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left him at his death two hundred pounds. * In the course of his life he held various political opinions, which by the year 1791 had settled into a shade of patriotism strong enough to secure his election as one of the deputies of the department of Paris in the Legislative Assembly. The shade was not deep enough, however, to please, Robespierre; and the praise which Brissot bestowed in his journal, the ‘Patriote Francais, upon himself and his friends, “les patriotes par excellence,” was sure to displease a man who was in his own own eyes, and in those of not a few others, “le vrai patriote,” the patriot of patriots. Soon after he had ceased to be a legislator, upon the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, Robespierre was appointed to the office of Public Accuser. But he soon discovered that he could serve the cause of his country and of mankind at large (as he was fond of expressing it) better by his writings and his speeches at the Jacobin Club than in such an official character as this; and, notwithstanding the pecuniary convenience of the office to a man altogether without private fortune, he resigned it for other occupations. The question upon which the parties of Robespierre and Brissot first came to an open rupture was that of war. Brissot maintained that a nation which had acquired liberty after so long a slavery needed war to consolidate it, to purify it from the vices of despotism, and to expel from its bosom the men who might corrupt it. “For two years,” said he in his speech at the Jacobins, the 16th of December, 1791, “France has tried all pacific means of bringing back the rebels into her bosom ; all the attempts have been unsuccessful; they persist in their revolt; the foreign princes persist in supporting them; can we hesitate to attack them 2 If you wish to destroy at one blow our aristocratic enemies, destroy the army of Coblentz in which they put their trust.” On the other hand, Robespierre argued that this was a war, not of one nation or of one king against another, but of all the enemies of the French constitution against the French Revolution; that these enemies were internal and external; and that, it being by no means clear that the French court and
the agents of the executive were not to be numbered among the winternal enemies, it followed that even the military preparations would throw additional power into hands unfit to be trusted. But supposing war to be unavoidable, he held it to be the best policy for the French not to make, but to receive the attack. These ideas he developed in several speeches at the Jacobin Club, and his views were supported by Danton, Billaud-Varennes and others. At first the discussion was amicable. On the 16th of December 1791, Danton commenced with this compliment to Brissot:— “Wous avez ordonné l'impression de l'excellent discours de M. Brissot, de cet athlète vigoureux de la liberté, de cet homme de qui nous attendons de si grands services et qui netrompera pas nos espérances.” In 1792 the discussion was renewed. On the 2nd of January, Robespierre, after saying that Brissot had always avoided the main point of the question, to raise his own system beside it on a foundation absolutely ruinous, and that he should be as desirous as M. Brissot for a war to extend the dominion of liberty, if he were master of the destinies of France, and could direct its forces and o according to his will, continued thus :
“But it is on our peculiar situation that the whole question turns. You have constantly turned away your attention from it, but I have proved that the proposal of war was the result of a plot long formed by the internal enemies of our liberty. .......You yourselves admit that the war pleased the emigrants, that it pleased the ministry, the court intriguers.”
He then refutes, Brissot's argument against want of confidence in the king and his ministers, and thus continues:—
“It belongs to me to explain myself freely on the subject of the ministers, 1st, Because I am not afraid of being suspected of speculating upon their change, either for myself or my friends; 2nd, Because I do not desire to see them replaced by others—convinced that those who aspire to their places would be no better. It is not the ministers that I attack,it is their principles and their acts.”
He proceeds to answer a charge of Brissot's that he had vilified the people by casting doubts on their courage and their love of liberty.
“It is true,” he says, “that I cannot flatter the people in order to destroy it, that I am unskilled in the art of leading it to the precipice by paths strewn with flowers; but, on the other hand, it was I who could displease all those who are not of the people by defend ing, almost alone, the rights of the poorest and most unfortunate citizens against the majority of legislators; it was I who constantl opposed the declaration of rights with all those distinctions calculated upon the proportion of taxes, which lest a distance between citizens; it was I who consented to appear exaggerated, obstinate, even proud, in order to be just.”
