Today’s installment concludes Murders of Louis XVI and Murat; Civil War in France,
our selection from The French Revolution — A History by Thomas Carlyle published in 1837. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of five thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Murders of Louis XVI and Murat; Civil War in France.
Montelimart Town is not buried under its ruins; yet Marseilles is actually marching, under order of a “Lyons Congress”; is incarcerating Patriots; the very Royalists now showing face. Against which a General Cartaux fights, though in small force, and with him an Artillery Major, of the name of — Napoleon Bonaparte. This Napoleon, to prove that the Marseillese have no chance ultimately, not only fights but writes; publishes his Supper of Beaucaire, a Dialogue which has become curious. Unfortunate Cities, with their actions and their reactions! Violence to be paid with violence in geometrical ratio; Royalism and Anarchism both striking in — the final net-amount of which geometrical series, what man shall sum?
Is not La Vendee still blazing — alas too literally — rogue Rossignol burning the very corn-mills? General Santerre could do nothing there. General Rossignol in blind fury, often in liquor, can do less than nothing. Rebellion spreads, grows ever madder. Happily those lean Quixote figures, whom we saw retreating out of Mainz, “bound not to serve against the Coalition for a year,” have got to Paris. National Convention packs them into post-vehicles and conveyances; sends them swiftly, by post, into La Vendee. There valiantly struggling in obscure battle and skirmish, under rogue Rossignol, let them, unlaurelled, save the Republic and “be cut down gradually to the last man.”
Does not the Coalition, like a fire-tide, pour in; Prussia through the opened Northeast; Austria, England through the Northwest? General Houchard prospers no better there than General Custine did. Let him look to it! Through the Eastern and the Western Pyrenees Spain has deployed itself; spreads, rustling with Bourbon banners, over the face of the South. Ashes and embers of confused Girondin civil war covered that region already. Marseilles is damped down, not quenched — to be quenched in blood. Toulon, terror-struck, too far gone for turning, has flung itself, ye righteous Powers, into the hands of the English! On Toulon Arsenal there flies a flag — nay not even the Fleur-de-lis of a Louis Pretender; there flies that accursed St. George’s Cross of the English and Admiral Hood! What remnant of sea-craft, arsenals, roperies, war navy France had, has given itself to these enemies of human nature, “ennemis du genre humain.” Beleaguer it, bombard it, ye Commissioners Barras, Freron, Robespierre Junior; thou General Cartaux, General Dugommier; above all, thou remarkable Artillery-Major, Napoleon Bonaparte! Hood is fortifying himself, victualling himself; means, apparently, to make a new Gibraltar of it.
But lo, in the Autumn night, late night, among the last of August, what sudden red sun-blaze is this that has risen over Lyons City; with a noise to deafen the world? It is the Powder-tower of Lyons, nay the Arsenal with Four Powder-towers, which has caught fire in the Bombardment; and sprung into the air, carrying “a hundred and seventeen houses” after it. With a light, one fancies, as of the noon sun; with a roar second only to the Last Trumpet! All living sleepers far and wide it has awakened. What a sight was that, which the eye of History saw, in the sudden nocturnal sun-blaze!
The roofs of hapless Lyons, and all its domes and steeples made momentarily clear; Rhone and Saone streams flashing suddenly visible; and height and hollow, hamlet and smooth stubble-field, and all the region round; heights, alas, all scarped and counterscarped, into trenches, curtains, redoubts; blue Artillery-men, little Powder devilkins, plying their hell-trade there through the not ambrosial night! Let the darkness cover it again; for it pains the eye. Of a truth, Chalier’s death is costing the City dear. Convention Commissioners, Lyons Congresses have come and gone; and action there was and reaction; bad ever growing worse; till it has come to this; Commissioner Dubois-Crance, “with seventy thousand men, and all the Artillery of several Provinces,” bombarding Lyons day and night.
Worse things still are in store. Famine is in Lyons, and ruin and fire. Desperate are the sallies of the besieged; brave Precy, their National Colonel and Commandant, doing what is in man: desperate but ineffectual. Provisions cut off; nothing entering our city but shot and shell! The Arsenal has roared aloft; the very Hospital will be battered down, and the sick buried alive. A black Flag hung on this latter noble Edifice, appealing to the pity of the besiegers; for though maddened, were they not still our brethren? In their blind wrath, they took it for a flag of defiance, and aimed thitherward the more. Bad is growing ever worse here; and how will the worse stop, till it have grown worst of all? Commissioner Dubois will listen to no pleading, to no speech, save this only: “We surrender at discretion.”
Lyons contains in it subdued Jacobins; dominant Girondins; secret Royalists. And now, mere deaf madness and cannon-shot enveloping them, will not the desperate Municipality fly, at last, into the arms of Royalism itself? Majesty of Sardinia was to bring help, but it failed. Emigrant D’Autichamp, in name of the Two Pretender-Royal-Highnesses, is coming through Switzerland with help; coming, not yet come: Precy hoists the Fleur-de-lis!
At sight of which all true Girondins sorrowfully fling down their arms. Let our Tricolor brethren storm us then and slay us in their wrath; with you we conquer not. The famishing women and children are sent forth: deaf Dubois sends them back — rains in more fire and madness. Our “redoubts of cotton-bags” are taken, retaken; Precy under his Fleur-de-lis is valiant as Despair. What will become of Lyons? It is a siege of seventy days.
Or see, in these same weeks, far in the Western waters: breasting through the Bay of Biscay, a greasy dingy little Merchant ship, with Scotch skipper; under hatches whereof sit, disconsolate, the last forlorn nucleus of Girondism, the Deputies from Quimper! Several have dissipated themselves, whithersoever they could. Poor Riouffe fell into the talons of Revolutionary Committee and Paris Prison. The rest sit here under hatches; reverend Petion with his gray hair, angry Buzot, suspicious Louvet, brave young Barbaroux, and others. They have escaped from Quimper, in this sad craft; are now tacking and struggling; in danger from the waves, in danger from the English, in still worse danger from the French — banished by Heaven and Earth to the greasy belly of this Scotch skipper’s Merchant vessel, unfruitful Atlantic raving round. They are for Bordeaux, if peradventure hope yet linger there. Enter not Bordeaux, O Friends! Bloody Convention Representatives, Tallien and such like, with their Edicts, with their Guillotine, have arrived there; Respectability is driven under ground; Jacobinism lords it on high. From that Reole landing-place, or “Beak of Ambes,” as it were, pale Death, waving his Revolutionary Sword of Sharpness, waves you elsewhither!
On one side or the other of that Bec d’Ambes, the Scotch Skipper with difficulty moors, a dexterous greasy man; with difficulty lands his Girondins; who, after reconnoitering, must rapidly burrow in the Earth; and so, in subterranean ways, in friends’ back-closets, in cellars, barn-lofts, in caves of Saint-Emilion and Libourne, stave off cruel Death. Unhappiest of all Senators!
This ends our series of passages on Murders of Louis XVI and Murat; Civil War in France by Thomas Carlyle from his book The French Revolution — A History published in 1837. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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