Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

inade them popular. The taxes were most unjustly distributed, the clergy and nobility being exempt from taxation, and the middling classer and the poor being obliged to defray the whole. Towards the close of the year 1789, when famine stared the miserable peasants in the face, the greatest difficulty was found to supply the enormous expenses which were every day increasing, The king was advised to call a meeting of the states-general, a measure seldom recurred to but in cases of the greatest necessity. The states-general, consisting of the nobles, clergy, and others, assembled, and commenced their sittings in the king's royal palace at Versailles, May 5th, 1789. They soon discovered the situation of the country ; and they also felt their power and their consequence, from the eyes of all France being directed to their proceedings. They bound themselves, by an oath, never to separate until the constitution of the kingdom, and the regeneration of public order, were established and fixed on a solid basis. They declared themselves inviolable, by a majority of 493 against 34; and seemed passionately in love with freedom and their country. The celebrated Necker was dismissed the ministry, and retired from France. A state of universal agitation was now on the eve of commencing; an awful scene approached, froin which we date the French revolution. The citizens of Paris, who had assembled on Sunday evening, the 12th of July, 1789, in the public walks of the Palais Royal, pro. ceeded from thence to the house of an artist on the Boulevards; and having procured a bust of M. Necker, and also of the duke of Orleans, they adorned them with crape, and carried them through the streets in triumph. When they came to the square of Place Vendôme, they were stopped by the German regiment of horse, who dispersed the people, and broke the bust of Necker. Some few were wounded, but they soon rallied in increased numbers. The army, which had been stationed round Paris, now came forward in full force with a body of cavalry, and the Prince de Lambesq, of the house of Lorraine, at their head. He had received orders from Marshal Broglio, to take post near the gardens of the Tuilleries, and maintain himself in that position, without doing any mischief to the people ; but they were now assembled in such numbers, and were so tumultuous, that the prince, finding himself hemmed in, and fearful of being cut off, entered the gardens of the Tulleries at the head of his German regiment, and, with his drawn sword, wounded a peaceable citizen who was walking there. Thé disorder from that time became universal; the soldiers fired on the people; and what with the shrieks of the women, the groans of the wounded, and the arbitrary behaviour of the military, the whole city was in an instant thrown into a convulsed state. The general cry was, arms!” Muskets, and other weapons of defence, were soon in every hand. The French guards not only refused to fire on their countrymen, but united in their cause. They marched to the Place of Louis XV. to meet the German regiment. They soon came up with them, as well as with some hussars of the Hungarian light-horse, who had joined the Germans. A smart action took place, and the Germans were driven back in disorder, leaving eleven of their comrades killed or wounded behind them. On the 14th of July, in the morning, almost every person in Paris was armed; the soldiers mingled with the populace, and all at once a numerous body exclaimed, “ Let us storm the Bastile.' They immediately proceeded towards it, and presented themselves before the tremendous fortress, by the great street of St. Anthony. M. De Launay, the governor, caused a flag of truce to be hung out, upon which a detachment of the patriotic guards, with five or six hundred citizens, introduced themselves into the first court. The governor having advanced to the drawbridge, inquired of the people what they wanted. They answered, “ ammunition and arms." He promised to furnish them, instead of which he caused the drawbridge to be raised, and a discharge of artillery on all those men

