THE ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY FRANCE, VOLUME 4
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, VOLUME 3.
by Hippolyte A. Taine
Please note that all references to earlier Volumes of the Origines of Contemporary France are to the American edition. Since there are no fixed page numbers in the Gutenberg edition these page numbers are only approximate. (SR).
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION VOLUME III.
PREFACE. BOOK FIRST. The Establishment of the Revolutionary Government. CHAPTER I. BOOK SECOND. The Jacobin Program. CHAPTER I. CHAPTER II. BOOK THIRD. The Governors. CHAPTER I. Psychology of the Jacobin Leaders. CHAPTER II. The Rulers of the Country. CHAPTER III. The Rulers. (continued). BOOK FOURTH. The Governed. CHAPTER I. The Oppressed. CHAPTER II. Food and Provisions. BOOK FIFTH. The End of the Revolutionary Government. CHAPTER I.
"In Egypt," says Clement of Alexandria, "the sanctuaries of the temples are shaded by curtains of golden tissue. But on going further into the interior in quest of the statue, a priest of grave aspect, advancing to meet you and chanting a hymn in the Egyptian tongue, slightly raises a veil to show you the god. And what do you behold? A crocodile, or some indigenous serpent, or other dangerous animal, the Egyptian god being a beast sprawling on a purple carpet."
We need not visit Egypt or go so far back in history to encounter crocodile worship, as this can be readily found in France at the end of the last century.—Unfortunately, a hundred years is too long an interval, too far away, for an imaginative retrospect of the past. At the present time, standing where we do and regarding the horizon behind us, we see only forms which the intervening atmosphere embellishes, shimmering contours which each spectator may interpret in his own fashion; no distinct, animated figure, but merely a mass of moving points, forming and dissolving in the midst of picturesque architecture. I was anxious to take a closer view of these vague points, and, accordingly, deported myself back to the last half of the eighteenth century. I have now been living with them for twelve years, and, like Clement of Alexandria, examined, first, the temple, and next the god. A passing glance at these is not sufficient; it was also necessary to understand the theology on which this cult is founded. This one, explained by a very specious theology, like most others, is composed of dogmas called the principles of 1789; they were proclaimed, indeed, at that date, having been previously formulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
* The well known sovereignty of the people.
* The rights of Man.
* The social contract.
Once adopted, their practical results unfolded themselves naturally. In three years these dogmas installed the crocodile on the purple carpet insides the sanctuary behind the golden veil. He was selected for the place on account of the energy of his jaws and the capacity of his stomach; he became a god through his qualities as a destructive brute and man-eater.—Comprehending this, the rites which consecrate him and the pomp which surrounds him need not give us any further concern.—We can observe him, like any ordinary animal, and study his various attitudes, as he lies in wait for his prey, springs upon it, tears it to pieces, swallows it, and digests it. I have studied the details of his structure, the play of his organs, his habits, his mode of living, his instincts, his faculties, and his appetites.—Specimens abounded. I have handled thousands of them, and have dissected hundreds of every species and variety, always preserving the most valuable and characteristic examples, but for lack of room I have been compelled to let many of them go because my collections was too large. Those that I was able to bring back with me will be found here, and, among others, about twenty individuals of different dimensions, which—a difficult undertaking—I have kept alive with great pains. At all events, they are intact and perfect, and particularly the three largest. These seem to me, of their kind, truly remarkable, and those in which the divinity of the day might well incarnate himself.—Authentic and rather well kept cookbooks inform us about the cost of the cult: We can more or less estimate how much the sacred crocodiles consumed in ten years; we know their bills of daily fare, their favorite morsels. Naturally, the god selected the fattest victims, but his voracity was so great that he likewise bolted down, and blindly, the lean ones, and in much greater number than the fattest. Moreover, by virtue of his instincts, and an unfailing effect of the situation, he ate his equals once or twice a year, except when they succeeded in eating him.—This cult certainly is instructive, at least to historians and men of pure science. If any believers in it still remain I do not aim to convert them; one cannot argue with a devotee on matters of faith. This volume, accordingly, like the others that have gone before it, is written solely for amateurs of moral zoology, for naturalists of the understanding, for seekers of truth, of texts, and of proofs—for these alone and not for the public, whose mind is made up and which has its own opinion on the Revolution. This opinion began to be formed between 1825 and 1830, after the retirement or withdrawal of eye witnesses. When they disappeared it was easy to convince a credulous public that crocodiles were philanthropists; that many possessed genius; that they scarcely ate others than the guilty, and that if they sometimes ate too many it was unconsciously and in spite of themselves, or through devotion and self-sacrifice for the common good.
H. A. Taine, Menthon Saint Bernard, July 1884.
BOOK FIRST. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT.
CHAPTER I. JACOBIN GOVERNMENT
I. The despotic creed and instincts of the Jacobin.
Weakness of former governments.—Energy of the new government.—The despotic creed and instincts of the Jacobin.
So far, the weakness of the legal government is extreme. During four years, whatever its kind, it has constantly and everywhere been disobeyed. For four years it never dared enforce obedience. Recruited among the cultivated and refined class, the rulers of the country have brought with them into power the prejudices and sensibilities of the epoch. Under the influence of the prevailing dogma they have submitted to the will of the multitude and, with too much faith in the rights of Man, they have had too little in the authority of the magistrate. Moreover, through humanity, they have abhorred bloodshed and, unwilling to repress, they have allowed themselves to be repressed. Thus from the 1st of May, 1789, to June 2, 1793, they have administrated or legislated, escaping countless insurrections, almost all of them going unpunished; while their constitution, an unhealthy product of theory and fear, have done no more than transform spontaneous anarchy into legal anarchy. Deliberately and through distrust of authority they have undermined the principle of command, reduced the King to the post of a decorative puppet, and almost annihilated the central power: from the top to the bottom of the hierarchy the superior has lost his hold on the inferior, the minister on the departments, the departments on the districts, and the districts on the communes. Throughout all branches of the service, the chief, elected on the spot and by his subordinates, has come to depend on them. Thenceforth, each post in which authority is vested is found isolated, dismantled and preyed upon, while, to crown all, the Declaration of Rights, proclaiming "the jurisdiction of constituents over their clerks," has invited the assailants to make the assault. On the strength of this a faction arises which ends in becoming an organized band; under its clamor, its menaces and its pikes, at Paris and in the provinces, at the polls and in the parliament, the majorities are all silenced, while the minorities vote, decree and govern; the Legislative Assembly is purged, the King is dethroned, and the Convention is mutilated. Of all the garrisons of the central citadel, whether royalists, Constitutionalists, or Girondins, not one has been able to defend itself, to re-fashion the executive instrument, to draw the sword and use it in the streets: on the first attack, often at the first summons, all have surrendered, and now the citadel, with every other public fortress, is in the hands of the Jacobins.
This time, its occupants are of a different stamp. Aside from the great mass of well-disposed people fond of a quiet life, the Revolution has sifted out and separated from the rest all who are fanatical, brutal or perverse enough to have lost respect for others; these form the new garrison—sectarians blinded by their creed, the roughs (assommeurs) who are hardened by their calling, and those who make all they can out of their offices. None of this class are scrupulous concerning human life or property; for, as we have seen, they have shaped the theory to suit themselves, and reduced popular sovereignty to their sovereignty. The commonwealth, according to the Jacobin, is his; with him, the commonwealth comprises all private possessions, bodies, estates, souls and consciences; everything belongs to him; the fact of being a Jacobin makes him legitimately czar and pope. Little does he care about the wills of actually living Frenchmen; his mandate does not emanate from a vote; it descends to him from aloft, conferred on him by Truth, by Reason, by Virtue. As he alone is enlightened, and the only patriot, he alone is worthy to take command, while resistance, according to his imperious pride, is criminal. If the majority protests it is because the majority is imbecile or corrupt; in either case, it deserves to be brought to heel. And, in fact, the Jacobin only does that and right away too; insurrections, usurpations, pillaging, murders, assaults on individuals, on judges and public attorneys, on assemblies, violations of law, attacks on the State, on communities—there is no outrage not committed by him. He has always acted as sovereign instinctively; he was so as a private individual and clubbist; he is not to cease being so, now that he possesses legal authority, and all the more because if he hesitates he knows he is lost; to save himself from the scaffold he has no refuge but in a dictatorship. Such a man, unlike his predecessors, will not allow himself to be turned out; on the contrary, he will exact obedience at any cost. He will not hesitate to restore the central power; he will put back the local wheels that have been detached; he will repair the old forcing gear; he will set it agoing so as to work more rudely and arbitrarily than ever, with greater contempt for private rights and public liberties than either a Louis XIV. or a Napoleon.
