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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 10


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But the Convention determined to bear the Vendeans down by numbers. Vast armies were collected on all their frontiers, which advanced steadily and simultaneously upon them. Amongst these republicans were twenty thousand regular troops, who had capitulated to the king of Prussia at Mayence, and who had engaged not to serve again, but were marched directly here. A hundred thousand volunteers, national guards, and other armed men, swelled this invading host. Amongst these were several detachments known as the "infernal columns," from their unsparing barbarity, murdering all before them, even children at the breasts. The Vendeans were thus gradually pressed back towards the centre of their country, with their families, their flocks, and herds, the republicans destroying the country by fire as they advanced. Yet they did not do this with impunity. The Vendeans defeated them repeatedly with great slaughter, followed by massacres as savage as their own; for, independent of the brutality of the republican forces, the Vendeans found many amongst them whom they had before liberated on their oath not to fight against them again. They now gave no quarter. They defeated Kléber twice, and also Beysser, capturing his baggage and artillery. Their general, Lescure, however, was killed, and, attacking Kléber a third time at Chollet, Bonchamps and D'Elbée suffered the same fate. Most of their other leaders were severely wounded. Kléber here triumphed over them by his weight of artillery, and they now fled to the Loire. Amongst a number of royalist nobles who had joined them from the army of the prince of Condé on the Rhine, was prince de Talmont, a Breton noble, formerly of vast property in Brittany, and now of much influence there. He advised them, for the present, to abandon their country, and take refuge amongst his countrymen, the Bretons. The whole of the miserable and miscellaneous population, nearly a hundred thousand in number, crowded to the edge of the Loire, impatient, from terror and despair, to cross. Old men, children, and women were mingled with half-armed soldiery, caravans, crowded baggage-wagons, and teams of oxen. Behind were the smoke of burning villages, and the thunder of the hostile artillery; before, was the broad Loire, divided by a low, long island, also crowded with fugitives. There were only twenty boats to carry over all this multitude, and such was the terror and confusion of the scene, that the marchioness La Roche-Jaquelein, who was amongst them with an infant of nine months old, declared that it looked like the day of judgment. Lescure, mortally wounded, but not yet dead, was borne along in a carriage till he died; his wife having an infant in her arms screaming for food, till the nurse was compelled to go amongst the burning villages to seek a drop of milk for it. La Roche-Jaquelein had the command of the Vendeans at this trying moment; but the enemy, not having good information of their situation, did not come up till the whole miserable and famished multitude was over.

On their way to Laval, they were attacked both by Westermann and Lechelle; but being now joined by nearly seven thousand Bretons, they beat both those generals; and Lechelle, from mortification and terror of the guillotine now the certain punisher of defeated generals - died.

The Vendeans for a time, aided by the Bretons, appeared victorious. They had two courses open before them: one, to retire into the farthest part of Bretagne, where there was I a population strongly inspired by their own sentiments, I having a country hilly and easy of defence, with the advantage of being open to the coast, and the assistance of the English; the other, to advance into Normandy, where they might open up communication with the English through the port of Cherbourg. They took the latter route, though their commander, La Roche-Jaquelein, was strongly opposed to it. Stofflet commanded under Jaquelein. The army marched on in great confusion, having the women and children and the wagons in the centre. They were extremely ill-informed of the condition of the towns which they approached. They might have taken Rennes and St. Malo, which would have greatly encouraged the Bretons; but they were informed that the republican troops were overpowering there. They did not approach Cherbourg from the same cause, being told that it was well defended on the land side; they therefore proceeded by Dol and Avranches to Granville, where they arrived on the 14th of November. This place would have given them open communication with the English, and, at the worst, an easy escape to the Channel Islands; but they failed in their attempts to take it; and, great suspicion now having seized the people, that their officers only wanted to get into a seaport to desert them and escape to England, they one and all protested that they would return to the Loire. In vain did La Roche-Jaquelein demonstrate to them the fatality of such a proceeding, and how much better it would be to make themselves strong in Normandy and Brittany for the present; only about a thousand men remained with him; the rest retraced their long and weary way towards the Loire, though the republicans had now accumulated very numerous forces to bar their way. Fighting every now and then on the road, and seeing their wives and children daily drop from hunger and fatigue, they returned through Dol and Port Orson to Angers. There, they were repulsed by the republicans. They then retreated to Mons, where they again were attacked and defeated, many of their women, who had concealed themselves in the houses, being dragged out and shot down by whole platoons. At Ancenis, Stofflet managed to cross the Loire; but the republicans got between him and his army, which, wedged in at Savenay, between the Loire, the Vilain, and the sea, were attacked by Kléber and Westermann, and, after maintaining a desperate fight against overwhelming numbers and a terrible artillery, were literally, with the exception of a few hundreds who effected their escape, cut to pieces, and the women and children all massacred by the merciless jacobins. Such was the miserable fate of this brave but ill-informed body of fugitives. Kléber and Westermann announced, in triumphant letters to the convention, that La Vendée was not merely quieted - it was no more! Time showed that there was yet life, and much sturdy life, in that gallant but unhappy country.

