ePub 版

selled. They began, therefore, as soon as the letter had been read, by denying its authenticity; they declared it, in short, to be a forgery. As soon as Lafayette heard of this, he came to Paris, and avowed it at the bar of the Assembly. The 20th of June, however, had overthrown the Constitution before his arrival; and, though he stood with an air of calm command amidst its ruins, and vindicated it as proudly as ever, he was, after all, surrounded by those who had triumphed over it. Still the majority of the Assembly was decidedly with him, and when on the 8th of August his impeachment was moved, more than two-thirds voted in his favor. But things were daily growing worse. On the 9th of August, the Assembly declared itself no longer free; and within two days, its number fell to less than one-third, and the capital was given up to the terrors of the 10th of August. Lafayette, therefore, could do nothing at Paris, and returned to his army on the borders of the low countries. But the army, too, was now infected. He endeavored to assure himself of its fidelity, and proposed to the soldiers to swear anew to the Constitution. A very large proportion refused, and it immediately became apparent, from the movements, both at Paris and in the army, that he was no longer safe. His adversaries, who for his letter were determined and interested to ruin him, were his judges; and they belonged to a party, which was never known to devote a victim without consummating the sacrifice. On the 17th of August, therefore, accompanied by three of his general officers, Alexandre Lameth, Latour Maubourg, and Bureaux de Puzy, he left the army, and in a few hours was beyond the limits of France. His general purpose was to reach the neutral territory of the republic of Holland, which was quite near; and from that point either rally the old constitutional party, or pass to Switzerland or the United States, where he should be joined by his family. That he did not leave France, while any hope remained for him, is certain; since, before his escape was known at Paris, a decree, accusing him of high treason, which was then equivalent to an order for his execution, was carried in what remained of the Assembly by a large majority.

Lafayette and his companions hoped to avoid the enemy's posts, but they did not succeed. They were seized the same night by an Austrian patrol, and soon afterwards recognised. They were not treated as prisoners of war, which was the only quality in which they could have been arrested and detained; but were exposed to disgraceful indignities, because they had been the friends of the Constitution. After being detained a short time by the Austrians, they were given up to the Prussians, who, because their fortresses were nearer, were supposed to be able to receive and guard them more conveniently. At first, they were confined at Wesel on the

Rhine, and afterwards in dungeons at Magdeburg. But the Prussians, at last, became unwilling to bear the odium of such unlawful and disgraceful treatment of prisoners of war, entitled to every degree of respect from their rank and character, and especially from the manner in which they had been taken. They, therefore, before they made peace, gave them up again to the Austrians, who finally transferred them to most unhealthy dungeons in the citadel of Olmütz. The sufferings to which Lafayette was here exposed, in the mere spirit of a barbarous revenge, are almost incredible. He was warned, "that he would never again see any thing but the four walls of his dungeon; that he would never receive news of events or persons; that his name would be unknown in the citadel, and that in all accounts of him sent to court, he would be designated only by a number; that he would never receive any notice of his family, or of the existence of his fellow-prisoners." At the same time, knives and forks were removed from him, as he was officially informed that his situation was one which would naturally lead him to suicide.'

[ocr errors]

His sufferings, indeed, proved almost beyond his strength. The want of air, and the loathsome dampness and filth of his dungeon, brought him more than once to the borders of the grave. His frame was wasted with diseases, of which, for a long period, not the slightest notice was taken; and on one occasion he was reduced so low, that his hair fell from him entirely by the excess of his sufferings. At the same time, his estates in France were confiscated, his wife cast into prison, and Fayettisme, as adherence to the Constitution was called, was punished with death.

His friends, however, all over Europe, were carefully watching every opportunity to obtain some intelligence which should, at least, render his existence certain. Among those who made the most vigorous and continued exertions to get some hint of his fate, was Count Lally Tolendal, then a refugee from his bloodstained country. This nobleman became acquainted in London with Dr. Erick Bollmann, a Hanoverian, who, immediately after the massacres of August 10th, 1792, had been employed by Madame de Staël to effect the escape of Count Narbonne, and, by great address and courage, had succeeded in conveying him safely to England. Dr. Bollmann's adventurous spirit easily led him to engage in the affairs of Lafayette. His first expedition to the continent, under the direction of Lafayette's friends in London, in

One principal reason of the vindictive spirit of the Austrian Government towards Lafayette is, no doubt, to be sought in the circumstance, that, as the leader of the early part of the French Revolution, he brought on those events, which led to the overthrow of the Monarchy, and the death of the Queen, who was an Austrian. Lameth was released by Prussia, at the intreaty of his family, after the transfer of the three other prisoners to Austria.

1793, was, however, no further successful, than that he learned the determination of the Prussian Government to give up Lafayette to Austria, and the probability that he had been already transferred. Where he was, and whether he were even alive, were circumstances Dr. Bollmann found it impossible to determine.

But the friends of Lafayette were not discouraged. In June 1794, they again sent Dr. Bollmann to Germany to ascertain what had been his fate, and if he were still alive, to endeavor to procure his escape. With great difficulty, he traced the French prisoners to the Prussian frontiers, and there ascertained, that an Austrian escort had received them, and taken the road to Olmütz, a strong fortress in Moravia, one hundred and fifty miles north of Vienna, and near the borders of Silesia. At Olmütz, Dr. Bollmann ascertained, that several state prisoners were kept in the citadel with a degreeof caution and mystery, which must have been not unlike that used towards the half fabulous personage in the iron mask. He did not doubt but Lafayette was one of them, and making himself professionally acquainted with the military surgeon of the post, soon became sure of it. By very ingenious means, Dr. Bollmann contrived to communicate his projects through this surgeon to Lafayette, and to obtain answers without exciting the surgeon's suspicions; until, at last, after the lapse of several months, during which, to avoid all risk, Dr. Bollmann made a long visit at Vienna, it was determined, that an attempt should be made to rescue Lafayette, while on one of the airings, with which he was then regularly indulged on account of his broken health.

