Three times, since the allies crossed the Rhine, the capital of France had been menaced by the approach of troops within twenty miles of the city, but it had uniformly been delivered by the active and rapid movements of Napoleon. Encouraged by this recollection, the citizens, without much alarm, heard, for the fourth time, that the Cossacks had been seen at Meaux. Stifled rumours, however, began to circulate, that the divisions of Marmont and Mortier had sustained severe loss, and were in full retreat on the capital; a fact speedily confirmed by the long train of wounded who entered the barriers of the city, with looks of consternation and words of discouragement. Then came crowds of peasants, flying they knew not whither, before an enemy whose barbarous rapacity had been so long the theme of every tongue, bringing with them their half-naked and half-starved families, their teams, their carts, and such of their herds and household goods as they could remove in haste. These unfortunate fugitives crowded the Boulevards of Paris, the usual resort of the gay world, adding, by exaggerated and contradictory reports, to the dreadful ideas which the Parisians already conceived of the approaching storm.
The government, chiefly directed by Joseph Buonaparte, in the name of his sister-in-law Maria Louisa, did all they could to encourage the people, by exaggerating their means of defence, and maintaining with effrontery, that the troops which approached the capital, composed but some isolated column which by accident straggled towards Paris, while the Emperor was breaking, dividing, and slaughtering, the gross of the confederated army. The light could not be totally shut out, but such rays as were admitted were highly coloured with hope, having been made to pass through the medium of the police and public papers. A grand review of the troops destined for the defence of the capital was held upon the Sunday preceding the assault. Eight thousand troops of the line, being the garrison of Paris, under Gerard, and 30,000 national guards, commanded by Hulin, governor of the city, passed in order through the stately court of the Tuileries, followed by their trains of artillery, their corps of pioneers, and their carriages for baggage and ammunition. This was an imposing and encouraging spectacle, until it was remembered that these forces were not designed to move out to distant conquest, the destination of many hundreds of thousands which in other days had been paraded before that palace; but that they were the last hope of Paris, who must defend all that she contained by a battle under her walls. The remnants of Marmont and Mortier's corps d'armée made no part of this parade. Their diminished battalions, and disordered state of equipment, were ill calculated to inspire courage into the public mind. They were concentrated and stationed on the line of defence already described, beyond the barriers of the city. But the maréchals themselves entered Paris, and gave their assistance to the military councils of Joseph Buonaparte.
Preparations were made by the government to remove beyond the Loire, or at least in that direction. Maria Louisa had none of the spirit of an Amazon, though graced with all the domestic virtues. She was also placed painfully in the course of a war betwixt her husband and father. Besides, she obeyed, and probably with no lack of will, Napoleon's injunctions to leave the capital, if danger should approach. She left Paris,17 therefore, with her son, who is said to have shown an unwillingness to depart, which, in a child, seemed to have something ominous in it.18 Almost all the civil authorities of Buonaparte's government left the city at the same time, after destroying the private records of the high police, and carrying with them the crown jewels, and much of the public treasure. Joseph Buonaparte remained, detaining with him, somewhat, it is said, against his inclination, Cambacérès, the chancellor of the Emperor, whom, though somewhat too unwieldy for the character, Napoleon had, in one of his latest councils, threatened with the honours and dangers of the Colonelcy of a battalion. Joseph himself had the talents of an accomplished man, and an amiable member of society, but they do not seem to have been of a military description. He saw his sister-in-law depart, attended by a regiment of seven hundred men, whom some writers have alleged had been better employed in the defence of the city; forgetting of what importance it was to Napoleon, that the person of the Empress should be protected alike against a roving band of Hulans, or Cossacks, or the chance of some civic mutiny. These arrangements being made, Joseph published, on the morning of the 29th, a proclamation, assuring the citizens of Paris, that "he would remain with them;" he described the enemy as a single straggling column which had approached from Meaux, and required them by a brief and valorous resistance to sustain the honour of the French name, until the arrival of the Emperor, who, he assured the Parisians, was on full march to their succour.19
Between three and four o'clock on the next eventful morning, the drums beat to arms, and the national guards assembled in force. But of the thousands which obeyed the call, a great part were, from age, habits, and want of inclination, unfit for the service demanded from them. We have also already alluded to the scarcity of arms, and certainly there were very many of those citizen-soldiers, whom, had weapons been more plenty, the government of Buonaparte would not have intrusted with them.
