H. N. (Horatio Newton) Moore.

The reign of terror historically and biographically treated online

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you have previously refused to others, viz., to hear
them at the bar of the Convention'? Why is this
difference in favor of some men 1 What care I for the
praise that people bestow on themselves and their
friends? Too much experience has taught us to dis-
trust such praise. The question is not whether a man
has performed this or that patriotic act, but what has
been his whole career. Legendre pretends to be igno-
rant of the names of the persons arrested. They are
known to the whole Convention. His friend Lacroix
is one of them. Why does Legendre affect ignorance
of this 1 Because he knows that it is impossible, with-
out impudence, to defend Lacroix. He has mentioned
Danton, because he conceives, no doubt, that to his
name is attached a privilege. No — we will have no
privileges! We will have no privileges! We will
have no idols !" (A burst of applause.) " In what re-
spect is Danton superior to La Fayette, to Dumouriez,
to Brissot, to Fabre, to Chabot, to Hebert? What is
said of him that may not be said of them ] And yet
have you spared them"? Men talk to you of the despo-
tism of the committees, as if the confidence the people
have bestowed on you, and which you have trans-
ferred to these committees, were not a sure guarantee
of their patriotism. They affect doubts ; but I tell you,
whoever trembles at this moment is guilty, for inno-
cence never dreads the public surveillance." (Fresh
applause.) "And in me," continued Robespierre,
" they have endeavoured to excite terror, aiming to


make me believe that in meddling with Danton the dan-
ger may reach myself. They have written to me ; the
friends of Danton have sent me letters, have beset me
with their speeches ; they conceived that the remem-
brance of an old connexion, that an ancient faith in
false virtues, would induce me to slacken my zeal and
my passion for liberty ! On the contrary, I declare
that if Danton's dangers were ever to become my own,
that consideration would not stop me for a moment.
It is here that we all ought to have some courage and
some greatness of soul. Vulgar minds, or guilty men,
are always afraid to see their fellows fall, because,
having no longer a barrier of culprits before them,
they are left exposed to the light of truth ; but, if there
exist vulgar spirits, there are heroic spirits also in this
Assembly, and they will know how to brave all false
terrors! Besides, the number of the guilty is not
great. Crime has found but few partizans among us,
and, by striking off a few heads, the country will be
delivered." *

Robespierre had acquired assurance and skill to say
what he meant, and never had he shown more skill or
more perfidy than on this occasion. To talk of the
sacrifice which he had made in forsaking Danton, to
make a merit of it, to take to himself a share of the
danger, if there was any, and to cheer the cowards of
the Convention by talking of the small number of the
guilty, was the height of hypocricy and address. He
prevailed, and it was unanimously decided that the
four deputies arrested in the night should not be heard
in their defence at the bar of the Convention, but be
tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal. These unfortu-
nate men, as we have said, had been conveyed to the
Luxembourg. "Us! arrest us!" said Lacroix to
Danton, "I never should have thought it !"—" I had
been warned of it," replied Danton.— "And knowing
it, thou hast not acted!" exclaimed Lacroix— " the
effect of thine accustomed indolence ; it has undone

* Thiers.


US !"— " But I did not believe," said Danton, " that they
would ever dare execute their design ;" and he was
as usual, calm, proud, and jovial. Camille Desmoulins
was astonished and depressed. Philipeaux appeared
moved and elevated by the danger. Herault-Sechelles,
who had been sent to the Luxembourg gome days be-
fore them, ran out to meet his friends, and cheerfully
embraced them. "When men do silly things," said
Danton, " the best thing they can do is to laugh at
them." Then perceiving Thomas Paine, (also a
prisoner) he said to him, " What thou hast done for
the liberty of America, I have attempted to do for
France; I have been less fortunate, but not more
guilty. They are sending me to the scaffold— well,
my friends, we must go to it gaily." *

