"See," writes one of Danton's correspondents, "the sort of persons who easily obtain these certificates,—the Ronsins, the Jourdans, the Maillards, the Vincents, all bankrupts, keepers of gambling-hells and cut-throats. Ask these individuals whether they have paid the patriotic contribution, whether they regularly pay the usual taxes, whether they give to the poor of their sections, to the volunteer soldiers, etc.; whether they mount guard or see it regularly done, whether they have made a loyal declaration for the forced loan. You will find that they have not.... The Commune issues certificates of civism to its satellites and refuses them to the best citizens."
The monopoly is obvious; they make no attempt to conceal it; six weeks later, it becomes official: several revolutionary committees decide not to grant certificates of civism to citizens who are not members of a popular club." And strict exclusion goes on increasing from month to month. Old certificates are canceled and new ones imposed, which new certificates have new formalities added to them, a larger number of endorsers being required and certain kinds of guarantees being rejected; there is greater strictness in relation to the requisite securities and qualifications; the candidate is put off until fuller information can be obtained about him; he is rejected at the slightest suspicion: he is only too fortunate if he is tolerated in the Republic as a passive subject, if he is content to be taxed and taxed when they please, and if he is not sent to join the "suspects" in prison; whoever does not belong to the band does not belong to the community.
Amongst themselves and in their popular club it is worse, for
"the eagerness to get any office leads to every one denouncing each other; "
consequently, at the Jacobin club in the rue St. Honore, and in the branch clubs of the quarter, there is constant purging, and always in the same sense, until the faction is cleansed of all honest or passable alloy and only a minority remains, which has its own way at every balloting. One of them announces that, in his club, eighty doubtful members have already been gotten rid of; another that, in his club, one hundred are going to be excluded. On Ventose 23, in the "Bon-Conseil" club, most of the members examined are rejected: "they are so strict that a man who cannot show that he acted energetically in critical times, cannot form part of the assembly; he is set aside for a mere trifle." On Ventose 13, in the same club, "out of twenty-six examined, seven only are admitted; one citizen, a tobacco dealer, aged sixty-eight, who has always performed his duty, is rejected for having called the president Monsieur, and for having spoken in the tribune bareheaded; two members, after this, insisted on his being a Moderate, which is enough to keep him out." Those who remain, consist of the most restless and most loquacious, the most eager for office, the self-mutilated club being thus reduced to a nucleus of charlatans and scoundrels.
To these spontaneous eliminations through which the club deteriorates, add the constant pressure through which the Committee of Public Safety frightens and degrades it. The lower the revolutionary government sinks, and the more it concentrates its power, the more servile and sanguinary do its agents and employees become. It strikes right and left as a warning; it imprisons or decapitates the turbulent among its own clients, the secondary demagogues who are impatient at not being principal demagogues, the bold who think of striking a fresh blow in the streets, Jacques Roux, Vincent, Momoro, Hebert, leaders of the Cordeliers club and of the Commune. After these, the indulgent who are disposed to exercise some discernment or moderation in terrorism, Camille Desmoulins, Danton and their adherents; and lastly, many others who are more or less doubtful, compromised or compromising, wearied or eccentric, from Maillard to Chaumette, from Antonelle to Chabot, from Westermann to Clootz. Each of the proscribed has a gang of followers, and suddenly the whole gang are obliged to do a volte-face; those who were able to show initiative, grovel, while those who could show mercy, become hardened. Henceforth, amongst the subaltern Jacobins, the roots of independence, humanity, and loyalty, hard to extirpate even in an ignoble and cruel nature, are eradicated even to the last fiber, the revolutionary staff, already so debased, becoming more and more degraded, until it is worthy of the office assigned to it. The confidants of Hebert, those who listen to Chaumette, the comrades of Westermann, the officers of Ronsin, the faithful readers of Camille, the admirers and devotees of Danton, all are bound to publicly repudiate their incarcerated friend or leader and approve of the decree which sends him to the scaffold, to applaud his calumniators, to overwhelm him on trial: this or that judge or juryman, who is one of Danton's partisans, is obliged to stifle a defense of him, and, knowing him to be innocent, pronounce him guilty; one who had often dined with Desmoulins is not only to guillotine him, but, in addition to this, to guillotine his young widow. Moreover, in the revolutionary committees, at the Commune, in the offices of the Committee of General Safety, in the bureau of the Central Police, at the headquarters of the armed force, at the revolutionary Tribunal, the service to which they are compelled to do becomes daily more onerous and more repulsive. To denounce neighbors, to arrest colleagues, to go and seize innocent persons, known to be such, in their beds, to select in the prisons the thirty or forty unfortunates who form the daily food of the guillotine, to "amalgamate" them haphazard, to try them and condemn them in a lot, to escort octogenarian women and girls of sixteen to the scaffold, even under the knife-blade, to see heads dropping and bodies swinging, to contrive means for getting rid of a multitude of corpses, and for removing the too-visible stains of blood. Of what species do the beings consist, who can accept such a task, and perform it day after day, with the prospect of doing it indefinitely? Fouquier-Tinville himself succumbs. One evening, on his way to the Committee of Public Safety, "he feels unwell" on the Pont-Neuf and exclaims: "I think I see the ghosts of the dead following us, especially those of the patriots I have had guillotined!" And at another time: "I would rather plow the ground than be public prosecutor. If I could, I would resign."—The government, as the system becomes aggravated, is forced to descend lower still that it may find suitable instruments; it finds them now only in the lowest depths: in Germinal, to renew the Commune, in Floreal, to renew the ministries, in Prairial, to re-compose the revolutionary Tribunal, month after month, purging and re-constituting the committees of each quarter of the city. In vain does Robespierre, writing and re-writing his secret lists, try to find men able to maintain the system; he always falls back on the same names, those of unknown persons, illiterate, about a hundred knaves or fools with four or five second-class despots or fanatics among them, as malevolent and as narrow as himself.—The purifying crucible has been used too often and for too long a time; it has overheated; what was sound, or nearly so, in the elements of the primitive fluid has been forcibly evaporated; the rest has fermented and become acid; nothing remains in the bottom of the vessel but the lees of stupidity and wickedness, their concentrated and corrosive dregs.
II. Subaltern Jacobins.
Quality of subaltern leaders.—How they rule in the section assemblies.—How they seize and hold office.
Such are the subordinate sovereigns who in Paris, during 14 months dispose as they please, of fortunes, liberties and lives.—And first, in the section assemblies, which still maintain a semblance of popular sovereignty, they rule despotically and uncontested.—
"A dozen or fifteen men wearing a red cap, well-informed or not, claim the exclusive right of speaking and acting, and if any other citizen with honest motives happens to propose measures which he thinks proper, and which really are so, no attention is paid to these measures, or, if it is, it is only to show the members composing the assemblage of how little account they are. These measures are accordingly rejected, solely because they are not presented by one of the men in a red cap, or by somebody like themselves, initiated in the mysteries of the section."
"Sometimes," says one of the leaders, "we find only ten members of the club at the general assembly of the section; but there are enough of us to intimidate the rest. Should any citizen of the section make a proposition we do not like, we rise and shout that he is an schemer, or a signer (of former constitutional petitions). In this way we impose silence on those who are not in line with the club."—
Since September, 1793, operation is all the easier because the majority, is now composed of beasts of burden, ruled with an iron hand.
