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David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

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am), yet being upheld with the authority before asserted, and
keeping myself in union and conjunction therewith, I am not
afraid to bear my witness to it in this great presence, nor to
seal it with my blood, if called thereunto. And I am so far sat-
isfied in my conscience and understanding that it neither is nor
can be treason, either against the law of nature, or the law of
the land, either malum per se, or malum prohibitum; that on the
contrary- it is the duty I owed to God the universal king, and



SIR HENRY VANE



41



to his Majesty that now is, and to the Church and people of God
in these nations, and to the innocent blood of all that have been
slain in this quarrel. Nothing, it seems, will now serve, unless by
the condemnation passed upon my person, they be rendered to
posterity murderers and rebels, and that upon record in a court
of justice in Westminster Hall. And this would inevitably have
followed if I had voluntarily given up this cause, without assert-
ing their and my innocency; by which I should have pulled that
blood upon my own head, which now I am sure lies at the door
of others, and in particular of those that knowingly and precipi-
tately shall imbrue their hands in my innocent blood, under
whatsoever form or pretext of justice.

My case is evidently new and unusual, that which never hap-
pened before; wherein there is not only much of God and of his
glory, but all that is dear and of true value to all the good peo-
ple in these three nations. And, as I have said, it cannot be
treason against the lav/ of nature since the duties of the subjects
in relation to their sovereigns and superiors, from the highest to
the lowest, are owned and conscientiously practiced and yielded
by those that are the assertors of this cause.

Nor can it be treason v/ithin the statute of Edward III., since,
besides, what hath been said of no king in possession, and of
being under powers regnant, and kings de facto^ as also of the
fact in its own nature, and the evidence as to overt acts pre-
tended, it is very plain it cannot possibly fall within the pur-
view of that statute. For this case, thus circumstantiated, as
before declared, is no act of any private person, of his own head,
as that statute intends; nor in relation to the king there meant,
that is presumed to be in the exercise of his royal authority, in
conjunction with the law and the two houses of Parliament, if
they be sitting, as the fundamental constitutions of the Govern-
ment do require.

My lords, if I have been free and plain with you in this mat-
ter, I beg your pardon; for it concerns me to be so, and some-
thing more than ordinarily urgent, where both my estate and life
are in sych eminent peril; nay, more than my life, the concerns
of thousands of lives are in it, not only of those that are in their
graves already, but of all posterity in time to come. Had noth-
ing been in it but the care to preserve my own life, I needed
not have stayed in England, but might have taken my oppor-
tunity to withdraw myself into foreign parts, to provide for my



42 SIR HENRY VANE

own safety. Nor needed I to have been put upon pleading, as
now I am, for an arrest of judgment; but might have watched
upon advantages that were visible enough to me, in the manag-
ing of my trial, if I had consulted only the preservation of my
life or estate.

No, my lords, I have otherwise learned Christ, than to fear
them that can but kill the body, and have no more that they can
do. I have also taken notice, in the little reading that I have
had of history, how glorious the very heathen have rendered
their names to posterity in the contempt they have showed of
death, — when the laying down of their lives has appeared to be
their duty, — from the love which they have owed to their coun-
try.

Two remarkable examples of this give me leave to mention
to you upon this occasion. The one is of Socrates, the divine
philosopher, who was brought into question before a judgment
seat, as now I am, for maintaining that there was but one only
true God, against the multiplicity of the superstitious heathen
gods; and he was so little in love with his own life upon this
account, wherein he knew the right was on his side, that he could
not be persuaded by his friends to make any defense, but would
choose rather to put it upon the conscience and determination of
his judges, to decide that wherein he knew not how to make any
choice of his own as to what would be best for him, whether to
live or to die; he ingenuously professing that for aught he knew
it might be much to his prejudice and loss to endeavor longer
continuance in this bodily life.

