Such a changed France have we; and a changed Louis. Changed, truly; and
further than thou yet seest! — To the eye of History many things, in that
sick-room of Louis, are now visible, which to the Courtiers there present
were invisible. For indeed it is well said, 'in every object there is
inexhaustible meaning; the eye sees in it what the eye brings means of
seeing.' To Newton and to
Newton's Dog Diamond
what a different pair of
Universes; while the painting on the optical retina of both was, most
likely, the same! Let the Reader here, in this sick-room of Louis,
endeavour to look with the mind too.
The death-chamber of Louis XV provides an opportunity to review the state
Time was when men could (so to speak) of a given man, by nourishing and
decorating him with fit appliances, to the due pitch, make themselves a
King, almost as the Bees do; and what was still more to the purpose,
loyally obey him when made. The man so nourished and decorated,
thenceforth named royal, does verily bear rule; and is said, and even
thought, to be, for example, 'prosecuting conquests in Flanders,' when he
lets himself like luggage be carried thither: and no light luggage;
covering miles of road. For he has his unblushing
band-boxes and rouge-pots, at his side; so that, at every new station, a
wooden gallery must be run up between their lodgings. He has not only his
without end, but his very Troop of Players,
with their pasteboard
thunder-barrels, their kettles, fiddles,
stage-wardrobes, portable larders (and chaffering and quarrelling enough);
all mounted in wagons, tumbrils, second-hand chaises, — sufficient not to
conquer Flanders, but the patience of the world. With such a flood of loud
jingling appurtenances does he lumber along, prosecuting his conquests in
Flanders; wonderful to behold. So nevertheless it was and had been: to
some solitary thinker it might seem strange; but even to him inevitable,
Traditionally kings, once made, were obeyed even when they acted absurdly.
Examples of Louis XV's absurdities given.
For ours is a most
world; and man is the most
creatures. A world not fixable; not fathomable! An unfathomable Somewhat,
which is Not we; which we can work with, and live amidst, — and model,
miraculously in our miraculous Being, and name World. — But if the very
Rocks and Rivers (as Metaphysic teaches) are, in strict language, made
those outward Senses of ours,
how much more, by the Inward Sense, are all
Phenomena of the spiritual kind: Dignities, Authorities, Holies, Unholies!
Which inward sense, moreover is not permanent like the outward ones, but
forever growing and changing. Does not the Black African take of Sticks
and Old Clothes (say, exported Monmouth-Street cast-clothes) what will
suffice, and of these, cunningly combining them, fabricate for himself an
Eidolon (Idol, or Thing Seen),
and name it Mumbo-Jumbo; which he can
thenceforth pray to, with upturned awestruck eye, not without hope? The
white European mocks; but ought rather to consider; and see whether he, at
home, could not do the like a little more wisely.
The authority of kings is not firmly grounded.
So it was, we say, in those conquests of Flanders, thirty years ago:
so it no longer is. Alas, much more lies sick than poor Louis: not the
French King only, but the French Kingship; this too, after long rough tear
and wear, is breaking down. The world is all so changed; so much that
seemed vigorous has sunk decrepit, so much that was not is beginning to
be! — Borne over the Atlantic, to the closing ear of Louis, King by the
Grace of God, what sounds are these; muffled ominous, new in our centuries?
Boston Harbour is black with unexpected Tea: behold a Pennsylvanian
Congress gather; and ere long, on Bunker Hill,
Democracy announcing, in
rifle-volleys death-winged, under her Star Banner, to the tune of
that she is born, and, whirlwind-like, will envelope the whole
The French monarchy especially was not well anchored and was subject to the
current that carried the American Revolution.
Sovereigns die and Sovereignties: how all dies, and is for a Time only; is
a 'Time-phantasm, yet reckons itself real!' The
wending on their bullock-carts through the streets of Paris, with their
long hair flowing, have all wended slowly on,—into Eternity.
sleeps at Salzburg, with truncheon grounded; only Fable expecting that he
Charles the Hammer,?
where now is their eye
of menace, their voice of command?
Rollo and his shaggy Northmen?
the Seine with ships; but have sailed off on a longer voyage. The hair of
now needs no combing;
cannot cut a cobweb;
have had out their
hot life-scold, and lie silent, their hot life-frenzy cooled. Neither from
Tower de Nesle?
descends now darkling the doomed gallant, in his
sack, to the Seine waters; plunging into Night: for
Dame de Nesle?
cares not for this world's gallantry, heeds not this world's scandal;
Dame de Nesle
is herself gone into Night. They are all gone; sunk,—down, down,
with the tumult they made; and the rolling and the trampling of ever new
generations passes over them, and they hear it not any more forever.
Nor should we expect kings and kingdoms to persist. History and
logic show us that they can not.
And yet withal has there not been realised somewhat? Consider (to go no
further) these strong Stone-edifices, and what they hold! Mud-Town of the
(Lutetia Parisiorum or Barisiorum) has paved itself, has spread
over all the Seine Islands, and far and wide on each bank, and become City
of Paris, sometimes boasting to be 'Athens of Europe,' and even 'Capital of
the Universe.' Stone towers frown aloft; long-lasting, grim with a
thousand years. Cathedrals are there, and a Creed (or memory of a Creed)
in them; Palaces, and a State and Law. Thou seest the Smoke-vapour;
Breath as of a thing living. Labour's thousand hammers ring
on her anvils: also a more miraculous Labour works noiselessly, not with
the Hand but with the Thought. How have cunning workmen in all crafts,
with their cunning head and right-hand, tamed the Four Elements to be their
ministers; yoking the winds to their Sea-chariot, making the very Stars
their Nautical Timepiece;—and written and collected a
Bibliotheque du Roi;
among whose Books is the Hebrew Book! A wondrous race of creatures:
have been realised, and what of Skill is in these: call not the Past Time,
with all its confused wretchednesses, a lost one.
But that does not mean there has not been Progress. And in France there
are wonderful examples of that.
Observe, however, that of man's whole terrestrial possessions and
attainments, unspeakably the noblest are his Symbols, divine or
under which he marches and fights, with victorious assurance, in
this life-battle: what we can call his Realised Ideals. Of which realised
ideals, omitting the rest, consider only these two: his Church, or
spiritual Guidance; his Kingship, or temporal one. The Church: what a
word was there; richer than Golconda and the treasures of the world! In
the heart of the remotest mountains rises the little Kirk; the Dead all
slumbering round it, under their white memorial-stones, 'in hope of a happy
resurrection:'—dull wert thou, O Reader, if never in any hour (say of
moaning midnight, when such Kirk hung spectral in the sky, and Being was as
if swallowed up of Darkness) it spoke to thee—things unspeakable, that
went into thy soul's soul. Strong was he that had a Church, what we can
call a Church: he stood thereby, though 'in the centre of Immensities, in
the conflux of Eternities,' yet manlike towards God and man; the vague
shoreless Universe had become for him a firm city, and dwelling which he
knew. Such virtue was in Belief; in these words, well spoken:
Well might men prize their
Credo, and raise stateliest Temples for it, and
reverend Hierarchies, and give it the tithe of their substance; it was
worth living for and dying for.
One of the great marks of Progress is the development of national ideals.
Neither was that an inconsiderable moment when wild armed men first raised
their Strongest aloft on the buckler-throne, and with clanging armour and
hearts, said solemnly: Be thou our Acknowledged Strongest! In such
Acknowledged Strongest (well named King,
Kön-ning, Can-ning, or Man that
was Able) what a Symbol shone now for them, — significant with the destinies
of the world! A Symbol of true Guidance in return for loving Obedience;
properly, if he knew it, the prime want of man. A Symbol which might be
called sacred; for is there not, in reverence for what is better than we,
an indestructible sacredness? On which ground, too, it was well said there
lay in the Acknowledged Strongest a divine right; as surely there might in
the Strongest, whether Acknowledged or not, — considering who made him
strong. And so, in the midst of confusions and unutterable incongruities
(as all growth is confused), did this of Royalty, with Loyalty environing
it, spring up; and grow mysteriously, subduing and assimilating (for a
principle of Life was in it); till it also had grown world-great, and was
among the main Facts of our modern existence. Such a Fact, that Louis
XIV., for example, could answer the expostulatory Magistrate with his
"L'Etat c'est moi (The State? I am the State);" and be replied to by
silence and abashed looks. So far had accident and forethought; had your
Louis Elevenths, with the leaden Virgin in their hatband, and
torture-wheels and conical oubliettes (man-eating!) under their feet; your Henri
Fourths, with their prophesied social millennium, 'when every peasant
should have his fowl in the pot;' and on the whole, the fertility of this
most fertile Existence (named of Good and Evil), — brought it, in the matter
of the Kingship. Wondrous! Concerning which may we not again say, that in
the huge mass of Evil, as it rolls and swells, there is ever some Good
working imprisoned; working towards deliverance and triumph?
A monarchy is not at all incompatible with a high national ideal. In
fact, a King like Louis XIV or Henri IV can come to believe that he embodies
How such Ideals do realise themselves; and grow, wondrously, from amid the
incongruous ever-fluctuating chaos of the Actual: this is what
if it teach any thing, has to teach us, How they grow; and, after
long stormy growth, bloom out mature, supreme; then quickly (for the
blossom is brief) fall into decay; sorrowfully dwindle; and crumble down,
or rush down, noisily or noiselessly disappearing. The blossom is so
brief; as of some centennial Cactus-flower, which after a century of
waiting shines out for hours! Thus from the day when rough Clovis, in the
Champ de Mars, in sight of his whole army, had to cleave retributively the
head of that rough Frank, with sudden battleaxe, and the fierce words, "It
was thus thou clavest the vase" (St. Remi's and mine)
forward to Louis the Grand and his L'Etat c'est moi,
we count some twelve
hundred years: and now this the very next Louis is dying, and so much
dying with him!—Nay, thus too, if Catholicism, with and against Feudalism
(but not against Nature and her bounty), gave us English a Shakspeare and
Era of Shakspeare, and so produced a blossom of
— it was not
till Catholicism itself, so far as Law could abolish it, had been abolished
But even great national ideals fade and fail, though they still may have effect
after they are gone.
But of those decadent ages in which no Ideal either grows or blossoms?
When Belief and Loyalty have passed away, and only the cant and false echo
of them remains; and all Solemnity has become Pageantry; and the Creed of
persons in authority has become one of two things: an Imbecility or a
Macchiavelism? Alas, of these ages World-History can take no notice; they
have to become compressed more and more, and finally suppressed in the
Annals of Mankind; blotted out as spurious,—which indeed they are.
Hapless ages: wherein, if ever in any, it is an unhappiness to be born.
To be born, and to learn only, by every tradition and example, that God's
Universe is Belial's and a Lie; and 'the Supreme Quack' the hierarch of
men! In which mournfulest faith, nevertheless, do we not see whole
generations (two, and sometimes even three successively) live, what they
call living; and vanish,—without chance of reappearance?
And what of ages when no national ideal prevailed? They are scarcely
a part of history.
In such a decadent age, or one fast verging that way, had our poor Louis
been born. Grant also that if the French Kingship had not, by course of
Nature, long to live, he of all men was the man to accelerate Nature. The
Blossom of French Royalty, cactus-like, has accordingly made an astonishing
progress. In those Metz days, it was still standing with all its petals,
though bedimmed by
and Roué Ministers and Cardinals; but
now, in 1774, we behold it bald, and the virtue nigh gone out of it.
If there were an ideal at the ascension of Louis XV, it had dissolved by his
death in 1774.
Disastrous indeed does it look with those same 'realised ideals,' one and
all! The Church, which in its palmy season, seven hundred years ago, could
make an Emperor wait barefoot, in penance-shift; three days, in the
has for centuries seen itself decaying; reduced even to forget old purposes
and enmities, and join interest with the Kingship: on this younger
strength it would fain stay its decrepitude; and these two will henceforth
stand and fall together. Alas, the Sorbonne still sits there, in its old
mansion; but mumbles only jargon of dotage, and no longer leads the
consciences of men: not the Sorbonne; it is Encyclopedies, Philosophie,
and who knows what nameless innumerable multitude of ready Writers, profane
Singers, Romancers, Players, Disputators, and Pamphleteers, that now form
the Spiritual Guidance of the world. The world's Practical Guidance too is
lost, or has glided into the same miscellaneous hands. Who is it that the
King (Able-man, named also
Roi, Rex, or Director) now guides? His own
huntsmen and prickers: when there is to be no hunt, it is well said, 'Le
Roi ne fera rien (To-day his Majesty will do nothing).
(Mémoires sur la Vie privée de Marie Antoinette,
par Madame Campan (Paris, 1826), i. 12).
He lives and lingers there, because he is living there, and none has yet
laid hands on him.
The monarchy no longer exercises moral or political leadership in the country.
The nobles, in like manner, have nearly ceased either to guide or misguide;
and are now, as their master is, little more than ornamental figures. It
is long since they have done with butchering one another or their king:
the Workers, protected, encouraged by Majesty, have ages ago built walled
towns, and there ply their crafts; will permit no Robber Baron to 'live by
the saddle,' but maintain a gallows to prevent it. Ever since that period
of the Fronde,?
the Noble has changed his fighting sword into a court
rapier, and now loyally attends his king as ministering satellite; divides
the spoil, not now by violence and murder, but by soliciting and finesse.
These men call themselves supports of the throne, singular gilt-pasteboard
in that singular edifice! For the rest, their privileges every
way are now much curtailed. That law authorizing a Seigneur, as he
returned from hunting, to kill not more than two Serfs, and refresh his
feet in their warm blood and bowels, has fallen into perfect desuetude, —
and even into incredibility; for if Deputy Lapoule can believe in it, and
call for the abrogation of it, so cannot we.
(Histoire de la Révolution
Française, par Deux Amis de la Liberté
(Paris, 1793), ii. 212.)
No Charolois, for these last fifty years, though never so fond of shooting,
has been in use to bring down slaters and plumbers, and see them roll from
(Lacretelle, Histoire de France pendant le 18me Siecle (Paris, 1819) i. 271.)
but contents himself with partridges and grouse. Close-viewed,
their industry and function is that of dressing gracefully and
eating sumptuously. As for their debauchery and depravity, it is perhaps
unexampled since the era of Tiberius and Commodus. Nevertheless, one has
still partly a feeling with the lady Marechale: "Depend upon it, Sir, God
thinks twice before damning a man of that quality."
(Dulaure, vii. 261.)
These people, of old, surely had virtues, uses; or they could not have been
there. Nay, one virtue they are still required to have (for mortal man
cannot live without a conscience): the virtue of perfect readiness to
The French Nobility has long since abandoned responsibility for a national
sensibility and has become instead a Court Party, dependent completely
on the monarchy.
Such are the shepherds of the people: and now how fares it with the flock?
With the flock, as is inevitable, it fares ill, and ever worse. They are
not tended, they are only regularly shorn. They are sent for, to do
statute-labour, to pay statute-taxes; to fatten battle-fields (named 'Bed
of honour') with their bodies, in quarrels which are not theirs; their hand
and toil is in every possession of man; but for themselves they have little
or no possession. Untaught, uncomforted, unfed; to pine dully in thick
obscuration, in squalid destitution and obstruction: this is the lot of
peuple taillable et corveable a merci et misericorde. In
Brittany they once rose in revolt at the first introduction of Pendulum
Clocks; thinking it had something to do with the
to be cleared out periodically by the Police; and the horde of hunger-stricken
vagabonds to be sent wandering again over space—for a time.
'During one such periodical clearance,' says Lacretelle, 'in May, 1750, the
Police had presumed withal to carry off some reputable people's children,
in the hope of extorting ransoms for them. The mothers fill the public
places with cries of despair; crowds gather, get excited: so many women in
destraction run about exaggerating the alarm: an absurd and horrid fable
arises among the people; it is said that the doctors have ordered a Great
Person to take baths of young human blood for the restoration of his own,
all spoiled by debaucheries. Some of the rioters,' adds Lacretelle, quite
coolly, 'were hanged on the following days:' the Police went on.
(Lacretelle, iii. 175.)
O ye poor naked wretches! and this, then, is your
inarticulate cry to Heaven, as of a dumb tortured animal, crying from
uttermost depths of pain and debasement? Do these azure skies, like a dead
crystalline vault, only reverberate the echo of it on you? Respond to it
only by 'hanging on the following days?' — Not so: not forever! Ye are
heard in Heaven. And the answer too will come, — in a horror of great
darkness, and shakings of the world, and a cup of trembling which all the
nations shall drink.
Nor are the People in any condition to restore the status quo.
They are starved and ignorant, and therefore alienated. Where they might
lead no one can tell and all should fear.
Remark, meanwhile, how from amid the wrecks and dust of this universal
Decay new Powers are fashioning themselves, adapted to the new time and its
destinies. Besides the old Noblesse, originally of Fighters, there is a
new recognised Noblesse of Lawyers; whose gala-day and proud battle-day
even now is. An unrecognised Noblesse of Commerce; powerful enough, with
money in its pocket. Lastly, powerfulest of all, least recognised of all,
a Noblesse of Literature; without steel on their thigh, without gold in
their purse, but with the 'grand
faculty of Thought' in their
head. French Philosophism has arisen; in which little word how much do we
include! Here, indeed, lies properly the cardinal symptom of the whole
wide-spread malady. Faith is gone out; Scepticism is come in. Evil
abounds and accumulates: no man has Faith to withstand it, to amend it, to
begin by amending himself; it must even go on accumulating. While hollow
langour and vacuity is the lot of the Upper, and want and stagnation of the
Lower, and universal misery is very certain, what other thing is certain?
That a Lie cannot be believed! Philosophism knows only this: her other
belief is mainly that, in spiritual supersensual matters no Belief is
possible. Unhappy! Nay, as yet the Contradiction of a Lie is some kind of
Belief; but the Lie with its Contradiction once swept away, what will
remain? The five unsatiated Senses will remain, the sixth insatiable Sense
(of vanity); the whole daemonic nature of man will remain, — hurled forth to
rage blindly without rule or rein; savage itself, yet with all the tools
and weapons of civilisation; a spectacle new in History.
But all is not chaos. An ethos based on philosophy and advanced by letters,
encouraged by commerce and unopposed by religion, is appearing. It
encompasses all the virtues and vices of man, and is new in history.
In such a France, as in a Powder-tower, where fire unquenched and now
unquenchable is smoking and smouldering all round, has Louis XV. lain down
to die. With Pompadourism and Dubarryism, his Fleur-de-lis has been
shamefully struck down in all lands and on all seas; Poverty invades even
the Royal Exchequer, and Tax-farming can squeeze out no more; there is a
quarrel of twenty-five years' standing with the Parlement; everywhere Want,
Dishonesty, Unbelief, and hotbrained
for state-physicians: it is
a portentous hour.
Louis XV leaves a poorly led, destitute, morally ambiguous and aggrieved
Such things can the eye of History see in this sick-room of King Louis,
which were invisible to the Courtiers there. It is twenty years, gone
Christmas-day, since Lord Chesterfield, summing up what he had noted of
this same France, wrote, and sent off by post, the following words, that
have become memorable: 'In short, all the symptoms which I have ever met
with in History, previous to great Changes and Revolutions in government,
now exist and daily increase in France.'
(Chesterfield's Letters: December 25th, 1753.)
Poor Louis! With these it is a hollow phantasmagory, where like mimes they
mope and mowl, and utter false sounds for hire; but with thee it is
Frightful to all men is Death; from of old named King of Terrors. Our
little compact home of an Existence, where we dwelt complaining, yet as in
a home, is passing, in dark agonies, into an Unknown of Separation,
Foreignness, unconditioned Possibility. The Heathen Emperor asks of his
soul: Into what places art thou now departing? The Catholic King must
answer: To the Judgment-bar of the Most High God! Yes, it is a summing-up
of Life; a final settling, and giving-in the 'account of the deeds done in
the body:' they are done now; and lie there unalterable, and do bear their
fruits, long as Eternity shall last.
Carlyle sees a potential down side to being The Most Christian King
Louis XV. had always the kingliest abhorrence of Death. Unlike that
praying Duke of Orleans, Egalité's
grandfather, — for indeed several of them
had a touch of madness, — who honesty believed that there was no Death! He,
if the Court Newsmen can be believed, started up once on a time, glowing
with sulphurous contempt and indignation on his poor Secretary, who had
stumbled on the words, feu roi d'Espagne (the late King of Spain):
"Feu roi, Monsieur?"
— "Monseigneur," hastily answered the trembling but adroit
man of business,
"c'est une titre qu'ils prennent ('tis a title they
(Besenval, i. 199.)
Louis, we say, was not so happy; but he did
what he could. He would not suffer Death to be spoken of; avoided the
sight of churchyards, funereal monuments, and whatsoever could bring it to
mind. It is the resource of the Ostrich; who, hard hunted, sticks his
foolish head in the ground, and would fain forget that his foolish unseeing
body is not unseen too. Or sometimes, with a spasmodic antagonism,
significant of the same thing, and of more, he would go; or stopping his
court carriages, would send into churchyards, and ask 'how many new graves
there were today,' though it gave his poor Pompadour the disagreeablest
qualms. We can figure the thought of Louis that day, when, all royally
caparisoned for hunting, he met, at some sudden turning in the Wood of
Senart, a ragged Peasant with a coffin: "For whom?"—It was for a poor
brother slave, whom Majesty had sometimes noticed slaving in those
quarters. "What did he die of?"—"Of hunger:"—the King gave his steed the
(Campan, iii. 39.)
Louis XV had long been fascinated with, and feared, death.
But figure his thought, when Death is now clutching at his own heart-strings,
unlooked for, inexorable! Yes, poor Louis, Death has found thee.
No palace walls or life-guards, gorgeous tapestries or gilt buckram of
stiffest ceremonial could keep him out; but he is here, here at thy very
life-breath, and will extinguish it. Thou, whose whole existence hitherto
was a chimera and scenic show, at length becomest a reality: sumptuous
Versailles bursts asunder, like a dream, into void Immensity; Time is done,
and all the scaffolding of Time falls wrecked with hideous clangour round
thy soul: the pale Kingdoms yawn open; there must thou enter, naked, all
unking'd, and await what is appointed thee! Unhappy man, there as thou
turnest, in dull agony, on thy bed of weariness, what a thought is thine!
Purgatory and Hell-fire, now all-too possible, in the prospect; in the
retrospect,—alas, what thing didst thou do that were not better undone;
what mortal didst thou generously help; what sorrow hadst thou mercy on?
Do the 'five hundred thousand' ghosts, who sank shamefully on so many
battle-fields from Rossbach to Quebec, that thy Harlot might take revenge
for an epigram, — crowd round thee in this hour? Thy foul Harem; the curses
of mothers, the tears and infamy of daughters? Miserable man! thou 'hast
done evil as thou couldst:' thy whole existence seems one hideous abortion
and mistake of Nature; the use and meaning of thee not yet known. Wert
thou a fabulous Griffin, devouring the works of men; daily dragging virgins
to thy cave; — clad also in scales that no spear would pierce: no spear but
Death's? A Griffin not fabulous but real! Frightful, O Louis, seem these
moments for thee. — We will pry no further into the horrors of a sinner's
This paragraph perhaps more than any other establishes Carlyle as a
propagandist rather than an historian.
And yet let no meanest man lay flattering unction to his soul. Louis was a
Ruler; but art not thou also one? His wide France, look at it from the
Fixed Stars (themselves not yet Infinitude), is no wider than thy narrow
brickfield, where thou too didst faithfully, or didst unfaithfully. Man,
'Symbol of Eternity imprisoned into 'Time!' it is not thy works, which are
all mortal, infinitely little, and the greatest no greater than the least,
but only the Spirit thou workest in, that can have worth or continuance.
Seeming to realize his transparency, Carlyle waxes philosophical.
But reflect, in any case, what a life-problem this of poor Louis, when he
rose as Bien-Aimé
from that Metz sick-bed, really was! What son of Adam
could have swayed such incoherences into coherence? Could he? Blindest
Fortune alone has cast him on the top of it: he swims there; can as little
sway it as the drift-log sways the wind-tossed moon-stirred Atlantic.
"What have I done to be so loved?" he said then. He may say now: What
have I done to be so hated? Thou hast done nothing, poor Louis! Thy fault
is properly even this, that thou didst nothing. What could poor Louis do?
Abdicate, and wash his hands of it, — in favour of the first that would
accept! Other clear wisdom there was none for him. As it was, he stood
gazing dubiously, the absurdest mortal extant (a very Solecism Incarnate),
into the absurdest confused world; — wherein at last nothing seemed so
certain as that he, the incarnate Solecism, had five senses; that were
Flying Tables (Tables Volantes, which vanish through the floor, to come
back reloaded). and a Parc-aux-cerfs.
Reverting to history, Carlyle doubts that Louis XV, even had
he been a man of parts, could have made much difference.
Whereby at least we have again this historical curiosity: a human being in
an original position; swimming passively, as on some boundless 'Mother of
towards issues which he partly saw. For Louis had withal a
kind of insight in him. So, when a new Minister of Marine, or what else it
might be, came announcing his new era, the Scarlet-woman would hear from
the lips of Majesty at supper: "He laid out his ware like another;
promised the beautifulest things in the world; not a thing of which will
come: he does not know this region; he will see." Or again: "'Tis the
twentieth time I hear all that; France will never get a Navy, I believe."
How touching also was this: "If I were Lieutenant of Police, I would
prohibit those Paris cabriolets."
(Journal de Madame de Hausset, p. 293, etc.)
Illustrations of Louis's impotency.
Doomed mortal; — for is it not a doom to be Solecism incarnate! A new
King Donothing; but with the strangest new
Mayor of the Palace:
no bow-legged Pepin now for Mayor,
but that same cloud-capt, fire-breathing Spectre
of DEMOCRACY; incalculable, which is enveloping the world! — Was Louis no
wickeder than this or the other private Donothing and Eatall; such as we
often enough see, under the name of Man, and even Man of Pleasure,
cumbering God's diligent Creation, for a time? Say, wretcheder! His
Life-solecism was seen and felt of a whole scandalised world; him endless
Oblivion cannot engulf, and swallow to endless depths, — not yet for a
generation or two.
The failings of Louis XV were not seen at his death, and not for long after.
However, be this as it will, we remark, not without interest, that 'on the
evening of the 4th,' Dame Dubarry issues from the sick-room, with
perceptible 'trouble in her visage.' It is the fourth evening of May, year
of Grace 1774. Such a whispering in the Œil-de-Bœuf!
Is he dying then?
What can be said is, that Dubarry seems making up her packages; she sails
weeping through her gilt boudoirs, as if taking leave. D'Aiguillon and
Company are near their last card; nevertheless they will not yet throw up
the game. But as for the sacramental controversy, it is as good as settled
without being mentioned;
Louis can send for his Abbé Moudon in the course
of next night, be confessed by him, some say for the space of 'seventeen
minutes,' and demand the sacraments of his own accord.
Louis XV requests the last rights, May 4, 1774.
Nay, already, in the afternoon, behold is not this your Sorceress Dubarry
with the handkerchief at her eyes, mounting D'Aiguillon's chariot; rolling
off in his Duchess's consolatory arms? She is gone; and her place knows
her no more. Vanish, false Sorceress; into Space! Needless to hover at
neighbouring Ruel; for thy day is done. Shut are the royal palace-gates
for evermore; hardly in coming years shalt thou, under cloud of night,
descend once, in black domino, like a black night-bird, and disturb the
fair Antoinette's music-party in the Park: all Birds of Paradise flying
from thee, and musical windpipes growing mute.
(Campan, i. 197.)
unclean, yet unmalignant, not unpitiable thing! What a course was thine:
from that first trucklebed (in Joan of Arc's country) where thy mother bore
thee, with tears, to an unnamed father: forward, through lowest
subterranean depths, and over highest sunlit heights, of Harlotdom and
Rascaldom — to the guillotine-axe, which shears away thy vainly whimpering
head! Rest there uncursed; only buried and abolished: what else befitted
Dubarry flees, into obscurity under the reign of Louis XVI. Carlyle foreshadows
her death by the guillotine many years later.
Louis, meanwhile, is in considerable impatience for his sacraments; sends
more than once to the window, to see whether they are not coming. Be of
comfort, Louis, what comfort thou canst: they are under way, those
sacraments. Towards six in the morning, they arrive. Cardinal
Grand-Almoner Roche-Aymon is here, in pontificals, with his
and his tools;
he approaches the royal pillow; elevates his wafer; mutters or seems to
mutter somewhat; — and so (as the Abbé Georgel, in words that stick
expresses it) has Louis 'made the amende honorable to God;' so does your
Jesuit construe it. — "Wa, Wa," as the wild
groaned out, when life
was departing, "what great God is this that pulls down the strength of the
(Gregorius Turonensis, Histor. lib. iv. cap. 21.)
Cardinal Roche-Aymon administers the last rites.
The amende honorable,
what 'legal apology' you will, to God:—but not, if
D'Aiguillon can help it, to man. Dubarry still hovers in his mansion at
Ruel; and while there is life, there is hope. Grand-Almoner Roche-Aymon,
accordingly (for he seems to be in the secret), has no sooner seen his
pyxes and gear repacked, then he is stepping majestically forth again, as
if the work were done! But King's Confessor Abbé Moudon starts forward;
with anxious acidulent face, twitches him by the sleeve; whispers in his
ear. Whereupon the poor Cardinal must turn round; and declare audibly;
"That his Majesty repents of any subjects of scandal he may have given
(a pu donner);
and purposes, by the strength of Heaven assisting him, to avoid
the like — for the future!" Words listened to by Richelieu with
mastiff-face, growing blacker; answered to, aloud, 'with an epithet,' — which
Besenval will not repeat.
conqueror of Minorca, companion
of Flying-Table orgies, perforator of bedroom walls,
(Besenval, i. 159-172. Genlis; Duc de Levis, etc.)
is thy day also done?
Vignettes of the sick-room.
Alas, the Chapel organs may keep going; the Shrine of
let down, and pulled up again, — without effect. In the evening the whole
Court, with Dauphin and Dauphiness, assist at the Chapel: priests are
hoarse with chanting their 'Prayers of Forty Hours;' and the heaving
bellows blow. Almost frightful! For the very heaven blackens; battering
rain-torrents dash, with thunder; almost drowning the organ's voice: and
electric fire-flashes make the very flambeaux on the altar pale. So that
the most, as we are told, retired, when it was over, with hurried steps,
'in a state of meditation (recueillement),' and said little or nothing.
(Weber, Mémoires concernant Marie-Antoinette (London, 1809), i. 22.)
The scene in the Chapel of Versailles.
So it has lasted for the better half of a fortnight; the Dubarry gone
almost a week. Besenval says, all the world was getting impatient
que cela finít;
that poor Louis would have done with it. It is now the 10th of May
1774. He will soon have done now.
Louis XV lingers.
This tenth May day falls into the loathsome sick-bed; but dull, unnoticed
there: for they that look out of the windows are quite darkened; the
cistern-wheel moves discordant on its axis; Life, like a spent steed, is
panting towards the goal. In their remote apartments, Dauphin and
Dauphiness stand road-ready; all grooms and equerries booted and spurred:
waiting for some signal to escape the house of pestilence.
(One grudges to
interfere with the beautiful theatrical 'candle,' which Madame Campan
has lit on this occasion, and blown out at the moment of death. What
candles might be lit or blown out, in so large an Establishment as that of
Versailles, no man at such distance would like to affirm: at the same
time, as it was two o'clock in a May Afternoon, and these royal Stables
must have been some five or six hundred yards from the royal sick-room, the
'candle' does threaten to go out in spite of us. It remains burning
indeed — in her fantasy; throwing light on much in those Mémoires
And, hark! across the Œil-de-Bœuf, what sound is that;
and absolutely like thunder'? It is the rush of the whole Court, rushing
as in wager, to salute the new Sovereigns: Hail to your Majesties! The
Dauphin and Dauphiness are King and Queen! Over-powered with many
emotions, they two fall on their knees together, and, with streaming tears,
exclaim, "O God, guide us, protect us; we are too young to reign!" — Too
Louis XV dies, May 10, 1774.
Thus, in any case, 'with a sound absolutely like thunder,' has the Horologe
of Time struck, and an old Era passed away. The Louis that was, lies
forsaken, a mass of abhorred clay; abandoned 'to some poor persons, and
priests of the Chapelle Ardente,'
— who make haste to put him 'in two lead
coffins, pouring in abundant spirits of wine.' The new Louis with his
Court is rolling towards Choisy, through the summer afternoon: the royal
tears still flow; but a word mispronounced by Monseigneur d'Artois sets
them all laughing, and they weep no more. Light mortals, how ye walk your
light life-minuet, over bottomless abysses, divided from you by a film!
The old king's body is prepared for burial. The new royal couple depart
for more sanitary quarters at Choisy-le-Roi.
For the rest, the proper authorities felt that no Funeral could be too
unceremonious. Besenval himself thinks it was unceremonious enough. Two
carriages containing two noblemen of the usher species, and a Versailles
clerical person; some score of mounted pages, some fifty palfreniers;
these, with torches, but not so much as in black, start from Versailles on
the second evening with their leaden bier. At a high trot they start; and
keep up that pace. For the jibes (brocards)
of those Parisians, who stand
planted in two rows, all the way to St. Denis, and 'give vent to their
pleasantry, the characteristic of the nation,' do not tempt one to slacken.
Towards midnight the vaults of St. Denis receive their own; unwept by any
eye of all these; if not by poor Loque his neglected Daughter's, whose
Nunnery is hard by.
Louis XV is buried with little ceremony or apparent public grief.
Him they crush down, and huddle under-ground, in this impatient way; him
and his era of sin and tyranny and shame; for behold a New Era is come; the
future all the brighter that the past was base.
Sarcasm from Carlyle.
A paradoxical philosopher, carrying to the uttermost length that aphorism
of Montesquieu's, 'Happy the people whose annals are tiresome,' has said,
'Happy the people whose annals are vacant.' In which saying, mad as it
looks, may there not still be found some grain of reason? For truly, as it
has been written, 'Silence is divine,' and of Heaven; so in all earthly
things too there is a silence which is better than any speech. Consider it
well, the Event, the thing which can be spoken of and recorded, is it not,
in all cases, some disruption, some solution of continuity? Were it even a
glad Event, it involves change, involves loss (of active Force); and so
far, either in the past or in the present, is an irregularity, a disease.
Stillest perseverance were our blessedness; not dislocation and
alteration, — could they be avoided.
Carlyle comments on why "May you live in interesting times" is today
considered a curse.
The oak grows silently, in the forest, a thousand years; only in the
thousandth year, when the woodman arrives with his axe, is there heard an
echoing through the solitudes; and the oak announces itself when, with a
far-sounding crash, it falls. How silent too was the planting of the
acorn; scattered from the lap of some wandering wind! Nay, when our oak
flowered, or put on its leaves (its glad Events), what shout of
proclamation could there be? Hardly from the most observant a word of
recognition. These things befell not, they were slowly
done; not in an
hour, but through the flight of days: what was to be said of it? This
hour seemed altogether as the last was, as the next would be.
On the obscurity and pace of historical causation.
It is thus everywhere that foolish Rumour babbles not of what was done, but
of what was misdone or undone; and foolish History (ever, more or less, the
written epitomised synopsis of Rumour) knows so little that were not as
mere sin and misery; not work, but hindrance
of work! For the Earth, all this while, was yearly green and yellow with
her kind harvests; the hand of the craftsman, the mind of the thinker
rested not: and so, after all, and in spite of all, we have this so
glorious high-domed blossoming World; concerning which, poor History may
well ask, with wonder, Whence it came? She knows so little of it, knows so
much of what obstructed it, what would have rendered it impossible. Such,
nevertheless, by necessity or foolish choice, is her rule and practice;
whereby that paradox, 'Happy the people whose annals are vacant,' is not
without its true side.
What history tells of the past is usually not useful in explaining the
present. History records the mistakes and the miseries.
And yet, what seems more pertinent to note here, there is a stillness, not
of unobstructed growth, but of passive inertness, and symptom of imminent
downfall. As victory is silent, so is defeat. Of the opposing forces the
weaker has resigned itself; the stronger marches on, noiseless now, but
rapid, inevitable: the fall and overturn will not be noiseless. How all
grows, and has its period, even as the herbs of the fields, be it annual,
centennial, millennial! All grows and dies, each by its own wondrous laws,
in wondrous fashion of its own; spiritual things most wondrously of all.
Inscrutable, to the wisest, are these latter; not to be prophesied of, or
understood. If when the oak stands proudliest flourishing to the eye, you
know that its heart is sound, it is not so with the man; how much less with
the Society, with the Nation of men! Of such it may be affirmed even that
the superficial aspect, that the inward feeling of full health, is
generally ominous. For indeed it is of apoplexy, so to speak, and a
plethoric lazy habit of body, that Churches, Kingships, Social
Institutions, oftenest die. Sad, when such Institution plethorically says
to itself, Take thy ease, thou hast goods laid up; — like the fool of the
Gospel, to whom it was answered, Fool, this night thy life shall be
required of thee! [Luke 12:20].
Carlyle's philosophy of history.
Is it the healthy peace, or the ominous unhealthy, that rests on France,
for these next Ten Years? Over which the Historian can pass lightly,
without call to linger: for as yet events are not, much less performances.
Time of sunniest stillness; — shall we call it, what all men thought it, the
new Age of God? Call it at least, of Paper; which in many ways is the
succedaneum of Gold. Bank-paper, wherewith you can still buy when there is
no gold left; Book-paper, splendent with Theories, Philosophies,
Sensibilities, — beautiful art, not only of revealing Thought, but also of
so beautifully hiding from us the want of Thought! Paper is made from the
rags of things that did once exist; there are endless excellences in
Paper. — What wisest Philosophe, in this halcyon uneventful period, could
prophesy that there was approaching, big with darkness and confusion, the
event of events? Hope ushers in a Revolution, — as earthquakes are preceded
by bright weather. On the Fifth of May, fifteen years hence, old Louis
will not be sending for the Sacraments; but a new Louis, his grandson, with
the whole pomp of astonished intoxicated France, will be opening the
The first ten years of Louis XVI's reign are peaceful. Carlyle calls
this eras The Age of Paper.
Dubarrydom and its D'Aiguillons are gone forever. There is a young, still
docile, well-intentioned King; a young, beautiful and bountiful,
well-intentioned Queen; and with them all France, as it were, become young.
Maupeou and his Parlement have to vanish into thick night; respectable
Magistrates, not indifferent to the Nation, were it only for having been
opponents of the Court, can descend unchained from their 'steep rocks at
Croe in Combrailles' and elsewhere, and return singing praises: the old
Parlement of Paris resumes its functions. Instead of a profligate bankrupt
we have now, for Controller-General, a
with a whole Reformed France in his head. By whom whatsoever is
wrong, in Finance or otherwise, will be righted, — as far as possible. Is
it not as if Wisdom herself were henceforth to have seat and voice in the
Council of Kings? Turgot has taken office with the noblest plainness of
speech to that effect; been listened to with the noblest royal
(Turgot's Letter: Condorcet, Vie de Turgot (Oeuvres de Condorcet, t. v.),
p. 67. The date is 24th August, 1774.)
It is true, as
King Louis objects, "They say he never goes to mass;" but liberal France
likes him little worse for that; liberal France answers,
"The Abbé Terray
always went." Philosophism sees, for the first time, a Philosophe (or even
a Philosopher) in office: she in all things will applausively second him;
neither will light old Maurepas obstruct, if he can easily help it.
The economist Turgot is appointed Comptroller-General with plans to restore
the moribund French economy.
Then how 'sweet' are the manners; vice 'losing all its deformity;' becoming
decent (as established things, making regulations for themselves, do);
becoming almost a kind of 'sweet' virtue! Intelligence so abounds;
irradiated by wit and the art of conversation. Philosophism sits joyful in
her glittering saloons, the dinner-guest of Opulence grown ingenuous, the
very nobles proud to sit by her; and preaches, lifted up over all
Bastilles, a coming millennium. From far
have lived to see this day; these with
make glad the
spicy board of rich ministering Dowager,
of philosophic Farmer-General.
O nights and suppers of the gods! Of a truth, the long-demonstrated will now
be done: 'the Age of Revolutions approaches' (as Jean Jacques
[Rousseau] wrote), but
then of happy blessed ones. Man awakens from his long somnambulism; chases
the Phantasms that beleagured and bewitched him. Behold the new morning
glittering down the eastern steeps; fly, false Phantasms, from its shafts
of light; let the Absurd fly utterly forsaking this lower Earth for ever.
It is Truth and Astræa Redux that (in the shape of Philosophism)
henceforth reign. For what imaginable purpose was man made, if not to be
'happy'? By victorious Analysis, and Progress of the Species, happiness
enough now awaits him. Kings can become philosophers; or else philosophers
Kings. Let but Society be once rightly constituted, — by victorious
Analysis. The stomach that is empty shall be filled; the throat that is
dry shall be wetted with wine. Labour itself shall be all one as rest; not
grievous, but joyous. Wheatfields, one would think, cannot come to grow
untilled; no man made clayey, or made weary thereby; — unless indeed
machinery will do it? Gratuitous Tailors and Restaurateurs may start up,
at fit intervals, one as yet sees not how. But if each will, according to
rule of Benevolence, have a care for all, then surely — no one will be
uncared for. Nay, who knows but, by sufficiently victorious Analysis,
'human life may be indefinitely lengthened,' and men get rid of Death, as
they have already done of the Devil? We shall then be happy in spite of
Death and the Devil. — So preaches magniloquent Philosophism her
Redeunt Saturnia regna.
The Age of Paper saw a flowering of French letters and high, if unfulfilled,
hopes for the future.
The prophetic song of Paris and its Philosophes is audible enough in the
Œil-de-Bœuf, intent chiefly on nearer
blessedness, can answer, at worst, with a polite "Why not?" Good old
is too joyful a Prime Minister to dash the world's joy.
Sufficient for the day be its own evil. Cheery old man, he cuts his jokes,
and hovers careless along; his cloak well adjusted to the wind, if so be he
may please all persons. The simple young King, whom a Maurepas cannot
think of troubling with business, has retired into the interior apartments;
taciturn, irresolute; though with a sharpness of temper at times: he, at
length, determines on a little smithwork; and so, in apprenticeship with a
(whom one day he shall have little cause to bless), is
learning to make locks.
(Campan, i. 125.)
It appears further, he
understood Geography; and could read English. Unhappy young King, his
childlike trust in that foolish old Maurepas deserved another return. But
friend and foe, destiny and himself have combined to do him hurt.
There was an air of innocence and enlightenment in the young King's court.
Meanwhile the fair young Queen, in her halls of state, walks like a goddess
of Beauty, the cynosure of all eyes; as yet mingles not with affairs; heeds
not the future; least of all, dreads it. Weber and Campan
(Ib. i. 100-151. Weber, i. 11-50.)
have pictured her, there within the royal tapestries, in
bright boudoirs, baths, peignoirs, and the Grand and Little Toilette; with
a whole brilliant world waiting obsequious on her glance: fair young
daughter of Time, what things has Time in store for thee! Like Earth's
brightest Appearance, she moves gracefully, environed with the grandeur of
Earth: a reality, and yet a magic vision; for, behold, shall not utter
Darkness swallow it! The soft young heart adopts orphans, portions
meritorious maids, delights to succour the poor, — such poor as come
picturesquely in her way; and sets the fashion of doing it; for as was
said, Benevolence has now begun reigning. In her Duchess de Polignac, in
Princess de Lamballe, she enjoys something almost like friendship; now too,
after seven long years, she has a child, and soon even a Dauphin, of her
own; can reckon herself, as Queens go, happy in a husband.
Nor is his Queen without beauty, charm, and a bit of happiness.
Events? The Grand events are but charitable Feasts of Morals
mœurs), with their Prizes and Speeches; Poissarde Processions to the
Dauphin's cradle; above all, Flirtations, their rise, progress, decline and
fall. There are Snow-statues raised by the poor in hard winter to a Queen
who has given them fuel. There are masquerades, theatricals; beautifyings
of little Trianon, purchase and repair of St. Cloud; journeyings from the
summer Court-Elysium to the winter one. There are poutings and grudgings
from the Sardinian Sisters-in-law (for the Princes too are wedded); little
jealousies, which Court-Etiquette can moderate. Wholly the lightest-hearted
frivolous foam of Existence; yet an artfully refined foam; pleasant
were it not so costly, like that which mantles on the wine of Champagne!
The events regarded as important at court are apolitical.
Monsieur, the King's elder Brother,
has set up for a kind of wit; and leans
towards the Philosophe side.
pulls the mask from a
fair impertinent; fights a duel in consequence, — almost drawing blood.
(Besenval, ii. 282-330.)
He has breeches of a kind new in this world;—a
fabulous kind; 'four tall lackeys,' says Mercier, as if he had seen it,
'hold him up in the air, that he may fall into the garment without vestige
of wrinkle; from which rigorous encasement the same four, in the same way,
and with more effort, must deliver him at night.'
(Mercier, Nouveau Paris, iii. 147.)
This last is he who now, as a gray time-worn man, sits desolate
at Gratz (A.D. 1834.); having winded up his destiny with the
In such sort are poor mortals swept and shovelled to and fro.
Louis XVI's younger brothers are mentioned.
Or is this same Age of Hope itself but a simulacrum; as Hope too often is?
Cloud-vapour with rainbows painted on it, beautiful to see, to sail
towards, — which hovers over Niagara Falls? In that case, victorious
Analysis will have enough to do.
Carlyle snubs, in passing, analytical approaches to history.
Alas, yes! a whole world to remake, if she could see it; work for another
than she! For all is wrong, and gone out of joint; the inward spiritual,
and the outward economical; head or heart, there is no soundness in it. As
indeed, evils of all sorts are more or less of kin, and do usually go
together: especially it is an old truth, that wherever huge physical evil
is, there, as the parent and origin of it, has moral evil to a
proportionate extent been. Before those five-and-twenty labouring
Millions, for instance, could get that haggardness of face, which old
Mirabeau now looks on, in a Nation calling itself Christian, and calling
man the brother of man,— what unspeakable, nigh infinite Dishonesty (of
seeming and not being) in all manner of Rulers, and appointed Watchers,
spiritual and temporal, must there not, through long ages, have gone on
accumulating! It will accumulate: moreover, it will reach a head; for the
first of all Gospels is this, that a Lie cannot endure for ever.
He asserts instead a social approach.
In fact, if we pierce through that rosepink vapour of Sentimentalism,
Philanthropy, and Feasts of Morals, there lies behind it one of the
sorriest spectacles. You might ask, What bonds that ever held a human
society happily together, or held it together at all, are in force here?
It is an unbelieving people; which has suppositions, hypotheses, and
froth-systems of victorious Analysis; and for belief this mainly, that Pleasure
is pleasant. Hunger they have for all sweet things; and the law of Hunger;
but what other law? Within them, or over them, properly none!
The societal structure which gives force to laws — religion, tradition,
national pride — do not exist in France.
Their King has become a King Popinjay; with his Maurepas Government,
gyrating as the weather-cock does, blown about by every wind. Above them
they see no God; or they even do not look above, except with astronomical
glasses. The Church indeed still is; but in the most submissive state;
quite tamed by Philosophism; in a singularly short time; for the hour was
come. Some twenty years ago, your Archbishop Beaumont would not even let
the poor Jansenists?
get buried: your
(a rising man, whom
we shall meet with yet) could, in the name of the Clergy, insist on having
the Anti-protestant laws, which condemn to death for preaching, 'put in
(Boissy d'Anglas, Vie de Malesherbes, i. 15-22.)
now not so much as
Atheism can be burnt, — except as pipe-matches
by the private speculative individual. Our Church stands haltered,
dumb, like a dumb ox; lowing only for provender (of tithes); content if it
can have that; or, dumbly, dully expecting its further doom. And the
Twenty Millions of 'haggard faces;' and, as finger-post and guidance to
them in their dark struggle, 'a gallows forty feet high'! Certainly a
singular Golden Age; with its Feasts of Morals, its 'sweet manners,' its
sweet institutions (institutions douces); betokening nothing but peace
among men! — Peace? O Philosophe-Sentimentalism, what hast thou to do with
peace, when thy mother's name is Jezebel? Foul Product of still fouler
Corruption, thou with the corruption art doomed!
The weakness of the Church as a moral force, and the absence of any other.
Meanwhile it is singular how long the rotten will hold together, provided
you do not handle it roughly. For whole generations it continues standing,
'with a ghastly affectation of life,' after all life and truth has fled out
of it; so loth are men to quit their old ways; and, conquering indolence
and inertia, venture on new. Great truly is the Actual; is the Thing that
has rescued itself from bottomless deeps of theory and possibility, and
stands there as a definite indisputable Fact, whereby men do work and live,
or once did so. Widely shall men cleave to that, while it will endure; and
quit it with regret, when it gives way under them. Rash enthusiast of
Change, beware! Hast thou well considered all that Habit does in this life
of ours; how all Knowledge and all Practice hang wondrous over infinite
abysses of the Unknown, Impracticable; and our whole being is an infinite
abyss, over-arched by Habit, as by a thin Earth-rind, laboriously built
Reflections on historical inertia.
But if 'every man,' as it has been
'holds confined within him a
mad-man,' what must every Society do; — Society, which in its commonest
state is called 'the standing miracle of this world'! 'Without such
Earth-rind of Habit,' continues our author,
'call it System of Habits, in a word,
of acting and of believing, — Society would not exist at all.
With such it exists, better or worse. Herein too, in this its System of
Habits, acquired, retained how you will, lies the true Law-Code and
Constitution of a Society; the only Code, though an unwritten one which it
can in nowise disobey.
The thing we call written Code, Constitution, Form
of Government, and the like, what is it but some miniature image, and
solemnly expressed summary of this unwritten Code? Is,
— or rather alas, is
not; but only should be, and always tends to be! In which latter
discrepancy lies struggle without end.'
And now, we add in the same
dialect, let but, by ill chance, in such ever-enduring struggle, — your
'thin Earth-rind' be once broken! The fountains of the great deep boil
forth; fire-fountains, enveloping, engulfing. Your 'Earth-rind' is
shattered, swallowed up; instead of a green flowery world, there is a waste
wild-weltering chaos: — which has again, with tumult and struggle, to make
itself into a world.
Carlyle argues that a society resists dissolution, but when it must will
tend again to organization.
On the other hand, be this conceded: Where thou findest a Lie that is
oppressing thee, extinguish it. Lies exist there only to be extinguished;
they wait and cry earnestly for extinction. Think well, meanwhile, in what
spirit thou wilt do it: not with hatred, with headlong selfish violence;
but in clearness of heart, with holy zeal, gently, almost with pity. Thou
wouldst not replace such extinct Lie by a new Lie, which a new Injustice of
thy own were; the parent of still other Lies? Whereby the latter end of
that business were worse than the beginning.
But that tendency does not relieve men of the responsibility to mend ills when
they see them.
So, however, in this world of ours, which has both an indestructible hope
in the Future, and an indestructible tendency to persevere as in the Past,
must Innovation and Conservation wage their perpetual conflict, as they may
and can. Wherein the 'dæmonic element,' that lurks in all human things,
doubtless, some once in the thousand years — get vent! But indeed may
we not regret that such conflict, — which, after all, is but like that
classical one of 'hate-filled Amazons with heroic Youths,' and will end in
— should usually be so spasmodic? For Conservation, strengthened
by that mightiest quality in us, our indolence, sits for long ages, not
victorious only, which she should be; but tyrannical, incommunicative. She
holds her adversary as if annihilated; such adversary lying, all the while,
like some buried
who, to gain the smallest freedom, must stir a
whole Trinacria with its Ætnas.
Which combination goes a long way in explaining the relative rarity of great
Wherefore, on the whole, we will honour a Paper Age too; an Era of hope!
For in this same frightful process of Enceladus Revolt; when the task, on
which no mortal would willingly enter, has become imperative, inevitable, —
is it not even a kindness of Nature that she lures us forward by cheerful
promises, fallacious or not; and a whole generation plunges into the
Blackness, lighted on by an Era of Hope? It has been well said: 'Man is
based on Hope; he has properly no other possession but Hope; this
habitation of his is named the Place of Hope.'
Carlyle delivers a final sneer at The Age of Hope.
Observe, however, beyond the Atlantic, has not the new day verily dawned!
Democracy, as we said, is born; storm-girt, is struggling for life and
victory. A sympathetic France rejoices over the Rights of Man; in all
saloons, it is said, What a spectacle! Now too behold our
American Plenipotentiaries, here in position soliciting;
(1777; Deane somewhat earlier: Franklin remained till 1785.)
the sons of the
Saxon Puritans, with their Old-Saxon temper, Old-Hebrew culture, sleek
Silas, sleek Benjamin, here on such errand, among the light children of
Heathenism, Monarchy, Sentimentalism, and the Scarlet-woman. A spectacle
indeed; over which saloons may cackle joyous; though
questioned on it, gave this answer, most unexpected from a Philosophe:
"Madame, the trade I live by is that of royalist (Mon
métier à moi c'est
There is a growing awareness in France of the American Revolution.
So thinks light Maurepas too; but the wind of Philosophism and force of
public opinion will blow him round. Best wishes, meanwhile, are sent;
clandestine privateers armed.
shall equip his
weapons, military stores can be smuggled over (if the English do
not seize them); wherein, once more Beaumarchais, dimly as the Giant
Smuggler becomes visible, — filling his own lank pocket withal. But surely,
in any case, France should have a Navy. For which great object were not
now the time: now when that proud
of the Seas has her hands
full? It is true, an impoverished Treasury cannot build ships; but the
hint once given (which Beaumarchais says he
gave), this and the other loyal
Seaport, Chamber of Commerce, will build and offer them. Goodly vessels
bound into the waters; a
Ville de Paris
Leviathan of ships.
France gives the Colonists material aid and makes weak efforts to bolster its
And now when gratuitous three-deckers dance there at anchor, with streamers
Philosophedom grows ever more clamorous, what
can a Maurepas do — but gyrate? Squadrons cross the ocean: Gages, Lees,
rough Yankee Generals, 'with woollen night-caps under their hats,' present
arms to the far-glancing Chivalry of France; and new-born Democracy sees,
not without amazement, 'Despotism tempered by Epigrams' fight at her side.
So, however, it is. King's forces and heroic volunteers;
have drawn their swords in this sacred
quarrel of mankind; — shall draw them again elsewhere, in the strangest way.
Volunteers, and after England's declaration of war, regular troops are sent
to America's aid.
some naval thunder is heard. In the course of which did our
Duke de Chartres?,
'hide in the hold;' or did he materially,
by active heroism, contribute to the victory? Alas, by a second edition,
we learn that there was no victory; or that English
had it. (27th
July, 1778.) Our poor young Prince gets his Opera plaudits changed into
mocking tehees; and cannot become
Grand-Admiral, — the source to him of woes
which one may call endless.
The French fleet does not distinguish itself at Ushant.
Woe also for
Ville de Paris?,
the Leviathan of ships! English Rodney has
clutched it, and led it home, with the rest; so successful was his new
'manoeuvre of breaking the enemy's line.' (9th and 12th April, 1782.) It
seems as if, according to Louis XV., 'France were never to have a Navy.'
must return from Hyder Ally and the Indian Waters; with small
result; yet with great glory for 'six'
non-defeats; — which indeed, with such
seconding as he had, one may reckon heroic. Let the old sea-hero rest now,
honoured of France, in his native Cevennes mountains; send smoke, not of
gunpowder, but mere culinary smoke, through the old chimneys of the Castle
— which one day, in other hands, shall have other fame. Brave
Lapéerouse shall by and by lift anchor, on philanthropic Voyage of
Discovery; for the King knows Geography. (August 1st, 1785.) But, alas,
this also will not prosper: the brave Navigator goes, and returns not; the
Seekers search far seas for him in vain. He has vanished trackless into
blue Immensity; and only some mournful mysterious shadow of him hovers long
in all heads and hearts.
The French navy has its usual historical success.
Neither, while the War yet lasts, will Gibraltar
Crillon, Nassau-Siegen, with the ablest projectors extant, are there; and
Prince Condé and Prince d'Artois have hastened to help.
Wondrous leather-roofed Floating-batteries,
set afloat by French-Spanish Pacte de
Famille, give gallant summons: to which, nevertheless, Gibraltar answers
Plutonically, with mere torrents of redhot iron, — as if stone Calpe had
become a throat of the Pit; and utters such a Doom's-blast of a
No, as all
men must credit.
(Annual Register (Dodsley's), xxv. 258-267. September, October, 1782.)
The Great Siege of Gibraltar.
And so, with this loud explosion, the noise of War has ceased; an Age of
Benevolence may hope, for ever. Our noble volunteers of Freedom have
returned, to be her missionaries. Lafayette, as the matchless of his time,
glitters in the Versailles Œil-de-Bœuf; has his Bust set up in the Paris
Hôtel-de-Ville. Democracy stands inexpungable, immeasurable, in her New
World; has even a foot lifted towards the Old; — and our French Finances,
little strengthened by such work, are in no healthy way.
The war furthers drains the French treasury.
What to do with the Finance? This indeed is the great question: a small
but most black weather-symptom, which no radiance of universal hope can
cover. We saw
cast forth from the Controllership, with shrieks, —
for want of a Fortunatus' Purse. As little could
M. de Clugny
duty; or indeed do anything, but consume his wages; attain 'a place in
History,' where as an ineffectual shadow thou beholdest him still
lingering; — and let the duty manage itself.
Did Genevese Necker?
such a Purse, then? He possessed banker's skill, banker's honesty;
of all kinds, for he had written Academic Prize Essays, struggled for India
Companies, given dinners to Philosophes, and 'realised a fortune in twenty
years.' He possessed, further, a taciturnity and solemnity; of depth, or
else of dulness. How singular for
Celadon [green, i.e. young]
false swain as he had
proved; whose father, keeping most probably his own gig, 'would not hear of
such a union,' — to find now his forsaken Demoiselle Curchod sitting in the
high places of the world, as Minister's Madame, and 'Necker not
(Gibbon's Letters: date, 16th June, 1777, etc.)
Controller-General Necker introduced.
A new young Demoiselle, one day to be famed as a Madame and
romping about the knees of the Decline and Fall: the lady Necker founds
Hospitals; gives solemn Philosophe dinner-parties, to cheer her exhausted
Controller-General. Strange things have happened: by clamour of
Philosophism, management of Marquis de Pezay, and Poverty constraining even
Kings. And so Necker, Atlas-like, sustains the burden of the Finances, for
five years long. (Till May, 1781.) Without wages, for he refused such;
cheered only by Public Opinion, and the ministering of his noble Wife.
With many thoughts in him, it is hoped; — which, however, he is shy of
uttering. His Compte Rendu,
published by the royal permission, fresh sign
of a New Era, shows wonders; — which what but the genius of some
Atlas-Necker can prevent from becoming portents? In Necker's head too there is a
whole pacific French Revolution, of its kind; and in that taciturn dull
depth, or deep dulness, ambition enough.
Necker tries to keep the treasury and the country together for 5 years.
Meanwhile, alas, his Fotunatus' Purse turns out to be little other than the
old 'vectigal of Parsimony.' Nay, he too has to produce his scheme of
taxing: Clergy, Noblesse to be taxed; Provincial Assemblies, and the
rest, — like a mere Turgot! The expiring M. de Maurepas must gyrate one
other time. Let Necker also depart; not unlamented.
In the end his solution is the same as Turgot's and he is dismissed.
Great in a private station, Necker looks on from the distance; abiding his
time. 'Eighty thousand copies' of his new Book, which he calls
Administration des Finances, will be sold in few days. He is gone; but
shall return, and that more than once, borne by a whole shouting Nation.
Singular Controller-General of the Finances; once Clerk in Thelusson's
Necker writes widely-read books in banishment. He will be recalled.
