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of the first revolutionary age, an age which has passed
never to return. An affecting history, which no one can
read without shedding tears. So childish, so easy to be
deceived! and duped to such a degree! no matter; true
Frenchmen will never repent of having been the confiding
and merciful people they were proven to be.

The disturbances inseparable from so great an over-
throw, have been purposely magnified, and complai-
santly exaggerated from the impassioned accounts v/hich


our enemies received and solicited from all who had suf-

In reality, only one class, the clergy, was able with any
appearance of truth to call itself robbed. And neverthe-
less, the result of that spoliation was, that the great bulk
of the clergy, starved under the old system for the emolu-
ment of a few prelates, had, at length, a comfortable

The nobles lost their feudal rights, but in many prov-
inces, especially in Laguedoc, they gained much more as
proprietors, in no longer being obliged to pay tithes, than
they lost as lords of the manor with feudal rights.

Though divested of the Gothic and ridiculous honors
of fiefs — now become an absurdity — they had not fallen in
the social scale. The true honor of citizenship (of which
the majority were hardly worthy) — the highest places in
the municipalities, and rank in the National Guard — was
bestowed upon them with blind deference, in most every

This was excessive, imprudent confidence. But the
new generation, throughout the infinite prospect which
the future afforded, haggled but little with the past. It
asked the other only to let it go and live. Immense was
their faith, their hope. All these millions of men, serfs
only yesterday, and now men and citizens, summoned in
the self -same day, all at once, from death to life, these
new-born infants of the Eevolution were arising with an
unheard-of abundance of strength, good will, and confi-

What hope, what love in that happy year ! During
the confederation period, marriage — that most natural con-
federation — went on multiplying. It is an extraordinary
fact that marriages were one-fifth more numerous during
that glorious year of hope.

Ah! that great movement of hearts promised some-


thing more — a far different fecundity. Fruitful in men
and laws, that moral union of the soul and the will led
the people to expect a new dogma, new and powerful ideas,
both social and religious. At the mere sight of the field
of the Confederation, everybody would have sworn that,
from that sublime moment, from so many pure and sin-
cere desires, from such an effusion of tears, and from the
concentrated ardor of so many fervent prayers, a God
was about to rise.

All saw and felt the divine sentiment. Even the men
the least favorably disposed toward the revolution started
at that moment, and perceived a glorious advent approach-
ing. Our wild peasants of Maine and the marshes of
Brittany, whom through furious fanaticism were about to
turn against us, came of their own accord full of emotion
to join our confederation and to kiss the altar of the un-
known God.

Such was the infinite spirit brooding over this people,
when, at noon on the 14th of July, they raised their hands
to heaven. On that day everything was jjossible. Every
kind of discussion had ceased; there was no longer either
nobility or serf; there were but citizens; a people.

There was nothing one would think of to prevent the
social and religious change of the Eevolution from being

Magnanimous instincts had burst forth in every class
which simplified everything. Difficulties indissoluble
before and afterward, were then resolved of themselves.
In October, 1789, there was reason to fear the bulk of the
rural electors might serve the aristocracy, but this fear
had disappeared in July, 1790; for the peasant then obeyed,
in almost every locality, the impulse of the Eevolution,
with as much zeal as did the town populations.




"Oh hostile fatality," exclaims Michelet, "^^ which
checked the delivery of France. Whom must we accuse?
Who are to be charged with the crime of this miscar-
riage?" With a frown he turns toward England and
from thence to the French clergy. Partially, yes, both
are responsible; but too much confidence in the King and
not enough in the common people were the principal
causes of the future mischief. Tv^^o parties swore at the
great feast of Liberty to stand by Fraternity and Equal-
ity; but one only really intended to keep its oath. There
is amj^le proof at hand to convict one of the principals to
the contract with its willful violation .

