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MY SECOND ARRESTATION. - 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. 2.
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MY SECOND ARRESTATION.
Sainte-Pelagie, August 20.
The twenty-fourth day of my confinement in the Abbey was beginning to pass away: the period of that confinement had been employed in study and literary labours, principally in writing memoirs, of which the composition must have born marks of the excellent disposition of mind I was in. The insurrection of the 31st of May, and the outrages of the 2d of June, had filled me with indignation; but I was persuaded that the departments would not look on them with an eye of satisfaction, and that their reclamations, supported by the necessary measures, would make the good cause triumphant. Little did I care, while indulging this hope, whether in some critical moment, or in the struggle of expiring tyranny, I fell a victim to private hatred, or to the rage of some furious madman. The success of my friends, and the triumph of true republicans, consoled me for every thing before-hand: I could have undergone the execution of an unjust sentence, or have succumbed beneath some unforeseen atrocity, with the calmness, the pride, and even the joy of innocence, which despises death, and knows that its wrongs will be revenged.—Here I cannot help once more expressing my regret for the loss of those Memoirs, which described so well the facts that had come to my knowledge, the persons by whom I had been surrounded, and the sentiments I had experienced in the varying succession of events. I am informed that some of them have escaped destruction; but they only contain the particulars of my first arrestation. The day will come perhaps when the union of these fragments will afford to some friendly hand the means of exhibiting the truth in more glowing colours.
The publication of a gross falsehood, and the loud bawling of the hawkers under my window, while announcing one of the numbers of Pere Duchesne, a filthy print with which Hebert, substitute of the Commons of Paris, every morning poisons the ignorant populace, who drink calumny like water, persuaded me that some new atrocity was in agitation. This paper pretended that its author had paid me a visit in the Abbey, and that having obtained my confidence by assuming the appearance of one of the Vendean banditti, he had brought me to confess the connexions of Roland and the Brissotines with the rebels of that department and the English government. In this ridiculous story, interspersed with the usual ornaments of style of Pere Duchesne, physical and moral probabilities were disregarded alike; I was not only transformed into the abettor of a counter-revolution, but into an old toothless hag, and was exhorted to weep for my sins till the time should come of expiating them on the scaffold. The hawkers, in consequence no doubt of their instructions, did not leave the vicinity of my residence for a moment, but accompanied their proclamation of Pere Duchesne’s Great Visit with the most sanguinary advice to the people of the market. I took up my pen, and wrote a few lines to that cowardly Garat, who thinks himself a sage, because he is actuated by no passion but fear, which makes him pay his court to whatever party chances to be uppermost, without the least regard to justice. I pointed out to him the infamy of an administration which expose innocence, already oppressed, to the last outrages of a blind and furious populace. I certainly had no hope of converting him; but I sent him my farewell to prey like a vulture upon his heart. About the same time, a young woman, who has no great talents to boast of, but who combines the graces of her sex with that sensibility which is its principal merit, and its greatest charm, found means to make her way into my prison. How was I astonished to see her sweet countenance, and to feel myself pressed to her bosom, and bathed in her tears! I took her for an angel; and an angel she was, for she is good and handsome, and had done her best to bring me news of my friends: she also furnished me with the means of informing them of my situation. This alleviation of my captivity had contributed to make me forget it, when at noon, on the 24th of June, the gaoler’s wife came and begged me to step into her apartment, where an administrator was waiting to see me—I was in pain, and a-bed—I rose, and followed her into her room, where a man was walking up and down, and another writing, without either of them appearing to perceive my arrival.—‘Am I the person, gentlemen, whom you asked for?’—‘You are Citizenness Roland?’—‘Yes, that is my name.’—‘Be good enough to sit down.’—And the one continued to write, and the other to walk about.—I was endeavouring in vain to divine what this comedy might mean, when the writer deigned to address me—‘I am come,’ said he, ‘to set you at liberty.’—I know not how it was, but I felt myself very little affected by this information.—‘Why, indeed,’ answered I, ‘it is very right to remove me from this place; but that is not all; I wish to return home, and the door of my apartment is sealed up.’—‘The administration will have it opened in the course of the day; I am writing for an order, because I am the only administrator here, and two signatures are necessary for the gaoler’s discharge.’—He rose, delivered his message, and returned to speak to me, with the air of a man desirous of inspiring confidence.—‘Do you know,’ said he all on a sudden, and as if without design, ‘where M. Roland is at present?’—I smiled at the question, observed that it was not candid enough to deserve an answer; and, as the conversation grew tiresome, retired to my room to prepare for my departure. My first idea was to dine quietly, and not to remove till towards the evening; but, upon further reflection, I thought it a folly to remain in a prison when it was in my power to get out. Besides, the gaoler came to know if I was getting ready, and I plainly saw that he was impatient to turn me out of my lodgings. It was a little closet, rendered very uncomfortable by the dirtiness of the walls, the closeness of the grates, and the neighbourhood of a pile of wood, where all the animals belonging to the house deposited their ordure; but as it could contain only one bed, and as the prisoner consequently had the advantage of being alone, the honour of inhabiting it was generally conferred upon a new comer, or upon an individual desirous of solitude. Lavacquerie (the gaoler), who had never seen it occupied by any body so contented as I, and who used to admire the pleasure I took in arranging my books and my flowers, told me, that in future he should call it the pavilion of Flora. I was ignorant that at that very moment he intended it for Brissot, whom I did not even suppose to be my neighbour; and that soon after, it would be inhabited by a heroine, worthy of a better age, the celebrated Charlotte Corday. My poor maid, who was just come to see me, wept for joy while packing up my things; the order for setting me at liberty, founded upon nothing appearing against me, was shewn to me; I settled my accounts, and distributed my little favours to the poor, and to the servants belonging to the prison; and in my way out met the prince of Linanges, one of the hostages, who congratulated me in obliging terms upon my enlargement. I answered, ‘That I should be happy to pay him the same compliment, as it would be a pledge of the release of our commissioners, and of the return of peace to my country;’ then, sending for a hackney-coach, I walked down slairs, much surprised at finding that the administrator had not yet left the prison, and at his coming to the door to see me into the carriage.
