1902 Encyclopedia > France > French History: French Revolution (1789)

(Part 15)


The French Revolution (1789)

We are come to the verge of the French Revolution, which surpasses all other revolutions the world has seen in its completeness, the largeness of its theater, the long preparation for it, the enunciation by it of new points of view in politics, its swift degradation into imperialism, its influence on the modern history of Europe. It has been truly said that France had for centuries been preparing for it, for centuries she would feel the effects of it. The imperialism, which has traversed and marred its due development, has perhaps already passed away-its destructive work is over; the republic under which France now lives may be the turning point of European history.

For all revolutions there are needed first a favorable concurrence of external circumstances, - such as, in France, the character of Louis XVI. succeeding after his grandfather, the anti-national temper of his court, the outbreak of the American War of Liberation, the ferment of modern ideas in all the countries of Europe. Next, there must be a "semen martyrum," a faith of internal conviction which will strengthen men to face death for their cause, because their minds are lifted above common life and its trivial affairs; this, too existed in France, and cannot be underrated as a motive power. Sometimes partial and narrow, yet always generous and warm, was the enthusiasm of younger France for the "principles of ‘89": the equality of all men before the law and for the burdens of citizenship, the excellence of virtue, the sovereignty of the people, obedience to the law, the blessings of freedom of person, press, and belief,- these and the like, afterwards embodied in the Dedaration des roits de l’homme, were great engines which set the revolution moving, and directed its general course. Joined with these ideas, which cannot reach down to all, there must be a general feeling of misery, oppression, wrong. This he scandals of finance administration, the despair of frequent famines, the grievous incidence of the corvee and other ancient services, the inability to get away from the soil or to rise, largely supplied. Moreover, the divergence of classes, which in France had long been increasing, was such as to endanger in itself the stability of society. The older creeds, too, were dying down into their embers, and had lost the power to arouse enthusiasm; while the ancient framework of long worn-out institutions still encumbered all the land, and with their dead weight pressed men down. Selfishness above, hypocrisy in faith, nisery below,- these things demanded vocal leaders for attack, and the leaders were not wanting – they were first the great writers, and afterwards the chiefs whom the violence of the time threw to the surface.

Europe had long been uneasy; the "benevolent despots" had tried their utmost for the people and against privilege; enlightened ministers seemed to themselves to be carrying out the principles of Richelieu; they fought against custom and institutions, irritating, weakening, even reversing them. And yet in all they scarcely recognized the existence of Democracy, of a people which would be heard, and would take the foremost place in the rearrangement of Europe. While the monarchs who said of their business with Joseph II., "C’est d’etre royaliste," were leveling privilege or church immunities, dismissing parliaments or exiling Jesuits with a view to raising their own authority, they little knew that they themselves were in danger. For the new democracy changed the center and place of sovereignty, and while, as De Tocqieville says, "it swept away the feudal institutions and replaced them with a social and political order, more uniform and simple, and based on the equality of the condition of all," it was also sure profoundly to modify the views of Europe as to the position of the monarch, as to the headship and sovereignty in a nation. And the great change began in France, not because she was more, but partly because she was less oppressed than her neighbors. In comparison with the German, the French peasant proprietors. "This," said Arthur Young in 1788 "is the mildest government of any considerable country in Europe, our own excepted." This milder state of things mademen more capable of indignation against the injustice they could feel; the most crushed do not feel the most; they are helpless; ignorant; but when men have begun to rise and to understand, then they grow dangerous to their masters. The very attempts made y benevolence in the high place to succour the misery of the people roused their anger against their lords, - a point to whch De Tocqieville dedicates whole chapter, entitled "Comment on souleva le people en voulant le soulager." In addition to this we must remember that the Revolution found much to forward it in the brightness of the French temperament. The simple principles it preached, with accompanying appeals to virtue and patriotism, at once commended themselves to a people fearfully ignorant, yet unusually intelligent and lively. In their strength and their weakness alike the French people were singularly well fitted to be the herals of the new conditions of political life in Europe.

Early in 1789 all France was busy with the elections to the States-General, and in drawing up the cahiers, or papers of grievances. From the moment of the king’s edict (8th August 1788), convoking the State-General, discussions had gone on with growing eagerness as to their proper constitution and form. Some urged the pattern of the English constitution; other wished for the forms of 1614; others pointed out the increased importance of the third Estate in numbers and wealth. It was seen that the Estate which in fact would be called on to pay almost the whole sum to be raised must have greater strength stared the court in the face; the king only called the Estates together because the finances were in a frightful condition; he openly sets this forward as the chief reason for their convocation. A demand accordingly arose for two things: - first, that the third Estate should be composed of as many members as the other two orders combined; secondly, that the three orders should debate and vote by head, in one chamber. It was urged on this hand that thus only could those defend themselves who would have to pay the taxes; on the other hand, that to sit in one chamber would be a dangerous innovation, and that a majority of the third Estate would set the unprivileged public above the privileged few. The parliament of Paris, with its lawyer-like preference for precedent over justice, and its incapacity to discern the real issues before it, warmly supported the latter view, and urged the king to follow the rules of 1614. The popularity they had up to that time rather undeservedly enjoyed was destroyed in a moment; it was seen now that the lawyers were as earnest for privilege as the rest. A convocation of notables, chiefly members of the privileged orders, to rule the form of procedure, in spite of Necker’s efforts, supported the views of the parliament. The matter grew warm; the princes of the blood, Artois and Conde and the others, who had supported the queen in all her follies, added their remonstrances in the same direction; the popular ferment spread all the more, and Necker became the idol of the people. By his influence the king was induced at last to issue an edict to the effect that there should be in all full a thousand deputies to the States-General, made up in proportion to the population, and that there should be as many deputies of the third Estate as of the other two combined. As to the one-chamber question the decree was silent. In former States-General the third Estate had usually sent more than either of the others; in those of 1560 the third Estate had much exceeded the other two combined, so that this great concession was little more than a continuance of ancient use. It was also decided that the election should be by a double process. The electros, in number about three millions, were limited by no property qualification; it was a kind of simple household suffrage in the country districts, each 200 hearts choosing two representatives, and so on; in the towns two delegates for each 100 inhabitants, and so on upwards, - so that the towns chose twice as many primary delegates as the country districts did for their numbers. These delegates from bailiwicks and towns were empowered to meet in the chief town of each province, there to draw up their cahiers, and to choose from their own body the persons who should proceed with the grievances in hand to Versailes as members of the third Estate.

