The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle

Chapter 8

Constitution burst in Pieces.

Thus is the Tenth of August won and lost. Patriotism reckons its slain by thousand on thousand, so deadly was the Swiss fire from these windows; but will finally reduce them to some Twelve hundred. No child’s play was it; — nor is it! Till two in the afternoon the massacring, the breaking and the burning has not ended; nor the loose Bedlam shut itself again.

How deluges of frantic Sansculottism roared through all passages of this Tuileries, ruthless in vengeance, how the Valets were butchered, hewn down; and Dame Campan saw the Marseilles sabre flash over her head, but the Blackbrowed said, “Va-t-en, Get thee gone,” and flung her from him unstruck: (Campan, ii. c. 21.) how in the cellars wine-bottles were broken, wine-butts were staved in and drunk; and, upwards to the very garrets, all windows tumbled out their precious royal furnitures; and, with gold mirrors, velvet curtains, down of ript feather-beds, and dead bodies of men, the Tuileries was like no Garden of the Earth:— all this let him who has a taste for it see amply in Mercier, in acrid Montgaillard, or Beaulieu of the Deux Amis. A hundred and eighty bodies of Swiss lie piled there; naked, unremoved till the second day. Patriotism has torn their red coats into snips; and marches with them at the Pike’s point: the ghastly bare corpses lie there, under the sun and under the stars; the curious of both sexes crowding to look. Which let not us do. Above a hundred carts heaped with Dead fare towards the Cemetery of Sainte–Madeleine; bewailed, bewept; for all had kindred, all had mothers, if not here, then there. It is one of those Carnage-fields, such as you read of by the name ‘Glorious Victory,’ brought home in this case to one’s own door.

But the blackbrowed Marseillese have struck down the Tyrant of the Chateau. He is struck down; low, and hardly to rise. What a moment for an august Legislative was that when the Hereditary Representative entered, under such circumstances; and the Grenadier, carrying the little Prince Royal out of the Press, set him down on the Assembly-table! A moment, — which one had to smooth off with oratory; waiting what the next would bring! Louis said few words: “He was come hither to prevent a great crime; he believed himself safer nowhere than here.” President Vergniaud answered briefly, in vague oratory as we say, about “defence of Constituted Authorities,” about dying at our post. (Moniteur, Seance du 10 Aout 1792.) And so King Louis sat him down; first here, then there; for a difficulty arose, the Constitution not permitting us to debate while the King is present: finally he settles himself with his Family in the ‘Loge of the Logographe’ in the Reporter’s-Box of a Journalist: which is beyond the enchanted Constitutional Circuit, separated from it by a rail. To such Lodge of the Logographe, measuring some ten feet square, with a small closet at the entrance of it behind, is the King of broad France now limited: here can he and his sit pent, under the eyes of the world, or retire into their closet at intervals; for the space of sixteen hours. Such quiet peculiar moment has the Legislative lived to see.

But also what a moment was that other, few minutes later, when the three Marseillese cannon went off, and the Swiss rolling-fire and universal thunder, like the Crack of Doom, began to rattle! Honourable Members start to their feet; stray bullets singing epicedium even here, shivering in with window-glass and jingle. “No, this is our post; let us die here!” They sit therefore, like stone Legislators. But may not the Lodge of the Logographe be forced from behind? Tear down the railing that divides it from the enchanted Constitutional Circuit! Ushers tear and tug; his Majesty himself aiding from within: the railing gives way; Majesty and Legislative are united in place, unknown Destiny hovering over both.

Rattle, and again rattle, went the thunder; one breathless wide-eyed messenger rushing in after another: King’s orders to the Swiss went out. It was a fearful thunder; but, as we know, it ended. Breathless messengers, fugitive Swiss, denunciatory Patriots, trepidation; finally tripudiation! — Before four o’clock much has come and gone.

The New Municipals have come and gone; with Three Flags, Liberte, Egalite, Patrie, and the clang of vivats. Vergniaud, he who as President few hours ago talked of Dying for Constituted Authorities, has moved, as Committee–Reporter, that the Hereditary Representative be suspended; that a NATIONAL CONVENTION do forthwith assemble to say what further! An able Report: which the President must have had ready in his pocket? A President, in such cases, must have much ready, and yet not ready; and Janus-like look before and after.

King Louis listens to all; retires about midnight ‘to three little rooms on the upper floor;’ till the Luxembourg be prepared for him, and ‘the safeguard of the Nation.’ Safer if Brunswick were once here! Or, alas, not so safe? Ye hapless discrowned heads! Crowds came, next morning, to catch a climpse of them, in their three upper rooms. Montgaillard says the august Captives wore an air of cheerfulness, even of gaiety; that the Queen and Princess Lamballe, who had joined her over night, looked out of the open window, ‘shook powder from their hair on the people below, and laughed.’ (Montgaillard. ii. 135–167.) He is an acrid distorted man.