Driving home with the intention of leaving a few things there, and of proceeding immediately after to the house of the worthy people, who have adopted my daughter, I quitted the hackney-coach with that activity which never allowed me to get out of a carriage without jumping, passed under the gate-way as if upon wings, and said cheerfully to the porter as I went by, ‘Good morrow, Lamarre.’ Scarcely, however, had I got up four or five stairs, when two men, who some how or other had kept close at my heels, called out ‘Citizenness Roland!’—‘What do you want?’ said I, turning about.—‘In the name of the law, we arrest you.’ Those who know what it is to feel, will easily conceive all that I experienced at that moment. I desired the order to be read to me; and coming to a resolution immediately, stepped down stairs, and walked hastily across the yard.—‘Where are you going?’—‘To my landlord’s, where I have business; follow me thither.’—The mistress of the house opened the door with a smile.—‘Let me sit down and breathe,’ said I, ‘but do not rejoice at my being set at liberty: it is nothing but a cruel artifice: I am no sooner released from the Abbey, than I am ordered to be confined at Sainte-Pelagie. As I am not ignorant of the resolutions lately entered into by my section, I am determined to put myself under its protection, and will beg you to send thither accordingly.’—Her son immediately offered to go with all the warmth and indignation of an honest young man* . Two commissioners from the section came; desired to see the order; and made a formal opposition; but they afterwards begged me to accompany them to the residence of the mayor, where they were going to give notice of it, and to assign their reasons. With this request I could not refuse to comply. After employing the intermediate time in writing notes to my friends to inform them of my new destination, I took leave of a family which this scene had affected with terror and surprise, and was conducted to the mayor’s. There I was put into a little anti-chamber with the inspectors charged to take care of my person, while the commissioners proceeded to the office of the administrators of the police. The debate began, continued for some time, and grew warm. Ill at my case, and dissatisfied with the place I was in, I asked myself by what fatality innocence was obliged to play the part of a criminal, expecting judgment, and to remain in the mean time exposed to the inquisitive eyes of every body who came into the anti-chamber. At length, out of all patience, I rose, and opened the door of the office.—‘There can certainly, Gentlemen, be no harm in my being present at a discussion of which I am the subject.’—‘Get you gone,’ cried a little man, whom I recognized as the very Louvet that had examined me so aukwardly at the Abbey—‘But, Gentlemen, I have no intention to commit any act of violence, I am not prepared for that; I do not even ask to be heard; I only desire to be present.’—‘Get you gone; get you gone.—Gendarmes, come here!’—Any one would have supposed that the office was besieged, because a woman of common sense wished to hear what they were saying of her. It was however necessary to withdraw, that I might not be carried away by force. Soon after I perceived them making signs, running backwards and forwards, and sending for a coach; and at last an inspector of the police came and begged me to follow him. I turned round to the door of the office, and set it wide open.—‘Commissioners of the section of Beaurepaire, I give you notice that they are taking me away.’—‘We cannot help it; but the section will not forget you; it will take care that you be examined.’—After having been set at liberty at one o’clock, because nothing appeared against me, I should be glad to know how I could become a suspected person, in my way home from the Abbey, and thus give cause for a new detention.—Joubert, another administrator, as violent as Louvet, and still more awkward and stupid than he, addressing me in a magisterial tone, confessed that my first arrest was illegal, and that it had been necessary to enlarge me, that I might afterwards be taken into custody according to the terms of the law. This opened me a fine field; and I was going to avail myself of it; but tyrants, even when they suffer the truth to escape them, cannot bear to hear it from the lips of others; noise and anger lest no room for reason; I quitted the company, and was conveyed to Sainte-Pelagie.
The name of this house, which, under the old government, was inhabited by nuns, keepers of those female victims of lettres-de-cachet, whose conduct was supposed to be immoral, added to its lonely situation in a remote quarter of the town, inhabited by what may truly be called populace, and but too well known on account of the ferocious spirit which displayed itself there in the month of September, by the massacre of so many priests; all this did not present my new asylum to my eyes in a consolatory point of view.
