Louis and Marie Antoinette contemplate Foreign Intervention.—The Assembly passes Laws to subordinate the Church to the Civil Power.—Insolence of La Fayette.—Marie Antoinette refuses to quit France by Herself.—The Jacobins and La Fayette try to revive the Story of the Necklace.—Marie Antoinette with her Family.—Flight from Paris is decided on.—The Queen’s Preparations and Views.—An Oath to observe the new Ecclesiastical Constitution is imposed on the Clergy.—The King’s Aunts leave France.
The last sentence of the letter just quoted points to a new hope which the king and she had begun to entertain of obtaining aid from foreign princes. As it can hardly have been suggested to them by any other advisers, we may probably attribute the origination of the idea to the queen, who was naturally inclined to rate the influence of the empire highly, and to rely on her brother’s zeal to assist her confidently. And Louis caught at it, as the only means of extricating him from a religious difficulty which was causing him great distress, and which appeared to him insurmountable by any means which he could command in his own country. As has been already seen, he had had no hesitation in yielding up his own prerogatives, and in making any concessions or surrenders which the Assembly required, so long as they touched nothing but his own authority. He had even (which was a far greater sacrifice in his eyes) sanctioned the votes which had deprived the Church of its property; but, in the course of the autumn the Assembly passed other measures also, which appeared to him absolutely inconsistent with religion. They framed a new ecclesiastical constitution which not only reduced the number of bishops (which, indeed, in France, as in all other Roman Catholic countries, had been unreasonably excessive), but which also vested the whole patronage of the Church in the municipal authorities, and generally subordinated the Church to the civil law. And having completed these arrangements, which to a conscientious Roman Catholic bore the character of sacrilege, they required the whole body of the clergy to accept them, and to take an oath to observe them faithfully.
Louis was in a great strait. Many of the chief prelates appealed to him for protection, which he thought his duty as a Christian man bound him to afford them. But the protection which they implored could only be given by refusal of the royal assent to the bill. And he could not disguise from himself that such an exercise of his veto would furnish a pretext to his enemies for more violent denunciations of himself and the queen than had yet been heard. He had also, though his personal safety was at all times very slightly regarded by him, begun to feel himself a prisoner, at the mercy of his enemies. La Fayette, as Commander-in-chief of the National Guard of Paris, had the protection of the royal palace intrusted to