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Proposed Marriage.

117 I should acknowledge as King the boy Louis XVII., and that I should be Regent.'

“Strange enough! And what would they gain by their King Louis XVII.P”

« Not much! He is no favourite with them. They have not much confidence in him, which leads me to suspect he has more merit than is usually attributed to him. The English cabinet will not acknowledge him in his regency. You know that Austria refused to give him the title of King as long as Marie-Antoinette lived. Only imagine me Regent, under the pretended supremacy of a puppet, and in the face of the Jacobins and aristocrats? I should not retain the post for a single day.'

“How could they presume to make such a proposition? .. What security did they offer you? for certainly you required some.”

“Oh! as to that, handsome offers were not wanting. They proposed to attach me to the young King by such ties as would render his defence a family duty on my part.

“Infamous!" I exclaimed, roused by an irrepressible feeling of indignation. “Do they not know that the thing is impossible?

“Not physically,' replied Robespierre, in a tone of marked dissatisfaction.

"Perhaps not physically," I resumed, "but certainly morally. You would never consent to such a thing?"

6. You have not,' said he, 'a very brilliant imagination. You are not disposed to build castles in the air.'

“Rather say, castles in the regions below .... castles in Pandemonium .... Robespierre, hear me! Be assured that a wall of iron separates you .... You understand?"

• "I do! .... And the devil take that horde of villains who have made me appear to be a participator in their crimes, though I am really innocent.... But, I view the matter as you do .... The impossibility staggers me! .... It is a Gordian knot .... Yet, it would have been a most desirable arrangement.'

“Without appearing to observe this last remark, I said: "And is this all that was proposed to you?"

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118

Military Despotism.

6.When they found that I refused, on the ground of the irrevocable hatred which I had vowed to Royalty, the envoy declared himself authorised to propose a hereditary Presidency, with the same marriage.... This I also rejected. Mr. Serton then suggested something more practicable: viz. twenty years of elective Presidency. This appeared to be honourable and unobjectionable. One might preside temporarily without usurping absolute power. A period of twenty years is not quite three times the duration of the Presidency of the American government. It would afford the opportunity of effecting a great deal of good.' “Did you come to any

decision?” «« «Not yet . . . . Such matters cannot be settled hastily. They must be considered and examined, under every point of view . . . . I probably appear to you very powerful at this moment; and so I am .... My power hangs on public opinion, -on a delusion of terror, on a revolutionary fanaticism which will support me as long as I advance from one extravagance to another. But, I want private supports. scarcely know a man on whom I can confidently rely. I stand alone. My strength is in myself. It depends on no one.'

“Not on Fleuriot?"
« «He! .... a fool!.... a drunkard!'
“Saint-Just, then?”
"A senseless libertine!
“Well, then, your brother?”

« «Oh! he is a timid creature, and devoid of judgment and everything, except merely our internal affairs. I do not hold a military commission. The want of that trammels all my efforts. A man can never effect a revolution unless he commands bayonets. The instinct of the people is decidedly for liberty. The military are infected with despotism. Those generals will devour us all sooner or later. Look at the Roman Empire. For two or three Emperors elected by the Senate, you may count a hundred imposed by the army.'

“Then, I presume, you know not what course to adopt." 66 [ am embarrassed.'

And, in sending back the English envoy, you have broken with the London Cabinet."

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66

"I may answer both yes and no. I am urged to make an attempt. It is difficult. I am afraid of compromising myself. All eyes are fixed upon me. My actions are watched and my gestures interpreted. It is most painful to endure this inquisition. Yet, I will make an effort to strike a great blow. I will shew myself to the public in such a way as to command attention. I am well aware, that if I do not show myself, I shall never be able to do anything that will tend to restore to France her repose and happiness.

“He next asked me, whether I thought the Royalists would be inclined to accommodate themselves to a reasonable government.

“I am of opinion,” replied I, 'that they will take whatever is offered to them. In the absence of a King, you will see them rally round any one who grasps authority with a firm hand."

“Robespierre broke off the conversation, and ordered the coachman to the Rue Saint-Honoré. We soon separated. After I had taken leave of him, I could not help reflecting, with horror, on the marriage which had been proposed. To unite the daughter of the immolated victims to their executioner! The very thought made my blood curdle!