So marches the world, in this its Paper Age, or Era of Hope. Not without
obstructions, war-explosions; which, however, heard from such distance, are
little other than a cheerful marching-music. If indeed that dark living
chaos of Ignorance and Hunger, five-and-twenty million strong, under your
feet, — were to begin playing!
This chapter contains vignettes of France after the war.
For the present, however, consider
now when Lent is ending, and
the glory of Paris and France has gone forth, as in annual wont. Not to
assist at Tenebris Masses, but to sun itself and show itself, and salute
the Young Spring.
(Mercier, Tableau de Paris, ii. 51. Louvet, Roman de Faublas, etc.)
Manifold, bright-tinted, glittering with gold; all through
the Bois de Boulogne, in longdrawn variegated rows; —
like longdrawn living
flower-borders, tulips, dahlias, lilies of the valley; all in their moving
flower-pots (of new-gilt carriages): pleasure of the eye, and pride of
life! So rolls and dances the Procession: steady, of firm assurance, as
if it rolled on adamant and the foundations of the world; not on mere
heraldic parchment, — under which smoulders a lake of fire. Dance on, ye
foolish ones; ye sought not wisdom, neither have ye found it. Ye and your
fathers have sown the wind, ye shall reap the whirlwind. Was it not, from
of old, written: The wages of sin is death?
Carlyle contrasts the fashionable and carefree parade at Longchamp with the
realities of France.
But at Longchamp, as elsewhere, we remark for one thing, that dame and
cavalier are waited on each by a kind of human familiar, named jokei.
Little elf, or imp; though young, already withered; with its withered air
of premature vice, of knowingness, of completed elf-hood: useful in
various emergencies. The name jokei (jockey) comes from the English; as
the thing also fancies that it does. Our Anglomania, in fact , is grown
considerable; prophetic of much. If France is to be free, why shall she
not, now when mad war is hushed, love neighbouring Freedom? Cultivated
men, your Dukes de
Liancourt?, de la
admire the English
Constitution, the English National Character; would import what of it they
Of what is lighter, especially if it be light as wind, how much easier the
freightage! Non-Admiral Duke de
(not yet d'Orleans or Egalité)
flies to and fro across the Strait; importing English Fashions; this he, as
hand-and-glove with an
English Prince of
is surely qualified to do.
Carriages and saddles; top-boots and redingotes, as we call riding-coats.
Nay the very mode of riding: for now no man on a level with his age but
à l'Anglaise, rising in the stirrups; scornful of the old sitfast
method, in which, according to Shakspeare, 'butter and eggs' go to market.
Also, he can urge the fervid wheels, this brave Chartres of ours; no whip
in Paris is rasher and surer than the unprofessional one of Monseigneur.
The Duc de Chartres is a prominent anglophile, friend of the Prince of Wales,
Elf jokeis, we have seen;
but see now real Yorkshire jockeys, and what they
ride on, and train: English racers for French Races. These likewise we
owe first (under the Providence of the Devil) to Monseigneur. Prince
d'Artois also has his stud of racers. Prince d'Artois has withal the
strangest horseleech: a moonstruck, much-enduring individual, of Neuchatel
in Switzerland, — named Jean Paul
A problematic Chevalier
in petticoats, now in breeches, is no less problematic in London than in
Paris; and causes bets and lawsuits. Beautiful days of international
communion! Swindlery and Blackguardism have stretched hands across the
Channel, and saluted mutually: on the racecourse of Vincennes or Sablons,
behold in English curricle-and-four, wafted glorious among the
principalities and rascalities, an English
(Adelung, Geschichte der Menschlichen Narrheit, para Dodd.)
— for whom also the too early gallows gapes.
Race meetings, with the attendant corruption, are imported from England.
Duke de Chartres was a young Prince of great promise, as young Princes
often are; which promise unfortunately has belied itself. With the huge
Orleans Property, with Duke de Penthievre for Father-in-law (and now the
killed by excesses), — he will one day be the
richest man in France. Meanwhile, 'his hair is all falling out, his blood
is quite spoiled,' — by early transcendentalism of debauchery. Carbuncles
stud his face; dark studs on a ground of burnished copper. A most signal
failure, this young Prince! The stuff prematurely burnt out of him:
little left but foul smoke and ashes of expiring sensualities: what might
have been Thought, Insight, and even Conduct, gone now, or fast going, — to
confused darkness, broken by bewildering dazzlements; to obstreperous
crotchets; to activities which you may call semi-delirious, or even
semi-galvanic! Paris affects to laugh at his charioteering; but he heeds not
Carlyle gives Chartres a poor character.
On the other hand, what a day, not of laughter, was that, when he
threatened, for lucre's sake, to lay sacrilegious hand on the
(1781-82. (Dulaure, viii. 423.))
The flower-parterres shall be
riven up; the Chestnut Avenues shall fall: time-honoured boscages, under
which the Opera Hamadryads were wont to wander, not inexorable to men.
Paris moans aloud. Philidor, from his Café
de la Régence, shall no longer
look on greenness; the loungers and losels [worthless people]
of the world, where now shall
they haunt? In vain is moaning. The axe glitters; the sacred groves fall
crashing, — for indeed Monseigneur was short of money: the Opera Hamadryads
fly with shrieks. Shriek not, ye Opera Hamadryads; or not as those that
have no comfort. He will surround your Garden with new edifices and
piazzas: though narrowed, it shall be replanted; dizened with hydraulic
jets, cannon which the sun fires at noon; things bodily, things spiritual,
such as man has not imagined; — and in the Palais-Royal shall again, and
more than ever, be the Sorcerer's Sabbath and Satan-at-Home
of our Planet.
In 1781, after the Palais-Royal theatre has burned for a second time, Chartres
develops the grounds as an amusement park.
What will not mortals attempt? From remote Annonay in the Vivarais, the
send up their paper-dome, filled with the smoke of
burnt wool. (5th June, 1783.) The Vivarais provincial assembly is to be
prorogued this same day: Vivarais Assembly-members applaud, and the shouts
of congregated men. Will victorious Analysis scale the very Heavens, then?
The Montgolfiers' first flight.
Paris hears with eager wonder; Paris shall ere long see. From
Paper-warehouse there, in the Rue St. Antoine (a noted Warehouse), — the new
Montgolfier air-ship launches itself. Ducks and poultry are borne skyward:
but now shall men be borne. (October and November, 1783.) Nay, Chemist
Charles thinks of hydrogen and glazed silk.
ascend, from the Tuileries Garden; Montgolfier solemnly cutting the cord.
By Heaven, he also mounts, he and another? Ten times ten thousand hearts
go palpitating; all tongues are mute with wonder and fear; till a shout,
like the voice of seas, rolls after him, on his wild way. He soars, he
dwindles upwards; has become a mere gleaming circlet, — like some Turgotine
snuff-box, what we call
like some new daylight Moon!
Finally he descends; welcomed by the universe. Duchess Polignac, with a
party, is in the Bois de Boulogne, waiting; though it is drizzly winter;
the 1st of December 1783. The whole chivalry of France, Duke de Chartres
foremost, gallops to receive him.
(Lacretelle, 18me Siecle, iii. 258.)
The Montgolfiers exhibit in Paris, and Jacques Charles demonstrates a
Beautiful invention; mounting heavenward, so beautifully, — so unguidably!
Emblem of much, and of our Age of Hope itself; which shall mount,
specifically-light, majestically in this same manner; and hover, — tumbling
whither Fate will. Well if it do not,
explode; and demount
all the more tragically! — So, riding on windbags, will men scale the
Empyrean [highest heaven].
Carlyle sees allegory in the balloons.
Or observe Herr Doctor
in his spacious Magnetic Halls. Long-stoled
he walks; reverend, glancing upwards, as in rapt commerce; an Antique
Egyptian Hierophant [priest]
in this new age. Soft music flits; breaking fitfully
the sacred stillness. Round their Magnetic Mystery, which to the eye is
mere tubs with water, — sit breathless, rod in hand, the circles of Beauty
and Fashion, each circle a living circular Passion-Flower: expecting the
magnetic afflatus [divine inspiration],
and new-manufactured Heaven-on-Earth. O women, O men,
great is your infidel-faith! A Parlementary
we notice there;
too, — on the part of
Monseigneur de Chartres.
Mesmer's quackery is popular among the noblesse.
Had not the Academy of Sciences, with its
interfered! But it did interfere.
(Lacretelle, 18me Siècle, iii.258.)
Mesmer may pocket his hard money, and withdraw. Let him walk silent by the
shore of the Bodensee, by the ancient town of Constance; meditating on
much. For so, under the strangest new vesture, the old great truth (since
no vesture can hide it) begins again to be revealed: That man is what we
call a miraculous creature, with miraculous power over men; and, on the
whole, with such a Life in him, and such a World round him, as victorious
Analysis, with her Physiologies, Nervous-systems, Physic and Metaphysic,
will never completely name, to say nothing of explaining. Wherein also the
Quack shall, in all ages, come in for his share. (August, 1784.)
Mesmer is exposed and withdraws to his native Constance;
Carlyle draws a moral lesson.
In such a practical France, let the theory of Perfectibility say what it
will, discontents cannot be wanting: your promised Reformation is so
indispensable; yet it comes not; who will begin it — with himself?
Discontent with what is around us, still more with what is above us, goes
on increasing; seeking ever new vents.
Despite Philosophism and Hope, discontent grows.
Of Street Ballads, of Epigrams that from of old tempered Despotism, we need
not speak. Nor of Manuscript Newspapers (Nouvelles à la main)
do we speak.
and his journeymen and followers may close those 'thirty volumes
of scurrilous eaves-dropping,' and quit that trade; for at length if not
liberty of the Press, there is license. Pamphlets can be surreptititiously
vended and read in Paris, did they even bear to be 'Printed at Pekin.' We
have a Courrier de l'Europe in those years, regularly published at
by a De Morande?,
whom the guillotine has not yet devoured. There too an
still unguillotined, when his own country has become too
hot for him, and his brother Advocates have cast him out, can emit his
hoarse wailings, and
Bastille Dévoilée (Bastille unveiled).
at length, has his wish; sees the
Histoire Philosophique, with
its 'lubricity,' unveracity, loose loud
they say, by Philosophedom at large, though in the
Abbé's name, and to his
glory), burnt by the common hangman; — and sets out on his travels as a
martyr. It was the edition of 1781; perhaps the last notable book that had
such fire-beatitude, — the hangman discovering now that it did not serve.
The evidence is in the popular songs, the newspapers and in literature.
Again, in Courts of Law, with their money-quarrels, divorce-cases,
wheresoever a glimpse into the household existence can be had, what
indications! The Parlements of Besançon and Aix ring, audible to all
France, with the amours and destinies of a young
He, under the
nurture of a 'Friend of Men,'
has, in State Prisons, in marching Regiments,
Dutch Authors' garrets,
and quite other scenes, 'been for twenty years
learning to resist 'despotism:' despotism of men, and alas also of gods.
How, beneath this rose-coloured veil of Universal Benevolence and
Redux, is the sanctuary of Home so often a dreary void, or a dark
contentious Hell-on-Earth! The old Friend of Men has his own divorce case
too; and at times, 'his whole family but one' under lock and key: he
writes much about reforming and enfranchising the world; and for his own
private behoof he has needed sixty
A man of insight
too, with resolution, even with manful principle: but in such an element,
inward and outward; which he could not rule, but only madden. Edacity,
rapacity; — quite contrary to the finer sensibilities of the heart! Fools,
that expect your verdant Millennium, and nothing but Love and Abundance,
brooks running wine, winds whispering music, — with the whole ground and
basis of your existence champed into a mud of Sensuality; which, daily
growing deeper, will soon have no bottom but the Abyss!
The public morals crumble, with even the best families, like the Mirabeaus,
involved in scandal and divorce.
Or consider that unutterable business of the Diamond
Cardinal Louis de Rohan?;
Sicilian jail-bird Balsamo
Dame de Lamotte, 'with a face of some piquancy:' the highest Church
Dignitaries waltzing, in Walpurgis Dance, with quack-prophets, pickpurses
and public women; — a whole Satan's Invisible World displayed; working there
continually under the daylight visible one; the smoke of its torment going
up for ever! The Throne has been brought into scandalous collision with
the Treadmill. Astonished Europe rings with the mystery for ten months;
sees only lie unfold itself from lie; corruption among the lofty and the
low, gulosity, credulity, imbecility, strength nowhere but in the hunger.
Weep, fair Queen, thy first tears of unmixed wretchedness! Thy fair name
has been tarnished by foul breath; irremediably while life lasts. No more
shalt thou be loved and pitied by living hearts, till a new generation has
been born, and thy own heart lies cold, cured of all its sorrows. — The
Epigrams henceforth become, not sharp and bitter; but cruel, atrocious,
unmentionable. On that 31st of May, 1786, a miserable Cardinal Grand-Almoner
Rohan, on issuing from his Bastille, is escorted by hurrahing
crowds: unloved he, and worthy of no love; but important since the Court
and Queen are his enemies.
(Fils Adoptif, Mémoires de Mirabeau, iv. 325.)
The Diamond Necklace affair increases animosity toward the monarchy.
How is our bright Era of Hope dimmed: and the whole sky growing bleak with
signs of hurricane and earthquake! It is a doomed world: gone all
'obedience that made men free;' fast going the obedience that made men
slaves, — at least to one another. Slaves only of their own lusts they now
are, and will be. Slaves of sin; inevitably also of sorrow. Behold the
mouldering mass of Sensuality and Falsehood; round which plays foolishly,
itself a corrupt phosphorescence, some glimmer of Sentimentalism; — and over
all, rising, as Ark of
their Covenant, the grim
Fork 'forty feet
high;' which also is now nigh rotted. Add only that the French Nation
distinguishes itself among Nations by the characteristic of Excitability;
with the good, but also with the perilous evil, which belongs to that.
Rebellion, explosion, of unknown extent is to be calculated on. There are,
as Chesterfield wrote, 'all the symptoms I have ever met with in History!'
A summary of the symptoms mentioned by Chesterfield foreshadowing revolution.
Shall we say, then: Wo to Philosophism, that it destroyed Religion, what it
called 'extinguishing the abomination
(écraser l'infame)'? Wo rather to
those that made the Holy an abomination, and extinguishable; wo at all men
that live in such a time of world-abomination and world-destruction! Nay,
answer the Courtiers, it was Turgot, it was Necker, with their mad
innovating; it was the Queen's want of etiquette; it was he, it was she, it
was that. Friends! it was every scoundrel that had lived, and quack-like
pretended to be doing, and been only eating and misdoing, in all provinces
of life, as Shoeblack or as Sovereign Lord, each in his degree, from the
time of Charlemagne and earlier. All this (for be sure no falsehood
perishes, but is as seed sown out to grow) has been storing itself for
thousands of years; and now the account-day has come. And rude will the
settlement be: of wrath laid up against the day of wrath. O my Brother,
be not thou a Quack! Die rather, if thou wilt take counsel; 'tis but dying
once, and thou art quit of it for ever. Cursed is that trade; and bears
curses, thou knowest not how, long ages after thou art departed, and the
wages thou hadst are all consumed; nay, as the ancient wise have written, —
through Eternity itself, and is verily marked in the Doom-Book of a God!
All Philosophism, all theories, all quackery are to be washed away as nothing
by the tide of history.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. And yet, as we said, Hope is but
deferred; not abolished, not abolishable. It is very notable, and
touching, how this same Hope does still light onwards the French Nation
through all its wild destinies. For we shall still find Hope shining, be
it for fond invitation, be it for anger and menace; as a mild heavenly
light it shone; as a red conflagration it shines: burning sulphurous blue,
through darkest regions of Terror, it still shines; and goes sent out at
all, since Desperation itself is a kind of Hope. Thus is our Era still to
be named of Hope, though in the saddest sense, — when there is nothing left
There is nothing left but Hope.
But if any one would know summarily what a Pandora's Box lies there for the
opening, he may see it in what by its nature is the symptom of all
symptoms, the surviving Literature of the Period. Abbé Raynal, with his
lubricity and loud loose rant, has spoken his word; and already the
fast-hastening generation responds to another. Glance at Beaumarchais'
de Figaro; which now (in 1784), after difficulty enough, has issued on the
stage; and 'runs its hundred nights,' to the admiration of all men. By
what virtue or internal vigour it so ran, the reader of our day will rather
wonder: — and indeed will know so much the better that it flattered some
pruriency of the time; that it spoke what all were feeling, and longing to
speak. Small substance in that Figaro: thin wiredrawn intrigues, thin
wiredrawn sentiments and sarcasms; a thing lean, barren; yet which winds
and whisks itself, as through a wholly mad universe, adroitly, with a
high-sniffing air: wherein each, as was hinted, which is the grand secret, may
see some image of himself, and of his own state and ways. So it runs its
hundred nights, and all France runs with it; laughing applause. If the
soliloquising Barber ask: "What has your Lordship done to earn all this?"
and can only answer: "You took the trouble to be born
(Vous vous êtes donné la peine de naître),"
all men must laugh: and a gay horse-racing
Anglomaniac Noblesse loudest of all. For how can small books have a great
danger in them? asks the Sieur Caron; and fancies his thin epigram may be a
kind of reason. Conqueror of a golden fleece, by giant smuggling; tamer of
hell-dogs, in the Parlement Maupeou; and finally crowned Orpheus in the
has now culminated, and unites the
attributes of several demigods. We shall meet him once again, in the
course of his decline.
The slight literature of the days before the revolution confirms the spirit
of the country.
Still more significant are two Books produced on the eve of the
ever-memorable Explosion itself, and read eagerly by all the world:
Louvet's? Chevalier de Faublas. Noteworthy
Books; which may be considered as the last speech of old Feudal France. In
the first there rises melodiously, as it were, the wail of a moribund
world: everywhere wholesome Nature in unequal conflict with diseased
perfidious Art; cannot escape from it in the lowest hut, in the remotest
island of the sea. Ruin and death must strike down the loved one; and,
what is most significant of all, death even here not by necessity, but by
etiquette. What a world of prurient corruption lies visible in that
super-sublime of modesty! Yet, on the whole, our good Saint-Pierre is musical,
poetical though most morbid: we will call his Book the swan-song of old
The best literature was only a dying gasp.
Louvet's again, let no man account musical. Truly, if this wretched
Faublas is a death-speech, it is one under the gallows, and by a felon that
does not repent. Wretched cloaca [sewer] of a Book; without depth even as a
cloaca! What 'picture of French society' is here? Picture properly of
nothing, if not of the mind that gave it out as some sort of picture. Yet
symptom of much; above all, of the world that could nourish itself thereon.
While the unspeakable confusion is everywhere weltering within, and through
so many cracks in the surface sulphur-smoke is issuing, the question
arises: Through what crevice will the main Explosion carry itself?
Through which of the old craters or chimneys; or must it, at once, form a
new crater for itself? In every Society are such chimneys, are
Institutions serving as such: even Constantinople is not without its
safety-valves; there too Discontent can vent itself, — in material fire; by
the number of nocturnal conflagrations, or of hanged bakers, the Reigning
Power can read the signs of the times, and change course according to
Carlyle compares the popular sentiment to a volcano seeking its outlet.
We may say that this French Explosion will doubtless first try all the old
Institutions of escape; for by each of these there is, or at least there
used to be, some communication with the interior deep; they are national
Institutions in virtue of that. Had they even become personal
Institutions, and what we can call choked up from their original uses,
there nevertheless must the impediment be weaker than elsewhere. Through
which of them then? An observer might have guessed: Through the Law
Parlements; above all, through the Parlement of Paris.
Discontent first vents through the Parlements or law-courts.
Men, though never so thickly clad in dignities, sit not inaccessible to the
influences of their time; especially men whose life is business; who at all
turns, were it even from behind judgment-seats, have come in contact with
the actual workings of the world. The Counselor of Parlement, the
President himself, who has bought his place with hard money that he might
be looked up to by his fellow-creatures, how shall he, in all
and saloons of elegant culture, become notable as a Friend of
Darkness? Among the Paris Long-robes there may be more than one patriotic
whose rule is conscience and the public good; there are
clearly more than one hotheaded
to whose confused thought any
loud reputation of the Brutus sort may seem glorious.
have titles and wealth; yet, at Court, are only styled 'Noblesse
of the Robe.' There are
of deep scheme;
incontinent tongue: all nursed more or less on the milk of the
Nay, for the whole Body, is not this patriotic opposition also a
fighting for oneself? Awake, Parlement of Paris, renew thy long warfare!
Was not the Parlement Maupeou abolished with ignominy? Not now hast thou
to dread a Louis XIV., with the crack of his whip, and his Olympian looks;
not now a Richelieu and Bastilles: no, the whole Nation is behind thee.
Thou too (O heavens!) mayest become a Political Power; and with the
shakings of thy horse-hair wig shake principalities and dynasties, like a
very Jove with his ambrosial curls!
The Paris Parlement already has more power than the Parlement Maupeou it
succeeded and has members willing,
some eager, to make changes for the good of France.
Light old M. de
since the end of 1781, has been fixed in the
frost of death: "Never more," said the good Louis, "shall I hear his step
overhead;" his light jestings and gyratings are at an end. No more can the
importunate reality be hidden by pleasant wit, and today's evil be deftly
rolled over upon tomorrow. The morrow itself has arrived; and now nothing
but a solid phlegmatic M. de
sits there, in dull matter of fact,
like some dull punctual Clerk (which he originally was); admits what cannot
be denied, let the remedy come whence it will. In him is no remedy; only
clerklike 'despatch of business' according to routine. The poor King,
grown older yet hardly more experienced, must himself, with such no-faculty
as he has, begin governing; wherein also his Queen will give help. Bright
Queen, with her quick clear glances and impulses; clear, and even noble;
but all too superficial, vehement-shallow, for that work! To govern France
were such a problem; and now it has grown well-nigh too hard to govern even
For if a distressed People has its cry, so likewise,
and more audibly, has a bereaved Court.
To the Œil-de-Bœuf it remains
inconceivable how, in a France of such resources, the Horn of Plenty should
run dry: did it not use to flow? Nevertheless
with his revenue of
parsimony, has 'suppressed above six hundred places,' before the Courtiers
could oust him; parsimonious finance-pedant as he was. Again, a military
with his Prussian manœuvres; with his Prussian
notions, as if merit and not coat-of-arms should be the rule of promotion,
has disaffected military men; the
Mousquetaires, with much else are
suppressed: for he too was one of your suppressors; and unsettling and
oversetting, did mere mischief — to the Œil-de-Bœuf.
scarcity, anxiety: it is a changed Œil-de-Bœuf. Besenval says, already
in these years (1781) there was such a melancholy (such a tristesse) about
Court, compared with former days, as made it quite dispiriting to look
Louis XVI has lost the strong ministers who formed his first cabinet. The
government and Versailles share the malaise of the country.
No wonder that the Œil-de-Bœuf feels melancholy,
when you are suppressing
its places! Not a place can be suppressed, but some purse is the lighter
for it; and more than one heart the heavier; for did it not employ the
working-classes too, — manufacturers, male and female, of laces, essences;
of Pleasure generally, whosoever could manufacture Pleasure? Miserable
economies; never felt over Twenty-five Millions! So, however, it goes on:
and is not yet ended. Few years more and the Wolf-hounds shall fall
suppressed, the Bear-hounds, the Falconry; places shall fall, thick as
Duke de Polignac?
demonstrates, to the complete silencing
of ministerial logic, that his place cannot be abolished; then gallantly,
turning to the Queen, surrenders it, since her Majesty so wishes. Less
Duke de Coigny,
and yet not luckier: "We got into a real
quarrel, Coigny and I," said King Louis; "but if he had even struck me, I
could not have blamed him."
(Besenval, iii. 255-58.)
In regard to such
matters there can be but one opinion. Baron Besenval, with that frankness
of speech which stamps the independent man, plainly assures her Majesty
that it is frightful (affreux); "you go to bed, and are not sure but you
shall rise impoverished on the morrow: one might as well be in Turkey."
It is indeed a dog's life.
Carlyle makes fun of the plight of dismissed courtiers.
How singular this perpetual distress of the royal treasury! And yet it is
a thing not more incredible than undeniable. A thing mournfully true: the
stumbling-block on which all Ministers successively stumble, and fall. Be
it 'want of fiscal genius,' or some far other want, there is the palpablest
discrepancy between Revenue and Expenditure; a Deficit
of the Revenue: you
must 'choke (combler)
the Deficit,' or else it will swallow you! This is
the stern problem; hopeless seemingly as squaring of the circle.
Joly de Fleury?,
who succeeded Necker, could do nothing with it;
nothing but propose loans, which were tardily filled up; impose new taxes,
unproductive of money, productive of clamour and discontent. As little
do, or even less; for if Joly maintained
himself beyond year and day, d'Ormesson reckons only by months: till 'the
King purchased Rambouillet without consulting him,' which he took as a hint
to withdraw. And so, towards the end of 1783, matters threaten to come to
still-stand. Vain seems human ingenuity. In vain has our newly-devised
'Council of Finances' struggled, our Intendants of Finance,
of Finances: there are unhappily no Finances to control. Fatal
paralysis invades the social movement; clouds, of blindness or of
blackness, envelop us: are we breaking down, then, into the black horrors
of NATIONAL BANKRUPTCY?
The desperate condition of government finance is seen in the ineffectiveness
and rapid turnover of Comtrollers-General. (The situation is perhaps not
unlike that of Argentina in 2002.)
Great is Bankruptcy: the great bottomless gulf into which all Falsehoods,
public and private, do sink, disappearing; whither, from the first origin
of them, they were all doomed. For Nature is true and not a lie. No lie
you can speak or act but it will come, after longer or shorter circulation,
like a Bill drawn on Nature's Reality, and be presented there for payment,
— with the answer, No effects. Pity only that it often had so long a
circulation: that the original forger were so seldom he who bore the final
smart of it! Lies, and the burden of evil they bring, are passed on;
shifted from back to back, and from rank to rank; and so land ultimately on
the dumb lowest rank, who with spade and mattock, with sore heart and empty
wallet, daily come in contact with reality, and can pass the cheat no
Financial collapse is a kind of inevitable judgment delivered on the nation
from the sins of its government.
Observe nevertheless how, by a just compensating law, if the lie with its
burden (in this confused whirlpool of Society) sinks and is shifted ever
downwards, then in return the distress of it rises ever upwards and
upwards. Whereby, after the long pining and demi-starvation of those
Twenty Millions, a Duke de Coigny and his Majesty come also to have their
'real quarrel.' Such is the law of just Nature; bringing, though at long
intervals, and were it only by Bankruptcy, matters round again to the mark.
But what is pushed down to the bottom rises again to the top.
But with a Fortunatus' Purse in his pocket, through what length of time
might not almost any Falsehood last! Your Society, your Household,
practical or spiritual Arrangement, is untrue, unjust, offensive to the eye
of God and man. Nevertheless its hearth is warm, its larder well
replenished: the innumerable Swiss of Heaven, with a kind of Natural
loyalty, gather round it; will prove, by pamphleteering, musketeering, that
it is a truth; or if not an unmixed (unearthly, impossible) Truth, then
better, a wholesomely attempered one, (as wind is to the shorn lamb), and
works well. Changed outlook, however, when purse and larder grow empty!
Was your Arrangement so true, so accordant to Nature's ways, then how, in
the name of wonder, has Nature, with her infinite bounty, come to leave it
famishing there? To all men, to all women and all children, it is now
indutiable that your Arrangement was false. Honour to Bankruptcy; ever
righteous on the great scale, though in detail it is so cruel! Under all
Falsehoods it works, unweariedly mining. No Falsehood, did it rise
and cover the world, but Bankruptcy, one day, will sweep it down, and
make us free of it.
And financial collapse has be benefit of showing just what the problems
(falsehoods and lies, in Carlylian cant) are.
Here, then is verily a sign and wonder; visible to the whole world; bodeful
of much. The Œil-de-Bœuf dolorously grumbles;
were we not well as we
stood, — quenching conflagrations by oil? Constitutional Philosophedom
starts with joyful surprise; stares eagerly what the result will be. The
public creditor, the public debtor, the whole thinking and thoughtless
public have their several surprises, joyful and sorrowful. Count Mirabeau,
who has got his matrimonial and other Lawsuits huddled up, better or worse;
and works now in the dimmest element at Berlin; compiling Prussian
Monarchies, Pamphlets On Cagliostro; writing, with pay, but not with
honourable recognition, innumerable Despatches for his Government, — scents
or descries richer quarry from afar. He, like an eagle or vulture, or
mixture of both, preens his wings for flight homewards.
(Fils Adoptif, Mémoires de Mirabeau, t. iv. livv. 4 et 5.)
Various factions view the convocation with a wary hope. Mirabeau sees it as
a potential employer.
M. de Calonne has stretched out an Aaron's Rod
over France; miraculous; and
is summoning quite unexpected things. Audacity and hope alternate in him
with misgivings; though the sanguine-valiant side carries it. Anon he
writes to an intimate friend, "Je me fais pitié a moi-méme
(I am an
object of pity to myself);" anon, invites some dedicating Poet or Poetaster
to sing 'this Assembly of the Notables and the Revolution that is
(Biographie Universelle, para Calonne (by Guizot).)
indeed; and a matter to be sung, — only not till we have seen it, and what
the issue of it is. In deep obscure unrest, all things have so long gone
rocking and swaying: will M. de Calonne, with this his alchemy of the
Notables, fasten all together again, and get new revenues? Or wrench all
asunder; so that it go no longer rocking and swaying, but clashing and
The Convocation is portentous, the result anyone's guess.
Be this as it may, in the bleak short days, we behold men of weight and
influence threading the great vortex of French Locomotion, each on his
several line, from all sides of France towards the Château
summoned thither de par le roi. There, on the 22d day of February 1787,
they have met, and got installed: Notables to the number of a Hundred and
Thirty-seven, as we count them name by name:
(Lacretelle, iii. 286. Montgaillard, i. 347.)
Seven Princes of the Blood,
it makes the round
Gross of Notables. Men of the sword, men of the robe; Peers, dignified
Clergy, Parlementary Presidents: divided into Seven Boards (Bureaux);
under our Seven Princes of the Blood,
the rest; among whom let not our new
(for, since 1785, he is
Chartres no longer) be forgotten. Never yet made Admiral, and now turning
the corner of his fortieth year, with spoiled blood and prospects; half-weary
of a world which is more than half-weary of him, Monseigneur's future
is most questionable. Not in illumination and insight, not even in
conflagration; but, as was said, 'in dull smoke and ashes of outburnt
sensualities,' does he live and digest. Sumptuosity and sordidness;
revenge, life-weariness, ambition, darkness, putrescence; and, say, in
sterling money, three hundred thousand a year, — were this poor Prince once
to burst loose from his Court-moorings, to what regions, with what
phenomena, might he not sail and drift! Happily as yet he 'affects to hunt
daily;' sits there, since he must sit, presiding that Bureau of his, with
dull moon-visage, dull glassy eyes, as if it were a mere tedium to him.
The composition of the Assembly of Notables.
We observe finally, that Count Mirabeau has actually arrived. He descends
from Berlin, on the scene of action; glares into it with flashing sun-glance;
discerns that it will do nothing for him. He had hoped these
Notables might need a Secretary. They do need one; but have fixed on
Dupont de Nemours?;
a man of smaller fame, but then of better; — who indeed,
as his friends often hear, labours under this complaint, surely not a
universal one, of having 'five kings to correspond with.'
(Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau (Paris, 1832), p. 20.)
The pen of a Mirabeau cannot
become an official one; nevertheless it remains a pen. In defect of
Secretaryship, he sets to denouncing Stock-brokerage (Dénonciation de
l'Agiotage); testifying, as his wont is, by loud bruit, that he is present
and busy; — till, warned by friend Talleyrand, and even by Calonne himself
underhand, that 'a seventeenth Lettre-de-Cachet may be launched against
him,' he timefully flits over the marches.
Mirabeau tries for a place in the Assembly but irritates the nobles and retires
And now, in stately royal apartments, as Pictures of that time still
represent them, our hundred and forty-four Notables sit organised; ready to
hear and consider. Controller Calonne is dreadfully behindhand with his
speeches, his preparatives; however, the man's 'facility of work' is known
to us. For freshness of style, lucidity, ingenuity, largeness of view,
of his was unsurpassable: — had not the subject-matter
been so appalling. A Deficit,
concerning which accounts vary, and the
Controller's own account is not unquestioned; but which all accounts agree
in representing as 'enormous.' This is the epitome of our Controller's
difficulties: and then his means? Mere Turgotism; for thither, it seems,
we must come at last: Provincial Assemblies; new Taxation; nay, strangest
of all, new Land-tax, what he calls Subvention Territoriale, from which
neither Privileged nor Unprivileged, Noblemen, Clergy, nor Parlementeers,
shall be exempt!
Calonne lays it on the line. He proposes more power to the local assemblies;
new methods of taxation on the Third Estate; and direct taxation of the
Nobles and Clergy.
Foolish enough! These Privileged Classes have been used to tax; levying
toll, tribute and custom, at all hands, while a penny was left: but to be
themselves taxed? Of such Privileged persons, meanwhile, do these
Notables, all but the merest fraction, consist. Headlong Calonne had given
no heed to the 'composition,' or judicious packing of them; but chosen such
Notables as were really notable; trusting for the issue to off-hand
ingenuity, good fortune, and eloquence that never yet failed. Headlong
Controller-General! Eloquence can do much, but not all. Orpheus, with
eloquence grown rhythmic, musical (what we call Poetry), drew iron tears
from the cheek of Pluto: but by what witchery of rhyme or prose wilt thou
from the pocket of Plutus draw gold?
The nobles have no intention of taxing themselves.
Accordingly, the storm that now rose and began to whistle round Calonne,
first in these Seven Bureaus, and then on the outside of them, awakened by
them, spreading wider and wider over all France, threatens to become
unappeasable. A Deficit so enormous! Mismanagement, profusion is too
clear. Peculation itself is hinted at; nay, Lafayette and others go so far
as to speak it out, with attempts at proof. The blame of his Deficit our
brave Calonne, as was natural, had endeavoured to shift from himself on his
predecessors; not excepting even Necker. But now Necker vehemently denies;
whereupon an 'angry Correspondence,' which also finds its way into print.
The mood of the assembly is to shoot the messenger.
In the Œil-de-Bœuf, and her Majesty's private Apartments,
Controller, with his "Madame, if it is but difficult," had been persuasive:
but, alas, the cause is now carried elsewhither. Behold him, one of these
sad days, in Monsieur's Bureau; to which all the other Bureaus have sent
deputies. He is standing at bay: alone; exposed to an incessant fire of
questions, interpellations, objurgations, from those 'hundred and
thirty-seven' pieces of logic-ordnance, — what we may well call
bouches à feu,
fire-mouths literally! Never, according to Besenval, or hardly ever, had
such display of intellect, dexterity, coolness, suasive eloquence, been
made by man. To the raging play of so many fire-mouths he opposes nothing
angrier than light-beams, self-possession and fatherly smiles. With the
imperturbablest bland clearness, he, for five hours long, keeps answering
the incessant volley of fiery captious questions, reproachful
interpellations; in words prompt as lightning, quiet as light. Nay, the
cross-fire too: such side questions and incidental interpellations as, in
the heat of the main-battle, he (having only one tongue) could not get
answered; these also he takes up at the first slake; answers even these.
(Besenval, iii. 196.)
Could blandest suasive eloquence have saved France,
she were saved.
Calonne cool under fire.
Heavy-laden Controller! In the Seven Bureaus seems nothing but hindrance:
in Monsieur's Bureau,
a Loménie de
Archbishop of Toulouse, with an
eye himself to the Controllership, stirs up the Clergy; there are meetings,
underground intrigues. Neither from without anywhere comes sign of help or
hope. For the Nation (where Mirabeau is now, with stentor-lungs,
'denouncing Agio') the Controller has hitherto done nothing, or less. For
Philosophedom he has done as good as nothing, — sent out some scientific
or the like: and is he not in 'angry correspondence' with its
Necker? The very Œil-de-Bœuf looks questionable;
a falling Controller
has no friends. Solid M. de
who with his phlegmatic judicious
punctuality might have kept down many things, died the very week before
these sorrowful Notables met. And now a Seal-keeper, Garde-des-Sceaux
[Keeper of the Seals] Miromenil is thought to be playing the traitor:
spinning plots for
Loménie-Brienne! Queen's-Reader Abbé de
unloved individual, was
Brienne's creature, the work of his hands from the first: it may be feared
the backstairs passage is open, ground getting mined under our feet.
Treacherous Garde-des-Sceaux Miromenil, at least, should be dismissed;
the eloquent Notable, a stanch man, with connections, and even
ideas, Parlement-President yet intent on reforming Parlements, were not he
the right Keeper? So, for one, thinks busy
and, at dinner-table,
rounds the same into the Controller's ear, — who always, in the intervals of
landlord-duties, listens to him as with charmed look, but answers nothing
(Besenval, iii. 203.)
Calonne is also threatened by court political intrigue.
Alas, what to answer? The force of private intrigue, and then also the
force of public opinion, grows so dangerous, confused! Philosophedom
sneers aloud, as if its Necker already triumphed. The gaping populace
gapes over Wood-cuts or Copper-cuts; where, for example, a Rustic is
represented convoking the poultry of his barnyard, with this opening
address: "Dear animals, I have assembled you to advise me what sauce I
shall dress you with;" to which a Cock responding, "We don't want to be
eaten," is checked by "You wander from the point (Vous vous ecartez de la
(Republished in the Musée de la Caricature (Paris, 1834).)
Laughter and logic; ballad-singer, pamphleteer; epigram and caricature:
what wind of public opinion is this, — as if the Cave of the Winds were
bursting loose! At nightfall, President Lamoignon steals over to the
Controller's; finds him 'walking with large strides in his chamber, like
one out of himself.'
(Besenval, iii. 209.)
With rapid confused speech the
Controller begs M. de Lamoignon to give him 'an advice.' Lamoignon
candidly answers that, except in regard to his own anticipated Keepership,
unless that would prove remedial, he really cannot take upon him to advise.
Calonne is cornered.
'On the Monday after Easter,' the 9th of April 1787, a date one rejoices to
verify, for nothing can excel the indolent falsehood of these Histoires and
Memoires, — 'On the Monday after Easter, as I, Besenval, was riding towards
Romainville to the Marechal de Segur's, I met a friend on the Boulevards,
who told me that M. de Calonne was out. A little further on came M. the
Duke d'Orleans, dashing towards me, head to the wind' (trotting à
l'Anglaise), 'and confirmed the news.'
(Ib. iii. 211.)
It is true news.
Treacherous Garde-des-Sceaux Miromenil is gone,
in his room: but appointed for his own profit only, not for the
Controller's: 'next day' the Controller also has had to move. A little
longer he may linger near; be seen among the money changers, and even
'working in the Controller's office,' where much lies unfinished: but
neither will that hold. Too strong blows and beats this tempest of public
opinion, of private intrigue, as from the Cave of all the Winds; and blows
him (higher Authority giving sign) out of Paris and France, — over the
horizon, into Invisibility, or outer Darkness.
Calonne is dismissed, goes into exile in England.
Such destiny the magic of genius could not forever avert. Ungrateful
did he not miraculously rain gold manna on you; so that, as a
Courtier said, "All the world held out its hand, and I held out my hat," —
for a time? Himself is poor; penniless, had not a 'Financier's widow in
Lorraine' offered him, though he was turned of fifty, her hand and the rich
purse it held. Dim henceforth shall be his activity, though unwearied:
Letters to the King, Appeals, Prognostications; Pamphlets (from London),
written with the old suasive facility; which however do not persuade.
Luckily his widow's purse fails not. Once, in a year or two, some shadow
of him shall be seen hovering on the Northern Border, seeking election as
National Deputy; but be sternly beckoned away. Dimmer then, far-borne over
utmost European lands, in uncertain twilight of diplomacy, he shall hover,
intriguing for 'Exiled Princes,' and have adventures; be overset into the
Rhine stream and half-drowned, nevertheless save his papers dry.
Unwearied, but in vain! In France he works miracles no more; shall hardly
return thither to find a grave. Farewell, thou facile sanguine
Controller-General, with thy light rash hand, thy suasive mouth of gold:
there have been, and better; but to thee also was allotted a task, — of
raising the wind, and the winds; and thou hast done it.
Calonne, having played his part, departs the stage.
But now, while Ex-Controller Calonne flies storm-driven over the horizon,
in this singular way, what has become of the Controllership? It hangs
vacant, one may say; extinct, like the Moon in her vacant interlunar cave.
Two preliminary shadows, poor M. Fourqueux, poor M. Villedeuil, do hold in
quick succession some simulacrum of it,
(Besenval, iii. 225.)
— as the new
Moon will sometimes shine out with a dim preliminary old one in her arms.
Be patient, ye Notables! An actual new Controller is certain, and even
ready; were the indispensable manoeuvres but gone through. Long-headed
with Home Secretary
and Foreign Secretary
have exchanged looks; let these three once meet and speak. Who is it that
is strong in the Queen's favour, and the Abbé de Vermond's?
That is a man
of great capacity? Or at least that has struggled, these fifty years, to
have it thought great; now, in the Clergy's name, demanding to have
Protestant death-penalties 'put in execution;' no flaunting it in the
as the gayest man-pleaser and woman-pleaser; gleaning even a good
word from Philosophedom and your Voltaires and D'Alemberts? With a party
ready-made for him in the Notables? — Loménie de Brienne, Archbishop of
Toulouse! answer all the three, with the clearest instantaneous concord;
and rush off to propose him to the King; 'in such haste,' says Besenval,
'that M. de Lamoignon had to borrow a simarre,' seemingly some kind of
cloth apparatus necessary for that.
(Ib. iii. 224.)
The victorious court faction presses the king to make Brienne prime minister.
Loménie-Brienne, who had all his life 'felt a kind of predestination for
the highest offices,' has now therefore obtained them. He presides over
the Finances; he shall have the title of Prime Minister itself, and the
effort of his long life be realised. Unhappy only that it took such talent
and industry to gain the place; that to qualify for it hardly any talent or
industry was left disposable! Looking now into his inner man, what
qualification he may have, Loménie beholds, not without
to nothing but vacuity and possibility. Principles or methods, acquirement
outward or inward (for his very body is wasted, by hard tear and wear) he
finds none; not so much as a plan, even an unwise one. Lucky, in these
circumstances, that Calonne has had a plan! Calonne's plan was gathered
from Turgot's and Necker's by compilation; shall become Loménie's by
adoption. Not in vain has Loménie studied the working of the British
Constitution; for he professes to have some Anglomania, of a sort. Why, in
that free country, does one Minister, driven out by Parliament, vanish from
his King's presence, and another enter, borne in by Parliament?
(Montgaillard, Histoire de France, i. 410-17.)
Surely not for mere change
(which is ever wasteful); but that all men may have share of what is going;
and so the strife of Freedom indefinitely prolong itself, and no harm be
Having no plan of his own, Brienne continues that of Calonne.
The Notables, mollified by Easter festivities, by the sacrifice of Calonne,
are not in the worst humour. Already his Majesty, while the 'interlunar
shadows' were in office, had held session of Notables; and from his throne
delivered promissory conciliatory eloquence: 'The Queen stood waiting at a
window, till his carriage came back; and Monsieur from afar clapped hands
to her,' in sign that all was well.
(Besenval, iii. 220.)
It has had the
best effect; if such do but last. Leading Notables meanwhile can be
'caressed;' Brienne's new gloss, Lamoignon's long head will profit
somewhat; conciliatory eloquence shall not be wanting. On the whole,
however, is it not undeniable that this of ousting Calonne and adopting the
plans of Calonne, is a measure which, to produce its best effect, should be
looked at from a certain distance, cursorily; not dwelt on with minute near
scrutiny. In a word, that no service the Notables could now do were so
obliging as, in some handsome manner, to — take themselves away! Their 'Six
Propositions' about Provisional Assemblies, suppression of
suchlike, can be accepted without criticism. The
Subvention on Land-tax,
and much else, one must glide hastily over; safe nowhere but in flourishes
of conciliatory eloquence. Till at length, on this 25th of May, year 1787,
in solemn final session, there bursts forth what we can call an explosion
of eloquence; King, Loménie, Lamoignon and retinue
taking up the successive
strain; in harangues to the number of ten, besides his Majesty's, which
last the livelong day; — whereby, as in a kind of choral anthem, or bravura
peal, of thanks, praises, promises, the Notables are, so to speak, organed
out, and dismissed to their respective places of abode. They had sat, and
talked, some nine weeks: they were the first Notables since Richelieu's,
in the year 1626.
The Notables, having done nothing, are sent home with thanks.
By some Historians, sitting much at their ease, in the safe distance,
Loménie has been blamed for this dismissal of his Notables:
it was clearly time. There are things, as we said, which should not be
dwelt on with minute close scrutiny: over hot coals you cannot glide too
fast. In these Seven Bureaus, where no work could be done, unless talk
were work, the questionablest matters were coming up. Lafayette, for
example, in Monseigneur d'Artois' Bureau, took upon him to set forth more
than one deprecatory oration about Lettres-de-Cachet, Liberty of the
Subject, Agio, and suchlike; which Monseigneur endeavouring to repress, was
answered that a Notable being summoned to speak his opinion must speak it.
(Montgaillard, i. 360.)
The Notables, having refused to do what was asked, were disposed to look into
other areas. From the point of view of Brienne, it was time for them to go.
Thus too his Grace the Archbishop of Aix perorating once, with a plaintive
pulpit tone, in these words? "Tithe, that free-will offering of the piety
of Christians" — "Tithe," interrupted Duke la Rochefoucault,
with the cold
business-manner he has learned from the English, "that free-will offering
of the piety of Christians; on which there are now forty-thousand lawsuits
in this realm."
(Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 21.)
bound to speak his opinion, went the length, one day, of proposing to
convoke a 'National Assembly.' "You demand States-General?" asked
Monseigneur with an air of minatory surprise. — "Yes, Monseigneur; and even
better than that." — "Write it," said Monseigneur to the Clerks.
(Toulongeon, Histoire de France depuis la Revolution de 1789 (Paris, 1803),
i. app. 4.)
— Written accordingly it is; and what is more, will be acted by
Lafayette, one of the Notables, proposes convocation of the Estates-General,
the traditional French representative assembly which had not sat since 1614.
Thus, then, have the Notables returned home; carrying to all quarters of
France, such notions of deficit, decrepitude, distraction; and that
States-General will cure it, or will not cure it but kill it. Each Notable, we
may fancy, is as a funeral torch; disclosing hideous abysses, better left
hid! The unquietest humour possesses all men; ferments, seeks issue, in
pamphleteering, caricaturing, projecting, declaiming; vain jangling of
thought, word and deed.
The Notables, though they accomplished nothing, uncovered much about the state
It is Spiritual Bankruptcy, long tolerated; verging now towards Economical
Bankruptcy, and become intolerable. For from the lowest dumb rank, the
inevitable misery, as was predicted, has spread upwards. In every man is
some obscure feeling that his position, oppressive or else oppressed, is a
false one: all men, in one or the other acrid dialect, as assaulters or as
defenders, must give vent to the unrest that is in them. Of such stuff
national well-being, and the glory of rulers, is not made.
O Loménie, what
a wild-heaving, waste-looking, hungry and angry world hast thou, after
lifelong effort, got promoted to take charge of!
Large parts of the population, not just the lower classes, find the situation
Loménie's first Edicts are mere soothing ones: creation of Provincial
Assemblies, 'for apportioning the imposts,' when we get any; suppression of
or statute-labour; alleviation of
recommended by the Notables; long clamoured for by all liberal men. Oil
cast on the waters has been known to produce a good effect. Before
venturing with great essential measures, Loménie will see this singular
'swell of the public mind' abate somewhat.
A few mild and popular measures help allay tensions.
Most proper, surely. But what if it were not a swell of the abating kind?
There are swells that come of upper tempest and wind-gust. But again there
are swells that come of subterranean pent wind, some say; and even of
inward decomposion, of decay that has become self-combustion: — as when,
according to Neptuno-Plutonic Geology, the World is all decayed down into
due attritus of this sort; and shall now be exploded, and new-made! These
latter abate not by oil. — The fool says in his heart, How shall not
tomorrow be as yesterday; as all days, — which were once tomorrows? The
wise man, looking on this France, moral, intellectual, economical, sees,
'in short, all the symptoms he has ever met with in history,' — unabatable
by soothing Edicts.
But there is no allaying the coming explosion.
Meanwhile, abate or not, cash must be had; and for that quite another sort
of Edicts, namely 'bursal' or fiscal ones. How easy were fiscal Edicts,
did you know for certain that the Parlement of Paris would what they call
'register' them! Such right of registering, properly of mere writing down,
the Parlement has got by old wont; and, though but a Law-Court, can
remonstrate, and higgle considerably about the same. Hence many quarrels;
desperate Maupeou devices, and victory and defeat; — a quarrel now near
forty years long. Hence fiscal Edicts, which otherwise were easy enough,
become such problems. For example, is there not Calonne's Subvention
Territoriale, universal, unexempting Land-tax; the sheet-anchor of Finance?
Or, to show, so far as possible, that one is not without original finance
talent, Loménie himself can devise an Edit du Timbre
or Stamp-tax, —
borrowed also, it is true; but then from America: may it prove luckier in
France than there!
Edicts to raise funds by tax are complicated by old politics involving
the Paris law-court or Parlement, which must register them. Innovations
France has her resources: nevertheless, it cannot be denied, the aspect of
that Parlement is questionable. Already among the Notables, in that final
symphony of dismissal, the
had an ominous tone. Adrien
quitting magnetic sleep, in this agitation of the world, threatens
to rouse himself into preternatural wakefulness. Shallower but also
louder, there is magnetic
with his tropical heat (he was born
at Madras); with his dusky confused violence; holding of Illumination,
Animal Magnetism, Public Opinion,
and all manner of confused violent things: of whom can come
no good. The very Peerage is infected with the leaven. Our Peers have, in
too many cases, laid aside their frogs, laces, bagwigs; and go about in
English costume, or ride rising in their stirrups, — in the most headlong
manner; nothing but insubordination,
opposition in their heads. Questionable: not to be ventured upon, if we
had a Fortunatus' Purse! But Loménie has waited all June,
casting on the
waters what oil he had; and now, betide as it may, the two Finance Edicts
must out. On the 6th of July, he forwards his proposed Stamp-tax and Land-tax
to the Parlement of Paris; and, as if putting his own leg foremost, not
his borrowed Calonne's-leg, places the Stamp-tax first in order.
Brienne submits the stamp-tax and land-tax for registration by the Parlement
Alas, the Parlement will not register: the Parlement demands instead a
'state of the expenditure,' a 'state of the contemplated reductions;'
'states' enough; which his Majesty must decline to furnish! Discussions
arise; patriotic eloquence: the Peers are summoned. Does the Nemean Lion
begin to bristle? Here surely is a duel, which France and the Universe may
look upon: with prayers; at lowest, with curiosity and bets. Paris stirs
with new animation. The outer courts of the Palais de Justice roll with
unusual crowds, coming and going; their huge outer hum mingles with the
clang of patriotic eloquence within, and gives vigour to it.
gazes from the distance, little comforted; has his invisible emissaries
flying to and fro, assiduous, without result.
Parlement places conditions on the registration of new tax edicts. Louis XVI
refuses the conditions. The confrontation is of wide interest.
So pass the sultry dog-days, in the most electric manner; and the whole
month of July. And still, in the Sanctuary of Justice, sounds nothing but
Harmodius-Aristogiton eloquence, environed with the hum of crowding Paris;
and no registering accomplished, and no 'states' furnished. "States?" said
a lively Parlementeer: "Messieurs, the states that should be furnished us,
in my opinion are the STATES-GENERAL." On which timely joke there follow
cachinnatory buzzes of approval. What a word to be spoken in the Palais de
Justice! Old D'Ormesson (the Ex-Controller's uncle) shakes his judicious
head; far enough from laughing. But the outer courts, and Paris and
France, catch the glad sound, and repeat it; shall repeat it, and re-echo
and reverberate it, till it grow a deafening peal. Clearly enough here is
no registering to be thought of.
Parlement continues refusal to register the taxes and the idea of summoning
the Estates-General gains currency.
The pious Proverb says, 'There are remedies for all things but death.'
When a Parlement refuses registering, the remedy, by long practice, has
become familiar to the simplest: a Bed of Justice. One complete month
this Parlement has spent in mere idle jargoning, and sound and fury; the
Timbre Edict not registered, or like to be; the Subvention not yet so much
as spoken of. On the 6th of August let the whole refractory Body roll out,
in wheeled vehicles, as far as the King's Château of Versailles; there
shall the King, holding his Bed of Justice, order them, by his own royal
lips, to register. They may remonstrate, in an under tone; but they must
obey, lest a worse unknown thing befall them.
Louis XVI summons the law-judges to Versailles where he orders them to register
the edicts, to which the Parlement seems to assent.
It is done: the Parlement has rolled out, on royal summons; has heard the
express royal order to register. Whereupon it has rolled back again, amid
the hushed expectancy of men. And now, behold, on the morrow, this
Parlement, seated once more in its own Palais, with 'crowds inundating the
outer courts,' not only does not register, but (O portent!) declares all
that was done on the prior day to be null, and the Bed of Justice as good
as a futility! In the history of France here verily is a new feature. Nay
better still, our heroic Parlement, getting suddenly enlightened on several
things, declares that, for its part, it is incompetent to register Tax-edicts
at all, — having done it by mistake, during these late centuries;
that for such act one authority only is competent: the assembled Three
Estates of the Realm!
But on return, the Paris Parlement rescinds the registration and declares that
only the Estates-General can legally accept tax-edicts.
To such length can the universal spirit of a Nation penetrate the most
isolated Body-corporate: say rather, with such weapons, homicidal and
suicidal, in exasperated political duel, will Bodies-corporate fight! But,
in any case, is not this the real death-grapple of war and internecine
duel, Greek meeting Greek; whereon men, had they even no interest in it,
might look with interest unspeakable? Crowds, as was said, inundate the
outer courts: inundation of young eleutheromaniac Noblemen in English
costume, uttering audacious speeches; of Procureurs, Basoche-Clerks, who
are idle in these days: of Loungers, Newsmongers and other nondescript
classes, — rolls tumultuous there. 'From three to four thousand persons,'
waiting eagerly to hear the Arretes (Resolutions) you arrive at within;
applauding with bravos, with the clapping of from six to eight thousand
hands! Sweet also is the meed of patriotic eloquence, when your
issuing from his Demosthenic
Olympus, the thunder being hushed for the day, is welcomed, in the outer
courts, with a shout from four thousand throats; is borne home shoulder-high
'with benedictions,' and strikes the stars with his sublime head.
Though otherwise motivated, the actions of the Parlement are met with
enthusiastic approval by many.
Arise, Loménie-Brienne: here is no case for
faltering or compromise. Thou seest the whole loose fluent
Paris (whatsoever is not solid, and fixed to work) inundating these outer
courts, like a loud destructive deluge; the very
of Lawyers' Clerks
talks sedition. The lower classes, in this duel of Authority with
Authority, Greek throttling Greek, have ceased to respect the City-Watch:
Police-satellites are marked on the back with chalk (the M signifies
they are hustled, hunted like ferae naturae. Subordinate
rural Tribunals send messengers of congratulation, of adherence. Their
Fountain of Justice is becoming a Fountain of Revolt. The Provincial
Parlements look on, with intent eye, with breathless wishes, while their
elder sister of Paris does battle: the whole
are of one blood and
temper; the victory of one is that of all.
The resistance of the Paris Parliament has national support.
Ever worse it grows: on the 10th of August, there is
touching the 'prodigalities of Calonne,' and permission to 'proceed'
against him. No registering, but instead of it, denouncing: of
dilapidation, peculation; and ever the burden of the song, States-General!
Have the royal armories no thunderbolt, that thou couldst,
O Loménie, with
red right-hand, launch it among these Demosthenic theatrical
thunder-barrels, mere resin and noise for most part;—and shatter,
and smite them
silent? On the night of the 14th of August, Loménie launches his
thunderbolt, or handful of them. Letters named of the Seal
(de Cachet), as
many as needful, some sixscore and odd, are delivered overnight. And so,
next day betimes, the whole Parlement, once more set on wheels, is rolling
incessantly towards Troyes in Champagne; 'escorted,' says History, 'with
the blessings of all people;' the very innkeepers and postillions looking
(A. Lameth, Histoire de l'Assemblée Constituante
This is the 15th of August 1787.
The Parlement are arrested and exiled to Troyes.
What will not people bless; in their extreme need? Seldom had the
Parlement of Paris deserved much blessing, or received much. An isolated
Body-corporate, which, out of old confusions (while the Sceptre of the
Sword was confusedly struggling to become a Sceptre of the Pen), had got
itself together, better and worse, as Bodies-corporate do, to satisfy some
dim desire of the world, and many clear desires of individuals; and so had
grown, in the course of centuries, on concession, on acquirement and
usurpation, to be what we see it: a prosperous social Anomaly, deciding
Lawsuits, sanctioning or rejecting Laws; and withal disposing of its places
and offices by sale for ready money, — which method sleek President
after meditation, will demonstrate to be the indifferent-best.
(Abrégé Chronologique, p. 975.)
The Paris Parlement had few constitutional powers and would today be
In such a Body, existing by purchase for ready-money, there could not be
excess of public spirit; there might well be excess of eagerness to divide
the public spoil. Men in helmets have divided that, with swords; men in
wigs, with quill and inkhorn, do divide it: and even more hatefully these
latter, if more peaceably; for the wig-method is at once irresistibler and
baser. By long experience, says
it has been found useless to sue
a Parlementeer at law; no Officer of Justice will serve a writ on one; his
wig and gown are his
his enchanted cloak-of-darkness.
The Parlement was in fact just another of the several repressive institutions
The Parlement of Paris may count itself an unloved body; mean, not
magnanimous, on the political side. Were the King weak, always (as now)
has his Parlement barked, cur-like at his heels; with what popular cry
there might be. Were he strong, it barked before his face; hunting for him
as his alert beagle. An unjust Body; where foul influences have more than
once worked shameful perversion of judgment. Does not, in these very days,
the blood of murdered
cry aloud for vengeance? Baited, circumvented,
driven mad like the snared lion, Valour had to sink extinguished under
Behold him, that hapless Lally, his wild dark soul
looking through his wild dark face; trailed on the ignominious death-hurdle;
the voice of his despair choked by a wooden gag! The wild fire-soul
that has known only peril and toil; and, for threescore years, has
buffeted against Fate's obstruction and men's perfidy, like genius and
courage amid poltroonery, dishonesty and commonplace; faithfully enduring
and endeavouring, — O Parlement of Paris, dost thou reward it with a gibbet
and a gag?
(9th May, 1766: Biographie Universelle, para Lally.)
The dying Lally bequeathed his memory to his boy;
a young Lally?
demanding redress in the name of God and man. The Parlement of Paris does
its utmost to defend the indefensible, abominable; nay, what is singular,
is the man chosen to be its
spokesman in that.
The corruption of the Paris Parlement is illustrated in the case of Lally.
Such Social Anomaly is it that France now blesses. An unclean Social
Anomaly; but in duel against another worse! The exiled Parlement is felt
to have 'covered itself with glory.' There are quarrels in which even
Satan, bringing help, were not unwelcome; even Satan, fighting stiffly,
might cover himself with glory, — of a temporary sort.
Parlement had support only as the lesser of evils.
But what a stir in the outer courts of the Palais, when Paris finds its
Parlement trundled off to Troyes in Champagne; and nothing left but a few
mute Keepers of records; the Demosthenic thunder become extinct, the
martyrs of liberty clean gone! Confused wail and menace rises from the
four thousand throats of Procureurs, Basoche-Clerks, Nondescripts, and
Anglomaniac Noblesse; ever new idlers crowd to see and hear; Rascality,
with increasing numbers and vigour, hunts mouchards.
