vention, and to sacrifice them, if they were guilty, to the security of
the Republic, and the concord of the government. It was agreed
that Saint-Just should make a report upon the state of aifairs, cal-
culated to extinguish all appearance of dissension, and to demon-
strate to the Republic that the most perfect harmony was re-
established amongst them. They separated with every appearance
These symptoms of reconciliation soon vanlslied. Once
more Robespierre's friends told him that all reconciliation
was only a snare. '• They humble themselves because tliey
tremble. Challenge them every day from the height of
the tribune. If they refuse it, their cowardice dishonours
and accuses them; if they accept it, the people are with
you ! " The Jacobins spoke loudly of an armed attack
against the Convention. " If Robespierre will not be our
chief," said they, "his name shall be our banner. We
must disregard his disinterestedness, or the Republic will
perish. Where is Danton? He would have saved the
362 THE LIFE OF KOBESFIERRE.
people. Why should virtue be more scrupulous than
ambition? The disinterestedness whidi sacrifices liberty
is more culpable than the ambition which saves it. Would
to God Robespierre possessed the ambition of which they
accuse him! The Republic needs an ambitious man.
Robespierre is only a wise man."
But Robespierre continued to shrink from an insurrec-
tion ; he preferred relying on his discourse. As Lamartine
" Nothing around Robespierre announced a great design. With
the exception of four or five men, carrying arms beneath their
clothes, whom the Jacobins had ordered, unknown to him, to follow
and protect him, his appearance was that of the most humble
citizen. He had never affected more simplicity and more humility
in his habits. He isolated himself daily more and more. He appear-
ed absorbed in the contemplation of the delights of nature ; whether
it were to consult, like Numa, the oracle in solitude, or to sweeten
the last days of his uncertain life. He went no more to the Com-
mittees, seldom to the Convention, but occasionally to the Jacobins.
His door was only opened to a few friends ; he wrote no more. He
read much. One would have said that he had placed himself in
that state of philosophic repose in which, on the brink of a great
catastrophe, men sometimes place themselves, to allow destiny to act
undisturbed. An expression of discouragement softened his looks
and features, generally too severe. Tlie tone of his voice was
sweetened by an accent of sorrow. He avoided meeting the daughters
of Duplay ; particularly her to whom he was to be united after the
storm had passed. He discoursed no more of the prospect of a re-
tired life. Too much blood lay shed between him and happiness.
A terrible dictatorship or a scaffold were the only images upon
which he could henceforth ponder. He sought to escape from these
reflections during the early days of Thermidor, by long excursions
in the neighbourhood of Paris. He wandered entire days under the
trees of Meudon, of St. Cloud, or of Viroflay. He usually carried
a book under his coat. It was generally Rousseau, Raynal, Bernardin
de St. Pierre, or some sentimental poet, such as Gesner and Young.
He had the reveries and contemplations of a theosophist in the
midst of the scenes of death and the proscriptions of a Marius."
He at last resolved to strike the blow. He bade adieu
to his host in the morning with disturbed countenance.
Duplay and his daughters pressed round him and shed tears.
THE LIFE OF ROBESPIERRE. 363
'^ You are about to encounter great danger to day," said
Duplay, " permit your friends to accompany you."
^^ No," he replied, " I am defended by my name. Be-
sides the bulk of the Convention is pure. I have nothing
to fear in the midst of the Assembly."
Dressed in the same costume which he had worn on the
proclamation of the Supreme Being, he entered the Con-
vention. The conspirators, surprised by his appearance,
hastily descended from their places to warn their friends,
dispersed about the gardens and halls, and to bring them
back as quickly as possible to their benches.
A profound silence reigned. He unrolled his manusciipt
slowly, and began, with terrible calmness, his long delibe-
rated attack, of which this is the substance : —
" Citizens," said he, " let others paint flattering pictures,
I am about to utter useful truths. I come not here to
repeat the ridiculous terrors spread abroad by perfidy, I
come to stifle if possible discord by the force of truth. I
come to defend your outraged authority, I shall also
defend myself, nor will you be surprised at it, for you do
not resemble the tyrants whom you combat.
