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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 9


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"All," says Thiers, " who had belonged to the late court, either by office or by rank, or by attendance at the palace - all who had declared themselves in its favour during the various royalist movements - all who had base enemies, capable of revenging themselves by a denunciation - were consigned to the prisons, to the number of twelve or fifteen thousand persons! " Those who were apprehended were first taken before a committee of their own section, then sent to the Hôtel de Ville, and distributed to different prisons, so long as any room was left. Terror filled Paris; it was the beginning of that awful reign of terror which stands black V3 night in the French annals, a horror to the end of time; it was the beginning of that purgation of murder for which Marat and Robespierre had been so long thirsting, and which they were now to enjoy with a demoniacal delight till they themselves fell in the vast massacre.

The committee of general defence appointed by the assembly met to concert plans of security against the foreign enemy, and they were joined by many other persons, who were deeply anxious. Servan, the minister, proposed that the armed people should place themselves betwixt Paris and the army, for he had no expectation that Dumouriez would be able to check the Prussians; and others proposed that, if the allies drew near Paris, the assembly should retire to Saumur. Vergniaud and Guadet opposed this idea, and Danton supported them in this. He declared all France was in Paris; that it must stand or fall to a man, and that the first thing towards security was to exterminate the traitors amongst themselves. This was the great idea which he and his party were now realising. He contended that the secret enemies within were corresponding with the open enemies without, and they must be sought out and exterminated. " I tell you," he said, " you must strike terror into the royalists!" and he accompanied his words with gestures so ferocious and significant, that none could misunderstand them. Horror pervaded the assembly, yet not a man dared to denounce the contemplated butchery. Every soul was prostrate before the gigantic Moloch of assassination which the jacobins had evoked. Danton quitted the assembly amid a profound and ghostly silence. He proceeded to the Hôtel de Ville, where the measures for the diabolical massacre were carefully perfected during the nights of the 30th and the 31st. The most prominent amongst the coadjutors of Marat and Danton were Panis and Sergent, who had made themselves conspicuous on the 20th of June and the 10th of August; and, next to these, Jourdeuil, Duplain, Lefort, and Lenfant. Maillard, the messenger who had led the army of women three years before to Versailles, was ordered to hold himself in readiness, with a band of low ruffians, whom he had long headed on such occasions. He was said to have been instructed to have his people armed with good bludgeons, so as to strike effectually those that were given up to be killed; he was to take all precautions for preventing the cries of the victims; to have ready vinegar, holly horns, quick-lime, covered carts, &c., for removing blood, and the smell of blood, and for getting rid of the mangled remains.

So well known as were these preparations, the assembly remained motionless. It dared not, or it knew that it could not, arrest the infamous determination. The Girondists were as silent, amid the impending horror, as the jacobins were undisguisedly exultant. One man alone seems to have dared to express his abhorrence of the abomination - Roland; but this was not till after the first night of blood. Then, declaring that he had only then first become aware of the truth, he wrote to Petion, to Santerre, to the assembly, protesting against such unparalleled atrocities, disgraceful beyond all language to France and to civilisation. He declared that he would die at his post rather than give way to the sanguinary fury of the people, or their leaders. The assembly faintly applauded his letter, but did nothing more. The Vergniauds, Gensonnés, and Guadets, who could speak so finely on the perfection of human nature, were dumb, like ail the rest of the Girondists, Roland excepted. Alas! human nature was being reduced to the condition of devildom.

But, if the assembly was quiescent, the more moderate public was in the highest state of agitation; and, above ail, the relatives of the prisoners were in agonies of apprehension. On the 31st of August Montmorin, the late minister, was acquitted by the tribunal of the 17th of August, and the jacobins hailed this as a grand opportunity for working up the mob to the required fury. They declared that there was nothing but corruption and treachery; that no justice would be done on the guilty; and they spread a rumour that the prisoners had a plot for breaking out of the prisons, arming themselves, and wreaking a horrible revenge on those who had put them there; this done, they were to carry off the king to the Prussians. Such absurd tales could only impose on the most ignorant and stupid classes, but they were greedily accepted by the legions ready for the commission of the most monstrous crimes.

