The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle

Chapter 10

Petion–National-Pique.

And yet, how, on dark bottomless Cataracts there plays the foolishest fantastic-coloured spray and shadow; hiding the Abyss under vapoury rainbows! Alongside of this discussion as to Austrian–Prussian War, there goes on no less but more vehemently a discussion, Whether the Forty or Two-and-forty Swiss of Chateau–Vieux shall be liberated from the Brest Gallies? And then, Whether, being liberated, they shall have a public Festival, or only private ones?

Theroigne, as we saw, spoke; and Collot took up the tale. Has not Bouille’s final display of himself, in that final Night of Spurs, stamped your so-called ‘Revolt of Nanci’ into a ‘Massacre of Nanci,’ for all Patriot judgments? Hateful is that massacre; hateful the Lafayette–Feuillant ‘public thanks’ given for it! For indeed, Jacobin Patriotism and dispersed Feuillantism are now at death-grips; and do fight with all weapons, even with scenic shows. The walls of Paris, accordingly, are covered with Placard and Counter–Placard, on the subject of Forty Swiss blockheads. Journal responds to Journal; Player Collot to Poetaster Roucher; Joseph Chenier the Jacobin, squire of Theroigne, to his Brother Andre the Feuillant; Mayor Petion to Dupont de Nemours: and for the space of two months, there is nowhere peace for the thought of man, — till this thing be settled.

Gloria in excelsis! The Forty Swiss are at last got ‘amnestied.’ Rejoice ye Forty: doff your greasy wool Bonnets, which shall become Caps of Liberty. The Brest Daughter–Society welcomes you from on board, with kisses on each cheek: your iron Handcuffs are disputed as Relics of Saints; the Brest Society indeed can have one portion, which it will beat into Pikes, a sort of Sacred Pikes; but the other portion must belong to Paris, and be suspended from the dome there, along with the Flags of the Three Free Peoples! Such a goose is man; and cackles over plush-velvet Grand Monarques and woollen Galley-slaves; over everything and over nothing, — and will cackle with his whole soul merely if others cackle!

On the ninth morning of April, these Forty Swiss blockheads arrive. From Versailles; with vivats heaven-high; with the affluence of men and women. To the Townhall we conduct them; nay to the Legislative itself, though not without difficulty. They are harangued, bedinnered, begifted, — the very Court, not for conscience’ sake, contributing something; and their Public Festival shall be next Sunday. Next Sunday accordingly it is. (Newspapers of February, March, April, 1792; Iambe d’Andre Chenier sur la Fete des Suisses; &c., &c. in Hist. Parl. xiii, xiv.) They are mounted into a ‘triumphal Car resembling a ship;’ are carted over Paris, with the clang of cymbals and drums, all mortals assisting applausive; carted to the Champ-de-Mars and Fatherland’s Altar; and finally carted, for Time always brings deliverance, — into invisibility for evermore.

Whereupon dispersed Feuillantism, or that Party which loves Liberty yet not more than Monarchy, will likewise have its Festival: Festival of Simonneau, unfortunate Mayor of Etampes, who died for the Law; most surely for the Law, though Jacobinism disputes; being trampled down with his Red Flag in the riot about grains. At which Festival the Public again assists, unapplausive: not we.

On the whole, Festivals are not wanting; beautiful rainbow-spray when all is now rushing treble-quick towards its Niagara Fall. National repasts there are; countenanced by Mayor Petion; Saint–Antoine, and the Strong Ones of the Halles defiling through Jacobin Club, “their felicity,” according to Santerre, “not perfect otherwise;” singing many-voiced their ca-ira, dancing their ronde patriotique. Among whom one is glad to discern Saint–Huruge, expressly ‘in white hat,’ the Saint–Christopher of the Carmagnole. Nay a certain, Tambour or National Drummer, having just been presented with a little daughter, determines to have the new Frenchwoman christened on Fatherland’s Altar then and there. Repast once over, he accordingly has her christened; Fauchet the Te–Deum Bishop acting in chief, Thuriot and honourable persons standing gossips: by the name, Petion–National-Pique! (Patriote–Francais (Brissot’s Newspaper), in Hist. Parl. xiii. 451.) Does this remarkable Citizeness, now past the meridian of life, still walk the Earth? Or did she die perhaps of teething? Universal History is not indifferent.

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Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:30