When Volume I of Nicholas Boyle's biography of Goethe appeared, it received an avalanche of praise on both sides of the Atlantic. George Steiner, in The New Yorker, called it "the best biography of Goethe in English." Doris Lessing, in The Independent, called it "biography at its best." And The New York Times Book Review hailed it as "a remarkable achievement," adding "there is nothing comparable to this study in any language."
Now comes the second volume of this definitive portrait, published on the 250th anniversary of Goethe's birth. Here Nicholas Boyle chronicles the most eventful and crowded years of Goethe's life: the period of the French Revolutionwhich turned Goethe's life upside downand of the philosophical revolution in Germany which ushered in the periods of Idealism and Romanticism. It was also a period dominated by two intense personal relationshipswith Schiller, Weimar's other great poet, philosopher, and dramatist, and with Christiana Vulpius, the mother of his son. Boyle paints vivid portraits of Goethe's harrowing experiences of the Revolutionary wars, of the explosion of new ideas in philosophy and literature which for ten years made Jena the intellectual capital of Europe, and of the upheavals sparked by Napoleon which destroyed the Holy Roman Empire.
Boyle captures both the large-scale events that swept Europe and the personal dramas of this exciting time. And he offers brilliant new analyses of Goethe's works of the period, most notably Wilhelm Meister, The Natural Daughter, and Faust. Indeed, this volume is a major work of historical and literary scholarship, and an important biography of one of the giants of Western culture.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press, USA|
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About the Author
Nicholas Boyle is Reader in German Literary and Intellectual History, and Head of the Department of German, at Cambridge University. He lives in the United Kingdom.
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The Age of Revolution
France from Monarchy to Nation: 1790-1793
In 1789 the world changed. The course of all things, seemingly laid down for a century or more, towards the improvement and enlightenment of an established order, was deflected, interrupted, or reversed by the explosion. Every life in Europe took on a new shape under the impact of the French Revolution, and Goethe's was no exception. But Goethe was not a citizen of France. Only for a short time was he directly involved in the events which made the new state. He felt the shock waves not at once and unmediated, but already muffled and transformed by the counter-movement of German reactions to them. As a literary and thinking man he was as sensitive to intellectual as to political reverberations. Moreover, his experience of them was marked by two great coincidences. The first, perhaps not entirely a coincidence, was that while the French ideas and the French armies were spreading across Europe, the Kantian system of philosophy was progressing victoriously into every corner of academic and literary Germany. The second was that the political, social, and ideological revolution came for Goethe at the time of a personal crisis. If it is only hindsight that tells us that in 1790 he had reached the middle of his life, it was already apparent even then that another generation was now young: he had acknowledged as much by publishing an authorized edition of his Works and settling into what was effectively a marriage. The new world around him could no longer be appropriated with the (justified)confidence of youth that, because it was contemporary, it was meant for him. Like many great artists Goethe had in middle age to start again from his beginning, and it shows his greatness that he did. For us too it is therefore necessary to start again and we shall rejoin Goethe on the path to the enigmatic and lonely peaks of his later career only after a detour through the foothills: the events in France and their echoes and parallels in Germany; the transformation of the philosophical landscape; and the hopes and enthusiasms of a new generation of thinkers and writers.
On 19 June 1790, the day after Herr von Goethe's return from the Italy he would set foot in no more, the French National Constituent Assembly abolished hereditary nobility, its titles, and coats of arms. On the same day the Assembly, solemnly addressed for the nonce as the 'Oecumenical Council of Reason', received a delegation from the preposterous Anacharsis Clootz (1755-94) and his 'Committee of Foreigners in Paris', claiming to represent the four corners of the world, and clad in national costumesome of it familiar, it was said, from the stage of the Opéra. (The 'Turkish' member of the delegation was probably genuine, the 'Arab' and the 'Chaldean' are more doubtful.) Johann Baptist von Clootz ('baron in Prussia, citizen in France'), who henceforth styled himself 'the Orator of the Human Race', was a wealthy anti-religious fanatic, an extreme representative of that form of Enlightenment which, fostered by absolutism, neverthelessbut not unreasonablysaw the Revolution as the fulfilment of its hopes. Clootz was the nearest Germany came to participation in the French Revolution, the nearest thing to a true German Jacobin. After an education at the court of Frederick the Great he had resided for some years in Paris and had adopted the name Anacharsisafter the hero of an immensely popular educational novel by J. J. Barthélemy (1716-95) about an idealized pre-Christian Greecein order, as he said, to 'debaptize' himself. In the fall of the Bastille he saw the beginning of a universal reign of reason and liberty'They will be free citizens of the world', he pronounced, 'who now drag the chains of princes and kiss the slippers of priests'and the purpose of his address to the National Assembly, of which half a million copies were printed, was to ask permission for his international committee to take part in the celebration of the first anniversary of the glorious event. 'The Festival of the Federation', he said, 'will be the Festival of the Human Race', and indeed 14 July 1790 can be regarded as the high point of the initial untroubled revolutionary sentiment both within France and outside.
On the Champ de Mars, a military arena to the west of Paris, 350,000 people watched or participated in a solemn renewal of the oaths of the newly 'federated' National Guardsmen, led by the King himself, while Mass was celebrated by Talleyrand (1754-1838), Bishop of Autun and president of the Assembly. It was perhaps the summit of the career of the commander of the National Guard, the marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), hero of the American Revolution and inventor of the tricolour cockade. At the same time in republican Hamburg the merchant-prince and former Illuminist G. H. Sieveking (1751-99) was paying for a more modest affair, the news of which, however, also ran through the German and French press: seventy or eighty guests gathered in tricolour sashes to toast the National Assembly, Louis XVI, the ruin of despotism, and the German revolution, each bumper being saluted by cannon-fire; Klopstock, tearful with joy, read two of his recent odes; and the company joined in the chorus of Sieveking's own 'Song of Liberty'. Adult or adolescent, the German intelligentsia was never so at one. That night, in the darkened rooms of Schiller's old school in Stuttgart, the private Academy of the Duke of Württemberg, the members of the students' debating society secretly addressed to each other, and to busts of Brutus and Demosthenes and a clay statue of Liberty, impassioned speeches on the significance of the anniversary, one of their number, Georg Kerner (1770-1812) choosing the occasion to burn his patent of nobility. On that same 14 July one of the idols of these young Swabians, the publicist Schubart, converted now from Gallophobia, was in Strasbourg taking part in the local rally of the National Guard. Later in the summer Kerner himself hiked over to Strasbourg to sport his tricolour on the streets, where he praised the work of the Assembly to those fortunate enough to be represented by it. Revolution was in fashion and fashion was infectious: in the spring of 1790 there had appeared in France the practicepolitically demonstrative rather than legally significantof planting 'liberty trees', which, if left to grow undisturbed for a year and a day, were held to liberate the land from any feudal obligations attaching to it, and plantings were soon reported on non-French territory; in the autumn it would be possible at the Frankfurt fair to buy handkerchieves printed with the text of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
But already at the time of the Festival of the Federation a darker future was edging its way on to the stage. Few can have discerned any sinister implications in the Convention of Reichenbach (27 July) in which the rapprochement of Frederick William II of Prussia (born 1744, King 1786-97) and Leopold II of Austria (born 1747, Emperor 1790-2) lifted the threat of war between these two arch-enemies which had dominated Central European politics in the first part of the year. But by the agreement Austria undertook to make peace with Turkey and seek no further territorial aggrandizement at Ottoman expense, while Prussia for her part abandoned her tacit support for the anti-Austrian nobility of Hungary and for the insurrections which had broken out in the bishopric of Liège and in the Austrian Netherlands, where a United States of Belgium had been proclaimed in January on models both French and American. The Convention thus opened the way to an unprecedented Austro-Prussian hegemony in the German-speaking world, which boded ill for all lesser powers, and possibly even for France. Its first fruits came in the autumn and winter, with the suppression by Austrian troops of the revolts in Liege and Belgium.
