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The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 4 (of 6) - The French Revolution, Volume 3 (of 3)
by Hippolyte A. Taine
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[Footnote 3199: Ibid., XXXII., 360, 361. (Portraits of the encyclopaedists and Hebertists.)]

[Footnote 31100: Ibid., XXXIII., 408. "Here, I have to open my heart."—XXXII., 475-478, the concluding part.]

[Footnote 31101: Hamel: "Histoire de Robespierre," I., 34-76. An attorney at 23, a member of the Rosati club at Arras at 24, a member of the Arras Academy at 25. The Royal Society of Metz awarded him a second prize for his discourse against the prejudice which regards the relatives of condemned criminals as infamous. His eulogy of Gresset is not crowned by the Amiens Academy. He reads before the Academy of Arras a discourse against the civil incapacities of illegitimate children, and then another on reforms in criminal jurisprudence. In 1789, he is president of the Arras Academy, and publishes an eulogy of Dupaty and an address to the people from Artois on the qualities necessary for future deputies.]

[Footnote 31102: See his eulogy of Rousseau in the speech of May 7, 1794. (Buchez et Roux, XXXII., 369.—Garat, 85. "I hoped that his selection of Rousseau for a model of style and the constant reading of his works would exert some good influence on his character."]

[Footnote 31103: Fievee, "correspondance" (introduction). Fievee, who heard him at the Jacobin Club, said that he resembled a "tailor of the ancient regime." La Reeveillere-Lepeaux, '"Memoires."—Buchez et Roux, XXXIV., 94.—Malouet, "Memoires," II., 135. (Session of May 31, 1791, after the delivery of Abbe Raynal's address.) "This is the first and only time I found Robespierre clear and even eloquent.... He spun out his opening phrases as usual, which contained the spirit of his discourse, and which, in spite of his accustomed rigmarole, produced the effect he intended."]

[Footnote 31104: Courrier de Provence, III., No. 52, (Oct. 7 and 8, 1789).—Buchez et Roux, VI., 372. (Session of July 10, 1790.) Another similar blunder was committed by him on the occasion of an American deputation. The president had made his response, which was "unanimously applauded." Robespierre wanted to have his say notwithstanding the objections of the Assembly, impatient at his verbiage, and which finally put him down. Amidst the laughter, "M. l'Abbe Maury demands ironically the printing of M. Robespierre's discourse."]

[Footnote 31105: L. Villiers, 2.]

[Footnote 31106: Cf. his principal speeches in the constituent Assembly;—against martial law; against the veto, even suspensive; against the qualification of the silver marc and in favor of universal suffrage; in favor of admitting into the National Guard non-acting citizens; of the marriage of priests; of the abolition of the death penalty; of granting political rights to colored men; of interdicting the father from favoring any one of his children; of declaring the "Constituants" ineligible to the Legislative Assembly, etc. On royalty: "The King is not the representative but the clerk of the nation." On the danger of allowing political rights to colored men: "Let the colonies perish if they cost you your honor, your glory, your liberty!"]

[Footnote 31107: Hamel, I., 76.77, (March, 1789). "My heart is an honest one and I stand firm; I have never bowed beneath the yoke of baseness and corruption." He enumerates the virtues that a representative of the Third Estate should possess (26, 83). He already shows his blubbering capacity and his disposition to regard himself as a victim: "They undertake making martyrs of the people's defenders. Had they the power to deprive me of the advantages they envy, could they snatch from me my soul and the consciousness of the benefits I desire to confer on them."]

[Footnote 31108: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII. "Who am I that am thus accused? The slave of freedom, a living martyr to the Republic, at once the victim and the enemy of crime!" See this speech in full.]

[Footnote 31109: Especially in his address to the French people, (Aug., 1791), which, in a justificatory form, is his apotheosis.—Cf. Hamel, II., 212; Speech in the Jacobin club, (April 27, 1792).]

[Footnote 31110: Hamel, I., 517, 532, 559; II., 5.]

[Footnote 31111: Lareveillere-Lepeaux," Memoires."—Barbaroux, "Memoires," 358. (Both, after a visit to him.)]

[Footnote 31112: Robespierre's devotees constantly attend at the Jacobin club and in the convention to hear him speak and applaud him, and are called, from their condition and dress, "the fat petticoats."]

[Footnote 31113: Buchez et Roux, XX., 197. (Meeting of Nov. I, 1792.)—"Chronique de Paris," Nov. 9, 1792, article by Condorcet. With the keen insight of the man of the world, he saw clearly into Robespierre's character. "Robespierre preaches, Robespierre censures; he is animated, grave, melancholy, deliberately enthusiastic and systematic in his ideas, and conduct. He thunders against the rich and the great; he lives on nothing and has no physical necessities. His sole mission is to talk, and this he does almost constantly... His characteristics are not those of a religious reformer, but of the chief of a sect. He has won a reputation for austerity approaching sanctity. He jumps up on a bench and talks about God and Providence. He styles himself the friend of the poor; he attracts around him a crowd of women and 'the poor in spirit, and gravely accepts their homage and worship.... Robespierre is a priest and never will be anything else." Among Robespierre's devotees Madame de Chalabre must be mentioned, (Hamel, I., 525), a young widow (Hamel, III., 524), who offers him her hand with an income of forty thousand francs. "Thou art my supreme deity," she writes to him, "and I know no other on this earth! I regard thee as my guardian angel, and would live only under thy laws."]

[Footnote 31114: Fievee, "Correspondance," (introduction).]

[Footnote 31115: Report of Courtois on the papers found in Robespierre's domicile. Justificatory documents No.20, letter of the Secretary of the Committee of Surveillance of Saint Calais, Nivose 15, year II.]

[Footnote 31116: Ibid., No. 18. Letter of V—, former inspector of "droits reserves," Feb. 5, 1792.]

[Footnote 31117: Ibid., No.8. Letter of P. Brincourt, Sedan, Aug.29, 1793.]

[Footnote 31118: Ibid., No. I. Letter of Besson, with an address of the popular club of Menosque, Prairial 23, year II]

[Footnote 31119: Ibid., No.14. Letter of D—, member of the Cordeliers Club, and former mercer, Jan.31, 1792]

[Footnote 31120: Ibid., No.12. Letter by C—, Chateau Thierry, Prairial 30, year II.]

[Footnote 31121: Hamel, III., 682. (Copied from Billaud-Varennes' manuscripts, in the Archives Nationales).]

[Footnote 31122: Moniteur, XXII., '75. (Session of Vendemiaire i8, year III. Speech by Laignelot.) "Robespierre had all the popular clubs under his thumb."]

[Footnote 31123: Garat, 85. "The most conspicuous sentiment with Robespierre, and one, indeed, of which he made no mystery, was that the defender of the people could never see amiss."—(Bailleul, quoted in Carnot's Memoirs, I. 516.) "He regarded himself as a privileged being, destined to become the people's regenerator and instructor."]

[Footnote 31124: Speech of May 16, 1794, and of Thermidor 8, year II.]

[Footnote 31125: Buchez et Roux, X., 295, 296. (Session June 22, 1791, of the Jacobin Club.)—Ibid., 294.—Marat spoke in the same vein: "I have made myself a curse for all good people in France." He writes, the same date: "Writers in behalf of the people will be dragged to dungeons. 'The friend of the people,' whose last sigh is given for his country, and whose faithful voice still summons you to freedom, is to find his grave in a fiery furnace." The last expression shows the difference in their imaginations.]

[Footnote 31126: Hamel, II., 122. (Meeting of the Jacobin Club, Feb.10, 1792.) "To obtain death at the hands of tyrants is not enough—one must deserve death. If it be true that the earliest defenders of liberty became its martyrs they should not suffer death without bearing tyranny along with them into the grave."—Cf., ibid., II., 215. (Meeting of April 27, 1792.)]

[Footnote 31127: Hamel, II., 513. (Speech in the Convention, Prairial 7, year II.)]

[Footnote 31128: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 422, 445, 447, 457. (Speech in the Convention, Thermidor 8, year II.)]

[Footnote 31129: Buchez et Roux, XX., 11, 18. (Meeting of the Jacobin Club, Oct.29, 1792.) Speech on Lafayette, the Feuillants and Girondists. XXXI., 360, 363. (Meeting of the Convention, May 7, 1794.) On Lafayette, the Girondists, Dantonists and Hebertists.—XXXIII., 427. (Speech of Thermidor 8, year II.)]

[Footnote 31130: Garat, "Memoires," 87, 88.]

[Footnote 31131: Buchez et Roux, XXI., 107. (Speech of Petion on the charges made against him by Robespierre.) Petion justly objects that "Brunswick would be the first to cut off Brissot's head, and Brissot is not fool enough to doubt it."]

[Footnote 31132: Garat, 94. (After the King's death and a little before the 10th of March, 1793.)]

[Footnote 31133: Ibid., 97. In 1789 Robespierre assured Garat that Necker was plundering the Treasury, and that people had seen mules loaded with the gold and silver he was sending off by millions to Geneva.—Carnot, "Memoires," I. 512. "Robespierre," say Carnot and Prieur, "paid very little attention to public business, but a good deal to public officers; he made himself intolerable with his perpetual mistrust of these, never seeing any but traitors and conspirators."]

[Footnote 31134: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 417. (Speech of Thermidor 8, year II.)]