While a note was taking of my entry, a man of a sinister countenance opened my bundle, and began to examine it with particular curiosity. I perceived it at the moment when he laid upon the gaoler’s desk some newspapers which it contained. Surprised and offended at a behaviour only authorized in cases of secret confinement, I observed that it by no means became a man to examine a woman’s night clothes in so indecent a manner. He was accordingly ordered to let them alone; but he was the turnkey of the corridor in which I lodged; and twice a day I was doomed to see his horrible countenance. I was asked if I chose a room with one or two beds—‘I am alone, and want no company.’—‘But the room will be too small.’—‘It is all the same to me.’—Upon enquiry, it was found that they were all full, and I was conducted to a double-bedded room, six feet wide by twelve feet long, so that with the two little tables, and the two chairs, there was hardly any space to spare. I was then informed that I must pay the first month’s lodging in advance; fifteen livres for one bed; twice as much for the two. As I wanted only one, and should have taken it in a room which contained no more, I paid only fifteen livres. ‘But there is no water-bottle, or other vessel?’—‘You must buy them,’ said the same officious personage, very ready to make a tender of services, of which it was easy to perceive the interested motive. To these acquisitions I added an ink-stand, paper and pens, and established myself in my new apartment.
The mistress of the house coming to visit me, I made enquiry concerning my rights and the customs of the place, and was told that the state allowed nothing to the prisoners.—‘How then do they live?’—‘They receive a plate of kidney-beans only, and a pound and half of bread per day; but you would not be able to eat either one or the other.’—‘I can easily believe that they are not like what I have been accustomed to; but I wish to know what belongs to every situation, and will make a trial.’—I made a trial accordingly; but, either the state of my stomach, or want of exercise, made me reject the prison diet; and I was obliged to have recourse to Madame Bouchaud’s kitchen. She had made an offer of boarding me, which I accepted; and I found her fare both salubrious, and economical, in comparison of what I might have sent for from the cook’s shop, at an immense distance, and in a desolate quarter of the town. A mutton chop, and a few spoonfuls of vegetables for dinner, a sallad for supper, never any desert, and nothing but bread and water for breakfast; such were the dishes I ordered, and such was the fare I had been accustomed to at the Abbey. I mention it here, by way of opposing this manner of living, to the complaints soon after made by the section of the observatory, of my expences at Sainte Palagie, where it was said, that I was endeavouring to corrupt the gaoler by giving treats to his family: hence great indignation among the Sans-culottes, and a proposal from some of them to dispatch me to the other world. This accords well with the clamours of those women, who pretend that by dressing themselves up in fine clothes, they got admission into the circles of old countesses, at which I presided, in the Hotel of the home department, and with the articles of the journal of the Mountain, which inserts letters written to me by refractory priests.
O Danton! thus it is that you direct the knife of the assassin against your victims. Strike! one more will add little to the catalogue of your crimes; but their multiplicity cannot cover your wickedness, nor save you from infamy. As cruel as Marius, and more terrible than Cataline, you surpass their misdeeds, without possessing their great qualities; and history will vomit forth your name with horror, when relating the carnage of the first days of September, and the dissolution of the social body in consequence of the events that took place on the second of June.
My courage did not sink under the new misfortunes I experienced; but the refinement of cruelty with which they had given me a foretaste of liberty, only to load me with fresh chains, and the barbarous care with which they took advantage of a decree, by applying to me a false designation, as the way of legalizing an arbitrary arrest, fired me with indignation. Feeling myself in that disposition of mind when every impression becomes stronger, and its effect more prejudicial to health, I went to bed; but as I could not sleep, it was impossible to avoid thinking. This violent state, however, never lasts long with me. Being accustomed to govern my mind, I felt the want of self-possession, and thought myself a fool for affording a triumph to my perfecutors, by suffering their injustice to break my spirit. They were only bringing fresh odium on themselves, without making much alteration in the situation I had already found means so well to support: had I not books and leisure here as well as at the Abbey? I began indeed to be quite angry with myself for having allowed my peace of mind to be disturbed, and no longer thought of any thing, but of enjoying existence, and of employing my faculties with that independence of spirit which a strong mind preserves in the midst of fetters, and which thus disappoints its most determined enemies. As I felt that it was necessary to vary my occupations, I bought crayons, and took up my drawing again, which I had laid aside for a long while. Fortitude does not consist solely in rising superior to circumstances by an effort of the mind, but in maintaining that elevation by suitable conduct and care. Whenever unfortunate or irritating events take me by surprise, I am not content with calling up the maxims of philosophy to support my courage; but I provide agreeable amusements for my mind, and do not neglect the health-preserving art to keep myself in a just equilibrium. I laid out my days then with a certain sort of regularity. In the morning I studied the English language in Shaftesbury’s Essay on Virtue, and in the verses of Thomson. The found metaphysicks of the one, and the enchanting descriptions of the other, transported me by turns to the intellectual regions, and to the midst of the most touching scenes of nature. Shaftesbury’s reason gave new strength to mine, and his thoughts invited meditation; while Thomson’s sensibility, and his delightful and sublime pictures, went to my heart, and charmed my imagination. I afterwards sat down to my drawing till dinner time. Having been so long without handling the pencil, I could not expect to acquit myself with much skill; but we always preserve the power of repeating with pleasure, and of attempting with facility, whatever in our youth we have practised with success. Accordingly, the study of the fine arts, considered as a part of the education of young women, ought, in my opinion, to be less directed towards the acquisition of distinguished talents, than to the inspiring of them with the love of employment, to the making them contract a habit of application, and to the multiplying of their means of amusement; for it is thus that we escape from that ennui which is the most cruel disease of man in society; and thus it is that we avoid the quicksands of vice, and seductions that are still more to be feared than vice itself.
