« VorigeDoorgaan »
mony, which consisted of some rents irregu- , agitation of public life—a repose of the heart larly paid by a few small farmers of his after mental fatigue. He and Eléonore lived property in Artois. These ill-paid rents, in the same house as a betrothed couple, not with his salary as a representative, are said to as lovers. Robespierre had demanded the have supported three persons—himself, his young girl's hand from her parents, and they brother, and his sister; and so straitened was had promised it to him. he in circumstances, that he had to borrow • The total want of fortune,' he said, occasionally from his landlord. Even with and the uncertainty of the morrow, prevenall his pinching, he did not make both ends ted him from marrying her until the destiny meet. We have it on authority, that at his of France was determined; but he only death he was owing L. 160; a small debt to awaited the moment when the Revolution be incurred during a residence of five years should be concluded, in order to retire from in Paris, by a person who figured as a leader the turmoil and strife, marry her whom he of parties; and the insignificance of this sum loved, go to reside with her in Artois, on one attests his remarkable self-denial.
of the farms he had saved among the posLamartine's account of the private life of sessions of his family, and there to mingle Robespierre in the house of the Duplays is his obscure happiness in the common lot of exceedingly fascinating, and we should sup- his family.' pose is founded on well-authorized facts. “ The vicissitudes of the fortune, influence, The house of Duplay, he says, “was low, and popularity of Robespierre effected no and in a court surrounded by sheds filled change in his simple mode of living. The with timber and plants, and had almost a multitude came to implore favor or life at the rustic appearance. It consisted of a parlor door of his house, yet nothing found its way opening to the court, and communicating within. The private lodging of Robespierre with a sitting-room that looked into a small consisted of a low chamber, constructed in garden. From the sitting-room a door led the form of a garret, above some cart-sheds, into a small study, in which was a piano. with the window opening upon the roof. It There was a winding-staircase to the first afforded no other prospect than the interior floor, where the master of the house lived, of a small court, resembling a wood-store, and thence to the apartment of Robespierre. where the sounds of the workmen's hammers
Here, long acquaintance, a common table, and saws constantly resounded, and which and association for several years, “converted was continually traversed by Madame Duplay the hospitality of Duplay into an attachment and her daughters, who there performed all that became reciprocal. The family of his their household duties. This chamber was landlord became a second family to Robes- also separated from that of the landlord by pierre, and while they adopted his opinions, a small room common to the family and himthey neither lost the simplicity of their man- self. On the other side were two rooms, ners nor neglected their religious observances. likewise attics, which were inhabited, one by They consisted of a father, mother, a son the son of the master of the house, the other yet a youth, and four daughters, the eldest by Simon Duplay, Robespierre's secretary, of whom was twenty-five, and the youngest and the nephew of his host. eighteen. Familiar with the father, filial “The chamber of the deputy contained with the mother, paternal with the son, ten- ouly a wooden bedstead, covered with blue der and almost brotherly with the young damask ornamented with white flowers, a girls, he inspired and felt in this small domes- table, and four strawbottomed chairs. This tic circle all those sentiments that only an ar- apartment served him at once for a study dent soul inspires and feels by spreading and dormitory. His papers, bis reports, the abroad its sympathies. Love also attached manuscripts of his discourses, written by his heart, where toil, poverty, and retirement himself in a regular but labored hand, and had fixed his life. Eléonore Duplay, the el- with many marks of erasure, were placed dest daughter of his host, inspired Robespierre carefully on deal-shelves against the wall. with a more serious attachment than her sis. A few chosen books were also ranged thereters. The feeling, rather predilection than on. A volume of Jean Jacques Rousseau passion, was more reasonable on the part of or of Racine was generally open upon his Robespierre, more ardent and simple on the