תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

his proceedings were opposed. And, words of Napoleon Buonaparte :as if at the same time to confess and to · The concessions of Neckar," he said, atone for the unconstitutional violence “were the work of a man ignorant of thus exerted, he proclaims the restitu- the first principles of the government tion of their rights to the Protestants, of mankind. It was he who overturned the annual publication of the public the monarchy, and brought Louis XVI, accounts, and the convocation of the to the scaffold. Marat, Danton, Robes States General in five years. It was too pierre himself did less mischief to late for Louis now to remember the France. He brought on the revoluprophetic observation of old Marshal tion which they consummated. Such Segur, “Les notables pourraient etre reformers as M. Neckar do incredible que la graine des Etas Generaux. Et mischief. The thoughtful read their qui pourrait aujourd'hui en caleuler works ; the populace are carried away les resultats a

by them; the public happiness is in Brienne is described as a man who every mouth ; and soon after, the peopossessed activity without firmness, ple find themselves without bread; and rashness without perseverance : they revolt, and society is overturned. the very character which fitted him for Neckar was the author of all the evils maturing and precipitating the revolu- which desolated France during the retion. He perceived, clearly, the ne- volution ; all the blood that was shed cessity for a coup d'etat, and resolved rests on his head." Such was the deto attempt it, but the attempt proved liberate opinion of one of the most fatal to his administration. The par- extraordinary men of his age ; and we liament of Paris was to be deprived of believe that his judgment will not be all but its judicial powers, and a court reversed by posterity. erected, composed of those who were Two circumstances were remarkable friendly to the crown, and in whom in the composition of the constituent was to be vested its political functions. assembly ; one, the almost total excluThe parliament protested against its sion of literary talent; the other, the dissolution. The King replied by sei- great proportion of the Tiers Etat who zing upon two of its members, D’Es- were men of no property or considepremenil and Goislard. When the ration. France, on this occasion," halberdiers entered the hall, no one Mr. Alison observes," paid the penalty would point out the objects of their of her unjust and invidious feudal disa search. “We are all Espremenils,” tinctions; the class was wanting, so said they, from all sides. And if the well known in England, who, nomiindividuals themselves had not given nally belonging to the commons, are themselves up, they could not have bound to the peers by similarity of sibeen arrested.

tuation and community of interest ; But, as might be easily foreseen, the and who form the link between the only effect of this measure of feeble aristocracy and the people, and mode and insulting tyranny, was to provoke, rate the pride of the former by their from all parts of the country, loud and firmness, and the turbulence of the latindignant reclamations. Troubles broke ter by their authority." He speaks, of out at the same time in Dauphiny, Bre, course, of England as it was before the tagne, Provence, Flanders, Languedoc passing of the reform bill

. and Bearn; and all classes united in Neckar's plan was, to form the States demanding the abolition of the Cour into two chambers, somewhat similar Pleniere, and the immediate convoca to the Lords and Commons of Engtion of the States General.

land ; but this was soon found impracNor was it possible any longer to ticable. The Tiers Etat insisted that elude the public wishes. Neckar was the whole body should constitute but recalled, and the States General were one assembly, and, by simply refusing assembled. The first measures of the to act until their wishes were complied new minister were, to double the num- with, put a complete stoppage to pubber of the Tiers Etat, and to admit the lic business. Here began the conflict curès into the body of the clergy. of the orders ; which ended, as might The democratic influence thus acquired be anticipated, in the triumph of the a decided ascendency, the effect of commons, who assumed the title of the which upon the destinies of France, National Assembly, and thenceforward cannot be better described than in the gave the law. to their rivals. They

[ocr errors]

declared all taxes illegal except those a large party from the nobles, headed voted by themselves. " At the same by the Duke of Orleans. The King time, the fears of the capitalists were himself issued his commands, that the tranquillized by consolidating the pub- rest of the nobility should follow their lic debt, and the alarm of the people example. The army declared for the allayed by the appointment of a com- popular cause. The King's extreme mittee to watch over the public subsis- aversion to effusion of blood, delayed tence."

the only vigorous measure which might The nobles and the clergy had joined have ensured his safety; and Paris with the commons in their assault upon was in insurrection ; the Bastile taken the throne ; they had now to pay the by storm; the guards in open revolt ; penalty of their rashness, by being, in and the regiments of the line in sullen their turn, assaulted by the commons, inactivity, before he could be perwho had as little respect for their pe- suaded that there was any serious danculiar privileges, as they evinced for ger. When the Duke De Laincourt the prerogative of the king.

