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CHAPTER I - Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 3 
The French Revolution, 3 vols., trans. John Durand, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002). Vol. 3.
Part of: The French Revolution, 3 vols.
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Psychology of the Jacobin leaders—I.Marat—Disparity between his faculties and pretensions—The Maniac—The Ambitious delirium—Rage for persecution—A confirmed nightmare insanity—Homicidal frenzy—II.Danton—Richness of his faculties—Disparity between his condition and instincts—The Barbarian—His work—His weakness—III.Robespierre—Mediocrity of his faculties—The Cuistre—Absence of ideas—Study of phrases—Wounded self-esteem—Intensity of this trait—Satisfied self-esteem—His infatuation—He plays the victim—His gloomy fancies—His resemblance to Marat—Difference between him and Marat—The sincere hypocrite—The Festival in honor of the Supreme Being, and the law of Prairial 22—The external and internal characters of Robespierre and the Revolution.
Three men among the Jacobins, Marat, Danton, and Robespierre, merited distinction and possessed authority: owing to a malformation, or distortion, of head and heart, they fulfilled the requisite conditions. Of the three, Marat is the most monstrous; he borders on the lunatic, of which he displays the chief characteristics—furious exaltation, constant overexcitement, feverish restlessness, an inexhaustible propensity for scribbling, that mental automatism and tetanus of the will under the constraint and rule of a fixed idea, and, in addition to this, the usual physical symptoms, such as sleeplessness, a livid tint, bad blood, foulness of dress and person,1 with, during the last five months of his life, irritations and eruptions over his whole body.2 Issuing from incongruous races, born of a mixed blood and tainted with serious moral commotions,3 he harbors within him a singular germ: physically, he is an abortion, morally a pretender, and one who covets all places of distinction. His father, who was a physician, intended, from his early childhood, that he should be a savant; his mother, an idealist, meant that he should be a philanthropist, while he himself always steered his course towards both summits. “At five years of age,” he says, “it would have pleased me to be a schoolmaster, at fifteen a professor, at eighteen an author, and a creative genius at twenty,”4 and, afterwards, up to the last, an apostle and martyr to humanity. “From my earliest infancy I had an intense love of fame which changed its object at various stages of my life, but which never left me for a moment.” He rambled over Europe or vegetated in Paris for thirty years, living a nomadic life in subordinate positions, hissed as an author, distrusted as a man of science and ignored as a philosopher, a third rate political writer, aspiring to every sort of celebrity and to every honor, constantly presenting himself as a candidate and as constantly rejected, too great a disproportion between his faculties and ambition! Talentless,5 possessing no critical acumen and of mediocre intelligence, he was fitted only to teach some branch of the sciences, or to practise some one of the arts, either as professor or doctor more or less bold and lucky, or to follow, with occasional slips on one side or the other, some path clearly marked out for him. “But,” he says, “I never had any thing to do with a subject which did not hold out … great results for myself, and show my originality, for I cannot make up my mind to treat a subject over again that has been well done, or to plod over the work of others.” Consequently, when he tries to originate he merely imitates, or commits mistakes. His treatise on “Man” is a jumble of physiological and moral common-places, made up of ill-digested reading and words strung together haphazard,6 of gratuitous and incoherent suppositions in which the doctrines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, coupled together, end in empty phraseology. “Soul and Body are distinct substances with no essential relationship, being connected together solely through the nervous fluid”; this fluid is not gelatinous for the spirituous by which it is renewed contains no gelatine; the soul, excited by this, excites that; hence the place assigned to it “in the meninges.” His “Optics”7 is the reverse of the great truth already discovered by Newton more than a century before, and since confirmed by more than another century of experiment and calculation. On “Heat” and “Electricity” he merely puts forth feeble hypotheses and literary generalisations; one day, driven to the wall, he inserts a needle in a piece of rosin to make this a conductor, in which piece of scientific trickery he is caught by the physicist Charles.8 He is not even qualified to comprehend the great discoverers of his age, Laplace, Monge, Lavoisier, or Fourcroy; on the contrary, he libels them in the style of a low rebellious subordinate, who, without the shadow of a claim, aims to take the place of legitimate authorities. In Politics, he adopts every absurd idea in vogue growing out of the Contrat-Social based on natural right, and which he renders still more absurd by repeating as his own the arguments advanced by those bungling socialists, who, physiologists astray in the moral world, derive all rights from physical necessities. “All human rights issue from physical wants.9 If a man has nothing, he has a right to any surplus with which another gorges himself. What do I say? He has a right to seize the indispensable, and, rather than die of hunger, he may cut another’s throat and eat his throbbing flesh. … Man has a right to self-preservation, to the property, the liberty and even the lives of his fellow creatures. To escape oppression he has a right to repress, to bind and to massacre. He is free to do what he pleases to ensure his own happiness.” It is plain enough what this leads to. But, let the consequences be what they may, whatever he writes or does, it is always in self-admiration and always in a counter sense, being as vain-glorious of his encyclopaedic impotence as he is of his social mischievousness. Taking his word for it, his discoveries in Physics will render him immortal.10 “They will at least effect a complete transformation in Optics. … The true primitive colors were unknown before me.” He is a Newton, and still better. Previous to his appearance “the place occupied by the electric fluid in nature, considered as an universal agent, was completely ignored. … I have made it known in such a way as to leave no further doubt about it.”11 As to the igneous fluid, “that existence unknown before me, I have freed the theory from every hypothesis and conjecture, from every alembical argument; I have purged it of error, I have rendered it intuitive; I have written this out in a small volume which consigns to oblivion all that scientific bodies have hitherto published on that subject.”12 Anterior to his treatise on “Man,” moral and physical relationships were incomprehensible. “Descartes, Helvetius, Haller, Lecat, Hume, Voltaire, Bonnet, held this to be an impenetrable secret, ‘an enigma.’ ” He has solved the problem, he has fixed the seat of the soul, he has determined the medium through which the soul communicates with the body.13 In the higher sciences, those treating of nature generally, or of human society, he reaches the climax. “I believe that I have exhausted every combination of the human intellect in relation to morals, philosophy, and political science.”14 Not only has he discovered the true theory of government, but he is a statesman, a practical expert, able to forecast the future and shape events. He makes predictions, on the average, twice a week, which always turn out right; he already claims, during the early sessions of the Convention, to have made “three hundred predictions on the leading points of the Revolution, all justified by the event.”15 In the face of the Constituants who demolish and reconstruct so slowly, he is sufficiently strong to take down, put up, and complete at a moment’s notice. “If I were one of the people’s tribunes16 and were supported by a few thousand determined men, I answer for it that, in six weeks, the Constitution would be perfected, the political machine well agoing, and the nation free and happy. In less than a year there would be a flourishing, formidable government which would remain so as long as I lived.” If necessary, he could act as commander-in-chief of the army and always be victorious: having twice seen the Vendéans carry on a fight he would end the war “at the first encounter.”17 “If I could stand the march, I would go in person and carry out my views. At the head of a small party of trusty troops the rebels could be easily put down to the last man, and in one day. I know something of military art, and, without boasting, I can answer for success.” On any difficulty occurring, it is owing to his advice not having been taken; he is the great political physician: his diagnosis from the beginning of the Revolution is always correct, his prognosis infallible, his therapeutics efficacious, humane, and salutary. He furnishes the panacea and he should be allowed to prescribe it; only, to ensure a satisfactory operation, he should himself administer the dose. Let the public lancet, therefore, be put in his hands that he may perform the humanitarian operation of blood-letting. “Such are my opinions. I have published them in my works. I have signed them with my name and I am not ashamed of it. … If you are not equal to me and able to comprehend me so much the worse for you.”18 In other words, in his own eyes, Marat is in advance of everybody else and, through his superior genius and character, he is the veritable saviour.
Such are the symptoms by which medical men recognise immediately one of those partial lunatics who may not be put in confinement, but who are all the more dangerous;19 the malady, as they would express it in technical terms, may be called the ambitious delirium, well known in lunatic asylums. Two propensities, one a habitually perverted judgment, and the other a colossal excess of self-esteem,20 constitute its sources, and nowhere are both more prolific than in Marat. Never did man with such diversified culture, possess such an incurably perverted intellect. Never did man, after so many abortive speculations and such repeated malpractices, conceive and maintain so high an opinion of himself. Each of these two sources in him augments the other: through his faculty of not seeing things as they are, he attributes to himself virtue and genius; satisfied that he possesses genius and virtue, he regards his misdeeds as merits and his crotchets as truths. Thenceforth, and spontaneously, his malady runs its own course and becomes complex; next to the ambitious delirium comes the mania for persecution. In effect, the evident or demonstrated truths which he supplies should strike the public at once; if they burn slowly or miss fire, it is owing to their being stamped out by enemies or the envious: manifestly, they have conspired against him, and against him plots have never ceased. First came the philosophers’ plot: when his treatise on “Man” reached Paris from Amsterdam, “they felt the blow I struck at their principles and had the book stopped at the custom-house.”21 Next came the plot of the doctors, who “ruefully estimated my enormous gains. Were it necessary, I could prove that they often met together to consider the best way to destroy my reputation.” Finally, came the plot of the Academicians; “the disgraceful persecution I had to undergo from the Academy of Sciences for two years, after being satisfied that my discoveries on Light upset all that it had done for a century, and that I was quite indifferent about becoming a member of its body. … Would it be believed that these scientific charlatans succeeded in underrating my discoveries throughout Europe, in exciting every society of savants against me, and in closing against me all the newspapers!”22 Naturally, the would-be-persecuted man defends himself, that is to say, he attacks. Naturally, as he is the aggressor, he is repulsed and put down, and, after creating imaginary enemies, he creates real ones, especially in politics where, on principle, he daily preaches insurrection and murder. Naturally, in fine, he is prosecuted, convicted at the Chatelet court, tracked by the police, obliged to fly and wander from one hiding-place to another; to live like a bat “in a cellar, underground, in a dark dungeon”;23 once, says his friend Panis, he passed “six weeks on one of his buttocks” like a madman in his cell, face to face with his reveries. It is not surprising that, with such a system, the reverie should become more intense, more and more gloomy, and, at last settle down into a confirmed nightmare; that, in his distorted brain, objects should appear distorted; that, even in full daylight men and things should seem awry, as in a magnifying, dislocating mirror; that, frequently, on the numbers (of his journal) appearing too blood-thirsty, and his chronic disease too acute, his physician should bleed him to arrest these attacks and prevent their return.24
But he has taken his bent: henceforth, falsities spring up in his brain as on their native soil; planting himself on the irrational he cultivates the absurd, even physical and mathematical. “Taking an extreme view of it,” he says, “the patriotic contribution of one-quarter of one’s income will produce, at the very least, four billion eight hundred and sixty million francs, and perhaps twice that sum”; with this sum M. Necker may raise five hundred thousand men, which he calculates on for the subjugation of France.25 Since the taking of the Bastille, “the municipality’s defalcations alone amount to two hundred millions. The sums pocketed by Bailly are estimated at more than two millions; what ‘Mottié’ (Lafayette) has taken for the past two years is incalculable.”26 On the 15th of November, 1791, the gathering of emigrés comprises “at least one hundred and twenty thousand gentlemen and drilled partisans and soldiers, not counting the forces of the gentlemen-princes about to join them.”27 Consequently, as with his brethren in Bicêtre (a lunatic asylum), he raves incessantly on the horrible and the foul: the procession of terrible or disgusting phantoms has begun.28 According to him, the savants who do not choose to admire him are fools, charlatans, and plagiarists. Laplace and Monge are even “automatons,” so many calculating machines; Lavoisier, “reputed father of every discovery that makes any noise in the world, has not an idea of his own”; he steals from others without comprehending them, and “changes his system as he changes his shoes.” Fourcroy, his disciple and horn-blower, is of still thinner stuff. All are scamps: “I could cite a hundred instances of dishonesty by the Academicians of Paris, a hundred breaches of trust”; twelve thousand francs were entrusted to them for the purpose of ascertaining how to direct balloons, and “they divided it among themselves, squandering it at the Rapée, the opera and in brothels.”29 In the political world, where debates are battles, it is still worse. The “Friend of the people” has merely rascals for adversaries. Praise of Lafayette’s courage and disinterestedness, how absurd! If he went to America it was because he was jilted, “cast off by a Messalina”; he maintained a park of artillery there as “powder-monkeys look after ammunition-wagons”; these are his only exploits; besides, he is a thief. Bailly is also a thief, and Malouet a “clown.” Necker has conceived the “horrible project of starving and poisoning the people; he has drawn on himself for all eternity the execration of Frenchmen and the detestation of mankind.” What is the Constituent Assembly but a set of “low, rampant, mean, stupid fellows?” “Infamous legislators, vile scoundrels, monsters athirst for gold and blood, you traffic with the monarch, with our fortunes, with our rights, with our liberties, with our lives!” “The second legislative corps is no less rotten than the first one.” In the Convention, Roland, “the officious Gilles and the forger Pasquin, is the infamous head of the monopolisers.” “Isnard is a juggler, Buzot a Tartuffe, Vergniaud a police spy.”30 When a madman sees everywhere around him, on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling, toads, scorpions, spiders, swarms of crawling, loathsome vermin, he thinks only of crushing them, and the disease enters on its last stage: after the ambitious delirium, the mania for persecution and the settled nightmare, comes the homicidal mania.
