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Thread: Happy Bastille Day?

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    Happy Bastille Day?

    "For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution."

    -Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

    By way of antidote to any of the pro-Jacobin festivities you may have witnessed today, I present you some excerpts from the prologue and first chapter of Nesta Webster's The French Revolution: A Study in Democracy (1919). A good quality PDF of the entire book can be found here. It is superbly researched and from a perspective you're not likely to find in more recent works; I can't recommend it highly enough. The excerpts below were taken from a corrupted text containing many errors, and I'm sure I missed some, so I hope it's readable enough. I'm posting it in pieces because of its length.



    Before attempting to describe the outbreaks of the Revolution, it is necessary to indicate as briefly as possible the ills from which the people were suffering, the reforms that they demanded, and, on the other hand, the influences at work amongst them which diverted the movement for reform into the channel of revolution.

    Nearly every author in embarking on the story of the Revolution has considered it de rigueur to enlarge on the progress of philosophy that heralded the movement. The oppressions that had prevailed during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV h
    ad, we are told, been endured in a spirit of dumb resignation until the teaching of Rousseau, Diderot, and other social reformers proclaimed to the nation that they need be endured no longer.

    If we regard the Revolution from the point of view of the people, this time-honoured preamble may, however, be dispensed with.

    Doubtless the philosophers played an important part in preparing the Revolution, but their direct influence was confined to the aristocracy and the educated bourgeoisie ; to the peasant tillng the soil, the Encyclopedic and the Contrat Social were of less pressing interest than the condition of his crop and the profit of his labour. How the abuses of the Old Regime affected him in this tangible respect we can read in Arthur Young's Travels, in Albert Babeau's Le Village sous I'Ancien Regime, or in the works of Taine, where all the injustices of tallies, capitaineries, corvees, gabelles, etc., are set forth categorically, and are too well known to be enumerated here. Suffice it to say, these oppressions were many and grievous, but they sprang less from intentional tyranny than from an obsolete system that demanded readjustment.

    Thus certain customs that originated in benevolence had, through the progress of civilization, become oppressive—the liberty to grind at the seigneur's mill had become the obligation to grind at the seigneur's mill, whilst many feudal exactions and personal services were merely relics of the days when rent was paid in kind or in labour. It is evident, moreover, that many of these feudal oppressions that look so terrible on paper had fallen into disuse ; thus, although the parchments enumerating the seigneurial rights were still in existence, “the power of the seigneurs over the persons of their vassals only existed in romances at the time of the Revolution.” In every ancient civilization strange archaic laws might be discovered—does not our own legal code enact that a man may beat his wife with any weapon no thicker than his thumb ? but so far the women of England have not found it necessary to rise in revolt against this extraordinary stipulation.

    For the peasant of France the most real grievances were undoubtedly the inequality of taxation and the “ capitaineries “ or game-laws, monstrous injustices that crippled his energies and often made his labour vain. Yet were the peasants of old France the wretched, down-trodden beings that certain historians have described them ? The strange thing is that no contemporary evidence corroborates this theory ; in none of the letters or memoirs written before the Revolution, even by such advanced thinkers as Rousseau and Madame Roland, do we encounter the starving scarecrows of the villages or the ragged spectres of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine portrayed by Dickens ; on the contrary, gaiety seems to have been the distinguishing characteristic of the people. The dancing peasants of Watteau and Lancret were no figments of an artist's brain, but very charming realities described by every traveller. Arthur Young, who has been persistently represented as the great opponent of the Ancien Regime, records few actual instances of misery or oppression, and, as we shall see.

    Young was later on led to reconstruct his views on the old government of France in a pamphlet which has been carefully ignored by writers who quote his earlier work in support of their theories.

    But the most remarkable evidence on peasant life before the Revolution is to be found in the letters of Dr. Rigby, who travelled in France during the summer of 1789. This curious book, published for the first time in 1880, aroused less attention in England than in France, where it was regarded as an important contribution to the history of the period. The accounts it contains are so subversive of the accepted theories on peasant misery current in this country, and have been so little quoted, that a few extracts must be given here.

    Between Calais and Lille “ the most striking character of the country “ through which Dr. Rigby passed was its extraordinary fertility : “ We went through an extent of seventy miles, and I will venture to say there was not a single acre but what was in a state of the highest cultivation. The crops are beyond any conception I could have had of them—thousands and ten thousands of acres of wheat superior to any which can be produced in England. . . .

    The general appearance of the people is different to what I expected ; they are strong and well-made. We saw many agreeable scenes as we passed along in the evening before we came to Lisle : little parties sitting at their doors, some of the men smoking, some playing at cards in the open air, and others spinning cotton. Everything we see bears the marks of industry, and all the people look happy. We have indeed seen few signs of opulence in individuals, for we do not see so many gentlemen's seats as in England, but then we have seen few of the lower classes in rags, idleness, and misery. What strange prejudices we are apt to take regarding foreigners ! . . .

    What strikes me most in what I have seen is the wonderful difference between this country and England . . . the difference seems to be in favour of the former ; if they are not happy, they look at least very like it. . . .” Throughout the whole course of his journey across France Dr. Rigby continues in the same strain of admiration—an admiration that we might attribute to lack of discernment were it not that it ceases abruptly on his entry into Germany. Here he finds “ a country to which Nature has been equally kind as to France, for it has a fertile soil, but as yet the inhabitants live under an oppressive government.” At Cologne he finds that “ tyranny and oppression have taken up their abode. . . . There was a gloom and an appearance of disease in almost every man's face we saw ; their persons also look filthy.

    The state of wretchedness in which they live seems to deprive them of every power of exertion . . . the whole country is divided between the Archbishop and the King of Prussia . . . the land is uncultivated and depopulated. How every country and every people we have seen since we left France sink in comparison with that animated country f “ It is evident that, however rose-coloured was Dr. Rigby's view of France, the French people had certainly not reached that pitch of “ exasperation “ that according to certain historians would account for the excesses of the Revolution.

    Lady Eastlake, Dr. Rigby's daughter, who edited these letters from France, fearing apparently that her father will be accredited with telling travellers' tales, attempts in the preface to explain his remarks by quoting the observation of De Tocqueville: 'One must not be deceived by the gaiety the Frenchman displays in his greatest troubles, it only proves that, believing his unhappy fate to be inevitable, he tries to distract himself by not thinking about it—it is not that he does not feel it.” This might possibly describe the attitude of the French people towards their government during the centuries that preceded the Revolution, when, convinced of their impotence to revolt, they resigned themselves to oppression ; but at the period Dr. Rigby describes the work of reform had long since begun and they had therefore no cause for hopelessness or despair. Louis XVI. Had not waited for the gathering of the revolutionary storm in order to redress the evils from which the people suffered ; in the very first year of his reign he had embarked on the work of reform with the co-operation of Turgot and Malesherbes. In 1775 he had attempted to introduce the free circulation of grain—thereby enraging the monopolizers who in revenge stirred up the “ Guerre de Farines “ ; in 1776 he had proposed the suppression of the corvee which the opposition of the Parlements prevented; in 1779 he had abolished all forms of servitude in his domains, inviting “ all seigneurs of fiefs and communities to follow his example “; in 1780 he had abolished torture ; in 1784 he had accorded liberty of conscience to the Protestants ; in 1787 he had proposed the equality of territorial taxation, the suppression of the gabelle or salt tax, and again urged the abolition of the corvee and the free circulation of grain ; in 1787 and 1788 he had proposed reforms in the administration of justice, the equal admission of citizens of every rank to all forms of employment, the abolition of lettres de cachet, and greater liberty of the press. Meanwhile he had continued to reduce the expenses of his household and had reformed the prisons and hospitals.