Loud whirlpool rolls
through these spaces; the rest of the City, fixed to its work, cannot yet
go rolling. Audacious placards are legible, in and about the Palais, the
speeches are as good as seditious. Surely the temper of Paris is much
changed. On the third day of this business (18th of August),
coming in state-carriages, according to use and wont,
to have these late obnoxious Arrétés
and protests 'expunged' from the
Records, are received in the most marked manner. Monsieur, who is thought
to be in opposition, is met with vivats and strewed flowers; Monseigneur,
on the other hand, with silence; with murmurs, which rise to hisses and
nay, an irreverent Rascality presses towards him in floods, with
such hissing vehemence, that the Captain of the Guards has to give order,
"Haut les armes (Handle arms)!" — at
which thunder-word, indeed, and the
flash of the clear iron, the Rascal-flood recoils, through all avenues,
(Montgaillard, i. 369. Besenval, etc.)
New features these.
Indeed, as good M. de Malesherbes pertinently remarks, "it is a quite new
kind of contest this with the Parlement:" no transitory sputter, as from
collision of hard bodies; but more like "the first sparks of what, if not
quenched, may become a great conflagration."
(Montgaillard, i. 373.)
The exile of Parlement resolves one set of problems but promises to create
sees himself now again in the King's Council, after
an absence of ten years:
Loménie would profit if not by the faculties of
the man, yet by the name he has. As for the man's opinion, it is not
listened to; — wherefore he will soon withdraw, a second time; back to his
books and his trees. In such King's Council what can a good man profit?
tries it not a second time: Turgot has quitted France and this
Earth, some years ago; and now cares for none of these things. Singular
enough: Turgot, this same Loménie,
were once a trio
of young friends; fellow-scholars in the Sorbonne. Forty new years have
carried them severally thus far.
Malesherbes returns for a short time to the King's council. Carlyle thinks
he should have known better.
Meanwhile the Parlement sits daily at Troyes, calling cases; and daily
adjourns, no Procureur making his appearance to plead. Troyes is as
hospitable as could be looked for: nevertheless one has comparatively a
dull life. No crowds now to carry you, shoulder-high, to the immortal
gods; scarcely a Patriot or two will drive out so far, and bid you be of
firm courage. You are in furnished lodgings, far from home and domestic
comfort: little to do, but wander over the unlovely Champagne fields;
seeing the grapes ripen; taking counsel about the thousand-times consulted:
a prey to tedium; in danger even that Paris may forget you. Messengers
come and go: pacific Loménie is not slack in negotiating, promising;
and the prudent elder Members see no good in strife.
Parlement does not loudly protest its exile.
After a dull month, the Parlement, yielding and retaining, makes truce, as
all Parlements must. The Stamp-tax is withdrawn: the Subvention Land-tax
is also withdrawn; but, in its stead, there is granted, what they call a
'Prorogation of the Second Twentieth,' — itself a kind of Land-tax, but not
so oppressive to the Influential classes; which lies mainly on the Dumb
class. Moreover, secret promises exist (on the part of the Elders), that
finances may be raised by Loan. Of the ugly word States-General there
shall be no mention.
Parlement accedes to the demands of the government.
And so, on the 20th of September, our exiled Parlement returns:
'it went out covered with glory, but had come back
covered with mud (de boue).' Not so, Aristogiton; or if so, thou surely
art the man to clean it.
Was ever unfortunate Chief Minister so bested as Loménie-Brienne? The
reins of the State fairly in his hand these six months; and not the
smallest motive-power (of Finance) to stir from the spot with, this way or
that! He flourishes his whip, but advances not. Instead of ready-money,
there is nothing but rebellious debating and recalcitrating.
Taming Parlement aside, Brienne has been impotent.
Far is the public mind from having calmed; it goes chafing and fuming ever
worse: and in the royal coffers, with such yearly Deficit running on,
there is hardly the colour of coin. Ominous prognostics! Malesherbes,
seeing an exhausted, exasperated France grow hotter and hotter, talks of
'conflagration:' Mirabeau, without talk, has, as we perceive, descended on
Paris again, close on the rear of the Parlement,
(Fils Adoptif, Mirabeau, iv. l. 5.)
— not to quit his native soil any more.
The deficiency of revenue remains the central concern of the government.
Over the Frontiers, behold Holland invaded by Prussia
(October, 1787. Montgaillard, i. 374. Besenval, iii. 283.)
the French party oppressed,
England and the Stadtholder triumphing: to the sorrow of War-Secretary
and all men. But without money, sinews of war, as of work, and
of existence itself, what can a Chief Minister do? Taxes profit little:
this of the Second Twentieth falls not due till next year; and will then,
with its 'strict valuation,' produce more controversy than cash. Taxes on
the Privileged Classes cannot be got registered; are intolerable to our
supporters themselves: taxes on the Unprivileged yield nothing, — as from a
thing drained dry more cannot be drawn. Hope is nowhere, if not in the old
refuge of Loans.
France can not afford a foreign policy.
To Loménie, aided by the long head of
deeply pondering this sea
of troubles, the thought suggested itself: Why not have a Successive Loan
or Loan that went on lending, year after year, as much
as needful; say, till 1792? The trouble of registering such Loan were the
same: we had then breathing time; money to work with, at least to subsist
on. Edict of a Successive Loan must be proposed. To conciliate the
Philosophes, let a liberal Edict walk in front of it, for emancipation of
Protestants; let a liberal Promise guard the rear of it, that when our Loan
ends, in that final 1792, the States-General shall be convoked.
Brienne proposes an innovation: a government line-of-credit.
Such liberal Edict of Protestant Emancipation, the time having come for it,
shall cost a Loménie as little as the 'Death-penalties to be put in
execution' did. As for the liberal Promise, of States-General, it can be
fulfilled or not: the fulfilment is five good years off; in five years
much intervenes. But the registering? Ah, truly, there is the
difficulty! — However, we have that promise of the Elders, given secretly at
Troyes. Judicious gratuities, cajoleries, underground intrigues, with old
named 'Ame damnée, Familiar-demon, of the Parlement,'
do the rest. At worst and lowest, the Royal Authority has resources, —
which ought it not to put forth? If it cannot realise money, the Royal
Authority is as good as dead; dead of that surest and miserablest death,
inanition. Risk and win; without risk all is already lost! For the rest,
as in enterprises of pith, a touch of stratagem often proves furthersome,
his Majesty announces a Royal Hunt, for the 19th of November next; and all
whom it concerns are joyfully getting their gear ready.
The government puts together its strategy.
Royal Hunt indeed; but of two-legged unfeathered game! At eleven in the
morning of that Royal-Hunt day, 19th of November 1787, unexpected blare of
trumpetting, tumult of charioteering and cavalcading disturbs the Seat of
Justice: his Majesty is come, with Garde-des-Sceaux Lamoignon, and Peers
and retinue, to hold Royal Session and have Edicts registered. What a
change, since Louis XIV. entered here, in boots; and, whip in hand, ordered
his registering to be done, — with an Olympian look which none durst
gainsay; and did, without stratagem, in such unceremonious fashion, hunt as
well as register!
(Dulaure, vi. 306.)
For Louis XVI., on this day, the
Registering will be enough; if indeed he and the day suffice for it.
By his presence with armed companions, copying a stratagem of Louis XIV,
Louis XVI hopes to get registration of the line-of-credit.
Meanwhile, with fit ceremonial words, the purpose of the royal breast is
signified: — Two Edicts, for Protestant Emancipation, for Successive Loan:
of both which Edicts our trusty Garde-des-Sceaux Lamoignon will explain the
purport; on both which a trusty Parlement is requested to deliver its
opinion, each member having free privilege of speech. And so, Lamoignon
too having perorated not amiss, and wound up with that Promise of
States-General, — the Sphere-music of Parlementary eloquence begins.
responsive, sphere answering sphere, it waxes louder and louder. The Peers
sit attentive; of diverse sentiment: unfriendly to States-General;
unfriendly to Despotism, which cannot reward merit, and is suppressing
places. But what agitates his
The rubicund moon-head
goes wagging; darker beams the copper visage, like unscoured copper; in the
glazed eye is disquietude; he rolls uneasy in his seat, as if he meant
something. Amid unutterable satiety, has sudden new appetite, for new
forbidden fruit, been vouchsafed him? Disgust and edacity; laziness that
cannot rest; futile ambition, revenge, non-admiralship: — O, within that
carbuncled skin what a confusion of confusions sits bottled!
Parlement debates the proposals.
'Eight Couriers,' in course of the day, gallop from Versailles, where
Loménie waits palpitating; and gallop back again,
not with the best news.
In the outer Courts of the Palais, huge buzz of expectation reigns; it is
whispered the Chief Minister has lost six votes overnight. And from
within, resounds nothing but forensic eloquence, pathetic and even
indignant; heartrending appeals to the royal clemency, that his Majesty
would please to summon States-General forthwith, and be the Saviour of
France: — wherein dusky-glowing D'Espréménil,
but still more Sabatier de
Cabre, and Fréteau, since named Commere Fréteau
(Goody Fréteau), are among
the loudest. For six mortal hours it lasts, in this manner; the infinite
The result of the debate is in doubt through the day.
And so now, when brown dusk is falling through the windows, and no end
visible, his Majesty, on hint of Garde-des-Sceaux, Lamoignon, opens his
royal lips once more to say, in brief That he must have his Loan-Edict
registered. — Momentary deep pause! — See! Monseigneur d'Orleans rises; with
moon-visage turned towards the royal platform, he asks, with a delicate
graciosity of manner covering unutterable things: "Whether it is a Bed of
Justice, then; or a Royal Session?" Fire flashes on him from the throne
and neighbourhood: surly answer that "it is a Session." In that case,
Monseigneur will crave leave to remark that Edicts cannot be registered by
order in a Session; and indeed to enter, against such registry, his
individual humble Protest. "Vous étes bien le maitre
(You will do your
pleasure)", answers the King; and thereupon, in high state, marches out,
escorted by his Court-retinue; D'Orleans himself, as in duty bound,
escorting him, but only to the gate. Which duty done, D'Orleans returns in
from the gate; redacts his Protest, in the face of an applauding Parlement,
an applauding France; and so — has cut his Court-moorings, shall we say?
And will now sail and drift, fast enough, towards Chaos?
The Duc d'Orleans, a member of the Parlement, rises to oppose registration.
Thou foolish D'Orléans; Equality that art to be!
Is Royalty grown a mere
wooden Scarecrow; whereon thou, pert scald-headed crow, mayest alight at
pleasure, and peck? Not yet wholly.
If Orleans thinks he is above retaliation, he is mistaken.
Next day, a
sends D'Orleans to bethink himself in his
Château of Villers-Cotterets, where, alas, is no Paris with its joyous
necessaries of life; no fascinating indispensable Madame de Buffon, — light
wife of a great Naturalist much too old for her. Monseigneur, it is said,
does nothing but walk distractedly, at Villers-Cotterets; cursing his
stars. Versailles itself shall hear penitent wail from him, so hard is his
doom. By a second, simultaneous Lettre-de-Cachet,
Goody Fréteau is hurled
into the Stronghold of Ham, amid the Norman marshes; by a third, Sabatier
de Cabre into Mont St. Michel, amid the Norman quicksands. As for the
Parlement, it must, on summons, travel out to Versailles, with its
Register-Book under its arm, to have the Protest biffe (expunged); not
without admonition, and even rebuke. A stroke of authority which, one
might have hoped, would quiet matters.
The government's response is the swift arrest of Orleans and of two other
Unhappily, no; it is a mere taste of the whip to rearing coursers, which
makes them rear worse! When a team of Twenty-five Millions begins rearing,
what is Loménie's whip? The Parlement will nowise acquiesce meekly; and
set to register the Protestant Edict, and do its other work, in salutary
fear of these three Lettres-de-Cachet. Far from that, it begins
questioning Lettres-de-Cachet generally, their legality, endurability;
emits dolorous objurgation, petition on petition to have its three Martyrs
delivered; cannot, till that be complied with, so much as think of
examining the Protestant Edict, but puts it off always 'till this day
(Besenval, iii. 309.)
The arrests stiffen the resistance of Parlement.
strain Paris and France joins it, or rather has
preceded it; making fearful chorus. And now also the other Parlements, at
length opening their mouths, begin to join; some of them, as at Grenoble
and at Rennes, with portentous emphasis, —
threatening, by way of reprisal,
to interdict the very Tax-gatherer.
(Weber, i. 266.)
"In all former
contests," as Malesherbes remarks, "it was the Parlement that excited the
Public; but here it is the Public that excites the Parlement."
The public and the Parlements are aligned at least in protest.
What a France, through these winter months of the year 1787! The very
Œil-de-Bœuf is doleful, uncertain; with a general feeling among the
Suppressed, that it were better to be in Turkey. The Wolf-hounds are
suppressed, the Bear-hounds, Duke de
Polignac:? in the
little-heaven, her Majesty, one evening, takes
arm; asks his candid opinion.
The intrepid Besenval, — having, as he hopes, nothing
of the sycophant in him, — plainly signifies that, with a Parlement in
rebellion, and an Œil-de-Bœuf in suppression, the
King's Crown is in
danger; — whereupon, singular to say, her Majesty, as if hurt, changed the
subject, et ne me parla plus de rien!
(Besenval, iii. 264.)
The mood of the country and court is depressed in the winter of 1787.
To whom, indeed, can this poor Queen speak? In need of wise counsel, if
ever mortal was; yet beset here only by the hubbub of chaos! Her
dwelling-place is so bright to the eye,
and confusion and black care darkens it all.
Sorrows of the Sovereign, sorrows of the woman, thick-coming sorrows
environ her more and more. Lamotte, the Necklace-Countess, has in these
late months escaped, perhaps been suffered to escape, from the
Vain was the hope that Paris might thereby forget her; and this
ever-widening-lie, and heap of lies, subside. The Lamotte, with a V (for
Voleuse, Thief) branded on both shoulders, has got to England; and will
therefrom emit lie on lie; defiling the highest queenly name: mere
(Mémoires justificatifs de la Comtesse de Lamotte (London,
1788). Vie de Jeanne de St. Remi, Comtesse de Lamotte, etc. etc. See
Diamond Necklace (ut supra).)
which, in its present humour, France will
The Countess of Lamotte, a figure in the Diamond Necklace
Affair (see note 37) escapes to London.
She dines well on her stories which implicate the Queen in the scandal.
For the rest, it is too clear our Successive Loan is not filling. As
indeed, in such circumstances, a Loan registered by expunging of Protests
was not the likeliest to fill. Denunciation of
Despotism generally, abates not: the Twelve Parlements are busy; the
Twelve hundred Placarders, Balladsingers, Pamphleteers. Paris is what, in
figurative speech, they call 'flooded with pamphlets
(regorgé de brochures);'
flooded and eddying again. Hot deluge, — from so many Patriot
ready-writers, all at the fervid or boiling point; each ready-writer, now
in the hour of eruption, going like an Iceland Geyser! Against which what
can a judicious friend
for it), — spouting cold!
Unrest has momentum.
Now also, at length, does come discussion of the Protestant Edict: but
only for new embroilment; in pamphlet and counter-pamphlet, increasing the
madness of men. Not even Orthodoxy, bedrid as she seemed, but will have a
hand in this confusion. She, once again in the shape of Abbé Lenfant,
'whom Prelates drive to visit and congratulate,' — raises audible sound from
(Lacretelle, iii. 343. Montgaillard, etc.)
Or mark how
who has his own confused way in all things, produces at the
right moment in Parlementary harangue, a pocket Crucifix, with the
apostrophe: "Will ye crucify him afresh?" Him,
O D'Espréménil, without
scruple;—considering what poor stuff, of ivory and filigree, he is made
Carlyle sometmes has trouble speaking of Protestant suppression without
To all which add only that poor Brienne has fallen sick; so hard was the
tear and wear of his sinful youth, so violent, incessant is this agitation
of his foolish old age. Baited, bayed at through so many throats, his
Grace, growing consumptive, inflammatory (with humeur de dartre), lies
reduced to milk diet; in exasperation, almost in desperation; with
'repose,' precisely the impossible recipe, prescribed as the indispensable.
(Besenval, iii. 317.)
The Prime Minister is ill at a time he is most needed.
On the whole, what can a poor Government do, but once more recoil
ineffectual? The King's Treasury is running towards the lees; and Paris
'eddies with a flood of pamphlets.' At all rates, let the latter subside a
gets back to Raincy, which is nearer Paris and the fair
frail Buffon [the Comtesse de Buffon, his mistress];
finally to Paris itself: neither are
banished forever. The Protestant Edict is registered; to the joy of
Successive Loan, all protests expunged or
else withdrawn, remains open, — the rather as few or none come to fill it.
States-General, for which the Parlement has clamoured, and now the whole
Nation clamours, will follow 'in five years,' — if indeed not sooner. O
Parlement of Paris, what a clamour was that! "Messieurs," said old
d'Ormesson, "you will get States-General, and you will repent it." Like
the Horse in the Fable, who, to be avenged of his enemy, applied to the
Man. The Man mounted; did swift execution on the enemy; but, unhappily,
would not dismount! Instead of five years, let three years pass, and this
clamorous Parlement shall have both seen its enemy hurled prostrate, and
been itself ridden to foundering (say rather, jugulated for hide and
shoes), and lie dead in the ditch.
Assembling the States-General is seen by the Parlements as the best chance
to settle matters.
Under such omens, however, we have reached the spring of 1788. By no path
can the King's Government find passage for itself, but is everywhere
shamefully flung back. Beleaguered by Twelve rebellious Parlements, which
are grown to be the organs of an angry Nation, it can advance nowhither;
can accomplish nothing, obtain nothing, not so much as money to subsist on;
but must sit there, seemingly, to be eaten up of Deficit.
The government can't see a way out of the mess.
The measure of the Iniquity, then, of the Falsehood which has been
gathering through long centuries, is nearly full? At least, that of the
misery is! For the hovels of the Twenty-five Millions, the misery,
permeating upwards and forwards, as its law is, has got so far, — to the
very Œil-de-Bœuf of Versailles. Man's hand,
in this blind pain, is set
against man: not only the low against the higher, but the higher against
each other; Provincial Noblesse is bitter against Court Noblesse; Robe
against Sword; Rochet against Pen. But against the King's Government who
is not bitter? Not even Besenval, in these days. To it all men and bodies
of men are become as enemies; it is the centre whereon infinite contentions
unite and clash. What new universal vertiginous movement is this; of
Institution, social Arrangements, individual Minds, which once worked
cooperative; now rolling and grinding in distracted collision? Inevitable:
it is the breaking-up of a World-Solecism, worn out at last, down even to
bankruptcy of money! And so this poor Versailles Court, as the chief or
central Solecism, finds all the other Solecisms arrayed against it. Most
natural! For your human Solecism, be it Person or Combination of Persons,
is ever, by law of Nature, uneasy; if verging towards bankruptcy, it is
even miserable: — and when would the meanest Solecism consent to blame or
amend itself, while there remained another to amend?
France is a divided nation, united only in distrusting the Royal government.
These threatening signs do not terrify Loménie, much less teach him.
Loménie, though of light nature, is not without courage, of a sort.
have we not read of lightest creatures, trained Canary-birds, that could
fly cheerfully with lighted matches, and fire cannon; fire whole
powder-magazines? To sit and die of deficit
is no part of Loménie's plan. The
evil is considerable; but can he not remove it, can he not attack it? At
lowest, he can attack the symptom of it: these rebellious Parlements he
can attack, and perhaps remove. Much is dim to Loménie,
but two things are
clear: that such Parlementary duel with Royalty is growing perilous, nay
internecine; above all, that money must be had. Take thought, brave
Loménie; thou Garde-des-Sceaux Lamoignon, who hast ideas! So often
defeated, balked cruelly when the golden fruit seemed within clutch, rally
for one other struggle. To tame the Parlement, to fill the King's coffers:
these are now life-and-death questions.
Brienne decides to rein in the Parlements which are seen as hindering
attempts to raise revenue. Carlyle points out that the stakes for the
government are now very high.
Parlements have been tamed, more than once. Set to perch 'on the peaks of
rocks inaccessible except by litters,' a Parlement grows reasonable. O
Maupeou, thou bold man, had we left thy work where it was! — But apart from
exile, or other violent methods, is there not one method, whereby all
things are tamed, even lions? The method of hunger! What if the
Parlement's supplies were cut off; namely its Lawsuits!
Brienne intends to dry up the Parlements' own revenues (and the traditional
enrichment of the Parlementarians).
Minor Courts, for the trying of innumerable minor causes, might be
instituted: these we could call Grand Bailliages.
Whereon the Parlement,
shortened of its prey, would look with yellow despair; but the Public, fond
of cheap justice, with favour and hope. Then for Finance, for registering
of Edicts, why not, from our own Œil-de-Bœuf Dignitaries, our Princes,
Dukes, Marshals, make a thing we could call Plenary Court;
and there, so to
speak, do our registering ourselves? St. Louis had his Plenary Court, of
(Montgaillard, i. 405.)
most useful to him: our Great Barons
are still here (at least the Name of them is still here); our necessity is
greater than his.
Trials would be removed from Parlements and assigned to new courts; the
registering of tax laws would be transferred to a Plenary Court of
Such is the Loménie-Lamoignon device; welcome to the King's Council,
light-beam in great darkness. The device seems feasible, it is eminently
needful: be it once well executed, great deliverance is wrought. Silent,
then, and steady; now or never! — the World shall see one other Historical
Scene; and so singular a man as Loménie de Brienne
still the Stage-manager there.
It is a bold plan, with a chance for success.
Behold, accordingly, a Home-Secretary
'beautifying Paris,' in the
peaceablest manner, in this hopeful spring weather of 1788; the old hovels
and hutches disappearing from our Bridges: as if for the State too there
were halcyon weather, and nothing to do but beautify. Parlement seems to
sit acknowledged victor. Brienne says nothing of Finance; or even says,
and prints, that it is all well. How is this; such halcyon quiet; though
the Successive Loan did not fill? In a victorious Parlement, Counselor
Goeslard de Monsabert even denounces that 'levying of the Second Twentieth
on strict valuation;' and gets decree that the valuation shall not be
strict, — not on the privileged classes. Nevertheless Brienne endures it,
launches no Lettre-de-Cachet against it. How is this?
Brienne gives no notice of his planned stroke.
Smiling is such vernal weather; but treacherous, sudden! For one thing, we
hear it whispered, 'the Intendants of Provinces have all got order to be
at their posts on a certain day.' Still more singular, what incessant
Printing is this that goes on at the King's Chateau, under lock and key?
Sentries occupy all gates and windows; the Printers come not out; they
sleep in their workrooms; their very food is handed in to them!
A victorious Parlement smells new danger.
D'Espréménil has ordered
horses to Versailles; prowls round that guarded Printing-Office; prying,
snuffing, if so be the sagacity and ingenuity of man may penetrate it.
But signs appear that something is up.
To a shower of gold most things are penetrable.
D'Espréménil descends on
the lap of a Printer's Danaë, in the shape of 'five hundred louis d'or:'
the Danaë's Husband smuggles a ball of clay to her; which she delivers to
the golden Counselor of Parlement. Kneaded within it, their stick printed
proof-sheets; — by Heaven! the royal Edict of that same self-registering
Plenary Court; of those Grand Bailliages that shall
cut short our Lawsuits!
It is to be promulgated over all France on one and the same day.
Finally, through bribery, a copy of the edict is leaked.
This, then, is what the Intendants were bid wait for at their posts: this
is what the Court sat hatching, as its accursed cockatrice-egg; and would
not stir, though provoked, till the brood were out! Hie with it,
D'Espréménil, home to Paris;
convoke instantaneous Sessions; let the
Parlement, and the Earth, and the Heavens know it.
The matter is public knowledge in short order.
On the morrow, which is the 3rd of May, 1788, an astonished Parlement sits
convoked; listens speechless to the speech of D'Espréménil,
infinite misdeed. Deed of treachery; of unhallowed darkness, such as
Despotism loves! Denounce it, O Parlement of Paris; awaken France and the
Universe; roll what thunder-barrels of forensic eloquence thou hast: with
thee too it is verily Now or never!
The Paris Parlement hears of Brienne's plans.
The Parlement is not wanting, at such juncture. In the hour of his extreme
jeopardy, the lion first incites himself by roaring, by lashing his sides.
So here the Parlement of Paris. On the motion of
D'Espréménil, a most
patriotic Oath, of the One-and-all sort, is sworn, with united throat; — an
excellent new-idea, which, in these coming years, shall not remain
unimitated. Next comes indomitable Declaration, almost of the rights of
man, at least of the rights of Parlement; Invocation to the friends of
French Freedom, in this and in subsequent time. All which, or the essence
of all which, is brought to paper; in a tone wherein something of
plaintiveness blends with, and tempers, heroic valour. And thus, having
sounded the storm-bell, — which Paris hears, which all France will hear; and
hurled such defiance in the teeth of Loménie and Despotism, the
Parlement retires as from a tolerable first day's work.
Parlement expresses and published its virulent opposition.
But how Loménie felt to see his cockatrice-egg (so essential to the
salvation of France) broken in this premature manner, let readers fancy!
Indignant he clutches at his thunderbolts (de Cachet, of the Seal); and
launches two of them: a bolt for
D'Espréménil; a bolt for that busy
Goeslard, whose service in the Second Twentieth and 'strict valuation' is
not forgotten. Such bolts clutched promptly overnight, and launched with
the early new morning, shall strike agitated Paris if not into
requiescence, yet into wholesome astonishment.
Brienne orders two of his Parlmementary enemies,
Goislard (sic) de Monsabert, arrested.
Ministerial thunderbolts may be launched; but if they do not hit?
D'Espréménil and Goeslard,
warned, both of them, as is thought, by the
singing of some friendly bird, elude the Loménie Tipstaves; escape
disguised through skywindows, over roofs, to their own Palais de Justice:
the thunderbolts have missed.
Paris (for the buzz flies abroad) is struck
into astonishment not wholesome. The two martyrs of Liberty doff their
disguises; don their long gowns; behold, in the space of an hour, by aid of
ushers and swift runners, the Parlement, with its Counselors, Presidents,
even Peers, sits anew assembled. The assembled Parlement declares that
these its two martyrs cannot be given up, to any sublunary authority;
moreover that the 'session is permanent,' admitting of no adjournment, till
pursuit of them has been relinquished.
But the two escape and take refuge in the Palace of Justice, where the
Parlement declares a perpetual session to protect them.
And so, with forensic eloquence, denunciation and protest, with couriers
going and returning, the Parlement, in this state of continual explosion
that shall cease neither night nor day, waits the issue. Awakened Paris
once more inundates those outer courts; boils, in floods wilder than ever,
through all avenues. Dissonant hubbub there is; jargon as of Babel, in the
hour when they were first smitten (as here) with mutual unintelligibilty,
and the people had not yet dispersed!
As in the previous year, Parlement's resistance generates unrest in the
Paris City goes through its diurnal epochs, of working and slumbering; and
now, for the second time, most European and African mortals are asleep.
But here, in this Whirlpool of Words, sleep falls not; the Night spreads
her coverlid of Darkness over it in vain. Within is the sound of mere
martyr invincibility; tempered with the due tone of plaintiveness. Without
is the infinite expectant hum, — growing drowsier a little. So has it
lasted for six-and-thirty hours.
Parlement remains in session for 36 consecutive hours.
But hark, through the dead of midnight, what tramp is this? Tramp as of
armed men, foot and horse; Gardes Françaises, Gardes Suisses: marching
hither; in silent regularity; in the flare of torchlight! There are
Sappers, too, with axes and crowbars: apparently, if the doors open not,
they will be forced! — It is Captain D'Agoust, missioned from
Versailles. D'Agoust, a man of known firmness;
— who once forced Prince Condé himself,
by mere incessant looking at him, to give satisfaction and fight;
(Weber, i. 283.)
he now, with axes and torches is advancing on the very sanctuary
of Justice. Sacrilegious; yet what help? The man is a soldier; looks
merely at his orders; impassive, moves forward like an inanimate engine.
The French and Swiss Guards, under the command of D'Agoust, approach the
Palais under arms.
The doors open on summons, there need no axes; door after door. And now
the innermost door opens; discloses the long-gowned Senators of France: a
hundred and sixty-seven by tale, seventeen of them Peers; sitting there,
majestic, 'in permanent session.' Were not the man military, and of
cast-iron, this sight, this silence reechoing the clank of his own boots, might
stagger him! For the hundred and sixty-seven receive him in perfect
silence; which some liken to that of the Roman Senate overfallen by
some to that of a nest of coiners [counterfeiters]
surprised by officers of the
(Besenval, iii. 355.)
Messieurs, said D'Agoust,
De par le Roi!
Express order has charged D'Agoust with the sad duty of arresting two
individuals: M. Duval d'Espréménil and
M. Goeslard de Monsabert. Which
respectable individuals, as he has not the honour of knowing them, are
hereby invited, in the King's name, to surrender themselves. — Profound
silence! Buzz, which grows a murmur:
"We are all D'Espréménils!" ventures
a voice; which other voices repeat. The President inquires, Whether he
will employ violence? Captain D'Agoust, honoured with his Majesty's
commission, has to execute his Majesty's order; would so gladly do it
without violence, will in any case do it; grants an august Senate space to
deliberate which method they prefer. And thereupon D'Agoust, with grave
military courtesy, has withdrawn for the moment.
Parlement does not overtly resist and is given time to debate whether to
give up the prisoners.
What boots it, august Senators? All avenues are closed with fixed
bayonets. Your Courier gallops to Versailles, through the dewy Night; but
also gallops back again, with tidings that the order is authentic, that it
is irrevocable. The outer courts simmer with idle population; but
D'Agoust's grenadier-ranks stand there as immovable floodgates: there will
be no revolting to deliver you.
"Messieurs!" thus spoke D'Espréménil,
"when the victorious Gauls entered Rome, which they had carried by assault,
the Roman Senators, clothed in their purple, sat there, in their curule
chairs, with a proud and tranquil countenance, awaiting slavery or death.
Such too is the lofty spectacle, which you, in this hour, offer to the
universe (a l'univers), after having generously" —
with much more of the
like, as can still be read.
(Toulongeon, i. App. 20.)
There is little doubt what will happen.
In vain, O D'Espréménil!
Here is this cast-iron Captain D'Agoust, with his
cast-iron military air, come back. Despotism, constraint, destruction sit
waving in his plumes. D'Espréménil
must fall silent; heroically give
himself up, lest worst befall. Him Goeslard heroically imitates. With
spoken and speechless emotion, they fling themselves into the arms of their
Parlementary brethren, for a last embrace: and so amid plaudits and
plaints, from a hundred and sixty-five throats; amid wavings, sobbings, a
whole forest-sigh of Parlementary pathos, — they are led through winding
passages, to the rear-gate; where, in the gray of the morning, two Coaches
with Exempts stand waiting. There must the victims mount; bayonets
menacing behind. D'Espréménil's stern question to the populace, 'Whether
they have courage?' is answered by silence. They mount, and roll; and
neither the rising of the May sun (it is the 6th morning), nor its setting
shall lighten their heart: but they fare forward continually;
towards the utmost Isles of Sainte Marguerite, or Hières
(supposed by some,
if that is any comfort, to be Calypso's Island); Goeslard towards the
land-fortress of Pierre-en-Cize, extant then, near the City of Lyons.
Goislard and D'Espréménil surrender and are imprisoned far
Captain D'Agoust may now therefore look forward to Majorship, to
Commandantship of the Tuilleries;
(Montgaillard, i. 404.)
— and withal
vanish from History; where nevertheless he has been fated to do a notable
thing. For not only are D'Espréménil and Goeslard safe whirling southward,
but the Parlement itself has straightway to march out: to that also his
inexorable order reaches. Gathering up their long skirts, they file out,
the whole Hundred and Sixty-five of them, through two rows of unsympathetic
grenadiers: a spectacle to gods and men. The people revolt not; they only
wonder and grumble: also, we remark, these unsympathetic grenadiers are
— who, one day, will sympathise! In a word, the Palais
de Justice is swept clear, the doors of it are locked; and D'Agoust returns
to Versailles with the key in his pocket, — having, as was said, merited
The Parlementarians are sent home and their chambers locked behind them.
As for this Parlement of Paris, now turned out to the street, we will
without reluctance leave it there. The Beds of Justice it had to undergo,
in the coming fortnight, at Versailles, in registering, or rather refusing
to register, those new-hatched Edicts; and how it assembled in taverns and
tap-rooms there, for the purpose of Protesting,
(Weber, i. 299-303.)
or hovered disconsolate, with outspread skirts, not knowing where to assemble;
and was reduced to lodge Protest 'with a Notary;' and in the end, to sit
still (in a state of forced 'vacation'), and do nothing; all this, natural
now, as the burying of the dead after battle, shall not concern us. The
Parlement of Paris has as good as performed its part; doing and misdoing,
so far, but hardly further, could it stir the world.
This episode ends the effective rôle of the Paris Parlement in the
Loménie has removed the evil then?
Not at all: not so much as the symptom
of the evil; scarcely the
twelfth part of the symptom, and exasperated the
other eleven! The Intendants of Provinces, the Military Commandants are at
their posts, on the appointed 8th of May: but in no Parlement, if not in
the single one of Dovai, can these new Edicts get registered. Not
peaceable signing with ink; but browbeating, bloodshedding, appeal to
primary club-law! Against these Bailliages, against this Plenary Court,
exasperated Themis everywhere shows face of battle; the Provincial Noblesse
are of her party, and whoever hates Loménie and the evil time; with her
attorneys and Tipstaves, she enlists and operates down even to the
populace. At Rennes in Brittany, where the historical Bertrand de
Moleville is Intendant, it has passed from fatal continual duelling,
between the military and gentry, to street-fighting; to stone-volleys and
musket-shot: and still the Edicts remained unregistered. The afflicted
Bretons send remonstrance to Loménie, by a Deputation of Twelve; whom,
however, Loménie, having heard them, shuts up in the Bastille. A second
larger deputation he meets, by his scouts, on the road, and persuades or
frightens back. But now a third largest Deputation is indignantly sent by
many roads: refused audience on arriving, it meets to take council;
invites Lafayette and all Patriot Bretons in Paris to assist; agitates
itself; becomes the Breton Club, first germ of
(A.F. de Bertrand-Moleville, Mémoires Particuliers (Paris, 1816),
I. ch. i. Marmontel, Mémoires, iv. 27.)
But the provincial Parlements (all but one)
continue to resist and to refuse to register
the new laws.
So many as eight Parlements get exiled:
(Montgaillard, i. 308.)
might need that remedy, but it is one not always easy of appliance. At
Grenoble, for instance, where a
have not been idle, the
Parlement had due order (by Lettres-de-Cachet)
to depart, and exile itself:
but on the morrow, instead of coaches getting yoked, the alarm-bell bursts
forth, ominous; and peals and booms all day: crowds of mountaineers rush
down, with axes, even with firelocks, — whom (most ominous of all!) the
soldiery shows no eagerness to deal with. 'Axe over head,' the poor
General has to sign capitulation; to engage that the Lettres-de-Cachet
shall remain unexecuted, and a beloved Parlement stay where it is.
Dijon, Rouen, Bourdeaux, are not what they should be! At Pau in
Bearn, where the old Commandant had failed, the new one (a Grammont, native
to them) is met by a Procession of townsmen with the Cradle of Henri
Palladium of their Town;
is conjured as he venerates this old
Tortoise-shell, in which the great
was rocked, not to trample on
Bearnese liberty; is informed, withal, that his Majesty's cannon are all
safe — in the keeping of his Majesty's faithful Burghers of Pau, and do now
lie pointed on the walls there; ready for action!
(Besenval, iii. 348.)
The resistance in some parts of the country is strong and effective.
At this rate, your Grand Bailliages are like to have a stormy infancy. As
for the Plenary Court, it has literally expired in the birth. The very
Courtiers looked shy at it; old
declined the honour of
sitting therein. Assaulted by a universal storm of mingled ridicule and
(La Cour Plèniére, héroï-tragi-comédie en
trois actes et en prose; jouée
le 14 Juillet 1788, par une sociéetée d'amateurs dans
aux environs de Versailles; par M. l'Abbé de Vermond, Lecteur de la Reine: A Bâville
(Lamoignon's Country-house), et se trouve à Paris, chez la Veuve
l'enseigne de la Révolution, 1788.—La Passion, la Mort et la
Résurrection du Peuple:
Imprime à Jerusalem, etc. etc.—See Montgaillard, i.
this poor Plenary Court met once, and never any second time.
Distracted country! Contention hisses up, with forked hydra-tongues,
wheresoever poor Loménie sets his foot. 'Let a Commandant,
of the King,' says Weber, 'enter one of these Parlements to have an Edict
registered, the whole Tribunal will disappear, and leave the Commandant
alone with the Clerk and First President. The Edict registered and the
Commandant gone, the whole Tribunal hastens back, to declare such
registration null. The highways are covered with Grand Deputations of
Parlements, proceeding to Versailles, to have their registers expunged by
the King's hand; or returning home, to cover a new page with a new
resolution still more audacious.'
(Weber, i. 275.)
Local trial courts have a rocky beginning, but the Plenary Court is dead
Such is the France of this year 1788. Not now a Golden or Paper Age of
Hope; with its horse-racings, balloon-flyings, and finer sensibilities of
the heart: ah, gone is that; its golden effulgence paled, bedarkened in
this singular manner, — brewing towards preternatural weather! For, as in
that wreck-storm of Paul et Virginie and Saint-Pierre, — 'One huge
motionless cloud' (say, of Sorrow and Indignation) 'girdles our whole
horizon; streams up, hairy, copper-edged, over a sky of the colour of
lead.' Motionless itself; but 'small clouds' (as exiled Parlements and
suchlike), 'parting from it, fly over the zenith, with the velocity of
birds:'—till at last, with one loud howl, the whole Four Winds be dashed
together, and all the world exclaim, There is the tornado!
Tout le monde s'écria, Voilà l'ouragan!
Carlyle again engages in dramatic foreshadowing.
For the rest, in such circumstances, the Successive Loan, very naturally,
remains unfilled; neither, indeed, can that impost of the Second Twentieth,
at least not on 'strict valuation,' be levied to good purpose: 'Lenders,'
says Weber, in his hysterical vehement manner, 'are afraid of ruin;
tax-gatherers of hanging.' The very Clergy turn away their face: convoked in
Extraordinary Assembly, they afford no gratuitous gift
(don gratuit), — if
it be not that of advice; here too instead of cash is clamour for
(Lameth, Assemb. Const. (Introd.) p. 87.)
Still the government is in financial crisis.
O Loménie-Brienne, with thy poor flimsy mind all bewildered,
and now 'three
actual cauteries' on thy worn-out body; who art like to die of inflamation,
provocation, milk-diet, dartres vives and maladie
— (best untranslated);
(Montgaillard, i. 424.)
and presidest over a France with innumerable actual
cauteries, which also is dying of inflammation and the rest! Was it wise
to quit the
verdures of Brienne, and thy new ashlar Château there,
and what it held, for this?
Soft were those shades and lawns; sweet the
hymns of Poetasters, the blandishments of high-rouged Graces:
(See Mémoires de Morellet.)
and always this and the other Philosophe
deeming himself or thee a questionable Sham-Priest) could be so happy in
making happy: —
and also (hadst thou known it), in the Military School hard
by there sat, studying mathematics, a dusky-complexioned taciturn Boy,
under the name of: NAPOLEON BONAPARTE! — With fifty years of effort, and
one final dead-lift struggle, thou hast made an exchange! Thou hast got
thy robe of office, — as Hercules had his
Carlyle reflects on Brienne's life-long ambition to rule France. He achieved
it at a time when both he and the country were nearing death.
On the 13th of July of this 1788, there fell, on the very edge of harvest,
the most frightful hailstorm; scattering into wild waste the Fruits of the
Year; which had otherwise suffered grievously by drought. For sixty
leagues round Paris especially, the ruin was almost total.
(Marmontel, iv. 30.)
To so many other evils, then, there is to be added, that of dearth,
perhaps of famine.
Weather adds potential wide-spread famine to the woes of France where many
already go hungry.
Some days before this hailstorm, on the 5th of July; and still more
decisively some days after it, on the 8th of August, —
that the States-General are actually to meet in the following month of May.
Till after which period, this of the Plenary Court, and the rest, shall
postponed. Further, as in Loménie there is no plan of
holding these most desirable States-General, 'thinkers are invited' to
furnish him with one, — through the medium of discussion by the public
The government accepts the idea of assembling the States General.
What could a poor Minister do? There are still ten months of respite
reserved: a sinking pilot will fling out all things, his very biscuit-bags,
lead, log, compass and quadrant, before flinging out
himself. It is
on this principle, of sinking, and the incipient delirium of despair, that
we explain likewise the almost miraculous 'invitation to thinkers.'
Invitation to Chaos to be so kind as build, out of its tumultuous drift-wood,
an Ark of Escape for him! In these cases, not invitation but command
has usually proved serviceable.—The Queen stood, that evening, pensive, in
a window, with her face turned towards the Garden. The
Chef de Gobelet had
followed her with an obsequious cup of coffee; and then retired till it
were sipped. Her Majesty beckoned Dame Campan to approach:
murmured she, with the cup in her hand, "what a piece of news will be made
public to-day! The King grants States-General." Then raising her eyes to
Heaven (if Campan were not mistaken), she added: "'Tis a first beat of the
drum, of ill-omen for France. This Noblesse will ruin us."
(Campan, iii. 104, 111.)
In the past when States General had been called it had been under the
planning and control, and to do the bidding, of the King. This assembly
During all that hatching of the Plenary Court, while Lamoignon looked so
mysterious, Besenval had kept asking him one question: Whether they had
cash? To which as Lamoignon always answered
(on the faith of Loménie) that
the cash was safe, judicious Besenval rejoined that then all was safe.
Nevertheless, the melancholy fact is, that the royal coffers are almost
getting literally void of coin. Indeed, apart from all other things this
'invitation to thinkers,' and the great change now at hand are enough to
'arrest the circulation of capital,' and forward only that of pamphlets. A
few thousand gold louis are now all of money or money's worth that remains
in the King's Treasury. With another movement as of desperation,
invites Necker to come and be Controller of Finances! Necker has other
work in view than controlling Finances for Loménie: with a dry refusal he
stands taciturn; awaiting his time.
There is no money in the royal treasury, and no prospect of getting any.
What shall a desperate Prime Minister do? He has grasped at the strongbox
of the King's Theatre: some Lottery had been set on foot for those
sufferers by the hailstorm; in his extreme necessity,
Loménie lays hands
even on this.
(Besenval, iii. 360.)
To make provision for the passing
day, on any terms, will soon be impossible.
— On the 16th of August, poor
Weber heard, at Paris and Versailles, hawkers, 'with a hoarse stifled tone
of voice (voix étouffée, sourde)'
drawling and snuffling, through the
streets, an Edict concerning Payments
(such was the soft title
contrived for it): all payments at the Royal Treasury shall be made
henceforth, three-fifths in Cash, and the remaining two-fifths — in Paper
bearing interest! Poor Weber almost swooned at the sound of these cracked
voices, with their bodeful raven-note; and will never forget the effect it
had on him.
(Weber, i. 339.)
The government declares that it will pay its debts at 60 cents on the
dollar; the rest in script.
But the effect on Paris, on the world generally? From the dens of
Stock-brokerage, from the heights of Political Economy, of Neckerism and
Philosophism; from all articulate and inarticulate throats, rise hootings
and howlings, such as ear had not yet heard. Sedition itself may be
moved by Duchess Polignac, feels called to
wait upon her Majesty; and explain frankly what crisis matters stand in.
'The Queen wept;' Brienne himself wept; — for it is now visible and palpable
that he must go.
This is a crisis which a Controller of the Treasury can not survive.
Remains only that the Court, to whom his manners and garrulities were
always agreeable, shall make his fall soft. The grasping old man has
already got his Archbishopship of Toulouse exchanged for the richer one of
Sens: and now, in this hour of pity, he shall have the Coadjutorship for
his nephew (hardly yet of due age); a Dameship of the Palace for his niece;
a Regiment for her husband; for himself a red Cardinal's-hat, a Coupe de
Bois (cutting from the royal forests), and on the whole 'from five to six
hundred thousand livres of revenue:'
(Weber, i. 341.)
Brother, the Comte de Brienne, shall still continue War-minister.
Buckled-round with such bolsters and huge featherbeds of Promotion, let him now
fall as soft as he can!
Brienne departs enriched.
And so Loménie departs: rich if Court-titles and Money-bonds can enrich
him; but if these cannot, perhaps the poorest of all extant men. 'Hissed
at by the people of Versailles,' he drives forth to Jardi; southward to
Brienne, — for recovery of health. Then to Nice, to Italy; but shall
return; shall glide to and fro, tremulous, faint-twinkling, fallen on awful
times: till the Guillotine — snuff out his weak existence? Alas, worse:
for it is blown out, or choked out, foully, pitiably, on the way to the
Guillotine! In his Palace of Sens, rude Jacobin Bailiffs made him drink
with them from his own wine-cellars, feast with them from his own larder;
and on the morrow morning, the miserable old man lies dead. This is the
end of Prime Minister, Cardinal Archbishop Loménie de Brienne. Flimsier
mortal was seldom fated to do as weighty a mischief; to have a life as
despicable-envied, an exit as frightful. Fired, as the phrase is, with
ambition: blown, like a kindled rag, the sport of winds, not this way, not
that way, but of all ways, straight towards such
a powder-mine, — which he
kindled! Let us pity the hapless Loménie; and forgive him;
and, as soon as possible, forget him.
Brienne passes out of history. He does not even make it to the guillotine.
Besenval, during these extraordinary operations, of Payment two-fifths in
Paper, and change of Prime Minister, had been out on a tour through his
District of Command; and indeed, for the last months, peacefully drinking
the waters of Contrexeville. Returning now, in the end of August, towards
Moulins, and 'knowing nothing,' he arrives one evening at Langres; finds
the whole Town in a state of uproar (grande rumeur). Doubtless some
sedition; a thing too common in these days! He alights nevertheless;
inquires of a 'man tolerably dressed,' what the matter is? — "How?" answers
the man, "you have not heard the news? The Archbishop is thrown out, and
is recalled; and all is going to go well!"
(Besenval, iii. 366.)
Such rumeur and vociferous acclaim has risen round M. Necker, ever from
'that day when he issued from the Queen's Apartments,' a nominated
Minister. It was on the 24th of August: 'the galleries of the Chateau, the
courts, the streets of Versailles; in few hours, the Capital; and, as the
news flew, all France, resounded with the cry of Vive le Roi! Vive M.
(Weber, i. 342.)
In Paris indeed it unfortunately got the length
of 'turbulence.' Petards, rockets go off, in the Place Dauphine, more than
enough. A 'wicker Figure (Mannequin d'osier),'
in Archbishop's stole, made
emblematically, three-fifths of it satin, two-fifths of it paper, is
promenaded, not in silence, to the popular judgment-bar; is doomed; shriven
by a mock Abbé de
then solemnly consumed by fire, at the foot of
Henri's Statue on the Pont Neuf; — with such petarding and huzzaing that
Chevalier Dubois and his City-watch see good finally to make a charge (more
or less ineffectual); and there wanted not burning of sentry-boxes, forcing
of guard-houses, and also 'dead bodies thrown into the Seine over-night,'
to avoid new effervescence.
(Histoire Parlementaire de la Révolution Française;
ou Journal des Assemblées Nationales depuis 1789 (Paris, 1833 et
seqq.), i. 253. Lameth, Assemblée Constituante, i. (Introd.) p. 89.)
The news of Brienne's downfall and Necker's reappointment is greeted gladly,
Parlements therefore shall return from exile: Plenary Court, Payment
two-fifths in Paper have vanished; gone off in smoke, at the foot of Henri's
Statue. States-General (with a Political Millennium) are now certain; nay,
it shall be announced, in our fond haste, for January next: and all, as
the Langres man said, is 'going to go.'
Brienne's edicts are set aside. States-General is moved up.
To the prophetic glance of Besenval, one other thing is too apparent: that
Friend Lamoignon cannot keep his Keepership. Neither he nor War-minister
Comte de Brienne! Already old
with an eye to be war-minister
himself, is making underground movements. This is that same Foulon named
âme damnée du Parlement;
a man grown gray in treachery, in griping,
projecting, intriguing and iniquity: who once when it was objected, to
some finance-scheme of his, "What will the people do?" — made answer, in the
fire of discussion, "The people may eat grass:" hasty words, which fly
abroad irrevocable, — and will send back tidings!
Other departments of the government face changes, and there is intrigue for
Foulon, to the relief of the world, fails on this occasion; and will always
fail. Nevertheless it steads not M. de Lamoignon. It steads not the
doomed man that he have interviews with the King; and be 'seen to return
radieux,' emitting rays.
Lamoignon is the hated of Parlements: Comte de
Brienne is Brother to the Cardinal Archbishop. The 24th of August has
been; and the 14th September is not yet, when they two, as their great
Principal had done, descend, — made to fall soft, like him.
A few weeks after Brienne's departure, the War Minister and the Keeper of
the Seal are also dismissed.
And now, as if the last burden had been rolled from its heart, and
assurance were at length perfect, Paris bursts forth anew into extreme
jubilee. The Basoche?
rejoices aloud, that the foe of Parlements is fallen;
Nobility, Gentry, Commonalty have rejoiced; and rejoice. Nay now, with new
emphasis, Rascality itself, starting suddenly from its dim depths, will
arise and do it, — for down even thither the new Political Evangel, in some
rude version or other, has penetrated. It is Monday, the 14th of September
1788: Rascality assembles anew, in great force, in the Place Dauphine;
lets off petards, fires blunderbusses, to an incredible extent, without
interval, for eighteen hours. There is again a wicker Figure,
of osier:' the centre of endless howlings. Also Necker's Portrait
snatched, or purchased, from some Printshop, is borne processionally, aloft
on a perch, with huzzas; — an example to be remembered.
Celebration again erupts with the fall of Lamoignon, now with an undercurrent
of lawlessness which Carlyle calls "rascality".
But chiefly on the Pont Neuf, where the Great
in bronze, rides
sublime; there do the crowds gather. All passengers must stop, till they
have bowed to the People's King, and said audibly: Vive Henri Quatre; au
diable Lamoignon! No carriage but must stop; not even that of his Highness
d'Orleans. Your coach-doors are opened: Monsieur will please to put forth
his head and bow; or even, if refractory, to alight altogether, and kneel:
from Madame a wave of her plumes, a smile of her fair face, there where she
sits, shall suffice; — and surely a coin or two (to buy
fusées) were not
unreasonable from the Upper Classes, friends of Liberty? In this manner it
proceeds for days; in such rude horse-play, — not without kicks. The
City-watch can do nothing; hardly save its own skin:
for the last twelve-month,
as we have sometimes seen, it has been a kind of pastime to hunt the Watch.
Besenval indeed is at hand with soldiers; but they have orders to avoid
firing, and are not prompt to stir.
The celebration verges on disorder.
On Monday morning the explosion of petards began: and now it is near
midnight of Wednesday; and the 'wicker Mannequin' is to be buried, —
apparently in the Antique fashion. Long rows of torches, following it,
move towards the Hôtel Lamoignon;
but 'a servant of mine' (Besenval's) has
run to give warning, and there are soldiers come. Gloomy Lamoignon is not
to die by conflagration, or this night; not yet for a year, and then by
gunshot (suicidal or accidental is unknown).
(Histoire de la Révolution, par Deux Amis de la
Liberté, i. 50.)
Foiled Rascality burns its 'Mannikin
of osier,' under his windows; 'tears up the sentry-box,' and rolls off: to
try Brienne; to try Dubois Captain of the Watch. Now, however, all is
bestirring itself; Gardes Françaises, Invalides, Horse-patrol:
Procession is met with sharp shot, with the thrusting of bayonets, the
slashing of sabres. Even Dubois makes a charge, with that Cavalry of his,
and the cruelest charge of all: 'there are a great many killed and
wounded.' Not without clangour, complaint; subsequent criminal trials, and
official persons dying of heartbreak!
(Histoire de la Révolution, par Deux Amis de la
Liberté, i. 58.)
So, however, with steel-besom, Rascality is
brushed back into its dim depths, and the streets are swept clear.
The city and national guards temporarily suppress the rioting.
Not for a century and half had Rascality ventured to step forth in this
fashion; not for so long, showed its huge rude lineaments in the light of
day. A Wonder and new Thing: as yet gamboling merely, in awkward
Brobdingnag sport, not without quaintness; hardly in anger: yet in its
huge half-vacant laugh lurks a shade of grimness, — which could unfold
The people of Paris have not taken to the streets like this for over 100
However, the thinkers invited by Loménie are now far on with their
pamphlets: States-General, on one plan or another, will infallibly meet;
if not in January, as was once hoped, yet at latest in May. Old Duke de
Richelieu, moribund in these autumn days, opens his eyes once more,
murmuring, "What would Louis Fourteenth" (whom he remembers) "have said!" —
then closes them again, forever, before the evil time.
1789 will bring the States-General.
The universal prayer, therefore, is to be fulfilled! Always in days of
national perplexity, when wrong abounded and help was not, this remedy of
States-General was called for; by a Malesherbes, nay by a
(Montgaillard, i. 461.)
even Parlements calling for it were 'escorted with
blessings.' And now behold it is vouchsafed us; States-General shall
To say, let States-General be, was easy; to say in what manner they shall
be, is not so easy. Since the year of 1614, there have no States-General
met in France, all trace of them has vanished from the living habits of
men. Their structure, powers, methods of procedure, which were never in
any measure fixed, have now become wholly a vague possibility. Clay which
the potter may shape, this way or that: — say rather, the twenty-five
millions of potters; for so many have now, more or less, a vote in it! How
to shape the States-General? There is a problem. Each Body-corporate,
each privileged, each organised Class has secret hopes of its own in that
matter; and also secret misgivings of its own, — for, behold, this monstrous
twenty-million Class, hitherto the dumb sheep which these others had to
agree about the manner of shearing, is now also arising with hopes! It has
ceased or is ceasing to be dumb; it speaks through Pamphlets, or at least
brays and growls behind them, in unison, — increasing wonderfully their
volume of sound.
No one really knows how to hold a States General — it hasn't happened for
170 years. Many groups hope for a voice in it.
As for the Parlement of Paris, it has at once declared for the 'old form of
1614.' Which form had this advantage, that the Tiers Etat, Third Estate,
or Commons, figured there as a show mainly: whereby the Noblesse and
Clergy had but to avoid quarrel between themselves, and decide unobstructed
what they thought best. Such was the clearly declared opinion of the Paris
Parlement. But, being met by a storm of mere hooting and howling from all
men, such opinion was blown straightway to the winds; and the popularity of
the Parlement along with it, — never to return. The Parlements part, we
said above, was as good as played. Concerning which, however, there is
this further to be noted: the proximity of dates. It was on the 22nd of
September that the Parlement returned from 'vacation' or 'exile in its
estates;' to be reinstalled amid boundless jubilee from all Paris.
Precisely next day it was, that this same Parlement came to its 'clearly
declared opinion:' and then on the morrow after that, you behold it
covered with outrages;' its outer court, one vast sibilation, and the glory
departed from it for evermore.
(Weber, i. 347.)
A popularity of
twenty-four hours was, in those times, no uncommon allowance.
In the 1614 States General, each estate (Nobles, Clergy, Commons) had equal
vote. The nobility and church together could always outvote the commoners.
This is the form the Paris Parlement proposes.
On the other hand, how superfluous was that invitation of
invitation to thinkers! Thinkers and unthinkers, by the million, are
spontaneously at their post, doing what is in them. Clubs labour:
Publicole; Breton Club; Enraged Club,
Club des Enragés. Likewise
Dinner-parties in the
dining there, in
and hot Parlementeers, not
without object! For a certain Neckerean Lion's-provider, whom one could
name, assembles them there;
(Ibid. i. 360.)
—or even their own private
determination to have dinner does it. And then as to Pamphlets—in
figurative language; 'it is a sheer snowing of pamphlets; like to snow up
the Government thoroughfares!' Now is the time for Friends of Freedom;
sane, and even insane.
There are plenty of contrary opinions about the way States-General should
Count, or self-styled Count,
'the young Languedocian
gentleman,' with perhaps Chamfort the Cynic to help him, rises into furor
almost Pythic; highest, where many are high.
(Memoire sur les Etats-Generaux. See Montgaillard, i. 457-9.)
Foolish young Languedocian
gentleman; who himself so soon, 'emigrating among the foremost,' must fly
indignant over the marches, with the Contrat Social
in his pocket, — towards
outer darkness, thankless intriguings, ignis-fatuus hoverings,
and death by
has left Chartres Cathedral, and canonry and
book-shelves there; has let his tonsure grow, and come to Paris with a
secular head, of the most irrefragable sort, to ask three questions, and
answer them: What is the Third Estate? All.
— What has it hitherto been in
our form of government? Nothing.
— What does it want? To become Something.
The quality and sense of the pamphlets varies greatly.
D'Orleans, — for be sure he, on his way to Chaos, is in the thick of this, —
promulgates his Deliberations;
(délibérations à prendre pour les Assemblées
des Bailliages.) fathered by him, written by Laclos of the Liaisons
Dangereuses. The result of which comes out simply: 'The Third Estate is
the Nation.' On the other hand, Monseigneur d'Artois, with other Princes
of the Blood, publishes, in solemn Memorial to the King, that if such
things be listened to, Privilege, Nobility, Monarchy, Church, State and
Strongbox are in danger.
(Mémoire présenté au Roi, par Monseigneur Comte
d'Artois, M. le Prince de Condé, M. le Duc de Bourbon,
M. le Duc d'Enghien, et M. le Prince de Conti.
(Given in Hist. Parl. i. 256.))
truly: and yet if you do not listen, are they out of danger? It is the
voice of all France, this sound that rises. Immeasurable, manifold; as the
sound of outbreaking waters: wise were he who knew what to do in it, — if
not to fly to the mountains, and hide himself?
Some of the nobility joins the noise; most refuse to hear it.
How an ideal, all-seeing Versailles Government, sitting there on such
principles, in such an environment, would have determined to demean itself
at this new juncture, may even yet be a question. Such a Government would
have felt too well that its long task was now drawing to a close; that,
under the guise of these States-General, at length inevitable, a new
omnipotent Unknown of Democracy was coming into being; in presence of which
no Versailles Government either could or should, except in a provisory
character, continue extant. To enact which provisory character, so
unspeakably important, might its whole faculties but have sufficed; and so
a peaceable, gradual, well-conducted Abdication and
been the issue!
Carlyle speculates on what might have happened had the government listened
and understood what was occurring.
This for our ideal, all-seeing Versailles Government. But for the actual
irrational Versailles Government? Alas, that is a Government existing
there only for its own behoof: without right, except possession; and now
also without might. It foresees nothing, sees nothing; has not so much as
a purpose, but has only purposes, — and the instinct whereby all that exists
will struggle to keep existing. Wholly a vortex; in which vain counsels,
hallucinations, falsehoods, intrigues, and imbecilities whirl; like
withered rubbish in the meeting of winds! The Œil-de-Bœuf has its
irrational hopes, if also its fears. Since hitherto all States-General
have done as good as nothing, why should these do more? The Commons,
indeed, look dangerous; but on the whole is not revolt, unknown now for
five generations, an impossibility? The Three Estates can, by management,
be set against each other; the Third will, as heretofore, join with the
King; will, out of mere spite and self-interest, be eager to tax and vex
the other two. The other two are thus delivered bound into our hands, that
we may fleece them likewise. Whereupon, money being got, and the Three
Estates all in quarrel, dismiss them, and let the future go as it can! As
good Archbishop Loménie was wont to say:
"There are so many accidents; and
it needs but one to save us." — How many to destroy us?
The vain hope of the actual government is that things will go on as before,
except with more money.
