The following fact strongly illustrates Sainte-Amaranthe to the guillotine because the anomalous state of things then existing she refused to become his mistress, both in France. Garat, the minister of the in- his opinions and his conduct in regard to terior, wished to make a last effort to save women were very far above the standard of the lives of his friends the Girondists, and his age and country; that his private life with that view he exerted himself to obtain was correct,* and that his tastes and habits, an interview with Robespierre, convinced while altogether free from the cynical filth (as he informs us in his . Memoirs ') that and slovenliness of many of his colleagues, if Robespierre demanded blood, blood were simple and unexpensive; that consewould flow,—that if he demanded it not, no quently on the two important points of woone would dare to demand it. Garat was a men and money, his conduct presented a minister of state,-Robespierre held no direct contrast to that of the men who muroffice; yet the minister had nearly as much dered him,-men who spent in sumptuous difficulty in obtaining an interview with the orgies among courtezans the money they demagogue, as a deputation of Paisley obtained from the plunder of their country. weavers have with a Secretary of State at In fact it was, we believe, their difference the present day. Robespierre received the in this branch of morals, joined to their reminister at his lodgings at the carpenter's. fusal to shape their belief according to his He was not alone; Chabot, whom he sent in the question of religion, that determined to the guillotine not many months after, Robespierre to destroy them, and thereby was with him, and walked about the room led to his own destruction. For Robesduring the conversation, says Garat, “sou- pierre's tyranny, if he had been able to carriant toujours à Robespierre, et souriant ry it out, would have been perhaps the quelquefois à moi à la dérobée.” Garat's most intolerable ever known upon earth, arguments had no effect upon Robespierre; being at once a religious, moral, and politand when at last he attempted to obtain bis ical iyranny, uniting the worst intolerance consent that at least his friends should not of Puritanism with the despotism of Napobe tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal, - leon. Such a despotism was to be put that tribunal the creation of which they had down at any cost. so much opposed, -Robespierre's only an But after making all allowance on the swer was, “Il est assez bon pour eux.” account above indicated, and even after

There is little doubt now that Robespierre making the deduction from the influence of has borne for a time considerably more Robespierre in the Committee of Public than his share of the guilt of the French Safety contended for by MM. Buchez and Revolution; and there is no doubt that Roux, the question of fact still remains. there were many men engaged in that Rev. When did that course of systematic massaolution more ready to shed blood and infi- cre under legal forms, commonly called the nitely more devoid of principle than Robes- Reign of Terror, commence, and when did pierre. But we do not believe that the it end? On the 27th of July, 1793, RobesFrench Revolution produced a single man pierre first took his seat as a member of the (unless perhaps it might be his successor, Committee of Public Safety. In the course Napoleon) more insatiable in his ambition, of the next three months came the levée en more implacable in his resentment towards masse, the loi des suspects, and the decree all who stood in the way of that ambition, declaring the government revolutionary till or more unscrupulous in gratifying that re- the peace. From the first institution of sentment by the destruction of its objects. the Revolutionary Tribunal on the 17th of On the other hand, MM. Buchez and Roux, August, 1792, to the end of July, 1793, the the editors of the “ Histoire Parlementaire,' total number of victims had been fistyassert, that it is impossible to prove by the three; from the 1st of August, 1793, to slightest document that Robespierre parti- the end of July, 1794, the whole number, cipated, either in act or intention, in the ex- exclusive of Robespierre and his accomcesses of the Terrorists (tom. xxxvi. p. 8). It is true that he did not participate in some of the worst of those excesses : it inay be * Lord Brougham thinks the evidence of a contrue that he intended the same punishment nexion between him and a daughter of the family for the authors of the massacres at Arras with which he lodged too slight to be relied on. and at Cambrai, as he did for Carrier, Col- Even were the fact established, it would hardly, lot-d'Herbois and Fouché. It may be also was in France, invalidate the assertion in the

considering what the standard of morality then true that, so far from sending Madame / text.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


