Lomenie issues conciliatory edicts, fiscal edicts. But if the Parlement of Paris refuse to register them? As it does, entering complaints instead. Lomenie launches his thunderbolt, six score lettres de cachet; the Parlement is trundled off to Troyes, in Champagne, for a month. Yet two months later, when a royal session is held, to have edicts registered, there is no registering. Orleans, "Equality" that is to be, has made the protest, and cut its moorings.
The provincial parlements, moreover, back up the Paris Parlement with its demand for a States-General. Lomenie hatches a cockatrice egg; but it is broken in premature manner; the plot discovered and denounced. Nevertheless, the Parlement is dispersed by D'Agoust with Gardes Francaises and Gardes Suisses. Still, however, will none of the provincial parlements register.
Deputations coming from Brittany meet to take counsel, being refused audience; become the Breton Club, first germ of the Jacobins' Society. Lomenie at last announces that the States-General shall meet in the May of next year (1789). For the holding of which, since there is no known plan, "thinkers are invited" to furnish one.
Wherewith Lomenie departs; flimsier mortal was seldom fated to do as weighty a mischief. The archbishop is thrown out, and M. Necker is recalled. States-General will meet, if not in January, at least in May. But how to form it? On the model of the last States-General in 1614, says the Parlement, which means that the Tiers Etat will be of no account, if the noblesse and the clergy agree. Wherewith terminates the popularity of the Parlement. As for the "thinkers," it is a sheer snowing of pamphlets. And Abbe Sieyes has come to Paris to ask three questions, and answer them: What is the Third Estate? All. What has it hitherto been in our form of government? Nothing. What does it want? To become something.
The grand questions are: Shall the States-General sit and vote in three separate bodies, or in one body, wherein the Tiers Etat shall have double representation? The notables are again summoned to decide, but vanish without decision. With those questions still unsettled, the election begins. And presently the national deputies are in Paris. Also there is a sputter; drudgery and rascality rising in Saint-Antoine, finally repressed by Gardes Suisses and grapeshot.
On Monday, May 4, is the baptism day of democracy, the extreme unction day of feudalism. Behold the procession of processions advancing towards Notre—our commons, noblesse, clergy, the king himself. Which of these six hundred individuals in plain white cravat might one guess would become their king? He with the thick black locks, shaggy beetle-brows and rough-hewn face? Gabriel Honore Riqueti de Mirabeau, the world-compeller, the type Frenchman of this epoch, as Voltaire of the last. And if Mirabeau is the greatest, who of these six hundred may be the meanest? Shall we say that anxious, slight, ineffectual-looking man, under thirty, in spectacles; complexion of an atrabiliar shade of pale sea-green, whose name is Maximilien Robespierre?
Coming into their hall on the morrow, the commons deputies perceive that they have it to themselves. The noblesse and the clergy are sitting separately, which the noblesse maintain to be right; no agreement is possible. After six weeks of inertia the commons deputies, on their own strength, are getting under way; declare themselves not Third Estate, but National Assembly. On June 20, shut out of their hall "for repairs," the deputies find refuge in the tennis court! take solemn oath that they will continue to meet till they have made the constitution. And to these are joined 149 of the clergy. A royal session is held; the king propounds thirty-five articles, which if the estates do not confirm he will himself enforce. The commons remain immovable, joined now by the rest of the clergy and forty-eight noblesse. So triumphs the Third Estate.
War-god Broglie is at work, but grapeshot is good on one condition! The Gardes Francaises, it seems, will not fire; nor they only. Other troops, then? Rumour declares, and is verified, that Necker, people's minister, is dismissed. "To arms!" cries Camille Desmoulins, and innumerable voices yell responsive. Chaos comes. The Electoral Club, however, declares itself a provisional municipality, sends out parties to keep order in the streets that night, enroll a militia, with arms collected where one may. Better to name it National Guard! And while the crisis is going on, Mirabeau is away, sad at heart for the dying, crabbed old father whom he loved.
Muskets are to be got from the Invalides; 28,000 National Guards are provided with matchlocks. And now to the Bastile! But to describe this siege perhaps transcends the talent of mortals. After four hours of world-bedlam, it surrenders. The Bastile is down. "Why," said poor Louis, "that is a revolt." "Sire," answered Liancourt, "it is not a revolt; it is a revolution."
On the morrow, Louis paternally announces to the National Assembly reconciliation. Amid enthusiasm, President Bailly is proclaimed Maire of Paris, Lafayette general of the National Guard. And the first emigration of aristocrat irreconcilables takes place. The revolution is sanctioned.
Nevertheless, see Saint-Antoine, not to be curbed, dragging old Foulon and Berthier to the lantern, after which the cloud disappears, as thunder-clouds do.
III.—-Menads and Feast of Pikes
French Revolution means here the open, violent rebellion and victory of disemprisoned anarchy against corrupt, worn-out authority; till the frenzy working itself out, the uncontrollable be got harnessed. A transcendental phenomenon, overstepping all rules and experience, the crowning phenomenon of our modern time.
The National Assembly takes the name Constituent; with endless debating, gets the rights of man written down and promulgated. A memorable night is August 4, when they abolish privilege, immunity, feudalism, root and branch, perfecting their theory of irregular verbs. Meanwhile, seventy-two chateaus have flamed aloft in the Maconnais and Beaujolais alone. Ill stands it now with some of the seigneurs. And, glorious as the meridian, M. Necker is returning from Bale.
Pamphleteering, moreover, opens its abysmal throat wider and wider, never to close more. A Fourth Estate of able editors springs up, increases and multiplies, irrepressible, incalculable.
No, this revolution is not of the consolidating kind. Lafayette maintains order by his patrols; we hear of white cockades, and, worse still, black cockades; and grain grows still more scarce. One Monday morning, maternity awakes to hear children weeping for bread, must forth into the streets. Allons! Let us assemble! To the Hotel de Ville, to Versailles, to the lantern! All women gather and go; crowds storm all stairs, force out all women; there is a universal "press of women." Who will storm the Hotel de Ville, but for shifty usher Maillard, who snatches a drum, beats his Rogues' March to Versailles! And after them the National Guard, resolute in spite of Mon General, who, indeed, must go with them—Saint-Antoine having already gone. Maillard and his menads demand at Versailles bread; speech with the king for a deputation. The king speaks words of comfort. Words? But they want "bread, not so much discoursing!"
Towards midnight comes Lafayette; seems to have saved the situation; gets to bed about five in the morning. But rascaldom, gathering about the chateau, breaks in. One of the royal bodyguard fires, whereupon the deluge pours in, would deal utter destruction but for the coming of the National Guard. The bodyguard mount the tri-colour. There is no choice now. The king must from Versailles to Paris, in strange procession; finally reaches the long-deserted Palace of the Tuileries. It is Tuesday, October 6, 1789.
And so again, on clear arena under new conditions, with something even of a new stateliness, we begin a new course of action. Peace of a father restored to his children? Not only shall Paris be fed, but the king's hand be seen in that work—King Louis, restorer of French liberty!
Alone of men, Mirabeau may begin to discern clearly whither all this is tending. Patriotism, accordingly, regrets that his zeal seems to be getting cool. A man stout of heart, enigmatic, difficult to unmask! Meanwhile, finances give trouble enough. To appease the deficit we venture on a hazardous step, sale of the clergy's lands; a paper-money of assignats, bonds secured on that property is decreed; and young Sansculottism thrives bravely, growing by hunger. Great and greater waxes President Danton in his Cordeliers section. This man also, like Mirabeau, has a natural eye.
And with the whole world forming itself into clubs, there is one club growing ever stronger, till it becomes immeasurably strong; which, having leased for itself the hall of the Jacobins' Convent, shall, under the title of the Jacobins' Club, become memorable to all times and lands; has become the mother society, with 300 shrill-tongued daughters in direct correspondence with her, has also already thrown off the mother club of the Cordeliers and the monarchist Feuillans.
In the midst of which a hopeful France on a sudden renews with enthusiasm the national oath; of loyalty to the king, the law, the constitution which the National Assembly shall make; in Paris, repeated in every town and district of France! Freedom by social contract; such was verily the gospel of that era.
From which springs a new idea: "Why all France has not one federation and universal oath of brotherhood once for all?" other places than Paris having first set example or federation. The place for it, Paris; the scene to be worthy of it. Fifteen thousand men are at work on the Champs de Mars, hollowing it out into a national amphitheatre. One may hope it will be annual and perennial; a feast of pikes, notable among the high tides of the year!
Workmen being lazy, all Paris turns out to complete the preparations, her daughters with the rest. From all points of the compass federates are arriving. On July 13, 1790, 200,000 patriotic men and 100,000 patriotic women sit waiting in the Champs de Mars. The generalissimo swears in the name of armed France; the National Assembly swears; the king swears; be the welkin split with vivats! And the feast of pikes dances itself off and becomes defunct.
IV.—The End of Mirabeau
Of journals there are now some 133; among which, Marat, the People's Friend, unseen, croaks harsh thunder. Clubbism thrives and spreads, the Mother of Patriotism, sitting in the Jacobins, shining supreme over all. The pure patriots now, sitting on the extreme tip of the left, count only some thirty, Mirabeau not among the chosen; a virtuous Petion; an incorruptible Robespierre; conspicuous, if seldom audible, Philippe d'Orleans; and Barnave triumvirate.
The plan of royalty, if it have any, is that of flying over the frontiers; does not abandon the plan, yet never executes it. Nevertheless, Mirabeau and the Queen of France have met, have parted with mutual trust. It is strange, secret as the mysterious, but indisputable. "Madame," he has said, "the monarchy is saved." Possible—if Fate intervene not. Patriotism suspects the design of flight; barking this time not at nothing. Suspects also the repairing of the castle of Vincennes; General Lafayette has to wrestle persuasively with Saint-Antoine.