[Footnote 31135: Ibid., XXXII., 361, (Speech May 7, '794,) and 359. "Immorality is the basis of despotism, as virtue is the essence of the Republic."]

[Footnote 31136: Ibid., 371.]

[Footnote 31137: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 195. (Report of Couthon and decree in conformity therewith, Prairial 22, year II.) "The revolutionary tribunal is organised for the punishment of the people's enemies.. .. The penalty for all offences within its jurisdiction is death. Those are held to be enemies of the people who shall have misled the people, or the representatives of the people, into measures opposed to the interests of liberty; those who shall have sought to create discouragement by favoring the undertakings of tyrants leagued against the Republic; those who shall have spread false reports to divide or disturb the people; those who shall have sought to misdirect opinion and impede popular instruction, produce depravity and corrupt the public conscience, diminish the energy and purity of revolutionary and republican principles, or stay their progress Those who, charged with public functions, abuse them to serve the enemies of the Revolution, vex patriots, oppress the people, etc."]

[Footnote 31138: Buchez et Roux, XXXV., 290. (" Institutions," by Saint-Just.) "The Revolution is chilled. Principles have lost their vigor. Nothing remains but red-caps worn by intrigue."—Report by Courtois, "Pieces justificatives" No.20. (Letter of Pays and Rompillon, president and secretary of the committee of Surveillance of Saint-Calais, to Robespierre, Nivose 15, year II.) "The Mountain here is composed of only a dozen or fifteen men on whom you can rely as on yourself; the rest are either deceived, seduced, corrupted or enticed away. Public opinion is debauched by the gold and intrigues of honest folks."]

[Footnote 31139: Report by Courtois, N. 43.—Cf. Hamel, III., 43, 71.—(The following important document is on file in the Archives Nationales, F 7, 4446, and consists of two notes written by Robespierre in June and July, 1793): "Who are our enemies? The vicious and the rich.... How may the civil war be stopped? Punish traitors and conspirators, especially guilty deputies and administrators.... make terrible examples.... proscribe perfidious writers and anti-revolutionaries.... Internal danger comes from the bourgeois; to overcome the bourgeois, rally the people. The present insurrection must be kept up.... The insurrection should gradually continue to spread out... The sans-culottes should be paid and remain in the towns. They ought to be armed, worked up, taught."]

[Footnote 31140: The committee of Public Safety, and Robespierre especially, knew of and commanded the drownings of Nantes, as well as the principal massacres by Carrier, Turreau, etc. (De Martel, "Etude sur Fouche," 257-265.)—Ibid., ("Types revolutionnaires," 41-49.)—Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 101 (May 26, 1794.) Report by Barere and decree of the convention ordering that "No English prisoners should be taken." Robespierre afterwards speaks in the same sense. Ibid., 458. After the capture of Newport, where they took five thousand English prisoners, the French soldiers were unwilling to execute the convention's decree, on which Robespierre (speech of Thermidor 8) said: "I warn you that your decree against the English has constantly been violated; England, so ill-treated in our speeches, is spared by our arms."]

[Footnote 31141: On the Girondists, Cf. "The Revolution," II., 216.]

[Footnote 31142: Buchez et Roux, XXX., 157. Sketch of a speech on the Fabre d'Eglantine factim.—Ibid., 336, Speech at the Jacobin Club against Clootz.—XXXII., abstract of a report on the Chabot affair, 18.-Ibid., 69, Speech on maintaining Danton's arrest.]

[Footnote 31143: Ibid., XXX., 378. (Dec.10, 1793.) With respect to the women who crowd the Convention in order to secure the liberty of their husbands: "Should the republican women forget their virtues as citizens whenever they remembering that they are wives?"]

[Footnote 31144: Hamel, III., 196.—Michelet, V., 394, abstract of the judicial debates on the disposition of the Girondists: "The minutes of this decree are found in Robespierre's handwriting."]

[Footnote 31145: De Martel, "Types revolutionnaires," 44. The instructions sent to the Revolutionary Tribunal at Orange are in Robespierre's handwriting.—(Archives Nationales, F7 4439.)]

[Footnote 31146: Merlin de Thionville.]

[Footnote 31147: Buchez et Roux, XXXII., 71. (On Danton.) "Before the day is over we shall see whether the convention will shatter an idol a long time rotten.... In what respect is Danton superior to his fellow-citizens?.... I say that the man who now hesitates is guilty..... The debate, just begun, is a danger to the country."—Also the speech in full, against Clootz.]

[Footnote 31148: Ibid., XXX., 338. "Alas, suffering patriots, what can we do, surrounded by enemies fighting in our own ranks!... Let us watch, for the fall of our country is not far off," etc.—These cantatas, with the accompaniments of the celestial harp, are terrible if we consider the circumstances. For instance, on the 3rd of September, 1792, in the electoral assembly while the massacres are going on: "M. Robespierre climbs up on the tribune and declares that he will calmly face the steel of the enemies of public good, and carry with him to his grave the satisfaction of having served his country, the certainty of France having preserved its liberty".—(Archives Nationales, C. II., 58-76.)]

[Footnote 31149: Buchez et Roux, XXXII., 360, 371. (Speech of May 7, 1794.) "Danton! the most dangerous, if he had not been the most cowardly, of the enemies of his country.... Danton, the coldest, the most indifferent, during his country's greatest peril."]

[Footnote 31150: Ibid., XXXIV.,—Cf. the description of him by Fievee, who saw him in the tribune at the Jacobin Club.]

[Footnote 31151: Merlin de Thionville "A vague, painful anxiety, due to his temperament, was the sole source of his activity."]

[Footnote 31152: Barere, "Memoires." "He wanted to rule France influentially rather than directly."—Buchez et Roux, XIV., 188. (Article by Marat.) During the early sessions of the Legislative Assembly, Marat saw Robespierre on one occasion, and explained to him his plans for exciting popular outbreaks, and for his purifying massacres. "Robespierre listened to me with dismay, turned pale and kept silent for some moments. This interview confirmed me in the idea I always had of him, that he combined the enlightenment of a wise senator with the uprightness of a genuine good man and the zeal of a true patriot, but that he equally lacked the views and boldness of a statesman."—Thibaudeau, "Memoires," 58.—He was the only member of the committee of Public Safety who did not join the department missions.]

[Footnote 31153: Someone is "grandisonian" when he is like the novelist Richardson's hero, Sir Walter Grandison, beneficient, polite and chivalrous. (SR).]

[Footnote 31154: Buchez et Roux XX., 198. (Speech of Robespierre in the Convention, November 5, 1792.)]

[Footnote 31155: All these statements by Robespierre are opposed to the truth.—("Proces-verbaux des Seances de la Commune de Paris.") Sep. 1, 1792, Robespierre speaks twice at the evening session.—The testimony of two persons, both agreeing, indicate, moreover, that he spoke at the morning session, the names of the speakers not being given. "The question," says Petion (Buchez et Roux, XXI., 103), "was the decree opening the barriers." This decree is under discussion at the Commune at the morning session of September 1: "Robespierre, on this question, spoke in the most animated manner, wandering off in sombre flights of imagination; he saw precipices at his feet and plots of liberticides; he designated the pretended conspirators."—Louvet (ibid., 130), assigns the same date, (except that he takes the evening for the morning session), for Robespierre's first denunciation of the Girondists: "Nobody, then," says Robespierre, "dare name the traitors? Very well, I denounce them. I denounce them for the security of the people. I denounce the liberticide Brissot, the Girondist faction, the villainous committee of twenty-one in the National Assembly. I denounce them for having sold France to Brunswick and for having received pay in advance for their baseness."—Sep. 2, ("Proces verbaux de la Commune," evening session), "MM. Billaud-Varennes and Robespierre, in developing their civic sentiments,.. denounce to the Conseil-General the conspirators in favor of the Duke of Brunswick, whom a powerful party want to put on the throne of France."—September 3, at 6 o'clock in the morning, (Buchez et Roux, 16, 132, letter of Louvet), commissioners of the Commune present themselves at Brissot's house with an order to inspect his papers; one of them says to Brissot that he has eight similar orders against the Gironde deputies and that he is to begin with Guadet. (Letter of Brissot complaining of this visit, Monitur, Sep. 7, 1792.) This same day, Sep. 31 Robespierre presides at the Commune. (Granier de Cassagnac, "Les Girondins" II., 63.) It is here that a deputation of the Mauconseil section comes to find him, and he is charged by the "Conseil" with a commission at the Temple.—Sept. 4 (Buchez et Roux, XXI., 106, Speech of Petion), the Commune issues a warrant of arrest against Roland; Danton comes to the Mayoralty with Robespierre and has the warrant revoked; Robespierre ends by telling Petion: "I believe that Brissot belongs to Brunswick."—Ibid., 506. "Robespierre (before Sept. 2), took the lead in the Conseil"—Ibid., 107. "Robespierre," I said, "you are making a good deal of mischief. Your denunciations, your fears, hatreds and suspicions, excite the people."]

[Footnote 31156: Garat, 86.-Cf. Hamel, I., 264. (Speech, June 9, 1791.)]

[Footnote 31157: "The Revolution," II., 338, 339. (Speech. Aug. 3, 1792.)]

[Footnote 31158: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 420. (Speech, Thermidor 8.)]

[Footnote 31159: Ibid., XXXII., 71. (Speech against Danton.) "What have you done that you have not done freely?"]

