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From his violence and his grief, his silence on some
points and his excess on others, it is difficult not to believe that Mr.
Burke is sorry, extremely sorry, that arbitrary power, the power of the
Pope and the Bastille, are pulled down.

Not one glance of compassion, not one commiserating reflection that I
can find throughout his book, has he bestowed on those who lingered out
the most wretched of lives, a life without hope in the most miserable of
prisons. It is painful to behold a man employing his talents to corrupt
himself. Nature has been kinder to Mr. Burke than he is to her. He is
not affected by the reality of distress touching his heart, but by the
showy resemblance of it striking his imagination. He pities the plumage,
but forgets the dying bird. Accustomed to kiss the aristocratical hand
that hath purloined him from himself, he degenerates into a composition
of art, and the genuine soul of nature forsakes him. His hero or his
heroine must be a tragedy-victim expiring in show, and not the real
prisoner of misery, sliding into death in the silence of a dungeon.

As Mr. Burke has passed over the whole transaction of the Bastille (and
his silence is nothing in his favour), and has entertained his readers
with refections on supposed facts distorted into real falsehoods, I will
give, since he has not, some account of the circumstances which preceded
that transaction. They will serve to show that less mischief could
scarcely have accompanied such an event when considered with the
treacherous and hostile aggravations of the enemies of the Revolution.

The mind can hardly picture to itself a more tremendous scene than what
the city of Paris exhibited at the time of taking the Bastille, and for
two days before and after, nor perceive the possibility of its quieting
so soon. At a distance this transaction has appeared only as an act of
heroism standing on itself, and the close political connection it had
with the Revolution is lost in the brilliancy of the achievement. But
we are to consider it as the strength of the parties brought man to man,
and contending for the issue. The Bastille was to be either the prize
or the prison of the assailants. The downfall of it included the idea
of the downfall of despotism, and this compounded image was become as
figuratively united as Bunyan's Doubting Castle and Giant Despair.

The National Assembly, before and at the time of taking the Bastille,
was sitting at Versailles, twelve miles distant from Paris. About a week
before the rising of the Partisans, and their taking the Bastille, it
was discovered that a plot was forming, at the head of which was
the Count D'Artois, the king's youngest brother, for demolishing the
National Assembly, seizing its members, and thereby crushing, by a coup
de main, all hopes and prospects of forming a free government. For
the sake of humanity, as well as freedom, it is well this plan did not
succeed. Examples are not wanting to show how dreadfully vindictive and
cruel are all old governments, when they are successful against what
they call a revolt.

This plan must have been some time in contemplation; because, in order
to carry it into execution, it was necessary to collect a large military
force round Paris, and cut off the communication between that city
and the National Assembly at Versailles. The troops destined for this
service were chiefly the foreign troops in the pay of France, and who,
for this particular purpose, were drawn from the distant provinces where
they were then stationed. When they were collected to the amount of
between twenty-five and thirty thousand, it was judged time to put the
plan into execution. The ministry who were then in office, and who were
friendly to the Revolution, were instantly dismissed and a new ministry
formed of those who had concerted the project, among whom was Count de
Broglio, and to his share was given the command of those troops.
The character of this man as described to me in a letter which I
communicated to Mr. Burke before he began to write his book, and from
an authority which Mr. Burke well knows was good, was that of "a
high-flying aristocrat, cool, and capable of every mischief."

While these matters were agitating, the National Assembly stood in the
most perilous and critical situation that a body of men can be supposed
to act in. They were the devoted victims, and they knew it. They had the
hearts and wishes of their country on their side, but military authority
they had none. The guards of Broglio surrounded the hall where the
Assembly sat, ready, at the word of command, to seize their persons,
as had been done the year before to the Parliament of Paris. Had the
National Assembly deserted their trust, or had they exhibited signs of
weakness or fear, their enemies had been encouraged and their country
depressed. When the situation they stood in, the cause they were engaged
in, and the crisis then ready to burst, which should determine their
personal and political fate and that of their country, and probably of
Europe, are taken into one view, none but a heart callous with prejudice
or corrupted by dependence can avoid interesting itself in their
success.