On one royal person only can Mirabeau place dependence—the queen. Had Mirabeau lived one other year! But man's years are numbered, and the tale of Mirabeau's is complete. The giant oaken strength of him is wasted; excess of effort, of excitement of all kinds; labour incessant, almost beyond credibility. "When I am gone," he has said, "the miseries I have held back will burst from all sides upon France." On April 2 he feels that the last of the days has risen for him. His death is Titanic, as his life has been. On the third evening is solemn public funeral. The chosen man of France is gone.
The French monarchy now is, in all human probability, lost. Many things invite to flight; but if the king fly, will there not be aristocrat Austrian invasion, butchery, replacement of feudalism, wars more than civil? The king desires to go to St. Cloud, but shall not; patriots will not let the horses go. But Count Fersen, an alert young Swedish soldier, has business on hand; has a new coach built, of the kind called Berline; has made other purchases. On the night of Monday, June 20, certain royal individuals are in a glass coach; Fersen is the coachman; out by the Barrier de Clichy, till we find the waiting Berline; then to Bondy, where is a chaise ready; and deft Fersen bids adieu.
With morning, and discovery, National Assembly adopts an attitude of sublime calm; Paris also; yet messages are flying. Moreover, at Sainte Menehould, on the route of the Berline, suspicious patriots are wondering what certain lounging dragoons mean; while the Berline arrives not. At last it comes; but Drouet, village postmaster, seeks a likeness; takes horse in swift pursuit. So rolls on the Berline, and the chase after it; till it comes to a dead stop in Varennes, where Drouet finds it—in time to stop departure. Louis, the poor, phlegmatic man, steps out; all step out. The flight is ended, though not the spurring and riding of that night of spurs.
V.—-Constitution Will Not March
In the last nights of September, Paris is dancing and flinging fireworks; the edifice of the constitution is completed, solemnly proffered to his majesty, solemnly accepted by him, to the sound of cannon salvoes. There is to be a new Legislative Assembly, biennial; no members of the Constituent Assembly to sit therein, or for four years to be a minister, or hold a court appointment. So they vanish.
Among this new legislative see Condorcet, Brissot; most notable, Carnot. An effervescent, well intentioned set of senators; too combustible where continual sparks are flying, ordered to make the constitution march for which marching three things bode ill—the French people, the French king, the French noblesse and the European world.
For there are troubles in cities of the south. Avignon, where Jourdan coupe-tete makes lurid appearance; Perpignan, northern Caen also. With factions, suspicions, want of bread and sugar, it is verily what they call dechire, torn asunder, this poor country. And away over seas the Plain of Cap Francais one huge whirl of smoke and flame; one cause of the dearth of sugar. What King Louis is and cannot help being, we already know.
And, thirdly, there is the European world. All kings and kinglets are astir, their brows clouded with menace. Swedish Gustav will lead coalised armies, Austria and Prussia speak at Pilnitz, lean Pitt looks out suspicious. Europe is in travail, the birth will be WAR. Worst feature of all, the emigrants at Coblentz, an extra-national Versailles. We shall have war, then!
Our revenue is assignats, our army wrecked disobedient, disorganised; what, then, shall we do? Dumouriez is summoned to Paris, quick, shifty, insuppressible; while royalist seigneurs cajole, and, as you turn your legislative thumbscrew, king's veto steps in with magical paralysis. Yet let not patriotism despair. Have we not a virtuous Petion, Mayor of Paris, a wholly patriotic municipality? Patriotism, moreover, has her constitution that can march, the mother-society of the Jacobins; where may be heard Brissot, Danton, Robespierre, the long-winded, incorruptible man.
Hope bursts forth with appointment of a patriot ministry, this also his majesty will try. Roland, perchance Wife Roland, Dumouriez, and others. Liberty is never named with another word, Equality. In April poor Louis, "with tears in his eyes," proposes that the assembly do now decree war. Let our three generals on the frontier look to it therefore, since Duke Brunswick has his drill-sergeants busy. We decree a camp of twenty thousand National Volunteers; the hereditary representative answers veto! Strict Roland, the whole Patriot ministry, finds itself turned out.
Barbaroux writes to Marseilles for six hundred men who know how to die. On June 20 a tree of Liberty appears in Saint-Antoine—a procession with for standard a pair of black breeches—-pours down surging upon the Tuileries, breaks in. The king, the little prince royal, have to don the cap of liberty. Thus has the age of Chivalry gone, and that of Hunger come. On the surface only is some slight reaction of sympathy, mistrust is too strong.
Now from Marseilles are marching the six hundred men who know how to die, marching to the hymn of the Marseillaise. The country is in danger! Volunteer fighters gather. Duke Brunswick shakes himself, and issues his manifesto; and in Paris preternatural suspicion and disquietude. Demand is for forfeiture, abdication in favour of prince royal, which Legislature cannot pronounce. Therefore on the night of August 9 the tocsin sounds; of Insurrection.
On August 18 the grim host is marching, immeasurable, born of the night. Of the squadrons of order, not one stirs. At the Tuileries the red Swiss look to their priming. Amid a double rank of National Guards the royal family "marches" to the assembly. The Swiss stand to their post, peaceable yet immovable. Three Marseillaise cannon are fired; then the Swiss also fire. One strangest patriot onlooker thinks that the Swiss, had they a commander, would beat; the name of him, Napoleon Bonaparte. Having none——Honour to you, brave men, not martyrs, and yet almost more. Your work was to die, and ye did it.
Our old patriot ministry is recalled; Roland; Danton Minister of Justice! Also, in the new municipality, Robespierre is sitting. Louis and his household are lodged in the Temple. The constitution is over! Lafayette, whom his soldiers will not follow, rides over the border to an Austrian prison. Dumouriez is commander-in-chief.
In this month of September 1792 whatsoever is cruel in the panic frenzy of twenty-five million men, whatsoever is great in the simultaneous death-defiance of twenty-five million men, stand here in abrupt contrast; all of black on one side, all of bright on the other. France crowding to the frontiers to defend itself from foreign despots, to town halls to defend itself from aristocrats, an insurrectionary improvised Commune of Paris actual sovereign of France.
There is a new Tribunal of Justice dealing with aristocrats; but the Prussians have taken Longwi, and La Vendee is in revolt against the Revolution. Danton gets a decree to search for arms and to imprison suspects, some four hundred being seized. Prussians have Verdun also, but Dumouriez, the many-counseled, has found a possible Thermopylae—if we can secure Argonne; for which one had need to be a lion-fox and have luck on one's side.
But Paris knows not Argonne, and terror is in her streets, with defiance and frenzy. From a Sunday night to Thursday are a hundred hours, to be reckoned with the Bartholomew butchery; prisoners dragged out by sudden courts of wild justice to be massacred. These are the September massacres, the victims one thousand and eighty-nine; in the historical fantasy "between two and three thousand"—nay, six, even twelve. They have been put to death because "we go to fight the enemy; but we will not leave robbers behind us to butcher our wives and children." Horrible! But Brunswick is within a day's journey of us. "We must put our enemies in fear." Which has plainly been brought about.
Our new National Convention is getting chosen; already we date First Year of the Republic. And Dumouriez has snatched the Argonne passes; Brunswick must laboriously skirt around; Dumouriez with recruits who, once drilled and inured, will one day become a phalanxed mass of fighters, wheels, always fronting him. On September 20, Brunswick attacks Valmy, all day cannonading Alsatian Kellerman with French Sansculottes, who do not fly like poultry; finally retires; a day precious to France!
On the morrow of our new National Convention first sits; old legislative ending. Dumouriez, after brief appearance in Paris, returns to attack Netherlands, winter though it be.
France, then, has hurled back the invaders, and shattered her own constitution; a tremendous change. The nation has stripped itself of the old vestures; patriots of the type soon to be called Girondins have the problem of governing this naked nation. Constitution-making sets to work again; more practical matters offer many difficulties; for one thing, lack of grain; for another, what to do with a discrowned Louis Capet—all things, but most of all fear, pointing one way. Is there not on record a trial of Charles I.?
Twice our Girondin friends have attacked September massacres, Robespierre dictatorship; not with success. The question of Louis receives further stimulus from the discovery of hidden papers. On December 11, the king's trial has emerged, before the Convention; fifty-seven questions are put to him. Thereafter he withdraws, having answered—for the most part on the simple basis of No. On December 26, his advocate, Deseze, speaks for him. But there is to be debate. Dumouriez is back in Paris, consorting with Girondins; suspicious to patriots. The outcome, on January 15—Guilty. The sentence, by majority of fifty-three, among them Egalite, once Orleans—Death. Lastly, no delay.
On the morrow, in the Place de la Revolution, he is brought to the guillotine; beside him, brave Abbe Edgeworth says, "Son of St. Louis, ascend to Heaven"; the axe clanks down; a king's life is shorn away. At home, this killing of a king has divided all friends; abroad it has united all enemies. England declares war; Spain declares war; they all declare war. "The coalised kings threaten us; we hurl at their feet, as gage of battle, the head of a king."
VII.—Reign of Terror
Five weeks later, indignant French patriots rush to the grocers' shops; distribute sugar, weighing it out at a just rate of eleven-pence; other things also; the grocer silently wringing his hands. What does this mean? Pitt has a hand in it, the gold of Pitt, all men think; whether it is Marat he has bought, as the Girondins say; or the Girondins, as the Jacobins say. This battle of Girondins and Mountain let no man ask history to explicate.
Moreover, Dumouriez is checked; Custine also in the Rhine country is checked; England and Spain are also taking the field; La Vendee has flamed out again with its war cry of God and the King. Fatherland is in danger! From our own traitors? "Set up a tribunal for traitors and a Maximum for grain," says patriot Volunteers. Arrest twenty-two Girondins!—though not yet. In every township of France sit revolutionary committees for arrestment of suspects; notable also is the Tribunal Revolutionnaire, and our Supreme Committee of Public Safety, of nine members. Finally, recalcitrant Dumouriez finds safety in flight to the Austrian quarters, and thence to England.