Reichenbach was a sign that the enlightened Emperor, rather like his predecessor, his unhappy elder brother, Joseph II, was having second thoughts about the changes in France that he had initially welcomed. These were acquiring an increasingly disruptive momentum of their own. The rationalizing fervour, which so excited von Clootz, which had at a stroke reorganized French local government into its modern départements, which had replaced the myriad taxes of the old regime by three, on land, moveables, and profits, which had begun the recodification of the entire body of civil law and had started the mensurational reforms that would lead to the establishment of the metric system, was unlikely, having peremptorily abolished the Second Estate, to stop at merely nationalizing the assets of the First. Two days before the Festival of the Federation the Assembly approved a scheme for the root and branch nationalization of the French Church itself, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which was destined, more than any other single measure, to fragment the consensus represented by the Festival and, by dividing the nation against itself, to pave the path to war.
What made the Civil Constitution into political dynamite was not the decision to dissolve the monasteries, to redraw diocesan boundaries to coincide with those of the new départements, to eliminate pluralism and non-residence, or to pay the parish clergy a state salarythese were reforms different only in degree from those already attempted by other enlightened rulers such as Joseph IIand it was certainly not the removal of frontier dioceses such as Strasbourg from the jurisdiction of German Archbishop-Electors in the Rhineland: that was all of a piece with the annexation of the remaining German princely enclaves in Alsace, resolved in October, and was in power politics a natural step, for which revolution was only an excuse, towards the establishment of an integral nation-state. But with the unprecedented provisions for the election of clergy and even of bishops by the citizen bodynot confined to parishioners, or even to Christiansand for the elimination of any papal role whatever in the processes, the Assembly was sweeping away France's Concordat with Rome of 1516 and embarking on a new Investiture Contest like that which had pitted Emperors against Popes in medieval Germany. If Pope Pius VI pronounced the new arrangements schismatic, and those who accepted them out of communion with the universal church, then not only the hierarchy, but every community within Catholic France would face bitter division, either within itself, or from the Constituent Assembly. The Pope was long in pronouncing, but even left only to the guidance of their consciences the French clergy proved so hostile to the Civil Constitution that in November the Assembly decided to force the issue by requiring a public oath of allegiance to it from all priests and bishops who wished to continue in their functions. All but seven bishops refused the oath (Talleyrand took it), and only about half of the clergy complied, most of them reflecting the views of their parishioners. The Pope's condemnation of the Civil Constitution in April 1791 finally confirmed the maladroitness of the Assembly in permitting itself to lose its status as representative of the entire nation and in creating in a matter of weeks a publicly identified opposition that verged on a majority. Revolution was henceforth the will, not of France, but of the French government.
As opinion fragmented, so its extremes came to express themselves outside the central representative body. The society of the Friends of the Constitution, or Jacobin Club, founded in January 1790, by the reform party in the former Estates-GeneralClootz was for a time its presidenthad by the end of the summer over 1,200 members and links with over 150 'corresponding' clubs throughout the country; and provided in its public debates a parallel to the discussions of the Assembly untrammelled by the constraints of practical policy-making. G. J. Danton (1759-94) founded the more Radical Society of the Friends of the Rights of Man, or Cordeliers Club, its name indicating its willingness to question, in the name of ideology, the keystone of the Constitution being elaborated by the Assembly, the retention of a limited monarchy. By a natural reaction, the fear that the Revolution already had gone too far was shown in the founding of a monarchical club at the end of 1790, though it was short-lived. Edmund Burke's (1729-97) Reflections on the Revolution in France, which appeared in November and which denounced the dangers of sudden and arbitrary change in accordance with fixed ideas, while defending the hidden wisdom of seemingly irrational tradition, were a runaway success, selling more copies in France in four months than in England in a year. (The German editions did even better, while Thomas Paine's (1737-1809) counterblast to Burke, The Rights of Man, which in England far outsold Burke, made little headway on the Continent.) The clearest expression of dissent from the new order, however, came neither from the hothouse of Parisian debate nor from sporadic riots and mutinies throughout the provinces but from those who out of fear or disgust left France altogether, the émigrés, whose official total eventually came to about 100,000. Although, to begin with, these were mainly members of the nobility and princes of the blood, notably their self-appointed leaders the King's younger brothers, the Counts of Provence (later Louis XVIII, 1755-1824) and of Artois (later Charles X, 17571836), a third of the final tally were peasants and workers. The aristocratic émigrés at first found a haven in the German territories of the archdiocese of Strasbourg, before the Cardinal de Rohan (1734-1803), Cagliostro's dupe in the Diamond Necklace Affair, who had been banished to this remote cure in 1786, was unseated by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. The Count of Artoiswho was greeted in Stuttgart by a pageant, in which Georg Kerner took part, showing two men in tricolour costume beating a third in medieval armourpassed on to Turin where he set up a court in exile and intrigued continuously, sometimes with the support of Louis XVI, sometimes without it, for an armed intervention by the royal families of Europe to restore his vacillating brother's authority. Asked to move on by an uneasy King of Savoy, Artois and the Prince of Condé had a warm welcome in early 1791 from the vain and impolitic ecclesiastical princes of the Rhineland, the Archbishop-Electors of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne. Here on France's eastern frontier, a mere 200 miles from Paris, the émigré nobility recruited, armed, and conducted military exercises (mainly as officers). No doubt they spent good money in the principalitiesand offered less good creditand, no doubt their manoeuvres were more ludicrous than threatening, but it was imprudent to overlook the danger they brought to their hosts, if to no one else.