The elections to the first Estate, the clergy, returned 291 members, - 48 archbishops and bishops, 35 abbes and canons, 208 parish priests; these latter were largely in favor of liberty, and when the time came supported the third Estate in its struggle, while the bishops and higher clergy mostly went with the privileged orders. The second Estate, the noblesse, returned in all 270 persons, one prince of the blood, 28 magistrates, 241 "gentlemen" or holders of noble fieds. The smallness of their total is due to the proud abstention of the Breton nobles. There were among them a few who sympathized with the popular movement, - at their head the duke of Orleans. The third Estate was composed of 557 members, nearly half of them barristers, and almost all united in defence of the country against privilege. The cahiers of all the orders, the third no less than the others, breathed a very moderate spirit. Almost al spoke warmly and hopefully of the king, - all expressed respect for the royal power. The cahiers of the nobles urged the interests of their order without hesitation; those of the clergy desired the bettering of the condition of parish priests; those of the third order insisted on the abolition of the unequal rights and services, which were felt throughout France to be a great grievance and hindrance to the well-being of the country.

When the three Estates met at Versailes, it was seen that the points at issue were not easily to be settled. The action of the king andhis ministers was exceedingly foolish and weak; instead of taking a vigorous line with the question of the vote by head or by Estate, they lingered over trivial questions as to order and etiquette, which could only irritate the "representatives of the people," as men now began to call the third Estate. They must kneel to present their cahiers; when they met they must enter through a backdoor, while the others entered through the main gateway and stood in the royal presence. In a number of petty matters the court seemed determined to remind them that they were inferior to those with whom they sat, while they, in the language of the Abbe Sieyes, felt that "the third Estate was the nation, less the privileged orders." The folly of this treatment strengthened their hands, as did also the blunder of providing no separate hall for them to sit in. after the opening session, when all met the king, they installed themselves in the great Hall of the Estates, and so took possession of the ground they were only too eager to occupy. The verification of powers was the first step to be taken/ They urged at once that the three orders ought to verify together, sent invitations to the other orders, which verified separately, and set to work at their deliberations. The third Estate waited, refusing to proceed till they had solved the main question. Meanwhile the court upbraided them for wasting precious time; it became daily clearer that all their masters cared for was that they should arrange for the payment of the deficit and be gone; and then after some delay, the began to verify, taking on themselves to call the roll of all three orders. At the first call no response was made by either noble or clergyman; at the second three cures answered, and were received with enthusiasm; after a short time as many as 100 members of the clergy joined them. They named themselves "the national Assembly" (17th June 1789), and issued a declaration that the creditors of the state were guaranteed by the honor and loyalty of the French nation; that if they were dissolved, taxation levied thereafter would be illegal; that a committee should be named to inquire into the general distress. Then the clergy, by a small majority, agreed to join the third Estate, and did so; Necker thereon advised the king to yield the point of separate chambers, and to "deign to resign himself to the English constitution," a phrase singularly indicative of Necker’s temper and views, and just as inapplicable to the real state of the case. The king, however, would not yield. Though Necker knew, and the king should have known, that the army could not be trusted against the Assembly, he committed himself once more to stupid and irritating tactics. The great hall was closed against the representatives, and they adjourned to the neighboring tennis court, where they took solemn oath (20) June, 1789) that they would not separate till "the constitution of the kingdom had been established and confirmed on solid foundations." Under this oath the Assembly claimed a new name, that of the Constituent Assembly – the Assembly charged to create a new constitution. The king showed utter want of discretion: he annoyed the moderate party in the chamber, who were headed by Count Mirabeau, by refusing to give them any insight into his plans and policy; he alienated any support he had within the Assembly, because he regarded it as a usurping body, insulting to him by its claim of permanence and authority. Next, the Assembly was told that the tennis court was wanted by the count of Artois – the most unlucky of all the supporters of the queen’s policy, the most offensive to the people. Once more treated by the court with contempt, because it could not venture to use violence, the Assembly next met in the church of St Louis at Versailes on the 22d of June. On the 23rd they were summoned to a "royal sitting" of all the orders, in which the king lamented the conduct of the commons, and declared the concessions he would grant. The representatives of the people, who had been treated with the scantiest courtesy that morning, received the discourse in silence – a silence deep and anxious, especially when Louis XVI. told them, speaking as an angry master to disobedient servants, that the orders should not act together, but should meet next day in their separate chambers. When he rose to go, he was followed by most of the nobles, the bishops, and some clergy; the third Estate and a large proportion of the parish priests remained, and sent a message to the king to say that they would only retired it forced to do so by the bayonet Necker, feeling that the king was completely committed now resigned. The duke of Orleans, with 46 of the nobles, joined the Assembly; after that, force being out of the question, Louis XVI. was obliged to tell the remainder of the noble order to join the others. And thus by June 27, 1789, the orders had all accepted the victory of the commons. The king now threw himself entirely into the hands of the court; Necker’s resignation was accepted; attempts were made to get regiments that could be trusted to Versailes; the Swiss and German troops seemed the mainstay of the monarchy. On Monday, 12th July, it came to a collision between the troops and the people. In diapering a "Necker procession" an enthusiastic unarmed crowd following a bust of the ejected minister, Prince lambesc, acting under Baron Besenval’s orders, fired on the people. A French guard chanced to be among the killed; thereon the whole guard sprang into revolt; the old municipality of Paris, the ancient provost and echevins, who were royal nominees, were swept away; a new provisional municipality arose, and a new Parisian militia. The tricolour flag sprang into existence, - red and blue, the old colors of Paris, with white the significant ground-work of the new constitution. The troops cantoned on the Champ de Mars were now powerless against Paris, which had taken the lead in insurrection and incipient revolution; while the Assembly at Versailes was surrounded by foreign troops, and in danger of forcible dispersal. Paris quickly consolidated her movement. On the 14th of July the new civic guard seized the arms at the Invalides, and on the same day took place the assault on the Bastille. The troops at the Champ de Mars could not be trusted; Besenval drew them back to Versailles. The fall of the Bastille was sullied with broken promises and unnecessary bloodshed; for now the fierce passions of civil war began to move, and the Paris mob had in it desperate and savage elements. The Bastille was leveled to the ground; it symbolized the overthrow of the ancient and worn-out institutions of the monarchy.