With Marat, this broke out at the very beginning of the Revolution. The disease was innate; he was inoculated with it beforehand. He had contracted it in good earnest, on principle; never was there a plainer case of deliberate insanity. On the one hand, having derived the rights of man from physical necessities, he concluded “that society owes to those among its members who have no property, and whose labor scarcely suffices for their support, an assured subsistence, the wherewithal to feed, lodge, and clothe oneself suitably, provision for attendance in sickness and when old age comes on, and for bringing up children. Those who wallow in wealth must (then) supply the wants of those who lack the necessaries of life.” Otherwise, “the honest citizen whom society abandons to poverty and despair, reverts back to the state of nature and the right of forcibly claiming advantages which were only alienated by him to procure greater ones. All authority which is opposed to this is tyrannical, and the judge who condemns a man to death (through it) is simply a cowardly assassin.”31 Thus do the innumerable riots which the dearth excites, find justification, and, as the dearth is permanent, the daily riot is legitimate. On the other hand, having laid down the principle of popular sovereignty he deduces from this, “the sacred right of constituents to dismiss their delegates”; to seize them by the throat if they prevaricate, to keep them in the right path by fear, and wring their necks should they attempt to vote wrong or govern badly. Now, they are always subject to this temptation. “If there is one eternal truth of which it is important to convince man, it is that the mortal enemy of the people, the most to be dreaded by them, is the Government.” “Any minister who remains twice twenty-four hours in office, when it is not impossible for the cabinet to operate against the Government is ‘suspect.’ ”32 Bestir yourselves, then, ye unfortunates in town and country, workmen without work, street stragglers sleeping under bridges, prowlers along the highways, beggars without fuel or shelter, tattered vagabonds, cripples and tramps, and seize your faithless mandatories! On July 14th and October 5th and 6th, “the people had the right not only to execute some of the conspirators in military fashion, but to immolate them all, to put to the sword the entire body of royal satellites leagued together for our destruction, the whole herd of traitors to the country, of every condition and degree.”33 Never go to the Assembly “without filling your pockets with stones and throwing them at the impudent scoundrels who preach monarchical maxims; I recommend to you no other precaution but that of telling their neighbors to look out.”34 “We do not demand the resignation of the ministers—we demand their heads. We demand the heads of all the ministerialists in the Assembly, your mayor’s, your general’s, the heads of most of the staff-officers, of most of the municipal council, of the principal agents of the executive power in the kingdom.” Of what use are half-way measures, like the sack of the hotel de Castries?35 “Avenge yourselves wisely! Death! Death! is the sole penalty for traitors raging to destroy you! It is the only one that strikes terror into them. … Follow the example of your implacable enemies! Keep always armed, so that they may not escape through the delays of the law! Stab them on the spot or blow their brains out!” “Twenty-four millions of men shout in unison: If the black, gangrened, archigangrened ministerialists dare pass a bill reducing and reorganising the army, citizens, do you build eight hundred scaffolds in the Tuileries garden and hang on them every traitor to his country—that infamous Riquetti, Comte de Mirabeau, at the head of them—and, at the same time, erect in the middle of the fountain basin a big pile of logs to roast the ministers and their tools!”36 Could “the Friend of the people” rally around him two thousand men determined “to save the country, he would go and tear the heart out of that infernal Mottié in the very midst of his battalions of slaves; he would go and burn the monarch and his imps in his palace, impale the deputies on their benches, and bury them beneath the flaming ruins of their den.”37 On the first cannon shot being fired on the frontier, “it is indispensable that the people should close the gates of the towns and unhesitatingly make way with every priest, public functionary and antirevolutionist, known machinators and their accomplices.” “It would be wise for the people’s magistrates to keep constantly manufacturing large quantities of strong, sharp, short-bladed, double-edged knives, so as to arm each citizen known as a friend of his country. Now, the art of fighting with these terrible weapons consists in this: Use the left arm as buckler, and cover it up to the arm-pit with a sleeve quilted with some woollen stuff, filled with rags and hair, and then rush on the enemy, the right hand wielding the knife.”38 Let us use these knives as soon as possible, for “what now remains to us to end the evils which overwhelm us? I repeat it, nothing but executions by the people.”39 The Throne is at last down; but “be careful not to give way to false pity! … No quarter! I advise you to decimate the antirevolutionist members of the municipality, of the justices of the peace, of the members of the departments and of the National Assembly.”40 At the outset, a few lives would have sufficed: “five hundred heads ought to have fallen when the Bastille was taken, and all would then have gone on well.” But, through lack of foresight and timidity, the evil was allowed to spread, and the more it spread the larger the amputation should have been. With the sure, keen eye of the surgeon, Marat gives its dimensions; he has made his calculation beforehand. In September, 1792, in the Council at the Commune, he estimates approximatively forty thousand as the number of heads that should be laid low.41 Six weeks later, the social abscess having enormously increased, the figures swell in proportion; he now demands two hundred and seventy thousand heads,42 always on the score of humanity, “to ensure public tranquillity,” on condition that the operation be entrusted to him, as the summary, temporary justiciary. Save this last point, the rest is granted to him; it is unfortunate that he could not see with his own eyes the complete fulfilment of his programme, the batches condemned by the revolutionary Tribunal, the massacres of Lyons and Toulon, the drownings of Nantes. From first to last, he was in the right line of the Revolution, lucid on account of his blindness, thanks to his crazy logic, thanks to the concordance of his personal malady with the public malady, to the precocity of his complete madness alongside of the incomplete or tardy madness of the rest, he alone steadfast, remorseless, triumphant, perched aloft at the first bound on the sharp pinnacle which his rivals dared not climb or only stumbled up.
There is nothing of the madman about Danton; on the contrary, not only is his intellect sound, but he possesses political aptitudes to an eminent degree, and to such an extent that, in this particular, none of his associates or adversaries compare with him, while, among the men of the Revolution, only Mirabeau equals or surpasses him. He is an original, spontaneous genius and not, like most of his contemporaries, a disputatious, quill-driving theorist,43 that is to say, a fanatical pedant, an artificial being composed of his books, a mill-horse with blinkers, and turning around in a circle without an issue. His free judgment is not hampered by abstract prejudices: he does not carry about with him a social contract, like Rousseau, nor, like Sièyes, a social art and cabinet principles or combinations;44 he has kept aloof from these instinctively and, perhaps, through contempt for them; he had no need of them; he would not have known what to do with them. Systems are crutches for the impotent, while he is able-bodied; formulas serve as spectacles for the short-sighted, while his eyes are good. “He had read and meditated very little,” says a learned and philosophical witness;45 “his knowledge was scanty and he took no pride in investigation; but he observed and saw. … His native capacity, which was very great and not absorbed by other things, was naturally closed to vague, complex, and false notions, and naturally open to every notion of experience the truth of which was made manifest.” Consequently, “his perceptions of men and things, sudden, clear, impartial, and true, were instinct with solid, practical discretion.” To form a clear idea of the divergent or concordant dispositions, fickle or earnest, actual or possible, of different parties and of twenty-six millions of souls, to justly estimate probable resistances, and calculate available forces, to recognise and take advantage of the one decisive moment, to combine executive means, to find men of action, to measure the effect produced, to foresee near and remote contingencies, to regret nothing and take things coolly, to accept crimes in proportion to their political efficacy, to manoeuvre in the face of great obstacles, even in contempt of current maxims, to consider objects and men the same as an engineer contracting for machinery and calculating horse-power46 —such are the faculties of which he gave proof on the 10th of August and the 2nd of September, during his effective dictatorship between the 10th of August and the 21st of September, afterwards in the Convention, on the first Committee of Public Safety, on the 31st of May and on the 2nd of June:47 we have seen him busy at work. Up to the last, in spite of his partisans, he has tried to diminish or, at least, not add to, the resistance the government had to overcome. Nearly up to the last, in spite of his adversaries, he tried to increase or, at least, not destroy the available forces of the government. In defiance of the shoutings of the clubs, which clamor for the extermination of the Prussians, the capture of the King of Prussia, the overthrow of all thrones, and the murder of Louis XVI., he negotiated the almost pacific withdrawal of Brunswick;48 he strove to detach Prussia from the coalition;49 he wanted to turn a war of propagandism into one of interests;50 he caused the Convention to pass the decree that France would not in any way interfere with foreign governments; he secured an alliance with Sweden; he prescribed beforehand the basis of the treaty of Basle, and had an idea of saving the King.51 In spite of the distrust and attacks of the Girondists, who strove to discredit him and put him out of the way, he persists in offering them his hand; he declared war on them only because they refused to make peace,52 and he made efforts to save them when they were down. Amidst so many ranters and scribblers whose logic is mere words and whose rage is blind, who grind out phrases like a hand-organ, or are wound up for murder, his intellect, always capacious and supple, went right to facts, not to disfigure and pervert them, but to accept them, to adapt himself to them, and to comprehend them. With a mind of this quality one goes far no matter in what direction; nothing remains but to choose one’s path. Mandrin, under the ancient régime, was also, in a similar way, a superior man;53 only he chose the highway.
Between the demagogue and the highwayman the resemblance is close: both are leaders of bands and each requires an opportunity to organise his band. Danton, to organise his band, required the Revolution. “Of low birth, without a patron,” penniless, every office being filled, and “the Paris bar unattainable,” admitted a lawyer after “a struggle,” he for a long time strolled about the streets without a brief, or frequented the coffee-houses, the same as similar men nowadays frequent the beer-shops. At the Café de l’Ecole, the proprietor, a good natured old fellow “in a small round perruque, grey coat, and a napkin on his arm,” circulated among his tables smiling blandly, while his daughter sat in the rear as cashier.54 Danton chatted with her and demanded her hand in marriage. To obtain her, he had to mend his ways, purchase an attorneyship in the Court of the Royal Council and find bondsmen and endorsers in his small native town.55 Wedded and lodged in the gloomy Passage du Commerce, “more burdened with debts than with causes,” tied down to a sedentary profession which demands vigorous application, accuracy, a moderate tone, a respectable style, and blameless deportment; obliged to keep house on so small a scale that, without the help of a louis regularly advanced to him each week by his coffee-house father-in-law, he could not make both ends meet;56 his free-and-easy tastes, his alternately impetuous and indolent disposition, his love of enjoyment and of having his own way, his rude, violent instincts, his expansiveness, creativeness and activity, all rebel: he is ill-calculated for the quiet routine of our civil careers; it is not the steady discipline of an old society that suits him, but the tumultuous brutality of a society going to pieces, or one in a state of formation. In temperament and character he is a barbarian, and a barbarian born to command his fellow-creatures, like this or that vassal of the sixth century or baron of the tenth century. A colossus with the head of a “Tartar,” pitted with the small-pox, tragically and terribly ugly, with a mask convulsed like that of a growling “bull-dog,”57 with small, cavernous, restless eyes buried under the huge wrinkles of a threatening brow, with a thundering voice and moving and acting like a combatant, full-blooded, boiling over with passion and energy, his strength in its outbursts seeming illimitable like the forces of nature, roaring like a bull when speaking, and heard through closed windows fifty yards off in the street, employing immoderate imagery, intensely in earnest, trembling with indignation, revenge, and patriotic sentiments, able to arouse savage instincts in the most tranquil breast and generous instincts in the most brutal,58 profane, using emphatic terms,59 cynical, not monotonously so and affectedly like Hébert, but spontaneously and to the point, full of crude jests worthy of Rabelais, possessing a stock of jovial sensuality and good-humor, cordial and familiar in his ways, frank, friendly in tone; in short, outwardly and inwardly the best fitted for winning the confidence and sympathy of a Gallic, Parisian populace, and all contributing to the formation of “his inborn, practical popularity,” and to make of him “a grand-seigñior of sans-culotterie.”60 Thus endowed for playing a part, there is a strong temptation to act it the moment the theatre is ready, whether this be a mean one, got up for the occasion, and the actors rogues, scamps and prostitutes, or the part an ignoble one, murderous, and finally fatal to him who undertakes it. To withstand temptation of this sort would require a sentiment of repugnance which a refined or thorough culture develops in both sense and soul, but which was completely wanting in Danton. Nothing disgusts him physically or morally: he embraces Marat,61 fraternises with drunkards, congratulates the Septembriseurs, retorts in blackguard terms to the insults of prostitutes, treats reprobates, thieves, and jail-birds as equals, Carra, Westermann, Huguenin, Rossignol, and the confirmed scoundrels whom he sends into the departments after the 2d of September. “Eh! f——, you think we ought to send young misses.”62 One must employ foul people to do foul work; one cannot stop one’s nose when they come for their wages; one must pay them well, talk to them encouragingly, and leave them plenty of sea-room. Danton is willing to add fuel to the fire, and he humors vices; he has no scruples, and lets people scratch and take. He has taken himself as much to give as to keep, to maintain his role as much as to benefit by it, squaring accounts by spending the money of the Court against the Court, probably inwardly chuckling, the same as the peasant in a blouse on getting ahead of his well-duped landlord, or as the Frank, whom the ancient historian describes as leering on pocketing Roman gold the better to make war against Rome. The graft on this plebeian seedling has not taken; in our modern garden this remains as in the ancient forest; its vigorous sap preserves its primitive raciness and produces none of the fine fruits of our civilisation, a moral sense, honor, and conscience. Danton has no respect for himself nor for others; the nice, delicate limitations that circumscribe human personality, seem to him as legal conventionality and mere drawing-room courtesy. Like a Clovis, he tramples on this, and like a Clovis, equal in faculties, in similar expedients, and with a worse horde at his back, he throws himself athwart society, to stagger along, destroy and reconstruct it to his own advantage.