I will not then make my daughter a professor (une virtuose): I shall ever remember that my mother was afraid of my becoming too great a musician, or of my devoting myself entirely to painting, because she desired, above all things, that I should be fond of the duties of my sex, and learn to be a good housewife, in case of my becoming the mother of a family. My Eudora then shall learn to accompany herself in a pleasing manner on the harp, or to play with ease on the forte-piano; and shall know enough of drawing, to enable her to contemplate the master-pieces of art with greater pleasure, to trace or imitate a flower which pleases her, and to shew taste and elegant simplicity in the choice of her ornaments. It is my wish that the mediocrity of her talents may excite neither admiration in others, nor vanity in herself. It is my wish that she may please rather by her collective merit, than astonish at the first glance, and that she may rather gain affection by her good qualities, than applause by her brilliant accomplishments. But, good heavens! I am a prisoner, and a great distance divides us! I dare not even send for her to receive my embraces; for hatred pursues the very children of those whom tyranny persecutes; and no sooner does my girl appear in the streets with her virgin looks, and her beautiful fair hair, than those beings, hired or seduced by falsehood, point her out as the offspring of a conspirator. Cruel wretches! they well know how to break a mother’s heart!
Could not I have brought her with me? - - - - I have not yet said what is the situation of a prisoner at Sainte Pelagie.
The wing appropriated to females, is divided into long and very narrow corridors, on one side of which are little cells like that which I have described as my lodging. There, under the same roof, upon the same line, and only separated by a thin plaster partition, I dwell in the midst of murderers and women of the town. By the side of me is one of those creatures who make a trade of seduction, and set up innocence to sale; and above me is a woman guilty of forging assignats, who, with a band of monsters to which she belongs, tore an individual of her own sex to pieces upon the highway. The door of each cell is secured by a great bolt, and opened every morning by a man who stares in impudently to see whether you be up or a-bed: their inhabitants then assemble in the corridors, upon the stair-cases, or in a damp and noisome room, a worthy receptacle for this scum of the earth.
It will be readily believed that I confine myself constantly to my cell; but the distance is not great enough to save the ear from the expressions which such women may be supposed to utter, but which it is impossible for any one to imagine, who never heard them.
This is not all: the wing where the men are confined, having windows in front of, and very near, the building inhabited by the women, the individuals of the two sexes of analogous character, enter into conversation, which is the more dissolute, as those who hold it are unsusceptible of fear: gestures supply the place of actions, and the windows serve as the theatre of the most shameful scenes of infamous debauchery.
Such is the dwelling reserved for the worthy wife of an honest man!—If this be the reward of virtue on earth, who will be astonished at my contempt of life, and at the resolution with which I shall be able to look death in the face? It never appeared to me in a formidable shape; but at present it is not without its charms; and I could embrace it with pleasure, if my daughter did not invite me to stay a little longer with her, and if my voluntary exit would not furnish calumny with weapons against my husband, whose glory I should support, if they should dare to carry me before a tribunal.
In the latter part of Roland’s administration, conspiracies and threats succeeded each other so fast, that our friends often pressed us to leave the hotel during the night. Two or three times we yielded to their entreaties; but soon growing tired of this daily removal, I observed that malevolence would hardly go so far as to violate the abode of a man in office, while it might way-lay and immolate him out of doors; and that, in fine, if such a misfortune were to happen, it would be more conducive to public utility, and to his personal glory, for the minister to perish at his post.
Accordingly we no longer slept out; but I had my husband’s bed brought into my own room, that we might run the same hazard, and kept under my pillow or upon my night-table, a pistol, which I meaned to use, not for a vain defence, but to save myself from the outrages of the assassins, if I should chance to see them approach. In this situation I passed three weeks; and certain it is that the hotel was twice beset, and that another time the Marseillese, informed of some project, sent eighty of their people to guard us. It is certain also that the Jacobins and Cordeliers were for ever repeating in their tribune, that a 10th of August was as necessary against Roland as it had been against Louis XVI; but as they said so, it might be presumed that they were not ready to realize their threat. Death, which I cheerfully braved at that time, must needs appear desirable to me at Sainte-Pelagie, if powerful considerations did not chain me to the earth.
My keepers soon began to suffer more than myself from my situation, and were at great pains to render it less disagreeable. The excessive heat of the month of July rendered my prison uninhabitable. The paper with which I surrounded the grates, did not prevent the sun from striking upon the white walls of my narrow cell, and though my windows remained open all night, the burning and concentrated air of the day did not get cool.
The gaoler’s wife invited me to pass my days in her apartment; but of this offer I limited my acceptance to the afternoon. It was then that I thought of sending for a forte-piano, which I put into her room, and with which I sometimes amused myself. But what a modification did my moral state suffer during that period! The rising of some of the departments seemed to announce the indignation they had conceived at the violence offered to their representatives, and their resolution of avenging it, by restoring the convention to its former entire state.