The other example is that of a chief governor, Codrus, that,
to my best remembrance, had the command of a city in Greece,
which was besieged by a potent enemy, and brought into unim-
aginable straits. Hereupon the said governor made his address
to the Oracle to know the event of that danger. The answer
was : ^'- That the city should be safely preserved if the chief gov-
ernor were slain by the enemy. '^ He understanding this, immedi-
ately disguised himself and went into the enemy's camp, amongst
whom he did so comport himself that they unwittingly put him
to death; by which means, immediately, safety and deliverance
arose to the city as the Oracle had declared. So little was his
life in esteem with him when the good and safety of his country
required the laying down of it.



THE GALLERY OF BATTLES AT VERSAILLES.
Photogravure after a Photograph — By Permission of the Werner Company.




^INCE 1789, when the excited Parisians insisted on removing the
royal familj^ to Paris, the palace of Versailles has been repeatedly
used as a royal or imperial residence, but the people have reas-
serted their right to it, and now use it chiefly for a Museum of French
History, devoted largely to paintings. Some of the most celebrated of these
are exhibited in the Gallery of Battles.




PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD

(1753-1793)

jDEALiST, poet, philosopher, and philanthropist, capable of all
the virtues, Vergniaud, the greatest of the French Giron-
dists, was forced by circumstances to become a revolutionary
leader at a time when, on one side and the other, he was opposed by
a ruthlessness of which he was incapable, manifesting itself through
crimes which to him were unimaginable in advance of their com-
mission. When the absolutism of royalty and that of the mob
exerted each against the other all the enormous forces of the malev-
olence of centuries of injustice, he attempted to establish liberty and,
through its uplifting power, to put France and the world on a higher
plane of civilization. The attempt ended for him with the scaffold.
But it did not end so for France, and he may rightly be classed as
chief among the founders of the existing Girondist Republic.

Born at Limoges, May 31th, 1753, from a family in good circum-
stances, Vergniaud while still a youth wrote a poem which attracted
the attention of Turgot who became his patron and promoted his
education. After beginning the practice of law he was drawn into
politics at the opening of the Revolution. Entering the Legislative
Assembly in October 1791, he showed such power as an orator that
leadership was thrust on him in spite of himself. He was at first in
favor of constitutional monarchy, but the plots of the court with for-
eign enemies of the new order in France made him a republican.
The Girondists followed him with courage and confidence, while
the Jacobins eagerly took advantage of his attacks on their enemies
to excuse meditated crimes which, when they became overt, he
viewed with the deepest abhorrence. He was not willing, however,
to trust wholly to moral and intellectual forces, and, although he
voted for the death of the King with reluctance, he had done much
to make it inevitable. From that vote, his own downfall dates, for
the King's execution forced conditions under which the utmost Radi-
calism of the Girondists was attacked as « milk-and-water modera-
tion. » Opposing the atrocities of the Terrorists with a self-devoting
courage which expected the inevitable end, Vergniaud and his friends
were prepared for it when it came in the autumn of 1793. ^^ the

43



44 PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD

wall of the Carmelite convent where they were imprisoned, he wrote
in blood Potius mori qnam fa'dari, and on October 31st, 1793, he went
to the guillotine with his friends, all singing the Marseillaise and
keeping up the chant until the last man was strapped under the ax.



«TO THE CAMP!»
(Delivered before the Committee of Public Safety, September 2d, 1792)

THE details given to you by M. Constant are no doubt quite
reassuring; it is impossible, however, to help some uneasi-
ness, after coming from the camp below Paris. The works
advance very slowly. There are many workmen, but few of them
work: a great number are resting themselves. What is especially
painful is to see that the shovels are only handled by salaried
hands, and not by hands which the public interest directs. Whence
comes the sort of torpor in which the citizens who have remained
in Paris appear to be buried ? Let us no longer conceal it : the
time to tell the truth has come at last! The proscriptions of the
past, the rumor of future proscriptions, and our internal discords
have spread consternation and dismay. Upright men hide them-
selves when the conditions have been reached under which crime
may be committed with impunity. There are men, on the con-
trary, who only show themselves during public calamities, like
some noxious insects which the earth produces only during storms.
These men constantly spread suspicions, distrust, jealousies, hates,
revenges. They thirst for blood. In their seditious insinuations
they accuse of ^^ aristocracy ^* virtue itself, in order to acquire the
right to trample it under foot. They make crime a part of their
democracy that they may democratize crime, gorge themselves
with its fruits without having to fear the sword of justice. Their
whole effort now is to so dishonor the most sacred cause, that
they may rouse to action against it the friends of the nation and
of all humanity.