At the start, he comprehended the peculiar character and normal procedure of the Revolution, that is to say, the useful agency of popular brutality: in 1788 he had already figured in insurrections. He comprehended from the first the ultimate object and definite result of the Revolution, that is to say, the dictatorship of the violent minority. Immediately after the “14th of July,” 1789, he organised in his quarter of the city63 a small independent republic, aggressive and predominant, the centre of the faction, a refuge for the riff-raff and a rendezvous for fanatics, a pandemonium composed of every available madcap, every rogue, visionary, shoulder-hitter, newspaper scribbler and stump-speaker, either a secret or avowed plotter of murder, Camille Desmoulins, Fréron, Hébert, Chaumette, Clootz, Théroigne, Marat, while, in this more than Jacobin State, the model in anticipation of that he is to establish later, he reigns, as he will afterwards reign, the permanent president of the district, commander of the battalion, orator of the club, and the concocter of bold undertakings. Here, usurpation is the rule: there is no recognition of legal authority; they brave the King, the ministers, the judges, the Assembly, the municipality, the mayor, the commandant of the National Guard. Nature and principle raise them above the law; the district takes charge of Marat, posts two sentinels at his door to protect him from prosecutions, and uses arms against the armed force sent with a warrant to arrest him.64 And yet more, in the name of the city of Paris, “chief sentinel of the nation,” they assume to govern France: Danton betakes himself to the National Assembly and declares that the citizens of Paris are the natural representatives of the eighty-three departments, and summons it, on their injunction, to cancel an act it has passed.65 The entire Jacobin conception is therein expressed: Danton, with his keen insight, took it all in and proclaimed it in appropriate terms; to apply it at the present time on a grand scale,66 he has merely to pass from the small theatre to the large one, from the Cordeliers club to the Commune, to the Ministry, and the Committee of Public Safety, and, in all these theatres, he plays the same part with the same end in view and the same results. A despotism formed by conquest and maintained by terror, the despotism of the Jacobin Parisian rabble, is the end to which he directly marches. He employs no other means and, adapting the means to the end and the end to the means, manages the important days and instigates the decisive measures of the Revolution—the 10th of August,67 the 2d of September, the 31st of May, the 2d of June;68 the decree providing for an army of paid sans-culottes “to keep down aristocrats with their pikes”; the decree in each commune where grain is dear, taxing the rich to put bread within reach of the poor;69 the decree giving laborers forty sous for attending the meetings of the Section Assemblies;70 the institution of the revolutionary Tribunal;71 the proposal to erect the Committee of Public Safety into a provisional government; the proclamation of Terror; the concentration of Jacobin zeal on useful works; the employment of the eight thousand delegates of the primary assemblies, who had been sent home as recruiting agents for the universal armament;72 the inflammatory expressions of young men on the frontier; the wise resolutions for limiting the levy en masse to men between eighteen and twenty-five, which put an end to the scandalous songs and dances by the populace in the very hall of the Convention.73 In order to set the machine up, he cleared the ground, fused the metal, hammered out the principal pieces, filed off the blisterings, designed the action, adjusted the minor wheels, set it agoing, and indicated what it had to do, and, at the same time, he forged the plating which guarded it from the foreigner and against all outward violence. The machine being his, why, after constructing it, did he not serve as its engineer?
Because, if competent to construct it, he was not qualified to manage it. In a crisis, he may take hold of the wheel himself, excite an assembly or a mob in his favor, carry things with a high hand and direct an executive committee for a few weeks. But he dislikes regular, persistent labor; he is not made for studying documents, for poring over papers and confining himself to administrative routine.74 Never, like Robespierre and Billaud can he attend to both official and police duties at the same time, carefully reading minute daily reports, annotating mortuary lists, extemporising ornate abstractions, coolly enunciating falsehoods and acting out the patient, satisfied inquisitor; and especially, he can never become the systematic executioner. On the one hand, his eyes are not obscured by the grey veil of theory: he does not regard men through the Contrat-Social as a sum of arithmetical units,75 but as they really are, living, suffering, shedding their blood, especially those he knows, each with his peculiar physiognomy and demeanor. Compassion is excited by all this when one has any feeling, and he had. Danton had a heart; he had the quick sensibilities of a man of flesh and blood stirred by the primitive instincts, the good ones along with the bad ones, instincts which culture had neither impaired nor deadened, which allowed him to plan and permit the September massacre, but which did not allow him to practise daily and blindly, systematic and wholesale murder. Already in September, “cloaking his pity under his bellowing,”76 he had shielded or saved many eminent men from the butchers. When the axe is about to fall on the Girondists, he is “ill with grief” and despair. “I am unable to save them,” he exclaimed, “and big tears streamed down his cheeks.” On the other hand, his eyes are not covered by the bandage of incapacity or lack of forethought. He detected the innate vice of the system, the inevitable and approaching suicide of the Revolution. “The Girondists forced us to throw ourselves upon the sans-culotterie which has devoured them, which will devour us, and which will eat itself up.”77 “Let Robespierre and Saint-Just alone, and there will soon be nothing left in France but a Thebiad of political Trappists.”78 At the end, he sees more clearly still. “On a day like this I organised the revolutionary Tribunal. … I ask pardon for it of God and man. … In Revolutions, authority remains with the greatest scoundrels. … It is better to be a poor fisherman than govern men.”79 Nevertheless, he professed to govern them; he constructed a new machine for the purpose, and, deaf to its creaking, it worked in conformity with its structure and the impulse he gave to it. It towers before him, this sinister machine, with its vast wheel and iron cogs grinding all France, their multiplied teeth pressing out each individual life, its steel blade constantly rising and falling, and, as it plays faster and faster, daily exacting a larger and larger supply of human material, while those who furnish this supply are held to be as insensible and as senseless as itself. Danton cannot, or will not, be so. He gets out of the way, diverts himself, gambles,80 forgets; he supposes that the titular decapitators will probably consent to take no notice of him; in any event they do not pursue him; “they would not dare do it.” “No one must lay hands on me, I am the ark.” At the worst, he prefers “to be guillotined rather than guillotine.” Having said or thought this, he is ripe for the scaffold.
Even with the firm determination to remain decapitator-in-chief, Danton would not be the true representative of the Revolution. It is brigandage, but carried on philosophically; its creed includes robbery and assassination, but only as a knife in its sheath; the showy, polished sheath is for public display, and not the sharp and bloody blade. Danton, like Marat, lets the blade be too plainly visible. At the mere sight of Marat, filthy and slovenly, with his livid, frog-like face, round, gleaming and fixed eyeballs, bold, maniacal stare and steady monotonous rage, common-sense rebels; people do not accept for their guide a homicidal bedlamite. At sight of Danton, with his billingsgate expressions, his voice like a tocsin of insurrection, his cyclopean features and air of an exterminator, humanity takes alarm; one does not surrender oneself to a political butcher without repugnance. The Revolution demands another interpreter, wearing like itself a specious exterior, and such is Robespierre,81 with his irreproachable attire, well-powdered hair, carefully brushed coat,82 strict habits, dogmatic tone, and formal, studied manner of speaking. No mind, in its mediocrity and incompetence, so well harmonises with the spirit of the epoch. The reverse of the statesman, he soars in empty space, amongst abstractions, always mounted on a principle and incapable of dismounting so as to see things practically. “That b—— there,” exclaims Danton, “doesn’t even know how to boil an egg!” “The vague generalities of his preaching,” writes another contemporary,83 “rarely culminated in any specific measure or legal provision. He combated everything and proposed nothing; the secret of his policy happily accorded with his intellectual impotence and with the nullity of his legislative conceptions.” Once the thread of his revolutionary scholasticism has spun itself out, he is completely used up. As to financial matters and military art, he knows nothing and risks nothing, except to underrate or calumniate Carnot and Cambon who did know and who took risks.84 In relation to a foreign policy his speech on the state of Europe is the amplification of a schoolboy; on exposing the plans of the English minister he reaches the pinnacle of chimerical nonsense;85 eliminate the rhetorical passages, and it is not the head of a government who speaks, but the porter of the Jacobin club. On contemporary France, as it actually exists, he has not one just or precise idea: instead of men, he sees only twenty-six millions of automatons, who, duly penned in, work together in peace and harmony; they are, indeed, naturally good,86 and, after a little necessary purification, they will become good again; accordingly, their collective will is “the voice of reason and public interest”; hence, on meeting together, they are wise. “The people’s assembly of delegates should deliberate, if possible, in the presence of the whole body of the people”; the Legislative body, at least, should hold its sittings “in a vast, majestic edifice open to twenty thousand spectators.” Note that for the past four years, in the Constituent Assembly, in the Legislative Assembly, in the Convention, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, in the Jacobin Club, wherever Robespierre speaks, the galleries have kept up constant vociferations: such a positive, palpable experience would open anybody’s eyes; his are closed through prejudice or interest; even physical truth finds no access to his mind, because he is unable to comprehend it, or because he has to keep it out. He is, accordingly, either obtuse or a charlatan, and both in fact, for both combine to form the cuistre, that is to say, the hollow, inflated mind which, filled with words and imagining that these are ideas, revels in its own declamation and dupes itself that it may dictate to others.
Such is his title, character, and the part he plays. In this artificial and declamatory tragedy of the Revolution he takes the leading part; the maniac and the barbarian slowly retire in the background on the appearance of the cuistre; Marat and Danton finally become effaced, or efface themselves, and the stage is left to Robespierre who absorbs attention.87 If we would comprehend him we must look at him as he stands in the midst of his surroundings. At the last stage of an intellectual vegetation passing away, he remains on the last branch of the eighteenth century, the most abortive and driest offshoot of the classical spirit.88 He has retained nothing of a worn-out system of philosophy but its lifeless dregs and well-conned formulae, the formulae of Rousseau, Mably, and Raynal, concerning “the people, nature, reason, liberty, tyrants, factions, virtue, morality,” a ready-made vocabulary,89 expressions too ample, the meaning of which, ill-defined by the masters, evaporates in the hands of the disciple. He never tries to get at this; his writings and speeches are merely long strings of vague abstract periods; there is no telling fact in them, no distinct, characteristic detail, no appeal to the eye evoking a living image, no personal, special observation, no clear, frank original impression. It might be said of him that he never saw anything with his own eyes, that he neither could nor would see, that false conceptions have intervened and fixed themselves between him and the object;90 he combines these in logical sequence, and simulates the absent thought by an affected jargon, and this is all. The other Jacobins alongside of him likewise use the same scholastic jargon; but none of them expatiate on it so lengthily. For hours, we grope after him in the vague shadows of political speculation, in the cold and perplexing mist of didactic generalities, trying in vain to make something out of his colorless tirades, and we grasp nothing. We then, astonished, ask what all this talk amounts to, and why he talks at all; the answer is, that he has said nothing and that he talks only for the sake of talking, the same as a sectary preaching to his congregation, neither the preacher nor his audience ever wearying, the one of turning the dogmatic crank, and the other of listening. So much the better if the hopper is empty; the emptier it is the easier and faster the crank turns. And better still, if the empty term he selects is used in a contrary sense; the sonorous words justice, humanity, mean to him piles of human heads, the same as a text from the gospels means to a grand inquisitor the burning of heretics. Through this extreme perversity, the cuistre spoils his own mental instrument; thenceforth he employs it as he likes, as his passions dictate, believing that he serves truth in serving these.
Now, his first passion, his principal passion, is literary vanity. Never was the chief of a party, sect, or government, even at critical moments, such an incurable, insignificant rhetorician, so formal, so pompous, and so vapid. On the eve of the 9th of Thermidor, when it was necessary to conquer or die, he enters the tribune with a set speech, written and rewritten, polished and repolished,91 overloaded with studied ornaments and bits for effect,92 coated by dint of time and labor, with the academic varnish, the glitter of symmetrical antitheses, rounded periods, exclamations, preteritions, apostrophes and other tricks of the pen.93 In the most famous and important of his reports,94 I have counted eighty-four instances of prosopopoeia imitated from Rousseau and the antique, many of them largely expanded, some addressed to the dead, to Brutus, to young Barra, and others to absentees, priests, and aristocrats, to the unfortunate, to French women, and finally to abstract substantives like Liberty and Friendship. With unshaken conviction and intense satisfaction, he deems himself an orator because he harps on the same old tune. There is no sign of true inspiration in his elaborate eloquence, nothing but recipes and those of a worn-out art, Greek and Roman common-places, Socrates and the hemlock, Brutus and his dagger, classic metaphors like “the flambeaux of discord,” and “the vessel of State,”95 words coupled together and beauties of style which a pupil in rhetoric aims at on the college bench;96 sometimes a grand bravura air, so essential for parade in public;97 oftentimes a delicate strain of the flute, for, in those days, one must have a tender heart;98 in short, Marmontel’s method in “Belisarius,” or that of Thomas in his “Eloges,” all borrowed from Rousseau, but of inferior quality, like a sharp, thin voice strained to imitate a rich, powerful voice; a sort of involuntary parody, and the more repulsive because a word ends in a blow, because a sentimental, declamatory Trissotin poses as statesman, because the studied elegances of the closet become pistol shots aimed at living breasts, because an epithet skilfully directed sends a man to the guillotine. The contrast is too great between his talent and the part he plays. With a talent as petty and false as his intellect, there is no employment for which he is less calculated than that of governing men; he was cut out for another, which, in a peaceable community, would have stood him in stead. Suppress the Revolution, and Marat would have probably ended his days in an asylum. Danton might possibly have become a legal fillibuster, a Mandrin or bravo under certain circumstances, and finally throttled or hung. Robespierre, on the contrary, might have continued as he began,99 a busy, hard-working lawyer of good standing, member of the Arras Academy, winner of competitive prizes, author of literary eulogiums, moral essays, and philanthropic pamphlets; his little lamp, lighted like hundreds of others of equal capacity at the focus of the new philosophy, would have burned moderately without doing harm to any one, and diffused over a provincial circle a dim, commonplace illumination proportionate to the little oil his lamp would hold.
But the Revolution bore him into the Constituent Assembly, where, for a long time on this great stage, the self-love that constitutes the sensitive chord of the cuistre, suffered terribly. He had already suffered on this score from his earliest youth, and his wounds being still fresh made him only the more sensitive. Left an orphan, poor, befriended by his bishop, becoming a bursar through favor at the college Louis-le-Grand, after this a clerk with Brissot under the revolutionary system of law-practice, and at length settled down in his gloomy rue des Rapporteurs as a pettifogger, living with a peevish sister, he adopts Rousseau, whom he had once seen and whom he ardently studies, for his master in philosophy, politics, and style. Fancying, probably, like other young men of his age and condition, that he could play a similar part and thus emerge from his blind alley, he published law pleadings for effect, contended for Academy prizes, and read papers before his Arras colleagues. His success was moderate: one of his harangues obtained a notice in the Artois Almanack; the Academy of Metz awarded him only a second prize; that of Amiens gave him no prize, while the critic of the “Mercure” spoke of his style as smacking of the provinces. In the National Assembly, eclipsed by men of great and spontaneous ability, he remains a long time in the shade, and, more than once, through over self-assertion or lack of tact, makes himself ridiculous. With his sharp, thin, attorney’s visage, “dull, monotonous, coarse voice and wearisome delivery,” “an artesian accent,” and constrained air,100 his constantly putting himself forward, his elaboration of commonplaces, his evident determination to impose on cultivated people, still a body of intelligent listeners, and the intolerable ennui he caused them—all this is not calculated to render the Assembly indulgent to errors of sense and taste.101 One day, referring to certain acts of the “Conseil”: “It is necessary that a noble and simple formula should announce national rights and carry respect for law into the hearts of the people.” Consequently, in the decrees as promulgated, after the words “Louis, by the grace of God,” etc., these words should follow: “People, behold the law imposed on you! Let this law be considered sacred and inviolable for all!” Upon this, a Gascon deputy arises and remarks in his southern accent, “Gentlemen, this formula is useless—we do not sing psalms (cantique).” There is a general roar;102 Robespierre keeps silent and bleeds internally: two or three discomfitures of this stamp render a man sore from head to foot.
