The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle

Chapter 3

Some Consolation to Mankind.

Of the Federation Feast itself we shall say almost nothing. There are Tents pitched in the Champ-de-Mars; tent for National Assembly; tent for Hereditary Representative, — who indeed is there too early, and has to wait long in it. There are Eighty-three symbolical Departmental Trees-of-Liberty; trees and mais enough: beautifullest of all these is one huge mai, hung round with effete Scutcheons, Emblazonries and Genealogy-books; nay better still, with Lawyers’-bags, ‘sacs de procedure:’ which shall be burnt. The Thirty seat-rows of that famed Slope are again full; we have a bright Sun; and all is marching, streamering and blaring: but what avails it? Virtuous Mayor Petion, whom Feuillantism had suspended, was reinstated only last night, by Decree of the Assembly. Men’s humour is of the sourest. Men’s hats have on them, written in chalk, ‘Vive Petion;’ and even, ‘Petion or Death, Petion ou la Mort.’

Poor Louis, who has waited till five o’clock before the Assembly would arrive, swears the National Oath this time, with a quilted cuirass under his waistcoat which will turn pistol-bullets. (Campan, ii. c. 20; De Stael, ii. c. 7.) Madame de Stael, from that Royal Tent, stretches out the neck in a kind of agony, lest the waving multitudes which receive him may not render him back alive. No cry of Vive le Roi salutes the ear; cries only of Vive Petion; Petion ou la Mort. The National Solemnity is as it were huddled by; each cowering off almost before the evolutions are gone through. The very Mai with its Scutcheons and Lawyers’-bags is forgotten, stands unburnt; till ‘certain Patriot Deputies,’ called by the people, set a torch to it, by way of voluntary after-piece. Sadder Feast of Pikes no man ever saw.

Mayor Petion, named on hats, is at his zenith in this Federation; Lafayette again is close upon his nadir. Why does the stormbell of Saint–Roch speak out, next Saturday; why do the citizens shut their shops? (Moniteur, Seance du 21 Juillet 1792.) It is Sections defiling, it is fear of effervescence. Legislative Committee, long deliberating on Lafayette and that Anti-jacobin Visit of his, reports, this day, that there is ‘not ground for Accusation!’ Peace, ye Patriots, nevertheless; and let that tocsin cease: the Debate is not finished, nor the Report accepted; but Brissot, Isnard and the Mountain will sift it, and resift it, perhaps for some three weeks longer.

So many bells, stormbells and noises do ring; — scarcely audible; one drowning the other. For example: in this same Lafayette tocsin, of Saturday, was there not withal some faint bob-minor, and Deputation of Legislative, ringing the Chevalier Paul Jones to his long rest; tocsin or dirge now all one to him! Not ten days hence Patriot Brissot, beshouted this day by the Patriot Galleries, shall find himself begroaned by them, on account of his limited Patriotism; nay pelted at while perorating, and ‘hit with two prunes.’ (Hist. Parl. xvi. 185.) It is a distracted empty-sounding world; of bob-minors and bob-majors, of triumph and terror, of rise and fall!

The more touching is this other Solemnity, which happens on the morrow of the Lafayette tocsin: Proclamation that the Country is in Danger. Not till the present Sunday could such Solemnity be. The Legislative decreed it almost a fortnight ago; but Royalty and the ghost of a Ministry held back as they could. Now however, on this Sunday, 22nd day of July 1792, it will hold back no longer; and the Solemnity in very deed is. Touching to behold! Municipality and Mayor have on their scarfs; cannon-salvo booms alarm from the Pont–Neuf, and single-gun at intervals all day. Guards are mounted, scarfed Notabilities, Halberdiers, and a Cavalcade; with streamers, emblematic flags; especially with one huge Flag, flapping mournfully: Citoyens, la Patrie est en Danger. They roll through the streets, with stern-sounding music, and slow rattle of hoofs: pausing at set stations, and with doleful blast of trumpet, singing out through Herald’s throat, what the Flag says to the eye: “Citizens, the Country is in Danger!”

