Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I - The French Revolution, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER I - Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 1 
The French Revolution, 3 vols., trans. John Durand, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002). Vol. 1.
Part of: The French Revolution, 3 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
I.The Federations—Popular application of philosophic theory—Idyllic celebration of the Contrat-Social—Two phases of human volition—Permanent disorder—II.Independence of the municipalities—The causes of their initiative—Sentiment of danger—Issy-l’Evêque in 1789—Exalted pride—Brittany in 1790—Usurpations of the municipalities—Capture of the citadels—Violence increased against their commanders—Stoppage of convoys—Powerlessness of the Directories and of the ministers—Marseilles in 1790—III.Independent Assemblies—Why they took the initiative—The people in council—Powerlessness of the municipalities—The violence to which they are subject—Aix in 1790—Government disobeyed and perverted everywhere.
If there ever was an Utopia which seemed capable of realisation, or, what is still more to the purpose, was really applied, converted into a fact, fully established, it is that of Rousseau, in 1789 and during the three following years. For, not only are his principles embodied in the laws, and the Constitution throughout animated with his spirit, but it seems as if the nation looked upon his ideological gambols, his abstract fiction, as serious. This fiction it carried out in every particular. A social contract, at once spontaneous and practical, an immense gathering of men associating together freely for the first time for the recognition of their respective rights, forming a specific compact, and binding themselves by a solemn oath: such is the social recipe prescribed by the philosophers, and which is carried out to the letter. Moreover, as this recipe is esteemed infallible, the imagination is worked upon and the sensibilities of the day are brought into play. It is admitted that men, on again becoming equals, have again become brothers.1 The sudden and surprising concord of all volitions and all intelligences is to revive the golden age on earth. It is proper, accordingly, to regard the social contract as a festival, an affecting, sublime idyl, in which, from one end of France to the other, all, hand in hand, should assemble and swear to the new compact, with song, with dance, with tears of joy, with shouts of gladness, the worthy beginning of public felicity. With unanimous assent, indeed, the idyl is performed as if according to a written programme.
On the 29th of November, 1789, at Etoile, near Valence, the federations began.2 Twelve thousand National Guards, from the two banks of the Rhône, promise “to remain for ever united, to ensure the circulation of grain, and to maintain the laws passed by the National Assembly.” On the 13th of December, at Montélimart, six thousand men, the representatives of twenty-seven thousand other men, take a similar oath and confederate themselves with the foregoing.—Upon this the excitement spreads from month to month and from province to province. Fourteen towns of the bailiwicks of Franche-Comté form a patriotic league. At Pontivy, Brittany enters into federal relations with Anjou. One thousand National Guards of Vivarais and Languedoc send their delegates to Voute. Forty-eight thousand in the Vosges send their deputies to Epinal. During February, March, April, and May, 1790, in Alsace, Champagne, Dauphiny, Orléanais, Touraine, Lyonnais, and Provence, there is the same spectacle. At Draguignan eight thousand National Guards take the oath in the presence of twenty thousand spectators. At Lyons fifty thousand men, delegates of more than five hundred thousand others, take the civic oath.—But local unions are not sufficient to complete the organization of France; a general union of all Frenchmen must take place. Many of the various National Guards have already written to Paris for the purpose of affiliating themselves with the National Guard there; and, on the 5th of June, the Parisian municipal body having proposed it, the Assembly decrees the universal federation. It is to take place on the 14th of July, everywhere on the same day, both at the centre and at the extremities of the kingdom. There is to be one in the principal town of each district and of each department, and one at the capital. To the latter, each body of National Guards is to send deputies in the proportion of one man to every two hundred; and each regiment one officer, one noncommissioned officer, and four privates. Fourteen thousand representatives of the National Guard of the provinces appear on the Champ de Mars, the theatre of the festival; also eleven to twelve thousand representatives of the land and marine forces, besides the National Guard of Paris, and sixty thousand spectators on the surrounding slopes, with a still greater crowd on the heights of Chaillot and of Passy. All rise to their feet and swear fidelity to the nation, to the law, to the King, and to the new Constitution. When the report of the cannon is heard which announces the taking of the oath, those of the Parisians who have remained at home, men, women, and children, raise their hands in the direction of the Champ de Mars and likewise make their affirmation. In every principal town of every district, department, and commune in France there is the same oath on the same day. Never was there a more perfect social compact heard of. Here, for the first time in the world, everybody beholds a veritable legitimate society, for it is founded on free pledges, on solemn stipulations, and on actual consent. They possess the authentic act and the dated official report of it.
There is still something more—the time and the occasion betoken a union of all hearts. The barriers which have hitherto separated men from each other are all removed and without effort. Provincial antagonisms are now to cease: the confederates of Brittany and Anjou write that they no longer desire to be Angevins and Bretons, but simply Frenchmen. All religious discords are to come to an end: at Saint-Jean-du-Gard, near Alais, the Catholic curé and the Protestant pastor embrace each other at the altar; the pastor occupies the best seat in the church, and at the Protestant meeting-house the curé has the place of honour, and listens to the sermon of the pastor.3 Distinctions of rank and condition will no longer exist; at Saint-Andéol “the honour of taking the oath in the name of the people is conferred on two old men, one ninety-three and the other ninety-four years of age, one a noble and a colonel of the National Guard, and the other a simple peasant.” At Paris, two hundred thousand persons of all conditions, ages, and sexes, officers and soldiers, monks and actors, school-boys and masters, dandies and ragamuffins, elegant ladies and fishwomen, workmen of every class, and the peasants from the vicinity, all flocked to the Champ de Mars to dig the earth which was not ready, and in a week, trundling wheel-barrows and handling the pick-axe as equals and comrades, all voluntarily yoked in the same service, converted a flat surface into a valley between two hills.—At Strasbourg, General Luckner, commander-in-chief, worked a whole afternoon in his shirt-sleeves just like the commonest labourer. The confederates are fed, housed, and have their expenses paid everywhere on all the roads. At Paris the publicans and keepers of furnished houses lower their prices of their own accord, and do not think of robbing their new guests. “The districts,” moreover, “feast the provincials to their heart’s content.4 There are meals every day for from twelve to fifteen hundred people.” Provincials and Parisians, soldiers and bourgeois, seated and mingled together, drink each other’s health and embrace. The soldiers, especially, and the inferior officers are surrounded, welcomed, and regaled to such an extent that they lose their heads, their health, and more besides. One “old trooper, who had been over fifty years in the service, died on the way home, used up with cordials and excess of pleasure.” In short, the joy is excessive, as it should be on the great day when the wish of an entire century is accomplished.—Behold ideal felicity, as displayed in the books and illustrations of the time! The natural man buried underneath an artificial civilisation is disinterred, and again appears as in early days, as in Otaheite, as in philosophic and literary pastorals, as in bucolic and mythological operas, confiding, affectionate, and happy. “The sight of all these beings again restored to the sweet sentiments of primitive brotherhood is an exquisite delight almost too great for the soul to support,” and the Frenchman, more light-hearted and far more childlike than he is today, gives himself up unrestrainedly to his social, sympathetic, and generous instincts.