If the multiplicity of power centres in Germany was a main reason for its being more benignly administered and more effectively policed than France, 1791 was to show that what made revolution in France fundamentally different from anything that German intellectuals could imagine or sympathize with was something that had no parallel in their own experience: Parissince October 1789 more certainly the centre of the nation than any of the institutions or personalities that transiently resided within it. The deputies to the Estates-General were deeply committed to decentralizationit was one of the clearest demands in the lists of national grievances collected before they metbut by removing from Versailles to Paris the King and the Assembly allowed a fateful step in the opposite direction: they allowed the centre of France's administration and of her newly emergent political life to be identified with her economic and intellectual centre. It had been the genius of Louis XIV to divide one against the other the factions in his kingdomnobility and bourgeoisie, Paris and the provinces, government and the courtuniting them only in their competition for his favour in the artificial world of Versailles, which was wholly the creation of the monarch. After a century of successful separation, 'la cour et la ville' were now absorbed into a single social unit larger and more complex than any one person could understand or control, and became a microcosm of potent national interests more varied than any elective or governmental body could as yet represent. By coming to Paris, the Revolution put itself at the mercyor in the serviceof a modern mass society, and of its executive arm, the crowd. Because it physically controlled the persons of the national legislature and its agents, having over them an absolute monarch's power of life and death, Paris, until it was subdued by Bonaparte, was the ultimate authority directing the course of the Revolution, not necessarily irrationally, but in accordance with needs and calculations beyond the ken of constitution-makers. No educational or property qualifications restricted access to the electorate of the streets. 'Public opinion' was not in Paris a euphemism for the views of a coterie of the great and the good, or of a handful of newspaper editors: in the popular societies which grew up in parallel with the local government assemblies, rather as the major clubs shadowed the National Assembly, the debate of the day was continued into circles far beyond the reach of the pre-Revolutionary Enlightenment. As unemployment grew, with the collapse of the service trades of the old regime and with the flight or ruin of noble or ecclesiastical employers, so the numbers of those available for immediate discussion and action grew too. And as the economic crisis deepened so even the grandest political issues took on for large numbers of people a personal urgency which only the emotions of wartime could eclipse. In some areas tax-collection virtually ceased; in the first half of 1790, short-term government debt tripled to 2 billion livres (about 500 million Imperial dollars) and the cost of servicing it represented 50 per cent of annual income; the assignats issued by the end of 1790 in three times the quantity originally envisaged, had a year later lost 20 per cent, by the beginning of 1792 nearly 40 per cent, of their face value; and by that time serious difficulties of supply and food shortages had appeared.
In 1791, however, it was only the King and the royal family who learned that they had a master, and that their bodies were not their ownthe turn of the elected deputies came later. The King's aunts were allowed passage to Rome in February but they were the last to escape. The King was not only the mainstay of the current government, for whom no replacement was to hand, and the centre-piece of the future Constitution, he was also, as long as he continued publicly to endorse it, the guarantee of the Revolution's legitimacy, and a moral safeguard against any invasion fomented by the émigrés. In April, at a time of great political uncertainty, after the death of Mirabeau, the King's staunch defender, and after the papal condemnation of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, the crowds, suspecting Louis of attempting to flee the country, turned out in force to prevent the royal family from going on their traditional Easter visit to Saint-Cloud. Whatever his intentions in April, the King on the night of 20 June began an elaborately planned secret dash to the north-eastern frontier, in the hope of joining the émigrés near Luxemburg. Recognized by the postmaster in Sainte-Menehould he and his household were surrounded by a crowd at the next staging-post, Varennes-en-Argonne, and arrested by the newly elected mayor. The divinity that hedges a King evaporated before the sovereignty of the people, and provincial France, loyal to its centre, despatched the national executive power, which had so unexpectedly landed in its lap, straight back to Paris.
For much European opinion, particularly in Germany, it was a turning-point: the King, it was now said, was in captivity. It would have been truer to say that there was a new king in France: a new kind of state power had been revealed which could dispose as it willed of its personal representative. The new Constitution, on the point of entering into force, was manifest as a benevolent, and no doubt an unintended, sham. The powers of legislation and execution, which, after the American example, it so strictly separated, reserving the one to an Assembly of men of property and the other to a hereditary king, were neither of them ultimate, and the true authority in the realm still had no acknowledged voice. It was no wonder that for a month the Assembly dithered in dismay, unable to formulate a response to the crisis, but eventually taking refuge in the fiction that Louis was the blameless victim of a conspiracy, in order that the Constitution to which he was essential could be introduced as planned. Meanwhile the Jacobins split, the moderate majority under Lafayette seceding to form a new club, the Feuillants, which continued to support the monarchy, while M. Robespierre (1758-95) was left in lonely domination of the rump. The immediate occasion for the split was the response of the popular societies to the King's unsuccessful flight to Varennes, a petition effectively for the establishment of a republic, which was taken up by the Cordeliers Club and made available for signing at a mass demonstration in the Champ de Mars on 17 July. As disorder threatened, Lafayette ordered his National Guardsmen to open fire on the crowd, and the subsequent slaughter, while it temporarily quelled the talk of a republic, began a terminal decline in Lafayette's reputation, at the scene of his triumph a year before.
The King's flight might have failed, but it had set a warning example. After Varennes the flow of emigration, particularly from the officer ranks of the army; greatly increased. Every such émigré left behind the unspoken threat that he might one day return in retribution, and the fear of foreign intervention was compounded when Leopold II began to feel that he ought to do something about his brother-in-law. The feeling was not very strong, and anyway probably emanated from Frederick William II. The King of Prussia, after a brief period under the influence of Carl August of Weimar, had fallen under the spell of two ministers, his superiors in the Rosicrucian Order, J. C. Wöllner (1732-1800) and particularly R. von Bischoffswerder (17411803), tall, handsome, aloof and with a voice deep but mysteriously indistinct, 'as if his tongue were located in his stomach'. The Rosicrucians' hatred of the rationalist Enlightenment, and particularly of anything that smacked of their old rival in the Masonic movement, Illuminism, led in internal Prussian policy to a tightening of censorship and an attempt to purge the clergy of freethinkers, first enacted in a Religious Edict promoted by Wöllner in 1788. In foreign affairs the Rosicrucians formed a deep and immediate suspicion of the French Revolution, and particularly of the role of the Jacobin Club. (Members of secret societies seem early to have been prone to see in 'Jacobinism' an inverted image of their own subterranean activity, but diabolically successful where they, as they knew, were ineffectual.) After the Convention of Reichenbach diplomatic contact between Prussia and Austria remained close: Bischoffswerder undertook a secret mission to Vienna in February 1791 and at the end of July the two monarchs agreed a joint policy towards France, and also towards Poland, in which an avowedly Jacobin movement had in May secured Europe's first written constitution and in whose territory both powers had a close and predatory interest. It was perhaps in order to humour Frederick William's obsession that on 27 August Leopold agreed to issue jointly with him a Declaration from the Elector of Saxony's summer residence at Pillnitz stating that both were willing to use 'the most effectual means' to support the King of France, provided that all other European powers agreed. The proviso of course made the declaration a dead letter, and when Louis XVI accepted the new French Constitution on 14 September Leopold let it be known that he regarded the whole matter as closed. The incident, however, showed that the old rulers of Europe were incapable of taking account of the new factor which the Revolution had brought into the political equation: the opinion of the masses whom hitherto they had had merely to coerce. The Declaration of Pillnitz may have seemed to Leopold a deft and ephemeral diplomatic ploy addressed to his fellow monarchs and their courtiers: on the streets and in the clubs of Paris it continued to reverberate ominously for the rest of the year.