It is known that the very night before the celebration.
Bonne de Savarin, the secret agent of the court and
author of the plot to introduce a portion of the army of
the emigrants into the city of Lyons, and whose confessions
might prove fatal to the royalists, was spirited away from
the abbey, where he had been imprisoned, to be tried for
his life. Again, it is no secret that immediately after the
14th of July, plans were devised by some of the royal Dep-
uties to rob the people of the fruits of their peaceable vic-
tory. As early as the 18th it was decreed by the National
Assembly that the National Guard, at first made up of all
good citizens, should be uniformed; the simple tri-colored
riband which designated the service not being considered
sufficiently pretentious. This order, as it was expected,
had the effect of disarming the poor, since the designated
uniform was too expensive a luxury to be indulged in by



this class. This measure was as injudicious at the time as
it was unpopular, because it furnished the revolutionary
clubs, notably the Jacobins, with the most plausible argu-
ments for thorough organization of the poorer classes all
over the country. In less than two years two thousand
four hundred of these clubs, in as many towns and villages,
become connected with the original club at Paris.
Another cause of popular alarm was the circumstance,
that while the Assembly divested royalty of many of its
prerogatives, the sword was still left in the hands of the
King. He, as before, could prepare for war and direct the
National forces. This he proposed to continue to do. As
early as January, 1790, the minister of war had written
the commandants of the fortresse of Lille, in Flanders,
'*■ Just forget us and consider us as nothing, and soon we
shall be everything.'^

" Dimly visible at Metz,'' says Carlyle, ^^on the north-
eastern frontier, last refuge of royalty m all straits and
meditations of fliglit, a certain brave Bouille had for
some months hovered: his position and procedure there
will soon throw light on many things. The Marquis de
Bouille, one of the four appointed superior generals, was a
determined loyalist, who had refused to take the National
oath. There, at his post he silently waits, with no clear
purpose in his mind but this — to still try to do his
majesty a service.''^

Bouille himself admits, in his memoirs, that he left
^^ nothing untried to set the soldiery and the people in
opposition to each other and to inspire the military with
hatred and contempt for the citizen."

Says Carlyle, ^'Bouille always struggled and hoped
for the best; not from new organizations, but by liai^py
counter Revolutions, to finally be able to return to the old
order of things. It was clear to him that this National
Federation, with its universal swearing, and the f raterniz-


ing of the people and soldiers, had done incalculable mis-

And what was the attitude of the Court, two short
months after the King and Queen had taken the oath to be
loyal to the people of France, to support and respect their
new constitution?

M. de Breteuil, the Prime Minister, who in July
1789, urged upon the Assembly such desperate measures to
repress the Paris insurrection, left France early in 1790,
as the King's secret embassador to all the courts of Eu-
rope. His secret authority was not revoked after the
King had taken the oath to support the new Constitution,
but, rather received renewed force, from the fact that the
King's private communications to the foreign powers
were transmitted through him. One month after the Con-
federation celebration, the King addressed a protest to the
diiferent powers, concerning the action of the National
Assembly in requiring the oath of loyalty from the clergy;
and on the 6th of October, he sent a private letter to the
King of Prussia, urging the combined action of all the
powers for the restoration of his former rule in France.
The following letter, found in the archives of the Chan-
cellorship of Prussia, dated December 3, 1790, substantiates
this fact.

^'My Dear Brother: I have learned from M. de
Moustier, how great an interest Your Majesty has dis-
played, not only for the safety of my person, but for the
welfare of my Kingdom, and Your Majesty's determina-
tion to prove this interest, whenever it can be for the good
of my people, has deeply touched me; I therefore confi-
dently claim the fulfillment of it, at this moment, when,
in spite of my having accepted the new Constitution, the
factious portion of my subjects openly manifest their in-
tention of destroying the remainder of the monarchy. I
have thus addressed the Emperor, the Empress of Russia,


and the Kings of Spain and Sweden; and I have suggested
to them the idea of a congress of the principal powers of
Europe, supported by an armed force, as the best meas-
ure to check the progress of faction here; to afford
the means of establishing a better order of things, and
preventing the evil that is devouring this country from
seizing on the other States of Europe. I trust that Your
Majesty will approve my ideas, and maintain the strictest
secrecy respecting the step I have taken in this matter, as
you will feel that the critical position in which I am
placed, at present, compels me to use the greatest circum-
spection. It is for this reason that the Baron de Bretenil
has alone been made acquainted with my secret, and
through him Your Majesty can transmit me whatever you
may think fit."

