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Soleil. They massacred the Jacobins and all those who had imbued their hands in the blood of royalist or civic victims, and in a lapse of time slew if not as many victims as the revolutionists, certainly enough for large expiation. The terrorists of the south, thus terrorised in their turn, complained that since Thermidor the government commissaries did not hold out to them sufficient aid or protection. An animated debate ensued, which called forth once more an indignant speech from the Girondin Isnard, who exposed the recent attempts at resuscitating Jacobinism in Marseilles. Under its influence the Cinq Cents set aside the petition by the order of the day.
Such a cool dismissal of their complaints proved to the ultra-revolutionary party, the resuscitated Jacobins of the Pantheon, that nothing was to be hoped from the assemblies which formed the legislature under the new constitution. The restoration of the old constitution, that of 1793, and the Convention, or a Convention, became in consequence their fixed idea and dominant aim. To mature and accomplish it, they formed as of old an insurrectionary committee of public safety, which met in secret, re-enlisted all the old agents of insurrection, and exerted their utmost to rally and reconstitute the revolutionary army of the rabble, which had well nigh lost its vocation.
The original Jacobins were numerous enough to divide their respective duties. The Marats and the Desmoulins blew the trumpet of the press, the Legendres and Santerres marshalled the masses, the Robespierres and Dantons perorated. But the men of action had been cut off; there remained but the theorists and the scribblers. Babæuf, originally a land-surveyor, was one of these. He was a journalist of the school of Marat, and who had consequently spent almost as much time in prison as out of it. him leisure for reflection and for the concoction of
CHAP. theories. The Jacobin doctrine of transferring to the
poor the property of the rich was nothing new, and had been practised all through the revolution. Babeuf erected it into a system, and first preached that community of goods which has grown up to be a philosophy and a creed in our days. He came too late in the revolution, however, for his or any other theory, to be listened to. The working class was disgusted with the revolution, which had brought to it nothing save decimation and famine. But there were still some thousands of professional insurrectionists in Paris, and Babæuf's system promised them plunder. It was not the more unwelcome for the plunder being necessarily prefaced by bloodshed. The plan of Babeuf's conspiracy was to slay all the authorities, recal and recomplete the convention with the Babouviens, restore the maximum, the requisition, and the terror, and resuscitate the state of things which Thermidor had interrupted. A captain named Gressel disclosed the whole plot to Carnot, and almost all the conspirators, with their papers, were seized in one night in May 1796.
Babæuf was so confident, that almost his first act, when arrested and his whole plot discovered, was to threaten the government and make an offer of forbearance only on condition of his scheme of social revolution being adopted. He was under a profound delusion. The men and the ideas so formidable in 1793 had become powerless and effete in 1796. The people, still closely pressed by famine, * were not to be moved. No party in the councils or no large portion of the population could succeed in making political capital out of anarchy. Drouet alone, the former postmaster of Varennes, was implicated in Babæuf's plot. His being absent from France in an Austrian prison left him unaware how
* The people of Paris received but part of 1796.—Decree of Directory three-quarters of a pound of bread in Aug. each per day through the greater
much public opinion had progressed. He contrived, CHAP. however, to escape from prison.* Amongst those who were sent to Verdun were the well-known insurrectionist names of Amar, Verdier, Chaudieu, Antonelli, Rossignol. They were sent to Vendome, where a high court of justice was selected to try them.
