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the court at this period by the downright republican spirit of all his pleasures and tastes. Once he laid a wager with the Count d'Artois; he backed his horse against the Count's for, we forget how many thousands; the trial came off, a crowd of poor people assembled to witness it: the Duke won, and, on the spot, distributed his winnings to the mob. The trick was worthy of “The King of Paris.” But this was not all. The offences of Egalité against the constituted order of things carried consternation to the remotest recesses of the court, and are, indeed, too numerous to mention. He was the first of French gentlemen to discard the use of hair-powder; he banished breeches, and introduced pantaloons; in half-dress he wore boots instead of shoes, with enormous silver buckles; he drove his own phaeton when it was decidedly low for a man of fashion to handle the ribands; he was ready to ride his own horse against any jockey for any sum; and he formed one of the party which made the first successful balloon ascent in Paris on the 17th day of June, 1784. There was no limit to his plebeian propensities. “Our cousin,” the great people used to say,
comes very seldom to court since he has turned shopkeeper.” The sneer had reference to the galleries and arcades of shops built by the Duke under his own rooms in the Palais Royal, with the unprincely, but still very sensible design, of adding to a considerably damaged income.
In the spring of 1787 matters looked ominous enough in France. We have already dwelt upon the accumulated wrongs of generations remorselessly heaped up, as though there were no retribution either
FINANCIAL CRISIS IN FRANCE.
on earth or in heaven. At the time to which we refer, public attention was directed especially to one of many grievances—the first to excite the unappeasable anger of the oppressed, the last from which mediocrity is able to devise escape ;—the finances of the country were in inextricable confusion. The system of taxation, intolerable in itself, failed to supply the wants of the Exchequer. Two-thirds of France belonged to the privileged classes, who, in virtue of their privileges, were exempt altogether from taxation; the unprivileged suffered, of course, in proportion to the immunity enjoyed by their fellows. There is no need to recapitulate the hardships borne by the peasantry of France upon the eve of the revolution—to repeat the deplorable recital found in every historian of the period. Suffice it to say that the crisis of the time was a monetary one. The deficit since 1776 amounted to 66,000,0001. sterling, and was increasing at the rate of 6,000,0001. per annum. On the 19th of November, 1787, the King, accompanied by his ministers, went down to parliament and presented a project for a gradual loan. It was received with dissatisfaction, and his Majesty was implored to convoke the States-General for the purpose of obtaining measures that would save the country from utter ruin. The votes were about to be taken, when ministers, perceiving that they would be left in a minority, declared that no vote could be received in the presence of the King. The law being thus interpreted, two edicts were read, one establishing the gradual loan, the other convening the States-General in five years. The keeper of the Seals was about to complete the enrolment when the
Duke of Orleans, amidst the profound silence of the assembly, rose, and in the presence of the King protested against the act as illegal. His Royal Highness was joined by others in the remonstrance, and on the following day was banished by royal ordinance to his estates at Villers Cotterets, his brother-offenders being despatched to the Hières Islands. The Duke's misfortune was a triumph. The world flocked to him in his disgrace, the King received a petition for his recall which had nothing of humility about it but its title. On the 17th of April, 1788, the exile was suffered to return, and the StatesGeneral were ordered to be convoked forthwith.
The winter of 1788-9 was unusually severe. The Duke of Orleans kept open house for the famishing poor. Driving one day through the Faubourg de St. Germain, he was so affected by the misery he there beheld, that he stopped, hired spacious apartments on the spot, and converted the rooms into a public kitchen, from which, at his own expense, he distributed a daily supply of food to all who chose to apply for it. Was not this a “King of Paris” indeed ? About the same time the Duke published “a circular of instructions to the constituencies in electing deputies,” a document containing the writer's confession of political faith, and pronouncing his own severance from the King and the court. “The effect of these instructions,” says a modern writer, “was unparalleled. Whenever the Duke appeared in public, the very air rang with shouts of applause. Never did the presence of Titus,-never did that of Henri Quatre, excite higher or more rapturous transports.” Did he visit the theatre the performances were suspended that
ELECTIONS TO THE STATES GENERAL.
actors and audience might join in one tumultuous welcome of the hero. Was he met in the public walks, the enthusiasm of idolatry knew no bounds. Did he present himself to the people, surrounded by his family, the people threw themselves at the feet of their benefactor, and loaded him with blessings. A “King of Paris ” truly !
The elections to the States-General took place throughout France between the 10th and 16th of March, 1789. The Duke of Orleans was returned by the noblesse for Paris and by the bailliages of Villers Cotterets and Crespy-en-Valois.
He made his selection for Crespy, and presented himself as a deputy of the Tiers Etat. As he passed in the procession, which preceded the opening of the StatesGeneral, he was vociferously cheered by the populace, who suffered the Royal Family to pass on in silence. On the 3rd of May, 1789, the States-General met at Versailles, under the auspices of the King himself. The three orders having taken their places, Louis XVI. looked amongst the princes of the blood for the Duke of Orleans. The ostentatious democrat had taken his place amongst the deputies of his baillage. When summoned to his proper seat the duke declined to occupy it. “Sire," said the Prince, “my birth gives me always the right to be near your Majesty ; my duty at this moment bids me take the rank assigned me by the baillage that has deputed me.” The monarch made no answer; the popular deputies were exultant.
The next day the three orders assembled. An important question arose, which placed the nobility and clergy at issue with the Tiers Etat. A fierce struggle
ensued; a large section of the clergy soon made
cause with the commons, but the nobles were obdurate. The Duke of Orleans proposed that the nobles should give way, and when the latter refused, and addressed the King, complaining of the exorbitant claims advanced by the commons, the Duke boldly took part with the representatives of the people, and protested against the address forwarded by the nobles to the King. The protest had a remarkable result. On the 25th of May, the Duke of Orleans, with some eight-and-forty peers, seceded in a body and joined the commons; the majority of the clergy had already preceded them, and the united faction arrogated to itself the title of “the National Assembly.” Of this National Assembly the Duke of Orleans was elected first President by 533 out of 660 votes. His time was not yet come, and Egalité declined the proffered distinction.
Events now thickened, and, after a short struggle between the weak King and the National Assembly, the peasants rose throughout France against their feudal lords. France awoke from a dream, but the daylight came too suddenly. It blinded men, and made them mad. Whilst the peasants, looking upon a rich man's house as a bastile, attacked and pillaged it, leaving marks of blood at every hearth, the National Assembly, affrighted, made concessions to the people in the spirit of frenzy. A few years before, the people were unworthy of any rights whatever ; now nobody but themselves had any rights to be respected. Such was the desperate movement of terror hurried to folly by a consciousness of deep injustice. On the night of the 5th of August, the