"When something has to be effected that depends on intrigue or on private interest, the motion is always put by one of the members of the Revolutionary Committee of the section, or by one of those fanatical patriots who join in with the Committee, and otherwise act as its spies. Immediately the ignorant men, to whom Danton has allowed forty sous for each meeting, and who, from now on crowd an assembly, where they never came before, welcome the proposition with loud applause, shouting and demanding a vote, and the act is passed unanimously, notwithstanding the contrary opinions of all well-informed and honest citizens. Should any one dare make an objection, he would run the risk of imprisonment as a suspect, after being treated as an aristocrat or federalist, or at least, refused a certificate of civism, ( a serious matter) if he had the misfortune to need one, did his survival depend on this, either as employee or pensioner."—In the Maison-Commune section, most of the auditory are masons, "excellent patriots," says one of the clubbists of the quarter: they always vote on our side; we make them do what we want." Numbers of day-laborers, cab-drivers, cartmen and workmen of every class, thus earn their forty sous, and have no idea that anything else might be demanded from them. On entering the hall, when the meeting opens, they write down their names, after which they go out "to take a drink," without thinking themselves obliged to listen to the rigmarole of the orators; towards the end, they come back, make all the noise that is required of them with their lungs, feet and hands, and then go and "take back their card and get their money."—With paid applauders of this stamp, they soon get the better of any opponents, or, rather, all opposition is suppressed beforehand. "The best citizens keep silent" in the section assemblies, or "stay away;" these are simply "gambling-shops" where "the most absurd, the most unjust, the most impolitic of resolutions are passed at every moment. Moreover, citizens are ruined there by the unlimited sectional expenditure, which exceeds the usual taxation and the communal expenses, already very heavy. At one time, some carpenter or locksmith, member of the Revolutionary Committee, wants to construct, enlarge or decorate a hall, and it is necessary to agree with him. Again, a poor speech is made, full of exaggeration and political extravagance, of which three, four, five and six thousand impressions are ordered to be printed. Then, to cap the climax, following the example of the Commune, no accounts are rendered, or, if this is done for form's sake, no fault must be found with them, under penalty of suspicion, etc."—The twelve leaders, proprietors and distributors of civism, have only to agree amongst themselves to share the profits, each according to his appetite; henceforth, cupidity and vanity are free to sacrifice the common weal, under cover of the common interest.—The pasture is vast and it is at the disposal of the leaders. In one of his orders of the day, Henriot says:
"I am very glad to announce to my brethren in arms that all the positions are at the disposal of the government. The actual government, which is revolutionary, whose intentions are pure, and which merely desires the happiness of all,.... will search everywhere, even into the attics for virtuous men,.... poor and genuine sans-culottes." And there is enough to satisfy them thirty-five thousand places of public employment in the capital alone: it is a rich mine; already, before the month of May, 1793, "the Jacobin club boasted of having placed nine thousand agents in the administration," and since the 2nd of June, "virtuous men, poor, genuine sans-culottes," arrive in crowds from "their garrets," dens and hired rooms, each to grab his share.—They besiege and install themselves by hundreds the ancient offices in the War, Navy and Public-Works departments, in the Treasury and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Here they rule, constantly denouncing all the remaining, able employees thus creating vacancies in order to fill them. Then there are twenty new administrative departments which they keep for themselves: commissioners of the first confiscation of national property, commissioners of national property arising from emigrants and the convicted, commissioners of conscripted carriage-horses, commissioners on clothing, commissioners on the collecting and manufacturing of saltpeter, commissioners on monopolies, civil-commissioners in each of the forty-eight sections, commissioners on propagandas in the departments, Commissioners on provisions, and many others. Fifteen hundred places are counted in the single department of subsistence in Paris, and all are salaried. Here, already, are a number of desirable offices.—Some are for the lowest rabble, two hundred, at twenty sous a day, paid to "stump-speakers," employed to direct opinion in the Palais-Royal, also among the Tuileries groups, as well as in the tribunes of the Convention and of the Hotel-de-Ville; two hundred more at four hundred francs per annum, to waiters in coffee-houses, gambling-saloons and hotels, for watching foreigners and customers; hundreds of places at two, three, and five francs a day with meals, for the guardians of seals, and for garrisoning the domiciles of "suspects"; thousands, with premiums, pay, and full license, for brigands who, under Ronsin, compose the revolutionary army, and for the gunners, paid guard and gendarmes of Henriot.—The principal posts, however, are those which subject lives and freedom to the discretion of those who occupy them: for, through this more than regal power, they possess all other power, and such is that of the men composing the forty-eight revolutionary committees, the bureaus of the Committee of General Security and of the Commune, and the staff-officers of the armed force. They are the prime-movers and active incentives of the system of Terror, all picked Jacobins and tested by repeated selection, all designated or approved by the Central Club, which claims for itself the monopoly of patriotism, and which, erected into a supreme council of the party, issues no patent of orthodoxy except to its own henchmen.
They immediately assume the tone and arrogance of dictatorship. " Pride has reached its highest point:... One who, yesterday, had no post and was amiable and honest, has become haughty and insolent because, deceived by appearances, his fellow-citizens have elected him commissioner, or given him some employment or other." Henceforth, he behaves like a Turkish agha amongst infidels, and, in command, carries things out with a high hand.—On the 20th of Vendemiaire, year II., "in the middle of the night," the committee of the Piques section summons M. Belanger, the architect. He is notified that his house is wanted immediately for a new Bastille.—"But, said he, 'I own no other, and it is occupied by several tenants; it is decorated with models of art, and is fit only for that purpose.'—'Your house or you go to prison!'—'But I shall be obliged to indemnify my tenants.'—'Either your house or you go to prison; as to indemnities, we have vacant lodgings for your tenants, as well as for yourself, in (the prisons of) La Force, or Sainte-Pelagie.' Twelve sentinels on the post start off at once and take possession of the premises; the owner is allowed six hours to move out and is forbidden, henceforth, to return; the bureaus, to which he appeals, interpret his obedience as 'tacit adhesion,' and, very soon, he himself is locked up."—Administrative tools that cut so sharply need the greatest care, and, from time to time, they are carefully oiled: on the 20th of July, 1793, two thousand francs are given to each of the forty-eight committees, and eight thousand francs to General Henriot, "for expenses in watching anti-revolutionary maneuvers;" on the 7th of August, fifty thousand francs "to indemnify the less successful members of the forty-eight committees;" three hundred thousand francs to Gen. Henriot "for thwarting conspiracies and securing the triumph of liberty;" fifty thousand francs to the mayor, "for detecting the plots of the malevolent;" on the 10th of September, forty thousand francs to the mayor, president and procureur-syndic of the department, "for measures of security;" on the 13th of September, three hundred thousand francs to the mayor "for preventing the attempts of the malevolent;" on the 15th of November, one hundred thousand francs to the popular clubs, "because these are essential to the propagation of sound principles."—Moreover, besides gratuities and a fixed salary, there are the gratifications and perquisites belonging to the office. Henriot appoints his comrades on the staff of paid spies and denunciators, and, naturally, they take advantage of their position to fill their pockets; under the pretext of incivism, they multiply domiciliary visits, make the master of the house ransom himself, or steal what suits them on the premises.—In the Commune, and on the revolutionary-committees, every extortion can be, and is, practiced.
"I know," says Quevremont, "two citizens who have been put in prison, without being told why, and, at the end of three weeks or a month, let out and do you know how? By paying, one of them, fifteen thousand livres, and the other, twenty-five thousand.... Gambron, at La Force, pays one thousand five hundred livres a month for a room not to live amongst lice, and besides this, he had to pay a bribe of two thousand livres on entering. This happened to many others who, again, dared not speak of it, except in a whisper."
Woe to the imprudent who, never concerning themselves with public affairs, and relying on their innocence, discard the officious broker and fail to pay up at once! Brichard, the notary, having refused or tendered too late, the hundred thousand crowns demanded of him, is to put his head "at the red window."—And I omit ordinary rapine, the vast field open to extortion through innumerable inventories, sequestrations and adjudications, through the enormities of contractors, through hastily executed purchases and deliveries, through the waste of two or three millions given weekly by the government to the Commune for supplies for the capital, through the requisitions of grain which give fifteen hundred men of the revolutionary army an opportunity to clean out all the neighboring farms, as far as Corbeil and Meaux, and benefit by this after the fashion of the chauffeurs.—With such a staff, these anonymous thefts cannot surprise us. Babeuf, the falsifier of public contracts, is secretary for provisions to the Commune; Maillard, the Abbaye Septembriseur, receives eight thousand francs for his direction, in the forty-eight sections, of the ninety-six observers and leaders of public opinion; Chretien, whose smoking-shop serves as the rendezvous of rowdies, becomes a juryman at eighteen francs a day in the revolutionary Tribunal, and leads his section with uplifted saber; De Sade, professor of crimes, is now the oracle of his quarter, and, in the name of the Piques Section, he reads addresses to the Convention.
III. A Revolutionary Committee.
A Minister of Foreign Affairs.—A General in command.—The Paris Commune.—A Revolutionary Committee.