Most of the national guards, who were suitably armed, were kept within the barrier until about eleven o'clock, and then, as their presence became necessary, were marched to the scene of action, and arrayed in a second line behind the regular troops, so as rather to impose upon the enemy, by an appearance of numbers, than to take a very active share in the contest. The most serviceable were, however, draughted to act as sharp-shooters, and several battalions were stationed to strengthen particular points of the line. The whole of the troops, including many volunteers, who actively engaged in the defence of the city, might be between 10,000 and 20,000.
The proposed assault of the allies was to be general and simultaneous, along the whole line of defence. The Prince Royal of Wirtemberg was to attack the extreme right of the French, in the wood of Vincennes, drive them from the banks of the Marne and the village of Charenton, and thus turn the heights of Belleville. The Russian general, Rayefski, making a flank movement from the public road to Meaux, was to direct three strong columns, with their artillery and powerful reserves, in order to attack in front the important heights of Belleville and Romainville, and the villages which give name to them. The Russian and Prussian body-guards had charge to attack the centre of the enemy, posted upon the canal de l'Ourcq, the reserves of which occupied the eminence called Montmartre. The army of Silesia was to assail the left of the French line, so as to turn and carry the heights of Montmartre from the north-east. The third division of the allied army, and a strong body of cavalry, were kept in reserve. Before the attack commenced, two successive flags of truce were despatched to summon the city to capitulate. Both were refused admittance; so that the intention of the defenders of Paris appeared fixed to hazard an engagement.
It was about eight o'clock, when the Parisians, who had assembled in anxious crowds at the barriers of St. Denis and of Vincennes, the outlets from Paris, corresponding with the two extremities of the line, became sensible, from the dropping succession of musket shots, which sounded like the detached pattering of large drops of rain before a thunder-storm, that the work of destruction was already commenced. Presently platoons of musketry, with a close and heavy fire of cannon, from the direction of Belleville, announced that the engagement had become general on that part of the line.
General Rayefski had begun the attack by pushing forward a column, with the purpose of turning the heights of Romainville on the right; but its progress having been arrested by a heavy fire of artillery, the French suddenly became the assailants, and under the command of Marmont, rushed forward and possessed themselves of the village of Pantin,20 in advance of their line; an important post, which they had abandoned on the preceding evening, at the approach of the allied army. It was instantly recovered by the Russian grenadiers, at the point of the bayonet; and the French, although they several times attempted to resume the offensive, were driven back by the Russians on the villages of Belleville and Mesnilmontant, while the allies pushed forward through the wood of Romainville, under the acclivity of the heights. The most determined and sustained fire was directed upon them from the French batteries along the whole line. Several of these were served by the youths of the Polytechnic school, boys from twelve to sixteen years of age, who showed the greatest activity and the most devoted courage. The French infantry rushed repeatedly in columns from the heights, where opportunities occurred to check the progress of the allies. They were as often repulsed by the Russians, each new attempt giving rise to fresh conflicts and more general slaughter, while a continued and dispersed combat of sharpshooters took place among the groves, vineyards, and gardens of the villas, with which the heights are covered. At length, by order of General de Tolli, the Russian commander-in-chief, the front attack on the heights was suspended until the operations of the allies on the other points should permit it to be resumed at a cheaper risk of loss. The Russian regiments which had been dispersed as sharpshooters, were withdrawn, and again formed in rank, and it would seem that the French seized this opportunity to repossess themselves of the village of Pantin, and to assume a momentary superiority in the contest.
