Louis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de Salamon.

Unpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 online

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Online LibraryLouis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de SalamonUnpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 → online text (page 18 of 23)
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Mj good Richard was so fond of my company, that
we sometimes remained at the table until two in the
morning. He never left me except for a few mo-
ments at ten, when he went to visit the prisoners.

Some of the stories he told me about these rascals
were truly surprising. Their attempts to escape kept
him in continual anxiety. Although they had not a
single tool, they used to construct keys of lead which
opened the doors noiselessly. He seized, at one time,
six of these keys, wliich worked perfectly ; there was
only one wantmg, that of the street door. He showed
the whole six to me. I asked him how he managed
to discover everything. He answered that in all the
prisons containing several prisoners a spy was kept,
who received very high wages.

The wives of the prisoners were also a soui'ce of
constant trouble when they visited them. Search
them as closely as they could, these women always
succeeded in concealing something in the shape of
tin, lead and plaster, which they transferred success-
fully to their husbands.

I tried to prolong our conversation as long as pos-
sible, for I disliked so much going to my cell and
being locked in Avith big bolts and big keys, that I
should have preferred never lying down, if I could.

However, when I did enter it, I found it very warm^
thanks to the stove; sometimes, it was even too
much so.


But wlien I was there, I was pursued by the- black-
est thoughts. I found it impossible to sleep before
daybreak, and then my slumbers were broken into by
my rascally neighbors, who, as soon as the sun rose,
created a frightful uproar with their singing and

Once, I perceived one of them walking in the yard.
Although it was piercing cold, he was in his shirt. He
was reading his indictment, while smoking his pipe.
" Gracious ! " he repeated every other minute — he did
not say "gracious ! " but the terms he did use are a
little too emphatic for reproduction — "gracious! I
am lost, for a dead certainty ! "

My enforced retirement from the world has con-
vinced me that these poor creatures are more to be
pitied than we think.

However, I told Eichard's servant in secret that I
felt the greatest repugnance to entering my cell, and
especially at seeing myself locked in behind bolts and
bars. She hastened to repeat what I had said to her
master, and he gave orders that my cell should be
opened at daybreak.

The first morning that I benefited by this measure
I saw, just as the door opened, a lap-dog run in and
jump on my bed. It went all round it, then leaped
down and was out of the room in a flash. It was the
queen's pet. Richard had found it after the death
of its mistress, and took the greatest care of it.

In this fashion, it came every morning at daybreak
and went through the same movements, during three
entire months. I made every efPort to catch it, but
always failed.




At the Registrar's Office. — In Court. — President Gohier.
— The Indictment. — Intervention of Boulanger, Commis-
sary OF the Directory. — The Editor of the [" Ami du
Peuple." — Richard's Granddaughter. — Some New Anec-
dotes of Marie Antoinette, the Duke of Orleans, and
Madame Elizabeth.

I HAD been now five weeks at the Conciergerie,
and, but for the deprival of my liberty, I might have
felt quite happy. I was well fed and allowed to re-
ceive the visits of my friends.

But at length I was notified that I must appear at
the Registry of the Palais de Justice, in order to re-
ceive the list of my jurors.

I was compelled to descend by a dark staircase,
made inside the wall. The staircase leads to a sub-
terranean passage connecting with the Palais.

All the thieves who were to be tried during the
month came with me, and I was compelled to endure
the humiliation of forming one of this gang of male-

But I had to resign myself, and, for an hour, I
waited my turn amongst them, in a large apartment
that was almost dark, extremely damp, and very



At length, I was summoned, and the list of the
jurors was placed in my hand. It contained a dozen
names. I was told I had twenty-four hours in which
to accept or reject them, but, in the latter case, the
trial would be adjourned for a month, for it is only
every month that the names of the jurors are drawn
by lot.

Although I was not acquainted with any of them,
I answered that I wished to be tried and would run
the risk of accepting them, even if they were badly
disposed in my regard.

On the next day, I was led into court.

The charge against me was of a somewhat unusual
character, and so an extraordinary tribunal had been
instituted for its trial, as when crimes of an abnor-
mally serious character are to be judged.