On 30 September 1791 it seemed that the Revolution was over. The National Constituent Assembly dissolved itself, having given France its Constitution, and on the following day the new Legislative Assembly convened for the first time. The largest single group among its 745 deputies (about 345) belonged to the moderate Feuillants, but there were also some 135 Jacobins (subsequently dubbed Girondins since their most prominent members came from the western département of the Gironde) who were suspicious of the King's intentions and particularly of the Queen's correspondence with her crowned and coroneted relations. Within three weeks their leader within the Assembly, the journalist J. P. Brissot (1754-93), thanks to whom they were at the time known as Brissotins, had called for a war against the powers harbouring the émigrés, if it was impossible to dislodge them by other means. As these powers were the main ecclesiastical princes of the Empire it is not surprising that Anacharsis Clootz was one of Brissot's most enthusiastic supporters in beating the drums of war during the autumn and winter of 1791-2. Relations between the constitutionalized King and his legislature became tense when he availed himself of his new rights and imposed a veto (a stay of implementation for up to four years) on a decree confiscating émigré property, and shortly afterwards a second veto on a decree providing for new penalties for non-juring, or 'refractory', clergy. He thereby fuelled a further argument for war: that it would force him to declare himself for or against the new order, and would unite the nation in a common cause while sweeping away dissentients once and for all. Perhaps too he shared Robespierre's analysis of the situation, though drawing a different conclusion. Robespierre, no longer a deputy, was isolated within the Jacobin Club in calling for peace, on the grounds that defeat would bring back the old regime, while victory would merely hand over power to the triumphant general (probably Lafayette). Louis secured a huge resurgence of his personal popularity by issuing an ultimatum to the Rhenish electors threatening war if they did not cease playing host to the émigrés, but Paris was momentarily nonplussed when the prelates hurriedly did as they were told and the Prince of Condé (1736-1818) was expelled from Mainz and Artois from Coblenz. Meanwhile, however, the Emperor had issued another tactless threat, to the effect that an attack on the ecclesiastical territories would be treated as an attack on Austria, and the wrath of the people now turned against Marie Antoinette's brother. Food prices were risingparticularly for sugar, after the slaves in Dominica had been temerarious enough to think the principles of 1789 applied also to them and had staged a violent rebellionand there was trouble in the provinces. 'The whole nation seems to think war the only escape from its difficulties', wrote a German observer, J. W. von Archenholtz (17411812), in Paris in February, and it did not particularly matter against whom. On 7 February the courtship that had begun at Reichenbach culminated in the signing of a pact for mutual defence by Prussia and Austria. The Franco-Austrian alliance which had lasted since 1756 was undone with a vengeance, and despite the unexpected death of the Emperor in March and the succession of the young Francis II (1768-1835), whose opulent coronation in Frankfurt was arranged for the third anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, Louis had to bow to the outcry, dismiss all his ministers, and appoint the nominees of the Jacobin war party, including General C. F. Dumouriez (1739-1824) as foreign minister. War was declared on Austria on 20 April and Prussia entered the conflict a month later. Within little more than six months from the entry into force of the new Constitution a step had been taken which, if it did not wholly obstruct the National Assembly's efforts at reform, did at any rate delay their benefits for a good forty years, and in the interval brought incalculable misery upon all the peoples of Europe. Perhaps the blame lies on no one in particular in France's hour of need her fate was in the hands of mediocritiesbut if the blame lies anywhere then it is surely on the shufflings and prevarications of the King, the one man whose unambiguous task it was, by any interpretation of his office, to consult the interests of the nation before his own, and who lacked the generosity of heart and mind to see and do his duty.
The demoralized French army (little assisted, we may be sure, by the 'German Legion' of expatriates, raised by Clootz) soon suffered a number of minor reverses and in the atmosphere of recrimination Louis was able to divest himself of his unwanted Jacobin ministers. It was an unwise step, providing a focus for popular discontent and feeding suspicions that Lafayette, whose hand was seen in the new appointments, was planning a military coup on the King's behalf. The Kingprobably rightlywas no longer trusted, and in that, together with the exigencies of a state of war, must be seen the occasion for the events that now followed. On 20 June the Cordeliers Club organized a demonstration by many thousands of lower-class or 'passive' citizens, calling themselves 'sans culottes'wearers, that is, of simple trousers rather than the knee-breeches characteristic of the monied, professional, and higher classes who, as 'active' citizens, were alone permitted the vote and membership of the National Guard. The Tuileries palace was invaded and the King had to listen to two hours of harangues in support of the deposed ministers. Although the demonstration achieved nothing, it was a warning, and a rehearsal, of what was to come in the hectic summer days as the Prussian troops began to mass in the Rhineland and petitions for the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a republic circulated once more. Paris was filling with committed National Guardsmen from all over the country, congregating to celebrate the third anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, and the Marseilles contingent marched in singing the battle-hymn composed in Strasbourg by Rouget de Lisle for the army on the Rhine. The Marseillaise was one of three potent symbols of a new phase in the Revolution that made their appearance in 1792: the others were the guillotine, first used in April, as a humane and enlightened means of reputedly painless capital punishment, suitable to a rational society; and the scarlet Phrygian cap of liberty, an imitation of the headgear of emancipated slaves in classical antiquity, worn by the dismissed Jacobins. Like the emphatically patriotic language of the Marseillaise, with its Roman model, the classical allusion that was the Phrygian cap had its concealed implication, for liberty in the ancient world was enjoyed not by the subjects of kings, but by the citizens of republics. The busy activity of the popular societies, the declaration, in appropriately Roman terms, of a state of emergency, with the consequential admittance of 'passive' citizens to the National Guard and permission to local assemblies to remain in permanent session, the news that the Prussians had begun their advance from Coblenz, and the disastrous manifesto issued by their commander, the Duke of Brunswick (though actually written by the émigré marquis de Limon), a worthy successor document to the Declaration of Pillnitz, which threatened to raze Paris to the ground if the King were to be harmed, all contributed to an atmosphere of high political fever at the end of July. An overwhelming majority of the Parisian local assemblies demanded the dethronement of the King, calls for an insurrection became more and more insistent, and on 10 August, contemptuously ignoring the nation's Legislative Assembly, the politicians of Paris proclaimed a revolt, and a force of some 20,000, with newly radicalized National Guardsmen at its core, stormed the Tuileries and massacred the Swiss Guard, though the royal family escaped to the protection of the nearby Assembly. The Assembly, terrorized by Paris, declared the monarchy suspended and Louis was imprisoned in the Temple, a medieval fortress which was the official residence of the Grand Prior of the Knights of Malta (the order, it will be recalled, of Cagliostro).