I knew that Roland was in a safe and peaceful retreat, receiving the consolation, and the attentions, of friendship; my daughter, taken into the house of venerable patriarchs, continued her exercises, and her education, under their immediate inspection, and along with their own children; and my friends, the fugitives, welcomed to Caen, were there surrounded by a respectable force. I thought I saw the salvation of the republic growing out of events; and resigned to my own fate, I was happy still; for our happiness depends less upon external objects, than upon the disposition and affections of the mind. I employed my time in a useful and agreeable manner; I sometimes saw the four persons who used to visit me at the Abbey; the worthy Grandpré, whose place authorised him to come, and who came accompanied by a charming woman; the faithful Bosc, who brought me flowers from the garden of plants, of which the beautiful forms, the brilliant colours, and the sweet odours diminished the horrors of my melancholy abode; and the kind Champagneux, who so earnestly persuaded me to continue the historical memoirs I had begun, that at his desire I resumed my pen, and for a while laid by my Tacitus and my Plutarch, to whom I was accustomed to devote my afternoons.
Madame Bouchaud did not think it enough to have offered me the use of her apartment. Perceiving that I availed myself of it, with great reserve, she determined to remove me altogether from my gloomy cell, and to lodge me in a comfortable room with a fire place, situated on the ground floor, and underneath her own chamber. Thus was I delivered from the shocking company which for three weeks had been my greatest torment. I shall no longer be obliged to pass twice a day through the midst of the women of my neighbourhood, that I may get out of their way for a little time at least. I shall no longer see the turnkey of sinister countenance open my door every morning, and shut me in every night with a great bolt, like a criminal whom it is necessary to keep in close confinement. It is the good-natured face of Madame Bouchaud, which offers itself to my eyes: she it is whose kind attentions I perceive every moment. There is nothing, even to the very jessamine carried up before my window and winding its flexible branches round the bars, that does not testify her desire to oblige. I look upon myself as her boarder, and forget my captivity. All my articles of study and amusement are united around me; my forte-piano is by my bed-side, and recesses in the walls afford me the means of arranging my little effects in such a way as to preserve in my asylum that neatness in which I delight. . . . . . . But gold, and falsehood, and intrigue, and arms, are employed against the departments which the truth was beginning to enlighten: soldiers deluded, or bought over, betray the brave Normans; Evreux is evacuated; Caen abandons the members to which it had afforded a refuge; domineering banditti, in what they still dare to call a convention, declare them traitors to their country; their persons are outlawed; their property is confiscated; their wives and children are taken into custody; their houses are demolished; the members who chose to remain in confinement are impeached, without any reason being given; and every thing announces the triumph of audacious guilt over unfortunate virtue. That cowardice which marks the selfishness and corruption of a degenerate people, whom we thought it posble to reclaim by the light of reason, but who were too far debased; that cowardice delivers over to terror the perfidious administrators, and the ignorant multitude. Every where the idea of peace and the desire of repose, always illusory when it is not deserved, counsel the acceptance of a monstrous constitution, which, had it even been better, ought not to have been received from the unworthy hands that held it out. There where any resistance might have arisen, it is stifled by corruption; and the money of the nation is lavished to insure the success of its oppressors. In their silly stupor, a majority, incapable of reasoning, consider the sacrifice of a few individuals as a trifling misfortune; they think to establish justice, peace, and security, for themselves, by suffering them to be violated in the persons of their representatives; and receive the pledge of their servitude as a sign of salvation. In the mean time a rod of iron is held over the weak Parisians, the pusillanimous witnesses of horrors, which they lament, without daring to make them known: famine threatens them; poverty preys upon them; oppression overwhelms them; the reign of proscriptions begins; denunciations come showering down on every side; and the prisons overflow. Every where an infamous recompense awaits him who has a victim to offer; the porters of private houses, kept secretly in pay, become the chief informers, and servants no longer are any thing but spies.
An astonishing woman taking counsel, from her courage alone, came to inflict death upon the apostle of murder and pillage. She deserves the admiration of the universe. But for want of her being well acquainted with the state of things, her time and her victim were ill chosen. There was a greater criminal, to whom her immolating hand should have given the preference. The death of Marat only served the purposes of his abominable sectaries: they transformed into a martyr him whom they had taken for a prophet; and fanaticism and knavery, always in a league, derived from this event an advantage similar to that which the murder of le Pelletier had procured them. Certainly, its consequences had been too fatal, for the fugitive members, entire strangers to the action of Paris* , not to be equally so to that of Charlotte Corday; but their adversaries laid hold of it as a new mean of ruining them in the minds of the people. The most determined republicans, the only men of the assembly who united with the courage of austere probity, the authority of talents and knowledge, were represented as the favourers of despotism, and as vile conspirators. At one time they are supposed to be in a league with the rebels of La Vendée, and on the sabres of the warriors desirous of defending them, the words Vive Louis XVII. are said to be inscribed: at another time they are accused of endeavouring to divide France into little republics, and are reprobated as federalists. It is with equal consistency that Brissot is taken into English pay, and that his wife, in a report sent to all the departments, is gravely represented as having retired to the queen’s apartments at Versailles, and as holding secret councils there.
