« IndietroContinua »
tions were already there—the aged Mme. Lavet gave up her own bed to Maréchal de Monchy and his wife, the the aged Maréchale, and threw together parents of the husband of Mme. de
a rug or two, on which Mme. d’Ayen Noailles. M. Grellet had been asked stretched herself, urging her daughter by the ladies to let them know their to lie down. “Think, my child, what probable fate-release, or death. They to-morrow will be !"
“Ah, mamma, learned there was no apparent ground why should I rest, when eternity is so for hope. From that moment they pre- near ?" The daughter asked for a pared themselves for the worst. A good prayer-book and a light, and passed priest, a prisoner like themselves, assist- hours in devotion. Her countenance ed them faithfully in their religious expressed all the calm and peace of her duties. The infirmities of the aged soul. Never before had a religious Maréchale required constant attention; calm so perfect been seen in those the two ladies watched over her ten- gloomy cells. Occasionally she would derly to the last. And it is touching offer little services of affection to her to know that, at this dark hour, Mme. mother and her grandmother. Mme. d'Ayen wrote a consoling and affection- d'Ayen was not entirely without hope ate note to Malle. Aufroy, her faithful of release, knowing her perfect innoattendant through life. The unhappy cence of the crimes laid to her charge. mother had now to learn that her sec- The aged Maréchale, whose infirmities ond daughter, Mme. de Lafayette, had had enfeebled her mind, slept much of also been brought to Paris a prisoner. the time. Whenever she awoke, she Those weeks were the most terrible, the read over aloud the official act of accumost criminal, of all the years of hor- sation, which was incomprehensible to
In June, 672 were legally mur- ber. She looked forward with certaindered at Paris. In July, 835 more were ty to being acquitted. “No; it is imlegally slaughtered in cold blood. On possible that I should die for a conthe 27th of June, the aged Duc de spiracy of whose existence I know nothMonchy and his wife were taken from ing. I shall defend my cause before the same prison to the scaffold. Three the judges; they cannot condemn me!” weeks passed, and the fatal summons Mme. d'Ayen asked a favor of her felcame to Mme. d’Ayen, her aged mother- low-prisoners : her watch was now her in-law, and her daughter. On the 21st only property; would they see that it of July, at nine o'clock in the evening, was given to her grandchildren? The they were carried to the Conciergerie, young mother also wished to send a to go through the forms of a mock trial lock of hair, an empty portfolio, and a. before a tribunal composed of the worst portrait, to her children ; would any men in the country. Galley-slaves were one take charge of these last gifts ? among their judges. They arrived at Alas! though full of sympathy, those the Conciergerie exhausted by fatigue
were compelled to decline; and emotion. They were placed in a their own lives would inevitably be forcell with several other female prisoners. .feited by this act of charity. Mme. de They needed food; none could be pro- Noailles then left messages of affection cured at that late hour. One of the to M. Grellet and her children, telling prisoners, Mme. Lavet, had known them she was dying with entire resigMme. de Lafayette, and, anxious to be nation, and in perfect peace. of service, she endeavored to procure In the morning, kind friends, prisonbeds for them. The jailers asked forty- ers like themselves, brought them five francs for the use of these beds chocolate to strengthen them. The during one night. The pockets of the clock struck nine. The horrible offiladies were empty; they had been cials came to carry them to the tribuspoiled at the Luxembourg. Fifty nal, or, in other words, to certain death. cents was all they had to offer. The The two elder ladies appear still to brutal men refused the use of the beds. have believed in the possibility of re
lease. Not so the younger; she saw Mme. de Noailles, forgetful of herself, their position clearly. With the sweet gave all her attention to ber mother, and graceful manner natural to her, she bending over her, soothing her, cheerthanked Mme. Lavet for her kindness, ing her. “Look at the young one: see and said to her, with a smile, “You how she talks to the other-how she have a happy face; you will not per- watches her!” exclaimed the hystand ish." One is thankful to know the pre- She soon looked about for the diction proved true.
