H. N. (Horatio Newton) Moore.

The reign of terror historically and biographically treated online

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permitted itself to be hurried from guilt to guilt with
astonishing recklessness.

Prominent as an orator both in the Assembly and
at the meetings of the Jacobin Club, was Mirabeau ;
and no man in France was at this period equally pop-
ular. He was looked up to as the champion of the
people. Honore Gabriel Riquetti, Comte de Mirabeau,
was born in 1749. Youthful impetuosity and ungov-
erned passions made the early part of his life a scene
of disorder and misery. After having been sometime
in the army, he married Mademoiselle de Marignane,
a rich heiress in the city of Aix ; but the union was
not fortunate, and his extravagant expenses deranging
his affairs, he contracted debts to the amount of
three hundred thousand livres, in consequence of
which his father obtained from the Chatelet an act of
lunacy against him. Enraged at this, he went to set-
tle at Manosque ; whence he was, on account of a
private quarrel, some time afterwards removed, and
shut up in the castle of If; he was then conveyed to
that of Joux, in Franche Comte, and obtained per-
mission to go occasionally to Pontalier, where he met
Sophia de Ruflfey, Marchioness of Monmir, wife of a
president in the parliament of Besan9on. Her wit
and beauty inspired him with a most violent passion,
and he soon escaped to Holland with her, but was for
this outrage condemned to lose his head, and would
probably have ended his days far from his country,
had not an agent of police seized him in 1777, and
carried him to the castle of Vincennes, where he re-
mained till December, 1780, when he recovered his
liberty. The French Revolution soon presented a
vast field for his activity ; and, being rejected at the
time of the elections by the nobility of Provence, he
hired a warehouse, put up this inscription, " Mirabeau,
Woollen-Draper," and was elected deputy from the


tiers-etat of Aix. From that time the court of Versailles,
to whom he was beginning to be formidable, called
him the Plebeian Count.*

Divisions among the popular party in the Assembly-
began to arise. The most courageous of them all was
Mirabeau. Proud of his high qualities, jesting over
his vices, by turns haughty or supple, he won some by
his flattery, awed others by his sarcasms, and led all
in his train by the extraordinary influence he pos-
sessed. His party was everywhere ; among the peo-
ple, in the Assembly, in the very court, and with all
those, in short, to whom he was at the moment ad-
dressing himself. Thus, unaided except by his genius,
he attacked despotism, which he had sworn to destroy.
Harassed moreover by straitened circumstances, dis-
satisfied with the present, he was advancing towards
an unknown future ; by his talents, his ambition, his
vices, his pecuniary embarrassments, he gave rise to
all sorts of conjectures, and by his cynical language
he authorized all suspicions and all calumnies.f Ac-
customed to struggle against despotism, irritated by
the scorn of the nobility, which did not value him, and
which rejected him from its bosom ; sagacious, bold,
eloquent, Mirabeau felt that the revolution would be
his work and his life. He was adapted for the wants
of his age. His thoughts, his voice, his action, were
those of an orator ; in perilous circumstances he had
the power of swaying the determinations of an as-

* Mirabeau was of the middle stature ; his face was disfi^red by
the marks of small -pox; and the enormous quantity of hair on his
head gave him some resemblance to a lion. He was of a lofty
character, and had talents which were extraordinary, and some
which were sublime ; his felicity of diction was unrivalled, his
knowledge of the human heart profound ; naturally violent, the
least resistance inflamed him ; when he appeared most irritated, his
expression had most eloquence ; and being a consummate actor, his
voice and gestures lent additional interest to all he said. His chief
passion was pride. In the last year of his life, he paid immense
debts, bought estates, forniture, the valuable library of Buffon, and
lived in a splendid style." — Biographic Moderne.

t Thiers.


sembly ; in difficult discussions the tact of bringing
them to a close ; in a word, he had the power to keep
down ambition, to silence hostility, to disconcert

