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Unpublished memoirs of the internuncio at Paris during the Revolution, 1790-1901 online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 8 of 23)
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the same calmness and sweetness and resignation you
have just shown."

It was next the turn of the Abbd Bouzet, grand
vicar of Rheims, with whose brother — he was a
major — I afterwards became well acquainted. The
president asked : " Have you taken the oath ? " He
replied in a voice so weak that I scarcely heard
it : "I have not taken it." Then they cried : " Away
with him ! " Immediately, several assassins separated
him from the others, surrounded him, and pushed
him before them into the garden, which was the scene
of the massacre, and on a level with the hall. I
looked mechanically before me, and saw two arms
tossing about in the air, apparently parrying the
blows of pike and sabre. I turned my head away
quickly, saying to myself: "I cannot escape death,
since I have not taken the oath." Then the cry of
" Vive la Nation ! " was anew repeated. The Abbd
Bouzet was no more.

The poor attorney, for whom I had invented a
plausible little defence, was the next victim. The


unfortunate man forgot all my story. Instead of
declaring that he was no priest, he lost his head and
cried : " I accuse myself of harboring a non-juiing
priest in my house." Thereupon, all cried out:
"Oh I the wretch! he has tried to save a calotin!''*
They even added an insulting epithet wliich I would
not dare to reproduce here. Then they vociferated ;
" Death ! death ! " They struck him down on the
spot. His wig fell off, like that of the poor curd.
He was dragged out of the hall, and a little after,
hideous yells announced that he was dead.

The Abbd Capparuis, a townsman of my own, was
the next to fall. He was a man of a very timorous
character. He had at one time done parochial work
in the parish of St. Paul, where he was universally
venerated for his virtues.

At this moment, the worthy servant of the Due de
Penthifevre turned to me ; his eyes were full of tears.
" You must endeavor to be calm, my friend," I said
to him ; " they will soon see what you are — Why,
what do you imagine they could do to a poor man
like you? But be sure and tell them you are an
unfortunate servant, the father of a family with ever
so many children, and that you were arrested as you
were passing along the Rue des Arts. Above all, do
not lose your head, like the attorney. Now go a little
away from me."

My plan was to isolate myself as much as possible,
so that those nearest the table, seeing me alone, might
at last forget me, and I might succeed in slipping out
at the first favorable opportunity. I do not know if
this excellent man understood me, but he went away


at once and joined his companions. The number of
them had now considerably diminished. The assas-
sins had murdered, one after the other, the Abbd
Gervais, the grand vicar of Strasbourg, my poor
friend of the Hotel-Dieu, and the President of the
Superior Council of Corsica.

It was now, perhaps, about three in the morning. I
say "perhaps," for I no longer paid any attention to
the stroke of the clock. I was becoming indifferent
to the massacres that were going on around me, and
had no longer thought for any one except myself,
although, by the glare of the numerous torches that
lit up this horrible execution, I saw all my compan-
ions perishing one by one. I felt in every part of my
body a deadly chill, and my feet were frozen. All
my blood had flown to my head. Sharp pains tor^^
tured my face, and I experienced the same sensations
I might have if it was actually burning. I fre-
quently passed my right hand over my head, and, in
revolving different ways of escaping, I rubbed the
scalp so violently that I unconsciously tore out the
hair by the roots. And so, from that time, my hair
began to fall out in handfuls ; in less than three
months, I became as bald as I am now, and yet, be-
fore that period, few could boast of a finer head of
hair than I had.

Well, I must acknowledge to my confusion that,
in spite of my imminent peril, and although my last
moments were slipping away, I was neither wholly
absorbed in God nor resigned to die. On the con-
trary, all my thoughts were busy with the best means
of avoiding the hideous fate that was on the watch


for me. These sabre-strokes and pike-tlirusts turned
the very blood in my veins to ice with the chill horror
of the thing, but failed to penetrate me with the piety
that ought to fill us all at our last hour. I recited,
indeed, the Pater and Ave, and also the Act of Contri-
tion, but without any of that profound emotion which
the approach of death inspires. This idea dominated
every other in my mind : " What should I do to
avoid the question concerning the oath?"