plices, was 2581.* We must not forget, the Committee of Public Safety, became,
however, that Jean Bon-Saint André and through his character and popular influ-
Barère had been elected members very ence, the principal member of the execu-
shortly before; that Carnot and Prieur (de tive government, a visible change took
la Côte d'Or) were added on the 14th of place in his conduct in the Convention.
August, and 'Billaud-Varennes and Collot- From the leader of the opposition, he be-
d'Herbois on the 6th of September. It is came the leader of the ministry; from be-
unnecessary to specify Couthon and Saint- ing almost altogether destructive, he be-
Just, who had been appointed at the same came to a certain degree conservative. He
time with Barère; for Couthon and Saint- had now a majority in the Convention, and
Just may be supposed to have had the same therefore the vor populi vor Dei was no
will as Robespierre. Now if Barère, Bil- longer to be sought for out of doors. When
laud and Collot had been in the Committee a petition, in the name of the forty-eight
during the time of the guillotine's compar- sections of Paris, "pour exprimer soure-
ative inactivity, they might fairly claim the rainement leur veux," is presented to the
inference that the change was the result of Convention, it is no longer supported by
Robespierre's election and that of his Robespierre; it is no longer the voice of
friends. It is indeed true that they contin- the people, but a plot of the aristocrats. It
ued in the Committee after Robespierre's is even broadly hinted that the orator of the
death; and even though the shedding of deputation, if he be not actually in the pay
blood increased after he ceased to attend of the aristocracy, has been expelled from
the Committee, yet as it certainly very much the Jacobins and is a suspicious character.
diminished at his death, they are entitled He who had been so furious against Bris-
to any conclusion that may be thence drawn sot's demand for confidence in a ministry,
in their favor. With respect to the asser- calls loudly for confidence in the Committee
tion that Fouquier-Tinville, the public ac- of Public Safety.
cuser, received Robespierre's personal di We need not enter into any detailed ac-
rections regarding the lists of victims, that count of the struggle with the Hébertists
person expressly denies in his memoir that and Dantonists. Having destroyed them
he had any relation or particular corres- in succession, the question arises, what did
pondence with Robespierre, Saint-Just, Robespierre intend to do next? Our owu
Couthon, Dumas or Coffinhal. The depo- opinion is that he meant to set up a new
sition of Sénard too on Fouquier-Tinville's religion in France, somewhat analogous to
trial, to the effect that Fouquier once said that of Mahomet, the fundamental axiom
to him, “ Patriot or no patriot, when Robes- of which would be, “There is no God
pierre has pointed out any one to me, he but God, and Robespierre is his prophet."
must die," was contradicted by the testi- But if such were his intention, he made a
mony of another witness, Daubigny, who gross miscalculation both as to the age and
declared that he had often heard Sénard part of the world in which he lived. Part
tell the same story in the presence of a of such a scheme would necessarily be to
great number of the prisoners (detenus), sweep away all those who, either by their
and that he spoke of the Committee of opinions or manner of life, formed an ob-
Public Safely collectively, and not of struction to the execution of his designs.
Robespierre individually, whom he did not The festival de l'Etre Suprême has been
name. Upon the whole, we conceive it to considered as strong evidence that Robes-
be as impossible to prove Robespierre in- pierre was insane-possessed by a reason-
nocent of the blood that was shed, as that ing madness-a maniacal vanity which in.
he alone was guilty, and Billaud, Barère, creased with his successes and the facility
and Collot innocent. Though not such a he found in bending a frantic nation to his
ruffian, he was quite as much a man of will.* The foppery of the sky-blue coat
blood as they

and white silk waistcoat embroidered with When Robespierre, as a member of silver, of the bouquet of Aowers mixed with

ears of wheat in his hand, has been com* These numbers are taken from an able and carefully written article on Robespierre in the

* See Mr. Macfarlane's narrative in the · Pic. • Quarterly Review' for 1835, Vol. liv. p. 563. torial History of the Reign of George III.,' Vol. The writer appears to be one of the few persons iii. p 430, etc. But Mr. Macfarlane's view of the who have read Robespierre's speeches. He con character of Robespierre appears to us to be on the sequently does more justice to him than those whole more just than that either of Mr. Carlyle who have taken their opinion at second-hand. or of Lord Brougham.