II. Jacobin Dissimulation.
Contrast between his words and his acts.—How he dissimulates his change of front.—The Constitution of June, 1793.—Its promises of freedom.
In the mean time, he has to harmonize his coming acts with his recent declarations, which, at the first glance, seems a difficult operation: for, in the speeches he has made he has already condemned the actions he meditates. Yesterday he exaggerated the rights of the governed, even to a suppression of those of the government; to-morrow he is to exaggerate the rights of the people in power, even to suppressing those who are governed. The people, as he puts it, is the sole sovereign, and he is going to treat the people as slaves; the government, as he puts it, is a valet, and he is going to endow the government with prerogatives of a sultan. He has just denounced the slightest exercise of public authority as a crime; he is now going to punish as a crime the slightest resistance to public authority. What will justify such a volte-face and with what excuse can he repudiate the principles with which he justified his takeover?—He takes good care not to repudiate them; it would drive the already rebellious provinces to extremes; on the contrary, he proclaims them with renewed vigor, through which move the ignorant crowd, seeing the same flask always presented to it, imagines that it is always served with the same liquor, and is thus forced to drink tyranny under the label of freedom. Whatever the charlatan can do with his labels, signboards, shouting and lies for the next six months, will be done to disguise the new nostrum; so much the worse for the public if, later on, it discovers that the draught is bitter; sooner or later it must swallow it, willingly or by compulsion: for, in the interval, the instruments are being got ready to force it down the public throat.
As a beginning, the Constitution, so long anticipated and so often promised, is hastily fabricated: declarations of rights in thirty-five articles, the Constitutional bill in one hundred and twenty-four articles, political principles and institutions of every sort, electoral, legislative, executive, administrative, judicial, financial and military; in three weeks all is drawn up and passed on the double.—Of course, the new Constitutionalists do not propose to produce an effective and serviceable instrument; that is the least of their worries. Herault Sechelles, the reporter of the bill, writes on the 7th of June, "to have procured for him at once the laws of Minos, of which he has urgent need;" very urgent need, as he must hand in the Constitution that week. Such circumstance is sufficiently characteristic of both the workmen and the work. All is mere show and pretense. Some of the workmen are shrewd politicians whose sole object is to furnish the public with words instead of realities; others, ordinary scribblers of abstractions, or even ignoramuses, and unable to distinguish words from reality, imagine that they are framing laws by stringing together a lot of phrases.—It is not a difficult job; the phrases are ready-made to hand. "Let the plotters of anti-popular systems," says the reporter, "painfully elaborate their projects! Frenchmen.... have only to consult their hearts to read the Republic there!" Drafted in accordance with the "Contrat-Social," filled with Greek and Latin reminiscences, it is a summary "in pithy style" of the manual of current aphorisms then in vogue, Rousseau's mathematical formulas and prescriptions, "the axioms of truth and the consequences flowing from these axioms," in short, a rectilinear constitution which any school-boy may spout on leaving college. Like a handbill posted on the door of a new shop, it promises to customers every imaginable article that is handsome and desirable. Would you have rights and liberties? You will find them all here. Never has the statement been so clearly made, that the government is the servant, creature and tool of the governed; it is instituted solely "to guarantee to them their natural, imprescriptible rights."  Never has a mandate been more strictly limited: "The right of expressing one's thoughts and opinions, either through the press or in any other way; the right of peaceful assembly, the free exercise of worship, cannot be interdicted." Never have citizens been more carefully guarded against the encroachments and excesses of public authority: "The law should protect public and private liberties against the oppression of those who govern... offenses committed by the people's mandatories and agents must never go unpunished. Let free men instantly put to death every individual usurping sovereignty. .. Every act against a man outside of the cases and forms which the law determines is arbitrary and tyrannical; whosoever is subjected to violence in the execution of this act has the right to repel it by force... When the government violates the people's rights insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties."
To civil rights the generous legislator has added political rights, and multiplied every precaution for maintaining the dependence of rulers on the people.—In the first place, rulers are appointed by the people and through direct choice or nearly direct choice: in primary meetings the people elect deputies, city officers, justices of the peace, and electors of the second degree; the latter, in their turn, elect in the secondary meetings, district and department administrators, civil arbitrators, criminal judges, judges of appeal and the eighty candidates from amongst which the legislative body is to select its executive council.—In the second place, all powers of whatever kind are never conferred except for a very limited term: one year for deputies, for electors of the second degree, for civil arbitrators, and for judges of every kind and class. As to municipalities and also department and district administrations, these are one-half renewable annually. Every first of May the fountain-head of authority flows afresh, the people in its primary assemblies, spontaneously formed, manifesting or changing at will its staff of clerks.—In the third place, even when installed and at work, the people may, if it pleases, become their collaborator: means are provided for "deliberating" with its deputies. The latter, on incidental questions, those of slight importance, on the ordinary business of the year, may enact laws; but on matters of general, considerable and permanent interest, they are simply to propose the laws, while, especially as regards a declaration of war, the people alone must decide. The people have a suspensive veto and, finally, a definitive veto, which they may exercise when they please. To this end, they may assemble in extraordinary session; one-fifth of the citizens who have the right to vote suffice for their convocation. Once convoked, the vote is determined by a Yes or a No on the act proposed by the legislative body. If, at the expiration of forty days, one-tenth of the primary assemblies in one-half of the departments vote No, there is a suspensive veto. In that event all the primary assemblies of the Republic must be convoked and if the majority still decides in the negative, that is a definitive veto. The same formalities govern a revision of the established constitution.—In all this, the plan of the "Montagnards" is a further advance on that of the Girondins; never was so insignificant a part assigned to the rulers nor so extensive a part to the governed. The Jacobins profess a respect for the popular initiative which amounts to a scruple. According to them the sovereign people should be sovereign de facto, permanently, and without interregnum, allowed to interfere in all serious affairs, and not only possess the right, but the faculty, of imposing its will on its mandatories.—All the stronger is the reason for referring to it the institutions now being prepared for it. Hence the Convention, after the parade is over, convokes the primary assemblies and submits to them for ratification the Constitutional bill has been drawn up.
III. Primary Assemblies
Primary Assemblies.—Proportion of Absentees.—Unanimity of the voters.—Their motives for accepting the Constitution. —Pressure brought to bear on voters.—Choice of Delegates.
The ratification will, undoubtedly, be approved. Everything has been combined beforehand to secure it, also to secure it as wanted, apparently spontaneously, and almost unanimously.—The primary assemblies, indeed, are by no means fully attended; only one-half, or a quarter, or a third of the electors in the cities deposit their votes, while in the rural districts there is only a quarter, and less. Repelled by their experience with previous convocations the electors know too well the nature of these assemblies; how the Jacobin faction rules them, how it manages the electoral comedy, with what violence and threats it reduces all dissidents to voting either as figurants or claqueurs. From four to five million of electors prefer to hold aloof and stay at home as usual. Nevertheless the organization of most of the assemblies takes place, amounting to some six or seven thousand. This is accounted for by the fact that each canton contains its small group of Jacobins. Next to these come the simple-minded who still believe in official declarations; in their eyes a constitution which guarantees private rights and institutes public liberties must be accepted, no matter what hand may present it to them. And all the more readily because the usurpers offer to resign; in effect, the Convention has just solemnly declared that once the Constitution is adopted, the people shall again be convoked to elect "a new national assembly... a new representative body invested with a later and more immediate trust," which will allow electors, if they are so disposed, to return honest deputies and exclude the knaves who now rule. Thereupon even the insurgent departments, the mass of the Girondins population, after a good deal of hesitation, resign themselves at last to voting for it. This is done at Lyons and in the department of Calvados only on the 30th of July. A number of Constitutionalists or neutrals have done the same thing, some through a horror of civil war and a spirit of conciliation, and others through fear of persecution and of being taxed with royalism; one conception more: through docility they may perhaps succeed in depriving the "Mountain" of all pretext for violence.
