Louis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de Salamon.

Unpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 online

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Gascony, and had been paid so poorly at the Hotel-
Dieu that all he had about him was a few sous to buy

"Well," said I, "you can keep your bread. I
think my breakfast will soon be here, for I do not
live a great way off, and there will surely be enough
for you and me.'*

He was so well pleased that he took my hand
and tried to kiss it, saying, —

" I know now who you are, and your charitable
conduct is enough of itself to tell me that you are
the worthy minister of the common Father of the

My own emotion was great, and I pressed his hand

The next moment, a covered basket was brought
to me by a turnkey. It was my breakfast, and,
among other things, contained an excellent soup a la
Borghese. My poor Blanchet was very clever and


skilful in most things, especially in sewing, but, as a
cook, she was hardly a success. "When I dined at
home then, which occurred very seldom, she used to
give me only soup and roast beef. And I found both
in the basket, as well as some fine peaches, which she
knew I was very fond of. She had added a silver
spoon and fork to the provisions.

I gave the spoon to the abb^, who ate all the soup,
and kept the fork for myself. He made such a
hearty meal that I sent the turnkey for more bread ;
in fact, it was a pleasure to see him eating, — he did it
so well. As for myself, I managed to dispose of two
mutton cutlets and the wing of a chicken.

I shared my basket with the abbe every day. But
I had not the opportunity of continuing my hospi-
tality long, for we left this infectious and horrible
place on the 1st of September, as you will soon learn.

I have said " infectious," and you will find it easy
enough to believe me when you know that there were
eighty of us packed together in a sort of garret that
was quite too small for such a number. The roof
was so low that, as I mentioned before, most of us
could not stand up ; the air was foul, and we slept,
ate, and walked on straw, which was often not changed
for several days. The fastidiousness of modern man-
ners would revolt at other details, and therefore I feel
a certain hesitation in saying, although the truth of
history requires me to be somewhat explicit, that we
were obliged to satisfy all the needs of nature in a
barrel, placed in a corner of this hideous den, which
was emptied only every twenty-four hours, and not
always then.


A tall, fine-looking young man was suffocated by
the stench, and did not recover, although he was
immediately carried into the yard.

Such was the spot, then, where we tried to snatch
an interval of repose when night came on ; that is to
say, we flung ourselves on the straw, but courted
sleep in vain.

The venerable cur^ of Saint- Jean, who was as gay
as a lark and as saintly as an anchorite, did a good
deal to keep up our spirits. And here I may remark,
in passing, that he was a shining example of God's
predilection for the kind of piety that does not ex-
clude amiability and cheerfulness ; it is far superior,
in His eyes, to the variety that is always pulling long
faces and censuring one's neighbor. The good priest
related comical stories that made us fairly roar, so
that, in spite of the numerous reasons I had to feel
melancholy, I laughed till the exercise became really
painful. A person hearing but not seeing us might
be excused for fancying that we were reclining on
couches of down and purple. This lasted till one in
the morning, and I was obliged to put a stop to it.
" Come, come ! M. le Cur^," I said, " we have had
enough ; let us try and sleep ! " He halted in the
middle of his last story, and was silent for the re-
mainder of the night. But God lost nothing by the
mirthfulness of our vivacious comrade, who was up
at four, or rather on his knees (for, on account of his
height, he could not stand straight) praying to God
and reading his breviary, as soon as he had sufficient
light for the purpose.




Manuel. — The Abb6 Godard, Grand Vicar op Toulouse. —
Message from the Bishops shut up in the Carmes to the
Internuncio. — The Abbe Simon, Canon op Saint-Quentin,
AND Revolutionary Loyalty. — Artfulness and Artless-
NES8. — The Abbe Sicard and the Watchmaker Monotte.
— How will it End? — Where are we Going?

At length, Manuel, the attorney of the Commune,
came to announce to us on Saturday, the 1st of Sep-
tember, that day of horrible memory, a decree passed
by the municipality, according to the terms of which
we were to be transferred that same evening. He
did not venture beyond the threshold, as if he had to
do with plague-stricken creatures ; and, no doubt, he
was afraid of being suffocated by the stench. He
added that his object in coming was to give us notice.
He left the decree behind him; it was a printed
sheet, about the size of the posters affixed to the
city walls.

