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the ear of the defeated minister, while the
execrations of the million rose more loudly, and
ominously around the tottering throne. This
blow, struck by Madame Roland, was by far
the heaviest the throne of Prance had yet
received. She who so loved to play the part of
a heroine was not at all dismayed by defeat,
when it came with such an aggrandizement of
power. Upon this wave of enthusiastic popu-
larity Madame Roland and her husband retired
from the magnificent palace where they had
dwelt for so short a time, and, with a little
pardonable ostentation, selected for their retreat
very humble apartments in an apparently
obscure street of the agitated metropolis. It
was the retirement of a philosopher proud of the
gloom of his garret. But M. Roland and wife
were more powerful now than ever before. The
famous letter had placed them in the front
ranks of the friends of reform, and enshrined
them in the hearts of the ever fickle populace.
Even the Jacobins were compelled to swell the
universal voice of commendation. M. Roland's
apartments were ever thronged. All important
plans were discussed and shaped by him and
his wife before they were presented in the As-


There was a youn^ statesman then in Paris
named Barbaroux, of remarkable beauty of per-
son, and of the richest mental endowments.
The elegance of his stature and the pensive
melancholy of his classic features invested him
with a peculiar power of fascination. Between
him and Madame Roland there existed the most
pure, though the strongest friendship. One day
he was sitting with M. Roland and wife, in so-
cial conference upon the desperate troubles of
the times, when the dismissed minister said to
him, '^ What is to be done to save France ?
There is no army upon which we can rely to
resist invasion. Unless we can circumvent the
plots of the court, all we have gained is lost.
In six weeks the Austrians will be at Paris.
Have we, then, labored at the most glorious of
revolutions for so many years, to see it over-
thrown in a single day ? If liberty dies in
France, it is lost forever to mankind. All the
hopes of philosophy are deceived. Prejudice
and tyranny will again grasp the world. Let
us prevent this misfortune. If the armies of
despotism overrun the north of France, let us
retire to the southern provinces, and there
establish a republic of freemen.''

The tears glistened in the eyes of his wife as
she listened to this bold proposal, so heroic in
its conception, so full of hazard, and demanding
such miracles of self-sacrifice and devotion.



Madame Koland, who perhaps originally sng-
gested the idea to her husband, urged it with
all her impassioned energy. Barbaroux was
just the man to have his whole soul inflamed
by an enterprise of such grandeur. He drew a
rapid sketch of the resources and hopes of lib-
erty in the south, and, taking a map, traced the
limits of the republic, from the Doubs, the Aire,
and the Ehone, to La Dordogne ; and from the
inaccessible mountains of Auvergne, to Du-
rance and the sea. A serene joy passed over
the features of the three> thus quietly originat-
ing a plan which was, with an earthquake's
power, to make every throne in Europe tottle,
and to convulse Christendom to its very center.
Barbaroux left them deeply impressed with a
sense of the grandeur and the perils of the en-
terprise, and remarked to a friend, " Of all the
men of modern times, Eoland seems to me most
to resemble Cato ; but it must be owned that
it is to his wife that his courage and talents are
due.'' Previous to this hour the Girondists had
wished to sustain the throne, and merely to sur-
round it with free institutions. They had tak-
en the government of England for their model.
From this day the Girondists, freed from all
obligations to the king, conspired secretly in
Madame Eoland's chamber, and publicly in the
tribune, for the entire overthrow of the mon-
archy, and the establishment of a republic like


that of the United States. They rivaled the
Jacobins in the endeavor to see who could strike
the heaviest blows against the throne. It was
now a struggle between like and death. The
triumph of the invading army would be the ut-
ter destruction of all connected with the revo-
lutionary movement. And thus did Madame
Eoland exert an influence more powerful, per-
haps, than that of any other one mind in the
demolition of the Bourbon despotism.

