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Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 2 [1878]

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Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, 3 vols., trans. John Durand, (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002). Vol. 2.

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About this Title:

The 2nd volume of Hippolyte Taine’s 3 volume history of the French Revolution which is part of his 5 part history of modern France, The Origins of Contemporary France, in 6 volumes. They are The Old Regime (1875); The Revolution, vol. 1 Anarchy (1878); The Revolution, vol. 2 The Jacobin Conquest (1881); The Revolution, vol. 3 The Revolutionary Government (1883); and The Modern Regime, in 2 volumes (1890-93).

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Edition: current; Page: [i]
the french revolution
Edition: current; Page: [ii] Edition: current; Page: [iii]
the french revolution
Hippolyte Taine
Translated by John Durand
Volume II
Liberty Fund
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., a foundation established to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.

The cuneiform inscription that serves as our logo and as the design motif for our endpapers is the earliest-known written appearance of the word “freedom” (amagi), or “liberty.” It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 bc in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash.

ũ 2002 Liberty Fund, Inc. All rights reserved

The French Revolution is a translation of La Révolution, which is the second part of Taine’s Origines de la France contemporaine.

Printed in the United States of America

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Taine, Hippolyte, 1828–1893.

[Origines de la France contemporaine. English. Selections]

The French Revolution / Hippolyte Taine; translated by John Durand.

p. cm.

“The French Revolution is a translation of La Révolution, which is the second part of Taine’s Origines de la France contemporaine”—T.p. verso. Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-86597-126-9 (alk. paper) ISBN 0-86597-127-7 (pbk. : alk. paper)

1. France—History—Revolution, 1789–1799. I. Title.

DC148.T35 2002

944.04—dc21 2002016023

ISBN 0-86597-126-9 (set: hc.) ISBN 0-86597-127-7 (set: pb.)

ISBN 0-86597-363-6 (v. 1: hc.) ISBN 0-86597-366-0 (v. 1: pb.)

ISBN 0-86597-364-4 (v. 2: hc.) ISBN 0-86597-367-9 (v. 2: pb.)

ISBN 0-86597-365-2 (v. 3: hc.) ISBN 0-86597-368-7 (v. 3: pb.)

Liberty Fund, Inc.

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Indianapolis, Indiana 46250-1684

Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • Preface xiii
  • Book Fourth. The Jacobin Conquest
    • Chapter I 413
      • Rise of the New Political Organ—
      • I. Principle of the revolutionary party—Its applications—
      • II. Formation of the Jacobin—The common human elements of his character—Self-conceit and dogmatism are sensitive and rebellious in every community—How kept down in all well-founded societies—Their development in the new order of things—Effect of milieu on imaginations and ambitions—The stimulants of Utopianism, abuses of speech, and derangement of ideas—Changes in office; interests played upon and perverted feeling—
      • III. Psychology of the Jacobin—His intellectual method—Tyranny of formulae and suppression of facts—Mental balance disturbed—Signs of this in the revolutionary language—Scope and expression of the Jacobin intellect—In what respect his method is mischievous—How it is successful—Illusions produced by it—
      • IV. What the theory promises—How it flatters wounded self-esteem—The ruling passion of the Jacobin—Apparent both in style and conduct—He alone is virtuous in his own estimation, while his adversaries are vile—They must accordingly be put out of the way—Perfection of this character—Common sense and moral sense both perverted.
    • Chapter II 439
      • I. Formation of the Party—Its recruits—These are rare in the upper class and amongst the masses—They are numerous in the low bourgeois class and in the upper stratum of the people—The position and education which enroll a man in the party—
      • II. Spontaneous associations after July 14, 1789—How these dissolve—Withdrawal of people of sense and occupation—Number of those absent at elections—Birth and multiplication of Edition: current; Page: [vi] Jacobin societies—Their influence over their adherents—Their manoeuvres and despotism—
      • III. How they view the liberty of the press—Their political doings—
      • IV. Their rallying-points—Origin and composition of the Paris Jacobin club—It affiliates with provincial clubs—Its Leaders—The Fanatics—The Intriguers—Their object—Their means—
      • V. Small number of Jacobins—Sources of their power—They form a league—They have faith—Their unscrupulousness—The power of the party vested in the group which best fulfills these conditions.
    • Chapter III 473
      • The Jacobins in Power—The elections of 1791—Proportion of places gained by them—
      • I. Their siege operations—Means used by them to discourage the majority of electors and conservative candidates—Frequency of elections—Effect of the oath—
      • II. Annoyances and dangers of public offices—The Constituents excluded from the Legislative body—
      • III. The friends of order deprived of the right of free assemblage—Violent treatment of their clubs in Paris and the provinces—Legal prevention of conservative associations—
      • IV. Turmoil at the elections of 1790—Elections in 1791—Effect of the King’s flight—Domiciliary visits—Mortagne during the electoral period—
      • V. Intimidation and withdrawal of the Conservatives—Popular outbreaks in Burgundy, Lyonnais, Provence, and the large cities—Electoral proceedings of the Jacobins; examples at Aix, Dax, and Montpellier—Agitators go unpunished—Denunciations by name—Manoeuvres with the peasantry—General tactics of the Jacobins.
    • Chapter IV 492
      • I. Composition of the Legislative Assembly—Social rank of the Deputies. Their inexperience, incompetence, and prejudices—
      • II. Degree and quality of their intelligence and culture—
      • III. Aspect of their sessions—Scenes and display at the club—Co-operation of spectators—
      • IV. Parties—The “Right”—The “Centre”—The “Left”—Opinions and sentiments of the Girondists—Their allies of the extreme “Left”—
      • V. Their means of action—Dispersion of the Feuillants club—Pressure of the tribunes on the Assembly—Street mobs—
      • VI. Parliamentary manoeuvres—Abuses of urgency—Vote on the principle—Call by name—Intimidation of the “Centre”—Opponents inactive—The majority finally disposed of.Edition: current; Page: [vii]
    • Chapter V 512
      • Policy of the Assembly—
      • I. State of France at the end of 1791—Powerlessness of the Law—
      • II. The Assembly hostile to the oppressed and favoring oppressors—Decrees against the nobles and clergy—Amnesty for deserters, convicts, and bandits—Anarchical and levelling maxims—
      • III. War—Disposition of foreign powers—The King’s dislikes—Provocations of the Girondists—Date and causes of the rupture—
      • IV. Secret motives of the leaders—Their control compromised by peace—Discontent of the rich and cultivated class—Formation and increase of the party of order—The King and this party reconciled—
      • V. Effect of the war on the commonalty—Its alarm and its rage—The second revolutionary outburst and its characteristics—Alliance of the Girondists with the populace—The red cap and pikes—Universal substitution of government by force for government by law.
    • Chapter VI 542
      • The Departments—
      • I. Provence in 1792—Early supremacy of the Jacobins in Marseilles—Composition of the party—The club and the municipality—Expulsion of the Ernest regiment—
      • II. The expedition to Aix—The regiment disarms—The Directory driven out—Pressure on the new Directory—
      • III. The Constitutionalists of Arles—The Marseilles expedition against Arles—Excesses committed by them in the town and its vicinity—Invasion of Apt, the club and its volunteers—
      • IV. The Jacobins of Avignon—How they obtain recruits—Their robberies in the Comtat—The Avignon municipality in flight or in prison—Murder of Lécuyer and the Glacière massacre—Entry of the murderers, supported by their Marseilles allies—Jacobin dictatorship in Vaucluse and the Bouches-du-Rhône—
      • V. Other departments—Uniform process of the Jacobin conquest—Preconceived formation of a Jacobin State.
    • Chapter VII 574
      • Paris—
      • I. Pressure of the Assembly on the King—His veto rendered void or eluded—His ministers insulted and driven away—The usurpations of his Girondist ministry—He removes them—Insurrectionary preparations—
      • II. The floating and poor population of Paris—Disposition of the workmen—Effect of poverty and want of work—Effect of Jacobin preaching—The revolutionary army—Character of its reviews—Its first review—Its Edition: current; Page: [viii] actual effective force—
      • III. Its leaders—Their committee—How they created excitement—
      • IV. The 20th of June—The programme—The muster—The procession before the Assembly—Irruption into the château—The King in the presence of the people.
    • Chapter VIII 596
      • I. Indignation of the Constitutionalists—Cause of their weakness—The Girondists renew the attack—Their double plan—
      • II. Pressure on the King—Pétion and Manuel brought to the Hôtel-de-Ville—The Ministry obliged to resign—Jacobin agitation against the King—Pressure on the Assembly—Petition of the Paris Commune—Threats of the petitioners and of the galleries—Session of August 8th—Girondist strategy foiled in two ways—
      • III. The Girondists work for the benefit of the Jacobins—The armed force sent away or disorganized—The Federates summoned—Brest and Marseilles send men—Public sessions of administrative bodies—Permanence of administrative bodies and of the sections—Effect of these two measures—The central bureau of the Hôtel-de-Ville—Origin and formation of the revolutionary Commune—
      • IV. Vain attempts of the Girondists to put it down—Jacobin alarm, their enthusiasm, and their programme—
      • V. Evening of August 8—Session of August 9—Morning of August 10—The Assembly purged—
      • VI. Nights of August 9 and 10—The sections—Commissioners of the sections at the Hôtel-de-Ville—The revolutionary Commune is substituted for the legal Commune—
      • VII. August 10—The King’s forces—Resistance abandoned—The King in the National Assembly—Conflict at the palace and discharge of the Swiss Guard—The palace evacuated by the King’s order—The massacres—The enslaved Assembly and its decrees—
      • VIII. State of Paris in the interregnum—The mass of the population—Subaltern Jacobins—The Jacobin leaders.
    • Chapter IX 644
      • I. Mob Rule in Times of Anarchy—Case of anarchy recently and suddenly brought on—The band that succeeds the fallen government and its administrative tools—
      • II. Progress of the homicidal idea in the mass of the party—The morning after August 10—The tribunal of August 17—The funereal fête of August 27—The prison plot—
      • III. Rise of the homicidal idea among the leaders—Their situation—The powers they usurp—Their Edition: current; Page: [ix] spoliations—The risks they run—Terror their salvation—
      • IV. Date of the determination of this—The actors and their parts—Marat—Danton—The Commune—Its co-operators—Harmony of dispositions and readiness of operation—
      • V. Common workmen—Their numbers—Their condition—Their sentiments—Effect of murder on the murderers—Their degradation—Their insensibility—
      • VI. Effect of the massacre on the public—General dejection and the dissolution of society—The ascendency of the Jacobins assured in Paris—The men of September upheld in the Commune and elected to the Convention.
    • Chapter X 689
      • The Departments—The epidemic and contagious character of the revolutionary disease—
      • I. Its essential principle is the Jacobin dogma of the sovereignty of the people—The new right is officially proclaimed—Public statement of the new régime—Its object, its opponents, its methods—Its extension from Paris to the provinces—
      • II. In several departments it establishes itself in advance—An instance of this in the Var—
      • III. Each Jacobin band a dictator in its own neighborhood—Saint-Afrique during the interregnum—
      • IV. Ordinary practices of the Jacobin dictatorship—The stationary companies of the clubs—Their personnel—Their leaders—
      • V. The companies of traveling volunteers—Quality of the recruits—Election of officers—Robberies and murders—
      • VI. A tour of France in the cabinet of the Minister of the Interior—From Carcassonne to Bordeaux—Bordeaux to Caen—The north and the east—Châlons-sur-Marne to Lyons—The Comtat and Provence—The tone and the responses of the Jacobin administration—The programme of the party.
    • Chapter XI 736
      • I. The Second Stage of the Jacobin Conquest—The importance and multitude of vacant offices—
      • II. The elections—The young and the poor invited to the ballot-box—Danger of the Conservatives if candidates—Their chiefs absent themselves—Proportion of absentees at the primary assemblies—
      • III. Composition and tone of the secondary assemblies—Exclusion of “Feuillant” electors—Pressure on other electors—Persons elected by the Conservatives obliged to resign—Elections by the Catholics cancelled—Secession of the Jacobin minorities—The election of their men made valid—Public opinion not in accord with official selections—Edition: current; Page: [x]
      • IV. Composition of the National Convention—Number of Montagnards at the start—Opinions and sentiments of the deputies of the Plain—The Gironde—Ascendency of the Girondists in the Convention—Their intellectual character—Their principles—The plan of their Constitution—Their fanaticism—Their sincerity, culture and tastes—How they differ from pure Jacobins—How they comprehend popular sovereignty—Their stipulations with regard to the initiative of individuals and of groups—Weakness of philosophic thought and of parliamentary authority in times of anarchy—
      • V. Opinion in Paris—The majority of the population constitutional—The new régime unpopular—Scarcity and dearness of food—Catholic customs obstructed—Universal and increasing discontent—Aversion or indifference to the Girondists—Political resignation of the majority—Modern customs incompatible with pure democracy—Men of property and income, manufacturers and tradesmen, keep aloof—Dissensions, timidity and feebleness of the Conservatives—The Jacobins alone form the sovereign people—
      • VI. Composition of the party—Its numbers and quality decline—The Underlings—Idle and dissipated workmen—The suburban rabble—Bandits and blackguards—Prostitutes—The September actors—
      • VII. The ruling representative man—His mental character and compass—The political ideas of M. Saule.
    • Chapter XII 778
      • Precarious Situation of a Central Government Within the Precincts of a Local Jurisdiction—
      • I. Jacobin advantages—Their sway in the section assemblies—Maintenance, re-election and completion of the Commune—Its new chiefs, Chaumette, Hébert and Pache—The National Guard recast—Jacobins elected officers and subofficers—The paid band of roughs—Private and public funds of the party—
      • II. Its parliamentary recruits—Their characters and minds—Saint-Just—Violence of the minority in the Convention—Pressure of the galleries—Menaces of the streets—
      • III. Defection among the majority—Effect of physical fear—Effect of moral cowardice—Effect of political necessity—Internal weakness of the Girondists—Accomplices in principle of the Montagnards
      • IV. Principal decrees of the Girondist majority—Arms and means of attack surrendered by it to its adversaries—
      • V. Committees of Supervision after March 28, 1793—The régime of August and September, 1792, revived—Disarmament—Certificates of civism—Forced enlistments—Forced Edition: current; Page: [xi] loans—Use made of the sums raised—Vain resistance of the Convention—Marat, indicted, is acquitted—Vain resistance of the population—Manifestations by young men repressed—Violence and victory of the Jacobins in the assemblies of the sections—
      • VI. Jacobin tactics to constrain the Convention—Petition of April 15 against the Girondists—Means employed to obtain signatures—The Convention declares the petition calumnious—The commission of Twelve and arrest of Hébert—Plans for massacres—Intervention of the Mountain leaders—
      • VII. The 27th day of May—The central revolutionary committee—The municipal body displaced and then restored—Henriot, commanding general—The 31st of May—Measures of the Commune—The 2d of June—Arrest of the Twelve and of the Twenty-two—
      • VIII. Character of the new governors—Why France accepted them.
Edition: current; Page: [xii] Edition: current; Page: [xiii]


In this volume, as in those preceding it and in those to come, there will be found only the history of Public Powers. Other historians will write that of diplomacy, of war, of the finances, of the Church: my subject is a limited one. To my great regret, however, this new part fills an entire volume; and the last part, on the revolutionary government, will be as long.

I have again to regret the dissatisfaction which I foresee this work will cause to many of my countrymen. My excuse is that almost all of them, more fortunate than myself, have political principles which serve them in forming their judgments of the past. I had none; if, indeed, I had any motive in undertaking this work, it was to seek for political principles. Thus far I have attained to scarcely more than one; and this is so simple that it will seem puerile, and that I hardly dare enunciate it. Nevertheless I have adhered to it, and in what the reader is about to peruse my judgments are all derived from that; its truth is the measure of theirs. It consists wholly in this observation: that human society, especially a modern society, is a vast and complicated thing. Hence the difficulty in knowing and comprehending it. For the same reason it is not easy to handle the subject well. It follows that a cultivated mind is much better able to do this than an uncultivated mind, and a man specially qualified than one who is not. From these two last truths flow many other consequences, which, if the reader deigns to reflect on them, he will have no trouble in defining.

Edition: current; Page: [xiv] Edition: current; Page: [411]

BOOK FOURTH: The Jacobin Conquest

Edition: current; Page: [412] Edition: current; Page: [413]


Rise of the new political organ— I. Principle of the revolutionary party—Its applications— II. Formation of the Jacobin—The common human elements of his character—Self-conceit and dogmatism are sensitive and rebellious in every community—How kept down in all well-founded societies—Their development in the new order of things—Effect of milieu on imaginations and ambitions—The stimulants of Utopianism, abuses of speech, and derangement of ideas—Changes in office; interests played upon and perverted feeling— III. Psychology of the Jacobin—His intellectual method—Tyranny of formulae and suppression of facts—Mental balance disturbed—Signs of this in the revolutionary language—Scope and expression of the Jacobin intellect—In what respect his method is mischievous—How it is successful—Illusions produced by it— IV. What the theory promises—How it flatters wounded self-esteem—The ruling passion of the Jacobin—Apparent both in style and conduct—He alone is virtuous in his own estimation, while his adversaries are vile—They must accordingly be put out of the way—Perfection of this character—Common sense and moral sense both perverted.

In this society, in a state of dissolution, in which the passions of the people are the sole efficient force, that party rules which knows best how to flatter these and turn them to account. Alongside of a legal government, therefore, which can neither repress nor gratify these passions, arises an illegal government which sanctions, excites, and directs them. While the former totters and falls to pieces, the latter strengthens itself and completes its organization, until, becoming legal in its turn, it takes the other’s place.

Edition: current; Page: [414]


We find a theory at the outset, in justification of these popular outbreaks and assaults, which is neither improvised, added to, nor superficial, but firmly fixed in the public mind, fed by long anterior philosophical discussion; a sort of enduring, long-lived root out of which the new constitutional tree has arisen, namely, the dogma of popular sovereignty. Literally interpreted, it means that the government is merely an inferior clerk or domestic.1 We, the people, have established the government; and ever since, as well as before its organization, we are its masters. Between us and it “no contract” that is undefined, or at least lasting—“none which cannot be done away with by mutual consent or through the unfaithfulness of one of the two parties.” Whatever it may be, or provide for, we are nowise bound by it; it depends wholly on us; we remain free to “modify, restrict, and resume as we please the power of which we have made it the depository.” By virtue of a primitive, inalienable right the commonwealth belongs to us and to us only; if we put this into the hands of the government it is as when kings delegate authority for the time being to a minister, and which he is always tempted to abuse; it is our business to watch him, warn him, check him, curb him, and, if necessary, displace him. We must especially guard ourselves against the craft and manoeuvres by which, under the pretext of preserving public tranquillity, he would tie our hands. A law, superior to any he can make, forbids him to interfere with our sovereignty; and he does interfere with it when he undertakes to forestall, obstruct, or impede its exercise. The Assembly, even the Constituent, usurps when it treats the people like a royal drone (roi fainéant), when it subjects them to laws which they have not ratified, Edition: current; Page: [415] and when it deprives them of action except through their representatives. The people themselves must act directly, must assemble together and deliberate on public affairs; they must control and censure the acts of those they elect; they must influence these with their resolutions, correct their mistakes with their good sense, atone for their weakness by their energy, stand at the helm alongside of them, and even employ force and throw them overboard, so that the ship may be saved, which, in their hands, is drifting on a rock.

Such, in fact, is the doctrine of the popular party. This doctrine is carried into effect July 14 and October 5 and 6, 1789. Loustalot, Camille Desmoulins, Fréron, Danton, Marat, Pétion, Robespierre proclaim it untiringly in the political clubs, in the newspapers, and in the Assembly. The government, according to them, whether local or central, encroaches everywhere. Why, after having overthrown one despotism, should we set up another? No longer subject to the privileged aristocracy, we are subject to “the aristocracy of our representatives.”2 Already at Paris “the body of citizens is nothing, while the municipality is everything”; it encroaches on our imprescriptible rights in refusing to let a district revoke at will the five members elected to represent it at the Hôtel-de-Ville; in passing ordinances without obtaining the sanction of electors; in preventing citizens from assembling where they please; in interrupting the out-door meetings of the clubs in the Palais Royal; “Patriots are driven away by the patrol.” Mayor Bailly, “who keeps liveried servants, who gives himself a salary of 110,000 livres,” who distributes captains’ commissions, who forces pedlars to wear metallic badges, and who compels newspapers to have signatures to their articles is not only a tyrant, but a peculator and robber, and “guilty of lèse-nation.” Worse usurpations are committed by the National Assembly. To swear fidelity to the constitution, as this body has just done, to Edition: current; Page: [416] impose its work on us, to make us take a similar oath, without taking our superior rights into account and without reserving a special ratification of it to us3 is “overlooking our sovereignty,” “sporting with the nation’s majesty,” and “substituting the will of twelve hundred individuals for that of the people”: “Our representatives have failed to treat us with respect.”

This is not the first time, and it is not to be the last. Often do they exceed their mandate; they disarm, mutilate, and gag their legitimate sovereign; they pass decrees against the people in the people’s name; such is their martial law, specially devised for “suppressing the uprising of citizens”—that is to say, the only resource left to us against conspirators, monopolists, and traitors. Such is their decree against publishing any kind of joint placard or petition, a decree “null and void,” and “constituting a most flagrant attack on the nation’s rights.”4 Especially is the electoral law one of these, a law which, requiring a small qualification tax for electors and a larger one for les éligibles,5 “consecrates the aristocracy of wealth.” The poor, who are excluded by the decree, must regard it as a nullity; they must register themselves as they please and vote without scruple, because natural law has precedence over written law; it would be simply “fair reprisals” if, at the end of the session, the millions of citizens lately deprived of their vote unjustly, should seize the Edition: current; Page: [417] usurping majority by the throat and tell them: “You cut us off from society in your chamber, because you are the strongest there; we, in our turn, cut you off from out-door society, because we are strongest in the street. You have killed us civilly—we kill you physically.”

Accordingly, from this point of view, all riots are legitimate. Robespierre in the tribune6 excuses jacqueries, refuses to call castle-burners brigands, and justifies the insurgents of Soissons, Nancy, Avignon, and the colonies. Desmoulins, alluding to two men hung at Douai, states that it was done by the people and soldiers combined, and declares that “henceforth—I have no hesitation in saying it—they have legitimated the insurrection”; they were guilty, and it was well to hang them.7 Not only do the party leaders excuse assassinations, but they provoke them. Desmoulins, “attorney-general of the Lantern,8 insists on each of the eighty-three departments being threatened with at least one lantern descent”; while Marat, in the name of principle, constantly sounds the tocsin in his journal: “When public safety is in peril, the people must take power out of the hands of those to whom it is entrusted.… Put that Austrian woman and her brother-in-law in prison.… Seize the ministers and their clerks and put them in irons.… Make sure of the mayor and his lieutenants; keep the general in sight, and arrest his staff.… The heir to the throne has no right to a dinner while you want bread. Organise bodies of armed men. March to the National Assembly and demand food at once, supplied to you out of the national possessions.… Demand that the nation’s poor have a future secured to them out of the national contribution. If you are refused join the Edition: current; Page: [418] army, take the land, as well as gold which the rascals who want to force you to come to terms by hunger have buried and share it amongst you. Off with the heads of the ministers and their underlings, for now is the time; that of Lafayette and of every rascal on his staff, and of every unpatriotic battalion officer, including Bailly and those municipal reactionists—all the traitors in the National Assembly!” Marat, indeed, still passes for a furious ranter among people of some intelligence. But for all that, this is the sum and substance of his theory: It installs in the political edifice, over the heads of delegated, regular, and legal powers an anonymous, imbecile, and terrific power whose decisions are absolute, whose projects are constantly adopted, and whose intervention is sanguinary. This power is that of the populace, of a ferocious, suspicious sultan, who, appointing his viziers, keeps his hands free to direct them, and his scimiter ready sharpened to cut off their heads.


That a speculator in his closet should have concocted such a theory is comprehensible; paper will take all that is put upon it, while abstract beings, the hollow simulacres and philosophic puppets he creates, are adapted to every sort of combination.—That a lunatic in his cell should adopt and preach this theory is also comprehensible; he is beset with phantoms and lives outside the actual world, and, moreover, in this ever-agitated democracy he is the eternal denunciator and instigator of every riot and murder that takes place; he it is who under the name of “the people’s friend” becomes the arbiter of lives and the veritable sovereign.—That a people borne down with taxes, wretched and starving, schooled by declaimers and sophists, should have welcomed this theory and acted under it is again comprehensible; extreme suffering renders all weapons available, and where there is oppression, that doctrine is true which serves to throw oppression off. But that public men, legislators and statesmen, with, at last, ministers and heads of the government, should have made this theory their own; that they should have more fondly clung Edition: current; Page: [419] to it as it became more destructive; that, daily for three years they should have seen social order crumbling away piecemeal under its blows and not have recognised it as the instrument of such vast ruin that, in the light of the most disastrous experience, instead of regarding it as a curse they should have glorified it as a boon; that many of them—an entire party, almost all of the Assembly—should have venerated it as a religious dogma and carried it to extremes with the enthusiasm and rigor of faith; that, driven by it into a narrow strait, ever getting narrower and narrower, they should have continued to crush each other at every step; that, finally, on reaching the visionary temple of their so-called liberty, they should have found themselves in a slaughter-house, and, within its precincts, should have become in turn butcher and brute; that, through their maxims of universal, typical liberty they should have inaugurated a despotism worthy of Dahomey, a tribunal like that of the Inquisition, and raised human hecatombs like those of ancient Mexico; that, amidst their prisons and scaffolds they should persist in believing in the righteousness of their cause, in their own humanity, in their virtue, and, on their fall, have regarded themselves as martyrs—is certainly strange; such intellectual aberration, such excessive self-conceit are rarely encountered, and a concurrence of circumstances, the like of which has never been seen in the world but once, was necessary to produce it.

Exaggerated self-conceit and dogmatism, however, are not rare in the human species. These two roots of the Jacobin intellect exist in all countries, underground and indestructible. Everywhere they are kept from sprouting by the established order of things; everywhere are they striving to upheave old historic foundations which press them down. Now, as formerly, students live in garrets, bohemians in lodgings, physicians without patients and lawyers without clients in lonely offices, so many Brissots, Dantons, Marats, Robespierres, and St. Justs in embryo; only, for lack of air and sunshine, they never come to maturity. At twenty, on entering society, a young man’s judgment and self-esteem are extremely sensitive.—Let the society in which he is comprised be what it will, it is for him a Edition: current; Page: [420] scandal to right reason: it was not organized by a legislative philosopher according to a sound principle, but is the work of one generation after another, according to manifold and changing necessities. It is not a product of logic, but of history, and the new-fledged thinker shrugs his shoulders as he looks up and sees what the ancient tenement is, the foundations of which are arbitrary, its architecture confused, and its many repairs plainly visible.—In the second place, whatever degree of perfection preceding institutions, laws, and customs have reached, these have not received his assent; others, his predecessors, have chosen for him, he being subjected beforehand to moral, political, and social forms which pleased them. Whether they please him or not is of no consequence. Like a horse trotting along between the thills of a wagon in the harness that happens to have been put on his back, he has to make the best of it. Besides, whatever its organization, as it is essentially a hierarchy, he is nearly always subaltern in it, and must ever remain so, either soldier, corporal or sergeant. Even under the most liberal system, that in which the highest grades are accessible to all, for every five or six men who take the lead or command others, one hundred thousand must follow or be commanded, which makes it vain to tell every conscript that he carries a marshal’s baton in his sack, when, nine hundred and ninety-nine times out of a thousand, he discovers too late, on rummaging his sack, that the baton is not there.—It is not surprising that he is tempted to kick against social barriers within which, willingly or not, he is enrolled, and which predestine him to subordination. It is not surprising that on emerging from traditional influences he should accept a theory which subjects these arrangements to his arbitrament and gives him authority over his superiors. And all the more because there is no doctrine more simple and better adapted to his inexperience; it is the only one he can comprehend and manage off-hand. Hence it is that young men on leaving college, especially those who have their way to make in the world, are more or less Jacobin,—it is a distemper which belongs to growth.9—In well Edition: current; Page: [421] organised communities this distemper is beneficial, and is soon cured. The public edifice being substantial and carefully guarded, malcontents soon discover that they have not enough strength to pull it down, and that on contending with its guardians they gain nothing but blows. After some grumbling, they too enter at one or the other of its doors, find a place for themselves, and enjoy its advantages or become reconciled to their lot. Finally, either through imitation, or habit, or calculation, they willingly form part of that garrison which, in protecting public interests, protects their own private interests as well. Generally, after ten years have gone by, the young man has obtained his rank in the file, where he advances step by step in his own compartment, which he no longer thinks of tearing to pieces, and under the eye of a policeman whom he no longer thinks of condemning. He even sometimes thinks that policeman and compartment are of use to him; considering the millions of individuals who are trying to mount the social ladder, each striving to get ahead of the other, he succeeds in comprehending this—that the worst of calamities would be a lack of barriers and of guardians.

Here the worm-eaten barriers have cracked all at once, their easy-going, timid, incapable guardians having allowed things to take their course. Society, accordingly, disintegrated and a pell-mell, is turned into a turbulent, shouting crowd, each pushing and being pushed, all alike overexcited and congratulating each other on having finally obtained elbow-room, and all demanding that the new barriers shall be as fragile and the new guardians as feeble, as defenceless, and as inert as possible. This is what has been done. As a natural consequence, those who were foremost in the ranks have been turned back; many have been struck down in the fray, while in this permanent state of disorder, which goes under the name of definitive order, red heels and pumps continue to be trod on by hob-nailed shoes and sabots.—A free field is now open to the dogmatist and Edition: current; Page: [422] the intemperate egotist. There are no more venerable institutions to overawe, nor physical force to keep them in restraint. On the contrary, the new constitution, through its theoretical declarations and the practical application of these, invites them to display themselves.—For, on the one hand, this constitution as law declares that it is founded on pure reason, beginning with a long string of abstract dogmas from which its positive prescriptions are assumed to be rigorously deduced; this is submitting all laws to the shallow comments of reasoners who will both interpret and break them according to principle.—On the other hand, practically, it hands over all government powers to the elections and confers on the clubs the control of the authorities; this is offering a premium to the presumption of the ambitious who put themselves forward because they think themselves capable, and who defame their rulers purposely to displace them.—Every administrative system is a milieu which serves to develop some species of the human plant and blight others. This is the best one for the propagation and rapid increase of the coffee-house politician, the club haranguer, the stump-speaker, the street-rioter, the committee dictator—in short, the revolutionist and the tyrant Phantasy and presumption in this political hot-bed assume monstrous proportions, and, in a few months, brains that are now only ardent become of a white heat.

Let us trace the effect of this excessive, unhealthy temperature on imaginations and ambitions. The old tenement is down; the foundations of the new one are not yet laid; society has to be made over again from top to bottom. All well-meaning people are invited to come and help, and, as one plain principle suffices in drawing a plan, the first comer may succeed. Henceforth political fancies swarm in the district meetings, in the clubs, in the newspapers, in pamphlets, and in every head-long, venturesome brain. “There is not a merchant’s clerk shaped by reading the ‘Nouvelle Héloise,’10 not a pedagogue that has translated ten pages of Livy, not an artist that has looked through Rollin, not a paragraphist that is converted into a Edition: current; Page: [423] political authority by committing to memory the logogriphs of the ‘Contrat Social,’ who does not manufacture a constitution.… As nothing presents less of an obstacle than the perfecting of the imaginary, all perturbed spirits flock to, and become excited, in this ideal realm. Beginning with curiosity, all end in transports. Ordinary people rush to the enterprise the same as a miser to an incantation scene which promises to bring him treasure, and, thus childishly attracted, each hopes to find at once, what has never been seen under even the most liberal governments, immutable perfection, universal brotherhood, the power of acquiring what one lacks, and a life composed wholly of enjoyment.”

One of these enjoyments, and a keen one, is this species of speculation. One soars in space. By means of eight or ten ready-made phrases, derived from the six-penny catechisms circulated by thousands in the country and in the suburbs of the towns and cities,11 a village attorney, a customs clerk, a check-taker of a theatre, the sergeant of a soldier’s mess becomes a legislator and philosopher; he criticises Malouet, Mirabeau, the Ministry, the King, the Assembly, the Church, foreign Cabinets, France, and all Europe. Consequently, on these important subjects, which always seemed forever forbidden to him, he offers resolutions, reads addresses, makes harangues, obtains applause, and congratulates himself on having argued so well and with such big words. To hold forth on questions that are not understood is now an occupation, a matter of pride and profit. “More is uttered in one day,” says an eye-witness,12 “in one section of Paris than in one year in all the Swiss political assemblies put together. An Englishman would give six weeks of study to what we dispose of in a quarter of an hour.” Everywhere, in the town Edition: current; Page: [424] halls, in popular meetings, in the sectional assemblies, in the wine shops, on the public promenades, on street corners vanity erects a tribune to verbosity. “Contemplate the incalculable activity of such a machine in a loquacious nation where the passion for being something dominates all other affections, where vanity has more phases than there are stars in the firmament, where reputations already cost no more than the trouble of insisting on their being deserved, where society is divided between mediocrities and their trumpeters who laud them as divinities; where so few people are content with their lot, where the corner grocer is prouder of his epaulette than the Grand Condé of his Marshal’s baton, where agitation without object or resources is perpetual, where, from the floor-scrubber to the dramatist, from the academician to the simpleton who gets muddled over the evening newspaper, from the witty courtier down to his philosophic lackey, each one revises Montesquieu with the self-sufficiency of a child which, because it is learning to read, deems itself wise; where self-esteem, in disputation, cavilling and sophistication, destroys all sensible conversation; where no one utters a word but to teach, never imagining that to learn one must keep quiet; where the triumphs of a few lunatics entice every crackbrain from his den; where, with two nonsensical ideas put together out of a book that is not understood, a man assumes to have principles; where swindlers talk about morality, women of easy virtue about civism, and the most infamous of beings about the dignity of the species; where the discharged valet of a grand seignor calls himself Brutus!”—In reality, he is Brutus in his own eyes. Let the time come and he will be so in earnest, especially against his late master; all he has to do is to give him a thrust with his pike. Until he acts out the part he spouts it, and grows excited over his own tirades; his common sense gives way to the bombastic jargon of the revolution and to declamation, which completes the Utopian performance and eases his brain of its last modicum of ballast.

It is not merely ideas which the new régime has disturbed, but it has also disordered sentiments. “Authority is transferred from the Château of Versailles and the courtier’s antechamber, with no intermediary Edition: current; Page: [425] or counterpoise, to the proletariat and its flatterers.”13 The whole of the staff of the old government is brusquely set aside, while a general election has brusquely installed another in its place, offices not being given to capacity, seniority, and experience, but to self-sufficiency, intrigue, and exaggeration. Not only are legal rights reduced to a common level, but natural grades are transposed; the social ladder, overthrown, is set up again bottom upwards; the first effect of the promised regeneration is “to substitute in the administration of public affairs pettifoggers for magistrates, ordinary citizens for cabinet ministers, ex-commoners for ex-nobles, rustics for soldiers, soldiers for captains, captains for generals, curés for bishops, vicars for curés, monks for vicars, brokers for financiers, empirics for administrators, journalists for political economists, rhetoricians for legislators, and the poor for the rich.”—Every species of covetousness is stimulated by this spectacle. The profusion of offices and the anticipation of vacancies “has excited the thirst for command, stimulated self-esteem, and inflamed the hopes of the most inept. A rude and grim presumption renders the fool and the ignoramus unconscious of their insignificance. They have deemed themselves capable of anything, because the law granted public functions merely to capacity. There has dawned upon each an ambitious perspective; the soldier thinks only of displacing his captain, the captain of becoming a general, the clerk of supplanting the chief of his department, the new-fledged attorney of donning the purple, the curé of being ordained a bishop, the veriest scribbler of seating himself on the legislative bench. Offices and professions vacated by the appointment of so many upstarts afford in their turn a vast field for the ambition of the lower classes.”—Thus, step by step, owing to the reversal of social positions, is brought about a general intellectual fever. “France is transformed into a gaming-table, where, alongside of the discontented citizen offering his stakes, sits, bold, blustering, and with fermenting brain, the pretentious subaltern rattling his dice-box. … At the sight of a public functionary emerging Edition: current; Page: [426] from nothing, where is the bootblack whose soul does not bound with emulation?”—He has merely to push himself and elbow his way to secure a ticket “in this immense lottery of popular luck, of preferment without merit, of success without talent, of apotheoses without virtues, of an infinity of places distributed by the people wholesale, and enjoyed by the people in detail.” Political charlatans flock thither from every quarter, those taking the lead who, being most in earnest, believe in the virtue of their nostrum, and need power to impose its recipe on the community; all being saviors, all places belong to them, and especially the highest. They lay siege to these conscientiously and philanthropically; if necessary, they will take them by assault, hold them through force, and, forcibly or otherwise, administer their panacea to the human species.


Such are our Jacobins, born out of social decomposition like mushrooms out of compost. Let us consider their inner organization, for they have one as formerly the Puritans; we have only to follow their dogma down to its depths, as with a sounding-line, to reach the psychological stratum in which the normal balance of faculty and sentiment is overthrown.

When a statesman, who is not wholly unworthy of that great name, finds an abstract principle in his way, as, for instance, that of popular sovereignty, he accepts it, if he accepts it at all, according to his conception of its practical bearings. He begins, accordingly, by imagining it applied and in operation. From personal recollections and such information as he can obtain, he forms an idea of some village or town, some community of moderate size in the north, in the south, or in the centre of the country, for which he has to make laws. He then imagines its inhabitants acting according to his principle, that is to say, voting, mounting guard, levying taxes, and administering their own affairs. Familiar with ten or a dozen groups of this sort, which he regards as examples, he concludes by analogy as to others and the rest on the territory. Evidently it is a Edition: current; Page: [427] difficult and uncertain process; to be exact, or nearly so, requires rare powers of observation, and, at each step, a great deal of tact, for a nice calculation has to be made on given quantities imperfectly ascertained and imperfectly noted!14 Any political leader who does this successfully, does it through the ripest experience associated with genius. And even then he keeps his hand on the check-rein in pushing his innovation or reform; he is almost always tentative; he applies his law only in part, gradually and provisionally; he wishes to ascertain its effect; he is always ready to stay its operation, amend it, or modify it, according to the good or ill results of experiment; the state of the human material he has to deal with is never clear to his mind, even when superior, until after many and repeated gropings.—Now the Jacobin pursues just the opposite course. His principle is an axiom of political geometry, which always carries its own proof along with it; for, like the axioms of common geometry, it is formed out of the combination of a few simple ideas, and its evidence imposes itself at once on all minds capable of embracing in one conception the two terms of which it is the aggregate expression. Man in general, the rights of man, social contract, liberty, equality, reason, nature, the people, tyrants, are all elementary conceptions; whether precise or not, they fill the brain of the new sectary; oftentimes these terms are merely vague, sounding words, but that makes no difference; as soon as they meet in his brain an axiom springs out of them that can be instantly and absolutely applied on every occasion and at all hazards. Men as they really are do not concern him. He does not observe them; he does not require to observe them; with closed eyes he imposes a pattern of his own on the human substance manipulated by him; the idea never enters his head of Edition: current; Page: [428] forming any previous conception of this complex, multiform, swaying material—contemporary peasants, artisans, townspeople, curés and nobles, behind their ploughs, in their homes, in their shops, in their parsonages, in their mansions, with their inveterate beliefs, persistent inclinations, and powerful wills. Nothing of this enters into or lodges in his mind; all its avenues are stopped by the abstract principle which flourishes there and fills it completely. Should actual experience through the eye or ear plant some unwelcome truth forcibly in his mind, it cannot subsist there; however obstreperous and telling it may be, the abstract principle drives it out; if need be it will distort and strangle it, on the ground of its being a calumny, as it gives the lie to the principle which is true in itself and indisputable. Manifestly, a mind of this stamp is not sound; of the two faculties which should pull together harmoniously, one is undeveloped and the other overdeveloped; facts are wanting to turn the scale against the weight of formulae. Too heavy on one side and too light on the other, the Jacobin mind turns violently over on that side to which it leans, and such is its incurable infirmity.

Consider, indeed, the authentic monuments of Jacobin thought, the “Journal des Amis de la Constitution,” the gazettes of Loustalot, Desmoulins, Brissot, Condorcet, Fréron and Marat, Robespierre’s and St. Just’s pamphlets and speeches, the debates in the Legislative Assembly and in the Convention, the harangues, addresses and reports of the Girondists and Montagnards, in brief, the forty volumes of extracts compiled by Buchez and Roux. Never has so much been said to so little purpose; all the truth that is uttered is drowned in the monotony and inflation of empty verbiage and vociferous bombast. One experience in this direction is sufficient. The historian who resorts to this mass of rubbish for accurate information finds none of any account; in vain will he read kilometers of it: scarcely will he encounter one fact, one instructive detail, one document which brings before his eyes a distinct physiognomy, which shows him the real sentiments of a villager or of a gentleman, which vividly portrays the interior of a hôtel-de-ville, of a soldier’s barracks, of a municipal council chamber, or the character of an insurrection. To Edition: current; Page: [429] define fifteen or twenty types and situations which sum up the history of the period, we have been obliged, and shall be, to seek them elsewhere—in the correspondence of local administrators, in affidavits on criminal records, in the secret police15 reports, and in the narratives of foreigners,16 who, prepared for it by a different education, look behind words for things, and see France beyond the “Contrat Social.” This teeming France, this grand tragedy which twenty-six millions of players are performing on a stage of twenty-six thousand square leagues, is lost to the Jacobin; his literature, as well as his brain, contain only unsubstantial generalizations like those above cited, rolling out in a mere play of ideas, sometimes in concise terms when the writer happens to be a professional reasoner like Condorcet, but most frequently in a tangled, knotty style full of loose and disconnected meshes when the spokesman happens to be an improvised politician or a philosophic tyro like the ordinary deputies of the Assembly and the haranguers of the clubs. It is a pedantic scholasticism set forth with fanatical rant. Its entire vocabulary consists of about a hundred words, while all ideas are reduced to one, that of man in himself; society, in their conception of it, consists of so many human units, all alike equal and independent, contracting together for the first time; none could be briefer, for, to arrive at it, man had to be reduced to a minimum. Never were political intellects so dried up, and so wilfully; for it is the attempt to systematise and to simplify which causes their impoverishment. In that respect they follow the method of the century, keeping in the track of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: their mental mould is the classic mould, which mould, already contracted with the late philosophers, is yet more so with them hardened and toughened to excess. The best representatives of the type are Condorect,17 among the Girondists, Edition: current; Page: [430] and Robespierre, among the Montagnards, both mere dogmatists and pure logicians, the latter the most remarkable and with a perfection of intellectual sterility never surpassed.—In the formation of durable laws, that is to say, in the adaptation of social machinery to characters, conditions, and circumstances, such a mind of all others is certainly the most impotent and the most mischievous, for it is organically short-sighted; and, again, its code of axioms, interposed between it and surrounding objects, shuts off its horizon; beyond its own coterie and club it distinguishes nothing, while in the vagueness and confusion of the distance it sets up the empty idols of its own Utopia.—But when power has to be taken by assault, and a dictatorship arbitrarily exercised, the mechanical rigidity of such a mind is serviceable rather than detrimental. Unlike that of the statesman, it has no drawback, no embarrassment arising from the necessity of making investigations, of respecting precedents, of looking into statistics, of calculating and tracing beforehand in different directions the near and remote consequences of its work as this affects the interests, habits, and passions of diverse classes. All this is superannuated and superfluous; the Jacobin comprehends legitimate government and good laws instantaneously; his rectilinear process is the shortest and most efficient both for destruction and construction. For, if calm reflection is required to get at what suits twenty-six millions of living Frenchmen, a mere glance suffices for him to know what is requisite for the human abstractions of the theory;—indeed, according to the theory, men are all shaped to one pattern, nothing being left to them but an elementary will; thus defined, the philosophic automaton demands liberty, equality and popular sovereignty, the maintenance of the rights of man and adhesion to the “Contrat Social.” This suffices: henceforth the will of the people is known, and known beforehand; a consultation among citizens previous to action is not essential; there is no obligation to Edition: current; Page: [431] await their votes. In any event, a ratification by the people is sure; and should this not be forthcoming it is owing to their ignorance, disdain, or malice, in which case their response deserves to be considered as null; the best thing to do, consequently, through precaution and to protect the people from what is bad for them, is to dictate to them what is good for them.—In all this, the Jacobin acts in good faith; for the men in whose behalf he claims rights are not flesh-and-blood Frenchmen, as we see them in the streets and in the fields, but men in general, as they ought to be on leaving the hands of Nature, or after the teachings of Reason. As to the former, there is no need of being scrupulous because they are infatuated with prejudices and their opinions are mere drivelling; as for the latter, it is just the opposite: full of respect for the vainglorious images of his own theory, of spectres begotten by his own intellectual contrivance, the Jacobin always will bow down to responses that he himself has provided, for, the beings that he has created are more real in his eyes than living ones and it is their suffrage on which he counts. Accordingly, viewing things in the worst light, he has nothing against him but the momentary antipathy of a purblind generation. To offset this, he enjoys the approbation of humanity, self-obtained; that of a posterity which his acts have regenerated; that of men who, thanks to him, are again become what they should never have ceased to be. Hence, far from looking upon himself as an usurper or a tyrant, he considers himself the natural mandatory of a veritable people, the authorised executor of the common will. Marching along in the procession formed for him by this imaginary crowd, sustained by millions of metaphysical wills created by himself in his own image, he has their unanimous assent, and, like a chorus of triumphant shouts, he will fill the outward world with the inward echo of his own voice.


In every doctrine which wins men over to it, the sophistry it contains is less potent than the promises it makes; its power over them is Edition: current; Page: [432] greater through their sensibility than through their intelligence; for, if the heart is often the dupe of the head, the latter is much more frequently the dupe of the former. We do not accept a system because we deem it a true one, but because the truth we find in it suits us. Political or religious fanaticism, any theological or philosophical channel in which truth flows, always has its source in some ardent longing, some secret passion, some accumulation of intense, painful desire to which a theory affords an outlet; in the Jacobin, as well as in the Puritan, there is a fountain-head of this description. What feeds this source with the Puritan is the anxieties of a disturbed conscience which, forming for itself some idea of perfect justice, becomes rigid and multiplies the commandments it believes that God has promulgated; on being constrained to disobey these it rebels, and, to impose them on others, it becomes tyrannical even to despotism. The first effort of the Puritan, however, wholly internal, is self-control; before becoming political he becomes moral. With the Jacobin, on the contrary, the first precept is not moral, but political; it is not his duties which he exaggerates but his rights, while his doctrine, instead of being a prick to his conscience, flatters his pride.18 Vast and insatiate as human pride may be, it is satisfied this time, for never before has it had so much to feed upon.

In the programme of the sect do not seek for the limited prerogatives growing out of self-respect which the proud-spirited man claims for himself, such as civil rights accompanied with those political liberties that serve as sentinels and guardians of these rights—security for life and property, the stability of the law, the integrity of courts, equality of citizens before the law and under taxation, the Edition: current; Page: [433] abolition of privileges and arbitrary proceedings, the election of representatives and the administration of public funds; in short, the precious guarantees which render each citizen an inviolable sovereign on his limited domain, which protect his person and property against all species of public or private oppression and exaction, which maintain him calm and erect before competitors as well as adversaries, upright and respectful in the presence of magistrates and in the presence of the government. A Malouet, a Mounier, a Mallet-Dupan, partisans of the English Constitution and Parliament, may be content with such trifling gifts, but the theory holds them all cheap, and, if need be, will trample them in the dust. Independence and security for the private citizen is not what it promises, not the right to vote every two years, not a moderate exercise of influence, not an indirect, limited and intermittent control of the commonwealth, but political dominion in the full and complete possession of France and the French people. There is no doubt on this point. In Rousseau’s own words, the “Contrat Social” prescribes “the complete alienation to the community of each associate and all his rights,” every individual surrendering himself wholly, “just as he may actually be, he himself and all his powers of which his possessions form a part,” so that the State, not only the recognised owner of property, but of minds and bodies as well, may forcibly and legitimately impose on every member of it such education, form of worship, religious faith, opinions, and sympathies as it deems best.19 Now, each man, solely because he is a man, is by right a Edition: current; Page: [434] member of this despotic sovereignty. Whatever, accordingly, my condition may be, my incompetency, my ignorance, my insignificance in the career in which I have plodded along, I have full control over the fortunes, lives, and consciences of twenty-six millions of French people, being accordingly Czar and Pope, according to my share of authority.

But if I adhere strictly to this doctrine, I am yet more so than my quota warrants. This royal prerogative with which I am endowed is only conferred on those who, like myself, sign the Social Contract in full; others, merely because they reject some clause of it, incur a forfeiture; no one must enjoy the advantages of a pact of which some of the conditions are repudiated. Again, as this pact is based on natural right and is obligatory, he who rejects it or withdraws from it, becomes by that act a miscreant, a public wrong-doer and an enemy of the people. There were once crimes of royal lèse-majesty; now there are crimes of popular lèse-majesty; which crimes are committed when by deed, word, or thought, any portion whatever of the more than royal authority belonging to the people is denied or contested. The dogma through which popular sovereignty is proclaimed thus actually ends in a dictatorship of the few, and a proscription of the many. Outside of the sect you are outside of the law. We, five or six thousand Jacobins of Paris, are the legitimate monarch, the infallible Pontiff, and woe betide the refractory and the lukewarm, all government agents, all private persons, the clergy, the nobles, the rich, merchants, traders, the indifferent among all classes, who, steadily opposing or yielding uncertain adhesion, dare to throw doubt on our unquestionable right!

One by one all these consequences are to come into light, and it Edition: current; Page: [435] is evident that, let the logical machinery by which they unfold themselves be what it may, no ordinary person, unless of consummate vanity, will fully adopt them. He must have an exalted opinion of himself to consider himself sovereign otherwise than by his vote, to conduct public business with no more misgivings than his private business, to directly and forcibly interfere with this, to set himself up, he and his clique, as guides, censors and rulers of his government, to persuade himself that, with his mediocre education and average intellect, with his few scraps of Latin and such information as is obtained in reading-rooms, coffee-houses, and newspapers, with no other experience than that of a club, or a municipal council, he could discourse wisely and well on the vast, complex questions which superior men, specially devoted to them, hesitate to take up. At first this presumption existed in him only in germ, and, in ordinary times, it would have remained, for lack of nourishment, as dry-rot or creeping mould. But the heart knows not what strange seeds it contains! Any of these, feeble and seemingly inoffensive, needs only air and sunshine to become a noxious excrescence and a colossal plant. Whether third or fourth rate attorney, counsellor, surgeon, journalist, curé, artist, or author, the Jacobin is like the low hind that has just found, in one corner of his hut, a lot of old parchments which entitle him to the throne. What a contrast between the meanness of his calling and the importance with which the theory invests him! With what rapture he accepts a dogma that raises him so high in his own estimation! Diligently conning the Declaration of Rights, the Constitution, all the official documents that confer on him such glorious prerogatives, charging his imagination with them, he immediately assumes a tone befitting his new position.20

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Nothing surpasses the haughtiness and arrogance of this tone. It declares itself at the outset in the harangues of the clubs and in the petitions to the Constituent Assembly. Loustalot, Fréron, Danton, Marat, Robespierre, St. Just, always employ dictatorial language, that of the sect, and which finally becomes the jargon of their meanest valets. Good-breeding or toleration, anything that denotes regard or respect for others, find no place in their utterances nor in their acts; an usurping, tyrannical conceit creates for itself a language in its own image, and we see not only the foremost actors, but their commonest supernumeraries, enthroned on their grandiloquent platform. Each in his own eyes is Roman, savior, hero, and great man. “I stood in the tribune of the palace,” writes Anacharsis Clootz,21 “at the head of the foreigners, acting as ambassador of the human species, while the ministers of the tyrants regarded me with a jealous and disconcerted air.” A schoolmaster at Troyes, on the opening of the club in that town, advises the women “to teach their children, as soon as they can utter a word, that they are free and have equal rights with the mightiest potentates of the universe.”22 Pétion’s account of the journey in the king’s carriage, on the return from Varennes, must be read to see how far self-importance and the impertinence of a blackguard can be carried.23

In their memoirs and even down to their epitaphs, Barbaroux, Buzot, Pétion, Roland, and Madame Roland24 give themselves certificates Edition: current; Page: [437] of virtue, and would pass for Plutarch’s characters, if we could take their word for it. This infatuation is always on the increase, from the Girondists to the Montagnards. St. Just, at the age of twenty-four, and merely a private individual, is already consumed with suppressed ambition. Marat says: “I believe that I have exhausted every combination of the human intellect in relation to morality, philosophy and political science.” Robespierre, from the beginning to the end of the Revolution, is always, in his own eyes, Robespierre the unique, the one pure man, the infallible and the impeccable; no man ever burnt to himself the incense of his own praise so constantly and so directly.—Self-conceit thus drains the cup of theory to the bottom, however distasteful its dregs and however fatal its poison to those who even defy its nausea for the sake of swallowing it. Since it is virtue, no one may reject its dictates without committing a crime. Thus construed, the theory divides Frenchmen into two groups—one consisting of aristocrats, fanatics, egoists, the corrupt, bad citizens in short, and the other patriots, philosophers, and the virtuous—that is to say, those belonging to the sect.25 Thanks to this solution of it, the vast moral and social Edition: current; Page: [438] world with which they deal finds its definition, expression, and representation in a ready-made antithesis.—It is quite clear now what the object of government is: the wicked must submit to the good, or, which is briefer, the wicked must be suppressed. To this end let us employ confiscation, imprisonment, exile, drowning and the guillotine. All means are justifiable and meritorious with traitors; now that the Jacobin has made his slaughterings canonical, he slays through philanthropy.

Thus is this character rounded off like that of the theologian who would become an inquisitor. Extraordinary contrasts meet in its formation—a lunatic that is logical, and a monster that pretends to have a conscience. Under the pressure of his faith and egotism, he has developed two deformities, one of the head and the other of the heart; his common sense is gone, and his moral sense is utterly perverted. In fixing his mind on abstract formulas, he is no longer able to see men as they are; through self-admiration he finally comes to viewing his adversaries, and even his rivals, as miscreants deserving of death. On this downhill road nothing stops him, for, in qualifying things inversely to their true meaning, he has violated within himself the precious conceptions which bring us back to truth and justice. No light reaches eyes which regard blindness as clear-sightedness; no remorse affects a soul which erects barbarism into patriotism, and which sanctions murder with duty.

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I. Formation of the party—Its recruits—These are rare in the upper class and amongst the masses—They are numerous in the low bourgeois class and in the upper stratum of the people—The position and education which enroll a man in the party— II. Spontaneous associations after July 14, 1789—How these dissolve—Withdrawal of people of sense and occupation—Number of those absent at elections—Birth and multiplication of Jacobin societies—Their influence over their adherents—Their manoeuvres and despotism— III. How they view the liberty of the press—Their political doings— IV. Their rallying-points—Origin and composition of the Paris Jocobin club—It affiliates with provincial clubs—Its Leaders—The Fanatics—The Intriguers—Their object—Their means— V. Small number of Jacobins—Sources of their power—They form a league—They have faith—Their unscrupulousness—The power of the party vested in the group which best fulfills these conditions.


Characters of this sort are found in all classes of society; no situation or position in life protects one from wild Utopias or frantic ambition. We find among the Jacobins a Barras and a Châteauneuf-Randon, two nobles of the oldest families, Condorcet, a marquis, mathematician, philosopher and member of two renowned academies, Gobel, bishop of Lydda and suffragan to the bishop of Bâle, Hérault de Séchelles, a protégé of the Queen’s and attorney-general to the Paris parliament, Lepelletier de St. Fargeau, chief-justice and one of the richest land-owners in France, Charles de Hesse, major-general, born in a royal family, and, last of all, a prince of the blood Edition: current; Page: [440] and fourth personage in the realm, the Duke of Orleans.—But, with the exception of these rare deserters, neither the hereditary aristocracy nor the upper magistracy, nor the highest of the middle class, none of the land-owners who live on their estates, or the leaders of industrial and commercial enterprises, no one belonging to the administration, none of those, in general, who are or deserve to be considered social authorities, furnish the party with recruits; all have too much at stake in the political edifice, shattered as it is, to wish its entire demolition; their political experience, brief as it is, enables them to see at once that a habitable house is not built by merely tracing a plan of it on paper according to the theorems of school geometry.—On the other hand, the theory in the lower class, among the mass of rustics and the populace, unless transformed into a shibboleth, finds no listeners. Métayers, farmers, and small cultivators looking after their own plots of ground, peasants and craftsmen who work too hard to think and whose minds never range beyond a village horizon, busy only with that which brings them in their daily bread, find abstract doctrines unintelligible; should the dogmas of the new catechism arrest their attention the same thing happens as with the old one, they do not understand them; that mental faculty by which an abstraction is reached is not yet formed in them. On being taken to a political club they fall asleep; they opon their eyes only when some one announces that tithes and feudal privileges are to be restored; they can be depended on for nothing more than a broil and a jacquerie; later on, when their grain comes to be taxed or is taken, they prove as refractory under the republic as under the monarchy.

The adepts in this theory come from other quarters, from the two extremes of the lower stratum of the middle class and the upper stratum of the low class. Again, in these two contiguous groups, which merge into each other, those must be left out who, absorbed in their daily occupations or professions, have no time or thought to give to public matters, who have reached a fair position in the social hierarchy and are not disposed to run risks, almost all of them well-established, steady-going, mature, married folks who have Edition: current; Page: [441] sown their wild oats and whom some experience in life has rendered distrustful of themselves and of theories. Overweening conceit is average in average human nature at all times, and with most men speculative ideas obtain but a loose, transient and feeble hold. Moreover, in this society which, for many centuries consists of people accustomed to being ruled, the hereditary spirit is bourgeois, that is to say, used to discipline, fond of order, peaceable and even timid. There remains a minority, a very small one,1 innovating and restless, consisting, on the one hand, of people who are discontented with their calling or profession, because they are of secondary or subaltern rank in it,2 debutants not fully employed and aspirants for careers not yet entered upon; and, on the other hand, of men of unstable character, all who are uprooted by the immense upheaval of things; in the Church, through the suppression of convents and through schism; in the judiciary, in the administration, in the financial departments, in the army, and in various private and public careers, through the reorganisation of institutions, through the novelty of fresh resources and occupations, and through the disturbance caused by the changed relationships of patrons and clients. Many who, in ordinary times, would otherwise remain quiet, become in this way nomadic and extravagant in politics. Among the foremost of these are found those who, through a classical education, can take Edition: current; Page: [442] in an abstract proposition and deduce its consequences, but who, for lack of special preparation for it, and confined to the narrow circle of local affairs, are incapable of forming accurate conceptions of a vast, complex social organisation, and of the conditions which enable it to subsist. Their talent lies in making a speech, in dashing off an editorial, in composing a pamphlet, and in drawing up reports in more or less pompous and dogmatic style, and, if we accept the kind, a few of them who are gifted become eloquent, but that is all. Those who take leading parts, lawyers, notaries, bailiffs and former petty provincial judges and attorneys, are of this class, two-thirds of the members of the Legislative Assembly and of the Convention, surgeons and doctors in small towns, like Bo, Levasseur, and Baudot, second and third-rate literary characters, like Barrère, Louvet, Garat, Manuel, and Ronsin, college professors like Louchet and Romme, school-masters like Leonard Bourdon, journalists like Brissot, Desmoulins and Fréron, actors like Collot d’Herbois, artists like Sergent, Oratoriens like Fouché, capuchins like Chabot, more or less secularised priests like Lebon, Chasles, Lakanal, and Grégoire, students scarcely out of school like St. Just, Monet of Strasbourg, Rousselin of St. Albin, and Julien of the Drôme—in short, badly-cultivated minds sown with poor seed, and in which the theory had only to fall to kill out every good seed and thrive like nettles. Add to these the charlatans and others who live by their wits, the visionary and morbid of all sorts, from Fanchet and Klootz to Châlier or Marat, the whole of that needy, chattering, irresponsible crowd, ever swarming about large cities ventilating its shallow conceits and abortive pretensions. Farther in the background appear those whose scanty education qualifies them to half understand an abstract principle and imperfectly deduce its consequences, but whose roughly-polished instinct atones for the feebleness of a coarse argumentation; through cupidity, envy and rancor, they divine a rich pasture-ground behind the theory, and Jacobin dogmas become dearer to them, because the imagination sees untold treasures beyond the mists in which they are shrouded. They can listen to a club harangue without falling asleep, applaud its tirades in the right place, offer a resolution Edition: current; Page: [443] in a public garden, shout in the tribunes, pen affidavits for arrests, compose orders-of-the-day for the national guard, and lend their lungs, arms, and sabres to whoever bids for them. But here their capacity ends. In this group merchants’ and notaries’ clerks abound, like Hébert and Henriot, Vincent, and Chaumette, butchers like Legendre, postmasters like Drouet, boss-joiners like Duplay, school-teachers like that Buchot who becomes a minister, and many others of the same sort, accustomed to jotting down ideas, with vague notions of orthography and who are apt in speech-making,3 foremen, sub-officers, former mendicant monks, pedlars, tavern-keepers, retailers, market-porters,4 and city-journeymen from Gouchon, the orator of the faubourg St. Antoine, down to Simon, the cobbler of the Temple, from Trinchard, the juryman of the Revolutionary Tribunal, down to grocers, tailors, shoemakers, tapsters, waiters, barbers, and other shopkeepers or artisans who do their work at home, and who are yet to do the work of the September massacres. Add to these the foul remnants of every popular insurrection and dictatorship, beasts of prey like Jourdain of Avignon, and Fournier the American, women like Théroigne, Rose Lacombe, and the tricoteuses of the Convention who have unsexed themselves, the amnestied bandits and other gallows-birds who, for lack of a police, have a wide range, street-strollers and vagabonds, rebels against labor and discipline, the whole of that class in the centre of civilisation which preserves the instincts of savages, and asserts the sovereignty of the people to glut a natural appetite for license, laziness, and ferocity.

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Thus is the party recruited through an enlisting process that gleans its subjects from every station in life, but which reaps them down in great swaths, and gathers them together in the two groups to which dogmatism and presumption naturally belong. Here, education has brought man to the threshold, and even to the heart of general ideas; consequently, he feels hampered within the narrow bounds of his profession or occupation, and aspires to something beyond. But as his education has remained superficial or rudimentary, consequently, outside of his narrow circle he feels out of his place. He has a perception or obtains a glimpse of political ideas and, therefore, assumes that he has capacity. But his perception of them is confined to a formula, or he sees them dimly through a cloud; hence his incapacity, and the reason why his mental lacunae as well as his attainments both contribute to make him a Jacobin.


Men thus disposed cannot fail to draw near each other, to understand each other, and combine together; for, in the principle of popular sovereignty, they have a common dogma, and, in the conquest of political supremacy, a common aim. Through a common aim they form a faction, and through a common dogma they constitute a sect, the league between them being more easily effected because they are a faction and sect at the same time.—At first, their association is not distinguishable in the multitude of other associations. Political societies spring up on all sides after the taking of the Bastille. Some kind of organisation had to be substituted for the deposed or tottering government, in order to provide for urgent public needs, to secure protection against ruffians, to obtain supplies of provisions, and to guard against the probable machinations of the court. Committees installed themselves in the Hôtels-de-Ville, while volunteers formed bodies of militia: hundreds of local governments, almost independent, arose in the place of the central government, almost destroyed.5 For six months everybody attended to matters of common Edition: current; Page: [445] interest, each individual getting to be a public personage and bearing his quota of the government load—a heavy load at all times, but heavier in times of anarchy; this, at least, is the opinion of the greatest number, but not the opinion of some of them. Consequently, a division arises amongst those who had assumed this load, and two groups are formed, one huge, inert and disintegrating, and the other small, compact and energetic, each taking one of two ways which diverge from each other, and which keep on diverging more and more.

On the one hand are the ordinary, sensible people, those who are busy, and who are, to some extent, not overconscientious, and not overconceited. The power in their hands is assumed by them because they find it prostrate, lying abandoned in the street; they hold it provisionally only, for they knew beforehand, or soon discover, that they are not qualified for the post, it being one of those which, to be properly filled, needs some preparation and fitness for it. A man does not become legislator or administrator in one day, any more than he suddenly becomes a physician or surgeon. If an accident obliges me to act in the latter capacity, I yield, but against my will, and I do no more than is necessary to save my patients from hurting themselves; my fear of their dying under the operation is very great, and, as soon as some other person can be got to take my place, I go home.6I should be glad, like everybody else, to have my vote in the selection of this person, and, among the candidates, I should designate, to the best of my ability, one who seemed to me the ablest and most conscientious. Once selected, however, and installed, I should not attempt to dictate to him; his cabinet is private, and I have no right to run there constantly and cross-question him, as if he were a child or under suspicion. It does not become me to tell him what to do; he probably knows more about the case than I do; in any event, to keep a steady hand, he must not be threatened, and, to keep a clear head, he must not be disturbed.—Nor must I be Edition: current; Page: [446] disturbed; my office and books, my shop, my customers must be attended to as well. Everybody has to mind his own business, and whoever would attend to his own and another’s too, spoils both.

This way of thinking prevails with most healthy minds towards the beginning of the year 1790, all whose heads are not turned by insane ambition and the mania for theorising, especially after six months of practical experience and knowing the dangers, miscalculations, and vexations to which one is exposed in trying to lead an eager, overexcited population.—Just at this time, December, 1789, municipal law becomes established throughout the country; all the mayors and municipal officers are elected almost immediately, and in the following months, all administrators of districts and departments. The interregnum has at length come to an end. Legal authorities now exist, with legitimate and clearly-determined functions. Reasonable, honest people gladly turn power over to those to whom it belongs, and certainly do not dream of resuming it. All associations for temporary purposes are at once disbanded for lack of an object, and if others are formed, it is for the purpose of defending established institutions. This is the object of the Federation, and, for six months, people embrace each other and exchange oaths of fidelity. After this, July 14, 1790, they retire into private life, and I have no doubt that, from this date, the political ambition of a large plurality of the French people is satisfied, for, although Rousseau’s denunciations of the social hierarchy are still cited by them, they, at bottom, desire but little more than the suppression of administrative brutality and state favoritism.7 All this is obtained, and plenty of other things besides; the august title of sovereign, the deference of the public authorities, the salutations of all who wield a pen or make a speech, and, still better, actual sovereignty in the appointment to Edition: current; Page: [447] office of all local and national administrators; not only do the people elect their deputies, but every species of functionary of every degree, those of commune, district, and department, officers in the national guard, civil and criminal magistrates, bishops and curés. Again, to ensure the responsibility of the elected to their electors, the term of office fixed by law is a short one,8 the electoral machine which summons the sovereign to exercise his sovereignty being set agoing about every four months.

This was a good deal, and too much, as the sovereign himself soon discovers. Voting so frequently becomes unendurable; so many prerogatives end in getting to be drudgery. Early in 1790, and after this date, the majority forego the privilege of voting and the number of absentees becomes enormous. At Chartres, in May, 1790,9 1,447 out of 1,551 voters do not attend preliminary meetings. At Besançon, in January, 1790, on the election of mayor and municipal officers, 2,141 out of 3,200 registered electors are recorded as absent from the polls, and 2,900 in the following month of November.10 At Grenoble, in August and November of this year, out of 2,500 registered voters, more than 2,000 are noted as absent.11 At Limoges, out of about the same number, there are only 150 voters. At Paris, out of 81,400 electors, in August, 1790, 67,200 do not vote, and, three months later, the number of absentees is 71,408.12 Thus for Edition: current; Page: [448] every elector that votes, there are four, six, eight, ten, and even sixteen that abstain from voting.—In the election of deputies, the case is the same. At the primary meetings of 1791, in Paris, out of 81,200 registered names more than 74,000 fail to respond. In the Doubs, three out of four voters stay away. In one of the cantons of the Côte d’Or, at the close of the polls, only one-eighth of the electors remain at the counting of the votes, while in the secondary meetings the desertion is not less. At Paris, out of 946 electors chosen only 200 are found to give their suffrage; at Rouen, out of 700 there are but 160, and on the last day of the ballot, only 60. In short, “in all departments,” says an orator in the tribune, “scarcely one out of five electors of the second degree discharges his duty.”

In this manner the majority hands in its resignation. Through inertia, want of forethought, lassitude, aversion to the electoral hubbub, lack of political preferences, or dislike of all the political candidates, it shirks the task which the constitution imposes on it. Its object is not to take up the burden of a collateral task in addition—a weightier task, namely, that of devoted labor to a new league. Men who cannot find time once in three months to drop a ballot in the box, will not come three times a week to attend the meetings of a club. Far from meddling with the government, they abdicate, and as they refuse to elect it, they will not undertake to control it.

It is just the opposite with the upstarts and dogmatists who regard their royal privileges seriously. They not only vote at the elections, but they mean to keep in their own hands the authority they delegate. In their eyes every magistrate is one of their creatures, and remains accountable to them, for, in point of law, the people may not part with their sovereignty, while, as a fact, power has proved Edition: current; Page: [449] so sweet that they are not disposed to part with it.13 During the six months preceding the regular elections, they have come to know, comprehend, and test each other; they have held conventicles; a mutual understanding is arrived at, and henceforth, as other associations disappear like scanty vegetation, theirs14 rise vigorously on the abandoned soil. A club is established at Marseilles before the end of 1789; each large town has one within the first six months of 1790, Aix in February, Montpellier in March, Nismes in April, Lyons in May, and Bordeaux in June.15 But their greatest increase takes place after the Federation festival. Just when local gatherings merge into that of the whole country, the sectaries keep aloof, and form leagues of their own. At Rouen, July 14, 1790, two surgeons, a printer, a chaplain at the Conciergerie, a widowed Jewess, and four women or children living in the house—eight persons in all, pure and not to be confounded with the mass16—bind themselves together, and form a distinct association. Their patriotism is of superior quality, and they take a special view of the social compact;17 in swearing fealty to the constitution they reserve to themselves the Edition: current; Page: [450] Rights of Man, and they mean to maintain not only the reforms already effected, but to complete the Revolution just begun.—During the Federation they have welcomed and indoctrinated their fellows who, on quitting the capital or large cities, become bearers of instructions to the small towns and hamlets; they are told what the object of a club is, and how to form one, and, everywhere, popular associations arise on the same plan, for the same purpose, and bearing the same name. A month later, sixty of these associations are in operation; three months later, one hundred; in March, 1791, two hundred and twenty-nine, and in August, 1791, nearly four hundred.18 After this date a sudden increase takes place, owing to two simultaneous impulses, which scatter their seeds broadcast over the entire territory.—On the one hand, at the end of July, 1791, all moderate men, the friends of law and order, who still hold the clubs in check, all constitutionalists, or Feuillants, withdraw from them and leave them to the ultraism or triviality of the motionnaires;19 the political tone immediately falls to that of the tavern and guard-house, so that wherever one or the other of these is found, there is a political club. On the other hand, a convocation of the electoral body is held at the same date for the election of a new National Assembly, and for the renewal of local governments; the prey being in sight, hunting-parties are everywhere formed to capture it. In two months,20 six hundred new clubs spring up; by the end of September they amount to one thousand, and in June, 1792, to twelve hundred—as many as there are towns and walled boroughs. On the fall of the throne, and at the panic caused by the Prussian invasion, Edition: current; Page: [451] during a period of anarchy which equalled that of July, 1789, there were, according to Roederer, almost as many clubs as there were communes, 26,000, one for every village containing five or six hot-headed, boisterous fellows, or roughs, (tape-durs), with a copyist able to pen a petition.

After November, 1790,21 “every street in every town and hamlet,” says a journal of large circulation, “must have a club of its own. Let some honest mechanic invite his neighbors to his house, where, with a light at the common expense, he may read aloud the decrees of the National Assembly, on which he and his neighbors may comment. Before the meeting closes, in order to enliven the company, which may feel a little gloomy on account of Marat’s articles, let him read the patriotic, amusing imprecations of Pêre Duchesne.”22—The advice is followed. At these meetings are read aloud pamphlets, newspapers, and catechisms despatched from Paris, the “Gazette Villageoise,” the “Journal du Soir,” the “Journal de la Montagne,” “Pêre Duchesne,” the “Révolutions de Paris,” and “Laclos’ Gazette.” Revolutionary songs are sung, and if a good speaker happens to be present, a former oratorien, lawyer, or pedagogue, he empties his declamatory budget by expatiating on the Greeks and Romans and proclaiming the regeneration of the human species. Another, appealing to women, wants to see “the declaration of the Rights of Man suspended on the walls of their bedrooms as their principal ornament, and, should war break out, these virtuous patriots, marching at the head of our armies like new bacchantes with dishevelled locks, brandishing the thyrsus.” Shouts of applause greet this sentiment. The minds of the listeners, swept away by this gale of declamation, become overheated and ignite through mutual contact; like half-consumed embers that would die out if let alone, they kindle Edition: current; Page: [452] into a blaze when gathered together in a heap.—Their convictions, at the same time, gain strength. There is nothing like a coterie to make these take root. In politics, as in religion, faith generating the church, the latter, in its turn, nourishes faith; in the club, as in the conventicle, each derives authority from the common unanimity, every word and action of the whole tending to prove each in the right. And all the more because a dogma which remains uncontested, ends in seeming incontestable; as the Jacobin lives in a narrow circle, carefully guarded, no contrary opinions find their way to him. The public, in his eyes, seems two hundred persons; their opinion weighs on him without any counterpoise, and, outside of their belief, which is his also, every other belief is absurd and even culpable. Moreover, he discovers through this constant system of preaching, which is nothing but flattery, that he is patriotic, intelligent, virtuous, of which he can have no doubt, because, before being admitted into the club, his civic virtues have been verified and he carries a printed certificate of them in his pocket.—Accordingly, he is one of an élite corps, a corps which, enjoying a monopoly of patriotism, holds itself aloof, talks loud, and is distinguished from ordinary citizens by its tone and way of conducting things. The club of Pontarlier, from the first,23 prohibits its members from using the common forms of politeness. “Members are to abstain from saluting their fellow-citizens by removing the hat, and are to avoid the phrase, ‘I have the honor to be,’ and others of like import, in addressing persons.” A proper idea of one’s importance is indispensable. “Does not the famous tribune of the Jacobins in Paris inspire traitors and impostors with fear? And do not anti-Revolutionists return to dust on beholding it?”

True enough, and in the provinces as well as at the capital, for, scarcely is a club organised when it sets to work on the population generally. In many of the large cities, in Paris, Lyons, Aix and Bordeaux, there are two clubs in partnership,24 one, more or less respectable Edition: current; Page: [453] and parliamentary, “composed partly of the members of the different branches of the administration and specially devoted to purposes of general utility,” and the other, practical and active, made up of bar-room politicians and club-haranguers, who indoctrinate workmen, market-gardeners and the rest of the lower bourgeois class. The latter is a branch of the former, and, in urgent cases, supplies it with rioters. “We are placed amongst the people,” says one of these subaltern clubs, “we read to them the decrees, and, through lectures and counsel, we warn them against the publications and intrigues of the aristocrats. We ferret out and track plotters and their machinations. We welcome and advise all complainants; we enforce their demands, when just; finally, we, in some way, attend to all details.” Thanks to these vulgar auxiliaries, but whose lungs and arms are strong, the party soon becomes dominant; it has force and uses it, and, denying that its adversaries have any rights, it re-establishes privileges of every kind for its own advantage.