Then the king again appeared in the Assembly, declared that he would removed his troops from Paris and Versailles, and appealed to the fidelity of the Estates. Paris grew calm at once; Bailly was made mayor, and Lafayette commander of the civic forces. Louis XVI. went further still; he visited the capital (17th July) and appeared with the tricolor cockade on his breast. The Parisians welcomed him with enthusiasm, and a happy reconciliation seemed to have taken place. The party of Philip of Orleans sank into the background. Unfortunately for the monarchy, the queen would not loyalty accept the situation. Louis XVI. might have become a constitutional sovereign – a first roi de Francais; his court made it impossible for him. On the very night before his visit to the Hotel de Ville the emigration of dissatisfied nobles began, and the plans of the court-party at once changed form; from plans they became plots. The queen stayed behind, for she was fearless in disposition and loyal to the king. She only succeeded in involving him with herself in utter ruin.

By the 22d of July the first stage of the Revolution was complete. The events of Paris and Versailles found response throughout France; national guards were organized everywhere; the nobles, attacked by the peasantry, made for the frontiers; some laid down their privileges, and hoped to stay in France. The Assembly, backed by Paris, had all power in its hands; the king had to recall Necker, whose vanity and shallowness were not yet found out.

On the 4th of August the Assembly got to work at its business, the framing of a new constitution. With so few solid institutions as France had, with not one true constitutional tradition, with passions aroused and great underhand opposition at court, - it is a marvel that so much was achieved. Privilege was at once abolished, the last relics of feudal use swept clean away; nobles clergy, the pays d’etat’s, cities which enjoyed local liberties and advantages, all laid down their characteristic and special privileges, and begged to be absorbed in the equality of one general French citizenship. Equality is the prominent feature of the Revolution epoch; it overshadows at this moment both liberty and fraternity. The practical carrying out of the principles of equality was not so easy; many who laid down their privilege in words, clung to it in fact; it caused ugly scenes in the country; and the feudal burdens were in some places hardly removed till the very end of 1790. The Assembly next declared the king to be "the restorer of French liberties," and offended him, on the other hand, by reducing his hunting rights to those of an ordinary landowner. The king’s capitaineries, a circuit of some 40 to 50 miles round Paris, which had been felt to be very mischievous to agriculture, and connected only too closely with the famines of Paris, were much curtailed. When these things were laid before the king, it was seen that his heart was not with the Assembly; on technical grounds he refused to sanction them. Then the Assembly advanced to the consideration of a great declaration of the rights of man-a general statement of the principles and bases of civil society. Carlyle sneers at the resulting document: - rights, yes, but duties, where are they? And what reference is there to might? Still, it is clear that, had the Assembly not occupied itself with this reasonable and logical statement, its enemies could at once have accused it of haste ands inconsequence, of passion and pure love of destruction. As a fact, the Declaration of the Rights of Man ranks, as Madame de Stael says, side by side with the English Bill of Rights and the American Declaration. This last was addressed to a people happily quite ignorant of all feudal questions, while the English Bill of Rights dealt solely with practical matters, assuming the main principles of constitutional life to be known, whereas the French Declaration had to begin a fresh epoch-to appeal to a people shaking themselves free from absolutism and feudal oppressions, to affirm the first principles of civil life, to give practical expression to opinions floating in every mind. To us the Declaration reads like a string of political commonplaces; we are familiar with the whole row. To the French it was very different, for they were beginning a new life, and scarcely knew where to tread.

This charter of the Revolution is in substance as follows. (1) All men are born and continue free and equal in rights; social distinctions are purely conventional. (2) Society is an association of men to preserve the natural rights of men. (3) Sovereignty resides in the nation; all authority, vested in an individual or a body of men, comes expressly from the nation. (4) Liberty is the power of doing what we will, so long as it does not injure another; the only limits of each man’s natural right are such as secure the same rights to others; these limits are determinable only by the law. (5) The law can forbid only such actions as are mischievous to society; "Quod lex non vetat, permittit." (6) Law is the expression of the general will; all citizens have a right to take part, through their representatives, in the making of the laws; law must be equal for all; all citizens have equal rights (according to their fitness) to fulfill all offices in the state. (7) Accusation, arrest, detention, can only be in accordance with the law, which all are bound to obey. (8) The law must be reasonable; it must not have any retroactive force. (9) Every one is to be deemed innocent till he has been convicted; persons under arrest on suspicion must therefore be treated gently. (10) All men are free to hold what religious views they will provided they are not subversive of public order. (11) Freedom of speech, of writing and printing (save in cases reserved by the law), is one of the most precious of the rights of man. (12) A public force is needed to guarantee the rights of man; such a force is for the benefit of all, not of its own class. (13) To support such force a common contribution in necessary; it is to be equally laid on all citizens according to their means. (14) All citizens have a right to show (personally or by representatives) that such public contribution is necessary, to consent thereto, to arrange its application, its incidence, its manner of ingathering, its duration. (15) Society has a right to demand from every public servant an account of his administration. (16) A society, the rights of which are not assured, to power of which not definitely distributed. (17) Property being an inviolable and sacred right, to one can be deprived of it, save when public necessity, legally established, evidently demands, it, and then only with the condition of a just and previously determined indemnity.