Whatever the imagination of the day offers him to increase his emotion, all the classical, rhetorical, and dramatic material at his command, are employed for the embellishment of his festival. Already wildly enthusiastic, he is anxious to increase his enthusiasm.—At Lyons, the fifty thousand confederates from the south range themselves in line of battle around an artificial rock, fifty feet high, covered with shrubs, and surmounted by a Temple of Concord in which stands a huge statue of Liberty; the steps of the rock are decked with flags, and a solemn mass precedes the administration of the oath.—At Paris, an altar dedicated to the country is erected in the middle of the Champ de Mars, which is transformed into a colossal circus. The regular troops and the federations of the departments stand in position around it, the King being in front with the Queen and the dauphin, while near them are the princes and princesses in a gallery, and the members of the National Assembly in an amphitheatre; two hundred priests, draped in their albs and with tricoloured belts, officiate around the Bishop of Autun; three hundred drums and twelve hundred musicians all play at once; forty pieces of cannon are discharged at one volley, and four hundred thousand cheers go up as if from one throat. Never was such an effort made to intoxicate the senses and strain the nerves beyond their powers of endurance!—The moral machine is made to vibrate to the same and even to a greater extent. For more than a year past, harangues, proclamations, addresses, newspapers, and events have daily added one degree more to the pressure. On this occasion, thousands of speeches, multiplied by myriads of newspapers, carry the enthusiasm to the highest pitch. Declamation foams and rolls along in a steady stream of rhetoric everywhere throughout France. In this state of excitement the difference between magniloquence and sincerity, between the false and the true, between show and substance, is no longer distinguishable. The Federation becomes an opera which is seriously played in the open street—children have parts assigned them in it; it occurs to no one that they are puppets, and that the words taken for an expression of the heart are simply memoriter speeches that have been put into their mouths. At Besançon, on the return of the confederates, hundreds of “youthful citizens” from twelve to fourteen years of age,5 in the national uniform, “with sword in hand,” march up to the standard of Liberty. Three little girls from eleven to thirteen years old and two little boys of nine years each pronounce “a discourse full of fire and breathing nothing but patriotism”; after which, a young lady of fourteen, raising her voice and pointing to the flag, harangues in turn the crowd, the deputies, the National Guard, the mayor, and the commander of the troops, the scene ending with a ball. This is the universal finale—men and women, children and adults, common people and men of the world, chiefs and subordinates, all, everywhere, frisk about as in the last act of a pastoral drama. At Paris, writes an eye-witness, “I saw chevaliers of Saint-Louis and chaplains dancing in the street with people belonging to their department.”6 At the Champ de Mars, on the day of the Federation, notwithstanding that rain was falling in torrents, “the first arrivals began to dance, and those who came after them, joining in, formed a circle which soon spread over a portion of the Champ de Mars. . . . Three hundred thousand spectators kept time with their hands.” On the following days dancing is kept up on the Champ de Mars and in the streets, and there is drinking and carousing; “there was a ball with refreshments at the Corn-Exchange, and on the site of the Bastille.”—At Tours, where fifty-two detachments from the neighbouring provinces are collected, about four o’clock in the afternoon,7 through an irresistible outburst of insane gaiety, “the officers, inferior officers, and soldiers, pell-mell, race through the streets, some with sabre in hand and others dancing and shouting ‘Vive le Roi!’ ‘Vive la Nation!’ flinging up their hats and compelling every one they met to join in the dance. One of the canons of the cathedral, who happens to be passing quietly along, has a grenadier’s cap put on his head,” and is dragged into the circle, and after him two monks; “they are often embraced,” and then allowed to depart. The carriages of the mayor and the Marquise de Montausier arrive; people mount up behind, get inside, and seat themselves in front, as many as can find room, and force the coachmen to parade through the principal streets in this fashion. There is no malice in it, nothing but sport and the overflow of spirits. “Nobody was maltreated or insulted, although almost every one was drunk.”—Nevertheless, there is one bad symptom: the soldiers of the Anjou regiment leave their barracks the following day and “pass the whole night abroad, no one being able to hinder them.” And there is another of still graver aspect; at Orleans, after the companies of the National Militia had danced on the square in the evening, “a large number of volunteers marched in procession through the town with drums, shouting out with all their might that the aristocracy must be destroyed, and that priests and aristocrats should be strung up to the lantern.” They enter a suspected coffee-house, drive out the inmates with insults, lay hands on a gentleman who is supposed not to have cried out as correctly and as lustily as themselves, and come near hanging him.8 —Such is the fruit of the susceptibility and philosophy of the eighteenth century. Men believed that, for the organization of a perfect society and the permanent establishment of freedom, justice, and happiness on earth, an inspiration of sentiment and an act of the will would suffice. The inspiration has come and the act is fulfilled; the transports and the ravishment have been experienced, and minds have been wrought up to the highest pitch of excitement. Now comes the reaction, when they have to fall back upon themselves. The effort has succeeded in accomplishing all that it could accomplish, namely, a deluge of effusions and phrases, a verbal and not a real contract, ostentatious fraternity skin-deep, a well-meaning masquerade, an ebullition of feeling evaporating through its own pageantry—in short, an agreeable carnival of a day’s duration.
The reason is that in the human will there are two strata, one superficial, of which men are conscious, the other deep down, of which they are unconscious; the former unstable and vacillating like shifting sand, the latter stable and fixed like a solid rock, to which their caprices and agitations never descend. The latter alone determines the general inclination of the soil, the main current of human activity necessarily following the bent thus prepared for it.—Certainly embraces have been interchanged and oaths have been taken; but after, as before the ceremony, men are just what many centuries of administrative thraldom and one century of political literature have made them. Their ignorance and presumption, their prejudices, hatreds, and distrusts, their inveterate intellectual and emotional habits are still preserved. They are human, and their stomachs need to be filled daily. They have imagination, and, if bread be scarce, they fear that they may not get enough of it. They prefer to keep their money rather than to give it away. For this reason they spurn the claims which the State and individuals have upon them as much as possible. They avoid paying their debts. They willingly lay their hands on public property which is badly protected; finally, they are disposed to regard gendarmes and proprietors as baneful, and all the more so because this has been repeated to them over and over again, day after day, for a whole year.—On the other hand there is no change in the situation of things. They are ever living in a disorganized community, under an impracticable constitution, the passions which sap public order being only the more stimulated by the semblance of fraternity under which they seemed to be allayed. Men cannot be persuaded with impunity that the millennium has come, for they will want to enjoy it immediately, and will tolerate no deception practised on their expectations. In this violent state, due to unbounded hopes, every prompting of their will seems legitimate, and all opinions are stamped with certainty. They are no longer capable of self-distrust and self-restraint. In their brain, overflowing with emotions and enthusiasm, there is no room but for one intense, absorbing, fixed idea. Each is confident and overconfident in his own opinion; all become impassioned, imperious, and intractable. Having assumed that all obstacles are taken out of the way, they grow indignant at each obstacle they actually encounter. Whatever it may be, they shatter it on the instant, and their overexcited imagination clothes with the fine name of patriotism their natural appetite for despotism and usurpation.
France, accordingly, in the three years which follow the taking of the Bastille, presents a strange spectacle. Everywhere there is philanthropy in words and symmetry in the laws; everywhere there is violence in acts and disorder in all things. Afar, is the reign of philosophy; at hand is the chaos of the Carlovingian era. “Foreigners,” remarks an observer,9 “are not aware that, with a great extension of political rights, the liberty of the individual is in law reduced to nothing, while in practice it is subject to the caprice of sixty thousand constitutional assemblies; that no citizen enjoys any protection against the annoyances of these popular assemblies; that, according to the opinions which they entertain of persons and things, they act in one place in one way and in another place in another way. Here, a department, acting for itself and without referring elsewhere, puts an embargo on vessels, while there another orders the expulsion of a military detachment essential for the security of places devastated by ruffians; and the minister, who responds to the demands of those interested, replies: ‘Such are the orders of the department.’ Elsewhere are administrative bodies which, the moment the Assembly decrees relief of consciences and the freedom of nonjuring priests, order the latter out of their homes within twenty-four hours. Always in advance of or lagging behind the laws; alternately bold and pusillanimous; daring all things when seconded by public license, and daring nothing to repress it; eager to abuse their momentary authority against the weak in order to acquire titles to popularity in the future; incapable of maintaining order except at the expense of public safety and tranquillity; entangled in the reins of their new and complex administration, adding the fury of passion to incapacity and inexperience—such are, for the most part, the men sprung from nothing, void of ideas and drunk with pretension, on whom now rests responsibility for public powers and resources, the interest of security, and the foundations of the might of government. In all sections of the empire, in every branch of the administration, in every report, we detect the confusion of authorities, the uncertainty of obedience, the dissolution of all restraints, the absence of all resources, the deplorable complication of enervated springs, without one of the means of real power, and, for their sole support, laws which, in supposing France to be peopled with men without vices or passions, abandon humanity to its primitive state of independence.” A few months after this, in the beginning of 1792, Malouet sums up all in one phrase: “It is the Government of Algiers without the Dey.”
