« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
has need to intoxicate itself with blood in order to impel it to defend its country, must be a people of scoundrels and not a people of heroes. Heroism is lution, its prestige was in its justice and its morality. the very reverse of assassination. As for our revoThis massacre went to tarnish it in the eyes of Europe. Europe, it is true, did raise a cry of horror; but horror is not respect. A cause is never served by being dishonored."
the character of the revolution to that of the masAnd he compares the effect of this massacre on
sacre of St. Bartholomew on the cause of the
Church of Rome. Sound policy, as well as the moral sense of mankind, confirm this judgment.
of the victorious people by votes, which seemed to indicate an intention of maintaining the institution of royalty. The dismissed ministers were replaced in office—the_real power, however, was at once engrossed by Danton; who now stood forward for the first time in a prominent position, as minister of justice, and immediately asserted his incontestable superiority over his colleagues. In truth, he wielded the whole executive authority, because he had organized it, and called it into action. When the Girondins, after the 10th of August, found that the result of their efforts had been to make Danton and the commune rulers over them, they were taught too late how grievously they had erred The measures originally proposed by Danton for with respect to the course which they had pursued seizing the persons of those who were well known for the subversion of the monarchy. They had to be disaffected to the revolution, might be justioriginally assailed that institution, in the vain im- fied by the necessities of the crisis. The comagination that government might be pulled down mander of a besieged city is authorized to deprive and built up again by the mere power with which those whom he knows to be plotting against the oratory sways an assembly and excites a people. public safety, of the power of doing harm; and They understood nothing of the process by which the situation of Paris, expecting the Prussians at the popular force was to be organized and directed; its gates, might be sufficient warrant for the imand when they at last determined on an insurrecprisonment even of thousands of suspected conspirtion, they had recourse to Danton and the comators. But the cold-blooded slaughter of disarmed mune to furnish its means. The insurrection over, the means remained at the disposal of those who prisoners was an act of useless as well as revolting cruelty. The genius of Dumouriez had already had created them. The commune, led by Danton, Marat, and Robespierre, and embodied in the assassins only heightened into frenzy the passions saved France. The bloody license given to the force which had been organized under Santerre, of the populace. It maddened them to fresh acts governed Paris, and, through Paris, France. of violence, and deterred all men of justice and Happy had it been for the Girondins, had this moderation from taking any further part in conlesson taught them, that, before they could hope nection with persons who had made such crimes a to establish an orderly republic, in place of the monarchy which they had destroyed, they must and the revolution. It forever separated him from part of their policy. The guilt recoiled on Danton themselves not only re-construct the machinery of the party, by whose support he might have govexecutive government, but provide, and keep in their own hands, the physical means by which its existence was to be maintained, and its authority enforced. Unfortunately, to the end of their career, they seemed to conceive that they were administering an established government, instead of working out a revolution; and that the votes of an assembly were the end, and speeches the means of governing. Too late they learned on the scaffold that the controversies in which they had engaged were only to be settled by "pike
erned France; and it was found to have paralyzed his arm, when the time came in which he wished to put a stop to violence, and restore the rule of humanity and reason.
A curious anecdote is given by M. de Lamartine, on the authority of a surviving friend of Robespierre and St. Just, whose name unfortuestimate the degree of foundation for a story which nately is kept back. We could wish to be able to casts a singular light on the strange character of Robespierre. At the period of the massacre he
was a member of the commune; but, seeing the The reign of the commune, between the 10th of August and the meeting of the convention, borne to attend its meetings. He had no share turn affairs were taking, had for some days forederives a horrible celebrity from the massacres in what was done; had no power of preventing it. of September. M. de Lamartine has been at some pains to collect various proofs of the deliber- As in the case of preceding movements, he did ation with which the details of this horrible nothing, blamed what was being done, but let it butchery were concerted. He condemns Marat as go on; and when done, took it as a necessary step in the revolution, and defended it. having instigated, Danton as having sanctioned, and the commune as having perpetrated it. Excuses which have been offered for it, he rejects with scorn.