    The Parlements, which played an active part in the revolutionary movement, had proved continually obstructive to the King's schemes of reform, and it was they, as well as the monopolizers, who had opposed the free circulation of grain. “ It must appear strange,” wrote Arthur Young, “ in a government so despotic in some respects as that of France, to see the parliaments in every part of the kingdom making laws without the King's consent, and even in defiance of his authority “ {Travels in France, p. 321).

    Finally on August 8, 1788, he had announced the assembling of the States-General, at which he accorded double representation to the Tiers Etats.

    In this spring of 1789 the French people had therefore every reason to feel hopeful of the future and to believe that now at last all their wrongs would be redressed. Had not the King sent out a proclamation to the whole nation saying, “ His Majesty has desired that in the extremities of his kingdom and in the obscurest dwellings every man shall rest assured that his wishes and requests shall be heard “?

    All over the country,” says Taine, “ the people are to meet together to discuss abuses. . . . These confabulations are authorized, provoked from above. In the early days of 1788 the provincial assemblies demand from the syndicate and from the inhabitants of each parish that a local enquiry shall be held ; they wish to know the details of their grievances, what part of the revenue each tax removes, what the cultivator pays and suffers. . . . All these figures are printed . . . artisans and countrymen discuss them on Sunday after mass or in the evening in the great room at the inn. ...”

    The King has been bitterly reproached by Royalists for thus taking the people into his confidence over schemes of reform; such changes in the government as were needed, they remark, should have been effected by the royal authority unaided by popular opinion. But the King doubtless argued that no one knows better than the wearer where the shoe pinches ; and since his great desire was to alleviate the sufferings of his people, it seemed to his simple mind that the best way to do this was to ask them for a list of their grievances before attempting to redress them. Behevers in despotism may deplore the error in judgement, but the people of France did not mistake the good intentions of the King, for in the cahiers de doleances or lists of grievances that arrived from all parts of the country in response to this appeal the people were unanimous in their respect and loyalty to Louis XVI.

    What, then, did the cahiers demand ? What were the true desires of the people in the matter of government ? This all important point has been too often overlooked in histories of the Revolution ; yet it must be clearly understood if we would realize how far the Revolution as it took place was the result of the people's will. Now the summarizing of the cahiers by the National Assembly revealed that the following principles of government were laid down by the nation :

    I. The French government is monarchic.
    II. The person of the King is inviolable and sacred.
    III. His crown is hereditary from male to male.

    On these three points the cahiers were unanimous, and the great majority were agreed on the following :

    IV. The King is the depositary of the executive power.
    V. The agents of authority are responsible.
    VI. The royal sanction is necessary for the promulgation of the laws.
    VII. The nation makes the laws with the royal sanction. '
    VIII. The consent of the nation is necessary for loans and taxes.
    IX. Taxes can only be imposed from one meeting of the States- General to another.
    X. Property is sacred.
    XL Individual liberty is sacred.

    In the matter of reforms the cahiers asked first and foremost for the equality of taxation, for the abolition of that monstrous privilege by which the wealthier classes of the community were enabled to avoid contributing their rightful share towards the expenses of the State ; they asked for the free admission of citizens of all ranks to civil and military employment, for revision of the civil and criminal code, for the substitution of money payments in the place of feudal and seigneurial dues, for the abolition of gabelles, corvees, franc-fief, and arbitrary imprisonment.

    In all these demands we shall find no element of sedition or of disaffection towards the monarchy, but the response of a loyal and spirited people to the King's proposals for reform. Such animosity as they displayed was directed against the “ privileged orders,” and, as we shall see, this sentiment was not wholly spontaneous. Lua, a member of the Legislative Assembly, has well described the attitude of the people in pages that may be summarized thus :

    The Ancien Regime had very real abuses, there was every reason to attack it. The clergy and noblesse had lost their power and their raison d'etre ; they were obliged to let the Third Estate come into its own by giving up their privileges. Nothing could have stopped this or ought to have stopped it. “It has been said that the Revolution was made in public opinion before it was realized by events ; this is true, but one must add that it was not the Revolution such as we saw it . . . it was not by the people that the Revolution was made in France.” And in confirmation of this statement, with which, as I shall show, contemporaries of all parties agree, Lua points out that “ the voice of the nation cried out for reform, for changes in the government, but all proclaimed respect for religion, loyalty to the King, and desire for law and order.” I

    What, then, was needed to kindle the flame of revolution ? To understand this we must examine the intrigues at work amongst the people ; these and these alone explain the gigantic misunderstanding that arose between the King and his subjects, and that plunged the country on the brink of regeneration into the black abyss of anarchy.
    Last edited by r3volution 3.0; 07-14-2017 at 10:25 PM.

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    At the beginning of the Revolution the principal intrigue, and the one that paved the way for all the rest, was undoubtedly Louis Philippe Joseph, fifth Due d'Orleans in direct descent from the brother of Louis XIV., and therefore fourth cousin once removed to Louis XVI., came into the world with a heredity tainted from various sources. His great-grandfather Philippe, Regent of France during the minority of Louis XV., had married the daughter of Louis XIV. And Madame de Montespan. More German than French—for his mother was the Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate, whose memoirs are perhaps the most nauseous reading of the period—the Regent had introduced into the gay gallantry of France the bestial forms of vice that prevailed in those days at the courts of Germany. Amongst the most dissolute frequenters of the Palais Royal during the Regency was Louis Armand, Prince de Conti, a moral maniac of the Sadie variety, and it was his daughter who, married to the fourth Due d'Orleans, became the mother of Louis Philippe Joseph, later to be known as Phillppe Egalite. Of such elements was the man composed—^if indeed he was the son of the duke and not—as the people of Paris believed, and as he himself afterwards declared to the Commune—of the duchess's coachman.

    In appearance, certain contemporaries assure us, Philippe was not unattractive, since he had blue eyes, good teeth, and a fine white skin ; but when they proceed to relate that his face was bloated and adorned with collections of red pimples, whilst his portraits show him to us with a large fleshy nose, thick lips, and a massive neck and chin, we find it difficult to understand the charm he exercised over his intimes. Yet so fervent was their admiration that when Philippe in time grew bald his boon companions loyally shaved off their front hair in compliment.