The news drove nearly all my companions wild with
joy. They thought they were at last to see the end
of their misery. Some said : " We are sure to leave
this evening ; very likely we shall be deported, and
we must collect money for the voyage." Others ex-


claimed : " They will probably send us to the Carmes,
and we shall be much better off there."

But I did not share their confidence. I was lean-
ing against one of the loop-holes that supplied the
place of windows, and when I heard these words :
"You are to be transferred," I gave up all hope.
" Why," I said to myself, " that means, in the lan-
guage of the law, that we are to be incarcerated in a
state prison, for here we are only in a police-station.
They are going to lock us up, and the end will be
that we shall be tried for a criminal offence."

I was absorbed in these reflections when the Abbd
Godard, a man well versed in ecclesiastical science,
but very credulous and somewhat cowardly, went up
to where the decree was hanging, and said : " Come
here, I am going to read it out aloud." And as he
could not stand — for he was over six feet — without
knocking his head against the roof, he knelt down.

I confess I was full of pity for their simplicity;
and, as in certain emergencies I find it absolutely im-
possible to conceal what I think, I said : " I do not
wish to discourage you, but how can you expect
mercy from the Commune of the 10th of August?
You will have no chance of getting out of prison."
I added : " You are simply going to be transferred
from one prison to another ; I know the meaning of
judicial terms, and you, too, as men of education,
ought surely to be aware that to be ' transferred *
does not mean to be released. I believe it would be
much more to our advantagfe if we remained some
time longer in this prison, which, notwithstanding all
its horrors, is still but a police-station, than to enter


a state prison, where we shall have to endure the
sickness of heart that springs from justice delayed."

"You are a visionary," answered the Abb^ Godard,
" and everything assumes a sable hue in your eyes."
And he broke out laughing.

Manuel, with an affected air of kindness, had told
us that we might receive our relatives and friends
during the day.

But, as far as I was concerned, I must acknowledge
that I paid little attention to what was passing aroand
me. I was again sunk in a deep revery, and had
almost lost all consciousness of my situation, when
the jailer entered abruptly and pronounced my name.
I recovered my self-possession immediately, and ran
to the door, which remained open. There I found a
man who was poorly clad and very advanced in years.
He saluted me respectfully and inquired whether I
was the Abbd de Salamon, internuncio of the Pope.
" Hush ! " I said quickly ; "do not utter those words.
What can I do for you, in the sad position in which I
am placed ? "

Still, my appearance was by no means calculated
to inspire pity. I had not changed my habits in
prison, and continued to act just as I had done in
my own chamber after rising ; by this I mean that I
was fresh shaved, and had my hair powdered in pre-
cisely the same fashion in which it is to-day, except
that in those days, alas ! I had a good deal more of
it. Madame Blanchet had taken care that I should
not want for clean linen. Consequently, my external
appearance afforded a strong contrast to that of my
companions, who were as wretched looking a body


of human beings as can well be imagined, with their
stubby, neglected beards, and their skull-caps, which
they never took off night or day, all covered with
down. They resembled those convalescents in the
public hospitals who wander listlessly along the cor-
ridors, not knowing what to do with themselves.

" I am a priest," said this individual ; " but I have
not been imprisoned, and I am sent to you by the
Archbishop of Aries, the bishops of Saintes and
Beauvais,^ and the priests incarcerated in the
Carmes. They have learned with the liveliest sor-
row that you, the representative of the Pope and so
necessary to the welfare of the French Church, are
a prisoner. As they are unable to communicate
with the Sovereign Pontiff, they have ordered me,
should I meet you, to express the profound respect
they entertain for you, and to ask your advice, es-
pecially as to the line of conduct to be adopted with
regard to the new oath of liberty and equality which
has been decreed, and which every one is obliged
to take."

It was, indeed, a lamentable fact that the new
legislative assembly had begun its labors with the
proclamation of the Republic, and had then decreed
the oath of liberty and equality.