Sometimes the massacres would stop for a few
minutes to give the assassins an opjjortunity to listen
to the harangues of deputations from other sections,
which handed in reports on the condition of their
prisons and the massacres that were going on in them.
Those of the Homme-Arm^ and the Arsenal, in par-
ticular, gave lengthy descriptions of the horrors tak-
ing place in La Force and Saint-Firmin.

At last the turn of the perruquier came. He de-
fended himself with much courage, but his destruction
was a foregone conclusion, as he had told me. The
principal charges against him were that he did not fol-
low the Faubourg Saint-Antoine on the 10th of August,
and was an aristocrat ; therefore he must die !

They then examined the two poor Minim monks.
The president asked them if they had taken the oath.
Before they answered, one of those around the table,
who was, doubtless, acquainted with them, undertook
their defence, saying, —

" They are not priests, and, therefore, incapable of
taking the oath."

"But they are fanatics," retorted another; "they
are rascals, and ought to be put to death ! "


These words occasioned a dispute between the
wretches. The vilest among them insisted that they
should be dragged into the garden and massacred.
Others, seizing the arms of the brothers, tried to
keep them in the hall. This struggle attracted my
attention, and I remarked that the young sub-deacon,
who was so anxious for death, opposed much less
resistance to those who wished to drag him outside
than he did to those who were endeavoring to save
him. At last, the baser element was victorious, and
they were massacred.




The Deputation of the Marseillais. — A Blood-drinker. —
The Internuncio as a Jacobin Orator. — Tragic Death op
TWO Young Guardsmen. — A Gleam of Hope.

Then the Abbd Simon was massacred. He was
the old priest, you will recollect, who came to the
Mairie to see his brother, and was detained as a
prisoner. "Since you are here," they said to him,
" remain ; this is a place where you are sure to find
yourself in any case before very long." When the old
man was dead, there arrived a deputation from the
committee of the Jacobins, who used to assemble in
the Church of the Cordeliers. These were very blood-
thirsty people, who numbered the famous Marat
among their leaders. They were almost all members
of that celebrated Marseillais band that came to
Paris to take part in the outrages of the 10th of

They were received with great honors. The presi-
dent begged them to approach, and requested them
to speak. The leader of the deputation then read an
order of the day passed by the Union of the Corde-
liers, demanding that two prisoners, who were not
present, being in another hall of the Abbaye, should
be pardoned. The president, after sounding the


praises of the Marseillais and the Union of Corde-
liers, replied that the request would be taken into
consideration at once. Accordingly, he asked whether
there was any opposition to the motion.

A young man belonging to the Unity section, who
had his hair powdered, but wore a wagoner's blouse
stained with blood, here rose and said, —

" M. le President, I am opposed to the demand of
the Marseillais. The prisoners whose release you
ask for are scoundrels, royalist conspirators. I know
them. The time for indulgence is passed. The
moderates are doing us more harm than the aristo-
crats." At length, after uttering a thousand hideous
imprecations, he concluded with this atrocious pro-
posal: "I move that we decree 'cruelty.'"

The fury with which he spoke froze the blood in
my veins. Ah, how could I ever escape the rage
of such a butcher! However, I remarked that the
people had heard him in silence, and that there was
no applause. Encouraged by what looked like a kiiid
of disapproval, I endeavored to recall all my cour-
age, and making a final struggle for self-control, I
advanced to the table, — there was not such a throng
round it now that I could not find room, — and with
uplifted arm and clenched hand, I cried in a hoarse
voice, imitating as well as I was able the tones of
these blood-drinkers, —

" M. le President, is it possible there can be found
one amongst us capable of rejecting a request pre-
ferred by the Marseillais ? Can there be a man here
who is ignorant that the patriotism of the Marseillais
burns more fiercely than the ardent sun vv^hich shines


above tliem ? Does any one in this assembly dare to
doubt that, when the Marseillais are interested in two
prisoners, it is because these two prisoners are the
two greatest patriots in Paris to-day? The proposal
that has been brought forward to decree 'cruelty,'
is an insult to a nation as renowned for its mildness
and generosity as ours is. I move, M. le President,
that these two prisoners be led before you at once
and pardoned." And to give force to my last words,
I struck a mighty blow on the green table-cloth with
my fist.