In place of the King the Assembly appointed as its supreme executive a council of six ministers, of whom the most prominent was Danton, hitherto active only in Parisian affairs, and elections were called for a National Convention to determine a new constitution, the first round being held on 27 August. But time was short for discussions. True, Lafayette was no longer to be feared since, after briefly attempting to make his troops march on Paris, he had fled and gone over to the enemy (who promptly imprisoned him). But the real threat was from the Allies themselves, it was growing daily, and was there not already a fifth column behind the French lines? The prisons had begun to fill up with refractory clergy, the remains of the Swiss Guard, and other known supporters of the King as Paris had its way at last with the dissent it had long refused to tolerate. The war news was bad and treason was in the air, even though the greatest traitor was now locked away in the Temple: Longwy fell to the Prussians on 22 August with scarcely a shot fired and on 2 September the Prussians took Verdun. Volunteers were called for to defend the fatherland, but what was to be done with the counter-revolutionaries massed in the gaols whom the volunteers would leave in their rear? A form of judicial process had begun and the guillotine set to work on the problem at the end of August, but progress was slow. Fearing a break-out in their absence at the front and urged on by the radical journalist, formerly doctor and scientist, J. P. Marat (1743-93), the citizens of Paris broke into the prisons between 2 and 7 September and took justice into their own hands: around 1,200 people were murdered in Paris in the course of the 'September massacres', rather more than had died in the violence of 10 August, and reassured by the bloodletting the people went off to their war.
Their enthusiasm was needed, though they had little else to offer. The Meuse army, based at Sedan, north-west of the invaders, had just lost its commander, Lafayette, who was replaced by Dumouriez, while the southern army of the Moselle, based at Metz, was under the command of the aged and incompetent German mercenary Marshal N. Luckner (1722-94), who had just been ignominiously defeated by the Austrians in Belgium, and was soon to give way to the Strasbourg-born F. C. Kellermann (1735-1820). The two strengths of the regular troops proved to be their highly trained gunners from pre-Revolutionary days, and the strategic flair of Dumouriez. The invading force of Prussians (the main corps), Austrians (on the two flanks), Hessians, and 4,500 émigrés, totalled some 80,000, and after 2 September the high road to Paris lay open before the Duke of Brunswick and the King of Prussia, who had joined his men as the supreme commander of the Allies for what was supposed to be a military promenade. They advanced cautiously, however, concerned above all, in the eighteenth-century tradition of professional war-making, with protecting their lines of supply, and Dumouriez manoeuvred to prevent a breakout into the easy terrain of the Champagne, daringly marching down from the north to block the Allies' path at Sainte-Menehould, and so confining them to the rugged and impassable Argonne. When the enemy eventually emerged from the hills at Grandpré, north of the main road, Dumouriez, reinforced now by Kellermann, made ready for battle at Valmy. But there was confusion in the Prussian command, Frederick William wishing to attack and Brunswick wishing to manoeuvre, and the intended showdown got no further than an inconclusive five-hour exchange of artillery-fire on 20 September, which left 184 dead out of 34,000 Prussians and 300 out of the 59,000 French, and was followed by a stalemate. Dumouriez offered negotiations with a view to breaking up the Austro-Prussian alliance, but the news that on the day after the 'cannonade of Valmy' the new National Convention had met and had immediately deposed the King and declared a republic, caused the Prussian emissary, Marquis Lucchesini, to break off the conference and a retreat began. The weather had been, and remained, appalling, supplies broke down and dysentery spread among the invaders, causing heavy losses, but, protected by the French need to negotiate the return of the occupied fortresses, they managed a reasonably successful withdrawal of the forces that remained.
It was a standard campaign of the ancien régime, decided by logistics and the art of position, with minimal battle casualties. Even the disengagement was determined by the power-politics of the era of the cabinet war, for Dumouriez saw the opportunity for securing territory in Belgium by a swift strike northwards against the Austrians, whom he outnumbered by more than three to one at Jemappes (6 November), while Frederick William needed his men in the east, in Poland, where the Russians, asked to intervene by nobles dissatisfied with the 'Jacobin' Constitution of 1791, had by the autumn established complete control. Frederick William arrived in time to share in the spoils of the Second Partition of Poland in January 1793. Austria did not, and was left out, but Prussia consolidated the territorial link between Brandenburg and East Prussia it had acquired in the First Partition of 1772, and above all it gained the long-coveted port of Danzig (Gdansk). (A Danzig merchant family, the Schopenhauers, were so disgusted at the loss of their city's ancient liberty that they immediately moved to Hamburg.) France was still not the centre of the attention of Europe's statesmen, its internal chaos was redoubled, there was no evidence of any military regeneration, and Valmy did not look like a turning-point in world history. Maybe it was, none the less: quite certainly the campaign to which it was the inglorious end had occasioned the deposition of the French King, and the temporary defeat of the Allies not only gave the Republic an opportunity to establish itself but also sealed Louis's fate. Put on trial on 11 December before the National Convention, as the only competent court, he was on 15 January 1793 unanimously found guilty and by a majority vote condemned to death. Attempts at a reprieve failed; the sentence was carried out on 21 January.
Meanwhile the armies of the Republic were giving its neighbours a taste of things to come: when it went on to the offensive the new France clearly belonged to a new era. General A. P. Custine (1740-93) pressed home the advantage in the east, moving into the Rhineland and taking Mainz on 21 October 1792 and Frankfurt the following day. By the end of November Belgium, Savoy, and Nice were in French hands as well. On 31 January 1793 Danton gave official endorsement to the view, which had spread through the Convention, that the natural boundaries of France were the Atlantic, the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees, and between November and March collaborators were found in all the newly conquered territories to petition for incorporation into the French Republic. Not that there was anything new about such expansionism: not merely did it resume, and fulfil, the ambitions of Louis XIV, it was also indistinguishable, either in policy or in morality, from Prussia's exactly contemporary pursuit of territorial integrity in the east, at the expense of Poland. Custine's behaviour during the first month of his occupation of the Rhineland was entirely in the spirit of the rules of war and conquest of the ancien régime: he maintained firm discipline, shot his own men for looting in Speyer, and told the citizens of Frankfurt that there was no intention of changing their constitution if they did not wish itbut, like Frederick the Great in Saxony, he imposed a levy on the city of two million livres (about one million guilders) and took hostages to ensure it was paid. Within a month, however, two factors had begun to emerge which made this opportunistic consolidation of France's frontiers into something quite different from the acquisitive manoeuvrings of eighteenth-century dynasts, something recognizably of the modern world.