[Footnote 31160: Ibid., XXXIII., 199 and 221. (Speech on the law of Prairial 22.)]

[Footnote 31161: Mirabeau said of Robespierre: "Whatever that man has said, he believes in it.—Robespierre, Duplay's guest, dined every day with Duplay, a juryman in the revolutionary tribunal and co-operator for the guillotine, at eighteen francs a day. The talk at the table probably turned on the current abstractions; but there must have been frequent allusions to the condemnations of the day, and, even when not mentioned, they were in their minds. Only Robert Browning, at the present day, could imagine and revive what was spoken and thought in those evening conversations before the mother and daughters."]

[Footnote 31162: Today, more than 100 years later, where are we? Is it possible that man can thus lie to himself and hence to others? Robert Wright, in his book "The Moral Animal", describing "The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology", writes (page 280): "The proposition here is that the human brain is, in large part, a machine for winning arguments, a machine for convincing others that its owner is in the right—and thus a machine for convincing its owner of the same thing. The brain is like a good lawyer: given any set of interests to defend, its sets about convincing the world of their moral and logical worth, regardless of whether they in fact have any of either. Like a lawyer, it is sometimes more admirable for skill than for virtue." (SR).]

[Footnote 31163: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 151.—Cf.. Dauban, "Paris en 1794," p.386 (engraving) and 392, "Fete de l'Etre Supreme a Sceaux," according to the programme drawn up by the patriot Palloy. "All citizens are requested to be at their windows or doors, even those occupying the rear part of the main buildings."—Ibid., 399. "Youthful citizens will strew flowers at each station, fathers will embrace their children and mothers turn their eyes upward to heaven."—Moniteur, XXX., 653. "Plan of the fete in honor of the Supreme Being, drawn up by David, and decreed by the National Convention."]

[Footnote 31164: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 176. (Narrative by Valate.)]

[Footnote 31165: Hamel, III., 541.]

[Footnote 31166: Buchez et Roux, XXVIII., 178, 180.]

[Footnote 31167: Ibid., 177 (Narrative by Vilate.) Ibid., 170, Notes by Robespierre on Bourdon (de l'Oise) 417. Passages erased by Robespierre in the manuscript of his speech of Thermidor 8.—249. Analogous passages in his speech as delivered,—all these indications enable us to trace the depths of his resentment.]

[Footnote 31168: Ibid., 183. Memoirs of Billaud-Varennes, Collot d'Herbois, Vadier and Barere. "The next day after Prairial 22, at the morning session (of the committee of Public Safety).... I now see, says Robespierre, that I stand alone, with nobody to support me, and, getting violently excited, he launched out against the members of the committee who had conspired against him. He shouted so loud as to collect together a number of citizens on the Tuileries terrace." Finally, "he pushed hypocrisy so far as to shed tears." The nervous machine, I imagine, broke down.—Another member of the committee, Prieur, (Carnot, "Memoires," II., 525), relates that, in the month of Floreal, after another equally long and violent session, "Robespierre, exhausted, became ill."]

[Footnote 31169: Carnot, "Memoires," II. 526. "As his bureau was in a separate place, where none of us set foot, he could retire to it without coming in contact with any of us, as in effect, he did. He even made a pretence of passing through the committee rooms, after the session was over, and he signed some papers; but he really neglected nothing, except our common discussions. He held frequent conferences in his house with the presidents of the revolutionary tribunals, over which his influence was greater than ever."]

[Footnote 31170: Dauban, "Paris en 1794," 563.—Archives Nationales, AF.II., 58. The signature of Robespierre, in his own handwriting, is found affixed to many of the resolutions of the Committee of Public Safety, passed Thermidor 5 and 7, and those of St. Just and Couthon after this, up to Thermidor 3, 6 and 7. On the register of the minutes of the Committee of Public Safety, Robespierre is always recorded as present at all meetings between Messidor 1 and Thermidor 8, inclusive.]

[Footnote 31171: Archives Nationales, F.7, 4438. Report to the Committee of Public Safety by Herman, Commissioner of the civil and Police administrations and of the Courts, Messidor 3, year II. "The committee charged with a general supervision of the prisons, and obliged to recognize that all the rascals mostly concerned with liberticide plots are.... still in the prisons, forming a band apart, and rendering surveillance very troublesome; they are a constant source of disorder, always getting up attempts to escape, being a daily assemblage of persons devoting themselves wholly to imprecations against liberty and its defenders.... It would be easy to point out in each prison, those who have served, and are to serve, the diverse factions, the diverse conspiracies.... It may be necessary, perhaps, to purge the prisons at once and free the soil of liberty of their filth, the refuse of humanity." The Committee of Public Safety consequently "charges the commission to ascertain in the prisons of Paris... who have been more specially concerned in the diverse factions and conspiracies that the National convention has destroyed." The word "approved" appears at the foot of the resolution in Robespierre's handwriting, then the signature of Robespierre, and lower down, those of Billaud and Barere. A similar resolution providing for the 7th of Messidor, signed by the same parties and five others, is dispatched the same day. (M. de Martel came across and made use of this conclusive document before I did, most of it being quoted in "Les Types Revolutionnaires.")]

[Footnote 31172: Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 434.]



CHAPTER II. THE RULERS OF THE COUNTRY.

Let us follow the operations of the new government from top to bottom, from those of its ruling bodies and leaders, to its assemblies, committees, delegates, administrators and underlings of every kind and degree. Like living flesh stamped with a red-hot iron, so will the situation put one their brows the two marks, each with its own different depth and discoloration. In vain do they, too, strive to conceal their scars: we detect under the crowns and titles they assume the brand of the slave or the mark of the tyrant.



I. The Convention.

The Convention.—The "Plain."—The "Mountain."—Degradation of Souls.—Parades which the Convention is obligated to make.

At the Tuileries, the omnipotent Convention sits enthroned in the theater, converted into an Assembly room. It carries on its deliberations daily, in grand style. Its decrees, received with blind obedience, startle France and upset all Europe. At a distance, its majesty is imposing, more august than that of the Republican senate in Rome. Near by, the effect is quite otherwise; these undisputed sovereigns are serfs who live in trances, and justly so, for, nowhere, even in prison, is there more constraint and less security than on their benches. After the 2nd of June, 1793, their inviolable precincts, the grand official reservoir from which legal authority flows, becomes a sort of tank, into which the revolutionary net plunges and successfully brings out its choicest fish, singly or by the dozen, and sometimes in vast numbers; at first, the sixty-seven Girondist deputies, who are executed or proscribed; then, the seventy-three members of the "Right," swept off in one day and lodged in the prison of La Force; next, the prominent Jacobins:

Osselin, arrested on the 19th of Brumaire, Bazire, Chabot, and Delaunay, accused by decree on the 24th Brumaire, Fabre d'Eglantine, arrested on the 24th of Nivose, Bernard, guillotined on the 3rd of Pluviose, Anacharsis Clootz guillotined on the 4th of Germinal, Herault de Sechelles, Lacroix, Philippeaux, Camille Desmoulins and Danton, guillotined with four others on the 10th of Germinal, Simon, guillotined on the 24th of Germinal, and Osselin, guillotined on the 8th of Messidor.—Naturally, the others take warning and are careful. At the opening of the session they are seen entering the hall, looking uneasy, full of distrust,"[3201] like animals driven into a pen and suspicious of a trap.

"Each," writes an eye-witness, "acted and spoke with circumspection, for fear of being charged with some crime: in effect, nothing was unimportant, the seat one took, a glance of the eye, a gesture, a murmur, a smile."

Hence, they flock instinctively to the side which is best sheltered, the left side.

"The tide flowed towards the summit of the Mountain; the right side was deserted.... Many took no side at all, and, during the session, often changed their seats, thinking that they might thus elude the spy by donning a mixed hue and keeping on good terms with everybody. The most prudent never sat down; they kept off the benches, at the foot of the tribune, and, on matters getting to be serious, slipped quietly out of the hall."

Most of them took refuge in their committee-rooms; each tries to be over-looked, to be obscure, to appear insignificant or absent.[3202] During the four months following the 2nd of June, the hall of the Convention is half or three-quarters empty; the election of a president does not bring out two hundred and fifty voters;[3203] only two hundred, one hundred, fifty votes, elect the Committees of Public Safety and General Security; about fifty votes elect the judges of the Revolutionary Tribunal; less than ten votes elect their substitutes;[3204] not one vote is cast for the adoption of the decree indicting the deputy, Dulaure;[3205] "no member rises for or against it; there is no vote;" the president, nevertheless, pronounces the act passed and the Marais lets things take their course."—"Marais frogs"[3206] is the appellation bestowed on them before the 2nd of June, when, amongst the dregs of the "Center," they "broke" with the "Mountain;" now, they still number four hundred and fifty, three times as many as the "Montagnards;" but they purposely keep quiet; their old name "renders them, so to say, soft; their ears ring with eternal menaces; their hearts shrivel up with terror;[3207] while their tongues, paralyzed by habitual silence, remain as if glued to the roofs of their mouths. In vain do they keep in the back-ground, consent to everything, ask nothing for themselves but personal safety, and surrender all else, their votes, their wills and their consciences; they feel that their life hangs by a thread. The greatest mute among them all, Sieyes, denounced in the Jacobin Club, barely escapes, and through the protection of his shoemaker, who rises and exclaims: "That Sieyes! I know him. He don't meddle with politics. He does nothing but read his book. I make his shoes and will answer for him."[3208]

