H. N. (Horatio Newton) Moore.

The reign of terror historically and biographically treated online

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extremity of *the moment she attempted to throw her-
self overboard. Her courage and distress finally

* Larochejaquelain. t Alison. t Larochejaquelain.


softened his stern heart. ' " You are a brave girl,"
said he; "1 will save you." In effect, he left her con-
cealed at the bottom of the boat, among some bushes
on the margin of the stream, where she lay for eight
days and nights a witness to the unceasing nightly
massacre of her fellow-prisoners. She was arrested
again — again escaped — and was again arrested, and
would have perished upon the guillotine, had not the
fall of Robespierre suspended the executions, and
ultimately restored her to hberty. — In brief, fifteen
thousand persons perished at Nantes, under the hands
of the executioner, or of diseases in prison, in one
month; the total victims of the Reign of Terror at
that place exceeded thirty thousand.*

At Lyons, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Toulon, and other
places throughout France, the same horrors and
atrocities marked the Reign of Terror. Robespierre
and Danton ruled triumphant in Paris, where they
passed whatever decrees they chose in the Convention,
and sent forth their satellites to execute their terrible
doom of extermination against all who opposed their
sway. They had travelling Revolutionary Tribunals,
with guillotines rumbling along on wheels, progressing
from town to town throughout the whole empire, and,
wherever the executioners were dilatory, orders for
rigorous proceedings came from Robespierre, with a
hint of a dungeon in case of refusal.f

A formidable decree, issued against Lyons, enacted
that the rebels and their accomplices should be tried
by a military commission ; that the sans-culottes
should be maintained at the expense of the aristo-
crats; that the houses of the wealthy should be de-
stroyed, and that the name of the city should be
changed. The execution of this decree was entrusted
to Collot d'Herbois, Maribon-Montaut, and Fouche.
Couthon had already preceded them, and was active

* Toulangeon ; Beauchamp ; Alison, etc.
t Duchess D'Abrantes.


in the reduction of the city. * The latter attended by
a crowd of satellites, traversed the finest quarters or
Lyons, with a silver hammer, and striking at the
doors of the devoted houses, exclaimed, " Rebelhous
house, I strike you in the name of the law." Instantly
the agents of destruction, of whom twenty thousand
were in the pay of the Convention, commenced, and,
with pickaxes and other implements, levelled the dwell-
ing to the ground. But this was only a prelude to a
more bloody vengeance. Collot d'Herbois was animated
with a secret hatred towards the Lyonese, for ten
years before, when an obscure actor, he had been
hissed off their stage. He now resolved at leisure to
gratify his revenge, f Fouche, his associate, pub-

* " J. Couthon, surnamed Cato during the Reign of Terror, bom
in 1756, an advocate, embraced the revolutionary principles with
astonishing eagerness, and, during the sitting of the Convention,
showed himself the most ardent partizan of sanguinary measures.
He voted for the King's death, and eagerly opposed delay. He was
a favorite tool of Robespierre. Being sent to Lyons, he presided at
the execution of the rebel chiefs, and began to put in force the de-
cree which ordered the demolition of that city. In the year. 1794,
he was executed, and suffered horribly before he died ; his singular
conformation, and the dreadful contraction of his limbs, so incom-
moded the executioner while fastening him on the plank of the
guillotine, that he was obliged to lay him on his side to give the fatal
blow." Biograpkie Moderne " Couthon was a decrepid being,
whose lower extremities were paralyzed— whose sensibility led him
constantly to foster a favorite spaniel in his bosom, that he might
have something on which to bestow kindness and caresses— but who
was at heart as fierce as Danton, and as pitiless as Robespierre." —

t " J, M. Collot d'Herbois first appeared on the stage and had
little success. He played at Geneva, at the Hague, and at Lyons,
where, having often been hissed, he vowed the most cruel vengeance
agamst that town. The line of acting in which he played best was
that of tyrants in tragedies. He went to Paris at the beginning of
the Revolution, and embraced the popular cause. Posssessed of a
fine face, a powerful voice, and great boldness, he became one of the
oracles at the Jacobin club. He was no stranger to the September
massacres. During the King's trial, he sat at the too of the Moun-
tam by Robespierres side, and voted for the monarch's death. It
has been said of this man, who was surnamed the Tiger, that he
waa the most sanguinary of the Terrorists. In 1793 he took his


