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FRANCE IN 1793.*
This new volume of M. Louis Blanc's admirable History of the French Revolution possesses all the sterling qualities of those which have preceded it. In style lucid and compact, almost photographic in details, like Macaulay in his "Bataviad," diligent in the collection of comparatively trivial incidents, which may complete the harmony of the whole; punctilious in the extreme, and never sacrificing truth to effect, as is the fault of too many French historiographers, M. Louis Blanc combines the severe and painstaking research of the German with the brilliancy peculiar to the Gaul. No subject has been more sedulously handled under almost every possible light than that of the French Revolution : monarchist, republican, frondeur, and democrat, all have reproduced the impressions made upon them by that wonderful phase of their national history; but for Louis Blanc was reserved the exceeding merit of publishing a narrative as striking in its details as it is admirable for its impartiality. And, in truth, be must be a poor scribe who could not excite the interest of his readers on such a topic; however bald his narrative might be, the entrancing interest of the incidents he has to detail will amply compen. sate for all short-comings. Doubly grateful must we then feel to M. Blanc when he offers as everything which can render a book attracting and instructive.
We have been the more struck with M. Blanc's narrative of the events of 1793, as we have lately had an occasion to peruse a very ponderous quarto work on the Revolutionary wars, published for the special instruction of our forefathers. It is, perhaps, permissible, in time of war, to dénigrer the character of your foe; and we had examples enough of this during the Crimean campaigns, but it is a little too bad that, in England, no one takes the trouble to put matters in their right light. We are gradually beginning to allow that Bonaparte was not the monster Pitt and Gillray would have made him out, and our opinion of Robespierre has assumed a favourable change since Carlyle undertook the defence of the * sea-green incorruptible;” but we have yet much to learn about the causes of the French Revolution, and it is to be hoped that Louis Blanc's work may be translated and published in a popular form for the enlightenment of general readers, who are too apt to derive their historical education from books which should be unanimously exploded. Were this not the case, there would be no demand for a new edition of Russell's 5 Modern Europe,” in which the ignorance is only equalled by the bigotry displayed.
"The history of 1793, as displayed to us by M. Louis Blanc, comprises a large portion of the Revolution. At that period France offered an unparalleled example: menaced by external foes, and torn by internal dig sension, she succeeded in emerging triumphantly from her trials, through the more force of will displayed by a great nation. Such a splendid picture of national energy had never been witnessed before. The task en
* Histoire de la Révolution Française. Par M. Louis Blanc. Vol. ix. Paris.
trusted to the government was arduous in the extreme : the constitution had to be established while the allies were thundering at the gates of France, while civil war was raging in La Vendée, while Lyons was in a Alame, and Toulon had been delivered over to the English. More dangerous, perhaps, than all this, were the intrigues carried on by the Girondists, which menaced the nation with a reign of anarchy, and gave the royalists ample opportunities for carrying out their designs. At this moment, Charlotte Corday, alarmed by the impending fate of the Girondist party, stabbed Marat, and thus forced on that Reign of Terror which led to such deplorable results. While we cannot go so far with Mr. Bayle St. John as to throw odium on the personal character of the young assassin—and, indeed, our author is careful to furnish proofs of her moral innocence-we find in the volume now before us many indicia which strip her of much of that halo which poets and painters have striven to invest her with. : By her own confession, she would have escaped if she could have found the opportunity, and this reduces her at once to the level of an ordinary assassin. Again, on being searched, her baptismal register was found on her person ; it is evident, then, that she had no intention of dying incognita, as she wrote to her father from her dungeon. At the same time, however, M. Louis Blanc labours to bring forward evidence of her innate modesty. Harmand (de la Meuse) mentions, as a circumstance of which he was himself witness, that Chabot, perceiving a folded paper in her bosom, and making an attempt to seize it, she threw herself back with such vivacity that the pins and strings that held up her robe gave way. Her bosom was thus entirely exposed, and, in spite of the promptness with which she bent down her head to her knees, to conceal it, her modesty would have suffered cruelly had it not been for the delicate conduct of those who surrounded her. Her hands were bound : they hastened to unfasten them that she might herself repair this accidental disorder, which she did with her face turned to the wall. The account of the execution we must describe in our author's own words :
She was led to punishment in the red shirt then the usual dress of assassins. It was seven in the evening. Dense clouds veiled the sky and presaged a storm, which soon burst forth. The people followed the mournful cart in silence, while Charlotte looked calmly round on the surrounding objects. At the foot of the scaffold a slight pallor, immediately followed by more vivid colouring, suffused her lovely face. When the executioner proceeded to remove a portion of her garments, her features expressed a feeling of offended modesty, which reminds us of that sublime expression of Madame Elisabeth at the moment when the executioner tore off the handkerchief which covered her bosom: “In the name of your mother, sir, cover me!” After the execution, one of the assistants, having seized the head to display it to the people, had the infamy to strike it on the cheek—an abominable act of cowardice, which was greeted by an intense and almost universal groan. The head was then pale but exquisitely beautiful. When held up a second time, the face had become, or was fancied to have become, suffused with a bright tinge, as if the indignation at the outrage had survived the punishment. The miserable fellow who had insulted death was cast into prison and publicly branded.
