Imágenes de páginas

same time a marriage song is sung; its tenour is that the season of joy and thoughtlessness is past, that the morning of life is gone by, that the noon is full of cares, and that as the day advances we must prepare for trouble and grief;--a mournful but wholesome lesson which is seldom heard without tears. If the bride has an elder sister still in her state of spinstership, she is made to spin coarse flax; and if an elder brother of the bridegroom be unmarried, he has the severe task assigned him of making a faggot of thorns. The sports continue till all the wine is consumed.

The smaller landholders and the townsmen were on good terms with the nobles, but had not the same attachment to them as was felt by the peasantry. Among them the beginning of the revolution was regarded with pleasure; the towns indeed were generally attached to the new principles, but the bond of good-will was not broken, and the Vendeans acquit their countrymen, who took part with the republic, of any share in the atrocities which were committed. In the Plain, some personal animosity was displayed during the first movement of 1789, and some chateaux were destroyed; this part of the country was much more civilized, and it may be presumed that vice had kept pace with civilization. But in the Bocage the people wished to remain as they were, believing that no change could improve a condition in which they enjoyed peace, plenty, security, and contentment. When the national guards were formed, the lord was called upon in every parish to take the command; when mayors were to be appointed, it was the lord who was every where chosen; and when orders were published to remove the seats of the lords from the churches, they were not obeyed in La Vendée. The peasantry had neither been stung by insults noraggrieved by oppression; they regarded the lords as their friends and benefactors, and respect and gratitude are natural to the heart of uncorrupted man. The law which imposed a constitutional oath upon the clergy injured them more deeply: their priests were almost all born among them, they spoke the dialect as their mother tongue, they were bred up in the same habits, and the people were attached to them by every possible tie of respect and love. Even General Turreau confesses that their lives were exemplary and their manners truly patriarchal,-il faut en convenir, la plupart de ceux-ci menaient une vie exemplaire, et evaient conservé les meurs patriarchales. When therefore their pastors were superseded by men who had taken an oath which the Vendeans held in abhorrence, the churches were deserted, the new clergy were in some places insulted, in others driven away :-in a parish consisting of 4000 inhabitants, one of these men could not obtain fire to light the church tapers. Partial insurrections took place and blood was shed: A peasant of Bas Poitou resisted the gendarmes with a pitchfork; he had received two and twenty sabre strokes, when they cried o him Rends-toi !-Rendez-moi mon-Dieu! was his reply, and he died as the words were uttered.

After the 10th of August, a persecution of the refractory prieste began; and the peasants, like the Cameronians in Scotland, gathered together, arms in hand, to hear mass in the field, and die in defending their spiritual father. More than forty parishes assembled tumultuously; the national guards of the Plain routed this ill-armed and worse conducted crowd, and slew about an hundred in the field. Life and free pardon were offered to others if they would only cry Vive la nation! there were very few who would accept of life upon those terms: the greater number fell on their knees, not in supplication to man, but in prayer to Heaven, and offered themselves bravely to the stroke of death ;—from man they requested no other favours than that a little earth might be thrown over their remains, to preserve them from the wolves and dogs. Je me garderai bien, says M. Bourniseaux, de tracer le tableau des horreurs qui souillèrent la victoire ; je passerai sous silence ces femmes, ces enfans massacrés, ces membres sanglans mis au bout des baïonettes et portés en triomphe. Ces horreurs sont malheureusement inséparables des guerres civiles. M. Alphonse de Beauchamp repeats the same reflection, in the same words, more suo, presenting the thoughts and the very language of the writers from whom he compiles as though they were his own. The reflection, however, is not true; these horrors are not inseparable from civil war, grievous as its inevitable evils are. We in England, for instance, have had civil wars, long, obstinate and bloody contests, in which the strongest passions and most powerful principles were at work; but the English never wore human ears for cockades, they never cut off noses to stick upon their bayonets, they never butchered womeri and children, they had no noyades, no fusillades, no Septembrizings ! These were acts of individual cruelty,--ebullitions of that national character which has made the civil wars of France more atrocious than those of any other European people. The government had not yet begun its course of blood, and the Commission which tried the prisoners at Niort, with wise humanity laid the whole upon the dead or the absent, and did not condemn a single person. This insurrection occurred only a few days before Lescure and his family arrived at Clisson; the first news which followed them was of the September massacres, in which many of their dearest friends had fallen. Their chateau was situated in a parish which had taken

no part in the tumults, being on the edge of the country near the Plain; the opinions of the people were less violent; and the priests, by a sort of Catholic equivocation, had contrived to take the constitutional oath and protest against

any thing which it might contain contrary to the Apostolical and Romish religion. Lescure was believed to be a man wholly devoted to religion and study; for this reason he was unmolested, and Clisson became an asylum for many persons who stood in need of one at this time. Of these, the two most important were Marigny, who still continued to share their fortunes, and Henri de la Roche Jaquelein, the most distinguished of a family to which the Bourbons can never be too grateful. Roche Jaquelein was the cousin and friend of Lescure. The marchioness describes him as a young man simple in his manners, timid in deportment, laconic and unaffected in speech: he had lived little in the world, and was but twenty years old. His countenance, she says, was rather English than French, and a portrait in M. Alphonse de Beauchamp's work confirms this. Notwithstanding an air of timidity, his eyes were quick and animated, and it was not long before events fixed in his features the fierce and ardent expression which denoted his heroic character. He was an officer in the King's Constitutional Guards, and with his friend, Charles d'Autichamp, had escaped, as if by miracle, from the Tuileries on the 10th of August. With equal good fortune they effected their escape also from the capital, which was at that time one wide prison for the royalists. The Abbess of St. Huxonne, sister to the Duc de Civrac, and aunt to Victorine's mother, was another of the refugees at Clisson; the greater number of its inhabitants were women and aged persons; the servants were very numerous, and almost all thoroughly devoted to their masters. Only the maître d'hotel, and the valet who had been Madame de Lescure's surgeon, were warm revolutionists; but they had been faithful servants, and there was no reason to think that their political principles had divested them of old attachments, duty, and humanity.