lished, before his arrival, a proclamation in which he
declared that the French people could acknowledge
no other worship than that of universal morality ;
that all religious emblems should be destroyed ; and
that over the gates of the churchyards should be
written — Death is an eternal Sleep. Proceeding on
these atheistical principles, the first step of Collot
d'Herbois and Fouche was to institute a fete in honor
of Chalier, the republican governor of Lyons, who had
been put to death by the royalists. His bust was
carried through the streets, followed by an immense
crowd of assassins and prostitutes. After them came
an ass bearing the Gospel, the Cross, and the com-
munion vases, which were soon committed to the
flames, while the ass was compelled to drink con-
secrated wine out of the communion cup.

The executions meantime continued without the
slighest relaxation. Many women watched for the
hour when their husbands were to pass to the scaffold,
precipitated themselves upon the cart, were carried
along with them, and voluntarily suffered death by
by their side. Daughters surrendered their honor
to save their parent's lives ; but the monsters who
viglated them, adding treachery to crime, led them
out to behold the execution of their relatives.

Deeming the daily execution of fifteen or twenty per-
sons too tardy a display of vengeance, Collot d'Herbois
prepared a new and simultaneous mode of punish-
ment. Sixty captives of both sexes were led out to-
gether, tightly bound in a file, to the Place du Brot-
teaux, where they were arranged in two files with a

departure for Lyons, protesting that the South should soon be puri-
fied. It is from the time of this mission that his horrible celebrity
takes its rise. He subsequently became a rival of Robespierre,
whom he denounced. In i795 he was transported to Guiana, where
he endeavoured to stir up the blacks against the whites. He died in
the following year of a violent fever, which was increased by his
drinking a bottle of brandy. He was the autlior of some pamphlets
and theatrical pieces, none of which deserve notice." Biographie


deep ditch on each side, which was to be the place of
their burial, while gendarmes with uplifted sabres
threatened with instant death whoever moved from
their position. At the extremity of the file, two
cannon, loaded with grape shot, were so placed as to
enfilade the whole. The signal was then given, and
the cannon were fired. Broken limbs, torn off by the
shot, were scattered in every direction, while blood
streamed into the ditches on either side of the line. A
second and . a third discharge were insufficient to
complete the work of death, till, at length, the gen-
darmes rushed in and despatched the sufferers with
their sabres.

Day after day this bloody scene was renewed.
Upon one occasion two hundred and nine captives
were brought before Couthon and the revolutionary
judges, andf, with scarcely a hearing, condemned to be
executed together. With such precipitancy was the
affair conducted, that two commissaries of the prison
were led out along with their captives ; their cries,
their protestations, were alike disregarded. In pass-
ing the bridge Morand, the error was discovered on
the captives being counted ; and it was intimated to
Collot d'Herbois that there were two too many.
" What signifies it," said he, " that there are too
many? If they die to-day, they cannot die to-morrow."
The whole were brought to the place of execution,
where they were attached to one cord made fast to
trees at stated intervals, with their hands tied behind
their backs, and numerous pickets of soldiers disposed
so as at one discharge to destroy them all. At a
given signal the fusillade commenced ; but few were
killed; the greater part only had a jaw or a limb
broken; and, uttering the most piercing cries, they
broke loose in their agony from the rope, and were
cut down by the gendarmes, many of whom found a
pleasure in exterminating the aristocrats. The great
numbers who survived "the discharge, rendered the
work of destruction a laborious operation, however,
and several were still breathing on the following day,


when their bodies were mingled with quicklime, and
cast into a common grave. D'Herbois and Fouche
were witnesses of this butchery from a distance, by-
means of a telescope which they directed to the spot.
All the other fusillades were conducted in the same
manner. One of them was executed under the win-
dows of an hotel on the Quay, where Fouche, with
thirty Jacobins and tv/enty courtezans, was engaged
at dinner. They rose from the table to enjoy "the
bloody spectacle.