Is there a man’s heart that hears it without a thrill? The many-voiced responsive hum or bellow of these multitudes is not of triumph; and yet it is a sound deeper than triumph. But when the long Cavalcade and Proclamation ended; and our huge Flag was fixed on the Pont Neuf, another like it on the Hotel-de-Ville, to wave there till better days; and each Municipal sat in the centre of his Section, in a Tent raised in some open square, Tent surmounted with flags of Patrie en danger, and topmost of all a Pike and Bonnet Rouge; and, on two drums in front of him, there lay a plank-table, and on this an open Book, and a Clerk sat, like recording-angel, ready to write the Lists, or as we say to enlist! O, then, it seems, the very gods might have looked down on it. Young Patriotism, Culottic and Sansculottic, rushes forward emulous: That is my name; name, blood, and life, is all my Country’s; why have I nothing more! Youths of short stature weep that they are below size. Old men come forward, a son in each hand. Mothers themselves will grant the son of their travail; send him, though with tears. And the multitude bellows Vive la Patrie, far reverberating. And fire flashes in the eyes of men; — and at eventide, your Municipal returns to the Townhall, followed by his long train of volunteer Valour; hands in his List: says proudly, looking round. This is my day’s harvest. (Tableau de la Revolution, para Patrie en Danger.) They will march, on the morrow, to Soissons; small bundle holding all their chattels.

So, with Vive la Patrie, Vive la Liberte, stone Paris reverberates like Ocean in his caves; day after day, Municipals enlisting in tricolor Tent; the Flag flapping on Pont Neuf and Townhall, Citoyens, la Patrie est en Danger. Some Ten thousand fighters, without discipline but full of heart, are on march in few days. The like is doing in every Town of France. — Consider therefore whether the Country will want defenders, had we but a National Executive? Let the Sections and Primary Assemblies, at any rate, become Permanent, and sit continually in Paris, and over France, by Legislative Decree dated Wednesday the 25th. (Moniteur, Seance du 25 Juillet 1792.)

Mark contrariwise how, in these very hours, dated the 25th, Brunswick shakes himself ‘s’ebranle,’ in Coblentz; and takes the road! Shakes himself indeed; one spoken word becomes such a shaking. Successive, simultaneous dirl of thirty thousand muskets shouldered; prance and jingle of ten-thousand horsemen, fanfaronading Emigrants in the van; drum, kettle-drum; noise of weeping, swearing; and the immeasurable lumbering clank of baggage-waggons and camp-kettles that groan into motion: all this is Brunswick shaking himself; not without all this does the one man march, ‘covering a space of forty miles.’ Still less without his Manifesto, dated, as we say, the 25th; a State–Paper worthy of attention!

By this Document, it would seem great things are in store for France. The universal French People shall now have permission to rally round Brunswick and his Emigrant Seigneurs; tyranny of a Jacobin Faction shall oppress them no more; but they shall return, and find favour with their own good King; who, by Royal Declaration (three years ago) of the Twenty-third of June, said that he would himself make them happy. As for National Assembly, and other Bodies of Men invested with some temporary shadow of authority, they are charged to maintain the King’s Cities and Strong Places intact, till Brunswick arrive to take delivery of them. Indeed, quick submission may extenuate many things; but to this end it must be quick. Any National Guard or other unmilitary person found resisting in arms shall be ‘treated as a traitor;’ that is to say, hanged with promptitude. For the rest, if Paris, before Brunswick gets thither, offer any insult to the King: or, for example, suffer a faction to carry the King away elsewhither; in that case Paris shall be blasted asunder with cannon-shot and ‘military execution.’ Likewise all other Cities, which may witness, and not resist to the uttermost, such forced-march of his Majesty, shall be blasted asunder; and Paris and every City of them, starting-place, course and goal of said sacrilegious forced-march, shall, as rubbish and smoking ruin, lie there for a sign. Such vengeance were indeed signal, ‘an insigne vengeance:’ — O Brunswick, what words thou writest and blusterest! In this Paris, as in old Nineveh, are so many score thousands that know not the right hand from the left, and also much cattle. Shall the very milk-cows, hard-living cadgers’-asses, and poor little canary-birds die?

Nor is Royal and Imperial Prussian–Austrian Declaration wanting: setting forth, in the amplest manner, their Sanssouci–Schonbrunn version of this whole French Revolution, since the first beginning of it; and with what grief these high heads have seen such things done under the Sun: however, ‘as some small consolation to mankind,’ (Annual Register (1792), p. 236.) they do now despatch Brunswick; regardless of expense, as one might say, of sacrifices on their own part; for is it not the first duty to console men?

Serene Highnesses, who sit there protocolling and manifestoing, and consoling mankind! how were it if, for once in the thousand years, your parchments, formularies, and reasons of state were blown to the four winds; and Reality Sans-indispensables stared you, even you, in the face; and Mankind said for itself what the thing was that would console it? —

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/carlyle/thomas/french_revolution/v2.6.3.html

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