66 To

who were in the first court, whereby many were killed and wounded. The governor now turned his cannon on the city. The populace, burning with revenge, sent for the cannon from the Invalids, upon which five pieces were soon brought, and delivered to experienced gunners. Three pieces of artillery, under the direction of M. Hulin, were also brought into the court of the Saltpetriere, contiguous to the Bastile, and immediately pointed against that fortress, on which they fired with great vivacity. The governor perceiving he could not hold out against such a phalanx as opposed him, threw out a white flag. The besiegers, however, would look at nothing that might lessen their resentment, or excite pity in favour of the besieged. The gov ernor made a second attempt to pacify them, but in vain. He acquainted them, by a paper introduced through a crevice of the drawbridge, that he had 50,000lb. weight of gunpowder, and would blow up the garrison, and all its environs, if a capitulation was not accepted. The besiegers despised this menace, and continued their firing with additional vigour. Three cannon were brought forward to beat down the drawbridge. The governor then demolished the little bridge of passage on the left-hand, at the entrance of the fortress. Hely, Hulin, and Maillard, leaped on the bridge, and demanded'that the inmost gate should be instantly opened. The besieged obeyed; and the besiegers pushed forward to make good their entrance, massacring all who came in their way, and soon after the standard of the victors was seen hoisted on the highest tower. In the meantime the principal drawbridge was let down; the populace rushed in, every one eager to discover the governor, and to plunge his sword into his treacherous bosom. One Arné, a grenadier, singled him out, seized, and disarmed him, and delivered him up to Hulin and Hely. The deputy governor, the major, and the captain of the gunners, were also seized. The victors proceeded with their prisoners to the Hotel de Ville; but they were scarcely arrived, when the mob tore them from the hands of those who held them in security, and trampled them under foot, and De Launay and the major, pierced with countless wounds, expired.

Thus fell the Bastile, after a siege of three hours only; a fortress that the most experienced generals of the age of Louis XIV. had deemed impregnable." It was began by Charles V. in 1369, and finished in 1383. The court, utterly astounded at these proceedings, now ordered the dismissal of the troops, and the recall of Necker. Bailly, who presided at the tennis court, was nominated mayor of Paris, and Lafayette became the commander of the national guards. A crowd of the lowest rabble, accompanied by some of the national guards, proceeded to Versailles, and entered the palace amid threats and execrations the most indecent and revolting. The king was compelled to accompany them to Paris, and to receive from the hands of Bailly the, tri-coloured cockade, as a mark of his union with the people. At this period the famous Jacobin club was formed; an illegal and violent power, which raised itself at the side of the national representation in order soon after to crush it. At first it consisted of a few well-disposed deputies and patriots, but it soon changed its character, and became the focus of insurrection and treasonable excite.

ment.

The French REVOLUTION.-The Limited Monarchy. A. D. 1789.--We now come to the month of August, an ever memorable era in the history of France. The new constitution was finally ushered into the national assembly on the 1st day of the month. The articles being all discussed, the king accepted it with seeming sincerity, returning the assembly thanks for the title they had bestowed on him--that of

restorer of the liberties of France.”. It was not long after this, however, that Louis, probably from finding his power circumscribed, attemptad to leave France, with the queen and family, and hail actually pro.

ceeded near the frontiers, when he was recognized by Drouet, son of the postmaster at Varennes, who contrived to impede his journey by overturning a cart in the way. In the meantime he conveyed the intelligence to the guard. The king was now fully identified, but denied having any intention of leaving France. He was, however, conveyed back to Paris, where he had been but a very short time missed. His brothers escaped by taking different routes. This attempt of Louis to leave the kingdom irritated the Parisians almost to frenzy, and he was soon after conveyed to the Temple as a prisoner, together with his queen, his children, and his sister, Madame Elizabeth. Here he suffered a rigorous confinement, until he was brought to trial before the national convention-for by that appellation the national assembly was then known. Being convicted of what they termed treason against that constitution which he had sworn to defend, he was condemned to die by the guillotine, which death he suffered on the 21st of January, 1793, with great fortitude, and was buried privately, in a churchyard of Paris ; his grave was filled with lime in order to prevent his partizans from removing his body. Thus died Louis XVI., who, if not the greatest of the French monarchs, was certainly one of the most unoffending; but he was irresolute, brought up in the habits of indolence, and of a court famous for its breach of faith. He was, in fact, in every respect, unsuitable to the government of the French nation, whether as a despotism or a free government; the latter he himself certainly was the means of introducing, by the part he took in the contest between Great Britain and her American colonies.