Let us consider its mode of procedure in one instance and upon a limited field, the freedom of the press. In December, 1790,25 M. Etienne, an engineer, whom Marat and Fréron had denounced as a spy in their periodicals, brought a suit against them in the police court. The numbers containing the libel were seized, the printers summoned to appear, and M. Etienne claimed a public retraction or 25,000 francs damages with costs. At this the two journalists, considering themselves infallible as well as exempt from arrest, are indignant. “It is of the utmost importance,” writes Marat, “that the informer should not be liable to prosecution as he is accountable only to the public for what he says and does for the public good.” M. Etienne (surnamed Languedoc), therefore, is a traitor: “Monsieur Edition: current; Page: [454] Languedoc, I advise you to keep your mouth shut; if I can have you hung I will.” M. Etienne, nevertheless, persists and obtains a first decision in his favor. Fire and flame are at once belched forth by Marat and Fréron: “Master Thorillon,” exclaims Fréron to the commissary of police, “you shall be punished and held up to the people as an example!” This infamous decision, of course, had to be annulled. “Citizens,” writes Marat, “go in a body to the Hôtel-de-Ville and do not allow one of the guards to enter the court-room.”—On the day of the trial, and in the most condescending spirit, but two grenadiers are let in. These, however, are too many and shouts from the Jacobin crowd arise: “Turn ’em out! We rule here,” upon which the two grenadiers withdraw. Fréron avers triumphantly, by way of compensation, that he had counted in the court-room “sixty of the victors at the Bastille led by the brave Santerre, who intended to interfere in the trial.” The interference, indeed, does take place and first with the plaintiff. M. Etienne is assailed at the entrance of the court-room and nearly knocked down, being so maltreated as to be obliged to take refuge in the guard-room; he is spit upon, and they “move to cut off his ears.” His friends receive “hundreds of kicks,” while he runs away, and the case is postponed. It is called up again several times, but the judges are now to be compelled. A certain Mandart in the audience, author of a pamphlet on “Popular Sovereignty,” springs to his feet and, addressing Bailly, mayor of Paris, and president of the tribunal, challenges the court. As usual Bailly yields, attempting to cover up his weakness with an honorable pretext: “Although a judge can be challenged only by the parties to a suit, the appeal of one citizen is sufficient for me and I leave the bench.” The other judges, who are likewise insulted and menaced, yield also, and, through a sophism which admirably illustrates the times, they discover in the oppression to which the plaintiff is subject a legal device by which they can give a fair color to their denial of justice. M. Etienne having signified to them that neither he nor his counsel could attend in court, because their lives were in danger, the court decides that M. Etienne, “failing to appear in person, or by counsel, is non-suited.” Victorious shouts at once proceed from the two journalists, while their articles on the case disseminated Edition: current; Page: [455] throughout France relieve jurisprudence of the trammels of decisions. Any Jacobin after this may denounce, insult, and calumniate whomsoever he pleases with impunity, sheltered as he is from the action of courts, and held superior to the law.

Let us see, on the other hand, what liberty they allow their adversaries. A fortnight before this, Mallet-Dupan, a writer of great ability, who, in the best periodical of the day, discusses questions week after week free of all personalities, the most independent, straight-forward, and honorable of men, the most eloquent and judicious advocate of public order and true liberty, is waited upon by a deputation from the Palais-Royal,26 consisting of about a dozen well-dressed individuals, civil enough and not too ill-disposed, but quite satisfied that they have a right to interfere; the conversation which ensues shows to what extent the current political creed had turned peoples’ heads.

“One of the party, addressing me, informed me that he and his associates were deputies of the Palais-Royal clubs, and that they had called to notify me that I would do well to change my principles and stop attacking the constitution, otherwise extreme violence would be brought to bear on me. I replied that I recognised no authority but the law and that of the courts; the law is your master and mine, and no respect is shown to the constitution by assailing the freedom of the press.”

“The spokesman responded that the constitution was the common will. ‘As law is the rule of might, you are subject to the government of the strongest and you ought to submit to that. We notify you of the will of the nation and that is the law.’ ”

Mallet-Dupan stated to them that he was not in favor of the ancient régime, but that he did approve of royal authority. “Oh,” exclaimed all together, “we should be sorry not to have a king. We respect the King and maintain his authority. But you are forbidden to oppose the dominant opinion and the liberty which is decreed by the National Assembly.”

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Mallet-Dupan, apparently, knows more about this than they do, for he is a Swiss by birth, and has lived under a republic for twenty years. But this does not concern them. They persist all the same, five or six talking at once, misconstruing the sense of the words they use, and each contradicting the other in points of detail, but all agreeing to impose silence on him: “You should not run counter to the popular will, for in doing this you preach civil war, bring the assembly’s decrees into contempt, and irritate the nation.

Evidently they constitute the nation; at all events they represent it. Through this self-investiture they are at once magistrates, censors, and police, while the scolded journalist is only too glad, in his case, to have them stop at injunctions.

Three days before this he is advised that a body of rioters in his neighborhood “threatened to treat his house like that of M. de Castries,” in which everything had been smashed and thrown out the windows. At another time, apropos of the suspensive or absolute veto, “four savage fellows came to his domicile to warn him, showing him their pistols, that if he dared write in behalf of M. Mounier he should answer for it with his life.” Thus, from the outset, “just as the nation begins to enjoy the inestimable right of free thought and free speech, factional tyrants lose no time in depriving citizens of these, proclaiming to all that would maintain the integrity of their consciences: Tremble, die, or believe as we do!” After this, to impose silence on those who express what is offensive, the populace, the club, the section, decree and execute, each on its own authority,27 searches, arrests, assaults, and, at length, assassinations. During the Edition: current; Page: [457] month of June, 1792, “three decrees of arrest and fifteen denunciations, two acts of affixing seals, four civic invasions of his premises, and the confiscation of whatever belonged to him in France” is the experience of Mallet-Dupan. He passes four years “without knowing with any certainty on going to bed whether he should get out of it in the morning alive and free.” Later on, if he escapes the guillotine and the lantern, it is owing to exile. On the 10th of August, Suleau, a conservative journalist, is massacred in the street.—This shows how the party regards the freedom of the press. Other liberties may be judged of by its encroachments on this domain. Law, in its eyes, is null when it proves an obstacle, and when it affords protection to adversaries; consequently there is no excess which it does not sanction for itself, and no right which it does not refuse to others.

There is no escape from the tyranny of the clubs. “That of Marseilles has forced the city officials to resign;28 it has summoned the municipal body to appear before it; it has ignored the authority of the department, and has insulted the administrators of the law. Members of the Orleans club have kept the national Supreme Court under supervision, and taken part in its proceedings. Those of the Caen club have insulted the magistrates, and seized and burnt the records of the proceedings commenced against the destroyers of the statue of Louis XIV. At Alby they have forcibly abstracted from the record-office the papers relating to an assassin’s trial, and burnt them.” The club at Coutance gives the deputies of its district to understand that “no reflections must be cast on the laws of the people.” That of Lyons stops an artillery train, under the pretext that the ministry in office does not enjoy the nation’s confidence.—Thus does the club everywhere reign, or prepare to reign. On the one hand, at the elections, it sets aside or supports candidates; it alone votes, or, at least, controls the voting; in short, the club is the elective power, and practically, if not legally, enjoys the privileges of a political aristocracy. On the other hand, it assumes to be a spontaneous police-board; Edition: current; Page: [458] it prepares and circulates the lists which designate the ill-disposed, suspected, and lukewarm; it lodges information against nobles whose sons have emigrated; against unsworn priests who still reside in their former parishes, and against nuns, “whose conduct is unconstitutional”; it prompts, directs, and rebukes local authorities; it is itself a supplemental, superior, and usurping authority.

All at once, sensible men realise its character, and protest against it. “A body thus organised,” says a petition,29 “exists solely for arming one citizen against another. … Discussions take place there, and denunciations are made under the seal of inviolable secrecy. … Honest citizens, surrendered to the most atrocious calumny, are destroyed without an opportunity of defending themselves. It is a veritable Inquisition. It is the centre of seditious publications, a school of cabals and intrigue. If the citizens have to blush at the selection of unworthy candidates, they are all due to this class of associations. … Composed of the excited and the incendiary, of those who aim to rule the State,” the club everywhere tends “to a mastery of the popular intelligence, to thwarting the municipalities, to an intrusion of itself between these and the people,” to an usurpation of legal forms and a “colossus of despotism.”

Vain complaints! The National Assembly, ever in alarm on its own account, shields the popular club and accords it its favor or indulgence. A journal of the party had recommended “the people to form themselves into small platoons.” These platoons, one by one, are growing. Each borough now has a local oligarchy, a drilled and governing band. The formation of an army out of these scattered bands, simply requires a staff and a central rallying-point. The central point and the staff are both a long time ready in Paris, in the association of the “Friends of the Constitution.”

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No association in France, indeed, dates farther back, and has an equal prestige. It was born before the Revolution, April 30, 1789.30 At the assembly of the States-General in Brittany, the deputies from Quimper, Hennebon, and Pontivy saw how important it was to vote in concert, and they had scarcely reached Versailles when, in common with others, they hired a hall, and, along with Mounier, secretary of the States-General of Dauphiny, and other deputies from the provinces, at once organised a union which was destined to last. Up to the 6th of October, none but deputies were comprised in it; after that date, on removing to Paris, in the library of the Jacobins, a convent in the Rue St. Honoré, many well-known eminent men were admitted, such as Condorcet, and then Laharpe, Chénier, Champfort, David, and Talma, among the most prominent, with other authors and artists, the whole amounting to about a thousand notable personages.—No assemblage could be more imposing—two or three hundred deputies are on its benches, while its rules and by-laws seem specially designed to gather a superior body of men. Candidates for admission were proposed by ten members and afterwards voted on by ballot. To be present at one of its meetings required a card of admission. On one occasion, a member of the committee of two, appointed to verify these cards, happens to be the young Duc de Chartres. There is a committee on administration and a president. Discussions took place with parliamentary formalities, and, according to its statutes, the questions considered there were those under debate in the National Assembly.31 In a lower hall, at certain hours, workmen received instruction and the constitution Edition: current; Page: [460] was explained to them. Seen from afar, no society seems worthier of directing public opinion; near by, the case is different. In the departments, however, where distance lends enchantment, and where old customs prevail implanted by centralisation, it is accepted as a guide because its seat is at the capital. Its statutes, its regulations, its spirit, are all imitated; it becomes the alma mater of other associations and they its adopted daughters. It publishes, accordingly, a list of all clubs conspicuously in its journal, together with their denunciations; it insists on their demands; henceforth, every Jacobin in the remotest borough feels the support and endorsement, not only of his local club, but again of the great club whose numerous offshoots overspread the territory and thus extend its all-powerful protection to the least of its adherents. In return for this protection, each associated club obeys the word of command given at Paris, and, to and fro, from the centre to the extremities, a constant correspondence maintains the established harmony. A vast political machine is thus set agoing, a machine with thousands of arms, all working at once under one impulsion, and the lever which gives the motion is in the hands of a few master spirits in the Rue St. Honoré.

No machine could be more effective; never was one seen so well contrived for manufacturing artificial, violent public opinion, for making this appear to be national, spontaneous sentiment, for conferring the rights of the silent majority on a vociferous minority, for forcing the surrender of the government. “Our tactics were very simple,” says Grégoire.32 “It was understood that one of us should take advantage of the first favorable opportunity to propose some measure in the National Assembly that was sure to be applauded by a small minority and cried down by the majority. But that made no difference. The proposer demanded, which was granted, that the measure should be referred to a committee in which its opponents hoped to see it buried. Then the Paris Jacobins took hold of it. A circular was issued, after which an article on the measure was printed in their journal and discussed in three or four hundred clubs that Edition: current; Page: [461] were leagued together. Three weeks after this the Assembly was flooded with petitions from every quarter, demanding a decree of which the first proposal had been rejected, and which it now passed by a great majority because a discussion of it had ripened public opinion.” In other words, the Assembly must go ahead or it will be driven along, in which process the worst expedients are the best. Those who conduct the club, whether fanatics or intriguers, are fully agreed on this point.

At the head of the former class is Duport, once a counsellor in the parliament, who, after 1788, knew how to turn riots to account. The first revolutionary conventicles were held in his house. He wants to plough deep, and his devices for burying the ploughshare are such that Siéyes, a radical, if there ever was one, dubbed it a “cavernous policy.”33 Duport, on the 28th of July, 1789, is the organiser of the Committee on Searches, by which all favorably disposed informers or spies form in his hands a supervisory police, which fast becomes a police of provocation. He finds recruits in the lower hall of the Jacobin club, where workmen come to be catechised every morning, while his two lieutenants, the brothers Laurette, have only to draw on the same source for a zealous staff in a choice selection of their instruments. “Ten reliable men receive orders there daily;34 each of these in turn gives his orders to ten more, belonging to different battalions in Paris. In this way each battalion and section receives the same insurrectionary orders, the same denunciations of the constituted authorities, of the mayor of Paris, of the president of the department, and of the commander of the National Guard,” while all are secret. It is a work of darkness. Its own chiefs call it Edition: current; Page: [462] “the Sabbat.” They enlist ruffians along with fanatics. “They start a report that, on a certain day, there will be great commotion with assassinations and pillage, preceded by the payment of money distributed from hand to hand by subaltern officers among those that can be relied on, and that these bands are to assemble, as advertised, within a radius of thirty or forty leagues.”35—One day, to provoke a riot, “half a dozen men, who have arranged the thing, form a small group, in which one of them holds forth vehemently; at once a crowd of about sixty others gathers around them, whereupon they withdraw and betake themselves to other places,” to form fresh groups and make their excitement pass for popular irritation.—Another day, “about forty fanatics, with powerful lungs, and four or five hundred Edition: current; Page: [463] paid men,” scatter themselves around the Tuileries, “yelling furiously,” and, gathering under the windows of the Assembly, “move resolutions to assassinate.” “Your officers,” says a deputy, “whom you ordered to suppress this tumult, heard reiterated threats of bringing you the heads of those they wished to proscribe.” That very evening, in the Palais-Royal, “I heard a subordinate leader of this factious band boast of having enjoined your officers to take this answer back, adding that there was time enough yet for all good citizens to follow his advice.”—The watchword of these agitators is, are you true? and the response is, a true man. Their pay is twelve francs a day, and when in action they make engagements on the spot at that rate. “From several depositions taken by officers of the National Guard and at the mayoralty,” it is ascertained that twelve francs a day were tendered to “honest people to join in with those you may have heard shouting, and some of them actually had the twelve francs put into their hands.”—The money comes from the coffers of the Duke of Orleans, and they are freely drawn upon; at his death, with a property amounting to 114,000,000 francs, his debts amount to 74,000,000.36 Being one of the faction, he contributes to its expenses, and, being the most opulent man in the kingdom, he contributes proportionately to his wealth. Not because he is a party leader, for he is too effeminate, too enervated; but “his petty council,”37 and especially one of his private secretaries, Laclos, cherishes great designs for him, their object being to make him lieutenant-general of the kingdom, afterwards regent, and even king,38 so that they may rule in his name and “share the profits.”—In the mean Edition: current; Page: [464] time they turn his whims to the best account, particularly Laclos, who is a kind of subordinate Machiavelli, capable of anything, profound, depraved, and long indulging his fondness for monstrous combinations; nobody ever so coolly delighted in indescribable compounds of human wickedness and debauchery. In politics, as in romance, his department is “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Formerly he manoeuvred as an amateur with prostitutes and ruffians in the fashionable world; now he manoeuvres in earnest with the prostitutes and ruffians of the sidewalks. On the 5th of October, 1789, he is seen, “dressed in a brown coat,”39 foremost among the women starting for Versailles, while his hand40 is visible “in the Réveillon affair, also in the burning of barriers and châteaux,” and in the widespread panic which aroused all France against imaginary bandits. His operations, says Malouet, “were all paid for by the Duke of Orleans”; he entered into them “for his own account, and the Jacobins for theirs.”—At this time their alliance is plain to everybody. On the 21st of November, 1790, Laclos becomes secretary of the club, chief of the department of correspondence, titular editor of its journal, and the invisible, active, and permanent director of all its enterprises. Whether actual demagogues or prompted by ambition, whether paid agents or earnest revolutionists, each group works on its own account, both in concert, both in the same direction, and both devoted to the same undertaking, which is the conquest of power by every possible means.


At first sight their success seems doubtful, for they are in a minority, and a very small one. At Besançon, in November, 1791, the revolutionists of every shade of opinion and degree, whether Girondists Edition: current; Page: [465] or Montagnards, consist of about 500 or 600 out of 3,000 electors, and, in November, 1792, of not more than the same number out of 6,000 and 7,000.41 At Paris, in November, 1791, there are 6,700 out of more than 81,000 on the rolls; in October, 1792, there are less than 14,000 out of 160,000.42 At Troyes, in 1792, there are found only 400 or 500 out of 7,000 electors, and at Strasbourg the same number out of 8,000 electors.43 Accordingly only about one-tenth of the electoral population are revolutionists, and if we leave out the Girondists and the semi-conservatives, the number is reduced by one-half. Towards the end of 1792, at Besançon, scarcely more than 300 pure Jacobins are found in a population of from 25,000 to 30,000, while at Paris, out of 700,000 inhabitants only 5,000 are Jacobins. It is certain that in the capital, where the most excitement prevails, and where more of them are found than elsewhere, never, even in a crisis and when vagabonds are paid and bandits recruited, are there more than 10,000.44 In a large town like Toulouse a representative Edition: current; Page: [466] of the people on missionary service wins over only about 400 persons.45 Counting fifty or so in each small town, twenty in each large borough, and five or six in each village, we find, on an average, but one Jacobin to fifteen electors and National Guards, while, taking the whole of France, all the Jacobins put together do not amount to 300,000.46—This is a small number for the enslavement of six millions of able-bodied men, and for installing in a country of twenty-six millions inhabitants a more absolute despotism than that of an Asiatic sovereign. Force, however, is not measured by numbers; they form a band in the midst of a crowd and, in this disorganised, inert crowd, a band that is determined to push its way like an iron wedge splitting a log.

The only defense a nation has against inward usurpation as well as invasion from without is its government. Government is the indispensable instrument of common action. Let it fail or falter and the great majority, otherwise employed, undecided what to do and lukewarm, disintegrates and falls to pieces. Of the two governments around which the nation might have rallied, the first one, after July 14, 1789, lies prostrate on the ground where it slowly crumbles away; its phantom which rises up is still more odious; the latter not only brings with it the same senseless abuses and intolerable burdens, but, in addition to these, a yelping pack of claimants and recriminators; after 1790 it appears on the frontier more arbitrary than ever at the head of a coming invasion of angry émigrés and grasping foreigners.—The other government, that just constructed by the Constituent Assembly, it is so badly put together that the majority cannot Edition: current; Page: [467] use it. It is not adapted to its hand; no political instrument at once so ponderous and so powerless was ever seen. An enormous effort is needed to set it agoing; every citizen is obliged to give to it about two days labor per week.47 Thus laboriously started and but half in motion, it poorly meets the various tasks imposed upon it—the collection of taxes, public order in the streets, the circulation of supplies, and security for consciences, lives and property. Toppled over by its own action, another rises out of it, illegal and serviceable, which takes its place and stands.

In a great centralised state whoever possesses the head possesses the body. By virtue of being led, the French have contracted the habit of letting themselves be led.48 People in the provinces involuntarily turn their eyes to the capital, and, on a crisis occurring, run out to stop the mail-carrier to know what government they are under. Into whatever hands this central government happens to have fallen, the majority accepts or submits to it.—Because, in the first place, most of the isolated groups which would like to overthrow it dare not engage in the struggle—it seems too strong; through inveterate routine they imagine behind it that great, distant France which, under its impulsion, will crush them with its mass.49 In the second place, should a few isolated groups undertake to overthrow it, they are not in a condition to keep up the struggle—it is too strong. They are, indeed, not yet organised while it is fully so, owing to the docile set of officials inherited from the government overthrown. Under monarchy or republic the government clerk comes to his office regularly every morning to despatch the orders transmitted to him.50 Edition: current; Page: [468] Under monarchy or republic the policeman daily makes his round to arrest those against whom he has a warrant. So long as instructions come from above in the hierarchical order of things, they are obeyed. From one end of the territory to the other, therefore, the machine, with its hundred thousand arms, works efficaciously in the hands of those who have seized the lever at the central point. Resolution, audacity, rude energy, are all that are needed to make the lever act, and none of these are wanting in the Jacobin.

First, he has faith, and faith at all times “moves mountains.” Take any ordinary party recruit, an attorney, a second-rate lawyer, a shopkeeper, an artisan, and conceive, if you can, the extraordinary effect of this doctrine on a mind so poorly prepared for it, so narrow, so out of proportion with the gigantic conception which has mastered it. Formed for routine and the limited views of one in his position, he is suddenly carried away by a complete system of philosophy, a theory of nature and of man, a theory of society and of religion, a theory of universal history,51 conclusions about the past, the present, Edition: current; Page: [469] and the future of humanity, axioms of absolute right, a system of perfect and final truth, the whole concentrated in a few rigid formulae as, for example: “Religion is superstition, monarchy is usurpation, priests are impostors, aristocrats are vampires, and kings are so many tyrants and monsters.” These ideas flood a mind of this stamp like a vast torrent precipitating itself into a narrow gorge; they upset it, and, no longer under self-direction, they sweep it away. The man is beside himself. A plain bourgeois, a common laborer is not transformed with impunity into an apostle or liberator of the human species.—For, it is not his country that he would save, but the entire race. Roland, just before the 10th of August, exclaims “with tears in his eyes, should liberty die in France, she is lost to the rest of the world forever! The hopes of philosophers will perish! the whole earth will succumb to the cruellest tyranny!”52—Grégoire, on the meeting of the Convention, obtained a decree abolishing royalty, and seemed overcome with the thought of the immense benefit he had conferred on the human race. “I must confess,” said he, “that for days I could neither eat nor sleep for excess of joy!” One day a Jacobin in the tribune declared: “We shall be a nation of gods!”—Fancies like these bring on lunacy, or, at all events, they create disease. “Some men are in a fever all day long,” said a companion of St. Just; “I had it for twelve years.”53 Later on, “when advanced in life and trying to analyse their experiences, they cannot comprehend it.” Another states that, in his case, on a “crisis occurring, Edition: current; Page: [470] there was only a hair’s breadth between reason and madness.” “When St. Just and myself,” says Baudot, “discharged the batteries at Wissenbourg, we were most liberally thanked for it. Well, there was no merit in that; we knew perfectly well that the shot could not reach us and do us harm.”—Man, in this exalted state, is unconscious of obstacles, and, according to circumstances, rises above or falls below himself, freely spilling his own blood as well as the blood of others, heroic as a soldier and atrocious as a civilian; he is not to be resisted in either direction for his strength increases a hundredfold through his fury, and, on his tearing wildly through the streets, people get out of his way as on the approach of a mad bull.

If they do not jump aside of their own accord, he will run at them, for he is unscrupulous as well as furious.—In every political struggle certain kinds of actions are prohibited; at all events, if the majority is sensible and wishes to act fairly, it repudiates them for itself. It will not violate any particular law, for, if one law is broken, this tends to the breaking of others. It is opposed to overthrowing an established government because every interregnum is a return to barbarism. It is opposed to the element of popular insurrection because, in such a resort, public power is surrendered to the irrationality of brutal passion. It is opposed to a conversion of the government into a machine for confiscation and murder because it deems the natural function of government to be the protection of life and property.—The majority, accordingly, in confronting the Jacobin, who allows himself all this, is like a man deprived of his arms in close conflict with one in full panoply.54 The Jacobin, through principle, holds law in contempt, for the only law which he accepts is the arbitrament of the people. He has no hesitation in proceeding against the government because, in his eyes, the government Edition: current; Page: [471] is a clerk which the people always has a right to remove. He welcomes insurrection because, through it, the people recover their inalienable sovereignty. A dictatorship suits him because by this means the people recover their sovereignty with no limitations.—Moreover, as with casuists, “the end justifies the means.”55 “Let the colonies perish,” exclaims a Jacobin in the Constituent Assembly, “rather than sacrifice a principle.” “When the day comes,” says St. Just, “which satisfies me that I cannot endow the French with mild, vigorous, and rational ways, inflexible against tyranny and injustice, that day I will stab myself,” and in the mean time, he uses the guillotine against others. “We will convert France into a graveyard,” exclaimed Carrier, “rather than not regenerate it our own way!”56 To place themselves at the helm of the government, Edition: current; Page: [472] they are ready to scuttle the ship and sink it. From the first, they let loose on society street riots and jacqueries in the rural districts, prostitutes and ruffians, the foul and the savage. Throughout the struggle they profit by the coarsest and most destructive passions, by the blindness, credulity, and rage of an infatuated crowd, by dearth, by the fear of bandits, by rumors of conspiracy, by threats of invasion. At last, attaining to power through a general upheaval, they hold on to it through terror and executions.—Straining will to the utmost, with no curb to check it, steadfastly believing in its own right and with utter contempt for the rights of others, with fanatical energy and the expedients of scoundrels, a minority employing such forces may easily overcome a majority. So true is it that, with faction itself, victory is always on the side of the few whose faith is greatest and who are the least unscrupulous. Four times between 1789 and 1794, political gamesters take their seats at a table whereon the stakes consist of supreme power, and four times in succession the “Impartiaux,” the “Feuillants,” the “Girondists,” and the “Dantonists,” form the majority and lose the game. Four times in succession the majority has no desire to break customary rules, or, at the very least, to infringe on any rule universally accepted, to wholly disregard the teachings of experience, the letter of the law, the precepts of humanity, the suggestions of pity. The minority, on the contrary, is determined beforehand to win at all hazards; its opinion is the right one, and if rules are opposed to that, so much the worse for the rules. At the decisive moment, it claps a pistol to its adversary’s head, turns the table upside down, and decamps with the stakes.

Edition: current; Page: [473]


The Jacobins in power—The elections of 1791—Proportion of places gained by them— I. Their siege operations—Means used by them to discourage the majority of electors and conservative candidates—Frequency of elections—Effect of the oath— II. Annoyances and dangers of public offices—The Constituents excluded from the Legislative body— III. The friends of order deprived of the right of free assemblage—Violent treatment of their clubs in Paris and the provinces—Legal prevention of conservative associations— IV. Turmoil at the elections of 1790—Elections in 1791—Effect of the King’s flight—Domiciliary visits—Mortagne during the electoral period— V. Intimidation and withdrawal of the Conservatives—Popular outbreaks in Burgundy, Lyonnais, Provence, and the large cities—Electoral proceedings of the Jacobins; examples at Aix, Dax, and Montpellier—Agitators go unpunished—Denunciations by name—Manoeuvres with the peasantry—General tactics of the Jacobins.

In June, 1791, and during the five following months, the class of active citizens1 are convoked to elect their elective representatives, which, as we know, according to the law, are of every kind and degree; in the first place, there are 40,000 electors of the second degree and 745 deputies; next, one-half of the administrators of 83 departments, one-half of the administrators of 544 districts, one-half of the administrators of 41,000 communes, and finally, in each municipality, the mayor and syndic-attorney; in each department, the Edition: current; Page: [474] president of the criminal court and the prosecuting-attorney, and, throughout France, officers of the National Guard; in short, almost the entire body of the agents and depositaries of legal authority. The garrison of the public citadel is to be renewed, which is the second and even the third time since 1789.—At each time the Jacobins have crept into the place, in small bands, but this time they enter in large bodies. Pétion becomes mayor of Paris, Manuel, syndic-attorney, and Danton the deputy of Manuel; Robespierre is elected prosecuting-attorney in criminal cases. The very first week,2 136 new deputies enter their names on the club’s register. In the Assembly the party numbers about 250 members. On passing all the posts of the fortress in review, we may estimate the besiegers as occupying one-third of them, and perhaps more. Their siege for two years has been carried on with unerring instinct, the extraordinary spectacle presenting itself of an entire nation legally overcome by a troop of factionists.


First of all, they clear the ground, and through the decrees forced out of the Constituent Assembly, they keep most of the majority away from the polls.—On the one hand, under the pretext of better ensuring popular sovereignty, the elections are so multiplied, and held so near together, as to demand of each active citizen one-sixth of his time; such an exaction is very great for hard-working people who have a trade or any occupation,3 which is the case with the great mass; at all events, with the useful and healthy portion of the Edition: current; Page: [475] population. Accordingly, as we have seen, it stays away from the polls, leaving the field open to idlers or fanatics.

On the other hand, by virtue of the constitution, the civic oath, which includes the ecclesiastical oath, is imposed on all electors, for, if any one takes the former and reserves the latter, his vote is thrown out; in November, in the Doubs, the municipal elections of thirty-three communes are invalidated solely on this pretext.4 Not only forty thousand ecclesiastics are thus rendered unsworn (insermentés), but again, all scrupulous Catholics lose the sight of suffrage, these being by far the most numerous in Artois, Doubs and the Jura, in the Lower and Upper Rhine district,5 in the two Sévres and la Vendée, in the Lower Loire, Morbihan, Finisterre and Côtes du Nord, in Lozère and Ardèche, without mentioning the southern departments.6 Thus, aided by the law which they have rendered impracticable, Edition: current; Page: [476] the Jacobins, on the one hand, are rid of all sensible voters in advance, counting by millions; and, on the other, aided by a law which they have rendered intolerant, they are rid of the Catholic vote which counts by hundreds of thousands. On entering the electoral lists, consequently, thanks to this double exclusion, they find themselves confronted by only the smallest numbers of electors.


Operations must now be commenced against these, and a first expedient consists in depriving them of their candidates. The obligation of taking the oath has already partly provided for this; in Lozère all the officials send in their resignations rather than take the oath;7 here are men who will not be candidates at the coming elections, for nobody covets a place which he had to abandon; in general, the suppression of all party candidatures is effected in no other way than by making the post of a magistrate distasteful.—On this principle the Jacobins have labored successfully by promoting and taking the lead in innumerable riots against the King, the officials and the clerks, against nobles, ecclesiastics, corn-dealers and land-owners, against every species of public authority whatever its origin. Everywhere the authorities are constrained to tolerate or excuse murders, pillage and incendiarism, or, at the very least, insurrections and disobedience. For two years a mayor runs the risk of being hung on proclaiming martial law; a captain is not sure of his men on marching to protect a tax levy; a judge on the bench is threatened if he condemns the marauders who devastate the national forests. The magistrate, whose duty it is to see that the law is respected, is constantly obliged to strain the law, or allow it to be strained; if refractory, a summary blow dealt by the local Jacobins forces his legal authority Edition: current; Page: [477] to yield to their illegal dictation, so that he has to resign himself to being either their accomplice or their puppet. Such a rôle is intolerable to a man of feeling or conscience. Hence, in 1790 and 1791, nearly all the prominent and reputable men who, in 1789, had seats in the Hôtels-de-Villes, or held command in the National Guard, all country-gentlemen, chevaliers of St. Louis, old parliamentarians, the upper bourgeoisie and large landed-proprietors, retire into private life and renounce public functions which are no longer tenable. Instead of offering themselves to public suffrage they avoid it, and the party of order, far from electing the magistracy, no longer even finds candidates for it.

Through an excess of precaution, its natural leaders have been legally disqualified, the principal offices, especially those of deputy and minister, being interdicted beforehand to the influential men in whom we find the little common sense gained by the French people during the past two years.—In the month of June, 1791, even after the irreconcilables had parted company with the “Right,” there still remained in the Assembly about 700 members who, adhering to the constitution but determined to repress disorder, would have formed a sensible legislature had they been re-elected. All of these, except a very small group of revolutionists, had learned something by experience, and, in the last days of their session, two serious events, the king’s flight and the riot in the Champ de Mars, had made them acquainted with the defects of their machine. With this executive instrument in their hands for three months, they see that it is racked, that things are tottering, and that they themselves are being run over by fanatics and the populace. They accordingly attempt to put on a drag, and several even think of retracing their steps.8 They cut loose from the Jacobins; of the three or four hundred deputies on the club Edition: current; Page: [478] list in the Rue St. Honoré9 but seven remain; the rest form at the Feuillants a distinct opposition club, and at their head are the first founders, Duport, the two Lameths, Barnave, the authors of the constitution, all the fathers of the new régime. In the last decree of the Constituent Assembly they loudly condemn the usurpations of popular associations, and not only interdict to these all meddling in administrative or political matters, but likewise any collective petition or deputation.10—Here may the friends of order find candidates whose chances are good, for, during two years and more, each in his own district is the most conspicuous, the best accredited, and the most influential man there; he stands well with his electors on account of the popularity of the constitution he has made, and it is very probable that his name would rally to it a majority of votes.—The Jacobins, however, have foreseen this danger. Four months previous to this,11 with the aid of the Court, which never missed an opportunity to ruin itself and everything else,12 they made the most of the rancors of the “Right” and the lassitude of the Assembly; fagged and disgusted, in a fit of mistaken disinterestedness, the Assembly, through impulse and taken by surprise, passes an act declaring all its members ineligible for election to the following Assembly, which is tantamount to the displacement in advance of the staff of honest men.


If the latter, in spite of so many drawbacks, attempt a struggle, they are arrested at the very first step. For, to enter upon an electoral Edition: current; Page: [479] campaign, requires preliminary meetings for conference and to understand each other, while the faculty of forming an association, which the law grants them as a right, is actually withheld from them by their adversaries. As a beginning, the Jacobins hooted at and “stoned” the members of the “Right”13 holding their meetings in the Salon français of the Rue Royale, and, according to the prevailing rule, the police tribunal, “considering that this assemblage is a cause of disturbance, that it produces gatherings in the street, that only violent means can be employed to protect it,” orders its dissolution.—Towards the month of August, 1790, a second club is organised, and, this time, composed of the wisest and most liberal men. Malouet and Count Clermont-Tonnerre are at the head of it. It takes the name of “Friends of a Monarchical Constitution,” and is desirous of restoring public order by maintaining the reforms which have been reached. All formalities on its part have been complied with. There are already about 800 members in Paris. Subscriptions flow into its treasury. The provinces send in numerous adhesions, and, what is worse than all, bread is distributed by them at a reduced price, by which the people, probably, will be conciliated. Here is a centre of opinion and influence, analogous to that of the Jacobin club, which the Jacobins cannot tolerate.14 M. de Clermont-Tonnerre having leased the summer Vauxhall, a captain in the National Guard notifies the proprietor of it that if he rents it, the patriots of the Palais-Royal will march to it in a body, and close it; fearing that the building will be damaged, he cancels the lease, while the municipality, which fears skirmishes, orders a suspension of the meetings. The club makes a complaint and follows it up, while the letter of Edition: current; Page: [480] the law is so plain that an official authorisation of the club is finally granted. Thereupon the Jacobin newspapers and stump-speakers let loose their fury against a future rival that threatens to dispute their empire. On the 23d of January, 1791, Barnave, in the National Assembly, employing metaphorical language apt to be used as a death-shout, accuses the members of the new club “of giving the people bread that carries poison with it.” Four days after this, M. Clermont-Tonnerre’s dwelling is assailed by an armed throng. Malouet, on leaving it, is almost dragged from his carriage, and the crowd around him cry out, “There goes the b—— who denounced the people!”—At length, its founders, who, out of consideration for the municipality, have waited two months, hire another hall in the Rue des Petites-Ecuries, and on the 28th of March begin their sessions. “On reaching it,” writes one of them, “we found a mob composed of drunkards, screaming boys, ragged women, soldiers exciting them on, and especially those frightful hounds, armed with stout, knotty cudgels, two feet long, which are excellent skull-crackers.”15 The thing was made up beforehand. At first there were only three or four hundred of them, and, ten minutes after, five or six hundred; in a quarter of an hour, there are perhaps four thousand flocking in from all sides; in short, the usual make-up of an insurrection. “The people of the quarter certified that they did not recognise one of the faces.” Jokes, insults, cuffings, clubbings, and sabre-cuts—the members of the club “who agreed to come unarmed” being dispersed, while several are knocked down, dragged by the hair, and a dozen or fifteen more are wounded. To justify the attack, white cockades are shown, which, it is pretended, were found in their pockets. Mayor Bailly arrives only when it is all over, and, as a measure of “public order,” the municipal authorities have the club of Constitutional Monarchists closed for good.

Owing to these outrages by the faction, with the connivance of Edition: current; Page: [481] the authorities, other similar clubs are suppressed in the same way. There are a good many of them, and in the principal towns—“Friends of Peace,” “Friends of the Country,” “Friends of the King, of Peace, and of Religion,” “Defenders of Religion, Persons, and Property.” Magistrates and officers, the most cultivated and polished people, are generally members; in short, the élite of the place. Formerly, meetings took place for conversation and debate, and, being long-established, the club naturally passes over from literature to politics.—The watch-word against all these provincial clubs is given from the Rue St. Honoré.16 “They are centres of conspiracy, and must be looked after” forthwith, and be at once trodden out.—At one time, as at Cahors,17 a squad of the National Guard, on its return from an expedition against the neighboring gentry, and to finish its task, breaks in on the club, “throws its furniture out of the windows, and demolishes the house.”—At another time, as at Perpignan, the excited populace surrounds the club, dancing a fandango, and yell out, to the lantern! The club-house is sacked, while eighty of its members, covered with bruises, are shut up in the citadel for their safety.18 At another time, as at Aix, the Jacobin club insults its adversaries on their own premises and provokes a scuffle, whereupon the municipality causes the doors of the assailed club to be walled up and issues warrants of arrest against its members.—Always punishment awaits them for whatever violence they have to submit to. Their mere existence seems an offence. At Grenoble, they scarcely assemble before they are dispersed. The fact is, they are suspected of “incivism”; their intentions may not be right; in any event, they Edition: current; Page: [482] cause a division of the place into two camps, and that is enough.—In the department of Gard, their clubs are all broken up, by order of the department, because “they are centres of malevolence.” At Bordeaux, the municipality, considering that “alarming reports are current of priests and privileged persons returning to town,” prohibits all reunions, except that of the Jacobin club.—Thus, “under a system of liberty of the most exalted kind, in the presence of that famous Declaration of the Rights of Man which legitimates whatever is not unlawful,” and which postulates equality as the principle of the French constitution, whoever is not a Jacobin is excluded from common rights. An intolerant club sets itself up as a holy church, and proscribes others which have not received from it “orthodox baptism, civic inspiration, and the gift of tongues.” To her alone belongs the right of assemblage, and the right of making proselytes. Conservative, thoughtful men in all towns throughout the kingdom are forbidden to form electoral committees, to possess a tribune, a fund, subscribers and adherents, to cast the weight of their names and common strength into the scale of public opinion, to gather around their permanent nucleus the scattered multitude of sensible people, who would like to escape from the Revolution without falling back into the ancient régime. Let them whisper amongst themselves in corners, and they may still be tolerated, but woe to them if they would leave their lonely retreat to act in concert, to canvass voters, and support a candidate. Up to the day of voting they must remain in the presence of their combined, active, and obstreperous adversaries, scattered, inert, and mute.


Will they at least be able to vote freely on that day? They are not sure of it, and, judging by occurrences during the past year, it is doubtful.—In the month of April, 1790, at Bois d’Aisy, in Burgundy, M. de Bois d’Aisy, a deputy, who had returned from Paris to deposit his vote,19 was publicly menaced; he was given to understand that Edition: current; Page: [483] nobles and priests must take no part in the elections, while many were heard to say, in his hearing, that in order to prevent this it would be well to hang him. Not far off, at Ste. Colombe, M. de Viteaux was driven out of the electoral assembly, and then put to death after three hours of torture. The same thing occurred at Semur; two gentlemen were knocked down with clubs and stones, another saved himself with difficulty, and a curé died after being stabbed six times.—This is a warning for ecclesiastics and for gentlemen; they will do well to abstain from voting, and the same good advice may be given to dealers in grain, to land-owners, and every other suspected person. For this is the day on which the people recover their sovereignty; the violent believe that they have the right to do exactly what suits them, nothing being more natural than to exclude candidates in advance who are distrusted, or electors who do not vote as they ought to.—At Villeneuve-St.-Georges, near Paris,20 a barrister, a man of austere and energetic character, is about to be elected judge by the district electors; the populace, however, mistrust a judge likely to condemn marauders, and forty or fifty vagabonds collect together under the windows and cry out: “We don’t want him elected.” The curé of Crosne, president of the electoral assembly, informs them in vain that the assembled electors represent 90 communes, nearly 100,000 inhabitants, and that “40 persons should not prevail against 100,000.” Shouts redouble and the electors renounce their candidate.—At Pau, patriots among the militia21 forcibly release one of their imprisoned leaders, circulate a list for proscriptions, attack a poll-teller with their fists and afterwards with sabres, until the proscribed hide themselves away; on the following day “nobody is disposed to attend the electoral assembly.”—Things Edition: current; Page: [484] are much worse in 1791. In the month of June, just at the time of the opening of the primary meetings, the king has fled to Varennes, the Revolution seems compromised, civil war and a foreign war loom up on the horizon like two spectres; the National Guard had everywhere taken up arms, and the Jacobins were making the most of the universal panic for their own advantage. To dispute their votes is no longer the question; it is not well to be seen now; among so many turbulent gatherings a popular execution is soon over. The best thing now for royalists, constitutionalists, conservatives and moderates of every kind, for the friends of law and of order, is to stay at home—too happy if they may be allowed to remain there, to which the armed commonalty assents only on the condition of making them frequent visits.

Consider their situation during the whole of the electoral period, in a tranquil district, and judge of the rest of France by this corner of it. At Mortagne,22 a small town of 6,000 souls, the laudable spirit of 1789 still existed up to the journey to Varennes. Among the forty or fifty families of nobles were a good many liberals. Here, as elsewhere among the gentry, the clergy and the middle class, the philosophic education of the eighteenth century had revived the initiative spirit of old provincial times, while the entire upper class had zealously and gratuitously undertaken public duties which it alone could well perform. District presidents, mayors, and municipal officers, were all chosen from among ecclesiastics and the nobles; the three principal officers of the National Guard were chevaliers of St. Louis, while other grades were filled by the leading people of the community. Thus had the free elections placed authority in the hands of the socially superior, the new order of things resting on the legitimate hierarchy of conditions, educations, and capacities.—For six months, however, the club, formed out of “a dozen hot-headed, turbulent fellows, under the presidency and in the hands of a certain Rattier, formerly a cook,” worked upon the populace and the rural Edition: current; Page: [485] districts. Immediately on the receipt of the news of the King’s flight, the Jacobins “give out that nobles and priests had supplied him with money for his departure, to bring about a counter-revolution.” One family had given such an amount, and another so much; there was no doubt about it; the precise figures are given, and given for each family according to its known resources.—Forthwith, “the principal clubbists, associated with the suspicious portion of the National Guard,” spread through the streets in squads, and enter the houses of the nobles and of other suspected persons; all the arms, “guns, pistols, swords, hunting-knives, and sword-canes,” are carried off. Every hole and corner is ransacked; they make the inmates open, or they force open, secretaries and clothes-presses in search of ammunition, the search extending “even to the ladies’ toilette-tables”; by way of precaution “they break sticks of pomatum in two, presuming that musket-balls are concealed in them, and they take away hair-powder under the pretext that it is either colored or masked gunpowder.” Then, without disbanding, the troop betakes itself to the environs and into the country, where it operates with the same celerity in the châteaux, so that “in one day all honest citizens, those with the most property and furniture to protect, are left without arms at the mercy of the first robber that comes along.” All reputed aristocrats are disarmed. Those are reputed aristocrats who “disapprove of the enthusiasm of the day, or who do not attend the club, or who harbor any unsworn ecclesiastic,” and, first of all, “the officers of the National Guard who are nobles, beginning with the commander and his entire staff.”—The latter allow their swords to be taken without resistance, and with a forbearance and patriotic spirit of which their brethren everywhere furnish an example, “they are obliging enough to remain at their posts so as not to disorganise the army, hoping that this frenzy will soon come to an end,” contenting themselves with making their complaint to the department.—But in vain the department orders their arms to be restored to them. The clubbists refuse to give them up so long as the king refuses to accept the Constitution; meanwhile they do not hesitate to say that “at the very first gun on the frontier, they will cut the Edition: current; Page: [486] throats of all the nobles and unsworn priests.”—After the royal oath to the Constitution is taken, the department again insists, but no attention is paid to it. On the contrary, the National Guard, dragging cannons along with them, purposely station themselves before the mansions of the unarmed gentry; the ladies of their families are followed in the streets by urchins who sing ça ira in their faces, and, in the final refrain, they mention them by name and promise them the lantern; “not one of them could invite a dozen of his friends to supper without incurring the risk of an ebullition.”—On the strength of this, the old chiefs of the National Guard resign, and the Jacobins turn the opportunity to account. In contempt of the law the whole body of officers is renewed, and, as peaceable folks dare not deposit their votes, the new staff “is composed of infuriated men, taken for the most part, from the lowest class.” With this purged militia the club expels nuns, drives off unsworn priests, organises expeditions in the neighborhood, and goes so far as to purify suspected municipalities.23—So many acts of violence committed in town and country, render town and country uninhabitable, and for the élite of the proprietors, or for well-bred persons, there is no longer any asylum but Paris. After the first disarmament seven or eight families take refuge there, and a dozen or fifteen more join them after a threat of having their throats cut; after the religious persecution, unsworn ecclesiastics, the rest of the nobles, and countless other townspeople, “even with little means,” betake themselves there in a mass. There, at least, one is lost in the crowd; one is protected by an incognito against the outrages of the commonalty; one can live there as a private individual. In the provinces even civil rights do not exist; how could any one there exercise political rights? Edition: current; Page: [487] “All honest citizens are kept away from the primary meetings by threats or maltreatment. … The battle-field remains with those who pay forty-five sous of taxes, more than one-half of them being registered on the poor list.”—See how the elections are decided beforehand! The old cook is the one who authorises or creates candidatures, and on the election of the department deputies at the county town, the electors elected are veritably, like himself, Jacobins.24


Such is the pressure under which voting takes place in France during the summer and fall of 1791. Domiciliary visits and disarmament everywhere force nobles and ecclesiastics, landed proprietors and people of culture, to abandon their homes, to seek refuge in the large towns and to emigrate,25 or, at least, confine themselves strictly to private life, to abstain from all propagandism, from every candidature, and from all voting. It would be madness to be seen in so many cantons where perquisitions terminate in a jacquerie; in Burgundy and the Lyonnais, where castles are sacked, where aged gentlemen are mauled and left for dead, where M. de Guillin has just been assassinated and cut to pieces; at Marseilles, where conservative party leaders are imprisoned, where a regiment of Swiss guards under arms scarcely suffices to enforce the verdict of the court which Edition: current; Page: [488] sets them at liberty, where, if any indiscreet person opposes Jacobin resolutions his mouth is closed by being notified that he will be buried alive; at Toulon, where the Jacobins shoot down all conservatives and the regular troops, where M. de Beaucaire, captain in the navy, is killed by a shot in the back, where the club, supported by the needy, by sailors, by navvies, and “vagabond pedlars,” maintains a dictatorship by right of conquest; at Brest, at Tulle, at Cahors, where at this very moment gentlemen and officers are massacred in the street. It is not surprising that honest people turn away from the ballot-box as from a centre of cut-throats.—Nevertheless, let them come if they like; it will be easy to get rid of them. At Aix, the assessor whose duty it is to read the electors’ names is informed that “the names should be called out by an unsullied mouth, that, being an aristocrat and fanatical, he could neither speak nor vote,” and, without further ceremony, they put him out of the room.26 The process is an admirable one for converting a minority into a majority and yet here is another, still more effectual.—At Dax, the Feuillants, taking the title of “Friends of the French Constitution,” separate from the Jacobins,27 and, moreover, insist on excluding from the Edition: current; Page: [489] National Guard “foreigners without property or position,” the passive citizens who are admitted into it in spite of the law, who usurp the right of voting and who “daily affront tranquil inhabitants.” Consequently, on election day, in the church where the primary meeting is held, two of the Feuillants, Laurède, formerly collector of the vingtièmes, and Brunache, a glazier, propose to exclude an intruder, a servant on wages. The Jacobins at once rush forward. Laurède is pressed back on the holy-water basin and wounded on the head; on trying to escape he is seized by the hair, thrown down, pierced in the arm with a bayonet, put in prison, and Brunache along with him. Eight days afterwards, at the second meeting none are present but Jacobins; naturally, “they are all elected” and form the new municipality, which, notwithstanding the orders of the department, not only refuses to liberate the two prisoners, but consigns them to a dungeon.—At Montpellier, the delay in the operation is greater, but it is only the more complete. The votes are deposited, the ballot-boxes closed and sealed up and the conservatives obtain a majority. Thereupon the Jacobin club, with the band of “iron-clubs,” calling itself the Executive power, betake themselves in force to the sectional meetings, burn one of the ballottings, use firearms and kill two men. To restore order the municipality stations each company of the National Guard at its captain’s door, and the moderates among them naturally obey orders, but the violent party do not. They overrun the town, numbering about 2,000 inhabitants, enter the houses, kill three men in the street or in their domiciles, and force the administrative body to suspend its electoral assemblies. In addition to this they require the disarmament “of the aristocrats,” and this not being done soon enough, they kill an artisan who is walking in the street with his mother, cut off his head, bear it aloft in triumph, and suspend it in front of his dwelling. The authorities, Edition: current; Page: [490] thus persuaded, accordingly decree a disarmament, and the victors parade the streets in a body. Either on account of their jollity, or as a precaution, they fire at the windows of suspected houses as they pass along and happen to kill an additional man and woman. During the three following days six hundred families emigrate, while the authorities report that everything is going on well, and that order is restored; “the elections,” they say, “are now proceeding in the quietest manner on account of the ill-intentioned voluntarily keeping away from them, a large number having left the town.”28 A void is created around the ballot-box and this is called the unanimity of voters.

The effect of such executions is great and not many of them are requisite; a few suffice when successful and when they go unpunished, which is always the case. Henceforth all that the Jacobins have to do is to threaten; people no longer resist them for they know that it costs too much to face them down; they do not care to attend electoral meetings and there meet insult and danger; they acknowledge defeat at the start. Have not the Jacobins irresistible arguments, without taking blows into account? At Paris,29 Marat in three successive numbers of his paper has just denounced by name “the rascals and thieves” who canvass for electoral nominations, not the nobles and priests but ordinary citizens, lawyers, architects, physicians, jewellers, stationers, printers, upholsterers and other mechanics, each name being given in full with the professions, addresses and one of the following qualifications, “hypocrite (tartufe), immoral, dishonest, bankrupt, informer, usurer, cheat,” not to mention Edition: current; Page: [491] others that I cannot transcribe. It must be noted that this slanderous list may become a proscriptive list, and that in every town and village in France similar lists are constantly drawn up and circulated by the local club, which enables us to judge whether the struggle between it and its adversaries is a fair one.—As to rural electors, it has suitable means for persuading them, especially in the innumerable cantons ravaged or threatened by the jacqueries, or, for example, in Corrèze, where “the whole department is overspread with insurrections and devastations, and where nobody talks of anything but of hanging the officers who serve papers.”30 Throughout the electoral operations the sittings of the club are permanent; “its electors are incessantly summoned to its meetings”; at each of these “the main question is the destruction of fishponds and rentals, their principal speakers summing it all up by saying that none ought to be paid.” The majority of electors, composed of rustics, are found to be sensitive to eloquence of this kind; all its candidates are obliged to express themselves against fishponds and rentals; its deputies and the public prosecuting-attorney are nominated on this profession of faith; in other words, to be elected, the Jacobins promise to greedy tenants the incomes and property of their owners.—We already see in the proceedings by which they secure one-third of the offices in 1791 the germ of the proceedings by which they will secure the whole of them in 1792; in this first electoral campaign their acts indicate not merely their maxims and policy but, again, the condition, education, spirit and character of the men whom they place in power locally as well as at the capital.

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I. Composition of the Legislative Assembly—Social rank of the Deputies. Their inexperience, incompetence, and prejudices— II. Degree and quality of their intelligence and culture— III. Aspect of their sessions—Scenes and display at the club—Co-operation of spectators— IV. Parties—The “Right”—The “Centre”—The “Left”—Opinions and sentiments of the Girondists—Their allies of the extreme “Left”— V. Their means of action—Dispersion of the Feuillants club—Pressure of the tribunes on the Assembly—Street mobs— VI. Parliamentary manoeuvres—Abuses of urgency—Vote on the principle—Call by name—Intimidation of the “Centre”—Opponents inactive—The majority finally disposed of.


If it be true that a nation should be represented by its superior men, France was singularly represented during the Revolution. From one Assembly to another we see the level steadily declining; especially is the fall very great from the Constituent to the Legislative Assembly. The actors entitled to perform withdraw just as they begin to understand their parts; and yet more, they have excluded themselves from the theatre, while the stage is surrendered to their substitutes. “The preceding Assembly,” writes an ambassador,1 “contained men of great talent, large fortune, and honorable name, a combination which had an imposing effect on the people, Edition: current; Page: [493] although violently opposed to personal distinctions. The actual Assembly is but little more than a council of lawyers, got together from every town and village in France.” Out of 745 deputies, indeed, “400 lawyers belong, for the most part, to the dregs of the profession”; there are about twenty constitutional priests, “as many poets and literary men of but little reputation, almost all without any patrimony,” the greater number being less than thirty years old, sixty being less than twenty-six, while nearly all of them are outgrowths of the clubs and the popular assemblies.2 There is not one noble or prelate belonging to the ancient régime, no great landed proprietor,3 no head of the service, no eminent specialist in diplomacy, in finance, in administrative force, or in military art. But three general officers are found there, and these are of the lowest rank,4 one of them having held his appointment but three months, and the other two being wholly unknown.—At the head of the diplomatic committee stands Brissot, a perambulating journalist, lately a rover about England and the United States, and supposed to be competent in the affairs of both worlds; in reality he is one of those presuming, threadbare, Edition: current; Page: [494] talkative fellows, who, living in a garret, lecture foreign cabinets and reconstruct all Europe; things, to them, seem as easily combined as phrases; one day,5 to entice the English into an alliance with France, Brissot proposes to place two towns, Dunkirk and Calais, in their hands as security; another day, he proposes “to make a descent on Spain, and, at the same time, to send a fleet to conquer Mexico.”—The principal personage in the committee on finances is Cambon, a merchant in Montpellier, a good book-keeper, who, at a later period, is to simplify all writings and regulate the Grand Livre of the public debt, which means public bankruptcy. Meanwhile, he hastens this on with all his might by encouraging the Assembly to undertake the ruinous and terrible war, that is to last for twenty-three years; according to him, “there is more money than is needed for it.”6 In truth, the guarantee of assignats is used up; the taxes do not come in; they live only on the paper money they issue, the assignats lose forty per centum, and the ascertained deficit for 1792 is four hundred millions;7 but this revolutionary financier relies upon Edition: current; Page: [495] the confiscations which he instigates in France, and which are to be set agoing in Belgium; here lies all his invention, a systematic robbery on a grand scale within and without the kingdom.

As to the legislators and manufacturers of constitutions, we have Condorcet, a cold-blooded fanatic and systematic leveller, satisfied that a mathematical method suits the social sciences fed on abstractions, blinded by formulae, and the most chimerical of perverted intellects. Never was a man versed in books more ignorant of mankind; never did a lover of scientific precision better succeed in changing the character of facts. It was he who, two days before the 20th of June, amidst the most brutal public excitement, admired “the calmness” and rationality of the multitude; “considering the way people interpret events, it might be supposed that they had given some hours of each day to the study of analysis.” It is he who, two days after the 20th of June, extolled the red cap in which the head of Louis XVI. had been muffled. “That crown is as good as any other. Marcus Aurelius would not have despised it.”8—Such is the discernment and practical judgment of the leaders; from these one Edition: current; Page: [496] can form an opinion of the flock, consisting of novices arriving from the provinces and bringing with them the principles and prejudices of the newspaper. So remote from the centre, having no knowledge of general affairs or of their unity, they are two years behind their brethren of the Constituent Assembly. Most of them, says Malouet,9 “without having decided against a monarchy, had decided against the court, the aristocracy, and the clergy, ever imagining conspiracies and believing that defence consisted solely in attack. There were still many men of talent among them, but with no experience; they even lacked that which we had obtained. Our patriot deputies were, in great part, convinced of their errors; these were not so, they were ready to take a fresh start.” Moreover, they have their own political bent, for nearly all of them are upstarts of the new régime. We find in their ranks 264 department administrators, 109 district administrators, 125 justices and prosecuting-attorneys, 68 mayors and town officers, besides about twenty officers of the National Guard, constitutional bishops and curés, the whole amounting to 566 of the elected functionaries, who, for the past twenty months, have carried on the government under the direction of their electors. We have seen how this was done and under what conditions, with what compliances and with what complicity, with what deference to clamorous opinion, with what docility in the presence of rioters, with what submission to the orders of the populace, with what a deluge of sentimental phrases and commonplace abstractions. Sent to Paris as deputies, through the choice or toleration of the clubs, they bear along with them their politics and their rhetoric; the result is an assemblage of narrow, perverted, hasty, inflated and feeble minds; at each daily session, twenty word-mills turn to no purpose, the greatest of public powers at once becoming a manufactory of nonsense, a school of extravagancies, and a theatre for declamation.

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Is it possible that serious men could have listened to and sat through this rigmarole? “I am a ploughman,”10 says one deputy, “I now dare boast of the antique nobility of my plough. A yoke of oxen once constituted the pure, incorruptible conveyancers before whom my worthy ancestors executed their contracts, the authenticity of which, far better recorded on the soil than on flimsy parchment, is protected from any species of revolution whatever.” Is it conceivable that the reporter of a law, that is about to exile or imprison forty thousand priests, should employ in an argument such silly bombast as the following?11 “I have seen in the rural districts the hymeneal torch diffusing only pale and sombre rays, or, transformed into the flambeaux of furies, the hideous skeleton of superstition seated even on the nuptial couch, placed between nature and the wedded, and arresting, etc.… Oh Rome, art thou satisfied? Art thou then like Saturn, to whom fresh holocausts were daily imperative?… Depart, Edition: current; Page: [498] ye creators of discord! The soil of liberty is weary of bearing you. Would ye breathe the atmosphere of the Aventine mount? The national ship is already prepared for you. I hear on the shore the impatient cries of the crew; I see the breezes of liberty swelling its sails. Like Telemachus, ye will go forth on the waters to seek your father; but never will you have to dread the Sicilian rocks, nor the seductions of a Eucharis.” Vulgar conceits, rhetorical personifications, and the invective of maniacs is the prevailing tone. The same defect characterises the best discourses, namely, an over-excited brain, a passion for high-sounding terms, the constant use of stilts and an incapacity for seeing things as they are and of so describing them. Men of talent, Isnard, Guadet, Vergniaud himself, are carried away by hollow sonorous phrases like a ship with too much canvas for its ballast. Their minds are stimulated by souvenirs of their school lessons, the modern world revealing itself to them only through their Latin reminiscences.—François de Nantes is exasperated at the pope “who holds in servitude the posterity of Cato and of Scaevola.” Isnard proposes to follow the example of the Roman senate which, to allay discord at home, got up an outside war; between old Rome and France, indeed, there is a striking resemblance.—Roux insists that the Emperor (of Austria) should give satisfaction before the 1st of March; “in a case like this the Roman people would have fixed the term of delay—why shouldn’t the French people fix one.… The circle of Popilius” should be drawn around those petty, hesitating German princes. When money is needed to establish camps around Paris and the large towns, Lasource proposes to alienate the national forests and is amazed at any objection to the measure. “Caesar’s soldiers,” he exclaims, “believing that an ancient forest in Gaul was sacred, dared not lay the axe to it; are we to participate in this superstitious respect?”12—Add to this collegiate lore the philosophic dregs deposited in all minds by the great sophist then in vogue. Larivière reads in the tribune13 that Edition: current; Page: [499] page of the “Contrat Social,” where Rousseau declares that the sovereign may banish members “of an unsocial religion,” and punish with death “one who, having publicly recognised the dogmas of civil religion, acts as if he did not believe in them.” On which, another hissing parrot, M. Filassier, exclaims, “I put J. J. Rousseau’s proposition into the form of a motion and demand a vote on it.”—In like manner it is proposed to grant very young girls the right of marrying in spite of their parents by stating, according to the “Nouvelle Héloise” “that a girl thirteen or fourteen years old begins to sigh for an union which nature dictates, that she struggles between passion and duty, that, if she triumphs she is a martyr, that nature is rarely imposed upon, that it may happen that a young person prefers the tranquil disgrace of defeat to a wearisome struggle of eight years.”—Divorce is inaugurated to “preserve in matrimony that happy quietude which renders the sentiments livelier.”14 Henceforth this is to be no longer a chain but “the acquittance of an agreeable debt which every citizen owes to his country.… Divorce is the tutelary divinity of Hymen.”15 Obscenities and mythological veilings, a background of classic pedantry, the vague and narrow notions of ordinary instruction, no exact and substantial information, the empty flowing commonplaces of the amplifier spinning out maxims from his revolutionary manual in long tirades, in short, superficial culture and verbal argumentation form the vulgar and dangerous ingredients out of which the intelligence of the new legislators is formed.16

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From this we can imagine what their sessions were. “More incoherent and especially more passionate than those of the Constituent Assembly”17 they present the same characteristics, but largely exaggerated. Argument is much weaker, invective more violent, and dogmatism more intemperate. Inflexibility degenerates into insolence, prejudice into fanaticism, and near-sightedness into blindness. Disorder becomes a tumult and constant din an uproar. “Figure to yourself,” says an attendant eye-witness, “a collegiate chamber with hundreds of pupils quarrelling and every instant on the point of seizing each other by the hair. Their dress worse than neglected, their furious actions, and transitions from cries to hootings … is a sight not to be depicted and to which nothing can be compared.” It lacks nothing for making it a club of the lowest species. Here, in advance, we contemplate the ways of the future revolutionary inquisition; they welcome burlesque denunciations; they enter into petty police investigations; they weigh the tittle-tattle of porters and the gossip of servant-girls; they devote an all-night session to the secrets of a drunkard.18 They enter on their official report and without Edition: current; Page: [501] any disapproval, the petition of M. Huré, “living at Pont-sur-Yonne, who, over his own signature, offers one hundred francs and his arm to become a tyrannicide.” Repeated and multiplied hurrahs and applause with the felicitations of the president is the sanction of scandalous or ridiculous private misconduct seeking to display itself under the cover of public authority. Anacharsis Clootz, “a Mascarille officially stamped,” who proposes a general war and who hawks about maps of Europe cut up in advance into departments beginning with Savoy, Belgium and Holland “and thus onward to the Polar Sea,” is thanked and given a seat on the benches of the Assembly.19 Compliments are bestowed on the Vicar of Sainte-Marguerite and his wife is given a seat in the Assembly and who, introducing “his new family,” thunders against clerical celibacy.20 Mobs of men and women are permitted to traverse the hall shouting political cries. Every sort of indecent, childish and seditious parade is admitted to the bar of the house.21 To-day it consists of “citoyennes of Paris,” Edition: current; Page: [502] desirous of being drilled in military exercises and of having for their commandants “former French guardsmen”; to-morrow children come and express their patriotism with “touching simplicity,” regretting that “their trembling feet do not permit them to march, no, fly against the tyrants”; next to these come convicts of the Château-Vieux escorted by a vociferous crowd; at another time the artillerymen of Paris, a thousand in number, with drums beating; delegates from the provinces, the faubourgs and the clubs come constantly, with their furious harangues, and imperious remonstrances, their exactions, their threats and their summonses.—In the intervals of this louder racket a continuous hubbub is heard in the clatter of the tribunes;22 at each session “the representatives are chaffed by the spectators; the nation in the gallery is judge of the nation on the floor”; it interferes in the debates, silences the speakers, insults the president and orders the reporter of a bill to quit the tribune. One interruption, or a simple murmur, is not all; there are twenty, thirty, fifty in an hour, clamourings, stamping, yells and personal abuse. After countless useless entreaties, after repeated calls to order, “received with hootings,” after a dozen “regulations that are made, revised, countermanded and posted up” as if better to prove the impotence of the law, of the authorities and of the Assembly itself, the usurpations of these intruders keep on increasing. They have shouted for ten months “Down with the civil list! Down with the ministerials! Down with those curs! Silence, slaves!” On the 26th of July, Brissot himself is to appear lukewarm and be struck on the face with two plums. “Three or four hundred individuals without either property, title, or means of subsistence … have become the auxiliaries, petitioners and umpires of the legislature,” their paid Edition: current; Page: [503] violence completely destroying whatever is still left of the Assembly’s reason.23


In an assembly thus composed and surrounded, it is easy to foresee on which side the balance will turn.—Through the meshes of the electoral net which the Jacobins have spread over the whole country, about one hundred well-meaning individuals of the common run, tolerably sensible and sufficiently resolute, Mathieu Dumas, Dumolard, Becquet, Gorguereau, Vaublanc, Beugnot, Girardin, Ramond, Jaucourt, were able to pass and form the party of the “Right.”24 They resist to as great an extent as possible, and seem to have obtained a majority.—For, of the four hundred deputies who have their seats in the centre, one hundred and sixty-four are inscribed on the rolls with them at the Feuillants club, while the rest, under the title of “Independents,” pretend to be of no party;25 besides, the whole of these four hundred, through monarchical traditions, respect the King; timid and sensible, violence is repugnant to them; they distrust the Jacobins, dread what is unknown, desire to be loyal to the Constitution and to live in peace. Nevertheless the pompous dogmas of the revolutionary catechism still have their prestige with them; they cannot comprehend how the Constitution which they like produces the anarchy which they detest; they are “foolish enough to bemoan the effects while swearing to maintain their causes; totally deficient in spirit, in union and in boldness,” they float backwards and forwards between contradictory desires, while Edition: current; Page: [504] their predisposition to order merely awaits the steady impulsion of a vigorous will to turn it in the opposite direction.—On such docile material the “Left” can work effectively. It comprises, indeed, but one hundred and thirty-six registered Jacobins and about a hundred others who, in almost all cases, vote with the party;26 rigidity of opinion, however, more than compensates for lack of numbers. In the front row are Guadet, Brissot, Gensonné, Vergniaud, Ducos, and Condorcet, the future chiefs of the Girondists, all of them lawyers or writers captivated by deductive politics, absolute in their convictions and proud of their faith. According to them principles are true and must be applied without reservation;27 whoever would stop half-way is wanting in courage or intelligence. As for themselves their minds are made up to push through. With the self-confidence of youth and of theorists they draw their own conclusions and hug themselves with their strong belief in them. “These gentlemen,” says a keen observer,28 “professed great disdain for their predecessors, the Constituents, treating them as short-sighted and prejudiced people incapable of profiting by circumstances.” “To the observations of wisdom, and disinterested wisdom,29 they replied Edition: current; Page: [505] with a scornful smile, indicative of the aridity proceeding from self-conceit. One exhausted himself in reminding them of events and in deducing causes from these; one passed in turn from theory to experience and from experience to theory to show them their identity and, when they condescended to reply it was to deny the best authenticated facts and contest the plainest observations by opposing to these a few trite maxims although eloquently expressed. Each regarded the other as if they alone were worthy of being heard, each encouraging the other with the idea that all resistance to their way of looking at things was pusillanimity.” In their own eyes they alone are capable and they alone are patriotic. Because they have read Rousseau and Mably, because their tongue is united and their pen flowing, because they know how to handle the formulae of books and reason out an abstract proposition, they fancy that they are statesmen.30 Because they have read Plutarch and “Le Jeune Anacharsis,” because they aim to construct a perfect society out of metaphysical conceptions, because they are in a ferment about the coming millenium, they imagine themselves so many exalted spirits. They have no doubt whatever on these two points even after everything has fallen in through their blunders, even after their obliging hands are sullied by the foul grasp of robbers whom they were the first to instigate, and by that of executioners of which they are partners in complicity.31 To this extent is self-conceit the worst of sophists. Convinced Edition: current; Page: [506] of their superior enlightenment and of the purity of their sentiments, they put forth the theory that the government should be in their hands. Consequently they lay hold of it in the Legislative body in ways that are going to turn against them in the Convention. They accept for allies the worst demagogues of the extreme “Left,” Chabot, Couthon, Merlin, Bazière, Thuriot, Lecointre, and outside of it, Danton, Robespierre, Marat himself, all the levellers and destroyers whom they think of use to them, but of whom they themselves are the instruments. The motions they make must pass at any cost and, to ensure this, they let loose against their adversaries the low, yelping populace which others, still more factious, will to-morrow let loose on them.


Thus, for the second time, the pretended zealots for liberty attain power by boldly employing force.—They begin by suppressing the meetings of the Feuillants club. The customary riot is instigated against these, whereupon ensue tumult, violent outcries and scuffles; mayor Pétion complains of his position “between opinion and law,” and lets things take their course; finally, the Feuillants are obliged to evacuate their place of meeting.—Inside the Assembly they are Edition: current; Page: [507] abandoned to the insolence of the galleries. In vain do they get exasperated and protest. Ducastel, referring to the decree of the Constituent Assembly, which forbids any manifestation of approbation or disapprobation, is greeted with murmurs. He insists on the decree being read at the opening of each session, and “the murmurs begin again.”32 “Is it not scandalous,” says Vaublanc, “that the nation’s representatives speaking from the tribune are subject to hootings like those bestowed upon an actor on the stage!” whereupon the galleries give him three rounds more. “Will posterity believe,” says Quatremère, “that acts concerning the honor, the lives, and the fortunes of citizens should be subject, like games in the arena, to the applause and hisses of the spectators!” “Come to the point!” shout the galleries. “If ever,” resumes Quatremère, “the most important of judicial acts (an act of capital indictment) can be exposed to this scandalous prostitution of applause and menaces. …” “The murmurs break out afresh.”—Every time that a sanguinary or incendiary measure is to be carried, the most furious and prolonged clamor stops the utterance of its opponents: “Down with the speaker! Send the reporter of that bill to the Abbaye! Down! Down!” Sometimes only about twenty of the deputies will applaud or hoot with the galleries, and then it is the entire Assembly which is insulted. Fists are thrust in the president’s face. All that now remains is “to call down the galleries on the floor to pass decrees,” which proposition is ironically made by one of the “Right.”33

Great, however, as this usurpation may be, the minority, in order Edition: current; Page: [508] to suppress the majority, accommodate themselves to it, the Jacobins in the chamber making common cause with the Jacobins in the galleries. The disturbers should not be put out; “it would be excluding from our deliberations,” says Grangeneuve, “that which belongs essentially to the people.” On one of the deputies demanding measures to enforce silence, “Torné demands that the proposition be referred to the Portugal inquisition.” Choudieu “declares that it can only emanate from deputies who forget that respect which is due to the people, their sovereign judge.”34 “The action of the galleries,” says Lecointe-Puyraiveaux, “is an outburst of patriotism.” Finally, this same Choudieu, twisting and turning all rights about with incomparable audacity, wishes to confer legislative privileges on the audience, and demands a decree against the deputies who, guilty of popular lèse-majesté, presume to complain of those who insult them.—Another piece of oppressive machinery, still more energetic, operates outside on the approaches to the Assembly. Like their predecessors of the Constituent Assembly, the members of the “Right” “cannot leave the building without encountering the threats and imprecations of enraged crowds. Cries of ‘to the lantern!’ greet the ears of Dumolard, Vaublanc, Raucourd, and Lacretelle as often as those of the Abbé Maury and Montlosier.”35 After having apostrophised the president, Mathieu Dumas, they insult his wife who has been recognised in a reserved gallery.36 In the Tuileries, crowds are always standing there listening to the brawlers who denounce suspected deputies by name, and woe to any among them who takes that path on his way to the chamber! A broadside of insults greets him as he passes along. If the deputy happens to be a farmer, they exclaim: “Look at that queer old aristocrat—an old peasant dog that Edition: current; Page: [509] used to watch cows!” One day Hua, on going up the steps of the Tuileries terrace, is seized by the hair by an old vixen who bids him “Bow your head to your sovereigns, the people, you —— —— of a deputy!” On the 20th of June one of the patriots, who is crossing the Assembly room, whispers in his ear, “You scamp of a deputy, you’ll never die but by my hand!” Another time, having defended the juge-de-paix Larivière, there awaits him at the door, in the middle of the night “a set of blackguards, who crowd around him and thrust their fists and cudgels in his face”; happily, his friends Dumas and Daverhoult, two military officers, foreseeing the danger, present their pistols and set him free “although with some difficulty.”—As the 10th of August draws near there is more open aggression. Vaublanc, for having defended Lafayette, just misses being cut to pieces three times on leaving the Assembly; sixty of the deputies are treated in the same fashion, being struck, covered with mud, and threatened with death if they dare go back.37—With such allies a minority is very strong. Thanks to its two agencies of constraint it will detach the votes it needs from the majority and, either through terror or craft, secure the passage of all the decrees it needs.


Sometimes it succeeds surreptitiously by rushing them through. As “there is no order of the day circulated beforehand, and, in any event, none which anybody is obliged to adhere to,”38 the Assembly is captured by surprise. “The first knave amongst the ‘Left,’ (which expression, says Hua, I do not strike out, because there were many among those gentlemen), brought up a ready-made resolution, prepared the evening before by a clique. We were not prepared for it and demanded that it should be referred to a committee. Instead of Edition: current; Page: [510] doing this, however, the resolution was declared urgent, and, whether we would or not, discussion had to take place forthwith.”39—“There were other tactics equally perfidious, which Thuriot, especially, made use of. This great rogue got up and proposed, not the draft of a law, but what he called a principle; for instance, a decree should be passed confiscating the property of the émigrés, … or that unsworn priests should be subject to special oversight.… In reply, he was told that in his principle was found the essence of the law, the whole law; let debate go on and the question be referred to a committee to make a report on it.—Not at all—the matter is urgent; the committee may fix the articles as it pleases; they are worthless if the principle is not common sense.” Through this expeditious method discussion is stifled. The Jacobins purposely prevent the Assembly from giving the matter any consideration. They count on its bewilderment. In the name of reason, they discard reason as far as they can, and hasten a vote because their decrees do not support examination.—At other times, and especially on grand occasions, they compel a vote. In general, votes are taken sitting or standing, and, for the four hundred deputies of the “Centre,” subject to the scolding of the exasperated galleries, it is a tolerably hard trial. “Part of them do not arise, or they rise with the ‘Left’”;40 if the “Right” happens to have a majority, “this is contested in bad faith and a call of the house is demanded.” Now, “the calls of the house, through an intolerable abuse, are always published, the Jacobins declaring that it is well for the people to know their friends from their enemies.” The meaning of this is that the list of the opposition will soon answer as a list of the proscribed, on which the timid are not disposed to inscribe themselves; the result is an immediate defection in the heavy battalion of the “Centre”; “this is a positive fact,” says Hua, “of which we were all witnesses; we Edition: current; Page: [511] always lost a hundred votes on the call of the house.”—Towards the end they give up, and protest no more, except by staying away; on the 14th of June, on the whole system of feudal credit being abolished without indemnity, “no part of the house was occupied except the extreme left; the rest of it was empty”; out of 497 deputies present, 200 left the room.41 Encouraged for a moment by the appearance of some possible protection, they twice exonerate General Lafayette, behind whom they see an army,42 and brave the despots of the Assembly, the clubs, and the streets. But, for lack of a military chief and vantage ground, the visible majority is twice obliged to yield, to keep silent, and fly or retreat under the dictation of the victorious faction, which has strained and forced the legislative machine until it has become disjointed and broken down.