table, and attested his philosophical and part of the young girl. This affection afford literary predilections." ed him tenderness without torment, happi- With a mind continually on the stretch, ness without excitement : it was the Sve and concerned less or more in all the great adapted for a man plunged all day in the movements of the day, the features of this remarkable personage “ relaxed into absolute actual business of the nation was for a long gaiety when in-doors, at table, or in the time conducted. It was 'by the part he evening, around the wood-fire in the lumble played in one of these formidable committees, chamber of the cabinet-maker. His even that of “ Public Safety”—more properly, ings were all passed with the family, in talk- public insecurity—that he becomes chargeing over the feelings of the day, the plans able with his manifold crimes. For the comof the morrow, the conspiracies of the aris- mission of these atrocities, however, he held tocrats, the dangers of the patriots, and the himself to be entirely excused; and how be prospects of public felicity after the triumph could possibly entertain any such notion, reof the Revolution. Sometimes Robespierre, mains for us to notice. who was anxious to cultivate the mind of his The action of the Revolution was in the betrothed, read to the family aloud, and gen- hands of three parties, into which the Conerally from the tragedies of Racine. He sel- vention was divided—namely, the Montagdom went out in the evening; but two or nards, the Girondists, and the Plaine. The three
times a year he escorted Madame Dup- last mentioned were a comparatively harmless lay and her daughter to the theatre. On set of persons, who acted as a neutral body, other days, Robespierre retired early to his and leaned one way or the other according to chamber, lay down, and rose again at night their convictions, but whose votes it was imto work. The innumerable discourses he portant to obtain. Between the Montagnards had delivered in the two national assemblies, and the Girondists there was no distinct and to the Jacobins ; the articles written for difference of principle—both were keen rehis journal while he had one; the still more publicans and levellers ; but in carrying out numerous manuscripts of speeches which be their views, the Montagnards were the most had prepared, but never delivered; the violent and unscrupulous. The Girondists studied style so remarkable ; the indefatig- expected that, after a little preliminary able corrections marked with his pen upon harshness, the Republic would be establishthe manuscripts-attest his watchings and ed in a pacific manner; by the force, it may his determination.
be called, of philosophic conviction spread“His only relaxations were solitary walks ing through society. They were thus the in imitation of his model, Jean Jacques moderates; yet their moderation was unRousseau. His sole companion in these per fortunately ill manifested. At the outset, ambulations was his great dog, which slept they countenanced the disgraceful mobbings at his chamber-door, and always followed of the royal family; they gloried in the horhim when he went out. This colossal ani- rors of the 10th of August, and the humil. mal, well known in the district, was called iation of the king; and only began to exBrount. Robespierre was much attached to press fears that things were going too far, him, and constantly played with him. Oc- when massacre became the order of the day, casionally, on a Sunday, all the family left and the guillotine assumed the character of Paris with Robespierre ; and the politician, a national institution. They were finally borne once nore the man, amused himself with the down, as is well known, by the superior enmother, the sisters, and the brother of Eléo: ergy and audacity of their opponents ; and nore in the wood of Versailles or of Issy.” all perished one way or other in the bloody Strange contradiction! The man who is thus struggle. Few pity them. described as so amiable, so gentle, so satis- We need hardly recall the fact, that the fied with the humble pleasures of an obscure discussions in the Convention were greatly family circle, went forth daily on a self-im- influenced by tumultuary movements out of posed mission of turbulence and terror. Let doors. At a short distance, were two polius follow him to the scene of his avocations. tical clubs, the Jacobins and the Cordeliers, Living in the Rue St. Honoré, he might be and there every thing was debated and deseen every morning on his way, by one of termined on. Of these notorious clubs, the the narrow streets which led to the rooms of most uncompromising