Of course, previous to the 9th of Thermidor, none of them open their mouths; it is only the "Montagnards" who make speeches, and on the countersign being given. If Legendre, the admirer, disciple and confidential friend of Danton, dares at one time interfere in relation to the decree which sends his friend to the scaffold, asking that he may first be heard, it is only to retract immediately; that very evening, at the Jacobin club, for greater security, "he wallows in the mud;"[3209] he declares "that he submits to the judgment of the revolutionary Tribunal," and swears to denounce "whoever shall oppose any obstacle to the execution of the decree."[3210] Has not Robespierre taught him a lesson, and in his most pedantic manner? What is more beautiful, says the great moralist, more sublime, than an Assembly which purges itself?[3211]—Thus, not only is the net which has already dragged out so many palpitating victims still intact, but it is enlarged and set again, only, the fish are now caught on the "Left" as well as on the "Right," and preferably on the topmost benches of the "Mountain."[3212] And better still, through the law of Prairial 22, its meshes are reduced in size and its width increased; with such admirable contraption, the fishpond could not fail to be exhausted. A little before the 9th of Thermidor, David, who was one of Robespierre's devoted adherents, himself exclaimed: "Will twenty of us be left on the Mountain?" About the same time, Legendic, Thuriot, Leonard Bourdon, Tallien, Bourdon de l'Oise, and others, each has a spy all day long at his heels. There are thirty deputies to be proscribed and their names are whispered about; whereupon, sixty stay out all night, convinced that they will be seized the next morning before they can get up.[3213]

Subject to such a system, prolonged for so many months, people sink down and become discouraged. "Everybody made themselves small so as to pass beneath the popular yoke.[3214] Everybody became one of the low class.... Clothes, manners, refinement, cleanliness, the conveniences of life, civility and politeness were all renounced."—People wear their clothes indecently and curse and swear; they try to resemble the sans-culottes Montagnards "who are profane and dress themselves like so many dock-loafers;"[3215] at Armonville, the carder, who presides (at a meeting) wears a woolen cap, and similarly at Cusset, a gauze-workman, who is always drunk. Only Robespierre dares appear in neat attire; among the others, who do not have his influence, among the demi-suspects with a pot-belly, such a residue of the ancient regime might become dangerous; they do well not to attract the attention of the foul-mouthed spy who cannot spell;[3216] especially is it important at a meeting to be one of the crowd and remain unnoticed by the paid claqueurs, drunken swaggerers and "fat petticoats" of the tribunes. It is even essential to shout in harmony with them and join in their bar-room dances. The deputations of the popular clubs come for fourteen months to the bar of the house and recite their common-place or bombastic tirades, and the Convention is forced to applaud them. For nine months,[3217] street ballad-singers and coffee-house ranters attend in full session and sing the rhymes of the day, while the Convention is obliged to join in the chorus. For six weeks,[3218] the profaners of churches come to the hall and display their dance-house buffooneries, and the Convention has not only to put up with these, but also to take part in them.—Never, even in imperial Rome, under Nero and Heliogabalus, did a senate descend so low.



II. Its participation in crime.

How the parades are carried out.—Its slavery and servility —Its participation in crime.

Observe one of their parades, that of Brumaire 20th, 22nd or 30th, which masquerade often occurs several times a week and is always the same, with scarcely any variation.—Male and female wretches march in procession to the doors of the deputies' hall, still "drunk with the wine imbibed from chalices, after eating mackerel broiled in patens," besides refreshing themselves on the way. "Mounted astride of asses which they have rigged out in chasuble and which they guide with a stole," they halt at each low smoking-den, holding a drinking cup in their hand; the bartender, with a mug in his hand, fills it, and, at each station, they toss off their bumpers, one after the other, in imitation of the Mass, and which they repeat in the street in their own fashion.—On finishing this, they don copes, chasubles and dalmatica, and, in two long lines, file before the benches of the Convention. Some of them bear on hand-barrows or in baskets, candelabra, chalices, gold and silver salvers, monstrances, and reliquaries; others hold aloft banners, crosses and other ecclesiastical spoils. In the mean time "bands play the air of the carmagnole and 'Malbrook.'... On the entry of the dais, they strike up 'Ah! le bel oiseau;'"[3219] all at once the masqueraders throw off their disguise, and, mitres, stoles, chasubles flung in the air, "disclose to view the defenders of the country in the national uniform." Peals of laughter, shouts and enthusiasm, while the instrumental din becomes louder! The procession, now in full blast, demands the carmagnole, and the Convention consents; even some of the deputies descend from their benches and cut the pigeon-wing with the merry prostitutes.—To wind up, the Convention decrees that it will attend that evening the fete of Reason and, in fact, they go in a body. Behind an actress in short petticoats wearing a red cap, representing Liberty or Reason, march the deputies, likewise in red caps, shouting and singing until they reach the new temple, which is built of planks and pasteboard in the choir of Notre Dame. They take their seats in the front rows, while the Goddess, an old frequenter of the suppers of the Duc de Soubise, along with "all the pretty dames of the Opera," display before them their operatic graces.[3220] They sing the "Hymn to Liberty," and, since the Convention has that morning decreed that it must sing, I suppose that it also joined in.[3221] After this there follows dancing; but, unfortunately, the authorities are wanting for stating whether the Convention danced or not. In any event, it is present at the dance, and thus consecrates an unique orgy, not Rubens' "Kermesse" in the open air, racy and healthy, but a nocturnal boulevard-jollification, a "Mardi-gras" composed of lean and haggard scapegraces.—In the great nave of the Cathedral, "the dancers, almost naked, with bare necks and breasts, and stockings down at the heel," writhe and stamp, "howling the carmagnole." In the side chapels, which are "shut off by high tapestries, prostitutes with shrill voices" pursue their avocation.[3222]—To descend to this low level so barefacedly, to fraternise with barrier sots, and wenches, to endure their embraces and hiccoughs, is bad enough, even for docile deputies. More than one half of them loathed it beforehand and remained at home; after this they do not feel disposed to attend the Convention.[3223]—But the "Mountain sends for them, and an officer brings them back;" it is necessary that they should co-operate through their presence and felicitations in the profanations and apostasies which follow;[3224] it is necessary that they should approve of and decree that which they hold in horror, not alone folly and nonsense, but crime, the murder of innocent people, and that of their friends.—All this is done. "Unanimously, and with the loudest applause," the Left, united with the Right, sends Danton to the scaffold, its natural chieftain, the great promoter and leader of the Revolution.[3225] "Unanimously, and with the loudest applause," the Right, united with the Left, votes the worse decrees of the Revolutionary government.[3226] "Unanimously," with approving and enthusiastic cheers, manifesting the warmest sympathy for Collot d'Herbois, Couthon, and Robespierre,[3227] the Convention, through multiplied and spontaneous re-elections, maintains the homicidal government which the Plain detests, because it is homicidal, and which the Mountain detests, because it is decimated by it. Plain and Mountain, by virtue of terror, majority after majority, end in consenting to and bringing about their own suicide: on the 22nd of Prairial, the entire Convention has stretched out its neck;[3228] on the 8th of Thermidor, for a quarter of an hour after Robespierre's speech,[3229] it has again stretched this out, and would probably have succumbed, had not five or six of them, whom Robespierre designated or named, Bourdon de l'Oise, Vadier, Cambon, Billaud and Panis, stimulated by the animal instinct of self-preservation, raised their arms to ward off the knife. Nothing but imminent, personal, mortal danger could, in these prostrated beings, supplant long-continued fear with still greater fear. Later on, Sieyes, on being asked how he acted in these times, replied, "I lived." In effect, he and others are reduced to that; they succeeded in doing this, at all costs, and at what a price![3230] His secret notes, his most private sketches confirm this[3231]...

"On the Committee of March 20, "Paillasse, half drunk, gives a dissertation on the way to carry on the war, and interrogates and censures the Minister. The poor Minister evades his questions with cafe gossip and a review of campaigns. These are the men placed at the head of the government to save the Republic!"—"H...., in his distraction, had the air of a sly fox inwardly smiling at his own knavish thoughts. Ruit irrevocabile vulgus... Jusque Datum sceleri."—"Are you keeping silent?"—"Of what use is my glass of wine in this torrent of ardent spirits?"—

All this is very well, but he did not merely keep silent and abstain. He voted, legislated and decreed, along with the unanimous Convention; he was a collaborator, not only passively, through his presence, but also through his active participation in the acts of the government which he elected and enthroned, re-elected twelve times, cheered every week, and flattered daily, authorizing and keeping on to the end its work of spoliation and massacre.

"Everybody is guilty here," said Carrier in the Convention, "even to the president's bell."

In vain do they constantly repeat to themselves that they were forced to obey under penalty of death: the conscience of the purest among them, if he has any, replies:

"You too, in spite of yourself, I admit; less than others, if you please, but you were a terrorist, that is to say, a brigand and an assassin."[3232]



III. The Committee of Public Safety.

The Men who do the work.—Carnot, Prieur de-la-Cote d'Or, Jean Bon Saint Andre, Robert Lindet.