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Policy of the Assembly— I. State of France at the end of 1791—Powerlessness of the Law— II. The Assembly hostile to the oppressed and favoring oppressors—Decrees against the nobles and clergy—Amnesty for deserters, convicts, and bandits—Anarchical and levelling maxims— III. War—Disposition of foreign powers—The King’s dislikes—Provocations of the Girondists—Date and causes of the rupture— IV. Secret motives of the leaders—Their control compromised by peace—Discontent of the rich and cultivated class—Formation and increase of the party of order—The King and this party reconciled— V. Effect of the war on the commonalty—Its alarm and its rage—The second revolutionary outburst and its characteristics—Alliance of the Girondists with the populace—The red cap and pikes—Universal substitution of government by force for government by law.


If the deputies who, on the 1st of October, 1791, so solemnly and enthusiastically swore to the Constitution, had been willing to open their eyes, they would have seen this Constitution constantly violated, both in its letter and spirit, over the entire territory. As usual, and through the vanity of authorship, M. Thouret, the last president of the Constituent Assembly, had, in his final report, hidden disagreeable truth underneath pompous and delusive phrases; but it was only necessary to look over the monthly record to see whether, as guaranteed by him, “the decrees were faithfully executed in all parts of the empire.”—“Where is this faithful execution to be Edition: current; Page: [513] found?” inquires Mallet-Dupan.1 “Is it at Toulon, in the midst of the dead and wounded, shot in the very face of the amazed municipality and Directory? Is it at Marseilles, where two private individuals are knocked down and massacred as aristocrats,” under the pretext “that they sold to children poisoned sugar-plums with which to begin a counter-revolution?” Is it at Arles, “against which 4,000 men from Marseilles, despatched by the club, are at this moment marching?” Is it at Bayeux, “where the sieur Fauchet against whom a warrant for arrest is out, besides being under the ban of political disability, has just been elected deputy to the Legislative Assembly?” Is it at Blois, “where the commandant, doomed to death for having tried to execute these decrees, is forced to send away a loyal regiment and submit to licentious troops?” Is it at Nismes, “where the Dauphiny regiment, on leaving the town by the Minister’s orders, is ordered by the people” and the club “to disobey the Minister and remain?” Is it in those regiments whose officers, with pistols at their breasts, are obliged to leave and give place to amateurs? Is it at Toulouse, “where, at the end of August, the administrative authorities order all unsworn priests to leave the town in three days, and withdraw to a distance of four leagues?” Is it in the outskirts of Toulouse, “where, on the 28th of August, a municipal officer is hung at a street-lamp after an affray with guns?” Is it at Paris, where, on the 25th of September, the Irish college, vainly protected by an international treaty, has just been assailed by the populace; where Catholics, listening to the orthodox mass, are driven out and dragged to the authorised mass in the vicinity; where one woman is torn from the confessional, and another flogged with all their might?2

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These troubles, it is said, are transient; on the Constitution being proclaimed, order will return of itself. Very well, the Constitution is voted, accepted by the King, proclaimed, and entrusted to the Legislative Assembly. Let the Legislative Assembly consider what is done in the first few weeks. In the eight departments that surround Paris, there are riots on every market-day; farms are invaded and the cultivators of the soil are ransomed by bands of vagabonds; the mayor of Melun is riddled with balls and dragged out from the hands of the populace streaming with blood.3 At Belfort, a riot for the purpose of retaining a convoy of coin, and the commissioner of the Upper-Rhine in danger of death; at Bouxvillers, owners of property attacked by poor National Guards, and by the soldiers of Salm-Salm, houses broken into and cellars pillaged; at Mirecourt, a mob of women beating drums, and, for three days, holding the Hôtel-de-Ville in a state of siege.—One day Rochefort is in a state of insurrection, and the workmen of the harbor compel the municipality to unfurl the red flag.4 On the following day, it is Lille, the people of which, “unwilling to exchange its money and assignats for paper-rags, called billets de confiance, gather into mobs and threaten, while a whole garrison is necessary to prevent an explosion.” On the 16th of October, it is Avignon in the power of bandits, with the abominable Edition: current; Page: [515] butchery of the Glacière. On the 5th of November, at Caen, there are eighty-two gentlemen, townsmen and artisans, knocked down and dragged to prison, for having offered their services to the municipality as special constables. On the 14th of November, at Montpellier, the roughs triumph; eight men and women are killed in the streets or in their houses, and all conservatives are disarmed or put to flight. By the end of October, it is a gigantic column of smoke and flame shooting upward suddenly from week to week and spreading everywhere, growing, on the other side of the Atlantic, into civil war in St. Domingo, where wild beasts are let loose against their keepers; 50,000 blacks take the field, and, at the outset, 1,000 whites are assassinated, 15,000 negroes slain, 200 sugar-mills destroyed and damage done to the amount of 600,000,000; “a colony of itself alone worth ten provinces, is almost annihilated.”5 At Paris, Condorcet is busy writing in his journal that “this news is not reliable, there being no object in it but to create a French empire beyond the seas for the King, where there will be masters and slaves.” A corporal of the Paris National Guard, on his own authority, orders the King to remain indoors, fearing that he may escape, and forbids a sentinel to let him go out after nine o’clock in the evening;6 at the Tuileries, stump-speakers in the open air denounce aristocrats and priests; at the Palais-Royal, there is a pandemonium of public lust and incendiary speeches.7 There are centres of riot in all quarters, “as many robberies as there are quarter-hours, and no robbers punished; no police; overcrowded courts; more delinquents than there are prisons to hold them; nearly all the private mansions closed; the annual consumption in the faubourg St. Germain alone diminished by 250,000,000; 20,000 thieves, with branded Edition: current; Page: [516] backs, idling away time in houses of bad repute, at the theatres, in the Palais-Royal, at the National Assembly, and in the coffee-houses; thousands of beggars infesting the streets, cross-ways, and public squares; everywhere an image of the deepest and least affecting poverty, because it is accompanied with insolence; swarms of the tattered vendors of all sorts of paper-money, issued by anybody that chose to put it in circulation, cut up into bits, sold, given, and coming back in rags, fouler than the miserable creatures who deal in it.”8 Out of 700,000 inhabitants there are 100,000 of the poor, of which 60,000 have flocked in from the departments;9 among them are 30,000 needy mechanics belonging to the national workshops, discharged and sent home in the preceding month of June, but who, returning three months later, are again swallowed up in the great sink of vagabondage, hurling their floating mass against the crazy edifice of public authority and furnishing the forces of sedition.—At Paris, and in the provinces, disobedience exists throughout the hierarchy. Directories countermand ministerial orders. Here, municipalities brave the commands of their Directory; there, communities order around their mayor with a drawn sword. Elsewhere, soldiers and sailors put their officers under arrest. The accused insult the judge on the bench and force him to cancel his verdict; mobs tax or plunder wheat in the market; National Guards prevent its distribution, or seize it in the storehouses. There is no security for property, lives, or consciences. The majority of Frenchmen are deprived of their right to worship in their own faith, and of voting at the elections. There is no safety, day or night, for the élite of the nation, for ecclesiastics and the gentry, for army and navy officers, for rich merchants and large landed proprietors; no protection in the Edition: current; Page: [517] courts, no income from public funds; denunciations abound, expulsions, banishments to the interior, attacks on private houses; there is no right of free assemblage, even to enforce the law under the orders of legal authorities.10 Opposed to this, and in contrast with it, is the privilege and immunity of a sect formed into a political corporation, “which extends its filiations over the whole kingdom, and even abroad; which has its own treasury, its committees, and its by-laws; which rules the government, which judges justice,”11 and which, from the capital to the hamlet, usurps or directs the administration. Liberty, equality, and the majesty of the law exist nowhere, except in words. Of the three thousand decrees given birth to by the Constituent Assembly, the most lauded, those the best set off by a philosophic baptism, form a mass of stillborn abortions of which France is the burying-ground. That which really subsists underneath the false appearances of right, proclaimed and sworn to over and over again, is, on the one hand, an oppression of the upper and cultivated classes, from which all the rights of man are withdrawn, and, on the other hand, the tyranny of the fanatical and brutal rabble which assumes to itself all the rights of sovereignty.


Against this overthrow and this disgrace the honest men of the Assembly protest in vain. Led by and forced to do what the Jacobins pleased, it revises the law only to overwhelm the oppressed and to sanction their oppressors.—Without making any distinction between armed assemblages at Coblentz, which it had a right to punish, and fugitives, three times as numerous, old men, women and children, so many indifferent and inoffensive people, not merely nobles but plebians,12 who left the soil only to escape popular outrages, it Edition: current; Page: [518] confiscates the property of all emigrants and orders this to be sold.13 Through the new restriction of the passport, those who remain are tied to their domiciles, their power of going and coming, even in the interior, being subject to the decision of each Jacobin municipality.14 It completes their ruin by depriving them without indemnity of all income from their real estate, of all the seignorial rights which the Constituent Assembly had declared to be legitimate.15 It abolishes, as far as it can, their history and their past, by burning in the public dépôts their genealogical titles.16 To all unsworn ecclesiastics, to two-thirds of the French clergy, it withholds bread, the small pension allowed them for food, which is the ransom of their confiscated possessions;17 it declares them “suspected of revolt against the law and of bad intentions against the country”; it subjects them to special oversight; it authorises their expulsion without trial by local rulers in case of disturbances; it decrees that in such cases they shall Edition: current; Page: [519] be sentenced to transportation.18 It suppresses “all secular congregations of men and women ecclesiastic or laic, even those wholly devoted to hospital service and the relief of the sick,” even those which give primary instruction and whose abolition “will take away from 600,000 children the means of learning to read and write.”19 It lays injuctions on their dress; it places episcopal palaces in the market for sale, also the buildings still occupied by monks and nuns.20 It welcomes with rounds of applause a married priest who introduces his wife to the Assembly.—Not only is the Assembly destructive but it is insulting; the authors of each decree passed by it add to its thunderbolt the rattling hail of their own abuse and slander. “Children,” says a deputy, “have the poison of aristocracy and fanaticism injected into them by the congregations.”21 “Purge the rural districts of the vermin which is devouring them!”—“Everybody knows,” says Isnard, “that the priest is as cowardly as he is vindictive. … Let these pestiferous fellows be sent back to Roman and Italian lazarettos. … What religion is that which, in its nature, is unsocial and rebellious in principle?”—Whether unsworn, whether emigrants actually or in feeling, “large proprietors, rich merchants, false conservatives,”22 all are outspoken conspirators or concealed enemies. All public disasters are imputed to them. “The cause of the troubles,” says Brissot,23 “which lay waste the colonies, is the infernal vanity of the whites who have three times violated an engagement Edition: current; Page: [520] which they have three times sworn to maintain.” Scarcity of work and short crops are accounted for through their cunning malevolence. “A large number of rich men,” says François de Nantes,24 “allow their property to run down and their fields to lie fallow, so as to enjoy seeing the suffering of the people.” France is divided into two parties, on the one hand, the aristocracy to which is attributed every vice, and, on the other hand, the people on whom is conferred every virtue. “The defence of liberty,” says Lamarque,25 “is basely abandoned every day by the rich and by the former nobility, who put on the mask of patriotism only to cheat us. It is not in this class, but only in that of citizens who are disdainfully called the people, that we find pure beings, those ardent souls really worthy of liberty.”—One step more and everything will be permitted to the virtuous against the wicked; if misfortune befalls the aristocrats so much the worse for them. Those officers who are stoned, M. de la Jaille and others, “wouldn’t they do better not to deserve being sacrificed to popular fury?”26 Isnard exclaims in the tribune, “it is Edition: current; Page: [521] the long-continued immunity enjoyed by criminals which has rendered the people executioners. Yes, an angry people, like an angry God, is only too often the terrible supplement of silent laws.”27—In other words crimes are justified and assassinations still provoked against those who have been assassinated for the past two years.

By a forced conclusion, if the victims are criminals, their executioners are honest, and the Assembly, which rigorously proceeds against the former, reserves all its indulgence for the latter. It reinstates the numberless deserters who abandoned their flags previous to the 1st of January, 1789;28 it allows them three sous per league mileage, and brings them back to their homes or to their regiments to become, along with their brethren whose desertion is more recent, either leaders or recruits for the mobs. It releases from the galleys the forty Swiss guards of Chateauroux whom their own cantons desired to have kept there; it permits these “martyrs to Liberty” to promenade the streets of Paris in a triumphal car;29 it admits them to the bar of the house, and, taking a formal vote on it, extends to Edition: current; Page: [522] them the honors of the session.30 Finally, as if it were their special business to let loose on the public the most ferocious and foulest of the rabble, it amnesties Jourdan, Mainvielle, Duprat, and Raphel, fugitive convicts, jail-birds, the condottieri of all lands assuming the title of “the brave brigands of Avignon,” and who, for eighteen months, have pillaged and plundered the Comtat; it stops the trial, almost over, of the Glacière butchers; it tolerates the return of these as victors,31 and their installation by their own act in the places of the fugitive magistrates, allowing Avignon to be treated as a conquered city, and, henceforth, to become their prey and their booty. This is a willful restoration of the vermin to the social body, and, in this feverish body, nothing is overlooked that will increase the fever. The most anarchical and deleterious maxims emanate, like miasma, from the Assembly benches. The reduction of things to an absolute level is adopted as a principle; “equality of rights,” says Lamarque,32 “is to be maintained only by tending steadily to an equality of fortunes”; this theory is practically applied on all sides since the proletariat is pillaging all who own property.—“Let the communal possessions be partitioned among the citizens of the surrounding villages,” says François de Nantes, “in an inverse ratio to their fortunes, and let him who has the least inheritance take the largest share in the divisions.”33 Conceive the effect of this motion read at evening to peasants who are at this very moment claiming their seignior’s forest for their commune. M. Corneille prohibits any tax to be levied for the public treasury on the wages of manual labor, because nature, and not society, gives us the “right to live.”34 On the other hand, he confers on the public treasury the right of taking the whole of an income, because it is society, and not nature, which institutes public funds; hence, according to him, the poor majority Edition: current; Page: [523] must be relieved of all taxation, and all taxes must fall on the rich minority. The system is well-timed and the argument apt for convincing indigent or straitened tax-payers, namely, the refractory majority, that its taxes are just, and that it should not refuse to be taxed.—“Under the reign of liberty,” says President Daverhoult,35 “the people have the right to insist not merely on subsistence, but again on plenty and happiness.” Accordingly, being in a state of poverty they have been betrayed.—“Elevated to the height achieved by the French people,” says another president, “it looks down upon the tempests under its feet.”36 The tempest is at hand and bursts over its head. War, like a black cloud, rises above the horizon, overspreads the sky, thunders and wraps France filled with explosive materials in a circle of lightning, and it is the Assembly which, through the greatest of its mistakes, draws down the bolt on the nation’s head.


It might have been turned aside with a little prudence. Two principal grievances were alleged, one by France and the other by the Empire.—On the one hand, and very justly, France complained of the gathering of émigrés, which the Emperor and Electors tolerated against it on the frontier. In the first place, however, a few thousands of gentlemen, without troops or stores, and nearly without money,37 Edition: current; Page: [524] need not excite much fear, and, besides this, long before the decisive hour came these troops were dispersed, at once by the Emperor in his own dominions, and, fifteen days afterwards, by the Elector of Trèves in his electorate.38—On the other hand, according to treaties, the German princes, who owned estates in Alsace, made claims for the feudal rights abolished on their French possessions and the Diet forbade them to accept the offered indemnity. But, as far as the Diet is concerned, nothing was easier nor more customary than to let negotiations drag along, there being no risk or inconvenience attending the suit as, during the delay, the claimants remained empty-handed.—If, now, behind the ostensible motives, the real intentions are sought for, it is certain that, up to January, 1792, the intentions of Austria were pacific. The grants made to the Comte d’Artois, in the Declaration of Pilnitz, were merely a court-sprinkling of holy-water, the semblance of an illusory promise and subject to a European concert of action, that is to say, annulled beforehand by an Edition: current; Page: [525] indefinite postponement, while this pretended league of sovereigns is at once “placed by the politicians in the class of august comedies.”39 Far from taking up arms against new France in the name of old France, the emperor Leopold and his prime minister Kaunitz, were glad to see the constitution completed and accepted by the King; it “got them out of trouble,”40 and Prussia likewise. In all state management political interest is the great mainspring and both powers needed all their forces in another direction, in Poland, one for retarding, and the other for accelerating its divisions, and both, when the partition took place, to get enough for themselves and prevent Russia from getting too much.—The sovereigns of Prussia and Austria, accordingly, did not yet entertain any idea of delivering Louis XVI, nor of conducting the émigrés back, nor of conquering French provinces, and if anything was to be expected from them on account of personal ill-will, there was no fear of their armed intervention.—On the side of France it is not the King who urges a rupture; he knows too well what mortal danger there is to him and his in the chances of war. Secretly as well as publicly, in writing to the émigrés, his wishes are to bring them back or to restrain them. In his private correspondence he asks of the European powers not physical but moral aid, the external support of a congress which will permit moderate men, the partisans of order, all owners of property, to raise their heads and rally around the throne and the laws against anarchy. In his ministerial correspondence every precaution is taken not to apply the match or let it be applied to gunpowder. At the critical moment of the discussion41 he entreats the deputies, through M. Edition: current; Page: [526] Delessart, his Minister of Foreign Affairs, to weigh their words and especially not to send forth a challenge on a “fixed term of delay.” He resists to the very last as far as his passive will lets him. On being compelled to declare war he requires beforehand the advice of all his ministers, over their signatures, and, only at the last extremity, utters the fatal words “with tears in his eyes,” dragged on by the Assembly which has just cited M. Delessart before the supreme court at Orleans, under a capital charge, and which qualifies all caution as treachery.

It is the Assembly then which launches the disabled ship on the roaring abysses of an unknown sea, without a rudder and leaking at every seam; it alone slips the cable which held it in port and which the foreign powers neither dared nor desired to sever. Here, again, the Girondists are the leaders and hold the axe; since the last of October they have grasped it and struck repeated blows.42—As an exception, the extreme Jacobins, Couthon, Collot d’Herbois, Danton, Robespierre, do not side with them. Robespierre, who at first proposed to confine the Emperor “within the circle of Popilius,”43 fears the placing of too great power in the King’s hands, and, growing mistrustful, preaches distrust.—But the great mass of the party, led by clamorous public opinion, impels on the timid marching in front. Of the many things of which knowledge is necessary to conduct successfully such a complex and delicate affair, they know nothing; they are ignorant about cabinets, courts, populations, treaties, precedents, timely forms and requisite style. Their guide and counsellor in foreign relations is Brissot whose pre-eminence is based on Edition: current; Page: [527] their ignorance and who, exalted into a statesman, becomes for a few months the most conspicuous figure in Europe.44 To whatever extent a European calamity may be attributed to any one man, this one is to be attributed to him. It is this wretch, born in a pastry-cook’s shop, brought up in an attorney’s office, formerly a police agent at 150 francs per month, once in league with scandal-mongers and black-mailers,45 a penny-a-liner, busybody, and intermeddler, who, with the half-information of a nomad, scraps of newspaper ideas and reading-room lore,46 added to his scribblings as a writer and his club declamation, directs the destinies of France and starts a war in Europe which is to destroy six millions of lives. From the garret in which his wife washes his shirts, he enjoys the snubbing of potentates and, on the 20th of October, in the tribune,47 he begins by insulting thirty foreign sovereigns. This keen, intense enjoyment on which the new fanaticism daily feeds itself, Madame Roland herself delights in, with evident complacency, in the two famous letters in which, with a supercilious tone, she first instructs the King Edition: current; Page: [528] and next the Pope.48 Brissot, at bottom, regards himself as a Louis XIV, and expressly invites the Jacobins to imitate the haughty ways of the Great Monarch.49—To the mismanagement of the interloper, and the sensitiveness of the upstart, must be added the rigidity of the sectary. The Jacobins, in the name of abstract right, deny historic right; they impose from above, and by force, that truth of which they are the apostles, and allow themselves every provocation which they prohibit to others. “Europe must know,” exclaims Isnard,50 “that ten millions of Frenchmen, armed with the sword, with the pen, with reason, with eloquence, might, if provoked, change the face of the world and make tyrants tremble on their thrones of clay.” “Wherever a throne exists,” says Hérault de Séchelles, “there is an enemy.”51 “Honest capitulation between tyranny and liberty,” says Brissot, “is impossible. Your Constitution is an eternal anathema against absolute monarchs. … It places them on trial, it pronounces judgment on them; it seems to say to each—tomorrow thou shalt pass away or shalt be king only through the people. War is now a national benefit, and not to have war is the only calamity to be dreaded.”52—“Tell the king,” says Gensonné, “that war is necessary, that public opinion demands it, that the safety of the empire makes Edition: current; Page: [529] it a law.”53—“The state we are in,” concludes Vergniaud, “is a veritable state of destruction that may lead us to disgrace and death. To arms! to arms! Citizens, freemen, defend your liberty, confirm the hopes of that of the human race. … Lose not the advantage of your position. Attack now that there is every sign of complete success. … The manes of past generations seem to me crowding into this temple to conjure you, in the name of the evils which slavery has compelled them to endure, to preserve future generations from similar evils, the generations whose destinies are in your hands! Let this prayer be granted! Be for the future a new Providence! Ally yourselves with eternal justice!”54—There is no longer any room for serious discussion with those Marseilles orators. Brissot, in response to the claim made by the Emperor in behalf of the princes’ property in Alsatia, replies that “the sovereignty of the people is not bound by the treaties of tyrants.”55 As to the gatherings of the émigrés, the Emperor having yielded on this point, he will yield on the others.56 Let him formally renounce all combinations against France. “I want war on the 10th of February,” says Brissot, “if we do not receive advices of this renunciation.” No explanations are to be listened to; we want satisfaction; “to require satisfaction is to put the Emperor at our mercy.”57 The Assembly, so eager to start the quarrel, Edition: current; Page: [530] usurps the King’s right to take the first step and formally declares war, fixing the date.58—The die is now cast. “They want war,” says the Emperor, “and they shall have it.” Austria immediately forms an alliance with Prussia, threatened, like herself, with revolutionary propaganda.59 By sounding the tocsin the Jacobins, masters of the Assembly, have succeeded in bringing about that “monstrous alliance,” and, from day to day, this tocsin sounds the louder. One year more, thanks to this policy, and France will have all Europe for an enemy and for an only friend, the Regency of Algiers, whose internal system of government is about the same as her own.


Behind their carmagnoles60 we can detect a design which they will avow later on.—“We were always opposed by the Constitution,” Brissot is to say, “and nothing but war could put the Constitution down.”61 Diplomatic wrongs, consequently, of which they make parade, Edition: current; Page: [531] are simply pretexts; if they urge war it is for the purpose of overthrowing the legal order of things which annoys them; their real object is the conquest of power, a second internal revolution, the application of their system and a final state of equality.—Concealed behind them is the most politic and absolute of theorists, a man “whose great art is the attainment of his ends without showing himself, the preparation of others for far-sighted views of which they have no suspicion, and that of speaking but little in public and acting in secret.”62 This man is Sièyes, “the leader of everything without seeming to lead anything.” Equally as infatuated as Rousseau with his own speculations, but as unscrupulous and as clear-sighted as Machiavelli in the selection of practical means, he was, is, and will be, in decisive moments, the consulting counsel of radical democracy. “His pride tolerates no superiority. He causes nobility to be abolished because he is not a noble; because he does not possess all he will destroy all. His fundamental doctrine for the consolidation of the Revolution is, that it is indispensable to change religion and to change the dynasty.”—Now, had peace been maintained all this was impossible; moreover the ascendency of the party was compromised. Entire classes that had adhered to the party when it launched insurrection against the privileged, broke loose from it now that insurrection was directed against them; among thoughtful men and among those with property, most were disgusted with anarchy, and likewise disgusted with the abettors of it. Many administrators, magistrates and functionaries recently elected, loudly complained of their authority being subject to that of the populace. Many cultivators, manufacturers and merchants have become silently exasperated at the fruits of their labor and economy being surrendered at discretion to robbers and the indigent. It was hard for the flour-dealers of Edition: current; Page: [532] Etampes not to dare send away their wheat, to be obliged to supply their customers at night, to tremble in their own houses, and know that if they went out-doors they risked their lives.63 It was hard for wholesale grocers in Paris to see their warehouses invaded, their windows smashed, their bags of coffee and boxes of sugar valued at a low price, parcelled out and carried away by old hags or taken gratis by scamps who ran off and sold them at the other end of the street.64 It was hard in all places for the families of the old bourgeoisie, for the formerly prominent men in each town and village, for the eminent in each art, profession or trade, for reputable and well-to-do people, in short, for the majority of men who had a good roof over their heads and a good coat on their backs, to undergo the illegal domination of a crowd led by a few hundreds or dozens of stump-speakers and fire-brands.—Already, in the beginning of 1792, this dissatisfaction was so great as to be denounced in the tribune and in the press. Isnard65 railed against “that multitude of large property-holders, those opulent merchants, those haughty, wealthy personages who, advantageously placed in the social amphitheatre, are unwilling to have their seats changed.” “The bourgeoisie,” wrote Pétion,66 “that numerous class free of any anxiety, is separating itself from the people; it considers itself above them, … they are the sole object of its distrust. It is everywhere haunted by the one idea that the revolution is a war between those who have and those who have not.”—It abstains, indeed, from the elections, it keeps away from patriotic clubs, it demands the restoration of order and the reign of Edition: current; Page: [533] law; it rallies to itself “the multitude of conservative, timid people, for whom tranquillity is the prime necessity,” and especially, which is still more serious, it charges the disturbances upon their veritable authors. With suppressed indignation and a mass of undisputed evidence, André Chénier, a man of feeling, starts up in the midst of the silent crowd and openly tears off the mask from the Jacobins.67 He brings into full light the daily sophism by which a mob, “some hundreds of idlers gathered in a garden or at a theatre, are impudently called the people.” He portrays “those three or four thousand usurpers of national sovereignty whom their orators and writers daily intoxicate with grosser incense than any adulation offered to the worst of despots”; those assemblies where “an infinitely small number of Frenchmen appears large, because they are united and yell”; that Paris club from which honest, industrious, intelligent people had withdrawn one by one to give place to intriguers in debt, to persons of tarnished reputations, to the hypocrites of patriotism, to the lovers of uproar, to abortive talents, to corrupted intellects, to outcasts of every kind and degree who, unable to manage their Edition: current; Page: [534] own business, indemnify themselves by managing that of the public. He shows around the central workshop twelve hundred branches of insurrection, twelve hundred affiliated clubs which, “holding each other’s hands, form a sort of electric chain around all France,” and giving it a shock at every touch from head-quarters; their confederation installed and enthroned not merely as a State within the State but as a State that is sovereign in a vassal State; administrative bodies summoned to their bar, judicial verdicts set aside through their intervention, private individuals searched, assessed and condemned through their verdicts; a steady, systematic defense of insubordination and revolt; “commerce and industry styled criminal under the name of monopoly”; property unsettled and every rich man rendered suspicious, “talent and integrity silenced”; in short, a public conspiracy against society in the very name of society, “while the sacred symbol of liberty is made use of to seal” the exemption from punishment of a few tyrants.

An outspoken protest of this kind embodied what most Frenchmen muttered to themselves, and from month to month, graver excesses excited greater censure. “Anarchy exists68 to a degree scarcely to be paralleled, and such is the horror and apprehension which licentious associations have universally inspired, there is some reason to believe that the great mass of the French population would consider even despotism a blessing, if accompanied with security to persons and property, such as is experienced under the worst governments in Europe.”—Another observer, not less competent,69 says: “It is plain to my eyes that when Louis XVI. finally succumbed, he had more partisans in France than the year previous, at the time of his flight to Varennes.”—The truth of this, indeed, was frequently verified at the end of 1791 and beginning of 1792, by various investigations.70 “Eighteen thousand officers of every grade, elected by Edition: current; Page: [535] the constitutionalists, seventy-one department administrations out of eighty-two, most of the tribunals,71 all traders and manufacturers, every chief and a large portion of the National Guard of Paris,” in short, the élite of the nation, and among citizens generally, the great majority who lived from day to day were for him, and for the “Right” of the Assembly against the “Left.” If internal trouble had not been complicated by external difficulties, there would have been a change in opinion, and this the King expected. In accepting the Constitution, he thought that its defects would be revealed in practical operation and that they would lead to a reform. In the mean time he scrupulously observed the Constitution, and, through interest as well as conscience, kept his oath to the letter. “The most faithful execution of the Constitution,” said he to one of his ministers, “is the surest way to make the nation see the changes that ought to be made in it.”72—In other words, he counted on experience, and it is very probable that if there had been nothing to interfere with experience, his calculations would have turned out correct. The nation would have finally determined between the defenders of order and the instigators of disorder; it would have decided for the magistrates against the clubs, for the police against rioters, for the King against the populace. In one or two years more it would have learned that a restoration of the executive power was indispensable for securing the execution of the laws; that the chief of police, with his hands tied, could not do his duty; that it was Edition: current; Page: [536] undoubtedly wise to give him his orders, but that if he was to be of any use against knaves and fools, his hands should first be set free.


Just the contrary with war; the aspect of things changes, and the alternative is the other way. It is no longer a choice between order and disorder, but between the new and the old régime, for, behind foreign opponents on the frontier, there stand the émigrés. The commotion is terrible, especially amongst the lower classes which mainly bore the whole weight of the old edifice; among the millions who live by the sweat of their brow, artisans, small farmers, métayers, day-laborers and soldiers, also the smugglers of salt and other articles, poachers, vagabonds, beggars and half-beggars, who, taxed, plundered, and harshly treated for centuries, have to endure, from father to son, poverty, oppression and disdain. They know through their own experience the difference between their late and their present condition. They have only to fall back on personal knowledge to revive in their imaginations the enormous royal, ecclesiastical, and seignorial taxes, the direct tax of eighty-one per cent., the bailiffs in charge, the seizures and the husbandry service, the inquests of excisemen and game-keepers, the ravages of wild birds and of pigeons, the extortions of the collector and his clerk, the delay and partiality in obtaining justice, the rashness and brutality of the police, the kicks and cuffs of the constabulary, the swarms of wretches like heaps of dirt and filth, the promiscuousness, the over-crowding, the filth and the starvation of places of confinement.73 They have simply Edition: current; Page: [537] to open their eyes to see their immense deliverance; all direct or indirect taxes for the past two years legally abolished or practically suppressed, beer at two sous a pot, wine at six sous a pint, pigeons in their meat-safes, game on their turn-spits, the wood of the national forests in their garrets, the gendarmerie timid, the police absent, in many places the crops all theirs, the owner not daring to claim his share, the judge avoiding condemning them, the constable refusing to serve papers on them, privileges restored in their favor, the public authorities cringing to mobs and yielding to their exactions, remaining quiet or unarmed in the face of their misdeeds, their outrages excused or tolerated, their superior good sense and deep feeling lauded in thousands of harangues, the jacket and the blouse considered as symbols of patriotism, and supremacy in the State claimed for the sans-culottes in the name of their merits and their virtues.—And now the overthrow of all this is announced to them, a league against them of foreign kings, the emigrants in arms, an invasion imminent, the Croats and Pandours in the field, hordes of mercenaries and barbarians crowding down on them again to put Edition: current; Page: [538] them in chains.—From the workshop to the cottage there rolls along a formidable outburst of anger, accompanied with national songs, denouncing the plots of tyrants and summoning the people to arms.74 This is the second wave of the Revolution, ever increasing and roaring, less grand than the former one, since it bears along with it but little more than the lower class, but higher and much more destructive.

Not only, indeed, is the mass now launched forth of the most brutal sort, but a fresh sentiment animates it, the force of which is incalculable, that of plebeian pride, that of the subject and poor man, who, suddenly erect after ages of debasement, relishes, far beyond his hopes and unstintedly, the delights of equality, independence, and dominion. “Fifteen millions of white negroes,” says Mallet-Dupan,75 worse fed, more miserable than those of St. Domingo, rebellious like them and emancipated from all authority through rebellion, accustomed like them, through thirty months of license, to ruling over all that is left of their former masters, proud like them of the restoration of their caste and exulting in their horny hands—one may imagine their transports of rage on hearing the trumpet-blast which awakens them, showing them on the horizon the returning planters, bringing with them new whips and heavier manacles?—Nothing is more distrustful than such a sentiment in such breasts—quickly alarmed, ready to strike, ready for any act of violence, blindly credulous, headlong and easily impelled, not merely against real enemies on the outside, but at first against imaginary enemies on the inside,76 the King, the ministers, the gentry, priests, Edition: current; Page: [539] parliamentarians, orthodox catholics, all administrators and magistrates who were imprudent enough to appeal to the law, all manufacturers, merchants, and owners of property who condemn disorder, the wealthy whose egotism keeps them at home, those who are well-off, well-bred and well-dressed, all that are under suspicion because they have lost by the new régime, or because they have not adopted its ways.—Such is the colossal brute which the Girondists introduce into the political arena.77 For six months they shake red flags before its eyes, goad it on, work it up into a rage and drive it forward by decrees and proclamations against their adversaries and against its keepers, against the nobles and the clergy, against inside aristocrats in complicity with those of Coblentz, against “the Austrian committee” the accomplice of Austria, against the King, whose caution they transform into treachery, against the whole government to which they impute the anarchy they excite, and the war of which they are the instigators.

Thus over-excited and topsy-turvy, nothing is now wanting to the plebeian class but arms and a rallying-point. The Girondists furnish both. Through a striking coincidence, one which shows that the plan was concerted,78 they set three political engines agoing at Edition: current; Page: [540] one stroke. Just at the moment when, through their usual rodomontade, they rendered war inevitable, they put on the livery of the people and arm the poor. At the end of January, 1792, almost in the same week, their ultimatum to Austria was announced by fixing the date of delay, by adopting the red woollen cap and beginning the manufacture of pikes.—It is evident that pikes are of no use in the open field against cannon and a regular army; accordingly they are intended for use in the interior and in towns. Let the national-guard who can pay for his uniform, and the active citizen whose three francs of direct tax gives him a privilege, own their guns; the long-shoreman, the market-porter, the lodger, the passive citizen, whose poverty excludes them from voting must have their pikes, and, in these insurrectionary times, a ballot is not worth a good pike wielded by brawny arms.—The magistrate in his robes may now issue any summons he pleases, but it will be rammed down his throat, and, lest he should be in doubt of this he is made to know it beforehand. “The Revolution began with pikes and pikes will finish it.”79 “Ah,” say the frequenters of the Tuileries gardens, “if the good patriots of the Champ de Mars only had pikes like these the blue-coats (Lafayette’s guards) would not have had such a good chance!”—“They are to be borne everywhere, wherever there are enemies of the people, to the Château, if any can be found there!” They will override the veto and secure the passage of the proper decrees in the National Assembly. The faubourg St. Antoine tenders those it has for this purpose, and, to mark the use made of them, it complains because “efforts are made to substitute the aristocracy of wealth for the power of birth.” It demands “severe measures against the rascally hypocrites who, with the Constitution in their hands, slaughter the people.” It declares that “kings, ministers and a civil Edition: current; Page: [541] list will pass away, but that the rights of man, national sovereignty and pikes will not pass away,” and, by order of the president, the National Assembly thanks the petitioners “for the advice their zeal prompts them to give.”

Between the leaders of the Assembly and the populace armed with pikes, the party is arraigned against the rich, against Constitutionalists, against the government, and henceforth, the Jacobin extremists march side by side with the Girondists, both reconciled for the attack except in so far as to differ from each other after the victory. “The object of the Girondists80 is not a republic in name, but an actual republic through a reduction of the civil list to five millions, through the curtailment of most of the royal prerogatives, through a change of dynasty of which the new head would be a sort of honorary president of the republic to which they would assign an executive council appointed by the Assembly, that is to say, by themselves.” As to the Jacobin extremists we find no principle with them but “that of a rigorous, absolute application of the Rights of Man. With the aid of such a charter they aim at changing the laws and public officers every six months, at extending their levelling process to every constituted authority, to all legal pre-eminence and to property. The only régime they long for is the democracy of a contentious rabble … The vilest instruments, professional agitators, brigands, fanatics, every sort of wretch, the hardened and armed poverty-stricken, who, in wild disorder” march to the attack of property and to “universal pillagings”—in short, barbarians of town and country “who form their ordinary army and never leave it inactive one single day.”—Under their universal, concerted and growing usurpation the substance of power melts wholly away in the hands of the legal authorities; little by little, these are reduced to vain counterfeits, while from one end of France to the other, long before the final collapse, the faction, in the provinces as well as at Paris, substitutes, under the cry of public danger, the government of might for the government of law.

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The Departments— I. Provence in 1792—Early supremacy of the Jacobins in Marseilles—Composition of the party—The club and the municipality—Expulsion of the Ernest regiment— II. The expedition to Aix—The regiment disarms—The Directory driven out—Pressure on the new Directory— III. The Constitutionalists of Arles—The Marseilles expedition against Arles—Excesses committed by them in the town and its vicinity—Invasion of Apt, the club and its volunteers— IV. The Jacobins of Avignon—How they obtain recruits—Their robberies in the Comtat—The Avignon municipality in flight or in prison—Murder of Lécuyer and the Glacière massacre—Entry of the murderers, supported by their Marseilles allies—Jacobin dictatorship in Vaucluse and the Bouches-du-Rhône— V. Other departments—Uniform process of the Jacobin conquest—Preconceived formation of a Jacobin State.


If we would see the first complete planting of the revolutionary tree, we must observe it in the department of the Bouches-du-Rhône; nowhere was it so precocious, nowhere were local circumstances and native temperament so well adapted to hastening its growth.—“A torrid sky, climatic extremes, an arid soil, rocks, … wasting rivers, torrents either dry or bursting their banks,” blinding dust, nerves irritated by steady northern blasts or by the intermittent gusts of the sirocco; a sensual race, choleric and impetuous, with no intellectual or moral ballast, in which the mixture of Celt and Latin has destroyed the humane suavity of the Celt and the serious earnestness of the Roman; “complete, powerful, rugged, and restless Edition: current; Page: [543] men,”1 and yet gay, spontaneous, eloquent, dupes of their own bombast, suddenly carried away by a flow of words and superficial enthusiasm; their principal city numbering 120,000 souls, in which commercial and maritime risks foster innovating and adventurous spirits; in which the sight of suddenly-acquired fortunes expended on sensual enjoyments constantly undermines all stability of character; in which politics, like speculation, is a lottery offering its prizes to audacity; besides all this, a free port and a rendezvous for nomadic interlopers, vagabonds, persons without fixed callings,2 the lawless, bullies, and blackguards, who, like uprooted, decaying seaweed, drift from coast to coast the entire circle of the Mediterranean sea; a veritable sink filled with the dregs of twenty corrupt and semi-barbarous civilisations, where the froth of crime cast forth from the prisons of Genoa, Piedmont, Sicily, indeed, of all Italy, of Spain, of Edition: current; Page: [544] the Archipelago, and of Barbary, accumulates and ferments;3 no wonder that, in such a time, the reign of the populace should be established there sooner than elsewhere.4—After many an explosion, this reign is inaugurated August 17, 1790, by the removal of M. Lieutaud, a sort of bourgeois, moderate Lafayette, who commands the National Guard. Around him rally a majority of the population, all men “honest or not, who have anything to lose.” After he is driven out, then proscribed, then imprisoned, they resign themselves, and Marseilles belongs to the low class, consisting of 40,000 needy adventurers of which the club is the leader.

The better to ensure their empire, the municipality, one month after the expulsion of M. Lieutaud, declared every citizen “active” who had any trade or profession;5 the consequence is that vagabonds attend the meetings of the sections in contempt of constitutional law. As an offset to this, property-owners and commercial men withdrew from them, which was wise on their part, for the usual demagogical machinery is set in motion without delay. “Each section-assembly is composed of a dozen factious spirits, members of the club, who drive out honest people by displaying cudgels and bayonets. The proceedings are arranged beforehand at the club, in concert with the municipality, and woe to him who refuses to adopt them at the meeting! They go so far as to threaten citizens who wish to make any remarks with instant burial in the cellars under the churches.”6 The argument proved irresistible: “the worthiest and most numerous Edition: current; Page: [545] class is so frightened and so timid” that not one of the oppressed dare attend these meetings, unless protected by public force. “More than 80,000 inhabitants do not sleep tranquilly,” while political rights generally are vested in “five or six hundred individuals,” legally disqualified. Behind them marches the armed rabble, “the horde of brigands without a country,”7 always ready for plundering, murder, and hanging. In front of them march the local authorities, who, elected through their influence, carry on the administration under their guidance. Patrons and clients, members of the club and its satellites, they form a league which plays the part of a sovereign State, scarcely recognising, even in words, the authority of the central government.8 The decree by which the National Assembly gives full power to the Commissioners to re-establish order is denounced as plébéicide; these conscientious and cautious moderators are qualified as “dictators”; they are denounced in circular letters to all the municipalities of the department, and to all Jacobin clubs throughout the kingdom;9 the club is somewhat disposed to go to Aix to cut off their heads and send them in a trunk to the president of the National Assembly, with a threat that the same penalty awaits himself and all the deputies if they do not revoke their recent decrees; a few days after this, four sections draw up an act before a notary, stating the measures they had taken towards sending an army of 6,000 men from Marseilles to Aix, to get rid of the three intruders. The comEdition: current; Page: [546] missioners dare not enter Marseilles, where “gibbets are ready for them, and a price set on their heads.” It is as much as they can do to rescue from the faction M. Lieutaud and his friends, who, accused of lèse-nation, confined without a shadow of proof, treated like mad dogs, put in chains,10 shut up in privies and holes, and obliged to drink their own urine for lack of water, impelled by despair to the brink of suicide, barely escape murder a dozen times in the court-room and in prison.11 Against the decree of the National Assembly ordering their release, the municipality makes reclamations, contrives delays, resists, and finally stirs up its usual instruments. Just as the prisoners are about to be released a crowd of “armed persons without uniform or officer,” constantly increased “by vagabonds and foreigners,” gathers on the heights overlooking the Palais de Justice, and makes ready to fire on M. Lieutaud. Summoned to proclaim martial law, the municipality refuses, declaring that “the general detestation of the accused is too manifest”; it demands the return of Edition: current; Page: [547] the Swiss regiment to its barracks, and that the prisoners remain where they are; the only thing which it grants them is a secret permission to escape, as if they were guilty; they, accordingly, steal away clandestinely and in disguise.12—The Swiss regiment, however, which prevents the magistrates from violating the law, must pay for its insolence, and, as it is incorruptible, they conclude to drive it out of the town. For four months the municipality multiplies against it every kind of annoyance,13 and, on the 16th of October, 1791, the Jacobins provoke a row in the theatre against its officers. The same night, outside the theatre, four of these are assailed by armed bands; the post to which they retreat is nearly taken by assault; they are led to a prison for safety, and there they still remain five days afterwards, “although their innocence is admitted.” Meanwhile, to ensure “public tranquillity,” the municipality has required the commander of the post to immediately replace the Swiss Guard with National Guards on all the military posts; the latter yields to force, while the useless regiment, insulted and threatened, has nothing to do but to pack off.14 This being done, the new municipality, still more Jacobin than the old one,15 separates Marseilles from France, erects the city into a marauding republican government, gets up expeditions, levies contributions, forms alliances, and undertakes an armed conquest of the department.


The first thing is to lay its hand on the capital, Aix, where the Swiss regiment is stationed in garrison and where the superior authorities are installed. This operation is the more necessary inasmuch as the Edition: current; Page: [548] Directory of the department loudly commends the loyalty of the Swiss Guard and takes occasion to remind the Marseilles municipality of the respect due to the law. Such a remonstrance is an insult, and the municipality, in a haughty tone, calls upon the Directory to avow or disavow its letter; “if you did not write it, it is a foul report which it is our duty to examine into, and if you did, it is a declaration of war made by you against Marseilles.”16 The Directory, in polite terms and with great circumspection, affirms both its right and its utterance, and remarks that “the pro-rata list of taxes of Marseilles for 1791 is not yet reported”; that the municipality is much more concerned with saving the State than with paying its contribution and, in short, it maintains its censure.—If it will not bend it must break, and on the 4th of February, 1792, the municipality sends Barbaroux, its secretary, to Paris, that he may palliate the outrages for which they are preparing. During the night of the 25–26, the drums beat the general alarm, and three or four thousand men gather and march to Aix with six pieces of cannon. As a precaution they pretend to have no leaders, no captains or lieutenants or even corporals; to quote them, all are equal, all volunteers, each being summoned by the other; in this fashion, as all are responsible, no one is.17 They reach Aix at eleven o’clock in the forenoon, find a gate open through the connivance of those in league with them among Edition: current; Page: [549] the populace of the town and its suburbs, and summon the municipality to surrender the sentinels. In the mean time their emissaries have announced in the neighboring villages that the town was menaced by the Swiss regiment; consequently four hundred men from Aubagne arrive in haste, while from hour to hour the National Guards from the surrounding villages likewise rush in. The streets are full of armed men; shouts arise and the tumult increases; the municipal body, in the universal panic, loses its wits. This body is afraid of a nocturnal fight “between troops of the line, citizens, National Guards and armed strangers, no one being able to recognise one another or know who is an enemy.” It sends back a detachment of three hundred and fifty Swiss Guards, which the Directory had ordered to its support, and consigns the regiment to its quarters.—At this the Directory takes to flight. Military sentinels of all kinds are disarmed while the Marseilles throng, turning its advantages to account, announces to the municipality at two o’clock in the morning that, “allow it or not” it is going to attack the barracks immediately; in fact, cannon are planted, a few shots are fired, a sentinel killed, and the hemmed-in regiment is compelled to evacuate the town, the men without their guns and the officers without their swords. Their arms are stolen, the people seize the suspected, the lantern is hauled down and the noose is made ready. Cayol, the flower-girl, is hung. The municipality, with great difficulty, saves one man who is already lifted by the rope two feet from the ground, and obtains for three others “a temporary refuge” in prison.

Henceforth there is no authority at the department head-quarters, or rather it has changed hands. Another Directory, more pliable, is installed in the place of the fugitive Directory. Of the thirty-six administrators who form the Council only twelve are present at the election. Of the nine elected only six consent to sit, while often only three are found at its sessions, which three, to recruit their colleagues, are obliged to pay them.18 Hence, notwithstanding their Edition: current; Page: [550] position is the best in the department, they are worse treated and more unfortunate than their servants outside. The delegates of the club, with the municipal officers of Marseilles seated alongside of them, oblige them either to keep silent, or to utter what they dictate to them.19 “Our arms are tied,” writes one of them, “we are wholly under the yoke” of these intruders. “We have twice in succession seen more than three hundred men, many of them with guns and pistols, enter the hall and threaten us with death if we refused them what they asked. We have seen infuriate motionnaires, nearly all belonging to Avignon, mount the desks of the Directory, harangue their comrades and excite them to rioting and crime.” “You must decide between life or death,” they exclaimed to us, “you have only a quarter of an hour to choose.” “National guards have offered their sabres through the windows, left open on account of the extreme heat, to those around us and made signs to them to cut our throats.”—Thus fashioned, reduced and drilled, the Directory is simply an instrument in the hands of the Marseilles demagogues. Camoïn, Bertin and Rebecqui, the worst agitators and usurpers, rule there without control. Rebecqui and Bertin, appointed delegates in connection with matters in Arles, have themselves empowered to call for defensive troops; they immediately demand them for attack, Edition: current; Page: [551] to which the Directory vainly remonstrates; they declare to it that “not being under its inspection, it has no authority over them; being independent of it, they have no orders to receive from it nor to render to it any account of their conduct.” So much the worse for the Directory on attempting to revoke their powers. Bertin informs its vice-president that, if it dares do this he will cut off his head. They reply to the Minister’s observations with the utmost insolence.20 They glory in the boldness of the stroke and prepare another, their march on Aix being only the first halt in the long-meditated campaign which involves the possession of Arles.


No city, indeed, is more odious to them.—For two years, led or pushed on by its mayor, M. d’Antonelle, it has marched along with them or been dragged along in their wake. D’Antonelle, an ultra-revolutionist, repeatedly visited and personally encouraged the bandits of Avignon. To supply them with cannon and ammunition he stripped the Tour St. Louis of its artillery, at the risk of abandoning the mouths of the Rhone to the Barbary corsairs.21 In concert with his allies of the Comtat, the Marseilles club, and his tools taken from the neighboring boroughs, he rules in Arles “by terror,” while three hundred men recruited in the vicinity of the Mint, mechanics or sailors with strong arms and hard hands, serve him as satellites. On the 6th of June 1791, they drive away, on their own authority, the Edition: current; Page: [552] unsworn priests, who had taken refuge in the town.22—At this, however, the “property-owners and honest folks,” much more numerous and for a long time highly indignant, raise their heads; twelve hundred of them, assembled in the church of Saint-Honorat, “swore to maintain the constitution and public tranquillity,”23 and betook themselves to the club, where, in conformity with its by-laws, they force their way in en masse, as national guards and active citizens. At the same time, acting in concert with the municipality, they reorganise the National Guard and form fresh companies, the effect of which is to put an end to the Mint band, thus depriving the faction of all its strength. Thenceforth, without violence or illegal acts, the majority of the club, as well as of the National Guard, consists of constitutional monarchists, the elections of November, 1791, giving to the partisans of order nearly all the administrative offices of the commune and of the district. M. Loys, a physician and a man of energy, is elected mayor in the place of M. d’Antonelle; he is known as able to suppress a riot, “holding martial law in one hand, and his sabre in the other.”—This is more than can be endured. “To atone for the disgrace of having founded it,” Marseilles has now to bring Arles under subjection.24 In this land of ancient cities political hostility is tinctured with old municipal animosities, similar to those of Thebes against Plataea, of Rome against Veii, of Florence against Pisa. The Guelphs of Marseilles brooded over the one idea of crushEdition: current; Page: [553] ing the Ghibellins of Arles.—Already, in the electoral assembly of November, 1791, M. d’Antonelle, the president, had invited the communes of the department to take up arms against this anti-jacobin city;25 six hundred Marseilles volunteers set out on the instant, install themselves at Salon, seize the syndic-attorney of the inimical district, and refuse to give him up, this being an advance-guard of 4,000 men promised by the forty or fifty clubs of the party.26 To arrest their operations requires the orders of the three commissioners, resolutions passed by the Directory still intact, royal proclamations, a decree of the Constituent Assembly, the firmness of the still loyal troops and the firmer stand taken by the Arlesians who, putting down an insurrection of the Mint band, had repaired their ramparts, cut away their bridges and mounted guard with their guns loaded.27 But it is only a postponement. Now that the commissioners have gone, and the king’s authority a phantom, now that the last loyal regiment is disarmed, the terrified Directory recast and obeying like a servant, with the Legislative Assembly allowing everywhere the oppression of the Constitutionalists by the Jacobins, a fresh Jacobin expedition may be started against the Constitutionalists with impunity, and acEdition: current; Page: [554] cordingly, on the 23d of March, 1792, the Marseilles army of 4,500 men sets out on its march with nineteen pieces of cannon.

In vain the commissioners of the neighboring departments, sent by the Minister, represent to them that Arles submits, that she has laid down her arms, and that the town is now garrisoned with troops of the line—the Marseilles army requires the withdrawal of this garrison.—In vain the garrison departs. Rebecqui and his acolytes reply that “nothing will divert them from their enterprise; they cannot defer to anybody’s decision but their own in relation to any precaution tending to ensure the safety of the southern departments.”—In vain the Minister renews his injunctions and counter-orders. The Directory replies with a flagrant falsehood, stating that it is ignorant of the affair and refuses to give the government any assistance.—In vain M. de Wittgenstein, commander-in-chief in the south, offers his services to the Directory to repel the invaders. The Directory forbids him to take his troops into the territory of the department.28—Meanwhile, on the 29th of March, the Marseilles army effects a breach with its cannon in the walls of defenceless Arles; its fortifications are demolished and a tax of 1,400,000 francs is levied on the owners of property. In contempt of the National Assembly’s decree the Mint band, the longshoremen, the whole of the vilest class again take up their arms and tyrannise over the disarmed population. Although “the King’s commissioner and most of the judges have fled, jury examinations are instituted against absentees,” the juries consisting of the members of the Mint band.29 Edition: current; Page: [555] The conquerors imprison, smite and slaughter as they please. Countless peaceable individuals are struck down and mauled, dragged to prison and many of them are mortally wounded; one old soldier, eighty years of age, for three months on the retired list in his country home, dies after twenty days’ confinement in a dungeon, from a blow received in the stomach by a gun-stock; women are flogged; “all citizens that are at all interested in the execution of the laws,” nearly four thousand families, have emigrated; their houses in town and in the country are pillaged, while in the surrounding boroughs, along the road leading from Arles to Marseilles, the villains forming the kernel of the Marseilles army, rove about and gorge themselves as in a vanquished country.30

They eat and drink voraciously, break into clothes-presses, carry off linen and food, steal horses and valuables, break furniture to pieces, tear up books, and burn papers.31 All this is the just punishment of aristocrats. Moreover, it is no more than right that patriots should be indemnified for their toil, and a few blows too many are not out of place in securing the rule of the right party.—For example, on the false report of order being disturbed at Château-Renard, Bertin and Rebecqui send off a detachment of men, while the municipal body in uniform, followed by the National Guard, with music and flags, comes forth to meet and salute it. Without uttering a word of warning, the Marseilles troop falls upon the Edition: current; Page: [556] cortége, strikes down the flags, disarms the National Guard, tears the epaulettes off the officers’ shoulders, drags the mayor to the ground by his scarf, pursues the counsellors, sword in hand, puts the mayor and syndic-attorney in arrest, and, during the night, sacks four dwellings, the whole under the direction of three Jacobins of the place under indictment for recent crimes or misdemeanors. Henceforth at Château-Renard they will look twice before subjecting patriots to indictment.32 —At Vélaux “the country house of the late seignior is sacked, and everything is carried away, even to the tiles and window-glass.” A troop of two hundred men “over-run the village, levy contributions, and put all citizens who are well-off under bonds for considerable sums.” Camoïn, the Marseilles chief, one of the new department administrators, who is in the neighborhood, lays his hand on everything that is fit to be taken, and, a few days after this, 30,000 francs are found in his carpet-bag.—These examples, under this natural inspiration, are followed by others, and the commotion spreads. In every borough or petty town the club profits by these acts to satiate its ambition, its greed, and its hatred. That of Apt appeals to its neighbors, whereupon 1,500 National Guards of Gordes, St. Saturnin, Gouls and Lacoste, with a thousand women and children supplied with clubs and scythes, arrive one morning before the town. On being asked by whose orders they come in this fashion, they reply, “by the orders which their patriotism has given them.” “The fanatics,” or partisans of the sworn priests, “are the cause of their journey”; the result is, “they want lodgings at the expense of the fanatics only,” which involves for the latter and for the town three days’ sojourn, at a cost of 20,000 francs.33 They begin by breaking everything in the church of the Edition: current; Page: [557] Récollets, and wall up its doors. They then expel unsworn ecclesiastics from the town, and disarm their partisans. The club of Apt, which is the sole authority, remains in session three days: “the municipal bodies in the vicinity appear before it, apologise for themselves, protest their civism, and ask as a favor that no detachment be sent to their places. Individuals are sent for to be interrogated”; several are proscribed, among whom are administrators, members of the court, and the syndic-attorney. A number of citizens have fled—the town is purged, while the same purging is pursued in numbers of places in and out of the district.34 It is, indeed, attractive business. It empties the purses of the ill-disposed, and fills the stomachs of patriots; it is agreeable to be well entertained, and especially at the expense of one’s adversaries; the Jacobin is quite content to save the country through a round of feastings. Moreover, he has the satisfaction of playing king among his neighbors, and not only do they feed him for doing them this service, but, again, they pay him for it.35—All this is enlivening, and the expedition, which is a Edition: current; Page: [558] “sabbat,” ends in a carnival. Of the two Marseilles divisions, one, led back to Aix, sets down to “a grand patriotic feast,” and then dances fandangoes, of which “the principal one is led off by the mayor and commandant”;36 the other makes its entry into Avignon the same day, with still greater pomp and jollity.


Such another nest of brigands does not exist in all France. It is not owing to a more savage jacquerie here, produced by a greater degree of misery; on the contrary, the Comtat, before the Revolution, was a land flowing with milk and honey. There was no taxation by the Pope; the taxes were very light, and were expended on the spot. “For one or two sols, one here could have meat, bread, and wine.”37 But, under the mild and corrupt administration of the Italian legates, the country had become “the safe asylum of all the rogues in France, Italy, and Genoa, who by means of a trifling sum paid to the Pope’s agents, obtained protection and immunity.” Smugglers and receivers abounded here in order to break through the lines of the French customs. “Bands of robbers and assassins were formed, which the vigorous measures of the parliaments of Aix and Grenoble could not wholly extirpate. Idlers, libertines, professional gamblers,”38 Edition: current; Page: [559] kept-sigisbés, intriguers, parasites, and adventurers, elbow men with branded shoulders, the veterans of vice and crime, “the scapegraces of the Toulon and Marseilles galleys.” Ferocity here is hidden in debauchery, like a serpent hidden in its own slime, the opportunity being only needed to transform this haunt of licentiousness into a den of cut-throats.

The Jacobin leaders, Tournal, Rovère, the two Duprats, the two Mainvielles, and Lécuyer, readily obtain recruits in this sink.—At first, aided by the rabble of the town and of its purlieus, peasants hating the octroi, vagabonds opposed to order of any kind, porters and watermen armed with scythes, turnspits and clubs, they excite seven or eight riots, drive off the legate, force the Councils to resign, hang the chiefs of the National Guard and of the conservative party,39 and take possession of the municipal offices.—After this their band increases to the dimensions of an army, which, with license for its countersign and pillage for its pay, is the same as that of Tilly and Wallenstein, “a veritable roving Sodom, at which the ancient city would have stood aghast.” Out of 3,000 men, only 200 belong in Edition: current; Page: [560] Avignon; the rest are composed of French deserters, smugglers, fugitives from justice, vagrant foreigners, marauders and malefactors, who, scenting a prey, come from afar, and even from Paris;40 along with them march the women belonging to them, still more foul and sanguinary. In order to make it perfectly plain that with them murder and robbery are the order of the day, they massacred their first general, Patrix, guilty of having released a prisoner, and elected in his place an old highway tramp named Jourdan, condemned to death by the court at Valence, but who had escaped on the eve of his execution, and who bore the nickname of Coupe-tête, because he is said to have cut off the heads at Versailles of two of the King’s guards.41—Under such a commander the troop increases until it forms a body of five or six thousand men, which stops people in the streets and forcibly enrolls them; they are called Mandrins,42 which is severe for Mandrin, because their war is not merely on public Edition: current; Page: [561] persons and property, as his was, but on the possessions, the proprieties, and the lives of private individuals. One detachment alone, at one time, extorts in Cavaillon 25,000 francs, in Baume 12,000, in Aubignon 15,000, in Pioline 4,800, while Caumont is taxed 2,000 francs a week. At Sarrians, where the mayor gives them the keys, they pillage houses from top to bottom, carry off their plunder in carts, set fire, violate and slay with all the refinements of torture of so many Hurons. An old lady of eighty, and a paralytic, is shot at arms length, and left weltering in her blood in the midst of the flames. A child five years of age is cut in two, its mother decapitated, and its sister mutilated; they cut off the ears of the curé, set them on his brow like a cockade, and then cut his throat, along with that of a pig, and tear out the two hearts and dance around them.43 After this, for fifty days around Carpentras, to which they lay siege in vain, the unprovoked, cruel instincts of the chauffeurs manifested at a later date, the anthropophagous desires which sometimes reappear in convicts, and the perverted and over-strained sensuality found in maniacs, have full play.

On beholding the monster it has nourished, Avignon, in alarm, utters cries of distress.44 But the brute, which feels its strength, turns Edition: current; Page: [562] against its former abettors, shows its teeth, and exacts its daily food. Ruined or not, Avignon must furnish its quota. “In the electoral assembly, Mainvielle the younger, elected elector, although he is only twenty-two, draws two pistols from his belt and struts around with a threatening air.”45 Duprat, the president, the better to master his colleagues, proposes to them to leave Avignon and go to Sorgues, which they refuse to do; upon this he orders cannon to be brought, promises to pay those who will accompany him, drags along the timid, and denounces the rest before an upper national court, of which he himself has designated the members. Twenty of the electors thus denounced are condemned and proscribed; Duprat threatens to enter by force and have them executed on the spot, and, under his leadership, the army of Mandrins advances against Avignon.—Its progress is arrested, and, for two months, restrained by the two mediating commissioners for France; they reduce its numbers, and it is on the point of being disbanded, when the brute again boldly seizes its prey, about to make its escape. On the 21st of August, Jourdan, with his herd of miscreants, obtains possession of the palace. The municipal body is driven out, the mayor escapes in disguise, Tissot, the secretary, is cut down, four municipal officers and forty other persons are thrown into prison, while a number of houses belonging to the fugitives and to priests are pillaged, and thus supply the bandits with their first financial returns.46—Then begins the great fiscal operation which is going to fill their pockets. Five men of straw, chosen by Duprat and his associates, compose, with Lécuyer Edition: current; Page: [563] as secretary, a provisional municipal body, which, taxing the town 300,000 francs and suppressing the convents, offers the spoils of the churches for sale. The bells are taken down, and the hammers of the workmen engaged in breaking them to pieces are heard all day long. A strong-box full of plate, diamonds, and gold crosses, left with the director of the Mont-de-Piété, on deposit, is taken and carried off to the commune; a report is spread that the valuables pawned by the poor had been stolen by the municipality, and that those “robbers had already sent away eighteen trunks full of them.” Upon this the women, exasperated at the bare walls of the churches, together with the laborers in want of work or bread, all the common class, become furious, assemble of their own accord in the church of the Cordeliers, summon Lécuyer to appear before them, drag him from the pulpit and massacre him.47

This time there seems to be an end of the brigand party, for the entire town, the populace and the better class, are against them, while the peasants in the country shoot them down wherever they come across them.—Terror, however, supplies the place of numbers, and, with the 350 bravos still left to them, the extreme Jacobins undertake to overcome a city of 30,000 souls. Mainvielle the elder, dragging along two cannon, arrives with a patrol, fires at a venture into the already semi-abandoned church, and kills two men. Duprat Edition: current; Page: [564] assembles about thirty of the townspeople, imprisoned by him on the 31st of August, and, in addition to these, about forty mechanics belonging to the Catholic brotherhoods, porters, bakers, coopers, and day-laborers, two peasants, a beggar, a few women seized haphazard and on vague denunciations, one of them, “because she spoke ill of Madame Mainvielle.” Jourdan supplies the executioners; the apothecary Mende, brother-in-law of Duprat, plies them with liquor, while a clerk of Tournal, the newsman, bids them “kill all, so that there shall be no witnesses left.” Whereupon, at the reiterated orders of Mainvielle, Tournal, Duprat, and Jourdan, with accompaniments of indescribable lubricity,48 the massacre develops itself on the 16th of October and following days, during sixty-six hours, the victims being a couple of priests, three children, an old man of eighty, thirteen women, two of whom are pregnant, in all, sixty-one persons, butchered, felled to the ground, and then cast on top of each other into the Glacière hole, a mother on the body of her infant, a son on the body of his father, the hole being filled up with stones and covered over with quicklime on account of the odor.49 In the mean time about a hundred more, killed in the streets, are pitched into the Sorgues canal; five hundred families take to flight. The scattered bandits return in a body, while the assassins who are at the head of them, enthroned by murder, organise for the benefit of their new band a legal system of brigandage, against which nobody defends himself.50

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These are the friends of the Jacobins of Arles and Marseilles, the men of good-standing before whom M. d’Antonelle appears and makes a speech in the cathedral at Avignon.51 These are the pure patriots, who, with their hands in the till and their feet in gore, caught in the act by a French army, the mask torn off through a scrupulous investigation, universally condemned by the emancipated electors, also by the deliberate verdict of the new mediating commissioners,52 are comprehended in the amnesty proclaimed by the Legislative Assembly a month before their last crime.—The sovereigns of the Bouches-du-Rhône, however, do not regard the release of their friends and allies as a favor; something more than pardon and forgetfulness must be awarded to the murderers of the Glacière. On the 29th of April, 1792, Rebecqui and Bertin, the vanquishers of Arles, enter Avignon53 along with a cortége, at the head of which are from thirty to forty of the principal murderers whom the Legislative Assembly itself had ordered to be recommitted to prison, Duprat, Mainvielle, Tournal, Mende, then Jourdan in the uniform of a commanding general crowned with laurel and seated Edition: current; Page: [566] on a white horse, and lastly, the dames Duprat, Mainvielle and Tournal, in dashing style, standing on a sort of triumphal chariot; during the procession the cry is heard, “The Glacière will be full this time!”—On their approach the public functionaries fly; twelve hundred persons abandon the town. Forthwith each terrorist, under the protection of the Marseilles bayonets, resumes his office, like a man at the head of his household. Raphel, the former judge, along with his clerk, both with warrants of arrest against them, publicly officiate, while the relatives of the poor victims slain on the 16th of October, and the witnesses that appeared on the trial, are threatened in the streets; one of them is killed, and Jourdan, king of the department for an entire year, begins over again on a grand scale, at the head of the National Guard, and afterwards of the police body, the same performance which, on a small scale, he pursued under the ancient régime, when, with a dozen “armed and mounted” brigands, he traversed the highways, forced open lonely houses at night, and, in one château alone, stole 24,000 francs.


Thus is the Jacobin conquest effected. Up to the 17th of April, 1792, through acts of violence almost equal to those we have just described, it spreads over more than twenty departments and, through less aggravated ones, over the other sixty.54 The composition of the Edition: current; Page: [567] parties is the same everywhere. On one side are the irresponsible of all conditions, “dissipators who, having consumed their own patrimony, cannot tolerate that of another, men without property to whom disorder is a door open to wealth and public office, the envious, the ungrateful whose obligations to their benefactors a day of revolution cancels, the hot-headed, all those enthusiastic innovators who preach reason with a dagger in their hand, the indigent, the brutal and the wretched of the lower class who, possessed by one leading anarchical idea, one example of immunity, with the law dumb and the sword in the scabbard, are stimulated to dare all things.” On the other side are the steady-going, peaceable class, minding their own business, commonplace in mind and sensibilities, “enervated by the habits arising from security and from constant contentment, surprised at any unforeseen disturbance and trying to find out what the matter is, separated from each other by diversity of interests, opposing only tact and caution to persevering audacity in defiance of legitimate means, unable either to make up their mind or to remain inactive, perplexed over sacrifices just at the time when the enemy is going to render it impossible to make any in the future, in a word, bringing effeminacy and egoism to bear against the passions in their greatest freedom, against fierce poverty and hardened Edition: current; Page: [568] immorality.”55—The issue of the conflict is everywhere the same. In each town or canton an aggressive squad of unscrupulous fanatics and resolute adventurers imposes its rule over a sheep-like majority which, accustomed to the regularity of an old civilization, dares neither disturb order for the sake of putting an end to disorder, or get together a mob to put down another mob.—Everywhere the Jacobin principle is the same. “Your system,” says one of the department Directories to them,56 “is to act imperturbably on all occasions, even after a constitution is established, and the limitations to power are fixed, as if the empire would always be in a state of insurrection, as if you were clothed with a dictatorship essential for the city’s salvation, as if you were clothed with full power in the name of public safety.”—Everywhere are Jacobin tactics the same. At the outset they assume to have a monopoly of patriotism and, through the brutal destruction of other clubs, they are the only visible organ of public opinion. The voice of their coterie, accordingly, seems to be the voice of the people; their control is established on that of the legal authories; they have taken the lead through Edition: current; Page: [569] persistent and irresistible encroachments; their usurpation is consecrated by exemption from punishment.

“Among all the agents, good or bad, constituted or not constituted, that alone governs which is inviolable. Now, the club, for a long time, has been too much accustomed to domineering, to annoying, to persecuting, to wreaking vengeance, for any local administration to regard it in any other light than as inviolable.”57 It accordingly governs and its indirect influence is promptly transformed into direct authority.—Voting alone, or almost alone, in the primary meetings, which are deserted or under constraint, the Jacobins easily choose the municipal body and the officers of the National Guard.58 After this, through the mayor, who is their tool or their accomplice, they have the legal right to launch or arrest the entire armed force and they avail themselves of it.—Two obstacles still stand in their way. On the one hand, however conciliatory or timid the Directory of the district or department may be, elected as it is by electors of the second degree, it usually contains a fair proportion of well-informed men, comfortably off, interested in keeping order, and less inclined than the municipality to put up with gross violations of the law. Consequently they denounce it to the National Assembly as an unpatriotic and anti-revolutionary centre of “bourgeoise aristocracy.” Sometimes, as at Brest,59 they shameEdition: current; Page: [570] fully disobey orders which are perfectly legal and proper, often repeated and strictly formal; afterward, still more shamefully, they demand of the Minister if, “placed in the cruel alternative of giving offence to the hierarchy of powers, or of leaving the commonwealth in danger, they ought to hesitate.” Sometimes, as at Arras, they impose themselves illegally on the Directory in session and browbeat it so insolently as to make it a point of honor with the latter to solicit its own suspension.60 Sometimes, as at Figeac, they summon an administrator to their bar, keep him standing three-quarters of an hour, seize his papers and oblige him, for fear of something worse, to leave the town.61 Sometimes, as at Auch, they invade the Directory’s chambers, seize the administrators by the throat, pound them with their fists and clubs, drag the president by the hair, and, after a good deal of trouble, grant him his life.62—On the other hand, the gendarmerie and the troops brought for the suppression of riots, are always in the way of those who stir up the rioters. Consequently, they expel, corrupt and, especially, purify the gendarmerie together with the troops. At Cahors they drive out a brigadier of the gendarmerie, “alleging that he keeps company with none Edition: current; Page: [571] but aristocrats.”63 At Toulouse, without mentioning the lieutenant-colonel, whose life they threaten by anonymous letters and oblige to leave the town, they transfer the whole corps to another district under the pretence that “its principles are adverse to the Constitution.”64 At Auch, and at Rennes, through the insubordination which they provoke among the men, they extort resignations from their officers. At Perpignan, by means of a riot which they foment, they seize, beat and drag to prison, the commandant and staff whom they accuse “of wanting to bombard the town with five pounds of powder.”65—Meanwhile, through the jacquerie, which they let loose from the Dordogne to Aveyron, from Cantal to the Pyrenees and the Var, under the pretence of punishing the relatives of émigrés and the abettors of unsworn priests, they create an army of their own made up of robbers and the needy who, in anticipation of the exploits of the coming revolutionary army, freely kill, burn, pillage, ransom and prey at large on the defenceless flock of proprietors of every class and degree.66

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In this operation each club has its neighbors for allies, offering to them or receiving from them offers of men and money. That of Caen tenders its assistance to the Bayeux association for hunting out unsworn priests, and to help the patriots of the place “to rid themselves of the tyranny of their administrators.”67 That of Besançon declares the three administrative bodies of Strasbourg “unworthy of the confidence with which they have been honored,” and openly enters into a league with all the clubs of the Upper and Lower Rhine, to set free a Jacobin arrested as a fomenter of insurrections.68 Those of the Puy-de-Dôme and neighboring departments depute to and establish at Clermont a central club of direction and propagandism.69 Those of the Bouches-du-Rhône treat with the commissioners of the departments of Drôme, Gard, and Hérault, to watch the Spanish frontier, and send delegates of their own to see to the state of the fortifications of Figuières.70—There is no recourse to the criminal Edition: current; Page: [573] tribunals. In forty departments, these are not yet installed; in the forty-three others, they are cowed, silent, or lack money and men to enforce their decisions.71

Such is the foundation of the Jacobin State, a confederation of twelve hundred oligarchies, which manoeuvre their proletariat clients in obedience to the word of command despatched from Paris. It is a complete, organized, active State, with its central government, its armed force, its official journal, its regular correspondence, its declared policy, its established authority, and its representative and local agents; the latter are actual administrators alongside of administrations which are abolished, or athwart administrations which are brought under subjection.—In vain do the latest ministers, good clerks and honest men, try to fulfill their duties; their injunctions and remonstrances are only so much waste paper.72 They resign in despair, declaring that, “in this overthrow of all order, … in the present weakness of the public forces, and in the degradation of the constituted authorities, … it is impossible for them to maintain the life and energy of the vast body, the members of which are paralysed.”—When the roots of a tree are laid bare, it is easy to cut it down; now that the Jacobins have severed them, a push on the trunk suffices to bring the tree to the ground.

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Paris— I. Pressure of the Assembly on the King—His veto rendered void or eluded—His ministers insulted and driven away—The usurpations of his Girondist ministry—He removes them—Insurrectionary preparations— II. The floating and poor population of Paris—Disposition of the workmen—Effect of poverty and want of work—Effect of Jacobin preaching—The revolutionary army—Character of its reviews—Its first review—Its actual effective force— III. Its leaders—Their committee—How they created excitement— IV. The 20th of June—The programme—The muster—The procession before the Assembly—Irruption into the château—The King in the presence of the people.