The proud attitude assumed by Charlotte Corday, her youth, her beauty and courage, excited a passionate admiration among many.. A great poet composed in her honour an ode as an apology for assassination :
Son ceil mourant t'a vue en ta superbe joie,
Baigne-toi dans le tien, et reconnais les dieux." Among other adopted sons of the Revolution was a deputy from Mayenne, Adam Lux, who went mad about Charlotte Corday's deed. He went so far as to publish a pamphlet, in which he invoked death on the guillotine, which he should regard henceforth as an altar, and ended by proposing that a statue should be erected to the heroine, with the motto, “Greater than Brutus!” His wish, as regarded death, was gratified. But the strangest deduction our author makes from Charlotte Corday's deed is that she only carried out the principles Marat had openly preached. When she said before the Revolutionary Tribunal, “I killed one man to save one hundred thousand,” this was only another form of Marat's request for five hundred heads in order to save five hun. dred thousand.
The most extraordinary honours were paid to Marat: he had his temples, his triumphal arches ; his bust was placed in many houses as a
a preservation against suspicion. His heart was enshrined in a magnificent urn; his remains were preserved in the Pantheon, in the place of Mirabeau's, and a sort of pyramid was erected in the Carousel
, in which were deposited his bust, his bath-dress, his inkstand, and his shirt, and a sentinel was placed over them, who one night died of cold—or horror.
But the government had soon other matters to attend to besides erecting monuments to Marat. At Lyons the counter-revolution had broken out, and in the North, Mayence, Frankfort, and Valenciennes had fallen before the allies. The generals were fighting, as it were, with a rope around their necks. If they lost a battle, the representative of the people denounced them suspect,” and that was their sentence to the guillotine. Custine perished from this; and it is not surprising that such a system produced a courage of despair, and that the generals preferred death on the bayonets of the enemy. Thus it was that the Duke of York was driven back from before Dunkirk, and the Austrians defeated at Pirmasens. On the other hand, success was almost as perilous for a general as defeat, for the government in Paris was ever fearful that the Revolution would be smothered by some great warrior. While the republic was punishing every act of treason or menace by the guillotine, its enemies were actively engaged in spreading confusion at Paris. During a period of extremest misery they affected triumphal airs; the luxury of the ancient regime suddenly reappeared. The theatres became the place of rendezvous for the royalists." At the Théâtre Français enthusiastic applause was given to a piece called “Pamela," because the scene was laid in England, while at this very time the Convention had declared Pitt the enemy of the human race. Things grew daily more gloomy; crowds collected on the Boulevards, shouting for bread, and the Convention was forced into instituting The Reign OF TERROR. The Committee of Public Safety was urged to root up all sedition, and to give it fresh vigour it was proposed to add Danton. But the stern republican was now engaged on more pleasant matters. He had very recently married a young girl of
sixteen, Mademoiselle Louise Gely, a royalist, whom he could only conquer by kneeling in the confessional before a refractory priest.
The Reign of Terror was accompanied by remarkable successes: the allies were repulsed at Wattignies, and the Vendeans were driven beyond the Loire. On both these subjects Louis Blanc supplies most valuable information, derived, in the former case, from the unpublished Memoirs of Marshal Jourdan, which have been entrusted to him. Of the Vendean war, the account now collated for the first time is still more valuable, for the English have ever obstinately regarded as heroes men who combined all the worst faults of tyrants and incendiaries. We should like to know through how many editions the Memoirs of Madame de la Rochejacquelein passed, and inflamed that fierce hatred of the French which distinguished our fathers. There are many among us who can remenaber how Protestant Englīshmen threw over their nervous terrors of “wooden shoes and warming-pans," and welcomed the priests who had fled from the outbreak of
the Revolution. When humanity was called into question, the bonds of prejudice were broken like packthread. A contemporary has recently recalled these circumstances in connexion with the unseemly pastorals of Cardinal Wiseman, and tells us how the victims of the Septembriseurs were welcomed. So far did the national feeling extend, that even innkeepers declined remuneration, and on hundreds of occasions money was thrust into the hands of the ruined and expatriated victims. At such a period the Vendean war furnished admirable political capital, and the fashion of regarding the Vendeans as ill-used men has passed into a tradition. It is too bad for Louis Blanc, then, to upset all our preconceived notions and schoolboy associations by parading harsh facts, proving the Vendeans to bave been equally culpable with the Bleus in committing unparalleled acts of atrocity.