Her influence over the Girondist party was
such as no man ever can exert. Her conduct,
frank and open-hearted, was irreproachable,
ever above even the slightest suspicion of indis-
cretion. She could not be insensible to the
homage, the admiration of those she gathered
around her. Buzot adored Madame Eoland as
the inspiration of his mind, as the idol of his
worship. She had involuntarily gained that
entire ascendency over his whole being which
made her the world to him. The secret of this
resistless enchantment was concealed until her
death ; it was then disclosed, and revealed the
mystery of a spiritual conflict such as few can
comprehend. She writes of Buzot, " Sensible,
ardent, melancholy, he seems born to give and
share happiness. This man would forget the
universe in the sweetness of private virtues.
Capable of sublime impulses and unvarying af-
fections, the vulgar, who like to depreciate what


it cannot equal, accuse him of being a dreamer.
Of sweet countenance, elegant figure, there is
always in his attire that care, neatness, and
propriety which announce the respect of self
as well as of others. While the dregs of the na-
tion elevate the flatterers and corrupters of the
people to station — while cut-throats swear,
drink, and clothe themselves in rags, in order
to fraternize with the populace, Buzot possesses
the morality of Socrates, and maintains the de-
corum of Scipio. So they pull down his house,
and banish him as they did Aristides. I am
astonished that they hare not issued a decree
that his name should be forgotten."

These words Madame Eoland wrote in her
dungeon the night before her execution. Bu-
zot was then an exile, j^ursued by unrelenting
fury, and concealed in the caves of St. Emilion.
When the tidings reached him of the death of
Madame Eoland, he fell to the ground as if
struck by lightning. For many days he was
in a state of frenzy, and was never again re-
stored to cheerfulness.

Danton now appeared in the saloon of Ma-
dame Roland, with his gigantic stature, and
shaggy hair, and voice of thunder, and crouched
at the feet of this mistress of hearts, whom
his sagacity perceived was soon again to be the
dispenser of power. She comprehended at a
glance his lierculemi abilities, an4 th^ impor-

Madame Roland,

Danton in the Assembly. {Seep. 132.)


tant aid he could render the Eepublican cause.
She wished to win his co-operation, and at first
tried to conciliate him, *' as a woman would pat
a lion ; '' but soon, convinced of his heartless-
ness and utter want of principle, she spurned
him with abhorrence. He subsequently en-
deavored, again and again, to reinstate himself
in her favor, but in vain. Every hour scenes
of new violence were being enacted in Paris
and throughout all France. Roland was the
idol of the nation. The famous letter was the
subject of universal admiration. The outcry
against his dismission was falling in thunder
tones .on the ear of the king. This act had
fanned to increased intensity those flames of re-
volutionary frenzy wbich were now glaring with
portentous flashes in every part of France. The
people, intoxicated and maddened by the dis-
covery of their power, were now arrayed, with
irresistible thirstings for destruction and blood,
against the king, the court, and the nobility.
The royal family, imprisoned in the Tuileries,
were each day drinking of the cup of humilia-
tion to its lowest dregs. Austria and Prussia,
united with the emigrants at Coblentz, prepared
to march to Paris to reinstate the king upon
his throne. Excitement; consternation, fren-
zy, pervaded all hearts. A vast assemblage of
countless thousands of women, and boys, and
wan and starving men, gathered in the streets


of Paris. Harangues against the king and the
aristocrats rendered them delirious with rage.
They crowded all the avenues to the Tuileries,
burst through the gates and over the walls,
dashed down the doors and stove in the win-,
dows, and, with obscene ribaldry, rioted through
all the apartments sacred to royalty. They
thrust the dirty red cap of Jacobinism upon the
head of the king. They poured into the ear of
the humiliated queen the most revolting and
loathsome execrations. There was no hope for
Louis but in the recall of M. Eoland. The
eourt party could give no protection. The
Jacobins were upon him in locust legions. M.
Eoland alone could bring the Girondists, as a
shield, between the throne and the mob. He
was recalled, and agaia moved, in calm tri-
umph, from his obscure chambers to the regal
palace of the minister. If Madame Eoland's
letter dismissed him from office, her letter also
restored him again with an enormous accumu-
lation of power.