was the Jacobins; conthe National Assembly, or Convention, as sequently, its principal members were to be the legislative body was called after the de- found among the party of the Montagnards. position of Louis XVI. The house so occu- During the hottest time of the Revolution, pied, was situated on a spot now covered by the three men most distinguished as Montag, the Rue Rivoli, opposite the gardens of the nards and Jacobins were Marat, Danton, and Tuileries. In connection with it, were seve- Robespierre. Mirabeau, the orator of the ral apartments used by committees; and there, Revolution, had already disappeared, being by the leading members of the House, the l so fortunate as to die naturally, before the
practice of mutual guillotining was establish- 1 purity and tranquillity. Stupendous hallucied. After him, Vergniaud, the leader of nation! And did this fanatic really feel no the Girondists, was perhaps the most effect- pang of conscience? That will afterwards ive speaker; and till his fall, he possessed aengage our consideration. Frequently, he commanding influence in the Convention. was called on to proscribe and execute his Danton was likewise a speaker of vast power, most intimate friends; but it does not appear and from his towering figure, he seemed like that any personal consideration ever stayed a giant among pigmies. Marat might be his proceedings. First, he swept away Roytermed the representative of the kennel. He alists and aristocrats; next he sacrificed the was a low demagogue, flaunting in rags, Girondists; last, he came to his companiondirty, and venomous : he was always calling Jacobins. Accusing Danton and his friends out for more blood, as if the grand deside of a tendency to moderation, he had the ratum was the annihilation of mankind. dexterity to get them proscribed and beheadAmong the extreme men, Robespierre, by ed. When Danton was seized, he could bis eloquence, his artifice, and his bold coun- hardly credit his senses : he who had long sels, contrived to maintain his position. This felt himself sure of being one day dictator was no easy matter, for it was necessary to by public acclamation, and to have been deremain firm and unfaltering in every emer-ceived by that dreamer, Robespierre, was gency. He, like the others at the helm of most humiliating. But Robespierre would affairs, was constantly impelled forward by not dare to put him to death! Grave misthe clubs, but more so by the incessant cla- calculation ! He was immolated like the mors of the mob. At the Hotel de Ville rest; the crowd looking on with indifference. sat at the Commune, a crew of blood-thirsty Along with him perished Camille Desmouvillains, beaded by Hebert; and this mis- lins, a young man of letters, and a Jacobin, creant, with his armed sections, accompanied but convicted of advocating clemency. Roby paid female furies, beset the Convention, bespierre was one of Camille's private and and carried measures of severity by sheer most valued friends; he had been his instructintimidation. Let it further be remembered or in politics, and had become one of the that, in 1793, France was kept in apprehen- trustees under his marriage-settlement. Rosion of invasion by the Allies under the bespierre visited at the house of his protege; Duke of Brunswick, and the army of emi chatted with the young and handsome grant noblesse under the command of Condé. Madame Desmoulins at her parties; and The hovering of these forces on the frontiers, frequently dandled the little Horace Desand their occasional successes, produced a moulins on his knee, and let him play with constant alarm of counter revolution, which his bunch of seals. Yet because they were was believed to be instigated by secret in- adherents of Danton, he sent husband and triguers in the very heart of the Convention. / wife to the scaffold within a few weeks of It was alleged by Robespierre in his greatest each other! What eloquent and touching orations, that the safety of the Republic de appeals were made to old recollections by pended on keeping up a wholesome state of the mother of Madame Desmoulins. Robesterror; and that all who, in the slightest de pierre was reminded of little Horace, and of gree, leaned towards clemency, sanctioned his duty as a family guardian. All would the work of intriguers, and ought, accord- not do. His heart was marble; and so the ingly, to be proscribed. By such harangues wretched pair were guillotined. Camille's -in the main, miserable sophistry—he ac. letter to his wife, the night before he was quired prodigious popularity, and was in led to the scaffold, cannot be read without fact irresistible.
emotion. He died with a lock of her hair Thus was legalized the Reign of Terror, clasped convulsively in his hand. which, founded in false reasoning and insane Having thus cleared away to some extent fears, we must, nevertheless, look back upon all those who stood in the way of his views, as a thing, at least to a certain extent, re- Robespierre bethought himself of acting a concilable with a sense of duty; inasmuch new part in public affairs, calculated, as he as even while signing warrants for transfer thought, to dignify the Republic. Chauring hundreds of people to the Revolution- mette, a mean confederate of Hebert, and a ary Tribunal- which was equivalent to send mouth-piece of the rabble, had, by consent ing them to the scaffold—Robespierre imag- of the Convention, established Paganism, or ined that he was acting throughout under a the worship of Reason, as the national reclear, an imperious necessity: only ridding ligion. Robespierre never gave his approvsociety of the elements that disturbed its i al to this outrage, and took the earliest opportunity of restoring the worship of the bare idea of doing anything to endanger the Supreme. It is said, that of all the mis- Republic amounted, in his mind, to a species sions with which he believed himself to be of sacrilege. At this crisis in his fate, charged, the highest, the holiest in his eyes, therefore, he temporised; he sought peace, was the regeneration of the religious senti- if not consolation, in solitude. He took long ment of the people: to unite heaven and walks in the woods, where he spent hours earth by this bond of a faith which the Re- seated on the ground, or leaning against a public had broken, was for him the end, the tree, his face buried in his hands, or earnestconsummation of the Revolution. In one of ly bent on the surrounding natural objects. his paroxysms, he delivered an address to What was the precise tenor of his medithe Convention, which induced them to pass tations, it would be deeply interesting to a law, acknowledging the existence of God, know. Did the great promoter of the Revoand ordaining a public festival to inaugurate lution ponder on the failure of his aspirations the new religion. This fete took place on after a state of human perfectibility? Was the 8th of June, 1794. Robespierre headed he torn by remorse on seeing rise up, in imthe procession to the Champ de Mars; and agination, the thousands of innocent indivihe seemed on the occasion to have at length duals whom, in vindication of a theory, he reached the grand realization of all his hopes had consigned to an ignominious and violent and desires. From this coup de theatre he death, yet whose removal had, politically returned home, magnified in the estimation speaking, proved altogether fruitless ? of the people, but ruined in the eyes of the It is the more general belief that, in these Convention. His conduct had been too much solitary rambles, Robespierre was preparing that of one whose next step was to the res- an oration, which, as he thought, should toration of the throne, with himself as its silence all his enemies, and restore him to occupant. By Fouché, Tallien, Collot-d'Her- parliamentary favor. A month was devoted bois, and some others, he was now thwarted to this rhetorical effort; and, unknown to in all his schemes. His wish was to close him, during that interval all parties coalesced, the Reign of Terror and allow the new moral and adopted the resolution to treat his world to begin ; for his late access of decoration when it came with contempt, and, at votional feeling had, in reality, disposed him all hazards, to have him proscribed. The to adopt benign and clement measures. But great day came, July 26 (8th Thermidor), to arrest carnage was now beyond his power; 1794. His speech, which he read from a he had invoked a demon which would not be paper, was delivered in his best style—in laid. Assailed by calumny, he made the vain. It was received with yells and hootConvention resound with his speeches; spoke ings; and, with dismay, he retired to the of fresh proscriptions to put down intrigue: Jacobins, to deliver it over again-as if to and spread universal alarm among the mem seek support among a more subservient aubers. In spite of the most magniloquent dience. Next day, on entering the Conventorations, he saw that his power was nearly tion, he was openly accused by Tallien and gone. Sick at heart, he began to absent Billaud-Varennes of aspiring to despotic himself from committees, which still con- power. A scene of tumult ensued, and, tinued to send to the scaffold numbers whose annid cries of down wilh the tyrant! a writ obscure rank should have saved them from for his committal to prison was drawn out. suspicion or vengeance.
It must be considered a fine trait in the char. At this juncture, Robespierre was earnest-acter of Robespierre the younger, that he y entreated by one of his more resolute ad- begged to be included in the same decree of herents, St. Just, to play a bold game for proscription with his brother. This wish the dictatorship, which he represented as was readily granted ; and St. Just, Couthon the only means of saving the Republic from (who had lost the use of his legs, and was anarchy. Anonymous letters to the same always carried about in an arm chair), and effect also poured in upon him; and prog- Le Bas, were added to the number of the nostics of his greatness, uttered by an ob- proscribed. Rescued, however, from the scure fortune-teller, were listened to by the gendarmes by an insurrectionary force, headgreat demagogue with something like super-ed by Barras, Robespierre and his colleagues stitious respect. But for this personal ele- were conducted in triumph to the Hôtel de vation he was not prepared. Pacing up and Ville. Here, during the night, earnest down his apartment, and striking his fore- consultations were held; and the adherents head with his hand, he candidly acknowledged of Robespierre implored him in desperation, that he was not made for power ; while the as the last chance of safety for them all, to address a rousing proclamation to the sec- the object of unsparing and boisterous detions. At length yielding unwillingly to these clamations from the adjoining tribune. frantic appeals, he commenced writing the At three o'clock in the afternoon (July required address: and it was while sub- 28), the prisoners were placed before the scribing his name to this seditious document, Revolutionary Tribunal, and at six, the whole that the soldiers of the Convention burst in were tied in carts, the dead body of Le Bas upon him, and he was shot through the jaw included, and conducted to execution. To by one of the gendarmes. At the same this wretched_band were added the whole moment, Le Bas shot himself through the family of the Duplays, with the exception of heart. Al! were made prisoners, and car- the mother; she having been strangled the ried off—the dead body of Le Bas not ex- previous night by female furies, who had cepted.