Things could not work otherwise. For, before the 6th of October, and the King’s captivity in Paris, the Government had already been destroyed. Now, through the successive decrees of the Assembly, it is legally done away with, and each local group is left to itself.—The intendants have fled, military commanders are not obeyed, the bailiwicks dare hold no courts, the parliaments are suspended, and seven months elapse before the district and department administrations are elected, a year before the new judgeships are instituted, while afterwards, as well as before, the real power is in the hands of the commune.—The commune must arm itself, appoint its own chiefs, provide its own supplies, protect itself against brigands, and feed its own poor. It has to sell its national property, install the constitutional curé, and accomplish the transformation by which an old society takes the place of a new society, amidst so many eager passions and so many injured interests. It alone has to ward off the perpetual or constantly reviving dangers which assail it or which it imagines. These are great, and it exaggerates them. It is inexperienced and alarmed. It is not surprising that, in the exercise of its extemporised power, it should pass beyond its natural or legal limit, and without being aware of it, overstep the metaphysical line which the Constitution defines between its rights and the rights of the State. Neither hunger, fear, rage, nor any of the popular passions can wait; there is no time to refer to Paris. Action is necessary, immediate action, and, with the means at hand, they must save themselves as well as they can. This or that mayor of a village is soon to find himself a general and a legislator. This or that petty town is to give itself a charter like Laon or Vezelay in the twelfth century. “On the 6th of October, 1789,10 near Autun, the market-town of Issy-l’Evêque declares itself an independent State. The parish assembly is convoked by the curé, M. Carion, who is appointed member of the administrative committee and of the new military staff. In full session he secures the adoption of a complete code, political, judiciary, penal, and military, consisting of sixty articles. Nothing is overlooked; we find ordinances concerning “the town police, the laying out of streets and public squares, the repair of prisons, the road taxes and price of grain, the administration of justice, fines, confiscations, and the diet of the National Guards.” He is a provincial Solon, zealous for the public weal, and a man of executive power. He expounds his ordinances from the pulpit, and threatens the refractory. He passes decrees and renders judgments in the town-hall: outside the town limits, at the head of the National Guard, sabre in hand, he will enforce his own decisions. He causes it to be decided that, on the written order of the committee, every citizen may be imprisoned. He imposes and collects octrois; he has boundary walls thrown down; he goes in person to the houses of cultivators and makes requisitions for grain; he seizes the convoys which have not deposited their quota in his own richly stored granaries. One day, preceded by a drummer, he marches outside the walls, makes proclamation of “his agrarian laws,” and proceeds at once to the partition of the territory, and, by virtue of the ancient communal or curial right, to assign to himself a portion of it. All this is done in public and conscientiously, the notary and the scrivener being called in to draw up the official record of his acts; he is satisfied that human society has come to an end, and that each local group has the right to begin over again and apply in its own way the Constitution which it has accorded to itself without reference to anybody else.—This man, undoubtedly, talks too loudly, and proceeds too quickly; and first the bailiwick, next the Châtelet, and afterwards the National Assembly temporarily put a stop to his proceedings; but his principle is a popular one, and the forty thousand communes of France are about to act like so many distinct republics, under the sentimental and constantly more powerless reprimands of the central authority.
Excited and invigorated by a new sentiment, men now abandon themselves to the proud consciousness of their own power and independence. Nowhere is greater satisfaction found than among the new local chiefs, the municipal officers and commanders of the National Guard, for never before has such supreme authority and such great dignity fallen upon men previously so submissive and so insignificant. Formerly the subordinates of an intendant or subdelegate, appointed, maintained, and ill used by him, kept aloof from transactions of any importance, unable to defend themselves except by humble protestations against the aggravations of taxation, concerned with precedences and the conflicts of etiquette,11 plain townspeople or peasants who never dreamt of interfering in military matters, henceforth become sovereigns in all military and civil affairs. This or that mayor or syndic of a little town or parish, a petty bourgeois or villager in a blouse, whom the intendant or military commander could imprison at will, now orders a gentleman, a captain of dragoons, to march or stand still, and the captain stands still or marches at his command. On this same bourgeois or villager depends the safety of the neighbouring chateau, of the large landowner and his family, of the prelate, and of all the prominent personages of the district. In order that they may be out of harm’s way he must protect them; they will be pillaged if, in case of insurrection, he does not send troops and the National Guard to their assistance. It is he who, with his communal council, fixes their rate of taxation as he pleases. It is he who, granting or refusing a passport, obliges them to stay at home or allows them to depart. It is he who, lending or refusing public force to the collection of their rents, gives them or deprives them of the means of living. He accordingly rules, and on the sole condition of ruling according to the wishes of his equals, the vociferous multitude, the restless, dominant mob which has elected him.—In the towns, especially, and notably in the large towns, the contrast between what he was and what he is is immense, since to the plenitude of his power is added the extent of his jurisdiction. Judge of the effect on his brain in cities like those of Marseilles, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rouen, and Lyons, where he holds in his hand the lives and property of eighty or a hundred thousand men. And the more as, amid the municipal officers of the towns, three-quarters of them, procureurs or advocates, are imbued with the new dogmas, and are persuaded that in themselves alone, the directly elected of the people, is vested all legitimate authority. Bewildered by their recent elevation, distrustful as parvenus, in revolt against all ancient or rival powers, they are additionally alarmed by their imagination and ignorance, their minds being vaguely disturbed by the contrast between their rôle in the past and their present rôle: anxious on account of the State, anxious on their own account, they find no security but in usurpations. The municipalities, on the strength of the reports which emanate from the coffee-houses, decide that the ministry are traitors. With an obstinacy of conviction and a boldness of presumption alike extraordinary, they believe that they have the right to act without and against their orders, and against the orders of the National Assembly itself, as if, in the now disintegrated France, each municipality constituted the nation.
