John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

History of Mme. Roland online

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Madame Roland


The Bread Riots.

{Seep. 152.)

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Copyright 1900 by Henry Altemus Company








SEP 28 1900

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OCT 16 1900




Childhood 7

Youth 26

Maidenhood . . . . . .46

Marriage .67

The National Assembly . . . .89

The Ministry of M. Roland . . .110

Madame Roland and the Jacobins . 131

Last Struggles of the Girondists . .152

Arrest of Madame Roland . . .173

Fate of the Girondists . . . .194

Prison Life 218

Trial and Execution of Madame Roland . 239


^^ - ^-^^^'^^-

Madame Boland, vi

Enrolling Volunteers for the National Guard.


The Bread Riots ....


Enrolling Volunteers for the National Guard, page vi

Jean Paul Marat ....

' viii

Madame Roland . . . .

, '

' X

Headpiece, Chapter I. . . .


' 7

The Boulevards of Paris

facing '

' i6

Uniforms and Colors of the National Guard, . '

' 25

Headpiece, Chapter II.

' 26

The National Assembly

facing '

' 28

Salon of an Aristocrat .

. '

' 45

Headpiece, Chapter III,

. '

' 46

Maximilien Marie Isidore Robespierre,

facing '

' 48

Headpiece, Chapter IV.

. '

' 67

George Jacques Danton

facing '

' 64

Louis XVI. and the Mob

U (

' 96

Jean Marie Roland de la Platiere .

' 88

Headpiece, Chapter V.

' 89

The Tuilleries ....

, . '

' 109

Headpiece, Chapter VI.

. '

' no

Sacking the House of a Royalist .

facing '

' 104

Danton in the Assembly

" '

' 120

The Prussians Marching on Paris .

' 130

Headpiece, Chapter VII.

. '

' 131

The Tribunal of Maillard .

facing '

' 128

The Convent of the Jacobins


Headpiece, Chapter VIII. .

' 152




Marat in the Assembly .

A Jacobin Mob .

Headpiece, Chapter IX.

Church of St. Jacques de la Boucherie

The Guillotine , . . .

HeadjDiece, Chapter X.

The Last Night of the Girondists .

Execution of a Royalist

Headpiece, Chapter XL

The Girondists Going to Execution,

The Conciergerie

Headpiece, Chapter XII.

Mme. Roland Leaving the Conciergerie,

Finding the Dead Body of M. Roland


facing page i6o

" 172

" 168

" 193

" 194

facing "184

. "217

. " 218

facing "224


facing "256

. " 262

Madame Iloland, viii

Jean Paul Marat.


The marble fountain in the Place de la
Concorde marks the spot where the pure soul
of Madame Roland took its flight in the high
noon of the French Revolution.

The child of an infidel father and a pious
mother, without playmates of her own age in
youth, she held intercourse with maturer minds
and made books her constant companions.
Her marriage made her the queen of a coterie
of young and eloquent enthusiasts that in-
cluded all the leaders of the Gironde — the in-
spiring genius of the most influential and elo-
quent party which had arisen amid the storms
of the Revolution.

The Girondists went down before the fury of
the Jacobins in their reckless onset upon
everything made venerable by time, and then
the woman whose talents, accomplishments
and fascinating conversational eloquence had
spread her renown over all Europe perished on
the guillotine at the hands of a capricious, in-
solent and degraded mob.


Madame Roland, x

Madame Roland




MAiiTY characters of unusual grandeur were
developed by the French Revolution. Among
them all, there are few more illustrious, or
more worthy of notice, than that of Madame
Roland. The eventful story of her life con-
tains much to inspire the mind with admiration
and with enthusiasm, and to stimulate one to
live worthily of those capabilities with which
every human heart is endowed. No person
can read the record of her lofty spirit and of
her heroic acts without a higher appreciation
of woman^s power, and of the mighty influence
one may wield, who combines the charms of a
noble and highly-cultivated mind with the fas-
cinations of female delicacy and loveliness. To
understand the secret of the almost miraculous
influence she exerted, it is necessary to trace
her career, with some degree of minuteness,



from the cradle to the hour of her sublime and
heroic death.

