Read Paris, June 12, 1795 of A Residence in France During the Years 1792‚ 1793‚ 1794 and 1795‚ Part IV, free online book, by An English Lady, on

The hopes and fears, plots and counterplots, of both royalists and republicans, are now suspended by the death of the young King. This event was announced on Tuesday last, and since that time the minds and conversation of the public have been entirely occupied by it. Latent suspicion, and regret unwillingly suppressed, are every where visible; and, in the fond interest taken in this child’s life, it seems to be forgotten that it is the lot of man “to pass through nature to eternity,” and that it was possible for him to die without being sacrificed by human malice.

All that has been said and written on original equality has not yet persuaded the people that the fate of Kings is regulated only by the ordinary dispensations of Providence; and they seem to persist in believing, that royalty, if it has not a more fortunate pre-eminence, is at least distinguished by an unusual portion of calamities.

When we recollect the various and absurd stories which have been propagated and believed at the death of Monarchs or their offspring, without even a single ground either political or physical to justify them, we cannot now wonder, when so many circumstances of every kind tend to excite suspicion, that the public opinion should be influenced, and attribute the death of the King to poison. The child is allowed to have been of a lively disposition, and, even long after his seclusion from his family, to have frequently amused himself by singing at the window of his prison, until the interest he was observed to create in those who listened under it, occasioned an order to prevent him. It is therefore extraordinary, that he should lately have appeared in a state of stupefaction, which is by no means a symptom of the disorder he is alledged to have died of, but a very common one of opiates improperly administered.

Though this presumption, if supported by the evidence of external appearances, may seem but of little weight; when combined with others, of a moral and political nature, it becomes of considerable importance. The people, long amused by a supposed design of the Convention to place the Dauphin on the throne, were now become impatient to see their wishes realized; or, they hoped that a renewal of the representative body, which, if conducted with freedom, must infallibly lead to the accomplishment of this object, would at least deliver them from an Assembly which they considered as exhausted in talents and degraded in reputation. These dispositions were not attempted to be concealed; they were manifested on all occasions: and a general and successful effort in favour of the Royal Prisoner was expected to take place on the thirteenth.

Perhaps the majority of the Convention, under the hope of securing impunity for their past crimes, might have yielded to the popular impulse; but the government is no longer in the hands of those men who, having shared the power of Robespierre before they succeeded him, might, as Rabaut St. Etienne expressed himself, be wearied of their portion of tyranny."

The remains of the Brissotins, with their newly-acquired authority, have vanity, interest, and revenge, to satiate; and there is no reason to suppose that a crime, which should favour these views, would, in their estimation, be considered otherwise than venial. To these are added Sieyes, Louvet, &c. men not only eager to retain their power, but known to have been of the Orleans faction, and who, if they are royalists, are not loyalists, and the last persons to whose care a son of Louis the Sixteenth ought to have been intrusted.

At this crisis, then, when the Convention could no longer temporize with the expectations it raised when the government was divided between one party who had deposed the King to gratify their own ambition, and another who had lent their assistance in order to facilitate the pretensions of an usurper and when the hopes of the country were anxiously fixed on him, died Louis the Seventeenth. At an age which, in common life, is perhaps the only portion of our existence unalloyed by misery, this innocent child had suffered more than is often the lot of extended years and mature guilt. He lived to see his father sent to the scaffold to be torn from his mother and family to drudge in the service of brutality and insolence and to want those cares and necessaries which are not refused even to the infant mendicant, whose wretchedness contributes to the support of his parents.

When his death was announced to the Convention, Sevestre, the reporter, acknowledged that Dessault, the surgeon, had some time since declared the case to be dangerous; yet, notwithstanding policy as well as humanity required that every appearance of mystery and harshness should, on such an occasion, be avoided, the poor child continued to be secluded with the same barbarous jealousy nor was the Princess, his sister, whose evidence on the subject would have been so conclusive, ever suffered to approach him.

