The French Revolution, by Thomas Carlyle

Chapter 6

The Traitor.

But Dumouriez, with his fugitive Host, with his King Ludovicus or King Philippus? There lies the crisis; there hangs the question: Revolution Prodigy, or Counter–Revolution? — One wide shriek covers that North–East region. Soldiers, full of rage, suspicion and terror, flock hither and thither; Dumouriez the many-counselled, never off horseback, knows now no counsel that were not worse than none: the counsel, namely, of joining himself with Cobourg; marching to Paris, extinguishing Jacobinism, and, with some new King Ludovicus or King Philippus, resting the Constitution of 1791! (Dumouriez, Memoires, iv. c. 7–10.)

Is Wisdom quitting Dumouriez; the herald of Fortune quitting him? Principle, faith political or other, beyond a certain faith of mess-rooms, and honour of an officer, had him not to quit. At any rate, his quarters in the Burgh of Saint–Amand; his headquarters in the Village of Saint–Amand des Boues, a short way off, — have become a Bedlam. National Representatives, Jacobin Missionaries are riding and running: of the ‘three Towns,’ Lille, Valenciennes or even Conde, which Dumouriez wanted to snatch for himself, not one can be snatched: your Captain is admitted, but the Town-gate is closed on him, and then the Prison gate, and ‘his men wander about the ramparts.’ Couriers gallop breathless; men wait, or seem waiting, to assassinate, to be assassinated; Battalions nigh frantic with such suspicion and uncertainty, with Vive-la-Republique and Sauve-qui-peut, rush this way and that; — Ruin and Desperation in the shape of Cobourg lying entrenched close by.

Dame Genlis and her fair Princess d’Orleans find this Burgh of Saint–Amand no fit place for them; Dumouriez’s protection is grown worse than none. Tough Genlis one of the toughest women; a woman, as it were, with nine lives in her; whom nothing will beat: she packs her bandboxes; clear for flight in a private manner. Her beloved Princess she will — leave here, with the Prince Chartres Egalite her Brother. In the cold grey of the April morning, we find her accordingly established in her hired vehicle, on the street of Saint–Amand; postilions just cracking their whips to go, — when behold the young Princely Brother, struggling hitherward, hastily calling; bearing the Princess in his arms! Hastily he has clutched the poor young lady up, in her very night-gown, nothing saved of her goods except the watch from the pillow: with brotherly despair he flings her in, among the bandboxes, into Genlis’s chaise, into Genlis’s arms: Leave her not, in the name of Mercy and Heaven! A shrill scene, but a brief one:— the postilions crack and go. Ah, whither? Through by-roads and broken hill-passes: seeking their way with lanterns after nightfall; through perils, and Cobourg Austrians, and suspicious French Nationals; finally, into Switzerland; safe though nigh moneyless. (Genlis, iv. 139.) The brave young Egalite has a most wild Morrow to look for; but now only himself to carry through it.

For indeed over at that Village named of the Mudbaths, Saint–Amand des Boues, matters are still worse. About four o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, the 2d of April 1793, two Couriers come galloping as if for life: Mon General! Four National Representatives, War–Minister at their head, are posting hitherward, from Valenciennes: are close at hand, — with what intents one may guess! While the Couriers are yet speaking, War–Minister and National Representatives, old Camus the Archivist for chief speaker of them, arrive. Hardly has Mon General had time to order out the Huzzar Regiment de Berchigny; that it take rank and wait near by, in case of accident. And so, enter War–Minister Beurnonville, with an embrace of friendship, for he is an old friend; enter Archivist Camus and the other three, following him.