There were some feeble attempts to create a tumult in the night appointed for the removal of Babæuf and his accomplices, which was towards the end of August. A more serious effort was made on the night of the 9th of September. Some four or five hundred Anarchists, incompletely armed, collected in Vaugirard, and favoured by the darkness penetrated into the military camp then formed on the Plaine de Grenelle. Their hopes were built upon a certain regiment of dragoons, the 21st, which was to favour them. But when they approached its cantonment, they met with no signs of adherence, whilst the soldiers in general prepared to resist and capture the fellows, who came crying, “ Down with the Convention and the Directory.” A major of the 21st regiment of dragoons, named Malo, mounted on horseback, collected some men and charged the intruders, who were soon dispersed and taken to the number of between two or three hundred. Some thirty were condemned by court
martial and shot, the rest were ordered to be transported. This tumult rendered it necessary to treat Babæuf and his accomplices with severity. Their trial lasted long, but Babæuf and his second Darthé were condemned to death, and executed after having made feeble attempts at suicide. Some more were condemned to transportation; amongst them Buonarotti, who lived to be the historian of the conspiracy.t
The ease with which the Directory put down this last
* Changing his name, Drouet ration. Procés de Babæuf. Fleury's managed to earn his bread as an Babæuf. Granièr de Cassagnac, artisan.
Histoire du Directoire. Buonarotti, Hist. de la Conspi
CHAP. conspiracy of the Anarchists, with the little sympathy
shown by the people for them, evinced that the time of popular insurrection had passed. The people, as the French say, had given in their resignation. It was for professional politicians to continue the struggle. Could they have done so within the constitutional arena, and with merely such power and influence as civilians wield, liberty might still have survived; but unfortunately, from the commencement of the revolution to its close, party strife was decided not by opinion, violent as that might be, but by force. For five disastrous years the populace had formed that force. It was now to be sought elsewhere, and the army offered itself. It had during the revolutionary years deserved well of the country, kept its soil uninvaded, and even made conquests more important than those of Louis the Fourteenth. But it was not till the year 1796 that its exploits, and the fame of the general who achieved them, shone with a brilliancy that soon eclipsed and flung into the shade all civilian efforts, merits, and authority.
The year 1796 promised well for the Directory in its prosecution of the military struggle. The last months of the previous year had seen La Vendée finally succumb. The efforts of England and of the French princes, not dismayed by the disaster of Quiberon, had renewed the attempt of landing an English auxiliary force with a French prince upon the coast. The Count d’Artois embarked. Charette once more raised the standard of insurrection, but Hoche, who commanded the republican army, was too energetic and too able. He kept possession of the sea-coast, and rendered it a perilous task for the pretender or his auxiliaries to land. That personage had been landed on the Isle Dieu, off the coast of France, by the English fleet, which remained in the neighbourhood waiting an opportunity for disembarking. This, possible at first, became of course each day more hazardous, the republicans being more vigilant and
better prepared. Neither Charette nor Stofflet were able to raise anything like the old Vendean armies, and so open a passage from the sea to its foreign auxiliaries. The Vendeans expected everything from England and the prince. The prince and the English expected not merely the promise but the appearance of an army from them. Both were disappointed. The English thought that under such circumstances the prince should at least have flung himself upon his native soil, and have struck a blow for the throne and its partisans. But the Count d'Artois was not made to chouanner. He begged to be recalled, gave voluminous directions to the Vendeans for another rising, with a few thousand English pounds, and sailed away, leaving Charette and Stofflet to their fate. These could not even unite, so vigilant was the guard of Hoche. Stoffet could not number three hundred men. Soon tracked and seized, he was carried to Angers, and shot in February. Charette did his utmost to break through the toils with which Hoche surrounded him. But it was in vain; the spirit of the Vendeans was broken, and Hoche completed it by an adroit mode of disarmament. He seized all the eatables, corn, and principal inhabitants, and only delivered them up on the district surrendering its arms. This trial of life or death, the Vendeans, a year or two back would have answered at the point of the bayonet; not so now. Hoche prevailed, Charette became the daring leader of a band instead of the general of an army; and hunted by numerous detachments he at last fell into an ambuscade, laid for him by general Travot. He resisted capture with desperation; but it was effected, and the last Vendean chief died about a month after Stofflet, with his wonted fortitude, on the public place of Nantes.
The attempt to raise La Vendée was an abortive effort of England to take part in the continental war against France. This was by no means easy to accomplish,