acquainted him with the events that had Concession always enflames demand, occurred. “ This is a revolt," said the when it follows instead of anticipating King, after a long silence. “Sire," the popular wishes. So Lewis found replied he, “it is a revolution.” when he came forward on the 23rd Then followed the submission of the of June, 1789, at an extraordinary king,—the emigration of the noblesse meeting of the Estates General, and and the recall of Neckar. This latmade the greatest concessions that ter had arrived at the zenith of his poever were made by a King to his sub- pularity, and observed, on entering his jects. The pecuniary privileges of the apartment at Versailles, after he had nobles, and their exemption from taxa- been greeted by the acclamations of tion, was abolished. An end was put to the Parisian populace, “ Now this is the taille and the impost of Franc-fief. the moment that I should die.” But, A provision was made for the consolidation of the national debt. The “ A melancholy proof awaited him of liberty of the press was secured ; pro- the inability of even the most popular perty and titles of honour protected; minister to coerce the fury of the poputhe criminal code regulated ; pro- lace. Long lists of proscription had, for vincial assemblies established, and an a considerable time, been fixed at the enarrangement adopted which provided trances of the Palais royal, at the head for the maintenance of the public of which was M. Foulon, an old man roads, and the equality of contributions. above seventy years of age, who had been With truth could the monarch ex- appointed to the ministry which succeeded claim, “I may say, without fear of Neckar, but never entered upon his office. self-deception, that never King did so

He was seized in the country, and brought much for his subjects as I have done; into Paris with his hands tied behind his but what other could so well deserve could not wait for the form of trial or

The vengeance of the people it as the people of France !" But the time had gone by when the mittee room where he was undergoing an

condemnation ; they broke into the compeople of France could be won by examination before La Fayette and Bailly, gifts, or captivated by compliments. and, in spite of the most strenuous efforts The King concluded his speech by on their part, tore him from their arms, commanding them to dissolve. The

and hung him up to the lamp post. clergy and the nobles obeyed ; the Twice the fatal cord broke, and the agocommons remained alone in the hall. nised wretch fell to the ground in the “ You are to-day," says Sieyes, “what midst of the multitude ; twice they susyou were yesterday ; let us proceed pended him again, amidst peals of laughwith our deliberations. On the mo ter and shouts of joy. It was with such tion of Camus, they ratified all their terrific examples of wickedness that the proceedings, and declared the persons regeneration of the social body comof the members inviolable. From that menced in France. M. Berthier, father. day the sovereign authority had passed in-law to Foulon, soon after shared the from the crown to the people.

same fate. He was arrested at ComWe cannot afford space to detail peigne, and, after undergoing the utmost minutely the progress of the move outrages on the road, was brought to the ment. The commons were joined by Hotel de Ville, where the mob presented

to him the head of his parent, yet stream- assembly, to excite any serious regret ing with blood. He averted his eyes, and and Mr. Alison observes that while as they continued to press it towards his they were, for form sake, openly blamed, face, bowed to the ghastly remains. The they were secretly applauded. efforts of Bailly and La Fayette were The atrocities by which the national again unsuccessful, he was seized by the character was thus disgraced were fol mob, and dragged towards the lamp post, lowed by a scene the most extraordibut, at the sight of the cord, which they nary, perhaps, that ever took place in prepared to put about his neck, he was the history of the world. The King, seized with a transport of indignation, who was at first strongly opposed to the la and, wresting a musket from one of the people's wishes, when be found that national guard, rushed into the troop of they could not be successfully resisted

, his assassins, and fell, pierced with innumerable wounds. One of the cannibals more than complied with them, and

even assumed the appearance of py fell upon the body, and

tore out his heart tronizing and encouraging measures which he bore about in triumph, almost which in the first instance, had met his before it had ceased to beat. The heads of Berthier and Foulon were put on the unqualified condemnation. It was now end of pikes, and paraded, in the midst of the turn of the privileged orders to fali an immense crowd, through the streets of low, the Royal example ; and, after x Paris."

having evinced a rash and pusillani

. :?

mous resistance even to the reasonable These horrors were but a prelude to demands of the popular leaders, to what took place in the country.