Before which flight, the Girondins have broken with Danton, ranged him against them, and are now at open war with the Mountain. Marat is attacked, acquitted with triumph. On Friday, May 31, we find a new insurrectionary general of the National Guard enveloping the Convention, which in three days, being thus surrounded by friends, ejects under arrestment thirty-two Girondins. Surely the true reign of Fraternity is now not far?
The Girondins are struck down, but in the country follows a ferment of Girondist risings. And on July 9, a fair Charlotte Corday is starting for Paris from Caen, with letters of introduction from Barbaroux to Dupernet, whom she sees, concerning family papers. On July 13, she drives to the residence of Marat, who is sick—a citoyenne who would do France a service; is admitted, plunges a knife into Marat's heart. So ends Peoples'-Friend Marat. She submits, stately, to inevitable doom. In this manner have the beautifulest and the squalidest come into collision, and extinguished one another.
At Paris is to be a new feast of pikes, over yet a new constitution; statue of Nature, statue of Liberty, unveiled! Republic one and indivisible—Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death! A new calendar also, with months new-named. But Toulon has thrown itself into the hands of the English, who will make a new Gibraltar of it! We beleaguer Toulon; having in our army there remarkable Artillery-Major Napoleon Bonaparte. Lyons also we beleaguer.
Committee of Public Safety promulgates levy en masse; heroically daring against foreign foes. Against domestic foes it issues the law of the suspects—none frightfuller ever ruled in a nation of men. The guillotine gets always quicker motion. Bailly, Brissot, are in prison. Trial of the "Widow Capet"; whence Marie Antoinette withdraws to die—not wanting to herself, the imperial woman! After her, the scaffold claims the twenty-two Girondins.
Terror is become the order of the day. Arrestment on arrestment follows quick, continual; "The guillotine goes not ill."
VIII.—Climax and Reaction
The suspect may well tremble; how much more the open rebels—the Girondin cities of the south! The guillotine goes always, yet not fast enough; you must try fusillading, and perhaps methods still frightfuller. Marseilles is taken, and under martial law. At Toulon, veteran Dugommier suffers a young artillery officer whom we know to try his plan—and Toulon is once more the Republic's. Cannonading gives place to guillotining and fusillading. At Nantes, the unspeakable horror of the noyades.
Beside which, behold destruction of the Catholic religion; indeed, for the time being, of religion itself; a new religion promulgated of the Goddess of Reason, with the first of the Feasts of Reason, ushered in with carmagnole dance.
Committee of Public Salvation ride this whirlwind; stranger set of cloud-compellors Earth never saw. Convention commissioners fly to all points of the territory, powerfuller than king or kaiser; frenzy of patriotism drives our armies victorious, one nation against the whole world; crowned by the Vengeur, triumphant in death; plunging down carrying vive la Republique along with her into eternity, in Howe's victory of the First of June. Alas, alas! a myth, founded, like the world itself, on Nothing!
Of massacring, altar-robbing, Hebertism, is there beginning to be a sickening? Danton, Camille Desmoulins are weary of it; the Hebertists themselves are smitten; nineteen of them travel their last road in the tumbrils. "We should not strike save where it is useful to the Republic," says Danton; quarrels with Robespierre; Danton, Camille, others of the friends of mercy are arrested. At the trial, he shivers the witnesses to ruin thunderously; nevertheless, sentence is passed. On the scaffold he says, "Danton, no weakness! Thou wilt show my head to the people—it is worth showing." So passes this Danton; a very man; fiery-real, from the great fire-bosom of nature herself.
Foul Hebert and the Hebertists, great Danton and the Dantonists, are gone, swift, ever swifter, goes the axe of Samson; Death pauses not. But on Prairial 20, the world is in holiday clothes in the Jardin National. Incorruptible Robespierre, President of the Convention, has decreed the existence of the Supreme Being; will himself be priest and prophet; in sky-blue coat and black breeches! Nowise, however, checking the guillotine, going ever faster.
On July 26, when the Incorruptible addresses the Convention, there is dissonance. Such mutiny is like fire sputtering in the ship's powder-room. The Convention then must be purged, with aid of Henriot. But next day, amid cries of Tyranny! Dictatorship! the Convention decrees that Robespierre "is accused"; with Couthon and St. Just; decreed "out of law"; Paris, after brief tumult, sides with the Convention. So on July 28, 1794, the tumbrils go with this motley batch of outlaws. This is the end of the Reign of Terror. The nation resolves itself into a committee of mercy.
Thenceforth, writ of accusation and legal proof being decreed necessary, Fouquier's trade is gone; the prisons deliver up suspects. For here was the end of the revolution system. The keystone being struck out, the whole arch-work of Sansculottism began to crack, till the abyss had swallowed it all.
And still there is no bread, and no constitution; Paris rises once again, flowing towards the Tuileries; checked in one day with two blank cannon-shots, by Pichegru, conqueror of Holland. Abbe Sieyes provides yet another constitution; unpleasing to sundry who will not be dispersed. To suppress whom, a young artillery officer is named commandant; who with whiff of grapeshot does very promptly suppress them; and the thing we specifically call French Revolution is blown into space.
* * * * *
History of the Girondists
Alphonse Marie Louis de Lamartine, poet, historian, statesman, was born at Macon, in Burgundy, on October 21, 1790. Early in the nineteenth century he held a diplomatic appointment at Naples, and in 1820 succeeded after many difficulties, in finding a publisher for his first volume of poems, "Nouvelles Meditations." The merits of the work were at once recognised, and the young author soon found himself one of the most popular of the younger generation of French poets. He next adopted politics, and, with the Revolution of February, became for a brief time the soul of political life in France. But the triumph of imperialism and of Napoleon III. drove him into the background, whereupon he retired from public life, and devoted his remaining years to literature. He died on March I, 1869. The publication, in 1847, of his "History of the Girondists, or Personal Memoirs of the Patriots of the French Revolution, from Unpublished Sources," was in the nature of a political event in France. Brilliant in its romantic portraiture, the work, like many other French histories, served the purposes of a pamphlet as well as those of a chronicle.
I.—The War-Seekers of the South
The French Revolution had pursued its rapid progress for two full years. Mirabeau, the first democratic leader, was dead. The royal family had attempted flight and failed. War with Europe threatened and, in the autumn of 1791, a new parliament was elected and summoned.
At this juncture the germ of a new opinion began to, display itself in the south, and Bordeaux felt its full influence. The department of the Gironde had given birth to a new political party in the twelve citizens who formed its deputies. This department, far removed from the centre, was at no distant period to seize on the empire alike of opinion and of eloquence. The names (obscure and unknown up to this period) of Ducos, Gaudet, Lafondladebat, Grangeneuve, Gensonne, Vergniaud, were about to rise into notice and renown with the storms and the disasters of their country; they were the men who were destined to give that impulse to the revolution that had hitherto remained in doubt and indecision, which was to precipitate it into a republic.
In the new parliament Brissot, the inspirer of the Gironde, the dogmatic statesman of a party which needed ideas and a leader, ascended the tribune in the midst of anticipated plaudits which betokened his importance in the new Assembly. His voice was for war, as the most efficacious of laws.
It was evident that a party, already formed, took possession of the tribune, and was about to arrogate to itself the dominion of the assembly. Brissot was its conspirator, Condorcet its philosopher, Vergniaud its orator. Vergniaud mounted the tribune, with all the prestige of his marvellous eloquence. The eager looks of the Assembly, the silence that prevailed, announced in him one of the great actors of the revolutionary drama, who only appear on the stage to win themselves popularity, to intoxicate themselves with applause, and—to die.
Vergniaud, born at Limoges, and an advocate of the Bar of Bordeaux, was now in his thirty-third year, for the revolutionary movement had seized on and borne him along with its currents when very young. His dignified, calm, and unaffected features announced the conviction of his power. Facility, that agreeable concomitant of genius, had rendered alike pliable his talents, his character, and even the position he assumed.
At the foot of the tribune he was loved with familiarity; as he ascended it each man was surprised to find that he inspired him with admiration and respect; but at the first words that fell from the speaker's lips they felt the immense distance between the man and the orator. He was an instrument of enthusiasm, whose value and whose place was in his inspiration.
Petion was the son of a procureur at Chartres, and a townsman of Brissot; was brought up in the same way as he, in the same studies, same philosophy, same hatreds. They were two men of the same mind. The revolution, which had been the ideal of their youth, had called them on the scene on the same day, but to play very different parts. Brissot, the scribe, political adventurer, journalist, was the man of theory; Petion, the practical man. He had in his countenance, in his character, and his talents, that solemn mediocrity which is of the multitude, and charms it; at least he was a sincere man, a virtue which the people appreciate beyond all others in those who are concerned in public affairs.
The nomination of Petion to the office of maire of Paris gave the Girondists a constant point d'appui in the capital. Paris, as well as the Assembly, escaped from the king's hands.
A report praised by Brissot in his journal, and by the Girondists in the Assembly, afforded no longer any pretext for delaying the war. France felt that her strength was equal to her indignation, and she could be restrained no longer. The increasing unpopularity of the king augmented the popular excitement. Twice had he already arrested, by his royal veto, the energetic measures of the Assembly—the decree against the emigres and the decree against the priests who had not taken the oath. These two vetoes, the one dictated by his honour, the other by his conscience, were two terrible weapons placed in his hand by the constitution, yet which he could not wield without wounding himself. The Girondists revenged themselves for this resistance by compelling him to make war on the princes, who were his brothers, and the emperor, whom they believed to be his accomplice.
The war thus demanded by the ascendant Girondist party broke out in April, 1792. Their enemies, the extreme radical party called "Jacobins," had opposed the war, and when the campaign opened in disaster the beginning of their ascendancy and the Girondin decline had appeared.