In the year 1754, there was living, in an ob-
scure workshop in Paris, on the crowded Quai
des Orfevres, an engraver by the name of Gra-
tien Phlippon. He had married a very beau-
tiful woman, whose placid temperament and
cheerful content contrasted strikingly with the
restlessness and ceaseless repinings of her hus-
band. The comfortable yet humble apartments
of the engraver were over the shop where he
plied his daily toil. He was much dissatisfied
with his lowly condition in life, and that his
family, in the enjoyment of frugal competence
alone, were debarred from those luxuries which
were so profusely showered upon others. Bit-
terly and unceasingly he murmured that his lot
had been cast in the ranks of obscurity and of
unsparing labor, while others, by a more fortu-
nate, although no better merited destiny, were
born to ease and affluence, and honor and lux-
ury. This thought of the unjust inequality in
man's condition, which soon broke forth with
all the volcanic energy of the French Revolu-
tion, already began to ferment in the bosoms of
the laboring classes, and no one pondered these
wide diversities with a more restless spirit, or
murmured more loudly and more incessantly
than Phlippon. When the day's toil was
ended, he loved to gather around him asso-


ciates whose feelings harmonized with his own,
and to descant upon their own grievous oppres-
sion, and upon the arrogance of aristocratic
greatness. With an eloquence which often
deeply moved his sympathizing auditory, and
fanned to greater intensity the fires which were
consuming his own hearty he contrasted their
doom of sleepless labor and of comparative
penury with the brilliance of the courtly
throng, living in idle luxury, and squander-
ing millions in the amusements at Versailles,
and sweeping in charioted splendor through the
Champs Elysee.

Phlippon was a philosopher, not a Christian.
Submission was a virtue he had never learned,
and never wished to learn. Christianity, as he
saw it developed before him only in the power-
ful enginery of the Eoman Catholic Church,
was, in his view, but a formidable barrier
against the liberty and the elevation of the peo-
ple — a bulwark, bristling with superstition and
bayonets, behind which nobles and kings were
securely intrenched. He consequently became
as hostile to the doctrines of the Church as he
was to the institutions of the state. The mon-
arch was, in his eye, a tyrant, and God a delu-
sion. The enfranchisement of the people, in
his judgment, required the overthrow of both
the earthly and the celestial monarch. In
these ideas, agitating the heart of Phlippon


behold the origin of the French Eevolution.
They were diffused in pamphlets and daily
papers in theaters and cajes. They were urged
by workmen in their shops, by students in
their closets. They became the inspiring spirit
of science in encyclopedias and reviews, and
formed the chorus in all the songs of revelry
and libertinism. These sentiments spread
from heart to heart, through Paris, through
the provinces, till France rose like a demon in
its wrath, and the very globe trembled beneath
its gigantic and indignant tread.

Madame Phlippon was just the reverse of her
husband. She was a woman in whom faith,
and trust, and submission predominated. She
surrendered her will, without questioning, to all
the teachings of the Church of Eome. She was
placid, contented, and cheerful, and, though un-
inquiring in her devotion, undoubtedly sincere
in her piety. In every event of life she recog-
nized the overruling hand of Providence, and
feeling that the comparatively humble lot as-
signed her was in accordance with the will of
God, she indulged in no repinings, and envied
not the more brilliant destiny of lords and la-
dies. An industrious housewife, she hummed
the hymns of contentment and peace from
morning till evening. In the cheerful perform-
ance of her daily toil, she was ever pouring
the balm of her peaceful spirit upon the rest-


less heart of her spouse. Phlippon loved his
wife, and often felt the superiority of her
Christian temperament.

Of eight children born to these parents, one
only, Jeanne Manon, or Jane Mary, survived
the hour of birth. Her father first received
her to his arms in 1754, and she became the ob-
ject of his painful and most passionate adora-
tion. Her mother pressed the coveted treas-
ure to her bosom with maternal love, more
calm, and deep, and enduring. And now Jane
became the central star in this domestic sys-
tem. Both parents lived in her and for her.
She was their earthly all. The mother wished
to train her for the Church and for heaven,
that she might become an angel and dwell by
the throne of God. These bright hopes gilded
a prayerful mother's hours of toil and care.
The father bitterly repined. Why should his
bright and beautiful child — who even in these
her infantile years was giving indication of the
most brilliant intellect — why should she be
doomed to a life of obscurity and toil, while
the garden of the Tuileries and the Elysian
Fields were thronged with children, neither so
beautiful nor so intelligent, who were reveling
in boundless wealth, and living in the world of
luxury and splendor which, to Phlippon's im-
agination, seemed more alluring than any idea
he could form of heaven ? These thoughts


were a consuming fire in the bosom of the am*
bitious father. They burned with inextinguish-
able flame.

