Front Page Titles (by Subject) 'Citizens, - An Appeal to Impartial Posterity, by Citizenness Roland
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
‘Citizens, - Jeanne Marie Roland de la Platière, An Appeal to Impartial Posterity, by Citizenness Roland 
An Appeal to Impartial Posterity, by Citizenness Roland, wife of the Minister of the Home Department, or A Collection of Pieces written by her during her Confinement in the Prisons of the Abbey and St. Pelagie, Part I (London: J. Johnson, 1795). Vol. 1.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
‘THE public papers inform me, that you have placed Roland and his wife under the safeguard of your section. This I knew not when I was taken from home: on the contrary, the bearer of the orders of the commune represented to me the armed force, with which he was accompanied, as that of the section, which he had demanded. So he expressed it in the statement of what passed. The moment I was put into the Abbey, I wrote to the convention, and addressed myself to the minister of the home-department, to convey to it my complaints. I know, that he obeyed my demand, and that the letter was delivered; but it was not read. An attested copy of it I have the honour to transmit you. If the section think it not unworthy it’s dignity, to become the spokesman of oppressed innocence, it may send a deputation to the bar of the convention, to procure my just complaints, and my demand, to be there heard. This point I submit to it’s wisdom: I add no intreaty, for truth has but one language, the exposition of facts. Citizens who love justice, are not desirous of having supplications addressed to them, and innocence is unaccustomed to supplicate.
‘P. S. This is the fourth day of my detention, and I have never yet been examined. I must observe, that the order of arrest contained no charge; but expressed, that I should be interrogated the next day.’
Some days passed without my hearing any thing. Still I was not interrogated. However, I had received several visits from administrators with unmeaning faces and dirty ribands, some of whom said they belonged to the police, others to I know not what; great sansculottes, with matted hair, strict observers of the order of the day, coming to know whether the prisoners were satisfied with their treatment. To them all I had expressed myself with the energy and dignity suitable to oppressed innocence: I had noticed two or three men of good sense, who understood me, without daring to take my part: and I was at dinner, when five or six others were announced to me in one batch. Half of them came forwards: he, who took upon himself to speak for the rest, appeared to me, before he opened his lips, one of those empty-headed babblers, who judge of their own merit by the volubility of their tongues.—‘Good morrow, citizenness.’—‘Good morrow, sir.’—‘Are you satisfied with this house? Have you no complaints to make of your treatment, and no demand to make for any thing?’—‘I complain of being in this place: and I demand to leave it.’—‘Is your health impaired? or are you a little melancholic?—‘I am in good health, and not in the least melancholic. The spleen is the disease of them, who have a vacuity of intellect, and whose minds are destitute of resource. But I have a strong sense of injustice, and protest against that, which has confined me without alleging a cause, and detained me without examination.’—‘O, in a period of revolution, there is so much to be done, that there is not time for every thing.’—‘A woman, to whom king Philip made almost the same reply, answered him: “if thou have not time to do me justice, thou hast not time to be king.” Take care you do not oblige oppressed citizens to say the same thing to the people, or rather to the arbitrary authorities, by which the people is misled.’—‘Adieu, citizenness!’—‘Adieu!’—And away went my chatterer, for want of knowing what to say to my reasons. These people appeared to me to have come purposely to see how I should look in a cage; but they would walk a great way, before they would find in it dolts like themselves.
I have already mentioned my having inquired into the way of living in these places: not that I set any great value on what people call the comforts of life, which I use without scruple, when no inconvenience arises from their use, though always with moderation, and which I can without difficulty forego: but my natural disposition to orderliness prompts me to know what constitutes my expenses, that I may regulate them according to my situation.
They informed me, that Roland, when minister, thought five livres [4s. 2d.] a day for each prisoner greatly too much, and reduced the sum to two [1s. 8d.]: but the excessive rise in the price of provision, which within a few months had been tripled, rendered this allowance very moderate: for the nation allowing nothing but straw and the bare walls, twenty sous [10d.] were deducted in the first instance, as an indemnification to the keeper, for the bed and trifling furniture of the room. The twenty sous remaining were to find candles, fire, if necessary, and meat and drink. To this, however, as was no more than equitable, every prisoner might add what he pleased for his own expenses. On myself I am not fond of spending much; and I take some pleasure in exercising my strength in supporting abstinence. I felt a desire of making an experiment, and trying how far the human will is capable of diminishing it’s wants: but to go any great length, it is necessary to proceed by degrees. At the end of four days, I began with retrenching my breakfast, and substituting bread and water in the room of coffee or chocolate: I fixed for my dinner one plain dish of meat, with some vegetable; and for my supper, pulse; without any desert. To break myself from wine, I drank beer at first, and then I left off this. As this regimen, however, had a moral purpose, and as I have as much aversion as contempt for useless economy, I gave a certain sum to those unfortunate prisoners who had nothing; that, when I ate my dry bread in a morning, I might have the satisfaction to reflect, the poor creatures would be indebted to me for being able to add something to their’s at dinner. If I remain here six months, I would quit the place with a healthy complexion, and a body by no means emaciated, having reduced my wants so as to be satisfied with soup and bread, and having gained some blessings unknown. I made some presents also, but with another intention, to the servants of the prison. When a person is, or appears to be, rigidly economical in point of expense, he must be generous to others, if he would not be blamed for it; particularly when from his expenses accrue the profits of those about him. I require no one to wait upon me; I send for nothing; I have nothing bought; I employ no person: consequently I should be the worst of prisoners with the domestics, who make their little profits on what they are commissioned to provide or procure: it is fitting, therefore, that I should purchase the state of independance, in which I place myself; thus I render it more perfect, and make myself also beloved.