Let us examine some of these figures closely: the nearer they are to the eye and foremost in position, the more the importance of the duty brings into light the unworthiness of the potentate.—There is already one of them, whom we have seen in passing, Buchot, twice noticed by Robespierre under his own hand as "a man of probity, energetic and capable of fulfilling the most important functions," appointed by the Committee of Public Safety "Commissioner on External Relations," that is to say, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and kept in this important position for nearly six months. He is a school-master from the Jura, recently disembarked from his small town and whose "ignorance, low habits and stupidity surpass anything that can be imagined... The chief clerks have nothing to do with him; he neither sees nor asks for them. He is never found in his office, and when it is indispensable to ask for his signature on any legislative matter, the sole act to which he has reduced his functions, they are compelled to go and force it from him in the Cafe Hardy, where he usually passes his days." It must be borne in mind that he is envious and spiteful, avenging himself for his incapacity on those whose competency makes him sensible of his incompetence; he denounces them as Moderates, and, at last, succeeds in having a warrant of arrest issued against his four chief clerks; on the morning of Thermidor 9, with a wicked leer, he himself carries the news to one of them, M. Miot. Unfortunately for him, after Thermidor, he is turned out and M. Miot is put in his place. With diplomatic politeness, the latter calls on his predecessor and "expresses to him the usual compliments." Buchot, insensible to compliments, immediately thinks of the substantial, and the first thing he asks for is to keep provisionally his apartment in the ministry. On this being granted, he expresses his thanks and tells M. Miot that it was very well to appoint him, but "for myself, it is very disagreeable. I have been obliged to come to Paris and quit my post in the provinces, and now they leave me in the street." Thereupon, with astounding impudence, he asks the man whom he wished to guillotine to give him a place as ministerial clerk. M. Miot tries to make him understand that for a former minister to descend so low would be improper. Buchot regards such delicacy as strange, and, seeing M. Miot's embarrassment, he ends by saying: "If you don't find me fit for a clerk, I shall be content with the place of a servant." This estimate of himself shows his proper value.
The other, whom we have also met before, and who is already known by his acts, general in Paris of the entire armed force, commander-in-chief of one hundred and ten thousand men, is that former servant or under-clerk of the procureur Formey, who, dismissed by his employer for robbery, shut up in Bicetre, by turns a runner and announcer for a traveling show, barrier-clerk and September assassin, has purged the Convention on the 2nd of June—in short, the famous Henriot, and now simply a brute and a sot. In this latter capacity, spared on the trial of the Hebertists, he is kept as a tool, for the reason, doubtless, that he is narrow, coarse and manageable, more compromised than anybody else, good for any job, without the slightest chance of becoming independent, unemployed in the army, having no prestige with true soldiers, a general for street parade and an interloper and lower than the lowest of the mob; his mansion, his box at the Opera-Comique, his horses, his importance at festivals and reviews, and, above all, his orgies make him perfectly content.—Every evening, in full uniform, escorted by his aides-de-camp, he gallops to Choisy-sur-Seine, where, in the domicile of a flatterer named Fauvel, along with some of Robespierre's confederates or the local demagogues, he revels. They toss off the wines of the Duc de Coigny, smash the glasses, plates and bottles, betake themselves to neighboring dance-rooms and kick up a row, bursting in doors, and breaking benches and chairs to pieces—in short, they have a good time.—The next morning, having slept himself sober, he dictates his orders for the day, veritable masterpieces in which the silliness, imbecility and credulity of a numskull, the sentimentality of the drunkard, the clap-trap of a mountebank and the tirades of a cheap philosopher form an unique compound, at once sickening and irritating, like the fiery, pungent mixtures of cheap bars, which suit his audience better because they contain the biting, mawkish ingredients that compose the adulterated brandy of the Revolution.—He is posted on foreign maneuvers, and enlarges upon the true reasons for the famine: "A lot of bread has been lately found in the privies: the Pitts and Cobourgs and other rascals who want to enslave justice and reason, and assassinate philosophy, must be called to account for this. Headquarters, etc." He has theories on religions and preaches civic modesty to all dissenters: "The ministers and sectaries of every form of worship are requested not to practice any further religious ceremonies outside their temples. Every good sectarian will see the propriety of observing this order. The interior of a temple is large enough for paying one's homage to the Eternal, who requires no rites that are repulsive to every thinking man. The wise agree that a pure heart is the sublimest homage that Divinity can desire. Headquarters, etc."—He sighs for the universal idyllic state, and invokes the suppression of the armed force:
"I beg my fellow-citizens, who are led to the criminal courts out of curiosity, to act as their own police; this is a task which every good citizen should fulfill wherever he happens to be. In a free country, justice should not be secured by pikes and bayonets, but through reason and philosophy. These must maintain a watchful eye over society; these must purify it and proscribe thieves and evil-doers. Each individual must bring his small philosophic portion with him and, with these small portions, compose a rational totality that will turn out to be of benefit and to the welfare of all. Oh, for the time when functionaries shall be rare, when the wicked shall be overthrown, when the law shall become the sole functionary in society! Headquarters, etc. "—Every morning, he preaches in the same pontifical strain. Imagine the scene—Henriot's levee at head-quarters, and a writing table, with, perhaps, a bottle of brandy on it; on one side of the table, the rascal who, while buckling on his belt or drawing on his boots, softens his husky voice, and, with his nervous twitchings, flounders through his humanitarian homily; on the other side the mute, uneasy secretary, who may probably be able to spell, but who dares not materially change the grotesque phraseology of his master.
The Commune which employs the commanding-general is of about the same alloy, for, in the municipal sword, the blade and hilt, forged together in the Jacobin shop, are composed of the same base metal.—Fifty-six, out of eighty-eight members, whose qualifications and occupations are known, are decidedly illiterate, or nearly so, their education being rudimentary, or none at all. Some of them are petty clerks, counter-jumpers and common scribblers, one among them being a public writer; others are small shopkeepers, pastry-cooks, mercers, hosiers, fruit-sellers and wine-dealers; yet others are simple mechanics or even laborers, carpenters, joiners, cabinet-makers, locksmiths, and especially three tailors, four hair-dressers, two masons, two shoemakers, one cobbler, one gardener; one stone-cutter, one paver, one office-runner, and one domestic. Among the thirty-two who are instructed, one alone has any reputation, Paris, professor at the University and the assistant of Abbe Delille. Only one, Dumetz, an old engineer, steady, moderate and attending to the supplies, seems a competent and useful workman. The rest, collected from amongst the mass of unknown demagogues, are six art-apprentices or bad painters, six business-agents or ex-lawyers, seven second or third-rate merchants, one teacher, one surgeon, one unfrocked married priest, all of whom, under the political direction of Mayor Fleuriot-Lescot and Payen, the national agent, bring to the general council no administrative ability, but the faculty for verbal argumentation, along with the requisite amount of talk and scribbling indispensable to a deliberative assembly. And it is curious to see them in session. Toward the end of September, 1793, one of the veterans of liberal philosophy and political economy, belonging to the French Academy and ruined by the Revolution, the old Abbe Morellet, needs a certificate of civism, to enable him to obtain payment of the small pension of one thousand francs, which the Constituent Assembly had voted him in recompense for his writings; the Commune, desiring information about this, selects three of its body to inquire into it. Morellet naturally takes the preliminary steps. He first writes "a very humble, very civic note," to the president of the General Council, Lubin Jr., formerly an art-apprentice who had abandoned art for politics, and is now living with his father a butcher, in the rue St. Honore; he calls on this authority, and passes through the stall, picking his way amongst the slaughterhouse offal; admitted after some delay, he finds his judge in bed, before whom he pleads his cause. He then calls upon Bernard, an ex-priest, "built like an incendiary and ill-looking," and respectfully bows to the lady of the house, "a tolerably young woman, but very ugly and very dirty." Finally, he carries his ten or a dozen volumes to the most important of the three examiners, Vialard, "ex-ladies' hair-dresser;" the latter is almost a colleague, "for," says he, "I have always liked technicians, having presented to the Academy of Sciences a top which I invented myself." Nobody, however, had seen the petitioner in the streets on the 10th of August, nor on the 2nd of September, nor on the 31st of May; how can a certificate of civism be granted after such evidences of lukewarmness? Morellet, not disheartened, awaits the all-powerful hair-dresser at the Hotel-de-Ville, and accosts him frequently as he passes along. He, "with greater haughtiness and distraction than the most unapproachable Minister of War would show to an infantry lieutenant," scarcely listens to him and walks on; he goes in and takes his seat, and Morellet, much against his will, has to be present at ten or twelve of these meetings. What strange meetings, to which patriotic deputations, volunteers and amateurs come in turn to declaim and sing; where the president, Lubin, "decorated with his scarf," shouts the Marseilles Hymn five or six times, "Ca Ira," and other songs of several stanzas, set to tunes of the Comic Opera, and always "out of time, displaying the voice, airs and songs of an exquisite Leander.. . I really believe that, at the last meeting, he sung alone in this manner three quarters of an hour at different times, the assembly repeating the last line of the verse."—"How odd!" exclaims a common woman alongside of Morellet, "how droll, passing all their time here, singing in that fashion! Is that what they come here for?"—Not alone for that: after the circus-parade is over, the ordinary haranguers, and especially the hair-dresser, come and propose measures for murder "in infuriate language and with fiery gesticulation." Such are the good speakers and men for show. The others, who remain silent, and hardly know to write, act and do the rough work. A certain Chalaudon, member of the Commune, is one of this kind, president of the Revolutionary Committee of the section of "L'Homme arme," and probably an excellent man-hunter; for "the government committees assigned to him the duty of watching the right bank of the Seine, and, with extraordinary powers conferred on him, he rules from his back shop one half of Paris. Woe to those he has reason to complain of, those who have withdrawn from, or not given him, their custom! Sovereign of his quarter up to Thermidor 10, his denunciations are death-warrants. Some of the streets, especially that of Grand Chantier, he "depopulates." And this Marais exterminator is a "cobbler," a colleague in leather, as well as in the Commune, of Simon the shoemaker, the preceptor and murderer of the young Dauphin.