“On the 18th of June, was celebrated the festival in honour of the Supreme Being. On the previous day, Robespierre sent me a note, requesting that I would attend the ceremony. David, the painter, had designed all the decorations. The festival was held in the garden of the Tuileries. In front of the façade, on an elevated socle, stood the figure of Fanaticism, crowned with the papal tiara, and holding in one hand a torch, and in the other a poignard. Face to face with this figure stood Atheism, which was represented by a blind female, occupied in tearing the book of the law. A mass of combustible matter surrounded the group Near it was a car of vast magnitude filled with singers and musicians, parading the gardens and chaunting hymns, the poetry of which was in the style of Chenier.

“An immense crowd thronged the approaches to the amphitheatre, where the members of the Convention were to take their places. They arrived, headed by Robespierre,

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who wore a blue coat, with a bouquet of tri-coloured flowers. It was remarked that his colleagues did not follow him closely, but at some distance, apparently acknowledging him as sovereign. When I observed this circumstance, I doabted not that Robespierre had prepared everything for striking the grand blow; that he would avail himself of that opportunity to proclaim a full amnesty, and annihilate the reign of terror; and that the people would, in return, raise him to the highest rank in the state.

"But, I was mistaken. Robespierre had the ambition to do all this; but not the genius. He delivered a poor speech, which he closed by a most atrocious phrase. This being ended, he applied a match to a train of gunpowder, and the figures of Fanaticism and Atheism were immediately blown up. They were to have been succeeded by the statue of eternal Wisdom, but, owing to some blunder of the mechanists, this statue was blown up along with the other two. This circumstance was regarded as a bad omen, and it gave rise to a good deal of remark.

“Two days after this, Robespierre called on me.

"Well,' said he, 'you see I kept my word, and that I , know how to show myself! What did you think of the manner in which I presided at the festival? Did I not put myself forward most conspicuously? The members of the Convention seemed to be merely my escort.'

“I should rather say that they acted the part of your body guard. But, seriously, I expected something more of you."

What did you expect!' "A solemn protestation against past crimes: a speech which would have held out the consolation of a happier future."

“ You are very wise, truly! But I can tell you that, had I done as you suggest, I should have been assassinated on the spot. I could read in the looks of the multitude what I had to expect. Therefore,

I made

my

oration somewhat different from what I intended.' “I understand. You were afraid;

and caused you to inspire us with fear. This is not the way to succeed.”

“ 'I am aware it is not. But what can I do? I tell you

your own fear

Projected Marriage.

121

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once more, I stand alone; and who knows whether the English are deluding me? Perhaps their only object is to urge me to an act of imprudence which would compromise me. My destruction would, doubtless, be gratifying to them.'

“Therefore, your new plans are

To take revenge on the traitors!' he exclaimed in a voice of fury; 'to annihilate them all. They surround, they besiege me....I behold them during the day,-1 dream of them during the night. What daggers are pointed against me! ....what doses of poison prepared! ....Do you know I begin to suspect my most intimate associates. That girl Duplay, for example;. ...I fear she has been bribed. My life is at her mercy. I might

“Here he stopped short.
"Your position is not an enviable one,” said I.

No, indeed! he replied. May Satan avenge me on him who first drew me into the path which I ain now treading! However, I have returned him ill for ill. But for him .. .. but for him'

“He said no more. I regarded him as a man marked by the finger of God. I never saw him again;—the 9th Thermidor speedily followed.

When I returned to Prince Cambacérès, the above historical fragment, of which, by his permission, I kept a copy, he made the following observations:

“There is no fact in our fatal history, more positively certain, than the allurement held out to Robespierre of his marriage with an august and unfortunate Princess, who was totally ignorant of the infamous traffic in which her name was involved. Robespierre went so far as to visit the illustrious captive in her prison. He represented himself as a municipal officer, and assumed the pretence of making an official visit. He declared himself quite enchanted with the Princess, though he had not presumed to speak to her, so completely was he overawed by the dignity of her looks and manners. But, she was not the only Princess of the blood-royal of France whom Robespierre contemplated the possibility of marrying. I will relate to you a story which I heard from the mouth of Tallien him

VOL. 1.-11

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