* " Lacroix, condemned to death by the Revolutionary Tribunal
in 1794, was originally a country lawyer; was the accomplice of
Danton, acquired wealth, and long held a secret correspondence with
Dumouriez, whom he pretended to denounce." — Mercier. "Pierre
Philipeaux, a lawyer, a deputy to the Convention, voted for the King's
death. He was afterwards sent into La Vendee to reorganize the
administration of Nantes, where he was involved in a contention with
some of the representatives sent into the same country, which ended
in his recall to Paris. He was condemned to death by the Revolu-
tionary Tribunal, in the 35th year of his age. Philipeaux was an
honest and enthusiastic repubhcan." — Biographie Moderne. ''M. J.
Herault de Sechelles, born at Paris in 1760 ; began his career at the
bar by holding the office of the King's advocate at the Chatelet. In
the house of Madame de Pohgnac, where he visited, he met the
Queen (Mane Antoinette,) who, delighted with his conversation,
promised to befriend him. He embraced the Revolution, was a
member of the Convention, was absent from Paris during the
King's trial, but wrote a letter to the Convention declaring that
Louis Capet deserved death. He was subsequently a zealous sup-
porter of the Mountain faction, but having made himself obnoxious
to Robespierre, he was sentenced to death in 1793." — Biographie
Moderne. " Thomas Paine, an Englishman, born in 1737, the son of
a Quaker. In 1774 he went to America, and became editor of the
Pennsylvania Magazine, took an active part in the hostilities between
the Colonies and Great Britain, and published his celebrated pam-
phlet " Common Sense," for which the legislature of Pennsylvania
voted him ^500. He afterwards embarked for France, and, after
visiting Paris, went to England, where he was prosecuted for his
well-known " Rights of Man," but escaped to France, was chosen


On the following day Danton and fourteen others
were transferred to the Conceirgerie, where Lacroix
expressed his astonishment at the number and
wretched state of the prisoners. " What !" said Dan-
ton, "did not the daily cart-loads of victims teach
you what was passing in Paris 1"

On the 2nd of April they were all brought before
Pouquier-Tinville. The crowd collected to see the ac-
cused was immense. A spark of that interest which
Danton had once excited was rekindled at sight of
him. Fouquier-Tinville, the judges, the jurors, were
embarrassed in his presence. His assurance, his
haughtiness, awed them, and he appeared rather to be
the accuser than the accused.* When asked the usual
questions as to his age and his place of abode, he
proudly replied that he was thirty-four years old, that
himself would soon be nothing, but his name would
live in the Pantheon of history.

" Danton," said the president, " the Convention ac-
cuses you of having conspired with Mirabeau, with
Dumouriez, with Orleans, with the Girondins, with
foreigners, and with the faction which wants to rein-
state Louis XVII."

" My voice," replied Danton, " which has been raised
so often for the cause of the people, will have no diffi-
culty in repelling that calumny. Let the cowards who
accuse me show their faces, and I will cover them with
infamy. Let the committees come forward ; I will not
answer but in their presence ; I need them for accu-
sers and for witnesses. Let them appear. For the
rest, I care little for you or your judgment. I have
already told you that nothingness will soon be my

a member of the National Convention, and lost his popularity with
the Jacobins by voting against the death of Louis XVI. and was
committed a prisoner to the Luxembourg. On the fall of Robespierre
he was released, and remained in France till 1802, when he again
embarked for the United States, where he died in 1809, aged 72."
Biographie Moderne.

* " Danton, calm and indifferent, amused himself during his trial
by throwing little paper-pellets at his judges "—Hazliu


asylum. Life is a burden ; take it from me. I long to
be delivered from it."

"Danton," said the president, "audacity is the
quality of guilt, calmness that of innocence."

At this expression, Danton replied : "Individual au-
dacity ought, no doubt, to be repressed ; but that na-
tional audacity of which I have so often set the
example, which I have so often shown in the cause
of liberty, is the most meritorious of all virtues. That
audacity is mine. It is that which I have employed
for the republic against the cowards who accuse me.
When I find that I am so basely calumniated, how can
I contain myself 1 It is not from such a revolutionist
as Danton that you may expect a cold defence ! Men
of my temper are inappreciable in revolutions. Upon
their brow is impressed the spirit of liberty !" As he
uttered these words, he shook his head, and defied the
tribunal. His formidable countenance produced a pro-
found impression. A murmur of approbation escaped
from the crowd. "I!" continued Danton — "/ ac-
cused of having conspired with Mirabeau, Dumouriez,
Orleans ! Oh, thou cowardly St. Just,* thou wilt have
to answer to posterity for thy accusation against the
staunchest supporter of liberty ! In going through
this catalogue of horrors" he added, holding up the
act of accusation, "I feel my whole frame shudder !"
One of the accusations was that he had hid himself on
the 10th of August. " Where," he exclaimed, " are
the men who had occasion to urge Danton to show
himself on that day 1 Where are the privileged beings
from whom he borrowed energy? Let my accusers
stand forward ! I am in my sober senses when I call
for them. Let them come forward, and I will plunge
them into that nothingness from which they ought
never to have emerged !"