Paris was not yet recovered from the agitation of
the 14th of July ; it was at the commencement of the
popular government ; 'all those who did not participate
in authority, came together in assemblies, and delib-
erated on public affairs. The soldiers debated at the
Oratoire, the journeymen tailors at the Colonnade, the
barbers at the Champs-Elysees, the domestics at the
Louvre. But it was at the Palais-Royal in particular
that the most animated discussions took place ; there
were examined the matters which occupied the debates
of the Assembly, and controlled its discussions. The
famine also occasioned tumults, and these were not
the least dangerous. Night and day the Committee of
Public Subsistence were engaged in providing for the
wants of the citizens ; the farmers no longer brought
their grain to market, fearing it would be seized by
the multitude. Large quantities were bought at the
public expense, and conducted into Paris, in great
convoys, guarded by regiments of horse. It was ground
at the public cost, and sold at a reduced rate to the
citizens ; but such was the anxiety of the people, that
all these pains would not suffice, and loud complaints
of starvation incessantly assailed the Assembly. The
people of Versailles already insulted and pelted the
nobles and clergy at the gate of the Assembly, whom
they stigmatized as Aristocrats, an epithet which
afterwards became the certain prelude to destruction.
The finances of the kingdom were daily falling into a
worse condition. Not only were the forced purchases
of grain by government, and their sale at a reduced
price, unavoidably increasing, but a large body of
workmen, thrown out of employment, were main-
tained at the public expense, for whose support no less
than twelve thousand francs were daily issued from

♦ Mignet


the treasury in Paris alone. Mobs were constantly
congregated around the baker-shops, and the cry was
that the measures of the court were the cause of the
pubhc distress, and that the only way to provide for
the subsistence of the people was to secure the person
of the King. An attack upon the palace at Versailles
was openly discussed in the clubs, and recommended
by the orators of the Palais-Royal. The streets were
filled with a threatening populace, half-banditti, half-

Many causes of discontent existed, and there only
wanted occasion for an insurrection. This the court
furnished. Under the pretextof guarding itself from the
movements of Paris, it summoned the troops to Ver-
sailles, doubled the King's life-guards, and brought up
the dragoons and regiment of Flanders. This display
of military force gave rise to apprehensions ; a report
of some counter-revolutionary blow was spread, and
the flight of the King, and the dissolution of the As-
sembly, were announced. The confidence of the court
increased the distrust of Paris, and costly entertain-
ments soon exasperated the sufferings of the populace,
who were in want of bread. " Hunger whets every
thing ; especially Suspicion and Indignation."

The arrival of the regiment from Flanders was wel-
comed by a dinner to its officers, given by the life-
guards, on Thursday the 1st October, in the hall of
the opera. The King's band of musicians was ordered
to assist at the festival. The boxes were filled with
spectators belonging to the court. Much gayety pre-
vailed during the repast, and wine soon raised it to
exaltation ; drums sounded, trumpets pealed, and
merry voices mingled joyously with the music. The
ringing of glasses were mingled with martial songs,
and merriment increased each hour. The tables were
tastefully adorned and richly laden ; boquets, in costly
vases were scattered about ; the guests were seated
along the tables ; the life-guards, in their rich uniform
and glittering side-arms, conversed confidentially with
the ofiicers of Flanders, in their coarse habiliments.


Spectators, guests, all seemed to abandon themselves
to the merriment of the occasion. Here and there
groups of officers arose from the table, and, overcome
by wine, staggered up and do\vn the saloon. Some
noisily rung their glasses together, while others sealed
their bond of friendship by shaking hands across the
table; and the majority drank a tumultuous "confu-
sion " to the enemies of the royal family, confusion to
the National Assembly, and to the Parisians. At that
moment, a few of the heated life-guards, opened wide
the doors of the saloon, and in various masses, the
soldiers of the Flemish regiment entered, to partake
of the feast. A hundred hands met them with full gob-
lets, and the officers tendered their inferiors the bowl ;
and the proud guard of the royal house condescended
to friendly force in bringing the subalterns to the table,
offering them the delicacies of the dessert. Trans-
ports increased every moment. Suddenly the King
was announced. He entered the banquetting room,
followed by the Q,ueen, with the Dauphin in her arms.
Acclamations of attachment and devotion rang through
the saloon. The company, with drawn swords, drank
the health of the royal family — the toast of the nation
was refused, or, at least, oi^itted. The trumpets
sounded a charge; the boxes were scaled with loud
shouts by the wine-heated life-guards. All seemed to
be filled with exulting loyalty. " Down with the Assem-
bly!" was shouted, and other equally imprudent excla-
mations were uttered. " O Richard ! O mon roi !
I'universe t'abandonne I" * an expressive and celebra-
ted song, was sung. They vowed to die for the King,
as if he had been in the most imminent danger : and,
in short, the delirium knew no bounds. The jovial
clamor, and the profusion of champagne, banished all
reserve, and the scene assumed a character sufficiently
significant. The excitement increased, and the music
could no longer satisfy the demands of the zealous
soldiers ; for still louder they wished the drums to beat,