[merged small][ocr errors]

pared to the exhibition of Masaniello on tained. But the grand mistake which he his beautiful charger, in scarlet raiment made, and which led immediately to his deand with gold chains round his neck. But struction, was his supposing that he could human madness is a mystery which human do more by talking or speech-making than plummet has never sounded and probably speech-making is capable of doing. But never will sound. Who shall trace out the for this it is possible that the whole subsecourse of the boundary line that divides quent course of the French Revolution the insane from the sane in any man? might have been altered,—that Revolution Who shall for ever guard the entrance of terminating in the sway of a civil instead his brain against the drunkenness of over- of a military dictator. gorged success on one side, or against the It is not surprising that the height at paralysis of defeated counsels and perished which Robespierre now stood should make hopes on another ? Who shall give un-bim giddy,--that the difficulties he had broken coherence, undeviating consist- overcome in climbing to that height should ency, to the many trains of thought, to make him confident. Obstacle after obthe many moods of mind, that make up stable, foe after foe, rival after rival, Laman's little life? Who shall say of him- meths, Lafayettes, Girondists, Hébertists, self or of another, that he is not “such Dantonists, had in turn been swept from the stuff as dreams are made of ?" There is, path of the all-successful advocate of Arras. it is true, a remarkable adherence to what It was natural enough for him to suppose in England is called good sense, in a that he could deal with all future foes as he Cromwell and a Washington, under a bad dealt with all past,-send them to the prosperity not easy to bear with even guillotine. We do not see the slightest mind. On the other hand, the greatest evidence for saying with Lord Brougham, man of all antiquity prizes his laurel crown that such was Robespierre's nature, that more because it conceals his bald forehead, he would have killed, if he dared, the comthan because it is the symbol of achieve- petitors for a college prize or a school rements that had given him dominion over ward as remorselessly as he afterwards exthe rulers of mankind. And did not the terminated Brissot, Hébert, and Danton, successor of Robespierre, the man who when they crossed the path of his amfollowed that “ bald first Cæsar,” though bition. But success—extraordinary and unwith unequal stops,—did not Napoleon interrupted-at an early period of life, and Buonaparte, only a few years after this ex- its consequences, the almost unlimited subhibition of Robespierre's, get up exhibi- mission of all around him to his will, had tions, with the aid too of Robespierre's produced the same effect upon him as too artist, the painter David, which only dif- much power produced upon Henry VIII. fered from Robespierre's in substituting a As the latter beheaded Sir Thomas More military uniform for the sky-blue coat and because he would not turn Protestant, so white silk waistcoat, and a marshal's baton Robespierre appears to have wished to befor the bouquet of flowers ? There was head Billaud-Varennes, Collot-d'Herbois, also the resemblance between Napoleon's Barère, Tallien, and others, because they ceremony and Robespierre's, that Au- would not adopt his speculative notions gereau and others of the former's generals about the Etre Suprême. “This Robeshad as much distaste for the Napoleon pierre is insatiable," exclaimed Barère one catholic festival as Billaud-Varennes and day on quitting the Jacobins, after hearing others had for the Robespierre Etre Su- one of the Triumvir's sweeping denunciaprême festival. But Napoleon had a logic, tions, “because we cannot do all he wishes, to set at rest all doubts, which Robespierre he must seek to destroy us all.” was not possessed of. The sum of the Two days after the fête de l'Etre Suprême. matter is, that as no logic but such as Na- namely on the 10th of June, Couthon poleon wielded will enable one man to make brought forward a new law, drawn up by other men so much as profess his partioular Robespierre himself, remodelling the Revopinions, Robespierre had now got upon olutionary Tribunal, and by which all forexceedingly dangerous ground; but to say mer laws on the same subject were repealed. that he was therefore absolutely insane, is Among the number was one by which the far more than we feel disposed. He was Convention had reserved to itself the excluno doubt intoxicated with his success, as sive right of accusing its own members begreat (if not greater), considering the re-fore the Revolutionary Tribunal. The spective means, as Napoleon afterwards at proposed new law exposed the members of