The fond parent made the sprightly and fas-
cinating child his daily companion. He led
her by the hand, and confided to her infantile
spirit all his thoughts, his illusions, his day-
dreams. To her listening ear he told the story
of the arrogance of nobles, of the pride of kings,
and of the oppression by which he deemed him-
self unjustly doomed to a life of penury and
toil. The light-hearted child was often weary
of these complainings, and turned for relief to
the placidity and cheerfulness of her mother's
mind. Here she found repose — a soothing,
calm, and holy submission. Still the gloom of
her father's spirit cast a pensive shade over her
own feelings, and infused a tone of melancholy
and an air of unnatural reflection into her
character. By nature, Jane was endowed with
a soul of unusual delicacy. From early child-
hood, all that is beautiful or sublime in nature,
in literature, in character, had charms to rivet
her entranced attention. She loved to sit alone
at her chamber window in the evening of a
summer's day, to gaze upon the gorgeous hues
of sunset. As her imagination roved through
those portals of a brighter world, which seemed
thus, through far-reaching vistas of glory, to
be opened to her, she peopled the sun-lit ex-


panse with the creations of her own fancy, and
often wept in uncontrollable emotion through
the influence of these gathering thoughts.
Books of impassioned poetry, and descriptions
of heroic character and achievements, were her
especial delight. Plutarch's Lives, that book
which, more than any other, appears to be the
incentive of early genius, was hid beneath her
pillow, and read and re-read with tireless avid-
ity. Those illustrious heroes of antiquity be-
came the companions of her solitude and of
her hourly thoughts. She adored them and
loved them as her own most intimate personal
friends. Her character became insensibly
molded to their forms, and she was inspired
with restless enthusiasm to imitate their deeds.
When but twelve years of age, her father found
her, one day, weeping that she was not born a
Eoman maiden. Little did she then imagine
that, by talent, by suffering, and by heroism,
she was to display a character the history of
which would eclipse the proudest narratives in
Greek or Eoman story.

Jane appears never to have known the friv-
olity and thoughtlessness of childhood. Be*
fore she had entered the fourth year of her age
she knew how to read. From that time her
thirst for reading was so great, that her parents
found no little difficulty in furnishing her with
a sufficient supply. She not only read with


eagerness every book which met her eye, but
pursued this uninterrupted miscellaneous read-
ing to singular advantage, treasuring up all
important facts in her retentive memory. So
entirely absorbed was she in her books, that
the only successful mode of withdrawing her
from them was by offering her flowers, of
which she was passionately fond. Books and
flowers continued, through all the vicissitudes
of her life, even till the hour of her death, to
aflord her the most exquisite pleasure. She
had no playmates, and thought no more of
play than did her father and mother, who were
her only and her constant companions. From
infancy she was accustomed to the thoughts
and the emotions of mature minds. In personal
appearance she was, in earliest childhood and
through life, peculiarly interesting rather than
beautiful. As mature years perfected her fea-
tures and her form, there was in the contour
of her graceful figure and her intellectual
countenance, that air of thoughtfulness, of
pensiveness, of glowing tenderness and delicacy,
which gave her a power of fascination over all
hearts. She sought not this power ; she
thought not of it ; but an almost resistless at-
traction and persuasion accompanied all her
words and actions.

It was, perhaps, the absence of playmates,
and the habitual converse with mature minds.


which, at so early an age, inspired Jane with
that insatiate thirst for knoAvledge which she
ever manifested. Books were her only resource
in every unoccupied hour. From her walks
with her father, and her domestic employments
with her mother, she turned to her little library
and to her chamber window, and lost herself in
the limitless realms of thought, It is often im-
agined that character is the result of accident
— that there is a native and inherent tendency,
which triumphs over circumstances, and works
out its own results. Without denying that
there may be different intellectual gifts with
which the soul may be endowed as it comes
from the hand of the Creator, it surely is not
difficult to perceive that the peculiar training
through which the childhood of Jane was con-
ducted was calculated to form the peculiar
character which she developed.