In this they greatly deceive themselves, and, from the first, they are able to see once more the Jacobins interpretation of electoral liberty.—At first, all the registered, and especially the "suspects," are compelled to vote, and to vote Yes; otherwise, says a Jacobin journal, "they themselves will indicate the true opinion one ought to have of their attitudes, and no longer have reason to complain of suspicions that are found to be so well grounded." They come accordingly, "very humbly and very penitent." Nevertheless they meet with a rebuff, and a cold shoulder is turned on them; they are consigned to a corner of the room, or near the doors, and are openly insulted. Thus received, it is clear that they will keep quiet and not risk the slightest objection. At Macon "a few aristocrats muttered to themselves, but not one dared say No." It would, indeed, be extremely imprudent. At Montbrison, "six individuals who decline to vote," are denounced in the proces-verbal of the Canton, while a deputy in the Convention demands "severe measures" against them. At Nogent-sur-Seine, three administrators, guilty of the same offense, are to be turned out of office. A few months later, the offense becomes a capital crime, and people are to be guillotined "for having voted against the Constitution of 1793." Almost all the ill-disposed foresaw this danger; hence, in nearly all the primary assemblies, the adoption is unanimous, or nearly unanimous. At Rouen, there are but twenty-six adverse votes; at Caen, the center of the Girondin opposition, fourteen; at Rheims, there are only two; at Troyes, Besancon, Limoges and Paris, there are none at all; in fifteen departments the number of negatives varies from five to one; not one is found in Var; this apparent unity is most instructive. The commune of St. Donau, the only one in France, in the remote district of Cotes-du-Nord, dares demand the restoration of the clergy and the son of Capet for king. All the others vote as if directed with a baton; they have understood the secret of the plebiscite; that it is a Jacobin demonstration, not an honest vote, which is required. The operation undertaken by the local party is actually carried out. It beats to arms around the ballot-box; it arrives in force; it alone speaks with authority; it animates officers; it moves all the resolutions and draws up the report of proceedings, while the representatives on mission from Paris add to the weight of the local authority that of the central authority. In the Macon assembly "they address the people on each article; this speech is followed by immense applause and redoubled shouting of Vive la Republique! Vive la Constitution! Vive le Peuple Francais!" Beware, ye lukewarm, who do not join in the chorus! They are forced to vote "in a loud, intelligible voice." They are required to shout in unison, to sign the grandiloquent address in which the leaders testify their gratitude to the Convention, and give their adhesion to the eminent patriots delegated by the primary assembly to bear its report to Paris.
IV. The Delegates reach Paris
The Delegates reach Paris.—Precautions taken against them. —Constraints and Seductions.
The first act of the comedy is over and the second act now begins.—The faction has convoked the delegates of the primary assemblies to Paris for a purpose. Like the primary assemblies, they are to serve as its instruments for governing; they are to form the props of dictatorship, and the object now is to restrict them to that task only.—Indeed, it is not certain that all will lend themselves to it. For, among the eight thousand commissioners, some, appointed by refractory assemblies, bring a refusal instead of an adhesion; others, more numerous, are instructed to present objections and point out omissions: it is very certain that the envoys of the Girondist departments will insist on the release or return of their excluded representatives. And lastly, a good many delegates who have accepted the Constitution in good faith desire its application as soon as possible, and that the Convention should fulfill its promise of abdication, so as to give way to a new Assembly.—As it is important to suppress at once all these vague desires for independence or tendencies for opposition a decree of the Convention "authorizes the Committee of General Security to order the arrest of 'suspect' commissioners;" it is especially to look after those who, "charged with a special mission, would hold meetings to win over their colleagues,.... and engage them in proceedings contrary to their mandate." In the first place, and before they are admitted into Paris, their Jacobinism is to be verified, like a bale in the customs-house, by the special agents of the executive council, and especially by Stanislas Maillard, the famous September judge, and his sixty-eight bearded ruffians, each receiving pay at five francs a day. "On all the roads, within a circuit of fifteen or twenty leagues of the capital," the delegates are searched; their trunks are opened, and their letters read. At the barriers in Paris they find "inspectors" posted by the Commune, under the pretext of protecting them against prostitutes and swindlers. There, they are taken possession of, and conducted to the mayoralty, where they receive lodging tickets, while a picket of gendarmerie escorts them to their allotted domiciles.—Behold them in pens like sheep, each in his numbered stall; there is no fear of the dissidents trying to escape and form a band apart: one of them, who comes to the Convention and asks for a separate hall for himself and his adherents, is snubbed in the most outrageous manner; they denounce him as an intriguer, and accuse him of a desire to defend the traitor Castries; they take his name and credentials, and threaten him with an investigation. The unfortunate speaker hears the Abbaye alluded to, and evidently thinks himself fortunate to escape sleeping there that night.—After this, it is certain that he will not again demand the privilege of speaking, and that his colleagues will remain quiet; and all this is the more likely
* because the revolutionary tribunal holds permanent sessions under their eyes,
* because the guillotine is set up and in operation on the "Place de la Revolution;"
* because a recent act of the Commune enjoins on the police "the most active surveillance" and "constant patrols" by the armed force;
* because, from the first to the fourth of August, the barriers are closed;
* because, on the 2nd of August, a raid into three of the theaters puts five hundred young men in the lock-up,
so the discontented soon discover, if there are any, that this is not the time or the place to protest.
As to the others, already Jacobin, the faction takes it upon itself to render them still more so.—Lost in the immensity of Paris, all these provincials require moral as well as physical guides; it agrees to exercise toward them "hospitality in all its plenitude, the sweetest of Republican virtues." Hence, ninety-six sans-culottes, selected from among the sections, wait on them at the Mayoralty to serve as their correspondents, and perhaps as their guarantees, and certainly as pilots
* to give them lodging-tickets,
* to escort and install them,
* to indoctrinate them, as formerly with the federates of July, 1792,
* to prevent their getting into bad company,
* to introduce them into all the exciting meetings,
* to see that their ardent patriotism quickly rises to the proper temperature of Parisian Jacobinism.
The theaters must not offend their eyes or ears with pieces "opposed to the spirit of the Revolution." An order is issued for the performance three times a week of "republican tragedies, such as 'Brutus', 'William Tell', 'Caius Gracchus,' and other dramas suitable for the maintenance of the principles of equality and liberty." Once a week the theaters must be free, when Chenier's alexandrines are spouted on the stage to the edification of the delegates, crowded into the boxes at the expense of the State. The following morning, led in groups into the tribunes of the Convention, they there find the same, classic, simple, declamatory, sanguinary tragedy, except that the latter is not feigned but real, and the tirades are in prose instead of in verse. Surrounded by paid yappers like victims for the ancient Romans celebrations of purifications, our provincials applaud, cheer and get excited, the same as on the night before at the signal given by the claqueurs and the regulars. Another day, the procureur-syndic Lhullier summons them to attend the "Eveche," to "fraternize with the authorities of the Paris department;" the "Fraternite" section invites them to its daily meetings; the Jacobin club lends them its vast hall in the morning and admits them to its sessions in the evening.—Thus monopolized and kept, as in a diving bell, they breathe in Paris nothing but a Jacobin atmosphere; from one Jacobin den to another, as they are led about in this heated atmosphere, their pulse beats more rapidly. Many of them, who, on their arrival, were "plain, quiet people," but out of their element, subjected to contagion without any antidote, quickly catch the revolutionary fever. The same as at an American revival, under the constant pressure of preaching and singing, of shouts and nervous spasms, the lukewarm and even the indifferent have not long to wait before the delirium puts them in harmony with the converted.
V. Fete of August 10th
They make their profession of Jacobin faith.—Their part in the Fete of August 10th.—Their enthusiasm.