The president would have interrupted him, and rang
his bell. Danton drowned the sound of it with his

* St. Just had drawn up the accusations specified against Danton.


terrible voice. " Do you not hear me f asked the

" The voice," replied Danton — " the voice of a man
who is defending his honor and his life, must over-
power the sound of thy bell !"

Danton still insisted that he should be confronted
with several members of the Convention and the two

The second day passed off without any result ;
Danton, and the others accused, still reiterating their
demand, and ridiculing the tribunal. In this dilemma,
St. Just got a decree passed in the Convention,
authorizing the judges to deny the privilege of plead-
ing to such of the accused as should show any dis-
respect to them. On the third day, Fouquier-Tinville
read the decree. Danton indignantly rose. " I call
this audience to witness," said he, " that we have not
insulted the tribunal."

" That is true," cried several voices in the hall. The
emotion was general. The tribunal was intimidated.

" The truth," added Danton, " will one day be
known. — I see great calamities ready to burst upon
France.— The dictatorship exhibits itself without veil
or disguise !" Perceiving at the farther end of the
hall, Amar and Vouland, two deputies who were his
enemies, he shook his fist at them. " Look," said he,
"at those cowardly assassins; they follow us; they
will not leave us so long as we are alive !" Amar and
Vouland sneaked off in affright. The tribunal put an
end to the sitting.

The next day they were condemned, and executed.
[April 5th.] The infamous rabble, paid to insult the
victims, followed the carts. Desmoulins, filled with
indignation, addressed the multitude, and poured forth
a torrent of imprecations against the cowardly and
hypocritical Robespierre. Danton, casting a calm and
contemptuous look on the mob, said, "Be quiet,
Camille ; take no notice of this vile rabble."

On reaching the foot of the scaffold, Danton was
going to embrace Herault-Sechelles, who extended


his arms towards him, but was prevented by the exe-
cutioner. " What," said he, " canst thou be more cruel
than death? At least, thou canst not prevent our
heads from embracing presently at the bottom of the
basket." *

Such was the end of Danton, who had been so effi-
cient in the crisis of the Revolution, and so serviceable
to it. The policy of Robespierre demanded victims ;
his envy selected them ; and in Danton he sacrificed
the most celebrated and the most dreaded man of the
day. Danton, like Mirabeau, died proud of himself,
considering his faults and his life sufficiently covered
by his great services and his last projects. They
perished together, Danton and Camille Desmoulins,
those active agents of the Revolution — the latter, who
may be said to have commenced it on the 12th of July,
1789, the former, who may be said to have accom-
plished it on the 10th of August, 1792. Truly, the
revolution is devouring its own children !

Robespierre now reigned alone. His power was
terrible, irresistible. It was Death, which he and his
faction wielded against every feeling of humanity,
against every principle of justice. In their iron hands
order resumed its sway from the influence of terror ;
obedience became universal from the extinction of
hope. Silent and unresisted they led their victims to
the scaffold, dreaded alike by the soldiers, who
crouched, the people, who trembled, and the victims,
who suffered.!

It is now that we see the Reign of Terror ap-
proaching the darkest depths of its night ! Among the
next victims, the wife of Hebert, the beautiful wife of
Desmoulins,! and all the relics of noble families were
successively sacrificed. The Revolutionary Tribunal

* Thiers. t Alison.

$ " The widow of Camille Desmoulins, young, amiable, and well-
informed, during the mock process which condemned her to death,
as an accompHce of her husband, loathing Hfe, and anxious to fol-
low him, displayed a firmness of mind that was seen with admira-
tion, even by her judges. When she heard the sentence pronounced,
she exclaimed, ' I shall then, in a few hours, again meet my bus-



