Front Page Titles (by Subject) XIII: The Feuillants and the War - Lectures on the French Revolution (LF ed.)
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XIII: The Feuillants and the War - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Lectures on the French Revolution (LF ed.) 
Lectures on the French Revolution, ed. John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, with a foreword by Steven J. Tonsor (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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The Feuillants and the War
Tuesday, June 21, the day on which the departure of the king became known, was the greatest day in the history of the Assembly. The deputies were so quick to meet the dangers of the situation, they were so calm, their measures were so comprehensive, that they at once restored public confidence. By the middle of the day the tumult in the streets was appeased, and the ambassadors were astonished at the tranquillity of Paris. They wrote home that all parties put aside their quarrels, and combined in a sincere endeavour to save the State. That was the appearance of things on the surface and for the moment. But the Right took no share in acts which they deemed a usurpation of powers calculated to supersede monarchy, and to make the crisis serve as the transition to a Republic. To the number of almost 300 they signed a protest, declaring that they would take no further part in the deliberations. Their leader, Cazalès, went away to Coblenz, and was coldly received as a man who had yielded too much to parliamentary opinions, whose services had been unavailing, and who repented too late.
The king’s flight, while it broke up the Conservative party, called the Republican party into existence. For Lewis had left behind him a manifesto, meditated during many months, urging the defects of the Constitution, and denouncing all that had been effected since he had suffered violence at Versailles. Many others besides Lewis were aware of the defects, and desired their amendment. But the renunciation of so much that he had sanctioned, so much that he had solemnly and repeatedly approved, exposed him to the reproach of duplicity and falsehood. He not only underwent the ignominy of capture and exposure; he was regarded henceforth as a detected perjurer. If the king could never be trusted again, the prospects of monarchy were hopeless. The Orleans party offered no substitute, for their candidate was discredited. Men began to say that it was better that what was inevitable should be recognised at once than that it should be established later on by violence, after a struggle in which more than monarchy would be imperilled, and which would bring to the front the most inhuman of the populace. To us, who know what the next year was to bring, the force and genuineness of the argument is apparent; but it failed to impress the National Assembly. Scarcely thirty members shared those opinions, and neither Barère nor Robespierre was among them. The stronghold of the new movement was the Club of the Cordeliers. The great body of the constitutional party remained true to the cause, and drew closer together. Lameth and Lafayette appeared at the Jacobins arm in arm; and when the general was attacked for negligence in guarding the Tuileries, Barnave effectually defended him. This was the origin of the Feuillants, the last organisation for the maintenance of monarchy. They were resolved to save the Constitution by amending it in the direction of a strengthened executive, and for their purpose it was necessary to restore the king. If his flight had succeeded, it was proposed to open negotiations with him, for he would have it in his power to plunge France into foreign and domestic war. He was more formidable on the frontier than in the capital. Malouet, the most sensible and the most respected of the royalists, was to have been sent to treat, in the name of the Assembly, that, by moderating counsels, bloodshed might be averted, and the essentials of the Revolution assured. But, on the second evening, a tired horseman drew rein at the entrance, and the joyous uproar outside informed the deputies before he could dismount that he came with news of the king. He was the Varennes doctor, and he had been sent at daybreak to learn what the town was to do with its prisoners.
The king, ceasing to be a danger, became an embarrassment. He could not at once be replaced on the throne. Without prejudging the future, it was resolved that he be detained at the Tuileries until the Constitution, completed and revised, was submitted to him for his free assent. Thus, for ten weeks, he was suspended. The Assembly governed and legislated, without reference to his sanction; and the interregnum was so prolonged that the monarchy could never recover. When, in September, Lewis resumed his royal function, he was no longer an integral element in the State, but an innovation and an experiment. On the day when, standing uncovered before the legislators, he promised fidelity to their Constitution, it seemed natural to them, in the presence of tarnished and diminished majesty, to sit down and put their hats on. The triumvirs, who had foiled Mirabeau, began immediately after his death to sustain the royal cause in secret. Montmorin called on Lameth before he was up, and began the negotiation. Barnave frequented the house of Montmorin, but took care always to come accompanied, in order to prevent a bribe. His two days’ journey in the royal company confirmed him in his design. Having reduced the prerogative when it was excessive, they revived it when it had become too weak, and the king could no longer inspire alarm. They undertook to devise props for the damaged throne. “If not Lewis XVI.,” said Lafayette, “then Lewis XVII.” “If not this king,” said Sieyès, “find us another.” This was the predominant feeling.
