurs, bailiffs, stewards, intendants, or by
whatever name their agents and managers were designated, enjoyed the
real influence which their constituents rejected as beneath them, rose
into a degree of authority and credit, which eclipsed recollection of
the distant and regardless proprietor, and formed a rank in the state
not very different from that of the middle-men in Ireland. These agents
were necessarily of plebeian birth, and their profession required that
they should be familiar with the details of public business, which they
administered in the name of their seigneurs. Many of this condition
gained power and wealth in the course of the Revolution, thus
succeeding, like an able and intelligent vizier, to the power which was
forfeited by the idle and voluptuous sultan. Of the high noblesse it
might with truth be said, that they still formed the grace of the court
of France, though they had ceased to be its defence. They were
accomplished, brave, full of honour, and in many instances endowed with
talent. But the communication was broken off betwixt them and the
subordinate orders, over whom, in just degree, they ought to have
possessed a natural influence. The chain of gradual and insensible
connexion was rusted by time, in almost all its dependencies; forcibly
distorted, and contemptuously wrenched asunder, in many. The noble had
neglected and flung from him the most precious jewel in his
coronet--the love and respect of the country-gentleman, the farmer, and
the peasant, an advantage so natural to his condition in a
well-constituted society, and founded upon principles so estimable, that
he who contemns or destroys it, is guilty of little less than high
treason, both to his own rank, and to the community in general. Such a
change, however, had taken place in France, so that the noblesse might
be compared to a court-sword, the hilt carved, ornamented, and gilded,
such as might grace a day of parade, but the blade gone, or composed of
the most worthless materials.

It only remains to be mentioned, that there subsisted, besides all the
distinctions we have noticed, an essential difference in political
opinions among the noblesse themselves, considered as a body. There were
many of the order, who, looking to the exigencies of the kingdom, were
patriotically disposed to sacrifice their own exclusive privileges, in
order to afford a chance of its regeneration. These of course were
disposed to favour an alteration or reform in the original constitution
of France; but besides these enlightened individuals, the nobility had
the misfortune to include many disappointed and desperate men,
ungratified by any of the advantages which their rank made them capable
of receiving, and whose advantages of birth and education only rendered
them more deeply dangerous, or more daringly profligate. A plebeian,
dishonoured by his vices, or depressed by the poverty which is their
consequence, sinks easily into the insignificance from which wealth or
character alone raised him; but the noble often retains the means, as
well as the desire, to avenge himself on society, for an expulsion which
he feels not the less because he is conscious of deserving it. Such were
the debauched Roman youth, among whom were found Cataline, and
associates equal in talents and in depravity to their leader; and such
was the celebrated Mirabeau, who, almost expelled from his own class, as
an irreclaimable profligate, entered the arena of the Revolution as a
first-rate reformer, and a popular advocate of the lower orders.

The state of the Church, that second pillar of the throne, was scarce
more solid than that of the nobility. Generally speaking, it might be
said, that, for a long time, the higher orders of the clergy had ceased
to take a vital concern in their profession, or to exercise its
functions in a manner which interested the feelings and affections of

The Catholic Church had grown old, and unfortunately did not possess the
means of renovating her doctrines, or improving her constitution, so as
to keep pace with the enlargement of the human understanding. The lofty
claims to infallibility which she had set up and maintained during the
middle ages, claims which she could neither renounce nor modify, now
threatened, in more enlightened times, like battlements too heavy for
the foundation, to be the means of ruining the edifice they were
designed to defend. _Vestigia nulla retrorsum_, continued to be the
motto of the Church of Rome. She could explain nothing, soften nothing,
renounce nothing, consistently with her assertion of impeccability. The
whole trash which had been accumulated for ages of darkness and
ignorance, whether consisting of extravagant pretensions, incredible
assertions, absurd doctrines which confounded the understanding, or
puerile ceremonies which revolted the taste, were alike incapable of
being explained away or abandoned. It would certainly have been--humanly
speaking--advantageous, alike for the Church of Rome, and for
Christianity in general, that the former had possessed the means of
relinquishing her extravagant claims, modifying her more obnoxious
doctrines, and retrenching her superstitious ceremonial, as increasing
knowledge showed the injustice of the one, and the absurdity of the
other. But this power she dared not assume; and hence, perhaps, the
great schism which divides the Christian world, which might otherwise
never have existed, or at least not in its present extended and
embittered state. But, in all events, the Church of Rome, retaining the
spiritual empire over so large and fair a portion of the Christian
world, would not have been reduced to the alternative of either
defending propositions, which, in the eyes of all enlightened men, are
altogether untenable, or of beholding the most essential and vital
doctrines of Christianity confounded with them, and the whole system
exposed to the scorn of the infidel. The more enlightened and better
informed part of the French nation had fallen very generally into the
latter extreme.

Infidelity, in attacking the absurd claims and extravagant doctrines of
the Church of Rome, had artfully availed herself of those abuses, as if
they had been really a part of the Christian religion; and they whose
credulity could not digest the grossest articles of the Papist creed,
thought themselves entitled to conclude, in general, against religion
itself, from the abuses engrafted upon it by ignorance and priestcraft.
The same circumstances which favoured the assault, tended to weaken the
defence. Embarrassed by the necessity of defending the mass of human
inventions with which their Church had obscured and deformed
Christianity, the Catholic clergy were not the best advocates even in
the best of causes; and though there were many brilliant exceptions, yet
it must be owned that a great part of the higher orders of the
priesthood gave themselves little trouble about maintaining the
doctrines, or extending the influence of the Church, considering it only
in the light of an asylum, where, under the condition of certain
renunciations, they enjoyed, in indolent tranquillity, a state of ease
and luxury. Those who thought on the subject more deeply, were contented
quietly to repose the safety of the Church upon the restrictions on the
press, which prevented the possibility of free discussion. The usual
effect followed; and many who, if manly and open debate upon theological
subjects had been allowed, would doubtless have been enabled to winnow
the wheat from the chaff, were, in the state of darkness to which they
were reduced, led to reject Christianity itself, along with the
corruptions of the Romish Church, and to become absolute infidels
instead of reformed Christians.


The long and violent dispute also betwixt the Jesuits and the
Jansenists, had for many years tended to lessen the general
consideration for the Church at large, and especially for the higher
orders of the clergy. In that quarrel, much had taken place that was
disgraceful. The mask of religion has been often used to cover more
savage and extensive persecutions, but at no time did the spirit of
intrigue, of personal malice, of slander, and circumvention, appear more
disgustingly from under the sacred disguise; and in the eyes of the
thoughtless and the vulgar, the general cause of religion suffered in

The number of the clergy who were thus indifferent to doctrine or duty
was greatly increased, since the promotion to the great benefices had
ceased to be distributed with regard to the morals, piety, talents, and
erudition of the candidates, but was bestowed among the younger branches
of the noblesse, upon men who were at little pains to reconcile the
looseness of their former habits and opinions with the sanctity of their
new profession, and who, embracing the Church solely as a means of
maintenance, were little calculated by their lives or learning to extend
its consideration. Among other vile innovations of the celebrated
regent, Duke of Orleans, he set the most barefaced example of such
dishonourable preferment, and had increased in proportion the contempt
entertained for the hierarchy, even in its highest dignities,--since how
was it possible to respect the purple itself, after it had covered the
shoulders of the infamous Dubois?[20]

It might have been expected, and it was doubtless in a great measure the
case, that the respect paid to the characters and efficient utility of
the curates, upon whom, generally speaking, the charge of souls actually
devolved, might have made up for the want of consideration withheld from
the higher orders of the Church. There can be no doubt that this
respectable body of churchmen possessed great and deserved influence
over their parishioners; but then they were themselves languishing under
poverty and neglect, and, as human beings, cannot be supposed to have
viewed with indifference their superiors enjoying wealth and ease,
while in some cases they dishonoured the robe they wore, and in others
disowned the doctrines they were appointed to teach. Alive to feelings
so natural, and mingling with the middling classes, of which they formed
a most respectable portion, they must necessarily have become embued
with their principles and opinions, and a very obvious train of
reasoning would extend the consequences to their own condition. If the
state was encumbered rather than benefited by the privileges of the
higher order, was not the Church in the same condition? And if secular
rank was to be thrown open as a general object of ambition to the able
and the worthy, ought not the dignities of the Church to be rendered
more accessible to those, who, in humility and truth, discharged the
toilsome duties of its inferior offices, and who might therefore claim,
in due degree of succession, to attain higher preferment? There can be
no injustice in ascribing to this body sentiments, which might have been
no less just regarding the Church than advantageous to themselves; and,
accordingly, it was not long before this body of churchmen showed
distinctly, that their political views were the same with those of the
Third Estate, to which they solemnly united themselves, strengthening
thereby greatly the first revolutionary movements. But their conduct,
when they beheld the whole system of their religion aimed at, should
acquit the French clergy of the charge of self-interest, since no body,
considered as such, ever showed itself more willing to encounter
persecution, and submit to privation for conscience' sake.

[Sidenote: TIERS ETAT.]

While the Noblesse and the Church, considered as branches of the state,
were thus divided amongst themselves, and fallen into discredit with the
nation at large; while they were envied for their ancient immunities
without being any longer feared for their power; while they were
ridiculed at once and hated for the assumption of a superiority which
their personal qualities did not always vindicate, the lowest order, the
Commons, or, as they were at that time termed, the Third Estate, had
gradually acquired an extent and importance unknown to the feudal ages,
in which originated the ancient division of the estates of the kingdom.
The Third Estate no longer, as in the days of Henry IV., consisted
merely of the burghers and petty traders in the small towns of a feudal
kingdom, bred up almost as the vassals of the nobles and clergy, by
whose expenditure they acquired their living. Commerce and colonies had
introduced wealth, from sources to which the nobles and the churchmen
had no access. Not only a very great proportion of the disposable
capital was in the hands of the Third Estate, who thus formed the bulk
of the moneyed interest of France, but a large share of the landed
property was also in their possession.

There was, moreover, the influence which many plebeians possessed, as
creditors, over those needy nobles whom they had supplied with money,
while another portion of the same class rose into wealth and
consideration, at the expense of the more opulent patricians who were
ruining themselves. Paris had increased to a tremendous extent, and her
citizens had risen to a corresponding degree of consideration; and while
they profited by the luxury and dissipation, both of the court and
courtiers, had become rich in proportion as the government and
privileged classes grew poor. Those citizens who were thus enriched,
endeavoured, by bestowing on their families all the advantages of good
education, to counterbalance their inferiority of birth, and to qualify
their children to support their part in the scenes, to which their
altered fortunes, and the prospects of the country, appeared to call
them. In short, it is not too much to say, that the middling classes
acquired the advantages of wealth, consequence, and effective power, in
a proportion more than equal to that in which the nobility had lost
these attributes. Thus, the Third Estate seemed to increase in extent,
number, and strength, like a waxing inundation, threatening with every
increasing wave to overwhelm the ancient and decayed barriers of
exclusions and immunities, behind which the privileged ranks still
fortified themselves.

It was not in the nature of man, that the bold, the talented, the
ambitious, of a rank which felt its own power and consequence, should be
long contented to remain acquiescent in political regulations, which
depressed them in the state of society beneath men to whom they felt
themselves equal in all respects, excepting the factitious circumstances
of birth, or of Church orders. It was no less impossible that they
should long continue satisfied with the feudal dogmas, which exempted
the noblesse from taxes, because they served the nation with their
sword, and the clergy, because they propitiated Heaven in its favour
with their prayers. The maxim, however true in the feudal ages when it
originated, had become an extravagant legal fiction in the eighteenth
century, when all the world knew that both the noble soldier and the
priest were paid for the services they no longer rendered to the state,
while the _roturier_ had both valour and learning to fight his own
battles and perform his own devotions; and when, in fact, it was their
arms which combated, and their learning which enlightened the state,
rather than those of the privileged orders.[21]

Thus, a body, opulent and important, and carrying along with their
claims the sympathy of the whole people, were arranged in formidable
array against the privileges of the nobles and clergy, and bound to
further the approaching changes by the strongest of human ties,
emulation and self-interest.

The point was stated with unusual frankness by Emeri, a distinguished
member of the National Assembly, and a man of honour and talent. In the
course of a confidential communication with the celebrated Marquis de
Bouillé, the latter had avowed his principles of royalty, and his
detestation of the new constitution, to which he said he only rendered
obedience, because the King had sworn to maintain it. "You are right,
being yourself a nobleman," replied Emeri, with equal candour; "and had
I been born noble, such would have been my principles; but I, a plebeian
_Avocat_, must naturally desire a revolution, and cherish that
constitution which has called me, and those of my rank, out of a state
of degradation."[22]

Considering the situation, therefore, of the three separate bodies,
which, before the revolutionary impulse commenced, were the constituent
parts of the kingdom of France, it was evident, that in case of a
collision, the Nobles and Clergy might esteem themselves fortunate, if,
divided as they were among themselves, they could maintain an effectual
defence of the whole, or a portion of their privileges, while the Third
Estate, confident in their numbers and in their unanimity, were ready to
assail and carry by storm the whole system, over the least breach which
might be effected in the ancient constitution. Lally Tolendal gave a
comprehensive view of the state of parties in these words:--"The commons
desired to conquer, the nobles to preserve what they already possessed.
The clergy stood inactive, resolved to join the victorious party. If
there was a man in France who wished for concord and peace, it was the


[5] In consequence of the censure passed on the Peace by the House of
Commons, the Shelburne ministry was dissolved on the 26th of February,

[6] "During nearly twenty years, ever since the termination of the war
with France in 1763, the British flag had scarcely been any where
triumphant; while the navies of the House of Bourbon, throughout the
progress of the American contest, annually insulted us in the Channel,
intercepted our mercantile convoys, blocked our harbours, and threatened
our coasts."--WRAXALL, 1782.

[7] "The deepest wounds were inflicted on the empire during the
minorities of the sons and grandsons of Theodosius; and after those
incapable princes seemed to attain the age of manhood, they abandoned
the church to the bishops, the state to the eunuchs, and the provinces
to the barbarians. Europe is now divided into twelve powerful, though
unequal kingdoms, three respectable commonwealths, and a variety of
smaller, though independent states: the chances of royal and ministerial
talents are multiplied, at least with the number of its rulers; and a
Julian, or Semiramis, may reign in the north, while Arcadius and
Honorius again slumber on the thrones of the south."--GIBBON'S _Decline
and Fall_, vol. iii., p. 636.

"It may not be generally known that Louis the Sixteenth is a great
reader, and a great reader of English books. On perusing a passage in my
History, which seems to compare him to Arcadius or Honorius, he
expressed his resentment to the Prince of B*****, from whom the
intelligence was conveyed to me. I shall neither disclaim the allusion,
nor examine the likeness; but the situation of the late King of France
excludes all suspicion of flattery; and I am ready to declare, that the
concluding observations of my third volume were written before his
accession to the throne."--GIBBON'S _Memoirs_, vol. i., p. 126.

[8] On the occasion of the first audience of Mr. Adams, in June,
1785.--See WRAXALL'S _Own Time_, vol. i., p. 381.

[9] "The sum, after long debates, was fixed by the Emperor at ten
million guilders."--COXE'S _House of Austria_, vol. ii., p. 583.

[10] "Joseph the Second borrowed the language of philosophy, when he
wished to suppress the monks of Belgium, and to seize their revenues:
but there was seen on him a mask only of philosophy, covering the
hideous countenance of a greedy despot: and the people ran to arms.
Nothing better than another kind of despotism has been seen in the
revolutionary powers."--BRISSOT, _Letter to his Constituents_, 1794.

[11] "In 1780, there were 2024 convents in the Austrian dominions: These
were diminished to 700, and 36,000 monks and nuns to 2700. Joseph might
have applied to his own reforms the remark he afterwards made to General
D'Alten, on the reforms of the French:--'The new constitution of France
has not been very polite to the high clergy and nobility; and I still
doubt much if all these fine things can be carried into
execution!'"--COXE, vol. ii., p. 578.

[12] "The Pope reached Vienna in February, 1782. He was received with
every mark of exterior homage and veneration; but his exhortations and
remonstrances were treated with coldness and reserve, and he was so
narrowly watched, that the back-door of his apartments was blocked up to
prevent him from receiving private visitors. Chagrined with the
inflexibility of the Emperor, and mortified by an unmeaning ceremonial,
and an affected display of veneration for the Holy See, while it was
robbed of its richest possessions, and its most valuable privileges,
Pius quitted Vienna at the expiration of a month, equally disgusted and
humiliated, after having exhibited himself as a disappointed suppliant
at the foot of that throne which had been so often shaken by the thunder
of the Vatican."--_Ibid._, p. 632.

[13] The charter by which the privileges of the Flemings were settled,
had been promulgated on the _entry_ of Philip the Good into Brussels.
Hence this name.--See COXE.

[14] "Joseph expired at Vienna, in February, 1790, at the age of
forty-nine, extenuated by diseases, caused or accelerated in their
progress by his own irritability of temper, agitation of mind, and the
embarrassment of his affairs."--WRAXALL, vol. i., p. 277.

[15] See _Macbeth_, act iv., sc. i.

[16] The old French proverb bore,--

    "Le roi d'Angleterre,
    Est le roi d'Enfer."--S.

[17] See the Memoirs of the Marchioness De La Rochejaquelein, p. 48.

[18] Ségur's Memoirs, vol. i., p. 76.

[19] For a curious picture of the life of the French nobles of fifty
years since, see the first volume of Madame Genlis's Memoirs. Had there
been any more solid pursuits in society than the gay trifles she so
pleasantly describes, they could not have escaped so intelligent an

[20] "A person of mean extraction, remarkable only for his vices, had
been employed in correcting the Regent's tasks, and, by a servile
complacence for all his inclinations, had acquired an ascendency over
his pupil, which he abused, for the purpose of corrupting his morals,
debasing his character, and ultimately rendering his administration an
object of universal indignation. Soon after his patron's accession to
power, Dubois was admitted into the council of state. He asked for the
Archbishopric of Cambray. Unaccustomed as he was to delicate scruples,
the Regent was startled at the idea of encountering the scandal to which
such a prostitution of honours must expose him. He, however, ultimately
yielded. This man, one of the most profligate that ever existed, was
actually married at the time he received Catholic orders, but he
suborned the witnesses, and contrived to have the parish registers,
which might have deposed against him, destroyed."--See LACRETELLE, tom.
i., p. 348.

[21] Thiers, Histoire de la Rév. Franç., tom. i., p. 34.

[22] Mémoires de Bouillé, p. 289.

[23] Plaidoyer pour Louis Seize, 1793.


    _State of France continued--State of Public Opinion--Men of
    Letters encouraged by the Great--Disadvantages attending this
    Patronage--Licentious tendency of the French Literature--Their
    Irreligious and Infidel Opinions--Free Opinions on Politics
    permitted to be expressed in an abstract and speculative, but
    not in a practical Form--Disadvantages arising from the
    Suppression of Free Discussion--Anglomania--Share of France in
    the American War--Disposition of the Troops who returned from


We have viewed France as it stood in its grand political divisions
previous to the Revolution, and we have seen that there existed strong
motives for change, and that a great force was prepared to level
institutions which were crumbling to pieces of themselves. It is now
necessary to review the state of the popular mind, and consider upon
what principles, and to what extent, the approaching changes were likely
to operate, and at what point they might be expected to stop. Here, as
with respect to the ranks of society, a tacit but almost total change
had been operated in the feelings and sentiments of the public,
principally occasioned, doubtless, by the great ascendency acquired by
literature--that tree of knowledge of good and evil, which, amidst the
richest and most wholesome fruits, bears others, fair in show, and sweet
to the taste, but having the properties of the most deadly poison.

The French, the most ingenious people in Europe, and the most
susceptible of those pleasures which arise from conversation and
literary discussion, had early called in the assistance of men of genius
to enhance their relish for society. The nobles, without renouncing
their aristocratic superiority,--which, on the contrary, was rendered
more striking by the contrast,--permitted literary talents to be a
passport into their saloons. The wealthy financier, and opulent
merchant, emulated the nobility in this as in other articles of taste
and splendour; and their coteries, as well as those of the aristocracy,
were open to men of letters, who were in many cases contented to enjoy
luxury at the expense of independence. Assuredly this species of
patronage, while it often flowed from the vanity or egotism of the
patrons, was not much calculated to enhance the character of those who
were protected. Professors of literature, thus mingling in the society
of the noble and the wealthy upon sufferance, held a rank scarcely
higher than that of musicians or actors, from amongst whom individuals
have often, by their talents and character, become members of the best
society, while the castes, to which such individuals belong, remain in
general exposed to the most humiliating contempt. The lady of quality,
who smiled on the man of letters, and the man of rank, who admitted him
to his intimacy, still retained their consciousness that he was not like
themselves, formed out of the "porcelain clay of the earth;" and even
while receiving their bounties, or participating in their pleasures, the
favourite _savant_ must often have been disturbed by the reflection,
that he was only considered as a creature of sufferance, whom the
caprice of fashion, or a sudden reaction of the ancient etiquette, might
fling out of the society where he was at present tolerated. Under this
disheartening, and even degrading inferiority, the man of letters might
be tempted invidiously to compare the luxurious style of living at which
he sat a permitted guest, with his own paltry hired apartment, and
scanty and uncertain chance of support. And even those of a nobler mood,
when they had conceded to their benefactors all the gratitude they could
justly demand, must sometimes have regretted their own situation,

    "Condemn'd as needy supplicants to wait,
    While ladies interpose and slaves debate."[24]

It followed, that many of the men of letters, thus protected, became
enemies of the persons, as well as the rank of their patrons; as, for
example, no one in the course of the Revolution expressed greater
hatred to the nobility than Champfort,[25] the favourite and favoured
secretary of the Prince of Condé. Occasions, too, must frequently have
occurred, in which the protected person was almost inevitably forced
upon comparing his own natural and acquired talents with those of his
aristocratic patron, and the result could not be other than a dislike of
the institutions which placed him so far behind persons whom, but for
those prescribed limits, he must have passed in the career of honour and

Hence arose that frequent and close inquiry into the origin of ranks,
that general system of impugning the existing regulations, and appealing
to the original states of society in vindication of the original
equality of mankind--hence those ingenious arguments, and eloquent
tirades in favour of primitive and even savage independence, which the
patricians of the day read and applauded with such a smile of mixed
applause and pity, as they would have given to the reveries of a crazed
poet, while the inferior ranks, participating the feelings under which
they were written, caught the ardour of the eloquent authors, and rose
from the perusal with minds prepared to act, whenever action should be
necessary to realize a vision so flattering.

It might have been expected that those belonging to the privileged
classes at least, would have caught the alarm, from hearing doctrines so
fatal to their own interests avowed so boldly, and maintained with so
much talent. It might have been thought that they would have started,
when Raynal proclaimed to the nations of the earth that they could only
be free and happy when they had overthrown every throne and every
altar;[26] but no such alarm was taken. Men of rank considered liberal
principles as the fashion of the day, and embraced them as the readiest
mode of showing that they were above vulgar prejudices. In short, they
adopted political opinions as they put on round hats and jockey-coats,
merely because they were current in good society. They assumed the tone
of philosophers as they would have done that of Arcadian shepherds at a
masquerade, but without any more thoughts of sacrificing their own rank
and immunities in the one case, than of actually driving their flocks
a-field in the other. Count Ségur gives a most interesting account of
the opinions of the young French nobles, in which he himself partook at
this eventful period.

    "Impeded in this light career by the antiquated pride of the old
    court, the irksome etiquette of the old order of things, the
    severity of the old clergy, the aversion of our parents to our
    new fashions and our costumes, which were favourable to the
    principles of equality, we felt disposed to adopt with
    enthusiasm the philosophical doctrines professed by literary
    men, remarkable for their boldness and their wit. Voltaire
    seduced our imagination; Rousseau touched our hearts; we felt a
    secret pleasure in seeing that their attacks were directed
    against an old fabric, which presented to us a Gothic and
    ridiculous appearance. We were thus pleased at this petty war,
    although it was undermining our own ranks and privileges, and
    the remains of our ancient power; but we felt not these attacks
    personally; we merely witnessed them. It was as yet but a war of
    words and paper, which did not appear to us to threaten the
    superiority of existence we enjoyed, consolidated as we thought
    it, by a possession of many centuries. * * * We were pleased
    with the courage of liberty, whatever language it assumed, and
    with the convenience of equality. There is a satisfaction in
    descending from a high rank, as long as the resumption of it is
    thought to be free and unobstructed; and regardless, therefore,
    of consequences, we enjoyed our patrician advantages, together
    with the sweets of a plebeian philosophy."[27]

We anxiously desire not to be mistaken. It is not the purport of these
remarks to blame the French aristocracy for extending their patronage to
learning and to genius. The purpose was honourable to themselves, and
fraught with high advantages to the progress of society. The favour of
the Great supplied the want of public encouragement, and fostered talent
which otherwise might never have produced its important and
inappreciable fruits. But it had been better for France, her nobility,
and her literature, had the patronage been extended in some manner which
did not intimately associate the two classes of men. The want of
independence of circumstances is a severe if not an absolute check to
independence of spirit; and thus it often happened, that, to gratify the
passions of their protectors, or to advance their interest, the men of
letters were involved in the worst and most scandalous labyrinths of
_tracasserie_, slander, and malignity; that they were divided into
desperate factions against each other, and reduced to practise all those
arts of dissimulation, flattery, and intrigue, which are the greatest
shame of the literary profession.


As the eighteenth century advanced, the men of literature rose in
importance, and, aware of their own increasing power in a society which
was dependent on them for intellectual gratification, they supported
each other in their claims to what began to be considered the dignity of
a man of letters. This was soon carried into extremes, and assumed, even
in the halls of their protectors, a fanatical violence of opinion, and a
dogmatical mode of expression, which made the veteran Fontenelle declare
himself terrified for the frightful degree of _certainty_ that folks met
with every where in society. The truth is, that men of letters, being
usually men of mere theory, have no opportunity of measuring the
opinions which they have adopted upon hypothetical reasoning, by the
standard of practical experiment. They feel their mental superiority to
those whom they live with, and become habitual believers in, and
assertors of, their own infallibility. If moderation, command of
passions and of temper, be part of philosophy, we seldom find less
philosophy actually displayed, than by a philosopher in defence of a
favourite theory. Nor have we found that churchmen are so desirous of
forming proselytes, or soldiers of extending conquests, as philosophers
in making converts to their own opinions.

In France they had discovered the command which they had acquired over
the public mind, and united as they were--and more especially the
Encyclopedists,[28]--they augmented and secured that impression, by
never permitting the doctrines which they wished to propagate to die
away upon the public ear. For this purpose, they took care these should
be echoed, like thunder amongst hills, from a hundred different points,
presented in a hundred new lights, illustrated by a hundred various
methods, until the public could no longer help receiving that as
undeniable which they heard from so many different quarters. They could
also direct every weapon of satirical hostility against those who
ventured to combat their doctrines, and as their wrath was neither
easily endured nor pacified, they drove from the field most of those
authors, who, in opposition to their opinions, might have exerted
themselves as champions of the Church and Monarchy.

We have already hinted at the disadvantages which literature
experiences, when it is under the protection of private individuals of
opulence, rather than of the public. But in yet another important
respect, the air of _salons_, _ruelles_ and _boudoirs_ is fatal, in many
cases, to the masculine spirit of philosophical self-denial which gives
dignity to literary society. They who make part of the gay society of a
corrupted metropolis, must lend their countenance to follies and vices,
if they do not themselves practise them; and hence, perhaps, French
literature, more than any other in Europe, has been liable to the
reproach of lending its powerful arm to undermine whatever was serious
in morals, or hitherto considered as fixed in principle. Some of their
greatest authors, even Montesquieu himself, have varied their deep
reasonings on the origin of government, and the most profound problems
of philosophy, with licentious tales tending to inflame the passions.
Hence, partaking of the license of its professors, the degraded
literature of modern times called in to its alliance that immorality,
which not only Christian, but even heathen philosophy had considered as
the greatest obstacle to a pure, wise, and happy state of existence. The
licentiousness which walked abroad in such disgusting and undisguised
nakedness, was a part of the unhappy bequest left by the Regent Duke of
Orleans to the country which he governed. The decorum of the court
during the times of Louis XIV. had prevented such excesses; if there was
enough of vice, it was at least decently veiled. But the conduct of
Orleans and his minions was marked with open infamy, deep enough to
have called down, in the age of miracles, an immediate judgment from
Heaven; and crimes which the worst of the Roman emperors would have at
least hidden in his solitary Isle of Caprea, were acted as publicly as
if men had had no eyes, or God no thunderbolts.[29]

From this filthy Cocytus flowed those streams of impurity which
disgraced France during the reign of Louis XV., and which,
notwithstanding the example of a prince who was himself a model of
domestic virtue, continued in that of Louis XVI. to infect society,
morals, and, above all, literature. We do not here allude merely to
those lighter pieces of indecency in which humour and fancy outrun the
bounds of delicacy. These are to be found in the literature of most
nations, and are generally in the hands of mere libertines and men of
pleasure, so well acquainted with the practice of vice, that the theory
cannot make them worse than they are. But there was a strain of
voluptuous and seducing immorality which pervaded not only the lighter
and gayer compositions of the French, but tinged the writings of those
who called the world to admire them as poets of the highest mood, or to
listen as to philosophers of the most lofty pretensions. Voltaire,
Rousseau, Diderot, Montesquieu,--names which France must always esteem
her highest honour,--were so guilty in this particular, that the young
and virtuous must either altogether abstain from the works which are
every where the topic of ordinary discussion and admiration, or must
peruse much that is hurtful to delicacy, and dangerous to morals, in the
formation of their future character. The latter alternative was
universally adopted; for the curious will read as the thirsty will
drink, though the cup and page be polluted.

So far had an indifference to delicacy influenced the society of France,
and so widely spread was this habitual impurity of language and ideas,
especially among those who pretended to philosophy, that Madame Roland,
a woman admirable for courage and talents, and not, so far as appears,
vicious in her private morals, not only mentions the profligate novels
of Louvet as replete with the graces of imagination, the salt of
criticism, and the tone of philosophy, but affords the public, in her
own person, details with which a courtezan of the higher class should be
unwilling to season her private conversation.[30]

This license, with the corruption of morals, of which it is both the
sign and the cause, leads directly to feelings the most inconsistent
with manly and virtuous patriotism. Voluptuousness, and its
consequences, render the libertine incapable of relish for what is
simply and abstractedly beautiful or sublime, whether in literature or
in the arts, and destroy the taste, while they degrade and blunt the
understanding. But, above all, such libertinism leads to the exclusive
pursuit of selfish gratification, for egotism is its foundation and its
essence. Egotism is necessarily the very reverse of patriotism, since
the one principle is founded exclusively upon the individual's pursuit
of his own peculiar objects of pleasure or advantage, while the other
demands a sacrifice, not only of these individual pursuits, but of
fortune and life itself, to the cause of the public weal. Patriotism
has, accordingly, always been found to flourish in that state of society
which is most favourable to the stern and manly virtues of self-denial,
temperance, chastity, contempt of luxury, patient exertion, and elevated
contemplation; and the public spirit of a nation has invariably borne a
just proportion to its private morals.

[Sidenote: INFIDELITY.]

Religion cannot exist where immorality generally prevails, any more than
a light can burn where the air is corrupted; and, accordingly,
infidelity was so general in France, as to predominate in almost every
rank of society. The errors of the Church of Rome, as we have already
noticed, connected as they are with her ambitious attempts towards
dominion over men, in their temporal as well as spiritual capacity, had
long become the argument of the philosopher, and the jest of the
satirist; but in exploding these pretensions, and holding them up to
ridicule, the philosophers of the age involved with them the general
doctrines of Christianity itself; nay, some went so far as not only to
deny inspiration, but to extinguish, by their sophistry, the lights of
natural religion, implanted in our bosoms as a part of our birth-right.
Like the disorderly rabble at the time of the Reformation, (but with
infinitely deeper guilt,) they not only pulled down the symbols of
idolatry, which ignorance or priestcraft had introduced into the
Christian Church, but sacrilegiously defaced and desecrated the altar
itself. This work the philosophers, as they termed themselves, carried
on with such an unlimited and eager zeal, as plainly to show that
infidelity, as well as divinity, hath its fanaticism. An envenomed fury
against religion and all its doctrines; a promptitude to avail
themselves of every circumstance by which Christianity could be
misrepresented; an ingenuity in mixing up their opinions in works, which
seemed the least fitting to involve such discussions; above all, a
pertinacity in slandering, ridiculing, and vilifying all who ventured to
oppose their principles, distinguished the correspondents in this
celebrated conspiracy against a religion, which, however it may be
defaced by human inventions, breathes only that peace on earth, and good
will to the children of men, which was proclaimed by Heaven at its
divine origin.

If these prejudiced and envenomed opponents had possessed half the
desire of truth, or half the benevolence towards mankind, which were
eternally on their lips, they would have formed the true estimate of
the spirit of Christianity, not from the use which had been made of the
mere name by ambitious priests or enthusiastic fools, but by its vital
effects upon mankind at large. They would have seen, that under its
influence a thousand brutal and sanguinary superstitions had died away;
that polygamy had been abolished, and with polygamy all the obstacles
which it offers to domestic happiness, as well as to the due education
of youth, and the natural and gradual civilisation of society. They must
then have owned, that slavery, which they regarded, or affected to
regard, with such horror, had first been gradually ameliorated, and
finally abolished by the influence of the Christian doctrines--that
there was no one virtue teaching to elevate mankind or benefit society,
which was not enjoined by the precepts they endeavoured to misrepresent
and weaken--no one vice by which humanity is degraded and society
endangered, upon which Christianity hath not imposed a solemn anathema.
They might also, in their capacity of philosophers, have considered the
peculiar aptitude of the Christian religion, not only to all ranks and
conditions of mankind, but to all climates and to all stages of society.
Nor ought it to have escaped them, that the system contains within
itself a key to those difficulties, doubts, and mysteries, by which the
human mind is agitated, so soon as it is raised beyond the mere objects
which interest the senses. Milton has made the maze of metaphysics, and
the bewildering state of mind which they engender, a part of the
employment, and perhaps of the punishment, of the lower regions.[31]
Christianity alone offers a clew to this labyrinth, a solution to these
melancholy and discouraging doubts; and however its doctrines may be
hard to unaided flesh and blood, yet explaining as they do the system of
the universe, which without them is so incomprehensible, and through
their practical influence rendering men in all ages more worthy to act
their part in the general plan, it seems wonderful how those, whose
professed pursuit was wisdom, should have looked on religion not alone
with that indifference, which was the only feeling evinced by the
heathen philosophers towards the gross mythology of their time, but with
hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. One would rather have
expected, that, after such a review, men professing the real spirit
which searches after truth and wisdom, if unhappily they were still
unable to persuade themselves that a religion so worthy of the Deity (if
such an expression may be used) had emanated directly from revelation,
might have had the modesty to lay their finger on their lip and distrust
their own judgment, instead of disturbing the faith of others; or, if
confirmed in their incredulity, might have taken the leisure to compute
at least what was to be gained by rooting up a tree which bore such
goodly fruits, without having the means of replacing it by aught which
could produce the same advantage to the commonwealth.

Unhappily blinded by self-conceit, heated with the ardour of
controversy, gratifying their literary pride by becoming members of a
league, in which kings and princes were included, and procuring
followers by flattering the vanity of some, and stimulating the cupidity
of others, the men of the most distinguished parts in France became
allied in a sort of anti-crusade against Christianity, and indeed
against religious principles of every kind. How they succeeded is too
universally known; and when it is considered that these men of letters,
who ended by degrading the morals, and destroying the religion of so
many of the citizens of France, had been first called into public
estimation by the patronage of the higher orders, it is impossible not
to think of the Israelitish champion, who, brought into the house of
Dagon to make sport for the festive assembly, ended by pulling it down
upon the heads of the guests--and upon his own.

We do not tax the whole nation of France with being infirm in religious
faith, and relaxed in morals; still less do we aver that the Revolution,
which broke forth in that country, owed its rise exclusively to the
license and infidelity, which were but too current there. The necessity
of a great change in the principles of the ancient French monarchy, had
its source in the usurpations of preceding kings over the liberties of
the subject, and the opportunity for effecting this change was afforded
by the weakness and pecuniary distresses of the present government.
These would have existed had the French court, and her higher orders,
retained the simple and virtuous manners of Sparta, united with the
strong and pure faith of primitive Christians. The difference lay in
this, that a simple, virtuous, and religious people would have rested
content with such changes and alterations in the constitution of their
government as might remove the evils of which they had just and pressing
reason to complain. They would have endeavoured to redress obvious and
practical errors in the body politic, without being led into extremes
either by the love of realising visionary theories, the vanity of
enforcing their own particular philosophical or political doctrines, or
the selfish arguments of demagogues, who, in the prospect of bettering
their own situation by wealth, or obtaining scope for their ambition,
aspired, in the words of the dramatic poet, to throw the elements of
society into confusion, and thus

          "disturb the peace of all the world,
    To rule it when 'twas wildest."

It was to such men as these last that Heaven, in punishment of the sins
of France and of Europe, and perhaps to teach mankind a dreadful lesson,
abandoned the management of the French Revolution, the original
movements of which, so far as they went to secure to the people the
restoration of their natural liberty, and the abolition of the
usurpations of the crown, had become not only desirable through the
change of times, and by the influence of public opinion, but
peremptorily necessary and inevitable.

[Sidenote: FEUDAL SYSTEM.]

The feudal system of France, like that of the rest of Europe, had, in
its original composition, all the germs of national freedom. The great
peers, in whose hands the common defence was reposed, acknowledged the
king's power as _suzerain_, obeyed his commands as their military
leader, and attended his courts as their supreme judge; but recognised
no despotic authority in the crown, and were prompt to defend the
slightest encroachment upon their own rights. If they themselves were
not equally tender of the rights and liberties of their own vassals,
their acts of encroachment flowed not from the feudal system, but from
its imperfections. The tendency and spirit of these singular
institutions, were to preserve to each individual his just and natural
rights; but a system, almost purely military, was liable to be
frequently abused by the most formidable soldier, and was, besides,
otherwise ill fitted to preserve rights which were purely civil. It is
not necessary to trace the progress from the days of Louis XIII.
downwards, by which ambitious monarchs, seconded by able and subtle
ministers, contrived to emancipate themselves from the restraints of
their powerful vassals, or by which the descendants of these high
feudatories, who had been the controllers of the prince so soon as he
outstepped the bounds of legitimate authority, were now ranked around
the throne in the capacity of mere courtiers or satellites, who derived
their lustre solely from the favour of royalty. This unhappy and
shortsighted policy had, however, accomplished its end, and the crown
had concentrated within its prerogative almost the entire liberties of
the French nation; and now, like an overgorged animal of prey, had
reason to repent its fatal voracity, while it lay almost helpless,
exposed to the assaults of those whom it had despoiled.

We have already observed, that for a considerable time the Frenchman's
love of his country had been transferred to the crown; that his national
delight in martial glory fixed his attachment upon the monarch as the
leader of his armies; and that this feeling had supported the devotion
of the nation to Louis XIV., not only during his victories, but even
amid his reverses. But the succeeding reign had less to impose on the
imagination. The erection of a palace obtains for the nation the praise
of magnificence, and the celebration of public and splendid festivals
gives the people at least the pleasure of a holiday; the pensioning
artists and men of letters, again, is honourable to the country which
fosters the arts; but the court of Louis XV., undiminished in expense,
was also selfish in its expenditure. The enriching of needy favourites,
their relations, and their parasites, had none of the dazzling
munificence of the Grand Monarque; and while the taxes became daily more
oppressive on the subjects, the mode in which the revenue was employed
not only became less honourable to the court, and less creditable to the
country, but lost the dazzle and show which gives the lower orders
pleasure as the beholders of a pageant.

The consolation which the imagination of the French had found in the
military honour of their nation, seemed also about to fail them. The
bravery of the troops remained the same, but the genius of the
commanders, and the fortune of the monarch under whose auspices they
fought, had in a great measure abandoned them, and the destiny of France
seemed to be on the wane. The victory of Fontenoy[32] was all that was
to be placed in opposition to the numerous disasters of the Seven Years'
War, in which France was almost everywhere else defeated; and it was
little wonder, that in a reign attended with so many subjects of
mortification, the enthusiastic devotion of the people to the sovereign
should begin to give way. The king had engrossed so much power in his
own person, that he had become as it were personally responsible for
every miscarriage and defeat which the country underwent. Such is the
risk incurred by absolute monarchs, who are exposed to all the popular
obloquy for maladministration, from which, in limited governments, kings
are in a great measure screened by the intervention of the other powers
of the constitution, or by the responsibility of ministers for the
measures which they advise; while he that has ascended to the actual
peak and extreme summit of power, has no barrier left to secure him from
the tempest.

Another and most powerful cause fanned the rising discontent, with which
the French of the eighteenth century began to regard the government
under which they lived. Like men awakened from a flattering dream, they
compared their own condition with that of the subjects of free states,
and perceived that they had either never enjoyed, or had been gradually
robbed of, the chief part of the most valuable privileges and immunities
to which man may claim a natural right. They had no national
representation of any kind, and but for the slender barrier offered by
the courts of justice, or parliaments, as they were called, were subject
to unlimited exactions on the sole authority of the sovereign. The
property of the nation was therefore at the disposal of the crown, which
might increase taxes to any amount, and cause them to be levied by
force, if force was necessary. The personal freedom of the citizen was
equally exposed to aggressions by _lettres de cachet_.[33] The French
people, in short, had neither, in the strict sense, liberty nor
property, and if they did not suffer all the inconveniences in practice
which so evil a government announces, it was because public opinion, the
softened temper of the age, and the good disposition of the kings
themselves, did not permit the scenes of cruelty and despotism to be
revived in the eighteenth century, which Louis XI. had practised three
ages before.

These abuses, and others arising out of the disproportioned privileges
of the noblesse and the clergy, who were exempted from contributing to
the necessities of the state; the unequal mode of levying the taxes, and
other great errors of the constitution; above all, the total absorption
of every right and authority in the person of the sovereign,--these were
too gross in their nature, and too destructive in their consequences, to
have escaped deep thought on the part of reflecting persons, and hatred
and dislike from those who suffered more or less under the practical


They had not, in particular, eluded the observation and censure of the
acute reasoners and deep thinkers, who had already become the guiding
spirits of the age; but the despotism under which they lived prevented
those speculations from assuming a practical and useful character. In a
free country, the wise and the learned are not only permitted, but
invited, to examine the institutions under which they live, to defend
them against the suggestions of rash innovators, or to propose such
alterations as the lapse of time and change of manners may render
necessary. Their disquisitions are, therefore, usefully and beneficially
directed to the repair of the existing government, not to its
demolition, and if they propose alteration in parts, it is only for the
purpose of securing the rest of the fabric. But in France, no
opportunity was permitted of free discussion on politics, any more than
on matters of religion.

An essay upon the French monarchy, showing by what means the existing
institutions might have been brought more into union with the wishes and
wants of the people, must have procured for its author a place in the
Bastile; and yet subsequent events have shown, that a system, which
might have introduced prudently and gradually into the decayed frame of
the French government the spirit of liberty, which was originally
inherent in every feudal monarchy, would have been the most valuable
present which political wisdom could have rendered to the country. The
bonds which pressed so heavily on the subject might thus have been
gradually slackened, and at length totally removed, without the perilous
expedient of casting them all loose at once. But the philosophers, who
had certainly talents sufficient for the purpose, were not permitted to
apply to the state of the French government the original principles on
which it was founded, or to trace the manner in which usurpations and
abuses had taken place, and propose a mode by which, without varying its
form, those encroachments might be restrained, and those abuses
corrected. An author was indeed at liberty to speculate at any length
upon general doctrines of government; he might imagine to himself a
Utopia or Atalantis, and argue upon abstract ideas of the rights in
which government originates; but on no account was he permitted to
render any of his lucubrations practically useful, by adapting them to
the municipal regulations of France. The political sage was placed, with
regard to his country, in the condition of a physician prescribing for
the favourite Sultana of some jealous despot, whom he is required to
cure without seeing his patient, and without obtaining any accurate
knowledge of her malady, its symptoms, and its progress. In this manner
the theory of government was kept studiously separated from the
practice. The political philosopher might, if he pleased, speculate upon
the former, but he was prohibited, under severe personal penalties, to
illustrate the subject by any allusion to the latter. Thus, the eloquent
and profound work of Montesquieu professed, indeed, to explain the
general rights of the people, and the principles upon which government
itself rested, but his pages show no mode by which these could be
resorted to for the reformation of the constitution of his country. He
laid before the patient a medical treatise on disease in general,
instead of a special prescription; applying to his peculiar habits and

In consequence of these unhappy restrictions upon open and manly
political discussion, the French government, in its actual state, was
never represented as capable of either improvement or regeneration; and
while general and abstract doctrines of original freedom were every
where the subject of eulogy, it was never considered for a moment in
what manner these new and more liberal principles could be applied to
the improvement of the existing system. The natural conclusion must have
been, that the monarchical government in France was either perfection in
itself, and consequently stood in need of no reformation, or that it was
so utterly inconsistent with the liberties of the people as to be
susceptible of none. No one was hardy enough to claim for it the former
character, and, least of all, those who presided in its councils, and
seemed to acknowledge the imperfection of the system, by prohibiting all
discussion on the subject. It seemed, therefore, to follow, as no unfair
inference, that to obtain the advantages which the new elementary
doctrines held forth, and which were so desirable and so much desired, a
total abolition of the existing government to its very foundation, was
an indispensable preliminary; and there is little doubt that this
opinion prevailed so generally at the time of the Revolution, as to
prevent any firm or resolute stand being made in defence even of such of
the actual institutions of France, as might have been amalgamated with
the proposed reform.

[Sidenote: ANGLOMANIA.]

While all practical discussion of the constitution of France, as a
subject either above or beneath philosophical inquiry, was thus
cautiously omitted in those works which pretended to treat of civil
rights, that of England, with its counterpoises and checks, its liberal
principle of equality of rights, the security which it affords for
personal liberty and individual property, and the free opportunities of
discussion upon every topic, became naturally the subject of eulogy
amongst those who were awakening their countrymen to a sense of the
benefits of national freedom. The time was past, when, as in the days of
Louis XIV., the French regarded the institutions of the English with
contempt, as fit only for merchants and shopkeepers, but unworthy of a
nation of warriors, whose pride was in their subordination to their
nobles, as that of the nobles consisted in obedience to their king. That
prejudice had long passed away, and Frenchmen now admired, not without
envy, the noble system of masculine freedom which had been consolidated
by the successive efforts of so many patriots in so many ages. A sudden
revulsion seemed to take place in their general feelings towards their
neighbours, and France, who had so long dictated to all Europe in
matters of fashion, seemed now herself disposed to borrow the more
simple forms and fashions of her ancient rival. The spirit of imitating
the English, was carried even to the verge of absurdity.[34] Not only
did Frenchmen of quality adopt the round hat and frock coat, which set
etiquette at defiance--not only had they English carriages, dogs, and
horses, but even English butlers were hired, that the wine, which was
the growth of France, might be placed on the table with the grace
peculiar to England.[35] These were, indeed, the mere ebullitions of
fashion carried to excess, but, like the foam on the crest of the
billow, they argued the depth and strength of the wave beneath, and,
insignificant in themselves, were formidable as evincing the contempt
with which the French now regarded all those forms and usages, which had
hitherto been thought peculiar to their own country. This principle of
imitation rose to such extravagance, that it was happily termed the

While the young French gallants were emulously employed in this mimicry
of the English fashions, relinquishing the external signs of rank which
always produced some effect on the vulgar, men of thought and reflection
were engaged in analyzing those principles of the British government, on
which the national character has been formed, and which have afforded
her the means of rising from so many reverses, and maintaining a sway
among the kingdoms of Europe, so disproportioned to her population and

[Sidenote: AMERICAN WAR.]

To complete the conquest of English opinions, even in France herself,
over those of French origin, came the consequences of the American War.
Those true Frenchmen who disdained to borrow the sentiments of political
freedom from England, might now derive them from a country with whom
France could have no rivalry, but in whom, on the contrary, she
recognised the enemy of the island, in policy or prejudice termed her
own natural foe. The deep sympathy manifested by the French in the
success of the American insurgents, though diametrically opposite to the
interests of their government, or perhaps of the nation at large, was
compounded of too many ingredients influencing all ranks, to be overcome
or silenced by cold considerations of political prudence. The nobility,
always eager of martial distinction, were in general desirous of war,
and most of them, the pupils of the celebrated _Encyclopédie_, were
doubly delighted to lend their swords to the cause of freedom. The
statesmen imagined that they saw, in the success of the American
insurgents, the total downfall of the English empire, or at least a far
descent from that pinnacle of dignity which she had attained at the
Peace of 1763, and they eagerly urged Louis XVI. to profit by the
opportunity, hitherto sought in vain, of humbling a rival so formidable.
In the courtly circles, and particularly in that which surrounded Marie
Antoinette, the American deputation had the address or good fortune to
become popular, by mingling in them with manners and sentiments entirely
opposite to those of courts and courtiers, and exhibiting, amid the
extremity of refinement, in dress, speech, and manners, a republican
simplicity, rendered interesting both by the contrast, and by the
talents which Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane evinced, not only in the
business of diplomacy, but in the intercourse of society.[37] Impelled
by these and other combining causes, a despotic government, whose
subjects were already thoroughly imbued with opinions hostile to its
constitution in Church and State, with a discontented people, and a
revenue wellnigh bankrupt, was thrust, as if by fatality, into a contest
conducted upon principles most adverse to its own existence.

The king, almost alone, whether dreading the expense of a ruinous war,
whether alarmed already at the progress of democratic principles, or
whether desirous of observing good faith with England, considered that
there ought to be a stronger motive for war, than barely the opportunity
of waging it with success; the king, therefore, almost alone, opposed
this great political error. It was not the only occasion in which, wiser
than his counsellors, he nevertheless yielded up to their urgency
opinions founded in unbiassed morality, and unpretending common sense. A
good judgment, and a sound moral sense, were the principal attributes of
this excellent prince, and happy it would have been had they been
mingled with more confidence in himself, and a deeper distrust of

Other counsels prevailed over the private opinion of Louis--the war was
commenced--successfully carried on, and victoriously concluded. We have
seen that the French auxiliaries brought with them to America minds apt
to receive, if not already[38] imbued with, those principles of freedom
for which the colonies had taken up arms against the mother country, and
it is not to be wondered if they returned to France strongly
prepossessed in favour of a cause, for which they had encountered
danger, and in which they had reaped honour.[39]

The inferior officers of the French auxiliary army, chiefly men of
birth, agreeably to the existing rules of the French service, belonged,
most of them, to the class of country nobles, who, from causes, already
noticed, were far from being satisfied with the system which rendered
their rise difficult, in the only profession which their prejudices, and
those of France, permitted them to assume. The proportion of plebeians
who had intruded themselves, by connivance and indirect means, into the
military ranks, looked with eagerness to some change which should give a
free and open career to their courage and their ambition, and were
proportionally discontented with regulations which were recently
adopted, calculated to render their rise in the army more difficult than
before.[40] In these sentiments were united the whole of the
non-commissioned officers, and the ranks of the common soldiery, all of
whom, confiding in their own courage and fortune, now became indignant
at those barriers which closed against them the road to military
advancement, and to superior command. The officers of superior rank, who
derived their descent from the high noblesse, were chiefly young men of
ambitious enterprise and warm imaginations, whom not only a love of
honour, but an enthusiastic feeling of devotion to the new philosophy,
and the political principles which it inculcated, had called to arms.
Amongst these were Rochambeau, La Fayette, the Lameths, Chastellux,
Ségur, and others of exalted rank, but of no less exalted feelings for
the popular cause. They readily forgot, in the full current of their
enthusiasm, that their own rank in society was endangered by the
progress of popular opinions; or, if they at all remembered that their
interest was thus implicated, it was with the generous disinterestedness
of youth, prompt to sacrifice to the public advantage whatever of
selfish immunities was attached to their own condition.

The return of the French army from America thus brought a strong body of
auxiliaries to the popular and now prevalent opinions; and the French
love of military glory, which had so long been the safeguard of the
throne, became intimately identified with that distinguished portion of
the army which had been so lately and so successfully engaged in
defending the claims of the people against the rights of an established
government.[41] Their laurels were green and newly gathered, while those
which had been obtained in the cause of monarchy were of an ancient
date, and tarnished by the reverses of the Seven Years' War. The
reception of the returned soldiery and their leaders was proportionally
enthusiastic; and it became soon evident, that when the eventful
struggle betwixt the existing monarchy and its adversaries should
commence, the latter were to have the support in sentiment, and probably
in action, of that distinguished part of the army, which had of late
maintained and recovered the military character of France. It was,
accordingly, from its ranks that the Revolution derived many of its most
formidable champions, and it was their example which detached a great
proportion of the French soldiers from their natural allegiance to the
sovereign, which had been for so many ages expressed in their war-cry of
"Vive le Roi," and which was revived, though with an altered object, in
that of "Vive l'Empereur."

There remains but to notice the other proximate cause of the Revolution,
but which is so intimately connected with its rise and progress, that we
cannot disjoin it from our brief review of the revolutionary movements
to which it gave the first decisive impulse.


[24] Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes.

[25] See his Maximes et Pensées, &c. &c. He died by his own hand in

[26] Revolution of America, 1781, pp. 44, 58. When, however, Raynal
beheld the abuse of liberty in the progress of the French Revolution, he
attempted to retrieve his errors. In May, 1791, he addressed to the
Constituent Assembly a most eloquent letter, in which he says, "I am, I
own to you, deeply afflicted at the crimes which plunge this empire into
mourning. It is true that I am to look back with horror at myself for
being one of those who, by feeling a noble indignation against ambitious
power, may have furnished arms to licentiousness." Raynal was deprived
of all his property during the Revolution, and died in poverty in 1796.

[27] Ségur's Memoirs, vol. i., p. 39.

[28] Diderot, &c., the conductors of the celebrated Encyclopédie.

[29] Lacretelle Hist. de France, tom. i., p. 105; Mémoires de Mad. Du
Barry, tom. ii., p. 3.

[30] The particulars we allude to, though suppressed in the second
edition of Madame Roland's Mémoires, are restored in the "Collection des
Mémoires rélatifs à la Révolution Française," published at Paris, [56
vols. 8vo.] This is fair play; for if the details be disgusting, the
light which they cast upon the character of the author is too valuable
to be lost.--S.


    "Others apart sat on a hill retired,
    In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
    Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
    Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute,
    And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost."

        PAR. LOST, b. ii.

[32] The battle was fought May 1, 1745, between the French, under
Marshal Saxe, and the allies, under William Duke of Cumberland.

[33] Private letters or mandates, issued under the royal _signet_, for
the apprehension of individuals who were obnoxious to the court.

[34] Ségur, tom. i., p. 268; ii., p. 24.

[35] One striking feature of this Anglomania was the general institution
of _Clubs_, and the consequent desertion of female society. "If our
happy inconstancy," wrote Baron de Grimm, in 1790, "did not give room to
hope that the fashion will not be everlasting, it might certainly be
apprehended that the taste for clubs would lead insensibly to a very
marked revolution both in the spirit and morals of the nation; but that
disposition, which we possess by nature, of growing tired of every
thing, affords some satisfaction in all our follies."--_Correspondence._

[36] An instance is given, ludicrous in itself, but almost prophetic,
when connected with subsequent events. A courtier, deeply infected with
the fashion of the time, was riding beside the king's carriage at a full
trot, without observing that his horse's heels threw the mud into the
royal vehicle. "Vous me crottez, monsieur," said the king. The horseman,
considering the words were "Vous trottez," and that the prince
complimented his equestrian performance, answered, "Oui, sire, à
l'Angloise." The good-humoured monarch drew up the glass, and only said
to the gentleman in the carriage, "Voilà une Anglomanie bien forte!"
Alas! the unhappy prince lived to see the example of England, in her
most dismal period, followed to a much more formidable extent.--S.

[37] See Ségur, tom. i., p. 101.

[38] By some young enthusiasts, the assumption of republican habits was
carried to all the heights of revolutionary affectation and
extravagance. Ségur mentions a young coxcomb, named Mauduit, who already
distinguished himself by renouncing the ordinary courtesies of life, and
insisting on being called by his Christian and surname, without the
usual addition of Monsieur.--S.--"Mauduit's career was short, and his
end an unhappy one; for being employed at St. Domingo, he threw himself
among a party of revolters, and was assassinated by the

[39] "The passion for republican institutions infected even the
courtiers of the palace. Thunders of applause shook the theatre of
Versailles at the celebrated lines of Voltaire--

    "Je suis fils de Brutus, et je porte en mon cœur
    La liberté gravée et les rois en horreur."

SÉGUR, tom. i., p. 253.

[40] Plebeians formerly got into the army by obtaining the subscription
of four men of noble birth, attesting their patrician descent; and such
certificates, however false, could always be obtained for a small sum.
But by a regulation of the Count Ségur, after the American war,
candidates for the military profession were obliged to produce a
certificate of noble birth from the king's genealogist, in addition to
the attestations which were formerly held sufficient.--S.

[41] Lacretelle, tom. v., p. 341.


    _Proximate Cause of the Revolution--Deranged State of the
    Finances--Reforms in the Royal Household--System of Turgot and
    Necker--Necker's Exposition of the State of the Public
    Revenue--The Red-Book--Necker displaced--Succeeded by
    Calonne--General State of the Revenue--Assembly of the
    Notables--Calonne dismissed--Archbishop of Sens Administrator of
    the Finances--The King's Contest with the Parliament--Bed of
    Justice--Resistance of the Parliament and general Disorder in
    the Kingdom--Vacillating Policy of the Minister--Royal
    Sitting--Scheme of forming a Cour Plénière--It proves
    ineffectual--Archbishop of Sens retires, and is succeeded by
    Necker--He resolves to convoke the States General--Second
    Assembly of Notables previous to Convocation of the
    States--Questions as to the Numbers of which the Tiers Etat
    should consist, and the Mode in which the Estates should

We have already compared the monarchy of France to an ancient building,
which, however decayed by the wasting injuries of time, may long remain
standing from the mere adhesion of its parts, unless it is assailed by
some sudden and unexpected shock, the immediate violence of which
completes the ruin which the lapse of ages had only prepared. Or if its
materials have become dry and combustible, still they may long wait for
the spark which is to awake a general conflagration. Thus, the
monarchical government of France, notwithstanding the unsoundness of all
its parts, might have for some time continued standing and unconsumed,
nay, with timely and judicious repairs, might have been entire at this
moment, had the state of the finances of the kingdom permitted the
monarch to temporize with the existing discontents and the progress of
new opinions, without increasing the taxes of a people already greatly
overburdened, and now become fully sensible that these burdens were
unequally imposed, and sometimes prodigally dispensed.


A government, like an individual, may be guilty of many acts, both of
injustice and folly, with some chance of impunity, provided it possess
wealth enough to command partisans and to silence opposition; and
history shows us, that as, on the one hand, wealthy and money-saving
monarchs have usually been able to render themselves most independent of
their subjects, so, on the other, it is from needy princes, and when
exchequers are empty, that the people have obtained grants favourable to
freedom in exchange for their supplies. The period of pecuniary distress
in a government, if it be that when the subjects are most exposed to
oppression, is also the crisis in which they have the best chance of
recovering their political rights.

It is in vain that the constitution of a despotic government
endeavours, in its forms, to guard against the dangers of such
conjunctures, by vesting in the sovereign the most complete and
unbounded right to the property of his subjects. This doctrine, however
ample in theory, cannot in practice be carried beyond certain bounds,
without producing either privy conspiracy or open insurrection, being
the violent symptoms of the outraged feelings and exhausted patience of
the subject, which, in absolute monarchies, supply the want of all
regular political checks upon the power of the crown. Whenever the point
of human sufferance is exceeded, the despot must propitiate the wrath of
an insurgent people with the head of his minister, or he may tremble for
his own.[42]

In constitutions of a less determined despotical character, there almost
always arises some power of check or control, however anomalous, which
balances or counteracts the arbitrary exactions of the sovereign,
instead of the actual resistance of the subjects, as at Fez or
Constantinople. This was the case in France.

No constitution could have been more absolute in theory than that of
France, for two hundred years past, in the matter of finance; but yet in
practice there existed a power of control in the Parliaments, and
particularly in that of Paris. These courts, though strictly speaking
they were constituted only for the administration of justice, had forced
themselves, or been forced by circumstances, into a certain degree of
political power, which they exercised in control of the crown, in the
imposition of new taxes. It was agreed on all hands, that the royal
edicts, enforcing such new impositions, must be registered by the
Parliaments; but while the crown held the registering such edicts to be
an act purely ministerial, and the discharge of a function imposed by
official duty, the magistrates insisted, on the other hand, that they
possessed the power of deliberating and remonstrating, nay, of refusing
to register the royal edicts. The Parliaments exercised this power of
control on various occasions; and as their interference was always on
behalf of the subject, the practice, however anomalous, was sanctioned
by public opinion; and, in the absence of all other representatives of
the people, France naturally looked up to the magistrates as the
protectors of her rights, and as the only power which could offer even
the semblance of resistance to the arbitrary increase of the burdens of
the state. These functionaries cannot be charged with carelessness or
cowardice in the discharge of their duty; and as taxes increased and
became at the same time less productive, the opposition of the
Parliaments became more formidable. Louis XIV. endeavoured to break
their spirit by suppression of their court, and banishment of its
members from Paris; but, notwithstanding this temporary victory, he is
said to have predicted that his successor might not come off from the
renewed contest so successfully.

Louis XVI., with the plain well-meaning honesty which marked his
character, restored the Parliaments to their constitutional powers
immediately on his accession to the throne, having the generosity to
regard their resistance to his grandfather as a merit rather than an
offence. In the meanwhile, the revenue of the kingdom had fallen into a
most disastrous condition. The continued and renewed expense of
unsuccessful wars, the supplying the demands of a luxurious court, the
gratifying hungry courtiers, and enriching needy favourites, had
occasioned large deficits upon the public income of each successive
year. The ministers, meanwhile, anxious to provide for the passing
moment of their own administration, were satisfied to put off the evil
day by borrowing money at heavy interest, and leasing out, in security
of these loans, the various sources of revenue to the farmers-general.
On their part, these financiers used the government as bankrupt
prodigals are treated by usurious money-brokers, who, feeding their
extravagance with the one hand, with the other wring out of their ruined
fortunes the most unreasonable recompense for their advances. By a long
succession of these ruinous loans, and the various rights granted to
guarantee them, the whole finances of France appear to have fallen into
total confusion, and presented an inextricable chaos to those who
endeavoured to bring them into order. The farmers-general, therefore,
however obnoxious to the people, who considered with justice that their
overgrown fortunes were nourished by the life-blood of the community,
continued to be essentially necessary to the state, the expenses of
which they alone could find means of defraying;--thus supporting the
government, although Mirabeau said with truth, it was only in the sense
in which a rope supports a hanged man.

Louis XVI., fully sensible of the disastrous state of the public
revenue, did all he could to contrive a remedy. He limited his personal
expenses, and those of his household, with a rigour which approached to
parsimony, and dimmed the necessary splendour of the throne. He
abolished many pensions, and by doing so not only disobliged those who
were deprived of the instant enjoyment of those gratuities, but lost the
attachment of the much more numerous class of expectants, who served the
court in the hope of obtaining similar gratifications in their
turn.[43] Lastly, he dismissed a very large proportion of his household
troops and body-guards, affording another subject of discontent to the
nobles, out of whose families these corps were recruited, and destroying
with his own hand a force devotedly attached to the royal person, and
which, in the hour of popular fury, would have been a barrier of
inappreciable value. Thus, it was the misfortune of this well-meaning
prince, only to weaken his own cause and endanger his safety, by those
sacrifices intended to relieve the burdens of the people, and supply the
wants of the state.


The king adopted a broader and more effectual course of reform, by using
the advice of upright and skilful ministers, to introduce, as far as
possible, some degree of order into the French finances. Turgot,[44]
Malesherbes,[45] and Necker,[46] were persons of unquestionable skill,
of sound views, and undisputed integrity; and although the last-named
minister finally sunk in public esteem, it was only because
circumstances had excited such an extravagant opinion of his powers, as
could not have been met and realized by those of the first financier who
ever lived. These virtuous and patriotic statesmen did all in their
power to keep afloat the vessel of the state, and prevent at least the
increase of the deficit, which now arose yearly on the public accounts.
They, and Necker in particular, introduced economy and retrenchment into
all departments of the revenue, restored the public credit without
increasing the national burdens, and, by obtaining loans on reasonable
terms, were fortunate enough to find funds for the immediate support of
the American war, expensive as it was, without pressing on the patience
of the people by new impositions. Could this state of matters have been
supported for some years, opportunities might in that time have occurred
for adapting the French mode of government to the new lights which the
age afforded. Public opinion, joined to the beneficence of the
sovereign, had already wrought several important and desirable changes.
Many obnoxious and oppressive laws had been expressly abrogated, or
tacitly suffered to become obsolete, and there never sate a king upon
the French or any other throne, more willing than Louis XVI. to
sacrifice his own personal interest and prerogative to whatever seemed
to be the benefit of the state. Even at the very commencement of his
reign, and when obeying only the dictates of his own beneficence, he
reformed the penal code of France, which then savoured of the barbarous
times in which it had originated--he abolished the use of torture--he
restored to freedom those prisoners of state, the mournful inhabitants
of the Bastile, and other fortresses, who had been the victims of his
grandfather's jealousy--the compulsory labour called the _corvée_,[47]
levied from the peasantry, and one principal source of popular
discontent, had been abolished in some provinces and modified in
others--and while the police was under the regulation of the sage and
virtuous Malesherbes, its arbitrary powers had been seldom so exercised
as to become the subject of complaint. In short, the monarch partook the
influence of public opinion along with his subjects, and there seemed
just reason to hope, that, had times remained moderate, the monarchy of
France might have been reformed instead of being destroyed.

Unhappily, convulsions of the state became from day to day more violent,
and Louis XVI., who possessed the benevolence and good intentions of his
ancestor, Henry IV., wanted his military talents, and his political
firmness. In consequence of this deficiency, the king suffered himself
to be distracted by a variety of counsels; and vacillating, as all must
who act more from a general desire to do that which is right, than upon
any determined and well-considered system, he placed his power and his
character at the mercy of the changeful course of events, which firmness
might have at least combated, if it could not control. But it is
remarkable, that Louis resembled Charles I. of England more than any of
his own ancestors, in a want of self-confidence, which led to frequent
alterations of mind and changes of measures, as well as in a tendency to
uxoriousness, which enabled both Henrietta Marie, and Marie Antoinette,
to use a fatal influence upon their counsels. Both sovereigns fell under
the same suspicion of being deceitful and insincere, when perhaps
Charles, but certainly Louis, only changed his course of conduct from a
change of his own opinion, or from suffering himself to be
over-persuaded, and deferring to the sentiments of others.

Few monarchs of any country, certainly, have changed their ministry, and
with their ministry their counsels and measures, so often as Louis XVI.;
and with this unhappy consequence, that he neither persevered in a firm
and severe course of government long enough to inspire respect, nor in a
conciliatory and yielding policy for a sufficient time to propitiate
regard and confidence. It is with regret we notice this imperfection in
a character otherwise so excellent; but it was one of the leading causes
of the Revolution, that a prince, possessed of power too great to be
either kept or resigned with safety, hesitated between the natural
resolution to defend his hereditary prerogative, and the sense of
justice which induced him to restore such part of it as had been usurped
from the people by his ancestors. By adhering to the one course, he
might have been the conqueror of the Revolution; by adopting the other,
he had a chance to be its guide and governor; by hesitating between
them, he became its victim.

It was in consequence of this vacillation of purpose that Louis, in
1781, sacrificed Turgot and Necker to the intrigues of the court. These
statesmen had formed a plan for new-modelling the financial part of the
French monarchy, which, while it should gratify the people by admitting
representatives on their part to some influence in the imposition of new
taxes, might have released the king from the interference of the
parliaments, (whose office of remonstrance, although valuable as a
shelter from despotism, was often arbitrarily, and even factiously
exercised,) and have transferred to the direct representatives of the
people that superintendence, which ought never to have been in other

For this purpose the ministers proposed to institute, in the several
provinces of France, convocations of a representative nature, one-half
of whom was to be chosen from the Commons, or Third Estate, and the
other named by the nobles and clergy in equal proportions, and which
assemblies, without having the right of rejecting the edicts imposing
new taxes, were to apportion them amongst the subjects of their several
provinces. This system contained in it much that was excellent, and
might have opened the road for further improvements on the constitution;
while, at the same time, it would probably, so early as 1781, have been
received as a boon, by which the subjects were called to participate in
the royal counsels, rather than as a concession extracted from the
weakness of the sovereign, or from his despair of his own resources. It
afforded also an opportunity, peculiarly desirable in France, of forming
the minds of the people to the discharge of public duty. The British
nation owe much of the practical benefits of their constitution to the
habits with which almost all men are trained to exercise some public
right in head-courts, vestries, and other deliberative bodies, where
their minds are habituated to the course of business, and accustomed to
the manner in which it can be most regularly despatched. This advantage
would have been supplied to the French by Necker's scheme.

But with all the advantages which it promised, this plan of provincial
assemblies miscarried, owing to the emulous opposition of the Parliament
of Paris, who did not choose that any other body than their own should
be considered as the guardians of what remained in France of popular


Another measure of Necker was of more dubious policy. This was the
printing and publishing of his Report to the Sovereign of the state of
the revenues of France. The minister probably thought this display of
candour, which, however proper in itself, was hitherto unknown in the
French administration, might be useful to the King, whom it represented
as acquiescing in public opinion, and appearing not only ready, but
solicitous, to collect the sentiments of his subjects on the business of
the state. Necker might also deem the _Compte Rendu_ a prudent measure
on his own account, to secure the popular favour, and maintain himself
by the public esteem against the influence of court intrigue. Or lastly,
both these motives might be mingled with the natural vanity of showing
the world that France enjoyed, in the person of Necker, a minister bold
enough to penetrate into the labyrinth of confusion and obscurity which
had been thought inextricable by all his predecessors, and was at length
enabled to render to the sovereign and the people a detailed and
balanced account of the state of their finances.

Neither did the result of the national balance-sheet appear so
astounding as to require its being concealed as a state mystery. The
deficit, or the balance, by which the expenses of government exceeded
the revenue of the country, by no means indicated a desperate state of
finance, or one which must either demand immense sacrifices, or
otherwise lead to national bankruptcy. It did not greatly exceed the
annual defalcation of two millions, a sum which, to a country so fertile
as France, might even be termed trifling. At the same time, Necker
brought forward a variety of reductions and economical arrangements, by
which he proposed to provide for this deficiency, without either
incurring debt or burdening the subject with additional taxes.

But although this general exposure of the expenses of the state, this
appeal from the government to the people, had the air of a frank and
generous proceeding, and was, in fact, a step to the great
constitutional point of establishing in the nation and its
representatives the sole power of granting supplies, there may be doubt
whether it was not rather too hastily resorted to. Those from whose eyes
the cataract has been removed, are for some time deprived of light, and
in the end, it is supplied to them by limited degrees; but that glare
which was at once poured on the nation of France, served to dazzle as
many as it illuminated. The _Compte Rendu_ was the general subject of
conversation, not only in coffee-houses and public promenades, but in
saloons and ladies' boudoirs, and amongst society better qualified to
discuss the merits of the last comedy, or any other frivolity of the
day. The very array of figures had something ominous and terrible in it,
and the word _deficit_ was used, like the name of Marlborough of old, to
frighten children with.

To most it intimated the total bankruptcy of the nation, and prepared
many to act with the selfish and shortsighted license of sailors, who
plunder the cargo of their own vessel in the act of shipwreck. Others
saw, in the account of expenses attached to the person and dignity of
the prince, a wasteful expenditure, which, in that hour of avowed
necessity, a nation might well dispense with. Men began to number the
guards and household pomp of the sovereign and his court, as the
daughters of Lear did the train of their father. The reduction already
commenced might be carried, thought these provident persons, yet

    "What needs he five-and-twenty, ten, or five?"

And no doubt some, even at this early period, arrived at the ultimate

    "What needs ONE?"

Besides the domestic and household expenses of the sovereign, which, so
far as personal, were on the most moderate scale, the public mind was
much more justly revolted at the large sum yearly squandered among needy
courtiers and their dependents, or even less justifiably lavished upon
those whose rank and fortune ought to have placed them far above adding
to the burdens of the subjects. The king had endeavoured to abridge this
list of gratuities and pensions, but the system of corruption which had
prevailed for two centuries, was not to be abolished in an instant; the
throne, already tottering, could not immediately be deprived of the band
of stipendiary grandees whom it had so long maintained, and who afforded
it their countenance in return, and it was perhaps impolitic to fix the
attention of the public on a disclosure so peculiarly invidious, until
the opportunity of correcting it should arrive;--it was like the
disclosure of a wasting sore, useless and disgusting unless when shown
to a surgeon, and for the purpose of cure. Yet, though the account
rendered by the minister of the finances, while it passed from the hand
of one idler to another, and occupied on sofas and toilettes the place
of the latest novel, did doubtless engage giddy heads in vain and
dangerous speculation, something was to be risked in order to pave the
way of regaining for the French subjects the right most essential to
freemen, that of granting or refusing their own supplies. The publicity
of the distressed state of the finances, induced a general conviction
that the oppressive system of taxation could only be removed, and that
approaching bankruptcy, which was a still greater evil, avoided, by
resorting to the nation itself, convoked in their ancient form of
representation, which was called the States-General.

It was true that, through length of time, the nature and powers of this
body were forgotten, if indeed they had ever been very thoroughly fixed:
and it was also true, that the constitution of the States-General of
1614, which was the last date of their being assembled, was not likely
to suit a period when the country was so much changed, both in
character and circumstances. The doubts concerning the composition of
the medicine, and its probable effects, seldom abate the patient's
confidence. All joined in desiring the convocation of this
representative body, and all expected that such an assembly would be
able to find some satisfactory remedy for the pressing evils of the
state. The cry was general, and, as usual in such cases, few who joined
in it knew exactly what it was they wanted.

[Sidenote: TIERS ETAT.]

Looking back on the period of 1780, with the advantage of our own
experience, it is possible to see a chance, though perhaps a doubtful
one, of avoiding the universal shipwreck which was fated to ensue. If
the royal government, determining to gratify the general wish, had taken
the initiative in conceding the great national measure as a boon flowing
from the prince's pure good-will and love of his subjects, and if
measures had been taken rapidly and decisively to secure seats in these
bodies, but particularly in the Tiers Etat, to men known for their
moderation and adherence to the monarchy, it seems probable that the
crown might have secured such an interest, in a body of its own
creation, as would have silenced the attempts of any heated spirits to
hurry the kingdom into absolute revolution. The reverence paid to the
throne for so many centuries, had yet all the influence of unassailed
sanctity; the king was still the master of an army, commanded under him
by his nobles, and as yet animated by the spirit of loyalty, which is
the natural attribute of the military profession; the minds of men were
not warmed at once, and wearied, by a fruitless and chicaning delay,
which only showed the extreme indisposition of the court to grant what
they had no means of ultimately refusing; nor had public opinion yet
been agitated by the bold discussions of a thousand pamphleteers, who,
under pretence of enlightening the people, prepossessed their minds with
the most extreme ideas of the popular character of the representation of
the Tiers Etat, and its superiority over every other power of the state.
Ambitious and unscrupulous men would then hardly have had the time or
boldness to form those audacious pretensions which their ancestors
dreamed not of, and which the course of six or seven years of protracted
expectation, and successive renewals of hope, succeeded by
disappointment, enabled them to mature.

Such a fatal interval, however, was suffered to intervene, between the
first idea of convoking the States-General, and the period when that
measure became inevitable. Without this delay, the king, invested with
all his royal prerogatives, and at the head of the military force, might
have surrendered with a good grace such parts of his power as were
inconsistent with the liberal opinions of the time, and such surrender
must have been received as a grace, since it could not have been exacted
as a sacrifice. The conduct of the government, in the interim, towards
the nation whose representatives it was shortly to meet, resembled that
of an insane person, who should by a hundred teazing and vexatious
insults irritate into frenzy the lion, whose cage he was about to open,
and to whose fury he must necessarily be exposed.


Necker, whose undoubted honesty, as well as his republican candour, had
rendered him highly popular, had, under the influence of the old
intriguer Maurepas, been dismissed from his office as minister of
finance, in 1781. The witty, versatile, selfish, and cunning Maurepas,
had the art to hold his power till the last moment of his long life, and
died at the moment when the knell of death was a summons to call him
from impending ruin.[48] He made, according to an expressive northern
proverb, the "day and way alike long;" and died just about the period
when the system of evasion and palliation, of usurious loans and lavish
bounties, could scarce have served longer to save him from disgrace.
Vergennes,[49] who succeeded him, was, like himself, a courtier rather
than a statesman; more studious to preserve his own power, by continuing
the same system of partial expedients and temporary shifts, than willing
to hazard the king's favour, or the popularity of his administration, by
attempting any scheme of permanent utility or general reformation.
Calonne,[50] the minister of finance, who had succeeded to that office
after the brief administrations of Fleury and d'Ormesson, called on by
his duty to the most difficult and embarrassing branch of government,
was possessed of a more comprehensive genius, and more determined
courage, than his principal Vergennes. So early as the year 1784, the
deficiency betwixt the receipts of the whole revenues of the state, and
the expenditure, extended to six hundred and eighty-four millions of
livres, in British money about equal to twenty-eight millions four
hundred thousand pounds sterling; but then a certain large portion of
this debt consisted in annuities granted by government, which were
annually in the train of being extinguished by the death of the holders;
and there was ample room for saving, in the mode of collecting the
various taxes. So that large as the sum of deficit appeared, it could
not have been very formidable, considering the resources of so rich a
country; but it was necessary, that the pressure of new burdens, to be
imposed at this exigence, should be equally divided amongst the orders
of the state. The Third Estate, or Commons, had been exhausted under the
weight of taxes, which fell upon them alone, and Calonne formed the bold
and laudable design of compelling the clergy and nobles, hitherto
exempted from taxation, to contribute their share to the revenues of the

This, however, was, in the present state of the public, too bold a
scheme to be carried into execution without the support of something
resembling a popular representation. At this crisis, again might Louis
have summoned the States-General, with some chance of uniting their
suffrages with the wishes of the Crown. The King would have found
himself in a natural alliance with the Commons, in a plan to abridge
those immunities, which the Clergy and Nobles possessed, to the
prejudice of The Third Estate. He would thus, in the outset at least,
have united the influence and interests of the Crown with those of the
popular party, and established something like a balance in the
representative body, in which the Throne must have had considerable

Apparently, Calonne and his principal Vergennes were afraid to take this
manly and direct course, as indeed the ministers of an arbitrary monarch
can rarely be supposed willing to call in the aid of a body of popular
representatives. The ministers endeavoured, therefore, to supply the
want of a body like the States-General, by summoning together an
assembly of what was termed the Notables, or principal persons in the
kingdom. This was in every sense an unadvised measure.[51] With
something resembling the form of a great national council, the Notables
had no right to represent the nation, neither did it come within their
province to pass any resolution whatever. Their post was merely that of
an extraordinary body of counsellors, who deliberated on any subject
which the King might submit to their consideration, and were to express
their opinion in answer to the Sovereign's interrogatories; but an
assembly, which could only start opinions and debate upon them, without
coming to any effective or potential decision, was a fatal resource at a
crisis when decision was peremptorily necessary, and when all vague and
irrelevant discussion was, as at a moment of national fermentation, to
be cautiously avoided. Above all, there was this great error in having
recourse to the Assembly of the Notables, that, consisting entirely of
the privileged orders, the council was composed of the individuals most
inimical to the equality of taxes, and most tenacious of those very
immunities which were struck at by the scheme of the minister of

Calonne found himself opposed at every point and received from the
Notables remonstrances instead of support and countenance. That Assembly
censuring all his plans, and rejecting his proposals, he was in their
presence like a rash necromancer, who has been indeed able to raise a
demon, but is unequal to the task of guiding him when evoked. He was
further weakened by the death of Vergennes, and finally obliged to
resign his place and his country, a sacrifice at once to court intrigue
and popular odium. Had this able but rash minister convoked the
States-General instead of the Notables, he would have been at least sure
of the support of the Third Estate, or Commons; and, allied with them,
might have carried through so popular a scheme, as that which went to
establish taxation upon a just and equal principle, affecting the rich
as well as the poor, the proud prelate and wealthy noble, as well as the
industrious cultivator of the soil.

Calonne having retired to England from popular hatred, his perilous
office devolved upon the Archbishop of Sens, afterwards the Cardinal de
Loménie,[52] who was raised to the painful pre-eminence [May] by the
interest of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, whose excellent qualities
were connected with a spirit of state-intrigue, proper to the sex in
such elevated situations, which but too frequently thwarted or bore down
the more candid intentions of her husband, and tended, though on her
part unwittingly, to give his public measures, sometimes adopted on his
own principles, and sometimes influenced by her intrigues and
solicitations, an appearance of vacillation, and even of duplicity,
which greatly injured them both in the public opinion. The new minister
finding it as difficult to deal with the Assembly of Notables as his
predecessor, the King finally dissolved that body, without having
received from them either the countenance or good counsel which had been
expected; thus realizing the opinion expressed by Voltaire concerning
such convocations:

    "De tous ces Etats l'effet le plus commun,
    Est de voir tous nos maux, sans en soulager un."[53]

[Sidenote: BED OF JUSTICE.]

After dismission of the Notables, the minister adopted or recommended a
line of conduct so fluctuating and indecisive, so violent at one time in
support of the royal prerogative, and so pusillanimous when he
encountered resistance from the newly-awakened spirit of liberty, that
had he been bribed to render the crown at once odious and contemptible,
or to engage his master in a line of conduct which should irritate the
courageous, and encourage the timid, among his dissatisfied subjects,
the Archbishop of Sens could hardly, after the deepest thought, have
adopted measures better adapted for such a purpose. As if determined to
bring matters to an issue betwixt the King and the Parliament of Paris,
he laid before the latter two new edicts for taxes,[54] similar in most
respects to those which had been recommended by his predecessor Calonne
to the Notables. The Parliament refused to register these edicts, being
the course which the minister ought to have expected. He then resolved
upon a display of the royal prerogative in its most arbitrary and
obnoxious form. A Bed of Justice,[55] as it was termed, was held, [Aug.
6,] where the King, presiding in person over the Court of Parliament,
commanded the edicts imposing certain new taxes to be registered in his
own presence; thus, by an act of authority emanating directly from the
Sovereign, beating down the only species of opposition which the
subjects, through any organ whatever, could offer to the increase of

The Parliament yielded the semblance of a momentary obedience, but
protested solemnly, that the edict having been registered solely by the
royal command, and against their unanimous opinion, should not have the
force of a law. They remonstrated also to the Throne in terms of great
freedom and energy, distinctly intimating, that they could not and would
not be the passive instruments, through the medium of whom the public
was to be loaded with new impositions; and they expressed, for the first
time, in direct terms, the proposition, fraught with the fate of France,
that neither the edicts of the King, nor the registration of those
edicts by the Parliament, were sufficient to impose permanent burdens on
the people; but such taxation was competent to the States-General

In punishment of their undaunted defence of the popular cause, the
Parliament was banished to Troyes; the government thus increasing the
national discontent by the removal of the principal court of the
kingdom, and by all the evils incident to a delay of public justice. The
Provincial Parliaments supported the principles adopted by their
brethren of Paris. The Chamber of Accounts, and the Court of Aids, the
judicial establishments next in rank to that of the Parliament, also
remonstrated against the taxes, and refused to enforce them. They were
not enforced accordingly; and thus, for the first time, during two
centuries at least, the royal authority of France being brought into
direct collision with public opinion and resistance, was, by the energy
of the subject, compelled to retrograde and yield ground. This was the
first direct and immediate movement of that mighty Revolution, which
afterwards rushed to its crisis like a rock rolling down a mountain.
This was the first torch which was actually applied to the various
combustibles which lay scattered through France, and which we have
endeavoured to analyze. The flame soon spread into the provinces. The
nobles of Brittany broke out into a kind of insurrection; the Parliament
of Grenoble impugned, by a solemn decree, the legality of _lettres de
cachet_. Strange and alarming fears,--wild and boundless
hopes,--inconsistent rumours,--a vague expectation of impending
events,--all contributed to agitate the public mind. The quick and
mercurial tempers which chiefly distinguish the nation, were half
maddened with suspense, while even the dull nature of the lowest and
most degraded of the community felt the coming impulse of extraordinary
changes, as cattle are observed to be disturbed before an approaching

The minister could not sustain his courage in such a menacing
conjuncture, yet unhappily attempted a show of resistance, instead of
leaving the King to the influence of his own sound sense and excellent
disposition, which always induced him to choose the means of
conciliation. There was indeed but one choice, and it lay betwixt civil
war or concession. A despot would have adopted the former course, and,
withdrawing from Paris, would have gathered around him the army still
his own. A patriotic monarch--and such was Louis XVI. when exercising
his own judgment--would have chosen the road of concession; yet his
steps, even in retreating, would have been so firm, and his attitude so
manly, that the people would not have ventured to ascribe to fear what
flowed solely from a spirit of conciliation. But the conduct of the
minister, or of those who directed his motions, was an alternation of
irritating opposition to the public voice, and of ill-timed submission
to its demands, which implied an understanding impaired by the perils of
the conjuncture, and unequal alike to the task of avoiding them by
concession, or resisting them with courage.

The King, indeed, recalled the Parliament of Paris from their exile,
coming, at the same time, under an express engagement to convoke the
States-General, and leading the subjects, of course, to suppose that the
new imposts were to be left to their consideration. But, as if to
irritate men's minds, by showing a desire to elude the execution of what
had been promised, the minister ventured, in an evil hour, to hazard
another experiment upon the firmness of their nerves, and again to
commit the dignity of the sovereign by bringing him personally to issue
a command, which experience had shown the Parliament were previously
resolved to disobey. By this new proceeding, the King was induced to
hold what was called a Royal Sitting of the Parliament, which resembled
in all its forms a Bed of Justice, except that it seems as if the
commands of the monarch were esteemed less authoritative when so issued,
than when they were, as on the former occasion, delivered in this last
obnoxious assembly.

Thus, at less advantage than before, and, at all events, after the total
failure of a former experiment, the King, arrayed in all the forms of
his royalty, once more, and for the last time, convoked his Parliament
in person; and again with his own voice commanded the court to register
a royal edict for a loan of four hundred and twenty millions of francs,
to be raised in the course of five years. This demand gave occasion to a
debate which lasted nine hours, and was only closed by the King rising
up, and issuing at length his positive and imperative orders that the
loan should be registered. To the astonishment of the meeting, the first
prince of the blood, the Duke of Orleans, arose, as if in reply, and
demanded to know if they were assembled in a Bed of Justice or a Royal
Sitting; and receiving for answer that the latter was the quality of the
meeting, he entered a solemn protest against the proceedings. [Nov. 19.]
Thus was the authority of the King once more brought in direct
opposition to the assertors of the rights of the people, as if on
purpose to show, in the face of the whole nation, that its terrors were
only those of a phantom, whose shadowy bulk might overawe the timid, but
could offer no real cause of fear when courageously opposed.

The minister did not, however, give way without such an ineffectual
struggle, as at once showed the weakness of the royal authority, and the
willingness to wield it with the despotic sway of former times. Two
members of the Parliament of Paris[57] were imprisoned in remote
fortresses, and the Duke of Orleans was sent in exile to his estate.

A long and animated exchange of remonstrances followed betwixt the King
and the Parliament, in which the former acknowledged his weakness, even
by entering into the discussion of his prerogative; as well as by the
concessions he found himself obliged to tender. Meantime, the Archbishop
of Sens nourished the romantic idea of getting rid of these refractory
courts entirely, and at the same time to evade the convocation of the
States-General, substituting in their place the erection of a
_Cour-plénière_, or ancient Feudal Court, composed of princes, peers,
marshals of France, deputies from the provinces, and other distinguished
persons, who should in future exercise all the higher and nobler duties
of the Parliaments, thus reduced to their original and proper duties as
courts of justice.[58] But a court, or council of the ancient feudal
times, with so slight an infusion of popular representation, could in no
shape have accorded with the ideas which now generally prevailed; and so
much was this felt to be the case, that many of the peers, and other
persons nominated members of the _Cour-plénière_, declined the seats
proposed to them, and the whole plan fell to the ground.


Meantime, violence succeeded to violence, and remonstrance to
remonstrance. The Parliament of Paris, and all the provincial bodies of
the same description, being suspended from their functions, and the
course of regular justice of course interrupted, the spirit of revolt
became general through the realm, and broke out in riots and
insurrections of a formidable description; while, at the same time, the
inhabitants of the capital were observed to become dreadfully agitated.

There wanted not writers to fan the rising discontent; and, what seems
more singular, they were permitted to do so without interruption,
notwithstanding the deepened jealousy with which free discussion was now
regarded in France. Libels and satires of every description were
publicly circulated, without an attempt on the part of the government to
suppress the publications, or to punish their authors, although the most
scandalous attacks on the royal family, and on the queen in particular,
were dispersed along with these political effusions. It seemed as if the
arm of power was paralyzed, and the bonds of authority which had so long
fettered the French people were falling asunder of themselves; for the
liberty of the press, so long unknown was now openly assumed and
exercised, without the government daring to interfere.[59]

To conclude the picture, as if God and man had alike determined the fall
of this ancient monarchy, a hurricane of most portentous and unusual
character burst on the kingdom, and laying waste the promised harvest
far and wide, showed to the terrified inhabitants the prospect at once
of poverty and famine, added to those of national bankruptcy and a
distracted government.[60]

The latter evils seemed fast advancing; for the state of the finances
became so utterly desperate, that Louis was under the necessity of
stopping a large proportion of the treasury payments, and issuing bills
for the deficiency. At this awful crisis, fearing for the King, and more
for himself, the Archbishop of Sens retired from administration,[61] and
left the monarch, while bankruptcy and famine threatened the kingdom, to
manage as he might, amid the storms which the measures of the minister
himself had provoked to the uttermost.


A new premier, and a total alteration of measures were to be resorted
to, while Necker, the popular favourite, called to the helm of the
state, regretted, with bitter anticipation of misfortune, the time which
had been worse than wasted under the rule of the archbishop, who had
employed it in augmenting the enemies and diminishing the resources of
the crown, and forcing the King on such measures as caused the royal
authority to be generally regarded as the common enemy of all ranks of
the kingdom.[62] To redeem the royal pledge by convoking the
States-General, seemed to Necker the most fair as well as most politic
proceeding; and indeed this afforded the only chance of once more
reconciling the prince with the people, though it was now yielding that
to a demand, which two years before would have been received as a boon.

We have already observed that the constitution of this assembly of
national representatives was little understood, though the phrase was in
the mouth of every one. It was to be the panacea to the disorders of the
nation, yet men knew imperfectly the mode of composing this universal
medicine, or the manner of its operation. Or rather, the people of
France invoked the assistance of this national council, as they would
have done that of a tutelary angel, with full confidence in his power
and benevolence, though they neither knew the form in which he might
appear, nor the nature of the miracles which he was to perform in their
behalf. It has been strongly objected to Necker, that he neglected, on
the part of the crown, to take the initiative line of conduct on this
important occasion, and it has been urged that it was the minister's
duty, without making any question or permitting any doubt, to assume
that mode of convening the states, and regulating them when assembled,
which should best tend to secure the tottering influence of his master.
But Necker probably thought the time was past in which this power might
have been assumed by the crown without exciting jealousy or opposition.
The royal authority, he might recollect, had been of late years
repeatedly strained, until it had repeatedly given way, and the issue,
first of the Bed of Justice, and then of the Royal Sitting, was
sufficient to show that words of authority would be wasted in vain upon
disobedient ears, and might only excite a resistance which would prove
its own lack of power. It was, therefore, advisable not to trust to the
unaided exercise of prerogative, but to strengthen instead the
regulations which might be adopted for the constitution of the
States-General, by the approbation of some public body independent of
the King and his ministers. And with this purpose, Necker convened a
second meeting of the Notables, [November,] and laid before them, for
their consideration, his plan for the constitution of the

There were two great points submitted to this body, concerning the
constitution of the States-General. I. In what proportion the deputies
of the Three Estates should be represented? II. Whether, when assembled,
the Nobles, Clergy, and Third Estate, or Commons, should act separately
as distinct chambers, or sit and vote as one united body?

[Sidenote: THE TIERS ETAT.]

Necker, a minister of an honest and candid disposition, a republican
also, and therefore on principle a respecter of public opinion,
unhappily did not recollect, that to be well-formed and accurate, public
opinion should be founded on the authority of men of talents and
integrity; and that the popular mind must be pre-occupied by arguments
of a sound and virtuous tendency, else the enemy will sow tares, and the
public will receive it in the absence of more wholesome grain. Perhaps,
also, this minister found himself less in his element when treating of
state affairs, than while acting in his proper capacity as a financier.
However that may be, Necker's conduct resembled that of an unresolved
general, who directs his movements by the report of a council of war. He
did not sufficiently perceive the necessity that the measures to be
taken should originate with himself rather than arise from the
suggestion of others, and did not, therefore, avail himself of his
situation and high popularity, to recommend such general preliminary
arrangements as might preserve the influence of the crown in the
States-General, without encroaching on the rights of the subject. The
silence of Necker leaving all in doubt, and open to discussion, those
arguments had most weight with the public which ascribed most importance
to the Third Estate. The talents of the Nobles and Clergy might be
considered as having been already in vain appealed to in the two
sessions of the Notables, an assembly composed chiefly out of the
privileged classes, and whose advice and opinion had been given without
producing any corresponding good effect. The Parliament had declared
themselves incompetent to the measures necessary for the exigencies of
the kingdom. The course adopted by the King indicated doubt and
uncertainty, if not incapacity. The Tiers Etat, therefore, was the body
of counsellors to whom the nation looked at this critical conjuncture.

