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WHO WAS INTERESTED IN IT?
motive to concentrate an army on Paris and Versailles, and a specious pretext for adjourning the States. But the great mass of the faubourg remained honest, and abstained; it looked on, without moving. The riot, thus confined to a few hundred people, drunkards and thieves, became a disgrace to the authority that permitted it. Besenval at length found his part too ridiculous; he acted, and terminated all very roughly. The court did not thank him for it; it durst not blame him, but it did not say one word to him.*
The parliament could not, for its honour, dispense with opening an inquiry; but the inquiry stopped short. It has been said, without sufficient proof, that it was forbidden in the king's name to proceed.
Who were the instigators? Perhaps nobody. Fire, on those stormy occasions, may burst forth of its own accord. People did not fail to accuse "the revolutionary party.” What was that party? As yet, there was no active association.
It was said that the Duke of Orleans had given money. Why? What did he then gain by it? The great movement then beginning offered to his ambition too many legal chances, for him, at that period, to need to have recourse to riots. True, he was led on by intriguing persons, ready for anything; but their plan at this period was entirely directed towards the States-General; they felt sure, from their duke being the only popular one among the princes, that he was about to take the lead. Every event that might delay the States, appeared to them a misfortune.
Who desired to delay them? Who found an advantage in terrifying the ele tors? Who derived a profit from riot ?
The court alone, we must confess. The affair happened so exactly at the right time for it, that it might be believed to be the author. It is nevertheless more probable that it did not
* Mémoires de Besenval, ii., p. 347.-Madame de Genlis and other friends of the ancien régime, will have it, that these memoirs, so overwhelming against them, were drawn up by the Vicomte de Ségur. Let it be so he must then have written from the notes and memory of Besenval. The memoirs do not the less belong to the latter. Besenval was, I know, but little able to write; but without his confidences, the amiable lampooner would never have made this book so strong, so historical under an aspect of levity; the truth bursts forth and shines there, often with a terrible light; nothing remains but to cast down our eyes.
THE ELECTIONS ARE FINISHED.
begin it, but saw it with pleasure, did nothing to prevent it, and regretted it was so soon over. The faubourg Saint-Antoine had not then its terrible reputation; a riot under the very cannon of the Bastille did not seem dangerous.
The nobles of Brittany had given an example of troubling the legal operations of the provincial States, by exciting the peasants, and pitting against the people a populace mingled with lackeys. Even at Paris, a newspaper, the Ami du Roi, a few days before the Réveillon affair, seemed to be attempting the same manœuvre :- "What matter these elections?" said this journal, in a hypocritical tone, "the poor will ever be poor; the lot of the most interesting portion of the kingdom is forgotten," &c. As if the first results of the Revolution which these elections were beginning,-the suppression of tithes and that of the octroi duties, and the aides, and the sale, at a low price, of half the lands in the kingdom, had not produced the most sudden amelioration in the condition of the poor that any people had ever witnessed!
On the morning of the 29th, all had become quiet again. The assembly of the electors were able peaceably to resume their labours. They lasted till the 20th of May; and the court obtained the advantage that it had proposed to itself by this tardy convocation, the preventing the deputation of Paris from being present at the first sittings of the States-General. The last person elected by Paris, and by France, was he who, in public opinion, was the first of all, he who had traced beforehand for the Revolution so straight and simple a path, and had marked its first steps, one by one. Everything was marching forward, according to the plan given by Sieyes with a motion majestic, pacific, and firm, like the Law. Law alone was about to reign; after so many ages of despotism and caprice, the time was arriving when nobody would be right against Right. Let, then, those dreaded States-General at length assemble and open. They who convoked them, and now would wish they had never spoken of them, cannot alter the matter. It is a rising ocean: causes infinite and profound, acting from the depths of ages, agitate the boiling mass. Bring against it, I pray you, all the armies in the world, or an infant's finger; it makes no difference. God is urging it forward; tardy justice, the expiation of the past, the salvation of the future!
OPENING OF THE STATES-GENERAL.
Procession of the States-General.-Opening on the 5th of May.-Necker's Speech.-Question about the Separation of the Orders.-The Third Estate invites the others to unite.-Inaction of the Assembly.-Snares laid for it.-(4th of May to 9th of June, 1789.)
On the eve of the opening of the States-General, the Mass of the Holy Ghost was solemnly said at Versailles. It was certainly that day or never, that they might sing the prophetic hymn :-"Thou wilt create peoples, and the face of the earth shall be renewed."