    The Anglomania which had increased his popularity amongst the young bloods of the day disgusted Louis XVI., since it consisted in no appreciation for the better qualities of the English, but in adopting all their worst habits—^the betting, gambling, and heavy drinking that prevailed in England at that date. As the leader of this imported fashion, the Due d' Orleans affected English dress of the sporting kind, appearing habitually in a cloth frock coat, buckskin breeches, and top boots ; thus attired he rode to race-meetings, or drove about the town in his English “whisky.” His two ruling passions, says the Due de Cars, were money, and after money debauchery. Entirely indifferent to public opinion he flaunted his vices in the eyes of all Paris ; arm-in-arm with the Marquis de Sillery he might be seen on the steps of the Coliseum in the Champs filysees, insolently accosting women who had the misfortune to meet his eye ; at Longchamps he would gallop ostentatiously beside the carriage of some notorious demimondaine, whilst at the Palais Royal his entourage was composed of the most worthless men and women of the day. The evil reputation borne by society at the time of the Revolution is .attributable more to the Due d'Orleans and his set than to any other cause, whilst as a climax of hypocrisy the severest strictures on the morals of society emanated from the pens of the very men and women who outraged them—Laclos, Chamfort, and Madame de Genlis. By the side of the Due d'Orleans and his boon companions the follies of the Comte d'Artois and the Polignacs fade into insignificance, and the games of “descamptivos,” so luridly described by Orleaniste writers as the favourite diversion at Versailles, seem innocuous indeed compared with the ducal pastime of “collecting girls from the lowest quarters of Paris, and thrusting them nude and inebriated into the park of Monceaux.” Yet this was the prince who, we are asked to believe, became the idol of the Paris populace. It is only one of the many calumnies directed against the people by so-called democratic writers. The instincts of the people are not naturally perverse; they do not admire a bad master, a faithless husband, a man of corrupt and vicious tastes. We have only to consult the records written before the Revolution to find that the people of Paris loathed and despised the Due d'Orleans. The duke returned their aversion with contempt ; to the future bearer of the name “ figalite “ the people were indeed less than the dust. In order to keep up the “ aristocratic “ character of his garden at the Palais Royal, he had issued an order that no admittance was to be granted to ** soldiers, men in livery, people in caps and shirts, to dogs or workmen.”

    The Due d'Orleans,” a chronicler writes on April 5, 1787, “ allowed himself to be so carried away by the ardour of the chase that he followed the quarry he was hunting, with his train, through the Faubourg Montmartre, the Place Vendome, and the Rue Saint-Honore, as far as the Place Louis XV., not without having overturned and wounded several people.” Thereupon the Parisians composed satirical verses on the duke, ending with these lines:

    . . . au sein de Paris, un grand, noble de race.

    Sans respect pour les droits des gens,
    Ecrase quelques habitants
    Pour gouter en plein jour le plaisir de la chasse.

    It was certainly no easy task for the party who wished to substitute the Due d'Orleans for Louis XVI. On the throne of France to persuade the people that the man who treated them with so much insolence had now become the champion of their liberties. M. Emile Dard in his interesting book, Le General Choderlos de Laclos, declares that the Orleaniste conspiracy originated with Brissot as early as 1787, and that in this year he sketched out, in a letter to Ducrest, the brother of Madame de Genlis, his plan for inaugurating a second Fronde with the Due d'Orleans at its head. “ His cause must be identified with that of the people.” If in the beginning the duke were to distinguish himself by “ striking acts of benevolence and patriotism,” he would soon become “ the idol of the people.” “ Let him then embrace the doctrines in vogue, disseminate them in writing, and gain the leaders to his side.”

    Whether this scheme was adopted on the advice of Brissot or not, it was precisely the one pursued by the duke and his supporters. From the moment the States-General met, says a democratic pamphlet of the day, “ the seigneur who was the hardest towards his vassals, the most exacting and the most severe, especially in the matter of pecuniary rights, made a show of moderation, generosity, and even lavishness.” It is a common ruse of Orleaniste writers to represent the duke as an amiable, weak, and irresponsible puppet, incapable of serious designs. This was precisely the impression he intended to create ; an affectation of irresponsibility is a time-honoured ruse of conspirators.

    At the same time it is probable that, left to himself, the Due d'Orleans would have had neither the wit nor the energy to form a conspiracy ; the genius of Laclos was needed to devise and organize a vast and formidable intrigue.
    Choderlos de Laclos belonged to a poor and recently ennobled family of Spanish origin, and in 1788, at the age of forty-seven, after leaving the army, he was introduced to the Palais Royal by the Vicomte de Segur, who obtained for him the post of secretaire des commandements to the Due d'Orleans. Laclos had already made a name for himself as the author of the scandalous Liaisons Dangereuses, a novel describing in the form of letters from country-houses the depraved morals of society.

    A monster of immorality” himself, he revelled in depicting the baser sides of human nature—” according to him, good, people, if any such existed, would be simply lambs amongst a herd of tigers, and he holds it better to be a tiger, since it is better to devour than to be devoured.” To the Cynical mind of Laclos there was something infinitely diverting in the idea of placing the dissolute duke at the head of the kingdom, and the very weakness and want of energy that characterized his royal protege offered all the wider a field to Laclos's own ambition.

    In order to inspire the duke with the will to collaborate in this scheme Laclos well knew, moreover, the vulnerable side from which to approach him. Place and power had little attraction for Philippe d'Orleans ; as king he would have access to no more money and to less pleasure than fell to his share as “ first prince of the blood.” “ The Duc d'Orleans,” a wit had once remarked, “ would always be afraid to belong to any party where he would not have the chorus-girls of the opera on his side.” But if incapable of great ambitions, the duke possessed one characteristic that lent not merely energy but fire to his otherwise sluggish nature—^this was the spirit of revenge. If he could not devise, if he could not scheme, if he could not strive to achieve some settled purpose, he could hate. He was immeasurably and unrelentingly vindictive. To revenge himself on any one who had piqued his vanity or thwarted his designs, he would stick at nothing, he would know no pity. And now for years all the bitter rancour of which he was capable had been growing in intensity towards one woman who had humiliated him—the Queen of France.

    In a lesser degree he hated the King also: had not Louis XVI refused to make him grand admiral of the fleet, in consequence of his conduct at the battle of Ouessant ? But it was Marie Antoinette who had withheld her consent to the marriage of his daughter with the Due d'Angouleme, it was to her he owed his banishment from the Court, and it was her rejection of his infamous love-making that still rankled in his mind.

    The Due d'Orleans was not the only member of the Palais Royal set who had suffered a like rebuff. “ The Queen,” says. Emile Dard, “ was proud and coquette ; she held back with disdain those that her charm attracted. The spite of men was directed against her as cruelly as the jealousy of women. Under a chaste king many courtiers had hoped that the reign of lovers would succeed to that of mistresses. What a prospect for the ambitions of the Court ! What glory and profit for roues like Tilly, Biron, Bezenval, Segur, to record amongst their successful ventures the Queen of France ! In how many calumnies did self-interest and vanity find their vent ! “ Biron, we know from his insufferable memoirs, had actually made overtures to the Queen, and we may safely accept the version of this incident given by Madame Campan, who states that the interview ended after a few moments with the words pronounced in indignant tones by Marie Antoinette, “ Sortez, monsieur ! “ and the hasty exit of Biron from her presence.