On the 7th of August things come to a head.—Led by the department and the municipality, a number of delegates march to the bar of the Convention, and make a confession of Jacobin faith. "Soon," they exclaim, "will search be made on the banks of the Seine for the foul marsh intended to engulf us. Were the royalist and intriguers to die of spite, we will live and die 'Montagnards.'" Applause and embraces.—From thence they betake themselves to the Jacobin Club, where one of them proposes an address prepared beforehand: the object of this is to justify the 31st of May, and the 2nd of June, "to open the eyes" of provincial France, to declare "war against the federalists." "Down with the infamous libelers who have calumniated Paris!.... We cherish but one sentiment, our souls are all melted into one... We form here but one vast, terrible mountain, about to vomit forth its fires on the royalists and supporters of tyranny." Applause and cheers.—Robespierre declares that they are there to save the country. On the following day, August 8th, this address is presented to the Convention and Robespierre has a resolution adopted, ordering it to be sent to the armies, to foreign powers and all the Communes. More applause, more embraces, and more cheers.—On the 9th of August, by order of the Convention, the delegates meet in the Tuileries garden, where, divided into as many groups as there are departments, they study the program drawn up by David, in order to familiarize themselves with the parts they are to play in the festival of the following day.
What an odd festival and how well it expresses the spirit of the time! It is a sort of opera played in the streets by the public authorities, with triumphant chariots, altars, censers, an Ark of the Covenant, funeral urns, classic banners and other trappings! Its divinities consist of plaster statues representing Nature, Liberty, the People, and Hercules, all of which are personified abstractions, like those painted on the ceiling of a theater. In all this there is no spontaneity nor sincerity; the actors, whose consciences tell them that they are only actors, render homage to symbols which they know to be nothing but symbols, while the mechanical procession, the invocations, the apostrophes, the postures, the gestures are regulated beforehand, the same as by a ballet-manager. To any truth-loving person all this must seem like a charade performed by puppets.—But the festival is colossal, well calculated to stimulate the imagination and excite pride through physical excitement. On this grandiose stage the delegates become quite intoxicated with their part; for, evidently, theirs is the leading part; they represent twenty-six millions of Frenchmen, and the sole object of this ceremony is to glorify the national will of which they are the bearers.—On the Place de la Bastille where the gigantic effigy of nature pours forth from its two breasts "the regenerating water," Herault, the president, after offering libations and saluting the new goddess, passes the cup to the eighty-seven elders (les doyens) of the eighty-seven departments, each "summoned by sound of drum and trumpet" to step forward and drink in his turn, while cannon belch forth their thunders as if for a monarch. After the eighty-seven have passed the cup around, the artillery roars. The procession them moves on, and the delegates again are assigned the place of honor. The elders, holding an olive-branch in one hand, and a pike in the other, with a streamer on the end of it bearing the name of their department, "bound to each other by a small three-color ribbon," surround the Convention as if to convey the idea that the nation maintains and conducts its legal representative. Behind them march the rest of the eight thousand delegates, likewise holding olive-branches and forming a second distinct body, the largest of all, and on which all eyes are centered. For, in their wake, "their is no longer any distinction between persons and functionaries," all being confounded together, marching pell-mell, executive council, city officials, judges scattered about haphazard and, by virtue of equality, lost in the crowd. At each station, thanks to their insignia, the delegates form the most conspicuous element. On reaching the last one, that of the Champ de Mars, they alone with the Convention, ascend the steps leading to the alter of the country; on the highest platform stands the eldest of all alongside the president of the Convention, also standing; thus graded above each other, the seven thousand, who envelope the seven hundred and fifty, form "the veritable Sacred Mountain." Now, the president, on the highest platform, turns toward the eighty-seven elders; he confides to the Ark containing the Constitutional Act and the list of those who voted for it; they, on their part, then advance and hand him their pikes, which he gathers together into one bundle as an emblem of national unity and indivisibility. At this, shouts arise from every point of the immense enclosure; salvoes of artillery follow again and again; "one would say that heaven and earth answered each other" in honor "of the greatest epoch of humanity."—Certainly, the delegates are beside themselves; their nerves, strained to the utmost, vibrates too powerfully; the millennium discloses itself before their eyes. Already, many among them on the Place de la Bastille, had addressed the universe; others, "seized with a prophetic spirit," promise eternity to the Constitution. They feel themselves "reborn again, along with the human species;" they regard themselves as beings of a new world. History is consummated in them; the future is in their hands; they believe themselves gods on earth.—In this critical state, their reason, like a pair of ill-balanced scales, yields to the slightest touch; under the pressure of the manufacturers of enthusiasm, a sudden reaction will carry them away. They consider the Constitution as a panacea, and they are going to consign it, like some dangerous drug, to this coffer which they call an ark. They have just proclaimed the liberty of the people, and are going to perpetuate the dictatorship of the Convention.
VI. The Mountain.
Maneuvers of the "Mountain."—The Jacobin Club on the eve of August 11th.—Session of the Convention on the 11th of August.—The Delegates initiate Terror.—Popular consecration of the Jacobin dictatorship.
This volteface has, of course, to appear spontaneous and the hand of the titular rulers remain invisible: the Convention, as usual with usurpers, is to simulate reserve and disinterestedness.—Consequently, the following morning, August 11, on the opening of the session, it simply declares that "its mission is fulfilled:" on the motion of Lacroix, a confederate of Danton's, it passes a law that a new census of the population and of electors shall be made with as little delay as possible, in order to convoke the primary assemblies at once; it welcomes with joy the delegates who bring to it the Constitutional Ark; the entire Assembly rises in the presence of this sacred receptacle, and allows the delegates to exhort it and instruct it concerning its duties. But in the evening, at the Jacobin Club, Robespierre, after a long and vague discourse on public dangers, conspiracies, and traitors, suddenly utters the decisive words:
"The most important of my reflections was about to escape me... The proposition made this morning will only facilitate the replacement of the purified members of this Convention by the envoys of Pitt and Cobourg."
Dreadful words in the mouth of a man of principles! They are at once understood by the leaders, great and small, also by the selected fifteen hundred Jacobins then filling the hall. "No! no! shouts the entire club." The delegates are carried away:
"I demand," exclaims one of them, "that the dissolution of the Convention be postponed until the end of the war."—
At last, the precious motion, so long desired and anticipated, is made: the calumnies of the Girondins now fall the ground; it is demonstrated that the Convention does not desire to perpetuate itself and that it has no ambition; if it remains in power it is because it is kept there; the delegates of the people compel it to stay.
And better still, they are going to mark out its course of action.—The next day, the 12th of August, with the zeal of new converts, they spread themselves through the hall in such numbers that Assembly, no longer able to carry on is deliberations, crowds toward the left and yields the whole of the space on the right that they may occupy and "purify" it. All the combustible material in their minds, accumulated during the past fortnight, takes fire and explodes; they are more furious than the most ultra Jacobins; they repeat at the bar of the house the extravagances of Rose Lacombe, and of the lowest clubs; they even transcend the program drawn up by the "Mountain." "The time for deliberation is past," exclaims their spokesman, "we must act... Let the people rouse themselves in a mass... it alone can annihilate its enemies... We demand that all 'suspects' be put under arrest; that they be dispatched to the frontiers, followed by the terrible mass of sans-culottes. There, in the front ranks, they will be obliged to fight for that liberty which they have outraged for the past four years, or be immolated on the tyrants' cannon.... Women, children, old men and the infirm shall be kept as hostages by the women and children of sans-culottes." Danton seizes the opportunity. With his usual lucidity he finds the expression which describes the situation:
"The deputies of the primary assemblies," he says, "have just begun to practice among us the initiative of terror."
He moreover reduces the absurd notions of the fanatics to a practical measure: "A mobilization en masse, yes, but with order" by at once calling out the first class of conscript, all men from eighteen to twenty-five years of age; the arrest of all 'suspects', yes, but not to lead them against the enemy; "they would be more dangerous than useful in our armies; let us shut them up; they will be our hostages."—He also proposes employment for the delegates who are only in the way in Paris and might be useful in the provinces. Let us make of them "various kinds of representatives charged with animating citizens... Let them, along with all good citizens and the constituted authorities, take charge of the inventories of grain and arms, and make requisitions for men, and let the Committee of Public Safety direct this sublime movement.... All will swear that, on returning to their homes, they will give this impulse their fellow citizens." Universal applause; the delegates exclaim in one voice, "We swear!" Everybody springs to his feet; the men in the tribunes wave their hats and likewise should the same oath.—The scheme is successful; a semblance of popular will has authorized the staff of officials, the policy, the principles and the very name of Terror. As to the instruments for the operation they are all there ready to be back into action. The delegates, of whose demands and interference the "Mountain" is still in dread, are sent back to their departmental holes, where they shall serve as agents and missionaries. There is no further mention of putting the Constitution into operation; this was simply a bait, a decoy, contrived for fishing in turbid waters: the fishing ended, the Constitution is now placed in a conspicuous place in the hall, in a small monument for which David furnished the design.—The Convention, now, says Danton, "will rise to a sense of its dignity, for it is now invested with the full power of the nation." In other words, artifice completes what violence has begun. Through the outrages committed in May and June, the Convention had lost its legitimacy; through the maneuvers of July and August it recovered the semblance of it. The Montagnards still hold their slave by his lash, but they have restored his prestige so as to make the most of him to their own profit.
