Louis Siffrein Joseph Loncrosé de Salamon.

Unpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 online

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those present, but to you, monsieur, who are the
minister of our Divine Saviour's Vicar on earth, and
now I beg you to give me the absolution I have
given to you."

I confess I was overwhelmed with confusion at
these words, and I had some difficulty in recollecting
the formula which I had to pronounce. Then I
arose and blessed the old man rather than absolved

Meanwhile, all had remained on their knees. The
cur^ said: —

"We can regard ourselves as persons in the last
agony, but yet in full possession of our reason, and
perfectly conscious of what we are doing ; we ought,
therefore, to omit nothing that may obtain for us the
mercy of God. I am about to recite the prayers for
those in the last agony; unite in them with me, so
that God may pity us."

He began the usual litanies, to which we responded
with fervor. The tone in which the saintly priest
uttered the first orison, commencing with these words :
" Depart from this world, Cliristian souls, in the name
of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," etc., melted
almost the whole of us into tears.

Some of the lajonen, however, complained, in a
loud voice, of dying so young, and others invoked
maledictions on our assassins. The good cur^ in-
terrupted them, representing that we must forgive
if we would be forgiven, and that God, in that case,
would be pleased with our submission to His will,
and would receive us into His salvation.

This act of our holy religion being accomplished,


we went back to our own places in the hall. And,
indeed, we were truly like men in the last agony,
like creatures who have had every spring in their
mechanism broken by a long and wasting disease.
It was a lamentable spectacle ! The floor was inun-
dated: sixty-three of us in this apartment ever
since eight in the morning, and none allowed out-
side to satisfy the needs of nature. Consequently,
the stench diffused around us was appalling.

Night came on. We were left without taper or
candle. Fortunately, a bright moon arose resplen-
dent in the heavens, and lit up the darkness that
enveloped us. But I had to acknowledge my self-
deception in imagining that night would put a stop
to the massacres. They were continuing, and the
shrieks of the victims and the howls of their assas-
sins were growing more distinct in the silence of
the night. Then the striking of the clock produced
in me a revulsion of feeling, and the sounds which,
a few hours ago, gave me pleasure and hope, now
filled me with dismay and despair.

At this moment a young man accosted me. He
was a perruquier. He raised his hat and said, —

" I have not the honor of knowing you, but I have
been so much impressed with the courage you have
shown since the morning, that something or other
tells me you are not likely to die. I have come,
therefore, to ask you to do me a little service, when
you leave prison."

" You are mistaken," I answered ; " I am a priest,
and in far more danger than any one else."

"In any case, monsieur, do me the favor to give


this letter to my wife. As for myself," he added,
weeping, "I know the persons who have sent me
here ; they are among the assassins, and waiting for
my death. I live at No. 22 Rue des Amandiers in
the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. I am an honest man,
and that is my sole crime."

" If it does you any pleasure for me to take charge
of your letter, I shall be happy to do so, and, if your
prediction turn out correct, I will carry it to her as
soon as I possibly can, after leaving prison."

The letter was not sealed, and I read it. It was
instinct with all the tenderness and delicate sympa-
thy a husband should experience for his wife. It
was full of the wisest advice, and gave her special
instructions as to the manner in which he wished his
son to be brought up, whom, by the way, he did not
want to belong to his own trade, that of a perruquier.

This unhappy man was massacred, as he had fore-
seen, and I executed the commission intrusted to me.
I carried the letter to his wife, whom I found to be a
very charming young woman. She was dressed in
mourning when I saw her. She had been informed
of the death of her husband before my visit, as I was
unable to go near her for a fortnight after I left
prison. She seemed profoundly affected, questioned
me at length, and repeatedly kissed her husband's

The jailer made his appearance again about ten at
night, with two boys, who brought several baskets of
wine. He said, —

"M. Potion, mayor of Paris, will be here shortly
with a battalion of the National Guard: he will ex-


amine you in person, and those who are not guilty
will not be put to death. I have a few bottles of
wine here, which will refresh you, and also some
candles. We forgot to leave you any until now."