In a bright summer's afternoon she might be
seen sauntering along the Boulevards, led by
her father's hand, gazing upon that scene of
gaiety with which the eye is never wearied.
A gilded coach, drawn by the most beautiful
horses in the richest trappings, sweeps along
the streets — a gorgeous vision. Servants in
showy livery, and out-riders proudly mounted,
invest the spectacle with a degree of grandeur
beneath which the imagination of a child sinks
exhausted. Phlippon takes his little daughter


in his arms to show her the sight, and, as she
gazes in infantile wonder and delight, the dis-
contented father says, ^^ Look at that lord, and
lady, and child, lolling so yoluptuously in their
coach. They have no right there. Why must
I and my child walk on this hot pavement,
while they repose on velvet cushions and revel
in all luxury ? Oppressive laws compel me to
pay a portion of my hard earnings to support
them in their pride and indolence. But a time
will come when the people will awake to the
consciousness of their wrongs, and their tyrants
will tremble before them." He continues his
walk in moody silence, brooding over his sense
of injustice. They return to their home. Jane
wishes that her father kept a carriage, and liv-
eried servants and out-riders. She thinks of
politics, and of the tyranny of kings and nobles,
and of the unjust inequalities of man. She re-
tires to the solitude of her loved chamber win-
dow, and reads of Aristides the Just, of The-
mistocles with his Spartan virtues, of Brutus,
and of the mother of the Gracchi. Greece and
Rome rise before her in all their ancient re-
nown. She despises the frivolity of Paris, the
effeminacy of the moderns, and her youthful
bosom throbs with the desire of being noble in
spirit and of achieving great exploits. Thus,
when other children of her age were playing
with their dolls, she was dreaming of the pros-


tration of nobles and of the overthrow of
thrones — of liberty, and fraternity, and equality
among mankind. Strange dreams for a child,
but still more strange in their fulfilment.

The infidelity of her father and the piety of
her mother contended, like counter currents of
the ocean, in her bosom. Her active intellect
and love of freedom sympathized with the spec-
ulations of the so-called philosopher. Her ami-
able and affectionate disposition and her pensive
meditations led her to seek repose in the sub-
lime conceptions and in the soul-soothing con-
solations of the Christian. Her parents were
deeply interested in her education, and were
desirous of giving her every advantage for se-
curing the highest attainments. The educa-
tion of young ladies, at that time, in France,
was conducted almost exclusively by nuns in
convents. The idea of the silence and solitude
of the cloister inspired the highly-imaginative
girl with a blaze of enthusiasm. Fondly as she
loved her home, she was impatient for the hour
to arrive when, with heroic self-sacrifice, she
could withdraw from the world and its pleas-
ures, and devote her whole soul to devotion, to
meditation, and to study Her mother's spirit
of religion was exerting a powerful influence
over her, and one evening she fell at her feet,
and, bursting into tears, besought that she
might be sent to a convent to prepare to receive


her first Christian conimunion in a suitable
frame of mind.

The convent of the sisterhood of the Con-
gregation in Paris was selected for Jane. In
the review of her life which she subsequently
wrote while immured in the dungeons of the
Conciergerie, she says, in relation to this event,
*' While pressing my dear mother in my arms,
at the moment of parting with her for the first
time in my life, I thought my heart would
have broken ; but I was acting in obedience to
the voice of God, and I passed the threshold
of the cloister, tearfully offering up to him the
greatest sacrifice I was capable of making.
This was on the 7th of May, 1765, when I was
eleven years and two months old. In the
gloom of a prison, in the midst of political
storms which ravage my country, and sweep
away all that is dear to me, how shall I recall
to my mind, and how describe the rapture and
tranquillity I enjoyed at this period of my life ?
What lively colors can express the soft emo-
tions of a young heart endued with tenderness
and sensibility, greedy of happiness, beginning
to be alive to the beauties of nature, and per-
ceiving the Deity alone ? The first night I
spent in the convent was a night of agitation.
I was no longer under the paternal roof. I
was at a distance from that kind mother, who
was doubtless thinking of me with affectionate