When an attack was made on the king at the Jacobins, all the deputies present, excepting six, seceded in a body, and founded a new club at the Feuillants. On July 15, in a speech which was considered the finest heard in France since Mirabeau, Barnave carried an overwhelming vote in favour of monarchy. He said that the revolutionary movement could go no farther without carrying away property. He dreaded the government of the poor over the rich; for Barnave’s political philosophy consisted in middle-class sovereignty—government by that kind of property which depends on constant labour, integrity, foresight, and self-denial, excluding poverty and opulence. Defeated at the Jacobins and in the Assembly, the republicans prepared a demonstration on the Champ de Mars, where a petition was signed for the dethronement of the king. The Assembly, fearing a renewal of the scenes at Versailles, commissioned Bailly and Lafayette to disperse the meeting. On July 17 a collision ensued, shots were fired, and several petitioners were killed. The Jacobins, for the moment, were crushed. Robespierre, Marat, even Danton, effaced themselves, and expected that the Feuillants would follow up their victory. It seemed impossible that men who had the resolution to shoot down their masters, the people of Paris, and were able to give the law, should be so weak in spirit, or so short of sight, as to throw away their advantage, and resume a contest on equal terms with conquered and injured adversaries.
The Feuillants were thenceforward predominant, and held their ground until the Girondins overthrew them on March 18. It was the rule at their club to admit none but active citizens, paying taxes and possessing the franchise. The masses were thus given over to the Jacobins. By their energy at the Champ de Mars, July 17, Lafayette and his new friends had aroused the resentment of a vindictive party; and when they took no advantage of the terror they inspired, the terror departed, and the resentment remained. It was agreed that Malouet should move amendments to the Constitution. The Feuillants were to oppose, and then to play into his hands. But Malouet was deserted by his friends, the agreement was not carried out, and the revision failed in the Assembly. The Committees proposed that the famous decree of November 7, by which no deputy could accept office, should be revoked. The exclusion was maintained, but ministers were allowed to appear and answer for their departments. No other important amendment was carried, and no serious attempt was made to adjust and harmonise the clauses voted during two hurried years. Various reforms were vainly brought forward; and they indicate, as well as the sudden understanding between Malouet and Barnave, that the deputies had little faith in the work they had accomplished. They were tired of it. They were no longer on the crest of the wave, and their power had passed to the clubs and to the press. They were about to disappear. By an unholy alliance between Robespierre and Cazalès the members of the National Assembly were ineligible to the Legislature that was to follow. None of those who drew up the Constitution were to have a share in applying it. The actual rulers of France were condemned to political extinction. Therefore the power which the Feuillants acquired by their very dexterous management of the situation produced by the king’s flight could not last; their radical opponents had time on their side, and they had logic.
Lewis, after his degradation, was an impossible king. And the republicans had a future majority in reserve, whenever the excluded class was restored to the right of voting which it had enjoyed in 1789 before equality was a fundamental law, and which the Rights of Man enabled them to claim. And now the incident of Varennes supplied the enemies of the throne with a new argument. The wretched incompetence of Lewis had become evident to all, and to the queen herself. She did not hesitate to take his place, and when people spoke of the Court, it was the queen they meant. The flight, and the policy that led to it, and that was renewed by the failure, was the policy of relying on foreign aid, especially that of the emperor. The queen was the connecting link, and the chief negotiator. And the object she pursued was to constrain the French people, by means of the emperor’s influence on the Powers, either by the humiliating parade of power at a congress, or by invasion. That is what she was believed to be contriving, and the sense of national independence was added to the motive of political liberty to make the Court unpopular. People denounced the Austrian cabal, and the queen as its centre. It was believed that she wished to govern not only through the royal authority restored, but through the royal authority restored by foreign oppressors. The Revolution was confronted with Europe. It had begun its work by insurrection, and it had to complete its work by war. The beginning of European complications was the flight to Varennes.