Nothing can be more ridiculous than this story to those who are acquainted with Brissot’s wife, devoted to the domestic virtues, wholly taken up with the cares of her houshold, ironing her husband’s shirts herself, looking through the key-hole to see if she may safely open the door to those who knock, and hiring a little miserable room in the village of St. Cloud, that she may have it in her power to carry the child that she has just weaned into the open air. But she is soon taken into custody; is conducted to Paris; and a guard is placed over her. Petion’s wife, who was going to retire among her friends till the storm should blow over, is arrested with her son. Miranda, whom the revolutionary tribunal had acquitted, is remanded to prison as a suspected person, on the information of his valet, a spy of Pache; all the generals are put under arrest; and Custine, whom, as I have been told by the Prince de Linanges, the Austrians dreaded more than any of the rest, is threatened with the loss of his head. Disorganization spreads itself over the whole face of France, and a civil war breaks out in a variety of places. The acceptance of the constitution cannot procure for Lyons an act of oblivion for the justice it dared to execute on two or three of Marat’s banditti; it is called upon to deliver up the heads of its richest inhabitants, and to pay a considerable sum; troops are recalled from the frontiers, which are left exposed to the ravages of the enemy, while brother is set against brother, and the blood of Frenchmen is spilt by the French themselves. In the mean time the enemy advances in the north; Valenciennes no longer exists; Cambray is blocked up; and the Austrian light troops appear in the environs of Peronne. Paris, like another Babylon, sees its brutish populace run in crowds to ridiculous festivals, or feast their eyes with the blood of a multitude of wretches sacrificed to their ferocious distrust; while the selfish and unfeeling fill the theatres, and while the timid citizen stays trembling at home, where he is not sure of sleeping, if it please his neighbour to say that he has made use of uncivic expressions, blamed the carnage of the 2d of September, or lamented the fate of the victims of Orleans, put to death without proof of their being privy to an assassination which was not committed on the person of the infamous Bourdon. O my country! into what hands art thou fallen. Chabot and his fellows announce that Roland is at Lyons, affirm that he excites that city to insurrection, and call for his impeachment and for mine: and at the self-same time they search the cellars of the observatory, and invest the house of one of his friends, where they suppose he may be concealed.
All my friends are proscribed, fugitives, or in confinement; my husband only escapes from the fury of his adversaries by keeping close in a retreat which may be compared to the severest imprisonment; and it is even decreed that the few persons who come to console me shall undergo persecution.—Grandpré, dining in company with a man whom he did not know to be a justice of peace, and a member of the tribunal of the district, lamented the negligence of the magistrates, who suffered so many persons to languish in the prisons. On this the unknown personage discovered himself; affected a great desire to be made acquainted with abuses, to the reform of which he might be able to contribute; and begged Grandpré to tell him his name and his address, that he might call, and take him with him when he should visit the prisons. This was only a pretext,—the justice of peace hastened to the committee of general safety, and fabricated an atrocious denunciation against Grandpré, whom he accused of being an accomplice in the death of Marat.—It seems as if we were living in the time of Tiberius; for, like his, this is the reign of informers.—Grandpré was taken up by an officer and four musketeers, who repaired to his apartment at five o’clock in the morning; ransacked his papers, and sealed up his effects. He had then about him a letter addressed by me to the unfortunate Brissot. What a crime might be made of this, to me for having written it, and to him for being the bearer! Luckily he found means to conceal it from their search; but it was not till after a tedious debate that he could obtain permission to remain under a guard at his office, instead of going to sleep at the abbey; nor was it till after the expiration of several days, that means were found to demonstrate the falsity of the charge.
Champagneux was less fortunate: to the crime of owing his appointment to Roland, he joined that of occupying a desirable place.—Collot d’Herbois went drunk to the office of the home department, between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, at the moment that the clerks had just lest their desks to go to dinner: his business was to demand carriages, of which the minister had not the disposal. In a rage at not finding Garat, he swore, stormed, broke the legs of the chairs and table* , went to the apartment of Champagneux, the first clerk, abused him, ordered the packets that were made up for the Post-office to be opened, and quarrelled with the inclosure they contained. It was a kind of circular letter, consisting of questions, and intended to procure information concerning the state of the country. In his heated brain he arranged a denunciation, which he brought forward the next day, at the Convention, and on the strength of which a decree of arrest was passed against both Garat and Champagneux.
Garat came to the bar, made no complaint of Collot, explained his conduct in the gentlest terms, pronounced a fulsome panegyric on the august assembly, and was sent back to his duty. Champagneux at first hid himself in a fright, but afterwards appeared. He was referred by the Convention to the Committee, and by the Committee was sent a prisoner to the Force. Garat, solicited by others, and interested himself in the enlargement of Champagneux, whose services he could not dispense with, repaired to the Committee to obtain it. There he made it appear, that, without the assistance of a man so conversant with business, it would be impossible for him to remain in office, and by his friends, such as Barrere, if men like Barrere can be called friends, was encouraged to hope, that by offering his conditional resignation, Champagneux would be restored to him, as an inducement to continue in the administration; but the rest of the Committee spoke out in plainer terms. He was required to fill up the place of Champagneux: his liberty and his life depended on his compliance. He was required to fill it up by the appointment of a young man, twenty-six years of age, destitute of experience in business, of all kinds of knowledge, and of every recommendation but the favour of the Committee, of which he was a tool. Garat, who never refused his masters any thing, submitted, and then retired from his office, abandoning a post it was impossible for him to maintain* . But Champagneux was not set at liberty, and the fourth week of his detention has already passed away. At the moment when he was threatened with an arrest (for Collot had announced it as an act that would necessarily follow his volition), Champagneux was in possession of almost the whole of my Historical Memoirs, the existence of which he wished to insure by taking a copy. Uneasy, agitated, and not doubting but that the principles by which they were dictated, and the freedom with which they were written, were a direct passport to the scaffold, he committed them to the flame.—Yet these are the governors of the empire!—A Collot, a strolling player by profession, by whose side sits a judge of the southern departments, who not long since condemned him to a year’s imprisonment for an offence which he committed while a vagrant from barn to barn, and for which several of the judges wished to send him to the galleys!—Great strength of lungs, the gestures of a buffoon, the manœuvres of a knave, the extravagance of a madman, and the effrontery of ignorance; such were his means of success at the clubs, particularly at the Jacobins, who were not ashamed to mention him at the time that the patriotic ministry was formed under Louis XVI.