2. The Republican Government. A. D. 1792.-During the confinement of Louis, the constitution was mod elled anew.

The limited monarchy gave way to the republican government, which took place the 23d of September, 1792. The death of the queen soon followed; the absurd and infamous charges brought against her astonished all Europe. But no power could save the once beautiful Marie Antoinette; her doom had doubtless long been decreed; and she suffered by the axe of the guillotine, on the 16th of October, 1793, after having been treated with every possible indignity. Her body was imme diately interred in a grave filled with quick-lime, like that of her husband. This highly accomplished woman, who is described as a model of grace and beauty, was in her 38th year, and sister of Leopold II., late emperor of Germany. La Vendee rose, and the continent as well as England armed in hostility to the convention, whom nothing seemed to intimidate. Fourteen armies, without experience, and merely with the aid of paper money, were set in motion. Custine took Mentz; Montesquieu invaded Savoy; Lille repulsed the Austrians, who bombarded the city; and Dumouriez, making a descent upon Belgium, carried the redoubts of Jenappe at the point of the bayonet. The generals had only to sound the Marseillais hymn, and the citizen soldiers saw in the republic a futurity of peace and prosperity, although the roots of what was called the tree of liberty were saturated with blood. Lyons, after a two months' siege, surrendered to the republicans, and there are few examples, even amid the horrid scenes of barbarous warfare, of more vindictive cruelty than took place there. The guillotine being deemed too slow an engine of destruction, crowds were driven into the Rhonė, or butchered in the squares by discharges oi grape-shot. Barrère sent a flaming account to the convention, which de creed that the walls and public buildings of the city should be razed, aná Lyons henceforth called La Ville. Affranchie. The excesses and enormi. ties of this period of French history are almost, indeed, too incredible for the sober pen of history to record. A new calendar was formed; and ir order to obliterate the remembrance of the Christian sabbath, each month was subdivided into three decades, the first days of which were festivals or days of rest. A few days after, the municipal authorities of Paris appeared in the convention, attended by the bishop and clergy, decorated with caps of liberty, who publicly renounced their offices of Christian pastors. The bishop of Moulins threw down his mitre, and preached the doctrine that "death is an eternal sleep.” Various allegorical creations, such as Liberty and Equality, were deified, and a young woman of abandoned character was enshrined as the Goddess of Reason on the altar of Notre Dame, to receive the adoration of the multitude. But the reign of Robespierre was now in its plenitude ;, a tyrant more savage and bloody cannot be found since the days of Nero and Caligula. The guillotine was in constant action, and thousands were immolated to his sanguinary vengeance. Royalists and republicans indiscriminately felt the axe; and among his victims were Madame Elizabeth, sister to the king, and the duke of Orleans, the king's cousin, who had, in the national convention, voted for the death of Louis: The latter not only died unpitied, but execrated by both parties, for the infamous part he had acted towards his near relation. This "bold bad man, who had renounced his title, and adopted the name of Philip Egalité, was in his 46th year, and met death with apparent indifference. Under the mask of patriotisın he aspired to the throne, but met his just reward (though not for his regicidal and unnatural crime), from the guillotine. "Who at that time could have imagined that young Egalité, his son, who had fought under the banners of the republic, would one day be saluted as Louis Philippe, king of the French!

This era was appropriately termed "the reign of terror.” But the power of Robespierre was not to endure forever. Talien had the virtue and courage to denounce him, in the convention, for his numberless barbarities. The members well knew they held their heads by the slight tenure of his will only; they were therefore gratified by the opportunity which now offered itself for his destruction; they supported the denunciation against him; and but a few hours elapsed between his accusation and his death, on that scaffold where he had so recently sent his victims by doz

This event, which gave general satisfaction, took place the 28th of July, 1794. The constitution of the third year, was, soon after the death of Robespierre, put into force. A directory, consisting of five, forming the executive power, was appointed; it consisted of Reubel, Barras, La Reveilliere, Lepaux, Merlin, and Treilliard; and two councils; the first, of the “elders ;” and the latter, of “five hundred," formed the legislative part. One third of each chamber was to be renewed annually; and one of the “directors” was to go out yearly, and be replaced by the election of another. The armies of France had been contending, from the year 1792, with those of almost every power in Europe. Prussia was, indeed, early drawn off from the contest; though it had penetrated the French territory. The republican arms were in general successful by land; and, in the beginning of 1795, they were in possession of all the Austrian Netherlands, Holland, and Germany, to the banks of the Rhine; they were also masters of Savoy on the side of Italy.