Blucher had received his orders late in the morning, and could not commence the attack so early as that upon the left. About eleven o'clock, having contented himself with observing and blockading a body of French troops, who occupied the village of St. Denis, he directed the columns of General Langeron against the village of Aubervilliers, and, having surmounted the obstinate opposition which was there made, moved them by the road of Clichy, right against the extremity of the heights of Montmartre, whilst the division of Kleist and D'Yorck marched to attack in flank the villages of La Villette and Pantin, and thus sustain the attack on the centre and right of the French. The defenders, strongly intrenched and protected by powerful batteries, opposed the most formidable resistance, and, as the ground was broken and impracticable for cavalry, many of the attacking columns suffered severely. When the divisions of the Silesian army, commanded by Prince William of Prussia, first came to the assistance of the original assailants upon the centre, the French concentrated themselves on the strong post of La Villette, and the farm of Rouvroy, and continued to offer the most desperate resistance in defence of these points. Upon the allied left wing the Prussian guards, and those of Baden, threw themselves with rival impetuosity into the village of Pantin, and carried it at the point of the bayonet. During these advantages, the Prince Royal of Wirtemberg, on the extreme left of the allies, had forced his way to Vincennes, and threatened the right of the French battalions posted at Belleville, as had been projected in the plan of the attack. General Rayefski renewed the suspended assault upon these heights in front, when he learned that they were thus in some measure turned in flank, and succeeded in carrying those of Romainville, with the village. Marmont and Oudinot in vain attempted a charge upon the allied troops, who had thus established themselves on the French line of defence. They were repulsed and pursued by the victors, who, following up their advantage, possessed themselves successively of the villages of Belleville and Mesnilmontant, the Butte de St. Chaumont, and the fine artillery which defended this line.
About the same time the village of Charonne, on the right extremity of the heights, was also carried, and the whole line of defence occupied by the right wing of the French fell into possession of the allies. Their light horse began to penetrate from Vincennes as far as the barriers of Paris, and their guns and mortars upon the heights were turned upon the city. The centre of the French army, stationed upon the canal de l'Ourcq, had hitherto stood firm, protected by the redoubt at Rouvroy, with eighteen heavy pieces of cannon, and by the village of La Villette, which formed the key of the position. But the right flank of their line being turned by those troops who had become possessed of Romainville, the allies overwhelmed this part of the line also; and, carrying by assault the farm of Rouvroy, with its strong redoubt, and the village of La Villette, drove the centre of the French back upon the city. A body of French cavalry attempted to check the advance of the allied columns, but were repulsed and destroyed by a brilliant charge of the black hussars of Brandenburgh. Meanwhile, the right wing of the Silesian army approached close to the foot of Montmartre, and Count Langeron's corps were preparing to storm this last remaining defensible post, when a flag of truce appeared, to demand a cessation of hostilities.
It appears that, in the morning, Joseph Buonaparte had shown himself to the defenders riding along the lines, accompanied by his staff, and had repeated to all the corps engaged, the assurance that he would live and die with them. There is reason to think, that if he did not quite credit that such extensive preparations for assault were made by a single division of the allies, yet he believed he had to do with only one of their two armies, and not with their united force. He was undeceived by a person named Peyre, called, by some, an engineer officer attached to the staff of the Governor of Paris, and, by others, a superintendent belonging to the corps of firemen in that city. Peyre, it seems, had fallen into the hands of a party of Cossacks the night before, and was carried in the morning to the presence of the Emperor Alexander, at Bondy. In his route, he had an opportunity of calculating the immense force of the armies now under the walls of Paris. Through the medium of this officer, the Emperor Alexander explained the intentions of the allied sovereigns, to allow fair terms to the city of Paris, provided it was proposed to capitulate ere the barriers were forced; with the corresponding intimation, that if the defence were prolonged beyond that period, it would not be in the power either of the Emperor, the King of Prussia, or the allied generals, to prevent the total destruction of the town.