Collot thinking himself ill used by the appointment of Roland to the home department, to which he had directed his views, deemed him the more worthy of his hatred, as being an enemy, by whom he was overlooked. From that moment his Jacobinical influence was directed against him, and this conduct, added to his other relative qualities, procured him a seat in the Convention, as one of the Parisian deputation.
Champagneux, in his confinement, regrets his liberty less than the pleasure of sometimes alleviating my captivity, while I am afflicted at his, which he owes to his connexion with Roland and myself. As to Bose, who has already given up his place of administrator at the post-office, and whom I endeavour to persuade not to run the risk of a prison by visiting me in mine, I see him once a week, as it were by stealth. In the midst of all these sorrows, I can however offer my friends a seat in the pleasant room, where the kind-hearted Madame Bouchaud has sequestered me from all the appearances of a prison. I am there exposed, it is true, to the inconvenience of having a sentry planted directly opposite my window, on whose account I am always obliged to keep my curtains drawn, and who comes to listen to every thing that is said when I am not alone; and there I am disturbed by the horrible barking of three great dogs, whose kennel is at less than ten paces distance. I am also close to a large room, pompously styled the council-chamber, where the administrators of the police do their business when they come to examine a prisoner. It is to this neighbourhood that I am indebted for the knowledge of some curious scenes, of which I am going to say a few words.
Two men, whose names I once knew, and have either forgotten, or do not choose to repeat, because the names of such wretches are not deserving of mention, had been sent to prison for their malversations in the clothing of the troops, in which department of the public service they were employed. They had for friends, or for accomplices, some people of their own description, and these people were precisely administrators of the police. Charged in that quality with the maintenance of order in the prisons, and the superintendance of the gaolers, they came to Sainte-Pelagie, once or twice a week, with other friends like themselves, ten or twelve in number, and sometimes more, sent for the two darling prisoners to the council-chamber, and there exacting from the gaoler capons, chickens, eggs, wine, cordials, coffee, &c. consumed them at his expence, and kept up their permanent orgies for three or four hours together. No one would ever imagine, and most assuredly I shall not undertake to relate the brutal joy, the fulsome conversation, and the infamy of these entertainments. The word patriotism, stupidly applied, and repeated emphatically on every mention of the scaffold, to which it was proper to send all suspected persons; that denomination bestowed upon every one who had received a good education, or was possessed of a fortune not recently stolen; the disgusting kisses from those mouths, reeking with wine, smacking upon the cheeks of the new comers, and repeated in concert at the moment of breaking up; the obscene jests of men destitute of all morality, and strangers to all shame; and the silly pride of atrocious blockheads, who dreamed of nothing but denunciations, and whose sole science consisted in imprisoning their betters - - - - -
Plato might well compare democracy to an auction of government, a kind of fair, where all possible modes of administration are intermixed. But how would he characterize that state of society where men like these are arbiters of the liberty of their fellow-citizens? Whenever this agreeable company came, Bouchaud or his wife never failed to withdraw my key from the door, and to give me notice of their arrival. At last I took my resolution, and shut my ears against their noise; I even thought it entertaining to continue my Historical Memoirs, and to write vigorous passages, before the eyes, as it were, of wretches, who would have torn me to pieces if they had only heard a single phrase.
As the 10th of August was at hand, and fears were entertained of a rehearsal of the 2d of September, in the prisons, the administrators found means to get out the rogues of their acquaintance; and by so doing put an end to the civic feasts at Sainte-Pelagie. If I could persuade myself to meddle with such disgusting matters, I could give very astonishing, and very shocking accounts, of the abuses that prevail in the gaols:—the imprisoned criminals would there be seen converting into accomplices almost all the servants, and other persons concerned in the business of the place; women of the town, guilty of serious offences, obtaining their enlargement without a trial, by means of the administrator, who sleeps with them the night after; assassins, rich enough to pay an advocate (defenseur officieux) with the produce of their robberies, bribing him to destroy the vouchers, and procure the impunity, of their crimes; and professed thieves keeping up their intrigues with one another, and with their accomplices without, thieving still, though immured in a prison, and dividing the spoils with the turnkey, or with the gendarme, who appears to guard them. Every thing gets tainted or completely spoiled in these infectious places under a vicious administration, desiring only to destroy, careless of correcting, and actuated by passion alone.—‘Compassionate and generous Howard, who wanderedst over all Europe to visit those gloomy dungeons, in which the wisdom of an equitable government ought never to let innocence languish, and where it should also take care to distinguish weakness from crime, how would your feeling heart have been hurt if you had been perfectly acquainted with the management of the prisons belonging to the nation then esteemed the gentlest upon earth!’ There no distinction is made between giddy youth and hardened guilt. I have seen a botanical student, who had spoken ill of Marat, confined in the same room with highway robbers. There no respect is shewn to morals. I have seen a girl of fourteen, who was claimed by her parents, detained in the same cell with the infamous woman who had just seduced her, and who had been taken up for that offence. There no regard is had to decency, or attention to salubrity, in the construction of the edifice, or in the laying out of the internal space. A building is now erecting at Sainte-Pelagie, on an immense piece of ground, by an architect of confined ideas, a man of no mind, who is making his dispositions contrary to every principle of rationality, and yet no person in the superior branches of administration is either able or willing to correct his plan.