the Convention to be dealt with in a very feeling which was not natural to the speaker, summary manner by those who had the di- and probably was awakened by the peculiarity rection of the Committee of Public Safety of his unprecedented position and the extreme When, however, some members of the Con- singularity of the crisis in which he spoke.” vention detected this, Robespierre and his satellite Couthon protested in the strong In this speech Robespierre says, that est terms against there being any such ul- when he saw the multitude of vices which terior intention in the framing of the law. the torrent of the Revolution had rolled On the same day, as soon as Robespierre pêle-mêle along with the civic virtues, he entered the Committee of Public Safety, sometimes trembled lest he might be sullied Billaud-Varennes attacked hiin fiercely, ac- in the eyes of posterity by the impure concusing him of wishing to guillotine the tact of those perverse men who were mixed whole National Convention. Robespierre up with the sincere defenders of humanity. in his rage spoke so loud and with such vi- He might indeed have trembled could he olence, that several citizens collected on have foreseen, that those men would send the terrace of the Tuileries and it was his body to the guillotine and his name to necessary to close the window. After this posterity loaded with the weight of their he absented himself for six weeks from crimes as well as his own. He repeats the both the Committee and the Convention, same idea in nearly the same words further and became very assiduous in his attend-on, and ends with these words :-“No, ance at the Jacobins,—whether with the Chaumette, no, death is not an eternal sole purpose (as his admirers the editors of sleep!... Citizens, efface from the tombs the Histoire Parlementaire'intimate) of that maxim engraved by sacrilegious hands, exalting “le sentiment moral,” or of ex- which throws a funereal crape over nature, alting himself to the sovereign power, and which discourages oppressed innocence all his rivals to the guillotine, let the read and insults death; rather engrave there in er judge.

its place : death is the commencement of imAt last on the 8th Thermidor (the 26th mortality.He said too, that if he fell in July, 1794), Robespierre appeared in the this struggle he should leave to his destroytribune of the Convention, and delivered ers the legacy of opprobrium and death. his last speech,—that speech which Cam It would seem from the whole tone of bacères described to Napoleon as “tout this speech, that Robespierre considered rempli des plus grandes beautés,” and himself as now engaged in a mortal strugwhich Lord Brougham thinks not unworthy gle—a struggle very different from those of being compared even with some of the in which he had defeated former antagogreatest efforts of the greatest orator of nists. However, we are inclined to believe all antiquity-ay the greatest of all time. that the expressions of despondency scat

tered through this speech, as well as those "It is a pro luction," observes his Lordship, attributed to him the same day after read. " of the highest merit

, and manifestly elabora ing his discourse of the morning at the ted with extraordinary care as well as skill in Jacobins (such as that it was his last will oratory. The passage respecting the fête in and testainent, that the league of the wickhonor of the Supreme Being is, for a popular ed was too strong for him to escape), were assembly, perhaps too splendid, and might be deemed exaggerated; but the taste of the a rhetorical artifice and did not represent speech generally is correct and severe. That the real state of his mind. Toulongeon he had in various passages the masterpieces relates that Robespierre, when he went of the ancient orators in his mind, can admit home that evening, spoke quietly of the deof no doubt; but there is nothing to be seen bates of the morning, and said: “I expect like servile imitation; and even in the instance which most reminds us of the original (* Non nothing more from the Mountain; they nous n'avons pas été trop sévères! J'en atles- wish to rid themselves of me as a tyrant'; te la république qui respire! J'en atteste la but the mass of the Assembly will heat représentation nationale environée du respect| me." In the morning of the 9th Thermidû à la représentation d'un grand peuple !' and dor (27th July), before he went to the Comending with 'On parle de notre rigueur, et la mittee, Duplay, his landlord, once the carpatrie nous reproche notre faiblesse '), we

penter, now the “patriot Duplay," and one find nothing nauseous in the imitation, but so fruitful a series of illustrations from the actual of the jurymen of the Revolutionary Tribustate of things, that all notion of pedantic re-nal, spoke to him with much anxiety of the course to Demosthenes is put to flight. There dangers which awaited him, and pressed is also throughout the speech a tone of deep the necessity of taking precautions. Ro

bespierre answered : “ The mass of the Con- de l'Aube exclaimed, “The blood of Danvention is pure; there is nothing to fear." | ton is choking himn.” And truly the same Buonarotti had this in prison froin the measure which he had meted out to Danton, mouth of Duplay himself.