Previous to this the tree was so shaken as to be already tottering at its base.—Reduced as the King’s prerogative is, the Jacobins still continue to contest it, depriving him of even its shadow. At the opening session they refuse to him the titles of Sire and Majesty; to them he is not, in the sense of the constitution, a hereditary representative of the French people, but “a high functionary,” that is to say, a mere employee, fortunate enough to sit in an equally good chair alongside of the president of the Assembly, whom they style “president of the nation.”1 The Assembly, in their eyes, is sole sovEdition: current; Page: [575] ereign, “while the other powers,” says Condorcet, “can act legitimately only when specially authorised by a positive law; the Assembly may do anything that is not formally prohibited to it by the law,”2 in other words, interpret the constitution, then change it, take it to pieces, and do away with it. Consequently, in defiance of the constitution, it takes upon itself the initiation of war, and, on rare occasions, on the King using his veto, it sets this aside, or allows it to be set aside.3 In vain he rejects, as he has a legal right to do, the decrees which sanction the persecution of unsworn ecclesiastics, which confiscate the property of the émigrés, and which establish a camp around Paris. At the suggestion of the Jacobin deputies,4 the unsworn ecclesiastics are put on the limits, expelled, or imprisoned by the municipalities and Directories; the estates and mansions of the émigrés and of their relatives are abandoned without resistance to the jacqueries; the camp around Paris is replaced by the summoning of the Federates to Paris. In short, the monarch’s sanction is eluded or dispensed with.—As to his ministers, “they are merely clerks of the Legislative Body decked with a royal leash.”5 In full session they are maltreated, reviled, grossly insulted, not merely as lackeys of bad character, but as confirmed malefactors. They are Edition: current; Page: [576] interrogated at the bar of the house, forbidden to leave Paris before their accounts are examined; their papers are overhauled; their most guarded expressions and most meritorious acts are held to be criminal; denunciations against them are provoked; their subordinates are incited to rebel against them;6 committees to watch them and calumniate them are appointed; the perspective of a scaffold is placed before them in every relation, acts or threats of accusation being passed against them, as well as against their agents, on the shallowest pretexts, accompanied with such miserable quibbling,7 and such an evident falsification of facts and texts that the Assembly, forced by the evidence, twice reverses its hasty decision, and declares those Edition: current; Page: [577] innocent whom it had condemned the evening before.8 Nothing is of any avail, neither their strict fulfillment of the law, their submission to the committees of the Assembly, nor their humble attitude before the Assembly itself; “they are careful now to treat it politely and avoid the galleys.”9—But this does not suffice. They must become Jacobins; otherwise the high court of Orleans will be for them as for M. Delessart, the ante-room to the bagnio and the guillotine. “Terror and dismay,” says Vergniaud, pointing with his finger to the Tuileries, “have often issued in the name of despotism in ancient times from that famous palace; let them to-day go back to it in the name of law.”10

Even with a Jacobin Minister, terror and dismay are permanent. Roland, Clavières, and Servan not only do not shield the King, but they give him up, and, under their patronage and with their connivance, he is more victimised, more harassed, and more vilified than ever before. Their partisans in the Assembly take turns in traducing him, while Isnard proposes against him a most insolent address.11 Shouts of death are uttered in front of his palace. An abbé or soldier is unmercifully beaten and dragged into the Tuileries basin. One of the gunners of the Guard reviles the queen like a fishwoman, and exclaims to her, “How glad I should be to clap your head on the end of my bayonet!”12—The King is supposed to be broken down under this double pressure of the Legislative Body and the street; they rely on his accustomed docility, or, at least, on his radical inertia; they think that they have converted him into what Condorcet once demanded, a signature machine.13 Consequently, Edition: current; Page: [578] without notifying him, just as if the throne were vacant, Servan, on his own authority, proposes to the Assembly the camp around Paris. Roland, for his part, reads to him at a full meeting of the council an arrogant, pedagogical remonstrance, scrutinising his sentiments, informing him of his duties, calling upon him to accept the new “religion,” to sanction the decree against unsworn ecclesiastics, that is to say, to condemn to beggary, imprisonment, and transportation 70,000 priests and nuns guilty of orthodoxy, and authorise the camp around Paris, which means, to put his throne, his person, and his family at the mercy of 20,000 madmen, chosen by the clubs and other assemblages expressly to do him harm;14 in short, to discard at once his conscience and his common sense.—Strange enough, the royal will this time remains staunch. The King not only refuses to do this, but he dismisses his ministers. So much the worse for him, for sign he must, cost what it will; if he insists on remaining athwart their path, they will march over him.—Not because he is dangerous, and thinks of abandoning his legal immobility. Up to the 10th of August, through a dread of action, and not to kindle a civil war, he rejects all plans leading to an open rupture. Up to the very last day he resigns himself, even when his personal safety and that of his family is at stake, to constitutional law and public common sense. Before dismissing Roland and Servan, he desires to furnish some striking proof of his pacific intentions by sanctioning the dissolution of his guard and disarming himself not only for attack but for defence; henceforth he sits at home and awaits the insurrection with which he is daily menaced; he resigns himself to everything, except drawing his sword; his attitude is that of a Christian in the amphitheatre.15

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The proposition of a camp around Paris, however, draws out a protest from 8,000 Paris National Guards. Lafayette denounces to the Assembly the usurpations of the Jacobins; the faction sees that its reign is threatened by this uprousal and the union of the friends of order. A blow must be struck. This has been in preparation for a month past, and to renew the days of October 5th and 6th, the materials are not lacking.


Paris always has its interloping, floating population. A hundred thousand of the needy, one-third of these from the departments, “beggars by race,” those whom Rétif de la Bretonne had already seen pass his door, Rue de Bièvre, on the 13th of July, 1789, on their way to join their fellows on the faubourg St. Antoine,16 along with them “those frightful raftsmen,” pilots and dock-hands, born and brought up in the forests of the Nièvre and the Yonne, actual savages accustomed to wielding the pick and the axe, behaving like cannibals when the opportunity offers,17 and who will be found foremost in the ranks when the September days come; alongside of these stride their female companions “barge-women who, soured by toil, see nothing, like animals, but the place and the time,” and who, three Edition: current; Page: [580] months earlier, pillaged the grocer-shops.18 All this “is a formidable crowd which, every time that it stirs, seems to declare that the last day of the rich and the well-to-do has come and that our turn comes to-morrow when we shall all sleep on down.”—Still more alarming is the attitude of the steady workmen, especially in the faubourgs. Bread is not so dear as on the 5th of October, but there is greater impoverishment. The production of articles of luxury is at a standstill for three years, while the artisan out of employment has consumed his small savings. Since the ruin of St. Domingo and the pillaging of grocers’ shops colonial products are dear; the carpenter, the mason, the locksmith, the market-porter, no longer has his early cup of coffee,19 while they grumble every morning at the thought of their patriotism being rewarded by an increase of privations.

But more than all this they are now Jacobins, and after nearly three years of preaching, the dogma of popular sovereignty has taken deep root in their unoccupied brains. “In these groups,” writes a police commissioner, “the Constitution is held to be useless and the people alone are the law. The citizens of Paris on the public square think themselves the people, populus, what we call the universality of citizens.”20—It is of no use to tell them that, alongside of Paris, there is a France. Danton has shown them that the capital “is composed of citizens belonging one way or another to the eighty-three departments; that it has a better chance than any other place to appreciate ministerial conduct; that it is the first sentinel of the nation,” which makes them confident of being right.21—It is of no use to tell them that there are better-informed and more competent auEdition: current; Page: [581] thorities than themselves. Robespierre assures them that “in the matter of genius and civism the people are infallible, whilst every one else is subject to mistakes,”22 and here they are sure of their capacity.—In their own eyes they are the legitimate, competent authorities for all France, and, during three years, the sole theme their courtiers of the press, tribune, and club, vie with each other in repeating to them, is the expression of the Duc de Villeroy to Louis XIV. when a child: “Look my master, behold this great kingdom! It is all for you, it belongs to you, you are its master!”—Undoubtedly, to swallow and digest such gross irony people must be half-fools or half-brutes; but it is just their capacity for self-deception which separates them from the sensible or passive crowd and forms them into a band whose ascendency is irresistible. Alone convinced of a street mob being sovereign under the same title that the nation is sovereign in its assemblies, they alone form street mobs, and they find themselves kings because by virtue of their self-sufficiency and lack of reason they believe in their royalty.

Such is the new power which, in the early months of the year 1792, starts up alongside of the legal powers. It is not foreseen by the Constitution; nevertheless it exists and declares itself; it is visible and its recruits can be counted. On the 29th of April, with the Assembly consenting, and contrary to law, three battalions from the faubourg St. Antoine, about 1500 men,23 march in three columns into the chamber, one of which is composed of fusileers and the other two of pikemen, “their pikes being from eight to ten feet long,” of formidable aspect and of all sorts, “pikes with laurel leaves, pikes with clover leaves, pikes à carlet, pikes with turn-spits, pikes with Edition: current; Page: [582] hearts, pikes with serpents’ tongues, pikes with forks, pikes with daggers, pikes with three prongs, pikes with battle-axes, pikes with claws, pikes with sickles, lance-pikes covered with iron prongs.” On the other side of the Seine three battalions from the faubourg St. Marcel are composed and armed in the same fashion. This constitutes a kernel of 3,000 combatants and there are perhaps 3,000 more in other quarters of Paris. Add to these in each of the sixty battalions of the National Guard the gunners, almost all of them blacksmiths, locksmiths and horse-shoers, also the majority of the gendarmes, old soldiers discharged for insubordination and naturally inclined to rioting, in all an army of about 9,000 men, not counting the usual accompaniment of vagabonds and mere bandits; ignorant and eager, but men who do their work, well armed, formed into companies, ready to march and ready to strike. Alongside of the talking authorities we have the veritable force that acts, for it is the only one which does act. As formerly, the pretorian guard of the Caesars in Rome, or the Turkish guards of the Caliphs of Bagdad, it is henceforth mistress of the capital, and through the capital, of the State.


As the troops are so are their leaders. Bulls must have drovers to conduct them, one degree superior to the brute but only one degree, dressed, talking and acting in accordance with the occupation, without dislikes or scruples, naturally or willfully hardened, fertile in jockeyings and in the expedients of the slaughter-house, themselves belonging to the people or pretending to belong to them. Santerre is a brewer of the faubourg St. Antoine, commander of the battalion of “Enfants Trouvés,” tall, stout and ostentatious, with stentorian lungs, shaking the hand of everybody he meets in the street, and when at home treating everybody to a drink paid for by the Duke of Orleans.24 Legendre is an excitable butcher, who even in the Edition: current; Page: [583] Convention maintains his butchering traits. There are three or four foreign adventurers, adapted to all slaying operations, using the sabre or the bayonet without warning people to get out of the way. Rotonde, the first one, is an Italian, a teacher of English and professional rioter, who, convicted of murder and robbery, is to end his days in Piedmont on the gallows. The second, Lazowski, is a Pole, a former dandy, a conceited fop, who, with Sclave facility, becomes the barest of naked sans-culottes; formerly enjoying a sinecure, then suddenly turned out in the street, and shouting in the clubs against his protectors whom he sees put down; he is elected captain of the gunners of the battalion St. Marcel, and is to be one of the September slaughterers. His drawing-room temperament, however, is not rigorous enough for the part he plays in the streets, and at the end of a year he is to die, consumed by a fever and by brandy. The third is another chief slaughterer at the September massacres. Fournier, known as the American, a former planter, who has brought with him from St. Domingo a contempt for human life; “with his livid and sinister countenance, his moustache, his triple belt of pistols, his coarse language, his oaths, he looks like a pirate.”25 By their side we encounter a little hump-backed lawyer named Cuirette-Verrières, an everlasting talker, who, on the 6th of October, 1789, paraded the city on a large white horse and afterwards pleaded for Marat, which two qualifications with his Punch figure, fully establish him in the popular imagination; his boisterous crew, moreover, who hold nocturnal meetings at Santerre’s, needed a penman and he probably furnished them with their style.—This conventicle comprises other trusty persons still more subordinate, “Brière, wine-dealer, Nicolas, a sapper in the ‘Enfants Trouvés’ battalion, Gonor, claiming to be one of the victors of the Bastille,”26 Rossignol, an old soldier and Edition: current; Page: [584] afterward a journeyman-jeweller, who, after presiding at the massacres of La Force, is to become an improvised general and display his incapacity, debauchery, and thievery throughout La Vendée. “There are yet more of them,” Huguenin undoubtedly, a ruined ex-lawyer, afterwards carbineer, then a deserter, next a barrier-clerk, now serving as “straw-bail” for the faubourg St. Honoré and finally president of the September commune; there was also, doubtless, St. Huruge alias Père Adam, the great growler of the Palais-Royal, a marquis fallen into the gutter, drinking with and dressing like a common porter, always flourishing an enormous club and followed by the riffraff.27—These are all the leaders. The Jacobins of the municipality and of the Assembly confine their support of the enterprise to conniving at it and to giving it their encouragement.28 It is better for the insurrection to seem spontaneous. Through cautiousness or shyness the Girondists, Pétion, Manuel and Danton Edition: current; Page: [585] himself, keep in the background—there is no reason for their coming forward.—The rest, affiliated with the people and lost in the crowd, are better qualified to render the romance pleasing to their flock. This romance, adapted to its intellectual limits, form and activity, is both simple and sombre, such as children like, or rather a melodrama taken from an alien stage in which the good appear on one side, and the wicked on the other with an ogre or tyrant in the centre, some infamous traitor who is sure to be unmasked at the end of the piece and punished according to his deserts, the whole in grandiloquent terms and, as a finale, winding up with a grand chorus. In the raw brain of an over-excited workman politics find their way only in the shape of rough-hewn, highly-colored imagery, such as is furnished by the Marseillaise, the Carmagnole, and the Ça ira. The requisite motto is adapted to his use; through this misshapen magnifying glass the most gracious figure appears under a diabolical aspect. Louis XVI. is represented there “as a monster using his power and treasure to oppose the regeneration of the French. A new Charles IX., he desires to bring on France death and desolation. Begone, cruel man, your crimes must end! Damiens was less guilty than thou art! He was punished with the most horrible torture for having tried to rid France of a monster, while you, attempting twenty-five millions times more, are allowed full immunity!29 Let us Edition: current; Page: [586] trample under our feet this simulacre of royalty! Tremble, tyrants, Scaevolas are still amongst you!”

All this is uttered, declaimed or rather shouted, publicly, in full daylight, under the King’s windows, by haranguers mounted on chairs, while similar provocations daily emanate from the committee installed in Santerre’s establishment, now in the shape of placards posted in the faubourgs, now in that of petitions circulated in the clubs and sections, now through motions which are gotten up “among the groups in the Tuileries, in the Palais-Royal, in the Place de Grève and especially on the Place de la Bastille.” After the 2d of June the leaders founded a new club in the church of the “Enfants Trouvés” that they might have their special laboratory and thus do their work on the spot.30 Like Plato’s demagogues, they understand their business. They have discovered the cries best calculated to set the popular animal in a tremor, what gives him umbrage, what charm attracts him, what road it is necessary he should follow. Once drawn in and under way, he will march blindly on, borne along by his own involuntary inspiration and crushing with his mass all that he encounters on his path.


The charm is well selected and well presented. It consists in celebrating the anniversary of the oath of the Tennis-court. A tree of Liberty will be planted on the terrace of the Feuillants and “petitions relating to circumstances” will be presented in the Assembly and then to the King. As a precaution, and to impose on the ill-disposed, the petitioners provide themselves with arms and line the approaches.31

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A popular procession is an attractive thing, and there are so many workmen who do not know what to do with themselves! And, again, it is so pleasant to appear in a patriotic opera while many, and especially women and children, want very much to see Monsieur and Madame Veto. People are invited in from the neighboring purlieus.32 The prowlers and ragamuffins of the open country must certainly join the party, while the numerous body of Parisian loafers, the loungers that join every spectacle can be relied on, and the inquisitive who, even in our time, gather by hundreds along the quays, following a dog that has chanced to tumble into the river. All this forms a heedless troop willing to follow a leader of any kind.—At five o’clock in the morning on the 20th of June gatherings are already formed in the faubourgs St. Antoine and St. Marcel, consisting of National Guards, pikemen, cannoneers with their cannon, persons armed with sabres or clubs, and women and children. A notice, indeed, just posted on the walls, prohibits any assemblage, and the municipal officers appear in their scarfs and command or entreat the crowd not to break the law.33 But, in the popular brain, ideas are as tenacious as they are short-lived. People count on a civic procession and get up early in the morning to attend to it; the cannon are dragged out, the tree is put on wheels and all is ready for the ceremony; everybody takes a holiday and none are disposed to go back into the house. Besides, their intentions are all right. They know the law as well as the city officials; they are “armed Edition: current; Page: [588] solely to have it observed and respected.” Finally, other armed petitioners have already filed along before the National Assembly, and, as one is as good as another, “the law being equal for all,” others must be admitted as well. In any event they, too, will ask permission of the National Assembly and they go expressly. This is the last and the best argument of all, and to prove to the city officials that they have no desire to engage in a riot, they beg them to join the procession and march along with them.

Meanwhile, time passes. In a crowd irritated by delay, the most impatient, the rudest, those most inclined to commit violence, always lead the rest.—At the head-quarters of the Val-de-Grâce34 the pikemen seize the cannon and drag them along; the National Guards let things take their course; Saint-Prix and Leclerc, the officers in command, threatened with death, have nothing to do but to yield with a protest.—There is the same state of things in the Montreuil section; the resistance of four out of six of the battalion officers merely served to give full power to the instigator of the insurrection, and henceforth Santerre becomes the sole leader of the assemblage. About half-past eleven he leaves his brewery, and, followed by cannon, the flag, and the truck which bears the poplar tree, he places himself at the head of the procession “consisting of about fifteen hundred persons including the bystanders.”35 Like a ball of snow, however, the troop grows as it marches along until, on reaching the National Assembly, Santerre has behind him from seven to eight thousand persons.36 Guadet and Vergniaud move that the petitioners be introduced; their spokesman, Huguenin, in a bombastic and Edition: current; Page: [589] threatening address, denounces the ministry, the King, the accused at Orleans, the deputies of the “Right,” demands “blood,” and informs the Assembly that the people “on its feet” is ready to do itself justice.37 Then, with drums beating and bands playing, the multitude for more than an hour defiles through the chamber under the eyes of Santerre and Saint-Huruge. Here and there a few files of the National Guard pass mingled with the crowd and lost in “the moving forest of pikes”; all the rest is pure populace, “hideous faces,”38 says a deputy, on which poverty and misconduct have left their marks, ragged fellows “without coats,” in their shirt-sleeves, armed in all sorts of ways, with augurs and shoe-knives fastened on sticks, one with a saw on a pole ten feet long, women and children, some of them brandishing sabres,39 amidst all an old pair of breeches borne on a pike with this motto, Vivent les Sans Culottes! and, on a pitch-fork, the heart of a calf with this inscription, Coeur d’aristocrate, both significant emblems of grim humor and such as naturally arise in the minds of butchers or of a libeller for a political carnival.—This, indeed, it is, for many have been drinking and are intoxicated.40 A parade is not enough, they must likewise amuse themselves. In traversing the chamber they sing Ça ira and dance in the intervals. They at the same time make a profession of civism by shouting Vive les patriotes! A bas le Veto! They fraternise, as they pass along, with Edition: current; Page: [590] the “true blue” deputies of the “Left”; they jeer those of the “Right” and shake their fists at them; one of these, known by his tall stature, is told that his business will be settled for him the first opportunity.41 Thus do they display their co-laborers to the Assembly, all ready, and ready for anything, even against the Assembly.—And yet, with the exception of an iron-railing burst in by the crowd and an irruption on the terrace of the “Feuillants,” no act of violence was committed. The Paris populace, except when wrought up into a state of frenzy, is rather voluble and cockney than ferocious; besides, thus far, no one had offered any resistance. It has a surfeit of shouts and parade; many of them yawn with ennui and fatigue;42 at four o’clock they have stood on their legs for ten or twelve hours. The human stream issuing from the Assembly and emptying itself into the Carrousel remains there stagnant and seems ready to return to its ordinary channels.—This is what the leaders have no idea of. Santerre, on arriving with St. Huruge, cries out to his men, “Why didn’t you enter the château? You must go in—that is what we came here for.”43 A lieutenant of the Val-de-Grâce cannoneers shouts: “We have forced open the Carrousel, we must force open the château too! This is the first time the Val-de-Grâce cannoneers march—they are not j—— f——! Come, follow me, my men, on to the enemy!”44 Edition: current; Page: [591] Meanwhile, outside the gate, some of the municipal officers selected by Pétion amongst the most revolutionary, overcome resistance by their speeches and injunctions. “After all,” says one of them, named Mouchet, “the right of petition is sacred.”—“Open the gate!” shout Sergent and Boucher-René, “nobody has a right to shut it. Every citizen has a right to go through it!”45 A gunner raises the latch, the gate opens and the court fills in the twinkling of an eye;46 the crowd rushes under the archway and up the grand stairway with such impetuosity that a cannon borne along by hand reaches the third room on the first story before it stops. The doors crack under the blows of axes and, in the large hall of the Oeil de Boeuf, the multitude find themselves face to face with the King.

In such circumstances the representatives of public authority, the directories, the municipalities, the military chiefs, and, on the 6th of October, the King himself, have all thus far yielded; they have either yielded or perished. Santerre, certain of the issue, preferred to take no part in this affair; he prudently reserves himself, steals away, and lets the crowd push him into the council chamber, where the Queen, the young Dauphin, and the ladies have taken refuge.47 There, with Edition: current; Page: [592] his tall, corpulent figure, he formed a sort of shield to forestall useless and compromising injuries. In the mean time, in the Oeil de Boeuf, he lets things take their course; everything will be done in his absence that ought to be done, and in this he seems to have calculated justly.—On one side, in a window recess, sits the King on a bench, almost alone, while in front of him, as a guard, are four or five of the National Guards; on the other side, in the apartments, is an immense crowd, hourly increasing according as the rumor of the irruption spreads in the vicinity, fifteen or twenty thousand persons, a prodigious accumulation, a pell-mell traversed by eddies, a howling sea of bodies crushing each other, and of which the simple flux and reflux would flatten against the walls obstacles ten times as strong, an uproar sufficient to shatter the window panes, “frightful yells,” curses and imprecations, “Down with M. Veto!” “Let Veto go to the devil!” “Take back the patriot ministers!” “He shall sign; we won’t go away till he does!”48—Foremost among them all, Legendre, more resolute than Santerre, declares himself the spokesman and trustee of the powers of the sovereign people: “Sir,” says he to the King, who, he sees, makes a gesture of surprise, “yes, Sir, listen to us; you are made to listen to what we say! You are a traitor! You have always deceived us; you deceive us now! But look out, the measure is full; the people are tired of being played upon!”—“Sire, Sire,” exclaims another fanatic, “I ask you in the name of the hundred thousand beings around us to recall the patriot ministers. … I demand the sanction of the decree against the priests and the Edition: current; Page: [593] twenty thousand men. Either the sanction or you shall die!”—But little is wanting for the threat to be carried out. The first comers are on hand, “presenting pikes,” among them “a brigand,” with a rusty sword-blade on the end of a pole, “very sharp,” and who points this at the King. Afterwards the attempt at assassination is many times renewed, obstinately, by three or four madmen determined to kill, and who make signs of so doing, one, a shabby, ragged fellow, who keeps up his excitement with “the foulest propositions,” the second one, “a so-called conqueror of the Bastille,” formerly porte-tête for Foulon and Berthier, and since driven out of the battalion, the third, a market-porter, who, “for more than an hour,” armed with a sabre, makes a terrible effort to make his way to the king.49—Nothing is done. The king remains impassible under every threat. He takes the hand of a grenadier who wishes to encourage him, and, placing it on his breast, bids him, “See if that is the beating of a heart agitated by fear.”50 To Legendre and the zealots who call upon him to sanction, he replies without the least excitement: “I have never departed from the Constitution. … I will do what the Constitution requires me to do. … It is you who break the law.”—And, for nearly three hours, remaining standing, blockaded on his bench,51 he persists in this without showing a sign of weakness or of anger. This cool deportment at last produces an effect, the impression it makes on the spectators not being at all that which they anticipated. It is very clear that the personage before them is not the monster which has been depicted to them, a sombre, imperious tyrant, the Edition: current; Page: [594] savage, cunning Charles IX. they had hissed on the stage. They see a man somewhat stout, with placid, benevolent features, whom they would take, without his blue sash, for an ordinary, peaceable bourgeois.52 His ministers, near by, three or four men in black coats, gentlemen and respectable employees, are just what they seem to be. In another window recess stands his sister, Madame Elizabeth, with her sweet and innocent face. This pretended tyrant is a man like other men; he speaks gently, he says that the law is on his side, and nobody says the contrary; perhaps he is less wrong than he is thought to be. If he would only become a patriot!—A woman in the room brandishes a sword with a cockade on its point; the King makes a sign and the sword is handed to him, which he raises and, hurrahing with the crowd, cries out: Vive la Nation! That is already one good sign. A red cap is shaken in the air at the end of a pole. Some one offers it to him and he puts it on his head; applause bursts forth, and shouts of Vive la Nation! Vive la Liberte! and even Vive le Roi!

From this time forth the greatest danger is over. But it is not that the besiegers abandon the siege. “He did d—— well,” they exclaim, “to put the cap on, and if he hadn’t we would have seen what would come of it. And d—— if he does not sanction the decree against the priests, and do it right off, we will come back every day. In this way we shall tire him out and make him afraid of us.”—But the day wears on. The heat is over-powering, the fatigue extreme, the King Edition: current; Page: [595] less deserted and better protected. Five or six of the deputies, three of the municipal officers, a few officers of the National Guard, have succeeded in making their way to him. Pétion himself, mounted on a sofa, harangues the people with his accustomed flattery.53 At the same time Santerre, aware of the opportunity being lost, assumes the attitude of a liberator, and shouts in his rough voice: “I answer for the royal family. Let me see to it.” A line of National Guards forms in front of the King, when, slowly and with difficulty, urged by the mayor, the crowd melts away, and, by eight o’clock in the evening, it is gone.

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I. Indignation of the Constitutionalists—Cause of their weakness—The Girondists renew the attack—Their double plan— II. Pressure on the King—Pétion and Manuel brought to the Hôtel-de-Ville—The Ministry obliged to resign—Jacobin agitation against the King—Pressure on the Assembly—Petition of the Paris Commune—Threats of the petitioners and of the galleries—Session of August 8th—Girondist strategy foiled in two ways— III. The Girondists work for the benefit of the Jacobins—The armed force sent away or disorganized—The Federates summoned—Brest and Marseilles send men—Public sessions of administrative bodies—Permanence of administrative bodies and of the sections—Effect of these two measures—The central bureau of the Hôtel-de-Ville—Origin and formation of the revolutionary Commune— IV. Vain attempts of the Girondists to put it down—Jacobin alarm, their enthusiasm, and their programme— V. Evening of August 8—Session of August 9—Morning of August 10—The Assembly purged— VI. Nights of August 9 and 10—The sections—Commissioners of the sections at the Hôtel-de-Ville—The revolutionary Commune is substituted for the legal Commune— VII. August 10—The King’s forces—Resistance abandoned—The King in the National Assembly—Conflict at the palace and discharge of the Swiss Guard—The palace evacuated by the King’s order—The massacres—The enslaved Assembly and its decrees— VIII. State of Paris in the interregnum—The mass of the population—Subaltern Jacobins—The Jacobin leaders.


The blow having missed its mark it must be repeated. This is the more urgent, inasmuch as the faction has thrown off the mask and Edition: current; Page: [597] “honest people”1 on all sides become indignant at seeing the Constitution subject to the arbitrament of the lowest class. Nearly all the higher administrative bodies, seventy-five of the department directories,2 give in their adhesion to Lafayette’s letter, or respond by supporting the proclamation, so noble and so moderate, in which the King, recounting the violence done to him, maintains his legal rights with mournful, inflexible gentleness. Many of the towns, large and small, thank him for his firmness, the addresses being signed by “the notables of the place,”3 chevaliers of St. Louis, former officials, judges and district-administrators, physicians, notaries, lawyers, recorders, post-masters, manufacturers, merchants, people who are settled down, in short the most prominent and the most respected men. At Paris, a similar petition, drawn up by two former Constituents, contains 247 pages of signatures attested by 99 notaries.4 Even in the council-general of the commune a majority is in favor of publicly censuring the mayor Pétion, the syndic-attorney Manuel, and the police administrators Panis, Sergent, Viguer, and Perron.5 On the evening of June 20th, the department council orders an investigation; it follows this up; it urges it on; it proves by authentic documents the willful inaction, the hypocritical connivance, the double-dealing of the syndic-attorney and the mayor;6 it suspends both from their functions, and cites them before the courts as well as Santerre and his accomplices. Lafayette, finally, adding to the Edition: current; Page: [598] weight of his opinion the influence of his presence, appears at the bar of the National Assembly and demands “effectual” measures against the usurpations of the Jacobin sect, insisting that the instigators of the riot of the 20th of June be punished “as guilty of lèse-nation.” As a last and still more significant symptom, his proceedings are approved of in the Assembly by a majority of more than one hundred votes.7

All this must and will be crushed out. For on the side of the Constitutionalists, whatever they may be, whether King, deputies, ministers, generals, administrators, notables or national-guards, volition evaporates in words; and the reason is, they are civilised beings, long accustomed to the ways of a regular community, interested from father to son in keeping the law, disturbed at incurring responsibility, agitated by a multiplicity of ideas, unable to comprehend that, in the state of nature to which France has reverted, but one idea is of any account, that of the man who, in accepting a declared war, meets the offensive with the offensive, loads his gun, descends into the street and contends with the savage destroyers of human society. Nobody comes to the support of Lafayette, who alone has the courage to take the lead; about one hundred men muster at the rendezvous named by him in the Champs-Elysées. They agree to march to the Jacobin club the following day and close it, provided the number is increased to three hundred; only thirty make their appearance. Lafayette can do no more than leave Paris and write a letter containing another protest. Protestations, appeals to the Constitution, to the law, to public interest, to common sense, well-reasoned deductions—never, on this side, amount to more than so many words spoken or in print; in the coming conflict words will be of no use.—Imagine a quarrel between two men, one ably preEdition: current; Page: [599] senting his case and the other indulging in little more than invective; the latter, having encountered a big bull-dog on his road, has caressed him, enticed him, and led him along with him as an auxiliary. To the bull-dog, clever argumentation is only so much unmeaning sound; with his eager eyes fixed on his temporary master he awaits only his signal to spring on the adversaries he points out. On the 20th of June he has almost strangled one of them, and covered him with his slaver. On the 21st,8 he is ready to spring again. He continues to growl for fifty days, at first sullenly and then with terrific energy. On the 25th of June, July 14 and 27, August 3 and 5, he again makes a spring and is kept back only with great difficulty.9 Already on one occasion, July 29th, his fangs are wet with human gore.10—At each turn of the parliamentary debate the defenceless Constitutionalist beholds those open jaws before him; it is not surprising that he throws to this dog, or allows to be thrown to him, all the decrees contended for by the Girondists as a bone for him to gnaw on.—Sure of their strength the Girondists renew the attack, and the plan of their campaign seems to be skillfully prepared. They are quite willing to retain the King on his throne, but on the condition that he shall be a mere puppet; that he shall recall the patriot ministers, allow them to appoint the Dauphin’s tutor, and that Lafayette shall be removed;11 otherwise the Assembly will pass the act of dethronement and possess themselves of the executive power. Such is the dilemma opening two ways in which they have placed the Assembly and the King. If the King, driven into a corner, does not pass out by the first door, the Assembly, equally nonplussed, Edition: current; Page: [600] will pass out through the second, and in either case, as the all-powerful ministers of the submissive King or as executive delegates of the submissive Assembly, they will become the masters of France.


They accordingly begin by attacking the King, and try to make him yield through fear.—They remove the suspension pronounced against Pétion and Manuel, and restore them both to their places in the Hôtel-de-Ville. Henceforth the latter will rule in Paris without restriction or oversight; for the Directory of the department has resigned, and no superior authority exists to prevent them from calling upon or giving orders as they please to the armed forces; they are exempt from all subordination, as well as from all control. Behold the King of France in good hands, in those of the men who, on the 20th of June, refused to muzzle the popular brute, declaring that it had done well, that it had right on its side, and that it may begin again. According to them, the palace of the monarch belongs to the public; people may enter it as they would a coffee-house; in any event, as the municipality is occupied with other matters, it cannot be expected to keep people out. “Is there nothing else to guard in Paris but the Tuileries and the King?”12—Another maEdition: current; Page: [601] noeuvre consists in rendering the King’s instruments powerless. Honorable and inoffensive as the new ministers may be, they never appear in the Assembly without being hooted at in the tribunes. Isnard, pointing with his finger to the principal one, exclaims: “That is a traitor!”13 Every popular outburst is imputed to them as a crime, while Guadet declares that, “as royal counsellors, they are answerable for any disturbances” that the double veto might produce.14 Not only does the faction declare them guilty of the violence provoked by itself, but, again, it demands their lives for the murders which it commits. “France must know,” says Vergniaud, “that hereafter ministers are to answer with their heads for any disorders of which religion is the pretext.” “The blood just split at Bordeaux,” says Ducos, “may be laid at the door of the executive power.”15 Lasource proposes to “punish with death,” not alone the minister who is not prompt in ordering the execution of a decree, but, again, the clerks who do not fulfill the minister’s instructions. Always death on every occasion, and for every one who is not of the sect! Under this constant terror, the ministers resign in a body, and the King is required at once to appoint others in their places; meanwhile, to increase the danger of their position, the Assembly decrees that hereafter they shall “be answerable for each other.” It is evident that they are aiming at the King over his minister’s shoulders, while the Girondists leave nothing unturned to render government to him impossible. The King, again, signs this new decree; he declines to protest; to the persecution he is forced to undergo he opposes nothing but silence, sometimes a simple, frank, good-hearted expression,16 some kindly, touching plaint, which seems like a suppressed Edition: current; Page: [602] moan.17 But dogmatic obstinacy and impatient ambition are wilfully dumb to the most sorrowful accents! His sincerity passes for a new falsehood. Vergniaud, Brissot, Torné, Condorcet, in the tribune, charge him with treachery, demand from the Assembly the right of suspending him,18 and give the signal to their Jacobin auxiliaries.—At the invitation of the parent club, the provincial branches bestir themselves, while all other instruments of agitation belonging to the revolutionary machine are likewise put in motion,—gatherings on the public squares, homicidal announcements on the walls, incendiary resolutions in the clubs, shoutings in the tribunes, insulting addresses and seditious deputations at the bar of the National Assembly.19 After the working of this system for a month, the Girondists regard the King as subdued, and, on the 26th of July, Guadet, and then Brissot, in the tribune, make their last advances to him, and issue the final summons.20 A profound delusion! He refuses, the same as on the 20th of June: “Girondist ministers, Never!”

Since he bars one of the two doors, they will pass out at the other, and, if the Girondists cannot rule through him, they will rule without him. Pétion, in the name of the Commune, appears personally and Edition: current; Page: [603] proposes a new plan, demanding the dethronement. “This important measure once passed,”21 he says, “the confidence of the nation in the actual dynasty being very doubtful, we demand that a body of ministers, jointly responsible, appointed by the National Assembly, but, as the constitutional law provides, outside of itself, elected by the open vote of freemen, be provisionally entrusted with the executive power.” Through this open vote the suffrage will be easily controlled. This is but one more decree extorted, like so many others, the majority for a long time having been subject to the same pressure as the King. “If you refuse to respond to our wishes,” as a placard of the 23d of June had already informed them, “our hands are lifted, and we shall strike all traitors wherever they can be found, even amongst yourselves.”22 “Court favorites,” says a petition of August 6, “have seats in your midst. Let their inviolability perish if the national will must always tamely submit to that pestiferous power!”—In the Assembly the yells from the galleries are frightful; the voices of those who speak against dethronement are overpowered; so great are the hootings, the speakers are driven out of the tribune.23 Sometimes the “Right” abandons the discussion and leaves the chamber. The insolence of the galleries goes so far that frequently almost the entire Assembly murmurs while they applaud; the majority, in short, loudly expresses anger at its slavishness.24—Let it be careful! In the tribunes and at the approaches to the edifice, stand the Federates, men who have a tight grip. They will force it to vote the decisive measure, the accusation of Lafayette, the decree under which the armed champion of the King and the Constitution Edition: current; Page: [604] must fall. The Girondists, to make sure of it, exact a call of the house; in this way the names are announced and printed, thus designating to the populace the opponents of the measure, so that none of them are sure of getting to their homes safe and sound.—Lafayette, however, a liberal, a democrat, and a royalist, as devoted to the Revolution as to the Law, is just the man, who, through his limited mental grasp, his disconnected political conceptions, and the nobleness of his contradictory sentiments, best represents the present opinion of the Assembly, as well as that of France.25 Moreover, his popularity, his courage, and his army are the last refuge. The majority feels that in giving him up they themselves are given up, and, by a vote of 400 to 224, it acquits him.—On this side, again, the strategy of the Girondists is found erroneous. Power slips away from them the second time. Neither the King nor the Assembly have consented to restore it to them, while they can no longer leave it suspended in the air, or defer it until a better opportunity, and keep their Jacobin acolytes waiting. The feeble leash restraining the revolutionary dog breaks in their hands; the dog is free and in the street.


Never was better work done for another. Every measure relied on by them for getting power back, serves only to place it in the hands of the populace.—On the one hand, through a series of legislative acts and municipal ordinances, they have set aside or disbanded the army, alone capable of repressing or intimidating it. On the 29th of May they dismissed the king’s guard. On the 15th of July they Edition: current; Page: [605] ordered away from Paris all the regular troops. On the 16th of July,26 they select “for the formation of a body of infantry-gendarmerie, the former French-guardsmen who served in the Revolution about the epoch of the 1st day of June, 1789, the officers, under-officers, gunners, and soldiers who gathered around the flag of liberty after the 12th of July of that year,” that is to say, a body of recognised insurgents and deserters. On the 6th of July, in all towns of 50,000 souls and over, they strike down the National Guard by discharging its staff, “an aristocratic corporation,” says a petition,27 “a sort of modern feudality composed of traitors, who seem to have formed a plan for directing public opinion as they please.” Early in August,28 they strike into the heart of the National Guard by suppressing special companies, grenadiers, and chasseurs, recruited amongst well-to-do-people, the genuine élite, stripped of its uniform, reduced to equality, lost in the mass, and now, moreover, finding its ranks degraded by a mixture of interlopers, federates, and men armed with pikes. Finally, to complete the pell-mell, they order that the palace guard be hereafter composed daily of citizens taken from the sixty battalions,29 so that the chiefs may no longer know their men nor the men their chiefs; so that no one may place confidence in his chief, in his subordinate, in his neighbor, or in himself; so that all the stones of the human dike may be loosened beforehand, and the barrier crumble at the first onslaught.—On the other hand, they have taken care to provide the insurrection with a fighting army and an advanced guard. By another series of legislative acts and municEdition: current; Page: [606] ipal ordinances, they authorise the assemblage of the Federates at Paris; they allow them pay and military lodgings;30 they allow them to organise under a central committee sitting at the Jacobin club, and to take their instructions from that club. Of these new-comers, two-thirds, genuine soldiers and true patriots, set out for the camp at Soissons and for the frontier; one-third of them, however, remain at Paris,31 perhaps 2,000, the rioters and politicians, who, feasted, entertained, indoctrinated, and each lodged with a Jacobin, become more Jacobin than their hosts, and incorporate themselves with the revolutionary battalions, so as to serve the good cause with their guns.32—Two bands, later arrivals, remain separate, and are only the more formidable; both are despatched by the towns on the sea-coast in which, four months before this, “twenty-one capital acts of insurrection had occurred, all unpunished, and several under sentence of the maritime jury.”33 One of these bands, numbering 300 men, comes from Brest, where the municipality, as infatuated as those of Marseilles and Avignon, engages, like those of Marseilles and Avignon, in armed expeditions against its neighbors; where popular murder is tolerated; where M. de la Jaille is nearly killed; where the head of M. de Patry is borne on a pike; where veteran rioters compose the crews of the fleet; where “workmen, under the pay of the State, clerks, masters, under-officers, converted into motionnaires, agitators, political stump-orators, and critics of the administration,” Edition: current; Page: [607] ask only to have work for their hands to do on a more conspicuous stage. The other troop, summoned from Marseilles by the Girondists, Rebecqui and Barbaroux,34 comprises 516 men, intrepid, ferocious adventurers, from every quarter, either Marseilles or abroad, Savoyards, Italians, Spaniards, driven out of their country,” almost all of the vilest class, or gaining a livelihood by infamous pursuits, “the bravos and demons of evil haunts,” used to blood, quick to strike, good cut-throats, picked men out of the bands that had marched on Aix, Arles, and Avignon, the froth of that froth which, for three years, in the Comtat and in the Bouches-du-Rhône, boiled over the useless barriers of the law.—The very day they reach Paris they show what they can do.35 Welcomed with great pomp by the Jacobins and by Santerre, they are conducted, for a purpose, to the Champs-Elysées, into a drinking-place, near the restaurant in which the grenadiers of the Filles St. Thomas, bankers, brokers, leading men well-known for their attachment to a monarchical constitution, were dining in a body, as announced several days in advance. The populace, which had formed a convoy for the Marseilles battalion, gathers before the restaurant, shouts, throws mud, and then lets fly a volley of stones; the grenadiers draw their sabres. Forthwith a shout is heard just in front of them, à nous les Marseillais! upon which the gang jump out of the windows with true southern agility, clamber across the ditches, fall upon the grenadiers with their Edition: current; Page: [608] swords, kill one and wound fifteen.—No début could be more brilliant. The party at last possesses men of action;36 and they must be kept within reach! Men who do such good work, and so expeditiously, must be well posted near the Tuileries. The mayor, consequently, on the night of the 8th of August, without informing the commanding general, solely on his own authority, orders them to leave their barracks in the Rue Blanche and take up their quarters, with their arms and cannon, in the barracks belonging to the Cordeliers.37

Such is the military force in the hands of the Jacobin masses; nothing remains but to place the civil power in their hands also, and, as the first gift of this kind was made to them by the Girondists, they will not fail to make them the second one.—On the 1st of July, they decree that the sessions of administrative bodies should thenceforth be public; this is submitting municipalities, district, and department councils, as well as the National Assembly itself, to the clamour, the outrages, the menaces, the rule of their audiences, which, in these bodies as in the National Assembly, will always be Jacobin.38 On the 11th of July, on declaring the country in danger,39 Edition: current; Page: [609] they render the sessions permanent, first of the administrative bodies, and next of the forty-eight sections of Paris, which is a surrender of the administrative bodies and the forty-eight sections of Paris to the Jacobin minority, which minority, through its zeal and being ever present, knows how to convert itself into a majority.—Let us trace the consequences of this, and see the winnowing which is thus effected by the double decree. Those who attend these meetings day and night are not the steady, occupied class. In the first place, they are too busy in their own counting-rooms, shops, and factories to lose so much time. In the next place, they are too sensible, too docile, and too honest to go and lord it over their magistrates in the Hôtel-de-Ville, or regard themselves in their various sections as the sovereign people. Moreover, they are disgusted with all this bawling. Lastly, the streets of Paris, especially at night, are not safe; owing to so much outdoor politics, there is a great increase of caning and of knocking down. Accordingly, for a long time, they do not attend at the clubs, nor are they seen in the galleries of the National Assembly; nor will they be seen again at the sessions of the municipality, nor at the meetings of the sections.—Nothing, on the other hand, is more attractive to the idle tipplers of the cafés, to bar-room oracles, loungers, and talkers, living in furnished rooms,40 to the parasites and refractory of the social army, to all who are out of the traces and unable to get back again, who want to tear things to pieces, and, for lack of a private career, establish one for themselves in public. Permanent sessions, even at night, are Edition: current; Page: [610] not too long either for them, or for lazy Federates, for disordered intellects, and for the small troop of genuine fanatics. Here they are either performers or claqueurs, an uproar not being offensive to them, because they create it. They relieve each other, so as to be always on hand in sufficient number, or they make up for a deficiency by usurpations and brutality. The section of the Théâtre-Français, for instance, in contempt of the law, removes the distinction between active and passive citizens, by granting to all residents in its circumscription the right to be present at its meetings and the right to vote. Other sections41 admit to their sittings all well-disposed spectators, all women, children, and nomads, all agitators, and the agitated, who, as at the National Assembly, applaud or hoot at the word of command. In the sections not disposed to be at the mercy of an anonymous public, the same herd of frantic characters make a racket at the doors, and insult the electors who pass through them.—Thanks to this itinerant throng of co-operating intruders, the Jacobin extremists rule the sections the same as the Assembly; in the sections, as in the Assembly, they drive away or silence the moderates, and when the hall becomes half empty or dumb, their motion is passed. Hawked about in the vicinity, the motion is even carried off; in a few days it makes the tour of Paris, and returns to the Assembly as an authentic and unanimous expression of popular will.42

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At present, to ensure the execution of this counterfeit will, it requires a central committee, and through a masterpiece of delusion, Pétion, the Girondist mayor, is the one who undertakes to lodge, sanction, and organise the committee. On the 17th day of July,43 he establishes in the offices belonging to the Commune, “a central bureau of correspondence between the sections.” To this a duly elected commissioner is to bring the acts passed by his section each day, and carry away the corresponding acts of the remaining forty-seven sections. Naturally, these elected commissioners will hold meetings of their own, appointing a president and secretary, and making official reports of their proceedings in the same form as a veritable municipal council. As they are elected to-day, and with a special mandate, it is natural that they should consider themselves more legitimate than a municipal council elected four or five months before them, and with a very uncertain mandate. Installed in the Hôtel-de-Ville, only two steps from the municipal council, it is natural for them to attempt to take its place; to substitute themselves for it, they have only to cross over to the other side of a corridor.


Thus, hatched by the Girondists, does the terrible Commune of Paris come into being, that of August 10th, September 2d, and May 31st. Scarcely does the viper leave its nest before it begins to hiss. A fortnight before the 10th of August44 it begins to uncoil, and the Edition: current; Page: [612] wise statesmen who have so diligently sheltered and fed it, stand aghast at its hideous, flattened head. Accordingly, they back away from it up to the last hour, and strive to prevent it from biting them. Pétion himself visits Robespierre on the 7th of August, in order to represent to him the perils of an insurrection, and to allow the Assembly time enough to discuss the question of dethronement. The same day Verginaud and Guadet propose to the King, through the medium of Thierry, his valet-de-chambre, that, until peace is assured, the government be carried on under a regency. Pétion, on the night of August 9–10, issues a pressing circular to the sections, urging them to remain tranquil.45

But it is too late. Fifty days of excitement and alarm have worked up the aberrations of morbid imaginations into a delirium.—On the second of August, a crowd of men and women rush to the bar of the Assembly, exclaiming, “Vengeance! Vengeance! our brethren are being poisoned!”46 The fact as ascertained is this: at Soissons, where the bread of the soldiery was prepared in a church, some fragments of broken glass were found in the oven, on the strength of which a rumor was started that 170 volunteers had died, and that 700 were lying in the hospital. A ferocious instinct creates adversaries in its own image, and sanctions projects against them of its own invention.—The committee of Jacobin leaders states positively that the Court is about to attack, and, accordingly, has devised “not merely signs of this, but the most unmistakable proof.”47 “It is the Trojan Edition: current; Page: [613] horse,” exclaimed Panis. “We are lost if we do not succeed in disemboweling it. … The bomb is to burst on the night of August 9–10. … Fifteen thousand aristocrats stand ready to slaughter all patriots.” Patriots, consequently, attribute to themselves the right to slaughter aristocrats.—Late in June, in the Minimes section, “a French guardsman had already determined to kill the King,” if the King persisted in his veto; the president of the section having desired the expulsion of the regicide, the latter was retained and the president was expelled.48 On the 14th of July, the day of the Federation festival, another predecessor of Louvel and Fieschi, provided with a cutlass, had introduced himself into the battalion on duty at the palace, for the same purpose; during the ceremony the crowd was furious, and, for a moment, the King owed his life to the firmness of his escort. On the 27th of July, in the garden of the Tuileries, d’Espréménil, the old Constituent, beaten, slashed, and his clothes torn, pursued like a stag across the Palais Royal, falls bleeding on a mattress at the gates of the Treasury.49 On the 29th of July, whilst one of Lafayette’s aids, M. Bureau de Pusy, is at the bar of the house, “they try to have a motion passed in the Palais Royal to parade his head on the end of a pike.”50—To such an extent are rage Edition: current; Page: [614] and fear carried, the brutal and the excited can wait no longer. On the 4th of August,51 the Mauconseil section declares “to the Assembly, to the municipality, and to all the citizens of Paris, that it no longer recognises Louis XVI. as King of the French”; its president, the foreman of a tailor’s shop, and its secretary, employed in the leather market, support their manifesto with three lines of a tragedy floating vaguely in their minds,52 and name the Boulevard Madeleine St. Honoré as a rendezvous on the following Sunday for all well-disposed persons. On the 6th of August, Varlet, a post-office clerk, makes known to the Assembly, in the name of the petitioners of the Champ de Mars, the programme of the faction: the dethronement of the King, the indictment, arrest, and speedy condemnation of Lafayette, the immediate convoking of the primary assemblies, universal suffrage, the discharge of all staff officers, the renewal of the departmental directories, the recall of all ambassadors, the suppression of diplomacy, and a return to the state of nature.

The Girondists may now interpose delay, negotiate, beat about and argue as much as they please; their hesitation has no other effect than to consign them into the background, as being lukewarm and timid. Thanks to them, the faction now has its deliberative assemblies, its executive powers, its central seat of government, its enlarged, tried, and ready army, and, forcibly or otherwise, its programme will be carried out.


The first point to gain is to constrain the Assembly to depose the King. Several times already,53 on the 26th of July and August 4, Edition: current; Page: [615] secret conventicles had been held, in which obscure individuals decided the fate of France, and gave the signal for insurrection.—Restrained with great difficulty, they consented “to have patience until August 9, at 11 o’clock in the evening.”54 On that day the discussion of the dethronement is to take place in the Assembly, and calculations are made on a favorable vote under such a positive threat; its reluctance must yield to the certainty of an armed investment.—On the 8th of August, however, the Assembly refuses, by a majority of two-thirds, to indict the great enemy, Lafayette. The double amputation, therefore, so essential for public safety, must be begun with this majority.

The moment the acquittal is announced, the galleries, usually so vociferous, maintain “gloomy silence.”55 The word of command for them is to keep themselves in reserve for the streets. One by one the deputies who voted for Lafayette are designated to the mob at the doors, and a shout goes up, “The rascals, the knaves, the traitors living on the civil list! Hang them! Kill them! Put an end to them!” Mud, mortar, plaster, stones are thrown at them, and they are severely pummelled. M. Mézières, in the Rue du Dauphin, is seized Edition: current; Page: [616] by the throat, and a woman strikes at him, which he parries. In the Rue St. Honoré, a number of men in red caps surround M. Regnault-Beauceron, and decide to “string him up at the lantern”; a man in his jacket had already grabbed him from behind and raised him up, when the grenadiers of Sainte-Opportune arrive in time to set him free. In the Rue St. Louis, M. Deuzy, repeatedly struck on the back with stones, has a sabre twice raised over his head. In the Passage des Feuillants, M. Desbois is pummelled, and a “snuff-box, his pocket-book, and cane” are stolen from him. In the lobbies of the Assembly, M. Girardin is on the point of being assassinated.56 Eight deputies besides these are pursued, and take refuge in the guard-room of the Palais Royal. A Federate enters along with them, and “there, his eyes sparkling with rage and thumping on the table like a madman,” he exclaims to M. Dumolard, who is the best known: “If you are unlucky enough to put your feet in the Assembly again, I’ll cut off your head with my sword!” As to the principal defender of Lafayette, M. Vaublanc, he is assailed three times, but he is wary enough not to return home; a number of infuriates, however, invest his house, yelling out that “eighty citizens are to perish by their hands, and he one of the first”; a dozen of the gang ascend to his apartments, rummage them in every corner, make another effort to find him in the adjoining houses, and, not being able to secure him, try to find his family; he is notified that, if he returns to his house, he will be massacred.—In the evening, on the Feuillants terrace, Edition: current; Page: [617] other deputies are subjected to the same outrages; the gendarmerie tries in vain to protect them, while the “commandant of the National Guard, on leaving his post, is attacked and cut down.”57—Meanwhile, some of the Jacobins in the lobbies “doom the majority of the Assembly to destruction”; one orator declares that “the people have a right to form lists of proscription,” and the club accordingly decides on printing and publishing the names of all the deputies who acquitted Lafayette.—Never was physical constraint displayed and applied with such open shamelessness.

On the following day, August 9, armed men gather around the approaches to the Assembly, and sabres are seen even in the corridors.58 The galleries, more imperious than ever, cheer, and break out in ironic shouts of triumph and approval every time the attacks of the previous evening are denounced in the tribune. The president calls the offenders to order more than twenty times, but his voice and his bell are drowned in the uproar. It is impossible to express an opinion. Most of the representatives who were maltreated the evening before, write that they will not return, while others, who are present, declare that they will not vote again “if they cannot be secure of freedom of conscience of their deliberations.” At this utterance, which expresses the secret sentiment of “nearly the whole of the Assembly,”59 “all the members of the ‘Right,’ and many of Edition: current; Page: [618] the ‘Left,’ arise simultaneously and exclaim: ‘Yes, yes; we will debate no longer unless we are free!’ ”—As usual, however, the majority gives way the moment effective measures are to be adopted; its heart sinks, as it always has done, on being called upon to act in self-defence, while these official declarations, one on top of the other, in hiding from it the gravity of the danger, sink it deeper in its own timidity. At this same session the syndic-attorney of the department reports that the mob is ready, that 900 armed men had just entered Paris, that the tocsin would be rung at midnight, and that the municipality tolerates or favors the insurrection. At this same session, the Minister of Justice gives notice that “the laws are powerless,” and that the government is no longer responsible. At this same session, Pétion, the mayor, almost avowing his complicity, appears at the bar of the house, and declares positively that he will have nothing to do with the public forces, because “it would be arming one body of citizens against another.”60—Every support is evidently knocked away. Feeling that it is abandoned, the Assembly gives up, and, as a last expedient, and with a degree of weakness or simplicity which admirably depicts the legislators of the epoch, it adopts a philosophic address to the people, “instructing it what to do in the exercise of its sovereignty.”

How this is done, it may see the next morning. At 7 o’clock, a Jacobin deputy stops in a cab before the door of the Feuillants club; a crowd gathers around him, and he gives his name, Delmas. The crowd understood it as Dumas, a notorious Constitutionalist, and, in a rage, drag him out of the vehicle and knock him down; had not other deputies run up and given assurances that he was the patriot Delmas, of Toulouse, instead of “the traitor, Mathieu Dumas,” he was a lost man.61 Dumas makes no effort to enter. He finds on the Place Vendôme a second and not less instructive warning. Edition: current; Page: [619] Some wretches, followed by the usual rabble, carry about a number of heads on pikes, those probably of the journalist Suleau, and three others, massacred a quarter of an hour before; “boys quite young, mere children, play with these heads by tossing them in the air, and catching them on the ends of their sticks.”—There is no doubt but that the deputies of the “Right,” and even of the “Centre,” would do well to go home and stay there. In fact, they are no longer seen in the Assembly.62 In the afternoon, out of the 630 members still present the evening before, 346 do not answer the call, while about thirty others had either withdrawn before this or sent in their resignations.63 The purging is complete, like that to which Cromwell, in 1648, subjected the Long Parliament. Henceforth the Legislative body, reduced to 224 Jacobins or Girondists, with 60 frightened or tractable neutrals, will obey the orders of the street without any difficulty. A change has come over the spirit of the body as well as over its composition; it is nothing more now than a servile instrument in the hands of the seditious, who have mutilated it, and who, masters of it through a first misdeed, are going to use it to legalise other crimes.


During the night of the 9th and 10th of August their government is organised for action, its organisation, as its forth coming action will be, being due to violence and fraud.—In vain have they wrought Edition: current; Page: [620] up and wearied the sections for the past fortnight; they are not yet submissive, only six out of forty-eight at the present hour, eleven o’clock at night, being found sufficiently excited or purged to send their commissioners forthwith, with full power, to the Hôtel-de-Ville. The others will follow, but the majority rests inert or refractory.64—It is necessary, therefore, to deceive or force this majority, and, to this end, darkness, the late hour, disorder, dread of the coming day, and the uncertainty of what to do, are precious auxiliaries. In many of the sections,65 the meetings are already adjourned or deserted; only a few members of the permanent bureau remain in the room, with a few men, perhaps asleep, on the nearly empty benches. An emissary arrives from the insurgent sections, along with a company of trusty fellows belonging to the quarter, and cries out, Save the country! The sleepers open their eyes, stretch themselves, raise their hands, and elect whoever is designated, oftentimes strangers and other unknown individuals, who will be disowned the coming day at a full meeting of the section. There is no official report drawn up, no ballotting, the course pursued being the most prompt. At the Arsenal section, six electors present choose three among their own number to represent 1,400 active citizens. Elsewhere, a throng of harridans, vagabonds, and others who “make night hideous,” invade the premises, drive out the friends of order, and carry all the nominations made.66 Other sections consent to elect, but without giving full power. Several make express reservations, stipulating that their delegates shall act in concert with the legal municipality, distrusting the future committee, and declaring in advance that they will not obey it. A few elect their commissioners only to obtain Edition: current; Page: [621] information, and, at the same time, to show that they intend earnestly to stop all rioting.67 Finally, at least twenty sections abstain from or disapprove of the proceedings and send no delegates.—It makes but little difference—they can be dispensed with. At three o’clock in the morning, 19 sections, and, at seven o’clock, 24 or 25,68 are represented one way or another at the Hôtel-de-Ville, and this representation forms a central committee. At all events, there is nothing to prevent seventy or eighty subordinate intriguers and desperadoes, who have slipped in or pushed through, from calling themselves authorised delegates and ministers plenipotentiary of the entire Paris population,69 and of going to work at once. Scarcely are they installed under the presidency of Huguenin, with Tallien for a secretary, when they issue a summons for “twenty-five armed men from each section,” five hundred vigorous fellows, to act as guards and serve as an executive force.—Against a band of this description the municipal council, in session in the opposite chamber, is feeble enough. Moreover, the most moderate and firmest of its members, sent away on purpose, are on missions to the Assembly, at the palace, and in different quarters of Paris, while its galleries are crammed with villainous looking men, posted there to create an uproar, its deliberations being carried on under menaces of death.—Hence, as the night wears on, between the two assemblages, one legal and the other illegal, in session at the same time, facing each other like the two sides of a scale, the equilibrium disappears. Lassitude, fear, Edition: current; Page: [622] discouragement, desertion, increase on one side, while numbers, audacity, force, and usurpation increase on the other. At length, the latter wrests from the former all the acts it needs to start the insurrection and render defence impossible. About six o’clock in the morning the intruding committee, in the name of the people, ends the matter by suspending the legitimate council, which it then expels, and takes possession of its chairs.

The first act of the new sovereigns indicates at once what they mean to do. M. de Mandat, in command of the National Guard, summoned to the Hôtel-de-Ville, had come to explain to the council what disposition he had made of his troops, and what orders he had issued. They seize him, interrogate him in their turn,70 depose him, appoint Santerre in his place, and, to derive all the benefit they can from his capture, they order him to withdraw one-half of his men stationed around the palace. Fully aware of what he was exposed to in this den of thieves, he nobly refuses; forthwith they consign him to prison, and send him to the Abbaye “for his greater safety.” At these significant words from Danton,71 he is murdered at the door Edition: current; Page: [623] as he leaves by Rossignol, one of Danton’s accolytes, with a pistol-shot at arm’s length.—After tragedy comes comedy. At the urgent request of Pétion, who is unwilling to be called out against the rioters,72 they send him a guard of 400 men, thus confining him in his own house, and, apparently, in spite of himself.

With treachery as a shelter on one side, and assassination on the other, the insurrection may now go on in full security before the big hypocrite (tartufe) who solemnly complains of his voluntary captivity, and before the corpse, with shattered brow, lying on the steps of the Hôtel-de-Ville. On the right bank of the river, the battalions of the faubourg Saint-Antoine, and, on the left, those of the faubourg Saint-Marcel, the Bretons, and the Marseilles band, march forth as freely as if going to parade. Measures of defence are disconcerted by the murder of the commanding general, and by the mayor’s duplicity; there is no resistance on guarded spots, at the arcade Saint-Jean, the passages of the bridges, along the quays, and in the court of the Louvre. An advance guard of the populace, women, children, and men, armed with shoe-knives, cudgels, and pikes, spread over the abandoned Carrousel, and, towards eight o’clock, the advance column, led by Westermann, debouches in front of the palace.


If the King had been willing to fight, he might still have defended himself, saved himself, and even been victorious.—In the Tuileries, 950 of the Swiss Guard and 200 gentlemen stood ready to die for him to the last man. Around the Tuileries, two or three thousand National Guard, the élite of the Parisian population, had just cheered Edition: current; Page: [624] him as he passed:73 “Hurrah for the King! Hurrah for Louis XVI.! He is our King and we want no other; we want him only! Down with the rioters! Down with the Jacobins! We will defend him unto death! Let him put himself at our head! Hurrah for the Nation, the Law, the Constitution, and the King, which are all one!” If the cannoneers were silent, and seemed ill-disposed,74 it was simply necessary to disarm them suddenly, and hand over their pieces to loyal men. Four thousand guns and eleven pieces of artillery, protected by the walls of the courts and by the thick masonry of the palace, were certainly sufficient against the nine or ten thousand Jacobins in Paris, most of them pikemen, badly led by improvised or refractory battalion officers, and, still worse, commanded by their new general, Santerre, who, always cautious, kept himself aloof in the Hôtel-de-Ville, out of harm’s way.75 The only staunch men in the Carrousel were the eight hundred men from Brest and Marseilles; the rest consisted of a rabble like that of July 14, October 5, and June 20;76 the palace, says Napoleon Bonaparte, was attacked by the Edition: current; Page: [625] vilest canaille, professional rioters, Maillard’s band, and the bands of Lazowski, Fournier, and Théroigne, by all the assassins, indeed, of the previous night and day, and of the following day, which species of combatants, as was proved by the event, would have scattered at the first discharge of a cannon.—But, with the governing as with the governed, all notion of the State was lost, the former through humanity become a duty, and the latter through insubordination erected into a right. At the close of the eighteenth century, in the upper as well as in the middle class, there was a horror of blood;77 refined social ways, coupled with an idyllic imagination, had softened the militant disposition. Everywhere the magistrates had forgotten that the maintenance of society and of civilisation is a benefit of infinitely greater importance than the lives of a parcel of maniacs and malefactors; that the prime object of government, as well as of a police, is the preservation of order by force; that a Edition: current; Page: [626] gendarme is not a philanthropist; that, if attacked on his post, he must use his sword, and that, in sheathing it for fear of wounding his aggressors, he fails to do his duty.

This time again, in the court of the Carrousel, the magistrates on the spot, finding that “their responsibility is insupportable,” concern themselves only with how to “avoid the effusion of blood”; it is with regret, and this they state to the troops, “in faltering tones,” that they proclaim martial law.78 They “forbid them to attack,” merely “authorising them to repel force with force”; in other words, they order them to support the first fire: “you are not to fire until you are fired upon.”—Still better, they go from company to company, “openly declaring that opposition to such a large and well-armed assemblage would be folly, and that it would be a very great misfortune to attempt it.”—“I repeat to you,” said Leroux, “that a defence seems to me madness.”—Such is the way in which, for more than an hour, they encourage the National Guard. “All I ask,” says Leroux again, “is that you wait a little longer. I hope that we shall induce the King to yield to the National Assembly.”—Always the same tactics,—surrender the general and the fortress rather than fire on the mob. To this end they return to the King, with Roederer at their head, and renew their efforts: “Sire,” says Roederer, “time presses, and we ask you to consent to accompany us.”—For a few moments, the last and most solemn of the monarchy, the King hesitates.79 His good sense, probably, enabled him to see that a retreat was abdication; but his phlegmatic understanding is at first unable to clearly define its consequences; moreover, his optimism had never compassed the vastness of popular imbecility, nor sounded the depths of human wickedness; he cannot imagine calumny transforming his dislike of shedding blood into a disposition to shed blood.80 Edition: current; Page: [627] Besides, he is bound by his past, by his habit of always yielding; by his determination, declared and maintained for the past three years, never to cause civil war; by his obstinate humanitarianism, and especially by his religious equanimity. The animal instinct of resistance has been systematically extinguished in him, the flash of anger in all of us which starts up under unjust and brutal aggressions; the Christian has supplanted the King; he is no longer aware that duty obliges him to be a man of the sword, that, in his surrender, he surrenders the State, and that to yield like a lamb is to lead all honest people, along with himself, into the shambles. “Let us go,” said he, raising his right hand, “we will give, since it is necessary, one more proof of our self-sacrifice.”81 Accompanied by his family and Ministers, he sets out between two lines of National Guards and the Swiss Guard,82 and reaches the Assembly, which sends a deputation to meet him; entering the chamber he says: “I come here to prevent a great crime.”—No pretext, indeed, for a conflict now exists. An assault on the insurgent side is useless, since the monarch, with all belonging to him and his government, have left the palace. On the other side, Edition: current; Page: [628] the garrison will not begin the fight; diminished by 150 Swiss and nearly all the grenadiers of the Filles St. Thomas, who served as the King’s escort to the Assembly, it is reduced to a few gentlemen, 750 Swiss, and about a hundred National Guards; the others, on learning that the King is going, consider their services at an end and disperse.83—All seems to be over in the sacrifice of royalty. Louis XVI. imagines that the Assembly, at the worst, will suspend him from his functions, and that he will return to the Tuileries as a private individual. On leaving the palace, indeed, he orders his valet to keep up the service until he himself returns from the National Assembly.84

He did not count on the exigencies, delusions and disorders of an insurrection.—Threatened by the Jacobin cannoneers remaining with their artillery in the inside courts, the gate-keepers open the gates. The insurgents rush in, fraternise with the cannoneers, reach the vestibule, ascend the grand staircase, and summon the Swiss to surrender.85—These show no hostile spirit; many of them, as a mark of good humor, throw packets of cartridges out of the windows; some even go so far as to let themselves be embraced and led away. The regiment, however, faithful to its orders, will not yield to force.86 “We are Swiss,” replies the sergeant, Blaser; “the Swiss do Edition: current; Page: [629] not part with their arms but with their lives. We think that we do not merit such an insult. If the regiment is no longer wanted, let it be legally discharged. But we will not leave our post, nor will we let our arms be taken from us.” The two bodies of troops remain facing each other on the staircase for three-quarters of an hour, almost intermingled, one silent and the other excited, turbulent, and active, with all the ardor and lack of discipline peculiar to a popular gathering, each insurgent striving apart, and in his own way, to corrupt, intimidate, or constrain the Swiss Guards. Granier, of Marseilles, at the head of the staircase, holds two of them at arms’ length, trying in a friendly manner to draw them down.87 At the foot of the staircase the crowd is shouting and threatening; lightermen, armed with boat-hooks, harpoon the sentinels by their shoulder-straps, and pull down four or five, like so many fishes, amid shouts of laughter.—Just at this moment a pistol goes off, nobody being able to tell which party fired it.88 The Swiss, firing from above, clean out the vestibule and the courts, rush down into the square and seize the cannon; the insurgents scatter and fly out of range. The bravest, nevertheless, rally behind the entrances of the houses on the Carrousel, throw cartridges into the courts of the small buildings and set them on fire. During another half-hour, under the dense smoke of the first discharge and of the burning buildings, both sides fire haphazard, while the Swiss, far from giving way, have scarcely lost a few men, when a messenger from the King arrives, M. d’Hervilly, who orders in his name the firing to cease, and the men to return to their barracks.

Slowly and regularly they form in line and retire along the broad alley of the garden. At the sight of these foreigners, however, in red coats, who had just fired on Frenchmen, the guns of the battalion stationed on the terraces go off of their own accord, and the Swiss column divides in two. One body of 250 men turns to the right, Edition: current; Page: [630] reaches the Assembly, lays down its arms at the King’s order, and allows itself to be shut up in the Feuillants church. The others are annihilated on crossing the garden, or cut down on the Place Louis XV. by the mounted gendarmerie. No quarter is given. The warfare is that of a mob, not civilised war, but primitive war, that of barbarians. In the abandoned palace into which the insurgents entered five minutes after the departure of the garrison,89 they kill the wounded, the two Swiss surgeons attending to them,90 the Swiss who had not fired a gun, and who, in the balcony on the side of the garden, “cast off their cartridge-boxes, sabres, coats, and hats, and shout: ‘Friends, we are with you, we are Frenchmen, we belong to the nation!’ ”91 They kill the Swiss, armed or unarmed, who remain at their posts in the apartments. They kill the Swiss gate-keepers in their boxes. They kill everybody in the kitchens, from the head cook down to the pot boys.92 The women barely escape. Madame Campan, on her knees, seized by the back, sees an uplifted sabre about to fall on her, when a voice from the foot of the staircase calls out: “What are you doing there? The women are not to be killed!” “Get up, you hussy, the nation forgives you!”—To make up for this the nation helps itself and indulges itself to its heart’s content in the palace which now belongs to it. Some honest persons do, indeed, carry money and valuables to the National Assembly, but others Edition: current; Page: [631] pillage and destroy all that they can.93 They shatter mirrors, break furniture to pieces, and throw clocks out of the window; they shout the Marseilles hymn, which one of the National Guards accompanies on a harpsichord,94 and descend to the cellars, where they gorge themselves. “For more than a fortnight,” says an eye-witness,95 “one walked on fragments of bottles.” In the garden, especially, “it might be said that they had tried to pave the walks with broken glass.”—Porters are seen seated on the throne in the coronation robes; a trollop occupies the Queen’s bed; it is a carnival in which base and cruel instincts, with the curb taken off, find plenty of good forage and abundant litter. Runaways come back after the victory and stab the dead with their pikes. Prostitutes, “well-dressed,” cut capers with naked corpses.96 And, as the destroyers enjoy their work, they are not disposed to be disturbed in it. In the courts of the Carrousel, where nine hundred toises of building are burning, the firemen try four times to extinguish the fire; “they are shot at, and threatened with being pitched into the flames,”97 while petitioners appear at the bar of the Assembly, and announce in a threatening tone that the Tuileries are blazing, and shall blaze until the dethronement becomes a law.

The poor Assembly, become Girondist through its late mutilation, strives in vain to arrest the downhill course of things, and maintain, as it has just sworn to do, “the constituted authorities”;98 it strives, at least, to put Louis XVI. in the Luxembourg palace, to appoint a Edition: current; Page: [632] tutor for the Dauphin, to keep the ministers temporarily in office, and to save all prisoners, and those who walk the streets. Equally captive, and nearly as prostrate as the King himself, the Assembly merely serves as a recording office for the popular will, that very morning furnishing evidence of the value which the armed commonalty attaches to its decrees. That morning murders were committed at its door, in contempt of its safe conduct; at eight o’clock Suleau and three others, wrested from their guards, are cut down under its windows. In the afternoon, from sixty to eighty of the unarmed Swiss still remaining in the church of the Feuillants are taken out to be sent to the Hôtel-de-Ville, and massacred on the way at the Place de Grève. Another detachment, conducted to the section of the Roule, is likewise disposed of in the same way.99 Carle, at the head of the gendarmerie, is called out of the Assembly and assassinated on the Place Vendôme, and his head is carried about on a pike. The founder of the old monarchical club, M. de Clermont-Tonnerre, withdrawn from public life for two years past, and quietly passing along the streets, is recognised, dragged through the gutter and cut to pieces.—After such warnings the Assembly can only obey, and, as usual, conceal its submission beneath sounding words. If the dictatorial committee, self-imposed at the Hôtel-de-Ville, still condescends to keep it alive, it is owing to a new investiture,100 and by declaring to it that it must not meddle with its doings now or in the future. Let it confine itself to its function, that of rendering decrees made by the faction. Accordingly, like fruit falling from a tree vigorously shaken, these decrees rattle down, one after another, into the hands that await them:101 the suspension of the King, the Edition: current; Page: [633] convoking of a national convention, electors and the eligible exempted from all property qualifications, an indemnity for displaced electors, the term of Assemblies left to the decision of the electors,102 the removal and arrest of the late ministers, the re-appointment of Servan, Clavières and Roland, Danton as Minister of Justice, the recognition of the usurping Commune, Santerre confirmed in his new rank, the municipalities empowered to look after general safety, the arrest of suspicious persons confided to all well-disposed citizens,103 domiciliary visits prescribed for the discovery of arms and ammunition,104 all the justices of Paris to be re-elected by those within their jurisdiction, all officers of the gendarmerie subject to re-election by their soldiers,105 thirty sous per diem for the Marseilles troops from the day of their arrival, a court-martial against the Swiss, a tribunal for the despatch of justice against the vanquished of August 10, and a quantity of other decrees of a still more important bearing;—the suspension of the commissioners appointed to enforce the execution of the law in civil and criminal courts,106 the release of all persons accused or condemned for military insubordination, for press offences and pillaging of grain,107 the partition of communal possessions,108 the confiscation and sale of property belonging to émigrés,109 the relegation of their fathers, mothers, wives and children into the interior, the banishment or transportation of Edition: current; Page: [634] unsworn ecclesiastics,110 the establishment of easy divorce at two months’ notice and on the demand of one of the parties,111 in short, every measure tending to disturb property, break up the family, persecute conscience, suspend the law, pervert justice, rehabilitate crime, and hand over the magistracy, public offices, the choice of the future omnipotent Assembly, in brief, the entire commonwealth, to an autocratic, violent minority, which, daring all things, obtains the dictatorship and dares all to keep it.


Let us stop a moment to contemplate this great city and its new kings.—From afar, Paris seems a club of 700,000 fanatics, vociferating and deliberating on the public squares; near by, it is nothing of the sort. The slime, on rising from the bottom, has become the surface, and given its color to the stream; but the human stream flows in its ordinary channel, and, under this turbid exterior, remains about the same as it was before. It is a city of people like ourselves, governed, busy, and fond of amusement. To the great majority, even in revolutionary times, private life, too complex and absorbing, leaves but an insignificant corner for public affairs. Through routine and through necessity, manufacturing, display of wares, selling, purchasing, keeping accounts, trades, and professions, go on in the usual way. The clerk goes to his office, the workman to his shop, the artisan to his loft, the merchant to his warehouse, the student to his cabinet, and the functionary to his duty;112 they are devoted, first of all, to their pursuits, to their daily bread, to the discharge of their obligations, to their own advancement, to their families, and to their pleasures; to provide for these things the day is not too long. Politics diverts them aside only for so many quarter-hours, and then rather out of curiosity, like a play one applauds or hisses in his seat without Edition: current; Page: [635] stepping upon the stage.—“The declaration that the country is in danger,” says many eye-witnesses,113 “has made no change in the physiognomy of Paris. There are the same amusements, the same gossip. … The theatres are full as usual. The wine-shops and places of diversion overflow with the people, National Guards, and soldiers. … The fashionable world enjoys its pleasure-parties.”—The day after the decree, the effect of the ceremony, so skilfully managed, is very slight. “The National Guard in the procession,” writes a patriotic journalist,114 “first shows indifference and even ennui”; it is overtasked with watchings and patrol duty; it probably thinks that in parading for the nation, one finds no time to work for one’s self. A few days after this the manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick “produces no sensation whatever. People laugh at it. Only the newspapers and their readers are familiar with it. … The mass know nothing about it. Nobody fears the coalition nor foreign troops.”115—On the 10th of August, outside the theatre of the combat, all is tranquil in Paris. People walk about and chat in the streets as usual.”116—On the 19th of August, Moore, the Englishman,117 sees, Edition: current; Page: [636] with astonishment, the heedless crowd filling the Champs-Elysées, the various diversions, the air of a fête, the countless small shops in which refreshments are sold accompanied with songs and music, and the quantities of pantomimes and marionettes. “Are these people as happy as they seem to be?” he asks of a Frenchman along with him. “They are as jolly as gods!” “Do you think the Duke of Brunswick is ever in their heads?” “Monsieur, you may be sure of this, that the Duke of Brunswick is the last man they think of.”