His situation was not an enviable one. El-
evated as it was in dignity and influence, it was
full of perplexity, toil, and peril. The spirit
of revolution was now rampant, and no earthly
power could stay it. It was inevitable that
those who would not recklessly ride upon its
billows must be overwhelmed by its resistless
surges, Madame Eoland was far more con-


scious of the peril than her husband. With in-
tense emotion, but calmly and firmly, she
looked upon the gathering storm. The pecul-
iarity of her character,, and her great moral cour-
age, was illustrated by the mode of life she vig-
orously adopted. Raised from obscurity to a
position so commanding-, with rank and wealth
bowing obsequiously around her, she was en-
tirely undazzled, and resolved that, consecrat-
ing all her energies to the demands of the tem-
pestuous times, she would waste no time in
fashionable parties and heartless visits. " My
love of study,^' she said, '* is as great as my de-
testation of cards, and the society of silly peo-
ple affords me no amusement.''' Twice a week
she gave a dinner to the members of the minis-
try, and other influential men in the political
world, with whom her husband wished to con-
verse. The palace was furnished to their hands
by its former occupants with Oriental luxury.
Selecting for her own use, as before, one of the
smallest parlors, she furnished it as her library.
Here she lived, engrossed in study, busy with
her pen, and taking an unostentatious and un-
seen, but most active part, in all those meas-
ures which were literally agitating the whole
civilized world. Her little library was the sanc-
tuary for all confidential conversation upon
matters of state. Here her husband met his
political friends to mature their measures. The


gentlemen gathered, evening after evening,
around the table in the center of the room, M.
Roland, with his serene, reflective brow, pre-
siding at their head, while Madame Eoland, at
her work-table by the fireside, employed herself
with her needle or her pen. Her mind, how-
ever, was absorbed by the conversation which
was passing. M. Roland, in fact, in giving his
own views, was bat recapitulating those senti-
ments with which his mind was imbued from
previous conference with his companion.

It is not possible that one endowed with the
ardent and glowing imagination of Madame
Roland should not, at times, feel inwardly the
spirit of exultation in the consciousness of this
vast power. From the windows of her palace
she looked down upon the shop of the mechan-
ic where her infancy was cradled, and upon
those»dusty streets where she had walked an
obscure child, while proud aristocracy swept by
her in splendor — that very aristocracy looking
now imploringly to her for a smile. She pos-
sessed that peculiar tact, which enabled her
often to guide the course of political measures
without appearing to do so. She was only anx-
ious to promote the glory of her husband, and
was never more happy than when he was re-
ceiving plaudits for works which she had per-
formed. She wrote many of his proclama-
tions, his letters, his state papers, and with all


the glowing fervor of an enthusiastic woiiiau.
" Without me," she writes, '* my husband would
have been quite as good a minister, for his
knowledge, his activity, his integrity were all
his own ; but with me he attracted more at-
tention, because I infused into his writings that
mixture of spirit and gentleness, of authorita-
tive reason and seducing sentiment, which is,
perhaps, only to be found in the language of a
woman who has a clear head and a feeling
heart/^ This frank avowal of just self -appre-
ciation is not vanity. A vain woman could not
have won the love and homage of so many of
the noblest men of France.

A curious circumstance occurred at this time,
which forcibly and even ludicrously struck Ma-
dame Roland's mind, as she reflected upon the
wonderful changes of life, and the peculiar posi-
tion which she now occupied. Some French
artists had been imprisoned by the Pope at
Rome. The Executive Council of France
wished to remonstrate and demand their release.
Madame Roland sat down to write the letter,
severe and authoritative, to his holiness, threat-
ening him with the severest vengeance if he re-
fused to comply with the request. As in her
little library she prepared this communication
to the head of the Papal States and of the Catho-
lic Church, she paused, with her pen in her
hand, and reflected upon her situation but a few


years before as the humble daughter of an en-
graver. She recalled to mind the emotions of
superstitious awe and adoration with which, in
the nunnery, she had regarded his holiness as
next to the Deity, and almost his equal. She
read oyer some of the imperious passages which
she had now addressed to the Pope in the unaf-
fected dignity of conscious power, and the con-
trast was so striking, and struck her as so lu-
dicrous, that she burst into an uncontrollable
paroxysm of laughter.

When Jane was a diffident maiden of seven-
teen, she went once with her aunt to the resi-
dence of a nobleman of exalted rank and vast
wealth, and had there been invited to dine with
the servants. The proud spirit of Jane was
touched to the quick. With a burning brow she
sat down in the servants' hall, with stewards,
and butlers, and cooks, and footmen, and valet
de chambres, and ladies' maids of every degree,
all dressed in tawdry finery, and assuming the
most disgusting airs of self-importance. She
went home despising in her heart both lords and
menials, and dreaming, with new aspirations,
of her Eoman republic. One day, when Ma-
dame Eoland was in power, she had just passed
from her splendid dining-room , where she had
been entertaining the most distinguished men
of the empire, into her drawing-room, when a
gray-headed gentleman entered, and bowing


profoundly and most obsequiously before her,
entreated the honor of an introduction to the
Minister of the Interior. This gentleman was
M. Haudry, with whose servants she had been
invited to dine. This once proud aristocrat,
who, in the wreck of the Eevolution, had lost
both wealth and rank, now saw Madame Roland
elevated as far above him as he had formerly
been exalted above her. She remembered the
many scenes in which her spirit had been hu-
miliated by haughty assumptions. She could
not but feel the triumph to which circum-
stances had borne her, though magnanimity
restrained its manifestation.

Anarchy now reigned throughout France.
The king and the royal family were im-
prisoned in the Temple. The Girondists in the
Legislative Assembly, which had now assumed
the name of the National Convention, and M.
Roland at the head of the ministry, were strug-
gling, with herculean exertions, to restore the
dominion of law, and, if possible, to save the
life of the king. The Jacobins, who, unable to
resist the boundless popularity of M. Roland,
had, for a time, co-operated with the Girondists,
now began to separate themselves again more
and more widely from them. They flattered the
mob. They encouraged every possible demon-
stration of lawless violence. They pandered to
the passions of the multitude by affecting gross-


ness and vulgarity in person, and language, and
manners ; by clamoring for the division of prop-
erty, and for the death of the king. In tones
daily increasing in boldness and elB&ciency, they
declared the Girondists to be the friends of the
monarch, and the enemies of popular liberty.
Upon this tumultuous wave of polluted democ-
racy, now rising with resistless and crested bil-
low, Danton and Kobespierre were riding into
their terrific power. Humanity shut its eyes in
view of the hideous apparition of want and hag-
gard beggary and crime. The deep mutterings
of this rising storm, which no earthly hand
might stay, rolled heavily upon the ear of
Europe. Christendom looked astounded upon
the spectacle of a barbarian invasion bursting
forth from the cellars and garrets of Paris. Op-
pressed and degraded humanity was about to
take vengeance for its ages of accumulated
wrongs. The throne was demolished. The in-
sulted royal family, in rags and almost in star-
vation, were in a dungeon. The universal cry
from the masses of the people was now for a re-
public. Jacobins and Girondists united in this
cry ; but the Jacobins accused the Girondists of
being insincere, and secretly plotting for the res-
toration of the king.

Madame Boland, in the name of her husband,
drew up for the Convention the plan of a re-
publio as a substitute for th© throae. From

Madame Roland,

The Tribunal of Maillard.

{Seep. 138.)


childhood she had yearned for a republic, with
its liberty and purity, fascinated by the ideal of
Eoman virtue, from which her lively imagina-
tion had banished all human corruption. But
now that the throne and hereditary rank were
virtually abolished, and all France clamoring
for a republic, and the pen in her hand to pre-
sent to the national Assembly a Constitution of
popular liberty, her heart misgave her. Her
husband was nominally Minister of the Interior,
but his power was gone. The mob of Paris had
usurped the place of king, and Constitution,
and law. The Jacobins were attaining the de-
cided ascendency. The guillotine was daily
crimsoned with the blood of the noblest citizens
of France. The streets and prisons were polluted
with the massacre of the innocent. The soul
of Madame Eoland recoiled with horror at the
scenes she daily witnessed. The Girondists
struggled in vain to resist the torrent, but they
were swept before it. The time had been when
the proclamation of a republic would have filled
her soul with inexpressible joy. Now she could
see no gleam of hope for her country. The res-
toration of the monarchy was impossible. The
substitution of a republic was inevitable. No
earthly power could prevent it. In that re-
public she saw only the precursor of her own
ruin, the ruin of all dear to her, and general
anarchy. With a dejected spirit she wrote to



a friend, " We are under the knife of Kobes-
pierre and Marat. Yon know my enthusiasm
for the Eevolution. I am ashamed of it now.
It has been sullied by monsters. It is hideous.'^


The Prussians Marching on Paris.



The Prussians were now advancing on their
march, to Paris. One after another of the
frontier cities of France were capitulating to
the invaders as the storm of bomb-shells from
the batteries of the allied army, was rained down
upon their roofs. The French were retreating
before their triumphant adversaries. Sanguine
hopes sprung up in the bosoms of the friends of
the monarchy that the artillery of the Prussians
would soon demolish the iron doors of the Tem-
ple, where the king and the royal family were
imprisoned, and reinstate the captive monarch
upon his throne. The Eevolutionists were al-
most frantic in view of their peril. They knew
that there were tens of thousands in Paris, of
the most wealthy and the most influential, and
hundreds of thousands in France, who would,
at the slightest prospect of success, welcome
the Prussians as their deliverers. Should the
king thus prove victorious, the leaders in the
revolutionary movement had sinned too deeply
to hope for pardon. Death was their inevitable

10-Eoland 131


doom. Consternation pervaded the metropolis.
The magnitude of this peril united all the rev-
olutionary parties for their common defense.
Even Vergniaud, the most eloqi:.3nt leader of
the Girondists, proposed a decree of death
against every citizen of a besieged city who
should speak of surrender.

It was midnight in the Assembly. The most
extraordinary and despotic measures were
adopted by acclamation to meet the fearful
emergence. " We must rouse the whole pop-
ulace of France/' exclaimed Danton, in those
tones which now began to thrill so portentously
upon the ear of Europe, '' and hurl them, en
masse, upon our invaders. There *are traitors
in Paris, ready to join our foes. "We must ar-
rest them all, however numerous they may be.
The peril is imminent. The precautions adopt-
ed must be correspondingly prompt and deci-
sive. With the morning sun we must visit
every dwelling in Paris, and imprison those
whom we have reason to fear will join the ene-
mies of the nation, even though they be thirty
thousand in number. ''

The decree passed without hesitation. The
gates of Paris were to be locked, that none might
escape. Carriages were to be excluded from
the streets. All citizens were ordered to be at
home. The sections, the tribunals, the clubs
were to suspend their sittings, that the public


attention might not be distracted. All houses
were to be brilliantly lighted in the evening,
that the search might be more effectually con-
ducted. Commissaries, accompanied by armed
soldiers, were, in the name of the law, to enter
every dwelling. Each citizen should show what
arms he had. If anything excited suspicion,
the individual and his premises were to be
searched with the utmost vigilance. If the
slightest deception had been practised, in deny-
ing or in not fully confessing any suspicious ap-
pearances, the person was to be arrested and
imprisoned. If a person were found in any
dwelling but his own, he was to be imprisoned
as under suspicion. Guards were to be placed
in all unoccupied houses. A double cordon of
soldiers were stationed around the walls, to arrest
all who should attempt to escape. Armed boats
floated upon the Seine, at the two extremities
of Paris, that every possible passage of escape
might be closed. Gardens, groves, promenades,
all were to be searched.

With so much energy was this work con-
ducted, that that very night a body of workmen
were sent, with torches and suitable tools, to
open an access to the subterranean burial-
grounds extending under a portion of Paris,
that a speedy disposal might be made of the an-
ticipated multitude of dead bodies. The decree,
conveying terror to ten thousand bosoms, spread


with the rapidity of lightning through the
streets and the dwellings of Paris. Every one
who had expressed a sentiment of loyalty ; every
one who had a friend who was an emigrant or
a loyalist ; every one who had uttered a word of
censure in reference to the sanguinary atrocities
of the Kevolution ; every one who inherited an
illustrious name^ or who had an unfriendly
neighbor or an inimical servant, trembled at
the swift approach of the impending doom.

Bands of men, armed with pikes, brought
into power from the dregs of society, insolent,
merciless, and relentless, accompanied by mar-
tial music, traversed the streets in all direc-
tions. As the commissaries knocked at a door,
the family within were pale and paralyzed with
terror. The brutal inquisitors appeared to de-
light in the anguish which their stern office ex-
torted, and the more refined the family in cul-
ture, or the more elevated in rank, the more

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Mme. Roland → online text (page 7 of 15)