The Archbishop of Vienne was at this time President of the National
Assembly--a person too old to undergo the scene that a few days or a few
hours might bring forth. A man of more activity and bolder fortitude
was necessary, and the National Assembly chose (under the form of a
Vice-President, for the Presidency still resided in the Archbishop) M.
de la Fayette; and this is the only instance of a Vice-President being
chosen. It was at the moment that this storm was pending (July 11th)
that a declaration of rights was brought forward by M. de la Fayette,
and is the same which is alluded to earlier. It was hastily drawn up,
and makes only a part of the more extensive declaration of rights agreed
upon and adopted afterwards by the National Assembly. The particular
reason for bringing it forward at this moment (M. de la Fayette has
since informed me) was that, if the National Assembly should fall in
the threatened destruction that then surrounded it, some trace of its
principles might have the chance of surviving the wreck.

Everything now was drawing to a crisis. The event was freedom or
slavery. On one side, an army of nearly thirty thousand men; on the
other, an unarmed body of citizens--for the citizens of Paris, on whom
the National Assembly must then immediately depend, were as unarmed and
as undisciplined as the citizens of London are now. The French guards
had given strong symptoms of their being attached to the national cause;
but their numbers were small, not a tenth part of the force that Broglio
commanded, and their officers were in the interest of Broglio.

Matters being now ripe for execution, the new ministry made their
appearance in office. The reader will carry in his mind that the
Bastille was taken the 14th July; the point of time I am now speaking of
is the 12th. Immediately on the news of the change of ministry reaching
Paris, in the afternoon, all the playhouses and places of entertainment,
shops and houses, were shut up. The change of ministry was considered as
the prelude of hostilities, and the opinion was rightly founded.

The foreign troops began to advance towards the city. The Prince de
Lambesc, who commanded a body of German cavalry, approached by the Place
of Louis Xv., which connects itself with some of the streets. In his
march, he insulted and struck an old man with a sword. The French are
remarkable for their respect to old age; and the insolence with which it
appeared to be done, uniting with the general fermentation they were
in, produced a powerful effect, and a cry of "To arms! to arms!" spread
itself in a moment over the city.

Arms they had none, nor scarcely anyone who knew the use of them; but
desperate resolution, when every hope is at stake, supplies, for a
while, the want of arms. Near where the Prince de Lambesc was drawn up,
were large piles of stones collected for building the new bridge, and
with these the people attacked the cavalry. A party of French guards
upon hearing the firing, rushed from their quarters and joined the
people; and night coming on, the cavalry retreated.

The streets of Paris, being narrow, are favourable for defence, and the
loftiness of the houses, consisting of many stories, from which great
annoyance might be given, secured them against nocturnal enterprises;
and the night was spent in providing themselves with every sort of
weapon they could make or procure: guns, swords, blacksmiths' hammers,
carpenters' axes, iron crows, pikes, halberts, pitchforks, spits, clubs,
etc., etc. The incredible numbers in which they assembled the next
morning, and the still more incredible resolution they exhibited,
embarrassed and astonished their enemies. Little did the new ministry
expect such a salute. Accustomed to slavery themselves, they had no idea
that liberty was capable of such inspiration, or that a body of unarmed
citizens would dare to face the military force of thirty thousand men.
Every moment of this day was employed in collecting arms, concerting
plans, and arranging themselves into the best order which such an
instantaneous movement could afford. Broglio continued lying round the
city, but made no further advances this day, and the succeeding night
passed with as much tranquility as such a scene could possibly produce.

But defence only was not the object of the citizens. They had a cause
at stake, on which depended their freedom or their slavery. They every
moment expected an attack, or to hear of one made on the National
Assembly; and in such a situation, the most prompt measures are
sometimes the best. The object that now presented itself was the
Bastille; and the eclat of carrying such a fortress in the face of such
an army, could not fail to strike terror into the new ministry, who had
scarcely yet had time to meet. By some intercepted correspondence this
morning, it was discovered that the Mayor of Paris, M. Defflesselles,
who appeared to be in the interest of the citizens, was betraying them;
and from this discovery, there remained no doubt that Broglio would
reinforce the Bastille the ensuing evening.



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