Still lower down than this admirable municipal body, let us try to imagine, from at least one complete example, the forty-eight revolutionary committees who supply it with hands.—There is one of them of which we know all the members, where the governing class, under full headway, can be studied on the spot and in action. This consists of the underworld, nomadic class which is revolutionary only through its appetites; no theory and no convictions animate it; during the first three years of the Revolution it pays no attention to, or cares for, public matters; if, since the 10th of August, and especially since the 2nd of June, it takes any account of these, it is to get a living and gorge itself with plunder.—Out of eighteen members, simultaneously or in succession, of the "Bonnet Rouge," fourteen, before the 10th of August and especially since the 2nd of June, are unknown in this quarter, and had taken no part in the Revolution. The most prominent among these are three painters, heraldic, carriage and miniature, evidently ruined and idle on account of the Revolution, a candle-dealer, a vinegar-dealer, a manufacturer of saltpeter, and a locksmith; while of these seven personages, four have additionally enhanced the dignity of their calling by vending tickets for small lotteries, acting as pawnbrokers or as keepers of a biribi saloon. Seated along with these are two upper-class domestics, a hack-driver, an ex-gendarme dismissed from the corps, a cobbler on the street corner, a runner on errands who was once a carter's boy, and another who, two months before this, was a scavenger's apprentice, the latter penniless and in tatters before he became one of the Committee, and since that, well clad, lodged and furnished. Finally, a former dealer in lottery-tickets, himself a counterfeiter by his own admission, and a jail-bird. Four others have been dismissed from their places for dishonesty or swindling, three are known drunkards, two are not even Frenchmen, while the ring-leader, the man of brains of this select company is, as usual, a seedy, used-up lawyer, the ex-notary Pigeot, and expelled from his professional body on account of bankruptcy. He is probably the author of the following speculation: After the month of September, 1793, the Committee, freely arresting whomsoever it pleased in the quarter, and even outside of it, makes a haul of "three hundred heads of families" in four months, with whom it fills the old barracks it occupies in the rue de Sevres. In this confined and unhealthy tenement, more than one hundred and twenty prisoners are huddled together, sometimes ten in one room, two in the same bed, and, for their keeping, they pay three hundred francs a day. As sixty-two francs of this charge are verified, there is of this sum, (not counting other extortions or concessions which are not official), two hundred and thirty-eight francs profit daily for these 'honest' contractors. Accordingly, they live freely and have "the most magnificent dinners" in their assembly chamber; the contribution of ten or twelve francs apiece is "nothing" for them.—But, in this opulent St. Germain quarter, so many rich and noble men and women form a herd which must be conveniently stalled, so as to be the more easily milked. Consequently, toward the end of March, 1794, the Committee, to increase its business and fill up the pen, hires a large house on the corner of the boulevard possessing a court and a garden, where the high society of the quarter is assigned lodgings of two rooms each, at twelve francs a day, which gives one hundred and fifty thousand livres per annum, and, as the rent is twenty-four hundred francs, the Committee gain one hundred and forty-seven thousand six hundred livres by the operation; we must add to this twenty sorts of profit in money and other matters—taxes on the articles consumed and on supplies of every description, charges on the dispatch and receipt of correspondence and other gratuities, such as ransoms and fees. A penned-up herd refuses nothing to its keepers, and this one less than any other; for if this herd is plundered it is preserved, its keepers finding it too lucrative to send it to the slaughter-house. During the last six months of Terror, but two out of the one hundred and sixty boarders of the "Bonnet Rouge" Committee are withdrawn from the establishment and handed over to the guillotine. It is only on the 7th and 8th of Thermidor that the Committee of Public Safety, having undertaken to empty the prisons, breaks in upon the precious herd and disturbs the well-laid scheme, so admirably managed.—It was only too well managed, for it excited jealousy; three months after Thermidor, the "Bonnet Rouge" committee is denounced and condemned; ten are sentenced to twenty years in irons, with the pillory in addition, and, among others, the clever notary, amidst the jeering and insults of the crowd.—And yet these are not the worst; their cupidity had mollified their ferocity. Others, less adroit in robbing, show greater cruelty in murdering. In any event, in the provinces as well as in Paris, in the revolutionary committees paid three francs a day for each member, the quality of one or the other of the officials is about the same. According to the pay-lists which Barere keeps, there are twenty-one thousand five hundred of these committees in France.
IV. Provincial Administration.
The administrative staff in the provinces.—Jacobinism less in the departmental towns than in Paris.—Less in the country than in the towns.—The Revolutionary Committees in the small communes.—Municipal bodies lukewarm in the villages.—Jacobins too numerous in bourgs and small towns. —Unreliable or hampered as agents when belonging to the administrative bodies of large or moderate-sized towns. —Deficiency of locally recruited staff.
Had the laws of March 21 and September 5, 1793, been strictly enforced, there would, instead of 21,500 have been 45,000 of these revolutionary committees. They would have been composed of 540,000 members costing the public 591 millions per year. This would have made the regular administrative body, already twice as numerous and twice as costly as under the ancient regime, an extra corps expending, "simply in surveillance," one hundred millions more than the entire taxation of the country, the greatness of which had excited the people against the ancient regime.—Happily, the poisonous and monstrous fungal growth was only able to achieve half its intended size; neither the Jacobin seed nor the bad atmosphere it required to make it spread could be found anywhere. "The people of the provinces," says a contemporary, "are not up to the level of the Revolution; it opposes old habits and customs and the resistance of inertia to innovations which it does not understand." "The plowman is an estimable man," writes a missionary representative, "but he is generally a poor patriot." Actually, there is on the one hand, less of human sediment in the departmental towns than in the great Parisian sink, and, on the other hand, the rural population, preserved from intellectual miasmas, better resists social epidemics than the urban population. Less infested with vicious adventurers, less fruitful in disordered intellects, the provinces supply a corps of inquisitors and terrorists with greater difficulty.
And first, in the thousands of communes which have less than five hundred inhabitants, in many other villages of greater population, but scattered and purely agricultural, especially in those in which patois is spoken, there is a scarcity of suitable subjects for a revolutionary committee. People make use of their hands too much; horny hands do not write every day; nobody desires to take up a pen, especially to keep a register that may be preserved and some day or other prove compromising. It is already a difficult matter to recruit a municipal council, to find a mayor, the two additional municipal officers, and the national agent which the law requires; in the small communes, these are the only agents of the revolutionary government, and I fancy that, in most cases, their Jacobin fervor is moderate. Municipal officer, national agent or mayor, the real peasant of that day belongs to no party, neither royalist nor republican; his ideas are rare, too transient and too sluggish, to enable him to form a political opinion. All he comprehends of the Revolution is that which nettles him, or that which he sees every day around him, with his own eyes; to him '93 and '94 are and will remain "the time of bad paper (money) and great fright," and nothing more. Patient in his habits., he submits to the new as he did to the ancient regime, bearing the load put on his shoulders, and stooping down for fear of a heavier one. He is often mayor or national agent in spite of himself; he has been obliged to take the place and would gladly throw the burden off. For, as times go, it is onerous; if he executes decrees and orders, he is certain to make enemies; if he does not execute them, he is sure to be imprisoned; he had better remain, or go back home "Gros-Jean," as he was before. But he has no choice; the appointment being once made and confirmed, he cannot decline, nor resign, under penalty of being a "suspect;" he must be the hammer in order not to become the anvil. Whether he is a wine-grower, miller, ploughman or quarry-man, he acts reluctantly, "submitting a petition for resignation," as soon as the Terror diminishes, on the ground that "he writes badly," that "he knows nothing whatever about law and is unable to enforce it;" that "he has to support himself with his own hands;" that "he has a family to provide for, and is obliged to drive his own cart" or vehicle; in short, entreating that he "may be relieved of his charge."—These involuntary recruits are evidently nothing more than common laborers; if they drag along the revolutionary cart they do it like their horses, because they are pressed into the service.