Poor Necker in the midst of such an anarchy does what is possible for him.
He looks into it with obstinately hopeful face; lauds the known rectitude
of the kingly mind; listens indulgent-like to the known perverseness of the
queenly and courtly; — emits if any proclamation or regulation, one
favouring the Tiers Etat;
but settling nothing; hovering afar off rather,
and advising all things to settle themselves. The grand questions, for the
present, have got reduced to two: the Double Representation, and the Vote
by Head. Shall the Commons have a 'double representation,' that is to say,
have as many members as the Noblesse and Clergy united? Shall the
States-General, when once assembled, vote and deliberate, in one body, or in
separate bodies; 'vote by head, or vote by class,'—ordre
as they call it?
These are the moot-points now filling all France with jargon, logic and
eleutheromania. To terminate which, Necker bethinks him, Might not a
second Convocation of the Notables be fittest? Such second Convocation is
Necker hits on a second Assembly of Notables to decide the question of
the composition and procedure of the States-General.
On the 6th of November of this year 1788, these Notables accordingly have
reassembled; after an interval of some eighteen months. They are Calonne's
old Notables, the same Hundred and Forty-four, — to show one's impartiality;
likewise to save time. They sit there once again, in their Seven Bureaus,
in the hard winter weather: it is the hardest winter seen since 1709;
thermometer below zero of Fahrenheit, Seine River frozen over.
(Marmontel, Mémoires (London, 1805), iv. 33. Hist. Parl, etc.)
Cold, scarcity and
clamour: a changed world since these Notables were
'organed out,' in May gone a year! They shall see now whether, under their
Seven Princes of the Blood, in their Seven Bureaus, they can settle the
The composition of this Assembly is the same as the first.
To the surprise of Patriotism, these Notables, once so patriotic, seem to
incline the wrong way; towards the anti-patriotic side. They stagger at
the Double Representation, at the Vote by Head: there is not affirmative
decision; there is mere debating, and that not with the best aspects. For,
indeed, were not these Notables themselves mostly of the Privileged
Classes? They clamoured once; now they have their misgivings; make their
dolorous representations. Let them vanish, ineffectual; and return no
more! They vanish after a month's session, on this 12th of December, year
1788: the last terrestrial Notables, not to reappear any other time, in
the History of the World.
The Notables debate without effect and come to no conclusion.
And so, the clamour still continuing, and the Pamphlets; and nothing but
patriotic Addresses, louder and louder, pouting in on us from all corners
of France, — Necker himself some fortnight after, before the year is yet
done, has to present his Report,
(Rapport fait au Roi dans son Conseil, le 27 Décembre 1788.)
recommending at his own risk that same Double
Representation; nay almost enjoining it, so loud is the jargon and
eleutheromania. What dubitating, what circumambulating! These whole six
noisy months (for it began with Brienne in July,) has not Report followed
Report, and one Proclamation flown in the teeth of the other? (5th July;
8th August; 23rd September, etc. etc.)
Necker recommends the Commons have a representation
equal to the combined Nobles and
However, that first moot-point, as we see, is now settled. As for the
second, that of voting by Head or by Order, it unfortunately is still left
hanging. It hangs there, we may say, between the Privileged Orders and the
Unprivileged; as a ready-made battle-prize, and necessity of war, from the
very first: which battle-prize whosoever seizes it — may thenceforth bear
as battle-flag, with the best omens!
But the number of delegates is unimportant if each order is its own House.
Then the Lords and Clergy would outvote the Commons.
But so, at least, by Royal Edict of the 24th of January,
(Réglement du Roi pour la Convocation des Etats-Généraux
à Versailles. (Reprinted, wrong
dated, in Histoire Parlementaire, i. 262.))
does it finally, to impatient
expectant France, become not only indubitable that National Deputies are to
meet, but possible (so far and hardly farther has the royal Regulation
gone) to begin electing them.
Without this important question decided, an edict for elections is issued,
January 24, 1789.
Up, then, and be doing! The royal signal-word flies through France, as
through vast forests the rushing of a mighty wind. At Parish Churches, in
Townhalls, and every House of Convocation; by Bailliages, by Seneschalsies,
in whatsoever form men convene; there, with confusion enough, are Primary
Assemblies forming. To elect your Electors; such is the form prescribed:
then to draw up your 'Writ of Plaints and Grievances (Cahier de plaintes et
doléances),' of which latter there is no lack.
Elections are indirect. A board of Electors is selected to choose
representatives and to develop a list of issues.
With such virtue works this Royal January Edict; as it rolls rapidly, in
its leathern mails, along these frostbound highways, towards all the four
winds. Like some fiat, or magic spell-word; — which such things do
resemble! For always, as it sounds out 'at the market-cross,' accompanied
with trumpet-blast; presided by Bailli, Seneschal, or other minor
Functionary, with beef-eaters; or, in country churches is droned forth
after sermon, 'au prône des messes paroissales;'
and is registered, posted
and let fly over all the world, — you behold how this multitudinous French
People, so long simmering and buzzing in eager expectancy, begins heaping
and shaping itself into organic groups. Which organic groups, again, hold
smaller organic grouplets: the inarticulate buzzing becomes articulate
speaking and acting. By Primary Assembly, and then by Secondary; by
'successive elections,' and infinite elaboration and scrutiny, according to
prescribed process — shall the genuine 'Plaints and Grievances' be at length
got to paper; shall the fit National Representative be at length laid hold
The political process — unknown to this time on a national level — inspires
and motivates the people.
How the whole People shakes itself, as if it had one life; and, in
thousand-voiced rumour, announces that it is awake, suddenly out of long
death-sleep, and will thenceforth sleep no more! The long looked-for has
come at last; wondrous news, of Victory, Deliverance, Enfranchisement,
sounds magical through every heart. To the proud strong man it has come;
whose strong hands shall no more be gyved; to whom boundless unconquered
continents lie disclosed. The weary day-drudge has heard of it; the beggar
with his crusts moistened in tears. What! To us also has hope reached;
down even to us? Hunger and hardship are not to be eternal? The bread we
extorted from the rugged glebe, and, with the toil of our sinews, reaped
and ground, and kneaded into loaves, was not wholly for another, then; but
we also shall eat of it, and be filled? Glorious news (answer the prudent
elders), but all-too unlikely! — Thus, at any rate, may the lower people,
who pay no money-taxes and have no right to vote,
(Réglement du Roi (in Histoire Parlementaire, as above, i. 267-307.))
assiduously crowd round
those that do; and most Halls of Assembly, within doors and without, seem
The excitement extends even to the lowest classes, though they do not have
Paris, alone of Towns, is to have Representatives; the number of them
twenty. Paris is divided into Sixty Districts; each of which (assembled in
some church, or the like) is choosing two Electors. Official deputations
pass from District to District, for all is inexperience as yet, and there
is endless consulting. The streets swarm strangely with busy crowds,
pacific yet restless and loquacious; at intervals, is seen the gleam of
military muskets; especially about the Palais, where Parlement, once more
on duty, sits querulous, almost tremulous.
The energy also infects Paris, which will elect its own representatives of
the Third Estate.
Busy is the French world! In those great days, what poorest speculative
craftsman but will leave his workshop; if not to vote, yet to assist in
voting? On all highways is a rustling and bustling. Over the wide surface
of France, ever and anon, through the spring months, as the Sower casts his
corn abroad upon the furrows, sounds of congregating and dispersing; of
crowds in deliberation, acclamation, voting by ballot and by voice, — rise
discrepant towards the ear of Heaven. To which political phenomena add
this economical one, that Trade is stagnant, and also Bread getting dear;
for before the rigorous winter there was, as we said, a rigorous summer,
with drought, and on the 13th of July with destructive hail. What a
fearful day! all cried while that tempest fell. Alas, the next anniversary
of it will be a worse.
(Bailly, Mémoires, i. 336.)
Under such aspects is
France electing National Representatives.
While political fervor is rising, the economy is failing and famine is a
The incidents and specialties of these Elections belong not to Universal,
but to Local or Parish History: for which reason let not the new troubles
of Grenoble or Besançon; the bloodshed on the streets of Rennes, and
consequent march thither of the Breton 'Young Men' with Manifesto by their
'Mothers, Sisters and Sweethearts;'
(Protestation et Arrêté
des Jeunes Gens
de la Ville de Nantes, du 28 Janvier 1789, avant leur départ
pour Rennes. Arrêté
des Jeunes Gens de la Ville d'Angers, du 4 Février 1789.
Mères, Soeurs, Epouses et Amantes des Jeunes Citoyens d'Angers, du 6
Février 1789. (Reprinted in Histoire Parlementaire, i. 290-3.))
nor suchlike, detain us here. It is the same sad history everywhere; with
superficial variations. A reinstated Parlement (as at Besançon), which
stands astonished at this Behemoth of a States-General it had itself
evoked, starts forward, with more or less audacity, to fix a thorn in its
nose; and, alas, is instantaneously struck down,
and hurled quite out, — for
the new popular force can use not only arguments but brickbats! Or else,
and perhaps combined with this, it is an order of Noblesse (as in
Brittany), which will beforehand tie up the Third Estate, that it harm not
the old privileges. In which act of tying up, never so skilfully set
about, there is likewise no possibility of prospering; but the
Behemoth-Briareus snaps your cords like green rushes.
Tie up? Alas, Messieurs!
And then, as for your chivalry rapiers, valour and wager-of-battle, think
one moment, how can that answer? The plebeian heart too has red life in
it, which changes not to paleness at glance even of you; and 'the six
hundred Breton gentlemen assembled in arms, for seventy-two hours, in the
Cordeliers' Cloister, at Rennes,' — have to come out again,
wiser than they
entered. For the Nantes Youth, the Angers Youth, all Brittany was astir;
'mothers, sisters and sweethearts' shrieking after them, March! The Breton
Noblesse must even let the mad world have its way.
(Hist. Parl. i. 287. Deux Amis de la Liberté, i. 105-128.)
In the provinces, attempts to fix the elections for the Third Estate are for
the most part resisted and thwarted.
In other Provinces, the Noblesse, with equal goodwill, finds it better to
stick to Protests, to well-redacted 'Cahiers
of grievances,' and satirical
writings and speeches. Such is partially their course in Provence; whither
indeed Gabriel Honoré Riquetti Comte de Mirabeau has rushed down from
Paris, to speak a word in season. In Provence, the Privileged, backed by
their Aix Parlement, discover that such novelties, enjoined though they be
by Royal Edict, tend to National detriment; and what is still more
indisputable, 'to impair the dignity of the Noblesse.' Whereupon Mirabeau
protesting aloud, this same Noblesse, amid huge tumult within doors and
without, flatly determines to expel him from their Assembly. No other
method, not even that of successive duels, would answer with him, the
obstreperous fierce-glaring man. Expelled he accordingly is.
Even where they do not attempt to subvert it, the Noblesse is vehemently
opposed to the elections.
'In all countries, in all times,' exclaims he departing, 'the Aristocrats
have implacably pursued every friend of the People; and with tenfold
implacability, if such a one were himself born of the Aristocracy. It was
thus that the last of the Gracchi perished, by the hands of the Patricians.
But he, being struck with the mortal stab, flung dust towards heaven, and
called on the Avenging Deities; and from this dust there was born Marius, —
Marius not so illustrious for exterminating the Cimbri, as for overturning
in Rome the tyranny of the Nobles.'
(Fils Adoptif, v. 256.)
which new curious handful of dust (through the Printing-press), to breed
what it can and may, Mirabeau stalks forth into the Third Estate.
Spurned by the Noblesse of Provence, Mirabeau will seek election from
the Third Estate.
That he now, to ingratiate himself with this Third Estate, 'opened a
cloth-shop in Marseilles,' and for moments became a furnishing tailor, or even
the fable that he did so, is to us always among the pleasant memorabilities
of this era. Stranger Clothier never wielded the
and rent webs
for men, or fractional parts of men. The Fils Adoptif
is indignant at such
(Mémoires de Mirabeau, v. 307.)
widely believed in those days.
(Marat, Ami-du-Peuple Newspaper (in Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 103), etc.)
But indeed, if Achilles, in the
heroic ages, killed mutton, why should not Mirabeau, in the unheroic ones,
The story that Mirabeau actually worked at a job, though, is just a pleasant
More authentic are his triumph-progresses through that disturbed district,
with mob jubilee, flaming torches, 'windows hired for two louis,' and
voluntary guard of a hundred men. He is Deputy Elect, both of Aix and of
Marseilles; but will prefer Aix. He has opened his far-sounding voice, the
depths of his far-sounding soul; he can quell (such virtue is in a spoken
word) the pride-tumults of the rich, the hunger-tumults of the poor; and
wild multitudes move under him, as under the moon do billows of the sea:
he has become a world compeller, and ruler over men.
Mirabeau proves a great orator and is elected to the Third Estate from Aix.
One other incident and specialty we note; with how different an interest!
It is of the Parlement of Paris; which starts forward, like the others
(only with less audacity, seeing better how it lay), to nose-ring that
Behemoth of a States-General. Worthy Doctor Guillotin, respectable
practitioner in Paris, has drawn up his little 'Plan of a Cahier of
doléances;' — as had he not,
having the wish and gift, the clearest liberty
to do? He is getting the people to sign it; whereupon the surly Parlement
summons him to give an account of himself. He goes; but with all Paris at
his heels; which floods the outer courts, and copiously signs the Cahier
even there, while the Doctor is giving account of himself within! The
Parlement cannot too soon dismiss Guillotin, with compliments; to be borne
(Deux Amis de la Liberté, i. 141.)
Guillotin we hope to behold once more, and perhaps only once; the Parlement
not even once, but let it be engulphed unseen by us.
The Paris Parlement makes a last feeble attempt to influence the process by
trying to intimidate Dr. Guillotin (inventor of the guillotine) who is
engaged in drawing up grievances.
Meanwhile such things, cheering as they are, tend little to cheer the
national creditor, or indeed the creditor of any kind. In the midst of
universal portentous doubt, what certainty can seem so certain as money in
the purse, and the wisdom of keeping it there? Trading Speculation,
Commerce of all kinds, has as far as possible come to a dead pause; and the
hand of the industrious lies idle in his bosom. Frightful enough, when now
the rigour of seasons has also done its part, and to scarcity of work is
added scarcity of food! In the opening spring, there come rumours of
forestalment, there come King's Edicts, Petitions of bakers against
millers; and at length, in the month of April — troops of ragged Lackalls,
and fierce cries of starvation! These are the thrice-famed Brigands: an
actual existing quotity of persons: who, long reflected and reverberated
through so many millions of heads, as in concave multiplying mirrors,
become a whole Brigand World; and, like a kind of Supernatural Machinery
wondrously move the Epos of the Revolution. The Brigands are here: the
Brigands are there; the Brigands are coming! Not otherwise sounded the
clang of Phoebus Apollo's silver bow, scattering pestilence and pale
terror; for this clang too was of the imagination; preternatural; and it
too walked in formless immeasurability, having made itself like to the
Hunger and lack of work has created bands of idle and desperate men,
"Brigands", who worry the country-side and who migrate in the direction
But remark at least, for the first time, the singular empire of Suspicion,
in those lands, in those days. If poor famishing men shall, prior to
death, gather in groups and crowds, as the poor fieldfares [thrushes]
and plovers do
in bitter weather, were it but that they may chirp mournfully together, and
misery look in the eyes of misery; if famishing men (what famishing
fieldfares cannot do) should discover, once congregated, that they need not
die while food is in the land, since they are many, and with empty wallets
have right hands: in all this, what need were there of Preternatural
Machinery? To most people none; but not to French people, in a time of
Revolution. These Brigands (as Turgot's also were, fourteen years ago)
have all been set on; enlisted, though without tuck of drum, — by
Aristocrats, by Democrats, by D'Orleans, D'Artois, and enemies of the
public weal. Nay Historians, to this day, will prove it by one argument:
these Brigands pretending to have no victual, nevertheless contrive to
drink, nay, have been seen drunk.
(Lacretelle, 18me Siécle, ii. 155.)
unexampled fact! But on the whole, may we not predict that a people, with
such a width of Credulity and of Incredulity (the proper union of which
makes Suspicion, and indeed unreason generally), will see Shapes enough of
Immortals fighting in its battle-ranks, and never want for Epical
Carlyle addresses the question of whether the Brigands were in the pay of any
of the forces contending in France — assertions of this sort are still being
made in the 21st century — and decides it is unlikely.
Be this as it may, the Brigands are clearly got to Paris, in considerable
(Besenval, iii. 385, etc.)
with sallow faces, lank hair (the
true enthusiast complexion), with sooty rags; and also with large clubs,
which they smite angrily against the pavement! These mingle in the
Election tumult; would fain sign Guillotin's Cahier, or any
Petition whatsoever, could they but write. Their enthusiast complexion,
the smiting of their sticks bodes little good to any one; least of all to
rich master-manufacturers of the Suburb Saint-Antoine, with whose workmen
The Brigands congregate in the working-class district of Saint-Antoine.
On the first Saturday of May, it is gala at Versailles; and Monday, fourth
of the month, is to be a still greater day. The Deputies have mostly got
thither, and sought out lodgings; and are now successively, in long
well-ushered files, kissing the hand of Majesty in the Château.
does not give the highest satisfaction: we cannot but observe
that in ushering Noblesse or Clergy into the anointed Presence, he
liberally opens both his folding-doors; and on the other hand, for members
of the Third Estate opens only one! However, there is room to enter;
Majesty has smiles for all.
The welcome for Deputies includes a reception by the King.
The good Louis welcomes his Honourable Members, with smiles of hope. He
has prepared for them the Hall of Menus, the largest near him; and often
surveyed the workmen as they went on. A spacious Hall: with raised
platform for Throne, Court and Blood-royal; space for six hundred Commons
Deputies in front; for half as many Clergy on this hand, and half as many
Noblesse on that. It has lofty galleries; wherefrom dames of honour,
splendent in gaze d'or; foreign Diplomacies, and other gilt-edged
white-frilled individuals to the number of two thousand, — may sit and look.
Broad passages flow through it; and, outside the inner wall, all round it.
There are committee-rooms, guard-rooms, robing-rooms: really a noble Hall;
where upholstery, aided by the subject fine-arts, has done its best; and
crimson tasseled cloths, and emblematic fleurs-de-lys are not wanting.
In describing the grandeur of the hall of the Deputies, Carlyle is no doubt
contrasting the cramped quarters of the English Houses of Parliament.
The Hall is ready: the very costume, as we said, has been settled; and the
Commons are not to wear that hated slouch-hat (chapeau clabaud), but one
not quite so slouched (chapeau rabattu).
As for their manner of working,
when all dressed: for their 'voting by head or by order' and the rest, —
this, which it were perhaps still time to settle, and in few hours will be
no longer time, remains unsettled; hangs dubious in the breast of Twelve
In contrast with the completed physical preparations, the rules of the assembly
have still to be sorted out.
But now finally the Sun, on Monday the 4th of May, has risen; — unconcerned,
as if it were no special day. And yet, as his first rays could strike
music from the Memnon's Statue on the
what tones were these, so
thrilling, tremulous of preparation and foreboding, which he awoke in every
bosom at Versailles! Huge Paris, in all conceivable and inconceivable
vehicles, is pouring itself forth; from each Town and Village come
subsidiary rills; Versailles is a very sea of men. But above all, from the
Church of St. Louis to the Church of Notre-Dame: one vast suspended-billow
of Life, — with spray scattered even to the chimney-pots!
For on chimney-tops too,
as over the roofs, and up thitherwards on every lamp-iron, sign-post,
breakneck coign of vantage, sits patriotic Courage; and every window
bursts with patriotic Beauty: for the Deputies are gathering at St. Louis
Church; to march in procession to Notre-Dame, and hear sermon.
The meeting begins with an early-morning parade to holy services.
Yes, friends, ye may sit and look: boldly or in thought, all France, and
all Europe, may sit and look; for it is a day like few others. Oh, one
might weep like
— So many serried rows sit perched there; like
winged creatures, alighted out of Heaven: all these, and so many more that
follow them, shall have wholly fled aloft again, vanishing into the blue
Deep; and the memory of this day still be fresh. It is the baptism-day of
Democracy; sick Time has given it birth, the numbered months being run.
The extreme-unction day of Feudalism! A superannuated System of Society,
decrepit with toils (for has it not done much; produced you, and what ye
have and know!)—and with thefts and brawls, named glorious-victories; and
with profligacies, sensualities, and on the whole with dotage and
senility, — is now to die: and so, with death-throes and birth-throes, a
new one is to be born. What a work, O Earth and Heavens, what a work!
Battles and bloodshed, September
Guillotines; — and from this present date, if one might prophesy, some two
centuries of it still to fight! Two centuries; hardly less; before
Democracy go through its due, most baleful, stages of Quackocracy;
pestilential World be burnt up, and have begun to grow green and young
Carlyle's vision of the consequences of the Revolution that followed hard on
assembly of Estates-General and were still being felt
at the time in which he wrote.
Rejoice nevertheless, ye Versailles multitudes; to you, from whom all this
is hid, and glorious end of it is visible. This day, sentence of death is
pronounced on Shams; judgment of resuscitation, were it but far off, is
pronounced on Realities. This day it is declared aloud, as with a
Doom-trumpet, that a Lie is unbelievable.
Believe that, stand by that, if more
there be not; and let what thing or things soever will follow it follow.
'Ye can no other; God be your help!' So spake a greater than any of you;
opening his Chapter of World-History.
Regardless of the trouble and turmoil that will result, there is nothing
the actors in this drama can do but play on.
Behold, however! The doors of St. Louis Church flung wide; and the
Procession of Processions advancing towards Notre-Dame! Shouts rend the
air; one shout, at which Grecian birds might drop dead. It is indeed a
stately, solemn sight. The Elected of France, and then the Court of
France; they are marshalled and march there, all in prescribed place and
costume. Our Commons 'in plain black mantle and white cravat;' Noblesse,
in gold-worked, bright-dyed cloaks of velvet, resplendent, rustling with
laces, waving with plumes; the Clergy in rochet, alb, or other best
lastly comes the King himself, and King's Household, also
in their brightest blaze of pomp, — their brightest and final one. Some
Fourteen Hundred Men blown together from all winds, on the deepest errand.
The exit from the church exhibits a final tableau of the old regime.
Yes, in that silent marching mass there lies Futurity enough. No symbolic
Ark, like the old Hebrews, do these men bear: yet with them too is a
Covenant; they too preside at a new Era in the History of Men. The whole
Future is there, and Destiny dim-brooding over it; in the hearts and
unshaped thoughts of these men, it lies illegible, inevitable. Singular to
think: they have it in them; yet not they, not mortal, only the Eye above
can read it, — as it shall unfold itself, in fire and thunder, of siege, and
field-artillery; in the rustling of battle-banners, the tramp of hosts, in
the glow of burning cities, the shriek of strangled nations! Such things
lie hidden, safe-wrapt in this Fourth day of May; — say rather, had lain in
some other unknown day, of which this latter is the public fruit and
outcome. As indeed what wonders lie in every Day, — had we the sight, as
happily we have not, to decipher it: for is not every meanest Day 'the
conflux of two Eternities!'
In that parade, Carlyle sees the future.
Meanwhile, suppose we too, good Reader, should, as now without miracle
enables us — take our station also on some coign of vantage; and glance
momentarily over this Procession, and this Life-sea; with far other eyes
than the rest do, namely with prophetic? We can mount, and stand there,
without fear of falling.
Carlyle intends to advance the story by telling us about the people in
and around the procession.
As for the Life-sea, or onlooking unnumbered Multitude, it is unfortunately
all-too dim. Yet as we gaze fixedly, do not nameless Figures not a few,
which shall not always be nameless, disclose themselves; visible or
presumable there! Young Baroness de
— she evidently looks from a
window; among older honourable women.
(Madame de Staël, Considérations sur
la Révolution Française (London, 1818), i. 114-191.)
Her father is
Minister, and one of the gala personages; to his own eyes the chief one.
Young spiritual Amazon, thy rest is not there; nor thy loved Father's: 'as
saw all things in God, so M. Necker sees all things in
Necker,'—a theorem that will not hold.
First we see Madame de Staël, the daughter of the newly restored minister
Necker. Neither she nor he will remain in France for long.
But where is the brown-locked, light-behaved, fire-hearted Demoiselle
Brown eloquent Beauty; who, with thy winged words and glances,
shalt thrill rough bosoms, whole steel battalions, and persuade an Austrian
Kaiser, — pike and helm lie provided for thee in due season; and, alas, also
strait-waistcoat and long lodging in the Salpetriere! Better hadst thou
staid in native Luxemburg, and been the mother of some brave man's
children: but it was not thy task, it was not thy lot.
Théroigne de Mércourt, "the Amazon of the Revolution", is there.
Of the rougher sex how, without tongue, or hundred tongues, of iron,
enumerate the notabilities! Has not Marquis
hastily quitted his
quaker broadbrim; his Pythagorean Greek in Wapping, and the city of
(Founders of the French Republic (London, 1798), para Valadi.)
from his Courrier de l'Europe;
from his Annales, they
looked eager through the London fog, and became Ex-Editors, — that they
might feed the guillotine, and have their due. Does
stand a-tiptoe? And
hight De Warville, friend of the Blacks? He,
the Genevese 'have created the
Moniteur Newspaper,' or are about creating it. Able Editors must give
account of such a day.
Of course the journalists are looking on.
Or seest thou with any distinctness, low down probably, not in places of
(huissier à cheval) of the
Châtelet; one of the shiftiest of men?
of Geneva, Captain
of the Queen's Regiment; both with an air of half-pay?
tile-coloured whiskers, not yet with tile-beard; an unjust dealer in mules?
He shall be, in a few months, Jourdan the Headsman, and have other work.
There are inconsequential figures who will soon play large roles.
Surely also, in some place not of honour, stands or sprawls up querulous,
that he too, though short, may see, — one squalidest bleared mortal,
redolent of soot and horse-drugs: Jean Paul Marat of
Renovator of Human Science, Lecturer on Optics; O thou remarkablest
Horseleech, once in D'Artois' Stables, — as thy bleared soul looks forth,
through thy bleared, dull-acrid, wo-stricken face, what sees it in all
this? Any faintest light of hope; like dayspring after
Or is it but blue sulphur-light, and spectres; woe, suspicion, revenge
The likely presence of Marat gets special notice, and a sneer, from
how he shut his cloth-shop hard by, and stepped forth,
one need hardly speak. Nor of
the sonorous Brewer from the
Faubourg St. Antoine. Two other Figures, and only two, we signalise there.
The huge, brawny, Figure; through whose black brows, and rude flattened
face (figure écrasée),
there looks a waste energy as of Hercules not yet
furibund?, — he
by name: him
mark. Then that other, his slight-built comrade and craft-brother; he with
the long curling locks; with the face of dingy blackguardism, wondrously
irradiated with genius, as if a naphtha-lamp burnt within it: that Figure
A fellow of infinite shrewdness, wit, nay humour;
one of the sprightliest clearest souls in all these millions. Thou poor
Camille, say of thee what they may, it were but falsehood to pretend one
did not almost love thee, thou headlong lightly-sparkling man! But the
brawny, not yet furibund Figure, we say, is Jacques
a name that
shall be 'tolerably known in the Revolution.' He is President of the
electoral Cordeliers District at Paris, or about to be it; and shall open
his lungs of brass.
Other key players in coming events are introduced.
We dwell no longer on the mixed shouting Multitude: for now, behold, the
Commons Deputies are at hand!
We shift from the observers to those on parade.
Which of these Six Hundred individuals, in plain white cravat, that have
come up to regenerate France, might one guess would become their
a king or leader they, as all bodies of men, must have: be their work what
it may, there is one man there who, by character, faculty, position, is
fittest of all to do it; that man, as future not yet elected king, walks
there among the rest. He with the thick black locks, will it be? With the
hure, as himself calls it, or black
boar's-head, fit to be 'shaken' as a
senatorial portent? Through whose shaggy beetle-brows, and rough-hewn,
seamed, carbuncled face, there look natural ugliness, small-pox,
incontinence, bankruptcy, — and burning fire of genius; like comet-fire
glaring fuliginous through murkiest confusions? It is Gabriel Honoré
Riquetti de Mirabeau, the world-compeller; man-ruling Deputy of Aix!
According to the Baroness de Staël, he steps proudly along, though looked
at askance here, and shakes his black
chevelure, or lion's-mane; as if
prophetic of great deeds.
Mirabeau stands out amongst the Third Estate.
Yes, Reader, that is the Type-Frenchman of this epoch; as Voltaire was of
the last. He is French in his aspirations, acquisitions, in his virtues,
in his vices; perhaps more French than any other man; — and intrinsically
such a mass of manhood too. Mark him well. The National Assembly were all
different without that one; nay, he might say with the old Despot: "The
National Assembly? I am that."
As its president, Mirabeau will be the driving force of the National Assembly.
Of a southern climate, of wild southern blood: for the Riquettis, or
Arighettis, had to fly from Florence and the Guelfs, long centuries ago,
and settled in Provence; where from generation to generation they have ever
approved themselves a peculiar kindred: irascible, indomitable,
true, like the steel they wore; of an intensity and activity that
sometimes verged towards madness, yet did not reach it. One ancient
Riquetti, in mad fulfilment of a mad vow, chains two Mountains together;
and the chain, with its 'iron star of five rays,' is still to be seen. May
not a modern Riquetti unchain so much, and set it drifting, — which also
shall be seen?
Mirabeau is of an old and distinguished — if not entirely sane — family.
Destiny has work for that swart burly-headed Mirabeau; Destiny has watched
over him, prepared him from afar. Did not his Grandfather, stout
(Silver-Stock, so they named him), shattered and slashed by
seven-and-twenty wounds in one fell day lie sunk together on the Bridge at
Casano; while Prince Eugene's cavalry galloped and regalloped over him, —
only the flying sergeant had thrown a camp-kettle over that loved head; and
Vendome, dropping his spyglass, moaned out, 'Mirabeau is dead, then!'
Nevertheless he was not dead: he awoke to breathe, and miraculous
surgery; — for Gabriel was yet to be. With his silver stock he kept his
scarred head erect, through long years; and wedded; and produced tough
the Friend of Men. Whereby at last in the appointed year
1749, this long-expected rough-hewn Gabriel Honorè did likewise see the
light: roughest lion's-whelp ever littered of that rough breed. How the
old lion (for our old Marquis too was lion-like, most unconquerable,
kingly-genial, most perverse) gazed wonderingly on his offspring; and
determined to train him as no lion had yet been! It is in vain, O Marquis!
This cub, though thou slay him and flay him, will not learn to draw in
dogcart of Political Economy, and be a Friend of Men;
he will not be Thou,
must and will be Himself, another than Thou. Divorce lawsuits, 'whole
family save one in prison, and three-score Lettres-de-Cachet?'
for thy own
sole use, do but astonish the world.
Carlyle reviews Mirabeau's immediate ancestors and his early life, which
included eloping with a married woman, imprisonment,
and an essay against Letters of Cachet.
Our Luckless Gabriel, sinned against and sinning, has been in the Isle of
and heard the Atlantic from his tower; in the Castle of If, and heard
the Mediterranean at Marseilles. He has been in the Fortress of Joux; and
forty-two months, with hardly clothing to his back, in the Dungeon of
Vincennes; — all by Lettre-de-Cachet, from his lion father.
He has been in
Pontarlier Jails (self-constituted prisoner); was noticed fording estuaries
of the sea (at low water), in flight from the face of men. He has pleaded
before Aix Parlements (to get back his wife); the public gathering on
roofs, to see since they could not hear: "the clatter-teeth
snarles singular old Mirabeau; discerning in such admired forensic
eloquence nothing but two clattering jaw-bones, and a head vacant,
sonorous, of the drum species.
Mirabeau has paid his dues.
But as for Gabriel Honoré, in these strange wayfarings, what has he not
seen and tried! From drill-sergeants, to prime-ministers, to foreign and
domestic booksellers, all manner of men he has seen. All manner of men he
has gained; for at bottom it is a social, loving heart, that wild
unconquerable one: — more especially all manner of women. From the Archer's
Daughter at Saintes to that fair young Sophie Madame Monnier, whom he could
not but 'steal,' and be beheaded for — in effigy! For indeed hardly since
the Arabian Prophet lay dead to Ali's admiration, was there seen such a
Love-hero, with the strength of thirty men. In War, again, he has helped
to conquer Corsica; fought duels, irregular brawls; horsewhipped calumnious
barons. In Literature, he has written on Despotism,
Erotics Sapphic-Werterean, Obscenities, Profanities; Books on the Prussian
Monarchy, on Cagliostro,
on Calonne, on the Water Companies of Paris: — each
book comparable, we will say, to a bituminous alarum-fire; huge, smoky,
sudden! The firepan, the kindling, the bitumen were his own; but the
lumber, of rags, old wood and nameless combustible rubbish (for all is fuel
to him), was gathered from huckster, and ass-panniers, of every description
under heaven. Whereby, indeed, hucksters enough have been heard to
exclaim: Out upon it, the fire is mine!
Mirabeau's amatory, military and literary accomplishments.
Nay, consider it more generally, seldom had man such a talent for
borrowing. The idea, the faculty of another man he can make his; the man
himself he can make his. "All reflex and echo (tout de reflet et de
snarls old Mirabeau, who can see, but will not. Crabbed old
Friend of Men! it is his sociality, his aggregative nature; and will now be
the quality of all for him. In that forty-years 'struggle against
despotism,' he has gained the glorious faculty of self-help, and yet not
lost the glorious natural gift of fellowship, of being helped.
This man can live self-sufficing — yet lives also in the life of other men;
can make men love him, work with him: a born king of men!
Mirabeau's personal qualities.
But consider further how, as the old Marquis still snarls, he has "made
away with (humé, swallowed) all Formulas;" — a
fact which, if we meditate
it, will in these days mean much. This is no man of system, then; he is
only a man of instincts and insights. A man nevertheless who will glare
fiercely on any object; and see through it, and conquer it: for he has
intellect, he has will, force beyond other men. A man not with
logic-spectacles; but with an eye!
Unhappily without Decalogue, moral Code or
Theorem of any fixed sort; yet not without a strong living Soul in him, and
Sincerity there: a Reality, not an Artificiality, not a Sham! And so he,
having struggled 'forty years against despotism,' and 'made away with all
formulas,' shall now become the spokesman of a Nation bent to do the same.
For is it not precisely the struggle of France also to cast off despotism;
to make away with her old formulas, — having found them naught, worn out,
far from the reality? She will make away with such formulas; — and even go
bare, if need be, till she have found new ones.
Mirabeau's lack of fixed principles makes him suited to find new ones for
Towards such work, in such manner, marches he, this singular Riquetti
Mirabeau. In fiery rough figure, with black Samson-locks under the
slouch-hat, he steps along there. A fiery fuliginous mass,
which could not be
choked and smothered, but would fill all France with smoke. And now it has
got air; it will burn its whole substance, its whole smoke-atmosphere too,
and fill all France with flame. Strange lot! Forty years of that
smouldering, with foul fire-damp and vapour enough, then victory over
that; — and like a burning mountain he blazes heaven-high; and, for
twenty-three resplendent months, pours out,
in flame and molten fire-torrents, all
that is in him, the Pharos and Wonder-sign of an amazed Europe;
— and then
lies hollow, cold forever! Pass on, thou questionable
Gabriel Honoré, the
greatest of them all: in the whole National Deputies, in the whole Nation,
there is none like and none second to thee.
For the first two years of the Revolution, it will be Mirabeau's fire that
leads the way.
But now if Mirabeau is the greatest, who of these Six Hundred may be the
meanest? Shall we say, that anxious, slight, ineffectual-looking man,
under thirty, in spectacles; his eyes (were the glasses off) troubled,
careful; with upturned face, snuffing dimly the uncertain future-time;
complexion of a multiplex
colour, the final shade of which may
be the pale sea-green.
(See De Staël, Considérations (ii. 142); Barbaroux,
That greenish-coloured (verdâtre) individual is an Advocate
of Arras; his name is Maximilien
The son of an Advocate; his
father founded mason-lodges under Charles Edward, the English Prince or
Pretender. Maximilien the first-born was thriftily educated; he had brisk
for schoolmate in the College of Louis le Grand, at
Paris. But he begged our famed Necklace-Cardinal, Rohan, the patron, to
let him depart thence, and resign in favour of a younger brother. The
strict-minded Max departed; home to paternal Arras; and even had a Law-case
there and pleaded, not unsuccessfully, 'in favour of the first Franklin
thunder-rod.' With a strict painful mind, an understanding small but clear
and ready, he grew in favour with official persons, who could foresee in
him an excellent man of business, happily quite free from genius. The
Bishop, therefore, taking counsel, appoints him Judge of his diocese; and
he faithfully does justice to the people: till behold, one day, a culprit
comes whose crime merits hanging; and the strict-minded Max must abdicate,
for his conscience will not permit the dooming of any son of Adam to die.
A strict-minded, strait-laced man! A man unfit for Revolutions? Whose
small soul, transparent wholesome-looking as small ale, could by no chance
ferment into virulent alegar [vinegar from beer], — the
mother of ever new alegar; till all
France were grown acetous virulent? We shall see.
Robespierre is introduced.
Between which two extremes of grandest and meanest, so many grand and mean
roll on, towards their several destinies, in that Procession! There is
the learned young soldier; who shall become the eloquent orator of
Royalism, and earn the shadow of a name. Experienced
whose Presidential Parlementary experience the stream of things
shall soon leave stranded. A
has left his gown and briefs at
Chartres for a stormier sort of pleading; has not forgotten his violin,
being fond of music. His hair is grizzled, though he is still young:
convictions, beliefs, placid-unalterable are in that man; not hindmost of
them, belief in himself. A Protestant-clerical
slender young eloquent and vehement
will help to regenerate
France. There are so many of them young. Till thirty the Spartans did not
suffer a man to marry: but how many men here under thirty; coming to
produce not one sufficient citizen, but a nation and a world of such! The
old to heal up rents; the young to remove rubbish: — which latter, is it
not, indeed, the task here?
Other young men who will play important parts.
Dim, formless from this distance, yet authentically there, thou noticest
the Deputies from Nantes? To us mere clothes-screens, with slouch-hat and
cloak, but bearing in their pocket a Cahier of
doleances with this singular
clause, and more such in it: "That the master wigmakers of Nantes be not
troubled with new gild-brethren, the actually existing number of ninety-two
being more than sufficient!"
(Histoire Parlementaire, i. 335.)
people have elected Farmer Gérard,
'a man of natural sense and rectitude,
without any learning.' He walks there, with solid step; unique, 'in his
rustic farmer-clothes;' which he will wear always; careless of short-cloaks
and costumes. The name Gérard, or
'Père Gérard, Father Gérard,' as they
please to call him, will fly far; borne about in endless banter; in
Royalist satires, in Republican didactic Almanacks.
(Actes des Apôtres
(by Peltier and others); Almanach du Père Gérard
(by Collot d'Herbois) etc. etc.)
As for the man Gérard, being asked once, what he did, after trial of it,
candidly think of this Parlementary work, — "I think," answered he, "that
there are a good many scoundrels among us." So walks Father
in his thick shoes, whithersoever bound.
Not all the deputies are world-changers or interesting in world-changing.
And worthy Doctor
whom we hoped to behold one other time? If
not here, the Doctor should be here, and we see him with the eye of
prophecy: for indeed the Parisian Deputies are all a little late.
Singular Guillotin, respectable practitioner: doomed by a satiric destiny
to the strangest immortal glory that ever kept obscure mortal from his
resting-place, the bosom of oblivion! Guillotin can improve the
ventilation of the Hall; in all cases of medical police and hygiene be a
present aid: but, greater far, he can produce his 'Report on the Penal
Code;' and reveal therein a cunningly devised Beheading Machine, which
shall become famous and world-famous. This is the product of Guillotin's
endeavours, gained not without meditation and reading; which product
popular gratitude or levity christens by a feminine derivative name, as if
it were his daughter: La Guillotine!
"With my machine, Messieurs, I whisk
off your head (vous fais sauter la tête)
in a twinkling, and you have no
pain;" — whereat they all laugh.
(Moniteur Newspaper, of December 1st, 1789 (in Histoire Parlementaire).)
Unfortunate Doctor! For two-and-twenty
years he, unguillotined, shall near nothing but guillotine, see nothing but
guillotine; then dying, shall through long centuries wander, as it were, a
disconsolate ghost, on the wrong side of Styx and Lethe; his name like to
The Paris deputies: first Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.
likewise of Paris, time-honoured Historian of Astronomy Ancient
and Modern. Poor Bailly, how thy serenely beautiful Philosophising, with
its soft moonshiny clearness and thinness, ends in foul thick confusion — of
Presidency, Mayorship, diplomatic Officiality, rabid Triviality, and the
throat of everlasting Darkness! Far was it to descend from the heavenly
Galaxy to the Drapeau Rouge [red flag of the Revolution]:
beside that fatal dung-heap, on that last
hell-day, thou must 'tremble,' though only with cold,
Speculation is not practice: to be weak is not so miserable; but to be
weaker than our task. Wo the day when they mounted thee, a peaceable
pedestrian, on that wild Hippogriff
of a Democracy; which, spurning the
firm earth, nay lashing at the very stars, no yet known
Next Jean Sylvain Bailly.
In the Commons Deputies there are Merchants, Artists, Men of Letters; three
hundred and seventy-four Lawyers;
(Bouillé, Mémoires sur la Révolution
Française (London, 1797), i. 68.)
and at least one Clergyman: the
Him also Paris sends, among its twenty. Behold him, the light
thin man; cold, but elastic, wiry; instinct with the pride of Logic;
passionless, or with but one passion, that of self-conceit. If indeed that
can be called a passion, which, in its independent concentrated greatness,
seems to have soared into transcendentalism; and to sit there with a kind
of godlike indifference, and look down on passion! He is the man, and
wisdom shall die with him. This is the Sieyes who shall be System-builder,
Constitution-builder General; and build Constitutions (as many as wanted)
skyhigh, — which shall all unfortunately fall before he get the scaffolding
away. "La Politique," said he to
"Polity is a science I think I
have completed (achevée)."
(Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 64.)
things, O Sieyes, with thy clear assiduous eyes, art thou to see! But were
it not curious to know how Sieyes, now in these days (for he is said to be
still alive) (A.D. 1834.) looks out on all that Constitution masonry,
through the rheumy soberness of extreme age? Might we hope, still with the
old irrefragable transcendentalism? The victorious cause pleased the gods,
the vanquished one pleased Sieyés (victa
Finally, Emmanual Sieyés,
of the three the only one to outlive the Revolution.
Thus, however, amid skyrending vivats,
and blessings from every heart, has
the Procession of the Commons Deputies rolled by.
Next follow the Noblesse, and next the Clergy; concerning both of whom it
might be asked, What they specially have come for? Specially, little as
they dream of it, to answer this question, put in a voice of thunder: What
are you doing in God's fair Earth and Task-garden; where whosoever is not
working is begging or stealing? Wo, wo to themselves and to all, if they
can only answer: Collecting tithes, Preserving game! — Remark, meanwhile,
affects to step before his own Order, and mingle with the
Commons. For him are vivats:
few for the rest, though all wave in plumed
'hats of a feudal cut,' and have sword on thigh; though among them is
the young Languedocian gentleman,—and indeed many a Peer
more or less noteworthy.
The crowd is less approving of the peers, but there are many of note.
Liancourt?, and La
the liberal Anglomaniac Dukes.
There is a filially pious
a couple of liberal
there is a
whose name shall be Cromwell-Grandison,
and fill the
world. Many a 'formula' has this Lafayette too made away with; yet not
formulas. He sticks by the Washington-formula; and by that he will
stick; — and hang by it,
as by sure bower-anchor hangs and swings the tight war-ship, which, after all changes of wildest weather and water, is found still
hanging. Happy for him; be it glorious or not! Alone of all Frenchmen he
has a theory of the world, and right mind to conform thereto; he can become
a hero and perfect character, were it but the hero of one idea. Note
further our old Parlementary friend,
returned from the Mediterranean Islands, a redhot royalist, repentant to
the finger-ends; — unsettled-looking; whose light, dusky-glowing at best,
now flickers foul in the socket; whom the National Assembly will by and by,
to save time, 'regard as in a state of distraction.' Note lastly that
indignant that his elder Brother is among the
Commons: it is Viscomte Mirabeau;
named oftener Mirabeau Tonneau (Barrel
Mirabeau), on account of his rotundity, and the quantities of strong liquor
The noble deputies are a mixed bag.
There then walks our French Noblesse. All in the old pomp of chivalry:
and yet, alas, how changed from the old position; drifted far down from
their native latitude, like Arctic icebergs got into the Equatorial sea,
and fast thawing there! Once these Chivalry Duces (Dukes, as they are
still named) did actually lead the world, — were it only towards
where lay the world's best wages then: moreover, being the ablest
Leaders going, they had their lion's share, those Duces;
which none could
grudge them. But now, when so many Looms, improved Ploughshares,
Steam-Engines and Bills of Exchange have been invented;
and, for battle-brawling
itself, men hire Drill-Sergeants at eighteen-pence a-day, — what mean these
goldmantled Chivalry Figures, walking there 'in black-velvet cloaks,' in
high-plumed 'hats of a feudal cut'? Reeds shaken in the wind!
The assmbled nobility is not the ancient Nobility of the Sword, but rather a
mixture of courtiers; hereditary land-owners — some possessing little
but a sword; and Nobles of the Robe: lawyers and bankers raised for
their usefulness or for a price.
The Clergy have got up; with Cahiers for abolishing pluralities,
residence of bishops, better payment of tithes.
(Hist. Parl. i. 322-27.)
The Dignitaries, we can observe, walk stately, apart from the numerous
Undignified, — who indeed are properly little other than Commons disguised
in Curate-frocks. Here, however, though by strange ways, shall the Precept
be fulfilled, and they that are greatest (much to their astonishment)
become least. For one example, out of many, mark that plausible
one day Curé Grégoire
shall be a Bishop, when the now stately are wandering
distracted, as Bishops in partibus.
With other thought, mark also the Abbé
his broad bold face; mouth accurately primmed; full eyes, that ray
out intelligence, falsehood, — the sort of sophistry which is astonished you
should find it sophistical. Skilfulest vamper-up of old rotten leather, to
make it look like new; always a rising man; he used to tell
will see; I shall be in the Academy before you."
(Mercier, Nouveau Paris.)
Likely indeed, thou skilfullest Maury; nay thou shalt have a Cardinal's
Hat, and plush and glory; but alas, also, in the longrun — mere oblivion,
like the rest of us; and six feet of earth! What boots it, vamping rotten
leather on these terms? Glorious in comparison is the livelihood thy good
old Father earns, by making shoes, — one may hope, in a sufficient manner.
Maury does not want for audacity. He shall wear pistols, by and by; and at
death-cries of "The Lamp-iron;" answer coolly, "Friends, will you see
The First Estate contains many who sympathize with, and will rise with,
But yonder, halting lamely along, thou noticest next
his Reverence of Autun. A sardonic grimness lies in that
irreverent Reverence of Autun. He will do and suffer strange things; and
will become surely one of the strangest things ever seen, or like to be
seen. A man living in falsehood, and on falsehood; yet not what you can
call a false man: there is the specialty! It will be an enigma for future
ages, one may hope: hitherto such a product of Nature and Art was possible
only for this age of ours, — Age of Paper, and of the Burning of Paper.
Consider Bishop Talleyrand and Marquis Lafayette as the topmost of their
two kinds; and say once more, looking at what they did and what they were,
O Tempus ferax rerum [time thou bringer-about of all things]!
Outstanding among the clergy is Talleyrand, then Bishop of Autun.
On the whole, however, has not this unfortunate Clergy also drifted in the
Time-stream, far from its native latitude? An anomalous mass of men; of
whom the whole world has already a dim understanding that it can understand
nothing. They were once a Priesthood, interpreters of Wisdom, revealers of
the Holy that is in Man: a true Clerus
(or Inheritance of God on Earth):
but now? — They pass silently, with such Cahiers
as they have been able to
redact; and none cries, God bless them.
The time when the clerics were a true force is already past.
King Louis with his Court brings up the rear: he cheerful, in this day of
hope, is saluted with plaudits; still more Necker his Minister. Not so the
Queen; on whom hope shines not steadily any more. Ill-fated Queen! Her
hair is already gray with many cares and crosses; her first-born son is
dying in these weeks: black falsehood has ineffaceably soiled her name;
ineffaceably while this generation lasts. Instead of
Vive la Reine, voices
insult her with
Vive d'Orleans. Of her queenly beauty little remains
except its stateliness; not now gracious, but haughty, rigid, silently
enduring. With a most mixed feeling, wherein joy has no part, she resigns
herself to a day she hoped never to have seen. Poor Marie Antoinette; with
thy quick noble instincts; vehement glancings, vision all-too fitful narrow
for the work thou hast to do! O there are tears in store for thee;
bitterest wailings, soft womanly meltings, though thou hast the heart of an
imperial Theresa's Daughter. Thou doomed one, shut thy eyes on the
In the procession of the Court, Carlyle sees the Queen deserving compassion.
And so, in stately Procession, have passed the Elected of France. Some
towards honour and quick fire-consummation; most towards dishonour; not a
few towards massacre, confusion, emigration, desperation: all towards
Eternity! — So many heterogeneities cast together into the fermenting-vat;
there, with incalculable action, counteraction, elective affinities,
explosive developments, to work out healing for a sick moribund System of
Society! Probably the strangest Body of Men, if we consider well, that
ever met together on our Planet on such an errand. So thousandfold complex
a Society, ready to burst-up from its infinite depths; and these men, its
rulers and healers, without life-rule for themselves, — other life-rule than
a Gospel according to
To the wisest of them, what we must
call the wisest, man is properly an Accident under the sky. Man is without
Duty round him; except it be 'to make the Constitution.' He is without
Heaven above him, or Hell beneath him; he has no God in the world.
Carlyle sees the elected body as essentially without guidance, specifically
without the guidance of Christian faith.
What further or better belief can be said to exist in these Twelve Hundred?
Belief in high-plumed hats of a feudal cut; in heraldic scutcheons; in the
divine right of Kings, in the divine right of Game-destroyers. Belief, or
what is still worse, canting half-belief; or worst of all, mere
Macchiavellic pretence-of-belief, — in consecrated dough-wafers, and the
godhood of a poor old Italian Man! Nevertheless in that immeasurable
Confusion and Corruption, which struggles there so blindly to become less
confused and corrupt, there is, as we said, this one salient point of a New
Life discernible: the deep fixed Determination to have done with Shams. A
determination, which, consciously or unconsciously, is fixed;
ever more fixed, into very madness and fixed-idea; which in such embodiment
as lies provided there, shall now unfold itself rapidly: monstrous,
stupendous, unspeakable; new for long thousands of years! — How has the
Heaven's light, oftentimes in this Earth, to clothe itself in thunder and
electric murkiness; and descend as molten lightning, blasting, if
purifying! Nay is it not rather the very murkiness, and atmospheric
suffocation, that brings
the lightning and the light? The new Evangel, as
the old had been, was it to be born in the Destruction of a World?
The only thing the deputies have in common is a desire to set things
right. They have no idea what first must be destroyed.
But how the Deputies assisted at High Mass, and heard sermon, and applauded
the preacher, church as it was, when he preached politics; how, next day,
with sustained pomp, they are, for the first time, installed in their
Salles des Menus (Hall no longer of
Amusements), and become a States-General,
— readers can fancy for themselves. The King from his estrade,
gorgeous as Solomon in all his glory, runs his eye over that majestic Hall;
many-plumed, many-glancing; bright-tinted as rainbow, in the galleries and
near side spaces, where Beauty sits raining bright influence.
Satisfaction, as of one that after long voyaging had got to port, plays
over his broad simple face: the innocent King! He rises and speaks, with
sonorous tone, a conceivable speech. With which, still more with the
succeeding one-hour and two-hour speeches of Garde-des-Sceaux and M.
Necker, full of nothing but patriotism, hope, faith, and deficiency of the
revenue, — no reader of these pages shall be tried.
The opening of States-General is taken up with speeches by the King and
We remark only that, as his Majesty, on finishing the speech, put on his
plumed hat, and the Noblesse according to custom imitated him, our
Deputies did mostly, not without a shade of fierceness, in like manner
clap-on, and even crush on their slouched hats; and stand there awaiting
(Histoire Parlementaire (i. 356). Mercier, Nouveau Paris, etc.)
Thick buzz among them, between majority and minority of Couvrez-vous,
(Hats off, Hats on)! To which his Majesty puts end, by
taking off his own royal hat again.
Carlyle finds it significant that the third estate breaks custom by
donning their hats when the king does so.
The session terminates without further accident or omen than this; with
which, significantly enough, France has opened her States-General.
That exasperated France, in this same National Assembly of hers, has got
something, nay something great, momentous, indispensable, cannot be
doubted; yet still the question were: Specially what? A question hard to
solve, even for calm onlookers at this distance; wholly insoluble to actors
in the middle of it. The States-General, created and conflated by the
passionate effort of the whole nation, is there as a thing high and lifted
up. Hope, jubilating, cries aloud that it will prove a miraculous Brazen
Serpent in the Wilderness; whereon whosoever looks, with faith and
obedience, shall be healed of all woes and
So now there is a States-General. What is it supposed to do, and how do it?
We may answer, it will at least prove a symbolic Banner; round which the
exasperating complaining Twenty-Five Millions, otherwise isolated and
without power, may rally, and work — what it is in them to work. If battle
must be the work, as one cannot help expecting, then shall it be a
battle-banner (say, an Italian Gonfalon [pennant], in its old Republican
Carroccio [battle cart]); and
shall tower up, car-borne, shining in the wind: and with iron tongue peal
forth many a signal. A thing of prime necessity; which whether in the van
or in the centre, whether leading or led and driven, must do the fighting
multitude incalculable services. For a season, while it floats in the very
front, nay as it were stands solitary there, waiting whether force will
gather round it, this same National Carroccio, and the signal-peals it
rings, are a main object with us.
The States-General is not the cause or the initiator of the Revolution, but
rather its recognizable symbol.
The omen of the 'slouch-hats clapt on' shows the Commons Deputies to have
made up their minds on one thing: that neither Noblesse nor Clergy shall
have precedence of them; hardly even Majesty itself. To such length has
the Contrat Social, and force of public opinion, carried us.
For what is
Majesty but the Delegate of the Nation; delegated, and bargained with (even
rather tightly), — in some very singular posture of affairs, which Jean
has not fixed the date of?
While not rebellious, the Third Estate has an attitude inspired in part by
Coming therefore into their Hall, on the morrow, an inorganic mass of Six
Hundred individuals, these Commons Deputies perceive, without terror, that
they have it all to themselves. Their Hall is also the Grand or general
Hall for all the Three Orders. But the Noblesse and Clergy, it would seem,
have retired to their two separate Apartments, or Halls; and are there
'verifying their powers,' not in a conjoint but in a separate capacity.
They are to constitute two separate, perhaps separately-voting Orders,
then? It is as if both Noblesse and Clergy had silently taken for granted
that they already were such! Two Orders against one; and so the Third
Order to be left in a perpetual minority?
On the second day of States-General, the first two orders retire to their
own halls of deliberation. Will voting be by House, trumping the Third
Estate's numerical superiority?
Much may remain unfixed; but the negative of that is a thing fixed: in the
Slouch-hatted heads, in the French Nation's head. Double representation,
and all else hitherto gained, were otherwise futile, null. Doubtless, the
'powers must be verified;' — doubtless, the Commission, the electoral
Documents of your Deputy must be inspected by his brother Deputies, and
found valid: it is the preliminary of all. Neither is this question, of
doing it separately or doing it conjointly, a vital one: but if it lead to
such? It must be resisted; wise was that maxim, Resist the beginnings!
Nay were resistance unadvisable, even dangerous, yet surely pause is very
natural: pause, with Twenty-five Millions behind you, may become
resistance enough. — The inorganic mass of Commons Deputies will restrict
itself to a 'system of inertia,' and for the present remain inorganic.
The deputies of the Third Estate decide to do nothing until the three estates
agree to meet in joint session.
Such method, recommendable alike to sagacity and to timidity, do the
Commons Deputies adopt; and, not without adroitness, and with ever more
tenacity, they persist in it, day after day, week after week. For six
weeks their history is of the kind named barren; which indeed, as
Philosophy knows, is often the fruitfulest of all. These were their still
creation-days; wherein they sat incubating! In fact, what they did was to
do nothing, in a judicious manner. Daily the inorganic body reassembles;
regrets that they cannot get organisation, 'verification of powers in
common', and begin regenerating France. Headlong motions may be made, but
let such be repressed; inertia alone is at once unpunishable and
The Commons do not refuse to work, but work to no end; refusing to incorporate
into a body that does not include the other two estates.
Cunning must be met by cunning; proud pretension by inertia, by a low tone
of patriotic sorrow; low, but incurable, unalterable. Wise as serpents;
harmless as doves: what a spectacle for France! Six Hundred inorganic
individuals, essential for its regeneration and salvation, sit there, on
their elliptic benches, longing passionately towards life; in painful
durance; like souls waiting to be born. Speeches are spoken; eloquent;
audible within doors and without. Mind agitates itself against mind; the
Nation looks on with ever deeper interest. Thus do the Commons Deputies
The Third estate bides its time.
There are private conclaves, supper-parties, consultations;
Club of Viroflay; germs of many Clubs. Wholly an element of confused
noise, dimness, angry heat; — wherein, however, the
Eros-egg, kept at the
fit temperature, may hover safe, unbroken till it be hatched. In your
is science sufficient for that; fervour in
At times shall come an inspiration from royal
Mirabeau: he is nowise yet recognised as royal; nay he was 'groaned at,'
when his name was first mentioned: but he is struggling towards
While the Third Estate deputies do no official work, partisan groups are
forming behind the scenes.
In the course of the week, the
having called their Eldest to the
and furnished him with young stronger-lunged assistants, — can speak
articulately; and, in audible lamentable words, declare, as we said, that
they are an inorganic body, longing to become organic. Letters arrive; but
an inorganic body cannot open letters; they lie on the table unopened. The
Eldest may at most procure for himself some kind of List or Muster-roll, to
take the votes by, and wait what will betide. Noblesse and Clergy are all
elsewhere: however, an eager public crowds all galleries and vacancies;
which is some comfort. With effort, it is determined, not that a
Deputation shall be sent, — for how can an inorganic body send
deputations? — but
that certain individual Commons Members shall, in an accidental way,
stroll into the Clergy Chamber, and then into the Noblesse one; and mention
there, as a thing they have happened to observe, that the Commons seem to
be sitting waiting for them, in order to verify their powers. That is the
The Commons invite the Clergy and Nobles into their House.
The Clergy, among whom are such a multitude of Undignified, of mere Commons
in Curates' frocks, depute instant respectful answer that they are, and
will now more than ever be, in deepest study as to that very matter.
Contrariwise the Noblesse, in cavalier attitude, reply, after four days,
that they, for their part, are all verified and constituted; which, they
had trusted, the Commons also were; such separate verification being
clearly the proper constitutional wisdom-of-ancestors method; — as they the
Noblesse will have much pleasure in demonstrating by a Commission of their
number, if the Commons will meet them, Commission against Commission!
Directly in the rear of which comes a deputation of Clergy, reiterating, in
their insidious conciliatory way, the same proposal. Here, then, is a
complexity: what will wise Commons say to this?
The two superior orders refuse to meet jointly with the Commons.
Warily, inertly, the wise Commons, considering that they are, if not a
French Third Estate, at least an Aggregate of individuals pretending to
some title of that kind, determine, after talking on it five days, to name
such a Commission, — though, as it were, with proviso not to be convinced:
a sixth day is taken up in naming it; a seventh and an eighth day in
getting the forms of meeting, place, hour and the like, settled: so that
it is not till the evening of the 23rd of May that Noblesse Commission
first meets Commons Commission, Clergy acting as Conciliators; and begins
the impossible task of convincing it. One other meeting, on the 25th, will
suffice: the Commons are inconvincible, the Noblesse and Clergy
irrefragably convincing; the Commissions retire; each Order persisting in
its first pretensions.