"What is the Tiers Etat?" formed the title of a pamphlet by the Abbé
Siêyes; and the answer returned by the author was such as augmented all
the magnificent ideas already floating in men's minds concerning the
importance of this order. "The Tiers Etat," said he, "comprehends the
whole nation of France, excepting only the nobles and clergy." This view
of the matter was so far successful, that the Notables recommended that
the Commons, or Third Estate, should have a body of representatives
equal to those of the nobles and the clergy united, and should thus
form, in point of relative numbers, the moiety of the whole delegates.

This, however, would have been comparatively of small importance, had it
been determined that the three estates were to sit, deliberate, and
vote, not as a united body, but in three several chambers.

Necker conceded to the Tiers Etat the right of double representation,
but seemed prepared to maintain the ancient order of debating and voting
by separate chambers. The crown had been already worsted by the rising
spirit of the country in every attempt which it had made to stand
through its own unassisted strength; and torn as the bodies of the
clergy and nobles were by internal dissensions, and weakened by the
degree of popular odium with which they were loaded, it would have
required an artful consolidation of their force, and an intimate union
betwixt them and the crown, to maintain a balance against the popular
claims of the Commons, likely to be at once so boldly urged by
themselves, and so favourably viewed by the nation. All this was,
however, left, in a great measure, to accident, while every chance was
against its being arranged in the way most advantageous to the monarchy.

The minister ought also in policy to have paved the way, for securing a
party in the Third Estate itself, which should bear some character of
royalism. This might doubtless have been done by the usual ministerial
arts of influencing elections, or gaining over to the crown-interests
some of the many men of talents, who, determined to raise themselves in
this new world, had not yet settled to which side they were to give
their support. But Necker, less acquainted with men than with
mathematics, imagined that every member had intelligence enough to see
the measures best calculated for the public good, and virtue enough to
follow them faithfully and exclusively. It was in vain that the Marquis
de Bouillé[63] pointed out the dangers arising from the constitution
assigned to the States-General, and insisted that the minister was
arming the popular part of the nation against the two privileged orders,
and that the latter would soon experience the effects of their hatred,
animated by self-interest and vanity, the most active passions of
mankind. Necker calmly replied, that there was a necessary reliance to
be placed on the virtues of the human heart;--the maxim of a worthy man,
but not of an enlightened statesman,[64] who has but too much reason to
know how often both the virtues and the prudence of human nature are
surmounted by its prejudices and passions.[65]

It was in this state of doubt, and total want of preparation, that the
King was to meet the representatives of the people, whose elections had
been trusted entirely to chance, without even an attempt to influence
them in favour of the most eligible persons. Yet surely the crown,
hitherto almost the sole acknowledged authority in France, should have
been provided with supporters in the new authority which was to be
assembled. At least the minister might have been prepared with some
system or plan of proceeding, upon which this most important convention
was to conduct its deliberations; but there was not even an attempt to
take up the reins which were floating on the necks of those who were for
the first time harnessed to the chariot of the state. All was
expectation, mere vague and unauthorised hope, that in this multitude of
counsellors there would be found safety.[66]

Hitherto we have described the silent and smooth, but swift and
powerful, stream of innovation, as it rolled on to the edge of the sheer
precipice. We are now to view the precipitate tumult and terrors of the


[42] When Buonaparte expressed much regret and anxiety on account of the
assassination of the Emperor Paul, he was comforted by Fouché with words
to the following effect:--"Que voulez vous enfin? C'est une mode de
destitution propre à ce pais-là!"--S.

[43] Louis XV. had the arts if not the virtues of a monarch. He asked
one of his ministers what he supposed might be the price of the carriage
in which they were sitting. The minister, making a great allowance for
the monarch's paying _en prince_, yet guessed within two-thirds less
than the real sum. When the king named the actual price, the statesman
exclaimed, but the monarch cut him short. "Do not attempt," he said, "to
reform the expenses of my household. There are too many, and too great
men, who have their share in that extortion, and to make a reformation
would give too much discontent. No minister can attempt it with success
or with safety." This is the picture of the waste attending a despotic
government: the cup which is filled to the very brim cannot be lifted to
the lips without wasting the contents.--S.

[44] Turgot was born at Paris in 1727. Called to the head of the
Finances in 1774, he excited the jealousy of the courtiers by his
reforms, and of the parliaments by the abolition of the corvées. Beset
on all sides, Louis, in 1776, dismissed him, observing at the same time,
that "Turgot, and he alone, loved the people." Malesherbes said of him,
that "he had the head of Bacon, and the heart of L'Hopital." He died in

[45] Malesherbes, the descendant of an illustrious family, was born at
Paris in 1721. When Louis the Sixteenth ascended the throne, he was
appointed minister of the interior, which he resigned on the retirement
of his friend Turgot. He was called back into public life, at the crisis
of the Revolution, to be the legal defender of his sovereign; but his
pleadings only procured for himself the honour of perishing on the same
scaffold in 1794, together with his daughter and grand-daughter.

[46] Necker was born at Geneva in 1732; he married, in 1764,
Mademoiselle Curchod, the early object of Gibbon's affection, and by her
had the daughter so celebrated as the Baroness de Staël Holstein. M.
Necker settled in Paris, rose into high reputation as a banker, and was
first called to office under the government in 1776. He died in 1804.

[47] The corvées, or burdens imposed for the maintenance of the public
roads, were bitterly complained of by the farmers. This iniquitous part
of the financial system was abolished in 1774, by Turgot.

[48] Maurepas was born in 1701. "At the age of eighty, he presented to
the world the ridiculous spectacle of caducity affecting the frivolity
of youth, and employed that time in penning a sonnet which would more
properly have been devoted to correcting a despatch, or preparing an
armament." He died in 1781.--See LACRETELLE, tom. v., p. 8.

[49] The Count de Vergennes was born at Dijon in 1717. He died in 1787,
greatly regretted by Louis, who was impressed by the conviction that,
had his life been prolonged, the Revolution would not have taken place.

[50] Calonne was born at Douay in 1734. After being an exile in England,
and other parts of Europe, he died at Paris in 1802.

[51] They were summoned on 29th December, 1786, and met on 22d February
of the subsequent year.--S.

[52] M. Loménie de Brienne was born at Paris in 1727. On being appointed
Prime Minister, he was made Archbishop of Sens, and on retiring from
office, in 1788, he obtained a cardinal's hat. He died in prison in


    Such Convocations all our ills descry,
    And promise much, but no true cure apply.

[54] Viz., One on timber, and one on territorial possessions.--See
THIERS, vol. i., p. 14.

[55] "Lit de Justice"--the throne upon which the King was seated when he
went to the Parliament.

[56] Mignet, Hist. de la Rev. Française, tom. i., p. 21.

[57] Freteau and Sabatier. They were banished to the Hières. In 1794,
Freteau was sent to the guillotine by Robespierre.

[58] Mignet, tom. i., p. 22; Thiers, tom. i., p. 19.

[59] De Staël, tom. i., p. 169.

[60] Thiers, tom. i., p. 37.

[61] 25th August, 1788. The archbishop fled to Italy with great
expedition, after he had given in his resignation to his unfortunate
sovereign.--See _ante_, p. 50.--S.

[62] When Necker received the intimation of his recall, his first words
were, "Ah! why did they not give me those fifteen months of the
Archbishop of Sens? Now it is too late."--DE STAËL, vol. i., p. 157.

[63] De Bouillé was a native of Auvergne, and a relative of La Fayette.
He died in London, in 1800.

[64] See Mémoires de Bouillé. Madame de Staël herself admits this
deficiency in the character of a father, of whom she was justly
proud.--"Se fiant trop il faut l'avouer, à l'empire de la
raison."--S.--("Confiding, it must be admitted, too much in the power of
reason.")--_Rev. Franç._, tom. i., p. 171.

[65] "The concessions of Necker were the work of a man ignorant of the
first principles of the government of mankind. It was he who overturned
the monarchy, and brought Louis XVI. to the scaffold. Marat, Danton,
Robespierre himself, did less mischief to France: he brought on the
Revolution, which they consummated."--NAPOLEON, as reported by
_Bourrienne_, tom. viii., p. 108.

[66] A _calembourg_ of the period presaged a different result.--"So
numerous a concourse of state-physicians assembled to consult for the
weal of the nation, argued," it was said, "the imminent danger and
approaching death of the patient."--S.


    _Meeting of the States-General--Predominant Influence of the
    Tiers Etat--Property not represented sufficiently in that
    Body--General character of the Members--Disposition of the
    Estate of the Nobles--And of the Clergy--Plan of forming the
    Three Estates into two Houses--Its advantages--It fails--The
    Clergy unite with the Tiers Etat, which assumes the title of the
    National Assembly--They assume the task of Legislation, and
    declare all former Fiscal Regulations illegal--They assert their
    determination to continue their Sessions--Royal
    Sitting--Terminates in the Triumph of the Assembly--Parties in


The Estates-General of France met at Versailles on the 5th May, 1789,
and that was indisputably the first day of the Revolution. The Abbé
Siêyes, in a pamphlet which we have mentioned, had already asked, "What
was the Third Estate?--It was _the whole nation_. What had it been
hitherto in a political light?--Nothing. What was it about to become
presently?--Something." Had the last answer been _Every thing_, it would
have been nearer the truth; for it soon appeared that this Third Estate,
which, in the year 1614, the Nobles had refused to acknowledge even as a
younger brother[67] of their order, was now, like the rod of the
prophet, to swallow up all those who affected to share its power. Even
amid the pageantry with which the ceremonial of the first sitting
abounded, it was clearly visible that the wishes, hopes, and interest of
the public, were exclusively fixed upon the representatives of the
Commons. The rich garments and floating plumes of the Nobility, and the
reverend robes of the Clergy, had nothing to fix the public eye; their
sounding and emphatic titles had nothing to win the ear; the
recollection of the high feats of the one, and long sanctified
characters of the other order, had nothing to influence the mind of the
spectators. All eyes were turned on the members of the Third Estate, in
a plebeian and humble costume, corresponding to their lowly birth and
occupation, as the only portion of the assembly from whom they looked
for the lights and the counsels which the time demanded.[68]

It would be absurd to assert, that the body which thus engrossed the
national attention was devoid of talents to deserve it. On the contrary,
the Tiers Etat contained a large proportion of the learning, the
intelligence, and the eloquence of the kingdom; but unhappily it was
composed of men of theory rather than of practice, men more prepared to
change than to preserve or repair; and, above all, of men, who,
generally speaking, were not directly concerned in the preservation of
peace and order, by possessing a large property in the country.

The due proportion in which talents and property are represented in the
British House of Commons, is perhaps the best assurance for the
stability of the constitution. Men of talents, bold, enterprising, eager
for distinction, and ambitious of power, suffer no opportunity to escape
of recommending such measures as may improve the general system, and
raise to distinction those by whom they are proposed; while men of
substance, desirous of preserving the property which they possess, are
scrupulous in scrutinizing every new measure, and steady in rejecting
such as are not accompanied with the most certain prospect of advantage
to the state. Talent, eager and active, desires the means of employment;
Property, cautious, doubtful, jealous of innovation, acts as a regulator
rather than an impulse on the machine, by preventing its either moving
too rapidly, or changing too suddenly. The over-caution of those by whom
property is represented, may sometimes, indeed, delay a projected
improvement, but much more frequently impedes a rash and hazardous
experiment. Looking back on the Parliamentary history of two centuries,
it is easy to see how much practical wisdom has been derived from the
influence exercised by those members called Country Gentlemen, who,
unambitious of distinguishing themselves by their eloquence, and
undesirous of mingling in the ordinary debates of the house, make their
sound and unsophisticated good sense heard and understood upon every
crisis of importance, in a manner alike respected by the Ministry and
the opposition of the day,--by the professed statesmen of the house,
whose daily business is legislation, and whose thoughts, in some
instances, are devoted to public affairs, because they have none of
their own much worth looking after. In this great and most important
characteristic of representation, the Tiers Etat of France was
necessarily deficient; in fact, the part of the French constitution,
which, without exactly corresponding to the country gentlemen of
England, most nearly resembled them, was a proportion of the Rural
Noblesse of France, who were represented amongst the Estate of the
Nobility. An edict, detaching these rural proprietors, and perhaps the
inferior clergy, from their proper orders, and including their
representatives in that of the Tiers Etat, would have infused into the
latter assembly a proportional regard for the rights of landholders,
whether lay or clerical; and as they must have had a voice in those
anatomical experiments, of which their property was about to become the
subject, it may be supposed they would have resisted the application of
the scalpel, excepting when it was unavoidably necessary. Instead of
which, both the Nobles and Clergy came soon to be placed on the
anatomical table at the mercy of each state-quack, who, having no
interest in their sufferings, thought them excellent subjects on which
to exemplify some favourite hypothesis.

While owners of extensive landed property were in a great measure
excluded from the representation of the Third Estate, its ranks were
filled from those classes which seek novelties in theory, and which are
in the habit of profiting by them in practice. There were professed men
of letters called thither, as they hoped and expected, to realize
theories, for the greater part inconsistent with the present state of
things, in which, to use one of their own choicest common-places,--"Mind
had not yet acquired its due rank." There were many of the inferior
branches of the law; for, unhappily, in this profession also the graver
and more enlightened members were called by their rank to the Estate of
the Noblesse. To these were united churchmen without livings, and
physicians without patients; men, whose education generally makes them
important in the humble society in which they move, and who are
proportionally presumptuous and conceited of their own powers, when
advanced into that which is superior to their usual walk. There were
many bankers also, speculators in politics, as in their natural
employment of stock-jobbing; and there were intermingled with the
classes we have noticed some individual nobles, expelled from their own
ranks for want of character, who, like the dissolute Mirabeau, a moral
monster for talents and want of principle, menaced, from the station
which they had assumed, the rights of the order from which they had been
expelled, and, like deserters of every kind, were willing to guide the
foes to whom they had fled, into the intrenchments of the friends whom
they had forsaken, or by whom they had been exiled. There were also
mixed with these perilous elements many individuals, not only endowed
with talents and integrity, but possessing a respectable proportion of
sound sense and judgment; but who, unfortunately, aided less to
counteract the revolutionary tendency, than to justify it by argument or
dignify it by example. From the very beginning, the Tiers Etat evinced
a determined purpose to annihilate in consequence, if not in rank, the
other two orders of the state, and to engross the whole power into their
own hands.[69]


It must be allowed to the Commons, that the Noblesse had possessed
themselves of a paramount superiority over the middle class, totally
inconsistent with the just degree of consideration due to their
fellow-subjects, and irreconcilable with the spirit of enlightened
times. They enjoyed many privileges which were humiliating to the rest
of the nation, and others that were grossly unjust, among which must be
reckoned their immunities from taxation. Assembled as an estate of the
kingdom, they felt the _esprit-de-corps_, and, attached to the
privileges of their order, showed little readiness to make the
sacrifices which the times demanded, though at the risk of having what
they refused to grant, forcibly wrested from them. They were publicly
and imprudently tenacious, when, both on principle and in policy, they
should have been compliant and accommodating--for their own sake, as
well as that of the sovereign. Yet let us be just to that gallant and
unfortunate body of men. They possessed the courage, if not the skill or
strength of their ancestors, and while we blame the violence with which
they clung to useless and antiquated privileges, let us remember that
these were a part of their inheritance, which no man renounces
willingly, and no man of spirit yields up to threats. If they erred in
not adopting from the beginning a spirit of conciliation and concession,
no body of men ever suffered so cruelly for hesitating to obey a
summons, which called them to acts of such unusual self-denial.

The Clergy were no less tenacious of the privileges of the Church, than
the Noblesse of their peculiar feudal immunities. It had been already
plainly intimated, that the property of the clerical orders ought to be
subject, as well as all other species of property, to the exigencies of
the state; and the philosophical opinions which had impugned their
principles of faith, and rendered their persons ridiculous instead of
reverend, would, it was to be feared, induce those by whom they were
entertained, to extend their views to a general seizure of the whole,
instead of a part, of the Church's wealth.

Both the first and second estates, therefore, kept aloof, moved by the
manner in which the private interests of each stood committed, and both
endeavoured to avert the coming storm, by retarding the deliberations of
the States-General. They were particularly desirous to secure their
individual importance as distinct orders, and appealed to ancient
practice and the usage of the year 1614, by which the three several
estates sat and voted in three separate bodies. But the Tiers Etat, who,
from the beginning, felt their own strength, were determined to choose
that mode of procedure by which their force should be augmented and
consolidated. The double representation had rendered them equal in
numbers to both the other bodies, and as they were sure of some interest
among the inferior Noblesse, and a very considerable party amongst the
lower clergy, the assistance of these two minorities, added to their own
numbers, must necessarily give them the superiority in every vote,
providing the three chambers could be united into one.

On the other hand, the clergy and nobles saw that a union of this nature
would place all their privileges and property at the mercy of the
Commons, whom the union of the chambers in one assembly would invest
with an overwhelming majority in that convocation. They had no reason to
expect that this power, if once acquired, would be used with moderation,
for not only had their actually obnoxious privileges been assailed by
every battery of reason and of ridicule, but the records of former ages
had been ransacked for ridiculous absurdities and detestable cruelties
of the possessors of feudal power, all which were imputed to the present
privileged classes, and mingled with many fictions of unutterable
horror, devised on purpose to give a yet darker colouring to the system
which it was their object to destroy.[70] Every motive, therefore, of
self-interest and self-preservation, induced the two first chambers,
aware of the possession which the third had obtained over the public
mind, to maintain, if possible, the specific individuality of their
separate classes, and use the right hitherto supposed to be vested in
them, of protecting their own interests by their own separate votes, as
distinct bodies.

Others, with a deeper view, and on less selfish reasoning, saw much
hazard in amalgamating the whole force of the state, saving that which
remained in the crown, into one powerful body, subject to all the hasty
impulses to which popular assemblies lie exposed, as lakes to the wind,
and in placing the person and authority of the King in solitary and
diametrical opposition to what must necessarily, in moments of
enthusiasm, appear to be the will of the whole people. Such statesmen
would have preferred retaining an intermediate check upon the popular
counsels of the Tiers Etat by the other two chambers, which might, as in
England, have been united into one, and would have presented an imposing
front, both in point of wealth and property, and through the respect
which, excepting under the influence of extraordinary emotion, the
people, in spite of themselves, cannot help entertaining for birth and
rank. Such a body, providing the stormy temper of the times had admitted
of its foundations being laid sufficiently strong, would have served as
a breakwater betwixt the throne and the streamtide of popular opinion;
and the monarch would have been spared the painful and perilous task of
opposing himself personally, directly, and without screen or protection
of any kind, to the democratical part of the constitution. Above all, by
means of such an upper house, time would have been obtained for
reviewing more coolly those measures, which might have passed hastily
through the assembly of popular representatives. It is observed in the
history of innovation, that the indirect and unforeseen consequences of
every great change of an existing system, are more numerous and
extensive than those which had been foreseen and calculated upon,
whether by those who advocated, or those who opposed the alteration. The
advantages of a constitution, in which each measure of legislation must
necessarily be twice deliberately argued by separate senates, acting
under different impressions, and interposing, at the same time, a
salutary delay, during which heats may subside, and erroneous views be
corrected, requires no further illustration.


It must be owned, nevertheless, that there existed the greatest
difficulty in any attempt which might have been made to give weight to
the Nobles as a separate chamber. The community at large looked to
reforms deeply affecting the immunities of the privileged classes, as
the most obvious means for the regeneration of the kingdom at large, and
must have seen with jealousy an institution like an upper house, which
placed the parties who were principally to suffer these changes in a
condition to impede, or altogether prevent them. It was naturally to be
expected, that the Clergy and Nobles, united in an upper house, must
have become somewhat partial judges in the question of retrenching and
limiting their own exclusive privileges; and, besides the ill-will which
the Commons bore them as the possessors and assertors of rights
infringing on the liberties of the people, it might be justly
apprehended that, if the scourge destined for them were placed in their
own hand, they might use it with the chary moderation of the squire in
the romance of Cervantes.[71] There would also have been reason to doubt
that, when the nation was so much divided by factions, two houses, so
different in character and composition, could hardly have been brought
to act with firmness and liberality towards each other--that the one
would have been ever scheming for the recovery of their full privileges,
supposing they had been obliged to surrender a part of them, while the
other would still look forward to the accomplishment of an entirely
democratical revolution. In this way, the checks which ought to have
acted merely to restrain the violence of either party, might operate as
the means of oversetting the constitution which they were intended to

Still, it must be observed, that while the King retained any portion of
authority, he might, with the countenance of the supposed upper chamber,
or senate, have balanced the progress of democracy. Difficult as the
task might be, an attempt towards it ought to have been made. But,
unhappily, the King's ear was successively occupied by two sets of
advisers, one of whom counselled him to surrender every thing to the
humour of the reformers of the state, while the other urged him to
resist their most reasonable wishes;--without considering that he had to
deal with those who had the power to take by force what was refused to
petition. Mounier and Malouet advocated the establishment of two
chambers in the Tiers Etat, and Necker was certainly favourable to some
plan of the kind; but the Noblesse thought it called upon them for too
great a sacrifice of their privileges, though it promised to ensure what
remained, while the democratical part of the Tiers Etat opposed it
obstinately, as tending to arrest the march of the revolutionary

Five or six weeks elapsed in useless debates concerning the form in
which the estates should vote; during which period the Tiers Etat
showed, by their boldness and decision, that they knew the advantage
which they held, and were sensible that the other bodies, if they meant
to retain the influence of their situation in any shape, must unite with
them, on the principle according to which smaller drops of water are
attracted by the larger. This came to pass accordingly. The Tiers Etat
were joined by the whole body of inferior clergy, and by some of the
nobles, and on 17th June, 1789, proceeded to constitute themselves a
legislative body, exclusively competent in itself to the entire province
of legislation; and, renouncing the name of the Third Estate, which
reminded men they were only one out of three bodies, they adopted[72]
that of the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, and avowed themselves not merely the
third branch of the representative body, but the sole representatives of
the people of France, nay, the people themselves, wielding in person the
whole gigantic powers of the realm. They now claimed the character of a
supreme body, no longer limited to the task of merely requiring a
redress of grievances, for which they had been originally appointed, but
warranted to destroy and rebuild whatever they thought proper in the
constitution of the state. It is not easy, on any ordinary principle, to
see how a representation, convoked for a certain purpose, and with
certain limited powers, should thus essentially alter their own
character, and set themselves in such a different relation to the crown
and the nation, from that to which their commissions restricted them;
but the National Assembly were well aware, that, in extending their
powers far beyond the terms of these commissions, they only fulfilled
the wishes of their constituents, and that, in assuming to themselves so
ample an authority, they would be supported by the whole nation,
excepting the privileged orders.

The National Assembly proceeded to exercise their power with the same
audacity which they had shown in assuming it. They passed a sweeping
decree, by which they declared all the existing taxes to be illegal
impositions, the collection of which they sanctioned only for the
present, and as an interim arrangement, until they should have time to
establish the financial regulations of the state upon an equal and
permanent footing.[73]

[Sidenote: ROYAL SITTING.]

The King, acting under the advice of Necker, and fulfilling the promise
made on his part by the Archbishop of Sens, his former minister, had, as
we have seen, assembled the States-General; but he was not prepared for
the change of the Third Estate into the National Assembly, and for the
pretensions which it asserted in the latter character. Terrified, and it
was little wonder, at the sudden rise of this gigantic and
all-overshadowing fabric, Louis became inclined to listen to those who
counselled him to combat this new and formidable authority, by opposing
to it the weight of royal power; to be exercised, however, with such
attention to the newly-asserted popular opinions, and with such ample
surrender of the obnoxious part of the royal prerogative, as might
gratify the rising spirit of freedom. For this purpose a Royal Sitting
was appointed, at which the King in person was to meet the three estates
of his kingdom, and propose a scheme which, it was hoped, might unite
all parties, and tranquillize all minds. The name and form of this
_Séance Royale_ was perhaps not well chosen, as being too nearly allied
to those of a Bed of Justice, in which the King was accustomed to
exercise imperative authority over the Parliament; and the proceeding
was calculated to awaken recollection of the highly unpopular Royal
Sitting of the 19th November, 1787, the displacing of Necker, and the
banishment of the Duke of Orleans.

But, as if this had not been sufficient, an unhappy accident, which
almost resembled a fatality, deranged this project, destroyed all the
grace which might, on the King's part, have attended the measure, and in
place of it, threw upon the court the odium of having indirectly
attempted the forcible dissolution of the Assembly, while it invested
the members of that body with the popular character of steady patriots,
whose union, courage, and presence of mind, had foiled the stroke of
authority which had been aimed at their existence.

The hall of the Commons was fixed upon for the purposes of the Royal
Sitting, as the largest of the three which were occupied by the three
estates, and workmen were employed in making the necessary arrangements
and alterations. These alterations were imprudently commenced, [June
20,] before holding any communication on the subject with the National
Assembly; and it was simply notified to their president, Bailli, by the
master of the royal ceremonies, that the King had suspended the meeting
of the Assembly until the Royal Sitting should have taken place. Bailli,
the president, well known afterwards by his tragical fate, refused to
attend to an order so intimated, and the members of Assembly, upon
resorting to their ordinary place of meeting, found it full of workmen,
and guarded by soldiers. This led to one of the most extraordinary
scenes of the Revolution.

The representatives of the nation, thus expelled by armed guards from
their proper place of assemblage, found refuge in a common Tennis-court,
while a thunder-storm, emblem of the moral tempest which raged on the
earth, poured down its terrors from the heavens. It was thus that,
exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and with the wretched
accommodations which such a place afforded, the members of Assembly
took, and attested by their respective signatures, a solemn oath, "to
continue their sittings until the constitution of the kingdom, and the
regeneration of the public order, should be established on a solid
basis."[74] The scene was of a kind to make the deepest impression both
on the actors and the spectators; although, looking back at the distance
of so many years, we are tempted to ask, at what period the National
Assembly would have been dissolved, had they adhered literally to their
celebrated oath? But the conduct of the government was, in every
respect, worthy of censure. The probability of this extraordinary
occurrence might easily have been foreseen. If mere want of
consideration gave rise to it, the King's ministers were most culpably
careless; if the closing of the hall, and suspending of the sittings of
the Assembly, was intended by way of experiment upon its temper and
patience, it was an act of madness equal to that of irritating an
already exasperated lion. Be this, however, as it may, the conduct of
the court had the worst possible effect on the public mind, and prepared
them to view with dislike and suspicion all propositions emanating from
the throne; while the magnanimous firmness and unanimity of the Assembly
seemed that of men determined to undergo martyrdom, rather than desert
the assertion of their own rights, and those of the people.

At the Royal Sitting, which took place three days after the vow of the
Tennis-Court, a plan was proposed by the King, offering such security
for the liberty of the subject, as would, a year before, have been
received with grateful rapture; but it was the unhappy fate of Louis
XVI. neither to recede nor advance at the fortunate moment. Happy would
it have been for him, for France, and for Europe, if the science of
astrology, once so much respected, had in reality afforded the means of
selecting lucky days. Few of his were marked with a white stone.


By the scheme which he proposed, the King renounced the power of
taxation, and the right of borrowing money, except to a trifling extent,
without assent of the States-General; he invited the Assembly to form a
plan for regulating _lettres de cachet_, and acknowledged the personal
freedom of the subject; he provided for the liberty of the press, but
not without a recommendation that some check should be placed upon its
license; and he remitted to the States, as the proper authority, the
abolition of the _gabelle_,[75] and other unequal or oppressive taxes.

But all these boons availed nothing, and seemed, to the people and their
representatives, but a tardy and ungracious mode of resigning rights
which the crown had long usurped, and only now restored when they were
on the point of being wrested from its gripe. In addition to this,
offence was taken at the tone and terms adopted in the royal address.
The members of the Assembly conceived, that the expression of the royal
will was brought forward in too imperative a form. They were offended
that the King should have recommended the exclusion of spectators from
the sittings of the Assembly; and much displeasure was occasioned by his
declaring, thus late, their deliberations and decrees on the subject of
taxes illegal. But the discontent was summed up and raised to the height
by the concluding article of the royal address, in which,
notwithstanding their late declarations, and oath not to break up their
sittings until they had completed a constitution for France, the King
presumed, by his own sole authority, to dissolve the estates.[76] To
conclude, Necker, upon whom alone among the ministers the popular party
reposed confidence, had absented himself from the Royal Sitting, and
thereby intimated his discontent with the scheme proposed.[77]

This plan of a constitutional reformation was received with great
applause by the Clergy and the Nobles, while the Third Estate listened
in sullen silence. They knew little of the human mind, who supposed that
the display of prerogative, which had been so often successfully
resisted, could influence such a body, or induce them to descend from
the station of power which they had gained, and to render themselves
ridiculous by rescinding the vow which they had so lately taken.

The King having, by his own proper authority, dissolved the Assembly,
left the hall, followed by the Nobles and part of the Clergy; but the
remaining members, hitherto silent and sullen, immediately resumed their
sitting. The King, supposing him resolute to assert the prerogative
which his own voice had but just claimed, had no alternative but that of
expelling them by force, and thus supporting his order for dissolution
of the Assembly; but, always halting between two opinions, Louis
employed no rougher means of removing them than a gentle summons to
disperse, intimated by the royal master of ceremonies. To this officer,
not certainly the most formidable satellite of arbitrary power, Mirabeau
replied with energetic determination,--"Slave! return to thy master,
and tell him, that his bayonets alone can drive from their post the
representatives of the people."

The Assembly then, on the motion of Camus, proceeded to pass a decree,
that they adhered to their oath taken in the Tennis-court; while by
another they declared, that their own persons were inviolable, and that
whoever should attempt to execute any restraint or violence upon a
representative of the people, should be thereby guilty of the crime of
high treason against the nation.

Their firmness, joined to the inviolability with which they had invested
themselves, and the commotions which had broken out at Paris, compelled
the King to give way, and renounce his purpose of dissolving the states,
which continued their sittings under their new title of the National
Assembly; while at different intervals, and by different manœuvres,
the Chambers of the Clergy and Nobles were united with them, or, more
properly, were merged and absorbed in one general body. Had that
Assembly been universally as pure in its intentions as we verily believe
to have been the case with many or most of its members, the French
government, now lying dead at their feet, might, like the clay of
Prometheus, have received new animation from their hand.

But the National Assembly, though almost unanimous in resisting the
authority of the crown, and in opposing the claims of the privileged
classes, was much divided respecting ulterior views, and carried in its
bosom the seeds of internal dissension, and the jarring elements of at
least FOUR parties, which had afterwards their successive entrance and
exit on the revolutionary stage; or rather, one followed the other like
successive billows, each obliterating and destroying the marks its
predecessor had left on the beach.


The FIRST and most practical division of these legislators, was the
class headed by Mounier,[78] one of the wisest, as well as one of the
best and worthiest men in France,--by Malouet,[79] and others. They were
patrons of a scheme at which we have already hinted, and they thought
France ought to look for some of the institutions favourable to freedom,
to England, whose freedom had flourished so long. To transplant the
British oak, with all its contorted branches and extended roots, would
have been a fruitless attempt, but the infant tree of liberty might have
been taught to grow after the same fashion. Modern France, like England
of old, might have retained such of her own ancient laws, forms, or
regulations, as still were regarded by the nation with any portion of
respect, intermingling them with such additions and alterations as were
required by the liberal spirit of modern times, and the whole might have
been formed on the principles of British freedom. The nation might
thus, in building its own bulwarks, have profited by the plan of those
which had so long resisted the tempest. It is true, the French
legislature could not have promised themselves, by the adoption of this
course, to form at once a perfect and entire system; but they might have
secured the personal freedom of the subject, the trial by jury, the
liberty of the press, and the right of granting or withholding the
supplies necessary for conducting the state,--of itself the strongest of
all guarantees for national freedom, and that of which, when once vested
in their own representatives, the people will never permit them to be
deprived. They might have adopted also other checks, balances, and
controls, essential to the permanence of a free country; and having laid
so strong a foundation, there would have been time to experience their
use as well as their stability, and to introduce gradually such further
improvements, additions, or alterations, as the state of France should
appear to require, after experience of those which they had adopted.

But besides that the national spirit might be revolted,--not
unnaturally, however unwisely,--at borrowing the essential peculiarities
of their new constitution from a country which they were accustomed to
consider as the natural rival of their own, there existed among the
French a jealousy of the crown, and especially of the privileged
classes, with whom they had been so lately engaged in political
hostility, which disinclined the greater part of the Assembly to trust
the King with much authority, or the nobles with that influence which
any imitation of the English constitution must have assigned to them. A
fear prevailed, that whatever privileges should be left to the King or
nobles, would be so many means of attack furnished to them against the
new system. Joined to this was the ambition of creating at once, and by
their own united wisdom, a constitution as perfect as the armed
personification of wisdom in the heathen mythology. England had worked
her way, from practical reformation of abuses, into the adoption of
general maxims of government. It was reserved, thought most of the
National Assembly, for France, to adopt a nobler and more intellectual
course, and, by laying down abstract doctrines of public right, to
deduce from these their rules of practical legislation;--just as it is
said, that in the French naval yards their vessels are constructed upon
the principles of abstract mathematics, while those in England are, or
were, chiefly built upon the more technical and mechanical rules.[80]
But it seems on this and other occasions to have escaped these acute
reasoners, that beams and planks are subject to certain unalterable
natural laws, while man is, by the various passions acting in his
nature, in contradiction often to the suggestions of his understanding,
as well as by the various modifications of society, liable to a thousand
variations, all of which call for limitations and exceptions qualifying
whatever general maxims may be adopted concerning his duties and his

All such considerations were spurned by the numerous body of the new
French legislature, who resolved, in imitation of Medea, to fling into
their renovating kettle every existing joint and member of their old
constitution, in order to its perfect and entire renovation. This mode
of proceeding was liable to three great objections. _First_, That the
practical inferences deduced from the abstract principle were always
liable to challenge by those, who, in logical language, denied the minor
of the proposition, or asserted that the conclusion was irregularly
deduced from the premises. _Secondly_, That the legislators, thus
grounding the whole basis of their intended constitution upon
speculative political opinions, strongly resembled the tailors of
Laputa, who, without condescending to take measure of their customers,
like brethren of the trade elsewhere, took the girth and altitude of the
person by mathematical calculation, and if the clothes did not fit, as
was almost always the case, thought it ample consolation for the party
concerned to be assured, that, as they worked from infallible rules of
art, the error could only be occasioned by his own faulty and irregular
conformation of figure. _Thirdly_, A legislature which contents itself
with such a constitution as is adapted to the existing state of things,
may hope to attain their end, and in presenting it to the people, may be
entitled to say, that, although the plan is not perfect, it partakes in
that but of the nature of all earthly institutions, while it comprehends
the elements of as much good as the actual state of society permits; but
from the lawmakers, who begin by destroying all existing enactments, and
assume it as their duty entirely to renovate the constitution of a
country, nothing short of absolute perfection can be accepted. They can
shelter themselves under no respect to ancient prejudices which they
have contradicted, or to circumstances of society which they have thrown
out of consideration. They must follow up to the uttermost the principle
they have adopted, and their institutions can never be fixed or secure
from the encroachments of succeeding innovators, while they retain any
taint of that fallibility to which all human inventions are necessarily

The majority of the French Assembly entertained, nevertheless, the
ambitious view of making a constitution, corresponding in every respect
to those propositions they had laid down as embracing the rights of man,
which, if it should not happen to suit the condition of their country,
would nevertheless be such as _ought_ to have suited it, but for the
irregular play of human passions, and the artificial habits acquired in
an artificial state of society. But this majority differed among
themselves in this essential particular, that the SECOND division of the
legislature, holding that of Mounier for the first, was disposed to
place at the head of their newly-manufactured government the reigning
King, Louis XVI. This resolution in his favour might be partly out of
regard to the long partiality of the nation to the House of Bourbon,
partly out of respect for the philanthropical and accommodating
character of Louis. We may conceive also, that La Fayette, bred a
soldier, and Bailli, educated a magistrate, had still, notwithstanding
their political creed, a natural though unphilosophical partiality to
their well-meaning and ill-fated sovereign, and a conscientious desire
to relax, so far as his particular interest was concerned, their general
rule of reversing all that had previously had a political existence in

[Sidenote: REPUBLICANS.]

A THIRD faction, entertaining the same articles of political creed with
La Fayette, Bailli, and others, carried them much farther, and set at
defiance the scruples which limited the two first parties in their
career of reformation. These last agreed with La Fayette on the
necessity of reconstructing the whole government upon a new basis,
without which entire innovation, they further agreed with him, that it
must have been perpetually liable to the chance of a counter-revolution.
But carrying their arguments farther than the Constitutional party, as
the followers of Fayette, these bolder theorists pleaded the
inconsistency and danger of placing at the head of their new system of
reformed and regenerated government, a prince accustomed to consider
himself, as by inheritance, the legitimate possessor of absolute power.
They urged that, like the snake and peasant in the fable, it was
impossible that the monarch and his democratical counsellors could
forget, the one the loss of his power, the other the constant temptation
which must beset the King to attempt its recovery. With more
consistency, therefore, than the Constitutionalists, this third party of
politicians became decided Republicans, determined upon obliterating
from the new constitution every name and vestige of monarchy.

The men of letters in the Assembly were, many of them, attached to this
faction. They had originally been kept in the background by the lawyers
and mercantile part of the Assembly. Many of them possessed great
talents, and were by nature men of honour and of virtue. But in great
revolutions, it is impossible to resist the dizzying effect of
enthusiastic feeling and excited passion. In the violence of their zeal
for the liberty of France, they too frequently adopted the maxim, that
so glorious an object sanctioned almost any means which could be used to
attain it. Under the exaggerated influence of a mistaken patriotism,
they were too apt to forget that a crime remains the same in character,
even when perpetrated in a public cause.[81]

It was among these ardent men that first arose the idea of forming a
Club, or Society, to serve as a point of union for those who entertained
the same political sentiments. Once united, they rendered their sittings
public, combined them with affiliated societies in all parts of France,
and could thus, as from one common centre, agitate the most remote
frontiers with the passionate feelings which electrified the metropolis.
This formidable weapon was, in process of time, wrested out of the hands
of the Federalists, as the original Republicans were invidiously called,
by the faction who were generally termed JACOBINS, from their influence
in that society, and whose existence and peculiarities as a party, we
have now to notice.

[Sidenote: JACOBINS.]

As yet this FOURTH, and, as it afterwards proved, most formidable party,
lurked in secret among the Republicans of a higher order and purer
sentiments, as they, on their part, had not yet raised the mask, or
ventured to declare openly against the plan of a constitutional
monarchy. The Jacobins[82] were termed, in ridicule, _Les Enragès_, by
the Republicans, who, seeing in them only men of a fiery disposition,
and violence of deportment and declamation, vainly thought they could
halloo them on, and call them off, at their pleasure. They were yet to
learn, that when force is solemnly appealed to, the strongest and most
ferocious, as they must be foremost in the battle, will not lose their
share of the spoil, and are more likely to make the lion's partitions.
These Jacobins affected to carry the ideas of liberty and equality to
the most extravagant lengths, and were laughed at and ridiculed in the
Assembly as a sort of fanatics, too absurd to be dreaded. Their
character, indeed, was too exaggerated, their habits too openly
profligate, their manners too abominably coarse, their schemes too
extravagantly violent, to be produced in open day, while yet the decent
forms of society were observed. But they were not the less successful in
gaining the lower classes, whose cause they pretended peculiarly to
espouse, whose passions they inflamed by an eloquence suited to such
hearers, and whose tastes they flattered by affectation of brutal
manners and vulgar dress. They soon, by these arts, attached to
themselves a large body of followers, violently inflamed with the
prejudices which had been infused into their minds, and too boldly
desperate to hesitate at any measures which should be recommended by
their demagogues. What might be the ultimate object of these men cannot
be known. We can hardly give any of them credit for being mad enough to
have any real patriotic feeling, however extravagantly distorted. Most
probably, each had formed some vague prospect of terminating the affair
to his own advantage; but, in the meantime, all agreed in the necessity
of sustaining the revolutionary impulse, of deferring the return of
quiet, and of resisting and deranging any description of orderly and
peaceful government. They were sensible that the return of law, under
any established and regular form whatever, must render them as
contemptible as odious, and were determined to avail themselves of the
disorder while it lasted, and to snatch at and enjoy such portions of
the national wreck as the tempest might throw within their individual

This foul and desperate faction could not, by all the activity it used,
have attained the sway which it exerted amongst the lees of the people,
without possessing and exercising extensively the power of suborning
inferior leaders among the populace. It has been generally asserted,
that means for attaining this important object were supplied by the
immense wealth of the nearest prince of the blood royal, that Duke of
Orleans, whose name is so unhappily mixed with the history of this
period. By his largesses, according to the general report of historians,
a number of the most violent writers of pamphlets and newspapers were
pensioned, who deluged the public with false news and violent abuse.
This prince, it is said, recompensed those popular and ferocious
orators, who nightly harangued the people in the Palais Royal, and
openly stimulated them to the most violent aggressions upon the persons
and property of obnoxious individuals. From the same unhappy man's
coffers were paid numbers of those who regularly attended on the debates
of the Assembly, crowded the galleries to the exclusion of the public at
large, applauded, hissed, exercised an almost domineering influence in
the national councils, and were sometimes addressed by the
representatives of the people, as if they had themselves been the people
of whom they were the scum and the refuse.

Fouler accusations even than these charges were brought forward. Bands
of strangers, men of wild, haggard, and ferocious appearance, whose
persons the still watchful police of Paris were unacquainted with, began
to be seen in the metropolis, like those obscene and ill-omened birds
which are seldom visible except before a storm. All these were
understood to be suborned by the Duke of Orleans and his agents, to
unite with the ignorant, violent, corrupted populace of the great
metropolis of France, for the purpose of urging and guiding them to
actions of terror and cruelty. The ultimate object of these manœuvres
is supposed to have been a change of dynasty, which should gratify the
Duke of Orleans's revenge by the deposition of his cousin, and his
ambition by enthroning himself in his stead, or at least by nominating
him Lieutenant of France, with all the royal powers. The most daring and
unscrupulous amongst the Jacobins are said originally to have belonged
to the faction of Orleans; but as he manifested a want of decision, and
did not avail himself of opportunities of pushing his fortune, they
abandoned their leader, (whom they continued, however, to flatter and
deceive,) and, at the head of the partisans collected for his service,
and paid from his finances, they pursued the path of their individual

Besides the various parties which we have detailed, and which gradually
developed their discordant sentiments as the Revolution proceeded, the
Assembly contained the usual proportion of that prudent class of
politicians who are guided by events, and who, in the days of Cromwell,
called themselves "Waiters upon Providence;"--men who might boast, with
the miller in the tale, that though they could not direct the course of
the wind, they could adjust their sails so as to profit by it, blow from
what quarter it would.

All the various parties in the Assembly, by whose division the King
might, by temporizing measures, have surely profited, were united in a
determined course of hostility to the crown and its pretensions, by the
course which Louis XVI. was unfortunately advised to pursue. It had been
resolved to assume a menacing attitude, and to place the King at the
head of a strong force. Orders were given accordingly.


Necker, though approving of many parts of the proposal made to the
Assembly at the Royal Sitting, had strongly dissented from others, and
had opposed the measure of marching troops towards Versailles and Paris
to overawe the capital, and, if necessary, the National Assembly. Necker
received his dismission,[83] and thus a second time the King and the
people seemed to be prepared for open war. The force at first glance
seemed entirely on the royal side. Thirty regiments were drawn around
Paris and Versailles, commanded by Marshal Broglio,[84] an officer of
eminence, and believed to be a zealous anti-revolutionist, and a large
camp formed under the walls of the metropolis. The town was opened on
all sides, and the only persons by whom defence could be offered were an
unarmed mob; but this superiority existed only in appearance. The French
Guards had already united themselves, or, as the phrase then went,
_fraternized_ with the people, yielding to the various modes employed to
dispose them to the popular cause; and little attached to their
officers, most of whom only saw their companies upon the days of parade
or duty, an apparent accident, which probably had its origin in an
experiment upon the feelings of these regiments, brought the matter to a
crisis. The soldiers had been supplied secretly with means of unusual
dissipation, and consequently a laxity of discipline was daily gaining
ground among them. To correct this license, eleven of the guards had
been committed to prison for military offences; the Parisian mob
delivered them by violence, and took them under the protection of the
inhabitants, a conduct which made the natural impression on their
comrades. Their numbers were three thousand six hundred of the best
soldiers in France, accustomed to military discipline, occupying every
strong point in the city, and supported by its immense though disorderly

The gaining these regiments gave the Revolutionists the command of
Paris, from which the army assembled under Broglio might have found it
hard to dislodge them; but these last were more willing to aid than to
quell any insurrection which might take place. The modes of seduction
which had succeeded with the French Guards were sedulously addressed to
other corps. The regiments which lay nearest to Paris were not
forgotten. They were plied with those temptations which are most
powerful with soldiers--wine, women, and money, were supplied in
abundance--and it was amidst debauchery and undiscipline that the French
army renounced their loyalty, which used to be even too much the god of
their idolatry, and which was now destroyed like the temple of
Persepolis, amidst the vapours of wine, and at the instigation of
courtezans. There remained the foreign troops, of which there were
several regiments, but their disposition was doubtful; and to use them
against the citizens of Paris, might have been to confirm the soldiers
of the soil in their indisposition to the royal cause, supported as it
must then have been by foreigners exclusively.

Meanwhile, the dark intrigues which had been long formed for
accomplishing a general insurrection in Paris, were now ready to be
brought into action. The populace had been encouraged by success in one
or two skirmishes with the gens-d'armes and foreign soldiery. They had
stood a skirmish with a regiment of German horse, and had been
successful. The number of desperate characters who were to lead the van
in these violences, was now greatly increased. Deep had called to deep,
and the revolutionary clubs of Paris had summoned their confederates
from among the most fiery and forward of every province. Besides troops
of galley-slaves and deserters, vagabonds of every order flocked to
Paris, like ravens to the spoil. To these were joined the lowest
inhabitants of a populous city, always ready for riot and rapine; and
they were led on and encouraged by men who were in many instances
sincere enthusiasts in the cause of liberty, and thought it could only
be victorious by the destruction of the present government. The
Republican and Jacobin party were open in sentiment and in action,
encouraging the insurrection by every means in their power. The
Constitutionalists, more passive, were still rejoiced to see the storm
arise, conceiving such a crisis was necessary to compel the King to
place the helm of the state in their hands. It might have been expected,
that the assembled force of the crown would be employed to preserve the
peace at least, and prevent the general system of robbery and plunder
which seemed about to ensue. They appeared not, and the citizens
themselves took arms by thousands, and tens of thousands, forming the
burgher militia, which was afterwards called the National Guard. The
royal arsenals were plundered to obtain arms, and La Fayette was adopted
the commander-in-chief of this new army, a sufficient sign that they
were to embrace what was called the Constitutional party. Another large
proportion of the population was hastily armed with pikes, a weapon
which was thence termed Revolutionary. The Baron de Besenval, at the
head of the Swiss guards, two foreign regiments, and eight hundred
horse, after an idle demonstration which only served to encourage the
insurgents, retired from Paris without firing a shot, having, he says in
his Memoirs, no orders how to act, and being desirous to avoid
precipitating a civil war. His retreat was the signal for a general
insurrection, in which the French guard, the national guard, and the
armed mob of Paris, took the Bastile, and massacred a part of the
garrison, [July 14.]

We are not tracing minutely the events of the Revolution, but only
attempting to describe their spirit and tendency; and we may here notice
two changes, which for the first time were observed to have taken place
in the character of the Parisian populace.

The _Baudauds de Paris_,[85] as they were called in derision, had been
hitherto viewed as a light, laughing, thoughtless race, passionately
fond of news, though not very acutely distinguishing betwixt truth and
falsehood, quick in adopting impressions, but incapable of forming firm
and concerted resolutions, still more incapable of executing them, and
so easily overawed by an armed force, that about twelve hundred police
soldiers had been hitherto sufficient to keep all Paris in subjection.
But in the attack of the Bastile, they showed themselves resolute, and
unyielding, as well as prompt and headlong. These new qualities were in
some degree owing to the support which they received from the French
guards; but are still more to be attributed to the loftier and more
decided character belonging to the revolutionary spirit, and the mixture
of men of the better classes, and of the high tone which belongs to
them, among the mere rabble of the city. The garrison of this too-famous
castle was indeed very weak, but its deep moats, and insurmountable
bulwarks, presented the most imposing show of resistance; and the
triumph which the popular cause obtained in an exploit seemingly so
desperate, infused a general consternation into the King and the


The second remarkable particular was, that from being one of the most
light-hearted and kind-tempered of nations, the French seemed, upon the
Revolution, to have been animated not merely with the courage, but with
the rabid fury of unchained wild-beasts. Foulon and Berthier, two
individuals whom they considered as enemies of the people, were put to
death, with circumstances of cruelty and insult fitting only at the
death-stake of a Cherokee encampment; and, in emulation of literal
cannibals, there were men, or rather monsters, found, not only to tear
asunder the limbs of their victims, but to eat their hearts, and drink
their blood.[86] The intensity of the new doctrines of freedom, the
animosity occasioned by civil commotion, cannot account for these
atrocities, even in the lowest and most ignorant of the populace. Those
who led the way in such unheard-of enormities, must have been practised
murderers and assassins, mixed with the insurgents, like old hounds in a
young pack, to lead them on, flesh them with slaughter, and teach an
example of cruelty too easily learned, but hard to be ever forgotten.
The metropolis was entirely in the hands of the insurgents, and civil
war or submission was the only resource left to the sovereign. For the
former course sufficient reasons might be urged. The whole proceedings
in the metropolis had been entirely insurrectionary, without the least
pretence of authority from the National Assembly, which continued
sitting at Versailles, discussing the order of the day while the
citizens of Paris were storming castles, and tearing to pieces their
prisoners, without authority from the national representatives, and even
without the consent of their own civic rulers. The provost of the
merchants[87] was assassinated at the commencement of the disturbance,
and a terrified committee of electors were the only persons who
preserved the least semblance of authority, which they were obliged to
exercise under the control and at the pleasure of the infuriated
multitude. A large proportion of the citizens, though assuming arms for
the protection of themselves and their families, had no desire of
employing them against the royal authority; a much larger only united
themselves with the insurgents, because, in a moment of universal
agitation, they were the active and predominant party. Of these the
former desired peace and protection; the latter, from habit and shame,
must have soon deserted the side which was ostensibly conducted by
ruffians and common stabbers, and drawn themselves to that which
protected peace and good order. We have too good an opinion of a people
so enlightened as those of France, too good an opinion of human nature
in any country, to believe that men will persist in evil, if defended in
their honest and legal rights.


What, in this case, was the duty of Louis XVI.? We answer without
hesitation, that which George III. of Britain proposed to himself, when,
in the name of the Protestant religion, a violent and disorderly mob
opened prisons, destroyed property, burned houses, and committed, though
with far fewer symptoms of atrocity, the same course of disorder which
now laid waste Paris.[88] It is known that when his ministers hesitated
to give an opinion in point of law concerning the employment of military
force for protection of life and property against a disorderly banditti,
the King, as chief magistrate, declared his own purpose to march into
the blazing city at the head of his guards, and with the strong hand of
war to subdue the insurgents, and restore peace to the affrighted
capital.[89] The same call now sounded loudly in the ear of Louis. He
was still the chief magistrate of the people, whose duty it was to
protect their lives and property--still commander of that army levied
and paid for protecting the law of the country, and the lives and
property of the subject. The King ought to have proceeded to the
National Assembly without an instant's delay, cleared himself before
that body of the suspicions with which calumny had loaded him, and
required and commanded the assistance of the representatives of the
people to quell the frightful excesses of murder and rapine which
dishonoured the capital. It is almost certain that the whole moderate
party, as they were called, would have united with the Nobles and the
Clergy. The throne was not yet empty, nor the sword unswayed. Louis had
surrendered much, and might, in the course of the change impending, have
been obliged to surrender more; but he was still King of France, still
bound by his coronation oath to prevent murder and put down
insurrection. He could not be considered as crushing the cause of
freedom, in answering a call to discharge his kingly duty; for what had
the cause of reformation, proceeding as it was by the peaceful
discussion of an unarmed convention, to do with the open war waged by
the insurgents of Paris upon the King's troops, or with the gratuitous
murders and atrocities with which the capital had been polluted? With
such members as shame and fear might have brought over from the opposite
side, the King, exerting himself as a prince, would have formed a
majority strong enough to show the union which subsisted betwixt the
Crown and the Assembly, when the protection of the laws was the point in
question. With such a support--or without it--for it is the duty of the
prince, in a crisis of such emergency, to serve the people, and save the
country, by the exercise of his royal prerogative, whether with or
without the concurrence of the other branches of the legislature,--the
King, at the head of his _gardes du corps_, of the regiments which might
have been found faithful, of the nobles and gentry, whose principles of
chivalry devoted them to the service of their sovereign, ought to have
marched into Paris, and put down the insurrection by the armed hand of
authority, or fallen in the attempt, like the representative of Henry
IV. His duty called upon him, and the authority with which he was
invested enabled him, to act this part; which, in all probability, would
have dismayed the factious, encouraged the timid, decided the wavering,
and, by obtaining a conquest over lawless and brute violence, would have
paved the way for a moderate and secure reformation in the state.

But having obtained this victory, in the name of the law of the realm,
the King could only be vindicated in having resorted to arms, by using
his conquest with such moderation, as to show that he threw his sword
into the one scale, solely in order to balance the clubs and poniards of
popular insurrection with which the other was loaded. He must then have
evinced that he did not mean to obstruct the quiet course of moderation
and constitutional reform, in stemming that of headlong and violent
innovation. Many disputes would have remained to be settled between him
and his subjects; but the process of improving the constitution, though
less rapid, would have been more safe and certain, and the kingdom of
France might have attained a degree of freedom equal to that which she
now possesses, without passing through a brief but dreadful anarchy to
long years of military despotism, without the loss of mines of treasure,
and without the expenditure of oceans of blood. To those who object the
peril of this course, and the risk to the person of the sovereign from
the fury of the insurgents, we can only answer, in the words of the
elder Horatius, _Qu'il mourût_.[90] Prince or peasant have alike lived
long enough, when the choice comes to be betwixt loss of life and an
important duty undischarged. Death, at the head of his troops, would
have saved Louis more cruel humiliation, his subjects a deeper crime.

We do not affect to deny, that in this course there was considerable
risk of another kind, and that it is very possible that the King,
susceptible as he was to the influence of those around him, might have
lain under strong temptation to have resumed the despotic authority, of
which he had in a great measure divested himself, and have thus abused a
victory gained over insurrection into a weapon of tyranny. But the
spirit of liberty was so strong in France, the principles of leniency
and moderation so natural to the King, his own late hazards so great,
and the future, considering the general disposition of his subjects, so
doubtful, that we are inclined to think a victory by the sovereign at
that moment would have been followed by temperate measures. How the
people used theirs is but too well known. At any rate, we have strongly
stated our opinion, that Louis would, at this crisis, have been
justified in employing force to compel order, but that the crime would
have been deep and inexpiable had he abused a victory to restore

It may be said, indeed, that the preceding statement takes too much for
granted, and that the violence employed on the 14th July was probably
only an anticipation of the forcible measures which might have been
expected from the King against the Assembly. The answer to this is, that
the successful party may always cast on the loser the blame of
commencing the brawl, as the wolf punished the lamb for troubling the
course of the water, though he drank lowest down the stream. But when we
find one party completely prepared and ready for action, forming plans
boldly, and executing them skilfully, and observe the other uncertain
and unprovided, betraying all the imbecility of surprise and indecision,
we must necessarily believe the attack was premeditated on the one side,
and unexpected on the other.

The abandonment of thirty thousand stand of arms at the Hôtel des
Invalides, which were surrendered without the slightest resistance,
though three Swiss regiments lay encamped in the Champs Elysées; the
totally unprovided state of the Bastile, garrisoned by about one hundred
Swiss and Invalids, and without provisions even for that small number;
the absolute inaction of the Baron de Besenval, who--without entangling
his troops in the narrow streets, which was pleaded as his
excuse--might, by marching along the Boulevards, a passage so well
calculated for the manœuvres of regular troops, have relieved the
siege of that fortress;[91] and, finally, that general's bloodless
retreat from Paris,--show that the King had, under all these
circumstances, not only adopted no measures of a hostile character, but
must, on the contrary, have issued such orders as prevented his officer
from repelling force by force.

We are led, therefore, to believe, that the scheme of assembling the
troops round Paris was one of those half measures, to which, with great
political weakness, Louis resorted more than once--an attempt to
intimidate by the demonstration of force, which he was previously
resolved not to use. Had his purposes of aggression been serious, five
thousand troops of loyal principles--and such might surely have been
selected--would, acting suddenly and energetically, have better assured
him of the city of Paris, than six times that number brought to waste
themselves in debauch around its walls, and to be withdrawn without the
discharge of a musket. Indeed, the courage of Louis was of a passive,
not an active nature, conspicuous in enduring adversity, but not of that
energetic and decisive character which turns dubious affairs into
prosperity, and achieves by its own exertions the success which Fortune

The insurrection of Paris being acquiesced in by the sovereign, was
recognised by the nation as a legitimate conquest, instead of a state
crime; and the tameness of the King in enduring its violence, was
assumed as a proof that the citizens had but anticipated his intended
forcible measures against the Assembly, and prevented the military
occupation of the city. In the debates of the Assembly itself, the
insurrection was vindicated; the fears and suspicions alleged as its
motives were justified as well-founded; the passions of the citizens
were sympathized with, and their worst excesses palliated and excused.
When the horrors accompanying the murder of Berthier and Foulon were
dilated upon by Lally Tolendal in the Assembly, he was heard and
answered as if he had made mountains of mole-hills. Mirabeau said, that
"it was a time to think, and not to feel." Barnave asked, with a sneer,
"If the blood which had been shed was so pure?" Robespierre, rising into
animation with acts of cruelty fitted to call forth the interest of such
a mind, observed, that "the people, oppressed for ages, had a right to
the revenge of a day."

But how long did that day last, or what was the fate of those who
justified its enormities? From that hour the mob of Paris, or rather the
suborned agitators by whom the actions of that blind multitude were
dictated, became masters of the destiny of France. An insurrection was
organized whenever there was any purpose to be carried, and the Assembly
might be said to work under the impulse of the popular current, as
mechanically as the wheel of a water engine is driven by a cascade.

The victory of the Bastile was extended in its consequences to the
Cabinet and to the Legislative body. In the former, those ministers who
had counselled the King to stand on the defensive against the Assembly,
or rather to assume a threatening attitude, suddenly lost courage when
they heard the fate of Foulon and Berthier. The Baron de Breteueil, the
unpopular successor of Necker, was deprived of his office, and driven
into exile; and, to complete the triumph of the people, Necker himself
was recalled by their unanimous voice.

The King came, or was conducted to, the Hôtel de Ville of Paris, in
what, compared to the triumph of the minister, was a sort of ovation, in
which he appeared rather as a captive than otherwise. He entered into
the edifice under a vault of steel formed by the crossed sabres and
pikes of those who had been lately engaged in combating his soldiers,
and murdering his subjects. He adopted the cockade of the insurrection;
and in doing so, ratified and approved of the acts done expressly
against his command, acquiesced in the victory obtained over his own
authority, and completed that conquest by laying down his arms.

The conquest of the Bastile was the first, almost the only appeal to
arms during the earlier part of the Revolution; and the popular success,
afterwards sanctioned by the monarch, showed that nothing remained save
the name of the ancient government. The King's younger brother, the
Comte d'Artois, now reigning King of France,[92] had been distinguished
as the leader and rallying point of the Royalists. He left the kingdom
with his children, and took refuge in Turin. Other distinguished
princes, and many of the inferior nobility, adopted the same course, and
their departure seemed to announce to the public that the royal cause
was indeed desperate, since it was deserted by those most interested in
its defence. This was the first act of general emigration, and although,
in the circumstances, it may be excused, yet it must still be termed a
great political error. For though, on the one hand, it is to be
considered, that these princes and their followers had been educated in
the belief that the government of France rested in the King's person,
and was identified with him; and that when the King was displaced from
his permanent situation of power, the whole social system of France was
totally ruined, and nothing remained which could legally govern or be
governed; yet, on the other hand, it must be remembered that the instant
the emigrants crossed the frontier, they at once lost all the natural
advantages of birth and education, and separated themselves from the
country which it was their duty to defend.

To draw to a head, and raise an insurrection for the purpose of
achieving a counter revolution, would have been the ready and natural
resource. But the influence of the privileged classes was so totally
destroyed, that the scheme seems to have been considered as hopeless,
even if the King's consent could have been obtained. To remain in
France, whether in Paris or the departments, must have exposed them, in
their avowed character of aristocrats, to absolute assassination. It has
been therefore urged, that emigration was their only resource.

But there remained for these princes, nobles, and cavaliers, a more
noble task, could they but have united themselves cordially to that
portion of the Assembly, originally a strong one, which professed,
without destroying the existing state of monarchy in France, to wish to
infuse into it the spirit of rational liberty, and to place Louis in
such a situation as should have ensured him the safe and honourable
station of a limited monarch, though it deprived him of the powers of a
despot. It is in politics, however, as in religion--the slighter in
itself the difference between two parties, the more tenacious is each of
the propositions in which they disagree. The pure Royalists were so far
from being disposed to coalesce with those who blended an attachment to
monarchy with a love of liberty, that they scarce accounted them fit to
share the dangers and distresses to which all were alike reduced.

[Sidenote: EMIGRATION.]

This first emigration proceeded not a little perhaps on the feeling of
self-consequence among those by whom it was adopted. The high-born
nobles of which it was chiefly composed, had been long the WORLD, as it
is termed, to Paris, and to each other, and it was a natural conclusion,
that their withdrawing themselves from the sphere which they adorned,
must have been felt as an irremediable deprivation. They were not aware
how easily, in the hour of need, perfumed lamps are, to all purposes of
utility, replaced by ordinary candles, and that, carrying away with them
much of dignity, gallantry, and grace, they left behind an ample stock
of wisdom and valour, and all the other essential qualities by which
nations are governed and defended.

The situation and negotiations of the emigrants in the courts to which
they fled, were also prejudicial to their own reputation, and
consequently to the royal cause, to which they had sacrificed their
country. Reduced "to show their misery in foreign lands," they were
naturally desirous of obtaining foreign aid to return to their own, and
laid themselves under the heavy accusation of instigating a civil war,
while Louis was yet the resigned, if not the contented, sovereign of the
newly modified empire. To this subject we must afterwards return.

The conviction that the ancient monarchy of France had fallen for ever,
gave encouragement to the numerous parties which united in desiring a
new constitution, although they differed on the principles on which it
was to be founded. But all agreed that it was necessary, in the first
place, to clear away the remains of the ancient state of things. They
resolved upon the abolition of all feudal rights, and managed the matter
with so much address, that it was made to appear on the part of those
who held them a voluntary surrender. The debate in the National Assembly
[August 4] was turned by the popular leaders upon the odious character
of the feudal rights and privileges, as being the chief cause of the
general depression and discontent in which the kingdom was involved. The
Nobles understood the hint which was thus given them, and answered it
with the ready courage and generosity which has been at all times the
attribute of their order, though sometimes these noble qualities have
been indiscreetly exercised. "Is it from us personally that the nation
expects sacrifices?" said the Marquis de Focault; "be assured that you
shall not appeal in vain to our generosity. We are desirous to defend to
the last the rights of the monarchy, but we can be lavish of our
peculiar and personal interests."

[Sidenote: THE DAY OF DUPES.]

The same general sentiment pervaded at once the Clergy and Nobles, who,
sufficiently sensible that what they resigned could not operate
essentially to the quiet of the state, were yet too proud to have even
the appearance of placing their own selfish interests in competition
with the public welfare. The whole privileged classes seemed at once
seized with a spirit of the most lavish generosity, and hastened to
despoil themselves of all their peculiar immunities and feudal rights.
Clergy and laymen vied with each other in the nature and extent of their
sacrifices. Privileges, whether prejudicial or harmless, rational or
ridiculous, were renounced in the mass. A sort of delirium pervaded the
Assembly; each member strove to distinguish the sacrifice of his
personal claims by something more remarkable than had yet attended any
of the previous renunciations. They who had no rights of their own to
resign, had the easier and more pleasant task of surrendering those of
their constituents: the privileges of corporations, the monopolies of
crafts, the rights of cities, were heaped on the national altar; and the
members of the National Assembly seemed to look about in ecstasy, to
consider of what else they could despoil themselves and others, as if,
like the silly old earl in the civil dissensions of England, there had
been an actual pleasure in the act of renouncing.[93] The feudal rights
were in many instances odious, in others oppressive, and in others
ridiculous; but it was ominous to see the institutions of ages
overthrown at random, by a set of men talking and raving all at once,
so as to verify the observation of the Englishman, Williams, one of
their own members, "The fools! they would be thought to deliberate, when
they cannot even listen." The singular occasion on which enthusiasm,
false shame, and mutual emulation, thus induced the Nobles and Clergy to
despoil themselves of all their seigneurial rights, was called by some
the _day of the sacrifices_, by others, more truly, the _day of the

During the currency of this legislative frenzy, as it might be termed,
the popular party, with countenances affecting humility and shame at
having nothing themselves to surrender, sat praising each new sacrifice,
as the wily companions of a thoughtless and generous young man applaud
the lavish expense by which they themselves profit, while their seeming
admiration is an incentive to new acts of extravagance.

At length, when the sacrifice seemed complete, they began to pause and
look around them. Some one thought of the separate distinctions of the
provinces of France, as Normandy, Languedoc, and so forth. Most of these
provinces possessed rights and privileges acquired by victory or treaty,
which even Richelieu had not dared to violate. As soon as mentioned,
they were at once thrown into the revolutionary smelting-pot, to be
re-modelled after the universal equality which was the fashion of the
day. It was not urged, and would not have been listened to, that these
rights had been bought with blood, and sanctioned by public faith; that
the legislature, though it had a right to extend them to others, could
not take them from the possessors without compensation; and it escaped
the Assembly no less, how many honest and generous sentiments are
connected with such provincial distinctions, which form, as it were, a
second and inner fence around the love of a common country; or how much
harmless enjoyment the poor man derives from the consciousness that he
shares the privileges of some peculiar district. Such considerations
might have induced the legislature to pause at least, after they had
removed such marks of distinction as tended to engender jealousy betwixt
inhabitants of the same kingdom. But her revolutionary level was to be
passed over all that tended to distinguish one district, or one
individual, from another.

There was one order in the kingdom which, although it had joined largely
and readily in the sacrifices of the _day of dupes_, was still
considered as indebted to the state, and was doomed to undergo an act of
total spoliation. The Clergy had agreed, and the Assembly had decreed,
on 4th August, that the tithes should be declared redeemable, at a
moderate price, by the proprietors subject to pay them. This regulation
ratified, at least, the legality of the Clergy's title. Nevertheless, in
violation of the public faith thus pledged, the Assembly, three days
afterwards, pretended that the surrender of tithes had been absolute,
and that, in lieu of that supposed revenue, the nation was only bound to
provide decently for the administration of divine worship. Even the
Abbé Siêyes on this occasion deserted the revolutionary party, and made
an admirable speech against this iniquitous measure.[94] "You would be
free," he exclaimed, with vehemence, "and you know not how to be just!"
A curate in the Assembly, recalling to mind the solemn invocation by
which the Tiers Etat had called upon the Clergy to unite with them,
asked, with similar energy, "Was it to rob us, that you invited us to
join with you in the name of the God of Peace?" Mirabeau, on the other
hand, forgot the vehemence with which he had pleaded the right of
property inherent in religious bodies, and lent his sophistry to defend
what his own reasoning had proved in a similar case to be indefensible.
The complaints of the Clergy were listened to in contemptuous silence,
or replied to with bitter irony, by those who were conscious how little
sympathy that body were likely to meet from the nation in general, and
who therefore spoke "as having power to do wrong."

We must now revert to the condition of the kingdom of France at large,
while her ancient institutions were crumbling to pieces of themselves,
or were forcibly pulled down by state innovators. That fine country was
ravaged by a civil war of aggravated horrors, waged betwixt the rich and
poor, and marked by every species of brutal violence. The peasants,
their minds filled with a thousand wild suppositions, and incensed by
the general scarcity of provisions, were every where in arms, and every
where attacked the chateaux of their _seigneurs_, whom they were incited
to look upon as enemies of the Revolution, and particularly of the
commons. In most instances they were successful, and burnt the dwellings
of the nobility, practising all the circumstances of rage and cruelty by
which the minds of barbarians are influenced. Men were murdered in
presence of their wives; wives and daughters violated before the eyes of
their husbands and parents; some were put to death by lingering
tortures; others by sudden and general massacre. Against some of these
unhappy gentlemen, doubtless, the peasants might have wrongs to remember
and to avenge; many of them, however, had borne their faculties so
meekly that they did not even suspect the ill intentions of these
peasants, until their castles and country-seats kindled with the general
conflagration, and made part of the devouring element which raged
through the whole kingdom.

What were the National Assembly doing at this dreadful crisis? They were
discussing the abstract doctrines of the rights of man, instead of
exacting from the subject the respect due to his social duties.

Yet a large party in the Convention, and who had hitherto led the way in
the paths of the Revolution, now conceived that the goal was attained,
and that it was time to use the curb and forbear the spur. Such was the
opinion of La Fayette and his followers, who considered the victory over
the Royalists as complete, and were desirous to declare the Revolution
ended, and erect a substantial form of government on the ruins of
monarchy, which lay prostrate at their feet.

They had influence enough in the Assembly to procure a set of
resolutions, declaring the monarchy hereditary in the person of the King
and present family, on which basis they proceeded to erect what might be
termed a Royal Democracy, or, in plainer terms, a Republic, governed, in
truth, by a popular assembly, but encumbered with the expense of a king,
to whom they desired to leave no real power, or free will to exercise
it, although his name was to remain in the front of edicts, and although
he was still to be considered entitled to command their armies, as the
executive authority of the state.

[Sidenote: THE VETO.]

A struggle was made to extend the royal authority to an absolute
negative upon the decrees of the representative body; and though it was
limited by the jealousy of the popular party to a suspensive veto only,
yet even this degree of influence was supposed too dangerous in the
hands of a monarch who had but lately been absolute. There is indeed an
evident dilemma in the formation of a democracy, with a king for its
ostensible head. Either the monarch will remain contented with his daily
parade and daily food, and thus play the part of a mere pageant, in
which case he is a burdensome expense to the state, which a popular
government, in prudent economy, as well as from the severity of
principle assumed by republicans, are particularly bound to avoid; or
else he will naturally endeavour to improve the shadow and outward form
of power into something like sinew and substance, and the democracy will
be unexpectedly assailed with the spear which they desired should be
used only as their standard pole.

To these reasonings many of the deputies would perhaps have answered,
had they spoken their real sentiments, that it was yet too early to
propose to the French a pure republic, and that it was necessary to
render the power of the King insignificant, before abolishing a title to
which the public ear had been so long accustomed. In the meantime, they
took care to divest the monarch of whatever protection he might have
received from an intermediate senate, or chamber, placed betwixt the
King and the National Assembly. "One God," exclaimed Rabaut St. Etienne,
"one Nation, one King, and one Chamber." This advocate for unity at once
and uniformity, would scarce have been listened to if he had added, "one
nose, one tongue, one arm, and one eye;" but his first concatenation of
unities formed a phrase; and an imposing phrase, which sounds well, and
can easily be repeated, has immense force in a revolution. The proposal
for a Second, or Upper Chamber, whether hereditary like that of England,
or elective like that of America, was rejected as aristocratical. Thus
the King of France was placed, in respect to the populace, as Canute of
old to the advancing tide--he was entitled to sit on his throne and
command the waves to respect him, and take the chance of their obeying
his commands, or of being overwhelmed by them. If he was designed to be
an integral part of the constitution, this should not have been--if he
was considered as something that it was more seemly to abandon to his
fate than to destroy by violence, the plan was not ill concerted.


[67] The Baron de Senneci, when the estates of the kingdom were compared
to three brethren, of which the Tiers Etat was youngest, declared that
the Commons of France had no title to arrogate such a relationship with
the nobles, to whom they were so far inferior in blood, and in

[68] Madame de Staël, and Madame de Montmorin, wife of the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, beheld from a gallery the spectacle. The former exulted
in the boundless prospect of national felicity which seemed to be
opening under the auspices of her father. "You are wrong to rejoice,"
said Madame de Montmorin; "this event forebodes much misery to France
and to ourselves." Her presentiment was but too well founded. She
herself perished on the scaffold with one of her sons; her husband was
murdered on September 2d; her eldest daughter died in the hospital of a
prison, and her youngest died of a broken heart.--See M. DE STAËL, vol.
i., p. 187.

[69] Lacretelle, tom. i., p. 32; Rivarol, p. 37.

[70] It was, for example, gravely stated, that a seigneur of a certain
province possessed a feudal right to put two of his vassals to death
upon his return from hunting, and to rip their bellies open, and plunge
his feet into their entrails to warm them.--S.

[71] See Don Quixote, part ii., chap. lxi., (vol. v., p. 296. Lond.,

[72] "By a majority of 491 to 90."--LACRETELLE.

[73] Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 39.

[74] Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 41.

[75] The government monopoly of salt, under the name of the _gabelle_,
was maintained over about two-thirds of the kingdom.

[76] Mignet, tom. i., p. 43.

[77] "The evening before, he had tendered his resignation, which was not
accepted, as the measures adopted by the court were not such as he
thoroughly approved."--LACRETELLE, tom. vii., p. 47.

[78] Mounier was born at Grenoble in 1758. He quitted France in 1790,
but returned in 1802. He afterwards became one of Napoleon's counsellors
of state in 1806.

[79] Malouet was born at Riom in 1740. To escape the massacres of
September, 1790, he fled to England; but returned to France in 1801,
and, in 1810, was appointed one of Napoleon's counsellors of state. He
died in 1814.

[80] "Abstract science will not enable a man to become a ship-wright.
The French are perhaps the worst ship-wrights in all Europe, but they
are confessedly among the first and best theorists in naval
architecture, and it is one of those unaccountable phenomena in the
history of man, that they never attempted to combine the two. Happily
the English have hit upon that expedient."--BARROW.

[81] A singular instance of this overstrained and dangerous enthusiasm
is given by Madame Roland. [Memoirs, part i., p. 144.] It being the
purpose to rouse the fears and spirit of the people, and direct their
animosity against the court party, Grangeneuve agreed that he himself
should be murdered, by persons chosen for the purpose, in such a manner
that the suspicion of the crime should attach itself to the aristocrats.
He went to the place appointed, but Chabot, who was to have shared his
fate, neither appeared himself, nor had made the necessary preparations
for the assassination of his friend, for which Madame Roland, that
high-spirited republican, dilates upon his poltroonery. Yet, what was
this patriotic devotion, save a plan to support a false accusation
against the innocent, by an act of murder and suicide, which, if the
scheme succeeded, was to lead to massacre and proscription? The same
false, exaggerated, and distorted views of the public good centering, as
it seemed to them, in the establishment of a pure republic, led Barnave
and others to palliate the massacres of September. Most of them might
have said of the Liberty which they had worshipped, that at their death
they found it an empty name.--S.

[82] So called, because the first sittings of the Club were held in the
ancient convent of the Jacobins.

[83] July 11. "The formal command to quit the kingdom was accompanied by
a note from the King, in which he prayed him to depart in a private
manner, for fear of exciting disturbances. Necker received this
intimation just as he was dressing for dinner: he dined quietly, without
divulging it to any one, and set out in the evening with Madame Necker
for Brussels."--MIGNET, tom. i., p. 47.

[84] The Marshal was born in 1718, and died, at the age of eighty-six,
in 1804.

[85] Cockneys.

[86] "M. Foulon, an old man of seventy, member of the former
Administration, was seized near his own seat, and with his hands tied
behind his back, a crown of thistles on his head, and his mouth stuffed
with hay, conducted to Paris, where he was murdered with circumstances
of unheard-of cruelty. His son-in-law, Berthier, compelled to kiss his
father's head, which was thrust into his carriage on a pike, shortly
after shared his fate; and the heart of the latter was torn out of his
palpitating body."--LACRETELLE, tom. vii., p. 117.

[87] M. de Flesselles. It was alleged that a letter had been found on
the Governor of the Bastile, which implicated him in treachery to the
public cause.--See MIGNET, tom. i., p. 62.

[88] For an account of Lord George Gordon's riots in 1780, see _Annual
Register_, vol. xxiii., p. 254; and WRAXALL'S _Own Time_, vol. i., p.

[89] "If the gardes Françaises, in 1789, had behaved like our regular
troops in 1780, the French Revolution might have been suppressed in its
birth; but, the difference of character between the two sovereigns of
Great Britain and of France, constituted one great cause of the
different fate that attended the two monarchies. George the Third, when
attacked, prepared to defend his throne, his family, his country, and
the constitution intrusted to his care; they were in fact saved by his
decision. Louis the Sixteenth tamely abandoned all to a ferocious
Jacobin populace, who sent him to the scaffold. No man of courage or of
principle could have quitted the former prince. It was impossible to
save, or to rescue, the latter ill-fated, yielding, and passive
monarch."--WRAXALL, vol. i., p. 334.


    "Que voulez-vous qu'il fit contre trois? Qu'il mourût,
    Ou qu'un beau désespoir alors le secourût."

        CORNEILLE--_Les Horaces_, Act iii., Sc. 6.

[91] We have heard from a spectator who could be trusted, that during
the course of the attack on the Bastile, a cry arose among the crowd
that the regiment of Royales Allemandes were coming upon them. There was
at that moment such a disposition to fly, as plainly showed what would
have been the effect had a body of troops appeared in reality. The Baron
de Besenval had commanded a body of the guards, when, some weeks
previously, they subdued an insurrection in the Fauxbourg St. Antoine.
On that occasion many of the mob were killed; and he observes in his
Memoirs, that, while the citizens of Paris termed him their preserver,
he was very coldly received at court. He might be, therefore, unwilling
to commit himself, by acting decidedly on the 14th July.--S.

[92] Charles the Tenth.

[93] "Is there nothing else we can renounce?" said the old Earl of
Pembroke and Montgomery, in the time of the Commonwealth, after he had
joined in renouncing Church and King, Crown and Law. "Can no one think
of any thing else? I love RENOUNCING." The hasty renunciations of the
French nobles and churchmen were brought about in the manner practised
of yore in convivial parties, when he who gave a toast burned his wig,
had a loose tooth drawn, or made some other sacrifice, which, according
to the laws of compotation, was an example necessary to be imitated by
all the rest of the company, with whatever prejudice to their wardrobes
or their persons.--S.

[94] "Next day Siêyes gave vent to his spleen to Mirabeau, who answered,
'My dear abbé, you have unloosed the bull do you expect he is not to
make use of his horns?'"--DUMONT, p. 147.


    _Plan of the Democrats to bring the King and Assembly to
    Paris--Banquet of the Garde du Corps--Riot at Paris--A
    formidable Mob of Women assemble to march to Versailles--The
    National Guard refuse to act against the Insurgents, and demand
    also to be led to Versailles--The Female Mob arrive--Their
    behaviour to the Assembly--To the King--Alarming Disorders at
    Night--La Fayette arrives with the National Guard--Mob force the
    Palace--Murder the Body Guards--The Queen's safety
    endangered--Fayette's arrival with his Force restores
    Order--Royal Family obliged to go to reside at Paris--The
    Procession--This Step agreeable to the Views of the
    Constitutionalists, Republicans, and Anarchists--Duke of Orleans
    sent to England._

We have mentioned the various restrictions upon the royal authority,
which had been successively sanctioned by the National Assembly. But the
various factions, all of which tended to democracy, were determined upon
manœuvres for abating the royal authority, more actively powerful
than those which the Assembly dared yet to venture upon. For this
purpose, all those who desired to carry the Revolution to extremity,
became desirous to bring the sittings of the National Assembly and the
residence of the King within the precincts of Paris, and to place them
under the influence of that popular frenzy which they had so many ways
of exciting, and which might exercise the authority of terror over the
body of representatives, fill their galleries with a wild and tumultuous
band of partisans, surround their gates with an infuriated populace, and
thus dictate the issue of each deliberation. What fate was reserved for
the King, after incidents will sufficiently show. To effect an object so
important, the Republican party strained every effort, and succeeded in
raising the popular ferment to the highest pitch.

Their first efforts were unsuccessful. A deputation, formidable from
their numbers and clamorous violence, was about to sally from Paris to
petition, as they called it, for the removal of the royal family and
National Assembly to Paris, but was dispersed by the address of La
Fayette and Bailli. Nevertheless it seemed decreed that the Republicans
should carry their favourite measures, less through their own proper
strength, great as that was, than by the advantage afforded by the
blunders of the Royalists. An imprudence--it seems to deserve no harsher
name--which occurred within the precincts of the royal palace at
Versailles, gave the demagogues an opportunity, sooner probably than
they expected, of carrying their point by a repetition of the violences
which had already occurred.

The town of Versailles owed its splendour and wealth entirely to its
being the royal residence, yet abounded with a population singularly
ill-disposed towards the King and royal family. The national guard of
the place, amounting to some thousands, were animated by the same
feelings. There were only about four hundred gardes du corps, or
life-guards, upon whom reliance could be placed for the defence of the
royal family, in case of any popular tumult either in Versailles itself,
or directed thither from Paris. These troops consisted of gentlemen of
trust and confidence, but their numbers were few in proportion to the
extent of the palace, and their very quality rendered them obnoxious to
the people as armed aristocrats.

About two-thirds of their number, to avoid suspicion and gain
confidence, had been removed to Rambouillets. In these circumstances,
the grenadiers of the French guards, so lately in arms, against the
royal authority, with an inconsistency not unnatural to men of their
profession, took it into their heads to become zealous for the recovery
of the posts which they had formerly occupied around the King's person,
and threatened openly to march to Versailles, to take possession of the
routine of duty at the palace, a privilege which they considered as
their due, notwithstanding that they had deserted their posts against
the King's command, and were now about to resume them contrary to his
consent. The regiment of Flanders was brought up to Versailles, to
prevent a movement fraught with so much danger to the royal family. The
presence of this corps had been required by the municipality, and the
measure had been acquiesced in by the Assembly, though not without some
expressive indications of suspicion.


The regiment of Flanders arrived accordingly, and the gardes du corps,
according to a custom universal in the French garrisons, invited the
officers to an entertainment, at which the officers of the Swiss guards,
and those of the national guard of Versailles were also guests. [Oct.
1.] This ill-omened feast was given in the opera hall of the palace,
almost within hearing of the sovereigns; the healths of the royal family
were drunk with the enthusiasm naturally inspired by the situation. The
King and Queen imprudently agreed to visit the scene of festivity,
carrying with them the Dauphin. Their presence raised the spirits of the
company, already excited by wine and music, to the highest pitch;
royalist tunes were played, the white cockade, distributed by the
ladies who attended the Queen, was mounted with enthusiasm, and it is
said that of the nation was trodden under foot.[95]

If we consider the cause of this wild scene, it seems natural enough
that the Queen, timid as a woman, anxious as a wife and a mother, might,
in order to propitiate the favour of men who were summoned expressly to
be the guard of the royal family, incautiously have recourse to imitate,
in a slight degree, and towards one regiment, the arts of conciliation,
which in a much grosser shape had been used by the popular party to
shake the fidelity of the whole army. But it is impossible to conceive
that the King, or ministers, could have hoped, by the transitory and
drunken flash of enthusiasm elicited from a few hundred men during a
carousal, to commence the counter-revolution, which they dared not
attempt when they had at their command thirty thousand troops, under an
experienced general.

But as no false step among the Royalists remained unimproved by their
adversaries, the military feast of Versailles was presented to the
people of Paris under a light very different from that in which it must
be viewed by posterity. The Jacobins were the first to sound the alarm
through all their clubs and societies, and the hundreds of hundreds of
popular orators whom they had at their command, excited the citizens by
descriptions of the most dreadful plots, fraught with massacres and
proscriptions. Every effort had already been used to heat the popular
mind against the King and Queen, whom, in allusion to the obnoxious
power granted to them by the law, they had of late learned to curse and
insult, under the names of Monsieur and Madame Veto. The King had
recently delayed yielding his sanction to the declarations of the Rights
of Man, until the constitution was complete. This had been severely
censured by the Assembly, who spoke of sending a deputation to extort
his consent to these declarations, before presenting him with the
practical results which they intended to bottom on them. A dreadful
scarcity, amounting nearly to a famine, rendered the populace even more
accessible than usual to desperate counsels. The feasts, amid which the
aristocrats were represented as devising their plots, seemed an insult
on the public misery. When the minds of the lower orders were thus
prejudiced, it was no difficult matter to produce an insurrection.


That of the 5th October, 1789, was of a singular description, the
insurgents being chiefly of the female sex. The market-women, "Dames de
la Halle," as they are called, half unsexed by the masculine nature of
their employments, and entirely so by the ferocity of their manners, had
figured early in the Revolution. With these were allied and associated
most of the worthless and barbarous of their own sex, such disgraceful
specimens of humanity as serve but to show in what a degraded state it
may be found to exist. Females of this description began to assemble
early in the morning, in large groups, with the cries for "bread," which
so easily rouse a starving metropolis. There were amongst them many men
disguised as women, and they compelled all the females they met to go
along with them. They marched to the Hôtel de Ville, broke boldly
through several squadrons of the national guard, who were drawn up in
front of that building for its defence, and were with difficulty
dissuaded from burning the records it contained. They next seized a
magazine of arms, with three or four pieces of cannon, and were joined
by a miscellaneous rabble, armed with pikes, scythes, and similar
instruments, who called themselves the conquerors of the Bastile. The
still increasing multitude re-echoed the cry of "Bread, bread!--to
Versailles! to Versailles!"[96]

The national guard were now called out in force, but speedily showed
their officers that they too were infected with the humour of the times,
and as much indisposed to subordination as the mob, to disperse which
they were summoned. La Fayette put himself at their head, not to give
his own, but to receive their orders. They refused to act against women,
who, they said, were starving, and in their turn demanded to be led to
Versailles, "to dethrone,"--such was their language,--"the King, who was
a driveller, and place the crown on the head of his son." La Fayette
hesitated, implored, explained; but he had as yet to learn the situation
of a revolutionary general. "Is it not strange," said one of his
soldiers, who seemed quite to understand the military relation of
officer and private on such an occasion, "is it not strange that La
Fayette pretends to command the people, when it is his part to receive
orders from them?"

Soon afterwards an order arrived from the Assembly of the Commune of
Paris, enjoining the commandant's march, upon his own report that it was
impossible to withstand the will of the people. He marched accordingly
in good order, and at the head of a large force of the national guard,
about four or five hours after the departure of the mob, who, while he
waited in a state of indecision, were already far on their way to

It does not appear that the King, or his ministers, had any information
of these hostile movements. Assuredly, there could not have been a
royalist in Paris willing to hazard a horse or a groom to carry such
intelligence where the knowledge of it must have been so important. The
leading members of the Assembly, at Versailles, were better informed.
"These gentlemen," said Barbantanne, looking at the part of the hall
where the Nobles and Clergy usually sat, "wish more light--they shall
have lanterns,[97] they may rely upon it." Mirabeau went behind the
chair of Mounier, the president. "Paris is marching upon us," he
said.--"I know not what you mean," said Mounier.--"Believe me or not,
all Paris is marching upon us--dissolve the sitting."--"I never hurry
the deliberations," said Mounier.--"Then feign illness," said
Mirabeau,--"go to the palace, tell them what I say, and give me for
authority. But there is not a minute to lose--Paris marches upon
us."--"So much the better," answered Mounier, "we shall be a republic
the sooner."[98]

Shortly after this singular dialogue, occasioned probably by a sudden
movement, in which Mirabeau showed the aristocratic feelings from which
he never could shake himself free, the female battalion, together with
their masculine allies, continued their march uninterruptedly, and
entered Versailles in the afternoon, singing patriotic airs,
intermingled with blasphemous obscenities, and the most furious threats
against the Queen. Their first visit was to the National Assembly, where
the beating of drums, shouts, shrieks, and a hundred confused sounds,
interrupted the deliberations. A man called Mailliard, brandishing a
sword in his hand, and supported by a woman holding a long pole, to
which was attached a tambour de basque, commenced a harangue in the name
of the sovereign people. He announced that they wanted bread; that they
were convinced the ministers were traitors; that the arm of the people
was uplifted, and about to strike;--with much to the same purpose, in
the exaggerated eloquence of the period.[99] The same sentiments were
echoed by his followers, mingled with the bitterest threats, against the
Queen in particular, that fury could contrive, expressed in language of
the most energetic brutality.

The Amazons then crowded into the Assembly, mixed themselves with the
members, occupied the seat of the president, of the secretaries,
produced or procured victuals and wine, drank, sung, swore, scolded,
screamed,--abused some of the members, and loaded others with their
loathsome caresses.[100]

A deputation of these mad women was at length sent to St. Priest, the
minister, a determined Royalist, who received them sternly, and replied,
to their demand of bread, "When you had but one king, you never wanted
bread--you have now twelve hundred--go ask it of them." They were
introduced to the King, however, and were so much struck with the kind
interest which he took in the state of Paris, that their hearts relented
in his favour, and the deputies returned to their constituents, shouting
"Vive le Roi!"[101]


Had the tempest depended on the mere popular breeze, it might now have
been lulled to sleep; but there was a secret ground-swell, a heaving
upwards of the bottom of the abyss, which could not be conjured down by
the awakened feelings or convinced understandings of the deputation. A
cry was raised that the deputies had been bribed to represent the King
favourably; and, in this humour of suspicion, the army of Amazons
stripped their garters, for the purpose of strangling their own
delegates. They had by this time ascertained, that neither the national
guard of Versailles, nor the regiment of Flanders, whose transitory
loyalty had passed away with the fumes of the wine of the banquet, would
oppose them by force, and that they had only to deal with the gardes du
corps, who dared not to act with vigour, lest they should provoke a
general attack on the palace, while the most complete distraction and
indecision reigned within its precincts. Bold in consequence, the female
mob seized on the exterior avenues of the palace, and threatened
destruction to all within.

The attendants of the King saw it necessary to take measures for the
safety of his person, but they were marked by indecision and confusion.
A force was hastily gathered of two or three hundred gentlemen, who, it
was proposed, should mount the horses of the royal stud, and escort the
King to Rambouillet, out of this scene of confusion.[102] The gardes du
corps, with such assistance, might certainly have forced their way
through a mob or the tumultuary description which surrounded them; and
the escape of the King from Versailles, under circumstances so critical,
might have had a great effect in changing the current of popular
feeling. But those opinions prevailed, which recommended that he should
abide the arrival of La Fayette with the civic force of Paris.

It was now night, and the armed rabble of both sexes showed no intention
of departing or breaking up. On the contrary, they bivouacked after
their own manner upon the parade, where the soldiers usually mustered.
There they kindled large fires, ate, drank, sang, caroused, and
occasionally discharged their firearms. Scuffles arose from time to
time, and one or two of the gardes du corps had been killed and wounded
in the quarrel, which the rioters had endeavoured to fasten on them;
besides which, this devoted corps had sustained a volley from their late
guests, the national guard of Versailles. The horse of a garde du corps,
which fell into the hands of these female demons, was killed, torn in
pieces, and eaten half raw and half roasted.[103] Every thing seemed
tending to a general engagement, when late at night the drums announced
the approach of La Fayette at the head of his civic army, which moved
slowly but in good order.

The presence of this great force seemed to restore a portion of
tranquillity, though no one appeared to know with certainty how it was
likely to act. La Fayette had an audience of the King, explained the
means he had adopted for the security of the palace, recommended to the
inhabitants to go to rest, and unhappily set the example by retiring
himself.[104] Before doing so, however, he also visited the Assembly,
pledged himself for the safety of the royal family and the tranquillity
of the night, and with some difficulty, prevailed on the President
Mounier to adjourn the sitting, which had been voted permanent. He thus
took upon himself the responsibility for the quiet of the night. We are
loth to bring into question the worth, honour, and fidelity of La
Fayette; and we can therefore only lament, that weariness should have so
far overcome him at an important crisis, and that he should have trusted
to others the execution of those precautions, which were most grossly

A band of the rioters found means to penetrate into the palace about
three in the morning, through a gate which was left unlocked and
unguarded. They rushed to the Queen's apartment, and bore down the few
gardes du corps who hastened to her defence. The sentinel knocked at the
door of her bedchamber, called to her to escape, and then gallantly
exposed himself to the fury of the murderers. His single opposition was
almost instantly overcome, and he himself left for dead. Over his
bleeding body they forced their way into the Queen's apartment; but
their victim, reserved for farther and worse woes, had escaped by a
secret passage into the chamber of the King, while the assassins,
bursting in, stabbed the bed she had just left with pikes and


The gardes du corps assembled in the ante-chamber called the bull's eye,
and endeavoured there to defend themselves; but several, unable to gain
this place of refuge, were dragged down into the courtyard, where a
wretch, distinguished by a long beard, a broad bloody axe, and a species
of armour which he wore on his person, had taken on himself, by taste
and choice, the office of executioner. The strangeness of the villain's
costume, the sanguinary relish with which he discharged his office, and
the hoarse roar with which, from time to time, he demanded new victims,
made him resemble some demon whom hell had vomited forth, to augment the
wickedness and horror of the scene.[106]

Two of the gardes du corps were already beheaded, and the Man with the
Beard was clamorous to do his office upon the others who had been taken,
when La Fayette, roused from his repose, arrived at the head of a body
of grenadiers of the old French guards, who had been lately incorporated
with the civic guard, and were probably the most efficient part of his
force. He did not think of avenging the unfortunate gentlemen, who lay
murdered before his eyes for the discharge of their military duty, but
he entreated his soldiers to save him the dishonour of breaking his
word, which he had pledged to the King, that he would protect the gardes
du corps. It is probable he attempted no more than was in his power, and
so far acted wisely, if not generously.