Early in 1796, Bonaparte, a young man, till then unknown in the world of politics, was appointed, through the powerful interference of the director Barras, to the command of the army of Italy. No sooner had he taken the field, than victory appeared to have adopted him as her favourite son. His prodigious successes astonished the world. He defeated the Austrians and Piedmontese in the battles of Montenotte and of Milesimo, in April, 1796; compelled the king of Sardinia to conclude a treaty of peace, in which Savoy and Nice were given up to France; on the 8th of May he crossed the Po; on the succeding day he forced Parma to consent to an armistice; defeated General Wurmser on the 3d of August at Lonado, and on the 5th at Castiglione; advanced against the Tyrol; defeated

ens.

Alvinzi at Arcole on the 15th of November, and at Rivoli on the 14th of January, 1797; concluded the peace of Tolentino, in which the pope yielded Avignon to France, and Bologna, Ferrara, and Romagna to the Cisalpine republic, on the 19th of February; and defeated the archduke Charles at Lesonzo; and signed preliminaries of peace with Austria at Leoben on the 16th of April, 1797, which formed the peace of Campo Formio, by which alone the Austrian capital was saved from destruction,

This treaty led to a congress to be held for the adjustment of claims, and to bring about that desirable blessing, peace. Radstadt was the place appointed for the meeting of the ministers of the different powers who were to assist. Fifteen months elapsed in negotiation, which terminated in delusion; and the French plenipotentiaries, Bonnier and Roberjot, were assassinated by some German soldiers on their return to France. Both parties having in the interim recruited their strength, renewed the war.

During the above-mentioned negotiation, a plan was laid in France for the conquest of Egypt. They accordingly fitted out a formidable fleet at Toulon,

on board of which were embarked 42,000 troops, the flower of Bo. naparte's victorious Italian army. All Europe was interested in the destination of so formidable an armament, but more particularly England. Bonaparte it was generally understood, was to have the command; but the great secrecy with which everything relating thereto was conducted, baffled all the efforts at the discovery of his real designs. It left Toulon in-May, 1798, under the command of Brieux as admiral, and Bonaparte as commander-in-chief of the troops, and steered to the eastward. In June, Malta submitted ; and on the 2d of July, it reached Alexandria, in Egypt; having had the good fortune to escape the vigilance of Admiral Nelson, who had been dispatched in search of it as soon as it was known for a certainty that it had gone to the eastward. Alexandria was taken on the 3d; and the beys and Mamelukes were defeated in several actions. Egypt, including its capital, Grand Cairo, was in the possession of the French in twenty-one days from their landing. Bonaparte had landed his forces but a short time before the English fleet appeared on the coast of Egypt. The French fleet lay in the bay of Aboukir, moored in the greatest security ; Nelson attacked it on the 1st of August, and gained a victory as complete as any in the naval annals of the country. Bonaparte having brought Egypt under his power, his next object was Syria, for the invasion oi which he was in readiness early in February, 1799. He marched from Grand Cairo across the desert. He took El Arish, Joppa, and Jerusalem, and penetrated the country as far as Acre, which place he besieged. Here he met with an unexpected foe, in the captains and crews of a small English fleet, commanded by Sir Sydney Smith, which had come to the as. sistance of the pacha; and after many most daring attempts to take that city, during forty days and upwards, he retired with considerable loss.

It was during the siege of Acre that Bonaparte first heard of the reverses of the French, and the loss of the greater part of his conquests in Italy. He soon afterwards defeated the army of the pacha of Natolia at Aboukir, and his departure from Egypt followed immediately on that event. He left the government of his new conquest under General Kleber, and, embarking on board a small vessel, with a few of his principal officers, had the good fortune to escape the numerous English cruisers, and arrived at Frejus on the 13th of October. He was received in Paris on the 16th, amid the acclamations of the people, and was soon made acquainted with the external and internal situation of France. He deplored the loss of those conquests which had acquired to him immortal fame, but he further deplored the state of the country, torn into a variety of factions. All army unclothed, unfed, and unpaid; a part of the interior of the republic in rebellion; a host of foes from without pressing it on all sides ; the finances in the utmost possible state of derangement; and the resources drained

« ZurückWeiter »