The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle

Chapter 5

At Dinner.

It was a bright day for Charenton, that 29th of the month, when the Marseillese Brethren actually came in sight. Barbaroux, Santerre and Patriots have gone out to meet the grim Wayfarers. Patriot clasps dusty Patriot to his bosom; there is footwashing and refection: ‘dinner of twelve hundred covers at the Blue Dial, Cadran Bleu;’ and deep interior consultation, that one wots not of. (Deux Amis, viii. 90–101.) Consultation indeed which comes to little; for Santerre, with an open purse, with a loud voice, has almost no head. Here however we repose this night: on the morrow is public entry into Paris.

On which public entry the Day–Historians, Diurnalists, or Journalists as they call themselves, have preserved record enough. How Saint–Antoine male and female, and Paris generally, gave brotherly welcome, with bravo and hand-clapping, in crowded streets; and all passed in the peaceablest manner; — except it might be our Marseillese pointed out here and there a riband-cockade, and beckoned that it should be snatched away, and exchanged for a wool one; which was done. How the Mother Society in a body has come as far as the Bastille-ground, to embrace you. How you then wend onwards, triumphant, to the Townhall, to be embraced by Mayor Petion; to put down your muskets in the Barracks of Nouvelle France, not far off; — then towards the appointed Tavern in the Champs Elysees to enjoy a frugal Patriot repast. (Hist. Parl. xvi. 196. See Barbaroux, p. 51–5.)

Of all which the indignant Tuileries may, by its Tickets of Entry, have warning. Red Swiss look doubly sharp to their Chateau–Grates; — though surely there is no danger? Blue Grenadiers of the Filles–Saint-Thomas Section are on duty there this day: men of Agio, as we have seen; with stuffed purses, riband-cockades; among whom serves Weber. A party of these latter, with Captains, with sundry Feuillant Notabilities, Moreau de Saint–Mery of the three thousand orders, and others, have been dining, much more respectably, in a Tavern hard by. They have dined, and are now drinking Loyal–Patriotic toasts; while the Marseillese, National–Patriotic merely, are about sitting down to their frugal covers of delf. How it happened remains to this day undemonstrable: but the external fact is, certain of these Filles–Saint-Thomas Grenadiers do issue from their Tavern; perhaps touched, surely not yet muddled with any liquor they have had; — issue in the professed intention of testifying to the Marseillese, or to the multitude of Paris Patriots who stroll in these spaces, That they, the Filles–Saint-Thomas men, if well seen into, are not a whit less Patriotic than any other class of men whatever.

It was a rash errand! For how can the strolling multitudes credit such a thing; or do other indeed than hoot at it, provoking, and provoked; — till Grenadier sabres stir in the scabbard, and a sharp shriek rises: “A nous Marseillais, Help Marseillese!” Quick as lightning, for the frugal repast is not yet served, that Marseillese Tavern flings itself open: by door, by window; running, bounding, vault forth the Five hundred and Seventeen undined Patriots; and, sabre flashing from thigh, are on the scene of controversy. Will ye parley, ye Grenadier Captains and official Persons; ‘with faces grown suddenly pale,’ the Deponents say? (Moniteur, Seances du 30, du 31 Juillet 1792 Hist. Parl. xvi. 197–210.) Advisabler were instant moderately swift retreat! The Filles–Saint-Thomas retreat, back foremost; then, alas, face foremost, at treble-quick time; the Marseillese, according to a Deponent, “clearing the fences and ditches after them like lions: Messieurs, it was an imposing spectacle.”

Thus they retreat, the Marseillese following. Swift and swifter, towards the Tuileries: where the Drawbridge receives the bulk of the fugitives; and, then suddenly drawn up, saves them; or else the green mud of the Ditch does it. The bulk of them; not all; ah, no! Moreau de Saint–Mery for example, being too fat, could not fly fast; he got a stroke, flat-stroke only, over the shoulder-blades, and fell prone; — and disappears there from the History of the Revolution. Cuts also there were, pricks in the posterior fleshy parts; much rending of skirts, and other discrepant waste. But poor Sub-lieutenant Duhamel, innocent Change-broker, what a lot for him! He turned on his pursuer, or pursuers, with a pistol; he fired and missed; drew a second pistol, and again fired and missed; then ran: unhappily in vain. In the Rue Saint–Florentin, they clutched him; thrust him through, in red rage: that was the end of the New Era, and of all Eras, to poor Duhamel.