These disasters were followed by a proclamation from the enemy that the work of the revolution would be undone, and the town of Paris threatened with military execution unless the king's power were fully restored. By way of answer the populace of Paris stormed the royal palace, deposed the king, and established a Radical government. Under this, a third parliament, the most revolutionary of all, called the "Convention," was summoned to carry on the war, the king was imprisoned, and on September 21, 1792, the day on which the invading armies were checked at Valmy, a republic was declared.
II.—-the Fall of La Gironde
The proclamation of the republic was hailed with the utmost joy in the capital, the departments, and the army; to philosophers it was the type of government found under the ruins of fourteen ages of prejudice and tyranny; to patriots it was the declaration of war of a whole nation, proclaimed on the day of the victory of Valmy, against the thrones united to crush liberty; while to the people it was an intoxicating novelty.
Those who most exulted were the Girondists. They met at Madame Roland's that evening, and celebrated almost religiously the entrance of their creation into the world; and voluntarily casting the veil of illusion over the embarrassments of the morrow and the obscurities of the future, gave themselves up to the greatest enjoyment God has permitted man on earth—the birth of his idea, the contemplation of his work, and the embodied possession of his desires.
The republic had at first great military successes, but they were not long lived. After the execution of the king in January 1793, all Europe banded together against France, the French armies were crushingly defeated, their general, Dumouriez, fled to the enemy, and the Girondins, who had been in power all this while, were fatally weakened. Moreover, their attempt to save the king had added to their growing unpopularity when, after Dumouriez's treason in March 1793 Danton attacked them in the Convention.
The Jacobins comprehended that Danton, at last forced from his long hesitation, decided for them, and was about to crush their enemies. Every eye followed him to the tribune.
His loud voice resounded like a tocsin above the murmurs of the Girondists. "It is they," he said, "who had the baseness to wish to save the tyrant by an appeal to the people, who have been justly suspected of desiring a king. It is they only who have manifestly desired to punish Paris for its heroism by raising the departments against her; it is they only who have supped clandestinely with Dumouriez when he was at Paris; yes, it is they only who are the accomplices of this conspiracy."
The Convention oscillated during the struggle between the Girondins and their Radical opponents with every speech.
Isnard, a Girondin, was named president by a strong majority. His nomination redoubled the confidence of La Gironde in its force. A man extravagant in everything, he had in his character the fire of his language. He was the exaggeration of La Gironde—one of those men whose ideas rush to their head when the intoxication of success or fear urges them to rashness, and when they renounce prudence, that safeguard of party.
The strain between the Girondists, with their parliamentary majority, and the populace of Paris, who were behind the Radicals, or Jacobins, increased, until, towards the end of May, the mob rose to march on the parliament. The alarm-bells rang, and the drums beat to arms in all the quarters of Paris.
The Girondists, at the sound of the tocsin and the drums, met for the last time, not to deliberate, but to prepare and fortify themselves against their death. They supped in an isolated mansion in the Rue de Clichy, amidst the tolling of bells, the sound of the drums, and the rattling of the guns and tumbrils. All could have escaped; none would fly. Petion, so feeble in the face of popularity, was intrepid when he faced death; Gensonne, accustomed to the sight of war; Buzot, whose heart beat with the heroic impressions of his unfortunate friend, Madame Roland, wished them to await their death in their places in the Convention, and there invoke the vengeance of the departments.
Some hours later the armed mob, Henriot, their general, at their head, appeared before the parliament. The gates were opened at the sight of the president, Herault de Sechelles, wearing the tricoloured scarf. The sentinels presented arms, the crowd gave free passage to the representatives. They advanced towards the Carrousel. The multitude which were on this space saluted the deputies. Cries of "Vive la Convention! Deliver up the twenty-two! Down with the Girondists!" mingled sedition with respect.
The Convention, unmoved by these shouts, marched in procession towards the cannon by which Henriot, the commandant-general, in the midst of his staff, seemed to await them. Herault de Sechelles ordered Henriot to withdraw this formidable array, and to grant a free passage to the national representations. Henriot, who felt in himself the omnipotence of armed insurrection, caused his horse to prance, while receding some paces, and then said in an imperative tone to the Convention, "You will not leave this spot until you have delivered up the twenty-two!"
"Seize this rebel!" said Herault de Sechelles, pointing with his finger to Henriot. The soldiers remained immovable.
"Gunners, to your pieces! Soldiers, to arms!" cried Henriot to the troops. At these words, repeated by the officers along the line, a motion of concentration around the guns took place. The Convention retrograded.
Barbaroux, Lanjuinais, Vergniaud, Mollevault, and Gardien remained, vainly expecting the armed men who were to secure their persons, but not seeing them arrive, they retired to their own homes.
There followed the rising of certain parts of the country in favour of the Girondins and against Paris. It failed. The Girondins were prisoners, and after this failure of the insurrection the revolutionary government proceeded to their trial. When their trial was decided on, this captivity became more strict. They were imprisoned for a few days in the Carmelite convent in the Rue de Vaugeraud, a monastery converted into a prison, and rendered sinister by the bloody traces of the massacres of September.
III.—The Judges at the Bar
On October 22, their acte d'accusation was read to them, and their trial began on the 26th. Never since the Knights Templars had a party appeared more numerous, more illustrious, or more eloquent. The renown of the accused, their long possession of power, their present danger, and that love of vengeance which arises in men's hearts at mighty reverses of fortune, had collected a crowd in the precincts of the revolutionary tribunal.
At ten o'clock the accused were brought in. They were twenty-two; and this fatal number, inscribed in the earliest lists of the proscription, on May 31, at eleven o'clock, entered the salle d'audience, between two files of gens d'armes, and took their places in silence on the prisoners' bench.
Ducos was the first to take his seat: scarcely twenty-eight years of age, his black and piercing eyes, the flexibility of his features, and the elegance of his figure revealed one of those ardent temperaments in whom everything is light, even heroism.
Mainveille followed him, the youthful deputy of Marseilles, of the same age as Ducos, and of an equally striking but more masculine beauty than Barbaroux. Duprat, his countryman and friend, accompanied him to the tribunal. He was followed by Duchatel, deputy of Deux Sevres, aged twenty-seven years, who had been carried to the tribunal almost in a dying state wrapped in blankets, to vote against the death of the "Tyrant," and who was termed, from this act and this costume, the "Spectre of Tyranny."
Carra, deputy of Saone and Loire at the Convention, sat next to Duchatel. His vulgar physiognomy, the stoop of his shoulders, his large head and disordered attire contrasted with the beauty and stature of Duchatel Learned, confused, fanatic, declamatory, impetuous alike in attack or resistance, he had sided with the Gironde to combat the excesses of the people.
A man of rustic appearance and garb, Duperret, the involuntary victim of Charlotte Corday, sat next to Carra. He was of noble birth, but cultivated with his own hands the small estate of his forefathers.
Gensonne followed them: he was a man of five-and-thirty, but the ripeness of his intellect, and the resolution that dictated his opinions gave his features that look of energy and decision that belongs to maturer age.
Next came Lasource, a man of high-flown language and tragical imagination. His unpowdered and closely-cut hair, his black coat, his austere demeanour, and grave and ascetic features, recalled the minister of the Holy Gospel and those Puritans of the time of Cromwell who sought for God in liberty, and in their trial, martyrdom.
Valaze seemed like a soldier under fire; his conscience told him it was his duty to die, and he died.
The Abbe Fauchet came immediately after Valaze. He was in his fiftieth year, but the beauty of his features, the elevation of his stature, and the freshness of his colour, made him appear much younger. His dress, from its colour and make, befitted his sacred profession, and his hair was so cut as to show the tonsure of the priest, so long covered by the red bonnet of the revolutionist.
Brissot was the last but one.
Last came Vergniaud, the greatest and most illustrious of them all. All Paris knew, and had beheld him in the tribune, and was now curious to gaze not only on the orator on a level with his enemies, but the man reduced to take his place on the bench of the accused. His prestige still followed him, and he was one of those men from whom everything, even impossibilities, are expected.
IV.—The Banquet of Death
The jury closed the debate on October 30, at eight o'clock in the evening. All the accused were declared guilty of having conspired against the unity and indivisibility of the republic, and condemned to death. One of them, who had made a motion with his hand as though to tear his garments, slipped from his seat on to the floor. It was Valaze.
"What, Valaze, are you losing your courage?" said Brissot, striving to support him.
"No, I am dying," returned Valaze. And he expired, his hand on the poignard with which he had pierced his heart.
At this spectacle silence instantly prevailed, and the example of Valaze made the young Girondists blush for their momentary weakness.
It was eleven o'clock at night. After a moment's pause, occasioned by the unexpectedness of the sentence and the emotion of the prisoners, the sitting was closed amidst cries of "Vive la Republique!"
The Girondists, as they quitted their places, cried simultaneously. "We die innocent! Vive la Republique!"
They were all confined for this their last night on earth in the large dungeon, the waiting room of death.
The deputy Bailleul, their colleague at the Assembly, proscribed like them, but who had escaped the proscription, and was concealed in Paris, had promised to send them from without on the day of their trial a last repast, triumphant or funeral, according to the sentence. Bailleul, though invisible, kept his promise through the agency of a friend. The funeral supper was set out in the large dungeon; the daintiest meats, the choicest wines, the rarest flowers, and numerous flambeaux decked the oaken table—prodigality of dying men who have no need to save aught for the following day.
The repast was prolonged until dawn. Vergniaud, seated at the centre of the table, presided, with the same calm dignity he had presided at the Convention on the night of August 10. The others formed groups, with the exception of Brissot, who sat at the end of the table, eating but little, and not uttering a word. For a long time nothing in their features or conversation indicated that this repast was the prelude to death. They ate and drank with appetite, but sobriety; but when the table was cleared, and nothing left except the fruit, wine, and flowers, the conversation became alternately animated, noisy and grave, as the conversation of careless men, whose thoughts and tongues are freed by wine.
Towards the morning the conversation became more solemn. Brissot spoke prophetically of the misfortunes of the republic, deprived of her most virtuous and eloquent citizens. "How much blood will it require to wash out our own?" cried he. They were silent, and appeared terrified at the phantom of the future evoked by Brissot.