This arrangement was as little calculated to reas-
sure me as was the dismal procession which accom-
panied me to the bar, and which was composed of
the jailer of the Conciergerie, two ushers, and two
turnkeys in front, with two gendarmes, armed to the
teeth, bringing up the rear.

I was obliged to take my seat between these two
gendarmes, yes, to sit on the prisoner's bench, or,
"stool of repentance," as it used to be called, I, who
a few years before, sat on the fleur-de-lis in this very
court, and dispensed justice to the subjects of the

As soon as I was seated, I cast my eyes around the
hall. It was full to overflowing, for the crowd was
packed even beyond the doors. On the bench next
to that of the lawyers, I perceived the civil authori-


ties of the village of Passy ; they were there to testify
in my favor. I also noticed that a great number of
my friends were present ; many of them saluted me,
and I returned their salutation.

I had recovered all my courage, and, in spite of
this menacing array of power, which might well serve
to intimidate me, I felt the utmost calmness and
serenity. In such extremities, it is God, and God
alone, who can enable us to enjoy the tranquillity of
a good conscience. I had, in fact, been to confession
a short time before, and had set all my little affairs
in order.

The judges soon took their seats. The presiding
justice was Gohier, a renowned Jacobin, and after-
ward one of the five Directors.^ The twelve jurors
were in front of me. At the right of the judges, sat
the public prosecutor and his ushers, and, on the left,
but a little lower down, the commissary of the
Directory, who was called Boulanger.

It was in every respect an unprecedented trial.
There was actually no charge against me; neither
complainant nor witness was on hand to accuse me ;
but I had to confront the terrible power that perse-
cuted me, — the Directory.

However, I was fighting for our holy religion, and
in the cause of God, whose providence watches
over the innocent and is stronger than the wiles and
wickedness of men.

When all were seated, citizen Legras read the in-
dictment, which he himself had drawn up. This indi-
vidual, who had treated me with seeming respect and

1 In 1799.



politeness at the time I was leaving the police station,
preferred the most abominable charges against me
in this document. If I had been a felon, blackened
with every crime in the calendar, he could not have
indulged in more loathsome assaults on my charac-
ter. He missed his mark, however ; the reading was
heard with angry and prolonged murmurs by the

When he had finished, the commissary of the
Directory rose and said : —

"The commissary who has drawn up the indict-
ment has not seized the point of the accusation pre-
cisely, and has not stated plainly the crime of the
prisoner. He is not accused of conspiracy, but of
corresponding with the enemies of the state. I re-
quire, therefore, that the indictment be quashed and
a new one drawn up on a different basis. Conse-
quently I must ask for an adjournment, and that the
accused be remanded."

I did not wait for the decision of the judges, and
I demanded to be heard.

"Prisoner," replied the president, "you are at
liberty to speak."

" So then," I said, " it is not a sentiment of justice
or of mercy that actuates the Directory; what it
wants is that I should be again shackled with the
fetters that were about to drop from my limbs, and
that I should continue to languish in a dungeon. It
sees clearly that I must be discharged, for every
count in the indictment is as false, as manifestly
false, as it is odious.

" Well, then, I insist on my trial being proceeded


with, and tliat immediately ; at least, I shall have the
advantage and the consolation of knowing that the
jurors in whose presence I am, and who are to decide
on my fate, are men of the highest respectability and

" I know, too, that no charge can be brought against
me. For, in order to be guilty of conspiracy, I must
have had accomplices. Where are they ? Where is
the conspirator who betrayed the secret ? Where are
the witnesses ? Where is the accuser ? I pause for
a reply.

" Every one is silent : even the public prosecutor
does not dare to raise his voice.

" Doubtless, M. le Commissaire du Directoire must
have made merry over the amusing spectacle I afforded
him, when he beheld me dragged through the streets
of Paris in a sort of iron cage, like some wild beast,
exposed to the curiosity of the crowd ; no doubt, his
gentle heart is beating with eagerness for a repetition
of this charming exhibition. But no, it shall not be !
I demand that the indictment be maintained in its
integrity. I am ready to defend myself against any
and every charge, no matter how formidable it may
appear, ay, and defend myself successfully, unless
justice be banished from that tribunal.