As soon as this was arranged, Dr. Bollmann returned to Vienna, and communicated his project to a young American, by the name of Francis K. Huger, then accidentally in Austria; son of the person at whose house, near Charleston, Lafayette had been first received on his landing in America; a young man of uncommon talent, decision, and enthusiasm, who at once entered into the whole design, and devoted himself to its execution with the most romantic earnestness. These were the only two persons on the continent, except Lafayette himself, who had the slightest suspicion of these arrangements for his rescue, and neither of these persons knew him by sight. It was therefore concerted between the parties, after the two friends had come to Olmütz in November, that, to avoid all mistakes when the rescue should be attempted, each should take off his hat and wipe his forehead, in sign of recognition; and then, having ascertained a day when Lafayette would ride out, Dr. Bollmann and Mr. Huger sent their carriage ahead to Hoff, a post town about twenty-five miles on the road they wished to take, with directions to have it waiting for them at a given hour. The rescue they determined to attempt on horseback; and they put no balls into their pistols, and took no other

weapons, thinking it would be unjustifiable to commit a murder even to effect their purpose.

Having ascertained that a carriage which they supposed must contain Lafayette, since there was a prisoner and an officer inside and a guard behind, had passed out of the gate of the fortress, they mounted and followed. They rode by it, and then slackening their pace and allowing it again to go ahead, exchanged signals with the prisoner. At two or three miles from the gate, the carriage left the high road, and passing into a less frequented track in the midst of an open country, Lafayette descended to walk for exercise, guarded only by the officer who had been riding with him. This was evidently the moment for their attempt. They therefore rode up at once; and after an inconsiderable struggle with the officer, from whom the guard fled to alarm the citadel, the rescue was completed. One of the horses, however, had escaped during the contest, and thus only one remained with which to proceed. Lafayette was immediately mounted on this horse, and Mr. Huger told him, in English, to go to Hoff. He mistook what was said to him for a mere general direction to go off-delayed a moment to see if he could not assist them-then went on-then rode back again, and asked once more if he could be of no service and finally, urged anew, galloped slowly away.

The horse that had escaped was soon recovered, and both Dr. Bollmann and Mr. Huger mounted him, intending to follow and assist Lafayette. But the animal proved intractable,' threw them, and left them, for some time, stunned by their fall. On recovering their horse a second time, Dr. Bollmann alone mounted; Mr. Huger thinking that, from his own imperfect knowlege of the German, he could not do as much towards effecting their main purpose. These accidents defeated their romantic enterprise. Mr. Huger, who could now attempt his escape only on foot, was soon stopped by some peasants, who had witnessed what had passed. Dr. Bollmann easily arrived at Hoff; but not finding Lafayette there, lingered about the frontiers till the next night, when he too was arrested and delivered up to the Austrians. And finally, Lafayette, having taken a wrong road, and pursued it till his horse could proceed no further, was stopped at the village of Jägersdorff as a suspicious person, and detained there till he was recognised by an officer from Olmütz, two days afterwards. All three of them were brought back to the citadel separately, and were there separately confined without being permitted to know any thing of each other's fate. Mr. Huger was chained to the floor, in a small arched dungeon, about six feet by eight, without

1 This was the horse prepared for Lafayette. The other, on which it had been necessary to mount him, had been expressly trained to carry two persons.

light, and with only bread and water for food; and once in six hours, by day and by night, the guard entered, and with a lamp examined each brick in his cell, and each link in his chain. To his earnest request to know something of Dr. Bollmann, and to learn whether Lafayette had escaped, he received no answer at all. To his more earnest request to be permitted to send to his mother in America merely the words, "I am alive," signed with his name, he received a rude refusal. Indeed, at first, every degree of brutal severity was practised towards both of them; but, afterwards, this severity was relaxed. The two prisoners were placed nearer together, where they could communicate; and their trial for what, in Vienna, was magnified into a wide and alarming conspiracy, was begun with all the tedious formalities that could be prescribed by Austrian fear and caution. How it would have turned, if they had been left entirely unprotected, it is not difficult to conjecture; but at this crisis of their fate, they were secretly assisted by Count Metrowsky, a nobleman living near their prison, whom neither of them had ever seen, and who was interested in them, only for what, in the eyes of his government, constituted their crime. The means he used to influence the tribunal that judged them may be easily imagined, since they were so far successful, that the prisoners, after having been confined for trial eight months, were sentenced only to a fortnight's imprisonment as their punishment, and then released. A few hours after they had left Olmütz, an order came from Vienna directing a new trial, which under the management of the ministers would of course have ended very differently from the one managed by Count Metrowsky; but the prisoners were already beyond the limits of the Austrian dominions.

Lafayette, in the meanwhile, was thrown back into his obscure and ignominious sufferings, with hardly a hope that they could be terminated, except by his death. During the winter of 1794-5, he was reduced to almost the last extremity by a violent fever; and yet was deprived of proper attendance, of air, of suitable food, and of decent clothes. To increase his misery, he was made to believe that he was only reserved for a public execution, and that his chivalrous deliverers would perish on the scaffold before his window; while, at the same time, he was not permitted to know whether his family were still alive, or had fallen under the revolutionary axe, of which, during the few days he was out of his dungeon, he had heard such appalling accounts.

Madame de Lafayette, however, was nearer to him than he could imagine to be possible. She had been released from prison, where she, too, had nearly perished ;' and, having gained strength

Her grandmother, the Duchess de Noailles, her mother, the Duchess d'Ayen, and her sister, the Countess de Noailles, all perished in one day on

« 上一頁繼續 »