VII. Extent and Manifesto of the departmental insurrection
Effect of this maneuver.—Extent and Manifesto of the departmental insurrection.—Its fundamental weakness.—The mass of the population inert and distrustful.—The small number of Girondists.—Their lukewarm adherents.—Scruples of fugitive deputies and insurgent administrators.—They form no central government.—They leave military authority in the hands of the Convention.—Fatal progress of their concessions.—Withdrawal of the departments one by one. —Retraction of the compromised authorities.—Effect of administrative habits.—Failings and illusions of the Moderates.—Opposite character of the Jacobins.
With the same blow, and amongst the same playacting, they have nearly disarmed their adversaries.—On learning the events of May 31 and June 2, a loud cry of indignation arose among republicans of the cultivated class in this generation, who, educated by the philosophers, sincerely believed in the rights of man. Sixty-nine department administrations had protested, and, in almost all the towns of the west, the south, the east and the center of France, at Caen, Alencon, Evreux, Rennes, Brest, Lorient, Nantes and Limoges, at Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier, Nimes and Marseilles, at Grenoble, Lyons, Clermont, Lons-le-Saunier, Besancon, Macon and Dijon, the citizens, assembled in their sections, had provoked, or maintained by cheering them on, the acts of their administrators. Rulers and citizens, all declared that, the Convention not being free, its decrees after the 31st of May, no longer had the force of law; that the troops of the departments should march on Paris to deliver that city from its oppressors, and that their substitutes should be called out and assemble at Bourges. In many places words were converted into acts. Already before the end of May, Marseilles and Lyons had taken up arms and checkmated their local Jacobins. After the 2nd of June, Normandy, Brittany, Gard, Jura, Toulouse and Bordeaux, had also raised troops. At Marseilles, Bordeaux and Caen representatives on mission, arrested or under guard, were retained as hostages. At Nantes, the national Guard and popular magistrates who, a week before, had so bravely repulsed the great Vendean army, dared to more than this; they limited the powers of the Convention and condemned all meddling: according to them, the sending of representatives on mission was "an usurpation, an attack on national sovereignty;" representatives had been elected
"to make and not to execute laws, to prepare a constitution and regulate all public powers, and not to confound these together and exercise them all at once; to protect and maintain intermediary powers which the people have delegated, and not to encroach upon and annihilate them."
With still greater boldness, Montpellier enjoined all representatives everywhere to meet at the headquarters of their respective departments, and await the verdict of a national jury. In short, in accordance with the very democratic creed, "nothing was visible amid the ruins of the Convention," mutilated and degraded, but interloping "attorneys." "The people's workmen" are summoned "to return to obedience and do justice to the reproaches addressed to them by their legitimate master;" the nation canceled the pay of its clerks at the capital, withdrew the mandate they had misused, and declared them usurpers if they persisted in not yielding up their borrowed sovereignty "to its inalienable sovereignty."—To this stroke, which strikes deep, the "Mountain" replies by a similar stroke; it also renders homage to principles and falls back on the popular will. Through the sudden manufacture of an ultra-democratic constitution, through a convocation of the primary assemblies, and a ratification of its work by the people in these assemblies, through the summoning of delegates to Paris, through the assent of these converted, fascinated, or constrained delegates, it exonerates and justifies itself, and thus deprives the Girondins of the grievances to which they had given currency, of the axioms they had displayed on their standards, and of the popularity they thought they had acquired.—Henceforth, the ground their opponents had built on sinks under their feet; the materials collected by them disintegrate in their hands; their league dissolves before it is completed, and the incurable weakness of the party appears in full daylight.
Firstly, in the departments, as at Paris, the party has no roots. For the past three years all the sensible and orderly people, occupied with their own affairs, who has no taste or interest in politics, nine-tenths of the electors, abstain from voting and in this large mass the Girondins have no adherents. As they themselves admit, this class remains attached to the institutions of 1791, which they have overthrown; if it has any esteem for them, it is as "extremely honest madmen." Again, this esteem is mingled with aversion: it reproaches them with the violent decrees they have passed in concert with the "Mountain;" with persecutions, confiscations, every species of injustice and cruelty; it always sees the King's blood on their hands; they, too, are regicides, anti-Catholics, anti-Christians, demolishers and levelers.—Undoubtedly they are less so than the "Mountain;" hence, when the provincial insurrection breaks out, many Feuillants and even Royalists follow them to the section assemblies and join in their protests. But the majority goes no further, and soon falls back into is accustomed inertia. It is not in harmony with its leaders: its latent preferences are opposed to their avowed program; it does not wholly trust them; it has only a half-way affection for them; its recent sympathies are deadened by old animosities: everywhere, instead of firmness there is only caprice. All this affords no assurance of steadfast loyalty and practical adhesion. The Girondin deputies scattered through the provinces relied upon each department arousing itself at their summons and forming a republican Vendee against the "Mountain:" nowhere do they find anything beyond mild approval and speculative hopes.
There remains to support them the elite of the republican party, the scholars and lovers of literature, who are honest and sincere thinkers, who, worked upon by the current dogmas, have accepted the philosophical catechism literally and seriously. Elected judges, or department, district, and city administrators, commanders and officers of the National Guard, presidents and secretaries of sections, they occupy most of the places conferred by local authority, and hence their almost unanimous protest seems at first to be the voice of France. In reality, it is only the despairing cry of a group of staff-officers without an army. Chosen under the electoral pressure with which we are familiar, they possess rank, office and titles, but no credit or influence; they are supported only by those whom they really represent, that is to say, those who elected them, a tenth of the population, and forming a sectarian minority. Again, in this minority there are a good many who are lukewarm; with most men the distance is great between conviction and action; the interval is filled up with acquired habits, indolence, fear and egoism. One's belief in the abstractions of the "Contrat-social" is of little account; no one readily bestirs oneself for an abstract end. Uncertainties beset one at the outset; the road one has to follow is found to be perilous and obscure, and one hesitates and postpones; one feels himself a home-body and is afraid of engaging too deeply and of going too far. Having expended one's breath in words one is less willing to give one's money; another may open his purse but he may not be disposed to give himself, which is as true of the Girondins as it is of the Feuillants.
"At Marseilles, at Bordeaux," says a deputy, "in nearly all the principal towns, the proprietor, slow, indifferent and timid, could not make up his mind to leave home for a moment; it was to mercenaries that he entrusted his cause his arms."
Only the federates of Mayenne, Ile-et-Vilaine, and especially of Finisterre, were "young men well brought up and well informed about the cause they were going to support." In Normandy, the Central Committee, unable to do better, has to recruit its soldiers, and especially gunners, from the band of Carabots, former Jacobins, a lot of ruffians ready for anything, pillagers and runaways at the first canon-shot. At Caen, Wimpffen, having ordered the eight battalions of the National Guard to assemble in the court, demands volunteers and finds that only seventeen step forth; on the following day a formal requisition brings out only one hundred and thirty combatants; other towns, except Vire, which furnishes about twenty, refuse their contingent. In short, a marching army cannot be formed, or, if it does march, it halts at the first station, that of Evreux before reaching Vernon, and that of Marseilles at the walls of Avignon.
