The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle

Chapter 11

The Hereditary Representative.

And yet it is not by carmagnole-dances and singing of ca-ira, that the work can be done. Duke Brunswick is not dancing carmagnoles, but has his drill serjeants busy.

On the Frontiers, our Armies, be it treason or not, behave in the worst way. Troops badly commanded, shall we say? Or troops intrinsically bad? Unappointed, undisciplined, mutinous; that, in a thirty-years peace, have never seen fire? In any case, Lafayette’s and Rochambeau’s little clutch, which they made at Austrian Flanders, has prospered as badly as clutch need do: soldiers starting at their own shadow; suddenly shrieking, “On nous trahit,” and flying off in wild panic, at or before the first shot; — managing only to hang some two or three Prisoners they had picked up, and massacre their own Commander, poor Theobald Dillon, driven into a granary by them in the Town of Lille.

And poor Gouvion: he who sat shiftless in that Insurrection of Women! Gouvion quitted the Legislative Hall and Parliamentary duties, in disgust and despair, when those Galley-slaves of Chateau–Vieux were admitted there. He said, “Between the Austrians and the Jacobins there is nothing but a soldier’s death for it;” (Toulongeon, ii. 149.) and so, ‘in the dark stormy night,’ he has flung himself into the throat of the Austrian cannon, and perished in the skirmish at Maubeuge on the ninth of June. Whom Legislative Patriotism shall mourn, with black mortcloths and melody in the Champ-de-Mars: many a Patriot shiftier, truer none. Lafayette himself is looking altogether dubious; in place of beating the Austrians, is about writing to denounce the Jacobins. Rochambeau, all disconsolate, quits the service: there remains only Luckner, the babbling old Prussian Grenadier.

Without Armies, without Generals! And the Cimmerian Night, has gathered itself; Brunswick preparing his Proclamation; just about to march! Let a Patriot Ministry and Legislative say, what in these circumstances it will do? Suppress Internal Enemies, for one thing, answers the Patriot Legislative; and proposes, on the 24th of May, its Decree for the Banishment of Priests. Collect also some nucleus of determined internal friends, adds War-minister Servan; and proposes, on the 7th of June, his Camp of Twenty-thousand. Twenty-thousand National Volunteers; Five out of each Canton; picked Patriots, for Roland has charge of the Interior: they shall assemble here in Paris; and be for a defence, cunningly devised, against foreign Austrians and domestic Austrian Committee alike. So much can a Patriot Ministry and Legislative do.

Reasonable and cunningly devised as such Camp may, to Servan and Patriotism, appear, it appears not so to Feuillantism; to that Feuillant–Aristocrat Staff of the Paris Guard; a Staff, one would say again, which will need to be dissolved. These men see, in this proposed Camp of Servan’s, an offence; and even, as they pretend to say, an insult. Petitions there come, in consequence, from blue Feuillants in epaulettes; ill received. Nay, in the end, there comes one Petition, called ‘of the Eight Thousand National Guards:’ so many names are on it; including women and children. Which famed Petition of the Eight Thousand is indeed received: and the Petitioners, all under arms, are admitted to the honours of the sitting, — if honours or even if sitting there be; for the instant their bayonets appear at the one door, the Assembly ‘adjourns,’ and begins to flow out at the other. (Moniteur, Seance du 10 Juin 1792.)

Also, in these same days, it is lamentable to see how National Guards, escorting Fete Dieu or Corpus–Christi ceremonial, do collar and smite down any Patriot that does not uncover as the Hostie passes. They clap their bayonets to the breast of Cattle-butcher Legendre, a known Patriot ever since the Bastille days; and threaten to butcher him; though he sat quite respectfully, he says, in his Gig, at a distance of fifty paces, waiting till the thing were by. Nay, orthodox females were shrieking to have down the Lanterne on him. (Debats des Jacobins in Hist. Parl. xiv. 429.)

To such height has Feuillantism gone in this Corps. For indeed, are not their Officers creatures of the chief Feuillant, Lafayette? The Court too has, very naturally, been tampering with them; caressing them, ever since that dissolution of the so-called Constitutional Guard. Some Battalions are altogether ‘petris, kneaded full’ of Feuillantism, mere Aristocrats at bottom: for instance, the Battalion of the Filles–Saint-Thomas, made up of your Bankers, Stockbrokers, and other Full-purses of the Rue Vivienne. Our worthy old Friend Weber, Queen’s Foster-brother Weber, carries a musket in that Battalion, — one may judge with what degree of Patriotic intention.

Heedless of all which, or rather heedful of all which, the Legislative, backed by Patriot France and the feeling of Necessity, decrees this Camp of Twenty thousand. Decisive though conditional Banishment of malign Priests, it has already decreed.

It will now be seen, therefore, Whether the Hereditary Representative is for us or against us? Whether or not, to all our other woes, this intolerablest one is to be added; which renders us not a menaced Nation in extreme jeopardy and need, but a paralytic Solecism of a Nation; sitting wrapped as in dead cerements, of a Constitutional–Vesture that were no other than a winding-sheet; our right hand glued to our left: to wait there, writhing and wriggling, unable to stir from the spot, till in Prussian rope we mount to the gallows? Let the Hereditary Representative consider it well: The Decree of Priests? The Camp of Twenty Thousand? — By Heaven, he answers, Veto! Veto! — Strict Roland hands in his Letter to the King; or rather it was Madame’s Letter, who wrote it all at a sitting; one of the plainest-spoken Letters ever handed in to any King. This plain-spoken Letter King Louis has the benefit of reading overnight. He reads, inwardly digests; and next morning, the whole Patriot Ministry finds itself turned out. It is the 13th of June 1792. (Madame Roland, ii. 115.)

Dumouriez the many-counselled, he, with one Duranthon, called Minister of Justice, does indeed linger for a day or two; in rather suspicious circumstances; speaks with the Queen, almost weeps with her: but in the end, he too sets off for the Army; leaving what Un–Patriot or Semi–Patriot Ministry and Ministries can now accept the helm, to accept it. Name them not: new quick-changing Phantasms, which shift like magic-lantern figures; more spectral than ever!

Unhappy Queen, unhappy Louis! The two Vetos were so natural: are not the Priests martyrs; also friends? This Camp of Twenty Thousand, could it be other than of stormfullest Sansculottes? Natural; and yet, to France, unendurable. Priests that co-operate with Coblentz must go elsewhither with their martyrdom: stormful Sansculottes, these and no other kind of creatures, will drive back the Austrians. If thou prefer the Austrians, then for the love of Heaven go join them. If not, join frankly with what will oppose them to the death. Middle course is none.

Or alas, what extreme course was there left now, for a man like Louis? Underhand Royalists, Ex–Minister Bertrand–Moleville, Ex–Constituent Malouet, and all manner of unhelpful individuals, advise and advise. With face of hope turned now on the Legislative Assembly, and now on Austria and Coblentz, and round generally on the Chapter of Chances, an ancient Kingship is reeling and spinning, one knows not whitherward, on the flood of things.

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