For the rest, one may guess that the Legislative, above all that the New Municipality continues busy. Messengers, Municipal or Legislative, and swift despatches rush off to all corners of France; full of triumph, blended with indignant wail, for Twelve hundred have fallen. France sends up its blended shout responsive; the Tenth of August shall be as the Fourteenth of July, only bloodier and greater. The Court has conspired? Poor Court: the Court has been vanquished; and will have both the scath to bear and the scorn. How the Statues of Kings do now all fall! Bronze Henri himself, though he wore a cockade once, jingles down from the Pont Neuf, where Patrie floats in Danger. Much more does Louis Fourteenth, from the Place Vendome, jingle down, and even breaks in falling. The curious can remark, written on his horse’s shoe: ‘12 Aout 1692;’ a Century and a Day.

The Tenth of August was Friday. The week is not done, when our old Patriot Ministry is recalled, what of it can be got: strict Roland, Genevese Claviere; add heavy Monge the Mathematician, once a stone-hewer; and, for Minister of Justice, — Danton ‘led hither,’ as himself says, in one of his gigantic figures, ‘through the breach of Patriot cannon!’ These, under Legislative Committees, must rule the wreck as they can: confusedly enough; with an old Legislative waterlogged, with a New Municipality so brisk. But National Convention will get itself together; and then! Without delay, however, let a New Jury–Court and Criminal Tribunal be set up in Paris, to try the crimes and conspiracies of the Tenth. High Court of Orleans is distant, slow: the blood of the Twelve hundred Patriots, whatever become of other blood, shall be inquired after. Tremble, ye Criminals and Conspirators; the Minister of Justice is Danton! Robespierre too, after the victory, sits in the New Municipality; insurrectionary ‘improvised Municipality,’ which calls itself Council General of the Commune.

For three days now, Louis and his Family have heard the Legislative Debates in the Lodge of the Logographe; and retired nightly to their small upper rooms. The Luxembourg and safeguard of the Nation could not be got ready: nay, it seems the Luxembourg has too many cellars and issues; no Municipality can undertake to watch it. The compact Prison of the Temple, not so elegant indeed, were much safer. To the Temple, therefore! On Monday, 13th day of August 1792, in Mayor Petion’s carriage, Louis and his sad suspended Household, fare thither; all Paris out to look at them. As they pass through the Place Vendome Louis Fourteenth’s Statue lies broken on the ground. Petion is afraid the Queen’s looks may be thought scornful, and produce provocation; she casts down her eyes, and does not look at all. The ‘press is prodigious,’ but quiet: here and there, it shouts Vive la Nation; but for most part gazes in silence. French Royalty vanishes within the gates of the Temple: these old peaked Towers, like peaked Extinguisher or Bonsoir, do cover it up; — from which same Towers, poor Jacques Molay and his Templars were burnt out, by French Royalty, five centuries since. Such are the turns of Fate below. Foreign Ambassadors, English Lord Gower have all demanded passports; are driving indignantly towards their respective homes.

So, then, the Constitution is over? For ever and a day! Gone is that wonder of the Universe; First biennial Parliament, waterlogged, waits only till the Convention come; and will then sink to endless depths.

One can guess the silent rage of Old–Constituents, Constitution-builders, extinct Feuillants, men who thought the Constitution would march! Lafayette rises to the altitude of the situation; at the head of his Army. Legislative Commissioners are posting towards him and it, on the Northern Frontier, to congratulate and perorate: he orders the Municipality of Sedan to arrest these Commissioners, and keep them strictly in ward as Rebels, till he say further. The Sedan Municipals obey.

The Sedan Municipals obey: but the Soldiers of the Lafayette Army? The Soldiers of the Lafayette Army have, as all Soldiers have, a kind of dim feeling that they themselves are Sansculottes in buff belts; that the victory of the Tenth of August is also a victory for them. They will not rise and follow Lafayette to Paris; they will rise and send him thither! On the 18th, which is but next Saturday, Lafayette, with some two or three indignant Staff-officers, one of whom is Old–Constituent Alexandre de Lameth, having first put his Lines in what order he could, — rides swiftly over the Marches, towards Holland. Rides, alas, swiftly into the claws of Austrians! He, long-wavering, trembling on the verge of the horizon, has set, in Olmutz Dungeons; this History knows him no more. Adieu, thou Hero of two worlds; thinnest, but compact honour-worthy man! Through long rough night of captivity, through other tumults, triumphs and changes, thou wilt swing well, ‘fast-anchored to the Washington Formula;’ and be the Hero and Perfect-character, were it only of one idea. The Sedan Municipals repent and protest; the Soldiers shout Vive la Nation. Dumouriez Polymetis, from his Camp at Maulde, sees himself made Commander in Chief.

And, O Brunswick! what sort of ‘military execution’ will Paris merit now? Forward, ye well-drilled exterminatory men; with your artillery-waggons, and camp kettles jingling. Forward, tall chivalrous King of Prussia; fanfaronading Emigrants and war-god Broglie, ‘for some consolation to mankind,’ which verily is not without need of some.

END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.

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