It is not that his folly is foolishness to him; no pedant taken in the act and hissed would avow that he deserved such treatment; on the contrary, he is content to have spoken as becomes a philosophic and moral legislator, and so much the worse for the narrow minds and corrupt hearts unable to comprehend him. Thrown back upon himself, his wounded vanity seeks inward nourishment and takes what it can find in the sterile uniformity of his bourgeois moderation. Robespierre, unlike Danton, has no cravings. He is sober; he is not tormented by his senses; if he gives way to them, it is only no further than he can help, and with a bad grace; in the rue Saintonge in Paris, “for seven months,” says his secretary, “I knew of but one woman that he kept company with, and he did not treat her very well … very often he would not let her enter his room”: when busy, he must not be disturbed; he is naturally steady, hard-working, studious and fond of seclusion, at college a model pupil, at home in his province an attentive advocate, a punctual deputy in the Assembly, everywhere free of temptation and incapable of going astray. “Irreproachable” is the word which from early youth an inward voice constantly repeats to him in low tones to console him for obscurity and patience. Thus has he ever been, is now, and ever will be; he says this to himself, tells others so, and on this foundation, all of a piece, he builds up his character. He is not, like Desmoulins, to be seduced by dinners, like Barnave, by flattery, like Mirabeau and Danton, by money, like the Girondists, by the insinuating charm of ancient politeness and select society, like the Dantonists, by the bait of joviality and unbounded license—he is the incorruptible. He is not to be deterred or diverted, like the Feuillants, Girondists, and Dantonists, like statesmen or specialists, by considerations of a lower order, by regard for interests or respect for acquired positions, by the danger of undertaking too much at once, by the necessity of not disorganising the service and of giving play to human passions, motives of utility and opportunity: he is the uncompromising champion of right.103 “Alone, or nearly alone, I do not allow myself to be corrupted; alone or nearly alone, I do not compromise the right;104 which two merits I possess in the highest degree. A few others may live correctly, but they oppose or betray principles; a few others profess to have principles, but they do not live correctly. No one else leads so pure a life or is so loyal to principles; no one else joins to so fervent a worship of truth so strict a practice of virtue: I am the unique.” What can be more agreeable than this mute soliloquy? It is gently heard the first day in Robespierre’s address to the Third-Estate of Arras;105 it is uttered aloud the last day in his great speech in the Convention;106 during the interval, it crops out and shines through all his compositions, harangues, or reports, in exordiums, parentheses, and perorations, permeating every sentence like the drone of a bag-pipe.107 Through the delight he takes in this he can listen to nothing else, and it is just here that the outward echoes supervene and sustain with their accompaniment the inward cantata which he sings to his own glory. Towards the end of the Constituent Assembly, through the withdrawal or the elimination of every man at all able or competent, he becomes one of the conspicuous tenors on the political stage, while in the Jacobin Club he is decidedly the tenor most in vogue. “Unique competitor of the Roman Fabricius,” writes the branch club at Marseilles to him; “immortal defender of popular rights,” says the Jacobin crew of Bourges.108 One of two portraits of him in the exhibition of 1791 bears the inscription: “The Incorruptible.” At the Molière Theatre a drama of the day represents him as launching the thunderbolts of his logic and virtue at Rohan and Condé. On his way, at Bapaume, the patriots of the place, the National Guard on the road, and the authorities, come in a body to honor the great man. The town of Arras is illuminated on his arrival. On the adjournment of the Constituent Assembly the people in the street greet him with shouts, crown him with oak wreaths, take the horses from his cab, and drag him in triumph to the rue St. Honoré, where he lodges with the carpenter Duplay. Here, in one of those families in which the semibourgeois class borders on the people, whose minds are unsophisticated, and on whom glittering generalities and oratorical tirades take full hold, he finds his worshippers; they drink in his words; they have the same opinion of him that he has of himself; to every soul in the house, husband, wife, and daughter, he is the great patriot, the infallible sage; he bestows benedictions night and morning; he inhales clouds of incense; he is a god installed in furnished apartments. The faithful, to obtain access to him form a line in the court;109 they are admitted into the reception room, where they gather around portraits of him drawn with pencil and stump, in sepia and in water color, and before miniature busts in red or grey plaster; then, on the signal being given by him, they penetrate through a glass door into the sanctuary where he presides, in the private closet in which the best bust of him, with verses and mottoes, supplies his place during his absence. His worshippers adore him on their knees, and the women more than the men. On the day he delivers his apology before the Convention “the passages are lined with women110 … seven or eight hundred of them in the galleries, and but two hundred men at most”; and how frantically they cheer him! He is a priest surrounded by devotees.”111 On spouting his “rigmarole” at the Jacobin Club “the most affecting sobbings, shoutings and stampings almost make the house tumble.”112 A looker-on who shows no emotion is greeted with murmurs and obliged to slip out, like a heretic that has strayed into a church on the elevation of the Host. The faster the revolutionary thunderbolts fall on other heads, so does Robespierre mount higher and higher in glory and deification. Letters are addressed to him as “the founder of the Republic, the incorruptible genius who foresees all and saves all, who can neither be deceived nor seduced”;113 who has “the energy of a Spartan and the eloquence of an Athenian”;114 “who shields the Republic with the aegis of his eloquence”;115 who “illuminates the universe with his writings, fills the world with his renown and regenerates the human species here below”;116 whose “name is now, and will be, held in veneration for all ages, present and to come”;117 who is “the Messiah promised by the Eternal for universal reform.”118 “An extraordinary popularity,” says Billaud-Varennes,119 a popularity which, founded under the Constituent Assembly, “only increased during the Legislative Assembly,” and, later on, so much more, that, “in the National Convention he soon found himself the only one able to fix attention on his person … and control public opinion. … With this ascendency over public opinion, with this irresistible preponderance, when he reached the Committee of Public Safety, he was already the most important being in France.” In three years, a chorus of a thousand voices,120 which he formed and led indefatigably, rehearses to him in unison his own litany, his most sacred creed, the hymn of three stanzas composed by him in his own honor, and which he daily recites to himself in a low tone of voice, and often in a loud one: “Robespierre alone has discovered the ideal citizen! Robespierre alone attains to it without exaggeration or shortcomings! Robespierre alone is worthy of and able to lead the Revolution!”121 Cool infatuation carried thus far is equivalent to a raging fever, and Robespierre almost attains to the ideas and the ravings of Marat.
First, in his own eyes, he, like Marat, is a persecuted man, and, like Marat, he poses himself as a “martyr,” but more skilfully and keeping within bounds, affecting the resigned and tender air of an innocent victim, who, offering himself as a sacrifice, ascends to Heaven, bequeathing to mankind the imperishable souvenir of his virtues.122 “I excite against me the self-love of everybody;123 I sharpen against me a thousand daggers. I am a sacrifice to every species of hatred. … It is certain that my head will atone for the truths I have uttered. I have given my life, and shall welcome death almost as a boon. It is, perhaps, Heaven’s will that my blood should indicate the pathway of my country to happiness and freedom. With what transports I accept this glorious destiny!”124 “One does not wage war against tyrants for existence, and, what is still more dangerous, against miscreants; … the greater their eagerness to put an end to my career here below, the more eager I shall be to fill it with actions serving the welfare of my fellow-creatures.”125 “These miscreants all revile me;126 the most insignificant, the most legitimate actions of others are, in my case, crimes. Whoever becomes acquainted with me is at once calumniated. The luck of others is pardoned, my zeal is guilt. Deprive me of my conscience and I am the most wretched of men. I do not even enjoy the rights of a citizen. I am not even allowed to perform my duty as a representative of the people. … To the enemies of my country, to whom my existence seems an obstacle to their heinous plots, I am ready to sacrifice it, if their odious empire is to endure; … let their road to the scaffold be the pathway of crime, ours shall be that of virtue; … let the hemlock be got ready for me, I await it on this hallowed spot. I shall at least bequeath to my country an example of constant affection for it, and to the enemies of humanity the disgrace of my death.”
Naturally, as always with Marat, he sees around him only “evil-doers,” “intriguers,” and “traitors.”127 Naturally, as with Marat, common sense with him is perverted, and, like Marat again, he thinks at random. “I am not obliged to reflect,” said he to Garat, “I always rely on first impressions.” “For him,” says the same authority, “the best reasons are suspicions,”128 and nought makes headway against suspicions, not even the most positive evidence. On September 4, 1792, talking confidentially with Pétion, and hard pressed with the questions that he put to him, he ends by saying, “Very well, I think that Brissot is on Brunswick’s side.”129 Naturally, finally, he, like Marat, imagines the darkest fictions, but they are less improvised, less grossly absurd, more slowly worked out, and more industriously interwoven in his calculating inquisitorial brain. “Evidently,” he says to Garat, “the Girondists are conspiring.”130 “And where?” demands Garat. “Every where,” he replies, “in Paris, throughout France, over all Europe. Gensonné, at Paris, is plotting in the Faubourg St. Antoine, going about among the shopkeepers and persuading them that we patriots mean to pillage their shops. The Gironde (department) has for a long time been plotting its separation from France so as to join England; the chiefs of its deputation are at the head of the plot, and mean to carry it out at any cost. Gensonné makes no secret of it; he tells all among them who will listen to him that they are not representatives of the nation, but plenipotentiaries of the Gironde. Brissot is plotting in his journal, which is simply a tocsin of civil war; we know of his going to England, and why he went; we know all about his intimacy with that Lebrun, minister of foreign affairs, a Liegois and creature of the Austrian house. Brissot’s best friend is Clavière, and Clavière has plotted wherever he could breathe. Rabaut, treacherous like the Protestant and philosopher that he is, was not clever enough to conceal his correspondence with that courtier and traitor Montesquiou; six months ago they were working together to open Savoy and France to the Piedmontese. Servan was made general of the Pyrenean army only to give the keys of France to the Spaniards.” “Is there no doubt of this in your mind?” asks Garat. “None, whatever.”131
Such assurance, equal to that of Marat, is terrible and worse in its effect, for Robespierre’s list of conspirators is longer than that of Marat. Political and social, in Marat’s mind, the list comprehends only aristocrats and the rich; theological and moral in Robespierre’s mind, it comprehends all atheists and dishonest persons, that is to say, nearly the whole of his party. In this narrow mind, given up to abstractions and habitually classifying men under two opposite headings, whoever is not with him on the good side is against him on the bad side, and, on the bad side, the common understanding between the factious of every flag and the rogues of every degree, is natural. “All aristocrats are corrupt, and every corrupt man is an aristocrat”; for, “republican government and public morality are one and the same thing.”132 Not only do evil-doers of both species tend through instinct and interest to league together, but their league is already perfected. One has only to open one’s eyes to detect “in all its extent” the plot they have hatched, “the frightful system of destruction of public morality.”133 Guadet, Vergniaud, Gensonné, Danton, Hébert, “all of them artificial characters,” had no other end in view: “they felt134 that, to destroy liberty, it was necessary to favor by every means whatever tended to justify egoism, wither the heart and efface that idea of moral beauty, which affords the only rule for public reason in its judgment of the defenders and enemies of humanity.” Their heirs remain; but let those be careful. Immorality is a political offence; one conspires against the State merely by making a parade of materialism or by preaching indulgence, by acting scandalously, or by following evil courses, by stock-jobbing, by dining too sumptuously; by being vicious, scheming, given to exaggeration, or “on the fence”; by exciting or perverting the people, by deceiving the people, by finding fault with the people, by distrusting the people,135 in short, when one does not march straight along on the prescribed path marked out by Robespierre according to principles: whoever stumbles or turns aside is a scoundrel, a traitor. Now, not counting the Royalists, Feuillantists, Girondists, Hébertists, Dantonists, and others already decapitated or imprisoned according to their deserts, how many traitors still remain in the Convention, on the Committees, amongst the representatives on mission, in the administrative bodies not properly weeded out, amongst petty tyrannic underlings and the entire ruling, influential class at Paris and in the provinces? Outside of “about twenty political Trappists in the Convention,” outside of a small devoted group of pure Jacobins in Paris, outside of a faithful few scattered among the popular clubs of the departments, how many Fouchés, Vadiers, Talliens, Bourdons, Collots, remain amongst the so-called revolutionists? How many dissentients are there, disguised as orthodox, charlatans disguised as patriots, and pachas disguised as sans-culottes?136 Add all this vermin to that which Marat seeks to crush out; it is no longer by hundreds of thousands, but by millions, exclaim Baudot, Jean Bon St. André and Guffroy, that the guilty must be counted and heads laid low! And all these heads, Robespierre, according to his maxims, must strike off. He is well aware of this; hostile as his intellect may be to precise ideas, he, when alone in his closet, face to face with himself, sees clearly, as clearly as Marat. Marat’s chimera, on first spreading out its wings, bore its frenzied rider swiftly onward to the charnel house; that of Robespierre, fluttering and hobbling along, reaches the goal in its turn; in its turn, it demands something to feed on, and the rhetorician, the professor of principles, begins to calculate the voracity of the monstrous brute on which he is mounted. Slower than the other, this one is still more ravenous, for, with similar claws and teeth, it has a vaster appetite. At the end of three years Robespierre has overtaken Marat, at the extreme point reached by Marat at the outset, and the theorist adopts the policy, the aim, the means, the work, and almost the vocabulary of the maniac:137 armed dictatorship of the urban mob, systematic maddening of the subsidised populace, war against the bourgeoisie, extermination of the rich, proscription of opposition writers, administrators, and deputies. Both monsters demand the same food; only, Robespierre adds “vicious men” to the ration of his monster, by way of extra and preferable game. Henceforth, he may in vain abstain from action, take refuge in his rhetoric, stop his chaste ears, and raise his hypocritical eyes to heaven, he cannot avoid seeing or hearing under his immaculate feet the streaming gore, and the bones crashing in the open jaws of the insatiable monster which he has fashioned and on which he prances.138 These ever open and hungry jaws must be daily fed with an ampler supply of human flesh; not only is he bound to let it eat, but to furnish the food, often with his own hands, except that he must afterwards wash them, declaring, and even believing, that no spot of blood has ever soiled them. He is generally content to caress and flatter the brute, to excuse it, to let it go on. Nevertheless, more than once, tempted by the opportunity, he points out the prey and gives it the rein.139 He is now himself starting off in quest of living prey; he casts the net of his rhetoric140 around it; he fetches it bound to the open jaws; he thrusts aside with an absolute air the arms of friends, wives, and mothers, the outstretched hands of suppliants begging for lives;141 he suddenly throttles the struggling victims142 and, for fear that they might escape, he strangles them in time. Towards the last, this no longer suffices; the brute must have grander quarries, and, accordingly, a pack of hounds, beaters-up, and, willingly or not, Robespierre must equip, direct, and urge them on, at Orange, at Paris,143 ordering them to empty the prisons, and be expeditious in doing their work. Destructive instincts, long repressed by civilisation, thus devoted to butchery, become aroused. His feline physiognomy, at first “that of a domestic cat, restless but mild, changes into the savage mien of the wildcat, and next to the ferocious mien of the tiger. In the Constituent Assembly he speaks with a whine, in the Convention he froths at the mouth.”144 The monotonous drone of a stiff subprofessor changes into the personal accent of furious passion; he hisses and grinds his teeth;145 sometimes, on a change of scene, he affects to shed tears.146 But his wildest outbursts are less alarming than his affected sensibility. The festering grudges, corrosive envies and bitter schemings which have accumulated in his breast are astonishing. The gall vessels are full, and the extravasated gall overflows on the dead. He never tires of reexecuting his guillotined adversaries, the Girondists, Chaumette, Hébert and especially Danton,147 probably because Danton was the active agent in the Revolution of which he was simply the incapable pedagogue; he vents his posthumous hatred on this still warm corpse in artful insinuations and obvious misrepresentations. Thus, inwardly corroded by the venom it distils, his physical machine gets out of order, like that of Marat, but with other symptoms. When speaking in the tribune “his hands crisp with a sort of nervous contraction”; sudden tremors agitate “his shoulders and neck, shaking him convulsively to and fro.”148 “His bilious complexion becomes livid,” his eyelids quiver under his spectacles, and how he looks! “Ah,” said a Montagnard, “you would have voted as we did on the 9th of Thermidor, had you seen his green eyeballs!” “Physically as well as morally,” he becomes a second Marat, suffering all the more because his delirium is not steady, and because his policy, being a moral one, forces him to exterminate on a grander scale.
