H. N. (Horatio Newton) Moore.

The reign of terror historically and biographically treated online

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* Thiers ; Alison, etc.


quently so notorious, of "The Mountain" was derived.
A neutral body, composed of those members whose
principles were not yet declared was called " The
Plain." The first measure of the parties, after having
formally established the republic, was to oppose each
other. The Girondists were indignant at the mas-
sacres of September, and witnessed, with horror, on
the benches of the Convention, the men who had
countenanced or directed them. Two, especially, of
the members excited their horror and disgust ; Ro-
bespierre, whom they suspected of aspiring to the
tyranny, and Marat, who from the commencement of
the Revolution had declared himself in his writings
the apostle of massacre. * Each of these two were
accused, but both, supported by the clamors of the
rabble, triumphed over their accusers. The debates
in the Convention upon this matter are full of interest,
but as they are not immediately necessary to our sub-
ject, we pass on to the trial of the King, for which
event the public mind had been for some time past
prepared. The room of the Jacobin club resounded
with invectives against him; reports the most inju-
rious to his character were spread ; and his condem-
nation was demanded as a security for liberty. The
popular societies of the departments addressed the
Convention to the same effect; the sections pre-
sented themselves at the bar of that assembly, and
me» who had been wounded on the 10th of August,
were marched into the midst of the members, crying
for vengeance on Louis Capet, his family name being
now substituted for his royal title. Mobs frequently
collected before the Temple, with insulting and threat-
ening language. In the hall of the Jacobins, two por-
traits, adorned with garlands, of Jacques Clement and
Francis Ravaillac, were hung on the walls; and im-
mediately below was the date of the murder which
each had committed, with the words, "He was fortu-
nate; he killed a king."t The sovereignty of the

* Thiers; Alison; Mignet.

t Henri the Third was assassinated by Jacques Clement on the 2nd


people was the notion everywhere inculcated, and
particularly and boldly called for by the orators at the
Jacobin club. Such demagogues as advocated this
cry soon acquired an ascendency, for the mob ap-
plauded those who were loudest in the assertion.
Fifteen hundred members usually attended the meet-
ings of this club. Only a few lamps lighted the vast
extent of the room ; its members appeared for the
most part in shabby attire ; and the galleries were
filled with the lowest of the populace. In this den of
darkness, the meetings were opened by revolutionary
songs, and shouts of applause greeted the levelling
doctrines of their leaders, Danton, Marat, Robespierre,
Billaud-Vaiennes, St. Just, and Collot d'Herbois. Here
were prepared, or hatched, all the bloody hsts of pro-
scription and massacre, that, by means of the affi-
liated societies, were carried on throughout all France.
Here came Marat, in his slovenly attire, to be greeted
with deafening plaudits, as he laid aside his cap, and
poured forth his denunciations of aristocracy, and
called for its extermination by blood. Here came
Robespierre, with his twang of the " Poor people ! the
virtuous people !" — and the people listened to their
Cicero, and hastened to execute whatever came re-
commended by such honied phrases, though devised
by the worst of men for the worst and most inhuman

The tower in which the King, or Louis Capet, was
confined, was an ancient fortress called the Temple,
from the Knights Templars, to whom it once belonged.
There was in front a house, with some modern im-
provements ; but the dwelling of Louis was the donjon
or ancient keep, itself a huge square tower of great an-
tiquity, consisting of four stories. Each story contained
two or three rooms or closets ; but these apartments
were unfurnished, affording not even comfort for an

of August 1589. Henri the Fourth, assassinated by Francis Ravail-
lacHthofMay 1610.
♦ Lacretelle; Mignet; Thiers; Buzot: Alison; Scott