Early in September the Constitution was presented to Lewis XVI. The gates were thrown open. The guards who were his gaolers were withdrawn. He was ostensibly a free man. If he decided to accept, his acceptance would be voluntary. The Emperor, Kaunitz, Malesherbes, advised him to accept. Malouet preferred, as usual, a judicious middle course. Burke was for refusal. He said that assent meant destruction, and he thought afterwards that he was right, for the king assented and was destroyed. Burke was not listened to. He had become the adviser of Coblenz, and great as his claims were upon the gratitude of both king and queen, he was counted in the ranks of their enemies. Mercy, who transmitted his letter, still extant in the archives of France, begged that it might not influence the decision. After ten days of leisurely reflection, but without real hesitation, for everything had been arranged with Lameth and Barnave, the leaders of the majority, Lewis gave his sanction to the Constitution of 1791, which was to last until 1792, and the National Assembly was dissolved. Political delinquents, including the accomplices of Varennes, received an amnesty.
By right of the immense change they made in the world, by their energy and sincerity, their fidelity to reason and their resistance to custom, their superiority to the sordid craving for increase of national power, their idealism and their ambition to declare the eternal law, the States-General of 1789 are the most memorable of all political assemblies. They cleared away the history of France, and with 2500 decrees they laid down the plan of a new world for men who were reared in the old. Their institutions perished, but their influence has endured; and the problem of their history is to explain why so genuine a striving for the highest of earthly goods so deplorably failed. The errors that ruined their enterprise may be reduced to one. Having put the nation in the place of the Crown, they invested it with the same unlicensed power, raising no security and no remedy against oppression from below, assuming, or believing, that a government truly representing the people could do no wrong. They acted as if authority, duly constituted, requires no check, and as if no barriers are needed against the nation. The notion common among them, that liberty consists in a good civil code, a notion shared by so famous a Liberal as Madame de Staël, explains the facility with which so many revolutionists went over to the Empire. But the dreadful convulsion that ensued had a cause for which they were not responsible. In the violent contradiction between the new order of things in France and the inorganic world around it, conflict was irrepressible. Between French principles and European practice there could be neither conciliation nor confidence. Each was a constant menace to the other, and the explosion of enmity could only be restrained by unusual wisdom and policy.
The dissolution of the Whig party in England indicates what might be expected in the continental monarchies where there were no Whigs. We shall presently see that it was upon this rock, in the nature of things, that the Revolution went to pieces. The wisest of the statesmen who saw the evil days, Royer Collard, affirmed long after that all parties in the Revolution were honest, except the Royalists. He meant that the Right alone did wrong with premeditation and design. In the surprising revulsion that followed the return from Varennes, and developed the Feuillants, it was in the power of the Conservatives to give life to constitutional monarchy. That was the moment of their defection. They would have given much to save an absolute king: they deliberately abandoned the constitutional king to his fate.
The 1150 men who had been the first choice of France now pass out of our sight. The 720 deputies of the Legislative Assembly were new and generally obscure names. Nobles, clergy, conservatives did not reappear, and their place was taken by the Feuillants, who, in the former Assembly, would have belonged to the Left. The centre of gravity shifted far in the revolutionary direction. The Constitution was made. The discussion of principles was over, and the dispute was not for doctrines but for power. The speakers have not the same originality or force; they are not inventors in political science; they are not the pioneers of mankind. In literary faculty, if not in political, they surpass their predecessors, and are remembered for their eloquence if not for statecraft.
