Surely the General Bonaparte would have laughed at the madman, who, in the year 1795, should have thus spoken to him—and yet a mere decade of years was to suffice for the realization of all these prophecies, and to turn the incredible into a reality.
The thirteenth Vendemiaire.
The days of terror, and of blood, under which France has sighed so long, were not to end with the fall of Robespierre. Another enemy of the rest and peace of France had now made its entrance into Paris— hunger began to exercise its dreary rale of horror, and to fill the hearts of men with rage and despair.
Everywhere throughout France the crops had failed, and the republic had too much to do with the guillotine, with the political struggles in the interior, with the enemies on the frontier, she had been so busy with the heads of her children, that she could have no care for the welfare of their stomachs.
The corn-magazines were empty, and in the treasury of the republican government there was no money to buy grain in foreign markets. Very soon the want of bread, the cry for food, made itself felt everywhere; soon hunger goaded into new struggles of despair the poor Parisian people, already so weary with political storms, longing for rest, and exhausted by conflicts. Hunger drove them again into politics, hunger converted the women into demons, and their husbands into fanatical Jacobins. Every day, tumults and seditious gatherings took place in Paris; the murmuring and howling crowd threatened to rise up. Every day appeared at the bar of the Convention the sections of Paris, entreating with wild cries for a remedy for their distress. At every step in the streets one was met by intoxicated women, who tried to find oblivion of their hunger in wine, and to whom, notwithstanding their drunkenness, the consciousness of their calamity remained. These drunken women, with the gestures of madness, shouted: “Bread! give us bread! We had bread at least in the year ’93! Bread! Down with the republic! Down with the Convention, which leaves us to starve!”
To these shouts responded other masses of the people: “Down with the constitutionalists! Long live the Mountain! Long live the Convention!”
Civil war, which in its exhaustion had remained subdued for a moment, threatened to break out with renewed rage, for the parties stood face to face in determined hostility, and “Down with the constitutionalists!—down with the republicans!” was the watchword of these parties.
For a moment it seemed as if the Mountain, as if the revolution, would regain the ascendency, as if the terrorists would once more seize the rudder which had slipped from their blood-stained hands. But the Convention, which for a time had remained undecided, trembling and vacillating, rose at length from its lethargy to firm, energetic measures, and came to the determination to restore peace at any price.