On the other hand, by virtue of being sincere and logical, those who have rebelled entertain scruples and themselves define the limits of their insurrection. The fugitive deputies at their head would believe themselves guilty of usurpation had they, like the "Mountain" at Paris, constituted themselves at Caen en sovereign assembly: according to them, their right and their duty is reduced to giving testimony concerning the 31st of May and the 1st of June, and to exhorting the people and to being eloquent. They are not legally qualified to take executive power; it is for the local magistrates, the elus(elected) of the sections, and better still, the department committees to command in the departments. Lodged as they are in official quarters, they are merely to print formal statements, write letters, and, behaving properly, wait until the sovereign people, their employer, reinstates them. It has been outraged in their persons; it must avenge itself for this outrage; since it approves of its mandatories, it is bound to restore them to office; it being the master of the house, it is bound to have its own way in the house.—As to the department committees, it is true that, in the heat of the first excitement, they thought of forming a new Convention at Bourges, either through a muster of substitute deputies, or through the convocation of a national commission of one hundred and seventy members. But time is wanting, also the means, to carry out the plan; it remains suspended in the air like vain menace; at the end of a fortnight it vanishes in smoke; the departments succeed in federating only in scattered groups; they desist from the formation of a central government, and thus, through this fact alone, condemn themselves to succumb, one after the other, in detail, and each at home.—What is worse, through conscientiousness and patriotism, they prepare their own defeat: the refrain from calling upon the armies and from stripping the frontiers; they do not contest the right of the Convention to provide as it pleases for the national defense. Lyons allows the passage of convoys of cannon-balls which are to be subsequently used in cannonading its defenders. The authorities of Puy-de-Dome aid by sending to Vendee the battalion that they had organized against the "Mountain." Bordeaux is to surrender Chateau-Trompette, its munitions of war and supplies, to the representatives on mission; and, without a word, with exemplary docility, both the Bordeaux battalions which guard Blaye suffer themselves to be dislodged by two Jacobin battalions. Comprehending the insurrection in this way, defeat is certain beforehand.
The insurgents are thus conscious of their false position; they have a vague sort of feeling that, in recognizing the military authority of the Convention, they admit its authority in full; insensibly they glide down this slope, from concession to concession, until they reach complete submission. From the 16th of June, at Lyons, "people begin to feel that it ought not break with the Convention." Five weeks later, the authorities of Lyons "solemnly recognize that the Convention is the sole central rallying point of all French citizens and republicans," and decree that "all acts emanating from it concerning the general interests of the republic are to be executed." Consequently, at Lyons and in other departments, the administrations convoke the primary assemblies as the Convention has prescribed; consequently, the primary assemblies accept the Constitution which it has proposed; consequently, the delegates of the primary assemblies betake themselves to Paris according to its orders.—Henceforth, the Girondins' cause is lost; the discharge of a few cannon at Vernon and Avignon disperse the only two columns of soldiery that have set out on their march. In each department, the Jacobins, encouraged by the representatives on mission, raise their heads; everywhere the local club enjoins the local government to submit, everywhere the local governments report the acts they pass, make excuses and ask forgiveness. Proportionately to the retraction of one department, the rest, feeling themselves abandoned, are more disposed to retract. On the 9th of July forty-nine departments are enumerated as having given in their adhesion. Several of them declare that the scales have dropped from their eyes, that they approve of the acts of May 31 and June 2, and thus ensure their safety by manifesting their zeal. The administration of Calvados notifies the Breton federes that "having accepted the Constitution it can no longer tolerate their presence in Caen;" it sends them home, and secretly makes peace with the "Mountain;" and only informs the deputies, who are its guests, of this proceeding, three days afterwards, by postings on their door the decree that declares them outlaws.
Disguised as soldiers, the latter depart along with the Breton federes; on the way, they are able to ascertain the veritable sentiments of this people whom they believe imbued with their rights and capable of taking a political initiative. The pretended citizens and republicans they have to do with are, in sum, the former subjects of Louis XVI. and the future subjects of Napoleon I., that is to say, administrators and people, disciplined by habit and instinctively subordinate, requiring a government just as sheep require a shepherd and a watch-dog, accepting or submitting to shepherd and dog, provided these look and act the part, even if the shepherd be a butcher and the dog a wolf. To avoid isolation, to rejoin the most numerous herd as soon as possible, to always form masses and bodies and thus follow the impulsion which comes from above, and gather together scattered individuals, such is the instinct of the flock.
In the battalion of federates, they begin by saying that, as the Constitution is now accepted and the convention recognized, it is no longer allowed to protect deputies whom it has declared outlaws: "that would be creating a faction." Thereupon, the deputies withdraw from the battalion, and, in a little squad by themselves, march along separately. As they are nineteen in number, resolute and well armed, the authorities of the market-towns through which they pass make no opposition by force; it would be offering battle, and that surpasses a functionary's zeal; moreover, the population is either indifferent toward them or sympathetic. Nevertheless, efforts are made to stop them, sometimes to surround them and take them by surprise; for, a warrant of arrest is out against them, transmitted through the hierarchical channel, and every local magistrate feels bound to do his duty as gendarme. Under this administrative network, the meshes of which they encounter everywhere, the proscribed deputies can do naught else but hide in caves or escape by sea.—On reaching Bordeaux, they find other sheep getting ready for the slaughter-house. Saige, the mayor, preaches conciliation and patience: he declines the aid of four or five thousand young men, three thousand grenadiers of the National Guard, and two or three hundred volunteers who had formed themselves into a club against the Jacobin club. He persuades them to disband; he sends a deputation to Paris to entreat the Convention to overlook "a moment of error" and pardon their "brethren who had gone astray."—"They flattered themselves," says a deputy, an eye-witness, "that prompt submission would appease the resentment of tyrants and that these would be, or pretend to be, generous enough to spare a town that had distinguished itself more than any other during the Revolution." Up to the last, they are to entertain the same illusions and manifest the same docility. When Tallien, with his eighteen hundred peasants and brigands, enters Bordeaux, twelve thousand National Guards, equipped, armed and in uniform, receive him wearing oak-leaf crowns; they listen in silence to "his astounding and outrageous discourse;" they suffer him to tear off their crowns, cockades and epaulettes; the battalions allow themselves to be disbanded on the spot; on returning to their quarters they listen with downcast eyes to the proclamation which "orders all inhabitants without distinction to bring their arms within thirty-six hours, under the penalty of death, to the glacis of the Chateau-Trompette; before the time elapses thirty thousand guns, swords, pistols and even pocket-knives are given up."
Here, as at Paris, on the 20th of June, 10th of August, 2nd of September, 3rd of May and 2nd of June, as at every critical moment of the Revolution in Paris and the provinces, habits of subordination and of amiability, stamped on a people by a provident monarchy and a time-honored civilization, have blunted in man the foresight of danger, his aggressive instinct, his independence and the faculty of depending upon himself only, the willingness to help one another and of saving himself. Inevitably, when anarchy brings a nation back to the state of nature, the tame animals will be eaten by the savage ones,—these are now let loose and immediately they show their true nature.
VIII. The Reasons for the Terror.
The last local resistance.—Political orthodoxy of the insurgent towns.—They stipulate but one condition.—Reasons of State for granting this.—Party arguments against it.
If the men of the "Mountain" had been statesmen, or even sensible men, they would have shown themselves humane, if not for the sake of humanity, at least through calculation; for in this France, so little republican, all the republican strength is not too great for the founding of the Republic, while, through their principles, their culture, their social position and their number, the Girondins form the elite and the force, the flower and the sap of the party.—The death-cry of the "Mountain" against the insurgents of Lozere and Vendee can be understood: they had raised the king's white flag; they accepted leaders and instructions from Coblentz and London. But neither Bordeaux, Marseilles nor Lyons are royalist, or in alliance with the foreigner.
"We, rebels!" write the Lyonnese; "Why we see no other than the tri-color flag waving; the white cockade, the symbol of rebellion, has never been raised within our walls. We, royalists! Why, shouts of 'Long live the Republic' are heard on all sides, and, spontaneously (in the session of July 2nd) we have all sworn to fall upon whoever should propose a king.... Your representatives tell you that we are anti-revolutionaries, we who have accepted the Constitution. They tell you that we protect emigres when we have offered to surrender all those that you might indicate. They tell you that our streets are filled with refractory priests, when we have not even opened the doors of Pierre-en-Cize (prison) to the thirty-two priests confined there by the old municipality, without indictment, without any charge whatever against them, solely because they were priests."