That grand day was the 4th of May. The twelve hundred deputies, the king, the queen, the whole court, heard the Veni Creator at the Church of Notre-Dame. Next, the immense procession, passing through the whole town, repaired to SaintLouis. The broad streets of Versailles, lined with French guards and Swiss, and hung with the crown tapestry, could not contain the crowd. All Paris was there. The windows,
the very roofs, were loaded with people. The balconies were adorned with precious stuffs, and ornamented with brilliant women, in the coquettish and whimsical costume of that period, diversified with feathers and flowers. All that mass of beings was moved, affected, full of anxiety and hope.* Something grand was beginning. What would be its progress, issue, and results? who could tell? The splendour of such a sight, so varied and majestic, and the music which was heard at different intervals, silenced every other thought.
A grand day, the last of peace, yet the first of an immense future!
The passions were doubtless strong, diverse, and opposite, but not embittered, as they soon became. Even they who had the least desired this new era, could not help sharing the common emotion. A deputy of the nobility confesses that he wept
*See the eye-witnesses, Ferrières, Staël, &c.
PROCESSION OF THE STATES-GENERAL.
for joy: "I saw France, my native land, reclining on Religion, saying to us: Stifle your quarrels.' Tears flowed from my eyes. My God, my country, my fellow-citizens, had become myself."
At the head of the procession appeared first a mass of men clothed in black,-the strong, deep battalion of the five hundred and fifty deputies of the Third Estate; in that number, more than three hundred jurists, advocates, or magistrates, represented forcibly the advent of the law. Modest in their dress, firm in their look and deportment, they marched forward still united, without any distinction of party, all happy on that grand day, which they had made and which was their victory.
The brilliant little troop of the deputies of the nobility came next with their plumed hats, their laces, and gold ornaments. The applause that had welcomed the Third Estate suddenly ceased. Among those nobles, however, about forty seemed as warm friends of the people as the men of the Third-Estate.
The same silence for the clergy. In this order, two orders were distinctly perceptible: a Nobility and a Third Estate: some thirty prelates in lawn sleeves and violet robes; and apart, and separated from them by a choir of musicians, the humble troop of the two hundred curés, in their black, priestly robes.
On beholding that imposing mass of twelve hundred men animated with noble passion, an attentive spectator would have been struck with one thing in particular. They presented very few strongly-delineated individualities; doubtless many men both honourable and of highly prized talents, but none of those who, by the united authority of genius and character, have the right to transport the multitude,- -no great inventor,-no hero. The powerful innovators who had opened the way for that century, then existed no more. Their thought alone remained to guide nations. Great orators arose to express and apply that thought; but they did not add to it. The glory of the Revolution in her earlier moments, but her peril also,—which might render her less certain in her progress, was to go without men, to go alone, by the transport of ideas, on the faith of pure reason, without idols and false gods.
The body of the nobility, which presented itself as the depositary and guardian of our military glory, showed not one
PROCESSION OF THE STATES-GENERAL.
celebrated general. "Obscure men of illustrious origin were all those grand lords of France." One alone perhaps excited some interest, he who, in spite of the court, had been the first to take a part in the American war,—the young and fair Lafayette. Nobody then suspected the prominent part which fortune was about to thrust upon him. The Third Estate, in its obscure mass, already contained the Convention. But who could have seen it? Who recognised, among that crowd of advocates, the stiff form and pale face of a certain lawyer of Arras ?
Two things were noticed: the absence of Sieyes, and the presence of Mirabeau.
Sieyes had not yet come: in that grand movement, people looked for him whose singular sagacity had seen, regulated, calculated, and directed it beforehand.
Mirabeau was present, and attracted everybody's attention. His immense mass of hair, his lion-like head, stamped with extreme ugliness, were astounding, almost frightful; nobody could take his eyes off him. He indeed was visibly a man, and the others were but shadows, —a man, unfortunately, of his time and class, vicious, like the higher society of the day, moreover scandalous, noisy, and courageous in vice: that is what ruined him. The world was full of the romance of his adventures, amours, and passions. For he had had passions, violent, furious ones. Who then had such ? And the tyranny of those passions, so exacting and absorbing, had often led him very low. Poor by the harsh treatment of his family, he suffered moral misery, the vices of the poor besides those of the rich. Family tyranny, state tyranny, moral, internal tyranny, -that of passion. Ah! nobody could hail more fervently that aurora of liberty. He did not despair of there finding liberty, the regeneration of the soul; he used to say so to his friends.* He was about to grow young with France, and throw aside his old stained cloak. Only, it was necessary to live longer; on the threshold of this new life opening before him, though strong, ardent, and impassioned, he had nevertheless seriously injured his constitution; his complexion was altered, and his cheeks had fallen. No matter! He still bore his enormous
* Et Dumont, Souvenirs, p. 27.