To redeem M. de la Fayette's pledge, the grenadiers did, what they ought
to have done in the name of the King, the law, the nation, and insulted
humanity,--they cleared, and with perfect ease, the court of the palace
from these bands of murderous bacchantes, and their male associates. The
instinct of ancient feelings, was, in some degree, awakened in the
grenadiers. They experienced a sudden sensation of compassion and
kindness for the gardes du corps, whose duty on the royal person they
had in former times shared. There arose a cry among them,--"Let us save
the gardes du corps, who saved us at Fontenoy." They took them under
their protection, exchanged their caps with them in sign of friendship
and fraternity, and a tumult, which had something of the character of
joy, succeeded to that which had announced nothing but blood and

The outside of the palace was still besieged by the infuriated mob, who
demanded, with hideous cries, and exclamations the most barbarous and
obscene, to see "the Austrian," as they called the Queen. The
unfortunate princess appeared on the balcony[108] with one of her
children in each hand. A voice from the crowd called out, "No children,"
as if on purpose to deprive the mother of that appeal to humanity which
might move the hardest heart. Marie Antoinette, with a force of mind
worthy of Maria Theresa, her mother, pushed her children back into the
room, and, turning her face to the tumultuous multitude, which tossed
and roared beneath, brandishing their pikes and guns with the wildest
attitudes of rage, the reviled, persecuted, and denounced Queen stood
before them, her arms folded on her bosom, with a noble air of
courageous resignation.[109] The secret reason of this summons--the real
cause of repelling the children--could only be to afford a chance of
some desperate hand among the crowd executing the threats which
resounded on all sides. Accordingly, a gun was actually levelled, but
one of the bystanders struck it down; for the passions of the mob had
taken an opposite turn, and, astonished at Marie Antoinette's noble
presence, and graceful firmness of demeanour, there arose, almost in
spite of themselves, a general shout of "Vive la Reine!"[110]

But if the insurgents, or rather those who prompted them, missed their
first point, they did not also lose their second. A cry arose, "To
Paris!" at first uttered by a solitary voice, but gathering strength,
until the whole multitude shouted, "To Paris--to Paris!"[111] The cry of
these blood-thirsty bacchanals, such as they had that night shown
themselves, was, it seems, considered as the voice of the people, and as
such, La Fayette neither remonstrated himself, nor permitted the King to
interpose a moment's delay in yielding obedience to it; nor was any
measure taken to put some appearance even of decency on the journey, or
to disguise its real character, of a triumphant procession of the
sovereign people, after a complete victory over their nominal monarch.


The carriages of the royal family were placed in the middle of an
immeasurable column, consisting partly of La Fayette's soldiers, partly
of the revolutionary rabble, whose march had preceded his, amounting to
several thousand men and women of the lowest and most desperate
description, intermingling in groups amongst the bands of French guards
and civic soldiers, whose discipline could not enable them to preserve
even a semblance of order. Thus they rushed along, howling their songs
of triumph. The harbingers of the march bore the two bloody heads of
the murdered gardes du corps, paraded on pikes, at the head of the
column, as the emblems of their prowess and success.[112] The rest of
this body, worn down by fatigue, most of them despoiled of their arms,
and many without hats, anxious for the fate of the royal family, and
harassed with apprehensions for themselves, were dragged like captives
in the midst of the mob, while the drunken females around them bore
aloft in triumph their arms, their belts, and their hats. These
wretches, stained with the blood in which they had bathed themselves,
were now singing songs, of which the burden bore--"We bring you the
baker, his wife, and the little apprentice!"[113] as if the presence of
the unhappy royal family, with the little power they now possessed, had
been in itself a charm against scarcity. Some of these Amazons rode upon
the cannon, which made a formidable part of the procession. Many of them
were mounted on the horses of the gardes du corps, some in masculine
fashion, others _en croupe_. All the muskets and pikes which attended
this immense cavalcade, were garnished, as if in triumph, with oak
boughs, and the women carried long poplar branches in their hands, which
gave the column, so grotesquely composed in every respect, the
appearance of a moving grove.[114] Scarcely a circumstance was omitted
which could render this entrance into the capital more insulting to the
King's feelings--more degrading to the royal dignity.

After six hours of dishonour and agony, the unfortunate Louis was
brought to the Hôtel de Ville, where Bailli, then mayor,[115]
complimented him upon the "beau jour," the "splendid day," which
restored the monarch of France to his capital; assured him that order,
peace, and all the gentler virtues, were about to revive in the country
under his royal eye, and that the King would henceforth become powerful
through the people, the people happy through the King; and, "what was
truest of all," that as Henry IV. had entered Paris by means of
reconquering his people, Louis XVI. had done so, because his people had
reconquered their King.[116] His wounds salved with this lip-comfort,
the unhappy and degraded prince was at length permitted to retire to the
palace of the Tuileries, which, long uninhabited, and almost
unfurnished, yawned upon him like the tomb where alone he at length
found repose.[117]

The events of the 14th July, 1789, when the Bastile was taken, formed
the first great stride of the Revolution, actively considered. Those of
the 5th and 6th of October, in the same year, which we have detailed at
length, as peculiarly characteristic of the features which it assumed,
made the second grand phasis. The first had rendered the inhabitants of
the metropolis altogether independent of their sovereign, and indeed of
any government but that which they chose to submit to; the second
deprived the King of that small appearance of freedom which he had
hitherto exercised, and fixed his dwelling in the midst of his
metropolis, independent and self-regulated as we have described it. "It
is wonderful," said Louis, "that with such love of liberty on all sides,
I am the only person that is deemed totally unworthy of enjoying it."
Indeed, after the march from Versailles, the King could only be
considered as the signet of royal authority, used for attesting public
acts at the pleasure of those in whose custody he was detained, but
without the exercise of any free-will on his own part.

All the various parties found their account, less or more, in this state
of the royal person, excepting the pure Royalists, whose effective power
was little, and their comparative numbers few. There remained, indeed,
attached to the person and cause of Louis, a party of those members,
who, being friends to freedom, were no less so to regulated monarchy,
and who desired to fix the throne on a firm and determined basis. But
their numbers were daily thinned, and their spirits were broken. The
excellent Mounier, and the eloquent Lally Tolendal, emigrated after the
9th October, unable to endure the repetition of such scenes as were then
exhibited. The indignant adieus of the latter to the National Assembly,
were thus forcibly expressed:--

"It is impossible for me, even my physical strength alone considered, to
discharge my functions amid the scenes we have witnessed. Those heads
borne in trophy; that Queen half assassinated; that King dragged into
Paris by troops of robbers and assassins; the 'splendid day' of M.
Bailli; the jests of Barnave, when blood was floating around us; Mounier
escaping, as if by miracle, from a thousand assassins; these are the
causes of my oath never again to enter that den of cannibals. A man may
endure a single death; he may brave it more than once, when the loss of
life can be useful--but no power under Heaven shall induce me to suffer
a thousand tortures every passing minute--while I am witnessing the
progress of cruelty, the triumph of guilt, which I must witness without
interrupting it. They may proscribe my person, they may confiscate my
fortune; I will labour the earth for my bread, and I will see them no

The other parties into which the state was divided, saw the events of
the 5th October with other feelings, and if they did not forward, at
least found their account in them.


The Constitutional party, or those who desired a democratical government
with a king at its head, had reason to hope that Louis, being in Paris,
must remain at their absolute disposal, separated from those who might
advise counter-revolutionary steps, and guarded only by national troops,
embodied in the name, and through the powers, of the Revolution. Every
day, indeed, rendered Louis more dependent on La Fayette and his
friends, as the only force which remained to preserve order; for he soon
found it a necessary, though a cruel measure, to disband his faithful
gardes du corps, and that perhaps as much with a view to their safety as
to his own.

The Constitutional party seemed strong both in numbers and reputation.
La Fayette was commandant of the national guards, and they looked up to
him with that homage and veneration with which young troops, and
especially of this description, regard a leader of experience and
bravery, who, in accepting the command, seems to share his laurels with
the citizen-soldier, who has won none of his own. Bailli was Mayor of
Paris, and, in the height of a popularity not undeserved, was so well
established in the minds of the better class of citizens, that, in any
other times than those in which he lived, he might safely have despised
the suffrages of the rabble, always to be bought, either by largesses or
flattery. The Constitutionalists had also a strong majority in the
Assembly, where the Republicans dared not yet throw off the mask, and
the Assembly, following the person of the King, came also to establish
its sittings in their stronghold, the metropolis.[119] They seemed,
therefore, to assume the ascendency in the first instance, after the 5th
and 6th of October, and to reap all the first fruits of the victory then
achieved, though by their connivance rather than their active

It is wonderful, that, meaning still to assign to the regal dignity a
high constitutional situation, La Fayette should not have exerted
himself to preserve its dignity undegraded, and to save the honour, as
he certainly saved the lives, of the royal family. Three reasons might
prevent his doing what, as a gentleman and a soldier, he must otherwise
at least have attempted. First, although he boasted highly of his
influence with the national guard of Paris, it may be doubted whether
all his popularity would have borne him through, in any endeavour to
deprive the good people of that city of such a treat as the Joyous Entry
of the 6th of October, or whether the civic power would, even for the
immediate defence of the King's person, have used actual force against
the band of Amazons who directed that memorable procession. Secondly, La
Fayette might fear the revival of the fallen colossus of despotism, more
than the rising spirit of anarchy, and thus be induced to suppose that a
conquest in the King's cause over a popular insurrection, might be too
active a cordial to the drooping spirits of the Royalists. And lastly,
the revolutionary general, as a politician, might not be unwilling that
the King and his consort should experience in their own persons, such a
specimen of popular power, as might intimidate them from further
opposition to the popular will, and incline Louis to assume
unresistingly his diminished rank in the new constitution.

The Republican party, with better reason than the Constitutionalists,
exulted in the King's change of residence. It relieved them as well as
Fayette's party from all apprehension of Louis raising his standard in
the provinces, and taking the field on his own account, like Charles of
England in similar circumstances. Then they already foresaw, that
whenever the Constitutionalists should identify themselves with the
crown, whom all parties had hitherto laboured to represent as the common
enemy, they would become proportionally unpopular with the people at
large, and lose possession of the superior power as a necessary
consequence. Aristocrats, the only class which was sincerely united to
the King's person, would, they might safely predict, dread and distrust
the Constitutionalists, while with the Democrats, so very much the more
numerous party, the King's name, instead of "a tower of strength," as
the poet has termed it,[120] must be a stumbling-block and a rock of
offence. They foresaw, finally, either that the King must remain the
mere passive tool of the Constitutionalists, acting unresistingly under
their order,--in which case the office would be soon regarded as an idle
and expensive bauble, without any force or dignity of free-will, and fit
only to be flung aside as an unnecessary incumbrance on the republican
forms,--or, in the event of the King attempting, either by force or
escape, to throw off the yoke of the Constitutionalists, he would
equally furnish arms to the pure Democrats against his person and
office, as the source of danger to the popular cause. Some of the
Republican chiefs had probably expected a more sudden termination to the
reign of Louis from an insurrection so threatening; at least these
leaders had been the first to hail and to encourage the female
insurgents, on their arrival at Versailles.[121] But though the issue of
that insurrection may have fallen short of their hopes, it could not but
be highly acceptable to them so far as it went.


The party of Orleans had hitherto wrapt in its dusky folds many of those
names which were afterwards destined to hold dreadful rank in the
Revolutionary history. The prince whose name they adopted is supposed to
have been animated partly by a strong and embittered spirit of personal
hatred against the Queen, and partly, as we have already said, by an
ambitious desire to supplant his kinsman. He placed, according to
general report, his treasures, and all which his credit could add to
them, at the disposal of men, abounding in those energetic talents which
carry their owners forward in times of public confusion, but devoid
alike of fortune, character, and principle; who undertook to serve their
patron by enlisting in his cause the obscure and subordinate agents, by
whom mobs were levied, and assassins subsidized. It is said, that the
days of the 5th and 6th of October were organized by the secret agents
of Orleans, and for his advantage; that had the enterprise succeeded,
the King would have been deposed, and the Duke of Orleans proclaimed
Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, while his revenge would probably have
been satiated with the Queen's assassination. He is stated to have
skulked in disguise about the outskirts of the scene when the tumult was
at the highest, but never to have had courage to present himself boldly
to the people, either to create a sensation by surprise, or to avail
himself of that which his satellites had already excited in his
favour.[122] His resolution having thus failed him at the point where it
was most necessary, and the tumult having ended without any thing taking
place in his favour, the Duke of Orleans was made a scape-goat, and the
only one, to atone for the whole insurrection. Under the title of an
embassy to England, he was honourably exiled from his native country.
[Oct. 14.] Mirabeau spoke of him in terms of the utmost contumely, as
being base-minded as a lackey, and totally unworthy the trouble which
had been taken on his account. His other adherents gradually and
successively dropped away, in proportion as the wealth, credit, and
character of this besotted prince rendered him incapable of maintaining
his gratuities; and they sailed henceforth under their own flag, in the
storms he had fitted them to navigate. These were men who had resolved
to use the revolutionary axe for cutting out their own private fortunes,
and, little interesting themselves about the political principles which
divided the other parties of the state, they kept firm hold of all the
subordinate machinery despised by the others in the abstraction of
metaphysical speculation, but which gave them the exclusive command of
the physical force of the mob of Paris--Paris, the metropolis of France,
and the prison-house of her monarch.


[95] Mignet, tom. i., p. 89; Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 185.

[96] Prudhomme, tom. i., p. 236; Thiers, tom. i., p. 135.

[97] In the beginning of the Revolution, when the mob executed their
pleasure on the individuals against whom their suspicions were directed,
the lamp-irons served for gibbets, and the lines by which the lamps, or
lanterns, were disposed across the street, were ready halters. Hence the
cry of "Les Aristocrates à la lanterne." The answer of the Abbé Maury is
well known. "Eh! mes amis, et quand vous m'auriez mis à la lanterne, est
ce que vous verriez plus clair?"--_Biog. Univ._--S.

[98] Mounier must be supposed to speak ironically, and in allusion, not
to his own opinions, but to Mirabeau's revolutionary tenets. Another
account of this singular conversation states his answer to have been,
"All the better. If the mob kill all of us--remark, I say _all_ of us,
it will be the better for the country."--S.--THIERS, tom. i., p. 138.

[99] Prudhomme, tom. i., p. 257.

[100] "In the gallery a crowd of fish women were assembled under the
guidance of one virago with stentorian lungs, who called to the deputies
familiarly by name, and insisted that their favourite Mirabeau should
speak."--DUMONT, p. 181.

[101] Mignet, tom. i., p. 92.

[102] This was proposed by that Marquis de Favras, whose death upon the
gallows, [Feb. 19, 1790,] for a Royalist plot, gave afterwards such
exquisite delight to the citizens of Paris. Being the first man of
quality whom they had seen hanged, (that punishment having been hitherto
reserved for plebeians,) they encored the performance, and would fain
have hung him up a second time. The same unfortunate gentleman had
previously proposed to secure the bridge at Sevres with a body of
cavalry, which would have prevented the women from advancing to
Versailles. The Queen signed an order for the horses with this
remarkable clause:--"To be used if the King's safety is endangered, but
in no danger which affects me only."--S.--"The secret of this intrigue
never was known; but I have no doubt Favras was one of those men who,
when employed as instruments, are led by vanity much further than their
principals intend."--DUMONT, p. 174.

[103] Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 217.

[104] Rivarol, p. 300; Mignet, tom. i., p. 93.

[105] One of the most accredited calumnies against the unfortunate Marie
Antoinette pretends, that she was on this occasion surprised in the arms
of a paramour. Buonaparte is said to have mentioned this as a fact, upon
the authority of Madame Campan. [O'MEARA'S _Napoleon in Exile_, vol.
ii., p. 172.] We have now Madame Campan's own account, [Memoirs, vol.
ii. p. 78.] describing the conduct of the Queen on this dreadful
occasion as that of a heroine, and totally excluding the possibility of
the pretended anecdote. But let it be farther considered, under what
circumstances the Queen was placed--at two in the morning, retired to a
privacy liable to be interrupted (as it was) not only by the irruption
of the furious banditti who surrounded the palace, demanding her life,
but by the entrance of the King, or of others, in whom circumstances
might have rendered the intrusion duty; and let it then be judged,
whether the dangers of the moment, and the risk of discovery, would not
have prevented Messalina herself from choosing such a time for an

[106] The miscreant's real name was Jourdan, afterwards called
_Coupe-Tête_, distinguished in the massacres of Avignon. He gained his
bread by sitting as an academy-model to painters, and for that reason
cultivated his long beard. In the depositions before the Chatelet, he is
called _L'Homme à la barbe_--an epithet which might distinguish the ogre
or goblin of some ancient legend.--S.

[107] Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 238.

[108] Thiers, tom. i., p. 182; Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 241.

[109] Rivarol, p. 312; Campan, vol. ii., p. 81.

[110] Mémoires de Weber, vol. ii., p. 457.--S.

[111] "The Queen, on returning from the balcony, approached my mother,
and said to her, with stifled sobs, 'They are going to force the King
and me to Paris, with the heads of our body-guards carried before us, on
the point of their pikes.' Her prediction was accomplished."--M. DE
STAËL, vol. i., p. 344.

[112] It has been said that they were borne immediately before the royal
carriage; but this is an exaggeration where exaggeration is unnecessary.
These bloody trophies preceded the royal family a great way on the march
to Paris.--S.

[113] "Nous ne manquerons plus de pain; nous amenons le boulanger, la
boulangère, et le petit mitron!"--PRUDHOMME, tom. i., p. 244.

[114] Prudhomme, tom. i., p. 243.

[115] "The King said to the mayor, 'I come with pleasure to my good city
of Paris;' the Queen added, 'and with confidence.' The expression was
happy, but the event, alas! did not justify it."--M. DE STAËL, vol. i.,
p. 344.

[116] The Mayor of Paris, although such language must have sounded like
the most bitter irony, had no choice of words on the 6th October, 1789.
But if he seriously termed that "a glorious day," what could Bailli
complain of the studied insults and cruelties which he himself
sustained, when, in Oct. 1792, the same banditti of Paris, who forced
the King from Versailles, dragged himself to death, with every
circumstance of refined cruelty and protracted insult?--S.--It was not
on the 6th October, but the 17th July, three days after the capture of
the Bastile, that Bailli, on presenting Louis with the keys of Paris,
made use of this expression.--See Prudhomme, tom. i., p. 203.

[117] "As the arrival of the royal family was unexpected, very few
apartments were in a habitable state, and the Queen had been obliged to
get tent-beds put up for her children in the very room where she
received us; she apologized for it, and added, 'You know that I did not
expect to come here.' Her physiognomy was beautiful, but irritated; it
was not to be forgotten after having been seen."--M. DE STAËL, vol. i.,
p. 345.

[118] Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 265.

[119] "On being informed of the King's determination to quit Versailles
for Paris, the Assembly hastily passed a resolution, that it was
inseparable from the King, and would accompany him to the
capital."--THIERS, tom. i., p. 182.

[120] See Richard the Third, act v., sc. iii.

[121] Barnave, as well as Mirabeau, the Republican as well as the
Orleanist, was heard to exclaim, "Courage, brave Parisians--liberty for
ever--fear nothing--we are for you!"--See _Mémoires de Ferrieres_, li.,

[122] See the proceedings before the Chatelet.--S.--See also Thiers,
tom. i., p. 184; Lacretelle, tom. vii.; and M. de Staël, vol. i., p.


    _La Fayette resolves to enforce order--A Baker is murdered by
    the Rabble--One of his Murderers executed--Decree imposing
    Martial Law--Introduction of the Doctrines of Equality--They are
    in their exaggerated sense inconsistent with Human Nature and
    the progress of Society--The Assembly abolish titles of
    Nobility, Armorial bearings, and phrases of Courtesy--Reasoning
    on these Innovations--Disorder of Finance--Necker becomes
    unpopular--Seizure of Church-Lands--Issue of Assignats--Necker
    leaves France in unpopularity--New Religious Institution--Oath
    imposed on the Clergy--Resisted by the greater part of the
    Order--General view of the operations of the Constituent
    Assembly--Enthusiasm of the People for their new
    Privileges--Limited Privileges of the Crown--King is obliged to
    dissemble--His Negotiations with Mirabeau--With Bouillé--Attack
    on the Palace--Prevented by Fayette--Royalists expelled from the
    Tuileries--Escape of Louis--He is captured at Varennes--Brought
    back to Paris--Riot in the Champ de Mars--Louis accepts the

La Fayette followed up his victory over the Duke of Orleans by some bold
and successful attacks upon the revolutionary right of insurrection,
through which the people of late had taken on themselves the office of
judges at once and executioners. This had hitherto been thought one of
the sacred privileges of the Revolution; but, determined to set bounds
to its farther progress, La Fayette resolved to restore the dominion of
the law over the will of the rabble.

A large mob, in virtue of the approbation, the indulgence at least, with
which similar frolics had been hitherto treated, had seized upon and
hanged an unhappy baker, named Denis François, who fell under their
resentment as a public enemy, because he sold bread dear when he could
only purchase grain at an enormous price. They varied the usual detail
with some additional circumstances, causing many of his brethren in
trade to salute the bloody head, which they paraded according to their
wont; and finally, by pressing the dead lips to those of the widow, as
she lay fainting before them. This done, and in the full confidence of
impunity, they approached the Hall of the Assembly, in order to regale
the representatives of the people with the same edifying spectacle.[123]


The baker being neither an aristocrat nor nobleman, the authorities
ventured upon punishing the murder, without fearing the charge of
_incivisme_. La Fayette, at the head of a detachment of the national
guards, attacked and dispersed the assassins, and the active citizen who
carried the head, was tried, condemned, and hanged, just as if there had
been no revolution in the kingdom. There was much surprise at this, as
there had been no such instance of severity since the day of the
Bastile.[124] This was not all:

La Fayette, who may now be considered as at the head of affairs, had the
influence and address to gain from the Assembly a decree, empowering the
magistracy, in case of any rising, to declare martial law by displaying
a red flag; after which signal, those who refused to disperse should be
dealt with as open rebels. This edict, much to the purpose of the
British Riot Act, did not pass without opposition, as it obviously
tended to give the bayonets of the national guard a decided ascendency
over the pikes and clubs of the rabble of the suburbs. The Jacobins,
meaning the followers of Marat, Robespierre, and Danton, and even the
Republicans, or Brissotines, had hitherto considered these occasional
insurrections and murders like affairs of posts in a campaign, in which
they themselves had enjoyed uniformly the advantage; but while La
Fayette was followed and obeyed by the national guard, men of substance,
and interested in maintaining order, it was clear that he had both the
power and will to stop in future these revolutionary excesses.

This important advantage in some degree balanced the power which the
Republican and Revolutionary party had acquired. These predominated, as
has been already said, in the Club of Jacobins, in which they reviewed
the debates of the Assembly, denouncing at their pleasure those who
opposed them; but they had besides a decided majority among the daily
attendants in the tribunes, who, regularly paid and supplied with food
and liquors, filled the Assembly with their clamours of applause or
disapprobation, according to the rules they had previously received. It
is true, the hired auditors gave their voices and applause to those who
paid them, but nevertheless they had party feelings of their own, which
often dictated unbought suffrages, in favour of those who used the most
exaggerated tone of revolutionary fury. They shouted with sincere and
voluntary zeal for such men as Marat, Robespierre, and Danton, who
yelled out for the most bloody measures of terror and proscription, and
proclaimed war against the nobles with the same voice with which they
flattered the lowest vices of the multitude.

By degrees the Revolution appeared to have assumed a different object
from that for which it was commenced. France had obtained Liberty, the
first, and certainly the worthiest, object which a nation can desire.
Each individual was declared as free as it was possible for him to be,
retaining the least respect to the social compact. It is true, the
Frenchman was not practically allowed the benefit of this freedom; for
though the Rights of Man permitted the citizen to go where he would,
yet, in practice, he was apt to find his way to the next prison unless
furnished with a municipal passport, or to be murdered by the way, if
accused of aristocracy. In like manner, his house was secure as a
castle, his property sacred as the ornaments of a temple;--excepting
against the Committee of Research, who might, by their arbitrary order,
break into the one and dilapidate the other at pleasure. Still, however,
the general principle of Liberty was established in the fullest
metaphysical extent, and it remained to place on as broad a footing the
sister principle of Equality.

To this the attention of the Assembly was now chiefly directed. In the
proper sense, equality of rights and equality of laws, a constitution
which extends like protection to the lowest and the highest, are
essential to the existence and to the enjoyment of freedom. But, to
erect a levelling system designed to place the whole mass of the people
on the same footing as to habits, manners, tastes, and sentiments, is a
gross and ridiculous contradiction of the necessary progress of society.
It is a fruitless attempt to wage war with the laws of Nature. She has
varied the face of the world with mountain and valley, lake and torrent,
forest and champaign, and she has formed the human body in all the
different shapes and complexions we behold, with all the various degrees
of physical force and weakness. She has avoided equality in all her
productions, as she was formerly said to have abhorred a vacuum; even in
those of her works which present the greatest apparent similarity, exact
equality does not exist; no one leaf of a tree is precisely similar to
another, and among the countless host of stars, each differs from the
other in glory. But, what are these physical varieties to the endless
change exhibited in the human character, with all its various passions,
powers, and prejudices, so artfully compounded in different proportions,
that it is probable there has not existed, since Adam's time to ours, an
exact resemblance between any two individuals? As if this were not
enough, there came to aid the diversity, the effects of climate, of
government, of education, and habits of life, all of which lead to
endless modifications of the individual. The inequalities arising from
the natural differences of talent and disposition are multiplied beyond
calculation, as society increases in civilisation.

The savage may, indeed, boast a rude species of equality in some
patriarchal tribes, but the wiliest and strongest, the best hunter, and
the bravest warrior, soon lords it over the rest, and becomes a king or
a chief. One portion of the nation, from happy talents or happy
circumstances, rises to the top, another sinks, like dregs, to the
bottom; a third portion occupies a mid place between them. As society
advances, the difference of ranks advances with it. And can it be
proposed seriously, that any other equality, than that of rights, can
exist between those who think and those who labour; those "whose talk is
of bullocks," and those whose time permits them to study the paths of
wisdom? Happy, indeed, is the country and constitution, where those
distinctions, which must necessarily exist in every society, are not
separated by insurmountable barriers, but where the most distinguished
rank is open to receive that precious supply of wisdom and talent, which
so frequently elevates individuals from the lowest to the highest
classes; and, so far as general equality can be attained, by each
individual having a fair right to raise himself to the situation which
he is qualified to occupy, by his talents, his merits, or his wealth,
the gates cannot be thrown open too widely. But the attempt of the
French legislators was precisely the reverse, and went to establish the
proposed equality of ranks, by depressing the upper classes into the
same order with those who occupy the middle of society, while they
essayed the yet more absurd attempt to crush down these last, by the
weight of legislative authority, into a level with the lowest
orders,--men whose education, if it has not corrupted their hearts, must
necessarily have blunted their feelings, and who, in a great city like
Paris, exchange the simplicity which makes them respectable under more
favourable circumstances, for the habitual indulgence of the coarsest
and grossest pleasures. Upon the whole, it must be admitted, that in
every state far advanced in the progress of civilisation, the inequality
of ranks is a natural and necessary attribute. Philosophy may comfort
those who regret this necessity, by the assurance that the portions of
individual happiness and misery are divided amongst high and low with a
very equal hand; and religion assures us, that there is a future state,
in which, with amended natures and improved faculties, the vain
distinctions of this world will no longer subsist. But any practical
attempt to remedy the inequality of rank in civilized society by
forcible measures, may indeed degrade the upper classes, but cannot
improve those beneath them. Laws may deprive the gentleman of his title,
the man of education of his books, or, to use the French illustration,
the _muscadin_ of his clothes; but this cannot make the clown a man of
breeding, or give learning to ignorance, or decent attire to the Sans
Culottes. Much will be lost to the grace, the information, and the
decency of society in general, but nothing can possibly be gained by any
individual. Nevertheless, it was in this absolutely impracticable
manner, that the exaggerated feelings of the French legislators, at this
period of total change, undertook to equalize the nation which they were


With a view to this great experiment upon human society, the Assembly
abolished all titles of honour,[125] all armorial bearings, and even
the insignificant titles of Monsieur and Madame; which, meaning nothing
but phrases of common courtesy, yet, with other expressions of the same
kind, serve to soften the ordinary intercourse of human life, and
preserve that gentleness of manners which the French, by a happy name,
were wont to call "La petite morale." The first of these abrogations
affected the nobles in particular. In return for their liberal and
unlimited surrender of their essential powers and privileges, they were
now despoiled of their distinction and rank in society;--as if those who
had made prisoner and plundered a cavalier, should, last of all, have
snatched away in derision the plume from his hat. The aristocracy of
France, so long distinguished as the flower of European chivalry, were
now, so far as depended on the legislature, entirely abolished. The
voice of the nation had pronounced against them a general sentence of
degradation, which, according to the feelings of the order, could only
be the punishment of some foul and disgraceful crime; and the condition
of the ex-nobles might justly have been described as Bolingbroke paints
his own,

    "Eating the bitter bread of banishment,
    Whilst you have fed upon my signories,
    Dispark'd my parks, and fell'd my forest woods,
    From my own windows torn my household coat,
    Razed out my impress, leaving me no sign,
    Save men's opinions and my living blood,
    To show the world I was a gentleman."[126]

It was a fatal error, that, in search of that equality which it is
impossible to attain, the Assembly should have torn down the ancient
institutions of chivalry. Viewing them philosophically, they are indeed
of little value; but where are the advantages beyond the means, first,
of mere subsistence, secondly, of information, which ought not to be
indifferent to true philosophers? And yet, where exists the true
philosopher, who has been able effectually to detach himself from the
common mode of thinking on such subjects? The estimation set upon birth
or rank, supposing its foundation illusory, has still the advantage of
counterbalancing that which is attracted by wealth only; the prejudice
has something generous and noble in it, is connected with historical
recollections and patriotic feelings, and if it sometimes gives rise to
extravagances, they are such as society can restrain and punish by the
mere effect of ridicule.[127] It is curious, even in the midst of the
Revolution, and amongst those who were its greatest favourers, what
difficulties were found to emancipate themselves from those ancient
prejudices which affected the difference of ranks.[128]

As for the proscription of the phraseology of civilized society, it had
an absurd appearance of affectation in the eyes of most people of
understanding; but, on some enthusiastic minds, it produced a worse
effect than that of mere disgust. Let a man place himself in the
attitude of fear or of rage, and he will in some measure feel the
passion arise in his mind which corresponds with the gesture he has
assumed. In like manner, those who affected the brutal manners, coarse
language, and slovenly dress of the lower orders, familiarized their
imaginations with the violent and savage thoughts and actions proper to
the class whose costume they had thus adopted. Above all, when this
sacrifice was made to the very taste and phraseology of that class, (the
last points in which one would think them deserving of imitation,) it
appeared to intimate the progressive strength of the revolutionary tide,
which, sweeping before it all distinctions, trivial as well as
important, seemed soon destined to overthrow the throne, now isolated
and wellnigh undefended. The next step was necessarily to fix the
executive government in the same body which enjoyed the powers of
legislation,--the surest of all roads to tyranny. But although the
doctrine of equality, thus understood, is absurd in theory and
impossible in practice, yet it will always find willing listeners when
preached to the lower classes, whose practical view of it results into
an agrarian law, or a general division of property.

There was one order yet remaining, however, which was to be
levelled,--the destruction of the Church was still to be accomplished;
and the Republican party proceeded in the work of demolition with
infinite address, by including the great object in a plan for restoring
finance, and providing for the expenses of the state, without imposing
further burdens on the people.


It must be remembered, that the States-General had been summoned to
restore the finances of the country. This was the cause of their
convocation. But although they had exercised almost every species of
power--had thrown down and rebuilt every constituted authority in the
kingdom, still the finances were as much embarrassed as ever, or much
more so; since most men in France judged the privilege of refusing to
pay taxes, the most unequivocal, and not the least pleasing part, of
their newly-acquired freedom.

Necker, so often received among the populace as a saviour of the
country, was here totally at a loss. The whole relative associations
which bind men together in the social contract, seemed to be rent
asunder; and where public credit is destroyed, a financier, however
able, resembles Prospero, after his wand is broken, and his book sunk in
the deep sea. Accordingly, Necker in vain importuned the Assembly, by
representing the pressure of the finances. They became wearied with his
remonstrances, and received them with manifest symptoms of coldness and
disrespect. What service, indeed, could the regulated advice, and
deep-calculated and combined schemes of a financier, have rendered to
men, who had already their resources in their eye, and were determined
that no idle scruple should prevent their pouncing upon them? Necker's
expostulations, addressed to their ears, were like a lecture upon thrift
and industry to Robin Hood and his merry-men, when they were setting
forth to rob the rich in the name of the poor.

The Assembly had determined, that, all prejudices apart, the property of
the Church should come under confiscation for the benefit of the
nation.[129] It was in vain that the Clergy exclaimed against these acts
of rapine and extortion--in vain that they stated themselves as an
existing part of the nation, and that as such they had coalesced with
the Assembly, under the implied ratification of their own rights--in
vain that they resounded in the hall the declaration solemnly adopted,
that property was inviolable, save upon full compensation. It was to as
little purpose that Mirabeau was reminded of his language, addressed to
the Emperor Joseph upon a similar occasion.--"Despise the monks," he had
said, "as much as you will, but do not rob them. Robbery is equally a
crime, whether perpetrated on the most profligate atheist, or the most
bigoted capuchin." The Clergy were told, with insulting gravity, that
the property belonging to a community was upon a different footing from
that belonging to individuals, because the state might dissolve the
community or body-corporate, and resume the property attached to it;
and, under this sophism, they assumed for the benefit of the public the
whole right of property belonging to the Church of France.[130]


As it was impossible to bring these immense subjects at once to sale,
the Assembly adopted a system of paper-money, called _Assignats_, which
were secured or hypothecated upon the church-lands. The fluctuation of
this paper, which was adopted against Necker's earnest cautions, created
a spirit of stock-jobbing and gambling, nearly resembling that which
distinguished the famous scheme of the Mississippi. Spelman would have
argued, that the taint of sacrilege attached to funds raised upon the
spoils of the Church;[131] yet it must be admitted that these supplies
enabled the National Assembly not only to avoid the gulf of general
bankruptcy, but to dispense with many territorial exactions which
pressed hard on the lower orders, and to give relief and breath to that
most useful portion of the community. These desirable results, however,
flowed from that divine alchymy which calls good out of evil, without
affording a justification to the perpetrators of the latter.

Shortly after the adoption of this plan, embraced against his opinion
and his remonstrances, Necker saw his services were no longer acceptable
to the Assembly, and that he could not be useful to the King. He
tendered his resignation, [Sept. 4,] which was received with cold
indifference by the Assembly; and even his safety was endangered on his
return to his native country, by the very people who had twice hailed
him as their deliverer. This accomplished statesman discovered too late,
that public opinion requires to be guided and directed towards the ends
of public good, which it will not reach by its own unassisted and
misdirected efforts; and that his own popularity had only been the
stalking-horse, through means of which, men less honest, and more subtle
than himself, had taken aim at their own objects.[132]

But the majority of the National Assembly had yet another and even a
more violent experiment to try upon the Gallican Church establishment.
It was one which touched the consciences of the French clergy in the
same degree as the former affected their fortunes, and was so much the
less justifiable, that it is difficult to suggest any motive except the
sweeping desire to introduce novelty in every department of the state,
and to have a constitutional clergy as they had a constitutional king,
which should have instigated them to such a measure.

When the Assembly had decreed the assumption of the church-lands, it
remained to be settled on what foundation religion was to be placed
within the kingdom. A motion was made for decreeing, that the Holy
Apostolical religion was that of France, and that its worship alone
should be permitted. A Carthusian monk, named Dom Gerle, made this
proposal, alarmed too late lest the popular party, to which he had so
long adhered, should now be about to innovate in the matters of the
Church, as they had already in those of the state. The debate was
conducted with decency for one day, but on the second the hall of the
Assembly was surrounded by a large and furious multitude, who insulted,
beat, and maltreated all who were known to favour the measure under
consideration. It was represented within the house, that the passing the
decree proposed would be the signal for a religious war; and Dom Gerle
withdrew his motion in terror and despair.

The success of this opposition showed, that almost any experiment on the
Church might be tried with effect, since the religion which it taught
seemed no longer to interest the national legislators. A scheme was
brought forward, in which the public worship (_culte publique_) as it
was affectedly termed, without any addition of reverence, (as if to give
it the aid of a mere code of formal enactments,) was provided for on the
narrowest and most economical plan. But this was not all. A civil
constitution was, by the same code, framed for the clergy, declaring
them totally independent of the See of Rome, and vesting the choice of
bishops in the departmental authorities. To this constitution each
priest and prelate was required to adhere by a solemn oath. A subsequent
decree of the Assembly declared forfeiture of his benefice against
whomsoever should hesitate; but the clergy of France showed in that
trying moment, that they knew how to choose betwixt sinning against
their conscience, and suffering wrong at the hands of man. Their
dependence on the See of Rome was a part of their creed, an article of
their faith, which they would not compromise. The noble attitude of
firmness and self-denial adopted by prelates and richly-beneficed
clergymen, who had hitherto been thought more governed by levities of
every kind than by regard to their profession, commanded for a time the
respect of the Assembly, silenced the blasphemies of the hired
assistants in the tribunes, and gave many to fear that, in depriving the
Church of its earthly power, the Assembly might but give them means to
extend their spiritual dominion more widely, and awake an interest in
their fate which slumbered during their prosperity. "Beware what you
do," said Montlosier. "You may expel the bishop from his episcopal
residence, but it will be only to open to him the cabins of the poor. If
you take from his hands the cross of gold, he will display a cross of
wood; and it was by a cross of wood that the world was saved."[133]

Summoned, one by one, to take the oath, or refuse it under the
consequences menaced, the Assembly, fearful of the effect of their
firmness, would scarce hear these sufferers speak a syllable, save Yes
or No. Their tumult on the occasion resembled the beating of drums to
drown the last words of a martyr. Few, indeed, were the priests who
accepted the constitutional oath. There were in the number only three
bishops. One had been a person of note--it was that Archbishop of
Sens--that very cardinal, whose maladministration of fifteen months had
led to this mighty change. Another of the three Constitutional prelates
was destined to be much more remarkable--it was the celebrated
Talleyrand, whose talents as a statesman have been so distinguished.

The National Assembly failed totally in their attempts to found a
national Church. The priests who took the oaths received neither
reverence nor affection, and were only treated with decency by such as
considered religion in the light of a useful political institution. They
were alike despised by the sincere Catholic, and the declared infidel.
All of real religious feeling or devotion that was left in France turned
towards their ancient pastors, and though the impulse was not strong
enough to counteract the revolutionary movement, it served, on many
occasions, to retard and embarrass it.[134] The experiment which had
thus signally miscarried, was indeed as impolitic as it was unnecessary.
It can only be imputed, on the one hand, to the fanaticism of the modern
philosophers,[135] who expected, by this indirect course, to have
degraded the Christian religion; and, on the other, to the preconcerted
determination of the Revolutionists, that no consideration should
interfere with the plan of new-modelling the nation through all its
institutions, as well of Church as of State.

Victorious at once over altar and throne, mitre and coronet, King,
Nobles, and Clergy, the National Assembly seemed, in fact, to possess,
and to exert, that omnipotence, which has been imputed to the British
Parliament. Never had any legislature made such extensive and sweeping
changes, and never were such changes so easily accomplished. The nation
was altered in all its relations; its flag and its emblems were
changed--every thing of a public character was destroyed and replaced,
down to the very title of the sovereign, who, no longer termed King of
France and Navarre, was now called King of the French. The names and
divisions of the provinces, which had existed for many years, were at
once obliterated, and were supplied by a geographical partition of the
territory into eighty-three departments, subdivided into six hundred
districts, and these again portioned out into forty-eight thousand
communities or municipalities. By thus recasting, as it were, the whole
geographical relations of the separate territories of which France
consisted, the Abbé Siêyes designed to obliterate former recollections
and distinctions, and to bring every thing down to the general level of
liberty and equality. But it had an effect beyond what was proposed.
While the provinces existed they had their separate capitals, their
separate privileges; and those capitals, though in a subordinate rank,
being yet the seats of provincial parliaments, had a separate
consequence, inferior to, but yet distinct from, that of Paris. But when
France became one single province, the importance of its sole capital,
Paris, was increased to a most formidable degree; and during the whole
Revolution, and through all its changes, whatever party held the
metropolis was sure speedily to acquire the supreme power through the
whole departments; and woe to those who made the fruitless attempt to
set the sense or feelings of the nation in opposition to those of the
capital! Republican or royalist was equally sure to perish in the rash

[Sidenote: TRIAL BY JURY.]

The Parliaments of France, long the strongholds of liberty, now perished
unnoticed, as men pull down old houses to clear the ground for modern
edifices. The sale of offices of justice was formally abolished; the
power of nominating the judges was taken from the crown; the trial by
jury, with inquests of accusation and conviction, corresponding to the
grand and petty juries of England, were sanctioned and established. In
thus clearing the channels of public justice, dreadfully clogged as they
had become during the decay of the monarchy, the National Assembly
rendered the greatest possible services to France, the good effects of
which will long be felt. Other alterations were of a more doubtful
character. There might be immediate policy, but there was certainly much
harshness, in wresting from the crown the power of granting pardons. If
this was for fear lest grace should be extended to those condemned for
the new crime of leeze-nation, or treason against the Constitution, the
legislators might have remembered how seldom the King dares to exercise
this right of mercy in favour of an unpopular criminal. It requires no
small courage to come betwixt the dragon and his wrath, the people and
their victim. Charles I. dared not save Strafford.

The National Assembly also recognised the freedom of the press; and, in
doing so, conferred on the nation a gift fraught with much good and some
evil, capable of stimulating the worst passions, and circulating the
most atrocious calumnies, and occasioning frequently the most enormous
deeds of cruelty and injustice; but ever bearing along with it the means
of curing the very evils caused by its abuses, and of transmitting to
futurity the sentiments of the good and the wise, so invaluable when the
passions are silenced, and the calm slow voice of reason and reflection
comes to obtain a hearing. The press stimulated massacres and
proscriptions during the frightful period which we are approaching; but
the press has also held up to horror the memory of the perpetrators, and
exposed the artifices by which the actors were instigated. It is a rock
on which a vessel may be indeed, and is often wrecked; but that same
rock affords the foundation of the brightest and noblest beacon.

We might add to the weight of benefits which France unquestionably owes
to the Constituent Assembly, that they restored liberty of conscience by
establishing universal toleration. But against this benefit must be set
the violent imposition of the constitutional oath upon the Catholic
clergy, which led afterwards to such horrible massacres of innocent and
reverend victims, murdered in defiance of those rules of toleration,
which, rather in scorn of religion of any kind than regard to men's
consciences, the Assembly had previously adopted.

Faithful to their plan of forming not a popular monarchy, but a species
of royal republic, and stimulated by the real Republicans, whose party
was daily gaining ground among their ranks, as well as by the howls and
threats of those violent and outrageous demagogues, who, from the seats
they had adopted in the Assembly, were now known by the name of the
"Mountain,"[136] the framers of the Constitution had rendered it
democratical in every point, and abridged the royal authority, till its
powers became so dim and obscure as to merit Burke's happy illustration,
when he exclaimed, speaking of the new-modelled French government,--

          "----What _seem'd_ its head,
    The _likeness_ of a kingly crown had on."

The crown was deprived of all appointments to civil offices, which were
filled up by popular elections, the Constitutionalists being, in this
respect, faithful to their own principles, which made the will of the
people the source of all power. Never was such an immense patronage
vested in the body of any nation at large, and the arrangement was
politic in the immediate sense, as well as in conformity with the
principles of those who adopted it; for it attached to the new
Constitution the mass of the people, who felt themselves elevated from
villanage into the exercise of sovereign power. Each member of the
elective assembly of a municipality, through whose collective votes
bishops, administrators, judges, and other official persons received
their appointments, felt for the moment, the importance which his
privilege bestowed, and recognised in his own person, with corresponding
self-complacency, a fraction, however small, of the immense community,
now governed by those whom they themselves elected into office. The
charm of power is great at all times, but exquisite to intoxication to
those to whom it is a novelty.

Called to the execution of these high duties, which hitherto they had
never dreamed of, the people at large became enamoured of their own
privileges, carried them into every department of society, and were
legislators and debaters, in season and out of season. The exercise even
of the extensive privilege committed to them, seemed too limited to
these active citizens. The Revolution appeared to have turned the heads
of the whole lower classes, and those who had hitherto thought least of
political rights, were now seized with the fury of deliberating,
debating, and legislating, in all possible times and places. The
soldiers on guard debated at the Oratoire--the journeymen tailors held a
popular assembly at the Colonnade--the peruke-makers met at the
Champs-Elysées. In spite of the opposition of the national guard, three
thousand shoemakers deliberated on the price of shoes in the Place Louis
Quinze; every house of call was converted into the canvassing hall of a
political body; and France for a time presented the singular picture of
a country, where every one was so much involved in public business, that
he had little leisure to attend to his own.

There was, besides, a general disposition to assume and practise the
military profession; for the right of insurrection having been declared
sacred, each citizen was to be prepared to discharge effectually so holy
a duty. The citizens procured muskets to defend their property--the
rabble obtained pikes to invade that of others--the people of every
class every where possessed themselves of arms, and the most peaceful
burgesses were desirous of the honours of the epaulet. The children,
with mimicry proper to their age, formed battalions on the streets, and
the spirit in which they were formed was intimated by the heads of cats
borne upon pikes in front of the juvenile revolutionists.[137]


In the departments, the fever of legislation was the same. Each district
had its permanent committee, its committee of police, its military
committee, civil committee, and committee of subsistence. Each committee
had its president, its vice-president, and its secretaries. Each
district was desirous of exercising legislative authority, each
committee of usurping the executive power.[138] Amid these subordinate
conclaves, every theme of eulogy and enthusiasm referred to the
Revolution which had made way for the power they enjoyed, every subject
of epidemic alarm to the most distant return towards the ancient system
which had left the people in insignificance. Rumour found a ready
audience for every one of her thousand tongues; Discord a prompt hand,
in which she might place each of her thousand snakes.

The Affiliation, as it was called, or close correspondence of the
Jacobin Clubs in all their ramifications, tended to influence this
political fever, and to direct its fury against the last remains of
royalty. Exaggerated and unfounded reports of counter-revolutionary
plots and aristocratical conspiracies, not a little increased by the
rash conversation and impotent efforts of the nobility in some
districts, were circulated with the utmost care; and the falsehood,
which had been confuted at Paris, received new currency in the
departments; as that which was of departmental growth was again
circulated with eagerness in the metropolis. Thus, the minds of the
people were perpetually kept in a state of excitation, which is not
without its pleasures. They are of a nature peculiarly incompatible with
soundness in judgment and moderation in action, but favourable, in the
same degree, to audacity of thought, and determination in execution.


The royal prerogative of the King, so closely watched, was in appearance
formidable enough to be the object of jealousy and suspicion, but in
reality a mere pageant which possessed no means either of attack or
resistance. The King was said to be the organ of the executive power,
yet he had named but a small proportion of the officers in the army and
navy, and those who received their appointments from a source so
obnoxious, possessed little credit amongst those whom they commanded. He
was the nominal head of six ministers, who were perpetually liable to be
questioned by the Assembly, in which they might be called to defend
themselves as criminals, but had no seat or vote to enable them to
mingle in its debates. This was, perhaps, one of the greatest errors of
the constitution; for the relation which the ministers bore to the
legislative body, was of such a limited and dependent nature, as
excluded all ideas of confidence and cordiality. The King's person was
said to be inviolable, but the frowning brows of a large proportion of
his subjects, their public exclamations, and the pamphlets circulated
against him, intimated very different doctrine. He might propose to the
Assembly the question of peace or war, but it remained with them to
decide upon it. Lastly, the King had the much-grudged privilege of
putting a veto on any decree of the legislative body, which was to have
the effect of suspending the passing of the law until the proposition
had been renewed in two successive Assemblies; after which the royal
sanction was held as granted. This mode of arresting the progress of any
favourite law was likely to be as dangerous to the sovereign in its
exercise, as the attempt to stop a carriage by catching hold of the
wheel. In fact, whenever the King attempted to use this sole relic of
monarchical power, he risked his life, and it was by doing so that he at
length forfeited it. Among these mutilated features of sovereignty, it
is scarcely worth while to mention, that the King's effigy was still
struck upon the public coin, and his name prefixed to public edicts.

Small as was the share of public power which the new Constitution of
France afforded to the crown, Louis, in outward semblance at least,
appeared satisfied. He made it a rule to adopt the advice of the
Assembly on all occasions, and to sanction every decree which was
presented to him. He accepted even that which totally changed the
constitution of the Gallican Church. He considered himself, doubtless,
as under forcible restraint, ever since he had been dragged in triumph
from Versailles to Paris, and therefore complied with what was proposed
to him, under the tacit protest that his acquiescence was dictated by
force and fear. His palace was guarded by eight hundred men, with two
pieces of cannon; and although this display of force was doubtless
intended by La Fayette to assure Louis's personal safety, yet it was no
less certain that it was designed also to prevent his escape from the
metropolis. The King had, therefore, good cause to conceive himself
possessed of the melancholy privilege of a prisoner, who cannot incur
any legal obligation by acts which do not flow from free-will, and
therefore finds a resource against oppression in the incapacities which
attend it. It was, however, carrying this privilege to the verge of
dissimulation, nay, beyond it, when the King went, [Feb. 4,] apparently
freely and voluntarily, down to the National Assembly, and, in a
dignified and touching speech, (could it have been thought a sincere
one,) accepted the Constitution, made common cause with the regenerated
nation, and declared himself the head of the Revolution.[139]
Constrained as he was by circumstances, anxious for his own safety, and
that of his family, the conduct of Louis must not be too severely
criticised; but this step was unkingly as well as impolitic, and the
unfortunate monarch gained nothing by abasing himself to the deceit
which he practised at the urgency of his ministers, excepting the
degradation attending a deception by which none are deceived. No one,
when the heat of the first enthusiasm was over, gave the King credit for
sincerity in his acceptance of the Constitution: the Royalists were
revolted, and the Revolutionists could only regard the speech and
accession as the acts of royal hypocrisy. Louis was openly spoken of as
a prisoner; and the public voice, in a thousand different forms,
announced that his life would be the penalty of any attempt to his


Meanwhile, the King endeavoured to work out his escape from Paris and
the Revolution at once, by the means of two separate agents in whom
alone he confided.

The first was no other than Mirabeau--that very Mirabeau who had
contributed so much to the Revolution, but who, an aristocrat at heart,
and won over to the royal party by high promises of wealth and
advancement, at length laboured seriously to undo his own work.[140] His
plan was, to use the Assembly itself, in which his talents, eloquence,
and audacity, gave him so much influence, as the means of
re-establishing the royal authority. He proposed, as the final measure,
that the King should retire from Paris to Compiegne, then under the
government of the Marquis de Bouillé, and he conceived his own influence
in the Assembly to be such, that he could have drawn thither, upon some
reasonable terms of accommodation, a great majority of the members. It
is certain he had the highest ascendency which any individual orator
exercised over that body, and was the only one who dared to retort
threats and defiance to the formidable Jacobins. "I have resisted
military and ministerial despotism," said he, when opposing a proposed
law against the emigrants; "can it be supposed I will yield to that of a
club?"--"By what right?" exclaimed Goupil, "does Mirabeau act as a
dictator in the Assembly?"--"Goupil," replied Mirabeau, "is as much
mistaken when he calls me a dictator, as formerly when he termed me a
Cataline."--The indignant roar of the Jacobins bellowing from their
boasted mountain, in vain endeavoured to interrupt him.--"Silence these
thirty voices," said Mirabeau, at the full pitch of his thundering
voice; and the volcano was silent at his bidding.[141] Yet, possessed as
he was of this mighty power, Mirabeau did not, perhaps, reflect how much
less it would have availed him on the royal side, than when he sailed
with all the wind and tide which the spirit of a great and general
revolution could lend him. He was a man, too, as remarkable for his
profligacy as his wonderful talents, and the chance which the King must
have risked in embarking with him, was like that of the prince in the
tale, who escaped from a desert island by embarking on board a skiff
drifting among dangerous eddies, and rowed by a figure half human and
half tiger.[142] The experiment was prevented by the sudden and violent
illness and death of Mirabeau, who fell a victim to his
debaucheries.[143] His death [April 2, 1791] was greatly lamented,
though it is probable that, had the Apostle of the Revolution lived much
longer, he would either have averted its progress, or his dissevered
limbs would have ornamented the pikes of those multitudes, who, as it
was, followed him to the grave with weapons trailed, and howling and

The King's other confidant was the Marquis de Bouillé, a person
entirely different from Mirabeau. He was a French soldier of the old
stamp, a Royalist by birth and disposition; had gained considerable fame
during the American war, and at the time of the Revolution was governor
of Metz and Alsace. Bouillé was endowed with a rare force of character,
and proved able without having recourse to disguise of any kind, to keep
the garrison of Metz in tolerable discipline during the general
dissolution of the army. The state of military insubordination was so
great, that La Fayette, and his party in the Assembly, not only
hesitated to dismiss a general who was feared and obeyed by the
regiments under his command, but, Royalist as he was, they found
themselves obliged to employ the Marquis de Bouillé and his troops in
subduing the formidable revolt of three regiments quartered at Nancy,
which he accomplished with complete success, and such slaughter among
the insurgents, as was likely to recommend subordination in future. The
Republican party of course gave this act of authority the name of a
massacre of the people, and even the Assembly at large, though Bouillé
acted in consequence of their authority, saw with anxiety the increased
importance of an avowed Royalist. La Fayette, who was Bouillé's
relation, spared no pains to gain him to the Constitutional side, while
Bouillé avowed publicly that he only retained his command in obedience
to the King, and in the hope of serving him.[145]

With this general, who had as yet preserved an authority that was
possessed by no other Royalist in France, the King entered into a close
though secret correspondence in cipher, which turned chiefly on the best
mode of facilitating the escape of the royal family from Paris, where
late incidents had rendered his abode doubly odious, and doubly

La Fayette's strength consisted in his popularity with the middle
classes of the Parisians, who, in the character of national guards,
looked up to him as their commandant, and in general obeyed his orders
in dispersing those tumultuous assemblies of the lower orders, which
threatened danger to persons and property. But La Fayette, though fixed
in his principle to preserve monarchy as a part of the constitution,
seems to have been always on cold and distrustful terms with the monarch
personally. He was perpetually trying his own feelings, and those whom
he influenced, by the thermometer, and became alarmed if his own loyalty
or theirs arose above the most tepid degree.

Two marked incidents served to show that the civic guard were even less
warm than their commandant in zeal for the royal person.


The national guard, headed by La Fayette, together with the edict
respecting martial law, had, as we have observed, greatly contributed
to the restoration of order in Paris, by checking, and dispersing, upon
various occasions, those disorderly assemblies of rioters, whose
violence and cruelty had dishonoured the commencement of the Revolution.
But the spirit which raised these commotions was unabated, and was
carefully nourished by the Jacobins and all their subordinate agents,
whose popularity lay among the rabble, as that of the Constitutionalists
did with the citizens. Among the current falsehoods of the day, arose a
report that the old castle of Vincennes, situated about three miles from
Paris, was to be used as a state prison in place of the Bastile. A large
mob marched from the suburb called Saint Antoine, the residence of a
great number of labourers of the lowest order, already distinguished by
its zeal for the revolutionary doctrines. [Feb. 20.] They were about to
commence the destruction of the ancient castle, when the vigilant
commandant of Paris arrived, and dispersed them, not without bloodshed.
In the meantime, the few Royalists whom Paris still contained, became
alarmed lest this tumult, though beginning in another quarter, might be
turned against the person of the King. For his protection about three
hundred gentlemen repaired to the Tuileries, armed with sword canes,
short swords, pistols, and such other weapons as could be best concealed
about their persons, as they went through the streets. Their services
and zeal were graciously acknowledged by the unfortunate Louis, little
accustomed of late to such marks of devotion. But when La Fayette
returned to the palace, at the head of his grenadiers of the national
guard, he seems not to have been ill pleased that the intrusion of these
gentlemen gave him an opportunity of showing, that if he had dispersed
the revolutionary mob of the Fauxbourgs, it was without any undue degree
of affection to the royal cause. He felt, or affected, extreme jealousy
of the armed aristocrats whom he found in the Tuileries, and treated
them as men who had indecently thrust themselves into the palace, to
usurp the duty of defending the King's person, by law consigned to the
national guard. To appease the jealousy of the civic soldiers, the King
issued his commands upon the Royalists to lay down their arms. He was no
sooner obeyed by those, to whom alone out of so many millions he could
still issue his commands, than a most scandalous scene ensued. The
soldiers, falling upon the unfortunate gentlemen, expelled them from the
palace with blows and insult, applying to them the name of "Knights of
the Poniard," afterwards often repeated in revolutionary objurgation.
The vexation and sorrow of the captive prince had a severe effect on his
health, and was followed by indisposition.

The second incident we have alluded to intimated even more directly the
personal restraint in which he was now held. Early in spring [April 18,]
Louis had expressed his purpose of going to Saint Cloud, under the
pretext of seeking a change of air, but in reality, it may be supposed,
for the purpose of ascertaining what degree of liberty he would be
permitted to exercise. The royal carriages were drawn out, and the King
and Queen had already mounted theirs, when the cries of the spectators,
echoed by those of the national guards who were upon duty, declared that
the King should not be permitted to leave the Tuileries. La Fayette
arrived--commanded, implored, threatened the refractory guards, but was
answered by their unanimous refusal to obey his orders. After the scene
of tumult had lasted more than an hour, and it had been clearly proved
that La Fayette's authority was unable to accomplish his purpose, the
royal persons returned to the palace, now their absolute and avowed

La Fayette was so much moved by this affront, that he laid down his
commission as commandant of the national guard; and although he resumed
it, upon the general remonstrances and excuses of the corps, it was not
without severely reproaching them for their want of discipline, and
intimating justly, that the respect they showed ought to be for his rank
and office, not for his person.

Meantime, the natural inferences from these cruel lessons, drove the
King and Queen nearly desperate. The events of the 28th of February had
shown that they were not to be permitted to introduce their friends or
defenders within the fatal walls which inclosed them; those of the 18th
April proved, that they were not allowed to leave their precincts. To
fly from Paris, to gather around him such faithful subjects as might
remain, seemed, though a desperate resource, the only one which remained
to the unhappy monarch, and the preparations were already made for the
fatal experiment.

The Marquis de Bouillé had, under various pretences, formed a camp at
Montmedy, and had drawn thither some of the troops he could best depend
upon; but such was the universal indisposition, both of the soldiery and
the people of every description, that the general seems to have
entertained almost no hope of any favourable result for the royal
cause.[147] The King's life might have been saved by his escaping into
foreign parts, but there was hardly any prospect of restoring the

The history of the unhappy Journey to Varennes is well known. On the
night between the 20th and 21st of June, Louis and his Queen, with their
two children, attended by the Princess Elizabeth and Madame de Tourzel,
and escorted by three gentlemen of the gardes du corps, set out in
disguise from Paris. The King left behind him a long manifesto,
inculpating the Assembly for various political errors, and solemnly
protesting against the acts of government to which he had been
compelled, as he stated, to give his assent, during what he termed his
captivity, which he seemed to have dated from his compulsory residence
in the Tuileries.[148]


The very first person whom the Queen encountered in the streets was La
Fayette himself, as he crossed the Place du Carousel.[149] A hundred
other dangers attended the route of the unfortunate fugitives, and the
hair-breadth escapes by which they profited, seemed to intimate the
favour of fortune, while they only proved her mutability. An escort
placed for them at the Pont de Sommeville, had been withdrawn, after
their remaining at that place for a time had excited popular suspicion.
At Saint Menehould they met a small detachment of dragoons, stationed
there by Bouillé, also for their escort. But while they halted to change
horses, the King, whose features were remarkable, was recognised by
Drouet, a son of the postmaster. The young man was a keen revolutionist,
and resolving to prevent the escape of the sovereign, he mounted a
horse, and pushed forwards to Varennes to prepare the municipality for
the arrival of the King.

Two remarkable chances seemed to show that the good angel of Louis still
strove in his favour. Drouet was pursued by a resolute Royalist, a
quartermaster of dragoons, who suspected his purpose, and followed him
with the design of preventing it, at all hazards. But Drouet, better
acquainted with the road, escaped a pursuit which might have been fatal
to him. The other incident was, that Drouet for a time pursued the road
to Verdun, instead of that to Varennes, concluding the King had taken
the former direction, and was only undeceived by an accident.

He reached Varennes, and found a ready disposition to stop the flight of
the unhappy prince. The King was stopped at Varennes and arrested; the
national guards were called out--the dragoons refused to fight in the
King's defence--an escort of hussars, who might have cut a passage,
arrived too late, acted with reluctance, and finally deserted the town.
Still there remained one last throw for their freedom. If the time could
have been protracted but for an hour and a half, Bouillé would have been
before Varennes at the head of such a body of faithful and disciplined
troops as might easily have dispersed the national militia. He had even
opened a correspondence with the royal prisoners through a faithful
emissary who ventured into Varennes, and obtained speech of the King;
but could obtain no answer more decided than that, being a prisoner,
Louis declined giving any orders. Finally, almost all the troops of the
Marquis de Bouillé declared against the King and in favour of the
nation, tending to show the little chance which existed of a favourable
issue to the King's attempt to create a Royalist force. The Marquis
himself made his escape with difficulty into the Austrian

The Parisians in general, but especially the Legislative Assembly, had
been at first astounded, as if by an earthquake. The King's escape
seemed to menace his instant return at the head of aristocratical
levies, supported by foreign troops. Reflection made most men see, as a
more probable termination, that the dynasty of the Bourbons could no
longer hold the crown; and that the government, already so democratical
in principle, must become a republic in all its forms.[151] The
Constitutionalists grieved that their constitution required a
monarchical head; the Republicans rejoiced, for it had long been their
object to abolish the kingly office. Nor did the anarchists of the
Jacobin Club less exult; for the events which had taken place, and their
probable consequences, were such as to animate the revolutionary spirit,
exasperate the public mind, prevent the return of order, and stimulate
the evil passions of lawless ambition, and love of blood and rapine.

But La Fayette was determined not to relinquish the constitution he had
formed, and, in spite of the unpopularity of the royal dignity, rendered
more so by this frustrated attempt to escape, he was resolved to uphold
it; and was joined in this purpose by Barnave and others, who did not
always share his sentiments, but who thought it shame, apparently, to
show to the world, that a constitution, framed for immortality upon the
best political principles of the most accomplished statesmen in France,
was so slightly built, as to part and go asunder at the first shock. The
purpose of the commandant of Paris, however, was not to be accomplished
without a victory over the united strength of the Republican and
Jacobinical parties, who on their part might be expected to put in
motion on the occasion their many-handed revolutionary engine, an
insurrection of the people.

Such was the state of political opinions, when the unfortunate Louis
was brought back to Paris.[152] He was, with his wife and children,
covered with dust, dejected with sorrow, and exhausted with fatigue. The
faithful gardes du corps who had accompanied their flight, sate bound
like felons on the driving seat of the carriage. His progress was at
first silent and unhonoured. The guard did not present arms--the people
remained covered--no man said God bless him. At another part of the
route, a number of the rabble precipitated themselves on the carriage,
and it was with the utmost difficulty that the national guards and some
deputies, could assure it a safe passage.[153] Under such auspices were
the royal family committed once more to their old prison of the

Meantime the crisis of the King's fate seemed to be approaching. It was
not long ere the political parties had an opportunity of trying their
respective force. A meeting was held, upon the motion of the Republican
and Jacobinical leaders, in the Champ de Mars, [July 17,] to subscribe a
petition[154] for the dethronement of the King, couched in the boldest
and broadest terms. There was in this plain a wooden edifice raised on
scaffolding, called the Altar of the Country, which had been erected for
the ceremony of the Federation of 14th July, 1790, when the assembled
representatives of the various departments of France took their oath to
observe the constitution. On this altar the petition was displayed for
signature; but each revolutionary act required a preliminary libation of
blood, and the victims on this occasion were two wretched invalids, whom
the rabble found at breakfast under the scaffolding which supported the
revolutionary altar, and accused of a design to blow up the patriots. To
accuse was to condemn. They were murdered without mercy, and their heads
paraded on pikes, became as usual the standards of the insurgent


The municipal officers attempted to disperse the assemblage, but to no
purpose. Bailli, mayor of Paris, together with La Fayette, resolved to
repel force by force; martial law was proclaimed, and its signal, the
red flag, was displayed from the Hôtel de Ville. La Fayette, with a
body of grenadiers, arrived in the Champ de Mars. He was received with
abuse, and execrations of "Down with La Fayette! Down with martial law!"
followed by a volley of stones. The commandant gave orders to fire, and
was on this occasion most promptly obeyed; for the grenadiers pouring
their shot directly into the crowd, more than a hundred men lay dead at
the first volley. The Champ de Mars was empty in an instant, and the
constituted authority, for the first time since the Revolution
commenced, remained master of a contested field. La Fayette ought to
have followed up this triumph of the legal force, by giving a triumph to
the law itself, in the trial and conviction of some of his prisoners,
selecting particularly the agitators employed by the Club of Jacobins;
but he thought he had done enough in frightening these harpies back to
their dens. Some of their leaders sought and found refuge among the
Republicans, which was not, in that hour of danger, very willingly
granted.[156] Marat, and many others who had been hitherto the undaunted
and unwearied instigators of the rabble, were compelled to skulk in
obscurity for some time after this victory of the Champ de Mars, which
the Jacobins felt severely at the time, and forgot not afterwards to
avenge most cruelly.[157]

This victory led to the triumph of the Constitutionalists in the
Assembly. The united exertions of those who argued against the
deposition of Louis, founding their reasoning upon that constitutional
law, which declares the King inviolable in his person, overpowered the
party who loudly called on the Assembly to proclaim his forfeiture, or
appoint his trial. The Assembly clogged, however, the future
inviolability of the King with new penalties. If the King, having
accepted the constitution, should retract, they decreed he should be
considered as abdicated. If he should order his army, or any part of it,
to act against the nation, this should, in like manner, be deemed an act
of abdication; and an abdicated monarch, it was farther decreed, should
become an ordinary citizen, answerable to the laws for every act he had
done since the act of abdication.

The constitution, with the royal immunity thus curtailed and maimed, was
now again presented to the King, who again accepted it purely and
simply, in terms which, while they excited acclamation from the
Assembly, were but feebly echoed from the gallery, [September 14.] The
legislators were glad to make a virtue of necessity, and complete their
constitutional code, though in a precarious manner; but the hearts of
the people were now decidedly alienated from the King, and, by a strange
concurrence of misfortune, mixed with some errors, Louis, whose genuine
and disinterested good intentions ought to have made him the darling of
his subjects, had now become the object of their jealousy and


Upon reviewing the measures which had been adopted on the King's return
to Paris, historians will probably be of opinion, that it was impolitic
in the Assembly to offer the constitutional crown to Louis, and
imprudent in that unhappy prince to accept it under the conditions
annexed. On the former point it must be remembered, that these
innovators, who had changed every thing else in the state, could, upon
principle, have had no hesitation to alter the person or the dynasty of
their sovereign. According to the sentiments which they had avowed, the
King, as well as the Nobles and Clergy, was in their hands, as clay in
that of the potter, to be used or thrown away at pleasure. The present
King, in the manifesto left behind him on his flight, had protested to
all Europe against the system of which he was made the head, and it was
scarcely possible that his sentiments could be altered in its favour, by
the circumstances attending his unwilling return from Varennes. The
Assembly, therefore, acting upon their own principles, should have at
once proceeded on the idea that his flight was a virtual abdication of
the crown--they should have made honourable provision for a prince
placed in so uncommon a situation, and suffered him to enjoy in Spain or
Italy an honourable independence, so soon as the storm was ended which
threatened them from abroad. In the meanwhile, the person of the King
would have been a pledge in their hands, which might have given them
some advantage in treating with the foreign princes of his family, and
the potentates of Europe in general. The general policy of this appears
so obvious, that it was probably rather the difficulty of arranging in
what hands the executive authority should be lodged, than any preference
of Louis XVI., which induced the Assembly again to deposit it in his
hands, shorn, in a great measure, even of the limited consequence and
privileges constitutionally annexed to it.[158] La Fayette and his party
perhaps reckoned on the King's spirit having given way, from observing
how unanimously the people of France were disposed in favour of the new
state of things, and may have trusted to his accommodating himself,
therefore, without further resistance, to act the part of the
unsubstantial pageant which the constitution assigned him.

If it was impolitic in the Constitutionalists to replace the crown upon
the head of Louis, it was certainly unworthy of that monarch to accept
it, unless invested with such a degree of power as might give him some
actual weight and preponderance in the system. Till his flight to
Varennes, the King's dislike to the constitution was a secret in his own
bosom, which might indeed be suspected from circumstances, but which
could not be proved; and which, placed as he was, the King was entitled
to conceal, since his real sentiments could not be avowed consistently
with his personal safety. But now this veil was torn aside, and he had
told all Europe in a public declaration, that he had been acting under
constraint, since the time he was brought in triumph from Versailles to
Paris. It would certainly have been most dignified in Louis to have
stood or fallen in conformity with this declaration, made on the only
occasion which he had enjoyed for such a length of time, of speaking his
own free sentiments. He should not, when brought back to his prison,
have resumed the submission of a prisoner, or affected to accept as a
desirable boon, the restoration, as it might be called, and that in a
mutilated state, of a sovereignty, which he had voluntarily abandoned,
at such extreme personal risk. His resolutions were too flexible, and
too much at the mercy of circumstances, to be royal or noble. Charles
I., even in the Isle of Wight, treated with his subjects, as a prisoner
indeed, but still as a King, refusing to accede to such articles as, in
his own mind, he was determined not to abide by. Louis, we conceive,
should have returned the same answer to the Assembly which he did to the
royalist officer at Varennes, "that a prisoner could give no orders, and
make no concessions." He should not, like a bird which has escaped and
been retaken, forget the notes which he uttered when at freedom, and
return to his set and prescribed prison-song the instant that the cage
again enclosed him. No man, above all, no king, should place the
language of his feelings and sentiments so much at the disposal of
fortune. An adherence to the sentiments expressed in his voluntary
declaration, might, it is possible, have afforded him the means of
making some more favourable composition; whereas, the affectation of
willing submission to the same force which his own voice had so lately
proclaimed illegal, could but make the unhappy King suspected of
attempting a deceit, by which no one could be deceived. But the
difficulties of his situation were great, and Louis might well remember
the proverb, which places the grave of deposed sovereigns close to their
prison-gates. He might be persuaded to temporize with the party which
still offered to preserve a show of royalty in the constitution, until
time or circumstances permitted him to enlarge its basis. In the
meantime, if we can believe Bertrand de Moleville, Louis avowed to him
the determination to act under the constitution with all sincerity and
good faith; but it must be owned, that it would have required the
virtues of a saint to have enabled him to make good this pledge, had the
success of the Austrians, or any strong counter-revolutionary movement,
tempted him to renounce it. At all events, the King was placed in a
doubtful and suspicious position towards the people of France, who must
necessarily have viewed with additional jealousy the head of a
government, who, avowedly discontented with the share of power allotted
to him, had nevertheless accepted it,--like the impoverished gamester,
who will rather play for small stakes than be cut out of the game.


The work of the constitution being thus accomplished, the National, or,
as it is usually called, the Constituent Assembly, dissolved itself,
[Sept. 29,] agreeably to the vow they had pronounced in the Tennis-court
at Versailles. The constitution, that structure which they raised for
immortality, soon afterwards became ruinous; but in few assemblies of
statesmen have greater and more varied talents been assembled. Their
debates were often fierce and stormy, their mode of arguing wild and
vehement, their resolutions sudden and ill-considered. These were the
faults partly of the French character, which is peculiarly open to
sudden impulses, partly to the great changes perpetually crowding upon
them, and to the exciting progress of a revolution which hurried all men
into extravagance. On the other hand, they respected freedom of debate;
and the proscription of members of their body, for maintaining and
declaring their sentiments, in opposition to that of the majority, is
not to be found in their records, though so fearfully frequent in those
of their successors. Their main and master error was the attempt to do
too much, and to do it all at once. The parties kept no terms with each
other, would wait for no conviction, and make no concession. It was a
war for life and death betwixt men, who, had they seen more calmly for
their country and for themselves, would rather have sacrificed some part
of the theoretical exactness of principle on which they insisted, to the
opportunity of averting practical evil, or attaining practical good. The
errors of the Assembly were accordingly those of extremes. They had felt
the weight of the feudal chains, and they destroyed the whole nobility.
The monarch had been too powerful for the liberties of the subject--they
now bound him as a slave at the feet of the legislative authority. Their
arch of liberty gave way, because they hesitated to place upon it, in
the shape of an efficient executive government, a weight sufficient to
keep it steady. Yet to these men France was indebted for the first
principles of civil liberty. They kindled the flame, though they could
not regulate it; and such as now enjoy its temperate warmth should have
sympathy for the errors of those to whom they owe a boon so
inestimable;--nor should this sympathy be the less, that so many
perished in the conflagration, which, at the commencement, they had
fanned too rashly. They did even more, for they endeavoured to heal the
wounds of the nation by passing an act of general amnesty, which at once
placed in security the Jacobins of the Champ de Mars, and the
unfortunate companions of the King's flight. This was one of their last
and wisest decrees, could they have enforced its observance by their

The adieus which they took of power were anything but prophetic. They
pronounced the Revolution ended, and the Constitution completed--the one
was but commencing, and the other was baseless as a morning dream.


[123] Thiers, tom. i., p. 192; Lacretelle, tom. vii., p. 262.

[124] "The indignant populace murmured at the severity. 'What!' they
exclaimed, 'is this our liberty? We can no longer hang whom we
please!'"--TOULONGEON, tom. i., p. 168.

[125] "A simple decree, proposed, June 20th, by Lameth, that the titles
of duke, count, marquis, viscount, baron, and chevalier, should be
suppressed, was carried by an overwhelming majority."--MIGNET, tom. ii.,
p. 114.

[126] Richard the Second, act iii., sc. i.

[127] "One of the most singular propositions of this day was, that of
renouncing the names of estates, which many families had borne for ages,
and obliging them to resume their patronymic appellations. In this way
the Montmorencies would have been called Bouchard; La Fayette, Mottié;
Mirabeau, Riquetti. This would have been stripping France of her
history; and no man, how democratic soever, either would or ought to
renounce in this manner the memory of his ancestors."--M. DE STAËL, vol.
i., p. 364.

[128] The Comte de Mirabeau was furious at being called _Riquetti
l'ainé_, and said, with great bitterness, when his speeches were
promulgated under that name, "_Avec votre Riquetti, vous avez désorienté
l'Europe pour trois jours_." Mirabeau was at heart an aristocrat. But
what shall we say of Citoyenne Roland, who piques herself on the
plebeian sound of her name, _Manon Philipon_, yet inconsequentially
upbraids Citoyen Pache with his father's having been a
porter!--S.--_Memoirs_, part i., p. 140.

[129] This proposition was made by Talleyrand, then Bishop of Autun. In
support of it he argued, that "the clergy were not proprietors, but
depositories of their estates; that no individual could maintain any
right of property, or inheritance in them; that they were bestowed
originally by the munificence of kings or nobles, and might now be
resumed by the nation, which had succeeded to _their_ rights." To this
Maury and Siêyes replied, "that it was an unfounded assertion that the
property of the Church was at the disposal of the state; that it flowed
from the munificence or piety of individuals in former ages, and was
destined to a peculiar purpose, totally different from secular concerns;
that, if the purposes originally intended could not be carried into
effect it should revert to the heirs of the donors, but certainly not
accrue to the legislature."--THIERS, tom. i., p. 193.

[130] M. de Chateaubriand says, "The funds thus acquired were enormous,
the church-lands were nearly one-half of the whole landed property of
the kingdom."

[131] See Sir Henry Spelman's treatise on the "History of Sacrilege."

[132] See M. de Staël, vol. i., p. 384. "The retreat of Necker produced
a total change in the ministry. Of those who now came into office two
were destined to perish on the scaffold, and a third by the sword of the
revolutionary assassins."--LACRETELLE, tom. viii., p. 92.

[133] Lacretelle, tom. viii., p. 38.

[134] Mignet, tom. i., pp. 107, 121; Thiers, tom. i., pp. 240, 266.

[135] Mignet says, "The Constitutional Church establishment was not the
work of the modern philosophers, but was devised by the Jansenists, or
rigid party." No doubt, the Jansenists, dupes of the philosophers,
fancied themselves guides instead of blind instruments.

[136] It was their custom to sit on the highest rows of benches in the

[137] Mémoires du Marquis des Ferrieres, l. iii.

[138] Mémoires de Bailli, 16 Août.

[139] Prudhomme, tom. ii., p. 297.

[140] See Mignet, tom. i., p. 126; Lacretelle, tom. viii., p. 128.

"I have had in my hands a letter of Mirabeau, written for the purpose of
being shown to the King. He there made offer of all his means to restore
to France an efficient and respected, but a limited monarchy; he made
use, among others, of this remarkable expression: 'I should lament to
have laboured at nothing but a vast destruction.'"--M. DE STAËL, vol.
i., p. 401.

"He (Mirabeau) received for a short time a pension of 20,000 francs, or
£800 a-month, first from the Comte D'Artois, and afterwards the King;
but he considered himself an agent intrusted with their affairs, and he
accepted those pensions not to be governed by, but to govern, those who
granted them."--DUMONT, p. 230.

[141] Lacretelle, tom. viii., p. 126.

[142] Mirabeau bore much of his character imprinted on his person and
features. He was short, bull-necked, and very strongly made. A quantity
of thick matted hair hung round features of a coarse and exaggerated
character, strongly scarred and seamed. "Figure to your mind," he said,
describing his own countenance to a lady who knew him not, "a tiger who
has had the small-pox." When he talked of confronting his opponents in
the Assembly, his favourite phrase was, "I will show them _La Hure_,"
that is, the boar's head, meaning his own tusked and shaggy

[143] "Mirabeau knew that his end was approaching. 'After my death,'
said he, 'the factions will share among themselves the shreds of the
monarchy.' He suffered cruelly in the last days of his life; and, when
no longer able to speak, wrote to his physician for a dose of opium, in
these words of Hamlet, 'to die--to sleep.' He received no consolation
from religion."--M. DE STAËL, vol. i., p. 402.

[144] "His funeral obsequies were celebrated with extraordinary pomp by
torchlight; 20,000 national guards, and delegates from all the sections
of Paris, accompanied the corpse to the Pantheon, where it was placed by
the remains of Des Cartes."--LACRETELLE, tom. viii., p. 135.

[145] Toulongeon, tom. i., p. 242; Mignet, tom. i., p. 132.

[146] Lacretelle, tom. viii., p. 220.

[147] Mignet, tom. i., p. 132; Thiers, tom. i., p. 287.

[148] See Annual Register, vol. xxxiii., p. 131.

[149] "To deceive any one that might follow, we drove about several
streets: at last we returned to the Little Carousel. My brother was fast
asleep at the bottom of the carriage. We saw M. de la Fayette go by, who
had been at my father's _coucher_. There we remained, waiting a full
hour, ignorant of what was going on. Never did time appear so
tedious."--DUCHESS OF ANGOULÊME'S _Narrative_, p. 9.

[150] Bouillé's Memoirs, pp. 275-290; Lacretelle, tom. viii., p. 258.

[151] The following anecdote will serve to show by what means this
conclusion was insinuated into the public mind. A group in the Palais
Royal were discussing in great alarm the consequences of the King's
flight, when a man, dressed in a thread-bare great-coat, leaped upon a
chair and addressed them thus:--"Citizens, listen to a tale, which shall
not be a long one. A certain well-meaning Neapolitan was once on a time
startled in his evening walk, by the astounding intelligence that the
Pope was dead. He had not recovered his astonishment, when behold he is
informed of a new disaster,--the King of Naples was also no more.
'Surely,' said the worthy Neapolitan, 'the sun must vanish from heaven
at such a combination of fatalities.' But they did not cease here. The
Archbishop of Palermo, he is informed, has also died suddenly. Overcome
by this last shock he retired to bed, but not to sleep. In the morning
he was disturbed in his melancholy reverie by a rumbling noise, which he
recognised at once to be the motion of the wooden instrument which makes
macaroni. 'Aha!' says the good man, starting up, 'can I trust my
ears?--The Pope is dead--the King of Naples is dead--the Bishop of
Palermo is dead--yet my neighbour the baker makes macaroni! Come! The
lives of these great folk are not then so indispensable to the world
after all.'" The man in the great-coat jumped down and disappeared. "I
have caught his meaning," said a woman amongst the listeners. "He has
told us a tale, and it begins like all tales--_There was ONCE a King and
a Queen_."--S.

[152] Three commissioners, Petion, La Tour Maubourg, and Barnave, were
sent to reconduct the fugitives to Paris. They met them at Epernay, and
travelled with them to the Tuileries. During the journey, Barnave,
though a stern Republican, was so melted by the graceful dignity of the
Queen, and impressed with the good sense and benevolence of the King,
that he became inclined to the royal cause, and ever after supported
their fortunes. His attentions to the Queen were so delicate, and his
conduct so gentle, that she assured Madame Campan, that she forgave him
all the injuries he had inflicted on her family.--THIERS, tom. i., p.

[153] "Count de Dampierre, a nobleman inhabiting a chateau near the
road, approaching to kiss the hand of the King, was instantly pierced by
several balls from the escort; his blood sprinkled the royal carriage,
and his remains were torn to pieces by the savages."--LACRETELLE, tom.
viii., p. 271; M. DE CAMPAN, tom. ii., p. 154.

[154] Drawn up by Brissot, author of the _Patriot Française_.

[155] Lacretelle, tom. viii., p. 311.

[156] Mémoires de Mad. Roland, art. "_Robert_,"--S.--[part i., p. 157.]

[157] Thiers, tom. i., p. 312.

[158] "Mr. Fox told me in England, in 1793, that at the time of the
King's departure to Varennes, he should have wished that he had been
allowed to quit the kingdom in peace."--M. DE STAËL, vol. i., p. 408.

Napoleon said at St. Helena:--"The National Assembly never committed so
great an error as in bringing back the King from Varennes. A fugitive
and powerless, he was hastening to the frontier, and in a few hours
would have been out of the French territory. What should they have done
in these circumstances? Clearly facilitated his escape, and declared the
throne vacant by his desertion. They would thus have avoided the infamy
of a regicide government, and attained their great object of republican


    _Legislative Assembly--Its Composition--Constitutionalists--Girondists
    or Brissotins--Jacobins--Views and Sentiments of Foreign
    Nations--England--Views of the Tories and Whigs--Anacharsis
    Clootz--Austria--Prussia--Russia--Sweden--Emigration of the
    French Princes and Clergy--Increasing Unpopularity of Louis from
    this Cause--Death of the Emperor Leopold, and its Effects--France
    declares War--Views and Interests of the different Parties in
    France at this Period--Decree against Monsieur--Louis interposes
    his Veto--Decree against the Priests who should refuse the
    Constitutional Oath--Louis again interposes his
    Veto--Consequences of these Refusals--Fall of De
    Lessart--Ministers now chosen from the Brissotins--All Parties
    favourable to War._

The first, or Constituent Assembly, in destroying almost all which
existed as law in France, when they were summoned together as
States-General, had preserved, at least in form, the name and power of a
monarch. The Legislative Assembly, which succeeded them, seemed
preparing to destroy the symbol of royalty which their predecessors had
left standing, though surrounded by republican enactments.

The composition of this second body of representatives was much more
unfavourable to the royal cause than that of those whom they succeeded.
In a bad hour for France and themselves, the Constituent Assembly had
adopted two regulations, which had the same disabling effect on their
own political interest, as the celebrated self-denying ordinance in the
Long Parliament had upon that of the Presbyterians. By the first of
these decrees, the members of the Constituent Assembly were rendered
incapable of being elected to that which should succeed its dissolution:
by the second, they were declared ineligible to be ministers of the
crown, until two years had elapsed after their sitting as
legislators.[159] Those individuals who had already acquired some
political knowledge and information, were thus virtually excluded from
the counsels of the state, and pronounced inadmissible into the service
of the crown. This exclusion was adopted upon the wild principle of
levelling, which was one prime moving spring of the Revolution, and
which affected to destroy even the natural aristocracy of talents. "Who
are the _distinguished members_ whom the speaker mentions?" said a
Jacobin orator, in the true spirit of this imaginary equality;--"There
are no members of the Assembly more distinguished than others by talents
or skill, any more than by birth or rank--We are all EQUAL."[160] Rare
words indeed, and flattering, doubtless, to many in the Assembly.
Unhappily no legislative decree can give sense to folly, or experience
to ignorance; it could only prevent a certain portion of wisdom and
talent from being called into the service of the country. Both King and
people were necessarily obliged to put their confidence in men of
inexperience in business, liable to act with all the rashness by which
inexperience is generally attended. As the Constituent Assembly
contained the first and readiest choice among the men of ability whom
France had in her bosom, it followed that the second Assembly could not
be equal to the first in abundance of talent; but still the Legislative
Assembly held in its ranks many men of no ordinary acquirements, and a
few of a corresponding boldness and determination of character. A slight
review of the parties into which it was divided, will show how much the
influence of the crown was lowered in the scale.


There was no party remained which could be termed strictly or properly
Royalist. Those who were attached to the old monarchy of France were now
almost all exiles, and there were left but few even of that second class
of more moderate and more reasonable Royalists, who desired to establish
a free constitution on the basis of an effective monarchy, strong enough
to protect the laws against license, but not sufficiently predominant to
alter or overthrow them. Cazalès,[161] whose chivalrous defence of the
nobility,--Maury,[162] whose eloquent pleadings for the Church,--had so
often made an honourable but vain struggle against the advances of
revolution, were now silent and absent, and the few feeble remnants of
their party had ranged themselves with the Constitutionalists, who were
so far favourers of monarchy as it made part of their favourite
system--and no farther. La Fayette continued to be the organ of that
party, and had assembled under his banners Duport,[163] Barnave, Lameth,
all of whom had striven to keep pace with the headlong spirit of the
Revolution, but, being outstripped by more active and forward champions
of the popular cause, now shifted ground, and formed a union with those
who were disposed to maintain, that the present constitution was
adapted to all the purposes of free and effectual government, and that,
by its creation, all farther revolutionary measures were virtually

In stern opposition to those admirers of the constitution, stood two
bodies of unequal numbers, strength, and efficacy; of which the first
was determined that the Revolution should never stop until the downfall
of the monarchy, while the second entertained the equally resolved
purpose of urging these changes still farther onwards, to the total
destruction of all civil order, and the establishment of a government,
in which terror and violence should be the ruling principles, to be
wielded by the hands of the demagogues who dared to nourish a scheme so
nefarious. We have indicated the existence of both these parties in the
first, or Constituent Assembly; but in the second, called the
Legislative, they assumed a more decided form, and appeared united
towards the abolition of royalty as a common end, though certain, when
it was attained, to dispute with each other the use which was to be made
of the victory. In the words of Shakspeare, they were determined

    "To lay this Angiers even with the ground,
    Then, after, fight who should be king of it."[164]

The first of these parties took its most common denomination from the
Gironde, a department which sent most of its members to the Convention.
Condorcet, dear to science, was one of this party, and it was often
named from Brissot, another of its principal leaders. Its most
distinguished champions were men bred as lawyers in the south of France,
who had, by mutual flattery, and the habit of living much together,
acquired no small portion of that self-conceit and overweening opinion
of each other's talents, which may be frequently found among small
provincial associations for political or literary purposes. Many had
eloquence, and most of them a high fund of enthusiasm, which a classical
education, and their intimate communication with each other, where each
idea was caught up, lauded, re-echoed, and enhanced, had exalted into a
spirit of republican zeal. They doubtless had personal ambition, but in
general it seems not to have been of a low or selfish character. Their
aims were often honourable though visionary, and they marched with great
courage towards their proposed goal, with the vain purpose of erecting a
pure republic, in a state so disturbed as that of France, and by hands
so polluted as those of their Jacobin associates.[165] It will be
recorded, however, to the disgrace of their pretensions to stern
republican virtue, that the Girondists were willing to employ, for the
accomplishment of their purpose, those base and guilty tools which
afterwards effected their own destruction. They were for using the
revolutionary means of insurrection and violence, until the republic
should be established, and no longer; or in the words of the satirist,

    "For letting Rapine loose, and Murther,
    To rage just so far, but no further;
    And setting all the land on fire
    To burn t' a scantling, but no higher."[166]

[Sidenote: JACOBINS.]

The Jacobins,--the second of these parties,--were allies of the
Brissotins, with the ulterior purpose of urging the revolutionary force
to the uttermost, but using as yet the shelter of their republican
mantle. Robespierre, who, by an affectation of a frugal and sequestered
course of life, preserved among the multitude the title of the
Incorruptible, might be considered as the head of the Jacobins, if they
had indeed a leader more than wolves have, which tune their united
voices to the cry of him who bays the loudest. Danton, inexorable as
Robespierre himself, but less prudent because he loved gold and pleasure
as well as blood and power, was next in authority. Marat, who loved to
talk of murder as soldiers do of battles; the wretched Collot d'Herbois,
a broken-down player; Chabot, an ex-capuchin;[167] with many other men
of desperate character, whose moderate talents were eked out by the most
profligate effrontery, formed the advanced-guard of this party, soiled
with every species of crime, and accustomed to act their parts in the
management of those dreadful insurrections, which had at once promoted
and dishonoured the Revolution. It is needless to preserve from oblivion
names such as Santerre and Hebert, distinguished for cruelty and villany
above the other subaltern villains. Such was the party who, at the side
of the Brissotins, stood prompt to storm the last bulwarks of the
monarchy, reserving to themselves the secret determination, that the
spoil should be all their own.[168]


The force of these three parties was as variously composed as their
principles. That of La Fayette, as we have repeatedly observed, lay
amongst the better order of shopkeepers and citizens, and other
proprietors, who had assumed arms for their own protection, and to
maintain something like general good order. These composed the steadiest
part of the national guard, and, generally speaking, were at the
devotion of their commandant, though his authority was resisted by them
on some occasions, and seemed daily to grow more precarious. The
Royalists might perhaps have added some force to the Constitutional
party, but La Fayette did not now possess such an unsuspected character
with the so called friends of freedom, as could permit him to use the
obnoxious assistance of those who were termed its enemies. His high
character as a military man still sustained an importance, which,
nevertheless, was already somewhat on the wane.

The party of the Gironde had in their favour the theoretical amateurs
of liberty and equality, young men, whose heated imaginations saw the
Forum of ancient Rome in the gardens of the Palais Royal, and yielded a
ready assent to whatever doctrine came recommended by a flourishing and
eloquent peroration, and was rounded off in a sounding sentence, or a
quaint apothegm. The partisans of Brissot had some interest in the
southern departments, which had sent them to the capital, and conceived
that they had a great deal more. They pretended that there existed in
those districts a purer flame of freedom than in the metropolis itself,
and held out, that Liberty, if expelled from Paris, would yet find
refuge in a new republic, to be founded on the other side of the Loire.
Such day-dreams did not escape the Jacobins, who carefully treasured
them to be the apology of future violence, and finally twisted them into
an accusation which bestowed on the Brissotins the odious name of
Federalists, and charged them with an intention to dismember France, by
splitting it into a league of petty commonwealths, like those of Holland
and Switzerland.

The Brissotins had a point of union in the saloon of Madame Roland, wife
to one of their number. The beauty, talents, courage, and
accomplishments of this remarkable woman, pushed forward into public
notice a husband of very middling abilities, and preserved a high
influence over the association of philosophical rhapsodists, who hoped
to oppose pikes with syllogisms, and to govern a powerful country by the
discipline of an academy.