* " O Richard ! O my King ! the world is all forsaking thee, etc."


and more noisy they wished the blasts of the trumpets.
Cockades, white or black, but only of a single color,
were distributed. The young women, as well as the
young men, were animated by chivalrous recollections.
The national cockade was indignantly dashed upon
the floor and trodden under foot, while that of the Queen
was assumed with enthusiasm. The banquet broke up
in this excitement, and the soldiers spread themselves
among the galleries of the palace, where the ladies
of the court overwhelmed them with congratulations,
and decorated them with ribbons and cockades.*

Such was the famous banquet of the 1st of October,
1789. The report of this entertainment soon spread,
and popular imagination, in relating the circumstances,
added its own exaggerations to those which the ban-
quet had itself produced. The promises made to the
King, the acclamations to the royal family, were con-
strued as threats to the nation; the prodigality dis-
played was considered an insult to the public distress.
In Paris, the appearance of the black cockade pro-
duced the greatest fermentation. Young men who
wore them were pursued, maltreated, and obliged to
tear them off. Secret rumours, counter-revolutionary
invitations, the apprehension of conspiracies, indigna-
tion against the court, the increasing fear of famine,
everything announced a rising of the people ; already
the multitude looked towards Versailles. On the 4th of
October, the agitation was greater than ever. People
talked of the departure of the King, and the necessity
of going to fetch him from Versailles ; they kept an
eager lookout for black cockades, and vociferously de-
manded bread ! In the morning of the following day,
crowds began again to assemble. The women went
to the bakers' shops, but found no bread to satisfy
their hunger. At once violent and resistless, the in-
surrection now broke out. A young woman entered
a guard house, seized a drum, and ran along the
streets beating it, and crying " Bread ! bread .'" She

* Thiers; Mignet; Lacretelle; Toulangeon; Alison; etc


was soon surrounded by a crowd of women. This
mob advanced towards the Hotel-de-Ville, thickening
as it went, until several thousand women were col-
lected together; courtezans of the Palais-Royal, in
white dresses, powdered and curled ; working-women
of different trades, in their holiday dresses ; fish wo-
men, with red faces ; and the greater number armed
with broad carving-knives. Several of the women
carried spits, broom sticks, and even torches in day-
light. There were observed among them many men
disguised as females, and they compelled all the wo-
men they met to go along with them. Having reached
the Hotel-de-Ville, they boldly broke through the sev-
eral squadrons of the National guard, who were drawn
up in front of the building for its defence. A door was
forced open ; they rushed in, a miscellaneous rabble
crowding along with them; efforts were made to
keep them back, but they succeeded in getting pos-
session of the door leading to the great bell, and
sounded the tocsin. The fauxbourgs were instant-
ly in motion, and dense was the throng of thou-
sands upon thousands that collected in front of the
Hotel. " Bread ! bread ! to Versailles ! to Versailles !"
was the unanimous cry. A citizen named Maillard,
one of those who had signalized themselves at the
taking of the Bastille, seized a drum, and beating it,
descended the steps of the Hotel. He was popular,
and the crowd followed him. It was his intention to
collect them together, under pretext of going to Ver-
sailles, but not to lead them thither. He drew after
him a motley multitude of women and men, armed
with bludgeons, broomsticks, muskets and cutlasses.
Cannon were yoked to cart-horses, and women, with
pikes and helmets, bestrode them. The tocsin was
sounding, and the crowd continued to augment. Wo-
men, with drums at their sides, beat the reveille through
every street. From almost every house, girls and
women issued, to increase the crowd ; and troops of
labourers and vagabonds, from the dregs of the peo-
ple, armed with knives, pistols and lances, joined them.