The hall resounded with applause. " Bravo !
bravo ! " was shouted from all quarters. You can
easily imagine that the Marseillais, who numbered
about a dozen, were not backward in their acclama-
tions either. As for myself, I did not judge it quite
convenient to await the result of my audacious apos-
trophe where I was. I withdrew to the recess of the
window and took my seat again on the little sill. I
was in an extraordinary state of agitation. What I
dreaded most was that some opponent of the Marseil-
lais might recognize me, for, of course, in that case,
I was pretty sure to be butchered on the spot. I had
a burning fever, and was steaming with perspiration,
after the effort I had made. I trembled all over, and
although I was seated, my heart beat as fast as if I
had been running a long race at full speed. I gasped
for breath. But I cannot give you any idea of my
condition at this moment.

The uproar continued long ; however, the clanging
of the president's enormous bell at length restored
some sort of order, and he said to the people, —



" I shall now put the motion of the last speaker to
the vote."

All, or at least the majority, shouted : " Adopted I

The president then read the order of the Cordeliers,
after which four men, armed with pikes, and four
others, bearing torches, went in search of the two

While they were absent, an incident occurred that
absorbed all my attention, and filled me with horror.
Two young men, or rather boys, had been arrested
on Sunday and conducted to the Abbaye. They
were recognized as belonging to the new guard of
the king, and the intention was, doubtless, to have
them massacred. But they had found favor for the
moment with their escort, and were placed in the
violon^ the little lock-up of the section, opening on
the place of slaughter. It was intended to keep
them in detention until their character was investi-
gated. They had said they resided in the Rue-Saint-
Victor ; it was a false address, and they gave it in
the hope that they might be forgotten. The commis-
saries who had been directed to investigate the matter
returned furious, exclaiming that the wretches had
deceived them ; they had inquired at every house in
the street, and no one knew anything of the two
guardsmen. They added that they were "Knights
of the Poniard," and should be punished immediately.
The appalling tones in which the whole crowd yelled :
" Death ! death ! " would have daunted the bravest.

They were led forward on the spot. They were
both remarkably tall and well-formed, and strikingly


handsome. I was at considerable pains afterward to
find out something about them, but all I could learn
was that they belonged, as I have stated, to the new
guards of the king.

As soon as they made their appearance, the foul-
est insults were lavished on them ; then a ruffian,
baser than the rest, if that were possible, struck the
taller of the two a violent blow with his sabre, who
only answered with a shrug of the shoulders. After
this, there was a horrible struggle between these vile
blood-drinkers and the two youths, who, although un-
armed, defended themselves like lions. They threw
several of their assailants to the ground, and I really
believe that, if they had only had a knife, they would
have been victorious. At last, they fell on the floor,
all pierced with wounds. They seemed in despair at
the thought of death, and the words of one of them
reached my ears : " To die so young, and in such a
manner ! "

This terrible death-struggle inspired me with such
dismay that I lost all the calmness — and that was
not much — I had recovered on seeing the two pris-
oners pardoned. I seemed to behold those sabres
whirling round my head and feel those pikes entering
my body. For the first time, I experienced a real
dread of death, and I believed it inevitable. God
was good enough also to restore all my fervor, and I
murmured with sincere piety, from the bottom of my
heart, and even half aloud, so that I might have been
heard, if any one was paying attention to me, some
such words as these : —

"My God, I know well that I must die! If I


have done nothing to merit Heaven, attribute it only
to the frailty of my youth, and not to any want of
faith and religion. You know that I love you, that
my intentions have been upright, that I have never
spoken against your holy religion, that I like to re-
lieve the poor and to practise charity, — that virtue
which, more than any other, pleases you; have
mercy on me, then, according to your great mercy.
And, O Virgin Mary, you whom the dying sinner
never finds deaf to his prayers, pray now for me. I
wear your holy scapular on me ; it will be turned
into derision if it be found there ; do not allow such
a dishonor to religion to occur. Do you, who have
proclaimed yourself our safety in danger, give me
strength to die with courage in the midst of tor-
ments, the very idea of which makes me shudder."