ordinary family, and were quite comfortless to a family
accustomed to the space and conveniences of a palace.
The King's apartments were on the third story.
There was a kitchen separated from his chamber by a
small dark room. He usually rose at six in the
morning. He shaved himself, and his valet, Clery,
dressed his hair. He then went to his reading room,
which being very small, the municipal officer on duty
remained in the bed-chamber, with the door open,
that he might always keep the King in sight. At nine
o'clock, the Queen, the children, and Madame Eli-
zabeth, went up to his chamber to breakfast. At ten,
he and his family went down to the Queen's chamber;
and there passed the day. He employed himself in
educating his son, made him recite passages from
Corneille and Racine, gave him lessons in geography,
and exercised him in coloring maps. The Queen,
on her part, was employed in the education of her
daughter, and these different lessons lasted till noon,
when, if the weather was fine, the royal family was
conducted to the garden by four municipal officers,
and a commander of the National Guards. At two
o'clock dinner was served, at which time Santerre
regularly came to the Temple, attended by two aides-
de-camp. The King sometimes spoke to him — the
Queen never. In the evening, the family sat round a
table, while the Queen read to them from books of
history, or other works proper to amuse and instruct
the cihildren. Madame Elizabeth took the book in
her turn, and in this manner they read till eight o'clock.
After the dauphin had supped, Clery undressed him,
and the Queen heard him say his prayers. At nine
the King went to supper, and afterwards went a
moment to the Queen's chamber, shook hands with
her and his sister for the night, kissed his children,
and then retired to the turret-room, where he sat
reading till midnight Such was the manner, says
Clery, in which the royal family daily passed the time.
The faithful Clery, who, having escaped the attack on
the Tuilleries in August, had returned to Paris to


serve in misfortune those whom he had formerly served
in the splendor of their power. Tiie King and Queen
were frequently doomed to hear cruel remarks, and
found, upon the walls and corridors, expressions of
the hatred which the former government had often
merited, but which neither Louis XVI. nor his consort
had done anything to excite. *

On the 3d of December, there were calls from all
sides of the Convention for putting Louis Capet upon
trial. Some were for condemnation without trial.
Robespierre insisted that to admit of deliberation was
to admit of doubt, and even of a solution favorable to
the accused ; " and," said he, " to make the guilt of
Louis problematical is to accuse the Parisians, the
foederates ; in short, all the patriots who achieved the
revolution of the 10th of August." At this crisis, too,
the iron chest was discovered. This was a secret
closet, in the Tuilleries, constructed by Louis XVI. in
the wall, the door of which was iron, and hence the
name given it. The workmen who had been employed
to construct it, had given information of it. M. Ro-
land secured the papers enclosed in this, containing
all the documents relative to the communications
which the court had held with the emigrants and dif-
ferent members of the Assemblies, besides details of
the negotiations between Mirabeau and the court.f
From these papers were drawn up a declaration of

* " One of the soldiers within wrote one day on the King's cham-
ber door, and that, too, on the inside, ' The guillotine is permanent,
and ready for the tyrant Louis.' The walls were frequently covered
with the most indecent scrawls, in large letters, ' Madame Veto shall
swing.— The little wolves must be strangled.' Under a gallows,
with a figure hanging, were these words, ' Louis taking an air-bath,'
and similar ribaldry."— CZer?/.

t " In it were found a detail of all the plots and intrigues of the
court against the revolution ; the manoeuvres of Talon, the arrange-
ments of Mirabeau ; plots with the aristocrats to bring back the old
government. This discovery enhanced the general fury against
Louis XVL The bust of Mirabeau was broken in pieces at the
Jacobin hall, and the Convention hid with a cloth that which stood
in the hall where its sittings were held." — Mignet.


facts imputed to Louis XVI., and Tuesday, the 11th of
December was fixed for his appearance before the bar
of the Convention. Accordingly, on the morning of
the 1 1 th, numerous troops surrounded the Temple, and
the din of arms and the tramp of horses reached the
ears of the royal prisoners. At one o'clock, Louis
entered the mayor's carriage, which was waiting for
him. Six hundred picked men surrounded the vehicle ;
it was preceded by three pieces of cannon and fol-
lowed by three more. A numerous body of cavalry,
commanded by Santerre, formed the advance and the
rear guard. Louis, dressed in a walnut-colored great-
coat, sat, as the procession moved on through the
streets, calmly conversing upon the objects that pre-
sented themselves on the way. A great concourse of
people witnessed the passage, in silence — there were a
few shouts. At half-past two o'clock, amid drizzling
weather, the carriage arrived at the Convention.
" Louis," said Barrere, who was president, " the
French nation accuses you ; you are about to hear the
charges that are to be preferred against you. Louis,
be seated."