priest, who had promised to be near It was on Tuesday, July 22d, 1794, them on the fatal journey, to pray for that they were brought before the tri- them, and give them the absolution bunal. At the same hour M. Grellet, they desired. He drew near the cart, aware of their fate, knocked at the but was not observed among the throng. door of the good priest, M. Carrichon. The distance between the Conciergerie The little boys were with him, smiling and the scaffold, at the extremity of the and cheerful, ignorant of the danger of Faubourg St. Antoine, was painfully their mothers. M. Grellet took the long. Several times, as the fatal propriest apart. “ All is over, my friend ! cession moved onward amid the hoarse The ladies are before the tribunal. I cries of the mob, the priest endeavored come to ask you to keep your word. to approach ncarer, to attract their atI shall carry the boys to their little sis- tention, but for a long time without ter, at Vincennes; in the wood I shall success. He became discouraged, but' prepare the unhappy children for their still persevered, as he observed the anxloss.” The brave priest kept his word. ious, inquiring look of Mme. de NoAt six o'clock the same evening he ailles passing over the crowd. Sudstood, disguised according to the denly the sky darkened; a heavy thunagreement, at the gate of the Concier- der-shower was rolling over the city gerie, when
opened for the pas- towards them. The wind rose ; sharp sage of the victims. We repeat his lightning was followed by heavy peals account, written for the family : of thunder ; rain began to fall in tor
A large cart, the regular tumbrel rents. The street was deserted by the of the prison, rolled slowly out from mob. The funeral procession alone under the heavy gateway; in it were kept its place, but moving irregularly, seated eight ladies, all but one unknown and less closely watched by the guards. to him. Their hands were bound be- The ladies still looked about for their hind their backs. All were calm and friend. At length they saw bim. Mme. · edifying in manner and expression. On de Noailles whispered to her mother, the last bench sat the aged Maréchale and both appeared cheered. M. Carride Noailles, feeble and tottering on the chon was now able to approach nearer rude seat. A second cart was drawn to the carts. The ladies were drenched up in the court; it was empty. Pres- with rain. The wind was very high, ently Mme. d'Ayen and her daughter and gave those in the first cart much were brought out, and took the front
trouble, especially the aged Maréchale. seat. Mme. d'Ayen wore a striped Her hat was blown back, her gray hair dress, blue and white. Mme. de No- appeared. She tottered on her seat, ailles was dressed in white, which she unable to help herself. She was recoghad worn as mourning since the execu- nized by a handful of the rabble, who tion of her husband's parents, the Duc stood watching for the passage of the and Duchesse de Monchy. Her appear- prisoners, in spite of the rain. They ance was very youthful. Both had insulted the aged lady with harsh cries their hands bound at their backs. Six and loud abuse : “ There she is, that men climbed into the tumbrel after the Maréchale who used to dash about in ladies, the two first, with respectful such style in her grand coach! There attention, leaving them as much space she is, just like the others in the cart!" as possible in that wretched cart. The outcry continued, the storm in
creased. The tumbrel was moving large eyes gazing fixedly before her. more slowly. Just as they reached the Beyond these were two lines of prisonsquare of St. Antoine, the priest made ers, drawn up one behind the other; a signal to Mme. de Noailles. She they were, in all, forty-six. At a little spoke to her mother. Both heads were distance was Mme. d'Ayen, in an attibowed in devotion, with an expression tude of devotion, simple, noble, resignof humble penitence, of piety, of hope. ed, without fear; the same reverent exThe priest raised one hand, and pro- pression on her countenance as was nounced distinctly, and with intensity usual with her when she drew near the of feeling, the solemn words of absolu- Lord's table. “I still often sce her," tion, Only a moment later, the storm writes the good priest, “in that attirolled over, the clouds broke away, and tude. God grant I may profit by the the streets filled again with a crowd, memory.” who poured a torrent of abuse on the At that moment Mme. de Noailles aged Maréchale. The others passed was not in sight. unmolested.
The aged grandmother was the first At length the scaffold was in sight. to mount the scaffold. Six ladies folThe tumbrels stopped. The guards lowed, all with composure and devodrew around them. Beyond the mili- tion. tary was a dense ring of spectators, the Mme. d'Ayen was the tenth. As she dregs of the populace, inhumanly laugh- stood on the scaffold, the executioner ing and joking and roaring as they tore off her hat. It was fastened by a watched the spectacle. The expression long pin, which he had not withdrawn. of the face of Mme. de Noailles, at that The rough movement of the man tore moment, is said to have been angelic. away some hair. A momentary expresIt attracted the attention of those bru- sion of pain passed over her face, intal men.
“Ah, how happy that young stantly followed by religious calm. woman looks! How she prays! How The noble head was meekly bowed on she looks up to the sky! But what is the block-the fatal steel fell-life was the use of all that? Ah, the miscreants! Ah, the aristocrats !” The pris- Her admirable daughter followed. oners were taken from the carts. Three Again the hat was rudely torn off ; were placed near the steps leading to again there was the same quick movethe scaffold. An old man, with white ment of pain, followed by perfect calm. locks and a good face, was leaning Looking so innocent, so youthful, and against the ladder. Near him stood a all in white, she appeared like a lamb lady whose manner and countenance brought to the sacrifice, or like a saintwere very edifying. · Next to these was ly martyr of past ages. In another inthe venerable Mme. de Noailles, dressed stant her head was bowed, and her in black, in mourning for her husband; blood also stained that iniquitous scafshe was seated on a block of stone her fold.
TIIE CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS IN ENGLAND.