Thus, at Lyons, the pretended aristocrats were, then, not only republicans but democrats and radicals, loyal to the established regime, and submissive to the worst of the revolutionary laws, while the same state of things prevailed at Bordeaux, at Marseilles and even at Toulon. And furthermore, they accepted the outrages of May 31 and June 2; they stopped contesting the usurpations of Paris; they no longer insisted on the return of the excluded deputies. On the 2nd of August at Bordeaux, and the 30th of July at Lyons, the Committee-Extraordinary of Public Safety resigned; there no longer existed any rival assembly opposed to the Convention. After the 24th of July, Lyons solemnly recognized the supreme and central authority, reserving nothing but its municipal franchises.—And better still, in striking testimony of political orthodoxy, the Council-General of the department prescribed a civic festival for the 10th of August analogous to that of Paris. The Lyonnese, already blockaded, indulged in no hostile manifestation; on the 7th of August they marched out of their advanced positions to fraternize with the first body of troops sent against them. They conceded everything, save on one point, which they could not yield without destruction, namely, the assurance that they should not be given up defenseless to the arbitrary judgment of their local tyrants, to the spoliation, proscriptions and revenge of the Jacobin rabble. In sum, at Marseilles and Bordeaux, especially at Lyons and Toulon, the sections had revolted only on that account; acting promptly and spontaneously, the people had thrust aside the knife which a few ruffians aimed at their throats; they had not been, and were not now, willing to be "Septemberised," that was their sole concern. Provided they were not handed over to the butchers bound hand and foot, they would open their gates. On these minimum terms the "Mountain" could terminate the civil war before the end of July. It had only to follow the example of Robert Lindet who, at Evreux the home of Buzot, at Caen the home of Charlotte Corday and the central seat of the fugitive Girondins, established permanent obedience through the moderation he had shown and the promises he had kept. The measures that had pacified the most compromised province would have brought back the others, and through this policy, Paris, without striking a blow, would have secured the three largest cities in France, the capital of the South-west, that of the South, and the capital of the Center.
On the contrary, should Paris persist in imposing on them the domination of its local Jacobins there was a risk of their being thrown into the arms of the enemy. Rather than fall back into the hands of the bandits who had ransomed and decimated them, Toulon, starved out, was about to receive the English within its walls and surrender to them the great arsenal of the South. Not less famished, Bordeaux might be tempted to demand aid from another English fleet; a few marches would brings the Piedmontese army to Lyons; France would then b cut in two, while the plan of stirring up the South against the North was proposed to the allies by the most clear-sighted of their councilors. Had this plan been carried out it is probably that the country would have been lost.—In any event, there was danger in driving the insurgents to despair: for, between the unbridled dictatorship of their victorious assassins and the musketry of the besieging army, there could be no hesitation by men of any feeling; it was better to be beaten on the ramparts than allow themselves to be bound for the guillotine; brought to a stand under the scaffold, their sole resource was to depend on themselves to the last.—Thus, through its unreasonableness, the "Mountain" condemns itself to a number of sieges or blockades which lasted several months, to leaving Var and Savoy unprotected, to exhausting the arsenals, to employing against Frenchmen troops and munitions needed against foreigners, and all this at the moment the foreigner was taking Valenciennes and Mayence, when thirty thousand royalist were organizing in Lozere, when the great Vendean army was laying siege to Nantes, when each new outbreak of fighting was threatening to connect the flaming frontier with the conflagration in the Catholic countries.—With a jet of cold water aptly directed, the "Mountain" could extinguish the fires it had kindled in the great republican towns; otherwise, nothing remained but to let them increase at the risk of consuming the whole country, with no other hope than that they might at last die out under a mass of ruins, and with no other object but to rule over captives and the dead.
But this is precisely the Jacobin aim; for, he is not satisfied with less than absolute submission; he must rule at any cost, just as he pleases, by fair means or foul, no matter over what ruins. A despot by instinct and installation, his dogma has consecrated him King; he is King by natural and divine right, in the name of eternal verity, the same as Philip II., enthroned by his religious system and blessed by his Holy Office. Hence he can abandon no jot or title of his authority without a sacrifice of principle, nor treat with rebels, unless they surrender at discretion; simply for having risen against legitimate authority, they are traitors and villains. And who are greater rascals the renegades who, after three years of patient effort, just as the sect finally reaches its goal, oppose its accession to power! At Nimes, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Toulon, and Lyons, not only have they interfered with or arrested the blow which Paris struck, but they have put down the aggressors, closed the club, disarmed the fanatical and imprisoned the leading Maratists; and worse still, at Lyons and at Toulon, five or six massacreurs, or promoters of massacre, Chalier and Riard, Jassaud, Sylvestre and Lemaille, brought before the courts, have been condemned and executed after a trial in which all the forms were strictly adhered to.—That is the inexpiable crime; for, in this trial, the "Mountain" is involved; the principles of Sylvestre and Chalier are its principles; what is accomplished in Paris, they have attempted in the provinces; if they are guilty, it is also guilty; it cannot tolerate their punishment without assenting to its own punishment. Accordingly,
* it must proclaim them heroes and martyrs,
* it must canonize their memory,
* it must avenge their tortures,
* it must resume and complete their assaults,
* it must restore their accomplices to their places,
* it must render them omnipotent,
* it must force each rebel city to accept the rule of its rabble and villains.
It matters little whether the Jacobins be a minority, whether at Bordeaux, they have but four out of twenty-eight sections on their side, at Marseilles five out of thirty-two, whether at Lyons they can count up only fifteen hundred devoted adherents. Suffrages are not reckoned, but weighed, for legality is founded, not on numbers, but on patriotism, the sovereign people being composed wholly of sans-culottes. So much the worse for towns where the anti-revolutionary majority is so great; they are only more dangerous; under the republican demonstrations is concealed the hostility of old parties and of the "suspect" classes, the Moderates, the Feuillants and Royalists, merchants, men of the legal profession, property-owners and muscadins. These towns are nests of reptiles and must be crushed out.
IX. Destruction of Rebel Cities
Consequently, obedient or disobedient, they are crushed out. They are declared traitors to the country, not merely the members of the departmental committees, but, at Bordeaux, all who have "aided or abetted the Committee of Public Safety;" at Lyons, all administrators, functionaries, military or civil officers who "convoked or tolerated the Rhone-et-Loire congress," and furthermore, "every individual whose son, clerk, servant, or even day-laborer, may have borne arms or contributed the means of resistance," that is to say, the entire National Guard who took up arms, and nearly all the population which gave its money or voted in the sections.—By virtue of this decree, all are "outlaws," or, in other words subject to the guillotine just on the establishment of their identity, and their property confiscated. Consequently, at Bordeaux, where not a gun had been fired, the mayor Saige, and principal author of the submission, is at once led to the scaffold without any form of trial, while eight hundred and eighty-one others succeed him amidst the solemn silence of a dismayed population. Two hundred prominent merchants are arrested in one night; more than fifteen hundred persons are imprisoned; all who are well off are ransomed, even those against who no political charge could be made; nine millions of fines are levied against "rich egoists." One of these, accused of "indifference and moderatism," pays twenty thousand francs "not to be harnessed to the car of the Revolution;" another "convicted of having shown contempt for his section and for the poor by giving thirty livres per months," is taxed at one million two hundred thousand livres, while the new authorities, a crooked mayor and twelve knaves composing the Revolutionary Committee, traffic in lives and property. At Marseilles, says Danton, the object is "to give the commercial aristocracy an important lesson;" we must "show ourselves as terrible to traders as to nobles and priests;" consequently, twelve thousand of them are proscribed and their possessions sold. From the first day the guillotine works as fast as possible; nevertheless, it does not work fast enough for Representative Freron who finds the means for making it work faster.
"The military commission we have established in place of the revolutionary tribunal," he writes, "works frightfully fast against the conspirators.... They fall like hail under the sword of the law. Fourteen have already paid for their infamous treachery with their heads. To-morrow, sixteen more are to be guillotined, all chiefs of the legion, notaries, sectionists, members of the popular tribunal; to-morrow, also, three merchants will dance the carmagnole, and they are the ones we are after."
Men and things, all must perish; he wishes to demolish the city and proposes to fill up the harbor. Restrained with great difficulty, Freron contents himself with a destruction of "the haunts" of the aristocracy, two churches, the concert-hall, the houses around it, and twenty-three buildings in which the rebel sections had held their meetings.