These tidings revived the courage of my compan-
ions at once. They questioned this cruel man, whose
every answer was a falsehood, as he was arranging
the bottles on the table. Their faces shone with joy.
They were no longer the men who, a moment before,
beat their breasts with compunction, prostrated them-
selves on the floor, and besought God's mercy. A
melancholy example of the dying sinner who recovers
unexpectedly! They surrounded the table, and be-
gan drinking their wine and eating their crusts of
bread, as if nothing had happened.

But I was far from being a party to such self-
deception, and I said to the Abbd Godard, from
whom a little self-restraint might have been ex-
pected : —

" Why, how can you, abb^, on the mere word of
that man, who wants only to sell his wine and get
paid for it, become all at once so elated? I do not
envy you whatever pleasure you may derive from
drinking it, but surely this fellow is not speaking the
truth. He was always telling us we were on the
point of being murdered before ; what value can you
attach to the hopeful words he brings us now ? "
! " You are a very queer man," retorted the Abbd
Godard ; '' you see assassins and executioners every-
where. What the jailer has told us is very probable."

I did not answer, and turned my back on him.

Recollecting that I had left a few peaches on the


corner of tlie bench, where I had sat ahnost the whole
day, I went thither, picked them up, and ate them.
While I was thus engaged, my eyes fell on the case
containing my silver knife and fork. I put it in my
pocket, saying, —

" If they kill me, they '11 find it on me, and if I
escape I shall not have to return here in search of it."

You will be astonished, madame, to learn that, the
very moment after I had been exhorting the others to
banish all thoughts of drinking and amusement, and
to prepare for death, I should so far forget my mel-
ancholy position as to fall to eating my two peaches,
instead of awaiting prayerfully the fate reserved for
me. The only explanation I can give of my conduct
at the time is, that it was a singular result of the
levity and inconsistency of the human mind.

When the jailer understood that his wine was
being drunk, he returned to take his bottles and col-
lect his money. Then he added, —

" M. Potion was not able to wait, so you will not be
examined until to-morrow ; but he has left some of
the National Guard for your protection."

Every word of this was a lie. M. Pdtion had never
stirred from the Hotel de Yille for the last three
days,^ and never came near us, and the National
Guard was as actively engaged in the work of assas-
sination as the populace.

However, the tidings brought by this atrocious
scoundrel were sufficient to dispel all the calmness of

1 There seems to be some discrepancy between what the author says
here and his narrative of the visit of Madame Blanchet and Tornd to
Petion's residence on page 41. — Tr.


my poor companions, and they renewed their lamen-
tations and disorderly promenading. After looking
on at their fantastic capers for a while, I joined the
curd of Saint-Jean en Gr6ve, who was walking by
himself, praying and meditating with undisturbed
serenity, as far as I could see.

" You perceive, M. le Curd," I said, "that this jailer
of ours is a rascal. Was I not right in asking our
companions not to drink his wine ? "

"Alas! monsieur," he returned, "you were right
enough, — but you have yet all the fire of youth un-
tempered by experience. If you ever reach my age,
you will also learn to be pitiful and indulgent to
human weakness."

At the same instant, the low, continuous rumble
that came to us from outside increased in volume, and
appeared to be even nearer. I entreated my com-
panions to listen to me. They all immediately ad-
vanced to the place where I was standing. I said to
them : —

"You make so much noise that you are very
likely to attract the attention of the mob. We have
been here only since morning. This hall has never
been used as a prison before, and it is quite possible
the populace are unaware of any prisoners being

Little did I suspect that the jailer was a monster,
and was himself coming at the head of a band of
assassins to point out to them their victims.

" You ought, therefore," I added, " to keep as quiet
as you possibly can, so that, should the murderers
happen to approach in this direction, they may, on


hearing no sound and seeing no light, pass on fur-
ther. Let no one, then, stir from the spot on which
he stands, and let us all await our fate resignedly."