"History," he says, "should represent the conscience of mankind. The voice of that conscience will ever condemn Danton. It has been said that he saved his country and the revolution by these measures, and that our victories are their excuse. This is the error into which he fell. A people that
"On the 2d of September, at eleven o'clock at night, Robespierre and St. Just went out together from the Jacobins, exhausted by the mental and bodily fatigue of an entire day passed in tumultuous debates, and big with so terrible a night. St. Just lived in a small lodging in the Rue Ste. Anne, not far from the house of the joiner Duplay, where Robespierre resided. Talking over the events of the day, and what was threatened for the morrow, the two friends reached the door of St. Just's house.
St. Just answered with one of the common-places of the day, and went to sleep. Early the next morning when he woke, he saw Robespierre pacing up and down the room, and every now and then pressing his face close to the window to watch the daybreak, and listen to the sounds in the street. St. Just asked him what brought him back so early, and found to his astonishment that he had not left the spot all night.
Robespierre, absorbed in his own thoughts, went up very different feelings. The unanimous choice of to the young man's room in order to continue the Petion as president showed the disposition of the conversation. St. Just flung his clothes on a chair, convention; and the Girondin leaders found themand prepared to go to sleep. "What are you doing?" said Robespierre. I am going to bed," selves at the head of a large and determined maanswered St. Just. What! can you think of jority. Had they been statesmen as well as sleeping on such a night?" replied Robespierre. orators, that majority and the public opinion of "Do you not hear the tocsin? Do you not know France gave them the means of establishing their that this night will probably be the last for thousands power. But they entered the Assembly, smarting of our fellow-creatures, who are men at the moment with mortification at their recent subjection to the you go to sleep, and will be corpses when you commune; and their first thought was how they wake?" should use their majority to throw off that ignominious yoke. Instead of waiting until they had consolidated an efficient executive, they rushed into the contest, unprovided with any means of combating the physical force of their antagonists. They endeavored at once to bear them down by the weight of public feeling. Nor did they confine themselves to the legitimate weapons with which a good cause furnished them. There were reasons against breaking at once with Danton. They Sleep!" said Robespierre; "what! while hun- saw in Robespierre their most formidable antagodreds of assassins were cutting the throats of thou-nist, and were probably stimulated by vindictive sands of victims, and while blood, whether pure or recollections of their bitter conflicts at the Jacobin impure, was running like water in the gutter! O Club. They accordingly directed the main force no," he continued, in a deep voice and with a sar- of their attacks against the one public man who castic smile on his lips, "I have not been to bed, had hitherto, less than any other, participated in but have watched, like remorse or crime; ay, I any of the disorders of the revolution. On the have been guilty of the weakness of not sleeping; strength of some frantic declamations of Marat, but Danton, he has slept!" whom they endeavored most unfairly to associate with him, and of the foolish talk of some insignificant demagogues, they gravely accused Robespierre of aspiring to establish a dictatorship. Such was the substance of the charges brought against him by Barbaroux and Louvet. The accusation gave him an opportunity of vindicating himself, and of humbling his opponents in one of the most skilful and triumphant of his speeches. These ill-judged attacks imparted to the proceedings of the Girondins a character of petty and malignant rivalry, subjected them to the mortification of defeat in a personal conflict, and weakened their hold on the majority by justly diminishing its confidence in their discretion.
The instigators of the 10th of August cannot be acquitted of having called into activity that spirit which produced the massacres of September. But we must not deny to the Girondins the honor due to them. As soon as they recovered from the first stupor into which this gigantic crime threw all France, they raised their voice in loud and uncompromising denunciation of it. Roland, while the carnage was going on, exhausted whatever means he could command to stop it; but both he and Petion were utterly powerless. In proclamations, in letters, and in protests, Roland, at the imminent peril of his life, continued his war with the commune. Indignant at the enormity of the crime itself, at the discredit cast by it on the republic, and at the predominance given to both the most anarchical doctrines and the most worthless men, the Girondins now perceived the necessity of checking the progress of disorder. From being the leaders of the movement, and the instigators of insurrection, they came in a few wecks to be regarded by the populace as the counter-revolutionary party, against whom the next efforts of the friends of the revolution must be directed. From this time the hopes of every friend of order and humanity rested on them as the party who would put an end to the turmoil and carnage of the revolution.