Such is the unconcern and lukewarmness of the gross, egoistic mass, otherwise busy, and always passive under any government whatever it may be, a veritable flock of sheep, allowing government to do as it pleases, provided it does not hinder it from browsing and capering as it chooses.—As to the men of sensibility who love their country, they are still less troublesome, for they are gone or going, often at the rate of a thousand and even two thousand a day, ten thousand in the last week of July,118 fifteen thousand in the first two weeks of September,119 in all perhaps forty thousand volunteers furEdition: current; Page: [637] nished by the capital alone, and who, with their fellows proportionate in number supplied by the departments, are the salvation of France. Through this departure of the worthy, and this passivity of the flock, Paris belongs to the fanatics among the populace. “These are the sans-culottes,” wrote the patriotic Palloy, “the debauchees and rabble of Paris, and I glory in belonging to that class which has put down the so-called honest folks.”120 “Three thousand workmen,” says the Girondist Soulavie, later, “made the Revolution of the 10th of August, against the kingdom of the Feuillants, the majority of the capital and against the Legislative Assembly.”121 Workmen, day laborers, and petty shop-keepers, without counting women, common vagabonds and regular bandits, form, indeed, one-twentieth of the adult male population of the city, about 9,000 spread over all sections of Paris, the only ones to vote and act in the midst of universal stupor and indifference.—We find in the Rue de Seine, for example, seven of them, Lacaille, keeper of a roasting-shop; Philippe, “a cattle-breeder, who leads around she-asses for consumptives,” now president of the section, and soon to become one of the Abbaye butchers; Guérard, “a Rouen waterman who has abandoned the navigation of the Seine on a large scale and keeps a skiff, in which he ferries people over the river from the Pont du Louvre to the Quai Mazarin,” and four other characters of the same stamp. Energy, however, on this side supplies the place of education and of numbers. One day, Guérard, on passing M. Hua, the deputy, tells him in the Edition: current; Page: [638] way of a warning, “You big rascal, you were lucky to have other people with you. If you had been alone, I would have capsized my boat, and had the pleasure of drowning a blasted aristocrat!” These are the “matadors of the quarter.”122—Their ignorance gives them no concern; on the contrary, they take pride in coarseness and vulgarity. One of the ordinary speechmakers of the faubourg Saint-Antoine, Gouchon, a designer for calicos, comes to the bar of the Assembly, “in the name of the men of July 14 and August 10,” to glorify the political reign of brutal incapacity; according to him, it is more enlightened than that of the cultivated:123 “those great geniuses who bear the fine title of Constitutionalists are forced to do justice to men who never studied the art of governing elsewhere than in the book of nature. … Consulting customs and not principles, these clever folks have been long occupied with the political balance of things; we have found it without looking for it in the heart of man. Obtain a government which will place the poor above their feeble resources and the rich below their means, and the balance will be perfect.” This is intelligible, and all that follows. Their avowed end is a complete levelling, not alone of political rights, but, again, and especially, of conditions and fortunes; they promise themselves “absolute equality, real equality,” and, still better, “the magistracy and all government powers.”124 France belongs to them, if they are bold enough to seize hold of it.—And, on the other hand, should they miss their prey, they feel themselves lost, for the Brunswick manifesto, which had made no impression on the public, remains deeply impressed in their minds. They apply its threats to themselves, while their imagination, as usual, has converted it into a positive plot:125 the inhabitants of Paris are to be led out on the plain of St. Denis, and there decimated; previous to this, the most Edition: current; Page: [639] notorious patriots will be selected, and then broken on the wheel, as well as forty or fifty market-women. Already, on the 11th of August, a rumor is current that 800 men of the late royal guards are ready to make a descent on Paris;126 that very day the dwelling of Beaumarchais is ransacked for seven hours; the walls are pierced, the privies sounded, and the garden dug down to the rock. The same search is repeated in the adjoining house. The women are especially “enraged at not finding anything,”127 and wish to renew the attempt, swearing that they will discover where things are hidden in ten minutes. The “coinage of the brain” is evidently too much for these unballasted minds; the head swims at this chance-formed royalty; a lofty self-conceit and extravagant desires coupled with deep-seated, silent fear form in them that morbid, mischievous compound, which, in democracy as well as in a monarchy, fashions a Nero.128

More infatuated, more despotic, more alarmed, their leaders have no scruples to restrain them, for the most noted among them are men of tarnished reputations, and just those who hurry along others or act by themselves. Of the three chiefs of the old municipality, Pétion, the mayor, really deposed, but verbally respected, is set aside and viewed in the same light as a piece of old furniture. As to the other two, who remain active and in office, Manuel,129 the syndic-Edition: current; Page: [640] attorney, son of a porter, a loud-talking, talentless bohemian, stole the private correspondence of Mirabeau from a public depository, falsified it, and sold it for his own benefit. Danton,130 Manuel’s deputy, faithless in two ways, receives the King’s money to prevent the Edition: current; Page: [641] riot, and makes use of it to urge it on.—Varlet, “that extraordinary speech-maker, led such a foul and prodigal life as to bring his mother in sorrow to the grave; afterwards he spent what was left, and soon had nothing.”131 Others were not only false to their honor but to common honesty. Carra, with a seat in the secret Directory of the Federates, and who drew up the plan of the insurrection, had been condemned by the Mâcon tribunals to two years’ imprisonment for theft and burglary.132 Westermann, who led the attacking column, had stolen a silver dish, with a coat of arms on it, of Jean Creux, keeper of a restaurant, Rue des Poules, and was twice sent away from Paris for swindling.133 Panis, chief of the Committee of Supervision,134 was turned out of the Treasury Department, where his uncle was a sub-cashier, in 1774, for robbery. His colleague, Sergent, appropriates to himself “three gold watches, an agate ring, and other jewels,” left with him on deposit.135 “Breaking seals, false charges, breaches of trust,” embezzlements, are familiar transactions. In their Edition: current; Page: [642] hands piles of silver plate and 1,100,000 francs in gold are to disappear.136 Among the members of the new Commune, Huguenin, the president, a clerk at the barriers, is a shameless peculator.137 Rossignol, a journeyman jeweller, implicated in an assassination, is at this moment subject to judicial prosecution.138 Hébert, a journalistic mine of filth, formerly check-taker in a theatre, is turned away from the Variétés for larceny.139 Among men of action, Fournier, the American, Lazowski, and Maillard are not only murderers, but likewise robbers,140 while, by their side, arises the future general of the Paris National Guard, Henriot, at first a domestic in the family of an attorney who turned him off for theft, then a tax-clerk, again turned adrift for theft, and, finally, a police spy, and still incarcerated in the Bicêtre prison for another theft, and, at last, a battalion officer, and one of the September executioners.141—The monster maniacs emerge from their dens at the same time with the rogues and bandits. De Sades,142 who lived the life of “Justine” before he wrote it, and Edition: current; Page: [643] whom the Revolution delivered from the Bastille, is secretary of the section of the Place Vendôme. Marat, the homicidal monomaniac, constitutes himself, after the 23d of August, head journalist at the Hôtel-de-Ville, political councillor and confessor of the new Commune, while his favorite plan, which he has preached for three years, is now reduced to a wholesale butchery, without either words or delay. “Give me,” said he to Barbaroux,143 “two hundred Neapolitans armed with daggers, and with only a handkerchief on their left arms for a buckler, and I will overrun France and ensure the Revolution.” According to him it is necessary to put 260,000 men out of the way “on humane grounds,” for, unless this is done, there is no safety for the rest. “The National Assembly may still save France; let it decree that all aristocrats shall wear a blue ribbon, and the moment that three of them are seen in company, let them be hung.”—Another way would be “to lay in wait in dark streets and at corners for the royalists and Feuillants, and cut their throats. Should ten patriots chance to be killed among a hundred men, what does it matter? It is only ninety for ten, which prevents mistakes. Fall upon those who own carriages, employ valets, wear silk coats, or go to the theatres. You may be sure that they are aristocrats.”—The Jacobin commonalty have certainly found the staff that suits them. Both can comprehend each other without difficulty. In order that this spontaneous massacre may become an administrative measure, the Neros of the gutter have but to await the word of command from the Neros of the Hôtel-de-Ville.

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I. Mob rule in times of anarchy—Case of anarchy recently and suddenly brought on—The band that succeeds the fallen government and its administrative tools— II. Progress of the homicidal idea in the mass of the party—The morning after August 10—The tribunal of August 17—The funereal fête of August 27—The prison plot— III. Rise of the homicidal idea among the leaders—Their situation—The powers they usurp—Their spoliations—The risks they run—Terror their salvation— IV. Date of the determination of this—The actors and their parts—Marat—Danton—The Commune—Its co-operators—Harmony of dispositions and readiness of operation— V. Common workmen—Their numbers—Their condition—Their sentiments—Effect of murder on the murderers—Their degradation—Their insensibility— VI. Effect of the massacre on the public—General dejection and the dissolution of society—The ascendency of the Jacobins assured in Paris—The men of September upheld in the Commune and elected to the Convention.


The worst feature of anarchy is not so much the absence of the overthrown government as the rise of new governments of an inferior grade. Every fallen State produces bands which conquer and which are sovereign; it was so in Gaul on the fall of the Roman empire, also under the latest of Charlemagne’s successors; the same state of things exists now in Roumelia and in Mexico. Adventurers, malefactors, men in bad repute, social outcasts, men overwhelmed with debts and lost to honor, vagabonds, deserters, dissolute troopers—born enemies of work, of subordination, and of the law—form Edition: current; Page: [645] leagues for breaking down the worm-eaten barriers which still surround the sheep-like masses; and as they are unscrupulous, they slaughter on all occasions. On this foundation their authority rests; each in turn reigns in its own canton, and their government, in keeping with its brutal masters, consists in robbery and murder; nothing else can be looked for from barbarians and brigands.

But never are they so dangerous as when, in a great State recently fallen, a sudden revolution places the central power in their hands; for they then regard themselves as the legitimate inheritors of the shattered government, and, under this title, they undertake to manage the commonwealth. Now in times of anarchy the ruling power does not proceed from above, but from below; and the chiefs, therefore, who would remain such, are obliged to follow the blind impulsion of their flock.1 Hence the important and dominant personage, the one whose ideas prevail, the veritable successor of Richelieu and of Louis XIV., is here the subordinate Jacobin, the pillar of the club, the maker of motions, the street rioter, Panis, Sergent, Hébert, Varlet, Henriot, Maillard, Fournier, Lazowski, or, still lower in the scale, the Marseilles “rough,” the faubourg cannoneer, the drinking market-porter who elaborates his political conceptions in the interval between his hiccoughs.2—For information he has the rumors cirEdition: current; Page: [646] culating in the streets which assign a traitor to each domicile, and for other acquisitions the club bombast, through which he becomes the leader of the great machine. This machine so vast, so complex, such a complete whole of entangled services ramifying in innumerable offices, with so much apparatus of special import, so delicate as to require constant adaptation to changing circumstances, diplomacy, finances, justice, army administration—all this transcends his limited comprehension; a bottle cannot be made to contain the bulk of a hogshead.3 In his narrow brain, perverted and turned topsy-turvy by the disproportionate notions put into it, only one idea suited to his gross instincts and aptitudes finds a place there, and that is the desire to kill his enemies; and these are also the State’s enemies, however open or concealed, present or future, probable or even possible. He carries this savagery and bewilderment into politics, and hence the evil arising from his usurpation. Simply a brigand, he would have murdered only to rob, and his murders would have been restricted. As representing the State, he undertakes wholesale massacres, of which he has the means ready at hand.—For he has not yet had time enough to take apart the old administrative implements; at all events the minor wheels, gendarmes, jailers, employees, book-keepers, and accountants, are always in their places and under control. There can be no resistance on the part of those arrested; accustomed to the protection of the laws and to peaceable ways and times, they have never relied on defending themselves nor ever could imagine that any one could be so summarily slain. As to the mass, rendered incapable of any effort of its own by ancient centralisation, it remains inert and passive and lets things go their own way.—Hence, during many long, successive days, without being hurried Edition: current; Page: [647] or impeded, with official papers quite correct and accounts in perfect order, a massacre can be carried out with the same impunity and as methodically as cleaning the streets or clubbing stray dogs.


Let us trace the progress of the homicidal idea in the mass of the party. It lies at the very bottom of the revolutionary creed. Collot d’Herbois, two months after this, aptly says in the Jacobin tribune: “The second of September is the great article in the credo of our freedom.”4 It is peculiar to the Jacobin to consider himself as a legitimate sovereign, and to treat his adversaries not as belligerents, but as criminals. They are guilty of lèse-nation; they are outlaws, fit to be killed at all times and places, and deserve extinction, even when no longer able or in a condition to do any harm.—Consequently, on the 10th of August the Swiss Guards, who do not fire a gun and who surrender, the wounded lying on the ground, their surgeons, the palace domestics, are killed; and, worse still, persons like M. de Clermont-Tonnerre who pass quietly along the street. All this is now called in official phraseology the justice of the people.—On the 11th the Swiss Guards, collected in the Feuillants building, come near being massacred; the populace on the outside of it demand their heads;5 “it conceives the project of visiting all the prisons in Paris to take out the prisoners and administer prompt justice on them.”—On the 12th in the markets6 “divers groups of the low class call Pétion a scoundrel,” because “he saved the Swiss in the Palais Bourbon”; accordingly, “he and the Swiss must be hung to-day.”—In these minds turned topsy-turvy the actual, palpable truth gives way to its opposite; “the attack was not begun by them; the order to sound the tocsin came from the palace; it is the palace which was besieging the nation, and not the nation which was besieging the Edition: current; Page: [648] palace.”7 The vanquished “are the assassins of the people,” caught in the act; and on the 14th of August the Federates demand a court-martial “to avenge the death of their comrades.”8 And even a court-martial will not answer: “It is not sufficient to mete out punishment for crimes committed on the 10th of August, but the vengeance of the people must be extended to all conspirators”; to that “Lafayette, who probably was not in Paris, but who may have been there”; to all the ministers, generals, judges, and other officials guilty of maintaining legal order wherever it had been maintained, and of not having recognised the Jacobin government before it came into being. Let them be brought before, not the ordinary courts, which are not to be trusted because they belong to the defunct régime, but before a specially organised tribunal, a sort of “chambre ardente,9 elected by the sections, that is to say, by a Jacobin minority. These improvised judges must give judgment on conviction, without appeal; there must be no preliminary examinations, no interval of time between arrest and execution, no dilatory and protective formalities. And above all, the Assembly must be expeditious in passing the decree; “otherwise,” it is informed by a delegate from the Commune, “the tocsin will be rung at midnight and the general alarm sounded; for the people are tired of waiting to be avenged. Look out lest they do themselves justice!”10—A moment more, new threats and at a shorter date. “If the juries are not ready to act in two or three hours … great misfortunes will overtake Paris.”

In vain the new tribunal, instantly installed, hastens its work and guillotines three innocent persons in five days; it does not move fast enough. On the 23d of August one of the sections declares to the Edition: current; Page: [649] Commune in furious language that the people themselves, “wearied and indignant” with so many delays, mean to force open the prisons and massacre the inmates.11—Not only do they harass the judges, but they force the accused into their presence. A deputation from the Commune and the Federates summons the Assembly “to transfer the criminals at Orleans to Paris to undergo the penalty of their heinous crimes,” “otherwise,” says the orator, “we will not answer for the vengeance of the people.”12 And in a still more imperative manner: “You have heard and you know that insurrection is a sacred duty,” a sacred duty towards and against all: against the Assembly if it refuses, and against the tribunal if it acquits. They dash at their prey athwart all legislative and judicial formalities, like a kite across the web of a spider, while nothing diverts them from their fixed conceptions. On the acquittal of M. Luce de Montmorin13 the brutal audience, mistaking him for his cousin the former minister of Louis XVI., break out in murmurings. The president tries to enforce silence, which increases the uproar, and M. de Montmorin is in danger. On this the president, discovering a side issue, announces that one of the jurors is related to the accused, and that in such a case a new jury must be impanelled and a new trial take place; that the matter will be enquired into, and meanwhile the prisoner will be returned to the Conciergerie. Thereupon he takes M. de Montmorin by the arm and leads him out of the court-room, amidst the yells of the audience and not little peril to himself; in the outside court one of the National Guards without strikes at him with a sabre, and the following day the court is obliged to authorise eight delegates from the audience to go and see with their own eyes that M. de Montmorin is safe under lock and key.

At the moment of his acquittal a tragic exclamation is heard: “You discharge him to-day and in two weeks he will cut our throats!” Fear is evidently an adjunct of hatred. The Jacobin rabble is vaguely Edition: current; Page: [650] conscious of its inferior numbers, of its usurpation, of its danger, which increases in proportion as Brunswick draws near. It feels itself encamped over a mine, and if the mine should explode!—Since its adversaries are scoundrels they are capable of a sudden blow, of a plot, of a massacre; never itself having done anything else, it conceives no other idea; and, through an inevitable transposition of thought, it imputes to them the murderous intentions obscurely wrought out in the dark recesses of its own disturbed brain.—On the 27th of August, after the funeral procession gotten up by Sergent expressly to excite popular resentment, its suspicions, at once direct and pointed, begin to take the form of certainty. Ten “commemorative” banners,14 each borne by a volunteer on horseback, have paraded before all eyes the long list of massacres “by the court and its agents”; the massacre at Nancy, the massacre at Nismes, the massacre at Montauban, the massacre at Avignon, the massacre at La Chapelle, the massacre at Carpentras, the massacre of the Champ de Mars, etc. Hesitation, in the face of such processions, is out of the question; henceforth, to women in the galleries, to the frequenters of the clubs, and to pikemen in the suburbs it is proved beyond any doubt that aristocrats are old offenders.

And on the other side there is another sign equally alarming. “This lugubrious ceremony, which ought to inspire by turns both reflection and indignation, … did not generally produce that effect.” The National Guard in uniform, who came “apparently to compensate themselves for not appearing on the day of action,” did not comport themselves with civic propriety, but, on the contrary, put on “an air of dissipation and even of noisy gaiety”; they come out of curiosity, like so many Parisian cockneys, and are much more numerous than the sans-culottes with their pikes.15 The latter can count themselves and plainly see that they are in a minority, and a Edition: current; Page: [651] very small one, and that their rage finds no echo; none but supernumeraries and the contrivers of the fête are there to hasten sentences and call for death-penalties. A foreigner, a good observer, who questions the shop-keepers of whom he makes purchases, the tradesmen he knows, and the company he finds in the coffee-houses, writes that he never had “seen any symptom of a sanguinary disposition except in the galleries of the National Assembly and at the Jacobin Club.” Now the galleries are full of paid “applauders,” especially “females, who are more noisy and to be had cheaper than males”; at the Jacobin Club are “the leaders, who dread what may be divulged against them or who have private hatreds to gratify”;16 thus the only infuriates are the leaders and the populace of the suburbs.—Lost in the crowd of this vast city, in the face of a National Guard still armed and three times their own number, confronting an indifferent or discontented bourgeoisie, the patriots are alarmed. In this state of anxiety a feverish imagination, exasperated by delays, involuntarily gives birth to fancies passionately accepted as truths, while an incident now occurs which suffices to complete the story, the germ of which has grown in their minds without their knowing it.

On the 1st of September a poor waggoner, Jean Julien,17 condemned to chains for twelve years with exposure in the pillory, becomes furious after a couple of hours of this latter penalty, probably on account of the jeers of the by-standers; with the usual coarseness of people of his stamp he vents his impotent rage by ridding himself of his clothes and exposing his person, and naturally uses insulting language to the people who look at him: “Hurrah for the King! Hurrah for the Queen! Hurrah for Lafayette! Let the nation go to the devil!” It is also natural that he should be nearly cut to Edition: current; Page: [652] pieces. He is at once led away to the Conciergerie, where he is at once condemned, and guillotined as soon as possible, for being a promoter of sedition in connection with the conspiracy of August the 10th.—The conspiracy, accordingly, is still in existence. It is so declared by the tribunal, which makes no declaration without evidence. Jean Julien has certainly confessed; now what has he revealed?—On the following day, like a crop of poisonous mushrooms, the growth of a single night, the story obtains general credence. “Jean Julien has declared that all the prisons in Paris thought as he did, that there would soon be fine times, that the prisoners were armed, and that as soon as the volunteers cleared out they would be let loose on all Paris.”18 The streets are full of anxious countenances. “One says that Verdun had been betrayed like Longwy. Others shook their heads and said it was the traitors within Paris and not the declared enemies on the frontier that were to be feared.”19 On the following day the story grows: “There are royalist officers and soldiers hidden away in Paris and in the outskirts. They are going to open the prisons, arm the prisoners, set the King and his family free, put the patriots in Paris to death, also the wives and children of those in the army. … It is natural for men to secure their wives and children when they are going to be separated from them, and to use the most efficient means of preventing their being opposed to the assassin’s dagger.”20 The popular conflagration is lighted, and all that remains for those who kindled the flame is to mark out the path for it.

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It is a long time that they have fanned the flame. Already, on the 11th of August, the new Commune had announced, in a proclamation,21 that “the guilty should perish on the scaffold,” while its threatening deputations force the National Assembly into the immediate institution of a bloody tribunal. Carried into power by brutal force, it must perish if it does not maintain itself, and this can be done only through terror.—Consider for one moment, indeed, this singular situation. Installed in the Hôtel-de-Ville by a bold nocturnal enterprise, about one hundred unknown individuals, delegated by a party which thinks or asserts itself to be the peoples’ delegates, have overthrown one of the two great powers of the State, mangled and enslaved the other, and now rule in a capital of 700,000 souls, by the grace of eight or ten thousand fanatics and cut-throats. Never did change so sudden take men from so low a point and raise them so high! The basest of newspaper scribblers, penny-a-liners out of the gutters, bar-room oracles, unfrocked monks and priests, the refuse of the literary guild, of the bar, and of the clergy, carpenters, turners, grocers, locksmiths, shoemakers, common laborers, many with no profession at all,22 strolling politicians and public brawlers, who, like the sellers of counterfeit wares, have speculated for the past three years on popular credulity; among them a number of men in bad repute, of doubtful honesty or of proven dishonesty, having led shiftless lives in their youth and still besmirched with old slime, put outside the pale of useful labor by their vices, driven out of inferior stations even into prohibited occupations, bruised by the perilous leap, with consciences distorted like the muscles of a tight-rope dancer, and who, were it not for the Revolution, would still grovel in their native filth, awaiting Bicêtre or the bagnios to which they were destined—can one imagine their growing intoxication as they drink deep draughts from the bottomless cup of absolute Edition: current; Page: [654] power?—For it is absolute power which they demand and which they exercise.23 Raised by a special delegation above the regular authorities, they put up with these only as subordinates, and tolerate none among them who may become their rivals. Consequently, they reduce the Legislative body simply to the function of editor and herald of their decrees; they have forced the new department electors to “abjure their title,” to confine themselves to tax assessments, while they lay their ignorant hands daily on every other service, on the finances, the army, supplies, the administration, justice, at the risk of breaking the administrative wheels or of interrupting their action.

One day they summon the Minister of War before them, or, for lack of one, his chief clerk; another day they keep the whole body of officials in his department in arrest for two hours, under the pretext of finding a suspected printer.24 At one time they affix seals on the funds devoted to extraordinary expenses; at another time they do away with the commission on supplies; at another they meddle with the course of justice, either to aggravate proceedings or to impede the execution of sentences rendered.25 There is no Edition: current; Page: [655] principle, no law, no regulation, no verdict, no public man or establishment that is not subject to the risk of their arbitrament.—And, as they have laid hands on power, they do the same with money. Not only do they extort from the Assembly 850,000 francs a month, with arrears from the 1st of January, 1792, more than six millions in all, to defray the expenses of their military police, which means to pay their bands,26 but again, “invested with the municipal scarf,” they seize, “in the public edifices belonging to the nation, all furniture, and whatever is of most value.” “In one building alone, they carry off to the value of 100,000 crowns.”27 Elsewhere, in the hands of the treasurer of the civil list, they appropriate to themselves a box of jewels, other precious objects, and 340,000 francs.28 Their commissioners bring in from Chantilly three three-horse vehicles “loaded with the spoils of M. de Condé,” and they undertake “removing the contents of the houses of the émigrés.29 They confiscate in the churches of Paris “the crucifixes, music-stands, bells, railings, and every object in bronze or of iron, chandeliers, cups, vases, reliquaries, statues, every article of plate,” as well “on the altars as in the sacristies,”30 and we can imagine the enormous booty obtained; to cart away the silver plate belonging to the single church of Madeleine-de-la-ville required a vehicle drawn by four horses.—Edition: current; Page: [656] Now they use all this money, so freely seized, as freely as they do power itself. One fills his pockets in the Tuileries without the slightest concern; another, in the Garde-Meuble, rummages secretaries, and carries off a wardrobe with its contents.31 We have already seen that in the depositories of the Commune “most of the seals are broken,” that enormous sums in plate, in jewels, in gold and silver coin have disappeared. Future inquests and accounts will charge on the Committee of Supervision, “abstractions, dilapidations, and embezzlements,” in short, “a mass of violations and breaches of trust.”—When one is king, one easily mistakes the money-drawer of the State for the drawer in which one keeps one’s own money.

Unfortunately, this full possession of public power and of the public funds holds only by a slender thread. Let the evicted and outraged majority dare, as subsequently at Lyons, Marseilles, and Toulon, to return to the section assemblies and revoke the false mandate which they have arrogated to themselves through fraud and force, and, on the instant, they again become, through the sovereign will of the people, and by virtue of their own creed, what they really are, usurpers, extortioners, and robbers; there is no middle course for them between a dictatorship and the galleys.—The mind, before such an alternative, unless extraordinarily well-balanced, loses its equilibrium; they have no difficulty in deluding themselves with the idea that the State is menaced in their persons, and, in postulating the rule, that all is allowable for them, even massacre. Has not Bazire stated in the tribune that, against the enemies of the nation, “all means are fair and justifiable?” Has not another deputy, Jean Debry, proposed the formation of a body of 1,200 volunteers, who “will sacrifice themselves,” as formerly the assassins of the Old Man of the Mountain, in “attacking tyrants, hand to hand, individually,” as well as generals?32 Have we not seen Merlin de Thionville insisting that “the wives and children of the Edition: current; Page: [657] émigrés should be kept as hostages,” and declared responsible, or, in other words, ready for slaughter if their relatives continue their attacks?33

This is all that can be done, for other measures have not proved sufficient.—In vain has the Commune decreed the arrest of journalists belonging to the opposite party, and distributed their presses amongst patriotic printers.34 In vain has it declared the members of the Sainte-Chapelle club, the National Guards who have sworn allegiance to Lafayette, the signers of the petition of 8,000, and of that of 20,000, disqualified for any service whatever.35 In vain has it multiplied domiciliary visits, even to the residence and carriages of the Venetian ambassador. In vain, through insulting and repeated examinations, does it keep at its bar, under the hootings and death-cries of its tribunes, the most honorable and most illustrious men, Lavoisier, Dupont de Nemours, the eminent surgeon Desault, the most harmless and most refined ladies, Madame de Tourzel, Mademoiselle de Tourzel, and the Princesse de Lamballe.36 In vain, after a profusion of arrests during twenty days, it envelopes all Paris in one cast of its net for a nocturnal search:37 the barriers closed and Edition: current; Page: [658] doubly guarded, sentinels on the quays and boats stationed on the Seine to prevent escape by water, the city divided beforehand into circumscriptions, and for each section, a list of suspected persons, the circulation of vehicles stopped, every citizen ordered to stay at home, the silence of death after six o’clock in the evening, and then, in each street, a patrol of sixty pikemen, seven hundred squads of sans-culottes, all working at the same time, and with their usual brutality, doors burst in with pieces of timber, wardrobes picked by locksmiths, walls sounded by masons, cellars searched even to digging in the ground, papers seized, arms confiscated, three thousand persons arrested and led off,38 priests, old men, the infirm, the sick, and from ten in the evening to five o’clock in the morning, the same as in a city taken by assault, the screams of women rudely treated, the cries of prisoners compelled to march, the oaths of the guards, cursing and drinking at each grog-shop; never was there such an universal, methodical execution, so well calculated to suppress all inclination for resistance in the silence of general stupefaction.

And yet, at this very moment, there are those who act in good faith in the sections and in the Assembly, and who rebel at being under such masters. A deputation from the Lombards section, and another from the Corn-market, come to the Assembly and protest against the Commune’s usurpations.39 Choudieu, the Montagnard, Edition: current; Page: [659] denounces its glaring prevarications. Cambon, a stern financier, will no longer consent to have his accounts tampered with by thieving tricksters.40 The Assembly at last seems to have recovered itself. It extends its protection to Géray, the journalist, against whom the new pachas had issued a warrant; it summons to its own bar the signers of the warrant, and orders them to confine themselves in future to the exact limits of the law which they transgress. Better still, it dissolves the interloping Council, and substitutes for it ninety-six delegates, to be elected by the sections in twenty-four hours. And, even still better, it orders an account to be rendered within two days of the objects it has seized, and the return of all gold or silver articles to the Treasury. Quashed, and summoned to disgorge their booty, the autocrats of the Hôtel-de-Ville come in vain to the Assembly in force on the following day41 to extort from it a repeal of its decrees; the Assembly, in spite of their threats and those of their satellites, maintains its ground.—So much the worse for the stubborn; if they are not disposed to regard the flash of the sabre, they will feel its sharp edge and point. The Commune, on the motion of Manuel, decides that, so long as public danger continues, they will stay where they are; it adopts an address by Robespierre to “restore sovereign power to the people,” which means to fill the streets with armed bands;42 it collects together its brigands by giving them the ownership of all that they stole on the 10th of August.43 Edition: current; Page: [660] The session, prolonged into the night, does not terminate until one o’clock in the morning. Sunday has come and there is no time to lose, for, in a few hours, the sections, by virtue of the decree of the National Assembly, and following the example of the Temple section the evening before, may revoke the pretended representatives at the Hôtel-de-Ville. To remain at the Hôtel-de-Ville, and to be elected to the convention, demands on the part of the leaders some striking action, and this they require that very day.—That day is the second of September.


Since the 23d of August their resolution is taken.44 They have arranged in their minds a plan of the massacre, and each one, little by little, spontaneously, according to his aptitudes, takes the part that suits him or is assigned to him.

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Marat, foremost among them all, is the proposer and preacher of the operation, which, for him, is a perfectly natural one. It is an abridgment of his political system: a dictator or tribune, with full power to slay, and with no other power but that; a good master executioner, responsible, and “tied hand and foot”; this is his programme for a government since July the 14th, 1789, and he does not blush at it: “so much the worse for those who are not on a level with it!”45 He appreciated the character of the Revolution from the first, not through genius, but sympathetically, he himself being equally as one-sided and monstrous; crazy with suspicion and beset with a homicidal mania for the past three years, reduced to one idea through mental impoverishment, that of murder, having lost the faculty for even the lowest order of reasoning, the poorest of journalists, save for pikemen and Billingsgate market-women, so monotonous in his constant paroxysms that the regular reading of his journal is like listening to hoarse cries from the cells of a madhouse.46 From the 19th of August he excites people to attack the prisons. “The wisest and best course to pursue,” he says, “is to go armed to the Abbaye, drag out the traitors, especially the Swiss officers and their accomplices, and put them to the sword. What folly it is to give them a trial! That is already done. You have massacred the soldiers, why should you spare the officers, ten times guiltier?”—Also, two days later, his brain teeming with an executioner’s fancies, insisting that “the soldiers deserved a thousand deaths. As to the Edition: current; Page: [662] officers, they should be drawn and quartered, like Louis Capet and his tools of the Manège.47 —On the strength of this the Commune adopts him as its official editor, assigns him a tribune in its assembly room, entrusts him to report its acts, and soon puts him on its supervisory or executive committee.

A fanatic of this stamp, however, is good for nothing but as a mouthpiece or instigator; he may, at best, figure in the end among the subordinate managers.—The chief of the enterprise,48 Danton, is of another species, and of another stature, a veritable leader of men. Through his past career and actual position, through his popular cynicism, ways and language, through his capacity for taking the initiative and for command, through his excessive corporeal and intellectual vigor, through his physical ascendency due to his ardent, absorbing will, he is well calculated for his terrible office.—He alone of the Commune has become Minister, and there is no one but him to screen municipal outrages with the patronage or inertia of the central authority.—He alone of the Commune and of the ministry is able to push things on and harmonise action in the pell-mell of the revolutionary chaos, and now, in the councils of the ministry, as formerly at the Hôtel-de-Ville, he governs. In the constant uproar of incoherent discussions,49 athwart “propositions ex abrupto, shouts, imprecations, the going and coming of questioning petitioners,” he is seen mastering his new colleagues with his “stentorian voice, his gestures of an athlete, his fearful threats,” taking upon himself their duties, dictating to them what and whom he chooses, “fetching in commissions already drawn up,” taking charge of everything, “makEdition: current; Page: [663] ing propositions, arrests, and proclamations, issuing brevets,” and drawing millions out of the public treasury, casting a sop to his dogs in the Cordeliers and the Commune, “to one 20,000 francs, and to another 10,000,” “for the Revolution, and on account of their patriotism,”—such is a summary report of his doings. Thus gorged, the pack of hungry “brawlers” and grasping intriguers, the whole serviceable force of the sections and of the clubs, is in his hands. One is strong in times of anarchy at the head of such a herd. Indeed, during the months of August and September, Danton was king, and, later on, he may well say of the 2d of September, as he did of the 10th of August, “I did it!”50

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Not that he is naturally vindictive or sanguinary: on the contrary, with a butcher’s temperament, he has a man’s heart, and, at the risk of compromising himself, against the wills of Marat and Robespierre, he will, by-and-by, save his political adversaries, Duport, Brissot, and the Girondists, the old party of the “Right.”51 Not that he is blinded by fear, enmities, or the theory; furious as a clubbist, he has the clear-sightedness of the politician; he is not the dupe of the sonorous phrases he utters, he knows the value of the rogues he employs;52 he has no illusions about men or things, about other people or about himself; if he slays, it is with a full consciousness of what he is doing, of his party, of the situation, of the revolution, while the crude expressions which, in the tones of his bull’s voice, he flings out as he passes along, are but a vivid statement of the precise truth: “We are the rabble! We spring from the gutters!” With the ordinary feeling of humanity, “we should soon get back into them. We can only rule through fear!”53 “The Parisians are so many —— ——; a river of blood must flow between them and the émigrés.54 “The tocsin about to be rung is not a signal of alarm, but a charge on the enemies of the country. … What is necessary to overcome them? Boldness, boldness, always boldness!55 I have Edition: current; Page: [665] brought my mother here, seventy years of age; I have sent for my children, and they came last night. Before the Prussians enter Paris, I want my family to die with me. Let twenty thousand torches be applied, and Paris instantly reduced to ashes!”56 “We must maintain ourselves in Paris at all hazards. Republicans are in an extreme minority, and, for fighting, we can rely only on them. The rest of France is devoted to royalty. The royalists must be terrified!”57—It is he who, on the 28th of August, obtains from the Assembly the great domiciliary visit, by which the Commune fills the prisons. It is he who, on the 2d of September, to paralyse the resistance of honest people, causes the penalty of death to be decreed against whoever, “directly or indirectly shall, in any manner whatsoever, refuse to execute, or who shall interfere with the orders issued, or with the measures of the executive power.” It is he who, on that day, informs the journalist Prudhomme of the pretended prison plot, and who, the second day after, sends his secretary, Camille Desmoulins, to falsify the report of the massacres.58 It is he who, on the Edition: current; Page: [666] 3d of September, at the office of the Minister of Justice, before the battalion officers and the heads of the service, before Lacroix, president of the Assembly, and Pétion, mayor of Paris, before Clavières, Servan, Monge, Lebrun, and the entire Executive Council, except Roland, reduces at one stroke the head men of the government to the position of passive accomplices, replying to a man of feeling, who rises to stay the slaughter, “Sit down—it was necessary!”59 It is he who, the same day, despatches the circular, countersigned by him, by which the Committee of Supervision announces the massacre, and invites “their brethren of the departments” to follow the example of Paris.60 It is he who, on the 10th of September, “not as Minister of Justice, but as Minister of the People,” is to congratulate and thank the slaughterers of Versailles.61—After the 10th of August, Edition: current; Page: [667] through Billaud-Varennes, his former secretary, Fabre d’Eglantine, his secretary as Keeper of the Seals, Tallien, secretary of the Commune, and his most trusty henchman, he is present at all deliberations in the Hôtel-de-Ville, and, at the last hour, is careful to put on the Committee of Supervision one of his own men, the head clerk, Desforges.62—Not only was the mowing-machine constructed under his own eye, and with his assent, but, again, at the moment of starting it, he holds the handle, so as to guide the blade.

It is well that he does; if he did not sometimes put on the brake, it would go to pieces through its own action. Introduced into the Committee as professor of political blood-letting, Marat, stubbornly following out a fixed idea, cuts down deep, much below the designated line; warrants of arrest were already out against thirty deputies, Brissot’s papers were rummaged, Roland’s house was surrounded, while Duport, seized in a neighboring department, is brought to the shambles. The latter is saved with the utmost difficulty; many a blow is necessary before he can be wrested from the maniac who had seized him. With a surgeon like Marat, and apprentices like the four or five hundred leaders of the Commune and of the sections, it is not essential to guide the knife, for a large amputation is certain beforehand. Their names alone tell the story—in the Commune, Manuel, the syndic-attorney; Hébert and Billaud-Varennes, his two deputies; Huguenin, Lhuillier, Marie Chénier, Audouin, Léonard Bourdon, Boula and Truchon, presidents in succession; in the Commune and the sections, Panis, Sergent, Tallien, Rossignol, Chaumette, Fabre d’Eglantine, Pache, Hassenfratz, the cobbler Simon, and the printer Momoro; in the National Guard, Santerre, commanding-general, Henriot, brigadier-general, and, under them, the herd of demagogues belonging to the district, the supernumeraries of Danton, Hébert, or Robespierre, and who are afterwards guillotined with their file-leaders, in brief, the flower of Edition: current; Page: [668] the future terrorists.63—They are taking the first step in blood, each in the attitude and under impulses peculiar to himself, Chénier denounced as a member of the Sainte-Chapelle club, and with the more exaggeration because he is suspected;64 Manuel, a poor little excitable fellow, dazed, dragged along, and afterwards shuddering at the sight of his own work; Santerre, a fine circumspect figure-head, who, on the 2d of September, under pretence of watching the baggage, climbs on the seat of a berlin standing on the street, where he remains a couple of hours, to get rid of doing his duty as commanding-general;65 Panis, president of the Committee of Supervision, a good subordinate, his born disciple and train-bearer, an admirer of Robespierre’s whom he proposes for the dictatorship, as well as of Marat, whom he extols as a prophet;66 Henriot, Hébert, and Rossignol, simple malefactors in uniform or in their scarfs; Collot d’Herbois, a stage poetaster, whose theatrical imagination delights in a combination of melodramatic horrors;67 Billaud-Varennes, a forEdition: current; Page: [669] mer oratorien, bilious and sombre, as cool before a murder as an inquisitor at an auto da fé; finally, the wily Robespierre, pushing others without committing himself, never signing his name, giving no orders, haranguing a great deal, always advising, showing himself everywhere, getting ready to reign, and suddenly, at the last moment, pouncing like a cat on his prey, and trying to slaughter his rivals, the Girondists.68

Up to this time, in slaughtering or having it done, it was always as insurrectionists in the street; now, it is in places of imprisonment, as magistrates and functionaries, according to the registers of a lock-up, after proofs of identity and on snap judgments, by paid executioners, in the name of public security, methodically, and in cool blood, almost with the same regularity as subsequently under “the revolutionary government.” September, indeed, is the beginning of it, the abridgment of it and the type; they will not do otherwise or better in the best days of the guillotine. Only, as they are as yet poorly supplied with tools, they are obliged to use pikes instead of the guillotine, and, as diffidence is not yet entirely gone, the chiefs conceal themselves behind manoeuvrings. Nevertheless, we can track them, take them in the act, and we possess their autographs; they planned, commanded, and conducted the operation. On the 30th of August, the Commune decided that the sections should try accused persons, and, on the 2d of September, five trusty sections Edition: current; Page: [670] reply to it by resolving that the accused shall be murdered.69 The same day, September 2, Marat takes his place on the Committee of Supervision. The same day, September 2, Panis and Sergent sign the commissions of “their comrades,” Maillard and associates, for the Abbaye, and “order them to judge,” that is to say, kill the prisoners.70 The same and the following days, at La Force, three members of the Commune, Hébert, Monneuse, and Rossignol, preside in turn over the assassin court.71 The same day, a commissary of the Committee of Supervision comes and demands a dozen men of the Sans-Culottes section to help massacre the priests of Saint Firmin.72 The same day, a commissary of the Commune visits the different prisons during the slaughterings, and finds that “things are going on well in all of them.”73 The same day, at five o’clock in the afternoon, Billaud-Varennes, deputy-attorney for the Commune, “in his well-known puce-colored coat and black perruque,” walking over the corpses, says to the Abbaye butchers: “Fellow-citizens, you are immolating your enemies, you are performing your duty!” That night he returns, highly commends them, and ratifies his promise of the wages “agreed upon”; on the following day at noon, he again returns, congratulates them more warmly, allows each one twenty francs, and urges them to keep on.74—In the mean time, Santerre, summoned to the staff-office by Roland, hypocritically deplores his Edition: current; Page: [671] voluntary inability, and persists in not giving the orders, without which the National Guard cannot stir a step.75 At the sections, the presidents, Chénier, Ceyrat, Boula, Momoro, Collot d’Herbois, send away or fetch their victims under pikes. At the Commune, the council-general votes 12,000 francs, to be taken from the dead, to defray the expenses of the operation.76 In the Committee of Supervision, Marat sends off despatches to spread murder through the departments.—It is evident that the leaders and their subordinates are unanimous, each at his post and in the service he performs; through the spontaneous cooperation of the whole party, the command from above meets the impulse from below;77 both unite in a common murderous disposition, the work being done with the more precision in proportion to its being easily done.—Jailers have received orders to open the prison doors, and give themselves no concern. Through an excess of precaution, the knives and forks of the prisoners have been taken away from them.78 One by one, on Edition: current; Page: [672] their names being called, they will march out like oxen in a slaughter-house, while about twenty butchers to each prison, from to two to three hundred in all,79 will suffice to do the work.


Two classes of men furnish recruits, and here we have to admire the effect of the revolutionary creed on crude intellects.—First, there are the Federates of the South, lusty fellows, former soldiers or old bandits, deserters, bohemians, and bullies of all lands and from every source, who, after finishing their work at Marseilles and Avignon, have come to Paris to begin over again. “Triple nom de Dieu!” exclaims one of them, “I didn’t come a hundred and eighty leagues to stop with a hundred and eighty heads on the end of my pike!”80 Accordingly, they form in themselves a special, permanent, resident body, allowing no one to divert them from their adopted occupation. “They turn a deaf ear to the excitements of spurious patriotism”;81 they are not going to be sent off to the frontier. Their post is at the capital; they have sworn “to defend liberty”; neither before nor after September could they be got out of it. When, at last, after having drawn on every treasury for their pay, and under every pretext, they consent to leave Paris, it is only that they may return to Marseilles; their operations are limited to the interior, and to political adversaries. But their zeal in this direction is only the greater; it is their Edition: current; Page: [673] band which, first of all, takes the twenty-four priests from the mayoralty, and, on the way, begins the massacre with their own hands.82—After these come the infuriates of the Paris commonalty, many of them clerks or shopmen, most of them artisans, and others belonging to every trade, locksmiths, masons, butchers, cartmen, tailors, shoemakers, waggoners, especially boat-loaders, dock-hands, and market-porters, and, above all, journeymen and apprentices of all kinds, in short, men accustomed to hand-labor, and who occupy the lowest grade in the scale of professions.83 Among these we find beasts of prey, murderers by instinct, or simple robbers.84 Others who, like one of the disciples of Abbé Sicard, whom he loves and venerates, confess that they never stirred except under constraint.85 Others are simple machines, who let themselves be driven; for instance, a corner “commissionaire,” a good sort of man, but who, dragged along, plied with liquor, and then made crazy, kills twenty priests for his share, and dies at the end of the month, still drinking, unable to sleep, frothing at the mouth and trembling in every limb.86 Edition: current; Page: [674] Others, finally, who, coming with good intentions, are seized with vertigo in contact with the bloody whirl, and, through a sudden stroke of revolutionary grace, are converted to the religion of slaughter; a certain Grapin, deputed by his section to save two prisoners, seats himself alongside of Maillard, joins him in his decisions during sixty-three hours, and demands a certificate from him.87 The majority, however, entertain the same opinions as the cook, who, after taking the Bastille, finding himself on the spot and having cut off M. de Launay’s head, regards it as a “patriotic” action, and deems himself worthy of a “medal for having destroyed a monster.” These people are not common malefactors, but well-disposed persons living in the vicinity, who, seeing a public service established in their neighborhood,88 issue from their domiciles to give it a lift; their dose of probity is about the same as we find nowadays among people of the same condition in life.

At the outset, especially, no one dreams of filling his pockets. At the Abbaye, they come honorably and place on the table in the room of the civil committee the purses and jewels of the dead.89 If they appropriate anything to themselves, it is shoes to cover their naked feet, and then only after asking permission. As to pay, all rough work deserves it, and, moreover, between them and their enticers, Edition: current; Page: [675] their compensation is understood. With nothing but their own hands to rely on, they cannot give their time gratis,90 and, as the work is hard, it ought to count for two days. They require six francs a day, besides their meals and wine as much as they want. One keeper of a cook-shop alone furnished the men at the Abbaye with 346 pints:91 with uninterrupted work that lasts all day and all night, and which is like that of sewer-cleaners and miners, nothing else will keep their spirits up.—Food and wages must be paid for by the nation; the work is done for the nation, and, naturally, on interposing formalities, they get out of temper and betake themselves to Roland, to the city treasurer, to the section committees, to the Committee of Supervision,92 murmuring, threatening, and showing their bloody pikes. That is the evidence of having done their work well. They boast of it to Pétion, impress upon him how “just and attentive” they were,93 their discernment, the time given to the work, so many days and so many hours; they ask only for what is “due to them”; when the treasurer, on paying them, demands their names, they give them without the slightest hesitation. Those who escort a prisoner let off, masons, hair-dressers, federates, require no recompense but “something to drink”; “we do not carry on this business for money,” they say; “here is your friend; he promised us a glass of brandy, which we will take and then go back to our work.”94—Outside of their business they possess the expansive sympathy and ready senEdition: current; Page: [676] sibility of the Parisian workman. At the Abbaye, a federate,95 on learning that the prisoners had been kept without water for twenty-six hours, wanted to “exterminate” the turnkey for his negligence, and would have done it if “the prisoners themselves had not pleaded for him.” On the acquittal of a prisoner, the guards and the butchers, everybody, embraces him with transports; Weber is greeted again and again for more than a hundred yards; they cheer to excess. Each wants to escort the prisoner; the cab of Mathon de la Varenne is invaded; “they perch themselves on the driver’s seat, at the doors, on top, and behind.”96—Some of them display extraordinary phases of feeling. Two of the butchers, still covered with blood, who lead the chevalier de Bertrand home, insist on going up stairs with him to witness the joy of his family; after their terrible task they need the relaxation of tender emotion. On entering, they wait discreetly in the drawing-room until the ladies are prepared for the meeting; the happiness of which they are witnesses melts them; they remain some time, refuse money tendered to them and leave, with many acknowledgments.97—Still more extraordinary are the vestiges of innate politeness. A market-porter, desirous of embracing a discharged prisoner, first asks his permission. Old “hags,” who had just clapped their hands at the slaughterings, stop the guards “violently” as they hurry Weber along, in white silk stockings, across pools of blood: “Heigh, guard, look out, you are making Monsieur walk in Edition: current; Page: [677] the gutter!”98 In short, they display the permanent qualities of their race and class; they seem to be neither above nor below the average of their brethren. Most of them, probably, would never have done anything very monstrous had a rigid police, like that which maintains order in ordinary times, kept them in their shops or at home in their lodgings or in their tap-rooms.

But, in their own eyes, they are so many kings; “sovereignty is committed to their hands,”99 their powers are unlimited; whoever doubts this is a traitor, and is properly punished; he must be put out of the way; while, for royal councillors, they take maniacs and knaves, who, through monomania or calculation, preach that doctrine, just the same as a negro king surrounded by white slave-dealers, who urge him into raids, and by black sorcerers, who prompt him to massacre. How could such a man with such guides, and in such an office, be retarded by the formalities of justice, or by the distinctions of equity? Equity and justice are the elaborate products of civilisation, while he is merely a political savage. In vain are the innocent recommended to his mercy! “Look here, citizen,100 do you, too, want to set us to sleep? Suppose that those cursed Prussian and Austrian beggars were in Paris, would they pick out the guilty? Wouldn’t they strike right and left, the same as the Swiss did on the 10th of August? Very well, I can’t make speeches, but I don’t set anybody to sleep. I say, I am the father of a family—I have a wife and five children that I mean to leave here for the section to look after, while I go and fight the enemy. But I have no idea that while I am gone these villains here in prison, and other villains who would come and let them out, should cut the throats of my wife and children. I have three boys who I hope will some day be more useful Edition: current; Page: [678] to their country than those rascals you want to save. Anyhow, all that can be done is to let ’em out and give them arms, and we will fight’em on an equal footing. Whether I die here or on the frontiers, scoundrels would kill me all the same, and I will sell my life dearly. But, whether it is done by me or by some one else, the prison shall be cleaned out of those cursed beggars, there, now!” At this a general cry is heard: “He’s right! No mercy! Let us go in!” All that the crowd assent to is an improvised tribunal, the reading of the jailer’s register, and prompt judgment; condemnation and slaughter must follow, according to the famous Commune, which simplifies things.—There is another simplification still more formidable, which is the condemnation and slaughter by categories. Any title suffices, Swiss, priest, officer, or servant of the King, “the moths of the civil list”; wherever a lot of priests or Swiss are found, it is not worth while to have a trial, as they can be killed in a heap.—Reduced to this, the operation is adapted to the operators; the arms of the new sovereign are as strong as his mind is weak, and, through an inevitable adaptation, he degrades his work to the level of his faculties.

His work, in its turn, degrades and perverts him. No man, and especially a man of the people, rendered pacific by an old civilisation, can, with impunity, become at one stroke both sovereign and executioner. In vain does he work himself up against the condemned and heap insult on them to augment his fury;101 he is dimly conscious of committing a great crime, and his soul, like that of Macbeth, “is full of scorpions.” Through a terrible self-shrinking, he hardens himself against the inborn, hereditary impulses of humanity; these resist while he becomes exasperated, and, to stifle them, there is no other way but to “sup on horrors,”102 by adding murder to murder. For murder, especially as he practices it, that is to say, with a naked sword on defenceless people, introduces into his animal and moral Edition: current; Page: [679] machine two extraordinary and disproportionate emotions which unsettle it, on the one hand, a sensation of omnipotence exercised uncontrolled, unimpeded, without danger, on human life, on throbbing flesh,103 and, on the other hand, an interest in bloody and diversified death, accompanied with an ever new series of contortions and exclamations;104 formerly, in the Roman circus, one could not tear one’s self away from it; the spectacle once seen, the spectator always returned to see it again. Just at this time each prison court is a circus, and what makes it worse is that the spectators are likewise actors.—Thus, for them, two fiery liquids mingle together in one draught. To moral intoxication is added physical intoxication, wine in profusion, bumpers at every pause, revelry over corpses; and we see rising out of this unnatural creature the demon of Dante, at once brutal and refined, not merely a destroyer, but, again, an executioner, contriver and calculator of suffering, and radiant and joyous over the evil it accomplishes.

They are joyous. They dance around each new corpse, and sing the carmagnole;105 they arouse the people of the quarter “to amuse them,” and that they may have their share of “the fine fête.”106 Benches are arranged for “gentlemen” and others for “ladies”: the latter, with greater curiosity, are additionally anxious to contemplate Edition: current; Page: [680] at their ease “the aristocrats” already slain; consequently, lights are required, and one is placed on the breast of each corpse.

Meanwhile, slaughter continues, and is carried to perfection. A butcher at the Abbaye107 complains that “the aristocrats die too quick, and that those only who strike first have the pleasure of it”; henceforth they are to be struck with the backs of the swords only, and made to run between two rows of their butchers, like soldiers formerly running a gauntlet. If there happens to be a person well-known, it is agreed to take more care in prolonging the torment. At La Force, the Federates who come for M. de Rulhières swear “with frightful imprecations that they will cut off the first man’s head who gives him a thrust with a pike”; the first thing is to strip him naked, and then, for half an hour, with the flat of their sabres, they cut and slash him until he drips with blood and is “skinned to his entrails.”—All the unfettered instincts that live in the lowest depths of the heart start from the human abyss at once, not alone the heinous instincts with their fangs,108 but likewise the foulest with their slaver, both becoming more furious against women whose noble or infamous repute makes them conspicuous; on Madame de Lamballe, the Queen’s friend; on Madame Desrues, widow of the famous poisoner; on the flower-girl of the Palais-Royal, who, two years before, had mutilated her lover, a French guardsman, in a fit of jealousy. Ferocity here is associated with lubricity to add profanation to torture, while life is attacked through outrages on modesty. In Madame de Lamballe, killed too quickly, the libidinous butchers could outrage only a corpse, but for the widow,109 and especially the flower-girl, they revive, like so many Neros, the fire-circle of the Iroquois.110 From Edition: current; Page: [681] the Iroquois to the cannibal, the interval is narrow, and some of them spring across it. At the Abbaye, an old soldier named Damiens, buries his sabre in the side of the adjutant-general Laleu, thrusts his hand into the opening, tears out the heart “and puts it to his mouth as if to eat it”; “the blood,” says an eye-witness, “trickled from his mouth and formed a sort of moustache for him.”111 At La Force, Madame de Lamballe is cut to pieces. I cannot transcribe what Charlot, the hair-dresser, did with her head. I merely state that another wretch, in the Rue Saint-Antoine, bore off her heart and “ate it.”112

They kill and they drink, and drink and kill again. Weariness comes and stupor begins. One of them, a wheelwright’s apprentice, has despatched sixteen for his share; another “has labored so hard at this merchandise as to leave the blade of his sabre sticking in it”; “I was more tired,” says a Federate, “with two hours pulling limbs to pieces, right and left, than any mason any two days plastering a wall.”113 The first excitement is gone, and now they strike automatically.114 Some of them fall asleep stretched out on benches. Others, huddled together, sleep off the fumes of their wine, removed on one side. The exhalation from the carnage is so strong that the president of the civil committee faints in his chair,115 while the odor of the Edition: current; Page: [682] drinking-bout is equal to that of the charnel-house. A heavy, dull state of torpor gradually overcomes their clouded brains, the last glimmerings of reason dying out one by one, like the smoky lights on the already cold breasts of the corpses lying around them. Through the stupor spreading over the faces of butchers and cannibals, we see appearing that of the idiot. It is the revolutionary idiot, in which all conceptions, save two, have vanished, two fixed, rudimentary, and mechanical ideas, one destruction and the other that of public safety. With no others in his empty head, these blend together through an irresistible attraction, and the effect proceeding from their contact may be imagined. “Is there anything else to do?” asks one of these butchers in the deserted court. “If that is all,” reply a couple of women at the gate, “you must start something more,116 and, naturally, this is done.

As the prisons are to be cleaned out, it is as well to clean them all out, and do it at once. After the Swiss, priests, the aristocrats, and the “white-skin gentlemen,” there remain convicts and those confined through the ordinary channels of justice, robbers, assassins, and those sentenced to the galleys in the Conciergerie, in the Châtelet, and in the Tour St. Bernard, with branded women, vagabonds, old beggars, and boys confined in Bicêtre and the Salpétrière. They are good for nothing, cost something to feed,117 and, probably, cherish evil designs. At the Salpétrière, for example, the wife of Desrues, the poisoner, is, assuredly, like himself, “cunning, wicked, and capable of anything”; she must be furious at being in prison; if she could, she would set fire to Paris; she must have said so; she did say it118—one more sweep of the broom.—This time, as the job is more foul, the broom is wielded by fouler hands; among those who seize Edition: current; Page: [683] the handle are the frequenters of jails. The butchers at the Abbaye, especially towards the close, had already committed thefts;119 here, at the Châtelet and the Conciergerie, they carry away “everything which seems to them suitable,” even to the clothes of the dead, prison sheets and coverlids, even the small savings of the jailers, and, besides this, they enlist their cronies in the service. “Out of 36 prisoners set free, many were assassins and robbers, associated with them by the butchers. There were also 75 women, confined in part for larceny, who promised to faithfully serve their liberators.” Later on, indeed, these are to become, at the Jacobin and Cordeliers clubs, the tricoteuses who fill their tribunes.120— At the Salpétrière, “all the bullies of Paris, former spies, … libertines, the rascals of France and all Europe, prepare beforehand for the operation,” and rape alternates with massacre.121—Thus far, at least, slaughter has been seasoned with robbery, and the grossness of eating and drinking; at Bicêtre, however, it is crude butchery, the carnivorous instinct alone satisfying itself. Among other prisoners are 43 youths of the lowest class, from 17 to 19 years of age, placed there for correction by their parents, or by those to whom they are bound;122 one need only look at them to see that they are genuine Parisian scamps, the apprentices of vice and misery, the future recruits for the reigning band, and these the band falls on, beating them to death with clubs. At this age life is tenacious, and, no life being harder to take, it requires extra efforts to despatch them. “In that corner,” said a jailer, “they made a mountain of their bodies. The next day, when they were to be buried, the sight was enough to break one’s heart. One of them looked as if he were sleeping like one of God’s angels, but the rest were horribly mutilated.”123—Here, man has sunk below himself, Edition: current; Page: [684] down into the lowest strata of the animal kingdom, lower than the wolf, for wolves do not strangle their young.


There are six days and five nights of uninterrupted butchery,124 171 murders at the Abbaye, 169 at La Force, 223 at the Châtelet, 328 at the Conciergerie, 73 at the Tour-Saint-Bernard, 120 at the Carmelites, 79 at Saint Firmin, 170 at Bicêtre, 35 at the Salpétrière; among the dead, 250 priests, 3 bishops or archbishops, general officers, magistrates, one former minister, one royal princess, belonging to the best names in France, and, on the other side, one negro, several low class women, young scapegraces, convicts, and poor old men. What man now, little or big, does not feel himself under the knife?—And all the more because the band has grown larger. Fournier, Lazowski, and Bécard, the chiefs of robbers and assassins, return from Orleans with fifteen hundred cut-throats.125 On the way they kill M. de Brissac, M. de Lessart, and 42 others accused of lèse-nation, whom they wrested from their judges’ hands, and then, by way of surplus, “following the example of Paris,” twenty-one prisoners taken from the Versailles prisons. At Paris the Minister of Justice thanks them, the Commune congratulates them, and the sections feast them and embrace them.126—Can anybody doubt that they were ready to begin again? Can a step be taken in or out of Paris without being subject Edition: current; Page: [685] to their oppression or encountering their despotism? On leaving the city, sentinels of their species are posted at the barriers, while the section committees on the inside are in permanent authority. Malouet, led before that of Roule,127 sees before him a pandemonium of fanatics, at least a hundred individuals in the same room, the suspected, those denouncing them, co-laborers, attendants, a long, green table in the centre, covered with swords and daggers, with the committee around it, “twenty patriots with their shirt-sleeves rolled up, some holding pistols and others pens,” signing warrants of arrest, “quarreling with and threatening each other, all talking at once, and shouting, Traitor! Conspirator! Off to prison with him! Guillotine him! and behind these, a crowd of spectators, pell-mell, yelling, and gesticulating” like wild beasts pressed against each other in the same cage, showing their teeth and trying to spring at each other. “One of the most excited, brandishing his sabre in order to strike an antagonist, stopped on seeing me, and exclaimed, ‘There’s Malouet!’ The other, however, less occupied with me than with his enemy, took advantage of the opportunity, and with a blow of his club, knocked him down.” Malouet is just saved, and that is all, such escapes in Paris being mere matters of chance.—If one remains in the city, one is beset with funereal imagery;—the hurrying step of squads of men in each street, leading the suspected to prison or before the committee; around each prison the crowds that have come “to see the disasters”; in the court of the Abbaye the cry of the auctioneer selling the clothes of the dead; the rumbling of carts on the pavement bearing away 1,300 corpses; the songs of the women mounted aloft, beating time on the naked bodies.128 Is there a man Edition: current; Page: [686] who, after one of these encounters, does not see himself in imagination before the green table of the section committee, after this, in prison with sabres over his head, and then in the cart in the midst of the bloody pile?

Courage falters before a vision like this. All the journals approve, palliate, or keep silent; nobody dares offer resistance. Property as well as lives belong to whoever wants to take them. At the barriers, at the markets, on the boulevard of the Temple, thieves, decked with the tricolor ribbon, stop people as they pass along, seize whatever they carry, and, under the pretext that jewels should be deposited on the altars of Patriotism, take purses, watches, rings, and other articles, so rudely that women who are not quick enough, have the lobes of their ears torn in unhooking their earrings.129 Others, installed in the cellars of the Tuileries, sell the nation’s wine and oil for their own profit. Others, again, given their liberty eight days before by the people, scent out a bigger job by finding their way into the Garde-meuble and stealing diamonds to the value of thirty millions.130

Like a man struck on the head with a mallet, Paris, felled to the ground, lets things go; the authors of the massacre have fully attained their ends. The faction has fast hold of power, and will maintain its hold. Neither in the Legislative Assembly nor in the Convention will the aims of the Girondists be successful against its tenacious usurpation. It has proved by a striking example that it is Edition: current; Page: [687] capable of anything, and boasts of it; it is still armed, it stands there ever prepared and anonymous on its murderous basis, with its speedy modes of operation, its own group of fanatical agents and bravos, with Maillard and Fournier, with its cannon and its pikes. All that does not live within it lives only through its favor from day to day, through its good will. Everybody knows that. The Assembly no longer thinks of dislodging people who meet decrees of expulsion with massacre; it is no longer a question of auditing their accounts, or of keeping them within the confines of the law. Their dictatorship is not to be disputed, and their purifications continue. From four to five hundred new prisoners, arrested within eleven days, by order of the municipality, by the sections, and by this or that individual Jacobin, are crowded into cells still dripping with blood, and the report is spread that, on the 20th of September, the prisons will be emptied by a second massacre.131—Let the Convention, if it pleases, pompously install itself as sovereign, and grind out decrees—it makes no difference; regular or irregular, the government still marches on in the hands of those who hold the sword. The Jacobins, through sudden terror, have maintained their illegal authority; through a prolongation of terror they are going to establish their legal authority. A forced suffrage is going to put them in office at the Hôtel-de-Ville, in the tribunals, in the National Guard, in the sections, and in the various administrations, while they have already elected to the Convention, Marat, Danton, Fabre d’Eglantine, Camille Desmoulins, Manuel, Billaud-Varennes, Panis, Sergent, Collot d’Herbois, Robespierre, Legendre, Osselin, Fréron, David, Robert, Lavicourterie, in brief, the instigators, conductors and accomplices of the massacre.132 Nothing that could force or falsify votes was Edition: current; Page: [688] overlooked. In the first place the presence of the people is imposed on the electoral assembly, and, to this end, it is transferred to the large hall of the Jacobin club, under the pressure of the Jacobin galleries. As a second precaution, every opponent is excluded from voting, every constitutionalist, every former member of the monarchical club, of the Feuillants, and of the Sainte-Chapelle club, every signer of the petition of the 20,000, or of that of the 8,000, and, on the sections protesting against this, their protest is thrown out on the ground of its being the fruit of “an intrigue.” Finally, at each ballotting, each elector’s vote is called out, which ensures the right vote beforehand, the warnings he has received being very explicit. On the 2d of September, during the first meeting of the electoral body, held at the bishop’s palace, the Marseilles troop, 500 yards off, came and took the twenty-four priests from the mayoralty, and, on the way, hacked them to pieces on the Pont-Neuf. Throughout the evening and all night the agents of the municipality carried on their work at the Abbaye, at the Carmelites, and at La Force, and, on the 3d of September, on the electoral assembly transferring itself to the Jacobin club, it passed over the Pont-au-Change between two rows of corpses, which the slaughterers had brought there from the Châtelet and the Conciergerie.

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The departments—The epidemic and contagious character of the revolutionary disease— I. Its essential principle is the Jacobin dogma of the sovereignty of the people—The new right is officially proclaimed—Public statement of the new régime—Its object, its opponents, its methods—Its extension from Paris to the provinces— II. In several departments it establishes itself in advance—An instance of this in the Var— III. Each Jacobin band a dictator in its own neighborhood—Saint-Afrique during the interregnum— IV. Ordinary practices of the Jacobin dictatorship—The stationary companies of the clubs—Their personnel—Their leaders— V. The companies of traveling volunteers—Quality of the recruits—Election of officers—Robberies and murders— VI. A tour of France in the cabinet of the Minister of the Interior—From Carcassonne to Bordeaux—Bordeaux to Caen—The north and the east—Châlons-sur-Marne to Lyons—The Comtat and Provence—The tone and the responses of the Jacobin administration—The programme of the party.

In the departments, it is by hundreds that we enumerate days like the 20th of June, August 10, September 2. The body has its epidemic, its contagious diseases; the mind has the same; the revolutionary malady is one of them. It appears throughout the country at the same time; each infected point infects others. In each city, in each borough the club is a centre of inflammation which disorganises the sound parts; and the example of each disorganised centre spreads afar like a miasm.1 Everywhere the same fever, delirium, and conEdition: current; Page: [690] vulsions mark the presence of the same virus. That virus is the Jacobin dogma. By virtue of the Jacobin dogma, theft, usurpation, murder, take on the guise of political philosophy, and the gravest crimes against persons, against public or private property, become legitimate; for they are the acts of the legitimate supreme power, the power that has the public welfare in its keeping.


That each Jacobin band should be invested with the local dictatorship in its own canton is, according to the Jacobins, a natural right. It becomes the written law from the day that the National Assembly declares the country in danger. “From that date,” says their most widely read journal,2 and by the mere fact of that declaration, “the people of France are assembled and insurgent. They have repossessed themselves of the sovereign power.” Their magistrates, their deputies, all constituted authorities, return to nothingness, their essential state. And you, temporary and revocable representatives, “you are nothing but presiding officers for the people; you have nothing to do but to collect their votes, and to announce the result when these shall have been cast with due solemnity.”—Nor is this the theory of the Jacobins only; it is also the official theory. The National Assembly approves of the insurrection, recognises the Commune, keeps in the background, abdicates as far as possible, and only remains provisionally in office in order that the place may not be left vacant. It abstains from exercising power, even to provide its own successors; it merely “invites” the French people to organise a national convention; it confesses that it has “no right to put the exercise of sovereign power under binding rules”; it does no more than “indicate to citizens” the rules for the elections “to which it invites them to conform.”3 Meanwhile it is subject to the will of the sovereign people, then so-called; it dares not resist their crimes; it Edition: current; Page: [691] interferes with assassins only by entreaties.—Much more; it authorises them, either by ministerial signature or counter-signature, to begin their work elsewhere. Roland has signed Fournier’s commission to Orleans; Danton has sent the circular of Marat over all France. To reconstruct the departments the council of ministers sends the most infuriated members of the Commune and the party, Chaumette, Fréron, Westermann, Auduoin, Huguenin, Momoro, Couthon, Billaud-Varennes,4 and others still more tainted and brutal, who preach the purest Jacobin doctrine. “They announce openly5 that laws no longer exist; that since the people are sovereign, every one is master; that each fraction of the nation can take such measures as suit it, in the name of the country’s safety; that they have the right to tax corn, to seize it in the laborer’s fields, to cut off the heads of the farmers who refuse to bring their grain to market.” At Lisieux, agrarian law is preached by Dufour and Momoro. At Douai, other declaimers from Paris say to the popular club, “Prepare scaffolds; let the walls of the city bristle with gallows, and hang upon them every man who does not accept our opinions.” Nothing is more logical, more in conformity with their principles. The journals, deducing consequences from these, expound to the people the use they ought to make of their reconquered sovereignty.6 “Under the present circumstances, community of goods is the law; everything Edition: current; Page: [692] belongs to everybody.” Besides, “an equalising of fortunes must be brought about, a levelling, which shall abolish the vicious principle of the preponderance of the rich over the poor.” This reform is all the more pressing because “the people, the real sovereign people, have nearly as many enemies as there are proprietors, large merchants, financiers, and wealthy men. In a time of revolution, we must regard all men who have more than enough as the enemies, secret or avowed, of popular government.” Therefore, “let the people of each commune, before they quit their homes” for the army, “put all those who are suspected of not loving liberty in a secure place, and under the safe-keeping of the law; let them be kept shut up until the war be ended; let them be guarded with pikes,” and let each one of their guardians receive thirty sous per day. As for the partisans of the fallen government, the members of the Paris directory, “with Roederer and Blondel at their head,” as for the general officers, “with Lafayette and d’Affry at their head,” as for “the inspecting deputies of the Constituent Assembly, with Barnave and Lameth at their head,” as for the Feuillant deputies of the Legislative Assembly, “with Ramond and Jaucourt at their head,”7 as for “all those who consented to soil their hands with the profits of the civil list,” as for “the 40,000 hired assassins who were gathered at the palace on the night of August 9–10, they are furious monsters, who ought to be strangled to the last one. People! you have risen to your feet; stand firm until not one of these conspirators remains alive. Your humanity requires you for once to show yourselves inexorable. Strike terror to the wicked. The proscriptions which we impose on you as a duty, are the sacred wrath of your country.” There is no mistaking this; it is a tocsin sounding against all the powers that be, against all social superiority, against administrations, tribunals, military authority, against priests and nobles, proprietors, capitalists, the leaders of business and industry; it is sounding, in short, against the whole élite of France, whether of old or recent origin. The Jacobins of Paris, by their journals, their examples, their missionaries, give Edition: current; Page: [693] the signal; and in the provinces their kindred spirits, imbued with the same principles, only wait the summons to hurl themselves forward.


In many departments8 they have forestalled the summons. In the Var, for example, pillages and proscriptions have begun with the month of May. According to custom, they first seize upon the castles and the monasteries, although these have become national property, at one time alleging as a reason for this that the administration “is too slow in carrying out sentence against the émigrés,” and again, that “the château, standing on an eminence, weighs upon the inhabitants.”9 There is scarcely a village in France that does not contain two-score wretches who are always ready to line their pockets, which is just the number of thieves who thoroughly sacked the château of Montaroux, carrying off “furniture, produce, clothing, even the jugs and bottles in the cellar.” There are the same doings by the same band at the château of Tournon; the château of Salerne is burned, that of Flagose is pulled down; the canal of Cabris is destroyed; then the convent of Montrieux, the châteaux of Grasse, of Canet, of Régusse, of Brovaz, and many others, all devastated, and the devastations are made “daily.”—It is impossible to suppress Edition: current; Page: [694] this country brigandage. The reigning dogma, weakening authority in the magistrates’ hands, and the clubs, “which cover the department,” have diffused the fermentation of anarchy everywhere. “Administrators, judges, municipal officers, all who are invested with any authority, and who have the courage to use it in forcing respect for law, are one by one denounced by public opinion as enemies of the constitution and of liberty; because, people say, they talk of nothing but the law, as if they did not know that the will of the people makes the law, and that we are the people.10 This is the real principle; here, as at Paris, it instantly begets its consequences. “In many of these clubs nothing is discussed but the plundering of estates and cutting off the heads of aristocrats. And who are designated by this infamous title? In the cities, the great traders and rich proprietors; in the country, those whom we call the bourgeois; everywhere, all peaceable citizens, the friends of order, who wish to enjoy, under the shadow of the protecting law, the blessings of the Constitution. Such was the rage of their denunciations that in one of these clubs a good and brave peasant was denounced as an aristocrat; the whole of his aristocracy consisting in his having said to those who plundered the château of their seigneur, already mentioned, that they would not enjoy in peace the fruits of their crime.”—Here is the Jacobin programme of Paris in advance, namely, the division of the French into two classes, the spoliation of one, the despotism of the other; the destruction of the well-to-do, orderly and honest under the dictation of those who are not so.

Here, as in Paris, the programme is carried out step by step. At Beausset, near Toulon, a man named Vidal, captain of the National Guard, “twice set at liberty by virtue of two consecutive amnesEdition: current; Page: [695] ties,”11 punishes not resistance merely, but even murmurs, with death. Two old men, one of them a notary, the other a turner, having complained of him to the public prosecutor, the general alarm is beaten, a gathering of armed men is formed in the street, and the complainants are clubbed, riddled with balls, and their bodies thrown into a pit. Many of their friends are wounded, others take to flight; seven houses are sacked, and the municipality, “either overawed or in complicity,” makes no interference until all is over. There is no way of pursuing the guilty ones; the foreman of the jury, who goes, escorted by a thousand men, to hold an inquest, can get no testimony. The municipal officers feign to have heard nothing, neither the general alarm nor the guns fired under their windows. The other witnesses say not a word; but they declare, sotto voce, the reason for their silence. If they should testify, “they would be sure of being killed as soon as the troops should have gone away.” The foreman of the jury is himself menaced; after remaining three-quarters of an hour, he finds it prudent to leave the city.—After this the clubs of Beausset and of the neighborhood, gaining hardihood from the impotence of the law, break out into incendiary propositions: “It is announced that after the troops retreat, nineteen houses more will be sacked; it is proposed to behead all aristocrats, that is to say, all the land-owners in the country.” Many have fled, but their flight does not satisfy the clubs. Vidal orders those of Beausset who took refuge in Toulon to return at once; otherwise their houses will be demolished, and that very day, in fact, by way of warning, several houses in Beausset, among them that of a notary, are either pulled down or pillaged from top to bottom; all the riff-raff of the town are at work, “half-drunken men and women,” and, as their object is to rob and drink, they would like to begin again in the principal town of the canton.—The club, accordingly, has declared that “Toulon would soon see a new St. Bartholomew”; it has allies there, and Edition: current; Page: [696] arrangements are made; each club in the small towns of the vicinity will furnish men, while all will march under the leadership of the Toulon club. At Toulon, as at Beausset, the municipality will let things take their course, while the proceedings complained of by the public prosecutor and the district and department administrators will be applied to them. They may send reports to Paris, and denounce patriots to the National Assembly and the King, if they choose; the club will reply to their scribbling with acts. Their turn is coming. Lanterns and sabres are also found at Toulon, and the faction murders them because they have lodged complaints against the murderers.


We can conjecture what it will do during the interregnum by what it dared to do when the government still stood on its feet. Facts, then, as always, furnish the best picture, and, to obtain a knowledge of the new sovereign, we must first observe him on a limited stage.

