FRENCH REVOLUTION means here the open, violent rebellion and victory of disimprisoned 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 chateaux 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 Basel.
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 lanterne! 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--St. 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 tricolour. 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 contact; 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 of 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. From all points of the compass federates arrive. 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.
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