On Saturday, the 1st of September, the forty-eight hours closure of the barriers expired, and the domiciliary visits being finished, the gates were again thrown open, and the free communications of the city restored. But this did not meet the object of the jacobins: they had shut up their victims, but they had not dispatched them, and they hit on a fresh ruse for closing the barriers again. They gave out that the allies had taken Verdun, and were marching on Paris. Verdun was not y et taken, but the alarm was effected. On pretence that it was necessary for all the armed Citizens to advance against the enemy on the road towards Verdun, Danton had the drums beat and the tocsins sounded. Ail the Citizens were to assemble en masse on the Champ de Mars, and remain there for the remainder of the day, before marching for Verdun. The stratagem was too transparent: it was to well known that the Sundays were chosen for ail these great revolutionary demonstrations, because then the working classes were at liberty. The friends of the prisoners rushed in crowds to the Hôtel de Ville to solicit, by the most moving prayers, their liberation. Few indeed were their successes. It is said that Manuel, the grim procureur- syndic, was, indeed, prevailed on by a lady to liberate two female prisoners of the finally of La Tremouille; but another lady, madame Fausse-Lendry, pleading for permission to accompany her uncle, the abbé de Rastignac, in his captivity, was answered significantly, by Sergent, " Madame, you are very imprudent: the prisons are not safe! " - they were, indeed, the very centres of ail danger.

Before commencing the terrible butchery, the jacobins raised a fresh cry, that the enemy would be at Paris to three days, and they announced to the assembly the measures they had taken, so as to involve that body in the sanction of their concerted deeds. The Girondists fell headlong into the snare. Vergniaud highly applauded all that was done, and the assembly applauded Vergniaud. " Parisians! " exclaimed this duped rhetorician, " it is time to display all your energy. Why are not the entrenchments of the camp more advanced? where are the pickaxes, the spades which raised the altar of the federation, and levelled the Champ de Mars? You have manifested great ardour for festivities, surely you will not show less for battle - you have sung, you have celebrated liberty, you must now defend it. We have now no longer to overthrow kings of bronze, but living kings, armed with all their powers! " and he recommended that twelve members of the assembly should be deputed to join the people with picks and spades, and set the example them- selves of throwing up entrenchments on Montmârtre. This speech was loudly applauded; the suggestion was adopted, but little did Vergniaud think how it was to be carried out. Danton arose, and left no doubt about it. He insisted that a decree should be instantly passed, ordering every individual to serve in person, or to give up hi3 arms, and that one-third of the armed people should see this enforced. "What do we require," he said, "for the extermination of our enemies? Courage, and nothing but courage! " and he accompanied his words by looks and gestures which gave a terrible meaning to his speech. A new terror was spread through Paris, and through the prisons. The royal family at the Temple anxiously inquired what was the cause of the agitation out of doors. The preparations made in the different prisons Struck horror through the hearts of the captives. At the Abbaye, their dinner was served up two hours before the usual time, and there appeared no knives on the table; they asked, in alarm, the meaning of this; they obtained no explanation. At two o'clock the generale began to beat, the tocsins to ring out, the alarm-gun thundered in their ears.