On the 11th of the same month Robespierre made another speech on the war, which all the revolutionary journals, with the exception of the ‘Patriote Français,' Brissot's paper, described as “un discours de la plus sublime éloquence.” In the course of this speech he said:—
“The intentions of the court being evidently suspect, what course was it necessary to take in regard to the proposition of war? To applaud, to adore, to preach confidence, and give millions 7 No, it was necessary to examine it scrupulously, to penetrate its designs, to foresee their consequences, and to take the measures most proper to counteract them. Such is the spirit in which I have entered into this discussion. To assemble a great force under arms, to canton and encamp the soldiers, in order to lead them more easily to the idolatry of a supreme chief of the army, by occupying them solely with military ideas; to give a great importance and a great authority to the generals judged the most fit to excite the enthusiasm of armed citizens and to serve the court; to augment the executive power, which becomes particularly prominent when it appears to be charged with superintending the defence of the state; to turn the people from the care of their domestie affairs to occupy them with the external #. ; to ensure the triumph of the cause of royalty, of moderantism, of Machiavelism, the chiefs of which are military practitioners;” thus to prepare
* “Praticiens militaires.” There is great rhetorical art in this transference of a word usually applied to one profession in which it has fallen into bad repute, to another to which the speaker desires to transfer that bad quality.
here is a curious letter of Napoleon Buonaparte, on the subject of this very war, written to M. Naudin, commissaire des guerres, on the 27th of July, 1792, from Valence, where his regiment appears to have been then stationed, and published for the first time by the editors of the ‘Histoire Parlementaire,' (tom. xvii. p. 56), in which he makes the transference of a word with the same effect on the noblesse de la robe as that here intended by Robespierre for the noblesse de l'épée, he calls 3. lawyer, “le brigand a parchemins.” In this letter Napoleon says he has always been of opinion that there will be no war, and he gives his reasons. The letter is signed “Buonapartre.” Perhaps this, as well as other instances of questionable orthography (such as “ils la meprise"),
for the ministry and their faction the means of extending from day to day their usurpations over the national authority and over liberty,+ this is the chief interest of the court and the ministry.”
The following passage of this speech is particularly remarkable, as containing, eight months before that event, the doctrines which were afterwards put forth to excuse the September massacres.
“Let the people, awakened, encouraged by the energy of their representatives, resume that attitude which for a moment made all their oppressors tremble ; let us subdue our enemies within ; trar to conspirators and deso and then let us march against Leopold; et us march against all the tyrants of the earth.”
On the 2nd of January Robespierre had said pointedly to Brissot that he did not speculate on a change of ministry, either for himself or his friends. By the 24th of March the Girondist ministry was appointed Although Brissot had no ostensible place in this, his influence on the composition of the cabinet of March, 1792, say the editors of the ‘Histoire Parlementaire,” “est si peu douteuse, que nous allons bientôt la voir disposer de toutes les places et distribuer toutes les faveurs. Il saudra, comme titre de récommandation à un emploi quelconque, avoir écrit ou parlé contre Robespierre. Les charges lucratives seront partagées entre ceux qui auront péroré aux Jacobins pour la guerre d'attaque.” (Tom. xiii. p. 412.) Some of the newspaper organs of the new ministry also expressed themselves in terms of the most outrageous insolence of Robespierre and his friends, comparing them to a handful of petty tyrants who would be really formidable if they had the courage, as they had the impure morals and the thirst for blood, of Claudius * and Catiline.
This was the commencement of the feud, which ultimately became so deadly, between the Girondists and Robespierre, and so far we do not see that any blame attaches to Robespierre. His views in regard to a war of attack were we think right. Undoubtedly Louis and his ministers were not to be trusted. The conclusions
is accounted for by the postscript: “Le sang méridional qui o dans mes veines va avec la rapidité du Rhone, pardonnez done si vous prenez de la peine à lire mon griffonage.”
* It is so in the French—we suppose they mean Clodius.
which Robespierre drew from the particular position of affairs in France at that moment were such as any man of ordinary sagacity would have adopted. But the Girondists were not content with being wrong, they insisted on those who were right coming over to their opinion, and were exceedingly angry with Robespierre for declining to do so. It was not, as Madame Roland intimates in her letter to Robespierre of August the 25th, 1792, (found among his papers,) solely because Robespierre insisted on considering every one who differed from him on the war question as an enemy to the nation, that he quarrelled finally with the Girondists, but because the Girondists treated him with hostility and insult for differing from them. Collot d'Herbois sided with the Girondists regarding the war of attack,” but that did not prevent Robespierre from afterwards acting with him. The quarrel thus fully begun, there was no want of materials to feed it into a flame. On the 26th of March an address, presented by Robespierre and attacked by Guadet, produced a violent shock between the ‘spiritualists and materialists' of the Club. Robespierre in defending his opinions against Gaudet said: “Alone with my soul, how could I be equal to struggles which are above human strength, if I had not elevated my soul to God? This divine sentiment has been a full compensation to me for all the advantages offered to those who would betray the people.” So might have spoken any fanatic. The Girondists were now determined to make a regular attack upon Robespierre, even in his stronghold, the Jacobin Club. On the 2nd of April Robespierre complained bitterly in the Club of the attacks made upon him by the Girondist journals: he concluded his speech with these words: “Si quelqu'un a des reproches à me faire, je l’attends ici; c'est ici qu’il doit m'accuser, et non dans des piquesniques, dans des sociétés particulières. Ya-t-il quelqu'un ? qu'il se lèves" Whereupon M. Real exclaimed: “Oui, moi!”—“Parlez l'' said Robespierre with stern brevity. The accusations which M. Real then brought were—what? why “opiniätreté;” for the charge of exercising a despotism in the Society (as the accuser affirmed that it was certainly involuntary on the part of Robespierre), amounted to nothing more than
the despotism of mind over mind, or of mind over matter.