The bodies of the slain were floated in such num-
bers down the Rhone that the waters were tainted.
During the course of five months, this carnage was
continued, whilst all the houses of the rich were razed
to the ground, and a vast amount of plunder fell into
the hands of the Jacobins. Thirty-one thousand per-
sons were butchered, and more than double that
number were driven into exile.*

One day, during these bloody executions, a young
girl rushed into the hall where the Revolutionary Tri-
bunal was held, and throwing herself at the feet of the
judges, said, " There remain to me, of all my family,
only my brothers ! Mother — father — sisters — uncles
— you have butchered all ; and now you are going to
condemn my brothers! Ah, in mercy, ordain that I
may ascend the scaffold with them !" Her prayer,
accompanied as it was with all the marks of frantic
despair, was refused. She then threw herself into the
Rhone, where she perished, f

Atrocities equally great were perpetrated at Bor-
deaux, Marseilles and Toulon. One instance of refined
cruelty that took place at Bordeaux, was that of a
women charged with the crime of having wept at her
husband's execution. She was condemned in conse-
quence to sit several hours under the suspended blade
of the guillotine, which shed upon her, drop by drop,
the blood of the deceased, whose corpse was above
her on the scaffold, before she was released by death

* Alison. t Du Broca,


from her agony. * — At Marseilles and Toulon, Freron,
Barras, and Robespierre the younger, were the com-
missioners despatched from the Convention to execute
its decrees. On their arrival at Marseilles, they pub-
lished a proclamation announcing that Terror was the
order of the day. f At Toulon several thousand citi-
zens of every age and sex perished in a few weeks by
the blade of the guillotine ; two hundred were daily
beheaded for a considerable period, and twelve thou-
sand laborers were hired to demolish the buildings of
the city. J " Things go on well here," wrote Freron,
five days after his arrival at Toulon ; " we have
required twelve thousand masons to raze the town ;
each day since our arrival we have caused two hun-
dred heads to fall, and already eight hundred Tou-
lonese have perished." It was at first intended to put
to death all who had accepted any office, or borne
arms, in the town during the siege. Freron conse-
quently signified to them that they must all go, under
pain of death, to the Champs de Mars of that city.
The Toulonese, thinking to obtain pardon by submis-
sion, obeyed, and eight thousand persons were assem-
bled at the appointed place. Freron, accompanied by a
formidable train, surrounded this assemblage and
commenced firing upon them ; but, shooting with
muskets being insufficient, they had afterwards re-
course to the mitraillade ; and it was in another exe-
cution of this nature, that Freron, in order to despatch
the victims who had not perished by the first dis-
charge, cried out, " Let those who are still living —
rise; the republic pardons them." Some unhappy
creatures trusting to this promise, rose, he caused
them to be instantly fired upon. §

* Louvet. t Biographic Moderne. t Alison.

$ Biog. Moderne.— " L. S. Freron was educated at the college
Louis-le-grand with Robespierre, whose friend he became in the
Revolution, his emulator, and at last one of his denouncers. In 1789
he began to edit the " Orator of the People," and became the coad-
jutor of Marat. At the time of the expedition to St. Domingo in
1802, he was appointed prefect of the South, and sailed thither with


While these atrocities were being carried on in the
south of France, Joseph Lebon imitated them in the
north, having fixed his principal residence at tlie town
of Arras, but travelling to and fro with his judges, exe-
cutioners and a guillotine. He everywhere left bloody
traces of his progress. At St. Pol, St. Omer, Bethune,
Bapeaume, Aire, and other places, blood of the aristo-
crats freely flowed from his travelling instrument of
death. At Cambray, perceiving as he thought that the
aristocrats were in secret correspondence with the
Austrians, he hastened thither with his executioners
and guillotine, and in a few days executed thousands
of suspected persons. After finishing an excursion,
he would return to Arras, where he would celebrate
his successful extermination of aristocracy, by bac-
chanal orgies with his judges and various members
of the Jacobin clubs in that town. Even his execu-
tioners were admitted to his table and treated with
the highest consideration. Stationed in a balcony,
Lebon witnessed the executions ; he would address
the people, and cause the Ca Ira to be played while
the blood of the aristocrats was flowing. One day,
having received intelligence of a victory obtained by
the French over the Austrians, he hastened out upon
his balcony and ordered the executions to be sus-
pended, that the sufferers who were about to die
might be made acquainted with the successes of the
republic* Mingling treachery and seduction with

Gen. Leclerc ; but he sunk under the influence of the climate, after
an illness of six days." — Biographie Moderne