Having laid down thee principles, the Assembly went on to abolish such institutions as offended against the liberty and equality of the rights of man. "Nobility, peerage, hereditary distinctions, distinctions of orders, feudal regime, patrimonial justice, titles, denominatives or prerogatives thence derived, orders of chivalry, corporations, &c., which required proof of nobility or presupposed distinctions of birth," were all declared to be swept away, such distinctions alone remaining as belonged to public functionaries in discharge of their duties. Venality or hereditary succession in offices was also abolished; all Frenchmen in all parts of the country should have equal and common rights; no guilds or corporation should remain, nor would the law recognize any religious vows or other engagements which might militate against either natural rights or the constitution. Such, from end to end, is the declaration of the Rights of Man. Equality of all men, abolition of feudal privilege, inclusion of the monarchy under the control of the sovereign people –these are the chief principles involved in it; out of these the Revolution grew. In itself the Declaration was not subversive of monarchy; only the French monarch, with the centuries of Bourbon tradition behind him, could not stoop to take a new position in France; Louis XVI. could not become a constitutional king. The Assembly also framed its new constitution, according to the promise of its oath of the tennis court. A limited monarchy, without an absolute veto, and a single chamber having alone the right of initiation of laws, formed the chief elements of it,- the nation to order the king to execute. "The revolution from its social side attacked the aristocracy," says La Vallee, "from its political side it attacked the monarchy’: and the single chamber, with a royal suspensive veto which might be overruled in time, seemed to the French people best and simplest. The great danger of the Revolution lay in its simplicity: everything was to begin from a pure white basis; there should be no checks or counterpoises; all should be consecutive, logical. The ambitions, vices, prejudices of men were regarded as nothing; the nation, not even educated as yet, was thought fit to be trusted with absolute power. It is indicative of the ferment and the ignorance even of Paris that the very name of veto aroused vehement disturbances; the royal veto was in their eyes the old regime restored.

The excitement of Paris grew; famine reigned; distrust and irritation followed. It was seen that the royal family were surrounding themselves with troops ill-affected towards the Revolution, and with a great number of devoted officers. Rumors flew through the town; plans of vengeance were supposed, communications with foreign powers and emigrant nobles. The king’s reception of the Declaration of the Rights of Man had been cold and partial; the new journals of the time threatened fresh disturbances. At this moment (3d October 1789) the amazing folly of Versailles showed itself in a great banquet given to the soldiers, in which royalist songs, white cockades, ladies’ smiles, and plenty of food goaded the hungry "patriots" of Paris to madness. A vast crowd, chiefly of women, with the national guard, headed unwillingly enough by Lafayette, streamed out of the gates, and marched to Versailles, insulted the Assembly then sitting, and swarmed round the palace gates. When the king came back from his hunting.- his one solace in these difficult days, - he spoke them fair; but a struggle having begun, in which some blood was shed, he became in fact their prisoner. In an interview with Lafayette, he showed his wonted obstinacy, and practically refused to send away his Swiss guards. Things became very threatening, and Louis at last consented to go to Paris. The queen and the dauphin refused to leave his side; a deputation of 100 members of the Assembly also accompanied him.

Thus Paris at one blow gained the ascendant over both king and Assembly, and the Revolution entered at once on a new phase. Changes will become easier, the seat of government and movement being narrowed to one city. The vehement eagerness for discussion of political questions, already so prominent a feature of the tine, will increase greatly; crowds will frequent the meetings of the Assembly, interfere with its discussions, sway its fears and wishes. "There is a gallery," says Arthur Young, an eye-witness (12th January 1790), "at each end of the saloon, which is open to all the world… The audience in these galleries are very noisy; they clap when anything pleases them, and they have been known to hiss-an indecorum which is utterly destructive of freedom of debate." The press became more active then eve, with countess pamphlets on the questions of the day; and lastly, the influence of the clubs, especially of that of the "Friends of the Constitution," the Jacobins Club, now began to take the chief direction of affairs for the more thorough revolutionists. With its affiliated clubs throughout France, it formed an all-powerful confederacy, and became the rival of the Assembly itself. The virtual imprisonment of the royal family at the Tuileries frightened the royalist gentry; a second and more numerous emigration now took pace. Suspicion and distrust reigned; all held their breath, and thought they felt beneath them the muffled mining of some plot. Royalists accused the ambitious and unsteady Philip of Orleans of making disturbances for his own purposes in Paris; republicans felt sure that the queen and her party were plotting the overthrow of the new order of things with the emigrants and her German relations. The duke of Orleans, a silly and stupid giggler, as Arthur Young found him, was driven by Lafayette to take refuge, in England. The two chief parties of the Assembly, the Right and the Left, represented those who hoped, as Mirabeau did or Lafayette, to secure a modified and constitutional monarchy in France, and those who desired to see a republic. Independent of these, who were intent on the framing of the constitution, was the court party, which hoped to restore things to their ancient form, and to bring back the monarchy and the system of the past.