Thus, if the armed force of the country is now obedient to anybody, it is to them and to them alone, and not only the National Guard, but also the regular troops which, placed under the orders of municipalities by a decree of the National Assembly,12 will comply with no other. Military commanders in the provinces, after September, 1787, declare themselves powerless; when they and the municipality give orders, it is only those of the municipality which the troops recognise. “However pressing may be the necessity for moving the troops where their presence is required, they are stopped by the resistance of the village committee.”13 “Without any reasonable motive,” writes the commander of the forces in Brittany, “Vannes and Auray made opposition to the detachment which I thought it prudent to send to Belle-Ile, to replace another one. . . . The Government cannot move without encountering obstacles. . . . The Minister of War no longer has the direction of the army. . . . No orders are executed. . . . Every one wants to command, and no one to obey. . . . How could the King, the Government, or the Minister of War send troops where they are wanted if the towns believe that they have the right to countermand the orders given to the regiments and change their destination?”—And it is still worse, for, “on the false supposition of brigands and conspiracies which do not exist,14 the towns and villages make demands on me for arms and even cannon. . . . The whole of Brittany will soon be in a frightful belligerent state on this account, for, having no real enemies, they will turn their arms against each other.”—This is of no consequence. The panic is an “epidemic.” People are determined to believe in “brigands and enemies.” At Nantes, the assertion is constantly repeated that the Spaniards are going to land, that the French regiments are going to make an attack, that an army of brigands is approaching, that the castle is threatened, that it is threatening, and that it contains too many engines of war. The commandant of the province writes in vain to the mayor to reassure him, and to explain to him that “the municipality, being master of the chateau, is likewise master of its magazine. Why then should it entertain fear about that which is in its own possession? Why should any surprise be manifested at an arsenal containing arms and gunpowder?”—Nothing is of any effect. The chateau is invaded; two hundred workmen set to work to demolish the fortifications; they listen only to their fears, and cannot exercise too great precaution. However inoffensive the citadels may be, they are held to be dangerous; however accommodating the commanders may be, they are regarded with suspicion. The people chafe against the bridle, relaxed and slack as it is: it is broken and cast aside, that it may not be used again when occasion requires. Each municipal body, each company of the National Guard, wants to reign on its own plot of ground out of the way of any foreign control; and this is what is called liberty. Its adversary, therefore, is the central power; this must be disarmed for fear that it may interpose, and, on all sides, with a sure and persistent instinct, through the capture of fortresses, the pillage of arsenals, the seduction of the soldiery, and the expulsion of generals, the municipality ensures its omnipotence by guaranteeing itself beforehand against all repression.
At Brest the municipal authorities insist that a naval officer shall be surrendered to the people, and on the refusal of the King’s lieutenant to give him up, the permanent committee orders the National Guard to load its guns.15 At Nantes the municipal body refuses to recognise M. d’Hervilly, sent to take command of a camp, and the towns of the province write to declare that they will suffer no other than the federated troops on their territory. At Lille the permanent committee insists that the military authorities shall place the keys of the town in its keeping every evening, and, a few months after this, the National Guard, joined by mutinous soldiers, seize the citadel and the person of Livarot, its commander. At Toulon the commander of the arsenal, M. de Rioms, and several naval officers, are put in the dungeon. At Montpellier the citadel is surprised, and the club writes to the National Assembly to demand its demolition. At Valence, the commandant, M. de Voisin, on taking measures of defence, is massacred, and henceforth the municipality issues all orders to the garrison. At Bastia, Colonel de Rully falls under a shower of bullets, and the National Guard takes possession of the citadel and the powder magazine. These are not passing outbursts: at the end of two years the same insubordinate spirit is apparent everywhere.16 In vain do the commissioners of the National Assembly seek to transfer the Nassau regiment from Metz. Sedan refuses to receive it; while Thionville declares that, if it comes, she will blow up the bridges, and Sarrelouis threatens, if it approaches, that it will open fire on it. At Caen neither the municipality nor the directory dares enforce the law which assigns the castle to the troops of the line; the National Guard refuses to leave it, and forbids the director of the artillery to inspect the munitions.—In this state of things a Government subsists in name but not in fact, for it no longer possesses the means of enforcing obedience. Each commune arrogates to itself the right of suspending or preventing the execution of the simplest and most urgent orders. Arnay-le-Duc, in spite of passports and legal injunctions, persists in retaining Mesdames; Arcis-sur-Aube retains Necker, and Montigny is about to retain M. Caillard, Ambassador of France.17 —In the month of June, 1791, a convoy of eighty thousand crowns of six livres sets out from Paris for Switzerland; this is a repayment by the French Government to that of Soleure; the date of payment is fixed, the itinerary marked out; all the necessary documents are provided; it is important that it should arrive on the day when the bill falls due. But they have counted without the municipalities and the National Guards. Arrested at Bar-sur-Aube, it is only at the end of a month, and on a decree of the National Assembly, that the convoy can resume its march. At Belfort it is seized again, and it still remains there in the month of November. In vain has the directory of the Bas-Rhin ordered its release; the Belfort municipality paid no attention to the order. In vain the same directory dispatches a commissioner, who is near being cut to pieces. The personal interference of General Luckner, with the strong arm, is necessary, before the convoy can pass the frontier, after five months of delay.18 In the month of July, 1791, a French vessel on the way from Rouen to Caudebec, said to be loaded with kegs of gold and silver, is stopped. On the examination being made, it has a right to leave; its papers are all correct, and the department enjoins the district to respect the law. The district, however, replies that it is impossible, for “all the municipalities on the banks of the Seine have armed and are awaiting the passing of the vessel,” and the National Assembly itself is obliged to pass a decree that the vessel shall be discharged.
If the rebellion of the small communes is of this stamp, what must be that of the larger ones?19 The departments and districts summon the municipality in vain; it disobeys or pays no attention to the summons. “Since the session began,” writes the directory of Saône-et-Loire, “the municipality of Maçon has taken no step in relation to us which has not been an encroachment; it has not uttered a word which has not been an insult; it has not entered upon a deliberation which has not been an outrage.” “If the regiment of Aunis is not ordered here immediately,” writes the directory of Calvados, “if prompt and efficient measures are not taken to provide us with an armed force, we shall abandon a post which we are prevented from holding amidst insubordination, license, contempt for all the authorities, and, consequently, the absolute impossibility of performing the duties which were imposed upon us.” The directory of the Bouches-du-Rhône, on being attacked, flies before the bayonets of Marseilles. The members of the directory of Gers, in conflict with the municipality of Auch, are almost beaten to death. As to the ministers, who are distrusted by virtue of their office, they are still less respected than the directories; they are constantly denounced to the Assembly, while the municipalities send back their dispatches without deigning to open them,20 and, towards the end of 1791, their increasing powerlessness ends in complete annihilation. We can judge of this by one example. In the month of December, 1791, Limoges is not allowed to carry away the grain which it had just purchased in Indre, a force of sixty horsemen being necessary to protect its transportation; the directory of Indre at once calls upon the ministers to furnish them with this small troop.21 After trying for three weeks, the minister replies that it is out of his power; he has knocked at all doors in vain. “I have pointed out one way,” he says, “to the deputies of your department in the National Assembly, namely, to withdraw the 20th regiment of cavalry from Orleans, and I have recommended them to broach the matter to the deputies of Loiret.” The answer is still delayed: the deputies of the two departments have to come to an agreement, for, otherwise, the minister dares not displace sixty men to protect a convoy of grain. It is plain enough that there is no longer any executive power, that there is no longer a central authority, that there is no longer a France, but merely so many disintegrated and independent communes, like Orleans and Limoges, which, through their representatives, carry on negotiations with each other, one to secure itself from a deficiency of troops, and the other to secure itself from a want of bread.
Let us consider this general dissolution on the spot, and take up a case in detail. On the 18th of January, 1790, the new municipal authorities of Marseilles enter upon their duties. As is generally the case, the majority of the electors have had nothing to do with the balloting, the mayor, Martin, having been elected by only an eighth of the active citizens.22 If, however, the dominant minority is a small one, it is resolute and not inclined to stop at trifles. “Scarcely is it organized,”23 when it sends deputies to the King to have him withdraw his troops from Marseilles. The King, always weak and accommodating, finally consents; and, the orders to march being prepared, the municipality is duly advised of them. But the municipality will tolerate no delay, and immediately “draws up, prints, and issues a denunciation to the National Assembly” against the commandant and the two ministers who, according to it, are guilty of having forged or suppressed the King’s orders. In the meantime it equips and fortifies itself as for a combat. At its first establishment the municipality broke up the bourgeois guard, which was too great a lover of order, and organized a National Guard, in which those who have no property are soon to be admitted. “Daily additions are made to its military apparatus;24 entrenchments and barricades, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, are increasing, also the artillery; the town is filled with the excitement of a military camp in the immediate presence of an enemy.”—Thus, in possession of force, it makes use of it, and in the first place against justice.