Reinhard, a German traveller who fell in with a group of the new deputies on their way to Paris, fell under their charm, and resolved to cast his lot with a country about to be governed by such men. Whilst he rose to be an ambassador and minister of foreign affairs, his friends were cut off in their prime, for they were the deputies who came from Bordeaux, and gave the name of their department to the party of the Gironde. By their parliamentary talents they quickly obtained the lead of the new Assembly; and as they had few ideas and no tactics, they allowed Sieyès to direct their course.
Robespierre, through the Jacobin Club, which now recovered much of the ground it had lost in July, became the manager of the Extreme Left, which gradually separated from Brissot and the Girondins. The ministry was in the hands of the Feuillants, who were guided by Lameth, while Barnave was the secret adviser of the queen. She followed his counsels with aversion and distrust, looking upon him as an enemy, and longing to throw off the mask, and show him how he had been deceived. As she could not understand how the same men who had depressed monarchy desired to sustain it, she played a double and ignoble part. The tactics of the Feuillant advisers brought a revival of popular feeling in favour of the Court, which seemed inconceivable at the epoch of the arrest. King and queen were applauded in the streets, and at the theatre the cry “Long live the king!” silenced the cry “Long live the nation!” This was in October 1791, before the Legislative Assembly had divided into parties, or found a policy.
When the Assembly summoned the émigrés to return by the month of January, the king fully agreed with the policy though not with the penalty. But when a Commission reported on the temper of the clergy, and described the mischief that was brewing in the provinces between the priests of the two sections, and severe measures of repression were decreed against nonjurors, he interposed a veto. The First Assembly had disendowed the clergy, leaving them a pension. The Second, regarding them as agitators, resolved to proceed against them as against the émigrés. Lewis, in resisting persecution, was supported by the Feuillants. But the Assembly was not Feuillant, and the veto began its estrangement from the king. A new minister was imposed on him. The Count Narbonne de Lara was the most brilliant figure in the noblesse of France, and he lived to captivate and dazzle Napoleon. Talleyrand, who thought the situation under the Constitution desperate, put forward his friend; and Madame de Staël, the queen of constitutional society, obtained for him the ministry of war. The appointment of Narbonne was a blow struck at the Feuillants, who still desired to reform the institutions, and who were resolute in favour of peace. At the same time, Lafayette laid down his command of the National Guard, and stood as a candidate to succeed Bailly in the office of mayor. But Lafayette had ordered the capture of the royal family, and could not be forgiven. The queen obtained the election of Pétion instead of Lafayette; and behind Pétion was Danton. What the Feuillants lost was added to the Girondins, not yet distinct from the Jacobins; and as the Feuillants were for two chambers, for peace, and for an executive independent of the single Assembly and vetoing its decrees, the policy of its opponents was to bring the king into subjection to the Legislature, to put down the discontented clergy, and to make the emigration a cause for war.
The new minister, Narbonne, was accepted as a war minister, while his Feuillant colleague at the Foreign Office, Delessart, was obstinately pacific. On December 14 Lewis came down to the Legislature, and announced that he would insist that the émigrés should receive no encouragement beyond the frontier. It was the first act of hostility and defiance, and it showed that the king was parting with his Feuillant friends. But Delessart spoilt the effect by keeping back the note to the emperor for ten days, and communicating it then with precautions.
Leopold II. was one of the shrewdest and most cautious of men. He knew how to wait, and how to give way. He had no wish that his brother-in-law should again be powerful, and he was not sorry that France should be disabled by civil dissension. But he could not abandon his sister without dishonour; and he was afraid of the contagion of French principles in Belgium, which he had reconciled and pacified with difficulty. Moreover, a common action in French affairs, action which might eventually be warlike, was a means of closing the long enmity with Prussia, and obtaining a substitute for the family alliance with France, which had become futile. Therefore he was prepared, if they had escaped, to risk war for their restoration, and induced the Prussian agent to sign an undertaking which went beyond his instructions.