The Assembly now set itself to frame the constitutions,- the task to which it had solemnly dedicated itself. In France herself there were no precedents to go on, no healthy institutions to be worked in. The clergy were powerless; the nobles, who might have modified and influenced matters, were contemptuous and careless. Arthur Young specially notices their flippant treatment of the crisis they were in, they did not really believe that the new order of things could last, and even expected a counter-revolution. Some of them thought that by pushing the innovators on ward they would secure an earlier reaction; doing so, they worked their own ruin and the king’s death. The active leaders of the Assembly had then no help at home; they spurned the example of the English constitution, which was often urged on them, for they considered it with truth far too monarchical and far too aristocratic for their principles. It was then almost from a "tabula rasa" that they had to start, - without institutions to use, without experience to warn, or examples to guide them. They were sincere, and knew their own minds, fearlessly pushing the principles they held to their results. Their first achievement was to carry out the Declaration of the Rights of Man in territorial matters, by totally rearranging the soil of France. They would consolidate and centralize, and show that unity pervaded all. With this end in view they swept away all the ancient historic provinces, which one misses to much on the map of France. No more duchies and counties, pays d’etats and pays d’election; no local rights or specialties were preserved; the local parliaments were swept off, the local administrations abolished; the very names of Breton or Provencal, it was hoped, would be absorbed in the greater name of Frenchmen. Instead of the divisions, the country was distributed into 83 portions, as nearly as might be of one size, and these were named departments; each department was subdivided into districts, and each district into cantons or communes. This done, the political structure was at once begun in accordance with it: each department should have a council of thirty-six members and an executive directory of five; the districts similarly should have officers, subordinated to those of the department; the communes also, in like wise, under the districts. Then came the distinction between active and passive citizenship, as a base for the franchise. Active citizens, who paid taxes equivalent to three days’ labor and upwards, alone had a vote; there was a higher property-qualification for the electros whom they had to choose. The passive citizens were excluded from all share of power. The electors were charged to choose deputies for the national Assembly, administrators of departments, districts, and communes, and eventually judges, bishops, and parish priests. The judicial system was entirely recast. In place of the local parliaments there were to be three orders of tribunals, - cantonal, district, and departmental; and above all, at Paris, a great supreme court. The system of trial by jury was introduced for criminal cases. The National Assembly should be the fountain of legislation, should be permanent, and of one chamber only; it should be renewed by biennial elections. Its number should be 745, distributed among departments according to the proportions of land, of population, and of taxation. The Assembly also laid down a definition of the citizenship, and marked out the position of the king. It next considered the state of the finances; for now, even as under the old regime, France was threatened with imminent bankruptcy. Loans were not taken up, taxes fell short, patriotic contributions ran day. In this great peril, Talleyrand-Perigord, bishop of Autun-proposed to apply the lands of the clergy for the purpose of meetiong the deficiency. The committee of finance declared by his voice that the clergy were not proprietors but administrators only, and that the nation could take on itself the expenses of public worship, and resume its ownership of the lands of the church. In spite of the vigorous resistance of the clergy, and their offer to make a gratuitous gift of part of their lands, the Assembly adopted the proposal, and ordered the sale of the ecclesiastical domains. The argument that these lands were part of the absolute property of the Church Catholic in general, and not of the French clergy in particular, was too unpatriotic to be listened to. The sale, however, was a failure; men were too much frightened by the rapid movement of affairs to feel much confidence, and things again seemed to be at a stand-still. Then the Paris commune hit on a plan which succeeded. The municipalities throughout France were authorized to buy these lands from the state, and to sell them again to private business purchasers; and the municipalities might pay for them in bonds, or assignats as they were called, based on the actual value of the land. It was ordered that the issue of assignats should be limited, and that they should be extinguished as the lands passed into private hands, and hard money was given for them. the measure brought instant relief to the Government, and the assignats, as has been said, "saved the Revolution." Then followed the "civil constitution of the clergy," in which the state made a great step in the direction often since taken with more or less success,- the direction of controlling the spiritual powers. The Assembly began by affirming the constitution to be based on Christianity, while it refused to admit a state-religion, abolished monastic vows, religious orders, and confraternities, with exception of some useful ones. It then, following the impulse of uniformity given by the new partition of the soil into departments, rearranged the ecclesiastical divisions on the same basis, - a bishop to each department, and so on. The influence of the Jansenists among the clergy in the Assembly was felt in all this; it is their last appearance in French history; after 1790 their name hardly ever occurs again. It was clear that the upper clergy and the bulk of the lower would resist this proposal. If the state severed the ancient relations between the church and itself, it must, to a large extent, leave the church to manage its own affairs. As it was, the state had laid hands on church lands, had declared against the connection, and yet was determined to rearrange the spiritual domain. Finding strong opposition, the Assembly next ordered the clergy to take an oath of obedience to the civil constitution. This, however moderate as it was in itself, involved an acknowledgement of the authority of the state, which in fact prejudiced the whole question; consequently, fully five-sixths of the clergy refused the oath, and they with their flocks were still a very considerable power in France. The result was that the interference of the Assembly in church matters broke up parties very much, and threw the power almost entirely into the hands of the non-religious sections of the body. The sight of the church in rebellion, the contempt and aversion with which the priests who took the oath were regarded, put religion into definite opposition to the revolution; though Jansenists and Guguenots were warmly attached to the new order of things, their influence was weak. Henceforward, in the mind of France, Christianity was regarded as identical with reaction.