The aspect of affairs at the first meeting of the convention on the 20th of September, 1792, was most favorable to the Girondins. Though the elections of Paris, taking place in the very days that followed the massacre, had returned a deputation entirely composed of Jacobins, the representatives of the departments had been elected under
But the trial of the king soon gave a more serious occupation to the contending parties. Actuated by that mistaken notion of equity which in like circumstances brought Charles I. to the block, the voice of the people demanded, as a matter of equal justice, that the deposed monarch should be subjected to the same fate as the laws of treason would infallibly have inflicted on his opponents, had he been successful in the contest. None of the leading men of either party, according to M. de Lamartine, shared this feeling, or desired the death of Louis; yet each consented, each exhibited a rivalry of eagerness to sacrifice the victim, in order to retain its hold over the people. The Girondins therein undoubtedly sinned the most deeply against their own principles and policy. But the conduct of the leaders of that party has been too hastily ascribed to mere cowardice. not, in truth, so much abandon their own views, as they made an ill-judged attempt to gain their object by indirect means. When the point came
to be discussed in their councils, they found that they were opposed by some of the principal men of their own party-by Fonfrède, Ducos, Barbaroux, and Buzot, whose republican fanaticism required the death of the king. Imagining that, without their support, they would be unable to save the king's life, they adopted a plan of action suggested by Sieyes. They agreed to vote for his death, but to subject the decree of the convention to ratification by the primary assemblies. The plan, supported by a plausible conformity with democratic principles, was obviously impracticable. It involved the prolonged agitation of a perilous question. It laid the Girondins open to the imputation of wishing to create dissension between the different parts of France. The people regarded it as a trick. The votes of the Gironde decided the judgment of death, which their influence, boldly exerted, would, in all human probability, have averted. And that judgment once pronounced, the expedient, by which its execution was to have been stayed, was unhesitatingly rejected.
The speeches of Robespierre contain the simple and forcible exposition of the grounds on which the execution of Louis is defensible as an act, not of justice, but of state policy. "Louis must die because the country must live." The noble reply of Vergniaud was contradicted by his vote. M. de Lamartine temperately examines the arguments on both sides, and his conclusions will not be new to any Englishman whom the earlier precedent in our own history shall have ever driven upon a similar re-hearing.
after all the vows of liberty; the blood of Louis XVI. was in the monarchical enthusiasm which the return of the Bourbons at the restoration revived in France; it mingled, even in 1830, in that repugnance to the name of republic which threw the undecided nation into the arms of another dynasty. It is republicans who should most deplore this blood, for it is their cause that it has stained, and it is that blood which has cost them the republic."
The details of this catastrophe afford ample scope for the descriptive powers of M. de Lamartine. It is much to the credit of his moral judgment, that he has not sought to heighten the effect by investing the sufferers with unreal virtues. The mournful tale of the imprisonment in the temple, with all its anguish and all the tortures inflicted by the vulgar insolence of the gaolersthe picture of the king, carried along to his trial, pale, unshaved, with his clothes hanging loosely on his attenuated frame-and the last agonies of his separation from his family, sensibly touch our pity. We admire the calm resignation and the unfailing gentleness which characterized his whole demeanor through these scenes of suffering, and dictated the will which emanated from the solitude of his own thoughts. But the impartial narrative lowers our previous conception of the dignity of the monarch's deportment. His feeble capacity suggested to him the expedients by which an ordinary prisoner endeavors to evade his condemnation, instead of the passive superiority with which a martyr receives his doom; and we cannot help recalling the stately silence with which Charles I. rebuked his judges on the like occasion.