" All friends of liberty seek to overthi'ow the power of
tyrants by the force of truth. Tyrants seek to destroy
the defenders of liberty by calumny. They even give the
name of tyranny to the ascendancy of truth. As long as
this system prevailed liberty could not exist, for over men
there can only exist two sorts of influence : the influence
of tyranny, and the influence of reason. When reason is
proscribed, as if it were a crime, tyranny reigns. When
good citizens are condemned to silence, wretches alone can
govern. Here let me open my heart. What is the
foundation of this odious system of terror and calumny
364 THE LIFE OF KOBESPIERRE.
against me? Am I dreaded by patriots? I, wliohave de-
stroyed the factions leagued against them am I dreaded
by the National Convention? What am I without it ?
Who, like me, has defended the Convention at the peril
of his life ? Who devoted himself for its preservation, when
execrable factions conspired its ruin? Who devoted himself
for its glory when the vile hirelings of tyranny preached
atheism in its name, when so many others witnessed in
silence the crimes of their accomplices, and seemed only
awaiting the signal of bloodshed, to destroy the people's
representatives ? And, for whom were destined the first
blows of the conspirator? Who were the victims de-
signated by Chaumette and Ronsin? Is there no poignard
destined for us amonj^st those sent here from Eno^land ?
And what then are the acts of severity with which we
are reproached ? Who have been the victims ? Hebert,
Honsin, Chabot, Danton, Lacroix, and their accomplices.
Are we reproached with their punishment ? No one
dare defend them. No ; we have not been too severe. I
call that republic which now lives to attest it. Let others
note the absurdity of the charges brought against us, I see
only their atrocity. You will render an account to public
opinion — monsters that you are — for your frightful perse-
verance in prosecuting the people's friends. You, who
endeavour to rob me of the esteem of the National Con-
vention; that esteem which is the most glorious reward
that man could reap from his labours, and which I have
neither usurped nor surprised, but which I have been
forced to conquer. To a sensitive mind there is no punish-
ment equal to that of being regarded as an object of detes-
tation by those whom he reveres and loves. To make
him appear so is the greatest of crimes. It was pretended
THE LIFE OF KOBESriERRE. 365
in the Convention that the Mountain was in danger because
a few members believed themselves in danger, and, to
interest the whole Convention in their cause, they revived
the affair of the sixty- two imprisoned deputies ; and to
me these events were attributed, although I was abso-
lutely a stranger to them. It was said that I wanted to
destroy the other portion of the Convention, and while
on one side I was depicted as the persecutor of the
sixty-two deputies, on the other side I was accused of
*^ Ah ! When, indeed, at the risk of outraging public
opinion, I alone saved from a precipitate decision men
whose opinions, had they triumphed, would have sent me
to the scaffold ; when, on other occasions, I stood out
against the fury of a hypocritical faction, and demanded
the strict principles of equity towards those who had
judged me unfavourably, I little thought that I should
one day be called to account for such conduct ; but still
less did I think that I should one day be accused of having
been the persecutor of those towards whom I had fulfilled
the first and indispensable duties of probity, and of being
the enemy of that national representation which I had
served Avith such fidelity.
*' And yet this word Dictatorship has a magical effect;
it kills liberty, it lowers the government, it destroys the
liepublic, it degrades all revolutionary institutions by pre-
senting them as the work of a single man. What terrible
use the enemies of the RepubHc have made of the name
alone of a Roman magistracy ! And if their erudition is so
fatal to us, what are we to expect from their wealth and
" They call me tyrant. If I tcere a tyrant theij would
grovel at my feet. I should cover them with yold^ I
366 THE LIFE OF EOBESPIERRE.
should permit them to accomplish every crime ^ and they
would be grateful. If I were a tyrant, the kings whom
we have vanquished, far from denouncing me, (what tender
interest they take in our liberty !) would proffer me their
guilty aid. I should league with them. By the aid of
scoundrels we may attain power. Whither rush those who
fight against them ? To the tomb and to immortality.
What tyrant protects me? To what faction do I belong?
To yourselves ! What faction is it which, since the begin-
ning of the revolution, has crushed so many accredited
traitors? You — the people ! -principles ! That is the fac-
tion to which I belong, and against which all the guilty
are in league. What am I whom they accuse? The
slave of liberty, the living martyr of the Republic, the
victim no less than the enemy of crime. Every scoundrel
outrages me ; actions the most indifferent in others, in me
are crimes ; to know me is to be calumniated ; others have
their delinquencies pardoned, — in me, my very zeal is re-
garded as a crime. Were it not for my conscience, I
should be the most miserable of men.