    The advances of the Vicomte de Noailles met with no better success, and both these seducteurs became the bitterest enemies of the Queen.

    On such resentments was the animosity of the Palais Royal roues for the Court founded. At the duke's country-house of Monceaux all these malcontents collected, and it was here, amidst the clinking of champagne glasses, that the foulest Hbels, the most obscene verses on the Queen, were uttered and afterwards circulated through the underworld of Paris.

    The exile of the Due d'Orleans in 1787 provided his party with a fresh cause de guerre. At the Seance Royale the King had announced two fresh taxes—the timbre and the subvention territoriale—to be imposed on the “ privileged classes “ ; whereupon the duke at the instigation of Ducrest rose and declared the royal decree to be “ illegal.” “ Do not imagine,” he said afterwards to Brissot, “ that if I made this stand against the King it was in order to serve a people I despise, or a body of which I make no account (the Parlement), but that I was indignant at a man treating me with so much insolence.” The insolence, however, seems to have been entirely on the side of the duke. Louis XVI on his return to Versailles remarked that it was not the declaration of the Due d'Orleans that had offended him, but the threatening tone in which the words were pronounced, and the way he had looked at him as he spoke.^ On the advice of the Queen he accordingly exiled the duke, stipulating that he should not go as he wished—for reasons we shall see later—to England, but to his property at Villers-Cotterets.

    This edict admirably served the interests of the Orleanistes, since the duke was now able to pose as the victim of despotism, and it did much to inflame his fury against the King and Queen.

    When two years later he was elected deputy in the States-General, he cynically declared : “I laugh at the States-General, but I wished to belong to them if only for the moment when individual liberty should be discussed in order to vote for a law that will enable me to go where I like, so that when I want to start for London, Rome, or Pekin, I shall not be sent to Villers-Cotterets. I laugh at all the rest.”

    Such were the motives that inspired the “ democracy “ of the Palais Royal party. Directed by the genius of Laclos, and financed by the millions of the Duc d'Orleans, the vast organization of the Orleaniste conspiracy took form and grew, until by the spring of 1789 the plan of campaign was complete. Orleaniste propaganda were circulated all over France in preparation for the States-General ; models of cahiers drafted by Sieyes and Laclos were distributed to different constituencies, and it was undoubtedly by this means that the people's animosity towards the noblesse was largely engineered, for in the upholders of the Old Regime the Orleanistes saw the most serious obstacle to their schemes.

    But the crowning triumph of the Orleaniste conspiracy was the acquisition of Mirabeau. This amazing man, whose striking personality and thunderous oratory must have ensured the success of any party to which he attached himself, was lost to the royal cause mainly by the ineptness of the King's ministers.

    It is almost certain that at this crisis Mirabeau needed only the slightest encouragement to throw himself into the movement for reform by peaceful methods, and in this he rightly saw that the King was the real leader. Such rancour as he entertained against the Old Regime was directed against the noblesse who had shunned him on account of his irregularities ; the royal authority he was prepared to defend. He alone of all the men who should have advised the King on the assembling of the States-General foresaw the disasters impending from the unpreparedness of the Government, and in a letter addressed to the King's minister Montmorin in December 1788 he implored him to be advised in time.

    Alas, for the eternal weakness of Conservatism, the fatal unresponsiveness that has driven many a would-be ally into the enemy's camp! To Montmorin, Mirabeau with his discreditable past and his unscrupulous business transactions was a man to distrust, and therefore to be rejected. He failed to realize the truth of Gouvemeur Morris's aphorism—a maxim that should surely be laid to heart by every one concerned in government: “There are in the world men who are to he employed, not trusted.” Mirabeau was decidedly not to be trusted. “ I was bom to be an adventurer ! “ he once said gaily to Dumont and Duroverai.

    But was that a reason not to employ him ? Were not some of the greatest men who ever lived adventurers ? Was not France saved ten years later by the great adventurer from Corsica ? Yet with this term Conservatism too often brands the man whose dynamic force is needed to counteract its own inertia. The letter of Mirabeau was ignored, his memoire never reached the King, and all the disasters he had foreseen came to pass. So the man who might have saved the monarchy, smarting at this rebuff, threw himself into the opposite camp, and devoted all his force, his eloquence, and his vast energy to overthrowing the Government that had repulsed him. At the very moment that Montmorin refused his services, the Orleanistes were making every effort to secure him. It is evident that from the first the Due d'0rleans inspired him with no sympathy, but he needed a field for his talents, he needed a goal for his ambitions, and alas, he needed also the wherewithal to satisfy his taste for luxury and pleasure ! Convinced that for the present he could hope for nothing from the Court, Mirabeau therefore allowed himself against his inclination to be drawn into the Orleaniste conspiracy.

    With the annexation of Mirabeau the success of the conspiracy seemed assured. The duke and a number of his supporters—the Due de Biron, the Marquis de Sillery (husband of the famous Madame de Genlis), the Baron de Menou, the Vicomte de Noailles, and the De Lameths—had succeeded in securing election to the States-General, and with Mirabeau at their head constituted a formidable faction. At Montrouge, a little house near Paris belonging to the Due de Biron, the conspirators met by night and discussed their schemes, but “of those nocturnail confabulations,” remarks M. Dard, “ nothing transpired either for contemporaries or for posterity.”

    The amazing thoroughness with which the intrigue was carried out has never been surpassed except by the pan-German plot of our day. At the Palais Royal, Laclos, “ like a spider in his web,” wove the almost invisible network of intrigue that soon covered France, and stretched out into other countries—England, Holland. That Mirabeau was definitely working in the interests of the Duc d'Orleans throughout the summer of 1789 is perfectly obvious from the evidence of all contemporaries, even those who were his friends, such as Dumont and La Marck, the latter only attempting—very unconvincingly to prove that Mirabeau was not paid by the duke. Weber, however, declares that Mirabeau and the Due d'Orleans “ troubled so little to conceal their connection that notes signed by the Due d'Orleans in favour of Mirabeau were seen publicly negotiated on the Paris Bourse “ (Mimoires de Weber, ii, 17).

    Perhaps the best summary of Mirabeau's policy at this date is that given by Mounier : “I have seen him pass from the nocturnal committees held by the friends of the Due d'Orleans to those of the enthusiastic republicans, and from these secret conferences to the cabinets of the King's ministers ; but if from the first months (of the Revolution) the ministers had consented to work with him he would have preferred to uphold the royal authority rather than to ally himself with men he despised. His principles must not be judged by the numerous contradictions in his speeches and writings, where he said less what he thought than what happened to suit his interests under such and such circumstances. He often communicated his real opinions to me, and I have never known a man of more enlightened intellect, of more judicious political doctrines, of more venal character, and of a more corrupt heart”

    In Paris he had enlisted the services of various unscrupulous agitators who stirred up the Faubourgs of Saint- Antoine and Saint-Marceau ; pamphleteers in the pay of the duke loaded the bookstalls with seditious pamphlets ; at the street comers and in the garden of the Palais Royal mob orators inflamed the minds of the people, and in the palace of Versailles the spies of Orleans hovered round the Queen, gained access to her correspondence, and sent copies of her letters to the councils of Montrouge.