The substantial and dreadful support of the Jacobins lay in the club so
named, with the yet more violent association of Cordeliers and their
original affiliated societies, which reigned paramount over those of the
municipal bodies, which in most departments were fain to crouch under
their stern and sanguinary dominion. This club had more than once
changed masters, for its principal and leading feature being the highest
point of democratical ardour, it drove from its bosom in succession
those who fell short of the utmost pitch of extravagant zeal for liberty
and equality, manifested by the most uncompromising violence. The word
_moderation_ was as odious in this society as could have been that of
slavery, and he who could affect the most exaggerated and outrageous
strain of patriotism was sure to outstrip their former leaders. Thus the
Lameths took the guidance of the club out of the hands of La Fayette;
Robespierre, and Marat, wrenched the management from the Lameths; and,
considering their pitch of extravagant ferocity, there was little chance
of _their_ losing it, unless an Avatar of the Evil Spirit had brought
Satan himself to dispute the point in person.

The leaders, who were masters of this club, had possession, as we have
often remarked, of the master-keys to the passions of the populace,
could raise a forest of pikes with one word, and unsheath a thousand
daggers with another. They directly and openly recommended the bloodiest
and most ruffian-like actions, instead of those which, belonging to open
and manly warfare, present something that is generous even in the midst
of violence. "Give me," said the atrocious Marat, when instructing
Barbaroux in his bloody science,--"Give me two-hundred Neapolitans--the
knife in their right hand, in their left a _muff_, to serve for a
target--with these I will traverse France, and complete the revolution."
At the same lecture he made an exact calculation, (for the monster was
possessed of some science,) showing in what manner two hundred and sixty
thousand men might be put to death in one day.[169] Such were the means,
the men, and the plans of the Jacobins, which they were now, in the
Legislative Assembly, to oppose to the lukewarm loyalty of the
Constitutionalists, and, in the hour of need, to the fine-spun
republican theories of the Brissotins. But ere we proceed in our review
of the internal affairs of the nation, it becomes now necessary to
glance at her external relations.

Hitherto France had acted alone in this dreadful tragedy, while the
other nations of Europe looked on in amazement, which now began to give
place to a desire of action. No part of public law is more subtle in
argument than that which pretends to define the exact circumstances in
which, according to the proper interpretation of the _Jus Gentium_, one
nation is at liberty, or called upon, to interfere in the internal
concerns of another. If my next neighbour's house is on fire, I am not
only entitled, but obliged, by the rules alike of prudence and humanity,
to lend my aid to extinguish it; or, if a cry of murder arises in his
household, the support due to the law, and the protection of the
innocent, will excuse my forcible entrance upon his premises. These are
extreme cases, and easily decided; they have their parallels in the laws
of nations, but they are of rare occurrence. But there lies between them
and the general maxim, prohibiting the uncalled-for interference of one
party in what primarily and principally concerns another, a whole _terra
incognita_ of special cases, in which it may be difficult to pronounce
any satisfactory decision.

In the history of nations, however, little practical difficulty has been
felt, for wherever the jurisconsults have found a Gordian knot, the
sword of the sovereign has severed it without ceremony. The doubt has
usually been decided on the practical questions, What benefit the
neutral power is like to derive from his interference? And whether he
possesses the power of using it effectually, and to his own advantage?
In free countries, indeed, the public opinion must be listened to; but
man is the same in every situation, and the same desire of
aggrandizement, which induces an arbitrary monarch to shut his ears to
the voice of justice, is equally powerful with senates and popular
assemblies; and aggressions have been as frequently made by republics
and limited monarchs on the independence of their neighbours, as by
those princes who have no bounds to their own royal pleasure. The gross
and barefaced injustice of the partition of Poland had gone far to
extinguish any remains of hesitation upon such subjects, and might be
said to be a direct recognition of the right of the strongest. There
would not, therefore, have wanted pretexts for interference in the
affairs of France, of the nations around her, had any of them been at
the time capable of benefiting by the supposed opportunity.


England, the rival of France, might, from the example of that country,
have exercised a right of interfering with her domestic concerns, in
requital of the aid which she afforded to the Americans; but besides
that the publicity of the Parliamentary debates must compel the most
ambitious British minister to maintain at least an appearance of respect
to the rights of other countries, England was herself much divided upon
the subject of the French Revolution.

This was not the case when the eventful scene first commenced. We
believe that the first display of light, reason, and rational liberty in
France, was hailed as a day-spring through all Britain, and that there
were few if any in that country, who did not feel their hearts animated
and enlarged by seeing such a great and noble nation throwing aside the
fetters, which at once restrained and dishonoured them, and assuming the
attitude, language, and spirit of a free people. All men's thoughts and
eyes were bent on struggles, which seemed to promise the regeneration of
a mighty country, and the British generally felt as if days of old hate
and mutual rivalry would thereafter be forgotten, and that in future the
similarity of liberal institutions, and the possession of a just portion
of rational liberty on either side, would throw kindness and cordiality
into the intercourse between the two countries, since France would no
longer have ground to contemn England as a country of seditious and
sullen clowns, or Britain to despise France as a nation of willing

This universal sympathy was not removed by the forcible capture of the
Bastile, and the violences of the people on that occasion. The name of
that fortress was so unpopular, as to palliate and apologize for the
excesses which took place on its fall, and it was not to be expected
that a people so long oppressed, when exerting their power for the first
time, should be limited by the strict bounds of moderation. But in
England there always have been, and must exist, two parties of
politicians, who will not long continue to regard events of such an
interesting nature with similar sensations.

The Revolutionists of France were naturally desirous to obtain the
applause of the elder-born of freedom, and the societies in Britain,
which assumed the character of the peculiar admirers and protectors of
liberty, conceived themselves obliged to extend their countenance to the
changes in the neighbouring nation. Hence there arose a great
intercourse between the clubs and self-constituted bodies in Britain,
which assumed the extension of popular freedom as the basis of their
association, and the Revolutionists in France, who were realizing the
systems of philosophical theorists upon the same ground. Warm tributes
of applause were transmitted from several of these associations; the
ambassadors sent to convey them were received with great distinction by
the National Assembly; and the urbane intercourse which took place on
these occasions led to exaggerated admiration of the French system on
the part of those who had thus unexpectedly become the medium of
intercourse between a great nation and a few private societies.[170] The
latter were gradually induced to form unfavourable comparisons betwixt
the Temple of French freedom, built, as it seemed to them, upon the most
perfect principles of symmetry and uniformity, and that in which the
goddess had been long worshipped in England, and which, on the contrast,
appeared to them like an ancient edifice constructed in barbaric times,
and incongruously encumbered with Gothic ornaments and emblems, which
modern political architects had discarded. But these political sages
overlooked the important circumstance, that the buttresses, which seemed
in some respects encumbrances to the English edifice, might, on
examination, be found to add to its stability; and that in fact they
furnished evidence to show, that the venerable pile was built with
cement, fitted to endure the test of ages, while that of France,
constructed of lath daubed with untempered mortar, like the pageants she
exhibited on the revolutionary festivals, was only calculated to be the
wonder of a day.

The earnest admiration of either party of the state is sure in England
to be balanced by the censure of the other, and leads to an immediate
trial of strength betwixt them. The popular side is always the more
loud, the more active, the more imposing of the two contending parties.
It is formidable, from the body of talents which it exhibits, (for those
ambitious of distinction are usually friends to innovation,) and from
the unanimity and vigour with which it can wield them. There may be, and
indeed always are, great differences in the point to which each leader
is desirous to carry reformation; but they are unanimous in desiring its
commencement. The Opposition, also, as it is usually termed, has always
included several of the high aristocracy of the country, whose names
ennoble their rank, and whose large fortunes are a pledge that they
will, for their own sakes, be a check upon eager and violent
experimentalists. The Whigs, moreover, have the means of influencing
assemblies of the lower orders, to whom the name of liberty is, and
ought to be dear, since it is the privilege which must console them for
narrow circumstances and inferiority of condition; and these means the
party, so called, often use successfully, always with industry and

The counterbalance to this active and powerful body is to be found,
speaking generally, in the higher classes at large--the great mass of
nobility and gentry--the clergy of the Established Church--the superior
branches of the law--the wealthier of the commercial classes--and the
bulk of those who have property to lose, and are afraid of endangering
it. This body is like the Ban of the Germanic empire, a formidable
force, but slow and diffident in its operations, and requiring the
stimulus of sudden alarm to call it into effective exercise. To one or
other of these great national parties, every Englishman, of education
enough to form an opinion, professes to belong; with a perfect
understanding on the part of all men of sense and probity, that the
general purpose is to ballast the vessel of the state, not to overset
it, and that it becomes a state-treason in any one to follow his party
when they carry their doctrines to extremity.

From the nature of this grand national division, it follows, that the
side which is most popular should be prompt in adopting theories, and
eager in recommending measures of alteration and improvement. It is by
such measures that men of talents rise into importance, and by such that
the popular part of the constitution is maintained in its integrity. The
other party is no less useful, by opposing to each successive attempt at
innovation the delays of form, the doubts of experience, the prejudices
of rank and condition, legal objections, and the weight of ancient and
established practice. Thus, measures of a doubtful tendency are severely
scrutinized in Parliament, and if at length adopted, it is only when
public opinion has long declared in their favour, and when, men's minds
having become habituated to the discussion, their introduction into our
system cannot produce the violent effect of absolute novelty. If there
were no Whigs, our constitution would fall to pieces for want of repair;
if there were no Tories, it would be broken in the course of a
succession of rash and venturous experiments.


It followed, as a matter of course, that the Whigs of Britain looked
with complacence, the Tories with jealousy, upon the progress of the new
principles in France; but the latter had a powerful and unexpected
auxiliary in the person of Edmund Burke, whose celebrated _Reflections
on the Revolution in France_[171] had the most striking effect on the
public mind, of any work in our time. There was something exaggerated at
all times in the character as well as the eloquence of that great man;
and upon reading at this distance of time his celebrated composition, it
must be confessed that the colours he has used in painting the
extravagances of the Revolution, ought to have been softened, by
considering the peculiar state of a country, which, long labouring under
despotism, is suddenly restored to the possession of unembarrassed
license. On the other hand, no political prophet ever viewed futurity
with a surer ken. He knew how to detect the secret purpose of the
various successive tribes of revolutionists, and saw in the constitution
the future republic; in the republic the reign of anarchy; from anarchy
he predicted military despotism; and from military despotism, last to be
fulfilled, and hardest to be believed, he prophesied the late but secure
resurrection of the legitimate monarchy. Above all, when the cupidity of
the French rulers aspired no farther than the forcible possession of
Avignon and the Venaissin territories, he foretold their purpose of
extending the empire of France by means of her new political theories,
and, under pretext of propagating the principles of freedom, her project
of assailing with her arms the states, whose subjects had been already
seduced by her doctrines.

The work of Burke raised a thousand enemies to the French Revolution,
who had before looked upon it with favour, or at least with
indifference. A very large portion of the talents and aristocracy of the
Opposition party followed Burke into the ranks of the Ministry, who saw
with pleasure a member, noted for his zeal in the cause of the
Americans, become an avowed enemy of the French Revolution, and with
equal satisfaction heard him use arguments, which might, in their own
mouths, have assumed an obnoxious and suspicious character.

But the sweeping terms in which the author reprobated all attempts at
state-reformation, in which he had himself been at one time so powerful
an agent, subjected him to the charge of inconsistency among his late
friends, many of whom, and Fox in particular, declared themselves
favourable to the progress of the Revolution in France, though they did
not pretend to excuse its excesses. Out of Parliament it met more
unlimited applause; for England, as well as France, had talent impatient
of obscurity, ardour which demanded employment, ambition which sought
distinction, and men of headlong passions, who expected, in a new order
of things, more unlimited means of indulging them. The middling classes
were open in England as elsewhere, though not perhaps so much so, to the
tempting offer of increased power and importance; and the populace of
London and other large towns loved license as well as the sans culottes
of France. Hence the division of the country into Aristocrats and
Democrats, the introduction of political hatred into the bosom of
families, and the dissolution of many a band of friendship which had
stood the strain of a lifetime. One part of the kingdom looked upon the
other with the stern and relentless glance of keepers who are
restraining madmen, while the others bent on them the furious glare of
madmen conspiring revenge on their keepers.

From this period the progress of the French Revolution seemed in England
like a play presented upon the stage, where two contending factions
divide the audience, and hiss or applaud as much from party spirit as
from real critical judgment, while every instant increases the
probability that they will try the question by actual force.

Still, though the nation was thus divided on account of French politics,
England and France observed the usual rules of amity, and it seemed that
the English were more likely to wage hostility with each other than to
declare war against France.

There was, in other kingdoms and states upon the Continent, the same
diversity of feelings respecting the Revolution which divided England.
The favour of the lower and unprivileged classes, in Germany especially,
was the more fixed upon the progress of the French Revolution, because
they lingered under the same incapacities from which the changes in
France had delivered the Commons, or Third Estate, of that country. Thus
far their partiality was not only natural and innocent, but
praiseworthy. It is as reasonable for a man to desire the natural
liberty from which he is unjustly excluded, as it is for those who are
in an apartment where the air is polluted, to wish for the wholesome

Unhappily, these justifiable desires were connected with others of a
description less harmless and beneficial. The French Revolution had
proclaimed war on castles, as well as peace to cottages.[172] Its
doctrine and practice held out the privileged classes in every country
as the natural tyrants and oppressors of the poor, whom it encouraged by
the thousand tongues of its declaimers to pull down their thrones,
overthrow their altars, renounce the empire of God above, and of kings
below, and arise, like regenerated France, alike from thraldom and from
superstition. And such opinions, calling upon the other nations of
Europe to follow them in their democratic career, were not only
trumpeted forth in all affiliated clubs of the Jacobins, whose influence
in the National Assembly was formidable, but were formally recognised by
that body itself upon an occasion, which, but for the momentous omen it
presented, might have been considered as the most ridiculous scene ever
gravely acted before the legislators of a great nation.

There was in Paris a native of Prussia, an exile from his country, whose
brain, none of the soundest by nature, seems to have been affected by
the progress of the Revolution, as that of ordinary madmen is said to be
influenced by the increase of the moon. This personage having become
disgusted with his baptismal name, had adopted that of the Scythian
philosopher, and uniting it with his own Teutonic family appellation,
entitled himself--"Anacharsis Clootz, Orator of the Human Race."[173]


It could hardly be expected, that the assumption of such a title should
remain undistinguished by some supreme act of folly. Accordingly, the
self-dubbed Anacharsis set on foot a procession, which was intended to
exhibit the representatives of delegates from all nations upon earth, to
assist at the Feast of the Federation of the 14th July, 1790, by which
the French nation proposed to celebrate the Revolution. In recruiting
his troops, the orator easily picked up a few vagabonds of different
countries in Paris; but as Chaldeans, Illinois, and Siberians, are not
so common, the delegates of those more distant tribes were chosen among
the rabble of the city, and subsidized at the rate of about twelve
francs each. We are sorry we cannot tell whether the personage, whose
dignity was much insisted upon as "a Miltonic Englishman," was genuine,
or of Parisian manufacture. If the last, he must have been worth seeing.

Anacharsis Clootz, having got his ragged regiment equipped in costume at
the expense of the refuse of some theatrical wardrobe, conducted them in
solemn procession to the bar of the National Assembly, presented them as
the representatives of all the nations on earth, awakened to a sense of
their debased situation by the choral voices of twenty-five millions of
freemen, and demanding that the sovereignty of the people should be
acknowledged, and their oppressors destroyed, through all the universe,
as well as in France.

So far this absurd scene was the extravagance of a mere madman, and if
the Assembly had sent Anacharsis to bedlam, and his train to the
Bicêtre, it would have ended as such a farce ought to have done. But
_the President, in the name of the Assembly_, M. de Menou, (the same, we
believe, who afterwards turned Turk when in Egypt,)[174] applauded the
zeal of the orator, and received the homage of his grotesque attendants
as if they had been what they pretended, the deputies of the four
quarters of the globe. To raise the jest to the highest, Alexander
Lameth proposed,--as the feelings of these august pilgrims must
necessarily be hurt to see, in the land of freedom, those kneeling
figures representing conquered nations, which surround the statue of
Louis XV.,--that, from respect to this body of charlatans, these figures
should be forthwith demolished. This was done accordingly, and the
destruction of these symbols was regarded as a testimony of the
assistance which France was ready to render such states as should
require her assistance, for following in the revolutionary course. The
scene, laughable in itself, became serious when its import was
considered, and went far to persuade the governments of the neighbouring
countries, that the purpose of France was to revolutionize Europe, and
spread the reign of liberty and equality over all the civilized nations
of the globe. Hopes so flattering as these, which should assign to the
commons not merely freedom from unjust restraints and disqualifications,
(and that granted with reserve, and only in proportion as they became
qualified to use it with advantage,) but their hour of command and
sovereignty, with the privilege of retaliation on those who had so long
kept them in bondage, were sure to find a general good reception among
all to whom they were addressed, in whatever country; while, on the
contrary, the fears of existing governments for the propagation of
doctrines so seductive in themselves, and which France seemed apparently
prepared to support with arms, were excited in an equal proportion.

It is true that the National Assembly had formally declared, that France
renounced the unphilosophical practices of extending her limits by
conquest, but although this disavowal spoke to the ear, it was
contradicted by the annexation of those desirable possessions, the
ancient city of Avignon, and the district called the Comtat Venaissin,
to the kingdom of France; while the principle on which the annexation
was determined on, seemed equally applicable in all similar cases.

A dispute had broken out betwixt the aristocrats and democrats in the
town and province in question [Oct. 30]; blood had flowed; a part of the
population had demanded to become citizens of regenerated France.[175]
Would it be worthy of the Protectress of Liberty, said the advocates for
the annexation, to repel from her bosom supplicants, who panted to share
the freedom they had achieved? And so Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin
were declared lawful prize, and _reunited_ to France, (so went the
phrase,) as Napoleon afterwards reunited the broken fragments of the
empire of Charlemagne. The prescient eye of Burke easily detected, in
these petty and surreptitious acquisitions, the gigantic plan by which
France afterwards encircled herself by dependent states, which, while
termed allies and auxiliaries, were, in fact, her most devoted subjects,
and the governments of which changed their character from monarchical to
popular, like the Great Nation.[176]


The princes at the head of despotic governments were, of course, most
interested in putting an end, if it were possible, to the present
Revolution of France, and extinguishing a flame which appeared so
threatening to its neighbours. Yet there was a long hesitation ere any
thing to this purpose was attempted. Austria, whom the matter concerned
as so near an ally of France, was slow ere she made any decisive step
towards hostility. The Emperor Joseph was too much embroiled by the
dissensions which he had provoked in the Netherlands, to involve himself
in war with France. His successor, Leopold, had been always reckoned to
belong to the philosophical party. He put down, without much trouble,
the insurrection which had nearly cost his brother the dominion of
Flanders, and as he used the victory with moderation, it seemed unlikely
that the tranquillity of his government should be again disturbed.
Still, it would have been hazardous to expose the allegiance of the
subjects, so newly restored to order, to the temptations which must have
opened to the Flemings by engaging in a war with France, and Leopold,
far from seeking for a ground of quarrel with the favourers of the
Revolution, entered into friendly relations with the government which
they established; and, with anxiety, doubtless, for the safety of his
brother-in-law, and an earnest desire to see the government of France
placed on something like a steady footing, the Emperor continued in
amicable terms with the existing rulers of that country down till his
death. Francis, his successor, for some time seemed to adopt the same
pacific policy.

Prussia, justly proud of her noble army, her veteran commanders, and the
bequest of military fame left her by the Great Frederick, was more eager
than Austria to adopt what began to be called the cause of Kings and
Nobles, though the sovereign of the latter kingdom was so nearly
connected with the unfortunate Louis. Frederick William had been taught
to despise revolutionary movements by his cheap victory over the Dutch
democracy, while the resistance of the Low Countries had induced the
Austrians to dread such explosions.

Russia declared herself hostile to the French Revolution, but hazarded
no effective step against them. The King of Sweden, animated by the
adventurous character which made Gustavus, and after him Charles, sally
forth from their frozen realms to influence the fates of Europe, showed
the strongest disposition to play the same part, though the limited
state of his resources rendered his valour almost nugatory.

Thus, while so many increasing discontents and suspicions showed that a
decision by arms became every day more inevitable, Europe seemed still
reluctant to commence the fatal encounter, as if the world had
anticipated the long duration of the dreadful struggle, and the millions
of lives which it must cost to bring it to a termination.

There can be no doubt that the emigration of the French princes,
followed by a great part of the nobles of France, a step ill-judged in
itself, as removing beyond the frontiers of the country all those most
devotedly interested in the preservation of the monarchy, had the utmost
effect in precipitating the impending hostilities. The presence of so
many noble exiles,[177] the respect and sympathy which their
misfortunes excited in those of the same rank, the exaggerated accounts
which they gave of their own consequence; above all, the fear that the
revolutionary spirit should extend beyond the limits of France, and work
the same effects in other nations, produced through the whole
aristocracy of Germany a general desire to restore them to their country
and to their rights by the force of arms, and to extinguish by main
force a spirit which seemed destined to wage war against all established
governments, and to abolish the privileges which they recognised in
their higher classes.

The state of the expatriated French clergy, driven from their home, and
deprived of their means of subsistence, because they refused an oath
imposed contrary to their ecclesiastical vows, and to their conscience,
added religious zeal to the general interest excited by the spectacle,
yet new to Europe, of thousands of nobility and clergy compelled to
forsake their country, and take refuge among aliens.

Several petty princes of the empire made a show of levying forces, and
complained of a breach of public faith, from the forfeiture of rights
which individual princes of the Germanic body possessed in Alsace and
Lorraine, and which, though sanctioned by the treaty of Westphalia, the
National Assembly had not deemed worthy of exception from their sweeping
abolition of feudal tenures. The emigrants formed themselves into armed
corps at Treves and elsewhere, in which the noblest youths in France
carried arms as privates, and which, if their number and resources had
been in any proportion to their zeal and courage, were qualified to bear
a distinguished part in deciding the destinies of the nation. Thus
united, they gave way but too much to the natural feelings of their rank
and country, menaced the land from which they had emigrated, and boasted
aloud that it needed but one thrust (_botte_) of an Austrian general, to
parry and pay home all the decrees of the National Assembly.[178] This
ill-timed anticipation of success was founded in a great measure on the
disorganization of the French army, which had been begun by the decay of
discipline during the progress of the Revolution, and was supposed to be
rendered complete by the emigration of such numbers of officers as had
joined the princes and their standards. It was yet to be learned how
soon such situations can be filled up, from the zeal and talent always
found among the lower classes, when critical circumstances offer a
reward to ambition.


Yet, while confident of success, the position of the emigrants was far
from being flattering. Notwithstanding their most zealous exertions, the
princes found their interest with foreign courts unable to bring either
kings or ministers willingly or hastily to the point which they desired.
The nearest approach was by the declaration of Pilnitz, [August 27,] in
which, with much diplomatical caution, the Emperor and King of Prussia
announced the interest which they took in the actual condition of the
King of France; and intimated, that, supposing the other nations
appealed to, should entertain feelings of the same kind, they would,
conjoined with those other powers, use the most efficacious means to
place Louis in a situation to establish in his dominions, on the basis
of the most perfect liberty, a monarchical government, suitable to the
rights of the sovereign, and the welfare of the people.[179]

This implied threat, which was to be conditionally carried into effect
in case other powers not named should entertain the same sentiments with
the two sovereigns by whom it was issued, was well calculated to
irritate, but far too vague to intimidate, such a nation as France. It
showed the desire to wound, but showed it accompanied by the fear to
strike, and instead of inspiring respect, only awakened indignation,
mingled with contempt.

The emigrants were generally represented among the people of France as
men who, to recover their own vain privileges, were willing to lead a
host of foreigners into the bosom of their country; and lest some
sympathy with their situation, as men suffering for the cause to which
they had devoted themselves, and stimulated by anxiety for the fate of
their imprisoned King, should have moderated the severity of this
judgment, forgery was employed to render their communication with the
foreign monarchs still more odious and unpopular.

The secret articles of a pretended treaty were referred to, by which it
was alleged that Monsieur and the Comte d'Artois had agreed to a
dismemberment of France; Lorraine and Alsace being to be restored to
Austria, in consequence of her entering into the counter-revolutionary
league. The date of this supposed treaty was first placed at Pavia, and
afterwards transferred to Pilnitz; but although it was at one time
assumed as a real document in the British House of Commons, it is now
generally allowed to have had no existence.[180] In the meanwhile, as a
calumny well adapted to the prejudices of the time, the belief in such a
secret compact became generally current, and excited the utmost
indignation against the selfish invaders, and against the exiles who
were supposed willing to dismember their native country, rather than
submit to a change in its constitution adverse to their own selfish

A great deal of this new load of unpopularity was transferred to the
account of the unfortunate Louis, who was supposed to instigate and
support in private the attempts of his brothers for engaging foreign
courts in his favour, while the Queen, from her relationship to the
Emperor of Austria, was universally represented as a fury, urging him to
revenge her loss of power on the rebellious people of France. An
Austrian committee was talked of as managing the correspondence between
these royal persons on the one part, and the foreign courts and emigrant
princes on the other. This was totally groundless; but it is probable
and natural that some intercourse was maintained between Louis and his
brothers, as, though their warlike schemes suited the King's temper too
little, he might wish to derive advantage from the dread which it was
vainly supposed their preparations would inspire. The royal pair were
indeed in a situation so disastrous, that they might have been excused
for soliciting rescue by almost any means. But, in fact, Louis and
Leopold seem to have agreed in the same system of temporizing politics.
Their correspondence, as far as can be judged from the letters of De
Lessart, Louis' trusted minister for foreign affairs, seems always to
point to a middle course; that of suffering the Constitution of France
to remain such as it had been chosen by the people, and sanctioned by
the National Assembly, while the ministers attempted, by the influence
of fear of dangers from abroad, to prevent any future assaults upon the
power of the Crown, and especially against the King's person. On
condition that such further aggression should be abstained from, the
Emperor seems to have been willing to prohibit the mustering of the
emigrant forces in his dominions. But Leopold demanded that, on their
part, the French nation should release themselves from the clubs of
Jacobins and Cordeliers, (another assembly of the same nature,) which,
pretending to be no more than private associations, without public
character or responsibility, nevertheless dictated to the National
Assembly, the King, and all France, in virtue of the power of exciting
the insurrectional movements, by which their denunciations and proposed
revolutions had been as regularly seconded, as the flash is followed by
the thunderbolt.

On the death of Leopold, [March 1, 1792,] and the succession of the
Emperor Francis to the imperial throne, the disposition of Austria
became much more turned towards war. It became the object of Francis to
overcome the revolutionists, and prevent, if possible, the impending
fate of the royal family. In adopting these warlike counsels, the mind
of the new Emperor was much influenced by the desire of Prussia to take
the field. Indeed, the condition of the royal family, which became every
day more precarious, seemed to both powers to indicate and authorise
hostile measures, and they were at no pains to conceal their
sentiments. It is not probable that peace would have remained long
unbroken, unless some change, of an unexpected and unhoped-for
character, in favour of royalty, had taken place in France; but, after
all the menaces which had been made by the foreign powers, it was France
herself, who, to the surprise of Europe, first resorted to arms. The
ostensible reason was, that, in declaring war, she only anticipated, as
became a brave and generous nation, the commencement of hostilities
which Austria had menaced. But each party in the state had its own
private views for concurring in a measure, which, at the time, seemed of
a very audacious character.

[Sidenote: LA FAYETTE.]

La Fayette now felt his influence in the national guard of Paris was
greatly on the wane. With the democrats he was regarded as a denounced
and devoted man, for having employed the armed force to disperse the
people in the Champ de Mars, upon the 17th of July, 1791. Those who
countenanced him on that occasion were Parisian citizens of substance
and property, but timorous, even from the very consciousness of their
wealth, and unwilling, either for the sake of La Fayette, or the
Constitution which he patronised, to expose themselves to be denounced
by furious demagogues, or pillaged by the hordes of robbers and
assassins whom they had at their disposal. This is the natural progress
in revolutions. While order continues, property has always the superior
influence over those who may be desirous of infringing the public peace;
but when law and order are in a great measure destroyed, the wealthy are
too much disposed to seek, in submission, or change of party, the means
of securing themselves and their fortunes. The property which, in
ordinary times, renders its owners bold, becomes, in those of imminent
danger, the cause of their selfish cowardice. La Fayette tried, however,
one decisive experiment, to ascertain what share remained of his once
predominant influence over the Parisians. He stood an election for the
mayoralty of Paris against Pétion, [Nov. 17,] a person attached to the
Brissotin, or Republican faction, and the latter was preferred.
Unsuccessful in this attempt, La Fayette became desirous of foreign war.
A soldier, and an approved one, he hoped his fortune would not desert
him, and that, at the head of armies, which he trusted to render
victorious over the public enemy, he might have a better chance of being
listened to by those factions who began to hold in disrespect the red
flag, and the decaying efforts of the national guard of Paris; and thus
gaining the power of once more enforcing submission to the constitution,
which he had so large a share in creating. Unquestionably, also, La
Fayette remembered the ardour of the French for national glory, and
welcomed the thoughts of shifting the scene to combat against a public
and avowed enemy, from his obscure and unsatisfactory struggle with the
clubs of Paris. La Fayette, therefore, desired war, and was followed in
his opinion by most of the Constitutional party.


The Girondists were not less eager for a declaration of hostilities.
Either the King must, in that case, place his veto upon the measure, or
he must denounce hostilities against his brother-in-law and his
brothers, subjecting himself to all the suspicions of bad faith which
such a measure inferred. If the arms of the nation were victorious, the
risk of a revolution in favour of royalty by insurrections within, or
invasions from without the kingdom, was ended at once and for ever. And
if the foreigners obtained advantages, it would be easy to turn the
unpopularity of the defeat upon the monarch, and upon the
Constitutionalists, who had insisted, and did still insist, on retaining
him as the ostensible head of the executive government.

The Jacobins, those whose uniform object it was to keep the impulse of
forcible and revolutionary measures in constant action, seemed to be
divided among themselves on the great question of war or peace.
Robespierre himself struggled, in the club, against the declaration of
hostilities, probably because he wished the Brissotins to take all the
responsibility of that hazardous measure, secure beforehand to share the
advantage which it might afford those Republicans against the King and
Constitutionalists. He took care that Louis should profit nothing by the
manner in which he pleaded the cause of justice and humanity. He
affected to prophesy disasters to the ill-provided and ill-disciplined
armies of France, and cast the blame beforehand on the known treachery
of the King and the Royalists, the arbitrary designs of La Fayette and
the Constitutionalists, and the doubtful patriotism of Brissot and
Condorcet. His arguments retarded, though they could not stop, the
declaration of war, which probably they were not intended seriously to
prevent; and the most violent and sanguinary of men obtained a temporary
character for love of humanity, by adding hypocrisy to his other vices.
The Jacobins in general, notwithstanding Robespierre's remonstrances,
moved by the same motives which operated with the Brissotins, declared
ultimately in favour of hostilities.[181]

The resolution for war, therefore, predominated in the Assembly, and two
preparatory measures served, as it were, to sound the intentions of the
King on the subject, and to ascertain how far he was disposed to adhere
to the constitutional government which he had accepted, against those
who, in his name, seemed prepared by force of arms to restore the old
system of monarchy. Two decrees were passed against the emigrants in the
Assembly, [Nov. 9.] The first was directed against the King's brother,
and summoned Xavier Stanislaus, Prince of France, to return into France
in two months, upon pain of forfeiting his right to the regency. The
King consented to this decree: he could not, indeed, dissent from it
with consistency, being, as he had consented to be, the holder of the
crown under a constitution, against which his exiled brother had
publicly declared war. The second decree denounced death against all
emigrants who should be found assembled in arms on the 1st of January
next.[182] The right of a nation to punish with extreme pains those of
its native subjects who bear arms against her, has never been disputed.
But although, on great changes of the state, the vanquished party, when
essaying a second struggle, stand in the relation of rebels against the
existing government, yet there is generally wisdom as well as humanity,
in delaying to assert this right in its rigour, until such a period
shall have elapsed, as shall at once have established the new government
in a confirmed state of possession, and given those attached to the old
one time to forget their habits and predilections in its favour.

Under this defence, Louis ventured to use the sole constitutional weapon
with which he was intrusted. He refused his consent to the decree.
Sensible of the unpopularity attending this rejection, the King
endeavoured to qualify it, by issuing a severe proclamation against the
emigrants, countermanding their proceedings;--which was only considered
as an act of dissimulation and hypocrisy.

The decree last proposed, jarred necessarily on the heart and
sensibility of Louis; the next affected his religious scruples. The
National Assembly had produced a schism in the Church, by imposing on
the clergy a constitutional oath, inconsistent with their religious
vows. The philosophers in the present legislative body, with all the
intolerance which they were in the habit of objecting against the
Catholic Church, resolved to render the breach irreparable.

They had, they thought, the opportunity of striking a death's blow at
the religion of the state, and they remembered, that the watch-word
applied by the Encyclopedists to Christianity, had been _Ecrasez
l'Infame_. The proposed decree bore, that such priests as refused the
constitutional oath should forfeit the pension allowed them for
subsistence, when the government seized upon the estates of the clergy;
that they should be put into a state of surveillance, in the several
departments where they resided, and banished from France the instant
they excited any religious dissensions.[183]

A prince, with the genuine principles of philosophy, would have rejected
this law as unjust and intolerant; but Louis had stronger motives to
interpose his constitutional _veto_, as a Catholic Christian, whose
conscience would not permit him to assent to the persecution of the
faithful servants of his Church. He refused his assent to this decree

In attempting to shelter the emigrants and the recusant churchmen, the
King only rendered himself the more immediate object of the popular
resentment. His compassion for the former was probably mingled with a
secret wish, that the success of their arms might relieve him from his
present restraint; at any rate, it was a motive easily imputed, and
difficult to be disproved. He was, therefore, represented to his people
as in close union with the bands of exiled Frenchmen, who menaced the
frontiers of the kingdom, and were about to accompany the foreign armies
on their march to the metropolis. The royal rejection of the decree
against the orthodox clergy was imputed to Louis's superstition, and his
desire of rebuilding an ancient Gothic hierarchy unworthy of an
enlightened age. In short, that was now made manifest, which few wise
men had ever doubted, namely, that so soon as the King should avail
himself of his constitutional right, in resistance to the popular will,
he was sure to incur the risk of losing both his crown and life.[184]

Meantime this danger was accelerated by the consequences of a dissension
in the royal cabinet. It will scarcely be believed, that situations in
the ministry of France, so precarious in its tenure, so dangerous in its
possession, so enfeebled in its authority, should have been, even at
this time, the object of ambition; and that to possess such momentary
and doubtful eminence, men, and wise men too, employed all the usual
arts of intrigue and circumvention, by which rival statesmen, under
settled governments and in peaceful times, endeavour to undermine and
supplant each other. We have heard of criminals in the Scottish
Highlands, who asserted with obstinacy the dignity of their clans, when
the only test of pre-eminence was the priority of execution. We have
read, too, of the fatal raft, where shipwrecked men in the midst of the
Atlantic, contended together with mortal strife for equally useless
preferences. But neither case is equal in extravagance to the conduct of
those rivals, who struggled for power in the cabinet of Louis XVI. in
1792, when, take what party they would, the jealousy of the Assembly,
and the far more fatal proscription of the Jacobins, was sure to be the
reward of their labours. So, however, it was, and the fact serves to
show, that a day of power is more valuable in the eyes of ambition, than
a lifetime of ease and safety.


De Lessart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs already mentioned, had
wished to avoid war, and had fed Leopold and his ministers with hopes,
that the King would be able to establish a constitutional power,
superior to that of the dreadful Jacobins. The Comte de Narbonne, on the
other side, being Minister of War, was desirous to forward the views of
La Fayette, who, as we have said, longed to be at the head of the army.
To obtain his rival's disgrace, Narbonne combined with La Fayette and
other generals to make public the opposition which De Lessart and a
majority of the cabinet ministers had opposed to the declaration of
hostilities. Louis, justly incensed at an appeal to the public from the
interior of his own cabinet, displaced Narbonne.[185]

The legislative body immediately fell on De Lessart. He was called to
stand on his defence, and imprudently laid before the Assembly his
correspondence with Kaunitz, the Austrian minister. In their
communications De Lessart and Kaunitz had spoken with respect of the
constitution, and with moderation even of their most obnoxious measures;
but they had reprobated the violence of the Jacobins and Cordeliers, and
stigmatized the usurpations of those clubs over the constitutional
authorities of the state, whom they openly insulted and controlled.
These moderate sentiments formed the real source of De Lessart's fall.
He was attacked on all sides--by the party of Narbonne and his friends
from rivalry--by Brissot and his followers from policy, and in order to
remove a minister too much of a royalist for their purpose--by the
Jacobins, from hatred and revenge. Yet, when Brissot condescended upon
the following evidence of his guilt, argument and testimony against him
must have indeed been scarce. De Lessart, with the view of representing
the present affairs of France under the most softened point of view to
the Emperor, had assured him that the constitution of 1791 was firmly
adhered to by a _majority_ of the nation.[186] "Hear the atrocious
calumniator!" said the accuser. "The inference is plain. He dares to
insinuate the existence of a minority, which is not attached to the
Constitution."[187] Another accusation, which in like manner was adopted
as valid by the acclamation of the Assembly, was formed thus. A most
horrible massacre[188] had taken place during the tumults which
attended the union of Avignon with the kingdom of France. Vergniaud, the
friend and colleague of Brissot, alleged, that if the decree of union
had been early enough sent to Avignon, the dissensions would not have
taken place; and he charged upon the unhappy De Lessart that he had not
instantly transmitted the official intelligence. Now the decree of
reunion was, as the orator knew, delayed on account of the King's
scruples to accede to what seemed an invasion of the territory of the
Church; and, at any rate, it could no more have prevented the massacre
of Avignon, which was conducted by that same Jourdan, called Coupe-tête,
the Bearded Man of the march to Versailles, than the subsequent massacre
of Paris, perpetrated by similar agents. The orator well knew this; yet,
with eloquence as false as his logic, he summoned the ghosts of the
murdered from the glacière, in which their mangled remains had been
piled, to bear witness against the minister, to whose culpable neglect
they owed their untimely fate. All the while he was imploring for
justice on the head of a man, who was undeniably ignorant and innocent
of the crime, Vergniaud and his friends secretly meditated extending the
mantle of safety over the actual perpetrators of the massacre, by a
decree of amnesty; so that the whole charge against De Lessart can only
be termed a mixture of hypocrisy and cruelty. In the course of the same
discussion, Gauchon, an orator of the suburb of Saint Antoine, in which
lay the strength of the Jacobin interest, had already pronounced
sentence in the cause, at the very bar of the Assembly which was engaged
in trying it. "Royalty may be struck out of the Constitution," said the
demagogue, "but the unity of the legislative body defies the touch of
time. Courtiers, ministers, kings, and their civil lists, may pass away,
but the sovereignty of the people, and the pikes which enforce it, are

This was touching the root of the matter. De Lessart was a royalist,
though a timid and cautious one, and he was to be punished as an example
to such ministers as should dare to attach themselves to their sovereign
and his personal interest. A decree of accusation was passed against
him, and he was sent to Orleans to be tried before the High Court there.
Other royalists of distinction were committed to the same prison, and,
in the fatal month of September, 1792, were involved in the same
dreadful fate.[189]

Pétion, the Mayor of Paris, appeared next day, at the bar, at the head
of the municipality, to congratulate the Assembly on a great act of
justice, which he declared resembled one of those thunder-storms by
which nature purifies the atmosphere from noxious vapours. The ministry
was dissolved by this severe blow on one of the wisest, at least one of
the most moderate, of its members. Narbonne and the Constitutional party
who had espoused his cause, were soon made sensible, that he or they
were to gain nothing by the impeachment, to which their intrigues led
the way. Their claims to share the spoils of the displaced ministry were
passed over with contempt, and the King was compelled, in order to have
the least chance of obtaining a hearing from the Assembly, to select his
ministers from the Brissotin, or Girondist faction, who, though averse
to the existence of a monarchy, and desiring a republic instead, had
still somewhat more of principle and morals than the mere Revolutionists
and Jacobins, who were altogether destitute of both.


With the fall of De Lessart, all chance of peace vanished; as indeed it
had been gradually disappearing before that event. The demands of the
Austrian court went now, when fully explained, so far back upon the
Revolution, that a peace negotiated upon such terms, must have laid
France and all its various parties, (with the exception perhaps of a few
of the first Assembly,) at the foot of the sovereign, and, what might be
more dangerous, at the mercy of the restored emigrants. The Emperor
demanded the establishment of monarchy in France, on the basis of the
royal declaration of 23d June, 1789, which had been generally rejected
by the Tiers Etat when offered to them by the King. He farther demanded
the restoration of the effects of the Church, and that the German
princes having rights in Alsace and Lorraine should be replaced in those
rights, agreeably to the treaty of Westphalia.

The Legislative Assembly received these extravagant terms as an insult
on the national dignity; and the King, whatever might be his sentiments
as an individual, could not, on this occasion, dispense with the duty
his office as Constitutional Monarch imposed upon him. Louis, therefore,
had the melancholy task [April 20] of proposing to an Assembly, filled
with the enemies of his throne and person, a declaration of war against
his brother-in-law the Emperor, in his capacity of King of Hungary and
Bohemia,[190] involving, as matter of course, a civil war with his own
two brothers, who had taken the field at the head of that part of his
subjects from birth and principle the most enthusiastically devoted to
their sovereign's person, and who, if they had faults towards France,
had committed them in love to him.[191]

The proposal was speedily agreed to by the Assembly; for the
Constitutionalists saw their best remaining chance for power was by
obtaining victory on the frontiers,--the Girondists had need of war, as
what must necessarily lead the way to an alteration in the constitution,
and the laying aside the regal government,--and the Jacobins, whose
chief, Robespierre, had just objected enough to give him the character
and credit of a prophet if any reverses were sustained, resisted the war
no longer, but remained armed and watchful, to secure the advantage of
events as they might occur.


[159] Mignet, tom. i., p. 141; Dumont, p. 244.

[160] "One evening M. de Narbonne made use of this expression: 'I appeal
to the most distinguished members of this Assembly.' At that moment the
whole party of the Mountain rose up in a fury, and Merlin, Bazire, and
Chabot, declared, that 'all the deputies were equally
distinguished.'"--M. DE STAËL, tom. ii., p. 39.

[161] Cazalès, one of the most brilliant orators of the Assembly, was
born at Grenade-sur-la-Garonne in 1752. He died in 1805. In 1821, _Les
Discours et Opinions de Cazalès_ were published at Paris, in an octavo

[162] Shortly after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, Maury
retired to Italy, where he became a cardinal. In 1806, he returned to
France, and in 1810 was made, by Napoleon, Archbishop of Paris. He died
at Rome in 1817.

[163] After the 10th of August, 1792, Duport fled to Switzerland, where
he died in 1798.

[164] King John, act ii., sc. i.

[165] Dumont, p. 272; Mignet, tom. i., p. 151.

[166] Hudibras, part iii., c. 2.

[167] Chabot was the principal editor of a paper entitled _Journal
Populaire, ou le Catéchisme des Sans Culottes_. He was guillotined in
April, 1794.

[168] Thiers, tom. ii., p. 12; Mignet, tom. i., p. 152.

[169] Mémoires de Barbaroux, p. 47; Mignet, tom. i., p. 220.

[170] See Annual Register, vol. xxxiv., pp. 70-72, 73.

[171] This work made its appearance in November, 1790; about 30,000
copies were sold; and a French translation, by M. Dupont, quickly spread
its reputation throughout Europe. "The publication of Burke towards the
close of the year 1790," says Lacretelle, "was one of the most
remarkable events of the eighteenth century. It is a history, by
anticipation, of the first fifteen years of the French
Revolution."--Tom. viii., p. 182. "However the arguments of Burke may
seem to have been justified by posterior events, it yet remains to be
shown, that the war-cry then raised against France did not greatly
contribute to the violence which characterised that period. It is
possible that had he merely roused the attention of the governments and
wealthy classes to the dangers of this new political creed, he might
have proved the saviour of Europe; but he made such exaggerated
statements, and used arguments so alarming to freedom, that on many
points he was not only plausibly, but victoriously refuted."--DUMONT, p.

[172] "Guerre aux châteaux, paix aux hamaux."

[173] Clootz was born at Cleves in 1755. Being suspected by Robespierre,
he was, in May, 1794, sent to the guillotine.

[174] Menou was born at Boussay de Loches in 1750. After Buonaparte's
flight from Egypt, he turned Mahometan, submitted to the peculiar rites
of Islamism, and called himself Abdallah James Menou. He died at Venice
in 1810; of which place he had been appointed Governor by Napoleon.

[175] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 52.

[176] See Burke's Works, vol. viii., p. 272.

[177] Their number was at this time, with their families, nearly a
hundred thousand.--See Burke, vol. viii., p. 72, and Lacretelle, tom.
viii., p. 117.

[178] See Lacretelle, tom. viii., p. 117.

[179] Jomini, tom. i., p. 265; Lacretelle, tom. viii., pp. 334, 439; De
Bouillé, p. 422.

[180] See two articles on the pretended treaties of Pavia and Pilnitz,
signed Detector, in the Anti-jacobin Newspaper, July 2, 1798. They were,
we believe, written by the late Mr. Pitt. [Since this work was published
it seems to have become certain that the letters there referred to were
the productions of Lord Grenville, at that time Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs.]--"As far as we have been able to trace," said Mr.
Pitt, in 1800, "the declaration signed at Pilnitz referred to the
imprisonment of Louis: its immediate view was to effect his deliverance,
if a concert sufficiently extensive could be formed for that purpose. I
left the internal state of France to be decided by the King restored to
his liberty, with the free consent of the states of the kingdom, and it
did not contain one word relative to the dismemberment of the
country."--_Parliamentary History_, vol. xxxiv., p. 1316.--S.

[181] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 61; Thiers, tom. ii., p. 48.

[182] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 48.

[183] "The adoption of this oppressive decree was signalized by the
first open expression of _atheistical_ sentiments in the Assembly. 'My
God is the Law; I acknowledge no other,' was the expression of Isnard.
The remonstrance of the constitutional bishops had no effect. The decree
was carried amidst tumult and acclamation."--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p.

[184] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 46.

[185] Mignet, tom. i., p. 164; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 74. "The war
department was intrusted, in December, 1791, to M. de Narbonne. He
employed himself with unfeigned zeal in all the preparations necessary
for the defence of the kingdom. Possessing rank and talents, the manners
of a court, and the views of a philosopher, that which was predominant
in his soul was military honour and French valour. To oppose the
interference of foreigners under whatever circumstances, always seemed
to him the duty of a citizen and a gentleman. His colleagues combined
against him, and succeeded in obtaining his removal. He lost his life at
the siege of Torgau, in 1813."--M. DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 39.

[186] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 77.

[187] This strange argument reminds us of an Essay read before a
literary society in dispraise of the east wind, which the author
supported by quotations from every poem or popular work, in which Eurus
is the subject of invective. The learned auditors sustained the first
part of this infliction with becoming fortitude, but declined submitting
to the second, understanding that the accomplished author had there
fortified himself by the numerous testimonies of almost all poets in
favour of the west, and which, with logic similar to that of M. Brissot
in the text, he regarded as indirect testimony against the east

[188] "On Sunday, the 30th October, 1791, the gates were closed, the
walls guarded so as to render escape impossible, and a band of
assassins, commanded by the barbarous Jourdan, sought out in their own
houses the individuals destined for death. Sixty unhappy wretches were
speedily thrust into prison, where, during the obscurity of night, the
murderers wreaked their vengeance with impunity. One young man put
fourteen to death with his own hand, and only desisted from excess of
fatigue. Twelve women perished, after having undergone tortures which my
pen cannot describe. When vengeance had done its worst, the remains of
the victims were torn and mutilated, and heaped up in a ditch, or thrown
into the Rhone."--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p. 54.

[189] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 75.

[190] "After a long exposition by Dumouriez, the King, with a tremulous
voice, pronounced these words:--'You have heard, gentlemen, the result
of my negotiations with the Court of Vienna: they are conformable to the
sentiments more than once expressed to me by the National Assembly, and
confirmed by the great majority of the kingdom. All prefer a war to the
continuance of outrages to the national honour, or menaces to the
national safety. I have exhausted all the means of pacification in my
power; I now come, in terms of the Constitution, to propose to the
Assembly, that we should declare war against the King of Hungary and
Bohemia.'"--MIGNET, tom. i., p. 168; _Annual Register_, vol. xxxiv., p.
201; DUMOURIEZ, vol. ii., p. 272.

[191] "I was present at the sitting in which Louis was forced to a
measure which was necessarily painful to him in so many ways. His
features were not expressive of his thoughts, but it was not from
dissimulation that he concealed them; a mixture of resignation and
dignity repressed in him every outward sign of his sentiments. On
entering the Assembly, he looked to the right and left, with that kind
of vacant curiosity which is usual to persons who are so shortsighted
that their eyes seem to be of no use to them. He proposed war in the
same tone of voice as he might have used in requiring the most
indifferent decree possible."--M. DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 40.


    _Defeats of the French on the Frontier--Decay of
    Constitutionalists--They form the Club of Feuillans, and are
    dispersed by the Jacobins--The Ministry--Dumouriez--Breach of
    confidence betwixt the King and his Ministers--Dissolution of
    the King's Constitutional Guard--Extravagant measures of the
    Jacobins--Alarms of the Girondists--Departmental Army
    proposed--King puts his Veto on the decree, against Dumouriez's
    representations--Decree against the recusant Priests--King
    refuses it--Letter of the Ministers to the King--He dismisses
    Roland, Clavière, and Servan--Dumouriez, Duranton, and Lacoste,
    appointed in their stead--King ratifies the decree concerning
    the Departmental Army--Dumouriez resigns, and departs for the
    Frontiers--New Ministers named from the Constitutionalists--
    Insurrection of 20th June--Armed Mob intrude into the
    Assembly--Thence into the Tuileries--La Fayette repairs to
    Paris--Remonstrates in favour of the King--But is compelled to
    return to the Frontiers--Marseillois appear in Paris--Duke of
    Brunswick's manifesto._

It is not our purpose here to enter into any detail of military events.
It is sufficient to say, that the first results of the war were more
disastrous than could have been expected, even from the want of
discipline and state of mutiny in which this call to arms found the
troops of France. If Austria, never quick at improving an opportunity,
had possessed more forces on the Flemish frontier, or had even pressed
her success with the troops she had, events might have occurred to
influence, if not to alter, the fortunes of France and her King. They
were inactive, however, and La Fayette, who was at the head of the army,
exerted himself, not without effect, to rally the spirits of the French,
and infuse discipline and confidence into their ranks. But he was able
to secure no success of so marked a character, as to correspond with the
reputation he had acquired in America; so that as the Austrians were few
in number, and not very decisive in their movements, the war seemed to
languish on both sides.

In Paris, the absence of La Fayette had removed the main stay from the
Constitutional interests, which were now nearly reduced to that state of
nullity to which they had themselves reduced the party, first of pure
Royalists, and then that of the _Moderés_, or friends of limited
monarchy, in the first Assembly. The wealthier classes, indeed,
continued a fruitless attachment to the Constitutionalists, which
gradually diminished with their decreased power to protect their
friends. At length this became so contemptible, that their enemies were
emboldened to venture upon an insult, which showed how little they were
disposed to keep measures with a feeble adversary.


Among other plans, by which they hoped to counterpoise the omnipotence
of the Jacobin Club, the Constitutionalists had established a counter
association, termed, from its place of meeting,[192] Les Feuillans. In
this club,--which included about two hundred members of the Legislative
Body, the ephemeral rival of the great Jacobinical forge in which the
Revolutionists had their strength and fabricated their thunders,--there
was more eloquence, argument, learning, and wit, than was necessary; but
the Feuillans wanted the terrible power of exciting the popular
passions, which the orators of the Jacobin Club possessed and wielded at
pleasure. These opposed factions might be compared to two swords, of
which one had a gilded and ornamented hilt, but a blade formed of glass
or other brittle substance, while the brazen handle of the other
corresponded in strength and coarseness to the steel of the weapon
itself. When two such weapons came into collision, the consequence may
be anticipated, and it was so with the opposite clubs. The Jacobins,
after many preparatory insults, went down upon and assailed their
adversaries with open force, insulting and dispersing them with blows
and violence; while Pétion, the mayor of Paris, who was present on the
occasion, consoled the fugitives, by assuring them that the law indeed
protected them, but the people having pronounced against them, it was
not for him to enforce the behests of the law, in opposition to the will
of that people, from whom the law originated.[193] A goodly medicine for
their aching bones!

The Constitutional party amidst their general humiliation, had lost
almost all influence in the ministry, and could only communicate with
the King underhand, and in a secret manner,--as if they had been, in
fact, his friends and partisans, not the cause of, or willing consenters
to, his present imprisoned and disabled condition. Of six ministers, by
whom De Lessart and his comrades had been replaced, the husband of
Madame Roland, and two others, Servan[194] and Clavière,[195] were
zealous republicans; Duranthon[196] and Lacoste[197] were moderate in
their politics, but timorous in character; the sixth, Dumouriez, who
held the war department, was the personal rival of La Fayette, both in
civil and military matters, and the enemy, therefore, of the
Constitutional party. It is now, for the first time, that we mention one
of those names renowned in military history, which had the address to
attract Victory to the French banners, to which she so long appeared to
adhere without shadow of changing. Dumouriez passed early from the
scene, but left his name strongly written in the annals of France.

Dumouriez was little in person, but full of vivacity and talent; a brave
soldier, having distinguished himself in the civil dissensions of
Poland; an able and skilful intriguer, and well-fitted to play a
conspicuous part in times of public confusion. He has never been
supposed to possess any great firmness of principle, whether public or
private; but a soldier's honour, and a soldier's frankness, together
with the habits of good society, led him to contemn and hate the sordid
treachery, cruelty, and cynicism of the Jacobins; while his wit and
common sense enabled him to see through and deride the affected and
pedantic fanaticism of republican zeal of the Girondists, who, he
plainly saw, were amusing themselves with schemes to which the country
of France, the age, and the state of manners, were absolutely opposed.
Thus, he held the situation of minister at war, coquetting with all
parties; wearing one evening in the Jacobin Club the red night-cap,
which was the badge of breechless freedom, and the next, with better
sincerity, advising the King how he might avoid the approaching evils;
though the by-roads he pointed out were often too indirect to be trodden
by the good and honest prince, to whom Providence had, in Dumouriez,
assigned a counsellor better fitted to a less scrupulous sovereign. The
King nevertheless reposed considerable confidence in the general, which,
if not answered with all the devotion of loyalty, was at least never

The Republican ministers were scarcely qualified by their talents, to
assume the air of Areopagites, or Roman tribunes. Roland, by himself,
was but a tiresome pedant, and he could not bring his wife to the
cabinet council, although it is said she attempted to make her way to
the ministerial dinners.[199] His colleagues were of the same character,
and affected in their intercourse with the King a stoical contempt of
the forms of the court,[200] although in effect, these are like other
courtesies of society, which it costs little to observe, and is brutal
to neglect.[201] Besides petty insults of this sort, there was a total
want of confidence on both sides, in the intercourse betwixt them and
the King. If the ministers were desirous to penetrate his sentiments on
any particular subject, Louis evaded them by turning the discourse on
matters of vague and general import; and did he, on the other hand,
press them to adopt any particular measure, they were cold and reserved,
and excused themselves under the shelter of their personal
responsibility. Indeed, how was it possible that confidence could exist
betwixt the King and his Republican ministers, when the principal object
of the latter was to procure the abolition of the regal dignity, and
when the former was completely aware that such was their purpose?


The first step adopted by the factions of Girondists and Jacobins, who
moved towards the same object side by side, though not hand in hand, was
to deprive the King of a guard, assigned him by the Constitution, in
lieu of his disbanded _gardes du corps_. It was, indeed, of doubtful
loyalty, being partly levied from soldiers of the line, partly from the
citizens, and imbued in many cases with the revolutionary spirit of the
day; but they were officered by persons selected for their attachment to
the King, and even their name of Guards expressed and inspired an
_esprit de corps_, which might be formidable. Various causes of
suspicion were alleged against this guard--that they kept in their
barracks a white flag (which proved to be the ornament of a cake
presented to them by the Dauphin)--that their sword-hilts were formed
into the fashion of a cock, which announced some anti-revolutionary
enigma--that attempts were made to alienate them from the Assembly, and
fix their affections on the King. The guard contained several spies, who
had taken that service for the purpose of betraying its secrets to the
Jacobins. Three or four of these men, produced at the bar, affirmed much
that was, and much that was not true; and amid the causes they had for
distrusting the King, and their reasons for desiring to weaken him, the
Assembly decreed the reduction of the Constitutional Guard. The King was
with difficulty persuaded not to oppose his _veto_, and was thus left
almost totally undefended to the next blast of the revolutionary

Every successive proceeding of the factions tended to show more strongly
that the storm was speedily to arise. The invention of the Jacobins
exhausted itself in proposing and adopting revolutionary measures so
extravagant, that very shame prevented the Girondists from becoming
parties to them. Such was the carrying the atrocious cut-throat Jourdan
in triumph through the streets of Avignon, where he had piled eighty
carcasses into a glacière in the course of one night.[203] A less
atrocious, but no less insolent proceeding, was the feast given in
honour of the regiment of Chateauvieux, whose mutiny had been put down
at Nancy by M. de Bouillé, acting under the express decree of the first
National Assembly.[204]

In a word, understanding much better than the Brissotins the taste of
the vulgar for what was most violent, gross, and exaggerated, the
Jacobins purveyed for them accordingly, filled their ears with the most
incredible reports, and gulled their eyes by the most absurd pageants.


The Girondists, retaining some taste and some principle, were left far
behind in the race of vulgar popularity, where he that throws off every
mark of decency bids most fair to gain the prize. They beheld with
mortification feats which they could not emulate, and felt that their
own assertions of their attachment to freedom, emphatic as they were,
seemed cold and spiritless compared to the extravagant and flaming
declamations of the Jacobins. They regarded with envy the advantages
which their rivals acquired by those exaggerated proceedings, and were
startled to find how far they were like to be outstripped by those
uncompromising and unhesitating demagogues. The Girondists became
sensible that a struggle approached, in which, notwithstanding their
strength in the Assembly, they must be vanquished, unless they could
raise up some body of forces, entirely dependent on themselves, to be
opposed in time of need to the Jacobin insurgents. This was indeed
essentially necessary to their personal safety, and to the stability of
their power. If they looked to the national guard, they found such of
that body as were no longer attached to La Fayette wearied of
revolutions, unmoved by the prospect of a republic, and only desirous to
protect their shops and property. If they turned their eyes to the lower
orders, and especially the suburbs, the myriads of pikemen which they
could pour forth were all devoted to the Jacobins, from whom their
leaders received orders and regular pay.

The scheme of a departmental army was resorted to by the Girondists as
the least startling, yet most certain mode of bringing together a
military force sufficient to support the schemes of the new
administration. Five men were to be furnished by every canton in France,
which would produce a body of 20,000 troops, to be armed and trained
under the walls of Paris. This force was to serve as a central army to
reinforce the soldiers on the frontier, and maintain order in the
capital, as occasion should demand. The measure, proposed by the
Girondists, was unexpectedly furthered by the Jacobins, who plainly saw,
that through the means of their affiliated societies which existed in
every canton, they would be able to dictate the choice of so large a
part of the departmental army, that, when assembled, it should add to
the power of their insurrectionary bands at Paris, instead of
controlling them.[205]

The citizens of Paris were disposed to consider this concourse of
undisciplined troops under the walls of the city as dangerous to its
safety, and an insult to the national guard, hitherto thought adequate
to the defence of the metropolis. They petitioned the Assembly against
the measure, and even invoked the King to reject the decree, when it
should pass through that body.

To this course Louis was himself sufficiently inclined; for neither he
nor any one doubted that the real object of the Girondists was to bring
together such an army, as would enable them to declare their beloved
republic without fear of La Fayette, even if he should find himself able
to bring the army which he commanded to his own sentiments on the

Dumouriez warned Louis against following this course of direct
opposition to the Assembly. He allowed, that the ultimate purpose of the
proposal was evident to every thinking person, but still its ostensible
object being the protection of the country and capital, the King, he
said, would, in the eyes of the vulgar, be regarded as a favourer of the
foreign invasion, if he objected to a measure represented as essential
to the protection of Paris. He undertook, as Minister of War, that as
fast as a few hundreds of the departmental forces arrived, he would have
them regimented and dismissed to the frontier, where their assistance
was more necessary than at home. But all his remonstrances on this
subject were in vain. Louis resolved at all risks to place his _veto_ on
the measure.[206] He probably relied on the feelings of the national
guard, of which one or two divisions were much attached to him, while
the dispositions of the whole had been certainly ameliorated, from their
fear of fresh confusion by means of these new levies. Perhaps, also, the
King could not bring himself at once to trust the versatile disposition
of Dumouriez, whose fidelity, however, we see no reason for suspecting.

Another renewed point of discussion and disagreement betwixt the King
and his ministers, respected the recusant clergy. A decree was passed in
the Assembly, that such priests as might be convicted of a refusal to
subscribe the oath to the civil Constitution, should be liable to
deportation. This was a point of conscience with Louis, and was probably
brought forward in order to hasten him into a resignation of the crown.
He stood firm accordingly, and determined to oppose his _veto_ to this
decree also, [June 12,] in spite at once of all the arguments which the
worldly prudence of Dumouriez could object, and of the urgency of the
Republican ministers.[207]


The firm refusal of the King disconcerted the measures of the Girondist
counsellors. Madame Roland undertook to make the too scrupulous monarch
see the errors of his ways; and composed, in name of her husband and two
of his colleagues, a long letter, to which Dumouriez and the other two
refused to place their names. It was written in what the Citoyenne
termed "an austere tone of truth;"[208] that is to say, without any of
the usual marks of deference and respect, and with a harshness
calculated to jar all the feelings, affectionate or religious, of him
whom they still called King. Alas! the severest and most offensive
truths, however late in reaching the ears of powerful and prosperous
monarchs, make themselves sternly loud to those princes who are captive
and unfriended. Louis might have replied to this rude expostulation,
like the knight who received a blow from an enemy when he was disarmed,
and a prisoner,--"There is little bravery in this _now_." The King,
however, gave way to his resentment as far as he could. He dismissed
Roland, Servan, and Clavière, and with difficulty prevailed on
Dumouriez, Duranthon, and Lacoste, to retain their situations, and
endeavour to supply the place of those whom he had deprived of office;
but he was obliged to purchase their adherence, by ratifying the decree
concerning the federal or departmental army of twenty thousand men, on
condition that they should rendezvous at Soissons, not at Paris. On the
decree against the priests, his resolution continued unmoved and
immovable. Thus Religion, which had for half a century been so slightly
regarded in France, at length interposed her influence in deciding the
fate of the King and the kingdom.

The three discarded ministers affected to congratulate each other on
being released from scenes so uncongenial to their republican virtues
and sentiments, as the ante-chambers of a court, where men were forced
to wear buckles instead of shoe-strings, or undergo the frowns of ushers
and masters of ceremonies, and where patriotic tongues were compelled to
practise court-language, and to address a being of the same flesh and
blood as their own, with the titles of Sire, and your Majesty. The
unhappy pedants were not long in learning that there are constraints
worse to undergo than the etiquette of a court, and sterner despots to
be found in the ranks of a republic, than the good-humoured and lenient
Louis. As soon as dismissed, they posted to the Assembly, to claim the
applause due to suffering virtue, and to exhibit their letter to those
for whose ears it was really written--the sympathizing democrats and the

They were, accordingly, as victims of their democratic zeal, received
with acclamation; but the triumph of those who bestowed it, was
unexpectedly qualified and diminished. Dumouriez, who spoke fluently,
and had collected proofs for such a moment, overwhelmed the Assembly by
a charge of total neglect and incapacity, against Roland and his two
colleagues. He spoke of unrecruited armies, ungarrisoned forts,
unprovided commissariats, in a tone which compelled the Assembly to
receive his denunciations against his late associates in the ministry.

But although his unpleasant and threatening communications made a
momentary impression on the Assembly, almost in spite of themselves, the
wily and variable orator saw that he could only maintain his ground as
minister, by procuring, if possible, the assent of the King to the
decree against the recusant clergy. He made a final attempt, along with
his ephemeral colleagues; stated his conviction, that the refusal of the
King, if persisted in, would be the cause of insurrection; and, finally,
tendered his resignation, in case their urgent advice should be
neglected. "Think not to terrify me by threats," replied Louis. "My
resolution is fixed." Dumouriez was not a man to perish under the ruins
of the throne which he could not preserve. His resignation was again
tendered and accepted, not without marks of sensibility on the King's
part and his own; and having thus saved a part of his credit with the
Assembly, who respected his talents, and desired to use them against the
invaders, he departed from Paris to the frontiers, to lead the van among
the French victors.[210]

Louis was now left to the pitiless storm of revolution, without the
assistance of any one who could in the least assist him in piloting
through the tempest. The few courtiers--or, much better named--the few
ancient and attached friends, who remained around his person, possessed
neither talents nor influence to aid him; they could but lament his
misfortunes and share his ruin. He himself expressed a deep conviction,
that his death was near at hand, yet the apprehension neither altered
his firmness upon points to which he esteemed his conscience was party,
nor changed the general quiet placidity of his temper. A negotiation to
resign his crown was, perhaps, the only mode which remained, affording
even a chance to avert his fate; but the days of deposed monarchs are
seldom long, and no pledge could have assured Louis that any terms which
the Girondists might grant, would have been ratified by their sterner
and uncompromising rivals of the Jacobin party. These men had been long
determined to make his body the step to their iniquitous power. They
affected to feel for the cause of the people, with the zeal which goes
to slaying. They had heaped upon the crown, and its unhappy wearer, all
the guilt and all the misfortunes of the Revolution; it was incumbent on
them to show that they were serious in their charge, by rendering Louis
a sin-offering for the nation. On the whole, it was the more kingly part
not to degrade himself by his own voluntary act, but to await the period
which was to close at once his life and his reign. He named his last
Ministry from the dispirited remnants of the Constitutional party, which
still made a feeble and unsupported struggle against the Girondists and
Jacobins in the Assembly. They did not long enjoy their precarious

The factions last named were now united in the purpose of precipitating
the King from his throne by actual and direct force. The voice of the
Girondists Vergniaud had already proclaimed in the Assembly. "Terror,"
he said, "must, in the name of the people, burst her way into yonder
palace, whence she has so often sallied forth at the command of

Though the insurrection was resolved upon, and thus openly announced,
each faction was jealous of the force which the other was to employ, and
apprehensive of the use which might be made of it against themselves,
after the conquest was obtained. But however suspicious of each other,
they were still more desirous of their common object, the destruction of
the throne, and the erection of a republic, which the Brissotins
supposed they could hold under their rule, and which the Jacobins were
determined to retain under their misrule. An insurrection was at length
arranged, which had all the character of that which brought the King a
prisoner from Versailles, the Jacobins being the prime movers of their
desperate followers, and the actors on both occasions; while the
Girondists, on the 20th June, 1792, hoped, like the Constitutionalists
on the 6th October, 1789, to gain the advantage of the enterprise which
their own force would have been unable to accomplish. The community, or
magistracy, of Paris, which was entirely under the dominion of
Robespierre, Danton, and the Jacobins, had been long providing for such
an enterprise, and under pretext that they were arming the lower classes
against invasion, had distributed pikes and other weapons to the
rabble, who were to be used on this occasion.


On the 20th of June, the Sans Culottes of the suburbs of Saint Marçeau
and Saint Antoine assembled together, armed with pikes, scythes,
hay-forks, and weapons of every description, whether those actually
forged for the destruction of mankind, or those which, invented for
peaceful purposes, are readily converted by popular fury into offensive
arms. They seemed, notwithstanding their great numbers to act under
authority, and amid their cries, their songs, their dances, and the wild
intermixture of grotesque and fearful revel, appeared to move by
command, and to act with a unanimity that gave the effect of order to
that which was in itself confusion. They were divided into bodies, and
had their leaders. Standards also were displayed, carefully selected to
express the character and purpose of the wretches who were assembled
under them. One ensign was a pair of tattered breeches, with the motto,
"Vivent les Sans Culottes." Another ensign-bearer, dressed in black,
carried on a long pole a hog's harslet, that is, part of the entrails of
that animal, still bloody, with the legend, "La fressure d'un
Aristocrat." This formidable assemblage was speedily recruited by the
mob of Paris, to an immense multitude, whose language, gestures, and
appearance, all combined to announce some violent catastrophe.

The terrified citizens, afraid of general pillage, concentrated
themselves,--not to defend the King or protect the National Assembly,
but for the preservation of the Palais Royal, where the splendour of the
shops was most likely to attract the cupidity of the Sans Culottes. A
strong force of armed citizens guarded all the avenues to this temple of
Mammon, and, by excluding the insurgents from its precincts, showed what
they could have done for the Hall of the Legislature, or the palace of
the monarch, had the cause of either found favour in their eyes.[212]

The insurrection rolled on to the hall of the Assembly, surrounded the
alarmed deputies, and filled with armed men every avenue of approach;
talked of a petition which they meant to present, and demanded to file
through the hall to display the force by which it was supported. The
terrified members had nothing better to reply, than by a request that
the insurgents should only enter the Assembly by a representative
deputation--at least that, coming in a body, they should leave their
arms behind. The formidable petitioners laughed at both proposals, and
poured through the hall, shaking in triumph their insurrectionary
weapons.[213] The Assembly, meanwhile, made rather an ignoble figure;
and their attempts to preserve an outward appearance of indifference,
and even of cordiality towards their foul and frightful visitants, have
been aptly compared to a band of wretched comedians, endeavouring to
mitigate the resentment of a brutal and incensed audience.[214]


From the hall of the Assembly, the populace rushed to the Tuileries.
Preparations had been made for defence, and several bodies of troops
were judiciously placed, who, with the advantages afforded by the gates
and walls, might have defended their posts against the armed rabble
which approached. But there was neither union, loyalty, nor energy, in
those to whom the defence was intrusted, nor did the King, by placing
himself at their head, attempt to give animation to their courage.

The national guards drew off at the command of the two municipal
officers, decked with their scarfs of office, who charged them not to
oppose the will of the people. The grates were dashed to pieces with
sledge hammers. The gates of the palace itself were shut, but the
rabble, turning a cannon upon them, compelled entrance, and those
apartments of royal magnificence, so long the pride of France, were laid
open to the multitude, like those of Troy to her invaders:--

    Apparet domus intus, et atria longa patescunt,
    Apparent Priami et veterum penetralia regum.[215]

The august palace of the proud house of Bourbon lay thus exposed to the
rude gaze, and vulgar tread, of a brutal and ferocious rabble. Who dared
have prophesied such an event to the royal founders of this stately
pile--to the chivalrous Henry of Navarre, or the magnificent Louis
XIV.!--The door of the apartment entering into the vestibule was opened
by the hand of Louis himself, the ill-fated representative of this lofty
line. He escaped with difficulty the thrust of a bayonet, made as the
door was in the act of expanding. There were around him a handful of
courtiers, and a few of the grenadiers of the national guard belonging
to the section of Filles Saint Thomas, which had been always
distinguished for fidelity. They hurried and almost forced the King into
the embrazure of a window, erected a sort of barricade in front with
tables, and stood beside him as his defenders. The crowd, at their first
entrance, levelled their pikes at Madame Elizabeth, whom they mistook
for the Queen. "Why did you undeceive them?" said the heroic princess to
those around her--"It might have saved the life of my sister."[216] Even
the insurgents were affected by this trait of heroism. They had
encountered none of those obstacles which chafe such minds and make them
thirsty of blood, and it would seem that their leaders had not received
decided orders, or, having received them, did not think the time served
for their execution. The insurgents defiled through the apartments, and
passed the King, now joined by the Queen with her children. The former,
though in the utmost personal danger, would not be separated from her
husband, exclaiming, that her post was by his side; the latter were
weeping with terror at a scene so horrible.

The people seemed moved, or rather their purpose was deprived of that
energetic unanimity which had hitherto carried them so far. Some shouted
against the veto--some against the unconstitutional priests, some more
modestly called out for lowering the price of bread and butcher-meat.
One of them flung a red cap to the King, who quietly drew it upon his
head; another offered him a bottle, and commanded him to drink to the
Nation. No glass could be had, and he was obliged to drink out of the
bottle. These incidents are grotesque and degrading, but they are
redeemed by one of much dignity. "Fear nothing, Sire," said one of the
faithful grenadiers of the national guard who defended him. The King
took his hand, and pressing it to his heart, replied, "Judge yourself if
I fear."[217]

Various leaders of the Republicans were present at this extraordinary
scene, in the apartments, or in the garden,[218] and expressed
themselves according to their various sentiments. "What a figure they
have made of him with the red night-cap and the bottle!" said Manuel,
the Procureur of the Commune of Paris.--"What a magnificent spectacle!"
said the artist David, looking out upon the tumultuary sea of pikes,
agitated by fifty thousand hands, as they rose and sunk, welked and
waved;--"Tremble, tremble, tyrants!"--"They are in a fair train," said
the fierce Gorsas; "we shall soon see their pikes garnished with several
heads." The crowds who thrust forward into the palace and the presence,
were pressed together till the heat increased almost to suffocation, nor
did there appear any end to the confusion.

Late and slow, the Legislative Assembly did at length send a deputation
of twenty-five members, headed by Vergniaud and Isnard, to the palace.
Their arrival put an end to the tumult; for Pétion, the Mayor of Paris,
and the other authorities, who had hitherto been wellnigh passive, now
exerted themselves to clear away the armed populace from the palace and
gardens, and were so readily obeyed, that it was evident similar efforts
would have entirely prevented the insurrection. The "poor and virtuous
people," as Robespierre used to call them, with an affected unction of
pronunciation, retired for once with their pikes unbloodied, not a
little marvelling why they had been called together for such a harmless

That a mine so formidable should have exploded without effect, gave some
momentary advantages to the party at whose safety it was aimed. Men of
worth exclaimed against the infamy of such a gratuitous insult to the
crown, while it was still called a Constitutional authority. Men of
substance dreaded the recurrence of such acts of revolutionary violence,
and the commencement of riots, which were likely to end in pillage.
Petitions were presented to the Assembly, covered with the names of
thousands, praying that the leaders of the insurgents should be brought
to punishment; while the King demanded, in a tone which seemed to appeal
to France and to Europe, some satisfaction for his insulted dignity, the
violation of his palace, and the danger of his person.[220] But La
Fayette, at the head of an army whose affections he was supposed to
possess, was the most formidable intercessor. He had, two or three days
before, [June 16,] transmitted to the Assembly a letter, or rather a
remonstrance,[221] in which, speaking in the name of the army, as well
as his own, he expressed the highest dissatisfaction with the recent
events at Paris, complaining of the various acts of violation of the
constitution, and the personal disrespect offered to the King. This
letter of itself had been accounted an enormous offence, both by the
Jacobins and the Girondists; but the tumult of the 20th of June roused
the general to bolder acts of intercession.


On the 28th of the same month of June, all parties heard with as much
interest as anxiety, that General La Fayette was in Paris. He came,
indeed, only with a part of his staff. Had he brought with him a
moderate body of troops upon whom he could have absolutely depended, his
presence so supported, in addition to his influence in Paris, would have
settled the point at issue. But the general might hesitate to diminish
the French army then in front of the enemy, and by doing so to take on
himself the responsibility of what might happen in his absence; or, as
it appeared from subsequent events, he may not have dared to repose the
necessary confidence in any corps of his army, so completely had they
been imbued with the revolutionary spirit. Still his arrival, thus
slightly attended, indicated a confidence in his own resources, which
was calculated to strike the opposite party with anxious apprehension.

He appeared at the bar of the Assembly, and addressed the members in a
strain of decision, which had not been lately heard on the part of those
who pleaded the royal cause in that place. He denounced the authors of
the violence committed on the 20th of June, declared that several corps
of his army had addressed him, and that he came to express their horror,
as well as his own, at the rapid progress of faction; and to demand that
such measures should be taken as to ensure the defenders of France, that
while they were shedding their blood on the frontiers, the Constitution,
for which they combated, should not be destroyed by traitors in the
interior. This speech, delivered by a man of great courage and redoubted
influence, had considerable effect. The Girondists, indeed, proposed to
inquire, whether La Fayette had permission from the minister of war to
leave the command of his army; and sneeringly affirmed, that the
Austrians must needs have retreated from the frontier, since the general
of the French army had returned to Paris: but a considerable majority
preferred the motion of the Constitutionalist Ramond, who, eulogizing La
Fayette as the eldest son of liberty, proposed an inquiry into the
causes and object of those factious proceedings of which he had

Thus happily commenced La Fayette's daring enterprise; but those by whom
he expected to be supported did not rally around him. To disperse the
Jacobin club was probably his object, but no sufficient force gathered
about him to encourage the attempt. He ordered for the next day a
general review of the national guards, in hopes, doubtless, that they
would have recognised the voice which they had obeyed with such
unanimity of submission; but this civic force was by no means in the
state in which he had left them at his departure. The several corps of
grenadiers, which were chiefly drawn from the more opulent classes, had
been, under pretence of the general principle of equality, melted down
and united with those composed of men of an inferior description, and
who had a more decided revolutionary tendency. Many officers, devoted to
La Fayette and the Constitution, had been superseded; and the service
was, by studied contumely and ill usage, rendered disgusting to those
who avowed the same sentiments, or displayed any remaining attachment to
the sovereign. By such means Pétion, the mayor of Paris, had now
authority enough with the civic army to prevent the review from taking
place. A few grenadiers of different sections did indeed muster, but
their number was so small that they dispersed in haste and alarm.

The Girondists and Jacobins, closely united at this crisis, began to
take heart, yet dared not on their part venture to arrest the general.
Meantime La Fayette saw no other means of saving the King than to
propose his anew attempting an escape from Paris, which he offered to
further by every means in his power. The plan was discussed, but
dismissed in consequence of the Queen's prejudices against La Fayette,
whom, not unnaturally, (though as far as regarded intention certainly
unjustly,) she looked upon as the original author of the King's
misfortunes.[223] After two days lingering in Paris, La Fayette found it
necessary to return to the army which he commanded, and leave the King
to his fate.[224]

La Fayette's conduct on this occasion may always be opposed to any
aspersions thrown on his character at the commencement of the
Revolution; for, unquestionably, in June 1792, he exposed his own life
to the most imminent danger, in order to protect that of the King, and
the existence of royalty. Yet he must himself have felt a lesson, which
his fate may teach to others; how perilous, namely, it is, to set the
example of violent and revolutionary courses, and what dangerous
precedents such rashness may afford to those who use similar means for
carrying events to still further extremities. The march to Versailles,
6th October, 1789, in which La Fayette to a certain degree co-operated,
and of which he reaped all the immediate advantage, had been the means
of placing Louis in that precarious situation from which he was now so
generously anxious to free him. It was no less La Fayette's own act, by
means of his personal aid-de-camp, to bring back the person of the King
to Paris from Varennes; whereas he was now recommending, and offering to
further his escape, by precisely such measures as his interference had
then thwarted.


Notwithstanding the low state of the royal party, one constituted
authority, amongst so many, had the courage to act offensively on the
weaker and the injured side. The Directory of the Department (or
province) of Paris, declared against the mayor, imputed to him the blame
of the scandalous excesses of the 20th of June, and suspended him and
Manuel, the Procureur of the Community of Paris, from their offices,
[July 6.] This judgment was affirmed by the King. But, under the
protection of the Girondists and Jacobins, Pétion appealed to the
Assembly, where the demon of discord seemed now let loose, as the
advantage was contended for by at least three parties, avowedly distinct
from each other, together with innumerable subdivisions of opinion. And
yet, in the midst of such complicated and divided interests, such
various and furious passions, two individuals, a lady and a bishop,
undertook to restore general concord, and, singular to tell, they had a
momentary success. Olympia de Gouges was an ardent lover of liberty, but
she united with this passion an intense feeling of devotion, and a turn
like that entertained by our friends the Quakers, and other sects who
affect a transcendental love of the human kind, and interpret the
doctrines of Christian morality in the most strict and literal sense.
This person had sent abroad several publications recommending to all
citizens of France, and the deputies especially of the Assembly, to
throw aside personal views, and form a brotherly and general union with
heart and hand, in the service of the public.

The same healing overture, as it would have been called in the civil
dissensions of England, was brought before the Assembly, [July 9,] and
recommended by the constitutional Bishop of Lyons, the Abbé L'Amourette.
This good-natured orator affected to see, in the divisions which rent
the Assembly to pieces, only the result of an unfortunate error--a
mutual misunderstanding of each other's meaning. "You," he said to the
Republican members, "are afraid of an undue attachment to aristocracy;
you dread the introduction of the English system of two Chambers into
the Constitution. You of the right hand, on the contrary, misconstrue
your peaceful and ill-understood brethren, so far as to suppose them
capable of renouncing monarchy, as established by the Constitution. What
then remains to extinguish these fatal divisions, but for each party to
disown the designs falsely imputed to them, and for the Assembly united
to swear anew their devotion to the Constitution, as it has been
bequeathed to us by the Constituent Assembly!"

This speech, wonderful as it may seem, had the effect of magic. The
deputies of every faction, Royalist, Constitutionalist, Girondist,
Jacobin, and Orleanist, rushed into each other's arms, and mixed tears
with the solemn oaths by which they renounced the innovations supposed
to be imputed to them. The King was sent for to enjoy this spectacle of
concord, so strangely and so unexpectedly renewed. But the feeling,
though strong,--and it might be with many overpowering for the
moment,--was but like oil spilt on the raging sea, or rather like a shot
fired across the waves of a torrent, which, though it counteracts them
by its momentary impulse, cannot for a second alter their course. The
factions, like Le Sage's demons, detested each other the more for having
been compelled to embrace, and from the name and country of the
benevolent bishop, the scene was long called, in ridicule, "_Le Baiser
d'Amourette_," and "_La réconciliation Normande_."[225]

The next public ceremony showed how little party spirit had been abated
by this singular scene. The King's acceptance of the Constitution was
repeated in the Champ de Mars before the Federates, or deputies sent up
to represent the various departments of France; and the figure made by
the King during that pageant, formed a striking and melancholy parallel
with his actual condition in the state. With hair powdered and dressed,
with clothes embroidered in the ancient court-fashion, surrounded and
crowded unceremoniously by men of the lowest rank, and in the most
wretched garbs, he seemed something belonging to a former age, but which
in the present has lost its fashion and value. He was conducted to the
Champ de Mars under a strong guard, and by a circuitous route, to avoid
the insults of the multitude, who dedicated their applauses to the
Girondist Mayor of Paris, exclaiming "Pétion or death!" When he ascended
the altar to go through the ceremonial of the day, all were struck with
the resemblance to a victim led to sacrifice, and the Queen so much so,
that she exclaimed, and nearly fainted. A few children alone called,
"Vive le Roi!" This was the last time Louis was seen in public until he
mounted the scaffold.[226]

The departure of La Fayette renewed the courage of the Girondists, and
they proposed a decree of impeachment against him in the Assembly [Aug.
8]; but the spirit which the general's presence had awakened was not yet
extinguished, and his friends in the Assembly undertook his defence with
a degree of unexpected courage, which alarmed their antagonists.[227]
Nor could their fears be termed groundless. The constitutional general
might march his army upon Paris, or he might make some accommodation
with the foreign invaders, and receive assistance from them to
accomplish such a purpose. It seemed to the Girondists, that no time was
to be lost. They determined not to trust to the Jacobins, to whose want
of resolution they seem to have ascribed the failure of the insurrection
on the 20th of June. They resolved upon occasion of the next effort, to
employ some part of that departmental force, which was now approaching
Paris in straggling bodies, under the name of Federates. The affiliated
clubs had faithfully obeyed the mandates of the parent society of the
Jacobins, by procuring that the most stanch and exalted Revolutionists
should be sent on this service. These men, or the greater part of them,
chose to visit Paris, rather than to pass straight to their rendezvous
at Soissons. As they believed themselves the armed representatives of
the country, they behaved with all the insolence which the consciousness
of bearing arms gives to those who are unaccustomed to discipline. They
walked in large bodies in the garden of the Tuileries, and when any
persons of the royal family appeared, they insulted the ladies with
obscene language and indecent songs, the men with the most hideous
threats. The Girondists resolved to frame a force, which might be called
their own, out of such formidable materials.

[Sidenote: BARBAROUX.]

Barbaroux, one of the most enthusiastic admirers of the Revolution, a
youth, like the Séide of Voltaire's tragedy,[228] filled with the most
devoted enthusiasm for a cause of which he never suspected the truth,
offered to bring up a battalion of Federates from his native city of
Marseilles, men, as he describes them, who knew how to die, and who, as
it proved, understood at least as well how to kill. In raking up the
disgusting history of mean and bloody-minded demagogues it is impossible
not to dwell on the contrast afforded by the generous and self-devoted
character of Barbaroux, who, young, handsome,[229] generous,
noble-minded, and disinterested, sacrificed his family happiness, his
fortune, and finally his life, to an enthusiastic though mistaken zeal
for the liberty of his country. He had become from the commencement of
the Revolution one of its greatest champions at Marseilles, where it had
been forwarded and opposed by all the fervour of faction, influenced by
the southern sun. He had admired the extravagant writings of Marat and
Robespierre; but when he came to know them personally, he was disgusted
with their low sentiments and savage dispositions, and went to worship
Freedom amongst the Girondists, where her shrine was served by the fair
and accomplished Citoyenne Roland.

The Marseillois, besides the advantage of this enthusiastic leader,
marched to the air of the finest hymn to which liberty or the Revolution
had yet given birth. They appeared in Paris, where it had been agreed
between the Jacobins and the Girondists, that the strangers should be
welcomed by the fraternity of the suburbs, and whatever other force the
factions could command. Thus united, they were to march to secure the
municipality, occupy the bridges and principal posts of the city with
detached parties, while the main body should proceed to form an
encampment in the garden of the Tuileries, where the conspirators had no
doubt they should find themselves sufficiently powerful to exact the
King's resignation, or declare his forfeiture.

This plan failed through the cowardice of Santerre, the chief leader of
the insurgents of the suburbs, who had engaged to meet the Marseillois
with forty thousand men. Very few of the promised auxiliaries appeared;
but the undismayed Marseillois, though only about five hundred in
number, marched through the city to the terror of the inhabitants, their
keen black eyes seeming to seek out aristocratic victims, and their
songs partaking of the wild Moorish character that lingers in the south
of France, denouncing vengeance on kings, priests, and nobles.[230]

In the Tuileries, the Federates fixed a quarrel on some grenadiers of
the national guard, who were attached to the Constitution, and giving
instant way to their habitual impetuosity, attacked, defeated, and
dispersed them. In the riot, Espremenil, who had headed the opposition
to the will of the King in Parliament, which led the way to the
Convocation of Estates, and who had been once the idol of the people,
but now had become the object of their hate, was cut down and about to
be massacred. "Assist me," he called out to Pétion, who had come to the
scene of confusion,--"I am Espremenil--once as you are now, the minion
of the people's love." Pétion, not unmoved, it is to be supposed, at the
terms of the appeal, hastened to rescue him. Not long afterwards both
suffered by the guillotine,[231] which was the bloody conclusion of so
many popular favourites. The riot was complained of by the
Constitutional party, but as usual it was explained by a declaration on
the part of ready witnesses, that the forty civic soldiers had insulted
and attacked the five hundred Marseillois, and therefore brought the
disaster upon themselves.


Meanwhile, though their hands were strengthened by this band of
unscrupulous and devoted implements of their purpose, the Girondists
failed totally in their attempt against La Fayette in the Assembly, the
decree of accusation against him being rejected by a victorious
majority. They were therefore induced to resort to measures of direct
violence, which unquestionably they would willingly have abstained from,
since they could not attempt them without giving a perilous superiority
to the Jacobin faction. The Manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick, and his
arrival on the French frontier at the head of a powerful Prussian army,
acted upon the other motives for insurrection, as a high pressure upon a
steam-engine, producing explosion.

It was the misfortune of Louis, as we have often noticed, to be as
frequently injured by the erroneous measures of his friends as by the
machinations of his enemies; and this proclamation, issued [July 25] by
a monarch who had taken arms in the King's cause, was couched in
language intolerable to the feelings even of such Frenchmen as might
still retain towards their King some sentiments of loyalty. All towns or
villages which should offer the slightest resistance to the allies, were
in this ill-timed manifesto menaced with fire and sword. Paris was
declared responsible for the safety of Louis, and the most violent
threats of the total subversion of that great metropolis were denounced
as the penalty.[232]

The Duke of Brunswick was undoubtedly induced to assume this tone, by
the ease which he had experienced in putting down the revolution in
Holland; but the cases were by no means parallel. Holland was a country
much divided in political opinions, and there was existing among the
constituted authorities a strong party in favour of the Stadtholder.
France, on the contrary, excepting only the emigrants who were in the
Duke's own army, was united, like the Jews of old, against foreign
invasion, though divided into many bitter factions within itself. Above
all, the comparative strength of France and Holland was so different,
that a force which might overthrow the one country without almost a
struggle, would scarce prove sufficient to wrest from such a nation as
France even the most petty of her frontier fortresses. It cannot be
doubted, that this haughty and insolent language on the part of the
invaders, irritated the personal feelings of every true Frenchman, and
determined them to the most obstinate resistance against invaders, who
were confident enough to treat them as a conquered people, even before a
skirmish had been fought. The imprudence of the allied general recoiled
on the unfortunate Louis, on whose account he used this menacing
language. Men began to consider his cause as identified with that of the
invaders, of course as standing in diametrical opposition to that of the
country; and these opinions spread generally among the citizens of
Paris. To animate the citizens to their defence, the Assembly declared,
that the country was in danger; and in order that the annunciation might
be more impressive, cannon were hourly discharged from the hospital of
the Invalids--bands of military music traversed the streets--bodies of
men were drawn together hastily, as if the enemy were at the gates--and
all the hurried and hasty movements of the constituted authorities
seemed to announce, that the invaders were within a day's march of

These distracting and alarming movements, with the sentiments of fear
and anxiety which they were qualified to inspire, aggravated the
unpopularity of Louis, in whose cause his brothers and his allies were
now threatening the metropolis of France. From these concurring
circumstances the public voice was indeed so strongly against the cause
of monarchy, that the Girondists ventured by their organ, Vergniaud, to
accuse the King in the Assembly of holding intelligence with the enemy,
or at least of omitting sufficient defensive preparations, and proposed
in express terms that they should proceed to declare his forfeiture. The
orator, however, did not press this motion, willing, doubtless, that the
power of carrying through and enforcing such a decree should be
completely ascertained, which could only be after a mortal struggle with
the last defenders of the Crown;[234] but when a motion like this could
be made and seconded, it showed plainly how little respect was preserved
for the King in the Assembly at large. For this struggle all parties
were arranging their forces, and it became every hour more evident, that
the capital was speedily to be the scene of some dreadful event.


[192] The site of the old convent of the Feuillans.

[193] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 76.

[194] Servan was born at Romans in 1741, and died at Paris in 1808. "He
was," says Madame Roland, "an honest man in the fullest signification of
the term; an enlightened patriot, a brave soldier, and an active
minister; he stood in need of nothing but a more sober imagination, and
a more flexible mind."--_Memoirs_, part i., p. 72.

[195] Clavière was born at Geneva in 1735, "where," says M. Dumont, "he
became one of the popular leaders: shrewd and penetrating, he obtained
the credit of being also cunning and artful: he was a man of superior
intellect: deaf from his youth, and, deprived by this infirmity of the
pleasures of society, he had sought a compensation in study, and formed
his education by associating politics and moral philosophy with
trade."--Being denounced by Robespierre, to avoid the guillotine, he
stabbed himself in his prison, June 9, 1793. His wife poisoned herself
on the following day.

[196] Duranthon was born at Massedon in 1736. In December, 1793, he was
dragged before the revolutionary tribunal, and guillotined. "He was an
honest man, but very indolent: his manner indicated vanity, and his
timid disposition and pompous prattle made him always appear to me no
better than an old woman."--MAD. ROLAND, part i., p. 71.

[197] "A true jack-in-office of the old order of things, of which he had
the insignificant and awkward look, cold manner, and dogmatic tone. He
was deficient both in the extensive views and activity necessary for a
minister."--MAD. ROLAND, p. 70. He died in 1803.

[198] Thiers, tom. ii., p. 59; Mignet, tom. i., p. 64; Lacretelle, tom.
ix., p. 89.

[199] So says Des Ferrieres, and pretends that Madame Roland's
pretensions to be presented at the ministerial parties being rejected,
was the first breach to the amicable understanding of the ministers. But
nothing of this sort is to be found in her Memoirs, and we are confident
she would have recorded it, had the fact been accurate.--S.

[200] The court nicknamed the new ministry, "Le Ministère sans

[201] When Roland, whose dress was somewhat like that of a Quaker,
appeared at court in shoestrings, the usher approached him with a severe
look, and addressed him, "How, sir, no buckles?"--"Ah," said Dumouriez,
who laughed at all and every thing, "all is lost."--S.--ROLAND, part
ii., p. 8; MIGNET, tom. i., p. 166.

[202] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 109.

[203] Prudhomme, tom. ii., p. 271.

[204] Bouillé's Memoirs, p. 215.

[205] Mignet, tom. i., p. 172; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 114; Dumouriez,
vol. ii., p. 350.

[206] Dumouriez, vol. ii., p. 353.

[207] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 116; Mignet, tom. i., p. 173; Dumouriez,
vol. ii., p. 360.

[208] "Je sais que le langage austère de la vérité est rarement
accueillé près du trone."--See the Letter in Prudhomme, tom. iii., p.