But he is a discreet Marat, of a timid temperament, anxious,149 keeping his thoughts to himself, made for a school-master or a pleader, but not for taking the lead or for governing, always acting hesitatingly, and ambitious to be rather the pope, than the dictator of the Revolution.150 He would prefer to remain a political Grandison; he keeps the mask on to the very last, not only to the public and to others, but to himself and in his inmost conscience. The mask, indeed, has adhered to his skin; he can no longer distinguish one from the other; never did impostor more carefully conceal intentions and acts under sophisms, and persuade himself that the mask was his face, and that in telling a lie, he told the truth.
Taking his word for it, he had nothing to do with the September events.151 “Previous to these occurrences, he had ceased to attend the General Council of the Commune. … He no longer went there.” He was not charged with any duty, he had no influence there; he had not provoked the arrest and murder of the Girondists.152 All he did was to “speak frankly concerning certain members of the Committee of Twenty-one”; as “a magistrate” and “one of a municipal assembly.” Should he not “explain himself freely on the authors of a dangerous plot?” Besides, the Commune “far from provoking the 2d of September did all in its power to prevent it.” In fine, but one innocent person perished, “which is undoubtedly one too many. Citizens, mourn over this cruel mistake; we too have long mourned over it! But, as all things human come to an end, let your tears cease to flow.” When the sovereign people resumes its delegated power and exercises its inalienable rights, we have only to bow our heads. Moreover, it is just, wise, and good: “in all that it undertakes, all is virtue and truth; nothing can be excess, error, or crime.”153 It must intervene when its true representatives are hampered by the law: “let it assemble in its sections and compel the arrest of faithless deputies.”154 What is more legal than such a motion, which is the only part Robespierre took on the 31st of May. He is too scrupulous to commit or prescribe an illegal act. That will do for the Dantons, the Marats, men of relaxed morals or excited brains, who if need be, tramp in the gutters and roll up their shirt-sleeves; as to himself, he can do nothing that would ostensibly derange or soil the dress proper to an honest man and irreproachable citizen. In the Committee of Public Safety, he merely executes the decrees of the Convention, and the Convention is always free. He a dictator! He is merely one of seven hundred deputies, and his authority, if he has any, is simply the legitimate ascendency of reason and virtue.155 He a murderer! If he has denounced conspirators, it is the Convention which summons these before the revolutionary Tribunal,156 and the revolutionary Tribunal pronounces judgment on them. He a terrorist! He merely seeks to simplify the established proceedings, so as to secure a speedier release of the innocent, the punishment of the guilty, and the final purgation that is to render liberty and morals the order of the day.157 Before uttering all this he almost believes it, and, when he has uttered it he believes it fully.158
When nature and history combine, to produce a character, they succeed better than man’s imagination. Neither Molière in his “Tartuffe,” nor Shakespeare in his “Richard III.,” dared bring on the stage a hypocrite believing himself sincere, and a Cain that regarded himself as an Abel. There he stands on a colossal stage, in the presence of a hundred thousand spectators, on the 8th of June, 1794, the most glorious day of his life, at the fête in honor of the Supreme Being, which is the glorious triumph of his doctrine and the official consecration of his popedom. Two characters are found in Robespierre, as in the Revolution which he represents: one, apparent, paraded, external, and the other hidden, dissembled, inward, the latter being overlaid by the former. The first one all for show, fashioned out of purely cerebral cogitations, is as artificial as the solemn farce going on around him. According to David’s programme, the cavalcade of supernumeraries who file in front of an allegorical mountain, gesticulate and shout at the command, and under the eyes, of Henriot and his gendarmes,159 manifesting at the appointed time the emotions which are prescribed for them. At five o’clock in the morning “friends, husbands, wives, relations, and children will embrace. … The old man, his eyes streaming with tears of joy, feels himself rejuvenated.” At two o’clock, on the turf-laid terraces of the sacred mountain “all will show a state of commotion and excitement: mothers here press to their bosoms the infants they suckle, and there offer them up in homage to the author of Nature, while youths, aglow with the ardor of battle, simultaneously draw their swords and hand them to their venerable fathers. Sharing in the enthusiasm of their sons, the transported old men embrace them and bestow on them the paternal benediction. … All the men distributed around the ‘Field of Reunion’ sing in chorus the (first) refrain. … All the women distributed around the ‘Field of Reunion’ sing in unison the (second) refrain. … All Frenchmen partake of each other’s sentiments in one grand fraternal embrace.” Such an idyl, performed to the beating of drums, in the presence of moral symbols and colored pasteboard divinities, what could better please the counterfeit moralist, unable to distinguish the false from the true, and whose skin-deep sensibility is borrowed from sentimental authors! “For the first time” his glowing countenance beams with joy, while “the enthusiasm”160 of the scribe overflows, as usual, in book phraseology: “Behold!” he exclaims, “that which is most interesting in humanity! The Universe is here assembled! O, Nature, how sublime, how exquisite is thy power! How tyrants must quail at the contemplation of this festival!” Is not he himself its most dazzling ornament? Was not he unanimously chosen to preside over the Convention and conduct the ceremonies? Is he not the founder of the new cult, the only pure worship on the face of the earth, approved of by morality and reason? Wearing the uniform of a representative, nankeen breeches, blue coat, tricolored sash, and plumed hat,161 holding in his hand a bouquet of flowers and grain, he marches at the head of the Convention and officiates on the platform; he sets fire to the veil which hides from view the idol representing “Atheism,” and suddenly, through an ingenious contrivance, the majestic statue of “Wisdom” appears in its place. He then addresses the crowd, over and over again, exhorting, apostrophising, preaching, elevating his soul to the Supreme Being, and with what oratorical combinations! What an academic swell of bombastic cadences, strung together to enforce his tirades! How cunning the even balance of adjective and substantive!162 From these faded rhetorical flowers, arranged as if for a prize distribution or a funeral oration, exhales a sanctimonious, collegiate odor which he complacently breathes, and which intoxicates him. At this moment, he must certainly be in earnest; there is no hesitation or reserve in his self-admiration; he is not only in his own eyes a great writer and great orator, but a great statesman and great citizen: his artificial, philosophic conscience awards him only praise. But look underneath, or rather wait a moment. Signs of impatience and antipathy appear behind his back: Lecointre has braved him openly; numerous insults, and, worse than these, sarcasms, reach his ears. On such an occasion, and in such a place! Against the pontiff of Truth, the apostle of Virtue! The miscreants, how dare they! Silent and pale, he suppresses his rage, and,163 losing his balance, closing his eyes, he plunges headlong on the path of murder: cost what it will, the miscreants must perish and without loss of time. To expedite matters, he must get their heads off quietly, and as “up to this time things have been managed confidentially in the Committee of Public Safety,” he, alone with Couthon, two days after, without informing his colleagues,164 draws up, brings to the Convention, and has passed the terrible act of Prairial which places everybody’s life at his disposal. In his crafty, blundering haste, he has demanded too much; each one, on reflection, becomes alarmed for himself; he is compelled to back out, to protest that he is misunderstood, admit that representatives are excepted, and, accordingly, to sheathe the knife he has already applied to his adversaries’ throats. But he still holds it in his grasp. He watches them, and, pretending to retreat, affects a renunciation, crouched in his corner,165 waiting until they discredit themselves, so as to spring upon them a second time. He has not to wait long, for the exterminating machine he set up on the 22d of Prairial, is in their hands, and it has to work as he planned it, namely, by making rapid turns and almost haphazard: the odium of a blind sweeping massacre rests with them; he not only makes no opposition to this, but, while pretending to abstain from it, he urges it on. Secluded in the private office of his secret police, he orders arrests;166 he sends out his principal bloodhound, Herman; he first signs and then despatches the resolution by which it is supposed that there are conspirators among those in confinement and which, authorising spies or paid informers, is to provide the guillotine with those vast batches which “purge and clean prisons out in a trice.”167 “I am not responsible,” he states later on. … “My lack of power to do any good, to arrest the evil, forced me for more than six weeks to abandon my post on the Committee of Public Safety.”168 To ruin his adversaries by murders committed by him, by those which he makes them commit and which he imputes to them, to whitewash himself and blacken them with the same stroke of the brush, what intense delight! If the natural conscience murmurs in whispers at moments, the acquired superposed conscience immediately imposes silence, concealing personal hatreds under public pretexts: the guillotined, after all, were aristocrats, and whoever comes under the guillotine is immoral. Thus, the means are good and the end better; in employing the means, as well as in pursuing the end, the function is sacerdotal.
Such is the scenic exterior of the Revolution, a specious mask with a hideous visage beneath it, under the reign of a nominal humanitarian theory, covering over the effective dictatorship of evil and low passions. In its true representative, as in itself, we see ferocity issuing from philanthropy, and, from the cuistre, the executioner.
[1. ]Harmand (de la Meuse): “Anecdotes relatives à la Révolution.” “He dressed about like a cab-driver ill at his ease. He had a disturbed look and an eye always in motion; he acted in an abrupt, quick, and jerky way. A constant restlessness gave a convulsive contraction to his muscles and features which likewise affected his manner of walking so that he never stepped but jumped.”
[2. ]Chevremont, “Jean Paul Marat”; also Alfred Bougeard, “Marat” passim. These two works, with numerous documents, are panegyrics of Marat.—Bougeat, i., 11 (description of Marat by Fabre d’Eglantine); ii., 259 and i., 83.—“Journal de la République Française,” by Marat, No. 93, January 9, 1793. “I devote only two out of the twenty-four hours to sleep, and only one hour to my meals, toilette, and domestic necessities. I have not had fifteen minutes play-spell for more than three years.”
[3. ]Chevremont, i., pp. 1 and 2. His family, on the father’s side, was Spanish, long settled in Sardinia. The father, Dr. Jean Mara, had abandoned Catholicism and removed to Geneva where he married a woman of that city; he afterwards established himself in the canton of Neufchatel.
[4. ]“Journal de la République Française.” No. 98, description of “l’Ami du peuple” by himself.
[5. ]Read his novel “Les Aventures du jeune Comte Potowski,” letter 5, by Lucile: “I think of Potowski only. My imagination, inflamed at the torch of love, ever presents to me his sweet image.” Letter of Potowski after his marriage. “Lucile now grants to love all that modesty permits … enjoying such transports of bliss, I believe that the gods are jealous of my lot.”
[6. ]Preface, xx. “Descartes, Helvetius, Haller, Lelat all ignored great principles; man, with them, is an enigma, an impenetrable secret.” He says in a foot-note, “We find evidence of this in the works of Hume, Voltaire, Bonnet, Racine, and Pascal.”
[7. ]“Mémoires Académiques sur la Lumière,” pref., vii. He especially opposes “the differential refrangibility of heterogeneous rays” which is “the basis of Newton’s theory.”
[8. ]Chevremont, i., 74. (See the testimony of Arago, Feb. 24, 1844).
[9. ]Ibid., i., 104. (Sketch of a declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen.)