On the 25th of April Brissot and Guadet made long speeches in the Jacobins in favor of themselves and against Robespierre. Guadet exhibited a signal example of that total want of all practical sagacity for which his party was remarkable, by denouncing Robespierre as a man who for the love of his country's liberty ought to impose upon himself the pain of ostracism, ought to exile himself from France, and serve the people by removing himself from their idolatry. Robespierre, in a short reply, said:—
“Doubtless there are in this Society, as throughout France, empirical orators, who under the mask of patriotism conceal their desire of office,—who, in the absence of virtue, have eternally in their mouths the words, people, liberty and philosophy. As to the ostracism to which M. Guadet invites me to submit myself, it would be the height of vanity in me to impose it on mysels, for it is the punishment of great men, and it belongs to M. Brissot to be classed among them.”
As the time of the sitting was nearly expired, and as, he said, his justification would require more time than remained, he asked the president to permit him to enter upon it at the next sitting. Accordingly, on the 28th, Robespierre in a long speech, which is a masterpiece of rhetorical art, defended himself against the spoken attacks of Brissot and Guadet in the Club, and the printed attacks in their newspapers.
Brissot in his speech had asked what he (Robespierre) had done to entitle him to speak as he did of such philosophers as Condorcet and his friends. In answer to this question, Robespierre first drew a sketch of his services in Artois, where, as he says, being a member of a very small tribunal, he substantially opposed those edicts of Lamoignon to which superior tribunals only opposed forms, and where he alone determined the first electoral assemblies to exercise their right of sovereignty. Then passing to the question of what he had done in the National Assembly, he admitted his inability there to carry measures favorable to liberty, but said he had not on that account exerted himself the less to make the voice of truth heard, preferring “honorable murmurs of disapprobation” to “shameful applause.” He contrived to turn in his favor the very charge of obscurity in the Constituent Assembly,
and the fact of his having no seat in the
“You ask me,” said he, “what I have done. Oh! a great thing, no doubt. I gave Brissot and Condorcet to France. I said one day to the Constituent Assembly, that in order to impress an august character upon its work, it ought to set the people a grand example of disinterestedness and magnanimity,+that the virtues of the legislators ought to be the first lesson of the citizens; and I proposed to it to decree that none of its members should be capable of being re-elected to the second legislature: this proposition was received with enthusiasm. Without it, perhaps, many among them would have remained in obscurity; and who can say that the choice of the people of Paris might not have called me to the place which is now occupied by Brissot and Condorcet 2 This action cannot be counted for nothing by M. Brissot, who in the panegyric of his friend, referring to his con: nexion with d'Alembert and his academical glory, has reproached us with the temerity with which we passed judgment on men whom he called our masters in patriotism and in liberty. I should have thought, for my part, that in that art we had no other masters but nature.”
The passage in which he refers to the proposal of ostracism is singularly prophetic of his own fate –
“But what,” he says, “is the species of ostracism of which you, speak 2, Is it to renounce every kind of public employment even for the future? If you need securities against me, speak: I undertake to deposit in your hands the authentic and solemn engagement. Is it an undertaking never to raise my voice to defend the principles of the constitution and the rights of the people 2. With what face dare you propose it to me? Is it a vol. untary exile, as M. Guadet has in proper terms announced it? Oh! it is ambitious men and tyrants whom there is need to banish. For me, whither would you that I should withdraw myself? What is the people among whom I should find liberty established 2 And what despot would grant me an asylum ? Ah we can abandon our country when happy and triumphant; but menaced, but torn to pieces, but oppressed we cannot fly from it, we must save it or die for it. Heaven, which gave me a soul filled with a passion for liberty, and which ordained that I should be born under domination of tyrants, heaven, which prolonged my existence to the reign of factions and crimes, calls me perhaps to trace with my blood the path which is to lead my country to happiness and liberty; I accept with transport that pleasant and glorious destiny. Do you exact of , me another sacrifice 2 Yes, there is one which you may yet demand; I offer it to my country; it is that of my reputa
tion. I give it up to you; combine, all of you. to tear it to pieces; unite yourselves to that innumerable crowd of all the enemies of liberty; multiply your periodical libels: I desire not reputation but for the good of my country: if to preserve it I must betray by a guilty silence the cause of truth and of the people. I give it up to you; I give it up to all the feeble and versatile spirits who are the dupes of im
sture, to all the wicked who practise that imposture. I shall still have the satisfaction of preferring to their frivolous applauses the approbation of my own conscience and the esteem of all virtuous and enlightened men : supported by it and by truth, I will wait for the slow succor of time. This is my apology: it is no doubt to say what I need not have said. It would be easy for me now to prove to you that I could make an offensive with as much advantage as a defensive war. I only wish to give you a proof of moderation. 1 offer š. peace on the sole conditions which the riends of the country can accept. On these conditions I willingly pardon you all your calumnies.”