    It is probable, however, that all these schemes would have proved unavailing to produce a revolution had not the country at this crisis been faced with famine. Lua, looking back on the beginnings of the Revolution, was convinced that but for the threatened famine the people would have remained indefinitely submissive to the Old Regime. “ Everywhere they know how to endure, to expect from time improvements that often do not come, but for which they continue to hope. They know only present evils, and of these famine alone is intolerable to them.

    Struck by this terrible scourge, it is not a change in the State that they demand, it is bread. So the French people would long have endured their accustomed burdens, they would have continued to pay taxes, tithes, to carry out feudal duties, to bend beneath the corvee and the other miseries of vassaldom. I find the proof of their patience in the means employed to make them lose it.” 2 It was here the conspirators saw their greatest opportunity. “ Bread,” says Lua, “ was the potent lever by which the people were roused to action. What lies, what fables were thrown to public credulity !“

    It is evident from all accounts that the famine was more fabulous than real. The people were not starving, but haunted by the fear of starvation. And to this fear was added exasperation, owing to the conviction that no real scarcity of grain existed. It was true that a fearful hailstorm in July of the previous year had destroyed many of the crops round Paris, but had not the minister Necker declared that, in spite of this disaster, “ the stores of grain in the country were more than sufficient to supply the needs of the nation until the next harvest “ ? The want of bread in itself is bad enough, but to believe that bread is being wilfully withheld from one is enough to stir the meekest to revolt. This was the “ lever “ employed by the conspirators. When the peasants of France creeping to their doors saw wagons laden with wheat winding their way through the village street, voices were not lacking to whisper, “ There is com in plenty, but it is not for you ; it is to be stored for the Court, the aristocrats, the rich, who will feast in plenty while you go hungry.” And forthwith the maddened people would hurl themselves on to the sacks of com and fling them into the nearest river.^ The fact that in many cases the com was destroyed and not appropriated by the people proves that hunger was less the incentive to revolt than rage at the monopolizers ; and if the name of a supposed monopolizer were but whispered Likewise, the unfortunate man fell a victim to the same fate as the sacks of corn. It is, of course, impossible to defend such excesses, yet if during a time of scarcity there were really profiteers enriching themselves at the expense of the people, the fury of the peasants is certainly justified. Their guilt must therefore be measured by the facts on which their suspicions were founded.

    Was the scarcity of grain, then, imaginary or real ? Undoubtedly it was not to be entirely accounted for by the failure of the crops. On this point contemporaries of all parties agree.

    But the question of monopolizers is one on which pro-revolutionary historians are strangely silent, since for their purpose—the glorification of the revolutionary leaders—it does not bear examination. The truth is probably that the monopolizers were in league with the very men who were stirring up popular fury against monopoly—the leaders of. The Orleaniste conspiracy.

    Montjoie asserts that agents employed by the Due d'Orleans deliberately bought up the grain, and either sent it out of the country or concealed it in order to drive the people to revolt, and in this accusation he is supported by innumerable contemporaries, including the democrat Fantin – Desodoards, Mounier, whose integrity is not to be doubted, the Liberal Malouet, Ferrieres, and Madame de la Tour du Pin.

    Beaulieu, however, one of the most reliable of contemporaries, considers that the Orleanistes would have been unable to create a famine by these means, but that they accomplished their purpose by stirring up public feeling on the subject of monopolizers, thereby inducing the people to pillage the grain. The farmers and com merchants, therefore, fearing that their supplies would be destroyed in transit, were afraid to release them. By this means a fictitious famine was created.

    M. Gustave Bord, whose researches into the question of the famine are perhaps the most complete of any French historian's, believes that the farmers and bakers were not altogether guiltless, but that many had an interest in producing a scarcity in order to raise the price of bread : “ It is they who were the real authors of the scarcity, and the Old Regime hunted them down without mercy. In their ro1e of exploiters of the people they were the natural allies of the revolutionaries, who upheld them in their calumnies. It was they who triumphed in 1789, and who succeeded in deluding history by throwing the responsibility on their enemies.”

    Yet against these enemies, that is to say “ the Court,” the noblesse, the clergy, and the King's ministers, not a shred of evidence was ever produced. The ridiculous legend of the *' Facte de Famine,” by which certain revolutionary writers have sought to prove that Louis XV. Speculated in grain,^ has no bearing on the question, since at this date Louis XV. Had been dead for fifteen years, and against Louis XVI. Not even the most rabid of revolutionary writers has ventured to raise such an accusation. On the contrary, the King, the noblesse, and the clergy ^ contributed immense sums towards the relief of the famine, and the King's ministers, headed by Necker, were incessantly occupied with the problem of ensuring com supplies, and in thwarting the designs of speculators.

    All through the terrible winter of 1788-1789 the intendant of Paris, Berthier de Sauvigny, travelled about the country interviewing farmers to find out how much grain they had in reserve, how much they required, and what surplus they could put on the market ; when, however, in the spring, a shortage occurred, and Berthier applied to these men for the grain they had promised him, they immediately put up the price to a prohibitive figure, and Montjoie declares that this price was paid by agents of the Duc d'Orleans: “They did not bargain, they gave what was asked. The farmers and monopolizers alone profited by this manoeuvre ; the artisan, the labourer, the poor man could not afford the price that the monopolizers offered, and it was only by outbidding them that the Government succeeded in wresting from these vampires a portion of their spoil.”

    Whether, then, the Orleanistes achieved their purpose by actually cornering supplies, or by terrorizing the farmers into holding them up, there can be no doubt that the famine of 17^9 was deliberately engineered by the agents of the duke, and that by this means the people were driven to the pitch of desperation necessary to produce the Revolution.

    The Orleanistes, however, did not constitute the only revolutionary element in the country; a second intrigue was at work amongst the people, that of...

  5. #4

    These men desired no change of dynasty or in the government ; their aim was purely destructive. Three years later, when the monarchy was abolished, many of the revolutionary leaders declared that they had all along been Republicans at heart, but if we examine their earlier writings we shall find that at the beginning of the Revolution none of them had formulated any such political creed. “ There were not ten of us Republicans in 1789,” Camille Desmoulins wrote afterwards, and since Camille at this date was one of the Due d'Orleans' most enthusiastic admirers, the number may be reduced at least by one. With the exception perhaps of Lafayette, whose experiences in the American War of Independence inspired him with Republican sympathies, those of the earlier revolutionaries who were not Orleanistes had no definite theories of reconstruction—^their aim was merely to clear the ground of all existing conditions. “ All memories of history,” said Barrere, “ all prejudices resulting from community of interest and of origin, all must be renewed in France ; we wish only to date from to-day.” “ To make the people happy,” said Rabaud de Saint-fitienne, “ their ideas must be reconstructed, laws must be changed, morals must be changed, men must be changed, things must be changed, everything, yes, everything must be destroyed, since everything must be re-made.”