A popular insurrection had been suppressed in the month of August, 1789, and the three principal leaders, Rebecqui, Pascal, and Granet, had been imprisoned in the Chateau d’If. They are the friends of the municipal authorities, and they must be set free. At the demand of this body the affair is taken out of the hands of the grand-prévôt, and put into those of the sénéchaussée, the former, meanwhile, together with his councillors, undergoing punishment for having performed their duty: the municipality, on its own authority, interdicts them from further exercise of their functions. They are publicly denounced, “threatened with poniards, the scaffold, and every species of assassination.”25 No printer dares publish their defence, for fear of “municipal annoyances.” It is not long before the royal procureur and a councillor are reduced to seeking refuge in Fort Saint-Jean, while the grand-prévôt, after having resisted a little longer, leaves Marseilles in order to save his life. As to the three imprisoned men, the municipal authorities visit them in a body and demand their provisional release; one of them having made his escape, they refuse to give the commandant the order for his rearrest, while the other two triumphantly leave the chateau on the 11th of April, escorted by eight hundred National Guards. They go, for form’s sake, to the prisons of the sénéchaussée, but the next day are set at liberty, and further prosecution ceases. As an offset to this, M. d’Ambert, colonel in the Royal Marine, guilty of expressing himself too warmly against the National Guard, although acquitted by the tribunal before which he was brought, can be set at liberty only in secret and under the protection of two thousand soldiers: the populace want to burn the house of the criminal lieutenant that dared absolve him; the magistrate himself is in danger, and is forced to take refuge in the house of the military commander.26 Meanwhile, printed and written papers, insulting libels by the municipal body and the club, the seditious or violent discussions of the district assemblies, and a lot of pamphlets, are freely distributed among the people and the soldiers: the latter are purposely stirred up in advance against their chiefs.—In vain are the officers mild, conciliatory, and cautious. In vain does the commander-in-chief depart with a portion of the troops. The object now is to dislodge the regiment occupying the three forts. The club sets the ball in motion, and, forcibly or otherwise, the will of the people must be carried out. On the 29th of April, two actors, supported by fifty volunteers, surprise a sentinel and get possession of Notre-Dame de la Garde. On the same day, six thousand National Guards invest the forts of Saint-Jean and Saint-Nicolas. The municipal authorities, summoned to respect the fortresses, reply by demanding the opening of the gates to the National Guard, that it may do duty jointly with the soldiers. The commandants hesitate, refer to the law, and demand time to consult their superiors. A second requisition, more urgent, is made; the commandants are held responsible for the disturbances which they provoke by their refusal, and if they resist they are declared promoters of civil war.27 They accordingly yield and sign a capitulation. One among them, the Chevalier de Beausset, major in Fort Saint-Jean, is opposed to this, and refuses his signature. On the following day he is seized as he is about to enter the Hôtel-de-Ville, and massacred, his head being borne about on the end of a pike, while the band of assassins, the soldiers, and the rabble dance about and shout over his remains.—“It is a sad accident,” writes the municipality.28 How does it happen that, “after having thus far merited and obtained all praise, a Beausset, whom we were unable to protect against the decrees of Providence, should sully our laurels? Having had nothing to do with this tragic affair, it is not for us to prosecute the authors of it.” Moreover, he was “culpable . . . rebellious, condemned by public opinion, and Providence itself seems to have abandoned him to the irrevocable decrees of its vengeance.”—As to the taking of the forts, nothing is more legitimate. “These places were in the hands of the enemies of the State, while now they are in the hands of the defenders of the Constitution of the empire. Woe to whoever would take them from us again, to convert them into a focus of counterrevolution!”—M. de Miran, commandant of the province, has, it is true, made a demand for them. But, “is it not somewhat pitiable to see the requisition of a Sieur de Miran, made in the name of the King he betrays, to surrender to his Majesty’s troops places which, henceforth in our hands, guarantee public security to the nation, to the law, and to the King?” In vain does the King, at the request of the National Assembly,29 order the municipality to restore the forts to the commandants, and to make the National Guards leave them. The municipal authorities become indignant, and resist. According to them the wrong is all on the side of the commandant and the ministers. It is the commandants who, “with the threatening equipment of their citadels, their stores of provisions and of artillery, are disturbers of the public peace. What does the minister mean by driving the national troops out of the forts, in order to entrust their guardianship to foreign troops? His object is apparent in this plan . . . he wants to kindle civil war.”—“All the misfortunes of Marseilles originate in the secret understanding existing between the ministers and the enemies of the State.” The municipal corps is at last obliged to evacuate the forts, but it is determined not to give them up; and, the day following that on which it receives the decree of the National Assembly, it conceives the design of demolishing them. On the 17th of May, two hundred labourers, paid in advance, begin the work of destruction. To save appearances the municipal body betakes itself at eleven o’clock in the morning to the different localities, and orders them to stop. But, on its departure, the labourers keep on; and, at six o’clock in the evening, a resolution is passed that, “to prevent the entire demolition of the citadel, it is deemed advisable to authorise only that of the part overlooking the town.” On the 18th of May the Jacobin club, at once agent, accomplice, and councillor of the municipal body, compels private individuals to contribute something towards defraying the expenses of the demolition, and “sends round to every house, and to the syndics of all corporations, exacting their quotas, and making all citizens subscribe a document by which they appear to sanction the action of the municipal body, and to express their thanks to it. People had to sign it, pay, and keep silent. Woe to any one that refused!” On the 20th of May the municipal body presumes to write to the Assembly, that “this threatening citadel, this odious monument of a stupendous despotism, is about to disappear”; and, to justify its disobedience, it takes occasion to remark, “that the love of country is the most powerful and most enduring of an empire’s ramparts.” On the 28th of May it secures the performance in two theatres of a piece representing the capture of the forts of Marseilles, for the benefit of the men engaged in their demolition. Meanwhile, it has summoned the Paris Jacobins to its support; it has proposed to invite the Lyons federation and all the municipalities of the kingdom to denounce the minister; it has forced M. de Miran, threatened with death and watched by a party in ambush on the road, to quit Aix, and then demands his recall,30 and only on the 6th of June does it decide, at the express command of the National Assembly, to suspend the almost completed demolition.—Authorities to which obedience is due could not be treated more insolently. The end, however, is attained; there is no longer a citadel, and the troops have departed; the regiment commanded by Ernest alone remains, to be tampered with, insulted, and then sent off. It is ordered to Aix, and the National Guard of Marseilles will go there to disarm and disband it. Henceforth the municipal body has full sway, “observes only those laws which suit it, makes others to its own liking, and, in short, governs in the most despotic and arbitrary manner,”31 not only at Marseilles, but throughout the department where, under no authority but its own, it undertakes armed expeditions and makes raids and sudden attacks.