The lawyers and the clergymen had thus been dealt with; it remained to abolish nobility. "The lawyers had caused agitation in the country; the clergy had kindled civil war; the nobles were now about to produce foreign wars." The decree of June 19, 1790, swept away the last distinctions of feudal origin, and the nobles and bishops deemed themselves no longer bound by any ties to the new order of things. They did all they could to push matters to excess, with terrible results to themselves. As the nobles alone officered all the regiments of the army, they had great power in their hands. The gulf between them and the privates, the scandals of mismanagement, the spread of revolutionary opinions in the ranks, after a time rectified the evil, and the army before long became the chief support of the new republic. In August 1790 a kind of struggle went on; in many places the regiments chose officers from among themselves, and turned out their noble masters; in other places they accused the officers of plundering the military chests,- an accusation in some cases only too well founded. At Nancy, under Bouille’s orders, a revolt of three regiments on this ground led to a terrible battle in the streets, in which the regiments and citizens were mercilessly crushed by the garrison and national guards of Metz. It was done by command of the Assembly; Paris, however, and the revolutionists generally, sided with the defeated regiments, and the king, the Assembly, and Lafayette all lost ground through it. Up to this time Louis XVI. had shown himself willing to go with the Assembly. For a white he seemed really to wish to be a constitutional monarch, and, till after the fete of July 14, at which he, the Assembly, the national guard, and a crowd of spectators from all France, renewed, in the midst of boundless enthusiasm, the civic oath, all seemed to promises well. The Assembly had voted a liberal civil list; they had treated him with courteous respect; he seemed thoroughly popular. Had he been a man of any real vigor of character, he might have held the movement entirely in his own hands, and have shaped the future constitutional of his country, saving it from extreme measures, great excesses, savage civil war, and tremendous efforts to keep off the foreigner. This, however, was not in him; his amiable disposition drew him one way, the traditional belief in his irresponsible and divine right drew him the other; he became undecided; people grew suspicious . Necker, not a strong man, had hitherto been his guide; he had now lost all his popularity, for public opinion had gone far beyond him, and he was not statesman enough either to direct or to assist it. He sent in his resignation (4th September 1790), and was followed by the rest of the ministers, who were suspected of underhand communications with the émigrés at Coblentz. The king was deeply moved at finding a new ministry not of his own choosing; and finally, when the Assembly made its attack on the clergy, he ceased to feel a wish to keep terms with the Revolution. It must be stopped, either by combining against it all the moderates with the dissatisfied and alienated classes and their supporters, or by calling in the refugees from abroad with foreign help at their back. Between these two plans the king stupidly oscillated, in the end ruining both his friends and himself. Bouille, Lafayette, the royalist deputies, the moderates in and out of the Assembly, desired the former course; the Austrian queen, the count of Artois, the emigrant nobles, who all lacked real patriotism and were half foreign, desired to he replaced by German bayonets. Louis, before the end of 1790, was in negotiation with almost all the kings of Europe; at the same time the queen, who hated Lafayette, kept the constitutional party at home at arm’s length. She hoped to neutralized the movement at home, while she intrigued abroad, by winning Mirabeau, the terrible orator of the Assembly, in its earliest days the fearless champion who did not quail before the king or the king’s servant, the revolutionary nobleman whom his own order had cast out; he might retain all his opinions, which were not republican, should be subsidized by the court, and should uphold the throne. The suspicious and watchfulness of the Jabocins Club, and of the extremer party in the Assembly, did not hinder Mirabeau from openly doing his tumost to preserve portions of the royal authority; and when, early in 1791, he felt that he had some hold on the court, he advised the king to escape to Lyons, and there to establish himself as a mediator between the emigrants and the Assembly, to issue a constitution of his own, embodying the main principles of the Revolution, and appealing to the people to support him. In the midst, however, of these schemes, Mirabeau, worn out by his loose living and the excitement of his political life, suddenly fell ill and died, and with him perished all chance of a constitutional monarchy for France. His guiding hand gone, the king thought only how he might escape in safety, and eagerly adopted Bouille’s proposal that he should take refuge under the shelter of his army on the eastern frontier. It was obvious that this step, if successful, would bring him close to the émigrés and the German influence; if it failed, would make men regard him as a traitor. If failed. The court got out of Paris (20th June 1791), and reached Varennes, not far from Verdun; there they were recognized, stopped, and sent back to Paris. Bouille enterd the place a very short time after they had left; found all the streets barred against him, and comprehending that the game was lost, turned about and fled to the emigrants.

The Assembly, at once and with calmness, assumed full direction of affairs; no disturbance followed. The king’s return was a triumph of the revolutionary spirit, which showed itself all along his route. All firmly believed that his only wish had been to escape to the emigrants and to make open war on France. The clubs and the advanced section of the Assembly gained greatly in strength. Petion and Robespierre now began their career as republican leaders. The excitement of Paris broke out in open fighting over the great petition of the clubs in the Champ de Mars for the deposition of the king; and Lafayette dispersed the republican crown with vigorous bloodshed. The Assembly for the moment seemed to win strength by it; the country showed no wish to be rid of their king. The Jacobins had to draw back for a while; the division between Paris and the country, between the bourgeosie and the bulk of the people, grew plainer; the Jacobins Club was almost deserted by the members of the Assembly, a new club, the Feuillants, was organized out of the more moderate section of the Jacobins, among whom were Lafayette, Bailly, the two Lameths, and others known as the representatives of the party which wished to unite the old monarchy with the new constitution. The old Jacobins became absolutely republican, and in contempt, called the Feuillants the "Club Monarchique." In these two clubs the new and clean-cut division of the country into monarchists and republicans was plainly to be seen.