Oh! citizens of Paris I ask it of you with the most profound
emotion, will you never tmmask these perverse men, who to ob-
tain your confidence have nothing to offer but the baseness of
their means and the audacity of their pretensions ? Citizens, when
the enemy is advancing, and when a man, instead of asking you



PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD



45



to take up the sword to repulse him, wishes you to murder in
cold blood women or unarmed citizens, that man is an enemy
of your glory and of your welfare! He deceives you that he
may ruin you. When on the contrary a man speaks to you of
the Prussians only to indicate you must strike a mortal blow;
when he proposes victory to you only by means worthy of your
courage, he then is the friend of your glory, the friend of your
happiness. He would save you! Citizens, forswear, therefore,
your intestine dissension; let your profound indignation against
crime encourage upright men to come to the front. Have the
proscriptions stopped, and you shall see at once a mass of de-
fenders of liberty rally themselves about you. Go, all of you
together to the camp! It is there that you will find your salva-
tion!

I hear it said every day : " We may suffer a defeat. What
then will the Prussians do ? Will they come to Paris ? *^ No, not
if Paris is in a state of respectable defense; if you prepare out-
posts from whence you could oppose a strong resistance; for then
the enemy would fear to be pursued and surrounded by the rem-
nants of the armies that he may have overcome, and be crushed
by them as Samson was under the ruins of the temple he tore
down. But, if panic or false security benumb our courage and
our strong arms, if we surrender without defending them the
outposts from which the city may be bombarded, it were sense-
less not to advance towards a city which by inaction had ap-
peared herself to invite their coming, — which did not know how
to take possession of positions from which he could have been
beaten. To the camp, therefore, citizens, to the camp ! What ?
while your brothers, your fellow-citizens, by a heroic devotion,
abandon what nature must make them cherish the most, their
wives, their children, — will you remain plunged in lukewarm
idleness ? Have you no other way of proving your zeal than by
asking incessantly, as did the Athenians : *^ What is there new
to-day ? » Ah ! let us detest this degrading nobility ! To the camp,
citizens, to the camp! Whilst our brothers, for our defense, may
be shedding their blood on the plains of Champagne, let us not
be afraid to let our sweat-drops fall upon the plains of Saint
Denis, for the protection of their retreat. To the camp, citizens,
to the camp! Let us forget everything but our country! To the
camp, to the camp!



46 PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD

REPLY TO ROBESPIERRE
(Peroration of the Speech Delivered in the Convention, April loth, 1793)

ROBESPIERRE accuses us of having suddenly become ^* Moder-
ates,'^ — monks of the order of Saint Bernard. {Fciiillants.)
Moderates, — we? I was not such, on the tenth of August,
Robespierre, when thou didst hide in thy cellar. Moderates! No,
I am not such a Moderate that I would extinguish the national
energy. I know that liberty is ever as active as a blazing flame,
— that it is irreconcilable with the inertia that is fit only for
slaves! Had we tried but to feed that sacred fire which burns
in my heart as ardently as in that of the men who talk inces-
santly about ^* the impetuosity '* of their character, such great dis-
sensions would never have arisen in this Assembly. I know that
in revolutionary times it was as great a folly to pretend the
ability to calm on the spur of the moment the effervescence of
the people as it would be to command the waves of the ocean
when they are beaten by the wind. Thus it behooves the law-
maker to prevent as much as he can the storm's disaster by wise
counsel. But if under the pretext of revolution it become nec-
essary, in order to be a patriot, to become the declared protector
of murder and of robbery, — then I am a « Moderate!'*

Since the abolition of the monarchy, I have heard much talk
of revolution. I said to myself: There are but two more revo-
lutions possible: that of property or the Agrarian Law, and that
w^hich would carry us back to despotism. I have made a firm
resolution to resist both the one and the other and all the indi-
rect means that might lead us to them. If that can be construed
as being- a « Moderate,'' then we are all such; for we all have
voted for the death penalty against any citizen who would pro-
pose either one of them.