[10. ]See the epigraph of his “Mémoires sur la Lumière.” “They will force their way against wind and tide.”—Ibid., preface, vii. “Déconvertes de Monsieur Marat,” 1780, 2nd ed., p. 140.
[11. ]“Recherches physiques sur l’electricité,” 1782, pp. 13, 17.
[12. ]Chevremont, i., 59.
[13. ]“De l’Homme,” preface vii. and book iv.
[14. ]“Journal de la République Française,” No. 98.
[15. ]“Journal de la République Française,” by Marat, No. 1.
[16. ]“L’Ami du Peuple” No. 173 (July 26, 1790). The memories of conceited persons, given to immoderate self-expansion, are largely at fault. I have seen patients in asylums who, believing in their exalted position, have recounted their successes in about the same vein as Marat. (Chevremont, i., 40, 47, 54). “The reports of extraordinary cures effected by me brought me a great crowd of the sick. The street in front of my door was blocked with carriages. People came to consult me from all quarters. … The abstract of my experiments on Light finally appeared and it created a prodigious sensation throughout Europe; the newspapers were all filled with it. I had the court and the town in my house for six months. … The Academy, finding that it could not stifle my discoveries tried to make it appear that they had emanated from its body.” Three academic bodies came in turn the same day to see if he would not present himself as a candidate. “Up to the present time several crowned heads have sought me and always on account of the fame of my works.”
[17. ]“Journal de la République Française,” July 6, 1793.
[18. ]Moniteur (Session of the Convention, Sep. 25, 1792). Marat, indeed, is constantly claiming the post of temporary dictator. (“L’Ami du peuple,” Nos. 258, 268, 466, 668 and “Appel à la nation,” p. 53).
[19. ]Cf. Moreau de Tours. “La Folie lucide.”
[20. ]Chevremont, ii., 81. “Shortly after the taking of the Bastille and obliged to oppose the Paris municipality, I stated that I was the eye of the people and that I was of more consequence in the triumph of liberty than an army of one hundred thousand men.”
[21. ]Chevremont, i., 40. (Marat’s letters, 1793.)
[22. ]Journal de la République Française, No. 98.
[23. ]The words of Marat and Panes. (Chevremont, i., 197, 203; also “The Revolution” ii., 290, 2d note).
[24. ]Michelet, “Histoire de la Révolution,” ii., 89. (Narrated by M. Bourdier, Marat’s physician, to M. Serre, the physiologist.) Barbaroux, “Mémoires,” 355, (after a visit to Marat): “You should see how superficially Marat composed his articles. Without any knowledge of a public man he would ask the first person he met what he thought of him and this he wrote down, exclaiming ‘I’ll crush the rascal!’ ”
[25. ]Chevremont, i., 361. (From a pamphlet against Necker, by Marat, July, 1790).
[26. ]“L’Ami du Peuple,” No. 552. (August 30, 1791.)
[27. ]Ibid., No. 626. (Dec. 15, 1791). Cf. “The Revolution,” ii., 129, on the number of armed emigrés. At this date the authorised number as published is four thousand.
[28. ]His filthy imputations cannot be quoted. See in Buchez et Roux, ix., 419 (April 26, 1791), and x., 220 (Nos. for June 17, 19, and 21), his statement against Lafayette; again, his list with its vile qualifications of “rascals and rogues,” who are canvassing for election, and his letters on the Academicians.
[29. ]Buchez et Roux, x., 407 (Sept., 1791).—Cf. Ibid., 473. According to Marat, “It is useless to measure a degree of the meridian; the Egyptians having already given this measure. The Academicians obtained an appropriation of one thousand crowns for the expenses of this undertaking, a small cake which they have fraternally divided amongst themselves.”
[30. ]Chevremont, i., 238–249. “L’Ami du peuple,” Nos. 419, 519, 543, 608, 641. Other falsities just as extravagant are nearly all grotesque. No. 630 (April 15, 1792). “Simonneau, mayor of d’Etampes, is an infamous ministerial monopoliser.”—No. 627 (April 12, 1792). Delessart, the minister, “accepts gold to let a got-up decree be passed against him.” No. 650 (May 10, 1792). “Louis XVI. desired war only to establish his despotism on an indestructible foundation.”
[31. ]Chevremont, i., 106. (Draft of a declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen, 1789).—Ibid., i., 196.
[32. ]“L’Ami du peuple,” Nos. 24 and 274.—Cf. “Placard de Marat,” Sept. 18, 1792. “The National Convention should always be under the eye of the people, so that the people may stone it if it neglects its duty.”
[33. ]“L’Ami du peuple,” Nos. 108–111 (May 20–23, 1790).
[34. ]Ibid., No. 258 (Oct. 22, 1790).
[35. ]Ibid., No. 286 (Novem. 20, 1790).
[36. ]Ibid., No. 198 (August 22, 1790).
[37. ]Ibid., Nos. 523 and 524 (July 19 and 20, 1791).
[38. ]Ibid., No. 626 (Decem. 15, 1791).
[39. ]Ibid., No. 668 (July 8, 1792).—Cf. No. 649 (May 6, 1792). He approves of the murder of General Dillon by his men, and recommends the troops everywhere to do the same thing.
[40. ]Ibid., No. 677 (August 10, 1792). See also subsequent numbers, especially No. 680, Aug. 19th, for hastening on the massacre of the Abbaye prisoners. And Aug. 21st: “As to the officers, they deserve to be quartered like Louis Capet and his manège toadies.”
[41. ]Buchez et Roux, xxviii., 105. (Letter of Chevalier St. Dizier, member of the first Committee of Surveillance, Sep. 10, 1792.)—Michelet, ii., 94. (In December, 1790, he already demands twenty thousand heads).
[42. ]Moniteur, Oct. 26, 1792. (Session of the Convention, Oct. 24th.) “N—: I know a member of the Convention, who heard Marat say that, to ensure public tranquillity, two hundred and seventy thousand heads more should fall.”
[43. ]Danton never wrote or printed a speech. “I am no writer,” he says. (Garat, “Mémoires,” 31.)
[44. ]Garat, Mémoires,” iii.: “Danton had given no serious study to those philosophers who, for a century past, had detected the principles of social art in human nature. He had not sought in his own organisation for the vast and simple combinations which a great empire demands. He had that instinct for the grand which constitutes genius and that silent circumspection which constitutes judgment.”
[45. ]Garat, ibid., 311, 312.
[46. ]The head of a State may be considered in the same light as the superintendent of an asylum for the sick, the demented and the infirm. In the government of his asylum he undoubtedly does well to consult the moralist and the physiologist; but, before following out their instructions he must remember that in his asylum its inmates, including the keepers and himself, are more or less ill, demented, or infirm.
[47. ]De Sybel: “Histoire de l’Europe pendant la Révolution Française,” (Dosquet’s translation from the German) ii., 303. “It can now be stated that it was the active operations of Danton and the first Committee of Public Safety which divided the coalition and gave the Republic the power of opposing Europe. … We shall soon see, on the contrary, that the measures of the “Mountain” party, far from hastening the armaments, hindered them.”
[48. ]Ibid., i., 558, 562, 585. (The intermediaries were Westermann and Dumouriez.)
[49. ]Ibid., ii., 28, 290, 291, 293.
[50. ]Buchez et Roux, xxv., 445. (Session of April 13, 1793.)
[51. ]According to a statement made by Count Theodore de Lameth, the eldest of the four brothers Lameth and a colonel and also deputy in the Legislative Assembly. During the Assembly he was well acquainted with Danton. After the September massacre he took refuge in Switzerland and was put on the list of emigrés. About a month before the King’s death he was desirous of making a last effort and came to Paris. “I went straight to Danton’s house, and, without giving my name, insisted on seeing him immediately. Finally, I was admitted and I found Danton in a bath-tub. “You here!” he exclaimed. “Do you know that I have only to say the word and send you to the guillotine?” “Danton,” I replied, “you are a great criminal, but there are some vile things you cannot do, and one of them is to denounce me.” “You come to save the King?” “Yes.” We then began to talk in a friendly and confidential way. “I am willing,” said Danton, “to try and save the King, but I must have a million to buy up the necessary votes and the money must be on hand in eight days. I warn you that although I may save his life I shall vote for his death: I am quite willing to save his head but not to lose mine.” M. de Lameth set about raising the money; he saw the Spanish Embassador and had the matter broached to Pitt who refused. Danton, as he said he would, voted for the King’s death, and then aided or allowed the return of M. de Lameth to Switzerland. (I have this account through M … who had it from Count Theodore de Lameth’s own lips.)
[52. ]Garat. “Mémoires,” 317. “Twenty times, he said to me one day, I offered them peace. They did not want it. They refused to believe me in order to reserve the right of ruining me.”
[53. ]Cf. the “Ancient Régime,” p. 501.
[54. ]“Danton,” by Dr. Robinet, passim. (Notices by Béon, one of Danton’s fellow-disciples.—Fragment by Saint Albin.)—“The Revolution,” ii., p. 35, foot-note.
[55. ]Emile Bos, “Les Avocats du Conseil du Roi,” 515, 520. (See Danton’s marriage-contract and the discussions about his fortune. From 1787 to 1791, he is found engaged as counsel only in three cases.)
[56. ]Madame Roland, “Mémoires.” (Statement of Madame Danton to Madame Roland.)
[57. ]Expressions used by Garat and Roederer. Larevilliere-Lepaux calls him “the Cyclop.”
[58. ]Fauchet describes him as “the Pluto of Eloquence.”
[59. ]Riouffe, “Mémoires sur les prisons.” In prison “every utterance was mingled with oaths and gross expressions.”
[60. ]Terms used by Fabre d’Eglantine and Garat. Beugnot, a very good observer, had a good idea of Danton.—M. Dufort de Cheverney (manuscript memoirs published by M. Robert de Crèvecoeur), after the execution of Baboeuf, in 1797, had an opportunity to hear Samson, the executioner, talk with a war commissary, in an inn between Vendôme and Blois. Samson recounted the last moments of Danton and Fabre d’Eglantine. Danton, on the way to the scaffold, asked if he might sing. “There is nothing to hinder,” said Samson. “All right. Try to remember the verses I have just composed,” and he sang the following to a tune in vogue:
[61. ]Buchez et Roux, xxi., 108. Speech (printed) by Pétion: “Marat embraced Danton and Danton embraced him. I certify that this took place in my presence.”
[62. ]Buchez et Roux, xxi., 126. (“To Maximilian Robespierre and his royalists,” a pamphlet by Louvet.)—Beugnot, “Mémoires,” i., 250, “On arriving in Paris as deputy from my department (to the Legislative Assembly) Danton sought me and wanted me to join his party. I dined with him three times, in the Cour du Commerce, and always went away frightened at his plans and energy. … He contented himself by remarking to his friend Courtois and my colleague: ‘Thy big Beugnot is nothing but a devotee—you can do nothing with him.’ ”
[63. ]The Cordeliers district. (Buchez et Roux, iv., 27.) Assembly meeting of the Cordeliers district, November 11th, 1789, to sanction Danton’s permanent presidency. He is always reelected, and unanimously. This is the first sign of his ascendency, although sometimes, to save the appearance of his dictatorship, he has his chief clerk Paré elected, whom he subsequently made minister.
[64. ]Buchez et Roux, iv., 295, 298, 401; v., 140.
[65. ]Ibid., viii., 28 (October, 1790).
[66. ]Ibid., ix., 408; x., 144, 234, 297, 417.—Lafayette “Mémoires,” i., 359, 366. Immediately after Mirabeau’s death (April, 1791) Danton’s plans are apparent, and his initiative is of the highest importance.
[67. ]“The Revolution,” ii., 238 (Note) and 283.—Garat, 309: “After the 20th of June everybody made mischief at the chateau, the power of which was daily increasing. Danton arranged the 10th of August and the chateau was thunderstruck.”—Robinet: “Le Procès des Dantonistes,” 224, 229. (“Journal de la Société des amis de la Constitution,” No. 214, June 5, 1792.) Danton proposes “the law of Valerius Publicola, passed in Rome after the expulsion of the Tarquins, permitting every citizen to kill any man convicted of having expressed opinions opposed to the law of the State, except in case of proof of the crime.” (Ibid., Nos. 230 and 231, July 13, 1792.) Danton induces the federals present “to swear that they will not leave the capital until liberty is established, and before the will of the department is made known on the fate of the executive power.” Such are the principles and the instruments, of “August 10” and “September 2.”
[68. ]Garat, 314. “He was present for a moment on the Committee of Public Safety. The outbreaks of May 31 and June 2 occurred; he was the author of both these days.”
[69. ]Decrees of April 6 and 7, 1793.
[70. ]Decree of September 5, 1793.
[71. ]Decree of March 10, 1793.
[72. ]August 1 and 12, 1793.
[73. ]See “The Revolution,” vol. iii., ch. i.—Buchez et Roux, xxv., 285. (Meeting of Nov. 26, 1793.)—Moniteur, xix., 726. Danton (March 16, 1794) secures the passing of a decree that “hereafter prose only shall be heard at the bar of the house.”
[74. ]Archives Nationales, Papers of the Committee of General Security, No. 134.—Letter of Delacroix to Danton, Lille, March 25, 1793, on the situation in Belgium, and the retreat of Dumouriez. … “My letter is so long I fear that you will not read it to the end. … Oblige me by forgetting your usual indolence.”—Letter of Chabot to Danton, Frimaire 12, year II. “I know your genius, my dear colleague, and consequently your natural indolent disposition. I was afraid that you would not read me through if I wrote a long letter. Nevertheless I rely on your friendship to make an exception in my favor.”
[75. ]Lagrange, the mathematician, and senator under the empire, was asked how it was that he voted for the terrible annual conscriptions. “It had no sensible effect on the tables of mortality,” he replied.
[76. ]Garat, 305, 310, 313. “His friends almost worshipped him.”
[77. ]Ibid., 317.—Thibeaudeau, “Mémoires,” i., 59.
[78. ]Quinet, “La Révolution,” ii., 304. (According to the unpublished memoirs of Baudot.) These expressions by Danton’s friends all bear the mark of Danton himself. At all events they express exactly his ideas.