No report of Dessault’s opinion had till now been made public; and Dessault himself, who was an honest man, died of an inflammatory disorder four days before the Dauphin. It is possible, he might have expressed himself too freely, respecting his patient, to those who employed him his future discretion might be doubted or, perhaps, he was only called in at first, that his character might give a sanction to the future operations of those who were more confided in. But whether this event is to be ascribed to natural causes, or to that of opiates, the times and circumstances render it peculiarly liable to suspicions, and the reputation of those who are involved, is not calculated to repel them. Indeed, so conscious are the advocates of government, that the imputation cannot be obviated by pleading the integrity of the parties, that they seem to rest their sole defence on the inutility of a murder, which only transfers whatever rights the House of Bourbon may be supposed to possess, from one branch of it to another. Yet those who make use of this argument are well aware of its fallaciousness: the shades of political opinion in France are extremely diversified, and a considerable part of the Royalists are also Constitutionalists, whom it will require time and necessity to reconcile to the emigrant Princes. But the young King had neither enemies nor errors and his claims would have united the efforts and affections of all parties, from the friends of the monarchy, as it existed under Louis the Fourteenth, down to the converted Republican, who compromises with his principles, and stipulates for the title of Perpetual President.

That the removal of this child has been fortunate for those who govern, is proved by the effect: insurrections are no longer talked of, the royalists are confounded, the point of interest is no more, and a sort of despondency and confusion prevails, which is highly favourable to a continuance of the present system. There is no doubt, but that when men’s minds become more settled, the advantage of having a Prince who is capable of acting, and whose success will not be accompanied by a long minority, will conciliate all the reflecting part of the constitutional royalists, in spite of their political objections. But the people who are more under the influence of their feelings, and yield less to expediency, may not, till urged by distress and anarchy, be brought to take the same interest in the absent claimant of the throne, that they did in their infant Prince.

It is to be regretted, that an habitual and unconquerable deference for the law which excludes females from the Crown of France, should have survived monarchy itself; otherwise the tender compassion excited by the youth, beauty and sufferings of the Princess, might yet have been the means of procuring peace to this distracted country. But the French admire, lament, and leave her to her fate

“O, shame of Gallia, in one sullen tower
“She wets with royal tears her daily cell;
“She finds keen anguish every rose devour,
“They spring, they bloom, then bid the world farewell.
“Illustrious mourner! will no gallant mind
“The cause of love, the cause of justice own?
“Such claims! such charms! And is no life resign’d
“To see them sparkle from their parent throne?”

How inconsistent do we often become through prejudices! The French are at this moment governed by adventurers and courtezans by whatever is base, degraded, or mean, in both sexes; yet, perhaps, would they blush to see enrolled among their Sovereigns an innocent and beautiful Princess, the descendant of Henry the Fourth.

Nothing since our arrival at Paris has seemed more strange than the eagerness with which every one recounts some atrocity, either committed or suffered by his fellow-citizens; and all seem to conclude, that the guilt or shame of these scenes is so divided by being general, that no share of either attaches to any individual. They are never tired of the details of popular or judicial massacres; and so zealous are they to do the honours of the place, that I might, but for disinclination on my part, pass half my time in visiting the spots where they were perpetrated. It was but to-day I was requested to go and examine a kind of sewer, lately described by Louvet, in the Convention, where the blood of those who suffered at the Guillotine was daily carried in buckets, by men employed for the purpose.

These barbarous propensities have long been the theme of French satyrists; and though I do not pretend to infer that they are national, yet certainly the revolution has produced instances of ferocity not to be paralleled in any country that ever had been civilized, and still less in one that had not.

We have been once at the theatre since the King’s death, and the stanza of the Reveil du Peuple, [The rousing of the people.] which contains a compliment to the Convention, was hissed pretty generally, while those expressing an abhorrence of Jacobinism were sung with enthusiasm. But the sincerity of these musical politics is not always to be relied on: a popular air is caught and echoed with avidity; and whether the words be "Peuple Francais, peuple de Frères," ["Brethren."] or "Dansons la Guillotine," the expression with which it is sung is not very different. How often have the theatres resounded with "Dieu de clemence et de justice." ["God of mercy and justice.”] and "Liberte, Liberte, cherie!" ["Liberty, beloved Liberty!] while the instrument of death was in a state of unceasing activity and when the auditors, who joined in these invocations to Liberty, returned to their homes trembling, lest they should be arrested in the street, or find a mandate or guard at their own houses.

At present, however, the Parisians really sing the Reveil from principle, and I doubt if even a new and more agreeable air in the Jacobin interest would be able to supplant it.

We have had our permission to remain here extended to another Decade; but Mr. D------, who declares, ten times in an hour, that the French are the strangest people on earth, besides being the most barbarous and the most frivolous, is impatient to be gone; and as we now have our passports, I believe we shall depart the middle of next week.