I have also heard much said about insurrection, — of attempts
to cause risings of the people, — and I admit I have groaned
under it. Either the insurrection has a determined object, or it
has not; in the latter case, it is a convulsion for the body politic
which, since it cannot do it good, must necessarily do it a great
deal of harm. The wish to force insurrection can find lodgment
nowhere but in the heart of a bad citizen. If the insurrection
has a determined object, what can it be ? To transfer the exer-



PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD ^y

cise of sovereignty to the Republic. The exercise of sovereignty-
is confided to the national representatives. Therefore, those who
talk of insurrection are trying to destroy national representation;
therefore they are trying to deliver the exercise of sovereignty
to a small number of men, or to transfer it upon the head of a
single citizen; therefore they are endeavoring to found an aristo-
cratic government, or to re-establish royalty. In either case, they
are conspiring against the Republic and liberty, and if it become
necessary either to approve them in order to be a patriot, or be
a " Moderate *' in battling against them, then I am a Moderate !
When the statue of liberty is on the throne, insurrection can
be called into being only by the friends of royalty. By continu-
ally shouting to the people that they must rise; by continuing to
speak to them, not the language of the laws, but that of the
passions, arms have been furnished to the aristocracy. Taking
the living and the language of sansculottism, it has cried out to
the Finistere department : " You are unhappy ; the assignats are
at a discount; you ought to rise eji masse.''* In tliis way the ex-
aggerations have injured the Republic. We are "Moderates!'^
But for whose profit have we shown this great moderation ? For
the profit of the eviigrds ? We have adopted against them all the
measures of rigor that were imposed by justice and national in-
terest. For the profit of inside conspirators ? We have never
ceased to call upon their heads the sword of the law. But I
have demurred against the law that threatened to proscribe the
innocent as well as the guilty. There was endless talk of terri-
ble measures, of revolutionary measures. I also was in favor of
them, — these terrible measures, but only against the enemies
of the country. I did not want them to compromise the safety
of good citizens, for the reason that some unprincipled wretches
were interested in their undoing, I wanted punishments but not
proscriptions. Some men have appeared as if their patriotism
consisted in tormenting others, — in causing tears to flow! I
would have wished that there should be none but happy peo-
ple! The convention is the centre around w^hich all citizens
should rally! It may be that their gaze fixed upon it is not
always free from fear and anxiety. I would have wished that it
should be the centre of all their affections and of all their hopes.
Efforts were made to accomplish the revolution by terror. I
should have preferred to bring it about by love. In short, I
have not thought, that like the priests and the fierce ministers of



48



PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD



the Inquisition, who spoke of their God of Mercy only when they
were surrounded by autos-de-fe and stakes, that we should speak
of liberty surrounded by daggers and executioners!

You say we are ** Moderates ! '^ Ah ! let thanks be offered us
for this moderation of which we are accused as if it were a
crime ! If, when in this tribune they came to wave the brands of
discord and to outrage with the most insolent audacity the ma-
jority of the representatives of the people; if, when they shouted
with as much fury as folly : ^* No more truce ! No more peace
between us ! '^ we had given way to the promptings of a just in-
dignation; if we had accepted the counter-revolutionary challenge
which was tendered to us — I declare to my accusers — (and no
matter what suspicions they create against us; no matter what
the calumnies with which they try to tarnish us, our names still
remain more esteemed than theirs), that we would have seen
coming in haste from all the provinces to combat the men of the
second of September, men equally formidable to anarchy and to
tyrants! And our accusers and we ourselves would be already
consumed by the fire of civil war. Our moderation has saved the
country from this terrible scourge, and by our silence we have
deserved well of the Republic!

I have not passed by, without reply, any of Robespierre's cal-
umnies, or of his ramblings. I come now to the petition de-
nounced by Potion; but, as this petition is connected with a
general scheme of mischief, allow me to treat of the facts from
a higher point of view.