(Reported Debates, 6th May to 1st June, 1789
(in Histoire Parlementaire, i. 379-422.)
Formal attempts to come to agreement on the questions of joint meeting
and voting method fail.
Thus have three weeks passed. For three weeks, the Third-Estate
with far-seen Gonfalon, has stood stockstill, flouting the wind; waiting
what force would gather round it.
At the end of May, the Third Estate is still blocking all progress.
Fancy can conceive the feeling of the Court; and how counsel met counsel,
the loud-sounding inanity whirled in that distracted vortex, where wisdom
could not dwell. Your cunningly devised Taxing-Machine has been got
together; set up with incredible labour; and stands there, its three pieces
in contact; its two fly-wheels of Noblesse and Clergy, its huge
working-wheel of Tiers-Etat.
The two fly-wheels whirl in the softest manner; but,
prodigious to look upon, the huge working-wheel hangs motionless, refuses
to stir! The cunningest engineers are at fault. How will it work, when it
does begin? Fearfully, my Friends; and to many purposes; but to gather
taxes, or grind court-meal, one may apprehend, never. Could we but have
continued gathering taxes by hand!
(named Court Triumvirate), they of the anti-democratic
Mémoire au Roi,
not their foreboding proved true? They may wave reproachfully their high
heads; they may beat their poor brains; but the cunningest engineers can do
nothing. Necker himself, were he even listened to, begins to look blue.
The only thing one sees advisable is to bring up soldiers. New regiments,
two, and a battalion of a third, have already reached Paris; others shall
get in march. Good were it, in all circumstances, to have troops within
reach; good that the command were in sure hands. Let
old Marshal Duke de Broglie; veteran disciplinarian, of a firm drill-sergeant
morality, such as may be depended on.
The government will not wait for States-General to start to work on the tax
question. There is too much at stake.
For, alas, neither are the Clergy, or the very Noblesse what they should
be; and might be, when so menaced from without: entire, undivided within.
The Noblesse, indeed, have their Catiline or
all in renegade heat; their boisterous
they have their
above all, their
now cut forever from his Court-moorings, and musing drowsily of
high and highest sea-prizes (for is not he too a son of Henri Quatre, and
partial potential Heir-Apparent?)—on his voyage towards Chaos. From the
Clergy again, so numerous are the Curés,
actual deserters have run over:
two small parties; in the second party Curé Grégoire.
Nay there is talk of
a whole Hundred and Forty-nine of them about to desert in mass, and only
restrained by an Archbishop of Paris. It seems a losing game.
At the end of May, a small group of clergy agree to sit with the Third
But judge if France, if Paris sat idle, all this while! Addresses from far
and near flow in: for our Commons have now grown organic enough to open
letters. Or indeed to cavil at them! Thus poor Marquis de
Usher, Master of Ceremonies, or whatever his title was, writing about this
time on some ceremonial matter, sees no harm in winding up with a
'Monsieur, yours with sincere attachment.' — "To whom does it address
itself, this sincere attachment?" inquires Mirabeau. "To the Dean of the
Tiers-Etat." — "There is no man in France entitled to write that," rejoins
he; whereat the Galleries and the World will not be kept from applauding.
(Moniteur (in Histoire Parlementaire, i. 405).)
Commons have a still older grudge at him; nor has he yet done with them.
The Third now does some work: at least it handles its correspondence.
In another way, Mirabeau has had to protest against the quick suppression
of his Newspaper, Journal of the States-General; — and
to continue it under
a new name.
In which act of valour, the Paris Electors, still busy
redacting their Cahier, could not but support him, by Address to his
Majesty: they claim utmost 'provisory freedom of the press;' they have
spoken even about demolishing the Bastille, and erecting a Bronze Patriot
King on the site! — These are the rich Burghers: but now consider how it
went, for example, with such loose miscellany, now all grown
eleutheromaniac, of Loungers, Prowlers, social Nondescripts (and the
distilled Rascality of our Planet), as whirls forever in the Palais
— or what low infinite groan,
first changing into a growl, comes from Saint-Antoine,
and the Twenty-five Millions in danger of starvation!
The best-off are sensitive to political acts surrounding States-General and
react strongly to them. How much more strongly will the rest react?
There is the indisputablest scarcity of corn; — be it Aristocrat-plot,
D'Orleans-plot, of this year; or drought and hail of last year: in city
and province, the poor man looks desolately towards a nameless lot. And
this States-General, that could make us an age of gold, is forced to stand
motionless; cannot get its powers verified! All industry necessarily
languishes, if it be not that of making motions.
The people will not wait for States-General to start to work on the corn
question. There is too much at stake.
In the Palais Royal?
there has been erected, apparently by subscription, a
kind of Wooden Tent (en planches de bois);
(Histoire Parlementaire, i. 429.)
— most convenient; where select Patriotism can now redact
resolutions, deliver harangues, with comfort, let the weather be as it
will. Lively is that Satan-at-Home! On his table, on his chair, in every
cafe, stands a patriotic orator; a crowd round him within; a crowd
listening from without, open-mouthed, through open door and window; with
'thunders of applause for every sentiment of more than common hardiness.'
In Monsieur Dessein's Pamphlet-shop, close by, you cannot without strong
elbowing get to the counter: every hour produces its pamphlet, or litter
of pamphlets; 'there were thirteen to-day, sixteen yesterday, nine-two last
(Arthur Young, Travels, i. 104.)
Think of Tyranny and Scarcity;
Fervid-eloquence, Rumour, Pamphleteering;
Société Publicole, Breton Club,
Enraged Club; — and whether every tap-room, coffee-room, social reunion,
accidental street-group, over wide France, was not an Enraged Club!
Street orations and pamphlets increase in number and in strength of expression.
To all which the Commons Deputies can only listen with a sublime inertia of
sorrow; reduced to busy themselves 'with their internal police.' Surer
position no Deputies ever occupied; if they keep it with skill. Let not
the temperature rise too high; break not the Eros-egg till it be hatched,
till it break itself! An eager public crowds all Galleries and vacancies!
'cannot be restrained from applauding.' The two Privileged Orders, the
Noblesse all verified and constituted, may look on with what face they
will; not without a secret tremor of heart. The Clergy, always acting the
part of conciliators, make a clutch at the Galleries, and the popularity
there; and miss it. Deputation of them arrives, with dolorous message
about the 'dearth of grains,' and the necessity there is of casting aside
vain formalities, and deliberating on this. An insidious proposal; which,
however, the Commons (moved thereto by seagreen Robespierre) dexterously
accept as a sort of hint, or even pledge, that the Clergy will forthwith
come over to them, constitute the States-General, and so cheapen grains!
(Bailly, Memoires, i. 114.)
— Finally, on the 27th day of May, Mirabeau,
judging the time now nearly come, proposes that 'the inertia cease;' that,
leaving the Noblesse to their own stiff ways, the Clergy be summoned, 'in
the name of the God of Peace,' to join the Commons, and begin.
(Histoire Parlementaire, i. 413.)
To which summons if they turn a deaf ear, — we
shall see! Are not one Hundred and Forty-nine of them ready to desert?
In the 3rd week, Mirabeau thinks the time is right: formally invite the
clergy to sit jointly (17 May 1789).
O Triumvirate of Princes, new Garde-des-Sceaux
and Queen eager to listen, — what is
now to be done? This Third Estate will get in motion, with the force of
all France in it; Clergy-machinery with Noblesse-machinery, which were to
serve as beautiful counter-balances and drags, will be shamefully dragged
after it, — and take fire along with it. What is to be done?
waxes more confused than ever. Whisper and counter-whisper; a very
tempest of whispers! Leading men from all the Three Orders are nightly
spirited thither; conjurors many of them; but can they conjure this?
Necker himself were now welcome, could he interfere to purpose.
The government worries that a combined clergy and commons will be an
Let Necker interfere, then; and in the King's name! Happily that
incendiary 'God-of-Peace' message is not yet answered. The Three Orders
shall again have conferences; under this Patriot Minister of theirs,
somewhat may be healed, clouted up; — we meanwhile getting forward Swiss
Regiments, and a 'hundred pieces of field-artillery.' This is what the
Œil-de-Bœuf, for its part, resolves on.
Necker is ordered to attempt a mediation.
But as for Necker — Alas, poor Necker, thy obstinate Third Estate has one
first-last word, verification in common, as the pledge of voting and
deliberating in common! Half-way proposals, from such a tried friend, they
answer with a stare. The tardy conferences speedily break up; the Third
Estate, now ready and resolute, the whole world backing it, returns to its
Hall of the Three Orders; and Necker to the Œil-de-Bœuf, with the
character of a disconjured conjuror there — fit only for dismissal.
(Debates, 1st to 17th June 1789 (in Histoire Parlementaire, i. 422-478).)
The Commons will not compromise.
And so the Commons Deputies are at last on their own strength getting under
way? Instead of Chairman, or Dean, they have now got a President:
Astronomer Bailly. Under way, with a vengeance! With endless vociferous
and temperate eloquence, borne on Newspaper wings to all lands, they have
now, on this 17th day of June, determined that their name is not Third
Estate, but — National Assembly! They, then, are the Nation? Triumvirate
of Princes, Queen, refractory Noblesse and Clergy, what, then, are you? A
most deep question; — scarcely answerable in living political dialects.
June 17 the Commons and the clergy who have joined them, declare themselves
the National Assembly, bringing to an end the States-General.
All regardless of which, our new National Assembly proceeds to appoint a
'committee of subsistences;' dear to France, though it can find little or
no grain. Next, as if our National Assembly stood quite firm on its
legs, — to appoint 'four other standing committees;'
then to settle the security
of the National Debt; then that of the Annual Taxation: all within
At such rate of velocity it is going: the conjurors of
the Œil-de-Bœuf may well ask themselves, Whither?
In two days' meetings the National Assembly organizes, and addresses the
corn crisis and the National Debt, and sets the annual tax rate.
Now surely were the time for a 'god from the machine;' there is a nodus
worthy of one. The only question is, Which god? Shall it be Mars de
Broglie, with his hundred pieces of cannon? — Not yet, answers prudence; so
soft, irresolute is King Louis. Let it be Messenger Mercury,
Usher de Brézé.
Court Master of Ceremonies de Brézé will be an accidental
catalyst, delivering a message to the Assembly.
On the morrow, which is the 20th of June, these Hundred and Forty-nine
false Curates, no longer restrainable by his
will desert in
a body: let De Brézé intervene, and produce —
closed doors! Not only shall
there be Royal Session, in that Salle des Menus; but no meeting, nor
working (except by carpenters), till then. Your Third Estate, self-styled
'National Assembly,' shall suddenly see itself extruded from its Hall, by
carpenters, in this dexterous way; and reduced to do nothing, not even to
meet, or articulately lament, — till Majesty, with
Séance Royale and new
miracles, be ready! In this manner shall De Brézé, as Mercury
intervene; and, if the Œil-de-Bœuf mistake not,
work deliverance from the
In preparation for a Royal Session of the Estates-General,
de Brézé has locked the Commons' meeting hall to allow the
necessary carpentry work to proceed uninterrupted.
Of poor De Brézé we can remark that he has yet prospered in
none of his
dealings with these Commons. Five weeks ago, when they kissed the hand of
Majesty, the mode he took got nothing but censure; and then his 'sincere
attachment,' how was it scornfully whiffed aside! Before supper, this
night, he writes to President Bailly, a new Letter, to be delivered shortly
after dawn tomorrow, in the King's name. Which Letter, however, Bailly in
the pride of office, will merely crush together into his pocket, like a
bill he does not mean to pay.
De Brézé is not popular with the Third Estate. His letter to
them explaining the carpentry work goes unopened.
Accordingly on Saturday morning the 20th of June, shrill-sounding heralds
proclaim through the streets of Versailles, that there is to be a
Royale next Monday; and no meeting of the States-General till then. And
yet, we observe, President Bailly in sound of this, and with
Letter in his pocket, is proceeding, with National Assembly at his heels,
to the accustomed Salles des Menus; as if De Brézé
and heralds were mere
wind. It is shut, this Salle; occupied by Gardes Françaises. "Where is
your Captain?" The Captain shows his royal order: workmen, he is grieved
to say, are all busy setting up the platform for his Majesty's
unfortunately, no admission; admission, at furthest, for President and
Secretaries to bring away papers, which the joiners might destroy! —
President Bailly enters with Secretaries; and returns bearing papers:
alas, within doors, instead of patriotic eloquence, there is now no noise
but hammering, sawing, and operative screeching and rumbling! A
profanation without parallel.
The Deputies show up for work anyway.
The Deputies stand grouped on the Paris Road, on this umbrageous Avenue de
Versailles; complaining aloud of the indignity done them. Courtiers, it is
supposed, look from their windows, and giggle. The morning is none of the
comfortablest: raw; it is even drizzling a little.
(Bailly, Memoires, i. 185-206.)
But all travellers pause; patriot gallery-men, miscellaneous
spectators increase the groups. Wild counsels alternate. Some desperate
Deputies propose to go and hold session on the great outer Staircase at
Marly, under the King's windows; for his Majesty, it seems, has driven over
thither. Others talk of making the Château Forecourt,
what they call Place
d'Armes, a Runnymede and new Champ de Mai of free Frenchmen: nay of
awakening, to sounds of indignant Patriotism, the echoes of the
itself. — Notice is given that President Bailly, aided by judicious
Guillotin and others, has found place in the Tennis-Court of the Rue St.
François. Thither, in long-drawn files, hoarse-jingling, like cranes on
wing, the Commons Deputies angrily wend.
Angry, they proceed to the Tennis Court.
Strange sight was this in the Rue St. François, Vieux Versailles! A naked
Tennis-Court, as the pictures of that time still give it: four walls;
naked, except aloft some poor wooden penthouse, or roofed
spectators'-gallery, hanging round them:
— on the floor not now an idle teeheeing, a
snapping of balls and rackets; but the bellowing din of an indignant
National Representation, scandalously exiled hither! However, a cloud of
witnesses looks down on them, from wooden penthouse, from wall-top, from
adjoining roof and chimney; rolls towards them from all quarters, with
passionate spoken blessings. Some table can be procured to write on; some
chair, if not to sit on, then to stand on. The Secretaries undo their
tapes; Bailly has constituted the Assembly.
Bailly declares the opening session of the National Assembly in the Tennis
not wholly new to such things, in Parlementary
revolts, which he has seen or heard of, thinks that it were well, in these
lamentable threatening circumstances, to unite themselves by an Oath. —
Universal acclamation, as from smouldering bosoms getting vent! The Oath
is redacted; pronounced aloud by President Bailly, — and indeed in such a
sonorous tone, that the cloud of witnesses, even outdoors, hear it, and
bellow response to it. Six hundred right-hands rise with President
Bailly's, to take God above to witness that they will not separate for man
below, but will meet in all places, under all circumstances, wheresoever
two or three can get together, till they have made the Constitution. Made
the Constitution, Friends! That is a long task. Six hundred hands,
meanwhile, will sign as they have sworn: six hundred save one; one
still visible by this sole light-point, and nameable, poor
'M. Martin d'Auch, from Castelnaudary, in Languedoc.' Him they permit to
sign or signify refusal; they even save him from the cloud of witnesses, by
declaring 'his head deranged.' At four o'clock, the signatures are all
appended; new meeting is fixed for Monday morning, earlier than the hour of
the Royal Session; that our Hundred and Forty-nine Clerical deserters be
not balked: we shall meet 'at the Recollets Church or elsewhere,' in hope
that our Hundred and Forty-nine will join us;—and now it is time to go to
The Oath of the Tennis Court — that the Deputies will continue to meet
until a Constitution has been finsished.
This, then, is the Session of the Tennis-Court, famed
Séance du Jeu de
Paume; the fame of which has gone forth to all lands.
This is Mercurius de
Brézé's appearance as Deus ex machinâ;
this is the fruit it brings! The
giggle of Courtiers in the Versailles Avenue has already died into gaunt
silence. Did the distracted Court, with Gardes-des-Sceaux Barentin,
Triumvirate and Company, imagine that they could scatter six hundred
National Deputies, big with a National Constitution, like as much barndoor
poultry, big with next to nothing, — by the white or black rod of a Supreme
Usher? Barndoor poultry fly cackling: but National Deputies turn round,
lion-faced; and, with uplifted right-hand, swear an Oath that makes the
four corners of France tremble.
If the court was trying to intimidate the Assembly, the attempt backfired.
President Bailly has covered himself with honour; which shall become
rewards. The National Assembly is now doubly and trebly the Nation's
Assembly; not militant, martyred only, but triumphant; insulted, and which
could not be insulted. Paris disembogues itself once more, to witness,
'with grim looks,' the
(See Arthur Young (Travels, i. 115-118); A. Lameth, etc.)
which, by a new felicity, is postponed till Tuesday.
The Hundred and Forty-nine, and even with Bishops among them, all in
processional mass, have had free leisure to march off, and solemnly join
the Commons sitting waiting in their Church. The Commons welcomed them
with shouts, with embracings, nay with tears;
(Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, c. 4.)
for it is growing a life-and-death matter now.
The National Assembly is strengthened by the Oath and in being joined by over
half the First Estate.
As for the Séance itself,
the Carpenters seem to have accomplished their
platform; but all else remains unaccomplished. Futile, we may say fatal,
was the whole matter. King Louis enters, through seas of people, all
grim-silent, angry with many things, — for it is a bitter rain too.
Enters, to a
Third Estate, likewise grim-silent; which has been wetted waiting under
mean porches, at back-doors, while Court and Privileged were entering by
the front. King and Garde-des-Sceaux (there is no Necker visible) make
known, not without longwindedness, the determinations of the royal breast.
The Three Orders shall vote separately. On the other hand, France may look
for considerable constitutional blessings; as specified in these
(Histoire Parlementaire, i. 13.)
which Garde-des-Sceaux is
waxing hoarse with reading. Which Five-and-Thirty Articles, adds his
Majesty again rising, if the Three Orders most unfortunately cannot agree
together to effect them, I myself will effect: "seul je ferai le bien de
mes peuples, [I myself will do what is good for my people]" —
which being interpreted may signify, You, contentious
Deputies of the States-General, have probably not long to be here! But, in
fine, all shall now withdraw for this day; and meet again, each Order in
its separate place, to-morrow morning, for despatch of business. This is
the determination of the royal breast: pithy and clear. And herewith
King, retinue, Noblesse, majority of Clergy file out, as if the whole
matter were satisfactorily completed.
Louis XVI tries to lay down the law and sends the delegates away, he hopes,
These file out; through grim-silent seas of people. Only the Commons
Deputies file not out; but stand there in gloomy silence, uncertain what
they shall do. One man of them is certain; one man of them discerns and
dares! It is now that King Mirabeau starts to the Tribune, and lifts up
his lion-voice. Verily a word in season; for, in such scenes, the moment
is the mother of ages! Had not Gabriel Honoré been
there, — one can well
fancy, how the Commons Deputies, affrighted at the perils which now yawned
dim all round them, and waxing ever paler in each other's paleness, might
very naturally, one after one, have glided off; and the whole course of
European History have been different!
The Third does not depart. Mirabeau rallies them.
But he is there. List to the brool of that royal forest-voice; sorrowful,
low; fast swelling to a roar! Eyes kindle at the glance of his eye: —
National Deputies were missioned by a Nation; they have sworn an Oath;
they — but lo! while the lion's voice roars loudest, what Apparition is
this? Apparition of Mercurius de Brézé, muttering
somewhat! — "Speak out,"
cry several. — "Messieurs," shrills De Brézé,
repeating himself, "You have
heard the King's orders!" — Mirabeau glares on him with fire-flashing face;
shakes the black lion's mane: "Yes, Monsieur, we have heard what the King
was advised to say: and you who cannot be the interpreter of his orders to
the States-General; you, who have neither place nor right of speech here;
you are not the man to remind us of it. Go, Monsieur, tell these who sent
you that we are here by the will of the People, and that nothing shall send
us hence but the force of bayonets!"
(Moniteur (Hist. Parl. ii. 22.).)
And poor De Brézé shivers forth from the National Assembly;
— and also (if
it be not in one faintest glimmer, months later) finally from the page of
Even a repeat of the order to depart, by Master of Ceremonies
De Brézé, is brushed aside, famously and eloquently,
Hapless De Brézé; doomed to survive long ages, in men's memory, in this
faint way, with tremulent white rod! He was true to Etiquette, which was
his Faith here below; a martyr to respect of persons. Short woollen cloaks
could not kiss Majesty's hand as long velvet ones did. Nay lately, when
the poor little Dauphin lay dead, and some ceremonial Visitation came, was
he not punctual to announce it even to the Dauphin's dead body:
"Monseigneur, a Deputation of the States-General!"
(Montgaillard, ii. 38.)
Sunt lachrymae rerum.
Carlyle delivers a sideways slap at the vanity of protocol.
But what does the Œil-de-Bœuf, now when De Brézé
shivers back thither?
Despatch that same force of bayonets? Not so: the seas of people still
hang multitudinous, intent on what is passing; nay rush and roll,
loud-billowing, into the Courts of the Chateau itself; for a report has risen
that Necker is to be dismissed.
Worst of all, the Gardes Françaises seem
indisposed to act: 'two Companies of them do not fire when ordered!'
(Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 26.)
Necker, for not being at the
shall be shouted for, carried home in triumph; and must not be dismissed.
His Grace of
on the other hand, has to fly with broken coach-panels,
and owe his life to furious driving. The Gardes-du-Corps (Body-Guards),
which you were drawing out, had better be drawn in again.
(Bailly, i. 217.)
There is no sending of bayonets to be thought of.
Use of force to dislodge the Deputies is not an option in the circumstance.
Instead of soldiers, the Œil-de-Bœuf sends — carpenters,
to take down the
platform. Ineffectual shift! In few instants, the very carpenters cease
wrenching and knocking at their platform; stand on it, hammer in hand, and
(Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 23.)
The Third Estate
is decreeing that it is, was, and will be, nothing but a National Assembly;
and now, moreover, an inviolable one, all members of it inviolable:
'infamous, traitorous, towards the Nation, and guilty of capital crime, is
any person, body-corporate, tribunal, court or commission that now or
henceforth, during the present session or after it, shall dare to pursue,
interrogate, arrest, or cause to be arrested, detain or cause to be
detained, any,' etc. etc. 'on whose part soever the same be commanded.'
(Montgaillard, ii. 47.)
Which done, one can wind up with this comfortable
reflection from Abbé Sieyes: "Messieurs, you are today what you were
The Deputies of the National Assembly vote it and themselves inviolable.
Courtiers may shriek; but it is, and remains, even so. Their well-charged
explosion has exploded through the touch-hole; covering themselves with
scorches, confusion, and unseemly soot! Poor Triumvirate, poor Queen; and
above all, poor Queen's Husband, who means well, had he any fixed meaning!
Folly is that wisdom which is wise only behindhand. Few months ago these
Thirty-five Concessions had filled France with a rejoicing, which might
have lasted for several years. Now it is unavailing, the very mention of
it slighted; Majesty's express orders set at nought.
The revolution has begun.
All France is in a roar; a sea of persons, estimated at 'ten thousand,'
whirls 'all this day in the Palais Royal.'
(Arthur Young, i. 119.)
remaining Clergy, and likewise some Forty-eight Noblesse, D'Orleans among
them, have now forthwith gone over to the victorious Commons; by whom, as
is natural, they are received 'with acclamation.'
The National Assembly is strengthened by the rest of the clergy and a small
percentage of the Second Estate deputies.
The Third Estate triumphs; Versailles Town shouting round it; ten thousand
whirling all day in the Palais Royal; and all France standing a-tiptoe, not
unlike whirling! Let the Œil-de-Bœuf look to it.
As for King Louis, he
will swallow his injuries; will temporise, keep silence; will at all costs
have present peace. It was Tuesday the 23d of June, when he spoke that
peremptory royal mandate; and the week is not done till he has written to
the remaining obstinate Noblesse, that they also must oblige him, and give
in. D'Espréménil rages his last;
Barrel Mirabeau 'breaks his sword,'
making a vow, — which he might as well have kept. The 'Triple Family' is
now therefore complete; the third erring brother, the Noblesse, having
joined it; — erring but pardonable; soothed, so far as possible, by sweet
eloquence from President Bailly.
The King orders the remaining Nobles of the States-General to join the
National Assembly. After two months, the Commons have what they held out
for — a single legislative body.
So triumphs the Third Estate; and States-General are become National
Assembly; and all France may sing Te Deum. By wise inertia, and wise
cessation of inertia, great victory has been gained. It is the last night
of June: all night you meet nothing on the streets of Versailles but 'men
running with torches' with shouts of jubilation. From the 2nd of May when
they kissed the hand of Majesty, to this 30th of June when men run with
torches, we count seven weeks complete. For seven weeks the National
Carroccio has stood far-seen, ringing many a signal; and, so much having
now gathered round it, may hope to stand.
The National Assembly has in a short time become firmly grounded.
The Court feels indignant that it is conquered; but what then? Another
time it will do better. Mercury descended in vain; now has the time come
— The gods of the Œil-de-Bœuf have withdrawn into the darkness
of their cloudy Ida; and sit there, shaping and forging what may be
needful, be it 'billets of a new National Bank,' munitions of war, or
things forever inscrutable to men.
The Court licks its wounds.
Accordingly, what means this 'apparatus of troops'? The National Assembly
can get no furtherance for its Committee of Subsistences; can hear only
that, at Paris, the Bakers' shops are besieged; that, in the Provinces,
people are living on 'meal-husks and boiled grass.' But on all highways
there hover dust-clouds, with the march of regiments, with the trailing of
cannon: foreign Pandours, of fierce aspect; Salis-Samade, Esterhazy,
Royal-Allemand; so many of them foreign, to the number of thirty
thousand, — which fear can magnify to fifty: all wending towards Paris and
Versailles! Already, on the heights of Montmartre, is a digging and
delving; too like a scarping and trenching. The effluence of Paris is
arrested Versailles-ward by a barrier of cannon at Sèvres Bridge. From the
Queen's Mews, cannon stand pointed on the National Assembly Hall itself.
The National Assembly has its very slumbers broken by the tramp of
soldiery, swarming and defiling, endless, or seemingly endless, all round
those spaces, at dead of night, 'without drum-music, without audible word
(A. Lameth, Assemblée Constituante, i. 41.)
What means it?
Massive troop movements are reported, and armaments appear at strategic
spots in Paris and Versailles.
Shall eight, or even shall twelve Deputies, our Mirabeaus, Barnaves at the
head of them, be whirled suddenly to the Castle of Ham; the rest
ignominiously dispersed to the winds? No National Assembly can make the
Constitution with cannon levelled on it from the Queen's Mews! What means
this reticence of the Œil-de-Bœuf,
broken only by nods and shrugs? In
the mystery of that cloudy Ida, what is it that they forge and shape? — Such
questions must distracted Patriotism keep asking, and receive no answer but
But if the Court is up to something, it's being kept quiet.
Questions and echo bad enough of themselves: —
and now, above all, while the hungry food-year,
which runs from August to August, is getting older; becoming more and more
a famine-year? With 'meal-husks and boiled grass,' Brigands may actually
collect; and, in crowds, at farm and mansion, howl angrily, Food! Food!
It is in vain to send soldiers against them: at sight of soldiers they
disperse, they vanish as under ground; then directly reassemble elsewhere
for new tumult and plunder. Frightful enough to look upon; but what to
hear of, reverberated through Twenty-five Millions of suspicious minds!
Brigands and Broglie, open Conflagration, preternatural Rumour are driving
mad most hearts in France. What will the issue of these things be?
Increasingly desperate throngs of starving peasants also threaten order.
At Marseilles, many weeks ago, the Townsmen have taken arms; for
'suppressing of Brigands,' and other purposes: the military commandant may
make of it what he will. Elsewhere, everywhere, could not the like be
done? Dubious, on the distracted Patriot imagination, wavers, as a last
deliverance, some foreshadow of a National Guard.
But conceive, above all,
the Wooden Tent in the Palais Royal! A universal hubbub there, as of
dissolving worlds: their loudest bellows the mad, mad-making voice of
Rumour; their sharpest gazes Suspicion into the pale dim World-Whirlpool;
discerning shapes and phantasms; imminent bloodthirsty Regiments camped on
the Champ-de-Mars; dispersed National Assembly; redhot cannon-balls (to
burn Paris); — the mad War-god and Bellona's sounding thongs. To the
calmest man it is becoming too plain that battle is inevitable.
There are constant rumours of armed action.
Inevitable, silently nod Messeigneurs and Broglie: Inevitable and brief!
Your National Assembly, stopped short in its Constitutional labours, may
fatigue the royal ear with addresses and remonstrances: those cannon of
ours stand duly levelled; those troops are here. The King's Declaration,
with its Thirty-five too generous Articles, was spoken, was not listened
to; but remains yet unrevoked: he himself shall effect it,
seul il fera!
The court hopes these pressures will tame the National Assembly.
As for Broglie, he has his headquarters at Versailles, all as in a seat of
war: clerks writing; significant staff-officers, inclined to taciturnity;
plumed aides-de-camp, scouts, orderlies flying or hovering. He himself
looks forth, important, impenetrable; listens to Besenval Commandant of
Paris, and his warning and earnest counsels (for he has come out repeatedly
on purpose), with a silent smile.
(Besenval, iii. 398.)
resist? scornfully cry Messeigneurs. As a meal-mob may! They have sat
quiet, these five generations, submitting to all. Their Mercier declared,
in these very years, that a Parisian revolt was henceforth 'impossible.'
(Mercier, Tableau de Paris, vi. 22.)
Stand by the royal Declaration, of
the Twenty-third of June. The Nobles of France, valorous, chivalrous as of
old, will rally round us with one heart; — and as for this which you call
Third Estate, and which we call canaille of unwashed Sansculottes, of
Patelins, Scribblers, factious Spouters, — brave Broglie, 'with a whiff of
grapeshot (salve de canons)',
if need be, will give quick account of it.
Thus reason they: on their cloudy Ida; hidden from men, — men also hidden
The court, even Broglie, are sure that a little force will solve any
problem if required. They are sure of the stability and loyalty of Paris.
Good is grapeshot, Messeigneurs, on one condition: that the shooter also
were made of metal! But unfortunately he is made of flesh; under his buffs
and bandoleers your hired shooter has instincts, feelings, even a kind of
thought. It is his kindred, bone of his bone, this same canaille that
shall be whiffed; he has brothers in it, a father and mother, — living on
meal-husks and boiled grass. His very doxy, not yet 'dead i' the spital,'
drives him into military heterodoxy; declares that if he shed Patriot
blood, he shall be accursed among men. The soldier, who has seen his pay
stolen by rapacious
his blood wasted by
the gates of promotion shut inexorably on him if he were not born noble, —
is himself not without griefs against you. Your cause is not the soldier's
cause; but, as would seem, your own only, and no other god's nor man's.
But in fact not even troops in their pay were loyal nor would they necessarily
For example, the world may have heard how, at Bethune lately, when there
rose some 'riot about grains,' of which sort there are so many, and the
soldiers stood drawn out, and the word 'Fire!; was given, — not a trigger
stirred; only the butts of all muskets rattled angrily against the ground;
and the soldiers stood glooming, with a mixed expression of countenance; —
till clutched 'each under the arm of a patriot householder,' they were all
hurried off, in this manner, to be treated and caressed, and have their pay
increased by subscription!
There have already been instances where soldiers refused to fire.
Neither have the Gardes Françaises, the best regiment of the line, shown
any promptitude for street-firing lately. They returned grumbling from
Réveillon's; and have not burnt a single cartridge since;
nay, as we saw,
not even when bid. A dangerous humour dwells in these Gardes. Notable men
too, in their way!
the Pythagorean was, at one time, an officer of
theirs. Nay, in the ranks, under the three-cornered felt and
hard heads may there not be, and reflections going on, — unknown to the
public! One head of the hardest we do now discern there: on the shoulders
of a certain Sergeant
Lazare Hoche, that is the name of him; he
used to be about the Versailles Royal Stables, nephew of a poor herbwoman;
a handy lad; exceedingly addicted to reading. He is now Sergeant Hoche,
and can rise no farther: he lays out his pay in rushlights, and cheap
editions of books.
(Dictionnaire des Hommes Marquans, Londres (Paris), 1800, ii. 198.)
Even the crack Versailles regiment the French Guard is not without its
On the whole, the best seems to be: Consign these Gardes Françaises to
their Barracks. So Besenval thinks, and orders. Consigned to their
barracks, the Gardes Françaises do but form a 'Secret Association,' an
Engagement not to act against the National Assembly. Debauched by Valadi
the Pythagorean; debauched by money and women! cry Besenval and innumerable
others. Debauched by what you will, or in need of no debauching, behold
them, long files of them, their consignment broken, arrive, headed by their
Sergeants, on the 26th day of June, at the Palais Royal! Welcomed with
vivats, with presents, and a pledge of patriot liquor; embracing and
embraced; declaring in words that the cause of France is their cause! Next
day and the following days the like. What is singular too, except this
patriot humour, and breaking of their consignment, they behave otherwise
with 'the most rigorous accuracy.'
(Besenval, iii. 394-6.)
Confined to barracks, some of the Guard pledge never to attack the National
Assembly; some defy the confinement and are seen and fêted in Paris.
They are growing questionable, these Gardes! Eleven ring-leaders of them
are put in the Abbaye Prison. It boots not in the least. The imprisoned
Eleven have only, 'by the hand of an individual,' to drop, towards
nightfall, a line in the Café de Foy;
where Patriotism harangues loudest on
its table. 'Two hundred young persons, soon waxing to four thousand,' with
fit crowbars, roll towards the Abbaye; smite asunder the needful doors; and
bear out their Eleven, with other military victims: — to supper in the
Palais Royal Garden; to board, and lodging 'in campbeds, in the
other national Prytaneum [public hall] as yet not being in readiness.
deliberate! Nay so punctual were these young persons, that finding one
military victim to have been imprisoned for real civil crime, they returned
him to his cell, with protest.
Ring leaders of the Guard are arrested and immediately released by mob force.
Why new military force was not called out? New military force was called
out. New military force did arrive, full gallop, with drawn sabre: but
the people gently 'laid hold of their bridles;' the dragoons sheathed their
swords; lifted their caps by way of salute, and sat like mere statues of
dragoons, — except indeed that a drop of liquor being brought them, they
'drank to the King and Nation with the greatest cordiality.'
(Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 32.)
Freshly imported units display similar reluctance to attack French citizens.
And now, ask in return, why Messeigneurs and Broglie the great god of war,
on seeing these things, did not pause, and take some other course, any
other course? Unhappily, as we said, they could see nothing. Pride, which
goes before a fall; wrath, if not reasonable, yet pardonable, most natural,
had hardened their hearts and heated their heads; so, with imbecility and
violence (ill-matched pair), they rush to seek their hour. All Regiments
are not Gardes Françaises, or debauched by Valadi the Pythagorean: let
fresh undebauched Regiments come up; let Royal-Allemand, Salais-Samade,
Swiss Château-Vieux come
up, — which can fight, but can hardly speak except
in German gutturals; let soldiers march, and highways thunder with
artillery-waggons: Majesty has a new Royal Session to hold, — and miracles
to work there! The whiff of grapeshot can, if needful, become a blast and
The government decides to depend on foreign regiments.
In which circumstances, before the redhot balls begin raining, may not the
Hundred-and-twenty Paris Electors, though their Cahier is long since
finished, see good to meet again daily, as an 'Electoral Club'? They meet
first 'in a Tavern;' — where 'the largest wedding-party' cheerfully give
place to them.
(Dusaulx, Prise de la Bastille (Collection des Mémoires,
par Berville et Barrière, Paris, 1821), p. 269.)
But latterly they meet in
the Hôtel-de-Ville, in the Townhall itself.
Flesselles, Provost of
Merchants, with his Four Echevins (Scabins, Assessors),
could not prevent
it; such was the force of public opinion. He, with his Echevins, and the
Six-and-Twenty Town-Councillors, all appointed from Above, may well sit
silent there, in their long gowns; and consider, with awed eye, what
prelude this is of convulsion coming from Below, and how themselves shall
fare in that!
The electors chosen to elect the Third Estate Deputies for Paris continue to
meet — the only elected assembly in the city.
So hangs it, dubious, fateful, in the sultry days of July. It is the
passionate printed advice of M. Marat, to abstain, of all things, from
(Avis au Peuple, ou les Ministres dévoilés,
1st July, 1789 (in Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 37.))
Nevertheless the hungry poor are already
burning Town Barriers, where Tribute on eatables is levied; getting
clamorous for food.
The potential for violence is obvious, but none seem to want it.
The twelfth July morning is Sunday; the streets are all placarded with an
enormous-sized De par le Roi [royal declaration],
'inviting peaceable citizens to remain within
doors,' to feel no alarm, to gather in no crowd. Why so? What mean these
'placards of enormous size'? Above all, what means this clatter of
military; dragoons, hussars, rattling in from all points of the compass
towards the Place Louis Quinze; with a staid gravity of face, though
saluted with mere nicknames, hootings and even missiles?
(Besenval, iii. 411.)
Besenval is with them. Swiss Guards of his are already in the
Champs Elysées, with four pieces of artillery.
Troops are now moving in central Paris.
Have the destroyers descended on us, then? From the Bridge of Sèvres to
utmost Vincennes, from Saint-Denis to the Champ-de-Mars, we are begirt!
Alarm, of the vague unknown, is in every heart. The Palais Royal has
become a place of awestruck interjections, silent shakings of the head:
one can fancy with what dolorous sound the noon-tide cannon (which the Sun
fires at the crossing of his meridian) went off there; bodeful, like an
inarticulate voice of doom.
(Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 81.)
troops verily come out 'against Brigands'? Where are the Brigands? What
mystery is in the wind?—Hark! a human voice reporting articulately the
Job's-news: Necker, People's Minister, Saviour of France,
Impossible; incredible! Treasonous to the public peace! Such a voice
ought to be choked in the water-works;
—had not the news-bringer
quickly fled. Nevertheless, friends, make of it what you will, the news is
true. Necker is gone. Necker hies northward incessantly, in obedient
secrecy, since yesternight. We have a new Ministry:
who said the people might eat grass!
The news of Necker's re-dismissal increases unrest.
Rumour, therefore, shall arise; in the Palais Royal, and in broad France.
Paleness sits on every face; confused tremor and fremescence; waxing into
thunder-peals, of Fury stirred on by Fear.
None know what is planned, but all fear it.
from the Cafe de Foy, rushing out, sibylline in
face; his hair streaming, in each hand a pistol! He springs to a table:
the Police satellites are eyeing him; alive they shall not take him, not
they alive him alive. This time he speaks without stammering:—Friends,
shall we die like hunted hares? Like sheep hounded into their pinfold;
bleating for mercy, where is no mercy, but only a whetted knife? The hour
is come; the supreme hour of Frenchman and Man; when Oppressors are to try
conclusions with Oppressed; and the word is, swift Death, or Deliverance
forever. Let such hour be well-come! Us, meseems, one cry only befits:
To Arms! Let universal Paris, universal France, as with the throat of the
whirlwind, sound only: To arms! — "To arms!" yell responsive the
innumerable voices: like one great voice, as of a Demon yelling from the
air: for all faces wax fire-eyed, all hearts burn up into madness. In
such, or fitter words,
does Camille evoke the Elemental Powers, in
this great moment. — Friends, continues Camille, some rallying sign!
green ones; — the colour of hope! — As with the flight of locusts,
these green tree leaves; green ribands from the neighbouring shops; all
green things are snatched, and made cockades of. Camille descends from his
table, 'stifled with embraces, wetted with tears;' has a bit of green
riband handed him; sticks it in his hat. And now to
there; to the Boulevards; to the four winds; and rest not till France be on
(Vieux Cordelier, par Camille Desmoulins, No. 5 (reprinted in
Collection des Memoires, par Baudouin Freres, Paris, 1825), p. 81.)
Camille Desmoulins and others stir the riot the afternoon of July 12.
France, so long shaken and wind-parched, is probably at the right
inflammable point. — As for poor Curtius, who, one grieves to think, might
be but imperfectly paid, — he cannot make two words about his Images. The
Wax-bust of Necker, the Wax-bust of D'Orleans, helpers of France: these,
covered with crape, as in funeral procession, or after the manner of
suppliants appealing to Heaven, to Earth, and Tartarus itself, a mixed
multitude bears off. For a sign! As indeed man, with his singular
imaginative faculties, can do little or nothing without signs: thus Turks
look to their Prophet's banner; also Osier Mannikins have been burnt,
and Necker's Portrait has erewhile figured, aloft on its perch.
Busts of Necker and Orleans are carried as icons. Effigies of other notables
In this manner march they, a mixed, continually increasing multitude; armed
with axes, staves and miscellanea; grim, many-sounding, through the
streets. Be all Theatres shut;
let all dancing, on planked floor, or on
the natural greensward, cease! Instead of a Christian Sabbath, and feast
of guinguette tabernacles, it shall be a Sorcerer's Sabbath; and Paris,
gone rabid, dance, — with the Fiend for piper!
The crowd forms a street parade.
However, Besenval, with horse and foot, is in the Place Louis
Mortals promenading homewards, in the fall of the day, saunter by, from
Chaillot or Passy, from flirtation and a little thin wine; with sadder step
than usual. Will the Bust-Procession pass that way? Behold it; behold
dash forth on it, with his Royal-Allemands! Shots
fall, and sabre-strokes; Busts are hewn asunder; and, alas, also heads of
men. A sabred Procession has nothing for it but to explode, along what
streets, alleys, Tuileries Avenues it finds; and disappear. One unarmed
man lies hewed down; a Garde Française by his uniform:
bear him (or bear
even the report of him) dead and gory to his Barracks; — where he has
comrades still alive!
The parade is broken up by a company of German mercenaries under Lambesc,
leaving a National
But why not now, victorious Lambesc, charge through that Tuileries Garden
itself, where the fugitives are vanishing? Not show the Sunday promenaders
too, how steel glitters, besprent with blood; that it be told of, and men's
ears tingle? — Tingle, alas, they did; but the wrong way. Victorious
Lambesc, in this his second or Tuileries charge, succeeds but in
overturning (call it not slashing, for he struck with the flat of his
sword) one man, a poor old schoolmaster, most pacifically tottering there;
and is driven out, by barricade of chairs, by flights of 'bottles and
glasses,' by execrations in bass voice and treble. Most delicate is the
mob-queller's vocation; wherein Too-much may be as bad as Not-enough. For
each of these bass voices, and more each treble voice, borne to all points
of the City, rings now nothing but distracted indignation; will ring all
another. The cry, To arms! roars tenfold; steeples with their metal
storm-voice boom out, as the sun sinks; armorer's shops are broken open,
plundered; the streets are a living foam-sea, chafed by all the winds.
Not satisfied to have dispersed the crowd, Lambesc chases them through the
Tuileries. This is widely seen as over-reaction and more Parisians arm
Such issue came of Lambesc's charge on the Tuileries Garden: no striking
of salutary terror into Chaillot promenaders; a striking into broad
wakefulness of Frenzy and the three Furies, — which otherwise were not
asleep! For they lie always, those subterranean Eumenides (fabulous and
yet so true), in the dullest existence of man; — and can dance, brandishing
their dusky torches, shaking their serpent-hair. Lambesc with
Royal-Allemand may ride to his barracks,
with curses for his marching-music; then
ride back again, like one troubled in mind:
vengeful Gardes Françaises,
sacreing, with knit brows, start out on him, from their barracks in the
pour a volley into him (killing and wounding); which he
must not answer, but ride on.
(Weber, ii. 75-91.)
Two things are mixed here: Carlyle's view of the underlying nature of human
and The French Guard's revenge on the German mercenaries, of whom 3 were
Counsel dwells not under the plumed hat. If the Eumenides awaken, and
Broglie has given no orders, what can a Besenval do? When the Gardes
Françaises, with Palais-Royal volunteers, roll down, greedy of more
vengeance, to the Place Louis Quinze itself, they find neither Besenval,
Lambesc, Royal-Allemand, nor any soldier now there. Gone is military
order. On the far Eastern Boulevard, of Saint-Antoine, the Chasseurs
Normandie arrive, dusty, thirsty, after a hard day's ride; but can find no
billet-master, see no course in this City of confusions; cannot get to
Besenval, cannot so much as discover where he is: Normandie must even
bivouac there, in its dust and thirst, — unless some patriot will treat it
to a cup of liquor, with advices.
The government does not have an immediate reaction to these events.
Raging multitudes surround the Hôtel-de-Ville, crying:
Arms! Orders! The
Six-and-twenty Town-Councillors, with their long gowns, have ducked under
(into the raging chaos); — shall never emerge more. Besenval is painfully
wriggling himself out, to the Champ-de-Mars; he must sit there 'in the
cruelest uncertainty:' courier after courier may dash off for Versailles;
but will bring back no answer, can hardly bring himself back. For the
roads are all blocked with batteries and pickets, with floods of carriages
arrested for examination: such was Broglie's one sole order; the
hearing in the distance such mad din, which sounded almost like
invasion, will before all things keep its own head whole. A new Ministry,
with, as it were, but one foot in the stirrup, cannot take leaps. Mad
Paris is abandoned altogether to itself.
The City government runs and hides. Besenvel, the commander on the scene,
can get no orders from the government at Versailles.
What a Paris, when the darkness fell! A European metropolitan City hurled
suddenly forth from its old combinations and arrangements; to crash
tumultuously together, seeking new. Use and wont will now no longer direct
any man; each man, with what of originality he has, must begin thinking; or
following those that think. Seven hundred thousand individuals, on the
sudden, find all their old paths, old ways of acting and deciding, vanish
from under their feet. And so there go they, with clangour and terror,
they know not as yet whether running, swimming or flying, — headlong into
the New Era. With clangour and terror: from above, Broglie the war-god
impends, preternatural, with his redhot cannon-balls; and from below, a
preternatural Brigand-world menaces with dirk and firebrand: madness rules
July 12 can be said to have begun the Revolution, at least in Paris.
Happily, in place of the submerged Twenty-six, the Electoral Club is
gathering; has declared itself a 'Provisional Municipality.' On the morrow
it will get Provost Flesselles, with an Echevin or two, to give help in
many things. For the present it decrees one most essential thing: that
forthwith a 'Parisian Militia' shall be enrolled. Depart, ye heads of
Districts, to labour in this great work; while we here, in Permanent
Committee, sit alert. Let fencible men, each party in its own range of
streets, keep watch and ward, all night. Let Paris court a little
fever-sleep; confused by such fever-dreams, of 'violent motions at the Palais
Royal;' — or from time to time start awake, and look out, palpitating, in
its nightcap, at the clash of discordant mutually-unintelligible Patrols;
on the gleam of distant Barriers, going up all-too ruddy towards the vault
(Deux Amis, i. 267-306.)
The Paris electors try to fill the gap left by the fled city council,
setting up an ad hoc militia and setting watches for the night of
On Monday the huge City has awoke, not to its week-day industry: to what a
different one! The working man has become a fighting man; has one want
only: that of arms. The industry of all crafts has paused; — except it be
the smith's, fiercely hammering pikes; and, in a faint degree, the
kitchener's, cooking off-hand victuals; for bouche va toujours.
are sewing cockades; — not now of green,
which being D'Artois colour, the
Hôtel-de-Ville has had to interfere in it; but of
red and blue, our old
Paris colours: these, once based on a ground of constitutional white, are
the famed TRICOLOR, — which (if Prophecy err not) 'will go round the world.'
Things have happened literally over-night: there is a great clamor for pikes,
swords, guns and powder. The sign of recognition is red-and-blue worn in the
hat, a combination which became the French national flag.
All shops, unless it be the Bakers' and Vintners', are shut: Paris is in
the streets; — rushing, foaming like some Venice wine-glass into which you
had dropped poison. The tocsin, by order, is pealing madly from all
Arms, ye Elector Municipals; thou
give us arms! Flesselles gives what he can: fallacious, perhaps insidious
promises of arms from Charleville [site of a gun factory];
order to seek arms here, order to seek
them there. The new Municipals give what they can; some three hundred and
sixty indifferent firelocks, the equipment of the City-Watch: 'a man in
wooden shoes, and without coat, directly clutches one of them, and mounts
guard.' Also as hinted, an order to all Smiths to make pikes with their
The quest for arms, under the direction of the Paris electors, is wide and
Heads of Districts are in fervent consultation; subordinate Patriotism
roams distracted, ravenous for arms. Hitherto at the Hôtel-de-Ville was
only such modicum of indifferent firelocks as we have seen. At the so-called
Arsenal, there lies nothing but rust, rubbish and saltpetre, —
overlooked too by the guns of the Bastille. His Majesty's Repository, what
they call Garde-Meuble, is forced and ransacked: tapestries enough, and
gauderies; but of serviceable fighting-gear small stock! Two silver-mounted
cannons there are; an ancient gift from his Majesty of Siam to
Louis Fourteenth: gilt sword of the Good Henri; antique Chivalry arms and
armour. These, and such as these, a necessitous Patriotism snatches
greedily, for want of better. The Siamese cannons go trundling, on an
errand they were not meant for. Among the indifferent firelocks are seen
tourney-lances; the princely helm and hauberk glittering amid ill-hatted
heads, — as in a time when all times and their possessions are suddenly sent
Late July 12 and early July 13, few arms are found.
At the Maison de Saint-Lazare, Lazar-House once, now a Correction-House
with Priests, there was no trace of arms; but, on the other hand, corn,
plainly to a culpable extent. Out with it, to market; in this scarcity of
grains! — Heavens, will 'fifty-two carts,' in long row, hardly carry it to
the Halle aux Bleds? Well, truly, ye reverend Fathers, was your pantry
filled; fat are your larders; over-generous your wine-bins, ye plotting
exasperators of the Poor; traitorous forestallers of bread!
Saint-Lazare, both a prison and a warehouse, is sacked for its store of
Vain is protesting, entreaty on bare knees: the House of Saint-Lazarus has
that in it which comes not out by protesting. Behold, how, from every
window, it vomits: mere torrents of furniture, of bellowing and
hurlyburly; — the cellars also leaking wine. Till, as was natural, smoke
rose, — kindled, some say, by the desperate Saint-Lazaristes themselves,
desperate of other riddance; and the Establishment vanished from this world
in flame. Remark nevertheless that 'a thief' (set on or not by
Aristocrats), being detected there, is 'instantly hanged.'
Besides being looted, Saint-Lazare is sacked, wrecked and burnt.
Look also at the Châtelet Prison. The Debtors' Prison of La Force is
broken from without; and they that sat in bondage to Aristocrats go free:
hearing of which the Felons at the Chátelet do likewise 'dig up their
pavements,' and stand on the offensive; with the best prospects, — had not
Patriotism, passing that way, 'fired a volley' into the Felon world; and
crushed it down again under hatches. Patriotism consorts not with thieving
and felony: surely also Punishment, this day, hitches (if she still hitch)
after Crime, with frightful shoes-of-swiftness! 'Some score or two' of
wretched persons, found prostrate with drink in the cellars of that
Saint-Lazare, are indignantly haled to prison;
the Jailor has no room; whereupon,
other place of security not suggesting itself, it is written, 'on les
pendit, they hanged them.'
(Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 96.)
Brief is the
word; not without significance, be it true or untrue!
Even at this early stage, the revolt is not without principle: debtors are
freed while felons are not. Drunken looters are hanged.
In such circumstances, the Aristocrat, the unpatriotic rich man is packing-up
for departure. But he shall not get departed. A wooden-shod force has
seized all Barriers, burnt or not: all that enters, all that seeks to
issue, is stopped there, and dragged to the Hôtel-de-Ville: coaches,
tumbrils, plate, furniture, 'many meal-sacks,' in time even 'flocks and
herds' encumber the Place de Grève.
(Dusaulx, Prise de la Bastille, p. 20.)
The militia controls movement in and out of Paris.
And so it roars, and rages, and brays; drums beating, steeples pealing;
criers rushing with hand-bells: "Oyez, oyez. All men to their Districts
to be enrolled!" The Districts have met in gardens, open squares; are
getting marshalled into volunteer troops. No redhot ball has yet fallen
from Besenval's Camp; on the contrary, Deserters with their arms are
continually dropping in: nay now, joy of joys, at two in the afternoon,
the Gardes Françaises, being ordered to Saint-Denis,
and flatly declining,
have come over in a body! It is a fact worth many. Three thousand six
hundred of the best fighting men, with complete accoutrement; with
cannoneers even, and cannon! Their officers are left standing alone; could
not so much as succeed in 'spiking the guns.' The very Swiss, it may now
be hoped, Château-Vieux and the others, will have doubts about fighting.
To the district-based militia is added the entire Gardes Françaises,
with their weapons.
Our Parisian Militia, — which some think it were better to name National
Guard, — is prospering as heart could wish. It promised to be forty-eight
thousand; but will in few hours double and quadruple that number:
invincible, if we had only arms!
Originally, each of 64 districts was to raise 750 eligible voters, for a
total force of 48,000. More are willing to serve, but there are no weapons.
But see, the promised Charleville Boxes, marked Artillerie! Here, then,
are arms enough? — Conceive the blank face of Patriotism, when it found them
filled with rags, foul linen, candle-ends, and bits of wood! Provost of
the Merchants, how is this? Neither at the Chartreux Convent, whither we
were sent with signed order, is there or ever was there any weapon of war.
Nay here, in this Seine Boat, safe under tarpaulings (had not the nose of
Patriotism been of the finest), are 'five thousand-weight of gunpowder;'
not coming in, but surreptitiously going out! What meanest thou,
'Tis a ticklish game, that of 'amusing' us. Cat plays with
captive mouse: but mouse with enraged cat, with enraged National Tiger?
Flesselles, perhaps to buy time,
had sent the mob to various places where they might find arms but did not.
Meanwhile, the faster, O ye black-aproned Smiths, smite; with strong arm
and willing heart. This man and that, all stroke from head to heel, shall
thunder alternating, and ply the great forge-hammer, till stithy reel and
ring again; while ever and anon, overhead, booms the alarm-cannon,—for the
City has now got gunpowder. Pikes are fabricated; fifty thousand of them,
in six-and-thirty hours: judge whether the Black-aproned have been idle.
Dig trenches, unpave the streets, ye others, assiduous, man and maid; cram
the earth in barrel-barricades, at each of them a volunteer sentry; pile
the whinstones in window-sills and upper rooms. Have scalding pitch, at
least boiling water ready, ye weak old women, to pour it and dash it on
Royal-Allemand, with your old skinny arms: your shrill curses along with
it will not be wanting! — Patrols of the newborn National Guard, bearing
torches, scour the streets, all that night; which otherwise are vacant, yet
illuminated in every window by order. Strange-looking; like some
naphtha-lighted City of the Dead, with here and there a flight of
The night of July 13.
O poor mortals, how ye make this Earth bitter for each other; this fearful
and wonderful Life fearful and horrible; and Satan has his place in all
hearts! Such agonies and ragings and wailings ye have, and have had, in
all times: — to be buried all, in so deep silence; and the salt sea is not
swoln with your tears.
This rage and labour will come to nought, as it always does.
Great meanwhile is the moment, when tidings of Freedom reach us; when the
long-enthralled soul, from amid its chains and squalid stagnancy, arises,
were it still only in blindness and bewilderment, and swears by Him that
made it, that it will be free! Free? Understand that well, it is the deep
commandment, dimmer or clearer, of our whole being, to be free.
the one purport, wisely aimed at, or unwisely, of all man's struggles,
toilings and sufferings, in this Earth. Yes, supreme is such a moment (if
thou have known it): first vision as of a flame-girt Sinai, in this our
waste Pilgrimage, — which thenceforth wants not its pillar of cloud by day,
and pillar of fire by night! Something it is even, — nay, something
considerable, when the chains have grown corrosive, poisonous, to be free
'from oppression by our fellow-man.' Forward, ye maddened sons of France;
be it towards this destiny or towards that! Around you is but starvation,
falsehood, corruption and the clam of death. Where ye are is no abiding.
Carlyle provides an extended definition of eleutheromania.
Imagination may, imperfectly, figure how Commandant Besenval, in the
Champ-de-Mars, has worn out these sorrowful hours Insurrection all round; his men
melting away! From Versailles, to the most pressing messages, comes no
answer; or once only some vague word of answer which is worse than none. A
Council of Officers can decide merely that there is no decision: Colonels
inform him, 'weeping,' that they do not think their men will fight. Cruel
uncertainty is here: war-god Broglie sits yonder, inaccessible in his
Olympus; does not descend terror-clad, does not produce his whiff of
grapeshot; sends no orders.
The government has lost Paris through indecision.
Truly, in the Château of Versailles all seems mystery: in the Town of
Versailles, were we there, all is rumour, alarm and indignation. An august
National Assembly sits, to appearance, menaced with death; endeavouring to
defy death. It has resolved 'that Necker carries with him the regrets of
the Nation.' It has sent solemn Deputation over to the Château, with
entreaty to have these troops withdrawn. In vain: his Majesty, with a
singular composure, invites us to be busy rather with our own duty, making
the Constitution! Foreign
and suchlike, go pricking and
prancing, with a swashbuckler air; with an eye too probably to the Salle
des Menus, — were it not for the 'grim-looking countenances'
that crowd all
(See Lameth; Ferrieres, etc.)
Be firm, ye National
Senators; the cynosure of a firm, grim-looking people!
The National Assembly at Versailles is isolated from events in Paris. They
petition for removal of troops from Paris.
The august National Senators determine that there shall, at least, be
Permanent Session till this thing end. Wherein, however, consider that
worthy Lafranc de Pompignan, our new President, whom we have named Bailly's
successor, is an old man, wearied with many things. He is the Brother of
that Pompignan who meditated lamentably on the Book of Lamentations:
The Assembly goes into permanent session with a churchman,
LaFranc de Pompignan,
Saves-voux pourquoi Jeremie
Se lamentait toute sa vie?
C'est qu'il prevoyait
Que Pompignan le traduirait!
Very roughly, "Do you know why the prophet Jeremy lamented all his life?
He saw that Pompignan would translate him."
Poor Bishop Pompignan withdraws; having got Lafayette for helper or
substitute: this latter, as nocturnal Vice-President, with a thin house in
disconsolate humour, sits sleepless, with lights unsnuffed; — waiting what
the hours will bring.
Pompignan is feeble; Lafayette sits in for him.
So at Versailles. But at Paris, agitated Besenval, before retiring for the
night, has stept over to old M. de
of the Hôtel des Invalides
hard by. M. de Sombreuil has, what is a great secret, some eight-and-twenty
thousand stand of muskets deposited in his cellars there; but no
trust in the temper of his Invalides. This day, for example, he sent
twenty of the fellows down to unscrew those muskets; lest Sedition might
snatch at them; but scarcely, in six hours, had the twenty unscrewed twenty
gun-locks, or dogsheads (chiens) of locks, — each
Invalide his dogshead! If
ordered to fire, they would, he imagines, turn their cannon against
The garrison of the Invalides, ordered to disassemble the weapons in the
arsenel, deliberately delay.
Unfortunate old military gentlemen, it is your hour, not of glory! Old
too, of the Bastille, has pulled up his drawbridges long
since, 'and retired into his interior;' with sentries walking on his
battlements, under the midnight sky, aloft over the glare of illuminated
Paris; — whom a National Patrol, passing that way, takes the liberty of
firing at; 'seven shots towards twelve at night,' which do not take effect.
(Deux Amis de la Liberté, i. 312.)
This was the 13th day of July, 1789; a
worse day, many said, than the last 13th was, when only hail fell out of
Heaven, not madness rose out of
ruining worse than crops!