Were it but possible for the dissolution to stop here! But each commune is far from being a tranquil little state under the rule of a body of respected magistrates. The same causes which render municipalities rebellious against the central authority render individuals rebellious against local authority. They also feel that they are in danger and want to provide for their own safety. They also, in virtue of the Constitution and of circumstances, believe themselves appointed to save the country. They also consider themselves qualified to judge for themselves on all points and entitled to carry out their judgments with their own hands. The shopkeeper, workman, or peasant, at once elector and National Guard, furnished with his vote and a musket, suddenly becomes the equal and master of his superiors; instead of obeying, he commands, while all who see him again after some years’ absence, find that “in his demeanour and manner all is changed.” “There was great agitation everywhere,”32 says M. de Ségur; “I noticed groups of men talking earnestly in the streets and on the squares. The sound of the drum struck my ear in the villages, while I was astonished at the great number of armed men I encountered in the little towns. On interrogating various persons among the lower classes they would reply with a proud look and in a bold and confident tone. I observed everywhere the effect of those sentiments of equality and liberty which had then become such violent passions.”—Thus exalted in their own eyes they believed themselves qualified to take the lead in everything, not only in local affairs, but also in general matters. France is to be governed by them; by virtue of the Constitution they arrogate to themselves the right, and, by dint of ignorance, attribute to themselves the capacity, to govern it. A torrent of new, shapeless, and disproportionate ideas have taken possession of their brains in the space of a few months. Vast interests about which they have never thought, have to be considered—government, royalty, the church, creeds, foreign powers, internal and external dangers, what is occurring at Paris and at Coblentz, the insurrection in the Low Countries, the acts of the cabinets of London, Vienna, Madrid, Berlin; and, of all this, they inform themselves as they best can. An officer,33 who traverses France at this time, narrates that at the post-stations they made him wait for horses until he had “given them details. The peasants stopped my carriage in the middle of the road and overwhelmed me with questions. At Autun, I was obliged, in spite of the cold, to talk out of a window opening upon the square and tell what I knew about the Assembly.”—These on-dits are all changed and amplified in passing from mouth to mouth. They finally become circumstantial stories adapted to the calibre of the minds they pass into and to the dominant passion that propagates them. Trace the effect of these fables in the house of a peasant or fishwoman in an outlying village or a populous suburb, on imbruted or almost brutal minds, especially when they are lively, heated, and overexcited—the effect is tremendous. For, in minds of this stamp, belief is at once converted into action, and into rude and destructive action. It is an acquired self-control, reflection, and culture which interposes between belief and action the solicitude for social interests, the observance of forms and respect for the law. These restraints are all wanting in the new sovereign. He does not know how to stop and will not suffer himself to be stopped. Why so many delays when the peril is urgent? What is the use of observing formalities when the safety of the people is at stake? What is there sacred in the law when it protects public enemies? What is more pernicious than passive deference and patient waiting under timid or blind magistrates? What can be more just than to do one’s self justice at once and on the spot?—Precipitation and passion, in their eyes, are both duties and merits. One day “the militia of Lorient decide upon marching to Versailles and to Paris without considering how they are to get over the ground or what they will do on their arrival.”34 Were the central government within reach they would lay their hands on it. In default of this they substitute themselves for it on their own territory, and exercise its functions with a full conviction of right, principally those of gendarme, judge, and executioner.
During the month of October, 1789, at Paris, after the assassination of the baker François, the leading murderer, who is a porter at the grain depôt, declares “that he wanted to avenge the nation.” It is quite probable that this declaration is sincere. In his mind, assassination is one of the forms of patriotism, and it does not take long for his way of thinking to become prevalent. In ordinary times, social and political ideas slumber in uncultured minds in the shape of vague antipathies, restrained aspirations, and fleeting desires. Behold them aroused—energetic, imperious, stubborn, and unbridled. Objection or opposition is not to be tolerated; dissent, with them, is a sure sign of treachery.—Apropos of the nonjuring priests,35 five hundred and twenty-seven of the National Guards of Arras write, “that no one could doubt their iniquity without being suspected of being their accomplices. . . . Should the whole town combine and express a contrary opinion, it would simply show that it is filled with enemies of the Constitution”; and forthwith, in spite of the law and the remonstrances of the authorities, they insist on the closing of the churches. At Boulogne-sur-Mer, an English vessel having shipped a quantity of poultry, game, and eggs, “the National Guards, of their own authority,” go on board and remove the cargo. On the strength of this, the accommodating municipal body approves of the act, declares the cargo confiscated, orders it to be sold, and awards one-half of the proceeds to the National Guards and the other half to charitable purposes. The concession is a vain one, for the National Guards consider that one-half is too little, “insult and threaten the municipal officers,” and immediately proceed to divide the booty in kind, each one going home with a share of stolen hams and chickens.36 The magistrates must necessarily keep quiet with the guns of those they govern pointed at them.—Sometimes, and it is generally the case, they are timid, and do not try to resist. At Douai,37 the municipal officers, on being summoned three times to proclaim martial law, refuse, and end by avowing that they dare not unfold the red flag: “Were we to take this course we should all be sacrificed on the spot.” Neither the troops nor the National Guards, in fact, are to be relied on. In this universal state of apathy the field is open to savages, and a dealer in wheat is hung.—Sometimes the administrative corps tries to resist, but in the end it has to succumb to violence. “For more than six hours,” writes one of the members of the district of Étampes,38 “we were closed in by bayonets levelled at us and with pistols at our breasts”; and they were obliged to sign a dismissal of the troops which had arrived to protect the market. At present “we are all away from Étampes; there is no longer a district or a municipality”; almost all have handed in their resignations, or are to return for that purpose.—Sometimes, and this is the rarest case,39 the magistrates do their duty to the end, and perish. In this same town, six months later, Simoneau, the mayor, having refused to cut down the price of wheat, is beaten with iron-pointed sticks, and his corpse is riddled with balls by the murderers.—Municipal bodies must take heed how they undertake to stem the torrent; the slightest opposition will soon be at the expense of their lives. In Touraine,40 “as the publication of the tax-rolls takes place, riots break out against the municipal authorities; they are forced to surrender the rolls they have drawn up, and their papers are torn up.” And still more, “they kill, they assassinate the municipal authorities.” In that large commune men and women “beat and kick them with their fists and sabots. . . . The mayor is laid up after it, and the procureur of the commune died between nine and ten o’clock in the morning. Véteau, a municipal officer, received the last sacrament this morning”; the rest have fled, being constantly threatened with death and incendiarism. They do not, consequently, return, and “no one now will take the office of either mayor or administrator.”—The outrages which the municipalities thus commit against their superiors are committed against themselves, the National Guards, the mob, the controlling faction, arrogating to themselves in the commune the same violent sovereignty which the commune pretends to exercise against the State.
I should never finish if I undertook to enumerate the outbreaks in which the magistrates are constrained to tolerate or to sanction popular usurpations, to shut up churches, to drive off or imprison priests, to suppress octrois, tax grain, and allow clerks, bakers, corn-dealers, ecclesiastics, nobles, and officers to be hung, beaten to death, or to have their throats cut. Ninety-four thick files of records in the national archives are filled with these acts of violence, and do not contain two-thirds of them. It is worth while to take in detail one case more, a special one, and one that is authentic, which serves as a specimen, and which presents a foreshortened image of France during one tranquil year. At Aix, in the month of December, 1790,41 in opposition to the two Jacobin clubs, a club had been organized, had complied with all the formalities, and, like the “Club des Monarchiens” at Paris, claimed the same right of meeting as the others. But here, as at Paris, the Jacobins recognise no rights but for themselves alone, and refuse to admit their adversaries to the privileges of the law. Moreover, alarming rumours are circulated. A person who has arrived from Nice states that he had “heard that there were twenty thousand men between Turin and Nice, under the pay of the emigrants, and that at Nice a neuvaine42 was held in Saint-François-de-Paule to pray God to enlighten the French.” A counterrevolution is certainly under way. Some of the aristocrats have stated “with an air of triumph, that the National Guard and municipalities are a mere toy, and that this sort of thing will not last long.” One of the leading members of the new club, M. de Guiramand, an old officer of seventy-eight years, makes speeches in public against the National Assembly, tries to enlist artisans in his party, “affects to wear a white button on his hat fastened by pins with their points jutting out,” and, as it is stated, he has given to several mercers a large order for white cockades. In reality, on examination, not one is found in any shop, and all the dealers in ribbons, on being interrogated, reply that they know of no transaction of that description. But this simply proves that the culprit is a clever dissimulator, and the more dangerous because he is eager to save the country.—On the 12th of December, at four o’clock in the afternoon, the two Jacobin clubs fraternise, and pass in long procession before the place of meeting, “where some of the members, a few officers of the Lyons regiment and other individuals, are quietly engaged at play or seeing others play.” The crowd hoot, but they remain quiet. The procession passes by again, and they hoot and shout, “Down with the aristocrats! To the lantern with them!” Two or three of the officers standing on the threshold of the door become irritated, and one of them, drawing his sword, threatens to strike a young man if he keeps on. Upon this the crowd cries out, “Guard! help! an assassin!” and rushes at the officer, who withdraws into the house, exclaiming, “To arms!” His comrades, sword in hand, descend in order to defend the door; M. de Guiramand fires two pistol shots and receives a stab in the thigh. A shower of stones smashes in the windows, and the door is on the point of being burst open when several of the members of the club save themselves by taking to the roof. About a dozen others, most of them officers, form in line, penetrate the crowd with uplifted swords, strike and get struck, and escape, five of them being wounded. The municipality orders the doors and windows of the club-house to be walled up, sends the Lyons regiment away, decrees the arrest of seven officers and of M. de Guiramand, and all this in a few hours, with no other testimony than that of the conquerors.