A momentary lull followed the catastrophe; and then the deadly war of the two contending factions broke forth afresh. During the first months of 1793, the Girondins assailed the commune, and endeavored to discredit the Mountain by continuing
"Exhausted and discredited by four years of unequal struggle with the nation, twenty times placed at the mercy of his people, without credit with the soldiery, with a character of which the timidity and indecision had been repeatedly proved, fallen from humiliation into humiliation, and step by step from the height of his throne into a prison, Louis XVI. was the only prince of his race to whom it was im- to associate them with the frantic ebullitions of possible ever again to dream of reigning. Abroad Marat, and by reviving the charges of dictatorial he was discredited by his concessions; at home he designs against Robespierre. The Mountain rewould have been the patient and inoffensive hostage torted with accusations of counter-revolutionary of the republic, the ornament of its triumphs, the projects and federalism. The Girondins, favored living proof of its magnanimity. His death, on by the Plain, possessed a large, and it must be said, the contrary, alienated from the French cause that a steady majority in the convention. Even in immense portion of every people which judge human Paris they commanded the support of the middle events only through the heart. Human nature is merciful. The republic forgot that it gave to royalty a character of martyrdom, and to liberty that of vengeance. It thus prepared a reaction against the republican cause, and arrayed on the side of royalty the sensibility, the interest, the tears of a portion of every people. Who can deny that pity for the fate of Louis XVI. and his family, had a great part in the revival of royalty some years after? Unsuccessful causes have returns of favor To this party the great majority of the of which the motives are often to be found only in departments adhered most warmly. A little skill the blood of the victims cruelly sacrificed by the in organizing the force of the executive government, opposite party. Public feeling, when once moved and patience until they should have got together by a sense of its injustice, is only set at rest when the means of acting with effect, would apparently it is, so to speak, absolved by some signal and un-have insured them an easy and certain triumph. expected reparation. The blood of Louis XVI. Danton, anxious to clear himself from the guilt of was in every treaty which the powers of Europe contracted for the purpose of branding and stifling September, and to erect a strong and respectable the republic; the blood of Louis XVI. was in the government, was ready to become the ally of the oil which consecrated Napoleon so short a time | Girondins, and bring to their aid his sagacity. his
Their party occupied all the most important offices in the ministry. The successes of Dumouriez gave glory to their administration of the government; and they relied on the coöperation of his army against their antagonists. Roland had funds at his disposal to keep the newspapers in pay, and circulate the views of his party throughout
courage, and the vast popular force which he to which his intimate relations with Dumouriez wielded. Vergniaud, and other leaders of the gave some countenance, Danton saw the necessity party, appreciated the value of his aid, and the of throwing himself at once into the arms of the wisdom of temporizing with their opponents. Mountain. He assailed the Girondins with the Their wisdom was overruled. The younger mem-customary accusations of counter-revolutionary probers of the party, inflamed by the counsels of Ma-jects, and with furious gestures declared that from dame Roland, would allow of no truce with the that moment there should be no peace or truce advocates of anarchy and massacre. Marat was between himself and those who had wished to save again assailed; the people of Paris took the part of that furious organ of their passions and prejudices; and the Mountain defended the favorite of the people. By degrees the leaders were involved in the fray; and Robespierre, renewing his accusations against the Girondins. exasperated the people against them.
the king. He at once placed himself at the head of their assailants, and set about combining the means by which their power might be destroyed.