" For that matter, my counsel is here present, and
will support my demand."

M. Bellart was my counsel. I had requested him
to advise me, for I was unacquainted with the new
forms of criminal procedure ; and also to aid me in my
defence, for I had the fullest confidence in his ability.

But all our efforts were vain ; we had to succumb.


The indictment was quashed ; I was led back to the
Conciergerie, where the clerk informed me I was to
be transferred to La Force.

I asked M. Richard whether he could not manage
to keep me in the Conciergerie.

" I only wish I could," he answered. " I will speak
to the public prosecutor."

He had the good luck to be successful, and I
remained under the guardianship of this excellent

The feast of the Epiphany fell upon the next day.
I handed a louis to Richard, and asked him to treat
the turnkeys of the Conciergerie, who had all been
very kind to me. So there was quite a festival in the
prison, especially in the kitchen of M. Richard.

I have noticed that people living in prisons are
very fond of eating and drinking.

The authorities of Passy paid me a visit. I begged
them to call at my house in the Rue Florentin. They
were received by Madame Blanchet, whom I had
previously instructed to prepare a dinner for them.

So everybody fared well, except myself.

At length, M. Louis d'Aulnay came, on my invita-
tion, to dine with me. It was absolutely necessary
for me to find some method of getting rid of my
thoughts ; the delay in my trial had upset me com-

As I was walking up and down the parlor, the same
evening, a little man with a brown face entered ab-
ruptly and said to me : —

" Citizen, every one is wild over Legras' indictment
and the conduct of the commissary of the Directory.


You see before you the advocate of the oppressed I
Do you wish me to undertake your defence in my
journal? for I have one, and although the villanous
intrigues of my enemies retain me in prison, I still
continue to edit it."

"I am very grateful, citizen. Pray, what is the
name of your journal ? "

" The ' Ami du Peuple.' " i

" The ' Ami du Peuple ' ? Oh ! for goodness' sake,
don't say anything in my behalf. I am sincerely
thankful to you, I assure you, but I prefer to defend
myself before the tribunal."

Upon this, I dismissed him politely.

My second month in jail passed off in pretty much
the same way as the first.

Madame Colin continued to take chocolate with me
several times a week. She often even returned to see
me before dinner. She is so kind and amiable as well
as blithe and witty, that it was impossible to feel gloomy
on the days she visited me. I always took care to have
myself shaven and my peruke well powdered when I
expected her arrival.

In short, I acted in prison exactly as I should have
done, were I at liberty.

M. Richard was the grandfather of a very beautiful
young girl of twenty-two. She was as meek as an
angel, and her manners and appearance were those of
a refined and well-educated lady. She came to see me

1 It is in little matters like this that the internuncio's accuracy can
be so easily verified. " Lebois, ' the Friend of the People/ has been
arrested for the third time, and this for treating the Directory as the
Directory deserves," says the "Eclair" of 23 December, 1796. The
" Moniteur " adds : " Lebois was released on the 9th of January."


nearly every morning, and we dined together, when
she came to dine with her grandfather, — which oc-
curred very often.

This was the tender and amiable girl who saved the
life of old President Angrau. Every time she heard
he was going to be taken before the Revolutionary
Tribunal, she made him get into bed, and said to the
messengers : —

" What can you do with this old man ? He is not
able to rise and is very likely to die during the day.'*
And she repeated this stratagem successfully until
the very day of Robespierre's death. Moreover, dur-
ing the whole time he was in prison, she brought him
every morning a cup of coffee and cream. This good
old man, who was then eighty-six, came to see me
when I was in the Conciergerie, and, happening to
meet the young girl, he kissed her, saying : —

" This is the woman who saved my life ! "

" And it is she, too," I answered, " who has relieved
the weariness of mine."

I continued to spend my evenings with Richard, and
we prolonged our conversation very far into the night.
He used to relate a multitude of anecdotes about the
victims he had seen on their way to the scaffold.

It would take too much time to record them here,
and I have forgotten most of them. However, I re-
member his saying that the gendarmes used to play
piquet in presence of the queen every evening. She
looked on, either leaning on the back of a chair, or
mending her black silk pelisse.