But these prompt, vigorous, and partial measures are not sufficient for the club; other conspirators must be seized, and it is the club which designates them and goes to take them.—Three months before this, M. Pascalis, an advocate, on addressing along with some of his professional brethren the parliament which had been dissolved, deplored the blindness of the people, “exalted by prerogatives of which they knew not the danger.” A man who dared talk in this way is evidently a traitor.—There is another, M. Morellet de la Roquette, who refused to join the proscribed club. His former vassals, however, had been obliged to bring an action against him to make him accept the redemption of his feudal dues; also, six years before this, his carriage, passing along the public promenade, had run over a child; he likewise is an enemy of the people. While the municipal officers are deliberating, “a few members of the club” get together and decide that M. Pascalis and M. de la Roquette must be arrested. At eleven o’clock at night eighty trustworthy National Guards, led by the president of the club, travel a league off to seize them in their beds and lodge them in the town prison.—Zeal of this kind excites some uneasiness, and if the municipality tolerates the arrests, it is because it is desirous of preventing murder. Consequently, on the following day, December 13th, it sends to Marseilles for four hundred men of the Swiss Guard commanded by Ernest, and four hundred National Guards, adding to these the National Guard of Aix, and orders this company to protect the prison against any violence. But, along with the Marseilles National Guards, there came a lot of armed people who are volunteers of disorder. On the afternoon of the 13th, the first mob strives to force the prison, and the next day, fresh squads congregate around it demanding the head of M. Pascalis. The members of the club head the riot with “a crowd of unknown men from outside the town, who give orders and carry them out.” During the night the populace of Aix are tampered with, and the dykes all give way at the same moment. At the first clamours the National Guard on duty on the public promenade disband and disperse, while, as there is no signal for the assemblage of the others, notwithstanding the regulations, the general alarm is not sounded. “The largest portion of the National Guard draws off so as not to appear to authorise by its presence outrages which it has not been ordered to prevent. Peaceable citizens are in great consternation”; each one takes to flight or shuts himself up in his house, the streets being deserted and silent. Meanwhile the prison gates are shattered with axes. The procureur-syndic of the department, who requests the commandant of the Swiss regiment to protect the prisoners, is seized, borne off, and runs the risk of losing his life. Three municipal officers in their scarfs, who arrive on the ground, dare not give the order which the commandant requires, plainly showing that at this decisive moment, when it is necessary to shed blood and kill a number of men, they fear to take the responsibility; their reply is, “We have no orders to give.”—An extraordinary spectacle now presents itself in this barrack courtyard surrounding the prison. On the side of the law stand eight hundred armed men, four hundred of the “Swiss” and four hundred of the National Guard of Marseilles, drawn up in battle array, with guns to their shoulders, with special orders repeated the evening before at three different times by the municipal district and departmental authorities, possessing the sympathies of all honest people and of most of the National Guard. But the legal indispensable phrase does not pass the lips of those who by virtue of the Constitution should utter it, and a small group of convicts are found to be sovereign.—The three municipal officers are seized in their turn under the eyes of their own soldiers who remain motionless, and “with bayonets at their breasts they sign, under constraint, the order to give up M. Pascalis to the people.” M. de la Roquette is likewise surrendered. “The only portion of the National Guard of Aix which was visible,” that is to say, the Jacobin minority, form a circle around the gate of the prison and organize themselves into a council of war. And there they stand, at once “accusers, witnesses, judges, and executioners.” A captain conducts the two victims to the public promenade where they are hung. Very soon after this old M. de Guiramand, whom the National Guard of his village have brought a prisoner to Aix, is hung in the same manner.
There is no prosecution of the assassins. The new tribunal, frightened or forestalled, has for some time back ranged itself on the popular side; its writs, consequently, are served on the oppressed, against the members of the assaulted club. Writs of arrest, summonses to attend court, searches, seizures of correspondence, and other proceedings, rain down upon them. Three hundred witnesses are examined. Some of the arrested officers are “loaded with chains and thrust into dungeons.” Henceforth the club rules, and “makes everybody tremble.”43 “From the 23rd to the 27th of December, more than ten thousand passports are delivered at Aix.” “If the emigrations continue,” write the commissioners, “there will be no one left at Aix but workmen without work and with no resources. Whole streets are uninhabited. . . . As long as such crimes can be permitted with impunity fear will drive out of this town every one who has the means of living elsewhere.”—Many come back after the arrival of the commissioners, hoping to obtain justice and security through them. But, “if a prosecution is not ordered, we shall scarcely have left Aix when three or four hundred families will abandon it. . . . And what man in his senses would dare guarantee that each village will not soon have some one hung in it? . . . Country valets arrest their masters. . . . The hope of doing evil deeds with impunity leads the inhabitants of villages to commit all sorts of depredations in the forests, which is exceedingly dangerous in a region where woods are very scarce. They set up the most absurd and most unjust pretensions against rich proprietors, and the fatal rope is ever the interpreter and the signal of their will.” There is no refuge against these outrages. “The department, the districts, the municipalities, administer only in conformity with the multiplied petitions of the club.” In the sight of all, and on one solemn day, a crushing defeat has demonstrated the weakness of the magistrates; and, bowed beneath the yoke of their new masters, they preserve their legal authority only on the condition that it remains at the service of the victorious party.
[1. ]See the address of the commune of Paris, June 5, 1790. “Let the most touching of all utterances be heard on this day (the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille), Frenchmen, we are brothers! Yes, brothers, freemen and with a country!” Roux et Buchez, vi. 275.
[2. ]Roux and Buchez, iv. 3, 309; v. 123; vi. 274, 399.—Duvergier, Collection of Laws and Decrees. Decree of June 8 and 9, 1790.
[3. ]Michelet, “Histoire de la Révolution Française,” ii. 470, 474.
[4. ]De Ferrières, ii. 91.—Albert Babeau, i. 340. (Letter addressed to the Chevalier de Poterat, July 18, 1790.)—De Dammartin, “Evénements qui se sont passés sous mes yeux,” &c., i. 155.
[5. ]Sauzay, i. 202.
[6. ]Albert Babeau, ibid. i 330.—De Ferrières, ii. 92.
[7. ]“Archives Nationales,” H. 1453. Correspondence of M. de Bercheney, May 23, 1790.
[8. ]“Archives Nationales,” ibid. May 13, 1790. “M. de la Rifaudière was dragged from his carriage and brought to the guard-house, which was immediately filled with people, shouting, ‘To the lantern, the aristocrat!’—The fact is this: after his having repeatedly shouted Vive le Roi et la Nation! they wanted him to shout Vive la Nation! alone, upon which he gave Vive la Nation tant qu’ell pourra.”—At Blois, on the day of the Federation, a mob promenade the streets with a wooden head covered with a wig, and a placard stating that the aristocrats must be decapitated.