The charges consisted of an enumeration of the
whole crimes of the revolution, from its commence-
ment in 1789, all of which were laid to his account.
His answers were brief and firm. As each article
was read, the president paused and said, "What have
you to answer]" Louis denied some of the facts,
imputed others to his ministers, and constantly ap-
pealed to the constitution, from which he declared he
had never deviated. His replies were all very tempe-
rate, except to the charge that he spilled the blood of
the people on the 10th of August, when he exclaimed
indignantly and with emphasis, " No, sir, no ; it was
not /.'" All the papers found in the iron-doored closet
were then shown to him, and, availing himself of a
respectable privilege, he refused to avow part of them,
and disputed the existence of the iron-chest. He then
demanded copies of the accusation and of the other
papers, and counsel to assist him in his defence. After


which the president signified that he might retire, and
getting in the mayor's carriage, he was conveyed back
to the Temple, where, after traversing the same
streets by which he had come, he arrived at half-past
six, and the first thing he did was to ask for his fam-
ily, from whom he was now to be separated by orders
of the municipality, and reduced to solitary confine-
ment. He wept, but neither wife, sister, nor children,
was permitted to share his tears.*

Louis chose for his counsel two men of celebrity,
Tronchet and Malesherbes ; Deseze, an excellent law-
yer, was afterwards added ; and on Tuesday, the 26th
of December, he was again summoned to the bar of
the Convention. Deseze opened his case with great
ability. He ended with these words ; " Listen to
History, who will say to Fame — Louis, who ascended
the throne at the age of twenty, carried with him
there an example of morals, of justice, and of econo-
my ; he had no corrupting passions, and he was the
constant friend of the people. The people desired that
a disastrous impost should be abolished, and Louis
abolished it ; the people asked for the destruction of
servitudes, and Louis destroyed them ; they demanded
reforms, he consented to them ; they wished to change
the laws by which they were governed, he agreed to
their wish ; they asked for liberty, and he gave it. No
one can dispute that Louis had the glory of anticipa-
ting the demands of the people by making these sacri-
fices ; and yet it is in the name of this very people
that men are now demanding — citizens, I cannot go
on — I pause in the presence of history. Remember
that History will judge of your judgment, and that
her decision will be that of all ages to come." — When
the defence was concluded, Louis himself rose, and
spoke as follows : " You have heard my defence ; I
will not recapitulate it. In addressing you, perhaps,
for the last time, I declare that my conscience has
nothing to reproach itself with, and that my defenders

* Thiers; Mignet; Scott; Carlyle; Alison.


have told you nothing but the truth. I was never
afraid that my conduct should be publicly examined ;
but my heart bleeds at the accusation brought against
me of having been the cause of the misfortunes of my
people, and, most of all, that the calamitous events of
the 10th of August should be attributed to me. The
multiplied proofs I have given, in every period of my
reign, and the manner in which I have always con-
ducted myself, might, I had hoped, have saved me
from such an imputation." Having said these few
words, he withdrew with his defenders.*

The discussion of the King's punishment now occu-
pied the Convention until the 1 5th of January follow-
ing ; some of the members advocating death, others
banishment, and some imprisonment. Paris was in the
highest state of agitation. The Jacobins were clamor-
ous for his death, and they threatened the deputies
even at the door of the Convention ; new popular
excesses were looked for, and Marat, and other jour-
nalists, kept alive an outcry against the moderate
members of the Convention. Robespierre, St. Just,
and others of " the Mountain," declaimed powerfully
against Louis XVI., and their invectives were echoed
in the hall of the Jacobins, and spread over the capital
in placards that everywhere appeared on the walls. In
the Palais-Royal, and in the streets, Jacobins harangued
the populace, and Louis Capet, his treachery, his du-
plicity, his plots against the republic, was the theme
of the brawling demagogue ; and, though dethroned,
and no longer any more than a private individual, he
should suffer death, was the cry, for conspiring against
the revolution and the republic.

