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mits that, after the fall of that party, and after what he calls the nec plus ultra of patriotism had been attained, (query the precise point of the scale,) the Club of the Jacobins did become a power ;
but this power, let men say what they will, was all beneficent, all in the interest of liberty. This assertion is made out by a description of the rigid control which the Club exercised over all the functionaries of the executive government, and the summary manner in which it punished delinquency of all shapes and sizes by one impartial remedy-the guillotine. We
e now arrive at a passage which, if it formed a separate section, might be headed after the fashion of Fielding's 4th chapter of the 9th book of his · Biography of Mr. Jonathan Wild :' - The death-warrant arrives for Heartfree, on which occasion Wild betrays some human weakness. Our readers will anticipate that we allude to the removal'—or, to speak more plainly, the execution of the Girondists. The feelings, approaching to compunction, which M. Le Vasseur, or more probably M. Roche, here takes occasion to express, might have been spared. They are unworthy of his party, and inconsistent with his creed. It is true that these men were executed as traitors, and that their crime was being good speakers and weak politicians--it is true that the act of their accusation was a lie, and the form of procedure a murder; but does M. Le Vasseur pretend that the Convention was ignorant of all this when it deliberately voted their execution? Here, we must confess, we think M. Le Vasseur shrinks, in no very creditable manner, from the task of vindicating himself and his friends, those men of energy whom crime had never stained.' But we think we can guess at the reason—the memory of the Girondists is rather in favour with the liberal party of France, and the writer was not unwilling to stand well with it by showing some little tenderness towards them, as he is certain to do with the King, by his defence of the bosom friends of that 'best patriot of France,'*—the late citizen Egalité. The bold apologist is, however, himself again, when he comes to the bloody scenes which followed the thirtytwo minutes' labour of the executioner on the persons of the thirty-two Girondists. Barnave, Bailly, Madame Roland, republicans all, how does he wipe the stain of their blood from the brows of Robespierre and the Mountain ? (Of Marie Antoinette, like our author, we say nothing, because, for anything we learn to the contrary from these pages, she may be still in the Conciergerie.) Robespierre's delicacy, forsooth, revolted against
* His royal son's designation of that, it seems, much-calumniated character—see p. 540 of our last Number. It must be observed, that the two latter volumes of this work have been published since the change of dynasty.
the Saturnales terroristes, and he reproached Leonard Bourdon for speaking in the Convention with his hat on-and for other circumstances, which, being vaguely designated as des formes indécentes, are left to the imagination. For these reasons, and inasmuch as he chose to demonstrate the existence of a Supreme Being, by displaying before all Paris a large nosegay in his button-hole, M. Le Vasseur invites us to clear him of all undue participation in the reign of terror, and acknowledge him the friend of religion, virtue, and la bienséance même.
The next chapter is headed Reflexions sur Houchard, the general whose actions, in the recent campaign, M. Le Vasseur had been appointed to supervise, and whom he had denounced as a traitor to the revolutionary tribunal. An attempt, we learn, was made by Briez to save the ex-general. Barrère replied with 'a brilliant improvisation ;' an epithet which implies that the enemy of the Gironde can admire ready eloquence when devoted to the legitimate purpose of shedding human blood for human error. The memory and veracity of the author were called in to help the eloquence of the improvisatore for the prosecution, and Houchard, by the joint efforts of Barrère and Le Vasseur, soon figured on the scaffold where Custine had shortly before fought his last
We find our author, in the next chapter, again active in a mission to the army, where he appears to have enforced a rigid discipline, if not among the soldiers, at least among the officers commanding. He rebukes a drunken general, forces - Kleber into fire,'—(may we not hope to see Marshal Jones or General Napier led into fire by Buckingham or Harvey ?)—but appears to have had some difficulty in performing the same operation on his own colleague, St. Just. We next find him employed, very differently, on a special mission to Sedan, in preparing and forwarding to Paris for trial some twenty notorious criminals. He confesses to as much weakness on this occasion as was consistent with the acceptance and execution of such a mission, and appears to have been somewhat annoyed by the shrieks and agonies of the relatives of the accused.