The night of July 13.
In these same days, as Chronology will teach us, hot old Marquis Mirabeau
lies stricken down, at Argenteuil, — not within sound of these alarm-guns;
for he properly is not there, and only the body of him now lies, deaf and
cold forever. It was on Saturday night that he, drawing his last
life-breaths, gave up the ghost there; — leaving a world, which would never
his mind, now broken out, seemingly, into deliration and the culbute
What is it to him, departing elsewhither, on his long journey?
The old Cháteau Mirabeau stands silent, far off, on its scarped rock, in
that 'gorge of two windy valleys;' the pale-fading spectre now of a
Château: this huge World-riot, and France, and the World itself, fades
also, like a shadow on the great still mirror-sea; and all shall be as God
At about this time, Mirabeau's father dies in Argenteuil, southeast of Paris.
Young Mirabeau, sad of heart, for he loved this crabbed brave old Father,
sad of heart, and occupied with sad cares ,— is withdrawn from Public
History. The great crisis transacts itself without him.
(Fils Adoptif, Mirabeau, vi. l. 1.)
Mirabeau is absent Versailles, at his father's side.
But, to the living and the struggling, a new, Fourteenth morning dawns.
Under all roofs of this distracted City, is the nodus of a drama, not
untragical, crowding towards solution. The bustlings and preparings, the
tremors and menaces; the tears that fell from old eyes! This day, my sons,
ye shall quit you like men. By the memory of your fathers' wrongs, by the
hope of your children's rights! Tyranny impends in red wrath: help for
you is none if not in your own right hands. This day ye must do or die.
July 14: fear of attack by government mercenaries is still high.
From earliest light, a sleepless Permanent Committee has heard the old cry,
now waxing almost frantic, mutinous: Arms! Arms! Provost
what traitors there are among you, may think of those Charleville Boxes. A
hundred-and-fifty thousand of us; and but the third man furnished with so
much as a pike! Arms are the one thing needful: with arms we are an
unconquerable man-defying National Guard; without arms, a rabble to be
whiffed with grapeshot.
Weapons are still in short supply.
Happily the word has arisen, for no secret can be kept, — that there lie
muskets at the Hôtel des Invalides.
Thither will we: King's Procureur M.
Ethys de Corny, and whatsoever of authority a Permanent Committee can lend,
shall go with us. Besenval's Camp is there; perhaps he will not fire on
us; if he kill us we shall but die.
Word has leaked out of Sombrieul's stash of arms at the Invalides.
Alas, poor Besenval, with his troops melting away in that manner, has not
the smallest humour to fire! At five o'clock this morning, as he lay
dreaming, oblivious in the Ecole Militaire, a 'figure' stood suddenly at
his bedside: 'with face rather handsome; eyes inflamed, speech rapid and
curt, air audacious:' such a figure drew Priam's curtains! The message
and monition of the figure was, that resistance would be hopeless; that if
blood flowed, wo to him who shed it. Thus spoke the figure; and vanished.
'Withal there was a kind of eloquence that struck one.' Besenval admits
that he should have arrested him, but did not.
(Besenval, iii. 414.)
Who this figure, with inflamed eyes, with speech rapid and curt, might be?
Besenval knows but mentions not.
inflamed with 'violent motions all night at the Palais Royal?'
Fame names him, 'Young M. Meillar';
(Tableaux de la Révolution, Prise de la
Bastille (a folio Collection of Pictures and Portraits, with letter-press,
not always uninstructive, — part of it said to be by Chamfort).)
Then shuts her lips about him for ever.
The government forces are being weakened by attrition and are so lax that
an intruder interrupts the sleep of their general.
In any case, behold about nine in the morning, our National Volunteers
rolling in long wide flood, south-westward to the
Hôtel des Invalides; in
search of the one thing needful. King's procureur M. Ethys de Corny and
officials are there; the Cure of Saint-Etienne du Mont marches unpacific,
at the head of his militant Parish; the Clerks of the
in red coats
we see marching, now Volunteers of the Bazoche; the Volunteers of the
Palais Royal: — National Volunteers, numerable by tens of thousands; of one
heart and mind. The King's muskets are the Nation's; think, old M. de
Sombreuil, how, in this extremity, thou wilt refuse them! Old M. de
Sombreuil would fain hold parley, send Couriers; but it skills not: the
walls are scaled, no Invalide firing a shot; the gates must be flung open.
Patriotism rushes in, tumultuous, from grundsel up to ridge-tile, through
all rooms and passages; rummaging distractedly for arms. What cellar, or
what cranny can escape it? The arms are found; all safe there; lying
packed in straw, — apparently with a view to being burnt! More ravenous
than famishing lions over dead prey, the multitude, with clangour and
vociferation, pounces on them; struggling, dashing, clutching: — to the
jamming-up, to the pressure, fracture and probable extinction, of the
(Deux Amis, i. 302.)
And so, with such protracted crash
of deafening, most discordant Orchestra-music, the Scene is changed: and
eight-and-twenty thousand sufficient firelocks are on the shoulders of so
many National Guards, lifted thereby out of darkness into fiery light.
The Invalides is sacked and looted. At least 28000 muskets are seized and
passed to the militia.
Let Besenval look at the glitter of these muskets, as they flash by!
Gardes Françaises, it is said, have cannon levelled on him;
ready to open,
if need were, from the other side of the River.
(Besenval, iii. 416.)
Motionless sits he; 'astonished,' one may flatter oneself, 'at the proud
bearing (fiere contenance) of the Parisians.' — And
now, to the Bastille, ye
intrepid Parisians! There grapeshot still threatens; thither all men's
thoughts and steps are now tending.
Next stop: the Bastille for gunpowder which is still lacking.
Old de Launay, as we hinted, withdrew 'into his interior' soon after
midnight of Sunday. He remains there ever since, hampered, as all military
gentlemen now are, in the saddest conflict of uncertainties.
'invites' him to admit National Soldiers, which is a soft name for
surrendering. On the other hand, His Majesty's orders were precise. His
garrison is but eighty-two old Invalides, reinforced by thirty-two young
Swiss; his walls indeed are nine feet thick, he has cannon and powder; but,
alas, only one day's provision of victuals. The city too is French, the
poor garrison mostly French. Rigorous old de Launay, think what thou wilt
The Bastille is well fortified but not equipped for a siege.
All morning, since nine, there has been a cry everywhere: To the Bastille!
Repeated 'deputations of citizens' have been here, passionate for arms;
whom de Launay has got dismissed by soft speeches through portholes.
Towards noon, Elector Thuriot de la Rosière gains admittance; finds de
Launay indisposed for surrender; nay disposed for blowing up the place
rather. Thuriot mounts with him to the battlements: heaps of
old iron and missiles lie piled; cannon all duly levelled; in every
cannon, — only drawn back a little! But outwards behold, O
Thuriot, how the multitude flows on, welling through every street; tocsin
furiously pealing, all drums beating the génerale:
the Suburb Saint-Antoine
rolling hitherward wholly, as one man! Such vision (spectral yet
real) thou, O Thuriot, as from thy Mount of Vision, beholdest in this
moment: prophetic of what other Phantasmagories, and loud-gibbering
Spectral Realities, which, thou yet beholdest not, but shalt! "Que
voulez-vous?" said de Launay, turning pale at the sight, with an air of reproach,
almost of menace. "Monsieur," said Thuriot, rising into the moral-sublime,
"What mean you?
Consider if I could not precipitate both of us from this
height," — say only a hundred feet, exclusive of the walled ditch!
Whereupon de Launay fell silent. Thuriot shews himself from some pinnacle,
to comfort the multitude becoming suspicious, fremescent: then descends;
departs with protest; with warning addressed also to the Invalides, — on
whom, however, it produces but a mixed indistinct impression. The old
heads are none of the clearest; besides, it is said, de Launay has been
profuse of beverages (prodigua des buissons). They think, they will not
fire, — if not fired on, if they can help it; but must, on the whole, be
ruled considerably by circumstances.
The morning is taken up in negotiation between Launay and the Electors.
Wo to thee, de Launay, in such an hour, if thou canst not, taking some one
firm decision, rule circumstances! Soft speeches will not serve; hard
grape-shot is questionable; but hovering between the two is unquestionable.
Ever wilder swells the tide of men; their infinite hum waxing ever louder,
into imprecations, perhaps into crackle of stray musketry, — which latter,
on walls nine feet thick, cannot do execution. The Outer Drawbridge has
been lowered for Thuriot; new deputation of citizens
(it is the third, and
noisiest of all) penetrates that way into the Outer Court: soft speeches
producing no clearance of these, de Launay gives fire; pulls up his
Drawbridge. A slight sputter; — which has kindled the too combustible
chaos; made it a roaring fire-chaos! Bursts forth insurrection, at sight
of its own blood (for there were deaths by that sputter of fire), into
endless rolling explosion of musketry, distraction, execration; — and
overhead, from the Fortress, let one great gun, with its grape-shot, go
booming, to shew what we could do. The Bastille is besieged!
Te crowd presses the issue and is fired upon by the old soldiers inside.
On, then, all Frenchmen that have hearts in their bodies! Roar with all
your throats, of cartilage and metal, ye Sons of Liberty; stir
spasmodically whatsoever of utmost faculty is in you, soul, body or spirit;
for it is the hour! Smite, thou Louis Tournay, cartwright of the Marais,
old-soldier of the Regiment Dauphiné;
smite at that Outer Drawbridge chain,
though the fiery hail whistles round thee! Never, over nave or felloe, did
thy axe strike such a stroke. Down with it, man; down with it to
let the whole accursed Edifice sink thither, and Tyranny be swallowed up
for ever! Mounted, some say on the roof of the guard-room, some 'on
bayonets stuck into joints of the wall,' Louis Tournay smites, brave Aubin
Bonnemere (also an old soldier) seconding him: the chain yields, breaks;
the huge Drawbridge slams down, thundering (avec fracas).
yet, alas, it is still but the outworks. The Eight grim Towers, with their
Invalides' musketry, their paving stones and cannon-mouths, still soar
aloft intact; — Ditch yawning impassable, stone-faced; the inner Drawbridge
with its back towards us: the Bastille is still to take!
The crowd breaks into the outer court after the drawbridge chains are cut.
To describe this Siege of the Bastille (thought to be one of the most
important in history) perhaps transcends the talent of mortals. Could one
but, after infinite reading, get to understand so much as the plan of the
building! But there is open Esplanade, at the end of the Rue Saint-Antoine;
there are such Forecourts, Cour Avancé, Cour de l'Orme, arched
Gateway (where Louis Tournay now fights); then new drawbridges,
rampart-bastions, and the grim Eight Towers: a labyrinthic Mass,
high-frowning there, of all ages from twenty years to four hundred and
twenty; — beleaguered, in this its last hour, as we said, by mere Chaos come
again! Ordnance of all calibres; throats of all capacities; men of all
plans, every man his own engineer: seldom since the war of Pygmies and
was there seen so anomalous a thing. Half-pay Elie is home for a
suit of regimentals; no one would heed him in coloured clothes: half-pay
Hulin is haranguing Gardes Françaises in the Place de Grève.
Patriots pick up the grape-shots; bear them, still hot (or seemingly so),
to the Hôtel-de-Ville: — Paris, you perceive, is to be burnt! Flesselles is
'pale to the very lips' for the roar of the multitude grows deep. Paris
wholly has got to the acme of its frenzy; whirled, all ways, by panic
madness. At every street-barricade, there whirls simmering, a minor
whirlpool, — strengthening the barricade, since God knows what is coming;
and all minor whirlpools play distractedly into that grand Fire-Mahlstrom
which is lashing round the Bastille.
The rioters are fired upon from the towers of the Bastille. The story of what
happened in the chaos is perhaps now beyond discovery.
And so it lashes and it roars.
the wine-merchant has become an
impromptu cannoneer. See
of the Marine Service, fresh from Brest,
ply the King of Siam's cannon. Singular (if we were not used to the like):
Georget lay, last night, taking his ease at his inn; the King of Siam's
cannon also lay, knowing nothing of him, for a hundred years. Yet now, at
the right instant, they have got together, and discourse eloquent music.
For, hearing what was toward, Georget sprang from the Brest Diligence, and
ran. Gardes Françaises also will be here, with real artillery:
the walls so thick! — Upwards from the Esplanade, horizontally from all
neighbouring roofs and windows, flashes one irregular deluge of musketry, —
without effect. The Invalides lie flat, firing comparatively at their ease
from behind stone; hardly through portholes, shew the tip of a nose. We
fall, shot; and make no impression!
The armament of the besiegers makes little impression on the walls of the
Let conflagration rage; of whatsoever is combustible! Guard-rooms are
burnt, Invalides mess-rooms. A distracted 'Peruke-maker with two fiery
torches' is for burning 'the saltpetres of the Arsenal;' — had not a woman
run screaming; had not a Patriot, with some tincture of Natural Philosophy,
instantly struck the wind out of him (butt of musket on pit of stomach),
overturned barrels, and stayed the devouring element. A young beautiful
lady, seized escaping in these Outer Courts, and thought falsely to be de
Launay's daughter, shall be burnt in de Launay's sight; she lies swooned on
a paillasse: but again a Patriot, it is brave Aubin
soldier, dashes in, and rescues her. Straw is burnt; three cartloads of
it, hauled thither, go up in white smoke [to cover the movement of those
in the besiegers]: almost to the choking of
Patriotism itself; so that Elie had, with singed brows, to drag back one
cart; and Reole the 'gigantic haberdasher' another. Smoke as of Tophet;
confusion as of Babel; noise as of the Crack of Doom!
Elie and Hulin, both soldiers, help organize the siege.
Blood flows, the aliment of new madness. The wounded are carried into
houses of the Rue Cerisaie; the dying leave their last mandate not to yield
till the accursed Stronghold fall. And yet, alas, how fall? The walls are
so thick! Deputations, three in number, arrive from the Hôtel-de-Ville;
Abbé Fauchet (who was of one) can say, with what almost
(Fauchet's Narrative (Deux Amis, i. 324.).)
their Town-flag in the arched Gateway; and stand, rolling their drum; but
to no purpose. In such Crack of Doom, de Launay cannot hear them, dare not
believe them: they return, with justified rage, the whew of lead still
singing in their ears. What to do? The Firemen are here, squirting with
their fire-pumps on the Invalides' cannon, to wet the touchholes; they
unfortunately cannot squirt so high; but produce only clouds of spray.
Individuals of classical knowledge propose catapults. Santerre, the
sonorous Brewer of the Suburb Saint-Antoine, advises rather that the place
be fired, by a 'mixture of phosphorous and oil-of-turpentine spouted up
through forcing pumps:' O Spinola-Santerre, hast thou the mixture
Every man his own engineer! And still the fire-deluge abates not; even
women are firing, and Turks; at least one woman (with her sweetheart), and
(Deux Amis (i. 319); Dusaulx, etc.)
Gardes Françaises have come:
real cannon, real cannoneers. Usher Maillard is busy; half-pay Elie, half-pay
Hulin rage in the midst of thousands.
The city negotiators having departed for the Hôtel de Ville, the siege
is more tightly pressed.
How the great Bastille Clock ticks (inaudible) in its Inner Court there, at
its ease, hour after hour; as if nothing special, for it or the world, were
passing! It tolled One when the firing began; and is now pointing towards
Five, and still the firing slakes not. — Far down, in their vaults, the
hear muffled din as of earthquakes; their Turnkeys answer
The siege continues into the early evening hours.
Wo to thee, de Launay, with thy poor hundred Invalides! Broglie is
distant, and his ears heavy: Besenval hears, but can send no help. One
poor troop of Hussars has crept, reconnoitring, cautiously along the Quais,
as far as the Pont Neuf. "We are come to join you," said the Captain; for
the crowd seems shoreless. A large-headed dwarfish individual, of
smoke-bleared aspect, shambles forward, opening his blue lips,
for there is sense
in him; and croaks: "Alight then, and give up your arms!" the Hussar-Captain
is too happy to be escorted to the Barriers, and dismissed on
parole. Who the squat individual was? Men answer, it is M. Marat, author
of the excellent pacific Avis au Peuple! Great truly, O thou remarkable
Dogleech, is this thy day of emergence and new birth: and yet this same
day come four years —! — But let the curtains of the future hang.
Marat is at the scene.
What shall de Launay do? One thing only de Launay could have done: what
he said he would do. Fancy him sitting, from the first, with lighted
taper, within arm's length of the Powder-Magazine; motionless, like old
Roman Senator, or bronze Lamp-holder; coldly apprising Thuriot, and all
men, by a slight motion of his eye, what his resolution was: — Harmless he
sat there, while unharmed; but the King's Fortress, meanwhile, could,
might, would, or should, in nowise, be surrendered, save to the King's
Messenger: one old man's life worthless, so it be lost with honour; but
think, ye brawling canaille,
how will it be when a whole Bastille springs
skyward! — In such statuesque, taper-holding attitude, one fancies de Launay
might have left Thuriot, the red Clerks of the Bazoche, Curé of
Saint-Stephen and all the tagrag-and-bobtail of the world, to work their will.
Carlyle is free with his advice on how Launay should have acted.
And yet, withal, he could not do it. Hast thou considered how each man's
heart is so tremulously responsive to the hearts of all men; hast thou
noted how omnipotent is the very sound of many men? How their shriek of
indignation palsies the strong soul; their howl of contumely withers with
unfelt pangs? The Ritter Gluck confessed that the ground-tone of the
noblest passage, in one of his noblest Operas, was the voice of the
Populace he had heard at Vienna, crying to their Kaiser: Bread! Bread!
Great is the combined voice of men; the utterance of their instincts,
are truer than their thoughts: it is the greatest a man encounters, among
the sounds and shadows, which make up this World of Time. He who can
resist that, has his footing some where beyond Time.
De Launay could not
do it. Distracted, he hovers between the two; hopes in the middle of
despair; surrenders not his Fortress; declares that he will blow it up,
seizes torches to blow it up, and does not blow it. Unhappy old de Launay,
it is the death-agony of thy Bastille and thee! Jail, Jailoring and
Jailor, all three, such as they may have been, must finish.
Launay could not play the part of the Horatii. It is human nature to
yield to the mob.
For four hours now has the World-Bedlam roared: call it the
blowing fire! The poor Invalides have sunk under their
battlements, or rise only with reversed muskets: they have made a white
flag of napkins; go beating the chamade, or seeming to beat, for one can
hear nothing. The very Swiss at the Portcullis look weary of firing;
disheartened in the fire-deluge: a porthole at the drawbridge is opened,
as by one that would speak. See Huissier
the shifty man! On his
plank, swinging over the abyss of that stone-Ditch; plank resting on
parapet, balanced by weight of Patriots, — he hovers perilous: such a Dove
towards such an Ark! Deftly, thou shifty Usher: one man already fell; and
lies smashed, far down there, against the masonry! Usher Maillard falls
not: deftly, unerring he walks, with outspread palm. The Swiss holds a
paper through his porthole; the shifty Usher snatches it, and returns.
Terms of surrender: Pardon, immunity to all! Are they accepted? — "Foi
d'officier, On the word of an officer," answers half-pay Hulin, — or
half-pay Elie, for men do not agree on it, "they are!"
Sinks the drawbridge, —
Usher Maillard bolting it when down; rushes-in the living deluge: the
Bastille is fallen! Victoire! La Bastille est prise!
(Histoire de la
Révolution, par Deux Amis de la Liberté, i. 267-306;
Besenval, iii. 410-434;
Dusaulx, Prise de la Bastille, 291-301. Bailly, Mémoires
de Berville et Barrière), i. 322 et seqq.)
On the promise of amnesty, de Launay surrenders the citadel.
Why dwell on what follows? Hulin's foi d'officer should have been kept,
but could not. The Swiss stand drawn up; disguised in white canvas smocks;
the Invalides without disguise; their arms all piled against the wall. The
first rush of victors, in ecstacy that the death-peril is passed, 'leaps
joyfully on their necks;' but new victors rush, and ever new, also in
ecstacy not wholly of joy. As we said, it was a living deluge, plunging
headlong; had not the Gardes Françaises, in their cool military way,
'wheeled round with arms levelled,' it would have plunged suicidally, by
the hundred or the thousand, into the Bastille-ditch.
The Bastille is occupied with little further bloodshed.
And so it goes plunging through court and corridor; billowing
uncontrollable, firing from windows — on itself:
in hot frenzy of triumph,
of grief and vengeance for its slain. The poor Invalides will fare ill;
one Swiss, running off in his white smock, is driven back, with a
death-thrust. Let all prisoners be marched to the Townhall,
to be judged!—Alas,
already one poor Invalide has his right hand slashed off him; his maimed
body dragged to the Place de Grève, and hanged there. This same right
hand, it is said, turned back de Launay from the Powder-Magazine, and saved
The garrison are taken prisoner and a few resisters slain.
De Launay, 'discovered in gray frock with poppy-coloured riband,' is for
killing himself with the sword of his cane. He shall to the
Hôtel-de-Ville; Hulin Maillard and others escorting him; Elie marching
'with the capitulation-paper on his sword's point.' Through roarings and
cursings; through hustlings, clutchings, and at last through strokes! Your
escort is hustled aside, felled down; Hulin sinks exhausted on a heap of
stones. Miserable de Launay! He shall never enter the Hôtel de Ville:
only his 'bloody hair-queue, held up in a bloody hand;' that shall enter,
for a sign. The bleeding trunk lies on the steps there; the head is off
through the streets; ghastly, aloft on a pike.
The prisoners are marched to the city hall. Outside it, de Launay is killed
Rigorous de Launay has died; crying out, "O friends, kill me fast!"
must die; though Gratitude embraces him, in this fearful
hour, and will die for him; it avails not. Brothers, your wrath is cruel!
Your Place de Grève is become a Throat of the Tiger; full of mere fierce
bellowings, and thirst of blood. One other officer is massacred; one other
Invalide is hanged on the Lamp-iron: with difficulty, with generous
perseverance, the Gardes Françaises will save the rest.
stricken long since with the paleness of death, must descend from his seat,
'to be judged at the Palais Royal:' — alas, to be shot dead, by an unknown
hand, at the turning of the first street! —
Among the murdered are the major of the Bastille garrison and Flesselles,
nominally in charge of the city hall.
O evening sun of July, how, at this hour, thy beams fall slant on reapers
amid peaceful woody fields; on old women spinning in cottages; on ships far
out in the silent main; on Balls at the Orangerie of Versailles, where
high-rouged Dames of the Palace are even now dancing with double-jacketted
Hussar-Officers; — and also on this roaring Hell porch of a
Babel Tower, with the confusion of tongues, were not Bedlam added with the
conflagration of thoughts, was no type of it. One forest of distracted
steel bristles, endless, in front of an Electoral Committee; points itself,
in horrid radii, against this and the other accused breast. It was the
Titans warring with Olympus; and they scarcely crediting it, have
conquered: prodigy of prodigies; delirious, — as it could not but be.
Denunciation, vengeance; blaze of triumph on a dark ground of terror: all
outward, all inward things fallen into one general wreck of madness!
A sea of rioters surrounds the Hôtel-de-Ville within which are the
members of the Electoral Committee.
Electoral Committee? Had it a thousand throats of brass, it would not
suffice. Abbé Lefevre, in the Vaults down below, is black as Vulcan,
distributing that 'five thousand weight of Powder;' with what perils, these
eight-and-forty hours! Last night, a Patriot, in liquor, insisted on
sitting to smoke on the edge of one of the Powder-barrels; there smoked he,
independent of the world, — till the Abbé 'purchased his pipe for three
francs,' and pitched it far.
The gunpowder in the basement is more important than the Electors above stairs.
Elie, in the grand Hall, Electoral Committee looking on, sits 'with drawn
sword bent in three places;' with battered helm, for he was of the Queen's
Regiment, Cavalry; with torn regimentals, face singed and soiled;
comparable, some think, to 'an antique warrior;' — judging the people;
forming a list of Bastille Heroes. O Friends, stain not with blood the
greenest laurels ever gained in this world: such is the burden of Elie's
song; could it but be listened to. Courage, Elie! Courage, ye Municipal
Electors! A declining sun; the need of victuals, and of telling news, will
bring assuagement, dispersion: all earthly things must end.
The sackers of the Bastille present their prisoners and their case before
Along the streets of Paris circulate Seven Bastille Prisoners, borne
shoulder-high: seven Heads on pikes; the Keys of the Bastille; and much
else. See also the Garde Françaises, in their steadfast military way,
marching home to their barracks, with the Invalides and Swiss kindly
enclosed in hollow square. It is one year and two months since these same
men stood unparticipating, with Brennus d'Agoust at the Palais de Justice,
when Fate overtook d'Espréménil;
and now they have participated; and will
participate. Not Gardes Françaises henceforth, but Centre
the National Guard:
men of iron discipline and humour, — not without a kind
of thought in them!
What discipline remains is the result of the Gardes Français, which
some think should now be known as the National Guard.
Likewise ashlar stones of the Bastille continue thundering through the
dusk; its paper-archives shall fly white. Old secrets come to view; and
long-buried Despair finds voice. Read this portion of an old Letter:
(Dated, à la Bastille, 7 Octobre, 1752; signed
Dévoilée, in Linguet,
Mémoires sur la Bastille (Paris, 1821), p. 199.)
for my consolation Monseigneur would grant me for the sake of God and the
Most Blessed Trinity, that I could have news of my dear wife; were it only
her name on card to shew that she is alive! It were the greatest
consolation I could receive; and I should for ever bless the greatness of
Monseigneur.' Poor Prisoner, who namest thyself
Quéret Dèmery, and hast no
other history, — she is dead, that dear wife of thine, and thou art dead!
'Tis fifty years since thy breaking heart put this question; to be heard
now first, and long heard, in the hearts of men.
The destruction and looting of the Bastille continues through the evening.
But so does the July twilight thicken; so must Paris, as sick children, and
all distracted creatures do, brawl itself finally into a kind of sleep.
Municipal Electors, astonished to find their heads still uppermost, are
home: only Moreau de
of tropical birth and heart, of coolest
judgment; he, with two others, shall sit permanent at the Townhall. Paris
sleeps; gleams upward the illuminated City: patrols go clashing, without
common watchword; there go rumours; alarms of war, to the extent of
'fifteen thousand men marching through the Suburb Saint-Antoine,' — who
never got it marched through.
Of the day's distraction judge by this of
the night: Moreau de Saint-Méry, 'before rising from his seat, gave
upwards of three thousand orders.'
What a head; comparable to
Friar Bacon's Brass Head!
Within it lies all Paris. Prompt must the
answer be, right or wrong; in Paris is no other Authority extant.
Seriously, a most cool clear head; — for which also thou O brave Saint-Mery,
in many capacities, from august Senator to Merchant's-Clerk, Book-dealer,
Vice-King; in many places, from Virginia to Sardinia, shalt, ever as a
brave man, find employment.
(Biographie Universelle, para Moreau Saint-Méry (by Fournier-Pescay).)
Except for Moreau and the other electors, the city is without government.
has decamped, under cloud of dusk, 'amid a great affluence of
people,' who did not harm him; he marches, with faint-growing tread, down
the left bank of the Seine, all night, — towards infinite space. Resummoned
shall Besenval himself be; for trial, for difficult acquittal.
His King's-troops, his Royal Allemand, are gone hence for ever.
The old soldier General Besenvel simply retires.
The Versailles Ball and lemonade is done; the Orangery is silent except for
nightbirds. Over in the Salle des Menus, Vice-president Lafayette, with
unsnuffed lights, 'with some hundred of members, stretched on tables round
him,' sits erect; outwatching the Bear. This day, a second solemn
Deputation went to his Majesty; a second, and then a third: with no
effect. What will the end of these things be?
The National Assembly is still in permanent session and still under siege.
In the Court, all is mystery, not without whisperings of terror; though ye
dream of lemonade and epaulettes, ye foolish women! His Majesty, kept in
happy ignorance, perhaps dreams of double-barrels and the Woods of Meudon.
Late at night, the Duke de Liancourt, having official right of entrance,
gains access to the Royal Apartments; unfolds, with earnest clearness, in
his constitutional way, the Job's-news. "Mais," said poor Louis,
une revolte, Why, that is a revolt!" — "Sire," answered Liancourt, "It is
not a revolt, it is a revolution."
Finally, early in the morning of July 15, the King is informed of the
On the morrow a fourth Deputation to the Château is on foot: of a more
solemn, not to say awful character, for, besides 'orgies in the Orangery,'
it seems, 'the grain convoys are all stopped;' nor has Mirabeau's thunder
been silent. Such Deputation is on the point of setting out — when lo, his
Majesty himself attended only by his two Brothers, step in; quite in the
paternal manner; announces that the troops, and all causes of offence, are
gone, and henceforth there shall be nothing but trust, reconcilement,
good-will; whereof he 'permits and even requests,'
a National Assembly to assure
Paris in his name! Acclamation, as of men suddenly delivered from death,
gives answer. The whole Assembly spontaneously rises to escort his Majesty
back; 'interlacing their arms to keep off the excessive pressure from him;'
for all Versailles is crowding and shouting. The Château
Musicians, with a
felicitous promptitude, strike up the Sein de sa Famille (Bosom of one's
Family): the Queen appears at the balcony with her little boy and girl,
'kissing them several times;' infinite Vivats
spread far and wide; — and
suddenly there has come, as it were, a new Heaven-on-Earth.
In a sudden reversal, the King promises full cooperation with the National
Assembly in the hope they can re-secure Paris for him.
Eighty-eight august Senators, Bailly, Lafayette, and our repentant
Archbishop among them, take coach for Paris, with the great intelligence;
benedictions without end on their heads. From the Place Louis Quinze,
where they alight, all the way to the Hôtel-de-Ville, it is one sea of
of clear National muskets; one tempest of huzzaings,
hand-clappings, aided by 'occasional rollings' of drum-music. Harangues of
due fervour are delivered; especially by
pious son of the
ill-fated murdered Lally; on whose head, in consequence, a civic crown (of
oak or parsley) is forced, — which he forcibly transfers to Bailly's.
The leaders of the National Assembly rush to Paris where they are met with
But surely, for one thing, the National Guard must have a General! Moreau
de Saint-Méry, he of the 'three thousand orders,' casts one of his
significant glances on the Bust of Lafayette, which has stood there ever
since the American War of Liberty. Whereupon, by acclamation, Lafayette is
nominated. Again, in room of the slain traitor or quasi-traitor
Flesselles, President Bailly shall be — Provost of the Merchants? No:
Mayor of Paris! So be it. Maire de Paris! Mayor Bailly, General
Lafayette; vive Bailly, vive Lafayette — the universal out-of-doors
multitude rends the welkin in confirmation. — And now, finally, let us to
Notre-Dame for a Te Deum.
The Electors give Lafayette command of the old Gardes Françaises and
the crowd acclaims Bailly Mayor of Paris.
Towards Notre-Dame Cathedral, in glad procession, these Regenerators of the
Country walk, through a jubilant people;
in fraternal manner; Abbé Lefevre,
still black with his gunpowder services, walking arm in arm with the
white-stoled Archbishop. Poor Bailly comes upon the Foundling Children,
kneel to him; and 'weeps.' Te Deum, our Archbishop officiating, is not
only sung, but shot—with blank cartridges. Our joy is boundless as our wo
threatened to be. Paris, by her own pike and musket, and the valour of her
own heart, has conquered the very wargods, — to the satisfaction now of
Majesty itself. A courier is, this night, getting under way for Necker:
the People's Minister, invited back by King, by National Assembly, and
Nation, shall traverse France amid shoutings, and the sound of trumpet and
A city thanks-giving is celebrated at Notre Dame. It seems the immediate
grievances have been resolved.
Seeing which course of things, Messeigneurs of the Court Triumvirate,
Messieurs of the dead-born Broglie-Ministry, and others such, consider that
their part also is clear: to mount and ride. Off, ye too-loyal Broglies,
Polignacs, and Princes of the Blood; off while it is yet time! Did not the
Palais-Royal in its late nocturnal 'violent motions,' set a specific price
(place of payment not mentioned) on each of your heads? — With precautions,
with the aid of pieces of cannon and regiments that can be depended on,
Messeigneurs, between the 16th night and the 17th morning, get to their
several roads. Not without risk!
Prince Condé has (or seems to have) 'men
galloping at full speed;' with a view, it is thought, to fling him into the
river Oise, at Pont-Sainte-Mayence.
(Weber, ii. 126.)
travel disguised; friends, not servants, on their coach-box. Broglie has
his own difficulties at Versailles, runs his own risks at Metz and Verdun;
does nevertheless get safe to Luxemburg, and there rests.
The senior nobility, smelling the wind, flee France within a few days.
This is what they call the First Emigration; determined on, as appears, in
full Court-conclave; his Majesty assisting; prompt he, for his share of it,
to follow any counsel whatsoever. 'Three Sons of France, and four Princes
of the blood of Saint Louis,' says Weber, 'could not more effectually
humble the Burghers of Paris 'than by appearing to withdraw in fear of
their life.' Alas, the Burghers of Paris bear it with unexpected Stoicism!
The Man d'Artois indeed is gone; but has he carried, for example, the Land
D'Artois with him? Not even Bagatelle the Country-house (which shall be
useful as a Tavern); hardly the four-valet Breeches, leaving the
Breeches-maker! — As for old Foulon, one learns that he is dead; at least a
'sumptuous funeral' is going on; the undertakers honouring him, if no other
will. Intendant Berthier, his son-in-law, is still living; lurking: he
joined Besenval, on that Eumenides' Sunday; appearing to treat it with
levity; and is now fled no man knows whither.
The fled nobles are not badly missed. The most excoriated, Foulon,
remains at large but is rumored dead.
The Emigration is not gone many miles, Prince Condé hardly across
when his Majesty, according to arrangement, for the Emigration also thought
it might do good, — undertakes a rather daring enterprise: that of visiting
Paris in person. With a Hundred Members of Assembly; with small or no
military escort, which indeed he dismissed at the Bridge of Sèvres, poor
Louis sets out; leaving a desolate Palace; a Queen weeping, the Present,
the Past, and the Future all so unfriendly for her.
The King visits Paris, July 19, 1789.
At the Barrier of Passy, Mayor Bailly, in grand gala, presents him with the
keys; harangues him, in Academic style; mentions that it is a great day;
that in Henri Quatre's case, the King had to make conquest of his People,
but in this happier case, the People makes conquest of its King (a conquis
son Roi). The King, so happily conquered, drives forward, slowly, through
a steel people, all silent, or shouting only Vive la Nation;
at the Townhall, by Moreau of the three-thousand orders, by King's
Procureur M. Ethys de
by Lally Tollendal, and others; knows not what
to think of it, or say of it; learns that he is 'Restorer of French
Liberty,' — as a Statue of him, to be raised on the site of the Bastille,
shall testify to all men. Finally, he is shewn at the Balcony, with a
Tricolor cockade in his hat; is greeted now, with vehement acclamation,
from Square and Street, from all windows and roofs: — and so drives home
again amid glad mingled and, as it were, intermarried shouts, of Vive le
Roi and Vive la Nation; wearied but safe.
The visit is a qualified success; the King manages to associate the monarchy
with the popular success.
It was Sunday when the red-hot balls hung over us, in mid air: it is now
but Friday, and 'the Revolution is sanctioned.' An August National
Assembly shall make the Constitution; and neither foreign Pandour, domestic
Triumvirate, with levelled Cannon, Guy-Faux powder-plots (for that too was
spoken of); nor any tyrannic Power on the Earth, or under the Earth, shall
say to it, What dost thou? — So jubilates the people; sure now of a
Constitution. Cracked Marquis
is heard under the windows of
the Château; murmuring sheer speculative-treason.
(Campan, ii. 46-64.)
Surely things will now progress smoothly.
The Fall of the Bastille may be said to have shaken all France to the
deepest foundations of its existence. The rumour of these wonders flies
every where: with the natural speed of Rumour; with an effect thought to
be preternatural, produced by plots. Did
(not overburdened with money at this time) send riding Couriers
out from Paris; to gallop 'on all radii,' or highways, towards all points
of France? It is a miracle, which no penetrating man will call in
(Toulongeon, (i. 95); Weber, etc. etc.)
News of the Bastille spreads immediately throughout France.
Already in most Towns, Electoral Committees were met; to regret Necker, in
harangue and resolution. In many a Town, as Rennes, Caen, Lyons, an
ebullient people was already regretting him in brickbats and musketry. But
now, at every Town's-end in France, there do arrive, in these days of
terror, — 'men,' as men will arrive; nay, 'men on horseback,' since Rumour
oftenest travels riding. These men declare, with alarmed countenance, The
BRIGANDS to be coming, to be just at hand; and do then — ride on, about
their further business, be what it might! Whereupon the whole population
of such Town, defensively flies to arms. Petition is soon thereafter
forwarded to National Assembly; in such peril and terror of peril, leave to
organise yourself cannot be withheld: the armed population becomes
everywhere an enrolled National Guard. Thus rides Rumour, careering along
all radii, from Paris outwards, to such purpose: in few days, some say in
not many hours, all France to the utmost borders bristles with bayonets.
Singular, but undeniable, — miraculous or not! — But thus may any chemical
liquid; though cooled to the freezing-point, or far lower, still continue
liquid; and then, on the slightest stroke or shake, it at once rushes
wholly into ice. Thus has France, for long months and even years, been
chemically dealt with; brought below zero; and now, shaken by the Fall of a
Bastille, it instantaneously congeals: into one crystallised mass, of
sharp-cutting steel! Guai a chi la tocca; 'Ware who touches it!
Provincial cities and towns also arm.
In Paris, an Electoral Committee, with a new Mayor and General, is urgent
with belligerent workmen to resume their handicrafts. Strong Dames of the
Market (Dames de la Halle) deliver congratulatory harangues; present
'bouquets to the Shrine of Sainte Genéviéve.'
Unenrolled men deposit their
arms, — not so readily as could be wished; and receive 'nine francs.' With
Te Deums, Royal Visits, and sanctioned Revolution, there is halcyon
weather; weather even of preternatural brightness; the hurricane being
The new Paris government restores some sort of order.
Nevertheless, as is natural, the waves still run high, hollow rocks
retaining their murmur. We are but at the 22nd of the month, hardly above
a week since the Bastille fell, when it suddenly appears that old
alive; nay, that he is here, in early morning, in the streets of Paris; the
extortioner, the plotter, who would make the people eat grass, and was a
liar from the beginning! — It is even so. The deceptive 'sumptuous funeral'
(of some domestic that died); the hiding-place at Vitry towards
Fontainbleau, have not availed that wretched old man. Some living domestic
or dependant, for none loves Foulon, has betrayed him to the Village.
Merciless boors of Vitry unearth him; pounce on him, like hell-hounds:
Westward, old Infamy; to Paris, to be judged at the Hôtel-de-Ville! His
old head, which seventy-four years have bleached, is bare; they have tied
an emblematic bundle of grass on his back; a garland of nettles and
thistles is round his neck: in this manner; led with ropes; goaded on with
curses and menaces, must he, with his old limbs, sprawl forward; the
pitiablest, most unpitied of all old men.
Foulon is found in hiding and returned to Paris.
Sooty Saint-Antoine, and every street, mustering its crowds as he passes, —
the Place de Grève, the Hall of the Hôtel-de-Ville will scarcely
escort and him. Foulon must not only be judged righteously; but judged
there where he stands, without any delay. Appoint seven judges, ye
Municipals, or seventy-and-seven; name them yourselves, or we will name
them: but judge him!
(Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 146-9.)
rhetoric, eloquence of Mayor Bailly, is wasted explaining the beauty of the
Law's delay. Delay, and still delay! Behold, O Mayor of the People, the
morning has worn itself into noon; and he is still unjudged! — Lafayette,
pressingly sent for, arrives; gives voice: This Foulon, a known man, is
guilty almost beyond doubt; but may he not have accomplices? Ought not the
truth to be cunningly pumped out of him, — in the Abbaye Prison? It is a
claps hands; — at which hand-clapping, Foulon (in
his fainness, as his Destiny would have it) also claps. "See! they
understand one another!" cries dark Sansculottism, blazing into fury of
suspicion. — "Friends," said 'a person in good clothes,' stepping forward,
"what is the use of judging this man? Has he not been judged these thirty
years?" With wild yells, Sansculottism clutches him, in its hundred hands:
he is whirled across the Place de Grève, to the 'Lanterne,'
there is at the corner of the Rue de la Vannerie; pleading bitterly for
life, — to the deaf winds. Only with the third rope (for two ropes broke,
and the quavering voice still pleaded), can he be so much as got hanged!
His Body is dragged through the streets; his Head goes aloft on a pike, the
mouth filled with grass: amid sounds as of
from a grass-eating
(Deux Amis de la Liberté, ii. 60-6.)
Foulon is hanged from a lamp iron before he can be judged. His head
and separated body are dragged through the streets.
Surely if Revenge is a 'kind of Justice,' it is a 'wild' kind! O mad
Sansculottism hast thou risen, in thy mad darkness, in thy soot and rags;
unexpectedly, like an
living-buried, from under his Trinacria?
They that would make grass be eaten do now eat grass, in this manner?
After long dumb-groaning generations, has the turn suddenly become thine? —
To such abysmal overturns, and frightful instantaneous inversions of the
centre-of-gravity, are human Solecisms all liable, if they but knew it; the
more liable, the falser (and topheavier) they are! —
The world is turned upside down, as Carlyle believes it is sometimes liable
To add to the horror of Mayor Bailly and his Municipals, word comes that
Berthier has also been arrested; that he is on his way hither from
Compiègne. Berthier, Intendant (say, Tax-levier)
of Paris; sycophant and
tyrant; forestaller of Corn; contriver of Camps against the people; —
accused of many things: is he not Foulon's son-in-law; and, in that one
point, guilty of all? In these hours too, when Sansculottism has its blood
up! The shuddering Municipals send one of their number to escort him, with
mounted National Guards.
Berthier, the King's governor of Paris and another unpopular man, is also
At the fall of day, the wretched Berthier, still wearing a face of courage,
arrives at the Barrier; in an open carriage; with the Municipal beside him;
five hundred horsemen with drawn sabres; unarmed footmen enough, not
without noise! Placards go brandished round him; bearing legibly his
indictment, as Sansculottism, with unlegal brevity, 'in huge letters,'
draws it up. ('Il a vole le Roi et la France (He robbed the King and
France).' 'He devoured the substance of the People.' 'He was the slave of
the rich, and the tyrant of the poor.' 'He drank the blood of the widow
and orphan.' 'He betrayed his country.' See Deux Amis, ii. 67-73.) Paris
is come forth to meet him: with hand-clappings, with windows flung up;
with dances, triumph-songs, as of the Furies! Lastly the Head of Foulon:
this also meets him on a pike. Well might his 'look become glazed,' and
sense fail him, at such sight! — Nevertheless, be the man's conscience what
it may, his nerves are of iron. At the Hôtel-de-Ville, he will answer
nothing. He says, he obeyed superior order; they have his papers; they may
judge and determine: as for himself, not having closed an eye these two
nights, he demands, before all things, to have sleep. Leaden sleep, thou
miserable Berthier! Guards rise with him, in motion towards the Abbaye.
At the very door of the Hôtel-de-Ville, they are clutched; flung asunder,
as by a vortex of mad arms; Berthier whirls towards the Lanterne. He
snatches a musket; fells and strikes, defending himself like a mad lion; is
borne down, trampled, hanged, mangled: his Head too, and even his Heart,
flies over the City on a pike.
Berthier is seized from his guard and hung from the same lamp hook as Foulon.
Horrible, in Lands that had known equal justice! Not so unnatural in Lands
that had never known it. Le sang qui coule est-il donc si pure? asks
Barnave; intimating that the Gallows, though by irregular methods, has its
own. — Thou thyself, O Reader, when thou turnest that corner of the Rue de
la Vannerie, and discernest still that same grim Bracket of old Iron, wilt
not want for reflections. 'Over a grocer's shop,' or otherwise; with 'a
bust of Louis XIV. in the niche under it,' or now no longer in the niche, —
it still sticks there: still holding out an ineffectual light, of fish-oil;
and has seen worlds wrecked, and says nothing.
The lamp iron could still be seen in Carlyle's time.
But to the eye of enlightened Patriotism, what a thunder-cloud was this;
suddenly shaping itself in the radiance of the halcyon weather! Cloud of
Erebus blackness: betokening latent electricity without limit. Mayor
Bailly, General Lafayette throw up their commissions, in an indignant
manner; — need to be flattered back again. The cloud disappears, as
thunder-clouds do. The halcyon weather returns, though of a grayer
complexion; of a character more and more evidently not supernatural.
The murders of Foulon and Berthier are shocking enough to cause a pause in
Thus, in any case, with what rubs soever, shall the Bastille be abolished
from our Earth; and with it, Feudalism, Despotism; and, one hopes,
Scoundrelism generally, and all hard usage of man by his brother man.
Alas, the Scoundrelism and hard usage are not so easy of abolition! But as
for the Bastille, it sinks day after day, and month after month; its
ashlars and boulders tumbling down continually, by express order of our
Municipals. Crowds of the curious roam through its caverns; gaze on the
skeletons found walled up, on the oubliettes, iron cages,
monstrous stone-blocks with padlock chains.
One day we discern Mirabeau there; along with
(Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 305.)
and onlookers make reverent way for him; fling verses, flowers on his path,
Bastille-papers and curiosities into his carriage, with vivats.
Over the next few weeks, the Bastille is demolished stone by stone.
Able Editors compile Books from the Bastille Archives; from what of them
remain unburnt. The Key of that Robber-Den shall cross the Atlantic; shall
lie on Washington's hall-table. The great Clock ticks now in a private
patriotic Clockmaker's apartment; no longer measuring hours of mere
heaviness. Vanished is the Bastille, what we call vanished: the body, or
sandstones, of it hanging, in benign metamorphosis, for centuries to come,
over the Seine waters, as Pont Louis Seize;
(Dulaure: Histoire de Paris, viii. 434.)
the soul of it living, perhaps still longer, in the memories of
The stones are used to build the Louis XVI bridge. The symbolism of the
Fall will last at least as long.
So far, ye august Senators, with your Tennis-Court Oaths, your inertia and
impetus, your sagacity and pertinacity, have ye brought us. "And yet
think, Messieurs," as the Petitioner justly urged, "you who were our
saviours, did yourselves need saviours," — the brave Bastillers, namely;
workmen of Paris; many of them in straightened pecuniary circumstances!
(Moniteur: Séance du Samedi 18 Juillet 1789 (in Histoire Parlementaire,
Subscriptions are opened; Lists are formed, more accurate than
Elie's; harangues are delivered. A Body of Bastille Heroes, tolerably
complete, did get together; — comparable to the Argonauts; hoping to endure
like them. But in little more than a year, the whirlpool of things threw
them asunder again, and they sank. So many highest superlatives achieved
by man are followed by new higher; and dwindle into comparatives and
positives! The Siege of the Bastille, weighed with which, in the
Historical balance, most other sieges, including that of Troy Town, are
gossamer, cost, as we find, in killed and mortally wounded, on the part of
the Besiegers, some Eighty-three persons: on the part of the Besieged,
after all that straw-burning, fire-pumping, and deluge of musketry, One
poor solitary invalid, shot stone-dead (roide-mort) on the battlements;
(Dusaulx: Prise de la Bastille, p. 447, etc.)
The Bastille Fortress, like
the City of Jericho, was overturned by miraculous sound.
Though the actors and the actions of July 14 were quickly forgotten, the
significance of the Siege of the Bastille would be hard to over-state.
Here perhaps is the place to fix, a little more precisely, what these two
words, French Revolution, shall mean; for, strictly considered, they may
have as many meanings as there are speakers of them. All things are in
revolution; in change from moment to moment, which becomes sensible from
epoch to epoch: in this Time-World of ours there is properly nothing else
but revolution and mutation, and even nothing else conceivable.
Revolution, you answer, means speedier change. Whereupon one has still to
ask: How speedy? At what degree of speed; in what particular points of
this variable course, which varies in velocity, but can never stop till
Time itself stops, does revolution begin and end; cease to be ordinary
mutation, and again become such? It is a thing that will depend on
definition more or less arbitrary.
What do me mean by revolution? Everything is in flux. Only the pace
of change varies.
For ourselves we answer that French Revolution
means here the open violent
Rebellion, and Victory, of disimprisoned Anarchy against corrupt worn-out
Authority: how Anarchy breaks prison; bursts up from the infinite Deep,
and rages uncontrollable, immeasurable, enveloping a world; in phasis after
phasis of fever-frenzy; — 'till the frenzy burning itself out, and what
elements of new Order it held (since all Force holds such) developing
themselves, the Uncontrollable be got, if not reimprisoned, yet harnessed,
and its mad forces made to work towards their object as sane regulated
ones. For as Hierarchies and Dynasties of all kinds, Theocracies,
Aristocracies, Autocracies, Strumpetocracies, have ruled over the world; so
it was appointed, in the decrees of Providence, that this same Victorious
Anarchy, Jacobinism, Sansculottism, French Revolution, Horrors of French
Revolution, or what else mortals name it, should have its turn. The
'destructive wrath' of Sansculottism: this is what we speak, having
unhappily no voice for singing.
For Carlyle the French Revolution is the period of the ascendency of
anarchy, an ascendency that was bound to have its turn and which must itself
Surely a great Phenomenon: nay it is a transcendental one, overstepping
all rules and experience; the crowning Phenomenon of our Modern Time. For
here again, most unexpectedly, comes antique Fanaticism in new and newest
vesture; miraculous, as all Fanaticism is. Call it the Fanaticism of
'making away with formulas, de humer les formulas.'
The world of formulas,
the formed regulated world, which all habitable world is, — must needs hate
such Fanaticism like death; and be at deadly variance with it. The world
of formulas must conquer it; or failing that, must die execrating it,
anathematising it; — can nevertheless in nowise prevent its being and its
having been. The Anathemas are there, and the miraculous Thing is there.
Carlyle sees the spirit of the Revolution as totally destructive.
Whence it cometh? Whither it goeth? These are questions! When the age of
Miracles lay faded into the distance as an incredible tradition, and even
the age of Conventionalities was now old; and Man's Existence had for long
generations rested on mere formulas which were grown hollow by course of
time; and it seemed as if no Reality any longer existed but only Phantasms
of realities, and God's Universe were the work of the Tailor and
Upholsterer mainly, and men were buckram masks that went about becking and
grimacing there, — on a sudden, the Earth yawns asunder, and amid Tartarean
smoke, and glare of fierce brightness, rises SANSCULOTTISM, many-headed,
fire-breathing, and asks: What think ye of me? Well may the buckram masks
start together, terror-struck; 'into expressive well-concerted groups!' It
is indeed, Friends, a most singular, most fatal thing. Let whosoever is
but buckram and a phantasm look to it: ill verily may it fare with him;
here methinks he cannot much longer be. Wo also to many a one who is not
wholly buckram, but partially real and human! The age of Miracles has come
back! 'Behold the World-Phoenix, in fire-consummation and fire-creation;
wide are her fanning wings; loud is her death-melody, of battle-thunders
and falling towns; skyward lashes the funeral flame, enveloping all things:
it is the Death-Birth of a World!'
France was a nation with no firm grounding in religion or politics; there
was nothing to resist this yawning monster of Anarchy.
Whereby, however, as we often say, shall one unspeakable blessing seem
attainable. This, namely: that Man and his Life rest no more on
hollowness and a Lie, but on solidity and some kind of Truth. Welcome, the
beggarliest truth, so it be one, in exchange for the royallest sham! Truth
of any kind breeds ever new and better truth; thus hard granite rock will
crumble down into soil, under the blessed skyey influences; and cover
itself with verdure, with fruitage and umbrage. But as for Falsehood,
which in like contrary manner, grows ever falser, — what can it, or what
should it do but decease, being ripe; decompose itself, gently or even
violently, and return to the Father of it, — too probably in flames of fire?
The blessing was that something better had to come out the other end.
Sansculottism will burn much; but what is incombustible it will not burn.
Fear not Sansculottism; recognise it for what it is, the portentous,
inevitable end of much, the miraculous beginning of much. One other thing
thou mayest understand of it: that it too came from God; for has it not
been? From of old, as it is written, are His goings forth; in the great
Deep of things; fearful and wonderful now as in the beginning: in the
whirlwind also He speaks! and the wrath of men is made to praise Him. — But
to gauge and measure this immeasurable Thing, and what is called account
for it, and reduce it to a dead logic-formula, attempt not! Much less
shalt thou shriek thyself hoarse, cursing it; for that, to all needful
lengths, has been already done. As an actually existing Son of Time,
with unspeakable manifold interest, oftenest in silence, at what the Time
did bring: therewith edify, instruct, nourish thyself, or were it but to
amuse and gratify thyself, as it is given thee.
Carlyle reassures us that the Revolution was not wholly the work of the Devil.
Another question which at every new turn will rise on us, requiring ever
new reply is this: Where the French Revolution specially is? In the
King's Palace, in his Majesty's or her Majesty's managements, and
maltreatments, cabals, imbecilities and woes, answer some few: — whom we do
not answer. In the National Assembly, answer a large mixed multitude: who
accordingly seat themselves in the Reporter's Chair; and therefrom noting
what Proclamations, Acts, Reports, passages of logic-fence, bursts of
parliamentary eloquence seem notable within doors, and what tumults and
rumours of tumult become audible from without, — produce volume on volume;
and, naming it History of the French Revolution, contentedly publish the
same. To do the like, to almost any extent, with so many Filed Newspapers,
Choix des Rapports, Histoires Parlementaires
as there are, amounting to
many horseloads, were easy for us. Easy but unprofitable. The National
Assembly, named now Constituent Assembly, goes its course; making the
Constitution; but the French Revolution also goes its course.
The true revolution was not in the innovations of the monarchy or of the
In general, may we not say that the French Revolution lies in the heart and
head of every violent-speaking, of every violent-thinking French Man? How
the Twenty-five Millions of such, in their perplexed combination, acting
and counter-acting may give birth to events; which event successively is
the cardinal one; and from what point of vision it may best be surveyed:
this is a problem. Which problem the best insight, seeking light from all
possible sources, shifting its point of vision whithersoever vision or
glimpse of vision can be had, may employ itself in solving; and be well
content to solve in some tolerably approximate way.
The revolution was in the minds of millions of individuals, which makes it
hard to measure and explain.
As to the National Assembly, in so far as it still towers eminent over
France, after the manner of a car-borne
though now no longer in
the van; and rings signals for retreat or for advance, — it is and continues
a reality among other realities. But in so far as it sits making the
Constitution, on the other hand, it is a fatuity and chimera mainly. Alas,
in the never so heroic building of Montesquieu-Mably card-castles, though
shouted over by the world, what interest is there? Occupied in that way,
an august National Assembly becomes for us little other than a
Sanhedrim [council] of
pedants, not of the gerund-grinding, yet of no fruitfuller sort; and its
loud debatings and recriminations about Rights of Man, Right of Peace and
War, Veto suspensif, Veto absolu, what are they but so many
Pedant's-curses, 'May God confound you for your
Theory of Irregular Verbs!'
Carlyle sees the arguments of the Constituent Assembly, trying to create
a constitution, as futile and vain. This is, of course, a view in hindsight.
A Constitution can be built, Constitutions enough à la Sieyès: but the
frightful difficulty is that of getting men to come and live in them!
Could Sieyes have drawn thunder and lightning out of Heaven to sanction his
Constitution, it had been well: but without any thunder? Nay, strictly
considered, is it not still true that without some such celestial sanction,
given visibly in thunder or invisibly otherwise, no Constitution can in the
long run be worth much more than the waste-paper it is written on? The
Constitution, the set of Laws, or prescribed Habits of Acting, that men
will live under, is the one which images their Convictions, — their Faith as
to this wondrous Universe, and what rights, duties, capabilities they have
there; which stands sanctioned therefore, by Necessity itself, if not by a
seen Deity, then by an unseen one. Other laws, whereof there are always
enough ready-made, are usurpations; which men do not obey, but rebel
against, and abolish, by their earliest convenience.
Carlyle feels that a constitution can be based only in Divine law, though
other such can be imposed.
The question of questions accordingly were, Who is it that especially for
rebellers and abolishers, can make a Constitution? He that can image forth
the general Belief when there is one; that can impart one when, as here,
there is none. A most rare man; ever as of old a god-missioned man! Here,
however, in defect of such transcendent supreme man, Time with its infinite
succession of merely superior men, each yielding his little contribution,
does much. Force likewise (for, as Antiquarian Philosophers teach, the
royal Sceptre was from the first something of a Hammer, to crack such heads
as could not be convinced) will all along find somewhat to do. And thus in
perpetual abolition and reparation, rending and mending, with struggle and
strife, with present evil and the hope and effort towards future good, must
the Constitution, as all human things do, build itself forward; or unbuild
itself, and sink, as it can and may. O Sieyès, and ye other Committeemen,
and Twelve Hundred miscellaneous individuals from all parts of France!
What is the Belief of France, and yours, if ye knew it? Properly that
there shall be no Belief; that all formulas be swallowed. The Constitution
which will suit that? Alas, too clearly, a No-Constitution, an Anarchy; —
which also, in due season, shall be vouchsafed you.
A constitution not based on deep-held national beliefs is the same as no
constitution at all. Sieyès and the constitutional committee of the
Constituent Assembly are on a fool's errand.
But, after all, what can an unfortunate National Assembly do? Consider
only this, that there are Twelve Hundred miscellaneous individuals; not a
unit of whom but has his own thinking-apparatus, his own speaking-apparatus!
In every unit of them is some belief and wish, different for
each, both that France should be regenerated, and also that he individually
should do it. Twelve Hundred separate Forces, yoked miscellaneously to any
object, miscellaneously to all sides of it; and bid pull for life!
That National Assembly is more nearly 1200 individual beliefs.
Or is it the nature of National Assemblies generally to do, with endless
labour and clangour, Nothing? Are Representative Governments mostly at
bottom Tyrannies too! Shall we say, the Tyrants,
the ambitious contentious
Persons, from all corners of the country do, in this manner, get gathered
into one place; and there, with motion and counter-motion, with jargon and
hubbub, cancel one another, like the fabulous
for net-result, zero; — the
country meanwhile governing or guiding itself,
by such wisdom, recognised or for most part unrecognised, as may exist in
individual heads here and there? — Nay, even that were a great improvement:
for, of old, with their Guelf Factions and Ghibelline Factions, with their
Red Roses and White Roses, they were wont to cancel the whole country as
well. Besides they do it now in a much narrower cockpit; within the four
walls of their Assembly House, and here and there an outpost of Hustings
and Barrel-heads; do it with tongues too, not with swords: — all which
improvements, in the art of producing zero, are they not great? Nay, best
of all, some happy Continents (as the Western one, with its Savannahs,
where whosoever has four willing limbs finds food under his feet, and an
infinite sky over his head) can do without governing. — What
Sphinx-questions; which the distracted world, in these very generations, must
answer or die!
Carlyle wonders whether representative government is anything more than a
debating society, valuable for leaving the nation to govern itself.
One thing an elected Assembly of Twelve Hundred is fit for: Destroying.
Which indeed is but a more decided exercise of its natural talent for Doing
Nothing. Do nothing, only keep agitating, debating; and things will
The Assembly is having trouble getting anything done.
So and not otherwise proved it with an august National Assembly. It took
the name, Constituent, as if its mission and function had been to construct
or build; which also, with its whole soul, it endeavoured to do: yet, in
the fates, in the nature of things, there lay for it precisely of all
functions the most opposite to that. Singular, what Gospels men will
believe; even Gospels according to Jean Jacques! It was the fixed Faith of
these National Deputies, as of all thinking Frenchmen, that the
Constitution could be made; that they, there and then, were called to make
it. How, with the toughness of Old Hebrews or Ishmaelite Moslem, did the
otherwise light unbelieving People persist in this their Credo quia
impossibile; and front the armed world with it; and grow fanatic, and even
heroic, and do exploits by it! The Constituent Assembly's Constitution,
and several others, will, being printed and not manuscript, survive to
future generations, as an instructive well-nigh incredible document of the
Time: the most significant Picture of the then existing France; or at
lowest, Picture of these men's Picture of it.
