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FIRST PARTY CONTESTS IN THE CONVENTION.—ALL PARTIES IN FAVOUR OF
WAR AND CONQUEST.-PROPAGANDA IN ITALY AND SWITZERLAND.-MON-
DURING the first days of the Convention, the Gironde, which had lately had to tremble for its very existence, possessed no small prospect of acquiring absolute supremacy in France. It predominated in the Ministry, because Danton, when chosen member of the Convention by the Electors of Paris, had resigned his portefeuille, and Roland's influence subsequently prevailed in home affairs. The Gironde could likewise, in most cases, reckon on a majority in the Convention itself. Most of the elections had been carried in direct opposition to the aims of the Parisian Commune and the Septembrists; against whose dictatorship there was a general feeling, which would have enabled the Gironde, had they made use of all the means in their power, at once to crush their opponents. The Jacobins could not conceal this fact from themselves. “All France is against us,” said the younger Robespierre on the 29th in the rostra of the Jacobin Club, “our only hope lies in the citizens of Paris."1 Whereupon Desfieux raised his warning voice and said: “Friends and associates, do not place too much confidence even in this last prospect; it is only too certain that even here in Paris we should be beaten
i Buchez, XX. 300.
in any election which was made by secret vote.” The Club therefore prescribed to itself the strictest caution, and an almost timid attitude of defence. The September murders were never mentioned except with the intention of partly denying, and partly excusing them; and Collot d'Herbois was looked upon as an incautious man, when he, on one occasion, exclaimed without any circumlocution. “The 2nd of September is the creed of our party.”
But though the majority of the Convention was no doubt hostile to the Jacobins, it was not yet fully under the guidance of the Gironde. It was a similar case to that of the defunct Assembly; by far the greater part of the Deputies kept aloof from all party discipline whatever, and each individual voted according to his impressions at the moment. Only about 30 adhered unconditionally to the Girondist party, and we shall see that even these frequently took different sides on the most important questions. The removal of this disadvantage ought to have been all the more zealously aimed at, because the Mountain held together like one man.
Nearly all the members of the Convention held revolu- tionary opinions. The measures taken by the Commune of
Paris and its associates in the Provinces, had at any rate effected thus much, that the adherents of the ancien régime, and the professed constitutionalists, had refrained from taking any part in the Elections. Even La Vendée—which was soon to manifest in the most violent manner the opinions and feelings of its entire population by a royalist revolt-had elected radical deputies. The Gironde, too, sympathised in the democratic tendencies of the majority of its colleagues; it was only in so far conservative, as it feared the daggers of September for itself; in all other respects it still retained its destructive principles. It was not therefore in a condition to rally round it the other parties of the Right,—the Constitutionalists and Priests, the Royalists and Feudalists—for the struggle against the Jacobins; and by
om? Priests, the parties of
CAV] ATTEMPT TO RECONCILE THE GIRONDE & THEMOUNTAIN 151
most of its legal enactments it undermined every inch of ground which it had gained from the extreme Left by its Police decrees. In such a position of affairs, the most natural course would have been a reconciliation of the two parties on the basis of a fair division of personal influence; for this last was the only essential point of dispute. There was scarcely any difference of opinion as to the objects to be aimed at-only as to the means to be employed. An attempt in this direction was really made in the first days of the Convention; the party leaders held a meeting, and Danton, especially, exhorted them to concord. But the blood of September flowed between them; the Girondists demanded revenge for the threats directed against themselves, and rejected the proposal of a mutual amnesty almost as a crime; whereupon Robespierre abruptly and haughtily broke up the conference.
On the 22nd, the Convention ordered a new election of all the Government officials throughout the whole of France. Before the month of August, almost all the Departmental authorities had manifested constitutional opinions, and were consequently abolished together with the constitution which they represented. On the 23rd, Danton carried a similar decree against the legal functionaries. Billaud wished to do away with the Courts of law altogether, since, he said, two umpires, named in each case by the contending parties, would answer every purpose. He did not carry his point, yet the choice of law officers was no longer restricted to professional lawyers, on the ground that they formed a particularly scandalous Aristocracy.
After this specimen of its democratic sentiments, the Convention heard an address from the Minister Roland on the general state of the country. His report was a melancholy testimony to the effects of the Revolution, and told of the crippling of agriculture, the ruin of manufactures, the annihilation of commerce, and the decay of national institutions and public edifices. At the same time he gave in
every sentence, the signal of attack on the Mountain, by designating their intrigues and carelessness as the sole sources of the evil, and demanding hired troops for the protection of the Convention and the Government. On the following day Kersaint and Buzot, in accordance with the suggestions of Roland, brought forward motions—the former for the enactment of a penal law against the instigators of murder and homicide, and the latter, for the formation of a guard for the Convention raised from all the Departments. Both proposals were referred to a Committee. An attack was then made on individuals: Barbaroux and Buzot resuscitated the story that Robespierre, on the 9th August, had had himself proposed to the Marseilles Fédérés as Dictator. "The Girondists, in their turn, were accused of wishing to cut up France into a number of independent States, on the American pattern. They replied that the Parisians were striving to domineer over the Departments, as Rome had formerly done over the Provinces; and then they themselves caused the unity and indivisibility of the Republic to be formally decreed. These contentions had no other result than to increase the general exasperation; and the attention of each and all was soon solely directed to the material forces of either party. On the one side was the Commune of Paris - whose zealous proletaries were greatly dreaded by the mass of the Deputies--and on the other, the Guard of the Convention, by means of which the Gironde hoped to gain, in the first instance, security of voting, and as a natural consequence, to effect the complete overthrow of their opponents. Buzot brought up the report on this question on the 8th October; it was ordered to be printed and was then dropped. The Gironde had observed that a great number of Deputies feared to vote for this measure, which was execrated in Paris; they therefore had recourse to the expedient of sending --without the sanction of the law-for armed troops from the Departments friendly to them, by whose protection they sought to encourage their adherents.
It was Marseilles again which took the lead, and now raised soldiers for the Government in October, as it had done for the Revolution in July. Meanwhile the Municipality of Paris was tormented in every way; an inquiry was ordered into its enormous robberies and embezzlements; the Minister of Justice was commissioned to institute a general investigation respecting the September massacre, and in the new elections of the Commune, the principle of secret voting was strictly carried out. Péthion was actually chosen Mayor by a large majority, and when he preferred to keep his seat in the Convention, another candidate of the Girondist party, the Physician Chambon, was elected in opposition to the Jacobin Lhuillier. Nine-tenths of the citizens, however, abstained from voting.
And thus the Gironde up to the end of October made continual progress; but they had not gained any success of such importance as to guarantee the future. That which aided them most effectually was the arrival of the new Fédérés; for such a listless indifference prevailed about internal politics, that a few thousand sturdy arms sufficed to inspire respect into the Jacobin bands. But what a melancholy expedient was it to have to defend the cause of order by such purely anarchical means! Roland was well aware of this, and aimed at the very centre of the evil by repeatedly demanding that the powers of the Ministry should be increased, and the Municipality deprived of the right of calling out the military. But his colleagues considered these measures either unattainable in the Convention, or inconsistent with their previous political attitude; at all events no proposition on the subject was ever brought forward.
The Jacobins were, therefore, doubly glad that the finances of the State continued to be administered as heretofore. Clavière was once more Finance Minister; and although, like his Girondist friends, he would not hear of any formal abolition of property, or of fixed prices, forced currency, and prehensions (arbitrary exactions from French citizens by Civil