On a man becoming a slave, said old Homer, the Gods take away the half of his soul; the same is true of a man who becomes a tyrant.—In the Pavilion de Flore, alongside of and above the enslaved Convention, sit the twelve kings it has enthroned, twice a day,[3233] ruling over it as well as over France.[3234] Of course, some guarantee is required from those who fill this place; there is not one of them who is not a revolutionary of long standing, an impenitent regicide, a fanatic in essence and a despot through principle; but the fumes of omnipotence have not intoxicated them all to the same degree.—Three or four of them, Robert Lindet, Jean Bon St. Andre, Prieur de la Cote-d'Or and Carnot, confine themselves to useful and secondary duties; this suffices to keep them partially safe. As specialists, charged with an important service, their first object is to do this well, and hence they subordinate the rest to this, even theoretical exigencies and the outcries of the clubs.

Lindet's prime object is to feed the departments that are without wheat, and the towns that are soon to be short of bread.

Prieur's business is to see that biscuits, brandy, clothes, shoes, gunpowder and arms are manufactured.[3235]

Jean Bon, that vessels are equipped and crews drilled.

Carnot, to draw up campaign plans and direct the march of armies: the dispatch of so many bags of grain during the coming fortnight to this or that town, or warehouse in this or that district; the making up of so many weekly rations, to be deported during the month to certain places on the frontier; the transformation of so many fishermen into artillerymen or marines, and to set afloat so many vessels in three months; to expedite certain Corps of Cavalry, infantry and artillery, so as to arrive by such and such roads at this or that pass—

These are precise combinations which purge the brain of dogmatic phrases, which force revolutionary jargon into the background and keep a man sensible and practical; and all the more because three of them, Jean Bon, former captain of a merchantman, Prieur and Carnot, engineering officers, are professional men and go to the front to put their shoulders to the wheel on the spot. Jean Bon, always visiting the coasts, goes on board a vessel of the fleet leaving Brest to save the great American convoy; Carnot, at Watignies, orders Jourdan to make a decisive move, and, shouldering his musket, marches along with the attacking column.[3236] Naturally, they have no leisure for speechmaking in the Jacobin club, or for intrigues in the Convention: Carnot lives in his own office and in the committee-room; he does not allow himself time enough to eat with his wife, dines on a crust of bread and a glass of lemonade, and works sixteen and eighteen hours a day;[3237] Lindet, more overtasked than any body else, because hunger will not wait, reads every report himself, and passes days and nights at it;"[3238] Jean Bon, in wooden shoes and woolen vest, with a bit of coarse bread and a glass of bad beer,[3239] writes and dictates until his strength fails him, and he has to lie down and sleep on a mattress on the floor.—Naturally, again, when interfered with, and the tools in their hands are broken, they are dissatisfied; they know well the worth of a good instrument, and for the service, as they comprehend it, good tools are essential, competent, faithful employees, regular in attendance at their offices, and not at the club. When they have a subordinate of this kind they defend him, often at the risk of their lives, even to incurring the enmity of Robespierre. Cambon,[3240] who, on his financial committee, is also a sort of sovereign, retains at the Treasury five or six hundred employees unable to procure their certificate of civism, and whom the Jacobins incessantly denounce so as to get their places. Carnot saves and employs eminent engineers, D'Arcon, de Montalembert, d'Obenheim, all of them nobles, and one of them an anti-Jacobin, without counting a number of accused officers whom he justifies, replaces, or maintains.[3241]—Through these courageous and humane acts, they solace themselves for their scruples, at least partially and for the time being; moreover, they are statesmen only because the occasion and superior force makes it imperative, more led by others than leading, terrorists through accident and necessity, rather than through system and instinct. If, in concert with ten others, Prieur and Carnot order wholesale robbery and murder, if they sign orders by twenties and hundreds, amounting to assassinations, it is owing to their forming part of a body. When the whole committee deliberates, they are bound, in important decrees, to submit to the preponderating opinion of the majority, after voting in the negative. In relation to secondary decrees, in which there has been no preliminary discussion in common, the only responsible member is the one whose signature stands first; the following signatures affixed, without reading the document, are simply a "formality which the law requires," merely a visa, necessarily mechanical; with "four or five hundred business matters to attend to daily," it is impossible to do otherwise. To read all and vote in every case, would be "a physical impossibility."[3242]—Finally, as things are, "is not the general will, at least the apparent general will, that alone on which the government can decide, itself ultra-revolutionary?"[3243] In other words, should not the five or six rascals in a State who vociferate, be listened to, rather than a hundred honest folks who keep their mouths shut? With this sophism, gross as it is, but of pure Jacobin manufacture, Carnot ends by hoodwinking his honor and his conscience; otherwise intact, and far more so than his colleagues, he likewise undergoes moral and mental mutilation; constrained by the duties of his post and the illusions of his creed, he succeeded in an inward decapitation of the two noblest of human faculties, common-sense, the most useful, and the moral sense, the most exalted of all.



IV. The Statesmen.

Billaud-Varennes, Collot d'Herbois, Robespierre, Couthon and Saint-Just.—Conditions of this rule.—Dangers to which they are subject.—Their dissensions.—Pressure of Fear and Theory.

If such are the ravages which are made in an upright, firm and healthy personality, what must be the havoc in corrupt or weak natures, in which bad instincts already predominate!—And note that they are without the protection provided by a pursuit of some specific and useful objective. They are "government men," also "revolutionaries" or "the people in total control;"[3244] they are in actual fact men with an overall concept of things, also direct these. The creation, organization and application of Terror belongs wholly to them; they are the constructors, regulators and engineers of the machine,[3245] the recognized heads of the party, of the sect and of the government, especially Billaud and Robespierre, who never serve on missions,[3246] nor relax their hold for a moment on the central motor. The former, an active politician, with Collot for his second, is charged with urging on the constituted authorities, the districts, the municipalities, the national agents, the revolutionary committees, and the representatives on mission in the interior.[3247] The latter, a theologian, moralist, titular doctor and preacher, is charged with ruling the Convention and indoctrinating the Jacobins with sound principles; behind him stands Couthon, his lieutenant, with Saint-Just, his disciple and executor of works of great importance; in their midst, Barere, the Committee's mouthpiece, is merely a tool, but indispensable, conveniently at hand and always ready to start whatever drum-beating is required on any given theme in honor of the party which stuffs his brain. Below these comes the Committee of General Security, Vadier, Amar, Vouland, Guffroy, Panis, David, Jagot and the rest, those who undertook, reported on, and acted in behalf of universal proscription. All these bear the imprint of their service; they could be recognized by "their pallid hue, hollow and bloodshot eyes,"[3248] habits of omnipotence stamped "on their brows, and on their deportment, something indescribably haughty and disdainful. The Committee of General Security reminded one of the former lieutenants of police, and the Committee of Public Safety, of the former ministers of state." In the Convention, "it is considered an honor to talk with them, and a privilege to shake hands with them; one seems to read one's duty on their brows." On the days on which their orders are to be converted into laws "the members of the Committee and the reporter of the bill, keep people waiting, the same as the heads and representatives of the former sovereign power; on their way to the Assembly hall, they are preceded by a group of courtiers who seem to announce the masters of the world."[3249]—In fact, they reign—but observe on what conditions.

"Make no complaints," said Barere,[3250] to the composer of an opera, the performance of which had just been suspended: "as times go, you must not attract public attention. Do we not all stand at the foot of the guillotine, all, beginning with myself?" Again, twenty years later, in a private conversation, on being interrogated as to the veritable object, the secret motive of the Committee of Public Safety, he replied:

"As we were animated by but one sentiment,[3251] my dear sir, that of self-preservation, we had but one desire, that of maintaining an existence which each of us believed to be menaced. You had your neighbor guillotined to prevent your neighbor from guillotining you."[3252]

The same apprehension exists in stouter souls, although there may have been, along with fear, motives of a less debased order.

"How many times," says Carnot,[3253] "we undertook some work that required time, with the conviction that we should not be allowed to complete it!"—"It was uncertain[3254] whether, the next time the clock struck the hour, we should not be standing before the revolutionary Tribunal on our way to the scaffold without, perhaps, having had time to bid adieu to our families.... We pursued our daily task so as not to let the machine stand still, as if a long life were before us, when it was probable that we should not see the next day's sun."

It is impossible to count on one's life, or that of another, for twenty-four hours; should the iron hand which holds one by the throat tighten its grasp, all will be over that evening.

"There were certain days so difficult that one could see no way to control circumstances; those who were directly menaced resigned themselves wholly to chance."[3255]—"The decisions for which we are so much blamed," says another,[3256] "were not generally thought of two days, or one day, beforehand; they sprung out of the crisis of the moment. We did not desire to kill for the sake of killing... but to conquer at all hazards, remain masters, and ensure the sway of our principles."—That is true,—they are subjects as well as despots. At the Committee table, during their nocturnal sessions, their sovereign presides, a formidable figure, the revolutionary Idea which confers on them the right to slay, on condition of exercising it against everybody, and therefore on themselves. Towards two o'clock, or three o'clock in the morning, exhausted, out of words and ideas, not knowing where to slay, on the right or on the left, they anxiously turn to this figure and try to read its will in its fixed eyes.