They followed my advice, and some even came and
sat down beside me. Among the latter was the Abb^




The Prison is Invaded. — Fear Gives Wings. — Under the
Pikes. — " Come Forward, Abbe ! — An Excellent Woman,
Who Has Only One Weakness. — Going Before the

Scarcely were we in tliis position, when the two
doors of the hall — they were at the extremities, and
exactly opposite each other — were assailed with vio-
lent and repeated blows. You can form some idea
of the impression these blows made upon us. Our
hearts stood still, and we seemed like beings turned
to stone.

Suddenly, I heard near me a very loud noise. I
turned my head, and noticed that the Abb^ Godard
was no longer beside me. Raising my eyes, I per-
ceived that one of the panes of the window was
wide open.

I confess I felt furiously angry with the Abbd
Godard for the moment. " He is," I said to myself,
" anything but charitable and generous, — he finds a
place to hide in and never gives me a hint of it ! "

I rose abruptly, placed one foot on the " archi-
banco," and the other on its back, and leaped to the
ledge of the window, which was more than fourteen
feet above the ground. Although I was agile enough


in those days, it is still a myster}^ to me how I did it.
From my perch I saw the Abbd Godard in a little
5^ard that seemed to me to be very low. However, I
had to get there by hook or by crook, and, as I was
afraid I might break my legs if I jumped, I resolved
to hang on by the ledge and slide down along the
wall as well as I could. This succeeded, and I
reached the ground without any damage, except a
slight scratch on my thigh, having torn my knee-
breeches. All this takes long in telling, but was
really executed in less than a minute. " I see you,
Abb^ ; what are you doing there ? " I said. " Where
is the door? I see but one." And, indeed, the
one I did see appeared to me to be stopped up with

The yard had evidently been long abandoned by
the monks.

However, thirteen of our companions followed us,
and among them the servant of the Due de Penthifevre,
who was sixty. The fear of death gives wings.

As soon as the mob had broken in the doors of the
prison, they rushed forward, howling, " They have
escaped ! they are escaping ! "

We were soon discovered, and a portion of the
crowd ran round to the little door, which was easily
battered down. Others climbed the walls, which
were not so high on the outside, and began thrusting
at us with their pikes, at the same time uttering vio-
lent outcries and imprecations. Fortunately, the
pikes were very short and did not reach us. But
they were alarming enough for all that, and we
squatted in the angle of the wall opposite to escape



them. In fact, we were half-dead with terror, and I
confess I trembled as much as the rest. I murmured
in French the " Our Father," the Angelical Saluta-
tion, and an Act of Contrition. I feared we were
about to be massacred on the spot, in the same man-
ner in which the prisoners at the Carmes, as I learned
afterward, were massacred.

Such was our situation when a gruff voice sud-
denly called out, —

" Abbe Godard ! "

You can easily understand that our good abb^ was
in no hurry to show himself, or even to answer the
summons. Dreading that his silence might serve
only to irritate the mob, I said to him : —

" Come now, abbd, they know you ; why do you
not come forward, then? If you hesitate, you are
sure to be massacred on the spot. Perhaps your tall
figure — you will remember he was six feet one — will
strike them with awe."

These words gave him a little courage, and he ad-
vanced toward the door ; but he had scarcely reached
it when he was seized by the collar by a big, fat
ruffian, who hauled him through it, shouting : " We
have him, the brigand! Come along, you old ras-
cal ! " Then I saw them both disappear in the

I felt quite sure that he was led away to be mas-
sacred, and for two weeks I remained certain of his
death. But one fine day I met my abbd, as large as
life, strolling along a street in the Faubourg Saint-
Antoine. I was so astonished that for a few moments
I could not utter a word. " Why," I at length ex-


claimed, " it is the Abb^ Goclard ! " He told me that
the men who appeared so ferocious were only there,
in fact, to save him, and it was with the object of
throwing dust in the eyes of the others that they
acted in the way I have related, and pretended to
ill treat him. He added that he had not the least
doubt himself but that his last hour was come.
;■ These men had been sent by Manuel, the famous
Attorney-General of the Commune. He did not give
them any written order for fear of becoming "sus-
pect." Even as it was, he was in great dread of being
compromised, as well as of being disobeyed by his

The abb^ was indebted to the entreaties of Man-
Tiers mistress, whom he had known for a long time,
for his safety. Her son was afterward a doctor. She
was as humpbacked as ^sop, but quite as witty, and
had a very pretty face. Except for her weakness in be-
coming the mistress of a scoundrel, she was an excel-
lent woman. Still, perhaps I am too hard on Manuel,
who perished because he refused to condemn his
august master to death.