The most pressing dangers having been removed, it was time for the Committee of Public Safety to look nearer home, and they signalised the return of confidence by wreaking their fury on a helpless woman. It is true that, after the death of Louis XVI., the watch kept over the queen relaxed in its severity; but the proclamation issued by Dumouriez, in which he declared Louis XVII, the only legitimate sovereign of France, fatally recalled the thoughts of the nation to the Temple, as the focus to which all the hopes of the conspirators turned. Even the most ultraroyalist writers avow that repeated plots were undertaken to procure the fiberation of the royal family, for the young king" was the object of all the contra-revolutionist hopes. Reassuming the old court etiquette, his mother affected to treat him, in the Temple, with the respect due to a monarch. When seated at table, he had a chair higher than those of the rest, and provided with a cushion. This obstinacy only profoundly irritated the republicans, and they satisfied their vengeance by separating mother and son. It was a touching scene, as the sister describes it in the Journal de Clery. Marie Antoinette forbade the municipals approaching the bed where the young prince lay, declaring that they should kill her before tearing her son from her. At length she was obliged to yield, through love of the rest. « My aunt and
I raised my brother, for my poor mother had no strength left; and after he was dressed she took him and handed him over to the municipals, deluging him with tears.” Marie Antoinette's heart was not prepared for this last blow: she was overwhelmed by it; and what increase of grief when she learned that the cobbler Simon, a violent and coarse man, was the instructor appointed for her son. As the young prince frequently went on to the tower, she spent entire hours with her face glued against a small pane, by which she hoped to see him pass.
According to M. Blanc, the Republic was well disposed, in July, 1773, to guarantee the safety of the royal family, in return for certain conditions, which Sémonville and Maret were sent to negotiate with the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the King of Naples. They were offered the liberation of the royal family if they would consent to maintain their neutrality; but the Machiavellian policy of the house of Austria opposed this. “ The barbarous egotism of Marie Antoinette's own relatives was fated to be more ungenerous to her than the hatred of those conventionals, whose heads would assuredly have been cut off if she had conquered."
The two plenipotentiaries left Paris in July, and proceeded together to Venice. They had reached Novala, on the neutral territory of the Grisons, when they were arrested by the Austrians, and carried to Mantua. Maret had saved his instructions, but those of his companion having fallen into the hands of Austria, he had no doubt but that Baron Thugut, instructed on the object of their mission, would allow them to accomplish it. It was not the case: what did Austria care for the life of Marie Antoinette ? Thugut had already annulled the engagements of Cobourg and Damouriez for the re-establishment of the monarchy; the diplomatic congress at Antwerp had decided that the allies should obtain through the war indemnities for the past and guarantees for the future. This idea of dismemmbering France impelled Europe, and especially the house of Austria, to abandon Marie Antoinette.
The consequence of this violation of the law of nations was increased severity towards the hapless queen. She was transferred to the Conciergerie, a step nearer the scaffold, and quitted the Temple without turning to look on her sister-in-law and daughter, for fear her firmness might abandon her. On leaving the room she struck her head against the wicket, and on being asked if she had hurt herself, replied “ Oh no! nothing can hurt me at present." In her new prison she had the services of an under gaoler of the name of Bault, who was devoted to her cause, and did all in his power to alleviate her trials. She allowed him to brush her magnificent hair, which he performed with such respectful zoal, that she said one day, in allusion to his name, “ Je veux vous appeler bon, parce que vous l'êtes, et que cela vaut mieux que d'être beau." Still it was not in his power to shield her from all the ills and humiliations which are the necessary accompaniments of fallen greatness. The lovely daughter of Maria Theresa was attired in a robe which hung in tatters. Her chemises were of
very fine material, and one of them was adorned with Mechlin lace; but she had only three, one being given her every ten days. A pin's point served her to trace the state of her linen on the wall
One day, wishing to knit a pair of garters, she was foroed to pull out the threads from her bed-curtains, and employ her toothpicks as knitting Deedles. She wanted a quilt of English cotton, and Bault asked Fouquier Tinville for it, whose only reply was, “What darest thou ask ? Thou deservest to be sent to the guillotine." On the 3rd October,