broken into her house, and hung her to the
iron rods of her bedstead. They were guiltWhile residing for a short time in Paris in less of any political crime; but their private 1849, we were one day conducted by a friend connection with the principal object of proto a large house, with an air of faded gran- scription was considered to be sufficient for deur, in the eastern faubourgs, which had their condemnation. The circumstance of belonged to an aged republican, recently de- these individuals being involved in his fate, ceased. He wished me to examine a literary could not fail to aggravate the bitterness of curiosity, which was to be seen among other Robespierre's reflections. As the dismal correlics of the great Revolution. The curiosity tège wended its way along the Rue St. Hoin question was the proclamation, in the noré, he was loaded with imprecations by handwriting of Robespierre, to which he was women whose husbands he had destroyed, in the act of inscribing his signature, when and the shouts of children, whom he had deassaulted and made prisoner in the Hôtel de prived of parents, were the last sounds heard Ville. It was a small piece of paper, con- by him on earth. Yet he betrayed not the tained in a glass-frame; and, at this distance slightest emotion-perhaps he only pitied of time, could not fail to excite an interest in the ignorance of his persecutors. In the visitors. The few lines of writing, commenc- midst of the feelings of a misunderstood and ing with the stirring words: “ Courage, mes martyred man, his head dropped into the compatriotes !" ended with only a part of the basket! subscription. The letters, Robes, were all These few facts and observations respectthat were appended, and were followed by ing the career of Robespierre, enable us to a blur of the pen ; while the lower part of form a tolerably correct estimate of his charthe paper showed certain discolorations, as acter. The man was a bigot. A perfect if made by drops of blood. And so this was Republic was his faith, his religion. To inthe last surviving token of the notorious tegrity, perseverance, and extraordinary selfRobespierre! It is somewhat curious, that denial under temptation, he united only a no historian seems to be aware of its exist- sanguine temperament and moderate abilities ence.
for the working-out of a mistaken principle.
Honest and zealous in his purpose, his conStretched on a table in one of the ante- duct was precisely analogous to that of all rooms of the Convention; his head leaning religious persecutors-sparing no pain or against a chair ; his fractured jaw supported bloodshed to accomplish what he believed by a handkerchief passed round the top of to be a good end. Let us grant that he was his head; a glass with vinegar and a sponge a monomaniac, the question remains as to at his side to moisten his feverish lips; his general accountability. If he is to be speechless and almost motionless, yet con- acquitted on the score of insanity, who is to scious!—there lay Robespierre—the clerks, be judged ? Not so are we to exempt great who, a few days ago, had cringed before him, criminals from punishment and obloquy. now amusing themselves by pricking him Robespierre knew thoroughly what he was with their penknives, and coarsely jesting about; and far as he was misled in his moover his fall. Great crowds, likewise, Hocked tives, he must be held responsible for his to see him while in this undignified posture, actions. Before entering on the desperate and he was overwhelmed with the vilest ex enterprise of demolishing all existing institupressions of hatred and abuse. The mental tions, with the hope of reconstructing the agony which he must have experienced dur- social fabric, it was his duty to be assured ing this humiliating exhibition, could scarcely that his aims were practicable, and that he fail to be increased on hearing himself made I was himself authorised to think and act for