When the disastrous news reached him from Varennes, Leopold appealed to the Powers, drew up an alliance with Prussia, and joined in the declaration of Pilnitz, by which France was threatened with the combined action of all Europe unless the king was restored to a position worthy of kings. The threat implied no danger, because it was made conditional on the unanimity of the Powers. There was one Power that was sure not to consent. England was waiting an opportunity to profit by French troubles. It had already been seriously proposed by Bouillé, with the approval of Lewis, to purchase aid from George III. by the surrender of all the colonies of France. Therefore Leopold thought that he risked nothing by a demonstration which the émigrés made the most of to alarm and irritate the French people. But when the king freely accepted the Constitution, the manifesto of Pilnitz fell to the ground. If he was content with his position, it could not be the duty of the Powers to waste blood and treasure in attempting to alter it. The best thing was that things should settle down in France. Then there would be no excitement spreading to Belgium, and no reason why other princes should be less easily satisfied than Lewis himself. “The king,” said Kaunitz, “the king, good man, has helped us out of our difficulty himself.” Still more, when he obtained a revival of popularity which seemed a marvel after the events of June, when he freely vetoed acts which he disapproved, and appeared to be acting in full agreement with a powerful and still dominant party, the imperial government hoped that the crisis was over. And this was the state of things in October and November.
The émigrés, conscious of their repulse at Pilnitz, made it their business to undeceive the emperor, and to bring him back to the scheme of intervention. The Spanish Bourbons were with them, and had recalled their ambassador, and fitted out a fleet in the Mediterranean. Gustavus of Sweden was eager to invade France with a Swedish army to be conveyed in Russian ships, and paid for in Mexican piastres, and with Bouillé by his side. Catherine II. gave every encouragement to the German Powers to embroil themselves with France, and to leave her to deal uncontrolled with Poland and Turkey. The first to emigrate had been the Comte d’Artois and his friends, who had conspired against Necker and the new Constitution. They fled, because their lives were in danger. Others followed, after the rising of the peasants and the spoliation of August. As things grew more acute, and the settlement of feudal claims was carried out with unsparing hostility, the movement spread to the inferior noblesse. After the breach with the clergy and the secularisation of Church property, the prelates went into exile, and were followed by their friends. In the winter of 1790–1791 they began to organise themselves on the Rhine, and to negotiate with some of the smaller Powers, especially Sardinia, for an invasion. The later arrivals were not welcomed, for they were men who had accepted constitutional government. The purpose of the true émigrés was the restoration of the old order, of the ancient principles and institutions, not without reform, but without subversion. That was the bond between them, and the basis on which they sought the aid of absolute princes. They denied that the king himself, writhing in the grip of democracy, had the right to alter the fundamental laws. Some of the best and ablest and most honourable men had joined their ranks, and they were instructed and inflamed by the greatest writer in the world, who had been the best of Liberals and the purest of revolutionary statesmen, Edmund Burke. It was not as a reactionist, but as a Whig who had drunk success to Washington, who had dressed in blue and buff, who had rejoiced over the British surrender at Saratoga, who had drawn up the address to the Colonists, which is the best State paper in the language, that he told them that it was lawful to invade their own country, and to shed the blood of their countrymen.
The émigrés of every grade of opinion were united in dislike of the queen and in depreciation of the king, and they wished to supersede him by declaring his brother Regent. They hoped to save them both; but they thought more of principles than of persons, and were not to be diverted from their projects by consideration of what might happen at Paris. When the emperor spoke of the danger his sister and her husband were running, Castelnau replied, “What does it matter, provided the royal authority is preserved in the person of d’Artois?” They not only refused obedience to Lewis, but they assiduously compromised him, and proclaimed that he meant the contrary of what he said, making a reconciliation between him and his people impossible. Even his brothers defied him when, in this extremity, he entreated them to return. It was the émigré policy to magnify the significance of what was done at Pilnitz; and as they have convinced posterity that it was the announcement of an intended attack, it was easy to convince their contemporaries at home. The language of menace was there, and France believed itself in danger. How little the Princes concerned meant to give effect to it remained a secret.