[9. ]Mercure de France, the articles by Mallet-Dupan (June 18th and August 16, 1791; April 14, 1792).
[10. ]Moniteur, iv. 560 (sitting of June 5, 1790), report of M. Freteau. “These facts are attested by fifty witnesses.”—Cf. the number of April 19, 1791.
[11. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, military commandant in Brittany (September, 1789). “There are in every petty village three conflicting powers, the présidial, the bourgeois militia, and the permanent committee. Each is anxious to take precedence of the other, and, on this occasion, a scene happened to come under my eyes at Landivisiau which might have had a bloody termination, but which turned out to be simply ridiculous. A lively dispute arose between three haranguers to determine which should make the first address. They appealed to me to decide. Not to offend either of the parties, I decided that all three should speak at the same time; which decision was immediately carried out.”
[12. ]Decree of August 10–14, 1789.
[13. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, September 11, 1789. “The troops now obey the municipalities only.” Also July 30th, August 11, 1790.
[14. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard, September 11 and 25, November 20, December 25 and 30, 1789.
[15. ]Roux and Buchez, v. 304 (April, 1790).—“Archives Nationales.” Papers of the Committee of Investigation, DXXIX. I (note of M. Latour-du-Pin, October 28, 1789).—Roux and Buchez, iv. 3 (December 1, 1789); iv. 390 (February, 1790); vi. 179 (April and May, 1790).
[16. ]Mercure de France, Report of M. Emery, sitting of July 21, 1790, Number for July 31.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,200. Letter of the directory of Calvados, September 26 and October 20, 1791.
[17. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,207. Letter of the minister Dumouriez, June 15, 1792. Report of M. Caillard, May 29, 1792.
[18. ]Mercure de France, No. for July, 1791 (sitting of the 6th); Nos. for November 5 and 26, 1791.
[19. ]Albert Babeau, “Histoire de Troyes,” vol. i passim.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,257. Address of the Directory of Saône-et-Loire to the National Assembly, November 1, 1790.—F7, 3,200. Letter of the Directory of Calvados, November 9, 1791.—F7, 3,105. Procès-verbal of the municipality of Aix, March 1, 1792 (on the events of February 26th); letter of M. Villard, President of the Directory, March 10, 1792.—F7, 3,220. Extracts from the deliberations of the Directory of Gers, and a letter to the King, January 28, 1792. Letter of M. Lafitau, President of the Directory, January 30. (He was dragged along by his hair and obliged to leave the town.)
[20. ]Mercure de France, No. for October 30, 1790.
[21. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3226. Letter of the Directory of Indre to M. Cahier, minister, December 6, 1791.—Letter of M. Delessart, minister, to the Directory of Indre, December 31, 1791.
[22. ]Fabre, “Histoire de Marseille,” ii. 442. Martin had but 3,555 votes, when shortly after the National Guard numbered 24,000 men.
[23. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letter of the minister, M. de Saint-Priest, to the President of the National Assembly, May 11, 1790.
[24. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letters of the military commandant, M. de Miran, March 6, 14, 30, 1790.
[25. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letter of M. de Bournissac, grand-prévôt, March 6, 1790.
[26. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letters of M. du Miran, April 11th and 16th, and May 1, 1790.
[27. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Procès-verbal of events on the 30th of April.
[28. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letters of the Municipality of Marseilles to the National Assembly, May 5 and 20, 1790.
[29. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Order of the king, May 10. Letter of M. de Saint-Priest to the National Assembly, May 11. Decree of the National Assembly, May 12. Letter of the Municipality to the King, May 20. Letter of M. de Rubum, May 20. Note sent from Marseilles, May 31. Address of the Municipality to the President of the Friends of the Constitution, at Paris, May 5. In his narration of the taking of the forts we read the following sentence: “We arrived without hindrance in the presence of the commandant, whom we brought to an agreement by means of the influence which force, fear, and reason give to persuasion.”
[30. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,196. Letter of M. de Miran, May 5. The spirit of the ruling party at Marseilles is indicated by several printed documents joined to the dossier, and, among others, by a “Requête à Desmoulins, procureur-général de la Lanterne.” It relates to a “patriotic inkstand,” recently made out of the stones of the demolished citadel, representing a hydra with four heads, symbolizing the nobility, the clergy, the ministry, and the judges. “It is from the four patriotic skulls of the hydra that the ink of proscription will be taken for the enemies of the Constitution. This inkstand, cut out of the first stone that fell in the demolition of Fort Saint-Nicolas, is dedicated to the patriotic Assembly of Marseilles. The magic art of the hero of the liberty of Marseilles, that Renaud who, under the mask of devotion, surprised the watchful sentinel of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and whose manly courage and cunning ensured the conquest of that key of the great focus of counterrevolution, has just given birth to a new trait of genius: a new Deucalion, he personifies this stone which Liberty has flung from the summit of our menacing Bastilles, &c.”
[31. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,198. Letters of the royal commissioners, April 13 and 15, 1791.
[32. ]De Ségur, “Mémoires,” iii. 482 (early in 1790).
[33. ]De Dammartin, i. 184 (January, 1791).
[34. ]“Archives Nationales,” KK. 1105. Correspondence of M. de Thiard (October 12, 1789).
[35. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,250. Procès-verbal of the directory of the department, March 18, 1792. “As the ferment was at the highest point and fears were entertained that greater evils would follow, M. le Président, with painful emotion declared that he yielded and passed the unconstitutional act.” Reply of the minister, June 23: “If the constituted authorities are thus forced to yield to the arbitrary will of a wild multitude, government no longer exists and we are in the saddest stage of anarchy. If you think it best I will propose to the King to reverse your last decision.”
[36. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,250. Letter of M. Duport, minister of justice, December 24, 1791.
[37. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,248, Procès-verbal of the members of the department, finished March 18, 1791.—Roux and Buchez, ix. 240 (Report of M. Alquier).
[38. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,268. Extract from the deliberations of the directory of Seine-et-Oise, with the documents relating to the insurrection at Étampes, September 16, 1791. Letter of M. Venard, administrator of the district, September 20—“I shall not set foot in Étampes until the reestablishment of order and tranquillity, and the first thing I shall do will be to record my resignation in the register. I am tired of making sacrifices for ungrateful wretches.”
[39. ]Moniteur, March 16, 1792. Mortimer-Ternaux, “Histoire de la Terreur” (Proceedings against the assassins of Simoneau), i. 381.
[40. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,226. Letter and memorial of Chenantin, cultivator, November 7, 1792. Extract from the deliberations of the directory of Langeais, November 5, 1792 (sedition at Chapelle-Blanche, near Langeais, October 5, 1792).
[41. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,195. Report of the Commissioners sent by the National Assembly and the King, February 23, 1791. (On the events of December 12 and 14, 1790.)—Mercure de France, February 29, 1791. (Letters from Aix, and notably a letter from seven officers shut up in the prison at Aix, January 30, 1791.) The oldest Jacobin club, formed in February, 1790, was entitled “Club des vrais amis de la Constitution.” The second Jacobin club, formed in October, 1790, was “composed from the beginning of artisans and labourers from the faubourgs and suburbs.” Its title was “Société des frères anti-politiques,” or “frères vrais, justes et utiles à la patrie.” The opposition club, formed in December, 1790, bore the title, according to some, of “Les Amis du Roi, de la paix et de la religion”; according to others, “Les amis de la paix”; and finally, according to another report, “Les Défenseurs de la religion, des personnes et des propriétés.”
[42. ]A special series of religious services.
[43. ]“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,195. Letters of the commissioners, March 20, February 11, May 10, 1791.