They produce Papers, invite the General to the bar of the Convention: merely to give an explanation or two. The General finds it unsuitable, not to say impossible, and that “the service will suffer.” Then comes reasoning; the voice of the old Archivist getting loud. Vain to reason loud with this Dumouriez; he answers mere angry irreverences. And so, amid plumed staff-officers, very gloomy-looking; in jeopardy and uncertainty, these poor National messengers debate and consult, retire and re-enter, for the space of some two hours: without effect. Whereupon Archivist Camus, getting quite loud, proclaims, in the name of the National Convention, for he has the power to do it, That General Dumouriez is arrested: “Will you obey the National Mandate, General!” “Pas dans ce moment-ci, Not at this particular moment,” answers the General also aloud; then glancing the other way, utters certain unknown vocables, in a mandatory manner; seemingly a German word-of-command. (Dumouriez, iv. 159, &c.) Hussars clutch the Four National Representatives, and Beurnonville the War-minister; pack them out of the apartment; out of the Village, over the lines to Cobourg, in two chaises that very night, — as hostages, prisoners; to lie long in Maestricht and Austrian strongholds! (Their Narrative, written by Camus in Toulongeon, iii. app. 60–87.) Jacta est alea.

This night Dumouriez prints his ‘Proclamation;’ this night and the morrow the Dumouriez Army, in such darkness visible, and rage of semi-desperation as there is, shall meditate what the General is doing, what they themselves will do in it. Judge whether this Wednesday was of halcyon nature, for any one! But, on the Thursday morning, we discern Dumouriez with small escort, with Chartres Egalite and a few staff-officers, ambling along the Conde Highway: perhaps they are for Conde, and trying to persuade the Garrison there; at all events, they are for an interview with Cobourg, who waits in the woods by appointment, in that quarter. Nigh the Village of Doumet, three National Battalions, a set of men always full of Jacobinism, sweep past us; marching rather swiftly, — seemingly in mistake, by a way we had not ordered. The General dismounts, steps into a cottage, a little from the wayside; will give them right order in writing. Hark! what strange growling is heard: what barkings are heard, loud yells of “Traitors,” of “Arrest:” the National Battalions have wheeled round, are emitting shot! Mount, Dumouriez, and spring for life! Dumouriez and Staff strike the spurs in, deep; vault over ditches, into the fields, which prove to be morasses; sprawl and plunge for life; bewhistled with curses and lead. Sunk to the middle, with or without horses, several servants killed, they escape out of shot-range, to General Mack the Austrian’s quarters. Nay they return on the morrow, to Saint–Amand and faithful foreign Berchigny; but what boots it? The Artillery has all revolted, is jingling off to Valenciennes: all have revolted, are revolting; except only foreign Berchigny, to the extent of some poor fifteen hundred, none will follow Dumouriez against France and Indivisible Republic: Dumouriez’s occupation’s gone. (Memoires, iv. 162–180.)

Such an instinct of Frenehhood and Sansculottism dwells in these men: they will follow no Dumouriez nor Lafayette, nor any mortal on such errand. Shriek may be of Sauve-qui-peut, but will also be of Vive-la-Republique. New National Representatives arrive; new General Dampierre, soon killed in battle; new General Custine; the agitated Hosts draw back to some Camp of Famars; make head against Cobourg as they can.

And so Dumouriez is in the Austrian quarters; his drama ended, in this rather sorry manner. A most shifty, wiry man; one of Heaven’s Swiss that wanted only work. Fifty years of unnoticed toil and valour; one year of toil and valour, not unnoticed, but seen of all countries and centuries; then thirty other years again unnoticed, of Memoir-writing, English Pension, scheming and projecting to no purpose: Adieu thou Swiss of Heaven, worthy to have been something else!

His Staff go different ways. Brave young Egalite reaches Switzerland and the Genlis Cottage; with a strong crabstick in his hand, a strong heart in his body: his Princedom in now reduced to that. Egalite the Father sat playing whist, in his Palais Egalite, at Paris, on the 6th day of this same month of April, when a catchpole entered: Citoyen Egalite is wanted at the Convention Committee! (See Montgaillard, iv. 144.) Examination, requiring Arrestment; finally requiring Imprisonment, transference to Marseilles and the Castle of If! Orleansdom has sunk in the black waters; Palais Egalite, which was Palais Royal, is like to become Palais National.

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