On the tenth of March, a conspiracy broke out against the
National Convention. I denounced it to you then. I named
some of the leaders. I read to you the decrees taken in the
name of the two sections, by some intriguers who had slipped
into their midst. A pretense was made of throwing doubts on
the facts; the existence of the decrees was considered as uncer-
tain. Nevertheless the facts were attested even by the munici-
pality of Paris. The existence of the decrees was confirmed by
the sections who came to disavow them and to inform against
the authors.

You ordered, by a decree, that the guilty parties should be
prosecuted before the Revolutionary Tribunal. The crime is ac-
knowledged. What heads have fallen ? None. What accomplice
has even been arrested ? None. You yourselves have contrib-
uted to render your decree illusory. You have ordered Foumier



PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD ^n

to appear at the bar of your court. Fournier admitted that he
was present at the first gathering that took place at the Jacobins;
that from there he had gone to the Cordehers, the place of the
general meeting; that, at that meeting, there was a question of
proceeding to ring the alarm-bell, to close the barriers, and to
slaughter a number of the members of the convention. But be-
cause he stated that, in the scenes in which he had participated,
he had not been animated by evil intentions; and, — as if to
butcher a part of the convention had not been reputed as an
evil, — you set him at liberty by ordering that he should be heard
later on as a witness, if it was thought best, before the Revolu-
tionary Tribunal. It is as if in Rome the Senate had decreed
that Lentulus might become a witness in the conspiracy of Cat-
iline !

This inconceivable weakness rendered powerless the sword of
the law and taught your enemies that you were not to be
dreaded by them. At once a new plot was formed which mani-
fested itself by the constitution of this central committee which
was to correspond with all the provinces. This plot was coun-
teracted by the patriotism of the section dii Mail, who denounced
it to you; you ordered before your bar the members of this cen-
tral committee; did they obey your decree? No. Who then are
you ? Have you ceased to be the representatives of the people ?
Where are the new men whom they have endowed with their
almighty power ? So they insult your decree ; so you are shame-
fully bandied about from one plot to another. Potion has let
you into the secret of still another one. In the petition of the
Halle-au-Bld^ the dissolution of the National Convention is being-
arranged for, by accusing the majority of corruption; opprobrium
is being poured upon them from full cups; the formal design is
announced of changing the form of the government, inasmuch as
they have made manifest that of concentrating the exercise of
sovereign authority in the small number of men therein repre-
sented as the only ones worthy of public confidence.

It is not a petition that is being submitted to your wisdom.
These are supreme orders that they dare dictate to you. You
are notified that it is for the last time that the truth is being
told you; you are notified that you have but to choose between
your expulsion, or bow to the law that is imposed on you. And
on these insolent threats, on these burning insults, the order of
the day or a simple disapproval is quietly proposed to you! And
10 — 4



50



PIERRE VICTURNIEN VERGNIAUD



now then! how do you expect good citizens to stand by you, if
you do not know how to sustain yourselves ? Citizens ! were you
but simple individuals, I could say to you: "Are you cowards?
Well, then; abandon yourselves to the chances of events; wait in
your stupidity until your throats are cut or you are driven out.**
But there is here no question of your personal safety; you are
the representatives of the people; the safety of the Republic is
at stake; you are the depositaries of her liberty and of her glory.
If you are dissolved, anarchy succeeds you, and despotism suc-
ceeds to anarchy. Any man conspiring against you is an ally of
Austria. You are convinced of it, as you have decreed that he
shall be punished by death. Do you wish to be consistent ?
Cause your decrees to be carried out, or revoke them, or order
the barriers of France to be opened to the Austrians and decree
that you will be the slaves of the first robber who may wish to
put his chains upon you.




DANIEL W. VOORHEES

(1827-1897)

;aniei. Wolsey Voorhees, one of the most noted men of the
Central West during the Civil War and Reconstruction
period in the United States, was an orator of great if irreg-
ular power. With such a training as that of Chatham and Brougham,
he might have attained the highest rank. Having an education in his-
tory and general literature which the circumstances of his early years
rendered defective, he had nevertheless a native power of intellect which
for twenty years made him one of the great forces of American politics.
Born in Butler County, Ohio, September 26th, 1827, he began life as a



Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 4 of 56)