This Sublieutenant can remark that, in drawing-rooms, on streets, on highways, at inns, every where men’s minds are ready to kindle into a flame. That a Patriot, if he appear in the drawing-room, or amid a group of officers, is liable enough to be discouraged, so great is the majority against him: but no sooner does he get into the street, or among the soldiers, than he feels again as if the whole Nation were with him. That after the famous Oath, To the King, to the Nation and Law, there was a great change; that before this, if ordered to fire on the people, he for one would have done it in the King’s name; but that after this, in the Nation’s name, he would not have done it. Likewise that the Patriot officers, more numerous too in the Artillery and Engineers than elsewhere, were few in number; yet that having the soldiers on their side, they ruled the regiment; and did often deliver the Aristocrat brother officer out of peril and strait. One day, for example, ’a member of our own mess roused the mob, by singing, from the windows of our dining-room, O Richard, O my King; and I had to snatch him from their fury.’ (Norvins, Histoire de Napoleon, i. 47; Las Cases, Memoires translated into Hazlitt’s Life of Napoleon, i. 23-31.)
All which let the reader multiply by ten thousand; and spread it with slight variations over all the camps and garrisons of France. The French Army seems on the verge of universal mutiny.
Universal mutiny! There is in that what may well make Patriot Constitutionalism and an august Assembly shudder. Something behoves to be done; yet what to do no man can tell. Mirabeau proposes even that the Soldiery, having come to such a pass, be forthwith disbanded, the whole Two Hundred and Eighty Thousands of them; and organised anew. (Moniteur, 1790. No. 233.) Impossible this, in so sudden a manner! cry all men. And yet literally, answer we, it is inevitable, in one manner or another. Such an Army, with its four-generation Nobles, its Peculated Pay, and men knotting forage cords to hang their quartermaster, cannot subsist beside such a Revolution. Your alternative is a slow-pining chronic dissolution and new organization; or a swift decisive one; the agonies spread over years, or concentrated into an hour. With a Mirabeau for Minister or Governor the latter had been the choice; with no Mirabeau for Governor it will naturally be the former.
Bouille at Metz.
To Bouille, in his North-Eastern circle, none of these things are altogether hid. Many times flight over the marches gleams out on him as a last guidance in such bewilderment: nevertheless he continues here: struggling always to hope the best, not from new organisation but from happy Counter-Revolution and return to the old. For the rest it is clear to him that this same National Federation, and universal swearing and fraternising of People and Soldiers,