His earnest disclaimer of all feelings of personal animosity, of all desires but those of the public good, was admirably adapted for his purpose. It was not he that had made the present fierce dissension in the Jacobins; he indulged in no personal malice; he had no personal resentments to gratify; he could embrace Brissot and Guadet and the whole Gironde, but only upon condition that they joined him and the real friends of the Revolution, heart and hand, against the common enemy. Using a bold and singularly characteristic figure, he says “Faites mouvoir horizontalement le glaive des lois pour frapper toutes les tétes des grands conspirateurs.”
Whether these offers were sincere or not. they were not accepted. The Girondists widened the breach by renewed attacks, of the unfairness of which Robespierre complained bitterly. The strife was soon renewed, and the result was again the defeat of the Girondists. Then, indeed, when they began really to feel his power, they proceeded to make advances to him. On the 25th of August of this year (1792) Madame Roland wrote him a letter, evidently intended to conciliate him ; but it was too late, and Robespierre was not the man to be flattered out of his revenge at any time by either man or woman. Let those who represent him as of a capacity poor and low, and as altogether the creature of circumstances, recollect that nevertheless this man, with such “disproportion between his mischievous propensities and
his power to injure,” defeated the Gironde, with all their ministerial power and influence,—defeated them when their power was the greatest; when they had, or appeared to have, the mass of the regular army and even the majority of the national guards on their side. It has been affirmed that the September massacres were perpetrated for the purpose of securing the election of Robespierre and his partisans for the city of Paris. For this assertion there is no satisfactory evidence. Robespierre's popularity was quite sufficient to have ensured his election if there had been no massacres. At the same time, though it does not appear that he bore a direct part in the instigation of them, the line which he took in discussing them, the manner in which he defended the commune of Paris in connexion with these massacres, fully attest his approval of them,-fully establish the fact, that from this time he had passed the Rubicon, had determined on the course which was thenceforth to stamp the Revolution emphatically with the characters of terror and blood. On the 20th of September, 1792, the National Convention met: on the 21st it opened its deliberations. On the 25th the struggle between the Girondists and Robespierre was commenced in the Convention, by a charge made against him of aiming at the dictatorship; to this he replied at considerable length. On the 29th of October, Robespierre having said that there was no one in the Assembly who dared to accuse him face to face, Louvet ran to the foot of the tribune, and demanded “la parole pour accuser Robespierre;” he then made a long speech, in the course of which he mentioned a circumstance which would appear to show that Robespierre had even then assumed some of the insignia of dictatorship. “In leaving the Electoral Assembly,” said Louvet, “I was insulted by Robespierre's gardes-du-corps, those men armed with large bludgeons and sabres, who accompany him almost everywhere.” On the 5th of November Robespierre replied in a speech double the length of Louvet’s; it was upon the whole a performance of great ability and contained some striking passages. In regard to the old grievance of his popularity and his influence in the Jacobin Club, he said:— “The majority of the Jacobins rejected your opinions; they were wrong, no doubt. The public was not more favorable to you. What
He then refers to the events of the 2nd of September, in which he denies all participation, asserting that the massacres were the spontaneous act of the people themselves, going to meet the enemy on the frontier, and unwilling to leave their families at the mercy of conspirators. But it is not very easy to see how conspirators in strong places of custody could be dangerous; and it is not pretended that it was the people that put so many of them into the prisons only a few days before. This defence is a lame one, but it is not the principal position which Robespierre takes up in defence of the commune. He argues that the blow only struck the guilty, and he then indulges in a burst of pathos on the supposition that a single innocent person has perished. Towards the conclusion he refers to an allusion in Roland's report on the situation of Paris since the 10th of August, a report which he characterizes as “bien astuci