The French democracy might have found its advantage in the disappearance of so many nobles; but as they were working, with apparent effect, to embroil the country with its neighbours, attempts were made to compel their return, first by a threefold taxation, then by confiscation, and at last, November 9, by threatening with death those who did not return. The nonjuring clergy were associated with the émigrés in the public mind as enemies and conspirators who were the more dangerous because they remained at home. The First Assembly had provoked the hostility on the frontier; the Second provoked hostilities at home. The First had left nonjuring priests with a pension, and the use of parish churches where successors had not been appointed. The Legislative Assembly decreed, November 29, that in all cases where it seemed good to the authorities, they might be deprived of their pensions and sent away. The great insurrection of the West was caused by this policy. It was religious rather than political, and was appeased by the return of the priests.
The head of the war party in the Assembly was Brissot, who was reputed to know foreign countries, and who promised certain success, as no really formidable Power was ready to take the field. Meantime he endeavoured to isolate Austria, and Ségur was sent to Berlin, Talleyrand to London, to surround France with her natural allies. Brissot’s text was the weakness and division of other countries; the first man who divined the prodigious resources and invincible energy of France was the declamatory Provençal Isnard. He spoke on November 29, and this was his prophetic argument: the French people exhibited the highest qualities in war when they were treated as slaves by despotic masters; there was no fear that they had degenerated in becoming free men; only let them fight for principle, not for State policy, and the force that was in them would transform the world. Hérault de Séchelles divulged the political motive of the war party. He said a foreign conflict would be desirable for internal reasons. It would lead to measures of precaution stronger than peace time would admit, and changes otherwise impossible would then be justified by the plea of public safety. It is the first shadow cast by the coming reign of terror. But neither Girondin violence nor émigré intrigue was the cause that plunged France into the war that was to be the most dreadful of all wars. The true cause was the determination of Marie Antoinette not to submit to the new Constitution. At first she wished that France should be intimidated by a congress of the united Powers. She warned her friends abroad not to be taken in by the mockery of her understanding with the Feuillant statesmen; and when Leopold treated the accepted Constitution seriously, as a release from his engagements, she accused him of betraying her. On September 8, just before accepting, Lewis, in confidence, wrote that he meant to tolerate no authority in France besides his own, and that he desired to recover it by foreign aid.
The idea of an armed Congress persisted until the end of November. But during the week from the 3rd to the 10th of December the king and queen wrote to the Powers, desiring them not to regard their official acts, beseeching them to resist the demands they made in public and to make war, and assuring them that France would be easily subdued and cowed. They hoped, by this treason, to recover their undivided power. All these letters were inspired, were almost dictated, by Fersen.
As Leopold began to see more clearly what it was his sister meant, he modified his pacific policy. On the 25th of October he speaks of increasing the royal authority by a counter-revolution in France. On the 17th of November he invites Prussia to help him with 20,000 men. On the 10th of December he denounces the annexation by France of the German domains in Alsace. In conformity with this gradual change, Kaunitz became more rigid, and he made known that any assault on the Elector of Treves, for the protection he gave to the warlike émigrés, would be resisted by the imperial forces. Each step was as short as possible. The transition from peace to war, from pointless remonstrance to vigorous defiance, was slow and gradual. It began late in October, when the real meaning of the acceptance of the Constitution became known, but down to the month of January the change was not decisive, and the tone was still ambiguous. On the 3rd of January a letter from the queen at length carried the emperor over. On the way this appeal had converted Mercy, and Mercy, on January 7, wrote a letter which compelled Kaunitz to give way. Kaunitz had grown grey in the idea of the French alliance and of rivalry with Prussia. He laughed at Mr. Burke and the theory of contagion. He desired to perpetuate a state of things which paralyzed France, by the rivalry between the king and the democracy. To restore the king’s power at home was to increase it abroad. Kaunitz was willing that it should be kept in check by the legislature; but a moment came when he perceived that the progress of the opposition, of the Jacobins as men indiscriminately called them, more properly of the Girondins, had transferred the centre of gravity. What had been cast down in the Monarch rose again in the Second Assembly, and the power of the nation, the nation united with its representatives, began to appear.