" In accusing me of aspiring to the dictatorship, they
accuse me also of all their iniquities and of all the severities
which the safety of the country rendered necessary. To
the nobles they said, it is Robespierre alone who pro-
scribes you. To the patriots they said, he wishes to save the
nobles. To the priests they said, it is he alone who perse-
cutes you; were it not for him, you would be at peace and
triumphant. To the fanatics they said, it is he who de-
stroys religion. To persecuted patriots they said, it is he
alone who orders this or who will not prevent it. To
others they said, your fate depends upon him alone.
They took particular pains to show that the revolutionary
tribunal was a tribunal of blood created by me alone, and
THE LIFE OF ROBESPIERRE. 367
whicli I ruled absolutely that I might crush both the
well disposed and the guilty; for they wished to raise
up against me enemies of all kinds. This cry filled the
'• But who were the calumniators ? I will tell you. In
the first place they were the Duke of York, Mr. Pitt, and
all the tyrants armed against us. In the second place ....
ah ! I dare not name them at this moment and in this
place. I cannot bring myself to tear aside the veil which
covers this profound mystery of iniquity; but I can posi-
tively affirm that among the authors of this plot are the
agents of that system of corruption and extravagance,
the most powerful of all the means yet invented by
foreigners for the destruction of the Republic, and that
they are corrupt apostles of Atheism, and immorality of
which it is the basis. What will be said of the authors if
the plot to which I allude should be found amongst those
who sent Danton, Fabre, and Desmoulins to the scafibld.
The cowards! They wished to send me to the tomb
covered with ignominy, leaving behind me nothing but
the memory of a tyrant. With what perfidy they abused
my good faith ! How they seemed to adopt my principles !
How naive and caressing was their famed friendship!
Suddenly their faces were over clouded. A ferocious joy
shone in their eyes; they fancied my destruction was at
hand. To-day they caress me again; their language is
more afiectionate than ever. Three days ago they were
ready to denounce me as a Catiline. To-day they attri-
bute to me the virtues of Cato. They want time to renew
their plots. Their aim is atrocious, but how contemptible
their means. You shall judge by a single trait. I was
charged in the absence of my colleagues with the surveil-
lance of a Bureau de Police Generale recently organised
368 THE LIFE OF ROBESPIERRE.
at the Committee of Public Safety. My brief adminis-
tration was limited to the issue of thirty writs which were
to set-at liberty some persecuted patriots and to arrest some
enemies of the revolution. Will it be believed that this
single word Police Gentrale has sufficed to throw upon me
the responsibility of all the acts of the Committee of
General Safety, all the errors of the constituted authorities,
of the crimes of all my enemies ? There has not perhaps
been a single individual arrested who has not been told
that I am the author of his misfortunes, and that he would
be happy and free if I did not exist. It is enough for
me to say that for the last six weeks, the force of calumny
and my inability to effect good or to arrest evil has made me
absolutely abandon my functions as a member of the Com-
mittee of Public Safety, and I swear that in doing so I
have only consulted my reason and my country.
" Be that as it may, for six weeks my dictatorship has
expired, for six weeks I have had no sort of influence
over the government. Has patriotism been better pro-
tected? Has faction been less audacious ? Has the coun.
try been happier? I hope so.