    Rabaud lived to see these theories carried into effect and to realize too late their disastrous folly. “ France,” he wrote only a short time later, “ might have been likened to an immense chaos ; power was suspended, authority disowned, and the wrecks of the feudal system were added to the vast ruins.”

    These subversive theories emanated from certain secret societies of which an English writer calling himself John Robison described the aims in the title of his book, Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe carried on in the Secret Meetings of the Free-Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies. Robison, who was himself a genuine Freemason, made a tour of the Continental lodges, where he found that a new and spurious form of masonry had sprung into existence. Both in France and Germany *' the lodges had become the haunts of many projectors and fanatics, both in science, in religion, and in politics, who had availed themselves of the secrecy and freedom of speech maintained in these meetings. ... In their hands Freemasonry became a thing totally unlike, and almost in direct opposition to, the system imported from England, where the rule was observed that nothing touching religion or government shall ever be spoken of in the lodges. . . .” The Association, in fact, was “ all a cheat, and the leaders . . . disbelieved every word that they uttered and every doctrine that they taught . . . their real intention was to abolish all religion, overturn every government, and make the world a general plunder and wreck.” A further development of German Freemasonry was the Order of the Illuminati founded in 1776 by Dr. Adam Weishaupt, a professor of the University of Ingoldstadt in Bavaria. Weishaupt, who had been educated by the Jesuits, succeeded in persuading two other ex-Jesuits to join him in organizing the new Order, and it was no doubt this circumstance that gave rise to the belief entertained by certain contemporaries that the Jesuits were the secret directors of the sect. The truth is more probably that, as both Mirabeau and the Marquis de Luchet, in their pamphlets on the Illuminati, asserted, Illuminism was founded on the regime of the Jesuits, although their religious doctrines were diametrically opposed.^ Weishaupt, whom M. Louis Blanc described as “one of the deepest conspirators that ever existed,” had adopted the name of Spartacus—the leader of an insurrection of slaves in ancient Rome—and he aimed at nothing less than world revolution. Thus the Order of the Illuminati “ abjured Christianity, advocated sensual pleasures, believed in annihilation, and called patriotism and loyalty narrow-minded prejudices incompatible with universal benevolence”; further, “they accounted all princes usurpers and tyrants, and all privileged orders anarchy that followed, he was led to the scaffold. His wife killed herself in despair.

    These were precisely the principles followed by the Subversives of France in 1793 and 1794, and the method by which this project was carried out is directly traceable to Weishaupt's influence.

    Amongst the Illuminati, says Robison, “ nothing was so frequently discoursed of as the propriety of employing, for a good purpose, the means which the wicked employed for evil purposes ; and it was taught that the preponderancy of good in the ultimate result consecrated every means employed, and that wisdom and virtue consisted in properly determining this balance. This appeared big with danger, because it seemed evident that nothing would be scrupled at, if it could be made appear that the Order would derive advantage from it, because the great object of the Order was held superior to every consideration.” ^ It is this doctrine that provides the key to the whole policy of the leading revolutionaries of France, and that, as we shall see later, brought about the Reign of Terror.

    Quintin Craufurd. The friend of Marie Antoinette, writing to Pitt in 1794, remarked: “There is a great resemblance between the maxims, as far as they are known, of the Illumines and the early Jacobins, and I am persuaded that the seeds of many of those extravagant but diabolical doctrines that spread with such unparalleled luxuriance in the hotbeds of France were carried from Germany.” ^ The lodges of the German Freemasons and Illuminati were thus the source whence emanated all those anarchic schemes that culminated in the Terror, and it was at a great meeting of the Freemasons in Frankfurt-am-Main, three years before the French Revolution began, that the deaths of Louis XVI and Gustavus III of Sweden were first planned.* The Orleanist leaders, quick to see the opportunity for advancing their own interests, joined the Freemasons, and the Due d'Orleans succeeded in getting himself elected Grand Master of the Order in France. A little later Mirabeau went to Berlin, and whilst in Prussia attracted the attention of “ Spartacus “ and his colleague “ Philo,” alias the Baron Knigge of Frankfurt-am- Main, who through the influence of Mauvillon, a disciple of Philo's, persuaded him to become an Illuminatus. On his return to Paris Mirabeau, together with Talleyrand and the Due de Lauzun, inaugurated a lodge of the Order, but none of the three being as yet adepts they were obliged to apply to headquarters for aid. Accordingly two Germans were sent to initiate them further in the doctrines of the sect. Before long the Club Breton, the first revolutionary club, later to be known as the Club des Jacobins, became the centre of Illuminism and Freemasonry, as all its members were also members of the two secret societies.

    But though the leading Orleanistes were all Freemasons, all Freemasons were not Orleanistes ; some were pure Subversives, and M. Gustave Bord is no doubt right in stating that the duke was only the visible head of the sect whose members used him as a cover to their designs, whilst he and his supporters used them with the same object. Thus Chamfort, though a member of the Orleaniste conspiracy, was at heart a Subversive, as an illuminating conversation he once held with Marmontel at the beginning of the Revolution testifies. Chamfort having remarked that it would not be a bad thing to level all ranks and abolish the existing order of things, Marmontel replied :

    Equality has always been the chimera of republics and the bait that ambition offers to vanity. But this levelling down is all the more impossible in a vast monarchy, and in attempting to abolish everything it seems to me that we should go further than the nation expects, and further than it wishes.”

    True,” said Chamfort, “ but does the nation know what it wishes ? One can make it wish, and one can make it say what it has never thought . . . the nation is a great herd that only thinks of browsing, and with good sheepdogs the shepherds can lead it as they please.” He went on to explain that one must help the people according to one's own Lights, not according to theirs, and spoke cheerfully of a Revolution that would make a clean sweep of the Old Regime, a scheme he thought by no means impossible to carry out, for though it might be difficult to move the industrious citizens, there was always the class that has nothing to lose and everything to gain which could be stirred up by rumours of massacre, famine, and so forth.

    The Due d' Orleans, he ended by remarking, must be made use of for this purpose. When to this Meirmontel suggested that the duke had hardly the makings of a leader, Chamfort replied imperturbably:

    You are right, and Mirabeau, who knows him well, says it would be building on mud to count on him, but he has identified himself with the popular cause, he bears an imposing name, he has millions to distribute, he hates the King, he hates the Queen still more.”

    Such, then, were the “ democratic “ principles of the Subversives, and the methods described by Chamfort were, as we shall see, precisely those employed to work up the people. The first item on their programme was the systematic dissemination of class hatred and the promise of unlimited booty.

    Name me as your representative at the States-General,' said Robespierre in his electioneering speeches, “ and you will be for ever exempt from those burdens which have so far been required of you on the pretext of the needs of the State. . . .This will not be the only benefit you will enjoy if I succeed in becoming one of your representatives ; too long have the rich been the sole possessors of happiness. It is time that their possessions should pass into other hands. The castles will be overthrown and all the lands belonging to them will be distributed amongst you in equal portions.” To the agricultural labourers he promised the fields they cultivated, to the retainers of the nobles he offered freedom from all duties. “ Everything will be changed, for masters will become servants, and you will be served in your turn.”