The first act of this inhuman tragedy commenced by the removal of twenty-four priests from the Hôtel de Ville, where they had been shut up for refusing the oath, to the prison of the Abbaye, under pretext of removing them for trial. The very transfer of them through the streets, at this moment, must have been well known to the municipal officers to be certain death. They were placed in six hackney coaches, and escorted by Marseillais and Breton federates. But they were speedily surrounded by the mob; the very federates, who were their pretended guards, observing to the Bans culottes, "These are the conspirators who meant to murder our wives and children whilst we were on the from tiers." This, in fact, was an invitation to the canaille to massacre them. The thing was speedily done. The coach-doors were forced open, and the prisoners insulted and seized upon to be dragged out. They pulled-to the doors, and endeavoured to defend themselves; but, on reaching the approach to the Abbaye, there stood Maillard, with his assassins, amid an immense crowd, and they were pulled struggling from the vehicles, and murdered one after another. Only one escaped - the abbé Sicard, the celebrated teacher of the deaf and dumb. There was present a match-maker, named Monnot, who was humane enough to risk his life rather than suffer the scandai of the murder of this good man. He threw himself before him, shouted out his name, and declared that they should kill him before they killed that excellent man. He was saved. No sooner was this done than Billaud-Varennes, one of the municipal council, arrived, and, seeing the bloody corpses, told the crowd that they had done a good work. Maillard then cried, " To the church of the Carmelites! " for there was plenty of the same work to be done there, and the whole mass moved off after him. There, indeed, were two hundred priests who had refused to swear - men of all rank s in the church, from archbishops and bishops down to simple cures. This was a tempting piece of butchery to the atheist crowd. They broke open the doors, and cut the poor wretches in pieces, both in the church and in the adjoining garden, to which some had fled, and climbed into trees or upon walls, but only to furnish the more amusement to these fiends in human form. When they were ail dispatched, amid scenes of inconceivable horror, Maillard cried out, " To the Abbaye! " and back they went to that old prison. Before, however, commencing their detestable labours, Maillard called for wine, and it was brought by one of the officers of the section, and they drank destruction to their enemies, amid the gory corpses under their feet. Then, again, Maillard cried, " To the Abbaye! " and they turned and forced their way into it. In this building were confined nearly three hundred persons for political offences. The Swiss taken at the storming of the Tuileries, on the 10th of August, were there; deputies of the first assembly, priests, royalists, and ladies, as well as others. Here Maillard demanded the keys of the prison and the register of the prisoners, including the charges on which they were committed. Fumished with these, lie held a sort of mock court. When it was determined to dispatch the unhappy captive, Maillard said, "Monsieur, à la Force!" as if he had only ordered him to be removed to the prison of La Force for trial; but the moment that he issued from the prison door he was dispatched with swords and pikes. Those who foresaw their fates, and hung back, were thrust out. In this manner were massacred the Swiss guards, the late minister, Montmorin, and his brother, the marquis de Montmorin. The same horrible pantomime of murder was gone through at the prison of La Force, where the delusive cry, which consigned the victims to destruction, was, "To the Abbaye!" and the same process was gone through at the Bicêtre, the Chatelet, and the Conciergerie - the guards posted about the prisons assisting in the massacre. The details of these unexampled barbarities are too revolting to be dwelt upon. Ail through that most terrible of nights they were continued. The commune sent out some of its members to pretend to check them, and to pacify the people. Manuel, and Tallien, and others, went from place to place on this assumed errand; but they had helped to set this massacre in motion, and they could not check it had they been so disposed. Women were in great numbers, as fiercely brutal and active in the murders as the men. The very executioners grew tired out with slaughter, and took the place of the judges, who, in turn, became executioners. But, before the work was done for that night, some of the pent-up and crowded prisoners, awaiting their fates in ail the agonies of terror, were kept two-and-twenty hours without water, and were frantic with thirst!

Some few were saved. Amongst these was M. Journiac de St. Meard, who was amongst the thirst-consumed wretches just described. He was brought out before Maillard. He answered to ail the accusations boldly, that they were lies and calumnies; that, indeed, he was an aristocrat, but had never done any one any harm; that he had served in the army, and his soldiers had adored him. By a miracle, Maillard acquitted him, and the mob shouted, "Vive la nation! " M. de St. Meard published an account of these scenes of terror, called u My Thirty-eight Hours' Agony," which had a prodigious sale. The venerable Sombreuil, governor of the Invalides, was saved by his daughter clinging about him, and pleading so piteously that the tiger-mob was moved, and they let off her father on condition that she drank some of the blood of the aristocrats! The daughter of Cazotte, who had so wonderfully foretold the horrors of the révolution just before it broke out, and the deaths of a number of people of distinction, also saved his life by her prayers and tears. In some other cases, the murderers, with that astonishing French sentiment which suddenly displays a tender emotion in the midst of the most astounding cruelties, carried the acquitted on their shoulders home, and would go in order to witness the delight of their families, and then returned to complete the carnage.

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Camille Desmoulins
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Paris
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