For six or seven weeks a conflict was kept up between the powerless Assembly and the minority, which was backed by the physical force of Paris. The Girondins, in order to compose an efficient executive within the convention itself, constituted the famous Committee of Public Safety. They put Marat on his trial before the revolutionary tribunal, where his acquittal gave their enemies a signal and, indeed, fearful triumph. They then struck directly at their principal adversary, and established
But the Girondins, while thus provoking the conflict, made no preparation for bringing it to a successful issue. They allowed their friends to be successively driven from the chief offices of government, and to be replaced by men indifferent or opposed to them, at the same time that all the lower offices in every department were filled with a commission of twelve to examine into the procreatures of the Jacobins. They even permitted ceedings of the commune of Paris. That body, the various bodies of fédérés, who formed a mili- thus assailed, lost no time in taking their resolution. tary force on which they could rely, to be sent out The various sections of Paris appeared before the of Paris, until they were left without any means convention with petitions demanding the abrogation of repressing the mob. While they exhausted the of the commission and the arrest and accusation of time and patience of the convention in personal the twenty-two principal deputies of the Girondin recriminations, Danton was suffered to dicate the party. Tumult and menaces followed. On the policy of the republic. When the insurrection of interposition of Danton, who wished to avert the La Vendée broke out, the majority began to follow last extremities, the commission was annulled by the only leader who seemed to have matured the a vote of the convention. The next day Lanmeasures that were required by the crisis; and, in spite of the opposition of the Girondins, at his suggestion the convention created the revolutionary tribunal, and voted the first laws against the aristocrates, and for taxing the rich in order to arm the people.
In the mean time the commune were no ways disposed to resign their power to the Girondins, or leave that party leisure to consolidate a force which might control them. On the 10th of March an insurrectionary movement was attempted, with the double object of intimidating the convention, and of murdering the principal Girondins at their own houses. Timely information enabled the menaced deputies to frustrate the last object; and the energy of the minister Beurnonville, with a force of fédérés from Brest, awed the assailants. Danton, who alone could organize a decisive popular rising, kept aloof, and, indeed, protected the Girondins.
juinais, who displayed, in defence of his party, the same intrepidity which he had shown in endeavoring to save the life of the king, carried a motion to rescind this vote. The mob could be no longer restrained-they declared themselves in a state of permanent insurrection. On the 31st of May they surrounded and entered the convention. The Girondins, protesting against this coercion, quitted their seats; their places were occupied by the mob; and the commission was again annulled. But the excited populace now required vengeance as well as submission. The cry for the accusation of the twenty-two was again raised. On the morning of the 2d of June the convention was surrounded by the armed force of the sections under the command of Henriot; and a hundred pieces of artillery were pointed against the chamber which it occupied in the palace of the Tuileries. Some of the proscribed deputies had already sought safety in flight; others, with Vergniaud at their head, calmly proceeded through the threatening mob to brave the fate which was denounced against them. The Committee of Public Safety endeavored to effect a compromise by inducing the twenty-two to resign their seats in the convention. Some did so; others stoutly refused. The menaces of the armed mob increased in violence. As a last expedient to
This uncertainty, however, could not long last, in face of the increasing dangers of the republic. The troubles of La Vendée grew more serious. The French army was defeated and driven out of Belgium; and in the first days of April the public terror rose to its height on intelligence of the defection of Dumouriez. The contending parties sought to cast on each other the odium of connec- save their colleagues, the convention, with the tion with the traitor. The Girondins, Lasource and Biroteau, seized the first occasion of making a detailed charge against Danton, as an accomplice of his treason. Enraged and alarmed at a charge
president at their head, proceeded in a body to make their way out of the Tuileries. Henriot refused to allow them to pass until they had given up the twenty-two. At every point they found
at length they returned to their chamber, and passed a decree ordering the provisional arrest of the principal leaders of the Girondins.
their passage barred by the insurgent forces; and obedience. For the first time since the meeting of the States General, France possessed a strong government. To suppress rebellion, repel the foreign foe, and terrify the internal enemies of the republic, was the first business of that government. For this last purpose the revolutionary tribunal was reorganized, and armed with the terrible "Lvi des Suspects."