was unceasingly in session ; the tumbrils rolled daily
from tiie Conciergerie, and the multitude crowded
daily to the Place de la Revolution to witness the
operations of the guillotine and see the heads drop
into the basket. The Duke de Chatelet, the marshals
of Noailles and Mailly, men of eighty years, too aged
to emigrate; the Dukes of Bethune and Villeroy ;
many of the members of the old magistracy ; Males-
herbes, the defender of Louis, all his family, his child-
ren and grandchildren, perished together. Men were
wanting, and the rage of the Terrorists vented itself
upon women, who perished at this epoch in greater
numbers than the other sex. Madame Dubarri, for-
merly mistress of Louis XV., the Duchess de Gram-
mont, and others, were guillotined. One day saw a
troop of girls going to the scaffold for having made an
offensive cockade, or carolled an imprudent air ; the
next, an estabhshment of nuns, or a crowd of poor
peasant women from La Vendee, such as Riouffe
describes, tied and heaped in carts, like calves, and
Ignorant of their guilt and their fate, stupified with
fear, as they went to slaughter. The Princess Eliza-
beth, sister of Louis XVI,, made at this time one of a
devoted batch, and perished almost unnoticed. *

Death was already descending from the upper to the
lower classes of society. We find at this period on the

band !'— and then, turning to her judges, she added, ' In departing
from this world, in which nothing now remains to engage my affec-
tions, I am far less the object of pity than you are.' — Previous to
going to the scaffold she dressed herself with uncommon attention
and taste. Her head-dress was peculiarly elegant ; a white gauze
handkerchief, partly covering her beautiful black hair, added to the
clearness and brilliancy of her complexion. Being come to the foot
of the scaffold, she ascended the steps with resignation and even un-
affected pleasure. She received the fatal blow without appearing to
have regarded what the executioner was doing."— Du Broca.

* " The Princess Elizabeth appeared before her judges with a
placid countenance, and listened to the sentence of death with una-
bated firmness. As she passed to the place of execution, her hand-
kerchief fell from her neck, and exposed her in this situation to the
eyes of the multitude. ' In the name of modesty I entreat you to
cover my bosom,' she exclaimed to the executioner."— I)a Broca.


list of the Revolutionary Tribunal, tailors, shoemakers,
hair-dressers, butchers, farmers, publicans, nay, even
laboring men, condemned for sentiments and language
held to be counter-revolutionary.* For example, we
enumerate a few from the General List of the Con-

Jean Julien, wagoner, having been sentenced to
twelve years' hard labor, took it into his head to cry
'^ Vive le Roi !" He was brought back before the tri-
bunal and condemned to death, September, 1792.

Jean Baptiste Hem-y, aged eighteen, journeyman
tailor, convicted of having sawed a tree of liberty ;
executed the 6th of September, 1793.

Bernard Augustin D'Absac, aged fifty-one, ex-noble,
late captain in the 11th regiment, and formerly in the
sea-service, convicted of having betrayed several
towns and several ships into the hands of the enemy,
condemned to death on the 10th of January, 1794, and
executed the same day.

Stephen Thomas Ogie Baulny, aged forty-six, ex-
noble, convicted of having entrusted his son, aged
fourteen, to a life-guard, in order that he might emi-
grate. Condemned to death, 31st of January, 1794,
and executed the same day.

Henriette Frangoise de Marhceuf, aged fifty-five,
widow of the ci-devant Marquis de Marboeuf, residing
at No. 47 rue St. Honore, in Paris, convicted of having
hoped for the arrival of the Austrians and Prussians,
and of keeping provisions for them. Condemned 5th
of February, 1794 ; executed same day.

Jacques de Baume, a Dutch merchant, convicted of
being the author and accomplice of a plot which
existed in the month of June, 1790. Executed 14th of
February, 1794.

Jacques Duchesne, aged sixty, formerly a servant,
since a broker ; Jean Sauvage, aged thirty-four, gun-
smith ; Frangoise Loizelier, aged forty-seven, milliner ;
Melanie Cunosse, aged twenty-one, milliner; Marie

* Thiers.


Magdalene Virolle, aged twenty-five, female hair-
dresser ;— convicted of having, in the city of Paris,
where they resided, composed writings, stuck up bills,
and pousse de cris — all condemned to death 5th of
May, 1794 ; executed same day.

Genevieve Gouvon, aged seventy-seven, seamstress,
convicted of having been the author and accomplice
of various conspiracies formed since the beginning of
the Revolution by the enemies of the people and of
liberty, tending to create civil war, to paralyze the
public, and to annihilate the existing government.
Condemned May 11th, 1793 ; executed same day.

Frangois Bertrand, aged thirty-seven, tinman and
publican at Leure, convicted of having furnished to
the defenders of the country sour wine injurious to the
health of the citizens; condemned at Paris, May 15th,
1793 ; executed same day.