Ir is generally felt that the history of rogatives, being secured by a written the British Constitution has arrived at compact, could have been reduced only a crisis interesting to political observers: by a revolutionary struggle, from which and the interest appears in effect to lie the nation would have shrunk, and in m this, that the British nation, with which, if it had taken place, the king, whatever of political capacity and apti- having the written law upon his side, tude it may possess, is now, or will would probably have been victorious. very soon be, brought fairly face to face As it is, England has had room to grow, with the elective principle of government, and the leaders of progress, while they and compelled to found upon that prin- were really retrenching prerogative and ciple the institutions of the future. extending liberty, have always been able
Though the term British Constitution to think and say that the Constitution is so familiar, and though it was to the was in their favor. The constitutional British government that the term Con- past to which Pym and Hampden appealstitutional was first applied, England has, ed was partly mythical; and being so, properly speaking, no Constitution. it served its purpose better than it would She has no instrument like the Constitu- have done if it had been wholly real. tion of the United States, or those re- They could find in it support for any cently framed by most of the European thing which they needed; they could nations, setting forth her polity and de- find support for the doctrine that the fining the powers and functions of its command of the national army did not members. She has a series of political belong to the king, though the Barons documents of great importance and re- who extorted the Great Charter would nown, embodying the limitations impos- have pronounced without hesitation ed by the Parliament from time to time that the command of the national on the power of the kings—the Great army did belong to the king, and Charter, the Petition of Right, the would certainly have secured it to him Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Right, if they had framed a constitution. the Acts of Parliament securing the in- The British constitution is in fact the dependence of the Judiciary. The Great distribution of power between the king, Charter has been called a Constitution. the nobility, and the commons. And (t is a document of the highest import this distribution, though formally unance not only in English but in univer- changed and treated by writers on concal history, being the first compact stitutional law as something peculiarly between King and People, the first fixed and stable, has in reality been formal submission of royal authority to always changing ; so that the Constituthe supremacy of law. But it does not tional History of England may be describset forth a polity; it only restricts the ed as the gradnal transfer of power from royal power.
the king to Parliament and from the The absence of a written constitution Lords to the Commons; in other words, has, in fact, been the condition of English as a gradual transition, masked by modevelopment. Had the Great Charter narchical and aristocratic forms, from been a constitution it would, while curb- hereditary to elective government. ing John's tyranny, have left the king Even after the Great Charter, the king prerogatives, legislative and judicial as retained the exclusive initiative in legis. well as executive, which would now be lation, and it would be difficult to maindeemed almost despotic; and these pre- tain that he did not possess any legisla
tive power of a more direct kind. He thority left in the king. William the retained the entire executive power, and
Third administered in his own person exercised it either in his own person, or the executive department of Foreign through ministers freely chosen by him. Affairs, 'acting in that department withself. Ile also retained the entire judicial out the advice and sometimes without power, deciding all cases either person- the knowledge of his ministers; an asally, as in the language of our law, which sumption of authority favored in his speaks of trials as held “before the king case by his personal position as the lead himself at Westminster,” he is still sup- not only of England as of a great Europosed to do; or through judges appointed pean confederation, formed to resist the by himself and removable at his pleasure; aggrandizement of France. But since so that for the people, if not for the William's time, this, with all other funcBarons, ho could make the law pretty tions of the executive, has passed entirely much what he pleased. In taxation his into the hands of the king's constitutionpower was limited to the enforcement al advisers, as they are called ; that is, of of the three ordinary aids, all extraordi- ministers imposed on hiri by the Parlianary aids requiring the assent of the ment without reference to his personal Great Council : but he had still his own wishes, and responsible to the Parliament domains and his lucrative prerogatives for all they do. By the final change of as feudal suzerain, with some less regu- the tenure of the judges from one during lar sources of revenue or profit, such as the king's pleasure to one during life and purveyance and the Jews: and these good behavior, with the power of rewere sufficient, with prudence and ab- moval virtually vested in Parliament, the stention from foreign wars, to render Crown has in like manner been stripped him fiscally independent. He had the of the last remnant of judicial authority; command of the feudal militia, and the and that authority has been completely power of calling it out at his pleasure, transferred to the Parliament. An atfor the prescribed term. The real limi- tempt was made by George III, to retation of his authority was not so much vive monarchical government in his own the law as the military strength of the person; and the attempt was favored Barons. When, by the destruction of during the earlier part of his reign by the feudal nobility in the Wars of the the unpopularity of the Whig oligarchy, Roses, that pressure was removed, the and during the latter part by the reaction Crown, without any tangible act of usur- against the excesses of the French Rer. pation, started at once into almost olution. But this was rather a clandesdespotic power, which it retained till tine intrigue than an open resumption the combined growth of Puritanism and of power; and it could not be carried the middle class again turned the politi- on without the aid of a party in the cal scale.
House of Commons called the king's The real question between the nation friends, and acting in corrupt subservienand the Stuarts was whether the king cy to the Crown. The king's attempt to or the Parliament should rule. That uphold Bute as Prime Minister by his question was settled, after a series of con- personal authority signally broke down; vulsions, by the Revolution of 1688. and though he mado Pitt minister in William the Third, in assenting to the face of an adverse majority in the Declaration of Right, resigned the dis- House of Commons, he could not have pensing power, for which the Stuarts kept him minister if the majority had had desperately contended, thereby ad- remained adverse. Ilis personal influence mitting that the monarchy was entirely availed to dissuade Pitt from bringing subject to the law made by Parliament. forward Catholic Emancipation; but had The same reign was marked by the last Pitt persisted, and had the bill passed important exercise of the legislative veto Parliament, the king would not have which, with the alleged dispensing power, dared to veto. was the only remnant of legislative au- The King of England is now politically