So closed the political existence of a party which, for nearly two years, had occupied the most conspicuous position in the legislature of their country. Misplaced in a revolution, which they were not capable of conducting, they became the victims of The first sufferer was, perhaps, the one whose those ferocious passions which, after exciting, they fate most revolts us by its injustice-the unforhad failed in coercing, and with which they scorned tunate Custine, whose military reverses drew on to enter into any compromise. A civil war, which him the penalty of treason. A nobler victim folat the outset menaced the existence of the republic, lowed. On the 14th of October the unhappy was for some weeks kept alive in Normandy, and queen was brought before the revolutionary triother parts of France, by such members of the bunal. Her intrepid protest against the foul party as had escaped from Paris. A majority of charges with which Fouquier garnished his list of the department joined their cause, and prepared to calumnies, for one moment rallied the feelings of resist the usurped authority of the Mountain. All the audience on her side; but could not avert a of every denomination who were hostile to those doom which was meant to be the penalty both of in power, crowded under the banner raised by the her former greatness and of her recent hostility to Girondins. The natural consequence of this was, the revolution. She was conveyed to her fate in that the royalists, who had long been secretly an open cart, amid the execrations of the mob, and preparing for resistance, and who possessed leaders the savage jests of the infuriated women, whose of military experience, became everywhere the real trade it was to insult the dying. The jolting of masters of the movement, and turned it to their the rough vehicle disordered her dress, and added own purposes. No sooner was this apparent, than to her sufferings by diminishing the air of personthe insurgents lost confidence in one another. The al dignity, which she strove to preserve. Her insurrection subsided as instantaneously as it had haughty countenance evinced the mortification and broken out, except at one or two points, where anger which filled her soul; and she died exhibitit was avowedly continued as a royalist rebellion. ing to the last her hatred and scorn for her butchIn the course of a few weeks the Committee of ers. But the touching narrative does not disarm Public Safety had almost everywhere reëstablished the justice of its historian. After moving our symits authority; and the only resource which was pathy by her wrongs, he remains master of him left the baffled Girondins, was disguise and flight. self, and calmly proceeds to review the life ad These insurrectionary attempts had fearfully ex- condemn the errors of Marie Antoinette. cited the passions of the populace and convention against those of the Girondin leaders who were in their power; and the assassination of Marat sealed their doom. The early history of Charlotte Corday, (whom M. de Lamartine states to have been a descendant of the great Corneille,) and all the details of her memorable act and heroic death, are carefully narrated. Only one moment of compunction came over her-it was on witnessing the grief of Marat's mistress. She had not conceived it possible that, in destroying a monster, she could be wounding the affections of any human being. Our author gives a striking picture of her as she was conveyed to the scaffold, clothed in the red shirt which was reserved for murderers, and inspiring even the ferocious mob with admiration for her beauty and simple courage. Vergniaud, when he heard the details of her fate, exclaimed, "She kills us, but she teaches us how to die."
From this period commences the Reign of Terror. The perilous condition of society which followed the 31st of May, 1793, had produced a general sense of the necessity of a vigorous executive and the Committee of Public Safety, taking advantage of the opportunity, succeeded in obtaining complete possession of the administration of affairs. Supported by a disciplined force, under the name of the " Revolutionary Army," it had in its hands the means of crushing opposition and enforcing
The Girondin leaders, who, in conformity with the decree of the second of June, had been watched rather than confined in their own houses, and had refused to avail themselves of many opportunities of flight, had, as the public became exasperated by the proceedings of their adherents, been transferred to the prisons. Seventy-three of the less important deputies of the party were also décretés, lodged in prison, but saved from death by the energetic protection of Robespierre. M. de Lamartine, who endeavors, somewhat at the expense of historical truth, to represent Robespierre as having endeavored to save the queen, (for, he had been the first publicly to demand her trial within a few weeks of that of the king,) is supported by more authority, when he attributes to him the wish to save the Girondin leaders from the scaffold. Danton undoubtedly had that object at heart. powerless to resist the rage of their party and the populace. On the 26th of October the trial of the twenty-two Girondins began. Among them were Brissot, Gensonné, Fauchet, Sillery, and several of the most eminent deputies of the party. All eyes, however, were turned on the last who entered the hall. It was Vergniaud, or rather the wreck of that great orator, whose voice had subverted the monarchy, and disputed the mastery with Robespierre and Danton. His imprisonment had impressed a livid paleness on his cheek, deprived