We have hitherto beheld our author and his friends invested with popularity equal to their power. We have now to contemplate them deprived of that popularity, and objects of the blackest calumnies; and M. Le Vasseur, like another military civiliun of our own day-his majesty's secretary at war-is very indignant at finding that he has lost some of that popularity which he had earned by sitting on the Mountain ; but the man-midwife's complaint is better founded than the Baronet's; for the former never changed his side, and seems to have persisted resolutely in his original principles, and accordingly very forcibly holds up to execration the baseness of the surviving traitors and emigrants, who founded on the trivial occurrences of the reign of terror, an indictment of bloodthirstiness against the Mountain.
In this part of the work we could expose much error, confusion, and falsehood, employed to condemn poor Houchard and exalt Le Vasseur, but it is not worth while a work avowedly fabricated can be of no historical weight.
We are now arrived at the period-probably that nec plus ultra of patriotism before-mentioned—when even Danton hung back, and Robespierre himself grew dizzy with blood.
• But it is to be repeated, no one had impelled the revolution into these sinister ways. Without doubt some fanatics, at the head of whom must be placed St. Just, calculated the necessity of shedding blood as a means for founding liberty; without doubt these fierce republicans wished to strike terror into two opposite castes by the aspect of the scaffold;' (the aspect, indeed!] but never did they understand that they could arrive, even by transition, at a state of things, such, that no condition, how obscure soever, could save from political vengeance.'
Danton, the first (but not the last either in France or England) -who had dared to present anarchy as a weapon, and popular disorder as an indispensable means of force-Danton was also, we are told, the first to recoil from his own work, when he began to feel himself in danger, or, as he expressed it, when he saw the excesses ready to engulph social order altogether.' Camille Desmoulins, who had ventured to assume the title, burlesquely ferocious, of Attorney-General to the Lantern, was (when he also trembled for himself) struck with horror at the sight of the judicial murders, of which it was impossible to foresee the limit; even Robespierre felt his head turn, when he contemplated the revolutionary movement arrived at the highest degree of its circle.'
• For us,' proceeds our author,' obscure Mountaineers, who, without ever pretending to direct the political machine, had devoted our lives to the republic, we could not see without trembling the transitory results of our energetic measures, and of the resistances which they had excited. A prey to the most profound grief, when we perceived the new obstacles brought in the
way of founding the republic, we consoled ourselves by the sole thought, that we had sought the interest of the community, by the abnegation of every personal sentiment; and we applied ourselves to the study of the state of France, in order to apply a remedy to its evils. Convinced that we were surrounded by treasons, we did not dare violently to arrest the gloomy energy of the Committee of Public Safety, from the fear of having nothing to oppose to it. We waited in silence the moment propitious for the necessary reparations, and for the foundation of a better order of things.'- vol. iii. p. 3.
It was while the members of the Convention were thus watching in silence for the approach of the revolutionary millennium, and dawdling about their benches, like the members of our own House of Commons waiting the arrival of the speaker and the chaplain, that the public prosecutor, Fouquier Tinville, offered, for their amusement, to bring the guillotine either under their windows, or into their antechamber, we are not sure which. Our author appears to be proud of the rejection of this delicate attention on the part of his associates. It appears, however, that Le Vasseur and his friends were not idle at this period; they were diligently and rationally employed in the introduction of positive ameliorations in the lot of the people, which ameliorations principally consisted in the abolition of all distinctions of dress, language, condition, and refinement; in a word, the establishment of general sans-culottism. We are a little puzzled with this, after the admiration bestowed, in only the preceding page, on the bienséance of Robespierre, and on his quarrel with Leonard Bourdon's hat. We profess our inability to discover the difference between Robespierre's known attention to his own toilette, as well as that of Leonard Bourdon, and the immoral attempts of the aristocracy in disguise' to preserve some of the traditional usages' of polished society.
In the mean time, the nec plus ultra of patriotism’ having been attained, our author's hero, Robespierre, finds himself and the Committee of Public Safety, in rather an awkward situation. At the very moment when that great man was, as our author avers, turning his thoughts towards closing the Reign of Terror, and introducing that of Religion, Virtue, and la bienséance même, he was interrupted by the sudden necessity of removing—not the hats, but—the heads, of two batches of his dearest friends—the Dantonists and the Hebertists. The latter, being mere puppets, acting at the impulse of that eternal agent, the gold of Pitt, might be dismissed without observation, if it were not that this notorious fact of their being in the pay of Pitt, (who was long the writer of the leading article in the Père du Chesne,'—as M. de Talleyrand is no doubt at this day in our “Morning Post,')—had been the foundation for that identical charge against Robespierre himself.
• Chose étrange! All the writers who have occupied themselves with the history of the revolution have acknowledged the influence of foreign agents upon the crimes of the reign of terror-all have acknowledged that the centre of this execrable intrigue was in the party of Hebert, and yet the greater number of them have accused the Mountain of complicity with the wretches which it punished.'—vol. iii. p. 61.
They perished as a matter of course, and the Convention went
on with business, or rather continued to wait for the millennium of liberty as usual.
• Chose inconcevable! The majority of the Convention had very evidently pronounced itself in favour of moderate measures; and yet the violence which the Committee of Public Safety had made the order of the day, found always an all but unanimous support on our benches.'-yol. iii. p. 62.
To us, who have watched the progress of the Reform Bill through the English House of Commons, this almost unanimous support of the most outrageous injustice under the pretence of thereby operating some future and theoretic good, appears quite as 'concevable' as any fact in the history of the French Revolution.
Well, Hebert was removed, and the Convention was as cheerful and unanimous as could be ; but the case was different only two days after, when it was announced that Danton, with his friend Camille Desmoulins, had been arrested. The Convention were, indeed, aware that Danton had quarrelled with Robespierre, upon account, and in behalf, of Fabre d'Eglantine, a gentleman who had indiscreetly dabbled in—not a Greek loan--but some such financial speculation.
*But we thought Danton too strong on the ground of his services, and the friendship of an immense majority of his colleagues, not to be beyond the reach of his enemy's vengeance. On croyait d'ailleurs that Robespierre would never abandon the interesting Camille Desmoulins:' (who we see had lately been disposed to resign the title of first law. Officer to the Lantern).- vol. iii. p. 63.
In short, while on croyait this and on croyait that, Danton and his interesting friend were stowed in the deepest dungeon of the Abbaye. The credit of this, the most audacious proceeding of the Robespierre party, is due to St. Just. Camille was an active and pungent pamphleteer, and had borrowed from Danton a witticism upon the lofty manner in which St. Just carried his head. Il porte la tête comme un Saint Sacrement, said Camille in his pamphlet. The joke and its author were denounced to St. Just. Je lui ferai porter la tête comme St. Denis, was the reply.* This exchange of pleasantries was followed up on the part of St. Just by a report to the Convention, in which Danton was found guilty (accused would be an inapplicable term) of conspiring with the Duke of Orleans, Dumouriez, and the Girondists. It was moved, for the sake, we presume, of la bienséance, that
* Our readers will recollect that the Saint Sacrament—the Host,-is in Roman Catholic countries carried in procession with a great show of reverence, and that the martyrdom of St. Denis was by decapitation, and that the legend says that he carried his head in his hand from the place of execution to that of burial. We have heard from a person who has seen both, that we may form a lively notion of the stateliness in which poor St. Just carried his head, by the manner in which Mr. Robert Grant, the present judge-advocate general, performs the same function.