« ZurückWeiter »
Danton should be heard in reply to this report; but, upon a significant hint from Robespierre, conveyed in the words . Those who tremble are guilty,' that motion was negatived without a division. Defence, indeed, would have been utterly superfluous; for, as our author observes, no individual living could even have dreamed that Danton had been guilty of anything of the kind imputed to him. This idle form was, however, permitted before the Revolutionary Tribunal, and the accused, being adepts in public speaking, abused their privilege to such an extent that proper precautions were taken to prevent such scandal for the future by the decree:- That any accused person revolted against his judges might be put hors des débats ' (convicted and sentenced); and, says our author, 'We had wished to be founders of liberty, and the men who arrived at this excess of tyranny thought they were serving her noble cause.
-Au reste, these patriots,—" devoted to death by other patriots," -died like heroes.'
Two others of these patriots,'—these energetic men unstained by crime,' now governed the Committee, and through it the Convention and France, with absolute sway–Robespierre and St. Just. Of these our author predicates that they wished to exercise their power, only for good !-vol. iii., p. 77. In all ages, however, the kindness and ingratitude of mankind have made them slow to appreciate benefits which are forced upon their acceptance. Strange to say, the members of the Convention could hardly reconcile the theory of the general Rights of Man with the right of these two individuals to hand them over severally or collectively to the scaffold; and at the very moment when the government of France felt ‘a want of unity, before all things,-a tearing asunder became inevitable.' It was in vain that the Committee released the Convention from the labour of making, as well as that of executing, the law. The Convention were, nevertheless, afflicted with a
general uneasiness,' the indications of which again excited in the committee itself, such apprehensions, that fears for its own existence obliged it to adjourn the grand social regeneration which it had meditated.' In the mean time the Convention was permitted to amuse itself with some minor details of poor-laws, public education, and agriculture. This last subject was placed in the hands of two commissioners, a Mr. Isore and the author. Of the former we know nothing. The latter, being by education a midwife, and by practice a general-officer, must be admitted to have been an happy selection. Under the supervision of the two, the agriculture of France probably made as much progress towards recovery-as did religion, virtue, and la bienséance même under Robespierre and St. Just, assisted as they were by Billaud de Varennes and Collot d'Herbois.
Our author's regard for Robespierre does not prevent him from treating the great attempt to bring Deism into fashion as a failure. Adeluge of pleasantries' followed that condescending decree of the Convention which acknowledged the existence of a Deity and the immortality of the soul. The editor has favoured us with a poetical allusion to this decree by M. Berchoux, a bard of the day, which we venture thus to translate :
· The French upon freedom so dote,
That against any God they all mutiny,
And is proved to exist on a scrutiny." We extract from the 6th chapter, vol. iii., a glowing description of the progress which had been made towards the attainment of the rights of man under the government of Robespierre :
• The tribune and the press were mute, the Cordeliers were silent, the sections, the commune, were no longer anything more than the pale satellites of the new tyranny. At the first moment, knowing the intentions réparatrices of Robespierre and St. Just, we thought that they were about to profit by their de facto omnipotence to close the era of revolutions and proclaim the constitution. But such were not their views—at that moment.'— vol. iii. p. 101.
It was during this indefinite adjournment of their expected measures for the termination of the reign of terror, that Couthon obtained the full support of Robespierre to the law of the 22nd Prairial, which is described imperfectly, but as well perhaps as anything short of a transcript of its provisions can describe it, in the words of M. Le Vasseur:- According to its text, there was no enemy of any of the members of the government who could escape death. All faults were transformed into crimes, and every crime conducted to the scaffold. It would have been rather surprising, if any one but a member of the government could have entertained a predilection for this law, but equally so to those who have studied the history of the time, that any one should have dared to offer it effectual opposition. One member, indeed, of the Convention, Ruamps, threatened to blow his brains out, should it be accepted, a menace which seems to have acted as an inducement to his acquaintance to hurry it through the house. Like the heroic general, Cambrone, to whom is attributed the speech, "La garde meurt, mais ne se rend pas,' and who happened, on the occasion on which this speech is attributed to him, viz. the day of Waterloo, not to
* Le peuple souverain,
Libre par sa nature même,
die, but to surrender-like him Ruamps survived the event, and even lived to share a subsequent imprisonment with our author.
On the memorable occasion of the 9th Thermidor, M. Le Vasseur was absent from Paris in the exercise of his military functions. It is therefore difficult to conjecture, nor would it be very important to ascertain, what would have been his conduct or bis fate at this crisis—whether he would have drunk the hemlock with Robespierre, St. Just, and Couthon ; have talked of doing so with David of the blood-steeped brush; or have joined with Tallien in administering it to others. The danger and the excitation of the crisis are over, and it is easy now for the author to express his republican horror of the dictatorship of which, while it lasted, he was an active though subordinate agent. He lends, however, his testimony to what is now, we believe, the fashionable theory with respect to the history of the 9th Thermidor, and avows his strong faith in those qualities of Robespierre's singular character on which his advocates have striven to erect the great paradox of his justification. The substance of that theory is well knownviz., that Robespierre, sick with slaughter, intended, by aid of the Convention, to extirpate the Committee, and to close with that last act of justice the Reign of Terror—and was cut off, in the moment of projection, by greater monsters than himself, the peculator Tallien, and Carrier of the Noyades! It required French ingenuity to convert the destruction of such a man into something like a murder ; yet considering that he perished not for having employed, but for having calumniated, Marat,—not as the butcher of the Girondists, but as the denouncer of Danton, -considering that he was identified for slaughter by Fouquier Tinville, --considering the stoical fortitude of his ten hours' agony on the table of the Committee of Public Safety—we are compelled to doubt whether there were not gradations of wickedness and infamy which Robespierre himself had not attained, and which were only reached by some of those who had cringed to him in power, and who spat upon him in his dying torture. The fierce exclamation of Tallien to his foaming victim—It is the blood of Danton which stilles thee,' is better known than the answer which our author attributes to Robespierre. “Ah, you wish to avenge Danton! Cowards, why did you not defend him ? For one incident in the closing scene we wish we had better authority than this book—and we think we have read elsewhere of the name less garçon
de bureau, who brought Robespierre a cup of water to wash the ghastly wound which he was stanching with the bag of the pistol that had inflicted it. This is the solitary act of that day which savours of any humane motive, much as the interests of humanity may have profited by its occurrences.
We cannot follow M. Le Vasseur through a tedious vindication of his hero, which is intended as a serious refutation of the charge, transferred from the Hebertists to their destroyer, of his being a mere agent of Pitt and the emigrants. We confess ourselves, indeed, at a loss for an answer to the question, which, after taking all this trouble, he asks of his readers, - Is it possible to resign oneself to examine these puerile and ignoble imputations, which have sprung up in some narrow brains, and which posterity will never discuss ?
We have dwelt at least long enough on these volumes ;-and have followed our author far enough into the history of the French Revolution, to enable our readers to form some judgment on the merits of this elaborate apology for The Mountain. The few extracts which we have selected will show, that however inartificial the reasoning of M. Le Vasseur may be considered, his phraseology is of that ingenious school which has altered the nomenclature of most of the questionable qualities of human nature and of their results. Thus the men before whose fiat human heads fell like corn before the reaper, were only men of greater énergie than other people. A period when the kennels are running with innocent blood is always—a crise. A journalist who, during a period of professed anarchy, calls upon a despotic mob to put 250,000 persons to death, is convicted of innocent exaggeration. We say nothing of the use or abuse of the word patriotism. We know from Boswell the explanation which Dr. Johnson afforded of that word, and from Mr. Croker we know to whom the sage
addressed that explanation ;* —nor do we think that a close examination of the motives of those transcendent Patriots who have figured either in the French Revolution, or in the English Reform, would afford any new reason to doubt the justice of the great moralist's definition !
ART. III.-A Memoir of Felix Neff, Pastor of the High Alps ;
and of his labours among the French Protestants of Dauphiné, a Remnant of the Primitive Christians of Gaul. By William Stephen Gilly, M.A., Prebendary of Durham, and Vicar of Norham. London. Svo. 1832. T is one the principles the Madras school that every boy
shall find his level ; it is one of the principles of the Jesuits that every member of their society shall have his appropriate
* Patriotism having become one of our topics, Johnson sud nly uttered in a strong, determined tone, an apophthegm at which many will start : ' Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.:—Boswell, vol. iii. p. 223. By the editorial Note it appears that this startling apophthegm was uttered at the Club, Mr. Fox in the Chair.
place found for him. To the first of these principles the school owes much of its effect; to the other the society (the most efficient that has ever yet been established) no small part of the mighty influence which it has exercised for evil and for good. In the world there are so many disturbing causes, that he who finds his level, may, if he has to rise to it, be deemed fortunate indeed; and still more so if the place for which he is best fitted (in whatever station) be found for him. Both the subject and the author of the interesting volume which is now before us have been thus fortunate. The pastor of the High Alps could nowhere have employed his ardent zeal with more exemplary effect than among the forlorn mountaineers, to whom he devoted, and indeed sacrificed, his life. And when his biographer was rewarded for his benevolent exertions in behalf of the Vaudois with a stall at Durham, that well-bestowed preferment gave him facilities for pursuing his favourite subject of research, and enabled him to become more extensively useful. How,' says Mr. Gilly, in his Introduction
• How came the author acquainted with scenes and people, whose history he alleges to be of moment to society at large, but whose names are perfectly new to us? How has he had access to records, which we did not know to be in existence? I hope to answer these inquiries satisfactorily—and to show that those who have extended their rambles to some of the obscurest corners of civilized Europe, or who have been poring over the most neglected, dull, and wearisome pages of writers and chroniclers of days long since, may bring facts to light which had escaped notice, and may illustrate some of the most important subjects in history.
* It has been my good fortune to have had opportunities of examining the treasures of ecclesiastical history, in libraries rich in such stores; and the more I have read, the more I have felt convinced that the secluded glens of Piedmont are not the only retreats, where the deSCENDANTS OF PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS may be found. Under this term I mean to speak of persons who have inherited a Christianity, which the Church of Rome has not transmitted to them, and who, from father to son, have essentially preserved the mode of faith, and the form of discipline, which were received when the Gospel was first planted in their land. I have discovered ample reason to believe, that there is scarcely a mountain region in our quarter of the globe which is poor, and uninviting, and difficult of access, where the primitive faith, as it was preached by the earliest messengers of the truth, did not linger for many ages, after the Romish hierarchy had established itself in the richer countries, and in the plains; and moreover, that there are still many mountain districts, where the population has continued Christian, from generation to generation, to the present hour; Christian, in nonconformity with the church usurping the appellation Catholic. It was their obscurity and non-intercourse with the world,