On the reception of the news of the 10th of August, the Jacobins of Saint-Afrique, a small town of the Aveyron,12 likewise undertook Edition: current; Page: [697] to save the country, and, to this end, like their fellows in other boroughs of the district, they organised themselves into an “Executive Power.” This institution is of an old date, especially in the South; it had flourished for eighteen months from Lyons to Montpellier, from Agen to Nismes; but after the interregnum, its condition is still more flourishing; it consists of a secret society, the object of which is to carry out practically the motions and instructions of the club.13 Ordinarily, they work at night, wearing masks or slouched hats, with long hair falling over the face. A list of their names, each with a number opposite to it, is kept at the meeting-place of the society. A triangular club, decked with a red ribbon, serves them both as weapon and badge; with this club, each member “may go anywhere,” and do what seems good to him. At Saint-Afrique they number about eighty, among whom must be counted the rascals forming the seventh company of Tarn, staying in the town; their enrollment in the band is effected by constantly “preaching pillage to them,” and by assuring them that the contents of the châteaux in the vicinity belong to them.14—Not that the châteaux excite any fear; most of them are empty; neither in Saint-Afrique nor in the environs do the men of the ancient régime form a party; for many months orthodox priests and the nobles have had to fly, and now the well-to-do people are escaping. The population, however, is Catholic; many of the shop-keepers, artisans, and farmers are discontented, and the object now is to make these laggards keep step.—In the first place, they order women of every condition, work-girls and servants, to attend mass performed by the sworn curé, for, if they do not, they will be made acquainted with the cudgel.—In the Edition: current; Page: [698] second place, all the suspected are disarmed; they enter their houses during the night in force, unexpectedly, and, besides their gun, carry off their provisions and money. A certain grocer who persists in his lukewarmness is visited a second time; seven or eight men, one evening, break open his door with a stick of timber; he takes refuge on his roof, dares not descend until the following day at dawn, and finds that everything in his store has been either stolen or broken to pieces.15 In the third place, there is “punishment of the ill-disposed.” At nine o’clock in the evening a squad knocks at the door of a distrusted shoemaker; it is opened by his apprentice; six of the ruffians enter, and one of them, showing a paper, says to the poor fellow: “I come on the part of the Executive Power, by which you are condemned to a bastinadoing.” “What for?” “If you have not done anything wrong, you are thinking about it,”16 and so they beat him in the presence of his family, and many others like him are seized and unmercifully beaten on their own premises.—As to the expenses of the operation, these must be defrayed by the malevolent. These, therefore, are taxed according to their occupations; this or that tanner or dealer in cattle has to pay 36 francs; another, a hatter, 72 francs; otherwise “they will be attended to that very night at nine o’clock.” Nobody is exempt, if he is not one of the band. Poor old men who have nothing but a five-franc assignat are compelled to give that; they take from the wife of “a ground-digger,” whose savings consist of seven sous and a half, the whole of this, exclaiming, “that is good for three mugs of wine.”17 When money is not to be had, they take goods in kind; they make short work of cellars, bee-hives, clothes-presses, and poultry-yards; they eat, drink, and break, giving themselves up to it heartily, not only in the town, but in the neighboring villages. One detachment goes to Brusque, and Edition: current; Page: [699] proceeds so vigorously that the mayor and syndic-attorney scamper off across the fields, and dare not return for a couple of days.18 At Versol, the dwelling of the sworn curé, and at Lapeyre, that of the sworn vicar, are both sacked; the money is stolen and the casks are emptied. In the house of the curé of Douyre, “furniture, clothes, cabinets, and window-sashes are destroyed”; they feast on his wine and the contents of his cupboard, throw away what they could not consume, then go in search of the curé and his brother, a former Carthusian, shouting that “their heads must be cut off, and sausage-meat made of the rest of their bodies!” Some of them, a little shrewder than the others, light on a prize; for example, a certain Bourguière, a trooper of the line, seized a vineyard belonging to an old lady, the widow of a physician and former mayor;19 he gathered in its crop, “publicly in open day,” for his own benefit, and warns the proprietress that he will kill her if she makes a complaint against him, and, as she probably does complain of him, he obliges her, in the name of the Executive Power, to pay him fifty crowns damages.—As to the roughs in common, their reward, besides their carousings, is perfect license. In all houses invaded at eleven o’clock in the evening, whilst the father flies, or the husband screams under the cudgel, one of the villains stations himself at the entrance with a drawn sabre in his hands, and the wife or daughter remains at the mercy of the others; they seize her by the neck and maintain their hold.20 In vain does she scream for help. “Nobody in Saint-Afrique dares go outdoors at night”; nobody comes, and, the following day, the juge-de-paix dares not receive the complaint, because “he is afraid himself.”—Accordingly, on the 23d of September, the municipal officers and the town-clerk, who made their rounds, were nearly beaten to death with clubs and stones; on the 10th of October Edition: current; Page: [700] another municipal officer was left for dead; a fortnight before this, a lieutenant of volunteers, M. Mazières, “trying to do his duty, was assassinated in his bed by his own men.” Naturally, nobody dares whisper a word, and, after two months of this order of things, it may be presumed that at the municipal elections of the 21st of October, the electors will be docile. In any event, as a precaution, their notification eight days before, according to law, is dispensed with; as extra precaution, they are informed that if they do not vote for the Executive Power, they will have to do with the triangular cudgel.21 In consequence of this, most of them stay away; in a town of over 600 active citizens, 40 votes give a majority; Bourgougnon and Sarrus, the two chiefs of the Executive Power, are elected, one mayor, and the other syndic-attorney, and henceforth the authority they seized by force is conferred on them by the law.


Such is about the type of government which starts up in every commune of France after the 10th of August; the club reigns, but the form and processes of its dictatorship are different, according to circumstances.—Sometimes it operates directly through the executive band led by it, or through the rioting populace which it launches forth. Again, it operates indirectly through the electoral assembly, of which it controls the election, or through the municipality, which is its accomplice. If the administrations are Jacobin, it governs through them. If they are passive, it governs alongside of them. If they are refractory, it purges them,22 or breaks them up,23 and, to put them down, it resorts not only to blows, but even to murder24 and massacre.25 Between massacre and threats, all middle-courses Edition: current; Page: [701] meet, the revolutionary seal being everywhere impressed with inequalities of relief.

In many places, threats suffice. In regions where the temperament of the people is cool, and where there is no resistance, it is useless to resort to affrays. Of what use is slaughter in a town like Arras, for instance, where, on the day of the civic oath, the president of the department, a prudent millionaire, stalks through the streets arm in arm with Aunty Duchesne, who sells cookies down in a cellar, where, on election days, the townspeople, through cowardice, elect the club candidates under the pretence that “rascals and beggars” must be sent off to Paris to purge the town of them!26 It would be labor lost to strike people who cringe and crouch so well.27 The faction is content to mark them as mangy curs, to put them in pens, hold them with leashes, and to annoy them.28 It posts at the entrance of the guard-room a list of inhabitants related to an émigré; it makes domiciliary visits; it draws up a fancied list of the suspected, on which list all that are rich are found inscribed. It insults and disarms them; it confines them to the town; it forbids them to go outside of it even on foot; it orders them to present themselves daily before its committee of public safety; it condemns them to pay their taxes for a year in twenty-four hours; it breaks the seals of their letters; it confiscates, demolishes, and sells their family tombs in the cemeteries. This is all in order, as well as the religious persecution, the irruption into private chapels where mass is said, blows with gun-stocks and the fist bestowed on the officiating priest, the obligation of orthodox parents to have their children baptised by the schismatic curé, the expulsion of nuns, and the pursuit, imprisonment and transportation of unsworn ecclesiastics.

But if the domination of the club is not always a bloody one, its judgments are always those of an armed man, who, putting his gun to his shoulder, aims at the wayfarers whom he has stopped on the Edition: current; Page: [702] road; generally they kneel down, tender their purses, and the shot is not fired. But the gun is cocked, nevertheless, and, to be certain of this, we have only to look at the shrivelled hand grasping the trigger. We are reminded of those swarms of banditti which infested the country under the ancient régime;29 the double-girdle of smugglers and receivers embraced within twelve hundred leagues of internal excise-duties, the poachers abounding on the four hundred leagues of guarded captainries, the deserters so numerous that in eight years they amounted to sixty thousand, the mendicants with which the prisons overflowed, the thousands of thieves and vagabonds thronging the highways, all that police-game which the Revolution let loose and armed, and which, in its turn, from game, became the hunters of game. For three years these strong-armed rovers have served as the kernel of local jacqueries; at the present time they form the staff of the universal jacquerie. At Nismes,30 the head of the Executive Power is a “dancing-master.” The two leading demagogues of Toulouse are a shoemaker, and an actor who plays valets.31 At Toulon,32 the club, more absolute than any Asiatic despot, is recruited from among the indigent, sailors, harbor-hands, soldiers, “stray peddlers,” while its president, Sylvestre, sent away from Paris, is a criminal of the lowest degree. At Rheims,33 the principal leader is an unfrocked priest, married to a nun, aided by a baker, who, an old soldier, came near being hung. Elsewhere,34 it is some deserter Edition: current; Page: [703] tried for robbery; here, a cook or innkeeper, and there, a former lackey. The oracle of Lyons is an ex-commercial traveler, an emulator of Marat, named Châlier, whose murderous delirium is complicated with morbid mysticism. The acolytes of Châlier are a barber, a hair-dresser, an old-clothes dealer, a mustard and vinegar manufacturer, a cloth-dresser, a silk-worker, a gauze-maker, while the time is near when authority is to fall into still meaner hands, those of “the dregs of the female population,” who, aided by “a few bullies,” elect “female commissaries,” tax food, and for three days pillage the warehouses.35 Avignon has for its masters the Glacière bandits. Arles is under the yoke of its porters and bargemen. Marseilles belongs to “a band of wretches spawned out of houses of debauchery, who recognise neither laws nor magistrates, and ruling the city through terror.”36—It is not surprising that such men, invested with such power, use it in conformity with their nature, and that the interregnum, which is their reign, spreads over France a circle of devastations, robberies, and murders.


Usually, the stationary band of clubbists has an auxiliary band of the same species which roves about. I mean the volunteers, who inspire more fear and do more harm, because they march in a body and are armed.37 Like their brethren in the ordinary walks of life, many of them are town and country vagabonds; most of them, living Edition: current; Page: [704] from hand to mouth, have been attracted by the pay of fifteen sous a day; they have become soldiers for lack of work and bread.38 Each commune, moreover, having been called upon for its army contingent, “they have picked up whatever could be found in the towns, all the scamps hanging around street-corners, men with no pursuit, and, in the country, wretches and vagabonds of every description; nearly all have been forced to march by money or drawing lots,” and it is probable that the various administrations thought that “in this way they would purge France.”39 To the wretched “bought by the communes,” add others of the same stamp, procured by the rich as substitutes for their sons.40 Thus do they pick over the social dunghill and obtain at a discount the natural and predestined inmates of houses of correction, poor-houses and hospitals, with an utter disregard of quality, even physical, “the halt, the maimed and the blind,” the deformed and the defective, “some too old, and others too young and too feeble to support the fatigues of war, others so small as to stand a foot lower than their guns,” a large number of boys of sixteen, fourteen, and thirteen; in short, the reprobate of great cities as we now see him, stunted, puny, and naturally insolent and insurgent.41 “One-third of them are found unfit for service” on Edition: current; Page: [705] reaching the frontier.42—But, before reaching the frontier, they act like “pirates” on the road.—The others, with sounder bodies and better hearts, become, under the discipline of constant danger, good soldiers at the end of a year. In the mean time, however, they make no less havoc, for, if they are less disposed to robbery, they are more fanatical. Nothing is more delicate than the military organisation, owing to the fact that it represents force, and man is always tempted to abuse force; for any free company of soldiers to remain inoffensive in a civil community, it must be restrained by the strongest curbs, which curbs, either within or without, were wholly wanting with the volunteers of 1792.43

Artisans, peasants, the petty bourgeois class, youthful enthusiasts stimulated by the prevailing doctrine, they are still much more Jacobin than patriotic; the dogma of popular sovereignty, like a heady wine, has turned their inexperienced brains; they are fully persuaded that, “destined to contend with the enemies of the republic, is an Edition: current; Page: [706] honor which permits them to exact and to dare all things.”44 The least among them believes himself superior to the law, “as formerly a Condé,” and he becomes king on a small scale, self-constituted, an autocratic justiciary and avenger of wrongs, a supporter of patriots and the scourge of aristocrats, the disposer of lives and property, and, without delay or formality, taking it upon himself to complete the Revolution on the spot in every town he passes through.—He is not to be hindered in all this by his officers.45 “Having created his chiefs, they are of no more account to him than any of a man’s creations usually are”; far from being obeyed, they are not even respected, “and that comes from resorting to analogies without considering military talent or moral superiority.”46 Through the natural effects of the system of election, all grades of rank have fallen upon demagogues and blusterers. “The intriguers, loud-talkers, and especially great drinkers, have prevailed against the capable.”47 Besides, to retain his popularity, the new officer will go to a groggery and drink with his men,48 and he must show himself more Jacobin than they are, from which it follows that, not content with tolerating their excesses, he provokes them.—Hence, after March, 1792, and even before,49 we see the volunteers behaving in Edition: current; Page: [707] France as in a conquered country. Sometimes they make domiciliary visits, and break everything to pieces in the house they visit. Again, they force the re-baptism of infants by the complying curés, and fire on the orthodox father. Here, of their own accord, they make arrests; there, they join in with mutineers and stop grain-boats; elsewhere, they force a municipality to tax bread; farther on, they burn or sack châteaux, and, if a mayor happens to inform them that the château now belongs to the nation and not to an émigré, they reply with “thrusts,” and threaten to cut his throat.50—As the 10th of August draws near, the phantom of authority, which still occasionally imposed on them, completely vanishes, and “it costs them nothing to massacre” whoever displeases them.51 Exasperated by the perils they Edition: current; Page: [708] are about to encounter on the frontier, they begin war in the interior; provisionally, and as a precaution, they slaughter probable aristocrats on the way, and treat the officers, nobles and priests they meet on the road worse than their club allies. For, on the one hand, being merely on the march, they are much safer from punishment than local murderers; in a week, lost in the army, they will not be sought for in camp, and they may slay with perfect security. On the other hand, as strangers and newcomers, incapable of discriminating persons the same as people on the spot, on account of name, dress, and qualifications, on coffee-house rumors, on appearances, however venerable and harmless a man may be, they kill him, not because they know him, but because they do not know him.


Let us enter the cabinet of Roland, Minister of the Interior, a fortnight after the opening of the Convention, and suppose him contemplating, some evening, a foreshortened picture of the state of the country administered by him. His clerks have placed the correspondence of the past few weeks on his table, arranged in proper order; his replies are noted in brief on the margin; he has a map of France before him, and, placing his finger on the southern section, he moves it along the great highway across the country. At every stage he recurs to the paper file of letters, and passing innumerable reports of violence, he merely gives his attention to the great revolutionary exploits.52 Madame Roland, I imagine, works with her husband, and the couple, sitting together alone under the lamp, ponder over the Edition: current; Page: [709] doings of the ferocious brute which they have set free in the provinces the same as in Paris.

Their eyes go first to the southern extremity of France. There,53 on the canal of the Deux-Mers, at Carcassonne, the populace has seized three boats loaded with grain, exacted food, then a diminution of the price of bread, then guns and cannons from the magazine, and, lastly, the heads of the administrators; an inspector-general has been wounded by an axe, and the syndic-attorney of the department, M. Verdier, massacred.—The Minister follows with his eye the road from Carcassonne to Bordeaux, and on the right and on the left he finds traces of blood. At Castres,54 a report is spread that a dealer in grain was trying to raise the price, whereupon a mob congregates, and, to save the dealer, he is placed in the guard-house; the volunteers, however, force open the guard-house, and throw the man out of the first-story window; they then finish him with “blows with clubs and weights,” drag his body along the street and cast it into the river.—The evening before, at Clairac,55 M. Lartigue-Langa, an unsworn priest, pursued through the street by a troop of men and women, determined to strip off his cassock and ride him on an ass, found refuge, with great difficulty, in his country-house; they go there for him, however, fetch him back to the public promenade, and there kill him. A number of brave fellows who interfered were charged with incivisme, and severely handled. Repression is impossible; the department writes to the Minister that “at this time it would be impolitic to follow the matter up.” Roland knows that by experience. The letters in his hands show him that there, as in Paris, murder engenders murder; M. d’Alespée, a gentleman, has just been assassinated at Nérac; “all reputable citizens formed around him a rampart with their bodies,” but the rabble prevailed, and the murderers, “through their obscurity,” escaped.—The Minister’s finger Edition: current; Page: [710] stops at Bordeaux. There the federation festivities are marked with a triple assassination.56 In order to let this dangerous moment pass by, M. de Langoirac, vicar-general of the archbishopric, had retired half a league off, in the village of Cauderan, to the residence of an octogenarian priest, who, like himself, had never meddled with public matters. On the 15th of July the National Guards of the village, excited by the speeches of the previous night, take them both out of the house, and, by way of an extra, a third priest belonging in the neighborhood. There is nothing to lay to their charge; neither the municipal officers, nor the justices before whom they are brought, can avoid declaring them innocent. As a last recourse, they are conducted to Bordeaux, before the Directory of the department. But it is getting dark, and the riotous crowd becoming impatient, makes an attack on them. The octogenarian “is so pounded as to make it impossible for him to revive”; the abbé du Puy is knocked down and dragged along by a rope attached to his feet; M. de Langoirac’s head is cut off, carried about on a pike, taken to his house and presented to the servant, who is told that “her master will not come home to supper.” The torment of the priests has lasted from five o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock in the evening, and the municipal authorities were duly advised; but they cannot put themselves out of the way to give succor; they are too seriously occupied in erecting a liberty-pole.

Route from Bordeaux to Caen.—The Minister’s finger turns to the north, and stops at Limoges. The day following the federation has been here celebrated the same as at Bordeaux.57 An unsworn priest, the abbé Chabrol, assailed by a gang of men and women, is first conducted to the guard-house and then to the dwelling of the juge-de-paix; for his protection a warrant of arrest is gotten out, and he is kept under guard, in sight, by four chasseurs, in one of the rooms. But the populace are not satisfied with this. In vain do the Edition: current; Page: [711] municipal officers appeal to it, in vain do the gendarmes interpose themselves between it and the prisoner; it rushes in upon them and disperses them. Meanwhile, volleys of stones smash in the windows, and the entrance door yields to the blows of axes; about thirty of the villains scale the windows, and pass the priest down like a bale of goods. A few yards off, “struck down with clubs and other instruments,” he draws his last breath, his head “crushed” by twenty mortal wounds.—Farther up, towards Orleans, Roland reads the following despatches, taken from the file for Loiret:58 “Anarchy is at its height,” writes one of the districts to the Directory of the department; “there is no longer recognition of any authority; the administrators of the district and of the municipalities are insulted, and are powerless to enforce respect. … Threats of slaughter, of destroying houses and giving them up to pillage prevail; plans are made to tear down all the châteaux. The municipal authorities of Achères, along with many of the inhabitants, have gone to Oison and Chaussy, where everything is smashed, broken up and carried off. On the 16th of September six armed men went to the house of M. de Vaudeuil and obliged him to return the sum of 300 francs, for penalties pretended to have been paid by them. We have been notified that M. Dedeley will be visited at Achères for the same purpose to-day. M. de Lory has been similarly threatened. … Finally, all those people there say that they want no more local administrations or tribunals, that the law is in their own hands, and they will execute it. In this extremity we have decided on the only safe course, which is to silently accept all the outrages inflicted upon us. We have not called upon you for protection, for we are well aware of the embarrassment you labor under.”—The best part of the National Guard, indeed, having been disarmed at the county-town, there is no longer an armed force to put riots down. Consequently, at this same date,59 the populace, increased by the afflux of Edition: current; Page: [712] “strangers” and ordinary nomads, hang a corn-inspector, plant his head on the end of a pike, drag his body through the streets, sack five houses and burn the furniture of a municipal officer in front of his own door. Thereupon, the obedient municipality sets the arrested rioters free, and lowers the price of bread one-sixth. Above the Loire, the despatches of Orne and Calvados complete the picture. “Our district,” writes a lieutenant of the gendarmerie,60 “is a prey to brigandage. … About thirty rascals have just sacked the château of Dampierre. Calls for men are constantly made upon us,” which we cannot satisfy, “because the call is general on all sides.” The details are curious, and here, notwithstanding the Minister’s familiarity with popular misdeeds, he cannot avoid noting one extortion of a new species. “The inhabitants of the villages61 collect together, betake themselves to different châteaux, seize the wives and children of their proprietors, and keep them as bail for promises of re-embursement which they force the latter to sign, not merely for feudal taxes, but, again, for expenses to which this taxation may have given rise,” first under the actual proprietor and then under his predecessors; in the mean time they install themselves on the premises, demand payments for their time, devastate the buildings on the place, and sell the furniture.—All this is accompanied with the usual slaughterings. A letter of the Directory of the department of Orne advises the Minister62 that “a former noble has been killed (homicidé) in the canton of Sepf, an ex-curé in the town of Bellême, an unsworn priest in the canton of Putanges, an ex-capuchin in the territory of Alençon.” The same day, at Caen, the syndic-attorney Edition: current; Page: [713] of Calvados, M. Bayeux, a man of sterling merit, imprisoned by the local Jacobins, has just been shot down in the street and bayonetted, while the National Assembly was passing a decree proclaiming his innocence and ordering him to be set at liberty.63

Route of the East.—At Rouen, in front of the Hôtel-de-Ville, the National Guard, stoned for more than an hour, finally fire a volley and kill four men; throughout the department violence is committed in relation to grain, while wheat is taxed and carried off by force;64 but Roland is obliged to restrict himself; he can note only political disturbances. Besides, he is obliged to move on fast, for murders abound along the whole course; between the effervescence of the army and that of the capital,65 each department in the vicinity of Paris or near the frontier furnishes its quota of murders. They take place at Gisors, in the Eure, at Chantilly, and at Clermont in the Oise, at Saint-Amand in the Pas-de-Calais, at Cambray in the Nord, at Retel and Charleville in the Ardennes, at Rheims and at Châlons in the Marne, at Troyes in the Aube, at Meaux in Seine-et-Marne, and at Versailles in Seine-et-Oise.66—Roland, I imagine, does not open this file, and for a good reason; he knows too well how M. de Edition: current; Page: [714] Brissac and M. Delessart, and the other sixty-three persons perished at Versailles; it was he who signed Fournier’s commission, the head murderer. At this very moment he is forced to correspond with this villain, to send him certificates of “zeal and patriotism,” and to assign him, over and above his robberies, 30,000 francs to defray the expenses of the operation.67—But some among the despatches he cannot overlook, if he desires to know to what his authority is reduced, in what contempt all authority is held, how the civil or military populace exercises its power, with what promptitude it disposes of the most illustrious and most useful lives, especially those who have been, or are now, in command, the Minister perhaps saying to himself that his turn will come next.

A philanthropist from his youth up, a liberal on entering the Constituent Assembly, elected president of the Paris department, one of the most persistent, most generous, and most respected patriots from first to last,—who better deserved to be spared than M. de la Rochefoucauld? Arrested at Gisors68 by order of the Paris Commune, he left the inn, escorted by the Parisian commissary, surrounded by the municipal council, twelve gendarmes and one hundred National Guards; behind him walked his mother, eighty years of age, his wife following in a carriage; there could be no fear of an escape. But, for a suspected person, death is more certain than a prison; three hundred volunteers of the Orne and the Sarthe departments, on their way through Gisors, collect and cry out: “We must have his head—nothing shall stop us!” A stone hits M. de la Rochefoucauld on the temple; he falters, his escort is broken up, and they finish him with clubs and sabres, while the municipal council “have barely time to drive off the carriage containing the ladies.”—Accordingly, national justice, in the hands of the volunteers, has its sudden outbursts, its excesses, its reactions, the effect of which Edition: current; Page: [715] it is not advisable to wait for. For example, at Cambray,69 a division of foot-gendarmerie had just left the town, and it occurs to them that they had forgotten “to purge the prison”; it retraces its steps, seizes the keeper, takes him to the Hôtel-de-Ville, examines the prison register, sets at liberty those whose crimes seem to it excusable, and provides them with passports; on the other hand, it massacres a former royal procureur, on whom addresses are found tainted with “aristocratic principles,” an unpopular lieutenant-colonel, and a suspected captain.—However slight or ill-founded a suspicion, so much the worse for the officer on whom it falls! At Charleville,70 two loads of arms having passed through one gate instead of another, to avoid a bad road, M. Juchereau, inspector of the manufacture of arms and commander of the place, is declared a traitor by the volunteers and the populace, torn from the hands of the municipal officers, clubbed to the ground, stamped on, and stabbed; his head, fixed to a pike, is paraded through Charleville, then into Mézières, where it is thrown into the river running between the two towns. The body remains, and this the municipality orders to be interred; but it is not worthy of burial; the murderers obtain possession of it, and cast it into the water that it may join the head. In the mean time the lives of the municipal officers hang by a single thread. One of these is seized by the throat; another is knocked out of his chair and threatened with the lantern, a gun is aimed at him and he is beaten and kicked; subsequently a plot is devised “to cut off their heads and plunder their houses.”

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The disposers of lives, indeed, are also the disposers of property. Roland has only to turn over the leaves of two or three reports to see how patriotism furnishes a cloak for brutal license and greed. At Coucy, in the department of Aisne,71 the peasantry of seventeen parishes, assembled for the purpose of furnishing their military quota, rush with a loud clamor to two houses, the property of M. des Fossés, a former deputy to the Constituent Assembly, and the two finest in the town; one of them had been occupied by Henry IV. Some of the municipal officers who try to interfere are nearly cut to pieces, and the entire municipal body takes to flight. M. des Fossés, with his two daughters, succeed in hiding themselves in an obscure corner in the vicinity, and afterwards in a small tenement offered to them by a humane gardener, and finally, after great difficulty, they reach Soissons. Of his two houses, “nothing remains but the walls. Windows, casings, doors, and wainscottings, all are shattered”; twenty thousand francs of assignats in a portfolio are destroyed or carried off; the title-deeds of the property are not to be found, and the damage is estimated at 200,000 francs. The pillage lasted from seven o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock in the evening, and, as is always the case, ended in a jollification; the plunderers, entering the cellars, drank “two hogsheads of wine and two casks of brandy; thirty or forty remained dead drunk, and were taken away with considerable difficulty.” There is no prosecution, no investigation; the new mayor, who, one month after, makes up his mind to denounce the act, begs the Minister not to give his name, for, he says, “the agitators in the council-general of the Commune threaten, with fearful consequences, whoever is discovered to have written to you.”72—Such is the ever-present threatening under Edition: current; Page: [717] which the gentry live, even when venerable in the service of freedom; Roland, foremost in his files, finds heartrending letters addressed directly to him, as a last recourse. Early in 1789, M. de Gouy d’Arcy73 was the first to put his pen to paper in behalf of popular rights. A deputy of the noblesse to the Constituent Assembly, he is the first to rally to the Third-Estate; when the liberal minority of the noblesse came and took their seats in the hall of the Communes, he had already been there eight days, and, for thirty months, he “invariably seated himself on the side of the ‘Left.’ ” Senior major-general, and ordered by the Legislative Assembly to suppress the outbreak of the 6,000 insurgents at Noyon, “he kept his rigorous orders in his pocket for ten days”; he endured their insults; he risked his life “to save those of his misguided fellow-citizens, and he had the good fortune not to spill a drop of blood.” Exhausted by so much labor and effort, almost dying, ordered into the country by his physicians, “he devoted his income to the relief of poverty”; he planted on his own domain the first liberty tree that was erected; he furnished the volunteers with clothes and arms; “instead of a fifth, he yielded up a third of his revenue under the forced system of taxation.” His children live with him on the property, which has been in the family four hundred years, and the peasantry call him “their father.” No one could lead a more tranquil or, indeed, a more meritorious existence. But, being a noble, he is suspected, and a delegate from the Paris Commune denounces him at Compiègne as having in his house two cannon and five hundred and fifty muskets. There is at once a domiciliary visit. Eight hundred men, infantry and cavalry, appear before the château d’Arcy in battle array. He meets them at the door and tenders them the keys. After a search Edition: current; Page: [718] of six hours, they find twelve fowling pieces and thirteen rusty pistols, which he has already declared. His disappointed visitors grumble, break, eat and drink to the extent of 2,000 crowns damage.74 Nevertheless, urged by their leaders, they finally retire. But M. de Gouy has 60,000 francs in rentals, which would be so much gain to the nation if he would emigrate; this must be effected, by expelling him, and, moreover, during his expulsion, they may fill their pockets. For eight days this matter is discussed in the Compiègne club, in the groggeries, in the barracks, and, on the ninth day, 150 volunteers issue from the town, declaring that they are going to kill M. de Gouy and all who belong to him. Informed of this, he departs with his family, leaving the doors of his house wide open. There is a general pillage for five hours; the mob drink the costly wines, steal the plate, demand horses to carry their booty away, and promise to return soon and take the owner’s head.—In effect, on the following morning at four o’clock, there is a new invasion, a new pillage, and, this time, the last one; the servants escape under a fire of musketry, and M. de Gouy, at the request of the villagers, whose vineyards are devastated, is obliged to quit that part of the country.75—There is no need to go through the whole file. At Houdainville, at the house of M. de Saint-Maurice, at Nointel, on the estate of the Duc de Bourbon, at Chantilly, on the estate of the Prince de Condé, at the house of M. de Fitz-James, and elsewhere, a certain Gauthier, “commandant of the Paris detachment of Searchers, and charged with the powers of the Committee of Supervision,” makes his patriotic circuit, and Roland knows beforehand of what that consists, Edition: current; Page: [719] namely, a dragonnade in regular form on the domains of all nobles, absent or present.76

Favorite game is still found in the clergy, more vigorously hunted than the nobles; Roland, charged with the duty of maintaining public order, asks himself how the lives of inoffensive priests, which the law recommends to him, can be protected.—At Troyes, at the house of M. Fardeau, an old non-conformist curé, an altar decked with its sacred vessels is discovered, and M. Fardeau, arrested, refuses to take the civic oath. Torn from his prison, and ordered to shout “Vive la Nation!” he again refuses. On this, a volunteer, borrowing an axe from a baker, chops off his head, and this head, washed in the river, is borne to the Hôtel-de-Ville.77—At Meaux, a brigade of Parisian gendarmerie murders seven priests, and, as an extra, six ordinary malefactors in confinement.78 At Rheims, the Parisian volunteers first make way with the post-master and his clerk, both under suspicion because the smell of burnt paper had issued from their chimney, and, next, M. de Montrosier, an old retired officer, which is the opening of the hunt. Afterwards they fall upon two ecclesiastics with pikes and sabres, whom their game-beaters have brought in from the country, then on the former curé of Saint-Jean, and on that of Rilly; their corpses are cut up, paraded through the streets in portions, and burnt in a bonfire; one of the wounded priests, the abbé Alexandre, is thrown in still alive.79—Roland recognises the men of September, Edition: current; Page: [720] who, exposing their still bloody pikes, came to his domicile to demand their wages; wherever the band passes it announces, “in the name of the people,” its “plenary power to spread the example of the capital.” Now, as 40,000 unsworn priests are condemned by the decree of August 26 to leave their departments in a week and France in a fortnight—shall they be allowed to depart? Eight thousand of them at Rouen, in obedience to the decree, charter transports, which the riotous population of both sides of the Seine prevent from leaving. Roland sees in his despatches that in Rouen, as elsewhere, they crowd the municipalities for their passports,80 but that these are often refused; better still, at Troyes, at Meaux, at Lyons, at Dôle, and in many other towns, the same thing is done as at Paris; they are confined in particular houses or in prisons, at least, provisionally, “for fear that they may congregate under the German eagle”; so that, made rebellious and declared traitors in spite of themselves, they may still remain in their pens subject to the knife. As the exportation of specie is prohibited, those who have procured the necessary coin are robbed of it on the frontier, while others, who fly at all hazards, tracked like wild boars, or run down like hares, escape like the bishop of Barral, athwart bayonets, or like the abbé Guillon, athwart sabres, when they are not struck down, like the abbé Pescheur, by the blows of a gun-stock.81

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It is getting far into the night. The files are too numerous and too large; Roland finds that, out of eighty-three, he can examine but fifty; he must hasten on; leaving the East, his eyes again turn to the South.—On this side, too, there are strange sights. On the 2d of September, at Châlons-sur-Marne,82 M. Chanlaire, an octogenarian and deaf, is returning, with his prayer-book under his arm, from the Mall, to which he resorted daily to read his prayers. A number of Parisian volunteers who meet him, seeing that he looks like a devotee, order him to shout, “Vive la Liberté!” Unable to understand them, he makes no reply. They then seize him by the ears, and, not marching fast enough, they drag him along; his old ears give way, and, excited by seeing blood, they cut off his ears and nose, and thus, the poor old man dripping with blood, they reach the Hôtel-de-Ville. At this sight a notary, posted there as sentinel, and who is a man of feeling, is horror-stricken and escapes, while the other National Guards hasten to shut the iron gates. The Parisians, still dragging along their captive, go to the district and then to the department bureau “to denounce aristocrats”; on the way they continue to strike the tottering old man, who falls down; they then decapitate him, place pieces of his body on pikes, and parade these about. Meanwhile, in this same town, twenty-two gentlemen; at Beaune, forty priests and nobles; at Dijon, eighty-three heads of families, locked up as suspected without evidence or examination, and confined at their own expense two months under pikes, ask themselves every morning whether the populace and the volunteers, who shout death cries through the streets, mean to release them in the same way as in Paris.83—A trifle is sufficient to provoke a murEdition: current; Page: [722] der. On the 19th of August, at Auxerre, as the National Guard is marching along, three citizens, after having taken the civic oath, “left the ranks,” and, on being called back, “to make them fall in,” one, either impatient or in ill-humor, “replied with an indecent gesture”; the populace, taking it as an insult, instantly rush at them, and shoving aside the municipal body and the National Guards, wound one and kill the other two.84 A fortnight after, in the same town, several young ecclesiastics are massacred, and “the corpse of one of them remains three days on a manure heap, the relatives not being allowed to bury it.” About the same date, in a village of sabot-makers, five leagues from Autun, four ecclesiastics provided with passports, among them a bishop and his two grand-vicars, are arrested, then examined, robbed, and murdered by the peasantry.—Below Autun, especially in the district of Roanne, the villagers burn the rent-rolls of national property; the volunteers put property-owners to ransom; both, apart from each other or together, give themselves up “to every excess and to every sort of iniquity against those whom they suspect of incivisme under pretense of religious opinions.”85 However obfuscated Roland’s mind may be by the philEdition: current; Page: [723] osophic generalities with which it is filled, he has long inspected manufactures in this country; the name of every place is familiar to him; objects and forms are this time clearly defined to his arid imagination, and he begins to see things through and beyond mere words.

Madame Roland rests her finger on Lyons, so familiar to her two years before; she becomes excited against “the quadruple aristocracy of the town, petty nobles, priests, heavy merchants, and limbs of the law; in short, those formerly known as honest folks, according to the insolence of the ancient régime”;86 she now finds there an aristocracy of another kind, that of the gutter. Following the example of Paris, the Lyons clubbists, led by Charlier, have arranged for a massacre on a grand scale of the evil-disposed or suspected; another ringleader, Dodieu, has drawn up a list by name of two hundred aristocrats to be hung; on the 9th of September, women with pikes, the maniacs of the suburbs, bands of “the unknown,” collected by the central club,87 undertake to clean out the prisons. If the butchery Edition: current; Page: [724] is not equal to that of Paris, it is because the National Guard, more energetic, interferes just at the moment when a Parisian emissary, Saint-Charles, reads off a list of names in the prison of Roanne, already taken from the prison register. But, in other places, it arrives too late.—Eight officers of the Royal-Pologne regiment, in garrison at Auch, some of them having been in the service twenty and thirty years, had been compelled to resign owing to the insubordination of their men; but, at the express desire of the Minister of War, they had patriotically remained at their posts, and, in twenty days of laborious marching, they had led their regiment from Auch to Lyons. Three days after their arrival, seized at night in their beds, conducted to Pierre-Encize, pelted with stones on the way, kept in secret confinement, and with frequent and prolonged examinations, all this merely places their services and their innocence in stronger light. They are taken from the prison by the Jacobin populace; of the eight, seven are killed in the street, and four priests along with them, while the display of their work by the murderers is still more brazen than at Paris. They parade the heads of the dead all night on the ends of their pikes; they carry them to the Place des Terreaux into the coffee-houses; they set them on the tables and derisively offer them beer; they then light torches, enter the Célestins theatre, and, marching on the stage with their trophies, mingle together real and mock tragedy.—The epilogue is both grotesque and horrible. Roland, at the bottom of the file, finds a letter from his colleague, Danton,88 who begs him to release the officers, already three months massacred, “for,” says Danton, “if no charge can be found against them, it would be crying injustice to keep them longer in irons.” Roland’s clerk makes a minute on Danton’s letter: “This matter disposed of.” At this, I imagine the couple looking at each other in silence. Madame Roland may remember that, at the beginning of the Revolution, she herself demanded heads, especially “two illustrious heads,” and hoped “that the National Assembly would formally try them, or that some generous Decius” would devote himself Edition: current; Page: [725] to “striking them down.”89 Her prayers are granted. The trial is about to begin in the regular way, and the Decius she has invoked is everywhere found throughout France.

The south-east corner remains, that Provence, described to him by Barbaroux as the last retreat of philosophy and freedom. Roland follows the Rhône down with his finger, and on both banks he finds, as he passes along, the usual characteristic misdeeds.—On the right bank, in Cantal and in the Gard, “the defenders of the country” fill their pockets at the expense of rate-payers designated by themselves;90 this forced subscription is called “a voluntary gift.” “Poor Edition: current; Page: [726] laborers at Nismes were taxed 50 francs, others 200, 300, 900, 1,000, under penalty of devastation and of bad treatment.” In the country near Tarascon the volunteers, returning to the old-fashioned ways of brigands, brandish the sabre over the mother’s head, threaten to smother the aunt in her bed, hold the child over a deep well, and thus extort from the farmer or proprietor even as much as 4,000 or 5,000 francs; generally he keeps silent, for, in case of complaint, he is sure to have his buildings burnt and his olive trees cut down.91—On the left bank, in the Isère, Lieutenant-colonel Spendeler, seized by the populace of Tullins, was murdered, and then suspended by his feet to a tree on the roadside;92 in the Drôme, the volunteers of Gard forced the prison at Montélimart and hacked an innocent person to death with a sabre;93 in Vaucluse, the pillaging is general and constant. With all public offices in their hands, and they alone admitted into the National Guard, the old brigands of Avignon, with the municipality for their accomplice, sweep the town and raid about the country; in town, 450,000 francs of “voluntary gifts” are handed over to the Glacière murderers by the friends and relatives of the dead; in the country, ransoms of 1,000 and 10,000 francs are imposed Edition: current; Page: [727] on rich cultivators, to say nothing of the orgies of conquest and the pleasures of despots, money forcibly obtained in honor of innumerable liberty trees, banquets at a cost of five or six hundred francs, paid for by extorted funds, revelling of every sort and unrestrained havoc on the invaded farms;94 in short, every abuse characteristic of force, delighting in brutality and proud of its performances.

Following this long line of murders and robbery, the Minister reaches Marseilles, and I imagine him stopping at this city somewhat dumbfounded. Not that he is anywise astonished at popular murders; undoubtedly he has had advices of them from Aix, Aubagne, Apt, Brignolles, and Eyguières, while there are a series of them at Marseilles, one in July, two in August, and two in September;95 but this he must be accustomed to. What disturbs him here is to see the national bond dissolving; he sees departments breaking away, new, distinct, independent, complete governments forming on the basis of popular sovereignty; publicly and officially, they keep funds raised for the central government for local uses; they institute penalties against their inhabitants seeking refuge in France; they organise tribunals, levy taxes, raise troops, and undertake military expeditions.96 Assembled together to elect representatives to the ConvenEdition: current; Page: [728] tion, the electors of the Bouches-du-Rhône were, additionally, disposed to establish throughout the department “the reign of liberty and equality,” and to this effect they found, says one of them, “an army of 1,200 heroes to purge the districts in which the bourgeois aristocracy still raises its bold, imprudent head.” Consequently, at Sonas, Noves, St. Rémy, Maillane, Eyrages, Graveson, Eyguières, extended over the territory consisting of the districts of Tarascon, Arles and Salon, these twelve hundred heroes are authorised to get a living out of the inhabitants at pleasure, while the rest of the expenses of the expedition are to be borne “by suspected citizens.”97 These expeditions are prolonged six weeks and more; one of them Edition: current; Page: [729] goes outside of the department, to Monosque, in the Basses-Alpes, and Monosque, obliged to pay 104,000 francs to its “saviors and fathers,” as an indemnity for travelling expenses, writes to the Minister that, henceforth, it can no longer meet his impositions.

What kind of improvised sovereigns are these who have instituted perambulating brigandage? Roland, on this point, has simply to question his friend Barbaroux, their president and the executive agent of their decrees. “Nine hundred persons,” Barbaroux himself writes, “generally of slight education, impatiently listening to conservatives, and yielding all attention to the effervescent, cunning in the diffusion of calumnies, petty suspicious minds, a few men of integrity but unenlightened, a few enlightened but cowardly; many of them patriotic, but without judgment, without philosophy”; in short, a Jacobin club, and Jacobin to such an extent as to “make the hall ring with applause98 on receiving the news of the September massacre”; in the foremost ranks, “a crowd of men eager for office and money, eternal denunciators, imagining trouble or exaggerating it to obtain for themselves lucrative commissions”;99 in other words, the usual pack of hungry appetites in full chase.—Perfectly to comprehend them, Roland has only to examine the last file, that of the Edition: current; Page: [730] neighboring departments, and consider their colleagues in Var. In this great wreck of reason and of integrity, which is termed the Jacobin Revolution, a few stray waifs still float on the surface; many of the department administrations are composed of liberals, friends of order, intelligent men, upright and firm defenders of the law. Such was the Directory of Var.100 To get rid of it the Toulon Jacobins contrived an ambush worthy of the Borgias and Oliverettos of the sixteenth century.101 On the 28th of July, in the forenoon, Sylvestre, president of the club, distributed among his trusty men in the suburbs and purlieus of the town an enormous sack of red caps, while he posted his squads in convenient places. In the mean time the municipal body, his accomplices, formally present themselves at the department bureau, and invite the administrators to join them in fraternising with the people. The administrators, suspecting nothing, accompany them, each arm in arm with a municipal officer or delegate of the club. They scarcely reach the square when there rushes upon it from every avenue a troop of red-caps lying in wait. The syndic-attorney, the vice-president of the department, and two other administrators, are seized, cut down and hung; another, M. Debaux, succeeding in making his escape, hides away, scales the ramparts during the night, breaks his thigh and lies there on the ground; he is discovered the next morning; a band, led by Jassaud, a harbor-laborer, and by Lemaille, calling himself “town hanger,” come and raise him up, carry him away in a barrow, and hang him at the first lantern. Other bands despatch the public prosecutor in the same fashion, a district administrator, a merchant, and then, spreading over the country, pillage and slay among the country houses.—In vain has the commandant of the place, M. Dumerbion, entreated the municipality to proclaim martial law. Not only does it refuse, but it enjoins him to order one-half of his troops back to their barracks. Edition: current; Page: [731] By way of an offset, it sets free a number of soldiers condemned to the galleys, and all that are confined for insubordination.—Henceforth every shadow of discipline vanishes, and, in the following month, murders multiply. M. de Possel, a navy administrator, is taken from his dwelling, and a rope is passed around his neck; he is saved just in time by a bombardier, the secretary of the club. M. Senis, caught in his country-house, is hung on the Place du Vieux Palais. Desidery, a captain in the navy, the curé of La Valette, and M. de Sacqui des Thourets, are decapitated in the suburbs, and their heads are brought into town on the ends of three poles. M. de Flotte d’Argenson, vice-admiral, a man of Herculean stature, of such a grave aspect, and so austere that he is nicknamed the “Père Eternel,” is treacherously enticed to the entrance of the Arsenal, where he sees the lantern already dropping; he seizes a gun, defends himself, yields to numbers, and after having been slashed with sabres, is hung. M. de Rochemaure, a major-general of marines, is likewise sabred and hung in the same manner; a main artery in the neck, severed by the blow of the sabre, spouts blood from the corpse and forms a pool on the pavement; Barry, one of the executioners, washes his hands in it and sprinkles the by-standers as if bestowing a blessing on them.—Barry, Lemaille, Jassaud, Sylvestre, and other leading assassins, the new kings of Toulon, sufficiently resemble those of Paris. Add to these a certain Figon, who gives audience in his garret, straightens out social inequalities, forces the daughters of large farmers to marry poor republicans, and rich young men to marry prostitutes,102 and, taking the lists furnished by the club or neighboring Edition: current; Page: [732] municipalities, ransoming all the well-to-do and opulent persons inscribed on them. In order that the portraiture of the band may be complete, it must be noted that, on the 23d of August, it attempted to set free the sixteen hundred convicts; the latter, not comprehending that they were wanted for political allies, did not dare sally forth, or, at least, the reliable portion of the National Guard arrived in time to put their chains on again. But here its efforts cease, while for more than a year public authority remains in the hands of a faction which, as far as public order is concerned, does not even entertain the sentiments of a convict.

More than once during the course of this long review the Minister must have been conscious of a blush of shame; for, to the reprimands despatched by him to these listless administrations, they reply by citing himself as an example: “You desire us to bring arbitrary arrests before the public prosecutor; have you denounced similar and yet greater crimes committed at the capital?”103—From all quarters come the cries of the oppressed appealing to “the patriot Minister, the sworn enemy of anarchy,” to “the good and incorruptible Minister of the Interior, … his only reproach, the good sense of his wife,” and his sole return for this is condolence and dissertations: “To lament the events which so grievously distress the province, all administrations being truly useful when they forestall evils, it being very sad to be obliged to resort to such remedies, and recommend to them a more active supervision.”104 “To lament and find consolation in the observations made in the letter,” which announces four Edition: current; Page: [733] murders, but calls attention to the fact that “the victims immolated are anti-revolutionists.”105 He has carried on written dialogues with the village municipalities, and given lessons in constitutional law to communities of pot-breakers.106 But, on this territory, he is defeated by his own principles, while the pure Jacobins read him a lesson in turn; they, likewise, are able to deduce the consequences of their own creed. “Brother and Friend, Sir,” write those of Rouen, “not to be always at the knees of the municipality, we have declared ourselves permanent, deliberative sections of the Commune.”107 Let the so-called constituted authorities, the formalists and pedants of the Executive Council and the Minister of the Interior, look twice before censuring the exercise of popular sovereignty. This sovereign lifts its voice and drives its clerks back into their holes; spoliation and murder, all is just that it has done. “Can you have forgotten that, Edition: current; Page: [734] after the tempest, as you yourself declared in the height of the storm, it is the nation which saves itself? Well, sir, this is what we have done.108 … What! when all France was resounding with that long expected proclamation of the abolition of tyranny, you were willing that the traitors, who strove to reestablish it, should escape public prosecution! My God, what century is this in which we find such Ministers!” Arbitrary taxes, penalties, confiscations, revolutionary expeditions, nomadic garrisons, pillagings, what fault can be found with all that? “We do not pretend that these are legal ways; but, drawing nearer to nature, we demand what object the oppressed have in view in invoking justice. Is it to lag behind and vainly pursue an equitable adjustment which is rendered fleeting by judicial forms? Correct these abuses or do not complain of the sovereign people suppressing them in advance. … You, sir, with so many reasons for it, would do well to recall your insults and redeem the wrongs you have inflicted before we happen to render them public.” … “Citizen Minister, people flatter you; you are told too often that you are virtuous; the moment this gives you pleasure you cease to be so. … Discard the astute brigands who surround you, listen to the people, and remember that a citizen Minister is merely the executor of the sovereign will of the people.” However narrow Roland may be, he must finally comprehend that the innumerable robberies and murders which he has conned over are not a thoughtless eruption, a passing crisis of delirium, but a manifesto of the victorious party, the beginning of an established regimen. Under this system, write Edition: current; Page: [735] the Marseilles Jacobins, “to-day, in our happy region, the good rule over the bad, and form a body which allows no contamination; whatever is vicious is in concealment or exterminated.”—The programme is very precise, and acts form its commentary. This is the programme which the faction, throughout the interregnum, sets openly before the electors.

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I. The second stage of the Jacobin conquest—The importance and multitude of vacant offices— II. The elections—The young and the poor invited to the ballot-box—Danger of the Conservatives if candidates—Their chiefs absent themselves—Proportion of absentees at the primary assemblies— III. Composition and tone of the secondary assemblies—Exclusion of “Feuillant” electors—Pressure on other electors—Persons elected by the Conservatives obliged to resign—Elections by the Catholics cancelled—Secession of the Jacobin minorities—The election of their men made valid—Public opinion not in accord with official selections— IV. Composition of the National Convention—Number of Montagnards at the start—Opinions and sentiments of the deputies of the Plain—The Gironde—Ascendency of the Girondists in the Convention—Their intellectual character—Their principles—The plan of their Constitution—Their fanaticism—Their sincerity, culture and tastes—How they differ from pure Jacobins—How they comprehend popular sovereignty—Their stipulations with regard to the initiative of individuals and of groups—Weakness of philosophic thought and of parliamentary authority in times of anarchy— V. Opinion in Paris—The majority of the population constitutional—The new régime unpopular—Scarcity and dearness of food—Catholic customs obstructed—Universal and increasing discontent—Aversion or indifference to the Girondists—Political resignation of the majority—Modern customs incompatible with pure democracy—Men of property and income, manufacturers and tradesmen, keep aloof—Dissensions, timidity and feebleness of the Conservatives—The Jacobins alone form the sovereign people— VI. Composition of the party—Its numbers and quality decline—The Underlings—Idle and dissipated workmen—The suburban rabble—Bandits and blackguards—Prostitutes—The September actors— VII. The ruling representative man—His mental character and compass—The political ideas of M. Saule.

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We now reach the second stage of the Jacobin conquest. After August 10 the Jacobins, for three consecutive months, extend and multiply all vacancies from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy, for the purpose of filling them with their own men.—In the first place, the faction installs representatives on the summits of public authority which represent itself alone, seven hundred and forty-nine omnipotent deputies, in a Convention which, curbed neither by collateral powers nor by a previously established constitution, disposes at pleasure of the property, the lives and the consciences of all French people.—After this, through this scarcely installed convention, it decrees the complete renewal1 of all administrative and judicial bodies, councils and directories of departments, councils and Commune municipalities, civil, criminal and commercial tribunals, justices and their assistants in the lower courts, deputies of the justices, national commissaries of the civil courts, with secretaries and bailiffs belonging to the various tribunals and administrations.2 The obligation of having practiced as a lawyer is abolished by the same stroke, so that the first comer, if he belongs to the club, may become a judge without knowing how to write, and even without being able to read.3—Just before this the staff of the National Guard, in all towns Edition: current; Page: [738] above fifty thousand souls, and afterwards in all the towns on the frontier, has again passed through the electoral sieve.4 In like manner, the officers of the gendarmerie at Paris and throughout France once more undergo an election by their men. Finally, all post-masters and post-office comptrollers have to submit to election.—Again, this administrative weeding reaches all functionaries and employees not elective alongside of or below those who are, no matter how insignificant their service may be, however feebly and indirectly their office may be connected with political matters, such as tax receivers and assessors, directors and other agents of streams and forests, engineers, notaries, attorneys, clerks and scribes belonging to the administrative bureaus, all of whom are subject to dismissal if they do not obtain a certificate of civism from their municipality: at Troyes, out of fifteen notaries, it is refused to four,5 which leaves four places to be filled by their Jacobin clerks. At Paris,6 “all honest folks, all clerks who are educated,” are driven out of the navy offices; the war department is getting to be “a den where everybody on duty wears a red cap, where all thee-and-thou each other, even the Minister, where four hundred employees, among which are a number of women, show off in the dirtiest dress, affect the coolest cynicism, do nothing, and steal on all sides.”—Under the denunciation of the clubs, the broom is applied even at the bottom of the hierarchical scale, even to secretaries of village mayoralties, to messengers and call-boys in the towns, to jail-keepers and door-keepers, to beadles and sextons, to foresters, field-custodians, and others of this class.7 Edition: current; Page: [739] All these persons must be, or appear to be, Jacobin; otherwise, their place slips away from them, for there is always some one to covet it, apply for it and take it.—Outside of employees the sweeping operation reaches the commissariat; even here there are the faithful to be provided for, and nowhere is the bait so large. The State, in ordinary times, is always the largest of consumers, and, at this moment, it is expending monthly, merely on the war, two hundred millions extra. What fish may be caught in these disturbed waters!8 All these lucrative orders as well as paid employees are at the disposition of the Jacobin people, and it makes the distribution of them; it is a lawful proprietor, who comes home after a long absence and gives or withdraws his custom as he pleases, while he makes a clean sweep in his own household.—The administrative and judicial services alone number 1,300,000 places, all those in the treasury department, in that of public works, in that of public education, and in the Church; all posts in the National Guard and in the army, from that of commander-in-chief down to a drummer; the whole of the central or local power, with the vast patronage flowing from this. Edition: current; Page: [740] Never was a pile of similar booty got together at one time on a public square. Lots will be drawn, apparently, by vote; but it is clear enough that the Jacobins have no idea of surrendering their prey to the chances of a free ballot; they mean to keep it as they got it, by force, and will leave no stone unturned to control the elections.


They begin by opening the way for themselves. From the first day9 a decree has suppressed the feeble and last guarantee which the law required in relation to the independence, good-standing and competency of the elector and the éligible. There must no longer be any distinction between active and passive citizens; there must be no difference between the qualification tax of an elector of the first degree and that of the second degree; no electoral qualification whatever. All Frenchmen, except domestics, of whom they are distrustful, supposing them under their employer’s influence, may vote at the primary assemblages, and no longer at the age of twenty-five, but at twenty-one, which brings to the polls the two most revolutionary groups, on the one hand the young, and on the other the indigent, the latter in prodigious numbers in these times of no work, dearth and poverty, amounting in all to two millions and a half, and, perhaps, three millions of new electors. At Besançon the number of the registered is doubled.10—Thus are the usual clients of the Jacobins admitted within the electoral pale, from which they had hitherto been excluded,11 and, to ensure their coming, their patrons decide that every elector obliged to leave his abiding-place “shall receive Edition: current; Page: [741] twenty sous mileage,” besides “three francs per diem for his sojourn.”12

In gathering together their patrons they at the same time keep away their adversaries. Political brigandage, through which they dominate and terrify France, has already provided for that. So many arbitrary arrests and unpunished murders are a warning to all candidates unwilling to join their sect; and I do not allude here to the nobles or friends of the ancient régime that have fled or are in prison, but to the Constitutionalists and the Feuillants. Any electoral enterprise on their part would be madness, almost a suicide. Accordingly, none of them step to the front. If any discreditable conservative, like Durand-Maillane, appears on the list, it is because the revolutionists have adopted him without knowing him, and because he is a sworn enemy to royalty.13 The rest, who are more frank, and not disposed to don the popular livery and resort to club patronage, carefully stay away; they know too well that to do otherwise would mark their heads for pikes and their homes for pillage. At the very moment of depositing the vote the domains of several deputies are sacked simply because, “on the comparative lists of seven calls by name,” sent to the departments from Paris by the Jacobins, their names are found on the right.14—Through an excess of precaution the Constitutionalists of the Legislative body are kept at the capital, their Edition: current; Page: [742] passports being refused to them to prevent them from returning into the provinces and obtaining votes by publicly stating the truth in relation to the recent revolution.—In like manner, all conservative journals are suppressed, reduced to silence, or compelled to turn palinodists.—Now, when one has no organ for discussion, nor candidate for representative, of what use is it to vote? And especially, since the primary assemblies are places of disorder and violence,15 patriots alone, in many places, being admitted,16 a conservative being Edition: current; Page: [743] “insulted and overwhelmed with numbers,” and, if he utters an opinion, exposed to danger, also, if he remains silent, incurring the risk of denunciations, threats, and blows. To keep in the background, remain on one side, avoid being seen, and to strive to have it forgotten that one exists, is the rule under a pacha, and especially when this pacha is the commonalty. Hence the absenteeism of the majority; around the ballot-box there is an enormous void. At Paris, in the election of mayor and municipal officers, the ballottings of October, November and December collect together only 14,000 out of 160,000 registered voters, then 10,000, and, again, 7,000.17 At Besançon, 7,000 registered voters result in less than 600; there is the same proportion in other towns, as, for example, in Troyes. In like manner, in the rural cantons, east of Doubs and west of Loire-Inférieure, but one-tenth of the electors dare exercise their right to vote.18 The electoral spring is so exhausted, so often disturbed, and so stopped up as to be almost dry: in these primary assemblies which, directly or indirectly, delegate all public powers, and which, in the expression of the common will, should be full, there are lacking six millions three hundred thousand electors out of seven millions.

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Through this anticipated purgation the assemblies of the first degree find themselves, for the most part, Jacobin; consequently the electors of the second degree, appointed by them, are, for the most part, Jacobin; in many departments, their assembly becomes the most anarchical, the most turbulent, and the most usurping of all the clubs. Here there is only shouting, denunciations, oath-takings, incendiary motions, cheerings which carry all questions, furious speeches by Parisian commissaries, by delegates from the local club, by passing Federates, and by female wretches demanding arms.19 The Pas-de-Calais assemblage sets free and applauds a woman imprisoned for having beaten a drum in a mob. The Paris assembly fraternises with the Versailles slaughterers and the assassins of the mayor of Etampes. The assembly of the Bouches-du-Rhône gives a certificate of virtue to Jourdan, the Glacière murderer. The assembly of Seine-et-Marne applauds the proposal to cast a cannon which might contain the head of Louis XVI. for a cannon-ball to be fired at the enemy.—It is not surprising that an electoral body without self-respect should respect nothing, and practice self-mutilation under the pretext of purification.20 The object of the despotic majority was to reign at once, without any contest, on its own authority, and to expel all offensive electors. At Paris, in the Aisne, in Haute-Loire, in Ille-et-Vilaine, Edition: current; Page: [745] in Maine-et-Loire, it excludes as unworthy the members of old Feuillants and monarchical clubs, and the signers of constitutionalist protests. In Hérault it cancels the elections in the canton of Servian, because the élus, it says, are “mad aristocrats.” In Orne it drives away an old Constituent, Goupil de Préfeln, because he voted for the revision, also, his son-in-law, because he is his son-in-law. In the Bouches-du-Rhône, where the canton of Seignon, by mistake or through routine, swore “to maintain the constitution of the kingdom,” it sets aside these retrograde élus, commences proceedings against the “crime committed,” and sends troops against Noves because the Noves elector, a justice who is denounced and in peril, has escaped from the electoral den.—After the purification of persons it proceeds to the purification of sentiments. At Paris, and in, at least, nine departments,21 and in contempt of the law, it suppresses the secret ballot, the last refuge of timid conservatives, and imposes on each elector a public vote by word of mouth, on his name being called; that is to say, if he does not vote as he ought to, he has the lantern before him.22 Nothing could more surely convert hesitation and indecision into good sense, while, in many a place, still more powerful machinery is violently opposed to the elections. At Paris the elections are carried on in the midst of atrocities, under the pikes of the butchers, and conducted by their instigators. At Meaux and at Rheims the electors in session were within hearing of the screeches Edition: current; Page: [746] of the murdered priests. At Rheims the butchers themselves ordered the electoral assembly to elect their candidates, Drouet, the famous post-master, and Armonville, a tipsy wool-carder, upon which one-half of the assembly withdrew, while the two candidates of the assassins are elected. At Lyons, two days after the massacre, the Jacobin commander writes to the Minister: “Yesterday’s catastrophe puts the aristocrats to flight, and ensures us the majority in Lyons.”23 From universal suffrage thus subjected to so much sifting, submitted to such heavy pressure, heated and refined in the revolutionary alembic, those who control it obtain all they want, a concentrated extract, the quintessence of the Jacobin spirit.

And yet, should this extract not seem to them sufficiently strong, wherever they are sovereign, they throw it away and begin over again. At Paris,24 by means of a purifying and surplus ballot, the new Council of the Commune undertakes the expulsion of its lukewarm members, while d’Ormesson, the mayor elect of the moderates, is assailed with so many threats that, on the verge of his installation, he resigns. At Lyons,25 another moderate, Nivière-Chol, twice elected, and, by 9,000 out of 11,000 votes, is twice compelled to abandon his place; after him, Gilibert, the physician, who, supported by the same voters, is about to obtain the majority, is seized suddenly and cast into prison; even in prison, he is elected; the clubbists confine him there more rigidly, and do not let him out even after extorting his resignation.—Elsewhere in the rural cantons, for example, in Franche-Comté,26 a number of elections are cancelled when the person elected happens to be a Catholic. The Jacobin Edition: current; Page: [747] minority frequently secede, meet in a tavern, elect their mayor or justice of the peace, and the validity of his election is secured because he is a patriot; so much the worse for that of the majority, whose more numerous votes are null because given by “fanatics.”—The response of universal suffrage thus appealed to cannot be other than that which is framed for it. Indisputable facts are to show to what extent this response is compulsive or perverted, what a distance there is between an official choice and public opinion, how the elections give a contrary meaning to popular sentiment. The departments of Deux-Sèvres, Maine-et-Loire, la Vendée, Loire-Infèrieure, Morbihan, and Finistère, send only anti-catholic republicans to the Convention, while these same departments are to become the inexhaustible nursery of the great catholic and royalist insurrection. Three regicides out of four deputies represent Lozère, where, six months later, thirty thousand peasants are to march under the white flag. Six regicides out of nine deputies represent la Vendée, which is going to rise from one end of it to the other in the name of the King.27


However vigorous the electoral pressure may have been, the voting machine has not answered what was expected from it. At the opening of the session, out of seven hundred and forty-nine deputies, only about fifty28 are found to approve of the Commune, nearly all of Edition: current; Page: [748] them elected, as at Rheims and Paris, where terror has the elector by the throat, “under the clubs, axes, daggers, and bludgeons of the butchers.”29 In other quarters, where the physical impressions of murder have not been so tangible and keen, some sense of propriety has prevented too glaring elections. The inclination to vote for well-known names could not be wholly arrested; seventy-seven members of the Constituent Assembly, and one hundred and eighty-six of the Legislative Assembly enter the Convention, and the practical knowledge which many of these have of government business has given them some light. In short, the consciences of six hundred and fifty deputies are only in part perverted.

They are all, unquestionably, decided republicans, enemies of tradition, apostles of reason, and trained in deductive politics; only on these conditions could they be elected. Every candidate is supposed to possess the Jacobin faith, or, at least, to recite the revolutionary creed. The Convention, consequently, at its opening session votes unanimously, with cheers and enthusiasm, the abolition of royalty, and three months later it pronounces, by a large majority, Louis XVI. “guilty of conspiring against the liberty of the nation, and of assaults on the general welfare of the State.”30—Nevertheless, social Edition: current; Page: [749] habitudes still subsist under political prejudices. A man who is born in and lives for a long time in an old community, is, through this alone, marked with its imprint; the customs to which he conforms have crystallised in him in the shape of sentiments: if it is well-regulated and civilised, he has involuntarily arrived at respect for property and for human life, and, in most characters, this respect has taken very deep root. A theory, even if adopted, does not wholly succeed in destroying this respect; only in rare instances is it successful, when it encounters coarse and defective natures; to take full hold, it is necessary that it should fall on the scattered inheritors of former destructive appetites, on those hopelessly degenerate souls in which the passions of an anterior date are slumbering; then only does its malevolence fully appear, for it rouses the ferocious or plundering instincts of the barbarian, the raider, the inquisitor, and the pacha. On the contrary, with the greatest number, do what it will, integrity and humanity always remain powerful motors. Nearly all these legislators, born amongst the average of the middle class, are at bottom, whatever momentary excitement may stir their minds, what they always have been up to the time being, advocates, attorneys, merchants, priests, or physicians of the ancient régime, and what they continue to be later on, docile administrators or zealous functionaries of the empire,31 that is to say, ordinary civilised persons belonging to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, sufficiently Edition: current; Page: [750] honest in private life to have a desire to be equally so in public life.—Hence their horror of anarchy, of Marat,32 and of the September butchers and robbers. Three days after their assembling together they vote, “almost unanimously,” the preparation of a law “against the instigators of murder and assassination.” “Almost unanimously,” they desire to raise a guard, recruited in the eighty-three departments, against the armed bands of Paris and the Commune. Pétion is elected as their first president by “almost the totality of suffrages.” Roland, who has just read his report to them, is greeted with the “loudest” applause from nearly the “entire” Assembly. In short, they are for the ideal republic against actual brigands. This accounts for their ranging themselves around those upright and sincere deputies, who, in the two preceding Assemblies or alongside of them, were the ablest defenders of both principles and humanity, around Buzot, Lanjuinais, Pétion, and Rabaut-Saint-Etienne; around Brissot, Vergniaud, Guadet, Gensonné, Isnard, and Condorcet; around Roland, Louvet, Barbaroux, and the five hundred deputies of the “Plain,” marching in one body under the leadership of the one hundred and eighty Girondists who now form the “Right.”33

The latter, among the republicans, are the most sincere and have the most faith; for they have long been such, through reflection, study and system. Nearly all of them are reading men, reasoners, philosophers, disciples of Diderot or of Rousseau, satisfied that absolute truth had been revealed by their masters, thoroughly imbued with the Encyclopédie or the Contrat Social, the same as the Puritans formerly were with the Bible.34 At the age when the mind is maturEdition: current; Page: [751] ing, and fondly clings to general ideas,35 they espoused the theory and aimed at a reconstruction of society according to abstract principles. They have accordingly set to work as pure logicians, rigorously applying the superficial and false system of analysis then in vogue. They have formed for themselves an idea of man in general, the same in all times and ages, an extract or minimum of man; they have pondered over several thousands or millions of these abstract mortals, erected their imaginary wills into primordial rights, and drawn up in anticipation the chimerical contract which is to regulate their impossible union. There are to be no more privileges, no more heredity, no qualifications of any kind; all are to be electors, all eligible and all equal members of the sovereignty; all powers are to be of short date, and conferred through election; there must be but one assembly, elected and entirely renewed annually, one executive council elected and one-half renewed annually, a national treasury-board elected and one-third renewed annually; all local administrations and tribunals must be elected; a referendum to the people, the electoral body endowed with the initiative, a constant appeal to the sovereignty, which, always consulted and always active, will manifest its will not alone by the choice of its mandatories but, again, through “the censure” which it will apply to the laws—such is the Constitution they forge for themselves.36 “The English Constitution,” says Condorcet, “is made for the rich, that of America for citizens well-off; the French Constitution should be made for all men.”—Thus entitled, it is the only legitimate one; every institution that departs from it is opposed to natural right and, therefore, fit Edition: current; Page: [752] only to be put down.—This is what the Legislative Assembly has done, and we are well aware through what persecution of Catholic consciences, through what violations of feudal property, through what encroachments on the legal authority of the King, with what passion against the remains of the ancient régime, with what toleration of crime by the people, with what rigidity, haste and rashness, and with what illusions,37 even to plunging France into an European war, even to arming the vilest classes, even to seeing, in the overthrow of all government, the advent of philosophy and the triumph of reason.—The Girondist, where his Utopia is concerned, is a sectarian, and he knows no scruples. Little does he care whether nine out of ten electors vote; he regards himself as the authorised representative of the ten. Little does he care whether the great majority of Frenchmen favor the Constitution of 1791; it is his business to impose on them his own. Little does he care whether his former opponents, King, émigrés, unsworn ecclesiastics, are honorable men or at least excusable; he will launch against them every rigorous legal proceeding, transportation, confiscation, civil death and physical death.38 In his own eyes he is the justiciary, and his investiture is bestowed upon him by eternal right. There is no human infatuation so pernicious to man as that of absolute right; nothing is better calculated for the destruction in him of the hereditary accumulation of moral conceptions.—Within the narrow bounds of their creed, however, the Girondists are sincere and consistent. They are masters of their formulae; they know how to deduce consequences from them; they believe in them the same as a geometrician in his theorems, and a theologian in the articles of his faith; they are anxious to apply them, to devise a constitution, to establish a regular government, to emerge from a barbarous state, to put an end to fighting Edition: current; Page: [753] in the street, to pillaging, to murders, to the sway of brutal force and of naked arms.

The disorder, moreover, so repugnant to them as logicians is still more repugnant to them as cultivated, polished men. They have a sense of what is proper,39 of becoming ways, and their tastes are even refined. They are not familiar with, nor do they desire to imitate, the rude manners of Danton, his coarse language, his oaths, and his low associations with the populace. They have not, like Robespierre, gone to lodge with a boss-carpenter, to live with him and eat with his family. Unlike Pache, Minister of War, no one among them “feels honored” by “going down to dine with his porter,” and by sending his daughters to the club to give a fraternal kiss to drunken Jacobins.40 At Madame Roland’s house there is a salon, although it is stiff and pedantic; Barbaroux sends verses to a marchioness, who, after the 2d of June, elopes with him to Caen.41 Condorcet has lived in high society, while his wife, a former canoness, possesses the charms, the repose, the instruction, and the finesse of an accomplished woman. Men of this stamp cannot endure Edition: current; Page: [754] close alongside of them the inept and gross dictatorship of an armed rabble. In providing for the public treasury they require regular taxes and not tyrannical confiscations.42 To repress the malevolent they require “punishments and not proscriptions.”43 In all State trials they oppose irregular courts, and strive to maintain for those under indictment some of the usual safeguards.44 On declaring the King guilty they hesitate in pronouncing sentence of death, and try to lighten their responsibility by appealing to the people. “Laws and not blood,” an expression uttered with great effect in a drama of the day, is the statement in brief of their political ideas.—Now the law, in its essence, especially Republican law, is the law of all; once enacted, nobody, no citizen, no city, no party, can refuse to obey it without being criminal. It is monstrous that one city should arrogate to itself the privilege of ruling the nation; Paris, like other departments, ought to be reduced to its one-eighty-third proportion of influence. It is monstrous that, in a capital of 700,000 souls, five or six thousand radical Jacobins should oppress the sections and alone elect their candidates; in the sections and at the polls, all citizens, at least all republicans, should enjoy an equal and free vote. It is monstrous that the principle of popular sovereignty should be used to cover up attacks against popular sovereignty, that, under the pretence of saving the State, the first-comer may kill whom he pleases, that, under the color of resisting oppression, each mob should have the right to put the government down.—Hence, this militant right must be moderated, kept within legal bounds and subjected to a fixed process.45 Should any individual desire a law, a reform or a Edition: current; Page: [755] public measure, let him state this on paper over his own signature and that of fifty other citizens of the same primary assembly; then the proposition must be submitted to his own primary assembly; then, in case it obtains a majority, to the primary assemblies of his arrondissement; then, in case of a majority, to the primary assemblies of his department; then, in case of a majority, to the Legislative body; then, in case of rejection, to all the primary assemblies of the empire, so that after a second verdict of the same assemblies twice consulted, the Legislative body, yielding to the majority of primary suffrages, may dissolve and a new Legislative body, in which all old members shall be declared ineligible, take its place.—This is the final expression, and the master idea, of the theory. Condorcet, its able constructor, surpassed himself. No more ingenious nor more complicated piece of mechanism could be drawn out on paper. The Girondists, in the closing article of this unobjectionable constitution, think that they have discovered a way to muzzle the brute and give the sovereign full sway.

Just as if the brute could be muzzled with any constitution, and especially this one! Just as if it was in the humor to let the muzzle be put on! Robespierre, on the part of the Jacobins, replies by an article opposing that of Condorcet.46 “To subject resistance to oppression to legal formalities is the last refinement of tyranny. … When a government violates the people’s rights, a general insurrection of the people, as well as of portions of the people, is the most sacred of duties.” Now, political orthodoxy, close reasoning, and oratorical talent are no arms against this ever-muttering insurrection. “Our philosophers,” says a good observer,47 “want to attain their Edition: current; Page: [756] ends by persuasion; which is equivalent to saying that battles are won by eloquence, fine speeches, and plans of a constitution. Very soon, according to them, … it will suffice to take complete copies of Machiavelli, Rousseau and Montesquieu into a fight instead of cannon, it never occurring to them that these men, like their works, never were, and are not still, anything but simpletons against a cut-throat provided with a good sword.”—The parliamentary ground is fallen away; things have returned to a state of nature, that is, to a state of war, and not discussion but force is the question now on hand. To be in the right, to convince the convention, to obtain majorities, to pass decrees, would be suitable in ordinary times, under a government provided with an armed force and a regular administration, by which, from the summits of public authority, the decrees of a majority descend through submissive functionaries to a sympathetic and obedient population. But, in times of anarchy, and above all, in the den of the Commune, in Paris, such as the 10th of August and the 2d of September made it, all this is of no account.


And, first of all, because in this great city of Paris they are isolated, and have no group of zealous partisans to depend upon. For, if the large majority is opposed to their adversaries, that is not in their favor, it having secretly, at heart, remained “constitutionalist.”48 “I Edition: current; Page: [757] would make myself master of Paris,” says a professional observer, “in ten days without striking a blow if I had but six thousand men, and one of Lafayette’s stable-boys to command them.”49 Lafayette, indeed, since the departure or concealment of the royalists, represents the old, fixed, and deep-seated opinion of the capital. Paris submits to the Girondists as well as to the Montagnards as usurpers; the mass of the public regards them with ill-will, and not only the bourgeoisie, but likewise the majority of the people, is opposed to the established régime.

Work is scarce and food is dear; brandy has tripled in price; only four hundred oxen are brought in at the Poissy market instead of seven or eight thousand; the butchers declare that, the following week, there will be no meat in Paris except for the sick. To obtain a small ration of bread it is necessary to wait five or six hours in a line at the baker’s shops, and,50 as is customary, workmen and housekeepers impute all this to the government. This government, which so poorly provides for its needs, injures them yet more in their deepest feelings, in the habits most dear to them, in their faith and worship. The common people, even at Paris, is still at this time very religious, much more so than at the present day. When the priest bearing the Host passes along the street, the crowd “gathers from all sides, men, women, and children, young and old, and fall on their knees in adoration.”51 The day on which the relics of Saint-Leu are borne in procession through the Rue St. Martin, “everybody kneels; I did not see a man,” says a careful observer, “that did not take off his hat. At the guard-house of the Mauconseil section, the Edition: current; Page: [758] entire company presented arms.” At the same time the “citoyennes around the markets talked with each other to know if there was any way of decking houses with tapestry.”52 The following week they compel the revolutionary committee of Saint-Eustache53 to authorise another procession, and again each one kneels: “everybody approved of the ceremony, no one, that I heard of, making any objection. This is a striking picture. … I saw repentance, I saw the parallel each is forced to draw between the actual state of things and the former one. I saw what a privation the people had to endure in the loss of that which, formerly, was the most imposing of all church ceremonies. People of all ranks and ages were deeply affected and humble, and many had tears in their eyes.” Now, in this respect, the Girondists, by virtue of being philosophers, are more iconoclastic, more intolerant than any one, and there is no reason for preferring them to their adversaries. At bottom, the government installed by the recent electoral comedy, for the major portion of the Parisians, has no authority but the fact of its existence; people put up with it because there is no other, fully recognising its worthlessness;54 it is a government of strangers, of interlopers, of cavillers, Edition: current; Page: [759] of bunglers, the weak and the violent. The Convention has no hold either on the people or on the bourgeois class, and in proportion as it glides more rapidly down the revolutionary hill, it severs one by one the ties which still bind it to the indifferent.

In a reign of eight months it has alienated public opinion entirely. “Almost all who have property of any kind are conservative,”55 and all the conservatives are against it. “The gendarmes here openly talk against the Revolution, even up to the revolutionary tribunal, whose judgments they loudly condemn. All the old soldiers detest the actual order of things.”56—The volunteers “who come back from the army appear angry at putting the King to death, and on that account they would flay all the Jacobins.”57—No party in the Convention escapes this universal disaffection and growing aversion. “If the question of guillotining the members of the Convention could be put to an open vote, it would be carried against them by a majority of nineteen-twentieths,”58 which, in fact, is about the proportion of electors who, through fright or disgust, keep away from the polls. Let the “Right” or the “Left” of the Convention be victors or vanquished, that is a matter which concerns them; the public at large does not enter into the discussions of its conquerors, and no longer cares for either Gironde or “Mountain.” Its old grievances always revive “against the Vergniauds, Guadets” and company;59 it does not like them, and has no confidence in them, and will let them be crushed without helping them. The infuriates may expel the Thirty-Two, if they choose, and put them under lock and key. “There is nothing the aristocracy (meaning by this, owners of property, merchants, bankers, the rich, and the well-to-do), desire so much as to see them guillotined.”60 “Even the inferior aristocracy (meaning petty tradesEdition: current; Page: [760] men and head-workmen) take no more interest in their fate than if they were so many escaped wild beasts … again caught and put in their cages.”61 “Guadet, Pétion, Brissot, would not find thirty persons in Paris who would take their part, or even take the first step to save them.”62

Apart from all this, it makes but little difference whether the majority has any preferences; its sympathies, if it has any, will never be other than platonic. It no longer counts for anything in either camp, it has withdrawn from the battle-field, it is now simply the sport of the conflict, the prey or the booty of the future conqueror. For, unable or unwilling to comply with the political system imposed on it, it is self-condemned to utter powerlessness. This system is the direct government of the people by the people, with all that ensues, permanence of the section assemblies, debates in public of the clubs, uproar in the galleries, motions in the open air, mobs and manifestations in the streets; nothing is less attractive and more impracticable to occupied and civilised beings. In our modern communities, work, the family, and social intercourse absorb nearly all our time; hence, such a system suits only the indolent and brutal, who, without homes or a calling, pass their days at the club, the same as in a tavern or café, and there find themselves in their place; the others refuse to enter a circle which seems wholly and expressly shaped for celibates, foundlings, and persons with no profession, living in lodgings, foul-mouthed, destitute of the sense of smell, with a gift of the gab, robust arms, tough hide, solid haunches, expert in hustling, and with whom blows are the substitute for arguments.63—After the Edition: current; Page: [761] September massacres, and on the opening of the barriers, a number of proprietors and persons living on their incomes, not alone the suspected but those who thought they might become so, escaped from Paris, and, during the following months, the emigration increases along with the danger. Towards December lists have been reported against former Feuillants; “we are assured that during the past eight days more than fourteen thousand persons have left the capital.”64 According to the report of the Minister himself,65 “many who are independent in fortune and position abandon a city where the renewal of proscription is talked of daily.”—“Grass grows in the finest streets,” writes a deputy, “while the silence of the grave reigns in the Thébaîdes of the faubourg Saint-Germain.”—As to the conservatives who remain, they confine themselves to private life, from which it follows that, in the political balance, those present are of no more account than the absentees. At the municipal elections in October, November, and December, out of 160,000 registered, there are 144,000, then 150,000, and then 153,000 who stay away from the polls; these, certainly, and for a much stronger reason, do not show themselves at the assemblies of their sections. Commonly, out of three or four thousand citizens, only fifty or sixty attend; one of these, called a general assembly, which signifies the will of the people to the Convention, is composed of twenty-five voters.66 AcEdition: current; Page: [762] cordingly, what would a sensible man, a friend of order, do in these dens of fanatics? He stays at home, as on stormy days; he lets the shower of words spend itself, not caring to be spattered in the gutter of nonsense which carries off the filth of his district.