Mons. Peyre, thus erected into a commissioner and envoy of crowned heads, was set at liberty, and with danger and difficulty found his way into the French lines, through the fire which was maintained in every direction. He was introduced to Joseph, to whom he delivered his message, and showed proclamations to the city of Paris, with which the Emperor Alexander had intrusted him. Joseph hesitated, at first inclining to capitulate, then pulling up resolution, and determining to abide the chance of arms. He continued irresolute, blood flowing fast around him, until about noon, when the enemy's columns, threatening an attack on Montmartre, and the shells and bullets from the artillery, which was in position to cover the attempt, flying fast over the heads of himself and his staff, he sent Peyre to General Marmont, who acted as commander-in-chief, with permission to the maréchal to demand a cessation of arms. At the same time, Joseph himself fled with his whole attendants; thus abandoning the troops, whom his exhortations had engaged, in the bloody and hopeless resistance of which he had solemnly promised to partake the dangers.21 Marmont, with Moncey, and the other generals who conducted the defence, now saw all hopes of making it good at an end. The whole line was carried, excepting the single post of Montmartre, which was turned, and on the point of being stormed on both flanks, as well as in front; the Prince Royal of Wirtemberg had occupied Charenton, with its bridge over the Marne, and pushing forward on the high-road from thence to Paris, his advanced posts were already skirmishing at the barriers called the Trône; and a party of Cossacks had been with difficulty repulsed from the faubourg St. Antoine, on which they made a Hourra. The city of Paris is merely surrounded by an ordinary wall, to prevent smuggling. The barriers are not much stronger than any ordinary turnpike gate, and the stockade with which they had been barricaded, could have been cleared away by a few blows of the pioneers' axes. Add to this, that the heights commanding the city, Montmartre excepted, were in complete possession of the enemy; that a bomb or two, thrown probably to intimidate the citizens, had already fallen in the faubourg Montmartre, and the chaussée d'Antin; and that it was evident that any attempt to protract the defence of Paris, must be attended with utter ruin to the town and its inhabitants. Marshal Marmont, influenced by these considerations, despatched a flag of truce to General Barclay de Tolli, requesting a suspension of hostilities, to arrange the terms on which Paris was to be surrendered. The armistice was granted, on condition that Montmartre, the only defensible part of the line which the French still continued to occupy, should be delivered up to the allies. Deputies were appointed on both sides, to adjust the terms of surrender. These were speedily settled. The French regular troops were permitted to retire from Paris unmolested, and the metropolis was next day to be delivered up to the allied sovereigns, to whose generosity it was recommended.
Thus ended the assault of Paris, after a bloody action, in which the defenders lost upwards of 4000 in killed and wounded; and the allies, who had to storm well-defended batteries, redoubts, and intrenchments, perhaps about twice the number. They remained masters of the line at all points, and took nearly one hundred pieces of cannon. When night fell, the multiplied and crowded watch-fires that occupied the whole chain of heights on which the victors now bivouacked, indicated to the astonished inhabitants of the French metropolis, how numerous and how powerful were the armies into whose hands the fate of war had surrendered them.22
State of Parties in Paris – Royalists – Revolutionists – Buonapartists – Talleyrand – Chateaubriand – Mission to the Allied Sovereigns – Their answer – Efforts of the Buonapartists – Feelings of the lowest classes – of the middling ranks – Neutrality of the National Guard – Growing confidence of the Royalists – Proclamations and White Cockades – Crowds assemble at the Boulevards – The Allies are received with shouts of welcome – Their Army retires to quarters – and the Cossacks bivouac in the Champs Elysées.
The battle was fought and won; but it remained a high and doubtful question in what way the victory was to be improved, so as to produce results of far greater consequence than usually follow from the mere military occupation of an enemy's capital. While the mass of the inhabitants were at rest, exhausted by the fatigues and anxieties of the day, many secret conclaves, on different principles, were held in the city of Paris, upon the night after the assault. Some of these even yet endeavoured to organise the means of resistance, and some to find out what modern policy has called a Mezzo-termine, some third expedient, between the risk of standing by Napoleon, and that of recalling the banished family.