rival each other in a tumultuary eager

ness to remove and abolish every ancient « Everywhere the peasants rose in privilege by which they were distinguisha * arms, attacked and burnt the chateaux of ed from the great body of the people. the landlords, and massacred or expelled It has been truly said that the night the possessors. The horrors of the in- of the 4th of August 1789, changed 1 surrection of the Jacquerie, in the time the whole condition of France. Had of Edward the Third, were revived on a these changes been introduced gradually greater scale, and with deeper circum- they might have been beneficial; but, stances of atrocity. In their blind fury, coming, as they did, suddenly and ut they did not even spare those seigneurs expectedly, when the people were, in who were known to be inclined to the no respect, prepared to profit by them, popular side, or had done the most to miti- their only effect was to heighten the po gate their sufferings or support their pular intoxication, and give a shock to rights. The most cruel tortures were

the whole fabric of society, which must inflicted on the victims who fell into their hands; many had the soles of their feet

sooner or later, bring it to the ground. roasted over a slow fire, before being put to death; others had their hair and eye more distinctly mark the different cho

“ Nothing,” says Mr. Alison, " cat brows burnt off, while they destroyed racters of the French and English Revo their dwellings, after which they were lutions, than the conduct of the two da. drowned in the nearest fish pond. The tions in their first measures of legislative Marquess of Barras was cut into little improvement after the royal power had bits before his wife, far advanced in her fallen. The English were solicitous to pregnancy, who shortly after died of justify their resistance by the precedent horror; the roads were covered with of antiquity; they maintained that they young women of rank and beauty, flying had inherited this freedom ; and sought from death, and leading their aged parents only to re-establish those ancient land by the hand. It was amidst the cries of marks, which had disappeared during the agony, and by the light of conflagration indolence or the usurpation of recent that liberty arose in France."

times. The French commenced the The National Assembly sought to thing which had gone before them, and

work of reformation by destroying every disclaim all participation in these acts sought to establish the freedom of future of inhuman violence, by several energetic proclamations, which had not, had been done by the past. On the all

ages by rooting out every thing which however, the slightest effect in re cient stock of Saxon independence the pressing them. Indeed they were too English engrafted the shoots of modern directly subservient to the views of liberty ; in its stead the French planted those who were now the leaders of that the unknown tree of equality. In the

British isles the plant has been deeply the new constitution, which annihilated rooted, and expanded widely in its native the hereditary legislators, and converted air ; time will shew whether the French the sovereignty into a pageant. Mirahave not wasted their time in training an beau strongly remonstrated against deexotic, unsuited to the climate, and un- priving the monarch of an absolute fruitful in the soil.”

veto in the enactment of laws ; but he Three days after this extraordinary was as little attended to now, as the proceeding, in which concession would Abbe Sieyes when he attempted to seem to have attained its utmost limit, protect the rights of the clergy. Havthe popular leaders affected to maintain ing gone with the democrats one mile, that it was not the redemption, but, the they were constrained, by any thing abolition of tithe that had been voted, but a Christian spirit, to go with them On this occasion the clergy found in the twain. Abbe Sieyes an able and unexpected

But the finances now began to fail, advocate. “ If it is yet possible," said and famine to threaten the inhabitants he, “ to awaken in your minds a love of Paris. While men's minds were of justice; I would ask, not if it is ex thus agitated by private distress and pedient, but if it is just, to despoil the public distraction, an incident occurred church? The tithe, whatever it may which served to arouse the suspicions be in future, does not at present belong and inflame the indignation of the peoto you. If it is suppressed in the hand ple. The regiment of Flanders, and of the creditor, does it follow that it is some troops of horse had been brought extinguished also in the trust of the to Versailles for the protection of the debtor, and become your property? royal family. A public dinner, accordYou yourselves have declared the tithe ing to ancient custom, was given, upon redeemable ; by so doing you have re- their arrival, in the saloon of the opera, cognized its legal existence; and can- the boxes of which were filled with all not now suppress it. The tithe does the rank and fashion which still continot belong to the owner of the soil. nued to grace the court. The health He has neither purchased nor acquired of the King was drank with enthusiit by inheritance. If you extinguish asm; and when the musicians struck the tithes, you confer a gratuitous and up the well known and pathetic air, uncalled-for present upon the landed “Oh, Richard! oh my King! the world proprietor, who does nothing, while you abandons you !" the officers drew their ruin the true proprietor, who instructs swords, and scaled the boxes, “where the people in return for that share they were received with enthusiasm by of their fruits. You would be free, the ladies of the court, and decorated with but you know not how to be just.” white cockades, by fair hands trembling

But he alike reasoned and expostu- with agitation." lated in vain. He had pulled up the