"Who shall fall to-morrow?"—

Ever the same reply steadily expressed on the features of the impassable phantom: "the counter-revolutionaries," under which name is comprised all who by act, speech, thought or inmost sentiment, either through irritation or carelessness, through humanity or moderation, through egoism or nonchalance, through passive, neutral or indifferent feeling, serve well or ill the Revolution.[3257]—All that remains is to add names to this horribly comprehensive decree. Shall Billaud do it? Shall Robespierre do it? Will Billaud put down Robespierre's name, or Robespierre put down Billaud's, or each the name of the other, with those he chooses to select from among the two Committees? Osselin, Chabot, Bazire, Julien de Toulouse, Lacroix, Danton, were on them, and when they left, their heads fell.[3258] Herault-Sechelles, again, was on them, maintained in office with honor through the recent approbation of the Convention,[3259] one of the titular twelve, and on duty when an order issued by the other eleven suddenly handed him over to the revolutionary Tribunal for execution.—Whose turn is it now among the eleven? Seized unawares, the docile Convention unanimously applauding, after three days of a judicial farce, the cart will bear him to the Place de la Revolution; Samson will tie him fast, shouters at thirty sous a day will clap their hands, and, on the following morning, the popular politicians will congratulate each other on seeing the name of a great traitor on the bulletin of the guillotined.[3260] To this end, to enable this or that king of the day to pass from the national Almanac to the mortuary list, merely required an understanding among his colleagues, and, perhaps, this is already arrived at. Among whom and against whom?—It is certain that, as this idea occurs to the eleven, seated around the table, they eye each other with a shudder they calculate the chances and turn things over in their minds; words have been uttered that are not forgotten. Carnot often made this charge against Saint-Just: "You and Robespierre are after a dictatorship."[3261] Robespierre replied to Carnot: "I am ready for you on the first defeat."[3262] On another occasion, Robespierre, in a rage, exclaimed: "The Committee is conspiring against me!" and, turning to Billaud, "I know you, now!" Billaud retorted, "I know you too, you are a counter-revolutionary!"[3263] There are conspirators and counter-revolutionaries, then, on the committee itself; what can be done to avoid this appellation, which is a sentence of death?—Silently, the fatal phantom enthroned in their midst, the Erinyes[3264] through which they rule, renders his oracle and all take it to heart:

"All who are unwilling to become executioners are conspirators and counter-revolutionaries."



V. Official Jacobin organs.

Official Jacobin organs.—Reports by Saint-Just are Barere. —Quality of reports and reporters.

Thus do they march along during twelve months, goaded on by the two sharp thongs of theory and fear, traversing the red pool which they have created, and which is daily becoming deeper and deeper, all together and united, neither of them daring to separate from the group, and each spattered with the blood thrown in his face by the others' feet. It is not long before their eyesight fails them; they no longer see their way, while the degradation of their language betrays the stupor of their intellect.—When a government brings to the tribune and moves the enactment of important laws, it confronts the nation, faces Europe, and takes a historical position. If it cares for its own honor it will select reporters of bills that are not unworthy, and instruct them to support these with available arguments, as closely reasoned out as possible; the bill, discussed and adopted in full council, will show the measure of its capacity, the information it possesses and its common-sense.

To estimate all this, read the bills put forth in the name of the Committee; weigh the preambles, remark the tone, listen to the two reporters usually chosen, Saint-Just, who draws up the acts of proscription, special or general, and Barere, who draws up all acts indifferently, but particularly military announcements and decrees against the foreigner; never did public personages, addressing France and posterity, use such irrational arguments and state falsehoods with greater impudence.[3265]

The former, stiff in his starched cravat, posing "like the Holy Ghost," more didactic and more absolute than Robespierre himself, comes and proclaims to Frenchmen from the tribune, equality, probity, frugality, Spartan habits, and a rural cot with all the voluptuousness of virtue;[3266] this suits admirably the chevalier Saint-Just, a former applicant for a place in the Count d'Artois' body-guard, a domestic thief, a purloiner of silver plate which he takes to Paris, sells and spends on prostitutes, imprisoned for six months on complaint of his own mother,[3267] and author of a lewd poem which he succeeds in rendering filthy by trying to render it fanciful.—Now, indeed, he is grave; he no longer leers; he kills—but with what arguments, and what a style![3268] The young Laubardemont as well as the paid informers and prosecutors of imperial Rome, have less disgraced the human intellect, for these creatures of a Tiberius or a Richelieu still used plausible arguments in their reasoning, and with more or less adroitness. With Saint-Just, there is no connection of ideas; there is no sequence or march in his rhapsody; like an instrument strained to the utmost, his mind plays only false notes in violent fits and starts; logical continuity, the art then so common of regularly developing a theme, has disappeared; he stumbles over the ground, piling up telling aphorisms and dogmatic axioms. In dealing with facts there is nothing in his speech but a perversion of the truth; impostures abound in it of pure invention, palpable, as brazen as those of a charlatan in his booth;[3269] he does not even deign to disguise them with a shadow of probability; as to the Girondists, and as to Danton, Fabre d'Eglantine and his other adversaries, whoever they may be, old or new, any rope to hang them with suffices for him; any rough, knotted, badly-twisted cord he can lay his hands on, no matter what, provided it strangles, is good enough; there is no need of a finer one for confirmed conspirators; with the gossip of the club and an Inquisition catechism, he can frame his bill of indictment.—Accordingly, his intellect grasps nothing and yields him nothing; he is a sententious and overexcited declaimer, an artificial spirit always on the stretch, full of affectations,[3270] his talent reducing itself down to the rare flashes of a somber imagination, a pupil of Robespierre, as Robespierre himself is a pupil of Rousseau, the exaggerated scholar of a plodding scholar, always rabidly ultra, furious through calculation, deliberately violating both language and ideas,[3271] confining himself to theatrical and funereal paradoxes, a sort of "grand vizier"[3272] with the airs of an exalted moralist and the bearing of the sentimental shepherd.[3273] Were one of a mocking humor one might shrug one's shoulders; but, in the present state of the Convention, there is no room for anything but fear. Launched in imperious tones, his phrases fall upon their ears in monotonous strokes, on bowed heads, and, after five or six blows from this leaden hammer, the stoutest are stretched out stupefied on the ground; discussion is out of the question; when Saint-Just, in the name of the Convention, affirms anything, it must be believed; his dissertation is a peremptory injunction and not an effort of reason; it commands obedience; it is not open to examination; it is not a report which he draws from his coat pocket, but a bludgeon.

The other reporter, Barere, is of quite another stamp, a "patent-right" haranguer, an amusing Gascon, alert, "free and easy," fond of a joke, even on the Committee of Public Safety,[3274] unconcerned in the midst of assassinations, and, to the very last, speaking of the reign of Terror as "the simplest and most innocent thing in the world."[3275] No man was ever less trammeled by a conscience; in truth, he has several, that of two days ago, that of the previous day, that of the present day, that of the morrow, of the following day, and still others, as many as you like, all equally pliant and supple, at the service of the strongest against the weakest, ready to swing round at once on the wind changing, but all joined together and working to one common end through physical instinct, the only one that lasts in the immoral, adroit and volatile being who circulates nimbly about, with no other aim than self-preservation, and to amuse himself.[3276]—In his dressing-gown, early in the morning, he receives a crowd of solicitors, and, with the ways of a "dandified minister," graciously accepts the petitions handed to him; first, those of ladies, "distributing gallantries among the prettiest;" he makes promises, and smiles, and then, returning to his cabinet, throws the papers in the fire: "There," he says, my correspondence is done."—He sups twice every decade in his fine house at Clichy, along with three more than accommodating pretty women; he is gay, awarding flatteries and attentions quite becoming to an amiable protector: he enters into their professional rivalries, their spites against the reigning beauty, their jealousy of another who wears a blonde wig and pretends "to set the fashion." He sends immediately for the National Agent and gravely informs him that this head-dress, borrowed from the guillotined, is a rallying point for anti-revolutionaries, whereupon, the next day, wigs are denounced at the Commune-council, and suppressed; "Barere roared with laughter on alluding to this piece of fun." The humor of an undertaker and the dexterity of a commercial drummer: he plays with Terror.—In like manner he plays with his reports, and at this latter exercise, he improvises; he is never embarrassed; it is simply necessary to turn the faucet and the water runs. "Had he any subject to treat, he would fasten himself on Robespierre, Herault, Saint-Just, or somebody else, and draw them out; he would then rush off to the tribune and spin out their ideas; "they were all astonished at hearing their thoughts expressed as fully as if reflected in a mirror." No individual on the Committee, or in the Convention, equaled him in promptness and fluency, for the reason that he was not obliged to think before he spoke: with him, the faculty of speaking, like an independent organ, acted by itself, the empty brain or indifferent heart contributing nothing to his loquacity. Naturally, whatever issues from his mouth comes forth in ready-made bombast, the current jargon of the Jacobin club, sonorous, nauseous commonplace, schoolboy metaphors and similes derived from the shambles.[3277] Not an idea is found in all this rhetoric, nothing acquired, no real mental application. When Bonaparte, who employed everybody, even Fouche, were disposed to employ Barere, they could make nothing out of him for lack of substance, except as a low newsmonger, common spy, or agent engaged to stir up surviving Jacobins; later on, a listener at keyholes, and a paid weekly collector of public rumors, he was not even fit for this vile service, for his wages were soon stopped Napoleon, who, having no time to waste, cut short his driveling verbiage.—It is this verbiage which, authorized by the Committee of Public Safety, now forms the eloquence of France; it is this manufacturer of phrases by the dozen, this future informer and prison-spy under the empire, this frolicking inventor of the blonde-wig conspiracy, that the government sends into the tribune to announce victories, trumpet forth military heroism and proclaim war unto death. On the 7th of Prairial,[3278] Barere, in the name of the committee, proposes a return to savage law: "No English or Hanoverian prisoner shall henceforth be made;" the decree is endorsed by Carnot and passes the Convention unanimously. Had it been executed, as reprisals, and according to the proportion of prisoners, there would have been for one Englishman shot, three Frenchmen hung: honor and humanity would have disappeared from the camps; the hostilities between Christians would have become as deadly as among savages. Happily, French soldiers felt the nobleness of their profession; on the order being given to shoot the prisoners, a decent sergeant replied:

"We will not shoot—send them to the Convention. If the representatives delight in killing prisoners—let them do it themselves, and eat them, too, savages as they are!"