* Thier& — " Joseph Lebon, born at Arras, at the period of the
Revolution connected himself with Robespierre. After the 10th of
August, he was appointed mayor of that town; subsequently joined
the Convention as a supplementary deputy. In 1793 he was sent as
commissioner to Arras, where he perpetrated the most flagrant cruel-
ties. In 1795 he was condemned to death as a Terrorist, and at the
time of his execution was but' thirty years of age." Biog. Mod.- —
" Lebon prided himself on his apostacy, libertinism, and cruelty. —
Every day after dinner he presided at the execution of his victims.
By his order, an orchestra was erected close to the guillotine. It was
his custom to be present at the executions." — Prudhomme.



sanguinary oppression, Lebon turned the despotic
powers with which he was invested into the means of
individual gratification. After having disgraced the
wife of a noWeman, who yielded to his embraces in
order to save her husband's life, he put the man to
death before her eyes.*

Thus all the great cities, the towns and villages of
France experienced the vengeance of the Mountain.
But Paris, full of illustrious victims, was soon to be-
come the theatre of much greater cruelties. The
crafty Robespierre, with his reputation of incorrupti-
bility, had managed to gain a popularity among the
Jacobins superior to that of Danton, whose profusion
and expenditure of living, both diminished his reputa-
tion, and laid him under the suspicion of peculation.!
Preparations were now making for the trial of Marie
Antoinette, of the Girondins, of the Duke of Orleans,
of M. Bailli, and of a great number of generals and
ministers, while the prisons in Paris were daily being
filled with suspected persons, Fouquier-Tinville inde-
fatigabiy presiding at the Revolutionary Tribunal, and
the axe of the guillotine dail)'- at work. Besides the
Abbaye, La Force, the Conceirgerie, and the various
other prisons, the palace of the Luxembourg, the college
of Duplessis, and other buildings were converted into
prisons. People of wej^lth and nobility were daily ar-
rested, and all the rank and beauty of Paris were hud-
dled indiscriminately into dungeons, furnished merely
with straw. The cells of the women were as horrid
as those of the men, equally dark — damp — filthy —
crowded. In time, however, some amelioration was
permitted, regulations were established, and domestic
duties were divided among them. The high-born
would not at first deign to associate with those of in-
ferior rank, but community of suffering soon brought
them to a level. All had the privilege of assembling
together in a common hall, where groups would form
around a table, a stove, or a fire-place. Poets, thrown

* Alison. t Thiers ; Scott.


into prison with all those who excited distrust by any
superiority whatever, recited verses. Musicians gave
concerts, and admirable music was daily heard in
these places of proscription. Luxury soon became the
companion of pleasure. The females indulged in
dress ; ties of friendship and love were formed ; and
all the ordinary scenes of life were reproduced here
till the very day that the scaffold put an end to them —
singular example of the French character, of its
thoughtlessness, its gaiety, its aptitude to pleasure, in
all the situations of life ! Delightful poems, romantic
adventures, acts of beneficence, a singular confusion
of rank, fortunes, and opinions, characterized this
prison-life during the Reign of Terror. It is true that
the pride of certain prisoners withstood this equality
of misfortune. Affliction, however, brings back all
hearts to nature and humanity; and soon, when Fou-
quier-Tinville knocked daily at these abodes, demand-
ing more lives, and friends and relatives were parted
by death, those who were left mourned and took com-
fort together, and learned to entertain one and the same
feeling amidst the same misfortunes.*

At this period the gardens of the Luxembourg every
day offered a scene peculiarly interesting and pathetic.
A multitude of married women from the various quar-
ters of Paris crowded together, in the hope of seeing
their husbands for a moment at the windows of the
prison, to offer, or receive from them, a look, a ges-
ture, or some other testim.ony of their affection. No
weather banished these women from the gardens —
neither the excess of heat or cold, nor tempests of v/ind
or rain. One would present herself with an infant in
her arms, bathing it with tears in her husband's sight ;
another would disguise herself in the dress of a beg-
gar, and sit the whole day at the foot of a tree, where
she could be seen by her husband. The miseries of
these affectionate women were greatly enhanced when
a high fence was thrown around the prison, and they

* Thiers.