Kaunitz, though he had no eye for such things, took alarm at last, and resolved that the way to depress France was to assist the king of France. On January 5, after the queen’s letter of December 16 had been received, he declared that Austria would support the elector of Treves, and would repel force by force, if he was attacked for the harbouring of émigrés. At the same moment Leopold resolved on an offensive alliance with Prussia. He explained his change of policy by the letters which showed him the true mind of the queen. On January 16 Kaunitz still believed that the other Powers would refuse to co-operate. But Prussia was willing to accept the new alliance, if Austria abandoned the new Polish Constitution of May 3. Leopold paid the stipulated price. On February 7 he gave up the Poles, that he might be strong against France. Already, January 25, Kaunitz had taken the deciding step, passing over from the defensive to attack. He speaks no more of the king’s liberty of action. He demands restitution of the papal territory at Avignon, annexed in consequence of the Pope’s action against the ecclesiastical laws. He requires that the German princes shall have their Alsatian domains given back to them, and that there shall be no trespass on the imperial dominions. And in general terms he requires the restoration of monarchy. Again he wrote, in the same warlike and defiant spirit, on February 17, when the Prussian signature had been received, and when he expected English aid for the preservation of Belgium. Meantime Simolin, the Russian minister who had been helpful in procuring the fatal passport, arrived at Vienna with a last appeal from the queen. At that time she did not feel that their lives were in jeopardy, but their power. To the faithful Fersen she wrote that she hoped the enemy would strike home, so that the French, in their terror, might pray the king to intercede.
Kaunitz, having despatched his ultimatum on the international grounds of quarrel, declined to interfere in internal affairs. But Simolin saw Leopold on the 25th, and then the emperor admitted what his chancellor denied, that the cause was the common cause of all crowned heads. With those significant words he quits the stage. Five days later he was dead.
Each step forward taken by Austria aggravated the warlike feeling in the French legislature. But Delessart, through whom the government communicated with foreign powers, mitigated everything, and avoided provocation. Even the note of the 17th, which was delivered at Paris on the 27th, produced no immediate commotion. But Narbonne thought the time had come to carry into effect his policy of war, for the majority was now with him. He threatened to resign unless Bertrand retired, who was the king’s nominee among the six ministers; and he only withdrew his threat at the instance of Lafayette and the other generals who were to be in command. Lewis, indignant at this intrigue, dismissed not Bertrand, but Narbonne. The Girondins, in reply, impeached Delessart, who was sent to prison, March 10, and perished there in September. The Feuillant minister resigned. Robespierre, who divined the calculations of the Court, and feared that war might strengthen the arm that bore the banner, resisted the warlike temper, and carried the Jacobins with him. On this issue Girondins and Jacobins separated into distinct parties. The Girondins inclined to an inevitable Republic, because they distrusted the king; but they accepted the Constitution, and did not reject a king at low pressure, such as had been invented by the Whigs. They were persuaded that, in case of war, Lewis would intrigue with the enemy, would be detected, and would be at their mercy. “It is well that we should be betrayed,” said Brissot, “because then we shall destroy the traitors.” And Vergniaud, whose dignity and elevation of language have made him a classic, pointed to the Tuileries and said, “Terror has too often issued from that palace in the name of a despot. Let it enter, to-day, in the name of the law.” They suspected, and suspected truly, that the menacing note from Vienna was inspired at Paris. They formed a new ministry, with Dumouriez at the Foreign Office. Dumouriez gave Austria a fixed term to renounce its policy of coercing France by a concert of Powers; and as Kaunitz stood his ground, and upheld his former statements of policy, on April 20 Lewis declared war against his wife’s nephew, Francis, king of Hungary. Marie Antoinette triumphed, through her influence on her own family. Formally it was not a war for her deliverance, but a war declared by France, which might be turned to her advantage. To be of use to her, it must be unsuccessful; and in order to ensure defeat, she betrayed to the Court of Vienna the plan of operations adopted in Council the day before.