Richard often visited this princess, and asked her
if she needed anything. She never failed to express


her thanks, only, according to him, she did so with a
little too much solemnity.

One day, she asked him if he had ever been a

"Oh! not at all, madame," he answered, "I was
almost born in prison."

" The reason why I ask is because everything you
give me to eat is so excellent."

" Well, madame," returned Richard, " it is because
I go to the market myself and endeavor to get the
best I can."

" Oh ! " exclaimed the queen, " how kind you are,
Monsieur Richard ! "

Richard added that the preferred meat of the queen
was duck.

His chamber was successively occupied by the Duke
of Orleans and Madame Elizabeth. He said to me,
pointing to his bed: "Look where vice and virtue
have in turn reposed ! "

Before going to the scaffold, the Duke of Orleans
asked for a chicken. It was refused, on the ground
that he had no money to pay for it. He had to do
with an omelet, which he made himself. Then he
drank a bottle of champagne, brought to him the
evening before, and marched courageously to death.

The saintly Madame Elizabeth remained twenty-
four hours at the Conciergerie. She inquired about
the condition of the queen, with the most lively and
eager interest, calling her " her sister," and asked
Richard how long it was since he saw her. He
replied : " She is quite well and wants for nothing.'*

She appeared to be very restless during the entire


night. She would ask Richard every moment what
hour it was, for he slept in a dark room divided from
the alcove in which she lay. She rose very early ; but
Richard was already on his feet. She asked him again
what time it was. He made his watch strike the
hour, and then showed it to her. " My sister had one
very like it," said she, " only it was not wound in
that way." She took a little chocolate, and advanced
to the entrance of the prison. Many great ladies,
who were going to the scaffold along with her, had
already assembled at the same spot. Among others,
was Madame de Senozan, sister of Malesherbes, the
defender of the king, one of the best and most char-
itable women that ever lived. Madame Elizabeth
begged Richard to be sure to present her compliments
to the queen, her sister. Then, one of these ladies,
whose name I have forgotten, a duchess something
or other, I think, said : " Madame, your sister has
already suffered the fate we are now about to suffer

This, with much besides, did Richard relate to me.




Bad Jurors. — In Court Again. — Boulangek Interferes a
Second Time. — Vigorous Protest op the Internuncio and
HIS Counsel. — " These People wish my Death at any

A MONTH and even five weeks slipped by, and
then I was again invited to the Palais, to examine
the list of my jurors. This time I was led through
the hall that was formerly used as a chapel. It is a
very large and lofty vaulted apartment, and had been
turned into a frightful-looking prison. I saw there
seven or eight prisoners, lying on wretched mat-
tresses, and evidently in a state of utter destitution.
The dampness of the place was such that, although I
had only to cross it, I felt chilled to the bone. The
sight of these poor creatures filled me with pity and
compassion, while, at the same time, it made me
reflect on my own more fortunate lot, and I said to
myself : " There is where I also should have been,
perhaps, but for the goodness of M. Richard."

After receiving the list of my jurors, I returned
hastily, in order to read it and let M. Richard see the
names. He read it attentively, and remained for
some time silent. At length, he said, —


" This alarms me ; these jurors are not at all as
good as the first."

" No matter ! " I answered, " I must take them as
they are. This uncertainty is killing me. I want to
be tried, come what may ! "

In spite of this unpleasant occurrence, I preserved
all my coolness. Those who came to visit me were
surprised to see me so calm, and so little disturbed
by the fear of death. When they expressed their
astonishment, I answered : " It is not because I am
ignorant of the danger that threatens me ; but I have
resolved to die with honor and courage. It is the
cause of the Pope that is at stake, and I shall leave
an honored memory behind me."

On the morning of the second day after, I de-
scended through the same dark staircase, and sat
again on the same shameful bench, which was re-
served for the greatest criminals.

When everybody was seated and the court declared
open, the commissary of the Directory said, —

" I demand that the case be adjourned for another

No sooner were the words out of his lips than a
terrible tumult arose in the hall, and the audience
hissed with great heartiness.