On January 15th, 1793, an extraordinary concourse
of spectators surrounded the Convention and filled
the galleries. The vote upon Louis Capet's punish-
ment was to be taken. For days previously the agita-
tion of Paris had been increasing as the awful mo-
ment approached. Deep consternation pervaded the

* Mignet ; Thiers ; Lacretelle ; Alison.


prisons, inasmuch as a report had got into circulation
that the atrocities of September were to be repeated,
and the relatives of the prisoners beset the deputies
with siippKcations. The Jacobins, instructed by Dan-
ton, Robespierre and Marat, who were determined to
bring about the death of Louis by means of terror,
alleged that conspiracies were hatching in all corners
to save him from punishment, and to restore royalty.
The whole sitting of the 1 5th was taken up by these
two questions, " Is Louis Capet guilty of conspiring
against the liberty of the nation, and attempts against
the general safety of the state ? Shall the judgment,
whatever it be, be referred to the sanction of the peo-
ple ?" The third question, " What punishment shall
be inflicted upon him 7" was reserved for the following
day, the 16th, when the sitting drew together a still
greater concourse than any that had preceded. The
galleries were occupied early in the morning by the
Jacobins. The greater part of the day was taken up
in discussions, and as the day advanced, it was de-
cided that the sitting should be permanent until the
voting was over. The voting began at half-past seven
in the evening, and lasted all night. Some voted
merely death ; others declared themselves in favor of
detention, and banishment after the restoration of
peace ; whilst others again pronounced death, but with
a restriction that they should inquire w^hether it was
not expedient to stay the execution. Many great and
good men mournfully inclined to the severer side, from
an opinion of its absolute necessity to annihilate a
dangerous enemy, and to establish an unsettled repub-
lic. Among these must be reckoned Carnot, who,
when called upon for his vote, gave it in these words :
" Death ! and never did word weigh so heavily upon
my heart !" *

The voting continued amidst tumult. The bravoes
of the Jacobins surrounded the hall, and were clam-
orous against members who leaned to the side of

* Alison.


mercy, threatening them from the galleries that if
Louis was acquitted they would instantly go to the
Temple and destroy him and his family, and that they
would add to his massacre that of all who befriended
him. Undoubtedly, among the terrified deputies, there
were some moved by these horrible arguments, who
conceived that, in giving a vote for Louis's life, they
would endanger their own, without saving him.*
Many were in dread of an insurrection, and, though
deeply moved by the fate of Louis, they were afraid
of the consequences of an acquittal. The mob in the
galleries received with murmurs all votes that were
not for death, and yelled out their threats. The depu-
ties replied to them from the interior of the hall, and
hence was kept up a fierce exchange of menaces and
abusive epithets. Many resolutions were shaken by
this fearful and ominous scene. , ;,

A deputy whose vote excited a strong sensation,
was the Duke of Orleans. Reduced to the necessity
of rendering himself endurable to the Jacobins or per-
ishing, when called upon to give his vote, he walked
with a faltering step, and a face paler than death itself,
to the bureau, and there pronounced these words:
"Exclusively governed by my duty, and convinced
that all those who have resisted the sovereignty of the
people deserve death, my vote is for death." f

This melancholy sitting lasted the whole night of
the 16th, and the whole day of the 17th till seven
o'clock in the evening. Its melancholy was mingled
with gaiety, dissipation, and the most grotesque con-
fusion ; instead of silence, restraint and religious awe
which it might naturally be supposed would have per-
vaded the scene. The farther end of the hall was
converted into boxes, like those of a theatre, where
ladies swallowed ices, oranges, liqueurs, and received
the salutations of the members who came and went,
moved about, and grouped together, as on ordinary
occasions. The upper gallery, reserved for the people,

* Scott t Thiers, etc.


was during the whole trial constantly full of strangers
of every description, drinking wine, as in a tavern.
Bets were made as to the issue of the trial in all the
neighboring coffee-houses. Ennui, impatience, dis-
gust, sat in almost every countenance. The deputies
passing and repassing to give their votes, and ren-
dered more ghastly by the pallid lights, and who in a
slow sepulchral voice pronounced the word death;
others calculating if they should have time to go to
dinner before they gave their verdict ; women prick-
ing cards with pins in order to count the votes ; some
of the deputies fallen asleep, and only waked up to
give their sentence ; — all this had the appearance of a
hideous dream rather than of reality.*