Michelet, whose statements are based upon official doc-
uments, says, '^ As early as October, 1790, the Austrian
embassador, Mercy, minister Breteuil and the Queen^s
advisers, insisted upon the flight of the royal family. Bre-
tenil sent a bishop from Switzerland transmitting his
plan to the King. But neither the Queen nor the bishop
considered it prudent to be the first to unfold it to his
majesty. In order not to alarm him, they merely inti-
mated the expediency, in case of danger, of taking refuge
with General Bouille's faithful regiments stationed close
to the Austrian frontier and within reach of succor from
Leopold, the King's brother-in-law. The King listened,
but remained silent. The Queen now tried her influence,
and by dint of prayers and entreaties at length obtained,
Oct. 30th, 1790, a general 2^oiver to treat loitli foreign
poiuers. Bouille, receiving notice of this, advised the
King to repair,. preferably, to Besan9on, within reach of
aid from the Swiss, secured by capitulations. But this
Avas not to the taste of the Austrian advisers, who insisted
on Montmedy, only two leagues from the Austrian fron-


tier. In order to come to a definite understanding. Gen-
eral de Bouille sent in December Louis de Bouille, one of
his sons, who, conducted by the bishop, the original mes-
senger in this affair, held an interview with Fersen, an inti-
mate friend of the Queen, in a very retired house of the Fau-
bourg Saint-Honore. Bouille was very young, being only
twenty-one years of age. Fersen was exceedingly devoted,
but absurd and careless, it would seem. Nevertheless,
these were the two persons who held in their hands and
directed the destiny of the monarchy. M. de Bouille,
being well acquainted with the court, and knowing that they
were quite capable of disowning him if the business went
wrong, had requested the King to write a letter containing
every particular, and giving him full authority; which letter
was to be shown to his son, who was to take a copy of it.
This proceeding was serious and dangerous. The King,
however, wrote and signed these terrible words which two
years later were to lead him to the scaffold: ''You must
secure, before everything else, assistance from alroad!"

" The correspondence between the Queen and the for-
eign powers, ^^ says Mme. Campan, the Queen's lady-in-wait-
ing and confidante, ''was carried on in cipher. That to
which she gave preference can never be divulged, but the
greatest patience is requisite for its use. Each corre-
spondent must have a copy of the same edition of some
work. The Queen selected Paul and Tirginia. The page
and line in which the letters required, and occasionally
a monosyllable, are to be found are pointed out in the
cipher agreed upon. I assisted her in the operation of
finding the letters, and very frequently I made an ex-
act copy for her of all that she had ciphered, without
knowing a single word of its meaning.'"'

It must be borne in mind that before and during this
conspiracy* the wheels of industry and commerce had
come to a standstill.


The forcible transfer of the royal family from Ver-
sailles to Paris, the bread riots at the capital, and excesses
committed by the peasants in the provinces, had not only
hastened the exodus of the nobles, but many of the wealthy,
and others in easy circumstances, who, though at first
having actively engaged in the events of the first epoch of
the Eevolution, now became alarmed, and in throngs of
thousands crossed the frontier into safer lands. Those
that did remain neither ''spun nor wove," but turned
whatever of their possessions they were able into ready cash,
thus withdrawing the available capital of the country from
circulation. As always happens in cases of popular com-
motions, the industrial class, which had been foremost in
the contest against ancient abuses, were the principal suf-
ferers of this crisis. During the v/inter of ^89 and '90,
thousands of workmen were without employment, and the
influx of idle labor from the country steadily continuing,
the evil had increased to an alarming extent. This unfortu-
nate condition of things was aggravated by the difficulty
of supplying Paris with i^rovisions, owing to the disturb-
ances in the provinces. The credulous people of Paris had
been sadly disappointed in the hope that with the return
of the royal family to Paris their troubles would be removed.
It is almost incredible, but is a fact, that voracious specu-
lations improved this scarcity of breadstuffs, to ''boom''
the price of grain. Bread-riots and lynch law were the
consequences. During this period a number of wheat
gamblers fell victims to the popular fury, Avhereupon, on
the 21st of October, martial law was decreed by the
National Assembly. The municipality was empowered to
disperse popular assemblages by force of arms, a power
which was executed by the National Guards (now com-
posed almost exclusively of the bourgeois class) with
undue severity and often with wanton brutality. It
became, from day to day, evident that the bourgeoisie.