[79. ]Riouffe, 67.
[80. ]Miot de Melito, “Mémoires,” i., 40, 42.—Michelet, “Histoire de la Révolution Française,” vi., 34; v. 178, 184. (On the second marriage of Danton in June, 1793, to a young girl of sixteen. On his journey to Arcis, March, 1794.)—Riouffe, 68, In prison “He talked constantly about trees, the country, and nature.”
[81. ]We can trace the effect of his attitude on the public in the police reports, especially at the end of 1793, and beginning of the year 1794. (Archives Nationales, F7, 3, 61, report of Charmont, Nivose 6, year II.) “Robespierre gains singularly in public estimation, especially since his speech in the Convention, calling on his colleagues to rally and crush out the monsters in the interior, also in which he calls on all to support the new revolutionary government with their intelligence and talents. … I have to state that I have everywhere heard his name mentioned with admiration. They wound up by saying that it would be well for all members of the Convention to adopt the measures presented by Robespierre.”—(Report of Robin, Nivose 8.) “Citizen Robespierre is honored everywhere, in all groupes and in the cafés. At the Café Manouri it was given out that his views of the government were the only ones which, like the magnet, would attract all citizens to the Revolution. It is not the same with citizen Billaud-Varennes.” (Report of the Purveyor, Nivose 9.) “In certain clubs and groups there is a rumor that Robespierre is to be appointed dictator. … The people do justice to his austere virtues; it is noticed that he has never changed his opinions since the Revolution began.”
[82. ]“Souvenirs d’un déporté” by P. Villiers (Robespierre’s secretary for seven months in 1790), p. 2. “Of painstaking cleanliness.”—Buchez et Roux, xxxiv., 94. Description of Robespierre, published in the newspapers after his death; “His clothes were exquisitely clean and his hair always carefully brushed.”
[83. ]D’Hericault, “La Révolution du 9 Thermidor,” (as stated by Daunou).—Meillan, “Mémoires,” p. 4. “His eloquence was nothing but diffusive declamation without order or method, and especially with no conclusions. Every time he spoke we were obliged to ask him what he was driving at. … Never did he propose any remedy. He left the task of finding expedients to others, and especially to Danton.”
[84. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 437, 438, 440, 442. (Speech by Robespierre, Thermidor 8, year II.)
[85. ]Ibid., xxx., 225, 226, 227, 228 (Speech, Nov. 17, 1793), and xxxi., 255 (Speech, Jan. 26, 1794). “The policy of the London Cabinet largely contributed to the first movement of our Revolution. … Taking advantage of political tempests (the cabinet) aimed to effect in exhausted and dismembered France a change of dynasty and to place the Duke of York on the throne of Louis XVI. … Pitt … is an imbecile, whatever may be said of a reputation that has been much too greatly puffed up. A man who, abusing the influence acquired by him on an island placed haphazard in the ocean, is desirous of contending with the French people, could not have conceived of such an absurd plan elsewhere than in a madhouse.”—Cf. Ibid., xxx., 465.
[86. ]Ibid., xxvi., 433, 441 (Speech on the Constitution, May 10, 1793); xxxi., 275. “Goodness consists in the people preferring itself to what is not itself; the magistrate, to be good, must himself immolate himself to the people.” … “Let this maxim be first adopted that the people are good and that its delegates are corruptible.” … xxx., 464. (Speech, Dec. 25, 1793): “The virtues are the appanage of the unfortunate and the patrimony of the people.”
[87. ]Cf. passim, Hamel, “Histoire de Robespierre,” 3 vols. An elaborate panegyric full of details. Although eighty years have elapsed, Robespierre still makes dupes of people through his attitudinising and rhetorical flourishes. M. Hamel twice intimates his resemblance to Jesus Christ. The resemblance, indeed, is that of Pascal’s Jesuits to the Jesus of the Gospel.
[88. ]“The Ancient Régime,” p. 262.
[89. ]Garat, “Mémoires,” 84. Garat who is himself an ideologist, notes “his eternal twaddle about the rights of man, the sovereignty of the people, and other principles which he was always talking about, and on which he never gave utterance to one precise or fresh idea.”
[90. ]Read especially his speech on the Constitution (May 10, 1793), his report on the principles of Republican Government (Dec. 15, 1793), his speech on the relationship between religious and national ideas and republican principles (May 7, 1794), and speech of Thermidor 8.—Carnot: “Mémoires,” ii., 512. “He brought to bear nothing but vague generalities in all business deliberations.”
[91. ]Buchez at Roux, xxxiii., 406. (Speech delivered Thermidor 8th.) The printed copy of the manuscript with corrections and erasures.
[92. ]Ibid., 420, 422, 427.
[93. ]Ibid., 428, 435, 436. “O day forever blessed! What a sight to behold, the entire French people assembled together and rendering to the author of nature the only homage worthy of him! How affecting each object that enchants the eye and touches the heart of man! O honored old age! O generous ardor of the young of our country! O the innocent, pure joy of youthful citizens! O the exquisite tears of tender mothers! O the divine charms of innocence and beauty! What majesty in a great people happy in its strength, power and virtue!” “No, Charmette, No, death is not the sleep of eternity!” “Remember, O, People, that in a republic, etc.” “If such truths must be dissembled then bring me the hemlock!”
[94. ]Speech, May 7, 1794. (On moral and religious ideas in relation to republican principles.)
[95. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 436. “The Verres and Catilines of our country.” (Speech of Thermidor 8th.)—Note especially the speech delivered March 7, 1794, crammed full of classical reminiscences.
[96. ]Ibid., xxxiii., 421. “Truth has touching and terrible accents which reverberate powerfully in pure hearts as in guilty consciences, and which falsehood can no more counterfeit than Salome can counterfeit the thunders of heaven.”—437: “Why do those who yesterday predicted such frightful tempests now gaze only on the fleeciest clouds? Why do those who but lately exclaimed ‘I affirm that we are treading on a volcano,’ now behold themselves sleeping on a bed of roses?”
[97. ]Ibid., xxxii., 360, 361. (Portraits of the encyclopaedists and Hébertists.)
[98. ]Ibid., xxxiii., 408. “Here I must give vent to my feelings.”—xxxii., 475–478, the concluding part.
[99. ]Hamel: “Histoire de Robespierre,” i., 34–76. An attorney at 23, a member of the Rosati club at Arras at 24, a member of the Arras Academy at 25. The Royal Society of Metz awarded him a second prize for his discourse against the prejudice which regards the relatives of condemned criminals as infamous. His eulogy of Gresset is not crowned by the Amiens Academy. He reads before the Academy of Arras a discourse against the civil disabilities of bastards, and then another on reforms in criminal jurisprudence. In 1789, he is president of the Arras Academy, and publishes an eulogy of Dupaty and an address to the Artesian nation on the qualities necessary for future deputies.
[100. ]See his eulogy of Rousseau in the speech of May 7, 1794. (Buchez et Roux, xxxii., 369.)—Garat, 85. “I hoped that his selection of Rousseau for a model of style and the constant reading of his works would exert some good influence on his character.”
[101. ]Fievée, “Correspondence” (introduction). Fievée, who heard him at the Jacobin Club, said that he resembled a “tailor of the ancient régime.” Laréveillère-Lepeaux, “Mémoires.”—Buchez et Roux, xxxiv., 94.—Malouet, “Mémoires,” ii., 135. (Session of May 31, 1791, after the delivery of Abbé Raynal’s address.) “This is the first and only time I found Robespierre clear and even eloquent. … He spun out his opening phrases as usual, which contained the spirit of his discourse, and which, in spite of his accustomed rigmarole, produced the effect he intended.”
[102. ]Courrier de Provence, iii., No. 52 (Octo. 7 and 8, 1789).—Buchez et Roux, vi., 372. (Session of July 10, 1790.) Another similar blunder was committed by him on the occasion of an American deputation. The president had made his response, which was “unanimously applauded.” Robespierre wanted to have his say notwithstanding the objections of the Assembly, impatient at his verbiage, and which finally put him down. Amidst the laughter, “M. l’Abbé Maury demands ironically the printing of M. Robespierre’s discourse.”
[103. ]P. Villiers, p. 2.
[104. ]Cf. his principal speeches in the Constituent Assembly—against martial law; against the veto, even suspensive; against the qualification of the silver marc and in favor of universal suffrage; in favor of admitting into the National Guard nonacting citizens; of the marriage of priests; of the abolition of the death penalty; of granting political rights to colored men; of interdicting the father from favoring any one of his children; of declaring the “Constituants” ineligible to the Legislative Assembly, etc. On royalty: “The King is not the representative but the clerk of the nation.” On the danger of allowing political rights to colored men: “Let the colonies perish if they cost you your honor, your glory, your liberty!”
[105. ]Hamel, i., 76, 77 (March, 1789). “My heart is an honest one and I stand firm; I have never bowed beneath the yoke of baseness and corruption.” He enumerates the virtues that a representative of the Third Estate should possess (26, 83). He already shows his blubbering capacity and his disposition to regard himself as a victim: “They undertake making martyrs of the people’s defenders. Had they the power to deprive me of the advantages they envy, could they snatch from me my soul and the consciousness of the benefits I desire to confer on them.”
[106. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii. “Who am I that am thus accused? The slave of freedom, a living martyr to the Republic, at once the victim and the enemy of crime!” See this speech in full.
[107. ]Especially in his address to the French people (Aug., 1791), which, in a justificatory form, is his apotheosis.—Cf. Hamel, ii., 212; Speech in the Jacobin Club (April 27, 1792).
[108. ]Hamel, i., 517, 532, 559; ii., 5.
[109. ]Laréveillère-Lepeaux, “Mémoires.”—Barbaroux, “Mémoires,” 358. (Both, after a visit to him.)
[110. ]Robespierre’s devotees constantly attend at the Jacobin Club and in the Convention to hear him speak and applaud him, and are called, from their condition and dress, “the fat petticoats.”
[111. ]Buchez et Roux, xx., 197. (Meeting of Nov. 1, 1792.)—“Chronique de Paris,” Nov. 9, 1792, article by Condorcet. With the keen insight of the man of the world, he saw clearly into Robespierre’s character. “Robespierre preaches, Robespierre censures; he is animated, grave, melancholy, deliberately enthusiastic and systematic in his ideas, and conduct. He thunders against the rich and the great; he lives on nothing and has no physical necessities. His sole mission is to talk, and this he does almost constantly. … His characteristics are not those of a religious reformer, but of the chief of a sect. He has won a reputation for austerity approaching sanctity. He jumps up on a bench and talks about God and Providence. He styles himself the friend of the poor; he attracts around him a crowd of women and ‘the poor in spirit,’ and gravely accepts their homage and worship. … Robespierre is a priest and never will be anything else.” Among Robespierre’s devotees Madame de Chalabre must be mentioned (Hamel, i., 525), a young widow (Hamel, iii., 524), who offers him her hand with an income of forty thousand francs. “Thou art my supreme deity,” she writes to him, “and I know no other on this earth! I regard thee as my guardian angel, and would live only under thy laws.”
[112. ]Fievée, “Correspondance,” (introduction).
[113. ]Report of Courtois on the papers found in Robespierre’s domicile. Justificatory documents No. 20, letter of the Secretary of the Committee of Surveillance of Saint Calais, Nivose 15, year II.
[114. ]Ibid., No. 18. Letter of V——, former inspector of “droits reservés,” Feb. 5, 1792.
[115. ]Ibid., No. 8. Letter of P. Brincourt, Sedan, Aug. 29, 1793.
[116. ]Ibid., No. 1. Letter of Besson, with an address of the popular club of Menosque, Prairial 23, year II.
[117. ]Ibid., No. 14. Letter of D——, member of the Cordeliers Club, and former mercer, Jan. 31, 1792.
[118. ]Ibid., No. 12. Letter by C——, Chateau Thierry, Prairial 30, year II.
[119. ]Hamel, iii., 682. (Copied from Billaud-Varennes’ manuscripts, in the Archives Nationales).
[120. ]Moniteur, xxii., 175. (Session of Vendémiaire 18, year III. Speech by Laignelot.) “Robespierre had all the popular clubs under his thumb.”
[121. ]Garat, 85. “The most conspicuous sentiment with Robespierre, and one, indeed, of which he made no mystery, was that the defender of the people could never see amiss.”—(Bailleul, quoted in Carnot’s Memoirs, i., 516.) “He regarded himself as a privileged being, destined to become the people’s regenerator and instructor.”
[122. ]Speech of May 16, 1794, and of Thermidor 8, year II.
[123. ]Buchez et Roux, x., 295, 296. (Session June 22, 1791, of the Jacobin Club.)—Ibid., 294.—Marat spoke in the same vein: “I have made myself a curse for all good people in France.” He writes, the same date: “Writers in behalf of the people will be dragged to dungeons. ‘The friend of the people,’ whose last sigh is given for his country, and whose faithful voice still summons you to freedom, is to find his grave in a fiery furnace.” The last expression shows the difference in their imaginations.
[124. ]Hamel, ii., 122. (Meeting of the Jacobin Club, Feb. 10, 1792.) “To obtain death at the hands of tyrants is not enough—one must deserve death. If it be true that the earliest defenders of liberty became its martyrs they should not suffer death without bearing tyranny along with them into the grave.”—Cf., ibid., ii., 215. (Meeting of April 27, 1792.)
[125. ]Hamel, ii., 513. (Speech in the Convention, Prairial 7, year II.)
[126. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 422, 445, 447, 457. (Speech in the Convention, Thermidor 8, year II.)
[127. ]Buchez et Roux, xx., 11, 18. (Meeting of the Jacobin Club, Oct. 29, 1792.) Speech on Lafayette, the Feuillants, and Girondists, xxxi., 360, 363. (Meeting of the Convention, May 7, 1794.) On Lafayette, the Girondists, Dantonists, and Hébertists.—xxxiii., 427. (Speech of Thermidor 8, year II.)
[128. ]Garat, “Mémoires,” 87, 88.