If he leaves his house at all he goes out for a walk, the same as in old times, to indulge the tastes he had under the old régime, those of the well-cared-for (administré) Parisian, those of the talkative, loitering, refined cockney. “Yesterday evening,” writes a man who feels the coming Reign of Terror, “I took my stand in the middle of the right alley of the Champs-Elysées;67 it was thronged with—who do you think? Would you believe it, with moderates, aristocrats, those who have any property, and very pretty women, elegantly dressed, seeking the caresses of the balmy spring breeze! It was a charming sight. All were gay and smiling. I was the only one that was not so. … I withdrew hastily, and, on passing through the Tuileries garden, I saw a repetition of what I had seen before, forty thousand proprietors scattered here and there, almost as many as Paris contains.”—These are evidently the sheep ready for the slaughter-house. They no longer think of defence, they have abandoned their posts to the sans-culottes, “they refuse all civil and military functions,”68 they avoid doing duty in the National Guard and pay their substitutes. In short, they withdraw from a game which, in 1789, they desired to play without understanding it, and in which, since the end of 1791, they have always burnt their fingers. The cards may be handed over to others, especially as the cards are dirty and the players fling them in each others’ faces; as for themselves Edition: current; Page: [763] they are content to be lookers-on.—“Leave them their old enjoyments,69 leave them the pleasure of going and coming throughout the kingdom; do not force them to take part in the war. Subject them to the heaviest taxation and they will not complain; nobody will even know that they exist, while the most serious question that disturbs them in their thoughtful days is, can one amuse one’s self as much under a republican form of government as under the ancient régime?” They hope, perhaps, to escape under cover of inoffensive neutrality. Is it likely that the victor, whoever he is, will regard people as enemies who are resigned to his rule beforehand? “A dandy70 alongside of me remarked, yesterday morning, ‘They will not take my arms away, for I never had any.’ ‘Alas,’ I replied to him, ‘don’t make a boast of it, for you may find forty thousand ninnies in Paris that would say the same thing, and, indeed, it is not at all to the credit of Paris.’ ”—Such is the blindness or self-complacency of the city denizen who, having always lived under a good police, is unwilling to change his habits, and is not aware that the time has come for him to turn fighting man in his turn.

The shopman, below the manufacturers, the merchants and the man living on his income, is still less disposed to give up his private affairs for public affairs, inasmuch as his business will not wait for him, he being confined to his office, store or counting-room. For example, “the wine-dealers71 are nearly all aristocrats in the sense Edition: current; Page: [764] of this word at this period,” but “never were their sales so great as during the insurrections of the people and in revolutionary days.” Hence the impossibility of obtaining their services in those days. “They are seen on their premises very active, with three or four of their assistants,” and turn a deaf ear to every appeal. “How can we leave when custom is so good? People must have their wants supplied. Who will attend to them if I and the waiters should go away?”—There are other causes of weakness. All grades in the National Guard and all places in the municipality having been given up to the Jacobin extremists, they have no chiefs; the Girondists are incapable of rallying them, while Garat, the Minister, is unwilling to employ them. Moreover, they are divided amongst themselves, no one having any confidence in the other, “it being necessary to chain them together to have anything accomplished.”72 Besides this, the remembrance of September weighs upon their spirits like a nightmare.—All this converts people into a timid flock, ready to scamper at the slightest alarm. “In the Contrat Social section,” says an officer of the National Guard, “one-third of those who are able to defend the section are off in the country; another third are hiding away in their houses, and the other third dare not do anything.”73 “If, out of fifty thousand of the conservatised, you can collect together three thousand, I shall be very much astonished. And if, out of these three thousand, five hundred only are found to agree, and have courage enough to express their opinion, I shall be still more astonished. The latter, for instance, must expect to be Septemberised!74 This they know, and hence they keep silent and bend beneath the yoke. “What, inEdition: current; Page: [765] deed, would the majority of the sections do when it is demonstrated that a dozen raving maniacs at the head of a sans-culottes section puts the other forty-seven sections of Paris to flight?”75 —Through this desertion of the commonwealth and their self-abandonment, they surrender in advance, and, in this great city, as formerly in ancient Athens and Rome, we see alongside of an immense population of subjects without any rights, a small despotic oligarchy in itself composing the sovereign people.


Not that this minority has been on the increase since the 10th of August, but on the contrary.—On the 19th of November, 1792, its candidate for the mayoralty, Lhuillier, obtains only 4,896 votes.76 On the 18th of June, 1793, its candidate for the command of the National Guard, Henriot, will secure but 4,573 votes; to ensure his election it will be necessary to cancel the election twice, impose the open vote, and relieve voters from showing their section tickets, which will permit the trusty to vote successively in other quarters and apparently double their number by allowing each to vote two or three times.77 Putting all together, there are not six thousand Jacobins in Paris, all of them sans-culottes and partisans of the “Mountain.”78 Edition: current; Page: [766] Ordinarily, in a section assembly, they number “ten or fifteen,” at most “thirty or forty,” “organised into a permanent tyrannical board.” … “The rest listen and raise their hands mechanically.” … “Three or four hundred visionaries, whose devotion is as frank as it is stupid, and two or three hundred more to whom the result of the last revolution did not bring the places and honors they too evidently relied on,” form the entire staff of the party; “these are the clamorers of the sections and of the groups, the only ones who have clearly declared themselves against order, the apostles of a new sedition, scathed or ruined men who need disturbance to keep alive,” while under these comes the train of Marat, vile women, worthless wretches, and “paid shouters at three francs a day.”79

The quality, again, of the factious is still more reduced than their number. Plenty of worthy men, small tradesmen, wine-dealers, cook-shop keepers, clerks, who, on the 10th of August, were against the Court, are now against the Commune.80 The September affair, probably, disgusted them, and they were not disposed to recommence the massacres. A workman named Gonchon, for example, the usual spokesman of the faubourg Saint-Antoine, an upright man, sincere and disinterested, supports Roland, and, very soon, at Lyons, seeing how things are with his own eyes, he is to loyally endorse the revolt of the moderates against the Maratists.81 “Insensibly,” say observers, “the respectable class of the arts is leaving the faction to Edition: current; Page: [767] join the healthy party.”82 “Now that water-carriers, porters and the like storm the loudest in the sections, it is plain to all eyes that the gangrene of disgust has reached the fruit-sellers, tailors, shoe-makers, keepers of refreshment saloons,” and others of that class.83—Towards the end, “butchers of both classes, high and low, are aristocratised.”—In like manner, “the women in the markets, except a few who are paid and whose husbands are Jacobins, curse and swear, fume, fret and storm.” “This morning,” says a merchant, “four or five of them were here; they no longer insist on being called citoyennes; they declare that they “spit on the republic.84 —There are no patriot females now but the lowest of the low class, the harpies who pillage shops as much through envy as through necessity, “boat-women, embittered by hard labor,85 … jealous of the grocer’s wife, better dressed than herself, as the latter was of the wives of the attorney and counsellor, as these were of those of the financier and noble. The woman of the people thinks she cannot do too much to degrade the grocer’s wife to her own level.”

Thus reduced to its dregs through the withdrawal of its tolerably honest recruits, the faction now comprises none but the scum of the populace, first, “subordinate workmen who look upon the downfall of their employers with a certain satisfaction,” then, the meanest of petty vendors, old-clothes dealers, hucksters, “those who offer second-hand coats for sale around the market, fourth-class cooks who, at the cemetery of the Innocents, sell meat and beans under umbrella tops,”86 next, domestics highly pleased with now being masters of their masters, scullions, grooms, lackeys, concierges, every Edition: current; Page: [768] species of valet, who, in contempt of the law, voted at the elections87 and formed at the Jacobin club “stupid people” satisfied “that they were universal geographers because they had ridden post once or twice,” and that they were politicians “because they had read ‘The Four Sons of Aymon.’ ”88—But, in this overflowing slime, spreading around in broad sunshine, it is the ordinary scum of great cities which forms the grossest flux, the outcasts of every trade and profession, dissipated workmen of all kinds, the irregular and marauding troops of the social army, the class which, “discharged from La Pitié, run through a career of disorder and end in Bicêtre.”89From La Pitié to Bicêtre is a well known popular adage. Men of this stamp are without any principle whatever. If they have fifty francs they live on fifty, and if they have only five they live on five; spending everything, they are always out of pocket and save nothing. This is the class that took the Bastille,90 got up the 10th of August, etc. It is the same class which filled the galleries in the Assembly with all sorts of characters, filling up the groups,” and, during all this time Edition: current; Page: [769] it never did a stroke of work. Consequently, “a wife who owns a watch, ear-rings, finger-rings, any jewels, first takes them to the pawnbrokers where they are at last sold. At this period many of these personages owe the butcher, the baker, the wine-dealer, etc.; nobody trusts them any more. They have ceased to love their wives, and their children cry for food, while the father is at the Jacobin club or at the Tuileries. Many of them have abandoned their pursuits and lost standing,” while, either through “indolence” or consciousness “of their incapacity,” … “they would see this pursuit prospering with a sort of regret.” That of a political gossip, of a paid clamorer, is more agreeable, and such is the opinion of all the loungers which the bugle summons to the works on the camp around Paris.—Here,91 eight thousand men are paid forty sous a day “to do nothing”; “the workmen come along at eight, nine and ten o’clock in the morning. If they remain after roll-call … they merely trundle about a few wheelbarrow loads of dirt. Others play cards all day, and most of them leave at three or four o’clock, after dinner. On asking the inspectors about this they reply that they are not strong enough to enforce discipline, and are not disposed to be killed.” Whereupon, on the Convention decreeing piece-work, the pretended workmen fall back on their equality, remind it that they had risen on the 10th of August, and wish to massacre the commissioners. It is not until the 2d of November that they are finally dismissed with an allowance of three sous per league mileage for those of the departments. Enough, however, remain in Paris to increase immeasurably the troop of drones which, accustomed to consuming the store of honey, think they have a right to be paid by the public for buzzing around the State.

As a rear-guard, they have “the rabble of the suburbs of Paris, which flocks in at every tap of the drum because it hopes to make Edition: current; Page: [770] something.”92 As advance-guard they have “brigands,” while the front ranks contain “all the robbers in Paris, which the faction has enrolled in its party to use when required”; the second ranks are made up of “a number of former domestics, the bullies of gambling-houses and of houses of ill-fame, all the vilest class.”93—Naturally, lost women form a part of the crowd. “Citoyennes,” Henriot says, addressing the prostitutes of the Palais-Royal, whom he has assembled in its garden, “citoyennes, are you good republicans?” “Yes, general, yes!” “Have you, by chance, any refractory priest, any Austrian, any Prussian, concealed in your apartments?” “Fie, fie! We have nobody but sans-culottes!94—Along with these are the thieves and prostitutes out of the Châtelet and Conciergerie, set at liberty and then enlisted by the September slaughterers, under the command of an old hag named Rose Lacombe,95 forming the usual audience of the Convention; on important days, seven or eight hundred of these may be counted, sometimes two thousand, stationed at the entrance and in the galleries, from nine o’clock in the morning.96—Male and female, “this anti-social vermin”97 thus crawls around at the sessions of the Assembly, the Commune, the Jacobin Edition: current; Page: [771] club, the revolutionary tribunal, the sections, and one may imagine the physiognomies it offers to view. “It would seem,” says a deputy,98 “as if every sink in Paris and other great cities had been scoured to find whatever was foul, the most hideous, and the most infected. … Ugly, cadaverous features, black or bronzed, surmounted with tufts of greasy hair, and with eyes sunken half-way into the head. … They belched forth with their nauseous breath the grossest insults amidst sharp cries like those of carnivorous animals.” Among them there can be distinguished “the September murderers, whom” says an observer99 in a position to know them, “I can compare to nothing but lazy tigers licking their paws, growling and trying to find a few more drops of blood just spilled, awaiting a fresh supply.” Far from hiding away they strut about and show themselves. One of them, Petit-Mamain, son of an innkeeper at Bordeaux and a former soldier, “with a pale, wrinkled face, sharp eyes and bold air, wearing a scimetar at his side and pistols at his belt,” promenades the Palais-Royal100 “accompanied or followed at a distance by others of the same species,” and “taking part in every conversation.” “It was me,” he says, “who ripped open La Lamballe and tore her heart out. … All I have to regret is that the massacre was such a short one. But we shall have it over again. Only wait a fortnight!” and, thereupon, he calls out his own name in defiance.—Another, who has no need of stating his well-known name, Maillard, president of the Abbaye massacres, has his head-quarters at the café Chrétien,101 Edition: current; Page: [772] Rue Favart, from which, guzzling drams of brandy, “he despatches his moustached men, sixty-eight cut-throats, the terror of the surrounding region”; we see them in coffee-houses and in the foyers of the theatres “drawing their huge sabres,” and telling inoffensive people: “I am Mr. so and so; if you look ugly at me I’ll cut you down!”—A few months more and, under the command of one of Henriot’s aids, a squad of this band will rob and toast (chauffer) peasants in the environs of Corbeil and Meaux.102 In the mean time, even in Paris, they toast, rob, and commit rape on grand occasions. On the 25th and 26th of February, 1793,103 they pillage wholesale and retail groceries, “save those belonging to Jacobins,” in the Rue des Lombards, Rue des Cinq-Diamants, Rue Beaurepaire, Rue Montmartre, in the Ile Saint-Louis, on the Port-au-Blé, before the Hôtel-de-Ville, Rue Saint-Jacques, in short, twelve hundred of them, not alone articles of prime necessity, soap and candles, but again, sugar, brandy, cinnamon, vanilla, indigo and tea. “In the Rue de la Bourdonnaie, a number of persons came out with loaves of sugar they had not paid for and which they re-sold.” The affair was arranged beforehand, the same as on the 5th of October, 1789; among the women are seen “several men in disguise who did not even take the precaution of shaving,” and in many places, thanks to the confusion, they heartily abandon themselves to it. With his feet in the Edition: current; Page: [773] fire or a pistol at his head, the master of the house is compelled to give them “gold, money, assignats and jewels,” only too glad if his wife and daughters are not outraged before his eyes as in a town taken by assault.


Such is the political populace which, after the last months of the year 1792, rules over Paris, and, through Paris, over the whole of France, five thousand brutes and blackguards with two thousand hussies, about the number a good police force would expel from the city, were it important to give the capital a cleaning out;104 they also, convinced of their rights, are all the more ardent in their revolutionary faith, because their creed converts their vices into virtues, and transforms their misdeeds into public services.105 They are really Edition: current; Page: [774] the sovereign people, and it is their innermost thought which has to be brought to light. If we would clearly understand passing events we must discern the emotions which spontaneously arise in them on the trial of the King, at the defeat of Neerwinden, at the defection of Dumouriez, on the insurrection in La Vendée, at the accusation of Marat, the arrest of Hébert, and each of the dangers which in turn fall on their heads. For, this is not borrowed emotion; it does not descend from above; they are not a trusty army of disciplined soldiers, but a suspicious accumulation of temporary adherents. To command them requires obedience to them, while their leaders must always be their instruments. However popular and firmly established a chief may seem to be, he is there only for a short time, for what he is worth as a speaking-trumpet for their passions, and as purveyor to their appetites. Such was Pétion in July, 1792, and such is Marat since the days of September. “One Marat more or less (which will soon be seen) would not change the course of events.”106—“But one only would remain,107 Chaumette, for instance; one would suffice to lead the horde,” because it is the horde itself which leads. “Its attachment will always be awarded to whoever shows a disposition to follow it the closest in its outrages without in any respect caring for its old patrons. … Its liking for Marat and Robespierre is not so great as for those who will exclaim, Let us kill, let us plunder!” Let the leader of the day stop following the current of the day, and he will be crushed as an obstacle or cast off as an incubus.—Judge if they are willing to be entangled in the spider’s web which the Edition: current; Page: [775] Girondists put in their way. Instead of the metaphysical constitution with which the Girondists confront them, they have one in their own head ready made, simple to the last point, adapted to their capacity and their instincts. The reader will call to mind one of their chiefs, whom we have already met, M. Saule, “a stout, stunted little old man, drunk all his life, formerly an upholsterer, then a peddler of quackeries in the shape of fourpenny boxes of hangman’s grease, to cure pains in the loins,”108 afterwards head applauder in the galleries of the Constituent Assembly and driven out for rascality, restored under the Legislative Assembly, and, under the protection of a groom of the Court, favored with a spot near the Assembly door, to set up a patriotic coffee-house, then awarded six hundred francs as a recompense, provided with national quarters, appointed inspector of the tribunes, a regulator of public opinion, and now “one of the madcaps of the Corn-market.” Such a man is typical, an average specimen of his party, not only in education, character and conduct, but, again, in ambition, principles, logic and success. “He swore that he would make his fortune, and he did it. His constant cry was that nobles and priests should be put down, and we no longer have either. He has constantly shouted against the civil list, and the civil list has been suppressed. At last, lodged in the house belonging to Louis XVI., he told him to his face that his head ought to be struck off, and the head of Louis XVI. has fallen.”—Here, in brief compass, is the history and the portrait of all the rest; it is not surprising that genuine Jacobins comprehend the Revolution in the same way as M. Saule,109 when, for them, the Edition: current; Page: [776] sole legitimate Constitution is the definitive establishment of their omnipotence; when they call order and justice the boundless despotism they exercise over property and life; when their instinct, as narrow and violent as that of a Turkish bey, comprises only extreme and destructive measures, arrests, transportations, confiscations, executions, all of which is done with head erect, with delight as if a patriotic duty, by right of a moral priesthood, in the name of the people, either directly and tumultuously with their own hands, or indirectly and legally by the hands of their docile representatives. This is the sum of their political system, from which nothing will detach them; for they are anchored fast to it with the full weight and with every hold upon it that characterises their immorality, ignorance and folly. Through the hypocritical glitter of compulsory parades, their one fixed idea imposes itself on the orator that he may utter it in tirades, on the legislator that he may put it into decrees, on the administrator that he may put it in practice, and, from their opening campaign up to their final victory, they will tolerate but one variation, and this variation is trifling. In September, 1792, they declare by their acts: “Those whose opinions are opposed to ours will be assassinated, and their gold, jewels and pocket-books will Edition: current; Page: [777] belong to us.” In November, 1793, they are to declare through the official inauguration of the revolutionary government: “Those whose opinions differ from ours will be guillotined and we shall be their heirs.”110 Between this programme, which is supported by the Jacobin populace and the programme of the Girondists which the majority in the Convention supports, between Condorcet’s Constitution and the summary articles of M. Saule, it is easy to see which will prevail. “These Parisian blackguards,” says a Girondist, “take us for their valets!”111 Let a valet contradict his master and he is sure to lose his place. From the first day, when the Convention in a body traversed the streets to begin its sessions, certain significant expressions enabled it to see into what hands it had fallen: “Why should so many folks come here to govern France,” says a by-stander, “haven’t we enough in Paris?”112

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Precarious situation of a central government within the precincts of a local jurisdiction— I. Jacobin advantages—Their sway in the section assemblies—Maintenance, re-election and completion of the Commune—Its new chiefs, Chaumette, Hébert and Pache—The National Guard recast—Jacobins elected officers and sub-officers—The paid band of roughs—Private and public funds of the party— II. Its parliamentary recruits—Their characters and minds—Saint-Just—Violence of the minority in the Convention—Pressure of the galleries—Menaces of the streets— III. Defection among the majority—Effect of physical fear—Effect of moral cowardice—Effect of political necessity—Internal weakness of the Girondists—Accomplices in principle of the Montagnards IV. Principal decrees of the Girondist majority—Arms and means of attack surrendered by it to its adversaries— V. Committees of Supervision after March 28, 1793—The régime of August and September, 1792, revived—Disarmament—Certificates of civism—Forced enlistments—Forced loans—Use made of the sums raised—Vain resistance of the Convention—Marat, indicted, is acquitted—Vain resistance of the population—Manifestations by young men repressed—Violence and victory of the Jacobins in the assemblies of the sections— VI. Jacobin tactics to constrain the Convention—Petition of April 15 against the Girondists—Means employed to obtain signatures—The Convention declares the petition calumnious—The commission of Twelve and arrest of Hébert—Plans for massacres—Intervention of the Mountain leaders— VII. The 27th day of May—The central revolutionary committee—The municipal body displaced and then restored—Henriot, commanding general—The 31st of May—Measures of the Commune—The 2d of June—Arrest of the Twelve and of the Twenty-two— VIII. Character of the new governors—Why France accepted them.

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Citizen Danton,” wrote the deputy Thomas Paine, “the danger, every day increasing, is of a rupture between Paris and the departments. The departments did not send their deputies to Paris to be insulted, and every insult shown to them is an insult to the department that elected and sent them. I see but one effectual plan to prevent this rupture taking place, and that is to fix the residence of the Convention and of the future assemblies at a distance from Paris. … I saw, during the American Revolution, the exceeding inconvenience that arose from having the government of Congress within the limits of any municipal jurisdiction. Congress first resided in Philadelphia, and, after a residence of four years, it found it necessary to leave it. It then adjourned to the State of Jersey. It afterwards removed to New York. It again removed from New York to Philadelphia, and, after experiencing in every one of these places the great inconvenience of a government within a government, it formed the project of building a town not within the limits of any municipal jurisdiction for the future residence of Congress. In every one of the places where Congress resided, the municipal authority privately or publicly opposed itself to the authority of Congress, and the people of each of those places expected more attention from Congress than their equal share with the other States amounted to. The same thing now takes place in France, but in a greater excess.”—Danton knows all this, and he is sufficiently clear-headed to comprehend the danger; but the furrow is laid out, traced, and by himself. Since the 10th of August Paris holds France down while a handful of revolutionists tyrannise over Paris.1

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Owing to the composition and the holding of the section assemblies, the original source of power has remained Jacobin, and has become of a darker and darker hue; accordingly, the electoral processes which, under the Legislative body, had fashioned the usurping Commune of the 10th of August, are perpetuated and aggravated under the Convention.2 “In nearly all the sections,3 those who occupy the chair are sans-culottes, and who arrange things inside the chamber, place the sentinels and establish the censors and auditors. Five or six spies, familiar with the section, and paid forty sous a day, remain during the session, and dare do all things. These same individuals, again, are intended for the transmission of orders from one Committee of Supervision to another, … so that if the sans-culottes of one section are not strong enough they may call in those of a neighboring section.”—In such assemblies the elections are decided beforehand, and we see how the faction keeps forcibly in its hands, or obtains by force, every elective position. The Council of the Commune, in spite of the hostile inclinations of the Legislative Assembly and the Convention, succeeds at first in maintaining itself four months; then, in December,4 when it is at last compelled to break Edition: current; Page: [781] up, it reappears through the authorisation of the suffrage, reinforced and completed by its own class, with three chiefs, a syndic-attorney, a deputy and a mayor, all three authors or abettors of the September massacre; with Chaumette, Anaxagoras, so-called, once a cabin-boy, then a clerk, always in debt, a chatterer, and given to drink; Hébert, called “Père Duchesne,” which states about all that is necessary for him; Pache, a subaltern busy-body, a bland, smooth-faced intriguer, who, with his simple air and seeming worth, pushes himself up to the head of the War Department, where he used all its resources for pillaging, and who, born in a door-keeper’s lodgings, returns there, either through craft or inclination, to take his dinner.—The Jacobins, with the civil power in their hands, also grab the military power. Immediately after the 10th of August,5 the National Guard is reorganised and distributed in as many battalions as there are sections, each battalion thus becoming “an armed section”; by this one may divine its composition, and what demagogues are selected for its officers and sub-officers. “The title of National Guard,” writes a deputy, “can no longer be given to the lot of pikemen and substitutes, mixed with a few bourgeois, who, since the 10th of August, maintain the military service in Paris.” There are, indeed, 110,000 names on paper; when called out on important occasions, all who are registered may respond, if not disarmed, but, in general, almost all stay at home and pay a sans-culotte to mount guard in their place. In fact, there is for the daily service only a hired reserve in each section, about one hundred men, always the same individuals. This makes in Paris a band of four or five thousand roughs, in which the squads may be distinguished which have already figured in September—Maillard and his 68 men at the Abbaye, Gauthier and his 40 men at Chantilly, Audouin, the “Sapper of the Carmelites,” and his Edition: current; Page: [782] 350 men in the suburbs of Paris, Fournier, Lazowski and their 1,500 men at Orleans and Versailles.6—As to the pay of these and that of their civil auxiliaries, the faction is not troubled about that; for, along with power, it has seized money. To say nothing of its rapine in September,7 and without including the lucrative offices at its disposition, four hundred of these being distributed by Pache alone, and four hundred more by Chaumette,8 the Commune has 850,000 francs per month for its military police. Other bleedings at the Treasury cause more public money to flow into the pockets of its clients. One million per month supports the idle workmen which fife and drum have collected together to form the camp around Paris. Five millions of francs protect the petty tradesmen of the capital against the depreciation in value of certificates of credit. Twelve thousand francs a day keep down the price of bread for the Paris poor.9 To these regularly allowed subsidies add the funds which are diverted or extorted. On one side, in the War Department, Pache, its accomplice before becoming its mayor, organizes a steady stream of waste and stealings; in three months he succeeds in bringing about a deficiency of 130,000,000, “without vouchers.”10 On another side, the Edition: current; Page: [783] Duke of Orleans, become Philippe-Egalité, dragged along by his old stipendiaries with a rope around his neck and almost strangled, has to pay out more than ever, even down to the very depths of his purse; to save his own life he consents to vote for the King’s death, besides resigning himself to other sacrifices;11 it is probable that a large portion of his 74,000,000 of indebtedness at his death is due to all this.—Thus in possession of civil and military offices, of arms and money, the faction, masters of Paris, has nothing to do but master the isolated Convention, and this it invests on all sides.12


Through the elections, its advance-guard of fifty deputies is already posted there; while, owing to the charm it exercises over excitable and despotic natures, over brutal temperaments, narrow, disjointed minds, weak imaginations, doubtful honesty, and old religious or social rancor, it succeeds in doubling this number at the end of six months.13 On the benches of the extreme “Left,” around RobesEdition: current; Page: [784] pierre, Danton and Marat, the original nucleus of the September faction, sit men of their stamp, first, the corrupt like Chabot, Tallien and Barras, wretches like Fouché, Guffroy and Javogues, crazy enthusiasts like David, savage maniacs like Carrier, paltry simpletons like Joseph Lebon, common fanatics like Levasseur, Baubot, Jean Bon St. André, Romme and Lebas, after which and especially, the future representatives who have a grip, rough, domineering, dull fellows, who make good troopers for a political militia, Bourbotte, Duquesnoy, Rewbell, and Bentabolle, “a lot of beggarly ignoramuses,” exclaimed Danton,14 “without any common sense, and patriotic only when drunk. … Marat is nothing but a yelper. Legendre is fit for nothing but to cut up his meat. The rest do not know how to vote either sitting or standing, but they have nerves and back-bone.” From amongst these energetic nullities arises a young monster, with calm, handsome features, Saint-Just, a sort of precocious Sylla, who, twenty-five years of age and a new-comer, springs at once from the ranks and, by dint of atrocities, obtains a prominent position.15 Six years before this he began life by a domestic robbery; on a visit to his mother, he left the house during the night, carrying off the plate and jewels, which he squandered while living in a lodging house in the Rue Eromenteau, in the centre of Parisian prostitution;16 on the strength of this, and at the demand of his Edition: current; Page: [785] friends, he is shut up in a sort of house of correction for six months. On returning to his abode he occupied himself with writing an obscene poem in the style of La Pucelle and then, through a fit of rage resembling a spasm, he plunged headlong into the Revolution. With “blood calcined by application to study,” colossal self-conceit, a conscience that has broken its bounds, a sombre, extravagant imagination haunted with the bloody records of Rome and Sparta, a mind so warped and perverted as to find rest only in the wildest paradoxes, in shameless sophistry, and in murderous falsehoods;17 all these perilous ingredients, mingled in the crucible of suppressed, concentrated ambition, long and silently boiling within him, end in constant defiance, in determined callousness, in automatic rigidity, and in the absolute policy of the Utopian dictator and nihilist.—It is plain that such a minority will not obey parliamentary rules, and, rather than yield to the majority, that it will use in debate vociferations, insults, threats, and scuffles with daggers, pistols, sabres and even the “blunder-busses” of a veritable combat.

“Vile intriguers, calumniators, scoundrels, monsters, assassins, blackguards, fools and hogs,” such are the usual terms in which they address each other, and these form the least of their outrages.18 The president, at certain sessions, is obliged three times to put on his hat and, at last, breaks his bell. They insult him, force him to leave his seat and demand that “he be removed.” Bazire tries to snatch a Edition: current; Page: [786] declaration presented by him “out of his hands.” Bourdon, from the department of Oise, cries out to him that if he “dares to read it he will assassinate him.”19 The chamber “has become an arena of gladiators.”20 Sometimes the entire “Mountain” darts from its benches on the left, while a similar human wave rolls down from those on the right; both clash in the centre of the room amidst furious screams and shouts; in one of these hubbubs one of the “Mountain” having drawn a pistol the Girondist Duperret draws his sword.21 After the middle of December prominent members of the “Right,” “constantly persecuted, threatened and outraged,” reduced to “being out every night, are compelled to carry arms in self-defense,”22 and, after the King’s execution, “almost all” bring them to the sessions of the Convention. Any day, indeed, they may look for the final attack, and they are not disposed to die unavenged: during the night of March 9, finding that they are only forty-three, they agree to launch themselves in a body “at the first hostile movement, against their adversaries and kill as many as possible” before perishing.23

It is a desperate resource, but the only one. For, besides the madmen belonging to the Convention, they have against them the madmen in the galleries, and these likewise are September murderers. The vilest Jacobin rabble purposely takes its stand near them, at first in the old Riding-school, and then in the new hall in the Tuileries. They see above and in a circle around them drilled adversaries, eight or nine hundred heads packed “in the great gallery Edition: current; Page: [787] at the bottom, under a deep and silent vault,” and, besides these, on the sides, a thousand or fifteen hundred more, two immense tribunes completely filled.24 The galleries of the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies, compared with these, were calm. Nothing is more disgraceful to the Convention, writes a foreign spectator,25 than the insolence of the audience. One of the regulations prohibits, indeed, any mark of approval or disapproval, “but it is violated every day, and nobody is ever punished for this delinquency.” The majority in vain expresses its indignation at this “gang of hired ruffians,” who beset and oppress it, while at the very time that it utters its complaints, it endures and tolerates it. “The struggle is frightful,” says a deputy,26 “screams, murmurs, stampings, shouts. … The foulest insults were launched from the galleries.” “For a long time,” says another, “no one can speak here without obtaining their permission.”27 The day that Buzot obtains the floor to speak against Marat, “they break out furiously, yelling, stamping, and threatening”;28 every time that Buzot tries to begin his voice is drowned in the clamor, while he remains half an hour in the tribune without completing a sentence. On the calls of the House, especially, their cries resemble those of the excited crowd at a Spanish bull-fight, with their eager eyes and heaving breasts, watching the contest between the bull and the picadores; every time that a deputy votes against the death of the King or for an appeal to the people, there are the “vociferations of cannibals,” and “interminable yells” every time Edition: current; Page: [788] that one votes for the indictment of Marat. “I declare,” say deputies in the tribune, “that I am not free here; I declare that I am forced to debate under the knife.”29 Charles Villette is told at the entrance that “if he does not vote for the King’s death he will be massacred.”—And these are not empty threats. On the 10th of March, awaiting the promised riot, “the tribunes, duly advised, … had already loaded their pistols.”30 In the month of May, the tattered women hired for the purpose, under the title of “Ladies of the Fraternity,” formed a club, came daily early in the morning to mount guard, with arms in their hands, in the corridors of the Convention; they tear up all tickets given to men or women not of their band; they take possession of all the seats, show pistols and daggers, and declare that “eighteen hundred heads must be knocked off to make things go on right.”31

Behind these two first rows of assailants is a third, much more compact, the more fearful because it is undefined and obscure, namely, the vague multitude forming the anarchical set, scattered throughout Paris, and always ready to renew the 10th of August and 2d of September against the obstinate majority. Incendiary motions and demands for riots come incessantly from the Commune, and Jacobin, Cordeliers, and l’Evêché clubs; from the assemblies of the sections and groups stationed at the Tuileries and in the streets. “Yesterday,” writes the president of the Tuileries section,32 “at the same moment, at various points about Paris, the Rue du Bac, at the Marais, in the Church of St. Eustache, at the Palace of the Revolution, on the Feuillants terrace, scoundrels were preaching pillage and assassination.”—On the following day, again on the Feuillants Edition: current; Page: [789] terrace, that is to say, right under the windows of the Convention, “they urge the assassination of Louvel for having denounced Robespierre.”—Minister Roland writes: “I hear of nothing but conspiracy and plans to murder.”—Three weeks later, for several days, “an uprising is announced in Paris”;33 the Minister is warned that “alarm guns would be fired,” while the heads are designated beforehand on which this ever muttering insurrection will burst. In the following month, in spite of the recent precise law, “the electoral assembly prints and circulates gratis the list of members of the Feuillants and Sainte-Chapelle clubs; it likewise orders the printing and circulation of the list of the eight thousand, and of the twenty thousand, as well as of the clubs of 1789 and of Montaigu.”34 In January, “hawkers cry through the streets a list of the aristocrats and royalists who voted for an appeal to the people.”35 Some of the appellants are singled out by name through placards; Thibaut, bishop of Cantal, while reading the poster on the wall relating to him, hears some one alongside of him say: “I should like to know that bishop of Cantal; I would make bread tasteless to him.” Roughs point out certain deputies leaving the Assembly, and exclaim: “Those are the beggars to cut up!”—From week to week signs of insurrection increase and multiply, like flashes of lightning in a coming tempest. On the 1st of January, “it is rumored that the barriers are to be closed at night, and that domiciliary visits are going to begin again.”36 On the 7th of January, on the motion of the Gravilliers section, the Commune Edition: current; Page: [790] demands of the Minister of War 132 cannon stored at Saint-Denis, to divide among the sections. On the 15th of January the same section proposes to the other forty-seven to appoint, as on the 10th of August, special commissaries to meet at the Evêché and watch over public safety. That same day, to prevent the Convention from misunderstanding the object of these proceedings, it is openly stated in the tribunes that the cannon brought to Paris “are for another 10th of August against that body.” The same day, military force has to be employed to prevent bandits from going to the prisons “to renew the massacres.” On the 28th of January the Palais-Royal, the resort of the pleasure-seeking, is surrounded by Santerre, at eight o’clock in the evening, and “about six thousand men, found without a certificate of civism,” are arrested, subject to the decision one by one of their section.—Not only does the lightning flash, but already the bolt descends in isolated places.37 On the 31st of December a man named Louvain, formerly denounced by Marat as Lafayette’s agent, is slain in the faubourg St. Antoine, and his corpse dragged through the streets to the Morgue. On the 25th of February, the grocer-shops are pillaged at the instigation of Marat, with the connivance or sanction of the Commune. On the 9th of March the printing establishment of Gorsas is sacked by two hundred men, armed with sabres and pistols. The same evening and on the next morning the riot extends to the Convention itself; “the committee of the Jacobin club summons every section in Paris to arms” to “get rid” of the appellant deputies and the ministers; the Cordeliers club requests the Parisian authorities “to take sovereignty into their own hands and place the treacherous deputies under arrest”; Fournier, Varlet, and Champion ask the Commune “to declare itself in insurrection and close the barriers”; all the approaches to the Convention Edition: current; Page: [791] are occupied by the “dictators of massacre,” Pétion38 and Beurnonville being recognised on their passing, pursued and in danger of death, while furious mobs gather on the Feuillants terrace “to award popular judgment,” “to cut off heads” and “send them into the departments.”—Luckily, it rains, which always cools down popular effervescence. Kervélegan, a deputy from Finistère, who escapes, finds means of sending to the other end of the faubourg St. Marceau for a battalion of volunteers from Brest that had arrived a few days before, and who were still loyal; these come in time and save the Convention.—Thus does the majority live under the triple pressure of the “Mountain,” the galleries and the outside populace, and from month to month, especially after March 10, the pressure gets to be worse and worse.


Under this pressure from month to month the majority falters.—Some are overcome by purely physical fright. On the King’s trial, at the third call of the House, when votes for death came down from the galleries above, a deputy near Daunou “showed in a most energetic manner his disapproval of this.” On his turn coming, “the galleries, which had undoubtedly noticed his attitude,” burst out in such violent threats that for some minutes his voice could not be heard; “silence was at length restored, and he voted—death.”39—Others, like Durand-Maillane, “warned by Robespierre that the Edition: current; Page: [792] strongest party is the safest,” say to themselves “that it is wise and necessary not to oppose excited people,” making up their minds “to keep aloof under the shield of their silence and insignificance.”40 Among the five hundred deputies of the Plain, many are of this stamp. They begin to be called “the Marsh Frogs.” In six months they settle down of themselves into so many mute figure-heads, or, rather, homicidal puppets, “whose hearts, shrunk through fear, rise in their throats”41 every time that Robespierre looks at them. Long before the fall of the Girondists, “downcast at the present state of things, and no longer stirred by any inward impulse,” their faces already disclose “the pallor of fear or the resignation of despair.”42 Cambacérès beats to the windward, and then takes refuge in his Committee on Legislation.43 Barrère, born a valet, and a valet ready for anything, places his southern mode of doing things at the service of the probable majority, up to the time of devoting his cruel rhetoric to the service of the dominant minority. Sièyes, after casting his vote for death, maintains obstinate silence, as much through disgust as through prudence: “Of what avail is my glass of wine in this torrent of dram-drinking?”44—Many, even among the Girondists, use sophistry to color their concessions in their own eyes. Some among these “think that they enjoy some degree of popularity, and fear that this will be compromised.45 Again, they put forth the pretext or the necessity of maintaining one’s influence for important occasions. Edition: current; Page: [793] Occasionally, they affect to say, or say it in good faith, “Let them (the extravagant) keep on, they will find each other out and use themselves up.”—Frequently, the motives alleged are scandalous or grotesque. According to Barbaroux, immediate execution must be voted, because that is the best way to exculpate the Gironde and shut the mouths of their Jacobin calumniators.46 According to Berlier, it is essential to vote death for, why vote for exile? Louis XVI. would be torn to pieces before reaching the frontier.47—On the eve of the verdict, Vergniaud says to M. de Ségur: “I vote Death? It is an insult to suppose me capable of such a disgraceful act!” And, “he sets forth the frightful iniquity of such a course, its uselessness, and even its danger.” “I would rather stand alone in my opinion than vote Death!”48 The next day, having voted as is well known, he excuses himself by saying “that he did not think he ought to put the life of one man in the scale against the public welfare.”49 Fifteen or twenty deputies, influenced by his example, voted as he did, which support sufficed to turn the majority.50—The same weakness is found at other decisive moments. Charged with the denunciation of the conspiracy of the 10th of March, Vergniaud attributes it to the aristocrats, and admits to Louvet that “he did not wish to name the real conspirators for fear of embittering violent men already pushing things to excess.”51 The truth is, the Girondists, as formerly the Constitutionalists, are too civilized for their adversaries, and submit to force for lack of resolution to employ it themselves.

“To put down the faction,” says one of them,52 “can be done only by cutting its throat, which, perhaps, would not be difficult to do. Edition: current; Page: [794] All Paris is as weary as we are of its yoke, and if we had any liking for or knowledge how to deal with insurrections, we could soon throw it off. But how can measures of atrocity be adopted against men who would make them a reproach against their adversaries? And yet they would have saved the country.” Consequently, incapable of action, able only to talk, reduced to protests, to barring the way to revolutionary decrees, to making appeals to the department against Paris, they stand as an obstacle to all the practical people who are heartily engaged in the brunt of the action.—“There is no doubt that Carnot is as honest as they are, as honest as a booby fanatic can be.”53 Cambon, undoubtedly with as much integrity as Roland, pronounced as loudly as he against the 2d of September, the Commune, and anarchy.54—But, to Carnot and Cambon, who pass their nights, one in establishing his budgets, and the other in studying his cards, they require, first of all, a government which will provide them with millions and with armies, and, therefore, an unscrupulous and unanimous Convention; that is to say, there being no other expedient, a Convention under compulsion, which means, finally, a Convention purged of troublesome, dissentient orators;55 in other words, the dictatorship of the Parisian populace. After the 15th of December, 1792, Cambon gives himself up to it entirely, and even erects the terrorism of the rabble into an European system; from that date on,56 he preaches universal sans-culotterie, a régime Edition: current; Page: [795] which will have the poor for its administrators and the rich for its rate-payers, in short, the restoration of privileges in an inverse sense; already the expression is true which Sièyes subsequently utters; the question is no longer an application of the principles of the Revolution, but the salvation of its men. In the presence of this ever keener and keener necessity, numbers of hesitating deputies follow the stream, letting the Montagnards have their own way and separating themselves from the Girondists.

And, what is graver still, the Girondists, above all these defections, are untrue to themselves. Not only are they ignorant of how to draw a line, of how to form themselves into a compact body; not only “is the very idea of a collective proceeding repulsive, each member desiring to keep himself independent, and act as he thinks best,”57 make motions without consulting others, and vote as the occasion calls for against his party, but, through its abstract principle, they are in accord with their adversaries, and, on the fatal declivity whereon their honorable and humane instincts still retain them, this common dogma, like a concealed weight, causes them to sink lower and lower down, even into the bottomless pit, where the State, according to the formulae of Jean Jacques, omnipotent, philosophic, anti-catholic, anti-Christian, despotic, levelling, intolerant, and propagandist, forbids education, levels fortunes, persecutes the Church, oppresses consciences, crushes out the individual, and, by military force, imposes its forms abroad.58 At bottom, save an excess of bruEdition: current; Page: [796] tality and of precipitation, the Girondists, setting out from the same principles as the “Mountain,” march forward to the same end along with the “Mountain.” Hence the effect of sectarian prejudice on them in mollifying their moral repugnances. Secretly, in their hearts, revolutionary instincts conspire with those of their enemies, and, on many occasions, they betray themselves.—Through these devices and multiplied weaknesses, on the one hand, the majority diminishes so as to present but 279 votes against 228;59 on the other hand, through frequent failures it surrenders to the besiegers one by one every commanding post of the public citadel, so that nothing remains but to fly, or beg for mercy, at the first attack.


On principle, it carries a vote for a departmental guard, but, owing to the opposition of the Montagnards, it fails to put the principle into operation.—For six months it is protected, and, on the 10th of March, saved, through the spontaneous aid of provincial federates, but, far from organising these passing auxiliaries into a permanent body of faithful defenders, it allows them to be dispersed or corrupted by Pache and the Jacobins.—It passes decrees frequently for Edition: current; Page: [797] the punishment of the abettors of the September crime, but, on their menacing petition, the trials are indefinitely postponed.60—It has summoned to its bar Fournier, Lazowski, Deffieux, and other leaders, who, on the 10th of March, were disposed to throw it out of the windows, but, on making their impudent apology, it sends them away acquitted, free, and ready to begin over again.61 At the War Department it raises up in turn two cunning Jacobins, Pache and Bouchotte, who are to work against it unceasingly. At the Department of the Interior it allows the fall of its firmest support, Roland, and appoints Garat in his place, an ideologist, whose mind, composed of glittering generalities, with a character made up of contradictory inclinations, fritters itself away in reticences, in falsehoods and in half-way treachery, under the burden of his too onerous duties.—It votes the murder of the King, which places an insurmountable barrier of blood between it and all honest persons.—It plunges the nation into a war in behalf of principles,62 and excites an European league against France, which league, in transferring the perils arising from the September crime to the frontier, permanently establishes the September régime in the interior.—It forges in advance the vilest instruments of the forthcoming Reign of Terror, through the decree which establishes the revolutionary tribune, with Fouquier-Tinville as public prosecutor, and the obligation for each juryman to utter his verdict aloud;63 through the decree condemning every émigré to civil death, and the confiscation of his Edition: current; Page: [798] property “of either sex,” even a simple fugitive, even returned within six months;64 through the decree which “outlaws aristocrats and enemies of the Revolution”;65 through the decree which, in each commune, establishes a tax on the wealth of the commune in order to adapt the price of bread to wages;66 through the decree which subjects every bag of grain to declaration and to the maximum;67 through the decree which awards six years in irons for any traffic in the currency;68 through the decree which orders a forced loan of a billion, extorted from the rich;69 through the decree which raises in each town a paid army of sans-culottes “to hold aristocrats under their pikes”;70 in fine, through the decree which, instituting the Committee of Public Safety,71 fashions a central motor to set these sharp scythes agoing and mow down fortunes and lives with the utmost rapidity.—To these engines of general destruction it adds one more, which is special and operates against itself. Not only does it furnish its rivals of the Commune with the millions they need to pay their bands; not only does it advance to the different sections,72 in the form of a loan, the hundreds of thousands of francs which are needed to satisfy the thirst of their yelpers; but again, at the end of March, just at the moment when it happens to escape the first Jacobin invasion, it provides for the election by each section of a Committee of Supervision, authorised to make domiciliary visits and to disarm the suspected;73 it allows this committee to make arrests and inflict Edition: current; Page: [799] special taxes; to facilitate its operations it orders a list of the inmates of each house, legibly “stating names, surnames, ages and professions,” to be affixed to the entrance,74 a copy of which must be left with the committee, and which is subject to its control. To end the matter, it submits itself, and, “regardless of the inviolability of a representative of the French nation,”75 it decides that, in case of political denunciation, its own members may be brought to trial.


“I seem to hear you,” writes a sarcastic observer,76 “addressing the faction in these terms: Now, look here, we have the means, but we are not disposed to make use of them against you; it would be unfair to attack you unarmed. Public power emanates from two principles, legal authority and armed force. Now we will at once create committees of supervision, of which you shall appoint the heads, for the reason that, with a whip of this kind, you can lash every honest man in Paris, and thus regulate public opinion. We will do more than this, for the sacrifice would not be complete; we are disposed to make you a present of our armed force, with authority to disarm anybody that you may suspect. As far as we are concerned, we are ready to surrender even our pocket-knives,77 and remain apart, content with our virtues and talents.—But mind what you are about. Should you be so ungrateful as to attack our sacred persons, we shall find avengers in the departments.” “What good will the departments do you, let loose against each other, after you are out of Edition: current; Page: [800] the way?”—No summary could be more exact nor any prediction more accurately based. Henceforth, and by virtue of the Convention’s own decrees, not only have the Jacobins the whole of the executive power in their hands, as this is found in civilised countries, but likewise the discretionary power of the antique tyrant or modern pacha, that arbitrary, strong arm which, singling out the individual, falls upon him and takes from him his arms, his freedom, and his money. After the 28th of March, we see in Paris a resumption of the system which, instituted by the 10th of August, was completed by the 2d of September. In the morning, drums beat to arms; at noon, the barriers are shut, the bridges and passages guarded, and sentinels stand on the corners of the streets; no one is allowed “to pass outside the limits of his section,” or circulate within them without showing his certificate of civism; houses are invested, numbers of persons are arrested,78 and, during the succeeding months, this operation is carried on under the sway of the Committee of Supervision. Now, this Committee, in almost all the sections, “is made up of sans-culottes,” not fathers of families, men of judgment and experience, people living a long time in the quarter, but “strangers, or young men trying to be something,”79 ambitious underlings, ignorant dare-devils, despotic intermeddlers, implacable, gloomy, raw inquisitors.

The first thing is the disarmament of the suspected. “It suffices that any citizen shall be denounced as such, and that the said case Edition: current; Page: [801] of suspicion be known to the Committee”;80 or that his certificate of civism be delivered to him only within a month,81 for any delegate, accompanied by ten armed men, to resort to his house and search it. In the section of the Réunion alone, on the first day, 57 denounced persons are thus disarmed for “acts of incivism or expressions adverse to the Republic,” not merely lawyers, notaries, architects, and other prominent men, but petty tradesmen and shop-keepers, hatters, dyers, locksmiths, mechanics, gilders, and keepers of refreshment saloons. One section, in defiance of the law, adds to these in block the signers of the petition of the eight thousand and that of the twenty thousand. “Through such contrivances,” says an observer,82 “all the guns in Paris, numbering more than a hundred thousand, pass into the hands of the faction.” None remain for its adversaries, even in the gunshops; for, through an ordinance of the Commune, no one may purchase a gun without a certificate issued by the Committee of Supervision of the section.83—On the other hand, owing to the power of granting or refusing certificates of civism, each Committee, on its own authority, interposes barriers as it pleases in all directions, public or private, to every inhabitant within its bounds. It is impossible for any person who has not obtained his certificate84 to have a passport for travelling, although a tradesman; no public employee, no clerk of the administration, advocate or notary can keep his place without it; no one can go out of Paris or return late at night. If one goes out to take an airing, there is danger of being arrested and brought back between two soldiers to the committee of the section; if one stays at home, it is with the chance of being Edition: current; Page: [802] inspected as a harborer of priests or nobles. Any Parisian opening his windows in the morning may find his house surrounded by a company of carmagnoles, if he has not the indispensable certificate in his pocket.85 In the eyes of a Jacobin committee, there is no civism but in Jacobinism, and we can imagine whether this patent would be willingly conferred on opponents, or even on the lukewarm; what examinations they would have to undergo; what questions they would be obliged to answer; how many going and comings, solicitations, appearances and waitings would be imposed on them; with what persistency it would excite delay, and with what satisfaction it would be refused. Buzot presented himself four times at the Committee of Quatre-Nations to obtain a certificate for his domestic, and failed to get it.86—There is another still more effectual expedient for keeping the ill-disposed in check. The committee of each section, aided by a member of the Commune,87 designates the twelve thousand men drafted for the expedition into La Vendée, and picks them by name, one by one, as it may select them; the effect of this is to purge Paris of twelve thousand anti-Jacobins, and tranquillise the section assemblies, where opposition is often objectionable. To this end the committee selects first, and gives the preference to, the clerks of lawyers and notaries, those of banking-houses, the administration, and of merchants, the unmarried in all offices and counting-rooms, in short, all celibates belonging to the middle class of Paris, of which there are more than twenty-five thousand;88 according to the ordiEdition: current; Page: [803] nance, every other one is taken, those undoubtedly in worst repute with the Committee, this proceeding silencing the tongues of the others and preventing evil talking in their sections.89

While one hand clutches the collar, the other rummages the pocket. The Committee of Supervision of each section, always aided by a member of the Commune,90 designates all persons in easy circumstances, estimates their incomes as it pleases, or according to common report, and sends them an order to pay a particular sum in proportion to their surplus, and according to a progressive tax. The allowance which is exempt for the head of a family is 1,500 francs per annum, besides 1,000 francs for his wife and 1,000 francs for each child; if the excess is over 15,000 or 20,000 francs, they assess it 5,000 francs; if more than 40,000 or 50,000 francs, they assess it 20,000; in no case may the surplus retained exceed 30,000 francs; all above this amount goes to the State. The first third of this sudden contribution to the public funds is required in forty-eight hours, the second in a fortnight, and the remaining third in a month, under serious penalties. If the tax happens to be exaggerated, if an income is uncertain or imaginary, if receipts are yet to come in, if there is no ready money, if, like Francoeur, the opera manager, a man “has nothing but debts,” so much the worse. “In case of refusal,” writes the section of Bon-Conseil, “his personal and real property shall be sold by the revolutionary committee, and his perEdition: current; Page: [804] son declared suspected.”91—Even this is simply an installment on account: “There is no desire on the part of the Committee at the present moment to demand more than a portion of your surplus,” that which remains will be taken hereafter. Desfieux, the bankrupt,92 has already, in the tribune of the Jacobin club, estimated the fortunes of one hundred of the wealthiest notaries and financiers in Paris at 640,000,000 francs; the municipality sent a list of their names to the sections to have it completed; if only one-tenth was taken from them, it would amount to 64,000,000, which “big sponges,” thoroughly squeezed, would disgorge a much larger amount. “The richest of Frenchmen,” says Robespierre, “should not have more than 3,000 francs a year.”93 The contributions of “these gentlemen” suffice to arm the sans-culottes, “remunerate artisans for their attendance in the section meetings, and support laborers without work.”94 Already through the sovereign virtue of summary requisitions, everything is spoil; carriage-horses are seized in their stables, while vehicles belonging to aged ladies, mostly widows, and the last of the berlins still remaining in Paris, are taken out of the livery-stables.95—With Edition: current; Page: [805] such powers used in this way, the section makes the most of the old deep-seated enmity of the poor against the rich;96 it secures the firm attachment of the needy and of vagabonds; thanks to the vigorous arms of its active clients, it completely overcomes the feeble, transient, poorly-contrived resistance which the National Convention and the Parisian population still oppose to its rule.

On the 13th of April Marat, accused three months before and daily becoming bolder in his factiousness, is finally indicted through a decree of the incensed majority;97 on the 24th he appears before the revolutionary tribunal. But the revolutionary tribunal, like other newly organised institutions, is composed of pure Jacobins, and, moreover, the party has taken its precautions. Marat, for his escort to the court-room has “the municipal commissaries, envoys from the various sections, delegates from all the patriotic clubs”; besides these, “a multitude of good patriots” fill the hall beforehand; “early in the morning the other chambers of the Palais de Justice, the corridors, the courts and adjacent streets” overflow with “sans-culottes ready to avenge any outrage that may be perpetrated on their favorite defender.98 Naturally, with his supreme infatuation, he speaks not like an accused person, but “as an apostle and martyr.” He is overwhelmed with applause, unanimously acquitted, crowned with laurel, borne in triumph to the Convention, where he thunders a song of victory, while the Girondist majority is compelled to endure his presence, awaiting his forthcoming proscriptions.—Equally Edition: current; Page: [806] as impotent as the moderates of the Legislative Assembly, the moderates in the street recover themselves only to be again felled to the ground. On the 4th and 5th of May, five or six hundred young fellows, well-dressed and without arms, have assembled in the Champs-Elysées and at the Luxembourg to protest against the ordinance of the Commune, which drafts them for the expedition to La Vendée;99 they shout, “Vive la Republique! Vive la Loi! Down with anarchists! Send Marat, Danton and Robespierre to the Devil!” Naturally, Santerre’s paid guard disperses these young sparks; about a thousand are arrested, and henceforth the rest will be careful not to make any open demonstration on the public thoroughfares.—Again, for lack of something better to do, we see them frequently returning to the section assemblies, especially early in May; they find themselves in a majority, and enter on discussions against Jacobin tyranny; at the Bon-Conseil section, and at those of Marseilles and l’Unité, Lhuillier is hooted at, Marat threatened, and Chaumette denounced.100—But these are only flashes in the pan; to maintain lasting sway in these permanent assemblies, the moderates, like the sans-culottes, would have to be in constant attendance, and use their fists every night. Unfortunately, the young men of 1793 have not yet arrived at that painful experience, that implacable hate, that athletic ruggedness which is to sustain them in 1795. “After one evening, in which the seats everywhere were broken”101 on the backs Edition: current; Page: [807] of the contestants, they falter, and never recover themselves, the professional roughs, at the end of a fortnight, being victorious all along the line.—The better to put resistance down, the roughs form a special league amongst themselves, and go around from section to section to give each other help.102 Under the title of a deputation, under the pretext of preventing disturbance, a troop of sturdy fellows, despatched by the neighboring section, arrives at the meeting, and suddenly transforms the minority into a majority, or controls the vote by force of clamor. Sometimes, at a late hour, when the hall is nearly empty, they declare themselves a general meeting, and about twenty or thirty will cancel the discussions of the day. At other times, being, through the municipality, in possession of the police, they summon an armed force to their aid, and oblige the refractory to decamp. … And, as examples are necessary to secure perfect silence, the fifteen or twenty who have formed themselves into a full meeting, with the five or six who form the Committee of Supervision, issue warrants of arrest against the most prominent of their opponents. The vice-president of the Bon-Conseil section, and Edition: current; Page: [808] the juge-de-paix of the Unité section, learn in prison that it is dangerous to present to the Convention an address against anarchists or sign a debate against Chaumette.103—Towards the end of May, in the section assemblies, nobody dares open his mouth against a Jacobin motion; often, even, there are none present but Jacobins; for example, at the Gravilliers, they have driven out all not of their band, and henceforth no “intriguer”104 is imprudent enough to present himself there.—Having become the people in council assembled, with free power to disarm, put on the index, displace, tax, send off to the army, and imprison whoever gives them umbrage, they are able now, with the municipality at their back and as guides, to turn the arms which they have obtained from the Convention against it, attack the Girondists in their last refuge, and possess themselves of the only fort not yet surrendered.


To accomplish this they have only to do in all sections simultaneously what they are accustomed to do in each section apart from the rest; thus substituted for the veritable people by force and fraud, they are able to conjure up before the Convention the phantom of popular disapproval.—From the municipality, holding its sessions at the Hôtel-de-Ville, and from the conventicle established at the Evêché, emissaries are sent forth who present the same addresses at the same time in every section in Paris.105 “Here is a petition for Edition: current; Page: [809] signatures.” “Read it.” “But that is useless—it is already adopted by a majority of the sections.” “In some of them this falsehood is successful, or several of them sign it in good faith without reading it. In others they read it and refuse to sign it; in others, again, it is read and they pass to the order of the day. What happens? The intriguers and ringleaders remain until all conscientious citizens have withdrawn; then, masters of the debate, they decide that the petition must be signed, and they accordingly affix their signatures. The next day, on the arrival of citizens at the section, the petition is handed to them for their names, and the debate of the previous evening is advanced against them. If they offer any remarks, they are met with these terrifying words: Sign, or no certificate of civism! And, as the sanction of this threat, several of the sections which are mastered by those who draw up the lists of proscriptions, decide that the certificates of civism must be changed, and new ones are refused to those refusing to sign the petition. They do not rest content with these manoeuvrings; men armed with pikes are posted in the streets to force the signatures of those who pass.”106—The whole weight of municipal authority has been publicly cast into the scale. “Commissaries of the Commune, accompanied by municipal secretaries, with tables, inkstands, paper and registers, promenade about Paris Edition: current; Page: [810] preceded by drums and a body of militia.” From time to time, they make “a solemn halt,” and declaim against Brissot, Vergniaud, Guadet, and then “demand and obtain signatures.”107—Thus extorted and borne to the Convention by the mayor, in the name of the council-general of the Commune and of the thirty-five sections, the imperious petition denounces twenty-two Girondists as traitors, and insolently demands their expulsion.—Another day it is found that a similar summons and similarly presented, in the name of the forty-eight sections, is authorised only by thirteen or fourteen.108—Sometimes the political parade is still more incautious. Pretended deputies of the faubourg St. Antoine appear before the Convention and assert the revolutionary programme. “If you do not adopt it,” they say, “we will declare ourselves in a state of insurrection; there are 40,000 men at the door.”109 The truth is, “about fifty bandits, scarcely known in the faubourg,” and led by a former upholsterer, now a commissary of police, “have gathered together on their route” all they could find in the workshops “and in the stores,” the multitude packed into the Place Vendôme not knowing what was demanded in their name.110—Factitious as these tumults may be, they are useful; they show the Convention its master, and prepare the way for a more effectual invasion. The day Marat was acquitted, the whole of his “slums,” male and female, came along with him; under pretext of parading before the Convention, they invaded the hall, scattered themselves over the benches and steps, and, supported by the galleries, installed anew in the tribune, amidst a tempest of applause and of clamorings, the usual promoter of insurrection, pillage and assassination.111—Notwithstanding, however, the energy Edition: current; Page: [811] and persistency of the blockade, the Convention, which has yielded on so many points, will not consent to self-injury. It pronounces the petition presented against the Twenty-two calumnious; it institutes a special commission of twelve members to search the papers of the Commune and the sections for legal proofs of the plot openly and steadily maintained by the Jacobins against the national representation; Mayor Pache is summoned to the bar of the house; warrants of arrest are issued against Hébert, Dobsen and Varlet.—Since popular manifestations have not answered the purpose, and the Convention, instead of obeying, is rebellious, nothing is left but to employ force.

“Since the 10th of March,” says Vergniaud, in the tribune,112 “murder is openly and unceasingly fomented against you.”—“It is a terrible time,” says an observer, “strongly resembling that preceding the 2d of September.”113—That same evening, at the Jacobin club, a member proposes to “exterminate the wretches before leaving.” “I have studied the Convention,” he says;114 “it is composed in part of wretches who ought to be punished. All the supporters of Dumouriez and the other conspirators should be put out of the way; fire the alarm gun and close the barriers!” The following forenoon, “all the walls in Paris are covered with posters,” calling on the Parisians to “despatch the men at the head of the State as soon as possible.”115—“This thing must be stopped!” is the exclamation of the sans-culottes.—The following week, at the Jacobin club, as elsewhere, “immediate insurrection is the order of the day. … What we formerly called the sacred enthusiasm of freedom and patriotism, is now metamorphosed into the fury of an excited populace, which can no longer be regulated or disciplined except by force. There is not one of these wretches who would not accept a counter-Edition: current; Page: [812] revolution, provided they could be allowed to crush and stamp on the most noted conservatives.116 … The conclusion is that the day, the hour, the minute that the faction believes that it can usefully and without risk bring into play all the brigands in Paris,117 then will the insurrection undoubtedly take place.” Already the plan of the massacre is under consideration by the lowest class of fanatics at the mayoralty, the Evêché, and the Jacobin club.118

Some isolated house is to be selected, with a suite of three rooms on the ground floor, and a small court in the rear; the twenty-two Girondists are to be caught in the night and brought to this slaughter-house arranged beforehand; each in turn is to be passed along to the last room, where he is to be killed and his body tumbled into a hole dug in the middle of the court, and then the whole covered over with quick-lime; it will be supposed that they have emigrated, and, to establish the fact, false correspondence will be printed.119 A member of the Committee on the Municipal Police declares that the plan is feasible: “We will Septemberise them—not we ourselves, but men who are ready, and who will be well paid for it.”—The Montagnards present, Léonard Bourdon and Legendre, make no objection. The latter simply remarks that the Girondists should not be seized in the Convention; outside the Convention “they are wretches whose death would save the Republic,” and the act is lawful; he would see “every rascal with them on the ‘black’ Edition: current; Page: [813] side perish without interfering.”—Several, instead of 22 deputies, demand 30 or 32, and some 300; the suspected of each district may be added, while ten or a dozen proscription lists are already made out. Through a clean sweep, executed the same night, at the same hour, they may be conducted to the Carmelites, near the Luxembourg, and, “if there is not room enough there,” to Bicêtre; here, “they will disappear from the surface of the globe.”120 Certain leaders desired to entrust the purification of Paris to the sagacity of popular instinct. “In loose and disconnected phrases” they address the people: “Rouse yourselves, and act according to your inspirations, since no counsel of mine will enable you to banish those you must strike down!” On the contrary, Varlet proposes a plan of public safety, very full and explicit, in fifteen articles: “Sweep away the deputies of the ‘Plain,’ and other deputies of the Constituent and Edition: current; Page: [814] Legislative Assemblies, all nobles, priests, pettifoggers, etc.; exterminate the whole of that race, and the Bourbons, too, with entire suppression of the Ministers.” Hébert, for his part, alluding to the Girondists, writes in his gazette that “the last hour of their death is going to strike,” and that, “when their foul blood shall have been spilled, aristocratic brawlers will return to their holes, the same as on the 10th of August.”—Naturally, the professional slaughterers are notified. A certain Laforet, an old-clothes dealer on the Quai-du-Louvre, who, with his wife, had already distinguished themselves on the 2d of September, reckons that “there are in Paris 6,000 sans-culottes ready to massacre at the first sign all dangerous deputies, and eight thousand petitioners,” undoubtedly those who, in the several sections, signed the addresses to the Convention against the Commune.—Another “Septemberizer,”121 commanding the battalion of the Jardin des Plantes, Henriot, on meeting a gang of men working on the river, exclaims in his rough voice: “Good morning, my good fellows, we shall need you soon, and at better work. You won’t have wood to carry in your garbage-carts—you’ll have to carry dead bodies.” “All right,” replies one of the hands, half tipsy, “we’ll do it as we did the 2d of September. We’ll turn a penny by it.”—“Cheynard, a locksmith and machinist at the mint, is manufacturing daggers, … and the women of the tribunes are already supplied with two hundred of them.”—Finally, on the 29th of May, Hébert proposes, in the Jacobin club,122 “to pounce down on the Commission of Twelve,” and another Jacobin declares that “those who have usurped dictatorial power,” meaning by that the Girondists, “are outlawed.”

All this is extreme, clumsily done, useless and dangerous, or, at least, premature, and the chiefs of the “Mountain,” Danton, Robespierre, and Marat himself, better informed and less short-sighted, are well aware that brutal murder would be revolting to the already half-aroused departments.123 The legislative machinery is not to be Edition: current; Page: [815] shattered, but made use of; it must be employed against itself to effect the required injury; in this way the operation at a distance will appear legal, and, garnished with the usual high-flown speeches, impose on the provincial mind.124 From the 3d of April, Robespierre, in the Jacobin club, always circumspect and considerate, had limited and defined in advance the coming insurrection. “Let all good citizens,” he says, “meet in their sections, and come and force us to place the disloyal deputies under arrest.” Carefully guarded, this, and quite proper, on referring back to principles. The people always reserves the right to co-operate with its mandatories, which right it practices daily in the galleries. Through extreme precaution, which well depicts the man,125 Robespierre refuses to go any further in his interference. “I am incapable of advising the people what steps to take for its salvation. That is not given to one man alone. I, who am exhausted by four years of revolution, and by the heart-rending spectacle of the triumph of tyranny, am not thus favored. … I, who am wasted by a slow fever, and, above all, by the fever of patriotism. As I have said, there remains for me no other duty to fulfill at the present moment.” Moreover, he enjoins the municipality “to unite with the people, and form a close alliance with it.”—In other words, the blow must be struck by the Commune, the “Mountain” must appear to have nothing to do with it. But, “it is fully in the secret”;126 Edition: current; Page: [816] its chiefs pull the wires which set the brutal dancing-jacks in motion on the public trestles of the Hôtel-de-Ville. Danton and Lacroix wrote in the bureau of the Committee of “Public Safety,” the insolent summons which the procureur of the Commune is to read to the Convention on the 31st of May, and, during seven days of crisis, Danton, Robespierre and Marat are the counsellors, directors and moderators of all proceedings, and lead, push on or restrain the supernumeraries of the insurrection within the limits of this programme.


It is a tragi-comic play in three acts, each winding up with a sensation, always the same and always foreseen; Legendre, one of the principal machinists, has taken pains to announce beforehand that, “If this lasts any longer,” said he, at the Cordeliers club,127 “if the ‘Mountain’ remains quiet any longer, I shall call in the people, and tell the galleries to come down and take part with us in the deliberations.”—To begin, on the 27th of May, in relation to the arrest of Hébert and his companions, the “Mountain,” supported by the galleries, becomes furious.128 In vain has the majority declared itself, and still frequently repeats its declaration. “We shall resist,” says Danton, “so long as there are a hundred true citizens to help us.” “President,” exclaims Marat to Isnard, “you are a tyrant! a despiEdition: current; Page: [817] cable tyrant!” “I demand,” says Couthon, “that the President be impeached!” “Off with the President to the Abbaye!”—The “Mountain” has decided that he shall not preside; it springs from the benches and rushes at him, shouts “death to him,” becomes hoarse with its vociferations, and compels him to leave the chair through weariness and exhaustion. It drives out his successor, Fonfrède, in the same manner, and ends by putting Hérault-Séchelles, one of its own accomplices, in the chair.—Meanwhile, at the entrance of the Convention, “the regulations have been violated”; a crowd of armed men “have spread through the passages and obstructed the approaches”; the deputies, Meillan, Chiappe and Lydon, on attempting to leave, are arrested, Lydon being stopped “by the point of a sabre at his breast,”129 while the leaders on the inside encourage, protect and justify their trusty aids outdoors.—Marat, with his usual audacity, on learning that Raffet, the commandant, was clearing the passages, comes to him “with a pistol in his hand and puts him under arrest,”130 on the ground that the people, the sacred rights of petition and the petitioners must be respected. There are “five or six hundred, almost all of them armed,”131 stationed for three hours at the doors of the hall; at the last moment, two other troops, despatched by the Gravilliers and Croix-Rouge sections, arrive and bring them their final afflux. Thus strengthened, they spring over the benches assigned to them, spread through the hall, and mingle with the deputies who still remain in their seats. It is after midnight; many of the representatives, worn out with fatigue and disgust, have left; Pétion, Lasource, and a few others, who wish to get in, “cannot penetrate the threatening crowd.” To compensate themselves, and in the places of the absent, the petitioners, constituting themselves representatives of France, vote with the “Mountain,” while the Jacobin president, far from turning them out, himself invites them “to set aside all obstacles prejudicial to the welfare of the people.” In Edition: current; Page: [818] this gesticulating crowd, in the half-light of smoky lamps, amidst the uproar of the galleries, it is difficult to hear well what motion is put to vote; it is not easy to see who rises or sits down, and two decrees pass, or seem to pass, one releasing Hébert and his accomplices, and the other revoking the commission of the Twelve.132 Forthwith the messengers who await the issue run out and carry the good news to the Hôtel-de-Ville, the Commune celebrating its triumph with an explosion of applause.

The next morning, however, notwithstanding the terrors of a call of the House and the fury of the “Mountain,” the majority, as a defensive stroke, revokes the decree by which it is disarmed, while a new decree maintains the commission of the Twelve; the operation, accordingly, is to be done over again, but not the whole of it; for Hébert and the others imprisoned remain at liberty, while the majority, which, through a sense of propriety or the instinct of self-preservation, had again placed its sentinels on the outposts, consents, either through weakness or hopes of conciliation, to let the prisoners remain free. The result is they have had the worst of the fight. Their adversaries, accordingly, are encouraged, and at once renew the attack, their tactics, very simple, being those which have already proved so successful on the 10th of August.

The matter now in hand is to invoke against the derived and provisional rights of the government, the superior and inalienable right of the people; also, to substitute for legal authority, which, in its nature, is limited, revolutionary power, which, in its essence, is absolute. Edition: current; Page: [819] To this end the section of the City, under the vice-presidency of Maillard, the “Septemberiser,” invites the other forty-seven sections each to elect two commissaries, with “unlimited powers.” In thirty-three sections, purged, terrified, or deserted, the Jacobins, alone, or almost alone,133 elect the most determined of their band, particularly aliens and its greatest rascals, in all sixty-six commissaries, who, on the evening of the 29th, meet at the Evêché, and select nine of their number to form, under the presidency of Dobsen, a central and revolutionary executive committee. These nine persons are entirely unknown;134 all are obscure subordinates,135 mere puppets and manikins; eight days after, on finishing their performance, when they are no longer needed, they will be withdrawn behind the scenes. In the mean time they pass for the mandatories of the popular sovereign, with full power in all directions, because he has delegated his omnipotence to them, and the sole power, because their investiture is the most recent; under this sanction, they stalk around somewhat like supernumeraries at the Opera, dressed in purple and gold, representing a conclave of cardinals or the Diet of the Holy Edition: current; Page: [820] Empire. Never has the political drama degenerated into such an impudent farce!—On the 31st, at half-past six o’clock in the morning, Dobsen and his bullies present themselves at the council-general of the Commune, tender their credentials, and make known to it its deposition. The Council, with edifying complacency, accepts the fiat and leaves the department. With no less grateful readiness Dobsen summons it back, and reinstates it in all its functions, in the name of the people, and declares that it merits the esteem of the country.136 At the same time another demagogue, Varlet, performs the same ceremony with the Council of the department, and both bodies, consecrated by a new baptism, join the sixty-six commissaries to exercise together the same dictatorship.—What could be more legitimate? The Convention would err in making any opposition: “It was elected merely to condemn the tyrant and to frame a constitution; the sovereign has invested it with no other power;137 accordingly, other acts, its warrants of arrest, are simply usurpations and despotism. Paris, moreover, represents France better than it does, for Paris is “the extract of all the departments, the mirror of opinion,”138 the advance-guard of patriotism. “Remember the 10th of August;139 previous to that epoch, opinions in the Republic were divided; but, scarcely had you struck the decisive blow when all subsided into silence. Have no fear of the departments; with a little terror and a few teachings, we shall turn all minds in our favor.” Fault-finders persist in demanding the convocation of primary assemblies. “Was not the 10th of August necessary? Did not the departments then endorse what Paris did? They will do so this time. Edition: current; Page: [821] It is Paris which saved them.”140—Consequently, the new government places Henriot, a reliable man, and one of the September massacrers, in full command of the armed force; then, through a proceeding which the law declares a capital offence, it orders the alarm gun to be fired; on the other hand, it beats a general call to arms, sounds the tocsin and closes the barriers; the post-office managers are put in arrest, and letters are intercepted and opened; the order is given to disarm the suspected and hand their arms over to patriots; “forty sous a day are allowed to citizens with small means while under arms.”141 Notice is given without fail the preceding evening to the trusty men of the quarter; accordingly, early in the morning, the Committee of Supervision has already selected from the Jacobin sections “the most needy companies in order to arm those the most worthy of combatting for liberty,” while all its guns are distributed “to the good republican workmen.”142—From hour to hour as the day advances, we see in the refractory sections all authority passing over to the side of force; at the Finistère, Butte-des-Moulins, Lombards, Fraternité, and Marais143 sections, the encouraged sans-culottes obtain the ascendency, nullify the deliberations of the moderates, and, in the afternoon, their delegates go and take the oath at the Hôtel-de-Ville.