The sergeant, an ordinary man, is not on a level with the Committee, or with Barere; and yet Barere did his best in a bill of indictment of twenty-seven pages, full of grand flourishes, every possible ritornello, glaring falsehood and silly inflation, explaining how "the Britannic leopard" paid assassins to murder the representatives; how the London cabinet had armed little Cecile Renault, "the new Corday," against Robespierre; how the Englishman, naturally barbarous, "is unable to deny his origins; how he descends from the Carthaginians and Phenicians, and formerly dealt in the skins of wild beasts and slaves; how his trading occupation is not changed; how Cesar, formerly, on landing in the country, found nothing but a ferocious tribe battling with wolves in the forest and threatening to burn every vessel which would try to land there; and how he still remains like that." A lecture from a fairground surgeon who, using bombastic words, recommends extensive amputations, a fairground-prospectus so crude that it does not even deceive a poor sergeant,—such is the exposition of motives by a government for the purpose of enforcing a decree that might have been drawn up by redskins; to horrible acts he adds debased language, and employs the inept to justify their atrocities.



VI. Commissars of the Revolution.

Representatives on Mission.—Their absolute power.—Their perils and their fear.—Fit for their work.—Effect of this situation.

A hundred or so representatives of the Committee of Public Safety, are sent to the provinces, "with unlimited power," to establish, enforce or exacerbate the revolutionary government, and their proclamations at once explain the nature of this government.[3279]—"Brave and vigorous sans-culottes!" writes a deputy on leaving a mission and announcing his successor,[3280] "You seem to have desired a good b... of a representative, who has never swerved from his principles, that is to say, a regular Montagnard. I have fulfilled your wishes, and you will have the same thing in citizen Ingrand. Remember, brave sans-culottes, that, with the patriot Ingrand, you can do everything, get anything, cancel whatever you please, imprison, bring to trial, deport and guillotine every-body and regenerate society. Don't try to play with him; everybody is afraid of him, he overcomes all resistance and restores at once the most complete order!"—The representative arrives at the center of the department by post, and presents his credentials. All the authorities at once bow to the ground. In the evening, in his saber and plume, he harangues the popular club, blowing into a flame the smoldering embers of Jacobinism. Then, according to his personal acquaintances, if he has any in the place, or according to the votes of the Committee of General Security, if he is a new-comer, he selects five or six of the "warmest sans-culottes" there, and, forming them into a Revolutionary Committee, installs them permanently at his side, sometimes in the same building, in a room next to his own, where, on lists or with verbal communications furnished to him, he works with a will and without stopping.[3281]

First comes a purification of all the local authorities. They must always remember that "there can be no exaggeration in behalf of the people; he who is not imbued with this principle, who has not put it in practice, cannot remain on an advanced post;"[3282] consequently, at the popular club, in the department, in the district, in the municipality, all doubtful men are excluded, discharged, or incarcerated; if a few weak ones are retained provisionally, or by favor, they are berated and taught their duty very summarily:

"They will strive, by a more energetic and assiduous patriotism, to atone for the evil committed by them in not doing all the good they could do."

Sometimes, through a sudden change of scene, the entire administrative staff is kicked out so as to give place to a no less complete staff, which the same kick brings up out of the ground. Considering that "everything stagnates in Vaucluse, and that a frightful moderation paralyses the most revolutionary measures," Maignet, in one order[3283] appoints the administrators and secretary of the department, the national agent, the administrators and council-general of the district, the administrators, council-general and national agent of Avignon, the president, public prosecutor and recorder of the criminal court, members of the Tribunal de Commerce, the collector of the district, the post-master and the head of the squadron of gendarmerie. And the new functionaries will certainly go to work at once, each in his office. The summary process, which has brusquely swept away the first set of puppets, is going to brusquely install the second one. "Each citizen appointed to any of the above mentioned offices, shall betake himself immediately to his post, under penalty of being declared suspect," on the simple notification of his appointment. Universal and passive obedience of governors, as well as of the governed! There are no more elected and independent functionaries; all the authorities, confirmed or created by the representative, are in his hands; there is not one among them who does not subsist or survive solely through his favor; there is not one of them who acts otherwise than according to his approval or by his order. Directly, or through them, he makes requisitions, sequestrates or confiscates as he sees fit, taxes, imprisons, transports or decapitates as he see fit, and, in his circumscription, he is the pasha.

But he is a pasha with a chain around his neck, and at short tether.—From and after December, 1793, he is directed "to conform to the orders of the Committee of Public Safety and report to it every ten days."[3284] The circumscription in which he commands is rigorously "limited;" "he is reputed to be without power in the other departments,"[3285] while he is not allowed to grow old on his post. "In every magistrature the grandeur and extent of power is compensated by the shortness of its duration. Over-prolonged missions would soon be considered as birthrights."[3286] Therefore, at the end of two or three months, often at the end of a month, the incumbent is recalled to Paris or dispatched elsewhere, at short notice, on the day named, in a prompt, absolute and sometimes threatening tone, not as a colleague one humors, but as a subordinate who is suddenly and arbitrarily revoked or displaced because he is deemed inadequate, or "used up." For greater security, oftentimes a member of the Committee, Couthon, Collot, Saint-Just, or some near relation of a member of the Committee, a Lebas or young Robespierre, goes personally to the spot to give the needed impulsion; sometimes, agents simply of the Committee, taken from outside the Convention, and without any personal standing, quite young men, Rousselin, Julien de la Drome, replace or watch the representative with powers equal to his.—At the same time, from the top and from the center, he is pushed on and directed: his local counselors are chosen for him, and the directors of his conscience;[3287] they rate him soundly on the choice of his agents or of his lodgings;[3288] they force dismissals on him, appointments, arrests, executions; they spur him on in the path of terror and suffering.—Around him are paid emissaries,[3289] while others watch him gratis and constantly write to the Committees of Public Safety and General Security, often to denounce him, always to report on his conduct, to judge his measures and to provoke the measures which he does not take.[3290]

Whatever he may have done or may do, he cannot turn his eyes toward Paris without seeing danger ahead, a mortal danger which, on the Committee, in the Convention, at the Jacobin Club, increases or will increase against him, like a tempest.—Briez, who, in Valenciennes under siege, showed courage, and whom the Convention had just applauded and added to the Committee of Public Safety, hears himself reproached for being still alive: "He who was at Valenciennes when the enemy took it will never reply to this question—are you dead?"[3291] He has nothing to do now but to declare himself incompetent, decline the honor mistakenly conferred on him by the Convention, and disappear.—Dubois-Crance took Lyons, and, as pay for this immense service, he is stricken off the roll of the Jacobin Club; because he did not take it quick enough, he is accused of treachery; two days after the capitulation, the Committee of Public Safety withdraw his powers; three days after the capitulation, the Committee of Public Safety has him arrested and sent to Paris under escort.[3292]—If such men after such services are thus treated, what is to become of the others? After the mission of young Julien, then Carrier at Nantes, Ysabeau and Tallien at Bordeaux, feel their heads shake on their shoulders; after the mission of Robespierre jr. in the East and South, Barras, Freron and Bernard de Saintes believe themselves lost.[3293] Fouche, Rovere, Javogue, and how many others, compromised by the faction, Hebertists or Dantonists, of which they are, or were belonging. Sure of perishing if their patrons on the Committee succumb; not sure of living if their patrons keep their place; not knowing whether their heads will not be exchanged for others; restricted to the narrowest, the most rigorous and most constant orthodoxy; guilty and condemned should their orthodoxy of to-day become the heterodoxy of to-morrow. All of them menaced, at first the hundred and eighty autocrats who, before the concentration of the revolutionary government, ruled for eight months boundlessly in the provinces; next, and above all, the fifty hard-fisted "Montagnards," unscrupulous fanatics or authoritarian high livers, who, at this moment, tread human flesh under foot and spread out in arbitrariness like wild boars in a forest, or wallow in scandal, like swine in a mud-pool.

There is no refuge for them, other than temporary, and temporary refuge only in zealous and tried obedience, such as the Committee demands proof of, that is to say, through rigor.—"The Committees so wanted it," says later on Maignet, the arsonist of Bedouin; "The Committees did everything..... Circumstances controlled me. ... The patriotic agents conjured me not to give way.... I did not fully carry out the most imperative orders."[3294] Similarly, the great exterminator of Nantes, Carrier, when urged to spare the rebels who surrendered of their own accord:

"Do you want me to be guillotined? It is not in my power to save those people."[3295]

And another time:

"I have my orders; I must observe them; I do not want to have my head cut off!"