" But at all times my influence has been limited to
pleading the cause of the country before its representatives,
and to appeal to the tribunal of public opinion. I have
combated the factions that menaced you, I have endea-
voured to uproot their system of corruption and of dis-
order, which I look upon as the sole obstacle to the
establishment of the Republic. It has appeared to me
that the Republic could only be established upon the
eternal basis of morality. Factions are leagued against
me and against all who hold the same principles. My
life! oh, I abandon it to them without a sigh. I have
known the past and I foresee the future. Wherefore
THE LIFE OF ROBESPIERRE. 369
should I survive when I can no longer serve my country
or defend oppressed innocence ? Wherefore should I
remain in a society where intrigue eternally triumphs over
truth; where justice is a lie; where the vilest passions
and the absurdest terrors usurp the place of the sacred
interests of humanity? Wherefore should I endure the
agony of seeing a horrible succession of traitors, all more
or less dexterous in concealing a hideous soul beneath the
veil of virtue and of friendship, but who will all leave to
posterity the difficulty of deciding who among the ene-
mies of my country was the most cowardly and the most
atrocious ? In beholding the torrent of vices which the
revolution has mingled with civic virtues, / confess that I
have sometimes feared lest I should he sullied in the eyes of
posterity by the neighbourhood of those corrupt men who
mingle themselves among the sincere friends of humanity,
and 1 was pleased to see these Verreses and Catilines trace
a profound line of demarcation by their fury between them-
selves and all the well-disposed. In history I have read
how all the defenders of liberty were attacked by calumny
But their oppressors are also dead ! The good and the
wicked pass away from life, but under different condi-
tions. Frenchmen, suffer not your enemies to degrade
your souls and enervate your virtue by their desolating
doctrine ! No, Chaumette, death is not an eternal sleep 1
Citizens, efface from every tomb that maxim graven there
by sacrilegious hands, which covers nature with a funereal
crape, which takes away from oppressed innocence its
courage, and which is an insult to death itself. No, rather
engrave these words — death is the commencement of immor-
tality ! Some time ago, I promised to leave a testament
formidable to all oppressors of the people. I will now
370 THE LIFE OF ROBESPIERRE.
publish it. I bequeath to tliem tlie terrible truth, and I
bequeath them death !
'^Wherefore do those who recently said that we were
walking upon volcanoes believe that we to-day walk upon
roses? Yesterday they believed in conspiracies — I declare
that I beheve in them still. Those who tell you that the
establishment of the Repuhlic is so facile afi enterprise de-
ceive you. Where are the wise institutions, where is the
plan of regeneration which can justify such ambitious lan-
guage 9 Have they even occupied themselves Avith this
great object? What do I say? Did not they rather
attempt to proscribe those who had prepared such plans?
In four days, we are told, every injustice will be repaired.
Why, then, has it been for four months committed with
impunity, and how is it possible in four days to punish
and put to flight all the authors of our woes? Your vic-
tories are spoken of with an academic frivolity which
would make one believe that they had cost our heroes
neither blood nor toil. Recounted with less of pomp,
they would appear greater. We shall not subdue Europe
by rhetorical phrases, nor even by warlike exploits, but by
the wisdom of our laws, by the majesty of our deliberations,
and by the greatness of our characters. Liberty has no
other guarantee than the strict observance of those princi-
ples of universal morality which you have proclaimed.
What matters it to us to have vanquished kings, if we
ourselves are vanquished by the vices which produce
tyranny. As for me, whose existence seems to my enemies
to be an obstacle to their odious projects, let them take it;
wilHngly do I consent to the sacrifice, if their frightful
reign is still to continue !
'* People, remember that if in the RepubHc justice reigns
THE LIFE OF PwOBESPIERRE. 371
not with absolute power, and if the name does not signify
love of equahty and patriotism, hberty is only an empty
name ! People, thou who art feared, who art flattered,
and who art despised ; thou, a recognised sovereign,
always treated as a slave, remember that where justice
reigns not, the passions of magistrates rule, and the people
lias changed its fetters but not its destiny.
*' Know that every man who may arise to defend the
cause of pubhc morality will be overwhelmed by insults
and proscribed by the base. Know that every friend of
liberty will always stand between a duty and a calumny;
that when he cannot be accused of treachery he will be
accused of ambition, that the influence of his probity and
his principles will be called tyranny; that thy confidence
and thy esteem will bring down proscription upon all thy
friends; that the cries of oppressed patriotism will be
called the cries of sedition, and that, not daring to attack
thee in a m.ass, they will do so in detail, by proscribing
every good citizen until the ambitious have organised their
" Thus the villains impose on us the necessity of betray-
ing the people or of being styled dictator. Shall Ave
subscribe to this necessity? No, let us defend the people
even at the risk of being esteemed by them. Let our
enemies reach the scafibld by the path of crime; we will
seek it by the path of virtue !"
A long and awful pause followed this speech. The
Convention knew not what attitude to adopt. One single
voice broke silence. It was that of Lecointre, who de-
manded that Robespierre's speech should be printed.