were forbidden to remain stationary in any spot.
Then were they seen wandering Hke shades through
the dark and melancholy avenues of the garden, and
casting the most anxious looks at the impenetrable
walls of the palace.*

But in the Conceirgerie, and around it, reigned the
most afflicting terror, grief and despair. Within it
were crowded those who had at most but three or
four days to live ; without it, wailed the relatives of
the condemned. Into this, from the other prisons,
were the unfortunate victims removed the day previ-
ous to their trial, and they remained there only during
the interval between their trial and execution.f Here,
one day, among a multitude that hourly expected their
trial, was a young man accompanied by his wife, a
young and beautiful woman. While they were walk-
ing in the court with the other prisoners, the wife
heard her husband called to the outer gate of the
prison. Comprehending that it was the signal of his
death, she ran after him, resolved to share his fate.
The jailer refused to let her pass. With strength de-
rived from despair, she made her way, threw herself
into her husband's arms, and besought them to suffer
her to die with him. She was torn away by the guards,
and at the same moment dashed her head violently
against the prison-gate, and in a few minutes ex-

Such was the Reign of Terror in Paris ! Even Fou-
quier-Tinville himself felt some compunctions at the
horror with which he was surrounded. " On one oc-
casion," he says, "the Committee of Public Safety
ordered me to increase the executions to one hundred
and fifty a day, but the proposal filled my mind with
such horror, that, as I returned from the Seine, the
river appeared to run red with blood." ^ Nothing
astonished the few who escaped from these prisons
and the guillotine so much as the want of sympathy

* Du Broca. t Thiers.

t Du Broca. $ His speech on his Trial.


that prevailed out of doors for the sufferings and death
that was continually going on. The theatres, and all
places of amusement, were thronged as usual.

The prophetic words pronounced months previously
by the eloquent Vergniaud, were now being realized.
" We are marching," said he, " from crimes to amnes-
ties, and from amnesties to crimes. The great body
of the citizens are so Winded by their frequent oc-
currence, that they confound these seditious disturb-
ances with the grand national movement in favour of
freedom ; regard the violence of brigands as the efforts
of energetic minds; and consider robbery itself as
indispensable to public liberty. Citizens, there is but
too much reason to dread that the Revolution, like
Saturn, will successively devour all its progeny, and
finally leave only despotism, with all its attendant ca-

Papers and pamphlets against the aristocrats poured
from the press. The Convention continued its sittings,
and all the different clubs held nightly meetings. The
Jacobins rioted in the confiscations of property, and
did all in their power to continue the Reign of Terror.
It was evident, too, that the entire Committe of Public
Safety were in favor of this system of terror — they
perfectly agreed in the extermination of all who op-
posed their sway. They advanced bUndly in this hor-
rible career, not knowing whither it was likely to lead
them ; and such is the sad condition of man engaged
in evil, that he has not the power to stop. As soon as
he begins to conceive a doubt as to the nature of his
actions, as soon as he discovers that he has lost his
way, instead of turning back he rushes forward, as if
to stun himself— as if to escape from the sights which
annoy him.*

The Jacobins now brow-beated the Convention, as-
sisted by the Mountain faction, in passing a decree for
bringing the Q,ueen, the Girondins, and the Duke of
Orleans to immediate trial. With the Queen they were

* Thiers; Alison, etc.


particularly anxious to commence a long series of im-
molations. To her they attributed the treasons of the
court, the waste of public money, and, above all, the
inveterate hostility of Austria. Louis Capet, they said,
had suffered everything to be done ; but it was Marie
Antoinette, they asserted, who had been his instigator,
and it was upon her, as well as him, that punishment
ought to fall. The wretch, Hebert, editor of a disgust-
ing paper, entitled " Father Duchesne," had all along
made it his particular business to torment the unfortu-
nate remnant of the dethroned family confined in the
Tem.ple.* He asserted that the family of the tyrant
ought not to be better treated than any sans-culotte
family; and he had caused a resolution to be passed,
by which the sort of luxury in which the prisoners in
the Temple were maintained was to be suppressed.
They were no longer to be allowed either poultry or
pastry ; they were reduced to one sort of aliment for
breakfast, and to soup, or broth, and a single dish, for

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Online LibraryH. N. (Horatio Newton) MooreThe reign of terror historically and biographically treated → online text (page 17 of 24)