At Lyons, to increase the booty, the representatives had taken pains to encourage the manufacturers and merchants with vague promises; these opened their shops and brought their valuable goods, books and papers out of their hiding-places. No time is lost in seizing the plunder; "a list of all property belonging to the rich and to anti-revolutionaries" is drawn up, which is "confiscated for the benefit of the patriots of the city;" in addition to this a tax of six millions is imposed, payable in eight days, by those whom the confiscation may have still spared; it is proclaimed, according to principle, that the surplus of each individual belongs by right to the sans-culottes, and whatever may have been retained beyond the strictly necessary, is a robbery by the individual to the detriment of the nation. In conformity with this rule there is a general rounding up, prolonged for ten months, which places the fortunes of a city of one hundred and twenty thousand souls in the hands of its scoundrels. Thirty-two revolutionary committees "whose members are thick as thieves select thousands of guards devoted to them." In confiscated dwellings and warehouses, they affix seals without an inventory; they drive out women and children "so that there shall be no witnesses;" they keep the keys; they enter and steal when they please, or install themselves for a revel with prostitutes.—Meanwhile, the guillotine is kept going, and people are fired at and shot down with grape-shot. The revolutionary committee officially avow one thousand six hundred and eighty-two acts of murder committed in five months, while a confederate of Robespierre's privately declare that there were six thousand.
Blacksmiths are condemned to death for having shod the Lyonnese cavalry, firemen for having extinguished fires kindled by republican bombshells, a widow for having paid a war-tax during the siege, market women for "having shown disrespect to patriots." It is an organized "Septembrisade" made legal and lasting; its authors are so well aware of the fact as to use the word itself in their public correspondence.—At Toulon it is worse, people are slaughtered in heaps, almost haphazard. Notwithstanding that the inhabitants the most compromised, to the number of four thousand, take refuge on board English vessels, the whole city, say the representatives, is guilty. Four hundred workmen in the navy-yard having marched out to meet Freron, he reminds them that they kept on working during the English occupation of the town, and he has them put to death on the spot. An order is issued to all "good citizens to assemble in the Champ de Mars on penalty of death." They come there to the number of three thousand; Freron, on horseback, surrounded by cannon and troops, arrives with about a hundred Maratists, the former accomplices of Lemaille, Sylvestre, and other well-known assassins, who form a body of local auxiliaries and counselors; he tells them to select out of the crowd at pleasure according to their grudge, fancy, or caprice; all who are designated are ranged along a wall and shot. The next morning, and on the following days, the operation is renewed: Freron writes on the 16th of Nivose that "eight hundred Toulonese have already been shot." ... "A volley of musketry," says he, in another letter, and after that, volley after volley, until "the traitors are all gone." Then, for three months after this, the guillotine dispatches eighteen hundred persons; eleven young women have to mount the scaffold together, in honor of a republican festival; an old woman of ninety-four is borne to it in an armchair. The population, initially of twenty-eight thousand people, is reduced to six or seven thousand only.
All this is not enough; the two cities that dared maintain a siege must disappear from the French soil. The Convention decrees that "the city of Lyons shall be destroyed: every house occupied by a rich man shall be demolished; only the dwellings of the poor shall remain, with edifices specially devoted to industry, and monuments consecrated to humanity and public education." The same at Toulon: "the houses within the town shall be demolished; only the buildings that are essential for army and navy purposes, for stores and munitions, shall be preserved." Consequently, a requisition is made in Var and the neighboring departments for twelve thousand masons to level Toulon to the ground.—At Lyons, fourteen thousand laborers pull down the Chateau Pierre-Encize; also the superb houses on Place Bellecour, those of the Quai St.-Clair, those of the Rues de Flandre and de Bourgneuf, and many others; the cost of all this amounts to four hundred thousand livres per decade; in six months the Republic expends fifteen millions in destroying property valued at three or four hundred millions, all belonging to the Republic. Since the Mongols of the fifth and thirteenth centuries, no such vast and irrational waste had been seen—such frenzy against the most profitable fruits of industry and human civilization.—Again, one can understand how the Mongols, who were nomads, desired to convert the soil into one vast steppe. But, to demolish a town whose arsenal and harbor is maintained by it, to destroy the leaders of manufacturing interests and their dwellings in a city where its workmen and factories are preserved, to keep up a fountain and stop the stream which flows from it, or the stream without the fountain, is so absurd that the idea could only enter the head of a Jacobin. His imagination has run so wild and his prevision become so limited that he is no longer aware of contradictions; the ferocious stupidity of the barbarian and the fixed idea of the inquisition meet on common ground; the earth is not big enough for any but himself and the orthodox of his species. Employing absurd, inflated and sinister terms he decrees the extermination of heretics: not only shall their monuments, dwellings and persons be destroyed, but every vestige of them shall be eradicated and their names lost to the memory of man.
"The name of Toulon shall be abolished; that commune shall henceforth bear the name of Port-la-Montagne."—"The name of Lyons shall be stricken off the list of towns belonging to the Republic; the remaining collection of houses shall henceforth bear the name of Ville-Affranchie. A column shall be erected on the ruins of Lyons bearing this inscription: 'Lyons made war on Liberty! Lyons is no more!'"
X. Destruction of the Girondin party
Destruction of the Girondin party.—Proscription of the Deputies of the "Right".—Imprisonment of the 73.—Execution of the 21.—Execution, suicide, or flight of the rest.
In all this there is no intention to spare in Paris the chiefs of the insurrection or of the party, either deputies or ministers; on the contrary, the object is to complete the subjection of the Convention, to stifle the murmurs of the "Right," to impose silence on Ducos, Boyer-Fonfrede, Vernier, and Couhey, who still speak and protest. Hence the decrees of arrest or death, launched weekly from the top of the "Mountain," fall on the majority like guns fired into a crowd. Decrees of accusation follow: on the 15th of June, against Duchatel, on the 17th against Barbaroux, on the 23rd against Brissot, on the 8th of July against Deverite and Condorcet, on the 14th against Lauze-Deperret and Fauchet, on the 30th against Duprat Jr., Valee and Mainvielle, on the 2nd of August against Rouyer, Brunel and Carra; Carra, Lauze-Deperret and Fauchet, present during the session, are seized on the spot, which is plain physical warning: none is more effective to check the unruly.—Decrees are passed on the 18th of July accusing Coustard, on the 28th of July against Gensonne, La Source, Vergniaud, Mollevaut, Gardien, Grangeneuve, Fauchet, Boilleau, Valaze, Cussy, Meillan; each being aware that the tribunal before which he must appear is the waiting room to the guillotine.—Decrees of condemnation are passed on the 12th of July against Birotteau, the 28 of July against Buzot, Barbaroux, Gorsas, Lanjuniais, Salles, Louvet, Bergoeing, Petion, Guadet, Chasset, Chambon, Lidon, Valady, Defermon, Kervelegen, Lariviere, Rabaut-Saint-Etienne, and Lesage; pronounced outlaws and traitors, they are to be led to the scaffold without trial as soon as they can be got hold of.—Finally, on the 3rd of October, a great haul of the net in the Assembly itself sweeps off the benches all the deputies that still seem capable of any independence: the first thing is to close the doors of the hall, which is done by Amar, reporter of the Committee of General Security; then, after a declamatory and calumnious speech, which lasts two hours, he reads off names on two lists of proscriptions: forty-five deputies, more or less prominent among the Girondins, are to be at once summoned before the revolutionary tribunal; seventy-three others, who have signed secret protests against the 31st of May and 2nd of June, are to be put in jail. No arguing! the majority dares not even express an opinion. Some of the proscribed attempt to exculpate themselves, but they are not allowed to be heard; none but the Montagnards have the floor, and they do no more than add to the lists, each according to personal enmity; Levasseur has Vigee put down, and Duroi adds the name of Richon. One their names being called, all the poor creatures who happen to be inscribed, quietly advance and "huddle together within the bar of the house, like lambs destined to slaughter," and here they are separated into two flocks; on the one hand the seventy-three, and on the other, the ten or twelve who, with the Girondins already kept under lock and key, are to furnish the sacramental and popular number, the twenty-two traitors, whose punishment is a requirement of the Jacobin imagination; on the left, the batch for the prison; on the right, the batch for the guillotine.