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gauged the position in France. Leaving for England at the end of July, 1789, Morris wrote to Washington: “This country is at present as near to anarchy as society can approach without dissolution." He prophesies either a pure monarchy, though he doubts if the soldiers will act, or a vast Republic. “A democracy, can that last? I think not. I am sure not, unless the whole people are changed.” “Everything now” (in October, 1789) “it is, as it were, out of joint. The army without discipline or obedience. The civil magistracy annihilated. The finances deplorable. They have no fixed system to get through the difficulties, but live upon expedients, and are at the mercy of projectors. There is no order anywhere.”
At the end of June, 1789, Arthur Young writes : “The ferment is beyond description; ten thousand people have been all this day in the Palais Royal ; it is plain to me from many conversations I have been witness to, and the constant meetings, united with the inflammatory publications that hourly appear, that nothing the King or Court could do would now satisfy the people.”
The King was prepared to do nothing. He did not understand that he was fighting an idea, and that the first and most necessary step was to enforce order and give men time to think. At the end of June, 1789, after the Tiers Etat had met in the Tennis Court, and the mob in Paris had stormed the Archbishop's palace, the troops at Versailles, defending the Hall of Deputies from the mob, were mutinous. The King sent for the Duc de Luxembourg, President of the nobility, and ordered him to effect union with the Commons. “I have no money," he said, "and the army is full of mutiny : I cannot protect you, for my own life is in danger.” “To do that,” replied the Duke, “in the present state of public opionion is to proclaim the omnipotence of the States General. The nobles are ready to die for their King,” “I do not wish,” replied Louis, “ that any man should lose his life for me” (Bertrand de Moleville).
(Bertrand de Moleville). I do not think it is necessary in view of his attitude to repeat the story so often and eloquently told of the massacres in the years that followed, in August, in the Tuilleries, of September, of the Terror, of the murders of the Princesse de Lamballe, of the King himself and of his Queen. It is sufficient to say that, when anything practical was attempted, it failed because no two leaders had the same view or would work together. The plans of Mirabeau were set aside by the King ; Lafayette and Necker gave each other no support; when the Assembly meets, there is no one to lead, to lay down rules of procedure or conduct. The army went absolutely to pieces. In 1791, says de Moleville, the vacancies of the officers in the infantry and cavalry amounted to 1982. In his account of the navy the chief difficulty was insurbordination. There was no police in Paris, which was infestered with beggars, thieves and criminals. As to money in May, 1789, Necker admitted a deficit of 56 millions, a false estimate, as the deficit was nearly 200 millions. Thereupon the National Assembly began a series of reforms, levying taxes on all without exception. This worked on an inquisitorial principle, very slowly, and as they were deprived of the financial resources of the old régime, and the new ones were uncertain, the finances were in great confusion. The Assembly accepted all the debts of the state, and refused to hear of bankruptcy in 1789.
iii. The General Assembly.-The accounts given of the General Assembly, “the Wild Ass,” as Mirabeau so appropriately called it, give a sad picture of the depths to which a Parliament under the domination of an idea may fall. Were I, says de Moleville, (Vol. I., p. 72) to give a minute account of the gross and tumultuous debates which preceded this decree, of the violent agitation and clamours of a crowd of these deputies, their matted locks, their shabby clothes, their speaking all at once, insulting one another, threatening with their fists, ready every monent to come to blows, the reader would rather think that he was reading a disgusting narrative of some Billingsgate squabble than the minutes of the sitting of the representatives of the nation, accusing, trying and condemning to death the King's brothers and the French nobility.*
* The methods of debate of the “ Wild Ass” are still in use in the French Assembly. The following, from The Times of March 21st, 1925, resulted from an expression used by M. Herriot, the French Prime Minister, at the Tribune. This phrase produced an indescribable outburst from the whole Chamber. At first it was mainly from the Left. The Government benches rose en masse and broke into fierce bursts of clapping. Then the Right began to retaliate by slamming the lids of their desks and by angry shouts of protest. The Left continued its applause, and rose to cheer again and again. Then, before anyone could realize what was happening, half a dozen Deputies from the extreme Right and the extreme Left came to blows in the open space before the Tribune, * Like Morris's friends in America.