At the end of October, Victorine was delivered of a daughter, the unhappy offspring of a most ill-timed and ill-starred union Under other circumstances she would have nursed the infant herself. But "Wo unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! The signs of the times were not then to be mistaken: sooner or later she knew that the storm must break, and she held herself ready to follow Lescure wherever his fate might call him, whether to prison, or to the field. He and Roche Jaquelein had hoped that some timely effort would be made in behalf of the King, or at least that a coup-de-main would be attempted for his rescue, holding themselves ready for any summons. This hope was frustrated, but he foresaw that the Vendeans would be driven into insurrection, and he was determined to cast his fortunes into the same scale. He took no measures to accelerate this event, and made no combinations to ensure

its success : but he knew that it must take place, and eagerly desired it. The revolutionary writers insist the war in La Ven. dée was the result of plans long existing, and ably concerted; but upon this subject the testimony of the marchioness would be decisive, even if it stood alone—it is, however, confirmed by the best and most unprejudiced writers.

General Turreau says, il faut être bien ignorant ou de bien mauvaise foi, pour assigner une cause éventuelle et instantanée à la révolte du Bas Poitou. General Turreau was the faithful servant of the Convention in its bloodiest days, and the faithful servant of Bonaparte after his return from Elba; he hated the old government, and he hated the Bourbons whatever government they might establish ; but he never objected to the wildest excesses of revolutionary madness, nor to the heaviest yoke of imperial despotism. General Turreau therefore may be sincere in disbelieving that a sense of religion and loyalty could instantaneously rouse a brave and simple people to arms, because, never having felt either the one sentiment or the other, he is utterly ignorant of their nature and their strength. He supposes a conspiracy of the emigrants, the nobles, and the priests, fomented by foreign powers. M. Bourniseaux, with more knowledge of the circumstances and the people, with more truth, with sounder philosophy, and with a better heart, ascribes the moving impulse to its real source. To expect, he says, that the nobles and clergy, insulted, injured, outraged and plundered as they were by the Revolution, should have embraced the Revolution, would be to know little of the human heart, ç'eut été demander à la philosophie un miracle, et l'on sait que la philosophie u'en fit jamais. But he declares, that in the insurrection of La Vendée the priests and nobles were, for the most part, forced to make common cause with the insurgents; that, with very few exceptions, they did not come forward voluntarily to take the lead ; that having taken arms, they exerted themselves strenuously; but that when terms of pacification were proposed, they were the first to submit, and the peasantry were the last.

That the peasants should thus have acted, he says, may well astonish posterity; for they derived nothing but benefit from the revolution, which delivered them from the payment of tithes, and from the feudal grievances. Thus, however, it was: in jacobinical phrase, they were not ripe for the revolution ; which is, being interpreted, they loved their king and their God, their morals were uncorrupt, their piety was sincere and fervent, their sense of duty towards God and man unshaken. Hitherto what tumults had broken out had been partial, and provoked merely by local vexations, chiefly respecting the priests; but when the Convention called for a conscription of 300,000 men, a measure which would have forcedtheir sons to fight for a cause which they abhorred, one feeling of indignation rose through the whole country, and the insurrection through all La Vendée broke forth simultaneously and without concert or plan. The same principle which made them take arms made them look to their own gentry for leaders; the opportunity was favourable; nor can it now be doubted, that if the Bourbon princes and the allied powers had known how to profit by the numerous opportunities offered them in these western provinces, the monarchy might long since have been restored.

The 10th of March, 1793, was the day appointed for drawing the conscription at St. Florent in Anjou, upon the banks of the Loire. The young men assembled with a determination not to submit to it; after exhorting them in vain, the republican commander brought out a piece of cannon to intimidate them, and fired upon them; they got possession of the gun, routed the gendarmes, burnt the papers, and after passing the rest of the day in rejoicing, returned to grow sober, and contemplate upon the vengeance which would follow them. One of the most respectable peasants in this part of the country was a wool-dealer of the village of Pin en Mauges, by name Jaques Cathelinean. As soon as this man heard what had past, he saw what the consequence would be, and took the noble resolution of standing up for his king and country,-facing the eyils which were not to be avoided, and doing his duty manfully in arms, secure of the approbation of his own heart whatever might be the event. His wife entreated him not to form this perilous resolution, but this was no time for such humanities ; leaving his work, he called the villagers about him, rescribed the punishment that would be inflicted upon the whole district, and urged them to take arms. About twenty young men promised to follow wherever he would lead;" he was greatly beloved and respected in his neighbourhood, being a manof quiet manners, great piety, and strong natural talents. They rang the tocsin in the village of Poitevinière; their number soon amounted to about an hundred, and they determined to attack a party of about eighty republicans, who were posted at Jallars with a piece of cannon. On the way they gathered more force; they carried the post, took some horses and prisoners, and got possession of the gun, which they named le Missionaire. Encouraged by this success, which also increased their numbers, they attacked 200 republicans the same day, at Chemillé, with three pieces of artillery, and they met with the same success. At the same time, a young man, by name Foret, in the same part of the country, killed a gendarme who sought to arrest him, ran to the church, rang the toscin, and raised a second body of insurgents. A third was raised in like manner by Stofflet, a man who had served sixteen years as a soldier, and was

« AnteriorContinuar »