The proposition was about to be voted, when Bourdon
(de rOise), who read his own name under all the allusions
of Robespierre, and who felt that further audacity could
372 THE LIFE OF ROBESPIERRE.
not endanger him more, resolved to stake his head upon
" I oppose," he said, *Hhe printing of this discourse. It
contains matters sufficiently weighty to be examined.
It may contain errors no less than truths. It is but
prudent in the Convention to return it to the examina-
tion of the two Committees of Public Safety and General
" No explosion burst forth," says Lamartine, "against an objec-
tion which would have appeared on the preceding evening a blas-
phemy. The hearts of the conspirators rose. Robespierre was
astonished at Ins fall. Barrbre looked at him. Barrfere voted for
the printing of the discourse in terms which both parties could
" Couthon, encouraged by the defection of Barrbre, demanded its
transmission to all the communes of the Republic. The printing of
the discourse is voted triumphantly. The defeat of Robespierre's
enemies is complete if they cannot rescind this vote. Vadier rises
and devotes himself. Robespierre interrupts him. Vadier insists.
* I will speak,' says he, ' with the tranquillity which belongs to virtue.'
He justified the report attacked by Robespierre, which he had made
regarding Catherine Theos. In covert terms he insinuated that he
knew of mysteries which his accusers themselves were implicated in.
He defended the Committee of General Safety.
*' * And I also enter the arena,' exclaims the austere and honest
Cambon, ' although I have not sought to form a party around me.
I do not come armed with long prepared speeches. All parties have
found me intrepid in opposing to their ambition, the barrier of my
patriotism. It is time, at length, to tell the truth. One single man
paralyses the National Convention, and that man is Robespierre!'
At these words, which break out as the hitherto repressed thought
of an upright man, Robespierre rises and denies having attacked
" Billaud-Varennes demands that the two committees should sub-
mit their conduct to inspection. ' It is not the Committee I attack,'
replies Robespierre ; 'but to avoid squabbles, I demand that 1 may
explain myself more explicitly.' * We all demand it !' exclaim two
hundred members of La Montague.
" Billaud-Varennes continues : ' Yes I' says he ; ' Robespierre is
right, the mask must be raised ; and if it be true that we are no
longer free, I would rather that my dead body should serve as a
throne to an ambitious man, than that I should, by my silence, be-
come the accomplice of his ambition.'
"Panisjlong the friend of, and afterwards proscribed by Robes-
THE LIFE OF ROBESPIERRE, 373
pierre in the Jacobins, reproaches him with domineering, and onl}-
proscribing those whom he himself suspected. ' My heart is burst-
ing,' exclaimed Panis ; ' it is time 1 gave it utterance. They depict
me as a wretch dripping with blood, and gorged with rapine, and yet
I have not acquired, in the Revolution, even the means of buying q.
sabre for my son to march to the frontiers, and a garment for my
daughters. Robespierre has drawn up a list, in which he inscribed
my name, and devoted my head for the first condemnation en
" A torrent of indignation here poured forth against the tyrant.
Robespierre met it with an imperturbable countenance. ' Throw-
ing aside my buckler,' said he, ' I have presented myself uncovered
to my enemies. I retract nothing ; I flatter no one, I fear no one ;
I neither require the support nor the indulgence of any one. I do
not seek to make a party for myself. I have done my duty, that is
enough for me ; let others do theirs. What 1' continued he, ' 1 have
had the courage to come and state, in the bosom of the Assembly,
truths which I believe necessary to the safety of the country, and
my accusation is to be submitted to the examination of those whom
" ' When,' cried Charlier, 'a man boasts of having the courage of
virtue, he should also have that of truth. Name those whom
you accuse!' * Yes — name — name!' repeated a group of Mon-
tagnards, rising with looks of defiance. Robespierre was silent.
Thirion declared that to send Robespierre's discourse into the pro-
vinces would be to condemn unheard those whom it accused. Bar-
rbre hesitated. Breard asserted that the Convention ought to re-
voke the vote, and an immense majority voted with him.
" Robespierre, humiliated, but not vanquished, felt that the Con-
vention was gone from his grasp. lie left it, and hastened, accom-
panied with a body of friends, to the tribune of the Jacobins, where
his party hailed him as a martyr. Carried into the tribune by the
Jacobins, he read to tliem his discourse repudiated by the Conven-