[129. ]Buchez et Roux, xxi., 107. (Speech of Pétion on the charges made against him by Robespierre.) Pétion justly objects that “Brunswick would be the first to cut off Brissot’s head, and Brissot is not fool enough to doubt it.”
[130. ]Garat, 94. (After the King’s death and a little before the 10th of March, 1793.)
[131. ]Ibid., 97. In 1789 Robespierre assured Garat that Necker was plundering the Treasury, and that people had seen mules loaded with the gold and silver he was sending off by millions to Geneva.—Carnot, “Mémoires,” i., 512. “Robespierre,” say Carnot and Prieur, “paid very little attention to public business, but a good deal to public officers: he made himself intolerable with his perpetual mistrust of these, never seeing any but traitors and conspirators.”
[132. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 417. (Speech of Thermidor 8, year II.)
[133. ]Ibid., xxxii., 361 (Speech May 7, 1794), and 359. “Immorality is the basis of despotism, as virtue is the essence of the Republic.”
[134. ]Ibid., 371.
[135. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 195. (Report of Couthon and decree in conformity therewith, Prairial 22, year II.) “The revolutionary Tribunal is organised for the punishment of the people’s enemies. … The penalty for all offences within its jurisdiction is death. Those are held to be enemies of the people who shall have misled the people, or the representatives of the people, into measures opposed to the interests of liberty; those who shall have sought to create discouragement by favoring the undertakings of tyrants leagued against the Republic; those who shall have spread false reports to divide or disturb the people; those who shall have sought to misdirect opinion and impede popular instruction, produce depravity and corrupt the public conscience, diminish the energy and purity of revolutionary and republican principles, or stay their progress. … Those who, charged with public functions, abuse them to serve the enemies of the Revolution, vex patriots, oppress the people, etc.”
[136. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxv., 290. (“Institutions,” by Saint-Just.) “The Revolution is chilled. Principles have lost their vigor. Nothing remains but red-caps worn by intrigue.”—Report by Courtois, “Pièces justificatives” No. 20. (Letter of Pays and Rompillon, president and secretary of the Committee of Surveillance of Saint-Calais, to Robespierre, Nivose 15, year II.) “The Mountain here is composed of only a dozen or fifteen men on whom you can rely as on yourself; the rest are either deceived, seduced, corrupted, or enticed away. Public opinion is debauched by the gold and intrigues of honest folks.”
[137. ]Report by Courtois, N. 43.—Cf. Hamel, iii., 43, 71.—(The following important document is on file in the Archives Nationales, F7, 4,446, and consists of two notes written by Robespierre in June and July, 1793): “Who are our enemies? The vicious and the rich. How may the civil war be stopped? Punish traitors and conspirators, especially guilty deputies and administrators; … make terrible examples; … proscribe perfidious writers and antirevolutionists; … internal danger comes from the bourgeois; to overcome the bourgeois, rally the people; … the present insurrection must be kept up; … It is necessary that the same plan of insurrection should go on step by step. … The sans-culottes should be paid and remain in the towns. They ought to be armed, worked up, taught.”
[138. ]The Committee of Public Safety, and Robespierre especially, knew of and commanded the drownings of Nantes, as well as the principal massacres by Carrier, Turreau, etc. (De Martel, “Etude sur Fouché,” 257–265.)—Ibid., (“Types révolutionnaires,” 41–49.)—Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 101 (May 26, 1794.) Report by Barère and decree of the Convention ordering that “No English prisoners should be taken.” Robespierre afterwards speaks in the same sense. Ibid., 458. After the capture of Newport, where they took five thousand English prisoners, the French soldiers were unwilling to execute the Convention’s decree, on which Robespierre (speech of Thermidor 8) said: “I warn you that your decree against the English has been cruelly violated; England, ill-treated in our discourses, is favored by our arms.”
[139. ]On the Girondists, Cf. “The Revolution,” ii., 216.
[140. ]Buchez et Roux, xxx., 157. Sketch of a speech on the Fabre d’Eglantine factim.—Ibid., 336. Speech at the Jacobin Club against Clootz.—xxxii., abstract of a report on the Chabot affair, 18.—Ibid., 69. Speech on maintaining Danton’s arrest.
[141. ]Ibid., xxx., 378. (Dec. 10, 1793.) With respect to the women who crowd the Convention in order to secure the liberty of their husbands: “Are republican women insensible to the proprieties of citizenship by remembering that they are wives?”
[142. ]Hamel, iii., 196.—Michelet, v., 394, abstract of the judicial debates on the disposition of the Girondists: “The minutes of this decree are found in Robespierre’s handwriting.”
[143. ]De Martel, “Types révolutionnaires,” 44. The instructions sent to the revolutionary Tribunal at Orange are in Robespierre’s handwriting.—(Archives Nationales, F7, 4,439.)
[144. ]Merlin de Thionville.
[145. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxii., 71. (On Danton.) “Before the day is over we shall see whether the Convention will shatter an idol a long time rotten. … In what respect is Danton superior to his fellow-citizens? … I say that the man who now hesitates is guilty. … The debate, just begun, is a danger to the country.”—Also the speech in full, against Clootz.
[146. ]Ibid., xxx., 338. “Alas, suffering patriots, what can we do, surrounded by enemies fighting in our own ranks! … Let us watch, for the fall of our country is not far off,” etc.—These cantatas, with the accompaniments of the celestial harp, are terrible to one who considers the circumstances. For instance, on the 3d of September, 1792, while the massacres are going on, Robespierre enters the tribune of the electoral assembly and “declares that he will calmly face the steel of the enemies of public good, and carry with him to his grave the satisfaction of having served his country, the certainty of France having preserved its liberty.—(Archives Nationales, C. ii., 58–76.)
[147. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxii., 360, 371. (Speech of May 7, 1794.) “Danton, the most dangerous, if he had not been the most cowardly, of the enemies of his country. … Danton, the coldest, the most indifferent, during his country’s greatest peril.”
[148. ]Ibid., xxxiv., 94.—Cf. the description of him by Fievée, who saw him in the tribune at the Jacobin Club.
[149. ]Merlin de Thionville “A vague, painful anxiety, due to his temperament, was the sole source of his activity.”
[150. ]Barère, “Mémoires.” “He wanted to rule France influentially rather than directly.”—Buchez et Roux, xiv., 188. (Article by Marat.) During the early sessions of the Legislative Assembly, Marat saw Robespierre on one occasion, and explained to him his plans for exciting popular outbreaks, and for his purifying massacres. “Robespierre listened to me with dismay, turned pale, and kept silent for some moments. This interview confirmed me in the idea I always had of him, that he combined the enlightenment of a wise senator with the uprightness of a genuine good man and the zeal of a true patriot, but that he equally lacked the views and boldness of a statesman.”—Thibaudeau, “Mémoires,” 58.—He was the only member of the Committee of Public Safety who did not join the department missions.
[151. ]Buchez et Roux, xx., 198. (Speech of Robespierre in the Convention, November 5, 1792.)
[152. ]All these statements by Robespierre are opposed to the truth.— (“Procès-verbaux des Séances de la Commune de Paris.”) Sep. 1, 1792, Robespierre speaks twice at the evening session.—The testimony of two persons, both agreeing, indicate, moreover, that he spoke at the morning session, the names of the speakers not being given. “The question,” says Pétion (Buchez et Roux, xxi., 103), “was the decree opening the barriers.” This decree is under discussion at the Commune at the morning session of September 1: “Robespierre, on this question, spoke in the most animated manner, wandering off in sombre flights of imagination: he saw precipices at his feet and plots of liberticides; he designated the pretended conspirators.”—Louvet (ibid., 130), assigns the same date (except that he takes the evening for the morning session), for Robespierre’s first denunciation of the Girondists: “Nobody, then,” says Robespierre, “dare name the traitors? Very well, I denounce them. I denounce them for the security of the people. I denounce the liberticide Brissot, the Girondist faction, the villainous committee of twenty-one in the National Assembly. I denounce them for having sold France to Brunswick and for having received pay in advance for their baseness.”—Sep. 2 (“Procès-verbaux de la Commune,” evening session), “MM. Billaud-Varennes and Robespierre, in developing their civic sentiments, … denounce to the Conseil-Général the conspirators in favor of the Duke of Brunswick, whom a powerful party want to put on the throne of France.”—September 3, at 6 o’clock in the morning (Buchez et Roux, 16, 132, letter of Louvet), commissioners of the Commune present themselves at Brissot’s house with an order to inspect his papers; one of them says to Brissot that he has eight similar orders against the Gironde deputies and that he is to begin with Guadet. (Letter of Brissot complaining of this visit, Moniteur, Sep. 7, 1792.) This same day, Sep. 3, Robespierre presides at the Commune. (Granier de Cassagnac, “Les Girondins” ii., 63.) It is here that a deputation of the Mauconseil section comes to find him, and he is charged by the “Conseil” with a commission at the Temple.—Septem. 4 (Buchez et Roux, xxi., 106, Speech of Pétion), the Commune issues a warrant of arrest against Roland; Danton comes to the Mayoralty with Robespierre and has the warrant revoked; Robespierre ends by telling Pétion: “I believe that Brissot belongs to Brunswick.”—Ibid., 506. “Robespierre (before Septem. 2), took the lead in the Conseil.”—Ibid., 107. “Robespierre,” I said, “you are making a good deal of mischief. Your denunciations, your fears, hatreds, and suspicions, excite the people.”
[153. ]Garat, 86.—Cf. Hamel, i., 264. (Speech, June 9, 1791.)
[154. ]“The Revolution,” ii., 338, 339. (Speech, Aug. 3, 1792.)
[155. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 420. (Speech, Thermidor 8.)
[156. ]Ibid., xxxii., 71. (Speech against Danton.) “What have you done that you have not done freely?”
[157. ]Ibid., xxxiii., 199 and 221. (Speech on the law of Prairial 22.)
[158. ]Mirabeau said of Robespierre: “Whatever that man has said, he believes in it.”—Robespierre, Duplay’s guest, dined every day with Duplay, a juryman in the revolutionary Tribunal and cooperator for the guillotine, at eighteen francs a day. The talk at the table probably turned on the current abstractions; but there must have been frequent allusions to the condemnations of the day, and, even when not mentioned, they were in their minds. Only Robert Browning, at the present day, could imagine and revive what was spoken and thought in those evening conversations before the mother and daughters.
[159. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 151.—Cf. Dauban, “Paris en 1794,” p. 386 (illustration), and 392, “Fête de l’Etre Supreme à Sceaux,” according to the programme drawn up by the patriot Palloy. “All citizens are requested to be at their windows or doors, even those occupying lodgings in by-streets.”—Ibid., 399. “Youthful citizens will strew flowers at each station, fathers will embrace their children and mothers turn their eyes upward to heaven.”—Moniteur, xxx., 653. “Plan of the fête in honor of the Supreme Being, drawn up by David, and decreed by the National Convention.”
[160. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 176. (Narrative by Valate.)
[161. ]Hamel, iii., 541.
[162. ]Buchez et Roux, xxviii., 178, 180.
[163. ]Ibid., 177 (Narrative by Vilate). Ibid., 170, Notes by Robespierre on Bourdon (de l’Oise) 417. Passages erased by Robespierre in the manuscript of his speech of Thermidor 8.—249. Analogous passages in his speech as delivered, all these indications enable us to trace the depths of his resentment.
[164. ]Ibid., 183. Memoirs of Billaud-Varennes, Collot d’Herbois, Vadier, and Barère. “The next day after Prairial 22, at the morning session (of the Committee of Public Safety) … I now see, says Robespierre, that I stand alone, with nobody to support me, and, getting violently excited, he launched out against the members of the Committee who had conspired against him. He shouted so loud as to collect together a number of citizens on the Tuileries terrace.” Finally, “he pushed hypocrisy so far as to shed tears.” The nervous machine, I imagine, broke down.—Another member of the Committee, Prieur (Carnot, “Mémoires,” ii., 525), relates that, in the month of Floréal, after another equally long and violent session, “Robespierre, exhausted, became ill.”
[165. ]Carnot, “Mémoires,” ii., 526. “As his bureau was in a separate place, where none of us set foot, he could retire to it without coming in contact with any of us, as in effect, he did. He even made a pretence of passing through the committee rooms, after the session was over, and he signed some papers; but he really neglected nothing, except our common discussions. He held frequent conferences in his house with the presidents of the revolutionary Tribunals, over which his influence was greater than ever.”
[166. ]Dauban, “Paris en 1794,” 563.—Archives Nationales, AF.II., 58. The signature of Robespierre, in his own handwriting, is found affixed to many of the resolutions of the Committee of Public Safety, passed Thermidor 5 and 7, and those of Saint-Just and Couthon after this, up to Thermidor 3, 6, and 7. On the register of the minutes of the Committee of Public Safety, Robespierre is always recorded as present at all meetings between Messidor 1 and Thermidor 8, inclusive.
[167. ]Archives Nationales, F7, 4,438. Report to the Committee of Public Safety by Herman, Commissioner of the Civil and Police administrations and of the Courts, Messidor 3, year II. “The Committee charged with a general supervision of the prisons, and obliged to recognise that all the rascals mostly concerned with liberticide plots are … still in the prisons, forming a band apart, and rendering surveillance very troublesome; they are a constant source of disorder, always getting up attempts to escape, being a daily assemblage of persons devoting themselves wholly to imprecations against liberty and its defenders. … It would be easy to point out in each prison, those who have served, and are to serve, the diverse factions, the diverse conspiracies. … It may be necessary, perhaps, to purge the prisons at once and free the soil of liberty of their filth, the refuse of humanity.” The Committee of Public Safety consequently “charges the Commission to ascertain in the prisons of Paris … who have been more specially concerned in the diverse factions and conspiracies that the National Convention has destroyed.” The word “approved” appears at the foot of the resolution in Robespierre’s handwriting, then the signature of Robespierre, and lower down, those of Billaud and Barère. A similar resolution providing for the 7th of Messidor, signed by the same parties and five others, is despatched the same day. (M. de Martel came across and made use of this conclusive document before I did, most of it being quoted in “Les Types Révolutionnaires.”)
[168. ]Buchez et Roux, xxxiii., 434.