My answer to the worthy priest was as follows:
"I am moved to tears by the excessive kindness of
the Archbishop of Aries and his illustrious breth-
ren." And in this I said nothing but the truth. I
was, in fact, penetrated with fear and respect at the
spectacle of those great prelates, as eminent for vir-

1 Mgr. Dulau and the two Rochefoucaulds.


tue as for knowledge, coming to seek counsel from
me, a young priest simply, and a person who, though
invested with an exalted dignity, was far from being
on a level with these mirrors of the Church. For a
few moments I was incapable of uttering a word;
but, recovering my presence of mind, I continued:
"Convey to them the expression of my humble and
fervent veneration and gratitude. But what am I
except a mere priest, although honored with the
confidence of the Sovereign Pontiff? How could I
presume to offer advice to the Archbishop of Aries,
that new Chrysostom, or to the Abbe de Rastignac
and the Abbd Bonnaud, those distinguished clergy-
men who have lately published works on those very
subjects of the most luminous and elevated char-
acter? It is for them rather to enlighten me on
these questions."

"Monsieur," he answered, "your modesty does
you honor, and it will give me great pleasure to
make it known to those who have sent me to you.
But have the goodness to tell me what you think of
the new oath of liberty and equality. I entreat you
to do so."

"I cannot have any idea as to the intentions of
the Pope, as this oath is quite recent. But I ven-
ture to assert that he will not regard it with favor,
and, since you persist in asking my opinion, I have
only this to answer : I shall not take the liberty of
blaming those who take the oath, but, as for myself,
I am fully determined to refuse to do so. Tell
those gentlemen we shall go over the matter care-
fully when we meet again."


Alas! it was fated that we should never meet in
this world!

While I was in the little ante-room of our prison,
a priest named Simon, canon of Saint-Quentin, came
in. He was over eighty years old, and wanted to
see his brother, who was seventy-five. He was al-
lowed to enter; but, when he was about to leave,
one of the jailers said to him: "You are a priest;
since you have entered the prison you must remain.
You will be led before the tribunal with the rest in
a few minutes." He was massacred at the Abbaye,
and his brother, who was imprisoned before him,
escaped. Strange capriciousness of human destiny!
or rather, immutable decrees of Divine Providence,
before which we must bow in adoration!

After returning to my prison, I bathed my head
with aromatic vinegar. Blanchet had managed to
hand me a bottle of it secretly, so that I might have
some way of overcoming the foul odors and keeping
up my courage.

My poor, dear Blanchet, whose devotion was al-
ways on the watch, and always searching for oppor-
tunities of serving me, used to remain in the vestibule
of the prison, in order that she might at least hear
the sound of my voice, or get a few words from me
betimes. She never stirred from her post until night-
fall, when the turnkeys hunted her away.

One morning I heard her weeping bitterly, and
said, —

" What is the matter with you now? "

"Oh, monsieur," she replied, between her sobs,
"I was at the Grand-March^ this morning, looking


out for the nicest peaches I could find for you ; the
agitation in Paris is more frightful than ever, and
the execrations of the rabble against the priests are
so terrible that I am sure we are on the eve of some
great misfortune. And you will not let me do some-
thing to get you out of prison ! "

" No," I answered, " don't be discouraged, — I must
share the fate of my brave companions. Eemember,
if anything happens, that all my house contains is

" Indeed ! " she rejoined, with a mixture of tears
and indignation, "and what good will what is in
your house do me, if I lose you ? "

Too much affected to continue the conversation,
I turned away abruptly.

When I re-entered the room, I found my com-
panions in a state of great excitement. Many were
already making up their parcels as if they were about
to leave in a few moments. Others were writing
letters to their friends and relatives, announcing the
good news, and asking money for the voyage, in case
they were deported. In fact, I saw two hundred
louis handed to the vicar general of Strasbourg, of
whom I have already spoken. It was such things as
this that gave occasion to the reports spread after the
massacre — and I have often heard them myself
since — that the priests had their pockets stuffed
with gold to pay the Prussians and bring about
a counter-revolution ! ^

We remained in a state of uncertainty until Satur-

1 It was also said in 1870 that the priests had carriages filled with
gold, which they were sending to the Prussians 1


day, the 1st of September, 1792. On that day, at
eleven in the evening, a member of the Commune of
the 10th of August, draped in his tricolor scarf, said
to us in a loud voice : " Sixty-three of those who
have been longest here will be transferred ; let them
come forward until I take down their names."