who thus far had reaped all the benefits of the Revolution,
did not possess the ability to grapple with this critical
situation, nor did they seem inclined to allow the indus-
trial classes a share in these benefits. Instead of devising
a comprehensive economic system, by which labor might be
rewarded, the bourgeoisie preferred to employ that of the
old regime, namely, ^'^powder and lead." It logically fol-
lowed that the co-partnership heretofore existing between
the bourgeoisie and the working classes was dissolved
by mutual consent; that from being friends in the revolu-
tionary movement they became bitter opponents, both
struggling for actual existence in the state, and then for
political supremacy, until the one was precipitated into the
gulf which its own shortsightedness and selfishness had
created. Instead of providing Paris with bread, the munic-
ipality ordered the old state dungeons at Versailles to be
reconstructed for the imprisonment of obnoxious agitators,
and every demonstration against the inauguration of a
nftw Bastile was dispersed by the cavalry of the National

Now the streets and public places of Paris were daily
filled with idle workmen, who could not, as was done sub-
sequently, be employed in the army, and work was only to
be had in those trades which were engaged in providing
the National Guards with uniforms, arms and accoutre-
ments. Petitions for work were responded to by the
municipality with threats of arrest, and on the 14th
of June, 1791, the trades' unions, for the offense of fixing
wages and hours of labor, were declared — these efforts of
the unions to better themselves being seditious — prohib-
ited by law. These repressive measures were welcome
food for the arch demagogue Marat, who, vulture-like,
fed upon wrongs inflicted upon the laborer and his acts of



It is, perhaps, a truism to say, that popular commo-
tions are generally the result of scarcity of work and
bread, and that, consequently, political and social reforms
are mainly secured through the stomachs of the people.
We have seen that, for more than a century previous to
the outbreak of the Revolution, France was suffering from
the evil effects of a vicious system of political economy,
introduced under Louis XIV. and maintained with only
partial interruptions during the reigns of his successors,
and that it contributed in no small degree in precipitating
this crisis. In the city of Paris these evils were necessa-
rily aggravated by the closing of almost all her manufac-
turing establishments, and the efforts of the National As-
sembly for the provisioning of this populous center was
never more than partially successful. Work and bread,
was, therefore, the daily cry of Paris; it was the ^'burning
question;" the main topic of public writers and speakers;
a source of anxiety to the friends of a peaceful Revolution,
and a standing menace in the hands of the demagogues.

Next to the popular clubs, the public press at this time
had become the most important factor of the Revolution.
While such journals as the Revolutions de Paris and the
Patriot FranQais were conducted in harmony with the
revolutionary sentiment of the great body of the French
people, devising and discussing plans for the relief of the
needy and for the erection of the new social and political
edifice, L'Ami clu Peiqoh, edited by Marat, and other sheets
confined to the faubourgs, appealed to the passions and


MARAT. 137

jirejudices of the idle v/orkingmen, and incited the brutal-
ity and cupidity of the lawless rabble, congregated at the
capital, to riots and insurrections.

Editor Marat could not have lived except by agitation
and social disarrangement — contention was his element.
The famine of the winter between 1789-90 afforded to his
base propensities an endless field of operation. His paper
fed on hunger and starvation.

Marat was unquestionably the most lugubrious figure
of the French Eevolution.