Along the streets were baker-shops burst open, or
besieged by mobs, and uproar and riot marked the

With this turbulent multitude, Maillard, in the midst
of a drizzling rain and through the mud, proceeded
towards Versailles, Unruly as was his singular army,
he was in some measure obeyed ; so that until they
arrived at Versailles, less damage was done than from
such a mob might have been expected, f They enter-
ed Versailles in the afternoon, singing patriotic airs,
intermingled with blasphemous obscenities, and the
most furious threats against the queen. Their first
visit was to the National Assembly, where the beating
of drums, shouts, shrieks, and a hundred confused
sounds, interrupted the deliberations. Maillard,^ brand-
ishing a sword in his hand, and supported by a wo-
man holding a long pole, to which was attached a
tambour de basque, commenced a harangue, announ-
cing that they wanted bread, that they were con-
vinced the ministers were traitors, that the arm of the
people was uplifted and about to strike ; — with much
to the same purpose, in the exaggerated eloquence of
the period. Some of the women, then crowded into
the hall, mixed themselves with the members, sitting
on the seats beside them. In the gallery a crowd of
fish women were assembled under the guidance of one
virago with stentorian lungs, who called to the dep-
uties familiarly by name, and insisted that their fa-
vorite Mirabeau should speak. They swaggered
around the hall, occupied the seats of the president and
secretaries ; produced or procured victuals and wine,
ate, drank, sung, swore, scolded, screamed, abused

* Mignet; Thiers; Lacretelle; Dumont; etc.

t Playfair.

t " Maillard began early to signalize himself in all the tumults of
the metropolis. In September, 1792, he presided at the massacre of
the prisoners — he afterwards became one of the denunciators of the
prisons, and, during the Reign of Terror, appeared several times at
the prison of La Force to mark the victims who were to be condemned
by the Revolutionary Tribunal" — Biographie Moderne.


some of the members, and loaded others with curses ;
they demanded bread and reparation for the affront
offered to the nation by the hfe-guards. The raihng-
gates in front of the court-yard of the palace were
closed, and the regiment of Flanders, the body-guards,
and other soldiers, drawn up within, facing the multi-
tude ; while without was an immense crowd of Na-
tional Guards, armed men, and furious women, uttering
seditious cries, and clamoring for bread. The fero-
cious looks of the insurgents, their haggard counte-
nances, and uplifted arms, bespoke but too plainly
their savage intentions. *

In the meantime, the whole armed force of Paris had
repeatedly demanded La Fayette to lead them on
after the concourse that had departed for Versailles. La '
Fayette hesitated, implored, explained, harangued, but
all in vain, and, at about five o'clock in the afternoon,
this second emigration from Paris took place, arriving
at Versailles at midnight, f Of the National Guards
there were 30,000, besides the mass who accompanied
them. The guards, instead of waiting in arms till
morning, were distributed in the houses of the citizens
of Versailles. The armed rabble, of both sexes, had
bivouacked after their own manner upon the parade,
where the soldiers usually mustered. There they had
large fires kindled, were eating, drinking, singing, ca-
rousing, and occasionally discharging fire-arms.| Scuf-
fles arose from time to time, and one or two of the bodyr
guards were killed. The horse of one of these guards

* Alison, Scott, Dumont, &c

t " The life of La Fayette, in consequence of his opposition to this
movement, was several times threatened. "To the lantern with
him !" was frequently heard from the crowd. Finally, finding that
masses were continually leaving Paris, and that the insurrection
was transferring itself to Versailles, he concluded it his duty to
follow thither." — Thiers.

t " In the hall of the Assembly, drunken women lay extended on
its benches, and one shameless amazon occupied the president's
chair, and in derision was ringing his bell. At three in the morn-
ing the sitting was broken up, and the hall left in possession of its
unruly invaders." — Alison.