[209] Prudhomme, tom. iii., p. 92.

[210] Dumouriez, tom. ii., p. 392; Mignet, tom. i., p. 173; Lacretelle,
tom. i., p. 240.

[211] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 136.

[212] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 131.

[213] The passage of the procession lasted three hours.--See Lacretelle,
tom. ix., p. 135; Thiers, tom. ii., p. 133

[214] It may be alleged in excuse, that the Assembly had no resource but
submission. Yet, brave men in similar circumstances have, by a timely
exertion of spirit, averted similar insolencies. When the furious
Anti-Catholic mob was in possession of the avenues to, and even the
lobbies of, the House of Commons, in 1780, General Cosmo Gordon, a
member of the House, went up to the unfortunate nobleman under whose
guidance they were supposed to act, and addressed him thus: "My lord, is
it your purpose to bring your rascally adherents into the House of
Commons? for if so, I apprise you, that the instant one of them enters,
I pass my sword, not through his body, but your lordship's." The hint
was sufficient, and the mob was directed to another quarter. Undoubtedly
there were, in the French Legislative Assembly, men capable of conjuring
down the storm they had raised, and who might have been moved to do so,
had any man of courage made them directly and personally responsible for
the consequences.--See Wraxall, vol. i., p. 247, for the story of Lord
George Gordon and General Gordon; but the Editor is informed, that the
person who really threatened Lord George in the manner described, was
Colonel Holroyd, now Lord Sheffield.

[215] Dryden has expanded these magnificent lines, without expressing
entirely either their literal meaning or their spirit. But he has added,
as usual, beautiful ideas of his own, equally applicable to the scene
described in the text:--

    "A mighty breach is made; the rooms conceal'd
    Appear, and all the palace is reveal'd;
    The halls of audience, and of public state--
    And where the lovely Queen in secret sate,
    Arm'd soldiers now by trembling maids are seen
    With not a door, and scarce a space between."

        _Æneid_, book ii.--S.

[216] Prudhomme, tom. iii., p. 117; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 139; Madame
Campan, vol. ii., p. 212.

[217] Prudhomme, tom. iii., p. 117; Mignet, tom. i., p. 178; Lacretelle,
tom. ix., p. 142; Campan, vol. ii., p. 212.

[218] Napoleon was a witness of this scene from the gardens of the
Tuileries. "While we were leading," says De Bourrienne, "a somewhat idle
life, the 20th June arrived. We met that morning, as usual, in a
coffee-room, Rue St. Honoré. On going out we saw approaching a mob,
which Buonaparte computed at five or six thousand men, all in rags, and
armed with every sort of weapon, vociferating the grossest abuse, and
proceeding with rapid pace towards the Tuileries. 'Let us follow that
rabble,' said Buonaparte to me. We got before them, and went to walk in
the gardens, on the terrace overlooking the water. From this station he
beheld the disgraceful occurrences that ensued. I should fail in
attempting to depict the surprise and indignation aroused within him. He
could not comprehend such weakness and forbearance. But when the King
showed himself at one of the windows fronting the garden, with the red
cap which one of the mob had just placed upon his head, Buonaparte could
no longer restrain his indignation. 'What madness!' exclaimed he; 'how
could they allow these scoundrels to enter? They ought to have blown
four or five hundred of them into the air with cannon; the rest would
then have taken to their heels.'"--DE BOURRIENNE, tom. i., p. 49.

[219] "By eight o'clock in the evening they had all departed, and
silence and astonishment reigned in the palace."--MIGNET, tom. i., p.

[220] Jomini, Hist. des Guerres de la Révolution, tom. ii., p. 53;
Dumont, p. 343.

[221] For the letter itself, see Annual Register, vol. xxxiv., p. 206.

[222] Thiers, tom. ii., p. 154; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 153.

[223] Madame Campan, tom. ii., p. 224.

[224] "He was burnt in effigy by the Jacobins, in the garden of the
Palais Royal."--PRUDHOMME, tom. iii., p. 131.

[225] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 161. After the dissolution of the
Legislative Assembly, L'Amourette returned to Lyons, and continued there
during the siege. He was afterwards conducted to Paris, condemned to
death, and decapitated in January, 1794. The abbé was the author of
several works, among others, "Les Délices de la Religion, ou Le Pouvoir
de l'Evangile de nous rendre heureux."

[226] "The expression of the Queen's countenance on this day will never
be effaced from my remembrance; her eyes were swollen with tears; the
splendour of her dress, the dignity of her deportment, formed a contrast
with the train that surrounded her. It required the character of Louis
XVI., that character of martyr which he ever upheld, to support, as he
did, such a situation. When he mounted the steps of the altar, he seemed
a sacred victim, offering himself as a voluntary sacrifice. He
descended; and, crossing anew the disordered ranks, returned to take his
place beside the Queen and his children."--M. DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 53.

[227] "To the astonishment of both parties, the accusation against La
Fayette was thrown out by a majority of 446 to 224,"--LACRETELLE, tom.
ix., p. 190.

[228] Le Fanatisme.

[229] Madame Roland describes him as one "whose features no painter
would disdain to copy for the head of an Antinous."--_Memoirs_, part i.,
p. 146.

[230] "I never," says Madame de la Rochejaquelein, "heard any thing more
impressive and terrible than their songs."

[231] Espremenil suffered by the guillotine in June, 1793; but Pétion,
becoming at that time an object of suspicion to Robespierre, took refuge
in the department of the Calvados, where he is supposed to have perished
with hunger; his body being found in a field half devoured by wolves.

[232] See Annual Register, vol. xxxiv., p. 229.

[233] Thiers, tom. ii., p. 145.


    _The Day of the Tenth of August--Tocsin sounded early in the
    Morning--Swiss Guards, and relics of the Royal Party, repair to
    the Tuileries--Mandat assassinated--Dejection of Louis, and
    energy of the Queen--King's Ministers appear at the Bar of the
    Assembly, stating the peril of the Royal Family, and requesting
    a Deputation might be sent to the Palace--Assembly pass to the
    Order of the Day--Louis and his Family repair to the
    Assembly--Conflict at the Tuileries--Swiss ordered to repair to
    the King's Person--and are many of them shot and dispersed on
    their way to the Assembly--At the close of the Day almost all of
    them are massacred--Royal Family spend the Night in the Convent
    of the Feuillans._

The King had, since the insurrection of the 20th of June, which
displayed how much he was at the mercy of his enemies, renounced almost
all thoughts of safety or escape. Henry IV. would have called for his
arms--Louis XVI. demanded his confessor. "I have no longer any thing to
do with earth," he said; "I must turn all my thoughts on Heaven." Some
vain efforts were made to bribe the leaders of the Jacobins, who took
the money, and pursued, as might have been expected, their own course
with equal rigour. The motion for the declaration of the King's
forfeiture[235] still lingered in the Convention, its fate depending
upon the coming crisis. At length the fatal Tenth of August approached,
being the day which, after repeated adjournments, had been fixed by the
Girondists and their rivals for the final rising.

The King was apprised of their intention, and had hastily recalled from
their barracks at Courbe-Voie about a thousand Swiss guards, upon whose
fidelity he could depend. The formidable discipline and steady demeanour
of these gallant mountaineers, might have recalled the description given
by historians, of the entrance of their predecessors into Paris under
similar circumstances, the day before the affair of the Barricades, in
the reign of Henry II.[236] But the present moment was too anxious to
admit of reflections upon past history.

[Sidenote: TENTH OF AUGUST.]

Early on the morning of the 10th of August, the tocsin rung out its
alarm-peal over the terrified city of Paris, and announced that the
long-menaced insurrection was at length on foot. In many parishes the
Constitutional party resisted those who came to sound this awful signal;
but the well-prepared Jacobins were found every where victorious, and
the prolonged mournful sound was soon tolled out from every steeple in
the metropolis.[237]

To this melancholy music the contending parties arranged their forces
for attack and defence, upon a day which was doomed to be decisive.

The Swiss guards got under arms, and repaired to their posts in and
around the palace. About four hundred grenadiers of the loyal section of
Filles Saint Thomas, joined by several from that of Les Petits Pères, in
whom all confidence could justly be reposed, were posted in the interior
of the palace, and associated with the Swiss for its defence. The relics
of the Royalist party, undismayed at the events of the 28th of February
in the year preceding,[238] had repaired to the palace on the first
signal given by the tocsin. Joined to the domestic attendants of the
royal family, they might amount to about four hundred persons. Nothing
can more strongly mark the unprepared state of the court, than that
there were neither muskets nor bayonets for suitably arming these
volunteers, nor any supply of ammunition, save what the Swiss and
national grenadiers had in their pouches. The appearance also of this
little troop tended to inspire dismay rather than confidence. The
chivalrous cry of "Entrance for the Noblesse of France," was the signal
for their filing into the presence of the royal family. Alas! instead of
the thousand nobles whose swords used to gleam around their monarch at
such a crisis, there entered but veteran officers of rank, whose
strength, though not their spirit, was consumed by years, mixed with
boys scarce beyond the age of children, and with men of civil
professions, several of whom, Lamoignon Malesherbes for example, had now
for the first time worn a sword. Their arms were as miscellaneous as
their appearance. Rapiers, hangers, and pistols, were the weapons with
which they were to encounter bands well provided with musketry and
artillery.[239] Their courage, however, was unabated. It was in vain
that the Queen conjured, almost with tears, men aged fourscore and
upwards, to retire from a contest where their strength could avail so
little. The veterans felt that the fatal hour was come, and, unable to
fight, claimed the privilege of dying in the discharge of their

The behaviour of Marie Antoinette was magnanimous in the highest degree.
"Her majestic air," says Peltier, "her Austrian lip, and aquiline nose,
gave her an air of dignity, which can only be conceived by those who
beheld her in that trying hour."[241] Could she have inspired the King
with some portion of her active spirit, he might even at that extreme
hour have wrested the victory from the Revolutionists; but the
misfortunes which he could endure like a saint, he could not face and
combat like a hero; and his scruples about shedding human blood wellnigh
unmanned him.[242]

The distant shouts of the enemy were already heard, while the gardens of
the Tuileries were filled by the successive legions of the national
guard, with their cannon. Of this civic force, some, and especially the
artillerymen, were as ill-disposed towards the King as was possible;
others were well inclined to him; and the greater part remained
doubtful. Mandat, their commander, was entirely in the royal interests.
He had disposed the force he commanded to the best advantage for
discouraging the mutinous, and giving confidence to the well-disposed,
when he received an order to repair to the municipality for orders. He
went thither accordingly, expecting the support of such
Constitutionalists as remained in that magistracy, but he found it
entirely in possession of the Jacobin party. Mandat was arrested, and
ordered a prisoner to the Abbaye, which he never reached, being pistoled
by an assassin at the gate of the Hôtel de Ville. His death was an
infinite loss to the King's party.[243]

A signal advantage had, at the same time, been suffered to escape.
Pétion, the Brissotin Mayor of Paris, was now observed among the
national guards. The Royalists possessed themselves of his person, and
brought him to the palace, where it was proposed to detain this popular
magistrate as an hostage. Upon this, his friends in the Assembly moved
that he should be brought to the bar, to render an account of the state
of the capital. A message was despatched accordingly requiring his
attendance, and Louis had the weakness to permit him to depart.

The motions of the assailants were far from being so prompt and lively
as upon former occasions, when no great resistance was anticipated.
Santerre, an eminent brewer, who, from his great capital, and his
affectation of popular zeal, had raised himself to the command of the
suburb forces, was equally inactive in mind and body, and by no means
fitted for the desperate part which he was called on to play.[244]
Westerman, a zealous republican, and a soldier of skill and courage,
came to press Santerre's march, informing him, that the Marseillois and
Breton Federates were in arms in the Place du Carousel, and expected the
advance of the pikemen from the suburbs of Saint Antoine and St.
Marçeau. On Santerre's hesitating, Westerman placed his sword-point at
his throat, and the citizen commandant, yielding to the nearer terror,
put his bands at length in motion. Their numbers were immense. But the
real strength of the assault was to lie on the Federates of Marseilles
and Bretagne, and other provinces, who had been carefully provided with
arms and ammunition. They were also secure of the gens-d'armes, or
soldiers of police, although these were called out and arranged on the
King's side. The Marseillois and Bretons were placed at the head of the
long columns of the suburb pikemen, as the edge of an axe is armed with
steel, while the back is of coarser metal to give weight to the blow.
The charge of the attack was committed to Westerman.


In the meantime, the defenders of the palace advised Louis to undertake
a review of the troops assembled for his defence. His appearance and
mien were deeply dejected, and he wore, instead of a uniform, a suit of
violet, which is the mourning colour of sovereigns. His words were
broken and interrupted, like the accents of a man in despair, and void
of the energy suitable to the occasion. "I know not," he said, "what
they would have from me--I am willing to die with my faithful
servants--Yes, gentlemen, we will at length do our best to resist."[245]
It was in vain that the Queen laboured to inspire her husband with a
tone more resolved--in vain that she even snatched a pistol from the
belt of the Comte d'Affray, and thrust it into the King's hand, saying,
"Now is the moment to show yourself as you are."[246] Indeed, Barbaroux,
whose testimony can scarce be doubted, declares his firm opinion, that
had the King at this time mounted his horse, and placed himself at the
head of the national guards, they would have followed him, and succeeded
in putting down the Revolution.[247] History has its strong parallels,
and one would think we are writing of Margaret of Anjou, endeavouring in
vain to inspire determination into her virtuous but feeble-minded

Within the palace, the disposition of the troops seemed excellent, and
there, as well as in the courts of the Tuileries, the King's address was
answered with shouts of "Vive le Roi!" But when he sallied out into the
garden, his reception from the legions of the national guard was at
least equivocal, and that of the artillerymen, and of a battalion from
Saint Marçeau, was decidedly unfavourable. Some cried, "Vive la
nation!"[248] Some, "Down with the tyrant!" The King did nothing to
encourage his own adherents, or to crush his enemies, but retired to
hold counsel in the palace, around which the storm was fast gathering.


It might have been expected that the Assembly, in which the
Constitutionalists possessed so strong a majority as to throw out the
accusation against La Fayette by a triumphant vote, might now, in the
hour of dread necessity, have made some effort to save the crown which
that constitution recognised, and the innocent life of the prince by
whom it was occupied. But fear had laid strong possession upon these
unworthy and ungenerous representatives. The ministers of the King
appeared at the bar, and represented the state of the city and of the
palace, conjuring the Assembly to send a deputation to prevent
bloodshed. This was courageous on the part of those faithful servants;
for to intimate the least interest in the King's fate, was like the
bold swimmer who approaches the whirlpool caused by the sinking of a
gallant vessel. The measure they proposed had been resorted to on the
20th June preceding, and was then successful, even though the deputation
consisted of members the most unfriendly to the King. But now, the
Assembly passed to the order of the day, and thereby left the fate of
the King and capital to chance, or the result of battle.[249]

In the meantime, the palace was completely invested. The bridge adjacent
to the Tuileries, called the Pont Royale, was occupied by the
insurgents, and the quai on the opposite side of the river was mounted
with cannon, of which the assailants had about fifty pieces, served by
the most determined Jacobins; for the artillerymen had, from the
beginning, embraced the popular cause with unusual energy.

At this decisive moment Rœderer, the procureur-general syndic, the
depositary and organ of the law, who had already commanded the Swiss and
armed Royalists not to make any offensive movement, but to defend
themselves when attacked, began to think, apparently, that his own
safety was compromised, by this implied grant of permission to use arms,
even in defence of the King's person. He became urgent with the King to
retire from the palace, and put himself under the protection of the
National Assembly. The Queen felt at once all the imbecility and
dishonour of throwing themselves as suppliants on the protection of a
body, which had not shown even a shadow of interest in their safety,
surrounded as they knew the royal family to be with the most inveterate
enemies. Ere she consented to such infamy, she said, she would willingly
be nailed to the walls of the palace.[250] But the counsel which
promised to avert the necessity of bloodshed on either part, suited well
with the timorous conscience and irresolution of Louis. Other measures
were hastily proposed by those who had devoted themselves to secure his
safety. There was, however, no real alternative but to fight at the head
of his guards, or to submit himself to the pleasure of the Assembly, and
Louis preferred the latter.[251]

His wife, his sister, and his children, accompanied him on this
occasion; and the utmost efforts of an escort of three hundred Swiss and
national grenadiers were scarce able to protect them, and a small
retinue, consisting of the ministers and a few men of rank, the
gleanings of the most brilliant court of Christendom, who accompanied
their master in this last act of humiliation, which was, indeed, equal
to a voluntary descent from his throne. They were, at every moment of
their progress, interrupted by the deadliest threats and imprecations,
and the weapons of more than one ruffian were levelled against them.
The Queen was robbed even of her watch and purse--so near might the
worst criminals approach the persons of the royal fugitives.[252] Louis
showed the greatest composure amidst all these imminent dangers. He was
feeble when called upon to kill, but strong in resolution when the
question was only to die.[253]

The King's entrance into the Assembly was not without dignity. "My
family and I are come among you," he said, "to prevent the commission of
a great crime." Vergniaud, who was president at the time, answered with
propriety, though ambiguously. He assured the King, that the Assembly
knew its duties, and was ready to perish in support of them. A member of
the Mountain[254] observed, with bitter irony, that it was impossible
for the Assembly to deliberate freely in presence of the monarch, and
proposed he should retreat into one of the most remote committee
rooms--a place where assassination must have been comparatively easy.
The Assembly rejected this proposal, alike insulting and insidious, and
assigned a box, or small apartment, called the Logographe, used for the
reporters of the debates, for the place of refuge of this unhappy
family. This arrangement was scarce made, ere a heavy discharge of
musketry and cannon announced that the King's retreat had not prevented
the bloodshed he so greatly feared.[255]

It must be supposed to have been Louis's intention, that his guards and
defenders should draw off from the palace, as soon as he himself had
abandoned it; for to what purpose was it now to be defended, when the
royal family were no longer concerned; and at what risk, when the
garrison was diminished by three hundred of the best of the troops,
selected as the royal escort? But no such order of retreat, or of
non-resistance, had, in fact, been issued to the Swiss guards, and the
military discipline of this fine corps prevented their retiring from an
assigned post without command. Captain Durler is said to have asked the
Maréchal Mailly for orders, and to have received for answer, "Do not
suffer your posts to be forced." "You may rely on it," replied the
intrepid Swiss.[256]

Meantime, to give no unnecessary provocation, as well as on account of
their diminished numbers, the court in front of the palace was
abandoned, and the guards were withdrawn into the building itself; their
outermost sentinels being placed at the bottom of the splendid
staircase, to defend a sort of barricade which had been erected there,
ever since the 20th June, to prevent such intrusions as distinguished
that day.

The insurgents, with the Marseillois and Breton Federates at their
heads, poured into the court-yard without opposition, planted their
cannon where some small buildings gave them advantage, and advanced
without hesitation to the outposts of the Swiss. They had already tasted
blood that day, having massacred a patrol of Royalists, who, unable to
get into the Tuileries, had attempted to assist the defence, by
interrupting, or at least watching and discovering, the measures adopted
by the insurgents. These men's heads were, as usual, borne on pikes
among their ranks.


They pushed forward, and it is said the Swiss at first offered
demonstrations of truce. But the assailants thronged onward, crowded on
the barricade, and when the parties came into such close collision, a
struggle ensued, and a shot was fired. It is doubtful from what side it
came, nor is it of much consequence, for, on such an occasion, that body
must be held the aggressors who approach the pickets of the other, armed
and prepared for assault; and although the first gun be fired by those
whose position is endangered, it is no less defensive than if discharged
in reply to a fire from the other side.

This unhappy shot seems to have dispelled some small chance of a
reconciliation between the parties. Hard firing instantly commenced from
the Federates and Marseillois, whilst the palace blazed forth fire from
every window, and killed a great many of the assailants. The Swiss,
whose numbers were now only about seven hundred men, determined,
notwithstanding, upon a sally, which, in the beginning, was completely
successful. They drove the insurgents from the court-yard, killed many
of the Marseillois and Bretons, took some of their guns, and turning
them along the streets, compelled the assailants to actual flight, so
that word was carried to the National Assembly that the Swiss were
victorious. The utmost confusion prevailed there; the deputies upbraided
each other with their share in bringing about the insurrection; Brissot
showed timidity; and several of the deputies, thinking the guards were
hastening to massacre them, attempted to escape by the windows of the

If, indeed, the sally of the Swiss had been supported by a sufficient
body of faithful cavalry, the Revolution might have been that day
ended.[258] But the gens-d'armes, the only horsemen in the field, were
devoted to the popular cause, and the Swiss, too few to secure their
advantage, were obliged to return to the palace, where they were of new

Westerman posted his forces and artillery with much intelligence, and
continued a fire on the Tuileries from all points. It was now returned
with less vivacity, for the ammunition of the defenders began to fail.
At this moment D'Hervilly arrived from the Assembly, with the King's
commands that the Swiss should cease firing, evacuate the palace, and
repair to the King's person. The faithful guards obeyed at once, not
understanding that the object was submission, but conceiving they were
summoned elsewhere, to fight under the King's eye. They had no sooner
collected themselves into a body, and attempted to cross the garden of
the Tuileries, than, exposed to a destructive fire on all sides, the
remains of that noble regiment, so faithful to the trust assigned to it,
diminished at every step; until, charged repeatedly by the treacherous
gens-d'armes, who ought to have supported them, they were separated into
platoons, which continued to defend themselves with courage, even till
the very last of them was overpowered, dispersed, and destroyed by
multitudes. A better defence against such fearful odds scarce remains on
historical record--a more useless one can hardly be imagined.[259]

The rabble, with their leaders the Federates, now burst into the palace,
executing the most barbarous vengeance on the few defenders who had not
made their escape; and, while some massacred the living, others, and
especially the unsexed women who were mingled in their ranks, committed
the most shameful butchery on the corpses of the slain.[260]

Almost every species of enormity was perpetrated upon that occasion
excepting pillage, which the populace would not permit, even amid every
other atrocity.[261] There exist in the coarsest minds, nay, while such
are engaged in most abominable wickedness, redeeming traits of
character, which show that the image of the Deity is seldom totally and
entirely defaced even in the rudest bosoms. An ordinary workman of the
suburbs, in a dress which implied abject poverty, made his way into the
place where the royal family were seated, demanding the King by the name
of Monsieur Veto. "So you are here," he said, "beast of a Veto! There is
a purse of gold I found in your house yonder. If you had found mine, you
would not have been so honest."[262] There were, doubtless, amongst that
dreadful assemblage many thousands, whose natural honesty would have
made them despise pillage, although the misrepresentations by which they
were influenced to fury easily led them to rebellion and murder.

Band after band of these fierce men, their faces blackened with powder,
their hands and weapons streaming with blood, came to invoke the
vengeance of the Assembly on the head of the King and royal family, and
expressed in the very presence of the victims whom they claimed, their
expectations and commands how they should be dealt with.


Vergniaud, who, rather than Brissot, ought to have given name to the
Girondists, took the lead in gratifying the wishes of these dreadful
petitioners. He moved, 1st, That a National Convention should be
summoned. 2d, That the King should be suspended from his office. 3d,
That the King should reside at the Luxembourg palace under safeguard of
the law,--a word which they were not ashamed to use. These proposals
were unanimously assented to.[263]

An almost vain attempt was made to save the lives of that remaining
detachment of Swiss which had formed the King's escort to the Assembly,
and to whom several of the scattered Royalists had again united
themselves. Their officers proposed, as a last effort of despair, to
make themselves masters of the Assembly, and declare the deputies
hostages for the King's safety. Considering the smallness of their
numbers, such an attempt could only have produced additional bloodshed,
which would have been ascribed doubtless to the King's treachery. The
King commanded them to resign their arms, being the last order which he
issued to any military force. He was obeyed; but, as they were instantly
attacked by the insurgents, few escaped slaughter, and submission
preserved but a handful. About seven hundred and fifty fell in the
defence, and after the storm of the Tuileries. Some few were saved by
the generous exertions of individual deputies--others were sent to
prison, where a bloody end awaited them--the greater part were butchered
by the rabble, so soon as they saw them without arms. The mob sought for
them the whole night, and massacred many porters of private families,
who, at Paris, are generally termed Swiss, though often natives of other

The royal family were at length permitted to spend the night, which, it
may be presumed, was sleepless, in the cells of the neighbouring convent
of the Feuillans.[264]

Thus ended, for the period of twenty years and upwards, the reign of
the Bourbons over their ancient realm of France.


[234] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 172.

[235] "The question of abdication was discussed with a degree of frenzy.
Such of the deputies as opposed the motion were abused, ill-treated, and
surrounded by assassins. They had a battle to fight at every step they
took; and at length they did not dare to sleep in their

[236] Thus imitated by the dramatist Lee, from the historian Davila:--

    "Have you not heard--the King, preventing day,
    Received the guards within the city gates;
    The jolly Swisses marching to their pipes,
    The crowd stood gaping heedless and amazed,
    Shrunk to their shops, and left the passage free."--S.

[237] M. de Staël, tom. ii., p. 59.

[238] When they were, in similar circumstances, maltreated by the
national guard.--See _ante_, p. 119.--S.

[239] "M. de St. Souplet, one of the King's equerries, and a page,
instead of muskets, carried upon their shoulders the tongs belonging to
the King's ante-chamber, which they had broken and divided between
them."--MAD. CAMPAN. vol. ii., p. 246.

[240] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 201.

[241] Dernier Tableau de Paris, tom. i., p. 176.

[242] "The King ought then to have put himself at the head of his
troops, and opposed his enemies. The Queen was of this opinion, and the
courageous counsel she gave on this occasion does honour to her
memory."--M. DE STAËL, tom. ii., p. 60.

"This invasion of the 10th of August, was another of those striking
occasions on which the King, by suddenly changing his character, and
assuming firmness, might have recovered his throne. The mass of the
French people were weary of the excesses of the Jacobins, and the
outrage of the 20th of June roused the general indignation. Had he
ordered the clubs of the Jacobins and Cordeliers, to be shut up,
dissolved the Assembly, and seized upon the factions, that day had
restored his authority: but this weak prince, unmindful that the safety
of his kingdom depended upon the preservation of his own authority,
chose rather to expose himself to certain death, than give orders for
his defence."--DUMONT, p. 362.

[243] Mignet, tom. i., p. 190; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 208.

[244] "The muscular expansion of his tall person, the sonorous
hoarseness of his voice, his rough manners, and his easy and vulgar
eloquence, made him, of course, a hero among the rabble. In truth, he
had gained a despotic empire over the dregs of the Fauxbourgs. He could
excite them at will; but that was the extent of his skill and
capacity."--MONTJOIE, _Hist. de Marie Antoinette_, p. 295.

[245] "I was at a window looking on the garden. I saw some of the
gunners quit their posts, go up to the King, and thrust their fists in
his face, insulting him by the most brutal language. He was as pale as a
corpse. When the royal family came in again, the Queen told me that all
was lost; that the King had shown no energy, and that this sort of
review had done more harm than good."--MAD. CAMPAN, vol. ii., p. 245.

[246] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 214.

[247] Mémoires de Barbaroux, p. 69.

[248] "And I," exclaimed the King, "I, too, say '_Vive la Nation_!'--its
happiness has ever been the dearest object of my heart."--LACRETELLE,
tom. ix., p. 214.

[249] Prudhomme, tom. iii., p. 198; Mad. Campan, vol. ii., p. 247.

[250] "'Oui,' disait-elle à MM. de Briges et de Saint Priest,
'j'aimerais mieux me faire clouer aux murs du château que de choisir cet
indigne refuge.'"--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p. 216.

[251] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 219; Mad. Campan, vol. ii., p. 247.

[252] Mad. Campan, vol. ii., p. 429; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 220.

[253] "The Queen told me, that the King had just refused to put on the
under-waistcoat of mail which she had prepared for him; that he had
consented to wear it on the 14th of July, because it was merely going to
a ceremony, where the blade of an assassin was to be apprehended; but
that, on a day in which his party might have to fight against the
revolutionists, he thought there was something cowardly in preserving
his life by such means."--MAD. CAMPAN, vol. ii., p. 243.

[254] Chabot.

[255] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 223.

[256] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 227.

[257] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 231; Mignet, tom. i., p. 195; Thiers,
tom. ii., p. 263.

[258] "S'il y avait eu trois cents cavaliers fidèles pour marcher à la
poursuite des rebelles, Paris était soumis au roi, et l'Assemblée
tombait aux pieds de son captif."--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p. 230.

[259] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 233; Toulongeon, tom. ii., p. 253.

[260] "L'histoire ne peut dire les obscènes et atroces mutilations que
d'impudiques furies firent subir aux cadavres des Suisses."--LACRETELLE,
tom. ix., p. 240.

[261] Prudhomme, tom. iii., p. 202; but see Lacretelle, tom. ix., p.

[262] Mémoires de Barbaroux. "L'anecdote," says Lacretelle, "est fausse;
mais quelle fiction atroce!" tom. ix., p. 243.

[263] Mignet, tom. i., p. 195; Thiers, tom. i., p. 263; Lacretelle, tom.
ix., p. 244.

[264] "For fifteen hours the royal family were shut up in the short-hand
writer's box. At length, at one in the morning, they were transferred to
the Feuillans. When left alone, Louis prostrated himself in prayer. 'Thy
trials, O God! are dreadful; give us courage to bear them. We bless thee
in our afflictions, as we did in the day of prosperity: receive into thy
mercy all those who have died fighting in our defence.'"--LACRETELLE,
tom. ix., p. 250.

"The royal family remained three days at the Feuillans. They occupied a
small suite of apartments, consisting of four cells. In the first were
the gentlemen who had accompanied the King. In the second we found the
King: he was having his hair dressed; he took two locks of it, and gave
one to my sister and one to me. In the third was the Queen, in bed, and
in an indescribable state of affliction. We found her attended only by a
bulky woman, who appeared tolerably civil; she waited upon the Queen,
who, as yet, had none of her own people about her. I asked her Majesty
what the ambassadors from foreign powers had done under existing
circumstances? She told me that they could do nothing, but that the lady
of the English ambassador had just given her a proof of the private
interest she took in her welfare by sending her linen for her
son."--MAD. CAMPAN, vol. ii., p. 259.

"At this frightful period, Lady Sutherland," [the present Duchess and
Countess of Sutherland,] "then English ambassadress at Paris, showed the
most devoted attentions to the royal family."--MAD. DE STAËL, tom. ii.,
p. 69.


    _La Fayette compelled to Escape from France--Is made Prisoner by
    the Prussians, with three Companions--Reflections--The
    Triumvirate, Danton, Robespierre, and Marat--Revolutionary
    Tribunal appointed--Stupor of the Legislative Assembly--Longwy,
    Stenay, and Verdun, taken by the Prussians--Mob of Paris
    enraged--Great Massacre of Prisoners in Paris, commencing on the
    2d, and ending 6th September--Apathy of the Assembly during and
    after these Events--Review of its Causes._

The success of the 10th of August had sufficiently established the
democratic maxim, that the will of the people, expressed by their
insurrections, was the supreme law; the orators of the clubs its
interpreters; and the pikes of the suburbs its executive power. The
lives of individuals and their fortunes were, from that time, only to be
regarded as leases at will, subject to be revoked so soon as an artful,
envious, or grasping demagogue should be able to turn against the lawful
owners the readily-excited suspicions of a giddy multitude, whom habit
and impunity had rendered ferocious. The system established on these
principles, and termed liberty, was in fact an absolute despotism, far
worse than that of Algiers; because the tyrannic dey only executes his
oppression and cruelties within a certain sphere, affecting a limited
number of his subjects who approach near to his throne; while, of the
many thousand leaders of the Jacobins of France, every one had his
peculiar circle in which he claimed right, as full as that of
Robespierre or Marat, to avenge former slights or injuries, and to
gratify his own individual appetite for plunder and blood.

All the departments of France, without exception, paid the most
unreserved submission to the decrees of the Assembly, or rather to those
which the Community of Paris, and the insurgents, had dictated to that
legislative body; so that the hour seemed arrived when the magistracy of
Paris, supported by a democratic force, should, in the name and through
the influence of the Assembly, impose its own laws upon France.

La Fayette, whose headquarters was at this juncture at Sedan, in vain
endeavoured to animate his soldiers against this new species of
despotism. The Jacobins had their friends and representatives in the
very trustiest of his battalions. He made an effort, however, and a bold
one. He seized on the persons of three deputies, sent to him as
commissioners by the Assembly, to compel submission to their decrees,
and proposed to reserve them as hostages for the King's safety. Several
of his own general officers, the intrepid Desaix amongst others, seemed
willing to support him. Dumouriez, however, the personal enemy of La
Fayette, and ambitious of being his successor in the supreme command,
recognised the decrees of the Assembly in the separate army which he
commanded. His example drew over Luckner, who also commanded an
independent corps d'armée, and who at first seemed disposed to join with
La Fayette.[265]


That unfortunate general was at length left unsupported by any
considerable part even of his own army; so that with three friends,
whose names were well known in the Revolution,[266] he was fain to
attempt an escape from France, and, in crossing a part of the enemy's
frontier, they were made prisoners by a party of Prussians.

Fugitives from their own camp for the sake of royalty, they might have
expected refuge in that of the allied kings, who were in arms for the
same object; but, with a littleness of spirit which augured no good for
their cause, the allies determined that these unfortunate gentlemen
should be consigned as state prisoners to different fortresses. This
conduct on the part of the monarchs, however irritated they might be by
the recollection of some part of La Fayette's conduct in the outset of
the Revolution, was neither to be vindicated by morality, the law of
nations, nor the rules of sound policy. We are no approvers of the
democratic species of monarchy which La Fayette endeavoured to
establish, and cannot but be of opinion, that if he had acted upon his
victory in the Champ de Mars, he might have shut up the Jacobin Club,
and saved his own power and popularity from being juggled out of his
hands by those sanguinary charlatans. But errors of judgment must be
pardoned to men placed amidst unheard-of difficulties; and La Fayette's
conduct on his visit to Paris, bore testimony to his real willingness to
save the King and preserve the monarchy. But even if he had been
amenable for a crime against his own country, we know not what right
Austria or Prussia had to take cognizance of it. To them he was a mere
prisoner of war, and nothing farther. Lastly, it is very seldom that a
petty and vindictive line of policy can consist with the real interest
either of great princes or of private individuals. In the present case,
the arrest of La Fayette was peculiarly the contrary. It afforded a
plain proof to France and to all Europe, that the allied monarchs were
determined to regard as enemies all who had, in any manner, or to any
extent, favoured the Revolution, being indeed the whole people of
France, excepting the emigrants now in arms. The effect must necessarily
have been, to compel every Frenchman, who was desirous of enjoying more
liberty than the ancient despotism permitted, into submission to the
existing government, whatever it was, so long as invading armies of
foreigners, whose schemes were apparently as inconsistent with the
welfare as with the independence of the country, were hanging on the
frontiers of France.

For a short space, like hounds over the carcass of the prey they have
jointly run down, the Girondists and Jacobins suspended their
dissensions; but when the Constitutional party had ceased to show all
signs of existence, their brawl soon recommenced, and the Girondists
early discovered, that in the allies whom they had called on to assist
them in the subjugation of royalty, they had already to strive with men,
who, though inferior to them in speculative knowledge, and in the
eloquence which was to sway the Assembly, possessed in a much higher
degree the practical energies by which revolutions are accomplished,
were in complete possession of the community (or magistracy) of Paris,
and maintained despotic authority over all the bands of the metropolis.
Three men of terror, whose names will long remain, we trust, unmatched
in history by those of any similar miscreants, had now the unrivalled
leading of the Jacobins, and were called the Triumvirate.

Danton deserves to be named first, as unequalled by his colleagues in
talent and audacity. He was a man of gigantic size, and possessed a
voice of thunder. His countenance was that of an Ogre on the shoulders
of a Hercules.[267] He was as fond of the pleasures of vice as of the
practice of cruelty; and it was said there were times when he became
humanized amidst his debauchery, laughed at the terror which his furious
declamations excited, and might be approached with safety, like the
Maelstrom at the turn of tide. His profusion was indulged to an extent
hazardous to his popularity, for the populace are jealous of a lavish
expenditure, as raising their favourites too much above their own
degree; and the charge of peculation finds always ready credit with
them, when brought against public men.[268]

[Sidenote: ROBESPIERRE.]

Robespierre possessed this advantage over Danton, that he did not seem
to seek for wealth, either for hoarding or expending, but lived in
strict and economical retirement, to justify the name of the
Incorruptible, with which he was honoured by his partisans. He appears
to have possessed little talent, saving a deep fund of hypocrisy,
considerable powers of sophistry, and a cold exaggerated strain of
oratory, as foreign to good taste, as the measures he recommended were
to ordinary humanity. It seemed wonderful, that even the seething and
boiling of the revolutionary cauldron should have sent up from the
bottom, and long supported on the surface, a thing so miserably void of
claims to public distinction; but Robespierre had to impose on the minds
of the vulgar, and he knew how to beguile them, by accommodating his
flattery to their passions and scale of understanding, and by acts of
cunning and hypocrisy, which weigh more with the multitude than the
words of eloquence, or the arguments of wisdom. The people listened as
to their Cicero, when he twanged out his apostrophes of "Pauvre Peuple!
Peuple vertueux!" and hastened to execute whatever came recommended by
such honied phrases, though devised by the worst of men for the worst
and most inhuman of purposes.[269]

Vanity was Robespierre's ruling passion, and though his countenance was
the image of his mind, he was vain even of his personal appearance, and
never adopted the external habits of a Sans Culotte. Amongst his fellow
Jacobins, he was distinguished by the nicety with which his hair was
arranged and powdered; and the neatness of his dress was carefully
attended to, so as to counterbalance, if possible, the vulgarity of his
person. His apartments, though small, were elegant, and vanity had
filled them with representations of the occupant. Robespierre's picture
at length hung in one place, his miniature in another, his bust occupied
a niche, and on the table were disposed a few medallions, exhibiting his
head in profile.[270] The vanity which all this indicated was of the
coldest and most selfish character, being such as considers neglect as
insult, and receives homage merely as a tribute; so that, while praise
is received without gratitude, it is withheld at the risk of mortal
hate. Self-love of this dangerous character is closely allied with envy,
and Robespierre was one of the most envious and vindictive men that ever
lived. He never was known to pardon any opposition, affront, or even
rivalry; and to be marked in his tablets on such an account was a sure,
though perhaps not an immediate, sentence of death. Danton was a hero,
compared with this cold, calculating, creeping miscreant; for his
passions, though exaggerated, had at least some touch of humanity, and
his brutal ferocity was supported by brutal courage. Robespierre was a
coward, who signed death-warrants with a hand that shook, though his
heart was relentless. He possessed no passions on which to charge his
crimes; they were perpetrated in cold blood, and upon mature

Marat, the third of this infernal triumvirate, had attracted the
attention of the lower orders, by the violence of his sentiments in the
journal which he conducted from the commencement of the Revolution, upon
such principles that it took the lead in forwarding its successive
changes. His political exhortations began and ended like the howl of a
blood-hound for murder; or, if a wolf could have written a journal, the
gaunt and famished wretch could not have ravened more eagerly for
slaughter. It was blood which was Marat's constant demand, not in drops
from the breast of an individual, not in puny streams from the slaughter
of families, but blood in the profusion of an ocean. His usual
calculation of the heads which he demanded amounted to two hundred and
sixty thousand; and though he sometimes raised it as high as three
hundred thousand, it never fell beneath the smaller number.[272] It may
be hoped, and, for the honour of human nature, we are inclined to
believe, there was a touch of insanity in this unnatural strain of
ferocity; and the wild and squalid features of the wretch appear to have
intimated a degree of alienation of mind. Marat was, like Robespierre, a
coward. Repeatedly denounced in the Assembly, he skulked instead of
defending himself, and lay concealed in some obscure garret or cellar,
among his cut-throats, until a storm appeared, when, like a bird of ill
omen, his death-screech was again heard. Such was the strange and fatal
triumvirate, in which the same degree of cannibal cruelty existed under
different aspects. Danton murdered to glut his rage; Robespierre, to
avenge his injured vanity, or to remove a rival whom he envied; Marat,
from the same instinctive love of blood, which induces a wolf to
continue his ravage of the flocks long after his hunger is

These three men were in complete possession of the Community of Paris,
which was filled with their adherents exclusively, and which, now in
command of the armed force that had achieved the victory of the 10th of
August, held the Assembly as absolutely under their control, as the
Assembly, prior to that period, had held the person of the King. It is
true, Pétion was still Mayor of Paris; but, being considered as a
follower of Roland and Brissot, he was regarded by the Jacobins as a
prisoner, and detained in a sort of honourable restraint, having a body
of their most faithful adherents constantly around him, as a guard which
they pretended was assigned for his defence and protection. The truth
is, that Pétion, a vain man, and of very moderate talents, had already
lost his consequence. His temporary popularity arose almost solely out
of the enmity entertained against him by the court, and his having
braved on one or two occasions the King's personal displeasure,
particularly on the 20th of June. This merit was now forgotten, and
Pétion was fast sinking into his natural nullity. Nothing could be more
pitiful than the appearance of this magistrate, whose name had been so
lately the theme of every tongue in Paris, when brought to the bar of
the Assembly, pale and hesitating, to back, by his appearance among his
terrible revolutionary associates, petitions for measures, as
distasteful to himself as to his friends of the Gironde party, who had
apparently no power to deliver him from his state of humiliating


The demands of the Community of Paris, now the Sanhedrim of the
Jacobins, were of course for blood and vengeance, and revolutionary
tribunals to make short and sharp execution upon constitutionalist and
royalist, soldier and priest--upon all who acted on the principle, that
the King had some right to defend his person and residence against a
furious mob, armed with muskets and cannon--and upon all who could, by
any possible implication, be charged with having approved such doctrines
as leaned towards monarchy, at any time during all the changes of this
changeful-featured Revolution.

A Revolutionary Tribunal was appointed accordingly; but the Girondists,
to impose some check on its measures, rendered the judgment of a jury
necessary for condemnation--an encumbrance which seemed to the Jacobins
a needless and uncivic restriction of the rights of the people.
Robespierre was to have been appointed president of this tribunal, but
he declined the office, on account of his philanthropic principles![275]
Meantime, the sharpness of its proceedings was sufficiently assured by
the nomination of Danton to the office of minister of justice, which had
fallen to his lot as a Jacobin, while Roland, Servan, and Clavière,
alike fearing and detesting their dreadful colleague, assumed, with
Monge and Lebrun, the other offices, in what was now called a
Provisionary Executive. These last five ministers were Girondists.

It was not the serious intention of the Assembly to replace Louis in a
palace, or to suffer him to retain the smallest portion of personal
freedom or political influence. It had, indeed, been decreed on the
night of the 10th of August, that he should inhabit the Luxembourg
palace, but, on the 13th, his residence was transferred, with that of
the royal family, to an ancient fortress called the Temple, from the
Knights Templars, to whom it once belonged.[276] There was in front a
house, with some more modern apartments, but the dwelling of Louis was
the donjon or ancient keep, itself a huge square tower of great
antiquity, consisting of four stories. Each story contained two or three
rooms or closets; but these apartments were unfurnished, and offered no
convenience for the accommodation of an ordinary family, much less to
prisoners of such distinction. The royal family were guarded with a
strictness, of which every day increased the rigour.


In the meanwhile, the revolutionary tribunal was proceeding against the
friends and partisans of the deposed monarch with no lack, one would
have thought, of zeal or animosity. De la Porte, intendant of the King's
civil list, D'Augrémont, and Durosoi, a Royalist author, were with
others condemned and executed. But Montmorin, the brother of the royal
minister, was acquitted; and even the Comte d'Affri, though Colonel of
the Swiss guards, found grace in the eyes of this tribunal;--so lenient
it was, in comparison to those which France was afterwards doomed to
groan under. Danton, baulked of his prey, or but half-supplied with
victims, might be compared to the spectre-huntsman of Boccaccio,--

    "Stern look'd the fiend, as frustrate of his will,
    Not half sufficed, and greedy yet to kill."

But he had already devised within his soul, and agitated amongst his
compeers, a scheme of vengeance so dark and dreadful, as never ruffian
before or since had head to contrive, or nerve to execute. It was a
measure of extermination which the Jacobins resolved upon--a measure so
sweeping in its purpose and extent, that it should at once drown in
their own blood every Royalist or Constitutionalist who could raise a
finger, or even entertain a thought, against them.

Three things were indispensably essential to their execrable plan. In
the first place, they had to collect and place within reach of their
assassins, the numerous victims whom they sought to overwhelm with this
common destruction. Secondly, it was necessary to intimidate the
Assembly, and the Girondist party in particular; sensible that they were
likely to interfere, if it was left in their power, to prevent acts of
cruelty incompatible with the principles of most or all of their number.
Lastly, the Jacobin chiefs were aware, that ere they could prepare the
public mind to endure the massacres which they meditated, it was
necessary they should wait for one of those critical moments of general
alarm, in which fear makes the multitude cruel, and when the agitations
of rage and terror combine to unsettle men's reason, and drown at once
their humanity and their understanding.

To collect prisoners in any numbers was an easy matter, when the mere
naming a man, however innocent, as an aristocrat or a suspected person,
especially if he happened to have a name indicative of gentle blood, and
an air of decency in apparel, was sufficient ground for sending him to
prison. For the purpose of making such arrests upon suspicion, the
Commune of Paris openly took upon themselves the office of granting
warrants for imprisoning individuals in great numbers, and at length
proceeded so far in their violent and arbitrary conduct, as to excite
the jealousy of the Legislative Body.

This Assembly of National Representatives seemed to have been stunned by
the events of the 10th of August. Two-thirds of the deputies had a few
days before exculpated La Fayette for the zeal with which he impeached
the unsuccessful attempt of the 20th of June, designed to accomplish the
same purpose which had been effected on this last dread epoch of the
Revolution. The same number, we must suppose, were inimical to the
revolution achieved by the taking of the Tuileries, and the dethronement
of the monarch, whom it had been La Fayette's object to protect and
defend, in dignity and person. But there was no energy left in that
portion of the Assembly, though by far the largest, and the wisest.
Their benches were left deserted, nor did any voice arise, either to
sustain their own dignity, or, as a last resource, to advise a union
with the Girondists, now the leading force in the Representative Body,
for the purpose of putting a period to the rule of revolutionary terror
over that of civil order. The Girondists themselves proposed no decisive
measures, and indeed appear to have been the most helpless party,
(though possessing in their ranks very considerable talent,) that ever
attempted to act a great part in the convulsions of a state. They seem
to have expected, that, so soon as they had accomplished the overthrow
of the throne, their own supremacy should have been established in its
room. They became, therefore, liable to the disappointment of a child,
who, having built his house of boughs after his own fashion, is
astonished to find those bigger and stronger than himself throw its
materials out of their way, instead of attempting, according to his
expectations, to creep into it for the purpose of shelter.


Late and timidly, they at length began to remonstrate against the
usurped power of the Commune of Paris, who paid them as little regard,
as they were themselves doing to the constituted authorities of the
executive power.

The complaints which were laid before them of the violent encroachments
made on the liberty of the people at large, the Girondists had hitherto
answered by timid exhortations to the Commune to be cautious in their
proceedings. But, on the 29th of August, they were startled out of their
weak inaction, by an assumption of open force, and open villany, on the
part of those formidable rivals, under which it was impossible to remain
silent.[277] On the night previous, the Commune, proceeding to act upon
their own sole authority, had sent their satellites, consisting of the
municipal officers who were exclusively attached to them, (who were
selected from the most determined Jacobins, and had been augmented to an
extraordinary number,) to seize arms of every description, and to arrest
suspicious persons in every corner of Paris. Hundreds and thousands of
individuals had been, under these usurped powers, committed to the
various prisons of the city, which were now filled, even to choking,
with all persons of every sex and age, against whom political hatred
could allege suspicion, or private hatred revive an old quarrel, or love
of plunder awake a thirst for confiscation.

The deeds of robbery, of license, and of ferocity, committed during
these illegal proceedings, as well as the barefaced contempt which they
indicated of the authority of the Assembly, awakened the Girondists, but
too late, to some sense of the necessity of exertion. They summoned the
Municipality to their bar. They came, not to deprecate the displeasure
of the Assembly, not to submit themselves to its mercy,--they came to
triumph; and brought the speechless and trembling Pétion in their train,
as their captive, rather than their mayor. Tallien explained the defence
of the Commune, which amounted to this: "The provisional representatives
of the city of Paris," he said, "had been calumniated; they appeared, to
justify what they had done, not as accused persons, but as triumphing in
having discharged their duty. The Sovereign People," he said, "had
committed to them full powers, saying, Go forth, save the country in our
name--whatever you do we will ratify." This language was, in effect,
that of defiance, and it was supported by the shouts and howls of
assembled multitudes, armed as for the attack on the Tuileries, and
their courage, it may be imagined, not the less, that there were neither
aristocrats nor Swiss guards between them and the Legislative Assembly.
Their cries were, "Long live our Commune--our excellent
commissioners--we will defend them or die!"[278]

The satellites of the same party, in the tribunes or galleries, joined
in the cry, with invectives on those members of the Assembly, who were
supposed, however republican in principle, to be opposed to the
revolutionary measures of the Commune. The mob without soon forced their
way into the hall--joined with the mob within,--and left the theoretical
Republicans of the Assembly the choice of acquiescence in their
dictates, flight, or the liberty of dying on their posts, like the
senators of that Rome which they admired. None embraced this last
alternative. They broke up the meeting in confusion, and left the
Jacobins secure of impunity in whatever they might next choose to

Thus, Danton and his fell associates achieved the second point necessary
to the execution of the horrors which they meditated: the Legislative
Assembly were completely subdued and intimidated. It remained to avail
themselves of some opportunity which might excite the people of Paris,
in their present feverish state, to participate in, or to endure crimes,
at which, in calm moments, the rudest would probably have shuddered. The
state of affairs on the frontier aided them with such an
opportunity--_aided_ them, we say, because every step of preparation
beforehand, shows that the horrors acted on the 3d September were
premeditated; nay, the very trenches destined to inhume hundreds and
thousands of prisoners, yet alive, untried and undoomed, were already

A temporary success of the allied monarchs fell upon the mine already
prepared, and gave fire to it, as lightning might have fired a powder
magazine. Longwy, Stenay, and Verdun, were announced to have fallen into
the hands of the King of Prussia. The first and last were barrier
fortresses of reputed strength, and considerable resistance had been
expected. The ardent and military spirit of the French was awakened in
the resolute, upon learning that their frontier was thus invaded; fear
and discomfiture took possession of others, who thought they already
heard the allied trumpets at the gates of Paris. Between the eager
desire of some to march against the army of the invaders, and the terror
and dismay of others, there arose a climax of excitation and alarm,
favourable to the execution of every desperate design; as ruffians ply
their trade best, and with least chance of interruption, in the midst of
an earthquake or a conflagration.

On the 2d September, the Commune of Paris announced the fall of Longwy,
and the approaching fate of Verdun, and, as if it had been the only
constituted authority in the country, commanded the most summary
measures for the general defence. All citizens were ordered to keep
themselves in readiness to march on an instant's warning. All arms were
to be given up to the Commune, save those in the hands of active
citizens, armed for the public protection. Suspected persons were to be
disarmed, and other measures were announced, all of which were
calculated to call men's attention to the safety of themselves and their
families, and to destroy the interest which at ordinary times the public
would have taken in the fate of others.[279]

The awful voice of Danton astounded the Assembly with similar
information, hardly deigning to ask their approbation of the measures
which the Commune of Paris had adopted on their own sole authority. "You
will presently hear," he said, "the alarm-guns--falsely so called--for
they are the signal of a charge. Courage--courage--and once again
courage, is all that is necessary to conquer our enemies." These words,
pronounced with the accent and attitude of an exterminating spirit,
appalled and stupified the Assembly. We find nothing that indicated in
them either interest in the imminent danger of the public from without,
or in the usurpation from within. They appeared paralysed with

The armed bands of Paris marched in different quarters, to seize arms
and horses, to discover and denounce suspected persons; the youth fit
for arms were every where mustered, and amid shouts, remonstrances, and
debates, the general attention was so engaged, each individual with his
own affairs, in his own quarter, that, without interference of any kind,
whether from legal authority, or general sympathy, a universal massacre
of the numerous prisoners was perpetrated, with a quietness and
deliberation, which has not its parallel in history. The reader, who may
be still surprised that a transaction so horrid should have passed
without opposition or interruption, must be again reminded of the
astounding effects of the popular victory of the 10th of August; of the
total quiescence of the Legislative Assembly; of the want of an armed
force of any kind to oppose such outrages; and of the epidemic panic
which renders multitudes powerless and passive as infants. Should these
causes not appear to him sufficient, he must be contented to wonder at
the facts we are to relate, as at one of those dreadful prodigies by
which Providence confounds our reason, and shows what human nature can
be brought to, when the restraints of morality and religion are cast

The number of individuals accumulated in the various prisons of Paris,
had increased by the arrests and domiciliary visits subsequent to the
10th of August, to about eight thousand persons. It was the object of
this infernal scheme to destroy the greater part of these under one
general system of murder, not to be executed by the sudden and furious
impulse of an armed multitude, but with a certain degree of cold blood
and deliberate investigation. A force of armed banditti, Marseillois
partly, and partly chosen ruffians of the Fauxbourgs, proceeded to the
several prisons, into which they either forced their passage, or were
admitted by the jailors, most of whom had been apprised of what was to
take place, though some even of these steeled officials exerted
themselves to save those under their charge. A revolutionary tribunal
was formed from among the armed ruffians themselves, who examined the
registers of the prisons, and summoned the captives individually to
undergo the form of a trial. If the judges, as was almost always the
case, declared for death, their doom, to prevent the efforts of men in
despair, was expressed in the words, "Give the prisoners freedom."[281]
The victim was then thrust out into the street, or yard; he was
despatched by men and women, who, with sleeves tucked up, arms dyed
elbow-deep in blood, hands holding axes, pikes, and sabres, were
executioners of the sentence; and, by the manner in which they did
their office on the living, and mangled the bodies of the dead, showed
that they occupied their post as much from pleasure as from love of
hire. They often exchanged places; the judges going out to take the
executioners' duty, the executioners, with their reeking hands, sitting
as judges in their turn. Maillard, a ruffian alleged to have
distinguished himself at the siege of the Bastile, but better known by
his exploits upon the march to Versailles,[282] presided during these
brief and sanguinary investigations. His companions on the bench were
persons of the same stamp. Yet there were occasions when they showed
some transient gleams of humanity, and it is not unimportant to remark,
that boldness had more influence on them than any appeal to mercy or
compassion. An avowed Royalist was occasionally dismissed uninjured,
while the Constitutionalists were sure to be massacred. Another trait of
a singular nature is, that two of the ruffians who were appointed to
guard one of these intended victims home in safety, as a man acquitted,
insisted upon seeing his meeting with his family, seemed to share in the
transports of the moment, and on taking leave, shook the hand of their
late prisoner, while their own were clotted with the gore of his
friends, and had been just raised to shed his own. Few, indeed, and
brief, were these symptoms of relenting. In general, the doom of the
prisoner was death, and that doom was instantly accomplished.

In the meanwhile, the captives were penned up in their dungeons like
cattle in a shambles, and in many instances might, from windows which
looked outwards, mark the fate of their comrades, hear their cries, and
behold their struggles, and learn from the horrible scene, how they
might best meet their own approaching fate. They observed, according to
Saint Meard, who, in his well-named "Agony of Thirty-Six Hours," has
given the account of this fearful scene, that those who intercepted the
blows of the executioners, by holding up their hands, suffered
protracted torment, while those who offered no show of struggle were
more easily despatched; and they encouraged each other to submit to
their fate, in the manner least likely to prolong their sufferings.[283]


Many ladies, especially those belonging to the court, were thus
murdered. The Princess de Lamballe, whose only crime seems to have been
her friendship for Marie Antoinette, was literally hewn to pieces, and
her head, and that of others, paraded on pikes through the metropolis.
It was carried to the Temple on that accursed weapon, the features yet
beautiful in death, and the long fair curls of the hair floating around
the spear. The murderers insisted that the King and Queen should be
compelled to come to the window to view this dreadful trophy. The
municipal officers who were upon duty over the royal prisoners, had
difficulty, not merely in saving them from this horrible inhumanity,
but also in preventing the prison from being forced. Three-coloured
ribbons were extended across the street, and this frail barrier was
found sufficient to intimate that the Temple was under the safeguard of
the nation. We do not read that the efficiency of the three-coloured
ribbons was tried for the protection of any of the other prisons. No
doubt the executioners had their instructions where and when they should
be respected.[284]

The Clergy, who had declined the Constitutional oath from pious
scruples, were, during the massacre, the peculiar objects of insult and
cruelty, and their conduct was such as corresponded with their religious
and conscientious professions. They were seen confessing themselves to
each other, or receiving the confessions of their lay companions in
misfortune, and encouraging them to undergo the evil hour, with as much
calmness as if they themselves had not been to share its bitterness. As
Protestants, we cannot abstractedly approve of the doctrines which
render the established clergy of one country dependent upon a sovereign
pontiff, the prince of an alien state: but these priests did not make
the laws for which they suffered; they only obeyed them; and as men and
Christians we must regard them as martyrs, who preferred death to what
they considered as apostasy.[285]

In the brief intervals of this dreadful butchery, which lasted for four
days, the judges and executioners ate, drank, and slept; and awoke from
slumber, or rose from their meal, with fresh appetite for murder. There
were places arranged for the male and for the female murderers, for the
work had been incomplete without the intervention of the latter. Prison
after prison was invested, entered, and under the same form of
proceeding, made the scene of the same inhuman butchery. The Jacobins
had reckoned on making the massacre universal over France. But the
example was not generally followed. It required, as in the case of Saint
Bartholomew, the only massacre which can be compared to this in
atrocity, the excitation of a large capital, in a violent crisis, to
render such horrors possible.

The Commune of Paris were not in fault for this. They did all they could
to extend the sphere of murder. Their warrant brought from Orleans near
sixty persons, including the Duke de Cossé-Brissac, De Lessart the late
minister, and other Royalists of distinction, who were to have been
tried before the high court of that department. A band of assassins met
them, by appointment of the Commune, at Versailles, who, uniting with
their escort, murdered almost the whole of these unhappy men.[286]


From the 2d to the 6th of September, these infernal crimes proceeded
uninterrupted, protracted by the actors for the sake of the daily pay of
a louis to each, openly distributed amongst them, by order of the
Commune.[287] It was either from a desire to continue as long as
possible a labour so well requited, or because these beings had acquired
an insatiable lust of murder, that, when the jails were emptied of state
criminals, the assassins attacked the Bicêtre, a prison where ordinary
delinquents were confined. These unhappy wretches offered a degree of
resistance which cost the assailants dearer than any they had
experienced from their proper victims. They were obliged to fire on them
with cannon, and many hundreds of the miserable creatures were in this
way exterminated, by wretches worse than themselves.

No exact account was ever made of the number of persons murdered during
this dreadful period; but not above two or three hundred of the
prisoners arrested for state offences were known to escape, or be
discharged, and the most moderate computation raises the number of those
who fell to two or three thousand, though some carry it to twice the
extent. Truchod announced to the Legislative Assembly, that four
thousand had perished. Some exertion was made to save the lives of
persons imprisoned for debt, whose numbers, with those of common felons,
may make up the balance betwixt the number slain, and eight thousand who
were prisoners when the massacre began. The bodies were interred in
heaps, in immense trenches, prepared beforehand by order of the Commune
of Paris; but their bones have since been transferred to the
subterranean Catacombs, which form the general charnel-house of the
city. In those melancholy regions, while other relics of mortality lie
exposed all around, the remains of those who perished in the massacres
of September are alone secluded from the eye. The vault in which they
repose is closed with a screen of freestone, as if relating to crimes
unfit to be thought of even in the proper abode of death, and which
France would willingly hide in oblivion.

In the meanwhile, the reader may be desirous to know what efforts were
made by the Assembly to save the lives of so many Frenchmen, or to put a
stop to a massacre carried on in contempt of all legal interference, and
by no more formidable force than that of two or three hundred atrocious
felons, often, indeed, diminished to only fifty or sixty.[288] He might
reasonably expect that the national representatives would have thundered
forth some of those decrees which they formerly directed against the
crown, and the noblesse; that they should have repaired by deputations
to the various sections, called out the national guards, and appealed to
all, not only that were susceptible of honour or humanity, but to all
who had the breath and being of man, to support them in interrupting a
series of horrors disgraceful to mankind. Such an appeal to the feelings
of their fellow-citizens made them at last successful in the overthrow
of Robespierre. But the Reign of Terror was now but in its commencement,
and men had not yet learned that there lay a refuge in the efforts of

Instead of such energy as might have been expected from the principles
of which they boasted, nothing could be more timid than the conduct of
the Girondists, being the only party in the Assembly who had the power,
and might be supposed to have the inclination, to control the course of

We looked carefully through the _Moniteurs_ which contain the official
account of the sittings of the Assembly on these dreadful days. We find
regular entries of many patriotic gifts, of such importance as the
following:--A fusee from an Englishman--a pair of hackney-coach horses
from the coachman--a map of the country around Paris from a lady. While
engaged in receiving and registering these civic donations, their
journal bears few and doubtful references to the massacres then in
progress. The Assembly issued no decree against the slaughter--demanded
no support from the public force, and restricted themselves to sending
to the murderers a pitiful deputation of twelve of their number, whose
commission seems to have been limited to petition for the safety of one
of their colleagues, belonging to the Constitutional faction. With
difficulty they saved him, and the celebrated Abbé Sicard, the
philanthropic instructor of the deaf and dumb, imprisoned as a
non-juring priest, for whom the wails and tears of his hapless pupils
had procured a reprieve even from the assassins.[289] Dussault, one of
that deputation, distinguished himself by the efforts which he used to
persuade the murderers to desist. "Return to your place," said one of
the ruffians, his arms crimsoned with blood. "You have made us lose too
much time. Return to your own business, and leave us to ours."


Dussault went back, to recount to those who had sent him what he had
witnessed, and how he had been received; and concluded with the
exclamation, "Woe's me, that I should have lived to see such horrors,
without the power of stopping them!" The Assembly heard the detail, and
remained timid and silent as before.[290]

Where, in that hour, were the men who formed their judgment upon the
models presented by Plutarch, their feelings on the wild eloquence of
Rousseau? Where were the Girondists, celebrated by one of their
admirers,[291] as distinguished by good morals, by severe probity, by a
profound respect for the dignity of man, by a deep sense of his rights
and his duties, by a sound, constant, and immutable love of order, of
justice, and of liberty? Were the eyes of such men blind, that they
could not see the blood which flooded for four days the streets of the
metropolis? were their ears deadened, that they could not hear the
shouts of the murderers, and the screams of the victims? or were their
voices mute, that they called not upon God and man--upon the very stones
of Paris, to assist them in interrupting such a crime? Political reasons
have, by royalist writers, been supposed to furnish a motive for their
acquiescence; for there is, according to civilians, a certain degree of
careless or timid imbecility, which can only be explained as having its
origin in fraud. They allege that the Girondists saw, rather with
pleasure than horror, the atrocities which were committed, while their
enemies the Jacobins, exterminating their equally hated enemies the
Constitutionalists and Royalists, took on themselves the whole odium of
a glut of blood, which must soon, they might naturally expect, disgust
the sense and feelings of a country so civilized as France. We remain,
nevertheless, convinced, that Vergniaud, Brissot, Roland, and, to a
certainty, his high-minded wife, would have stopped the massacres of
September, had their courage and practical skill in public affairs borne
any proportion to the conceit which led them to suppose, that their
vocation lay for governing such a nation as France.

But whatever was the motive of their apathy, the Legislative Assembly
was nearly silent on the subject of the massacres, not only while they
were in progress, but for several days afterwards. On the 16th of
September, when news from the army on the frontiers was beginning to
announce successes, and when the panic of the metropolis began to
subside, Vergniaud adroitly charged the Jacobins with turning on unhappy
prisoners of state the popular resentment, which should have animated
them with bravery to march out against the common enemy. He upbraided
also the Commune of Paris with the assumption of unconstitutional
powers, and the inhuman tyranny with which they had abused them; but his
speech made little impression, so much are deeds of cruelty apt to
become familiar to men's feelings, when of frequent recurrence. When the
first accounts were read in the Constituent Assembly, of the massacres
perpetrated at Avignon, the president fainted away, and the whole body
manifested a horror, as well of the senses as of the mind; and now, that
a far more cruel, more enduring, more extensive train of murders was
perpetrated under their own eye, the Legislative Assembly looked on in
apathy. The utmost which the eloquence of Vergniaud could extract from
them was a decree, that in future the Commune should be answerable with
their own lives for the security of the prisoners under their charge.
After passing this decree, the Legislative Assembly, being the second
representative body of the French nation, dissolved itself according to
the resolutions of the 10th of August, to give place to the National

The Legislative Assembly was, in its composition and its character, of a
caste greatly inferior to that which it succeeded. The flower of the
talents of France had naturally centred in the National Assembly, and,
by an absurd regulation, its members were incapacitated from being
re-elected; which necessarily occasioned their situation being in many
instances supplied by persons of inferior attainments. Then the
destinies of the first Assembly had been fulfilled in a more lofty
manner. They were often wrong, often absurd, often arrogant and
presumptuous, but never mean or servile. They respected the liberty of
debate, and even amidst the bitterest political discussions, defended
the persons of their colleagues, however much opposed to them in
sentiment, and maintained their constitutional inviolability. They had
also the great advantage of being, as it were, free born. They were
indeed placed in captivity by their removal to Paris, but their courage
was not abated; nor did they make any concessions of a personal kind to
the ruffians, by whom they were at times personally ill-used.

But the second, or Legislative Assembly, had, on the contrary been
captive from the moment of their first convocation. They had never met
but in Paris, and were inured to the habit of patient submission to the
tribunes and the refuse of the city, who repeatedly broke into their
hall, and issued their mandates in the form of petitions. On two
memorable occasions, they showed too distinctly, that considerations of
personal safety could overpower their sense of public duty. Two-thirds
of the representatives joined in acquitting La Fayette, and declared, by
doing so, that they abhorred the insurrection of the 20th of June; yet,
when that of the 10th of August had completed what was before attempted
in vain upon the occasion preceding, the Assembly unanimously voted the
deposition of the monarch, and committed him to prison. Secondly, they
remained silent and inactive during all the horrors of September, and
suffered the executive power to be wrenched out of their hands by the
Commune of Paris, and used before their eyes for the destruction of many
thousands of Frenchmen whom they represented.

It must be, however, remembered, that the Legislative Assembly were
oppressed by difficulties and dangers the most dreadful that can
threaten a government;--the bloody discord of contending factions, the
arms of foreigners menacing the frontier, and civil war breaking out in
the provinces. In addition to these sources of peril and dismay, there
were three divided parties within the Assembly itself; while a rival
power, equally formidable from its audacity and its crimes, had erected
itself in predominating authority, like that of the maires du palais
over the feeble monarchs of the Merovingian dynasty.


[265] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 265; Mignet, tom. i., p. 197.

[266] Bursau de Pucy, Latour Maubourg, and Alexander Lameth. Their
intention was to proceed to the United States of America.

[267] "I never saw any countenance that so strongly expressed the
violence of brutal passions, and the most astonishing audacity,
half-disguised by a jovial air, an affectation of frankness, and a sort
of simplicity."--MAD. ROLAND, part i., p. 88.

[268] "In 1789, he was a miserable lawyer, more burdened with debts than
causes. He went to Belgium to augment his resources, and now had the
hardihood to avow a fortune of 1,400,000 livres, (£58,333,) and to
wallow in luxury, whilst preaching sans-culottism, and sleeping on heaps
of slaughtered men. O, Danton! cruel as Marius, and more terrible than
Cataline, you surpass their misdeeds, without possessing their good
qualities."--MAD. ROLAND, part ii., p. 59.

[269] "Il avait une manière de prononcer _pauvre peuple et peuple
vertueux_, qui ne manqua jamais son effet sur de feroces
spectateurs."--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p. 15.

[270] Mémoires de Barbaroux, p. 63.

[271] "I once conversed with Robespierre at my father's house, in 1789.
His features were mean, his complexion pale, his veins of a greenish
hue."--MAD. DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 140.

"I had twice occasion to converse with Robespierre. He had a sinister
expression of countenance, never looked you in the face, and had a
continual and unpleasant winking of the eyes."--DUMONT, p. 202.

[272] Mémoires de Barbaroux, p. 57.

[273] Mignet, tom. i., p. 220; Garat, p. 174.

[274] Lacretelle, tom. ix., pp. 292, 316.

[275] "Un emploi si rigoureux répugnerait trop à mes principes
philanthropiques."--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p. 274.

[276] "The carriage which conveyed the royal family to the Temple, was
stopped on the Place Vendôme, in order that the King might see the
fragments of the statue of Louis the Great."--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p.

[277] "Nuit de terreur! prelude affreux de plusieurs jours de sang! nuit
où une capitale perdue dans la mollesse, infectée des maximes de
l'égoïsme philosophique, expia le sort honteux de s'être laissé asservir
par tout ce que sa population offrait de plus abjèct et de plus
criminel!"--LACRETELLE, tom. ix., p. 288.

[278] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 296.

[279] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 298.

[280] Mignet, tom. i., p. 204; Thiers, tom. ii., p. 61; Lacretelle, tom.
ix., p. 293.

[281] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 314.

[282] See _ante_, p. 92.

[283] Mon Agonie de Trente-six Heures, p. 30.

[284] Thiers, tom. iii., p. 8; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 325.

[285] Thiers, tom. iii., p. 64.

[286] Thiers, tom. iii., p. 127; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 348.

[287] The books of the Hôtel de Ville preserve evidence of this fact.
Billaud-Varennes appeared publicly among the assassins, and distributed
the price of blood.--S.--"I am authorised," he said, "to offer to each
of you twenty-four francs, which shall be instantly paid. Respectable
citizens, continue your good work, and acquire new titles to the homage
of your country! Let every thing on this great day be fitting the
sovereignty of the people, who have committed their vengeance to your
hands."--SICARD, p. 135; THIERS, tom. iii., p. 74.

[288] Louvet's Memoirs, p. 73; Barbaroux, p. 57; Thiers, tom. iii., p.

[289] "The abbé would have been instantly murdered, had not a courageous
watchmaker, of the name of Monnot, rushed between them, and staid the
lance already raised to be plunged in his bosom."--THIERS, tom. iii., p.

[290] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 317

[291] Mémoires de Buzot, p. 82.

[292] Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 359.


    _Election of Representatives for the National
    Convention--Jacobins are very active--Right hand Party--Left
    hand side--Neutral Members--The Girondists are in possession of
    the ostensible Power--They denounce the Jacobin Chiefs, but in
    an irregular and feeble manner--Marat, Robespierre, and Danton,
    supported by the Commune and Populace of Paris--France declared
    a Republic--Duke of Brunswick's Campaign--Neglects the French
    Emigrants--Is tardy in his Operations--Occupies the poorest part
    of Champagne--His Army becomes sickly--Prospects of a
    Battle--Dumouriez's Army recruited with Carmagnoles--The Duke
    resolves to Retreat--Thoughts on the consequences of that
    measure--The Retreat disastrous--The Emigrants disbanded in a
    great measure--Reflections on their Fate--The Prince of Condé's


It was, of course, the object of each party to obtain the greatest
possible majority in the National Convention now to be assembled, for
arranging upon some new footing the government of France, and for
replacing that Constitution to which faith had been so repeatedly sworn.

The Jacobins made the most energetic exertions. They not only wrote
missives through their two thousand affiliated societies, but sent three
hundred commissaries, or delegates, to superintend the elections in the
different towns and departments; to exhort their comrades not only to be
firm, but to be enterprising; and to seize with strong hand the same
power over the public force, which the mother society possessed in
Paris. The advice was poured into willing ears; for it implied the
sacred right of insurrection, with the concomitant privileges of pillage
and slaughter.

The power of the Jacobins was irresistible in Paris, where Robespierre,
Danton, and Marat, who shared the high places in their synagogue, were
elected by an immense majority;[293] and of the twenty deputies who
represented Paris, there were not above five or six unconnected with the
massacres. Nor were they any where unsuccessful, where there existed
enough of their adherents to overawe by threats, clamour, and violence,
the impartial voice of the public.

But in every state there is a great number of men who love order for
itself, and for the protection it affords to property. There were also a
great many persons at heart Royalists, either pure or constitutional,
and all these united in sending to the National Convention deputies,
who, if no opportunity occurred of restoring the monarchy, might at
least co-operate with the Girondists and more moderate Republicans in
saving the life of the unfortunate Louis, and in protecting men's lives,
and property in general, from the infuriate violence of the Jacobins.
These supporters of order--we know no better name to assign to
them--were chiefly representatives of the departments, where electors
had more time to discriminate and reflect, than when under the influence
of the revolutionary societies and clubs of the towns. Yet Nantes,
Bourdeaux, Marseilles, Lyons, and other towns, chiefly in the west and
south, were disposed to support the Girondists, and sent deputies
favourable to their sentiments. Thus the Convention, when assembled,
still presented the appearance of two strong parties; and the feebleness
of that, which, being moderate in its views, only sought to act
defensively consisted not in want of numbers, but in want of energy.

It was no good omen, that, on taking their places in the Assembly, these
last assumed the Right Side; a position which seemed doomed to defeat,
since it had been successively occupied by the suppressed parties of
moderate Royalists and Constitutionalists. There was defeat in the very
sound of the _parti droit_, whereas the left-hand position had always
been that of victory. Men's minds are moved by small incidents in
dubious times. Even this choice of seats made an impression upon
spectators and auditors unfavourable to the Girondists, as all naturally
shrink from a union with bad fortune. There was a considerable party of
neutral members, who, without joining themselves to the Girondists,
affected to judge impartially betwixt the contending parties. They were
chiefly men of consciences too timid to go all the lengths of the
Jacobins, but also of too timid nerves to oppose them openly and boldly.
These were sure to succumb on all occasions, when the Jacobins judged it
necessary to use their favourite argument of popular terror.

The Girondists took possession, however, of all ostensible marks of
power. Danton was dismissed from his place as minister of justice; and
they were, as far as mere official name and title could bestow it on
them, in possession of the authority of government. But the ill-fated
regulation which excluded ministers from seats in the Assembly, and
consequently from any right save that of defence, proved as fatal to
those of the new system, as it had done to the executive government of


Our remarks upon the policy of the great change from Monarchy to a
Republic, will be more in place elsewhere.[294] Indeed, violent as the
change sounded in words, there was not such an important alteration in
effect as to produce much sensation. The Constitution of 1791 was a
democracy to all intents and purposes, leaving little power with the
King, and that little subject to be so much cramped and straitened in
its operation, that the royal authority was even smaller in practice
than it had been limited in theory. When to this is added, that Louis
was a prisoner amongst his subjects, acting under the most severe
restraint, and endangering his life every time he attempted to execute
his constitutional power, he must long have been held rather an
incumbrance on the motions and councils of the state, than as one of its
efficient constituted authorities. The nominal change of the system of
government scarcely made a greater alteration in the internal condition
of France, than the change of a sign makes upon a house of
entertainment, where the business of the tavern is carried on in the
usual way, although the place is no longer distinguished as the King's


While France was thus alarmed and agitated within, by change, by crime,
by the most bitter political factions, the dawn of that course of
victory had already risen on the frontiers, which, in its noonday
splendour, was to blaze fiercely over all Europe. It is not our purpose
to detail military events at present; we shall have but too many of them
to discuss hereafter. We shall barely state, that the Duke of
Brunswick's campaign, considered as relative to his proclamation, forms
too good an illustration of the holy text, "Pride goeth before
destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." The duke was at the
head of a splendid army, which had been joined by fifteen thousand
emigrants in the finest state of equipment, burning with zeal to rescue
the King, and avenge themselves on those by whom they had been driven
from their country. From what fatality it is hard to conceive, but the
Duke of Brunswick seems to have looked with a certain degree of coldness
and suspicion on those troops, whose chivalrous valour and high birth
called them to the van, instead of the rear, in which the generalissimo
was pleased to detain them. The chance of success that might justly have
been expected from the fiery energy which was the very soul of French
chivalry, from the fear which such an army might have inspired, or
perhaps from the friends whom they might have found, was altogether
lost. There was something in this extraordinary conduct, which almost
vindicated the suspicion, that Prussia was warring on her own account,
and was not disposed to owe too much of the expected success to the
valour of the emigrants. And it escaped not the remark, both of the
emigrants and the French at large, that Longwy and Verdun were
ostentatiously taken possession of by the allies, not under the name of
the King of France, or the Comte d'Artois, but in that of the Emperor;
which appeared to give colour to the invidious report, that the allies
were to be indemnified for the cost of their assistance, at the expense
of the French line of frontier towns. Neither did the duke use his fine
army of Prussians, or direct the motions of the Austrians under
Clairfait, to any greater advantage. He had, indeed, the troops of the
Great Frederick; but under the command of an irresolute and incapable
leader, it was the sword of Scanderbeg in the hands of a boy.

This tardiness of the Duke of Brunswick's movements intimated a latent
doubt of his own capacity to conduct the campaign. The superiority of
his veteran and finely disciplined forces over the disorganized army of
Dumouriez, reinforced as it was by crowds of Federates, who were perfect
strangers to war, would have been best displayed by bold and rapid
movements, evincing at once activity and combination, and alarming raw
troops by a sense of danger, not in front alone, but on every point.
Each day which these new soldiers spent unfought, was one step towards
military discipline, and what is more, towards military confidence. The
general who had threatened so hard, seemed to suspend his blow in
indecision; and he remained trifling on the frontiers, "when Frederick,
had he been in our front," said the French general, "would long since
have driven us back upon Chalons."[295]

The result of so many false steps began soon to appear. Brunswick, whose
army was deficient in battering guns, though entering France on a
frontier of fortifications, was arrested by the obstinate defence of
Thionville. Having at length decided to advance, he spent nine days in
marching thirty leagues, but omitted to possess himself of the defiles
of Argonnes, by which alone the army of Luckner could co-operate with
that of Dumouriez. The allied general now found himself in the most
elevated part of the province of Champagne, branded for its poverty and
sterility with the unseemly name "La Champagne Pouilleuse," where he
found difficulty to subsist his army. Meantime, if corn and forage were
scarce, grapes and melons were, unfortunately, plenty. These last fruits
are so proverbially unwholesome, that the magistrates of Liege, and some
other towns, forbid the peasants to bring them to market under pain of
confiscation. It was the first time such delicacies had been presented
to the hyperborean appetites of the Prussians; and they could not resist
the temptation, though the same penalty was annexed to the banquet, as
to that which produced the first transgression. They ate and died. A
fatal dysentery broke out in the camp, which swept the soldiers away by
hundreds in a day, sunk the spirits of the survivors, and seems to have
totally broken the courage of their commander.[296]

Two courses remained to the embarrassed general. One was, to make his
way by giving battle to the French, by attacking them in the strong
position which they had been permitted to occupy, notwithstanding the
ease with which they might have been anticipated. It is true, Dumouriez
had been very strongly reinforced. France, from all her departments, had
readily poured forth many thousands of her fiery youth, from city and
town, village and grange and farm, to protect the frontiers, at once,
from the invasion of foreigners, and the occupation of thousands of
vengeful emigrants. They were undisciplined, indeed, but full of zeal
and courage, heated and excited by the scenes of the republic, and
inflamed by the florid eloquence, the songs, dances, and signal-words
with which it had been celebrated. Above all, they were of a country,
which, of all others in Europe, has been most familiar with war, and the
youth of which are most easily rendered amenable to military discipline.

But to these new levies the Duke of Brunswick might have safely opposed
the ardent valour of the emigrants, men descended of families whose
deeds of chivalry fill the registers of Europe; men by whom the road to
Paris was regarded as that which was to conduct them to victory, to
honour, to the rescue of their King, to reunion with their families, to
the recovery of their patrimony; men accustomed to consider disgrace as
more dreadful by far than death, and who claimed as their birth-right,
military renown and the use of arms. In one skirmish, fifteen hundred of
the emigrant cavalry had defeated, with great slaughter, a column of the
Carmagnoles, as the republican levies were called. They were routed with
great slaughter, and their opponents had the pleasure to count among the
slain a considerable number of the assassins of September.

But the French general had more confidence in the Carmagnole levies,
from which his military genius derived a valuable support, than
Brunswick thought proper to repose in the chivalrous gallantry of the
French noblesse. He could only be brought to engage in one action, of
artillery, near Valmy, which was attended with no marked consequence,
and then issued his order for a retreat. It was in vain that the Comte
d'Artois, with a spirit worthy of the line from which he was descended,
and the throne to which he has now succeeded, entreated, almost
implored, a recall of this fatal order; in vain that he offered in
person to head the emigrant forces, and to assume with them the most
desperate post in the battle, if the generalissimo would permit it to be
fought. But the duke, obstinate in his desponding in proportion to his
former presumption, was not of that high mind which adopts hazardous
counsels in desperate cases. He saw his army mouldering away around him,
beheld the French forming in his rear, knew that the resources of
Prussia were unequal to a prolonged war, and, after one or two feeble
attempts to negotiate for the safety of the captive Louis, he was at
length contented to accept an implied permission to retreat without
molestation. He raised his camp on the 29th of September,[297] and left
behind him abundant marks of the dreadful state to which his army was

When we look back on these events, and are aware of Dumouriez's real
opinions, and the interest which he took in the fate of the King, we
have little reason to doubt, that the Duke of Brunswick might, by active
and prompt exertions, have eluded that general's defensive measures;
nay, that judicious negotiation might have induced him, on certain
points being conceded, to have united a part at least of his forces with
those of the emigrants in a march to Paris, for the King's rescue, and
the punishment of the Jacobins.

But had the restoration of Louis XVI. taken place by the armed hand of
the emigrants and the allies, the final event of the war must still have
been distant. Almost the whole body of the kingdom was diametrically
opposed to the restoration of the absolute monarchy, with all its evils;
and yet it must have been the object of the emigrants, in case of
success, again to establish, not only royalty in its utmost prerogative,
but all the oppressive privileges and feudal subjections which the
Revolution had swept away. Much was to have been dreaded too, from the
avidity of the strangers, whose arms had assisted the imprisoned Louis,
and much more from what has since been aptly termed the Reaction, which
must have taken place upon a counter-revolution. It was greatly to be
apprehended, that the emigrants, always deeming too lightly of the ranks
beneath them, incensed by the murder of their friends, and stung by
their own private wrongs and insults, would, if successful, have treated
the Revolution not as an exertion of the public will of France to free
the country from public grievances, but as a _Jacquerie_, (which in some
of its scenes it too much resembled,) a domestic treason of the vassals
against their liege lords. It was the will of Providence, that the
experience of twenty years and upwards should make manifest, that in the
hour of victory itself, concessions to the defeated, as far as justice
demands them, is the only mode of deriving permanent and secure peace.


The retreat of the Prussians was executed in the best possible order,
and in the most leisurely manner. But if to them it was a measure of
disgrace, it was to the unfortunate emigrants who had joined their
standard, the signal of utter despair and ruin. These corps were
composed of gentlemen, who, called suddenly and unprovided from their
families and homes, had only brought with them such moderate sums of
money as could be raised in an emergency, which they had fondly
conceived would be of very brief duration. They had expended most of
their funds in providing themselves with horses, arms, and
equipments--some part must have been laid out in their necessary
subsistence, for they served chiefly at their own expense--and perhaps,
as might have been expected among high-spirited and high-born youths,
their slender funds had not been managed with an economical view of the
possibility of the reverses which had taken place. In the confusion and
disorder of the retreat, their baggage was plundered by their
auxiliaries, that is to say, by the disorderly Prussian soldiers, who
had shaken loose all discipline; and they were in most cases reduced for
instant maintenance to sell their horses at such paltry prices as they
could obtain. To end the history of such of this devoted army as had
been engaged in the Duke of Brunswick's campaign, they were disbanded at
Juliers, in November 1792.

The blindness of the sovereigns, who, still continuing a war on France,
suffered such fine troops to be dissolved for want of the means of
support, was inexcusable; their cold and hard-hearted conduct towards a
body of gentlemen, who, if politically wrong, were at least devoted to
the cause for which Austria asserted that she continued in arms, was
equally unwise and ungenerous. These gallant gentlemen might have
upbraided the Kings who had encouraged, and especially the general who
led, this ill-fated expedition, in the words of Shakspeare, if he had
been known to them,--

    "Hast thou not spoke like thunder on our side,
    Been sworn our soldier--bidding us depend
    Upon thy stars, thy fortune, and thy strength?"[299]

But the reproaches of those who have no remedy but the exposition of
their wrongs, seldom reach the ears of the powerful by whom these wrongs
have been committed.

It is not difficult to conceive the agony with which these banished
gentlemen abandoned all hopes of saving the life of their King, and the
recovery of their rank and fortune. All their proud vaunts of expected
success were lost, or converted into serpents to sting them. They had no
hope before them, and, what is worst to men of high spirit, they had
fallen with scarce a blow struck for honour, far less for victory. They
were now doomed, such as could, to exercise for mere subsistence the
prosecution of sciences and arts, which they had cultivated to adorn
prosperity--to wander in foreign lands, and live upon the precarious
charity of foreign powers, embittered every where by the reflections of
some, who pitied the folly that could forfeit rank and property for a
mere point of honour; and of others, who saw in them the enemies of
rational liberty, and upbraided them with the charge, that their
misfortunes were the necessary consequence of their arbitrary

It might have in some degree mitigated their calamity, could some gifted
sage have shown them, at such distance as the Legislator of Israel
beheld the Promised Land from Mount Pisgah, the final restoration of the
royal house, in whose cause they had suffered shipwreck of their all.
But how many perished in the wilderness of misfortune which
intervened--how few survived the twenty years wandering which conducted
to this promised point! and of those few, who, war-worn and wearied by
misfortunes, survived the restoration of royalty, how very few were
rewarded by more than the disinterested triumph which they felt on that
joyful occasion! and how many might use the simile of a royalist of
Britain on a similar occasion,--"The fleece of Gideon remained dry,
while the hoped-for restoration shed showers of blessing on all France

The emigrant regiments under the command of the Prince of Condé had
another and nobler fate. They retained their arms, and signalized
themselves by their exertions; were consumed by the sword, and in toils
of service, and died at least the death of soldiers, mourned, and not
unrevenged. But they were wasting their devoted courage in the service
of foreigners; and if their gallantry was gratified by the defeat of
those whom they regarded as the murderers of their king and as usurpers
of their rights, they might indeed feel that their revenge was satiated,
but scarce in any sense could they regard their victories as serviceable
to the cause to which they had sacrificed their country, their
possessions, their hopes, their lives. Their fate, though on a much more
extensive scale, much resembles that of the officers of the Scottish
army in 1690, who, following the fortunes of James II. to France, were
at length compelled to form themselves into a battalion of privates,
and, after doing many feats of gallantry in the service of the country
where they found refuge, at length melted away under the sword of the
enemy, and the privations of military service. History, while she is
called upon to censure or commend the actions of mankind according to
the rules of immutable justice, is no less bound to lament the brave and
generous, who, preferring the dictates of honourable feeling to those of
prudence, are hurried into courses which may be doubtful in policy, and
perhaps in patriotism, but to which they are urged by the disinterested
wish of discharging what they account a conscientious duty. The
emigrants were impolitic, perhaps, in leaving France, though that
conduct had many apologies; and their entrance into their country in
arms to bring back the despotic system, which Louis XVI. and the whole
nation, save themselves, had renounced, was an enterprise unwisely and
unjustly undertaken. But the cause they embraced was one dear to all the
prejudices of the rank and sentiments in which they had been brought up;
their loyal purpose in its defence is indisputable; and it would be hard
to condemn them for following one extreme, when the most violent and
tyrannical proceedings were, in the sight of all Europe, urging another,
so bloody, black, and fatal as that of the faction which now domineered
in Paris, and constrained men, whose prejudices of birth or education
were in favour of freedom, to loathe the very name of France, and of the

The tame and dishonourable retreat of the Duke of Brunswick and his
Prussians, naturally elated the courage of a proud and martial people.
Recruits flowed into the Republican ranks from every department; and the
generals, Custine on the Rhine, and Montesquiou on the side of Savoy,
with Dumouriez in the Netherlands, knew how to avail themselves of these
reinforcements, which enabled them to assume the offensive on all parts
of the extensive south-eastern frontier of France.

[Sidenote: ATTACK OF SAVOY.]

The attack of Savoy, whose sovereign, the King of Sardinia, was
brother-in-law of the Comte d'Artois, and had naturally been active in
the cause of the Bourbons, was successfully commenced, and carried on by
General Montesquiou already mentioned, a French noble, and an aristocrat
of course by birth, and as it was believed by principle, but to whom,
nevertheless, the want of experienced leaders had compelled the ruling
party at Paris to commit the command of an army. He served them well,
possessed himself of Nice and Chamberi, and threatened even Italy.[300]

On the centre of the same line of frontier, Custine, an excellent
soldier and a fierce republican, took Spires, Oppenheim, Worms, finally
the strong city of Mentz, and spread dismay through that portion of the
Germanic empire. Adopting the republican language of the day, he
thundered forth personal vengeance, denounced in the most broad and
insulting terms, against such princes of the Germanic body as had
distinguished themselves by zeal against the Revolution; and, what was
equally formidable, he preached to their subjects the flattering and
exciting doctrines of the Republicans, and invited them to join in the
sacred league of the oppressed people against princes and magistrates,
who had so long held over them a usurped power.[301]

But the successes of Dumouriez were of a more decided and more grateful
character to the ruling men in the Convention. He had a heavier task
than either Custine or Montesquiou; but his lively and fertile
imagination had already devised modes of conquest with the imperfect
means he possessed. The difference between commanders is the same as
between mechanics. A workman of commonplace talents, however expert
custom and habit may have made him in the use of his ordinary tools, is
at a loss when deprived of those which he is accustomed to work with.
The man of invention and genius finds out resources, and contrives to
make such implements as the moment supplies answer his purpose, as well,
and perhaps better, than a regular chest of working utensils. The ideas
of the ordinary man are like a deep-rutted road, through which his
imagination moves slowly, and without departing from the track; those of
the man of genius are like an avenue, clear, open, and smooth, on which
he may traverse as occasion requires.

Dumouriez was a man of genius, resource, and invention. Clairfait, who
was opposed to him, a brave and excellent soldier, but who had no idea
of strategie or tactics, save those current during the Seven Years' War.
The former knew so well how to employ the fire and eagerness of his
Carmagnoles, of whose blood he was by no means chary, and how to
prevent the consequences of their want of discipline, by reserves of his
most steady and experienced troops, that he gave Clairfait a signal
defeat at Jemappes, on the 6th November, 1792.[302]

It was then that both Austria and Europe had reason to regret the absurd
policy of Joseph II., both in indisposing the inhabitants towards his
government, and, in the fine provinces of the Austrian Netherlands,
dismantling the iron girdle of fortified towns, with which the wisdom of
Europe had invested that frontier. Clairfait, who, though defeated, was
too good a disciplinarian to be routed, had to retreat on a country
unfriendly to the Austrians, from recollection of their own recent
insurrection, and divested of all garrison towns; which must have been
severe checks, particularly at this period, to the incursion of a
revolutionary army, more fitted to win battles by its impetuosity, than
to overcome obstacles which could only be removed by long and patient

As matters stood, the battle of Jemappes was won, and the Austrian
Netherlands were fully conquered without further combat by the French
general. We shall leave him in his triumph, and return to the fatal
scenes acting in Paris.


[293] Among others of the same party thus elected were David, the
painter, Camille Desmoulins, Collot d'Herbois, and the Duke of Orleans,
who had abdicated his titles, and was now called Philip Egalité.--See
THIERS, tom. iii., p. 133.

[294] "The first measure of the Convention was to abolish Monarchy and
proclaim a Republic. The calendar was changed; it was no longer the
fourth year of Liberty, but the first of the French Republic."--MIGNET,
tom. i., p. 212.

[295] Dumouriez, vol. ii., p. 387.

[296] Jomini, tom. ii., p. 133.

[297] Dumouriez, vol. iii., p. 63; Jomini, tom. ii., p. 138.

[298] "All the villages were filled with dead and the dying; without any
considerable fighting, the allies had lost, by dysentery and fevers,
more than a fourth of their numbers."--TOULONGEON, tom. ii., p. 357.

[299] King John, act iii., sc. i.

[300] Botta, tom. i., p. 88; Jomini, tom. ii., p. 190.

[301] Thiers, tom. iii., p. 182; Jomini, tom. ii., p. 151.

[302] Dumouriez, vol. iii., p. 169; Toulongeon, tom. iii., p. 47;
Jomini, tom. ii., p. 217.


    _Jacobins determine upon the Execution of Louis--Progress and
    Reasons of the King's Unpopularity--Girondists taken by
    surprise, by a proposal for the Abolition of Royalty made by the
    Jacobins--Proposal carried--Thoughts on the New System of
    Government--Compared with that of Rome, Greece, America, and
    other Republican States--Enthusiasm throughout France at the
    Change--Follies it gave birth to--And Crimes--Monuments of Art
    destroyed--Madame Roland interposes to save the Life of the
    King--Barrère--Girondists move for a Departmental
    Legion--Carried--Revoked--and Girondists defeated--The Authority
    of the Community of Paris paramount even over the
    Convention--Documents of the Iron-Chest--Parallel betwixt
    Charles I. and Louis XVI.--Motion by Pétion, that the King
    should be Tried before the Convention._

It is generally to be remarked, that Crime, as well as Religion, has her
sacramental associations, fitted for the purposes to which she desires
to pledge her votaries. When Cataline imposed an oath on his
fellow-conspirators, a slave was murdered, and his blood mingled with
the beverage in which they pledged each other to their treason against
the republic. The most desperate mutineers and pirates too have
believed, that by engaging their associates in some crime of a deep and
atrocious nature, so contrary to the ordinary feelings of humanity as to
strike with horror all who should hear of it, they made their allegiance
more completely their own; and, as remorse is useless where retreat is
impossible, that they thus rendered them in future the desperate and
unscrupulous tools, necessary for the designs of their leaders.