In the night of August 4, 1789, when feudal rights, titles and privileges were abolished, the Assembly, says a contemporary,
presents the spectacle of an inebriated crowd in a shop of valuable furniture, breaking and smashing at will whatever they can lay their hands on.” Young's account is very similar. He notices the indecent clapping and noise by the galleries of Assembly, saying that nothing was so glaringly ridiculous, but the mob swallowed it with indiscriminating faith. Morris says of the Assembly in 1791, “ It is impossible to imagine a more disorderly Assembly. They neither reason, examine, nor discuss. They clap those whom they approve, and hiss those whom they disapprove. They have unhinged everything. The executive authority is reduced to a name. It is an anarchy beyond conception. The Assembly, he says, may be divided into three parts, one called the aristocrats who were without a leader or a plan, another which has no name, but which consists of all sorts of people really friends to a free government. These people have their ideas from books,* and it is not to be wondered at, if the systems taken out of books are fit for nothing else but to be put into books again. The third is composed of what is called here the enragés, that is, the" madmen." These are most numerous and are of that class which in America is known by the name of “pettifogging lawyers,” together with a host of curates and many of those who in all revolutions throng to the standard of change because they are “not well.” This party, in close alliance with the populace, derives from that circumstance very great authority
The torrent rushes on irresistibly until it shall have wasted itself.” “They spend their time in hollowing and bawling, the speaker being forced by interruption to leave the pulpit if they don't want to hear him.” Of the matter to which they listened the following is an instance : “True and complete liberty,” said Isouard at the Tribune, November 14, 1791, “is not to be purchased but with rivers of blood. Let them be condemned to death. This vigorous measure, employed by despotism, would be a crime; but it is an act of and in a moment the little knot had become a struggling mass, in which 30 or 40 members were engaged. A couple of ballot boxes, used as missiles, burst like bombs, and little blue slips of paper were showered all over the scrimmage. M. Painlevé put on his top hat as a sign that the sitting was suspended, and left the President's seat before the ushers were able to restore order and clear the Chamber.
justice when dictated by necessity and exercised by the real sovereign, the people.” By a doctrine, called the identity of the person, every bit of evidence between accusation and condemnation was avoided.
iv. Fighting an Idea. The Views of the Onlookers.-Any effort to meet the falsity of an idea must be supported by moral force. Revolutionaries, knowing this, always attack the existing system of morals. Morris may have been rather puritanical in his view of morality, but of the moral condition of Paris he speaks in no uncertain tones. Paris, perhaps, he says, “is as wicked a spot as exists. Incest, murder, bestiality, fraud, rapine, oppression, baseness, cruelty; and yet this is the city which has stepped forward in the sacred cause of liberty. Everybody agrees that there is an utter prostration of morals
but this general position can never convey to the American mind the degree of depravity. It is not by any figure of rhetoric or force of language that the idea can be communicated. There are men and women who are greatly and eminently virtuous, but they stand forward from a background deeply and darkly shaded. The great mass of the people have no religion but their priests, no law but their superiors, no morals but their own interests. “There is ”
one fatal principle which pervades all ranks. It is a perfect indifference to the violation of all engagements. Inconstancy is so mingled in the blood, marrow and essence of these people. These are the people who, led by drunken curates, are now on the high road à la Liberté and the first use they make of it is to form insurrections for want of bread
I have no confidence in the morals of the people. The King is anxious to secure their permanent happiness, but alas ! they are not in a state of mind to receive good at his hands. Suspicion, that constant companion of vice and weakness, has loosened every bond of social union and blasts every honest hope at the moment of its budding." Hoping, in 1792, that the principles of the French Revolution will spread over Europe, this common-sense American says, “I do not greatly indulge the flattering illlusions of hope, because I do not yet perceive the reformation of morals without which liberty is but an empty sound.” Writing on December 24, 1792, he says, “Think of the destruction of hundreds who had
long been the best people of a country without form of trial, and their bodies thrown like dead dogs into the first hole that offered. At least two hundred of these unhappy victims had committed no other crime than that of being ecclesiastics of irreproachable lives, who were conscientiously scrupulous of taking an oath prescribed to them.”
By the side of Morris's drunken curates we must put the following passage from Voltaire, quoted by Taine, Ancien Régime. “ I pity the lot of a country curate, obliged to contend for a sheaf of wheat with his unfortunate parishioner, to plead against him to exact tithe of peas and lentils, to waste his miserable existence in constant strife. I pity still more the curate with a fixed allowance to whom monks, called great tithe owners, dare offer a salary of forty ducats to go about during the year, two or three miles from his home, day and night, in sunshine and rain, in the snow and in the ice, exercising the most trying and most disagreeable functions."
In July, 1789, Romilly, at the request of Mirabeau, sent over the standing orders of the British House of Commons. But the “Wild Ass ” will have none of them. The deputies have no sense of order or obedience and intense conceit. Among such men, says Arthur Young, the common idea is that anything tending towards a separate order, like our House of Lords, is absolutely inconsistent with liberty. “I find," he says, “a general ignorance of the principles of government; a strange and unaccountable appeal, on the one side, to ideal and visionary rights of nature; and, on the other, no settled plan that shall give security to the people for being in the future in a much better situation than hitherto; a security absolutely necessary” and the only means of fighting the false theories. They call, says Young, for the "regeneration of the kingdom, by which it is impossible
to understand anything more than a theoretic perfection of government ; questionable in its origin, hazardous in its progress, and visionary in its end."
I have made use of Morris and Young as two impartial men who, each the complement of the other, give a better view of the French Revolution than other contemporary writers. They were both thorough men of affairs, Morris a revolutionary by experience, but, unlike Jefferson and Adams, seeing that the value of the revolutionary methods depended upon the condition