Under penalty of death, the representative on mission is a Terrorist, like his colleagues in the Convention and on the Committee of Public Safety, but with a much more serious disturbance of his nervous and his moral system; for he does not operate like them on paper, at a distance, against categories of abstract, anonymous and vague beings; his work is not merely an effort of the intellect, but also of the senses and the imagination. If he belongs to the region, like Lecarpentier, Barras, Lebon, Javogue, Couthon, Andre Dumont and many others, he is well acquainted with the families he proscribes; names to him are not merely so many letters strung together, but they recall personal souvenirs and evoke living forms. At all events, he is the spectator, artisan and beneficiary of his own dictatorship; the silver-plate and money he confiscates passes under his eye, through his hands; he sees the "suspects" he incarcerates march before him; he is in the court-room on the rendering of the sentence of death; frequently, the guillotine he has supplied with heads works under his windows; he sleeps in the mansion of an emigre he makes requisitions for the furniture, linen and wine belonging to the decapitated and the imprisoned,[3296] lies in their beds, drinks their wine and revels with plenty of company at their expense, and in their place. In the same way as a bandit chief who neither kills nor robs with his own hands, but has murder and robbery committed in his presence, by which he substantially profits, not by proxy, but personally, through the well-directed blows ordered by him.—To this degree, and in such proximity to physical action, omnipotence is a noxious atmosphere which no state of health can resist. Restored to the conditions which poisoned man in barbarous times or countries, he is again attacked by moral maladies from which he was thenceforth believed to be exempt; he retrogrades even to the strange corruptions of the Orient and the Middle Ages; forgotten leprosies, apparently extinct, with exotic pestilences to which civilized lands seemed closed, reappear in his soul with their issues and tumors.



VII. Brutal Instincts.

Eruption of brutal instincts.—Duquesnoy at Metz.—Dumont at Amiens.—Drunkards.—Cusset, Bourbotte, Moustier, Bourdon de l'Oise, Dartigoyte.

"It seems," says a witness who was long acquainted with Maignet, "that all he did for these five or six years was simply the delirious phase of an illness, after which he recovered, and lived on as if nothing had happened."[3297] And Maignet himself writes "I was not made for these tempests." That goes for everyone but especially for the coarser natures; subordination would have restrained them while dictatorial power make the instincts of the brute and the mob appear.

Contemplate Duquesnoy, a sort of mastiff, always barking and biting, when gorged he is even more furious. Delegate to the army of the Moselle, and passing by Metz[3298] he summoned before him Altmayer, the public prosecutor, although he had sat down to dinner. The latter waits three hours and a half in the ante-chamber, is not admitted, returns, and, at length received, is greeted with a thundering exclamation:

"Who are you?"

"The public prosecutor," he replies.

"You look like a bishop—you were once a cure or monk—you can't be a revolutionary.... I have come to Metz with unlimited powers. Public opinion here is not satisfactory. I am going to drill it. I am going to set folks straight here. I mean to shoot, here in Metz, as well as in Nancy, five or six hundred every fortnight."

The same at the house of General Bessieres, commandant of the town encountering there M. Cledat, an old officer, the second in command, he measures him from head to foot:

"You look like a muscadin. Where did you come from? You must be a bad republican—you look as if you belonged to the ancient regime."

"My hair is gray," he responds, "but I am not the less a good republican: you may ask the General and the whole town."

"Be off! Go to the devil, and be quick about it, or I will have you arrested!"—

The same, in the street, where he lays hold of a man passing, on account of his looks; the justice of the peace, Joly, certifies to the civism of this person, and he "eyes" Joly:

"You too, you are an aristocrat! I see it in your eyes! I never make a mistake."

Whereupon, tearing off the Judge's badge, he sends him to prison.—Meanwhile, a fire, soon extinguished, breaks out in the army bakery; officers, townspeople, laborers, peasants and even children form a line (for passing water) and Duquesnoy appears to urge them on in his way: using his fists and his foot, he falls on whoever he meets, on an employee in the commissariat, on a convalescent officer, on two men in the line, and many others. He shouts to one of them, "You are a muscadin!" To another:

"I see by your eyes that you are an aristocrat!"

To another:

"You are a bloody beggar, an aristocrat, a rascal,"

and he strikes him in the stomach; he seizes a fourth by his collar and throws him down on the pavement.[3299] In addition to this, all are imprisoned. The fire being extinguished, an indiscreet fellow, who stood by looking on, recommends "the dispenser of blows" to wipe his forehead." "You can't see straight—who are you? Answer me, I am the representative." The other replies mildly: "Representative, nothing could be more respectable." Duquesnoy gives the unlucky courtier a blow under the nose: "You are disputing—go to prison," "which I did at once," adds the docile subject.—That same evening, "whereas, in the conflagration, none of the inhabitants in good circumstances offered their services in extinguishing the fire,[32100] and none but sans-culottes came thereto, from the garrison as well as from the commune," Duquesnoy orders "that a tax of 40,000 livres be imposed on the commune of Metz, levied on the fortunes of the rich and distributed among the poor, payable within ten days."[32101]—"Fais-moi f.... dedans tous ces b... la[32102]," "quatre j...f... a raccourcir;"[32103] At Arras, as at Metz, the lout is ever the ruffian and the butcher.

Others are either jolly fellows, or blackguards. A certain Andre Dumont, an old village attorney, now king of Picardie, or sultan, as occasion offers, "figures as a white Negro," sometimes jovial, but generally as a rude hardened cynic, treating female prisoners and petitioners as in a kermesse.[32104]—One morning a lady enters his ante-room, and waits amidst about twenty sans-culottes, to solicit the release of her husband. Dumont appears in a morning-gown, seats himself and listens to the petitioner.

"Sit down, citoyenne."

He takes her on his lap, thrusts his hand in her bosom and exclaims:

"Who would suppose that the bust of a marchioness would feel so soft to one of the people's representatives."

The sans-culottes shout with laughter. He sends the poor woman away and keeps her husband locked up. In the evening he may write to the Convention that he investigates things himself, and closely examines aristocrats.—If one is to maintain the revolutionary enthusiasm at a high level it is helpful to have a drop too much in one's head, and most of them take precautions in this direction. At Lyons,[32105] "the representatives sent to ensure the people's welfare, Albitte and Collot," call upon the Committee of Sequestrations to deliver at their house two hundred bottles of the best wine to be found, and five hundred bottles more of Bordeaux red wine, first quality, for table use.—In three months, at the table of the representatives who devastate la Vendee, nineteen hundred and seventy-four bottles of wine are emptied,[32106] taken from the houses of the emigres belonging to the town; for, "when one has helped to preserve a commune one has a right to drink to the Republic." Representative Bourbotte presides at this bar; Rossignol touches his glass, an ex-jeweler and then a September massacreur, all his life a debauchee and brigand, and now a major-general; alongside of Rossignol, stand his adjutants, Grammont, an old actor, and Hazard, a former priest; along with them is Vacheron, a good republican, who ravishes women and shoots them when they refuse to succumb;[32107] in addition to these are some "brilliant" young ladies, undoubtedly brought from Paris, "the prettiest of whom share their nights between Rossignol and Bourbotte," whilst the others serve their subordinates: the entire band, male and female, is installed in a Hotel de Fontenay, where they begin by breaking the seals, so as t o confiscate "for their own benefit, furniture, jewelry, dresses, feminine trinkets and even porcelains."[32108] Meanwhile, at Chantonney, representative Bourdon de l'Oise drinks with General Tunck, becomes "frantic" when tipsy, and has patriotic administrators seized in their beds at midnight, whom he had embraced the evening before.—Nearly all of them, like the latter, get nasty after a few drinks,—Carrier at Nantes, Petit-Jean at Thiers, Duquesnoy at Arras, Cusset at Thionville, Monestier at Tarbes. At Thionville, Cusset drinks like a "Lapithe" and, when drunk, gives the orders of a "vizier," which orders are executed.[32109] At Tarbes, Monestier "after a heavy meal and much excited," warmly harangues the court, personally examines the prisoner, M. de Lasalle, an old officer, whom he has condemned to death, and signs the order to have him guillotined at once. M. de Lasalle is guillotined that very evening, at midnight, by torchlight. The following morning Monestier says to the president of the court: "Well, we gave poor Lasalle a famous fright last night, didn't we?" "How a famous fright? He is executed!" Monestier is astonished—he did not remember having issued the order.[32110]—With others, wine, besides sanguinary instincts, brings out the foulest instincts. At Nimes; Borie, in the uniform of a representative, along with Courbis, the mayor, Geret, the justice and a number of prostitutes, dance the farandole around the guillotine. At Auch, one of the worst tyrants in the South, Dartigoyte, always heated with liquor "vomited every species of obscenity" in the faces of women that came to demand justice; "he compels, under penalty of imprisonment, mothers to take their daughters to the popular club," to listen to his filthy preaching; one evening, at the theatre, probably after an orgy, he shouts at all the women between the acts, lets loose upon them his smutty vocabulary, and, by way of demonstration, or as a practical conclusion, ends by stripping himself naked.[32111]—This time, the genuine brute appears. All the clothing woven during the past centuries and with which civilization had dressed him, the last drapery of humanity, falls to the ground. Nothing remains but the primitive animal, the ferocious, lewd gorilla supposed to be tamed, but which still subsists indefinitely and which a dictatorship, joined to drunkenness, revives in an uglier guise than in remotest times.

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