This lady owned a house at Meudon, and, as the
king used to visit his chateau there for the purpose
of hunting, during the years preceding his imprison-
ment, she had often opportunities of meeting him in
the adjoining wood. The monarch, being doubtless
charmed by the extraordinary winsomeness of this
lovely person, one day asked her who she was, and
she gained his entire confidence in the end. As I
mentioned before, she was full of wit, and her man-
ners and conversation were equally attractive. She


gave the king information on all matters with which
she was acquainted, and, in fact, he had made arrange-
ments for her occupying apartments in the Tuileries,
before the 10th of August. Indeed, our unhappy-
sovereign had excited her interest to the highest
degree. She had entire control over Manuel, who
would have consented, if a certain illustrious person-
age had adopted his plans, to effect the king's escape
from prison, in the early days of his detention, when
he had still a part of his household with him.

But these details have too little to do with the
massacres that I should dwell any longer on them.
However, I can certify to their accuracy, having heard
them from the lips of this excellent woman herself,
when I had afterward occasion to see her. If I have
ventured on this short digression it is because I am
tired of always talking of myself, and also, madame,
because it gives me an opportunity of mentioning an
incident in the life of that august and too unfortunate
sovereign whose favor and confidence your grand-
father and father have deserved and enjoyed.

Now I return to myself. No one else was called,
after the Abbd Godard had disappeared. The assas-
sins stood before the door, looking at us curiously,
and without anger, apparently. Then, without pay-
ing much attention to what I was doing, carried
away by my natural impulsiveness, impatient to put
an end to this cruel uncertainty, and thinking that,
perhaps, my action might have some influence on
them, I went quickly toward the door, and said, —

" Here I am ; I am not guilty."

The wretches, believing, doubtless, that I was try-


ing to escape, levelled their pikes at me. I do not
know whether it was imagination or reality, but I
thought the point of a pike touched me, and I took
a step backward. At the same time, I cried out, with
all my might, —

" Unhappy men, what would you do ! I declare to
you, before Heaven, that I am not guilty ! "

At these words, a middle-aged man, apparently
from the country, his hands all red with blood,
dressed in a wagoner's blouse which dripped with
blood also, and carrying a lighted torch, said to me :

" Come with me, and, if you are not guilty, no one
will do you any harm."

I took his arm immediately. The crowd, which,
at this point, was very closely packed, separated into
two lines, and allowed me to pass through, without
insulting me. During the whole passage, I did not
utter a single word ; however, it was very long, for
we had to cross an extensive yard and part of a gar-
den. We were escorted on our way by an immense
crowd of armed men, our path lit up by numerous
torches and the rays of a bright moon, which shone
serenely over this vile band of cut-throats.




The Court and the Judges. — The Strategy of the
Internuncio. — The Passing of the Martyrs.

At length we reached the dwelling of the monks,;
and entered a low hall, opening on the garden, through
a glass folding-door. A large table, covered with a
green cloth, stood in the middle, and on it several
closely-written sheets of paper, and an inkstand with
pen-holders. It was surrounded by a number of per-
sons who were all disputing so hotly that they paid
no attention to me. A man in the centre, dressed in
black and even with his hair powdered, appeared to

The man who had offered me his arm as far as tliis
spot now left me, and I found myself stationed at a
window opposite the door. The sill was wide enough
to afford me a seat, and I sat down. Believing that
nobody was heeding me, I looked carefully around
and discovered that I had been followed, not only by
those who escaped into the little yard, but also by
those who remained in the hall. They all came, as
if mechanically, toward the spot where I was, and
then formed a line reaching to the door. I had the
Due de Penthievre's servant just in front of me,


and of course was the farthest away of any of them
from the door. I could not be placed more favor-
ably. If they began with those nearest the door,
as in fact they did, I should naturally be the last
to be massacred.