Here I must do justice to the present keeper. He does what he can in matters of detail, but nothing can prevent the bad consequences resulting from an organization essentially vicious. There ought to be either distinct houses, some appropriated to criminals, and others to suspicious or suspected persons, or else wings entirely detached; nor should there be any communication between the two sexes. But as this is not the place for a treatise upon the subject, I can only lament the destiny of a people, in the establishment of whose liberty it is impossible for those to believe who have once been witnesses to its extreme corruption.
On my first coming to Sainte-Pelagie, a woman, confined for some trifling offence, was allowed me, whose services might be an assistance to my weakness, while I had the means of making them an alleviation of her distress. Not but that I was very well able to be my own servant: ‘Tout sied bien au généreux courage* ,’ was said of Favonius performing for Pompey in his misfortunes the offices which valets are accustomed to perform for their masters. This may be applied with equal truth to the unfortunate man, stripped of his fortune, and providing for all his wants, and to the austere philosopher, disdaining every superfluity. Quintius† was roasting his turnips when he received the ambassadors of the Samnites; and I could very well have made my bed at Saint-Pelagie; but, as in fetching water, and things of the like kind, it was necessary to go through long passages, and to mix with their various inhabitants, I was not sorry to have a person whom I could oblige by sending her on such errands. She continued to assist me in the room I had been indulged with, and was coming in one morning at the very moment that an administrator was at the door of the council-chamber. He asked who lodged there; desired to inspect the room; came in; cast an angry eye around him; and then went out, and complained to the keeper’s wife of the degree of comfort she allowed me to enjoy.—‘Madame Roland was indisposed (this was true); and I put her more in the way of receiving such assistance as she might stand in need of; besides she sometimes amuses herself with a forte-piano, for which there is not room in a cell.’—‘She must do without: send her this very day into a corridor: it is your business to maintain equality.’
Unfeeling wretch! is it to maintain equality that you wish to confound me with the most abandoned of women?—Madame Bouchard, more distressed than can well be imagined, soon came to communicate to me the order she had received: I consoled her by conforming to it with much calmness and resignation; and it was agreed upon, that I should come down in the course of the day to change the air, and to return to my studies, the materials for which I left where they were. Thus am I once more destined to see the turnkeys, to hear the creaking of the bolts, to breathe the fetid air of a corridor, sadly illumined in the evening by a lamp, of which the thick smoke blackens all the walls, and suffocates the neighbourhood. These are the humane actions, the signs of liberty of those men, who upon the ruins of the Bastille recal to our recollection the cruelty of the governor killing Lauzun’s spider, and who, in the Champ de Mars, send up birds carrying streamers, to announce to the inhabitants of the upper regions the felicity of the earth. Insolent comedians! you are playing your last parts: the enemy is at hand.—By the enemy I mean the departments endeavouring to insure the triumph of reason and of true liberty, and preparing your ruin.
Mine is inevitable no doubt; I have deserved the hatred of all tyrants; but I only regret that of my country, which your chastisement will console, but cannot save.
As to the rest, the consequences of oppression have filled the corridor I inhabit with women in whose company I can remain without shame, and even with pleasure. I have found there the wife of a justice of peace, whose neighbour ascribes to her expressions styled uncivic; I have found there the wife also of the president of the Revolutionary tribunal; and there I have found Madame Pétion.—‘I little thought,’ said I on accosting her, ‘when I was sharing your uneasiness at the Mairie* , on the 10th of August, 1792, that we should keep our sad anniversary at Sainte-Pelagie, and that the fall of the throne would lead to our disgrace.’
[* ]He was dragged to the scaffold on this account, and his father died of grief.
[* ]The murderer of le Pelletier.
[* ]These facts may appear exaggerated; but they are strictly true: I had them from the mouth of an eye witness, whose veracity is undoubted.
[* ]Paré, formerly head-clerk to Danton, who had got him appointed secretary of the Council on Grouvelle’s departure, succeeded Garat; and the ex-minister, happy to effect a change, which, by delivering him from a place of responsibility, conferred on him one of twenty thousand livres a year, became secretary of the Council. It is not altogether irrelevant to remark, that Desforgues, minister of foreign affairs, was also one of Danton’s clerks.
[* ]Every thing becomes a noble spirit.
[† ]By Quintius, Madame Roland means Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus, but Marcus Curius Dentatus is the personage of whom this anecdote is related by the Roman historians: ‘Legatis Samnitum aurum offerentibus, quum ipse in focs rapa terreret,’ &c. Plin. de viris illustribus. Trans.
[* ]The residence of the mayor.