The Assembly was now coming to the end of its labors; before finishing them, it made the grievous blunder of passing a "self-denying ordinance," and decreed that no member of its body should be eligible for the new Assembly to be at once elected, nor should accept any office under the crown. Lafayette and Bailly reigned their offices as general and mayor of Paris, every one of the men who had voted together in the tennis court, who had gained experience and insight into the proposed constitution, and might have worked it successfully, was rigorously excluded. The constitution was then laid before the king; he accepted it at once, and going to the Assembly (14th September 1791), swore that he would observe it faithfully. Then, after decreeing a general amnesty for all political crimes and offences, the Assembly (30th September 1791) closed its critical labors, and declared itself dissolved. As the members passed out of the chamber they held their heads high, in the belief that they had laid the firm foundations of a reasonable and constitutional government. The country welcomed the constitution with delight; a new era was about to begin ; the middle classes were all in its favor, and believed that they had the future in their hands. The elections to the new Assembly, which took place before the Constituent dispersed, were loyalty mace; the middle party seemed to have a great majority; the king accepted the situation fairly. There were no representatives of the old regime in it to irritate men; violent republicans were few; it was thought that all promised well, and that the Legislative Assembly would have a long and peaceful life. The Legislative Assembly met on October 1,1791; at once it shaped itself into parties, all more or less loyal to the new constitution. The "Extreme Right and the Right" (to the right, that is, of the president’s chair) were usually called the Feuillants, were constitutionalists who represented the burgher interests, and feared the people, and who wished to uphold the king as far as they could. The "Left," the Girondists, was composed of men inclined towards a republic, also of the burgher class chiefly, also all devoted to the constitution as it stood; the "Extreme Left," which sat on the higher benches, and took the nickname of "the Mountain," was composed of popular delegates and representatives of the advanced clubs, with Robespierre as their out ofdoors leaders at the Jacobins, and Danton at the Cordileliers Club. The Center of the Assembly was timid, and wanting in any principle or clearness; it usually voted with the Left. Thus, the more extreme partisans, whether of royalty or republicanism, were not in the Assembly, but worked outside for their objects; it remained to be seen whether the moderate parties would succeed in holding their own. The conventions of Pilnits (27th August 1791) had already shown the excluded royalists whither they might look for succour; Leoplold of Austria and Frederick Willaim of Prussia had then agreed, in vague terms, that they would invade France unless Louis XVI. were set free, the Assembly dissolved, the emigrant restored to their possessions and dignities. It was a challenge to revolutionary France, and a temptation to the unstable king. At every step; he and his friends blundered; a loyal acceptance of the constitution and the new Assembly seemed impossible; the royalists at home stirred up civil strife, especially through the clergy; abroad they threatened open war. The Assembly, backed by the new department of Paris, an organization give to the capital early in 1791, fought against the former; against the latter stood the army, mostly strong republicans, supported by the sympathy of the people generally, whose anger rose at threats of invasion.

To meet its pressing dangers, the Assembly, in November 1791, ordered the emigrants to return, on pain of confiscation of their property, and penalty of death. This decree the king at once vetoed, at the same time issuing a strong order to the emigrants to return. They refused to listen, and the popular feeling on the other hand was much excited by his interference in what seemed to be a matter of life and death to them. The Assembly next passed to attack those of the clergy who had not taken the oath, declaring that "refractory" priests should lose their pay, should be forbidden to perform divine service, should be put under surveillance. The king again exercised his veto; and those who supported the revolution felt that in the two all-important matters-the threat of foreign war from the émigrés, and the threat of domestic war from the "refractory" clergy-Louis XVI. was against them, and with their enemies. They murmured the word "traitor."

After some hesitation the German princes began to show signs of movement; troops were raised by Austria, Prussia, Piedmont; the other monarchs of Europe threatened. France set on foot three armies,- one of the north under Rochambeau, one under Lafayette on the north-east, a third under Luckner on the Rhine as far as to Basel. The Montagnards alone, distrusting the offices and the king, opposed a declaration of war. All France suspected treason, and had only too good reason to think that the king’s ministers, excepting Narbonne, minister of war, were in communication with the enemy. The feeling against the minister was so strong that after the trial of one of them, known to be the queen’s agent, they all resigned, and a Girondist cabinet was appointed by the king. Roland, a man of intelligence, spirit, and uprigthness, married to the noblest lady of these troubled times, - lady who was the inspiring genius of theGironde, - was made minister of the interior. The other name of note was that of Dumouriez, who had the portfolio of foreign affairs. This ministry at once took up a resolute position against the allied sovereign; and Francis II., the new head of the house of Austria, unlike Leopold, who had never wished for war, at once replied with defiance, ordering France to replace king, clergy, and nobles in their ancient dignities and privileges. On the 20th April 1792 the Girondist ministry declared war against Francis, and the long wars of the republic and the empire began.

The French army was in a state of great confusion; most of its officers had joined the emigrants, eager to show the Germans "the way to Paris"; those who remained were suspected by the people; there was little money in the treasury, little experience in the camp. Dumouriez hoped to make a good beginning by invading Belgium, restless under its Austrian masters, and only lately in revolt. All, however, went amiss. One column was checked near Tournnay, lost its guns, killed Dillon its general, and fled with cries of "treason"; a second column was defeated near Mons’ Lafayette and the other generals hereon halted and stood on the defensive. All France was uneasy. Had her ancient courage departed? Was the powerless without her noble officers? Or was she the victim of treachery? The Jacobins grew more vehement; the terrible voice of Marat was now heard calling for heads; suspicion became greater than ever against the king, above all against the Austrian queen, and the guards around them, who were thought to be inclined to betray the people. The Assembly declared itself as sitting in permanence. It leveled measures against the refractory priests; it decreed that the king’s guard should be dismissed, and that a camp of federal soldiers should be formed at Paris. The king refused to dismiss his guards; and on a strong remonstrance from Roland, he at once dismissed the three chief Girondist ministers. Dumouriez finding the king obstinate, also resigned office. Louis named a ministry of obscure members of the Feuillant party, - men who believed in the constitution of 1790, and in the royal authority, it was at this time that he sent Mallet du Pan on a secret missionto Veinna, to pray the Germans to rescue him from the tyranny of those "who now ruled with a rod of iron."