In like manner, the Jacobins--who had now full possession of the
passions and confidence of the lower orders in France, as well as of all
those spirits among the higher classes, who, whether desirous of
promotion by exertions in the revolutionary path, or whether enthusiasts
whose imagination had become heated with the extravagant doctrines that
had been current during these feverish times,--the Jacobins resolved to
engage their adherents, and all whom they influenced, in proceeding to
the death of the unfortunate Louis. They had no reason to doubt that
they might excite the populace to desire and demand that final
sacrifice, and to consider the moment of its being offered as a time of
jubilee. Nor were the better classes likely to take a warm or decisive
interest in the fate of their unhappy prince, so long the object of


From the beginning of the Revolution, down to the total overthrow of the
throne, first the power of the King, and afterwards his person and the
measures to which he resorted, were the constant subject of attack by
the parties who successively forced themselves into his administration.
Each faction accused the other, during the time of their brief sway, of
attempts to extend the power and the privileges of the crown; which was
thus under a perpetual siege, though carried on by distinct and opposite
factions, one of whom regularly occupied the lines of attack, to
dislodge the others, as fast as they obtained successively possession of
the ministry. Thus the Third Estate overcame the two privileged classes,
in behalf of the people and against the crown; La Fayette and the
Constitutionalists triumphed over the Moderates, who desired to afford
the King the shelter and bulwark of an intermediate senate; and then,
after creating a constitution as democratical as it could be, leaving a
name and semblance of royalty, they sunk under the Girondists, who were
disposed altogether to dispense with that symbol. In this way it
appeared to the people, that the King was their natural enemy, and that
the royal interest was directly opposed to a revolution which had
brought them sundry advantages, besides giving them the feelings and
consequence of freemen. In this manner, one of the mildest and best
disposed monarchs that ever swayed a sceptre, became exposed to general
suspicion and misconstruction in his measures, and (as is sure speedily
to follow) to personal contempt, and even hatred. Whatever the King did
in compliance with the current tide of revolution was accounted as
fraudful complaisance, designed to blind the nation. Whatever
opposition he made to that powerful impulse, was accounted an act of
open treason against the sovereignty of the people.

His position, with regard to the invading powers, was enough of itself
to load him with obloquy and suspicion. It is true, that he was called,
and professed himself, the willing king of a popular, or democratic
monarchy; but in the proclamations of his allies, he was described as a
monarch imprisoned, degraded, and almost dethroned. To achieve his
liberty (as they affirmed,) and to re-establish his rights, the Emperor,
his brother-in-law, the King of Prussia, his ally, and above all, his
brothers, the princes of the blood of France, were in arms, and had sent
numerous armies to the frontiers.[303] It was scarcely possible, in the
utmost extent of candour, that the French people should give Louis
credit for desiring the success of the revolutionary cause, by which not
only his power had been circumscribed, but his person had been placed
under virtual restraint, against forces armed avowedly for his safety
and liberty, as well as the restoration of his power. We can allow as
much to the disinterestedness of Louis, as to any whose feelings and
rights were immediately concerned with the point at issue; and we admit
that all concessions which he made to the popular cause, before the
National Assembly had asserted a paramount authority over his, were
willingly and freely granted. But, after the march from Versailles, he
must have been an enthusiast for public liberty of a very uncommon
character, if we could suppose him seriously wishing the defeat of his
brothers and allies, and the victory of those who had deprived him first
of authority, and then of freedom.

A single glance at his situation must have convinced the people of
France, that Louis could scarcely be sincere in desiring the continuance
of the system to which he had given his adhesion as sovereign; and the
consciousness that they could not expect confidence where they
themselves had made ungenerous use of their power, added force to their
suspicions, and acrimony to the deep resentments which arose out of
them. The people had identified themselves and their dearest interests
(right or wrong, it signifies little to the result) with the Revolution,
and with the increasing freedom which it bestowed, or rather promised to
bestow, in every succeeding change. The King, who had been the regular
opponent of every one of these innovations, was in consequence regarded
as the natural enemy of the country, who, if he continued to remain at
the helm of the executive government, did so with the sole view of
running the vessel upon the rocks.

If there had been any men in France generous enough to give the King
credit for complete good faith with the Constitutionalists, his flight
from Paris, and the manifestoes which he left behind him, protesting
against the measures in which he had acquiesced, as extorted from him
by constraint, gave open proof of Louis's real feelings. It is true, the
King denied any purpose of leaving the kingdom, or throwing himself into
the hands of the foreign powers; but it could escape no one, that such a
step, however little it was calculated upon in the commencement of his
flight, might very easily have become inevitable before its completion.
It does not appear from the behaviour of the escorts of dragoons and
hussars, that there was any attachment among the troops to the King's
person; and had the mutiny of Bouillé's forces against that general's
authority taken place after the King reached the camp, the only safety
of Louis must have been in a retreat into the Austrian territory. This
chance was so evident, that Bouillé himself had provided for it, by
requesting that the Austrian forces might be so disposed as to afford
the King protection should the emergency occur.[304] Whatever,
therefore, might be the King's first experiment, the point to which he
directed his flight bore out those, who supposed and asserted that it
must have ultimately terminated in his re-union with his brothers; and
that such a conclusion must have repeatedly occurred to the King's

But if the King was doubted and suspected before he gave this decisive
proof of his disinclination to the constitution, there had surely
happened nothing in the course of his being seized at Varennes, or the
circumstances of his reception at Paris, tending to reconcile him to the
constitutional crown, which was a second time proffered him, and which
he again, with all its duties and acts of self-denial, solemnly

We have before hinted, that the King's assuming of new the frail and
barren sceptre, proffered to him under the most humiliating
circumstances, was a piece of indifferent policy. There occurred almost
no course of conduct by which, subjected as he was to general suspicion,
he could show himself once more to his people in a clear and impartial
point of view--each of his measures was sure to be the theme of the most
malignant commentary. If his conduct assumed a popular aspect, it was
accounted an act of princely hypocrisy; if it was like his opposition to
the departmental army, it would have been held as intended to weaken the
defence of the country; if it resembled his rejection of the decrees
against the emigrants and refractory priests, then it might be urged as
inferring a direct intention of bringing back the old despotic system.

In short, all confidence was lost between the sovereign and the people,
from a concurrence of unhappy circumstances, in which it would certainly
be unjust to cast the blame exclusively on either party, since there
existed so many grounds for distrust and misunderstanding on both sides.
The noble and generous confidence which Frenchmen had been wont to
repose in the personal character of their monarch--a confidence, which
the probity of no man could deserve more than that of Louis--was
withered, root and branch; or those in whose breasts it still flourished
were banished men, and had carried the Oriflamme, and the ancient spirit
of French chivalry, into a camp not her own. The rest of the nation, a
scattered and intimidated remnant of Royalists excepted, were
Constitutionalists, who, friends rather to the crown than to the King as
an individual, wished to preserve the form of government, but without
either zeal or attachment to Louis; or Girondists, who detested his
office as Republicans; or Jacobins, who hated his person. Every one,
therefore, assailed Louis; and it was held enrolling himself amongst
aristocrats, the most avowed and hated enemies of the new order of
things, if any one lifted a voice in his defence, or even apology.

To this the influence of the revolutionary clubs, amounting to so many
thousands, and of the daily press, almost the only kind of literature
which France had left, added the full tribute of calumny and
inculpation. The Jacobins attacked the person of the King from the very
commencement of the Revolution; for they desired that Louis should be
destroyed, even when some amongst them were leagued for placing Orleans
in his room. The Girondists, on the contrary, would have been well
contented to spare the person of Louis; but they urged argument after
argument, in the journal which they directed, against the royal office.
But upon the whole, the King, whether in his royal or personal
character, had been so long and uniformly calumniated and
misinterpreted, that through most parts of France he was esteemed the
enemy whom the people had most to dread, and whom they were most
interested to get rid of. In evidence of which it may be added, that
during all successive changes of parties, for the next year or two, the
charge of a disposition towards royalty was always made an aggravation
of the accusations which the parties brought against each other, and was
considered as so necessary an ingredient, that it was not omitted even
when circumstances rendered it impossible.


Both parties in the Convention were thus prepared to acquire popularity,
by gratifying the almost universal prejudices against monarchy, and
against the King. The Girondists, constant to the Republican principles
they entertained, had resolved to abolish the throne; but their
audacious rivals were prepared to go a step beyond them, by gratifying
the popular spirit of vengeance which their own calumnies had increased
to such a pitch, by taking the life of the dethroned monarch. This was
the great national crime which was to serve France for a republican
baptism, and which, once committed, was to be regarded as an act of
definitive and deadly adhesion to the cause of the Revolution. But not
contented with taking measures for the death of the monarch, this
desperate but active faction resolved to anticipate their rivals in the
proposal for the abolition of royalty.

The Girondists, who counted much on the popularity which they were to
attain by this favourite measure, were so far from fearing the
anticipation of the Jacobins, that, under the idea of Orleans having
some interest remaining with Danton and others, they rather expected
some opposition on their part. But what was their surprise and
mortification when, on the 21st September, Manuel[305] arose, and
demanded that one of the first proposals submitted to the Convention
should be the abolition of royalty! Ere the Girondists could recover
from their surprise, Collot d'Herbois, a sorry comedian, who had been
hissed from the stage, desired the motion to be instantly put to the
vote. The Girondists, anticipated in their scheme, had no resource left
but to be clamorous in applauding the motion, lest their hesitation
should bring their republican zeal into question. Thus all they could do
was but to save their credit with the popular party, at a time when they
had expected to increase it to such a height. Their antagonists had been
so alert as to steal the game out of their hands.[306]

The violence with which the various orators expressed themselves against
monarchy of every complexion, and kings in general, was such as to show,
either that they were in no state of mind composed enough to decide on a
great national measure, or that the horrors of the massacres, scarce ten
days remote, impressed on them the danger of being lukewarm in the cause
of the sovereign people, who were not only judges without resort, but
the prompt executioners of their own decrees.

The Abbé Grégoire declared, that the dynasties of kings were a race of
devouring animals, who fed on the blood of the people; and that kings
were in the moral order of things what monsters are in the
physical--that courts were the arsenals of crimes, and the centre of
corruption--and that the history of princes was the martyrology of the
people. Finally, that all the members of the Convention being fully
sensible of these self-evident truths, it was needless to delay, even
for a moment, the vote of abolition, reserving it to more leisure to put
their declaration into better form. Ducos[307] exclaimed, that the
crimes of Louis alone formed a sufficient reason for the abolition of
monarchy. The motion was received and passed unanimously; and each side
of the hall, anxious to manifest their share in this great measure,
echoed back to the other the new war-cry of "Vive la Republique!"[308]
Thus fell, at the voice of a wretched player and cut-throat, backed by
that of a renegade priest, the most ancient and most distinguished
monarchy of Europe. A few remarks may be permitted upon the new
government, the adoption of which had been welcomed with so much


It has been said, that the government which is best administered is
best. This maxim is true for the time, but for the time only; as good
administration depends often on the life of individuals, or other
circumstances in themselves mutable. One would rather incline to say,
that the government is best calculated to produce the happiness of a
nation, which is best adapted to the existing state of the country which
it governs, and possesses, at the same time, such internal means of
regeneration as may enable it to keep pace with the changes of
circumstances, and accommodate itself to the unavoidable alterations
which must occur in a progressive state of society. In this point of
view, and even in the patriarchal circle, the most natural forms of
government, in the early periods of society, are Monarchy, or a
Republic. The father is head of his own family; the assembled council of
the fathers governs the Republic; or the _patria potestas_ of the whole
state is bestowed upon some successful warrior or eminent legislator,
who becomes king of the tribe. But a republic, in the literal
acceptation, which supposes all the individuals subject to its
government to be consulted in council upon all affairs of the public,
cannot survive the most early period of existence. It is only to be
found around the council-fire of a North American tribe of Indians; and
even there, the old men, forming a sort of senate, have already
established a species of aristocracy. As society advances, and the
little state extends itself, ordinary matters of government are confided
to delegates, or exclusively grasped by some of the higher orders of the
community. Rome, when she dismissed the Tarquins, the period to which
the Girondists were fond of assimilating that of the French Revolution,
had already a privileged body of patricians, the senate, from which were
exclusively chosen the consuls; until at a later period, and at the
expense of many feuds with the patricians, the plebeians succeeded in
obtaining for their order many advantages. But the state of Rome was not
more republican, in the proper sense, than before these concessions. The
corporate citizens of Rome were indeed admitted into some of the
privileges of the nobles; but the quantity of territory and of
population over which these citizens extended their dominion, was so
great, that the rural and unrepresented part of the inhabitants quite
outnumbered that of the citizens who voted in the Comitia, and
constituted the source of authority. There was the whole body of slaves,
who neither were nor could be represented, being considered by the law
as no farther capable of political or legal rights, than a herd of so
many cattle; and there were the numerous and extensive dominions, over
which, under the name of auxiliaries, Rome exercised a right of absolute
sovereignty. In fact, the so called democracy was rather an oligarchy,
dispersed more widely than usual, and vesting the government of an
immense empire in a certain limited number of the inhabitants of Rome
called citizens, bearing a very small proportion in bulk to the gross
number of the inhabitants. These privileged persons in some degree lived
upon their votes;--the ambitious caressed them, fed them, caught their
eyes with magnificent exhibitions, and their ears with extravagant
eloquence, and by corrupting their principles, at last united the small
class of privileged citizens themselves, under the very bondage in which
they had long kept their extensive empire. There is no one period of the
Roman republic, in which it can be said, considering the number of the
persons governed relatively to those who had as citizens a share of that
government by vote, or capacity of bearing office, that the people, as a
whole, were fairly and fully represented.

All other republics of which we have any distinct account, including the
celebrated states of Greece, were of so small a size, that it was by no
means difficult to consult the citizens to a considerable extent in the
affairs of the state. Still this right of being consulted was retained
among the _free_ citizens of Greece. Slaves, who amounted to a very
large proportion of the inhabitants, were never permitted any
interference there, more than in Rome. Now, as it was by slaves that the
coarser, more debasing, and more sordid parts of the labour of the
community were performed, there were thus excluded from the privilege of
citizens almost all those, who, by constant toil, and by the sordid
character of the employments to which their fate condemned them, might
be supposed incapable of exercising political rights with due feelings
of reflection and of independence. It is not too much to say, in
conclusion, that, excepting in the earliest stage of human society,
there never existed a community in which was to be found that liberty
and equality, which the French claimed for each individual in the whole
extent of their empire.

Not only the difficulty or impossibility of assigning to every person in
France an equal portion of political power, was one against which
antiquity had never attempted to struggle, but the wealth and size of
the late French empire were circumstances which experience induced wise
statesmen to conclude against the favourable issue of the experiment.
Those memorable republics, which Montesquieu eulogizes[309] as being
formed upon _virtue_, as the leading principle, inhabited the modest and
sequestered habitations where virtue is most often found. In mountainous
countries like those of the Swiss, where the inhabitants are nearly of
the same rank, and not very much disproportioned in substance, and
where they inhabit a small district or territory, a republic seems the
most natural form of government. Nature has, to a certain extent,
established an equality among the fathers of such a society, and there
is no reason why policy should supplant it. In their public meetings,
they come together upon the same general footing, and possess nearly the
same opportunity of forming a judgment; and the affairs of such a state
are too little complicated to require frequent or prolonged discussions.
The same applies to small states, like Genoa, and some of the Dutch
provinces, where the inequality of wealth, if it exists in some
instances, is qualified by the consideration, that it is gained in the
same honourable pursuit of mercantile traffic, where all fortunes are
founded on the same commercial system, and where the chance that has
made one man rich yesterday, may to-morrow depress him and raise
another. Under such favourable circumstances, republics may exist long
and happy, providing they can prevent luxury from working the secret
dissolution of their moral principles, or the exterior force of more
powerful neighbours from swallowing up their little community in the
rage of conquest.

America must certainly be accounted a successful attempt to establish a
republic on a much larger scale than those we have mentioned. But that
great and flourishing empire consists, it must be remembered, of a
federative union of many states, which, though extensive in territory,
are comparatively thin in occupants. There do not exist in America, in
the same degree, those circumstances of a dense and degraded population,
which occasion in the old nations of Europe such an infinite difference
of knowledge and ignorance, of wealth the most exuberant, and indigence
the most horrible. No man in America need be poor, if he has a hatchet
and arms to use it. The wilderness is to him the same retreat which the
world afforded to our first parents. His family, if he has one, is
wealth; if he is unencumbered with wife or children, he is the more
easily provided for. A man who wishes to make a large fortune, may be
disappointed in America; but he who seeks, with a moderate degree of
industry, only the wants which nature demands, is certain to find them.
An immense proportion of the population of the United States consists of
agriculturists, who live upon their own property, which is generally of
moderate extent, and cultivate it by their own labour. Such a situation
is peculiarly favourable to republican habits. The man who feels himself
really independent,--and so must each American who can use a spade or an
axe,--will please himself with the mere exertion of his freewill, and
form a strong contrast to the hollowing, bawling, blustering rabble of a
city, where a dram of liquor, or the money to buy a meal, is sure to
purchase the acclamation of thousands, whose situation in the scale of
society is too low to permit their thinking of their political right as
a thing more valuable than to be bartered against the degree of
advantage they may procure, or of a license which they may exercise, by
placing it at the disposal of one candidate or another.

Above all, before considering the case of America as parallel with that
of France, the statesmen of the latter country should have observed one
grand and radical difference. In America, after the great change in
their system had been effected by shaking off the sovereignty of the
mother country, the states arranged their new government so as to make
the least possible alteration in the habits of their people. They left
to a future and more convenient opportunity, what farther innovation
this great change might render necessary; being more desirous to fix the
general outlines of a firm and orderly government, although containing
some anomalies, than to cast all existing authorities loose, in order
that they might produce a constitution more regular in theory, but far
less likely to be put into effectual execution, than those old forms
under which the people had grown up, and to which they were accustomed
to render regular obedience. They abolished no nobility, for they had
none in the colonies to abolish; but in fixing the basis of their
constitution, they balanced the force and impulse of the representative
body of the states by a Senate, designed to serve the purposes answered
by the House of Lords in the British Constitution. The governors of the
different states also, in whose power the executive administration of
each was reposed, continued to exercise the same duties as before,
without much other change, than that they were named by their
fellow-citizens, instead of being appointed by the sovereign of the
mother country. The Congress exercised the rights which success had
given them over the loyalists, with as much temperance as could be
expected after the rage of a civil war. Above all, the mass of the
American population was in a sound healthy state, and well fitted to
bear their share in the exercise of political rights. They were
independent, as we have noticed, and had comparatively few instances
amongst them of great wealth, contrasted with the most degrading
indigence. They were deeply imbued with a sense of religion, and the
morality which is its fruit. They had been brought up under a free
government, and in the exercise of the rights of freemen; and their
fancies were not liable to be excited, or their understandings made
giddy, with a sudden elevation to privileges, the nature of which was
unknown to them. The republic of America, moreover, did not consist of
one huge and populous country, with an overgrown capital, where the
legislative body, cooped up in its precincts like prisoners, were liable
to be acted upon by the applauses or threats of a desperate rabble. Each
state of America carries on its own immediate government, and enjoys
unmolested the privilege of adopting such plans as are best suited to
their own peculiar situation, without embarrassing themselves with that
ideal uniformity, that universal equality of rights, which it was the
vain object of the French Constituent Assembly to establish. The
Americans know that the advantage of a constitution, like that of a
garment, consists, neither in the peculiarity of the fashion, nor in the
fineness of the texture, but in its being well adapted to the person who
receives protection from it. In short, the sagacity of Washington was
not more apparent in his military exploits, than in the manly and wise
pause which he made in the march of revolution, so soon as peace gave an
opportunity to interrupt its impulse. To replace law and social order
upon an established basis was as much the object of this great general,
as it seems to have been that of the statesmen of Paris, civilians as
they were, to protract a period of insurrection, murder, and
revolutionary tyranny.


To such peculiarities and advantages as those we have above stated,
France opposed a direct contrast. Not only was the exorbitant influence
of such a capital as Paris a bar to the existence of that republican
virtue which is the essence of a popular form of government, but there
was nothing like fixed or settled principles in the minds of the people
of France at large. Every thing had, within the last few years, been
studiously and industriously altered, from the most solemn rites of the
Church of Rome, to the most trifling article of dress; from the
sacrament of the mass to the fashion of a shoe-tie. Religion was
entirely out of the question, and the very slightest vestiges of an
established church were about to be demolished. Republican virtue (with
the exception of that of the soldiers, whose valour did honour to the
name) consisted in wearing a coarse dress and foul linen, swearing the
most vulgar oaths, obeying without scruple the most villanous mandates
of the Jacobin Club, and assuming the title, manner, and sentiments of a
real sans-culotte. The country was besides divided into an infinite
variety of factions, and threatened with the plague of civil war. The
streets of the metropolis had been lately the scene of a desperate
conflict, and yet more recently of a horrible massacre. On the
frontiers, the country was pressed by armies of invaders. It was a
crisis in which the Romans, with all their love of freedom, would have
called in the assistance of a dictator; yet it was then, when, without
regarding either the real wants of the country, or the temper of its
inhabitants, France was erected into a Republic, a species of government
the most inconsistent with energetic, secret, and successful councils.

These considerations could not have escaped the Girondists. Neither
could they be blind to the fact, that each republic, whatever its
pretensions to freedom, has committed to some high officer of the state,
under the name of doge, stadtholder, president, or other title, the
custody of the executive power; from the obvious and undeniable
principle, that, with safety to freedom, it cannot be lodged in the
hands of the legislative body. But, knowing this to be the case, they
dared not even hint that such a separation of powers was indispensable,
aware that their fierce enemies, the Jacobins, while they would have
seized on the office without scruple, would, with the other hand, sign
an accusation of leze-nation against them for proposing it. Thus crude,
raw, and ill considered, did one of the most important changes that
could be wrought upon a country, pass as hastily through this
legislative body as the change of a decoration in the theatre.

The alteration was, notwithstanding, hailed by the community at large,
as the consummation of the high fortunes to which France was called.
True, half Europe was in arms at her gates--but the nation who opposed
their swords to them were become Republicans. True, the most frightful
disorder had stalked abroad, in the shape of armed slaughter--it was but
the effervescence and delirium of a republican consciousness of freedom.
Peculation had crept into the finance, and theft had fingered the
diamonds of the state[310]--but the name of a republic was of itself
sufficient to restore to the blackest Jacobin of the gang, the moral
virtues of a Cincinnatus. The mere word _Republic_ was now the universal
medicine for all evils which France could complain of, and its
regenerating operations were looked for with as much faith and
confidence, as if the salutary effects of the convocation of the estates
of the kingdom, once worshipped as a panacea with similar expectations,
had not deceived the hopes of the country.

Meantime, the actors in the new drama began to play the part of Romans
with the most ludicrous solemnity. The name of _citizen_ was now the
universal salutation to all classes; even when a deputy spoke to a
shoe-black, that fond symbol of equality was regularly exchanged betwixt
them; and, in the ordinary intercourse of society, there was the most
ludicrous affectation of republican brevity and simplicity. "When thou
conquerest Brussels," said Collot d'Herbois, the actor, to General
Dumouriez, "my wife, who is in that city, has my permission to reward
thee with a kiss." Three weeks afterwards the general took Brussels, but
he was ungallant enough not to profit by this flattering
permission.[311] His quick wit caught the ridicule of such an
ejaculation as that which Camus addressed to him: "Citizen-general,"
said the deputy, "thou dost meditate the part of Cæsar; but remember I
will be Brutus, and plunge a poniard in thy bosom."--"My dear Camus,"
said the lively soldier, who had been in worse dangers than were
involved in this classical threat, "I am no more like Cæsar than you are
like Brutus; and an assurance that I should live till you kill me, would
be equal to a brevet of immortality."

With a similar assumption of republican dignity, men graced their
children, baptized or unbaptized, with the formidable names of Roman
heroes, and the folly of Anacharsis Clootz seemed to become general
throughout the nation.

Republican virtues were of course adopted or affected. The duty of
mothers nursing their own children, so eloquently insisted on by
Rousseau,[312] and nevertheless so difficult to practise under the forms
of modern life, was generally adopted in Paris; and as the ladies had no
idea that this process of parental attention was to interfere with the
usual round of entertainment, mothers, with their infants dressed in the
most approved Roman costume, were to be seen at the theatre, with the
little disastrous victims of republican affectation, whose wailings, as
well as other embarrassments occasioned by their presence, formed
sometimes disagreeable interruptions to the amusements of the evening,
and placed the inexperienced matrons in an awkward situation.

These were follies to be laughed at. But when men read Livy, for the
sake of discovering what degree of private crime might be committed
under the mask of public virtue, the affair became more serious. The
deed of the younger Brutus served any man as an apology to betray to
ruin and to death a friend, or a patron, whose patriotism might not be
of the pitch which suited the time. Under the example of the elder
Brutus, the nearest ties of blood were repeatedly made to give way
before the ferocity of party zeal--a zeal too often assumed for the most
infamous and selfish purposes. As some fanatics of yore studied the Old
Testament for the purpose of finding examples of bad actions to
vindicate those which themselves were tempted to commit, so the
Republicans of France, we mean the desperate and outrageous bigots of
the Revolution, read history, to justify, by classical instances, their
public and private crimes. Informers, those scourges of a state, were
encouraged to a degree scarce known in ancient Rome in the time of the
emperors, though Tacitus has hurled his thunders against them, as the
poison and pest of his time. The duty of lodging such informations was
unblushingly urged as indispensable. The safety of the republic being
the supreme charge of every citizen, he was on no account to hesitate in
_denouncing_, as it was termed, any one whomever, or however connected
with him,--the friend of his counsels, or the wife of his
bosom,--providing he had reason to suspect the devoted individual of the
crime of _incivism_,--a crime the more mysteriously dreadful, that no
one knew exactly its nature.

The virtue, even of comparatively good men, gave way under the
temptations held out by these fearful innovations on the state of
morals. The Girondists themselves did not scruple to avail themselves of
the villany of others, when what they called the cause of the country,
in reality that of their own faction, could be essentially served by it;
but it was reserved for the Jacobins to carry to the most hideous
extremity the principle which made an exclusive idol of patriotism, and
demanded that every other virtue, as well as the most tender and
honourable dictates of feeling and conscience, should be offered up at
the shrine of the Republic, as children were of old made to pass through
the fire to Moloch.


Another eruption of republican zeal was directed against the
antiquities, and fine arts of France. The name of king being pronounced
detestable, all the remembrances of royalty were, on the motion of
Barrère, ordered to be destroyed. This task was committed to the rabble;
and although a work dishonourable to their employers, and highly
detrimental both to history and the fine arts, it was nevertheless
infinitely more harmless than those in which the same agents had been
lately employed. The royal sepulchres at Saint Denis, near Paris, the
ancient cemetery of the Bourbons, the Valois, and all the long line of
French monarchs, were not only defaced on the outside, but utterly
broken down, the bodies exposed, the bones dispersed, and the poor
remains, even of Henry IV. of Navarre, so long the idol of the French
nation, exposed to the rude gaze, and irreverent grasp, of the banditti
who committed the sacrilege.[313]

Le Noire, an artist, had the courage to interpose for preventing the
total dispersion of the materials of those monuments, so valuable to
history and to literature. He procured, with difficulty, permission to
preserve and collect them in a house and garden in the _Rue des Petits
Augustins_, where their mutilated remains continued in safety till after
the restoration of the Bourbons. The enterprise was accomplished at much
personal risk; for if the people he had to deal with had suspected that
the zeal which he testified for the preservation of the monuments, was
rather that of a royalist than of an antiquary, his idolatry would have
been punished by instant death.

But the demolition of those ancient and sacred monuments, was
comparatively a trivial mode of showing hatred to royalty. The vengeance
of the Republicans was directed against the emigrants, who, armed or
unarmed, or from whatever cause they were absent from France, were now
to be at once confounded in a general set of decrees. 1. All emigrants
taken in arms were to suffer death within twenty-four hours. 2.
Foreigners who had quitted the service of France since the 14th July,
1789, were, contrary to the law of nations, subjected to the same
penalty. 3. All Frenchmen who had sought refuge in foreign parts, were
banished for ever from their native country, without any distinction, or
inquiry into the cause of their absence. The effects of these
unfortunate exiles were already under sequestration, and by the
assignats which were issued on the strength of this spoliation, Cambon,
who managed the finances, carried on the war, and supplied the expenses
of government.

The emigrants who had fled abroad, were not more severely treated than
those supposed to share their sentiments who had remained at home.
Persons suspected, from whatever cause, or denounced by private malice
as disinclined to the new system, were piled anew into the prisons,
which had been emptied on the 2d and 3d of September, and where the
blood of their predecessors in misfortune was yet visible on the walls.
The refractory priests were particularly the objects of this species of
oppression, and at length a summary decree was made for transporting
them in the mass from the land of France to the unhealthy colony of
Guiana, in South America. Many of these unfortunate men came to a more
speedy fate.

But the most august victims destined to be sacrificed at the altar of
republican virtue, were the royal family in the Temple, whose continuing
in existence seemed, doubtless, to the leaders, a daily reproach to
their procrastination, and an object to which, when the present spirit
should abate, the affections of the bewildered people might return with
a sort of reaction. The Jacobins resolved that Louis should die, were it
only that the world might see they were not ashamed to attest, with a
bloody seal, the truth of the accusations they had brought against him.

On the other hand, there was every reason to hope that the Girondists
would exert, in protection of the unhappy prince, whatever vigour they
derived from their predominating influence in the Convention. They were,
most of them, men, whose philosophy, though it had driven them on wild
political speculations, had not destroyed the sense of moral right and
wrong, especially now that the struggle was ended betwixt monarchy and
democracy, and the only question remaining concerned the use to be made
of their victory. Although they had aided the attack on the Tuileries,
on the 10th of August, which they considered as a combat, their hands
were unstained with the massacres of September, which, as we shall
presently see, they urged as an atrocious crime against their rivals,
the Jacobins. Besides, they had gained the prize, and were in possession
of the government; and, like the Constitutionalists before them, the
Girondists now desired that here, at length, the revolutionary career
should terminate, and that the ordinary forms of law and justice should
resume their usual channels through France; yielding to the people
protection for life, personal liberty, and private property, and
affording themselves, who held the reins of government, the means of
guiding these honourably safely, and with advantage to the community.

The philosophical statesmen, upon whom these considerations were not
lost, felt nevertheless great embarrassment in the mode of interposing
their protection in the King's favour. Their republicanism was the
feature on which they most prided themselves. They delighted to claim
the share in the downfall of Louis, which was due to their colleague
Barbaroux, and the Federates of Marseilles and Brest. It was upon their
accession to this deed that the Girondists rested their claims to
popularity; and with what front could they now step forward the
defenders, at the least the apologists, of the King whom they had aided
to dethrone; or what advantages would not the Jacobins obtain over them,
when they represented them to the people as lukewarm in their zeal, and
as falling off from the popular cause, in order to preserve the life of
the dethroned tyrant? The Girondist ministers felt these embarrassments,
and suffered themselves to be intimidated by them from making any open,
manly, and direct interference in the King's cause.

[Sidenote: MADAME ROLAND.]

A woman, and, although a woman, not the least distinguished among the
Girondist party, had the courage to urge a decisive and vigorous defence
of the unhappy prince, without having recourse to the veil of a selfish
and insidious policy. This was the wife of Roland, one of the most
remarkable women of her time. A worthless, at least a careless father,
and the doating folly of her mother, had left her when young to pick out
such an education as she could, among the indecencies and impieties of
French philosophy. Yet, though her Memoirs afford revolting specimens of
indelicacy, and exaggerated sentiments in politics, it cannot be denied
that the tenor of her life was innocent and virtuous in practice, and
her sentiments unperverted, when left to their natural course.[314] She
saw the great question in its true and real position; she saw, that it
was only by interposing themselves betwixt the legislative body of
France and the commission of a great crime, that the Girondists could
either remain firm in the government, attract the confidence of honest
men of any description, or have the least chance of putting a period to
the anarchy which was devouring their country. "Save the life of Louis,"
she said;[315] "save him by an open and avowed defence. It is the only
measure that can assure your safety--the only course which can fix the
stamp of public virtue on your government." Those whom she addressed
listened with admiration; but, like one who has rashly climbed to a
height where his brain grows giddy, they felt their own situation too
tottering to permit their reaching a willing hand to support another,
who was in still more imminent peril.

Their condition was indeed precarious. A large party in the Convention
avowedly supported them; and in "_the Plain_," as it was called, a
position held by deputies affecting independence, both of the Girondists
and the Jacobins, and therefore occupying the neutral ground betwixt
them, sate a large number, who, from the timidity of temper which makes
sheep and other weak animals herd together in numbers, had formed
themselves into a faction, which could at any time cast decision into
either scale which they favoured. But they exercised this power of
inclining the balance, less with a view to carrying any political point,
than with that of securing their own safety. In ordinary debates, they
usually gave their votes to the ministers, both because they were
ministers, and also because the milder sentiments of the Girondists were
more congenial to the feelings of men, who would gladly have seen peace
and order restored. But then these timid members of the Plain also
assiduously courted the Jacobins, avoided joining in any measure which
should give them mortal offence, and purchased a sort of immunity from
their revenge, by showing plainly that they deserved only contempt. In
this neutral party the gleanings of the defeated factions of Moderates
and of Constitutionalists were chiefly to be found; resigning themselves
to the circumstances of the moment, consulting their own safety, as they
gave their votes, and waiting, perhaps, till less disorderly days might
restore to them the privilege of expressing their actual sentiments. The
chief of these trucklers to fortune was Barrère, a man of wit and
eloquence, prompt invention, supple opinions, and convenient
conscience.[316] His terror of the Jacobins was great, and his mode of
disarming their resentment, so far as he and the neutral party were
concerned, was often very ingenious. When by argument or by eloquence
the Girondists had obtained some triumph in the Assembly, which seemed
to reduce their adversaries to despair, it was then Barrère, and the
members of _the Plain_, threw themselves between the victors and
vanquished, and, by some proposal of an insidious and neutralizing
nature, prevented the completion of the conquest, and afforded a safe
retreat to the defeated.

The majorities, therefore, which the Girondists obtained in the
Assembly, being partly eked out by this heartless and fluctuating band
of auxiliaries, could never be supposed to arm them with solid or
effective authority. It was absolutely necessary that they should
exhibit such a power of protecting themselves and those who should join
them, as might plainly show that the force was on their side. This point
once established, they might reckon Barrère and his party as faithful
adherents. But while the Jacobins retained the power of surrounding the
Convention at their pleasure with an insurrection of the suburbs,
without the deputies possessing other means of defence than arose out of
their inviolability, the adherence of those whose chief object in voting
was to secure their personal safety, was neither to be hoped nor
expected. The Girondists, therefore, looked anxiously round, to secure,
if it were possible, the possession of such a force, to protect
themselves and their timorous allies.


It has been thought, that a more active, more artful body of ministers,
and who were better acquainted with the mode of carrying on
revolutionary movements, might at this period have secured an important
auxiliary, by detaching the formidable Danton from the ranks of the
enemy, and receiving him into their own. It must be observed, that the
camp of the Jacobins contained three separate parties, led each by one
of the triumvirs whom we have already described, and acting in concert,
for the common purpose of propelling the Revolution by the same violent
means which had begun it--of unsheathing the sword of terror, and making
it pass for that of justice--and, in the name of liberty, of letting
murder and spoil, under the protection of armed ruffians of the basest
condition, continue to waste and ravage the departments of France. But,
although agreed in this main object, the triumvirs were extremely
suspicious of each other, and jealous of the rights each might claim in
the spoil which they contemplated. Danton despised Robespierre for his
cowardice, Robespierre feared the ferocious audacity of Danton; and with
him to fear was to hate--and to hate was--when the hour arrived--to
destroy. They differed in their ideas also of the mode of exercising
their terrible system of government. Danton had often in his mouth the
sentence of Machiavel, that when it becomes necessary to shed blood, a
single great massacre has a more dreadful effect than a series of
successive executions. Robespierre, on the contrary, preferred the
latter process as the best way of sustaining the Reign of Terror. The
appetite of Marat could not be satiated, but by combining both modes of
murder. Both Danton and Robespierre kept aloof from the sanguinary
Marat. This position of the chiefs of the Jacobins towards each other
seemed to indicate, that one of the three at least might be detached
from the rest, and might bring his ruffians in opposition to those of
his late comrades, in case of any attempt on the Assembly; and policy
recommended Danton, not averse, it is said, to the alliance, as the most
useful auxiliary.

[Sidenote: MARAT.]

Among the three monsters mentioned, Danton had that energy which the
Girondists wanted, and was well acquainted with the secret movements of
those insurrections to which they possessed no key. His vices of wrath,
luxury, love of spoil, dreadful as they were, are attributes of mortal
men;--the envy of Robespierre, and the instinctive blood-thirstiness of
Marat, were the properties of fiends. Danton, like the huge serpent
called the boa, might be approached with a degree of safety when gorged
with prey--but the appetite of Marat for blood was like the horse-leech,
which says, "Not enough"--and the slaughterous envy of Robespierre was
like the gnawing worm that dieth not, and yields no interval of repose.
In glutting Danton with spoil, and furnishing the means of indulging his
luxury, the Girondists might have purchased his support; but nothing
under the supreme rule in France would have gratified Robespierre; and
an unlimited torrent of the blood of that unhappy country could alone
have satiated Marat. If a colleague was to be chosen out of that
detestable triumvirate, unquestionably Danton was to be considered as
the most eligible.

On the other hand, men like Brissot, Vergniaud, and others, whose
attachment to republicanism was mixed with a spirit of virtue and
honour, might be well adverse to the idea of contaminating their party
with such an auxiliary, intensely stained as Danton was by his share in
the massacres of September. They might well doubt, whether any physical
force which his revolutionary skill, and the arms it could put in
motion, might bring to their standard, would compensate for the moral
horror with which the presence of such a grisly proselyte must strike
all who had any sense of honour or justice. They, therefore, discouraged
the advances of Danton, and resolved to comprise him with Marat and
Robespierre in the impeachment against the Jacobin chiefs, which they
designed to bring forward in the Assembly.

The most obvious means by which the Girondists could ascertain their
safety and the freedom of debate, was by levying a force from the
several departments, each contributing its quota, to be called a
Departmental Legion, which was to be armed and paid to act as a guard
upon the National Convention. The subject was introduced by Roland,
[Sept. 24,] in a report to the Assembly, and renewed on the next day by
Kersaint, a spirited Girondist, who candidly declared the purpose of his
motion: "It was time," he said, "that assassins and their prompters
should see that the law had scaffolds."

The Girondists obtained, that a committee of six members should be
named, to report on the state of the capital, on the encouragement
afforded to massacre, and on the mode of forming a departmental force
for the defence of the metropolis. The decree was carried for a moment;
but, on the next day, the Jacobins demanded that it should be revoked,
denying that there was any occasion for such a defence to the
Convention, and accusing the ministers of an intention to surround
themselves with a force of armed satellites, in order to overawe the
good city of Paris, and carry into effect their sacrilegious plan of
dismembering France.[317] Rebecqui and Barbaroux replied to this charge
by impeaching Robespierre, on their own testimony, of aspiring to the
post of dictator. The debate became more tempestuous the more that the
tribunes or galleries of the hall were filled with the violent followers
of the Jacobin party, who shouted, cursed, and yelled, to back the
exclamations and threats of their leaders in the Assembly. While the
Girondists were exhausting themselves to find out terms of reproach for
Marat, that prodigy stepped forth, and raised the disorder to the
highest, by avowing himself the author and advocate for a dictatorship.
The anger of the Convention seemed thoroughly awakened, and Vergniaud
read to the deputies an extract from Marat's journal, in which, after
demanding two hundred and sixty thousand heads, which was his usual
stint, he abused the Convention in the grossest terms, and exhorted the
people to ACT[318]--words, of which the import was by this time
perfectly understood.

This passage excited general horror, and the victory for a moment seemed
in the hands of the Girondists; but they did not pursue it with
sufficient vigour. The meeting passed to the order of the day; and
Marat, in ostentatious triumph, produced a pistol, with which he said he
would have blown out his brains, had a decree of accusation been passed
against him. The Girondists not only lost the advantage of discomfiting
their enemies by the prosecution of one of their most noted leaders, but
were compelled for the present to abandon their plan of a departmental
guard, and resign themselves to the guardianship of the faithful
citizens of Paris.[319]

This city of Paris was at the time under the power of the intrusive
community, or Common Council, many of whom had forced themselves into
office on the 10th of August. It was the first act of their
administration to procure the assassination of Mandat, the commandant of
the national guard; and their accompts, still extant, bear testimony,
that it was by their instrumentality that the murderers of September
were levied and paid. Trained Jacobins and pitiless ruffians themselves,
this civic body had raised to be their agents and assistants an unusual
number of municipal officers, who were at once their guards, their
informers, their spies, their jailors, and their executioners. They had,
besides, obtained a majority of the inhabitants in most of the
sections, whose votes placed them and their agents in command of the
national guard; and the pikemen of the suburbs were always ready to
second their excellent community, even against the Convention itself,
which, in point of freedom of action, or effective power, made a figure
scarcely more respectable than that of the King after his return from

Roland almost every day carried to the Convention his vain complaints,
that the course of the law for which he was responsible, was daily
crossed, thwarted, and impeded, by the proceedings of this usurping
body. The considerable funds of the city itself, with those of its
hospitals and other public establishments of every kind, were
dilapidated by these revolutionary intruders, and applied to their own
purposes. The minister at length, in a formal report to the Convention,
inculpated the Commune in these and such like offences. In another part
of the report, he intimated a plot of the Jacobins to assassinate the
Girondists, possess themselves of the government by arms, and choose
Robespierre dictator. Louvet denounced Robespierre as a traitor, and
Barbaroux proposed a series of decrees; the first declaring the
Convention free to leave any city, where they should be exposed to
constraint and violence; the second resolving to form a conventional
guard; the third declaring, that the Convention should form itself into
a court of justice, for trial of state crimes; the fourth announcing,
that in respect the sections of Paris had declared their sittings
permanent, that resolution should be abrogated.

Instead of adopting the energetic measures proposed by Barbaroux, the
Convention allowed Robespierre eight days for his defence against
Louvet's accusation, and ordered to the bar, [Nov. 5,] ten members of
the Community, from whom they were contented to accept such slight
apologies, and evasive excuses, for their unauthorised interference with
the power of the Convention, as these insolent demagogues condescended
to offer.

The accusation of Robespierre though boldly urged by Louvet and
Barbaroux, was also eluded, by passing to the order of the day; and thus
the Convention showed plainly, that however courageous they had been
against their monarch, they dared not protect the liberty which they
boasted of, against the encroachment of fiercer demagogues than

Barbaroux endeavoured to embolden the Assembly, by bringing once more
from his native city a body of those fiery Marseillois, who had formed
the vanguard of the mob on the 10th of August. He succeeded so far in
his scheme, that a few scores of those Federates again appeared in
Paris, where their altered demeanour excited surprise. Their songs were
again chanted, their wild Moresco dances and gestures again surprised
the Parisians; and the more, as in their choruses they imprecated
vengeance on the Jacobins, called out for mercy to the "poor tyrant," so
they termed the King, and shouted in the cause of peace, order, and the

The citizens of Paris, who could not reconcile the songs and
exclamations of the Marseillois with their appearance and character,
concluded that a snare was laid for them, and abstained from uniting
themselves with men, whose sincerity was so suspicious. The Marseillois
themselves, discouraged with their cold reception, or not liking their
new trade of maintaining order so well as their old one of oversetting
it, melted away by degrees, and were soon no more seen nor heard of.
Some of the Breton Federates, kept in the interest of the Girondists, by
their countrymen the deputies Kersaint and Kervclagan, remained still
attached to the Convention, though their numbers were too few to afford
them protection in any general danger.

If the Memoirs of Dumouriez are to be relied on, that active and
intriguing general presented to the Girondists another resource, not
free certainly from hazard or difficulty to the republican government,
which was the idol of these theoretical statesmen, but affording, if his
means had proved adequate to the execution of his plans, a certain
bulwark against the encroachments of the hideous anarchy threatened by
the Jacobin ascendency.


General Dumouriez was sufficiently hated by the Jacobins,
notwithstanding the successes which he had gained on the part of France
over foreign enemies, to induce him to feel the utmost desire of putting
down their usurped power; but he was under the necessity of acting with
great caution. The bad success of La Fayette, deserted by his army as
soon as he attempted to lead them against Paris, was in itself
discouraging; but Dumouriez was besides conscious that the Jacobin
clubs, together with the commissioners of the Convention, with Danton at
their head, had been actively engaged in disorganizing his army, and
diminishing his influence over them. Thus circumstanced, he naturally
resolved to avoid hazarding any violent measure without the support of
the Convention, in case of being deserted by his army. But he affirms,
that he repeatedly informed the Girondists, then predominant in the
Assembly, that if they could obtain a decree, but of four lines,
authorising such a measure, he was ready to march to Paris at the head
of a chosen body of troops, who would have been willing to obey such a
summons; and that he would by this means have placed the Convention in a
situation, when they might have set the Jacobins and their
insurrectionary forces at absolute defiance.[322]

Perhaps the Girondists entertained the fear, first, that Dumouriez's
influence with his troops might prove as inefficient as that of La
Fayette, and leave them to atone with their heads for such a measure
attempted and unexecuted. Or, secondly, that if the manœuvre proved
successful, they would be freed from fear of the Jacobins, only to be
placed under the restraint of a military chief, whose mind was well
understood to be in favour of monarchy of one kind or other. So that,
conceiving they saw equal risk in the alternative, they preferred the
hazard of seeing their fair and favourite vision of a republic
overthrown by the pikes of the Jacobins, rather than by the bayonets of
Dumouriez's army. They turned, therefore, a cold ear to the proposal,
which afterwards they would gladly have accepted, when the general had
no longer the power to carry it into execution.

Thus the factions, so intimately united for the destruction of royalty,
could not, when that step was gained, combine for any other purpose save
the great crime of murdering their deposed sovereign. Nay, while the
Jacobins and Girondists seemed moving hand in hand to the ultimate
completion of that joint undertaking, the union was only in outward
appearance; for the Girondists, though apparently acting in concert with
their stern rivals, were in fact dragged after them by compulsion, and
played the part less of actors than subdued captives in this final
triumph of democracy. They were fully persuaded of the King's innocence
as a man, of his inviolability and exemption from criminal process as a
constitutional authority. They were aware that the deed meditated would
render France odious to all the other nations of Europe; and that the
Jacobins, to whom war and confusion were natural elements, were desirous
for that very reason to bring Louis to the scaffold. All this was plain
to them, and yet their pride as philosophers made them ashamed to be
thought capable of interesting themselves in the fate of a tyrant; and
their desire of getting the French nation under their own exclusive
government, induced them to consent to any thing rather than protect the
obnoxious though innocent sovereign, at the hazard of losing their
popularity, and forfeiting their dearly won character of being true

A committee of twenty-four persons had been appointed early in the
session of the Convention, to inquire into, and report upon, the grounds
for accusing Louis. Their report was brought up on the 1st of November,
1792, and a more loathsome tissue of confusion and falsehood never was
laid upon the table of such an assembly. All acts that had been done by
the Ministers in every department, which could be twisted into such a
shape as the times called criminal, were charged as deeds, for which the
sovereign was himself responsible; and the burden of the whole was to
accuse the King, when he had scarcely a single regiment of guards even
at his nominal disposal, of nourishing the intention of massacring the
Convention, defended by thirty thousand national guards, besides the
federates, and the militia of the suburbs.[323]


The Convention were rather ashamed of this report, and would scarce
permit it to be printed. So soon as it appeared, two or three persons,
who were therein mentioned as accomplices of particular acts charged
against the King, contradicted the report upon their oath.[324] An
additional charge was brought under the following mysterious
circumstances:--Gamin, a locksmith of Versailles, communicated to
Roland, about the latter end of December, that, in the beginning of May,
1792, he had been employed by the King to secrete an iron chest, or
cabinet, in the wall of a certain apartment in the Tuileries, which he
disclosed to the ministers of justice. He added a circumstance which
throws discredit on his whole story, namely, that the King gave him with
his own hand a glass of wine, after taking which he was seized with a
cholic, followed by a kind of paralysis, which deprived him for
_fourteen_ months of the use of his limbs, and the power of working for
his bread. The inference of the wretch was, that the King had attempted
to poison him; which those may believe who can number fourteen months
betwixt the beginning of May and the end of December in the same year.
This gross falsehood utterly destroys Gamin's evidence; and as the King
always denied his knowledge of the existence of such a chest with such
papers, we are reduced to suppose, either that Gamin had been employed
by one of the royal ministers, and had brought the King personally into
the tale for the greater grace of his story, or that the papers found in
some other place of safety had been selected, and put into the chest by
the Jacobin commissioners, then employed in surveying and searching the
palace, with the purpose of trumping up evidence against the King.

Roland acted very imprudently in examining the contents of the chest
alone, and without witness, instead of calling in the commissioners
aforesaid, who were in the palace at the time. This was perhaps done
with the object of putting aside such papers as might, in that hour of
fear and uncertainty, have brought into danger some of his own party or
friends. One of importance, however, was found, which the Jacobins
turned into an implement against the Girondists. It was an overture from
that party addressed to Louis XVI., shortly before the 10th of August,
engaging to oppose the motion for his forfeiture, providing Louis would
recall to his councils the three discarded ministers of their faction.

The contents of the chest were of a very miscellaneous nature. The
documents consisted of letters, memorials, and plans, from different
persons, and at different dates, offering advice, or tendering support
to the King, and proposing plans for the freedom of his person. The
Royalist project of Mirabeau, in his latter days, was found amongst the
rest; in consequence of which his body was dragged out of the Pantheon,
formerly the Church of Saint Genevieve, now destined to receive the
bodies of the great men of the Revolution, but whose lodgings shifted as
often as if they had been taken by the month.

The documents, as we have said, consisted chiefly of projects for the
King's service, which he certainly never acted on, probably never
approved of, and perhaps never saw. The utmost to which he could be
liable, was such penalty as may be due to one who retains possession of
plans submitted to his consideration, but which have in no shape
obtained his assent. It was sufficiently hard to account Louis
responsible for such advice of his ministers as he really adopted; but
it was a dreadful extension of his responsibility to make him answerable
for such as he had virtually rejected. Besides which, the story of Gamin
was so self-contradictory in one circumstance, and so doubtful in
others, as to carry no available proof that the papers had been in the
King's possession; so that this new charge was as groundless as those
brought up by the first committee; and, arguing upon the known law of
any civilized country, the accusations against him ought to have been
dismissed, as founded on the most notorious injustice.[325]


There was one circumstance which probably urged those into whose hands
Louis had fallen, to proceed against his person to the uttermost. They
knew that, in English history, a king had been condemned to death by his
subjects, and were resolved that France should not remain behind England
in the exhibition of a spectacle so interesting and edifying to a people
newly regenerated. This parallel case would not perhaps have been
thought a worthy precedent in other countries; but in France there is a
spirit of wild enthusiasm, a desire of following out an example even to
the most exaggerated point, and of outdoing, if possible, what other
nations have done before them. This had doubtless its influence in
causing Louis to be brought to the bar in 1792, like Charles of England
in 1648.

The French statesmen did not pause to reflect, that the violent death of
Charles only paved the way for a series of years spent in servitude
under military despotism, and then to restoration of the legitimate
sovereign. Had they regarded the precedent on this side, they would have
obtained a glimpse into futurity, and might have presaged what were to
be the consequences of the death of Louis. Neither did the French
consider, that by a great part of the English nation the execution of
Charles Stuart is regarded as a national crime, and the anniversary
still observed as a day of fasting and penitence; that others who
condemn the King's conduct in and preceding the Civil War, do, like the
Whig Churchill, still consider his death as an unconstitutional
action;[326] that the number is small indeed who think it justifiable
even on the precarious grounds of state necessity; and that it is barely
possible a small portion of enthusiasts may still exist, who glory in
the deed as an act of popular vengeance.

But even among this last description of persons, the French regicides
would find themselves entirely at a loss to vindicate the execution of
Louis by the similar fate of Charles; and it would be by courtesy only,
if at all, that they could be admitted to the honours of a sitting at a
Calves-Head Club.[327]

The comparison between these unhappy monarchs fails in almost every
point, excepting in the closing scene; and no parallel can, with justice
to either, be drawn betwixt them. The most zealous Cavalier will, in
these enlightened days, admit, that the early government of Charles was
marked by many efforts to extend the prerogative beyond its legal
bounds; that there were instances of oppressive fines, cruel punishment
by mutilation, long and severe imprisonments in distant forts and
castles; exertions of authority which no one seeks to justify, and which
those who are the King's apologists can only endeavour to mitigate, by
alleging the precedents of arbitrary times, or the interpretation of the
laws by courtly ministers, and time-serving lawyers. The conduct of
Louis XVI., from the hour he assumed the throne, was, on the contrary,
an example of virtue and moderation.[328] Instead of levying ship-money
and benevolences, Louis lightened the feudal services of the vassals,
and the _corvée_ among the peasantry. Where Charles endeavoured to
enforce conformity to the Church of England by pillory and ear-slitting,
Louis allowed the Protestants the free use of their religion, and
discharged the use of torture in all cases whatever. Where Charles
visited his Parliament to violate their freedom by arresting five of
their members, Louis may be said to have surrendered himself an
unresisting prisoner to the representatives of the people, whom he had
voluntarily summoned around him. But above all, Charles, in person, or
by his generals, waged a long and bloody war with his subjects, fought
battles in every county of England, and was only overcome and made
prisoner, after a lengthened and deadly contest, in which many thousands
fell on both sides. The conduct of Louis was in every respect different.
He never offered one blow in actual resistance, even when he had the
means in his power. He ordered up, indeed, the forces under Maréchal
Broglio; but he gave them command to retire, so soon as it was evident
that they must either do so, or act offensively against the people. In
the most perilous situations of his life, he showed the utmost
reluctance to shed the blood of his subjects. He would not trust his
attendants with pistols, during the flight to Varennes; he would not
give the officer of hussars orders to clear the passage, when his
carriage was stopped upon the bridge. When he saw that the martial array
of the Guards did not check the audacity of the assailants on the 10th
of August, he surrendered himself to the Legislative Assembly, a
prisoner at discretion, rather than mount his horse and place himself at
the head of his faithful troops and subjects. The blood that was shed
that day was without command of his. He could have no reason for
encouraging such a strife, which, far from defending his person, then in
the custody of the Assembly, was likely to place it in the most imminent
danger. And in the very last stage, when he received private notice that
there were individuals determined to save his life at peril of their
own, he forbade the enterprise. "Let not a drop of blood be shed on my
account," he said; "I would not consent to it for the safety of my
crown: I never will purchase mere life at such a rate." These were
sentiments perhaps fitter for the pious sectaries of the community of
Friends, than for the King of a great nation; but such as they were,
Louis felt and conscientiously acted on them. And yet his subjects could
compare his character, and his pretended guilt, with the bold and
haughty Stuart, who, in the course of the Civil War, bore arms in
person, and charged at the head of his own regiment of guards!

Viewed in his kingly duty, the conduct of Louis is equally void of
blame; unless it be that blame which attaches to a prince, too yielding
and mild to defend the just rights of his crown. He yielded, with feeble
struggling, to every demand in succession which was made upon him, and
gave way to every inroad on the existing state of France. Instead of
placing himself as a barrier between his people and his nobility, and
bringing both to some fair terms of composition, he suffered the latter
to be driven from his side, and by the ravaging their estates, and the
burning of their houses, to be hurried into emigration. He adopted one
popular improvement after another, each innovating on the royal
authority, or derogatory to the royal dignity. Far from having deserved
the charge of opposing the nation's claim of freedom, it would have
been well for themselves and him, had he known how to limit his grant to
that quantity of freedom which they were qualified to make a legitimate
use of; leaving it for future princes to slacken the reins of
government, in proportion as the public mind in France should become
formed to the habitual exercise of political rights.


The King's perfect innocence was therefore notorious to the whole world,
but especially to those who now usurped the title of arraigning him; and
men could hardly persuade themselves, that his life was seriously in
danger. An ingenious contrivance of the Jacobins seems to have been
intended to drive the wavering Girondists into the snare of voting for
the King's trial. Saint Just, one of their number, made a furious speech
against any formality being observed, save a decree of death, on the
urgency of the occasion. "What availed," said the supporters of this
brief and sure measure, "the ceremonies of grand and petty jury? The
cannon which made a breach in the Tuileries, the unanimous shout of the
people on the 10th of August, had come in place of all other
solemnities. The Convention had no farther power to inquire; its sole
duty was to pronounce, or rather confirm and execute, the doom of the
sovereign people."

This summary proposal was highly applauded, not only by the furious
crowds by whom the galleries were always occupied, but by all the
exaggerations of the more violent democrats. They exclaimed that every
citizen had the same right over the life of Louis which Brutus possessed
over that of Cæsar. Others cried out, that the very fact of having
reigned, was in itself a crime notorious enough to dispense with further
investigation, and authorise instant punishment.[329]

Stunned by these clamours, the Girondists and neutral party, like all
feeble-minded men, chose a middle course, and instead of maintaining the
King's innocence, adopted measures, calculated to save him indeed from
immediate slaughter, but which ended by consigning him to a tribunal too
timid to hear his cause justly. They resolved to urge the right of the
National Convention to judge in the case of Louis.

There were none in the Convention who dared to avow facts to which their
conscience bore witness, but the consequences of admitting which, were
ingeniously urged by the sophist Robespierre, as a condemnation of their
own conduct. "One party," said the wily logician, "must be clearly
guilty; either the King, or the Convention, who have ratified the
actions of the insurgent people. If you have dethroned an innocent and
legal monarch, what are you but traitors? and why sit you here--why not
hasten to the Temple, set Louis at liberty, install him again in the
Tuileries, and beg on your knees for a pardon you have not merited? But
if you have, in the great popular act which you have ratified, only
approved of the deposition of a tyrant, summon him to the bar, and
demand a reckoning for his crimes." This dilemma pressed on the mind of
many members, who could not but see their own condemnation the necessary
consequence of the King's acquittal. And while some felt the force of
this argument, all were aware of the obvious danger to be encountered
from the wrath of the Jacobins and their satellites, should they dare to
dissent from the vote which these demagogues demanded from the Assembly.

When Robespierre had ended, Pétion arose and moved that the King should
be tried before the Convention. It is said, the Mayor of Paris took the
lead in this cruel persecution, because Louis had spoken to him sharply
about the tumultuary inroad of the Jacobin rabble into the Tuileries on
the 20th of June; and when Pétion attempted to reply, had pointed to the
broken grating through which the entrance had been forced, and sternly
commanded him to be silent. If this was true, it was a bitter revenge
for so slight an offence, and the subsequent fate of Pétion is the less
deserving of pity.

The motion was carried [Dec. 3] without opposition,[330] and the next
chapter affords us the melancholy results.


[303] Annual Register, vol xxxiv., pp. 230, 236.

[304] Bouillé's Memoirs, p. 250.

[305] Manuel was born at Montargis in 1751. On the trial of the King he
voted for imprisonment and banishment in the event of peace. When the
Queen's trial came on, he was summoned as a witness against her; but
only expressed admiration of her fortitude, and regret for her
misfortunes. In November, 1793, he was condemned to death by the
Revolutionary Tribunal, and executed. Among other works, Manuel
published "Coup d'œil Philosophique sur le Règne de St. Louis,"
"Voyages de l'Opinion dans les Quatres Parties du Monde," and "Lettres
sur la Révolution."

[306] Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 12; Mignet, tom. iii., p. 150.

[307] Born at Bourdeaux in 1765. He voted for the death of the King--and
was guillotined, Oct., 1793.

[308] Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 16.

[309] Esprit des Lois, liv. iii., c. 9.

[310] "One night the jewel-office, in the Tuileries, was pillaged, and
all the splendid ornaments of the crown disappeared. The seals affixed
on the locks were removed, but no marks of violence appeared on them,
which showed that the abstraction was by order of the authorities, and
not by popular violence."--THIERS, tom. iii., p. 103.

[311] Dumouriez, vol. iii., p. 262; Journal des Jacobins, 14th Oct.,

[312] Emile, liv. i.

[313] "The first vault opened was that of Turenne. The body was found
dry like a mummy, the features perfectly resembling the portrait of this
distinguished general. Relics were sought after with eagerness, and
Camille Desmoullins cut off one of the little fingers. The body, at the
intercession of M. Desfontaines, was removed to the Jardin des Plantes.
The features of Henry the Fourth were also perfect. A soldier cut off a
lock of the beard with his sabre, and putting it upon his upper lip,
exclaimed, 'Et moi aussi, je suis soldat Français! désormais je n'aurai
pas d'autre moustache!' The body was placed upright upon a stone for the
rabble to divert themselves with it; and a woman, reproaching the dead
Henry with the crime of having been a king, knocked down the corpse, by
giving it a blow in the face. Two large pits had been dug in front of
the north entrance of the church, and quick lime laid in them; into
those pits the bodies were thrown promiscuously; the leaden coffins were
then carried to a furnace, which had been erected in the cemetery, and
cast into balls, destined to punish the enemies of the republic."--See
Promenade aux Sépultures Royales de Saint Denis, par M. P. St. A. G.,
and LACRETELLE, tom. xi., p. 264.

[314] "To a very beautiful person, Madame Roland united great powers of
intellect; her reputation stood very high, and her friends never spoke
of her but with the most profound respect. In character she was a
Cornelia; and had she been blessed with sons, would have educated them
like the Gracchi. The simplicity of her dress did not detract from her
natural grace and elegance, and though her pursuits were more adapted to
the other sex, she adorned them with all the charms of her own. Her
personal memoirs are admirable. They are an imitation of Rousseau's
Confessions, and often not unworthy of the original."--DUMONT, p. 326.

[315] At the bar of the National Convention, Dec. 7, 1792.

[316] "I used to meet Barrère at a table d'hòte. I considered him of a
mild and amiable temper. He was very well-bred, and seemed to love the
Revolution from a sentiment of benevolence. His association with
Robespierre, and the court which he paid to the different parties he
successively joined and afterwards deserted, were less the effect of an
evil disposition, than of a timid and versatile character, and a
conceit, which made it incumbent upon him to appear as a public man. His
talents as an orator were by no means of the first order. He was
afterwards surnamed the Anacreon of the guillotine; but when I knew him
he was only the Anacreon of the Revolution, upon which, in his 'Point du
Jour,' he wrote some very amorous strains."--DUMONT, p. 199.

[317] Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 41.

[318] "O! peuple babillard, si tu savais agir!"

[319] Thiers, tom. iii., p. 170; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 23.

[320] Mignet, tom. i., p. 224; Thiers, tom. iii., p. 213; Lacretelle,
tom. x., p. 54.

[321] "Point de procès au roi! épargnons le pauvre tyran!"--LACRETELLE,
tom. x., p. 47.

[322] Dumouriez, vol. iii., p. 273.

[323] Mignet, tom. i., p. 228.

[324] M. de Septueil, in particular, quoted as being the agent by whom
Louis XVI. was said to have transmitted money to his brothers when in
exile, positively denied the fact, and made affidavit accordingly.--S.

[325] Mignet, tom. i., p. 229; Montgaillard, tom. iii., p. 265; Thiers,
tom. iii., p. 259; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 164; Madame Campan, vol. ii.,
p. 222.


    "Unhappy Stuart! harshly though that name
    Grates on my ear, I should have died with shame,
    To see my King before his subjects stand,
    And at their bar hold up his royal hand;
    At their command to hear the monarch plead,
    By their decrees to see that monarch bleed.
    What though thy faults were many, and were great--
    What though they shook the fabric of the state?
    In royalty secure thy person stood,
    And sacred was the fountain of thy blood.
    Vile ministers, who dared abuse their trust,
    Who dared seduce a king to be unjust,
    Vengeance, with justice leagued, with power made strong,
    Had nobly crush'd--The King can do no wrong."


[327] This club used to meet on the 30th January, at a tavern near
Charing Cross, to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Charles I.
Their toasts were, "The glorious year, 1648." "D----n to the race of the
Stuarts." "The pious memory of Oliver Cromwell," &c.--See _Gent.'s
Mag._, vol. v., p. 105; and "_History of the Calves-Head Club_."

[328] "No one act of tyranny can be laid to Louis's charge: and, far
from restraining the liberty of the press, it was the Archbishop of
Sens, the King's prime minister, who, in the name of his Majesty,
invited all writers to make known their opinions upon the form and
manner of assembling the States-General."--DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 94.

[329] Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 145.

[330] Thiers, tom. iii., p. 257.


    _THE TRIAL OF LOUIS--Indecision of the Girondists, and its
    Effects--The Royal Family insulted by the Agents of the
    Community--The King deprived of his Son's society--The King
    brought to trial before the Convention--His first
    Examination--Carried back to Prison amidst Insult and
    Abuse--Tumult in the Assembly--The King deprived of Intercourse
    with his Family--Malesherbes appointed as Counsel to defend the
    King--and De Seze--Louis again brought before the
    Convention--Opening Speech of De Seze--King remanded to the
    Temple--Stormy Debate--Eloquent Attack of Vergniaud on the
    Jacobins--Sentence of DEATH pronounced against the King--General
    Sympathy for his Fate--Dumouriez arrives in Paris--Vainly tries
    to avert the King's Fate--LOUIS XVI. BEHEADED on 21st January,
    1793--MARIE ANTOINETTE on the 16th October thereafter--The
    Princess ELIZABETH in May 1794--The Dauphin perishes, by
    cruelty, June 8th, 1795--The Princess Royal exchanged for La
    Fayette, 19th December, 1795._


We have already said, that the vigorous and masculine, as well as
virtuous exhortations of Madame Roland, were thrown away upon her
colleagues, whose fears were more than female. The Girondists could not
be made to perceive that, though their ferocious adversaries were
feared through France, yet they were also hated. The moral feeling of
all Frenchmen who had any left, detested the authors of a long train of
the most cold-blooded murders; the suspicions of all men of property
were attached to the conduct of a party, whose leaders rose from
indigence to affluence by fines, confiscations, sequestrations, besides
every other kind of plunder, direct and indirect. If the majority of the
Convention had adopted the determination of boldly resisting their
unprincipled tyrants, and preventing, at whatever hazard, the murder of
the King, the strength of the country would probably have supported a
constituted authority against the usurpations of the Community of Paris,
which had no better title to tyrannize over the Convention, and by so
doing to govern France at pleasure, than had the council of the meanest
town in the kingdom.

The Girondists ought to have been sensible, that, even by thwarting this
favourite measure, they could not increase the hatred which the Jacobins
already entertained against them, and should have known that further
delay to give open battle would only be regarded as a timid indecision,
which must have heated their enemies, in proportion as it cooled their
friends. The truckling, time-serving policy which they observed on this
occasion, deprived the Girondists of almost all chance of forming a
solid and substantial interest in the country. By a bold, open, and
manly defence of the King, they would have done honour to themselves as
public men, willing to discharge their duty at the risk of their lives.
They would have been sure of whatever number could be gathered, either
of Royalists, who were beginning to raise a head in Bretagne and La
Vendée, or of Constitutionalists, who feared the persecution of the
Jacobins. The materials were already kindled for those insurrections,
which afterwards broke out at Lyons, Marseilles, Toulon, and generally
through the south and west of France. They might have brought up five or
six thousand Federates from the departments, and the force would then
have been in their own hands. They might, by showing a bold and animated
front, have regained possession of the national guard, which was only
prevented by a Jacobin commander and his staff officers, as well as by
their timidity, from throwing off a yoke so bloody and odious as that
which they were groaning under. But to dare this, it was necessary that
they should have the encouragement of the Convention; and that body,
managed as it was by the Girondists, showed a timorous unwillingness to
support the measures of the Jacobins, which implied their dislike
indeed, but also evinced their fear.


Meantime the King, with the Queen, his sister, and their children, the
Dauphin and the Princess Royal, remained in the tower of the Temple,
more uncomfortably lodged, and much more harshly treated than state
prisoners before the Revolution had been in the execrable Bastile.[331]
The royal prisoners were under the especial charge of the Commune of
Paris, who, partly from their gross ignorance, partly from their desire
to display their furious Jacobinical zeal, did all in their power to
embitter their captivity.

Pétion, whose presence brought with it so many cruel recollections,
studiously insulted him by his visits to the prison. The municipal
officers, sent thither to ensure the custody of the King's person, and
to be spies upon his private conversation, were selected among the worst
and most malignant Jacobins. His efforts at equanimity, and even
civility, towards these brutal jailors, were answered with the most
gross insolence. One of them, a mason, in his working dress, had thrown
himself into an arm-chair, where, decorated with his municipal scarf, he
reposed at his ease. The King condescended to ask him, by way of
conversation, where he wrought. He answered gruffly, "at the church of
Saint Genevieve."--"I remember," said the King, "I laid the foundation
stone--a fine edifice; but I have heard the foundation is
insecure."--"It is more sure," answered the fellow, "than the thrones of
tyrants." The King smiled and was silent. He endured with the same
patience the insolent answer of another of these officials. The man not
having been relieved at the usual and regular hour, the King civilly
expressed his hopes that he would find no inconvenience from the delay.
"I am come here," answered the ruffian, "to watch your conduct, not for
you to trouble yourself with mine. No one," he added, fixing his hat
firm on his brow, "least of all you, have any business to concern
themselves with it." We have seen prisons, and are sure that even the
steeled jailor, accustomed as he is to scenes of distress, is not in the
habit, unprovoked and wantonly, of answering with reproach and insult
such ordinary expressions of civility, when offered by the worst
criminals. The hearts of these men, who, by chance as it were, became
dungeon-keepers, and whose first captive had been many years their King,
must have been as hard as the nether millstone.[332]

While such scenes occurred within the prison, those who kept watch
without, either as sentinels or as patrols of the Jacobins, (who
maintained stern vigilance in the environs of the prison,) were equally
ready to contribute their share of vexation and insult. Pictures and
placards, representing the royal family under the hands of the
executioner, were pasted up where the King and Queen might see them. The
most violent patriotic songs, turning upon the approaching death of
Monsieur and Madame Veto, were sung below their windows, and the most
frightful cries for their blood disturbed such rest as prisoners can
obtain. The head of the Princess of Lamballe was brought under their
window on the 3d September, and one of the municipal officers would have
enticed the royal family to the window that they might see this ghastly
spectacle, had not the other, "of milder mood," prevented them from
complying. When questioned concerning the names of these two
functionaries by some less savage persons, who wished to punish the
offending ruffian, Louis would only mention that of the more humane of
the two; so little was this unhappy prince addicted to seek revenge,
even for the most studied cruelties practised against him.[333]

The conduct of the Community increased in rigour, as the process against
Louis seemed to draw nearer. The most ordinary points of personal
accommodation were made subjects of debate ere they could be granted,
and that upon the King's being permitted to shave himself, lasted a long
while. Every article was taken from him, even to his toothpick and
penknife, and the Queen and princesses were deprived of their scissors
and housewives. This led to a touching remark of Louis. He saw his
sister, while at work, obliged to bite asunder a thread which she had no
means of cutting, and the words escaped him, "Ah! you wanted nothing in
your pretty house at Montreuil."--"Dearest brother," answered the
princess, whose character was that of sanctity, purity of thought, and
benevolence, "can I complain of any thing, since Heaven has preserved me
to share and to comfort, in some degree, your hours of captivity?" It
was, indeed, in the society of his family that the character of Louis
shone to the greatest advantage; and if, when on the throne, he did not
always possess the energies demanded of his high situation, in the
dungeon of the Temple misfortune threw around him the glories of a
martyr. His morning hours were spent in instructing or amusing the young
dauphin, a task for which the King's extensive information well
qualified him. The captives enjoyed, as they best might, a short
interval, when they were permitted to walk in the gardens of the Temple,
sure to be insulted (like Charles I. in the same situation) by the
sentinels, who puffed volumes of tobacco-smoke in their faces as they
passed them, while others annoyed the ears of the ladies with licentious
songs, or the most cruel denunciations.[334]

All this Louis and his family endured with such sainted patience, that
several who obtained access to his person were moved by the spectacle of
royalty reduced to a situation so melancholy, yet sustained with such
gentleness and fortitude. Some of the municipal officers themselves
became melted, and changed their ideas of the King, when they beheld him
in so new and singular a light.

Stories of the insults which he daily received, and of the meekness with
which he sustained them, began to circulate among the citizens of the
higher classes; and, joined to their fear of falling completely under
the authority of the Sans-Culottes, led many of the Republicans to cast
back their thoughts to the constitution of 1791, with all its faults,
and with its monarchical executive government.

The more wise and sensible of the Girondists began to suspect that they
had been too hasty in erecting their favourite republic, on ground
incapable of affording a sound and secure foundation for such an
edifice. Buzot gives testimony to this, dated later, no doubt, than the
period we are treating of; but the grounds of the reasoning existed as
much at the King's trial as after the expulsion of the Girondists. The
passage is remarkable. "My friends," says this distinguished Girondist,
"preserved a long time the hopes of establishing a republic in France,
even when all seemed to demonstrate that the enlightened classes,
whether from prejudice or from just reasoning, felt indisposed to that
form of government. That hope did not forsake my friends when the most
wicked and the vilest of men obtained possession of the minds of the
inferior classes, and corrupted them by the opportunities they offered
of license and pillage. My friends reckoned on the lightness and
aptitude to change proper to the French character, and which they
considered to be peculiarly suitable to a republican nation. I have
always considered that conclusion as entirely false, and have repeatedly
in my heart despaired of my darling wish to establish a republic in my
country." In another place he says, "It must not be dissembled that the
majority of Frenchmen earnestly desired royalty, and the constitution of
1791. In Paris, the wish was general, and was expressed most freely,
though only in confidential society, and among private friends. There
were only a few noble and elevated minds who felt themselves worthy to
be Republicans, and whom the example of the Americans had encouraged to
essay the project of a similar government in France, the country of
frivolity and mutability. The rest of the nation, with the exception of
the ignorant wretches, without either sense or substance, who vomited
abuse against royalty, as at another time they would have done against a
commonwealth, and all without knowing why,--the rest of the nation were
all attached to the constitution of 1791, and looked on the pure
Republicans as a very well-meaning kind of madmen."[335]

In these lines, written by one of the most sincere of their number, we
read the condemnation of the Girondists, who, to adventure the
precarious experiment of a republic, in which they themselves saw so
many difficulties, were contented to lend their arms and countenance to
the destruction of that very government, which they knew to be desired
by all the enlightened classes of France except themselves, and which
demolition only made room for the dreadful triumvirate,--Danton,
Robespierre, and Marat.


But we also see, from this and other passages, that there existed
feelings, both in Paris and in the departments, which, if the Convention
had made a manly appeal to them, might have saved the King's life, and
prevented the Reign of Terror. There began to arise more obvious signs
of disaffection to the rulers, and of interest in the King's fate. These
were increased when he was brought before the Convention for
examination--an occasion upon which Louis was treated with the same
marked appearance of premeditated insult, which had been offered to him
when in his dungeon. He had as yet been allowed to enjoy the society of
his son, though his intercourse with the other members of the family had
been much abridged. He was passionately attached to this unhappy son,
who answered his affection, and showed early token of talents which were
doomed never to blossom. It was the cruel resolution of his jailors to
take the boy from his father on the very morning [December 11] when
Louis was to undergo an interrogatory before the Convention. In other
words, to give the deepest blow to his feelings, at the very moment when
it was necessary he should combine his whole mental powers for defending
his life against his subtle and powerful enemies.

This cruel measure produced in some respect the effect desired. The King
testified more deep affliction than he had yet manifested. The child was
playing at the game called Siam with his father, and by no effort could
the dauphin get beyond the number _sixteen_. "That is a very unlucky
number," said the child. This petty omen seemed soon accomplished by the
commissioners of the Assembly, who, without deigning further explanation
than that Louis must prepare to receive the Mayor of Paris, tore the
child from his father, and left him to his sorrow. In about two hours,
during which the trampling of many horses was heard, and a formidable
body of troops with artillery were drawn up around the prison, the mayor
appeared, a man called Chambon, weak and illiterate, the willing tool of
the ferocious Commune in which he presided. He read to the King the
decree of the Convention, that Louis Capet should be brought to their
bar. "Capet," answered Louis, "is not my name--it was that of one of my
ancestors. I could have wished, sir, that I had not been deprived of the
society of my son during the two hours I have expected you, but it is
only of a piece with the usage I have experienced for four months. I
will attend you to the Convention, not as acknowledging their right to
summon me, but because I yield to the superior power of my

The crowd pressed much on the King during the passage from the Temple to
the Tuileries, where the Convention had now established their sittings,
as men who had slain and taken possession. Loud cries were heard,
demanding the life of the tyrant; yet Louis preserved the most perfect
composure, even when he found himself standing as a criminal before an
assembly of his native subjects, born most of them in a rank which
excluded them from judicial offices, till he himself had granted the

"Louis," said the president--the versatile, timorous, but subtle
Barrère, "be seated."[338] The King sat down accordingly, and listened
without apparent emotion to a long act of accusation, in which every
accident that had arisen out of the Revolution was gravely charged as a
point of indictment against the King. He replied by short laconic
answers, which evinced great presence of mind and composure, and alleged
the decrees of the National Assembly as authority for the affair of
Nancy, and the firing on the people in the Champ-de-Mars, both of which
were urged against him as aggressions on the people. One or two replies
we cannot omit inserting.

"You are accused," said the president, "of having authorised money to be
distributed to poor unknowns in the suburb of Saint Antoine. What have
you to reply?"--"That I know no greater pleasure," answered Louis, "than
in giving assistance to the needy."--"You held a review of the Swiss at
five o'clock in the morning of the 10th of August."--"I did," replied
the King, "review the troops that were about my person. It was in
presence of the constituted authorities, the department, and the Mayor
of Paris. I had sent in vain to request from the Convention a deputation
of its members, and I came with my family to place myself in their
hands."--"Why did you double the strength of the Swiss Guards at that
time!" demanded the president.--"It was done with the knowledge of all
the constituted authorities," said the King, in a tone of perfect
composure; "I was myself a constituted authority, it was my duty to
defend my office."--"You have caused," said the president, "the blood of
Frenchmen to be shed. What have you to reply?"--"It was not _I_ who
caused it," answered Louis, speaking with more emphasis than he had
before used.

The King was carried back to his prison, amid threats and abuse from
the same banditti whose ranks he had before traversed.

In replying to the articles alleged against him, Louis had followed a
different course from Charles, who refused to plead before the tribunal
at which he was arraigned. The latter acted with the high spirit of a
prince, unwilling to derogate from the honour of the crown he had worn;
the former, as a man of honour and probity, was desirous of defending
his character wherever it should be attacked, without stopping to
question the authority of the court which was met to try him.

A great tumult followed in the Assembly the moment the King had
withdrawn. The Jacobins became sensible that the scene which had just
passed had deeply affected many of the neutral party, and was not
unlikely to influence their final votes. They demanded an instant decree
of condemnation, and that in the name of the oppressed people. "You who
have heard the tyrant," said Billaud-Varennes, "ought in justice to hear
the people whom he has oppressed." The Convention knew well what was
meant by the appearance of the people at the bar, and while they
trembled at this threat, Duhem[339] exclaimed, "I move that Louis be
hung this very night." Some received this with a triumphant laugh; the
majority, however, retained too much sense of shame to permit themselves
to be hurried farther that evening. They indulged the King with the
selection of counsel to defend him.[340]

The monarch, on returning to his prison, had found he was doomed to
solitary confinement. All intercourse with his family was denied him. He
wept, but neither wife, sister, nor child, was permitted to share his
tears. It was for the fate of his son that he showed the deepest
interest. Yet, anxious as his apprehensions were, they could not reach
the extremities to which the child was reduced. The heart of man could
not have imagined the cruelty of his lot.


Louis chose for his counsel two lawyers of celebrity, carefully
selecting such as he thought would incur least risk of danger by the
task imposed. One of these, Tronchet,[341] was too sensible to the
honour of his profession to hesitate a moment in accepting the perilous
office; but the other, Target, refused to undertake it. The phrase used
by this unworthy jurisconsult, in his letter to the President of the
Convention, seemed to involve the King's condemnation. "A free
Republican," he said, "ought not to undertake functions of which he
feels himself incapable." Timid as the Convention was, this excuse was
heard with disapprobation. It was declaring, that the defence of the
King was untenable by any friend of the present system.[342]

Several persons offered their services[343] with voluntary devotion, but
the preference was claimed by Lamoignon-Malesherbes,[344] who, twice
called by Louis to be a member of his council, when the office was the
object of general ambition, alleged his right to a similar function,
when others might reckon it dangerous.[345] This burst of honourable
self-devotion awakened a sentiment of honour in the Convention, which,
could it have lasted, might have even yet prevented a great national

Paris began to show symptoms of returning interest in the person of
Louis. The oft-repeated calumnies against him seemed to lose their
influence on all but the ignorant multitude, and hired bandits. The
honest devotion of Malesherbes, whose character was known through the
nation as a man of talent, honour, and probity, reflected a forcible
light on that of his royal client, who had, in the hour of need, found
such a defender.[346] Deséze, an excellent lawyer, was afterwards added
to the King's band of counsel;[347] but the King gained little more by
this indulgence, excepting the consolation of communicating with such
men as Malesherbes and his two associates, at a time when no other
friend was suffered to approach him, excepting the faithful Cléry, his

The lawyers entertained some hopes, and, in the spirit of their
profession, exulted when they saw how facts contradicted the charges of
the prosecutors. "Moderate your satisfaction, my friends," said Louis;
"all these favourable circumstances are well known to the gentlemen of
the Convention, and if they considered them as entitled to weight in my
favour, I should not be in this difficulty. You take, I fear, a
fruitless task in hand, but let us perform it as a last duty." When the
term of his second appearance at the Convention arrived, he expressed
anxiety at the thoughts of appearing before them with his beard and hair
overgrown, owing to his being deprived of razors and scissors. "Were it
not better your Majesty went as you are at present," said the faithful
Cléry, "that all men may see the usage you have received?"--"It does not
become me," answered the King, "to seek to obtain pity."[349] With the
same spirit, he commanded his advocates to avoid all appeals to the
passions or the feelings of the judges and audience, and to rest his
defence exclusively upon logical deductions from the evidence

When summoned to the Convention, [Dec. 26,][351] Louis was compelled to
wait for a time in the outer hall, where he walked about conversing with
his counsel. A deputy who passed, heard Malesherbes during this
intercourse use to his royal client the courtesies of "_Sire--Your
Majesty_." "What renders you so bold," he said, "that you utter these
prohibited expressions?"--"Contempt of life," answered the generous


Deséze opened his case with great ability. He pleaded with animation the
right which the King had to the character of inviolability, a right
confirmed to him by the Legislative Assembly after the flight to
Varennes, and which implied a complete indemnity for that crime, even
supposing a journey from his capital in a post carriage, with a few
attendants, could be deemed criminal. But he urged that, if the
Convention did not respect his inviolability--if, in a word, they did
not consider him as a King, he was then entitled to the formal
securities provided for every citizen by the laws. He ridiculed the idea
that, with a trifling force of Swiss, Louis could meditate any serious
injury against the Convention. "He prepared," said Deséze, "for his
defence, as you citizens would doubtless do, when you heard that an
armed multitude were on their way to surprise you in your sanctuary." He
closed an excellent pleading with an enumeration of the benefits which
Louis had conferred on the French nation, and reminded them that their
King had given them liberty so soon as they desired to be free. Louis
himself said a few words with much firmness.[353] He was remanded to the
Temple, and a stormy debate commenced.

[Sidenote: DEBATE.]

At first, the Jacobins attempted to carry all by a clamorous demand of
the vote. Lanjuinais replied to them with unexpected spirit, charged
them with planning and instigating the assault on the 10th of August,
and then with turning on the King the blame which justly lay with
themselves alone. Dreadful outcries followed this true and intrepid
speech. "Let the friends of the despot die with him!" was the general
exclamation of the Jacobins; "to the Abbaye--to the scaffold with the
perjured deputy, who slanders the glorious 10th of August!"--"Be it so,"
answered Lanjuinais; "better death, than the crime of pronouncing an
unjust sentence."

The Girondists were too much themselves accessory to the attack on the
Tuileries to follow this bold and manly line of defence, and Lanjuinais
stood unsupported in his opinion.

Saint Just and Robespierre eagerly called for a doom of death. The
former accused the King of a design to cheat the people out of their
liberties by a pretended show of submission to their will, and an
affected moderation in exercising his authority. On the 10th of August,
(he had the effrontery to state this,) the King, entering the hall of
the Legislature with armed followers, (the small escort who had
difficulty in protecting him through the armed crowd,) had violated the
asylum of the laws. "Besides," as he triumphantly concluded, "was it for
a people who had declared war against all tyrants, to sorrow for the
fate of their own?"[354] Robespierre openly disowned the application of
legal forms, and written rubrics of law, to such a case as was before
the Convention.[355] The people who had asserted their own right in
wresting the sceptre from the hands of Louis, had a right to punish him
for having swayed it. He talked of the case being already decided by the
unanimous voice and act of the people, from whom all legal authority
emanated, and whose authority was paramount to that of the Convention,
which were only their representatives.

Vergniaud, the most eloquent of the Girondists, found nothing better to
propose, than that the case of Louis should be decided by an appeal to
the nation. He alleged that the people, who, in solemn federation had
sworn, in the Champ-de-Mars, to recognise the Constitution, had thereby
sworn the inviolability of the King. This was truly said; but, such
being the case, what right had the Convention to protract the King's
trial by sending the case from before themselves to the people? If his
inviolability had been formally admitted and sworn to by the nation,
what had the Convention more to do than recognise the inviolability with
which the nation had invested the monarch, and dismiss him from the bar

The explanation lay here;--that the eloquent orator was hampered and
constrained in his reasoning, by the difficulty of reconciling his own
conduct, and that of his associates, to the principles which he was now
willing to adopt as those that were just and legal. If the person of the
King was indeed inviolable, what was to be thought of their consistency,
who, by the means of their daring and devoted associates, Barbaroux and
Rebecque, had actually brought up the force of Marseillois, who led the
van, and were, in fact, the efficient and almost the only means by which
the palace of that inviolable sovereign was stormed, his guards
slaughtered, his person committed to prison, and, finally, his life
brought in danger? It was the obvious and personal answer arising out of
their own previous manœuvres, the _argumentum ad hominem_, as it is
called by logicians, which hung a padlock on the lips of the eloquent
Vergniaud, while using the argument which, in itself most just and true,
was irreconcilable with the revolutionary measures to which he had been
an express party. "Do not evil, that good may come of it," is a lesson
which may be learned, not indeed in the transcendental philosophy which
authorises the acting of instant and admitted wrong, with the view of
obtaining some distant, hypothetical, and contingent good; but in the
rules of Christian faith and true philosophy, which commands that each
case be weighed on its own circumstances, and decided upon the immutable
rules of right or wrong, without admitting any subterfuge founded on the
hope of remote contingencies and future consequences.

But Vergniaud's oratory was freed from these unhappy trammels, when,
with the fervour of a poet, and the inspiration of a prophet, he
declaimed against the faction of Jacobins, and announced the
consequences of that sanguinary body's ascending to supreme power, by
placing their first step on the body of Louis. The picture which he drew
of the coming evil seemed too horrible for reality; and yet the scenes
which followed even more than realized the predictions of the baffled
Republican, who saw too late and too clearly the tragic conclusion of
the scenes in which he had borne so active a part.

The appeal to the people or to the nation, had been argued against by
the Jacobin speakers, as opening the nearest road to civil war. Indeed
it was one of the many objections to this intermediate and evasive plan,
that the people of France, convened in their different bodies, were
likely to come to very different conclusions on the King's impeachment.
Where the Jacobin clubs were strong and numerous, they would have been
sure, according to the maxim of their union, to use the compulsory but
ready means of open violence, to disturb the freedom of voting on this
important question, and would thus have carried by forcible measures the
vote of death. In departments in which Constitutionalists and Royalists
had strong interest, it was probable that force would have been repelled
by force; and, upon the whole, in France, where the law had been long a
dead letter, the arbitrement of the nation on the King's fate must and
would have proved a bloody one.

But from that picture which must have followed the success of his party
on this memorable occasion, Vergniaud endeavoured to avert the thoughts
of his hearers, while he strove to fix them on the crimes and criminal
ambition of the Jacobins. "It is _they_ who wish civil war," he
exclaimed, "who threaten with daggers the National Convention of
France--they who preach in the tribune, and in the market-place,
doctrines subversive of all social order. _They_ are the men who desire
civil war, who accuse justice of pusillanimity, because she will not
strike before conviction--who call common humanity a proof of
conspiracy, and accuse all those as traitors to their country who will
not join in acts of robbery and assassination--those, in fine, who
pervert every sentiment and principle of morality, and by the grossest
flatteries endeavour to gain the popular assent and countenance to the
most detestable crimes."

He dissected the arts of the demagogues in terms equally just and
severe. They had been artfully referred to the Temple as the cause of
every distress under which the populace laboured; after the death of
Louis, which they so eagerly pursued, they would have the same reasons
and the same power for directing the odium of every distress or
misfortune against the Convention, and making the representatives of
France equally obnoxious to the people, as they had now rendered the
dethroned King. He concluded with a horrible picture of Paris under the
domination of Jacobinism, which was, however, exceeded by the facts that
ensued. "To what horrors," he said, "will not Paris be delivered, when
she becomes the prey of a horde of desperate assassins? Who will inhabit
a city, where Death and Desolation will then fix their court? Who will
console the ruined citizen, stripped of the wealth he has honourably
acquired, or relieve the wants of his family, which his exertions can no
longer supply? Go in that hour of need," he continued, "and ask bread of
those who have precipitated you from competence into ruin, and they will
answer, 'Hence! dispute with hungry hounds for the carcasses of those we
have last murdered--or, if you would drink, here is the blood we have
lately shed--other nourishment we have none to afford you!'"

The eloquence of Vergniaud,[356] and the exertions of his associates,
were in vain. Barrère, the auxiliary of the Jacobins, though scarcely
the partaker of their confidence, drew off as usual many of the timid
host of neutrals, by alleging specious reasons, of which the convincing
power lay in this, that they must consult their own safety rather than
the cause of justice. The appeal to the people, on which the Girondists
relied as the means of reprieving rather than saving the King--of giving
their consciences the quieting opiate, that he died not by their direct
agency--was rejected by 423 voices against 281. A decisive appeal was
made to the Convention on the question, to what punishment the dethroned
monarch should be subjected.[357]


The bravoes of the Jacobins surrounded the place of meeting on every
point of access while this final vote was called, and, to men already
affrighted with their situation, added every motive of terror that
words, and sometimes acts of violence, could convey. "Think not," they
said, "to rob the people of their prey. If you acquit Louis, we go
instantly to the Temple to destroy him with his whole family, and we add
to his massacre that of all who befriended him." Undoubtedly, among the
terrified deputies, there were some moved by these horrible arguments,
who conceived that, in giving a vote for Louis's life, they would
endanger their own, without saving him. Still, however, among this
overawed and trembling band of judges, there were many whose hearts
failed them as they reflected on the crime they were about to commit,
and who endeavoured to find some evasion stopping short of regicide.
Captivity till the peace was in general proposed as a composition. The
philosophic humanity of Condorcet threw in fetters, to make the
condition more acceptable to the Jacobins. Others voted for death
conditionally. The most intense anxiety prevailed during the vote; and
even the banditti in the tribunes suspended their usual howls, and only
murmured death to the voter, when the opinion given was for the more
lenient punishment. When the Duke of Orleans, who had returned from
England on the fall of La Fayette, and sat as a member of the
Convention, under the absurd name of Citizen L'Egalité--when this base
prince was asked his vote, there was a deep pause; and when the answer
proved Death, a momentary horror electrified the auditors.[358] When the
voices were numbered, the direct doom was carried by a majority of
fifty-three, being the difference between 387 and 334. The president,
Vergniaud, announced that the doom of DEATH was pronounced against Louis

Let none, we repeat, dishonour the parallel passage in England's
history, by comparing it with this disgraceful act of murder, committed
by a few in rabid fury of gain, by the greater part in mere panic and
cowardice. That deed, which Algernon Sidney pronounced the bravest and
justest ever done in England--that _facinus tam illustre_ of Milton--was
acted by men, from whose principles and feelings we differ entirely; but
not more than the ambition of Cromwell differed from that of the
bloodthirsty and envious Robespierre, or the political views of
Hutchinson and his associates, who acted all in honour, from those of
the timid and pedantic Girondists.