Above the small communes, in the large villages possessing a revolutionary committee, and also in certain bourgs, the horses in harness often pretend to draw and do not, for fear of crushing some one.—At this epoch, a straggling village, especially when isolated, in an out-of-the-way place and on no highway, is a small world in itself, much more secluded than now-a-days, much less accessible to Parisian verbiage and outside pressure; local opinion here preponderates; neighbors support each other; they would shrink from denouncing a worthy man whom they had known for twenty years; the moral sway of honest folks suffices for keeping down "blackguards." If the mayor is republican, it is only in words, perhaps for self-protection, to protect his commune, and because one must howl along with the other wolves.—-Moreover, in other bourgs, and in the small towns, the fanatics and rascals are not sufficiently numerous to fill all the offices, and, in order to fill the vacancies, those who are not good Jacobins have been pushed forward or admitted into the new administrative corps, lukewarm, indifferent, timid or needy men, who take the place as an asylum or ask for it as a means of subsistence. "Citizens," one of the recruits, more or less under restraint, writes later on, "I was put on the Committee of Surveillance of Aignay by force, and installed by force." Three or four madmen on it ruled, and if one held any discussion with them, "it was always threats.... Always trembling, always afraid,—that is the way I passed eight months doing duty in that miserable place."—Finally, in medium-sized or large towns, the dead-lock produced by collective dismissals, the pell-mell of improvised appointments, and the sudden renewal of an entire set of officials, threw into the administration, willingly or not, a lot of pretended Jacobins who, at heart, are Girondists or Feuillantists, but who, having been excessively long-winded, are assigned offices on account of their stump-speeches, and who thenceforth sit alongside of the worst Jacobins, in the worst employment. "Members of the Feurs Revolutionary Committee—those who make that objection to me," wrote a lawyer in Clermont, "are persuaded that those only who secluded themselves, felt the Terror. They are not aware, perhaps, that nobody felt it more than those who were compelled to execute its decrees. Remember that the handwriting of Couthon which designated some citizen for an office also conveyed a threat, and in case of refusal, of being declared 'suspect,' a threat which promised in perspective the loss of liberty and the sequestration of property! Was I free, then, to refuse?"—Once installed, the man must act, and many of those who do act let their repugnance be seen in spite of themselves: at best, they cannot be got to do more than mechanical service.
"Before going to court," says a judge at Cambray, "I swallowed a big glass
of spirits to give me strength enough to preside."
He leaves his house with no other intention than to finish the job, and, the sentence once pronounced, to return home, shut himself up, and close his eyes and ears.
"I had to pronounce judgment according to the jury's declaration—what could I do?"
Nothing, but remain blind and deaf: "I drank. I tried to ignore everything, even the names of the accused."—It is plain enough that, in the local official body, there are too many agents who are weak, not zealous, without any push, unreliable, or even secretly hostile; these must be replaced by others who are energetic and reliable, and the latter must be taken wherever they can be found. This reservoir in each department or district is the Jacobin nursery of the principal town; from this, they are sent into the bourgs and communes of the conscription. The central Jacobin nursery for France is in Paris, from whence they are dispatched to the towns and departments.
V. Jacobins sent to the Provinces.
Importation of a staff of strangers.—Paris Jacobins sent into the provinces.—Jacobins of enthusiastic towns deported to moderate ones.—The Jacobins of a district headquarters spread through the district.—Resistance of public opinion. —Distribution and small number of really Jacobin agents.
Consequently, swarms of Jacobin locusts spread from Paris out over the provinces, and from the local country-towns over the surrounding country.—In this cloud of destructive insects, there are various figures of different sizes: in the front rank, are the representatives on mission, who are to take command in the departments; in the second rank, "the political agents," who, assigned the duty of watching the neighboring frontier, take upon themselves the additional duty of leading the popular club of the town they reside in, or of urging on its administrative body. Besides that, there issue from the Paris headquarters in the rue St. Honore, select sans-culottes who, authorized or delegated by the Committee of Public Safety, proceed to Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Tonnerre, Rochefort and elsewhere, to act as missionaries among the too inert population, or form the committees of action and the tribunals of extermination that are recruited with difficulty on the spot.—Sometimes also, when a town has a bad record, the popular club of a sounder-minded city sends its delegates there, to bring it into line; thus, four deputies of the Metz club arrive without notice in Belfort, catechize their brethren, associate with them on the local Revolutionary Committee, and, suddenly, without consulting the municipality, or any other legal authority, draw up a list of "moderates, fanatics and egoists," on whom they impose an extraordinary tax of one hundred and thirty-six thousand six hundred and seventeen livres; in like manner, sixty delegates from the club of Cote-d'Or, Haute-Marne, Vosges, Moselle, Saone-et-Loire and Mont-Terrible, all "tempered by the white heat of Pere Duchesne," proceed to Strasbourg at the summons of the representatives, where, under the title of "propagandists," they are to regenerate the town.—At the same time, in each department, the Jacobins of the principal town are found scattered along the high ways, that they may inspect their domain and govern their subjects. Sometimes, it is the representative on mission, who, personally, along with twenty "hairy devils," makes his round and shows off his traveling dictatorship; again, it is his secretary or delegate who, in his place and in his name, comes to a second-class town and draws up his documents. At another time, it is "a committee of investigation and propaganda" which, "chosen by the club and provided with full powers," comes, in the name of the representatives, to work up for a month all the communes of the district. Again, finally, it is the revolutionary committee of the principal town, which," declared central for the whole department," delegates one or the other of its members to go outside the walls, and purge and recompose suspected municipalities.—Thus does Jacobinism descend and spread itself, story after story, from the Parisian center to the smallest and remotest commune: throughout provincial France, whether colorless or of uncertain color, the imposed or imported administration imposes its red stigma.
But the stamp is only superficial; for the sans-culottes, naturally, are not disposed to confer offices on any but men of their sort, while in the provinces, especially in the rural districts, such men are rare. As one of the representatives says: there is a "dearth of subjects."—At Macon, Javogues tries in vain; he finds in the club only "disguised federalists;" the people, he says, "will not open their eyes it seems to me that this blindness is due to the physique of the country, which is very rich." Naturally, he storms and dismisses; but, even in the revolutionary committee, none but dubious candidates are presented to him for selection; he does not know how to manage in order to renew the local authorities. "They play into each others' hands," and he ends by threatening to transfer the public institutions of the town elsewhere, if they persist in proposing to him none but bad patriots.—At Strasbourg, Couturier, and Dentzel, on mission, report that: "owing to an unexampled coalition among all the capable citizens, obstinately refusing to take the office of mayor, in order, by this course, to clog the wheels, and subject the representatives to repeated and indecent refusals," he is compelled to appoint a young man, not of legal age, and a stranger in the department.—At Marseilles, write the agents, "in spite of every effort and our ardent desire to republicanize the Marseilles people, our pains and fatigues are nearly all fruitless.... Public spirit among owners of property, mechanics and journey-men is everywhere detestable.... The number of discontented seems to increase from day to day. All the communes in Var, and most of those in this department are against us.... they constitute a race to be destroyed, a country to be colonized anew....