fell into the hands of the women, was killed, torn in
pieces, and eaten half raw and half roasted. The court
was in consternation, and two carriages were kept
ready at the gate of the Orangerie, to convey the
royal family from the scene of danger ; but the King,
who was apprehensive that, if he fled, the Duke of
Orleans would be immediately declared lieutenant-
general of the kingdom, refused to move. He urged
the Q,ueen to depart, and take the children with her,
but she declared that nothing should induce her, in
such an extremity, to separate from her husband.
La Fayette had so far succeeded in restoring order by
this time, that he assured the royal family of the secu-
rity of the palace, and had so much confidence in the
preservation of public tranquillity, that he resolved to
retire to rest. The King and Q,ueen, overcome with
fatigue, upon this assurance, retired to their apart-
ments. La Fayette repaired for the remainder of the
night to a chateau at a short distance from the palace.
It rained heavily, and the multitude sought what-
ever shelter they could get, but thousands were neces-
sitated to stand shelterless, shivering with wet and
cold. Large groups of savage men and intoxicated
women continued sitting by the watch-fires in all the
streets of Versailles, relieving the tedium of a rainy
night by singing revolutionary songs.* Whatever
might be the intention of the greater number, the
whole formed too promiscuous an assemblage to be all
guided by any one sentiment. Plunder was undoubt-
edly the object of many amongst them, and plunder
could only be obtained by exciting disorder ; and so
long as the iron rails and iron gates facing the palace
were kept shut, there was no more chance of plunder
than if they had been on a barren heath. Several at-
tempts were made to force the gates, and in the dark
the confusion was great, but without serious conse-
quences, t But as daylight appeared, some individu-
als of the mob, more excited than the rest, found

• Alison. t Playfair.


means to penetrate into the palace, through a gate
which had been left unguarded for a moment. Simul-
taneously with this, a furious mob surrounded the
barracks of the body-guard, broke them open, and
pursued the flying inmates to the gates of the palace,
where fifteen were seized and doomed to immediate
execution. In the meantime, the other mob had rush-
ed into the palace, and filled the staircases and ves-
tibules of the royal apartments. Two of the life-
guards posted at the head of the stairs, made a heroic
resistance ; one of them called out " Save the queen !"
This cry was heard by her ; she ran, trembling, and
half naked, to tfie king's apartments. The assassins
rushed into her room a few minutes after she had left
it, and, enraged at finding their victim escaped,
pierced her bed with their pikes. The two guards at
the head of the stairs were trodden down, and mas-
sacred with a hundred pike thrusts. The guards re-
treated before the mob, bolting and barricading the
doors, which were successively beaten in. The bodies
of the two life-guards were dragged below the King's
windows, there beheaded, and the bloody heads car-
ried on pikes through the streets of Versailles. * Re-
treating and defending, the guards were pursued from
room to room, and finally assembled in the ante-room
called the CEil de Boeuf, or bull's eye ; but several, un-
able to gain this place of refuge, were dragged down
into the court-yard, where a wretch, distinguished by
a long beard, a broad bloody axe, and a species of
armour which he wore on his person, had taken on
himself, by taste and choice, the office of executioner.
The strangeness of the man's costume, the sanguinary
rehsh with which he discharged his office, and the
hoarse roar, with which, from time to time, he de-
manded new victims, made him resemble some demon
whom hell had vomited forth, to augment the wicked-
ness and horror of the scene, f La Fayette, apprized

* Lacretelle, Mignet, Thiers, &c.

t Jourdan was the real name of this man. He gained his bread



of the invasion of the palace, sprung upon the first
horse he met with, and directed his course as rapidly
as possible to the scene of danger. He found upon
the spot the body-guard, surrounded by a furious
mob, determined to'massacre them. He threw him-
self into the midst, called to his assistance some French
guards, and having dispersed the assailants, and saved
the body-guard, precipitated himself into the palace.
He found it already succoured by his grenadiers, who,
at the first rumor of the tumult had run thither, and
rescued the life-guards from the fury of the Parisians.
His grenadiers surrounded him, and vowed to die for
the King. The whole court acknowledged themselves
indebted to him for their lives. Madame Adelaide,
the King's aunt ran up to him, and clasped him in her
arms, saying, " General, you have saved us !"

Tumult reigned without. The outside of the palace
was still beseiged by the infuriated mob, demanding,
with hideous cries, and exclamations the most ob-
scene, to see " the Austrian," as they called the Queen.
Others were shouting " to Paris ! to Paris ! the royal
family to Paris !" Others demanded to see the King —
that he should show himself at one of the windows.
Louder and louder became these cries, and at last
Louis XVI,, accompanied by La Fayette, presented
himself at the balcony, and was greeted with shouts
of "Vive le Roi!" The Q,ueen next walked out on
the balcony, with one of-her children in each hand.
" No children !" was cried out, as if on purpose to de-
prive the mother of that appeal to humanity which

Online LibraryH. N. (Horatio Newton) MooreThe reign of terror historically and biographically treated → online text (page 5 of 24)