In Paris there was a general feeling for the King's condition, and a
wish that he might be saved; but never strong enough to arise into the
resolution to effect his safety.[360] Dumouriez himself came to Paris
with all the splendour of a conqueror, whose victory at Jemappes had
added Belgium, as Flanders began to be called, to the French nation; and
there can be no doubt, that whatever might be his ulterior design, which
his situation and character render somewhat doubtful, his purpose was,
in the first place, to secure the person of Louis from farther danger or
insult. But conqueror as he was, Dumouriez, though more favourably
placed than La Fayette had been upon a similar attempt, was far from
being, with respect to Paris, in the same independent situation in which
Cromwell had been to London, or Cæsar to Rome.

The army with which he had accomplished his victories was yet but half
his own. Six commissioners from the Convention, Danton himself being the
principal, had carefully remained at his head quarters, watching his
motions, controlling his power, encouraging the private soldiers of each
regiment to hold Jacobin clubs exclusive of the authority of the
general, studiously placing in their recollection at every instant, that
the doctrines of liberty and equality rendered the soldier to a certain
point independent of his commander; and reminding them that they
conquered by the command of Dumouriez, indeed, but under the auspices of
the Republic, to whom the general, as they themselves, was but a servant
and factor.[361] The more absolute the rule of a community, the more do
its members enjoy any relaxation of such severe bonds; so that he who
can with safety preach a decay of discipline to an army, of which
discipline is the very essence, is sure to find willing listeners. A
great part of Dumouriez's army was unsettled in their minds by
doctrines, which taught an independence of official authority
inconsistent with their situation as soldiers, but proper, they were
assured, to their quality of citizens.

The manner in which Pache, the minister of war, who, brought into office
by Roland, deserted his benefactor to join the Jacobin faction, had
conducted his branch of the administration, was so negligent, that it
had given ground for serious belief that it was his intention to cripple
the resources of the armed force (at whatever risk of national defeat)
in such a manner, that if, in their disorganized state, Dumouriez had
attempted to move them towards Paris for ensuring the safety of Louis,
he should find them unfit for such a march.[362] The army had no longer
draught-houses for the artillery, and was in want of all with which a
regular body of forces should be supplied. Dumouriez, according to his
own account, both from the want of equipments of every kind, and from
the manner in which the Jacobin commissioners had enfeebled the
discipline of his troops, could not have moved towards Paris without
losing the command of the army, and his head to boot, before he had got
beyond the frontiers of Belgium.

Dumouriez had detached, however, according to his own statement, a
considerable number of officers and confidential persons, to second any
enterprise which he might find himself capable of undertaking in the
King's behalf. While at Paris, he states that he treated with every
faction in turn, attempting even to move Robespierre; and through means
of his own intimate friend Gensonné[363] he renewed his more natural
connexions with the Girondists. But the one party were too determined on
their bloody object to be diverted from it; the other, disconcerted in
viewing the result of their timid and ambiguous attempt to carry through
an appeal to the people, saw no further chance of saving the King's life
otherwise than by the risk of their own, and chose rather to be
executioners than victims.

Among the citizens of Paris, many of whom Dumouriez states himself to
have urged with the argument, that the Convention, in assuming the power
of judging the King, had exceeded the powers granted to them by the
nation, he found hearers, not indeed uninterested or unmoved, but too
lukewarm to promise efficient assistance. The citizens were in that
state, in which an English poet has said of them,--

    "Cold burghers must be struck, and struck like flints,
    Ere their hid fire will sparkle."

With the natural sense of right and justice, they perceived what was
expected of them; but felt not the less the trammels of their situation,
and hesitated to incur the fury of a popular insurrection, which
passiveness on their own part might postpone or avert. They listened to
the general with interest, but without enthusiasm; implored him to
choose a less dangerous subject of conversation; and spoke of the power
of the Jacobins, as of the influence of a tempest, which mortal efforts
could not withstand. With one man of worth and confidence, Dumouriez
pressed the conversation on the meanness of suffering the city to be
governed by two or three thousand banditti, till the citizen looked on
the ground and blushed, as he made the degrading confession,--"I see,
citizen-general, to what conclusion your argument tends; but we are
cowards, and the King MUST perish. What exertion of spirit can you
expect from a city, which, having under arms eighty thousand
well-trained militia, suffered themselves, notwithstanding, to be
domineered over and disarmed by a comparative handful of rascally
Federates from Brest and Marseilles?" The hint was sufficient.
Dumouriez, who was involved in much personal danger, desisted from
efforts, in which he could only compromise his own safety without
ensuring that of the King. He affirms, that during twenty days'
residence near Paris, he witnessed no effort, either public or private,
to avert the King's fate; and that the only feelings which prevailed
among the higher classes, were those of consternation and apathy.

It was then especially to be regretted, that an emigration, certainly
premature, had drained the country of those fiery and gallant nobles,
whose blood would have been so readily ventured in defence of the King.
Five hundred men of high character and determined bravery would probably
have been seconded by the whole burgher-force of Paris, and might have
bid open defiance to the Federates, or, by some sudden and bold attempt,
snatched from their hands their intended victim. Five hundred--but five
hundred--of those who were winning barren laurels under Condé, or, yet
more unhappily, were subsisting on the charity of foreign nations, might
at this moment, could they have been collected in Paris, have
accomplished the purpose for which they themselves most desired to live,
by saving the life of their unhappy sovereign. But although powerful
reasons, and yet more aggrieved feelings, had recommended the emigration
from that country, it operated like the common experiment of the Leyden
phial, one side of which being charged with an uncommon quantity of the
electrical fluid, has the effect of creating a deficiency of the same
essence upon the other. In the interior of France, the spirit of loyalty
was at the lowest ebb; because those upon whom it especially acted as a
principle, were divided from the rest of the nation, to whom they would
otherwise have afforded both encouragement and example.

The sacrifice, therefore, was to be made--made in spite of those who
certainly composed the great majority of Paris, at least of such as were
capable of reflection,--in spite of the commander of the army,
Dumouriez,--in spite of the consciences of the Girondists, who, while
they affected an air of republican stoicism, saw plainly, and were fully
sensible of the great political error, the great moral sin, they were
about to commit.

Undoubtedly they expected, that by joining in, or acquiescing in at
least, if not authorising, this unnecessary and wanton cruelty, they
should establish their character with the populace as firm and unshaken
Republicans, who had not hesitated to sacrifice the King, since his life
was demanded at the shrine of freedom. They were not long of learning,
that they gained nothing by their mean-spirited acquiescence in a crime
which their souls must have abhorred. All were sensible that the
Girondists had been all along, notwithstanding their theoretical
pretensions in favour of a popular government, lingering and looking
back with some favour to the dethroned prince, to whose death they only
consented in sheer coldness and cowardice of heart, because it required
to be defended at some hazard to their own safety. The faults at once of
duplicity and cowardice were thus fixed on this party; who, detested by
the Royalists, and by all who in any degree harboured opinions
favourable to monarchy, had their lives and offices sought after by the
whole host of Jacobins in full cry, and that on account of
faint-spirited wishes, which they had scarcely dared even to attempt to
render efficient.


On the 21st of January, 1793,[364] Louis XVI. was publicly beheaded in
the midst of his own metropolis, in the _Place Louis Quinze_, erected to
the memory of his grandfather. It is possible for the critical eye of
the historian to discover much weakness in the conduct of this unhappy
monarch; for he had neither the determination necessary to fight for his
rights, nor the power of submitting with apparent indifference to
circumstances, where resistance inferred danger. He submitted, indeed,
but with so bad a grace, that he only made himself suspected of
cowardice, without getting credit for voluntary concession. But yet his
behaviour, on many trying occasions, effectually vindicated him from the
charge of timidity, and showed that the unwillingness to shed blood, by
which he was peculiarly distinguished, arose from benevolence, not from

Upon the scaffold, he behaved with the firmness which became a noble
spirit, and the patience beseeming one who was reconciled to Heaven. As
one of the few marks of sympathy with which his sufferings were
softened, the attendance of a confessor, who had not taken the
constitutional oath, was permitted to the dethroned monarch. He who
undertook the honourable but dangerous office, was a gentleman of the
gifted family of Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown; and the devoted zeal with
which he rendered the last duties to Louis, had like in the issue to
have proved fatal to himself.[365] As the instrument of death
descended, the confessor pronounced the impressive words,--"Son of
Saint Louis, ascend to Heaven!"


There was a last will of Louis XVI. circulated upon good authority,
bearing this remarkable passage:--"I recommend to my son, should he have
the misfortune to become King, to recollect, that his whole faculties
are due to the service of the public; that he ought to consult the
happiness of his people, by governing according to the laws, forgetting
all injuries and misfortunes, and in particular those which I may have
sustained. But, while I exhort him to govern under the authority of the
laws, I cannot but add, that this will be only in his power, in so far
as he shall be endowed with authority to cause right to be respected,
and wrong punished; and that, without such authority, his situation in
the government must be more hurtful than advantageous to the

Not to mingle the fate of the illustrious victims of the royal family
with the general tale of the sufferers under the Reign of Terror, we
must here mention the deaths of the rest of that illustrious house,
which closed for a time a monarchy, that, existing through three
dynasties, had given sixty-six kings to France.

It was not to be supposed, that the Queen was to be long permitted to
survive her husband. She had been even more than he the object of
revolutionary detestation; nay, many were disposed to throw on Marie
Antoinette, almost exclusively, the blame of those measures, which they
considered as counter-revolutionary. She came to France a gay, young,
and beautiful princess--she found in her husband a faithful,
affectionate, almost an uxorious husband. In the early years of her
reign she was guilty of two faults.

In the first place, she dispensed too much with court-etiquette, and
wished too often to enjoy a retirement and freedom, inconsistent with
her high rank and the customs of the court. This was a great though
natural mistake. The etiquette of a court places round the great
personages whom it regards, a close and troublesome watch, but that very
guard acts as a barrier against calumny; and when these formal witnesses
are withdrawn, evil tongues are never wanting to supply with infamous
reports a blank, which no testimony can be brought to fill up with the
truth. No individual suffered more than Marie Antoinette from this
species of slander, which imputed the most scandalous occupations to
hours that were only meant to be stolen from form and from state, and
devoted to the ease which crowned heads ought never to dream of

Another natural, yet equally false step, was her interfering more
frequently with politics than became her sex; exhibiting thus her power
over the King, and at the same time lowering him in the eyes of his
subjects, who, whatever be the auspices under which their own domestic
affairs are conducted, are always scandalized if they see, or think they
see, any thing like female influence directing the councils of their
sovereigns. We are uncertain what degree of credit is to be given to the
Memoirs of Bezenval, but we believe they approach near the truth in
representing the Queen as desirous of having a party of her own, and
carrying points in opposition to the ministers; and we know that a
general belief of this sort was the first foundation of the fatal
report, that an Austrian cabal existed in the Court of France, under the
direction of the Queen, which was supposed to sacrifice the interests of
France to favour those of the Emperor of Germany.

The terms of her accusation were too basely depraved to be even hinted
at here. She scorned to reply to it, but appealed to all who had been
mothers, against the very possibility of the horrors which were stated
against her.[367] The widow of a king, the sister of an emperor, was
condemned to death, dragged in an open tumbril to the place of
execution, and beheaded on the 16th October, 1793. She suffered death in
her thirty-ninth year.[368]

The Princess Elizabeth, sister of Louis, of whom it might be said, in
the words of Lord Clarendon, that she resembled a chapel in a king's
palace, into which nothing but piety and morality enter, while all
around is filled with sin, idleness, and folly, did not, by the most
harmless demeanour and inoffensive character, escape the miserable fate
in which the Jacobins had determined to involve the whole family of
Louis XVI. Part of the accusation redounded to the honour of her
character. She was accused of having admitted to the apartments of the
Tuileries some of the national guards, of the section of Filles de Saint
Thomas, and causing the wounds to be looked to which they had received
in a skirmish with the Marseillois, immediately before the 10th of
August. The princess admitted her having done so, and it was exactly in
consistence with her whole conduct. Another charge stated the ridiculous
accusation, that she had distributed bullets chewed by herself and her
attendants, to render them more fatal, to the defenders of the castle of
the Tuileries; a ridiculous fable, of which there was no proof whatever.
She was beheaded in May, 1794, and met her death as became the manner in
which her life had been spent.[369]

We are weary of recounting these atrocities, as others must be of
reading them. Yet it is not useless that men should see how far human
nature can be carried, in contradiction to every feeling the most
sacred, to every pleading whether of justice or of humanity. The Dauphin
we have already described as a promising child of seven years old, an
age at which no offence could have been given, and from which no danger
could have been apprehended. Nevertheless, it was resolved to destroy
the innocent child, and by means to which ordinary murders seem deeds of


The unhappy boy was put in charge of the most hard-hearted villain whom
the Community of Paris, well acquainted where such agents were to be
found, were able to select from their band of Jacobins. This wretch, a
shoemaker called Simon, asked his employers, "What was to be done with
the young wolf-whelp was he to be slain?"--"No."--"Poisoned?"--"No."--
"Starved to death?"--"No."--"What then?"--"He was to be got rid
of."[370] Accordingly, by a continuance of the most severe treatment; by
beating, cold, vigils, fasts, and ill usage of every kind, so frail a
blossom was soon blighted. He died on the 8th of June, 1795.[371]

After this last horrible crime, there was a relaxation in favour of the
daughter, and now the sole child, of this unhappy house. The Princess
Royal, whose qualities have since honoured even her birth and blood,
experienced, from this period, a mitigated captivity. Finally, on the
19th December, 1795, this last remaining relic of the family of Louis
was permitted to leave her prison and her country, in exchange for La
Fayette and others, whom, on that condition, Austria delivered from
captivity. She became afterwards the wife of her cousin the Duke
d'Angoulême, eldest son of the reigning monarch of France, and obtained,
by the manner in which she conducted herself at Bourdeaux in 1815, the
highest praise for gallantry and spirit.


[331] The reader may compare the account which Marmontel gives of his
residence in the Bastile, with the faithful Cléry's narrative of Louis's
captivity in the Temple.--S.

[332] Cléry, p. 55; Thiers, tom. iii., p. 223; Mignet, tom. i., p. 234;
Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 141.

[333] "The 3d of September, at three o'clock, just after dinner, the
most horrid shouts were heard. The officer on guard in the room behaved
well: he shut the door and the window, and even drew the curtains, to
prevent their seeing any thing. Several officers of the guard and of the
municipality now arrived: the former insisted that the King should show
himself at the windows; fortunately, the latter opposed it; but, on his
Majesty's asking what was the matter, a young officer of the guard
replied, 'Well! since you will know, it is the head of Madame de
Lamballe that they want to show you.' At these words the Queen was
overcome with horror: it was the only occasion in which her firmness
abandoned her."--DUCHESSE D'ANGOULÊME, _Private Memoirs_, p. 18.

[334] Cléry, pp. 60, 142.

[335] See Mémoires de Buzot, par Guadet, p. 87

[336] Cléry, p. 153.

[337] "Before the King entered, Barrère recommended tranquillity to the
Assembly, 'in order that the guilty man might be awed by the silence of
the tomb.'"--LACRETELLE, tom. x., p. 174.

[338] "When the president said to his King, '_Louis, asseyez vous!_' we
feel more indignation even than when he is accused of crimes which he
had never committed. One must have sprung from the very dust not to
respect past obligations, particularly when misfortune has rendered them
sacred; and vulgarity joined to crime inspires us with as much contempt
as horror."--DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 84.

[339] Duhem was born at Lille in 1760. He afterwards practised physic at
Quesnoi. After the amnesty of Oct., 1795, he returned to his profession,
and died in 1807, at Mentz.

[340] Mignet, tom. i., p. 235; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 179.

[341] One of Napoleon's first acts on becoming first consul, was to
place Tronchet at the head of the Court of Cassation. "Tronchet," he
said, "was the soul of the civil code, as I was its demonstrator. He was
gifted with a singularly profound and correct understanding, but he
could not descend to developements."-LAS CASES, vol. ii., p. 234.
Tronchet died in 1806, and was buried in the Pantheon.

[342] "Cambacérès declared, that Target's example endangered public
morality. Target attempted in vain to repair the disgrace, by publishing
a short defence of the King."--LACRETELLE, tom. x., p. 182.

[343] "Tronson du Coudrai, who perished in the deserts of Sinamari;
Guillaume, the courageous author of the petition of the twenty thousand;
Huet de Guerville; Sourdat de Troyes; and Madame Olympe de
Gouges.--Lalli de Tolendal, Malouet, and Necker published admirable
pleadings for Louis, but the Convention would not allow them to be
read."--LACRETELLE, tom. x., p. 185.

[344] See _ante_, p. 42.

[345] "Je lui dois le même service, lorsque c'est une fonction que bien
des gens trouvent dangereuse."--See his letter to the President of the
Convention in LACRETELLE, tom. x., p. 182.

[346] "The first time M. Malesherbes entered the Temple, the King
clasped him in his arms, and exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, 'Ah! is
it you, my friend! you see to what the excess of my love for the people
has brought me, and the self-denial which induced me to consent to the
removal of the troops intended to protect my throne and person, against
the designs of a factious assembly: you fear not to endanger your own
life to save mine; but all will be useless: they will bring me to the
scaffold: no matter; I shall gain my cause, if I leave an unspotted
memory behind me."--HUE, _Dernières Années de la Vie de Louis XVI._, p.

[347] Deséze was born at Bourdeaux in 1750. He accepted no office under
Napoleon; but on the restoration of the Bourbons he was appointed First
President of the Court of Cassation, and afterwards created a peer of
France. He died at Paris in 1828.

[348] Cléry we have seen and known, and the form and manners of that
model of pristine faith and loyalty can never be forgotten.
Gentlemanlike and complaisant in his manners, his deep gravity and
melancholy features announced that the sad scenes in which he had acted
a part so honourable, were never for a moment out of his
memory.--S.--Cléry died at Hitzing, near Vienna, in 1809. In 1817, Louis
XVIII. gave letters of nobility to his daughter.

[349] Cléry, p. 187.

[350] "When the pathetic peroration of M. Deséze was read to the King,
the evening before it was to be delivered to the Assembly, 'I have to
request of you,' he said, 'to make a painful sacrifice; strike out of
your pleading the peroration. It is enough for me to appear before such
judges, and show my entire innocence; I will not move their
feelings.'"--LACRETELLE, tom. x., p. 197.

[351] "The King was conveyed in the mayor's carriage. He evinced, on the
way, as much coolness as on former occasions; spoke of Seneca, Livy, and
the public hospitals; and addressed himself, in a delicate vein of
pleasantry, to one of the municipality, who sat in his carriage with his
hat on."--THIERS, tom. iii., p. 277.

[352] Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 199.

[353] "You have heard my defence; I will not recapitulate it; when
addressing you, probably for the last time, I declare that my conscience
has nothing to reproach itself with, and that my defenders have said
nothing but the truth. I have no fears for the public examination of my
conduct; but my heart bleeds at the accusation brought against me, of
having been the cause of the misfortunes of my people; and, most of all,
of having shed their blood on the 10th of August. The multiplied proofs
I have given, in every period of my reign, of my love for my people, and
the manner in which I have conducted myself towards them, might, I had
hoped, have saved me from so cruel an imputation."--THIERS. tom. iii.,
p. 281.

"The King withdrew with his defenders. He embraced M. Deséze, and
exclaimed, 'This is indeed true eloquence! I am tranquil.--I shall at
least have an honoured memory.--The French will regret my
death.'"--LACRETELLE, tom. x., p. 210.

[354] "St. Just, after having searched in vain for authentic facts
against the King, finished by declaring, that 'no one could reign
innocently: and nothing could better prove the necessity of the
inviolability of kings than this maxim; for there is no king who might
not be accused in some way or another, if there were no constitutional
barrier placed around him.'"--DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 86.

[355] "Il est des principes indestructibles, supérieurs aux rubriques
consacrées par l'habitude et les préjugés."

[356] "Vergniaud was an indolent man, and required to be stimulated; but
when excited, his eloquence was true, forcible, penetrating, and
sincere."--DUMONT, p. 321.

[357] Thiers, tom. iii., p. 290; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 213;
Toulongeon, tom. iii., p. 187.

[358] His own death, by the guillotine, in the same year, was hardly
sufficient retribution for his fiendlike conduct on this afflicting

[359] "When, on the 17th January, M. de Malesherbes went to the Temple
to announce the result of the vote, he found Louis with his forehead
resting on his hands, and absorbed in a deep reverie. Without inquiring
concerning his fate, he said, 'For two hours I have been considering
whether, during my whole reign, I have voluntarily given any cause of
complaint to my subjects; with perfect sincerity I declare, that I
deserve no reproach at their hands, and that I have never formed a wish
but for their happiness.'"--LACRETELLE, tom. x., p. 244.

"On the 18th, the King desired me to look in the library for the volume
of Hume's History which contained the death of Charles I., which he read
the following days. I found, on this occasion, that, since his coming to
the Temple, his Majesty had perused two hundred and fifty
volumes."--CLÉRY, p. 216.--"On the 20th, Santerre appeared with the
Executive Council. The sentence of death was read by Carat. No
alteration took place in the King's countenance; I observed only, at the
word 'conspiracy,' a smile of indignation appear upon his lips; but at
the words, 'shall suffer the punishment of death,' the heavenly
expression of his face, when he looked on those around him, showed them
that death had no terrors for innocence."--CLÉRY, p. 222.

[360] "At the representation of the comedy called 'L'Ami des Lois' at
the Français, every allusion to the King's trial was caught and received
with unbounded applause. At the Vaudeville, on one of the characters in
'La Chaste Susanne' saying to the two Elders, 'You cannot be accusers
and judges at the same time,' the audience obliged the actor to repeat
the passage several times."--CLÉRY, p. 204.

[361] Dumouriez, vol. iii., p. 278; Jomini, tom. ii., p. 265.

[362] "The peculation, or the profuse expenditure, at least, that took
place in the war department during Pache's administration, was horrible.
In the twenty-four hours that preceded his dismission, he filled up
sixty different places with all the persons he knew of who were base
enough to pay their court to him, down to his very hair-dresser, a
blackguard boy of nineteen, whom he made a muster-master."--MAD. ROLAND,
part i., p. 140.

[363] Born at Bourdeaux in 1758--he was involved in the fall of the
Girondists, and guillotined 31st Oct., 1793.

[364] "At seven, the King said to me, 'You will give this seal to my
son, this ring to the Queen, and assure her that it is with pain I part
with it;--this little packet contains the hair of all my family, you
will give her that too. Tell the Queen, my dear children, and my sister,
that although I promised to see them again this morning, I have resolved
to spare them the pangs of so cruel a separation; tell them how much it
costs me to go without receiving their embraces once more!' He wiped
away some tears; then added, in the most mournful accents, 'I charge you
to bear them my last farewell.'"--CLÉRY, p. 249.

"On the morning of this terrible day, the princesses rose at six. The
night before, the Queen had scarcely strength enough to put her son to
bed. She threw herself, dressed as she was, upon her own bed, where she
was heard shivering with cold and grief all night long. At a
quarter-past six, the door opened; the princesses believed that they
were sent for to see the King, but it was only the officers looking for
a prayer-book for the King's mass; they did not, however, abandon the
hope of seeing him, till the shouts of joy of the unprincipled populace
came to tell them that all was over."--DUCHESSE D'ANGOULÊME, p. 52.

[365] "The procession from the Temple to the place of execution lasted
nearly two hours. As soon as the carriage stopped, the King whispered to
me, 'We are at the end of our journey, if I mistake not.' My silence
answered that we were. One of the guards came to open the door, and the
gens-d'armes would have jumped out, but the King stopped them, and
leaning his arm on my knee, 'Gentlemen,' said he, with the tone of
majesty, 'I recommend to you this good man; take care that after my
death no insult be offered to him--I charge you to prevent it.' As soon
as the King had left the carriage, three guards surrounded him, and
would have taken off his clothes, but he repulsed them with dignity; he
undressed himself, untied his neckcloth, opened his shirt, and arranged
it himself. The path leading to the scaffold was extremely rough, and
from the slowness with which the King proceeded, I feared for a moment
that his courage might be failing; but what was my astonishment, when,
arrived at the last step, I felt him suddenly let go my arm, and saw him
cross with a firm foot the breadth of the whole scaffold; he silenced,
by his look alone, fifteen or twenty drums; and I heard him, in a loud
voice, pronounce distinctly these memorable words, 'I die innocent of
all the crimes laid to my charge; I pardon those who have occasioned my
death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never
be visited on France.' He was proceeding, when a man on horseback, in
the national uniform, (Santerre,) waved his sword, and ordered the drums
to beat. Upon which, the executioners, seizing the King with violence,
dragged him under the axe of the guillotine, which, with one stroke,
severed his head from his body."--ABBÉ EDGEWORTH, _Last Hours of Louis
XVI._, p. 84.

[366] "The day after the execution, the municipality published the will,
as a proof of the fanaticism and crimes of the King."--LACRETELLE, tom.
x., p. 254.

[367] "Si je n'ai pas répondu, c'est que la nature se refuse à répondre
a une pareille inculpation faite à une mère." (Ici l'accusée paroit
vivement émue,) "J'en appelle à toutes celles qui peuvent se trouver
ici."--_Procès de Marie Antoinette_, p. 29.

[368] "Sorrow had blanched her once beautiful hair; but her features and
air still commanded the admiration of all who beheld her. Her cheeks,
pale and emaciated, were occasionally tinged with a vivid colour at the
mention of those she had lost. When led out to execution, she was
dressed in white; she had cut off her hair with her own hands. Placed in
a tumbril, with her arms tied behind her, she was taken by a circuitous
route to the Place de la Révolution, and she ascended the scaffold with
a firm and dignified step, as if she had been about to take her place on
a throne, by the side of her husband."--LACRETELLE, tom. xi, p. 261.

[369] "Madame Elizabeth was condemned, with many other individuals of
rank. When on the tumbril, she declared that Madame de Serilli, one of
the victims, had disclosed to her that she was pregnant, and was thus
the means of saving her life."--LACRETELLE, tom. xi., p. 424.

"The assassination of the Queen and of Madame Elizabeth excited perhaps
still more astonishment and horror than the crime which had been
perpetrated against the person of the King; for no other object could be
assigned for these horrible enormities, than the very terror which they
were fitted to inspire."--DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 125.

[370] Lacretelle, tom. xi., p. 233.

[371] "Simon had had the cruelty to leave the poor child, absolutely
alone. Unexampled barbarity! to leave an unhappy and sickly infant of
eight years old, in a great room, locked and bolted in, with no other
resource than a broken bell, which he never rang, so greatly did he
dread the people whom its sound would have brought to him; he preferred
wanting any thing and every thing to the sight of his persecutors. His
bed had not been touched for six months, and he had not strength to make
it himself; it was alive with bugs, and vermin still more disgusting.
His linen and his person were covered with them. For more than a year he
had had no change of shirt or stockings; every kind of filth was allowed
to accumulate about him, and in his room; and during all that period,
nothing of that kind had been removed. His window, which was locked as
well as grated, was never opened; and the infectious smell of this
horrid room was so dreadful, that no one could bear it for a moment. He
passed his days without any kind of occupation. They did not even allow
him light in the evening. This situation affected his mind as well as
his body; and it is not surprising that he should have fallen into a
frightful atrophy."--DUCHESSE D'ANGOULÊME, p. 109.


    _Dumouriez--His displeasure at the Treatment of the Flemish
    Provinces by the Convention--His projects in consequence--Gains
    the ill-will of his Army--and is forced to fly to the Austrian
    Camp--Lives many years in retreat, and finally dies in
    England--Struggles betwixt the Girondists and
    Jacobins--Robespierre impeaches the Leaders of the
    Girondists--and is denounced by them--Decree of Accusation
    against Marat--Commission of Twelve--Marat acquitted--Terror of
    the Girondists--Jacobins prepare to attack the Palais Royal, but
    are repulsed--Repair to the Convention, who recall the
    Commission of Twelve--Louvet and other Girondist Leaders fly
    from Paris--Convention go forth in procession to expostulate
    with the People--Forced back to their Hall, and compelled to
    Decree the Accusation of Thirty of their Body--Girondists
    finally ruined--and their principal Leaders perish--Close of
    their History._

While the Republic was thus indulging the full tyranny of irresistible
success over the remains of the royal family, it seemed about to sustain
a severe shock from one of its own children, who had arisen to eminence
by its paths. This was Dumouriez, whom we left victor at Jemappes, and
conqueror, in consequence, of the Flemish provinces. These fair
possessions, the Convention, without a moment's hesitation, annexed to
the dominions of France; and proceeded to pour down upon them their
tax-gatherers, commissaries, and every other denomination of spoilers,
who not only robbed without ceremony the unfortunate inhabitants, but
insulted their religion by pillaging and defacing their churches, set
their laws and privileges at contempt, and tyrannized over them in the
very manner, which had so recently induced the Flemings to offer
resistance to their own hereditary princes of the House of Austria.

Dumouriez, naturally proud of his conquest, felt for those who had
surrendered to his arms upon assurance of being well treated, and was
sensible that his own honour and influence were aimed at; and that it
was the object of the Convention to make use of his abilities only as
their implements, and to keep his army in a state of complete dependence
upon themselves.


The general, on the contrary, had the ambition as well as the talents of
a conqueror: he considered his army as the means of attaining the
victories, which, without him, it could not have achieved, and he
desired to retain it under his own immediate command, as a combatant
wishes to keep hold of the sword which he has wielded with success. He
accounted himself strongly possessed of the hearts of his soldiers, and
therefore thought himself qualified to play the part of military umpire
in the divisions of the state, which La Fayette had attempted in vain;
and it was with this view, doubtless, that he undertook that expedition
to Paris, in which he vainly attempted a mediation in behalf of the

After leaving Paris, Dumouriez seems to have abandoned Louis personally
to his fate, yet still retaining hopes to curb the headlong course of
the Revolution.

Two plans presented themselves to his fertile invention, nor can it be
known with certainty to which of them he most inclined. He may have
entertained the idea of prevailing upon the army to decide for the
youthful Dauphin to be their Constitutional King; or, as many have
thought, it may better have suited his personal views to have
recommended to the throne a gallant young prince of the blood, who had
distinguished himself in his army, the eldest son of the miserable Duke
of Orleans.[372] Such a change of dynasty might be supposed to limit the
wishes of the proposed sovereign to that share of power entrusted to him
by the Revolution, since he would have had no title to the crown save
what arose from the Constitution. But, to qualify himself in either case
to act as the supreme head of the army, independent of the National
Convention, it was necessary that Dumouriez should pursue his conquests,
act upon the plan laid down by the ministers at Paris, and in addition
to his title of victor in Belgium, add that of conqueror of Holland. He
commenced, accordingly, an invasion of the latter country, with some
prospect of success. But though he took Gertruydenberg, and blockaded
Bergen-op-Zoom, he was repulsed from Williamstadt; and at the same time
he received information that an army of Austrians, under the Prince of
Saxe-Cobourg, a general of eminence, though belonging to the old
military school of Germany, was advancing into Flanders. Dumouriez
retreated from Holland to make a stand against these new enemies, and
was again unfortunate. The French were defeated at Aix-la-Chapelle, and
their new levies almost entirely dispersed. Chagrined with this
disaster, Dumouriez gave an imprudent loose to the warmth of his
temper. Following the false step of La Fayette, in menacing before he
was prepared to strike, he wrote a letter to the Convention, threatening
the Jacobin party with the indignation of his army. This was on the 12th
March, 1793, and six days afterwards he was again defeated in the battle
of Neerwinden.[373]

It must have been extremely doubtful, whether, in the very pitch of
victory, Dumouriez possessed enough of individual influence over his
army, to have inclined them to declare against the National Convention.
The forces which he commanded were not to be regarded in the light of a
regular army, long embodied, and engaged perhaps for years in difficult
enterprises, and in foreign countries, where such a force exists as a
community only by their military relations to each other; where the
common soldiers knew no other home than their tents, and no other
direction than the voice of their officers; and the officers no other
laws than the pleasure of the general. Such armies, holding themselves
independent of the civil authorities of their country, came at length,
through the habit of long wars and distant conquests, to exist in the
French empire, and upon such rested the foundation-stone of the imperial
throne; but as yet, the troops of the Republic consisted either of the
regiments revolutionized, when the great change had offered commissions
to privates, and batons to subalterns,--or of new levies, who had their
very existence through the Revolution, and whose common nickname of
Carmagnoles,[374] expressed their Republican origin and opinions. Such
troops might obey the voice of the general on the actual field of
battle, but were not very amenable even to the ordinary course of
discipline elsewhere, and were not likely to exchange their rooted
political principles, with all the ideas of license connected with them,
at Dumouriez's word of command, as they would have changed their front,
or have adopted any routine military movement. Still less were they
likely implicitly to obey this commander, when the _prestige_ of his
fortune seemed in the act of abandoning him, and least of all, when they
found him disposed to make a compromise with the very foe who had
defeated him, and perceived that he negotiated, by abandoning his
conquests to the Austrians, to purchase the opportunity or permission of
executing the counter-revolution which he proposed.

Nevertheless, Dumouriez, either pushed on by an active and sanguine
temper, or being too far advanced to retreat, endeavoured, by intrigues
in his own army, and an understanding with the Prince of Saxe-Cobourg,
to render himself strong enough to overset the reigning party in the
Convention, and restore, with some modifications, the Constitution of
1791. He expressed this purpose with imprudent openness. Several
generals of division declared against his scheme. He failed in obtaining
possession of the fortresses of Lisle, Valenciennes, and Condé. Another
act of imprudence aggravated the unpopularity into which he began to
fall with his army. Four commissioners of the Convention[375]
remonstrated publicly on the course he was pursuing. Dumouriez, not
contented with arresting them, had the imprudence to send them to the
camp of the Austrians prisoners, thus delivering up to the public enemy
the representatives of the government under which he was appointed, and
for which he had hitherto acted, and proclaiming his alliance with the
invaders whom he was commissioned to oppose.


All this rash conduct disunited the tie between Dumouriez and his army.
The resistance to his authority became general, and finally, it was with
great difficulty and danger that he made his escape to the Austrian
camp, with his young friend the Duke de Chartres.[376]

All that this able and ambitious man saved in his retreat was merely his
life, of which he spent some years afterwards in Germany, concluding it
in England, a few years ago, without again making any figure in the
political horizon.[377] Thus, the attempt of Dumouriez, to use military
force to stem the progress of the Revolution, failed, like that of La
Fayette, some months before. To use a medical simile, the imposthume,
was not yet far enough advanced, and sufficiently come to a head, to be
benefited by the use of the lancet.

Meanwhile, the Convention, though triumphant over the schemes of the
revolted general, was divided by the two parties to whom its walls
served for an arena, in which to aim against each other the most deadly
blows. It was now manifest that the strife must end tragically for one
of the parties, and all circumstances pointed out the Girondists as the
victims. They had indeed still the command of majorities in the
Convention, especially when the votes were taken by scrutiny or ballot;
on which occasions the feebler deputies of the Plain could give their
voice according to their consciences, without its being known that they
had done so. But in open debate, and when the members voted _vivâ voce_,
amongst the intimidating cries and threats of tribunes filled by an
infuriated audience, the spirit of truth and justice seemed too nearly
allied to that of martyrdom, to be prevalent generally amongst men who
made their own safety the rule of their own political conduct. The
party, however, continued for several months to exercise the duties of
administration, and to make such a struggle in the Convention as could
be achieved by oratory and reasoning, against underhand intrigue,
supported by violent declamation, and which was, upon the least signal,
sure of the aid of actual brutal violence.

The Girondists, we have seen, had aimed decrees of the Assembly at the
triumvirate, and a plot was now laid among the Jacobins, to repay that
intended distinction by the actual strokes of the axe, or, failing that,
of the dagger.

When the news of Dumouriez's defection arrived, the Jacobins, always
alert in prepossessing the public mind, held out the Girondists as the
associates of the revolted general. It was on them that they directed
the public animosity, great and furious in proportion to the nature of
the crisis. That majority of the Convention, which the traitor Dumouriez
affirmed was sound, and with which he acted in concert, intimated,
according to the Jacobins, the Girondists the allies of his treasons.
They called out in the Convention, on the 8th of March, for a tribunal
of judgment fit to decide on such crimes, without the delays arising
from ordinary forms of pleading and evidence, and without even the
intervention of a jury. The Girondists opposed this measure, and the
debate was violent. In the course of the subsequent days, an
insurrection of the people was prepared by the Jacobins, as upon the
20th June and 10th of August. It ought to have broken out upon the 10th
of March, which was the day destined to put an end to the ministerial
party by a general massacre. But the Girondists received early
intelligence of what was intended, and absented themselves from the
Convention on the day of peril. A body of Federates from Brest, about
four hundred strong, were also detached in their favour by Kevelegan,
one of the deputies from the ancient province of Bretagne, and who was a
zealous Girondist. The precaution, however slight, was sufficient for
the time. The men who were prepared to murder, were unwilling to fight,
however strong the odds on their side; and the mustering of the Jacobin
bravoes proved, on this occasion, an empty menace.

Duly improved, a discovered conspiracy is generally of advantage to the
party against which it was framed. But Vergniaud, when in a subsequent
sitting he denounced to the Convention the existence of a conspiracy to
put to death a number of the deputies, was contented to impute it to the
influence of the aristocracy, of the nobles, the priests, and the
emissaries of Pitt and Cobourg; thus suffering the Jacobins to escape
every imputation of that blame, which all the world knew attached to
them, and to them only. He was loudly applauded. Marat, who rose after
him, was applauded as loudly, and the Revolutionary Tribunal was

Louvet, who exclaims against Vergniaud for his pusillanimity, says, that
the orator alleged in his excuse, "the danger of incensing violent men,
already capable of all excesses." They had come to the boar chase, they
had roused him and provoked his anger, and now they felt, too late, that
they lacked weapons with which to attack the irritated monster. The plot
of the 10th March had been compared to that of the Catholics on the 5th
November, in England. It had been described in the _Moniteur_ as a
horrible conspiracy, by which a company of ruffians, assuming the title
of _de la Glacière_, in remembrance of the massacre of Avignon,
surrounded the hall for two days, with the purpose of dissolving the
National Convention by force, and putting to death a great proportion of
the deputies. Yet the Convention passed over, without effective
prosecution of any kind, a crime of so enormous a dye; and in doing so,
showed themselves more afraid of immediate personal consequences, than
desirous of seizing an opportunity to rid France of the horrible faction
by whom they were scourged and menaced.


In the midst of next month the Jacobins became the assailants, proud, it
may be supposed, of the impunity under which they had been sheltered.
Robespierre impeached by name the leaders of the Girondists, as
accomplices of Dumouriez. But it was not in the Convention where
Robespierre's force lay. Guadet, with great eloquence, repelled the
charge, and in his turn denounced Robespierre and the Jacobins. He
proclaimed to the Convention, that they sat and debated under raised
sabres and poniards, which a moment's signal could let loose on them;
and he read from the journal conducted by Marat,[379] an appeal, calling
on the people to rise in insurrection. Fear and shame gave the
Convention momentary courage. They passed a decree of accusation against
Marat, who was obliged to conceal himself for a few days.[380]

Buzot, it may be remarked, censures this decree against Marat as
impolitic, seeing it was the first innovation affecting the
inviolability of the persons of the deputies. In point of principle, he
is certainly right; but as to any practical effects resulting from this
breach of privilege, by reprisals on the other side, we are quite
sceptical. Whatever violence was done to the Girondists, at the end of
the conflict, was sure to have befallen them, whether Marat had been
arrested or not. Precedents were as useless to such men, as a vizard to
one of their ruffians. Both could do their business barefaced.

The Convention went farther than the decree of accusation against Marat;
and for the first time showed their intention to make a stand against
the Jacobins. On the motion of Barrère, they nominated a commission of
twelve members, some Girondists, some neutrals, to watch over and
repress the movements of such citizens as should seem disposed to favour


The Convention were not long of learning the character of the opposition
which they had now defied. Pache, Mayor of Paris, and one of the worst
men of the Revolution, appeared at the bar of the Convention with two
thousand petitioners, as they were called. They demanded, in the name of
the sections, the arrest of twenty-two of the most distinguished of the
Girondist leaders. The Convention got rid of the petition by passing to
the order of the day. But the courage of the anarchists was greatly
increased; and they saw that they had only to bear down with repeated
attacks an enemy who had no fortification save the frail defences of the
law, which it was the pride of the Jacobins to surmount and to defy.
Their demand of proscription against these unfortunate deputies was a
measure from which they never departed; and their audacity in urging it
placed that party on the defensive, who ought, in all reason to have
been active in the attack.

The Girondists, however, felt the extremity to which they were reduced,
and sensible of the great advantage to be attained by being the
assailants in such a struggle, they endeavoured to regain the offensive.

The Revolutionary Tribunal to which Marat had been sent by the decree of
accusation, knew their business too well to convict any one, much less
such a distinguished patriot, who was only accused of stimulating the
people to exercise the sacred right of insurrection. He was honourably
acquitted, after scarcely the semblance of a trial, and brought back to
his place in the Convention, crowned with a civic coronet, and
accompanied by a band of such determined ruffians as were worthy to form
his body-guard. They insisted on filing through the hall, while a huge
pioneer, their spokesman, assured the Convention that the people loved
Marat, and that the cause of Marat and the people would always be the

Meanwhile, the committee of twelve proceeded against the Terrorists with
some vigour. One of the most furious provokers of insurrection and
murder was Hébert, a devoted Jacobin, substitute of the Procureur Syndic
of the Community.[383] Speaking to this body, who now exercised the
whole powers of magistracy in Paris, this man had not blushed to demand
the heads of three hundred deputies. He was arrested and committed to

This decisive action ought in policy to have been followed by other
steps equally firm. The Girondists, by displaying confidence, might
surely have united to themselves a large number of the neutral party;
and might have established an interest in the sections of Paris,
consisting of men who, though timid without leaders, held in deep horror
the revolutionary faction, and trembled for their families and their
property, if put under the guardianship, as it had been delicately
expressed, of the rabble of the Fauxbourgs. The very show of four
hundred Bretons had disconcerted the whole conspiracy of the 10th of
March; and therefore, with a moderate support of determined men,
statesmen of a more resolute and practised character than these
theoretical philosophers, might have bid defiance to the mere mob of
Paris, aided by a few hundreds of hired ruffians. At the worst they
would have perished in attempting to save their country from the most
vile and horrible tyranny.

The Girondists, however, sat in the Convention, like wild-fowl when the
hawk is abroad, afraid either to remain where they were, or to attempt a
flight. Yet, as they could make no armed interest in Paris, there was
much to induce them to quit the metropolis, and seek a place of free
deliberation elsewhere. France, indeed, was in such a state, that had
these unfortunate experimentalists possessed any influence in almost any
department, they could hardly have failed to bring friends around them,
if they had effected a retreat to it. Versailles seems to have been
thought of as the scene of their adjournment, by those who nourished
such an idea; and it was believed that the inhabitants of that town,
repentant of the part they had played in driving from them the royal
family and the legislative body, would have stood in their defence. But
neither from the public journals and histories of the time, nor from the
private memoirs of Buzot, Barbaroux, or Louvet, does it appear that
these infatuated philosophers thought either of flight or defence. They
appear to have resembled the wretched animal, whose chance of escape
from its enemies rests only in the pitiful cries which it utters when
seized. Their whole system was a castle in the air, and when it vanished
they could only sit down and lament over it. On the other hand, it must
be allowed to the Girondists, that the inefficiency and imbecility of
their conduct was not to be attributed to personal cowardice.
Enthusiasts in their political opinions, they saw their ruin
approaching, waited for it, and dared it; but like that of the monarch
they had been so eager to dethrone, and by dethroning whom they had made
way for their own ruin, their resolution was of a passive, not an active
character; patient and steady to endure wrong, but inefficient where the
object was to do right towards themselves and France.

For many nights, these unhappy and devoted deputies, still possessed of
the ministerial power, were so far from being able to ensure their own
safety, or that of the country under their nominal government, that they
had shifted about from one place of rendezvous to another, not daring to
occupy their own lodgings, and usually remaining, three or four
together, armed for defence of their lives, in such places of secrecy
and safety as they could devise.

It was on the night preceding the 30th of May, that Louvet, with five of
the most distinguished of the Girondist party, had absconded into such
a retreat, more like robbers afraid of the police than legislators, when
the tocsin was rung at dead of night. Rabaud de Saint Etienne, a
Protestant clergyman, and one of the most distinguished of the party for
humanity and resolution, received it as a death-knell, and continued to
repeat, _Illa suprema dies_.


The alarm was designed to raise the suburbs; but in this task the
Jacobins do not seem to have had the usual facilities--at least, they
began by putting their bloodhounds on a scent, upon which they thought
them likely to run more readily than the mere murder or arrest of twenty
or thirty deputies of the Convention. They devised one which suited
admirably, both to alarm the wealthier citizens, and teach them to be
contented with looking to their own safety, and to animate the rabble
with the hope of plunder. The rumour was spread, that the section of La
Butte-des-Moulins, comprehending the Palais Royal, and the most wealthy
shops in Paris, had become counter-revolutionary--had displayed the
white cockade, and were declaring for the Bourbons.

Of this not a word was true. The citizens of the Palais Royal were
disposed perhaps to royalty--certainly for a quiet and established
government--but loved their own shops much better than the House of
Bourbon, and had no intention of placing them in jeopardy either for
king or kaisar. They heard with alarm the accusation against them,
mustered in defence of their property, shut the gates of the Palais
Royal, which admits of being strongly defended, turned cannon with
lighted matches upon the mob as they approached their precincts, and
showed, in a way sufficient to intimidate the rabble of Saint Antoine,
that though the wealthy burgesses of Paris might abandon to the mob the
care of killing kings and changing ministers, they had no intention
whatever to yield up to them the charge of their counters and tills.
Five sections were under arms and ready to act. Not one of the Girondist
party seems to have even attempted to point out to them, that by an
exertion to preserve the independence of the Convention, they might rid
themselves for ever of the domination under which all who had property,
feeling, or education, were rendered slaves by these recurring
insurrections. This is the more extraordinary, as Raffé, the commandant
of the section of La Butte-des-Moulins, had actually marched to the
assistance of the Convention on the 10th of March, then, as now,
besieged by an armed force.

Left to themselves, the sections who were in arms to protect order,
thought it enough to provide against the main danger of the moment. The
sight of their array, and of their determined appearance, far more than
their three-coloured cockades, and cries of "Vive la Republique," were
sufficient to make the insurgents recognise those as good citizens, who
could not be convicted of _incivism_ without a bloody combat.

They were, however, at length made to comprehend by their leaders, that
the business to be done lay in the Hall of the Convention, and that the
exertions of each active citizen were to entitle him to forty _sous_ for
the day's work. In the whole affair there was so much of cold trick, and
so little popular enthusiasm, that it is difficult to believe that the
plotters might not have been countermined and blown to the moon with
their own petard, had there been active spirit or practical courage on
the side of those who were the assailed party. But we see no symptoms of
either. The Convention were surrounded by the rabble, and menaced in the
grossest terms. Under the general terror inspired by their situation,
they finally recalled the Commission of Twelve, and set Hébert at
liberty;--concessions which, though short of those which the Jacobins
had determined to insist upon, were such as showed that the power of the
Girondists was entirely destroyed, and that the Convention itself might
be overawed at the pleasure of whoever should command the mob of

The Jacobins were now determined to follow up their blow, by destroying
the enemy whom they had disarmed. The 2d of June was fixed for this
purpose. Louvet, and some others of the Girondist party, did not choose
to await the issue, but fled from Paris. To secure the rest of the
devoted party, the barriers of the city were shut.

On this decisive occasion, the Jacobins had not trusted entirely to the
efficiency of their suburb forces. They had also under their orders
about two thousand Federates, who were encamped in the Champs-Elysées,
and had been long tutored in the part they had to act. They harnessed
guns and howitzers, prepared grape-shot and shells, and actually heated
shot red-hot, as if their purpose had been to attack some strong
fortress, instead of a hall filled with the unarmed representatives of
the people. Henriot, commander-general of the armed force of Paris, a
fierce, ignorant man, entirely devoted to the Jacobin interest, took
care, in posting the armed force which arrived from all hands around the
Convention, to station those nearest to the legislative body, whose
dispositions with regard to them were most notoriously violent. They
were thus entirely surrounded as if in a net, and the Jacobins had
little more to do than to select their victims.

The universal cry of the armed men who surrounded the Convention, was
for a decree of death or outlawry against twenty-two members of the
Girondist party, who had been pointed out, by the petition of Pache, and
by subsequent petitions of the most inflammatory nature, as accomplices
of Dumouriez, enemies of the good city of Paris, and traitors who
meditated a federative instead of an indivisible republic. This list of
proscription included the ministers.

The Convention were in a dreadful situation; it was manifest that the
arm of strong force was upon them. Those who were supposed to belong to
the Girondist party, were struck and abused as they entered the hall,
hooted and threatened as they arose to deliver their opinion. The
members were no longer free to speak or vote. There could be no
deliberation within the Assembly, while such a scene of tumult and fury
continued and increased without.

Barrère, leader, as we have said, of the Plain, or neutral party, who
thought with the Girondists in conscience, and acted with the Jacobins
in fear, proposed one of those seemingly moderate measures, which
involve as sure destruction to those who adopt them, as if their
character were more decisively hostile. With compliments to their good
intentions, with lamentations for the emergency, he entreated the
proscribed Girondists to sacrifice themselves as the unhappy subjects of
disunion in the Republic, and to resign their character of deputies. The
Convention, he said, "would then declare them under the protection of
the law,"--as if they were not invested with that protection, while they
were convicted of no crime, and clothed at the same time with the
inviolability, of which he advised them to divest themselves. It was as
if a man were requested to lay aside his armour, on the promise that the
ordinary garments which he wore under it should be rendered

But a Frenchman is easily induced to do that to which he is provoked, as
involving a point of honour. This treacherous advice was adopted by
Isnard, Dussaux, and others of the proscribed deputies, who were thus
persuaded to abandon what defences remained to them, in hopes to soften
the ferocity of an enemy, too inveterate to entertain feelings of

Lanjuinais maintained a more honourable struggle. "Expect not from me,"
he said to the Convention, "to hear either of submission or resignation
of my official character. Am I free to offer such a resignation, or are
you free to receive it?" As he would have turned his eloquence against
Robespierre and the Jacobins, an attempt was made by Legendre and Chabot
to drag him from the tribune. While he resisted he received several
blows. "Cruel men!" he exclaimed--"The Heathens adorned and caressed the
victims whom they led to the slaughter--you load them with blows and

Shame procured him a moment's hearing, during which he harangued the
Assembly with much effect on the baseness, treachery, cruelty, and
impolicy, of thus surrendering their brethren to the call of a
bloodthirsty multitude from without, stimulated by a vengeful minority
of their own members. The Convention made an effort to free themselves
from the toils in which they were entangled. They resolved to go out in
a body, and ascertain what respect would be paid to their persons by the
armed force assembled around them.


They sallied forth accordingly, in procession, into the gardens of the
Tuileries, the Jacobins alone remaining in the hall; but their progress
was presently arrested by Henriot, at the head of a strong military
staff, and a large body of troops. Every passage leading from the
gardens was secured by soldiers. The president read the decree of the
Assembly, and commanded Henriot's obedience. The commandant of Paris
only replied by reining back his horse, and commanding the troops to
stand to their arms. "Return to your posts," he said to the terrified
legislators; "the people demand the traitors who are in the bosom of
your assembly, and will not depart till their will is accomplished."
Marat came up presently afterwards at the head of a select band of a
hundred ruffians. He called on the multitude to stand firm to their
purpose, and commanded the Convention, in the name of the people, to
return to their place of meeting, to deliberate, and, above all, to

The Convention re-entered their hall in the last degree of
consternation, prepared to submit to the infamy which now seemed
inevitable, yet loathing themselves for their cowardice, even while
obeying the dictates of self-preservation. The Jacobins meanwhile
enhanced their demand, like her who sold the books of the Sibyls.
Instead of twenty-two deputies, the accusation of thirty was now
demanded. Amid terror mingled with acclamations, the decree was declared
to be carried. This doom of proscription passed on the motion of
Couthon; a decrepid being whose lower extremities were paralysed,--whose
benevolence of feeling seemed to pour itself out in the most gentle
expressions, uttered in the most melodious tones,--whose sensibility led
him constantly to foster a favourite spaniel in his bosom, that he might
have something on which to bestow kindness and caresses,--but who was at
heart as fierce as Danton, and as pitiless as Robespierre.

Great part of the Convention did not join in this vote, protesting
loudly against the force imposed on them. Several of the proscribed
deputies were arrested, others escaped from the hall by the connivance
of their brethren; and of the official persons attached to the
Convention, some, foreseeing their fate, had absented themselves from
the meeting, and were already fled from Paris.

Thus fell, without a blow struck, or sword drawn in their defence, the
party in the Convention which claimed the praise of acting upon pure
Republican principles--who had overthrown the throne, and led the way to
anarchy, merely to perfect an ideal theory. They fell, as the wisest of
them admitted, dupes to their own system, and to the vain and
impracticable idea of ruling a large and corrupt empire, by the motives
which may sway a small and virtuous community. They might, as they too
late discovered, have as well attempted to found the Capitol on a
bottomless and quaking marsh, as their pretended Republic in a country
like France. The violent Revolutionary expedients, the means by which
they acted, were turned against them by men, whose ends were worse than
their own. The Girondists had gloried in their share of the triumphs of
the 10th of August; yet what was that celebrated day, save an
insurrection of the populace against the constituted authority of the
time, as those of the 31st of May, and 2d of June, 1793, under which the
Girondists succumbed, were directed against them as successors in the
government? In the one case, a king was dethroned; in the other, a
government, or band of ministers dismissed. And if the people had a
right, as the Girondists claimed in their behalf, to act as the
executioners of their own will in the one instance, it is difficult to
see upon what principle their power should be trammelled in the other.

In the important process against the King, the Girondists had shown
themselves pusillanimous;--desirous to save the life of a guiltless man,
they dared not boldly vouch his innocence, but sheltered themselves
under evasions which sacrificed his character, while they could not
protect his life. After committing this great error, they lost every
chance of rallying with efficacy under their standard what might remain
of well-intentioned individuals in Paris and in France, who, if they had
seen the Girondists, when in power, conduct themselves with firmness,
would probably rather have ranked themselves in the train of men who
were friends to social order, however republican their tenets, than have
given way to the anarchy which was doomed to ensue.[386]

Upon all their own faults, whether of act or of omission, the
unfortunate Girondists had now ample time to meditate. Twenty-two of
their leading members, arrested on the fatal 2d of June, already waited
their doom in prison, while the others wandered on, in distress and
misery, through the different departments of France.

The fate of those who were prisoners was not very long suspended. In
October they were brought to trial, and convicted of _royalism_! Such
was the temper of France at the time, and so gross the impositions which
might be put upon the people, that the men in the empire, who, upon
abstract principle, were most averse to monarchy, and who had sacrificed
even their consciences to join with the Jacobins in pulling down the
throne, were now accused and convicted of being Royalists; and that at a
time when what remained of the royal family was at so low an ebb, that
the imprisoned Queen could not obtain the most ordinary book for the use
of her son, without a direct and formal application to the Community of


When the Girondists were brought before the tribunal, the people seem to
have shown more interest in men, whose distinguished talents had so
often swayed the legislative body, than was altogether acceptable to the
Jacobins, who were induced to fear some difficulty in carrying through
their conviction. They obtained a decree from the Convention, declaring
that the president of the Revolutionary Tribunal should be at liberty to
close the procedure so soon as the jury should have made up their minds,
and without hearing the accused in their defence.[388] This frightful
expedient of cutting short the debate, (_couper la parole_ was the
phrase,) was often resorted to on those revolutionary trials.
Unquestionably, they dreaded the reasoning of Brissot, and the eloquence
of Vergniaud, of which they had so long and so often experienced the
thunders. One crime,--and it was a fatal offence, considering before
what judicature they stood,--seems to have been made out by Brissot's
own letters. It was that by which the late members attempted to effect a
combination among the departments, for the purpose of counterpoising, if
possible, the tremendous influence which the capital and the
revolutionary part of its magistracy exercised over the Convention, whom
Paris detained prisoners within her walls. This delinquency alone was
well calculated to remove all scruples from the minds of a jury,
selected from that very class of Parisians, whose dreadful importance
would have been altogether annihilated by the success of such a scheme.
The accused were found guilty, as conspirators against the unity and
indivisibility of the Republic, and the liberty and safety of the French

When the sentence of death was pronounced, one of their number, Valazé,
plunged a dagger in his bosom.[389] The rest suffered in terms of the
sentence, and were conveyed to the place of execution in the same
tumbril with the bloody corpse of their suicide colleague. Brissot
seemed downcast and unhappy. Fauchet, a renegade priest, showed signs of
remorse. The rest affected a Roman resolution, and went to execution
singing a parody on the hymn of the Marseillois, in which that famous
composition was turned against the Jacobins.[390] They had long rejected
the aids of religion, which, early received and cherished, would have
guided their steps in prosperity, and sustained them in adversity. Their
remaining stay was only that of the same vain and speculative
philosophy, which had so deplorably influenced their political conduct.

Those members of the Girondist party, who, escaping from Paris to the
departments, avoided their fate somewhat longer, saw little reason to
pride themselves on the political part they had chosen to act. They
found the eastern and southern departments in a ferment against Paris
and the Jacobins, and ready to rise in arms; but they became aware, at
the same time, that no one was thinking of or regretting their system of
a pure republic, the motives by which the malecontents were agitated
being of a very different, and far more practical character. Great part
of the nation, all at least of better feelings, had been deeply affected
by the undeserved fate of the King, and the cruelty with which his
family had been, and were still treated. The rich feared to be pillaged
and murdered by the Jacobins; the poor suffered no less under scarcity
of grain, under the depreciation of assignats, and a compulsory levy of
no less than three hundred thousand men over France, to supply the
enormous losses of the French army. But every where the insurrections
took a Royalist, and not a Republican character; and although the
Girondists were received at Caen and elsewhere with compassion and
respect, the votes they had given in the King's trial, and their fanatic
zeal for a kind of government for which France was totally unfitted, and
which those from whom they obtained refuge were far from desiring,
prevented their playing any distinguished part in the disturbed
districts of the West.

Buzot seems to see this in the true sense. "It is certain," he says,
"that if we could have rested our pretensions upon having wished to
establish in France a moderate government of that character, which,
according to many well-instructed persons, best suited the people of
France," (indicating a limited monarchy,) "we might have entertained
hopes of forming a formidable coalition in the department of Calvados,
and rallying around us all whom ancient prejudices attached to
royalty."[391] As it was, they were only regarded as a few enthusiasts,
whom the example of America had induced to attempt the establishment of
a republic, in a country where all hopes and wishes, save those of the
Jacobins, and the vile rabble whom they courted and governed, were
turned towards a moderate monarchy. Buzot also observed, that the many
violences and atrocities, forced levies, and other acts of oppression
practised in the name of the Republic, had disgusted men with a form of
government, where cruelty seemed to rule over misery by the sole aid of
terror. With more candour than some of his companions, he avows his
error, and admits that he would, at this closing scene, have willingly
united with the moderate monarchists, to establish royalty under the
safeguard of constitutional restraints.


Several of the deputies, Louvet, Riouffe, Barbaroux, Pétion, and others,
united themselves with a body of Royalists of Bretagne, to whom General
Wimpfen had given something of the name of an army, but which never
attained the solidity of one. It was defeated at Vernon, and never
afterwards could be again assembled.

The proscribed deputies, at first with a few armed associates,
afterwards entirely deserted, wandered through the country, incurring
some romantic adventures, which have been recorded by the pen of their
historian, Louvet. At length, six of the party succeeded in obtaining
the means of transportation to Bourdeaux, the capital of that Gironde
from which their party derived its name, and which those who were
natives of it, remembering only the limited society in which they had
first acquired their fame, had described as possessing and cherishing
the purest principles of philosophical freedom. Guadet had protested to
his companions in misfortune a thousand times, that if liberal,
honourable, and generous sentiments were chased from every other corner
of France, they were nevertheless sure to find refuge in _La Gironde_.
The proscribed wanderers had wellnigh kissed the land of refuge, when
they disembarked, as in a country of assured protection. But Bourdeaux
was by this time no more than a wealthy trading town, where the rich,
trembling before the poor, were not willing to increase their own
imminent danger, by intermeddling with the misfortunes of others. All
doors, or nearly so, of La Gironde itself, were shut against the
Girondists, and they wandered outcasts in the country, suffering every
extremity of toil and hunger, and bringing, in some cases, death upon
the friends who ventured to afford them refuge.

Louvet alone escaped, of the six Girondists who took refuge in their own
peculiar province. Guadet, Sailes, and the enthusiastic Barbaroux, were
seized and executed at Bourdeaux, but not till the last had twice
attempted suicide with his pistols. Buzot and Pétion killed themselves
in extremity, and were found dead in a field of corn. This was the same
Pétion who had been so long the idol of the Parisians, and who, when the
forfeiture of the King was resolved on, had been heard to say with
simple vanity, "If they should force _me_ to become regent now, I cannot
see any means by which I can avoid it." Others of this unhappy party
shared the same melancholy fate. Condorcet, who had pronounced his vote
for the King's life, but in perpetual fetters, was arrested, and
poisoned himself. Rabaud de Saint Etienne was betrayed by a friend in
whom he trusted, and was executed. Roland was found dead on the
high-road, between Paris and Rouen,[392] accomplishing a prophecy of his
wife, whom the Jacobins had condemned to death, and who had declared her
conviction that her husband would not long survive her. That remarkable
woman, happy if her high talents had, in youth, fallen under the
direction of those who could better have cultivated them, made before
the revolutionary tribunal a defence more manly than the most eloquent
of the Girondists. The bystanders, who had become amateurs in cruelty,
were as much delighted with her deportment, as the hunter with the
pulling down a noble stag. "What sense," they said; "what wit, what
courage! What a magnificent spectacle it will be to behold such a woman
upon the scaffold!" She met her death with great firmness, and, as she
passed the Statue of Liberty, on her road to execution, she exclaimed,
"Ah, Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!"[393]

About forty-two of the Girondist deputies perished by the guillotine, by
suicide, or by the fatigue of their wanderings. About twenty-four
escaped these perils, and were, after many and various sufferings,
recalled to the Convention, when the Jacobin influence was destroyed.
They owed their fall to the fantastic philosophy and visionary theories
which they had adopted, not less than to their presumptuous confidence,
that popular assemblies, when actuated by the most violent personal
feelings, must yield to the weight of argument, as inanimate bodies obey
the impulse of external force; and that they who possess the highest
powers of oratory, can, by mere elocution, take the weight from clubs,
the edge from sabres, and the angry and brutal passions from those who
wield them. They made no further figure as a party in any of the state
changes in France; and, in relation to their experimental Republic, may
remind the reader of the presumptuous champion of antiquity, who was
caught in the cleft of oak, which he in vain attempted to rend asunder.
History has no more to say on the subject of La Gironde, considered as a
party name.


[372] Louis-Philippe, of Orleans, chosen King of the French at the
Revolution of July, 1830.

[373] Dumouriez, vol. ii., p. 287; Toulongeon, tom. iii., p. 293;
Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 284.

[374] Carmagnole was the name applied in the early period of the
Revolution to a certain dance, and the song connected with it. It was
afterwards given to the French soldiers who first engaged in the cause
of Republicanism, and who wore a dress of a peculiar cut.

[375] Camus, Quinette, Bancal, and Lamarque.

[376] Thiers, tom. iv., p. 118; Toulongeon, tom. iii., p. 316; Mignet,
tom. i., p. 258. Shortly after the flight of Dumouriez, the French army
was placed by the Convention under the command of General Dampierre.

[377] Dumouriez was a man of pleasing manners and lively conversation.
He lived in retirement latterly at Turville Park, near Henley upon
Thames, and died, March 14, 1823, in his eighty-fifth year.--S.

[378] Thiers, tom. iv., p. 66; Mignet, tom. i., p. 248; Lacretelle, tom.
x., p. 311.

[379] L'Ami du Peuple.

[380] Mignet, tom. i., p. 259; Thiers, tom. iv., p. 145; Montgaillard,
tom. iv., p. 9; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 332.

[381] Mignet, tom. i., p. 261; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 346.

[382] Thiers, tom. iv., p. 151; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 343.

[383] Hébert was also editor of an obscene and revolting revolutionary
journal, entitled the "Père Duchêsne" which had obtained an immense

[384] Thiers, tom. iv., p. 251; Toulongeon, tom. iii., p. 414;
Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 356.

[385] Thiers, tom. iv., p. 270; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 375; Mignet,
tom. i., p. 272.

[386] "The Girondists felt without doubt, at the bottom of their hearts,
a keen remorse for the means which they had employed to overturn the
throne; and when those very means were directed against themselves, when
they recognised their own weapons in the wounds which they received,
they must have reflected without doubt on that rapid justice of
revolutions, which concentrates on a few instants the events of several
ages."--DE STAËL, vol. ii., p. 122.

[387] Witness the following entry in the minutes of the _Commune_, on a
day, be it remarked, betwixt the 29th May and the 2d June: "Antoinette
fait demander pour son fils le roman de Gil Blas de Santillane--Accordé."--S.

[388] Toulongeon, tom. iv., p. 114; Thiers, tom. iv., p. 389.

[389] "The court immediately ordered that his dead body should be borne
on a car to the place of execution, and beheaded with the other
prisoners."--LACRETELLE, tom. xi., p. 269.


    "Allons, enfans de la patrie,
      Le jour de gloire est arrivé;
    Contre nous, de la tyrannie
      Le couteau sanglant est levé."

        LACRETELLE, tom. xi., p. 270.

[391] Mémoires de Buzot, p. 98.

[392] "He had stabbed himself with a knife, concealed in his walking
stick. In his pocket was found a paper, containing these words: 'Whoever
you are, oh passenger! who discover my body, respect the remains of the
unfortunate. They are those of a man who devoted his whole life to the
service of his country. Not fear, but indignation, made me quit my
retreat when I heard of the murder of my wife. I loathed a world stained
with so many crimes.'"--ROLAND, tom. i., p. 46.

[393] Lacretelle, tom. xi., p. 277.


    _Views of Parties in Britain relative to the
    Revolution--Affiliated Societies--Counterpoised by Aristocratic
    Associations--Aristocratic Party eager for War with France--The
    French proclaim the Navigation of the Scheldt--British
    Ambassador recalled from Paris, and French Envoy no longer
    accredited in London--France declares War against
    England--British Army sent to Holland, under the Duke of
    York--State of the Army--View of the Military Positions of
    France--in Flanders--on the Rhine--in Piedmont--Savoy--on the
    Pyrenees--State of the War in La Vendée--Description of the
    Country--Le Bocage--Le Louroux--Close Union betwixt the Nobles
    and Peasantry--Both strongly attached to Royalty, and abhorrent
    of the Revolution--The Priests--The Religion of the Vendéans
    outraged by the Convention--A general Insurrection takes place
    in 1793--Military Organization and Habits of the
    Vendéans--Division in the British Cabinet on the Mode of
    conducting the War--Pitt--Windham--Reasoning upon the
    Subject--Vendéans defeated--They defeat, in their turn, the
    French Troops at Laval--But are ultimately destroyed and
    dispersed--Unfortunate Expedition to Quiberon--La Charette
    defeated and executed, and the War of La Vendée finally
    terminated--Unsuccessful Resistance of Bourdeaux, Marseilles,
    and Lyons, to the Convention--Siege of Lyons--Its surrender and
    dreadful Punishment--Siege of Toulon._

The Jacobins, by their successive victories on the 31st May and 2d June,
1793, had vanquished and driven from the field their adversaries; and we
have already seen with what fury they had pursued their scattered
enemies, and dealt among them vengeance and death. But the situation of
the country, both in regard to external and internal relations, was so
precarious, that it required the exertion of men as bold and
unhesitating as those who now assumed the guidance of the power of
France, to exert the energies necessary to repel foreign force, and at
the same time to subdue internal dissension.


We have seen that England had become, in a great measure, divided into
two large parties, one of which continued to applaud the French
Revolution, although the wise and good among them reprobated its
excesses; while the other, with eyes fixed in detestation upon the
cruelties, confiscations, and horrors of every description which it had
given rise to, looked on the very name of this great change,--though, no
doubt, comprehending much good as well as evil,--with the unmixed
feelings of men contemplating a spectacle equally dreadful and

The affair of the 10th of August, and the approaching fate of the King,
excited general interest in Britain; and a strong inclination became
visible among the higher and middling classes, that the nation should
take up arms, and interfere in the fate of the unhappy Louis.

Mr. Pitt had been making up his mind to the same point; but, feeling how
much his own high talents were turned to the improvement of the internal
regulations and finances of the country, he hesitated for some time to
adopt a hostile course, though approved by the sovereign, and demanded
by a large proportion of his subjects. But new circumstances arose every
day to compel a decision on this important point.

The French, whether in their individual or collective capacities, have
been always desirous to take the lead among European nations, and to be
considered as the foremost member of the civilized republic. In almost
all her vicissitudes, France has addressed herself as much to the
citizens of other countries as to those of her own; and it was thus,
that in the speeches of her statesmen, invitations were thrown out to
the subjects of other states, to imitate the example of the Republic,
cast away the rubbish of their old institutions, dethrone their Kings,
demolish their nobility, divide the lands of the Church and the
aristocracy among the lower classes, and arise a free and regenerated
people. In Britain, as elsewhere, these doctrines carried a fascinating
sound; for Britain as well as France had men of parts, who thought
themselves neglected,--men of merit, who conceived themselves
oppressed,--experimentalists, who would willingly put the laws in their
revolutionary crucible,--and men desirous of novelties in the Church and
in the State, either from the eagerness of restless curiosity, or the
hopes of bettering by the change. Above all, Britain had a far too ample
mass of poverty and ignorance, subject always to be acted upon by the
hope of license. Affiliated societies were formed in almost all the
towns of Great Britain. They corresponded with each other, held very
high and intimidating language, and seemed to frame themselves on the
French model. They addressed the National Convention of France directly
in the name of their own bodies, and of societies united for the same
purpose; and congratulated them on their freedom, and on the manner in
which they had gained it, with many a broad hint that their example
would not be lost on Britain. The persons who composed these societies
had, generally speaking, little pretension to rank or influence; and
though they contained some men of considerable parts, there was a
deficiency of any thing like weight or respectability in their meetings.
Their consequence lay chiefly in the numbers who were likely to be
influenced by their arguments; and these were extraordinarily great,
especially in large towns, and in the manufacturing districts. That
state of things began to take place in Britain, which had preceded the
French Revolution; but the British aristocracy, well cemented together,
and possessing great weight in the State, took the alarm sooner, and
adopted precautions more effectual, than had been thought of in France.
They associated together in political unions on their side, and, by the
weight of influence, character, and fortune, soon obtained a
superiority, which made it dangerous, or at least inconvenient, to many,
whose situations in society rendered them, in some degree, dependent
upon the favour of the aristocracy, to dissent violently from their
opinions. The political Shibboleth, used by these associations, was a
renunciation of the doctrines of the French Revolution; and they have
been reproached, that this abhorrence was expressed by some of them in
terms so strong, as if designed to withhold the subscribers from
attempting any reformation in their own government, even by the most
constitutional means. In short, while the democratical party made, in
their clubs, the most violent and furious speeches against the
aristocrats, the others became doubly prejudiced against reform of
every description, and all who attempted to assert its propriety. After
all, had this political ferment broke out in Britain at any other
period, or on any other occasion, it would have probably passed away
like other heart-burnings of the same description, which interest for a
time, but weary out the public attention, and are laid aside and
forgotten. But the French Revolution blazed in the neighbourhood like a
beacon of hope to the one party, of fear and caution to the other. The
shouts of the democratic triumphs--the foul means by which their
successes were obtained, and the cruel use which was made of them,
increased the animosity of both parties in England. In the fury of party
zeal, the democrats excused many of the excesses of the French
Revolution, in respect of its tendency; while the other party, in
condemning the whole Revolution, both root and branch, forgot that,
after all, the struggle of the French nation to recover their liberty,
was, in its commencement, not only justifiable, but laudable.

The wild and inflated language addressed by the French statesmen to
mankind in general, and the spirit of conquest which the nation had
lately evinced, mixed with their marked desire to extend their political
principles, and with the odium which they had heaped upon themselves by
the King's death, made the whole aristocratic party, commanding a very
large majority in both Houses of Parliament, become urgent that war
should be declared against France; a holy war, it was said, against
treason, blasphemy, and murder, and a necessary war, in order to break
off all connexion betwixt the French Government and the discontented
part of our own subjects, who could not otherwise be prevented from the
most close, constant, and dangerous intercourse with them.

Another reason for hostilities, more in parallel with similar cases in
history, occurred, from the French having, by a formal decree,
proclaimed the Scheldt navigable. In so doing, a point had been assumed
as granted, upon the denial of which the States of Holland had always
rested as the very basis of their national prosperity. It is probable
that this might, in other circumstances, have been made the subject of
negotiation; but the difference of opinion on the general politics of
the Revolution, and the mode in which it had been carried on, set the
governments of France and England in such direct and mortal opposition
to each other, that war became inevitable.



Lord Gower,[394] the British ambassador, was recalled from Paris,
immediately on the King's execution. The prince to whom he was sent was
no more; and, on the same ground, Chauvelin, the French envoy at the
Court of St. James's, though not dismissed by his Majesty's government,
was made acquainted that the ministers no longer considered him as an
accredited person.[395] Yet, through Maret,[396] a subordinate agent,
Pitt continued to keep up some correspondence with the French
Government, in a lingering desire to preserve peace, if possible. What
the British minister chiefly wished was, to have satisfactory
assurances, that the strong expressions of a decree, which the French
Convention had passed on the 19th November, were not to be considered as
applicable to England. The decree was in these words: "The National
Convention declares, in the name of the French nation, that it will
grant fraternity and assistance to all people who wish to recover their
liberty; and it charges the executive power to send the necessary orders
to the generals, to give succours to such people, and to defend those
citizens who have suffered, or may suffer, in the cause of
liberty."--"That this decree might not remain a secret to those for
whose benefit it was intended, a translation of it, in every foreign
language, was ordered to be printed."[397] The Convention, as well as
the ministers of France, refused every disavowal of the decree as
applicable to Great Britain; were equally reluctant to grant explanation
of any kind on the opening of the Scheldt; and finally, without one
dissentient voice, the whole Convention, in a full meeting, [Feb. 1,]
declared war upon England;[398]--which last nation is, nevertheless,
sometimes represented, even at this day, as having declared war upon

In fact, Mr. Pitt came unwillingly into the war. With even more than his
great father's ministerial talents, he did not habitually nourish the
schemes of military triumph, which were familiar to the genius of
Chatham, and was naturally unwilling, by engaging in an expensive war,
to derange those plans of finance by which he had retrieved the revenues
of Great Britain from a very low condition. It is said of Chatham, that
he considered it as the best economy, to make every military expedition
which he fitted out, of such a power and strength, as to overbear, as
far as possible, all chance of opposition. A general officer, who was to
be employed in such a piece of service, having demanded a certain body
of troops, as sufficient to effect his purpose,--"Take double the
number," said Lord Chatham, "and answer with your head for your
success." His son had not the same mode of computation, and would,
perhaps, have been more willing to have reduced the officer's terms,
chaffered with him for the lowest number, and finally despatched him at
the head of as small a body as the general could have been prevailed on
to consider as affording any prospect of success. This untimely economy
of resources arose from the expense attending the British army. They are
certainly one of the bravest, best appointed, and most liberally paid in
Europe; but in forming demands on their valour, and expectations from
their exertions, their fellow-subjects are apt to indulge extravagant
computations, from not being in the habit of considering military
calculations, or being altogether aware of the numerical superiority
possessed by other countries. That one Englishman will fight two
Frenchmen is certain; but that he will beat them, though a good article
of the popular creed, must be allowed to be more dubious; and it is not
wise to wage war on such odds, or to suppose that, because our soldiers
are infinitely valuable to us, and a little expensive besides, it is
therefore judicious to send them in small numbers against desperate

Another point, well touched by Sheridan, during the debate on the
question of peace or war, was not sufficiently attended to by the
British Administration. That statesman, whose perception of the right
and wrong of any great constitutional question was as acute as that of
any whomever of his great political contemporaries, said, "He wished
every possible exertion to be made for the preservation of peace. If,
however, that were impracticable, in such case, but in such case only,
he proposed to vote for a vigorous war. Not a war of shifts and scraps,
of timid operation, or protracted effort; but a war conducted with such
energy as might convince the world that we were contending for our
dearest and most valuable privileges."[399]

Of this high-spirited and most just principle, the policy of Britain
unfortunately lost sight during the first years of the war, when there
occurred more than one opportunity in which a home and prostrating blow
might have been aimed at her gigantic adversary.

A gallant auxiliary army was, however, immediately fitted out, and
embarked for Holland, with his Royal Highness the Duke of York at their
head; as if the King had meant to give to his allies the dearest pledge
in his power, how serious was the interest which he took in their

But, though well equipped, and commanded, under the young prince, by
Abercromby, Dundas, Sir William Erskine, and many other officers of
gallantry and experience, it must be owned that the British army had not
then recovered the depressing and disorganizing effects of the American
war. The soldiers were, indeed, fine men on the parade; but their
external appearance was acquired by dint of a thousand minute and
vexatious attentions, exacted from them at the expense of private
comfort, and which, after all, only gave them the exterior appearance
of high drilling, in exchange for ease of motion and simplicity of
dress. No general system of manœuvres, we believe, had been adopted
for the use of the forces; each commanding officer managed his regiment
according to his own pleasure. In a field-day, two or three battalions
could not act in concert, without much previous consultation; in action,
they got on as chance directed. The officers, too, were acquainted both
with their soldiers and with their duty, in a degree far inferior to
what is now exacted from them. Our system of purchasing commissions,
which is necessary to connect the army with the country, and the
property of the country, was at that time so much abused, that a mere
beardless boy might be forced at once through the subordinate and
subaltern steps into a company or a majority, without having been a
month in the army. In short, all those gigantic abuses were still
subsisting, which the illustrious prince whom we have named eradicated
from the British army, by regulations, for which his country can never
be sufficiently grateful, and without which they could never have
performed the distinguished part finally destined to them in the
terrible drama, which was about to open under less successful auspices.

There hung also, like a cloud, upon the military fame of England, the
unfortunate issue of the American struggle; in which the advantages
obtained by regulars, against less disciplined forces, had been trifled
with in the commencement, until the genius of Washington, and the
increasing spirit and numbers of the continental armies, completely
over-balanced, and almost annihilated, that original preponderance.

Yet the British soldiery did not disgrace their high national character,
nor show themselves unworthy of fighting under the eye of the son of
their monarch; and when they joined the Austrian army, under the Prince
of Saxe-Cobourg, gave many demonstrations both of valour and discipline.
The storming the fortified camp of the French at Famars--the battle of
Lincelles--the part they bore in the sieges of Valenciennes and Condé,
both of which surrendered successively to the allied forces, upheld the
reputation of their country, and amounted, indeed, to what, in former
wars, would have been the fruits of a very successful campaign.[400] But
Europe was now arrived at a time when war was no longer to be carried on
according to the old usage, by the agency of standing armies of moderate
numbers; when a battle lost and won, or a siege raised or successful,
was thought sufficient for the active exertions of the year, and the
troops on either side were drawn off into winter quarters, while
diplomacy took up the contest which tactics had suspended. All this was
to be laid aside; and instead of this drowsy state of hostility, nations
were to contend with each other like individuals in mortal conflict,
bringing not merely the hands, but every limb of the body into violent
and furious struggle. The situation of France, both in internal and
external relations, required the most dreadful efforts which had ever
been made by any country; and the exertions which she demanded, were
either willingly made by the enthusiasm of the inhabitants, or extorted
by the energy and severity of the revolutionary government. We must
bestow a single glance on the state of the country, ere we proceed to
notice the measures adopted for its defence.


On the north-eastern frontier of France, considerable advances had been
made by the English and Hanoverian army, in communication and
conjunction with the Austrian force under the Prince of Saxe-Cobourg, an
excellent officer, but who, belonging to the old school of formal and
prolonged war, never sufficiently considered, that a new description of
enemies were opposed to him, who were necessarily to be combated in a
different manner from those whom his youth had encountered, and who,
unenterprising himself, does not appear either to have calculated upon,
or prepared to counteract, strokes of audacity and activity on the part
of the enemy.

The war on the Rhine was furiously maintained by Prussians and Austrians
united. The French lost the important town of Mentz, were driven out of
other places, and experienced many reverses, although Custine,[401]
Moreau, Houchard,[402] Beauharnais,[403] and other general officers of
high merit, had already given lustre to the arms of the Republic. The
loss of the strong lines of Weissenburgh, which were carried by General
Wurmser, a distinguished Austrian officer, completed the shade of
disadvantage which here hung on the Republican banners.[404]

In Piedmont, the French were also unsuccessful, though the scale was
less grand and imposing. The republican general Brunet[405] was
unfortunate, and he was forced from his camp at Belvidere; while, on the
side of Savoy, the King of Sardinia also obtained several temporary

On the Pyrenees, the Republican armies had been equally unsuccessful. A
Spanish army, conducted with more spirit than had been lately the case
with the troops of that once proud monarchy, had defeated the republican
general Servan, and crossed the Bidassoa. On the eastern extremity of
these celebrated mountains, the Spaniards had taken the towns of Port
Vendre and Ollioulles.[406]

Assailed on so many sides, and by so many enemies, all of whom,
excepting the Sardinians, had more or less made impression upon the
frontiers of the Republic, it might seem, that the only salvation which
remained for France, must have been sought for in the unanimity of her
inhabitants. But so far was the nation from possessing this first of
requisites for a successful opposition to the overpowering coalition
which assailed her, that a dreadful civil war was already waged in the
western provinces of France, which threatened, from its importance and
the success of the insurgents, to undo in a great measure the work of
the Revolution; while similar discords breaking out on different points
in the south, menaced conclusions no less formidable.

[Sidenote: LA VENDÉE.]

It does not belong to us to trace the interesting features of the war in
La Vendée with a minute pencil, but they mingle too much with the
history of the period to be altogether omitted.

We have elsewhere said, that, speaking of La Vendée as a district, it
was there alone, through the whole kingdom of France, that the peasants
and the nobles, in other words, the proprietors and cultivators of the
soil, remained in terms of close and intimate connexion and friendship,
which made them feel the same undivided interest in the great changes
created by the Revolution. The situation of La Vendée, its soil and
character, as well as the manners of the people, had contributed to an
arrangement of interests and habits of thinking, which rendered the
union betwixt these two classes indissoluble.

La Vendée is a wooded and pastoral country, not indeed mountainous, but
abounding in inequalities of ground, crossed by brooks, and intersected
by a variety of canals and ditches, made for drainage, but which become,
with the numerous and intricate thickets, posts of great strength in the
time of war. The enclosures seemed to be won, as it were, out of the
woodland; and the paths which traversed the country were so intricate
and perplexed, as to render it inaccessible to strangers, and not easily
travelled through by the natives themselves. There were almost no roads
practicable for ordinary carriages during the rainy season; and the
rainy season in La Vendée is a long one. The ladies of rank, when they
visited, went in carriages drawn by bullocks; the gentlemen, as well as
the peasants, travelled chiefly on foot; and by assistance of the long
leaping-poles, which they carried for that purpose, surmounted the
ditches and other obstacles which other travellers found impassable.

The whole tract of country is about one hundred and fifty miles square,
and lies at the mouth and on the southern bank of the Loire. The
internal part is called Le Bocage (the Thicket,) because partaking in a
peculiar degree of the wooded and intricate character which belongs to
the whole country. That portion of La Vendée which lies close to the
Loire, and nearer its mouth, is called Le Louroux. The neighbouring
districts partook in the insurrection; but the strength and character
which it assumed was derived chiefly from La Vendée.

The union betwixt the noblesse of La Vendée and their peasants, was of
the most intimate character. Their chief exportations from the district
consisted in the immense herds of cattle which they reared in their
fertile meadows, and which supplied the consumption of the metropolis.
These herds, as well as the land on which they were raised, were in
general the property of the seigneur; but the farmer possessed a joint
interest in the latter. He managed the stock, and disposed of it at
market, and there was an equitable adjustment of their interests in
disposing of the produce.

Their amusements were also in common. The chase of wolves, not only for
the sake of sport, but to clear the woods of those ravenous animals, was
pursued as of yore by the seigneur at the head of his followers and
vassals. Upon the evenings of Sundays and holydays, the young people of
each village and métairie repaired to the court-yard of the chateau, as
the natural and proper scene for their evening amusement, and the family
of the baron often took part in the pastime.

In a word, the two divisions of society depended mutually on each other,
and were strongly knit together by ties, which, in other districts of
France, existed only in particular instances. The Vendéan peasant was
the faithful and attached, though humble friend of his lord; he was his
partner in bad and good fortune; submitted to his decision the disputes
which might occur betwixt him and his neighbours; and had recourse to
his protection if he sustained wrong, or was threatened with injustice
from any one.

This system of simple and patriarchal manners could not have long
subsisted under any great inequality of fortune. Accordingly, we find
that the wealthiest of the Vendéan nobility did not hold estates worth
more than twelve or fifteen hundred a-year, while the lowest might be
three or four hundred. They were not accordingly much tempted by
exuberance of wealth to seek to display magnificence; and such as went
to court, and conformed to the fashions of the capital, were accustomed
to lay them aside in all haste when they returned to the Bocage, and to
reassume the simple manners of their ancestors.

All the incentives to discord which abounded elsewhere through France,
were wanting in this wild and wooded region, where the peasant was the
noble's affectionate partner and friend, the noble the natural judge and
protector of the peasant. The people had retained the feelings of the
ancient French in favour of royalty; they listened with dissatisfaction
and disgust to the accounts of the Revolution as it proceeded; and
feeling themselves none of the evils in which it originated, its whole
tendency became the object of their alarm and suspicion. The
neighbouring districts, and Bretagne in particular, were agitated by
similar commotions; for although the revolutionary principles
predominated in the towns of the west, they were not relished by the
country people any more than by the nobles. Great agitation had for some
time taken place through the provinces of Bretagne, Anjou, Maine, and
Poitou, to which the strength of the insurrection in La Vendée gave
impulse. It was not, however, a political impulse which induced the
Vendéans to take the field. The influence of religion, seconded by that
of natural affection, was the immediate stimulating motive.

In a country so simple and virtuous in its manners as we have described
La Vendée, religious devotion must necessarily be a general attribute of
the inhabitants, who, conscious of loving their neighbours as
themselves, are equally desirous, to the extent of their strength and
capacity, to love and honour the Great Being who created all. The
Vendéans were therefore very regular in the performance of their
prescribed religious duties; and their parish priest, or curé, held an
honoured and influential rank in their little society, was the attendant
of the sick-bed of the peasant, as well for rendering medical as
religious aid; his counsellor in his family affairs, and often the
arbiter of disputes not of sufficient importance to be carried before
the seigneur. The priests were themselves generally natives of the
country, more distinguished for the primitive duty with which they
discharged their office, than for talents and learning. The curé took
frequent share in the large hunting parties, which he announced from the
pulpit, and after having said mass, attended in person with the
fowling-piece on his shoulder. This active and simple manner of life
rendered the priests predisposed to encounter the fatigues of war. They
accompanied the bands of Vendéans with the crucifix displayed, and
promised, in the name of the Deity, victory to the survivors, and honour
to those who fell in the patriotic combat. But Madame La
Roche-Jacquelein repels, as a calumny, their bearing arms, except for
the purpose of self-defence.[407]

Almost all these parish priests were driven from their cures by the
absurd and persecuting fanaticism of that decree of the Assembly, which,
while its promoters railed against illiberality, and intolerance,
deprived of their office and of their livelihood, soon after of liberty
and life, those churchmen who would not renounce the doctrines in which
they had been educated, and which they had sworn to maintain.[408] In La
Vendée, as elsewhere, where the curates resisted this unjust and
impolitic injunction of the legislature, persecution followed on the
part of the government, and was met in its turn by violence on that of
the people.

The peasants maintained in secret their ancient pastors, and attended
their ministry in woods and deserts; while the intruders, who were
settled in the livings of the recusants, dared hardly appear in the
churches without the protection of the national guards.

So early as 1791, when Dumouriez commanded the forces at Nantes, and the
districts adjacent, the flame of dissension had begun to kindle. That
general's sagacity induced him to do his best to appease the quarrel by
moderating betwixt the parties. His military eye detected in the
inhabitants and their country an alarming scene for civil war. He
received the slightest concessions on the part of the parish priests as
satisfactory, and appears to have quieted the disturbances of the
country, at least for a time.[409]

But in 1793, the same cause of discontent, added to others, hurried the
inhabitants of La Vendée into a general insurrection of the most
formidable description. The events of the 10th of August, 1792, had
driven from Paris a great proportion of the Royalist nobility, who had
many of them carried their discontents and their counter-revolutionary
projects into a country prepared to receive and adopt them.

Then followed the Conventional decree, which supported their declaration
of war by a compulsory levy of three hundred thousand men throughout
France. This measure was felt as severe by even those departments in
which the revolutionary principles were most predominant, but was
regarded as altogether intolerable by the Vendéans, averse alike to the
republican cause and principles. They resisted its exaction by main
force, delivered the conscripts in many instances, defeated the national
guards in others, and finding that they had incurred the vengeance of a
sanguinary government, resolved by force to maintain the resistance
which in force had begun. Thus originated that celebrated war, which
raged so long in the very bosom of France, and threatened the stability
of her government, even while the Republic was achieving the most
brilliant victories over her foreign enemies.[410]

It is remote from our purpose to trace the history of these hostilities;
but a sketch of their nature and character is essential to a general
view of the Revolution, and the events connected with it.

[Sidenote: LA CHARETTE.]

The insurgents, though engaged in the same cause, and frequently
co-operating, were divided into different bodies, under leaders
independent of each other. Those of the right bank of the Loire were
chiefly under the orders of the celebrated La Charette, who, descended
from a family distinguished as commanders of privateers, and himself a
naval officer, had taken on him this dangerous command. An early
wandering disposition, not unusual among youth of eager and ambitious
character, had made him acquainted with the inmost recesses of the
woods, and his native genius had induced him to anticipate the military
advantages which they afforded.[411] In his case, as in many others,
either the sagacity of these uninstructed peasants led them to choose
for command men whose talents best fitted them to enjoy it, or perhaps
the perils which environed such authority prevented its being aspired
to, save by those whom a mixture of resolution and prudence led to feel
themselves capable of maintaining their character when invested with it.
It was remarkable also, that in choosing their leaders, the insurgents
made no distinction between the noblesse and the inferior ranks. Names
renowned in ancient history--Talmont, D'Autichamp, L'Escure, and La
Roche-Jacquelein, were joined in equal command with the gamekeeper
Stoflet; Cathelineau, an itinerant wool-merchant; La Charette, a
roturier of slight pretensions; and others of the lowest order, whom the
time and the public voice called into command, but who, nevertheless, do
not seem, in general, to have considered their official command as
altering the natural distinction of their rank in society.[412] In their
success, they formed a general council of officers, priests, and others,
who held their meetings at Chatillon, and directed the military
movements of the different bodies; assembled them at pleasure on
particular points, and for particular objects of service; and dispersed
them to their homes when these were accomplished.

[Sidenote: WAR OF LA VENDÉE.]

With an organization so simple, the Vendéan insurgents, in about two
months, possessed themselves of several towns and an extensive tract of
country; and though repeatedly attacked by regular forces, commanded by
experienced generals, they were far more frequently victors than
vanquished, and inflicted more loss on the Republicans by gaining a
single battle, than they themselves sustained in repeated defeats.

Yet at first their arms were of the most simple and imperfect kind.
Fowling-pieces, and fusees of every calibre, they possessed from their
habits as huntsmen and fowlers; for close encounter they had only
scythes, axes, clubs, and such weapons as anger places most readily in
the hands of the peasant. Their victories, latterly, supplied them with
arms in abundance, and they manufactured gunpowder for their own use in
great quantity.

Their tactics were peculiar to themselves, but of a kind so well suited
to their country and their habits, that it seems impossible to devise a
better and more formidable system. The Vendéan took the field with the
greatest simplicity of military equipment. His scrip served as a
cartridge box, his uniform was the country short jacket and pantaloons,
which he wore at his ordinary labour; a cloth knapsack contained bread
and some necessaries, and thus he was ready for service. They were
accustomed to move with great secrecy and silence amongst the thickets
and enclosures by which their country is intersected, and were thus
enabled to choose at pleasure the most favourable points of attack or
defence. Their army, unlike any other in the world, was not divided into
companies, or regiments, but followed in bands, and at their pleasure,
the chiefs to whom they were most attached. Instead of drums or military
music, they used, like the ancient Swiss and Scottish soldiers, the
horns of cattle for giving signals to their troops. Their officers wore,
for distinction, a sort of chequered red handkerchief, knotted round
their head, with others of the same colour tied round their waist, by
way of sash, in which they stuck their pistols.[413]

The attack of the Vendéans was that of sharpshooters. They dispersed
themselves so as to surround their adversaries with a semicircular fire,
maintained by a body of formidable marksmen, accustomed to take aim with
fatal precision, and whose skill was the more dreadful, because, being
habituated to take advantage of every tree, bush, or point of shelter,
those who were dealing destruction amongst others, were themselves
comparatively free from risk. This manœuvre was termed _s'égaler_;
and the execution of it resembling the Indian bush-fighting, was, like
the attack of the red warriors, accompanied by whoops and shouts, which
seemed, from the extended space through which they resounded, to
multiply the number of the assailants.