"I repeat it, the only way to work out the Revolution in the federalized departments, and especially in this one, is to deport all the indigenous population who are able to bear arms, scatter them through the armies and put garrisons in their places, which, again, will have to be changed from time to time."—At the other extremity of the territory, in Alsace, "republican sentiments are still in the cradle; fanaticism is extreme and incredible; the spirit of the inhabitants in general is in no respect revolutionary... Nothing but the revolutionary army and the venerated guillotine will cure them of their conceited aristocracy. The execution of the laws depends on striking off the heads of the guilty, for nearly all the rural municipalities are composed only of the rich, of clerks of former bailiffs, almost always devoted to the ancient regime."—And in the rest of France, the population, less refractory, is not more Jacobin; here where the people appear "humble and submissive" as in Lyons and Bordeaux, the inspectors report that it is wholly owing to terror; there, where opinion seems enthusiastic, as at Rochefort and Grenoble, they report that it is "artificial heat." At Rochefort, zeal is maintained only "by the presence of five or six Parisian Jacobins." At Grenoble, Chepy, the political agent and president of the club, writes that "he is knocked up, worn out, and exhausted, in trying to keep up public spirit and maintain it on a level with events," but he is "conscious that, if he should leave, all would crumble."—There are none other than Moderates at Brest, at Lille, at Dunkirk; if this or that department, the Nord, for instance, hastened to accept the "Montagnard" constitution, it is only a pretense: "an infinitely small portion of the population answered for the rest."—At Belfort, where "from one thousand to twelve hundred fathers of families alone are counted," writes the agent, "one popular club of thirty or forty members, at the most, maintains and enforces the love of liberty."—In Arras, "out of three or four hundred members composing the popular club" the weeding-out of 1793 has spared but "sixty-three, one tenth of whom are absent." At Toulouse, "out of about fourteen hundred members" who form the club, only three or four hundred remain after the weeding-out of 1793, "mere machines, for the most part," and "whom ten or a dozen intriguers lead as they please."—The same state of things exists elsewhere, a dozen or two determined Jacobins-twenty-two at Troyes, twenty-one at Grenoble, ten at Bordeaux, seven at Poitiers, as many at Dijon-constitute the active staff of a large town: the whole number might sit around one table.—The Jacobins, straining as they do to swell their numbers, only scatter their band; careful as they are in making their selections, they only limit their number. They remain what they always have been, a small feudality of brigands superposed on conquered France. If the terror they spread around multiplies their serfs, the horror they inspire diminishes their proselytes, while their minority remains insignificant because, for their collaborators, they can have only those just like themselves.
VI. Quality of staff thus formed.
Quality of staff thus formed.—Social state of the agents. —Their unfitness and bad conduct.—The administrators in Seine-et-Marne.—Drunkenness and feasting.—Committees and Municipalities in the Cote-d'Or.—Waste and extortions. —Traffickers in favors at Bordeaux.—Seal breakers at Lyons. —Monopolizers of national possessions.—Sales of personal property.—Embezzlements and Frauds.-A proces-verbal in the office of the mayor of Strasbourg.—Sales of real-estate. —Commissioners on declarations at Toulouse.—The administrative staff and clubs of buyers in Provence.—The Revolutionary Committee of Nantes.
But when we regard the final and last set of officials of the revolutionary government closely, in the provinces as well as at Paris, we find among them we hardly anyone who is noteworthy except in vice, dishonesty and misconduct, or, at the very least, in stupidity and grossness.—First, as is indicated by their name, they all must be, and nearly all are, sans-culottes, that is to say, men who live from day to day on their daily earnings, possessing no income from capital, confined to subordinate places, to petty trading, to manual services, lodged or encamped on the lowest steps of the social ladder, and therefore requiring pay to enable them to attend to public business; it is on this account that decrees and orders allow them wages of three, five, six, ten, and even eighteen francs a day.—At Grenoble, the representatives form the municipal body and the revolutionary committee, along with two health-officers, three glovers, two farmers, one tobacco-merchant, one perfumer, one grocer, one belt-maker, one innkeeper, one joiner, one shoemaker, one mason, while the official order by which they are installed, appoints "Teyssiere, licoriste," national agent.—At Troyes, among the men in authority we find a confectioner, a weaver, a journeyman-weaver, a hatter, a hosier, a grocer, a carpenter, a dancing-master, and a policeman, while the mayor, Gachez, formerly a private soldier in the regiment of Vexin, was, when appointed, a school-teacher in the vicinity.—At Toulouse, a man named Terrain, a pate dealer, is installed as president of the administration; the revolutionary committee is presided over by Pio, a journeyman-barber; the inspiration, "the soul of the club," is a concierge, that of the prison.—The last and most significant trait is found at Rochefort, where the president of the popular club is the executioner.—If such persons form the select body of officials in the large towns, what must they be in the small ones, in the bourgs and in the villages?" Everywhere they are of the meanest" cartmen, sabot—(wooden shoe) makers, thatchers, stone-cutters, dealers in rabbit-skins, day laborers, unemployed craftsmen, many without any pursuit, or mere vagabonds who had already participated in riots or jacqueries, bar flies, having given up work and designated for a public career only by their irregular habits and incompetence to follow a private career.—Even in the large towns, it is evident that discretionary power has fallen into the hands of nearly raw barbarians; one has only to note in the old documents, at the Archives, the orthography and style of the committees empowered to grant or refuse civic cards, and draw up reports on the opinions and pursuits of prisoners. "His opinions appear insipid (Ces opignons paroisse insipide).... He is married with no children." (Il est marie cent (sans) enfants).... Her profession is wife of Paillot-Montabert, she is living on her income, his relations are with a woman we pay no attention to; we presume her opinions are like her husband's." The handwriting, unfortunately, cannot be represented here, being that of a child five years old.
"As stupid as they are immoral," says Representative Albert, of the Jacobins he finds in office at Troyes. Low, indeed, as their condition may be, their feeling and intelligence are yet lower because, in their professions or occupations, they are the refuse instead of the elite, and, especially on this account, they are turned out after Thermidor, some, it is true, as Terrorists, but the larger number as either dolts, scandalous or crazy, simply intruders, or mere valets.—At Rheims, the president of the district is "a former bailiff, on familiar terms with the spies of the Robespierre regime, acting in concert with them, but without being their accomplice, possessing none of the requisite qualities for administration." Another administrator is likewise "a former bailiff, without means, negligent in the highest degree and a confirmed drunkard." Alongside of these sit "a horse-dealer, without any means, more fit for shady dealings than governing, moreover a drunkard, a dyer, lacking judgment, open to all sorts of influences, pushed ahead by the Jacobin faction, and having used power in the most arbitrary manner, rather, perhaps, through ignorance than through cruelty, a shoemaker, entirely uninstructed, knowing only how to sign his name," and others of the same character. In the Tribunal, a judge is noted as
"true in principle, but whom poverty and want of resources have driven to every excess, a turncoat according to circumstances in order to get a place, associated with the leaders in order to keep the place, and yet not without sensibility, having, perhaps, acted criminally merely to keep himself and his family alive."
In the municipal body, the majority is composed of an incompetent lot, some of them being journeymen-spinners or thread twisters, and others second-hand dealers or shopkeepers, "incapable," "without means," with a few crack-brains among them: one, "his brain being crazed, absolutely of no account, anarchist and Jacobin;" another, "very dangerous through lack of judgment, a Jacobin, over-excited;" a third, "an instrument of tyranny, a man of blood capable of every vice, having assumed the name of Mutius Scoevola, of recognized depravity and unable to write."—Similarly, in the Aube districts, we find some of the heads feverish with the prevailing epidemic, for instance, at Nogent, the national agent, Delaporte, "who has the words 'guillotine' and 'revolutionary tribunal' always on his lips, and who declares that if he were the government he would imprison doctor, surgeon and lawyer, who delights in finding people guilty and says that he is never content except when he gets three pounds' weight of denunciations a day." But, apart from these madcaps, most of the administrators or judges are either people wholly unworthy of their offices, because they are "inept," "too uneducated," "good for nothing," "too little familiar with administrative forms," "too little accustomed to judicial action," "without information," "too busy with their own affairs," "unable to read or write," or, because "they have no delicacy," are "violent," "agitators," "knaves," "without public esteem," and more or less dishonest and despised.—As an example a fellow from Paris, who was at first at Troyes, a baker's apprentice, and afterwards a dancing-master; then he appeared at the Club, making headway, doubtless, through his Parisian chatter, until he stood first and soon became a member of the district. Appointed an officer in the sixth battalion of Aube, he behaved in such a manner in Vendee that, on his return, "his brethren in arms" broke up the banner presented to him, "declaring him unworthy of such an honor, because he cowardly fled before the enemy." Nevertheless, after a short plunge, he came back to the surface and, thanks to his civil compeers, was reinstated in his administrative functions; during the Terror, he was intimate with all the Terrorists, being one of the important men of Troyes.—The mayor of the town, Gachez, an old soldier and ex-schoolmaster, is of the same stuff as this baker's apprentice. He, likewise, was a Vendean hero; only, he was unable to distinguish himself as much as he liked, for, after enlisting, he failed to march; having pocketed the bounty of three hundred livres, he discovered that he had infirmities and, getting himself invalidated, he served the nation in a civil capacity. "His own partisans admit that he is a drunkard and that he has committed forgery." Some months after Thermidor he is sentenced to eight years imprisonment and put in the pillory for this crime. Hence, "almost the entire commune is against him; the women in the streets jeer him, and the eight sections meet together to request his withdrawal." But Representative Bo reports that he is every way entitled to remain, being a true Jacobin, an admirable terrorist and "the only sans-culotte mayor which the commune of Troyes has to be proud of."