The democrats immediately caught floodgates, and the torrent would not the alarm. It was represented that a go back at his bidding. “My dear deliberate conspiracy was entered into Abbe," says Mirabeau, "you have un- by the court and the military to extinloosed the bull ; do you expect he is guish the liberties of the people. The not to make use of his horns?" execrable Egalité and his satellites,

Then followed the celebrated decla- omitted not so favourable an opporturation of the Rights of Man, a produc- nity of forwarding his views upon the tion inwardly execrated by those who sovereign authority; and after Paris had were its authors, which gives all the been for some days exposed to the vioviciousness of falsehood to self-evident lence of an infuriate populace, they truth, and all the plausibility of truth directed their course to Versailles, to self-evident falsehood. Its princi- with a view, as is generally supposed, pal composer admits, that it was like to intimidate the King into an abanplacing a powder magazine under an donment of his station, that the Duke edifice, which the first spark would blow of Orleans might be proclaimed in into the air."

his stead. The King's firmness deThis declaration was the basis of feated the object of the secret instiga

* Dumont, 140, 142.

tors of this ferocious banditti ; and a these murmurs increased and deepened mere accident prevented the Queen into 'deafening thunder, amidst which being murdered. She received notice the voice of reason could not be heard; of their approach just time enough to and passions were inflamed, and desires enable her to escape from her bed- excited, which wisdom could not sachamber. She had scarcely quitted tisfy, and with which prudence should the room, when her bed was perforated not have complied. by their bayonets.

The first great error of the govetaThe individual who could alone af- ment was in doubling the number of the ford protection to the royal family at Tiers Etat. By so doing, the political this trying emergency was La Fayette ; charioteer may be said to have abandonand he did, undoubtedly, exert himself ed the reins, after he had yoked the for their preservation ; but he was the vehicle of state to wild horses. Even author, at the same time, of a counsel before that, all circumstances considerwhich precipitated their ruin. They ed, the democracy was too strong; it were persuaded by him to accompany, thenceforth became irresistible. Neckar the mob to Paris, and take up their re had been brought into power by the -sidence at the Tuilleries. When this popular voice ; and imagined, no doubt, resolution was known, the assembly re- that by augmenting the popular insolved to accompany the sovereign; Auence he was only perpetuating his and, thenceforth, the mob of the capi- own administration. But he was soon tal exercised a paramount domination apprised of the difference between not only over the unhappy Louis, exciting and controuling the passions whose authority had already passed of the people ; and the very demons of away, but even over that body of se- popular vengeance, whom he connators who had usurped even more voked, speedily made the arch-magician than regal functions.

himself to tremble. This may be called the first cataract. The second error was, in uniting the of the revolution ; the first great bound three orders of the state in one as which the raging current of innovation sembly. The very principle of the made down the precipice of anarchy. concession involved the annihilation And here we will pause for the pre- of an aristocratical class, and its imnesent, to revert for a moment to the diate effect was to destroy their incauses which plunged a great nation fluence. They were no longer of any into horrors of which every one felt importance in an assembly where they the misery, and no one could see the end. might be outvoted by a majority of

There can be no doubt that the go- two to one. vernment of France required reform, The clergy had joined with the and as little that the worst features of Tiers Etat in compelling the union of the revolution were caused by its hav- the Chambers; and they were the first ing been so long delayed. The almost to feel the effect of it in the sweeping absolute prerogative of the crown, the measure of confiscation, which destroyinsulting superiority claimed by the ed the property of the Church. They upper classes, and the heavy and un- were first the instruments of popular equal taxation borne by the lower, could ambition, and afterwards the victims of not much longer have been endured, popular vengeance. amongst a people progressing in know The revolt of the French guards ledge and in wealth, and where the drew after it the defection of the whole middle orders were becoming tinetured army. And the position of the National with the republican spirit of classical Assembly and of the residence of the antiquity, while the nobles exhibited monarch completely destroyed freedom a degeneracy which characterized the of deliberation. The members of the declension of the greatness of the National Assembly were, no doubt, Roman empire under some of the free to act with the multitude ; but worst of the Cæsars. Louis's declara- they soon felt themselves controuled tion on the 23d of June, removed all by a power which they could not withthe real evils of France, and had it stand if they attempted to act against been more timely, would have been them. From the moment the As effectual in appeasing the murmurs of sembly began to hold their sittings in the people. But it was delayed until Paris, they could be considered in no

« הקודםהמשך »