Pacific readers can fancy what sort of grace-before-meat this was to frugal Patriotism. Also how the Battalion of the Filles–Saint-Thomas ‘drew out in arms,’ luckily without further result; how there was accusation at the Bar of the Assembly, and counter-accusation and defence; Marseillese challenging the sentence of free jury court, — which never got to a decision. We ask rather, What the upshot of all these distracted wildly accumulating things may, by probability, be? Some upshot; and the time draws nigh! Busy are Central Committees, of Federes at the Jacobins Church, of Sections at the Townhall; Reunion of Carra, Camille and Company at the Golden Sun. Busy: like submarine deities, or call them mud-gods, working there in the deep murk of waters: till the thing be ready.

And how your National Assembly, like a ship waterlogged, helmless, lies tumbling; the Galleries, of shrill Women, of Federes with sabres, bellowing down on it, not unfrightful; — and waits where the waves of chance may please to strand it; suspicious, nay on the Left side, conscious, what submarine Explosion is meanwhile a-charging! Petition for King’s Forfeiture rises often there: Petition from Paris Section, from Provincial Patriot Towns; From Alencon, Briancon, and ‘the Traders at the Fair of Beaucaire.’ Or what of these? On the 3rd of August, Mayor Petion and the Municipality come petitioning for Forfeiture: they openly, in their tricolor Municipal scarfs. Forfeiture is what all Patriots now want and expect. All Brissotins want Forfeiture; with the little Prince Royal for King, and us for Protector over him. Emphatic Federes asks the legislature: “Can you save us, or not?” Forty-seven Seconds have agreed to Forfeiture; only that of the Filles–Saint-Thomas pretending to disagree. Nay Section Mauconseil declares Forfeiture to be, properly speaking, come; Mauconseil for one ‘does from this day,’ the last of July, ‘cease allegiance to Louis,’ and take minute of the same before all men. A thing blamed aloud; but which will be praised aloud; and the name Mauconseil, of Ill-counsel, be thenceforth changed to Bonconseil, of Good-counsel.

President Danton, in the Cordeliers Section, does another thing: invites all Passive Citizens to take place among the Active in Section-business, one peril threatening all. Thus he, though an official person; cloudy Atlas of the whole. Likewise he manages to have that blackbrowed Battalion of Marseillese shifted to new Barracks, in his own region of the remote South–East. Sleek Chaumette, cruel Billaud, Deputy Chabot the Disfrocked, Huguenin with the tocsin in his heart, will welcome them there. Wherefore, again and again: “O Legislators, can you save us or not?” Poor Legislators; with their Legislature waterlogged, volcanic Explosion charging under it! Forfeiture shall be debated on the ninth day of August; that miserable business of Lafayette may be expected to terminate on the eighth.

Or will the humane Reader glance into the Levee-day of Sunday the fifth? The last Levee! Not for a long time, ‘never,’ says Bertrand–Moleville, had a Levee been so brilliant, at least so crowded. A sad presaging interest sat on every face; Bertrand’s own eyes were filled with tears. For, indeed, outside of that Tricolor Riband on the Feuillants Terrace, Legislature is debating, Sections are defiling, all Paris is astir this very Sunday, demanding Decheance. (Hist. Parl. xvi. 337–9.) Here, however, within the riband, a grand proposal is on foot, for the hundredth time, of carrying his Majesty to Rouen and the Castle of Gaillon. Swiss at Courbevoye are in readiness; much is ready; Majesty himself seems almost ready. Nevertheless, for the hundredth time, Majesty, when near the point of action, draws back; writes, after one has waited, palpitating, an endless summer day, that ‘he has reason to believe the Insurrection is not so ripe as you suppose.’ Whereat Bertrand–Moleville breaks forth ‘into extremity at one of spleen and despair, d’humeur et de desespoir.’ (Bertrand–Moleville, Memoires, ii. 129.)

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