    It will be seen, therefore, that from the outset “ equality,” the great watchword of the Revolution, had no place in the minds of the Subversives ; conditions were simply to be reversed, wealth was to change hands, a process that was to be neverending, since that which was at the top was to be perpetually thrust to the bottom, and that which was at the bottom raised to the top.

    Towards religion the Subversives displayed the same attitude as towards government ; their animosity was not directed against the Church of Rome more than against Protestantism ; it was religion in itself they detested, and that they set out to destroy.

    When we study the manner in which they carried out their design, when we read of the frightful profanity that was inaugurated during the Terror, the desecration of the churches, the blasphemies against Christ and the Holy Virgin, and the worship of Marat, it is almost impossible to disbelieve in demoniacal possession, to doubt that these men, inflamed with hatred against all spiritual influences working for good in the world, became indeed the vehicles for those other spirits, the powers of darkness, whose cause they had made their own. And in their hideous deaths, for nearly every one perished on the scaffold, were they not, perhaps, like the Gadarene swine, victims of the demons that drove them to destruction?

  6. #5

    The spring of 1789 found the citizens of Paris divided between two great emotions, hope and fear—hope verging on ecstasy at the prospect of the States-General that were to regenerate the kingdom, fear amounting to panic at the threatened famine and the presence of mysterious strangers in their midst.

    The immense charities of the King, noblesse, and clergy had had the effect of attracting crowds of hungry peasants to Paris, where they were employed at the King's expense in working at the Butte Montmartre, and soon fell a prey to the Orleaniste leaders, who enlisted many of them in their service for the purposes of insurrection. But even this formidable addition to the underworld of Paris formed but a small minority amongst the lawabiding of the population, and a further measure was devised by the leaders. Towards the end of April the peaceful citizens saw with bewilderment bands of ragged men of horrible appearance, armed with thick knotted sticks, flocking through the barriers into the city. This sinister contingent is not, as certain historians would have us believe, to be confounded with the former crowds of peasants—” they were neither workmen nor peasants,” says Madame Yige le Brun, “ they seemed to belong to no class unless that of bandits, so terrifying were their faces,” and Montjoie adds that this aspect was intentional—” they had been instructed to disfigure their faces in a manner so hideous that they were objects of horror to all the Parisians.” Other contemporaries, whose accounts exactly coincide with the foregoing, add that these men were “ foreigners “—” they spoke a strange tongue“; Bouille states that “they were bandits from the South of France and Italy,” whilst Marmontel describes them as “ of rapine and carnage, thirsting for blood and booty, who, mingling with the people, inspired them with their own ferocity.” The Marseillais were therefore not called in for the first time in 1792, as is generally supposed, and their aid was evidently evoked at the later date in consequence of their successes at the beginning of the Revolution.

    That brigands from the South were deliberately enticed to Paris in 1789, employed and paid by the revolutionary leaders, is a fact confirmed by authorities too numerous to quote at length ; and the further fact that the conspirators felt such a measure to be necessary is of immense significance, for it shows that in their eyes the people of Paris were not to he depended on to carry out a revolution. In other words, the importation of the contingent of hired brigands conclusively refutes the theory that the Revolution was an irrepressible rising of the people ; it proves that, on the contrary, the movement was deliberately and laboriously engineered. No one understood human nature better than such men as Laclos, Chamfort, and the other leaders of the Orleaniste conspiracy, and they doubtless realized that in the past the irresponsible, pleasure-loving people of Paris had shown little initiative in the matter of bloodshed, but had needed always to be given the lead before they entered into the spirit of the thing and played at killing. Thus at the Massacre of Saint-Bartholomew had not the lead been given by the German Behme and the Italian Catherine de Medicis before the people of the city joined in the hue and cry after the flying Huguenots ? Pitiless as they could be at moments, they were prone to sudden revulsions of feeling that in an instant transformed their victims into objects of admiration ; they lacked the hot blood of the South that revels in cruelty and does not tire of the spectacle. Just as the Anarchists of our own day have always realized that it is amongst the descendants of the Roman populace who gathered in the Coliseum to watch the brutal sports of the arena that they must seek the assassin they needed to track down their royal victim, so the conspirators of 1789 knew that it was to the South that they must look for that sombre ferocity which the light-hearted Parisians lacked, and in the sun-baked regions of Italy and Provence, where a dagger-thrust is still but the everyday ending to a quarrel, they found the terrible instruments that they required.

    Thus side by side the work of reformation and the work of revolution had gone forward, and whilst the deputies of the people were assembling the leaders of insurrection were likewise mustering their forces. It was a race between the two—who was to be first in the field ? those who desired to build up or those who sought only to destroy ? Revolution won the day, and on the 27th of April the first outbreak occurred in Paris.

    The victim of this extraordinary riot was a certain wallpaper manufacturer of the Faubourg Saint – Antoine named Reveillon, who had recently been chosen elector for the Tiers £tat in opposition to the Orleaniste candidate. According to certain historians “ the rumour went round “ that Reveillon had spoken slightingly of working-men at the electoral assembly, but Montjoie states that this accusation was definitely proclaimed through the streets by a horde of the brigands dragging with them an effigy of Reveillon, and calling out to the people that he had said a workman could live quite well on fifteen sous a day.

    This device of inventing a phrase and placing it in the mouth of any one they wished to offer up to popular fury was regularly adopted by the agitators in all the earlier riots of the Revolution, and often succeeded in completely deceiving the people. In the case of Reveillon, however, the calumny was palpably absurd; the paper-maker was well known and respected in the Faubourg ; he himself had started life as a working-man, and when he had made his fortune resolved that his employees should never know the hardships he had endured. Not one of his workmen was paid less than twenty-five sous a day, and during the recent severe winter he had kept them all on at full pay although unable to give them work. The inhabitants of the Faubourg knew better, therefore, than to believe the calumny against their benefactor, and refused to riot. The agitators and their allies the brigands were consequently obliged to resort to force in order to raise a mob. Montjoie, who was an eye-witness of the whole affair, and whose account is confirmed in nearly every point by other reliable contemporaries, states that “ these ruffians went into the factories and workshops and compelled the workmen to follow them. This method of swelling a mob of insurrection...was adopted throughout the whole revolution. To begin with, about fifty rioters, men or women, surround the first person they meet on their way, two of the rioters hold him tightly under the arms and carry him off against his this means, when the troop has arrived on the battle-field, its numbers alarm those against whom it is directed. On this occasion the horde of brigands was increased by all the workmen they had enrolled against their wills.” ^ By this laborious method a disorderly mob was collected who marched to Reveillon's house in the Rue de Montreuil, which, on arrival, they found to be surrounded by a cordon of troops. The street being thus rendered impassable the crowd was held up, but at this opportune moment the Due d'Orleans happened to drive past on his way to the race-meeting at Vincennes, where his horses were running against those of the Comte d'Artois.

    Bezenval, who was in command of the Swiss Guards, exactly corroborates this statement : “ All the spies of the police agreed in saying that the insurrection was caused by strange men who, in order to increase their numbers, took by force those they met on their way ; they had even sent three times to the Faubourg Saint-Marceau to raise recruits without being able to persuade any one to join them. These spies added that they saw men inciting the tumult and even distributing money.”