Although I was one of the newest arrivals, I
hurried forward and presented myself — I really
cannot tell why I did so. My name was entered
without any question being put to me. It must
assuredly have been an inspiration from Heaven ; for
if I am now in the land of the living, it is owing
to the step taken by me then, as you will soon

We were ordered to descend, one after the other,
to the yard of the Palais.

Fifteen or eighteen of our companions remained
behind us in prison. The most celebrated of them
was the Abb^ Sicard, the teacher of the deaf and
dumb. He was, however, transferred with the rest
on the following day at two o'clock, just at the very
moment when the massacre began, and when the
others were being butchered, without even the pre-
tence of an examination, as they were getting out of
the carriages.

The Abb^ Sicard was the only one saved, and
owed his escape to a watchmaker of the Rue des
Augustins named Monotte, who was a notorious
patriot and a great revolutionist, but, in his way,
a sort of philanthropist as well. He threw himself
in front of the assassins, and, baring his breast,
shouted : " Kill me, but spare this man, whose life is



so necessary to suffering humanity." The assassins,
seeing the abb^ protected by so renowned a patriot,
lowered their pikes and sabres, and let him go,
slightly wounding him, though, as I have heard, in
the ear. Unfortunately, he did not at once avail
himself of his liberty, and was soon afterward again
incarcerated in one of those little lock-ups, known
in the slang of the day as "violons."

Have the goodness, madame, to excuse this slight
digression. I have made it with the object of show-
ing you that Divine Providence had already begun
to shield me, by inspiring me with the happy thought
of writing down my name among those who were
to be transferred. If I had remained at the Mairie,
I was inevitably doomed to a death of horror. I was
sure to be butchered as I alighted from the carriage,
with no hope that another Monotte would interpose
to save my life. But I return to my subject.

As I have already stated, we descended to the
yard ; we were then hustled into the little carriages
that were brought for us, — six into each.

As I was stepping into mine, I happened to turn
my head, and perceived my whole household assem-
bled on my right. Blanchet was sobbing as if her
heart would break. She called to me to tell her
where we were going. I answered, with a rough-
ness of which I repented immediately after : " Why
do you come to disturb me with your tears and make
me lose courage ? How can I tell where they are
dragging me ? Follow the carriage, if you like, and
you will learn." But all the reply the poor woman
made to my harsh words was to seize my hand and


kiss it. I drew it back sharply and entered tlie

The doleful procession began its march. An ob-
server might have fancied we were going to execu-
tion by torch-light. We were guarded on every side,
and had all the appearance of criminals being con-
ducted to the scaffold. A dismal silence, as well as
a darkness rendered more intense by a sky covered
with clouds, gave additional horror to the sort of
funeral procession in which we were taking part.

We passed along the Quai des Orfevres, across the
Pont-JSTeuf, and through the Rue Dauphine and the
Carrefour de Bussy. "Why, they are not driving
us to the Cannes I " said some one in my carriage;
" we are leaving the street to the left of it, and going
in the direction of the Abbaye." In fact, we were
passing in front of the tower which is used as a mili-
tary prison, and in which my friend. President de
Champlatreux, was detained at the time. He escaped
the massacre in which so many of us were to be
victims, but only to die on the scaffold afterward.
We went on further. "Where are we going?"
I said in my turn. I had hardly spoken, when we
entered the Rue Sainte-Marguerite, which leads to
the yard of the Benedictines.

We were escorted, along the whole way, not only
by a multitude of armed men, but by crowds of the
common people also. However, they kept silence,
and seemed to be following us from curiosity merely.




Canaille ! — The Eefectort op the Monks. — The Military
Prisoners. — An Unpleasant Bed-Fellow. — The Abbe
ViTALi, Vicar op Saint-Merri. — Madame Blanchet is not
Idle. — Torne, Constitutional Archbishop op Bourges,
AND Petion, Mayor op Paris. — M. Clement de Saint-
Palais. — The Ex-Lie dtenant-General op the Armies op
THE King.