I myself rose, and, without asking the President's
permission, I said, —

" Citizen, what motive can have led the commis-
sary of the Directory to demand the adjournment of
my trial, when even the public prosecutor, whose
personal interest it is to see that crime is punished,
judges it proper to be silent ?


" Is, then, citizen Boulanger, commissaiy of the
Directory, my adversary, my prosecutor? If he is,
let him say so openly. But no, his voice is hushed.

"Is it, then, citizen president, against a phantom
that I have to defend myself ? No, no, citizen, this
adversary who hides in the darkness is the Directory,
is the minister of Police. Let them, therefore, come
forth in person, and show me in what I am guilty.
Let them attack me openly, me, a feeble reed, aban-
doned by the whole world, whose sole defence is in
the justice of my cause.

" How can I hope to escape such powerful enemies,
especially when they have recourse to such desperately
perfidious wiles ?

"But I am mistaken. I stand here in the very
sanctuary of justice, and it will cover me with its
aegis. I appeal to you, righteous and unprejudiced
judges, to you who are as incorruptible as the law
itself ; stretch out to me a helping hand. Do not
allow me to suffer the pangs of another month's

" As for myself, I oppose it with all my might.

" Is it not clear that, in the absence of evidence,
in the absence of anything that would lead you to
condemn me, my enemies are determined to let me
pine away in a prison, to let me perish there of misery
and want ?

" Well ! I call Heaven to witness, I call the estima-
able and honest jurors on whose decision my fate
depends to witness, that all the evidence that can
ever be brought against me is before them to-day.

" What is the object of my adversaries ? Are they


expecting a massacre in the prisons, like that of Sep-
tember, 1792, so that, less fortunate than at that bale-
ful era, I may have the thread of my life cut in some
horrible butchery ; a life that, for ten whole years, has
been full of sadness and bitterness, a life over which
the threats of death are incessantly suspended, a life
which has now been for several months agony and
torture ?

" I pray you, then, citizen judges, to order that no
adjournment be permitted ; and that, in spite of the
demand of the commissary Boulanger, my trial be
proceeded with immediately."

My counsel followed me, and did so with all the
eloquence for which he is famed.

But what avail right and justice against weakness
and ambition ?

I have not the least reason to doubt that these
judges were intimidated by the formidable power of
my adversaries; for, after a long deliberation, they
adjourned the case to the month following.

I remember that their ruling filled me with indig-
nation. I forgot for the moment that I was a pris-
oner, and, rushing suddenly from my seat, I escaped
by a door and began running toward the apartment
which overlooks the gallery where the dealers exhibit
their wares. Some one tried to stop me, but in vain.
I kept on running, without knowing where I was
going, when I heard the voice of Richard behind me.
" Where are you going ? " he cried. " Do you want
to make them believe you wish to escape ? "

" No," I answered ; " "I do not wish to escape, but
I do not know where I am going."



" As we are here," he said, " let us go tlirough the
great hail, and we can return to the Conciergerie by
the principal gate."

I took his arm, saying, —

" Forgive me, M. Richard ; I am quite beside my-
self. These people wish my death at any price."

Tliinking to console me, he said, —

" Every one pities you I "

" Well then ! supposing they do," I replied ; " what
good does that do me ? I don't see I am any the bet-
ter for their pity."

A soon as I entered the prison, I ran and threw
myself on my bed, in that very chamber which I dis-
liked so much.

Shortly after, a turnkey came to inform me that the
Abbd de la Boissiere, one of the friends of my child-
hood, desired to see me.

I answered, with some roughness, that I did not
want to meet him. But in a few moments, I repented
my churlishness, and asked that he should be shown in.
It was too late. He had gone, and I have never seen
him since, for he went to live in his native province.

I got up and went to dinner, but I ate very little.
Then came a great number of visitors, who only dis-
turbed me. In short, without knowing why, I be-
sired to be alone.



A COUP d'etat.

Very Bad Jfroks. — Richard's Plan. — The Effects of the
Malaga on M. Marchand. — The Internuncio improvises a
Defence for Madame Colin. — The Melancholy Presenti-
ments OP M. Bellart.

The end of the month arrived without the occur-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryLouis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de SalamonUnpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 → online text (page 18 of 23)