The Assembly and the country believe their mission is to produce a
constitution encompassing the current order.
But in truth and seriousness, what could the National Assembly have done?
The thing to be done was, actually as they said, to regenerate France; to
abolish the old France, and make a new one; quietly or forcibly, by
concession or by violence, this, by the Law of Nature, has become
inevitable. With what degree of violence, depends on the wisdom of those
that preside over it. With perfect wisdom on the part of the National
Assembly, it had all been otherwise; but whether, in any wise, it could
have been pacific, nay other than bloody and convulsive, may still be a
But what was needed was to produce a new France in place of
the old one. There may have been no way to do this peacefully.
Grant, meanwhile, that this Constituent Assembly does to the last continue
to be something. With a sigh, it sees itself incessantly forced away from
its infinite divine task, of perfecting 'the Theory of Irregular Verbs,' —
to finite terrestrial tasks, which latter have still a significance for us.
It is the cynosure of revolutionary France, this National Assembly. All
work of Government has fallen into its hands, or under its control; all men
look to it for guidance. In the middle of that huge Revolt of Twenty-five
millions, it hovers always aloft as
or Battle-Standard, impelling
and impelled, in the most confused way; if it cannot give much guidance, it
will still seem to give some. It emits pacificatory Proclamations, not a
few; with more or with less result. It authorises the enrolment of
National Guards, — lest Brigands come to devour us, and reap the unripe
crops. It sends missions to quell 'effervescences;' to deliver men from
the Lanterne. It can listen to congratulatory Addresses, which arrive
daily by the sackful; mostly
in King Cambyses' vein:
also to Petitions and
complaints from all mortals; so that every mortal's complaint, if it cannot
get redressed, may at least hear itself complain. For the rest, an august
National Assembly can produce Parliamentary Eloquence; and appoint
Committees. Committees of the Constitution, of Reports, of Researches; and
of much else: which again yield mountains of Printed Paper; the theme of
new Parliamentary Eloquence, in bursts, or in plenteous smooth-flowing
floods. And so, from the waste vortex whereon all things go whirling and
grinding, Organic Laws, or the similitude of such, slowly emerge.
The Constituent Assembly is the sole legislative power and has plenty to
do. Carlyle, though, continues to jeer at its attempt to address the
inconvenience of French irregular verb conjugation.
With endless debating, we get the Rights of Man written down and
promulgated: true paper basis of all paper Constitutions. Neglecting, cry
the opponents, to declare the Duties of Man! Forgetting, answer we, to
ascertain the Mights of Man; — one of the fatalest omissions! — Nay,
sometimes, as on the Fourth of August, our National Assembly, fired
suddenly by an almost preternatural enthusiasm, will get through whole
masses of work in one night. A memorable night, this Fourth of August:
Dignitaries temporal and spiritual; Peers, Archbishops,
Parlement-Presidents, each outdoing the other in patriotic devotedness, come
successively to throw their (untenable) possessions on the 'altar of the
fatherland.' With louder and louder vivats, for indeed it is 'after
dinner' too, — they abolish Tithes, Seignorial Dues, Gabelle, excessive
Preservation of Game; nay Privilege, Immunity, Feudalism root and branch;
then appoint a Te Deum for it;
and so, finally, disperse about three in the
morning, striking the stars with their sublime heads. Such night,
unforeseen but for ever memorable, was this of the Fourth of August 1789.
Miraculous, or semi-miraculous, some seem to think it. A new Night of
Pentecost, shall we say, shaped according to the new Time, and new Church
of Jean Jacques Rousseau? It had its causes; also its effects.
Carlyle sneers at what the Constituent Assembly accomplishes, much of which
In such manner labour the National Deputies; perfecting their Theory of
Irregular Verbs; governing France, and being governed by it; with toil and
noise; — cutting asunder ancient intolerable bonds; and, for new ones,
assiduously spinning ropes of sand. Were their labours a nothing or a
something, yet the eyes of all France being reverently fixed on them,
History can never very long leave them altogether out of sight.
Carlyle grudgingly gives the Assembly its place in history.
For the present, if we glance into that Assembly Hall of theirs, it will be
found, as is natural, 'most irregular.' As many as 'a hundred members are
on their feet at once;' no rule in making motions, or only commencements of
a rule; Spectators' Gallery allowed to applaud, and even to hiss;
(Arthur Young, i. 111.)
President, appointed once a fortnight, raising many times
no serene head above the waves. Nevertheless, as in all human Assemblages,
like does begin arranging itself to like; the perennial rule, Ubi homines
sunt modi sunt, proves valid. Rudiments of Methods disclose themselves;
rudiments of Parties. There is a Right Side (Côté Droit),
a Left Side
sitting on M. le President's right hand, or on his left:
the Côté Droit conservative;
the Côté Gauche destructive. Intermediate is
Anglomaniac Constitutionalism, or Two-Chamber Royalism; with its Mouniers,
its Lallys, — fast verging towards nonentity. Preeminent, on the Right
Side, pleads and perorates
the Dragoon-captain, eloquent, mildly
fervent; earning for himself the shadow of a name. There also blusters
the Younger Mirabeau, not without wit: dusky
does nothing but sniff and ejaculate; might, it is fondly thought, lay
prostrate the Elder Mirabeau himself, would he but try,
(Biographie Universelle, para D'Espréménil (by Beaulieu).)
— which he does not. Last
and greatest, see, for one moment, the Abbé
with his jesuitic eyes,
his impassive brass face, 'image of all the cardinal sins.' Indomitable,
unquenchable, he fights jesuitico-rhetorically; with toughest lungs and
heart; for Throne, especially for Altar and Tithes. So that a shrill voice
exclaims once, from the Gallery: "Messieurs of the Clergy, you have to be
shaved; if you wriggle too much, you will get cut."
(Dictionnaire des Hommes Marquans, ii. 519.)
Factions form in the assembly: radicals, monarchists, and between them
The Left side is also called the d'Orleans side; and sometimes derisively,
the Palais Royal. And yet, so confused, real-imaginary seems everything,
'it is doubtful,' as Mirabeau said, 'whether d'Orleans himself belong to
that same d'Orleans Party.' What can be known and seen is, that his
moon-visage does beam forth from that point of space. There likewise sits
seagreen Robespierre; throwing in his light weight, with decision, not yet
with effect. A thin lean Puritan and Precisian; he would make away with
formulas; yet lives, moves, and has his being, wholly in formulas, of
another sort. 'Peuple,' such according to Robespierre ought to be the
Royal method of promulgating laws, 'Peuple,
this is the Law I have framed
for thee; dost thou accept it?' — answered from Right Side, from Centre and
Left, by inextinguishable laughter.
(Moniteur, No. 67 (in Hist.Parl.).)
Yet men of insight discern that the Seagreen may by chance go far: "this
man," observes Mirabeau, "will do somewhat; he believes every word he
The radical side is argued ably and forcibly by Robespierre.
Abbé Sieyes is busy with mere Constitutional work: wherein, unluckily,
fellow-workmen are less pliable than, with one who has completed the
Science of Polity, they ought to be. Courage, Sieyes nevertheless! Some
twenty months of heroic travail, of contradiction from the stupid, and the
Constitution shall be built; the top-stone of it brought out with
shouting, — say rather, the top-paper, for it is all Paper; and thou hast
done in it what the Earth or the Heaven could require, thy utmost. Note
likewise this Trio; memorable for several things; memorable were it only
that their history is written in an epigram: 'whatsoever these Three have
in hand,' it is said,
(See Toulongeon, i. c. 3.)
The middle still has some able members, notably the "Triumvirate" of Duport,
Barnave and Lameth.
But royal Mirabeau? Conspicuous among all parties, raised above and beyond
them all, this man rises more and more. As we often say, he has an eye, he
is a reality; while others are formulas and eye-glasses. In the Transient
he will detect the Perennial, find some firm footing even among
Paper-vortexes. His fame is gone forth to all lands; it gladdened the heart of
the crabbed old Friend of Men himself before he died. The very Postilions
of inns have heard of Mirabeau: when an impatient Traveller complains that
the team is insufficient, his Postilion answers, "Yes, Monsieur, the
wheelers are weak; but my mirabeau (main horse), you see, is a right one,
mais mon mirabeau est excellent."
(Dumont, Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 255.)
Mirabeau stands above party and has great popularity.
And now, Reader, thou shalt quit this noisy Discrepancy of a National
Assembly; not (if thou be of humane mind) without pity. Twelve Hundred
brother men are there, in the centre of Twenty-five Millions; fighting so
fiercely with Fate and with one another; struggling their lives out, as
most sons of Adam do, for that which profiteth not. Nay, on the whole, it
is admitted further to be very dull. "Dull as this day's Assembly,"
said some one. "Why date, Pourquoi dater?" answered Mirabeau.
Carlyle dismisses the Assembly as an ineffective and dull congress.
Consider that they are Twelve Hundred; that they not only speak, but read
their speeches; and even borrow and steal speeches to read! With Twelve
Hundred fluent speakers, and their Noah's Deluge of vociferous commonplace,
unattainable silence may well seem the one blessing of Life. But figure
Twelve Hundred pamphleteers; droning forth perpetual pamphlets: and no man
to gag them! Neither, as in the American Congress, do the arrangements
seem perfect. A Senator has not his own Desk and Newspaper here; of
Tobacco (much less of Pipes) there is not the slightest provision.
Conversation itself must be transacted in a low tone, with continual
interruption: only 'pencil Notes' circulate freely; 'in incredible numbers
to the foot of the very tribune.'
(See Dumont (pp. 159-67); Arthur Young, etc.)
— Such work is it, regenerating a Nation; perfecting one's Theory of
Carlyle just can't seem to leave it alone.
Of the King's Court, for the present, there is almost nothing whatever to
be said. Silent, deserted are these halls; Royalty languishes forsaken of
its war-god and all its hopes, till once the Œil-de-Bœuf
The sceptre is departed from King Louis; is gone over to the Salles des
Menus, to the Paris Townhall, or one knows not whither. In the July days,
while all ears were yet deafened by the crash of the Bastille, and
Ministers and Princes were scattered to the four winds, it seemed as if the
very Valets had grown heavy of hearing. Besenval, also in flight towards
Infinite Space, but hovering a little at Versailles, was addressing his
Majesty personally for an Order about post-horses; when, lo, 'the Valet in
waiting places himself familiarly between his Majesty and me,' stretching
out his rascal neck to learn what it was! His Majesty, in sudden choler,
whirled round; made a clutch at the tongs: 'I gently prevented him; he
grasped my hand in thankfulness; and I noticed tears in his eyes.'
(Besenval, iii. 419.)
The court seems to wield no power at all.
Poor King; for French Kings also are men! Louis Fourteenth himself once
clutched the tongs, and even smote with them; but then it was at Louvois,
and Dame Maintenon ran up. — The Queen sits weeping in her inner apartments,
surrounded by weak women: she is 'at the height of unpopularity;'
universally regarded as the evil genius of France. Her friends and
familiar counsellors have all fled; and fled, surely, on the foolishest
errand. The Château Polignac still frowns aloft, on its 'bold and
enormous' cubical rock, amid the blooming champaigns, amid the blue
girdling mountains of Auvergne:
(Arthur Young, i. 165.)
but no Duke and
Duchess Polignac look forth from it; they have fled, they have 'met Necker
they shall not return. That France should see her Nobles resist
the Irresistible, Inevitable, with the face of angry men, was unhappy, not
unexpected: but with the face and sense of pettish children? This was her
peculiarity. They understood nothing; would understand nothing. Does not,
at this hour, a new Polignac, first-born of these
sit reflective in
the Castle of Ham; (A.D. 1835.) in an astonishment he will never recover
from; the most confused of existing mortals?
Carlyle deplores the weakness of the upper nobility in France.
King Louis has his new Ministry: mere Popularities; Old-President
Necker, coming back in triumph; and other such.
(Montgaillard, ii. 108.)
But what will it avail him? As was said, the sceptre, all but
the wooden gilt sceptre, has departed elsewhither. Volition, determination
is not in this man: only innocence, indolence; dependence on all persons
but himself, on all circumstances but the circumstances he were lord of.
So troublous internally is our Versailles and its work. Beautiful, if seen
from afar, resplendent like a Sun; seen near at hand, a mere Sun's-Atmosphere,
hiding darkness, confused ferment of ruin!
Weakest of all is the king. Without his court he is nothing.
But over France, there goes on the indisputablest 'destruction of
formulas;' transaction of realities that follow therefrom. So many
millions of persons, all gyved, and nigh strangled, with formulas; whose
Life nevertheless, at least the digestion and hunger of it, was real
enough! Heaven has at length sent an abundant harvest; but what profits it
the poor man, when Earth with her formulas interposes? Industry, in these
times of Insurrection, must needs lie dormant; capital, as usual, not
circulating, but stagnating timorously in nooks. The poor man is short of
work, is therefore short of money; nay even had he money, bread is not to
be bought for it. Were it plotting of Aristocrats, plotting of d'Orleans;
were it Brigands, preternatural terror, and the clang of Phoebus Apollo's
silver bow, — enough, the markets are scarce of grain, plentiful only in
tumult. Farmers seem lazy to thresh; — being either 'bribed;' or needing no
bribe, with prices ever rising, with perhaps rent itself no longer so
pressing. Neither, what is singular, do municipal enactments, 'That along
with so many measures of wheat you shall sell so many of rye,' and other
the like, much mend the matter. Dragoons with drawn swords stand ranked
among the corn-sacks, often more dragoons than sacks.
(Arthur Young, i. 129, etc.)
Meal-mobs abound; growing into mobs of a still darker
Although the crops of 1789 were above average, processing and distribution
delays left many still hungry.
Starvation has been known among the French Commonalty before this; known
Did we not see them, in the year 1775, presenting, in sallow
faces, in wretchedness and raggedness, their Petition of Grievances; and,
for answer, getting a brand-new Gallows forty feet high? Hunger and
Darkness, through long years! For look back on that earlier Paris Riot,
when a Great Personage, worn out by debauchery, was believed to be in want
of Blood-baths; and Mothers, in worn raiment, yet with living hearts under
it, 'filled the public places' with their wild Rachel-cries, — stilled also
by the Gallows. Twenty years ago, the Friend of Men (preaching to the
deaf) described the Limousin Peasants as wearing a pain-stricken
a look past complaint, 'as if the oppression of the great
were like the hail and the thunder, a thing irremediable, the ordinance of
(Fils Adoptif: Memoires de Mirabeau, i. 364-394.)
And now, if
in some great hour, the shock of a falling Bastille should awaken you; and
it were found to be the ordinance of Art merely; and remediable,
Politics and hunger had never been strangers.
Or has the Reader forgotten that 'flood of savages,' which, in sight of the
same Friend of Men, descended from the mountains at Mont d'Or? Lank-haired
haggard faces; shapes rawboned, in high sabots; in woollen jupes, with
leather girdles studded with copper-nails! They rocked from foot to foot,
and beat time with their elbows too, as the quarrel and battle which was
not long in beginning went on; shouting fiercely; the lank faces distorted
into the similitude of a cruel laugh. For they were darkened and hardened:
long had they been the prey of excise-men and tax-men; of 'clerks with the
cold spurt of their pen.' It was the fixed prophecy of our old Marquis,
which no man would listen to, that 'such Government by Blind-man's-buff,
stumbling along too far, would end by the General Overturn, the Culbute
And it is the politics of hunger and despair that will drive the revolution.
No man would listen, each went his thoughtless way; — and Time and Destiny
also travelled on. The Government by Blind-man's-buff, stumbling along,
has reached the precipice inevitable for it. Dull Drudgery, driven on, by
clerks with the cold dastard spurt of their pen, has been driven — into a
Communion of Drudges! For now, moreover, there have come the strangest
confused tidings; by Paris Journals with their paper wings; or still more
portentous, where no Journals are,
(See Arthur Young, i. 137, 150, etc.)
rumour and conjecture: Oppression not inevitable; a Bastille prostrate,
and the Constitution fast getting ready! Which Constitution, if it be
something and not nothing, what can it be but bread to eat?
The populace thinks it more likely they will get bread from a new government
than from the old.
The Traveller, 'walking up hill bridle in hand,' overtakes 'a poor woman;'
the image, as such commonly are, of drudgery and scarcity; 'looking sixty
years of age, though she is not yet twenty-eight.' They have seven
children, her poor drudge and she: a farm, with one cow, which helps to
make the children soup; also one little horse, or garron. They have rents
and quit-rents, Hens to pay to this Seigneur, Oat-sacks to that; King's
taxes, Statute-labour, Church-taxes, taxes enough; — and think the times
inexpressible. She has heard that somewhere, in some manner, something is
to be done for the poor: "God send it soon; for the dues and taxes crush
us down (nous écrasent)!"
(Ibid. i. 134.)
Carlyle quotes a famous vignette from Arthur Young.
Fair prophecies are spoken, but they are not fulfilled. There have been
Notables, Assemblages, turnings out and comings in. Intriguing and
manoeuvring; Parliamentary eloquence and arguing, Greek meeting Greek in
high places, has long gone on; yet still bread comes not. The harvest is
reaped and garnered; yet still we have no bread. Urged by despair and by
hope, what can Drudgery do, but rise, as predicted, and produce the General
Hopes raised in the past have always been crushed, fueling despair.
Fancy, then, some Five full-grown Millions of such gaunt figures, with
their haggard faces (figures háves);
in woollen jupes, with copper-studded
leather girths, and high sabots, — starting up to ask, as in forest-roarings
their washed Upper-Classes, after long unreviewed centuries,
virtually this question: How have ye treated us; how have ye taught us,
fed us, and led us, while we toiled for you? The answer can be read in
flames, over the nightly summer sky. This is the feeding and leading we
have had of you: EMPTINESS, — of pocket, of stomach, of head, and of heart.
Behold there is nothing in us; nothing but what Nature gives her wild
children of the desert: Ferocity and Appetite; Strength grounded on
Hunger. Did ye mark among your Rights of Man, that man was not to die of
starvation, while there was bread reaped by him? It is among the Mights of
The blame is directed upward, and for these men, everywhere is up.
Seventy-two Châteaus have flamed aloft in the Mâconnais
alone: this seems the centre of the conflagration; but it has spread over
Dauphiné, Alsace, the Lyonnais; the whole South-East is in a blaze. All
over the North, from Rouen to Metz, disorder is abroad: smugglers of salt
go openly in armed bands: the barriers of towns are burnt; toll-gatherers,
tax-gatherers, official persons put to flight. 'It was thought,' says
Young, 'the people, from hunger, would revolt;' and we see they have done
it. Desperate Lackalls, long prowling aimless, now finding hope in
desperation itself, everywhere form a nucleus. They ring the Church bell
by way of tocsin: and the Parish turns out to the work.
(See Hist. Parl. ii. 243-6.)
Ferocity, atrocity; hunger and revenge: such work as we can
Riot is widespread in the countryside.
Ill stands it now with the Seigneur, who, for example, 'has walled up the
only Fountain of the Township;' who has ridden high on his chartier and
who has preserved Game not wisely but too well. Churches also,
and Canonries, are sacked, without mercy; which have shorn the flock too
close, forgetting to feed it. Wo to the land over which Sansculottism, in
its day of vengeance, tramps roughshod, — shod in sabots! Highbred
Seigneurs, with their delicate women and little ones, had to 'fly
half-naked,' under cloud of night; glad to escape the flames, and even worse.
You meet them at the tables-d'hôte of inns;
making wise reflections or
foolish that 'rank is destroyed;' uncertain whither they shall now wend.
(See Young, i. 149, etc.)
The métayer [small-holder]
will find it convenient to be slack
in paying rent. As for the Tax-gatherer, he, long hunting as a biped of
prey, may now get hunted as one; his Majesty's Exchequer will not 'fill up
the Deficit,' this season: it is the notion of many that a Patriot
Majesty, being the Restorer of French Liberty, has abolished most taxes,
though, for their private ends, some men make a secret of it.
The homes of the wealthy are sacked; nobles are driven out; taxes go unpaid.
Where this will end? In the Abyss, one may prophecy; whither all Delusions
are, at all moments, travelling; where this Delusion has now arrived. For
if there be a Faith, from of old, it is this, as we often repeat, that no
Lie can live for ever. The very Truth has to change its vesture, from time
to time; and be born again. But all Lies have sentence of death written
down against them, and Heaven's Chancery itself; and, slowly or fast,
advance incessantly towards their hour. 'The sign of a Grand Seigneur
being landlord,' says the vehement plain-spoken Arthur Young, 'are wastes,
landes, deserts, ling:
go to his residence, you will find it in the middle
of a forest, peopled with deer, wild boars and wolves. The fields are
scenes of pitiable management, as the houses are of misery. To see so many
millions of hands, that would be industrious, all idle and starving: Oh,
if I were legislator of France, for one day, I would make these great lords
(Arthur Young, i. 12, 48, 84, etc.)
O Arthur, thou now
actually beholdest them skip: — wilt thou grow to grumble at that too?
The behavior of the landed nobility was the direct cause of the violence.
For long years and generations it lasted, but the time came. Featherbrain,
whom no reasoning and no pleading could touch, the glare of the firebrand
had to illuminate: there remained but that method. Consider it, look at
it! The widow is gathering nettles for her children's dinner; a perfumed
Seigneur, delicately lounging in the Œil-de-Bœuf, has an
he will extract from her the third nettle, and name it Rent and Law: such
an arrangement must end. Ought it? But, O most fearful is such an ending!
Let those, to whom God, in His great mercy, has granted time and space,
prepare another and milder one.
The revolution was inevitable. Carlyle hopes that others who can see such
a thing coming (he is referring to England) will take steps to escape it.
To some it is a matter of wonder that the Seigneurs did not do something
to help themselves; say, combine, and arm: for there were a 'hundred and
fifty thousand of them,' all violent enough. Unhappily, a hundred and
fifty thousand, scattered over wide Provinces, divided by mutual ill-will,
cannot combine. The highest Seigneurs, as we have seen, had already
emigrated, — with a view of putting France to the blush. Neither are arms
now the peculiar property of Seigneurs; but of every mortal who has ten
shillings, wherewith to buy a secondhand firelock.
The landed nobles have no hope of combining under arms. Nor would they
be likely to succeed if they did.
Besides, those starving Peasants, after all, have not four feet and claws,
that you could keep them down permanently in that manner. They are not
even of black colour; they are mere Unwashed Seigneurs; and a Seigneur too
has human bowels! — The Seigneurs did what they could; enrolled in National
Guards; fled, with shrieks, complaining to Heaven and Earth. One Seigneur,
famed Memmay of Quincey, near Vesoul, invited all the rustics of his
neighbourhood to a banquet; blew up his Château and them with gunpowder;
and instantaneously vanished, no man yet knows whither.
(Hist. Parl. ii. 161.)
Some half dozen years after, he came back; and demonstrated that it
was by accident.
There was little they could do: the peasants were acting like men.
Nor are the authorities idle: though unluckily, all Authorities,
Municipalities and such like, are in the uncertain transitionary state;
getting regenerated from old Monarchic to new Democratic; no Official yet
knows clearly what he is. Nevertheless, Mayors old or new do gather
National Guards, Troops of the line; justice, of the most
summary sort, is not wanting. The Electoral Committee of Mácon,
a Committee, goes the length of hanging, for its own behoof, as many as
twenty. The Prévôt of Dauphiné traverses the country
'with a movable
column,' with tipstaves, gallows-ropes; for gallows any tree will serve,
and suspend its culprit, or 'thirteen' culprits.
Some local authorities exercise summary justice on the most violent offenders.
Unhappy country! How is the fair gold-and-green of the ripe bright Year
defaced with horrid blackness: black ashes of Chateaus, black bodies of
gibetted Men! Industry has ceased in it; not sounds of the hammer and saw,
but of the tocsin and alarm-drum. The sceptre has departed, whither one
knows not; — breaking itself in pieces: here impotent, there tyrannous.
National Guards are unskilful, and of doubtful purpose; Soldiers are
inclined to mutiny: there is danger that they two may quarrel, danger that
they may agree. Strasburg has seen riots: a Townhall torn to shreds, its
archives scattered white on the winds; drunk soldiers embracing drunk
citizens for three days, and Mayor Dietrich and Marshal Rochambeau reduced
nigh to desperation.
(Arthur Young, i. 141. — Dampmartin: Evènemens
qui se sont passés sous mes yeux, i. 105-127.)
Economic activity has ceased everywhere and the destructive violence has spread
to some of the cities as well.
Through the middle of all which phenomena, is seen, on his triumphant
transit, 'escorted,' through Béfort for instance, 'by fifty National
Horsemen and all the military music of the place,' — M. Necker, returning
from Bâle! Glorious as the meridian; though poor Necker himself partly
guesses whither it is leading.
(Biographie Universelle, para Necker (by Lally-Tollendal).)
One highest culminating day, at the Paris Townhall;
with immortal vivats, with wife and daughter kneeling publicly to
hand; with Besenval's pardon granted, —
but indeed revoked before sunset:
one highest day, but then lower days, and ever lower, down even to lowest!
Such magic is in a name; and in the want of a name. Like some enchanted
Mambrino's Helmet, essential to victory, comes this 'Saviour of France;'
beshouted, becymballed by the world: —
alas, so soon, to be disenchanted, to
be pitched shamefully over the lists as a Barber's
wish to shew him' (in this ejected, Barber's-Bason state) to any man of
solidity, who were minded to have the soul burnt out of him, and become a
caput mortuum, by Ambition, unsuccessful or successful.
Necker returns, to public acclaim, but will never be able to accomplish
Another small phasis we add, and no more: how, in the Autumn months, our
sharp-tempered Arthur has been 'pestered for some days past,' by shot,
lead-drops and slugs, 'rattling five or six times into my chaise and about
my ears;' all the mob of the country gone out to kill game!
(Young, i. 176.)
It is even so. On the Cliffs of Dover, over all the Marches of
France, there appear, this autumn, two Signs on the Earth: emigrant
flights of French Seigneurs; emigrant winged flights of French Game!
Finished, one may say, or as good as finished, is the Preservation of
on this Earth; completed for endless Time. What part it had to play in the
History of Civilisation is played: plaudite; exeat! [Applause; exit!]
Hunting restrictions were particularly galling to hungry peasants and were
among the first feudal rules to be violated.
In this manner does Sansculottism blaze up, illustrating many things; —
producing, among the rest, as we saw, on the Fourth of August, that
semi-miraculous Night of Pentecost in the National Assembly; semi-miraculous,
which had its causes, and its effects. Feudalism is struck dead; not on
parchment only, and by ink; but in very fact, by fire; say, by
self-combustion. This conflagration of the South-East will abate; will be got
scattered, to the West, or elsewhither: extinguish it will not, till the
fuel be all done.
The abolishment of feudal rights by the National Assembly was irrelevant:
the rural populace steadily made them null and void.
No, Friends, this Revolution is not of the consolidating kind. Do not
fires, fevers, sown seeds, chemical mixtures, men, events; all embodiments
of Force that work in this miraculous Complex of Forces, named Universe,
go on growing, through their natural phases and developments, each
according to its kind; reach their height, reach their visible decline;
finally sink under, vanishing, and what we call die? They all grow; there
is nothing but what grows, and shoots forth into its special expansion, —
once give it leave to spring. Observe too that each grows with a rapidity
proportioned, in general, to the madness and unhealthiness there is in it:
slow regular growth, though this also ends in death, is what we name health
The fire is still too hot to be controlled. Carlyle implies that revolution is
just progress at a fevered pace.
which has prostrated Bastilles, which has got pike and
musket, and now goes burning Châteaus, passing resolutions and haranguing
under roof and sky, may be said to have sprung; and, by law of Nature, must
grow. To judge by the madness and diseasedness both of itself, and of the
soil and element it is in, one might expect the rapidity and monstrosity
would be extreme.
And the fever is high in the working classes.
Many things too, especially all diseased things, grow by shoots and fits.
The first grand fit and shooting forth of Sansculottism was that of Paris
conquering its King; for Bailly's figure of rhetoric was all-too sad a
reality. The King is conquered; going at large on his parole; on
condition, say, of absolutely good behaviour, — which, in these
circumstances, will unhappily mean no behaviour whatever. A quite
untenable position, that of Majesty put on its good behaviour! Alas, is it
not natural that whatever lives try to keep itself living? Whereupon his
Majesty's behaviour will soon become exceptionable; and so the Second grand
Fit of Sansculottism, that of putting him in durance, cannot be distant.
Continuing the analogy to disease, Carlyle sees outbreaks like July's in
Paris and the later arrest of the King as particularly virulent outbreaks.
Necker, in the National Assembly, is making moan, as usual about his
Deficit: Barriers and Customhouses burnt; the Tax-gatherer hunted, not
hunting; his Majesty's Exchequer all but empty. The remedy is a Loan of
thirty millions; then, on still more enticing terms, a Loan of eighty
millions: neither of which Loans, unhappily, will the Stockjobbers venture
to lend. The Stockjobber has no country, except his own black pool of
Agio [markup on the face-value of a share].
The nation-wide disruptions make tax-collection nearly impossible and lenders
consider loans to the monarchy very risky.
And yet, in those days, for men that have a country, what a glow of
patriotism burns in many a heart; penetrating inwards to the very purse!
So early as the 7th of August, a Don Patriotique, 'Patriotic Gift of
jewels to a considerable extent,' has been solemnly made by certain
Parisian women; and solemnly accepted, with honourable mention. Whom
forthwith all the world takes to imitating and emulating. Patriotic Gifts,
always with some heroic eloquence, which the President must answer and the
Assembly listen to, flow in from far and near: in such number that the
honourable mention can only be performed in 'lists published at stated
epochs.' Each gives what he can: the very cordwainers [shoe-makers]
munificently; one landed proprietor gives a forest; fashionable society
gives its shoebuckles, takes cheerfully to shoe-ties. Unfortunate females
give what they 'have amassed in loving.'
(Histoire Parlementaire, ii. 427.)
The smell of all cash, as Vespasian thought, is good.
Spontaeous patriotic donations flood in to the National Assembly.
Beautiful, and yet inadequate! The Clergy must be 'invited' to melt their
superfluous Church-plate, — in the Royal Mint. Nay finally, a Patriotic
Contribution, of the forcible sort, must be determined on, though
unwillingly: let the fourth part of your declared yearly revenue, for this
once only, be paid down; so shall a National Assembly make the
Constitution, undistracted at least by insolvency. Their own wages, as
settled on the 17th of August, are but Eighteen Francs a day, each man; but
the Public Service must have sinews, must have money. To appease the
Deficit; not to 'combler, or choke the Deficit,'
if you or mortal could!
For withal, as Mirabeau was heard saying, "it is the Deficit that saves
Additional revenue is raised by the forced pre-payment of taxes. It is not
in the interest of the National Assembly to eliminate the deficit, even if
Towards the end of August, our National Assembly in its constitutional
labours, has got so far as the question of Veto: shall Majesty have a Veto
on the National Enactments; or not have a Veto? What speeches were spoken,
within doors and without; clear, and also passionate logic; imprecations,
comminations; gone happily, for most part, to Limbo! Through the cracked
brain, and uncracked lungs of
the Palais Royal rebellows with
Veto. Journalism is busy, France rings with Veto. 'I shall never forget,'
'my going to Paris, one of these days, with Mirabeau; and the
crowd of people we found waiting for his carriage, about Le Jay the
Bookseller's shop. They flung themselves before him; conjuring him with
tears in their eyes not to suffer the Veto Absolu.
They were in a frenzy:
"Monsieur le Comte, you are the people's father; you must save us; you must
defend us against those villains who are bringing back Despotism. If the
King get this Veto, what is the use of National Assembly? We are slaves,
all is done."'
(Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, p. 156.)
Friends, if the sky
fall, there will be catching of larks! Mirabeau, adds Dumont, was eminent
on such occasions: he answered vaguely, with a Patrician imperturbability,
and bound himself to nothing.
The debate about the royal power over legislation begins. Does the king have
the right to void any law (the veto absolu)? Or may he only
delay the effect of laws (the veto suspensif)?
Deputations go to the Hôtel-de-Ville; anonymous Letters to Aristocrats in
the National Assembly, threatening that fifteen thousand, or sometimes that
sixty thousand, 'will march to illuminate you.' The Paris Districts are
astir; Petitions signing: Saint-Huruge sets forth from the Palais Royal,
with an escort of fifteen hundred individuals, to petition in person.
Resolute, or seemingly so, is the tall shaggy Marquis, is the Cafe de Foy:
but resolute also is Commandant-General Lafayette. The streets are all
beset by Patrols: Saint-Huruge is stopped at the Barrière
des Bon Hommes;
he may bellow like the bulls of Bashan; but absolutely must return. The
brethren of the Palais Royal 'circulate all night,' and make motions, under
the open canopy; all Coffee-houses being shut. Nevertheless Lafayette and
the Townhall do prevail: Saint-Huruge is thrown into prison;
adjusts itself into Suspensive Veto, prohibition not forever, but for a
term of time; and this doom's-clamour will grow silent, as the others have
Saint-Heruge leads a crowd of 1500 towards Versailles to protest veto
absolu but is turned back at the city limit by Lafayette and the national
So far has Consolidation prospered, though with difficulty; repressing the
Nether Sansculottic world; and the Constitution shall be made. With
difficulty: amid jubilee and scarcity; Patriotic Gifts, Bakers'-queues;
Abbé-Fauchet Harangues, with their Amen of platoon-musketry! Scipio
Americanus has deserved thanks from the National Assembly and France. They
offer him stipends and emoluments, to a handsome extent; all which stipends
and emoluments he, covetous of far other blessedness than mere money, does,
in his chivalrous way, without scruple, refuse.
For a few weeks it seems the lid may actually stay on the revolutionary
To the Parisian common man, meanwhile, one thing remains inconceivable:
that now when the Bastille is down, and French Liberty restored, grain
should continue so dear. Our Rights of Man are voted, Feudalism and all
Tyranny abolished; yet behold we stand in queue! Is it Aristocrat
forestallers; a Court still bent on intrigues? Something is rotten,
There is still a major source of discontent: the high price and scarcity
And yet, alas, what to do? Lafayette, with his Patrols prohibits every
thing, even complaint. Saint-Huruge and other heroes of the Veto lie in
durance. People's-Friend Marat was seized; Printers of Patriotic Journals
are fettered and forbidden; the very Hawkers cannot cry, till they get
license, and leaden badges. Blue National Guards ruthlessly dissipate all
groups; scour, with levelled bayonets, the Palais Royal itself. Pass, on
your affairs, along the Rue Taranne, the Patrol, presenting his bayonet,
cries, To the left! Turn into the Rue Saint-Benoit, he cries, To the
right! A judicious Patriot (like Camille Desmoulins, in this instance) is
driven, for quietness's sake, to take the gutter.
The suppression of unrest begins to look like oppression.
O much-suffering People, our glorious Revolution is evaporating in tricolor
ceremonies, and complimentary harangues! Of which latter, as Loustalot
acridly calculates, 'upwards of two thousand have been delivered within the
last month, at the Townhall alone.'
(Révolutions de Paris Newspaper (cited in Histoire Parlementaire,
And our mouths, unfilled with bread,
are to be shut, under penalties? The Caricaturist promulgates his
emblematic Tablature: Le Patrouillotisme chassant le Patriotisme,
Patriotism driven out by Patrollotism. Ruthless Patrols; long superfine
harangues; and scanty ill-baked loaves, more like baked Bath bricks, — which
produce an effect on the intestines!
Where will this end? In
The efforts of the bourgois and nobles in the Assembly begin to seem
ineffective in feeding the people.
For, alas, neither is the Townhall itself without misgivings. The Nether
Sansculottic world has been suppressed hitherto: but then the Upper
Court-world! Symptoms there are that the Œil-de-Bœuf is rallying.
More than once in the Townhall Sanhedrim; often enough, from those
outspoken Bakers'-queues, has the wish uttered itself: O that our Restorer
of French Liberty were here; that he could see with his own eyes, not with
the false eyes of Queens and Cabals, and his really good heart be
enlightened! For falsehood still environs him; intriguing Dukes de Guiche,
with Bodyguards; scouts of
a new flight of intriguers, now that
the old is flown. What else means this advent of the
Regiment de Flandre;
entering Versailles, as we hear, on the 23rd of September, with two pieces
of cannon? Did not the Versailles National Guard do duty at the
Had they not Swiss; Hundred Swiss; Gardes-du-Corps,
Nay, it would seem, the number of Bodyguards on duty has, by a manoeuvre,
been doubled: the new relieving Battalion of them arrived at its time; but
the old relieved one does not depart!
There is some agitation to bring the King to Paris. At the same time, he
has increased his military resources a Versailles.
Actually, there runs a whisper through the best informed Upper-Circles, or
a nod still more potentous than whispering, of his Majesty's flying to
Metz; of a Bond (to stand by him therein) which has been signed by Noblesse
and Clergy, to the incredible amount of thirty, or even of sixty thousand.
Lafayette coldly whispers it, and coldly asseverates it, to Count d'Estaing
at the Dinner-table; and d'Estaing, one of the bravest men, quakes to the
core lest some lackey overhear it; and tumbles thoughtful, without sleep,
(Brouillon de Lettre de M. d'Estaing à la Reine (in Histoire
Parlementaire, iii. 24.)
Regiment Flandre, as we said, is clearly arrived.
His Majesty, they say, hesitates about sanctioning the Fourth of August;
makes observations, of chilling tenor, on the very Rights of Man!
Likewise, may not all persons, the Bakers'-queues themselves discern on the
streets of Paris, the most astonishing number of Officers on furlough,
Crosses of St. Louis, and such like? Some reckon 'from a thousand to
twelve hundred.' Officers of all uniforms; nay one uniform never before
seen by eye: green faced with red! The tricolor cockade is not always
visible: but what, in the name of Heaven, may these black
some wear, foreshadow?
There are rumours the king will flee. Strange military uniforms are seen
Hunger whets everything, especially Suspicion and Indignation. Realities
themselves, in this Paris, have grown unreal: preternatural. Phantasms
once more stalk through the brain of hungry France. O ye laggards and
dastards, cry shrill voices from the Queues, if ye had the hearts of men,
ye would take your pikes and secondhand firelocks, and look into it; not
leave your wives and daughters to be starved, murdered, and worse!—Peace,
women! The heart of man is bitter and heavy; Patriotism, driven out by
Patrollotism, knows not what to resolve on.
Paris is suspicious of everything.
The truth is, the Œil-de-Bœuf has rallied;
to a certain unknown extent.
A changed Œil-de-Bœuf; with Versailles National Guards,
in their tricolor
cockades, doing duty there; a Court all flaring with tricolor! Yet even to
a tricolor Court men will rally. Ye loyal hearts, burnt-out Seigneurs,
rally round your Queen! With wishes; which will produce hopes; which will
The nobility becomes bolder in its support of the monarchy..
For indeed self-preservation being such a law of Nature, what can a rallied
Court do, but attempt and endeavour, or call it plot,—with such wisdom and
unwisdom as it has? They will fly, escorted, to Metz, where brave
commands; they will raise the Royal Standard: the Bond-signatures shall
become armed men. Were not the King so languid! Their Bond, if at all
signed, must be signed without his privity.—Unhappy King, he
has but one
resolution: not to have a civil war. For the rest, he still hunts, having
ceased lockmaking; he still dozes, and digests; is clay in the hands of the
potter. Ill will it fare with him, in a world where all is helping itself;
where, as has been written, 'whosoever is not hammer must be stithy;' and
'the very hyssop on the wall grows there, in that chink, because the whole
Universe could not prevent its growing!'
The King's indecision prevents positive action by the court.
But as for the coming up of this Regiment de Flandre, may it not be urged
that there were Saint-Huruge Petitions, and continual meal-mobs?
Undebauched Soldiers, be there plot, or only dim elements of a plot, are
always good. Did not the Versailles Municipality (an old Monarchic one,
not yet refounded into a Democratic) instantly second the proposal? Nay
the very Versailles National Guard, wearied with continual duty at the
Château, did not object;
only Draper Lecointre, who is now Major Lecointre,
shook his head.—Yes, Friends, surely it was natural this Regiment de
Flandre should be sent for, since it could be got. It was natural that, at
sight of military bandoleers, the heart of the rallied
revive; and Maids of Honour, and gentlemen of honour, speak comfortable
words to epauletted defenders, and to one another. Natural also, and mere
common civility, that the Bodyguards, a Regiment of Gentlemen, should
invite their Flandre brethren to a Dinner of welcome!—Such invitation, in
the last days of September, is given and accepted.
The Flanders Regiment is summoned to Versailles and is welcomed by the court
Dinners are defined as 'the ultimate act of communion;'
men that can have
communion in nothing else, can sympathetically eat together, can still rise
into some glow of brotherhood over food and wine. The dinner is fixed on,
for Thursday the First of October; and ought to have a fine effect.
Further, as such Dinner may be rather extensive, and even the
Noncommissioned and the Common man be introduced, to see and to hear, could
not His Majesty's Opera Apartment, which has lain quite silent ever since
Kaiser Joseph was here, be obtained for the purpose?—The Hall of the Opera
is granted; the Salon d'Hercule shall be drawingroom. Not only the
Officers of Flandre, but of the Swiss, of the Hundred Swiss, nay of the
Versailles National Guard, such of them as have any loyalty, shall feast:
it will be a Repast like few.
A military banquet for the officers of all the units now at Versailles is
arranged at the palace October 1.
And now suppose this Repast, the solid part of it, transacted; and the
first bottle over. Suppose the customary loyal toasts drunk; the King's
health, the Queen's with deafening vivats;—that of the Nation 'omitted,'
or even 'rejected.' Suppose champagne flowing; with pot-valorous speech,
with instrumental music; empty feathered heads growing ever the noisier, in
their own emptiness, in each other's noise! Her Majesty, who looks
unusually sad to-night (his Majesty sitting dulled with the day's hunting),
is told that the sight of it would cheer her. Behold! She enters there,
issuing from her State-rooms, like the Moon from the clouds, this fairest
unhappy Queen of Hearts; royal Husband by her side, young Dauphin in her
arms! She descends from the Boxes, amid splendour and acclaim; walks
queen-like, round the Tables; gracefully escorted, gracefully nodding; her
looks full of sorrow, yet of gratitude and daring, with the hope of France
on her mother-bosom! And now, the band striking up, O Richard, O mon Roi,
l'univers t'abandonne (O Richard, O my King, and world is all forsaking
thee)—could man do other than rise to height of pity, of loyal valour?
Could featherheaded young ensigns do other than, by white Bourbon
handed them from fair fingers; by waving of swords, drawn to pledge the
Queen's health; by trampling of National Cockades; by scaling the Boxes,
whence intrusive murmurs may come; by vociferation,
tripudiation [dancing], sound,
fury and distraction, within doors and without,—testify what tempest-tost
state of vacuity they are in? Till champagne and tripudiation do their
work; and all lie silent, horizontal; passively slumbering,
with meed-of-battle dreams!—
The banquet speeches are naturally pro-monarchy, especially after the queen
descends to walk among the officers.
A natural Repast, in ordinary times, a harmless one: now fatal, as that of
as that of Job's Sons,
when a strong wind smote the four corners
of their banquet-house! Poor ill-advised Marie-Antoinette; with a woman's
vehemence, not with a sovereign's foresight! It was so natural, yet so
unwise. Next day, in public speech of ceremony, her Majesty declares
herself 'delighted with the Thursday.'
These events will be interpreted unfavourably and fatally by the nation.
The heart of the Œil-de-Bœuf glows into hope; into daring, which is
premature. Rallied Maids of Honour, waited on by Abbés, sew 'white
cockades;' distribute them, with words, with glances, to epauletted youths;
who in return, may kiss, not without fervour, the fair sewing fingers.
Captains of horse and foot go swashing with 'enormous white cockades;' nay
one Versailles National Captain had mounted the like, so witching were the
words and glances; and laid aside his tricolor! Well may Major Lecointre
shake his head with a look of severity; and speak audible resentful words.
But now a swashbuckler, with enormous white cockade, overhearing the Major,
invites him insolently, once and then again elsewhere, to recant; and
failing that, to duel. Which latter feat Major Lecointre declares that he
will not perform, not at least by any known laws of fence; that he
nevertheless will, according to mere law of Nature, by dirk and blade,
'exterminate' any 'vile gladiator,' who may insult him or the Nation; —
whereupon (for the Major is actually drawing his implement) 'they are
parted,' and no weasands [gizzards] slit.
(Moniteur (in Histoire Parlementaire, iii.
59); Deux Amis (iii. 128-141); Campan (ii. 70-85), etc. etc.)
Some officers replace patriotic red-white-blue cockades with monarchical
If Voltaire once, in splenetic humour, asked his countrymen: "But you,
Gualches, what have you invented?" they can now answer: The Art of
Insurrection. It was an art needed in these last singular times: an art,
for which the French nature, so full of vehemence, so free from depth, was
perhaps of all others the fittest.
Carlyle thinks the French are by nature subject to rising up.
Accordingly, to what a height, one may well say of perfection, has this
branch of human industry been carried by France, within the last half-century!
Insurrection, which, Lafayette thought, might be 'the most sacred
of duties,' ranks now, for the French people, among the duties which they
can perform. Other mobs are dull masses; which roll onwards with a dull
fierce tenacity, a dull fierce heat, but emit no light-flashes of genius as
they go. The French mob, again, is among the liveliest phenomena of our
world. So rapid, audacious; so clear-sighted, inventive, prompt to seize
the moment; instinct with life to its finger-ends! That talent, were there
no other, of spontaneously standing in queue, distinguishes, as we said,
the French People from all Peoples, ancient and modern.
He believes they have the sense of drama and timing to bring off great
theatrical gestures en masse.
Let the Reader confess too that, taking one thing with another, perhaps few
terrestrial Appearances are better worth considering than mobs. Your mob
is a genuine outburst of Nature; issuing from, or communicating with, the
deepest deep of Nature. When so much goes grinning and grimacing as a
lifeless Formality, and under the stiff buckram no heart can be felt
beating, here once more, if nowhere else, is a Sincerity and Reality.
Shudder at it; or even shriek over it, if thou must; nevertheless consider
it. Such a Complex of human Forces and Individualities hurled forth, in
their transcendental mood, to act and react, on circumstances and on one
another; to work out what it is in them to work. The thing they will do is
known to no man; least of all to themselves. It is the inflammablest
immeasurable Fire-work, generating, consuming itself. With what phases, to
what extent, with what results it will burn off, Philosophy and
Perspicacity conjecture in vain.
Carlyle inserts an aside on the nature of mobs.
'Man,' as has been written, 'is for ever interesting to man; nay properly
there is nothing else interesting.' In which light also, may we not
discern why most Battles have become so wearisome? Battles, in these ages,
are transacted by mechanism; with the slightest possible development of
human individuality or spontaneity: men now even die, and kill one
another, in an artificial manner. Battles ever since Homer's time, when
they were Fighting Mobs, have mostly ceased to be worth looking at, worth
reading of, or remembering. How many wearisome bloody Battles does History
strive to represent; or even, in a husky way, to sing: — and she would omit
or carelessly slur-over this one Insurrection of Women?
Carlyle finds the Women's March interesting because its motivation and
execution are so human.
A thought, or dim raw-material of a thought, was fermenting all night,
universally in the female head, and might explode. In squalid garret, on
Monday morning, Maternity awakes, to hear children weeping for bread.
Maternity must forth to the streets, to the herb-markets and
Bakers'-queues; meets there with hunger-stricken Maternity, sympathetic,
exasperative. O we unhappy women! But, instead of Bakers'-queues, why not
to Aristocrats' palaces, the root of the matter? Allons! Let us assemble.
To the Hôtel-de-Ville; to Versailles; to the Lanterne!
The decision to march to Versailles is apparently spontaneous.
In one of the Guardhouses of the Quartier Saint-Eustache, 'a young woman'
seizes a drum, — for how shall National Guards give fire on women, on a
young woman? The young woman seizes the drum; sets forth, beating it,
'uttering cries relative to the dearth of grains.' Descend, O mothers;
descend, ye Judiths?,
to food and revenge! — All women gather and go; crowds
storm all stairs, force out all women: the female Insurrectionary Force,
according to Camille, resembles the English Naval one; there is a universal
'Press of women.' Robust Dames of the Halle, slim Mantua-makers,
assiduous, risen with the dawn; ancient Virginity tripping to matins; the
Housemaid, with early broom; all must go. Rouse ye, O women; the laggard
men will not act; they say, we ourselves may act!
Women urge each other to come out into the streets and march to the city hall.
And so, like snowbreak from the mountains, for every staircase is a melted
brook, it storms; tumultuous, wild-shrilling, towards the
Hôtel-de-Ville. Tumultuous, with or without drum-music:
for the Faubourg Saint-Antoine
also has tucked up its gown; and, with besom-staves [broom sticks],
fire-irons, and even
rusty pistols (void of ammunition), is flowing on. Sound of it flies, with
a velocity of sound, to the outmost Barriers. By seven o'clock, on this
raw October morning, fifth of the month, the Townhall will see wonders.
Nay, as chance would have it, a male party are already there; clustering
tumultuously round some National Patrol, and a Baker who has been seized
with short weights. They are there; and have even lowered the rope of the
Lanterne. So that the official persons have to smuggle forth the
short-weighing Baker by back doors, and even send 'to all the Districts' for more
The women arrive at the city hall to find a small riot already in progress.
Grand it was, says Camille, to see so many Judiths, from eight to ten
thousand of them in all, rushing out to search into the root of the matter!
Not unfrightful it must have been; ludicro-terrific, and most unmanageable.
At such hour the overwatched Three Hundred are not yet stirring: none but
some Clerks, a company of National Guards; and M. de Gouvion, the Major-
general. Gouvion has fought in America for the cause of civil Liberty; a
man of no inconsiderable heart, but deficient in head. He is, for the
moment, in his back apartment; assuaging Usher
Bastille-serjeant, who has come, as too many do, with 'representations.' The
assuagement is still incomplete when our Judiths arrive.
Also at the city hall that early morning was Stanislaus Maillard,
bearing complaints lodged by
the volunteer forces at the Bastille.
The National Guards form on the outer stairs, with levelled bayonets; the
ten thousand Judiths press up, resistless; with obtestations, with
outspread hands, — merely to speak to the Mayor. The rear forces them; nay,
from male hands in the rear, stones already fly: the National Guards must
do one of two things; sweep the Place de Grève with cannon,
or else open to
right and left. They open; the living deluge rushes in. Through all rooms
and cabinets, upwards to the topmost belfry: ravenous; seeking arms,
seeking Mayors, seeking justice; — while, again, the better-dressed
speak kindly to the Clerks; point out the misery of these poor
women; also their ailments, some even of an interesting sort.
(Deux Amis, iii. 141-166.)
The National Guard are unwilling to use force to keep the women out.
Poor M. de Gouvion is shiftless in this extremity; — a man shiftless,
perturbed; who will one day commit suicide. How happy for him that Usher
Maillard, the shifty, was there, at the moment, though making
representations! Fly back, thou shifty Maillard; seek the Bastille
Company; and O return fast with it; above all, with thy own shifty head!
For, behold, the Judiths can find no Mayor or Municipal; scarcely, in the
topmost belfry, can they find poor Abbé Lefevre the Powder-distributor.
Him, for want of a better, they suspend there; in the pale morning light;
over the top of all Paris, which swims in one's failing eyes: — a horrible
end? Nay, the rope broke, as French ropes often did; or else an Amazon cut
it. Abbé Lefevre falls, some twenty feet, rattling among the leads; and
lives long years after, though always with 'a tremblement
in the limbs.'
(Dusaulx, Prise de la Bastille (note, p. 281.).)
The women are ready to do violence, even to the old priest Lefevre.
And now doors fly under hatchets; the Judiths have broken the Armoury; have
seized guns and cannons, three money-bags, paper-heaps; torches flare: in
few minutes, our brave Hôtel-de-Ville which dates from the Fourth Henry,
will, with all that it holds, be in flames!
The woman loot the building and consider setting it afire.
In flames, truly, — were it not that Usher Maillard, swift of foot, shifty
of head, has returned!
Captain Maillard seizes control of the situation.
Maillard, of his own motion, for Gouvion or the rest would not even
sanction him, — snatches a drum; descends the Porch-stairs, ran-tan, beating
sharp, with loud rolls, his Rogues'-march: To Versailles! Allons; à
Versailles! As men beat on kettle or warmingpan, when angry she-bees, or
say, flying desperate wasps, are to be hived; and the desperate insects
hear it, and cluster round it, — simply as round a guidance,
where there was
none: so now these Menads round shifty Maillard, Riding-Usher of the
The axe pauses uplifted; Abbé Lefevre is left half-hanged; from
the belfry downwards all vomits itself. What rub-a-dub is that? Stanislas
Maillard, Bastille-hero, will lead us to Versailles? Joy to thee,
Maillard; blessed art thou above Riding-Ushers! Away then, away!
He leads the women away from the City Hall, but finds himself nominated to
lead them to Versailles.
The seized cannon are yoked with seized cart-horses: brown-locked
with pike and helmet, sits there as gunneress, 'with
haughty eye and serene fair countenance;' comparable, some think, to the
Maid of Orleans, or even recalling 'the idea of Pallas Athene.'
(Deux Amis, iii. 157.)
Maillard (for his drum still rolls) is, by heaven-rending
acclamation, admitted General. Maillard hastens the languid march.
Maillard, beating rhythmic, with sharp ran-tan, all along the Quais, leads
forward, with difficulty his
Such a host — marched not in
silence! The bargeman pauses on the River; all wagoners and coachdrivers
fly; men peer from windows, — not women, lest they be pressed. Sight of
sights: Bacchantes, in these ultimate Formalized Ages! Bronze Henri looks
on, from his Pont-Neuf; the Monarchic Louvre, Medicean Tuileries see a day
not theretofore seen.
Their parade through central Paris creates surprise and consternation.
And now Maillard has his Menads in the Champs Elysees (Fields Tartarean
rather); and the Hôtel-de-Ville has suffered comparatively nothing.
doors; an Abbé Lefevre, who shall never more distribute powder;
of money, most part of which (for Sansculottism, though famishing, is not
without honour) shall be returned:
(Hist. Parl. iii. 310.)
this is all the
damage. Great Maillard! A small nucleus of Order is round his drum; but
his outskirts fluctuate like the mad Ocean: for Rascality male and female
is flowing in on him, from the four winds; guidance there is none but in
his single head and two drumsticks.
Having saved the city hall, Maillard has a tiger by the tail.
O Maillard, when, since War first was, had General of Force such a task
before him, as thou this day?
Walter the Penniless?
still touches the
feeling heart: but then Walter had sanction; had space to turn in; and
also his Crusaders were of the male sex. Thou, this day, disowned of
Heaven and Earth, art General of Menads. Their inarticulate frenzy thou
must on the spur of the instant, render into articulate words, into actions
that are not frantic. Fail in it, this way or that! Pragmatical
Officiality, with its penalties and law-books, waits before thee; Menads
storm behind. If such hewed off the melodious head of Orpheus, and hurled
it into the Peneus waters, what may they not make of thee, — thee rhythmic
merely, with no music but a sheepskin drum! — Maillard did not fail.
Remarkable Maillard, if fame were not an accident, and History a
distillation of Rumour, how remarkable wert thou!
Maillard is in danger if he does not do the right thing.
On the Elysian Fields, there is pause and fluctuation; but, for Maillard,
no return. He persuades his Menads, clamorous for arms and the Arsenal,
that no arms are in the Arsenal; that an unarmed attitude, and petition to
a National Assembly, will be the best: he hastily nominates or sanctions
generalesses, captains of tens and fifties; — and so, in loosest-flowing
order, to the rhythm of some 'eight drums' (having laid aside his own),
with the Bastille Volunteers bringing up his rear, once more takes the
There is nothing Maillard can do but to continue leading the women toward
Chaillot, which will promptly yield baked loaves, is not plundered; nor are
the Sèvres Potteries broken.
The old arches of Sèvres Bridge echo under
Menadic feet; Seine River gushes on with his perpetual murmur; and Paris
flings after us the boom of tocsin and alarm-drum, — inaudible, for the
present, amid shrill-sounding hosts, and the splash of rainy weather. To
Meudon, to Saint Cloud, on both hands, the report of them is gone abroad;
and hearths, this evening, will have a topic. The press of women still
continues, for it is the cause of all Eve's Daughters, mothers that are, or
that hope to be. No carriage-lady, were it with never such hysterics, but
must dismount, in the mud roads, in her silk shoes, and walk.
(Deux Amis, iii. 159.)
In this manner, amid wild October weather, they, a wild unwinged
stork-flight, through the astonished country, wend their way. Travellers
of all sorts they stop; especially travellers or couriers from Paris.
in his elegant vesture, from his elegant vehicle, looks
forth amazed through his spectacles; apprehensive for life; — states eagerly
that he is Patriot-Deputy Lechapelier, and even Old-President Lechapelier,
who presided on the Night of Pentecost, and is original member of the
Breton Club. Thereupon 'rises huge shout of Vive Lechapelier,
armed persons spring up behind and before to escort him.'
(Ibid. iii. 177; Dictionnaire des Hommes Marquans, ii. 379.)
The women proceed down the Right Bank through Chaillot, crossing the Seine
Nevertheless, news, despatches from Lafayette, or vague noise of rumour,
have pierced through, by side roads. In the National Assembly, while all
is busy discussing the order of the day; regretting that there should be
Anti-national Repasts in Opera-Halls; that his Majesty should still
hesitate about accepting the Rights of Man, and hang conditions and
peradventures on them, — Mirabeau steps up to the President, experienced
Mounier as it chanced to be; and articulates, in bass under-tone:
"Mounier, Paris marche sur nous (Paris is marching on us)."—"May be
n'en sais rien)!"—"Believe it or disbelieve it, that is not my concern;
but Paris, I say, is marching on us. Fall suddenly unwell; go over to the
Cháteau; tell them this.
There is not a moment to lose."
— "Paris marching
on us?" responds Mounier, with an atrabiliar [irritated]
accent: "Well, so much the
better! We shall the sooner be a Republic." Mirabeau quits him, as one
quits an experienced President getting blindfold into deep waters; and the
order of the day continues as before.
News of the advancing mob reaches Versailles.
Yes, Paris is marching on us; and more than the women of Paris! Scarcely
was Maillard gone, when M. de Gouvion's message to all the Districts, and
such tocsin and drumming of the générale,
began to take effect. Armed
National Guards from every District; especially the Grenadiers of the
Centre, who are our old Gardes Françaises, arrive, in quick sequence, on
the Place de Grève. An 'immense people' is there;
Saint-Antoine, with pike
and rusty firelock, is all crowding thither, be it welcome or unwelcome.
The Centre Grenadiers are received with cheering: "it is not cheers that
we want," answer they gloomily; "the nation has been insulted; to arms, and
come with us for orders!" Ha, sits the wind so? Patriotism and
Patrollotism are now one!
Another more organized crowd has gathered after the women's departure.
The Three Hundred have assembled; 'all the Committees are in activity;'
Lafayette is dictating despatches for Versailles, when a Deputation of the
Centre Grenadiers introduces itself to him. The Deputation makes military
obeisance; and thus speaks, not without a kind of thought in it: "Mon
we are deputed by the Six Companies of Grenadiers. We do not
think you a traitor, but we think the Government betrays you; it is time
that this end. We cannot turn our bayonets against women crying to us for
bread. The people are miserable, the source of the mischief is at
Versailles: we must go seek the King, and bring him to Paris. We must
exterminate (exterminer) the Regiment de Flandre and the
who have dared to trample on the National Cockade. If the King be too weak
to wear his crown, let him lay it down. You will crown his Son, you will
name a Council of Regency; and all will go better."