In the first place there was in the Revolutionary Wars that were now beginning a new, indeed unprecedented, role for ideologyfor the description of relations between states in terms not of material power or of personal or inherited rights, but of theoretical principles of supposedly universal application. On 19 November 1792 the Convention issued a decree that the French nation would give fraternal assistance to all peoples seeking to regain their original and proper liberty. Edifying but vaguely phrased, the decree none the less was a proclamation that the current war would not be a war like any other so far known. The meaning of the unsolicited offer of fraternity was spelled out in a further decree of 15 December, on which Custine immediately began to act, and which instructed the Republic's generals to eliminate the nobility and all feudal dues and privileges in the occupied territories and to hold elections on the basis of adult male suffrage, to substitute, that is, for the existing form of their state the form currently approved in France. And what this in turn meant was spelled out to the Convention by P. J. Cambon (1756-1820), the rapporteur of the relevant committees: only those who took an oath 'to liberty and equality' would be admitted to the elections, he said in his speech, and the task of those elected would be to supply the French armies 'and to cover the expenditure they have incurred or will incur during their stay on their territory', for those armies were bearing the inestimable gift of revolution, and indeed of the Revolutionary currency (which would be compulsorily introduced), the assignats. Furthermore 'we should not abandon absolutely to its own devices a people little accustomed to liberty', the French by contrast had after all a full three years' experience of it, and so 'we should help them with our advice and should fraternize with them ... the Convention should send out to them some of its own members as commissars to establish fraternal relations'. Should, however, this generosity be rebuffed, 'we must tell the peoples who wish to keep their privileged orders: you are our enemies; and you will be treated as such because you do not want liberty and equality'. The occupied territories, that is, were being offered the choice either to vote for military despoliation and economic and administrative annexation, or to have them imposed by forcein either case in the name of liberty and equality. What gives these hypocrisies their peculiarly modern ring is not so much the cynic in Cambon as the Pecksniff: his clothing the familiar brutal truthsvae victisin a system of high-sounding secular abstractions, a double-speak in which 'fraternity' means, and is known by the orator and his audience to mean, 'subjugation', and 'free elections' mean 'rigged ballots'. The secularity is intrinsic, for these are the self-justifications of a republic that has come into existence by cutting itself off from historical and religious legitimacy, its authority deriving neither through succession from a king nor (as still in the American Declaration of Independence) from a creator. As a result, the contemporaries trying to interpret the Revolution could draw on all the resources of the moral philosophy of the Enlightenment, the intellectual vehicle of the process of secularization, and in Germany in particular there was a temptation to think this was all the explanation the Revolution neededto take the ideology, like the assignats, at face value.
A second new factor in the wars, however, from which intellectuals were often, though not always, insulated, was the intensification of the conflict brought about by total mobilization, the levée en masse. Although this was not decreed until the summer of 1793, France in 1792 had already raised 180,000 volunteers and numerical superiority was the key to its victories in Belgium and the Rhineland. The explosive growth in the size of the French armies immediately made it manifestly impossible to provision them in the careful way traditional in eighteenth-century warfare. They had to live off the land, that is, the local peasantry, and if eight to ten soldiers were billeted in every house in Oppenheim in January 1793, that was only the mildest foreshadowing of the horrors of future years, which would return some areas of western Germany to the desolation of the Thirty Years' War. Already that winter Cambon was privately telling Dumouriez that Belgium was 'to be stripped clean to pay for the war'. But total mobilization was itself only one expression of the Revolutionary conception of war and of the state that waged it, a conception already implicit in the emergency declaration of July 1792 that 'the fatherland ['la patrie'] is in danger' and even in the substitution in 1789 of the rank of 'citizen' for all others. The public cause of the state was the private cause of every citizen. Every citizen had his part in the great collective effort,'Every Frenchman is a soldier' said a general in August 1792, asking mercy from the advancing Prussians only for women and childrenand every citizen, and in particular every soldier, was a representative of the state and its ruling idea. 'A burgher [or 'citizen'] of ours is uneasy if he cannot feel [the yoke] on his neck,' Caroline Böhmer (1763-1809) wrote from Mainz five days after its occupation. 'How far he still has to go to reach the degree of knowledge and self-assurance ['Selbstgefühl'] of the lowliest sansculotte out there in the camp!' It followed that war was not now to be fought just by soldiers against soldiers, and certainly not just by the servants, mercenary or conscripted, of different masters. From now on people was pitted against people, idea against idea. It mattered little that the Revolutionary idea was at first 'liberty, equality, fraternity', and was later abbreviated to 'France'war on its behalf was total, and all means were just.
Military reversesFrankfurt was retaken by the Prussians as early as 2 December 1792meant that the full rigour of the new policies was not felt in Germany for nearly a year. In the meantime the brief episode of the 'Mainz Republic' provided a fine and, in respect of one at least of the protagonists, a tragic example of the susceptibility of German intellectuals for the Revolutionary ideology. It was a prototype for all future involvement of the Revolution with Imperial Germany, and Goethe was closely concerned with the events, and with the principal actors in them.
Mainz, the seat of the Archbishop-Elector who was Arch-Chancellor and highest-ranking prince of the Empire and to whom it fell to consecrate the Emperors, was also a strategically important fortress on the left bank of the Rhine, at its confluence with the Main some twenty miles west of Frankfurt. In the last peaceful decades of the eighteenth century, however, its military significance was lost from viewwhen it eventually had to be defended, the key to its fortifications, which had been landscaped, had to be fetched from the Elector's head gardenerand it was simply a fairly typical example of a medium-sized principality of the old Empire: the population, especially the urban population, was quietly prosperous and lightly taxed and, though sharing in general Rhenish commerce, much engaged in servicing the princely court. They were of course overwhelmingly Catholic, and distinctly unsympathetic to the increasingly Enlightened attitudes of their rulers in the second half of the century, when the example of Austria, especially of Joseph II, led many a German Catholic ecclesiastic to dabble in the dangerous game of secularization, rationalization, and independence of Rome. The nearest approach to a revolt in late eighteenth-century Mainz was caused by the Archbishop-Elector's introduction of a vernacular German (rather than Latin) hymn-book, of which a particularly resented feature was that the hymns were individually numbered, as in the Lutheran hymnals. Scarcely more popular was the reformed university which, though 300 years old, was effectively refounded in 1784 with funds derived from the dissolution of three of the city's wealthiest religious houses and regarded, partly for that reason, as a nest of unbelievers and foreigners. Protestants and Jews were admitted as students and a deliberate policy was adopted of attracting established Protestant scholars from elsewhere. Johannes von Müller, the Swiss historian, was made university librarian (Heinse, another homosexual, became the private librarian of the Elector) and Sömmerring was brought over from Cassel. The professor of philosophy, A. J. Dorsch (1758-1819, the name means 'cod'), was, it is true, a Catholic priest, but also a former member of the Illuminati and the author of a number of books on the new philosophy of Kant. Georg Forster (175494) who, when Müller transferred into the Mainz bureaucracy, succeeded him as librarian, was perhaps the university's most celebrated acquisition: of partly Scottish extraction, he had, with his naturalist father, accompanied Cook on his voyage round the world in 1772, as the expedition's botanist, and had then entered the German intelligentsia as a writer on both scientific and literary subjects. Essentially a cosmopolitan, he felt himself something of an honorary Englishman, yet never grasped the political implications of the difference between English and German social conditions. He had many contacts in Anglophile and sceptical Göttingen, through his wife Therese (1764-1829), a daughter of Professor Heyne, and though he was a close friend of Jacobi, he had been gratified, when he visited Weimar in 1785, to find that the circle of Goethe, Herder, and Wieland shared his contempt for the established religious order.