When the Republicans, galled in this manner, pressed forward to a close
attack, they found no enemy on which to wreak their vengeance; for the
loose array of the Vendéans gave immediate passage to the head of the
charging column, while its flanks, as it advanced, were still more
exposed than before to the murderous fire of their invisible enemies. In
this manner they were sometimes led on from point to point, until the
regulars, meeting with a barricade, or an _abatis_, or a strong position
in front, or becoming perhaps involved in a defile, the Vendéans
exchanged their fatal musketry for a close and furious onset, throwing
themselves with the most devoted courage among the enemy's ranks, and
slaughtering them in great numbers. If, on the other hand, the
insurgents were compelled to give way, a pursuit was almost as dangerous
to the Republicans as an engagement. The Vendéan, when hard pressed,
threw away his clogs, or wooden shoes, of which he could make himself a
new pair at the next resting-place, sprang over a fence or canal, loaded
his fusee as he ran, and discharged it at the pursuer with a fatal aim,
whenever he found opportunity of pausing for that purpose.

This species of combat, which the ground rendered so advantageous to the
Vendéans, was equally so in case of victory or defeat. If the
Republicans were vanquished, their army was nearly destroyed; for the
preservation of order became impossible, and without order their
extermination was inevitable, while baggage, ammunition, carriages,
guns, and all the material part, as it is called, of the defeated army,
fell into possession of the conquerors. On the other hand, if the
Vendéans sustained a loss, the victors found nothing on the field but
the bodies of the slain, and the _sabots_, or wooden shoes of the
fugitives. The few prisoners whom they made had generally thrown away or
concealed their arms, and their army having no baggage or carriages of
any kind, could of course lose none. Pursuit was very apt to convert an
advantage into a defeat; for the cavalry could not act, and the
infantry, dispersed in the chase, became frequent victims to those whom
they pursued.

In the field, the Vendéans were courageous to rashness. They hesitated
not to attack and carry artillery with no other weapons than their
staves; and most of their worst losses proceeded from their attacking
fortified towns and positions with the purpose of carrying them by main
force. After conquest they were in general humane and merciful: but this
depended on the character of their chiefs. At Machecoul, the insurgents
conducted themselves with great ferocity in the very beginning of the
civil war; and towards the end of it, mutual and reciprocal injuries had
so exasperated the parties against each other, that quarter was neither
given nor taken on either side. Yet until provoked by the extreme
cruelties of the Revolutionary party, and unless when conducted by some
peculiarly ferocious chief, the character of the Vendéans united
clemency with courage. They gave quarter readily to the vanquished, but
having no means of retaining prisoners, they usually shaved their heads
before they set them at liberty, that they might be distinguished if
found again in arms, contrary to their parole. A no less striking
feature, was the severity of a discipline respecting property, which was
taught them only by their moral sense. No temptation could excite them
to pillage; and Madame La Roche-Jacquelein has preserved the following
singular instance of their simple honesty:--After the peasants had taken
the town of Bressuire by storm, she overheard two or three of them
complain of the want of tobacco, to the use of which they were addicted,
like the natives of moist countries in general. "What," said the lady,
"is there no tobacco in the shops?"--"Tobacco enough," answered the
simple-hearted and honest peasants, who had not learned to make steel
supply the want of gold,--"tobacco enough; but we have no money to pay
for it."[414]

Amidst these primitive warriors were mingled many gentlemen of the first
families in France, who, Royalists from principle, had fled to La Vendée
rather than submit to the dominion of the Convention, or the
Convention's yet more cruel masters. There were found many men, the
anecdotes told of whom remind us continually of the age of Henri Quatre,
and the heroes of chivalry. In these ranks, and almost on a level with
the valiant peasants of which they were composed, fought the calm,
steady, and magnanimous L'Escure,--D'Elbée, a man of the most
distinguished military reputation,--Bonchamp, the gallant and the able
officer, who, like the Constable Montmorency, with all his talent, was
persecuted by fortune,--the chivalrous Henry La Roche-Jacquelein, whose
call upon his soldiers was--"If I fly, slay me--if I advance, follow
me--if I fall, avenge me;" with other names distinguished[415] in the
roll of fame, and not the less so, that they have been recorded by the
pen of affection.

The object of the insurrection was announced in the title of The Royal
and Catholic Army, assumed by the Vendéans. In their moments of highest
hope their wishes were singularly modest. Had they gained Paris, and
replaced the royal authority in France, they meditated the following
simple boons:--1. They had resolved to petition, that the name of La
Vendée be given to the Bocage and its dependencies, which should be
united under a separate administration, instead of forming, as at
present, a part of three distinct provinces. 2. That the restored
monarch would honour the Bocage with a visit. 3. That in remembrance of
the loyal services of the country, a white flag should be displayed from
each steeple, and the King should add a cohort of Vendéans to his
body-guard. 4. That former useful projects of improving the navigation
of the Loire and its canals, should be perfected by the government. So
little of selfish hope or ambition was connected with the public spirit
of these patriarchal warriors.

The war of La Vendée was waged with various fate for nearly two years,
during which the insurgents, or brigands as they were termed, gained by
far the greater number of advantages, though with means infinitely
inferior to those of the government, which detached against them one
general after another, at the head of numerous armies, with equally
indifferent success. Most of the Republicans intrusted with this fatal
command suffered by the guillotine, for not having done that which
circumstances rendered impossible.

Upwards of two hundred battles and skirmishes were fought in this
devoted country. The revolutionary fever was in its access; the shedding
of blood seemed to have become positive pleasure to the perpetrators of
slaughter, and was varied by each invention which cruelty could invent
to give it new zest. The habitations of the Vendéans were destroyed,
their families subjected to violation and massacre, their cattle houghed
and slaughtered, and their crops burnt and wasted. One Republican column
assumed and merited the name of the Infernal, by the horrid atrocities
which they committed. At Pillau, they roasted the women and children in
a heated oven. Many similar horrors could be added, did not the heart
and hand recoil from the task. Without quoting any more special
instances of horror, we use the words of a Republican eyewitness, to
express the general spectacle presented by the theatre of civil

"I did not see a single male being at the towns of Saint Hermand,
Chantonnay, or Herbiers. A few women alone had escaped the sword.
Country-seats, cottages, habitations of whichever kind, were burnt. The
herds and flocks were wandering in terror around their usual places of
shelter, now smoking in ruins. I was surprised by night, but the
wavering and dismal blaze of conflagration afforded light over the
country. To the bleating of the disturbed flocks, and bellowing of the
terrified cattle, was joined the deep hoarse notes of carrion crows, and
the yells of wild animals coming from the recesses of the woods to prey
on the carcasses of the slain. At length a distant column of fire,
widening and increasing as I approached, served me as a beacon. It was
the town of Mortagne in flames. When I arrived there, no living
creatures were to be seen, save a few wretched women who were striving
to save some remnants of their property from the general

Such is civil war! and to this pass had its extremities reduced the
smiling, peaceful, and virtuous country, which we have described a few
pages before!

It is no wonder, after such events, that the hearts of the peasants
became hardened in turn, and that they executed fearful vengeance on
those who could not have the face to expect mercy. We read, therefore,
without surprise, that the Republican General Haxo,[417] a man of great
military talent, and who had distinguished himself in the Vendéan war,
shot himself through the head, when he saw his army defeated by the
insurgents, rather than encounter their vengeance.

During the superiority of the Vendéans, it may be asked why their
efforts, so gigantic in themselves, never extended beyond the frontier
of their own country; and why an insurrection, so considerable and so
sustained, neither made any great impression on the French Convention,
where they were spoken of only as a handful of brigands, nor on foreign
nations, by whom their existence, far less their success, seems hardly
to have been known? On the former subject, it is perhaps sufficient to
observe, that the war of the Vendéans, and their mode of conducting it,
so formidable in their own country, became almost nugatory when extended
into districts of an open character, and affording high-roads and
plains, by which cavalry and artillery could act against peasants, who
formed no close ranks, and carried no bayonets. Besides, the Vendéans
remained bound to their ordinary occupation--they were necessarily
children of the soil--and their army usually dispersed after the battle
was over, to look after their cattle, cultivate the plot of arable land,
and attend to their families. The discipline of their array, in which
mere good-will supplied the place of the usual distinctions of rank,
would not have been sufficient to keep them united in long and distant
marches, and they must have found the want of a commissariat, a train of
baggage, field-pieces, a general staff, and all the other accompaniments
of a regular army, which, in the difficult country of La Vendée,
familiar to the natives, and unknown to strangers, could be so easily
dispensed with. In a word, an army which, under circumstances of hope
and excitation, might one day amount to thirty or forty thousand, and on
the next be diminished to the tenth part of the number, might be
excellent for fighting battles, but could not be relied on for making
conquests, or securing the advantages of victory.

It is not but that a man of D'Elbée's knowledge in the art of war, who
acted as one of their principal leaders, meditated higher objects for
the Vendéans than merely the defence of their own province.

A superb prospect offered itself to them by a meditated attack on the
town of Nantes. Upon the success of this attempt turned, perhaps, the
fate of the Revolution. This beautiful and important commercial city is
situated on the right bank of the Loire, which is there a fine navigable
river, about twenty-seven miles from its junction with the sea. It is
without fortifications of any regular description, but had a garrison of
perhaps ten thousand men, and was covered by such hasty works of defence
as time had permitted them to erect. The force of the Vendéans by which
it was attacked, has been estimated so high as thirty or forty thousand
men under D'Elbée, while the place was blockaded on the left bank by
Charette, and an army of Royalists equal in number to the actual
assailants. Had this important place been gained, it would probably have
changed the face of the war. One or more of the French princes might
have resorted there with such adherents as they had then in arms. The
Loire was open to succours from England, the indecision of whose cabinet
might have been determined by a success so important. Bretagne and
Normandy, already strongly disposed to the royal cause, would have, upon
such encouragement, risen in mass upon the Republicans; and as Poitou
and Anjou were already in possession of the Royal and Catholic Army,
they might probably have opened a march upon Paris, distracted as the
capital then was by civil and foreign war.[418]

Accordingly, [June 18th,] the rockets which were thrown up, and the
sound of innumerable bugle-horns, intimated to General Canclaux, who
commanded the town, that he was to repel a general attack of the
Vendéans. Fortunately, for the infant republic, he was a man of military
skill and high courage, and by his dexterous use of such means of
defence as the place afforded, and particularly by a great superiority
of artillery, he was enabled to baffle the attacks of the Vendéans,
although they penetrated, with the utmost courage, into the suburbs, and
engaged at close quarters the Republican troops. They were compelled to
retreat after a fierce combat, which lasted from three in the morning
till four in the afternoon.[419]

At different times after the failure of this bold and well-imagined
attempt, opportunities occurred during which the allies, and the English
government in particular, might have thrown important succours into La
Vendée. The island of Noirmoutier was for some time in possession of the
Royalists, when arms and money might have been supplied to them to any
amount. Auxiliary forces would probably have been of little service,
considering in what sort of country they were to be engaged, and with
what species of troops they were to act. At least it would have required
the talents of a Peterborough or a Montrose, in a foreign commander, to
have freed himself sufficiently from the trammels of military pedantry,
and availed himself of the peculiar qualities of such troops as the
Vendéans, irresistible after their own fashion, but of a character the
most opposite possible to the ideas of excellence entertained by a mere


But it is now well known, there was a division in the British Cabinet
concerning the mode of carrying on the war. Pitt was extremely unwilling
to interfere with the internal government of France. He desired to see
the barrier of Flanders, so foolishly thrown open by the Emperor Joseph,
again re-established, and he hoped from the success of the allied arms,
that this might be attained,--that the French lust for attacking their
neighbours might be ended--their wildness for crusading in the cause of
innovation checked, and some political advances to a regular government
effected. On the other hand, the enthusiastic, ingenious, but somewhat
extravagant opinions of Windham, led him to espouse those of Burke in
their utmost extent; and he recommended to England, as to Europe, the
replacing the Bourbons, with the ancient royal government and
constitution, as the fundamental principle on which the war should be
waged. This variance of opinion so far divided the British counsels,
that, as it proved, no sufficient efforts were made, either on the one
line of conduct or the other.

Indeed, Madame La Roche-Jacquelein (who, however, we are apt to think,
has been in some degree misled in her account of that matter) says, the
only despatches received by the Vendéans from the British Cabinet,
indicated a singular ignorance of the state of La Vendée, which was
certainly near enough to Jersey and Guernsey, to have afforded the means
of obtaining accurate information upon the nature and principles of the
Vendéan insurrection.

The leaders of _The Royal and Catholic Army_ received their first
communication from Britain through a Royalist emissary, the Chevalier de
Tinténiac, who carried them concealed in the wadding of his pistols,
addressed to a supposed chief named Gaston, whose name had scarce been
known among them. In this document they were required to say for what
purpose they were in arms, whether in behalf of the old government, or
of the constitution of 1791, or the principles of the Girondists? These
were strange questions to be asked of men who had been in the field as
pure Royalists for more than five months, who might have reasonably
hoped that the news of their numerous and important victories had
resounded through all Europe, but must at least have expected they
should be well known to those neighbours of France who were at war with
her present government. Assistance was promised, but in a general and
indecisive way; nor did the testimony of M. de Tinténiac give his
friends much assurance that it was seriously proposed. In fact, no
support ever arrived until after the first pacification of La Vendée.
The ill-fated expedition to Quiberon, delayed until the cause of royalty
was nigh hopeless, was at length undertaken, when its only consequence
was that of involving in absolute destruction a multitude of brave and
high-spirited men. But on looking back on a game so doubtful, it is easy
to criticize the conduct of the players; and perhaps no blunder in war
or politics is so common, as that which arises from missing the proper
moment of exertion.[420]

The French, although more able to seize the advantageous opportunity
than we, (for their government being always in practice something
despotic, is at liberty to act more boldly, secretly, and decisively,
than that of England,) are nevertheless chargeable with similar errors.
If the English Cabinet missed the opportunities given by the
insurrection of La Vendée, the French did not more actively improve
those afforded by the Irish rebellion; and if we had to regret the too
tardy and unhappy expedition to Quiberon, they in their turn might
repent having thrown away the troops whom they landed at Castlehaven,
after the pacification of Ireland, for the sole purpose, it would seem,
of surrendering at Ballinamuck.

It is yet more wonderful, that a country whose dispositions were so
loyal, and its local advantages so strong, should not have been made by
the loyalists in general the centre of those counter-revolutionary
exertions which were vainly expended on the iron eastern frontier, where
the fine army of Condé wasted their blood about paltry frontier redoubts
and fortresses. The nobles and gentlemen of France, fighting abreast
with the gallant peasants of La Vendée, inspired with the same
sentiments of loyalty with themselves, would have been more suitably
placed than in the mercenary ranks of foreign nations. It is certain
that the late King Louis XVIII., and also his present Majesty,[421] were
desirous to have exposed their persons in the war of La Vendée. The
former wrote to the Duke d'Harcourt--"What course remains for me but La
Vendée? Who can place me there?--England--Insist upon that point; and
tell the English ministers in my name, that I demand from them a crown
or a tomb."[422] If there were a serious intention of supporting these
unfortunate princes, the means of this experiment ought to have been
afforded them, and that upon no stinted scale. The error of England,
through all the early part of the war, was an unwillingness to
proportion her efforts to the importance of the ends she had in view.

Looking upon the various chances which might have befriended the
unparalleled exertions of the Vendéans, considering the generous,
virtuous, and disinterested character of those primitive soldiers, it is
with sincere sorrow that we proceed to trace their extermination by the
bloodthirsty ruffians of the Reign of Terror. Yet the course of
Providence, after the lapse of time, is justified even in our weak and
undiscerning eyes. We should indeed have read with hearts throbbing with
the just feelings of gratified vengeance, that La Charette or La
Roche-Jacquelein had successfully achieved, at the head of their gallant
adherents, the road to Paris--had broke in upon the committees of public
safety and public security, like Thalaba the Destroyer[423] into the
Dom-daniel; and with the same dreadful result to the agents of the
horrors with which these revolutionary bodies had deluged France. But
such a reaction, accomplished solely for the purpose of restoring the
old despotic monarchy, could not have brought peace to France or to
Europe; nay, could only have laid a foundation for farther and more
lasting quarrels. The flame of liberty had been too widely spread in
France to be quenched even by such a triumph of royalty as we have
supposed, however pure the principles and high the spirit of the
Vendéans. It was necessary that the nation should experience both the
extremes of furious license and of stern despotism, to fix the hopes of
the various contending parties upon a form of government, in which a
limited power in the monarch should be united to the enjoyment of all
rational freedom in the subject. We return to our sad task.

[Sidenote: WAR OF LA VENDÉE.]

Notwithstanding the desolating mode in which the Republicans conducted
the war, with the avowed purpose of rendering La Vendée uninhabitable,
the population seemed to increase in courage, and even in numbers, as
their situation became more desperate. Renewed armies were sent into the
devoted district, and successively destroyed in assaults, skirmishes,
and ambuscades, where they were not slaughtered in general actions. More
than a hundred thousand men were employed at one time, in their efforts
to subjugate this devoted province. But this could not last for ever;
and a chance of war upon the frontiers, which threatened reverses to the
Convention, compensated them by furnishing new forces, and of a higher
description in point of character and discipline, for the subjection of
La Vendée.

This was the surrender of the town of Mentz to the Prussians. By the
capitulation, a garrison of near fifteen thousand experienced soldiers,
and some officers of considerable name, were debarred from again bearing
arms against the allies. These troops were employed in La Vendée, where
the scale had already begun to preponderate against the dauntless and
persevering insurgents. At the first encounters, the soldiers of Mentz,
unacquainted with the Vendéan mode of fighting, sustained loss, and were
thought lightly of by the Royalists.[424] This opinion of their new
adversaries was changed, in consequence of a defeat [Oct. 17] near
Chollet, more dreadful in its consequences than any which the Vendéans
had yet received, and which determined their generals to pass the Loire
with their whole collected force, leave their beloved Bocage to the axes
and brands of the victors, and carry the war into Bretagne, where they
expected either to be supported by a descent of the English, or by a
general insurrection of the inhabitants.[425]

In this military emigration the Royalists were accompanied by their
aged people, their wives, and their children; so that their melancholy
march resembled that of the Cimbrians or Helvetians of old, when
abandoning their ancient dwellings, they wandered forth to find new
settlements in a more fertile land. They crossed the river near Saint
Florent, and the banks were blackened with nearly a hundred thousand
pilgrims of both sexes, and of every age. The broad river was before
them, and behind them their burning cottages and the exterminating sword
of the Republicans. The means of embarkation were few and precarious;
the affright of the females almost ungovernable; and such was the tumult
and terror of the scene, that, in the words of Madame La
Roche-Jacquelein, the awe-struck spectators could only compare it to the
day of judgment.[426] Without food, directions, or organization of any
kind--without the show of an army, saving in the front and rear of the
column, the centre consisting of their defenceless families marching
together in a mass--these indomitable peasants defeated a Republican
army under the walls of Laval.

The garrison of Mentz, whose arrival in La Vendée had been so fatal to
the insurgents, and who had pursued them in a state of rout, as they
thought, out of their own country, across the Loire, were almost
exterminated in this most unexpected defeat. An unsuccessful attack upon
Granville more than counterbalanced this advantage, and although the
Vendéans afterwards obtained a brilliant victory at Dol, it was the last
success of what was termed the Great Army of La Vendée, and which well
deserved that title, on more accounts than in its more ordinary sense.
They had now lost, by the chances of war, most of their best chiefs; and
misfortunes, and the exasperating feelings attending them, had
introduced disunion, which had been so long a stranger to their singular
association. Charette was reflected upon as being little willing to aid
La Roche-Jacquelein; and Stoflet seems to have set up an independent
standard. The insurgents were defeated at Mons, where of three
Republican generals of name, Westermann, Marçeau, and Kleber, the first
disgraced himself by savage cruelty, and the other two gained honour by
their clemency. Fifteen thousand male and female natives of La Vendée
perished in the battle and the massacre which ensued.[427]

But though La Vendée, after this decisive loss, which included some of
her best troops and bravest generals, could hardly be said to exist, La
Charette continued, with indefatigable diligence, and undaunted courage,
to sustain the insurrection of Lower Poitou and Bretagne. He was
followed by a division of peasants from the Marais, whose activity in
marshy grounds gave them similar advantages to those possessed by the
Vendéans in their woodlands. He was followed also by the inhabitants of
Morbihan, called, from their adherence to royalism, the Little La
Vendée. He was the leader, besides, of many of the bands called
Chouans, a name of doubtful origin given to the insurgents of Bretagne,
but which their courage has rendered celebrated.[428] La Charette
himself, who, with these and other forces, continued to sustain the
standard of royalty in Bretagne and Poitou, was one of those
extraordinary characters, made to shine amidst difficulties and dangers.
As prudent and cautious as he was courageous and adventurous, he was at
the same time so alert and expeditious in his motions, that he usually
appeared at the time and place where his presence was least expected and
most formidable. A Republican officer, who had just taken possession of
a village, and was speaking of the Royalist leader as of a person at
twenty leagues' distance, said publicly,--"I should like to see this
famous Charette."--"There he is," said a woman, pointing with her
finger. In fact, he was at that moment in the act of charging the
Republican troops, who were all either slain or made prisoners.


After the fall of Robespierre, the Convention made offers of
pacification to La Charette, which were adjusted betwixt the Vendéan
chief and General Canclaux,[429] the heroic defender of Nantes. The
articles of treaty were subscribed in that place, which La Charette
entered at the head of his military staff, with his long white plume
streaming in the wind. He heard with coldness shouts of welcome from a
city, to which his name had been long a terror; and there was a gloom on
his brow as he signed his name to the articles agreed upon. He certainly
suspected the faith of those with whom he transacted, and they did not
by any means confide in his. An armistice was agreed on until the
Convention should ratify the pacification. But this never took place.
Mutual complaints and recriminations followed, and the soldiers of La
Charette and of the Republic began once more to make a petty war on each

Meantime, that party in the British Cabinet which declared for a descent
on France, in name and on behalf of the successor to the crown, had
obtained the acquiescence of their colleagues in an experiment of this
nature; but unhappily it had been postponed until its success had become
impossible. The force, too, which composed this experimental operation,
was injudiciously selected. A certain proportion consisted of emigrants,
in whom the highest confidence might be with justice reposed; but about
two battalions of this invading expedition were vagrant foreigners of
various descriptions, many or most of them enlisted from among the
prisoners of war, who readily took any engagement to get out of
captivity, with the mental resolution of breaking it the first
opportunity. Besides these imprudences, the purpose and time of
executing a project, which, to be successful, should have been secret
and sudden, were generally known in France and England before the
expedition weighed anchor.

The event, as is universally known, was most disastrous: The mercenaries
deserted to the Republicans as soon as they got ashore; and the
unfortunate emigrants, who became prisoners in great numbers, were
condemned and executed without mercy. The ammunition and muskets, of
which a quantity had been landed, fell into the hands of the enemy; and
what was worse, England did not, among other lighter losses, entirely
save her honour. She was severely censured as giving up her allies to
destruction, because she had yielded to the wishes which enthusiastic
and courageous men had elevated into hope.

Nothing, indeed, can be more difficult, than to state the just extent of
support, which can prudently be extended by one nation to a civil
faction in the bosom of another. Indeed, nothing short of
success--absolute success--will prove the justification of such
enterprises in the eyes of some, who will allege, in the event of
failure, that men have been enticed into perils, in which they have not
been adequately supported; or of others, who will condemn such measures
as squandering the public resources, in enterprises which ought not to
have been encouraged at all. But in fair judgment, the expedition of
Quiberon ought not to be summarily condemned. It was neither inadequate,
nor, excepting as to the description of some of the forces employed, ill
calculated for the service proposed. Had such reinforcements and
supplies arrived while the Royalists were attacking Nantes or Grenoble,
or while they yet held the island of Noirmoutier, the good consequences
to the royal cause might have been incalculable. But the expedition was
ill-timed, and that was in a great measure owing to those unfortunate
gentlemen engaged, who, impatient of inactivity, and sanguine by
character, urged the British Ministry, or rather Mr. Windham, to
authorise the experiment, without fully considering more than their own
zeal and courage. We cannot, however, go so far as to say, that their
impatience relieved ministers from the responsibility attached to the
indifferent intelligence on which they acted. There could be no
difficulty in getting full information on the state of Bretagne by way
of Jersey; and they ought to have known that there was a strong French
force collected from various garrisons, for the purpose of guarding
against a descent at Quiberon.[430]

After this unfortunate affair, and some subsequent vain attempts to
throw in supplies on the part of the English, La Charette still
continued in open war. But Hoche, an officer of high reputation, was now
sent into the disturbed districts, with a larger army than had yet been
employed against them. He was thus enabled to form moveable columns,
which acted in concert, supporting each other when unsuccessful, or
completing each other's victory when such was obtained. La Charette,
after his band was almost entirely destroyed, was himself made prisoner.
Being condemned to be shot, he refused to have his eyes covered, and
died as courageously as he had lived. With him and Stoflet, who suffered
a similar fate, the war of La Vendée terminated.

To trace this remarkable civil war, even so slightly as we have
attempted the task, has carried us beyond the course of our narrative.
It broke out in the beginning of March 1793, and La Charette's
execution, by which it was closed, took place at Nantes, 29th March,
1796. The astonishing part of the matter is, that so great a
conflagration should not have extended itself beyond a certain limited
district, while within that region it raged with such fury, that for a
length of time no means of extinguishing it could be discovered.

       *       *       *       *       *


We now return to the state of France in spring 1793, when the Jacobins,
who had possessed themselves of the supreme power of the Republic, found
that they had to contend, not only with the allied forces on two
frontiers of France, and with the Royalists in the west, but also with
more than one of the great commercial towns, which, with less
inclination to the monarchical cause, than a general terror of
revolutionary measures, prepared for resistance, after the proscription
of the Girondists upon the 31st of May.

Bourdeaux, Marseilles, Toulon, and Lyons, had declared themselves
against the Jacobin supremacy. Rich from commerce and their maritime
situation, and, in the case of Lyons, from their command of internal
navigation, the wealthy merchants and manufacturers of those cities
foresaw the total insecurity of property, and in consequence their own
ruin, in the system of arbitrary spoliation and murder upon which the
government of the Jacobins was founded. But property, for which they
were solicitous, though, if its natural force is used in time, the most
powerful barrier to withstand revolution, becomes, after a certain
period of delay, its most helpless victim. If the rich are in due season
liberal of their means, they have the power of enlisting in their cause,
and as adherents, those among the lower orders, who, if they see their
superiors dejected and despairing, will be tempted to consider them as
objects of plunder. But this must be done early, or those who might be
made the most active defenders of property will join with such as are
prepared to make a prey of it.

We have already seen that Bourdeaux, in which the Brissotines or
Girondists had ventured to hope for a zeal purely republican, at once
adverse to royalty and to Jacobin domination, had effectually
disappointed their expectations, and succumbed with little struggle
under the ferocious victors.

Marseilles showed at once her good-will and her impotency of means. The
utmost exertions of that wealthy city, whose revolutionary band had
contributed so much to the downfall of the monarchy in the attack on the
Tuileries, were able to equip only a small and doubtful army of about
three thousand men, who were despatched to the relief of Lyons. This
inconsiderable army threw themselves into Avignon, and were defeated
with the utmost ease, by the republican general Cartaux,[431] despicable
as a military officer, and whose forces would not have stood a single
_également_ of the Vendéan sharp-shooters. Marseilles received the
victors, and bowed her head to the subsequent horrors which it pleased
Cartaux, with two formidable Jacobins, Barras and Fréron,[432] to
inflict on that flourishing city. The place underwent the usual terrors
of Jacobin purification, and was for a time affectedly called, "the
nameless commune."[433]

[Sidenote: REVOLT OF LYONS.]

Lyons made a more honourable stand. That noble city had been subjected
for some time to the domination of Châlier, one of the most ferocious,
and at the same time one of the most extravagantly absurd, of the
Jacobins. He was at the head of a formidable club, which was worthy of
being affiliated with the mother society, and ambitious of treading in
its footsteps; and he was supported by a garrison of two revolutionary
regiments, besides a numerous artillery, and a large addition of
volunteers, amounting in all to about ten thousand men, forming what was
called a revolutionary army. This Châlier was an apostate priest, an
atheist, and a thorough-paced pupil in the school of terror. He had been
created Procureur of the Commune, and had imposed on the wealthy
citizens a tax, which was raised from six to thirty millions of livres.
But blood as well as gold was his object. The massacre of a few priests
and aristocrats confined in the fortress of Pierre-Seize, was a pitiful
sacrifice; and Châlier, ambitious of deeds more decisive, caused a
general arrest of an hundred principal citizens, whom he destined as a
hecatomb more worthy of the demon whom he served.

This sacrifice was prevented by the courage of the Lyonnois a courage
which, if assumed by the Parisians, might have prevented most of the
horrors which disgraced the Revolution. The meditated slaughter was
already announced by Châlier to the Jacobin Club. "Three hundred heads,"
he said, "are marked for slaughter. Let us lose no time in seizing the
members of the departmental office-bearers, the presidents and
secretaries of the sections, all the local authorities who obstruct our
revolutionary measures. Let us make one fagot of the whole, and deliver
them at once to the guillotine."

But ere he could execute his threat, terror was awakened into the
courage of despair. The citizens rose in arms, [May 29,] and besieged
the Hôtel de Ville, in which Châlier, with his revolutionary troops,
made a desperate, and for some time a successful, yet ultimately a vain
defence. But the Lyonnois unhappily knew not how to avail themselves of
their triumph. They were not sufficiently aware of the nature of the
vengeance which they had provoked, or of the necessity of supporting the
bold step which they had taken, by measures which precluded a
compromise. Their resistance to the violence and atrocity of the
Jacobins had no political character, any more than that offered by the
traveller against robbers who threaten him with plunder and murder. They
were not sufficiently aware, that, having done so much, they must
necessarily do more. They ought, by declaring themselves Royalists, to
have endeavoured to prevail on the troops of Savoy, if not on the Swiss,
who had embraced a species of neutrality, (which, after the 10th of
August, was dishonourable to their ancient reputation,) to send in all
haste soldiery to the assistance of a city which had no fortifications
or regular troops to defend it; but which possessed, nevertheless,
treasures to pay their auxiliaries, and strong hands and able officers
to avail themselves of the localities of their situation, which, when
well defended, are sometimes as formidable as the regular protection
erected by scientific engineers.

The people of Lyons vainly endeavoured to establish a revolutionary
character for themselves, upon the system of the Gironde; two of whose
proscribed deputies, Biroteau and Chasset, tried to draw them over to
their unpopular and hopeless cause; and they inconsistently sought
protection by affecting a republican zeal, even while resisting the
decrees, and defeating the troops of the Jacobins. There were
undoubtedly many of royalist principles among the insurgents, and some
of their leaders were decidedly such; but these were not numerous or
influential enough to establish the true principle of open resistance,
and the ultimate chance of rescue, by a bold proclamation of the King's
interest. They still appealed to the Convention as their legitimate
sovereign, in whose eyes they endeavoured to vindicate themselves, and
at the same time tried to secure the interest of two Jacobin deputies,
who had countenanced every violence attempted by Châlier, that they
might prevail upon them to represent their conduct favourably. Of course
they had enough of promises to this effect, while Messrs. Guathier and
Nioche, the deputies in question, remained in their power; promises,
doubtless, the more readily given, that the Lyonnois, though desirous to
conciliate the favour of the Convention, did not hesitate in proceeding
to the punishment of the Jacobin Châlier. He was condemned and executed,
along with one of his principal associates, termed Ribard.[434]

To defend these vigorous proceedings, the unhappy insurgents placed
themselves under the interim government of a council, who, still
desirous to temporize and maintain the revolutionary character, termed
themselves "The Popular and Republican Commission of Public Safety of
the Department of the Rhone and Loire;" a title which, while it excited
no popular enthusiasm, and attracted no foreign aid, noways soothed, but
rather exasperated, the resentment of the Convention, now under the
absolute domination of the Jacobins, by whom every thing short of
complete fraternization was accounted presumptuous defiance. Those who
were not with them, it was their policy to hold as their most decided

The Lyonnois had, indeed, letters of encouragement, and promised
concurrence, from several departments; but no effectual support was ever
directed towards their city, excepting the petty reinforcement from
Marseilles, which we have seen was intercepted and dispersed with little
trouble by the Jacobin General Cartaux.

Lyons had expected to become the patroness and focus of an Anti-jacobin
league, formed by the great commercial towns, against Paris and the
predominant part of the Convention. She found herself isolated and
unsupported, and left to oppose her own proper forces and means of
defence, to an army of sixty thousand men, and to the numerous Jacobins
contained within her own walls. About the end of July, after a lapse of
an interval of two months, a regular blockade was formed around the
city, and in the first week of August hostilities took place. The
besieging army was directed in its military character by General
Kellerman, who, with other distinguished soldiers, had now begun to hold
an eminent rank in the Republican armies. But for the purpose of
executing the vengeance for which they thirsted, the Jacobins relied
chiefly on the exertions of the deputies they had sent along with the
commander, and especially of the representative Dubois-Crancé, a man
whose sole merit appears to have been his frantic Jacobinism. General
Précy, formerly an officer in the Royal service, undertook the almost
hopeless task of defence, and by forming redoubts on the most
commanding situations around the town, commenced a resistance against
the immensely superior force of the besiegers, which was honourable if
it could have been useful. The Lyonnois, at the same time, still
endeavoured to make fair weather with the besieging army, by
representing themselves as firm Republicans. They celebrated as a public
festival the anniversary of the 10th of August, while Dubois-Crancé, to
show the credit he gave them for their republican zeal, fixed the same
day for commencing his fire on the place, and caused the first gun to be
discharged by his own concubine, a female born in Lyons. Bombs and
red-hot bullets were next resorted to, against the second city of the
French empire; while the besieged sustained the attack with a constancy,
and on many parts repelled it with a courage, highly honourable to their

But their fate was determined. The deputies announced to the Convention
their purpose of pouring their instruments of havoc on every quarter of
the town at once, and when it was on fire in several places to attempt a
general storm. "The city," they said, "must surrender, or there shall
not remain one stone upon another, and this we hope to accomplish in
spite of the suggestions of false compassion. Do not then be surprised
when you shall hear that Lyons exists no longer." The fury of the attack
threatened to make good these promises.

In the meantime the Piedmontese troops made a show of descending from
their mountains to the succour of the city, and it is probable their
interference would have given a character of royalism to the
insurrection. But the incursion of the Piedmontese and Sardinians was
speedily repelled by the skill of Kellerman, and produced no effect in
favour of the city of Lyons, except that of supporting for a time the
courage of its defenders.

The sufferings of the citizens became intolerable. Several quarters of
the city were on fire at the same time, immense magazines were burnt to
the ground, and a loss incurred, during two nights' bombardment, which
was calculated at two hundred millions of livres. A black flag was
hoisted by the besieged on the Great Hospital, as a sign that the fire
of the assailants should not be directed on that asylum of hopeless
misery. The signal seemed only to draw the republican bombs to the spot
where they could create the most frightful distress, and outrage, in the
highest degree, the feelings of humanity. The devastations of famine
were soon added to those of slaughter; and after two months of such
horrors had been sustained, it became obvious that farther resistance
was impossible.

The military commandant of Lyons, Précy, resolved upon a sally, at the
head of the active part of the garrison, hoping that, by cutting his way
through the besiegers, he might save the lives of many of those who
followed him in the desperate attempt, and gain the neutral territory of
Switzerland, while the absence of those who had been actual combatants
during the siege, might, in some degree, incline the Convention to
lenient measures towards the more helpless part of the inhabitants. A
column of about two thousand men made this desperate attempt. But,
pursued by the Republicans, and attacked on every side by the peasants,
to whom they had been represented in the most odious colours by the
Jacobin deputies, and who were stimulated besides by the hope of
plunder, scarcely fifty of the devoted body reached, with their leader,
the protecting soil of Switzerland. Lyons reluctantly opened her gates
after the departure of her best and bravest. The rest may be described
in the words of Horace,--

    "Barbarus heu cineres insistet victor, et urbem,
    --------dissipabit insolens."

The paralytic Couthon, with Collot D'Herbois,[435] and other deputies,
were sent to Lyons by the Committee of Public Safety, to execute the
vengeance which the Jacobins demanded; while Dubois-Crancé was recalled
for having put, it was thought, less energy in his proceedings than the
prosecution of the siege required. Collot D'Herbois had a personal
motive of a singular nature for delighting in the task intrusted to him
and his colleagues. In his capacity of a play-actor, he had been hissed
from the stage at Lyons, and the door to revenge was now open. The
instructions of this committee enjoined them to take the most
satisfactory revenge for the death of Châlier, and the insurrection of
Lyons, not merely on the citizens, but on the town itself. The principal
streets and buildings were to be levelled with the ground, and a
monument erected where they stood, was to record the cause;--"_Lyons
rebelled against the Republic_--_Lyons is no more_." Such fragments of
the town as might be permitted to remain were to bear the name of
_Commune Affranchie_. It will scarcely be believed, that a doom like
that which might have passed the lips of some Eastern despot, in all the
frantic madness of arbitrary power and utter ignorance, could have been
seriously pronounced, and as seriously enforced in one of the most
civilized nations in Europe; and that in the present enlightened age,
men who pretended to wisdom and philosophy, should have considered the
labours of the architect as a proper subject of punishment. So it was,
however; and to give the demolition more effect, the impotent Couthon
was carried from house to house, devoting each to ruin, by striking the
door with a silver hammer, and pronouncing these words--"House of a
rebel, I condemn thee in the name of the Law." Workmen followed in great
multitudes, who executed the sentence by pulling the house down to the
foundations. This wanton demolition continued for six months, and is
said to have been carried on at an expense equal to that which the
superb military hospital, the Hôtel des Invalides, cost its founder,
Louis XIV. But republican vengeance did not waste itself exclusively
upon senseless lime and stone--it sought out sentient victims.

The deserved death of Châlier had been atoned by an apotheosis,[436]
executed after Lyons had surrendered; but Collot D'Herbois declared that
every drop of that patriotic blood fell as if scalding his own heart,
and that the murder demanded atonement. All ordinary process, and every
usual mode of execution, was thought too tardy to avenge the death of a
Jacobin proconsul. The judges of the revolutionary commission were worn
out with fatigue--the arm of the executioner was weary--the very steel
of the guillotine was blunted. Collot d'Herbois devised a more summary
mode of slaughter. A number of from two to three hundred victims at once
were dragged from prison to the Place de Brotteaux, one of the largest
squares in Lyons, and there subjected to a fire of grape-shot.[437]
Efficacious as this mode of execution may seem, it was neither speedy
nor merciful. The sufferers fell to the ground like singed flies,
mutilated but not slain, and imploring their executioners to despatch
them speedily. This was done with sabres and bayonets, and with such
haste and zeal, that some of the jailors and assistants were slain along
with those whom they had assisted in dragging to death; and the mistake
was not discerned, until, upon counting the dead bodies, the military
murderers found them amount to more than the destined tale. The bodies
of the dead were thrown into the Rhone, to carry news of the Republican
vengeance, as Collot d'Herbois expressed himself, to Toulon, then also
in a state of revolt. But the sullen stream rejected the office imposed
on it, and heaved back the dead in heaps upon the banks; and the
Committee of Representatives were compelled at length to allow the
relics of their cruelty to be interred, to prevent the risk of

The people of the south of France have always been distinguished by the
vivacity of their temperament. As cruelties beget retaliation, it may be
as well here mentioned, that upon the fall of the Jacobins, the people
of Lyons forgot not what indeed was calculated for eternal remembrance,
and took by violence a severe and sanguinary vengeance on those who had
been accessary to the atrocities of Couthon and Collot d'Herbois. They
rose on the Jacobins after the fall of Robespierre, and put to death
several of them.

Toulon, important by its port, its arsenals, and naval-yard, as well as
by its fortifications both on the sea and land side, had partaken deeply
in the feelings which pervaded Marseilles, Bourdeaux, and Lyons. But the
insurgents of Toulon were determinedly royalist. The place had been for
some time subjected to the administration of a Jacobin club, and had
seen the usual quantity of murders and excesses with the greater pain,
that the town contained many naval officers and others who had served
under the King, and retained their affection for the royal cause. Their
dissatisfaction did not escape the notice of men, to whom every sullen
look was cause of suspicion, and the slightest cause of suspicion a
ground of death. The town being threatened with a complete purification
after the Jacobin fashion, the inhabitants resolved to anticipate the

At the dead of night the tocsin was sounded by the citizens, who
dispersed the Jacobin club, seized on the two representatives who had
governed its proceedings, arrested seven or eight Jacobins, who had been
most active in the previous assassinations, and, in spite of some
opposition, actually executed them. With more decision than the
inhabitants of Lyons, they proceeded to proclaim Louis XVII. under the
constitution of 1791. Cartaux presently marched upon the insurgent city,
driving before him the Marseillois, whom, as before mentioned, he had
defeated upon their march towards Lyons. Alarmed at this movement, and
destitute of a garrison which they could trust, the Toulonnois implored
the assistance of the English and Spanish admirals, Lord Hood and
Gravina, who were cruising off their port. It was instantly granted, and
marines were sent on shore for their immediate protection, while efforts
were made to collect from the different allied powers such a supply of
troops as could be immediately thrown into the place. But the event of
the siege of Toulon brings our general historical sketch into connexion
with the life of that wonderful person, whose actions we have undertaken
to record. It was during this siege that the light was first
distinguished, which, broadening more and more, and blazing brighter and
brighter, was at length to fill with its lustre the whole hemisphere of
Europe, and was then to set with a rapidity equal to that with which it
had arisen.

Ere, however, we produce this first-rate actor upon the stage, we must
make the reader still more particularly acquainted with the spirit of
the scene.


[394] Afterwards Marquis of Stafford, and created Duke of Sutherland. He
died in 1833.

[395] Annual Register, vol. xxxv., p. 128.

[396] In 1789, Maret published the proceedings of the States-General,
under the title of "Bulletin de l'Assemblée," taking Woodfall's
Parliamentary Register for his model. The success of the experiment was
so great, that when Pankouke, the bookseller, projected the plan of the
"_Moniteur_," he prevailed on Maret to transfer his labours to the new
journal. Such was the origin of Napoleon's well-known Duke of Bassano.

[397] Annual Register, vol. xxxv., p. 153.

[398] See the Declaration, Annual Register, vol. xxxv., p. 139.

[399] Annual Register, vol. xxxv., p. 250.--S.

[400] Jomini, tom. iii., pp. 163-181; Toulongeon, tom. iv., pp. 6-43.

[401] On the loss of Mentz, the Convention ordered Custine to Paris to
answer for his conduct, and delivered him over to the revolutionary
tribunal, by whom, in August, 1793, he was condemned and executed.

[402] Accused of not having followed up the advantages at Hondscoote, by
an immediate attack upon the British force. Houchard was brought before
the revolutionary tribunal, condemned, and executed, 17th Nov., 1793.

[403] Alexander, Viscount de Beauharnais, first husband of Josephine.
Denounced as an aristocrat by his own troops, he was, in July, 1794,
dragged before the revolutionary tribunal, which instantly condemned him
to death.

[404] Toulongeon, tom. iv., p. 142; Jomini, tom. iv., pp. 86-165.

[405] Condemned to death, Nov. 6, 1793, by the revolutionary tribunal.

[406] Jomini, tom. iv., p. 273.

[407] La Roche-Jacquelein, p. 35; Guerres des Vendéans et des Chouans,
tom. i., p. 31.

[408] See _ante_, p. 110.

[409] Dumouriez, vol. ii., p. 144.

[410] Guerres des Vendéans, tom. i., p. 65; La Roche-Jacquelein, p. 38.

[411] Thiers, tom. iv., p. 175.

[412] Madame La Roche-Jacquelein mentions an interesting anecdote of a
young plebeian, a distinguished officer, whose habits of respect would
scarce permit him to sit down in her presence. This cannot be termed
servility. It is the noble pride of a generous mind, faithful to its
original impressions, and disclaiming the merits which others are ready
to heap on it.--S.

[413] The adoption of this wild costume, which procured them the name of
_brigands_, from its fantastic singularity, originated in the whim of
Henri La Roche-Jacquelein, who first used the attire. But as this
peculiarity, joined to the venturous exposure of his person, occasioned
a general cry among the Republicans, of "Aim at the red handkerchief,"
other officers assumed the fashion to diminish the danger of the chief
whom they valued so highly, until at length it became a kind of

[414] La Roche-Jacquelein, p. 90.

[415] The Memoirs of Madame Bonchamp, and still more those of Madame La
Roche-Jacquelein, are remarkable for the virtues of the heart, as well
as the talents which are displayed by their authors. Without
affectation, without vanity, without violence or impotent repining,
these ladies have described the sanguinary and irregular warfare, in
which they and those who were dearest to them were engaged for so long
and stormy a period; and we arise from the perusal sadder and wiser, by
having learned what the brave can dare, and what the gentle can endure
with patience.--S.

[416] Mémoires d'un Ancien Administrateur des Armées Republicaines.--S.

[417] Haxo died at Roche-sur-yon, April 26, 1794.

[418] See Jomini, tom. vi., p 400.

[419] A picture by Vernet, representing the attack on Nantes, estimable
as a work of art, but extremely curious in an historical point of view,
used to be in the Luxembourg palace, and is probably now removed to the
Louvre. The Vendéans are presented there in all their simplicity of
attire, and devoted valour; the priests who attended them displaying
their crosses, and encouraging the assault, which is, on the other hand,
repelled by the regular steadiness of the Republican forces.--S.--[This
picture is still in the Luxembourg. The paintings of living artists are
never admitted to the Louvre.]

[420] La Roche-Jacquelein, p. 69; Lacretelle, tom. x., p. 143.

[421] King Charles the Tenth.

[422] Lacretelle, tom. xi., p. 145.

[423] See Southey's Thalaba, b. 12.

[424] They punned on the word _Mayence_ (Mentz,) and said, the newly
arrived Republicans were soldiers of _fayence_ (potter' ware,) which
could not endure the fire.--S.

[425] Beauchamp, Hist. de la Guerre de la Vendée, tom. ii., p. 99;
Jomini, tom. iv., p. 318; La Roche-Jacquelein, p. 239; Lacretelle, tom.
xi., p. 151.

[426] Mémoires, p. 240.

[427] Jomini, tom. iv., p. 319. Beauchamp, tom. ii., p. 102.

[428] Some derived it from _Chat-huant_, as if the insurgents, like
owls, appeared chiefly at night; others traced it to _Chouin_, the name
of two brothers, sons of a blacksmith, said to have been the earliest
leaders of the Breton insurgents.--S.

[429] Canclaux was born at Paris in 1740. After the revolution of the
18th Brumaire, Napoleon gave him the command of the 14th military
division, and made him a senator. At the restoration he was created a
peer. He died in 1817.

[430] We can and ought to make great allowances for national feeling;
yet it is a little hard to find a well-informed historian, like M.
Lacretelle, [tom. xi., p. 146,] gravely insinuate, that England threw
the unfortunate Royalists on the coast of Quiberon to escape the future
burden of maintaining them. Her liberality towards the emigrants,
honourable and meritorious to the country, was entirely gratuitous. She
might have withdrawn when she pleased a bounty conferred by her
benevolence; and it is rather too hard to be supposed capable of
meditating their murder, merely to save the expense of supporting them.
The expedition was a blunder; but one in which the unfortunate sufferers
contributed to mislead the British Government.--S.

[431] "This man, originally a painter, had become an adjutant in the
Parisian corps; he was afterwards employed in the army; and, having been
successful against the Marseillois, the deputies of the Mountain had, in
the same day, obtained him the appointments of brigadier-general and
general of division. He was extremely ignorant, and had nothing military
about him, otherwise he was not ill-disposed."--NAPOLEON, _Memoirs_,
vol. i., p. 19.

[432] Stanislaus Fréron was son of the well-known victim of Voltaire,
and godson of the unfortunate King of Poland. He accompanied the French
expedition to St. Domingo in 1802, and being appointed sub-prefect at
the Cayes, soon sunk under the influence of the climate. His portfolio
falling into the hands of the black government, some of its contents
were published by the authority of Dessaline, and subjoined to a work
entitled "Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire de Hayti." Among them are
several amatory epistles from Napoleon's second sister Pauline, by which
it appears that Fréron was the earliest object of her choice, but that
Napoleon and Josephine would not hear of an alliance with the friend of
Robespierre, and ready instrument of his atrocities.

[433] Jomini, tom. iv., p. 208; Toulongeon, tom. iv., p. 63.

[434] Lacretelle, tom. xi., p. 98; Thiers, tom. iv., p. 161.

[435] Before the arrival of Collot d'Herbois, Fouché (afterwards Duke of
Otranto) issued a decree, directing that all religious emblems should be
destroyed, and that the words "Death is an eternal sleep!" should be
placed over the entrance of every burial ground.--See _Moniteur_, Nos.
57, 64.

[436] An ass formed a conspicuous part of the procession, having a mitre
fastened between his ears, and dragging in the dirt a Bible tied to its
tail; which Bible was afterwards burnt, and its ashes scattered to the
winds. Fouché wrote to the Convention--"The shade of Châlier is
satisfied. Yes, we swear that the people shall be avenged. Our severe
courage shall keep pace with their just impatience."--_Moniteur_;
Montgaillard, tom. iv., pp. 113, 138.

[437] Fouché, on the 19th December, wrote to Collot d'Herbois--"Let us
show ourselves terrible: let us annihilate in our wrath, and at one
blow, every conspirator, every traitor, that we may not feel the pain,
the long torture, of punishing them as kings would do. We this evening
send two hundred and thirteen rebels before the thunder of our cannon.
Farewell, my friend! tears of joy stream from my eyes, and overflow my
heart.--(Signed) FOUCHÉ."--_Moniteur_, No. 85.

[438] Guillon de Montléon, Mémoires pour servir à l'Hist. de la Ville de
Lyon, tom. ii., p. 405; Toulongeon, tom. iv., p. 68; Jomini, tom. iv.,
p. 186; Thiers, tom. v., p. 310; Lacretelle, tom. ix., p. 109.


    _Views of the British Cabinet regarding the French
    Revolution--Extraordinary Situation of France--Explanation of
    the Anomaly which it exhibited--System of Terror--Committee of
    Public Safety--Of Public Security--David the Painter--Law
    against suspected Persons--Revolutionary Tribunal--Effects of
    the Emigration of the Princes and Nobles--Causes of the
    Passiveness of the French People under the Tyranny of the
    Jacobins--Singular Address of the Committee of Public
    Safety--General Reflections._

It has been a maxim with great statesmen, that evil governments must end
by becoming their own destruction, according to the maxim, _Res nolunt
diù male administrari_. Pitt himself was of opinion, that the fury of
the French Revolution would wear itself out; and that it already
presented so few of the advantages and privileges of social compact,
that it seemed as if its political elements must either altogether
dissolve, or assume a new form more similar to that on which all other
states and governments rest their stability. It was on this account that
this great English statesman declined assisting, in plain and open terms
the royal cause, and desired to keep England free from any pledge
concerning the future state of government in France, aware of the danger
of involving her in any declared and avowed interference with the right
of a people to choose their own system. However anxious to prevent the
revolutionary opinions, as well as arms, from extending beyond their own
frontier, it was thought in the British Cabinet, by one large party,
that the present frantic excess of Republican principles must, of
itself, produce a reaction in favour of more moderate sentiments. Some
steady system for the protection of life and property, was, it was said,
essential to the very existence of society. The French nation must
assume such, and renounce the prosecution of those revolutionary
doctrines, for the sake of their own as well as of other countries. The
arrangement must, it was thought, take place, from the inevitable course
of human affairs, which, however they may fluctuate, are uniformly
determined at length by the interest of the parties concerned.

Such was the principle assumed by many great statesmen, whose sagacity
was unhappily baffled by the event. In fact, it was calculating upon the
actions and personal exertions of a raving madman, as if he had been
under the regulation of his senses, and acting upon principles of
self-regard and self-preservation. France continued not only to subsist,
but to be victorious, without a government, unless the revolutionary
committees and Jacobin clubs could be accounted such--for the Convention
was sunk into a mere engine of that party, and sanctioned whatever they
proposed; without religion, which, as we shall see, they formally
abolished; without municipal laws or rights, except that any one of the
ruling party might do what mischief he would, while citizens, less
distinguished for patriotism, were subjected, for any cause, or no
cause, to loss of liberty, property, and life itself; without military
discipline, for officers might be dragged from their regiments, and
generals from their armies, on the information of their own soldiers;
without revenues of state, for the depression of the assignats was
extreme; without laws, for there were no ordinary tribunals left to
appeal to; without colonies, ships, manufactories, or commerce; without
fine arts, any more than those which were useful;--in short, France
continued to subsist, and to achieve victories, although apparently
forsaken of God, and deprived of all the ordinary resources of human

The whole system of society, indeed, seemed only to retain some
appearances of cohesion from mere habit, the same which makes trained
horses draw up in something like order, even without their riders, if
the trumpet is sounded. And yet in foreign wars, notwithstanding the
deplorable state of the interior, the Republic was not only
occasionally, but permanently and triumphantly victorious. She was like
the champion in Berni's romance, who was so delicately sliced asunder by
one of the Paladins, that he went on fighting, and slew other warriors,
without discovering for a length of time that he was himself killed.

All this extraordinary energy, was, in one word, the effect of TERROR.
Death--a grave--are sounds which awaken the strongest efforts in those
whom they menace. There was never anywhere, save in France during this
melancholy period, so awful a comment on the expression of Scripture,
"All that a man hath will he give for his life." Force, immediate and
irresistible force, was the only logic used by the government--Death was
the only appeal from their authority--the Guillotine[439] the all
sufficing argument, which settled each debate betwixt them and the

Was the exchequer low, the Guillotine filled it with the effects of the
wealthy, who were judged aristocratical, in exact proportion to the
extent of their property. Were these supplies insufficient, diminished
as they were by peculation ere they reached the public coffers, the
assignats remained, which might be multiplied to any quantity. Did the
paper medium of circulation fall in the market to fifty under the
hundred, the Guillotine was ready to punish those who refused to
exchange it at par. A few examples of such jobbers in the public funds
made men glad to give one hundred franks for state money, which they
knew to be worth no more than fifty. Was bread awanting, corn was to be
found by the same compendious means, and distributed among the
Parisians, as among the ancient citizens of Rome, at a regulated price.
The Guillotine was a key to storehouses, barns, and granaries.

Did the army want recruits, the Guillotine was ready to exterminate all
conscripts who should hesitate to march. On the generals of the
Republican army, this decisive argument, which, _à priori_, might have
been deemed less applicable, in all its rigour, to them than to others,
was possessed of the most exclusive authority. They were beheaded for
want of success, which may seem less different from the common course of
affairs;[440] but they were also guillotined when their successes were
not improved to the full expectations of their masters.[441] Nay, they
were guillotined, when, being too successful, they were suspected of
having acquired over the soldiers who had conquered under them, an
interest dangerous to those who had the command of this all-sufficing
reason of state.[442] Even mere mediocrity, and a limited but regular
discharge of duty, neither so brilliant as to incur jealousy, nor so
important as to draw down censure, was no protection.[443] There was no
rallying point against this universal, and very simple system--of main

The Vendéans, who tried the open and manly mode of generous and direct
resistance, were, as we have seen, finally destroyed, leaving a name
which will live for ages. The commercial towns, which, upon a scale more
modified, also tried their strength with the revolutionary torrent, were
successively overpowered. One can, therefore, be no more surprised that
the rest of the nation gave way to predominant force, than we are daily
at seeing a herd of strong and able-bodied cattle driven to the shambles
before one or two butchers, and as many bull-dogs. As the victims
approach the slaughter-house, and smell the blood of those which have
suffered the fate to which they are destined, they may be often observed
to hesitate, start, roar, and bellow, and intimate their dread of the
fatal spot, and instinctive desire to escape from it; but the cudgels of
their drivers, and the fangs of the mastiffs, seldom fail to compel
them forward, slavering, and snorting, and trembling, to the destiny
which awaits them.

The power of exercising this tremendous authority over a terrified
nation, was vested in few hands, and rested on a very simple basis.

The Convention had, after the fall of the Girondists, remained an empty
show of what it had once some title to call itself,--the Representative
Body of the French Nation. The members belonging to The Plain, who had
observed a timid neutrality betwixt The Mountain and the Girondists, if
not without talent, were without courage to make any opposition to the
former when triumphant. They crouched to their fate, were glad to escape
in silence, and to yield full passage to the revolutionary torrent. They
consoled themselves with the usual apology of weak minds--that they
submitted to what they could not prevent; and their adversaries, while
despising them, were yet tolerant of their presence, and somewhat
indulgent to their scruples, because, while these timid neutrals
remained in their ranks, they furnished to the eye at least the
appearance of a full senate, filled the ranks of the representative body
as a garment is stuffed out to the required size by buckram, and
countenanced by their passive acquiescence the measures which they most
detested in their hearts. It was worth the while of The Mountain to
endure the imbecility of such associates, and even to permit
occasionally some diffident opposition on their part, had it only been
to preserve appearances, and afford a show of a free assembly debating
on the affairs of the nation. Thus, although the name of the National
Convention was generally used, its deputies, carefully selected from the
Jacobin or ruling party, were every where acting in their name, with all
the authority of Roman proconsuls; while two-thirds of the body sate
with submitted necks and padlocked lips, unresisting slaves to the minor
proportion, which again, under its various fierce leaders, was beginning
to wage a civil war within its own limited circle.

But the young reader, to whom this eventful history is a novelty, may
ask in what hands was the real power of the government lodged, of which
the Convention, considered as a body, was thus effectually deprived,
though permitted to retain, like the apparition in Macbeth,--

        "upon its baby brow the round
    And type of sovereignty?"

France had, indeed, in 1792, accepted, with the usual solemnities, a new
constitution, which was stated to rest on the right republican basis,
and was, of course, alleged to afford the most perfect and absolute
security for liberty and equality, that the nation could desire. But
this constitution was entirely superseded in practice by the more
compendious mode of governing by means of a junto, selected out of the
Convention itself, without observing any farther ceremony. In fact, two
small Committees vested with the full authority of the state, exercised
the powers of a dictatorship; while the representatives of the people,
like the senate under the Roman empire, retained the form and semblance
of supreme sway, might keep their curule chairs, and enjoy the dignity
of fasces and lictors, but had in their possession and exercise scarcely
the independent powers of an English vestry, or quarter-sessions.

The Committee of Public Safety dictated every measure of the Convention,
or more frequently acted without deigning to consult the legislative
body at all. The number of members who exercised this executive
government fluctuated betwixt ten and twelve; and, as they were all
chosen Jacobins, and selected as men capable of going all the lengths of
their party, care was taken, by re-elections from time to time, to
render the situation permanent. This body deliberated in secret, and had
the despotic right of interfering with and controlling every other
authority in the state; and before its absolute powers, and the uses
which were made of them, the Council of Ten of the Venetian government
sunk into a harmless and liberal institution. Another committee, with
powers of the same revolutionary nature, and in which the members were
also renewed from time to time, was that of Public Security. It was
inferior in importance to that of Public Safety, but was nevertheless as
active within its sphere. We regret to record of a man of genius, that
David, the celebrated painter,[444] held a seat in the Committee of
Public Security. The fine arts, which he studied, had not produced on
his mind the softening and humanizing effect ascribed to them.
Frightfully ugly in his exterior, his mind seemed to correspond with the
harshness of his looks. "Let us grind enough of the Red," was the
professional phrase of which he made use, when sitting down to the
bloody work of the day.

That these revolutionary committees might have in their hands a power
subject to no legal defence or evasion on the part of the accused,
Merlin of Douay, a lawyer, it is said, of eminence, framed what was
termed the law against suspected persons, which was worded with so much
ingenuity, that not only it enveloped every one who, by birth,
friendship, habits of life, dependencies, or other ties, was linked,
however distantly, with aristocracy, whether of birth or property, but
also all who had, in the various changes and phases of the Revolution,
taken one step too few in the career of the most violent patriotism, or
had, though it were but for one misguided and doubtful moment, held
opinions short of the most extravagant Jacobinism. This crime of
suspicion was of the nature of the cameleon; it derived its peculiar
shade or colour from the person to whom it attached for the moment. To
have been a priest, or even an assertor of the rights and doctrines of
Christianity, was fatal; but in some instances, an overflow of
atheistical blasphemy was equally so. To be silent on public affairs,
betrayed a culpable indifference; but it incurred darker suspicion to
speak of them otherwise than in the most violent tone of the ruling
party. By a supplementary law, this spider's web was so widely extended,
that it appeared no fly could be found insignificant enough to escape
its meshes. Its general propositions were of a nature so vague, that it
was impossible they could ever be made subjects of evidence. Therefore
they were assumed without proof; and at length, definition of the
characteristics of suspicion seems to have been altogether dispensed
with, and all those were suspected persons whom the revolutionary
committees and their assistants chose to hold as such.

The operation of this law was terrible. A suspected person, besides
being thrown into prison, was deprived of all his rights, his effects
sealed up, his property placed under care of the state, and he himself
considered as civilly dead. If the unfortunate object of suspicion had
the good fortune to be set at liberty, it was no security whatever
against his being again arrested on the day following. There was,
indeed, no end to the various shades of sophistry which brought almost
every kind of person under this oppressive law, so ample was its scope,
and undefined its objects.

That the administrators of this law of suspicion might not have too much
trouble in seeking for victims, all householders were obliged to publish
on the outside of their doors a list of the names and description of
their inmates. Domestic security, the most precious of all rights to a
people who know what freedom really is, was violated on every occasion,
even the slightest, by domiciliary visits. The number of arrests which
took place through France, choked the prisons anew which had been so
fearfully emptied on the 2d and 3d of September, and is said to have
been only moderately computed at three hundred thousand souls, one-third
of whom were women. The Jacobins, however, found a mode of jail-delivery
less summary than by direct massacre; although differing so little from
it in every other respect, that a victim might have had pretty nearly
the same chance of a fair trial before Maillard and his men of
September, as from the Revolutionary Tribunal. It requires an effort
even to write that word, from the extremities of guilt and horror which
it recalls. But it is the lot of humanity to record its own greatest
disgraces; and it is a wholesome and humbling lesson to exhibit a just
picture of those excesses, of which, in its unassisted movements, and
when agitated by evil and misguided passions, human nature can be
rendered capable.


The extraordinary criminal court, better known by the name of the
Revolutionary Tribunal, was first instituted upon the motion of Danton.
Its object was to judge of state crimes, plots, and attempts against
liberty, or in favour of royalty, or affecting the rights and liberty
of man, or in any way, more or less, tending to counteract the progress
of the Revolution. In short, it was the business of this court to
execute the laws, or inflict the sentence rather, upon such as had been
arrested as suspected persons; and they generally saw room to punish in
most of the instances where the arresting functionaries had seen ground
for imprisonment.

This frightful court consisted of six judges or public accusers, and two
assistants. There were twelve jurymen; but the appointment of these was
a mere mockery. They were official persons, who held permanent
appointments; had a salary from the state; and were in no manner liable
to the choice or challenge of the party tried. Jurors and judges were
selected for their Republican zeal and steady qualities, and were
capable of seeing no obstacle either of law or humanity in the path of
their duty. This tribunal had the power of deciding without proof,--or
cutting short evidence when in the progress of being adduced,--or
stopping the defence of the prisoners at pleasure; privileges which
tended greatly to shorten the forms of court, and aid the despatch of

The Revolutionary Tribunal was in a short time so overwhelmed with work,
that it became necessary to divide it into four sections, all armed with
similar powers. The quantity of blood which it caused to be shed was
something unheard of, even during the proscriptions of the Roman Empire;
and there were involved in its sentences crimes the most different,
personages the most opposed, and opinions the most dissimilar. When
Henry VIII. roused the fires of Smithfield both against Protestant and
Papist, burning at the same stake one wretch for denying the King's
supremacy, and another for disbelieving the divine presence in the
Eucharist, the association was consistency itself, compared to the
scenes presented at the Revolutionary tribunal, in which Royalist,
Constitutionalist, Girondist, Churchman, Theophilanthropist, Noble and
Roturier, Prince and Peasant, both sexes and all ages, were involved in
one general massacre, and sent to execution by scores together, and on
the same sledge.

Supporting by their numerous associations the government as exercised by
the Revolutionary Committees, came the mass of Jacobins, who, divided
into a thousand clubs, emanating from that which had its meetings at
Paris, formed the strength of the party to which they gave the name.

The sole principle of the Jacobinical institutions was to excite against
all persons who had any thing to lose, the passions of those who
possessed no property, and were, by birth and circumstances, brutally
ignorant, and envious of the advantages enjoyed by the higher classes.
All other governments have made individual property the object of
countenance and protection; but in this strangely inverted state of
things, it seemed the object of constant suspicion and persecution, and
exposed the owner to perpetual danger. We have elsewhere said that
Equality (unless in the no less intelligible than sacred sense of equal
submission to the law) is a mere chimera, which can no more exist with
respect to property, than in regard to mental qualifications, or
personal strength, beauty, or stature. Divide the whole property of a
country equally among its inhabitants, and a week will bring back the
inequality which you have endeavoured to remove; nay, a much shorter
space will find the industrious and saving richer than the idle and
prodigal. But in France, at the period under discussion, this equality,
in itself so unattainable, had completely superseded even the principle
of liberty, as a watch-word for exciting the people. It was to sin
against this leading principle to be possessed of, and more especially
to enjoy ostentatiously, any thing which was wanting to your neighbour.
To be richer, more accomplished, better bred, or better taught,
subjected you to the law of suspicion, and you were conducted instantly
before a Revolutionary Committee, where you were probably convicted of
incivism; not for interfering with the liberty and property of others,
but for making what use you pleased of your own.

The whole of the terrible mystery is included in two regulations,
communicated by the Jacobin Club of Paris to the Committee of Public
Safety.--1. That when, by the machinations of opulent persons, seditions
should arise in any district, it should be declared in a state of
rebellion.--2. That the Convention shall avail themselves of such
opportunity _to excite the poor to make war on the rich_, and to restore
order at any price whatever.--This was so much understood, that one of
the persons tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal, when asked what he had
to say in his defence, answered,--"I am wealthy--what avails it to me to
offer any exculpation when such is my offence?"


The committees of government distributed large sums of money to the
Jacobin Club and its affiliated societies, as being necessary to the
propagation of sound political principles. The clubs themselves took
upon them in every village the exercise of the powers of government; and
while they sat swearing, drinking, and smoking, examined passports,
imprisoned citizens, and enforced to their full extent the benefits of
liberty and equality. "Death or Fraternity" was usually inscribed over
their place of assembly; which some one translated,--"Become my brother,
or I will kill thee."

These clubs were composed of members drawn from the lees of the people,
that they might not, in their own persons, give an example contradicting
the equality which it was their business to enforce. They were filled
with men without resources or talents, but towards whom the confidence
of the deceived people was directed, from the conviction that, because
taken from among themselves, they would have the interest of the lower
orders constantly in view. Their secretaries, however, were generally
selected with some attention to alertness of capacity; for on them
depended the terrible combination which extended from the mother society
of Jacobins in Paris, down into the most remote villages of the most
distant provinces, in which the same tyranny was maintained by the
influence of similar means. Thus rumours could be either circulated or
collected with a speed and uniformity, which enabled a whisper from
Robespierre to regulate the sentiments of the Jacobins at the most
distant part of his empire; for his it unquestionably was, for the space
of two dreadful years.

France had been subjected to many evils ere circumstances had for a time
reduced her to this state of passive obedience to a yoke, which, after
all, when its strength was fairly tried, proved as brittle as it was
intolerable. Those who witnessed the tragedies which then occurred, look
back upon that period as the delirium of a national fever, filled with
visions too horrible and painful for recollection, and which, being once
wiped from the mind, we recall with difficulty and reluctance, and dwell
upon with disgust. A long course of events, tending each successively to
disorganize society more and more, had unhappily prevented a brave,
generous, and accomplished people from combining together in mutual
defence. The emigration and forfeiture of the nobles and clergy had
deprived the country at once of those higher classes, that right-hand
file, who are bred up to hold their lives light if called on to lay them
down for religion, or in defence of the rights of their country, or the
principles of their own honour or conscience. Whatever may be thought of
the wisdom or necessity of emigration, its evils were the same. A
high-spirited and generous race of gentry, accustomed to consider
themselves as peculiar depositaries of the national honour--a learned
and numerous priesthood, the guardians of religious opinion--had been
removed from their place, and society was so much the more weak and more
ignorant for the want of them. Whether voluntarily abandoning or
forcibly driven from the country, the expulsion of so large a mass,
belonging entirely to the higher orders, tended instantly to destroy the
balance of society, and to throw all power into the hands of the lower
class; who, deceived by bad and artful men, abused it to the frightful
excess we have described.

We do not mean to say, that the emigrants had carried with them beyond
the frontiers all the worth and courage of the better classes in France,
or that there were not, among men attached to the cause of liberty, many
who would have shed their blood to have prevented its abuse. But these
had been, unhappily, during the progress of the Revolution, divided and
subdivided among themselves, were split up into a variety of broken and
demolished parties which had repeatedly suffered proscription; and,
what was worse, sustained it from the hand of each other. The
Constitutionalist could not safely join in league with the Royalist, or
either with the Girondist; and thus there existed no confidence on which
a union could be effected, among materials repulsive of each other.
There extended, besides, through France, far and near, that sorrow and
sinking of the heart, which prevails amid great national calamities,
where there is little hope. The state of oppression was so universal,
that no one strove to remedy its evils, more than they would have
struggled to remedy the _malaria_ of an infected country. Those who
escaped the disorder contented themselves with their individual safety,
without thinking of the general evil, as one which human art could
remedy, or human courage resist.

Moreover, the Jacobinical rulers had surrounded themselves with such a
system of espionage and delation, that the attempt to organize any
resistance to their power, would have been in fact, to fall inevitably
and fatally under their tyranny. If the bold conspirator against this
most infernal authority did not bestow his confidence on a false friend
or a concealed emissary of the Jacobin party, he was scarce the safer on
that account; for if he breathed forth in the most friendly ear any
thing tending to reflect on the free, happy, and humane government under
which he had the happiness to live, his hearer was bound, equally as a
hired spy, to carry the purport of the conversation to the constituted
authorities--that is, to the Revolutionary Committees or Republican
Commissioners; and above all, to the Committee of Public Safety. Silence
on public affairs, and acquiescence in democratic tyranny, became,
therefore, matter of little wonder; for men will be long mute, when to
indulge the tongue may endanger the head. And thus, in the kingdom which
boasts herself most civilized in Europe, and with all that ardour for
liberty which seemed but of late to animate every bosom, the general
apathy of terror and astonishment, joined to a want of all power of
combination, palsied every effort at resistance. They who make national
reflections on the French for remaining passive under circumstances so
hopeless, should first reflect, that our disposition to prevent or
punish crime, and our supposed readiness to resist oppression, have
their foundation in a strong confidence in the laws, and in the
immediate support which they are sure to receive from the numerous
classes who have been trained up to respect them, as protectors of the
rich equally and of the poor. But in France, the whole system of the
administration of justice was in the hands of brutal force; and it is
one thing to join in the hue and cry against a murderer, seconded by the
willing assistance of a whole population--another to venture upon
withstanding him in his den, he at the head of his banditti, the
assailant defenceless, excepting in the justice of his cause.


It has further been a natural subject of wonder, not only that the
richer and better classes, the avowed objects of Jacobin persecution,
were so passively resigned to this frightful tyranny, but also why the
French populace, whose general manners are so civilized and so kindly,
that they are, on ordinary occasions, the gayest and best humoured
people in Europe, should have so far changed their character as to
delight in cruelty, or at least to look on, without expressing disgust,
at cruelties perpetrated in their name.

But the state of a people in ordinary times and peaceful occupations, is
in every country totally different from the character which they
manifest under strong circumstances of excitation. Rousseau says, that
no one who sees the ordinary greyhound, the most sportive, gentle, and
timid perhaps of the canine race, can form an idea of the same animal
pursuing and strangling its screaming and helpless victim. Something of
this sort must plead the apology of the French people in the early
excesses of the Revolution; and we must remember, that men collected in
crowds, and influenced with a sense of wrongs, whether real or
imaginary, are acted upon by the enthusiasm of the moment, and are,
besides, in a state of such general and undistinguishing fury, that they
adopt, by joining in the clamours and general shouts, deeds of which
they hardly witness the import, and which perhaps not one of the
assembled multitude out of a thousand would countenance, were that
import distinctly felt and known. In the revolutionary massacres and
cruelties, there was always an executive power, consisting of a few
well-breathed and thorough-paced ruffians, whose hands perpetrated the
actions, to which the ignorant vulgar only lent their acclamations.

This species of assentation became less wonderful when instant
slaughter, without even the ceremony of inquiry, had been exchanged for
some forms, however flimsy and unsubstantial, of regular trial,
condemnation, and execution. These served for a time to satisfy the
public mind. The populace saw men dragged to the guillotine, convicted
of criminal attempts, as they were informed, against the liberty of the
people; and they shouted as at the punishment of their own immediate

But as the work of death proceeded daily, the people became softened as
their passions abated; and the frequency of such sacrifices having
removed the odious interest which for a while attended them, the lower
classes, whom Robespierre desired most to conciliate, looked on, first
with indifference, but afterwards with shame and disgust, and at last
with the wish to put an end to cruelties, which even the most ignorant
and prejudiced began to regard in their own true, undisguised light.

Yet the operation of these universal feelings was long delayed. To
support the Reign of Terror, the revolutionary committees had their own
guards and executioners, without whom they could not have long withstood
the general abhorrence of mankind. All official situations were
scrupulously and religiously filled up by individuals chosen from the
Sans-Culottes, who had rendered themselves, by their zeal, worthy of
that honourable appellation. Were they of little note, they were
employed in the various capacities of guards, officers, and jailors, for
which the times created an unwearied demand. Did they hold places in the
Convention, they were frequently despatched upon commissions to
different parts of France, to give new edge to the guillotine, and
superintend in person the punishment of conspiracy or rebellion, real or
supposed. Such commissioners or proconsuls, as they were frequently
termed, being vested with unlimited power, and fresh in its exercise,
signalized themselves by their cruelty, even more than the tyrants whose
will they discharged.

We may quote in illustration, a remarkable passage in an address, by the
Commissioners of Public Safety, to the representatives absent upon
commissions, in which there occur some gentle remarks on their having
extended capital punishment to cases where it was not provided by law,
although the lustre of their services to the Republic far outshone the
shade of such occasional peccadiloes. For their future direction they
are thus exhorted. "Let your energy awaken anew as the term of your
labour approaches. The Convention charges you to complete the
purification and reorganization of the constituted authorities with the
least possible delay, and to report the conclusion of these two
operations before the end of the next month. A simple measure may effect
the desired purification. _Convoke the people in the popular
societies--Let the public functionaries appear before them--Interrogate
the people on the subject of their conduct, and let their judgment
dictate yours._"[446] Thus the wildest prejudices arising in the Jacobin
Club, consisting of the lowest, most ignorant, most prejudiced, and
often most malicious members in society, were received as evidence, and
the populace declared masters, at their own pleasure, of the property,
honour, and life of those who had held any brief authority over them.

Where there had occurred any positive rising or resistance, the duty of
the commissioners was extended by all the powers that martial law, in
other words, the rule of superior force, could confer. We have mentioned
the murders committed at Lyons; but even these, though hundreds were
swept away by volleys of musket-shot, fell short of the horrors
perpetrated by Carrier at Nantes,[447] who, in avenging the Republic on
the obstinate resistance of La Vendée, might have summoned hell to
match his cruelty, without a demon venturing to answer his challenge.
Hundreds, men, women, and children, were forced on board of vessels
which were scuttled and sunk in the Loire, and this was called
Republican Baptism. Men and women were stripped, bound together, and
thus thrown into the river, and this was called Republican
Marriage.[448] But we have said enough to show that men's blood seems to
have been converted into poison, and their hearts into stone, by the
practices in which they were daily engaged. Many affected even a lust of
cruelty, and the instrument of punishment was talked of with the
fondness and gaiety with which we speak of a beloved and fondled object.
It had its pet name of "the Little National Window," and others equally
expressive; and although saints were not much in fashion, was, in some
degree canonized by the name of "the Holy Mother Guillotine."[449] That
active citizen, the executioner, had also his honours, as well as the
senseless machine which he directed. This official was admitted to the
society of some of the more emphatic patriots, and, as we shall
afterwards see, shared in their civic festivities. It may be questioned
whether even _his_ company was not too good for the patrons who thus
regaled him.


There was also an armed force raised among the most thorough-paced and
hardened satellites of the lower order, termed by pre-eminence "the
Revolutionary Army." They were under the command of Ronsin, a general
every way worthy of such soldiers.[450] These troops were produced on
all occasions, when it was necessary to intimidate the metropolis and
the national guard. They were at the more immediate disposal of the
Commune of Paris, and were a ready, though not a great force, which
always could be produced at a moment's notice, and were generally joined
by the more active democrats, in the capacity of a Jacobin militia. In
their own ranks they mustered six thousand men.

It is worthy of remark, that some of the persons whose agency was
distinguished during this disgraceful period, and whose hands were
deeply dyed in the blood so unrelentingly shed, under whatever frenzy of
brain, or state of a generally maddening impulse they may have acted,
nevertheless made amends, in their after conduct, for their enormities
then committed. This was the case with Tallien, with Barras, with
Fouché, Legendre, and others, who, neither good nor scrupulous men, were
yet, upon many subsequent occasions, much more humane and moderate than
could have been expected from their early acquaintance with
revolutionary horrors. They resembled disbanded soldiers, who, returned
to their native homes, often resume so entirely the habits of earlier
life, that they seem to have forgotten the wild, and perhaps sanguinary
character of their military career. We cannot, indeed, pay any of these
reformed Jacobins the compliment ascribed to Octavius by the Romans, who
found a blessing in the emperor's benevolent government, which
compensated the injuries inflicted by the triumvir. But it is certain
that, had it not been for the courage of Tallien and Barras in
particular, it might have been much longer ere the French had been able
to rid themselves of Robespierre, and that the revolution of 9th
Thermidor, as they called the memorable day of his fall, was, in a great
measure, brought about by the remorse or jealousy of the dictator's old
comrades. But, ere we arrive at that more auspicious point of our story,
we have to consider the train of causes which led to the downfall of

Periods which display great national failings or vices, are those also
which bring to light distinguished and redeeming virtues. France
unfortunately, during the years 1793 and 1794, exhibited instances of
extreme cruelty, in principle and practice, which make the human blood
curdle. She may also be censured for a certain abasement of spirit, for
sinking so long unresistingly under a yoke so unnaturally horrible. But
she has to boast that, during this fearful period, she can produce as
many instances of the most high and honourable fidelity, of the most
courageous and devoted humanity, as honour the annals of any country

The cruelty of the laws denounced the highest penalties against those
who relieved proscribed fugitives. These were executed with the most
merciless rigour. Madame Boucquey and her husband were put to death at
Bourdeaux for affording shelter to the members of the Gironde faction;
and the interdiction of fire and water to outlawed persons, of whatever
description, was enforced with the heaviest penalty. Yet, not only among
the better classes, but among the poorest of the poor, were there men of
noble minds found, who, having but half a morsel to support their own
family, divided it willingly with some wretched fugitive, though death
stood ready to reward their charity.

In some cases, fidelity and devotion aided the suggestions of humanity.
Among domestic servants, a race whose virtues should be the more
esteemed, that they are practised sometimes in defiance of strong
temptation, were found many distinguished instances of unshaken
fidelity. Indeed, it must be said, to the honour of the French manners,
that the master and his servant live on a footing of much more
kindliness than attends the same relation in other countries, and
especially in Britain. Even in the most trying situations, there were
not many instances of domestic treason, and many a master owed his life
to the attachment and fidelity of a menial. The feelings of religion
sheltered others. The recusant and exiled priests often found among
their former flock the means of concealment and existence, when it was
death to administer them. Often this must have flowed from grateful
recollection of their former religious services--sometimes from
unmingled veneration for the Being whose ministers they professed
themselves.[451] Nothing short of such heroic exertions, which were
numerous, (and especially in the class where individuals, hard pressed
on account of their own wants, are often rendered callous to the
distress of others,) could have prevented France, during this horrible
period, from becoming a universal charnel-house, and her history an
unvaried calendar of murder.


[439] The Convention having, by a decree of the 17th March, 1792, come
to the determination to substitute decapitation for hanging, this
instrument was adopted, on the proposition of Dr. Guillotin, an eminent
physician of Paris; who regretted to the hour of his death, in 1814,
that his name should have been thus associated with the instrument of so
many horrors. He had devised it with a view to humanity.

[440] The fate of Custine illustrates this,--a general who had done much
for the Republic, and who, when his fortune began to fail him, excused
himself by saying, "Fortune was a woman, and his hairs were growing
grey."--S.--He was guillotined in August, 1793.

[441] Witness Houchard, who performed the distinguished service of
raising the siege of Dunkirk, and who, during his trial, could be hardly
made to understand that he was to suffer for not carrying his victory
still farther.--S.--Guillotined, Nov., 1793.

[442] Several generals of reputation sustained capital punishment, from
no other reason than the jealousy of the committees of their influence
with the army.--S.

[443] Luckner, an old German thick-headed soldier, who was of no party,
and scrupulously obeyed the command of whichever was uppermost at Paris,
had no better fate than others.--S.--He was guillotined in Nov., 1793.

[444] David is generally allowed to have possessed great merit as a
draughtsman. Foreigners do not admire his composition and colouring, so
much as his countrymen.--S.

[445] Thiers, tom. iv., p. 6; Mignet, tom. i., p. 248.

[446] Moniteur, No. 995, 25th December, 1793.--S.

[447] Carrier was born at Yolay, near Aurillac, in 1756, and, previous
to the Revolution, was an attorney. During his mission to Nantes, not
less than thirty-two thousand human beings were destroyed by _noyades_
and _fusillades_, and by the horrors of crowded and infected prisons.
Being accused by Merlin de Thionville, Carnot, and others, he declared
to the Convention, 23d November, 1794, that by trying him it would ruin
itself, and that if all the crimes committed in its name were to be
punished, "not even the little bell of the president was free from
guilt." He was convicted of having had children of thirteen and fourteen
years old shot, and of having ordered drownings, and this with
counter-revolutionary intentions. He ascended the scaffold with firmness
and said, "I die a victim and innocent: I only executed the orders of
the committees."

[448] See Montgaillard, tom. iv., p. 42; Toulongeon, tom. v., p. 120;
Thiers, tom. vi., p. 373; Lacretelle, tom. xii., p. 165; Vie et Crimes
de Carrier, par Gracchus Babœuf; Dénonciation des Crimes de Carrier,
par Philippes Tronjolly; Procès de Carrier; Bulletin du Tribunal
Révolutionnaire de Nantes.

[449] Lacretelle, tom. xi., p. 309. "In 1793, a bookseller, (a _pure_
Royalist in 1814,) had this inscription painted over his shop door, 'A
Notre Dame de la Guillotine.'"--MONTGAILLARD, tom. iv., p. 189.

[450] Ronsin was born at Soissons in 1752. He figured in the early
scenes of the Revolution, and in 1789, brought out, at one of the minor
Paris theatres, a tragedy called "La Ligue des Fanatiques et des
Tyrans," which, though despicable in point of style, had a considerable
run. Being denounced by Robespierre, he was guillotined, March 24, 1794.
His dramatic pieces have been published under the title of "Théâtre de

[451] Strangers are forcibly affected by the trifling incidents which
sometimes recall the memory of those fearful times. A venerable French
ecclesiastic being on a visit at a gentleman's house in North Britain,
it was remarked by the family, that a favourite cat, rather wild and
capricious in its habits, paid particular attention to their guest. It
was explained, by the priest giving an account of his lurking in the
waste garret, or lumber-room, of an artisan's house, for several weeks.
In this condition, he had no better amusement than to study the manners
and habits of the cats which frequented his place of retreat, and
acquire the mode of conciliating their favour. The difficulty of
supplying him with food, without attracting suspicion, was extreme, and
it could only be placed near his place of concealment, in small
quantities, and at uncertain times. Men, women, and children knew of his
being in that place; there were rewards to be gained by discovery, life
to be lost by persevering in concealing him; yet he was faithfully
preserved, to try upon a Scottish cat, after the restoration of the
Monarchy, the arts which he had learned in his miserable place of
shelter during the Reign of Terror. The history of the time abounds with
similar instances.


    _Marat, Danton, Robespierre--Marat poniarded--Danton and
    Robespierre become Rivals--Commune of Paris--their gross
    Irreligion--Gobel--Goddess of Reason--Marriage reduced to a
    Civil Contract--Views of Danton--and of Robespierre--Principal
    Leaders of the Commune arrested--and Nineteen of them
    executed--Danton arrested by the Influence of Robespierre--and,
    along with Camille Desmoulins, Westermann, and La Croix, taken
    before the Revolutionary Tribunal, condemned, and
    executed--Decree issued, on the motion of Robespierre,
    acknowledging a Supreme Being--Cécilée Regnault--Gradual Change
    in the Public Mind--Robespierre becomes unpopular--Makes every
    effort to retrieve his power--Stormy Debate in the
    Convention--Collot D'Herbois, Tallien, &c., expelled from the
    Jacobin Club at the instigation of Robespierre--Robespierre
    denounced in the Convention on the 9th Thermidor, (27th July,
    1794,) and, after furious struggles, arrested, along with his
    brother, Couthon, and Saint Just--Henriot, Commandant of the
    National Guard, arrested--Terrorists take refuge in the Hôtel de
    Ville--Attempt their own lives--Robespierre wounds himself--but
    lives, along with most of the others, long enough to be carried
    to the Guillotine, and executed--His character--Struggles that
    followed his Fate--Final Destruction of the Jacobinical
    System--and return of Tranquillity--Singular colour given to
    Society in Paris--Ball of the Victims._

The reader need not be reminded, that the three distinguished champions
who assumed the front in the Jacobin ranks, were Marat, Danton, and
Robespierre. The first was poniarded by Charlotte Corday[452] an
enthusiastic young person, who had nourished, in a feeling betwixt
lunacy and heroism, the ambition of ridding the world of a tyrant.[453]
Danton and Robespierre, reduced to a Duumvirate, might have divided the
power betwixt them. But Danton, far the more able and powerful-minded
man, could not resist temptations to plunder and to revel; and
Robespierre, who took care to preserve proof of his rival's peculations,
a crime of a peculiarly unpopular character, and from which he seemed to
keep his own hands pure, possessed thereby the power of ruining him
whenever he should find it convenient. Danton married a beautiful woman,
became a candidate for domestic happiness, withdrew himself for some
time from state affairs, and quitted the stern and menacing attitude
which he had presented to the public during the earlier stages of the
Revolution. Still his ascendency, especially in the Club of Cordeliers,
was formidable enough to command Robespierre's constant attention, and
keep awake his envy, which was like the worm that dieth not, though it
did not draw down any indication of his immediate and active vengeance.
A power, kindred also in crime, but more within his reach for the
moment, was first to be demolished, ere Robespierre was to measure
strength with his great rival.


This third party consisted of those who had possessed themselves of
official situations in the Commune of Paris, whose civic authority, and
the implement which they commanded in the Revolutionary army, commanded
by Ronsin, gave them the power of marching, at a moment's warning, upon
the Convention, or even against the Jacobin Club. It is true, these men,
of whom Hébert, Chaumette, and others, were leaders, had never shown the
least diffidence of Robespierre, but, on the contrary, had used all
means to propitiate his favour. But the man whom a tyrant fears,
becomes, with little farther provocation, the object of his mortal
enmity. Robespierre watched, therefore, with vigilance, the occasion of
overreaching and destroying this party, whose power he dreaded; and,
singular to tell, he sought the means of accomplishing their ruin in the
very extravagance of their revolutionary zeal, which shortly before he
might have envied, as pushed farther than his own. But Robespierre did
not want sense; and he saw with pleasure Hébert, Chaumette, and their
followers, run into such inordinate extravagances, as he thought might
render his own interference desirable, even to those who most disliked
his principles, most abhorred the paths by which he had climbed to
power, and most feared the use which he made of it.

It was through the subject of religion that this means of ruining his
opponents, as he hoped, arose. A subject, which one would have thought
so indifferent to either, came to be on both sides the occasion of
quarrel between the Commune of Paris and the Jacobin leader. But there
is a fanaticism of atheism, as well as of superstitious belief; and a
philosopher can harbour and express as much malice against those who
persevere in believing what he is pleased to denounce as unworthy of
credence, as an ignorant and bigoted priest can bear against a man who
cannot yield faith to dogmata which he thinks insufficiently proved.
Accordingly, the throne being wholly annihilated, it appeared to the
philosophers of the school of Hébert,[454] that, in totally destroying
such vestiges of religion and public worship as were still retained by
the people of France, there was room for a splendid triumph of liberal
opinions. It was not enough, they said, for a regenerate nation to have
dethroned earthly kings, unless she stretched out the arm of defiance
towards those powers which superstition had represented as reigning over
boundless space.[455]

An unhappy man, named Gobel, constitutional bishop of Paris, was brought
forward to play the principal part in the most impudent and scandalous
farce ever acted in the face of a national representation.

It is said that the leaders of the scene had some difficulty in inducing
the bishop to comply with the task assigned him; which, after all, he
executed, not without present tears and subsequent remorse.[456] But he
did play the part prescribed. He was brought forward in full procession,
[Nov. 7,] to declare to the Convention, that the religion which he had
taught so many years, was, in every respect, a piece of priestcraft,
which had no foundation either in history or sacred truth. He disowned,
in solemn and explicit terms, the existence of the Deity to whose
worship he had been consecrated, and devoted himself in future to the
homage of Liberty, Equality, Virtue, and Morality. He then laid on the
table his Episcopal decorations, and received a fraternal embrace from
the president of the Convention.[457] Several apostate priests followed
the example of this prelate.[458]

The gold and silver plate of the churches was seized upon and
desecrated; processions entered the Convention, travestied in priestly
garments, and singing the most profane hymns; while many of the chalices
and sacred vessels were applied by Chaumette and Hébert to the
celebration of their own impious orgies. The world, for the first time,
heard an assembly of men, born and educated in civilisation, and
assuming the right to govern one of the finest of the European nations,
uplift their united voice to deny the most solemn truth which man's soul
receives, and renounce unanimously the belief and worship of a Deity.
For a short time, the same mad profanity continued to be acted upon.


One of the ceremonies of this insane time stands unrivalled for
absurdity, combined with impiety. The doors of the Convention [Nov. 10]
were thrown open to a band of musicians; preceded by whom, the members
of the municipal body entered in solemn procession, singing a hymn in
praise of liberty, and escorting, as the object of their future worship,
a veiled female, whom they termed the Goddess of Reason. Being brought
within the bar, she was unveiled with great form, and placed on the
right hand of the president; when she was generally recognised as a
dancing-girl of the Opera,[459] with whose charms most of the persons
present were acquainted from her appearance on the stage, while the
experience of individuals was farther extended. To this person, as the
fittest representative of that Reason whom they worshipped, the National
Convention of France rendered public homage.[460]

This impious and ridiculous mummery had a certain fashion; and the
installation of the Goddess of Reason was renewed and imitated
throughout the nation, in such places where the inhabitants desired to
show themselves equal to all the heights of the Revolution. The churches
were, in most districts of France, closed against priests and
worshippers--the bells were broken and cast into cannon--the whole
ecclesiastical establishment destroyed--and the Republican inscription
over the cemeteries, declaring Death to be perpetual Sleep,[461]
announced to those who lived under that dominion, that they were to hope
no redress even in the next world.

Intimately connected with these laws affecting religion, was that which
reduced the union of marriage, the most sacred engagement which human
beings can form, and the permanence of which leads most strongly to the
consolidation of society, to the state of a mere civil contract of a
transitory character, which any two persons might engage in, and cast
loose at pleasure, when their taste was changed, or their appetite
gratified.[462] If fiends had set themselves to work to discover a mode
of most effectually destroying whatever is venerable, graceful, or
permanent in domestic life, and of obtaining, at the same time, an
assurance that the mischief which it was their object to create should
be perpetuated from one generation to another, they could not have
invented a more effectual plan than the degradation of marriage into a
state of mere occasional cohabitation, or licensed concubinage. Sophie
Arnould,[463] an actress famous for the witty things she said,
described the Republican marriage as "the Sacrament of Adultery."

These anti-religious and anti-social regulations did not answer the
purpose of the frantic and inconsiderate zealots, by whom they had been
urged forward. Hébert and Chaumette had outrun the spirit of the time,
evil as that was, and had contrived to get beyond the sympathy even of
those, who, at heart as vicious and criminal as they, had still the
sagacity to fear, or the taste to be disgusted with, this overstrained
tone of outrageous impiety. Perhaps they might have other motives for
condemning so gross a display of irreligion. The most guilty of men are
not desirous, generally speaking, totally to disbelieve and abandon all
doctrines of religious faith. They cannot, if they would, prevent
themselves from apprehending a future state of retribution; and little
effect as such feeble glimmering of belief may have on their lives, they
will not, in general, willingly throw away the slight chance, that it
may be possible on some occasion to reconcile themselves to the Church
or to the Deity. This hope, even to those on whom it has no salutary
influence, resembles the confidence given to a sailor during a gale of
wind, by his knowing that there is a port under his lee. His purpose may
be never to run for the haven, or he may judge there is great
improbability that by doing so h