emotion. A dim light diffused itself through
the room in which I had been put to bed with
four children of my own age. I stole softly
from my couch, and drew near the window,
the light of the moon enabling me to distin-
guish the garden, which it overlooked. The
deepest silence prevailed around, and I listened
to it, if I may use the expression, with a sort
of respect. Lofty trees cast their gigantic
shadows along the ground, and promised a
secure asylum to peaceful meditation. I lifted
up my eyes to the heavens ; they were un-
clouded and serene. I imagined that I felt
the presence of the Deity smiling upon my
sacrifice, and already offering me a reward in
the consolatory hope of a celestial abode.
Tears of delight flowed down my cheeks. I
repeated my vows with holy ecstacy, and went
to bed again to taste the slumber of God's
chosen children."

Her thirst for knowledge was insatiate, and
with untiring assiduity she pursued her studies.
Every hour of the day had its appropriate
employment, and time flew upon its swiftest
wings. Every book which fell in her way she
eagerly perused, and treasured its knowledge
or its literary beauties in her memory. Her-
aldry and books of romance, lives of the saints
and fairy legends, biography, travels, history,
political philosophy, poetry, and treatises upon


morals, were all read and meditated upon by
this young child. She had no taste for any
childish amusements ; and in the hours of
recreation, when the mirthful girls around her
were forgetting study and care in those games
appropriate to their years, she would walk
alone in the garden, admiring the flowers, and
gazing upon the fleecy clouds in the sky. In
all the beauties of nature her eye ever recog-
nized the hand of God, and she ever took
pleasure in those sublime thoughts of infinity
and eternity which must engross every noble
mind. Her teachers had but little to do.
Whatever study she engaged in was pursued
with such spontaneous zeal, that success had
crowned her efforts before others had hardly
made a beginning.

In music and drawing she made great profi-
ciency. She was even more fond of all that is
beautiful and graceful in the accomplishments
of a highly-cultivated mind, than in those more
solid studies which she nevertheless pursued
with so much energy and interest.

The scenes which she witnessed in the con-
vent were peculiarly calculated to produce an
indelible impression upon a mind so imagina-
tive. The chapel for prayer, with its somber
twilight and its dimly-burning tapers ; the
dirges which the organ breathed upon the
trembling ear ; the imposing pageant of prayer


and praise, with the blended costumes of
monks and hooded nuns ; the knell which
tolled the requiem of a departed sister, as, in
the gloom of night and by the light of torches,
she was conveyed to her burial — all these con-
comitants of that system of pageantry, arranged
so skilfully to impress the senses of the young
and the imaginative, fanned to the highest
elevation the flames of that poetic temperament
she so eminently possessed.

God thus became in Jane's mind a vision of
poetic beauty. Religion was the inspiration of
enthusiasm and of sentiment. The worship of
the Deity was blended with all that was enno-
bling and beautiful. Moved by these glowing
fancies, her susceptible spirit, in these tender
years, turned away from atheism, from infidel-
ity, from irreligion, as from that which was
unrefined, revolting, vulgar. The conscious-
ness of the presence of God, the adoration of
his being, became a passion of her soul. This
state of mind was poetry, not religion. It in-
volved no sense of the spirituality of the Divine
Law, no consciousness of unworthiness, no
need of a Saviour. It was an emotion sublime
and beautiful, yet merely such an emotion as
any one of susceptible temperament might feel
when standing in the Vale of Chamouni at
midnight, or when listening to the crash of
thunder as the tempest wrecks the sky, or


when one gazes entranced upon the fair face
of nature in a mild and lovely morning of
June, when no cloud appears in the blue
canopy above us, and no breeze ruffles the
leaves of the grove or the glassy surface of the
lake, and the songs of birds and the perfume
of flowers fill the air. Many mistake the
highly poetic enthusiasm which such scenes
excite for the spirit of piety.

While Jane was an inmate of the convent,
a very interesting young lady, from some dis-

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Mme. Roland → online text (page 1 of 15)