The only middle mode which could have succeeded, would have been a regency under the Empress; and Fouché's Memoirs state, that if he had been in Paris at the time, he might have succeeded in establishing a new order of things upon such a basis. The assertion may be safely disputed. To Austria such a plan might have had some recommendations; but to the sovereigns and statesmen of the other allied nations, the proposal would only have appeared a device to obtain immediate peace, and keep the throne, as it were, in commission, that Buonaparte might ascend it at his pleasure.23
We have the greatest doubts whether, among the ancient chiefs of the Revolution, most of whom had, as hackneyed tools, lost credit in the public eye, both by want of principle and political inconsistency, there remained any who could have maintained a popular interest in opposition to that of the Royalists on the one hand, and the Buonapartists on the other. The few who remained steady to their democratic principles, Napoleon had discredited and thrown into the shade; and he had rendered many of the others still more inefficient, by showing that they were accessible to bribery and to ambition, and that ancient demagogues could, without much trouble, be transmuted into supple and obsequious courtiers. Their day of power and interest was past, and the exaggerated vehemence of their democratic opinions had no longer any effect on the lower classes, who were in a great proportion attached to the empire.
The Royalists, on the other hand, had been long combining and extending their efforts and opinions, which gained, chiefly among the higher orders, a sort of fashion which those of the democrats had lost. Talleyrand was acceptable to them as himself noble by birth; and he knew better than any one how to apply the lever to unfasten the deep foundations of Napoleon's power. Of his address, though not successful in the particular instance, Las Cases gives us a curious specimen. Talleyrand desired to sound the opinion of Decrès, about the time of the crisis of which we are treating. He drew that minister towards the chimney, and opening a volume of Montesquieu, said, as if in the tone of an ordinary conversation, "I found a passage here this morning, which struck me in an extraordinary manner. Here it is, in such a book and chapter, page so and so: When a prince has raised himself above all laws, when his tyranny becomes insupportable, there remains nothing to the oppressed subject except —"
"It is quite enough," said Decrès, placing his hand upon Talleyrand's mouth, "I will hear no more. Shut your book." And Talleyrand closed the book, as if nothing remarkable had happened.24
An agent of such extraordinary tact was not frequently baffled, in a city, and at a time, when so many were, from hope, fear, love, hatred, and all the other strongest passions, desirous, according to the Roman phrase, of a new state of things. He had been unceasingly active, and eminently successful, in convincing the Royalists, that the King must purchase the recovery of his authority by consenting to place the monarchy on a constitutional footing; and in persuading another class, that the restoration of the Bourbons was the most favourable chance for the settlement of a free system of government. Nor did this accomplished politician limit his efforts to those who had loyalty to be awakened, and a love of liberty to be rekindled, but extended them through a thousand ramifications, through every class of persons. To the bold he offered an enterprise requiring courage; to the timid (a numerous class at the time) he showed the road of safety; to the ambitious, the prospect of gaining power; to the guilty, the assurance of indemnity and safety. He had inspired resolution even into the councils of the allies. A note from him to the Emperor Alexander, in the following words, is said to have determined that prince to persevere in the march upon Paris. "You venture nothing," said this laconic billet, "when you may safely venture every thing – Venture once more."
It is not to be supposed that Talleyrand wrought in this deep intrigue without active coadjutors. The Abbé de Pradt, whose lively works have so often given some interest to our pages, was deeply involved in the transactions of that busy period, and advocated the cause of the Bourbons against that of his former master. Bournonville and other senators were engaged in the same cabals.