Meanwhile, the assassins had transported the two
young guardsmen into the garden in order to strip
their bodies, — a thing they always did, — and to
appropriate whatever they happened to possess.

The next prisoner reached was the brother of the
Abbd Simon, the old canon of St. Quentin, who had
been massacred a little before.

He was asked if he had taken the oath. He an-
swered in the affirmative, and, drawing a paper from
his pocket, he presented it in evidence; it was the
oath of Liberty and Equality, which he had at once
sworn when it was first decreed. The ferocious
assassin who opposed the demand of the Marseillais
here rose and said: "This oath is no good; we re-
quire the oath which priests alone are obliged to
take." Another retorted : " You are hard to please.


This oatli is good. You might be satisfied with the
slaughter of the two innocent victims, in which you
have just taken part." He was speaking of the
young Minim monks, and he repeated loudly : " This
oath is good ! **

Many imitated him, cr^dng : " This oath is good I "
and the old man was saved. Do you, by the way,
remark, madame, the singular mixture of ferocity
and justice that prevailed among these extraordinary
judges ?

He was the first of my companions to escape death,
and his pardon restored a little of my calmness.

At length, the two prisoners who owed their safety
to the intervention of the Marseillais were brought
in, and I was agreeably surprised at recognizing one
of them. I had met him often in the drawing-rooms
of the Comte de Modene, my intimate friend, and the
Marquise de Moulins. It was the Chevalier de Sole-
rac, captain of Swiss. He seemed unluckily to have
also been known to the savage butcher who tried to
have him murdered.

The other was a lawyer, named Huguenin, com-
mandant of the battalion of Saint-Andr^ des Arts.

The decree pardoning them was read, and they
were directed to enter the violon.




The Actob Dcgazon. — Oh, that Wearisome Hunchback ! —
" I Demand to be Heard." — Something Good even in Mail-
lard. — Delighted to enter the " Violon." — That Hunch-
back again ! — The Abbe Sicard or his Ghost.

It must have been then about five in the morning.
To my surprise, the actor Dugazon came in at that
very moment, and he came, in the absence of the
president, to preside over this infernal assembly. I
had often met him in drawing-rooms, where he was
invited to give recitations. I was about to advance
toward him and implore his protection, but a mo-
ment's reflection brought me to a standstill. "He
will," I thought, " be, perhaps, confused at being seen
by an honest man in such a wicked place, and that
would only accelerate my destruction." So I very
quickly resumed my customary attitude.

I observed then a little humpbacked fellow in a
corner, who was apparently spying on me. I confess
his presence annoyed me excessively, and I was not
wrong, as you will soon see, in looking on it as a bad

Dugazon had entered in the midst of a quarrel
among the assassins ; they could not agree upon each
one's share of the clothing and money of the poor


•victims. After giving us tlie benefit of his shrill
little voice for some time, Dugazon went away. I
must acknowledge, however, that while he occupied
the chair no one was massacred.^

His successor was an ex-attorney at the Chatelet,
named Maillard. He was dressed in black, and his
hair was powdered. His countenance did not look
repulsive, and this calmed me somewhat, for I was
in such a state that a mere nothing sufficed to raise
or depress my courage. I know not whether this
new president was a blood-drinker or not, I only
know that I heard him say : " Let us finish."

Thereupon, two soldiers of the constitutional
guard were massacred, without any pretence of

At last the turn of the Due de Penthifevre's ser-
vant came. As his hair was cut close, they took him
for a disguised priest, and asked •. " Have you taken
the oath ? " He repeated, word for word, everything
I had told him. No sooner had he ended than all
cried out : " Why, he 's a servant I Pardon ! par-
don I " And he was at once set at liberty, without
passing tlirough the violon.

I was delighted at his escape. He was the second
of my companions who had been saved from death.

This excellent man, although he was quite near
me, never turned his head in my direction, doubtless
for fear of compromising me.