We were ushered into a large hall, which was used
as a guard-house by the National Guard. The fact
that they wore the uniform of the nation did not pre-
vent some among them from receiving us with the
coarsest insults. Besides, we had no place to sit
down, for there were neither chairs nor benches.

This unfriendly reception, and the idea that I
should have to spend the night in such a dreary
abode, upset my courage completely. I was seized
with a cold perspiration, and my fever returned. I
staggered, and had to lean on the shoulder of one of
my companions, saying to him ; " And so, this is the
place in which we must pass the night ! I am afraid
I am going to faint."

" I cannot be of much service to you," he answered;
"we are all equally helpless in the midst of this
canaille. The only thing for us to do is to suffer,


and not indulge in any womanish lamentations.
Lean on me."

At this moment I saw a man enter who appeared
to be giving orders. I approached him and said :

" Monsieur, shall we have to stay here the whole

" It looks like it," he answered. " You were not
expected; this place was intended for soldiers, and
we made no preparations to receive you."

"For Heaven's sake, monsieur, conduct me to a
room where I can sit down. You can see I am in a
fever, or, if you cannot, please feel my pulse."

He paused a moment before replying. Then he
said : " Well, I will see what can be done," and went

He returned soon after — it was about one o'clock
— and told me to follow him.

I did so, and was led into a very large prison, lit
only by a single lamp. The roof was supported by
pillars. I learned afterward that I was in what had
once been the refectory of the monks.

There were eighty-three prisoners, all soldiers or
gentlemen, arrested on the 10th of August, or the
days following it, with one exception.

This exception was a priest named Vitali, cur^ of
Saint-Merri, a fine-looking man of charming manners.
On the next day we had some conversation, and I
found we had once known each other. He belonged
to my native country, and we were, in fact, taught
the rudiments of Latin together ; but I had lost sight
of him ever since I was nine years old, having been
sent at that period to continue my studies at the


oratory in Lyons. Indeed, the rest of my life, I may
say, has been passed far away from the home of my
fathers. I was delighted at this happy meeting,
which was not to last very long, however, as you
will soon discover.

All these prisoners were stretched on mattresses
lying on the floor.

You can easily conceive that the noise made by the
prison door, opened abruptly without warning, at one
in the morning, awoke every one. Each raised his
head; some sat up on their wretched beds, to see
who was coming at such an hour. Many recognized
me at once, and said : " Ah, it is the Abbd de Sala-
mon, ex-Councillor of the Parliament of Paris!"
And then there was a dispute as to who should offer
me a share of his couch.

But I did not recognize any of them — such a crowd
of people in cotton nightcaps were not easily recog-
nizable ; and, thanking them from my heart, I said :

" I think I shall borrow a part of his mattress from
the gentleman who is next to me, and who has had
the kindness to invite me to do so, although he is not
acquainted with me."

Scarcely were the words out of my mouth, when
I perceived that this gentleman was a negro, who
was about to be tried for desertion, as I learned

In spite of this discovery, I lay down beside him,
without undressing ; after a time, however, the odor
became unendurable. I turned on the other side,
and tried to sleep ; I succeeded, but the noise made
by my companions awoke me before daylight. They


were nearly all sitting on their mattresses, chattering
away as loud as they could, complaining of the man-
ner in wliich they were treated by the commissaries,
who had not put in an appearance for the last three
days, and lamenting that they were not allowed to
purchase the things absolutely necessary for them in
the city.

I have been in five prisons during the Revolution, —
twice in the Mairie, then successively in the Abbaye,
the Grande Force, the Grande Police, and the Con-
ciergerie, and I have noticed in every case that the
prisoners were always inclined to make complaints,
and even to revolt.^

When the day was a little advanced, the jailer
entered and said to me, —

" There is a woman yonder who wants to speak to
you, but you cannot see her 5 you may go to the

Of course, you have guessed it was poor Blanchet,
come to take my orders.

Then, reflecting that our imprisonment might be
long and even dangerous, I began, for the first time,

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