(Deux Amis, iii. 161.)
Reproachful astonishment paints itself on the face of Lafayette; speaks
itself from his eloquent chivalrous lips: in vain. "My General, we would
shed the last drop of our blood for you; but the root of the mischief is at
Versailles; we must go and bring the King to Paris; all the people wish it,
tout le peuple le veut."
Lafayette, though steady in his loyalty to the King, is under pressure to
lead, or allow, the forceful removal of the royal family to Paris.
My General descends to the outer staircase; and harangues: once more in
vain. "To Versailles! To Versailles!" Mayor Bailly, sent for through
floods of Sansculottism, attempts academic oratory from his gilt
state-coach; realizes nothing but infinite hoarse cries of: "Bread! To
Versailles!" — and gladly shrinks within doors. Lafayette mounts the white
charger; and again harangues and reharangues: with eloquence, with
firmness, indignant demonstration; with all things but persuasion. "To
Versailles! To Versailles!" So lasts it, hour after hour; for the space
of half a day.
The voices of Bailly and Lafayette no longer can control the mob.
The great Scipio Americanus can do nothing; not so much as escape.
"Morbleu, mon Géneral," cry the Grenadiers serrying their ranks as the
white charger makes a motion that way, "You will not leave us, you will
abide with us!" A perilous juncture: Mayor Bailly and the Municipals sit
quaking within doors; My General is prisoner without:
the Place de Grève,
with its thirty thousand Regulars, its whole irregular Saint-Antoine and
Saint-Marceau, is one minatory [ominous] mass of clear or rusty steel;
set, with a moody fixedness, on one object. Moody, fixed are all hearts:
tranquil is no heart, — if it be not that of the white charger, who paws
there, with arched neck, composedly champing his bit; as if no world, with
its Dynasties and Eras, were now rushing down. The drizzly day tends
westward; the cry is still: "To Versailles!"
The de facto central government of Paris, in place since July,
is paralyzed by the mob.
Nay now, borne from afar, come quite sinister cries; hoarse, reverberating
in longdrawn hollow murmurs, with syllables too like those of
else, irregular Sansculottism may be marching off, of itself; with pikes,
nay with cannon. The inflexible Scipio does at length, by aide-de-camp,
ask of the Municipals: Whether or not he may go? A Letter is handed out
to him, over armed heads; sixty thousand faces flash fixedly on his, there
is stillness and no bosom breathes, till he have read. By Heaven, he grows
suddenly pale! Do the Municipals permit? 'Permit and even order,' — since
he can no other. Clangour of approval rends the welkin. To your ranks,
then; let us march!
Like Maillard, Lafayette has no choice but to lead a mob — albeit
this one uniformed — to Versailles.
It is, as we compute, towards three in the afternoon. Indignant National
Guards may dine for once from their haversack: dined or undined, they
march with one heart. Paris flings up her windows, claps hands, as the
Avengers, with their shrilling drums and shalms [pipes]
tramp by; she will then sit
pensive, apprehensive, and pass rather a sleepless night.
(Deux Amis, iii. 165.)
On the white charger, Lafayette, in the slowest possible manner,
going and coming, and eloquently haranguing among the ranks, rolls onward
with his thirty thousand. Saint-Antoine, with pike and cannon, has
preceded him; a mixed multitude, of all and of no arms, hovers on his
flanks and skirts; the country once more pauses agape: Paris marche sur
The troops — 3 companies of Grenadiers, others of the National Guard and local militia,
along with about 1000 unorganized civilians — sets out on the long
march to Versailles.
For, indeed, about this same moment, Maillard has halted his draggled
Menads on the last hill-top; and now Versailles, and the Château of
Versailles, and far and wide the inheritance of Royalty opens to the
wondering eye. From far on the right, over Marly and
Saint-Germains-en-Laye; round towards Rambouillet, on the left:
beautiful all; softly
embosomed; as if in sadness, in the dim moist weather! And near before us
is Versailles, New and Old; with that broad frondent [leafy]
Avenue de Versailles
between, — stately-frondent, broad, three hundred feet as men reckon,
with four Rows of Elms; and then the Château de Versailles,
ending in royal
Parks and Pleasances, gleaming lakelets, arbours, Labyrinths, the
Menagerie, and Great and
High-towered dwellings, leafy
pleasant places; where the gods of this lower world abide: whence,
nevertheless, black Care cannot be excluded; whither Menadic Hunger is even
now advancing, armed with pike-thyrsi!
The women behind Maillard approach Versailles.
Yes, yonder, Mesdames, where our straight frondent Avenue, joined, as you
note, by Two frondent brother Avenues from this hand and from that, spreads
out into Place Royale and Palace Forecourt; yonder is the
Salle des Menus.
Yonder an august Assembly sits regenerating France. Forecourt, Grand
Court, Court of Marble, Court narrowing into Court you may discern next, or
fancy: on the extreme verge of which that glass-dome, visibly glittering
like a star of hope, is the — Œil-de-Bœuf!
Yonder, or nowhere in the
world, is bread baked for us. But, O Mesdames, were not one thing good:
That our cannons, with Demoiselle Théroigne and all show of war,
be put to
the rear? Submission beseems petitioners of a National Assembly; we are
strangers in Versailles, — whence,
too audibly, there comes even now sound
as of tocsin and générale!
Also to put on, if possible, a cheerful
countenance, hiding our sorrows; and even to sing? Sorrow, pitied of the
Heavens, is hateful, suspicious to the Earth. — So
counsels shifty Maillard;
haranguing his Menads, on the heights near Versailles.
(See Hist. Parl. iii. 70-117; Deux Amis, iii. 166-177, etc.)
Maillard convinces the women to move the cannon to the rear and present
a less threatening front.
Cunning Maillard's dispositions are obeyed. The draggled Insurrectionists
advance up the Avenue, 'in three columns, among the four Elm-rows; 'singing
Henri Quatre,' with what melody they can; and shouting
Vive le Roi.
Versailles, though the Elm-rows are dripping wet, crowds from both sides,
with: "Vivent nos Parisiennes, Our Paris ones for ever!"
The women, drenched and bedraggled, enter Versailles in good order.
Prickers, scouts have been out towards Paris, as the rumour deepened:
whereby his Majesty, gone to shoot in the Woods of Meudon, has been happily
discovered, and got home; and the générale
and tocsin set a-sounding. The
Bodyguards are already drawn up in front of the Palace Grates; and look
down the Avenue de Versailles; sulky, in wet buckskins. Flandre too is
there, repentant of the Opera-Repast. Also Dragoons dismounted are there.
and what he can gather of the Versailles National
Guard; though, it is to be observed, our Colonel, that same sleepless Count
giving neither order nor ammunition, has vanished most
improperly; one supposes, into the Œil-de-Bœuf.
Red-coated Swiss stand
within the Grates, under arms. There likewise, in their inner room, 'all
and the rest, are
assembled with M. Necker: they sit with him there; blank, expecting what
the hour will bring.
Though there was advance notice, little preparation is done in Versailles.
President Mounier, though he answered Mirabeau with a tant
mieux [so much the better], and
affected to slight the matter, had his own forebodings. Surely, for these
four weary hours, he has reclined not on roses! The order of the day is
getting forward: a Deputation to his Majesty seems proper, that it might
please him to grant 'Acceptance pure and simple' to those
Constitution-Articles of ours;
the 'mixed qualified Acceptance,' with its peradventures,
is satisfactory to neither gods nor men.
The National Assembly is more concerned with getting the approval of the King
for the new constitution.
So much is clear. And yet there is more, which no man speaks, which all
men now vaguely understand. Disquietude, absence of mind is on every face;
Members whisper, uneasily come and go: the order of the day is evidently
not the day's want. Till at length, from the outer gates, is heard a
rustling and justling, shrill uproar and squabbling, muffled by walls;
which testifies that the hour is come! Rushing and crushing one hears now;
then enter Usher Maillard, with a Deputation of Fifteen muddy dripping
Women, — having by incredible industry, and aid of all the macers,
the rest to wait out of doors. National Assembly shall now, therefore,
look its august task directly in the face: regenerative Constitutionalism
has an unregenerate Sansculottism bodily in front of it; crying, "Bread!
The women wait on the Assembly. Constitution-making is confronted by
Shifty Maillard, translating frenzy into articulation; repressive with the
one hand, expostulative with the other, does his best; and really, though
not bred to public speaking, manages rather well: — In the
rarity of grains, a Deputation of Female Citizens has, as the august
Assembly can discern, come out from Paris to petition. Plots of
Aristocrats are too evident in the matter; for example, one miller has been
bribed 'by a banknote of 200 livres' not to grind, — name unknown to the
Usher, but fact provable, at least indubitable. Further, it seems, the
National Cockade has been trampled on; also there are Black Cockades, or
were. All which things will not an august National Assembly, the hope of
France, take into its wise immediate consideration?
Maillard addresses the Assembly on behalf of the women.
And Menadic Hunger, impressible, crying "Black Cockades," crying "Bread,
Bread," adds, after such fashion: Will it not? — Yes, Messieurs, if a
Deputation to his Majesty, for the 'Acceptance pure and simple,' seemed
proper, — how much more now, for 'the afflicting situation of Paris;' for
the calming of this effervescence! President Mounier, with a speedy
Deputation, among whom we notice the respectable figure of Doctor
Guillotin, gets himself forthwith on march. Vice-President shall continue
the order of the day; Usher Maillard shall stay by him to repress the
women. It is four o'clock, of the miserablest afternoon, when Mounier
The Assembly agrees to send a deputation to the King to deal with the
O experienced Mounier, what an afternoon; the last of thy political
existence! Better had it been to 'fall suddenly unwell,' while it was yet
time. For, behold, the Esplanade, over all its spacious expanse, is
covered with groups of squalid dripping Women; of lankhaired male
Rascality, armed with axes, rusty pikes, old muskets, ironshod clubs (baton
ferrés, which end in knives or sword-blades, a kind of extempore
billhook); — looking nothing but hungry revolt.
The rain pours: Gardes-du-Corps go caracoling through the groups
'amid hisses;' irritating and
agitating what is but dispersed here to reunite there.
The drenched mob is an ominous sight.
Innumerable squalid women beleaguer the President and Deputation; insist on
going with him: has not his Majesty himself, looking from the window, sent
out to ask, What we wanted? "Bread and speech with the King (Du pain, et
parler au Roi)," that was the answer. Twelve women are clamorously added
to the Deputation; and march with it, across the Esplanade; through
dissipated groups, caracoling Bodyguards, and the pouring rain.
The women demand and get representation in the deputation.
President Mounier, unexpectedly augmented by Twelve Women, copiously
escorted by Hunger and Rascality, is himself mistaken for a group: himself
and his Women are dispersed by caracolers; rally again with difficulty,
among the mud.
(Mounier, Exposé Justificatif (cited in Deux Amis, iii. 185).)
Finally the Grates are opened: the Deputation gets access, with
the Twelve Women too in it; of which latter, Five shall even see the face
of his Majesty. Let wet Menadism, in the best spirits it can, expect their
With difficulty, the deputation makes its way to the palace.
But already Pallas Athene (in the shape of Demoiselle
with Flandre and the dismounted Dragoons. She, and such women as are
fittest, go through the ranks; speak with an earnest jocosity; clasp rough
troopers to their patriot bosom, crush down
and musketoons [military longarms] with
soft arms: can a man, that were worthy of the name of man, attack
famishing patriot women?
The Versailles garrison are not inclined to oppose women.
One reads that Théroigne had bags of money, which she distributed over
Flandre: — furnished by whom? Alas, with money-bags one seldom sits on
insurrectionary cannon. Calumnious Royalism! Théroigne had only the
limited earnings of her profession of unfortunate-female; money she had
not, but brown locks, the figure of a heathen Goddess, and an eloquent
tongue and heart.
Bribery was not available and not needed.
Meanwhile, Saint-Antoine, in groups and troops, is continually arriving;
wetted, sulky; with pikes and impromptu billhooks: driven thus far by
popular fixed-idea. So many hirsute figures driven hither, in that manner:
figures that have come to do they know not what; figures that have come to
see it done! Distinguished among all figures, who is this, of gaunt
stature, with leaden breastplate, though a small one;
(See Weber, ii. 185-231.)
bushy in red grizzled locks; nay, with long tile-beard? It is
unjust dealer in mules; a dealer no longer, but a Painter's
Model, playing truant this day. From the necessities of Art comes his
long tile-beard; whence his leaden breastplate (unless indeed he were some
Hawker licensed by leaden badge) may have come, — will perhaps remain for
ever a Historical Problem. Another Saul among the people we discern:
'Pére Adam, Father Adam,' as the groups name him;
to us better known as
hero of the Veto; a man that has had
losses, and deserved them. The tall Marquis, emitted some days ago from
limbo, looks peripatetically on this scene, from under his umbrella, not
without interest. All which persons and things, hurled together as we see;
Pallas Athene, busy with Flandre; patriotic Versailles National Guards,
short of ammunition, and deserted by d'Estaing their Colonel, and commanded
by Lecointre their Major; then caracoling Bodyguards, sour, dispirited,
with their buckskins wet; and finally this flowing sea of indignant
Squalor, — may they not give rise to occurrences?
The scene at Versailles involved many of the notable, if not ultimately
important, people and elements of the revolution.
Behold, however, the Twelve She-deputies return from the Château.
President Mounier, indeed; but radiant with joy, shouting "Life to the King
and his House." Apparently the news are good, Mesdames? News of the best!
Five of us were admitted to the internal splendours, to the Royal Presence.
This slim damsel, 'Louison Chabray, worker in sculpture, aged only
seventeen,' as being of the best looks and address, her we appointed
speaker. On whom, and indeed on all of us, his Majesty looked nothing but
graciousness. Nay, when Louison, addressing him, was like to faint, he
took her in his royal arms; and said gallantly, "It was well worth while
(Elle en valut bien la peine)." Consider, O women, what a King!
were of comfort, and that only: there shall be provision sent to Paris, if
provision is in the world; grains shall circulate free as air; millers
shall grind, or do worse, while their millstones endure; and nothing be
left wrong which a Restorer of French Liberty can right.
The women admitted to the King are awed by him and his general reassurances.
Good news these; but, to wet Menads, all too incredible! There seems no
proof, then? Words of comfort are words only;
which will feed nothing. O
miserable people, betrayed by Aristocrats, who corrupt thy very messengers!
In his royal arms, Mademoiselle Louison? In his arms? Thou shameless
minx, worthy of a name — that shall be nameless! Yes, thy skin is soft:
ours is rough with hardship; and well wetted, waiting here in the rain. No
children hast thou hungry at home; only alabaster dolls, that weep not!
The traitress! To the Lanterne! — And so poor Louison Chabray, no
asseveration or shrieks availing her, fair slim damsel, late in the arms of
Royalty, has a garter round her neck, and furibund Amazons at each end; is
about to perish so, — when two Bodyguards gallop up, indignantly
dissipating; and rescue her. The miscredited Twelve hasten back to the
Château, for an 'answer in writing.'
The bedraggled outside are not to be charmed. They nearly execute the
Nay, behold, a new flight of Menads, with 'M. Brunout Bastille Volunteer,'
as impressed-commandant, at the head of it. These also will advance to the
Grate of the Grand Court, and see what is toward. Human patience, in wet
buckskins, has its limits. Bodyguard Lieutenant, M. de Savonnières, for
one moment, lets his temper, long provoked, long pent, give way. He not
only dissipates these latter Menads; but caracoles and cuts, or indignantly
flourishes, at M. Brunout, the impressed-commandant; and, finding great
relief in it, even chases him; Brunout flying nimbly, though in a pirouette
manner, and now with sword also drawn. At which sight of wrath and victory
two other Bodyguards (for wrath is contagious, and to pent Bodyguards is so
solacing) do likewise give way; give chase, with brandished sabre, and in
the air make horrid circles. So that poor Brunout has nothing for it but
to retreat with accelerated nimbleness, through rank after rank;
Parthian-like, fencing as he flies; above all, shouting lustily,
"On nous laisse
assassiner, They are getting us assassinated?"
A second group of woman, who had taken the southern route to Versailles,
arrive, increasing tensions.
Shameful! Three against one! Growls come from the Lecointrian ranks;
bellowings, — lastly shots. Savonnieres' arm is raised to strike: the
bullet of a Lecointrian musket shatters it; the brandished sabre jingles
down harmless. Brunout has escaped, this duel well ended: but the wild
howl of war is everywhere beginning to pipe!
The National Guard of Versailles intervenes when royal Body Guards attack
The Amazons recoil; Saint-Antoine has its cannon pointed (full of
grapeshot); thrice applies the lit flambeau; which thrice refuses to
catch, — the touchholes are so wetted; and voices cry:
"Arretez, il n'est
pas temps encore, Stop, it is not yet time!"
(Deux Amis, iii. 192-201.)
Messieurs of the Garde-du-Corps, ye had orders not to fire; nevertheless
two of you limp dismounted, and one war-horse lies slain. Were it not well
to draw back out of shot-range; finally to file off, —
into the interior?
If in so filing off, there did a musketoon or two discharge itself, at
these armed shopkeepers, hooting and crowing, could man wonder? Draggled
are your white cockades of an enormous size; would to Heaven they were got
exchanged for tricolor ones! Your buckskins are wet, your hearts heavy.
Go, and return not!
The bodyguard is withdrawn into the palace grounds.
The Bodyguards file off, as we hint; giving and receiving shots; drawing no
life-blood; leaving boundless indignation. Some three times in the
thickening dusk, a glimpse of them is seen, at this or the other Portal:
saluted always with execrations, with the whew of lead. Let but a
Bodyguard shew face, he is hunted by Rascality; — for instance,
poor 'M. de
Moucheton of the Scotch Company,' owner of the slain war-horse; and has to
be smuggled off by Versailles Captains. Or rusty firelocks belch after
him, shivering asunder his — hat. In the end, by superior Order, the
Bodyguards, all but the few on immediate duty, disappear; or as it were
abscond; and march, under cloud of night, to Rambouillet.
(Weber, ubi supra.)
From then on, they are set upon whenever they appear and are eventually
sent out of town.
We remark also that the Versaillese have now got ammunition: all
afternoon, the official Person could find none; till, in these so critical
moments, a patriotic Sublieutenant set a pistol to his ear, and would thank
him to find some, — which he thereupon succeeded in doing. Likewise that
Flandre, disarmed by Pallas Athene, says openly, it will not fight with
citizens; and for token of peace, has exchanged cartridges with the
The National Guard is now armed, and the Flanders Regiment declares it will
not attach French men and women.
Sansculottism is now among mere friends; and can 'circulate freely;'
indignant at Bodyguards; — complaining also considerably of hunger.
The Paris mob is in control of the situation.
But why lingers Mounier; returns not with his Deputation? It is six, it is
seven o'clock; and still no Mounier, no Acceptance pure and simple.
The deputation sent back to get something in writing has not returned.
And, behold, the dripping Menads, not now in deputation but in mass, have
penetrated into the Assembly: to the shamefullest interruption of public
speaking and order of the day. Neither Maillard nor Vice-President can
restrain them, except within wide limits; not even, except for minutes, can
the lion-voice of Mirabeau, though they applaud it: but ever and anon they
break in upon the regeneration of France with cries of: "Bread; not so
much discoursing! Du pain; pas tant de longs discours!"—So insensible
were these poor creatures to bursts of Parliamentary eloquence!
Some of the women return to the Menus and disrupt the sitting of the
One learns also that the royal Carriages are getting yoked, as if for Metz.
Carriages, royal or not, have verily showed themselves at the back Gates.
They even produced, or quoted, a written order from our Versailles
Municipality, — which is a Monarchic not a Democratic one. However,
Versailles Patrols drove them in again; as the vigilant Lecointre had
strictly charged them to do.
There are rumors the King and Queen plan to flee.
A busy man, truly, is Major Lecointre, in these hours. For Colonel
d'Estaing loiters invisible in the
Œil-de-Bœuf; invisible, or still more
questionably visible, for instants: then also a too loyal Municipality
requires supervision: no order, civil or military, taken about any of these
thousand things! Lecointre is at the Versailles Townhall: he is at the
Grate of the Grand Court; communing with Swiss and Bodyguards. He is in
the ranks of Flandre; he is here, he is there: studious to prevent
bloodshed; to prevent the Royal Family from flying to Metz; the Menads from
The Versailles Guard is the only effective institution in town.
At the fall of night, we behold him advance to those armed groups of
Saint-Antoine, hovering all-too grim near the Salle des Menus.
They receive him
in a half-circle; twelve speakers behind cannons, with lighted torches in
hand, the cannon-mouths towards Lecointre: a picture for
asks, in temperate but courageous language: What they, by this their
journey to Versailles, do specially want? The twelve speakers reply, in
few words inclusive of much: "Bread, and the end of these brabbles, Du
pain, et la fin des affaires." When the affairs will end, no Major
Lecointre, nor no mortal, can say; but as to bread, he inquires, How many
are you? — learns that they are six hundred,
that a loaf each will suffice;
and rides off to the Municipality to get six hundred loaves.
Lacointre attempts to parlay with the men and tries to find them food.
Which loaves, however, a Municipality of Monarchic temper will not give.
It will give two tons of rice rather, —
could you but know whether it should
be boiled or raw. Nay when this too is accepted, the Municipals have
disappeared; — ducked under,
as the Six-and-Twenty Long-gowned of Paris did;
and, leaving not the smallest vestage of rice, in the boiled or raw state,
they there vanish from History!
Neither bread, nor rice promised earlier, are forthcoming.
Rice comes not; one's hope of food is baulked; even one's hope of
vengeance: is not M. de Moucheton of the Scotch Company, as we said,
deceitfully smuggled off? Failing all which, behold only M. de Moucheton's
slain warhorse, lying on the Esplanade there! Saint-Antoine, baulked,
esurient, pounces on the slain warhorse; flays it; roasts it, with such
fuel, of paling, gates, portable timber as can be come at, — not without
shouting: and, after the manner of ancient Greek Heroes,
they lifted their
hands to the daintily readied repast; such as it might be.
(Weber, Deux Amis, etc.)
Other Rascality prowls discursive; seeking what it may devour.
Flandre will retire to its barracks; Lecointre also with his
Versaillese, — all but the vigilant Patrols,
charged to be doubly vigilant.
The mob finally barbeques one of the Body Guard horses killed in the earlier
So sink the shadows of Night, blustering, rainy; and all paths grow dark.
Strangest Night ever seen in these regions, —
perhaps since the Bartholomew
Night, when Versailles, as
writes of it, was a chétif
O for the Lyre of some Orpheus, to constrain, with touch of melodious
strings, these mad masses into Order! For here all seems fallen asunder,
in wide-yawning dislocation. The highest, as in down-rushing of a World,
is come in contact with the lowest: the Rascality of France beleaguering
the Royalty of France; 'ironshod batons' lifted round the diadem, not to
guard it! With denunciations of bloodthirsty Anti-national Bodyguards, are
heard dark growlings against a Queenly Name.
The insurrectionists lie out of doors, grumbling in the night.
The Court sits tremulous, powerless; varies with the varying temper of the
Esplanade, with the varying colour of the rumours from Paris. Thick-coming
rumours; now of peace, now of war. Necker and all the Ministers consult;
with a blank issue.
The Œil-de-Bœuf is one tempest of whispers: — We will
fly to Metz; we will not fly.
The royal Carriages again attempt egress; —
though for trial merely; they are again driven in by Lecointre's Patrols.
In six hours, nothing has been resolved on; not even the Acceptance pure
The court is paralyzed.
In six hours? Alas, he who, in such circumstances, cannot resolve in six
minutes, may give up the enterprise: him Fate has already resolved for.
And Menadism, meanwhile, and Sansculottism takes counsel with the National
Assembly; grows more and more tumultuous there. Mounier returns not;
Authority nowhere shews itself: the Authority of France lies, for the
present, with Lecointre and Usher Maillard. —
This then is the abomination
of desolation; come suddenly, though long foreshadowed as inevitable! For,
to the blind, all things are sudden. Misery which, through long ages, had
no spokesman, no helper, will now be its own helper and speak for itself.
The dialect, one of the rudest, is, what it could be, this.
From what can be seen at Versailles, France has no government but the mob.
At eight o'clock there returns to our Assembly not the Deputation; but
Doctor Guillotin announcing that it will return; also that there is hope of
the Acceptance pure and simple. He himself has brought a Royal Letter,
authorising and commanding the freest 'circulation of grains.' Which Royal
Letter Menadism with its whole heart applauds. Conformably to which the
Assembly forthwith passes a Decree; also received with rapturous Menadic
plaudits: — Only could not an august Assembly
contrive further to "fix the
price of bread at eight sous the half-quartern; butchers'-meat at six sous
the pound;" which seem fair rates? Such motion do 'a multitude of men and
women,' irrepressible by Usher Maillard, now make; does an august Assembly
hear made. Usher Maillard himself is not always perfectly measured in
speech; but if rebuked, he can justly excuse himself by the peculiarity of
(Moniteur (in Hist. Parl. ii. 105).)
Pleased with royal and legislative promises to punish the hoarding of grain,
the women insist on fixed prices for basic foodstuffs.
But finally, this Decree well passed, and the disorder continuing; and
Members melting away, and no President Mounier returning, — what can the
Vice-President do but also melt away? The Assembly melts, under such
pressure, into deliquium; or, as it is officially called, adjourns.
Maillard is despatched to Paris, with the 'Decree concerning Grains' in his
pocket; he and some women, in carriages belonging to the King. Thitherward
slim Louison Chabray has already set forth, with that 'written answer,'
which the Twelve She-deputies returned in to seek. Slim sylph, she has set
forth, through the black muddy country: she has much to tell, her poor
nerves so flurried; and travels, as indeed to-day on this road all persons
do, with extreme slowness. President Mounier has not come, nor the
Acceptance pure and simple; though six hours with their events have come;
though courier on courier reports that Lafayette is coming. Coming, with
war or with peace? It is time that the Château also should determine on
one thing or another; that the Château
also should show itself alive, if it
would continue living!
Late in the evening the new decree is carried to Paris. It is rumored that
Lafayette is approaching the town.
Victorious, joyful after such delay, Mounier does arrive at last, and the
hard-earned Acceptance with him; which now, alas, is of small value. Fancy
Mounier's surprise to find his Senate, whom he hoped to charm by the
Acceptance pure and simple, — all gone;
and in its stead a Senate of Menads!
For as Erasmus's Ape mimicked, say with wooden splint, Erasmus shaving, so
do these Amazons hold, in mock majesty, some confused parody of National
Assembly. They make motions; deliver speeches; pass enactments; productive
at least of loud laughter. All galleries and benches are filled; a strong
Dame of the Market is in Mounier's Chair. Not without difficulty, Mounier,
by aid of macers, and persuasive speaking, makes his way to the
Female-President: the Strong Dame before abdicating signifies that, for one
thing, she and indeed her whole senate male and female (for what was one
roasted warhorse among so many?) are suffering very considerably from
Mounier in the interim has secured the King's acceptance of the constitution.
Ignorant of the day's events, he returns to a Parliament of Women. Hungry
Experienced Mounier, in these circumstances, takes a twofold resolution:
To reconvoke his Assembly Members by sound of drum; also to procure a
supply of food. Swift messengers fly, to all bakers, cooks, pastrycooks,
vintners, restorers; drums beat, accompanied with shrill vocal
proclamation, through all streets. They come: the Assembly Members come;
what is still better, the provisions come. On tray and barrow come these
latter; loaves, wine, great store of sausages. The nourishing baskets
circulate harmoniously along the benches; nor,
according to the Father of
Epics, did any soul lack a fair share of victual
([Greek: daitos eisus];
highly desirable, at the moment.
(Deux Amis, iii. 208.)
Mounier secures food for the mob and summons the Assembly members.
Gradually some hundred or so of Assembly members get edged in, Menadism
making way a little, round Mounier's Chair; listen to the Acceptance pure
and simple; and begin, what is the order of the night, 'discussion of the
Penal Code.' All benches are crowded; in the dusky galleries, duskier with
unwashed heads, is a strange 'coruscation,'—of impromptu billhooks.
(Courier de Provence (Mirabeau's Newspaper), No. 50, p. 19.)
It is exactly
five months this day since these same galleries were filled with
high-plumed jewelled Beauty, raining bright influences; and now?
To such length
have we got in regenerating France. Methinks the travail-throes are of the
sharpest! — Menadism will not be restrained from occasional remarks;
"What is use of the Penal Code? The thing we want is Bread." Mirabeau
turns round with lion-voiced rebuke; Menadism applauds him; but
Carlyle paints the Assembly deliberating in the presence of the mob.
Thus they, chewing tough sausages, discussing the Penal Code, make night
hideous. What the issue will be? Lafayette with his thirty thousand must
arrive first: him, who cannot now be distant, all men expect, as the
messenger of Destiny.
The real result of the Insurrection of Women will be decided when
Lafayette arrives leading, or pushed by, the militia of Paris.
Towards midnight lights flare on the hill; Lafayette's lights! The roll of
his drums comes up the Avenue de Versailles. With peace, or with war?
Patience, friends! With neither. Lafayette is come, but not yet the
Lafayette's arrival brings no immediate climax.
He has halted and harangued so often, on the march; spent nine hours on
four leagues of road. At Montreuil, close on Versailles, the whole Host
had to pause; and, with uplifted right hand, in the murk of Night, to these
pouring skies, swear solemnly to respect the King's Dwelling; to be
faithful to King and National Assembly. Rage is driven down out of sight,
by the laggard march; the thirst of vengeance slaked in weariness and
soaking clothes. Flandre is again drawn out under arms: but Flandre,
grown so patriotic, now needs no 'exterminating.' The wayworn Batallions
halt in the Avenue: they have, for the present, no wish so pressing as
that of shelter and rest.
The Parisian militia's enthusiasm is dampened.
Anxious sits President Mounier; anxious the Château. There is a message
coming from the Château,
that M. Mounier would please return thither with a
fresh Deputation, swiftly; and so at least unite our two anxieties.
Anxious Mounier does of himself send, meanwhile, to apprise the General
that his Majesty has been so gracious as to grant us the Acceptance pure
and simple. The General, with a small advance column, makes answer in
passing; speaks vaguely some smooth words to the National President, —
glances, only with the eye, at that so mixtiform National Assembly; then
fares forward towards the Château. There are with him two Paris
Municipals; they were chosen from the Three Hundred for that errand. He
gets admittance through the locked and padlocked Grates, through sentries
and ushers, to the Royal Halls.
Mounier, Lafayette and some of the Paris district leaders wait on the King.
The Court, male and female, crowds on his passage, to read their doom on
his face; which exhibits, say Historians, a mixture 'of sorrow, of fervour
and valour,' singular to behold.
(Mémoire de M. le Comte de Lally-Tollendal
(Janvier 1790), p. 161-165.)
The King, with Monsieur, with
Ministers and Marshals, is waiting to receive him: He "is come," in his
highflown chivalrous way, "to offer his head for the safety of his
Majesty's." The two Municipals state the wish of Paris: four things, of
quite pacific tenor. First, that the honour of Guarding his sacred person
be conferred on patriot National Guards; — say, the
Centre Grenadiers, who
as Gardes Françaises were wont to have that privilege. Second, that
provisions be got, if possible. Third, that the Prisons, all crowded with
political delinquents, may have judges sent them. Fourth, that it would
please his Majesty to come and live in Paris. To all which four wishes,
except the fourth, his Majesty answers readily, Yes; or indeed may almost
say that he has already answered it. To the fourth he can answer only, Yes
or No; would so gladly answer, Yes and No! —
But, in any case, are not their
dispositions, thank Heaven, so entirely pacific? There is time for
deliberation. The brunt of the danger seems past!
The deputation asks that the king put himself under the protection of the
National Guard and that he reign from Paris.
Lafayette and d'Estaing settle the watches; Centre Grenadiers are to take
the Guard-room they of old occupied as Gardes Françaises; —
for indeed the
Gardes du Corps, its late ill-advised occupants, are gone mostly to
Rambouillet. That is the order of this night; sufficient for the night is
the evil thereof. Whereupon Lafayette and the two Municipals, with
highflown chivalry, take their leave.
The Gardes are given immediate control of the Palace.
So brief has the interview been, Mounier and his Deputation were not yet
got up. So brief and satisfactory. A stone is rolled from every heart.
The fair Palace Dames publicly declare that this Lafayette, detestable
though he be, is their saviour for once. Even the ancient vinaigrous
Tantes admit it; the King's Aunts, ancient Graille
and Sisterhood, known to
us of old. Queen Marie-Antoinette has been heard often say the like. She
alone, among all women and all men, wore a face of courage, of lofty
calmness and resolve, this day. She alone saw clearly what she meant to
do; and Theresa's Daughter dares do what she means, were all France
threatening her: abide where her children are, where her husband is.
The court seems well-satisfied with Lafayette.
Towards three in the morning all things are settled: the watches set, the
Centre Grenadiers put into their old Guard-room, and harangued; the Swiss,
and few remaining Bodyguards harangued. The wayworn Paris Batallions,
consigned to 'the hospitality of Versailles,' lie dormant in spare-beds,
spare-barracks, coffeehouses, empty churches. A troop of them, on their
way to the Church of Saint-Louis, awoke poor
dreaming troublous, in
the Rue Sartory. Weber has had his waistcoat-pocket full of balls all day;
'two hundred balls, and two pears of powder!' For waistcoats were
waistcoats then, and had flaps down to mid-thigh. So many balls he has had
all day; but no opportunity of using them: he turns over now, execrating
disloyal bandits; swears a prayer or two, and straight to sleep again.
Versailles finally sleeps, not well, in the early morning.
Finally, the National Assembly is harangued; which thereupon, on motion of
Mirabeau, discontinues the Penal Code, and dismisses for this night.
Menadism, Sansculottism has cowered into guard-houses, barracks of Flandre,
to the light of cheerful fire; failing that, to churches, office-houses,
sentry-boxes, wheresoever wretchedness can find a lair. The troublous Day
has brawled itself to rest: no lives yet lost but that of one warhorse.
Insurrectionary Chaos lies slumbering round the Palace, like Ocean round a
Diving-bell, — no crevice yet disclosing itself.
The insurrectionists also find crude shelter. Not a person has yet been
Deep sleep has fallen promiscuously on the high and on the low; suspending
most things, even wrath and famine. Darkness covers the Earth. But, far
on the North-east, Paris flings up her great yellow gleam; far into the wet
black Night. For all is illuminated there, as in the old July Nights; the
streets deserted, for alarm of war; the Municipals all wakeful; Patrols
hailing, with their hoarse Who-goes. There, as we discover, our poor slim
Louison Chabray, her poor nerves all fluttered, is arriving about this very
hour. There Usher Maillard will arrive, about an hour hence, 'towards four
in the morning.' They report, successively, to a wakeful Hôtel-de-Ville
what comfort they can report; which again, with early dawn, large
comfortable Placards, shall impart to all men.
Paris, which has had little news, is restive. The return of Maillard and
some of the women, with the declaration, calms things.
Lafayette, in the Hôtel de Noailles, not far from the
Château, having now
finished haranguing, sits with his Officers consulting: at five o'clock
the unanimous best counsel is, that a man so tost and toiled for twenty-four
hours and more, fling himself on a bed, and seek some rest.
Even Lafayette finds an hour to rest.
Thus, then, has ended the First Act of the Insurrection of Women. How it
will turn on the morrow? The morrow, as always, is with the Fates! But
his Majesty, one may hope, will consent to come honourably to Paris; at all
events, he can visit Paris. Anti-national Bodyguards, here and elsewhere,
must take the National Oath; make reparation to the Tricolor; Flandre will
swear. There may be much swearing; much public speaking there will
infallibly be: and so, with harangues and vows, may the matter in some
handsome way, wind itself up.
Carlyle thinks things might have ended here, with a royal conciliation and
dissipation of insurrectionary enthusiasm.
Or, alas, may it not be all otherwise, unhandsome: the consent not
honourable, but extorted, ignominious? Boundless Chaos of Insurrection
presses slumbering round the Palace, like Ocean round a Diving-bell; and
may penetrate at any crevice. Let but that accumulated insurrectionary
mass find entrance! Like the infinite inburst of water; or say rather, of
inflammable, self-igniting fluid; for example, 'turpentine-and-phosphorus
oil,' — fluid known to Spinola
But things just took a little longer to explode.
The dull dawn of a new morning, drizzly and chill, had but broken over
Versailles, when it pleased Destiny that a Bodyguard should look out of
window, on the right wing of the Château,
to see what prospect there was in
Heaven and in Earth. Rascality male and female is prowling in view of him.
His fasting stomach is, with good cause, sour; he perhaps cannot forbear a
passing malison on them; least of all can he forbear answering such.
October 6 begins with a shouting match between soldiers in the palace and
Ill words breed worse: till the worst word came; and then the ill deed.
Did the maledicent Bodyguard, getting (as was too inevitable) better
malediction than he gave, load his musketoon, and threaten to fire; and
actually fire? Were wise who wist! It stands asserted; to us not
credibly. Be this as it may, menaced Rascality, in whinnying scorn, is
shaking at all Grates: the fastening of one (some write, it was a chain
merely) gives way; Rascality is in the Grand Court, whinnying louder still.
The gates are breached and the mob, intermixed with militia,
enters the palace grounds.
The maledicent Bodyguard, more Bodyguards than he do now give fire; a man's
arm is shattered. Lecointre will depose
(Déposition de Lecointre (in Hist. Parl. iii. 111-115.)
that 'the Sieur Cardaine, a National Guard without
arms, was stabbed.' But see, sure enough, poor Jerôme
unarmed National Guard he too, 'cabinet-maker, a saddler's son, of Paris,'
with the down of youthhood still on his chin, — he reels death-stricken;
rushes to the pavement, scattering it with his blood and brains! —
Wilder than Irish wakes, rises the howl: of pity; of infinite revenge. In
few moments, the Grate of the inner and inmost Court, which they name Court
of Marble, this too is forced, or surprised, and burst open: the Court of
Marble too is overflowed: up the Grand Staircase, up all stairs and
entrances rushes the living Deluge! Deshuttes and Varigny, the two sentry
Bodyguards, are trodden down, are massacred with a hundred pikes. Women
snatch their cutlasses, or any weapon, and storm-in Menadic: —
lift the corpse of shot Jerôme; lay it down on the Marble steps; there
shall the livid face and smashed head, dumb for ever, speak.
Resistance within the palace is quickly overcome, but not without casualties.
Wo now to all Bodyguards, mercy is none for them!
Miomandre de Sainte-Marie pleads with soft words,
on the Grand Staircase, 'descending four
steps:' — to the roaring tornado.
His comrades snatch him up, by the skirts
and belts; literally, from the jaws of Destruction; and slam-to their Door.
This also will stand few instants; the panels shivering in, like potsherds.
Barricading serves not: fly fast, ye Bodyguards; rabid Insurrection, like
the hellhound Chase, uproaring at your heels!
The remaining Bodyguards are the main targets of the invaders.
The terror-struck Bodyguards fly, bolting and barricading; it follows.
Whitherward? Through hall on hall: wo, now! towards the Queen's Suite of
Rooms, in the furtherest room of which the Queen is now asleep. Five
sentinels rush through that long Suite; they are in the Anteroom knocking
loud: "Save the Queen!" Trembling women fall at their feet with tears;
are answered: "Yes, we will die; save ye the Queen!"
The mob nears the Queen's chambers.
Tremble not, women, but haste: for, lo, another voice shouts far through
the outermost door, "Save the Queen!" and the door shut. It is brave
Miomandre's voice that shouts this second warning. He has stormed across
imminent death to do it; fronts imminent death, having done it. Brave
Tardivet du Repaire, bent on the same desperate service, was borne down
with pikes; his comrades hardly snatched him in again alive. Miomandre and
Tardivet: let the names of these two Bodyguards, as the names of brave men
should, live long.
The Bodyguards make a stand to protect the Queen.
Trembling Maids of Honour, one of whom from afar caught glimpse of
Miomandre as well as heard him, hastily wrap the Queen; not in robes of
State. She flies for her life, across the Œil-de-Bœuf;
against the main
door of which too Insurrection batters. She is in the King's Apartment, in
the King's arms; she clasps her children amid a faithful few. The
Imperial-hearted bursts into mother's tears: "O my friends, save me and my
children, O mes amis, sauvez moi et mes enfans!" The battering of
Insurrectionary axes clangs audible across the Œil-de-Bœuf.
What an hour!
The queen escapes to the King's chambers.
Yes, Friends: a hideous fearful hour; shameful alike to Governed and
Governor; wherein Governed and Governor ignominiously testify that their
relation is at an end. Rage, which had brewed itself in twenty thousand
hearts, for the last four-and-twenty hours, has taken fire: Jerôme's
brained corpse lies there as live-coal. It is, as we said, the infinite
Element bursting in: wild-surging through all corridors and conduits.
Carlyle comments on the shame thus reflected on the French.
Meanwhile, the poor Bodyguards have got hunted mostly into the Œil-de-Bœuf.
They may die there, at the King's threshhold; they can do little to
defend it. They are heaping tabourets
(stools of honour), benches and all
moveables, against the door; at which the axe of Insurrection thunders. —
But did brave Miomandre perish, then, at the Queen's door? No, he was
fractured, slashed, lacerated, left for dead; he has nevertheless crawled
hither; and shall live, honoured of loyal France. Remark also, in flat
contradiction to much which has been said and sung, that Insurrection did
not burst that door he had defended; but hurried elsewhither, seeking new
(Campan, ii. 75-87.)
Meanwhile, it is the Bodyguards, not the royal family, whom the crowd
Poor Bodyguards, with their
Opera-Repast! Well for them, that
Insurrection has only pikes and axes; no right sieging tools! It shakes
and thunders. Must they all perish miserably, and Royalty with them?
Deshuttes and Varigny, massacred at the first inbreak, have been beheaded
in the Marble Court: a sacrifice to Jerôme's manes:
tile-beard did that duty willingly; and asked, If there were no more?
Another captive they are leading round the corpse, with howl-chauntings:
may not Jourdan again tuck up his sleeves?
The crowd's fury is now a blood thirst.
And louder and louder rages Insurrection within, plundering if it cannot
kill; louder and louder it thunders at the Œil-de-Bœuf:
what can now
hinder its bursting in? — On a sudden it ceases;
the battering has ceased!
Wild rushing: the cries grow fainter: there is silence, or the tramp of
regular steps; then a friendly knocking: "We are the Centre Grenadiers,
old Gardes Françaises: Open to us, Messieurs of the Garde-du-Corps; we
have not forgotten how you saved us at Fontenoy!"
(Toulongeon, i. 144.)
The door is opened; enter Captain Gondran and the Centre Grenadiers: there
are military embracings; there is sudden deliverance from death into life.
The remaining Bodyguards are rescued by the Centre Grenediers, their
Strange Sons of Adam! It was to 'exterminate' these Gardes-du-Corps that
the Centre Grenadiers left home: and now they have rushed to save them
from extermination. The memory of common peril, of old help, melts the
rough heart; bosom is clasped to bosom, not in war. The King shews
himself, one moment, through the door of his Apartment, with: "Do not hurt
my Guards!" —
"Soyons fréres, Let us be brothers!" cries Captain Gondran;
and again dashes off, with levelled bayonets, to sweep the Palace clear.
The Grenadiers clear the Palace of the Parisians.
Now too Lafayette, suddenly roused, not from sleep (for his eyes had not
yet closed), arrives; with passionate popular eloquence, with prompt
military word of command. National Guards, suddenly roused, by sound of
trumpet and alarm-drum, are all arriving. The death-melly ceases: the
first sky-lambent blaze of Insurrection is got damped down; it burns now,
if unextinguished, yet flameless, as charred coals do, and not
inextinguishable. The King's Apartments are safe. Ministers, Officials,
and even some loyal National deputies are assembling round their Majesties.
The consternation will, with sobs and confusion, settle down gradually,
into plan and counsel, better or worse.
Things calm down with the arrival of Lafayette.
But glance now, for a moment, from the royal windows! A roaring sea of
human heads, inundating both Courts; billowing against all passages:
Menadic women; infuriated men, mad with revenge, with love of mischief,
love of plunder! Rascality has slipped its muzzle; and now bays,
three-throated, like the Dog of Erebus. Fourteen Bodyguards are wounded; two
massacred, and as we saw, beheaded; Jourdan asking, "Was it worth while to
come so far for two?" Hapless Deshuttes and Varigny! Their fate surely
was sad. Whirled down so suddenly to the abyss; as men are, suddenly, by
the wide thunder of the Mountain Avalanche, awakened not by them, awakened
far off by others! When the Chateau Clock last struck, they two were
pacing languid, with poised musketoon; anxious mainly that the next hour
would strike. It has struck; to them inaudible. Their trunks lie mangled:
their heads parade, 'on pikes twelve feet long,' through the streets of
Versailles; and shall, about noon reach the Barriers of Paris, — a too
ghastly contradiction to the large comfortable Placards that have been
A glance at the crowd would show that things are very much not
The other captive Bodyguard is still circling the corpse of Jerôme, amid
Indian war-whooping; bloody Tilebeard, with tucked sleeves, brandishing his
bloody axe; when Gondran and the Grenadiers come in sight. "Comrades, will
you see a man massacred in cold blood?" —
"Off, butchers!" answer they; and
the poor Bodyguard is free. Busy runs Gondran, busy run Guards and
Captains; scouring at all corridors; dispersing Rascality and Robbery;
sweeping the Palace clear. The mangled carnage is removed; Jerome's body
to the Townhall, for inquest: the fire of Insurrection gets damped, more
and more, into measurable, manageable heat.
But the troops help to restore a semblance of order.
Transcendent things of all sorts, as in the general outburst of
multitudinous Passion, are huddled together; the ludicrous, nay the
ridiculous, with the horrible. Far over the billowy sea of heads, may be
seen Rascality, caprioling on horses from the Royal Stud. The Spoilers
these; for Patriotism is always infected so, with a proportion of mere
thieves and scoundrels. Gondran snatched their prey from them in the
Château; whereupon they hurried to the Stables,
and took horse there. But
the generous Diomedes' steeds, according to Weber, disdained such
scoundrel-burden; and, flinging up their royal heels, did soon project most
of it, in parabolic curves, to a distance, amid peals of laughter: and
were caught. Mounted National Guards secured the rest.
Vandalism moves farther from the Palace and immediate attention of the Guard.
Now too is witnessed the touching last-flicker of Etiquette; which sinks
not here, in the Cimmerian World-wreckage, without a sign, as the
house-cricket might still chirp in the pealing of a Trump of Doom.
said some Master of Ceremonies
(one hopes it might be de Brézé)!, as
Lafayette, in these fearful moments, was rushing towards the inner Royal
Apartments, "Monsieur, le Roi vous accorde les grandes entrées,
the King grants you the Grand Entries," — not finding it convenient to
(Toulongeon, 1 App. 120.)
However, the Paris National Guard, wholly under arms, has cleared the
Palace, and even occupies the nearer external spaces; extruding
miscellaneous Patriotism, for most part, into the Grand Court, or even into
The crowd is gradually moved out of the inner courts of the palace.
The Bodyguards, you can observe, have now of a verity, 'hoisted the
National Cockade:' for they step forward to the windows or balconies, hat
aloft in hand, on each hat a huge tricolor; and fling over their bandoleers
in sign of surrender; and shout Vive la Nation. To which how can the
generous heart respond but with, Vive le Roi; vivent les
His Majesty himself has appeared with Lafayette on the balcony, and again
appears: Vive le Roi greets him from all throats;
but also from some one
throat is heard "Le Roi à Paris, The King to Paris!"
The mob and the Bodyguard are once again in agreement, though the crowd
has not forgotten it came to fetch the King to Paris.
Her Majesty too, on demand, shows herself, though there is peril in it:
she steps out on the balcony, with her little boy and girl. "No children,
Point d'enfans!" cry the voices.
She gently pushes back her children; and
stands alone, her hands serenely crossed on her breast: "should I die,"
she had said, "I will do it." Such serenity of heroism has its effect.
Lafayette, with ready wit, in his highflown chivalrous way, takes that fair
queenly hand; and reverently kneeling, kisses it: thereupon the people do
shout Vive la Reine. Nevertheless, poor
'saw' (or even thought he
saw; for hardly the third part of poor Weber's experiences, in such
hysterical days, will stand scrutiny) 'one of these brigands level his
musket at her Majesty,' — with or without intention to shoot;
for another of the brigands 'angrily struck it down.'
Even the unpopular Queen is cheered.
So that all, and the Queen herself, nay the very Captain of the Bodyguards,
have grown National! The very Captain of the Bodyguards steps out now with
Lafayette. On the hat of the repentant man is an enormous tricolor; large
as a soup-platter, or sun-flower; visible to the utmost Forecourt. He
takes the National Oath with a loud voice, elevating his hat; at which
sight all the army raise their bonnets on their bayonets, with shouts.
Sweet is reconcilement to the heart of man. Lafayette has sworn Flandre;
he swears the remaining Bodyguards, down in the Marble Court; the people
clasp them in their arms: — O, my brothers, why would ye force us to slay
you? Behold there is joy over you, as over returning prodigal sons!
poor Bodyguards, now National and tricolor, exchange bonnets, exchange
arms; there shall be peace and fraternity. And still "Vive le Roi;" and
also "Le Roi à Paris,"
not now from one throat, but from all throats as
one, for it is the heart's wish of all mortals.
The fraternity is almost universal.
Yes, The King to Paris: what else? Ministers may consult, and National
Deputies wag their heads: but there is now no other possibility. You have
forced him to go willingly. "At one o'clock!" Lafayette gives audible
assurance to that purpose; and universal Insurrection, with immeasurable
shout, and a discharge of all the firearms, clear and rusty, great and
small, that it has, returns him acceptance. What a sound; heard for
leagues: a doom peal! — That sound too rolls away, into the Silence of
Ages. And the Château of Versailles stands ever since vacant, hushed
still; its spacious Courts grassgrown, responsive to the hoe of the
Times and generations roll on, in their confused Gulf-current; and
buildings like builders have their destiny.
The time is set for the King's removal to Paris.
Till one o'clock, then, there will be three parties, National Assembly,
National Rascality, National Royalty, all busy enough. Rascality rejoices;
women trim themselves with tricolor. Nay motherly Paris has sent her
Avengers sufficient 'cartloads of loaves;' which are shouted over, which
are gratefully consumed. The Avengers, in return, are searching for
grain-stores; loading them in fifty waggons; that so a National King, probable
harbinger of all blessings, may be the evident bringer of plenty, for one.
And thus has Sansculottism made prisoner its King; revoking his parole.
The Monarchy has fallen; and not so much as honourably: no, ignominiously;
with struggle, indeed, oft repeated; but then with unwise struggle; wasting
its strength in fits and paroxysms; at every new paroxysm, foiled more
pitifully than before. Thus Broglie's whiff of grapeshot, which might have
been something, has dwindled to the pot-valour of an Opera Repast, and O
Richard, O mon Roi. Which again we shall see dwindle to a
Conspiracy, a thing to be settled by the hanging of one Chevalier.
Carlyle shakes his head at the sorry showing of the monarchy in its last
Poor Monarchy! But what save foulest defeat can await that man, who wills,
and yet wills not? Apparently the King either has a right, assertible as
such to the death, before God and man; or else he has no right.
Apparently, the one or the other; could he but know which! May Heaven pity
him! Were Louis wise he would this day abdicate.
— Is it not strange so few
Kings abdicate; and none yet heard of has been known to commit suicide?
Fritz the First, of Prussia, alone tried it; and they cut the rope.
Carlyle wonders what makes a king cling to his rôle even when he
is clearly unsuited to it.
As for the National Assembly, which decrees this morning that it 'is
inseparable from his Majesty,' and will follow him to Paris, there may one
thing be noted: its extreme want of bodily health. After the Fourteenth
of July there was a certain sickliness observable among honourable Members;
so many demanding passports, on account of infirm health. But now, for
these following days, there is a perfect murrian [anthrax epidemic]:
President Mounier, Lally-Tollendal,
Clermont Tonnere, and all Constitutional Two-Chamber Royalists
needing change of air; as most No-Chamber Royalists had formerly done.
The members of the Assembly favoring a bicameral constitutional monarchy
see how the wind blows and apply for permission to travel.
For, in truth, it is the second Emigration this that has now come; most
extensive among Commons Deputies, Noblesse, Clergy: so that 'to
Switzerland alone there go sixty thousand.' They will return in the day of
accounts! Yes, and have hot welcome. —
But Emigration on Emigration is the
peculiarity of France. One Emigration follows another; grounded on
reasonable fear, unreasonable hope, largely also on childish pet. The
highflyers have gone first, now the lower flyers; and ever the lower will
go down to the crawlers. Whereby, however, cannot our National Assembly so
much the more commodiously make the Constitution; your Two-Chamber
Anglomaniacs being all safe, distant on foreign shores? Abbé
seized, and sent back again: he, tough as tanned leather, with eloquent
and some others, will stand it out for another year.
The seizure of the king begins a second round of emigration (the first
followed fall of the Bastille).
But here, meanwhile, the question arises: Was
this day, 'in the Bois de Boulogne, in grey surtout [overcoat];'
waiting under the wet
sere foliage, what the day might bring forth? Alas, yes, the Eidolon [phantom]
him was, — in
and other such brains.
The Châtelet shall make large
inquisition into the matter, examining a hundred and seventy witnesses, and
Deputy Chabroud publish his Report; but disclose nothing further.
(Rapport de Chabroud (Moniteur, du 31 December, 1789).)
What then has caused these
two unparalleled October Days? For surely such dramatic exhibition never
yet enacted itself without Dramatist and Machinist. Wooden Punch emerges
not, with his domestic sorrows, into the light of day, unless the wire be
pulled: how can human mobs? Was it not d'Orleans then, and
Marquis Sillery, Mirabeau and the sons of confusion, hoping to drive the
King to Metz, and gather the spoil? Nay was it not, quite contrariwise,
the Œil-de-Bœuf, Bodyguard Colonel de Guiche,
highflying Loyalists; hoping also to drive him to Metz; and try it by the
sword of civil war? Good Marquis
the Historian and Deputy,
feels constrained to admit that it was both.
(Toulongeon, i. 150.)
The need for an explanation of October 5-6 led to several conspiracy
Alas, my Friends, credulous incredulity is a strange matter. But when a
whole Nation is smitten with Suspicion, and sees a dramatic miracle in the
very operation of the gastric juices, what help is there? Such Nation is
already a mere hypochondriac bundle of diseases; as good as changed into
glass; atrabiliar, decadent; and will suffer crises. Is not Suspicion
itself the one thing to be suspected, as Montaigne feared only fear?
Carlyle has several times called France diseased and now adds she is
Now, however, the short hour has struck. His Majesty is in his carriage,
with his Queen, sister Elizabeth, and two royal children. Not for another
hour can the infinite Procession get marshalled, and under way. The
weather is dim drizzling; the mind confused; and noise great.
The royal procession sets out for Paris
Processional marches not a few our world has seen; Roman triumphs and
ovations, Cabiric cymbal-beatings, Royal progresses, Irish funerals: but
this of the French Monarchy marching to its bed remained to be seen. Miles
long, and of breadth losing itself in vagueness, for all the neighbouring
country crowds to see. Slow; stagnating along, like shoreless Lake, yet
with a noise like Niagara, like Babel and Bedlam. A splashing and a
tramping; a hurrahing, uproaring, musket-volleying; —
the truest segment of
Chaos seen in these latter Ages! Till slowly it disembogue itself, in the
thickening dusk, into expectant Paris, through a double row of faces all
the way from Passy to the Hôtel-de-Ville.
The route is lined with the curious.
Consider this: Vanguard of National troops; with trains of artillery; of
pikemen and pikewomen, mounted on cannons, on carts, hackney-coaches, or on
tripudiating [dancing], in tricolor ribbons from head to heel; loaves stuck on
the points of bayonets, green boughs stuck in gun barrels.
(Mercier, Nouveau Paris, iii. 21.)
Next, as main-march, 'fifty cartloads of corn,'
which have been lent, for peace, from the stores of Versailles. Behind
which follow stragglers of the Garde-du-Corps; all humiliated, in Grenadier
bonnets. Close on these comes the Royal Carriage; come Royal Carriages:
for there are an Hundred National Deputies too,
among whom sits Mirabeau, —
his remarks not given. Then finally, pellmell, as rearguard, Flandre,
Swiss, Hundred Swiss, other Bodyguards, Brigands, whosoever cannot get
before. Between and among all which masses, flows without limit
Saint-Antoine, and the Menadic Cohort. Menadic especially about the Royal
Carriage; tripudiating there, covered with tricolor; singing 'allusive
songs;' pointing with one hand to the Royal Carriage, which the illusions
hit, and pointing to the Provision-wagons, with the other hand, and these
words: "Courage, Friends! We shall not want bread now; we are bringing you
the Baker, the Bakeress, and Baker's Boy (le Boulanger,
la Boulangére, et
le petit Mitron)."
(Toulongeon, i. 134-161; Deux Amis (iii. c. 9); etc. etc.)
The entourage is large and ludicrous.
The wet day draggles the tricolor, but the joy is unextinguishable. Is not
all well now? "Ah, Madame, notre bonne Reine,"
said some of these Strong-women some days hence,
"Ah Madame, our good Queen, don't be a traitor any
more (ne soyez plus traitre), and we will all love you!"
Poor Weber went
splashing along, close by the Royal carriage, with the tear in his eye:
'their Majesties did me the honour,' or I thought they did it, 'to testify,
from time to time, by shrugging of the shoulders, by looks directed to
Heaven, the emotions they felt.' Thus, like frail cockle, floats the Royal
Life-boat, helmless, on black deluges of Rascality.
There is no doubt that the king is not in control, if anyone is.
Mercier, in his loose way, estimates the Procession and assistants at two
hundred thousand. He says it was one boundless inarticulate Haha; —
transcendent World-Laughter; comparable to the Saturnalia of the Ancients.
Why not? Here too, as we said, is Human Nature once more human; shudder at
it whoso is of shuddering humour: yet behold it is human. It has
'swallowed all formulas;' it tripudiates [dances] even so.
For which reason they
that collect Vases and Antiques, with figures of Dancing Bacchantes 'in
wild and all but impossible positions,' may look with some interest on it.
Yet it is human, and illustrative of how men act.
Thus, however, has the slow-moving Chaos or modern Saturnalia of the
Ancients, reached the Barrier; and must halt, to be harangued by Mayor
Bailly. Thereafter it has to lumber along, between the double row of
faces, in the transcendent heaven-lashing Haha; two hours longer, towards
Then again to be harangued there, by several persons;
Moreau de Saint-Mery?,
among others; Moreau of the Three-thousand orders,
now National Deputy for St. Domingo. To all which poor Louis, who seemed
to 'experience a slight emotion' on entering this Townhall, can answer only
that he "comes with pleasure, with confidence among his people." Mayor
Bailly, in reporting it, forgets 'confidence;' and the poor Queen says
eagerly: "Add, with confidence." — "Messieurs," rejoins Bailly, "You are
happier than if I had not forgot."
With much ceremony the King is brought to the City Hall.
Finally, the King is shewn on an upper balcony, by torchlight, with a huge
tricolor in his hat: 'And all the "people," says Weber, grasped one
another's hands; — thinking now surely the New Era was born.'
eleven at night can Royalty get to its vacant, long-deserted Palace of the
Tuileries: to lodge there, somewhat in strolling-player fashion. It is
Tuesday, the sixth of October, 1789.
The royal family in housed in the Tuileries.
Poor Louis has Two other Paris Processions to make: one ludicrous-ignominious
like this; the other not ludicrous nor ignominious, but
serious, nay sublime.
The king will be paraded through Paris again only at his trial and at his