I was now the only one left; it was almost day-
light ; I was in hopes of being able to slip off, with-
out being seen, among the many who were constantly

1 Perhaps this justifies the presence of Dugazon.


going and coming. The men around the table were
evidently occupied with trifling conversation. How-
ever, I kept an eye on the hunchback, who remained
always in the same place. " What is he doing
there ? *' I said to myself, fretfully. " Why does n*t
he go away ? "

Still, the butchery was not over, by any means, and
two persons, whom I did not know, were slaughtered
before my eyes.

It was now full daylight ; a large portion of the
mob had left, and the outcries of the people were no
longer heard. The persons who remained seemed
quite weary, and ready to fall asleep. It was, at
least, half past seven ; but the shutters of the win-
dows were still closed, and the hall was lit only by
candles, which no one thought of snuffing, and by
such light as streamed in through the glass door,
through which the victims passed.

I was, therefore, preparing for flight, and was
quietly moving up behind those remaining in the
hall, none of whom noticed me, when that rascal of a
hunchback cried : " There is one of them here still ! ''

I remember that I was not at all excited, and, as
I wished to elude the question; "Have you taken
the oath ? " which would most assuredly have been
my death-warrant, I rushed to the table, and, address-
ing the man in black, with powdered hair : " Citizen
President," said I, " before lam sacrificed to the rage
of a deceived people, I demand to be heard."

" Who art thou ? " he said, in menacing tones.

" I was a clerical councillor in the Parliament of
Paris, and am now a lawyer."


I do not know if my appearance or my courage
impressed him, or whether he may not have recog-
nized me, but his manner was milder, as he said to
the people : —

" This prisoner is well known in the law courts
of Paris."

" You are perfectly correct, citizen," I answered.

Abandoning the " thou," he asked : —

" Why have you been brought here ? "

I began at once to relate a story half false and half
true. I told him that a police regulation, made on
the 27th of August, required all citizens to be in
their homes by ten o'clock in the evening ; — this
was true ; — but, being ignorant of this regulation,
I remained out beyond the prescribed time, and was
arrested just as I was returning to my lodgings in
the Rue du Palais-Marchand ; — all this was false ; — •
and that I had been brought successively before the
Committee of the section, the Committee of Surveil-
lance of the Cit^, and the Committee of Surveillance
of the Mairie. I was transferred by the latter to the
Abbaye : '' And all this occurred," I added, raising
my voice, "without any examination." I also said
that I was led to the scene of the massacre, just at
the very moment when Pdtion was about to order
my release, and I exhibited the little note which poor
Blanchet had brought me on Sunday morning, and
in which he promised that I should regain my freedom
at three o'clock.

Thereupon, the president, perhaps with the view
of helping me, perhaps remorseful for the massacre,
said : —


"You see, messieurs, with what culpable levity
they imprison citizens in the other sections. If we
had arrested this prisoner, we should have examined
him and sent him home."

These words revived all my courage, and, striking
my hand on the table, I cried —

" I appeal to my section ! I appeal to the deputies
of the National Assembly ! "

"Oh, the deputies of the National Assembly, in-
deed ! " some one exclaimed ; " we have a list of their
names, and intend cutting their throats as well as
other people's when the proper time comes."

Remarking that I was on the wrong track, I hastily
changed my position, —

" Yes, but I am speaking of the patriot Herault, of
the patriot Torne, of the patriot Rovere ! "

" Bravo ! bravo I " they all cried.

The president, taking instant advantage of the
current in my favor, said, —

" I propose that this prisoner be sent to the violon,
until we receive further information regarding him."

I did not wait for their decision, but immediately
hastened to enter the violon, the door of which hap-
pened to be open that very moment. I think I men-
tioned before that this violon opened on the hall.

I could distinguish only nine or ten persons after I
crossed the threshold. Then I perceived a wretched-
looking straw mattress, all full of holes, and a chair.
I sat down on the mattress and rested my legs on the
back of the chair. I had all I could do to keep from
fainting. I was utterly broken down, had a violent
fever, and my pulse was beating madly ; my hands


were burning. The respite I had gained did not
afford me any pleasure. I was so utterly depressed
that I remained with my eyes fixed on the floor, and
paid no attention to those who were in the prison with
me. Extraordinary physical weakness was added to
my profound sadness. In fact, I had not taken any
solid nourishment since two o'clock on Saturday, and,

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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 8 of 23)