"My friends," replied Vergniaud, "we have killed the tree by pruning it. It was too aged. Robespierre cuts it. Will he be more fortunate than ourselves? No, the soul is too weak to nourish the roots of civic liberty; this people is too childish to wield its laws without hurting itself. We were deceived as to the age in which we were born, and in which we die for the freedom of the world."
A long silence followed this speech of Vergniaud's, and the conversation turned from earth to heaven.
"What shall we be doing to-morrow at this time?" said Ducos, who always mingled mirth with the most serious subjects. Each replied according to his nature.
Vergniaud reconciled in a few words all the different opinions. "Let us believe what we will," said he, "but let us die certain of our life and the price of our death. Let us each sacrifice what we possess, the one his doubt, the other his faith, all of us our blood, for liberty. When man offers himself a victim to Heaven, what more can he give?"
When all was ready, and the last lock of hair had fallen on the stones of the dungeon, the executioners and gens d'armes made the condemned march in a column to the court of the palace, where five carts, surrounded by an immense crowd, awaited them. The moment they emerged from the Conciergerie, the Girondists burst into the "Marseillaise," laying stress on these verses, which contained a double meaning:
Contre nous de la tyrannie L'etendard sanglant est leve.
From this moment they ceased to think of themselves, in order to think of the example of the death of republicans they wished to leave the people. Their voices sank at the end of each verse, only to rise more sonorous at the first line of the next verse. On their arrival at the scaffold they all embraced, in token of community in liberty, life, and death, and then resumed their funeral chant.
All died without weakness. The hymn became feebler at each fall of the axe; one voice still continued it, that of Vergniaud. Like his companions, he did not die, but passed in enthusiasm, and his life, begun by immortal orations, ended in a hymn to the eternity of the revolution.
* * * * *
HIPPOLYTE ADOLPHE TAINE
The Modern Regime
The early life of Hippolyte Adolphe Taine is notable for its successes and its disappointments. Born at Vouziers, in Ardennes, on April 21, 1838, he passed with great distinction through the College de Bourbon and the Ecole Normale. Until he was twenty-five he filled minor positions at Toulon, Nevers, and Poitiers; and then, hopeless of further promotion, he abandoned educational work, returned to Paris, and devoted himself to letters. During 1863-64 he produced his "History of English Literature," a work which, on account of Taine's uncompromising determinist views, raised a clerical storm in France. About 1871 Taine conceived the idea of his great life work, "Les Origines de la France Contemporaine," in which he proposed to trace the causes and effects of the revolution of 1789. The first of the series, "The Ancient Regime," appeared in 1875; the second, "The Revolution," in 1878-81-85; and the third, "The Modern Regime," in 1890-94. As a study of events arising out of the greatest drama of modern times the supremacy of the last-named is unquestioned. It stands apart as a trenchant analysis of modern France, Taine's conclusions being that the Revolution, instead of establishing liberty, destroyed it. Taine died on March 5, 1893.
I.—The Architect of Modern France
In trying to explain to ourselves the meaning of an edifice, we must take into account whatever has opposed or favoured its construction, the kind and quality of its available materials, the time, the opportunity, and the demand for it; but, still more important, we must consider the genius and taste of the architect, especially whether he is the proprietor, whether he built it to live in himself, and, once installed in it, whether he took pains to adapt it to his own way of living, to his own necessities, to his own use.
Such is the social edifice erected by Napoleon Bonaparte, its architect, proprietor, and principal occupant from 1799 to 1814. It is he who has made modern France. Never was an individual character so profoundly stamped on any collective work, so that, to comprehend the work, we must first study the character of the man.
Contemplate in Guerin's picture the spare body, those narrow shoulders under the uniform wrinkled by sudden movements, that neck swathed in its high, twisted cravat, those temples covered by long, smooth, straight hair, exposing only the mask, the hard features intensified through strong contrasts of light and shade, the cheeks hollow up to the inner angle of the eye, the projecting cheek-bones, the massive, protuberant jaw, the sinuous, mobile lips, pressed together as if attentive; the large, clear eyes, deeply sunk under the broad arched eyebrows, the fixed oblique look, as penetrating as a rapier, and the two creases which extend from the base of the nose to the brow as if in a frown of suppressed anger and determined will. Add to this the accounts of his contemporaries who saw or heard the curt accent, or the sharp, abrupt gesture, the interrogating, imperious, absolute tone of voice, and we comprehend how, the moment they accosted him, they felt the dominating hand which seizes them, presses them down, holds them firmly, and never relaxes its grasp.
Now, in every human society a government is necessary, or, in other words, an organisation of the power of the community. No other machine is so useful. But a machine is useful only as it is adapted to its purpose; otherwise it does not work well, or it works adversely to that purpose. Hence, in its construction, the prime necessity of calculating what work it has to do, also the quantity of the materials one has at one's disposal.
During the French Revolution, legislators had never taken this into consideration; they had constituted things as theorists, and likewise as optimists, without closely studying them, or else regarding them as they wished to have them. In the national assemblies, as well as with the public, the task was deemed easy and ordinary, whereas it was extraordinary and immense, for the matter in hand consisted in effecting a social revolution and in carrying on a European war.
What is the service which the public power renders to the public? The principal one is the protection of the community against the foreigner, and of private individuals against each other. Evidently, to do this, it must in all cases be provided with indispensable means, namely, diplomats, an army, a fleet, arsenals, civil and criminal courts, prisons, a police, taxation and tax-collectors, a hierarchy of agents and local supervisors, who, each in his place and attending to his special duty, will co-operate in securing the desired effect. Evidently, again, to apply all these instruments, the public power must have, according to the case, this or that form of constitution, this or that degree of impulse and energy; according to the nature and gravity of external or internal danger, it is proper that it should be concentrated or divided, emancipated from control or under control, authoritative or liberal. No indignation need be cherished beforehand against its mechanism, whatever this may be. Properly speaking, it is a vast engine in the human community, like any given industrial machine in a factory, or any set of organs belonging to the living body.
Unfortunately, in France, at the end of the eighteenth century, a bent was taken in the organisation of this machine, and a wrong bent. For three centuries and more the public power had unceasingly violated and discredited spontaneous bodies. At one time it had mutilated them and decapitated them. For example, it had suppressed provincial governments (etats) over three-quarters of the territory in all the electoral districts; nothing remained of the old province but its name and an administrative circumscription. At another time, without mutilating the corporate body, it had enervated and deformed it, or dislocated and disjointed it.
Corporations and local bodies, thus deprived of, or diverted from, their purpose, had become unrecognisable under the crust of the abuses which disfigured them; nobody, except a Montesquieu, could comprehend why they should exist. On the approach of the revolution they seemed, not organs, but excrescences, deformities, and, so to say, superannuated monstrosities. Their historical and natural roots, their living germs far below the surface, their social necessity, their fundamental utility, their possible usefulness, were no longer visible.
II.—The Body-Social of a Despot
Corporations, and local bodies being thus emasculated, by the end of the eighteenth century the principal features of modern France are traced; a creature of a new and strange type arises, defines itself, and issues forth its structure determining its destiny. It consists of a social body organised by a despot and for a despot, calculated for the use of one man, excellent for action under the impulsion of a unique will, with a superior intelligence, admirable so long as this intelligence remains lucid and this will remain healthy; adapted to a military life and not to civil life and therefore badly balanced, hampered in its development, exposed to periodical crises, condemned to precocious debility, but able to live for a long time, and for the present, robust, alone able to bear the weight of the new dominion and to furnish for fifteen successive years the crushing labour, the conquering obedience, the superhuman, murderous, insensate effort which its master, Napoleon, exacts.
However clear and energetic the ideas of Napoleon are when he sets to work to make the New Regime, his mind is absorbed by the preoccupations of the sovereign. It is not enough for him that his edifice should be monumental, symmetrical, and beautiful. First of all, as he lives in it and derives the greatest benefit from it, he wants it habitable, and habitable for Frenchmen of the year 1800. Consequently, he takes into account the habits and dispositions of his tenants, the pressing and permanent wants for which the new structure is to provide. These wants, however, must not be theoretic and vague, but verified and defined; for he is a calculator as close as he is profound, and deals only with positive facts.
To restore tranquillity, many novel measures are essential. And first, the political and administrative concentration just decreed, a centralisation of all powers in one hand, local powers conferred by the central power, and this supreme power in the hands of a resolute chief equal in intelligence to his high position; next, a regularly paid army, carefully equipped, properly clothed, and fed, strictly disciplined, and therefore obedient and able to do its duty without wavering or faltering, like any other instrument of precision; an active police force and gendarmerie held in check; administrators independent of those under their jurisdiction—all appointed, maintained, watched and restrained from above, as impartial as possible, sufficiently competent, and, in their official spheres, capable functionaries; finally, freedom of worship, and, accordingly, a treaty with Rome and the restoration of the Catholic Church—that is to say, a legal recognition of the orthodox hierarchy, and of the only clergy which the faithful may accept as legitimate—in other words, the institution of bishops by the Pope, and of priests by the bishops. This done, the rest is easily accomplished.
The main thing now is to dress the severe wounds the revolution has made—which are still bleeding—with as little torture as possible, for it has cut down to the quick; and its amputations, whether foolish or outrageous, have left sharp pains or mute suffering in the social organism.
Above all, religion must be restored. Before 1789, the ignorant or indifferent Catholic, the peasant at his plough, the mechanic at his work-bench, the good wife attending to her household, were unconscious of the innermost part of religion; thanks to the revolution, they have acquired the sentiment of it, and even the physical sensation. It is the prohibition of the mass which has led them to comprehend its importance; it is the revolutionary government which has transformed them into theologians.
From the year IV. (1795) the orthodox priests have again recovered their place and ascendancy in the peasant's soul which the creed assigns to them; they have again become the citizen's serviceable guides, his accepted directors, the only warranted interpreters of Christian truth, the only authorised dispensers and ministers of divine grace. He attends their mass immediately on their return, and will put up with no other.
Napoleon, therefore, as First Consul, concludes the Concordat with the Pope and restores religion. By this Concordat the Pope "declares that neither himself nor his successors shall in any manner disturb the purchasers of alienated ecclesiastical property, and that the ownership of the said property, the rights and revenues derived therefrom, shall consequently remain incommutable in their hands or in those of their assigns."
There remain the institutions for instruction. With respect to these, the restoration seems more difficult, for their ancient endowment is almost entirely wasted; the government has nothing to give back but dilapidated buildings, a few scattered investments formerly intended for the maintenance of a college scholarship, or for a village schoolhouse. And to whom should these be returned, since the college and the schoolhouse no longer exist? Fortunately, instruction is an article of such necessity that a father almost always tries to procure it for his children; even if poor, he is willing to pay for it, if not too dear; only, he wants that which pleases him in kind and in quality, and, therefore, from a particular source, bearing this or that factory stamp or label.
The state invites everybody, the communes as well as private persons, to the undertaking. It is on their liberality that it relies for replacing the ancient foundations; it solicits gifts and legacies in favour of new establishments, and it promises "to surround these donations with the most invariable respect." Meanwhile, and as a precautionary measure, it assigns to each its eventual duty; if the commune establishes a primary school for itself, it must provide the tutor with a lodging, and the parents must compensate him; if the commune founds a college or accepts a lycee, it must pay for the annual support of the building, while the pupils, either day-scholars or boarders, pay accordingly.
In this way the heavy expenses are already met, and the state, the manager-general of the service, furnishes simply a very small quota; and this quota, mediocre as a rule, is found almost null in fact, for its main largess consists in 6,400 scholarships which it establishes and engages to support; but it confers only about 3,000 of them, and it distributes nearly all of these among the children of its military or civil employees, so that the son's scholarship becomes additional pay for the father; thus, the two millions which the state seems, under this head, to assign to the lycees, are actually gratifications which it distributes among its functionaries and officials. It takes back with one hand what it bestows with the other.
This being granted, it organises the university and maintains it, not at its own expense, however, but at the expense of others, at the expense of private persons and parents, of the communes, and, above all, at the expense of rival schools and private boarding-schools, of the free institutions, and all this in favour of the university monopoly which subjects these to special taxation as ingenious as it is multifarious. Whoever is privileged to carry on a private school, must pay from two to three hundred francs to the university; likewise, every person obtaining permission to lecture on literature or on science.
III.—The New Taxation, Fiscal and Bodily
Now, as to taxes. The collection of a direct tax is a surgical operation performed on the taxpayer, one which removes a piece of his substance; he suffers on account of this, and submits to it only because he is obliged to. If the operation is performed on him by other hands, he submits to it voluntarily or not; but if he has to do it himself, spontaneously and with his own hands, it is not to be thought of. On the other hand, the collection of a direct tax according to the prescriptions of distributive justice is a subjection of each taxpayer to an amputation proportionate to his bulk, or at least to his surface; this requires delicate calculation and is not to be entrusted to the patients themselves; for not only are they surgical novices and poor calculators, but, again, they are interested in calculating falsely.
To this end, Napoleon establishes two divisions of direct taxation: one, the real-estate tax, which has no bearing on the taxpayer without any property; and the other the personal tax, which does affect him, but lightly. Such a system favours the poor; in other words, it is an infraction of the principle of distributive justice; through the almost complete exemption of those who have no property, the burden of direct taxation falls almost entirely on those who own property. If they are manufacturers, or in commerce, they support still another burden, that of the license tax, which is a supplementary impost proportioned to their probable gains. Finally, to all these annual and extra taxes, levied on the probable or certain income derived from invested or floating capital, the exchequer adds an eventual tax on capital itself, consisting of the mutation tax, assessed on property every time it changes hands through gift, inheritance, or by contract, obtaining its title under free donation or by sale, and which tax, aggravated by the timbre, is enormous, since, in most cases, it takes five, seven, nine, and up to ten and one-half per cent, on the capital transmitted.
One tax remains, and the last, that by which the state takes, no longer money, but the person himself, the entire man, soul and body, and for the best years of his life, namely, military service. It is the revolution which has rendered this so burdensome; formerly it was light, for, in principle, it was voluntary. The militia, alone, was raised by force, and, in general, among the country people; the peasants furnished men for it by casting lots. But it was simply a supplement to the active army, a territorial and provincial reserve, a distinct, sedentary body of reinforcements, and of inferior rank which, except in case of war, never marched; it turned out but nine days of the year, and, after 1778, never turned out again. In 1789 it comprised in all 75,260 men, and for eleven years their names, inscribed on the registers, alone constituted their presence in the ranks.
Napoleon put this military system in order. Henceforth every male able-bodied adult must pay the debt of blood; no more exemptions in the way of military service; all young men who had reached the required age drew lots in the conscription and set out in turn according to the order fixed by their drafted number.
But Napoleon is an intelligent creditor; he knows that this debt is "most frightful and most detestable for families," that his debtors are real, living men, and therefore different in kind, that the head of the state should keep these differences in mind, that is to say, their condition, their education, their sensibility and their vocation; that, not only in their private interest, but again in the interest of the public, not merely through prudence, but also through equity, all should not be indistinguishably restricted to the same mechanical pursuit, to the same manual labour, to the same indefinite servitude of soul and body.
Napoleon also exempts the conscript who has a brother in the active army, the only son of a widow, the eldest of three orphans, the son of a father seventy-one years old dependent on his labour, all of whom are family supports. He joins with these all young men who enlist in one of his civil militias, in his ecclesiastical militia, or in his university militia, pupils of the Ecole Normale, seminarians for the priesthood, on condition that they shall engage to do service in their vocation, and do it effectively, some for ten years, others for life, subject to a discipline more rigid, or nearly as rigid, as military discipline.
IV.—The Prefect Absolute
Yet another institution which Napoleon gave to the Modern Regime in France is the Prefect of a Department. Before 1870, when this prefect appointed the mayors, and when the council general held its session only fifteen days in the year, this Prefect was almost omnipotent; still, at the present day, his powers are immense, and his power remains preponderant. He has the right to suspend the municipal council and the mayor, and to propose their dismissal to the head of the state. Without resorting to this extremity, he holds them with a strong hand, and always uplifted over the commune, for he can veto the acts of the municipal police and of the road committee, annul the regulations of the mayor, and, through a skilful use of his prerogative, impose his own. He holds in hand, removes, appoints or helps appoint, not alone the clerks in his office, but likewise every kind and degree of clerk who, outside his office, serves the commune or department, from the archivist down to and comprising the lowest employees, such as forest-guards of the department, policemen posted at the corner of a street, and stone-breakers on the public highway.
Such, in brief, is the system of local and general society in France from the Napoleonic time down to the date 1889, when these lines are written. After the philosophic demolitions of the revolution, and the practical constructions of the consulate, national or general government is a vast despotic centralised machine, and local government could no longer be a small patrimony.
The departments and communes have become more or less vast lodging-houses, all built on the same plan and managed according to the same regulations, one as passable as the other, with apartments in them which, more or less good, are more or less dear, but at rates which, higher or lower, are fixed at a uniform tariff over the entire territory, so that the 36,000 communal buildings and the eighty-six department hotels are about equal, it making but little difference whether one lodges in the latter rather than in the former. The permanent taxpayers of both sexes who have made these premises their home have not obtained recognition for what they are, invincibly and by nature, a syndicate of neighbours, an involuntary, obligatory association, in which physical solidarity engenders moral solidarity, a natural, limited society whose members own the building in common, and each possesses a property-right more or less great according to the contribution he makes to the expenses of the establishment.
Up to this time no room has yet been found, either in the law or in minds, for this very plain truth; its place is taken and occupied in advance by the two errors which in turn, or both at once, have led the legislator and opinion astray.
* * * * *
Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great, born on January 24, 1712, at Berlin, succeeded to the throne of Prussia in 1740, and died on August 17, 1786, at Potsdam, being the third king of Prussia, the regal title having been acquired by his grandfather, whose predecessors had borne the title of Elector of Brandenburg. Building on the foundations laid by his great-grandfather and his father, he raised his comparatively small and poor kingdom to the position of a first-class military power, and won for himself rank with the greatest of all generals, often matching his troops victoriously against forces of twice and even thrice their number. In Thomas Carlyle he found an enthusiastic biographer, somewhat prone, however, to find for actions of questionable public morality a justification in "immutable laws" and "veracities," which to other eyes is a little akin to Wordsworth's apology for Rob Roy. But whether we accept Carlyle's estimate of him or no, the amazing skill, tenacity, and success with which he stood at bay virtually against all Europe, while Great Britain was fighting as his ally her own duel in France in the Seven Years' War, constitutes an unparallelled achievement. "Frederick the Great" was begun about 1848, the concluding volumes appearing in 1865. (Carlyle, see LIVES AND LETTERS.)
I.—Forebears and Childhood
About the year 1780 there used to be seen sauntering on the terrace of Sans-Souci a highly interesting, lean, little old man of alert though slightly stooping figure, whose name among strangers was King Friedrich II., or Frederick the Great of Prussia, and at home among the common people was Vater Fritz—Father Fred. A king every inch of him, though without the trappings of a king; in a Spartan simplicity of vesture. In 1786 his speakings and his workings came to finis in this world of time. Editors vaguely account this man the creator of the Prussian monarchy, which has since grown so large in the world.
He was born in the palace of Berlin, about noon, on January 24, 1712; a small infant, but of great promise and possibility. Friedrich Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Prussia, father of this little infant, did himself make some noise in the world as second king of Prussia.
The founder of the line was Conrad of Hohenzollern, who came to seek his fortune under Barbarossa, greatest of all the kaisers. Friedrich I. of that line was created Elector of Brandenburg in 1415; the eleventh in succession was Friedrich Wilhelm, the "Great Elector," who in 1640 found Brandenburg annihilated, and left it in 1688 sound and flourishing, a great country, or already on the way towards greatness; a most rapid, clear-eyed, active man. His son got himself made King of Prussia, and was Friedrich I., who was still reigning when his grandson, Frederick the Great, was born. Not two years later Friedrich Wilhelm is king.
Of that strange king and his strange court there is no light to be had except from the book written by Frederick's little sister, Wilhelmina, when she grew to size and knowledge of good and evil—a flickery wax taper held over Frederick's childhood. In the breeding of him there are two elements noticeable, widely diverse—the French and the German. Of his infantine history the course was in general smooth. The boy, it was said, was of extraordinary vivacity; only he takes less to soldiering than the paternal heart could wish. The French element is in his governesses—good Edict-of-Nantes ladies.
For the boy's teachers, Friedrich Wilhelm has rules for guidance strict enough. He is to be taught useful knowledge—history of the last hundred and fifty years, arithmetic, fortification; but nothing useless of Latin and the like. Spartan training, too, which shall make a soldier of him. Whereas young Fritz has vivacities, a taste for music, finery, and excursions into forbidden realms distasteful and incomprehensible to Friedrich Wilhelm. We perceive the first small cracks of incurable division in the royal household, traceable from Fritz's sixth or seventh year; a divulsion splitting ever wider, new offences super-adding themselves. This Fritz ought to fashion himself according to his father's pattern, and he does not. These things make life all bitter for son and for father, necessitating the proud son to hypocrisies very foreign to him had there been other resource.
The boy in due time we find (at fifteen) attached to the amazing regiment of giants, drilling at Potsdam; on very ill terms with his father, however, who sees in him mainly wilful disobedience and frivolity. Once, when Prussia and Hanover seem on the verge of war over an utterly trivial matter, our crown prince acquires momentary favour. The Potsdam Guards are ordered to the front, and the prince handles them with great credit. But the favour is transitory, seeing that he is caught reading French books, and arrayed in a fashion not at all pleasing to the Spartan parent.
II.—The Crown Prince Leaves Kingship
The life is indeed so intolerable that Fritz is with difficulty dissuaded from running away. The time comes when he will not be dissuaded, resolves that he will endure no longer. There were only three definite accomplices in the wild scheme, which had a very tragical ending. Of the three, Lieutenant Keith, scenting discovery, slipped over the border and so to England; his brother, Page Keith, feeling discovery certain, made confession, after vigilance had actually stopped the prince when he was dressed for the flight. There was terrible wrath of the father over the would-be "deserter and traitor," and not less over the other accomplice, Lieutenant Katte, who had dallied too long. The crown prince himself was imprisoned; court-martial held on the offenders; a too-lenient sentence was overruled by the king, and Katte was executed. The king was near frenzied, but beyond doubt thought honestly that he was doing no more than justice demanded.
As for the crown prince himself, deserting colonel of a regiment, the court-martial, with two dissentients, condemned him to death; sentence which the Junius Brutus of a king would have duly carried out. But remonstrance is universal, and an autograph letter from the kaiser seemingly decisive. Frederick was, as it were, retired to a house of his own and a court of his own—court very strictly regulated—at Cuestrin; not yet a soldier of the Prussian army, but hoping only to become so again; while he studied the domain sciences, more particularly the rigidly economical principles of state finance as practised by his father. The tragedy has taught him a lesson, and he has more to learn. That period is finally ended when he is restored to the army in 1732.
Reconciliation, complete submission, and obedience, a prince with due appreciation of facts has now made up his mind to; very soon shaped into acceptance of paternal demand that he shall wed Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, insipid niece of the kaiser. In private correspondence he expresses himself none too submissively, but offers no open opposition to the king's wishes.
The charmer of Brunswick turned out not so bad as might have been expected; not ill-looking; of an honest, guileless heart, if little articulate intellect; considerable inarticulate sense; after marriage, which took place in June 1733, shaped herself successfully to the prince's taste, and grew yearly gracefuller and better-looking. But the affair, before it came off, gave rise to a certain visit of Friedrich Wilhelm to the kaiser, of which in the long run the outcome was that complete distrust of the kaiser displaced the king's heretofore determined loyalty to him.
Meanwhile an event has fallen out at Warsaw. Augustus, the physically strong, is no more; transcendent king of edacious flunkies, father of 354 children, but not without fine qualities; and Poland has to find a new king. His death kindled foolish Europe generally into fighting, and gave our crown prince his first actual sight and experience of the facts of war. Stanislaus is overwhelmingly the favourite candidate, supported, too, by France. The other candidate, August of Saxony, secures the kaiser's favour by promise of support to his Pragmatic Sanction; and the appearance of Russian troops secures "freedom of election" and choice of August by the electors who are not absent. August is crowned, and Poland in a flame. Friedrich Wilhelm cares not for Polish elections, but, as by treaty bound, provides 10,000 men to support the kaiser on the Rhine, while he gives asylum to the fugitive Stanislaus. Crown prince, now twenty-two, is with the force; sees something of warfare, but nothing big.
War being finished, Frederick occupied a mansion at Reinsberg with his princess, and things went well, if economically, with much correspondence with the other original mind of those days, Voltaire. But big events are coming now. Mr. Jenkins's ear re-emerges from cotton-wool after seven years, and Walpole has to declare war with Spain in 1739. Moreover, Friedrich Wilhelm is exceedingly ill. In May 1740 comes a message—Frederick must come to Potsdam quickly if he is to see his father again. The son comes. "Am not I happy to have such a son to leave behind me?" says the dying king. On May 31 he dies. No baresark of them, nor Odin's self, was a bit of truer stuff.
III.—The Silesian Wars
Shall we, then, have the philosopher-king, as Europe dimly seems to half expect? He begins, indeed, with opening corn magazines, abolishing legal torture; will have freedom of conscience and the Press; encourage philosophers and men of letters. In those days he had his first meeting with Voltaire, recorded for us by the Frenchman twenty years later; for his own reasons, vitriolically and with inaccuracies, the record amounting to not much. Frederick was suffering from a quartan fever. Of which ague he was cured by the news that Kaiser Carl died on October 20, and Maria Theresa was proclaimed sovereign of the Hapsburg inheritance, according to the Pragmatic Sanction.
Whereupon, without delay, Frederick forms a resolution, which had sprung and got to sudden fixity in the head of the young king himself, and met with little save opposition from all others—to make good his rights in Silesia. A most momentous resolution; not the peaceable magnanimities, but the warlike, are the thing appointed for Frederick henceforth.
In mid-December the troops entered Silesia; except in the hills, where Catholics predominate, with marked approbation of the population, we find. Of warlike preparation to meet the Prussians is practically none, and in seven weeks Silesia is held, save three fortresses easy to manage in spring. Will the hold be maintained?
Meanwhile, France will have something to say, moved by a figure not much remembered, yet notable, Marshal Belleisle; perhaps, after Frederick and Voltaire, the most notable of that time. A man of large schemes, altogether accordant with French interests, but not, unfortunately, with facts and law of gravitation. For whom the first thing needful is that Grand Duke Franz, husband of Maria Theresa, shall not be elected kaiser; who shall be is another matter—why not Karl Albert of Bavaria as well as another?
After brief absence, Frederick is soon back in Silesia, to pay attention to blockaded Glogau and Brieg and Neisse; harassed, however, by Austrian Pandours out of Glatz, a troublesome kind of cavalry. The siege of Neisse is to open on April 4, when we find Austrian Neipperg with his army approaching; by good fortune a dilatory Neipperg; of which comes the battle of Mollwitz.
In which fight victory finally rested with Prussians and Schwerin, who held the field, Austrians retiring, but not much pursued; demonstration that a new military power is on the scene (April 10). A victory, though, of old Friedrich Wilhelm, and his training and discipline, having in it as yet nothing of young Frederick's own.
A battle, however, which in effect set going the conflagration unintelligible to Englishmen, known as War of the Austrian Accession. In which we observe a clear ground for Anglo-Spanish War, and Austro-Prussian War; but what were the rest doing? France is the author of it, as an Anti-Pragmatic war; George II. and Hanover are dragged into it as a Pragmatic war; but the intervention of France at all was barefacedly unjust and gratuitous. To begin with, however, Belleisle's scheming brings about election to kaisership of Karl Albert of Bavaria, principal Anti-Pragmatic claimant to the Austrian heritage.
Brieg was taken not long after Mollwitz, and now many diplomatists come to Frederick's camp at Strehlen. In effect, will he choose English or French alliance? Will England get him what will satisfy him from Austria? If not, French alliance and war with Austria—which problem issues in treaty with France—mostly contingent. Diplomatising continues, no one intending to be inconveniently loyal to engagements; so that four months after French treaty comes another engagement or arrangement of Klein Schnelendorf—Frederick to keep most of Silesia, but a plausible show of hostilities—nothing more—to be maintained for the present. In consequence of which Frederick solemnly captures Neisse.
The arrangement, however, comes to grief, enough of it being divulged from Vienna to explode it. Out of which comes the Moravian expedition; by inertness of allies turned into a mere Moravian foray, "the French acting like fools, and the Saxons like traitors," growls Frederick.
Raid being over, Prince Karl, brother of Grand Duke Franz, comes down with his army, and follows the battle of Chotusitz, also called of Czaslau. A hard-fought battle, ending in defeat of the Austrians; not in itself decisive, but the eyes of Europe very confirmatory of the view that the Austrians cannot beat the Prussians. From a wounded general, too, Frederick learns that the French have been making overtures for peace on their own account, Prussia to be left to Austria if she likes, of which is documentary proof.
No need, then, for Frederick to be scrupulous about making his own terms. His Britannic Majesty is urgent that Maria Theresa should agree with Frederick. Out of which comes Treaty of Breslau, ceding Silesia to Prussia; and exceeding disgust of Belleisle, ending the first Silesian War.
With which Frederick would have liked to see the European war ended altogether; but it went on, Austria, too, prospering. He tries vainly to effect combinations to enforce peace. George of England, having at last fairly got himself into the war, and through the battle of Dettingen, valorously enough; operations emerging in a Treaty of Worms (September 1743), mainly between England and Austria, which does not guarantee the Breslau Treaty. An expressive silence! "What was good to give is good to take." Is Frederick, then, not secure of Silesia? If he must guard his own, he can no longer stand aside. So the Worms Treaty begets an opposition treaty, chief parties Prussia, France, and Kaiser Karl Albert of Bavaria, signed at Frankfurt-on-Maine, May 1744.
Before which France has actually declared war on England, with whose troops her own have been fighting for a not inconsiderable time without declaration of war; and all the time fortifications in Silesia have been becoming realities. Frederick will strike when his moment comes.
The imperative moment does come when Prince Karl, or, more properly, Traun, under cloak of Prince Karl, seems on the point of altogether crushing the French. Frederick intervenes, in defence of the kaiser; swoops on Bohemia, captures Prag; in short, brings Prince Karl and Traun back at high speed, unhindered by French. Thenceforward, not a successfully managed campaign on Frederick's part, admirably conducted on the other side by Traun. This campaign the king's school in the art of war, and M. de Traun his teacher—so Frederick himself admits.
Austria is now sure to invade Silesia; will Frederick not block the passes against Prince Karl, now having no Traun under his cloak? Frederick will not—one leaves the mouse-trap door open, pleasantly baited, moreover, into which mouse Karl will walk. And so, three weeks after that remarkable battle of Fontenoy, in another quarter, very hard-won victory of Marechal Saxe over Britannic Majesty's Martial Boy, comes battle of Hohenfriedberg. A most decisive battle, "most decisive since Blenheim," wrote Frederick, whose one desire now is peace.
Britannic Majesty makes peace for himself with Frederick, being like to have his hands full with a rising in the Scotch Highlands; Austria will not, being still resolute to recover Silesia—rejects bait of Prussian support in imperial election for Wainz, Kaiser Karl being now dead. What is kaisership without Silesia? Prussia has no insulted kaiser to defend, desires no more than peace on the old Breslau terms properly ratified; but finances are low. Grand Duke Franz is duly elected; but the empress queen will have Silesia. Battle of Sohr does not convince her. There must be another surprising last attempt by Saxony and Austria; settled by battles of Hennensdorf and Kesselsdorf.
So at last Frederick got the Peace of Dresden—security, it is to be hoped, in Silesia, the thing for which he had really gone to war; leaving the rest of the European imbroglio to get itself settled in its own fashion after another two years of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
Frederick now has ten years of peace before him, during which his actions and salutary conquests over difficulties were many, profitable to Prussia and himself. Frederick has now, by his second Silesian war, achieved greatness; "Frederick the Great," expressly so denominated by his people and others. However, there are still new difficulties, new perils and adventures ahead.
For the present, then, Frederick declines the career of conquering hero; goes into law reform; gets ready a country cottage for himself, since become celebrated under the name of Sans-Souci. General war being at last ended, he receives a visit from Marechal Saxe, brilliant French field-marshal, most dissipated man of his time, one of the 354 children of Augustus the Physically Strong.
But the ten years are passing—there is like to be another war. Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, made in a hurry, had left some questions open in America, answered in one way by the French, quite otherwise by English colonists. Canada and Louisiana mean all America west of the Alleghanies? Why then? Whomsoever America does belong to, it surely is not France. Braddock disasters, Frenchmen who understand war—these things are ominous; but there happens to be in England a Mr. Pitt. Here in Europe, too, King Frederick had come in a profoundly private manner upon certain extensive anti-Prussian symptoms—Austrian, Russian, Saxon—of a most dangerous sort; in effect, an underground treaty for partitioning Prussia; knowledge thereof extracted from Dresden archives.
IV.—The Seven Years' War Opens
Very curious diplomatisings, treaties, and counter-treaties are going on. What counts is Frederick's refusal to help France against England, and agreement with George of England—and of Hanover—to keep foreign troops off German soil? Also Kaunitz has twirled Austrian policy on its axis; we are to be friends with France. In this coming war, England and Austria, hitherto allies, to be foes; France and Austria, hitherto foes, to be allies.
War starts with the French capture of Minorca and the Byng affair, well known. What do the movements of Russian and Austrian troops mean? Frederick asks at Vienna; answer is no answer. We are ready then; Saxony is the key to Bohemia. Frederick marches into Saxony, demands inspection of Dresden Archives, with originals of documents known to him; blockades the Saxons in Pirna, somewhat forcibly requiring not Saxon neutrality, but Saxon alliance. And meanwhile neither France nor Austria is deaf to the cries of Saxon-Polish majesty. Austrian Field-Marshal Browne is coming to relieve the Saxons; is foiled, but not routed, at Lobositz; tries another move, executing admirably his own part, but the Saxons fail in theirs; the upshot, capitulation, the Saxon troops forced to volunteer as Prussians.
For the coming year, 1757, there are arrayed against Frederick four armies—French, Austrian, Russian, Swedish; help only from a Duke of Cumberland on the Weser; the last two enemies not presently formidable. He is not to stand on the defensive, but to go on it; startles the world by suddenly marching on Prag, in three columns. Before Prag a mighty battle desperately fought; old Schwerin killed, Austrian Browne wounded mortally—fatal to Austria; Austrians driven into Prag, with loss of 13,000 men. Not annihilative, since Prag can hold out, though with prospect of famishing.
But Daun is coming, in no haste—Fabius Cunctator about to be named—with 60,000 men; does come to Kolin. Frederick attacks; but a blunder of too-impetuous Mannstein fatally overturns the plan of battle; to which the resulting disaster is imputed: disaster seemingly overwhelming and irretrievable, but Daun does not follow up. The siege of Prag is raised and the Prussian army—much smaller—retreats to Saxony. And on the west Cumberland is in retreat seawards, after Hastenbeck, and French armies are advancing; Cumberland very soon mercifully to disappear, Convention of Kloster-Seven unratified. But Pitt at last has hold of the reins in England, and Ferdinand of Brunswick gets nominated to succeed Cumberland—Pitt's selection?
In these months nothing comes but ill-fortune; clouds gathering; but all leading up to a sudden and startling turning of tables. In October, Soubise is advancing; and then—Rossbach. Soubise thinks he has Frederick outflanked, finds himself unexpectedly taken on flank instead; rolled up and shattered by a force hardly one-third of his own; loses 8,000 men, the Prussians not 600; a tremendous rout, after which Frederick had no more fighting with the French.
Having settled Soubise and recovered repute, Frederick must make haste to Silesia, where Prince Karl, along with Fabius Daun, is already proclaiming Imperial Majesty again, not much hindered by Bevern. Schweidnitz falls; Bevern, beaten at Breslau, gets taken prisoner; Prussian army marches away; Breslau follows Schweidnitz. This is what Frederick finds, three weeks after Rossbach. Well, we are one to three we will have at Prince Karl—soldiers as ready and confident as the king, their hero. Challenge accepted by Prince Karl; consummate manoeuvring, borrowed from Epaminondas, and perfect discipline wreck the Austrian army at Leuthen; conquest of Silesia brought to a sudden end. The most complete of all Frederick's victories.
Next year (1758) the first effective subsidy treaty with England takes shape, renewed annually; England to provide Frederick with two-thirds of a million sterling. Ferdinand has got the French clear over Rhine already. Frederick's next adventure, a swoop on Olmuetz, is not successful; the siege not very well managed; Loudon, best of partisan commanders, is dispatched by Daun to intercept a very necessary convoy; which means end of siege. Cautious Daun does not strike on the Prussian retreat, not liking pitched battles.
However, it is now time to face an enemy with whom we have not yet fought; of whose fighting capacity we incline to think little, in spite of warnings of Marshal Keith, who knows them. The Russians have occupied East Prussia and are advancing. On August 25, Frederick comes to hand-grips with Russia—Theseus and the Minotaur at Zorndorf; with much ultimate slaughter of Russians, Seidlitz, with his calvary, twice saving the day; the bloodiest battle of the Seven Years' War, giving Frederick new views of Russian obstinacy in the field. The Russians finally retire; time for Frederick to be back in Saxony.
For Daun has used his opportunity to invade Saxony; very cleverly checked by Prince Henri, while Frederick is on his way back. To Daun's surprise, the king moves off on Silesia. Daun moved on Dresden. Frederick, having cleared Silesia, sped back, and Daun retired. The end of the campaign leaves the two sides much as it found them; Frederick at least not at all annihilated. Ferdinand also has done excellently well.
V.—Frederick at Bay
Not annihilated, but reduced to the defensive; best of his veterans killed off by now, exchequer very deficient in spite of English subsidy. The allies form a huge cordon all round; broken into at points during the spring, but Daun finds at last that Frederick does not mean any invasion; that he, Daun, must be the invader. But now and hereafter Fabius Cunctator waits for Russia.
In summer Russia is moving; Soltikoff, with 75,000 men, advancing, driving back Dohna. Frederick's best captains are all gone now; he tries a new one, Wedell, who gets beaten at Zuellichau. Moreover, Haddick and Loudon are on the way to join Soltikoff. Frederick plans and carries out his movements to intercept the Austrians with extraordinary swiftness; Haddick and Austrian infantry give up the attempted junction, but not so swift-moving Loudon with his 20,000 horse; interception a partial failure, and now Frederick must make straight for the Russians.
Just about this time—August 1—Ferdinand has won the really splendid victory of Minden, on the Weser, a beautiful feat of war; for Pitt and the English in their French duel a mighty triumph; this is Pitt's year, but the worst of all in Frederick's own campaigns. His attack now on the Russians was his worst defeat—at Kunersdorf. Beginning victoriously, he tried to drive victory home with exhausted troops, who were ultimately driven in rout by Loudon with fresh regiments (August 9).