The Girondists, thus ejected from power, made common cause with the Jacobins, and watched with keen eyes the course of Lafayette, the center of the constitutional party; the ministry and all the those who in heart loved the older system or dreaded the progress of the Revolution, looked to Lafayette and his army as their only hope. He was no statesman, loyal and upright as he was, and committed the great blunder of defying the Jacobins. At once his waning popularity was lost; his party was seen to be that of reaction; the people could see no difference between the constitutionalist Feuillants and the aristocrat emigrants , and the doom of the party was sealed. On the 20th of June 1792 the Jacobins replied to Lafayette’s manifesto by raising the Parisian populace against the Assembly. That body, overawed and powerless, could do nothing against so fierce and determined an invasion. They next forced their way into the palace, and there Louis XVI. met them with admirable dignity. The populace shouted "down with the veto," "recall the ministers," and so forth. The king wore the Paris red cap, and the crowd was appeased at once. It was an excited, not a bloodthirsty, mob that day. Louis, assured them that "he would do whatever the constitution ordained that he should do,"- words which, though they meant little, yet, when joined with the red cap and the king’s manly bearing, satisfied the people, who departed quietly. Public opinion seemed at once to go with the monarch and the ministers against this outrage; the Girondists, who had been parties to it, lost ground; Lafayette even ventured to come up to Paris from the army to demand the punishment of the insurgent chiefs. His attempt, however, was a failure. The Assembly threatened to arrest him for leaving his troops without orders; the courtiers of the Tuileries looked coldly on him; the king gave him no thanks; as for the queen, she liked him no better than of old. He had to return quickly to the army. The truth was that at this time the court policy had gone entirely over to the emigrants and their foreign friends. There were 80,000 men at Coblentz commanded by the duke of Brunswick; the royalists cared nothing for such constitutionalist as Lafayette; "in a month I shallbe free," was the queen’s remark.

Prussia had now also declared against France, and was on the march; this movement restored all power and popularity to the Jacobins. The Assembly took measures in self-defence against the court and the foreigners; men began to call for the deposition of the king; the country was proclaimed in danger, and 50,000 volunteers were decreed; men flocked to enroll themselves from every quarter; the excitement grew daily; the fiercest threats and suggestions made themselves heard. The Jacobins organized , almost openly, a new insurrection, which should force the hand of the Assembly, and "save the Revolution." The vanguard of the attack on the constitution was entrusted to the battalion of men of Marseilles, who have attached their name to the ever-famous song, which has been sung by Frenchmen on so many a hard-won battlefield, in politics or in campaign, the marseillaise. The extravagant proclamation with which Brunswick heralded the opening of his campaign did but add to the fury of the people; and on the 10th of August the great insurrection, led by the popular chief Danton, swept over the Assembly and the monarchy, overpowering everything as it passed along. The guards at the Tuileries were of uncertain fidelity to the king; the commissioners of the sections of Paris seized on the Hotel de Ville, and at once set up an "insurrectionary commune"; they summoned before them the commandant of the national guard, mandat, who was massacred as he left the hall. The guards, thus left headless, refused to fire on the people; the insurrection swept over all; the king with difficulty, surrounded by his family, took refuge under protection of the trembling Assembly. The Swiss guards of the palace were massacred, the Tuileries taken and sacked; the new municipality, flushed, with victory, compelled the Assembly to confirm its powers; to order the election of a new National Convention; to declare the king suspended provisionally, and placed at the Luxembourg under civic guard; to dismiss the ministers; to make into law the decrees passed but vetoed by the king. The Assembly was crushed, the royal family prisoners in the Temple; the Paris people, under inspiration of Robespierre and Danton, were omnipotent. Forthwith began the terrible scenes of the prisons, the mockery of trial, the massacres of the "killers at six francs a day." It was clear that the new commune of Paris was now the sovereign power in France; it established a committee of surveillance, and swept away all the older administration of Paris. Danton, burly representative of popular passions, and of popular kindness also, was the leading spirit of the time. He was no statesman, and had little change of permanent power, when pitted against the virtuous, the incorruptible Robespierre, who had kept sedulously clear of the insurrection, and was already planning how he might rise by it to the top of his ambition. Danton with all his roughnesses was a man; Robespierre was a vain fop. Danton had comparatively little personal ambition; Robespierre always though first of himself, and intended to become the dictator of a new commonwealth. Marat, who must be named here, was the leading spirit of the committee of surveillance, the leader and instigator of all the bloodshed of the reign of Terror. He wished, too, to be dictator, that he might purify society,-that he might have in his power the sole and unquestioned right to slay.

Lafayette, in spite of the invasion, would have marched on Paris to save society. He found himself abandoned, and took to flight; the German, to whom he went, imprisoned him and treated him ill. Meanwhile, the allies took Longwy and Verdun, while they besieged Thionville; the road to Paris seemed quite free to them. The effect on Paris was terrible; no one knew who was in communication with the foreigners; fear and anger made men brutal; the massacres in the prisons went on incessantly. Danton, "fiercely as he might bellow, was ashamed, for he had a human heart; and he delivered from the fury as many of the victims as he could." Meanwhile, the Prussians had forced their way into France through the Argonne, in spite of Dumouriez; and the duke of Brunswick, who hoped to cut him off, and had abandoned the direct road for Paris through Chalons, was met by Kellermann who lay in his path at Valmy. The spirit which Kellermann infused into his raw troops staggered the assailants, who hesitated and drew back. The cannonade of Valmy, for it as little more, was more to France than many a great victory; the Germans had to fall back doscimfitted; the siege of Thionville was raised. By the 1st of October not one of them remained in France. Unfortunately, no steps were taken to harass them in the retreat; their state was so bad that a little vigor might have entirely ruined them. Shortly afterwards came news to Paris that the army of Alsace under Custine had taken Worms, Spires, and Mainz, where lay the chief magazines of the allies; in the north an attack on Lille was repulsed. Savoy was occupied by French troops, who also seized on the coast line, and occupied Nice and Villafrance, with its great munitions of war. Abroad the revolution showed itself proud and defiant; at home the National Convention replaced the Legislative Assembly.

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