The Royalists, on their own part, were in the highest state of activity, and prepared to use their utmost exertions to obtain the mastery of the public spirit. At this most critical moment all was done, by Monsieur de Chateaubriand, which eloquence could effect, to appeal to the affections, perhaps even the prejudices of the people, in his celebrated pamphlet, entitled, "Of Buonaparte and the Bourbons." This vigorous and affecting comparison between the days when France was in peace and honour under her own monarchs, contrasted with those in which Europe appeared in arms under her walls, had been written above a month, and the manuscript was concealed by Madame de Chateaubriand in her bosom. It was now privately printed. So was a proclamation by Monsieur, made in the name of his brother, the late King of France. Finally, in a private assembly of the principal Royalists, amongst whom were the illustrious names of Rohan, Rochefoucault, Montmorency, and Noailles, it was resolved to send a deputation to the allied sovereigns, to learn, if possible, their intention. Monsieur Douhet, the gentleman intrusted with this communication, executed his mission at the expense of considerable personal danger, and returned into Paris with the answer, that the allies had determined to avoid all appearance of dictating to France respecting any family or mode of government, and that although they would most joyfully and willingly acknowledge the Bourbons, yet it could only be in consequence of a public declaration in their favour. At the same time Monsieur Douhet was furnished with a proclamation of the allies, signed Schwartzenberg, which, without mentioning the Bourbons, was powerfully calculated to serve their cause. It declared the friendly intention of the allies towards France, and represented the power of the government which now oppressed them, as the only obstacle to instant peace. The allied sovereigns, it was stated, sought but to see a salutary government in France, who would cement the friendly union of all nations. It belonged to the city of Paris to pronounce their opinion, and accelerate the peace of the world.25
Furnished with this important document, which plainly indicated the private wishes of the allies, the Royalists resolved to make an effort on the morning of March 31st. It was at first designed they should assemble five hundred gentlemen in arms; but this plan was prudently laid aside, and they determined to relinquish all appearance of force, and address the citizens only by means of persuasion.
In the meantime, the friends of the imperial government were not idle. The conduct of the lower classes, during the battle on the heights, had assumed an alarming character. For a time they had listened with a sort of stupified terror to the distant thunders of the fight, beheld the wounded and fugitives crowd in at the barriers, and gazed in useless wonder on the hurried march of troops moving out in haste to reinforce the lines. At length, the numerous crowds which assembled in the Boulevards and, particularly in the streets near the Palais Royal, assumed a more active appearance. There began to emerge from the suburbs and lanes those degraded members of the community, whose slavish labour is only relieved by coarse debauchery, invisible for the most part to the more decent classes of society, but whom periods of public calamity or agitation bring into view, to add to the general confusion and terror. They gather in times of public danger, as birds of ill omen and noxious reptiles are said to do at the rising of a tropical hurricane; and their fellow-citizens look with equal disgust and dread upon faces and figures, as strange to them as if they had issued from some distant and savage land. Paris, like every great metropolis, has her share, and more than her share, of this unwholesome population. It was the frantic convocations of this class which had at once instigated and carried into effect the principal horrors of the Revolution, and they seemed now resolved to signalize its conclusion by the destruction of the capital. Most of these banditti were under the influence of Buonaparte's police, and were stimulated by the various arts which his emissaries employed. At one time horsemen galloped through the crowd, exhorting them to take arms, and assuring them that Buonaparte had already attacked the rear of the allies. Again they were told that the King of Prussia was made prisoner, with a column of 10,000 men. At other times, similar emissaries, announcing that the allies had entered the suburbs, and were sparing neither sex nor age, exhorting the citizens, by placards pasted on the walls, to shut their shops, and prepare to defend their houses.
This invitation to make the last earthly sacrifices in behalf of a military despot, to which Zaragossa had submitted in defence of her national independence, was ill received by the inhabitants. A free state has millions of necks, but a despotic government is in the situation desired by the Imperial tyrant – it has but one. When it was obvious that the Emperor Napoleon had lost his ascendency, no shop-keeper in Paris was fool enough to risk, in his cause, his shop, his family, and his life, or to consent to measures for preserving the capital, which were to commence by abandoning to the allied troops, and the scum of their own population, all that was, to him individually, worth fighting for. The placards we have mentioned were pulled down, therefore, as fast as they were pasted up; and there was an evident disposition, on the part of the better class of citizens and the national guards, to discourage all counsels which tended to stimulate resistance to the desperate extremity therein recommended.
Чтобы воспользоваться акцией, добавьте нужные книги в корзину. Сделать это можно на странице каждой книги, либо в общем списке: