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Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, vol. 3 [1878]

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

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About this Title:

The 3rd 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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Table of Contents:

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 III
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 xv
  • Book Fifth Establishment of the Revolutionary Government
    • Chapter I 841
      • I. Weakness of Former Governments—Energy of the new government—The despotic creed and instincts of the Jacobin—
      • II. Contrast between his words and his acts—How he dissimulates his change of front—The Constitution of June, 1793—Its promises of freedom—
      • III. Primary Assemblies—Proportion of Absentees—Number of Primary Assemblies—Unanimity of the voters—Their motives for accepting the Constitution—Pressure brought to bear on voters—Choice of Delegates—
      • IV. They reach Paris—Precautions taken against them—Constraints and Seductions—
      • V. They make their profession of Jacobin faith—Their part in the Fête of August 10th—Their enthusiasm—
      • VI. Manoeuvres of the “Mountain”—The Jacobin Club on the eve of August 11th—Session of the Convention on the 11th of August—The Delegates initiate Terror—Popular consecration of the Jacobin dictatorship—
      • VII. Effect of this manoeuvre—Extent and Manifesto of the departmental insurrection—Its fundamental weakness—The mass of the population inert and distrustful—The small number of Girondists—Their lukewarm adherents—Scruples of fugitive deputies and insurgent administrators—They form no central government—They leave military authority in the hands of the Convention—Fatal progress of their concessions —Withdrawal of the departments one by one—Palinode of the compromised authorities—Effect of administrative habits—Failings and illusions of the Moderates—Opposite character of the Jacobins—
      • VIII. The last local resistances—Political orthodoxy of the insurgent towns—They stipulate but one condition—Reasons of State for granting this—Party arguments against it—
      • IX. The rebel cities Edition: current; Page: [vi]crushed—Bordeaux—Marseilles—Lyons—Toulon—
      • X. Destruction of the Girondist party—Proscription of the Deputies of the “Right”—Imprisonment of the 73—Execution of the 21—Execution, suicide, or flight of the rest—
      • XI. Institutions of the Revolutionary Government—Its principle, object, proceedings, tools, and structure—The Committee of Public Safety—Subordination of the Convention and ministry—The use of the Committee of General Security and the Revolutionary Tribunal—Administrative centralization—Representatives on Mission, National Agents and Revolutionary Committees—Law of Lèse-majesty—Restoration and Aggravation of the institutions of the old monarchy.
  • Book Sixth. The Jacobin Programme
    • Chapter I 901
      • I. Programme of the Jacobin Party—Abstract principle and spontaneous development of the theory—
      • II. The Jacobin conception of Society—The Contrat-Social.—Total surrender of the Individual to the Community—Everything belongs to the State—Confiscations and Sequestrations—Preemption and requisitions of produce and merchandise—Individuals belong to the State—Drafts of persons for Military service—Drafts of persons for the Civil service—Personal sentiments and ideas subject to the State, at once philanthropist, pedagogue, theologian, censor, moralist, and director—
      • III. The object of the State is the regeneration of man—Two branches of this work—Restoration of the Natural man—Formation of the Social man—Grandeur of the undertaking—Force a right and duty in carrying it out—
      • IV. The two distortions of the natural man—Positive religion—Proscription of the orthodox cult—Measures against unsworn priests—Measures against the loyal orthodox—Destruction of the constitutional cult—Pressure on the sworn priests—Churches closed and ceremonies suppressed—Prolongation of these persecutions until the Consulate—
      • V. Social inequality—Evil doings of the upper aristocracy—Measures against the King and Nobles—Evil doings of the aristocracy of wealth—Measures against landowners, capitalists and people with incomes—Destruction of large fortunes—Measures taken to prevent large fortunes—
      • VI. Conditions requisite for making a citizen—Plans for suppressing poverty—Measures in favor of the poor—
      • VII. Repression of Egoism—Measures against agriculturists, manufacturers and merchants—Socialistic projects—Repression of Federalism—Measures against the local, Edition: current; Page: [vii]professional and family spirit—
      • VIII. Formation of soul and intellect—Civil religion—National education—Measures for equality—Obligatory civism—The recasting and reduction of human nature to the Jacobin type.
    • Chapter II 946
      • I. Retrograde conception of the State—Analogy between this idea of the State and that of antiquity—Difference between antique and modern society—Difference in circumstances—
      • II. Difference between men’s souls—Conscience and its Christian origin—Honor and its feudal origin—The individual of today refuses to surrender himself entirely—His motives—Additional motives in modern democracy—Character of the elective process and nature of the mandatory—
      • III. Origin and nature of the modern State—Its functions, rights and limits—
      • IV. Temptation to encroachments—Precedents and reasons for its pretensions—
      • V. Direct common interest—This consists in the absence of constraint—Two reasons in favor of freedom of action—Character, in general, of the individual man—Modern complications—
      • VI. Indirect common interest—This consists in the most economical and most productive employment of spontaneous forces—Difference between voluntary labor and forced labor—Sources of man’s spontaneous action—Conditions of their energy, work and products—Motives for leaving them under personal control—Extent of the private domain—Individuals voluntarily extend it—What they leave to the State—Obligatory functions of the State—Optional functions of the State—
      • VII. Fabrication of social instrumentalities—Application of this principle—How all kinds of useful laborers are formed—Respect for spontaneous sources, the essential and adequate condition—Obligation of the State to respect these—They dry up when it monopolises them—The aim of Patriotism—The aim of other liberal dispositions—Impoverishment of all the productive faculties—Destructive effect of the Jacobin system—
      • VIII. Comparison between despotisms—Philip II. and Louis XIV.—Cromwell and Frederic the Great—Peter the Great and the Sultans—Proportions of the weight they sustain and the forces they control—Disproportion between the Jacobins’ attempt to raise this weight and their forces—Folly of their undertaking—Physical force the only governmental force they possess—They are compelled to exercise it—They are compelled to abuse it—Character of their government—Character requisite in their leaders.
    Edition: current; Page: [viii]
  • Book Seventh. The Governors
    • Chapter I 981
      • I. Psychology of the Jacobin Leaders—
      • I. Marat—Disparity between his faculties and pretensions—The Maniac—The Ambitious delirium—Rage for persecution—A confirmed nightmare insanity—Homicidal frenzy—
      • II. Danton—Richness of his faculties—Disparity between his condition and instincts—The Barbarian—His Work—His Weakness—
      • III. Robespierre—Mediocrity of his faculties—The Cuistre—Absence of ideas—Study of phrases—Wounded self-esteem—Intensity of this trait—Satisfied self-esteem—His infatuation—He plays the victim—His gloomy fancies—His resemblance to Marat—Difference between him and Marat—The sincere hypocrite—The Festival in honor of the Supreme Being, and the law of Prairial 22—The external and internal characters of Robespierre and the Revolution.
    • Chapter II 1036
      • The Rulers of the Country—
      • I. The Convention—The “Plain”—The “Mountain”—Degradation of Souls—Parades which the Convention is obliged to make—
      • II. How these are carried out—Its slavery and servility—Its participation in crime—
      • III. The Committee of Public Safety—Men who do the work—Carnot, Prieur de la-Côte d’Or, Jean Bon Saint André, Robert Lindet—
      • IV. The Statesmen—Billaud-Varennes, Collot d’Herbois, Robespierre, Couthon, and Saint-Just—Conditions of this rule—Dangers to which they are subject—Their dissensions—Pressure of Fear and Theory—
      • V. Their official organs—Reports of Saint-Just and Barère—Quality of reports and reporters—
      • VI. Representatives on Mission—Their absolute power—Their perils and their fear—Fit for their work—Effect of this situation—
      • VII. Eruption of brutal instincts—Duquesnoy at Metz—Dumont at Amiens—Drunkards—Cusset, Bourbotte, Moustier, Bourdon de l’Oise, Dartigoyte—
      • VIII. Approach of madness—Loss of common-sense—Fabre, Gaston, Guiter, in the army of the Eastern Pyrenees—Baudot, Lebas, Saint-Just, and their predecessors and successors in the army of the Rhine—Furious excitement—Lebon at Arras, and Carrier at Nantes—
      • IX. The development of vice—Vanity and the need of gambling—Collot d’Herbois, Ysabeau, Tallien—The Robbers—Tallien, Javogues, Rovère, Fouché—Two sources of cruelty—Need of demonstrating one’s power—Saint-Just in the Pas-de-Calais department, and Edition: current; Page: [ix]in Alsace—Collot d’Herbois at Lyons—Pressure exercised by the Representatives on the tribunals—Pleasure caused by death and suffering—Monestier, Fouché, Collot d’Herbois, Lebon and Carrier.
    • Chapter III 1097
      • The Rulers (continued)— The administrative body at Paris—Composition of the group out of which it was recruited—Deterioration of this group—Weeding-out of the Section Assemblies—Weeding-out of the popular clubs—Pressure of the government—
      • II. Quality of the subaltern leaders—How they rule in the section assemblies—How they seize and hold office—
      • III. A Minister of Foreign Affairs—A General in command—The Paris Commune—A Revolutionary Committee—
      • IV. The administrative staff in the provinces—Jacobinism less in the departmental towns than in Paris—Less in the country than in the towns—The Revolutionary Committees in the small communes—Municipal bodies lukewarm in the villages—Jacobins too numerous in bourgs and small towns—Unreliable or hampered as agents when belonging to the administrative bodies of large or moderately-sized towns—Local rulers recruited on the spot inadequate—
      • V. Importation of a foreign staff—Paris Jacobins sent into the provinces—Jacobins of enthusiastic towns transported to moderate ones—The Jacobins of a chef-lieu spread through the district—Resistance of public opinion—Distribution and small number of really Jacobin agents—
      • VI. Quality of the staff thus formed—Social state of the agents—Their unfitness and bad conduct—The administrators in Seine-et-Marne—Drunkenness and feastings—Committees and Municipalities in the Côte d’Or—Waste and extortions—Traffickers in favors at Bordeaux—Seal-breakers at Lyons—Monopolisers of national possessions—Sales of personal property—Embezzlements and Frauds—A procès-verbal in the office of the mayor of Strasbourg—Sales of real estate—Commissioners on declarations at Toulouse—The administrative staff and clubs of buyers at Provence—The Revolutionary Committee of Nantes—
      • VII. The Armed Force—National Guard and Gendarmerie—Its composition and operations—The Revolutionary armies in Paris and in the departments—Quality of the recruits—Their employment—Their expeditions into the country towns—Their exploits in the vicinity of Paris and Lyons—The company of Maratists, the American Hussars and the German Legion at Nantes—General character of the revolutionary government and of the administrative staff of the Reign of Terror.
    Edition: current; Page: [x]
  • Book Eighth. The Governed
    • Chapter I 1181
      • The Oppressed—
      • I. Magnitude of revolutionary destructiveness—The four ways of effecting it—Expulsion from the country through forced emigration and legal banishment—Number of those expelled—Privation of liberty—Different sorts of imprisonment—Number and situation of those imprisoned—Murders after being tried, or without trial—Number of those guillotined or shot after trial—Indication of the number of other lives destroyed—Necessity of and plan for wider destruction—Spoliation—Its extent—Squandering—Utter losses—Ruin of individuals and the State—The Notables the most oppressed—
      • II. The value of Notables in society—Various kinds and degrees of Notables in 1789—The great social staff—Men of the world—Their breeding—Their intellectual culture—Their humanity and philanthropy—Their moral temper—Practical men—Where recruited—Their qualifications—Their active benevolence—Scarcity of them and their worth to a community—
      • III. The three classes of Notables—The Nobility—Its physical and moral preparation through feats of arms—The military spirit—High character—Conduct of officers in 1789–1792—Service for which nobles were adapted—
      • IV. The Clergy—Where recruited—Professional inducements—Independence of ecclesiastics—Their substantial merits—Their theoretical and practical information—Their distribution over the territory—Utility of their office—Their conduct in 1790–1800—Their courage, their capacity for self-sacrifice—
      • V. The Bourgeoisie—Where recruited—Difference between the functionary of the ancient régime and the modern functionary—Property in offices—Guilds—Independence and security of office-holders—Their limited ambition and contentedness—Fixed habits, seriousness, and integrity—Ambition to secure esteem—Intellectual culture—Liberal ideas—Respectability and public zeal—Conduct of the bourgeoisie in 1789–1791—
      • VI. The demi-notables—Where recruited—Village and trade syndics—Competency of their electors—Their interest in making good selections—Their capacity and integrity—The sorting of men under the ancient régime—Conditions of a family’s maintenance and advancement—Hereditary and individual right of the Notable to his property and rank—
      • VII. Principle of socialistic equality—All superiorities illegitimate—Bearing of this principle—Incivique benefits and enjoyments—How revolutionary laws reach the lower class—Whole populations affected in a mass—Proportion Edition: current; Page: [xi]of the lowly in the proscription lists—How the revolutionary laws specially affect those who are prominent among the people—
      • VIII. Their rigor increases according to the elevation of the class—The Notables properly so called attacked because of their being Notables—Orders of Taillefer, Milhaud, and Lefiot—The public atonement of Montargis—
      • IX. Two characteristics of the upper class, wealth and education—Each of these is criminal—Measures against rich and well-to-do people—Affected in a mass and by categories—Measures against cultivated and polite people—Danger of culture and distinction—Proscription of “honest folks”—
      • X. The Governors and the Governed—Prisoners in the rue de Sèvres and the “Croix-Rouge” revolutionary committee—The young Dauphin and Simon his preceptor—Judges, and those under their jurisdiction—Trinchard and Coffinhal, Lavoisier and André Chénier.
    • Chapter II 1253
      • Subsistences—
      • I. Complexity of the economical operation by which articles of prime necessity reach the consumer—Conditions of the operation—Available advances—Cases in which these are not available—Case of the holder of these being no longer disposed to make them—
      • II. Economical effect of the Jacobin policy from 1789 to 1793—Attacks on property—Direct attacks—Jacqueries, effective confiscations and proclamation of the socialistic creed—Indirect attacks—Bad administration of the public funds—Transformation of taxation and insignificance of the returns—Increased expenditures—The War budget and subsistences after 1793—Paper money—Enormous issues of it—Credit of the Assignats run down—Ruin of public creditors and of all private credit—Rate of interest during the Revolution—Stoppage of trade and industry—Bad management of the new land-owners—Decrease of productive labor—Only the small rural land-owner works advantageously—Why he refuses Assignats—He is no longer obliged to sell his produce at once—Dearness of food—It reaches a market with difficulty and in small quantities—The towns buy at a high price and sell at a low one—Food becomes dearer and famine begins—Prices during the first six months of 1793—
      • III. First and general cause of privations—The socialistic principle of the revolutionary government—Measures against large as well as small properties—Dispossession of all remaining corporations, enormous issues of paper money, forced rates of its circulation, forced loans, requisitions of coin and plate, revolutionary Edition: current; Page: [xii]taxes, suppression of special organs of labor on a large scale—Fresh measures against small proprietorship—The Maximum, requisitions for food and labor—Situation of the shopkeeper, cultivator and laborer—Effect of the measures on labor on a small scale—Stoppage of selling—
      • IV. Famine—In the provinces—At Paris—People standing in lines under the revolutionary government to obtain food—Its quality—Distress and chagrin—
      • V. Revolutionary remedies—Rigor against the refractory—Decrees and orders rendering the State the only depositary and distributor of food—Efforts made to establish a conscription of labor—Discouragement of the Peasant—He refuses to cultivate—Decrees and orders compelling him to harvest—His stubbornness—Cultivators imprisoned by thousands—The Convention is obliged to set them at liberty—Fortunate circumstances which save France from extreme famine—
      • VI. Relaxation of the revolutionary system after Thermidor—Repeal of the Maximum—New situation of the peasant—He begins cultivation again—Requisition of grain by the State—The cultivator indemnifies himself at the expense of private persons—Multiplication and increasing decline of Assignats—The classes who have to bear the burden—Famine and misery during year III. and the first half of year IV.—In the country—In the small towns—In large towns and cities—
      • VII. Famine and misery at Paris—Steps taken by the government to feed the capital—Monthly cost to the Treasury—Cold and hunger in the winter of 1794–1795—Quality of the bread—Daily rations diminished—Suffering, especially of the populace—Excessive physical suffering, despair, suicides and deaths from exhaustion in 1795—Government dinners and suppers—Number of lives lost through want and war—Socialism as applied, and its effects on comforts, well-being and mortality.
  • Book IX. The End of the Revolutionary Government
    • Chapter I 1335
      • I. The Convention after Thermidor 9—Reaction against the Terrorists—Aversion to the Constitutionalists—The danger they run if they lose power—
      • II. Decrees for the reelection of the Two-thirds—Small number of Voters—Manoeuvres for preventing electors from voting on the decrees—Frauds in the returns of votes—Maintenance of the decrees by force—Recruiting of Roughs—The military employed—The 13th of Vendémiaire—Edition: current; Page: [xiii]
      • III. The Directory chosen among the regicides—It selects agents of its own species—Leading Jacobins are deprived of their civic rights—The Terrorists are set free and restored to their civic rights—Example at Blois of these releases and of the new administrative staff—
      • IV. Resistance of public opinion—Elections, year IV., at Paris and in the provinces—The Directory threatened by ultra Jacobins—Forced amelioration of the Jacobin administration—
      • V. Elections of year V.—Character and sentiments of the elected—The new majority in the Corps Législatif—Its principles and programme—Danger and anxiety of the Jacobin minority—Indecision, division, scruples and weakness of the moderate party—Decision, want of scruples, force and mode of procedure of the Jacobin faction—The 18th of Fructidor—
      • VI. Dictatorship of the Directory—Its new prerogatives—Purgation of the Corps Législatif—Purification of the administrative and judicial authorities—Military commissions in the provinces—Suppression of newspapers—The right of voting reserved to Jacobins alone—Despotism of the Directory—Revival of Terror—Transportation substituted for the guillotine—Treatment of the transported—Restoration of Jacobin feudalism—
      • VII. Application and aggravation of the laws of the reign of Terror—Measures taken to impose civic religion—Arrest, transportation and execution of Priests—Ostracism proposed against the entire anti-Jacobin class—The nobles, or the ennobled, not émigrés, are declared foreigners—Decrees against émigrés of every class—Other steps taken against remaining proprietors—Bankruptcy, forced loan, hostages—
      • VIII. Propagandism and foreign conquests—Proximity and advantages of peace—Fructidoreans’ motives for breaking off peace negotiations and abandoning foreign invasions—How they found new republics—How governed—Estimate of foreign rapine—Number of French lives sacrificed—
      • IX. National antipathy to the established order of things—Paralysis of the State—Intestinal discords of the Jacobin—Coup de état of Floréal 22, year VI.—Coup de état of Prairial 30, year VII.—Impossibility of establishing a practicable government—Plans of Barras and Sièyes—
      • X. Antisocial character of the sect and the faction—Contrast between civil and military France—Elements of reorganisation—Character of the régime instituted on the 18th of Brumaire, year VIII.
  • Index 1411
Edition: current; Page: [xiv] Edition: current; Page: [xv]


In Egypt,” says Clement of Alexandria, “the sanctuaries of the temples are shaded by curtains of golden tissue. But on going further into the interior in quest of the statue, a priest of grave aspect, advancing to meet you and chanting a hymn in the Egyptian tongue, slightly raises a veil to show you the god. And what do you behold? A crocodile, or some indigenous serpent, or other dangerous animal, the Egyptian god being a brute rolling about on a purple carpet.”

We need not visit Egypt or go so far back in history to encounter crocodile worship, as this can be readily found in France at the end of the last century. Unfortunately, a hundred years is too long an interval, too far away, for an imaginative retrospect of the past. At the present time, standing where we do and regarding the horizon behind us, we see only forms which the intervening atmosphere embellishes, shimmering contours which each spectator may interpret in his own fashion; no distinct, animated figure, but merely a mass of moving points, forming and dissolving in the midst of picturesque architecture. I was anxious to have a nearer view of these vague points, and, accordingly, transported myself back to the last half of the eighteenth century, where I have been living with them for twelve years, and, like Clement of Alexandria, examining, first, the temple, and next the god. A passing glance at these is not sufficient; a step further must be taken to comprehend the theology on which this cult is founded. This one, explained by a very specious theology, like most others, is composed of dogmas called the principles of 1789; they were proclaimed, indeed, at that date, having Edition: current; Page: [xvi]been previously formulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the well-known sovereignty of the people, the rights of man, and the social contract. Once adopted, their practical results unfolded themselves naturally; in three years, the crocodile brought by these dogmas into the sanctuary installed himself there on the purple carpet behind the golden veil; in effect, he was intended for the place on account of the energy of his jaws and the capacity of his stomach; he became a god through his qualities as a destructive brute and man-eater. Comprehending this, the rites which consecrate him and the pomp which surrounds him need not give us any further concern. We can observe him, like any ordinary animal, and study his various attitudes, as he lies in wait for his prey, springs upon it, tears it to pieces, swallows it, and digests it. I have studied the details of his structure, the play of his organs, his habits, his mode of living, his instincts, his faculties, and his appetites. Specimens abounded. I have handled thousands of them, and have dissected hundreds of every species and variety, always preserving the most valuable and characteristic examples, but for lack of room I have been compelled to let many of them go because my collection was too large. Those that I was able to bring back with me will be found here, and, among others, about twenty individuals of different dimensions, which—a difficult undertaking—I have kept alive with great pains. At all events, they are intact and perfect, and particularly the three largest. These seem to me, of their kind, truly remarkable, and those in which the divinity of the day might well incarnate himself. The bills of butchers, as well as housekeeping accounts, authentic and regularly kept, throw sufficient light on the cost of this cult. We can estimate about how much the sacred crocodiles consumed in ten years; we know their bills of fare daily, their favorite morsels. Naturally, the god selected the fattest victims, but his voracity was so great that he likewise bolted down, and blindly, the lean ones, and in much greater number than the fattest. Moreover, by virtue of his instincts, and an unfailing effect of the situation, he ate his equals once or twice a year, except when they succeeded in eating him. This cult certainly is instructive, at least to historians and men of Edition: current; Page: [xvii]pure science. If any believers in it still remain I do not aim to convert them; one cannot argue with a devotee on matters of faith. This volume, accordingly, like the others that have gone before it, is written solely for amateurs of moral zoology, for naturalists of the understanding, for seekers of truth, of texts, and of proofs—for these alone and not for the public, whose mind is made up and which has its own opinion on the Revolution. This opinion began to be formed between 1825 and 1830, after the retirement or withdrawal of eye witnesses. When they disappeared it was easy to convince a credulous public that crocodiles were philanthropists; that many possessed genius; that they scarcely ate others than the guilty, and that if they sometimes ate too many it was unconsciously and in spite of themselves, or through devotion and self-sacrifice for the common good.

Edition: current; Page: [xviii] Edition: current; Page: [839]

BOOK FIFTH: Establishment of the Revolutionary Government

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I. Weakness of former governments—Energy of the new government—The despotic creed and instincts of the Jacobin— II. Contrast between his words and his acts—How he dissimulates his change of front—The Constitution of June, 1793—Its promises of Freedom— III. Primary Assemblies—Proportion of Absentees—Number of Primary Assemblies—Unanimity of the voters—Their motives for accepting the Constitution—Pressure brought to bear on voters—Choice of Delegates— IV. They reach Paris—Precautions taken against them—Constraints and Seductions— V. They make their profession of Jacobin faith—Their part in the Fête of August 10th—Their enthusiasm— VI. Manoeuvres of the “Mountain”—The Jacobin Club on the eve of August 11th—Session of the Convention on the 11th of August—The Delegates initiate Terror—Popular consecration of the Jacobin dictatorship— VII. Effect of this manoeuvre—Extent and Manifesto of the departmental insurrection—Its fundamental weakness—The mass of the population inert and distrustful—The small number of Girondists—Their lukewarm adherents—Scruples of fugitive deputies and insurgent administrators—They form no central government—They leave military authority in the hands of the Convention—Fatal progress of their concessions—Withdrawal of the departments one by one—Palinode of the compromised authorities—Effect of administrative habits—Failings and illusions of the Moderates—Opposite character of the Jacobins— VIII. The last local resistances—Political orthodoxy of the insurgent towns—They stipulate but one condition—Reasons of State for granting this—Party arguments against it— IX. The rebel cities crushed—Bordeaux—Marseilles—Lyons—Toulon— X. Destruction of the Girondist party—Proscription of the Deputies of the “Right”—Imprisonment of the 73—Execution of the 21—Execution, suicide, or flight of the rest— XI. Institutions of the Revolutionary Government—Its principle, object, proceedings, tools, and structure—The Committee of Public Safety—Subordination of the Convention Edition: current; Page: [842]and ministry—The use of the Committee of General Security and the Revolutionary Tribunal—Administrative centralization—Representatives on Mission, National Agents and Revolutionary Committees.—Law of Lèse-majesty—Restoration and Aggravation of the institutions of the old monarchy.


So far, the weakness of the legal government is extreme. For four years, whatever its kind, everywhere and constantly, it has been disobeyed; for four years, whatever its kind, it has never dared enforce obedience. Recruited among the cultivated and refined class, the rulers of the country have brought with them into power the prejudices and sensibilities of the epoch; under the empire of the prevailing dogma they have deferred to the will of the multitude and, with too much faith in the rights of man, they have had too little in the rights of the magistrate; moreover, through humanity, they have abhorred bloodshed and, unwilling to repress, they have allowed themselves to be repressed. Thus, from the 1st of May, 1789, to June 2, 1793, they have carried on the administration, or legislated, athwart innumerable insurrections, almost all of them going unpunished; while their constitutions, so many unhealthy products of theory and fear, have done no more than transform spontaneous anarchy into legal anarchy. Wilfully and through distrust of authority they have undermined the principle of command, reduced the King to the post of a decorative puppet, and almost annihilated the central power: from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy the superior has lost his hold on the inferior, the minister on the departments, the departments on the districts, and the districts on the communes; throughout all branches of the service, the chief, elected on the spot and by his subordinates, has come to depend on them. Thenceforth, each post in which authority is vested is found isolated, dismantled and preyed upon, while, to crown all, the Declaration of Rights, proclaiming “the jurisdiction of constituents over their clerks,”1 has invited the assailants to make the assault. On the Edition: current; Page: [843]strength of this a faction arises which ends in becoming an organized band: under its clamorings, its menaces and its pikes, at Paris and in the provinces, at the polls and in the parliament, the majorities are all silenced, while the minorities vote, decree and govern; the Legislative Assembly is purged, the King is dethroned, and the Convention is mutilated. Of all the garrisons of the central citadel, whether royalists, constitutionalists, or Girondists, not one has been able to defend itself, to refashion the executive instrument, to draw the sword and use it in the streets: on the first attack, often at the first summons, all have surrendered, and now the citadel, with every other public fortress, is in the hands of the Jacobins.

This time, its occupants are of a different stamp. Aside from the great mass of well-disposed people fond of a quiet life, the Revolution has sifted out and separated from the rest all who are fanatical, brutal or perverse enough to have lost respect for others; these form the new garrison—sectarians blinded by their creed, the roughs (assommeurs) who are hardened by their calling, and those who make all they can out of their offices. None of this class are scrupulous concerning human life or property; for, as we have seen, they have shaped the theory to suit themselves, and reduced popular sovereignty to their sovereignty. The commonwealth, according to the Jacobin, is his; with him, the commonwealth comprises all private possessions, bodies, estates, souls and consciences; everything belongs to him; the fact of being a Jacobin makes him legitimately czar and pope. Little does he care about the wills of actually living Frenchmen; his mandate does not emanate from a vote; it descends to him from aloft, conferred on him by Truth, by Reason, by Virtue. As he alone is enlightened, and the only patriot, he alone is worthy to take command, while resistance, according to his imperious pride, is criminal. If the majority protests it is because the majority is imbecile or corrupt; in either case, it merits a check, and a check it shall have. Accordingly, the Jacobin does nothing else from the outset; insurrections, usurpations, pillagings, murders, assaults on individuals, on magistrates, on assemblies, violations of law, attacks on the State, on communities—there is no outrage not committed by him. He has always acted as sovereign instinctively; he was so Edition: current; Page: [844]as a private individual and clubbist; he is not to cease being so, now that he possesses legal authority, and all the more because if he hesitates he knows he is lost; to save himself from the scaffold he has no refuge but in a dictatorship. Such a man, unlike his predecessors, will not allow himself to be turned out; on the contrary, he will exact obedience at any cost. He will not hesitate to restore the central power; he will put back the local wheels that have been detached; he will repair the old forcing-gear; he will set it agoing so as to work more rudely and arbitrarily than ever, with greater contempt for private rights and public liberties than either a Louis XIV. or a Napoleon.


In the mean time, he has to harmonize his coming acts with his recent declarations, which, at the first glance, seems a difficult operation: for, in the speeches he has made he has already condemned the actions he meditates. Yesterday he exaggerated the rights of the governed, even to a suppression of those of the governors; tomorrow he is to exaggerate the rights of governors, even to suppressing those of the governed. The people, as he puts it, is the sole sovereign, and he is going to treat the people as slaves; the government, as he puts it, is a valet, and he is going to endow the government with the prerogatives of a sultan. He has just denounced the slightest exercise of public authority as a crime; he is now going to punish as a crime the slightest resistance to public authority. What will justify such a summerset, and with what face can he repudiate the principles on which he has founded his own usurpation? He takes good care not to repudiate them; it would drive the already rebellious provinces to extremities; on the contrary, he proclaims them with renewed vigor, through which manoeuvre, the ignorant crowd, seeing the same flask always presented to it, imagines that it is always served with the same liquor, and is thus forced to drink tyranny under the label of freedom. Whatever the charlatan can do with his labels, signboards, shoutings and lies for the next six months, will be done Edition: current; Page: [845]to disguise the new nostrum; so much the worse for the public if, later on, it discovers that the draught is bitter; sooner or later it must swallow it, willingly or by compulsion: for, in the interval, the instruments are being got ready to force it down the public throat.2

As a beginning, the Constitution, so long anticipated and so often promised, is hastily fabricated:3 declarations of rights in thirty-five articles, the Constitutional bill in one hundred and twenty-four articles, political principles and institutions of every sort, electoral, legislative, executive, administrative, judicial, financial and military;4 in three weeks, all is drawn up and passed with race-horse speed. Of course, the new constitutionalists do not propose to produce an effective and serviceable instrument; that is the least of their anxieties. Hérault Séchelles, the reporter of the bill, writes on the 7th of June, “to have procured for him at once the laws of Minos, of which he has urgent need”; very urgent need, as he must hand in the Constitution that week.5 Such a circumstance is sufficiently characteristic Edition: current; Page: [846]of both the workmen and the work. All is mere show and pretence. Some of the workmen are shrewd politicians whose sole object is to furnish the public with words instead of things; others, ordinary scribblers of abstractions, or even ignoramuses, and unable to distinguish words from things, imagine that they are framing laws by stringing together a lot of phrases. It is not a difficult job; the phrases are ready-made to hand. “Let the plotters of antipopular systems,” says the reporter, “painfully elaborate their projects! Frenchmen … have only to consult their hearts to read the Republic there!”6 Drafted in accordance with the Contrat-Social, filled with Greek and Latin reminiscences, it is a summary “in lapidary style” of the manual of current aphorisms then in vogue. Rousseau’s mathematical formulas and prescriptions, “the axioms of truth and the consequences flowing from these axioms,” in short, a rectilinear constitution which any school-boy may spout on leaving college. Like a handbill posted on the door of a new shop, it promises to customers every imaginable article that is handsome and desirable. Would you have rights and liberties? You will find them all here. Never has the statement been so clearly made, that the government is the servant, creature and tool of the governed; it is instituted solely “to guarantee to them their natural, imprescriptible rights.”7 Never has its mandate been more strictly limited: “The right of expressing one’s thoughts and opinions, either through the press or in any other way; the right of peaceably assembling, the free exercise of worship, cannot be interdicted.” Never have citizens been more carefully guarded against the encroachments and excesses of public authority: “The law should protect public and private liberties against the oppression of those who govern … offences committed by the people’s mandatories and agents must never go unpunished. Let free men instantly put to death every individual usurping sovereignty. … Every act against a man outside of the cases and forms which the Edition: current; Page: [847]law determines is arbitrary and tyrannical; whoever is subjected to violence in the execution of this act has the right to repel it by force. … When the government violates the people’s rights insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.”

To civil rights the generous legislator has added political rights, and multiplied every precaution for maintaining the dependence of rulers on the people. In the first place, rulers are appointed by the people and through a direct choice or nearly direct choice: in primary meetings the people elect deputies, city officers, justices of the peace, and electors of the second degree; the latter, in their turn, elect in the secondary meetings, district and department administrators, civil arbitrators, criminal judges, judges of appeal and the eighty candidates from amongst which the legislative body is to select its executive council. In the second place, all powers of whatever kind are never conferred except for a very limited term: one year for deputies, for electors of the second degree, for civil arbitrators, and for judges of every kind and class; as to municipalities and also department and district administrations, these are one-half renewable annually. Every first of May the fountain-head of authority flows afresh, the people in its primary assemblies, spontaneously formed, manifesting or changing at will its staff of clerks. In the third place, even when installed and at work, the people may, if it pleases, become their collaborator: means are provided for “deliberating” with its deputies. The latter, on incidental questions, those of slight importance, on the ordinary business of the year, may enact laws; but on matters of general, considerable and permanent interest, they are simply to propose the laws, while, especially as regards a declaration of war, the people alone must decide. The people have a suspensive veto and, finally, a definitive veto, which they may exercise when they please. To this end, they may assemble in extraordinary session; one-fifth of the citizens who have the right to vote suffice for their convocation. Once convoked, the vote is determined by a Yes or a No on the act proposed by the legislative body. If, at the expiration of forty days, one-tenth of the primary Edition: current; Page: [848]assemblies in one-half of the departments vote No, there is a suspensive veto. In that event all the primary assemblies of the Republic must be convoked and if the majority still decides in the negative, that is a definitive veto. The same formalities govern a revision of the established constitution. In all this, the plan of the Montagnards is a further advance on that of the Girondists; never was so insignificant a part assigned to governors nor so extensive a part to the governed. The Jacobins profess a respect for the popular initiative which amounts to a scruple.8 According to them the sovereign people should be sovereign de facto, permanently, and without interregnum, allowed to interfere in all serious affairs, and not only possess the right, but the faculty, of imposing its will on its mandatories. All the stronger is the reason for referring to it the institutions now being prepared for it. Hence, after the parade is over, the convocation by the Convention on the 24th of June, also the primary assemblies, and the submission to them of the ratification of the Constitutional bill which it has drawn up.


That the ratification will be given admits of no doubt. Everything has been combined beforehand to secure it, also to secure it as wanted, apparently spontaneously, and almost unanimously. The primary assemblies, indeed, are by no means fully attended; only one-half, or a quarter, or a third of the electors in the cities deposit their votes, while in the rural districts there is only a quarter, and less;9 Edition: current; Page: [849]repelled by their experience with previous convocations they know too well the nature of these assemblies; how the Jacobin faction rules them, how it manages the electoral comedy, with what violence and menaces it reduces all dissidents to voting either as figurants or claqueurs. From four to five millions of electors prefer to hold aloof and stay at home as usual. Nevertheless the organization of most of the assemblies takes place, amounting to some six or seven thousand. This is accounted for by the fact that each canton contains its small group of Jacobins. Next to these come the simple-minded who still believe in official declarations; in their eyes a constitution which guarantees private rights and institutes public liberties must be accepted, no matter what hand may present it to them. And all the more readily because the usurpers offer to resign; in effect, the Convention has just solemnly declared that once the Constitution is adopted, the people shall again be convoked to elect “a new national assembly … a new representative body invested with a later and more immediate trust,”10 which will allow electors, if they are so disposed, to return honest deputies and exclude the knaves who now rule. Thereupon, even in the insurgent departments, the mass of the Girondist population, after a good deal of hesitation, resign themselves at last to voting for it.11 This is done at Lyons and in the Edition: current; Page: [850]department of Calvados only on the 30th of July. A number of constitutionalists or neutrals have done the same thing, some through a horror of civil war and a spirit of conciliation, and others through fear of persecution and of being taxed with royalism;12 one conception more: through docility they may perhaps succeed in depriving the “Mountain” of all pretext for violence.

In this they greatly deceive themselves, and, from the first, they are able to see once more how the Jacobins understand electoral liberty. At first, all the registered,13 and especially the “suspects,” are compelled to vote, and to vote Yes; otherwise, says a Jacobin journal,14 “they themselves will give the just measure of the opinion one ought to entertain of their sentiments, and no longer have reason to complain of suspicions that are found to be so well grounded.” They come accordingly, “very humble and very penitent.” Nevertheless they meet with a rebuff, and a cold shoulder is turned on them; they are consigned to a corner of the room, or near the doors, and are openly insulted. Thus received, it is clear that they will keep quiet Edition: current; Page: [851]and not risk the slightest objection. At Macon, “a few aristocrats muttered to themselves, but not one dared say No.”15 It would, indeed, be extremely imprudent. At Montbrison, “six individuals who decline to vote,” are denounced in the procès-verbal of the Canton, while a deputy in the Convention demands “severe measures” against them. At Nogent-sur-Seine, three administrators, guilty of the same offence, are to be turned out of office;16 a few months later, the offence becomes a capital crime, and people are to be guillotined “for having voted against the Constitution of 1793.”17 Almost all the wrong-thinkers foresaw this danger; hence, in nearly all the primary assemblies, the adoption is unanimous, or nearly unanimous;18 at Rouen, there are but twenty-six adverse votes; at Caen, the centre of the Girondist protestants, fourteen; at Rheims, there are only two; at Troyes, Besançon, Limoges and Paris, there are none at all; in fifteen departments the number of negatives varies from five to one; not one is found in Var. Could there be a more edifying concert of action? The commune of St. Donau, the only one in France, in a remote district of Cotês-du-Nord, dares demand the restoration of the clergy and the son of Capet for king. The rest vote as directed; they have got at the secret of the plebiscite; an honest vote is not wanted; the object is to impose on them a Jacobin manifestation.19

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In effect, the Club carries out the job it has undertaken. It beats to arms around the ballot-box; it arrives in force; it alone speaks with authority; it animates officers; it moves all the resolutions and draws up the report of proceedings, while the representatives on mission add to the weight of the local authority that of the central authority. In the Macon assembly “they address the people on each article; this speech is followed by immense applause and redoubled shoutings of Vive la République! Vive la Constitution! Vive le Peuple Français!” Beware, ye lukewarm, who do not join in the chorus! They are forced to vote “in a loud, intelligible voice.” They are required to shout in unison, to sign the grandiloquent address in which the leaders testify their gratitude to the Convention, and give their adhesion to the eminent patriots delegated by the primary assembly to bear its report to Paris.20


The first act of the comedy is over and the second act now begins. It is not without an object that the faction has convoked the delegates of the primary assemblies at Paris. Like the primary assemblies, they are to serve as its instruments for governing; they are to form the props of dictatorship, and the object now is to reduce them to that Edition: current; Page: [853]rôle. Indeed, it is not certain that all will lend themselves to it. For, among the eight thousand commissioners, some, appointed by refractory assemblies, bring a refusal instead of an adhesion;21 others, more numerous, are instructed to present objections and point out omissions:22 it is very certain that the envoys of the Girondist departments will insist on the release or return of their excluded representatives; in fine, a good many delegates who have accepted the Constitution in good faith desire its application as soon as possible, and that the Convention should fulfil its promise of abdication, so as to give way to a new Assembly. It is important to suppress at once all these independent fancies and the formation of an opposition party: to this end, a decree of the Convention “authorises the Committee of General Security to order the arrest of ‘suspect’ commissioners”; it is especially to look after those who, “charged with a special mission, would hold meetings to win over their colleagues, … and engage them in proceedings contrary to their mandate.”23 In the first place, and before they are admitted into Paris, their Jacobinism is to be verified, like a bale in the custom-house, by the special agents of the executive council, and especially by Stanislas Maillard, the famous September judge, and his sixty-eight bearded ruffians, each receiving pay at five francs a day. “On all the roads, within a circuit of fifteen or twenty leagues of the capital,” the Edition: current; Page: [854]delegates are searched; their trunks are opened, and their letters read. At the barriers in Paris they find “inspectors” posted by the Commune, under the pretext of protecting them against prostitutes and swindlers. There, they are taken possession of, and conducted to the mayoralty, where they receive lodging tickets, while a picket of gendarmerie escorts them to their allotted domiciles.24—Behold them in pens like sheep, each in his numbered stall; there is no fear of the dissidents trying to escape and form a band apart: one of them, who comes to the Convention and asks for a separate hall for himself and his adherents, is snubbed in the most outrageous manner; they denounce him as an intriguer, and accuse him of a desire to defend the traitor Castries; they take his name and credentials, and threaten him with an investigation.25 The unfortunate orator hears the Abbaye alluded to, and evidently thinks himself fortunate to escape sleeping there that night. After this, it is certain that he will not again demand the privilege of speaking, and that his colleagues will remain quiet; and all this is the more likely because the revolutionary tribunal holds permanent sessions under their eyes, because the guillotine is set up and in operation on the “Place de la Révolution”; because a recent act of the Commune enjoins on the police “the most active surveillance” and “constant patrols” by the armed force; because, from the first to the fourth of August, the Edition: current; Page: [855]barriers are closed; because, on the 2d of August, a raid into three of the theatres puts five hundred young men in the lock-up:26 the discontented soon discover, if there are any, that this is not the time or the place to protest.

As to the others, already Jacobin, the faction takes it upon itself to render them still more so. Lost in the immensity of Paris, all these provincialists require moral as well as physical guides; it agrees to exercise toward them “hospitality in all its plenitude, the sweetest of Republican virtues.”27 Hence, ninety-six sans-culottes, selected from among the sections, wait on them at the Mayoralty to serve as their correspondents, and perhaps as their guarantees, and certainly as pilots to give them lodging-tickets, to escort and install them, to indoctrinate them, as formerly with the federates of July, 1792, to prevent their getting into bad company, to introduce them into all the exciting meetings, to see that their ardent patriotism quickly rises to the proper temperature of Parisian Jacobinism.28 The theatres must not offend their eyes or ears with pieces “opposed to the spirit of the Revolution.”29 An order is issued for the performance three times a week of “republican tragedies, such as ‘Brutus,’ ‘William Tell,’ ‘Caius Gracchus,’ and other dramas suitable for the maintenance of the principles of equality and liberty.” Once a week the theatres must be free, when Chéniér’s alexandrines are spouted on the stage to the edification of the delegates, crowded into the boxes at the expense of the State. The following morning, led by flocks Edition: current; Page: [856]into the tribunes of the Convention,30 they there find the same, classic, simple, declamatory, sanguinary tragedy, except that the latter is not feigned but real, and the tirades are in prose instead of in verse. Surrounded by paid vociferators, as on the previous evening by the Romans “of the lamp,” our provincials applaud, cheer and get excited, the same as on the previous evening at the signal given by the claqueurs and other frequenters of the house. Another day, the procureur-syndic Lhullier summons them to attend the “Evéché,” to “fraternise with the authorities of the Paris department”;31 the “Fraternité” section invites them to its daily meetings; the Jacobin club lends them its vast hall in the morning and admits them to its sessions in the evening. Thus taken possession of and kept, as in a diving bell, they breathe in Paris nothing but a Jacobin atmosphere; from one Jacobin den to another, as they are led about in this heated atmosphere, their pulse beats more rapidly. Many of them, who, on their arrival, were “plain, quiet people,”32 but out of their element, subjected to contagion without any antidote, quickly catch the revolutionary fever. The same as at an American revival, under the constant pressure of preaching and singing, of shouts and nervous spasms, the lukewarm and even the indifferent have not long to wait before the delirium puts them in harmony with the converted.


On the 7th of August things come to a head. Led by the department and the municipality, a number of delegates march to the bar of the Convention, and make a confession of Jacobin faith. “Soon,” they exclaim, “will search be made on the banks of the Seine for the foul marsh intended to engulf us. Were the royalists and intriguers to die of spite, we will live and die Montagnards.33 Applause and embraces. Edition: current; Page: [857]From thence they betake themselves to the Jacobin Club, where one of them proposes an address prepared beforehand: the object of this is to justify the 31st of May, and the 2d of June, “to open the eyes” of provincial France, to declare “war against the federalists.” “Down with the infamous libelers who have calumniated Paris! … We cherish but one sentiment, our souls are all melted into one. … We form here but one vast, terrible mountain, about to vomit forth its fires on the royalists and supporters of tyranny.” Applause and cheers. Robespierre declares that they are there to save the country.34 On the following day, August 8th,35 this address is presented to the Convention and Robespierre has a resolution adopted, ordering it to be sent to the armies, to foreign powers and all the Communes. More applause, more embracings, and more cheers. On the 9th of August,36 by order of the Convention, the delegates meet in the Tuileries garden, where, divided into as many groups as there are departments, they study the programme drawn up by David, in order to familiarise themselves with the parts they are to play in the festival of the following day.

What an odd festival and how well it expresses the spirit of the time! It is a sort of opera played in the streets by the public authorities, with triumphant chariots, altars, censers, an Ark of the Covenant, funeral urns, classic banners and other trappings! Its divinities consist of plaster statues representing Nature, Liberty, the People, and Hercules, all of which are personified abstractions, like those painted on the ceiling of a theatre. In all this there is no spontaneity nor sincerity; the actors, whose consciences tell them that they are only actors, render homage to symbols which they know to be nothing but symbols, while the mechanical procession,37 Edition: current; Page: [858]the invocations, the apostrophes, the postures, the gestures are regulated beforehand, the same as by a ballet-manager. To any truth-loving mind all this must seem like a charade performed by puppets. But the festival is colossal, well calculated to stimulate the imagination and excite pride through physical excitement.38 On this grandiose stage the delegates become quite intoxicated with their part; for, evidently, theirs is the leading part; they represent twenty-six millions of Frenchmen, and the sole object of this ceremony is to glorify the national will of which they are the bearers. On the Place de la Bastille39 where the gigantic effigy of Nature pours forth from its two breasts “the regenerating water,” Hérault, the president, after offering libations and saluting the new goddess, passes the cup to the eighty-seven elders (les doyens) of the eighty-seven departments, each “summoned by sound of drum and trumpet” to step forward and drink in his turn, while cannon belch forth their thunders as if for a monarch. After the eighty-seven have passed the cup around, the artillery roars. The procession then moves on, and the delegates again are assigned the place of honor. The elders, holding an olive-branch in one hand, and a pike in the other, with a streamer on the end of it bearing the name of their department, “bound to each other by a small tricolor ribbon,” surround the Convention as if to convey the idea that the nation maintains and conducts its legal representatives. Behind them march the rest of the eight thousand delegates, likewise holding olive-branches and forming a second distinct body, the largest of all, and on which all eyes are centred. For, in their wake, “there is no longer any distinction between persons and functionaries,” all being confounded together, marching pell-mell, executive council, city officials, judges scattered about haphazard and, by virtue of equality, lost in the crowd. At each station, thanks to Edition: current; Page: [859]their insignia, the delegates form the most conspicuous element. On reaching the last one, that of the Champ de Mars, they alone with the Convention, ascend the steps leading to the altar of the country; on the highest platform stands the eldest of all alongside of the president of the Convention, also standing; thus graded above each other, the seven thousand, who envelope the seven hundred and fifty, form “the veritable Sacred Mountain.” Now, the president, on the highest platform, turns toward the eighty-seven elders; he confides to them the Ark containing the Constitutional Act and the list of those who voted for it; they, on their part, then advance and hand him their pikes, which he gathers together into one bundle as an emblem of national unity and indivisibility. At this, shouts arise from every point of the immense enclosure; salvos of artillery follow again and again; “one would say that heaven and earth answered each other” in honor “of the greatest epoch of humanity.” Certainly, the delegates are beside themselves; the nervous machine, strained to the utmost, vibrates too powerfully; the millennium discloses itself before their eyes. Already, many among them on the Place de la Bastille, had addressed the universe; others, “seized with a prophetic spirit,” promise eternity to the Constitution. They feel themselves “reborn again, along with the human species”; they regard themselves as beings of a new world. History is consummated in them; the future is in their hands; they believe themselves gods on earth. In this critical state, their reason, like a pair of ill-balanced scales, yields to the slightest touch; under the pressure of the manufacturers of enthusiasm, a sudden reaction will carry them away. They consider the Constitution as a panacea, and they are going to consign it, like some dangerous drug, to this coffer which they call an ark. They have just proclaimed the liberty of the people, and are going to perpetuate the dictatorship of the Convention.


This summerset must, of course, seem spontaneous and the hand of the titular rulers remain invisible: the Convention, as usual with usurpers, is to simulate reserve and disinterestedness. Consequently, Edition: current; Page: [860]the following morning, August 11, on the opening of the session, it simply declares that “its mission is fulfilled”:40 on motion of Lacroix, a confederate of Danton’s, it passes a law that a new census of the population and of electors shall be made with as little delay as possible, in order to convoke the primary assemblies at once; it welcomes with transport the delegates who bring to it the Constitutional Ark; the entire Assembly rises in the presence of this sacred receptacle, and allows the delegates to exhort it and instruct it concerning its duties.41 But in the evening, at the Jacobin Club, Robespierre, after a long and vague discourse on public dangers, conspiracies, and traitors, suddenly utters the decisive words: “The most important of my reflections was about to escape me.42 … The proposition made that morning tends to put in the place of the suitable members of the actual Convention the envoys of Pitt and Cobourg.” Words of terrible import in the mouth of a man of principles! They are at once understood by the leaders, great and small, also by the selected fifteen hundred Jacobins then filling the hall. “No! no! shouts the entire club.” The delegates are carried away: “I demand,” exclaims one of them, “that the dissolution of the Convention be postponed until the end of the war.” At last, the precious motion, so long desired and anticipated, is made: the calumnies of the Girondists now fall to the ground; it is demonstrated that the Convention does not desire to perpetuate itself and that it has no ambition; if it remains in power it is because it is kept there; the delegates of the people compel it to stay.

And better still, they are going to mark out its course of action. The next day, the 12th of August, with the zeal of new converts, Edition: current; Page: [861]they spread themselves through the hall in such numbers that the Assembly, no longer able to carry on its deliberations, crowds toward the left and yields the whole of the space on the right that they may occupy and “purify” it.43 All the combustible material in their minds, accumulated during the past fortnight, takes fire and explodes; they are more furious than the most ultra Jacobins; they repeat at the bar of the house the extravagancies of Rose Lacombe, and of the lowest clubs; they even transcend the programme drawn up by the “Mountain.” “The time for deliberation is past,” exclaims their spokesman, “we must act44 … Let the people rouse themselves in a mass … it alone can annihilate its enemies. … We demand that all ‘suspects’ be put in arrest; that they be despatched to the frontiers, followed by the terrible mass of sans-culottes. There, in the front ranks, they will be obliged to fight for that liberty which they have outraged for the past four years, or be immolated on the tyrants’ cannon. … Women, children, old men and the infirm shall be kept as hostages by the women and children of sans-culottes.” Danton seizes the opportunity. With his usual perspicacity he finds the expression which defines the situation: “The deputies of the primary assemblies,” he says, “have just taken amongst us the initiative of terror.” He moreover reduces the absurd notions of the fanatics to a practical bearing: “An uprisal en masse, yes, but with order” by at once calling out the first class of conscripts, all men from eighteen to twenty-five years of age; the arrest of all ‘suspects,’ yes, but not to lead them against the enemy; “they would be more dangerous than useful in our armies; let us shut them up; they will be our hostages.” In fine, he imagines employment for the delegates who are now in the way in Paris and of use in the provinces. Let us make of them “various kinds of representatives charged with Edition: current; Page: [862]animating citizens. … Let them, along with all good citizens and the constituted authorities, take charge of the inventories of grain and arms, and make requisitions for men, and let the Committee of Public Safety direct this sublime movement. … All will swear that, on returning to their firesides, they will give this impulse to their fellow citizens.” Universal applause; the delegates exclaim in one voice, “We swear!” Everybody springs to his feet; the men in the tribunes wave their hats and likewise shout the same oath. The scheme is successful; a semblance of popular will has authorised the staff of officials, the policy, the principles and the very name of Terror. As to the tools employed, they are fit only to be sent back to the places they came from. The delegates, of whose demands and interference the “Mountain” is still in dread, are consigned to their departmental holes, where they serve as agents and missionaries.45 There is no further mention of putting the Constitution into operation; this was simply a bait, a decoy, contrived for fishing in turbid waters: the fishing ended, the Constitution is now placed in a conspicuous place in the hall, in a small monument for which David furnished the design.46 “The Convention, now,” says Danton,“will rise to a sense of its dignity, for it is now invested with the full power of the nation.” In other words, astuteness completes what violence had begun. Through the outrages committed in May and June, the Convention had lost its legitimacy; through the manoeuvres of July and August it recovered the semblance of it. The Montagnards still hold their slave by his leash, but they have restored his prestige so as to make the most of him to their own profit.


With the same blow, and wearing the same mask, they have disarmed their adversaries. On learning the events of May 31 and June 2, a loud cry of indignation arose among Republicans of the cultivated class in this generation, who, educated by the philosophers, sincerely Edition: current; Page: [863]believed in the rights of man;47 sixty-nine department administrations had protested,48 and, in almost all the towns of the west, the south, the east and the centre of France, at Caen, Alençon, Evreux, Rennes, Brest, Lorient, Nantes and Limoges, at Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier, Nismes and Marseilles, at Grenoble, Lyons, Clermont, Lons-le-Saulnier, Besançon, Macon and Dijon,49 the citizens, assembled in their sections, had provoked, or maintained by cheering them on, the acts of their administrators. Rulers and citizens, all declared that, the Convention not being free, its decrees after the 31st of May, no longer had the force of law; that the troops of the departments should march on Paris to deliver that city from its oppressors, and that their substitutes should be called out and assemble at Bourges. In many places words were converted into acts. Already before the end of May, Marseilles and Lyons had taken up arms and checkmated their local Jacobins. After the 2d of June, Normandy, Brittany, Gard, Jura, Toulouse and Bordeaux, had also raised troops. At Marseilles, Bordeaux and Caen the representatives on mission, arrested or under Edition: current; Page: [864]guard, were retained as hostages.50 At Nantes, the National Guard and popular magistrates who, a week before, had so bravely repulsed the great Vendéan army, dared do more than this; they limited the powers of the Convention and condemned all intermeddling; according to them, the sending of representatives on mission was “an usurpation, an attack on national sovereignty”; representatives had been elected “to make and not to execute laws, to prepare a constitution and regulate all public powers, and not to confound these together and exercise them all at once; to protect and maintain intermediary powers which the people have delegated, and not to encroach upon and annihilate them.”51 With still greater boldness, Montpellier enjoined all representatives everywhere to meet at the headquarters of their respective departments, and await the verdict of a national jury. In short, by virtue even of the democratic creed, “nothing was visible amid the ruins of the Convention,” mutilated and degraded, but interloping “attorneys”; “the people’s workmen” are summoned “to return to obedience and do justice to the reproaches addressed to them by their legitimate master”;52 the nation Edition: current; Page: [865]cancelled the pay of its clerks at the capital, withdrew the mandate they had misused, and declared them usurpers if they persisted in not yielding up their borrowed sovereignty “to its inalienable sovereignty.” To this stroke, which strikes deep, the “Mountain” replies by a similar stroke; it also renders homage to principles and falls back on the popular will. Through the sudden manufacture of an ultrademocratic constitution, through a convocation of the primary assemblies, and a ratification of its work by the people in these assemblies, through the summoning of delegates to Paris, through the assent of these converted, fascinated, or constrained delegates, it exonerates and justifies itself, and thus deprives the Girondists of the grievances to which they had given currency, of the axioms they had displayed on their standards, and of the popularity they thought they had acquired.53 Henceforth, the ground their opponents had built on sinks under their feet; the materials collected by them disintegrate in their hands; their league dissolves before it is completed, and the incurable weakness of the party appears in full daylight.

And in the first place, in the departments, as at Paris,54 the party is without roots. For the past three years, all the sensible and orderly people occupied with their own affairs, who are not politicians, nine-tenths of the electors, either through taste or interest, stay away from the polls, and in this large mass the Girondists have no adherents. As they themselves admit,55 this class remains attached to the institutions of 1791, which they have overthrown; if it has any esteem for them, it is as “extremely honest madmen.” Again, this esteem is mingled with aversion: it reproaches them with the violent Edition: current; Page: [866]decrees they have passed in concert with the “Mountain”; with persecutions, confiscations, every species of injustice and cruelty; it always sees the King’s blood on their hands; they, too, are regicides, anti-Catholics, anti-Christians, destructionists and levellers.56 Undoubtedly they are less so than the “Mountain”; hence, when the provincial insurrection breaks out, many Feuillants and even Royalists follow them to the section assemblies and join in their protests. But the majority goes no further, and soon falls back into its accustomed inertia. It is not in harmony with its leaders:57 its latent preferences are opposed to their avowed programme; it does not wholly trust them; it has only a half-way affection for them; its recent sympathies are deadened by old animosities: everywhere, instead of firmness there is only caprice. All this affords no assurance of steadfast loyalty and practical adhesion. The Girondist deputies scattered through the provinces relied upon each department arousing itself at their summons and forming a republican Vendée against the “Mountain”: nowhere do they find anything beyond mild approval and speculative hopes.

There remains to support them the élite of the republican party, the scholars and lovers of literature, who are honest and sincere thinkers, who, worked upon by the current dogmas, have accepted the philosophical catechism literally and seriously. Elected judges, or department, district, and city administrators, commanders and officers of the National Guard, presidents and secretaries of sections, Edition: current; Page: [867]they occupy most of the places conferred by local authority, and hence their almost unanimous protest seems at first to be the voice of all France. In reality, it is only the despairing cry of a group of staff-officers without an army. Chosen under the electoral pressure with which we are familiar, they possess rank, office and titles, but no credit or influence; they are supported only by those whom they really represent, that is to say, those who elected them, a tenth of the population, and forming a sectarian minority. Again, in this minority there are a good many who are lukewarm; with most men the distance is great between conviction and action; the interval is filled up with acquired habits, indolence, fear and egoism. One’s belief in the abstractions of the Contrat-Social is of little account; no one readily bestirs oneself for an abstract end. Uncertainties beset one at the outset; the road one has to follow is found to be perilous and obscure, and one hesitates and postpones; one feels himself a home-body and is afraid of engaging too deeply and of going too far. Having expended one’s breath in words one is less willing to give one’s money; another may open his purse but he may not be disposed to give himself, which is as true of the Girondists as it is of the Feuillants. “At Marseilles, at Bordeaux,” says a deputy,58 “in nearly all the principal towns, the proprietor, slow, indifferent and timid, could not make up his mind to leave home for a moment; it was to mercenaries that he entrusted his cause and his arms.” Only the federates of Mayenne, Ile-et-Vilaine, and especially of Finisterre, were “young men well brought up and well informed about the cause they were going to support.” In Normandy, the Central Committee, unable to do better, has to recruit its soldiers, and especially artillerymen, from the band of Carabots, former Jacobins, a lot of ruffians ready for anything, pillagers and runaways at the first cannon-shot. At Caen, Wimpfen, having ordered the eight battalions of the National Guard to assemble in the court, demands volunteers Edition: current; Page: [868]and finds that only seventeen step forth; on the following day a formal requisition brings out only one hundred and thirty combatants; other towns, except Vire, which furnishes about twenty, refuse their contingent. In short, a marching army cannot be formed, or, if it does march, it halts at the first station, that of Evreux before reaching Vernon, and that of Marseilles at the walls of Avignon.

On the other hand, by virtue of being sincere and logical, those who have rebelled entertain scruples and themselves define the limits of their insurrection. The fugitive deputies at their head would believe themselves guilty of usurpation had they, like the “Mountain” at Paris, constituted themselves at Caen a sovereign assembly:59 according to them, their right and their duty is reduced to giving testimony concerning the 31st of May and the 1st of June, and to exhorting the people and to being eloquent. They are not legally qualified to take executive power; it is for the local magistrates, the élus of the sections, and better still, the department committees, to command in the departments. Lodged as they are in official quarters, they are merely to print formal statements, write letters, and, behaving properly, wait until the sovereign people, their employer, reinstates them. It has been outraged in their persons; it must avenge itself for this outrage; since it approves of its mandatories, it is bound to restore them to office; it being the master of the house, it is bound to have its own way in the house. As to the department committees, it is true that, in the heat of the first excitement, they thought of forming a new Convention at Bourges, either through a muster of substitute deputies, or through the convocation of a national commission of one hundred and seventy members.60 But time is wanting, also the means, to carry out the plan; it remains suspended in the air like vain menace; at the end of a fortnight it vanishes in smoke; Edition: current; Page: [869]the departments succeed in federating only in scattered groups; they desist from the formation of a central government, and thus, through this fact alone, condemn themselves to succumb, one after the other, in detail, and each at home. What is worse, through conscientiousness and patriotism, they prepare their own defeat: they refrain from calling upon the armies and from stripping the frontiers; they do not contest the right of the Convention to provide as it pleases for the national defence. Lyons allows the passage of convoys of cannon-balls which are to be subsequently used in cannonading its defenders.61 The authorities of Puy-de-Dome aid by sending to Vendée the battalion that they had organised against the “Mountain.” Bordeaux is to surrender Chateau-Trompette, its munitions of war and supplies, to the representatives on mission; and, without a word, with exemplary docility, both the Bordelais battalions which guard Blaye suffer themselves to be dislodged by two Jacobin battalions.62 Comprehending the insurrection in this way, defeat is certain beforehand.

The insurgents are thus conscious of their false position; they have a vague sort of feeling that, in recognising the military authority of the Convention, they admit its authority in full; insensibly they glide down this slope, from concession to concession, until they reach complete submission. From the 16th of June, at Lyons,63 “people Edition: current; Page: [870]begin to feel that it will not answer to break with the Convention.” Five weeks later, the authorities of Lyons “solemnly recognise that the Convention is the sole central rallying point of all French citizens and republicans,” and decree that “all acts emanating from it concerning the general interests of the Republic are to be executed.”64 Consequently, at Lyons and in other departments, the administrations convoke the primary assemblies as the Convention has prescribed; consequently, the primary assemblies accept the Constitution which it has proposed; consequently, the delegates of the primary assemblies betake themselves to Paris according to its orders. Henceforth, the Girondist cause is lost; the discharge of a few cannon at Vernon and Avignon disperse the only two columns of soldiery that have set out on their march. In each department, the Jacobins, encouraged by the representatives on mission, raise their heads; everywhere the local club enjoins the local government to submit,65 everywhere the local governments report the acts they pass, make excuses and ask forgiveness. Proportionately to the retractation of one department, the rest, feeling themselves abandoned, are more disposed to retract. On the 9th of July forty-nine departments are enumerated as having given in their adhesion. Several of them Edition: current; Page: [871]declare that the scales have dropped from their eyes, that they approve of the acts of May 31 and June 2, and thus ensure their safety by manifesting their zeal. The administration of Calvados notifies the Breton fédérés that “having accepted the Constitution it can no longer tolerate their presence in Caen”; it sends them home, and secretly makes peace with the “Mountain”; and only informs the deputies, who are its guests, of this proceeding, three days afterwards, by posting on their door the decree that declares them outlaws.

Disguised as soldiers, the latter depart along with the Breton fédérés; on the way, they are able to ascertain the veritable sentiments of this people whom they believe imbued with their rights and capable of taking a political initiative.66 The pretended citizens and republicans they have to do with are, in sum, the former subjects of Louis XVI. and the future subjects of Napoleon I., that is to say, the rulers and the ruled, trained to feel all one way and instinctively subordinate, requiring a government just as sheep require a shepherd and a watch-dog, accepting or submitting to shepherd and dog, provided these look and act the part, even if the shepherd be a butcher and the dog a wolf. To avoid isolation, to rejoin the most numerous herd as soon as possible, to always form masses and bodies and thus follow the impulsion which comes from above, and gather together scattered individuals, such is the instinct of the flock. In Edition: current; Page: [872]the battalion of federates, they begin by saying that, as the Constitution is now accepted and the Convention recognised, it is no longer allowable to protect deputies whom it has declared outlaws: “that would be creating a faction.” Thereupon, the deputies withdraw from the battalion, and, in a little squad by themselves, march along separately. As they are nineteen in number, resolute and well armed, the authorities of the market-towns through which they pass make no opposition by force; it would be offering battle, and that surpasses a functionary’s zeal; moreover, the population is either indifferent toward them or sympathetic. Nevertheless, efforts are made to stop them, sometimes to surround them and take them by surprise; for, a warrant of arrest is out against them, transmitted through the hierarchical channel, and every local magistrate feels bound to do his duty as gendarme. Under this administrative network, the meshes of which they encounter everywhere, the proscribed deputies can do naught else but hide in caves or escape by sea. On reaching Bordeaux, they find other sheep getting ready and preparing their companions for the slaughter-house. Saige, the mayor, preaches conciliation and patience: he declines the aid of four or five thousand young men, three thousand grenadiers of the National Guard, and two or three hundred volunteers who had formed themselves into a club against the Jacobin club; he persuades them to disband; he sends a deputation to Paris to entreat the Convention to overlook “a moment of error” and pardon “brethren that had gone astray.” “They flattered themselves,” says a deputy, an eye-witness,67 “that prompt submission would appease the resentment of tyrants and that these would be, or pretend to be, generous enough to spare a town that had signalised itself more than any other during the Revolution.” Up to the last, they are to entertain the same illusions and manifest the same docility. When Tallien, with his eighteen hundred peasants and brigands, enters Bordeaux, twelve thousand National Guards, equipped, armed and in uniform, Edition: current; Page: [873]receive him wearing oak-leaf crowns; they listen in silence to “his astounding and outrageous discourse”; they suffer him to tear off their crowns, cockades and epaulettes; the battalions allow themselves to be disbanded on the spot; on returning to their quarters they listen with downcast eyes to the proclamation which “orders all inhabitants without distinction to bring their arms within thirty-six hours, under penalty of death, to the glacis of the Chateau-Trompette; before the time elapses thirty thousand guns, swords, pistols and even pocketknives are given up.” Here, as at Paris, on the 20th of June, 10th of August, 2d of September, 3d of May and 2d of June, as at every critical moment of the Revolution in Paris and the provinces, habits of subordination and of amiability, stamped on a people by a provident monarchy and a time-honored civilisation, mollify in man the foresight of danger, the militant instinct, the faculty of self-dependence, of taking his own part, of looking out for his own salvation. Inevitably, when anarchy brings a nation back to the state of nature, the tame animals will be eaten by the savage ones—these are now let loose and immediately they show their natural disposition.


If the men of the “Mountain” had been statesmen, or even sensible men, they would have shown themselves humane, if not for the sake of humanity, at least through calculation; for in this France, so little republican, all the republican strength is not too great for the founding of the Republic, while, through their principles, their culture, their social position and their number, the Girondists form the élite and the force, the flower and the sap of the party. The death-cry of the “Mountain” against the insurgents of Lozére68 and Vendèe is intelligible: they had raised the white flag; they accepted leaders and instructions from Coblentz and London. But neither Bordeaux, Marseilles nor Lyons are royalist, or in alliance with the foreigner. “We, Edition: current; Page: [874]rebels!” write the Lyonnese;69 “Why we see no other than the tricolor flag waving; the white cockade, the symbol of rebellion, has never been raised within our walls. We, royalists! Why, shouts of ‘Long live the Republic’ are heard on all sides, and, spontaneously (in the session of July 2nd) we have all sworn to fall upon whoever should propose a king. … Your representatives tell you that we are antirevolutionists, when we have accepted the Constitution. They tell you that we protect emigrés when we have offered to surrender all those that you might indicate. They tell you that our streets are filled with refractory priests, when we have not even opened the doors of Pierre-en-Cize (prison) to thirty-two priests confined there by the old municipality, without indictment, without any charge whatever against them, solely because they were priests.” Thus, at Lyons, the pretended aristocrats were, then, not only republicans but democrats and radicals, loyal to the established régime, and submissive to the worst of the revolutionary laws, while the same state of things prevailed at Bordeaux, at Marseilles and even at Toulon.70 And better still, they accepted the outrages of May 31 and June 2;71 Edition: current; Page: [875]they stopped contesting the usurpations of Paris; they no longer insisted on the return of the excluded deputies. On the 2nd of August at Bordeaux, and the 30th of July at Lyons, the Committee-Extraordinary of Public Safety resigned; there no longer existed any rival assembly opposed to the Convention. After the 24th of July,72 Lyons solemnly recognised the supreme and central authority, reserving nothing but its municipal franchises. Better still, in striking testimony of political orthodoxy, the Council-General of the department prescribed a civic festival for the 10th of August analogous to that of Paris; already blockaded, the Lyonnese indulged in no hostile manifestation; on the 7th of August, they marched out of their advanced positions to fraternise with the first body of troops sent against them.73 They conceded everything, save on one point, which they could not yield without destruction, namely, the assurance that they should not be given up defenceless to the arbitrary judgment of their local tyrants, to the spoliations, proscriptions, and revenge of their Jacobin rabble. In sum, at Marseilles and Bordeaux, especially at Lyons and Toulon, the sections had revolted only on that account; acting promptly and spontaneously, the people had thrust aside the knife which a few ruffians aimed at their throats; they had not been, and were not now, willing to be “Septemberised,” and that was their sole concern; provided they were not handed over to the butchers bound hand and foot, they would open their gates. On these minimum terms the “Mountain” could terminate the civil war before the end of July; it had only to follow the example of Robert Lindet who, at Evreux the home of Buzot, at Caen the home of Charlotte Corday and central seat of the fugitive Girondists, Edition: current; Page: [876]established permanent obedience through the moderation he had shown and the promises he had kept.74 The measures that had pacified the most compromised province would have brought back the others, and through this policy, Paris, without striking a blow, would have secured the three largest cities in France, the capital of the South-west, that of the South, and the capital of the Centre.

On the contrary, should the Paris faction persist in imposing on them the domination of its Maratists there was a risk of their being thrown into the arms of the enemy. Rather than fall back into the hands of the bandits who had ransomed and decimated them, Toulon, starved out, was about to receive the English within its walls and surrender to them the great arsenal of the South. Not less famished, Bordeaux might be tempted to demand aid from another English fleet; a few marches would bring the Piedmontese army to Lyons; France would then be cut in two, while the plan of stirring up the South against the North was proposed to the allies by the most clear-sighted of their councillors.75 Had this plan been carried out it is probable that the country would have been lost. In any event, there was danger in driving the insurgents to despair: for, between the unbridled dictatorship of their victorious assassins and the musketry of the besieging army, there could be no hesitation by men of any feeling; it was better to be beaten on the ramparts than allow themselves to be bound for the guillotine; brought to a stand under the scaffold, their sole resource was to depend on themselves to the last. Thus, through its unreasonableness, the “Mountain” condemns itself to a number of sieges or blockades which lasted several months,76 to leaving Var and Savoy unprotected, to exhausting the Edition: current; Page: [877]arsenals, to employing against Frenchmen77 men and munitions needed against foreigners, and all this at the moment the foreigner was taking Valenciennes78 and Mayence, when thirty thousand royalists were organising in Lozére, when the great Vendean army was laying siege to Nantes, when each new focus of incendiarism was threatening to connect the flaming frontier with the conflagration in the Catholic countries.79 With a jet of cold water aptly directed, the “Mountain” could extinguish the fires it had kindled in the great republican towns; otherwise, nothing remained but to let them increase at the risk of consuming the whole country, with no other hope than that they might at last die out under a mass of ruins, and with no other object but to rule over captives and the dead.

But this is precisely the Jacobin aim; for, he is not satisfied with less than absolute submission; he must rule at any cost, just as he pleases, no matter how, no matter over what ruins. A despot by instinct and installation, his dogma has consecrated him King; he is King by natural and divine right, in the name of eternal verity, the same as Philip II., enthroned by his religious system and blessed by his Holy Office. Hence he can abandon no jot or tittle of his authority without a sacrifice of principle, nor treat with rebels, unless they surrender at discretion; simply for having risen against legitimate authority, they are traitors and malefactors. And who are greater malefactors than the backsliders who, after three years of patient effort, just as the sect finally reaches its goal, oppose its accession to power!80 At Nismes, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Toulon, and Edition: current; Page: [878]Lyons, not only have they interfered with or arrested the blow which Paris struck, but they have put down the aggressors, closed the club, disarmed the fanatical, and imprisoned the leading Maratists; and worse still, at Lyons and at Toulon, five or six massacreurs, or promoters of massacre, Châlier and Riard, Jassaud, Sylvestre, and Lemaille, brought before the courts, have been condemned and executed after a trial in which all the forms were strictly adhered to. That is the inexpiable crime; for, in this trial, the “Mountain” is involved; the principles of Sylvestre and Châlier are its principles; what it accomplished in Paris, they have attempted in the provinces; if they are guilty, it is also guilty; it cannot tolerate their punishment without assenting to its own punishment. Accordingly, it must proclaim them heroes and martyrs, it must canonise their memory,81 it must avenge their tortures, it must resume and complete their assaults, it must restore their accomplices to their places, it must render them omnipotent, it must fetch each rebel city under the yoke of its populace and malefactors. It matters little whether the Jacobins be a minority, whether at Bordeaux, they have but four out of twenty-eight sections on their side, at Marseilles five out of thirty-two, whether at Lyons they can count up only fifteen hundred devoted adherents.82 Suffrages are not reckoned, but weighed, for legality is Edition: current; Page: [879]founded, not on numbers, but on patriotism, the sovereign people being composed wholly of sans-culottes. So much the worse for towns where the antirevolutionary majority is so great; they are only the more dangerous; under their republican demonstrations is concealed the hostility of old parties and of the “suspect” classes, the Moderates, the Feuillants and Royalists, merchants, men of the legal profession, property-holders, and muscadins.83 These form nests of reptiles and there is nothing to be done but to crush them out.


In effect, whether brought under subjection or not, they are crushed out. Those are declared traitors to the country, not merely members of the departmental committees, but, at Bordeaux, all who have “aided or abetted the Committee of Public Safety”; at Lyons, all administrators, functionaries, military or civil officers who “convoked or tolerated the Rhone-et-Loire congress,” and furthermore, “every individual whose son, clerk, servant, or even day-laborer, may have borne arms, or contributed to the means of resistance,” that is to say, the entire National Guard who took up arms, and nearly all the population which gave its money or voted in the sections.84 By virtue of this decree, all are “outlaws,” or, in other words, subject to the guillotine on the mere declaration of identity, and their property is confiscated. Consequently, at Bordeaux, where not a gun had been fired, the mayor Saige, and principal author of Edition: current; Page: [880]the submission, is at once led to the scaffold without any form of trial,85 while eight hundred and eighty-one others succeed him amidst the solemn silence of a dismayed population.86 Two hundred prominent merchants are arrested in one night; more than fifteen hundred persons are imprisoned; all who are well off are ransomed, even those against whom no political charge could be made; nine millions of fines are levied against “rich egoists.” One of these,87 accused of “indifference and moderatism,” pays twenty thousand francs “not to be harnessed to the car of the Revolution”; another, “convicted of having manifested contempt for his section and for the poor by giving thirty livres per month,” is taxed at one million two hundred thousand livres, while the new authorities, a swindling mayor and twelve knaves composing the Revolutionary Committee, traffic in lives and property.88 At Marseilles, says Danton,89 the object Edition: current; Page: [881]is “to give the commercial aristocracy an important lesson”; we must “show ourselves as terrible to traders as to nobles and priests”; consequently, twelve thousand of them are proscribed and their possessions sold.90 From the first day the guillotine works as fast as possible; nevertheless, it does not work fast enough for Representative Fréron who finds the means for making it work faster. “The military commission we have established in place of the revolutionary Tribunal,” he writes, “works frightfully fast against the conspirators. … They fall like hail under the sword of the law. Fourteen have already paid for their infamous treachery with their heads. Tomorrow, sixteen more are to be guillotined, all chiefs of the legion, notaries, sectionists, members of the popular tribunal; tomorrow, also, three merchants will dance the carmagnole, and they are the ones we are after.91 Men and things, all must perish; he wishes to demolish the city and proposes to fill up the harbor. Restrained with great difficulty, he contents himself with a destruction of “the haunts” of the aristocracy, two churches, the concert-hall, the houses around it, and twenty-three buildings in which the rebel sections had held their meetings.

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At Lyons, to increase the booty, the representatives had taken pains to encourage the manufacturers and merchants with vague promises; these opened their shops and brought their valuable goods, books, and papers out of their hiding-places.92 No time is lost in seizing the plunder; “a list of all property belonging to the rich and to antirevolutionists” is drawn up, which is “confiscated for the benefit of the patriots of the city”; in addition to this a tax of six millions is imposed, payable in eight days, by those whom the confiscation may have still spared;93 it is proclaimed, according to principle, that the surplus of each individual belongs by right to the sans-culottes, and whatever may have been retained beyond the strictly necessary, is a robbery by the individual to the detriment of the nation.94 In conformity with this rule there is an universal swoop, prolonged for ten months, which places the fortunes of a city of one hundred and twenty thousand souls in the hands of its rowdies. Thirty-two revolutionary committees “whose members stick like lice” choose “thousands of keepers devoted to them.”95 In confiscated dwellings and warehouses, they affix seals without an inventory; they drive out women and children “so that there shall be no witnesses”; they keep the keys; they enter and steal when they please, or install themselves for a revel with prostitutes. Meanwhile, the guillotine is kept going, and people are fired at and shot down with grape-shot. The Revolutionary Committee officially avow one thousand six hundred and eighty-two acts of murder committed in five months, while a confederate of Robespierre’s privately declares that there were six thousand.96

Blacksmiths are condemned to death for having shod the Lyonnese Edition: current; Page: [883]cavalry, firemen for having extinguished fires kindled by republican bombshells, a widow for having paid a war-tax during the siege, market women for “having shown disrespect to patriots.” It is an organized “Septembrisade” made legal and lasting; its authors are so well aware of the fact as to use the word itself in their public correspondence.97 At Toulon it is worse; people are slaughtered in heaps, almost haphazard. Notwithstanding that the inhabitants the most compromised, to the number of four thousand, take refuge on board English vessels, the whole city, say the representatives, is guilty. Four hundred workmen in the navy-yard having marched out to meet Fréron, he reminds them that they kept on working during the English occupation of the town, and he has them put to death on the spot. An order is issued to all “good citizens to assemble in the Champ de Mars on penalty of death.” They come there to the number of three thousand; Fréron, on horseback, surrounded by cannon and troops, arrives with about a hundred Maratists, the former accomplices of Lemaille, Sylvestre, and other well-known assassins, who form a body of local auxiliaries and counsellors; he tells them to select out of the crowd at pleasure according to their grudge, fancy, or caprice; all who are designated are ranged along a wall and shot.98 The next morning, and on the following days, the operation is renewed: Fréron writes on the 16th of Nivose that “eight hundred Toulonese have already been shot.” … “A volley of musketry,” says he, in another letter, and after that, volley after volley, until “the traitors are all gone.” Then, for three months after this, the guillotine despatches eighteen hundred persons; eleven young women have to mount the scaffold together, in honor of a republican festival; an old woman of ninety-four is borne to it in an armchair; Edition: current; Page: [884]a population of twenty-eight thousand falls down to six thousand or seven thousand.

All this is not enough; the two cities that dared maintain a siege must disappear from the French soil. The Convention decrees that “the city of Lyons shall be destroyed; every house occupied by a rich man shall be demolished; only the dwellings of the poor shall remain, with edifices specially devoted to industry, and monuments consecrated to humanity and public education.”99 The same at Toulon: “the houses within the town shall be demolished; only the buildings that are essential for army and navy purposes, for stores and munitions, shall be preserved.”100 Consequently, a requisition is made in Var and the neighboring departments for twelve thousand masons to level Toulon to the ground. At Lyons, fourteen thousand laborers pull down the Chateau Pierre-Encize; also the superb houses on Place Bellecour, those of the Quai St. Clair, those of the Rues de Flandre and de Bourgneuf, and many others; the cost of all this amounts to four hundred thousand livres per decade; in six months the Republic expends fifteen millions in destroying property valued at three or four hundred millions, belonging to the Republic.101 Since the Mongols of the fifth and thirteenth centuries, no such vast and irrational waste had been seen—such frenzy against the most profitable fruits of industry and human civilisation. Again, one can understand how the Mongols, who were nomads, desired to convert the soil into one vast steppe. But, to demolish a town whose arsenal and harbor is maintained by it, to destroy the leaders of manufacturing interests and their dwellings in a city where its workmen and factories are preserved, to keep up a fountain and stop the stream which flows from it, or the stream without the fountain, is so absurd that the idea could only enter the head of a Jacobin. His contracted mind is so worked up that he is no longer aware of Edition: current; Page: [885]contradictions; the ferocious stupidity of the barbarian and the fixed idea of the inquisitor meet on common ground; the earth is not big enough for any but himself and the orthodox of his species. Employing absurd, inflated and sinister terms he decrees the extermination of heretics: not only shall their monuments, dwellings and persons be destroyed, but every vestige of them shall be eradicated and their names lost to the memory of man. “The name of Toulon shall be abolished; that commune shall henceforth bear the name of Port-la-Montagne. … The name of Lyons shall be stricken off the list of towns belonging to the Republic; the remaining collection of houses shall henceforth bear the name of Ville-Affranchie. A column shall be erected on the ruins of Lyons bearing this inscription: ‘Lyons made war on Liberty! Lyons is no more!’ ”102


In all this there is no idea of sparing the chiefs of the insurrection or of the party, either deputies or ministers; on the contrary, the object is to complete the subjection of the Convention, to stifle the murmurs of the “Right,” to impose silence on Ducos, Fonfrède, Vernier, and Couhey, who still speak and protest.103 Hence the decrees of arrest or death, launched weekly from the top of the “Mountain,” fall on the majority like guns fired into a crowd. Decrees of accusation follow: on the 15th of June, against Duchatel, on the 17th against Barbaroux, on the 23d against Brissot, on the 8th of July Edition: current; Page: [886]against Devérité and Condorcet, on the 14th against Duperret and Fauchet, on the 30th against Duprat Jr., Vallée, and Mainvielle, on the 2d of August against Roulhier, Brunel, and Carra; Carra, Duperret, and Fauchet, present during the session, are seized on the spot, which is plain physical warning: none is more efficacious, to checkmate the unruly. Decrees are passed on the 18th of July accusing Coustard, on the 28th of July against Gensonné, Lasource, Vergniaud, Mollevault, Gardien, Grangeneuve, Fauchet, Boileau, Valazé, Cussy, and Meillan, each being aware that the tribunal before which he must appear is the antechamber to the guillotine. Decrees of condemnation are passed on the 12th of July against Birotteau, on the 28th of July against Buzot, Barbaroux, Gorsas, Lanjuniais, Salles, Louvet, Bergoeing, Pétion, Guadet, Chasset, Chambon, Lidon, Valady, Fermon, Kervelégen, Larivière, Rabaut St. Etienne, and Lesage; pronounced outlaws and traitors, they are to be led to the scaffold without trial as soon as they can be got hold of. Finally, on the 3d of October, a great haul of the net in the Assembly itself sweeps off the benches all the deputies that still seem capable of any independence: the first thing is to close the doors of the hall, which is done by Amar, reporter of the Committee of General Security;104 then, after a declamatory and calumnious speech, which lasts two hours, he reads off names on two lists of proscriptions: forty-five deputies, more or less prominent among the Girondists, are to be at once summoned before the revolutionary Tribunal; seventy-three others, who have signed secret protests against the 31st of May and 2d of June, are to be put in jail. No debate, the majority not being allowed even to express an opinion. Some of the proscribed attempt to exculpate themselves, but they are not allowed to be heard; none but the Montagnards have the floor, and they do no more than add to the lists, each according to personal enmity; Levasseur has Vigée put down, and Duroi adds the name of Richon. On their names being called, all the poor creatures who happen to be inscribed, Edition: current; Page: [887]quietly advance and “huddle together within the bar of the house, like lambs destined to slaughter,” and here they are separated into two flocks; on the one hand, the seventy-three, and on the other, the ten or twelve who, with the Girondists already kept under lock and key, are to furnish the sacramental and popular number, the twenty-two traitors whose punishment is a requirement of the Jacobin imagination;105 on the left, the batch for the prison; on the right, the batch for the guillotine.

To those who might be tempted to imitate them or defend them this is a sufficient lesson. Subject to the hootings and foul insults of the hags posted along the street, the seventy-three106 are conducted to the prisoners’ room in the mayoralty, already full; they pass the night standing on benches, scarcely able to breathe. The next day they are crammed into the prison for assassins and robbers, “la Force,” on the sixth story, under the roof; in this narrow garret their beds touch each other, while two of the deputies are obliged to sleep on the floor for lack of room. Under the skylights, which serve for windows, and at the foot of the staircase are two pig-pens; at the end of the apartment are the privies, and in one corner a night-tub, which completes the poisoning of the atmosphere already vitiated by this crowded mass of human beings; the beds consist of sacks of straw swarming with vermin; they are compelled to endure the discipline,107 rations, and mess of convicts. And they are lucky to escape at this rate: for Amar takes advantage of their silent deportment to tax them with conspiracy; other Montagnards likewise want to arraign them at the revolutionary Tribunal: at all events, it is agreed Edition: current; Page: [888]that the Committee of General Security shall examine their records and maintain the right of designating new culprits amongst them. For ten months they thus remain under the knife, in daily expectation of joining the twenty-two on the Place de la Révolution. With respect to the latter, the object is not to try them but to kill them, and the semblance of a trial is simply judicial assassination; the bill of indictment against them consists of club gossip; they are accused of having desired the restoration of the monarchy, of being in correspondence with Pitt and Cobourg;108 of having excited Vendée to insurrection. The betrayal of Dumouriez is imputed to them, also the murder of Lepelletier, and the assassination of Marat; while pretended witnesses, selected from amongst their personal enemies, come and repeat, like a theme agreed upon, the same ill-contrived fable: nothing but vague allegations and manifest falsehoods, not one definite fact, not one convincing document; the lack of proof is such that the trial has to be stopped as soon as possible. “You brave b—— forming the court,” writes Hébert, “don’t trifle away your time. Why so much ceremony in shortening the days of wretches whom the people have already condemned?” Care is especially taken not to let them have a chance to speak. The eloquence of Vergniaud and logic of Guadet might turn the tables at the last moment. Consequently, a prompt decree authorises the tribunal to stop proceedings as soon as the jury becomes sufficiently enlightened, which is the case after the seventh session of the court, the record of death suddenly greeting the accused, who are not allowed to defend themselves. Edition: current; Page: [889]One of them, Valazé, stabs himself in open court, and the next day the national head-chopper strikes off the remaining twenty heads in thirty-eight minutes. Still more expeditious are the proceedings against the accused who avoid a trial. Gorsas, seized in Paris on the 8th of October, is guillotined the same day. Birotteau, seized at Bordeaux, on the 24th of October, mounts the scaffold within twenty-four hours. The others, tracked like wolves, wandering in disguise from one hiding-place to another, and most of them arrested in turn, have only the choice of several kinds of death. Cambon is killed in defending himself. Lidon, after having defended himself, blows out his brains. Condorcet takes poison in the guard-room of Bourg-la-Reine. Roland kills himself with his sword on the highway. Clavière stabs himself in prison. Rebecqui is found drowned in the harbor of Marseilles, and Pétion and Buzot half eaten by wolves on the moor of St. Emilion. Valady is executed at Perigueux, Duchézeau at Rochefort, Grangeneuve, Guadet, Salles, and Barbaroux at Bordeaux, Coustard, Cussy, Rabaut St. Etienne, Bernard, Mazuyer, and Lebrun at Paris. Even those who resigned in January, 1793, Kersaint and Manuel, atone with their lives for the crime of having sided with the “Right” and, of course, Madame Roland, who pays as the leader of the party, is one of the first to be guillotined.109 Of the one hundred and eighty Girondists who led the Convention, one hundred and forty have perished or are in prison, or fled under sentence of death. After such a curtailment and such an example the remaining deputies cannot be otherwise than docile;110 neither in the central nor in the local government will the Edition: current; Page: [890]“Mountain” encounter resistance; its despotism is practically established, and all that remains is to proclaim this in legal form.


After the 2d of August, on motion of Bazire, the Convention decrees “that France is in revolution until its independence is recognised,” which means111 that the period of hypocritical phrases has come to an end, that the Constitution was merely a signboard for a fair, that the charlatans who had made use of it no longer need it, that it is to be put away in the receptacle of other advertising lumber, that individual, local, and parliamentary liberties are abolished, that the government is arbitrary and absolute, that no institution, law, dogma, or precedent affords any guarantee for it against the rights of the people, that property and lives are wholly at its mercy, that there are no longer any rights of man. Six weeks later, when, through the protest of the forty-five and the arrest of the seventy-three, obedience to the Convention is assured, all this is boldly and officially announced in the tribune. “Under the present circumstances of the Republic,” says Saint-Just, “the Constitution cannot Edition: current; Page: [891]be established; it would be self-immolated; it would become the guarantee of attacks on liberty, because it would lack the violence which is necessary to repress these.” To govern “according to maxims of natural peace and justice” is no longer an object; “these maxims will do among the friends of liberty”; but, between patriots and the malevolent, they are not applicable. The latter are not of the country, “they do not belong to its sovereignty,” they are outside the law, excluded from the social pact, rebellious slaves, fit for chastisement or constraint, and, amongst these, must be placed “the indifferents.” “You are to punish whoever is passive in the Republic and does nothing for it”;112 for his inertia is a betrayal and ranks him among public enemies. Now, between the people and its enemies, there is nothing in common but the sword; steel must control those who cannot be ruled “by justice”; the monarchical and the neutral majority must be “kept down”; the Republic will be founded only when the sans-culottes, the sole representatives of the nation, the only citizens, “shall rule by right of conquest.113 That is intelligible, and more besides. The régime of which Saint-Just presents the plan, is that by which every oligarchy of invaders installs and maintains itself over a subjugated nation. Through this régime, in Greece, ten thousand Spartans, after the Dorian invasion, mastered Edition: current; Page: [892]three hundred thousand helots and périocques; through this régime, in England, sixty thousand Normans, after the battle of Hastings, mastered two million Saxons; through this régime in Ireland, since the battle of the Boyne, two hundred thousand English Protestants have mastered a million of Catholic Irish; through this régime, the three hundred thousand Jacobins of France will master the seven or eight millions of Girondists, Feuillants, Royalists, or Indifferents.

It is a very simple one and consists in maintaining the subject population in a state of extreme helplessness and of extreme terror. To this end, it is disarmed;114 it is kept under surveillance; all action in common is prohibited; its eyes are always directed to the up-lifted axe and to the prison doors always open; it is ruined and decimated. For the past six months all these rigors are decreed and applied, disarmament of “suspects,” taxes on the rich, the maximum against traders, requisitions on land-owners, wholesale arrests, rapid executions of sentences, arbitrary penalties of death, and ostentatious, multiplied tortures. For the past six months, all sorts of executive instruments are manufactured and put in operation—the Committee of Public Safety, the Committee of General Security, ambulating proconsuls with full power, local committees authorised to tax and imprison at will, a revolutionary army, a revolutionary tribunal. But, for lack of internal harmony and of central impulsion, the machine Edition: current; Page: [893]only half works, the power not being sufficient and its action not sufficiently sweeping and universal. “You are too remote from assaults on you,” says Saint-Just”;115 “it is essential that the sword of the law should everywhere be rapidly brandished and your arm be everywhere present to arrest crime. … The ministers confess that, beyond their first and second subordinates, they find nothing but inertia and indifference.” “The like apathy prevails among all the government agents,” says Billaud-Varennes;116 “the secondary authorities forming the props of the Revolution serve only to impede it.” Decrees, transmitted through administrative channels, arrive slowly and are indolently applied. “You are wanting in that coactive force which is the principle of being, of action, of execution. … Every good government should possess a centre of volition and levers connected with it. … Every emanation of public force should be exclusively derived from its source.” “In ordinary governments,” says Couthon, finally,117 “the right of electing belongs to the people; you cannot take it away from them. In extraordinary governments all impulsion must proceed from the centrality; it is from the Convention that elections must issue. … You would injure the people by confiding the election of public officers to them, because you would expose them to electing men that would betray them.” The result is that the constitutional maxims of 1789 give way to contrary maxims; instead of subjecting the government to the people, the people is made subject to the government. The hierarchy of the ancient régime is reestablished under revolutionary terms, and henceforth all powers, much more formidable than those of the ancient régime, cease to be delegated from below upward that they may be delegated from above downward.

At the summit, a committee of twelve members, similar to the former royal council, exercises collective royalty; nominally, authority Edition: current; Page: [894]is divided amongst the twelve; really, it is concentrated in a few hands. Several occupy only a subaltern position, and amongst these, Barère, who, official secretary and mouthpiece, is always ready to make a speech and indite an editorial; others, with special functions, Jean Bon St. André, Lindet, and above all, Prieur de la Côte d’Or and Carnot, confine themselves each to his particular department, navy, war, supplies, with blank signatures, for which they give in return their signatures to the political leaders; the latter, called “the statesmen,” Robespierre, Couthon, Saint-Just, Collot d’Herbois, Billaud-Varennes, are the real monarchs, and they direct things generally. It is true that their mandate has to be renewed monthly; but this is a certainty, for, in the present state of the Convention, its vote, required beforehand, becomes an almost vain formality. More submissive than the parliament of Louis XIV., the Convention adopts, without discussion, the decrees which the Committee of Public Safety present to it ready made; it is no more than a registry-office, and scarcely that, for it has relinquished its right of appointing its own committees, that office being assigned to the Committee of Public Safety; it votes in a lump all lists of names which the Committee send in. Naturally, none but the creatures of the latter and the faithful are inscribed;118 thus, the whole legislative and parliamentary power belongs to it. As to executive and administrative power, the ministers have become mere clerks of the Committee of Public Safety; “they come every day at specified hours to receive its orders and acts”;119 they submit to it “the list with explanations, of all the agents” sent into the departments and abroad; they refer to it every minute detail; they are its scribes, merely its puppets, so insignificant that they finally lose their title, and for the “Commissioner Edition: current; Page: [895]on External Relations” a former school-master is taken, an inept clubbist, the pander of a billiard-room and liquor-saloon, scarcely able to read the documents brought to him to sign in the café where he passes his days.120 Thus is the second power in the State converted by the Committee into a squad of domestics, while the foremost one is converted into an auditory of claqueurs.

To maintain them true to their obligations it has two hands. One, the right, which seizes people unawares by the collar, is the Committee of General Security, composed of twelve extreme, Montagnards, such as Panis, Vadier, Lebas, Geoffroy, David, Amar, Lavicomterie, Lebon, and Ruhl, all nominated, that is to say, appointed by it, being its confederates and subalterns. They are its lieutenants of police, and once a week they come and take part in its labors, as formerly the D’Argengons, the Sartines, and the Lenoirs assisted the Comptroller-general. A man whom the conventicle deems a “suspect,” suddenly arrested, no matter who, whether representative, minister, or general, finds himself the next morning under bolt and bar in one of the ten new Bastilles. There, the other hand seizes him by the throat; this is the revolutionary Tribunal, an exceptional court like the extraordinary commissions of the ancient régime, only far more terrible. Aided by its police gang, the Committee of Public Safety itself selects the sixteen judges and sixty jurymen121 from among the most servile, the most furious, or the most brutal of the fanatics:122 Fouquier-Tinville, Hermann, Dumas, Payan, Coffinhal, Edition: current; Page: [896]Fleuriot-Lescot, and, lower down on the scale, apostate priests, renegade nobles, disappointed artists, infatuated studio-apprentices, journeymen scarcely able to write their names, shoe-makers, joiners, carpenters, tailors, barbers, former lackeys, an idiot like Ganney, a deaf man like Leroy-Dix-Aout, whose names and professions indicate all that is necessary to be told; these men are licensed and paid murderers; the jurymen themselves are allowed eighteen francs a day, so that they may attend to their business more leisurely. This business consists in condemning without proof, without any pleadings, and scarcely any examination, in a hurry, in batches, whoever the Committee of Public Safety might send to them, even the most confirmed Montagnards: Danton, who contrived the tribunal, will soon find all this out. Through these two government engines the Committee of Public Safety keeps every head under the cleaver and each head, to avoid being struck off, bows down,123 in the provinces as well as at Paris.

Owing to the mutilation of the local hierarchy, in the provinces as well as at Paris, and the introduction of new authorities, the omnipotent will of the Committee becomes everywhere present. Directly or indirectly, “for all government measures or measures of Edition: current; Page: [897]public safety, all that relates to persons and the general and internal police,” “all constituted bodies and all public functionaries, are placed under its inspection,”124 I leave it to be supposed whether they expose themselves to its guillotine. To suppress in advance any tendency to administrative inertia, it has had withdrawn from the too powerful, too much respected, department governments, “too inclined to federalism,” their departmental preëminence and their “political influence”;125 it reduces these to the levying of taxes and the supervision of roads and canals; it winnows them out through its agents; it even winnows out the governments of municipalities and districts. To suppress beforehand all probability of popular opposition, it has had the sessions of the sections reduced to two per week; it installs in them for about forty sous a day a majority of sans-culottes; it directs the suspension “until further orders” of the municipal elections.126 Finally, to have full control on the spot, it appoints its own men, first, the commissioners and the representatives on missions, a sort of temporary corps of directors sent into each department with unlimited powers;127 next, a body of national agents, a sort of permanent body of subdelegates, through whom in each district and municipality it replaces the procureurs-syndics.128 To Edition: current; Page: [898]this army of functionaries is added in each town, bourg, or large village, a revolutionary committee, paid three francs a day per member, charged with the application of its decrees, and required to make reports thereon. Never before was such a vast and closely-woven network cast from above to envelope and keep captive twenty-six millions of men. Such is the real constitution which the Jacobins substitute for the constitution they have prepared for show. In the arsenal of the monarchy which they destroyed they took the most despotic institutions—centralisation, Royal Council, lieutenants of police, special tribunals, intendants, and subdelegates; they disinterred the antique Roman law of lèse-majesty, refurbished old blades which civilisation had dulled, aiming them at every throat and now wielded at random against liberties, property and lives. It is called the “revolutionary government”; according to official statements it is to last until peace is secured; in the minds of genuine Jacobins it is to last until, as declared in its formula, all Frenchmen are “regenerated.”

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BOOK SIXTH: The Jacobin Programme

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I. Programme of the Jacobin party—Abstract principle and spontaneous development of the theory— II. The Jacobin conception of Society—The Contrat-Social—Total surrender of the Individual to the Community—Everything belongs to the State—Confiscations and Sequestrations—Preemption and requisitions of produce and merchandise—Individuals belong to the State—Drafts of persons for Military service—Drafts of persons for the Civil service—Personal sentiments and ideas subject to the State, at once philanthropist, pedagogue, theologian, censor, moralist and director— III. The object of the State is the regeneration of man—Two branches of this work—Restoration of the Natural man—Formation of the Social man—Grandeur of the undertaking—Force a right and duty in carrying it out— IV. The two distortions of the natural man—Positive religion—Proscription of the orthodox cult—Measures against unsworn priests—Measures against the loyal orthodox—Destruction of the constitutional cult—Pressure on the sworn priests—Churches closed and ceremonies suppressed—Prolongation of these persecutions until the Consulate— V. Social inequality—Evil doings of the upper aristocracy—Measures against the King and Nobles—Evil doings of the aristocracy of wealth—Measures against land-owners, capitalists and people with incomes—Destruction of large fortunes—Measures taken to prevent large fortunes— VI. Conditions requisite for making a citizen—Plans for suppressing poverty—Measures in favor of the poor— VII. Repression of Egoism—Measures against agriculturists, manufacturers and merchants—Socialistic projects—Repression of Federalism—Measures against the local, professional and family spirit— VIII. Formation of soul and intellect—Civil religion—National education—Measures for equality—Obligatory civism—The recasting and reduction of human nature to the Jacobin type.

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Nothing is more dangerous than a general idea in narrow and empty minds: as they are empty, it finds no knowledge there to interfere with it; as they are narrow it is not long before it occupies the place entirely. Henceforth they no longer belong to themselves but are mastered by it; it works in them and through them, the man, in the true sense of the word, being possessed. Something which is not himself, a monstrous parasite, a foreign and disproportionate conception, lives within him, developing and giving birth to the evil purposes with which it is pregnant. He did not foresee that he would have them; he did not know what his dogma contained, what venomous and murderous consequences were to issue from it. They issue from it fatally, each in its turn, and under the pressure of circumstances, at first anarchical consequences and now despotic consequences. Having obtained power, the Jacobin brings his fixed idea along with him; whether at the head of the government or in opposition to it, this idea is fruitful, and the all-powerful dogma projects over a new domain the innumerable links of its endless chain.


Let us trace this inward development and go back, along with the Jacobin, to first principles, to the original pact, to the first organisation of society. There is but one legitimate society, that founded on the “contrat-social,” and “the clauses of this contract fully understood, reduce themselves to one, the total alienation of each individual, with all his rights, to the community, … each surrendering himself up absolutely, just as he actually stands, he and all his forces, of which the property he possesses forms a part.”1 There must be no exception or reservation. Nothing of what he previously was, or had, now belongs to him in his own right; henceforth, what he is, Edition: current; Page: [903]or has, devolves upon him only through delegation. His property and his person now form a portion of the commonwealth. If he is in possession of these, his ownership is at second hand; if he derives any benefit therefrom, it is as a concession. He is their depository, trustee, and administrator, and nothing more.2 In other words, with respect to these he is simply a managing director, that is to say a functionary like others, with a precarious appointment and always revocable by the State which has commissioned him. “As nature gives to every man absolute power over the members of his body the social pact gives the social body absolute power over all its members.” The State, as omnipotent sovereign and universal proprietor, exercises at discretion, its boundless rights over persons and things; consequently we, its representatives, take all things and persons into our hands; as they belong to it, so do they belong to us.

We have confiscated the possessions of the clergy, amounting to about four billion livres; we confiscate the property of the emigrés, amounting to three billion livres;3 we confiscate the property of the guillotined and transported: all this amounts to some hundreds of millions; later on, the count will be made, because the list remains open and is being daily added to. We sequestrate the property of “suspects,” which gives us its usufruct: here are many hundred millions more; after the war and the banishment of “suspects,” we shall seize the property along with its usufruct: here, again, are millions of capital.4 Meanwhile, we take the property of hospitals and of other benevolent institutions, about eight hundred million livres; we take Edition: current; Page: [904]the property of factories, of endowments, of educational institutions, and of literary and scientific associations: another lot of millions.5 We take back the domains rented or alienated by the State for the past three centuries and more, which gives again about a couple of billions.6 We take the possessions of the communes up to the amount of their indebtedness. We have already received as an inheritance the ancient domains of the crown, also the later domain of the civil list. More than three-fifths7 of the soil thus falls into our hands, which three-fifths are much the best stocked; they comprise almost all the large and fine edifices, châteaux, abbeys, mansions, houses of superintendents; and nearly all the royal, episcopal, seignorial, and bourgeois stock of rich and elegant furniture; all plate, libraries, pictures and artistic objects accumulated for centuries. Remark, again, the seizure of specie and all other articles of gold and silver; in the months alone of November and December, 1793, this swoop puts into our coffers three or four hundred millions,8 not assignats, but ringing coin. In short, whatever the form of established capital may be we take all we can get hold of, probably more than three-fourths of it. There remains the portion which is not fixed capital, that which disappears in use, namely, all that is consumed, all the fruits of the soil, every description of provision, all the products of Edition: current; Page: [905]human art and labor which contribute to the maintenance of existence. Through “the right of preemption” and through the right of “requisition,” “the Republic becomes temporary proprietor of whatever commerce, manufacture, and agriculture have produced and added to the soil of France”: all food and merchandise9 is ours before being owned by their holder. We carry out of his house whatever suits us; we pay him for this with worthless paper; we frequently do not pay him at all. For greater convenience, we seize objects directly and wherever we find them, grain in the farmer’s barn, hay in the reaper’s shed, cattle in the fold, wine in the vats, hides at the butcher’s, leather in the tanneries, soap, tallow, sugar, brandy, cloths, linens, and the rest, in stores, depots, and ware-houses. We stop vehicles and horses in the street. We enter the premises of mail or coach contractors and empty their stables. We carry away kitchen utensils to obtain the copper; we turn people out of their rooms to get their beds; we strip them of their coats and shirts; in one day, we make ten thousand individuals in one town go barefoot.10 “When public needs require it,” says representative Isoré, “all belongs to the people and nothing to individuals.”

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By virtue of the same right we dispose of persons as we do of things. We decree a general uprising of the people, and, stranger still, we carry it out, at least in many parts of the country, and we keep it up for months: in Vendée, and in the northern and eastern departments, the entire male, able-bodied population, all up to fifty years of age, are driven in flocks against the enemy.11 We afterwards muster in an entire generation, all young men between eighteen and twenty-five, almost a million of men:12 whoever fails to appear is put in irons for ten years; he is regarded as a deserter; his property is confiscated, and his relations are punished along with him; later, he is assimilated with the emigrants, condemned to death, and his father, mother, and progenitors, treated as “suspects,” are imprisoned and their possessions taken. To clothe, shoe, and equip our recruits, we must have workmen: we summon to head-quarters all gunsmiths, blacksmiths, and locksmiths, all the tailors and shoemakers of the district, “foremen, apprentices, and boys”;13 we imprison those who do not come; we install the rest in squads in public buildings and assign them their tasks; they are forbidden to furnish anything to private individuals; henceforth, French shoemakers must work only for us, and each must deliver to us, under penalty, so many pairs of shoes per decade. But, the civil service is no less important than the military service, and to feed the people is as urgent as it is to defend them. Hence we put “in requisition all who have anything to do with handling, transporting or selling provisions and articles of prime necessity,”14 especially combustibles and Edition: current; Page: [907]food—wood-choppers, carters, raftsmen, millers, reapers, threshers, wine-growers, mowers, field-hands, “country people” of every kind and degree. Their hands belong to us: we make them bestir themselves and work under the penalty of fine and imprisonment. There shall be no idlers, especially in crop time: we take the entire population of a commune or canton into the fields, comprising “the lazy of both sexes”;15 willingly or not, they shall do the harvesting under our eyes, banded together in fields belonging to others as well as in their own, and they shall put the sheaves indiscriminately into the public granary.

But in labor all hangs together, from the initial undertaking to the final result, from the raw material to the most finished production, from the great manufacturer down to the pettiest jobber; grasping the first link of the chain involves grasping the last one. The requisition here again answers the purpose: we apply it to all pursuits; each is bound to continue his own; the manufacturer to manufacture, the trader to trade, even to his own detriment, because, if a loser by this, the public gains, and every good citizen ought to prefer public profit to his own profit.16 In effect, let his office be what it will, he is an employee of the community; therefore, the community may not only prescribe task-work to him, but select his task; it need not consult him in the matter, for he has no right to refuse. Hence it is that we appoint or maintain people in spite of themselves, in the magistracy, in the army and in every other species of employment; in vain may they excuse themselves or get out of the way; they must remain, or become generals, judges, mayors, national agents, town councillors, commissioners of charity or of the government, in self-defence.17 So much the worse for them if the Edition: current; Page: [908]duty be onerous or dangerous, if they cannot afford the time, if they do not feel themselves qualified for it, if the rank or service seems to them to be a step in the direction of a prison or the guillotine; on their alleging that the office is a burdensome tax we reply that they are taxable property of the State. Such is, henceforth, the condition of all Frenchmen, and likewise of all French women. We force mothers to take their daughters to the meetings of popular clubs. We oblige women to parade in companies, and march in procession at republican festivals; we invade the family and select the most beautiful to be draped as antique goddesses, and publicly promenaded on a car; we often designate those among the rich who must wed patriots:18 there is no reason why marriage, which is the most important of all services, should not be put in requisition like the others. Accordingly, we enter families, we carry off the child, we subject him to a civic education. We are schoolmasters, philanthropists, Edition: current; Page: [909]theologians, and moralists. We impose by force our religion and our ritual, our morality and our social customs. We lord it over private lives and consciences; we dictate ideas, we scrutinise and punish secret inclinations, we tax, imprison and guillotine not only the evil-disposed, but again “the indifferent, the moderate and the egotistical.”19 Over and above his visible acts we dictate to the individual his ideas and his deepest feelings; we prescribe to him his affections as well as his beliefs, and, according to a preconceived type, we refashion his intellect, his conscience and his sensibilities.


There is nothing arbitrary in this operation; for the ideal model is traced beforehand. If the State is omnipotent, it is for the purpose of regenerating man, and the theory which confers rights on it, at the same time assigns to it its object.

In what does this regeneration of man consist? Consider an animal in a domestic state, the dog or the horse. Emaciated, flogged, tied or chained, a thousand are strained and overworked against one which has an easy time and dies of good living; and with all of them, whether fat or lean, the soul is still more abused than the body. A superstitious respect keeps them cowed under the load they carry, or makes them cringe before their master. Servile, slothful, gluttonous, feeble, incapable of resisting changes in the weather, if they have learned to adapt themselves to slavery they have also contracted its infirmities, necessities, and vices. A crust of absurd habits and perverse inclinations, a sort of artificial and supplementary existence, has covered over their original nature. Again, on the other hand, the better side of their original nature has had no chance to develop itself, for lack of use. Each separated from the other, they have not acquired the sentiment of community; they do not know, like their brethren of the prairies, how to help each other and subordinate Edition: current; Page: [910]private interests to the interests of the flock. Each pulls his own way, nobody cares for others, all are egoists; social interests have miscarried. Such is man nowadays, a disfigured being that has to be made over, an imperfect creature that has to be completed. Our task, accordingly, is two-fold; we have to demolish and we have to construct; we must first set free the natural man that we may afterward build up the social man.

It is a vast enterprise and we are conscious of its vastness. “It is necessary,” says Billaud-Varennes,20 “that the people to which one desires to restore their freedom should in some way be created anew, since old prejudices must be destroyed, old habits changed, depraved affections improved, superfluous wants restricted, and inveterate vices extirpated.” How sublime the undertaking, for the object is “to fulfil the desires of nature,21 accomplish the destinies of humanity, and fulfil the promises of philosophy.” “Our purpose,” says Robespierre,22 “is to substitute morality for egoism, honesty for honor, principles for usages, duties for proprieties, the empire of reason for the tyranny of fashion, contempt of vice for indifference to misfortune, dignity for insolence, nobleness for vanity, love of glory for the love of lucre, good people for good society, merit for intrigue, genius for intellectual brilliancy, the charm of contentment for the satiety of pleasure, the majesty of man for the high-breeding of the Edition: current; Page: [911]great, a magnanimous, powerful, and happy people, for an amiable, frivolous and wretched people, that is to say, every virtue and miracle of the Republic in the place of the vices and absurdities of the monarchy.” We will do this, the whole of it, cost what it will. Little do we care for the present generation; we are working for generations to come. “Man, forced to isolate himself from society, anchors himself in the future and presses to his heart a posterity innocent of existing evils.”23 He sacrifices to this work his own and the lives of others. “On the day that I am satisfied,” writes Saint-Just, “that it is impossible to render the French people kind, energetic, tender, and inexorable against tyranny and injustice, I will stab myself.” “What I have done in the South I will do in the North,” says Baudot; “I will convert them into patriots; either they or I must die.” “We will make France a cemetery,” says Carrier, “rather than not regenerate it our own way.” In vain may the ignorant or the vicious protest; they protest because they are ignorant or vicious. In vain may the individual plead his personal rights; he has none, for, through the social contract, which is obligatory and solely valid, he has surrendered his entire being; having made no reservation, “he has nothing to claim.” Undoubtedly, some will kick, because, with them, the old wrinkle remains and artificial habits still cover over the original instinct. Untie the mill-horse, and he will still go round in the same track; let the mountebank’s dog be turned loose, and he will still raise himself on his hind-legs; if we would bring them back to their natural gait we must handle them roughly. In like manner, to restore man to his normal attitude, you must handle him roughly. But, in this respect, have no scruples,24 for we do not bow him down, Edition: current; Page: [912]we raise him up; as Rousseau says, “we compel him to be free”; we confer on him the greatest boon a human being can receive; we bring him back to nature and to justice. For this reason, now that he is warned, if he persists in his resistance, he is criminal and merits every kind of chastisement,25 for, he declares himself a rebel and a perjurer, inimical to humanity, and a traitor to the social compact.


Let us begin by figuring to ourselves the natural man; certainly we of today have some difficulty in recognising him; he bears but little resemblance to the artificial being who stands in his shoes, the creature which an antiquated system of constraint and fraud has deformed, held fast in his hereditary harness of thraldom and superstition, blinded by his religion and held in check by prestige, speculated on by his government and trained by blows, always with a halter on, always made to work in a counter sense and against nature, whatever stall he may occupy, high or low, however full or empty his crib may be, now in menial service like the blinded hack-horse which turns a mill-wheel, and now on parade like the learned dog which, decked with flags, shows off its antics before the public.26 Edition: current; Page: [913]But imagine all these out of the way, the flags and the bands, the trammels and compartments in the social stable, and you will see a new man appearing, the original man, intact and healthy in mind, soul, and body.

In this condition, he is free of prejudice, he has not been circumvented by falsities, he is neither Jew, Protestant, nor Catholic; if he tries to form an idea of the universe and of the origin of things he will not allow himself to be duped by a pretended revelation; he will listen only to his own reason; he may chance, now and then, to become an atheist, but, generally, he will settle down into a deist. In this condition of things he is not fettered by a hierarchy; he is neither noble nor commoner, land-owner nor tenant, inferior nor superior. Independent of the others, all are equal, and, if all agree in the forming of an association, their common-sense will stipulate that its first article shall secure the maintenance of this primordial equality. Such is man, as nature made him, as history has unmade him, and as the Revolution is to remake him.27 One cannot batter away too vigorously against the two casings that hold him tight, one the positive religion which narrows and perverts his intellect, and the other the social inequality which perverts and weakens his will;28 Edition: current; Page: [914]for, at every effort, some band is loosened, and, as each band gives way, the paralysed limbs recover their action.

Let us trace the progress of this liberating operation. Always timid and at loggerheads with the ecclesiastical organisation, the Constituent Assembly could take only half-measures; it cut into the bark without daring to drive the axe into the solid trunk. Its work reduced itself down to the confiscation of clerical property, to a dissolution of the religious orders, and to a check upon the authority of the pope; its object was to establish a new church and transform priests into sworn functionaries of the State, and this was all. As if Catholicism, even administrative, would cease to be Catholicism! As if the noxious tree, once stamped with the public seal, would cease to be noxious! Instead of the old laboratory of falsehoods being destroyed another is patented alongside of it, so that there are now two instead of one. With or without the official label it operates in every commune in France and, as in the past, it supplies the public with its nostrum with impunity. This is precisely what we cannot tolerate. We must, indeed, keep up appearances, and, as far as words go, we will decree anew freedom of worship.29 But, in fact and in practice, we will demolish the laboratory and prevent the nostrum from being sold; there shall no longer be any Catholic worship in France, no baptism, no confession, no marriage, no extreme unction, no mass: nobody shall preach or listen to a sermon; nobody shall administer or receive a sacrament, save in concealment, and with the prospect before him of imprisonment or the scaffold. To this end, we will take things in their order. There is no difficulty in regard to the self-styled orthodox Church: its members having refused Edition: current; Page: [915]to take the oath are outlaws; one excludes oneself from an association when one repudiates the pact; they have lost their qualifications as citizens and have become ordinary foreigners under the surveillance of the police; and, as they propagate around them discontent and disobedience, they are not only foreigners but seditious persons, enemies in disguise, the authors of a secret and widespread Vendée; it is not necessary for us to prosecute them as charlatans, it is sufficient to strike them down as rebels. As such, we have already banished from France all unsworn ecclesiastics, about forty thousand priests, and we are transporting those who did not cross the frontier within the allotted time: we allow only sexagenarians and the infirm to remain on French soil, and, again, as prisoners and in seclusion; they incur the penalty of death if they do not of their own accord crowd to the prisons of their county town; the banished who return home incur the penalty of death, and there is penalty of death against those who harbor priests.30 Consequently, in default of an orthodox clergy, there must no longer be an orthodox worship; the most dangerous of the two manufactories of superstition is shut up. That the sale of this poisonous food may be more surely stopped we punish Edition: current; Page: [916]those who ask for it the same as those who provide it, and we prosecute not only the pastors, but, again, the fanatics of the flock; if these are not the authors of the ecclesiastical rebellion they are its promoters and accomplices. Now, thanks to the schism among them, we already know who they are, and, in each commune, the list is made out. We style as fanatics all who reject the ministry of the sworn priests, the bourgeois who calls him an interloper, all the nuns who confess to him, all the peasants who stay away from his mass, all the old women who do not kiss his paten, all the relations of an infant who do not wish him to baptise it. All these people and those who associate with them, whether nearly related, kinsmen, friends, guests, or visitors, of whatever class, either men or women, are seditious at heart, and, therefore, “suspects.” We deprive them of their electoral rights, we withdraw their pensions, we impose on them special taxation, we confine them to their dwellings, we imprison them by thousands, and guillotine them by hundreds; the rest will gradually become discouraged and abandon an impracticable cult.31 The lukewarm remain, the sheep-like crowd which holds on to its rites: the Constituent Assembly will seize them wherever it finds them, and, as they are the same in the authorised as in the refractory church, instead of seeking them with the priest who does not submit, it will seek them with the one who does. But it will proceed without zeal, without confidence, often even with distrust, questioning itself whether these rites, being administered by one who is excommunicated, are not base metal. Such a church is not substantial, and we have only to give it a push to knock it down. We will do all we can to discredit constitutional priests: we will prohibit them from wearing the ecclesiastical costume, and force them by law to bestow the nuptial benediction on their apostate brethren; we will employ terror and imprisonment to constrain them to marry; we will give them no respite until they return to civil life, some Edition: current; Page: [917]admitting themselves to be impostors, many by surrendering their priestly credentials, and most of them by resigning their places.32 Deprived of leaders by these voluntary or forced desertions, the Catholic flock will allow itself to be easily led out of the fold, while, to remove all temptation to go back, we will tear the enclosure down. Edition: current; Page: [918]In the communes in which we are masters we will make the Jacobins of the place demand the abolition of worship, while, in other communes, we will get rid of this authoritatively through our missionary representatives. We will close the churches, demolish the steeples, melt down the bells, send all sacred vessels to the Mint, smash the images of the saints, desecrate relics, prohibit religious burials, impose the civil burial, prescribe rest during the décadi,33 and labor on Sundays. No exception whatever. Since all positive religions maintain error, we will proscribe every form of worship: we will exact from Protestant clergymen a public abjuration; we will not let the Jews practise their ceremonies; we will have “an ‘auto-da-fé,’ of all the books and symbols of the faith of Moses.”34 But, of all these various juggling machines, the worst is the Catholic, the most hostile to nature in the celibacy of its priesthood, the most opposed to reason in the absurdity of its dogmas, the most opposed to democracy, since its powers are delegated from above downwards, the best protected from civil authority because its head is outside of France. Accordingly, we must be most furious against it; even after Thermidor, we will keep up constant persecution, great and small; up to the Consulate, we will transport and shoot down priests, we will revive against fanatics the laws of the Reign of Terror, we will hamper their movements, we will exhaust their patience; we will keep them anxious during the day and restless at night; we will not give them a moment’s repose.35 We will restrict the population to the decadal cult; we will pursue it with our propagandism even to the dinner-table; we will change the market-days, so that no believer shall be able to buy fish on a fast-day.36 We have nothing more at Edition: current; Page: [919]heart than this war against Catholicism; no article on our programme will be carried out with more determination and perseverance. The question involved is truth. We are its guardians, its champions, its ministers, and never did the servants of truth apply force with such minute detail and such effect to the extirpation of error.


Alongside of superstition there is another monster to be destroyed, and, on this side also, the Constituent Assembly began its attack. But on this side also, through lack of courage or of logic, it stopped, after two or three feeble blows. All that it did to restore natural equality consisted in this—an interdiction of heraldic insignia, titles of nobility and territorial names; the abolition, without indemnity, of all the dues belonging to the seigneur by right of his former proprietorship over persons; the permission to purchase other feudal rights at a price agreed upon, and the limitation of royal power. This was little enough; when it concerns usurpers and tyrants they must be treated in another fashion; for their privilege is, of itself, an outrage on the rights of man. Consequently, we have dethroned the King and cut off his head;37 we have suppressed, without indemnity, the entire feudal debt, comprising the rights vested in the seigneurs Edition: current; Page: [920]by virtue of their being owners of real-estate, and merely lessors; we have abandoned their persons and possessions to the claims and rancor of local jacqueries; we have reduced them to emigration; we imprison them if they stay at home; we guillotine them if they return. Reared in habits of supremacy, and convinced that they are of a different species from other men, the prejudices of race are incorrigible; they are incapable of companionship with their social equals; we cannot too carefully crush them out, or, at the very least, hold them firmly down.38 Besides, they are guilty from the fact of having existed; for, they have taken both the lead and the command without any right to do so, and, in violation of all right, they have misused mankind; having enjoyed their rank, it is but just that they should pay for it. Privileged the wrong way, they must be treated the same as vagabonds were treated under their reign, stopped by the police and sent off with their families into the interior, crowded into prisons, executed in a mass, or, at least, expelled from Paris, the seaports and fortified towns, put on the limits, compelled to present themselves daily at the municipality, deprived of their political rights, excluded from public offices, “popular clubs, committees of supervision and from communal and section assemblages.”39 Even this is indulgence; branded with infamy, we ought to class them with galley-slaves, and set them to work on the public highways.40 “Justice condemns the people’s enemies and the partisans of tyranny to eternal slavery.”41

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But that does not suffice; for, apart from the aristocracy of rank, there are other aristocracies which the Constituent Assembly has left untouched,42 especially the aristocracy of wealth. Of all the sovereignties, that of the rich man over the poor one is the most burdensome. In effect, not only, in contempt of equality, does he consume more than his share of the common products of labor, and without producing anything himself, but again, in contempt of liberty, he may fix wages as he pleases, and, in contempt of humanity, he always fixes them at the lowest point. Between himself and the necessitous he never makes other than the most iniquitous contracts. Sole possessor of land, capital and the necessaries of life, he imposes conditions which others, deprived of means, are forced to accept at the risk of starvation; he speculates at his discretion on wants which cannot be put off, and makes the most of his monopoly by maintaining the indigent in their indigent situations. “Hence,” writes Saint-Just,43 “opulence is infamous; it consists in feeding fewer natural or adopted children according to every thousand livres of income.” Edition: current; Page: [922]“The richest Frenchman,” says Robespierre, “ought not to have now more than three thousand livres rental.” Beyond what is strictly necessary, no property is legitimate; we have the right to take the superfluous wherever we find it; not only today, because we now require it for the State and for the poor, but at all times, because the superfluous, in all times, confers on its possessor an advantage in contracts, a control of wages, an arbitrament over the means of living, in short, a supremacy of condition worse than preëminence in rank. Consequently, our hand is not against the nobles merely, but against the rich and well-to-do bourgeois,44 also the large land-owners and capitalists; we are going to demolish their crafty feudalism from top to bottom.45 In the first place, we prevent, and solely through the operation of new institutions, any recipient of a large income from levying on, as is customary with him, the best portion of the fruits of another’s labor; the drones shall no longer annually consume the honey of other bees. To bring this about, we have only to let the assignats and the forced rate (at which they shall be received) work things out. Through the depreciation of paper-money, the indolent land-owner or capitalist sees his income melting away in his hands; his receipts consist only of nominal values. On the 1st of January, his tenant pays him really for a half Edition: current; Page: [923]term instead of a full term; on the 1st of March, his farmer settles his account with a bag of grain;46 the effect is just the same as if we had made fresh contracts, and reduced by one-half, three-quarters, or, even more, the rate of interest on loans, the rent of houses and the leases of farm lands. Whilst the revenue of the landlord evaporates, his capital melts away, and we do the best we can to help this along. If he has claims on ancient corporations or civil and religious establishments of any description, whether provincial governments, congregations, associations, endowments or hospitals, we withdraw his special guarantee; we convert his title-deeds into a state annuity, we combine his private fortune with the public fortune whether he will or not, we drag him into the universal bankruptcy, toward which we are conducting all the creditors of the Republic.47

Besides, to effect his ruin, we have more direct and prompt means. If an emigré, and there are hundreds of thousands of emigrés, we confiscate his possessions; if he has been guillotined or transported, and there are tens of thousands of these, we confiscate his possessions; if he is “a marked enemy of the Revolution,”48 and “all the rich pray for the counter-revolution,”49 we sequestrate his property; Edition: current; Page: [924]we enjoy the usufruct of it until peace is declared, and we shall have the property after the war is over; usufruct or property, the State, in either case, inherits; at most, we may sometimes grant temporary aid to the family, which is not even entitled to food.

It is impossible to uproot fortunes more thoroughly. As to those which are not at once eradicated we get rid of them piece-meal, and against these we employ two axes. On the one hand, we decree the principle of progressive taxation, and on this basis we establish the forced loan:50 in incomes, we distinguish between the essential and the surplus; we fix the essential at one thousand francs per head; according as the excess is greater or less we take a quarter, a third or the half of it, and, when above nine thousand francs, the whole; beyond its small alimentary reserve, the most opulent family will keep only four thousand five hundred francs income. On the other hand, we cut deep into capital through revolutionary taxes; our committees and provincial proconsuls levy arbitrarily what suits them, three hundred, five hundred, up to one million two hundred thousand francs,51 on this or that banker, trader, bourgeois or widow, payable within a week; all the worse for the person taxed if he or she has no money on hand and is unable to borrow it; we declare them “suspects,” we imprison them, we sequestrate their property and the State enjoys it in their place. In any event, even when the amount is paid, we force him or her to deposit their silver and gold coin in our hands, sometimes with assignats as security, and often nothing; henceforth, coin must circulate and the precious metals are in requisition;52 everybody will deliver up what plate he possesses. Edition: current; Page: [925]And let nobody presume to conceal his hoard; all treasure, whether silver-plate, diamonds, ingots, gold or silver, coined or uncoined, “discovered, or that may be discovered, buried in the ground or concealed in cellars, inside of walls or in garrets, under floors, pavements, or hearthstones, or in chimneys and other hiding places,”53 becomes the property of the Republic, with a premium of twenty per cent. in assignats to the informer. As, furthermore, we make requisitions for bed-linen, beds, clothes, provisions, wines and the rest, along with specie and the precious metals, the condition of a mansion may be imagined, especially after we have lodged in it; it is the same as if the house had been on fire; all personal capital is gone, as well as other capital. Now that both are destroyed they must not be allowed to accumulate again. To ensure this, we abolish, according to rule, the freedom of bequest,54 we prescribe equal and obligatory divisions of all inheritances;55 we include bastards in this under the same title as legitimate children; we admit représentation à l’infini,56 “in order to multiply heirs and parcel out inheritances;”57 Edition: current; Page: [926]we reduce the disposable portion to one-tenth, in the direct line, and one-sixth in a collateral line; we forbid any gift to persons whose income exceeds one thousand quintals of grain; we inaugurate adoption, “an admirable institution,” and essentially republican, “since it brings about a division of large properties without a crisis.” Already, in the Legislative Assembly a deputy had stated that “equal rights could be maintained only by a persistent tendency to uniformity of fortunes.”58 We have provided for this for the present day and we likewise provide for it in the future. None of the vast excrescences which have sucked the sap of the human plant are to remain; we have cut them away with a few telling blows, while the steady-moving machine, permanently erected by us, will shear off their last tendrils should they chance to sprout again.


Through this restoration of the natural man we have prepared for the advent of the social man. The object now is to form the citizen, and this is possible only through a levelling of conditions; “neither rich nor poor are necessary” in a well constituted society;59 we have already destroyed the opulence which corrupts; it now remains for us to suppress the indigence which degrades. Under the tyranny of Edition: current; Page: [927]material things, which is as oppressive as the tyranny of men, man falls below himself; never will a citizen be made out of a poor fellow condemned to remain valet, hireling, or beggar, to think only of himself and his daily bread, to ask in vain for work, to plod twelve hours a day at a monotonous pursuit, to live like a beast of burden and die in a hospital.60 He must have his own bread, his own roof and all that is indispensable for life; he must not be overworked, nor suffer anxiety or constraint; “he must live independently, respect himself, have a tidy wife and healthy and robust children.”61 The community should guarantee him comfort, security, the certainty of not going hungry if he becomes infirm, and, if he dies, of not leaving his family in want. “It is not enough,” says Barère,62 “to bleed the rich, to pull down colossal fortunes; the slavery of poverty must be made to disappear from the soil of the Republic.” “The unfortunate,” says Saint-Just, “are the powerful of the earth; they have a right to speak as masters to the governments which neglect them;63 they have a right to national beneficence. … In a democracy under organisation, everything should tend to raise each citizen above the prime necessities, by labor if he is fit for work, by education if he is a child, by succor if he is an invalid or in old age.”64 And never was there so propitious a moment. “Rich in domains, the Republic is calculating the millions intended by the rich for counter revolution, for the amelioration of the lot of its less fortunate citizens. … Those who would assassinate liberty have made it the richer. … The possessions of conspirators exist for the benefit of the unfortunate.”65 Edition: current; Page: [928]Let the poor take with a quiet conscience: it is not a charity but “an indemnity” which we provide for them; we save their pride by providing for their comfort, and we solace them without humiliating them. “We leave charitable enterprises to monarchies; this vile and insolent way of furnishing assistance is fit only for slaves and masters; we substitute for it a system of national works, on a grand scale, over the whole territory of the Republic.”66 On the other hand, we cause a statement to be drawn up in each commune, of “the condition of citizens without property,” and “of national possessions not disposed of”; we divide these possessions in small lots; we distribute them “in the shape of national sales” to poor folks able to work; we give, “through form of rental,” an acre to each head of a family who has less than an acre of his own; “we thus bind all citizens to the country as well as to property; we restore to the soil idle and robust arms, and families lost or enervated in the workshops and in the towns.” As to old and infirm farmers or mechanics, Edition: current; Page: [929]also poor mothers, wives, and widows of mechanics and farmers, we keep in each department a “big ledger of national beneficence”; we inscribe thereon for every thousand inhabitants, four farmers, two mechanics, five women, either mothers or widows; each registered person shall be pensioned by the State, the same as a maimed soldier; labor-invalids are as respectable as war-invalids. Over and above those who are privileged on account of poverty, we relieve and elevate the entire poor class, not alone the thirteen hundred thousand indigent enumerated in France,67 but, again, all who, having little or no means on hand, live from day to day on what they can earn. We have passed a law68 by which the public treasury shall, through a tax on large fortunes, “furnish to each commune or district the necessary funds for adapting the price of bread to the rate of wages.” Our representatives in the provinces impose on the wealthy the obligation of “lodging, feeding, and clothing all infirm, aged, and indigent citizens and orphans of their respective cantons.”69 Through the decree on monopolisation and the establishment of the maximum we bring within reach of the poor all objects of prime necessity. We pay them forty sous a day for attending district meetings; and three francs a day for serving on committees of surveillance. We recruit from amongst them our revolutionary army;70 we select amongst them the innumerable custodians of sequestrés: in this way, hundreds of thousands of sans-culottes enter into the various public services. At last, the poor are taken out of a state of poverty: each will now have his plot of ground, his salary Edition: current; Page: [930]or pension; “in a well-ordered republic nobody is without some property.”71 Henceforth, among individuals, the difference in welfare will be small; from the maximum to the minimum, there will be only a degree, while there will be found in every dwelling about the same sort of household, a plain, simple household, that of the small rural proprietor, well-off farmer or factory foreman; that of Rousseau at Montmorency, or that of the Savoyard Vicar, or that of Duplay, the carpenter, with whom Robespierre lodges.72 There will be no more domestic servitude: “only the bond of help and gratitude will exist between employer and employee.”73 “He who works for another citizen belongs to his family and sits at his table.”74 Through the transformation of low conditions into average conditions we restore men to their dignity, and out of the proletaire, the valet, and the workman, we begin to liberate the citizen.


Two leading obstacles hinder the development of civism, and the first is egoism. Whilst the citizen prefers the community to himself, the egoist prefers himself to the community. He cares only for his own interest, he gives no heed to public necessities; he sees none of the superior rights which take precedence of his derived right; he supposes that his property is his own without restriction or condition; he forgets that, if he is allowed to use it, he must not use it to another’s detriment.75 Thus, even in the middle or low class, do those Edition: current; Page: [931]who possess the necessaries of life, act. The greater the demand for these the higher they raise their prices; soon, they sell only at an exorbitant rate, and worse still, stop selling and store their goods or products, in the expectation of selling them dearer. In this way, they speculate on another’s wants; they augment the general distress and become public enemies. Nearly all the agriculturists, manufacturers, and tradesmen of the day, little and big, are public enemies—farmers, metayers, market-gardeners, cultivators of every degree, as well as foremen, shopkeepers, especially wine-dealers, bakers, and butchers. “All tradesmen are essentially antirevolutionists, and would sell their country to gain a few sous.”76 We will not tolerate this legal brigandage. Since “agriculture has done nothing for liberty and has sought only its own gain,”77 we will put it under surveillance, and, if necessary, under control. Since “commerce has become a species of miserly tyrant,” since “it has become self-paralysed,” and, “through a sort of antirevolutionary contempt, neglected the manufacture, handling, and expedition of diverse materials,” we will “defeat” the calculations of its barbarous arithmetic, and purge it of the aristocratic and corrupting fermentation which oppresses it.” We make monopoly “a capital crime”;78 we call him a monopolist who Edition: current; Page: [932]“takes food and wares of prime necessity out of circulation,” and “keeps them stored without daily and publicly offering them for sale.” Penalty of death against whoever, within eight days, does not make a declaration, or if he makes a false one. Penalty of death against any person who keeps more bread on hand than he needs for his subsistence.79 Penalty of death against the cultivator who does not bring his grain weekly to market. Penalty of death against the dealer who does not post up the contents of his warehouse, or who does not keep open shop. Penalty of death against the manufacturer who does not verify the daily use of his workable material. As to prices, we intervene authoritatively between buyer and seller; we fix the extreme price for all objects which, near or remotely, serve to feed, warm, and clothe man; we will imprison whoever offers or demands anything more. Whether the dealer or manufacturer pays expenses at this rate, matters not; if, after the maximum is fixed, he closes his factory, or gives up business, we declare him a “suspect”; we chain him down to his pursuit, we oblige him to lose by it. That is the way to clip the claws of beasts of prey, little and big! But the claws grow out again, and, instead of paring them down, it would, probably be better to pull them out. Some amongst us have already thought of that; the right of preemption might be applied to every article; “in each department, national storehouses might be established where cultivators, land-owners, and manufacturers would be obliged to deposit at a fixed price, paid down, the surplus of their consumption of every species of merchandise. The nation would distribute this merchandise to wholesale dealers, reserving a profit of six per centum. The profit of the wholesale dealer would be fixed at eight per centum and that of the retailer at twelve per centum.”80 Edition: current; Page: [933]In this way, agriculturists, manufacturers, and merchants would all become clerks of the State, appointed on a premium or a discount; unable to gain a great deal, they would not be tempted to gain too much; they would cease to be greedy and soon cease to be egoists. Since, fundamentally, egoism is the capital vice and individual proprietorship the food that nourishes it, why not suppress individual proprietorship altogether? Our extreme logicians, with Baboeuf at the head of them, go as far as that, and Saint-Just seems to be of that opinion.81 A decretal of the Agrarian law is not the point; the nation would reserve the soil to itself and divide among individuals, not lands but rents. The outcome of this principle affords us a glimpse of an order of things in which the State, sole proprietor of real-estate, sole capitalist, sole manufacturer, sole trader, having all Frenchmen in its pay and service, would assign to each one his task according to his aptitude, and distribute to each one his rations according to his wants. These various uncompleted plans still float in a hazy distance; but their common purpose is clearly distinguishable. “All which tends to concentrating human passions in the abjection of personality must be repudiated or repressed”;82 the point is, to annihilate special interests, to deprive the individual of the motives and means for self-isolation, to suppress preoccupations and ambitions by which he makes himself a centre at the expense of the veritable centre, in short, to detach him from himself in order to attach him wholly to the State.

This is why, outside the narrow egoism through which the individual prefers himself to the community, we follow out the broad egoism by which the individual prefers to the community the group of which he forms a part. Under no pretext must he separate himself Edition: current; Page: [934]from the whole; at no price, must he be allowed to form for himself a small patrimony within the large one, for, by the affection he entertains for the small one, he frustrates the objects of the large one. Nothing is worse than political, civil, religious and domestic federalism; we combat it under all its forms.83 In this particular, the Constituent Assembly has paved the way for us, since it has broken up all the principal historic or material groups by which men have separated themselves from the masses and formed a band apart, provinces, clergy, nobles, parliaments, religious orders, and trades-unions. We complete its work: we destroy churches, we suppress literary or scientific associations, educational or benevolent societies, even down to financial companies.84 We prohibit any departmental or commercial “local spirit”: we find “odious and opposed to all principles, that, amongst municipalities, some should be rich and others poor, that one should have immense patrimonial possessions and another nothing but indebtedness.”85 We regard these possessions as the nation’s, and we place indebtedness to the nation’s account. We take grain from rich communes and departments, to feed poor communes and departments. We build the bridges, roads, and canals of each district, at the expense of the State; “we centralise the labor of the French people in a broad, opulent fashion.”86 We Edition: current; Page: [935]want no more local interests, souvenirs, idioms, and patriotisms. One tie only should subsist between individuals, that which attaches them to the social body; we sunder all others; we do not tolerate any special aggregation; we do the best we can to break up the most tenacious of all, the family. To this end, we assimilate marriage with ordinary contracts: we render this loose and precarious, as nearly resembling the free and transient union of the sexes as possible; it shall be dissolved at the option of both parties, and even of one of the parties, after one month of formalities and of probation; if the couple has lived separate six months, the divorce may be granted without any probation or delay; divorced parties may remarry. On the other hand, we suppress marital authority: since spouses are equal, each has equal rights over common property and the property of each other; we deprive the husband of its administration and render it “common” to both parties. We abolish “paternal authority”; “it is cheating nature to enforce her rights through constraint. … The only rights that parents have are those of protection and watchfulness.”87 The father can no longer control the education of his children; the State takes charge of it. The father is no longer master of his possessions; the portion he can dispose of by donation or testament is of the smallest; we prescribe an equal and forced division of property. Finally, we preach adoption, we efface bastardy, we confer on children born of free love, or of a despotic will, the same rights as those of legitimate children. In short, we break up that sacred circle, that exclusive group, that aristocratic organisation which, under the name of the family, was created out of pride and egoism.88 Henceforth, affection and obedience will no longer be frittered Edition: current; Page: [936]away; the miserable supports to which they have clung like ivy vines, castes, churches, corporations, provinces, communes, or families, are ruined and rooted out; on the ground which is thus levelled, the State alone remains standing, and it alone offers any point of adhesion; all these vines are about to twine themselves in one trunk about the great central column.


Let them not go astray, let us lead them on, let us direct minds and souls, and, to this end, let us enfold man in our doctrines. He needs general ideas and the daily experiences flowing out of them; he needs some theory explaining the origin and nature of things, one which Edition: current; Page: [937]assigns him his place and the part he has to play in the world, which teaches him his duties, which regulates his life, which fixes the days he shall work and the days he shall rest, which stamps itself on his mind through commemorations, festivals and ceremonies, through a catechism and a calendar. Up to this time Religion has been the power charged with this service, interpreted and served by the Church; now it is to be Reason, interpreted and served by the State. In this connection, many among us, disciples of the encyclopedists, constitute Reason a divinity, and honor her with a system of worship; but it is plain that they personify an abstraction; their improvised goddess is simply an allegorical phantom; none of them see in her the intelligent cause of the world; in the depths of their hearts they deny this Supreme Cause, their pretended religion being merely a show or a sham. We discard atheism, not only because it is false, but again, and more especially, because it is disintegrating and unwholesome.89 We want an effective, consolatory, and fortifying religion, and that religion is natural religion, which is social as well as true. “Without this,” Rousseau says, “it is impossible to be a good citizen.90 … The existence of divinity, the future life, the sacredness of the social contract and of the laws,” all are its dogmas; “no one may be forced to believe in these, but whoever dares say that he does not believe in them, sets himself up against the French people, the human species and nature.” Consequently, we decree that “the French people recognises the Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul.” The important thing now is to plant this entirely philosophic faith in all hearts. We introduce it into the civil order of things, we take the calendar out of the hands of the Church, we purge it of its Christian imagery; we make the new era begin with the advent of the Republic; we divide the year according to the Edition: current; Page: [938]metric system, we name the months according to the vicissitudes of the seasons, “we substitute, in all directions, the realities of reason for the visions of ignorance, the truths of nature for a sacerdotal prestige,”91 the decade for the week, the décadi for Sundays, lay festivals for ecclesiastical festivals.92 On each décadi, through solemn and appropriate pomp, we impress on the popular mind one of the highest truths of our creed; we glorify, in the order of their dates, Nature, Truth, Justice, Liberty, Equality, the People, Adversity, Humanity, the Republic, Posterity, Glory, Patriotism, Heroism, and other virtues. Besides this, we honor the important days of the Revolution, the taking of the Bastille, the fall of the Throne, the punishment of the tyrant, the expulsion of the Girondists. We, too, have our anniversaries, our relics, the relics of Chalier and Marat,93 our processions, our services, our ritual,94 and the vast system of visible pageantry by which dogmas are made manifest and propagated. But ours, instead of leading men off to an imaginary heaven, brings them back to a living patrimony, and, through our ceremonies as well as through our creed, we inculcate civism.

If it is important to preach this to adults, it is still more important to teach it to children, for children are more easily moulded than adults. Our hold on these still flexible minds is complete, and, through national education “we possess ourselves of coming generations.”95 Edition: current; Page: [939]Naught is more essential and naught is more legitimate. “The country,” says Robespierre, “has a right to bring up its own children; it cannot confide this trust to family pride nor to the prejudices of individuals, the eternal nourishment of aristocracies and of a domestic federalism which narrows the soul by keeping it isolated.” We are determined to have “education common and equal for all French people,” and “we stamp on it a great character, analogous to the nature of our government and the sublime doctrines of our Republic. The aim is no longer to form gentlemen (messieurs) but citizens.”96 We oblige97 teachers, male and female, to present certificates of civism, that is to say, of Jacobinism. We close their school if “precepts or maxims opposed to revolutionary morality” are taught in it, that is to say, in conformity with Christian morality. Children will learn to read in the Declaration of Rights and in the Constitution of 1793. Republican manuals and catechisms will be prepared for their use.98 “They must be taught the virtuous traits which most honor free men, and especially the traits characteristic of the French Revolution, the best calculated to elevate the soul and render them worthy of equality and liberty.” The 14th of July, 10th of August, 2d of September, 21st of January, and 31st of May must Edition: current; Page: [940]be lauded or justified in their presence. They must be taken to meetings of the municipalities, to the law courts,99 “and especially to the popular clubs; from these pure sources they will derive a knowledge of their rights, of their duties, of the laws, of republican morality,” and, on entering society, they will find themselves imbued with all good maxims. Over and above their political opinions we shape their ordinary habits. We apply on a grand scale the plan of education drawn out by Jean-Jacques (Rousseau).100 We want no more literary prigs; in the army, “the ‘swell’ breaks down the first campaign”;101 we want young men able to endure privation and fatigue, toughened, like Emile, “by hard work” and physical exercise. We have, thus far, only sketched out this department of education, but the agreement amongst the various plans shows the meaning and bearings of our principle. “Children generally, without distinction and without exception,” says Lepelletier de Saint-Fargeau,102 “boys from five to twelve, and girls from five to eleven years of age, must be brought up in common at the expense of the Republic; all, under the sacred law of equality, are to receive the same clothing, the same food, the same education, the same attention” in boarding-schools distributed according to cantons, and containing each from four to six hundred pupils. “Pupils will be made to submit every day and every moment to the same rigid rules. … Their beds must be hard, their food healthy, but simple, their clothing comfortable, but coarse.” Servants will not be allowed; children must help themselves and, besides this, they must wait on the old and infirm, lodged with or near them. “Among daily duties, manual labor will be the principal thing; all the rest will be accessory.” Girls must learn to spin, sew and wash Edition: current; Page: [941]clothes; the boys will work the roads, be shepherds, ploughmen and work-hands; both will have tasks set them, either in the school-workshops, or in the fields and factories in the neighborhood; they will be hired out to surrounding manufacturers and to the tillers of the soil. Saint-Just is more specific and rigid.103 “Male children from five to sixteen years of age, must be raised for their country. They must be clad in common cloth at all seasons, and have mats for beds, and sleep eight hours. They are to have common food only, fruits, vegetables, preparations of milk, bread and water. They must not eat meat before sixteen. … Their education, from ten to sixteen, is to be military and agricultural. They will be formed into companies of sixty; six companies make a battalion; the children of a district form a legion; they will assemble annually at the district town, encamp there and drill in infantry tactics, in arenas specially provided for the purpose; they will also learn cavalry manoeuvres and every other species of military evolution. In harvest time they are to be distributed amongst the harvesters.” After sixteen, “they enter the arts,” along with some farmer, artisan, merchant, or manufacturer, who becomes their titulary “instructor,” and with whom they are bound to remain up to the age of twenty-one, “under the penalty of being deprived for life of a citizen’s rights.104 … All children will dress alike up to sixteen years of age; from sixteen to twenty-one, they will dress as workmen; from twenty-one to twenty-five, they will dress as soldiers, if they are not in the magistracy.” Already we show the effects of the theory by one striking example; we founded the “Ecole de Mars”;105 we select out of each district six boys from sixteen to seventeen and a half years old “among the children of Edition: current; Page: [942]sans-culottes”; we summon them to Paris, “to receive there, through a revolutionary education, whatever belongs to the knowledge and habits of a republican soldier. They are schooled in fraternity, in discipline, in frugality, in good habits, in love of country and in detestation of kings.” Three or four thousand young people are lodged at the Sablons, “in a palisaded enclosure, the intervals of which are guarded by chevaux de frises and sentinels.”106 We put them into tents; we feed them with bran bread, rancid pork, water, and vinegar; we drill them in the use of arms; we march them out on national holidays and stimulate them with patriotic harangues. Suppose all Frenchmen educated in such a school; the habits they acquire in youth will persist in the adult, and, in each adult we shall find the sobriety, energy and patriotism of a Spartan or Roman.

Already, under the pressure of our decrees, civism affects customs, and there are manifest signs, on all sides, of public regeneration. “The French people,” says Robespierre, “seem to have outstripped the rest of humanity, by two thousand years; one might be tempted to regard them, living amongst them, as a different species. In the rest of Europe, a ploughman, an artisan, is an animal formed for the pleasures of a noble; in France, the nobles are trying to transform themselves into ploughmen and artisans, but do not succeed in obtaining that honor.”107 Life in all directions is gradually assuming democratic forms. Wealthy prisoners are prohibited from purchasing delicacies, or procuring special conveniences; they eat along with the poor prisoners the same ration, at the common mess.108 Bakers Edition: current; Page: [943]have orders to make but one quality of bread, the brown bread called equality bread, and, to obtain his ration, each person must place himself in line with the rest of the crowd. On holidays109 everybody will bring his provisions down into the street and eat as one family with his neighbor; on the décadi, all are to sing and dance together, pell-mell, in the temple of the Supreme Being. The decrees of the Convention and the orders of the representatives impose the republican cockade on women; public opinion and example impose on men the costume and appearance of sans-culottes; we see even “swells” wearing mustaches, long hair, red cap, vest, and heavy wooden shoes.110 Nobody calls a person Monsieur or Madame; the only titles allowed are citoyen and citoyenne while thee and thou is the general rule. Rude familiarity takes the place of monarchical politeness; all greet each other as equals and comrades. There is now only one tone, one style, one language; revolutionary forms constitute the tissue of speech, as well as of written discourse; thought now seems to consist entirely of our ideas and phrases. All names are transformed, those of months and of days, those of places and of monuments, baptismal names and names of families: St. Denis has become Franciade; Peter Gaspard is converted into Anaxagoras, Edition: current; Page: [944]and Antoine-Louis into Brutus; Leroi, the deputy, calls himself Laloi, and Leroy, the jurist, calls himself August-Tenth. By dint of thus shaping the exterior we reach the interior, and through outward civism we prepare internal civism. Both are obligatory, but the latter much more so than the former; for that is the fundamental principle,111 the mainspring which sustains and impels a democratic and popular government. “It is impossible to apply the social contract if everybody does not scrupulously observe the first clause of it, namely, the complete surrender of himself to the community; everybody, then, must give himself up entirely, not only actually but heartily, and devote himself to the public weal, which public weal is the regeneration of man as we have defined it. The veritable citizen is he who thus marches along with us. With him, as with us, abstract truths of philosophy control the conscience and govern the will. He starts with our articles of faith and follows them out to the end; he derives from them all the consequences which we derive from them; he endorses our acts, he recites our creed, he observes our discipline, Edition: current; Page: [945]he is a believing and practicing Jacobin, an orthodox Jacobin, unsullied, and without taint of heresy or schism. Never does he swerve to the left toward exaggeration, nor to the right toward toleration; without haste or delay he travels along on the narrow, steep and straight path which we have marked out for him; this is the pathway of reason, for, as there is but one reason, there is but one pathway. Let no one swerve from the line; there are abysses on each side of it. Let us follow our guides, men of principles, the pure, especially Couthon, Saint-Just, and Robespierre; they are choice specimens, all cast in the true mould, and it is this unique and rigid mould in which all French men are to be recast.

Edition: current; Page: [946]


I. Retrograde conception of the State—Analogy between this idea of the State and that of antiquity—Difference between antique and modern society—Difference in circumstances— II. Difference between men’s souls—Conscience and its Christian origin—Honour and its feudal origin—The individual of today refuses to surrender himself entirely—His motives—Additional motives in modern democracy—Character of the elective process and nature of the mandatory— III. Origin and nature of the modern State—Its functions, rights, and limits— IV. Temptation to encroachments—Precedents and reasons for its pretensions— V. Direct common interest—This consists in the absence of constraint—Two reasons in favor of freedom of action—Character, in general, of the individual man—Modern complications— VI. Indirect common interest—This consists in the most economical and most productive employment of spontaneous forces—Difference between voluntary labor and forced labor—Sources of man’s spontaneous action—Conditions of their energy, work, and products—Motives for leaving them under personal control—Extent of the private domain—Individuals voluntarily extend it—What they leave to the State—Obligatory functions of the State—Optional functions of the State— VII. Fabrication of social instrumentalities—Application of this principle—How all kinds of useful laborers are formed—Respect for spontaneous sources, the essential and adequate condition—Obligation of the State to respect these—They dry up when it monopolizes them—The aim of Patriotism—The aim of other liberal dispositions—Impoverishment of all the productive faculties—Destructive effect of the Jacobin systemVIII. Comparison between despotisms—Philip II. and Louis XIV.—Cromwell and Frederic the Great—Peter the Great and the Sultans—Proportions of the weight they sustain and the forces they control—Disproportion between the Jacobins’ attempt to raise this weight and their forces—Folly of their undertaking—Physical force the only governmental force they possess—They are compelled Edition: current; Page: [947]to exercise it—They are compelled to abuse it—Character of their government—Character requisite in their leaders.

The logical creation of a curtailed type of humanity, the effort to adapt the living man to this type, the interference of public authority in every branch of public endeavor, restrictions put upon labor, exchanges, and property, upon the family and education, upon worship, habits, customs, and sentiments, the sacrifice of the individual to the community, the omnipotence of the State—such is the Jacobin theory. None could be more retrograde; for the modern man is made to revert back to social forms which, for eighteen centuries, he had already passed through and left behind him. During the historical era preceding our own, and especially in the old Greek or Latin cities, in Rome and Sparta, which the Jacobins take for their models,1 human society was shaped after the pattern of an army or convent. In a convent as in an army, one idea, absorbing and unique, predominates: the aim of the monk is to please God at any sacrifice; the soldier makes every sacrifice to obtain a victory; accordingly, each renounces every other desire and entirely abandons himself, the monk to his rules and the soldier to his drill. In like manner, in the antique world, two preoccupations were of supreme importance. In the first place, the city had its gods who were both its founders and protectors: it was therefore obliged to worship these in the most reverent and particular manner; otherwise, they abandoned it; the neglect of any insignificant rite might offend them and ruin it. In the second place, there was incessant warfare, and the rights of war were atrocious; on a city being taken every citizen might expect to be killed or maimed, or sold at auction, and see his children and wife knocked down to the highest bidder.2 In short, Edition: current; Page: [948]the antique city, with its acropolis of temples and its fortified citadel surrounded by implacable and threatening enemies, resembles for us the institution of the Knights of St. John on their rocks at Rhodes or Malta, a religious and military confraternity encamped around a church. Liberty, under such conditions, is out of the question: public convictions are too imperious; public danger is too great. With this pressure upon him, and thus hampered, the individual gives himself up to the community, which takes full possession of him, because, to maintain its own existence, it needs the whole man. Henceforth, no one may develop apart and for himself; no one may act or think except within fixed lines. The type of man is distinctly and clearly marked out, if not logically at least traditionally; each life, as well as each portion of each life must conform to this type; otherwise public security is compromised: any falling off in gymnastic education weakens the army; passing the images of the gods and neglecting the usual libation draws down celestial vengeance on the city. Consequently, to prevent all deviations, the State, absolute master, exercises unlimited jurisdiction; no freedom whatever is left to the individual, no portion of himself is reserved to himself, no sheltered corner against the strong hand of public force, neither his possessions, his children, his personality, his opinions, or his conscience.3 If, on voting days, he shares in the sovereignty, he is a subject all the rest of the year, even to his private sentiments. Rome, to serve these ends, had two censors; one of the archons of Athens was inquisitor of the faith; Socrates was put to death “for not believing in the gods in which the city believed.”4 In reality, not only in Greece and in Rome, but in Egypt, in China, in India, in Persia, in Judea, in Mexico, in Peru, during the first stages of civilisation,5 Edition: current; Page: [949]the principle of human communities is still that of animal associations: the individual belongs to his community the same as the bee to its hive and the ant to its ant-hill; he is simply an organ within an organism. Under diverse forms and in diverse applications authoritative socialism alone prevails.

It is just the opposite in modern society; what was once the rule has now become the exception; the antique system survives only in temporary associations, like that of an army, or in special associations, as in a convent. The individual has liberated himself by degrees, and, from century to century, he has extended his domain; the two chains which once bound him fast to the community, are broken or become loosened. In the first place, public power has ceased to consist of a militia protecting a cult. Through the institution of Christianity, civil society and religious society have become two distinct empires, Christ himself having separated the two jurisdictions; “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” On the other hand, through the rise of Protestantism, the great Christian Church is split into numerous sects which, unable to destroy each other, have been so compelled to live together that the State, even when preferring one of them, has found it necessary to tolerate the others. Finally, through the development of Protestantism, philosophy and the sciences, speculative beliefs have multiplied; there are almost as many faiths now-a-days as there are thinking men, and, as thinking men are becoming daily more numerous, opinions are daily becoming more numerous, so that, if the State should try to impose any one Edition: current; Page: [950]of these on society, this would excite opposition from an infinity of others; hence the wisdom of the State is found, first, in remaining neutral, and, next, in acknowledging that it is not qualified to interfere. In the second place, war has become less frequent and less destructive because men have not so many motives for waging it, nor the same motives to push it to the same extremes. Formerly, war was the main source of wealth; through victories man acquired slaves, subjects, and tributaries; he turned these to the best account; he leisurely enjoyed their forced labor. Nothing of this kind is seen now-a-days; people no longer think of providing themselves with human cattle; they have discovered that, of all animals, these are the most troublesome, the least productive, and the most dangerous. Comforts and security are obtained much more readily through free labor and machinery; the great object now is not to conquer, but to produce and interchange. Every day, man, pressing forward more eagerly in civil careers, is less disposed to put up with any obstacle that interferes with his aims; if he still consents to be a soldier it is not to become an invader, but to provide against invasion. Meanwhile, war has become more scientific and, through the complications of its machinery, more costly; the State can no longer call out and enlist for life every able-bodied man without ruining itself, nor put too many obstacles in the way of that free industry which, through taxation, provides for its expenses; however short-sighted the State may be, it consults civil interests, even in its military interest. Thus, of the two nets, in the toils of which it has enveloped all human activity, one is rent asunder and the other has relaxed its meshes. There is no longer any reason for making the community omnipotent; the individual need not alienate himself entirely; he may, without inconvenience, reserve to himself a part of himself, and, if now called upon to sign a social contract, you may be sure that he would make this reservation.


Outward circumstances, indeed, are not only changed, but the very depths of the soul are changed; the breast of man is animated by a Edition: current; Page: [951]sentiment which is repugnant to antique stipulations. Undoubtedly, in extreme cases and under the pressure of brutal necessity I may, without special instructions and for a time, give the State my signature in blank. But, never, with a full comprehension of the meaning of the terms, will I sign away in good faith the complete and permanent abandonment of myself: it would be against conscience and honor, which two possessions are not to be alienated. My honor and my conscience are not to go out of my keeping; I am their sole guardian and depositary; I would not even entrust them to my father. Both these terms are new and express two conceptions unknown to the ancients,6 both being of profound import and of infinite reach. Through them, like a bud separated from its stem and taking root apart, the individual has separated himself from the primitive body, clan, family, caste, or city in which he has lived indistinguishable and lost in the crowd; he has ceased to be an organ and appendage; he has become a personality. The first of these conceptions is of Christian origin and the second of feudal origin; both, following each other and conjoined, measure the enormous distance which separates an antique soul from a modern soul.

Alone, in the presence of God, the Christian feels every tie dissolving like wax that binds him to the group around him; he stands face to face with the Great Judge, and this infallible judge sees all souls as they are, not confusedly and in masses, but distinctly and each by itself. At the bar of this tribunal no one is answerable for another; each answers for himself alone; one is responsible only for one’s acts. But those acts are of infinite consequence, for the soul, redeemed by the blood of a God, is of infinite price; hence, according as it has or has not profited by the divine sacrifice, so will the reward or punishment be infinite; at the final judgment, an eternity of torment or bliss opens before it. All other interests vanish alongside of Edition: current; Page: [952]an interest of such vast disproportion; thenceforth, righteousness is the most serious of all aims, not in the eyes of man, but of God, and again, day after day, the soul renews within itself that tragic questioning in which the Judge interrogates and the sinner responds. Through this dialogue, which has been going on for eighteen centuries, and which is yet to continue, conscience has grown more and more sensitive, and man has conceived the idea of absolute justice. Whether this is vested in an all-powerful master, or whether it is a self-existent truth, like mathematical truths, in no wise takes away from its sacredness nor, consequently, from its authority. It commands with a superior voice and its commands must be obeyed, cost what it will: there are strict duties to which every man is rigorously bound. No pledge may relieve him of these duties; if not fulfilled because he has given contrary pledges he is no less culpable on this account, and besides, he is culpable for having pledged himself; the pledging of himself to crimes was in itself a crime. His fault thus appears to him twofold, and the inward prick galls him twice instead of once. Hence, the more sensitive the conscience, the greater its repugnance to self-abdication; it repels in advance any pact tending to wrong-doing, and refuses to give to men the right of imposing remorse.

At the same time another sentiment has arisen, not less precious and still more energetic, more human and more efficacious. Solitary in his stronghold, the feudal chieftain, at the head of his band, could depend on nobody but himself, for a public force did not then exist. It was necessary that he should protect himself, and, indeed, overprotect himself; whoever, in the anarchical and military society in which he lived, allowed the slightest encroachment, or left unpunished the slightest approach to insult, was regarded as weak or craven and at once became a prey; one had to be proud-spirited under penalty of death. And do not fancy this a difficult task for him. Sole proprietor and absolute sovereign, with no equals or peers on his domain, he lived there a unique being of a superior kind, and disproportionate with every one else.7 Hence his soliloquising during Edition: current; Page: [953]the long hours of a dreary solitude, which soliloquy has lasted for nine centuries.8 Thus, in his own eyes, his person and all that depends on him are inviolable; rather than tolerate the slightest infringement on his prerogatives he will dare all and sacrifice all.9 A proud sensibility (orgueil exalté) is the best of sentinels to protect a right; for, not only does it mount guard over the right to preserve it, but, again, and especially, for its own satisfaction; the imagination has conceived a character which befits the rank, and this character the man imposes on himself as a password. Henceforth, he not only forces the respect of others, but he respects himself; he possesses the sentiment of honor, a generous self-esteem which makes him regard himself as noble and incapable of doing anything mean. In discriminating between his actions, he may err; fashion or vanity may sometimes lead him too far, or lead him astray, either on the path of recklessness or on that of puerility; his point of honor may be fixed in the wrong direction. But, in sum, and thanks to this being a fixed point, he will maintain himself erect even under an absolute monarchy, under a Philip II. in Spain, under a Louis XIV. in France, under a Frederic II. in Prussia. From the feudal baron or gentleman of the court to the modern gentleman, this tradition persists and descends from story to story down to the lowest social substratum: today, every man of spirit, the bourgeois, the peasant, the workman, has his point of honor like the noble. He likewise, in spite of the social encroachments that gain on him, reserves to himself his private Edition: current; Page: [954]nook, a sort of moral stronghold wherein he preserves his faiths, his opinions, his affections, his obligations as son, husband, and father; it is the sacred treasury of his innermost being. This stronghold belongs to him alone; no one, even in the name of the public, has a right to enter it; to surrender it would be cowardice; rather than give up its keys he would die in the breach;10 when this militant sentiment of honor is enlisted on the side of conscience it becomes virtue itself.11 Such are, in these days, the two master ideas of our European morality.12 Through the former the individual recognises duties from which nothing can exempt him; through the latter, he claims rights of which nothing can deprive him: our civilization has vegetated from these two roots, and still vegetates. Consider the Edition: current; Page: [955]depth and extent of the historical soil in which they penetrate, and you may judge of their vigor. Consider the height and unlimited growth of the trees which they nourish, and you may judge of their healthiness. Everywhere else, one or the other having failed, in China, in the Roman Empire, in Islamism, the sap has dried downward and the tree has become stunted, or has fallen. Through them our civilisation lives and keeps on growing; they give substance to its noblest branches, to its best fruits; their human offshoots are more or less beautiful, according as the sap which reaches them is more or less pure, and these the Jacobin axe seeks to cut away. It is the modern man, who is neither Chinese, nor antique, nor Mussulman, nor negro, nor savage, the man formed by Christian education and taking refuge in his conscience as in a sanctuary, the man formed by feudal education and entrenched behind his honor as in a fortress, whose sanctuary and stronghold the new social contract bids him surrender.

Now, in this democracy founded on the preponderance of numbers, into whose hands am I required to make this surrender? Theoretically, to the community, that is to say, to a crowd in which an anonymous impulse is the substitute for individual judgment; in which action becomes impersonal because it is collective; in which nobody acknowledges responsibility; in which I am borne along like a grain of sand in a whirlwind; in which all sorts of outrages are condoned beforehand for reasons of state: practically, to the plurality of voices counted by heads, to a majority which, overexcited by the struggle for mastery, will abuse its victory and wrong the minority to which I may belong; to a provisional majority which, sooner or later, will be replaced by another, so that if I am today oppressor I am sure of being oppressed tomorrow; still more particularly, to six or seven hundred representatives, among whom I am called upon to choose but one. To elect this unique mandatory I have but one vote among ten thousand; and in helping to elect him I am only the ten-thousandth; I do not even count for a ten-thousandth in electing the others. And it is these six or seven hundred strangers to me to whom I give full power to decide for me—note the expression full Edition: current; Page: [956]power—which means unlimited power, not alone over my possessions and life, but, again, over my conscience, with all its powers combined; that is to say, with powers much more extensive than those I confer separately on ten persons in whom I place the most confidence—to my legal adviser who looks after my fortune, to the teacher of my children, to the physician who cares for my health, to the confessor who directs my conscience, to friends who are to serve as executors of my last will and testament, to seconds in a duel who decide on my life, on the waste of my blood, and who guard my honor. Without reference to the deplorable farce, so often played around the ballot-box, or to the forced and spurious elections which put a contrary interpretation on public sentiment, or to the official fictions by which, actually at this moment, a few fanatics and madmen, who represent nobody but themselves, assume to represent the nation, measure what degree of confidence I may have, even after honest elections, in mandatories who are thus chosen! Frequently, I have voted for the defeated candidate; in which case I am represented by the other whom I did not want for a representative. In voting for the elected candidate, I did it because I knew of no better one, and because his opponent seemed to me worse. And even him I have seen only half the time, at odd moments; I scarcely knew more of him than the color of his coat, the tone of his voice, and the way he has of thumping his breast. All I know of him is through his “platform,” vague and declamatory, through editorials, and through drawing-room, coffee-house, or street gossip. His title to my confidence is of the flimsiest and shallowest kind; there is nothing to substantiate to me his integrity or competency; he has no diploma, and no one to indorse him like the preceptor; he has no guarantee from the incorporation to which he belongs, like the physician, the priest or the lawyer; with certificates of character such as he has I should hesitate in engaging a domestic. And all the more because the class from which I am obliged to take him is almost always that of politicians, a suspicious class, especially in countries in which universal suffrage prevails; for, this class is not recruited among the most independent, the ablest, and the most honest, but among voluble, Edition: current; Page: [957]scheming men and zealous charlatans, who, having failed in private careers for lack of character, in situations where one is watched too closely and too nicely weighed in the balance, have fallen back on vicious courses in which the want of scrupulousness and discretion is a force instead of a weakness; to their indelicacy and impudence the doors of a public career stand wide open. Such is the august personage into whose hands, according to the theory, I am called upon to surrender my will, my will in full; certainly, if self-renunciation were necessary, I should risk less in giving myself up to a king or to an aristocracy, even hereditary; for then would my representatives be at least recommended by their evident rank and their probable competency. Democracy, in its nature and composition, is a system in which the individual awards to his representatives the least trust and deference; hence, it is the system in which he should entrust them with the least power. Conscience and honor everywhere enjoin a man to retain for himself some portion of his independence; but nowhere else will he cede so little of it. If, in every modern constitution the domain of the State ought to be limited, it is in modern democracy that it should be the most restricted.


Let us try to define these limits. After the turmoil of invasions and conquest, at the height of social disintegration, amidst the combats daily occurring between private parties, there arose in every European community a public force, which force, lasting for centuries, still persists in our day. How it was organised, through what early stages of violence it passed, through what accidents and struggles, and into whose hands it is now entrusted, whether temporarily or forever, whatever the laws of its transmission, whether by inheritance or election, is of secondary importance; the main thing is its functions and their mode of operation. Substantially, it is a mighty sword, drawn from its scabbard and uplifted over the smaller blades around it, with which private individuals once cut each others’ Edition: current; Page: [958]throats. Menaced by it, the smaller blades repose in their scabbards; they have become inert, useless, and, finally, rusty; with few exceptions, everybody save malefactors, has now lost both the habit and the desire to use them, so that, henceforth, in this pacified society, the public sword is so formidable that all private resistance vanishes the moment it flashes. This sword is forged out of two interests; it was necessary to have one of its magnitude, first, against similar blades brandished by other communities on the frontier; and next, against the smaller blades which bad passions are always sharpening in the interior. People demanded protection against outside enemies and inside ruffians and murderers, and, slowly and painfully, after much groping and many retemperings, the hereditary banding-together of persistent energies has fashioned the sole arm which is capable of protecting lives and property with any degree of success.

So long as it does no more I am indebted to the State which holds the hilt: it gives me a security which, without it, I could not enjoy; in exchange for this security I owe it, for my quota, the means for keeping this weapon in good condition: any service rendered is worth its cost. Accordingly, there is between the State and myself, if not an express contract, at least a tacit understanding analogous to that which binds a child to its parent, a believer to his church, and, on both sides, this mutual understanding is clear and precise. The State engages to look after my security within and without; I engage to furnish the means for so doing, which means consist of my respect and gratitude, my zeal as a citizen, my services as a conscript, my contributions as a tax-payer, in short, whatever is necessary for the maintenance of an army, a navy, a diplomatic organisation, civil and criminal courts, a militia and police, central and local administrations, in short, a harmonious set of organs of which my obedience and loyalty constitute the food, the substance, and the blood. This loyalty and obedience, whatever I am, whether rich or poor, Catholic, Protestant, Jew or free-thinker, royalist or republican, individualist or socialist, I owe in honor and in conscience, for I have received their equivalent; I am very glad that I am not vanquished, assassinated, or robbed. I pay back to the State Edition: current; Page: [959]exactly what it expends in machinery and oversight for keeping down brutal cupidity, greedy appetites, deadly fanaticisms, the entire howling pack of passions and desires of which, sooner or later, I might become the prey, were it not constantly to extend over me its vigilant protection. When it demands its outlay of me it is not my property which it takes away, but its own property, which it resumes and, in this light, it may legitimately force me to pay. On condition, however, that it does not exact more than my liabilities, and this it does when it oversteps its original engagements; when it undertakes some extra material or moral work that I do not ask for; when it constitutes itself sectarian, moralist, philanthropist, or pedagogue; when it strives to propagate within its borders, or outside of them, any religious or philosophic dogma, or any special political or social system. For then, it adds a new article to the primitive pact, for which article there is not the same unanimous and assured assent that existed for the pact. We are all willing to be secured against violence and fraud; outside of this, and on almost any other point, there are divergent wills. I have my own religion, my own opinions, my habits, my customs, my peculiar views of life, and way of regarding the universe; now, this is just what constitutes my personality, what honor and conscience forbid me to alienate, that which the State has promised me to hold harmless. Consequently, when, through its additional article, it attempts to regulate these in a certain way, if that way is not my way, it fails to fulfill its primordial engagement and, instead of protecting me, it oppresses me. Even if it should have the support of a majority, even if all voters, less one, should agree to entrusting it with this supererogatory function, were there only one dissentient, he would be wronged, and in two ways. In the first place, and in all cases, the State, to fulfill its new task, exacts from him an extra amount of subsidy and service; for, every supplementary work brings along with it supplementary expenses; the budget is overburdened when the State takes upon itself the procuring of work for laborers or employment for artists, the maintenance of any particular industrial or commercial enterprise, the giving of alms, and the furnishing of education. To an expenditure Edition: current; Page: [960]of money add an expenditure of lives, should it enter upon a war of generosity or of propagandism. Now, to all these expenditures that it does not approve of, the minority contributes as well as the majority which does approve of them; so much the worse for the conscript and the tax-payer if they belong to the dissatisfied group; like it or not, the collector puts his hand in the tax-payer’s pocket, and the sergeant lays his hand on the conscript’s collar. In the second place, and in numerous cases, not only does the State take unjustly over and beyond my liability, but, again, it uses unjustly the money it extorts from me in the application of this to new constraints; such is the case when it imposes on me its theology or philosophy; when it prescribes for me, or interdicts, a cult; when it assumes to regulate my ways and habits, to limit my labor or expenditure, to direct the education of my children, to fix the prices of my wares or the rate of my wages. For then, in support of its commands or prohibitions, it enacts against the refractory light or serious penalties, all the way from political or civil incapacity to fine, imprisonment, exile, and the guillotine. In other words, the crown I do not owe it, and of which it robs me, pays for the persecution which it inflicts upon me; I am reduced to paying out of my own purse the wages of my inquisitors, my jailor, and my executioner. A more glaring oppression could not be imagined! Let us take heed of the encroachments of the State and not allow it to become anything more than a watch-dog. Whilst the teeth and nails of other guests in the household have been losing their sharpness, its fangs have become formidable; it is now colossal and it alone still keeps up the practice of fighting. Let us supply it with nourishment against wolves; but never let it touch peaceable folks around the table. Appetite grows by eating; it would soon become a wolf itself, and the most ravenous wolf inside the fold. The important thing is to keep a chain around its neck and confine it within its own pale.


Let us inspect this fold, which is an extensive one, and, through its angles, reaching into almost every nook of private life. Each private Edition: current; Page: [961]domain, indeed, physical or moral, offers temptations for its neighbors to trespass on it, and, to keep this intact, demands the superior intervention of a third party. To acquire, to possess, to sell, to give, to bequeath, to contract between husband and wife, father, mother, or child, between master or domestic, employer or employee, each act and each situation, involves rights limited by contiguous and adverse rights, and it is the State which sets up the boundary between them. Not that it creates this boundary; but, that this may be recognised, it draws the line and therefore enacts civil laws, which it applies through its courts and gendarmes in such a way as to secure to each individual what belongs to him. The State stands, accordingly, as regulator and controller, not alone of private possessions, but also of the family and of domestic life; its authority is thus legitimately introduced into that reserved circle in which the individual will has intrenched itself, and, as is the habit of all great powers, once the circle is invaded, its tendency is to occupy it fully and entirely. To this end, it alleges a new principle. Constituted as a moral personality, the same as a church, university, or charitable or scientific body, is not the State bound, like every corporate body that is to last for ages, to extend its vision far and near and prefer to private interests, which are only life-interests, the common interest which is eternal? Is not this the superior end to which all others should be subordinated, and must this interest, which is supreme over all, be sacrificed to two troublesome instincts which are often unreasonable and sometimes dangerous: to conscience, which overflows in mystic absurdities, and to honor, the excitements of which end in murder? Certainly not, and first, in its grandest works, when the State, as legislator, regulates marriages, inheritances, and testaments, it is not respect for the will of individuals which solely guides it; it does not content itself with obliging everybody to pay his debts, including even those which are tacit, involuntary, and innate; it takes into account the public interest; it calculates remote probabilities, future contingencies, all results singly and collectively. Manifestly, in allowing or forbidding divorce, in extending or restricting what a man may dispose of by testament, in favoring or interdicting substitutions, it is chiefly in view of some political, economical, or social Edition: current; Page: [962]advantage, either to refine or consolidate the union of the sexes, to implant in the family habits of discipline or sentiments of affection, to excite in children an initiatory spirit, or one of concord, to prepare for the nation a staff of natural chieftains, or an army of small proprietors, and always authorised by the universal assent. Moreover, and always with this universal assent, it does other things outside the task originally assigned to it, and nobody finds that it usurps, when it coins money, when it regulates weights and measures, when it establishes quarantines, when, on condition of an indemnity, it expropriates private property for public utility, when it builds lighthouses, harbors, dykes, canals, roads, when it defrays the cost of scientific expeditions, when it founds museums and public libraries; at times, toleration is shown for its support of universities, schools, churches, and theatres, and, to justify fresh drafts on private purses for such objects, no reason is assigned for it but the common interest. Why should it not, in like manner, take upon itself every enterprise for the benefit of all? Why should it hesitate in commanding the execution of every work advantageous to the community, and why abstain from interdicting every disadvantageous work? Now, observe this, that in human society every act of omission or of commission, even when the most carefully concealed or avowed, is a loss or gain to society: if I neglect to take care of my property or of my health, of my intellect, or of my soul, I undermine or weaken in my person a member of the community who is rich, healthy, and strong only through the richness, health, and strength of his fellow members, so that, from this point of view, my private actions are all public benefits or public injuries. Why then, from this point of view, should the State scruple about prescribing some of these to me and interdicting others? Why, in order to better exercise this right, and better fulfill this obligation, should it not constitute itself the universal contractor for labor, and the universal distributor of productions? Why should it not become the sole agriculturist, manufacturer, and merchant, the unique proprietor and administrator of all France? Precisely because this would be opposed to the common weal. Here the second principle, that advanced against Edition: current; Page: [963]individual independence, operates inversely, and, instead of being an adversary, it becomes a champion. Far from setting the State free, it puts another chain around its neck, and thus strengthens the pale within which modern conscience and modern honor have confined the public guardian.


In what, indeed, does the common weal consist? In the interest of each person, while that which interests each person is the things of which the possession is agreeable and the deprivation painful. The whole world would in vain gainsay this point; every sensation is personal. My suffering and my enjoyments are not to be contested any more than my inclination for objects which procure me the one, and my dislike of objects which procure me the other. There is, therefore, no arbitrary definition of each one’s particular interest; this exists as a fact independently of the legislator; all that remains is to show what this interest is, and what each individual prefers. Preferences vary according to race, time, place, and circumstance; but, among the possessions which are ever desirable and the privation of which is ever dreaded, there is one which, directly desired, and for itself, becomes, through the progress of civilisation, more and more cherished, and of which the privation becomes, through the progress of civilisation, more and more grievous, and that is the entire disposition of one’s self, the full ownership of one’s body and property, the faculty of thinking, believing, and worshipping as one pleases, of associating with others, of acting separately or along with others, in all senses and without hindrance; in short, one’s liberty. That this liberty may be as extensive as possible is, in all times, one of man’s great needs, and, in our days, it is his greatest need. There are two reasons for this, one natural and the other historical. Man, in nature, is individual, that is to say a small distinct world in himself, a centre apart in an enclosed circle, a detached organism complete in itself and which suffers when his spontaneous inclinations are thwarted by the intervention of a foreign power. History has made Edition: current; Page: [964]him a complex organism, wherein three or four religions, five or six civilisations, thirty centuries of assiduous culture have left their imprint; in which its acquisitions are combined together, wherein heredities are intercrossed, wherein special traits have accumulated in such a way as to produce the most original and the most sensitive of beings; as civilisation increases, so does his complexity go on increasing: accordingly, his originality strengthens and his sensibilities become keener; from which it follows that, the more civilised he becomes, the greater his repugnance to constraint and uniformity. At the present day, each of us is the terminal and peculiar product of a vast elaboration of which the diverse stages occur in this order but once, a plant unique of its species, a solitary individual of superior and finer essence which, with its own inward structure and its own inalienable type, can bear no other than its own characteristic fruit. Nothing could be more adverse to the interest of the oak than to be tortured into bearing the apples of the apple-tree; nothing could be more adverse to the interest of the apple-tree than to be tortured into bearing acorns; nothing could be more opposed to the interests of both oak and apple-tree, also of other trees, than to be pruned, shaped, and twisted so as all to grow after a forced model, delineated on paper according to the rigid and limited imagination of a geometrician. The least possible constraint is, therefore, everybody’s chief interest; if one particular restrictive agency is established, it is that every one may be preserved by it from other more powerful constraints, especially those which the foreigner and evil-doers would impose. Up to that point, and no further, its intervention is beneficial; beyond that point, it becomes one of the evils it is intended to forestall. Such then, if the common weal is to be looked after, is the sole office of the State—to prevent constraint and, therefore, never to use it except to prevent worse constraints; to secure respect for each individual in his own physical and moral domain; never to encroach on this except for that purpose; to withdraw immediately; to abstain from all indiscreet meddling, and yet more, as far as is practicable, without any sacrifice of public security, to reduce old assessments, to exact only a minimum of subsidies and Edition: current; Page: [965]services, to gradually limit even useful action, to set itself as few tasks as possible, to let each one have all the room possible and the maximum of initiative, to slowly abandon monopolies, to refrain from competition with private parties, to rid itself of functions which they can fulfill equally well—all clearly showing that the limits prescribed to the State by the common good are just those which duty and right render obligatory.


If we now take into consideration, no longer the direct, but the indirect interest of all; if, instead of caring for men we concern ourselves with their works; if we regard human society as a material and spiritual workshop, the perfection of which consists in its being the most productive and economical, and as well furnished and as well managed as possible—from this point of view again, with this secondary and subordinate aim, the domain of the State is scarcely less limited: very few new functions are to be attributed to it; nearly all the rest will be better fulfilled by independent persons, or by natural or voluntary associations. Contemplate the man who works for his own benefit, the agriculturist, the manufacturer, the merchant, and observe how attentive he is to his business. And because his interest and pride are involved; his welfare and that of those around him is at stake, his capital, his reputation, his social position and advancement; on the other side, are want, ruin, social degradation, dependence, bankruptcy, and the hospital. In the presence of this alternative he keeps close watch and becomes industrious; he thinks of his business even when abed or at his meals; he studies it, not afar off speculatively, in a general way, but on the spot, practically, in detail, in all its bearings and relationships, constantly calculating difficulties and resources, with such sharp insight and special information that for any other person to try to solve the daily problem which he solves, would be impossible, because nobody could possess or estimate as he can the precise elements which constitute it. Compare with this unique devotion and these peculiar qualifications the Edition: current; Page: [966]ordinary capacity and languid uniformity of an administrative head-clerk, even when an expert and honest. He is sure of his salary, provided he does his duty tolerably well, and this he does when he is occupied during official hours. Let his papers be correct, as the rules and traditions of his bureau demand, and nothing more is asked of him; he need not tax his brain beyond that. If he conceives any economical measure, or any improvement of his branch of the service, not he, but the public, an anonymous and vague impersonality, reaps all the benefit of it. Moreover, why should he care about it, since his project or reform ends in a report which finds its resting-place in a pigeon-hole? The machine is too vast and complicated, too unwieldy, too clumsy, with its rusty wheels, its “ancient rights and safe situations,” to be made over anew, just as one likes, the same as a farm, a warehouse or a foundry. Accordingly, he has no idea of troubling himself further in the matter; on leaving his bureau he dismisses it from his mind; he lets things go on automatically, just as it happens, in a costly way and with indifferent results. Even in a country of as much probity as France, it is calculated that every enterprise managed by the State costs one-quarter more, and brings in one-quarter less, than when entrusted to private hands. Consequently, if work were withheld from individuals in order that the State might undertake it, the community, when the accounts came to be balanced, would suffer a loss of one-half.

Now, this is true of all work, whether spiritual or material not only of agricultural, industrial, and commercial products, but, again, of works of science and of art, of literature and philosophy, of charity, of education and of propagandism; not only when the motor is egoistic, like personal interest and vulgar vanity, but likewise when a disinterested sentiment is involved, like that which prompts the discovery of truth or the creation of beauty, the spread of a faith, the diffusion of convictions, religious enthusiasm, or natural generosity, affection on a broad or on a narrow basis, from one who embraces all humanity to one who devotes himself wholly to his friends and kindred. The effect is the same in both cases, because the cause is the same. Always, in the shop directed by the free Edition: current; Page: [967]workman, the motive force is enormous, almost infinite, because it is a living spring which flows at all hours and is inexhaustible. The mother thinks constantly of her child, the savant of his science, the artist of his art, the inventor of his inventions, the philanthropist of his endowments, Faraday of electricity, Stephenson of his locomotive, Pasteur of his microbes, De Lesseps of his isthmus, sisters of charity of their poor. Through this peculiar concentration of thought, man derives every possible advantage from human faculties and surroundings; he himself gets to be a more and more perfect instrument, and, moreover, he fashions others: with this he daily reduces the friction of the powerful machine which he controls and of which he is the main wheel; he increases its yield; he economises, maintains, repairs, and improves it with a capability and success that nobody questions; in short, he fabricates in a superior way. But this living spring, to which the superiority of the product is due, cannot be separated from the producer, for it issues from his own affections and profoundest sentiments. It is useless without him; out of his hands, in the hands of strangers, the fountain ceases to flow and production stops. If, consequently, a good and large yield is required, he alone must have charge of the mill; he is the resident owner of it, the one who sets it in motion, the born engineer, installed and specially designed for that position. In vain may attempts be made to turn the stream elsewhere; there simply ensues a stoppage of the natural issue, a dam barring useful canals, a haphazard change of current not only without gain, but with loss, the stream subsiding in swamps or undermining the steep banks of a ravine. At the utmost, the millions of buckets of water, forcibly taken from private reservoirs, half fill with a good deal of trouble the great central artificial basin in which the water, low and stagnant, is never sufficient in quantity or force to move the huge public wheel that replaces the small private wheels, doing the nation’s work.

Thus, even regarding men merely as manufacturers, in treating them simply as producers of what is valuable and serviceable, with no other object in view than to furnish society with supplies and to benefit consumers, the private domain comprehends all enterprises Edition: current; Page: [968]undertaken by private individuals, either singly or associated together, through personal interest or personal taste: this suffices to ensure their being better managed than by the State; it is by virtue of this that they have devolved into their hands. Consequently, in the vast field of labor, they themselves decide on what they will undertake; they themselves, of their own authority, set their own fences. They may therefore enlarge their own domain to any extent they please, and reduce indefinitely the domain of the State. On the contrary, the State cannot pretend to more than what they leave; just in proportion to their advance on a partitioned soil with a doubtful frontier, it is bound to recede and leave the ground to them; whatever pursuit they may follow the State must let that alone, except in case of their default, or their prolonged absence, or on proof of their having abandoned it. All the rest, therefore, falls to the State; first, offices which they would never claim, and which they are always glad to leave in its hands, because they have not, and it withholds, the only instrumentality of any account, that special, indispensable instrumentality known as armed force—the protection of the community against foreign communities, the protection of individuals against one another, the levying of soldiers, the imposition of taxes, the execution of the laws, the administration of justice and of the police. Next to this, come matters of which the accomplishment concerns everybody without directly interesting any one in particular—the government of unoccupied territory, the administration of rivers, coasts, forests, and public highways, the task of governing subject countries, the framing of laws, the coinage of money, the conferring of a civil status, the negotiating in the name of the community with local and special corporations, departments, communes, banks, institutions, churches, and universities. Add to these, according to circumstances, sundry optional cooperative services,13 such as subsidies granted to institutions of great public utility, Edition: current; Page: [969]for which private contributions could not suffice, now in the shape of concessions to corporations for which equivalent obligations are exacted, and, again, in those hygienic precautions which individuals fail to take through indifference; occasionally, such provisional aid as supports a man, or so stimulates him as to enable him some day or other to support himself; and, in general, those discreet and scarcely perceptible interpositions for the time being which prove so advantageous in the future, like a far-reaching code and other consistent regulations which, mindful of the liberty of the existing individual, provide for the welfare of coming generations. Nothing beyond that.


Again, in this preparation for future welfare the same principle still holds. Among precious productions, the most precious and important are, evidently, the animated instruments called men, since they produce the rest. The object then, is to fashion men capable of physical, mental, or moral labor, the most energetic, the most persistent, the most skillful, and the most productive; now, we already know the conditions of their formation. It is essential, and this suffices, that each living spring as above described, should flow in its own channel, each through its natural outlet, and under the control of its owner. On this condition the jet becomes more vigorous, for the acquired impetus increases the original outflow; the projector of labor becomes more and more skillful, for he gains knowledge Edition: current; Page: [970]through practise; those around him likewise become better workmen, inasmuch as they find encouragement in his success and avail themselves of his discoveries. Thus, simply because the State respects, and enforces respect, for these individual springs in private hands, it develops in individuals, as well as in those around them, the will and the talent for producing much and well, the faculty for, and desire to, keep on producing more and better; in other words, all sorts of energies and capacities, each of its own kind and in its own place, with all compatible fulness and efficiency. Such is the office, and the sole office, of the State, first in relation to the turbid and frigid springs issuing from selfishness and self-conceit, whose operations demand its oversight, and next, for still stronger reasons, in relation to the warm and pure springs whose beneficence is unalloyed, as in the family affections and private friendships; again, in relation to those rarer and higher springs, such as the love of beauty, the yearning for truth, the spirit of association, patriotism, and love of mankind; and, finally, for still stronger reasons, in relation to the two most sacred and salutary of all springs, conscience which renders will subject to duty, and honor which makes will the support of right. Let the State prevent, as well as abstain from, any interference with either; let this be its object and nothing more; its abstention is as necessary as its vigilance. Let it guard both, and it will see everywhere growing spontaneously, hourly, each in degree according to conditions of time and place, the most diligent and most competent workmen, the agriculturist, the manufacturer, the merchant, the savant, the artist, the inventor, the propagandist, the husband and wife, the father and mother, the patriot, the philanthropist and the sister of charity.

On the contrary, if, like our Jacobins, the State seeks to confiscate every natural force to its own profit, if it seeks to make affection for itself paramount, if it strives to suppress all other passions and interests, if it tolerates no other preoccupation than that which concerns the common weal, if it tries to forcibly convert every member of society into a Spartan or Jesuit, then, at enormous cost, will it not only destroy private springs, and spread devastation over the Edition: current; Page: [971]entire territory, but it will destroy its own fountain-head. We honor the State only for the services it renders to us, and proportionately to these services and the security it affords us, and to the liberty which it ensures us under the title of universal benefactor; when it deliberately wounds us through our dearest interests and tenderest affections, when it goes so far as to attack our honor and conscience, when it becomes the universal wrong-doer, our affection for it, in the course of time, turns into hatred. Let this system be maintained, and patriotism, exhausted, dries up, and, one by one, all other beneficent springs, until, finally, nothing is visible over the whole country, but stagnant pools or overwhelming torrents, inhabited by passive subjects or depredators. As in the Roman empire in the fourth century, in Italy in the seventeenth century, in the Turkish provinces in our own day, naught remains but an ill-conducted herd of stunted, torpid creatures, limited to their daily wants and animal instincts, indifferent to the public welfare and to their own prospective interests, so degenerate as to have lost sight of their own discoveries, unlearned their own sciences, arts and industries, and, in short, and worse than all, base, false, corrupted souls entirely wanting in honor or conscience. Nothing is more destructive than the unrestricted intermeddling of the State, even when wise and paternal; in Paraguay, under the discipline of Jesuits, so minute in its details, “Indian physiognomy appeared like that of animals taken in a trap.” They worked, ate, drank, and gave birth by sound of bell, under watch and ward, correctly and mechanically, but showing no liking for anything, not even for their own existence, being transformed into so many automatons; the least that can be said is that the means employed to produce this result were gentle, while before this they were mere brutes. The revolutionist-Jesuit now undertakes to transform men into automatons, and by harsh means.


Frequently, in European history, despotisms almost equally harsh have borne down heavily on human effort; but never have any of Edition: current; Page: [972]them been so thoroughly inept; for none have ever attempted to raise so heavy a mass with so short a lever.

In the first place, however authoritative the despot might be there was a limit to his interference. Philip II. burned heretics, persecuted Moors, and drove out Jews; Louis XIV. forcibly converted Protestants; but both used violence only against dissenters, about a fifteenth or a twentieth of their subjects. If Cromwell, on becoming Protector, remained sectarian, and the compulsory servant of an army of sectarians, he took good care not to impose on other churches the theology, rites, and discipline of his own church;14 on the contrary, he repressed fanatical outrages; protected the Anabaptists equally with his Independents, granted paid curates to the Presbyterians as well as the public exercise of their worship, also private worship with liberal toleration, to the Episcopalians; he maintained the two great Anglican universities and allowed the Jews to erect a synagogue. Frederick II. drafted into his army every able-bodied peasant that he could feed; he kept every man twenty years in the service, under a discipline worse than slavery, with the almost certain prospect of death; and in his last war, he sacrificed about one-sixth of his male subjects;15 but they were serfs, and his conscription did not touch the bourgeois class. He put his hands in the pockets of the bourgeois and of every other man, and took every crown they had; when driven to it, he adulterated coin and stopped paying his functionaries; but, under the scrutiny of his eyes, always open, the administration was honest, the police effective, justice exact, toleration unlimited, and the freedom of the press complete; the King allowed the publication of the most cutting pamphlets against himself, and their public sale, even at Berlin. A little earlier, in the great empire of the East,16 Peter the Great, with whip in hand, lashed his Muscovite bears and made them drill and dance in European fashion; Edition: current; Page: [973]but they were bears accustomed from father to son to the whip and chain; moreover, he stood as the orthodox head of their faith, and left their mir (the village commune) untouched. Finally, at the other extremity of Europe, and even outside of Europe, the caliph or sultan, in the seventh century, in the fifteenth century, an Omar or a Mahomet, a fanatical Arab or brutal Turk, who had just overcome Christians with the sword, himself assigned the limits of his own absolutism: if the vanquished were reduced to the condition of heavily ransomed tributaries and of inferiors daily humiliated, he allowed them their worship, civil laws, and domestic usages; he left them their institutions, their convents, and their schools; he allowed them to administer the affairs of their own community as they pleased under the jurisdiction of their patriarch, or other natural chieftains. Thus, whatever the tyrant may have been, he did not attempt to make man over again, nor recast all his subjects according to one pattern. Far as his tyranny went, it stopped in the soul at a certain point; that point reached, the sentiments were left free. However overwhelming this tyranny may have been, it affected only one class of men; the others, outside of its network, remained untrammelled. In touching all sensitive chords, it affected only those of a small minority incapable of self-defence; with the majority, able to protect itself, the main sensibilities were respected, especially the most sensitive, this one or that one, as the case might be, now the conscience which binds man to his religion, now that amour-propre on which honor depends, and now the habits which make man cling to customs, hereditary usages and outward observances. As far as the others were concerned, those which relate to property, personal welfare, and social position, it proceeded cautiously and with moderation. In this way the discretion of the ruler lessened the resistance of the subject, and a daring enterprise, even when mischievous, was not outrageous; it might be carried out; nothing was required but a force in hand equal to the resistance it provoked.

Again, on the other hand, the tyrant possessed this force. Very many and very strong arms stood behind the prince ready to coöperate with him and countervail any resistance. Behind Philip II. or Edition: current; Page: [974]Louis XIV. stood the Catholic majority, either exciting or consenting to the oppression of dissenters, as fanatical or as illiberal as their king. To aid and coöperate with Philip II., Louis XIV., Frederick II. and Peter the Great, stood the entire nation, equally violent, rallied around the sovereign through his consecrated title and uncontested right, through tradition and custom, through a rigid sentiment of duty and the vague idea of public security. Peter the Great counted among his auxiliaries every eminent and cultivated man in the country; Cromwell had his disciplined and twenty-times victorious army; the caliph or sultan brought along with him his military and privileged population. Aided by cohorts of this stamp, it was easy to raise a heavy mass, and even maintain it in a fixed position. Once the operation was concluded, there followed a sort of equilibrium; the mass, kept in the air by a permanent counterbalance, only required a little daily effort to prevent it from falling.

Just the reverse with the measures of the Jacobins. According as these are carried out, their theory, more exacting, adds extra weight to the uplifted mass, and, finally, a burden of almost infinite weight. At first, the Jacobin confined his attacks to royalty, to nobility, to the Church, to parliaments, to privileges, to ecclesiastical and feudal possessions, in short, to mediaeval foundations; now, he attacks yet more ancient and more solid foundations—positive religion, property and the family. For four years he has contented himself with demolition; he now aims at reconstruction; his object is not merely to do away with a positive faith and suppress social inequality, to proscribe revealed dogmas, hereditary beliefs, an established cult, the supremacy of rank and superiority of fortunes, wealth, leisure, refinement and elegance, but, in addition to all this, he must refashion the citizen, create new sentiments, impose natural religion on the individual, civic education, uniform ways and habits, Jacobin conduct, Spartan virtue; in short, nothing is to be left in a human being that is not prescribed, enforced, and constrained. Henceforth, there is opposed to the Revolution, not alone the partisans of the ancient régime—priests, nobles, parliamentarians, royalists, and Catholics—but, again, every man imbued with European civilisation, Edition: current; Page: [975]every member of a regular family, any possessor of capital much or little; every kind or degree of proprietor, agriculturist, manufacturer, merchant, artisan, or farmer, even most of the revolutionists who, nearly all, count on themselves escaping the constraints they impose, and who like the straight-jacket only when it is on another’s back. The pressure of resistant wills at this moment becomes incalculable. It would be easier to raise a mountain, while, just at this moment, the Jacobins have deprived themselves of every moral force through which a political engineer acts on human wills.

Unlike Philip II. and Louis XIV. they are not supported by the intolerance of a vast majority, for, instead of fifteen or twenty orthodox against one heretic, they count in their church scarcely more than one orthodox against fifteen or twenty heretics.17 They have not at their back, like legitimate sovereigns, the stubborn loyalty of an entire population, following in the steps of its chieftain through the prestige of hereditary right and through habits of ancient fealty. On the contrary, their reign is only a day old and they themselves are interlopers, at first installed by a coup d’état and afterwards by Edition: current; Page: [976]the semblance of an election, having extorted or obtained by trick the suffrages through which they act, so familiar with fraud and violence that, in their own Assembly, the minority which succeeds has seized and held on to power by violence and fraud, putting down the majority by riots, and the departments by force of arms; while, to give to their brutalities the semblance of right, they improvise two pompous demonstrations, first, the sudden manufacture of a paper constitution, which moulders away in their archives, and next, the scandalous farce of a hollow and compulsory plebiscite. A dozen leaders of the faction centre unlimited authority in themselves; but, as admitted by them, their authority is derivative; it is the Convention which makes them its delegates; their precarious title has to be renewed monthly; a turn of the majority may sweep them and their work away tomorrow; an insurrection of the people, whom they have familiarised with insurrection, may tomorrow sweep them away, their work and their majority. They maintain only a disputed, limited and transient ascendency over their adherents. They are not military chieftains like Cromwell and Napoleon, generals of an army obeyed without a murmur, but common stump-speakers at the mercy of an audience that sits in judgment on them. There is no discipline in this audience: every Jacobin remains independent by virtue of his principles; if he accepts leaders, it is with a reservation of their worth to him; selecting them as he pleases, he is free to change them when he pleases; his trust in them is intermittent, his loyalty provisional, and, as his adhesion depends on a mere preference, he always reserves the right to discard the favorite of today as he has discarded the favorite of yesterday. In this audience, there is no such thing as subordination; the lowest demagogue, any subaltern brawler, a Hébert or Jacques Roux, who is ambitious to step out of the ranks, outvies the charlatans in office in order to obtain their places. Even with a complete and lasting ascendency over an organised band of docile supporters, the Jacobin leaders would be feeble for lack of reliable and competent instruments; for they have but very few partisans other than those of doubtful probity and of notorious incapacity. Cromwell had around him, to carry out the puritan programme, the moral élite of the nation, an army of rigorists, with Edition: current; Page: [977]narrow consciences, but much more strict towards themselves than towards others, men who never drank and who never swore, who never indulged for a moment in sensuality or idleness, who forbade themselves every act of omission or commission about which they held any scruples, the most honest, the most temperate, the most laborious, and the most persevering of mankind,18 the only ones capable of laying the foundations of that practical morality on which England and the United States still subsist at the present day. Around Peter the Great, in carrying out his European programme, stood the intellectual élite of the country, an imported staff of men of ability associated with natives of moderate ability, every well-taught resident foreigner and indigenous Russian, the only ones able to organise schools and public institutions, to set up a vast central and regular system of administration, to assign rank according to service and merit, in short, to erect on the snow and mud of a shapeless barbarism a conservatory of civilisation which, transplanted like an exotic tree, grows and gradually becomes acclimated. Around Couthon, Saint-Just, Billaud, Collot, and Robespierre, with the exception of certain men devoted, not to Utopianism but to the country, and who, like Carnot, conform to the system in order to save France, there are but a few sectarians to carry out the Jacobin programme, men so short-sighted as not to clearly comprehend its fallacies, or sufficiently fanatical to accept its horrors, a lot of social outcasts and self-constituted statesmen, infatuated through incommensurate faculties with the parts they play, unsound in mind and superficially educated, wholly incompetent, boundless in ambition, with perverted, callous or deadened consciences, deluded by sophistry, cold-blooded through vain glory and vicious through crime, impunity and success.

Thus, whilst other despots raise a moderate weight, calling Edition: current; Page: [978]around them either the majority or the flower of the nation, employing the best strength of the country and lengthening their lever as much as possible, the Jacobins attempt to raise an incalculable weight, repel the majority as well as the flower of the nation, discard the best strength of the country, and shorten their lever to the utmost. They hold on only to the shorter end, the rough, clumsy, iron-bound, creaking, and grinding extremity, that is to say, to physical force, the means for physical constraint, the heavy hand of the gendarme on the shoulder of the suspect, the jailor’s bolts and keys turned on the prisoner, the club used by the sans-culottes on the back of the bourgeois to quicken his pace, and, better still, the Septembriseur’s pike thrust into the aristocrat’s belly, and the blade falling on the neck held fast in the clutches of the guillotine. Such, henceforth, is the only machinery they possess for governing the country, for they have deprived themselves of all other. Their engine has to be exhibited, for it works only on condition that its bloody image be stamped indelibly on every body’s imagination; if the negro monarch or the pacha desires to see heads bowing as he passes along, he must be escorted by executioners. They must abuse their engine because fear, losing its effect through habit, needs example to keep it alive; the negro monarch or the pacha who would keep the fear alive by which he rules, must be stimulated every day; he must slaughter too many to be sure of slaughtering enough; he must slaughter constantly, in heaps, indiscriminately, haphazard, no matter for what offence, on the slightest suspicion, the innocent along with the guilty. He and his are lost the moment they cease to obey this rule. Every Jacobin, like every African monarch or pacha, must observe it that he may be and remain at the head of his band. For this reason, the chiefs of the sect, its natural leaders designated beforehand, consist of theorists able to grasp its principles, and logicians able to arrive at its conclusions, narrow-minded enough not to see that their undertaking exceeds their powers and all human powers, shrewd enough to see that brutal force is their only instrumentality, inhuman enough to apply it unscrupulously and without reserve, and perverted enough to murder on all sides that they may stamp an impression of lasting terror.

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BOOK SEVENTH: The Governors

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Psychology of the Jacobin leaders— I. Marat—Disparity between his faculties and pretensions—The Maniac—The Ambitious delirium—Rage for persecution—A confirmed nightmare insanity—Homicidal frenzy— II. Danton—Richness of his faculties—Disparity between his condition and instincts—The Barbarian—His work—His weakness— III. Robespierre—Mediocrity of his faculties—The Cuistre—Absence of ideas—Study of phrases—Wounded self-esteem—Intensity of this trait—Satisfied self-esteem—His infatuation—He plays the victim—His gloomy fancies—His resemblance to Marat—Difference between him and Marat—The sincere hypocrite—The Festival in honor of the Supreme Being, and the law of Prairial 22—The external and internal characters of Robespierre and the Revolution.


Three men among the Jacobins, Marat, Danton, and Robespierre, merited distinction and possessed authority: owing to a malformation, or distortion, of head and heart, they fulfilled the requisite conditions. Of the three, Marat is the most monstrous; he borders on the lunatic, of which he displays the chief characteristics—furious exaltation, constant overexcitement, feverish restlessness, an inexhaustible propensity for scribbling, that mental automatism and tetanus of the will under the constraint and rule of a fixed idea, and, in addition to this, the usual physical symptoms, such as sleeplessness, a livid tint, bad blood, foulness of dress and person,1 with, Edition: current; Page: [982]during the last five months of his life, irritations and eruptions over his whole body.2 Issuing from incongruous races, born of a mixed blood and tainted with serious moral commotions,3 he harbors within him a singular germ: physically, he is an abortion, morally a pretender, and one who covets all places of distinction. His father, who was a physician, intended, from his early childhood, that he should be a savant; his mother, an idealist, meant that he should be a philanthropist, while he himself always steered his course towards both summits. “At five years of age,” he says, “it would have pleased me to be a schoolmaster, at fifteen a professor, at eighteen an author, and a creative genius at twenty,”4 and, afterwards, up to the last, an apostle and martyr to humanity. “From my earliest infancy I had an intense love of fame which changed its object at various stages of my life, but which never left me for a moment.” He rambled over Europe or vegetated in Paris for thirty years, living a nomadic life in subordinate positions, hissed as an author, distrusted as a man of science and ignored as a philosopher, a third rate political writer, aspiring to every sort of celebrity and to every honor, constantly presenting himself as a candidate and as constantly rejected, too great a disproportion between his faculties and ambition! Talentless,5 Edition: current; Page: [983]possessing no critical acumen and of mediocre intelligence, he was fitted only to teach some branch of the sciences, or to practise some one of the arts, either as professor or doctor more or less bold and lucky, or to follow, with occasional slips on one side or the other, some path clearly marked out for him. “But,” he says, “I never had any thing to do with a subject which did not hold out … great results for myself, and show my originality, for I cannot make up my mind to treat a subject over again that has been well done, or to plod over the work of others.” Consequently, when he tries to originate he merely imitates, or commits mistakes. His treatise on “Man” is a jumble of physiological and moral common-places, made up of ill-digested reading and words strung together haphazard,6 of gratuitous and incoherent suppositions in which the doctrines of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, coupled together, end in empty phraseology. “Soul and Body are distinct substances with no essential relationship, being connected together solely through the nervous fluid”; this fluid is not gelatinous for the spirituous by which it is renewed contains no gelatine; the soul, excited by this, excites that; hence the place assigned to it “in the meninges.” His “Optics”7 is the reverse of the great truth already discovered by Newton more than a century before, and since confirmed by more than another century of experiment and calculation. On “Heat” and “Electricity” he merely puts forth feeble hypotheses and literary generalisations; one day, driven to the wall, he inserts a needle in a piece of rosin to make this a conductor, in which piece of scientific trickery he is Edition: current; Page: [984]caught by the physicist Charles.8 He is not even qualified to comprehend the great discoverers of his age, Laplace, Monge, Lavoisier, or Fourcroy; on the contrary, he libels them in the style of a low rebellious subordinate, who, without the shadow of a claim, aims to take the place of legitimate authorities. In Politics, he adopts every absurd idea in vogue growing out of the Contrat-Social based on natural right, and which he renders still more absurd by repeating as his own the arguments advanced by those bungling socialists, who, physiologists astray in the moral world, derive all rights from physical necessities. “All human rights issue from physical wants.9 If a man has nothing, he has a right to any surplus with which another gorges himself. What do I say? He has a right to seize the indispensable, and, rather than die of hunger, he may cut another’s throat and eat his throbbing flesh. … Man has a right to self-preservation, to the property, the liberty and even the lives of his fellow creatures. To escape oppression he has a right to repress, to bind and to massacre. He is free to do what he pleases to ensure his own happiness.” It is plain enough what this leads to. But, let the consequences be what they may, whatever he writes or does, it is always in self-admiration and always in a counter sense, being as vain-glorious of his encyclopaedic impotence as he is of his social mischievousness. Taking his word for it, his discoveries in Physics will render him immortal.10 “They will at least effect a complete transformation in Optics. … The true primitive colors were unknown before me.” He is a Newton, and still better. Previous to his appearance “the place occupied by the electric fluid in nature, considered as an universal agent, was completely ignored. … I have made it known in such a way as to leave no further doubt about it.”11 As to the igneous fluid, “that existence Edition: current; Page: [985]unknown before me, I have freed the theory from every hypothesis and conjecture, from every alembical argument; I have purged it of error, I have rendered it intuitive; I have written this out in a small volume which consigns to oblivion all that scientific bodies have hitherto published on that subject.”12 Anterior to his treatise on “Man,” moral and physical relationships were incomprehensible. “Descartes, Helvetius, Haller, Lecat, Hume, Voltaire, Bonnet, held this to be an impenetrable secret, ‘an enigma.’ ” He has solved the problem, he has fixed the seat of the soul, he has determined the medium through which the soul communicates with the body.13 In the higher sciences, those treating of nature generally, or of human society, he reaches the climax. “I believe that I have exhausted every combination of the human intellect in relation to morals, philosophy, and political science.”14 Not only has he discovered the true theory of government, but he is a statesman, a practical expert, able to forecast the future and shape events. He makes predictions, on the average, twice a week, which always turn out right; he already claims, during the early sessions of the Convention, to have made “three hundred predictions on the leading points of the Revolution, all justified by the event.”15 In the face of the Constituants who demolish and reconstruct so slowly, he is sufficiently strong to take down, put up, and complete at a moment’s notice. “If I were one of the people’s tribunes16 and were supported by a few thousand Edition: current; Page: [986]determined men, I answer for it that, in six weeks, the Constitution would be perfected, the political machine well agoing, and the nation free and happy. In less than a year there would be a flourishing, formidable government which would remain so as long as I lived.” If necessary, he could act as commander-in-chief of the army and always be victorious: having twice seen the Vendéans carry on a fight he would end the war “at the first encounter.”17 “If I could stand the march, I would go in person and carry out my views. At the head of a small party of trusty troops the rebels could be easily put down to the last man, and in one day. I know something of military art, and, without boasting, I can answer for success.” On any difficulty occurring, it is owing to his advice not having been taken; he is the great political physician: his diagnosis from the beginning of the Revolution is always correct, his prognosis infallible, his therapeutics efficacious, humane, and salutary. He furnishes the panacea and he should be allowed to prescribe it; only, to ensure a satisfactory operation, he should himself administer the dose. Let the public lancet, therefore, be put in his hands that he may perform the humanitarian operation of blood-letting. “Such are my opinions. I have published them in my works. I have signed them with my name and I am not ashamed of it. … If you are not equal to me and able to comprehend me so much the worse for you.”18 In other words, in his own eyes, Marat is in advance of everybody else and, through his superior genius and character, he is the veritable saviour.

Such are the symptoms by which medical men recognise immediately Edition: current; Page: [987]one of those partial lunatics who may not be put in confinement, but who are all the more dangerous;19 the malady, as they would express it in technical terms, may be called the ambitious delirium, well known in lunatic asylums. Two propensities, one a habitually perverted judgment, and the other a colossal excess of self-esteem,20 constitute its sources, and nowhere are both more prolific than in Marat. Never did man with such diversified culture, possess such an incurably perverted intellect. Never did man, after so many abortive speculations and such repeated malpractices, conceive and maintain so high an opinion of himself. Each of these two sources in him augments the other: through his faculty of not seeing things as they are, he attributes to himself virtue and genius; satisfied that he possesses genius and virtue, he regards his misdeeds as merits and his crotchets as truths. Thenceforth, and spontaneously, his malady runs its own course and becomes complex; next to the ambitious delirium comes the mania for persecution. In effect, the evident or demonstrated truths which he supplies should strike the public at once; if they burn slowly or miss fire, it is owing to their being stamped out by enemies or the envious: manifestly, they have conspired against him, and against him plots have never ceased. First came the philosophers’ plot: when his treatise on “Man” reached Paris from Amsterdam, “they felt the blow I struck at their principles and had the book stopped at the custom-house.”21 Next came the plot of the doctors, who “ruefully estimated my enormous gains. Were it necessary, I could prove that they often met together to consider the best way to destroy my reputation.” Finally, came the plot of the Academicians; “the disgraceful persecution I had to undergo from the Academy of Sciences for two years, after being satisfied that my discoveries on Light upset all that it had done for Edition: current; Page: [988]a century, and that I was quite indifferent about becoming a member of its body. … Would it be believed that these scientific charlatans succeeded in underrating my discoveries throughout Europe, in exciting every society of savants against me, and in closing against me all the newspapers!”22 Naturally, the would-be-persecuted man defends himself, that is to say, he attacks. Naturally, as he is the aggressor, he is repulsed and put down, and, after creating imaginary enemies, he creates real ones, especially in politics where, on principle, he daily preaches insurrection and murder. Naturally, in fine, he is prosecuted, convicted at the Chatelet court, tracked by the police, obliged to fly and wander from one hiding-place to another; to live like a bat “in a cellar, underground, in a dark dungeon”;23 once, says his friend Panis, he passed “six weeks on one of his buttocks” like a madman in his cell, face to face with his reveries. It is not surprising that, with such a system, the reverie should become more intense, more and more gloomy, and, at last settle down into a confirmed nightmare; that, in his distorted brain, objects should appear distorted; that, even in full daylight men and things should seem awry, as in a magnifying, dislocating mirror; that, frequently, on the numbers (of his journal) appearing too blood-thirsty, and his chronic disease too acute, his physician should bleed him to arrest these attacks and prevent their return.24

But he has taken his bent: henceforth, falsities spring up in his brain as on their native soil; planting himself on the irrational he cultivates the absurd, even physical and mathematical. “Taking an extreme view of it,” he says, “the patriotic contribution of one-quarter Edition: current; Page: [989]of one’s income will produce, at the very least, four billion eight hundred and sixty million francs, and perhaps twice that sum”; with this sum M. Necker may raise five hundred thousand men, which he calculates on for the subjugation of France.25 Since the taking of the Bastille, “the municipality’s defalcations alone amount to two hundred millions. The sums pocketed by Bailly are estimated at more than two millions; what ‘Mottié’ (Lafayette) has taken for the past two years is incalculable.”26 On the 15th of November, 1791, the gathering of emigrés comprises “at least one hundred and twenty thousand gentlemen and drilled partisans and soldiers, not counting the forces of the gentlemen-princes about to join them.”27 Consequently, as with his brethren in Bicêtre (a lunatic asylum), he raves incessantly on the horrible and the foul: the procession of terrible or disgusting phantoms has begun.28 According to him, the savants who do not choose to admire him are fools, charlatans, and plagiarists. Laplace and Monge are even “automatons,” so many calculating machines; Lavoisier, “reputed father of every discovery that makes any noise in the world, has not an idea of his own”; he steals from others without comprehending them, and “changes his system as he changes his shoes.” Fourcroy, his disciple and horn-blower, is of still thinner stuff. All are scamps: “I could cite a hundred instances of dishonesty by the Academicians of Paris, a hundred breaches of trust”; twelve thousand francs were entrusted to them for the purpose of ascertaining how to direct balloons, and “they divided it among themselves, squandering it at the Rapée, the opera Edition: current; Page: [990]and in brothels.”29 In the political world, where debates are battles, it is still worse. The “Friend of the people” has merely rascals for adversaries. Praise of Lafayette’s courage and disinterestedness, how absurd! If he went to America it was because he was jilted, “cast off by a Messalina”; he maintained a park of artillery there as “powder-monkeys look after ammunition-wagons”; these are his only exploits; besides, he is a thief. Bailly is also a thief, and Malouet a “clown.” Necker has conceived the “horrible project of starving and poisoning the people; he has drawn on himself for all eternity the execration of Frenchmen and the detestation of mankind.” What is the Constituent Assembly but a set of “low, rampant, mean, stupid fellows?” “Infamous legislators, vile scoundrels, monsters athirst for gold and blood, you traffic with the monarch, with our fortunes, with our rights, with our liberties, with our lives!” “The second legislative corps is no less rotten than the first one.” In the Convention, Roland, “the officious Gilles and the forger Pasquin, is the infamous head of the monopolisers.” “Isnard is a juggler, Buzot a Tartuffe, Vergniaud a police spy.”30 When a madman sees everywhere around him, on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling, toads, scorpions, spiders, swarms of crawling, loathsome vermin, he thinks only of crushing them, and the disease enters on its last stage: after the ambitious delirium, the mania for persecution and the settled nightmare, comes the homicidal mania.

With Marat, this broke out at the very beginning of the Revolution. Edition: current; Page: [991]The disease was innate; he was inoculated with it beforehand. He had contracted it in good earnest, on principle; never was there a plainer case of deliberate insanity. On the one hand, having derived the rights of man from physical necessities, he concluded “that society owes to those among its members who have no property, and whose labor scarcely suffices for their support, an assured subsistence, the wherewithal to feed, lodge, and clothe oneself suitably, provision for attendance in sickness and when old age comes on, and for bringing up children. Those who wallow in wealth must (then) supply the wants of those who lack the necessaries of life.” Otherwise, “the honest citizen whom society abandons to poverty and despair, reverts back to the state of nature and the right of forcibly claiming advantages which were only alienated by him to procure greater ones. All authority which is opposed to this is tyrannical, and the judge who condemns a man to death (through it) is simply a cowardly assassin.”31 Thus do the innumerable riots which the dearth excites, find justification, and, as the dearth is permanent, the daily riot is legitimate. On the other hand, having laid down the principle of popular sovereignty he deduces from this, “the sacred right of constituents to dismiss their delegates”; to seize them by the throat if they prevaricate, to keep them in the right path by fear, and wring their necks should they attempt to vote wrong or govern badly. Now, they are always subject to this temptation. “If there is one eternal truth of which it is important to convince man, it is that the mortal enemy of the people, the most to be dreaded by them, is the Government.” “Any minister who remains twice twenty-four hours in office, when it is not impossible for the cabinet to operate against the Government is ‘suspect.’ ”32 Bestir yourselves, then, ye unfortunates in town and country, workmen without work, street stragglers sleeping under bridges, prowlers along the highways, Edition: current; Page: [992]beggars without fuel or shelter, tattered vagabonds, cripples and tramps, and seize your faithless mandatories! On July 14th and October 5th and 6th, “the people had the right not only to execute some of the conspirators in military fashion, but to immolate them all, to put to the sword the entire body of royal satellites leagued together for our destruction, the whole herd of traitors to the country, of every condition and degree.”33 Never go to the Assembly “without filling your pockets with stones and throwing them at the impudent scoundrels who preach monarchical maxims; I recommend to you no other precaution but that of telling their neighbors to look out.”34 “We do not demand the resignation of the ministers—we demand their heads. We demand the heads of all the ministerialists in the Assembly, your mayor’s, your general’s, the heads of most of the staff-officers, of most of the municipal council, of the principal agents of the executive power in the kingdom.” Of what use are half-way measures, like the sack of the hotel de Castries?35 “Avenge yourselves wisely! Death! Death! is the sole penalty for traitors raging to destroy you! It is the only one that strikes terror into them. … Follow the example of your implacable enemies! Keep always armed, so that they may not escape through the delays of the law! Stab them on the spot or blow their brains out!” “Twenty-four millions of men shout in unison: If the black, gangrened, archigangrened ministerialists dare pass a bill reducing and reorganising the army, citizens, do you build eight hundred scaffolds in the Tuileries garden and hang on them every traitor to his country—that infamous Riquetti, Comte de Mirabeau, at the head of them—and, at the same time, erect in the middle of the fountain basin a big pile of logs to roast the ministers and their tools!”36 Could “the Friend of the people” rally around him two thousand men determined “to save the country, he would go and tear the heart out of that infernal Edition: current; Page: [993]Mottié in the very midst of his battalions of slaves; he would go and burn the monarch and his imps in his palace, impale the deputies on their benches, and bury them beneath the flaming ruins of their den.”37 On the first cannon shot being fired on the frontier, “it is indispensable that the people should close the gates of the towns and unhesitatingly make way with every priest, public functionary and antirevolutionist, known machinators and their accomplices.” “It would be wise for the people’s magistrates to keep constantly manufacturing large quantities of strong, sharp, short-bladed, double-edged knives, so as to arm each citizen known as a friend of his country. Now, the art of fighting with these terrible weapons consists in this: Use the left arm as buckler, and cover it up to the arm-pit with a sleeve quilted with some woollen stuff, filled with rags and hair, and then rush on the enemy, the right hand wielding the knife.”38 Let us use these knives as soon as possible, for “what now remains to us to end the evils which overwhelm us? I repeat it, nothing but executions by the people.”39 The Throne is at last down; but “be careful not to give way to false pity! … No quarter! I advise you to decimate the antirevolutionist members of the municipality, of the justices of the peace, of the members of the departments and of the National Assembly.”40 At the outset, a few lives would have sufficed: “five hundred heads ought to have fallen when the Bastille was taken, and all would then have gone on well.” But, through lack of foresight and timidity, the evil was allowed to spread, and the more it spread the larger the amputation should have been. With the sure, keen eye of the surgeon, Marat gives its dimensions; he Edition: current; Page: [994]has made his calculation beforehand. In September, 1792, in the Council at the Commune, he estimates approximatively forty thousand as the number of heads that should be laid low.41 Six weeks later, the social abscess having enormously increased, the figures swell in proportion; he now demands two hundred and seventy thousand heads,42 always on the score of humanity, “to ensure public tranquillity,” on condition that the operation be entrusted to him, as the summary, temporary justiciary. Save this last point, the rest is granted to him; it is unfortunate that he could not see with his own eyes the complete fulfilment of his programme, the batches condemned by the revolutionary Tribunal, the massacres of Lyons and Toulon, the drownings of Nantes. From first to last, he was in the right line of the Revolution, lucid on account of his blindness, thanks to his crazy logic, thanks to the concordance of his personal malady with the public malady, to the precocity of his complete madness alongside of the incomplete or tardy madness of the rest, he alone steadfast, remorseless, triumphant, perched aloft at the first bound on the sharp pinnacle which his rivals dared not climb or only stumbled up.

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There is nothing of the madman about Danton; on the contrary, not only is his intellect sound, but he possesses political aptitudes to an eminent degree, and to such an extent that, in this particular, none of his associates or adversaries compare with him, while, among the men of the Revolution, only Mirabeau equals or surpasses him. He is an original, spontaneous genius and not, like most of his contemporaries, a disputatious, quill-driving theorist,43 that is to say, a fanatical pedant, an artificial being composed of his books, a mill-horse with blinkers, and turning around in a circle without an issue. His free judgment is not hampered by abstract prejudices: he does not carry about with him a social contract, like Rousseau, nor, like Sièyes, a social art and cabinet principles or combinations;44 he has kept aloof from these instinctively and, perhaps, through contempt for them; he had no need of them; he would not have known what to do with them. Systems are crutches for the impotent, while he is able-bodied; formulas serve as spectacles for the short-sighted, while his eyes are good. “He had read and meditated very little,” says a learned and philosophical witness;45 “his knowledge was scanty and he took no pride in investigation; but he observed and saw. … His native capacity, which was very great and not absorbed by other things, was naturally closed to vague, complex, and false notions, and naturally open to every notion of experience the truth of which was made manifest.” Consequently, “his perceptions of men and things, sudden, clear, impartial, and true, were instinct with solid, Edition: current; Page: [996]practical discretion.” To form a clear idea of the divergent or concordant dispositions, fickle or earnest, actual or possible, of different parties and of twenty-six millions of souls, to justly estimate probable resistances, and calculate available forces, to recognise and take advantage of the one decisive moment, to combine executive means, to find men of action, to measure the effect produced, to foresee near and remote contingencies, to regret nothing and take things coolly, to accept crimes in proportion to their political efficacy, to manoeuvre in the face of great obstacles, even in contempt of current maxims, to consider objects and men the same as an engineer contracting for machinery and calculating horse-power46—such are the faculties of which he gave proof on the 10th of August and the 2nd of September, during his effective dictatorship between the 10th of August and the 21st of September, afterwards in the Convention, on the first Committee of Public Safety, on the 31st of May and on the 2nd of June:47 we have seen him busy at work. Up to the last, in spite of his partisans, he has tried to diminish or, at least, not add to, the resistance the government had to overcome. Nearly up to the last, in spite of his adversaries, he tried to increase or, at least, not destroy the available forces of the government. In defiance of the shoutings of the clubs, which clamor for the extermination of the Prussians, the capture of the King of Prussia, the overthrow of all thrones, and the murder of Louis XVI., he negotiated the Edition: current; Page: [997]almost pacific withdrawal of Brunswick;48 he strove to detach Prussia from the coalition;49 he wanted to turn a war of propagandism into one of interests;50 he caused the Convention to pass the decree that France would not in any way interfere with foreign governments; he secured an alliance with Sweden; he prescribed beforehand the basis of the treaty of Basle, and had an idea of saving the King.51 In spite of the distrust and attacks of the Girondists, who strove to discredit him and put him out of the way, he persists in offering them his hand; he declared war on them only because they refused to make peace,52 and he made efforts to save them when they were Edition: current; Page: [998]down. Amidst so many ranters and scribblers whose logic is mere words and whose rage is blind, who grind out phrases like a hand-organ, or are wound up for murder, his intellect, always capacious and supple, went right to facts, not to disfigure and pervert them, but to accept them, to adapt himself to them, and to comprehend them. With a mind of this quality one goes far no matter in what direction; nothing remains but to choose one’s path. Mandrin, under the ancient régime, was also, in a similar way, a superior man;53 only he chose the highway.

Between the demagogue and the highwayman the resemblance is close: both are leaders of bands and each requires an opportunity to organise his band. Danton, to organise his band, required the Revolution. “Of low birth, without a patron,” penniless, every office being filled, and “the Paris bar unattainable,” admitted a lawyer after “a struggle,” he for a long time strolled about the streets without a brief, or frequented the coffee-houses, the same as similar men nowadays frequent the beer-shops. At the Café de l’Ecole, the proprietor, a good natured old fellow “in a small round perruque, grey coat, and a napkin on his arm,” circulated among his tables smiling blandly, while his daughter sat in the rear as cashier.54 Danton chatted with her and demanded her hand in marriage. To obtain her, he had to mend his ways, purchase an attorneyship in the Court of the Royal Council and find bondsmen and endorsers in his small native town.55 Wedded and lodged in the gloomy Passage du Commerce, “more burdened with debts than with causes,” tied down to a sedentary profession which demands vigorous application, accuracy, a moderate tone, a respectable style, and blameless deportment; obliged to keep house on so small a scale that, without the help of Edition: current; Page: [999]a louis regularly advanced to him each week by his coffee-house father-in-law, he could not make both ends meet;56 his free-and-easy tastes, his alternately impetuous and indolent disposition, his love of enjoyment and of having his own way, his rude, violent instincts, his expansiveness, creativeness and activity, all rebel: he is ill-calculated for the quiet routine of our civil careers; it is not the steady discipline of an old society that suits him, but the tumultuous brutality of a society going to pieces, or one in a state of formation. In temperament and character he is a barbarian, and a barbarian born to command his fellow-creatures, like this or that vassal of the sixth century or baron of the tenth century. A colossus with the head of a “Tartar,” pitted with the small-pox, tragically and terribly ugly, with a mask convulsed like that of a growling “bull-dog,”57 with small, cavernous, restless eyes buried under the huge wrinkles of a threatening brow, with a thundering voice and moving and acting like a combatant, full-blooded, boiling over with passion and energy, his strength in its outbursts seeming illimitable like the forces of nature, roaring like a bull when speaking, and heard through closed windows fifty yards off in the street, employing immoderate imagery, intensely in earnest, trembling with indignation, revenge, and patriotic sentiments, able to arouse savage instincts in the most tranquil breast and generous instincts in the most brutal,58 profane, using emphatic terms,59 cynical, not monotonously so and affectedly like Hébert, but spontaneously and to the point, full of crude jests worthy of Rabelais, possessing a stock of jovial sensuality and good-humor, cordial and familiar in his ways, frank, friendly in tone; in short, outwardly and inwardly the best fitted for winning the confidence and sympathy of a Gallic, Parisian populace, and all contributing to Edition: current; Page: [1000]the formation of “his inborn, practical popularity,” and to make of him “a grand-seigñior of sans-culotterie.60 Thus endowed for playing a part, there is a strong temptation to act it the moment the theatre is ready, whether this be a mean one, got up for the occasion, and the actors rogues, scamps and prostitutes, or the part an ignoble one, murderous, and finally fatal to him who undertakes it. To withstand temptation of this sort would require a sentiment of repugnance which a refined or thorough culture develops in both sense and soul, but which was completely wanting in Danton. Nothing disgusts him physically or morally: he embraces Marat,61 fraternises with drunkards, congratulates the Septembriseurs, retorts in blackguard terms to the insults of prostitutes, treats reprobates, thieves, and jail-birds as equals, Carra, Westermann, Huguenin, Rossignol, and the confirmed scoundrels whom he sends into the departments after the 2d of September. “Eh! f——, you think we ought to send young misses.”62 One must employ foul people to do foul work; one Edition: current; Page: [1001]cannot stop one’s nose when they come for their wages; one must pay them well, talk to them encouragingly, and leave them plenty of sea-room. Danton is willing to add fuel to the fire, and he humors vices; he has no scruples, and lets people scratch and take. He has taken himself as much to give as to keep, to maintain his role as much as to benefit by it, squaring accounts by spending the money of the Court against the Court, probably inwardly chuckling, the same as the peasant in a blouse on getting ahead of his well-duped landlord, or as the Frank, whom the ancient historian describes as leering on pocketing Roman gold the better to make war against Rome. The graft on this plebeian seedling has not taken; in our modern garden this remains as in the ancient forest; its vigorous sap preserves its primitive raciness and produces none of the fine fruits of our civilisation, a moral sense, honor, and conscience. Danton has no respect for himself nor for others; the nice, delicate limitations that circumscribe human personality, seem to him as legal conventionality and mere drawing-room courtesy. Like a Clovis, he tramples on this, and like a Clovis, equal in faculties, in similar expedients, and with a worse horde at his back, he throws himself athwart society, to stagger along, destroy and reconstruct it to his own advantage.

At the start, he comprehended the peculiar character and normal procedure of the Revolution, that is to say, the useful agency of popular brutality: in 1788 he had already figured in insurrections. He comprehended from the first the ultimate object and definite result of the Revolution, that is to say, the dictatorship of the violent minority. Immediately after the “14th of July,” 1789, he organised in his quarter of the city63 a small independent republic, aggressive Edition: current; Page: [1002]and predominant, the centre of the faction, a refuge for the riff-raff and a rendezvous for fanatics, a pandemonium composed of every available madcap, every rogue, visionary, shoulder-hitter, newspaper scribbler and stump-speaker, either a secret or avowed plotter of murder, Camille Desmoulins, Fréron, Hébert, Chaumette, Clootz, Théroigne, Marat, while, in this more than Jacobin State, the model in anticipation of that he is to establish later, he reigns, as he will afterwards reign, the permanent president of the district, commander of the battalion, orator of the club, and the concocter of bold undertakings. Here, usurpation is the rule: there is no recognition of legal authority; they brave the King, the ministers, the judges, the Assembly, the municipality, the mayor, the commandant of the National Guard. Nature and principle raise them above the law; the district takes charge of Marat, posts two sentinels at his door to protect him from prosecutions, and uses arms against the armed force sent with a warrant to arrest him.64 And yet more, in the name of the city of Paris, “chief sentinel of the nation,” they assume to govern France: Danton betakes himself to the National Assembly and declares that the citizens of Paris are the natural representatives of the eighty-three departments, and summons it, on their injunction, to cancel an act it has passed.65 The entire Jacobin conception is therein expressed: Danton, with his keen insight, took it all in and proclaimed it in appropriate terms; to apply it at the present time on a grand scale,66 he has merely to pass from the small theatre to the large one, from the Cordeliers club to the Commune, to the Ministry, and the Committee of Public Safety, and, in all these theatres, he plays the same part with the same end in view and the Edition: current; Page: [1003]same results. A despotism formed by conquest and maintained by terror, the despotism of the Jacobin Parisian rabble, is the end to which he directly marches. He employs no other means and, adapting the means to the end and the end to the means, manages the important days and instigates the decisive measures of the Revolution—the 10th of August,67 the 2d of September, the 31st of May, the 2d of June;68 the decree providing for an army of paid sans-culottes “to keep down aristocrats with their pikes”; the decree in each commune where grain is dear, taxing the rich to put bread within reach of the poor;69 the decree giving laborers forty sous for attending the meetings of the Section Assemblies;70 the institution of the revolutionary Tribunal;71 the proposal to erect the Committee of Public Safety into a provisional government; the proclamation of Terror; the concentration of Jacobin zeal on useful works; the employment of the eight thousand delegates of the primary assemblies, who had been sent home as recruiting agents for the universal armament;72 the inflammatory expressions of young men on the frontier; the wise resolutions for limiting the levy en masse to men between Edition: current; Page: [1004]eighteen and twenty-five, which put an end to the scandalous songs and dances by the populace in the very hall of the Convention.73 In order to set the machine up, he cleared the ground, fused the metal, hammered out the principal pieces, filed off the blisterings, designed the action, adjusted the minor wheels, set it agoing, and indicated what it had to do, and, at the same time, he forged the plating which guarded it from the foreigner and against all outward violence. The machine being his, why, after constructing it, did he not serve as its engineer?

Because, if competent to construct it, he was not qualified to manage it. In a crisis, he may take hold of the wheel himself, excite an assembly or a mob in his favor, carry things with a high hand and direct an executive committee for a few weeks. But he dislikes regular, persistent labor; he is not made for studying documents, for poring over papers and confining himself to administrative routine.74 Never, like Robespierre and Billaud can he attend to both official and police duties at the same time, carefully reading minute daily reports, annotating mortuary lists, extemporising ornate abstractions, coolly enunciating falsehoods and acting out the patient, satisfied inquisitor; and especially, he can never become the systematic executioner. On the one hand, his eyes are not obscured by the grey veil of theory: he does not regard men through the Contrat-Social as a sum of arithmetical units,75 but as they really are, living, suffering, Edition: current; Page: [1005]shedding their blood, especially those he knows, each with his peculiar physiognomy and demeanor. Compassion is excited by all this when one has any feeling, and he had. Danton had a heart; he had the quick sensibilities of a man of flesh and blood stirred by the primitive instincts, the good ones along with the bad ones, instincts which culture had neither impaired nor deadened, which allowed him to plan and permit the September massacre, but which did not allow him to practise daily and blindly, systematic and wholesale murder. Already in September, “cloaking his pity under his bellowing,”76 he had shielded or saved many eminent men from the butchers. When the axe is about to fall on the Girondists, he is “ill with grief” and despair. “I am unable to save them,” he exclaimed, “and big tears streamed down his cheeks.” On the other hand, his eyes are not covered by the bandage of incapacity or lack of forethought. He detected the innate vice of the system, the inevitable and approaching suicide of the Revolution. “The Girondists forced us to throw ourselves upon the sans-culotterie which has devoured them, which will devour us, and which will eat itself up.”77 “Let Robespierre and Saint-Just alone, and there will soon be nothing left in France but a Thebiad of political Trappists.”78 At the end, he sees more clearly still. “On a day like this I organised the revolutionary Tribunal. … I ask pardon for it of God and man. … In Revolutions, authority remains with the greatest scoundrels. … It is better to be a poor fisherman than govern men.”79 Nevertheless, he professed to govern them; he constructed a new machine for the purpose, and, deaf to its creaking, it worked in conformity with its structure and the impulse he gave to it. It towers before him, this Edition: current; Page: [1006]sinister machine, with its vast wheel and iron cogs grinding all France, their multiplied teeth pressing out each individual life, its steel blade constantly rising and falling, and, as it plays faster and faster, daily exacting a larger and larger supply of human material, while those who furnish this supply are held to be as insensible and as senseless as itself. Danton cannot, or will not, be so. He gets out of the way, diverts himself, gambles,80 forgets; he supposes that the titular decapitators will probably consent to take no notice of him; in any event they do not pursue him; “they would not dare do it.” “No one must lay hands on me, I am the ark.” At the worst, he prefers “to be guillotined rather than guillotine.” Having said or thought this, he is ripe for the scaffold.


Even with the firm determination to remain decapitator-in-chief, Danton would not be the true representative of the Revolution. It is brigandage, but carried on philosophically; its creed includes robbery and assassination, but only as a knife in its sheath; the showy, polished sheath is for public display, and not the sharp and bloody blade. Danton, like Marat, lets the blade be too plainly visible. At the mere sight of Marat, filthy and slovenly, with his livid, frog-like face, round, gleaming and fixed eyeballs, bold, maniacal stare and steady monotonous rage, common-sense rebels; people do not accept for their guide a homicidal bedlamite. At sight of Danton, with his billingsgate expressions, his voice like a tocsin of insurrection, his cyclopean features and air of an exterminator, humanity takes alarm; one does not surrender oneself to a political butcher without repugnance. The Revolution demands another interpreter, wearing like itself a specious exterior, and such is Robespierre,81 with his irreproachable Edition: current; Page: [1007]attire, well-powdered hair, carefully brushed coat,82 strict habits, dogmatic tone, and formal, studied manner of speaking. No mind, in its mediocrity and incompetence, so well harmonises with the spirit of the epoch. The reverse of the statesman, he soars in empty space, amongst abstractions, always mounted on a principle and incapable of dismounting so as to see things practically. “That b—— there,” exclaims Danton, “doesn’t even know how to boil an egg!” “The vague generalities of his preaching,” writes another contemporary,83 “rarely culminated in any specific measure or legal provision. He combated everything and proposed nothing; the secret of his policy happily accorded with his intellectual impotence and with the nullity of his legislative conceptions.” Once the thread of Edition: current; Page: [1008]his revolutionary scholasticism has spun itself out, he is completely used up. As to financial matters and military art, he knows nothing and risks nothing, except to underrate or calumniate Carnot and Cambon who did know and who took risks.84 In relation to a foreign policy his speech on the state of Europe is the amplification of a schoolboy; on exposing the plans of the English minister he reaches the pinnacle of chimerical nonsense;85 eliminate the rhetorical passages, and it is not the head of a government who speaks, but the porter of the Jacobin club. On contemporary France, as it actually exists, he has not one just or precise idea: instead of men, he sees only twenty-six millions of automatons, who, duly penned in, work together in peace and harmony; they are, indeed, naturally good,86 and, after a little necessary purification, they will become good again; accordingly, their collective will is “the voice of reason and public interest”; hence, on meeting together, they are wise. “The people’s assembly of delegates should deliberate, if possible, in the presence of the whole body of the people”; the Legislative body, at least, should hold its sittings “in a vast, majestic edifice open to twenty thousand spectators.” Note that for the past four years, in Edition: current; Page: [1009]the Constituent Assembly, in the Legislative Assembly, in the Convention, at the Hôtel-de-Ville, in the Jacobin Club, wherever Robespierre speaks, the galleries have kept up constant vociferations: such a positive, palpable experience would open anybody’s eyes; his are closed through prejudice or interest; even physical truth finds no access to his mind, because he is unable to comprehend it, or because he has to keep it out. He is, accordingly, either obtuse or a charlatan, and both in fact, for both combine to form the cuistre, that is to say, the hollow, inflated mind which, filled with words and imagining that these are ideas, revels in its own declamation and dupes itself that it may dictate to others.

Such is his title, character, and the part he plays. In this artificial and declamatory tragedy of the Revolution he takes the leading part; the maniac and the barbarian slowly retire in the background on the appearance of the cuistre; Marat and Danton finally become effaced, or efface themselves, and the stage is left to Robespierre who absorbs attention.87 If we would comprehend him we must look at him as he stands in the midst of his surroundings. At the last stage of an intellectual vegetation passing away, he remains on the last branch of the eighteenth century, the most abortive and driest offshoot of the classical spirit.88 He has retained nothing of a worn-out system of philosophy but its lifeless dregs and well-conned formulae, the formulae of Rousseau, Mably, and Raynal, concerning “the people, nature, reason, liberty, tyrants, factions, virtue, morality,” a ready-made vocabulary,89 expressions too ample, the meaning of which, ill-defined by the masters, evaporates in the hands of the disciple. Edition: current; Page: [1010]He never tries to get at this; his writings and speeches are merely long strings of vague abstract periods; there is no telling fact in them, no distinct, characteristic detail, no appeal to the eye evoking a living image, no personal, special observation, no clear, frank original impression. It might be said of him that he never saw anything with his own eyes, that he neither could nor would see, that false conceptions have intervened and fixed themselves between him and the object;90 he combines these in logical sequence, and simulates the absent thought by an affected jargon, and this is all. The other Jacobins alongside of him likewise use the same scholastic jargon; but none of them expatiate on it so lengthily. For hours, we grope after him in the vague shadows of political speculation, in the cold and perplexing mist of didactic generalities, trying in vain to make something out of his colorless tirades, and we grasp nothing. We then, astonished, ask what all this talk amounts to, and why he talks at all; the answer is, that he has said nothing and that he talks only for the sake of talking, the same as a sectary preaching to his congregation, neither the preacher nor his audience ever wearying, the one of turning the dogmatic crank, and the other of listening. So much the better if the hopper is empty; the emptier it is the easier and faster the crank turns. And better still, if the empty term he selects is used in a contrary sense; the sonorous words justice, humanity, mean to him piles of human heads, the same as a text from the gospels means to a grand inquisitor the burning of heretics. Through this extreme perversity, the cuistre spoils his own mental instrument; thenceforth he employs it as he likes, as his passions dictate, believing that he serves truth in serving these.

Now, his first passion, his principal passion, is literary vanity. Never was the chief of a party, sect, or government, even at critical moments, such an incurable, insignificant rhetorician, so formal, so Edition: current; Page: [1011]pompous, and so vapid. On the eve of the 9th of Thermidor, when it was necessary to conquer or die, he enters the tribune with a set speech, written and rewritten, polished and repolished,91 overloaded with studied ornaments and bits for effect,92 coated by dint of time and labor, with the academic varnish, the glitter of symmetrical antitheses, rounded periods, exclamations, preteritions, apostrophes and other tricks of the pen.93 In the most famous and important of his reports,94 I have counted eighty-four instances of prosopopoeia imitated from Rousseau and the antique, many of them largely expanded, some addressed to the dead, to Brutus, to young Barra, and others to absentees, priests, and aristocrats, to the unfortunate, to French women, and finally to abstract substantives like Liberty and Friendship. With unshaken conviction and intense satisfaction, he deems himself an orator because he harps on the same old tune. There is no sign of true inspiration in his elaborate eloquence, nothing but recipes and those of a worn-out art, Greek and Roman common-places, Socrates and the hemlock, Brutus and his dagger, classic metaphors like “the flambeaux of discord,” and “the vessel of State,”95 words coupled together and beauties of style which a Edition: current; Page: [1012]pupil in rhetoric aims at on the college bench;96 sometimes a grand bravura air, so essential for parade in public;97 oftentimes a delicate strain of the flute, for, in those days, one must have a tender heart;98 in short, Marmontel’s method in “Belisarius,” or that of Thomas in his “Eloges,” all borrowed from Rousseau, but of inferior quality, like a sharp, thin voice strained to imitate a rich, powerful voice; a sort of involuntary parody, and the more repulsive because a word ends in a blow, because a sentimental, declamatory Trissotin poses as statesman, because the studied elegances of the closet become pistol shots aimed at living breasts, because an epithet skilfully directed sends a man to the guillotine. The contrast is too great between his talent and the part he plays. With a talent as petty and false as his intellect, there is no employment for which he is less calculated than that of governing men; he was cut out for another, which, in a peaceable community, would have stood him in stead. Suppress the Revolution, and Marat would have probably ended his days in an asylum. Danton might possibly have become a legal fillibuster, a Mandrin or bravo under certain circumstances, and finally throttled or hung. Robespierre, on the contrary, might have continued as he began,99 a busy, hard-working lawyer of good standing, Edition: current; Page: [1013]member of the Arras Academy, winner of competitive prizes, author of literary eulogiums, moral essays, and philanthropic pamphlets; his little lamp, lighted like hundreds of others of equal capacity at the focus of the new philosophy, would have burned moderately without doing harm to any one, and diffused over a provincial circle a dim, commonplace illumination proportionate to the little oil his lamp would hold.

But the Revolution bore him into the Constituent Assembly, where, for a long time on this great stage, the self-love that constitutes the sensitive chord of the cuistre, suffered terribly. He had already suffered on this score from his earliest youth, and his wounds being still fresh made him only the more sensitive. Left an orphan, poor, befriended by his bishop, becoming a bursar through favor at the college Louis-le-Grand, after this a clerk with Brissot under the revolutionary system of law-practice, and at length settled down in his gloomy rue des Rapporteurs as a pettifogger, living with a peevish sister, he adopts Rousseau, whom he had once seen and whom he ardently studies, for his master in philosophy, politics, and style. Fancying, probably, like other young men of his age and condition, that he could play a similar part and thus emerge from his blind alley, he published law pleadings for effect, contended for Academy prizes, and read papers before his Arras colleagues. His success was moderate: one of his harangues obtained a notice in the Artois Almanack; the Academy of Metz awarded him only a second prize; that of Amiens gave him no prize, while the critic of the “Mercure” spoke of his style as smacking of the provinces. In the National Assembly, eclipsed by men of great and spontaneous ability, he remains a long time in the shade, and, more than once, through over self-assertion or lack of tact, makes himself ridiculous. With his sharp, thin, attorney’s visage, “dull, monotonous, coarse voice and wearisome delivery,” “an artesian accent,” and constrained air,100 his Edition: current; Page: [1014]constantly putting himself forward, his elaboration of commonplaces, his evident determination to impose on cultivated people, still a body of intelligent listeners, and the intolerable ennui he caused them—all this is not calculated to render the Assembly indulgent to errors of sense and taste.101 One day, referring to certain acts of the “Conseil”: “It is necessary that a noble and simple formula should announce national rights and carry respect for law into the hearts of the people.” Consequently, in the decrees as promulgated, after the words “Louis, by the grace of God,” etc., these words should follow: “People, behold the law imposed on you! Let this law be considered sacred and inviolable for all!” Upon this, a Gascon deputy arises and remarks in his southern accent, “Gentlemen, this formula is useless—we do not sing psalms (cantique).” There is a general roar;102 Robespierre keeps silent and bleeds internally: two or three discomfitures of this stamp render a man sore from head to foot.

It is not that his folly is foolishness to him; no pedant taken in the act and hissed would avow that he deserved such treatment; on the contrary, he is content to have spoken as becomes a philosophic Edition: current; Page: [1015]and moral legislator, and so much the worse for the narrow minds and corrupt hearts unable to comprehend him. Thrown back upon himself, his wounded vanity seeks inward nourishment and takes what it can find in the sterile uniformity of his bourgeois moderation. Robespierre, unlike Danton, has no cravings. He is sober; he is not tormented by his senses; if he gives way to them, it is only no further than he can help, and with a bad grace; in the rue Saintonge in Paris, “for seven months,” says his secretary, “I knew of but one woman that he kept company with, and he did not treat her very well … very often he would not let her enter his room”: when busy, he must not be disturbed; he is naturally steady, hard-working, studious and fond of seclusion, at college a model pupil, at home in his province an attentive advocate, a punctual deputy in the Assembly, everywhere free of temptation and incapable of going astray. “Irreproachable” is the word which from early youth an inward voice constantly repeats to him in low tones to console him for obscurity and patience. Thus has he ever been, is now, and ever will be; he says this to himself, tells others so, and on this foundation, all of a piece, he builds up his character. He is not, like Desmoulins, to be seduced by dinners, like Barnave, by flattery, like Mirabeau and Danton, by money, like the Girondists, by the insinuating charm of ancient politeness and select society, like the Dantonists, by the bait of joviality and unbounded license—he is the incorruptible. He is not to be deterred or diverted, like the Feuillants, Girondists, and Dantonists, like statesmen or specialists, by considerations of a lower order, by regard for interests or respect for acquired positions, by the danger of undertaking too much at once, by the necessity of not disorganising the service and of giving play to human passions, motives of utility and opportunity: he is the uncompromising champion of right.103 “Alone, or nearly alone, I do not allow myself to be corrupted; alone or nearly alone, I do not compromise the right;104 Edition: current; Page: [1016]which two merits I possess in the highest degree. A few others may live correctly, but they oppose or betray principles; a few others profess to have principles, but they do not live correctly. No one else leads so pure a life or is so loyal to principles; no one else joins to so fervent a worship of truth so strict a practice of virtue: I am the unique.” What can be more agreeable than this mute soliloquy? It is gently heard the first day in Robespierre’s address to the Third-Estate of Arras;105 it is uttered aloud the last day in his great speech in the Convention;106 during the interval, it crops out and shines through all his compositions, harangues, or reports, in exordiums, parentheses, and perorations, permeating every sentence like the drone of a bag-pipe.107 Through the delight he takes in this he can listen to nothing else, and it is just here that the outward echoes supervene and sustain with their accompaniment the inward cantata which he sings to his own glory. Towards the end of the Constituent Assembly, through the withdrawal or the elimination of every man Edition: current; Page: [1017]at all able or competent, he becomes one of the conspicuous tenors on the political stage, while in the Jacobin Club he is decidedly the tenor most in vogue. “Unique competitor of the Roman Fabricius,” writes the branch club at Marseilles to him; “immortal defender of popular rights,” says the Jacobin crew of Bourges.108 One of two portraits of him in the exhibition of 1791 bears the inscription: “The Incorruptible.” At the Molière Theatre a drama of the day represents him as launching the thunderbolts of his logic and virtue at Rohan and Condé. On his way, at Bapaume, the patriots of the place, the National Guard on the road, and the authorities, come in a body to honor the great man. The town of Arras is illuminated on his arrival. On the adjournment of the Constituent Assembly the people in the street greet him with shouts, crown him with oak wreaths, take the horses from his cab, and drag him in triumph to the rue St. Honoré, where he lodges with the carpenter Duplay. Here, in one of those families in which the semibourgeois class borders on the people, whose minds are unsophisticated, and on whom glittering generalities and oratorical tirades take full hold, he finds his worshippers; they drink in his words; they have the same opinion of him that he has of himself; to every soul in the house, husband, wife, and daughter, he is the great patriot, the infallible sage; he bestows benedictions night and morning; he inhales clouds of incense; he is a god installed in furnished apartments. The faithful, to obtain access to him form a line in the court;109 they are admitted into the reception room, where they gather around portraits of him drawn with pencil and stump, in sepia and in water color, and before miniature busts in red or grey plaster; then, on the signal being given by him, they penetrate through a glass door into the sanctuary where he presides, in the private closet in which the best bust of him, with verses and mottoes, supplies his place during his absence. His worshippers adore him on their knees, and the women more than the men. On Edition: current; Page: [1018]the day he delivers his apology before the Convention “the passages are lined with women110 … seven or eight hundred of them in the galleries, and but two hundred men at most”; and how frantically they cheer him! He is a priest surrounded by devotees.”111 On spouting his “rigmarole” at the Jacobin Club “the most affecting sobbings, shoutings and stampings almost make the house tumble.”112 A looker-on who shows no emotion is greeted with murmurs and obliged to slip out, like a heretic that has strayed into a church on the elevation of the Host. The faster the revolutionary thunderbolts fall on other heads, so does Robespierre mount higher and higher in glory and deification. Letters are addressed to him as “the founder of the Republic, the incorruptible genius who foresees all and saves all, who can neither be deceived nor seduced”;113 who has “the energy of a Spartan and the eloquence of an Athenian”;114 “who shields Edition: current; Page: [1019]the Republic with the aegis of his eloquence”;115 who “illuminates the universe with his writings, fills the world with his renown and regenerates the human species here below”;116 whose “name is now, and will be, held in veneration for all ages, present and to come”;117 who is “the Messiah promised by the Eternal for universal reform.”118 “An extraordinary popularity,” says Billaud-Varennes,119 a popularity which, founded under the Constituent Assembly, “only increased during the Legislative Assembly,” and, later on, so much more, that, “in the National Convention he soon found himself the only one able to fix attention on his person … and control public opinion. … With this ascendency over public opinion, with this irresistible preponderance, when he reached the Committee of Public Safety, he was already the most important being in France.” In three years, a chorus of a thousand voices,120 which he formed and led indefatigably, rehearses to him in unison his own litany, his most sacred creed, the hymn of three stanzas composed by him in his own honor, and which he daily recites to himself in a low tone of voice, and often in a loud one: “Robespierre alone has discovered the ideal citizen! Robespierre alone attains to it without exaggeration or shortcomings! Robespierre alone is worthy of and able to lead the Revolution!”121 Cool infatuation carried thus far is equivalent to a raging fever, and Robespierre almost attains to the ideas and the ravings of Marat.

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First, in his own eyes, he, like Marat, is a persecuted man, and, like Marat, he poses himself as a “martyr,” but more skilfully and keeping within bounds, affecting the resigned and tender air of an innocent victim, who, offering himself as a sacrifice, ascends to Heaven, bequeathing to mankind the imperishable souvenir of his virtues.122 “I excite against me the self-love of everybody;123 I sharpen against me a thousand daggers. I am a sacrifice to every species of hatred. … It is certain that my head will atone for the truths I have uttered. I have given my life, and shall welcome death almost as a boon. It is, perhaps, Heaven’s will that my blood should indicate the pathway of my country to happiness and freedom. With what transports I accept this glorious destiny!”124 “One does not wage war against tyrants for existence, and, what is still more dangerous, against miscreants; … the greater their eagerness to put an end to my career here below, the more eager I shall be to fill it with actions serving the welfare of my fellow-creatures.”125 “These miscreants all revile me;126 the most insignificant, the most legitimate actions of others are, in my case, crimes. Whoever becomes acquainted with me is at once calumniated. The luck of others is pardoned, my zeal is guilt. Deprive me of my conscience and I am the most wretched of men. I do not even enjoy the rights of a citizen. Edition: current; Page: [1021]I am not even allowed to perform my duty as a representative of the people. … To the enemies of my country, to whom my existence seems an obstacle to their heinous plots, I am ready to sacrifice it, if their odious empire is to endure; … let their road to the scaffold be the pathway of crime, ours shall be that of virtue; … let the hemlock be got ready for me, I await it on this hallowed spot. I shall at least bequeath to my country an example of constant affection for it, and to the enemies of humanity the disgrace of my death.”

Naturally, as always with Marat, he sees around him only “evil-doers,” “intriguers,” and “traitors.”127 Naturally, as with Marat, common sense with him is perverted, and, like Marat again, he thinks at random. “I am not obliged to reflect,” said he to Garat, “I always rely on first impressions.” “For him,” says the same authority, “the best reasons are suspicions,”128 and nought makes headway against suspicions, not even the most positive evidence. On September 4, 1792, talking confidentially with Pétion, and hard pressed with the questions that he put to him, he ends by saying, “Very well, I think that Brissot is on Brunswick’s side.”129 Naturally, finally, he, like Marat, imagines the darkest fictions, but they are less improvised, less grossly absurd, more slowly worked out, and more industriously interwoven in his calculating inquisitorial brain. “Evidently,” he says to Garat, “the Girondists are conspiring.”130 “And where?” demands Garat. “Every where,” he replies, “in Paris, throughout France, over all Europe. Gensonné, at Paris, is plotting in the Faubourg St. Antoine, going about among the shopkeepers and persuading them that we patriots mean to pillage their shops. The Gironde (department) Edition: current; Page: [1022]has for a long time been plotting its separation from France so as to join England; the chiefs of its deputation are at the head of the plot, and mean to carry it out at any cost. Gensonné makes no secret of it; he tells all among them who will listen to him that they are not representatives of the nation, but plenipotentiaries of the Gironde. Brissot is plotting in his journal, which is simply a tocsin of civil war; we know of his going to England, and why he went; we know all about his intimacy with that Lebrun, minister of foreign affairs, a Liegois and creature of the Austrian house. Brissot’s best friend is Clavière, and Clavière has plotted wherever he could breathe. Rabaut, treacherous like the Protestant and philosopher that he is, was not clever enough to conceal his correspondence with that courtier and traitor Montesquiou; six months ago they were working together to open Savoy and France to the Piedmontese. Servan was made general of the Pyrenean army only to give the keys of France to the Spaniards.” “Is there no doubt of this in your mind?” asks Garat. “None, whatever.”131

Such assurance, equal to that of Marat, is terrible and worse in its effect, for Robespierre’s list of conspirators is longer than that of Marat. Political and social, in Marat’s mind, the list comprehends only aristocrats and the rich; theological and moral in Robespierre’s mind, it comprehends all atheists and dishonest persons, that is to say, nearly the whole of his party. In this narrow mind, given up to abstractions and habitually classifying men under two opposite headings, whoever is not with him on the good side is against him on the bad side, and, on the bad side, the common understanding between the factious of every flag and the rogues of every degree, is natural. “All aristocrats are corrupt, and every corrupt man is an aristocrat”; for, “republican government and public morality are one Edition: current; Page: [1023]and the same thing.”132 Not only do evil-doers of both species tend through instinct and interest to league together, but their league is already perfected. One has only to open one’s eyes to detect “in all its extent” the plot they have hatched, “the frightful system of destruction of public morality.”133 Guadet, Vergniaud, Gensonné, Danton, Hébert, “all of them artificial characters,” had no other end in view: “they felt134 that, to destroy liberty, it was necessary to favor by every means whatever tended to justify egoism, wither the heart and efface that idea of moral beauty, which affords the only rule for public reason in its judgment of the defenders and enemies of humanity.” Their heirs remain; but let those be careful. Immorality is a political offence; one conspires against the State merely by making a parade of materialism or by preaching indulgence, by acting scandalously, or by following evil courses, by stock-jobbing, by dining too sumptuously; by being vicious, scheming, given to exaggeration, or “on the fence”; by exciting or perverting the people, by deceiving the people, by finding fault with the people, by distrusting the people,135 in short, when one does not march straight along on the prescribed path marked out by Robespierre according to principles: whoever stumbles or turns aside is a scoundrel, a traitor. Now, not Edition: current; Page: [1024]counting the Royalists, Feuillantists, Girondists, Hébertists, Dantonists, and others already decapitated or imprisoned according to their deserts, how many traitors still remain in the Convention, on the Committees, amongst the representatives on mission, in the administrative bodies not properly weeded out, amongst petty tyrannic underlings and the entire ruling, influential class at Paris and in the provinces? Outside of “about twenty political Trappists in the Convention,” outside of a small devoted group of pure Jacobins in Paris, outside of a faithful few scattered among the popular clubs of the departments, how many Fouchés, Vadiers, Talliens, Bourdons, Collots, remain amongst the so-called revolutionists? How many dissentients are there, disguised as orthodox, charlatans disguised as patriots, and pachas disguised as sans-culottes?136 Add all this vermin to that which Marat seeks to crush out; it is no longer by hundreds of thousands, but by millions, exclaim Baudot, Jean Bon St. André and Guffroy, that the guilty must be counted and heads laid low! And all these heads, Robespierre, according to his maxims, must strike off. He is well aware of this; hostile as his intellect may be to precise ideas, he, when alone in his closet, face to face with himself, sees clearly, as clearly as Marat. Marat’s chimera, on first spreading out its wings, bore its frenzied rider swiftly onward to the charnel house; that of Robespierre, fluttering and hobbling along, reaches the goal in its turn; in its turn, it demands something to feed on, and the rhetorician, the professor of principles, begins to calculate the voracity of the monstrous brute on which he is mounted. Slower than the other, this one is still more ravenous, for, with similar claws and teeth, it has a vaster appetite. At the end of three years Robespierre Edition: current; Page: [1025]has overtaken Marat, at the extreme point reached by Marat at the outset, and the theorist adopts the policy, the aim, the means, the work, and almost the vocabulary of the maniac:137 armed dictatorship of the urban mob, systematic maddening of the subsidised populace, war against the bourgeoisie, extermination of the rich, proscription of opposition writers, administrators, and deputies. Both monsters demand the same food; only, Robespierre adds “vicious men” to the ration of his monster, by way of extra and preferable game. Henceforth, he may in vain abstain from action, take refuge in his rhetoric, stop his chaste ears, and raise his hypocritical eyes to heaven, he cannot avoid seeing or hearing under his immaculate feet the streaming gore, and the bones crashing in the open jaws of the insatiable monster which he has fashioned and on which he prances.138 These ever open and hungry jaws must be daily fed with an ampler supply of human flesh; not only is he bound to let it eat, but to furnish the food, often with his own hands, except that Edition: current; Page: [1026]he must afterwards wash them, declaring, and even believing, that no spot of blood has ever soiled them. He is generally content to caress and flatter the brute, to excuse it, to let it go on. Nevertheless, more than once, tempted by the opportunity, he points out the prey and gives it the rein.139 He is now himself starting off in quest of living prey; he casts the net of his rhetoric140 around it; he fetches it bound to the open jaws; he thrusts aside with an absolute air the arms of friends, wives, and mothers, the outstretched hands of suppliants begging for lives;141 he suddenly throttles the struggling victims142 and, for fear that they might escape, he strangles them in time. Towards the last, this no longer suffices; the brute must have grander quarries, and, accordingly, a pack of hounds, beaters-up, and, willingly or not, Robespierre must equip, direct, and urge them on, at Orange, at Paris,143 ordering them to empty the prisons, and be expeditious in doing their work. Destructive instincts, long repressed by civilisation, thus devoted to butchery, become aroused. His feline physiognomy, at first “that of a domestic cat, restless but mild, changes into the savage mien of the wildcat, and next to the ferocious mien of the tiger. In the Constituent Assembly he speaks with a whine, in the Convention he froths at the mouth.”144 The monotonous drone of a stiff subprofessor changes into the personal Edition: current; Page: [1027]accent of furious passion; he hisses and grinds his teeth;145 sometimes, on a change of scene, he affects to shed tears.146 But his wildest outbursts are less alarming than his affected sensibility. The festering grudges, corrosive envies and bitter schemings which have accumulated in his breast are astonishing. The gall vessels are full, and the extravasated gall overflows on the dead. He never tires of reexecuting his guillotined adversaries, the Girondists, Chaumette, Hébert and especially Danton,147 probably because Danton was the active agent in the Revolution of which he was simply the incapable pedagogue; he vents his posthumous hatred on this still warm corpse in artful insinuations and obvious misrepresentations. Thus, inwardly corroded by the venom it distils, his physical machine gets out of order, like that of Marat, but with other symptoms. When speaking in the tribune “his hands crisp with a sort of nervous contraction”; sudden tremors agitate “his shoulders and neck, shaking him convulsively to and fro.”148 “His bilious complexion becomes livid,” his eyelids quiver under his spectacles, and how he looks! “Ah,” said a Montagnard, “you would have voted as we did on the Edition: current; Page: [1028]9th of Thermidor, had you seen his green eyeballs!” “Physically as well as morally,” he becomes a second Marat, suffering all the more because his delirium is not steady, and because his policy, being a moral one, forces him to exterminate on a grander scale.

But he is a discreet Marat, of a timid temperament, anxious,149 keeping his thoughts to himself, made for a school-master or a pleader, but not for taking the lead or for governing, always acting hesitatingly, and ambitious to be rather the pope, than the dictator of the Revolution.150 He would prefer to remain a political Grandison; he keeps the mask on to the very last, not only to the public and to others, but to himself and in his inmost conscience. The mask, indeed, has adhered to his skin; he can no longer distinguish one from the other; never did impostor more carefully conceal intentions and acts under sophisms, and persuade himself that the mask was his face, and that in telling a lie, he told the truth.

Taking his word for it, he had nothing to do with the September events.151 “Previous to these occurrences, he had ceased to attend the General Council of the Commune. … He no longer went there.” He was not charged with any duty, he had no influence there; he had not provoked the arrest and murder of the Girondists.152 All Edition: current; Page: [1029]he did was to “speak frankly concerning certain members of the Committee of Twenty-one”; as “a magistrate” and “one of a municipal assembly.” Should he not “explain himself freely on the authors of a dangerous plot?” Besides, the Commune “far from provoking the 2d of September did all in its power to prevent it.” In fine, but one innocent person perished, “which is undoubtedly one too many. Citizens, mourn over this cruel mistake; we too have long Edition: current; Page: [1030]mourned over it! But, as all things human come to an end, let your tears cease to flow.” When the sovereign people resumes its delegated power and exercises its inalienable rights, we have only to bow our heads. Moreover, it is just, wise, and good: “in all that it undertakes, all is virtue and truth; nothing can be excess, error, or crime.”153 It must intervene when its true representatives are hampered by the law: “let it assemble in its sections and compel the arrest of faithless deputies.”154 What is more legal than such a motion, which is the only part Robespierre took on the 31st of May. He is too scrupulous to commit or prescribe an illegal act. That will do for the Dantons, the Marats, men of relaxed morals or excited brains, who if need be, tramp in the gutters and roll up their shirt-sleeves; as to himself, he can do nothing that would ostensibly derange or soil the dress proper to an honest man and irreproachable citizen. In the Committee of Public Safety, he merely executes the decrees of the Convention, and the Convention is always free. He a dictator! He is merely one of seven hundred deputies, and his authority, if he has any, is simply the legitimate ascendency of reason and virtue.155 He a murderer! If he has denounced conspirators, it is the Convention which summons these before the revolutionary Tribunal,156 and the revolutionary Tribunal pronounces judgment on them. He a terrorist! He merely seeks to simplify the established proceedings, so as to secure a speedier release of the innocent, the punishment of the guilty, and the final purgation that is to render liberty and morals the order of the day.157 Before uttering all this he almost believes it, and, when he has uttered it he believes it fully.158

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When nature and history combine, to produce a character, they succeed better than man’s imagination. Neither Molière in his “Tartuffe,” nor Shakespeare in his “Richard III.,” dared bring on the stage a hypocrite believing himself sincere, and a Cain that regarded himself as an Abel. There he stands on a colossal stage, in the presence of a hundred thousand spectators, on the 8th of June, 1794, the most glorious day of his life, at the fête in honor of the Supreme Being, which is the glorious triumph of his doctrine and the official consecration of his popedom. Two characters are found in Robespierre, as in the Revolution which he represents: one, apparent, paraded, external, and the other hidden, dissembled, inward, the latter being overlaid by the former. The first one all for show, fashioned out of purely cerebral cogitations, is as artificial as the solemn farce going on around him. According to David’s programme, the cavalcade of supernumeraries who file in front of an allegorical mountain, gesticulate and shout at the command, and under the eyes, of Henriot and his gendarmes,159 manifesting at the appointed time the emotions which are prescribed for them. At five o’clock in the morning “friends, husbands, wives, relations, and children will embrace. … The old man, his eyes streaming with tears of joy, feels himself rejuvenated.” At two o’clock, on the turf-laid terraces of the sacred mountain “all will show a state of commotion and excitement: mothers here press to their bosoms the infants they suckle, and there offer them up in homage to the author of Nature, while youths, Edition: current; Page: [1032]aglow with the ardor of battle, simultaneously draw their swords and hand them to their venerable fathers. Sharing in the enthusiasm of their sons, the transported old men embrace them and bestow on them the paternal benediction. … All the men distributed around the ‘Field of Reunion’ sing in chorus the (first) refrain. … All the women distributed around the ‘Field of Reunion’ sing in unison the (second) refrain. … All Frenchmen partake of each other’s sentiments in one grand fraternal embrace.” Such an idyl, performed to the beating of drums, in the presence of moral symbols and colored pasteboard divinities, what could better please the counterfeit moralist, unable to distinguish the false from the true, and whose skin-deep sensibility is borrowed from sentimental authors! “For the first time” his glowing countenance beams with joy, while “the enthusiasm”160 of the scribe overflows, as usual, in book phraseology: “Behold!” he exclaims, “that which is most interesting in humanity! The Universe is here assembled! O, Nature, how sublime, how exquisite is thy power! How tyrants must quail at the contemplation of this festival!” Is not he himself its most dazzling ornament? Was not he unanimously chosen to preside over the Convention and conduct the ceremonies? Is he not the founder of the new cult, the only pure worship on the face of the earth, approved of by morality and reason? Wearing the uniform of a representative, nankeen breeches, blue coat, tricolored sash, and plumed hat,161 holding in his hand a bouquet of flowers and grain, he marches at the head of the Convention and officiates on the platform; he sets fire to the veil which hides from view the idol representing “Atheism,” and suddenly, through an ingenious contrivance, the majestic statue of “Wisdom” appears in its place. He then addresses the crowd, over and over again, exhorting, apostrophising, preaching, elevating his soul to the Supreme Being, and with what oratorical combinations! What an academic swell of bombastic cadences, strung together to enforce his tirades! How cunning the even balance of adjective and Edition: current; Page: [1033]substantive!162 From these faded rhetorical flowers, arranged as if for a prize distribution or a funeral oration, exhales a sanctimonious, collegiate odor which he complacently breathes, and which intoxicates him. At this moment, he must certainly be in earnest; there is no hesitation or reserve in his self-admiration; he is not only in his own eyes a great writer and great orator, but a great statesman and great citizen: his artificial, philosophic conscience awards him only praise. But look underneath, or rather wait a moment. Signs of impatience and antipathy appear behind his back: Lecointre has braved him openly; numerous insults, and, worse than these, sarcasms, reach his ears. On such an occasion, and in such a place! Against the pontiff of Truth, the apostle of Virtue! The miscreants, how dare they! Silent and pale, he suppresses his rage, and,163 losing his balance, closing his eyes, he plunges headlong on the path of murder: cost what it will, the miscreants must perish and without loss of time. To expedite matters, he must get their heads off quietly, and as “up to this time things have been managed confidentially in the Committee of Public Safety,” he, alone with Couthon, two days after, without informing his colleagues,164 draws up, brings to the Convention, and has passed the terrible act of Prairial which places everybody’s life at his disposal. In his crafty, blundering haste, he has demanded too much; each one, on reflection, becomes alarmed Edition: current; Page: [1034]for himself; he is compelled to back out, to protest that he is misunderstood, admit that representatives are excepted, and, accordingly, to sheathe the knife he has already applied to his adversaries’ throats. But he still holds it in his grasp. He watches them, and, pretending to retreat, affects a renunciation, crouched in his corner,165 waiting until they discredit themselves, so as to spring upon them a second time. He has not to wait long, for the exterminating machine he set up on the 22d of Prairial, is in their hands, and it has to work as he planned it, namely, by making rapid turns and almost haphazard: the odium of a blind sweeping massacre rests with them; he not only makes no opposition to this, but, while pretending to abstain from it, he urges it on. Secluded in the private office of his secret police, he orders arrests;166 he sends out his principal bloodhound, Herman; he first signs and then despatches the resolution by which it is supposed that there are conspirators among those in confinement and which, authorising spies or paid informers, is to provide the guillotine with those vast batches which “purge and clean prisons out in a trice.”167 “I am not responsible,” he states later Edition: current; Page: [1035]on. … “My lack of power to do any good, to arrest the evil, forced me for more than six weeks to abandon my post on the Committee of Public Safety.”168 To ruin his adversaries by murders committed by him, by those which he makes them commit and which he imputes to them, to whitewash himself and blacken them with the same stroke of the brush, what intense delight! If the natural conscience murmurs in whispers at moments, the acquired superposed conscience immediately imposes silence, concealing personal hatreds under public pretexts: the guillotined, after all, were aristocrats, and whoever comes under the guillotine is immoral. Thus, the means are good and the end better; in employing the means, as well as in pursuing the end, the function is sacerdotal.

Such is the scenic exterior of the Revolution, a specious mask with a hideous visage beneath it, under the reign of a nominal humanitarian theory, covering over the effective dictatorship of evil and low passions. In its true representative, as in itself, we see ferocity issuing from philanthropy, and, from the cuistre, the executioner.

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The Rulers of the Country— I. The Convention—The “Plain”—The “Mountain”—Degradation of Souls—Parades which the Convention is obliged to make— II. How these are carried out—Its slavery and servility—Its participation in crime— III. The Committee of Public Safety—Men who do the work—Carnot, Prieur de-la-Côte d’Or, Jean Bon Saint André, Robert Lindet— IV. The Statesmen—Billaud-Varennes, Collot d’Herbois, Robespierre, Couthon, and Saint-Just—Conditions of this rule—Dangers to which they are subject—Their dissensions—Pressure of Fear and Theory— V. Their official organs—Reports by Saint-Just and Barère—Quality of reports and reporters— VI. Representatives on Mission—Their absolute power—Their perils and their fear—Fit for their work—Effect of this situation— VII. Eruption of brutal instincts—Duquesnoy at Metz—Dumont at Amiens—Drunkards—Cusset, Bourbotte, Moustier, Bourdon de l’Oise, Dartigoyte— VIII. Approach of madness—Loss of common-sense—Fabre, Gaston, Guiter, in the army of the Eastern Pyrenees—Baudot, Lebas, Saint-Just, and their predecessors and successors in the army of the Rhine—Furious excitement—Lebon at Arras, and Carrier at Nantes— IX. The development of vice—Vanity and the need of gambling—Collot d’Herbois, Ysabeau, Tallien—The Robbers—Tallien, Javogues, Rovère, Fouché—Two sources of cruelty—Need of demonstrating one’s power—Saint-Just in the Pas-de-Calais department, and in Alsace—Collot d’Herbois at Lyons—Pressure exercised by the Representatives on the tribunals—Pleasure caused by death and suffering—Monestier, Fouché, Collot d’Herbois, Lebon, and Carrier.

Let us follow the operations of the new government from the first to the last of its derivations, those of its ruling bodies and leaders, its assemblies, committees, delegates, administrators, and underlings Edition: current; Page: [1037]of every kind and degree. Like living flesh stamped with a red-hot iron, so do their brows bear the imprint of two stigmata, each with its own cicatrice and discoloration. In vain do they, too, strive to conceal their scars: we detect under the crowns and titles they assume the brand of the slave or the mark of the tyrant.


At the Tuileries, the omnipotent Convention sits enthroned in the theatre, converted into an Assembly room. It carries on its deliberations daily, in grand style. Its decrees, received with blind obedience, startle France and upset all Europe. At a distance, its majesty is imposing, more august than that of the republican senate in Rome. Near by, the effect is quite otherwise; these undisputed sovereigns are serfs who live in trances, and justly so, for, nowhere, even in prison, is there more constraint and less security than on their benches. After the 2d of June, 1793, their inviolable precincts, the grand official reservoir from which legal authority flows, becomes a sort of tank, into which the revolutionary net plunges and successfully brings out its choicest fish, singly or by the dozen, and sometimes in vast numbers; at first, the sixty-seven Girondist deputies, who are executed or proscribed; then, the seventy-three members of the “Right,” swept off in one day and lodged in the prison of La Force; next, the prominent Jacobins: Osselin, arrested on the 19th of Brumaire, Bazire, Chabot, and Delaunay, accused by decree on the 24th Brumaire, Fabre d’Eglantine, arrested on the 24th of Nivose, Bernard, guillotined on the 3d of Pluviose, Anacharsis Clootz guillotined on the 4th of Germinal, Hérault-Séchelles, Lacroix, Philippeaux, Camille Desmoulins and Danton, guillotined with four others on the 10th of Germinal, Simon, guillotined on the 24th of Germinal, and Osselin, guillotined on the 8th of Messidor. Naturally, the others take warning and are careful. At the opening of the session they are seen entering the hall, looking uneasy, “full of distrust,”1 Edition: current; Page: [1038]like animals driven into a pen and suspicious of a trap. “Each,” writes an eye-witness, “acted and spoke with circumspection, for fear of being charged with some crime: in effect, nothing was unimportant, the seat one took, a glance of the eye, a gesture, a murmur, a smile.” Hence, they flock instinctively to the side which is best sheltered, the left side. “The tide flowed towards the summit of the Mountain; the right side was deserted. … Many took no side at all, and, during the session, often changed their seats, thinking that they might thus elude the spy by donning a mixed hue and keeping on good terms with everybody. The most prudent never sat down; they kept off the benches, at the foot of the tribune, and, on matters getting to be serious, slipped quietly out of the hall.” Most of them took refuge in their committee-rooms; each tries to be overlooked, to be obscure, to appear insignificant or absent.2 During the four months following the 2d of June, the hall of the Convention is half or three-quarters empty; the election of a president does not bring out two hundred and fifty voters;3 only two hundred, one hundred, fifty votes, elect the Committees of Public Safety and General Security; about fifty votes elect the judges of the revolutionary Tribunal; less than ten votes elect their substitutes;4 not one vote is cast for the adoption of the decree indicting the deputy, Dulaure;5 “no member Edition: current; Page: [1039]rises for or against it; there is no vote”; the president, nevertheless, pronounces the act passed and “the Marais lets things take their course.” “Marais frogs” is the appellation bestowed on them before the 2d of June, when, amongst the dregs of the “Centre,” they “broke” with the “Mountain”; now, they still number four hundred and fifty, three times as many as the Montagnards; but they purposely keep quiet; their old name “renders them, so to say, soft; their ears ring with eternal menaces; their hearts shrivel up with terror;6 while their tongues, paralysed by habitual silence, cleave to the roofs of their mouths. In vain do they keep in the back-ground, consent to everything, ask nothing for themselves but personal safety, and surrender all else, their votes, their wills and their consciences; they feel that their life hangs by a thread. The greatest mute among them all, Siéyès, denounced in the Jacobin Club, barely escapes, and through the protection of his shoemaker, who rises and exclaims: “That Siéyès! I know him. He don’t meddle with politics. He does nothing but read his book. I make his shoes and will answer for him.”7

Of course, previous to the 9th of Thermidor, none of them open their mouths; it is only the Montagnards who make speeches, and on the countersign being given. If Legendre, the admirer, disciple, and confidential friend of Danton, dares at one time interfere in relation to the decree which sends his friend to the scaffold, asking that he may first be heard, it is only to retract immediately; that very evening, at the Jacobin club, for greater security, “he rolls in the mud”;8 he declares “that he submits to the judgment of the revolutionary Tribunal,” and swears to denounce “whoever shall oppose any obstacle to the execution of the decree.”9 Has not Robespierre taught him a lesson, and in his most pedantic manner? What is more beautiful, Edition: current; Page: [1040]says the great moralist, more sublime, than an Assembly which purges itself?10 Thus, not only is the net which has already dragged out so many palpitating victims still intact, but it is enlarged and set again, only, the fish are now caught on the “Left” as well as on the “Right,” and preferably on the topmost benches of the “Mountain.”11 And better still, through the law of Prairial 22, its meshes are reduced in size and its width increased; with such admirable tackle, the tank could not fail to be exhausted. A little before the 9th of Thermidor, David, who was one of Robespierre’s devoted adherents, himself exclaimed: “Will twenty of us be left on the Mountain?” About the same time, Legendre, Thuriot, Léonard Bourdon, Tallien, Bourdon de l’Oise, and others, each has a spy all day long at his heels; there are thirty deputies to be proscribed and their names are whispered about; whereupon, sixty spring out of bed, feeling sure that they will be seized the next morning before they can get up.12

Subject to such a system, prolonged for so many months, people sink down and become discouraged. “Everybody stooped so as to pass beneath the popular yoke.13 Everybody became one of the low Edition: current; Page: [1041]class. … Clothes, manners, refinement, cleanliness, the conveniences of life, civility and politeness were all renounced.” People wear their clothes indecently and curse and swear; they try to resemble the sans-culottes Montagnards “who are profane and dress themselves like so many dock-loafers”;14 at Armonville, the carder, who presides (at a meeting) wears a woolen cap, and similarly at Cusset, a gauze-workman, who is always drunk. Only Robespierre can appear in neat attire; others, without his ascendency, “big-bellied” demi-suspects, the remains of the ancient régime, might become dangerous; they do well not to attract the attention of the foul-mouthed spy who cannot spell;15 especially is it important at a meeting to be one of the crowd and remain unnoticed by the paid claqueurs, drunken swaggerers, and “fat petticoats” of the tribunes. It is even essential to shout in harmony with them and join in their bar-room dances. The deputations of the popular clubs come for fourteen months to the bar of the house and recite their common-place or bombastic tirades, and the Convention is forced to applaud them. For nine months,16 street ballad-singers and coffee-house ranters attend in full session and sing the rhymes of the day, while the Edition: current; Page: [1042]Convention is obliged to join in the chorus. For six weeks,17 the profaners of churches come to the hall and display their dance-house buffooneries, and the Convention has not only to put up with these, but also to take part in them. Never, even in imperial Rome, under Nero and Heliogabalus, did a senate descend so low.


Observe one of their parades, that of Brumaire 20th, 22d, or 30th, which masquerade often occurs several times a week and is always the same, with scarcely any variation. Male and female wretches march in procession to the doors of the deputies’ hall, still “drunk with the wine imbibed from chalices, after eating mackerel broiled in patens,” besides refreshing themselves on the way. “Mounted astride of asses, covered with a chasuble and guided by a stole,” they halt at each low smoking-den, holding a pyx in their hand; the bar-tender, with a mug in his hand, fills it, and, at each station, they toss off their bumpers, one after the other, in imitation of the Mass, and which they repeat in the street in their own fashion. On finishing this, they don copes, chasubles, and dalmatica, and, in two long lines, file before the benches of the Convention. Some of them bear on hand-barrows or in baskets, candelabra, chalices, gold and silver salvers, monstrances, and reliquaries; others hold aloft banners, crosses, and other ecclesiastical spoils. In the mean time “bands play the air of the carmagnole and ‘Malbrook.’ … On the entry of the dais, they strike up ‘Ah! le bel oiseau’ ”;18 all at once the masqueraders throw off their disguise, and, mitres, stoles, chasubles flung in the air, “disclose to view the defenders of the country in the national uniform.” Peals of laughter, shouts and enthusiasm, while the instrumental din becomes louder! The procession, now in full blast, Edition: current; Page: [1043]demands the carmagnole, and the Convention consents; even some of the deputies descend from their benches and cut the pigeon-wing with the merry prostitutes. To wind up, the Convention decrees that it will attend that evening the fête of Reason and, in fact, they go in a body. Behind an actress in short petticoats wearing a red cap, representing Liberty or Reason, march the deputies, likewise in red caps, shouting and singing until they reach the new temple, which is built of planks and pasteboard in the choir of Notre Dame. They take their seats in the front rows, while the Goddess, and old frequenter of the suppers of the Duc de Soubise, along with “all the pretty dames of the Opera,” display before them their operatic graces.19 They sing the “Hymn to Liberty,” and, since the Convention has that morning decreed that it must sing, I suppose that it also joined in.20 After this there follows dancing; but, unfortunately, the authorities are wanting for stating whether the Convention danced or not. In any event, it is present at the dance, and thus consecrates an unique orgy, not Rubens’s “Kermesse” in the open air, racy and healthy, but a nocturnal boulevard-jollification, a “Mardi-gras” composed of lean and haggard scape-graces. In the great nave of the Cathedral, “the dancers, almost naked, with bare necks and breasts, and stockings down at the heel,” writhe and stamp, “howling the carmagnole.” In the side chapels, which are “shut off by high tapestries, prostitutes with shrill voices” pursue their avocation.21 To descend to this low level so barefacedly, to fraternise with barrier sots, and wenches, to endure their embraces and hiccoughs, is bad enough, even for docile deputies. More than Edition: current; Page: [1044]one half of them loathed it beforehand and remained at home; after this they do not feel disposed to attend the Convention.22 But the “Mountain sends for them, and an officer brings them back”; it is necessary that they should coöperate through their presence and felicitations in the profanations and apostasies which ensue;23 it is necessary that they should approve of and decree that which they hold in horror, not alone folly and nonsense, but crime, the murder of innocent people, and that of their friends. All this is done. “Unanimously, and with the loudest applause,” the Left, united with the Right, sends Danton to the scaffold, its natural chieftain, the great promoter and leader of the Revolution.24 “Unanimously, and with the loudest applause,” the Right, united to the Left, votes the worse decrees of the revolutionary government.25 “Unanimously,” with approbatory and enthusiastic cheers, manifesting the warmest sympathy for Collot d’Herbois, Couthon, and Robespierre,26 the Convention, Edition: current; Page: [1045]through multiplied and spontaneous reelections, maintains the homicidal government which the Plain detests, because it is homicidal, and which the Mountain detests, because it is decimated by it. Plain and Mountain, by virtue of terror, majority after majority, end in consenting to and bringing about their own suicide: on the 22nd of Prairial, the entire Convention has stretched out its neck;27 on the 8th of Thermidor, for a quarter of an hour after Robespierre’s speech,28 it has again stretched this out, and would probably have succumbed, had not five or six of them, whom Robespierre designated or named, Bourdon de l’Oise, Vadier, Cambon, Billaud, and Panis, stimulated by the animal instinct of self-preservation, raised their arms to ward off the knife. Nothing but imminent, personal, mortal danger could, in these prostrated beings, supplant long-continued fear with still greater fear. Later on, Siéyès, on being asked how he acted in these times, replied, “I lived.” In effect, he and others are reduced to that; they succeeded in doing this, at all costs, and at what a price!29 His private notes, still redolent of his daily disgust, his most secret memoranda, confirm the statement;30 on the Edition: current; Page: [1046]Committee of March 20, “Paillasse, half drunk, gives a dissertation on the way to carry on the war, and interrogates and censures the Minister; the poor Minister turns his questions with café gossip and a narrative of campaigns. These are the men placed at the head of the government to save the Republic!” “H——, in his distraction, had the air of a lucky dog inwardly smiling at his own knavish thoughts.” “Ruit irrevocabile vulgus. … Jusque datum sceleri.” “You keep your mouth shut?” he is told: “Of what use is my glass of wine in this torrent of ardent spirits?” All this is very well, but he did not merely keep silent and abstain. He voted, legislated, and decreed, along with the unanimous Convention; he was a collaborator, not only passively, through his presence, but also through his active participation in the acts of the government which he elected and enthroned, reelected twelve times, cheered every week, and flattered daily, authorising and keeping on to the end its work of spoliation and massacre. “Everybody is guilty here,” said Carrier in the Convention, “even to the president’s bell.” In vain do they constantly repeat to themselves that they were forced to obey under penalty of death: the conscience of the purest among them, if he has any, replies: “You too, in spite of yourself, I admit; less than others, if you please, but you were a terrorist, that is to say, a brigand and an assassin.”31

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On a man becoming a slave, said old Homer, the Gods take away the half of his soul; the same is true of a man who becomes a tyrant. In the Pavillon de Flore, alongside of and above the enslaved Convention, sit the twelve kings it has enthroned, twice a day,32 ruling over it as well as over France.33 Of course, some guarantee is required Edition: current; Page: [1048]from those who fill this place; there is not one of them who is not a revolutionist of long standing, an impenitent regicide, a fanatic in essence and a despot through principle; but the fumes of omnipotence have not intoxicated them all to the same degree. Three or four of them, Robert Lindet, Jean Bon St. André, Prieur de la Côte d’Or and Carnot, confine themselves to useful and secondary duties; this suffices to keep them partially safe. As specialists, charged with an important service, their first object is to do this well, and hence they subordinate the rest to this, even theoretical exigencies and the outcries of the clubs. Lindet’s prime object is to feed the departments that are without corn, and the towns that are soon to be short of bread; Prieur’s business is to see that biscuits, brandy, clothes, shoes, gunpowder, and arms are manufactured;34 Jean Bon, that vessels are equipped and crews drilled; Carnot, to draw up campaign plans and direct the march of armies: the despatch of so many bags of grain during the coming fortnight to this or that town, or warehouse in this or that district; the making up of so many weekly rations, to be transported during the month to certain places on the frontier; the transformation of so many fishermen into artillerymen or marines, and to set afloat so many vessels in three months; to expedite certain corps of cavalry, infantry, and artillery, so as to arrive by such and such roads at this or that pass—these Edition: current; Page: [1049]are precise combinations which purge the brain of dogmatic phrases, which force revolutionary jargon into the background and keep a man sensible and practical; and all the more because three of them, Jean Bon, former captain of a merchantman, Prieur and Carnot, engineer officers, are professional men and go to the front to put their shoulders to the wheel on the spot. Jean Bon, always visiting the coasts, goes on board a vessel of the fleet leaving Brest to save the great American convoy; Carnot, at Watignies, orders Jourdan to make a decisive move, and, shouldering his musket, marches along with the attacking column.35 Naturally, they have no leisure for speechmaking in the Jacobin club, or for intrigues in the Convention: Carnot lives in his own office and in the committee-room; he does not allow himself time enough to eat with his wife, dines on a crust of bread and a glass of lemonade, and works sixteen and eighteen hours a day;36 Lindet, more overtasked than any body else, because hunger will not wait, reads every report himself, and “passes days and nights at it”;37 Jean Bon, in wooden shoes and woolen vest, with a bit of coarse bread and a glass of bad beer,38 writes and dictates until his strength fails him, and he has to lie down and sleep on a mattress on the floor. Naturally, again, when interfered with, and the tools in their hands are broken, they are dissatisfied; they know well the worth of a good instrument, and for the service, as they comprehend it, good tools are essential, competent, faithful employees, regular in attendance at their offices, and not at the club. When they have a subordinate of this kind they defend him, often at the risk of their lives, even to incurring the enmity of Robespierre. Cambon,39 who, on his financial committee, is also a sort of sovereign, Edition: current; Page: [1050]retains at the Treasury five or six hundred employees unable to procure their certificate of civism, and whom the Jacobins incessantly denounce so as to get their places. Carnot saves and employs eminent engineers, D’Arcon, de Montalembert, d’Obenheim, all of them nobles, and one of them an anti-Jacobin, without counting a number of accused officers whom he justifies, replaces, or maintains.40 Through these courageous and humane acts, they solace themselves for their scruples, at least partially and for the time being; moreover, they are statesmen only because the occasion and superior force makes it imperative, more led by others than leading, terrorists through accident and necessity, rather than through system and instinct. If, in concert with ten others, Prieur and Carnot order wholesale robbery and murder, if they sign orders by twenties and hundreds, amounting to assassinations, it is owing to their forming part of a body. When the whole committee deliberates, they are bound, in important decrees, to submit to the preponderating opinion of the majority, after voting in the negative. In relation to secondary decrees, in which there has been no preliminary discussion in common, the only responsible member is the one whose signature stands first; the following signatures affixed, without reading the document, are simply a “formality which the law requires,” merely a visa, necessarily mechanical; with “four or five hundred business matters to attend to daily,” it is impossible to do otherwise; to read over and Edition: current; Page: [1051]vote in every case, would be “a physical impossibility.”41 Finally, as things are, “is not the general will, at least the apparent general will, that alone on which the government can decide, itself ultrarevolutionary?”42 In other words, should not the five or six rascals in a State who vociferate, be listened to, rather than a hundred honest folks who keep their mouths shut? With this sophism, gross as it is, but of pure Jacobin manufacture, Carnot ends by hoodwinking his honor and his conscience; otherwise intact, and far more so than his colleagues, he likewise undergoes moral and mental mutilation; constrained by the duties of his post and the illusions of his creed, he succeeded in an inward decapitation of the two noblest of human faculties, common-sense, the most useful, and the moral sense, the most exalted of all.


If such are the ravages which are made in an upright, firm and healthy soul, what must be the havoc in corrupt or weak natures, in which bad instincts already predominate! And observe this, that they are without the protection afforded to Carnot and other occupied men, who are pursuing some specific and evidently useful object. They bear the title of “government men,” “revolutionists” properly Edition: current; Page: [1052]so-called, “folks who carry things with a high hand”;43 in effect, they direct all things according to their conception of unity. The creation, organisation, and application of Terror belongs wholly to them; they are the constructors, regulators, and engineers of the machine,44 the recognised heads of the party, of the sect, and of the government, especially Billaud and Robespierre, who never serve on missions,45 nor relax their hold for a moment on the central motor; the former, an active politician, with Collot for his second, is charged with urging on the constituted authorities, the districts, the municipalities, the national agents, the revolutionary committees, and the representatives on mission in the interior;46 the latter, a theologian, moralist, titular doctor, and preacher, is charged with ruling the Convention and indoctrinating the Jacobins with sound principles; behind him stands Couthon, his lieutenant, with Saint-Just, his disciple and executor of works of great importance; in their midst, Barère, the Committee’s mouthpiece, is merely a tool, but indispensable, conveniently at hand and always ready to start whatever drum-beating is required on any given theme in honor of the party which stuffs Edition: current; Page: [1053]his brain; below these comes the Committee of General Security, Vadier, Amar, Vouland, Guffroy, Panis, David, Jagot, and the rest, those who undertook, reported on, and acted in behalf of universal proscription. All these bear the imprint of their service; they could be recognised by “their pallid hue, hollow and bloodshot eyes,”47 habits of omnipotence stamped “on their brows, and on their deportment, something indescribably haughty and disdainful. The Committee of General Security reminded one of the former lieutenants of police, and the Committee of Public Safety, of the former ministers of state.” In the Convention, “it is considered an honor to talk with them, and a privilege to shake hands with them; one seems to read one’s duty on their brows.” On the days on which their orders are to be converted into laws “the members of the Committee and the reporter of the bill, keep people waiting, the same as the heads and representatives of the former sovereign power; on their way to the Assembly hall, they are preceded by a group of courtiers who seem to announce the masters of the world.”48 In fact, they reign—but observe on what conditions.

“Make no complaints,” said Barère,49 to the composer of an opera, the performance of which had just been suspended: “as times go, you must not attract public attention. Do we not all stand at the foot of the guillotine, all, beginning with myself?” Again, twenty years later, in a private conversation, on being interrogated as to the veritable object, the secret motive of the Committee of Public Safety, he replied: “As we were animated by but one sentiment,50 my dear sir, that of self-preservation, we had but one desire, that of maintaining an existence which each of us believed to be menaced. You had your neighbor guillotined to prevent your neighbor from guillotining you.”51 The same apprehension exists in stouter souls, Edition: current; Page: [1054]although there may have been, along with fear, motives of a less debased order. “How many times,” says Carnot,52 “we undertook some work that required time, with the conviction that we should not be allowed to complete it!” “It was uncertain53 whether, the next time the clock struck the hour, we should not be standing before the revolutionary Tribunal on our way to the scaffold without, perhaps, having had time to bid adieu to our families. … We pursued our daily task so as not to let the machine stand still, as if a long life were before us, when it was probable that we should not see the next day’s sun.” It is impossible to count on one’s life, or that of another, for twenty-four hours; should the iron hand which holds one by the throat tighten its grasp, all will be over that evening. “There were certain days so difficult that one could see no way to control circumstances; those who were directly menaced resigned themselves wholly to chance.”54 “The decisions for which we are so much blamed,” says another,55 “were not generally thought of two days, or one day, beforehand; they sprung out of the crisis of the moment. We did not desire to kill for the sake of killing … but to conquer at all hazards, remain masters, and ensure the sway of our principles.” That is true, they are subjects as well as despots. At the Committee table, during their nocturnal sessions, their sovereign presides, a formidable figure, the revolutionary Idea which confers on them the right to slay, on condition of exercising it against everybody, and therefore on themselves. Towards two o’clock, or three o’clock in the morning, exhausted, out of words and ideas, not knowing where to slay, on the right or on the left, they anxiously turn to this figure and try to read its will in its fixed eyes. “Who Edition: current; Page: [1055]shall fall tomorrow?” Ever the same reply steadily expressed on the features of the impassable phantom: “the antirevolutionists,” under which name is comprised all who by act, speech, thought, or inmost sentiment, either through irritation or carelessness, through humanity or moderation, through egoism or nonchalance, through passive, neutral, or indifferent feeling, serve well or ill the Revolution.56 All that remains is to add names to this horribly comprehensive decree. Shall Billaud do it? Shall Robespierre do it? Will Billaud put down Robespierre’s name, or Robespierre put down Billaud’s, or each the name of the other, with those he chooses to select from among the two Committees? Osselin, Chabot, Bazire, Julien de Toulouse, Lacroix, Danton, were on them, and when they left, their heads fell.57 Hérault-Séchelles, again, was on them, maintained in office with honor through the recent approbation of the Convention,58 one of the titular twelve, and on duty when an order issued by the other eleven suddenly handed him over to the revolutionary Tribunal for execution. Whose turn is it now among the eleven? Seized unawares, the docile Convention unanimously applauding, after three days of a judicial farce, the cart will bear him to the Place de la Révolution; Samson will tie him fast, shouters at thirty sous a day will clap their Edition: current; Page: [1056]hands, and, on the following morning, the popular politicians will congratulate each other on seeing the name of a great traitor on the bulletin of the guillotined.59 To this end, to enable this or that king of the day to pass from the national Almanac to the mortuary list, merely required an understanding among his colleagues, and, perhaps, this is already arrived at. Among whom and against whom? It is certain that, as this idea occurs to the eleven, seated around the table, they eye each other with a shudder; they calculate the chances and turn things over in their minds; words have been uttered that are not forgotten. Carnot often made this charge against Saint-Just: “You and Robespierre are after a dictatorship.”60 Robespierre replied to Carnot: “I am ready for you on the first defeat.”61 On another occasion, Robespierre, in a rage, exclaimed: “The Committee is conspiring against me!” and, turning to Billaud, “I know you, now!” Billaud retorted, “I know you too, you are an antirevolutionist!”62 Edition: current; Page: [1057]There are conspirators and antirevolutionists, then, on the committee itself; what can be done to avoid this appellation, which is a sentence of death? Silently, the fatal phantom enthroned in their midst, the Erynnes through which they rule, renders his oracle and all take it to heart: “All who are unwilling to become executioners are conspirators and antirevolutionists.”


Thus do they march along during twelve months, goaded on by the two sharp thongs of theory and fear, traversing the red pool which they have created, and which is daily becoming deeper and deeper, all together and united, neither of them daring to separate from the group, and each spattered with the blood thrown in his face by the others’ feet. It is not long before their eyesight fails them; they no longer see their way, while the degradation of their language betrays the stupor of their intellect. When a government brings to the tribune and moves the enactment of important laws, it confronts the nation, faces Europe, and takes a historical position. If it cares for its own honor it will select reporters of bills that are not unworthy, and instruct them to support these with available arguments, as closely reasoned out as possible; the bill, discussed and adopted in full council, will show the measure of its capacity, the information it possesses and its common-sense. To estimate all this, read the bills put forth in the name of the Committee; weigh the preambles, remark the tone, listen to the two reporters usually chosen, Saint-Just, who draws up the acts of proscription, special or general, and Barère, who draws up all acts indifferently, but particularly military announcements and decrees against the foreigner; never did public personages, addressing France and posterity, use such irrational arguments and state falsehoods with greater impudence.63

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The former, stiff in his starched cravat, posing “like the Holy Ghost,” more didactic and more absolute than Robespierre himself, comes and proclaims to Frenchmen from the tribune, equality, probity, frugality, Spartan habits, and a rural cot with all the voluptuousness of virtue;64 this suits admirably the chevalier Saint-Just, a former applicant for a place in the Count d’Artois’ body-guard, a domestic thief, a purloiner of silver plate which he takes to Paris, sells and spends on prostitutes, imprisoned for six months on complaint of his own mother,65 and author of a lewd poem which he succeeds in rendering filthy by trying to render it fanciful. Now, indeed, he is grave; he no longer leers; he kills—but with what arguments, and what a style!66 The young Laubardemont, the paid informers and prosecutors of imperial Rome, have less disgraced the human intellect, for these creatures of a Tiberius or a Richelieu still used plausible arguments in their reasoning, and with more or less adroitness. With Saint-Just, there is no connection of ideas; there is no sequence or march in his rhapsody; like an instrument strained to the utmost, his mind plays only false notes in violent fits and starts; logical continuity, the art then so common of regularly developing a theme, has disappeared; he stumbles over the ground, piling up telling aphorisms and dogmatic axioms. In dealing with facts there is nothing in his speech but a perversion of the truth; impostures abound in it of pure invention, palpable, as brazen as those of a charlatan in his booth;67 he does not even deign to disguise Edition: current; Page: [1059]them with a shadow of probability; as to the Girondists, and as to Danton, Fabre d’Eglantine, and his other adversaries, whoever they may be, old or new, any rope to hang them with suffices for him; any rough, knotted, badly-twisted cord he can lay his hands on, no matter what, provided it strangles, is good enough; there is no need of a finer one for confirmed conspirators; with the gossip of the club and an Inquisition catechism, he can frame his bill of indictment. Accordingly, his intellect grasps nothing and yields him nothing; he is a sententious and over-excited declaimer, an artificial spirit always on the stretch, full of affectations,68 his talent reducing itself down to the rare flashes of a sombre imagination, a pupil of Robespierre, as Robespierre himself is a pupil of Rousseau, the exaggerated scholar of a plodding scholar, always rabidly ultra, furious through calculation, deliberately violating both language and ideas,69 confining himself to theatrical and funereal paradoxes, a sort of “grand vizier”70 with the airs of an exalted moralist and the bearing of the sentimental shepherd.71 Were one of a mocking humor one might Edition: current; Page: [1060]shrug one’s shoulders; but, in the present state of the Convention, there is no room for anything but fear. Launched in imperious tones, his phrases fall upon their ears in monotonous strokes, on bowed heads, and, after five or six blows from this leaden hammer, the stoutest are stretched out stupified on the ground; discussion is out of the question; when Saint-Just, in the name of the Convention, affirms anything, it must be believed; his dissertation is a peremptory injunction and not an effort of reason; it commands obedience; it is not open to examination; it is not a report which he draws from his coat pocket, but a bludgeon.

The other reporter, Barère, is of quite another stamp, a “patent-right” haranguer, an amusing Gascon, alert, “free and easy,” fond of a joke, even on the Committee of Public Safety,72 unconcerned in the midst of assassinations, and, to the very last, speaking of the Reign of Terror as “the simplest and most innocent thing in the world.”73 No man was ever less trammeled by a conscience; in truth, he has several, that of two days ago, that of the previous day, that of the present day, that of the morrow, of the following day, and still others, as many as you like, all equally pliant and supple, at the service of the strongest against the weakest, ready to swing round at once on the wind changing, but all joined together and working to one common end through physical instinct, the only one that lasts in the immoral, adroit and volatile being who circulates nimbly about, with no other aim than self-preservation, and to amuse himself.74 Edition: current; Page: [1061]In his dressing-gown, early in the morning, he receives a crowd of solicitors, and, with the ways of a “dandified minister,” graciously accepts the petitions handed to him; first, those of ladies, “distributing gallantries among the prettiest”; he makes promises, and smiles, and then, returning to his cabinet, throws the papers in the fire: “There,” he says, “my correspondence is done.” He sups twice every decade in his fine house at Clichy, along with three more than accommodating pretty women; he is gay, awarding flatteries and attentions quite becoming to an amiable protector: he enters into their professional rivalries, their spites against the reigning beauty, their jealousy of another who wears a blonde perruque and pretends “to set the fashion.” He sends immediately for the National Agent and gravely informs him that this head-dress, borrowed from the guillotined, is a rallying point for antirevolutionists, whereupon, the next day, perruques are denounced at the Commune-council, and suppressed; “Barère roared with laughter on alluding to this piece of fun.” The humor of an undertaker and the dexterity of a commercial drummer: he plays with Terror. In like manner he plays with his reports, and at this latter exercise, he improvises; he is never embarrassed; it is simply necessary to turn the faucet and the water runs. “Had he any subject to treat, he would fasten himself on Robespierre, Hérault, Saint-Just, or somebody else, and draw them out; he would then rush off to the tribune and spin out their ideas; “they were all astonished at hearing their thoughts expressed as fully as if reflected in a mirror.” No individual on the Committee, or in the Convention, equalled him in promptness and fluency, for the reason that he was not obliged to think before he spoke: with him, the faculty of speaking, like an independent organ, acted by itself, the empty brain or indifferent heart contributing nothing to his loquacity. Naturally, whatever issues from his Edition: current; Page: [1062]mouth comes forth in ready-made bombast, the current jargon of the Jacobin club, sonorous, nauseous commonplace, schoolboy metaphors and similes derived from the shambles.75 Not an idea is found in all this rhetoric, nothing acquired, no real mental application. When Bonaparte, who employed everybody, and even Fouché, were disposed to employ Barère, they could make nothing out of him for lack of substance, except as a low newsmonger, common spy, or agent engaged to stir up surviving Jacobins; later on, a listener at keyholes, and a paid weekly collector of public rumors, he was not even fit for this vile service, for his wages were soon stopped; Napoleon, who had no time to waste, cut short his drivelling verbiage. It is this verbiage which, authorised by the Committee of Public Safety, now forms the eloquence of France; it is this manufacturer of phrases by the dozen, this future sneak and prison-spy under the empire, this frolicking inventor of the blonde-perruque conspiracy, that the government sends into the tribune to announce victories, trumpet forth military heroism and proclaim war unto death. On the 7th of Prairial,76 Barère, in the name of the committee, proposes a return to savage law: “No English or Hanoverian prisoner shall henceforth be made”; the decree is endorsed by Carnot and passes the Convention unanimously. Had it been executed, as reprisals, and according to the proportion of prisoners, there would have been for one Englishman shot, three Frenchmen hung: honor and humanity Edition: current; Page: [1063]disappeared from the camps; the hostilities maintained by Christians became as exterminating as among negroes. Happily, French soldiers felt the nobleness of their profession; on the order being given to shoot the prisoners, a brave sergeant replied: “We will not shoot—send them to the Convention. If the representatives delight in killing prisoners—let them do it themselves, and eat them, too, savages as they are!” The sergeant, a rough sort of fellow, is not on a level with the Committee, or with Barère; and yet Barère did his best in a bill of indictment of twenty-seven pages, full of grand flourishes, every possible ritornello, glaring falsehood and silly inflation, explaining how “the britannic leopard” paid assassins to murder the representatives; how the London cabinet had armed little Cécile Renault “the new Corday,” against Robespierre; how the Englishman, naturally barbarous, “does not give the lie to his origin”; how he descends from the Carthaginians and Phenicians, and formerly dealt in the skins of wild beasts and slaves; how his trading occupation is not changed; how Caesar, formerly, on landing in the country, found nothing but a ferocious tribe battling with wolves in the forest and threatening to burn every building which tried to encroach; and how it still is the same.” A consultation with a strolling operator who uses big words to recommend a deep amputation, a clumsy show-prospectus that does not deceive a poor sergeant, such is the exposition of motives by a government for the purpose of enforcing a decree that might have been drawn up by redskins; to horrible acts he adds debased language, and employs the inept to justify atrocities.


About one hundred representatives sent by the Committee of Public Safety, sometimes singly and, again, in groups of two or three, go and succeed each other in the provinces, “with unlimited power,” to establish, enforce, or aggravate the revolutionary government, their proclamations at once declaring the nature of this government.77 Edition: current; Page: [1064]“Brave and vigorous sansculottes!” writes a deputy on leaving a mission and announcing his successor,78 “You seem to have desired a good b—— of a representative, who has never swerved from his principles, that is to say, a regular Montagnard. I have fulfilled your wishes, and you will have the same thing in citizen Ingrand. Remember, brave sans-culottes, that, with the patriot Ingrand, you can do everything, get anything, cancel whatever you please, imprison, bring to trial, transport and guillotine everybody and regenerate society. Don’t f—— him a minute’s patience! Let everybody tremble through him; let everything crumble, and order be at once restored!” The representative arrives at headquarters by post, and presents his credentials. All the authorities at once bow to the ground. In the evening, in his sabre and plume, he harangues the popular club, blowing into a flame the smouldering embers of Jacobinism. Then, according to his personal acquaintances, if he has any in the place, or according to the votes of the Committee of General Security, if he is a new-comer, he selects five or six of the “warmest sans-culottes” there, and, forming them into a revolutionary committee, installs them permanently at his side, sometimes in the same building, in a room next to his own, where, on lists or with verbal communications Edition: current; Page: [1065]furnished to him, he works with a will and without stopping.79

First comes a purification of all the local authorities. They must always remember that “there can be no exaggeration in behalf of the people; he who is not imbued with this principle, who has not put it in practice, cannot remain on an advanced post;”80 consequently, at the popular club, in the department, in the district, in the municipality, all doubtful men are excluded, discharged, or incarcerated; if a few weak ones are retained provisionally, or by favor, they are berated and taught their duty very summarily: “They will strive, by a more energetic and assiduous patriotism, to atone for the evil committed by them in not doing all the good they could do.” Sometimes, through a sudden change of scene, the entire administrative staff is kicked out so as to give place to a no less complete staff, which the same kick brings up out of the ground. Considering that “everything drags in Vaucluse, and that a frightful moderantisme paralyses the most revolutionary measures,” Maignet, in one order81 appoints the administrators and secretary of the department, Edition: current; Page: [1066]the national agent, the administrators and council-general of the district, the administrators, council-general and national agent of Avignon, the president, public prosecutor and recorder of the criminal court, members of the Tribunal de Commerce, the collector of the district, the post-master, and the head of the squadron of gendarmerie. And the new functionaries will certainly go to work at once, each in his office. The summary process, which has brusquely swept away the first set of puppets, is going to brusquely install the second one. “Each citizen appointed to any of the above mentioned offices, shall betake himself immediately to his post, under penalty of being declared suspect,” on the simple notification of his appointment. Universal and passive obedience of governors, as well as of the governed! There are no more elected and independent functionaries; all the authorities, confirmed or created by the representative, are in his hands; there is not one among them who does not subsist or survive solely through his favor; there is not one of them who acts otherwise than according to his approval or by his order. Directly, or through them, he makes requisitions, sequestrates, or confiscates as he sees fit, taxes, imprisons, transports, or decapitates as he sees fit, and, in his circumscription, he is the pacha.

But he is a pacha with a chain around his neck, and at short tether. From and after December, 1793, he is directed “to conform to the orders of the Committee of Public Safety and report to it every ten days.”82 The circumscription in which he commands is rigorously “limited”; “he is reputed to be without power in the other departments,”83 while he is not suffered to grow old on his post. “In every magistrature the grandeur and extent of power is compensated by the shortness of its duration. Overprolonged missions would soon be considered as birthrights.”84 Therefore, at the end of two or three Edition: current; Page: [1067]months, often at the end of a month, the incumbent is recalled to Paris or despatched elsewhere, at short notice, on the day named, in a prompt, absolute, and sometimes threatening tone, not as a colleague one humors, but as a subordinate who is suddenly and arbitrarily revoked or displaced because he is deemed inadequate, or “used up.” For greater security, oftentimes a member of the Committee, Couthon, Collot, Saint-Just, or some near relation of a member of the Committee, a Lebas or young Robespierre, goes personally to the spot to give the needed impulsion; sometimes, agents simply of the Committee, taken from outside the Convention, and without any personal standing, quite young men, Rousselin, Julien de la Drôme, replace or watch the representative with powers equal to his. At the same time, from the top and from the centre, he is pushed on and directed: his local counsellors are chosen for him, and the directors of his conscience;85 they rate him soundly on the choice of his agents or of his lodgings;86 they force dismissals on Edition: current; Page: [1068]him, appointments, arrests, executions; they spur him on in the path of terror and suffering. Around him are paid emissaries,87 while others watch him gratis and constantly write to the Committees of Public Safety and General Security, often to denounce him, always to report on his conduct, to judge his measures and to provoke the measures which he does not take.88

Whatever he may have done or may do, he cannot turn his eyes toward Paris without seeing danger ahead, a mortal danger which, on the Committee, in the Convention, at the Jacobin Club, increases or will increase against him, like a tempest. Briez, who, in Valenciennes under siege, showed courage, and whom the Convention had just applauded and added to the Committee of Public Safety, hears himself reproached for being still alive: “He who was at Valenciennes when the enemy took it will never reply to this question—are you dead?”89 He has nothing to do now but to declare himself incompetent, decline the honor mistakenly conferred on him by the Convention, and disappear. Dubois-Crancé took Lyons, and, as pay for this immense service, he is stricken off the roll of the Jacobin Club; because he did not take it quick enough, he is accused of treachery; two days after the capitulation, the Committee of Public Safety withdraw his powers; three days after the capitulation, the Edition: current; Page: [1069]Committee of Public Safety has him arrested and sent to Paris under escort.90 If such men after such services are thus treated, what is to become of the others? After the mission of young Julien, Carrier at Nantes, Ysabeau and Tallien at Bordeaux, feel their heads shake on their shoulders; after the mission of young Robespierre in the East and South, Barras, Fréron and Bernard de Saintes believe themselves lost.91 Fouché, Rovère, Javogue, and how many others, compromised by the faction of which they are, or were, Hébertists or Dantonists, are sure of perishing if their patrons of the Committee succumb; not sure of living if their patrons keep their place; not knowing whether their heads will not be exchanged for others; restricted to the narrowest, the most rigorous and most constant orthodoxy; guilty and condemned should their orthodoxy of today become the heterodoxy of tomorrow; all of them menaced, at first the hundred and eighty autocrats who, before the concentration of the revolutionary government, ruled for eight months uncontrollable in the provinces; next, and above all, the fifty hard-fisted Montagnards, unscrupulous fanatics or dissipated despots, who, at this moment, tread human flesh under foot and allot themselves power, the same as wild boars in a forest, or wallow in scandal, like swine in a mud-pool.

There is no refuge for them, other than temporary, and not temporary refuge, otherwise than in zealous and tried obedience, such as the Committee demands proof of, that is to say, through rigor. “The Committees so wanted it,” says Maignet, later on, the incendiary of Bédouin; “The Committees did every thing. … Circumstances controlled me. … The patriotic agents conjured me not to give way. … I did not fully carry out the most imperative orders.”92 Edition: current; Page: [1070]Similarly, the great exterminator of Nantes, Carrier, when urged to spare the rebels who surrendered of their own accord: “Do you want me to be guillotined? It is not in my power to save those people.”93 And another time: “I have my orders; I must observe them; I do not want to have my head cut off!” Under penalty of death, the representative on mission is a Terrorist, like his colleagues in the Convention and on the Committee of Public Safety, but with a much more serious disturbance of his nervous and his moral system; for he does not operate like them on paper, at a distance, against categories of abstract, anonymous, and vague beings; his work is not merely an effort of the intellect, but also of the senses and the imagination. If he belongs to the region, like Lecarpentier, Barras, Lebon, Javogue, Couthon, André, Dumont, and many others, he is well acquainted with the families he proscribes; names to him are not merely so many letters strung together, but they recall personal souvenirs and evoke living forms. At all events, he is the spectator, artisan and beneficiary of his own dictatorship; the silver-plate and money he confiscates passes under his eye, through his hands; he sees the “suspects” he incarcerates march before him; he is in the court-room on the rendering of the sentence of death; frequently, the guillotine he has supplied with heads works under his windows; he sleeps in the mansion of an emigré; he makes requisitions for the furniture, linen, and wine belonging to the decapitated and the imprisoned,94 lies in their beds, drinks their wine and revels with plenty Edition: current; Page: [1071]of company at their expense, and in their place. In like manner, a bandit chief who neither kills nor robs with his own hands, has murder and robbery committed in his presence, by which he substantially profits, not by proxy, but personally, through the well-directed blows ordered by him. To this degree, and in such proximity to physical action, omnipotence is a mephitic atmosphere which no state of health can resist. Restored to the conditions which poisoned man in barbarous times or countries, he is again attacked by moral maladies from which he was thenceforth believed to be exempt; he retrogrades even to the strange corruptions of the Orient and the Middle Ages; forgotten leprosies, apparently extinct, with exotic pestilences to which civilised lands seemed closed, reappear in his soul with their issues and tumors.


“It seems,” says a witness who was long acquainted with Maignet, “that all he did for these five or six years was simply the delirious phase of an illness, after which he recovered, and lived on as if nothing had happened.”95 And Maignet himself writes: “I was not made for these tempests.” That is true of all, and first of the coarser Edition: current; Page: [1072]natures; subordination would have restrained them; a dictatorship brings them out; the brutal instinct of the old soldier or of the faun breaks out in an eruption. Contemplate a Duquesnoy, a sort of bull-dog, always barking and biting when satiated more furiously than ever. Delegate to the army of the Moselle, and passing by Metz96 he summoned before him Altmayer, the public prosecutor, although he had sat down to dinner. The latter waits three hours and a half in the ante-chamber, is not admitted, returns, and, at length received, is greeted with a thundering exclamation: “Who are you?” “The public prosecutor,” he replies. “You look like a bishop—you were once a curé or monk—you can’t be a revolutionist. … I have come to Metz with unlimited powers. Public opinion here is not satisfactory. I am going to drill it. I am going to set folks straight here. I mean to shoot, here in Metz, as well as in Nancy, five or six hundred every fortnight.” The same at the house of General Bessières, commandant of the town; encountering there M. Cledat, an old officer, the second in command, he measures him from head to foot: “You look like a muscadin. Where did you come from? You must be a bad republican—you look as if you belonged to the ancient régime.” “My hair is gray,” he responds, “but I am not the less a good Edition: current; Page: [1073]republican: you may ask the General and the whole town.” “Be off! Go to the devil, and be quick about it, or I will have you arrested!” The same, in the street, where he lays hold of a man passing, on account of his looks; the justice of the peace, Joly, certifies to the civism of this person, and he “eyes” Joly: “You too, you are an aristocrat! I see it in your eyes! I never make a mistake.” Whereupon, tearing off the Judge’s badge, he sends him to prison. Meanwhile, a fire, soon extinguished, breaks out in the army bakehouse; officers, townspeople, laborers, peasants, and even children form a line (for passing water) and Duquesnoy appears to urge them on in his way: using his fists and his foot, he falls on whoever he meets, on an employee in the commissariat, on a convalescent officer, on two men in the line, and many others. He shouts to one of them, “You are a muscadin!” To another: “I see by your eyes that you are an aristocrat!” To another: “You are f—— beggar, an aristocrat, a rascal,” and he strikes him in the stomach; he seizes a fourth by his collar and throws him down on the pavement.97 In addition to this, all are imprisoned. The fire being extinguished, an indiscreet fellow, who stood by looking on, “recommends” the dispenser of blows “to wipe his forehead.” “You can’t see straight—who are you? Answer me, I am the representative.” The other replies mildly: “Representative, nothing could be more respectable.” Duquesnoy gives the unlucky courtier a blow under the nose: “You are disputing—go to prison,” “which I did at once,” adds the docile subject. That same evening, “whereas, in the conflagration, none of the inhabitants in good circumstances offered their services in extinguishing the fire,98 and none Edition: current; Page: [1074]but sans-culottes came thereto, from the garrison as well as from the commune,” Duquesnoy orders “that a tax of forty thousand livres be imposed on the commune of Metz, levied on the fortunes of the rich and distributed among the poor, payable within the decade.”99Fais moi f … dedans tous ces b … là,100quatre j … f … à raccourcir;101 at Arras, as at Metz, the lout is ever the ruffian and the butcher.

Others are either jolly fellows, or blackguards. A certain André Dumont, an old village attorney, now king of Picardie, or sultan, as occasion offers, “figures as a white negro,” sometimes jovial, but generally as a rude hardened cynic, treating female prisoners and petitioners as in a kermesse.102 One morning a lady enters his ante-room, and waits amidst about twenty sans-culottes, to solicit the release of her husband. Dumont appears in a morning-gown, seats himself and listens to the petitioner. “Sit down, citoyenne.” He takes her on his lap, thrusts his hand in her bosom and exclaims: “Who would suppose that the bust of a marchioness would feel so soft to Edition: current; Page: [1075]one of the people’s representatives.” The sans-culottes shout with laughter. He sends the poor woman away and keeps her husband locked up. In the evening he may write to the Convention that he investigates things himself, and closely examines aristocrats. To maintain this revolutionary strain at this point requires a drop too much in one’s head, and most of them take precautions in this direction. At Lyons,103 “the representatives sent to ensure the people’s welfare, Albitte and Collot,” call upon the Committee of Sequestrations to deliver at their house two hundred bottles of the best wine to be found, and five hundred bottles more of Bordeaux red wine, first quality, for table use.” In three months, at the table of the representatives who devastate la Vendée, nineteen hundred and seventy-four bottles of wine are emptied,104 taken from the houses of the emigrés belonging to the town; for, “when one has helped to preserve a commune one has a right to drink to the Republic.” Representative Bourbotte presides at this bar; Rossignol touches his glass, an ex-jeweler and then a September massacreur, all his life a debauchee and brigand, and now a major-general; alongside of Rossignol, stand his adjutants, Grammont, an old actor, and Hazard, a former priest; along with them is Vacheron, a good républiquain, who ravishes women and shoots them when they refuse to succumb;105 in addition to these are some “brilliant” young ladies, undoubtedly brought from Paris, “the prettiest of whom share their nights between Rossignol and Bourbotte,” whilst the others serve Edition: current; Page: [1076]their subordinates: the entire band, male and female, is installed in a Hotel de Fontenay, where they begin by breaking the seals, so as to confiscate “for their own benefit, furniture, jewelry, dresses, feminine trinkets, and even procelains.”106 Meanwhile, at Chantonney, representative Bourdon de l’Oise drinks with General Tunck, becomes “frantic” when tipsy, and has patriotic administrators seized in their beds at midnight, whom he had embraced the evening before. Nearly all of them, like the latter, have too bad wine, Carrier at Nantes, Petit-Jean at Thiers, Duquesnoy at Arras, Cusset at Thionville, Monestier at Tarbes. At Thionville, Cusset drinks like a “Lapithe” and, when drunk, gives the orders of a “vizier,” which orders are executed.107 At Tarbes, Monestier “after a heavy meal and much excited,” warmly harangues the court, examines the prisoner himself, M. de Lasalle, an old officer, whom he has condemned to death, and signs the order to have him guillotined at once; M. de Lasalle is guillotined that very evening, at midnight, by torchlight. The following morning Monestier says to the president of the court: Edition: current; Page: [1077]“Well, we gave poor Lasalle a famous fright last night, didn’t we?” “How a famous fright? He is executed!” Monestier is astonished—he did not remember having issued the order.108 With others, wine, besides sanguinary instincts, brings out the foulest instincts. At Nismes, Borie, in the uniform of a representative, along with Courbis, the mayor, Géret, the justice and a number of prostitutes, dance the farandole around the guillotine. At Auch, one of the worst tyrants in the South, Dartigoyte, always heated with liquor “vomited every species of obscenity” in the faces of women that came to demand justice; “he compels, under penalty of imprisonment, mothers to take their daughters to the popular club,” to listen to his filthy preaching; one evening, at the theatre, probably after an orgy, he apostrophises all the women between the acts, lets loose upon them his smutty vocabulary, and, by way of demonstration, or as a practical conclusion, ends by stripping himself naked.109 This time, the genuine brute Edition: current; Page: [1078]appears. The clothing thrown around him by centuries and with which civilisation had protected him, the last drapery of humanity, falls to the ground. Nothing remains but the primitive animal, the ferocious, lewd gorilla supposed to be tamed, but which still subsists indefinitely and which a dictatorship, joined to drunkenness, revives in an uglier guise than in remotest times.


If intoxication is needed to awaken the brute, a dictatorship suffices to arouse the madman. The mental equilibrium of most of these new sovereigns is disturbed; the distance between what the man once was and what he now is, is too great; formerly, a petty lawyer, village doctor, or schoolmaster, an unknown mover of a resolution in a local club, and only yesterday one voter in the Convention out of seven hundred and fifty; behold him now, the arbiter, in one of the departments, of all fortunes and liberties, and master of five thousand lives. Like a pair of scales into which a disproportionate weight has been thrown, his reason totters on the side of pride. Some of them regard their competency unlimited, like their powers, and having just joined the army, claim the right of being appointed major-generals.110 “Declare officially,” writes Fabre to the Committee of Public Safety,111 “that, in future, generals shall be simply the lieutenants Edition: current; Page: [1079]of the delegates to the Convention.” Awaiting the required declaration, they claim command and, in reality, exercise it. “I know of neither generals nor privates,” says Gaston, a former justice of the peace, to the officers; “as to the Minister, he is a dog on a skittle-ground; I am in command here and must be obeyed.” “What are generals good for?” adds his colleague Guiter; “the old women in our faubourgs know as much as they do. Plans, formal manoeuvres, tents, camps, redoubts? All this is of no use! The only war suitable to Frenchmen after this will be a rush with side arms.” To turn out of office, guillotine, disorganise, march blindly on, waste lives haphazard, force defeat, sometimes get killed themselves, is all they know, and they would lose all if the effects of their incapacity and arrogance were not redeemed by the devotion of the officers and the enthusiasm of the soldiers. The same spectacle is visible at Charleroy where, through his absurd orders, Saint-Just does his best to compromise the army, leaving that place with the belief that he is a great man.112 There is the same spectacle in Alsace, where Lacoste, Baudot, Ruamps, Soubrany, Milhaud, Saint-Just, and Lebas, through their excessive rigor, do their best to break up the army and then boast of it. The revolutionary Tribunal is installed at headquarters, soldiers are urged to denounce their officers, the informer is promised money and secrecy, he and the accused are not allowed to confront each other, no investigation, no papers allowed, even to make exception to the verdict—a simple examination without any notes, the accused arrested at eight o’clock, condemned at nine o’clock, and shot at ten o’clock.113 Naturally, under such a system, Edition: current; Page: [1080]no one wants to command; already, before Saint-Just’s arrival, Meunier had consented to act as major-general only ad interim; “every hour of the day” he demanded his removal; unable to secure this, he refused to issue any order; the representatives, to procure his successor, are obliged to descend down to a depot captain, Carlin, bold enough or stupid enough to allow himself to take a commission under their lead, which was a commission for the guillotine. If such is their presumption in military matters, what must it be in civil affairs! On this side there is no external check, no Spanish or German army capable of at once taking them in flagrante delicto, and of profiting by their ambitious incapacity and mischievous interference. Whatever the social instrumentality may be—judiciary, administration, credit, commerce, manufactures, agriculture—they can dislocate and mar it with impunity. They never fail to do this, and, moreover, in their despatches, they take credit to themselves for the ruin they cause. That, indeed, is their mission; otherwise, they would be regarded as bad Jacobins; they would soon become “suspects”; they rule only on condition of being infatuated and destructive; the overthrow of common-sense is with them an act of State grace, a necessity of the office, and, on this common ground of compulsory unreason, every species of physical delirium may be implanted.

With those that we can follow closely, not only is their judgment perverted, but the entire nervous apparatus is affected; permanent overexcitement has begun, and a morbid restlessness. Consider Joseph Lebon, son of a sergeant-at-arms, subsequently, a teacher with the Oratoriens of Beaune, next, curé of Neuville-Vitasse, repudiated as an interloper by the élite of his parishioners, not respected, without house or furniture, and almost without a flock.114 Two years after this, finding himself sovereign of his province, his head is turned; much less would make it turn; it is only a twenty-eight-year-old Edition: current; Page: [1081]head, not very solid, without any inside ballast,115 already disturbed by vanity, ambition, rancor, and apostasy, by the sudden and complete wheeling-about which put him at variance with his past educational habits and most cherished affections: it breaks down under the vastness and novelty of this greatness. In the costume of a representative, a Henry IV. hat, tricolor plume, waving scarf, and sabre dragging the ground, Lebon orders the bell to be rung and summons the villagers into the church, where, aloft in the pulpit in which he had formerly preached in a threadbare cassock, he displays his metamorphosis. “Who would believe that I should have returned here with unlimited powers!”116 And that, before his counterfeit majesty, each person would be humble, bowed down and silent! To a member of the municipality of Cambray who, questioned by him, looked straight at him and answered curtly, and who, to a query twice repeated in the same terms, dared to answer twice in the same terms, he says: “Shut up! You disrespect me, you do not behave properly to the national representative.” He immediately commits him to prison.117 One evening, at the theatre, he enters a box in which the ladies, seated in front, keep their places. In a rage, he goes out, rushes on the stage and, brandishing his great sabre, vociferates and threatens the audience, taking immense strides across the boards and acting and looking so much like a wild beast that several of the ladies faint away: “Look there!” he shouts, “at those muscadines who do not condescend to move for a representative of twenty-five millions of men! Everybody used to make way for a prince—they will not budge for me, a representative, who am more than a king!118 Edition: current; Page: [1082]The word is spoken. But this king is frightened, and he is one who thinks of nothing but conspiracy;119 in the street, in open daylight, the people who are passing him are plotting against him either by words or signs. Meeting in the main street of Arras a young girl and her mother talking Flemish, that seems to him “suspect.” “Where are you going?” he demands. “What’s that to you?” replies the child, who does not know him. The girl, the mother, and the father are sent to prison.120 On the ramparts, another young girl, accompanied by her mother, is taking the air, and reading a book. “Give me that book,” says the representative. The mother hands it to him; it is the “History of Clarissa Harlowe.” The young girl, extending her hand to receive back the book, adds, undoubtedly with a smile: “That is not ‘suspect.’ ” Lebon deals her a blow with his fist on her stomach which knocks her down; both women are searched and he personally leads them to the guard-room. The slightest expression, a gesture, puts him beside himself; any motion that he does not comprehend makes him start, as with an electric shock. Just arrived at Cambray, he is informed that a woman who had sold a bottle of wine below the maximum, had been released after a procès-verbal. On reaching the Hôtel-de-Ville, he shouts out: “Let everybody here pass into the Consistory!” The municipal officer on duty opens a door leading into it. Lebon, however, not knowing who he is, takes alarm. “He froths at the mouth,” says the municipal officer, “and cries out as if possessed by a demon. ‘Stop, stop, scoundrel, you are running off!’ He draws his sabre and seizes me by the collar; I am dragged and borne along by him and his men. ‘I have hold of him, I have hold of him!’ he exclaims, and, indeed, he did hold me with his teeth, legs, and arms, like a madman. At last, ‘Scoundrel, monster, b—,’ says he, ‘are you a marquis?’ ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I am a sans-culotte.’ ‘Ah, well! people, you hear what he says,’ he exclaims, ‘he says that he is a sans-culotte, and that is the way he greets a denunciation on Edition: current; Page: [1083]the maximum! I remove him. Let him be f—— in prison!’ ”121 It is certain that the King of Arras and Cambray is not far from a raging fever; with such symptoms an ordinary individual would be sent to an asylum.

Not so vain, less fond of parading his royalty, but more savage and placed in Nantes amidst greater dangers, Carrier, under the pressure of more sombre ideas, is much more furious and constant in his madness. Sometimes his attacks reach hallucination. “I have seen him,” says a witness, “so carried away in the tribune, in the heat of his harangue when trying to overrule public opinion, as to cut off the tops of the candles with his sabre,” as if they were so many aristocrats’ heads.122 Another time, at table, after having declared that France could not feed its too numerous population, and that it was decided to cut down the excess, all nobles, magistrates, priests, merchants, etc., he becomes excited and exclaims, “Kill, kill!” as if he were already engaged in the work and ordering the operation.123 Even when fasting, and in an ordinary condition, he is scarcely more cooled down. When the administrators of the department come to consult with him,124 they gather around the door to see if he looks enraged, and is in a condition to hear them. He not only insults petitioners, but likewise the functionaries under him who make reports to him, or take his orders; his foul nature rises to his lips and overflows in the vilest terms: “Go to —— and be ——. I have no time.”125 They consider themselves lucky if they get off with a volley of obscene oaths, for he generally draws his sabre: “The first —— that mentions supplies, I will —— his head off.”126 And to the president of the military commission, who demands that verdicts be rendered before ordering executions: “You, Edition: current; Page: [1084]you old rascal, you old ——, you want verdicts, do you! Go ahead! If the whole pen is not emptied in a couple of hours I will have you and your colleagues shot!” His gestures, his look have such a powerful effect upon the mind that the other, who is also a “bruiser,” dies of the shock a few days after.127 Not only does he draw his sabre, but he uses it; among the petitioners, a boatman, whom he is about to strike, runs off as fast as he can; he draws General Moulins into the recess of a window and gives him a cut.128 People “tremble” on accosting him, and yet more in contradicting him. The envoy of the Committee of Public Safety, Julien de la Drôme, on being brought before him, takes care to “stand some distance off, in a corner of the room,” wisely trying to avoid the first spring; wiser still, he replies to Carrier’s exclamations with the only available argument: “If you put me out of the way today, you yourself will be guillotined within a week!”129 On coming to a stand before a mad dog one must aim the knife straight at its throat; there is no other way to escape its tusks and slaver. Accordingly, with Carrier, as with a mad dog, the brain is mastered by the steady mechanical reverie, by persistent images of murder and death. He exclaims to President Tronjolly, apropos of the Vendéan children: “The guillotine, always the guillotine!”130 In relation to the drownings: “You judges must Edition: current; Page: [1085]have verdicts; pitch them into the water, which is much more simple.” Addressing the popular club of Nantes, he says: “The rich, the merchants, are all monopolisers, all antirevolutionists; denounce them to me, and I will have all their heads under the national razor. Tell me who the fanatics are that shut their shops on Sunday and I will have them guillotined.” “When will the heads of those rascally merchants fall?” “I see beggars here in rags; you are as big fools at Ancenis as at Nantes. Don’t you know that the money, the wealth of these old merchants, belongs to you, and is not the river there?” “My brave b——, my good sans-culottes your time is come! Denounce them to me! The evidence of two good sans-culottes is all I want to make the heads of those old merchants tumble!” “We will make France a grave-yard rather than not regenerate it in our own way.”131 His steady howl ends in a cry of anguish: “We shall all be guillotined, one after the other!”132 Such is the mental state to which the office of representative on mission leads. Below Carrier, who is on the extreme verge, the others, less advanced, likewise turn pale at the lugubrious vision, which is the inevitable effect of their work and their mandate. Beyond every grave they dig, they catch a glimpse of the grave already dug for them. There is nothing left for the grave-digger but to dig mechanically day after day, and, in the meantime, make what he can out of his place; he can at least render himself insensible by having “a good time.”


Most of them follow this course, some instinctively and through lassitude, and others because the display they make adds to their authority. “Dragged along in carriages with six horses, surrounded by guards, seated at sumptuous tables set for thirty persons, eating Edition: current; Page: [1086]to the sound of music along with a cortege of actors, courtezans, and pretorians,”133 they impress the imagination with an idea of their omnipotence, and people bow all the lower because they make a grand show. At Troyes, on the arrival of young Rousselin, cannon are discharged as if for the entry of a prince. The entire population of Nevers is called upon to honor the birth of Fouché’s child; the civil and military authorities pay their respects to him, and the National Guards are under arms.134 At Lyons, “The imposing display of Collot d’Herbois resembles that of the Grand Turk. It requires three successive applications to obtain an audience; nobody approaches nearer than a distance of fifteen feet; two sentinels with muskets stand on each side of him, with their eyes fixed on the petitioners.”135 Less menacing, but not less imposing, is the pomp which surrounds the representatives at Bordeaux; to approach them, requires “a pass from the captain of the guards,”136 through several squads of sentinels. One of them, Ysabeau, who, after having guillotined to a considerable extent, has become almost tractable, allows adulation, and, like a Duc de Richelieu coming down from Versailles, tries to play the popular potentate, with all the luxuries which the situation affords. At the theatres, in his presence, they give a ballet in which shepherds form with garlands of flowers the words “Ysabeau, Liberty, Equality.” He allows his portrait to pass from hand to hand, and condescendingly smiles on the artist who inscribes these words at the bottom of an engraving of the day: “An occurrence which took place under Ysabeau, representative of the people.” “When he passes in the street people take off their hats to him, cheer him, and shout ‘Hurrah for Ysabeau! Hurrah for the saviour of Bordeaux, our friend and father!’ The children of aristocrats come and apostrophise him in this way, even at the doors of his carriage; for he has Edition: current; Page: [1087]a carriage, and several of them, with a coachman, horses, and the equipage of a former noble, gendarmes preceding him everywhere, even on excursions into the country,” where his new courtiers call him “great man,” and welcome him with “Asiatic magnificence.” There is good cheer at his table, “superb white bread,” called “representatives’ bread,” whilst the rustics of the neighborhood live on roots, and the inhabitants of Bordeaux can scarcely obtain over four ounces per diem of musty bread. There is the same feasting with the representatives at Lyons, in the midst of similar distress. In the reports made by Collot we find a list of bottles of brandy at four francs each, along with partridges, capons, turkeys, chickens, pike, and crawfish; also white bread, “equality bread,” the other kind, assigned to simple mortals, offending this august palate. Add to this the requisitions made by Albitte and Fouché, seven hundred bottles of fine wine, in one lot, another of fifty pounds of coffee, one hundred and sixty ells of muslin, three dozen silk handkerchiefs for cravats, three dozen pairs of gloves, and four dozen pairs of stockings: they provide themselves with a good stock.137 Among so many Edition: current; Page: [1088]perambulating satraps, the most audaciously sensual is, I believe, Tallien, the Septembriseur at Paris and guillotineur at Bordeaux, but still more rake and robber, caring mostly for his palate and stomach. Son of the cook of a grand seignor, he is doubtless swayed by family traditions: for his government is simply a larder where, like the head-butler in “Gil Blas,” he can eat and turn the rest into money. At this moment, his principal favorite is Teresa Cabarrus, a woman of society, or one of the demi-monde, whom he took out of prison; he rides about the streets with her in an open carriage, “with a courier behind and a courier in front,” sometimes wearing the red cap and holding a pike in her hand,138 thus exhibiting his goddess to the people. And this is the sentiment which does him the most credit; for, when the crisis comes, the imminent peril of his mistress arouses his courage against Robespierre, and this pretty woman, who is good-natured, begs him, not for murders, but for pardons. Others, as gallant as he is, but with less taste, obtain recruits for their pleasures in a rude way, either as fast-livers on the wing, or because fear subjects the honor of women to their caprices, or because the public funds defray the expenses of their guard-room habits. At Blois, for this species of expenditure, Guimberteau discharges his obligations by drafts on the proceeds of the revolutionary tax.139 Carrier, at Nantes, appropriates to himself the house and garden of a private person for “his seraglio”; the reader may judge whether, on desiring to be a third party in the household, the husband would make objections; at other times, in the hotel Henry IV., “with his friends and prostitutes brought under requisition, he has an orgy”; he allows himself the same indulgence on the galiot, at the drownings; there at the end of a drunken frolic, he is regaled with merry songs, for example, “la gamelle”:140 he must be amused. Some, who Edition: current; Page: [1089]are shrewd, think of the more substantial and look out for the future. Foremost among these is Tallien, the king of robbers, but prodigal, whose pockets, full of holes, are only filled to be at once emptied; Javogues, who makes the most of Montbrison; Rovère, who, for eighty thousand francs in assignats, has an estate adjudged to him worth five hundred thousand francs in coin; Fouché, who, in Nièvre, begins to amass the twelve or fourteen millions which he secures later on;141 and so many others, who were either ruined or impoverished previous to the outbreak of the Revolution, and who are rich when it ends: Barras with his domain of Gros Bois; André Dumont, with the Hotel de Plouy, its magnificent furniture, and an estate worth four hundred thousand livres; Merlin de Thionville, with his country-houses, equipages, and domain of Mont-Valérien, and other domains; Salicetti, Rewbell, Rousselin, Chateauneuf-Randon, and the rest of the corrupt Directory cormorants. Without mentioning the taxes and confiscations of which they render no account, they have, for their hoard, the ransoms offered underhandedly by “suspects” and their families; what is more convenient?142 And all the more, because the Committee of General Security, even when informed, let things take their course: to prosecute Montagnards, would be “making the Revolution take a step backward.” Edition: current; Page: [1090]One is bound to humor useful servants who have such hard work, like that of September; irregularities, as with these September people, must be overlooked; it is necessary to allow them a few perquisites and give them gratuities.143

All this would not suffice to keep them at work if there were not an attraction of superior force. To the common run of civilised men, the office of Septembriseur is at first disagreeable; but, after a little practice, especially with a tyrannical nature, which, under cover of the theory, or under the pretext of public safety, can satiate its despotic instincts, all repugnance subsides. There is keen delight in the exercise of absolute power; one is glad, every hour, to assert one’s omnipotence and prove it by some act, the most conclusive of all acts being some act of destruction. The more complete, radical and prompt the destruction is, the more conscious one is of one’s strength. However great the obstacle, one is not disposed to recede or stand still; one breaks away all the barriers which men call good sense, humanity, justice, and the satisfaction of breaking them down is great. To crush and to subdue becomes voluptuous pleasure, to which pride gives keener relish, affording a grateful incense of the holocaust which the despot consumes on his own altar; at this daily sacrifice, he is both idol and priest, offering up victims to himself that he may be conscious of his divinity. Such is Saint-Just, all the more a despot because his title of representative on mission is supported by his rank on the Committee of Public Safety: to find natures strained to the same pitch as his, we must leave the modern world and go back to a Caligula, or to a caliph Hakem in Egypt in the tenth century.144 He also, like these two monsters, but with different formulae, regards himself as a God, or God’s vicegerent on earth, Edition: current; Page: [1091]invested with absolute power through Truth incarnated in him, the representative of a mysterious, limitless and supreme power, known as the People; to worthily represent this power, it is essential to have a soul of steel.145 Such is the soul of Saint-Just, and only that. All other sentiments merely serve to harden it; all the metallic agencies that compose it—sensuality, vanity, every vice, every species of ambition, all the frantic outbursts, and melancholy vaporings of his youth—are violently commingled and fused together in the revolutionary mould, so that his soul may take the form and rigidity of trenchant steel. Suppose this an animated blade, feeling and willing in conformity with its temper and structure; it would delight in being brandished, and would need to strike; such is the need of Saint-Just. Taciturn, impassible, keeping people at a distance, as imperious as if the entire will of the people and the majesty of transcendent reason resided in his person, he seems to have reduced his passions to the desire of dashing everything to atoms, and to creating dismay. It may be said of him that, like the conquering Tartars, he measures his self-attributed grandeur by what he fells; no other has so extensively swept away fortunes, liberties and lives; no other has so terrifically heightened the effect of his deeds by laconic speech and the suddenness of the stroke. He orders the arrest and close confinement of all former nobles, men and women, in the four departments, in twenty-four hours; he orders the bourgeoisie of Strasbourg to pay over nine millions in twenty-four hours; ten thousand persons in Strasbourg must give up their shoes in twenty-four hours; random and immediate discharges of musketry on the officers of the Rhine army—such are the measures.146 So much the worse for the innocent; there is no time to discern who they are; “a blind man hunting for Edition: current; Page: [1092]a pin in a dust-heap takes the whole heap.”147 And, whatever the order, even when it cannot be executed, so much the worse for him to whom it is given, for the captain who, directed by the representative to establish this or that battery in a certain time, works all night with all his forces, “with as many men as the place will hold.”148 The battery not being ready at the hour named, Saint-Just sends the captain to the guillotine. The sovereign having once given an order it cannot be counter-manded; to take back his words would be weakening himself;149 in the service of omnipotence, pride is insatiable, and, to mollify it, no barbaric act is too great. The same appetite is visible in Collot d’Herbois, who, no longer on the stage, plays before the town the melo-dramatic tyrant with all becoming ostentation. One morning, at Lyons, he directs the revolutionary Tribunal to arrest, examine and sentence a youthful “suspect” before the day is over. “Towards six o’clock,150 Collot being at table enjoying an orgy with prostitutes, buffoons, and executioners, eating and drinking to choice music, one of the judges of the Tribunal enters; after the usual formalities, he is led up to the Representative, and informs him that the young man had been arrested and examined, and the strictest enquiries made concerning him; he is found irreproachable and the Court decided to set him free. Collot, without looking at the judge, raises his voice and says to him: ‘I ordered you to punish that young man and I want him out of the way before night. If the innocent are spared, too many of the guilty will escape. Go.’ The music and gaiety begin again, and in an hour the young man is shot.” And so with most of the other pachalics; if any head mentally Edition: current; Page: [1093]condemned by the pacha escapes or does not fall soon enough, the latter is indignant at the delays and forms of justice, also against the judges and juries, often selected by himself. Javogues writes an insulting letter to the commission of Feurs which has dared acquit two former nobles. Laignelot, Lecarpentier, Michaud, Monestier, Lebon, break up, recompose, or replace the commissions of Fontenoy, St. Malo, and Perpignan, and the tribunals of Pau, Nismes, and Arras, whose judgments did not please them.151 Lebon, Bernard de Saintes, Dartigoyte, and Fouché rearrest prisoners on the same charge, solemnly acquitted by their own tribunals. Bô, Prieur de la Marne, and Lebon, send judges and juries to prison that do not always vote death.152 Barras and Fréron despatch, from brigade to brigade, to the revolutionary Tribunal in Paris, the public prosecutor and president of the revolutionary Tribunal of Marseilles, for being indulgent to antirevolutionists, because, out of five hundred and twenty-eight prisoners, they guillotined only one hundred and sixty-two.153 To contradict the infallible Representative! That of itself is an offence. He owes it to himself to punish those who are not docile, to rearrest absolved delinquents, and to maintain cruelty with cruelty.

When one has long imbibed a strong and disagreeable draught, not only does the palate get accustomed to the draught, but it often acquires a taste for it; it soon wants to have it stronger; finally, it swallows it pure, completely raw, with no admixture or condiment to disguise its repulsiveness. Such, to certain imaginations, is the spectacle of human gore; after getting accustomed to it they take delight in seeing it. Lequinio, Laignelot, and Lebon invite the executioner Edition: current; Page: [1094]to dine with them;154 Monestier, with his cut-throats, is going himself in search of prisoners in the dungeons, so that he may accompany them to the Tribunal and overwhelm them with charges, if they are disposed to defend themselves; after their condemnation, he assists in uniform at their execution.155 Fouché, lorgnette in hand, looks out of his window upon a butchery of two hundred and ten Lyonnese. Collot, Laporte, and Fouché feast together in a large company on shooting days, and, at each discharge, stand up and cheer lustily, waving their hats.156 At Toulon, Fréron, in person, orders and sees executed, the first grand massacre on the Champ de Mars.157 On the Place d’Arras, M. de Vielfort, already tied and stretched out on the plank, awaits the fall of the knife. Lebon appears on the balcony of the theatre, makes a sign to the executioner to stop, opens the newspaper, and, in a loud voice, reads off the recent successes of the French armies; then, turning to the condemned man, exclaims: “Go, wretch, and take the news of our victories to your brethren.”158 At Feurs, where the shootings take place at the house of M. du Rosier, in the great avenue of the park, his daughter, quite a young woman, advances in tears to Javogues, and asks for the release of her husband. “Oh, yes, my dear,” replies Javogues, “you shall have him home tomorrow.” In effect, the next day, her husband is shot, and buried in the avenue.159 It is evident that they get to liking the business. Like their September predecessors, they find amusement in murdering: people around them allude gaily to “the Edition: current; Page: [1095]red theatre” and “the national razor.” An aristocrat is said to be “putting his head at the national window,” and “he has put his head through the cat-hole.”160 They themselves enjoy the style and humor of the occupation. “Tomorrow, at seven o’clock,” writes Hugues, “let the sacred guillotine be erected!” “The demoiselle guillotine,” writes Lecarlier, “keeps steadily agoing.”161 “The relatives and friends of emigrés and of refractory priests,” writes Lebon, “monopolise the guillotine.162 … Day before yesterday, the sister of the former Comte de Bethune sneezed in the sack.” Carrier loudly proclaims “the pleasure he has derived” from seeing priests executed: “I never laughed in my life as I did at the faces they made in dying.”163 This is the extreme perversity of human nature, that of a Domitian who watches the features of the condemned, to see the effect of suffering, or, better still, that of the negro who holds his sides with laughter at the aspect of a man being impaled. And this delight of contemplating death throes, Carrier finds it in the sufferings of children. Notwithstanding the remonstrances of the revolutionary Tribunal and the entreaties of President Phelippes,164 he Edition: current; Page: [1096]signs on the 29th of Frimaire, year II., a positive order to guillotine without trial twenty-seven persons, of whom seven are women, and, among these, four sisters, Mesdemoiselles de la Metayrie, one of these twenty-eight years old, another twenty-seven, the third twenty-six, and the fourth seventeen. Two days before, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the same tribunal and the entreaties of the same president, he signed a positive order to guillotine twenty-six artisans and farm-hands, among them two boys of fourteen, and two of thirteen years of age. He was driven “in a cab” to the place of execution and he followed it up in detail. He could hear one of the children of thirteen, already bound to the board, but too small and having only the top of the head under the knife, ask the executioner, “Will it hurt me much?” What the triangular blade fell upon may be imagined! Carrier saw this with his own eyes, and whilst the executioner, horrified at himself, died a few days after in consequence of what he had done, Carrier put another in his place, began again and continued operations.

Edition: current; Page: [1097]


The Rulers (continued)— I. The administrative body at Paris—Composition of the group out of which it was recruited—Deterioration of this group—Weeding-out of the Section Assemblies—Weeding-out of the popular clubs—Pressure of the government— II. Quality of the subaltern leaders—How they rule in the section assemblies—How they seize and hold office— III. A Minister of Foreign Affairs—A General in command—The Paris Commune—A Revolutionary Committee— IV. The administrative staff in the provinces—Jacobinism less in the departmental towns than in Paris—Less in the country than in the towns—The Revolutionary Committees in the small communes—Municipal bodies lukewarm in the villages—Jacobins too numerous in bourgs and small towns—Unreliable or hampered as agents when belonging to the administrative bodies of large or moderate-sized towns—Local rulers recruited on the spot inadequate— V. Importation of a foreign staff—Paris Jacobins sent into the provinces—Jacobins of enthusiastic towns transported to moderate ones—The Jacobins of a chef-lieu spread through the district—Resistance of public opinion—Distribution and small number of really Jacobin agents— VI. Quality of the staff thus formed—Social state of the agents—Their unfitness and bad conduct—The administrators in Seine-et-Marne—Drunkenness and feastings—Committees and Municipalities in the Côte d’Or—Waste and extortions—Traffickers in favors at Bordeaux—Seal-breakers at Lyons—Monopolisers of national possessions—Sales of personal property—Embezzlements and Frauds—A procès-verbal in the office of the mayor of Strasbourg—Sales of real-estate—Commissioners on declarations at Toulouse—The administrative staff and clubs of buyers in Provence—The Revolutionary Committee of Nantes— VII. The Armed Force—National Guard and Gendarmerie—Its composition and operations—The Revolutionary Armies in Paris and in the departments—Quality of the recruits—Their employment—Their expeditions into the country towns—Their exploits in the vicinity of Paris and Lyons—The company of Maratists, the American Hussars and the German Legion at Nantes—General character of the Revolutionary government and of the administrative staff of the Reign of Terror.


To provide these local sovereigns with the subordinate lieutenants and agents which they require,we have the local Jacobin population, and we know how this is recruited1—outcasts, the infatuated and perverted of every class and degree, especially the lowest, envious and rancorous dependents, small shopkeepers in debt, strolling and dissipated work-men, coffee-house and bar-room idlers, vagrants, tramps, abject prostitutes—in short, every species of “antisocial vermin,” male and female,2 including a few honest crack-brains into which the fashionable theory had freely found its way; the rest, and by far the largest number, are veritable beasts of prey, speculating on the established order of things and adopting the revolutionary faith only because it provides food for their appetites. In Paris, they number five or six thousand, and, after Thermidor, there is about Edition: current; Page: [1099]the same number, the same appetites rallying them around the same dogma,3 levellers and terrorists, “some because they are poor, others because they have ceased working at their trade,” infuriate “against the porte-cochère scoundrels, the rich holders of objects of prime necessity,” many “having taken a hand in the Revolution, and ready to do it again provided the rich rascals, monopolists, and merchants can all be killed,” all “frequenters of popular clubs who think themselves philosophers, although most of them are unable to read,” at the head of them the remnant of the most notorious political bandits, the famous post-master, Drouet, who, in the tribune at the Convention, declared himself a “brigand,”4 Javogues, the robber of Montbrison and the “Nero of Ain,”5 the sot Casset, formerly a silk-hand and afterwards the pacha of Thionville, Bertrand, the friend of Charlier, the ex-mayor and executioner of Lyons, Darthé, ex-secretary of Lebon and the executioner at Arras, Rossignol and nine other Septembriseurs of the Abbaye and the Carmelites, and, finally, the great apostle of despotic communism, Baboeuf, who, sentenced to twenty years in irons for the falsification of public contracts, and as needy as he is vicious, rambles about Paris airing his disappointed ambitions and empty pockets along with the swaggering crew who, if not striving to reach the throne by a new massacre,6 tramp through the streets slipshod, for lack of money “to redeem a pair of boots at the shoemakers,” or to sell some snuff-box, their last resource, Edition: current; Page: [1100]for a morning dram.7 In this class we see the governing rabble fully and distinctly. Separated from its forced adherents and the official automatons who serve it as they would any other power, it stands out pure and unalloyed by any neutral afflux; we recognise here the permanent residue, the deep, settled slime of the social sewer. It is to this sink of vice and ignorance that the revolutionary government betakes itself for its staff-officers and its administrative bodies.

Nowhere else could they be found. For the daily task imposed upon them, and which must be done by them, is robbery and murder; excepting the pure fanatics, who are few in number, only brutes and blackguards have the aptitudes and tastes for such business. In Paris, as in the provinces, it is from the clubs or popular associations in which they congregate, that they are sought for. Each section of Paris contains one of these clubs, in all forty-eight, rallied around the central club in the Rue St. Honoré, forty-eight district alliances of professional rioters and brawlers, the rebels and blackguards of the social army, all the men and women incapable of devoting themselves to a regular life and useful labor,8 especially those who, on the 31st of May and 2d of June, had aided the Commune and the “Mountain” in violating the Convention. They recognise each other by this sign that, “each would be hung in case of a counter-revolution,”9 laying it down “as an incontestable fact that, should a single aristocrat be spared, all of them would mount the scaffold.”10 They are naturally wary and they cling together: in their clique Edition: current; Page: [1101]“every thing is done on the basis of good fellowship;”11 no one is admitted except on the condition of having proved his qualifications “on the 10th of August and 31st of May.”12 And, as they have made their way into the Commune and into the revolutionary committees behind victorious leaders, they are able, through the certificates of civism which these arbitrarily grant or refuse, to exclude, not only from political life but, again, from civil life, whoever is not of their coterie. “See,” writes one of Danton’s correspondents,13 “the sort of persons who easily obtain these certificates, the Ronsins, the Jourdans, the Maillards, the Vincents, all bankrupts, keepers of gambling-hells, and cut-throats. Ask these individuals whether they have paid the patriotic contribution, whether they regularly pay the usual taxes, whether they give to the poor of their sections, to the volunteer soldiers, etc.; whether they mount guard or see it regularly done, whether they have made a loyal declaration for the forced loan. You will find that they have not. … The Commune issues certificates of civism to its satellites and refuses them to the best citizens.” The monopoly is obvious; they make no attempt to conceal it; six weeks later,14 it becomes official: “several revolutionary committees decide not to grant certificates of civism to citizens who are not members of a popular club.” And strict exclusion goes on increasing from month to month. Old certificates are cancelled and new ones imposed, which new certificates have new formalities added to them, a larger number of endorsers being required and certain kinds of guarantees being rejected; there is greater strictness in relation to Edition: current; Page: [1102]the requisite securities and qualifications; the candidate is put off until fuller information can be obtained about him; he is rejected at the slightest suspicion:15 he is only too fortunate if he is tolerated in the Republic as a passive subject, if he is content to be taxed and taxed when they please, and if he is not sent to join the “suspects” in prison; whoever does not belong to the band does not belong to the community.

Amongst themselves and in their popular club it is worse, for “the eagerness to get any office leads to every one denouncing each other”;16 consequently, at the Jacobin club in the rue St. Honoré, and in the branch clubs of the quarter, there is constant weeding-out, and always in the same sense, until the faction is purged of all honest or passable alloy and only a minority remains, which has its own way at every balloting. One of them announces that, in his club, eighty doubtful members have already been got rid of; another that, in his club, one hundred are going to be excluded.17 On Ventose 23, in the “Bon-Conseil” club, most of the members examined are rejected: “they are so strict that a man who cannot show that he acted energetically in critical times, cannot form part of the assembly; he is set aside for a mere trifle.” On Ventose 13, in the same club, “out of twenty-six examined, seven only are admitted; one citizen, a tobacco dealer, aged sixty-eight, who has always performed his duty, is rejected for having called the president Monsieur, and Edition: current; Page: [1103]for having spoken in the tribune bareheaded; two members, after this, insisted on his being a Moderate, which is enough to keep him out.” Those who remain, consist of the most restless and most loquacious, the most eager for office, the self-mutilated club being thus reduced to a knot of charlatans and rogues.

To these spontaneous eliminations through which the club deteriorates, add the constant pressure through which the Committee of Public Safety frightens and degrades it. The lower the revolutionary government sinks, and the more it concentrates its power, the more servile and sanguinary do its agents and employees become. It strikes right and left as a warning; it imprisons or decapitates the turbulent among its own clients, the secondary demagogues who are impatient at not being principal demagogues, the bold who think of striking a fresh blow in the streets, Jacques Roux, Vincent, Momoro, Hébert, leaders of the Cordeliers club and of the Commune; after these, the indulgent who are disposed to exercise some discernment or moderation in terrorism, Camille Desmoulins, Danton and their adherents; and lastly, many others who are more or less doubtful, compromised or compromising, wearied or eccentric, from Maillard to Chaumette, from Antonelle to Chabot, from Westermann to Clootz. Each of the proscribed has a gang of followers, and suddenly the whole gang are obliged to be turncoats; those who are able to lead, flag, while those who can feel pity, become hardened. Henceforth, amongst the subaltern Jacobins, the roots of independence, humanity, and loyalty, hard to extirpate even in an ignoble and cruel nature, are eradicated even to the last fibre, the revolutionary staff, already so debased, becoming more and more degraded, until it is worthy of the office assigned to it. The confidants of Hébert, those who listen to Chaumette, the comrades of Westermann, the officers of Ronsin, the faithful readers of Camille, the admirers and devotees of Danton, all are bound to publicly repudiate their incarcerated friend or leader and approve of the decree which sends him to the scaffold, to applaud his calumniators, to overwhelm him on trial: this or that judge or juryman, who is one of Danton’s partisans, is obliged to stifle a defence of him, and, knowing him to be innocent, Edition: current; Page: [1104]pronounce him guilty; one who had often dined with Desmoulins is not only to guillotine him, but, in addition to this, to guillotine his young widow. Moreover, in the revolutionary committees, at the Commune, in the offices of the Committee of General Safety, in the bureau of the Central Police, at the headquarters of the armed force, at the revolutionary Tribunal, the service to which they are restricted becomes daily more onerous and more repulsive. To denounce neighbors, to arrest colleagues, to go and seize innocent persons, known to be such, in their beds, to select in the prisons the thirty or forty unfortunates who form the daily food of the guillotine, to “amalgamate” them haphazard, to try them and condemn them in a lot, to escort octogenarian women and girls of sixteen to the scaffold, even under the knife-blade, to see heads dropping and bodies swinging, to contrive means for getting rid of a multitude of corpses, and for removing the too-visible stains of blood—of what species do the beings consist, who can accept such a task, and perform it day after day, with the prospect of doing it indefinitely? Fouquier-Tinville himself succumbs. One evening, on his way to the Committee of Public Safety, “he feels unwell” on the Pont-Neuf and exclaims: “I think I see the ghosts of the dead following us, especially those of the patriots I have had guillotined!”18 And at another time: “I would rather plough the ground than be public prosecutor. If I could, I would resign.” The government, as the system becomes aggravated, is forced to descend lower still that it may find suitable instruments; it finds them now only in the lowest depths; in Germinal, to renew the Commune, in Floréal, to renew the ministries, in Prairial, to recompose the revolutionary Tribunal, month after month, purging and reconstituting the committees of each quarter19 of the city. In vain does Robespierre, writing and rewriting his secret Edition: current; Page: [1105]lists, try to find men able to maintain the system; he always falls back on the same names, those of unknown persons, illiterate, about a hundred knaves or fools with four or five second-class despots or fanatics among them, as malevolent and as narrow as himself. The purifying crucible has been long and too often used; it has been overheated; what was sound, or nearly so, in the elements of the primitive fluid has been forcibly evaporated; the rest has fermented and become acid; nothing remains in the bottom of the vessel but the lees of stupidity and wickedness, their concentrated and corrosive dregs.


Such are the subordinate sovereigns20 who, for fourteen months in Paris, dispose of fortunes, liberties, and lives as they please. And first, in the section assemblies, which still maintain a semblance of popular sovereignty, they rule despotically and uncontested. “A dozen or fifteen men wearing a red cap,21 well-informed or not, claim the exclusive right of speaking and acting, and if any other citizen with honest motives happens to propose measures which he thinks proper, and which really are so, no attention is paid to these measures, or, if it is, it is only to show the members composing the assemblage of how little account they are. These measures are accordingly rejected, solely because they are not presented by one of the men in a red cap, or by somebody like themselves, initiated in the mysteries of the section.” “Sometimes,” says one of the leaders,22 “we find only ten of the club at the general assembly of the section; Edition: current; Page: [1106]but there are enough of us to intimidate the rest. Should any citizen of the section make a proposition we do not like, we rise and shout that he is an intriguer, or a signer (of former constitutional petitions). In this way we impose silence on those who are not in unison with the club.” The operation is all the easier inasmuch as since September, 1793, the majority, composed of beasts of burden, mind the lash. “When something has to be effected that depends on intrigue or on private interest,23 the motion is always put by one of the members of the revolutionary committee of the section, or by one of those fanatical patriots who join in with the committee, and commonly act as its spies. Immediately the ignorant men, to whom Danton has allowed forty sous for each meeting, and who, since that time, flock to the assembly in crowds, where they never came before, welcome the proposition with loud applause, calling for a vote, and the act is passed unanimously, notwithstanding the contrary opinions of all well-informed and honest citizens. Should any one dare make an objection, he would run the risk of imprisonment as a ‘suspect,’24 after being treated as an aristocrat or federalist, or at least, refused a certificate of civism, if he had the misfortune to need one, did his subsistence depend on this, either as employee or pensioner.” In the Maison-Commune section, most of the auditory are masons, “excellent patriots,” says one of the clubbists of the quarter:25 “they always vote on our side; we make them do what we want.” Numbers of day-laborers, cab-drivers, cartmen and workmen of every class, thus earn their forty sous, and have no idea of other demands being made on them. On entering the hall, when the meeting opens, they Edition: current; Page: [1107]write down their names, after which they go out “to take a drink,” without thinking themselves obliged to listen to the rigmarole of the orators; towards the end, they come back, make all the noise that is required of them with their lungs, feet and hands, and then go and “take back their card and get their money.”26 With paid applauders of this stamp, they soon get the better of any opponents, or, rather, all opposition is suppressed beforehand. “The best citizens keep silent” in the section assemblies, or “stay away”; these are simply “gambling-shops” where “the most absurd, the most unjust, the most impolitic of resolutions are passed at every moment.27 Moreover, citizens are ruined there by the unlimited sectional expenditure, which exceeds the usual taxation and the communal expenses, already very heavy. At one time, some carpenter or locksmith, member of the Revolutionary Committee, wants to construct, enlarge or decorate a hall, and it is necessary to agree with him. Again, a poor speech is made, full of exaggeration and political extravagance, of which three, four, five, and six thousand impressions are ordered to be printed. Then, to cap the climax, following the example of the Commune, no accounts are rendered, or, if this is done for form’s sake, no fault must be found with them, under penalty of suspicion, etc.” Proprietors and distributors of civism, the twelve leaders have only to agree amongst themselves to share the profits, each according to his appetite; henceforth, cupidity and vanity are free to sacrifice the common weal, under cover of the common interest. The Edition: current; Page: [1108]provender is enormous and the summons to it comes from above. “I am very glad,” says Henriot, in one of his orders of the day,28 “to announce to my brethren in arms that all the offices are at the disposal of the government. The actual government, which is revolutionary, whose intentions are pure, and which merely desires the happiness of all, … goes to garrets for virtuous men, … poor and genuine sans-culottes,” and it has the wherewithal to satisfy them—thirty-five thousand places of public employment in the capital alone:29 it is a rich mine; already, before the month of May, 1793, “the Jacobin club boasted of having placed nine thousand agents in the administration,”30 and since the 2d of June, “virtuous men, poor, genuine sans-culottes,” arrive in crowds from “their garrets,” dens and hired rooms, each to grab his share. Setting aside the old offices in the War, Navy, and Public-Works departments, in the Treasury and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which they besiege, and where they install themselves by hundreds and rule, where they constantly denounce all the able employees who stay there, and make vacancies in order to fill them,31 there are twenty new administrative departments which they keep for themselves: commissioners of the first Edition: current; Page: [1109]confiscation of national property, commissioners of national property arising from emigrants and the convicted, commissioners of conscripted carriage-horses, commissioners on clothing, commissioners on the collecting and manufacturing of saltpetre, commissioners on monopolies, civil-commissioners in each of the forty-eight sections, commissioners on propagandism in the departments, commissioners on subsistences, and many others; fifteen hundred places are counted in the single department of subsistence in Paris,32 and all are salaried. Here, already, are a number of desirable offices. Some are for the lowest rabble, two hundred, at twenty sous a day, paid to “stump-speakers,” employed to direct opinion in the Palais-Royal, also among the Tuileries groups, as well as in the tribunes of the Convention and of the Hôtel-de-Ville;33 two hundred more at four hundred francs per annum, to waiters in coffee-houses, gambling-saloons, and hotels, for watching foreigners and customers; hundreds of places at two, three, and five francs a day with meals, for the guardians of seals, and for garrisoning the domiciles of “suspects”; thousands, with premiums, pay, and full license, for brigands who, under Ronsin, compose the revolutionary army, and for the gunners, paid guard, and gendarmes of Henriot. The principal posts, however, are those which subject lives and liberties to the discretion of those who occupy them: for, through this more than regal power, they possess all other power, and such is that of the men composing the forty-eight revolutionary committees, the Edition: current; Page: [1110]bureaux of the Committee of General Security and of the Commune, and the staff-officers of the armed force. They are the prime-movers and active mainsprings of the system of Terror, all picked Jacobins and tested by repeated selection, all designated or approved by the Central Club, which claims for itself the monopoly of patriotism, and which, erected into a supreme council of the sect, issues no patent of orthodoxy except to its own instruments.34

They immediately assume the tone and arrogance of dictatorship. “Pride has reached the highest point”:35 “One who, yesterday, had nothing to do, and was amiable and honest, has become haughty and insolent because, deceived by appearances, his fellow-citizens have elected him commissioner, or given him some employment or other.” Henceforth, he demeans himself like an aga amongst infidels, and, in command, carries things with a high hand. On the 20th of Vendémiaire, year II., “in the middle of the night,” the committee of the Piques section summons M. Bélanger, the architect. He is notified that his house is wanted immediately for a new bastille. “But, said he, ‘I own no other, and it is occupied by several tenants; it is decorated with models of art, and is fit only for that purpose.’ Edition: current; Page: [1111]‘Your house or a prison.’ ‘But I shall be obliged to indemnify my tenants.’ ‘Either your house or a prison; as to indemnities, we have vacant lodgings for your tenants, as well as for yourself, in La Force, or St. Pelagie.’ Twelve sentinels on the post start off at once and take possession of the premises; the owner is allowed six hours to move out and is forbidden, henceforth, to return; the bureaux, to which he appeals, interpret his obedience as ‘tacit adhesion,’ and, very soon, he himself is locked up.”36 Administrative tools that cut so sharply need the greatest care, and, from time to time, they are carefully oiled:37 on the 20th of July, 1793, two thousand francs are given to each of the forty-eight committees, and eight thousand francs to General Henriot, “for expenses in watching antirevolutionary manoeuvres”; on the 7th of August, fifty thousand francs “to indemnify the less successful members of the forty-eight committees”; three hundred thousand francs to Gen. Henriot “for thwarting conspiracies and securing the triumph of liberty”; fifty thousand francs to the mayor, “for detecting the plots of the malevolent”; on the 10th of September, forty thousand francs to the mayor, president and procureur-syndic of the department, “for measures of security”; on the 13th of September, three hundred thousand francs to the mayor “for preventing the attempts of the malevolent”; on the 15th of November, one hundred thousand francs to the popular clubs, “because these are essential to the propagation of sound principles.” Moreover, besides gratuities and a fixed salary, there are the gratifications and perquisites belonging to the office.38 Henriot appoints Edition: current; Page: [1112]his comrades on the staff of paid spies and denunciators, and, naturally, they take advantage of their position to fill their pockets; under the pretext of incivism, they multiply domiciliary visits, make the master of the house ransom himself, or steal what suits them on the premises.39 In the Commune, and on the revolutionary committees, every extortion can be, and is, practiced. “I am acquainted,” says Quevremont, “with two citizens who have been put in prison, without being told why, and, at the end of three weeks or a month, let out—and do you know how? By paying, one of them, fifteen thousand livres, and the other, twenty-five thousand. … Gambron, at La Force, pays one thousand five hundred livres a month not to live amongst lice, and besides this, he had to pay a bribe of two thousand livres on entering. This happened to many others who, again, dared not speak of it, except in a whisper.”40 Woe to the imprudent who, never concerning themselves with public affairs, and relying on their innocence, discard the officious broker and fail to pay up at once! Brichard, the notary, having refused or tendered too late, the hundred thousand crowns demanded of him, is to put his head “at the red window.” And I omit ordinary rapine, the vast field open to extortion through innumerable inventories, sequestrations and adjudications, through the enormities of contractors, through Edition: current; Page: [1113]hastily executed purchases and deliveries, through the waste of two or three millions given weekly by the government to the Commune for supplies for the capital, through the requisitions of grain which give fifteen hundred men of the revolutionary army an opportunity to clean out all the neighboring farms, as far as Corbeil and Meaux, and benefit by this after the fashion of the chauffeurs.41 Considering the parties, as above, who have the places, the anonymous robberies are not surprising. Beboeuf, the falsifier of public contracts, is secretary for subsistences to the Commune; Maillard, the Abbaye Septembriseur, receives eight thousand francs for his direction, in the forty-eight sections, of the ninety-six observers and leaders of public opinion; Chrétien, whose smoking-shop serves as the rendezvous of rowdies, becomes a juryman at eighteen francs a day in the revolutionary Tribunal, and leads his section with uplifted sabre;42 De Sade, professor of crimes, is now the oracle of his quarter, and, in the name of the Piques section, he reads addresses to the Convention.


Let us examine some of these figures closely: the nearer they are to the eye and foremost in position, the more the importance of the duty brings into light the unworthiness of the potentate. There is already one of them, whom we have seen in passing, Buchot, twice noticed by Robespierre under his own hand as “a man of probity, energetic, and capable of fulfilling the most important functions,”43 appointed by the Committee of Public Safety “Commissioner on Edition: current; Page: [1114]External Relations,” that is to say, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and kept in this important position for nearly six months. He is a school-master from the Jura,44 recently disembarked from his small town and whose “ignorance, low habits, and stupidity surpass any thing that can be imagined. … The chief clerks have nothing to do with him; he neither sees nor asks for them. He is never found in his office, and when it is indispensable to ask for his signature on any legislative matter, the sole act to which he has reduced his functions, they are compelled to go and force it from him in the Café Hardy, where he usually passes his days.” It must be borne in mind that he is envious and spiteful, avenging himself for his incapacity on those whose competency makes him sensible of his incompetency; he denounces them as Moderates, and, at last, succeeds in having a warrant of arrest issued against his four chief clerks; on the morning of Thermidor 9, with a wicked leer, he himself carries the news to one of them, M. Miot. Unfortunately for him, after Thermidor, he is turned out and M. Miot is put in his place. With diplomatic politeness, the latter calls on his predecessor and “expresses to him the usual compliments.” Buchot, insensible to compliments, immediately Edition: current; Page: [1115]thinks of the substantial, and the first thing he asks for is to keep provisionally his apartment in the ministry. On this being granted, he expresses his thanks and tells M. Miot that it was very well to appoint him, but “for myself, it is very disagreeable. I have been obliged to come to Paris and quit my post in the provinces, and now they leave me in the street.” Thereupon, with astounding impudence, he asks the man whom he wished to guillotine to give him a place as ministerial clerk. M. Miot tries to make him understand that for a former minister to descend so low would be improper. Buchot regards such delicacy as strange, and, seeing M. Miot’s embarrassment, he ends by saying: “If you don’t find me fit for a clerk, I shall be content with the place of a servant.” This estimate of himself shows his proper value.

The other, whom we have also met before, and who is already known by his acts,45 general in Paris of the entire armed force, commander-in-chief of one hundred and ten thousand men, is that former servant or under-clerk of the procureur Formey, who, dismissed by his employer for robbery, shut up in Bicêtre, by turns a spy and bully for a travelling show, barrier-clerk, and September butcher, purged the Convention on the 2d of June—in short, the famous Henriot, and now a common soldier and sot. In this latter capacity, spared on the trial of the Hébertists, he is kept as a tool, for the reason, doubtless, that he is narrow, coarse, and manageable, more compromised than anybody else, good for any job, without the slightest chance of becoming independent, unemployed in the army,46 having no prestige with true soldiers, a general for street Edition: current; Page: [1116]parade and an interloper and lower than the lowest of the mob; his mansion, his box at the Opera-Comique, his horses, his importance at festivals and reviews, and, above all, his orgies make him perfectly content. Every evening, in full uniform, escorted by his aides-de-camp, he gallops to Choisy-sur-Seine, where, in the domicile of a flatterer named Fauvel, along with some of Robespierre’s confederates or the local demagogues, he revels. They toss off the wines of the Duc de Coigny, smash the glasses, plates and bottles, betake themselves to neighboring dance-rooms and kick up a row, bursting in doors, and breaking benches and chairs to pieces—in short, they have a good time. The next morning, having slept himself sober, he dictates his orders for the day, veritable masterpieces in which the silliness, imbecility, and credulity of a numskull, the sentimentality of the drunkard, the clap-trap of a mountebank, and the tirades of a cheap philosopher form an unique compound, at once sickening and irritating, like the fiery, pungent mixtures of low groggeries, which suit his audience better because they contain the biting, mawkish ingredients that compose the adulterated brandy of the Revolution. He is posted on foreign transactions, and knows what makes the famine: “A lot of bread has been lately found in the privies: the Pitts and Cobourgs and other rascals who want to enslave justice and reason, and assassinate philosophy, must be called to account for this. Headquarters, etc.”47 He has theories on religions and preaches civic modesty to all dissenters: “The ministers and sectaries of every form of worship are requested not to practice any Edition: current; Page: [1117]further religious ceremonies outside their temples. Every good sectarian will see the propriety of observing this order. The interior of a temple is large enough for paying one’s homage to the Eternal, who requires no rites that are repulsive to every thinking man. The wise agree that a pure heart is the sublimest homage that Divinity can desire. Headquarters, etc.” He sighs for the universal idyllic state, and invokes the suppression of the armed force: “I beg my fellow-citizens, who are led to the criminal courts out of curiosity, to act as their own police; this is a task which every good citizen should fulfill wherever he happens to be. In a free country, justice should not be secured by pikes and bayonets, but through reason and philosophy. These must maintain a watchful eye over society; these must purify it and proscribe thieves and evil-doers. Each individual must bring his small philosophic portion with him and, with these small portions, compose a rational totality that will enure to the benefit and welfare of all. Oh, for the time when functionaries shall be rare, when the wicked shall be overthrown, when the law shall become the sole functionary in society! Headquarters, etc.” Every morning, he preaches in the same pontifical strain. Imagine the scene—Henriot’s levee at headquarters, and a writing table, with, perhaps, a bottle of brandy on it; on one side of the table, the rascal who, while buckling on his belt or drawing on his boots, softens his husky voice, and, with his nervous twitchings, flounders through his humanitarian homily; on the other side the mute, uneasy secretary, who may probably spell, but who dares not materially change the grotesque phraseology of his master.

The Commune which employs the commanding-general is of about the same alloy, for, in the municipal sword, the blade and hilt, forged together in the Jacobin shop, are composed of the same base metal. Fifty-six, out of eighty-eight members, whose qualifications and occupations are known, are decidedly illiterate, or nearly so, their education being rudimentary, or none at all.48 Some of them Edition: current; Page: [1118]are petty clerks, counter-jumpers and common scribblers, one among them being a public writer; others are small shopkeepers, pastry-cooks, mercers, hosiers, fruit-sellers and wine-dealers; others, finally, are simple mechanics or even laborers, carpenters, joiners, cabinet-makers, locksmiths, and especially three tailors, four hair-dressers, two masons, two shoemakers, one cobbler, one gardener, one stone-cutter, one paver, one office-runner, and one domestic. Among the thirty-two who are instructed, one alone has any reputation, Paris, professor at the University and the assistant of Abbé Delille. Only one, Dumetz, an old engineer, steady, moderate, and attending to the supplies, seems a competent and useful workman. The rest, collected from amongst the mass of unknown demagogues, are six art-apprentices or bad painters, six business-agents or ex-lawyers, seven second- or third-rate merchants, one teacher, one surgeon, one unfrocked married priest, all of whom, under the political direction of Mayor Fleuriot-Lescot and Payen, the national agent, bring to the general council no administrative ability, but the faculty for verbal argumentation, along with the requisite amount of talk and scribbling indispensable to a deliberative assembly. And it is curious to see them in session. Toward the end of September, 1793,49 one of the veterans of liberal philosophy and political economy, Edition: current; Page: [1119]belonging to the French Academy and ruined by the Revolution, the old Abbé Morellet, needs a certificate of civism, to enable him to obtain payment of the small pension of one thousand francs, which the Constituent Assembly had voted him in recompense for his writings; the Commune, desiring information about this, selects three of its body to enquire into it. Morellet naturally takes the preliminary steps. He first writes “a very humble, very civic note,” to the president of the General Council, Lubin Jr., formerly an art-apprentice who had abandoned art for politics, and is now living with his father a butcher, in the rue St. Honoré; he calls on this authority, and passes through the stall, picking his way amongst the slaughter-house offal; admitted after some delay, he finds his judge in bed, before whom he pleads his cause. He then calls upon Bernard, an ex-priest, “built like an incendiary and ill-looking,” and respectfully bows to the lady of the house, “a tolerably young woman, but very ugly and very dirty.” Finally, he carries his ten or a dozen volumes to the most important of the three examiners, Vialard, “ex-ladies’ hair-dresser”; the latter is almost a colleague, “for,” says he, “I have always liked mechanicians, having presented to the Academy of Sciences a top which I invented myself.” Nobody, however, had seen the petitioner in the streets on the 10th of August, nor on the 2d of September, nor on the 31st of May; how can a certificate of civism be granted after such evidences of lukewarmness? Morellet, not disheartened, awaits the all-powerful hair-dresser at the Hôtel-de-Ville, and accosts him frequently as he passes along. He, “with greater haughtiness and distraction than the most unapproachable Minister of War would show to an infantry lieutenant,” scarcely listens to him and walks on; he goes in and takes his seat, and Morellet, much against his will, has to be present at ten or twelve of these meetings. What strange meetings, to which patriotic deputations, volunteers and amateurs come in turn to declaim and sing; where the president, Lubin, “decorated with his scarf,” shouts the Marseilles Hymn five or six times, “Ca Ira,” and other songs of several stanzas, set to tunes of the Comic Opera, and always “out of time, displaying the voice, airs, and songs of an exquisite Leander. Edition: current; Page: [1120]… I really believe that, at the last meeting, he sung alone in this manner three quarters of an hour at different times, the assembly repeating the last line of the verse.” “How odd!” exclaims a common woman alongside of Morellet, “how droll, passing all their time here, singing in that fashion! Is that what they come here for?” Not alone for that: after the circus-parade is over, the ordinary haranguers, and especially the hair-dresser, come and propose measures for murder “in infuriate language and with fiery gesticulation.” Such are the good speakers50 and men for show. The others, who remain silent, and hardly know to write, act and do the rough work. A certain Chalaudon, member of the Commune,51 is one of this order, president of the revolutionary committee of the section of “L’Homme armé,” and probably an excellent man-hunter; for “the government committees assigned to him the duty of watching the right bank of the Seine, and, with extraordinary powers conferred on him, he rules from his back shop one half of Paris. Woe to those he has reason to complain of, those who have withdrawn from, or not given him, their custom! Sovereign of his quarter up to Thermidor 10, his denunciations are death-warrants. Some of the streets, especially that of Grand Chantier, he “depopulates.” And this Marais exterminator is a “cobbler,” a colleague in leather, as well as in the Commune, Edition: current; Page: [1121]of Simon the shoemaker, the preceptor and murderer of the young Dauphin.

Still lower down than this admirable municipal body, let us try to imagine, from at least one complete example, the forty-eight revolutionary committees who supply it with hands. There is one of them of which we know all the members, where the governing class, under full headway, can be studied to the life.52 This consists of the nomadic and interloping class which is revolutionary only through its appetites; no theory and no convictions animate it; during the first three years of the Revolution it pays no attention to, or cares for, public matters; if, since the 10th of August, and especially since the 2d of June, it takes any account of these, it is to get a living and gorge itself with plunder. Out of eighteen members, simultaneously or in succession, of the “Bonnet Rouge,” fourteen, before the 10th of August and especially since the 2d of June, are unknown in this quarter, and had taken no part in the Revolution. The most prominent among these are three painters, heraldic, carriage and miniature, evidently ruined and idle on account of the Revolution, a candle-dealer, a vinegar-dealer, a manufacturer of saltpetre, and a locksmith; while of these seven personages, four have additionally enhanced the dignity of their calling by vending tickets for small lotteries, acting as pawnbrokers or as keepers of a biribi53 saloon. Seated along with these are two upper-class domestics, a hack-driver, an ex-gendarme dismissed from the corps, a cobbler on the street corner, a runner on errands who was once a carter’s boy, and another who, two months before this, was a scavenger’s apprentice, the latter penniless and in tatters before he became one of the Committee, and since that, well clad, lodged and furnished; finally, a former dealer in lottery-tickets, himself a counterfeiter by his own admission, and a jail-bird. Four others have been dismissed from their places for Edition: current; Page: [1122]dishonesty or swindling, three are known drunkards, two are not even Frenchmen, while the ring-leader, the man of brains of this select company is, as usual, a seedy, used-up lawyer, the ex-notary Pigeot, and expelled from his professional body on account of bankruptcy. He is probably the author of the following speculation: After the month of September, 1793, the Committee, freely arresting whomsoever it pleased in the quarter, and even out of it, makes a haul of “three hundred heads of families” in four months, with whom it fills the old barracks it occupies in the rue de Sèvres. In this confined and unhealthy tenement, more than one hundred and twenty prisoners are huddled together, sometimes ten in one room, two in the same bed, and, for their keeping, they pay three hundred francs a day. As sixty-two francs of this charge are verified, there is of this sum (not counting other extortions or concessions which are not official), two hundred and thirty-eight francs profit daily for these honest contractors. Accordingly, they live freely and have “the most magnificent dinners” in their assembly chamber; the contribution of ten or twelve francs apiece is “nothing” for them. But, in this opulent St. Germain quarter, so many rich and noble men and women form a herd which must be conveniently stalled, so as to be the more easily milked. Consequently, toward the end of March, 1794, the Committee, to increase its business and fill up the pen, hires a large house on the corner of the boulevard possessing a court and a garden, where the high society of the quarter is assigned lodgings of two rooms each, at twelve francs a day, which gives one hundred and fifty thousand livres per annum, and, as the rent is twenty-four hundred francs, the Committee gain one hundred and forty-seven thousand six hundred livres by the operation; we must add to this twenty sorts of profit in money and other matters—taxes on the articles consumed and on supplies of every description, charges on the despatch and receipt of correspondence and other gratuities, such as ransoms and fees. A penned-up herd refuses nothing to its keepers,54 and this one less than any other; for if this herd Edition: current; Page: [1123]is plundered it is preserved, its keepers finding it too lucrative to send it to the slaughter-house. During the last six months of Terror, but two out of the one hundred and sixty boarders of the “Bonnet Rouge” Committee are withdrawn from the establishment and handed over to the guillotine. It is only on the 7th and 8th of Thermidor that the Committee of Public Safety, having undertaken to empty the prisons, breaks in upon the precious herd and disturbs the well-laid scheme, so admirably managed. It was only too well-managed, for it excited jealousy; three months after Thermidor, the “Bonnet Rouge” committee is denounced and condemned; ten are sentenced to twenty years in irons, with the pillory in addition, and, among others, the clever notary,55 amidst the jeerings and insults of Edition: current; Page: [1124]the crowd. And yet these are not the worst; their cupidity had mollified their ferocity. Others, less adroit in robbing, show greater cruelty in murdering. In any event, in the provinces as well as in Paris, in the revolutionary committees paid three francs a day for each member, the quality of one or the other of the officials is about the same. According to the pay-lists which Barère keeps, there are twenty-one thousand five hundred of these committees in France.56


Had the laws of March 21 and September 5, 1793, been strictly enforced, there would have been forty-five thousand of these revolutionary committees, instead of twenty-one thousand five hundred, composed of five hundred and forty thousand members and costing the public five hundred and ninety-one millions per annum.57 This would have made the regular administrative body, already twice as numerous and twice as costly as under the ancient régime, an extra corps expending, “simply in surveillance,” one hundred millions more than the entire taxation of the country, the greatness of which had excited the people against the ancient régime. Happily, the poisonous and monstrous mushroom obtains but one-half its growth; neither the Jacobin seed nor the bad atmosphere it required Edition: current; Page: [1125]to make it spread could be found anywhere. “The people of the provinces,” says a contemporary,58 “are not up to the level of the Revolution; it opposes old habits and customs and the resistance of inertia to innovations which it does not understand.” “The ploughman is an estimable man,” writes a missionary representative, “but he is generally a poor patriot.”59 In effect, there is on the one hand, less of human sediment in the departmental towns than in the great Parisian sink, and, on the other hand, the rural population, preserved from intellectual miasmas, better resists social epidemics than the urban population. Less infested with vicious adventurers, less fruitful in disordered intellects, the provinces supply a corps of inquisitors and terrorists with greater difficulty.

And first, in the thousands of communes which have less than five hundred inhabitants,60 in many other villages of greater population, but scattered61 and purely agricultural, especially in those in Edition: current; Page: [1126]which patois is spoken, there is a scarcity of suitable subjects for a revolutionary committee. People make use of their hands too much; hands with a tough skin do not write easily; nobody wants to take up a pen, especially to keep a register that may be preserved and some day or other prove compromising. It is already a difficult matter to recruit a municipal council, to find a mayor, the two additional municipal officers, and the national agent which the law requires; in the small communes, these are the only agents of the revolutionary government, and I fancy that, in most cases, their Jacobin fervor is moderate. Municipal officer, national agent or mayor, the real peasant of that day belongs to no party, neither royalist nor republican;62 he has too few ideas, too transient and too sluggish, to enable him to form a political opinion. All he comprehends of the Revolution is that which nettles him, or that which he sees every day around him, with his own eyes; to him ’93 and ’94 are and will remain “the time of bad paper (money) and great fright,” and nothing more.63 Patient in his habits, he submits to the new as he did to the ancient régime, bearing the load put on his shoulders, and stooping down for fear of a heavier one. He is often mayor or national agent in spite of himself; he has been obliged to take the place and would gladly throw the burden off. For, as times go, it is onerous; if he executes decrees and orders, he is certain to make enemies; if he does not execute them, he is sure to be imprisoned; he had better remain, or go back home “Gros-jean,” as he was before. But he has no choice; the appointment being once made Edition: current; Page: [1127]and confirmed, he cannot decline, nor resign, under penalty of being a “suspect”; he must be the hammer in order not to become the anvil. Whether he is a wine-grower, miller, ploughman or stone-breaker, he must act accordingly in self-defence, unless to “petition for his removal,” when Terror begins to decide, on the ground that “he writes badly,” that “he knows nothing whatever about law and is unable to enforce it”; that “he has to support himself with his own hands”; that “he has a family to provide for, and is obliged to drive his own cart” or vehicle; in short, entreating that he “may be relieved of his charge.”64 These involuntary recruits are evidently nothing more than common laborers; if they drag along the revolutionary cart they do it like their horses, because they are pressed into the service.

Above the small communes, in the large villages possessing a revolutionary committee, and also in certain bourgs, the horses in harness often pretend to draw and do not, for fear of crushing some one. At this epoch, a straggling village, especially when isolated, in an out-of-the-way place and on no highway, is a small world in itself, much more secluded than now-a-days, much less accessible to Parisian verbiage and outside pressure; local opinion here preponderates; neighbors support each other; they would shrink from denouncing a worthy man whom they had known for twenty years; Edition: current; Page: [1128]the moral sway of honest folks suffices for keeping down “blackguards.”65 If the mayor is republican, it is only in words, perhaps for self-protection, to protect his commune, and because one must howl along with the other wolves. Moreover, in other bourgs, and in the small towns, the fanatics and rascals are not sufficiently numerous to fill all the offices, and, in order to fill the vacancies, those who are not good Jacobins have been pushed forward or admitted into the new administrative corps, lukewarm, indifferent, timid, or needy men, who take the place as an asylum or ask for it as a means of subsistence. “Citizens,” one of the recruits, more or less under restraint, writes later on,66 “I was put on the Committee of Surveillance of Aignay by force, and installed by force.” Three or four madmen on it ruled, and if one held any discussion with them, “it was always threats. … Always trembling, always afraid, that is the way I passed eight months doing duty in that miserable place.” Finally, in medium-sized or large towns, the dead-lock produced by collective dismissals, the pell-mell of improvised appointments, and Edition: current; Page: [1129]the sudden renewal of an entire set of officials, threw into the administration, willingly or not, a lot of pretended Jacobins who, at heart, are Girondists or Feuillantists, but who, having been overoratorical, are assigned offices on account of their stump-speeches, and who thenceforth sit alongside of the worst Jacobins, in the worst employment. “Member of the Feurs Revolutionary Committee—those who make that objection to me,” says a Clermont advocate,67 “are persuaded that those only who secluded themselves, felt the Terror. They are not aware, perhaps, that nobody felt it more than those who were compelled to execute its decrees. Remember that the handwriting of Couthon which designated some citizen for an office also conveyed a threat, and in case of refusal, of being declared ‘suspect,’ a threat which promised in perspective the loss of liberty and the sequestration of property! Was I free, then, to refuse?” Once installed, the man must act, and many of those who do act let their repugnance be seen in spite of themselves: at best, they cannot be got to do more than mechanical service. “Before going to court,” says a judge at Cambray, “I swallowed a big glass of spirits to give me strength enough to preside.” He leaves his house with no other intention than to finish the job, and, the sentence once pronounced, to return home, shut himself up, and close his eyes and ears. “I had to pronounce judgment according to the jury’s declaration—what could I do?”68 Nothing, but remain blind and deaf: “I drank. I tried to ignore everything, even the names of the accused.” It is plain enough that, in the local official body, there are too many agents who are weak, not zealous, without any push, unreliable, or even Edition: current; Page: [1130]secretly hostile; these must be replaced by others who are energetic and reliable, and the latter must be taken wherever they can be found.69 This reservoir in each department or district is the Jacobin nursery of the principal town; from this, they are sent into the bourgs and communes of the conscription. The central Jacobin nursery for France is in Paris, from whence they are despatched to the towns and departments.


Consequently, swarms of Jacobin locusts from Paris constantly overspread the provinces, also from the local country-towns, the surrounding country. In this cloud of destructive insects, there are diverse figures and of diverse shapes: in the front rank, are the representatives on mission, who are to take command in the departments; in the second rank, “the political agents,” who, assigned the duty of watching the neighboring frontier, take upon themselves the additional duty of leading the popular club of the town they reside in, or of urging on its administrative body.70 Besides that, there issue from the Paris headquarters in the rue St. Honoré, select Edition: current; Page: [1131]sans-culottes, who, empowered by, or delegates from, the Committee of Public Safety, proceed to Lyons, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Tonnerre, Rochefort, and elsewhere, to act as missionaries among the too inert population, or form the committees of action and the tribunals of extermination that are recruited with difficulty on the spot.71 Sometimes also, when a town is in bad repute, the popular club of a sounder-minded city sends its delegates there, to bring it into line; thus, four deputies of the Metz club arrive without notice in Belfort, catechise their brethren, associate with them the local Revolutionary Committee, and, suddenly, without consulting the municipality, or any other legal authority, draw up a list of “moderates, fanatics, and egoists,” on whom they impose an extraordinary tax of one hundred and thirty-six thousand six hundred and seventeen livres;72 in like manner, sixty delegates from the club of Côte d’Or, Haute-Marne, Vosges, Moselle, Saone-et-Loire and Mont-Terrible, all “tempered by the white heat of Pêre Duchesne,” proceed to Strasbourg at the summons of the representatives, where, under the title of “propagandists,” they are to regenerate the town.73 At the same time, in Edition: current; Page: [1132]each department, the Jacobins of the principal town are found scattered along the highways, that they may inspect their domain and govern their subjects. Sometimes, it is the representative on mission, who, personally, along with twenty “hairy devils,” makes his round and shows off his peregrinating dictatorship; again, it is his secretary or delegate who, in his place and in his name, comes to a second-class town and draws up his documents.74 At another time, it is “a committee of investigation and propagandism” which, “chosen by the club and provided with full powers,” comes, in the name of the representatives, to work up for a month all the communes of the district.75 Again, finally, it is the revolutionary committee of the principal town, which, “declared central for the whole department,”76 delegates one or the other of its members to go outside the walls, and purge and recompose suspected municipalities. Thus does Edition: current; Page: [1133]Jacobinism descend and spread itself, step by step, from the Parisian centre to the smallest and remotest commune: throughout the province, whatever its hue may be, positive or indistinct, the administration, imported into or imposed upon this, stamps it with its red stigma.

But the stamp is only superficial; for the sans-culottes, naturally, are not disposed to confer offices on any but men of their own kidney, while in the provinces, especially in the rural districts, these men are rare. As one of the representatives says: there is a “dearth of subjects.” At Macon, Javogues tries in vain;77 he finds in the club only “disguised federalists”; the people, he says, “will not open their eyes: it seems to me that this blindness is due to the physique of the country, which is very rich.” Naturally, he storms and dismisses; but, even in the revolutionary committee, none but dubious candidates are presented to him for selection; he does not know how to manage in order to renew the local authorities. “They play into each others’ hands,” and he ends by threatening to transfer the public institutions of the town elsewhere, if they persist in proposing to him none but bad patriots. At Strasbourg,78 Couturier, and Dentzel, on mission, report that: “owing to an unexampled coalition among all the capable citizens, obstinately refusing to take the office of mayor, in order, by this course, to clog the wheels, and subject the representatives to repeated and indecent refusals,” he is compelled to appoint a young man, not of legal age, and a stranger in the department. At Marseilles, write the agents,79 “in spite of every effort Edition: current; Page: [1134]and our ardent desire to republicanise the Marseilles people, our pains and fatigues are nearly all fruitless. … Public spirit among owners of property, mechanics and journeymen is everywhere detestable. … The number of discontented seems to increase from day to day. All the communes in Var, and most of those in this department are against us. … It is a race to be destroyed, a country to be colonised anew.” … “I repeat it, the only way to work out the Revolution in the federalised departments, and especially in this one, is to transport all the indigenous population who are able to bear arms, scatter them through the armies and put garrisons in their places, which, again, will have to be changed from time to time.” At the other extremity of the territory, in Alsace, “republican sentiments are still in the cradle; fanaticism is extreme and incredible; the spirit of the inhabitants in general is in no respect revolutionary. … Nothing but the revolutionary army and the venerated guillotine will cure them of their conceited aristocracy. The execution of the laws depends on striking off the heads of the guilty, for nearly all the rural municipalities are composed only of the rich, of clerks of former bailiffs, almost always devoted to the ancient régime.”80 And in the rest of France, the population, less refractory, is not more Jacobin; here where the people appear “humble and submissive” as in Lyons and Bordeaux, the inspectors report that it is wholly owing to terror;81 there, where opinion seems enthusiastic, as at Rochefort and Grenoble, they report that it is “artificial heat.”82 At Rochefort, Edition: current; Page: [1135]zeal is maintained only “by the presence of five or six Parisian Jacobins.” At Grenoble, Chépy, the political agent and president of the club, writes that “he is knocked up, worn out, and exhausted, in trying to keep up public spirit and maintain it on a level with events,” but he is “conscious that, if he should leave, all would crumble.” There are none other than Moderates at Brest, at Lille, at Dunkirk; if this or that department, the Nord, for instance, hastened to accept the Montagnard constitution, it is only a pretence: “an infinitely small portion of the population answered for the rest.”83 At Belfort, where “from one thousand to twelve hundred fathers of families alone are counted,” writes the agent,84 “one popular club of thirty or forty members, at the most, maintains and enforces the love of liberty.” In Arras, “out of three or four hundred members composing the popular club” the weeding-out of 1793 has spared but “sixty-three, one-tenth of whom are absent.”85 At Toulouse, “out of about fourteen hundred members” who form the club, only three or four hundred remain after the weeding-out of 1793,86 Edition: current; Page: [1136]“mere machines, for the most part,” and “whom ten or a dozen intriguers lead as they please.” The same state of things exists elsewhere, a dozen or two determined Jacobins—twenty-two at Troyes, twenty-one at Grenoble, ten at Bordeaux, seven at Poitiers, as many at Dijon—constitute the active staff of a large town:87 the whole number might sit around one table. The Jacobins, straining as they do to swell their numbers, only scatter their band; careful as they are in making their selections, they only limit their number. They remain what they always have been, a small feudality of brigands superposed on conquered France.88 If the terror they spread around multiplies their serfs, the horror they inspire diminishes their proselytes, while their minority remains insignificant because, for their collaborators, they can have only those just like themselves.

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Thus, on closely observing the final set of officials of the revolutionary government, in the provinces as well as at Paris, we find few besides the eminent in vice, dishonesty, and misconduct, or, at the very least, in stupidity and grossness. First, as is indicated by their name, they all must be, and nearly all are, sans-culottes, that is to say, men who live from day to day on their daily earnings, possessing no income from capital, confined to subordinate places, to petty trading, to manual services, lodged or encamped on the lowest steps of the social ladder, and therefore requiring pay to enable them to attend to public business;89 it is on this account that decrees and orders allow them wages of three, five, six, ten, and even eighteen francs a day. At Grenoble, the representatives form the municipal body and the revolutionary committee, along with two health-officers, three glovers, two farmers, one tobacco-merchant, one perfumer, one grocer, one belt-maker, one innkeeper, one joiner, one shoemaker, one mason, while the official order by which they are installed, appoints “Teyssière, licoriste,” national agent.90 At Troyes,91 among the men in authority we find a confectioner, a weaver, a journeyman-weaver, a hatter, a hosier, a grocer, a carpenter, a dancing-master, and a policeman, while the mayor, Gachez, Edition: current; Page: [1138]formerly a common soldier in the regiment of Vexin, was, when appointed, a school-teacher in the vicinity. At Toulouse,92 a man named Terrain, a pie-dealer, is installed as president of the administration; the revolutionary committee is presided over by Pio, a journeyman-barber; the inspiration, “the soul of the club,” is a concierge, that of the prison. The last and most significant trait is found at Rochefort,93 where the president of the popular club is the executioner. If such persons form the select body of officials in the large towns, what must they be in the small ones, in the bourgs and in the villages? “Everywhere they are of the meanest,94 cartmen, sabot- (wooden shoe) makers, thatchers, stone-cutters, dealers in rabbit-skins, day laborers, idle mechanics, many without any pursuit, or mere vagabonds who had already participated in riots or jacqueries, loungers in the groggeries, having given up work and designated for a public career only by their irregular habits and incompetency to follow a private career. Even in the large towns, it is evident that discretionary power has fallen into the hands of nearly raw barbarians; Edition: current; Page: [1139]one has only to note in the old documents, at the Archives, the orthography and style of the committees empowered to grant or refuse civic cards, and draw up reports on the opinions and pursuits of prisoners. “His opinions appear insipid (Ces opignons paroisse insipide).95 … He is married (but) without children.” (Il est marie cent (sans) enfants). … Her profession is wife of Paillot-Montabert, her income is living on her income; these relations are with a woman we pay no attention to; we presume her opinions are like her husband’s.”96 The handwriting, unfortunately, cannot be represented here, being that of a child five years old.97

“As stupid as they are immoral,”98 says Representative Albert, of the Jacobins he finds in office at Troyes. Low, indeed, as their condition may be, their feeling and intelligence are yet lower because, in their professions or occupations, they are the refuse instead of the élite, and, especially on this account, they are turned out after Thermidor, some, it is true, as Terrorists, but the larger number as either dolts, scandalous or crazy, mere interlopers, or mere valets. At Rheims, the president of the district is99 “a former bailiff, on Edition: current; Page: [1140]familiar terms with the spies of the Robespierre régime, acting in concert with them, but without being their accomplice, possessing none of the requisite qualities for administration”; another administrator is likewise “a former bailiff, without means, negligent in the highest degree and a confirmed drunkard”: alongside of these sit “a horse-dealer, without any means, better suited for jockeying than governing, moreover a drunkard; a dyer, lacking judgment, open to all sorts of influences, pushed ahead by the Jacobin faction, and having used power in the most arbitrary manner, rather, perhaps, through ignorance than through cruelty; a shoemaker, entirely uninstructed, knowing only how to sign his name,” and others of the same character. In the Tribunal, a judge is noted as “true in principle, but whom poverty and want of resources have driven to every excess, a turncoat according to circumstances in order to get a place, associated with the leaders in order to keep the place, and yet not without sensibility, having, perhaps, acted criminally merely to keep himself and his family alive.” In the municipal body, the majority is composed of an incompetent lot, some of them being journeymen-spinners or thread-twisters, and others second-hand dealers or shopkeepers, “incapable,” “without means,” with a few crack-brains among them: one, “his brain being crazed, absolutely of no account, anarchist and Jacobin”; another, “very dangerous through lack of judgment, a Jacobin, overexcited”; a third, “an instrument of tyranny, a man of blood capable of every vice, having assumed the name of Mutius Scaevola, of recognised depravity and unable to write.” Similarly, in the Aube districts, we find some of the heads feverish with the prevailing epidemic, for instance, at Nogent, the national agent, Delaporte, “who has the words ‘guillotine’ and ‘revolutionary tribunal’ always on his lips, and who declares that if he were the government he would imprison doctor, surgeon, and lawyer, who delights in finding people guilty and says that he is never content except when he gets three pounds’ weight of denunciations Edition: current; Page: [1141]a day.” But, apart from these madcaps, most of the administrators or judges are either people wholly unworthy of their offices, because they are “inept,” “too uneducated,” “good for nothing,” “too little familiar with administrative forms,” “too little accustomed to judicial action,” “without information,” “too busy with their own affairs,” “unable to read or write,” or, because “they have no delicacy,” are “violent,” “agitators,” “knaves,” “without public esteem,” and more or less dishonest and despised.100 A certain fellow from Paris, was, at first, at Troyes, a baker’s apprentice,101 and afterwards a dancing-master; he next figured at the Club, making headway, doubtless, through his Parisian chatter, until he stood first and soon became a member of the district. Appointed an officer in the sixth battalion of Aube, he behaved in such a manner in Vendée that, on his return, “his brethren in arms” broke up the banner presented to him, “declaring him unworthy of such an honor, because he cowardly fled before the enemy.” Nevertheless, after a short plunge, he came again to the surface and, thanks to his civil compeers, was reinstated in his administrative functions; during the Terror, he was intimate with all the Terrorists, being one of the important men of Troyes. The mayor of the town, Gachez, an old soldier and ex-schoolmaster, is of the same stuff as this baker’s apprentice. He, likewise, was a Vendéan hero; only, he was unable to distinguish himself as much as he liked, for, after enlisting, he failed to march; having pocketed the bounty of three hundred livres, he discovered that he had infirmities and, getting himself invalided, he served the nation in a civil capacity. “His own partisans admit that he is a Edition: current; Page: [1142]drunkard and that he has committed forgery.” Some months after Thermidor he is sentenced to eight years imprisonment and put in the pillory for this crime. Hence, “almost the entire commune is against him; the women in the streets jeer him, and the eight sections meet together to request his withdrawal.” But Representative Bô reports that he is every way entitled to remain, being a true Jacobin, an admirable terrorist and “the only sans-culotte mayor which the commune of Troyes has to be proud of.”102

It would be awarding too much honor to men of this stamp, to suppose that they had convictions or principles; they were governed by animosities and especially by their appetites,103 to satiate which they104 made the most of their offices. At Troyes, “all provisions and Edition: current; Page: [1143]eatables are drawn upon to supply the table of the twenty-four” sans-culottes105 to whom Bô entrusted the duty of weeding-out the popular club; before the organisation of “this regenerating nucleus” the revolutionary committee, presided over by Rousselin, the civil commissioner, carried on its “feastings” in the Petit-Louvre tavern, “passing nights in tippling” and in the preparation of lists of suspects.106 In the neighboring provinces of Dijon, Beaune, Semur and Aignay-le-Duc, the heads of the municipality and of the club always meet in taverns and groggeries. At Dijon, we see “the ten or twelve Hercules of patriotism traversing the town, each with a chalice under his arm”:107 this is their drink-cup; each has to bring his own to the Montagnard inn; there, they imbibe copiously, frequently, and between two glasses of wine “declare who are outlaws.” At Aignay-le-Duc, a small town with only half a dozen patriots “the majority of whom can scarcely write, most of them poor, burdened with families, and living without doing anything, never quit the groggeries, where, night and day, they revel”; their chief, a financial ex-procureur, now “concierge, archivist, secretary, and president of the popular club,” holds municipal council in the bar-room. “On leaving, they put for female aristocrats,” while one of them declares “that if the half of Aignay were slaughtered the other half would be all the better for it.” There is nothing like drinking to excite ferocity to the highest pitch. At Strasbourg the sixty propagandist mustachioed patriots lodged in the college in which they are settled fixtures, have a cook provided for them by the town, and they revel day and night “on the choice provisions put in requisition,” “on wines destined to the defenders of the country.”108 It is, undoubtedly, on issuing from these orgies that they proceed, sword in hand, to the popular club,109 vote and force others to vote “death to all prisoners confined in the Seminary to the number of seven hundred, of every age and of both sexes, without any preliminary trial.” For a man to become a good cut-throat, he must first get intoxicated;110 such was the course pursued in Paris by those who did the work in September: the revolutionary government being an organised, prolonged, and permanent Septembrisade, most of its agents are obliged to drink hard.111

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For the same reasons when the opportunity, as well as the temptation, to steal, presents itself, they steal. At first, during six months, and up to the decree assigning them pay, the revolutionary committees Edition: current; Page: [1146]“take their pay themselves”;112 they then add to their legal salary of three and five francs a day about what they please: for it is they who assess the extraordinary taxes, and often, as at Montbrison, “without making any list or record of collections.” On Frimaire 16, year II., the financial committee reports that “the collection and application of extraordinary taxes is unknown to the government; that it was impossible to supervise them, the National treasury having received no sums whatever arising from these taxes.”113 Two years after, four years after, the accounts of revolutionary taxation, of forced loans, and of pretended voluntary gifts, still form a bottomless pit; out of forty billions of accounts rendered to the National Treasury only twenty are found to be verified; the rest are irregular Edition: current; Page: [1147]and worthless. Besides, in many cases, not only is the voucher worthless or not forthcoming, but, again, it is proved that the sums collected disappeared wholly or in part. At Villefranche, out of one hundred and thirty-eight thousand francs collected, the collector of the district deposited but forty-two thousand; at Baugency, out of more than five hundred thousand francs collected, there were only fifty thousand deposited; at la Réole, out of at least five hundred thousand francs collected, there were but twenty-two thousand six hundred and fifty deposited. “The rest,” says the collector at Villefranche, “were wasted by the Committee of Surveillance.” “The tax-collectors,” writes the national-agent at Orleans, “after having employed terror gave themselves up to orgies and are now building palaces.”114 As to the expenses which they prove, they almost always consist of “indemnities to members of revolutionary committees, to patriots, and to defray the cost of patriotic missions,” to maintaining and repairing the meeting-rooms of the popular clubs, to military expeditions, and to succoring the poor, so that three or four hundred millions in gold or silver, extorted before the end of 1793, hundreds of millions of assignats extorted in 1793 and 1794, in short, almost the entire product of the total extraordinary taxation115 was consumed Edition: current; Page: [1148]on the spot and by the sans-culottes. Seated at the public banqueting table they help themselves first, and help themselves copiously.

A second windfall, equally gross. Enjoying the right to dispose arbitrarily of fortunes, liberties and lives, they can traffic in these, while no traffic can be more advantageous, both for buyers and sellers. Any man who is rich or well-off, in other words, every man who is likely to be taxed, imprisoned, or guillotined, gladly consents “to compound,” to redeem himself and those who belong to him. If he is prudent, he pays, before the tax, so as not to be overtaxed; he pays, after the tax, to obtain a diminution or delays; he pays to be admitted into the popular club. When danger draws near he pays to obtain or renew his certificate of civism, not to be declared “suspect,” not to be denounced as a conspirator. After being denounced, he pays to be allowed imprisonment at home rather than in the jail, to be allowed imprisonment in the jail rather than in the general prison, to be well treated if he gets into this, to have time to get together his proofs in evidence, to have his record (dossier) placed and kept at the bottom of the file among the clerk’s registers, to avoid being inscribed on the next batch of cases in the revolutionary Tribunal. There is not one of these favors that is not precious; consequently, ransoms without number are tendered, while the rascals116 who swarm on the revolutionary committees, need but open their hands to fill their pockets. They run very little risk, for they are held in check only by their own kind, or are not checked at all. Edition: current; Page: [1149]In any large town, two of them suffice for the issue of a warrant of arrest “save a reference to the Committee within twenty-four hours,” with the certainty that their colleagues will kindly return the favor.117 Moreover, the clever ones know how to protect themselves beforehand. For example, at Bordeaux, where one of these clandestine markets had been set up, M. Jean Davilliers, one of the partners in a large commercial house, is under arrest in his own house, guarded by four sans-culottes; on the 8th of Brumaire, he is taken aside and told “that he is in danger if he does not come forward and meet the indispensable requirements of the Revolution in its secret expenditures.” A prominent man, Lemoal, member of the Edition: current; Page: [1150]revolutionary committee and administrator of the district, had spoken of these requirements and thought that M. Davilliers should contribute the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand livres. Upon this, a knock at the door is heard; Lemoal enters and all present leave the room, while Lemoal merely asks: “Do you consent?” “But I cannot thus dispose of my partners’ property.” “Then you will go to prison.” At this threat the poor man yields and gives his note to Lemoal at twenty days, payable to bearer, for one hundred and fifty thousand livres, and, at the end of a fortnight, by dint of pushing his claims, obtains his freedom. Thereupon, Lemoal thinks the matter over, and deems it prudent to cover up his private extortion by a public one. Accordingly, he sends for M. Davilliers: “It is now essential for you to openly contribute one hundred and fifty thousand livres more for the necessities of the Republic. I will introduce you to the representatives to whom you should make the offer.” The chicken being officially plucked in this way, nobody would suppose that it had been first privately plucked, and, moreover, the inquisitive, if there were any, would be thrown off the scent by the confusion arising from two sums of equal amount. M. Davilliers begs to be allowed to consult his partners, and, as they are not in prison, they refuse. Lemoal, on his side, is anxious to receive the money for his note, while poor Davilliers, “struck with terror by nocturnal arrests,” and seeing that Lemoal is always on the top of the ladder, concludes to pay; at first, he gives him thirty thousand livres, and next, the charges, amounting in all to forty-one thousand livres, when, being at the end of his resources, he begs and entreats to have his note returned to him. Lemoal, on this, considering the chicken as entirely stripped, becomes mollified, and tears off in presence of his debtor “the signature in full of the note,” and, along with this, his own receipts for partial payments underneath. But he carefully preserves the note itself, for, thus mutilated, it will show, if necessary, that he had not received anything, and that, through patriotism, he had undoubtedly wished to force a contribution from a merchant, but, finding him insolvent, had humanely cancelled the written obligation.118 Edition: current; Page: [1151]Such are the precautions taken in this business. Others, less shrewd, rob more openly, among others the mayor, the seven members of the military commission surnamed “the seven mortal sins,” and especially their president, Lacombe, who, by promising releases, extracts from eight or nine captives three hundred and fifty-nine thousand six hundred livres.119 Through these manoeuvres, writes a strict Jacobin,120 “Many of those who had been declared outlaws returned to Bordeaux by paying; of the number who thus redeemed their lives, some did not deserve to lose it, but, nevertheless, they were threatened with execution if they did not consent to everything. But material proofs of this are hard to obtain. These men now keep silent, for fear, through open denunciation, of sharing in the penalty of the traffickers in justice, and being unwilling to expose (anew) the life they have preserved.” In short, the plucked pigeon is mute, so as not to attract attention, as well as to avoid the knife; and all the more, because those who pluck him hold on to the knife and might, should he cry out, despatch him with the more celerity. Even if he makes no outcry, they sometimes despatch him so as to stifle in advance any possible outcry, which happened to the Duc du Châtelet and others. There is but one mode of self-preservation121 and that is, “to pay one’s patrons by instalments, like Edition: current; Page: [1152]nurses by the mouth, on a scale proportionate to the activity of the guillotine.” In any event, the pirates are not disturbed, for the trade in lives and liberties leaves no trace behind it, and is carried on with impunity for two years, from one end of France to the other, according to a tacit understanding between sellers and buyers.

There is a third windfall, not less large, but carried on in more open sunshine and therefore still more enticing. Once the “suspect” is incarcerated, whatever he brings to prison along with him, whatever he leaves behind him at home, becomes plunder; for, with the Edition: current; Page: [1153]incompleteness, haste and irregularity of papers,122 with the lack of surveillance and known connivance, the vultures, great and small, could freely use their beaks and talons. At Toulouse, as in Paris and elsewhere, commissioners take from prisoners every object of value and, accordingly, in many cases, all gold, silver, assignats, and jewelry, which, confiscated for the Treasury, stop half-way in the hands of those who make the seizure.123 At Poitiers, the seven scoundrels Edition: current; Page: [1154]who form the ruling oligarchy, admit, after Thermidor, that they stole the effects of arrested parties.124 At Orange, “Citoyenne Riot,” wife of the public prosecutor, and “citoyennes Fernex and Ragot,” wives of two judges, come in person to the record-office to make selections from the spoils of the accused, taking for their wardrobe silver shoe-buckles, laces, and fine linen.125 But all that the accused, the imprisoned and fugitives can take with them, amounts to but little in comparison with what they leave at home, that is to say, under sequestration. All the religious or seignorial chateaux and mansions in France are in this plight, along with their furniture, and likewise most of the fine bourgeois mansions, together with a large Edition: current; Page: [1155]number of minor residences, well-furnished, and supplied through provincial economy; besides these, nearly every warehouse and store belonging to large manufacturers and leading commercial houses; all this forms colossal spoil, such as was never seen before, consisting of objects one likes to possess, gathered in vast lots, which lots are distributed by hundreds of thousands over the twenty-six thousand square miles of territory. There are no owners for this property but the nation, an indeterminate, imperceptible personage; no barrier other than so many seals exists between the spoils and the despoilers, that is to say, so many strips of paper held fast by two ill-applied and indistinct stamps. Bear in mind, too, that the guardians of the spoil are the sans-culottes who have made a conquest of it; that they are poor; that such a profusion of useful or precious objects makes them feel the bareness of their homes all the more; that their wives would dearly like to lay in a stock of furniture; moreover, has it not been held out to them from the beginning of the Revolution, that “forty-thousand mansions, palaces, and chateaux, two-thirds of the property of France, would be the reward of their valor”?126 At this very moment, does not the representative on mission authorise their greed? Are not Albitte and Collot d’Herbois at Lyons, Fouché at Nevers, Javogues at Montbrison, proclaiming that the possessions of antirevolutionists and a surplus of riches form “the patrimony of the sans-culottes”?127 Do they not read in the proclamations of Monestier,128 that the peasants “before leaving home may survey and measure off the immense estates of their seigneurs, choose, for example, on their return, whatever they want to add to their farm … tacking on a bit of field or rabbit-warren belonging to the former count or marquis”? Why not take a portion of his furniture, any of Edition: current; Page: [1156]his beds or clothes-presses? It is not surprising that, after this, the slip of paper which protects sequestrated furniture and confiscated merchandise should be ripped off by gross and greedy hands! When, after Thermidor, the master returns to his own roof it is generally to an empty house; in this or that habitation in the Morvan,129 the removal of the furniture is so complete that a bin turned upside down serves for a table and chairs, when the family sit down to their first meal.

In the towns the embezzlements are often more brazenly carried out than in the country. At Valenciennes, the Jacobin chiefs of the municipality are known under the title of “seal-breakers and patriotic robbers.”130 At Lyons, the Maratists, who dub themselves “the friends of Chalier,” are, according to the Jacobins’ own admission, “brigands, thieves, and rascals.”131 They compose, to the number of three or four hundred, the thirty-two revolutionary committees; one hundred and fifty of the leading ones, “all administrators,” form the popular club; in this town of one hundred and twenty thousand souls they number, as they themselves state, three thousand, and they firmly rely on “sharing with each other the wealth of Lyons.” This huge cake belongs to them; they do not allow that strangers, Parisians, should have a slice,132 and they intend to eat the whole of it, at discretion, without control, even to the last crumb. As to their Edition: current; Page: [1157]mode of operations, it consists in “selling justice, in trading on denunciations, in holding under sequestration at least four thousand households,” in putting seals everywhere on dwellings and warehouses, in not summoning interested parties who might watch their proceedings, in expelling women, children, and servants who might testify to their robberies, in not drawing up inventories, in installing themselves as “guardians at five francs a day,” themselves or their boon companions, and in “general squandering, in league with the administrators.” It is impossible to stay their hands or repress them, even for the representatives. “Take them in the act,133 and you must shut your eyes or they will all shout at the oppression of patriots; they do this systematically so that nobody may be followed up. … We passed an order forbidding any authority to remove seals without our consent, and, in spite of the prohibition, they broke into a storehouse under sequestration, … forced the locks and pillaged, under our own eyes, the very house we occupy. And who are these devastators? Two commissioners of the Committee who emptied the storehouse without our warrant, and even without having any power from the Committee.” It is a sack in due form, and day after day; it began on the 10th of October, 1793; it continued after, without interruption, and we have just seen that, on Floréal 28, year II., that is to say, April 26, 1794, after one hundred and twenty-three days, it is still maintained.

The last haul and the richest of all. In spite of the subterfuges of its agents, the Republic, having stolen immensely, and although robbed in its turn, could still hold on to a great deal; and first, to Edition: current; Page: [1158]articles of furniture which could not be easily abstracted, to large lots of merchandise, also to the vast spoil of the palaces, chateaux, and churches; next, and above all, to real estate, fixtures, and buildings. Its necessities require it to put all this on the market, and whoever wants anything has only to come forward as a buyer, the last bidder becoming the legal owner and at a cheap rate. The wood cut down in one year very often pays for a whole forest.134 Sometimes a chateau can be paid for by a sale of the iron-railings of the park, or the lead on the roof. Here are found chances for a good many bargains, and especially with objects of art. “The titles alone of the articles carried off, destroyed, or injured, would fill volumes.”135 On the one hand, the commissioners on inventories and adjudications, “having to turn a penny on the proceeds of sales,” throw on the market all they can, “avoiding reserving” objects of public utility and sending collections and libraries to auction with a view to get their percentages. On the other hand, nearly all these commissioners are brokers or second-hand dealers who alone know the value of rarities, and openly depreciate them in order to buy them in themselves, “and thus ensure for themselves exorbitant profits.” In certain cases the official guardians and purchasers who are on the look-out take the precaution to “disfigure” precious articles “so as to have them bought by their substitutes and accomplices”: for instance, they convert sets of books into odd volumes, and take machines to pieces; the tube and object-glass of a telescope are separated, which pieces the rogues who have bought them cheap know how to put together again.” Often, in spite of the seals, they take in advance “antiques, pieces of jewelry, medals, enamels, and engraved stones”; nothing is easier, for “even in Paris in Thermidor, Edition: current; Page: [1159]year II., agents of the municipality use anything with which to make a stamp, buttons, and even large pennies, so that whoever has a sou can remove and restamp the seals as he pleases”; having been successful, “they screen their thefts by substituting cut pebbles and counterfeit stones for real ones.” Finally, at the auction sales, “fearing the honesty or competition of intelligent judges, they offer money (to these) to stay away from the sales; one case is cited of a bidder being knocked down.” In the meantime, at the club, they shout with all their might; this, with the protection of a member of the municipality or of the Revolutionary Committee, shelters them from all suspicion. As for the protector, he gets his share without coming out into the light. Accuse, if you dare, a republican functionary who secretly, or even openly, profits by these larcenies; he will show clean hands. Such is the incorruptible patriot, the only one of his species, whom the representatives discover at Strasbourg, and whom they appoint mayor at once. On the 10th of Vendémiaire, year III.,136 there is found “in his apartments” a superb and complete assortment of ecclesiastical objects, “forty-nine copes and chasubles, silk or satin, covered with gold or silver; fifty-four palles of the same description;” a quantity of “reliquaries, vases and spoons, censers, laces, silver and gold fringe, thirty-two pieces of silk,” etc. None of these fine things belong to him; they are the property of citizen Mouet, his father. This prudent parent, taking his word for it, “deposited them for safe keeping in his son’s house during the month of June, 1792 (old style)”; could a good son refuse his father such a slight favor? It is very certain that, in ’93 and ’94, during the young man’s municipal dictatorship, the elder did not pay the Strasbourg Jew brokers too much, and that they did business in an off-hand way. By what right could a son and magistrate prevent his father, a free individual, from looking after “his own affairs” and buying according to trade principles, as cheap as he could?

If such are the profits on the sale of personal property, what must Edition: current; Page: [1160]they be on the sale of real estate? It is on this traffic that the fortunes of the clever terrorists are founded. It accounts for the “colossal wealth peaceably enjoyed,” after Thermidor, of the well-known “thieves” who, before Thermidor, were so many “little Robespierres,” each in his own canton, “the patriots” who, around Orleans, “built palaces,” who, “exclusives” at Valenciennes, “having wasted both public and private funds, possess the houses and property of emigrants, knocked down to them at a hundred times less than their value.”137 On this side, their outstretched fingers shamelessly clutch all they can get hold of; for the obligation of each arrested party to declare his name, quality and fortune, as it now is and was before the Revolution, gives local cupidity a known, sure, direct and palpable object. At Toulouse, says a prisoner,138 “the details and value of an object were taken down as if for a succession,” while the commissioners who drew up the statement, “our assassins, proceeded, beforehand and almost under our eyes, to take their share, disputing with each other on the choice and suitableness of each object, comparing the cost of adjudication with the means of lessening it, discussing the certain profits of selling again and of the transfer, and consuming in advance the pickings arising from sales and leases.” In Provence, where things are more advanced and corruption is greater than elsewhere, where the purport and aims of the Revolution were comprehended at the start, it is still worse. Nowhere did Jacobin rulers display their real character more openly, and nowhere, from 1789 to 1799, was this character so well maintained. At Toulon, the demagogues in the year V., as in the year II., are139 “former workmen and clerks in the Arsenal who had become ‘bosses’ by acting as informers and through terrorism, getting property for nothing, or at an insignificant price, and plotting sales of national Edition: current; Page: [1161]possessions, petty traders from all quarters with stocks of goods acquired in all sorts of ways, through robberies, through purchases of stolen goods from servants and employees in the civil, war, and navy departments, and through abandoned or bought-up claims; in fine, from refugees from other communes who pass their days in coffee-houses and their nights in houses of ill-fame.” The leading officials at Draguignan, Brignolles, Vidauban, and Fréjus, are of this sort. At Marseilles, after Thermidor, the intermittent returns to Terrorism always restore to office,140 the same justiciary and police gangs, “once useful mechanics, but tired of working, and whom the profession of paid clubbists, idle guardians,” and paid laborers “has totally demoralized,” scoundrels in league with each other and making money out of whatever they lay their hands on, like thieves at a fair, habitually living at the expense of the public, “bestowing the favors of the nation on those who share their principles, harboring and aiding many who are under the ban of the law and calling themselves model patriots, in fine, in the pay of gambling-hells and houses of prostitution.”141 In the rural districts, the old bands “consisting Edition: current; Page: [1162]of hordes of homeless brigands” who worked so well during the anarchy of the Constituent and Legislative assemblies, form anew during the anarchy of the Directory; they make their appearance in the vicinity of Apt “commencing with petty robberies and then, strong in the impunity and title of sans-culottes, break into farm-houses, rob and massacre the inmates, strip travelers, put to ransom all who happen to cross their path, force open and pillage houses in the commune of Gorges, stop women in the streets, tear off their rings and crosses,” and attack the hospital, sacking it from top to bottom, while the town and military officers, just like them, allow them to go on.142 Judge by this of their performances in the Edition: current; Page: [1163]time of Robespierre, when the vendors and administrators of the national possessions exercised undisputed control. Everywhere, at that time, in the departments of Var, Bouches-du-Rhone, and Vaucluse, “a club of would-be patriots” had long prepared the way for their exactions. It had “paid appraisers” for depreciating whatever was put up for sale, and false names for concealing real purchasers; “a person not of their clique, was excluded from the auction-room; if he persisted in coming in they would, at one time, put him under contribution for the privilege of bidding,” and, at another time, make him promise not to bid above the price fixed by the league, while, to acquire the domain, they paid him a bonus. Consequently, “national property” was made way with “for almost nothing,” the sharpers who acquired it never being without a satisfactory warrant for this in their own eyes. Into whose hands could the property of antirevolutionists better fall than into those of patriots? According to Marat, the martyr apostle and canonised saint of the Revolution, what is the object of the Revolution but to give to the lowly the fortunes of the great?143 In all national sales everywhere, in guarding sequestrations, in all revolutionary ransoms, taxes, loans and seizures, the same excellent argument prevails; nowhere, in printed documents or in manuscripts, do I find any revolutionary committee which is at once terrorist and honest. Only, it is rare to find specific and individual details regarding all the members of the same committee. Here, however, is one case, where, owing to the lucky accident of an examination given in detail, one can observe in one nest, every variety of the species and of its appetites, the dozen or fifteen types of the Jacobin hornet, each abstracting what suits him from whatever he lights on, each indulging in his favorite sort of rapine. At Nantes, “Pinard, the great purveyor of the Committee,144 orders everything that each member needs for his daily use to be Edition: current; Page: [1164]carried to his house.” “Gallou takes oil and brandy,” and especially “several barrels from citizen Bissonneau’s house.” “Durassier makes domiciliary visits and exacts contributions”; among others “he compels citizen Lemoine to pay twenty-five hundred livres, to save him from imprisonment.” “Naud affixes and removes seals in the houses of the incarcerated, makes nocturnal visits to the dwellings of the accused and takes what suits him.” “Grandmaison appropriates plate under sequestration, and Bachelier plate given as a present.” “Joly superintends executions and takes all he can find, plate, jewelry, precious objects.” “Bolognié forces the return of a bond of twenty thousand livres already paid to him.” “Perrochaux demands of citoyenne Ollemard-Dudan fifty thousand livres, to prevent her imprisonment,” and confiscates for his own benefit sixty thousand livres’ worth of tobacco, in the house of the widow Daigneau-Mallet, who, claiming it back, is led off by him to prison under the pretext of interceding for her. “Chaux frightens off by terrorism his competitors at auction sales, has all the small farms on the Baroissière Edition: current; Page: [1165]domain knocked down to him, and exclaims concerning a place which suits him, ‘I know how to get it! I’ll have the owner arrested. He’ll be very glad to let me have his ground to get out of prison.’ ” The collection is complete, and ranged around a table, it offers samples which, elsewhere in France, are found scattered about.


The last manipulators of the system remain, the hands which seize, the armed force which takes bodily hold of men and things. The first who are employed for this purpose are the National Guard and the ordinary gendarmerie. Since 1790, these bodies are of course constantly weeded out until only fanatics and instruments are left;145 nevertheless, the weeding-out continues as the system develops itself. At Strasbourg,146 on Brumaire 14, the representatives have dismissed, arrested, and sent to Dijon the entire staff of the National Guard to serve as hostages until peace is secured; three days afterwards, considering that the cavalry of the town had been mounted and equipped at its own expense, they deem it aristocratic, bourgeois, and “suspect,” and seize the horses and put the officers in arrest. At Troyes, Rousselin, “National civil commissioner,” dismisses, for the same reason, and with not less despatch, the whole of the gendarmes at one stroke, except four, and “puts under requisition their horses, fully equipped, also their arms, so as to at once mount well-known and tried sans-culottes.” On principle, the poor sans-culottes, who are true at heart and in dress, alone have the right to bear arms, and should a bourgeois be on duty he must have only a pike, care being taken to take it away from him the moment he finishes his rounds.147

But, alongside of the usual armed force, there is still another, Edition: current; Page: [1166]much better selected and more effective, the reserve gendarmerie, a special, and, at the same time, movable and resident body, that is to say, the “revolutionary army,” which, after September 5, 1793, the government had raised in Paris and in most of the large towns. That of Paris, comprising six thousand men, with twelve hundred cannoneers, sends detachments into the provinces—two thousand men to Lyons, and two hundred to Troyes;148 Ysabeau and Tallien have at Bordeaux a corps of three thousand men; Salicetti, Albitte, and Gasparin, one of two thousand men at Marseilles; Ysoré and Duquesnoy, one of one thousand men at Lille; Javogues, one of twelve hundred at Montbrison; others, less numerous, ranging from six hundred down to two hundred men, hold Moulins, Grenoble, Besançon, Belfort, Bourg, Dijon, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Auch, and Nantes.149 When, on March 27, 1794, the Committee of Public Safety, threatened by Hébert, has them disbanded for being Hébertists, many of them are to remain at least as a nucleus, under various forms and names, either as kept by the local administration under the title of “paid guards,”150 or as disbanded soldiers, loitering about Edition: current; Page: [1167]and doing nothing, getting themselves assigned posts of rank in the National Guard of their town on account of their exploits; in this way they keep themselves in service, which is indispensable, for it is through these that the régime is established and lasts. “The revolutionary army,”151 say the orders and decrees promulgated, “is intended to repress antirevolutionists, to execute, whenever it is found necessary, revolutionary laws and measures for public safety,” that is to say, “to guard those who are shut up, arrest ‘suspects,’ demolish chateaux, pull down belfries, ransack vestries for gold and silver objects, seize fine horses and carriages,” and especially “to seek for private stores and monopolies,” in short, to exercise manual constraint and strike every one on the spot with physical terror. We readily see what sort of soldiers the revolutionary army is composed of.

Naturally, as it is recruited by voluntary enlistments, and all candidates have passed the purifying scrutiny of the clubs, it comprises none but ultra Jacobins. Naturally, the pay being forty sous a day, it comprises none but the very lowest class. Naturally, as the work is as loathsome as it is atrocious, it comprises but few others152 than those out of employment and reduced to an enlistment to get a living, “hairdressers without customers, lackeys without places, vagabonds, Edition: current; Page: [1168]wretches unable to earn a living by honest labor,” “shoulder-hitters” who have acquired the habit of bullying, knocking down, and keeping honest folks under their pikes, a gang of confirmed scoundrels making public brigandage a cloak for private brigandage, inhabitants of the slums glad to bring down their former superiors into the mud, and themselves take precedence and strut about in order to prove by their arrogance and self-display that they, in their turn, are princes. “Take a horse, the nation pays for it!”153 exclaim water-carriers and commissionaires to their comrades in the street, and who, “in a splendid procession,” of three carriages, each drawn by six horses, escorted by a body of sans-culottes on horseback, behind, in front, and each side the doors, are conducting Riouffe and two other “suspects” to prison. The commander of the squad who guards prisoners on the way to Paris, and who “starves them along the road to speculate on them,” is an ex-cook of Agen, having become a gendarme; he makes them travel forty leagues extra, “purposely to glorify himself,” and “let all Agen see that he has government money to spend, and that he can put citizens in irons.” Accordingly, in Agen, “he keeps constantly and needlessly inspecting the vehicle,” winking at the spectators, “more triumphant than if he had made a dozen Austrians prisoners and brought them along himself ”; at last, to show the crowd in the street the importance of his capture, he summons two blacksmiths to come out and rivet, on the legs of each prisoner, a cross-bar cannon-ball weighing eighty pounds.154 The more display these sbirri make of their brutality, the greater they think themselves. At Belfort, a patriot of the club dies, and a civic interment takes place; a detachment of the Edition: current; Page: [1169]revolutionary army joins the procession; the men are armed with axes; on reaching the cemetery, the better to celebrate the funeral, “they cut down all the crosses (over the graves) and make a bonfire of them, while the carmagnole ends this ever memorable day.”155 Sometimes the scene, theatrical and played by the light of flambeaux, makes the actors think that they have performed an extraordinary and meritorious action, “that they have saved the country.” “This very night,” writes the agent at Bordeaux,156 “nearly three thousand men have been engaged in an important undertaking, with the members of the Revolutionary Committee and of the municipality at the head of it. They visited every wholesale dealer’s store in town and in the Faubourg des Chartrons, taking possession of their letter-books, sealing up their desks, arresting the merchants and putting them in the Seminiare. … Woe to the guilty!” If the prompt confinement of an entire class of individuals is a fine thing for a town, the seizure of a whole town itself is still more imposing. Leaving Marseilles with a small army,157 commanded by two sans-culottes, they surround Martigne and enter it as if it were a mill. The catch is superb; in this town of five thousand souls there are only seventeen patriots; the rest are Federalists or Moderates. Hence a general disarmament and domiciliary visits. The conquerors depart, carrying off every able-bodied boy, “five hundred lads subject to the conscription, and leave in the town a company of sans-culottes to enforce obedience.” It is certain that obedience will be maintained and that the garrison, joined to the seventeen patriots, will do as they like with their conquest.

In effect, all, both bodies and goods, are at their disposal, and they consequently begin with the country round about, entering private houses to get at their stores, also the farmhouses to have the grain threshed, in order to verify the declarations of their owners Edition: current; Page: [1170]and see if these are correct: if the grain is not threshed out at once it will be done summarily and confiscated, while the owner will be sentenced to twelve months in irons; if the declaration is not correct, he is condemned as a monopolist and punished with death. Armed with this order,158 each band takes the field and gathers together not only grain, but supplies of every description. “That of Grenoble, the agent writes,159 does wonderfully; in one little commune alone, four hundred measures of wheat, twelve hundred eggs, and six hundred pounds of butter had been found. All this was quickly on the way to Grenoble.” In the vicinity of Paris, the forerunners of the throng, provided “with pitchforks and bayonets, rush to the farms, take oxen out of their stalls, grab sheep and chickens, burn the barns, and sell their booty to speculators.”160 “Bacon, eggs, butter, and chickens—the peasants surrender whatever is demanded of them, Edition: current; Page: [1171]and thenceforth have nothing that they can take to market. They curse the Republic which has brought war and famine on them, and nevertheless they do what they are told: on being addressed, ‘Citizen peasant, I require of you on peril of your head,’ … there is no longer any retreat.”161 Accordingly, they are only too glad to be let off so cheaply. On Brumaire 19, about seven o’clock in the evening, at Tigery, near Corbeil, twenty-five men “with sabres and pistols in their belts, most of them in the uniform of the National Guards and calling themselves the revolutionary army,” enter the house of Gibbon, an old ploughman, seventy-one years of age, while fifty others guard all egress from it, so that the expedition may not be interfered with. Turlot, captain, and aid-de-camp to General Henriot, wants to know where the master of the house is. “In his bed,” is the reply. “Wake him up.” The old man rises. “Give up your arms.” His wife hands over a fowling-piece, the only arm on the premises. The band immediately falls on the poor man, “strikes him down, ties his hands, and puts a sack over his head,” and the same thing is done to his wife and to eight male and two female servants. “Now, give us the keys of your closets”; they want to be sure that there are no fleur-de-lys or other illegal articles. They search the old man’s pockets, take his keys, and, to despatch business, break into the chests and seize or carry off all the plate, “twenty-six table-dishes, three soup-ladles, three goblets, two snuff-boxes, forty counters, two watches, another gold watch and a gold cross.” “We will draw up a procès-verbal of all this at our leisure in Meaux. Now, where’s your silver? If you don’t say where it is, the guillotine is outside and I will be Edition: current; Page: [1172]your executioner.” The old man yields and merely requests to be untied. But it is better to keep him bound, “so as to make him ‘shell out.’ ” They carry him into the kitchen and “put his feet into a heated brazier.” He shouts with pain, and indicates another chest which they break open and then carry off what they find there, “seventy-two francs in coin and five or six thousand livres in assignats, which Gibbon had just received for the requisitions made on him for corn.” Next, they break open the cellar doors, set a cask of vinegar running, carry wine upstairs, eat the family meal, get drunk and, at last, clear out, leaving Gibbon with his feet burnt, and garroted, as well as the other eleven members of his household, quite certain that there will be no pursuit.162 In the towns, especially in federalist districts, however, these robberies are complicated with other assaults. At Lyons, whilst the regular troops are lodged in barracks, the revolutionary army is billeted on the householders, two thousand vile, sanguinary blackguards from Paris, and whom their general, Ronsin himself, calls “scoundrels and brigands,” alleging, in excuse for this, that “honest folks cannot be found for such business.” How they treat their host, his wife and his daughters may be imagined; contemporaries glide over these occurrences and, through decency or disgust, avoid giving details.163 Some simply use Edition: current; Page: [1173]brutal force; others get rid of a troublesome husband by the guillotine; in the most exceptional cases they bring their wenches along with them, while the housekeeper has to arouse herself at one o’clock at night and light a fire for the officer who comes in with the jolly company. And yet, there are others still worse, for the worst attract each other. We have seen the revolutionary committee at Nantes, also the representative on mission in the same city; nowhere did the revolutionary Sabbat rage so furiously, and nowhere was there such a traffic in human lives. With such band-leaders as Carrier and his tools on the Committee, one may be sure that the instrumentalists will be worthy.

Accordingly, several members of the Committee themselves oversee executions and lend a hand in the massacres. One of these, Goullin, a creole from St. Domingo, sensual and nervous, accustomed to treating a negro as an animal and a Frenchman as a white negro, a Septembriseur on principle, chief instigator and director of the “drownings,” goes in person to empty the prison of Bouffay, and, ascertaining that deaths, the hospital and releases, had lessened the number of the imprisoned, adds, of his own authority, fifteen names, taken haphazard, to complete his list. Joly, a commissioner on the Committee, very expert in the art of garroting, ties the hands of prisoners together two and two and conducts them to the river.164 Grandmaison, another member of the Committee, a former dancing-master, convicted of two murders and pardoned before the Revolution, strikes down with his sabre the uplifted hands stretched out to him over the planks of the lighter.165 Pinard, another Committee-commissioner, ransoms, steals off into the country and himself kills, through preference, women and children.166 Naturally, the three Edition: current; Page: [1174]bands which operate along with them, or under their orders, comprise only men of their species. In the first one, called the Marat company, each of the sixty members swears, on joining it, to adopt Marat’s principles and carry out Marat’s doctrine. Goullin,167 one of the founders, demands in relation to each member, “Isn’t there some one still more rascally? For we must have that sort to bring the aristocrats to reason!”168 After Frimaire 5 “the Maratists” boast of their arms being “tired out” with striking prisoners with the flat of their sabres to make them march to the Loire,169 and we see that, notwithstanding this fatigue, the business suited them, as their officers intrigued with Carrier to be detailed on the “drowning” service and because it was lucrative. The men and women sentenced to death, were first stripped of their clothes down to the shirt, and even the shift; it would be a pity to let valuable objects go to the bottom with their owners, and therefore the drowners divide these amongst themselves; a wardrobe in the house of the adjutant Richard is found full of jewelry and watches.170 This company of sixty must Edition: current; Page: [1175]have made handsome profits out of the four or five thousand drowned. The second band, called “the American Hussars,” and who operated in the outskirts, was composed of blacks and mulattoes, numerous enough in this town of privateers. It is their business to shoot women, whom they first violate; “they are our slaves,” they say; “we have won them by the sweat of our brows.” “Those who have the misfortune to be saved by them, become in their hands idiotic in a couple of days; in any event they are rearrested shortly afterwards and shot. The last band, which is styled “The German Legion,” is formed out of German deserters and mercenaries who can scarcely speak French, or not at all, employed by the Military Commission to despatch the Vendéans picked up along the highways, and who are usually shot in groups of twenty five. “I came,” says an eye-witness,171 “to a sort of gorge where there was a semicircular quarry; there, I noticed the corpses of seventy-five women … naked and lying on their backs.” The victims of that day consisted of girls from sixteen to eighteen years of age. One of them says to her conductor, “I am sure you are taking us to die,” and the German replies in his broken jargon, probably with a coarse laugh, “No, it is for a change of air.” They are placed in a row in front of the bodies of the previous day and shot. Those who do not fall, see Edition: current; Page: [1176]the guns reloaded; these are again shot and the wounded despatched with the butt ends of the muskets. Some of the Germans then rifle the bodies, while others strip them and “place them on their backs.” To find workmen for this task, it is necessary to descend, not only to the lowest wretches in France but, again, to the brutes of a foreign race and tongue, and yet lower still, to an inferior race degraded by slavery and perverted by license.

Such, from the top to the bottom of the ladder, at every stage of authority and obedience, is the ruling staff of the revolutionary government.172 Through its recruits and its work, through its morals and modes of proceeding, it evokes the almost forgotten image of its predecessors, for there is an image of it in the period from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. At that time also, society was frequently overcome and ravaged by barbarians; dangerous nomads, malevolent outcasts, bandits turned into soldiers suddenly pounced down on an industrious and peaceful population. Such was the case in France with the “Routiers” and the “Tard-venus,” at Rome with the army of the Constable of Bourbon, in Flanders with the bands of the Duke of Alba and the Duke of Parma, in Westphalia and in Alsace, with Wallenstein’s veterans, and those of Bernard of Saxe-Weimar. They lived upon a town or province for six months, fifteen months, two years, until the town or province was exhausted, alone Edition: current; Page: [1177]armed, master of the inhabitant, using and abusing things and persons according to their caprices. But they were declared bandits, calling themselves scorchers (ecorcheurs), riders and adventurers, and not pretenders to being humanitarian philosophers. Moreover, beyond an immediate and personal enjoyment, they demanded nothing; they employed brutal force only to satiate their greed, their cruelty, their lust. The latter add to private appetites a far greater devastation, the systematic and gratuitous ravages enforced upon them by the superficial theory with which they are imbued.

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BOOK VIII: The Governed

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The Oppressed— I. Magnitude of revolutionary destructiveness—The four ways of effecting it—Expulsion from the country through forced emigration and legal banishment—Number of those expelled—Privation of liberty—Different sorts of imprisonment—Number and situation of those imprisoned—Murders after being tried, or without trial—Number of those guillotined or shot after trial—Indication of the number of other lives destroyed—Necessity of and plan for wider destruction—Spoliation—Its extent—Squandering—Utter losses—Ruin of individuals and the State—The Notables the most oppressed— II. The value of Notables in society—Various kinds and degrees of Notables in 1789—The great social staff—Men of the world—Their breeding—Their intellectual culture—Their humanity and philanthropy—Their moral temper—Practical men—Where recruited—Their qualifications—Their active benevolence—Scarcity of them and their worth to a community— III. The three classes of Notables—The Nobility—Its physical and moral preparation through feats of arms—The military spirit—High character—Conduct of officers in 1789–1792—Service for which these nobles were adapted— IV. The Clergy—Where recruited—Professional inducements—Independence of ecclesiastics—Their substantial merits—Their theoretical and practical information—Their distribution over the territory—Utility of their office—Their conduct in 1790–1800—Their courage, their capacity for self-sacrifice— V. The Bourgeoisie—Where recruited—Difference between the functionary of the ancient régime and the modern functionary—Property in offices—Guilds—Independence and security of office-holders—Their limited ambition and contentedness—Fixed habits, seriousness and integrity—Ambition to secure esteem—Intellectual culture—Liberal ideas—Respectability and public zeal—Conduct of the bourgeoisie in 1789–1791— VI. The demi-notables—Where recruited—Village and trade syndics—Competency of their electors—Their interest in making good selections—Their capacity and integrity—The sorting Edition: current; Page: [1182]of men under the ancient régime—Conditions of a family’s maintenance and advancement—Hereditary and individual right of the Notable to his property and rank— VII. Principle of socialistic equality—All superiorities illegitimate—Bearing of this principle—Incivique benefits and enjoyments—How revolutionary laws reach the lower class—Whole populations affected in a mass—Proportion of the lowly in the proscription lists—How the revolutionary laws specially affect those who are prominent among the people— VIII. Their rigor increases according to the elevation of the class—The Notables properly so called attacked because of their being Notables—Orders of Taillefer, Milhaud, and Lefiot—The public atonement of Montargis— IX. Two characteristics of the upper class, wealth and education—Each of these is criminal—Measures against rich and well-to-do people—Affected in a mass and by categories—Measures against cultivated and polite people—Danger of culture and distinction—Proscription of “honest folks”— X. The Governors and the Governed—Prisoners in the rue de Sèvres and the “Croix-Rouge” revolutionary committee—The young Dauphin and Simon his preceptor—Judges, and those under their jurisdiction—Trenchard and Coffinhal, Lavoisier and André Chénier.


The object of the Jacobin, first of all, is the destruction of his adversaries, avowed or presumed, probable or possible. Four violent measures concur, together or in turn, to bring about the physical or social extermination of all Frenchmen who no longer belong to the sect or the party.

The first operation consists in expelling them from the territory. Since 1789, they have been chased off through a forced emigration; handed over to jacqueries in the country, and to insurrections in the cities,1 defenceless and not allowed to defend themselves, three-fourths of them have left France, simply to escape popular brutalities against which neither the law nor the government afforded them any protection. According as the law and the administration, in becoming more Jacobin, became more hostile to them, so did they leave in greater crowds. After the 10th of August and 2d of September, Edition: current; Page: [1183]the flight necessarily was more general; for, henceforth, if any one persisted in remaining after that date it was with the almost positive certainty that he would be consigned to a prison, to await a massacre or the guillotine. About the same time, the law added to the fugitive the banished, all unsworn priests, almost an entire class consisting of nearly forty thousand persons.2 It is calculated that, on issuing from the Reign of Terror, the total number of fugitives and banished amounted to one hundred and fifty thousand;3 the list would have been still larger, had not the frontier been guarded by patrols and one had to cross it at the risk of one’s life; and yet, many do risk their lives in attempting to cross it, in disguise, wandering about at night, in mid-winter, exposed to gunshots, determined to escape cost what it will, into Switzerland, Italy, or Germany, and even into Hungary, in quest of security and the right of praying to God as one pleases.4 If any exiled or transported person ventures to Edition: current; Page: [1184]return, he is tracked like a wild beast, and, as soon as taken, he is guillotined.5 For example, M. de Choiseul, and other unfortunates, wrecked and cast ashore on the coast of Normandy, are not sufficiently protected by the law of nations. They are brought before a military commission; saved temporarily through public commiseration, they remain in prison until the First Consul intervenes between them and the homicidal law and consents, through favor, to transport them to the Dutch frontier. If they have taken up arms against the Republic they are cut off from humanity; a Pandour prisoner is treated as a man; an emigré made prisoner is treated like a wolf—they shoot him on the spot. In some cases, even the pettiest legal formalities are dispensed with. “When I am lucky enough to catch ’em,” writes Gen. Vandamme, “I do not trouble the military commission to try them. They are already tried—my sabre and pistols do their business.”6

The second operation consists in depriving “suspects” of their liberty, of which deprivation there are several degrees; there are various ways of getting hold of people. Sometimes, the “suspect” is “adjourned,” that is to say, the order of arrest is simply suspended; he lives under a perpetual menace that is generally fulfilled; he never knows in the morning that he will not sleep in a prison that night. Edition: current; Page: [1185]Sometimes, he is put on the limits of his commune. Sometimes, he is confined to his house with or without guards, and, in the former case, he is obliged to pay them. Again, finally, and which occurs most frequently, he is shut up in this or that common jail. In the single department of Doubs, twelve hundred men and women are “adjourned,” three hundred put on the limits of the commune, fifteen hundred confined to their houses, and twenty-two hundred imprisoned.7 In Paris, thirty-six such prisons and more than ninety-six lock-ups, or temporary jails, constantly filled by the revolutionary committees, do not suffice for the service,8 while it is estimated that, in France, not counting more than forty thousand provisional jails, twelve hundred prisons, full and running over, contain each more than two hundred inmates.9 At Paris, notwithstanding the daily void created by the guillotine, the number of the imprisoned on Floréal 9, year II., amounts to seven thousand eight hundred and forty; and, on Messidor 25 following, notwithstanding the large batches of fifty and sixty persons led in one day, and every day, to the scaffold, the number is still seven thousand five hundred and two.10 There are more than one thousand persons in the prisons of Arras, more than one thousand five hundred in those of Toulouse, more than three thousand in those of Strasbourg, and more than thirteen thousand in those of Nantes. In the two departments alone of Bouches-du-Rhone and Vaucluse, Representative Maignet, who is on the spot, reports from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand arrests.11 “A little Edition: current; Page: [1186]before Thermidor,” says Representative Beaulieu, “the number of incarcerated arose to nearly four hundred thousand, as is apparent on the lists and registers then before the Committee of General Security.”12 Among these poor creatures, there are children, and not alone in the prisons of Nantes where the revolutionary battures have collected the whole of the rural population; in the prisons of Arras, among twenty similar cases, I find a coal-dealer and his wife with their seven sons and daughters, from seventeen down to six years of age; a widow with her four children from nineteen down to twelve years of age; another noble widow with her nine children, from seventeen down to three years of age, and six children, without father or mother, from twenty-three down to nine years of age.13 Edition: current; Page: [1187]These prisoners of State were treated, almost everywhere, worse than robbers and assassins under the ancient régime. They began by subjecting them to rapiotage, that is to say, stripping them naked or, at best, feeling their bodies under their shirts; women and young girls fainted away under this examination, formerly confined to convicts on entering the bagnio.14 Frequently, before consigning them to their dungeons or shutting them up in their cells, they would be left two or three nights pell-mell in a lower hall on benches, or in the court on the pavement, “without beds or straw.” “The feelings are wounded in all directions, every point of sensibility, so to say, being played upon. They are deprived one after the other of their property, assignats, furniture, and food, of daylight and lamp-light, of the assistance which their wants and infirmities demand, of a knowledge of public events, of all communication, either immediate or written, with fathers, sons, and husbands.”15 They are obliged to pay for their lodgings, their keepers, and for what they eat; they are robbed at their very doors of the supplies they send for outside; they are compelled to eat at a mess-table; they are furnished with scant and nauseous food, “spoilt codfish, putrid herrings, and meat, rotten vegetables, all this accompanied with a mug of Seine water colored red with some drug or other.”16 They starve them, bully Edition: current; Page: [1188]them, and vex them purposely as if they meant to exhaust their patience and drive them into a revolt, so as to get rid of them in a mass, or, at least, to justify the increasing rapid strokes of the guillotine. They are huddled together in tens, twenties, and thirties, in one room at La Force, “eight in a chamber, fourteen feet square,” where all the beds touch, and many overlap each other, where two out of the eight inmates are obliged to sleep on the floor, where vermin swarm, where the closed sky-lights, the standing tub, and the crowding together of bodies poisons the atmosphere. In many places, the proportion of the sick and dying is greater than in the hold of a slave-ship. “Of ninety individuals with whom I was shut up two months ago,” writes a prisoner at Strasbourg, “sixty-six were taken to the hospital in the space of eight days.”17 In the prisons of Nantes, three thousand out of thirteen thousand prisoners die of typhoid fever and of the rot in two months.18 Four hundred Edition: current; Page: [1189]priests19 confined on a vessel between decks, in the roadstead of Aix, stowed on top of each other, wasted with hunger, eaten up by vermin, suffocated for lack of air, half-frozen, beaten, mocked at, and constantly threatened with death, suffer still more than negroes in a slavehold; for, through interest in his freight, the captain of the slaver tries to keep his human consignment in good health, whilst, through revolutionary fanaticism, the crew of the Aix vessel detests its cargo of “black-frocks” and would gladly send them to the bottom. According to this system, which, up to Thermidor 9, grows worse and worse, imprisonment becomes a torture, oftentimes mortal, slower and more painful than the guillotine, and to such an extent that, to escape it, Champfort opens his veins and Condorcet swallows poison.20

The third expedient consists of murder, with or without trial. One hundred and seventy-eight tribunals, of which forty are ambulatory, pronounce in every part of the territory sentences of death which are immediately executed on the spot.21 Between April 6, 1793, and Thermidor 9, year II., that of Paris has two thousand six hundred and twenty-five persons guillotined,22 while the provincial judges do as much work as the Paris judges. In the small town of Edition: current; Page: [1190]Orange alone, they guillotine three hundred and thirty-one persons. In the single town of Arras they have two hundred and ninety-nine men and ninety-three women guillotined. At Nantes, the revolutionary tribunals and military committees have, on the average, one hundred persons a day guillotined, or shot, in all one thousand nine hundred and seventy-one. In the city of Lyons, the revolutionary committee admit one thousand six hundred and eighty-four executions, while Cadillot, one of Robespierre’s correspondents, advises him of six thousand.23 The statement of these murders is not complete, but seventeen thousand have been enumerated,24 “most of them effected without any formality, evidence or direct charge,” among others the murder of “more than one thousand two hundred women, several of whom were octogenarians and infirm”;25 particularly the murder of sixty women or young girls, condemned to death, say the warrants, for having attended the services of unsworn priests, or for having neglected the services of a sworn priest. “The accused, ranged in order, were condemned at sight. Hundreds of death-sentences took about a minute per head. Children of seven, five, and four years of age, were tried. A father was condemned for the son, and the son for the father. A dog was sentenced to death. A parrot was brought forward as a witness. Numbers of accused persons whose sentences could not be written out were executed.” At Angers, the sentences of over four hundred men and three hundred and sixty women, executed for the purpose of relieving the prisons, were mentioned on the registers simply by the letters S or G (shot or Edition: current; Page: [1191]guillotined).26 At Paris, as in the provinces, the slightest pretext27 served to constitute a crime. The daughter of the celebrated painter, Joseph Vernet,28 was guillotined for being a “receiver,” for having kept fifty pounds of candles in her house, distributed among the employees of La Muette by the liquidators of the civil list. Young de Maillé,29 aged sixteen years, was guillotined as a conspirator, “for having thrown a rotten herring in the face of his jailor, who had served it to him to eat.” Madame de Puy-Verin was guillotined as “guilty” because she had not taken away from her deaf, blind, and senile husband a bag of card-counters, marked with the royal effigy. In default of any pretext,30 there was the supposition of a conspiracy; blank lists were given to paid emissaries, who undertook to search the various prisons and select the requisite number of heads; they wrote names down on them according to their fancy, and these provided the batches for the guillotine. “As for myself,” said the juryman Vilate, “I am never embarrassed. I am always convinced. In a revolution, all who appear before this tribunal ought to be condemned.” At Marseilles, the Brutus Commission,31 “sentencing Edition: current; Page: [1192]without public prosecutor or jurymen, sent to the prisons for those it wished to put to death. After having demanded their names, professions, and wealth they were sent down to a cart standing at the door of the Palais de Justice; the judges then stepped out on the balcony and pronounced the death-sentence.” The same proceedings took place at Cambrai, Arras, Nantes, Le Mans, Bordeaux, Nismes, Lyons, Strasbourg, and elsewhere. Evidently, the judicial comedy is simply a parade; they make use of it as one of the respectable means, among others less respectable, to exterminate people whose opinions are not what they should be, or who belong to the proscribed classes;32 Samson, at Paris, and his colleagues in the provinces, the execution-platoons of Lyons and Nantes, are simply the collaborators of murderers properly so called, while legal massacres complete other massacres pure and simple.

Of this latter description, the fusillades of Toulon come first, where the number of those who are shot largely surpasses one thousand;33 next the great drownings of Nantes, in which four thousand eight hundred men, women, and children perished,34 and other Edition: current; Page: [1193]drownings, in which the number of dead is not fixed;35 next, the innumerable slaughterings committed by the people between July 14, 1789, and August 10, 1792; the massacre of one thousand three hundred prisoners in Paris, in September, 1792; the long train of assassinations which, in July, August, and September, 1789, extends over the entire territory; finally, the despatch of the prisoners, either shot or sabred, without trial at Lyons and in the West. Even excepting those who had died fighting or who, taken with arms in their hands, were shot down or sabred on the spot, there were ten thousand persons slaughtered without trial in the province of Anjou alone:36 accordingly, the instructions of the Committee of Public Safety, also the written orders of Carrier and Francastel, direct generals to “bleed freely” the insurgent districts,37 and spare not a life: it is estimated that, in the eleven western departments, the dead of both sexes and of all ages exceeded four hundred thousand.38 Considering the programme and principles of the Jacobin sect this is no great number; they might have killed a good many more. But time was wanting; during their short reign they did what they could with the instrument in their hands. Look at their machine, the gradual Edition: current; Page: [1194]construction of its parts, the successive stages of its operation from its starting up to Thermidor 9, and see how limited the period of its operation was. Organised March 30 and April 6, 1793, the revolutionary committees and the revolutionary Tribunal had but seventeen months in which to do their work. They did not drive ahead with all their might until after the fall of the Girondists, and especially after September, 1763, that is to say for a period of eleven months. Its loose wheels were not screwed up and the whole was not in running order under the impulse of the central motor until after December, 1793, that is to say during eight months. Perfected by the law of Prairial 22, it works for the past two months, faster and better than before, with an energy and rapidity that increase from week to week. At that date, and even before it, the theorists have taken the bearings of their destinies and accepted the conditions of their undertaking. Being sectarians, they have a faith, and as orthodoxy tolerates no heresy, and as the conversion of heretics is never sincere or durable, heresy can be suppressed only by suppressing heretics. “It is only the dead,” said Barère, Messidor 16, “who never return.” On the 2d and 3d of Thermidor,39 the Committee of Public Safety sends to Fouquier-Tinville a list of four hundred and seventy-eight accused persons with orders “to bring the parties named to trial at once.” Baudot and Jean Bon St. André, Carrier, Antonelle and Guffroy, had already estimated the lives to be taken at several millions and, according to Collot d’ Herbois, who had a lively imagination, “the political perspiration should go on freely, and not stop until from twelve to fifteen million Frenchmen had been destroyed.”40

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To make amends, in the fourth and last division of their work, that is to say, in spoliation, they went to the last extreme: they did all that could be done to ruin individuals, families, and the State; whatever could be taken, they took. The Constituent and Legislative Assemblies had, on their side, begun the business by abolishing tithes and all feudal rights without indemnity, and by confiscating all ecclesiastical property; the Jacobin operators continue and complete the job; we have seen by what decrees and with what hostility against collective and individual property, whether they attribute to the State the possession of all corporations whatever, even laic, such as colleges, schools, and scientific or literary societies, hospitals and communes, or whether they despoil individuals, indirectly through assignats and the maximum, or directly through the forced loan, revolutionary taxes,41 seizures of gold and silver coin, requisitions Edition: current; Page: [1196]of common useful utensils,42 sequestrations of prisoners’ property, confiscations of the possessions of emigrants and exiles and of those transported or condemned to death. No capital invested in real or personal property, no income in money or produce, whatever its source, whether leases, mortgages, private credits, pensions, agricultural, industrial, or commercial gains, the fruits of economy or labor, from the farmers’, the manufacturers’, and the merchant’s stores to the robes, coats, shirts and shoes, even to the beds and bed-rooms of private individuals—nothing escapes their rapacious grasp: in the country, they carry off even seed reserved for planting; at Strasbourg and in the Upper Rhine, all kitchen utensils; in Auvergne and elsewhere, even the pots used by the cattle-tenders. Every object of value, even those not in public use, comes under Edition: current; Page: [1197]requisition: for instance,43 the Revolutionary Committee of Bayonne seizes a lot of “dimities and muslins,” under the pretext of making “breeches for the country’s defenders.” On useful objects being taken it is not always certain that they will be utilised; between their seizure and putting them to service, robbery and waste intervene; at Strasbourg,44 on a requisition being threatened by the representatives, the inhabitants strip themselves and, in a few days, bring to the municipality “six thousand eight hundred and seventy-nine coats, breeches and vests, four thousand seven hundred sixty-seven pairs of stockings, sixteen thousand nine hundred and twenty-one pairs of shoes, eight hundred and sixty-three pairs of boots, one thousand three hundred and fifty-one cloaks, twenty thousand five hundred and eighteen shirts, four thousand five hundred and twenty-four hats, five hundred and twenty-three pairs of gaiters, one hundred and forty-three skin vests, two thousand six hundred and seventy-three sheets, nine hundred blankets, besides twenty-nine quintals of lint, twenty-one quintals of old linen, and a large number of other articles.”

But “most of these articles remain piled up in the storehouses, part of them rotten, or eaten by rats, the rest being abandoned to the first-comer. … The end of spoliation was attained.” Utter loss to individuals and no gain, or the minimum of a gain, to the State. Edition: current; Page: [1198]Such is the net result of the revolutionary government. After having laid its hand on three-fifths of the landed property of France; after having wrested from communities and individuals from ten to twelve billions of real and personal estate; after having increased, through assignats and territorial warrants, the public debt, which was not five billions in 1789, to more than fifty billions;45 no longer able to pay its employees; reduced to supporting its armies as well as itself by forced contributions on conquered territories, it ends in bankruptcy; it repudiates two-thirds of its debt, and its credit is so low that the remaining third which it has consolidated and guaranteed afresh, loses eighty-three per cent. the very next day. In its hands, the State has itself suffered as much as individuals. Of the latter, more than twelve hundred thousand have suffered in their persons: several millions, all who possessed anything, great or small, have suffered through their property.46 But, in this multitude of the oppressed, it is the notables who are chiefly aimed at and who, in their possessions as well as in their persons, have suffered the most.


On estimating the value of a forest you begin by dividing its vegetation into two classes; on the one hand the full-grown trees, the large or medium-sized oaks, beeches and aspens, and, on the other, the saplings and the undergrowth. In like manner, in estimating society, you divide the individuals composing it into two groups, one consisting of its notables of every kind and degree, and the Edition: current; Page: [1199]other, of the common run of men. If the forest is an old one and has not been too badly managed, nearly the whole of its secular growth is found in its clusters of full-grown trees; a few thousands of large trunks, with three or four hundred old or new staddles belonging to the reserve, contain more useful or precious timber than all the twenty or thirty millions of shrubs, bushes, and brambles put together. It is the same in a community which has existed for a long time under a tolerably strict system of justice and police; almost the entire gain of a secular civilisation is found concentrated in its notables, which, taking it all in all, was the state of French society in 1789.47

Let us first consider the most prominent personages. It is certain, that, among the aristocracy, the wealthiest and most conspicuous families had ceased to render services proportionate to the cost of their maintenance. Most of the seigniors and ladies of the Court, the worldly bishops, abbés, and parliamentarians of the drawing-room, knew but little more than how to solicit with address, make a graceful parade of themselves and spend lavishly. An ill-understood system of culture had diverted them from their natural avocations, and converted them into showy and agreeable specimens of vegetation, often hollow, blighted, sapless and overpruned, besides being very costly, overmanured and too freely watered; and the skilful gardening which shaped, grouped, and arranged them in artificial forms and bouquets, rendered their fruit abortive that flowers might be multiplied. But the flowers were exquisite, and even in a moralist’s eyes, such an efflorescence is of some account. On the side of civility, good-breeding and deportment, the manners and customs of high life had reached a degree of perfection, which never, in France or elsewhere, had been attained before, and which has never since been Edition: current; Page: [1200]revived;48 and of all the arts through which men have emancipated themselves from primitive coarseness, that which teaches them mutual consideration is, perhaps, the most precious. The observance of this, not alone in the drawing-room, but in the family, in business, in the street, with regard to relatives, inferiors, servants, and strangers, gives dignity, as well as a charm, to human intercourse. Delicate regard for what is proper becomes a habit, an instinct, a second nature, which nature, superimposed on the original nature, is the best, inasmuch as the internal code which governs each detail of action and speech, prescribes the standard of behavior and respect for oneself, as well as respect and refined behavior towards others. To this merit, add mental culture. Never was there an aristocracy so interested in general ideas and refinement of expression; it was even too much so; literary and philosophical preoccupations excluded all others of the positive and practical order; they talked, instead of acting. But, in this limited circle of speculative reason and of pure literary forms, it excelled; writings and how to write furnished the ordinary entertainment of polite society; every idea uttered by a thinker caused excitement in the drawing-room: the talent and style of authors were shaped by its taste;49 it was in the drawing-rooms that Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, d’Alembert, the Encyclopedists, great and little, Beaumarchais, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Champfort, and Rivarol, involuntarily sought listeners and found them, not merely admirers and entertainers, but friends, protectors, patrons, benefactors, and followers. Under the teachings of the masters, the disciples had become philanthropists; moreover, the amenities of manners developed in all souls compassion and benevolence: “Nothing was more dreaded by opulent men than to be regarded as insensible.”50 They concerned themselves with children, with the poor, with the peasantry, setting their wits to work to afford Edition: current; Page: [1201]them relief; their zeal was aroused against oppression, their pity was excited for every misfortune. Even those whose duties compelled them to be rigid tempered their rigidity with explanations or concessions. “Ten years before the Revolution,” says Roederer,51 “the criminal courts of France no longer bore their own likeness. … Their former spirit had become changed. … All the young magistrates, and this I can bear witness to, for I was one myself, pronounced judgments more in accordance with the principles of Beccaria, than according to law.” As to the men in authority, military administrators and commandants, it was impossible to be more patient, more careful of spilling blood; likewise, on the other hand, their qualities turned into defects, for, through excess of humanity, they were unable to maintain order, as is evident when facing the insurrections that took place between 1789 and 1792. Even with the force in their own hands, amidst gross insults and extreme dangers, they dreaded to make use of it; they could not bring themselves to repressing brutes, rascals, and maniacs: following the example of Louis XVI., they considered themselves as shepherds of the people, and let themselves be trampled upon rather than fire upon their flock. In reality, they had noble, and even generous and big hearts: in the bailiwick assemblies, in March, 1789, long before the night of August 4, they voluntarily surrendered every pecuniary privilege; under severe trials, their courage, heightened by polished manners, adds even to their heroism, elegance, tact, and gaiety. The most corrupt, a Duke of Orleans, the most frivolous and the most blasé, a Duc de Biron, meet death with stoical coolness and disdain.52 Delicate Edition: current; Page: [1202]women who complain of a draught in their drawing-rooms, make no complaint of a straw mattress in a damp, gloomy dungeon, where they sleep in their clothes so that they may not wake up stiffened, and they come down into the court of the Conciergerie with their accustomed cheerfulness. Men and women, in prison, dress themselves as formerly, with the same care, that they may meet and talk together with the same grace and spirit, in a corridor with an iron grating within a step of the revolutionary Tribunal, and on the eve of the scaffold.53 This moral temper is evidently of the rarest; if it errs on either side it is on that of being over refined, bad for use, good for ornament.

And yet, in the upper class there were associated with two or three thousand idlers amongst a frivolous aristocracy, as many serious men, who, to their drawing-room experience, added experience in business. Almost all who held office or had been in the service, Edition: current; Page: [1203]were of this number, either ambassadors, general officers, or former ministers, from Marshal de Broglie down to Machaut and Malesherbes; resident bishops, like Monseigneur de Durfort, at Besançon;54 vicars-general and canons who really governed their dioceses on the spot; prelates, like those in Provence, Languedoc, and Brittany, who, by right, had seats in the provincial “Etats”; agents and representatives of the clergy at Paris; heads of Orders and Congregations; the chief and lieutenant commandants of the seventeen military departments, intendants of each generalité, head-clerks of each ministry, magistrates of each parliament, farmers-general, collectors-general, and, more particularly in each province, the dignitaries and local proprietors of the two first orders, and all leading manufacturers, merchants, ship-owners, bankers, and prominent bourgeois; in short, that élite of the nobles, clergy, and Third Estate, which, from 1778 to 1789, constituted the twenty-one provincial assemblies, and which certainly formed in France the great social staff. Not that they were superior politicians: for in those days there were none, scarcely a few hundred competent men, almost all of them being specialists. But, in these few men were summed up pretty much the entire political capacity, information, and good sense of France; outside of their heads the other twenty-six millions of brains contained but little else than dangerous and barren formulas; as they alone had commanded, negotiated, deliberated, and governed, they were the only ones who understood men and things tolerably well, and, consequently, Edition: current; Page: [1204]the only ones who were not completely disqualified for their management. In the provincial Assemblies they were seen originating and conducting the most important reforms; they had devoted themselves to these effectively and conscientiously, with as much equity and patriotism as intelligence and thoroughness; most of the heads and subheads of the leading public and private branches of the service, guided by philosophy and supported by current opinion for twenty years, had likewise given evidence of active benevolence.55 Nothing is more precious than men of this stamp, for they are the life and soul of their respective branches of service, and are not to be replaced in one lot, at a given moment, by persons of equal merit. In diplomacy, in the finances, in judicature, in administration, in extensive commerce and large manufacturing, a practical, governing capacity is not created in a day; affairs in all these are too vast and too complicated; there are too many diverse interests to take into account, too many near and remote contingencies to foresee; lacking a knowledge of technical details, it is difficult to grasp the whole; one tries to make short work of it, one shatters right and left and ends with the sword, obliged to fall back on systematic brutality to complete the work of audacious bungling. Except in war, where an apprenticeship is more quickly got through with than elsewhere, the good government of men and the management of capital requires ten years’ practice, besides ten years of preparatory education; add to this, against the temptations of power which are strong, a stability of character established through professional Edition: current; Page: [1205]honor, and, if it so happens, by family traditions. After having directed financial matters for two years, Cambon is not yet aware that the functions of the fermiers-généraux of indirect taxes differ from those of the receveurs-généraux of direct taxes;56 accordingly, he includes, or allows to be included, the forty-eight receveurs in the decree which sends the sixty fermiers before the revolutionary Tribunal, that is to say, to the guillotine; and, in fact, all of them would have been sent there had not a man familiar with the business, Gaudin, Commissioner of the Treasury, heard the decree proclaimed in the street and run to explain to the Committee on Finances that “there was nothing in common” between the two groups of outlaws; that the fermiers were holders of leases on probable profits while the receveurs were paid functionaries at a fixed salary, and the crimes of the former, proved or not proved, were not imputable to the latter. Great astonishment on the part of these improvised financiers! “They make an outcry,” says Gaudin, “and assert that I am mistaken. I insist, and repeat what I have told the President, Cambon; I affirm on my honor and offer to furnish them the proof of it; finally, they are satisfied and the President says to one of the members, ‘Since that is so, go to the bureau of procès-verbaux and scratch out the term receveurs-généraux from the decree passed this morning.’ ” Such are the gross blunders committed by interlopers, and even carried out, when not warned and restrained by veterans in the service. Cambon, accordingly, in spite of the Jacobins, retains in his bureaux all whom he can among veteran officials. If Carnot manages the war well, it is owing to his being himself an educated officer and to maintaining in their positions d’Arcon, d’Obenheim, de Grimoard, de Montalembert, and Marescot, all eminent men bequeathed to him by the ancient régime.57 Reduced, before the 9th of Thermidor, to perfect Edition: current; Page: [1206]nullity, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not again to become useful and active until the professional diplomats, Miot, Colchen, Otto, and Reinhart,58 resume their ascendency and influence. It is a professional diplomat, Barthélemy, who, after the 9th of Thermidor, really directs the foreign policy of the Convention, and brings about the peace of Basle.


Three classes, the nobles, the clergy and the bourgeoisie, provided these élite superiorities, and, compared with the rest of the nation, they themselves formed an élite. Thirty thousand gentlemen, scattered through the provinces, had been brought up from infancy to the profession of arms; generally poor, they lived on their rural estates without luxuries, comforts or curiosity, in the society of wood-rangers and game-keepers, frugally and with rustic habits, in the open air, in such a way as to ensure robust constitutions. A child, at six years of age, mounted a horse; he followed the hounds, and hardened himself against inclemencies;59 afterwards, in the academies, he rendered his limbs supple by exercise and obtained that Edition: current; Page: [1207]rugged health which is necessary for living under a tent and following a campaign. From early childhood, he was imbued with a military spirit; his father and uncles at table talked of nothing but their perils in war and feats of arms; his imagination took fire; he got accustomed to looking upon their pursuits as the only ones worthy of a man of rank and feeling, and he plunged ahead with a precociousness which we no longer comprehend. I have read many records of the service of gentlemen who were assassinated, guillotined, or emigrés; they nearly always began their careers before the age of sixteen, often at fourteen, thirteen, and eleven.60 M. des Echerolles,61 captain in the Poitou regiment, had brought along with him into the Edition: current; Page: [1208]army his only son, aged nine, and a dozen little cousins of the same age. Those children fought like old soldiers; one of them had his leg fractured by a ball; young des Echerolles received a sabre stroke which cut away his cheek from the ear to the upper lip, and he was wounded seven times; still young, he received the cross of St. Louis. To serve the State, seek conflict, and expose one’s life, seemed an obligation of their rank, a hereditary debt; out of nine or ten thousand officers who discharged this debt most of them cared only for this and looked for nothing beyond. With no fortune and without patrons, they had renounced promotion, fully aware that the higher ranks were reserved for the heirs of great families and the courtiers at Versailles. After serving fifteen or twenty years, they returned home with a captain’s commission and the cross of St. Louis, sometimes with a small pension, contented with having done their duty and conscious of their own honor. On the approach of the Revolution, this old spirit, illumined by the new ideas, became an almost civic virtue:62 we have seen how they behaved between 1789 and 1792, their moderation, their forbearance, their sacrifice of self-love, their abnegation and their stoical impassibility, their dislike to strike, the coolness with which they persisted in receiving without returning blows, and in maintaining, if not public order, at least the last semblance of it. Patriots as much as soldiers, through birth, education and conviction, they formed a natural, special nursery, eminently worthy of preserving, inasmuch as it furnished society with ready-made instruments for defence, internally against rascals and brutes, and externally against the enemy. Less calm in disposition and more given to pleasure than the rural nobles of Prussia, under slacker discipline and in the midst of greater worldliness, but more genial, more courteous, and more liberal-minded, the twenty-six thousand noble families of France upheld in their sons the traditions and prejudices, the habits and aptitudes, those energies of body, Edition: current; Page: [1209]heart, and mind63 through which the Prussian “junkers” were able to constitute the Prussian army, organise the German army, and make Germany the first power of Europe.


In like manner, in the Church, nearly all its officials, the whole of the lower and middle-class clergy, curés, vicars, canons, and collegiate chaplains, professors and directors of schools, colleges, and seminaries, more than sixty-five thousand ecclesiastics, formed a healthy, well-organised body, worthily fulfilling its duties. “I do not know,” says de Tocqueville,64 “if taking all in all and notwithstanding the vices of some of its members, there ever was in the world a more remarkable clergy than the Catholic clergy of France when the Revolution took them by surprise, more enlightened, more national, less intrenched behind their private virtues, better endowed with public virtues, and, at the same time, more strong in the faith. … I began the study of the old social system full of prejudices against them; I finish it full of respect for them.” And first, which is a great point, most of the incumbents in the town parishes, in the three hundred collegial churches, in the small canonicates of the cathedral chapters, belonged to better families than at the present day.65 Children were then more numerous, not merely among the peasants, but among the inferior nobles and the upper bourgeoisie; Edition: current; Page: [1210]each family, accordingly, was glad to have one of its sons take orders, and no constraint was necessary to bring this about. The ecclesiastical profession then had attractions which it no longer possesses; it had none of the inconveniences incident to it at the present time. A priest was not exposed to democratic distrust and hostility; he was sure of a bow from the laborer in the street as well as from the peasant in the country; he was on an equal footing with the local bourgeoisie, almost one of the family, and among the first; he could count on passing his life in a permanent situation, honorably and serenely, in the midst of popular deference and enjoying the good will of the public. On the other hand, he was not bridled as in our day. A priest was not a functionary salaried by the State; like his private income, his pay, put aside in advance, furnished through special appropriations, through local taxes, out of a distinct treasury, could never be withheld on account of a préfet’s report, or through ministerial caprice, or be constantly menaced by budget difficulties and the ill-will of the civil powers. In relation to his ecclesiastical superiors he was respectful but independent. The bishop in his diocese was not what he has become since the Concordat, an absolute sovereign free to appoint and remove at will nine curés out of ten. In three vacancies out of four, and often in fourteen out of fifteen,66 it was not the bishop who made the appointment; the new incumbent was designated sometimes by the cathedral chapter or corporation; again, by a collegial church or corporation; again, by the metropolitan canon or by the abbé or prior, the patron of the place; again, by the seignior whose ancestors had founded or endowed the Church; in certain cases by the Pope, and, occasionally, by the King or commune. Powers were limited through this multiplicity and intercrossing of authorities. Moreover, the canon or curé being once appointed he possessed guarantees; he could not be arbitrarily dismissed; in most cases, his removal or suspension required a previous trial according to prescribed formalities, accompanied with an examination, Edition: current; Page: [1211]pleadings, and arguments before the officialité or ecclesiastical court. He was, in fact, permanently placed, and very generally his personal merit sufficed to keep him in his place. For, if the highest positions were bestowed according to birth and favor, the intermediate positions were reserved to correct habits and attainments. Many canons and vicars-general, and almost all the curés in the towns were doctors of divinity or of canon law, while ecclesiastical studies, very thorough, had occupied eight or nine years of their youth.67 Although the method was out of date, much was learned at the Sorbonne and St. Sulpice; at the very least, one became a good logician through prolonged and scientific intellectual gymnastics. “My dear Abbé,” said Turgot, smiling, to Morellet, “it is only you and I who have taken our degree who can reason closely.” Their theological drill, indeed, was about as valuable as our philosophical drill; if it expanded the mind less, it supplied this better with applicable conceptions; less exciting, it was more fruitful. In the Sorbonne of the nineteenth century, the studies consist of the speculative systems of a few isolated, divergent intellects who have exercised no authority over the multitude, while in the Sorbonne of the eighteenth century, the studies consisted of the creed, morality, discipline, history, and canons of a Church which had already existed seventeen centuries and which, comprising one hundred and fifty millions of souls, still sways one-half of the civilised world. To a theoretical education add practical education. A curé, and with still more reason, a canon, an archdeacon, a bishop, was not a passing Edition: current; Page: [1212]stranger, endowed by the State, wearing a surplice, as little belonging to his age through his ministry as through his dress, and wholly confined to his spiritual functions: he managed the revenues of his dotation, he granted leases, made repairs, built, and interested himself in the probabilities of the crops, in the construction of a highway or canal, while his experiences in these matters were equal to those of any lay proprietor. Moreover, being one of a small proprietary corporation, that is to say, a chapter or local vestry, and one of a great proprietary corporation of the diocese and Church of France, he took part directly or indirectly in important temporal affairs, in assemblies, in deliberations, in collective expenditures, in the establishment of a local budget and of a general budget, and hence, in public and administrative matters, his competence was analogous and almost equal to that of a mayor, subdelegate, farmer-general or intendant. In addition to this he was liberal: never has the French clergy been more earnestly so, from the latest curés back to the first archbishops.68 Remark, in fine, the distribution of the clergy over the territory. There was a curé or vicar in the smallest of the forty thousand villages. In thousands of small, poor, remote communes, he was the only man who could readily read and write; none other than he in many of the larger rural communes,69 except the resident seignior and some man of the law or half-way schoolmaster, was at all learned.70 In effect, for a man who had finished his studies and Edition: current; Page: [1213]knowing Latin, to consent, for six hundred francs or three hundred francs a year, to live isolated, and a celibate, almost in indigence, amongst rustics and the poor, he must be a priest; the quality of his office makes him resigned to the discomforts of his situation. A preacher of the Word, a professor of morality, a minister of Charity, a guide and dispenser of spiritual life, he taught a theory of the world, at once consoling and self-denying, which he enforced with a cult, and this cult was the only one adapted to his flock; manifestly, the French, especially those devoted to manual and hard labor, could not regard this world as ideal, except through his formulas; history, the supreme judge, had on this point rendered its verdict without appeal; no heresy, no schism, not the Reformation nor Jansenism, had prevailed against hereditary faith; through infinitely multiplied and deeply penetrating roots this faith suited national customs, temperament, and peculiar social imagination and sensibility. Possessing the heart, the intellect, and even the senses, through fixed, immemorial traditions and habits, it had become an unconscious, almost corporeal necessity, and the Catholic orthodox curé, in communion with the Pope, was about as indispensable to the village as the public fountain; he also quenched thirst, the thirst of the soul; without him, the inhabitants could find no drinkable water. And, if we keep human weaknesses in mind, it may be said that nobleness of character in the clergy corresponded with nobleness of profession; in all points no one could dispute their capacity for self-sacrifice, for they willingly suffered for what they believed to be the truth. If, in 1790, a number of priests took the oath to the civil constitution of the clergy, it was with reservations, or because they deemed the oath licit; but, after the dismissal of the bishops and the Pope’s disapprobation, many of them withdrew it at the risk of their lives, so as not to fall into schism; they fell back into the ranks and gave themselves up Edition: current; Page: [1214]voluntarily to the brutality of the crowd and the rigors of the law. Moreover, and from the start, notwithstanding threats and temptations, two-thirds of the clergy would not take the oath; in the highest ranks, among the mundane ecclesiastics whose scepticism and laxity were notorious, honor, in default of faith, maintained the same spirit; nearly the whole of them, great and small, had subordinated their interests, welfare and security to the maintenance of their dignity or to scruples of conscience. They had allowed themselves to be stripped of everything; they let themselves be exiled, imprisoned, tortured, and made martyrs of, like the Christians of the primitive church; through their invincible meekness, they were going, like the primitive Christians, to exhaust the rage of their executioners, wear out persecutions, transform opinion and compel the admission, even with those who survived in the eighteenth century, that they were true, deserving, and courageous men.


Below the nobles and the clergy, a third class of notables, the bourgeoisie, almost entirely confined to the towns,71 bordered on the former classes through its upper circles, while its diverse groups, ranging from the parliamentarian to the rich merchant or manufacturer, comprised the remainder of those who were tolerably well-educated, say one hundred thousand families, recruited on the same conditions as the bourgeoisie of the present day: they were “bourgeois living nobly,” meaning by this, living on their incomes, large manufacturers and traders, engaged in liberal pursuits—lawyers, notaries, procureurs, physicians, architects, engineers, artists, professors, and especially the government officials; the latter, however, very numerous, differed from ours in two essential points. On the one hand, their office, as nowadays with the notaries’ étude, or a membership of the stock-board, was personal property. Their places, and many others, such as posts in the judiciary, in the finances, in Edition: current; Page: [1215]bailiwicks, in the Présidial, in the Election,72 in the salt-department, in the customs, in the Mint, in the department of forests and streams, in presidencies, in councils, as procureurs du roi in various civil, administrative, and criminal courts, holding places in the treasury, auditors and collectors of the various branches of the revenue—all of which offices, and many others, had been alienated for more than a century by the State in return for specified sums of ready money; thenceforth, they fell into the hands of special purchasers; the title of each possessor was as good as that of a piece of real property, and he could legally sell his title, the same as he had bought it, at a given price, on due advertisement!73 On the other hand, the different groups of local functionaries in each town formed their own associations, similar to our notarial chambers, or those of our stock-brokers; these small associations had their own by-laws, meetings, and treasury, frequently a civil status and the right of pleading, often a political status and the right of electing to the municipal council;74 consequently, besides his personal interests, each member cherished Edition: current; Page: [1216]the professional interests of his guild. Thus was his situation different from what it now is, and, through a natural reaction, his character, manners, and tastes were different. First, he was much more independent; he was not afraid of being discharged or transferred elsewhere, suddenly, unawares, on the strength of an intendant’s report, for political reasons, to make room for a deputy’s candidate or a minister’s tool. This would have cost too much: it would have required first of all a reimbursement of the sum paid for his office, and at a rate of purchase ten times, at least, the revenue of the office.75 Besides, in defending himself, in protesting against and forestalling his disgrace, he would have been supported by his entire professional guild, oftentimes by other similar bodies, and frequently by the whole town, filled with his relations, clients, and comrades. The entire hive protected the bee against the caprices of favoritism and the brutalities of despotism. At Paris, a certain procureur, supported by his colleagues, is known to have imposed on a noble who had insulted him, the most humiliating atonement.76 In fact, under the Edition: current; Page: [1217]ancient régime, it was almost impossible for a functionary to be removed; hence, he could fulfill his duties securely and with dignity, without being obliged to keep daily watch of the capital, to go to Paris to see how the official wind blew, to look after all the influences in his favor, to nurse his relations with the government and live like a bird on a branch. In the second place, there was a limit to his ambition; he did not keep constantly thinking of mounting a step higher in the hierarchy; or how to pass from a small town to a large one and hold on to his title; this would have been a too troublesome and complicated matter; he would first have had to find a purchaser and then sell his place, and next find a seller and buy another at a higher price; a stock broker at Bordeaux, a notary at Lyons, is not an aspirant for the post of stock broker or notary at Paris. Nothing then bore any resemblance to the ambulant colony of the present day which, in obedience to orders from above, travels about governing each of our towns, strangers on the wing, with no personal standing, without local landed property, interests or means, encamped in some hired apartment, often in a furnished room, sometimes stopping at a hotel, eternal nomads awaiting a telegram, always prepared to pack up and leave for another place a hundred leagues off in consideration of a hundred crowns extra pay, and doing the same detached work over again. Their predecessor, belonging to the country, was a stable fixture and contented; he was not tormented by a craving for promotion; he had a career within the bounds of his corporation and town; cherishing no wish or idea of leaving it, he accommodated himself to it; he became proud of his office and professional brethren, and rose above the egoism of the individual; his self-love was bent on maintaining every prerogative and interest belonging to his guild. Established for life in his native town, in the midst of old colleagues, numerous relatives, and youthful companions, he esteemed their good opinion. Exempt from vexatious or Edition: current; Page: [1218]burdensome taxes, tolerably well off, owning at least his own office, he was above sordid preoccupations and common necessities. Used to old fashioned habits of simplicity, soberness, and economy, he was not tormented by a disproportion between his income and expenses, by the requirements of show and luxury, by the necessity of annually adding to his revenue. Thus guided and unembarrassed, the instincts of vanity and generosity, the essence of French character, took the ascendant; the councillor or comptroller, the King’s agent, regarded himself as a man above the common run, as a noble of the Third-Estate; he thought less of making money than of gaining esteem; his chief desire was to be honored and honorable; “he passed life comfortably and was looked up to, … in the discharge of his duty, … with no other ambition than to transmit to his children … along with their inheritance an unsullied reputation.”77 Edition: current; Page: [1219]Among the other groups of the bourgeoisie the same corporate system, the same settled habits, the same security, the same frugality, the same institutions, the same customs,78 promoted the growth of nearly the same sentiments, while the intellectual culture of these men was not insignificant. Having leisure, they were given to reading; as they were not overwhelmed with newspapers they read books worth reading; I have found in old libraries in the provinces, in the houses of the descendants of a manufacturer or lawyer in a small town, complete editions of Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Buffon, and Condillac, with marks in each volume showing that the volume had been read by some one in the house before the close of the eighteenth century. Nowhere else, likewise, had all that was sound and liberal in the philosophy of the eighteenth century found such a welcome; it is from this class that the patriots of 1789 were recruited; it had furnished not only the majority of the Constituent Assembly, but again all the honest men who, from July, 1789 to the end of 1791 performed their administrative duties so disinterestedly, and with such devotion and zeal, amidst so many difficulties, dangers, and disappointments. Composed of Feuillants or Monarchists, possessing such types of men as Huez of Troyes or Dietrich of Strasbourg, and for representatives such leaders as Lafayette and Bailly, it comprised the superior intelligence and most substantial integrity of the Third-Estate. It is evident that, along with the nobles and clergy, the best fruits of history were gathered in it, and most Edition: current; Page: [1220]of the mental and moral capital accumulated, not only by the century, but, again, by preceding centuries.


Like a fire kindled on an eminence in a cold and obscure district, maintained amidst human barbarism on the summits at great cost, civilisation radiates only as its rays grow dim; its light and heat diminish just as its gleams reach remoter and deeper strata; nevertheless, both penetrate to a great distance and to a certain depth before wholly dying out. If, then, we would estimate their power in France at the close of the eighteenth century we must add to the notables the half-notables of society, namely, the men who, like the people, were devoted to manual labor, but who, among the people, kept at the head, say one hundred and fifty thousand families, consisting of well-to-do farmers, small rural proprietors, shopkeepers, retailers, foremen and master-workmen, village syndics and guild syndics,79 those who were established and had some capital, owning Edition: current; Page: [1221]a lot of ground and a house, with a business or stock of tools, and a set of customers, that is to say, with something ahead and credit, not being obliged to live from hand to mouth, and therefore, beginning to be independent and more influential, in short, the overseers of the great social work-house, the sergeants and corporals of the social army. They, too, were not unworthy of their rank. In the village or trade community, the syndic, elected by his equals and neighbors, was not blindly nominated; all his electors in relation to him were competent; if peasants, they had seen him turning up the soil; if blacksmiths or joiners, they had seen him at work in his forge, or at the bench. And, as their direct, present, and obvious interests were concerned, they chose him for the best, not on the strength of a newspaper recommendation, in deference to a vague declamatory platform or sounding, empty phrases, but according to their personal experiences, and the thorough knowledge they had of him. The delegate sent by the village to the intendant and by the guild to the Hôtel-de-Ville, was its most capable, and most creditable man, one of those, probably, who, through his application, intelligence, honesty, and economy, had proved the most prosperous, some master-workman or farmer that had gained experience through long years of assiduity, familiar with details and precedents, of good judgment and repute, more interested than anybody else in supporting the interests of the community and with more leisure than others to attend to public affairs.80 This man, through the nature of things, imposed himself on the attention, confidence, and deference of his peers, and, because he was their natural representative, he was their legal representative.

Upon the whole, if, in this old society, the pressure was unequally distributed, if the general equilibrium was unstable, if the upper parts Edition: current; Page: [1222]bore down too heavily on the lower ones, the sorting, at least, which goes on in every civilised State, constantly separating the wheat from the chaff, went on tolerably well; except at the centre and at the Court, where the winnowing machine had worked haphazard and, frequently, in an opposite sense for a century, the separation proceeded regularly, undoubtedly slower, but, perhaps, more equitably than in our contemporary democracy. The chance that a notable by right could become a notable de facto was then much greater: it was less difficult, and the inclination to found, maintain, and perpetuate a family or a work was much stronger; people oftener looked beyond mere self; the eyes naturally turned outside the narrow circle of one’s personality, looking backward as well as beyond this present life. The institution of an equal partition of property, the system of obligatory partition, the rule of partition in kind, with other prescriptions of the civil code, does not split up a heritage and ruin the home.81 Parental remissness and the cool self-possession of children had not yet weakened the principle of authority and abolished respect in the family. Useful and natural associations were not yet Edition: current; Page: [1223]stifled in the germ nor arrested in their development by the systematic hostility of the law. The facility and cheapness of transportation, the promiscuousness of schools, the excitement of competition, the common rush for every office, the increasing irritation of every ambition and lust, had not immeasurably multiplied the class of irresponsible malcontents and mischievous nomads. In the political order of things, inaptitude, envy, brutality were not sovereign; universal suffrage did not exclude from power the men, born, bred, and qualified to exercise it; the innumerable public offices were not offered as a prey to charlatanism and to the intrigues of politicians. France was not then, as now-a-days, in a way to become a vast lodging-house managed by a chance overseer, condemned to periodical failures, peopled with anonymous inmates, indifferent to each other, without local attachments, with no corporate interests or affections, merely tenants and passing consumers, placed in the order of their numbers around a common mess-table where each thinks only of himself, gets served quickly, consumes what he can lay his hands on, and ends by finding out that, in a place of this sort, the best condition, the wisest course, is to put all one’s property into an annuity and live a bachelor. Formerly, among all classes and in all the provinces, there were a large number of families that had taken root on the spot, living there a hundred years and more. Not only among the nobles, but among the bourgeoisie and the Third-Estate, the heir of any enterprise was expected to continue his calling; as with the seignorial chateau and extensive domain, as with the bourgeois dwelling and patrimonial office, the humble rural domain, farm, shop, and factory, were transmitted intact from one generation to another.82 Great or small, the individual was not wholly interested in himself; his thoughts travelled forward to the future and back to the past, on the side of ancestors and on that of descendants, along the endless chain of which his own life was but a link; he possessed Edition: current; Page: [1224]traditions, he felt bound to set examples. Under this twofold title, his domestic authority was uncontested;83 all who belonged to him followed his instructions without swerving and without resistance. When, by virtue of this home discipline, a family had maintained itself upright and respected on the same spot for a century, it could easily mount a degree; it could introduce one of its members into the upper class, pass from the plough or trade to petty offices, and from these to the higher ones and to parliamentary dignities, from the four thousand posts that ennoble to the legalised nobility, from the lately made nobles to the old nobility. Apart from the two or three thousand gilded drones living on the public honey at Versailles, apart from the court parasites and their valets, three or four hundred thousand notables and half-notables of France thus acquired and kept their offices, consideration and fortune; they were therefore their legitimate possessors. The peasant-proprietor and master-artisan had risen from father to son, at four o’clock in the morning, toiled all day and never drank. From father to son, the trader, notary, lawyer, and office-holder, had been careful, economical, skillful, and attentive to business, correct in their papers, precise in their accounts. From father to son, the gentleman had served bravely, the parliamentarian had judged equitably, on honor, with a salary less than the interest of the sum paid by him to acquire his rank or post. Each of these men received no more than his due; his possessions and his rank were the savings of his race, the price of social services rendered by the long file of deserving dead, all that his ancestors, his father and himself had created or preserved of any stable value; each piece of gold that remained in the hereditary purse represented the balance of a lifetime, the enduring labor of someone belonging to his line, while among these gold pieces, he himself had provided his share. For, personal services counted, even among the upper nobility; Edition: current; Page: [1225]and all the more among the lower class, in the Third-Estate, and among the people. Among the notables of every degree just described, most of them, in 1789, were certainly full-grown, many of them mature, a goodly number advanced in years, and some quite aged; consequently, in justification of his rank and emoluments, or of his gains and his fortune, each could allege fifteen, twenty, thirty, and forty years of labor and honorability in private or public situations, the grand-vicar of the diocese as well as the chief-clerk of the ministry, the intendant of the généralité as well as the president of the royal tribunal, the village curé, the noble officer, the office-holder, the lawyer, the procureur, the large manufacturer, the wholesale dealer, as well as the well-to-do farmer, and the well-known handicraftsman. Thus, not only were they an élite corps, the most valuable portion of the nation, the best timber of the forest, but again, the wood of each branch belonged to that trunk; it grew there, and was the product of its own vegetation; it sprung out of the trunk wholly through the unceasing and spontaneous effort of the native sap, through time-honored and recent labor, and, on this account, it merited respect. Through a double onslaught, at once against each human branch and against the entire French forest, the Jacobin wood-choppers seek to clear the ground. Their theory results in this precept, that not one of the noble trees of this forest, not one valuable trunk from the finest oak to the tenderest sapling, should be left standing.


Not that the ravages which they make stop there! The principle extended far beyond that. The fundamental rule, according to Jacobin maxims, is that every public or private advantage which any citizen enjoys not enjoyed by another citizen, is illegitimate. On Ventose 19, year II., Henriot, general in command, having surrounded the Palais Royal and made a sweep of “suspects,” renders an account of his expedition as follows:84 “One hundred and thirty muscadins have been arrested. … These gentlemen are transferred Edition: current; Page: [1226]to the Petits-Pêres. They are not sans-culottes, being well-fed and plump.” Henriot was right, for, to live well is incivique. Whoever lays in stores of provisions is criminal, even if he has gone a good ways for them, even if he has not overpaid the butcher of his quarter, even if he has not diminished by an ounce of meat the ration of his neighbor; on this being discovered, he is obliged to disgorge and be punished. “A citizen85 had a little pig brought to him from a place six leagues from Paris, and killed it at once. Three hours afterwards, the pig was seized by commissioners and distributed among the people, without the owner getting a bit of it”; moreover, the said owner “was imprisoned.” He is a monopolist! To Jacobin people, to empty stomachs, there is no greater crime; this misdeed, to their imaginations, explains the arrest of Hébert, their favorite: “It is said at the Halle86 that he has monopolised one of St. Anthony’s friends87 together with a pot of twenty-five pounds of Brittany butter,” which is enough; they immediately and “unanimously consign Père Duchesne to the guillotine.” Of all privileges, accordingly, that of having a supply of food is the most offensive; “it is now necessary for one who has two dishes to give one of them to him who has none”;88 every man who manages to eat more than another is a robber; for, in the first place, he robs the community, the sole legitimate owner of aliments, and next, he robs, and personally, all who have less to eat than he has.

The same rule applies to other things of which the possession is either agreeable or useful: in an equalising social system, that now established, every article of food possessed by one individual to the exclusion of others, is a dish abstracted from the common table and held by him to another’s detriment. On the strength of this, the theorists who govern agree with the reigning tatterdemalions. Whoever Edition: current; Page: [1227]has two good coats is an aristocrat, for there are many who have only one poor one.89 Whoever has good shoes is an aristocrat, for many wear wooden ones, and others go barefoot. Whoever owns and rents lodgings is an aristocrat, for others, his tenants, instead of receiving money, pay it out. The tenant who furnishes his own rooms is an aristocrat, for many lodge in boarding-houses and others sleep in the open air. Whoever possesses capital is an aristocrat, even the smallest amount in money or in kind, a field, a roof over his head, half-a-dozen silver spoons given to him by his parents on his wedding-day, an old woollen stocking into which twenty or thirty crowns have been dropped one by one, all one’s savings, whatever has been laid by or economised, a petty assortment of eatables or merchandise, one’s crop for the year and stock of groceries, especially if, disliking to give them up and letting his dissatisfaction be seen, he, through revolutionary taxation and requisitions, through the maximum and the confiscation of the precious metals, is constrained to surrender his small savings gratis, or at half their value. Fundamentally, it is only those who have nothing of their own that are held to be patriots, those who live from day to Edition: current; Page: [1228]day,90 “the wretched,” the poor, vagabonds, and the famished; the humblest laborer, the least instructed, the most ill at his ease, is treated as criminal, as an enemy, solely because he is suspected of having some resources; in vain does he show his scarified or callous hands; he escapes neither spoliation, the prison, nor the guillotine. At Troyes, a poor shop-girl who had set up a small business on borrowed money, but who is ruined by a bankruptcy and completely so by the maximum, infirm, and consuming piecemeal the rest of her stock, is taxed five hundred livres.91 In the villages of Alsace, an order is issued to arrest the five, six, or seven richest persons in the Commune, even if there are no rich; consequently, they seize the least poor, simply because they are so; for instance, at Heiligenberg, six “farmers” one of whom is a day-laborer, “or journeyman,” “suspect,” says the register of the jail, “because he is comfortably off.”92 On this account nowhere are there so many “suspects” as Edition: current; Page: [1229]among the people; the shop, the farm, and the work-room harbor more aristocrats than the rectory and the chateau. In effect, according to the Jacobins,93 “nearly all farmers are aristocrats”; “the merchants are all essentially antirevolutionary,”94 and especially all dealers in articles of prime necessity, wine-merchants, bakers and butchers; the latter especially are open “conspirators,” enemies “of the interior,” and “whose aristocracy is insupportable.” Such, already, among the lower class of people, are the many delinquents who are punished.

But there are still more of them to punish, for, besides the crime of not being indigent, of possessing some property, of withholding articles necessary for existence, there is the crime of aristocracy, necessarily so called, namely, repugnance to, lack of zeal, or even indifference for the established régime, regret for the old one, relationship or intercourse with a condemned or imprisoned emigré of the upper class, services rendered to some outlaw, the resort to some priest; now, numbers of poor farmers, mechanics, domestics, and women servants, have committed this crime;95 and in many provinces Edition: current; Page: [1230]and in many of the large cities nearly the whole of the laboring population commits it and persists in it; such is the case, according to Jacobin reports, in Alsace, Franche-Comté, Provence, Vaucluse, Anjou, Poitou, Vendée, Brittany, Picardie and Flanders, and in Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Lyons. In Lyons alone, writes Collot d’Herbois, “there are sixty thousand persons who never will become republicans. They should be disbanded and prudently distributed over the surface of the Republic.”96 Finally, add to the persons of the lower class, prosecuted on public grounds, those who are prosecuted on private grounds. Among peasants in the same village, workmen of the same trade and shopkeepers in the same quarter, there is always envy, enmities, and spites; those who are Jacobins become local pachas and are able to gratify local jealousies with impunity, which they never fail to do.97

Hence, on the lists of the guillotined, the incarcerated and of emigrés, the men and women of inferior condition are in much Edition: current; Page: [1231]greater number, far greater than their companions of the superior and middle classes all put together. Out of twelve thousand condemned to death whose rank and professions have been ascertained, seven thousand five hundred and forty-five98 are peasants, cultivators, ploughmen, workmen of various sorts, innkeepers, wine-dealers, soldiers, and sailors, domestics, women, young girls, servants, and seamstresses. Out of one thousand nine hundred emigrés from Doubs, nearly one thousand one hundred belong to the lower class. Towards the month of April, 1794, all the prisons in France overflow with farmers;99 in the Paris prisons alone, two months before Thermidor 9, there are two thousand of them.100 Without mentioning the eleven western departments in which four or five hundred square leagues of territory are devastated and twenty towns and one thousand eight hundred villages destroyed,101 where the avowed purpose of the Jacobin policy is a systematic and total destruction of the country, man and beast, buildings, crops, and even trees, there are cantons and even provinces where the entire rural and working population is arrested or put to flight. In the Pyrenees, the old Basque populations “torn from their natal soil, crowded into the churches with no means of subsistence but that of charity,” in the middle of winter, so that sixteen hundred of those incarcerated die “mostly of cold and hunger”;102 at Bédouin, a town of two thousand souls, in which a tree of liberty is cut down by some unknown persons, four hundred and thirty-three houses are demolished or burned, sixteen persons guillotined and forty-seven shot, while the rest of the inhabitants are driven out, reduced to living like vagabonds Edition: current; Page: [1232]on the mountain, or in holes which they dig in the ground;103 in Alsace, fifty thousand farmers who, in the winter of 1793, take refuge with their wives and children on the other side of the Rhine.104 In short, the revolutionary operation is a complete prostration of people of all classes, the trunks as well as the saplings being felled, and often in such a way as to clear the ground entirely.

In this general prostration, however, the notables of the people, making all due allowances, suffer more than the common run; the Jacobin wood-chopper manifestly selects out and fells with the greatest fury and persistency, the veterans of labor and economy, the large cultivators who from father to son and for many generations have possessed the same farm, the master-mechanics whose shops are well stocked and who have good customers, all respectable, well-patronised retailers, who owe nothing; the village-syndics and trades-syndics, all those showing more deeply and visibly than the rest of their class, the five or six blazes which warrant the stroke of the axe. They are better off, better provided with desirable comforts and conveniences, which is of itself an offence against equality. Having Edition: current; Page: [1233]accumulated a small hoard, a few pieces of plate, sometimes a few crowns,105 a store of linen and clothes, a stock of provisions or goods, they do not willingly submit to being plundered, which is the offence of egoism. Being egoists, it is presumed that they are hostile to the system of fraternity, at least indifferent to it, as well as lukewarm toward the Republic, that is to say, Moderates, which is the worst offence of all.106 Being the foremost of their class, they are haughty like the nobles or the bourgeois and regard themselves as superior to a poor man, to a vagabond, to a genuine sans-culotte, the fourth and most inexcusable of all offences. Moreover, from the fact of their superior condition, they have contracted familiarities and formed connections with the proscribed class; the farmer, the intendant, the overseer is often attached to his noble proprietor or patron;107 many of the farmers, shopkeepers, and mechanics belonging to old families are considered as affiliated with the bourgeoisie or the clergy,108 through a son or brother who has risen a degree in Edition: current; Page: [1234]trade, or by some industrial pursuit, or who, having completed his studies, has become a curé or lawyer, or else through some daughter, or well-married sister, or through one who has become a nun: now, this relation, ally, friend, or comrade of a “suspect” is himself a “suspect,” the last antirevolutionary and decisive barrier. Sober and well-behaved persons, having prospered or maintained themselves under the ancient régime, must naturally cherish respect for former institutions; they must involuntarily retain a deep feeling of veneration for the King, and especially for religion; they are devout Catholics, and therefore are chagrined to see the churches shut up, worship prohibited, and ecclesiastics persecuted, and would again be glad to go to Mass, honor Easter, and have an orthodox curé who could administer to them available sacraments, a baptism, an absolution, a marriage-rite, and veritable extreme unction.109 Under all these headings, they have made personal enemies of the rascals who hold office; on all these grounds, they are struck down; what was once meritorious with them is now disgraceful. Thus, the principal swath consists of the élite of the people, selected from amongst the people itself; it is against the “subordinate aristocracy,” those most capable of doing and conducting manual labor, the most creditable workmen, through their activity, frugality, and good habits, that the Revolution, in its rigor against the inferior class, rages with the greatest fury.


For the same reason, as far as the notables, properly so-called, are concerned, it bears down still more heavily, not merely on the nobles because of ancient privileges, not merely on ecclesiastics on the score of being insubordinate Catholics, but on nobles, ecclesiastics, and bourgeois in their capacity of notables, that is to say, born and bred Edition: current; Page: [1235]above others, and respected by the masses on account of their superior condition. In the eyes of the genuine Jacobin, the notables of the third class are no less criminal than the members of the two superior classes. “The bourgeois,110 the merchants, the large proprietors,” writes a popular club in the South, “all have the pretension of the old set (des ci-dévants).” And the club complains of “the law not providing means for opening the eyes of the people with respect to these new tyrants.” It is horrible! The stand they take is an offence against equality and they are proud of it! And what is worse, this stand attracts public consideration! Consequently, “the club requests that the revolutionary Tribunal be empowered to consign this proud class to temporary confinement,” and then “the people would see the crime it had committed and recover from the sort of esteem in which they had held it.” Incorrigible and contemptuous heretics against the new creed, they are only too lucky to be treated somewhat like infidel Jews in the middle-ages. Accordingly, if they are tolerated, it is on the condition that they let themselves be pillaged at discretion, covered with opprobrium, and subdued through fear. At one time, with insulting irony, they are called upon to prove their dubious civism by forced donations. “Whereas,”111 says Representative Edition: current; Page: [1236]Milhaud, “all the citizens and citoyennes of Narbonne being in requisition for the discharge and transport of forage; whereas, this morning, the Representative, in person, having inspected the performance of this duty,” and having observed on the canal “none but sans-culottes and a few young citizens; whereas, not finding at their posts any muscadin and no muscadine; whereas, the persons, whose hands are no doubt too delicate, even temporarily, for the glorious work of robust sans-culottes, have, on the other hand, greater resources in their fortune, and, desiring to afford to the rich of Narbonne the precious advantage of being equally useful to the Republic,” hereby orders that “the richest citizens of Narbonne pay within twenty-four hours” a patriotic donation of one hundred thousand livres, one-half to be assigned to the military hospitals, and the other half, on the designation thereof by a “Committee of Charity, composed of three reliable revolutionary sans-culottes,” to be distributed among the poor of the Commune. Should any “rich egoist refuse to contribute his contingent he is to be immediately transferred to the jail at Perpignan.” Not to labor with one’s own hands, to be disqualified for work demanding physical strength, is of itself a democratic stain, and the man who is sullied by this draws down on himself, not alone an augmentation of pecuniary taxation, but frequently an augmentation of personal compulsory labor. At Villeneuve, Aveyron, and throughout the department of Cantal,112 Representative Taillefer and his delegate Deltheil, instruct the revolutionary committees to “place under military requisition and conscription all muscadins above the first class,” that is to say, all between twenty-five and forty years of age who are not reached by the law. “By muscadins is meant all citizens of that age not married, and exercising no useful profession,” in other words, those who live on their income. And, that none of Edition: current; Page: [1237]the middle or upper class may escape, the edict subjects to special rigor, supplementary taxes, and arbitrary arrest, not alone property-holders and fund-holders, but again all persons designated under the following heads—aristocrats, Feuillants, moderates, Girondists, federalists, muscadins, the superstitious, fanatics, the abettors of royalism, of superstition and of federation, monopolists, jobbers, egoists, “suspects” of incivism, and, generally, all who are indifferent to the Revolution, of which local committees are to draw up the lists.

Occasionally, in a town, some steps taken collectively, either a vote or petition, furnish a ready-made list;113 it suffices to read this to know who are notables, the most upright people of the place; henceforth, under the pretext of political repression, the levellers may give free play to their social rancor. At Montargis, nine days after the attempt of June 20, 1792,114 two hundred and twenty-eight notables sign an address in testimony of their respectful sympathy for the King; a year and nine months later, in consequence of a retroactive stroke, all are hit, and, with the more satisfaction, inasmuch as in their persons the most respected in the town fall beneath the blow, all whom flight and banishment had left there belonging to the noble, ecclesiastic, bourgeois, or popular aristocracy. Already, “on the purification of the constituted authorities of Montargis, the representative had withdrawn every signer from places of public Edition: current; Page: [1238]trust and kept them out of all offices.” But this is not sufficient; the punishment must be more exemplary. Four of them, the ex-mayor, an ex-collector, a district administrator and a notable are sent to the revolutionary Tribunal in Paris, to be guillotined in deference to principles. Thirty-two former officers—chevaliers of St. Louis, mousquetaires, nobles, priests, an ex-procureur-royal, an ex-treasurer of France, a former administrator of the department, and two ladies, one of them designated as “calling herself a former marchioness”—are confined, until peace is secured, in the jail at Montargis. Other former municipal officers and officers in the National Guard—men of the law, notaries and advocates, physicians, surgeons, former collectors, police commissioners, postmasters, merchants and manufacturers, men and women, married or widows, and widowers—are to make public apology and be summoned to the Temple of Reason to undergo there the humiliation of a public penance on the 20th of Ventose, at three o’clock in the afternoon. They all go, for the summons says, “whoever does not present himself on the day and hour named will be arrested and confined until peace is declared.” On reaching the church, purified by Jacobin adoration, “in the presence of the constituted authorities of the popular club and of the citizens convoked in general assembly,” they mount one by one into “a tribune raised three steps above the floor,” in such a way as to be in full sight. One by one the national agent, or the mayor, reprimands them in the following language: “You have been base enough to sign a fawning address to Louis XVI., the most odious and the vilest of tyrants, an ogre of the human species guilty of every sort of crime and debauchery. You are hereby censured by the people. You are moreover warned that on committing the first act of incivisme, or manifesting any antirevolutionary conduct, the surveillance of the constituted authorities will be extended to you in the most energetic manner; the tribunals will show you less leniency and the guillotine will insure prompt and imposing justice.” Each, called by name, receives in turn the threatened admonition, and, descending from the tribune amidst hues and cries, all sign the procès-verbal. But compunction is often wanting, and some of them seem Edition: current; Page: [1239]to be not sufficiently penitent. Consequently, at the close of the ceremony, the National Agent calls the attention of the assembly to “the impudence manifested by certain aristocrats, so degraded that even national justice fails to make them blush”; and the Revolutionary Committee, “considering the indifference and derisive conduct of four women and three men, just manifested in this assembly; considering the necessity of punishing an inveterate aristocracy which seems to make sport of corrective acts that bear only (sic) on morals, in a most exemplary manner,” decides that the seven delinquents “shall be put under arrest, and confined in the jail of Ste. Marie.” The three who have shown indifference, are to be confined three months; the four who have shown derision, are to be confined until peace is restored. Besides this, the decree of the National Agent and the minutes of the meeting are to be printed and six thousand impressions struck off at the expense of the signers, “the richest and most ‘suspect’ ”—a former treasurer of France, a notary, a grocer, the wife of the former commandant of the gendarmerie, a widow and another woman—all, says the agent, “of very solid wealth and aristocracy.” “Bravo!” shouts the assembly, at this witticism; applause is given and it sings “the national hymn.” It is nine o’clock in the evening. This public penitence lasts six hours and the Jacobins of Montargis retire, proud of their work; having punished as a public affront, an old and legal manifestation of respect for the public magistrate; having sent either to the scaffold or to prison, and fined or disgraced the small local élite; having degraded to the level of prostitutes and felons under surveillance, reputable women and honorable men who are, by law, most esteemed under a normal system of government and who, under the revolutionary system are, by law, the least so.115

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Two advantages, fortune and education, each involving the other, cause a man to be ranked in the upper class; hence, one or the other, whether each by itself or both together, mark a man out for spoliation, imprisonment, and death. In vain may he have demonstrated his Jacobinism, and Jacobinism of the ultra sort. Hérault-Séchelles, who voted for murdering the King, who belongs to the Committee of Public Safety, who, in the Upper-Rhine, has just carried out the worst revolutionary ordinances,116 but who has the misfortune to be rich and a man of the world, is led to the scaffold, and those devoted to the guillotine readily explain his condemnation: he is no patriot, how could he be, enjoying an income of two hundred thousand livres, and, moreover, is he not a general-advocate?117 One of these offences is sufficient. Alone and by itself, “opulence,” writes Saint-Just, “is a disgrace,” and, according to him, a man is opulent “who supports fewer children than he has thousands of livres income”; in Edition: current; Page: [1241]effect, among the persons confined as “rich and egoists” we find, according to the very declaration of the Revolutionary Committee, persons with incomes of only four thousand, three thousand seven hundred, one thousand five hundred, and even five hundred livres.118 Moreover, a fortune or a competence, inspires its possessor with antirevolutionary sentiments; consequently, he is for the moment an obstruction; “You are rich,” says Cambon, making use of a personification, “you cherish an opinion, which compels us to be on the defensive; pay then, so as to indemnify us and be thankful for our indulgence which, precautionary and until peace is declared, keeps you under bolt and bar.”119 “Rich, antirevolutionary, and vicious,” according to Robespierre,120 “these three traits depend on each other, and, therefore, the possession of the superfluous is an infallible sign of aristocracy, a visible mark of incivisme” and, as Fouché says, “a stamp of reprobation.” “The superfluous is an evident and unwarrantable violation of the people’s rights; every man who has more than his wants call for, cannot use, and therefore he must only abuse.”121 Whoever does not make over to the masses the excess of what is strictly necessary … places himself in the rank of ‘suspects.’ Rich egoists, you are the cause of our misfortunes!”122 “You dared to smile contemptuously on the appellation of sans-culottes;123 you have enjoyed much more than your brethren alongside Edition: current; Page: [1242]of you dying with hunger; you are not fit to associate with them, and since you have disdained to have them eat at your table, they cast you out eternally from their bosom and condemn you, in turn, to wear the shackles prepared for them by your indifference or your manoeuvres.” In other words, whoever has a good roof over his head, or wears good clothes, man or woman, idler or industrious, noble or commoner, is available for the prison or the guillotine, or, at the very least, he is a taxable and workable serf at pleasure; his capital and accumulations, if not spontaneously and immediately handed over, form a criminal basis and proof of conviction. The orders of arrest are generally issued against him on account of his wealth; in order to drain a town of these offenders one by one, all are penned together according to their resources; at Strasbourg,124 one hundred and ninety-three persons are taxed, each from six thousand to three hundred thousand livres, in all nine million livres, payable within twenty-four hours, by the leading men of each profession or trade, bankers, brokers, merchants, manufacturers, professors, pastors, lawyers, physicians, surgeons, publishers, printers, upholsterers, glass-dealers, rope-makers, master-masons, coffee-house and tavern keepers. And let there be no delay in responding to these orders within the prescribed time! Otherwise the delinquents will be placed in the stocks, on the scaffold, face to face with the guillotine. “One of the best citizens in the Commune, who had steadily manifested his attachment to the Revolution, being unable to realise a sum of two hundred and fifty thousand livres in one day, Edition: current; Page: [1243]was fastened in the pillory.”125 Sometimes the orders affected an entire class, not alone nobles or priests, but all the members of any bourgeois profession or even of any handicraft. At Strasbourg, a little later, “considering that the thirst for gold has always controlled the brewers of the Commune,” they are condemned to two hundred and fifty thousand livres fine, to be paid in three days under penalty of being declared rebels, with the confiscation of their possessions”; then, upon another similar consideration, the bakers and flour dealers are taxed three hundred thousand livres.126 In addition to this, writes Representative Milhaud, at Guyardin,127 “We have ordered the arrest of all bankers, stock-brokers and notaries. … All their wealth is confiscated; we estimate the sums under seal at two or three millions in coin, and fifteen or sixteen millions in assignats.” There is the same haul of the net at Paris. By order of Rhuillier, procureur of the department, “seals are placed in the offices of all the bankers, stock-brokers, silversmiths, etc.,” and they themselves are shut up in the Madelonettes; a few days after, that they may pay their drafts, they are let out as a favor, but on condition that they remain under arrest in their homes, at their own expense, under guard of two good sans-culottes.128 In like manner, at Nantes,129 Lyons, Marseilles, and Bordeaux, the prisons are filled and the guillotine Edition: current; Page: [1244]works according to the categories. At one time they are “all of the Grand Théatre,” or the principal merchants, “to the number of more than two hundred,” are incarcerated at Bordeaux in one night.130 At another time, Paris provides a haul of farmer-generals or parliamentarians. Carts leave Toulouse conveying its parliamentarians to Paris to undergo capital punishment. At Aix, writes an agent,131 “the guillotine is going to work on former lawyers; a few hundred heads legally taken off will do the greatest good.” And, as new crimes require new terms to designate them, they add to “incivisme” and “moderantisme,” the term “negociantisme,” all of which are easily stated and widespread crimes. “The rich and the merchants,” writes an observer,132 “are here, as elsewhere, born enemies of equality and amateurs of hideous federalism, the only aristocracy that remains to be crushed out.” Barras, with still greater precision, declares in the tribune that, “commerce is usurious, monarchical, and antirevolutionary.”133 Considered in itself, it may be defined as an appeal to bad instincts; it seems a corrupting, incivique, antifraternal institution, many Jacobins having proposed either to interdict it to private persons and attribute it wholly to the State, or suppress it along with the arts and manufactures which nourish it, in order that only a population of agriculturists and soldiers may be left in France.134

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The second advantage and the second crime of the notables is superiority of education. “In all respectable assemblages,” writes a Dutch traveler in 1795,135 “you may be sure that one-half of those present have been in prison.” Add the absent, the guillotined, the exiled, emigrés, the transported, and note this, that, in the other favored half, those who did not quaff the prison cup had had a foretaste of it for, each expected daily to receive his warrant of arrest; “the worst thing under Robespierre, as several old gentlemen have told me, was that one never knew in the morning whether one would sleep in one’s own bed at night.” There was not a well-bred man who did not live in dread of this; examine the lists of “suspects,” of the arrested, of exiles, of those executed, in any town, district or department,136 and you will see immediately, through their quality and occupations, first, that three-quarters of the cultivated are inscribed on it, and next, that intellectual culture in itself is “suspect.” “They were equally criminal,”137 write the Strasbourg administrators, “whether rich or cultivated. … The (Jacobin) municipality declared the University federalist; it proscribed public instruction and, consequently, the professors, regents, and heads of schools, with all instructors, public as well as private, even those provided with Edition: current; Page: [1246]certificates of civisme, were arrested; … every Protestant minister and teacher in the Lower-Rhine department was incarcerated, with a threat of being transferred to the citadel at Besançon.” Fourcroy, in the Jacobin Club at Paris, excusing himself for being a savant, for giving lectures on chemistry, for not devoting his time to the rantings of the Convention and of the clubs, is obliged to declare that he is poor, that he lives by his work, that he supports “his father, a sans-culotte, and his sans-culotte sisters”; although a good republican, he barely escapes, and the same with others like him. “All educated men were persecuted,” he states a month after Thermidor 9;138 “to have acquaintances, to be literary, sufficed for arrest, as an aristocrat. … Robespierre … with devilish ingenuity, abused, calumniated and overwhelmed with gall and bitterness all who were devoted to serious studies, all who professed extensive knowledge; … he felt that cultivated men would never bend the knee to him. … Instruction was paralysed; they wanted to burn the libraries. … Must I tell you that at the very door of your assembly errors in orthography are seen? Nobody learns how to read or write.” At Nantes, Carrier boasts of having “dispersed the literary chambers,” while in his enumeration of the evil-minded he adds “to the rich and merchants,” “all gens d’esprit.139 Sometimes on the turnkey’s register we read that such a one was confined “for being clever and able to do mischief,” another for saying “good-day, gentlemen, to the municipal councillors.”140 Politeness, like other evidences of a good education, becomes a stigma; good-breeding seems not only a remnant of the ancient régime, but a revolt against new institutions; now, as the governing principle of these is, theoretically, abstract equality and, practically, the ascendency of the low class, there is an uprising against the established order of things when this consists in repudiating coarse companions, familiar oaths, and the indecent expressions Edition: current; Page: [1247]of the common workman and the soldier. In sum, Jacobinism, through its doctrines and deeds, its dungeons and executioners, proclaims to the nation over which it holds the rod:141 “Be rude, that you may become republican, return to barbarism that you may show the superiority of your genius; abandon the customs of civilised people that you may adopt those of galley slaves; mar your language with a view to improve it; use that of the populace under penalty of death. Spanish mendicants treat each other in a dignified way; they show respect for humanity although in tatters. We, on the contrary, order you to assume our rags, our patois, our terms of intimacy. Don the carmagnole and tremble; become rustics and dolts, and prove your civism by the absence of all education.” Education,142 amiable qualities, gentle ways, a mild physiognomy, bodily graces, culture (literary), all natural endowments are henceforth “the inevitable causes of proscription.” One is self-condemned if one has not converted oneself into a sans-culotte and proletaire, in accordance with affected modes, air, language, and dress. Hence, “through a hypocritical contest hitherto unknown men who were not vicious deemed it necessary to appear so.” And worse still, “one was even afraid to be oneself; one changed one’s name, one went in disguise, wearing a vulgar and tasteless attire; everybody shrunk from being what he was.” For, according to the Jacobin programme, all Frenchmen must be recast in one uniform mould; they must be taken when small; all must be subject to the same enforced education, that of a mechanic, rustic, and soldier’s boy. Be warned, ye adults, by the guillotine, reform yourselves beforehand according to the prescribed pattern! No more costly, elegant or delicate crystal or gold vases! All are shattered or are still being shattered. Henceforth, only common ware is to be tolerated or ordered to be made, all alike in substance, shape, and color, manufactured by thousands at wholesale Edition: current; Page: [1248]and in public factories, for the common and plain uses of rural and military life; all original and superior forms are to be rejected. “The masters of the day,” writes Daunou,143 “deliberately aimed their sword thrusts at superior talent, at energetic characters; they mowed down as well as they could in so short a time,” the flower and hope of the nation. In this respect they were consistent; equality-socialism allows none but automatic citizens, mere tools in the hands of the State, all alike, of a rudimentary fashion and easily managed, without personal conscience, spontaneity, curiosity, or integrity; whoever has cultivated himself, whoever has thought for himself and exercised his own will and judgment rises above the level and shakes off the yoke; to obtain consideration, to be intelligent and honorable, to belong to the élite, is to be antirevolutionary. In the popular club of Bourg-en-Bresse, Representative Javogues declared that “the Republic could be established only on the corpse of the last of the honest men.”144


On one side, the élite of France, deprived of common rights, in exile, in prison, under pikes, and on the scaffold, almost every person of rank, fortune, family, and merit, those eminent for intelligence, culture, talent, and virtue; on the other side, those above all rights, possessing every office and omnipotent in the irresponsible dictatorship, in the despotic proconsulships, in the sovereignty of justice, a horde of the outcasts of all classes, the parvenus of fanaticism, Edition: current; Page: [1249]charlatanism, imbecility, and crime; often, through the coupling together of these personages, one sees the contrast between the governed and the governors in such strong relief that one almost regards it as calculated and arranged beforehand; the colors and brush of the painter, rather than words, are necessary to represent it. In the western section of Paris, in the prisons of the rue de Sèvres145 the prisoners consist of the most distinguished personages of the Quartier St. Germain, prelates, officers, grand-seigniors, and noble ladies—Monseigneur de Clermont-Tonnerre, Monseigneur de Crussol d’Amboise, Monseigneur de Hersaint, Monseigneur de St. Simon, bishop of Agde, the Comtesse de Narbonne-Pelet, the Duchesse de Choiseul, the Princesse de Chimay, the Comtesse de Raymond-Narbonne and her daughter, two years of age, in short, the flower of that refined society which Europe admired and imitated and which, in its exquisite perfection, equalled or surpassed all that Greece, Rome, and Italy had produced in brilliancy, polish, and amiability. Contrast with these the arbiters of their lives and deaths, the potentates of the same quarter who issue the warrants of arrest against them, who pen them in to speculate on them, and who revel at their expense and before their eyes: these consist of the members of the revolutionary committee of the Croix-Rouge, the eighteen convicted rogues and debauchees previously described,146 ex-cab-drivers, porters, cobblers, street-messengers, stevedores, bankrupts, counterfeiters, former or future jail-birds, all the police or hospital riff-raff. At the other end of Paris, in the east, in the tower of the Temple, separated from his sister and torn from his mother, still lives the Dauphin: no one in France merits any pity or respect. For, if there is a France, it is owing to the thirty-five military chiefs and crowned kings of which he is the last direct scion; without their thousand years of hereditary rule and preserving policy the intruders into the Tuileries who have just profaned their tombs at St. Denis Edition: current; Page: [1250]and thrown their bones into a common ditch,147 would not be Frenchmen. At this moment, were suffrages free, the immense majority of the people, nineteen Frenchmen out of twenty, would recognise this innocent and precious child for their King, the heir of the race to which they owed their nationality and patrimony, a child of eight years, of rare precociousness, as intelligent as he is good, and of a gentle and winning expression. Look at the other figure alongside of him, his fist raised and with insults on his lips, with a hang-dog face, bloated with brandy, titular governor, official preceptor, and absolute master of this child, the cobbler Simon, malignant, foul-mouthed, mean in every way, forcing him to become intoxicated, starving him, preventing him from sleeping, thrashing him, and who, obeying orders, instinctively visits on him all his brutality and corruption that he may pervert, degrade, and deprave him.148 In the Palais de Justice, midway between the tower of the Temple and the prison in the rue de Sèvres, an almost similar contrast, transposing the merits and demerits, daily brings together in opposition the innocent with the vile; and there are days when the contrast, still more striking, seats criminals on the judges’ bench and judges on the bench of criminals. On the first and second of Floréal, the old representatives and trustees of liberty under the monarchy, twenty-five magistrates of the Paris and Toulouse parliaments, many of them being eminent intellects of the highest culture and noblest character, embracing the greatest historical names of the French magistracy—Etienne Pasquier, Lefèvre d’Ormesson, Molé de Champlatreux, De Lamoignon, de Malesherbes—are sent to the Edition: current; Page: [1251]guillotine149 by the judges and juries familiar to us, assassins or brutes who do not take the trouble, or who have not the capacity, to give proper color to their sentences. M. de Malesherbes exclaims, after reading his indictment, “If that were only common-sense!” In effect those who pronounce judgment are, by their own admission, “substantial jurymen, good sans-culottes, men of nature.” And such a nature! One of these, Trenchard, an Auvergnat carpenter, portrays himself to the life in the following note addressed to his wife before the trial comes on: “If you are not alone, and your companion can work, you may come, my dear, and see the twenty-four gentlemen condemned, all of them former presidents or councillors in the parliaments of Toulouse and Paris. I recommend you to bring something along with you (to eat), it will be three hours before we finish. I embrace you, my dear friend and wife.”150 In the same court, Lavoisier, the founder and organiser of chemistry, the great discoverer, and condemned to death, asks for a reprieve of his sentence for a fortnight to complete an experiment, and the president, Coffinhal, another Auvergnat, replies, “The Republic has no need of savants.”151 And it has no need of poets. The first poet of the epoch, André Chénier, the delicate and superior artist who reopens antique sources of inspiration and starts the modern current, is guillotined; we possess the original manuscript indictment of his examination, a veritable master-piece of gibberish and barbarism, of which a full copy is necessary to convey an idea of its “turpitudes of sense and orthography.”152 The reader may there see, if he pleases, a man of Edition: current; Page: [1252]genius delivered up to brutes, coarse, angry, despotic animals, who listen to nothing, who comprehend nothing, who do not even understand terms in common use, who stumble through their queries, and who, to ape intelligence, draggle their pens along in supreme stupidity.

The overthrow is complete. France, subject to the revolutionary government, resembles a human being forced to walk with his head down and to think with his feet.

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Subsistences— I. Complexity of the economical operation by which articles of prime necessity reach the consumer—Conditions of the operation—Available advances—Cases in which these are not available—Case of the holder of these being no longer disposed to make them— II. Economical effect of the Jacobin policy from 1789 to 1793—Attacks on property—Direct attacks—Jacqueries, effective confiscations and proclamation of the socialistic creed—Indirect attacks—Bad administration of the public funds—Transformation of taxation and insignificance of the returns—Increased expenditures—The War-budget and subsistences after 1793—Paper-money—Enormous issues of it—Credit of the assignats run down—Ruin of public creditors and of all private credit—Rate of interest during the Revolution—Stoppage of trade and industry—Bad management of the new land-owners—Decrease of productive labor—Only the small rural land-owner works advantageously—Why he refuses assignats—He is no longer obliged to sell his produce at once—Dearness of food—It reaches a market with difficulty and in small quantities—The towns buy at a high price and sell at a low one—Food becomes dearer and famine begins—Prices during the first six months of 1793— III. First and general cause of privations—The socialistic principle of the revolutionary government—Measures against large as well as small properties—Dispossession of all remaining corporations, enormous issues of paper-money, forced rates of its circulation, forced loans, requisitions of coin and plate, revolutionary taxes, suppression of special organs of labor on a large scale—Fresh measures against small proprietorship—The Maximum, requisitions for food and labor—Situation of the shopkeeper, cultivator and laborer—Effect of the measures on labor on a small scale—Stoppage of selling— IV. Famine—In the provinces—At Paris—People standing in lines under the Revolutionary government to obtain food—Its quality—Distress and chagrin— V. Revolutionary remedies—Rigor against the refractory—Decrees and orders rendering the State the only depositary and distributor of food—Efforts made to establish a conscription of labor—Discouragement of the Peasant—He refuses to cultivate—Decrees and orders compelling him to harvest—His stubbornness—Cultivators imprisoned by thousands—The Convention is obliged to set them at liberty—Fortunate circumstances which save France from extreme famine— VI. Relaxation of the Revolutionary system after Thermidor—Repeal of the Maximum—New situation of the peasant—He begins cultivation again—Requisition of grain by the State—The cultivator indemnifies himself at the expense of private persons—Multiplication and increasing decline of assignats—The classes who have to bear the burden—Famine and misery during year III. and the first half of year IV.—In the country—In the small towns—In large towns and cities— VII. Famine and misery at Paris—Steps taken by the government to feed the capital—Monthly cost to the Treasury—Cold and hunger in the winter of 1794–1795—Quality of the bread—Daily rations diminished—Suffering, especially of the populace—Excessive physical suffering, despair, suicides, and deaths from exhaustion in 1795—Government dinners and suppers—Number of lives lost through want and war—Socialism as applied, and its effects on comfort, well-being and mortality.


Suppose a man forced to walk with his feet in the air and his head downward. By using extremely energetic measures he might, for a while, be made to maintain this unwholesome attitude, and certainly at the expense of a bruised or broken skull; it is very probable, moreover, that he would use his feet convulsively and kick terribly. But it is certain that if this course were persisted in, the man would experience intolerable pain and finally sink down; the blood would stop circulating and suffocation would ensue; the trunk and limbs would suffer as much as the head, and the feet would become numb and inert. Such is about the history of France under its Jacobin pedagogues; their rigid theory and persistent brutality impose on the nation an attitude against nature; consequently she suffers, and each day suffers more and more; the paralysis increases; the functions get out of order and cease to act, while the last and principal one,1 the most urgent, namely, physical support and the daily nourishment Edition: current; Page: [1255]of the living individual, is so badly accomplished, against so many obstacles, interruptions, uncertainties, and deficiencies, that the patient, reduced to extreme want, asks if tomorrow will not be worse than today, and whether his semistarvation will not end in complete starvation.

Nothing, apparently, is simpler, and yet really more complex, than the physiological process by which, in the organised body, the proper restorative food flows regularly to the spot where it is needed, among the innumerably diverse and distant cells. In like manner, nothing is simpler at the first glance, and yet more complex, than the economical process by which, in the social organism, subsistences and other articles of prime necessity, flow of themselves to all points of the territory where they are needed and within reach of each consumer. It is owing to this that, in the social body as in the organised body, the terminal act presupposes many others anterior to and coördinate with it, a series of elaborations, a succession of metamorphoses, one elimination and transportation after another, mostly invisible and obscure, but all indispensable, and all of them carried out by infinitely delicate organs, so delicate that, under the slightest pressure, they get out of order, so dependent on each other that an injury to one affects the operations of the rest, and thus suppresses or perverts the final result to which, nearly or remotely, they all contribute.

Consider, for a moment, these precious economical organs and their mode of operation. In any tolerably civilised community that has lasted for any length of time, they consist, first in rank, of those who possess wealth arising from the accumulation of old and recent savings, that is to say, those who possess any sort of security, large or small, in money, in notes, or in kind, whatever its form, whether Edition: current; Page: [1256]in lands, buildings or factories, in canals, shipping or machinery, in cattle or tools, as well as in every species of merchandise or produce. And see what use they make of these: each person, reserving what he needs for daily consumption, devotes his available surplus to some enterprise, the capitalist his ready money, the real-estate owner his land and tenements, the farmer his cattle, seed, and farming implements, the manufacturer his mills and raw material, the common-carrier his vessels, vehicles, and horses, the trader his warehouses and stock of goods for the year, and the retailer his shop and supplies for a fortnight, to which everybody, the agriculturist, merchant, and manufacturer, necessarily adds his cash on hand, the deposits in his bank for paying the monthly salaries of his clerks, and at the end of the week, the wages of his workmen. Otherwise, it would be impossible to till the soil, to build, to fabricate, to transport, to sell; however useful the work might be, it could not be perfected, or even begun, without a preliminary outlay in money or in kind; in every enterprise, the crop presupposes labor and seed-planting; if I want to dig a well I am obliged to hire a pick and the arms to wield it, or, in other terms, to make certain advances. But these advances are made only on two conditions: first, that he who makes them is able to make them, that is to say, that he is the possessor of an available surplus; and next, being the owner of this surplus, that he desires to make them, with this proviso that he may gain instead of losing by the operation. If I am wholly or partially ruined, if my tenants and farmers do not pay their rent,2 if my lands or goods do not bring half their value in the market, if the net proceeds of my possessions are threatened with confiscation or pillage, not only have I fewer securities to dispose of, but, again, I become more and more uneasy about the future; over and above my immediate consumption I have to provide for a prospective consumption; Edition: current; Page: [1257]I add to my reserve stores especially of coin and provisions; I hold on to the remnant of my securities for myself and those who belong to me; they are no longer available and I can no longer make loans or enter upon my enterprise. And, on the other hand, if the loan or enterprise, instead of bringing me a profit, brings me loss; if the law is powerless or fails to do me justice and adds extra to ordinary risks; if my work once perfected is to become the prey of the government, of brigands, or of whoever pleases to seize it; if I am compelled to surrender my wares and merchandise at one-half their cost; if I cannot produce, put in store, transport, or sell except by renouncing all profit and with the certainty of not getting back my advances, I will no longer make loans or enter upon any undertaking whatever.

Such is the disposition and situation of people able to make advances in anarchical times, when the State falters and no longer performs its customary service, when property is no longer adequately protected by the public force, when jacqueries overspread the country and insurrections break out in the towns, when chateaux are sacked, archives burnt, shops broken into, provisions carried off and transportation is arrested, when rents and leases are no longer paid, when the courts dare no longer convict, when the constable no longer dares serve a warrant, when the gendarmerie holds back, when the police fails to act, when repeated amnesties shield robbers and incendiaries, when a revolution brings into local and central power dishonest and impoverished adventurers hostile to every one that possesses property of any kind. Such is the disposition and situation of all possessors of advances in socialistic times; when the usurping State, instead of protecting private property, destroys or seizes it; when it takes for itself the property of many of the great corporations; when it suppresses legally established credits without indemnity; when, by dint of expenditure and the burdens this creates, it becomes insolvent; when, through its paper-money and forced circulation, it annuls indebtedness in the hands of the creditor, and allows the debtor to go scot free; when it arbitrarily seizes current capital; when it makes forced loans and requisitions; when its tax on Edition: current; Page: [1258]productions surpasses the cost of production and on merchandise the profit on its sale; when it constrains the manufacturer to manufacture at a loss and the merchant to sell at a loss; when its principles, judged by its acts, indicate a progression from partial to a universal confiscation. Through a certain affiliation, every phase of evil engenders the evil which follows, as may be said of a poison the effects of which spread or strike in, each function, affected by the derangement of one contiguous to it, becoming disturbed in its turn. The perils, mutilation, and suppression of property diminish available securities more and more, also the courage that risks them, that is to say, the mode of, and disposition to, make advances; through a lack of advances, useful enterprises languish, die out or are not undertaken; consequently, the production, supply, and sale of indispensable articles slacken, become interrupted, and cease altogether. There is less soap and sugar and fewer candles at the grocery, less wood and coal in the wood-yard, fewer oxen and sheep in the markets, less meat at the butcher’s, less grain and flour at the corn-exchange, and less bread at the bakeries. As articles of prime necessity are scarce they become dear; as people contend for them their dearness increases; the rich man ruins himself in the struggle to get hold of them, while the poor man never gets any, the first of all necessities becoming unattainable.


Such is the misery existing in France at the moment of the completion of the Jacobin conquest, and of which the Jacobins are the authors; for, for the past four years, they have waged systematic war against property. From below, they have provoked, excused and amnestied, or tolerated and authorised, all the popular attacks on property,3 countless insurrections, seven successive jacqueries, some of them so extensive as to cover eight or ten departments at the same time, the last one let loose on all France, that is to say, universal and lasting brigandage, the arbitrary rule of paupers, vagabonds, Edition: current; Page: [1259]and ruffians; every species of robbery, from a refusal to pay rents and leases to the sacking of chateaux and ordinary domiciles, even to the pillage of markets and granaries, free scope to mobs which, under a political pretext, tax and ransom the “suspects” of all classes at pleasure, not alone the noble and the rich but the peaceable farmer and well-to-do artisan, in short, reverting back to the state of nature, to the dominion of appetites and lusts, and to a savage, primitive life in the forests. Only a short time before, in the month of February, 1793, through Marat’s recommendation, and with the connivance of the Jacobin municipality, the Paris riff-raff had broken into twelve hundred groceries and divided on the spot, either gratis or at the price it fixed, sugar, soap, brandy, and coffee. From above, they had undertaken, carried out, and multiplied the worst assaults on property, vast spoliations of every sort—the suppression of hundreds of millions of incomes and the confiscation of billions of capital; the abolition without indemnity of tithes and quitrents; the expropriation of the property of the clergy, of emigrés, that of the order of Malta, that of the pious, charitable, and educational associations and endowments, even laic; seizures of plate, of the sacred vessels and precious ornaments of the churches. And, since they are in power, others still more vast; after August 10, their newspapers in Paris and their commissioners in the departments,4 preached “the agrarian law, the holding of all property in common, the levelling of fortunes, the right of each fraction of the sovereignty” to help itself by force to all food and investments at the expense of the owner, to hunt down the rich, proscribe “land-owners, leading merchants, financiers, and all men in possession of whatever is superfluous.” Rousseau’s dogma that “the fruit belongs to everybody and the soil to no one” is established at an early date as a maxim of State in the Convention, while in the deliberations of the sovereign assembly socialism, openly avowed, becomes ascendant, and, afterwards, supreme. According to Robespierre,5 “whatever is essential Edition: current; Page: [1260]to preserve life is common property to society at large; only the excess may be given up to individuals and surrendered to commercial enterprise.” With still greater solemnity, the pontiff of the sect, in the Declaration of Rights which, unanimously adopted by the all-powerful Jacobin club, is to serve as the corner-stone of the new institutions, pens the following formulae big with their consequences:6 “Society must provide for the support of all its members. The aid required by indigence is a debt of the rich to the poor. The right of property is limited,” and applies “only to that portion which the law guarantees. Every ownership, any trade, which bears prejudicially on the existence of our fellow-creatures is necessarily illicit and immoral.” The sense of this is clear, and yet more: the Jacobin populace, having decided that the possession of, and trade in, groceries was prejudicial to its existence, the grocers’ monopoly is, therefore, immoral and illicit, and consequently, it pillages their shops. Under the rule of the populace and of the “Mountain,” the Convention applies the theory, seizes capital wherever it can be found, and notifies the poor, in its name, “that they will find in the pocket-books of the rich whatever they need to supply their wants.”7

Over and above these striking and direct attacks, an indirect and Edition: current; Page: [1261]secret attack, but still more significant, slowly undermines the basis of all present and future property. State affairs are everybody’s affairs, and, when the State ruins itself, everybody is ruined along with it. For, it is the country’s greatest debtor and its greatest creditor, while there is no debtor so free of seizure and no creditor so absorbing, since, making the laws and possessing the force, it can, firstly, repudiate indebtedness and send away the fund-holder with empty hands, and next, increase taxation and empty the taxpayer’s pocket of his last penny. There is no greater menace to private fortunes than the bad administration of the public fortune. Now, under the pressure of Jacobin principles and of the Jacobin faction, the trustees of France have administered as if they purposely meant to ruin their ward; every known means for wasting a fortune have been brought into play by them. In the first place, they have deprived him of three-fourths of his income. To please the people and enforce the theory, the taxes on articles consumed, on salt, with the excise subsidies and the octroi duties on liquors, meat, tobacco, leather, and gunpowder, have been abolished, while the new imposts substituted for the old ones, slowly fixed, badly apportioned and raised with difficulty have brought in no returns; on the 1st of February, 1793,8 the Treasury had received on the real and personal taxation of 1791, but one hundred and fifty millions instead of three hundred millions; on the same taxes for 1792, instead of three hundred millions it had obtained nothing at all. At this date, and during the four years of the Revolution, the total arrears of taxation amounted to six hundred and thirty-two millions—a bad debt that can hardly be recovered, and, in fact, it is already reduced one-half, since, even if the debtor could and was disposed to pay, he would pay in assignats, which, at this time, were at a discount of fifty per cent. In the second place, Edition: current; Page: [1262]the new managers had quadrupled the public expenditure.9 What with the equipment and excursions of the National Guards, federations, patriotic festivals, and parades, the writing, printing, and publication of innumerable documents, reimbursements for suppressed offices, the installation of new administrations, aid to the indigent and to its charity workshops, purchases of grain, indemnities to millers and bakers, it was under the necessity of providing for the cost of the universal demolition and reconstruction. Now, the State had, for the most part, defrayed all these expenses. At the end of April, 1793, it had already advanced to the city of Paris alone, one hundred and ten million francs, while the Commune, insolvent, kept constantly extorting fresh millions.10 By the side of this gulf, the Jacobins had dug another, larger still, that of the war. For the first half of the year 1793 they threw into this pit first, one hundred and forty millions, then one hundred and sixty millions, and then one hundred and ninety million francs; in the second six months of 1793 the war and subsistences swallowed up three hundred million francs per month, and the more they threw into the two gulfs the deeper they became.11

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Naturally, when there is no collecting a revenue and expenses go on increasing, one is obliged to borrow on one’s resources, and piecemeal, as long as these last. Naturally, when ready money is not to be had on the market, one draws notes and tries to put them in circulation; one pays tradesmen with written promises in the future, and thus exhausts one’s credit. Such is paper-money and the assignats, the third and most efficient way for wasting a fortune and which the Jacobins did not fail to make the most of. Under the Constituent Assembly, through a remnant of good sense and good faith, efforts were at first made to guarantee the fulfillment of written promises; the holders of assignats were almost secured by a first mortgage on the national possessions, which had been given to them coupled with an engagement not to raise more money on this guarantee, as well as not to issue any more assignats.12 But they did not keep faith. They rendered the security afforded by this mortgage inoperative and, as all chances of repayment disappeared, its value declined. Then, on the 27th of April, 1792, according to the report of Cambon, there begins an unlimited issue; according to the Jacobin financiers, nothing more is necessary to provide for the war than to turn the wheel and grind out promises to pay: in June, 1793, assignats to the amount of four billion three hundred and twenty millions have already been manufactured, and everybody sees that the mill must grind faster. This is why the guarantee, vainly increased, no longer suffices for the monstrous, disproportionate mortgage; it exceeds all limits, covers nothing, and sinks through its own weight. At Paris, the assignat of one hundred francs is worth in specie, in the month of June, 1791, eighty-five francs, in January, 1792, only sixty-six francs, in March, 1792, only fifty-three francs; rising in value at the end of the Legislative Assembly, owing to fresh confiscations, it falls back to fifty-five francs in January, 1793, to forty-seven francs in Edition: current; Page: [1264]April, to forty francs in June, to thirty-three francs in July.13 Thus are the creditors of the State defrauded of a third, one-half, and two-thirds of their investment, and not alone the creditors of the State but every other creditor, since every debtor has the right to discharge his obligations by paying his debts in assignats. Enumerate, if possible, all who are defrauded of private claims, all money-lenders, and stock-holders who have invested in any private enterprise, either manufacturing or mercantile, those who have loaned money on contracts of longer or shorter date, all sellers of real-estate, with stipulations in their deeds for more or less remote payment, all land-owners who have leased their grounds or buildings for a term of years, all holders of annuities on private bond or on an estate, all manufacturers, merchants and farmers who have sold their wares, goods, and produce on time, all clerks on yearly salaries, and even all other employees, underlings, servants, and workmen receiving fixed salaries for a specified term. There is not one of these persons whose capital, or income payable in assignats, is not at once crippled in proportion to the decline in value of assignats, so that not only the State falls into bankruptcy but likewise every creditor in France, legally bankrupt along with it through its fault.

In such a situation how can any enterprise be commenced or maintained? Who dares take a risk, especially when disbursements are large and returns remote? Who dares lend on long credits? If loans are still made they are not for a year but for a month, while the interest which, before the Revolution was six, five, or even four per cent. per annum, is now “two per cent. a month on securities.” It soon runs up higher and, at Paris and Strasbourg we see it rising, as in India and the Barbary States, to four, five, six, and even seven per cent. a month.14 What holder of raw material, or of manufactured Edition: current; Page: [1265]goods, would dare make entries on his books as usual and allow his customer the indispensable credit of three months? What large manufacturer would presume to make goods up, what wholesale merchant would care to make shipments, what man of wealth or with a competence would build, drain, and construct dams and dykes, repair, or even maintain them with the positive certainty of delays in getting back only one-half his advances and with the increasing certainty of getting nothing? Large establishments fail from year to year in all directions; after the ruin of the nobles and the departure of wealthy foreigners, every craft dependent on luxurious tastes, those of Paris and Lyons, which are the standard for Europe, all the manufactories of rich stuffs, and furniture, and other artistic, elegant, and fashionable articles; after the insurrection of the blacks in St. Domingo, and other troubles in the West Indies, the great colonial trade and remarkable prosperity of Nantes and Bordeaux, including all the industrial enterprises by which the production, transportation, and circulation of cotton, sugar, and coffee were affected;15 after the declaration of war with England, the shipping interest; after the declaration of war with all Europe, the commerce of the continent.16 Edition: current; Page: [1266]Failure after failure, an universal crash, utter cessation of extensively organised and productive labor: instead of productive industries, I see none now but destructive industries, those of the agricultural and commercial vermin, those of brokers and speculators who dismantle mansions and abbeys, and who demolish chateaux and churches so as to sell the materials as cheap as dirt, who bargain away national possessions, so as to make a profit on the transaction. Imagine the mischief a temporary owner, steeped in debt, needy and urged on by the maturity of his engagements, can and must do to an estate held under a precarious title and of suspicious acquirement, which he has no idea of keeping, and from which, meanwhile, he derives every possible benefit:17 not only does he put no spokes in the mill-wheel, no stones in the dyke, no tiles on the roof, but he buys no manure, exhausts the soil, devastates the forest, alienates the fields, and dismembers the entire farm, damaging the ground and the stock of tools and injuring the dwelling by selling its mirrors, lead and iron, and oftentimes the window-shutters and doors; he turns all into cash, no matter how, at the expense of the domain, which he leaves in a run-down condition, unfurnished, and for a long time unproductive. In like manner, the communal possessions, ravaged, pillaged, and then pieced out and divided off, are so many organisms which are sacrificed for the immediate relief of the village poor, but of course to the detriment of their future productiveness and an abundant yield.18 Alone, amongst these millions of men who Edition: current; Page: [1267]have stopped working, or work the wrong way, the petty cultivator labors to advantage; free of taxes, of tithes, and of feudal imposts, possessing a scrap of ground which he has obtained for almost nothing or without stretching his purse-strings, he works in good spirits;19 he is sure that henceforth his crop will no longer be eaten up by the levies of the seignior, of the décimateur, and of the King, that it will belong to him, that it will be wholly his, and that the worse the famine in the towns, the dearer he will sell his produce. Hence, he has ploughed more vigorously than ever; he has even cleared waste ground; getting the soil gratis, or nearly so, and having to make but few advances, having no other use for his advances, consisting of seed, manure, the work of his cattle and of his own hands, he has planted, reaped, and raised grain with the greatest energy. Perhaps other articles of consumption will be scarce; it may be that, owing to the ruin of other branches of industry, it will be hard to get dry-goods, shoes, sugar, soap, oil, candles, wine, and brandy; it may happen that, owing to the bungling way in which agricultural transformations have been effected, all produce of the secondary order, meat, vegetables, butter, and eggs, may become scarce. In any event, French aliment par excellence is on hand, standing in the field or stored in sheafs in the barns; in 1792 and 1793, and even in 1794, there is enough grain in France to provide every French inhabitant with his daily bread.20

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But that is not enough. In order that each Frenchman may obtain his bit of bread every day, it is still essential that grain should reach the markets in sufficient quantities, and that the bakers should every day have enough flour to make all the bread that is required; moreover, the bread offered for sale in the bakeries should not exceed the price which the majority of consumers can afford to pay. Now, in fact, through a forced result of the new system, neither of these conditions is fulfilled. In the first place, wheat, and hence bread, is too dear. Even at the old rate, these would still be too dear for the innumerable empty or half-empty purses, after so many attacks on property, industry, and trade, now that so many hundreds of workmen and employees are out of work, now that so many land-owners and bourgeois receive no rents, now that incomes, profits, wages, and salaries have diminished by hundreds of thousands. But wheat, and, consequently, bread, has not remained at old rates. Instead of a sack of wheat being worth in Paris fifty francs in February, 1793, it is worth sixty-five francs; in May, 1793, one hundred francs and then one hundred and fifty; and hence bread, in Paris, early in 1793, instead of being three sous the pound, costs six sous, in many of the southern departments seven and eight sous, and in other places ten and twelve sous.21 The reason is, that, since August 10, 1792, after the King’s fall and the wrenching away of the ancient keystone of the arch which still kept the loosened stones of the social edifice in place, the frightened peasant would no longer part with his produce; he determined not to take assignats, not to let his grain go for Edition: current; Page: [1269]anything but ringing coin. To exchange good wheat for bad, dirty paper rags seemed to him a trick, and justly so, for, on going to town every month he found that the dealers gave him less merchandise for these rags. A hoarder, and so distrustful, he must have good, old fashioned crowns, of the old stamp, so as to lay them away in a jar or old woollen stocking; give him specie or he will keep his grain. For he is not, as formerly, obliged to part with it as soon as it is cut, to pay taxes and rent; the bailiff and sheriff are no longer there to distrain him; in these times of disorder and demagogism, under impotent or partial authorities, neither the public nor the private creditor has the power to compel payment, while the spurs which formerly impelled the farmer to seek the nearest market are blunted or broken. He therefore stays away, and he has excellent reasons for so doing. Vagabonds and the needy stand by the roadside and at the entrances of the towns to stop and pillage the loaded carts; in the markets and on the open square, women cut open bags of grain with their scissors and empty them, or the municipality, forced to do it by the crowd, fixes the price at a reduced rate.22 The larger a town is the greater the difficulty in supplying its market; for its subsistences are drawn from a distance; each department, each canton, each village keeps its own grain for itself by means of legal requisitions or by brutal force; it is impossible for wholesale dealers in grain to make bargains; they are styled monopolists, and the mob, breaking into their storehouses, hangs them out of preference.23 As Edition: current; Page: [1270]the government, accordingly, has proclaimed their speculations “crimes,” it is going to interdict their trade and substitute itself for them.24 But this substitution only increases the penury still more; in vain do the towns force collections, tax their rich men, raise money on loan, and burden themselves beyond their resources;25 they only make the matter worse. When the municipality of Paris expends twelve thousand francs a day for the sale of flour at a low price in the markets, it keeps away the flour-dealers, who cannot deliver flour at such low figures; the result is that there is not flour enough in the market for the six hundred thousand mouths in Paris; when it expends seventy-five thousand francs daily to indemnify the bakers, it attracts the outside population, which rushes into Paris to get bread cheap, and for the seven hundred thousand mouths of Paris and the suburbs combined, the bakers have not an adequate supply. Whoever comes late finds the shop empty; consequently, everybody tries to get there earlier and earlier, at dawn, before daybreak, and then five or six hours before daybreak. In February, 1793, long lines of people Edition: current; Page: [1271]are already waiting at the bakers’ door, these lines growing longer and longer in April, while in June they are enormously long.26 Naturally, for lack of bread, people fall back on other aliments, which also grow dearer; add to this the various contrivances and effects of Jacobin politics which still further increase the dearness of food of all sorts, and also of every other necessary article: for instance, the extremely bad condition of the roads, which renders transportation slower and more costly; the prohibition of the export of coin and hence the obtaining of food from abroad; the decree which obliges each industrial or commercial association, at present or to come, to “pay annually into the national treasury one-quarter of the amount of its dividends”; the revolt in Vendée, which deprives Paris of six hundred oxen a week; the feeding of the armies, which takes one-half of the cattle brought to the Poissy market; shutting off the sea and the continent, which ruins manufacturers and extensive commercial operations; the insurrections in Bordeaux, Marseilles, and the South, which still further raise the price of groceries, sugar, soap, oil, candles, wine, and brandy.27 Early in 1793, a pound of beef in France is worth on the average, instead of six sous twenty sous; in May, at Paris, brandy which, six months before, cost thirty-five sous, costs ninety-four sous; in July, a pound of veal, instead of five sous, costs twenty-two sous. Sugar, from twenty sous, advances to four francs ten sous; a candle costs seven sous. France, pushed on by the Jacobins, approaches the depths of misery, entering the first circle of its Inferno; other circles follow down deeper and deeper, narrower still and yet more sombre; under Jacobin impulsion is she to descend to the lowest?

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It is evident that when nutrition in the social organism goes on slowly and is interrupted in some places, it is owing to the derangement of one of the inmost fibres of the economical machine. It is evident that this fibre consists of the sentiment by which man holds on to his property, fears to risk it, refuses to depreciate it, and tries to increase it. It is evident that, in man as he actually is, as now fashioned, this intense, tenacious sentiment, always on the alert and active, is the magazine of inward energy which provides for three-fourths, almost the whole, of that sustained effort, that extreme cautiousness, that determined perseverance which leads the individual to undergo privation, to contrive and to exert himself, to turn to profitable account the labor of his hands, brain, and capital, and to produce, save, and create for himself and for others various resources and comforts.28 Thus far, this sentiment has been only partially affected, and the injury has been confined to the well-to-do and wealthy class; hence, only one-half of his useful energy has been destroyed, and the services of the well-to-do and wealthy class have been only specially dispensed with; but little else than the labor of the capitalist, proprietor, and man of enterprise has been suppressed, that far-reaching, combined, comprehensive labor, the products of which consist of objects of luxury and comfort, abundant supplies always on hand, and the ready and spontaneous distribution of indispensable commodities. There remains to crush out what is left of this laborious and nutritive fibre; the remnant of useful energy has to be destroyed down to its extirpation among the people; there Edition: current; Page: [1273]must be a suppression, as far as possible, of all manual, rude labor on a small scale, and of its rudimentary fruits; the discouragement of the insignificant shopkeeper, mechanic and ploughman must be effected; the corner-grocer must be prevented from selling his sugar and candles, and the cobbler from mending shoes: the miller must think of giving up his mill and the wagoner of abandoning his cart; the farmer must be convinced that the best thing he can do is to get rid of his horses, eat his pork himself,29 let his oxen famish and leave his crops to rot on the ground. The Jacobins are to do all this, for it is the inevitable result of the theory that they have proclaimed and which they apply. According to this theory the stern, strong, deep-seated instinct through which the individual stubbornly holds on to what he has, to what he makes for himself and for those that belong to him, is just the unwholesome fibre that must be rooted out or paralysed at any cost; its true name is “egoism, incivism,” and its operations consist of outrages on the community, which is the sole legitimate proprietor of property and products, and, yet more, of all persons and services. Body and soul, all belongs to the State, nothing to individuals, and, if need be, the State has the right to take not only lands and capital, but, again, to claim and tax at whatever rate it pleases all corn and cattle, all vehicles and the animals that draw them, all candles and sugar; it has the right to Edition: current; Page: [1274]appropriate to itself and tax at whatever rate it pleases, the labor of shoemaker, tailor, miller, wagoner, ploughman, reaper, and thrasher. The seizure of men and things is universal, and the new sovereigns do their best at it; for, in practice, necessity urges them on; insurrection thunders at their door; their supporters, all crackbrains with empty stomachs, the poor and the idle, and the Parisian populace, listen to no reason and blindly insist on things haphazard; they are bound to satisfy their patrons at once, to issue one on top of the other all the decrees they call for, even when impracticable and mischievous; to starve the provinces so as to feed the city, to starve the former tomorrow so as to feed the latter today. Subject to the clamors and menaces of the street they despatch things rapidly; they cease to care for the future, the present being all that concerns them; they take and take forcibly; they uphold violence by brutality, they support robbery with murder; they expropriate persons by categories and appropriate objects by categories, and after the rich they despoil the poor. During fourteen months the revolutionary government thus keeps both hands at work, one hand completing the confiscation of property, large and medium, and the other proceeding to the entire abolition of property on a small scale.

Against large or medium properties it suffices to extend and aggravate the decrees already passed. The spoliation of the last of existing corporations must be effected: the government confiscates the possessions of hospitals, communes, and all scientific or literary associations.30 There is the spoliation of State credits and all other credits: it issues in fourteen months five billions one million of assignats, often one billion four hundred millions and two billions at a time, under one decree, and thus condemns itself to complete Edition: current; Page: [1275]future bankruptcy; it calls in the one billion five hundred million of assignats bearing the royal stamp (à face royale) and thus arbitrarily converts and reduces the public debt on the Grand Ledger, which is already, in fact, a partial and declared bankruptcy. Six months imprisonment for whoever refuses to accept assignats at par, twenty years in irons if the offence is repeated and the guillotine if there is an incivique intention or act, which suffices for all other creditors.31 The spoliation of individuals, a forced loan of a billion on the rich, requisitions for coin against assignats at par, seizures of plate and jewels in private houses, revolutionary taxes so numerous as not only to exhaust the capital, but likewise the credit, of the person taxed,32 and the resumption by the State of the public domain pledged to private individuals for the past three centuries: how many years of labor are requisite to bring together again so much available capital, to reconstruct in France and to refill the private reservoirs in which all the accumulated savings will flow out, like a power-giving mill-stream, on the great wheel of general enterprise? Take into account, moreover, the enterprises which are directly destroyed, root and branch, by revolutionary executions, enforced against the manufacturers and traders of Lyons, Marseilles, and Bordeaux, proscribed in a mass,33 guillotined, imprisoned, or put to flight, their Edition: current; Page: [1276]factories stopped, their storehouses put under sequestration, with their stocks of brandy, soap, silk, muslins, leather, paper, serges, cloth, canvas, cordage, and the rest; the same at Nantes under Carrier, at Strasbourg under Saint-Just, and everywhere else.34 “Commerce is annihilated,” writes a Swiss merchant,35 from Paris, and the government, one would say, tries systematically to render it impossible. On the 27th of June, 1793, the Convention closes the Bourse; on the 15th of April, 1794, it suppresses “financial associations” and “prohibits all bankers, merchants and other persons from organising any establishment of the said character under any pretext or title whatsoever.” On the 8th of September, 1793, the Commune places seals “in all the counting-houses of bankers, stock-brokers, agents and silver-dealers,”36 and locks up their owners; as a favor, considering that they are obliged to pay the drafts drawn on them, they are let out, but provisionally, and on condition that they remain under arrest at home, “under the guard of two good citizens,” at their own expense. Such is the case in Paris and in other cities, not Edition: current; Page: [1277]alone with prominent merchants, but likewise with notaries and lawyers, with whom funds are on deposit and who manage estates; a sans-culotte with his pike stands in their cabinet whilst they write, and he accompanies them in the street when they call on their clients. Imagine the state of a notary’s office or a counting-room under a system of this sort! The master of it winds up his business as soon as he can, no matter how, makes no new engagements, and does as little as possible. Still more inactive than he, his colleagues, condemned to an indefinite listlessness, under lock and key in the common prison, no longer attend to their business. There is a general, total paralysis of those natural organs which, in economic life, produce, elaborate, receive, store, preserve, exchange, and transmit in gross masses; and which, on the reverse side, hamper, throttle, or consume all the lesser subordinate organs to which the superior ones no longer provide outlets, intermediary agencies or aliment.

It is now the turn of the lowly. Whatever their sufferings may be they are to do their work as in healthy epochs, and they must do it perforce. The Convention, pursuing its accustomed rigid logical course with its usual shortsightedness, lays on them its violent and inept hands; they are trodden down, trampled upon and mauled for the purpose of curing them. Farmers are forbidden to sell their produce except in the markets, and obliged to bring to these a quota of so many sacks per week, and accompanied with military raids which compel them to furnish their quotas.37 Shopkeepers are ordered “to expose for sale, daily and publicly, all goods and provisions of prime necessity” that they have on hand, while a maximum price Edition: current; Page: [1278]is established, above which no one shall sell “bread, flour and grain, vegetables and fruits, wine, vinegar, cider, beer and brandy, fresh meat, salt meat, pork, cattle, dried, salted, smoked or pickled fish, butter, honey, sugar, sweet-oil, lamp-oil, candles, firewood, charcoal and other coal, salt, soap, soda, potash, leather, iron, steel, castings, lead, brass, hemp, linen, woollens, canvas and woven stuffs, sabots, shoes and tobacco.” Whoever keeps on hand more than he consumes is a monopolist and commits a capital crime; the penalty, very severe, is imprisonment or the pillory, for whoever sells above the established price:38 such are the simple and direct expedients of the revolutionary Edition: current; Page: [1279]government, and such is the character of its inventive faculty, like that of the savage who hews down a tree to get at its fruit. For, after the first application of the maximum the shopkeeper is no longer able to carry on business; his customers, attracted by the sudden depreciation in price of his wares, flock to his shop and empty it in a few days;39 having sold his goods for half what they cost him,40 he has got back only one-half of his advances; therefore, he can only one-half renew his assortment, less than a half, since he has not paid his bills, and his credit is declining, the representatives on mission having taken all his coin, plate, and assignats. Hence, during the following month, buyers find on his unfurnished counters nothing but scraps and refuse.

In like manner, after the proclamation of the maximum,41 the peasant refuses to bring his produce to market, while the revolutionary army is not everywhere on hand to take it from him by Edition: current; Page: [1280]force: he leaves his crop unthrashed as long as he can, and complains of not finding the men to thrash it. If necessary, he hides it or feeds it out to his animals. He often barters it away for wood, for a side of bacon or in payment for a day’s work. At night, he carts it off six leagues to a neighboring district, where the local maximum is fixed at a higher rate. He knows who, in his own vicinity, still has specie in his pocket and he underhandedly supplies him with his stores. He especially conceals his superabundance and, as formerly, plays the sufferer. He is on good terms with the village authorities, with the mayor and national agent who are as interested as he is in evading the law, and, on a bribe being necessary, he gives it. At last, he allows himself to be sued, and his property attached; he goes to prison and tires the authorities out with his obstinacy. Hence, from week to week, less flour and grain and fewer cattle come to market, while meat becomes scarcer at the butcher’s, and bread at the baker’s. Having thus paralysed the lesser organs of supply and demand the Jacobins now have only to paralyse labor itself, the skilled hands, the active and vigorous arms. To do this, it suffices to substitute for the independent private workshop, the compulsory national workshop, piece-work for work by the day, the attentive, energetic workman who minds his business and expects to earn money, for the littleness and laxity of the workman picked up here and there, poorly paid and paid even when he botches and strolls about. This is what the Jacobins do by forcibly commanding the services of all sorts of laborers,42 “all who help handle, transport and retail produce and articles of prime necessity,” “country people who usually get in the Edition: current; Page: [1281]crops,” and, more particularly, thrashers, reapers, carters, raftsmen, and also shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths, and the rest. At every point of the social organism, the same principle is applied with the same result. Substitute everywhere an external, artificial, and mechanical constraint for the inward, natural, and animating stimulant, and you get nothing but an universal atrophy; deprive people of the fruits of their labor, and yet more, force them to produce by fear, confiscate their time, their painstaking efforts and their persons, reduce them to the condition of fellahs, create in them the sentiments of fellahs, and you will have nothing but the labor and productions of fellahs, that is to say, a minimum of labor and production, and hence, insufficient supplies for sustaining a very dense population, which, multiplied through a superior and more productive civilisation, will not long subsist under a barbarous, inferior, and unproductive régime. When this systematic and complete expropriation terminates we see the final result of the system, no longer a dearth, but famine, famine on a large scale, and the destruction of lives by millions. Among the Jacobins,43 some of the maddest who are clearsighted, on account of their fury, Guffroy, Antonelle, Jean Bon St.-André, Collot d’Herbois, foresee the consequences and accept them along with the principle; others, who avoid seeing it, are only the more determined in the application of it, while all together work with all their might to aggravate the misery of which the lamentable spectacle is so vainly exposed under their eyes.


Collot d’Herbois wrote from Lyons on November 6, 1793: “There is not two days’ supply of provisions here.” On the following day: “The present population of Lyons is one hundred and thirty thousand souls at least, and there is not sufficient subsistence for three Edition: current; Page: [1282]days.” Again the day after: “Our situation in relation to food is deplorable.” Then, the next day: “Famine is beginning.”44 Near by, in the Montbrison district, in February, 1794, “there is no food or provisions left for the people”; all has been taken by requisition and carried off, even seed for planting, so that the fields lie fallow.45 At Marseilles, “since the maximum, everything is lacking; even the fishermen no longer go out (on the sea) so that there is no supply of fish to live on.”46 At Cahors, in spite of multiplied requisitions, the Directory of Lot and Representative Taillefer47 state that “the inhabitants, for more than eight days, are reduced wholly to maslin bread composed of one-fifth of wheat and the rest of barley, barley-malt, and millet.” At Nismes,48 to make the grain supply last, which is giving out, the bakers and all private persons are ordered not to bolt meal, but to leave the bran in it and knead and bake the “dough such as it is.” At Grenoble,49 “the bakers have stopped baking; the country people no longer bring wheat in; the dealers hide away their goods, or put them in the hands of neighborly officials, or send them off.” “It goes from bad to worse,” write the agents of Huningue;50 “one might say even, that they would give this or that article to their cattle rather than sell it in conformity with the tax.” The inhabitants of towns are everywhere put on rations, and so small a Edition: current; Page: [1283]ration as to scarcely keep them from dying with hunger. “Since my arrival in Tarbes,” writes another agent,51 “every person is limited to half a pound of bread a day, composed one-third of wheat and two-thirds of corn meal.” The next day after the fête in honor of the tyrant’s death there was absolutely none at all. “A half-pound of bread is also allowed at Evreux,52 “and even this is obtained with a good deal of trouble, many being obliged to go into the country and get it from the farmers with coin.” And even “they have got very little bread, flour or wheat, for they have been obliged to bring what they had to Evreux for the armies and for Paris.”

It is worse at Rouen and at Bordeaux: at Rouen, in Brumaire, the inhabitants have only one-quarter of a pound per head per diem of bread; at Bordeaux, “for the past three months,” says the agent,53 “the people sleep at the doors of the bakeries, to pay high for bread which they often do not get. … There has been no baking done today, and tomorrow only half a loaf will be given to each person. This bread is made of oats and beans. … On days that there is none, beans, chestnuts, and rice are distributed in very small quantities,” four ounces of bread, five of rice or chestnuts. “I, who tell you this, have already eaten eight or ten meals without bread; I would gladly do without it if I could get potatoes in place of it, but these, too, cannot be had.” Five months later, fasting still continues, and it lasts until after the reign of Terror, not alone in the town, but throughout the department. “In the district of Cadillac,” says Tallien,54 “absolute dearth prevails; the citizens of the rural districts contend with each other for the grass in the fields; I have eaten Edition: current; Page: [1284]bread made of dog-grass.” Haggard and worn out, the peasant, with his pallid wife and children, resorts to the marsh to dig roots, while there is scarcely enough strength in his arms to hold the plough. The same spectacle is visible in places which produce but little grain, or where the granaries have been emptied by the revolutionary drafts. “In many of the Indre districts,” writes the representative on missions,55 “food is wanting absolutely. Even in some of the communes, many of the inhabitants are reduced to a frightful state of want, feeding on acorns, bran and other unhealthy food. … The districts of Châtre and Argenton, especially, will be reduced to starvation unless they are promptly relieved. … The cultivation of the ground is abandoned; most of the persons in the jurisdiction wander about the neighboring departments in search of food.” And it is doubtful whether they find it. In the department of Cher, “the butchers can no longer slaughter; the dealers’ stores are all empty.” In Allier, “the slaughter-houses and markets are deserted, every species of vegetable and aliment having disappeared; the inns are closed.” In one of the Lozère districts, composed of five cantons, of which one produces an extra quantity of rye, the people live on requisitions imposed on Gard and the Upper Loire; the extortions of the representatives in these two departments “were distributed among the municipalities, and by these to the most indigent: many entire families, many of the poor and even of the rich, suffered for want of bread during six or eight days, and this frequently.56 Nevertheless they do not riot; they merely supplicate and stretch forth their hands “with tears in their eyes.” Such is the diet and submission of the Edition: current; Page: [1285]stomach in the provinces. Paris is less patient. For this reason, all the rest is sacrificed to it,57 not merely the public funds, the Treasury from which it gets one or two millions per week,58 but whole districts are starved for its benefit, six departments providing grain, twenty-six departments providing pork,59 at the rate of the maximum, through requisitions, through the prospect of imprisonment and of the scaffold in case of refusal or concealment, under the predatory bayonets of the revolutionary army. The capital, above all, has to be fed. Let us see, under this system of partiality, how people live in Paris and what they feed on.

“Frightful crowds” at the doors of the bakeries, then at the doors of the butchers and grocers, then at the markets for butter, eggs, fish, and vegetables, and then on the quay for wine, firewood, and charcoal—such is the steady refrain of the police reports.60 And this lasts uninterruptedly during the fourteen months of revolutionary government: long lines of people waiting in turn for bread, meat, Edition: current; Page: [1286]oil, soap, and candles, “queues for milk, for butter, for wood, for charcoal, queues everywhere!”61 “There was one queue beginning at the door of a grocery in the Petit-Carreau stretching half-way up the rue Montorgueil.”62 These queues form at three o’clock in the morning, one o’clock, and at midnight, increasing from hour to hour. Picture to yourself, reader, the file of wretched men and women sleeping on the pavement when the weather is fine63 and when not fine, standing up on stiff tottering legs; above all in winter, “the rain pouring on their backs,” and their feet in the snow, for so many weary hours in dark, foul, dimly lighted streets strewed with garbage; for, for want of oil, one-half of the the street lamps are extinguished, and for lack of money, there is no repavement, no more sweeping, the offal being piled up against the walls.64 The crowd draggles along through it, likewise, nasty, tattered and torn, people with shoes full of holes, because the shoemakers do no more work for their customers, and in dirty shirts, because no more soap can be had to wash with, while, morally as well as physically, all these forlorn beings elbowing each other render themselves still fouler. Promiscuousness, contact, weariness, waiting, and darkness afford free play to the grosser instincts; especially in summer, natural bestiality and Parisian mischievousness have full play.65 “Lewd Edition: current; Page: [1287]women” pursue their calling standing in the row; it is an interlude for them; “their provoking expressions, their immoderate laughter,” is heard some distance off and they find it a convenient place: two steps aside, on the flank of the row, are “half-open doors and dark alleys” which invite a confab; many of these women who have brought their mattresses “sleep there and commit untold abominations.” What an example for the wives and daughters of steady workmen, for honest servants who hear and see! “Men stop at each row and choose their dulcinea, while others, less shameless, pounce on the women like bulls and kiss them one after the other.” Are not these the fraternal kisses of patriotic Jacobins? Do not Mayor Pache’s wife and daughter go to the clubs and kiss drunken sans-culottes? And what says the guard? It has enough to do to restrain another blind and deaf animal instinct, aroused as it is by suffering, anticipation, and deception.

On approaching each butcher’s stall before it opens “the porters, bending under the weight of a side of beef, quicken their steps so as not to be assailed by the crowd which presses against them, seeming to devour the raw meat with their eyes.” They force a passage, enter the shop in the rear, and it seems as if the time for distributing the meat had come; the gendarmes, spurring their horses to a gallop, scatter the groups that are too dense; “rascals, in pay of the Commune,” range the women in files, two and two, “shivering” in the cold morning air of December and January, awaiting their turn. Beforehand, however, the butcher, according to law, sets aside the portion for the hospitals, for pregnant women and others who are confined, for nurses, and besides, notwithstanding the law, he sets aside another portion for the revolutionary committee of the section, for the assistant commissioner and superintendent, for the pachas Edition: current; Page: [1288]and semipachas of the quarter, and finally for his rich customers who pay him extra.66 To this end, “porters with broad shoulders form an impenetrable rampart in front of the shop and carry away whole oxen”; after this is over, the women find the shop stripped, while many, “after wasting their time for four mortal hours,” go away empty handed. With this prospect before them the daily assemblages get to be uneasy and the waves rise; nobody, except those at the head of the row, is sure of his pittance; those that are behind regard enviously and with suppressed anger the person ahead of them. First come outcries, then jeerings, and then scuffling; the women rival the men in struggling and in profanity,67 and they hustle each other. The line suddenly breaks; each rushes to get ahead of the other; the foremost place belongs to the most robust and the most brutal, and to secure it they have to trample down their neighbors.

There are fisticuffs every day.68 When an assemblage remains quiet the spectators take notice of it. In general “they fight,69 snatch bread out of each other’s hands; those who cannot get any forcing whoever gets a loaf weighing four pounds to share it in small pieces. Edition: current; Page: [1289]The women yell frightfully. … Children sent by their parents are beaten,” while the weak are pitched into the gutter. “In distributing the meanest portions of food70 it is force which decides,” the strength of loins and arms; “a number of women this morning came near losing their lives in trying to get four ounces of butter.” More sensitive and more violent than men, “they do not, or will not, listen to reason,71 they pounce down like harpies” on the market-wagons; they thrash the drivers, strew the vegetables and butter on the ground, tumble over each other and are suffocated through the impetuosity of the assault; some, “trampled upon, almost crushed, are carried off half-dead.” Everybody for himself. Empty stomachs feel that, to get anything, it is important to get ahead, not to await for the distribution, the unloading, or even the arrival of the supplies. “A boat laden with wine having been signalled, the crowd rushed on board to pillage it and the boat sunk,” probably along with a good many of its invaders.72 Other gatherings at the barriers stop the peasants’ wagons and take their produce before they reach the markets. Outside the barriers, children and women throw stones at the milkmen, forcing them to get down from their carts and distribute milk on the spot. Still further out, one or two leagues off on the highways, gangs from Paris go at night to intercept and seize the supplies intended for Paris. “This morning,” says a watchman, “all the Faubourg St. Antoine scattered itself along the Vincennes road and pillaged whatever was on the way to the city; some paid, while others carried off without paying. … The unfortunate peasants Edition: current; Page: [1290]swore that they would not fetch anything more,” the dearth thus increasing through the efforts to escape it.

In vain the government makes its requisitions for Paris as if in a state of siege, and fixes the quantity of grain on paper which each department, district, canton, and commune, must send to the capital. Naturally, each department, district, canton, and commune strives to retain its own supplies, for charity begins at home.73 Especially in a village, the mayor and members of a municipality, themselves cultivators, are lukewarm when the commune is to be starved for the benefit of the capital; they declare a less return of grain than there really is; they allege reasons and pretexts; they mystify or suborn the commissioner on subsistences, who is a stranger, incompetent and needy; they make him drink and eat, and, now and then, fill his pocket-book; he slips over the accounts, he gives the village receipts on furnishing three-quarters or a half of the demand, often in spoilt or mixed grain or poor flour, while those who have no rusty wheat get it of their neighbors; instead of parting with a hundred quintals they part with fifty, while the quantity of grain in the Paris markets is not only insufficient, but the grain blackens or sprouts and the flour grows musty. In vain the government makes clerks and depositaries of butchers and grocers, allowing them five or ten per cent. profit on retail sales of the food it supplies them with at wholesale, and thus creates in Paris, at the expense of all France, an artificial decline. Naturally, the bread74 which, thanks to the State, Edition: current; Page: [1291]costs three sous in Paris, is furtively carried out of Paris into the suburbs, where six sous are obtained for it; there is the same furtive leakage for other food furnished by the State on the same conditions to other dealers; the tax is a burden which forces them to go outside their shops; food finds its level like water, not alone outside of Paris, but in Paris itself. Naturally, “the grocers peddle their goods” secretly, “sugar, candles, soap, butter, dried vegetables, meat-pies, and the rest,” amongst private houses, in which these articles are bought at any price. Naturally, the butcher keeps his large pieces of beef and choice morsels for the large eating-houses, and for rich customers who pay him whatever profit he asks. Naturally, whoever is in authority, or has the power, uses it to supply himself first, largely, and in preference; we have seen the levies of the revolutionary committees, superintendents and agents; as soon as rations are allotted to all mouths, each potentate will have several rations delivered for his mouth alone; in the meantime75 the patriots who guard the barriers appropriate all provisions that arrive, and the next morning, should any scolding appear in the orders of the day, it is but slight.

Such are the two results of the system: not only is the food which is supplied to Paris scant and poor, but the regular consumers of it, those who take their turn to get it, obtain but a small portion, and Edition: current; Page: [1292]that the worst.76 A certain inspector, on going to the corn-market for a sample of flour, writes “that it cannot be called flour;77 it is ground bran,” and not a nutritive substance; the bakers are forced to take it, the markets containing for the most part no other supply than this flour.” Again, three weeks later, “Food is still very scarce and poor in quality. The bread is disagreeable to the taste and produces maladies with which many citizens are suffering, like dysentery and other inflammatory ailments.” The same report, three months later in Nivose: “Complaints are constantly made of the poor quality of flour, which, it is said, makes a good many people ill; it causes severe pain in the intestines, accompanied with a slow fever.” In Ventose, “the scarcity of every article is extremely great,”78 especially of meat. Some women in the Place Maubert, pass six hours in a line waiting for it, and do not get the quarter of a pound; in many stalls there is none at all, not “an ounce” being obtainable to make broth for the sick. Workmen do not get it in their shops and do without their soup; they live on “bread and salted herrings.” A great many people groan over “not having eaten bread for a fortnight”; women say that “they have not had a dish of meat and vegetables (pot-au-feu) for a month.” Meanwhile “vegetables are astonishingly scarce and excessively dear … two sous for a miserable carrot, and as much for two small leeks”; out of two thousand women who wait at the central market for a distribution of beans, only six hundred receive any; potatoes increase in price in one week from two to three francs a bushel, and oatmeal and ground Edition: current; Page: [1293]peas triple in price. “The grocers have no more brown sugar, even for the sick,” and sell candles and soap only by the half-pound. A fortnight later candles are wholly wanting in certain quarters, except in the section storehouse, which is almost empty, each person being allowed only one; a good many households go to rest at sundown for lack of lights and do not cook any dinner for lack of coal. Eggs, especially, are “honored as invisible divinities,” while the absent butter “is a god.”79 “If this lasts,” say the workmen, “we shall have to cut each other’s throats, since there is nothing left to live on.”80 “Sick women,81 children in their cradles, lie outstretched in the sun, in the very heart of Paris, in rue Vivienne, on the Pont-Royal, and remain there “late in the night, demanding alms of the passers-by.” “One is constantly stopped by beggars of both sexes, most of them healthy and strong,” begging, they say, for lack of work. Without counting the feeble and the infirm who are unable to stand in a line, whose sufferings are visible, who gradually waste away and die without a murmur at home, “one encounters in the streets and markets” only famished and eager visages, “an immense crowd of citizens running and dashing against each other,” crying out and weeping, “everywhere presenting an image of despair.”82


If this penury exists, say the Jacobins, it is owing to the decrees against monopoly, and sales above the maximum not being executed according to the letter of the law; the egoism of the cultivator and the cupidity of dealers are not restrained by fear; delinquents escape too frequently from the legal penalty. Let us enforce this penalty rigorously; let us augment the punishment against them and their instruments; let us screw up the machine and give them a new Edition: current; Page: [1294]wrench. A new estimate and verification of the food-supply takes place, domiciliary perquisitions, seizures of special stores regarded as too ample,83 limited rations for each consumer, a common and obligatory mess-table for all prisoners, brown, égalité bread, mostly of bran, for every mouth that can chew, prohibition of the making of any other kind, confiscation of bolters and sieves,84 the “individual,” personal responsibility of every administrator who allows the people he rules to resist or escape furnishing the supplies demanded, the sequestration of his property, imprisonment, fines, the pillory, and the guillotine to hurry up requisitions, or stop free trading—every terrifying engine is driven to the utmost against the farmers and cultivators of the soil.

After April, 1794,85 crowds of this class are seen filling the prisons to overflowing; the Revolution has struck them also. They stroll about in the court-yard, and wander through the corridors with a sad, stupified expression, no longer comprehending the way things are going on in the world. In vain are efforts made to explain to them that “their crops are national property and that they are simply Edition: current; Page: [1295]its depositaries”;86 never had this new principle entered into, nor will it enter, their rude brains; always, through habit and instinct, will they work against it. Let them be spared the temptation. Let us relieve them from, and, in fact, take their crops; let the State in France become the sole depositary and distributor of grain; let it solely buy and sell grain at a fixed rate. Consequently, at Paris,87 the Committee of Public Safety first puts “in requisition all the oats that can be found in the Republic; every holder of oats is required to deposit his stock on hand within eight days, in the storehouse indicated by the district administration” at the maximum price; otherwise he is “ ‘suspect’ and must be punished as such.” In the meantime, through still more comprehensive orders issued in the provinces, Paganel in the department of Tarn, and Dartigoyte in those of Gers and the Upper-Garonne,88 enjoin each commune to establish public granaries. “All citizens are ordered to bring in whatever produce they possess in grain, flour, wheat, maslin, rye, barley, oats, millet, buckwheat” at the maximum rate; nobody shall keep on hand more than one month’s supply, fifty pounds of flour or wheat for each person; in this way, the State, which holds in its hands the keys of the storehouses, may “carry out the salutary equalisation of subsistences” between department and department, district and district, commune and commune, individual and individual. A storekeeper will look after each of these well-filled granaries; the municipality Edition: current; Page: [1296]will itself deliver rations and, moreover, “take suitable steps to see that beans and vegetables, as they mature, be economically distributed under its supervision,” at so much per head, and always at the rate of the maximum. Otherwise, dismissal, imprisonment and prosecution “in the extraordinary criminal tribunal.” This being accomplished, and the fruits of labor duly allotted, there remains only the allotment of labor itself. To effect this, Maignet,89 in Vaucluse, and in the Bouches-du-Rhone, prescribes for each municipality the immediate formation of two lists, one of day-laborers and the other of proprietors; “all proprietors in need of a cultivator by the day,” are to appear and ask for one at the municipality, which will assign the applicant as many as he wants, “in order on the list,” with a card for himself and numbers for the designated parties. The laborer who does not enter his name on the list, or who exacts more than the maximum wages, is to be sentenced to the pillory with two years in irons. The same sentence with the addition of a fine of three hundred livres, is for every proprietor who employs any laborer not on the list or who pays more than the maximum rate of wages. After this, nothing more is necessary, in practice, than to draw up and keep in sight the new registries of names and figures made by the members of thirty thousand municipal boards, who cannot keep accounts and who scarcely know how to read and write; build a vast public granary, or put in requisition three or four barns in each commune, in which half dried and mixed grain may rot; pay two hundred thousand incorruptible storekeepers and measurers who will not divert anything from the depots for their friends or themselves; add to the thirty-five thousand employees of the Committee on Subsistences,90 five hundred thousand municipal scribes disposed to quit their trades or ploughs for the purpose of making daily distributions gratuitously; but more precisely, to maintain four or Edition: current; Page: [1297]five millions of perfect gendarmes, one in each family, living with it, to help along the purchases, sales, and transactions of each day and to verify at night the contents of the locker—in short, to set one-half of the French people as spies on the other half. These are the conditions which secure the production and distribution of food, and which suffice for the institution throughout France of a conscription of labor and the captivity of grain.

Unfortunately, the peasant does not understand this theory, but he understands business; he makes close calculations, and the positive, patent, vulgar facts on which he reasons lead to other conclusions.91 “In Messidor last they took all my last years’ oats, at fourteen francs in assignats, and, in Thermidor, they are going to take all this year’s oats, at eleven francs in assignats. At this rate I shall not sow at all. Besides, I do not need any for myself, as they have taken my horses for the army-wagons. To raise rye and wheat, as much of it as formerly, is also working at a loss; I will raise no more than the little I want for myself, and again, I suppose that this will be put in requisition, even my supplies for the year! I had rather let my fields lie fallow. Just see now, they are taking all the live three-months’ pigs! Luckily, I killed mine beforehand and it is now in the pork-barrel. But they are going to claim all salt provisions like the rest. The new grabbers are worse than the old ones. Six months Edition: current; Page: [1298]more, and we shall all die of hunger. It is better to cross one’s arms at once and go to prison; there, at least, we shall be fed and not have to work.” In effect, they allow themselves to be imprisoned, the best of the small cultivators and proprietors by thousands, and Lindet,92 at the head of the Commission on Subsistences, speaks with dismay of the ground being no longer tilled, of cattle in France being no more abundant than the year before, and of nothing to be had to cut this year.

For a strange thing has happened, unheard of in Europe, almost incredible to any one familiar with the French peasant and his love of work. This field which he has ploughed, manured, harrowed, and reaped with his own hands, its precious crop, the crop that belongs to him and on which he has feasted his eyes for seven months, now that it is ripe, he will not take the trouble to gather it; it would be bothering himself for some one else; as the crop that he sees there is for the government, let the government defray the final cost of getting it in; let it do the harvesting, the reaping, the putting it in sheaves, the carting, and the thrashing in the barn. Thereupon, the representatives on mission exclaim, each shouting in a louder or lower key, according to his character. “Many of the cultivators,” writes Dartigoyte,93 “affect a supreme indifference for this splendid Edition: current; Page: [1299]crop. One must have seen it, as I have, to believe how great the neglect of the wheat is in certain parts, how it is smothered by the grass. … Draft, if the case requires it, a certain number of inhabitants in this or that commune to work in another one. … Every man who refuses to work, except on the ‘decade’ day, must be punished as an ill-disposed citizen, as a royalist.” “Generous friends of nature,” writes Ferry,94 “introduce amongst you, perpetuate around you, the habit of working in common, and begin with the present crop. Do not spare either indolent women or indolent men, those social parasites, many of whom you doubtless have in your midst. What! allow lazy men and lazy women where we are! Where should we find a Republican police? … Immediately on the reception of this present order the municipal officers of each commune will convoke all citoyennes in the Temple of the Eternal and urge them, in the name of the law, to devote themselves to the labors of harvesting. Those women who fail in this patriotic duty, shall be excluded from the assemblies, from the national festivals, while all good citoyennes are requested to repel them from their homes. All good citizens are requested to give to this rural festivity that sentimental character which befits it.” And the programme is carried out, now in idyllic shape and now under compulsion. Around Avignon,95 the commanding officer, the battalions of volunteers, and patriotic ladies, “the wives and daughters of patriots,” inscribe themselves as harvesters. Around Arles, “the municipality drafts all the inhabitants; patrols are sent into the country to compel all who are engaged on other work to leave it and do the harvesting.” The Convention, on its side, orders96 the release, “provisionally, of all ploughmen, day-laborers, reapers, and professional artisans and brewers, in the country Edition: current; Page: [1300]and in the market-towns and communes, the population of which is not over twelve hundred inhabitants, and who are confined as ‘suspects.’ ” In other terms, physical necessity has imposed silence on the inept theory; above all things, the crop must be harvested, and indispensable arms be restored to the field of labor. The governors of France are compelled to put on the brake, if only for an instant, at the last moment, at sight of the yawning abyss, of approaching and actual famine; France was then gliding into it, and, if not engulphed, it is simply a miracle.

Four fortunate circumstances, at the last hour, concur to keep her suspended on the hither brink of the precipice. The winter chances to be exceptionally mild.97 The vegetables which make up for the absence of bread and meat provide food for April and May, while the remarkably fine harvest, almost spontaneous, is three weeks in advance. Another, and the second piece of good fortune, consists in the great convoy from America, one hundred and sixteen vessels loaded with grain, which reached Brest on the 8th of June, 1794, in spite of English cruisers, thanks to the sacrifice of the fleet that protected it and which, eight days previously, had succumbed in its behalf. The third stroke of fortune is the entry of a victorious army into the enemies’ country and feeding itself through foreign requisitions, in Belgium, in the Palatinate and on the frontier provinces of Italy and Spain. Finally, most fortunate of all, Robespierre, Saint-Just, and Couthon, the Paris commune and the theorist Jacobins, are guillotined on the 23rd of July, and with them falls despotic socialism; henceforth, the Jacobin edifice crumbles, owing to great crevices in its walls. The maximum, in fact, is no longer maintained, while the Convention, at the end of December, 1794, legally abolishes Edition: current; Page: [1301]it; the farmers now sell as they please and at two prices, according as they are paid in assignats or coin; their hope, confidence, and courage are restored; in October and November, 1794, they voluntarily do their own ploughing and planting, and still more gladly will they gather in their own crops in July, 1795. Nevertheless, we can judge by the discouragement into which they had been plunged by four months of the system, the utter prostration into which they would have fallen had the system lasted an indefinite time. It is very probable that cultivation at the end of one or two years would have proved unproductive or have ceased altogether. Already, subject to every sort of exhortation and threat, the peasant had remained inert, apparently deaf and insensible, like an overloaded beast of burden which, so often struck, grows obstinate or sinks down and refuses to move. It is evident that he would have never stirred again could Saint-Just, holding him by the throat, have bound him hand and foot, as he had done at Strasbourg, in the multiplied knots of his Spartan Utopia; we should have seen what labor and the stagnation it produces comes to, when managed through State manoeuvres by administrative mannikins and humanitarian automatons. This experiment had been tried in China, in the eleventh century, and according to principles, long and regularly, by a well-manipulated and omnipotent State, on the most industrious and soberest people in the world, and men died in myriads like flies. If the French, at the end of 1794 and during the following years did not die like flies, it was because the Jacobin system was relaxed too soon.


But, if the Jacobin system, in spite of its surviving founders, gradually relaxes after Thermidor; if the main ligature tied around the man’s neck, broke just as the man was strangling, the others that still bind him hold him tight, except as they are loosened in places; and, as it is, some of the straps, terribly stiffened, sink deeper and deeper into his flesh. In the first place, the requisitions continue: Edition: current; Page: [1302]there is no other way of provisioning the armies and the cities; the gendarme is always on the road, compelling each village to contribute its portion of grain, and at the legal rate. The refractory are subject to keepers, confiscations, fines, and imprisonment; they are confined and kept in the district lock-ups “at their own expense,” men and women, twenty-two on Pluviose 17, year III., in the district of Bar-sur-Aube; forty-five, Germinal 7, in the district of Troyes; forty-five, the same day, in the district of Nogent-sur-Seine, and twenty others, eight days later, in the same district, in the commune of Traine alone.98 The condition of the cultivator is certainly not an Edition: current; Page: [1303]easy one, while public authority, aided by the public force, extorts from him all it can at a rate of its own; moreover, it will soon exact from him one-half of his contributions in kind, and, it must be noted, that at this time, the direct contributions alone absorb twelve and thirteen sous on the franc of the revenue. Nevertheless, under this condition, which is that of laborers in a Mussulman country, the French peasant, like the Syrian or Tunisian peasant, can keep himself alive; for, through the abolition of the maximum, private transactions are now free, and, to indemnify himself on this side, he sells to private individuals and even to towns,99 by agreement, on understood terms, and as dear as he pleases; all the dearer because through the legal requisitions the towns are half empty, and there are fewer sacks of grain for a larger number of purchasers; hence his losses by the government are more than made up by his gains on private parties; he gains in the end, and that is why he persists in farming.

The weight, however, of which he relieves himself falls upon the overburdened buyer, and this weight, already excessive, goes on increasing, through another effect of the revolutionary institution, until it becomes ten-fold and even a hundred-fold. The only money, in fact, which private individuals possess melts away in their hands, and, so to say, destroys itself. When the guillotine stops working, the assignat, losing its official value, falls to its real value. In August, 1794, the loss on it is sixty-six per cent., in October, seventy-two per cent., in December, seventy-eight per cent., in January, 1795, eighty-one per cent., and after that date the constant issues of enormous Edition: current; Page: [1304]amounts, five hundred millions, then a billion, a billion and a half, and, finally, two billions a month, hastens its depreciation.100 The greater the depreciation of the assignats the greater the amount the government is obliged to issue to provide for its expenses, and the more it issues the more it causes their depreciation, so that the decline which increases the issue increases the depreciation, until, finally, the assignat comes down to nothing. On March 11, 1795, the louis d’or brings two hundred and five francs in assignats, May 11, four hundred francs, June 12, one thousand francs, in the month of October, one thousand seven hundred francs, November 13, two thousand eight hundred and fifty francs, November 21, three thousand francs, and six months later, nineteen thousand francs. Accordingly, an assignat of one hundred francs is worth in June, 1795, four francs, in August three francs, in November fifteen sous, in December ten sous, and then five sous. Naturally, all provisions rise proportionately in price. A pound of bread in Paris, January 2, 1796, costs fifty francs, a pound of meat sixty francs, a pound of candles one hundred and eighty francs, a bushel of potatoes two hundred francs, a bottle of wine one hundred francs. The reader may imagine, if he can, the distress of people with small incomes, pensioners and employees, mechanics and artisans in the towns out of work,101 in Edition: current; Page: [1305]brief, all who have nothing but a small package of assignats to live on, and who have nothing to do, whose indispensable wants are not directly supplied by the labor of their own hands in producing wine, candles, meat, potatoes, and bread.

Immediately after the abolition of the maximum,102 the cry of hunger increases. From month to month its accents become more painful and vehement in proportion to the increased dearness of provisions, especially in the summer of 1795, as the harvesting draws near, when the granaries, filled by the crop of 1794, are getting empty. And these hungering cries go up by millions: for a good many of the departments in France do not produce sufficient grain for home consumption, this being the case in fertile wheat departments, and likewise in certain districts; cries also go up from the large and small towns, while in each village numbers of peasants fast because they have no land to provide them with food, or because they lack strength, health, employment, and wages. “For a fortnight past,” writes a municipal body in Seine-et-Marne,103 “at least two Edition: current; Page: [1306]hundred citizens in our commune are without bread, grain, and flour; they have had no other food than bran and vegetables. We see with sorrow children deprived of nourishment, their nurses without milk, unable to suckle them; old men falling down through inanition, and young men in the fields too weak to stand up to their work.” And other communes in the district “are about in the same condition.” The same spectacle is visible throughout the Ile-de-France, Normandy, and in Picardy. Around Dieppe, in the country,104 entire communes support themselves on herbs and bran. “Citizen representatives,” write the administrators, “we can no longer maintain ourselves. Our fellow-citizens reproach us with having despoiled them of their grain in favor of the large communes.” “All means of subsistence are exhausted,” writes the district of Louviers,105 “we are reduced here for a month past to eating bran bread and boiled herbs, and even this rude food is getting scarce. Bear in mind that we have seventy-one thousand people to govern, at this very time subject to all the horrors of famine, a large number of them having already perished, some with hunger and others with diseases engendered by the poor food they live on.” In the Caen district,106 “the unripe peas, horse-peas, beans, and green barley and rye are attacked”; mothers and children go after these in the fields in default Edition: current; Page: [1307]of other food; “other vegetables in the gardens are already consumed; furniture, the comforts of the well-to-do class, have become the prey of the farming egoist; having nothing more to sell they consequently have nothing with which to obtain a morsel of bread.” “It is impossible,” writes the representative on mission, “to wait for the crop without further aid. As long as bran lasted the people ate that; none can now be found and despair is at its height. I have not seen the sun since I came. The harvest will be a month behind. What shall we do? What will become of us?” “In Picardy,” writes the Beauvais district, “the great majority of people in the rural communes overrun the woods” to find mushrooms, berries, and wild fruits.107 “They think themselves lucky,” says the Bapaume district, “if they can get a share of the food of animals.” “In many communes,” the district of Vervier reports, “the inhabitants are reduced to living on herbage.” “Many families, entire communes,” reports the Laon commissary, “have been without bread two or three months and live on bran or herbs. … Mothers of families, children, old men, pregnant women, come to the (members of the) Directory for bread and often faint in their arms.”

And yet, great as the famine is in the country it is worse in the towns; and the proof of it is that the starving people flock into the country to find whatever they can to live on, no matter how, and, generally speaking, in vain. “Three-quarters of our fellow-citizens,” writes the Rozoy municipality,108 “are forced to quit work and overrun the country here and there, among the farmers, to obtain bread Edition: current; Page: [1308]for specie, and with more entreaty than the poorest wretches; for the most part, they return with tears in their eyes at not being able to find, not merely a bushel of wheat, but a pound of bread.” “Yesterday,” writes the Montreuil-sur-Mer municipality,109 “more than two hundred of our citizens set out to beg in the country,” and, when they get nothing, they steal. “Bands of brigands110 spread through the country and pillage all dwellings anywise remote. … Grain, flour, bread, cattle, poultry, stuffs, etc., all come in play; our terrified shepherds are no longer willing to sleep in their sheep-pens and are leaving us.” The most timid dig carrots at night or, during the day, gather dandelions; but their town stomachs cannot digest this aliment. “Lately,” writes the procureur-syndic of St. Germain,111 “the corpse of a father of a family, found in the fields with his mouth still filled with the grass he had striven to chew, exasperates and arouses the spirit of the poor creatures awaiting a similar fate.”

How, then, do people in the towns live? In small towns or scattered villages, each municipality, using what gendarmes it has, makes Edition: current; Page: [1309]legal requisitions in its vicinity, and sometimes the commune obtains from the government a charitable gift of wheat, oats, rice, or assignats. But the quantity of grain it receives is so small, one asks how it is that, after two months, six months, or a year of such a system, one-half of its inhabitants are not in the grave-yard. I suppose that many of them live on what they raise in their gardens, or on their small farms; others are helped by their relations, neighbors, and companions; in any event, it is clear that the human machine is very resistant, and a few mouthfuls suffice to keep it going a long time. At Ervy,112 in Aube, “not a grain of wheat has been brought in the last two market-days.” “Tomorrow,113 Prairial 25, in Bapaume, the chief town of the district, there will be only two bushels of flour left (for food of any sort).” “At Boulogne-sur-Mer, for the past ten days, there has been distributed to each person only three pounds of bad barley, or maslin, without knowing whether we can again distribute this miserable ration next decade.” Out of sixteen hundred inhabitants in Brionne, “twelve hundred and sixty114 are reduced to the small portion of wheat they receive at the market, and which, unfortunately, for too long a time, has been reduced from eight to three ounces of wheat for each person, every eight days.” For three months past, in Seine-et-Marne,115 in “the commune of Meaux, that Edition: current; Page: [1310]of Laferté, Lagny, Daumartin, and other principal towns of the canton, they have had only half-a-pound per head, for each day, of bad bread.” In Seine-et-Oise, “citizens of the neighborhood of Paris and even of Versailles116 state that they are reduced to four ounces of bread.” At St. Denis,117 with a population of six thousand, “a large part of the inhabitants, worn out with suffering, betake themselves to the charity depots. Workmen, especially, cannot do their work for lack of food. A good many women, mothers and nurses, have been found in their houses unconscious, without any sign of life in them, and many have died with their infants at their breasts.” Even in a larger and less forsaken town, St. Germain,118 the misery surpasses all that one can imagine. “Half-a-pound of flour for each inhabitant,” not daily, but at long intervals; “bread at fifteen and sixteen francs the pound and all other provisions at the same rate; a people which is sinking, losing hope and perishing. Yesterday, for the fête of the 9th of Thermidor, not a sign of rejoicing; on the contrary, symptoms of general and profound depression, tottering spectres in the streets, mournful shrieks of ravaging hunger or shouts of rage, almost every one, driven to the last extremity of misery, welcoming death as a boon.”

Such is the aspect of these huge artificial agglomerations, where the soil, made sterile by habitation, bears only stones, and where Edition: current; Page: [1311]twenty, thirty, fifty, and a hundred thousand suffering stomachs have to obtain from ten, twenty, and thirty leagues off their first and last mouthful of food. Within these close pens long lines of human sheep huddle together every day bleating and trembling around almost empty troughs, and only through extraordinary efforts do the shepherds daily succeed in providing them with a little nourishment. The central government, strenuously appealed to, enlarges or defines the circle of their requisitions; it authorises them to borrow, to tax themselves; it lends or gives to them millions of assignats;119 frequently, Edition: current; Page: [1312]in cases of extreme want, it allows them to take so much grain or rice from its storehouses, for a week’s supply. But, in truth, this sort of life is not living, it is only not dying. For one half, and more than one half of the inhabitants simply subsist on rations of bread obtained by long waiting for it at the end of a string of people and delivered at a reduced price. What rations and what bread! “It seems,” says the municipality of Troyes, “that120 the country has anathematised the towns. Formerly, the finest grain was brought to market; the farmer kept the inferior quality and consumed it at home. Now it is the reverse, and this is carried still further, for, not only do we receive no wheat whatever, but the farmers give us sprouted barley and rye, which they reserve for our commune; the farmer who has none arranges with those who have, so as to buy it and deliver it in town, and sell his good wheat elsewhere. Half a pound per day and per head, in Pluviose, to the thirteen thousand or fourteen thousand indigent in Troyes; then a quarter of a pound, and, finally, two ounces with a little rice and some dried vegetables, “which feeble resource is going to fail us.”121 Half a pound in Pluviose, to the twenty thousand needy in Amiens, which ration is only nominal, for “it often happens that each individual gets only four ounces, while the distribution has repeatedly failed three days in Edition: current; Page: [1313]succession,” and this continues; six months later, Fructidor 7, Amiens has but sixty-nine quintals of flour in its market storehouse, “an insufficient quantity for distribution this very day; tomorrow, it will be impossible to make any distribution at all, and the day after tomorrow the needy population of this commune will be brought down to absolute famine.” “Complete desperation!” There are already “many suicides.”122 At other times, rage predominates and there are riots. At Evreux,123 Germinal 21, a riot breaks out, owing to the delivery of only two pounds of flour per head and per week, and because three days before, only a pound and a half was delivered. There is a riot at Deippe,124 Prairial 14 and 15, because “the people are reduced here to three or four ounces of bread.” There is another at Vervins, Prairial 9, because the municipality which obtains bread at a cost of seven and eight francs a pound, raises the price from twenty-five to fifty sous. At Lille, an insurrection breaks out Messidor 4, because the municipality, paying nine francs for bread, can give it to the poor only for about twenty and thirty sous. Lyons, in Nivose, remains without bread “for five full days.”125 At Chartres, Thermidor 15,126 the distribution of bread for a month is only eight ounces a day, and there is not enough to keep this up Edition: current; Page: [1314]until the 20th of Thermidor. On the fifteenth of Fructidor, La Rochelle writes that “its public distributions, reduced to seven or eight ounces of bread, are on the point of failing entirely.” For four months, at Painboeuf, the ration is but the quarter of a pound of bread.127 And the same at Nantes, which has eighty-two thousand inhabitants and swarms with the wretched; “the distribution never exceeded four ounces a day,” and that only for the past year. The same at Rouen, which contains sixty thousand inhabitants; and, in addition, within the past fortnight the distribution has failed three times; in other reports, those who are well-off suffer more than the indigent because they take no part in the communal distribution, “all resources for obtaining food being, so to say, interdicted to them.” Five ounces of bread per diem for four months is the allowance to the forty thousand inhabitants of Caen and its district.128 A great many in the town, as well as in the country, live on bran and wild herbs.” At the end of Prairial, “there is not a bushel of grain in the town storehouses, while the requisitions, enforced in the most rigorous and imposing style, produce nothing or next to nothing.” Misery augments from week to week: “it is impossible to form any idea of it; the people of Caen live on brown bread and the blood of cattle. … Every countenance bears traces of the famine. … Faces are of livid hue. … It is impossible to await the new crop, until the end of Fructidor.” Such are the exclamations everywhere. The object now, indeed, is to cross the narrowest and most terrible defile; a fortnight more of absolute fasting and hundreds of thousands of Edition: current; Page: [1315]lives would be sacrificed.129 At this moment the government half opens the doors of its storehouses; it lends a few sacks of flour on condition of repayment—for example, at Cherbourg a few hundreds of quintals of oats; by means of oat bread, the poor can subsist until the coming harvest. But above all, it doubles its guard and shows its bayonets. At Nancy, a traveller sees130 “more than three thousand persons soliciting in vain for a few pounds of flour.” They are dispersed with the butt-ends of muskets. Thus are the peasantry taught patriotism and the townspeople patience. Physical constraint exercised on all in the name of all; this is the only procedure which an arbitrary socialism can resort to for the distribution of food and to discipline starvation.


All that an absolute government can do for supplying the capital with food is undertaken and carried out by this one, for here is its seat, and one more degree of dearth in Paris would overthrow it. Each week, on reading the daily reports of its agents,131 it finds itself on the verge of explosion; twice, in Germinal and Prairial, a popular outbreak does overthrow it for a few hours, and, if it maintains itself, it is on the condition of either giving the needy a piece of bread or the hope of getting it. Consequently, military posts are Edition: current; Page: [1316]established around Paris, eighteen leagues off, on all the highways—permanent patrols in correspondence with each other to urge on the wagoners and draft relays of horses on the spot; escorts despatched from Paris to meet convoys;132 requisitions of “all carts and all horses whatever to effect transportation in preference to any other work or service”; all communes traversed by a highway are ordered to put rubbish and litter on the bad spots and spread dirt the whole way, so that the horses may drag their loads in spite of the slippery road; the national agents are ordered to draft the necessary number of men to break the ice around the water-mills;133 a requisition is made for “all the barley throughout the length and breadth of the Republic”; this must be utilised by means of “the amalgam134 for making bread,” while the brewers are forbidden to use barley in the manufacture of beer; the starchmakers are forbidden to convert potatoes into starch, with penalty of death against all offenders “as destroyers of alimentary produce”; the breweries and starch-factories135 are to be closed until further notice. Paris must have grain, no matter of what kind, no matter how, and at any cost, not merely in the following Edition: current; Page: [1317]week, but tomorrow, this very day, because hunger chews and swallows everything, and it will not wait. Once the grain is obtained, a price must be fixed which people can pay. Now, the difference between the selling and cost price is enormous; it keeps on increasing as the assignat declines and it is the government which pays this. “You furnish bread at three sous,” said Dubois-Crancé, Floréal 16,136 “and it costs you four francs. Paris consumes eight thousand quintals of meal daily, which expenditure alone amounts to one billion two hundred millions per annum.” Seven months later, when a bag of flour brings thirteen thousand francs, the same expenditure reaches five hundred and forty-six millions per month. Under the ancient régime, Paris, although overgrown, continued to be an useful organism; if it absorbed much, it elaborated more; its productiveness compensated for what it consumed, and, every year, instead of exhausting the public treasury it poured seventy-seven millions into it. The new régime has converted it into a monstrous canker in the very heart of France, a devouring parasite which, through its six hundred thousand leeches, drains its surroundings for a distance of forty leagues, consumes one-half the annual revenue of the State, and yet still remains emaciated in spite of the sacrifices made by the treasury it depletes and the exhaustion of the provinces which supply it with food.

Always the same alimentary system, the same long lines of people waiting at, and before, dawn in every quarter of Paris, in the dark, for a long time, and often to no purpose, subject to the brutalities of the strong and the outrages of the licentious! On the 9th of Thermidor, the daily trot of the multitude in quest of food has lasted uninterruptedly for seventeen months, accompanied with outrages of the worst kind because there is less terror and less submissiveness, Edition: current; Page: [1318]with more obstinacy because provisions at free sale are dearer, with greater privation because the ration distributed is smaller, and with more sombre despair because each household, having consumed its stores, has nothing of its own to make up for the insufficiencies of public charity. To cap the climax, the winter of 1794–1795 is so cold137 that the Seine freezes and people cross the Loire on foot; rafts no longer arrive and, to obtain fire-wood, it is necessary “to cut down trees at Boulogne, Vincennes, Verrières, St. Cloud, Meudon and two other forests in the vicinity.” Fuel costs “four hundred francs per cord of wood, forty sous for a bushel of charcoal, twenty sous for a small basket. The necessitous are seen in the streets sawing the wood of their bedsteads to cook with and to keep from freezing.” On the resumption of transportation by water amongst the cakes of ice “rafts are sold as fast as the raftsmen can haul the wood out of the water, the people being obliged to pass three nights at the landing to get it, each in turn according to his number.” There are “two thousand persons at least, Pluviose 3, at the Louviers landing,” each with his card allowing him four sticks at fifteen sous each. Naturally, there is pulling, hauling, tumult, and a rush; “the dealers take to flight for fear, and the inspectors come near being murdered”; they get away along with the police commissioner and “the public helps itself.” Likewise, the following day, there is “an abominable pillage;” the gendarmes and soldiers placed there to maintain order, “make a rush for the wood and carry it away the same as the crowd.” Bear in mind that on this day the thermometer is sixteen degrees below zero, that one hundred, two hundred other lines of people likewise stand waiting at the doors of bakers and butchers, enduring the same cold, and that they have already endured it and will yet endure it a month and more. Words are wanting to describe the sufferings of these long lines of motionless beings, during the night, at daybreak, Edition: current; Page: [1319]standing there five or six hours, with the blast driving through their rags and their feet freezing. Ventose is beginning, and the ration of bread is reduced to a pound and a half;138 Ventose ends, and the ration of bread, kept at a pound and a half for the three hundred and twenty-four laborers, falls to one pound; in fact, a great many get none at all, many only a half and a quarter of a pound. Germinal follows and the Committee of Public Safety, finding that its magazines are giving out, limits all rations to a quarter of a pound. Thereupon, on the 12th of Germinal, an insurrection of workmen and women breaks out; the Convention is invaded and liberated by military force, Paris is declared in a state of siege and the government, again in the saddle, tightens the reins. Thenceforth, the ration of meat served out every four or five days, is a quarter of a pound; bread averages every day, sometimes five, sometimes six, and sometimes seven ounces, at long intervals eight ounces, often three, two, and one ounce and a half, or even none at all; while this bread, black and “making mischief,” becomes more and more worthless and detestable.139 People who are well-off live on potatoes, but only for them, for, in the middle of Germinal, these cost fifteen francs the bushel and, towards the end, twenty francs; towards the end of Messidor, forty-five francs; in the first month of the Directory, one hundred and eighty francs, and then two hundred and eighty-four Edition: current; Page: [1320]francs, whilst other produce goes up at the same rates. After the abolition of the maximum the evil springs not from a lack of provisions, but from their dearness. The shops are well-supplied. Whoever comes with a full purse gets what he wants.140 Those who were once wealthy, all proprietors and large fundholders, may have a meal on handing over their bundles of assignats, on withdrawing their last louis from its hiding-place, on selling their jewelry, clocks, furniture, and clothes; but every tradesman and broker, the lucky, all experienced robbers who spend four hundred, one thousand, three thousand, then five thousand francs for their dinner, revel in the great eating establishments on fine wines and exquisite cheer; the burden of the scarcity is transferred to other shoulders. At present, the class which suffers, and which suffers beyond all bounds of patience, is that of employees and people with small incomes,141 the Edition: current; Page: [1321]crowd of workmen, the city plebeians, the low Parisian populace which lives from day to day, which is Jacobin at heart, which made the Revolution in order to better itself, which finds itself worse off, which gets up one insurrection more on the 1st of Prairial, which Edition: current; Page: [1322]forcibly enters the Tuileries yelling “Bread and the Constitution of ’93,” which installs itself as sovereign in the Convention, which murders the Representative Féraud, which decrees a return to Terror, but which, put down by the National Guard, disarmed, and forced back into lasting obedience, has only to submit to the consequences of its outrages, the socialism it has instituted and the economical system it has organised.

Owing to the workmen of Paris having been usurpers and tyrants they are now beggars. Owing to the ruin brought on proprietors and capitalists by them, individuals can no longer employ them. Owing to the ruin they have brought on the Treasury, the State can provide them with only the semblance of charity, and hence, while all are compelled to go hungry, a great many die, and many commit suicide. Germinal 6, “Section of the Observatory,”