Meanwhile the Commune, dragging behind it the semblance of popular unanimity, besieges the Convention with multiplied and threatening petitions. As on the 27th of May, the petitioners invade the hall, and “mix in fraternally with the members of the ‘Left.’ ” Edition: current; Page: [822] Forthwith, on the motion of Levasseur, the “Mountain,” “confident of its place being well guarded,” leaves it and passes over to the “Right.”144 Invaded in its turn, the “Right” refuses to join in the deliberations; Vergniaud demands that “the Assembly join the armed force on the square, and put itself under its protection”; he and his friends leave the hall, and the decapitated majority falls back upon its usual hesitating course. All is hubbub and uproar around it. In the hall the clamors of the “Mountain,” the petitioners, and the galleries, seem like the constant roar of a tempest. Outside, twenty or thirty thousand men will probably clash in the streets;145 the battalion of Butte-des-Moulins, with detachments sent by neighboring sections, is intrenched in the Palais-Royal, and Henriot, spreading the report that the rich sections of the centre have displayed the white cockade, send against it the sans-culottes of the faubourgs Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau; cannon are pointed on both sides.—These loaded cannon must not be discharged; the signal of civil war must not be given; it is simply necessary “to forestall the consequences of a movement which could be only disastrous to liberty,”146 and it is important to ensure public tranquillity. The majority, accordingly, think that it is acting courageously in refusing to the Commune the arrest of the Twenty-two, and of the Ministers, Lebrun and Clavière; in exchange for this it consents to suppress its commission of Twelve; it confirms the act of the Commune which allows forty sous a day to the workmen under arms; it declares freedom of entry into its tribunes, and, thanking all the sections, those who defended as well as those who attacked it, it maintains Edition: current; Page: [823] the National Guard on permanent call, announces a general federation for the 10th of August following, and goes off to fraternise with the battalions in the Palais-Royal, in battle array against each other through the calumnies of the Commune, and which, undeceived at the last moment, now embrace instead of cutting each other’s throats.

This time, again, the advantage is on the side of the Commune. Not only have many of its requirements been converted into decrees, but again, its revolutionary baptism remains in full force; its executive committee is tacitly recognised, the new government performs its functions, its usurpations are endorsed, its general, Henriot, keeps command of the entire armed force, and all its dictatorial measures are carried out without let or hindrance.—There is another reason why they should be maintained and aggravated. “Your victory is only half-won,” writes Hébert in his Père Duchesne, “all those b—— of intriguers still live!”—On the evening of the 31st of May the Commune issues warrants of arrest against the Ministers, Clavière and Lebrun, and against Roland and his wife. That same evening and throughout the following day and night, and again the day after, the Committees of Supervision of the forty-eight sections, conformably with instructions from the Hôtel-de-Ville,147 read over the lists of their quarters,148 add new names to these, and send commissaries Edition: current; Page: [824] to disarm and arrest the suspected. Whoever has spoken against revolutionary committees, or disapproved of the assaults of the 31st of May, or not openly shown himself on the 10th of August, or voted on the wrong side in the old Legislative Assembly, is eligible; it is a general, simultaneous raid; in all the streets we see nothing but people seized and sent to prison, or before the section committee, under escort, “anti-patriotic” journalists first of all, the entire impression of their journals being additionally confiscated, and the journal suppressed; the printing-rooms of Gorsas are sacked, seals placed on his presses,149 and Prudhomme himself is locked up. All resistance is overcome in the Contrat-Social, Fraternity, Marais and Marseilles sections, leaving the Commune free, as far as the street is concerned, to recommence its attack on the Convention. “Lists of sans-culottes workmen” have been drawn up in each section, and six francs a head is allowed them, payable by the Convention, as indemnity for their temporary suspension from work;150 this is a premium offered to voters, and as nothing is more potent than cash in hand, Pache provides the funds by diverting 150,000 francs intended for the colonists in San Domingo; the whole day on the 2d of June, trusty men go about among the ranks distributing five-franc assignats.151 Vehicles loaded with supplies accompany each battalion, the better to keep the men under arms;152 the stomach needs filling up, and a pint of wine is excellent for strengthening patriotic sentiment. Henriot has ordered back from Courbevoie the battalions of Edition: current; Page: [825] volunteers which a few days before had been enlisted for La Vendée,153 the dissolute pillaging “adventurers,” later known as “the heroes of the 500 francs.” Besides these he has under his thumb Rosenthal’s hussars, a body of German veterans who do not understand French, and will remain deaf to any legal summons. Finally, he surrounds the Convention with a circle of picked sans-culottes, especially cannoneers, the best of Jacobins,154 who drag along with them the most formidable park of artillery, 163 cannons, with grates and charcoal to heat the balls. The Tuileries is thus encircled by bands of roughs and fanatics; the National Guard, five or six times as many,155 brought out “to give the air of a popular movement to the proceedings of five or six thousand bandits,” cannot come to the aid of the Convention, it being stationed out of reach, beyond the Pont-Tournant, which is raised, and behind the wooden fence separating the Carrousel from the palace. Kept in its position by its orders, merely serving as a stationary piece of scenery, employed against itself unbeknown to itself,156 it can do no more than let the factionists act who serve as its advanced guard.—Early in the mornEdition: current; Page: [826] ing the vestibules, stairs and passages in the hall of the Convention have been invaded by the frequenters of the galleries and the women under pay; the commandant of the post, with his officers, have been confined by “men with moustaches,” armed with sabres and pistols; the legal guard has been replaced with an extraordinary guard,157 and the deputies are prisoners. If one of them is obliged to go out for a moment, it is under the supervision of four fusileers, “who conduct him, wait for him, and bring him back.”158 Others, in trying to look out the windows, are aimed at; the venerable Dussaulx is struck, and Boissy d’Anglas, seized by the throat, returns with his cravat and shirt all in shreds. For six hours by the clock the Convention is under arrest, and when the decree is passed, ordering the removal of the armed force bearing upon it, Henriot replies to the officer who notifies him of it: “Tell your d—— president that he and his Assembly may go to h——. If he don’t surrender the Twenty-two in an hour, I’ll send him there!”159

In the hall the majority, abandoned by its recognised guides and its favorite spokesmen, grows more and more feeble from hour to hour. Brissot, Pétion, Guadet, Gensonné, Buzot, Salle, Grangeneuve, and others, two-thirds of the Twenty-two, kept away by their friends, remain at home.160 Vergniaud, who had come, remains silent, and then leaves; the “Mountain,” probably, gaining by his absence, allows him to pass out. Four other Girondists who remain in the Assembly to the end, Isnard, Dussaulx, Lauthenas, and Fauchet, consent to resign; when the generals give up their swords, the solEdition: current; Page: [827] diers soon lay down their arms. Lanjuinais, alone, who is not a Girondist, but a Catholic and Breton, speaks like a man against this outrageous attack on the nation’s representatives; they rush at him and assail him in the tribune; the butcher, Legendre, simulating “the cleaver’s blow,” cries out to him, “Come down or I’ll knock you down!” A group of Montagnards spring forward to help Legendre, and one of them claps a pistol to his throat;161 he clings fast to the tribune and strives in vain, for his party around him lose their spirits.—At this moment Barrère, remarkable for expedients, proposes to the Convention to adjourn, and hold the session “amidst the armed force that will afford it protection.”162 All other things failing, the majority avails itself of this last straw. It rises in a body, in spite of the vociferations in the galleries, descends the great staircase, and proceeds to the entrance of the Carrousel. There the Montagnard president, Hérault-Séchelles, reads the decree of Henriot, which enjoins him to withdraw, and he officially and correctly summons him in the usual way. But a large number of the Montagnards have followed the majority, and are there to encourage the insurrection; Danton takes Henriot’s hand and tells him, in a low voice, “Go ahead, don’t be afraid; we want to show that the Assembly is free, be firm.”163 At this the tall bedizened gawky recovers his assurance, and in his husky voice, he addresses the president: “Hérault, the people have not come here to listen to big words. You are a good patriot. … Do you promise on your head that the Twenty-two shall be given up in twenty-four hours?” “No.” “Then, in that case, I am not responsible. To arms, cannoneers, make your guns ready!” The cannoneers take their lighted matches, “the cavalry draw their sabres, and the infantry aim at the deputies.”164 Forced back on this side, the unhappy Convention turns to the left, passes Edition: current; Page: [828] through the archway, follows the broad avenue through the garden, and advances to the Pont-Tournant to find an outlet. There is no outlet; the bridge is raised, and everywhere the barrier of pikes and bayonets remains impenetrable; shouts of “Vive la Montagne! Vive Marat! To the guillotine with Brissot, Vergniaud, Guadet and Gensonné! Away with bad blood!” greet the deputies on all sides, and the Convention, similar to a flock of sheep, in vain turns round and round in its pen. At this moment, to get them back into the fold, Marat, like a barking dog, runs up as fast as his short legs will allow, followed by his troop of tatterdemalions, and exclaims: “Let all loyal deputies return to their posts!” With bowed heads, they mechanically return to the hall; it is immediately closed, and they are once more in confinement. To assist them in their deliberations a crowd of the well-disposed entered pell-mell along with them. To watch them and hurry on the matter, the sans-culottes, with fixed bayonets, gesticulate and threaten them from the galleries. Outside and inside, necessity, with its iron hand, has seized them and holds them fast. There is a dead silence. Couthon, a paralytic, tries to stand up; his friends carry him in their arms to the tribune; an intimate friend of Robespierre’s, he is a grave and important personage; he sits down, and in his mild tone of voice, he speaks: “Citizens, all members of the Convention must now be satisfied of their freedom. … You are now aware that there is no restraint on your deliberations.”165

The comedy is at an end. Even in Molière there is none like it. The sentimental cripple in the tribune winds up by demanding that the Twenty-two, the Twelve, and the Ministers, Clavière and Lebrun be placed in arrest. Nobody opposes the motion,166 “because physical necessities begin to be felt, and an impression of terror pervades the Assembly.” Several say to themselves, “Well, after all, those who are proscribed will be as well off at home, where they will be safe. … It is better to put up with a lesser evil than encounter a greater Edition: current; Page: [829] one.” Another exclaims: “It is better not to vote than to betray one’s trust.” The salvo being found, all consciences are easy. Two-thirds of the Assembly declare that they will no longer take part in the discussions, hold aloof, and remain in their seats at each calling of the vote. With the exception of about fifty members of the “Right,” who rise on the side of the Girondists, the “Mountain,” whose forces are increased by the insurgents and amateurs sitting fraternally in its midst, alone votes for, and finally passes the decree.—Now that the Convention has mutilated itself, it is checkmated, and is about to become a governing machine in the service of a clique; the Jacobin conquest is completed, and in the hands of the victors, the grand operations of the guillotine are going to commence.


Let us observe them at this decisive moment. I doubt if any such contrast ever presented itself in any country or in any age.—Through a series of purifications in an inverse sense, the faction has become reduced to its dregs; nothing remains of the vast surging wave of 1789 but its froth and its slime; the rest has been cast off or has withdrawn to one side; at first the highest class, the clergy, the nobles, and the parliamentarians; next the middle class of traders, manufacturers, and the bourgeois; and finally the best of the inferior class, small proprietors, farmers,167 and master-workmen—in short, the prominent in every pursuit, profession, state, or occupation, whoever possesses capital, a revenue, an establishment, respectability, public esteem, education, and mental and moral culture. The party in June, 1793, is composed of little more than shiftless workmen, town and country vagabonds, inmates of hospitals, trulls and trollops of the gutter, a degraded and dangerous populace,168 outcasts Edition: current; Page: [830] from society, those gone astray, libertines, the crazy of every description; and in Paris, from which they command the rest of France, their troop, an insignificant minority, is recruited from that refuse of humanity infesting all capitals, amongst the epileptic and scrofulous rabble which, inheriting vitiated blood and rendering this still more so by its misconduct, imports into civilisation the degeneracy, imbecility, and infatuations of shattered temperaments, retrograde instincts, and bad cerebral organisations.169 What it did with the powers of the State is narrated by three or four contemporary witnesses; this is revealed in its work and in its chiefs; we stand face to face with the men of action and of enterprise who have managed the last attack and who represent it the best.—Since the 2d of June “nearly one-half of the deputies in the Convention refrain from taking any part in its deliberations; more than one hundred and fifty have fled or disappeared;”170 there is its work—the mute, the absent, the condemned. On the evening of June 2 the friend of its heart, the director of its conscience, the foul abortion, Marat, the charlatan, monomaniac, and murderer, who regularly every morning pours his political poison into its bosom, has at last obtained the discretionary power craved by him for the last four years, that of Marius and Sylla, that of Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus; the power of adding or removing names from lists of proscription: “while the reading was going on he indicated retrenchments or augmentations, the reader effacing or adding names as he suggested them, without any consultation whatever with the Assembly.”171—At the Hôtel-de-Edition: current; Page: [831] Ville on the 3d of June, in the Salle de la Reine, Pétion and Guadet, under arrest, see with their own eyes this Central Committee which has just started the insurrection, and which through its singular delegation sits enthroned over all other established authorities. “Some stretched out on the benches and others leaning on the tables with their elbows, were snoring;172 others were barefoot or wearing their shoes slipshod like slippers: almost all were dirty and poorly clad; their clothes were unbuttoned, their hair uncombed, and their faces frightful; they wore pistols in their belts, and sabres, with scarfs turned into shoulder-straps. Bottles, bits of bread, fragments of meat and bones lay strewn around on the floor, and the odor was intolerable.” It looks like a robber’s den. The chief of the band here is not Chaumette, who entertains legal scruples,173 nor Pache, who under a mask of Swiss phlegm is cunningly trimming his sails, but another Marat, more brutal and yet more depraved—Hébert, who profits by the opportunity to “put more coal into the furnace of his Père Duchesne,” striking off 600,000 copies of it, pocketing 135,000 francs for the numbers sent to the armies, and gaining seventy-five per centum on the contract.174—In the street the active body of supporters consists of two bands, one military and the other civil, the former composed of roughs who are soon to furnish the revolutionary army. “This army175 exists (in reality) since 1789. The Edition: current; Page: [832] agents of the Duke of Orleans formed its first nucleus. It grew, became organised, had officers appointed to it, mustering points, orders of the day, and a peculiar slang. … All the revolutions were effected by its aid; it excited popular violence everywhere, even when not present in a body. On the 12th of July, 1789, it had Necker’s bust carried in public and the theatres closed; on the 5th of October it started the populace off to Versailles; on the 20th of April, 1791, it caused the king’s arrest in the court of the Tuileries. … Led by Westermann and Fournier, it formed the centre battalion in the attack of August 10, 1792; it executed the September massacres; it protected the Maratists on the 31st of May, 1793, … its composition is in keeping with its exploits and its functions. It contains the most determined scoundrels, the brigands of Avignon, the scum of Marseilles, Brabant, Liège, Switzerland and the shores of Genoa.” Through a careful sifting,176 it is to be inspected, strengthened, made worse, and converted into a legal body of janissaries under triple pay; once “augmented with idle hair-dressers, lackeys out of place, outdoor motion-makers and other wretches unable to earn their bread honorably,” it will supply the detachments needed for garrison at Bordeaux, Lyons, Dijon and Nantes, still leaving “ten thousand of these mamelukes to keep down the capital.”

The civil body of supporters comprises, first, those who haunt the sections, and are about to receive 40 sous for attending each meeting; next, the troop of figure-heads who, in other public places, are to represent the people, about 1,000 clamorers and claqueurs, “two-thirds of which are women.” “While I was free,” says Beaulieu,177 “I closely observed their movements. It was a magic-lantern Edition: current; Page: [833] constantly in operation. They travelled to and fro from the Convention to the Revolutionary Tribunal, and from this to the Jacobin Club, or to the Commune, which held its meetings in the evening. … They scarcely took time for their natural requirements; they were often seen dining and supping at their posts when any general measure or any important murder was on the carpet.” Henriot is the commander-in-chief of both hordes, formerly a swindler, then a police-spy, then imprisoned at Bicêtre for robbery, and then one of the September murderers. His military bearing and popularity are due to parading the streets in the uniform of a general, and appearing in humbug performances; he is the type of a swaggerer, always drunk or soaked with brandy. With the head of a numbskull, a cracked voice, blinking eyes, and a face distorted by nervous twitchings, he possesses all the externals characteristic of his employment. “In talking, he vociferates like men with the scurvy; his voice is sepulchral, and when he stops talking his features come to rest only after repeated agitations; he blinks three times, after which his face recovers its equilibrium.”178—Marat, Hébert, and Henriot, the maniac, the thief and the brute. Were it not for the dagger of Charlotte Corday, it is probable that this trio, master of the press and of the armed force, aided by Jacques Roux, Leclerc, Vincent, Ronsin, and other madmen of the slums, would have put aside Danton, suppressed Robespierre, and governed France. Such are the counsellors, the favorites, and the leaders of the ruling class;179 did one not know what was to occur during the next fourteen months, one might form an idea of its government from the quality of these men.

And yet, such as this government is, France accepts or submits Edition: current; Page: [834] to it. In fact, Lyons, Marseilles, Toulon, Nismes, Bordeaux, Caen, and other cities, feeling the knife at their throats,180 turn aside the stroke with a movement of horror. They rise against these local Jacobins; but it is nothing more than an instinctive movement. They do not think of forming States within the State, as the “Mountain” pretends that they do, nor of usurping the central authority, as the “Mountain” actually does. Lyons cries, “Long live the Republic, one and indivisible,” receives with honor the commissioners of the Convention, permits convoys of arms and horses destined for the army of the Alps to pass; to excite a revolt there, requires the insensate demands of Parisian despotism just as in La Vendée, to render that province insurgent, requires the brutal persistence of religious persecution. Without the prolonged oppression that weighs down consciences, and the danger to life always imminent, no city or province would have attempted secession. Even under this government of inquisitors and butchers no community, save those of Lyons and La Vendée, makes any sustained effort to break up the State, withdraw from it and live by itself. The national sheaf has been too strongly bound together by secular centralisation. One’s country exists; and when that country is in danger, when the armed stranger attacks the frontier, one follows the flag-bearer, whoever he may be, whether usurper, adventurer, blackguard, or cut-throat, provided only that he marches in the van and holds the banner with a firm hand.181 To tear that flag from him, to contest his pretended right, to expel him and replace him by another, would be a complete destruction of the common weal. Brave men sacrifice their own repugnances for the sake of the common good; in order to serve France, they serve her Edition: current; Page: [835] unworthy government. In the committee of war, the engineering and staff officers who give their days to studying the military map, think of nothing else than of knowing it thoroughly; one of them, d’Arcon, “managed the raising of the siege of Dunkirk, and of the blockade of Maubeuge;182 nobody excels him in penetration, in practical knowledge, in quick perception and in imagination; it is a spirit of flame, a brain compact of resources. I speak of him,” says Mallet-Dupan, “from an intimate acquaintance of ten years. He is no more a revolutionnaire than I am.” Carnot does even more than this: he gives up his honor when, with his colleagues on the Committee of Public Safety, Billaud-Varennes, Couthon, Saint-Just, Robespierre, he puts his name to decrees which are assassinations. A like devotion brings recruits into the armies by hundreds of thousands, bourgeois183 and peasants, from the volunteers of 1791 to the levies of 1793; and the latter class fight not only for France, but also, and more than all, for the Revolution. For, now that the sword is drawn, the mutual and growing exasperation leaves only the extreme parties in the field. Since the 10th of August, and more especially since the 21st of January, it has no longer been a question how to deal with the Edition: current; Page: [836] ancient régime, of cutting away its dead portions or its troublesome thorns, of accommodating it to modern wants, of establishing civil equality, a limited monarchy, a parliamentary government. The question is how to escape conquest by armed force to avert the military executions of Brunswick,184 the vengeance of the proscribed émigrés, the restoration and the aggravation of the old feudal and fiscal order of things. Both through their traditions and their experience, the mass of the country people hate this ancient order, and with all the accumulated hatred that is begotten by an unceasing and secular spoliation. At whatever price, the rural masses will never again suffer the tax-collector among them, nor the excise man in the cellar, nor the fiscal agent on the frontier. For them the ancient régime is nothing more than these things; and, in fact, they have paid no taxes, or scarcely any, since the beginning of the Revolution. On this matter the people’s idea is fixed, positive, unalterable; and as soon as they perceive in the distant future the possible re-establishment of the taille, villein-taxes, and seignorial rights, they choose their side; they will fight to the death.—As to the artisans and lesser bourgeois, their excitement is the magnificent prospect of careers, to which the doors are thrown open, of unbounded advancement, of promotion offered to merit; more than all, their illusions are still intact.

In the camp without, before the enemy, those noble generalisations which among the Parisian demagogues had become sanguinary harlots, remain virgin in the imagination of the officer and the soldier. Liberty, equality, the rights of man, the reign of reason—all these vague and sublime images moved before their eyes when they climbed the escarpment of Jemmapes under a storm of grapeshot, or when they wintered, with naked feet, among the snows of the Vosges. These ideas, in descending from heaven to earth, were not smirched and trodden under their feet; they did not see them transformed in their hands to frightful caricatures. These men are not pillars of clubs, nor brawlers in the sections, nor the inquisitors of Edition: current; Page: [837] a committee, nor hired denunciators, nor providers for the scaffold. Apart from the demonism of revolution, brought back to common sense by the presence of danger, perceiving the inequality of talents, the necessity of obedience, they do the work of men; they suffer, they fast, they face bullets, they are conscious of their disinterestedness and their sacrifices; they are heroes, and they look upon themselves as liberators.185 Over this idea their pride exalts itself. According to a great observer186 who knew their survivors, “many of them believed that the French alone were reasonable beings. To our eyes the inhabitants of the rest of Europe, who were fighting to keep their chains, were only pitiable imbeciles or knaves sold to the despots who were attacking us. Pitt and Cobourg seemed to us the chief of these knaves and the personification of all the treachery and stupidity in the world. In 1794 our inmost, serious sentiment was wholly contained in this idea: to be useful to our country; all other things, our clothes, our food, advancement, were poor ephemeral details. As society did not exist, there was no such thing for us as social success, that leading element in the character of our nation. Our only gatherings were national festivals, affecting ceremonies which nourished in us the love of our country. In the streets our eyes filled with tears when we saw an inscription in honor of the young drummer, Barra. … This sentiment was the only religion we had.”187 But it was a religion. When the heart of a nation is so high it will deliver itself, in spite of its rulers, whatever their excesses may be, whatever their crimes; for the nation atones for their follies by its courage; it hides their crimes beneath its great achievements.

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Cf. “The Ancient Régime,” p. 242. Citations from the “Contrat Social.”—Buchez et Roux, “Histoire Parlementaire,” XXVI. 96. Declaration of rights read by Robespierre in the Jacobin club, April 21, 1793, and adopted by the club as its own. “The people is sovereign, the government is its work and its property, and public functionaries are its clerks. The people can displace its mandatories and change its government when it pleases.”


Buchez et Roux, 324. (An article by Loustalot, Sept. 8, 1789). Ibid. 331. Motion of the District of Cordéliers, presided over by Danton.—Ibid. 239. Denunciation of the municipality by Marat.—V. 128, VI. 24–41 (March, 1790). The majority of the districts demand the permanent authority of the districts, that is to say, of the sovereign political assemblies.


Buchez et Roux. IV. 458. Meeting of Feb. 24, 1790, an article by Loustalot.—III. 202. Speech by Robespierre, meeting of Oct. 21, 1789. Ibid. 219. Resolution of the district of St. Martin declaring that martial law shall not be enforced. Ibid. 222. Article by Loustalot.


Buchez et Roux, X. 124, an article by Marat.—X. 1–22, speech by Robespierre at the meeting of May 9, 1791.—III. 247, an article by Loustalot. III. 217, speech by Robespierre, meeting of Oct. 22, 1789. Ibid. 431, article by Loustalot and Desmoulins, Nov., 1789.—VI. 336, articles by Loustalot and Marat, July, 1790.


The Constituent Assembly created two classes of electors; one, the mass of voters, consisting of those who paid a small qualification tax, the value of a day’s labor, and who were called active citizens, and the other, chosen by this class, of those who elected deputies to the National Assembly, their qualification tax being the value of a half-pound of silver.—Tr.


Ernest Hamel, “Histoire de Robespierre,” passim, (I. 436). Robespierre proposed to confer political rights on the blacks.—Buchez et Roux, IX. 264 (March, 1791).


Buchez et Roux, V. 146 (March, 1790); VI. 436 (July 26, 1790); VIII. 247 (Dec., 1790); X. 224 (June, 1791).


This soubriquet is bestowed on Desmoulins on account of his advocacy of street executions, the victims of revolutionary passion being often hung at the nearest lanterne, or street lamp, at that time in Paris suspended across the street by ropes or chains.—Tr.


Gustave Flaubert. “Tout notaire a rêvé des sultanes” (“Madame Bovary”). “Frédéric trouvait que le bonheur mérité par l’excellence de son â ne tardait á venir” (“L’Education Sentimentale”).


Mallet-Dupan, “Correspondance politique.” 1796.


“Entretiens du Père Girard,” by Collot d’Herbois. “Les Etrennes du Peuple,” by Barrère. “La Constitution Française pour les Habitans des Campagnes,” etc. Later, “L’Alphabet des Sans-Culottes,” “Le Nouveau Catéchisme Républicain,” “Les Commandements de la Patrie et de la République” (in verse), etc.


Mercure de France, an article by Mallet-Dupan, April 7, 1792. (Summing up of the year 1791.)


Mercure de France, see the numbers of Dec. 30, 1791, and April 7, 1791.


Fox, before deciding on any measure, consulted a Mr. H——, one of the most uninfluential, and even narrow-minded, members of the House of Commons. Some astonishment being expressed at this, he replied that he regarded Mr. H—— as a perfect type of the faculties and prejudices of a country gentleman, and he used him as a thermometer. Napoleon likewise stated that before framing an important law, he imagined to himself the impression it would make on the mind of a burly peasant.


“Tableaux de la Révolution Française,” by Schmidt (especially the reports by Dubard, 3 vols).


“Correspondence of Gouverneur Morris,” “Memoirs of Mallet-Dupan,” “Moore’s Journal,” “Un Séjour en France” from 1792 to 1795.


See, in “Progrès de l’esprit humaine,” the superiority awarded to the republican constitution of 1793. (Book ix.) “The principles out of which the constitution and laws of France have been combined are purer, more exact, and deeper than those which governed the Americans: they have more completely escaped the influence of every sort of prejudice, etc.”


Camille Desmoulins, the enfant terrible of the Revolution, confesses this, as well as other truths. After citing the Revolutions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, “which derived their virtue from and had their roots in conscience, which were sustained by fanaticism and the hopes of another world,” he thus concludes: “Our Revolution, purely political, is wholly rooted in egotism, in everybody’s amour propre, in the combinations of which is found the common interest.” (“Brissot dévoilé,” by Camille Desmoulins. Buchez et Roux, XIII 207, January, 1792.)


Rousseau’s idea of the omnipotence of the State is also that of Louis XIV. and Napoleon. It is curious to see the development of the same idea in the mind of a contemporary bourgeois, like Rétif de la Bretonne, half literary and half one of the people. (“Nuits de Paris,” XVe nuit, 377, on the September Massacres.) “No, I do not pity those fanatical priests; they have done the country too much mischief. Whatever a society, or a majority of it, desires, that is right. He who opposes this, who calls down war and vengeance on the nation, is a monster. Order is always found in the agreement of the majority. The minority is always guilty, I repeat it, even if it is morally right. Nothing but common sense is needed to see that truth.” Ibid. (On the execution of Louis XVI.), p. 447. “Had the nation the right to condemn and execute him? No thinking person can ask such a question. The nation is everything in itself; its power is that which the whole human kind would have if but one nation, one single government governed the globe. Who would dare then dispute the power of humanity? It was the indisputable power that a nation has, to condemn even an innocent man, felt by the ancient Greeks, which led them to exile Aristides and put Phocion to death. ‘Oh truth, unrecognised by our contemporaries, what evil has arisen through forgetting it!’ ”


Moniteur, XI. 46. Speech by Isnard in the Assembly, Jan. 5, 1792. “The people are now conscious of their dignity. They know, according to the Constitution, that every Frenchman’s motto is: Live free, the equal of all, and one of the common sovereignty.”—Guillon de Montléon, I. 445. Speech by Chalier, in the Lyons Central Club, March 21, 1793. “Know that you are kings, and more than kings. Do you not feel sovereignty circulating in your veins?”


Moniteur, V. 136. (Celebration of the Federation, July 14, 1790.)


Albert Babeau, “Histoire de Troyes pendant la Révolution,” I. 436 (April 10, 1790).


Mortimer-Ternaux, “Histoire de la Terreur,” I. 353. (Pétion’s own narrative of this journey.) This pert blockhead cannot even spell: he writes aselle for aisselle, etc. He is convinced that Madame Elizabeth, the king’s sister, wants to seduce him, and that she makes advances to him: “If we had been alone, I believe that she would have fallen into my arms, and let the impulses of nature have their way.” He makes a display of virtue, however, and becomes only the more supercilious as he talks with the king, the young dauphin, and the ladies he is fetching back.


The “Mémoires de Madame Roland” is a masterpiece of that conceit supposed to be so carefully concealed as not to be visible and never off its stilts. “I am beautiful, I am affectionate, I am sensitive, I inspire love, I reciprocate, I remain virtuous, my mind is superior, and my courage indomitable. I am philosopher, statesman, and writer, worthy of the highest success,” is constantly in her mind, and always perceptible in her phraseology. Real modesty never shows itself. On the contrary, many indecorous things are said and done by her from bravado, and to set herself above her sex. Cf. the “Memoirs of Mrs. Hutchinson,” which present a great contrast. Madame Roland wrote: “I see no part in society which suits me but that of Providence.”—The same presumption shines out in others, with less refined pretentions. The following letter, found among the papers of the iron wardrobe, is addressed to the king by the deputy Rouyer. “I have compared, examined, and foreseen everything. All I ask, to carry out my noble purposes, is that direction of forces which the law confers on you. I am aware of and brave the danger; weakness defers to this, while genius overcomes it. I have turned my attention to all the courts of Europe, and am sure that I can force peace on them.”—Robert, an obscure pamphleteer, asks Dumouriez to make him ambassador to Constantinople, while Louvet, the author of “Faublas,” declares in his memoirs that liberty perished in 1792, because he was not appointed Minister of Justice.


Moniteur, p. 189. Speech by Collot d’Herbois, on the mitraillades at Lyons. “We, too, possess sensibility! The Jacobins have every virtue; they are compassionate, humane, generous. These virtues, however, are cherished for patriots, who are their brethren, but never for aristocrats.”—Meillan, “Mémoires,” 4. “Robespierre was one day eulogising a man named Desfieux, well known for his lack of integrity, and whom he finally sacrificed. ‘I said to him, your man Desfieux is known to be a thief.’ ‘No matter,’ he replied, ‘he is a good patriot.’ ‘But he is a fraudulent bankrupt.’ ‘He is a good patriot.’ ‘He is a robber.’ ‘He is a good patriot’—which three words were all I could get out of him.”


See the figures further on.


Mallet-Dupan, II. 491. Danton, in 1793, said one day to one of his former brethren, an advocate to the Council: “The old régime made a great mistake. It brought me up on a scholarship in Plessis College. I was brought up with nobles, who were my comrades, and with whom I lived on familiar terms. On completing my studies, I had nothing; I was poor, and tried to get a place. The Paris bar was unapproachable, and it required an effort to be accepted. I could not get into the army, without either rank or a patron. There was no opening for me in the Church. I could purchase no employment, for I hadn’t a cent. My old companions turned their backs on me. I remained without a situation, and only after many long years did I succeed in buying the post of advocate in the Royal Council. The Revolution came, when I, and all like me, threw themselves into it. The ancient régime forced us to do so, by providing a good education for us, without providing an opening for our talents.” This applies to Robespierre, C. Desmoulins, Brissot, Vergniaud, and others.


Dauban, “La Demagogie à Paris en 1793,” and “Paris in 1794.” Read General Henriot’s orders of the day in these two works. Compardon, “Histoire du Tribunal Révolutionnaire de Paris,” a letter by Trinchard, I. 306 (which is here given in the original, on account of the orthography): “Si tu nest pas toute seulle et que le compagnion soit a travalier tu peus ma chaire amie venir voir juger 24 mesieurs tous si devent président ou conselier au parlement de Paris et de Toulouse. Je t’ainvite a prendre quelque choge aven de venir parcheque nous naurons pas fini de 3 heures. et embrase ma chaire amie et epouge.” Ibid., II, 350, examination of André Chenier.—Wallon, “Hist. du Trib. Rév.”, I, 316 Letter by Simon. “Je te coitte le bonjour mois est mon est pousse.”


“Forts de la Halle.” They assumed the title of “Les forts pour la patrie.”


Cf. “The Revolution,” page 60.


Cf. on this point the admissions of the honest Bailly (“Mémoires,” passim).


Rétif de la Bretonne: “Nuits de Paris,” iième nuit, p. 36. “I lived in Paris twenty-five years as free as air. All could enjoy as much freedom as myself in two ways—by living uprightly, and by not writing pamphlets against the ministry. All else was permitted, my freedom never being interfered with. It is only since the Revolution that a scoundrel could succeed in having me arrested twice.”


Cf. “The Revolution,” Vol. I. p. 264.


Moniteur, IV. 495. (Letter from Chartres, May 27, 1790.)


Sauzay, I. 147, 195, 218, 711.


Mercure de France, numbers of August 7, 14, 26, and Dec. 18, 1790.


Ibid., number of November 26, 1790. Pétion is elected mayor of Paris by 6,728 out of 10,632 voters. “Only 7,000 voters are found at the election of the electors who elect deputies to the legislature. Primary and municipal meetings are deserted in the same proportion.”—Moniteur, X. 529 (Number of Dec. 4, 1791). Manuel is elected Attorney of the Commune by 3,770 out of 5,311 voters.—Ibid. XI. 378. At the election of municipal officers for Paris, Feb. 10 and 11, 1792, only 3,787 voters present themselves; Dussault, who obtains the most votes, has 2,588; Sergent receives 1,648.—Buchez et Roux, XI. 238 (session of Aug. 12, 1791). Speech by Chapelier; “Archives Nationales,” F. 6 (carton), 21. Primary meeting of June 13, 1791, canton of Bèze (Côte d’Or). Out of 460 active citizens, 157 are present, and, on the final ballot, 58.—Ibid., F. 3,235 (January, 1792). Lozerre: “1,000 citizens, at most, out of 25,000, voted in the primary meetings. At Saint-Chèly, capital of the district, a few armed ruffians succeed in forming the primary meeting and in substituting their own election for that of eight parishes, whose frightened citizens withdrew from it.… At Langogne, chief town of the canton and district, out of more than 400 active citizens, 22 or 23 at most—just what one would suppose them to be when their presence drove away the rest—alone formed the meeting.”


This power, with its gratifications, is thus shown, Beugnot, I. 140, 147. “On the publication of the decrees of August 4, the committee of overseers of Montigny, reinforced by all the patriots of the country, came down like a torrent on the barony of Choiseul, and exterminated all the hares and partridges.… They fished out the ponds.… At Mandre we happen to be in the front room of the inn, with a dozen peasants gathered around a table decked with tumblers and bottles, amongst which we noticed an inkstand, pens, and something resembling a register. ‘I don’t know what they are about,’ said the landlady, but there they are, from morning till night, drinking, swearing, and storming away at everybody, and they say that they are a committee.’ ”


Albert Babeau, I. 206, 242.—The first meeting of the revolutionary committee of Troyes, in the cemetery of St. Jules, August, 1789. This committee becomes the only authority in the town, after the assassination of the mayor, Huez (Sept. 10, 1790).


“The French Revolution,” Vol. I. pp. 235, 242, 251.—Buchez et Roux, VI. 179.—Guillon de Montléon, “Histoire de la Ville de Lyon pendant la Révolution,” I. 87.—Guadet, “Les Girondins.”


Michelet, “Histoire de la Révolution,” II. 47.


The rules of the Paris club state that members must “labor to establish and strengthen the constitution, according to the spirit of the club.


Mercure de France, Aug. 11, 1790.—“Journal de la Société des Amis de la Constitution,” Nov. 21, 1790.—Ibid., March, 1791.—Ibid., Aug. 14, 1791 (speech by Roederer).—Buchez et Roux, XI. 481.


So called from certain individuals seizing every opportunity at political meetings to make motions and offer resolutions.—Tr.


Michelet, II. 407.—Moniteur, XII 347 (May 11, 1792), article by Marie Chénier, according to whom 800 Jacobin clubs exist at this date.—Ibid., XII. 753 (speech by M. Delfaux, session of June 25, 1792).—Roederer, preface to his translation of Hobbes.


“Les Révolutions de Paris,” by Prudhomme, number 173.


Constant, “Histoire d’un Club Jacobin en province,” passim (Fontainbleau Club, founded May 5, 1791).—Albert Babeau, I. 434 and following pages (foundation of the Troyes Club, Oct. 1790). Sauzay, I. 206 and following pages (foundation of the Besançon Club, Aug. 28, 1790). Ibid., 214 (foundation of the Pontarlier Club, March, 1791).


Sauzay, I. 214 (April 2, 1791).


“Journal des Amis de la Constitution,” I. 534 (Letter of the “Café National” Club of Bordeaux, Jan. 29, 1791). Guillon de Montléon, I. 88.—“The French Revolution,” vol. I. 128, 242.


Eugène Hatin, “Histoire politique et littéraire de la presse,” IV. 210 (with Marat’s text in “l’Ami du peuple,” and Fréron’s in “l’Orateur du peuple”).


Mercure de France, Nov. 27, 1790.


Mercure de France, Sept. 3, 1791 (article by Mallet-Dupan). “On the strength of a denunciation, the authors of which I knew, the Luxembourg section on the 21st of June, the day of the king’s departure, sent commissaries and a military detachment to my domicile. There was no judicial verdict, no legal order, either of police-court, or justice of the peace, no examination whatever preceding this mission.… The employés of the section overhauled my papers, books and letters, transcribing some of the latter, and carried away copies and the originals, putting seals on the rest, which were left in charge of two fusileers.”


Mercure de France, Aug. 27, 1791 (report by Duport-Dutertre, Minister of Justice).—Ibid., Cf. numbers of Sept. 8, 1790, and March 12, 1791.


Sauzay, I. 208. (Petition of the officers of the National Guard of Besançon, and observations of the municipal body, Sept. 15, 1790.—Petition of 500 national guards, Dec. 15, 1790).—Observations of the district directory, which directory, having authorised the club, avows that “three-quarters” of the national guard and a portion of other citizens “are quite hostile to it.”—Similar petitions at Dax, Chalons-sur-Saône, etc., against the local club.


“Lettres” (manuscript) of M. Roullé, deputy from Pontivy, to his constituents (May 1, 1789).


A rule of the association says: “The object of the association is to discuss questions beforehand which are to be decided by the National Assembly, … and to correspond with associations of the same character which may be formed in the kingdom.”


“Mémoires,” I. 387.


Malouet, II. 248. “I saw Counsellor Duport, who was a fanatic, and not a bad man, with two or three others like him, exclaim: ‘Terror! Terror! What a pity that it has become necessary!’ ”


Lafayette, “Mémoires” (in relation to Messieurs de Lameth and their friends). According to a squib of the day: “What Duport thinks, Barnave says and Lameth does.”—This trio was named the Triumvirate. Mirabeau, a government man, and a man to whom brutal disorder was repugnant, called it the Triumgueusat, or trinity of shabby fellows.


Moniteur, V. 212, 583. (Report and speech of Dupont de Nemours, sessions of July 31 and September 7, 1790.)—Vagabonds and ruffians begin to play their parts in Paris on the 27th of April, 1789 (the Réveillon affair).—Already on the 30th of July, 1789, Rivarol wrote: “Woe to whoever stirs up the lees of a nation! There is no century of light for the populace!”—In the Discours préliminaire of his future dictionary, he refers to his articles of this period: “There may be seen the precautions I took to prevent Europe from attributing to the French nation the horrors committed by the crowd of ruffians which the Revolution and the gold of a great personage had attracted to the capital.”—“Letter of a deputy of his constituents,” published by Duprez, Paris, in the beginning of 1790 (cited by M. de Ségur, in the Revue de France, September 1, 1880). It relates to the manoeuvres for forcing a vote in favor of confiscating clerical property. “Throughout All-Saints’ day (November 1, 1789), drums were beaten to call together the band known here as the Coadjutors of the Revolution. On the morning of November 2, when the deputies resorted to the Assembly, they found the cathedral square and all the avenues to the archbishop’s palace, where the sessions were held, filled with an innumerable crowd of people. This army was composed of from 20,000 to 25,000 men, of which the greater number had no shoes or stockings; woollen caps and rags formed their uniform and they had clubs for guns. They overwhelmed the ecclesiastical deputies with insults, as they passed on their way, and vociferated that they would massacre without mercy all who would not vote for stripping the clergy.… Near 300 deputies who were opposed to the motion did not dare attend the Assembly.… The rush of ruffians in the vicinity of the hall, their comments and threats, excited fears of this atrocious project being carried out. All who did not feel courageous enough to immolate themselves, avoided going to the Assembly.” (The decree was adopted by 378 votes, against 346.)


Cf. “The Ancient Régime,” p. 51.


Malouet, I. 247, 248.—“Correspondence (manuscript) of M. de Staël,” Swedish Ambassador, with his court, copied from the archives at Stockholm by M. Léouzu-Le-Duc (letter of April 21, 1791). “M. Laclos, secret agent of this wretched prince, a clever man and subtle intriguer.” April 24: “His agents are more to be feared than himself. Through his bad conduct, he is more of an injury to his party than a benefit.”


Especially after the king’s flight to Varennes, and at the time of the affair in the Champ de Mars. The petition of the Jacobins was drawn up by Laclos and Brissot.


Investigations at the Chatelet, testimony of Count d’Absac de Ternay.


Malouet I. 247, 248. This evidence is conclusive. “Apart from what I saw myself,” says Malouet, “M. de Montmorin and M. Delessart communicated to me all the police reports of 1789 and 1790.”


Sauzay, 11. 79 (municipal election, Nov. 15, 1791).—III. 221 (mayoralty election, November, 1792). The half-way moderates had 237 votes, and the sans-culottes, 310.


Mercure de France, Nov. 26, 1791 (Pétion was elected mayor, Nov. 17, by 6,728 votes out of 10,682 voters).—Mortimer-Ternaux, V. 95. (Oct. 4, 1792, Pétion was elected mayor by 13,746 votes out of 14,137 voters. He declines.—Oct. 21, d’Ormessan, a moderate, who declines to stand, has, nevertheless, 4,910 votes. His competitor, Lhuillier, a pure Jacobin, obtains only 4,896.)


Albert Babeau, II. 15. (The 32,000 inhabitants of Troyes indicate about 7,000 electors. In December, 1792, Jacquet is elected mayor by 400 votes out of 555 voters. A striking coincidence is found in there being 400 members of the Troyes club at this time.)—Carnot, “Mémoires,” I. 181. “Dr. Bollmann, who passed through Strasbourg in 1792, relates that, out of 8,000 qualified citizens, only 400 voters presented themselves.”


Mortimer-Ternaux, VI. 21. In February, 1793, Pache is elected mayor of Paris by 11,881 votes.—Journal de Paris, number 185. Henriot, July 2, 1793, is elected commander-in-chief of the Paris national guard, by 9,084, against 6,095 votes given for his competitor, Raffet. The national guard comprises at this time 110,000 registered members, besides 10,000 gendarmes and federates. Many of Henriot’s partisans, again, voted twice. (Cf. on the elections and the number of Jacobins at Paris, chapters xi. and xii. of this volume.)


Michelet, VI. 95. “Almost all (the missionary representatives) were supported by only the smallest minority. Baudot, for instance, at Toulouse, in 1793, had but 400 men for him.”


For example, “Archives Nationales,” F1 6, carton 3. Petition of the inhabitants of Arnay-le-Duc to the king (April, 1792), very insulting, employing the most familiar language; about fifty signatures.—Sauzay, III. ch. xxxv. and xxxiv. (details of local elections).—Ibid., VII. 687 (letter of Grégoire, Dec. 24, 1796).—Malouet, II. 531 (letter by Malouet, July 22, 1779). Malouet and Grégoire agree on the number 300,000. Marie Chénier (Moniteur, XII. 695, April 20, 1792) carries it up to 400,000.


Cf. “The French Revolution,” Vol. I. book ii. ch. iii.


Cf. “The Ancient Régime,” p. 352.


“Mémoires de Madame de Sapinaud,” p. 18. Reply of M. de Sapinaud to the peasants of La Vendée, who wished him to act as their general: “My friends, it is the earthen pot against the iron pot. What could we do? One department against eighty-two—we should be smashed!”


Malouet, II. 241. “I knew a clerk in one of the bureaus, who, during these sad days (September, 1792), never missed going, as usual, to copy and add up his registers. Ministerial correspondence with the armies and the provinces followed its regular course in regular form. The Paris police looked after supplies and kept its eye on sharpers, while blood ran in the streets.”—Cf. on this mechanical need and inveterate habit of receiving orders from the central authority, Mallet-Dupan, “Mémoires,” 490. “Dumouriez’ soldiers said to him: ‘F——, papa general, get the Convention to order us to march on Paris and you’ll see how we will make mince-meat of those b—— in the Assembly!’ ”


Buchez et Roux, XXVIII. 55. Letter by Brun-Lafond, a grenadier in the national guard, July 14, 1793, to a friend in the provinces, in justification of the 31st of May. The whole of this letter requires to be read. In it are found the ordinary ideas of a Jacobin in relation to history. “Can we lose sight of this, that it is ever the people of Paris which, through its murmurings and righteous insurrections against the oppressive system of many of our kings, has forced them to entertain milder sentiments regarding the relief of the French people, and principally of the tiller of the soil? … Without the energy of Paris, Paris and France would now be inhabited solely by slaves, while this beautiful soil would present an aspect as wild and deserted as that of the Turkish empire or that of Germany,” which has led us “to confer still greater lustre on this Revolution, by re-establishing on earth the ancient Athenian and other Grecian republics in all their purity. Distinctions among the early people of the earth did not exist; early family ties bound people together who had no ancient founders or origin; they had no other laws in their republics but those which, so to say, inspired them with those sentiments of fraternity experienced by them in the cradle of primitive populations.”


Barbaroux, “Mémoires” (Ed. Dauban), 336.—Grégoire, “Mémoires,” I. 410.


“La Révolution Française,” by Quinet (extracts from the inedited “Mémoires” of Baudot), II. 209, 211, 421, 620.—Guillon de Montléon I. 445 (speech by Chalier, in the Lyons Central Club, March 23, 1793). “They say that the sans-culottes will go on spilling their blood. This is only the talk of aristocrats. Can a sans-culotte be reached in that quarter? Is he not invulnerable, like the gods whom he replaces on this earth?”—Speech by David, in the Convention, on Barra and Viala. “Under so fine a government woman will bring forth without pain.”—Mercier, “Le Nouveau Paris,” I. 13. “I heard (an orator) exclaim in one of the sections, to which I bear witness: ‘Yes, I would take my own head by the hair, cut it off, and, presenting it to the despot, I would say to him: Tyrant, behold the act of a free man!’ ”


Lafayette, “Mémoires,” I. 467 (on the Jacobins of August 10, 1792). “This sect, the destruction of which was desired by nineteen-twentieths of France.”—Durand-Maillan, 49. The aversion to the Jacobins after June 20, 1792, was general. “The communes of France, everywhere wearied and dissatisfied with popular clubs, would gladly have got rid of them, that they might no longer be under their control.”


The words of Leclerc, a deputy of the Lyons committee in the Jacobin Club at Paris. May 12, 1793. “Popular machiavelianism must be established.… Everything impure must disappear off the French soil.… I shall doubtless be regarded as a brigand, but there is one way to get ahead of calumny, and that is, to exterminate the calumniators.”


Buchez et Roux, XXXIV. 204 (testimony of François Lameyrie). “Collection of authentic documents for the History of the Revolution at Strasbourg,” II. 210 (speech by Baudot, Frimaire 19, year II., in the Jacobin Club at Strasbourg). “Egoists, the heedless, the enemies of liberty, the enemies of all nature should not be regarded as her children. Are not all who oppose the public good, or who do not share it, in the same case? Let us, then, utterly destroy them … Were they a million, would not one sacrifice the twenty-fourth part of one’s self to get rid of a gangrene which might infect the rest of the body? …” For these reasons, the orator thinks that every man who is not wholly devoted to the Republic must be put to death. He states that the Republic should at one blow cause the instant disappearance of every friend to kings and feudalism.—Beaulieu, “Essai,” V. 200. M. d’Antonelle thought, “like most of the revolutionary clubs, that, to constitute a republic, an approximate equality of property should be established; and to do this, a third of the population should be suppressed.”—“This was the general idea among the fanatics of the Revolution.”—Larevellière-Lépaux, “Mémoires,” I. 150 “Jean Bon St. André … suggested that for the solid foundation of the Republic in France, the population should be reduced one-half.” He is violently interrupted by Larevellière-Lépaux, but continues and insists on this.—Guffroy, deputy of the Pas-de-Calais, proposed in his journal a still larger amputation; he wanted to reduce France to five millions of inhabitants.


Law of May 28, 29, 1791 (according to official statements, the total of active citizens amounted to 4,288,360).—Laws of July 23, Sept. 12, Sept. 29, 1791.—Buchez et Roux, XII. 310.


Buchez et Roux, XII. 33.—Mortimer-Ternaux, “Histoire de la Terreur,” II. 205, 348.—Sauzay, II. ch. xviii.—Albert Babeau, I. ch. xx.


The following letter, by Camille Desmoulins (April 3, 1792), shows at once the time consumed by public affairs, the sort of attraction they had, and the kind of men which they diverted from their business. “I have gone back to my old profession of the law, to which I give nearly all the time which my municipal or electoral functions, and the Jacobins (club), allow me—that is to say, very little. It is very disagreeable to me to come down to pleading bourgeois cases after having managed interests of such importance, and the affairs of the government, in the face of all Europe.”


Sauzay, II. 83–89 and 123. A resolution of the inhabitants of Chalèze, who, headed by their municipal officers, declare themselves unanimously “non-conformists,” and demand “the right of using a temple for the exercise of their religious opinions, belonging to them and built with their contributions.” On the strength of this, the municipal officers of Chalèze are soundly rated by the district administration, which thus states what principles are: “Liberty, indefinite for the private individual, must be restricted for the public man whose opinions must conform to the law; otherwise, … he must renounce all public functions.”


Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,253 (letter of the department directory, April 7, 1792). “On the 25th of January, in our report to the National Assembly, we stated the almost general opposition which the execution of the laws relating to the clergy has found in this department … nine-tenths, at least, of the Catholics refusing to recognise the sworn priests. The teachers, influenced by their old curés or vicars, are willing to take the civic oath, but they refuse to recognise their legitimate pastors and attend their services. We are, therefore, obliged to remove them, and to look out for others to replace them. The citizens of a large number of the communes, persisting in trusting these, will lend no assistance whatever to the election of the new ones; the result is, that we are obliged, in selecting these people, to refer the matter to persons whom we scarcely know, and who are scarcely better known to the directories of the district. As they are elected against the will of the citizens, they do not gain their confidence, and draw their salaries from the commune treasury, without any advantage to public instruction.”


Mercure de France, Sept. 3, 1791. “The right of attending primary meetings is that of every citizen who pays a tax of three livres; owing to the violence to which opinions are subject, more than one-half of the French are compelled to stay away from these reunions, which are abandoned to persons who have the least interest in maintaining public order and in securing stable laws, with the least property, and who pay the fewest taxes.”


“The French Revolution,” Vol. I. p. 182 and following pages.


“Correspondence of M. de Staël” (manuscript), Swedish ambassador, with his court, Sept. 4, 1791. “The change in the way of thinking of the democrats is extraordinary; they now seem convinced that it is impossible to make the Constitution work. Barnave, to my own knowledge, has declared that the influence of assemblies in the future should be limited to a council of notables, and that all power should be in the government.”


Ibid., Letter of July 17, 1791. “All the members of the Assembly, with the exception of three or four, have passed a resolution to separate from the Jacobins; they number about 300.”—The seven deputies who remain at the Jacobin Club, are Robespierre, Pétion, Grégoire, Buzot, Coroller, and Abbé Royer.


Decree of Sept. 29, 30, 1791, with report and instructions of the Committee on the Constitution.


Decree of May 17, 1791.—Malouet, XII. 161. “There was nothing left to us but to make one great mistake, which we did not fail to do.”


A few months after this, on the election of a mayor for Paris, the court voted against Lafayette, and for Pétion.


M. de Montlosier, “Mémoires,” II. 309. “As far as concerns myself, truth compels me to say, that I was struck on the head by three carrots and two cabbages only.”—Archives of the prefecture of police (decisions of the police court, May 15, 1790). Moniteur, V. 427. “The prompt attendance of the members at the hour of meeting, in spite of the hootings and murmurings of the crowd, seemed to convince the people that this was yet another conspiracy against liberty.”


Malouet, II. 50.—Mercure de France, Jan. 7, Feb. 5, and April 9, 1791 (letter of a member of the Monarchical Club).


Ferrières, II. 222. “The Jacobin Club sent five or six hundred trusty men, armed with clubs,” besides “about a hundred national guards, and some of the Palais-Royal prostitutes.”


“Journal des Amis de la Constitution.” Letter of the Café National Club at Bordeaux, Jan. 20, 1791.—Letters of the “Friends of the Constitution,” at Brives and Cambray, Jan. 19, 1791.


“The French Revolution,” I. pp. 243, 324.


Mercure de France, Dec. 18, 1790, Jan. 17, June 8, and July 14, 1791.—Moniteur, VI. 697.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,193. Letter from the Directory of the department of Aveyron, April 20, 1792. Narrative of events after the end of 1790.—May 22, 1791, the club of “The Friends of Order and Peace” is burnt by the Jacobins, the fire lasting all night and a part of the next day. (Official report of the Directory of Milhau, May 22, 1791).


“The French Revolution,” I. p. 256, 307.


Mercure de France, Dec. 14, 1790 (letter from Villeneuve-St.-Georges, Nov. 29).


“Archives Nationales,” II. 1,453. Correspondence of M. Bercheny. Letter from Pau, Feb. 7, 1790. “No one has any idea of the actual state of things, in this once delightful town. People are cutting each other’s throats. Four duels have taken place within 48 hours, and ten or a dozen good citizens have been obliged to hide themselves for three days past.”


“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,249. Memorial on the actual condition of the town and district of Mortagne, department of Orne (November, 1791).


On the 15th of August, 1791, the mother-superior of the Hotel-Dieu hospital is forcibly carried off and placed in a tavern, half a league from the town, while the rest of the nuns are driven out and replaced by eight young girls. Among other motives that require notice is the hostility of two apothecaries belonging to the club; in the Hotel-Dieu the nuns, keeping a pharmacy, by which they defrayed expenses through the sale of drugs, brought themselves into competition with the two apothecaries.


Cf. “Archives Nationales,” DXXIX. 13. Letter of the municipal officers and notables of Champneuil, to the administrators of Seine-et-Oise, concerning elections, June 17, 1791.—Similar letters, from various other parishes, among them that of Charcon, June 16: They “have the honor to inform you that, at the time of the preceding primary meetings, they were exposed to the greatest danger; that the curé of Charcon, their pastor, was repeatedly stabbed with a bayonet, the marks of which he will carry to his grave. The mayor, and several other inhabitants of Charcon, escaped the same peril with difficulty.”—Ibid., letters from the administrators of Hautes-Alpes to the National Assembly (September, 1791), on the disturbances in the electoral assembly of Gap, August 29, 1791.


“The French Revolution,” pp. 159, 160, 310, 323, 324.—Lauvergne, “Histoire du département du Var,” 104 (August 23).


“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,198, deposition of Vérand Jeard, an elector at Arles, Sept. 8, 1791.—Ibid., F7, 3,195. Letter of the administrators of the Tarascon district, Dec. 8, 1791. Two parties confront each other at the municipal elections of Barbantane, one headed by the Abbé Chabaud, brother of one of the Avignon brigands, composed of three or four townsmen, and of “the most impoverished in the country,” and the other, three times as numerous, comprising all the land-owners, the substantial métayers and artisans, and all “who are most interested in a good administration.” The question is, whether the Abbé Chabaud is to be mayor. The elections took place Dec. 5, 1791. Here is the official report of the acting mayor: “We, Pierre Fontaine, mayor, addressed the rioters, to induce them to keep the peace. At this very moment, the said Claude Gontier, alias Baoque, struck us with his fist on the left eye, which bruised us considerably, and on account of which we are almost blind, and, conjointly with others, jumped upon us, threw us down, and dragged us by the hair, continuing to strike us, from in front of the church door, till we came in front of the door of the town hall.”


Ibid., F7, 3,229. Letters of M. de Laurède, June 18, 1791; from the directory of the department, June 8, July 31, and Sept. 22, 1791; from the municipality, July 15, 1791. The municipality “leaves the release of the prisoners in suspense,” for six months, because, it says, the people is disposed to “insurrectionise against their discharge.”—Letters of many of the national guard, stating that the factions form only a part of it.


Mercure de France, Dec. 10, 1791, letter from Montpellier, dated Nov. 17, 1791.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,223. Extracts from letters, on the incidents of Oct. 9 and 12, 1791. Petition by Messrs. Théri and Devon, Nov. 17, 1791. Letter addressed by them to the Minister, Oct. 25. Letters of M. Dupin, syndical attorney of the department, to the Minister, Nov. 14 and 15, and Dec. 26, 1791 (with official reports).—Among those assassinated on the 14th and 15th of November, we find a jeweller, an attorney, a carpenter, and a dyer. “This painful scene,” writes the syndic attorney, “has restored quiet to the town.”


Buchez et Roux, X. 223 (L’Ami du Peuple, June 17, 19, 21, 1791).


“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,204, letter by M. Melon Pradon, royal commissary at Tulle, Sept. 8, 1791.


“Correspondence (manuscript) of Baron de Staël,” with his court, Oct. 6, 1791.


“Souvenirs” (manuscript) of M. X——. Dumouriez, “Mémoires,” III. ch. v. “The Jacobin Club, everywhere extending its numerous ramifications, availed itself of the provincial clubs to obtain control of the elections. Every crackbrain, every seditious scribbler, all the agitators were elected.… Very few enlightened or prudent men, and still fewer of the nobles, were chosen.”—Moniteur, XII. 199 (meeting of April 23, 1792). Speech of M. Lecointe-Puyravaux. “We need not dissimulate; indeed, we are proud to say, that this legislature is composed of persons who are not rich.”


Mathieu Dumas, “Mémoires,” I. 521. “The excitement in the electoral assemblages was very great; the aristocrats and large land-owners abstained from coming there.”—“Correspondance de Mirabeau et du Comte de la Mark,” III. 246, Oct. 10, 1791. “Nineteen-twentieths of this legislature have no other turn-out than galoshes and umbrellas. It has been estimated, that all these deputies put together do not possess 300,000 livres solid income. The generality of those who compose this Assembly have received no education whatever.”


They rank as Maréchaux de camp, a grade corresponding to that of brigadier-general. They are Dupuy-Montbrun (deceased in March, 1792), Descrots-d’Estrée, a weak and worn old man whom his children forced into the Legislative Assembly, and, lastly, Mathieu Dumas, a conservative, and the only prominent one.


“Correspondance du Baron de Staël,” Jan. 19, 1792.—Gouverneur Morris (II. 162, Feb. 4, 1792) writes to Washington that M. de Warville, on the diplomatic committee, proposed to cede Dunkirk and Calais to England, as a pledge of fidelity by France, in any engagement which she might enter into. You can judge, by this, of the wisdom and virtue of the faction to which he belongs.—Buchez et Roux, XXX, 89 (defence of Brissot, Jan. 5, 1793). “Brissot, like all noisy, reckless, ambitious men, started in full blast with the strangest paradoxes. In 1780, in his ‘Recherches philosophiques sur le droit de propriété,’ he wrote as follows: ‘If 40 crowns suffice to maintain existence, the possession of 200,000 crowns is plainly unjust and a robbery.… Exclusive ownership is a veritable crime against nature.… The punishment of robbery in our institutions is an act of virtue which nature herself commands.’ ”


Moniteur, speech by Cambon, sittings of Feb. 2 and April 20, 1792.


Ibid., (sitting of April 3). Speech by M. Cailhasson. The property belonging to the nation, sold and to be sold, is valued at 2,195 millions, while the assignats already issued amount to 2,100 millions. Cf. Mercure de France, Dec. 17, 1791, p. 201; Jan. 28, 1792, p. 215; May 19, 1792, p. 205.—Dumouriez, “Mémoires,” III. 296, and 339, 340, 344, 346.—“Cambon, a raving lunatic, without education, humane principle, or integrity (public) a meddler, an ignoramus, and very giddy. He tells me that one resource remained to him, which is, to seize all the coin in Belgium, all the plate belonging to the churches, and all the cash deposits … that, on ruining the Belgians, on reducing them to the same state of suffering as the French, they would necessarily share their fate with them; that they would then be admitted members of the Republic, with the prospect of always making headway, through the same line of policy; that the decree of Dec. 15, 1792, admirably favored this and, because it tended to a complete disorganisation, and that the luckiest thing that could happen to France was to disorganise all its neighbors and reduce them to the same state of anarchy.” (This conversation between Cambon and Dumouriez occurs in the middle of January, 1793.)—Moniteur, XIV. 758 (sitting of Dec. 15, 1792). Report by Cambon.


Chronique de Paris, Sept. 4, 1792. “What a sad and terrible situation! that in which the character of a people, naturally amiable and generous, is constrained to take such vengeance!”—Cf. the very acute article, by St. Beuve, on Condorcet, in “Causeries du Lundi,” III. 245.—Hua (a colleague of Condorcet, in the Legislative Assembly), “Mémoires,” 89. “Condorcet, in his journal, regularly falsified things, with an audacity which is unparalleled. The opinions of the ‘Right’ were so mutilated and travestied the next day in his journal, that we, who had uttered them, could scarcely recognise them. On complaining of this to him and on charging him with perfidy, the philosopher only smiled.”


Malouet, II. 115.—Dumouriez, III. ch. v. “They were elected to represent the nation, to defend, they say, its interests against a perfidious court.


Moniteur, X. 223 (session of Oct. 26, 1791). Speech by M. François Duval. Grandiloquence is the order of the day at the very first meeting. On the 1st of October, 1791, twelve old men, marching in procession, go out to fetch the constitutional act. “M. Camus, keeper of the records, with a composed air and downcast eyes, enters with measured steps,” bearing in both hands the sacred document which he holds against his breast, while the deputies stand up and bare their heads. “People of France,” says an orator, “citizens of Paris, all generous Frenchmen, and you, our fellow-citizens—virtuous, intelligent women, bringing your gentle influence into the sanctuary of the law—behold the guarantee of peace which the legislature presents to you!” We seem to be witnessing the last act of an opera.


Ibid., XII. 230 (sessions of April 26 and May 5). Report and speech by François de Nantes. The whole speech, a comic budget throughout, should be read: “Tell me, pontiff of Rome, what your sentiments will be when you welcome your worthy and faithful co-operators?… I behold your sacred hands, ready to launch those pontifical thunderbolts, which, etc.… Let the brasier of Scaevola be brought in, and, with our outstretched palms above the burning coals, we will show that there is no species of torture, no torment which can excite a frown on the brow of him whom the love of country exalts above humanity!” Suppose that, just at this moment, a lighted candle had been placed under his hand!


Moniteur, XI. 179 (session of Jan. 20, 1792).—Ibid. 216 (session of Jan. 24).—XII. 426 (May 9).


Ibid., XII. 479 (session of May 24).—XIII. 71 (session of July 7, speech by Lasource).—Cf. XIV. 301 (session of July 31) a quotation from Voltaire brought in for the suppression of the convents.


Moniteur. Speech by Aubert Dubayer, session of Aug. 30.


Speech by Chaumette, procureur of the Commune, to the newly married (Mortimer-Ternaux, IV. 408).


The class to which they belonged has been portrayed, to the life, by M.Royer-Collard (Ste. Beuve, “Nouveaux Lundis,” IV. 263). “A young lawyer at Paris, at first received in a few houses on the Ile St. Louis, he soon withdrew from this inferior world of attorneys and limbs of the law, whose tone oppressed him. The very thought of the impression this gallant and intensely vulgar mediocrity made upon him, still inspired disgust. He much preferred to talk with longshoremen, if need be, than with these scented limbs of the law.”


Etienne Dumont, “Mémoires,” 40.—Mercure de France, Nov. 19, 1791; Feb. 11 and March 3, 1792 (articles by Mallet-Dupan).


Moniteur, Dec. 17 (examination at the bar of the house of Rauch, a pretended kidnapper, whom they are obliged to send off acquitted). Rauch tells them: “I have no money, and cannot find a bed at less than 6 sous, because I defile it.”—Moniteur, XII. 574 (session of June 4), report by Chabot. “A peddler, belonging to Mortagne, says that a domestic coming from Coblentz told him that there was a troop about to carry off the king and poison him, so as to throw the odium of it on the National Assembly.” Bernassais de Poitiers writes: “A brave citizen told me last evening: ‘I have been to see a servant-girl, living with a noble. She assured me that her master was going to-night to Paris, to join the 30,000, who, in about a month, meant to cut the throats of the National Assembly and set fire to every corner of Paris!’ ”—M. Gérard, a saddler at Amiens, writes to us that “Louis XVI. is to be aided in his flight by 5,000 relays, and that afterwards they are going to fire red-hot bullets on the National Assembly.”


Mercure de France, Nov. 5, 1791 (session of Oct. 25).—Ibid., Dec. 23.—Moniteur, XII. 192 (session of April 21, 1792).—XII. 447 (address to the French, by Clootz): “God brought order out of primitive chaos; the French will bring order out of feudal chaos. God is mighty, and manifested his will; we are mighty, and we will manifest our will.… The more extensive the seat of war the sooner, and more fortunately, will the suit of plebeians against the nobles be decided.… We require enemies… Savoy, Tuscany, and quickly, quickly!”


Cf. Moniteur, XI. 192 (sitting of Jan. 22, 1792). “M. Burnet, chaplain of the national guard, presents himself at the bar of the house with an English woman, named Lydia Kirkham, and three small children, one of which is in her arms. M. Burnet announces that she is his wife and that the child in her arms is the fruit of their affection. After referring to the force of natural sentiments which he could not resist, the petitioner thus continues: ‘One day, I met one of those sacred questioners. Unfortunate man, said he, of what are you guilty? Of this child, sir; and I have married this woman, who is a Protestant, and her religion has nothing to do with mine. … Death or my wife! Such is the cry that nature now, and always will, inspire me with.’”—Ibid., XII. 369.


The grotesque is often that of a farce. “M. Piorry, in the name of poor, but virtuous citizens, tenders two pairs of buckles, with this motto: ‘They have served to hold my tirants (shoe-straps) on my feet; they will serve to reduce under them, with the imprint and character of truth, all tyrants leagued against the constitution’ (Moniteur, XII. 457, session of May 21).”—Ibid., XIII. 249 (session of July 25). “A young citoyenne offers to combat, in person, against the enemies of her country”; and the president, with a gallant air, replies: “Made rather to soothe, than to combat tyrants, you offer, etc.”


Moniteur, XI. 576 (session of March 6); XII. 237, 314, 368 (sessions of April 27, May 5, and May 14).


Mercure de France. Sept. 19, 1791, Feb. 11, and March 3, 1792.—Buchez et Roux, XVI. 185 (session of July 26, 1792).


“Mémoires de Mallet-Dupan,” 1433 (tableau of the three parties, with special information).


Buchez et Roux, XII. 348 (letter by the deputy Chéron, president of the Feuillants Club). The deputies of the Legislative Assembly, registered at the Feuillants Club, number 264, besides a large number of deputies in the Constituent Assembly.—According to Mallet-Dupan the so-called Independents number 250.


These figures are verified by decisive ballottings (Mortimer-Ternaux, II. 205, 248).


Moniteur, XII. 393 (session of May 15, speech by Isnard): “The Constituent Assembly only half dared do what it had the power to do. It has left in the field of liberty, even around the very roots of the young constitutional tree, the old roots of despotism and of the aristocracy.… It has bound us to the trunk of the constitutional tree, like powerless victims given up to the rage of their enemies.”—Etienne Dumont saw truly the educational defects peculiar to the party. He says, apropos of Madame Roland: “I found in her too much of that distrustful despotism which belongs to ignorance of the world.… What her intellectual development lacked was a greater knowledge of the world and intercourse with men of superior judgment to her own. Roland himself had little intellectual breadth, while all those who frequented her house never rose above the prejudices of the vulgar.”


“Souvenirs” (manuscript) of M. X——.


Madame de Staël, “Considérations sur la Révolution Française.” 3d part, ch. iii. Madame de Staël conversed with them and judges them according to the shrewd perceptions of a woman of the world.


Louvet, “Mémoires,” 32. “I belonged to the bold philosophers who, before the end of 1791, lamented the fate of a great nation, compelled to stop half-way in the career of freedom,” and, on page 38—“A minister of justice was needed. The four ministers (Roland, Servane, etc.) “cast their eyes on me.… Duranthon was preferred to me. This was the first mistake of the republican party. It paid dear for it. That mistake cost my country a good deal of blood and many tears.” Later on, he thinks that he has the qualifications for ambassador to Constantinople.


Buzot, “Mémoires” (Ed. Dauban), pp. 31, 39. “Born with a proud and independent spirit which never bowed at any one’s command, how could I accept the idea of a man being held sacred? With my heart and head possessed by the great beings of the ancient republics, who are the greatest honor to the human species, I practiced their maxims from my earliest years, and nourished myself on a study of their virtues.… The pretended necessity of a monarchy … could not amalgamate, in my mind, with the grand and noble conceptions formed by me, of the dignity of the human species. Hope deceived me, it is true, but my error was too glorious to allow me to repent of it.”—Self-admiration is likewise the mental substratum of Madame Roland, Roland, Pétion, Barbaroux, Louvet, etc., (see their writings). Mallet-Dupan well says: “On reading the memoirs of Madame Roland, one detects the actress, rehearsing for the stage.”—Roland is an administrative puppet and would-be orator, whose wife pulls the strings. There is an odd, dull streak in him, peculiarly his own. For example, in 1787 (Guillon de Montléon, “Histoire de la Ville de Lyon, pendant la Révolution,” I. 58), he proposes to utilise the dead, by converting them into oil and phosphoric acid. In 1788, he proposes to the Villefranche Academy to inquire “whether it would not be to the public advantage to institute tribunals for trying the dead?” in imitation of the Egyptians. In his report of Jan. 5, 1792, he gives a plan for establishing public festivals, “in imitation of the Spartans,” and takes for a motto, Non omnis moriar. (Baron de Girardot, “Roland et Madame Roland,” 183, 185.)


Moniteur, XI. 61 (session of Jan. 7, 1792).—Ibid., 204 (Jan. 25); 281 (Feb. 1); 310 (Feb. 4); 318 (Feb. 6); 343 (Feb. 9); 487 (Feb. 26).—XII. 22 (April 2). Reports of all the sessions must be read to appreciate the force of the pressure. See, especially, the sessions of April 9 and 16, May 15 and 29, June 8, 9, 15, 24, and 25, July 1, 2, 5, 9, 11, 17, 18, and 21, and, after this date, all the sessions.—Lacretelle, “Dix Ans d’Epreuves,” p. 78–81. “The Legislative Assembly served under the Jacobin Club while keeping up a counterfeit air of independence. The progress which fear had made in the French character was very great, at a time when everything was pitched in the haughtiest key.… The majority, as far as intentions go, was for the conservatives; the actual majority was for the republicans.”


Moniteur, XIII. 212, session of July 22.


Moniteur, XII. 22, session of April 2.—Mortimer-Ternaux, II. 95.—Moniteur, XIII. 222, session of July 22.


Lacretelle, “Dix Ans d’Epreuves,” 80.


Mathieu Dumas, “Mémoires,” II. 88 (Feb. 23).—Hua, “Mémoires d’un Avocat au Parliament de Paris,” 106, 121, 134, 154. Moniteur, XIII. 212 (session of July 21), speech by M. ——. “The avenues to this building are daily beset with a horde of people who insult the representatives of the nation.”


De Vaublanc, “Mémoires,” 344.—Moniteur, XIII. 368 (letters and speeches of deputies, session of Aug. 9).


Hua, 115.—Ibid., 90. 3 out of 4 deputies of Seine-et-Oise were Jacobins. “We met once a week to talk over the affairs of the department. We were obliged to drive out the vagabonds who, even at the table, talked of nothing but killing.”


Moniteur, XII. 702. For example, on the 19th of June, 1792, on a motion unexpectedly proposed by Condorcet, that the departments be authorised to burn all titles (to nobility) found in the various depots.—Adopted at once, and unanimously.


Hua, 114.


Moniteur, XII. 664.—Mercure de France, June 23, 1792.


Hua, 141.—Mathieu Dumas, II. 399. “It is remarkable that Lafond-Ladébat, one of our trustiest friends, was elected president on the 23d of July, 1792. This shows that the majority of the Assembly was still sound; but it was only brought about by a secret vote in the choice of candidates. The same men who obeyed their consciences, through a sentiment of justice and of propriety, could not face the danger which surrounded them in the threats of the factions when they were called upon to vote by rising or sitting.”


Mercure de France, Sept. 24, 1791.—Cf. Report of M. Alquier (session of Sept. 23).


Mercure de France, Oct. 15, 1792 (the treaty with England was dated Sept. 26, 1786).—Ibid., Letter of M. Walsh, superior of the Irish college, to the municipality of Paris. Those who use the whips, come out of a neighboring grog-shop. The commissary of police, who arrives with the National Guard, “addresses the people, and promises them satisfaction,” requiring M. Walsh to dismiss all who are in the chapel, without waiting for the end of the mass. M. Walsh refers to the law and to treaties. The commissary replies that he knows nothing about treaties, while the commandant of the national guard says to those who are leaving the chapel, “In the name of Justice, I order you to follow me to the church of Saint Etienne, where I give you up to the people.”


“The French Revolution,” Vol. I. pp. 261, 263.—“Archives Nationales,” F7, 3,185 and 3,186 (numerous documents on the rural disturbances in Aisne).—Mercure de France, Nov. 5 and 26, Dec. 10, 1791.—Moniteur, X. 426 (Nov. 22, 1791).


Moniteur, X. 449, Nov. 23, 1791. (Official report of the crew of the Embuscade, dated Sept. 30). The captain, M. d’Orléans, stationed at the Windward Islands, is obliged to return to Rochefort and is detained there on board his ship: “Considering the uncertainty of his mission, and the fear of being ordered to use the same hostilities against brethren for which he is already denounced in every club in the kingdom, the crew has forced the captain to return to France.”


Mercure de France, Dec. 17, address of the colonists to the king.


Moniteur, XIII. 200. Report of Sautereau, July 20, on the affair of Corporal Lebreton (Nov. 11, 1791).


Saint Huruge is first tenor. Justine makes her appearance in the Palais-Royal about the middle of 1791. They exhibit two pretended savages there, who, before a paying audience, revive the customs of Otaheite. (“Souvenirs” of M. X——.)


Mercure de France, Nov. 5, 1791.—Buchez et Roux, XII. 338. Report by Pétion, mayor, Dec. 9, 1791. “Every branch of the police is in a state of complete neglect. The streets are dirty, and full of rubbish; robbery, and crimes of every kind, are increasing in a frightful degree.” “Correspondence de M. de Staël” (manuscript), Jan. 22, 1792. “As the police is almost worthless, freedom from punishment, added to poverty, brings on disorder.”


Moniteur, XI. 517 (session of Feb. 29, 1792). Speeches by Lacépede and Mulot.


Lacretelle, “Dix ans d’Epreuves.” “I know no more dismal and discouraging aspect than the interval between the departure of the National Assembly, on the 10th of August consummated by that of September 2.”