Marie Angelique Plaisant, convicted of having ex-
claimed that she was an Aristocrat, and " A fig for the
nation !" Condemned 19th of July, 1794 ; executed
the same day.

Such were the crimes for which p'ersons were
arrested, convicted and executed; and no wonder the
prisons were filled, and the death-carts daily rumbling
through the streets of Paris and the other cities of
France. In fact, the inhabitants of Paris, through
which these daily processions passed, became at length
disgusted, and dared to show it by shutting up their
shops. The guillotine was, in consequence, removed
to the opposite extremity of Paris, not however, relax-
ing its activity. During the four months, says Mignet,
which succeeded the fall of Danton's party, the com-
mittees exercised their power without opposition and
without restraint. Death became the sole means of
government, and the republic was a system of daily
executions. — Robespierre was now considered by the
Jacobins as the greatest man of his age. He became
the general object of the flattery of his party ; no-
thing was spoken of but his virtue, his genius, his


From the farthest extremities of France, crowds of
prisoners daily arrived at the gates of the Concier-
gerie, which successively sent forth its bands of vic-
tims to the scaffold. Gray hairs and youthful forms ;
countenances blooming with health, and faces worji
with suffering; beauty and talent, rank and virtue,
were indiscriminately rolled to the fatal doors. Sixty
persons often arrived in a day. Night and day the
carts incessantly discharged victims into the prison ;
weeping mothers and trembling orphans were thrust
in with the brave and the powerful. Sixty or eighty
persons were daily sent forth to execution. An aque-
duct was dug to carry off the blood and gore from
the guillotine, and four men were daily employed in
emptying the blood of the victims into a reservoir.

At three o'clock each afternoon, the tumbrils, with
their victims, set out from the Conciergerie, slowly
passing through the vaulted passages of the prison,
amidst crowds of captives, gazing on the aspect of
those about to undergo a fate which might so soon
become their own. The higher orders, in general,
behaved with firmness and serenity ; silently they
rode to death, with their eyes turned upward in
prayer. Numbers of the lower class piteously be-
wailed their fate, calling upon heaven and earth to
witness their innocence. Women, overcome with
fright and horror, died on the way, and their lifeless
remains were guillotined ; one kept her infant to her
bosom till she reached the foot of the scaffold, where
the executioner tore the innocent babe from her breast
as she suckled it for the last time, and the screams of
maternal agony were only stifled with her life ; one
woman, as she was being removed, declared herself
upon the point of child-birth, but was compelled to
move on, in doing which she fell upon the ground of
the court-yard, and was delivered of an infant in the
presence of the jailers.*

Such accumulated horrors annihilated all the chari-

* Alison ; Riouffe.


ties and intercourse of life. Before daybreak the shops
of the provision sellers were besieged by crowds of
women and children, clamoring for the food which the
law of the maximum, in general, prevented them from
obtaining. The farmers trembled to bring their pro-
duce to market, the shopkeeper to expose them to
sale. The richest quarters of the town were deserted;
no equipages or crowds of passengers were to be
seen on the streets ; the sinister words " National Pro-
perty," imprinted in large characters on the walls,
everywhere showed how far the work of confiscation
had proceeded. Passengers hesitated to address their
most intimate friends when they met ; the extent of
calamity had rendered men suspicious even of those
they loved best. Every one assumed the coarsest
dress and most squalid appearance; an elegant ex-
terior would have been the certain forerunner of des-
truction. At one hour only were any symptoms of
animation seen ; it was when the victims were con-
veyed to execution — the humane flying in horror from
the sight — the Jacobins rushing in crowds to satiate
their eyes with human agony.* Night came, but with
it no diminution of the anxiety of the people. Every
family assembled its members ; with trembling looks
they gazed round the room, fearful that the very walls
might harbor spies and informers. The sound of a
foot, the stroke of a hammer, a voice in the streets,
froze all hearts with terror. If a knock was heard at
the door, every one, in agonized suspense, expected
his fate.

Unable to endure such protracted misery, numbers
committed suicide, and " had the reign of Robespierre
continued much longer," says Freron, "multitudes
would have thrown themselves under the guillotine,
for the first of social affections, the love of life, was
already extinguished in almost every heart."

Robespierre at this period conceived the idea of

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Online LibraryH. N. (Horatio Newton) MooreThe reign of terror historically and biographically treated → online text (page 21 of 24)