I received a few visits from the excellent Champagneux and the worthy Bosc. The former, father of a numerous family, was attached to liberty from principle, and had professed it’s sound doctrines from the commencement of the revolution, in a newspaper, which he intended for the information of his fellow-citizens. He was distinguished by a sound judgment, gentle manners, and an aversion to idleness. Roland, when minister, placed him at the head of the first division of the home department. It was one of the best choices he made: though he was not less successful in the selection of many other principals, as the active and ingenuous Camus, the able Fépoul, and some others. Never were offices better filled; and nothing but the perfection of their establishments could enable Garat, to support a burden, to which he is unequal. To the honesty and capacity of such agents he is indebted for the tranquillity he is allowed to enjoy. Of this he is sensible; and he said with good reason, that he would quit the party, if he were obliged to make any change in his offices. Notwithstanding this, he will be forced to quit his post, for no talents in assistants can compensate for a minister’s want of firmness: irresolution is the worst of faults in those who govern, particularly in the midst of factions. Garat and Barrière, as private individuals, would not be deemed deficient in sense or honesty: but the one charged with the executive power, and the other a legislator, would ruin all the states in the world by their half-measures: their fury for pursuing what they term conciliatory plans propels them in that oblique path, which leads directly to the precipice of confusion. Statesmen should be conciliating only in mode, I mean in their manner of behaving to those with whom they are connected: they should avail themselves of the very passions and faults of those whom they direct, or with whom they treat: but rigid in their principles, firm and rapid in action, no obstacle, no consideration, should make them bend in the former respect, or alter their course in the latter.
Could Roland unite with his extensive views, strength of mind, and prodigious activity, a little more artfulness of manner, he would easily rule an empire: but his faults are prejudicial to himself alone, his good qualities are of infinite value to an administration.
Bosc, an old friend, of an ingenuous disposition, and enlightened mind, came to me the first day of my imprisonment, and was instant to conduct my daughter to madame Creuzé-la-Touche; who receives her kindly, as one of her own children, with whom it was resolved she should remain under her own eyes. To be sensible of all the value of this step, it is necessary to know the persons. It is necessary to figure the feeling and open-hearted Bosc, running to his friends, taking their child, intrusting her of his own accord to the most respectable family, as a pledge which he felt himself honoured in confiding to their hands, and which he knew would be received with the pleasure experienced by delicate minds, when an opportunity of doing good is offered them. And it is necessary to have been acquainted with the patriarchal manners, and the domestic virtues of Creuzé and his wife, and the gentleness and goodness of their characters, to form a due estimate of the worth of this reception.
Who, then, is to be pitied in all this? Roland alone: Roland, persecuted, proscribed: Roland, the examination of whose accounts has been refused; Roland, compelled to conceal himself as a criminal, to avoid the blind fury of men misled by his enemies; to tremble even for the safety of those who shelter him; to swallow in silence the imprisonment of his wife, and the sealing up every thing belonging to him;—and to await, in a state of incertitude, the reign of justice, which can never indemnify him for all, that perversity has made him suffer.
My section, imbibed with the best principles, passed, on the third, a decree, which breathed them, and which established the right of citizens, to protest against arbitrary imprisonment, and even resist such as might be attempted. My letter was read there, and listened to with concern. The debate, that took place on it, being prolonged to the next day, the mountaineers concerted together: the alarm was given to their party: a number of deputations of the violent of the other sections arrived, to fetter the progress of the deliberations, and if possible corrupt the temper of this, or frighten it by threats, and induce a majority of the sections to disarm it.
Whilst these things was going on, urged by Grandpré to neglect no means of shortening the term of my captivity, I wrote again to Garat, and also to Gohier. The latter, whom I have scarcely ever seen, possessed not more firmness than Garat, and has appeared to me inferiour to him in every other respect. I could not easily write to such men, without giving them lessons; and they were severe. Grandpré thought them mortifying, though just: I softened some of the expressions; and dispatched what follows.