The unloved university was the target of a serious riot by Mainz apprentices in September 1790: there seems to have been no connection with events in France, but the association of the disturbance with demands by the burghers for changes in guild and market regulations was enough, together with the Revolutionary ghost that was haunting the courts of Europe, to send the Elector into retreat from his most forward Enlightened positions. Public meetings, and discussion of dangerous topics, were forbidden; censorship of mail was intensified, as throughout princely Germany; and Professor Dorsch felt himself so persecuted that he fled to Strasbourg where he renounced his priesthood, married, and joined the Jacobin Cluba compliment to the perspicacity of the Mainz authorities. Forster had travelled in Belgium, England, and France in early 1790 and returned to Mainz convinced that there was no possibility of a successful French counter-Revolution, but he continued to lead a quiet and scholarly private life, translating (from an English version) the Sanskrit dramatist Kalidasa and writing up his travels, in a family circle sympathetic to the Revolutionary cause but also increasingly unhappy. His good friend, the radically inclined L. F. Huber, Schiller's benefactor, left Leipzig without marrying Dorothea Stock and came, as secretary of the Saxon Legation, to Mainz where he began an affair with Therese Forster and fathered two of her children. In 1792 Caroline Böhmer, daughter of the Göttingen orientalist Michaelis and unexpectedly widowed at the age of 25, came, with her 7-year-old daughter Augusta, to live with Therese, her childhood friend. She took a compensating interest in Forster as relations between husband and wife deteriorated. By contrast with the cool and even stern Therese, Caroline was a woman of great but rather selfish emotional energyher account of the death of her second daughter in 1789 is harrowing, but also unsettlingly over-observantand her letters give a lively impression of the excitement in her circle as it was swept along by a political enthusiasm, new at least to her, and by the events of 1792-3.
Not that there was ever a revolution in Mainzthat is a figment of left-wing historiography, particularly of the German Democratic Republic. But there was a French occupation, and even at the time educated progressives, and their children, confused the two. As the French troops approached, the Mainx nobility fled, 'and the old boy [the Elector] as well', wrote Caroline, 'in a carriage from which he had had the coat of arms scraped off ... We have got over ten thousand men in the town and there is calm and good order ... strict discipline ... Everyone is unanimous about the Priest though: he won't see his fair Mainz again ... It's scarcely four months since the concert des puissances met here to arrange the demise of Franceand now it says on the theatre posters "by permission of citizen Custine" ... My lighthearted Augusta ... shouts "vive la nation"...'.
In order to rally opinion to the French cause Custine had a club founded, the Society of the Friends of Liberty and Equality and put it in the hands of Anton Dorsch, whom he had made president of the administration in Mainz, and of G. W. Böhmer (1761-1839), Caroline's brother-in-law. Böhmer, he too the son of a Göttingen professor, had been a headmaster in Worms until Custine appointed him his German secretary ('those who push themselves forward on such occasions are never the best', Caroline commented). Two hundred people were present at the club's first meetings to hear professions of faith in the Revolutionary cosmopolitanism of Anacharsis Clootz. After some days of reflection Forster decided to take the step from theory to practice (that the step was there to be taken should have revealed to him the artificiality of his decision) and threw in his lot with the club and with Dorsch's administration, choosing, as he wrote to Sömmerring, 'a cause to which I must sacrifice my tranquillity, my studies, my domestic happiness, perhaps my health, all my worldly goods, perhaps my life'. He was concealing something of the truth, even from himself,what of his domestic happiness was there to preserve?but it was still a courageous act. 'We must defend to the death the liberty and equality offered us by our Frank brothers', he told the club in his maiden speech, and he meant it.
But the club, which Forster soon came to dominate, was a poor vehicle for his altruism. Its membership never rose above 500 and after four months had dropped to 36; it rapidly split, no doubt in imitation of its Parisian original, with a radical wing, consisting mainly of students, denouncing Dorsch for oppression and womanizing; the verdict on it of the French commissars, sent to establish 'fraternal relations' with the liberated municipality was simply: 'The club here is worth nothing ... if we wish to influence public opinion, we must make sure not to make use of the club'; and when in December, with the Prussians back in Frankfurt, Therese announced that she and Huber were leaving for Strasbourg, she opened her husband to the cruelly unjust charge that he did not trust the Republican forces to defend Mainz and was finding a safe retreat for his wife and children. 'As the French Revolution suspended the usual bourgeois considerations for us exaltées', Therese later wrote, 'I followed the major morality at the cost of the minor; and terminated a dishonouring relationship'. Caroline, who had danced the Carmagnole rather too vigorously with a 19-year-old French lieutenant, the nephew of the Mainz commander, and was beginning to have doubts about her condition, stayed on for a while as Forster's housekeeper. Forster, however, unperturbed by the execution of Louis, which he warmly defended, was soon deeply involved in the organization of the elections, decreed in Paris on 15 December, for new local assemblies and also for a Rhenish-German National Convention which was to debate the future of the occupied territories. It immediately became clear that the elections would be boycotted by the rural population, which was oppressed by the exactions of the military and outraged by their irreligion and that of their puppets, particularly Dorsch. Alternatively the new constituencies would simply elect the arch-enemies of the interlopers, their local parish priests. The French commissars were in no more doubt than Cambon about what had to be done. 'When we first arrived', they reported to Paris,
we confess that we found opinion not merely very cool towards the French nation, but even very hostile towards it ... From the information we had received from all parties it seemed to us very dangerous to proceed to a vote; in gaining the majority of our declared supporters we would have run the risk of being the minority in every constituency; but thanks to the precautions we have taken the ringleaders of the aristocratic party will be removed before the elections. Ill-wishers will be intimidated and everywhere there will be at least a certain number who will vote.
In the event elections took place in only 100 out of the 900 occupied constituencies, but that was enough for a Convention to assemble in Mainz on 17 March 1793 to do the little that was required by its French masters. Sublimely indifferent both to the manifest will of the people and to the cynicism of their liberators, Forster took the lead in proposing that the free and sovereign state of the Rhineland should for its own protection request to be incorporated into the French Republic. The proposal was carried unanimously and Forster set off with the young enthusiast Adam Lux (1765-93) and another deputy to present their petition to the National Convention in Paris.