From the moment this monster prominently appears
on the scene, the "Eeign of Terror" may be said to have

Attempts have been made by a certain class of writers
to shield this man from the execration of posterity, but
Avithout avail, for the columns of his own paper, written
by his own hand, convict him of complicity in wholesale

Marat, or rather Mara, was born at Baudry, near
Neufchatel, Switzerland. His father was an Italian and
his mother a French Genevese, so that, although born in
Switzerland, he had not a drop of Helvetian blood in his
veins. By occupation his father was a clergyman of a lib-
eral education, and his mother a sensitive woman, much
given to reading and reflection; both were ardent admirers
of the great Jean Jacques Eousseau, who had retired to
Neufchatel, when Mara;t was at the age of twenty.

The brilliant achievements of Eousseau in the field of
philosophical literature, impressed young Marat with the
idea that he also might become a great author, a senti-
ment which was hourly fostered by his ambitious parents.
Eousseau's writings henceforth formed the principal
study of the youth. But, as his literary labors subsequently
proved, Marat^s mind was imitative rather than creative;
he possessed Eousseau's indefatigable industry but not a


scintilla of his genius, and that sentiment of pride which
distinguished this great author was mere vanity in Marat.
His supreme egotism is thus aptly illustrated when,
in 1793, he wrote of himself in his newspaper. The Friend
of the People: * 'At five years of age, I wanted to be
a schoolmaster; at fifteen, a professor; at eighteen, an
author, and a creative genius at twenty; now I think I
have exhausted every combination of the human mind,
on morality, philosophy, and politics/'

Marat started out in his work at the age of twenty, as
a teacher of French at Edinburgh, giving himself the
title of Doctor of Medicine. In 1774, having witnessed
the riot in favor of the pamphleteer Wilkes, and the eleva-
tion of this extraordinary genius to the position of Lord
Mayor of London, Marat was inspired to write his first
book, entitled. " The Chains of Bondage," — an exceedingly
weak production, noticeable only as furnishing proof of
his absolute incapacity to understand the English system
of government. In 1775, he published his book ''On
Man,^' in v/hich he endeavors to prove, that soul and body
are two distinct and absolutely different substances; the
former subordinate to and controlled by the latter.

In 1777, Marat returned to France without substantial
proof of the success he claimed for his literary works in
England. His next book on " Medicine Galante,'' a sug-
gestive and lewd publication, attracted the attention of
the licentious young noblemen at the court, and finally
that of the Count d'Artois, who offered its author the
position of physician to his stables, in which capacity he
continued a member of the royal household for twelve

In the summer of 1789 he made a short visit to England,
returning to Paris on the memorable 14th of July of the
same year. A witness of the exciting events of that day, his
inflammable imagination became heated to madness; amid

MABAT. 139

these scenes of uncontrolled popular passion, lie seemed to
think such wild exhibitions were to last forever.

This he believed was his grand opportunity : a field
for the gratification of a morbid imagination. He spoke,
but his voice was but one of the hundreds of thousands
who talked; he wrote, but his communications bore the
stamp of an unsettled mind, full of wild and erratic
notions which were either ridiculed by the editors on pub-
lication, or found their way to the waste basket. His
unbounded vanity caused him to consider himself mis-
judged or misunderstood. To have a paper of his own,
was, therefore, his only recourse. Selling the sheets from
off his bed, in January, 1790, as he states it, in order to
start his small paper, " L'Ami du Fetiple," the sluices of
his venom were flung wide open. His paper began to at-
tack everything and everybody that had, or desired to have,
the semblance of respectability and decency. No one
looked for instruction, news, foreign or domestic, in the
columns of his sheet. They were principally devoted to
railings, public and private scandals, and abuse of people
personally disagreeable to him..

In writing of "^aristocrats, noble or capitalistic, 'Mie
generalized much after this fashion; ''they should be
assassinated to the moderate number of six hundred to
begin with; ten thousand a little later on, twenty thousand
after, and so on, until the maximum, two hundred and
seventy thousand, was reached.''^

Marat's vocabulary was not extensive, but choice;
''infamous scoundrel,'^ "contemptible fraud, ^^ "villain-
ous reptile," "miserable coward," and other expletives,
were repeated ad nauseam, in line after line. In short, its
matter was mostly abuse, high-sonnding declamation and

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Online LibraryHermann LiebThe foes of the French revolution → online text (page 10 of 25)