The summing up of the votes was awaited with ex-
traordinary impatience by the crowd which thronged
the doors, galleries and passages. Vergniaud pre-
sided. " Citizens," said he, " I am about to proclaim
the result. You will observe, I hope, profound silence."
Then, in a sorrowful tone, he declared in the name of
the Convention, " that the pimishment it pronounces
against Louis Capet is death /" The number of de-
puties present were 721, and 361 had voted for death
unconditionally.f Louis XVI.'s counsel now appeared
at the bar, and seemed deeply moved. They endeav-
ored to recall the Convention to sentiments of pity, in
consideration of the small majority by which he was
condemned. The venerable Malesherbes attempted
to speak, but could not. His sobs stifled his voice, and
the only words that were audible were broken and
imploring. The Girondists attempted to procure a
delay of the execution as a last resource ; but they
faOed in this, combatted as they were at every step of
their arguments by Robespierre, Danton, Barrere,
and " the Mountain" generally; and, at three o'clock


t Thiers. — ^Twenty-six voted for death, expressing a wish that the
Convention should consider whether it might not be expedient to
stay the execution. Their vote was nevertheless to be considered
independent of the" latter clause.


on the morning of the 20th of January, it was decided
by a majority of 380 voices to 310, that the execution
of Louis Capet should take place without delay. A^nd,
at two o'clock that afternoon, Santerre appeared with
a deputation from the municipality, and the sentence
of death was read to the unfortunate monarch, who
heard it with unshaken firmness. The first decree de-
clared Louis XVI. guilty of treason against the gene-
ral safety of the state ; the second condemned him to
death ; the third rejected any appeal to the people ;
and the fourth, and last, ordered his execution in
twenty-four hours. He, in turn, read a letter, in which
he demanded firom the Convention a respite of three
days to prepare for death, a confessor to assist him in
his last moments, liberty to see his family, and per-
mission for them to leave France, The Convention
granted him an interview with his family, and the
assistance of a priest, but refused the two other

The execution was fixed for the following morning
at ten o'clock. A heart-rending scene was the last in-
terview of the royal family. At half past eight that
evening, the door of his apartment opened, and Marie
Antoinette appeared, leading the dauphin by the hand,
followed by the young princess and Madame Eliza-
beth. They thronged altogether into the poor King's
arms, weeping, sobbing, and during the first moments
it was a scene of silent despair, broken only by the
bursting anguish of the afflicted family. The King sat
down, the Q,ueen on his left, the young princess on his
right, Madame Elizabeth in front, the young dauphin
between his knees. A glass door was between this
and the adjoining apartment, from which the muni-
cipal officer on guard, and the confessor, who had now
arrived, were witnesses of what passed. The Queen,
his daughter and sister leaned upon the poor King,
and firequently pressed him in their arms. He con-
tinued to speak, with their tears and lamentations in-
terrupting his words. This terrible scene of anguish
lasted nearly two hours. At length, Louis rose to



put an end to the painful interview, and gave his
blessing to them. The princesses still clasped their
arms around him, uttering loud lamentations. "I
assure you," said he, " that I will see you again at
eight o'clock to-morrow morning." " Why not at
seven ?" they all said at once. " Well — yes, at seven,"
said he. " Farewell !" — He pronounced " farewell " so
impressively, that their sobs were renewed, and his
daughter fainted at his feet. They raised her from the
floor; most agonizing were now the lamentations ; he
embraced them tenderly, one by one, and broke away
from them, again mournfully pronouncing " Adieu !
adieu !" The princesses and the dauphin, returned to
their own apartments, and their screams and lamenta-
tions were long continued.

Abbe Edgeworth, the confessor, was now admitted
to the King, and remained with him until twelve o'clock
that night, during which time it had been arranged be-
tween him and the priest that mass should be said on
the following morning if the municipality would con-
sent to it. Word was sent from the Temple to the
municipality, who complied with the request, and ap-
plication was made to a neighboring church for the
necessary ornaments. At about midnight Louis re-
tired to rest, having made up his mind not to see his
family in the morning, and desiring Clery, his A'-alet, to
call him at five o'clock; at the same time, "Give this
ring to the Q,ueen," said he, " and tell her with what
regret I leave her ; give her also this locket, contain-
ing the hair of my children ; give this seal to the dau-
phin ; and tell them all what I shall suffer without re-

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Online LibraryH. N. (Horatio Newton) MooreThe reign of terror historically and biographically treated → online text (page 14 of 24)