vainly demanding to speak “ for life and It is strange that a man so suspicious as honor," was now to be meted out to him. Robespierre should not have foreseen the In the twilight of that July day (the 27th), plot that was to destroy him so soon. He in the year 1794, the Place de Grève must have observed extremely ominous (which to him who treads it with a compesigns in the general reception of his last tent knowledge of the past, is alive with harangue on the preceding day; and those so many memories) presented a busy and members of the Convention who knew that eventful scene. Hackney coaches arrived they must either destroy Robespierre or be bringing Robespierre and his friends from destroyed by him, were busily employed the five different prisons to which they had during the whole night between the Sth been conveyed, and from which they had and 9ih Thermidor in bringing over to their again been liberated by the power of the side that mass of the Convention upon council-general of the commune. Some which Robespierre seemed to rely. The of the section battalions and some of the genius of the Dictator had in fact deserted cannoniers came also; and the latter, posthim; or rather it had done its work, and ing themselves round the Hôtel-de-Ville another kind of genius was wanted for what and turning the mouths of their guns so as was now to be done. And

yet if he had to command the approaches, stood by them reflected on what his position had been when with lighted matches. he overthrew the Girondists he might have Within that building, at his last council, seen that, had he then not brought a force sat the Jacobin chief with an anxious unto bear upon the Assembly from without, easy look, the sallow hue usually spread he and not the Girondists, must have fallen. over his repulsive countenance deepened His course was now clear,-it was no lon- by the agitation of his mind. Beside him ger a time for talking, but for prompt and sat a young man, the almost feminine softenergetic action. The Jacobins and the ness and regularity of whose fine features commune of Paris were his ; Henriot, the formed a strange contrast with his characcommandant-general of the national guard ter,-stern, daring, and cruel as that of of Paris, was ready to die for him. Hen- Claverhouse* or Sylla. It was Saint-Just,riot, it is true, was not a man of head; but that strange, sombre young fanatic, whose there was no man of head to oppose to him, fanaticism was at once so strong and so and he had been found sufficient in the cold-blooded, so sincere and so unscrupucase of the Girondists. But instead of giv- lous. Even in that moment of impending ing instructions to Henriot to march his fate his countenance preserved its usual troops and surround the Convention with impassive serenity, his pulse its regular the cannoniers of Paris, he went to the beat; the imminence of the peril had not assembly with a foolish notion of more deprived him of the power of making the speech-making and drivelling about respect most collected exertion of his mind. And for the laws. His voice was drowned in if he had had the lead for that night, perthe shouts of his enemies vociferating "à haps the result might have been different; bas, à bas le tyran !" It was an open re- for both he and the younger Robespierre bellion, with nothing to oppose it but the had acted in the field with the armies which unheard voices of himself and his brother they superintended as commissioners (where Augustin, and his adherents Saint-Just, indeed the younger Robespierre had been Couthon and Lebas; he was like a general the friend of Napoleon Bonaparte, then an who has allowed himself to be surprised, officer in the army of Nice), and had acor rather like a wild beast taken in the quired something of military promptitude toils ; for in this his last struggle he show- and decision. Even yet it may not be too ed no want of courage, making such vio- late : now is the time—now—now! The lent and determined efforts to be heard, alternative is a felon's death, or a dominion that Fréron exclaimed, “ Ah! qu’un tyran more absolute than the Cæsars'. Surely est dur à abattre!" But vain were those convulsive struggles : Pour la dernière Among Saint-Just's papers was found a senfois, president d'assassins, je te demande la timent similar to that which Sir Walter Scott as


cribes to Claverhouse,-that no great man ought And when at length he had ex- to die in bis bed. This element of greatness be hausted himself by repeated efforts, Garnier secured to bimself.


« VorigeDoorgaan »