    He stopped his carriage, got down, spoke a few words to the rioters, and then drove on again. The duke afterwards admitted his appearance on the scene, but explained it by saying that his intention was merely to soothe the people, and that the words he had spoken were “ Allons, mes enfants, de la paix : nous touchons au bonheur.” The exhortation did not, however, have the effect of dispersing the mob, which continued to besiege the house of Reveillon until the evening, when the Duchesse d'0rl4ans in returning from Vincennes passed by the Rue de Montreuil, which was still barricaded by the troops. Out of respect for the duchess— whom no one associated with her husband's intrigues — the soldiers immediately opened a way for her, and thereupon the mob, seeing their opportunity, burst through the same passage and fell upon the house of Reveillon, which they proceeded to pillage and destroy.

    Three more regiments were now sent to the scene of action, and the officers called upon the invaders to retire. The order was repeated three times without effect, the rioters replying only with a hail of stones and tiles that they hurled from the housetop on the soldiers, killing several. Then by way of warning a few shots were fired into the air by the troops, and this time the mob retaliated with still more formidable missiles in the shape of roofbeams and immense blocks of stone torn from the invaded building. So at last the soldiers, finding pacific methods of no avail, opened fire on the housetop, carrying death and destruction into the ranks of the rioters—” the unhappy creatures fell from the roofs, the walls dripped with blood, the pavement was covered with mutilated limbs.” The survivors took refuge inside the house and prepared to carry on the siege, but the troops entered with fixed bayonets, and by dint of hand-to-hand fighting succeeded finally in clearing the premises and ending the riot.

    Montjoie afterwards visited the wounded and questioned them on the motives that had inspired their actions : “ Unhappy one, what were you doing there ? “ And one and all made the same reply, “ What was I doing there ? I went, like you, like every one else, just to see.” But one poor wretch dying in agony exclaimed, “ Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, must one be treated in this way for twelve miserable francs ? “ He had, in fact, exactly twelve francs in his pocket, and the same sum was found on many of the other rioters.

    Meanwhile Reveillon himself had succeeded in escaping during the tumult and fled for refuge to the Bastille, where he remained under the protection of the governor, De Launay, until he could venture out again in safety. Compensation was made him by the King for his ruined industry.

    Montjoie, Conjuration de d'Orleans I. 275.

    Such was the Affaire Reveillon which historians are fond of describing as mysterious and inexplicable. Yet contemporaries of all parties admit that it was engineered by agitators ; the only question on which they differ is, “ By whom were these agitators employed ? “ The revolutionaries according to their usual custom reply, “The Court.” The Court and aristocracy, they solemnly assure us, dehberately provoked the riot in order to find an excuse for firing on the people ! Later on we shall find the aristocrats accused of burning down their chateaux for the same purpose. The suggestion is too ludicrous to be taken seriously.

    Why should the Court wish to provoke a riot against itself ? Why should a mob raised by aristocrats reproach Reveillon with being a friend of aristocrats ? Why should the Court incite popular fury against a law-abiding citizen and a loyal subject of the King ? Above all, if the Court wished for an excuse to use force against the people, why did they not hasten to use it ? Why was every conciliatory method resorted to before force was employed ? That the Affaire Reveillon was the work of the Orleaniste conspiracy no one who brings an impartial mind to bear on contemporary evidence can possibly doubt ; the presence of the duke, and it is said also of Laclos, amongst the crowd, the fact that the riot was carried on to the cry of “Vive le due d'Orleans !" and even “ Vive notre roi d'Orleans“ is surely proof enough of the influences at work. Talleyrand—^who well knew the intricacies of the Orleaniste intrigue—definitely stated that it was organized by Laclos, whilst Chamfort, himself a member of the conspiracy, admitted to Marmontel that the movement was financed by the duke. “ Money,” he said, “ and the hope of plunder are all-powerful with the people. We have just made the experiment in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and you would not behave how little it cost the Due d'Orleans to get them to sack the manufactory of the honest Reveillon, who amidst these same people was the means of livelihood for a hundred families Mirabeau cheerfully asserts that with 100 louis one can make quite a good riot.”

    What was the Orleanistes' object in singling out Reveillon as a victim ? The defeat of their own candidate at the elections was certainly disconcerting to their projects, but it is evident that there was a still more definite reason for their animosity. The Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where Reveillon's manufactory was situated, had an entirely working-class population, whilst the Faubourg Saint – Marceau was the centre of destitution. These two poor and populous quarters of the city were the strongholds of the agitators ; popular movements never originated there, but were devised at Montrouge or the Club Breton, worked up at the Palais Royal, whence they spread to the Faubourgs and produced the desired explosion. By this means the Faubourg Saint-Antoine became simply the echo of the Palais Royal. But an influential agent was needed in the district, and Montjoie asserts that Reveillon was therefore approached by the Orleanistes with the view of enticing him into the conspiracy. These overtures were met, however, with an indignant refusal by the honest paper-maker, and the post was offered to the rough and brutal brewer Santerre,- who accepted it with alacrity. From this moment “ General Mousseux “—as Santerre was nicknamed by the people on account of the frothy beer he manufactured—became an intime of the Due d' Orleans, driving about Paris with him in his cabriolet, dining with him at cabarets,^ and whilst referring to the people as “ vile brigands and rascally rabble,” ^ scattering amongst them the gold with which the duke provided him. It is easy, therefore, to understand that Reveillon with his three to four hundred well-paid and contented workmen, in the very quarter where the agitators were exerting every effort to sow discontent, proved highly obnoxious to the conspirators, and the destruction of the paper factory was hardly less necessary to their designs than the destruction of that other building in the same district—the chateau of the Bastille. The factory and the fortress must therefore both be destroyed before the agitators could depend on the Faubourg to carry out their designs unchecked.

    The Affaire Reveillon thus served a double purpose, for it had not only cleared the ground of one obstacle, but it had prepared the way for the removal of the other; it was, in fact, an admirable rehearsal for the attack on the Bastille, it had enabled the conspirators to test the efficacy of their methods for assembling a mob, and if it had ended in defeat they realized that they had but to overcome the loyalty of the troops in order to ensure the success of the further venture. As this book will show, every one of the great popular tumults of the Revolution was preceded by some such abortive rising—^the 14th of July by the 27th of April, the 6th of October by the 30th of August, and the l0th of August 1792 by the 20th of June. On each of these occasions the agitators, finding it impossible to rouse the people to the required pitch of violence, were obliged to cast about for fresh methods to achieve their ends.

    It will be seen, therefore, that any account of the Siege of the Bastille must begin with its prelude in the Affaire Reveillon. From this moment the conspirators never relaxed their efforts to corrupt the troops and to undermine the royal authority.


    The story picks up on p.45 of the PDF with an account of the events leading to the sack of the Bastille.

    Last edited by r3volution 3.0; 07-14-2017 at 09:29 PM.

  7. #6
    Good stuff, I'll check it out.

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    Last Post: 07-14-2009, 05:42 AM

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