As far as I could judge, we were not known, and
it would appear from some observations of our cap-
tors that the committee of surveillance of the Mairie
had neglected to forward a list of those prisoners
whose names were not entered on the jail-book.
Such turned out to be actually the case. All that
was said about us was that we were non-juring

In spite of my dislike to abandoning the ecclesi-
astical habit, I had decided to do so after the 10th
of August. I therefore told Madame Blanchet that,
as she was so anxious to have me cast aside the
robes of my order, I would go the full length, and
she must provide me with a thorough disguise. I
requested her to get me a gray coat, red waistcoat,
and white silk stockings.

As this striking costume was brought to me only
on the eve of my imprisonment, I had forgotten to
tie my hair. But after entering my prison, I tied
it with the white string of my knee-breeches, and,
on the whole, was scarcely recognizable. Moreover,
I was very poorly clad. Arrested at midnight, and
obliged to dress in a hurry, I had seized a miserable
old coat, which happened to be near my hand. I
had a very common-looking appearance too, for,
contrary to my usual custom, I had not got shaved
and powdered since Saturday. Then my face was


anjrthing but attractive, on account of my fever,
and the moral and physical suffering I had endured
for twenty-four hours.

We were now awaiting our fate, when a violent
quarrel arose among our judges. They were furious
because certain persons, and especially the commis-
saries, were not at their post. Many insisted that
persons should be sent to drag them out of their
beds and bring them there by force, if necessary.
Others said : " So much the worse for them. If
they refuse to take their share in the national ven-
geance, we can denounce them to the Commune."

At length, by repeatedly ringing his bell, the presi-
dent effected some show of order. A man took the
floor and made a little speech, of which the follow-
ing is the substance,—

"We are talking and acting like idiots. What
difference does it make whether such and such per-
sons are here or not here? We are intrusted with
the task of avenging the people. You have before
you a heap of wretches who await the just punish-
ment of their crimes. These people are all calotins,
— and when I say calotiiis^ you know I mean priests.
They are sworn enemies of the nation, for they have
refused to take the oath. You know, too, that many
of them have tried to escape, thereby showing they
had no confidence in the justice of patriots. They
are all nothing but aristocrats. We should deal with
them at once, then, for certainly they are the most
guilty of all."

As I noticed that only a small number seemed to
approve the words of this wicked man, I advanced


to the table, and raising my hands to heaven, I cried,
in impassioned tones: "No, no, we did not try to
escape ; only, at the noise made by breaking in the
door, some of us lost our heads, and in our terror
jumped into that yard, at the risk of breaking our
legs. We believed assassins were coming to murder
us ; but as soon as we recognized the National Guards,
we ran to meet them."

Here some one interrupted me and said, —

" After all, it is natural for man to fly danger. We
had better examine them, and then we shall learn
whether their sole crime is that of flying."

Thereupon, the president rose and asked, —

" Do you wish to examine them ? " And all an-
swered : " Yes, yes ! "

Upon this, the president turned to the right and
addressed the person who was at the head of the line,
next the door. It was the curd of Saint-Jean en
Gr^ve. The poor old man, who walked very slowly,
had not been able, doubtless, to penetrate farther
into the hall. The examination was short, like all
those that followed.

" Have you taken the oath ? " the president asked

The curd answered calmly, —

" No, I have not taken it."

At the same instant, a sabre stroke, aimed at his
head, but luckily missing it, knocked off his wig and
exposed to view a bald head, which the years had till
then res];)ected, but which assassins were soon to lay
low. But then strokes fell swift and sharp, now
on the head, now on the body, and in a few seconds


he lay stretclied on the floor. He was seized by the
feet and dragged outside. His murderers quickly
returned, shouting : " Vive la Nation I "

This death caused me the prof oundest emotion : I
trembled in every joint ; my knees bent under me,
and I had barely time to sit, or rather fall down, on
the little window-sill. With eyes full of tears, I
murmured to myself : " Pray for me, great saint, pray
for me, happy old man, who are now in Heaven, pray
that the absolution you gave me on earth may not be
unavailing. Obtain for me the favor of dying with

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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 7 of 23)