It would be awarding too much honor to men of this stamp, to suppose that they had convictions or principles; they were governed by animosities and especially by their appetites, to satiate which they made the most of their offices.—At Troyes, "all provisions and foodstuffs are drawn upon to supply the table of the twenty-four" sans-culottes to whom Bo entrusted the duty of weeding-out the popular club; before the organization of "this regenerating nucleus" the revolutionary committee, presided over by Rousselin, the civil commissioner, carried on its "gluttony" in the Petit-Louvre tavern, "passing nights bozing" and in the preparation of lists of suspects. In the neighboring provinces of Dijon, Beaune, Semur and Aignayle-Duc, the heads of the municipality and of the club always meet in taverns and bars. At Dijon, we see "the ten or twelve Hercules of patriotism traversing the town, each with a chalice under his arm:" this is their drinking-cup; each has to bring his own to the Montagnard inn; there, they imbibe copiously, frequently, and between two glasses of wine "declare who are outlaws." At Aignay-le-Duc, a small town with only half a dozen patriots "the majority of whom can scarcely write, most of them poor, burdened with families, and living without doing anything, never quit the bars, where, night and day, they revel;" their chief, a financial ex-procureur, now "concierge, archivist, secretary and president of the popular club," holds municipal council in the tavern. "Should they go out it was to chase female aristocrats," and one of them declares "that if the half of Aignay were slaughtered the other half would be all the better for it."—There is nothing like drinking to excite ferocity to the highest pitch. At Strasbourg the sixty mustachioed propagandist lodged in the college in which they are settled fixtures, have a cook provided for them by the town, and they revel day and night "on the choice provisions put in requisition," "on wines destined to the defenders of the country." It is, undoubtedly, when coming out from one of these orgies that they proceed, sword in hand, to the popular club, vote and force others to vote "death to all prisoners confined in the Seminary to the number of seven hundred, of every age and of both sexes, without any preliminary trial." For a man to become a good cut-throat, he must first get intoxicated; such was the course pursued in Paris by those who did the work in September: the revolutionary government being an organized, prolonged and permanent Septembrisade, most of its agents are obliged to drink hard.—For the same reasons when the opportunity, as well as the temptation, to steal, presents itself, they steal.—At first, during six months, and up to the decree assigning them pay, the revolutionary committees "take their pay themselves;" they then add to their legal salary of three and five francs a day about what they please: for it is they who assess the extraordinary taxes, and often, as at Montbrison, "without making any list or record of collections." On Frimaire 16, year II., the financial committee reports that "the collection and application of extraordinary taxes is unknown to the government; that it was impossible to supervise them, the National treasury having received no sums whatever arising from these taxes." Two years after, four years after, the accounts of revolutionary taxation of forced loans, and of pretended voluntary gifts, still form a bottomless pit; out of forty billions of accounts rendered to the National Treasury only twenty are found to be verified; the rest are irregular and worthless. Besides, in many cases, not only is the voucher worthless or not forthcoming, but, again, it is proved that the sums collected disappeared wholly or in part. At Villefranche, out of one hundred and thirty-eight thousand francs collected, the collector of the district deposited but forty-two thousand; at Baugency, out of more than five hundred thousand francs collected, there were only fifty thousand deposited; at la Reole, out of at least five hundred thousand francs collected, there were but twenty-two thousand six hundred and fifty deposited. "The rest," says the collector at Villefranche, "were wasted by the Committee of Surveillance." "The tax-collectors," writes the national-agent at Orleans, "after having employed terror gave themselves up to orgies and are now building palaces."—As to the expenses which they claim, they almost always consist of "indemnities to members of revolutionary committees, to patriots, and to defray the cost of patriotic missions," to maintaining and repairing the meeting-rooms of the popular clubs, to military expeditions, and to succoring the poor, so that three or four hundred millions in gold or silver, extorted before the end of 1793, hundreds of millions of assignats extorted in 1793 and 1794, in short, almost the entire product of the total extraordinary taxation was consumed on the spot and by the sans-culottes. Seated at the public banqueting table they help themselves first, and help themselves copiously.
A second windfall, equally gross. Enjoying the right to dispose arbitrarily of fortunes, liberties and lives, they can traffic in these, while no traffic can be more advantageous, both for buyers and sellers. Any man who is rich or well-off, in other words, every man who is likely to be taxed, imprisoned or guillotined, gladly consents "to compound," to redeem himself and those who belong to him. If he is prudent, he pays, before the tax, so as not to be over-taxed; he pays, after the tax, to obtain a diminution or delays; he pays to be admitted into the popular club. When danger draws near he pays to obtain or renew his certificate of civism, not to be declared "suspect," not to be denounced as a conspirator. After being denounced, he pays to be allowed imprisonment at home rather than in the jail, to be allowed imprisonment in the jail rather than in the general prison, to be well treated if he gets into this, to have time to get together his proofs in evidence, to have his record (dossier) placed and kept at the bottom of the file among the clerk's registers, to avoid being inscribed on the next batch of cases in the revolutionary Tribunal. There is not one of these favors that is not precious; consequently, ransoms without number are tendered, while the rascals who swarm on the revolutionary committees, need but open their hands to fill their pockets. They run very little risk, for they are held in check only by their own kind, or are not checked at all. In any large town, two of them suffice for the issue of a warrant of arrest save a reference to the Committee within twenty-four hours, with the certainty that their colleagues will kindly return the favor. Moreover, the clever ones know how to protect themselves beforehand. For example, at Bordeaux, where one of these clandestine markets had been set up, M. Jean Davilliers, one of the partners in a large commercial house, is under arrest in his own house, guarded by four sans-culottes; on the 8th of Brumaire, he is taken aside and told "that he is in danger if he does not come forward and meet the indispensable requirements of the Revolution in its secret expenditures." An important figure, Lemoal, member of the revolutionary committee and administrator of the district, had spoken of these requirements and thought that M. Davilliers should contribute the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand livres. Upon this, a knock at the door is heard; Lemoal enters and all present slip out of the room, and Lemoal pronounces these words only: "Do you consent?"—"But I cannot thus dispose of my partners' property."—"Then you will go to prison." At this threat the poor man yields and gives his note to Lemoal at twenty days, payable to bearer, for one hundred and fifty thousand livres, and, at the end of a fortnight, by dint of pushing his claims, obtains his freedom. Thereupon, Lemoal thinks the matter over, and deems it prudent to cover up his private extortion by a public one. Accordingly, he sends for M. Davilliers: "It is now essential for you to openly contribute one hundred and fifty thousand livres more for the necessities of the Republic. I will introduce you to the representatives to whom you should make the offer." The chicken being officially plucked in this way, nobody would suppose that it had been first privately plucked, and, moreover, the inquisitive, if there were any, would be thrown off the scent by the confusion arising from two sums of equal amount. M. Davilliers begs to be allowed to consult his partners, and, as they are not in prison, they refuse. Lemoal, on his side, is anxious to receive the money for his note, while poor Davilliers, "struck with terror by nocturnal arrests," and seeing that Lemoal is always on the top of the ladder, concludes to pay; at first, he gives him thirty thousand livres, and next, the charges, amounting in all to forty-one thousand livres, when, being at the end of his resources, he begs and entreats to have his note returned to him. Lemoal, on this, considering the chicken as entirely stripped, becomes mollified, and tears off in presence of his debtor "the signature in full of the note," and, along with this, his own receipts for partial payments underneath. But he carefully preserves the note itself, for, thus mutilated, it will show, if necessary, that he had not received anything, and that, through patriotism, he had undoubtedly wished to force a contribution from a merchant, but, finding him insolvent, had humanely canceled the written obligation.—Such are the precautions taken in this business. Others, less shrewd, rob more openly, among others the mayor, the seven members of the military commission surnamed "the seven mortal sins," and especially their president, Lacombe, who, by promising releases, extracts from eight or nine captives three hundred and fifty-nine thousand six hundred livres. "Through such schemes," writes a rigid Jacobin, "many of those who had been declared outlaws returned to Bordeaux by paying; of the number who thus redeemed their lives, some did not deserve to lose it, but, nevertheless, they were threatened with execution if they did not consent to everything. But material proofs of this are hard to obtain. These men now keep silent, for fear, through open denunciation, of sharing in the penalty of the traffickers in justice, and being unwilling to expose (anew) the life they have preserved." In short, the plucked pigeon is mute, so as not to attract attention, as well as to avoid the knife; and all the more, because those who pluck him hold on to the knife and might, should he cry out, dispatch him with the more celerity. Even if he makes no noise, they sometimes dispatch him so as to stifle in advance any possible outcry, which happened to the Duc du Chatelet and others. There is but one mode of self-preservation and that is, "to settle with such masters by installments, to pay them monthly, like wet nurses, on a scale proportionate to the activity of the guillotine."—In any event, the pirates are not disturbed, for the trade in lives and liberties leaves no trace behind it, and is carried on with impunity for two years, from one end of France to the other, according to a tacit understanding between sellers and buyers.