The Mainz Republic, however, was already ending as it had begun, in military force majeure. On 14 April 1793 the Austrians and Prussians completed their encirclement of the city and a siege began, vigorously resisted by a French garrison 20,000 strong. About half the civilian population had already been expelled or had left voluntarily, but the destruction caused by the siege was very great, and by the time of the French capitulation on 23 July 6,000 lives had been lost. Caroline had left on 30 March to make her way to her old friends the Gotters in Gotha, but on the road to Frankfurt her married name aroused suspicions and, mistaken for G. W. Böhmer's wife, she, together with Augusta, was imprisoned as a possible hostage in the Elector's cold, crowded, and dirty fortress of Königstein. Increasingly desperate in case her pregnancy was discovered (she would have lost her widow's pension and the custody of her beloved daughter), she was released in June only after long agitation by her brother, and on the personal intervention of the Prussian King. Brother-in-law Böhmer himself was imprisoned after Mainz fell, but an exchange of hostages in 1795 took him to Paris, which Dorsch had reached two years earlier, having prudently (like his predecessor the Elector) left Mainz before it was surrounded. After the Allied successes Forster's mission lost its purpose, but with a price on his head he could no longer return to Germany. He remained in Paris, supported by an allowance from the Convention, but ever more a prey to melancholia as he saw at close quarters the cause to which he had sacrificed everything: 'I stick fast to my principles, but I find very few who are true to them'. 'Now that I know there is no virtue in the Revolution it fills me with disgust. They are devilsheartless devils. It is just self and passion ... Had I known, eight months ago, what I know now, I should have gone to Hamburg, and not into the Club.'
Military necessity, however, and the struggle to define the power-centre of the Republic, were as responsible for the political turmoil of 1793 as unprincipled vice. After the deposition of the King the government of France was in abeyance until a new structure emergedand it emerged not from the constitutional deliberations of the Convention but from its instinctual reactions to a series of crises. The 749 members of the Convention included not only 200 deputies from the former Legislative Assembly but also nearly 100 from the original Constituent Assembly (who had been excluded from the Legislative), along with some cosmopolitan oddities such as Clootz and Tom Paine. The largest single groupingperhaps 160 deputieswas that associated with the old 'faction of the Gironde', whose members now withdrew, or were expelled, from the Jacobin Club, and in their loyalty to the principles of 1789 they were generally determinedthey were all deputies from the provinces but were not a disciplined partyto undo the centralization which had been one of their principal complaints against the ancien régime. Their social meeting-place was the salon of Mme Roland (1754-93), wife of the interior minister, and in the Convention they sat to the right of the chair. To its left (and this distinction, deriving from the practice of the Constituent Assembly, was the origin of the modern political meanings of 'left' and 'right') sat their bitter opponents, about 140 strong, the Paris deputies and partisans of central power, known from the height of their benches as 'the Mountain', among them Danton, Robespierre, and Marat, sitting together for the first time in a supreme legislature, and the ferocious young L. de Saint-Just (1767-94). In between lay the 'Plain', whose fluctuating loyalties determined the fate of the more prominent figures, except in so far as those loyalties were themselves determined by the threats of the Paris crowd. The fundamental question posed for the Republic during 1793 concerned the relation between the capital and the nation, and the answer proved to be that, however capricious the process by which Paris reached its decisions, these could still command as much obedience in the country at large as the decisions of past monarchs.
The execution of the King naturally horrified legitimist Europe, but it was the occupation by the French of the Low Countries and their threat to control the mouths of the Rhine that caused Great Britain to abandon its hitherto neutral position. France declared war on Britain and Holland on 1 February, and on Spain on 7 March, and thereby precipitated the first great confrontation of Paris and the provinces. To fight the war against multiplied enemies over greatly expanded territories the conscription of 300,000 men was decreed. The levy provoked a savage and long-lasting revolt in the western region of the Vendée, where reluctance to serve was combined with long-standing hostility to the Revolution's religious policy, and it did not at first, of course, secure a military advantage either. On 18 March Dumouriez, who had begun an invasion of Holland, was decisively defeated by a numerically slightly inferior Austrian force at Neerwinden. Dumouriez had been dreaming himself into the role in which Lafayette had failed, and tried to persuade his remaining forces to march on Paris. But it required a greater general, who had forged a stronger link with his troops, to play Caesar, and when Dumouriez was rebuffed, he had no alternative but to follow Lafayette's example after all and go over to the Allies. Ills ambiguous manoeuvring, however, together with the troubles in the Vendée, and a similar revolt in Brittany, alarmed the Convention into a series of emergency measures which set up a real, and highly authoritarian, constitution rather different from the theoretical model which they were elaborating at the same time. Two new central bodies were established: the Revolutionary Tribunal to eradicate treason, and the Committee of Public Safety, a nine-man cabinet co-ordinating the work of the ministries. At the same time control over the départements was strengthened by formalizing a system for sending deputies into the country as 'representatives on mission', that is, as time went on, plenipotentiary commissars. Under popular pressure central control was extended to the economic area, hitherto sacrosanct, and maximum prices for bread and grain were decreed in May. As Paris's grip tightened so her rivals began to squeal, and first Marseilles and then Lyons rose in protest against the 'representatives on mission' and their local cadres, the Jacobin clubs.
The reaction of the capital to the resistance of the provinces was to strike at their national representatives. Any legitimacy the Republic might possess derived from an original act of violence by the people: the storming of the Tuileries. The new, draft constitution was establishingconsistently enougha right to revolt against oppressive government, and the belief in this right put a new weapon into the hands of the radicals. On 26 May Robespierre proclaimed himself in insurrection against the Convention until it was cleansed of its corrupt members. On 2 June an armed crowd of nearly 100,000 surrounded the Convention and demanded the arrest of twenty-nine principal Girondins and certain ministers, including Roland and his wife. With a heavy heart, the Mountain voted to make itself omnipotent and passed the necessary decrees against its fellow deputies. But the purge of the Girondins only intensified the anti-Parisian, or 'federalist', feeling in other cities. Bordeaux, the home, of course, of the Gironde, became a centre of armed revolt, Toulon at the end of August went so far as to hand itself over willingly to the British. On 13 July, just four years into the Revolution, Charlotte Corday from Caen stabbed Marat, the hated publicist of the Mountain; Adam Lux, Forster's companion, wrote a pamphlet in praise of her deed, which seemed to him a declaration of pure faith in the ideals of 1789, ideals which fearful and corrupt men had betrayed, and he followed her willingly, even ecstatically, to the guillotine later in the year. The war continued to go badly: the Spanish had invaded Roussillon, the British besieged Dunkirk, the Austrians moved out of Belgium on to French territory. On 23 July Mainz fell at last. It was the low point in the fortunes of the Republic. But at that low point, on 27 July, little over a fortnight after Danton had been removed from it on suspicion of faintheartedness, Robespierre was elected to the Committee of Public Safety.
Table of Contents
9. The Age of Revolution