There is a third windfall, not less large, but carried on in more open sunshine and therefore still more enticing.—Once the "suspect is incarcerated, whatever he brings to prison along with him, whatever he leaves behind him at home, becomes plunder; for, with the incompleteness, haste and irregularity of papers, with the lack of surveillance and known connivance, the vultures, great and small, could freely use their beaks and talons.—At Toulouse, as in Paris and elsewhere, commissioners take from prisoners every object of value and, accordingly, in many cases, all gold, silver, assignats, and jewelry, which, confiscated for the Treasury, stop half-way in the hands of those who make the seizure. At Poitiers, the seven scoundrels who form the ruling oligarchy, admit, after Thermidor, that they stole the effects of arrested parties. At Orange, "Citoyenne Riot," wife of the public prosecutor, and "citoyennes Fernex and Ragot," wives of two judges, come in person to the record-office to make selections from the spoils of the accused, taking for their wardrobe silver shoe-buckles, laces and fine linen.—But all that the accused, the imprisoned and fugitives can take with them, amounts to but little in comparison with what they leave at home, that is to say, under sequestration. All the religious or seignorial chateaux and mansions in France are in this plight, along with their furniture, and likewise most of the fine bourgeois mansions, together with a large number of minor residences, well-furnished and supplied through provincial economy; besides these, nearly every warehouse and store belonging to large manufacturers and leading commercial houses; all this forms colossal spoil, such as was never seen before, consisting of objects one likes to possess, gathered in vast lots, which lots are distributed by hundreds of thousands over the twenty-six thousand square miles of territory. There are no owners for this property but the nation, an indeterminate, invisible personage; no barrier other than so many seals exists between the spoils and the despoilers, that is to say, so many strips of paper held fast by two ill-applied and indistinct stamps. Bear in mind, too, that the guardians of the spoil are the sans-culottes who have made a conquest of it; that they are poor; that such a profusion of useful or precious objects makes them feel the bareness of their homes all the more; that their wives would like to lay in a stock of furniture; moreover, has it not held out to them from the beginning of the Revolution, that "forty-thousand mansions, palaces and chateaux, two-thirds of the property of France, would be the reward of their valor?" At this very moment, does not the representative on mission authorize their greed? Are not Albitte and Collot d'Herbois at Lyons, Fouche at Nevers, Javogues at Montbrison, proclaiming that the possessions of anti-revolutionaries and a surplus of riches form "the patrimony of the sans-culottes?" Do they not read in the proclamations of Monestier, that the peasants "before leaving home may survey and measure off the immense estates of their seigneurs, choose, for example, on their return, whatever they want to add to their farm.. .. tacking on a bit of field or rabbit-warren belonging to the former count or marquis?" Why not take a portion of his furniture, any of his beds or clothes-presses—It is not surprising that, after this, the slip of paper which protects sequestrated furniture and confiscated merchandise should be ripped off by gross and greedy hands! When, after Thermidor, the master returns to his own roof it is generally to an empty house; in this or that habitation in the Morvan, the removal of the furniture is so complete that a bin turned upside down serves for a table and chairs, when the family sit down to their first meal.
In the towns the embezzlements are often more brazenly carried out than in the country. At Valenciennes, the Jacobin chiefs of the municipality are known under the title of "seal-breakers and patriotic robbers." At Lyons, the Maratists, who dub themselves "the friends of Chalier," are, according to the Jacobins' own admission, "brigands, thieves and rascals." They compose, to the number of three or four hundred, the thirty-two revolutionary committees; one hundred and fifty of leaders, "all of them administrators," form the popular club; in this town of one hundred and twenty thousand souls they number, as they themselves state, three thousand, and they firmly rely on "sharing with each other the wealth of Lyons. This huge cake belongs to them; they do not allow that strangers, Parisians, should have a slice, and they intend to eat the whole of it, at discretion, without control, even to the last crumb. As to their mode of operations, it consists in "selling justice, in trading on denunciations, in holding under sequestration at least four thousand households," in putting seals everywhere on dwellings and warehouses, in not summoning interested parties who might watch their proceedings, in expelling women, children and servants who might testify to their robberies, in not drawing up inventories, in installing themselves as "guardians at five francs a day," themselves or their boon companions, and in "general squandering, in league with the administrators." It is impossible to stay their hands or repress them, even for the representatives. Take them in the act, and you must shut your eyes or they will all shout at the oppression of patriots; they do this systematically so that nobody may be followed up.
We passed an order forbidding any authority to remove seals without our consent, and, in spite of the prohibition, they broke into a storehouse under sequestration,.... forced the locks and pillaged, under our own eyes, the very house we occupy. And who are these devastators? Two commissioners of the Committee who emptied the storehouse without our warrant, and even without having any power from the Committee."—It is a sack in due form, and day after day; it began on the 10th of October, 1793; it continued after, without interruption, and we have just seen that, on Floreal 28, year II., that is to say, April 26, 1794, after one hundred and twenty-three days, it is still maintained.
The last mad scramble and the most extensive of all.—In spite of the subterfuges of its agents, the Republic, having stolen immensely, and although robbed in its turn, could still hold on to a great deal; and first, to articles of furniture which could not be easily abstracted, to large lots of merchandise, also to the vast spoil of the palaces, chateaux and churches; next, and above all, to real estate, fixtures and buildings. To meet its expenses it put all that up for sale, and whoever wants anything has only to come forward as a buyer, the last bidder becoming the legal owner and at a cheap rate. The wood cut down in one year very often pays for a whole forest. Sometimes a chateau can be paid for by a sale of the iron-railings of the park, or the lead on the roof.—Here are found chances for a good many bargains, and especially with objects of art. "The titles alone of the articles carried off, destroyed or injured, would fill volumes." On the one hand, the commissioners on inventories and adjudications, "having to turn a penny on the proceeds of sales," throw on the market all they can, "avoiding reserving" objects of public utility and sending collections and libraries to auction with a view to get their percentages. On the other hand, nearly all these commissioners are brokers or second-hand dealers who alone know the value of rarities, and openly depreciate them in order to buy them in themselves, "and thus ensure for themselves exorbitant profits." In certain cases the official guardians and purchasers who are on the look-out take the precaution to disfigure "precious articles" so as to have them bought by their substitutes and accomplices: "for instance, they convert sets of books into odd volumes, and take machines to pieces; the tube and object-glass of a telescope are separated, which pieces the rogues who have bought them cheap know how to put together again." Often, in spite of the seals, they take in advance antiques, pieces of jewelry, medals, enamels and engraved stones;" nothing is easier, for "even in Paris in Thermidor, year II., agents of the municipality use anything with which to make a stamp, buttons, and even large pennies, so that whoever has a sou can remove and re-stamp the seals as he pleases;" having been successful, "they screen their thefts by substituting cut pebbles and counterfeit stones for real ones." Finally, at the auction sales, "fearing the honesty or competition of intelligent judges, they offer money (to these) to stay away from the sales; one case is cited where they have knocked a prospective bidder down." In the meantime, at the club, they shout with all their might; this, with the protection of a member of the municipality or of the Revolutionary Committee, shelters them from all suspicion. As for the protector, he gets his share without coming out into the light. Accuse, if you dare, a republican functionary who secretly, or even openly, profits by these larcenies; he will show clean hands.—Such is the incorruptible patriot, the only one of his species, whom the representatives discover at Strasbourg, and whom they appoint mayor at once. On the 10th of Vendemiaire, year III., there is found "in his apartments" a superb and complete assortment of ecclesiastical objects, "forty-nine copes and chasubles, silk or satin, covered with gold or silver; fifty-four palles of the same description;" a quantity of "reliquaries, vases and spoons, censers, laces, silver and gold fringe, thirty-two pieces of silk," etc. None of these fine things belong to him; they are the property of citizen Mouet, his father. This prudent parent, taking his word for it, "deposited them for safe keeping in his son's house during the month of June, 1792 (old style);"—could a good son refuse his father such a slight favor? It is very certain that, in '93 and '94, during the young man's municipal dictatorship, the elder did not pay the Strasbourg Jew brokers too much, and that they did business in an off-hand way. By what right could a son and magistrate prevent his father, a free individual, from looking after "his own affairs" and buying according to trade principles, as cheap as he could?