But whilst this sad host of Vendeans had been thus in process of extermination, those at home had been perishing, if possible, in a still more horrible manner. In the early part of October arrived in Nantes, Carrier, the commissioner of the convention, to purge that city in the same style as Collot D'Herbois had purged Lyons; as Tallien was purging Bourdeaux; Frèron and Barras, Toulon; Maignet, Orange, in Vaucluse; and Lebon, Arras, St. Pol, and many other places in the north. Perhaps, of these monsters, Carrier is the most monstrous. After wading through the unexampled horrors of »this revolution, we stand appalled at the insatiate frenzy of destruction which distinguished this man, who had been a petty lawyer in some small town of Auvergne. On arriving, he commenced a rapid murder of those who had favoured the Girondists. He established the guillotine in permanence, and seemed to have no idea but of cutting off all the heads that he could. He declared that they would turn all France into a graveyard, but they would regenerate it according to their notions. He then commenced decapitating the Vendean prisoners, who had surrendered on condition of pardon; and when the magistrates reminded him of this, he called them fools, bade them mind their own business, or he would send them all to the guillotine. One day, as the authorities came to consult him about provisions he told them he had no time to attend to their fooleries, and the first blackguard who talked to him of provisions, should lose his head! The municipality were terrified at him.

The unfortunates who had escaped the massacres of Mons and Savenay were now coming in daily in crowds. He thrust them all into the prisons of Nantes, till he had ten thousand there. He then commenced dispatching them daily by shooting and guillotining, but he found this process too slow, and their unburied bodies began to infect the air of the town; he therefore adopted a new plan. Recollecting the noyades, or drownings, of the fourteenth century, he had boats prepared with movable bottoms, so that the victims could be dropped through without admitting water enough to sink the vessel. He first tried the experiment by night on ninety priests, who were told that they were going on board to convey them to some other place. The experiment succeeded so well, that Carrier, on the 14th of December, drowned a hundred and thirty-eight more persons in the same manner. Pleased with this expeditious way of getting rid of his victims, he now sent them on board the fatal vessels in the day-time. If, aware of their destiny, they refused to go, they were driven on board at the point of the bayonet, and then driven into the water in the same manner, whilst soldiers stood ready in boats to shoot or kill with the sword any that attempted to swim away. Carrier did not trouble himself to try the prisoners, but sent them to the guillotine or the death-boats in batches. The executioner, after remonstrating in vain against the numbers sent to him to execute, died in two or three days of horror at his own deeds. French mirth and obscenity were not omitted in these horrors. Men and women were stripped naked, tied together, and thrown into the water. In one night above three hundred infants were thus drowned; in another night three hundred young women, who had nothing whatever to do with politics, but were chiefly what are termed unfortunate women, were drowned. On another occasion, five hundred children of both sexes, the eldest not fourteen years of age, were taken out to be shot. The shortness of their stature caused the soldiers to shoot over their heads. The little victims then ran and clasped the knees of their executioners, praying for mercy, but they prayed in vain. Such diabolic savagery exceeds anything ever imagined of devils.

Carrier, exulting in his unexampled cruelty, wrote to the convention an account of his slaughters, adding, " What a revolutionary river this Loire is!" and the convention commended his zeal. But nature was preparing her revenge. The dead bodies began to float; the river was covered with them, and the same process of putridity which he hoped to avoid by these drownings, renewed itself. Vessels heaving their anchors occasionally raised boats which had been sunk full of people. The birds of prey flocked to the river to gorge themselves on human flesh. Pestilence, added to dearth, again swept the city. Still Carrier threatened with death any one who dared to intercede for any of the victims. Fortunately, this monster of monsters was superseded in the succeeding January, but not before he had dispatched by musketry, drowning, famine, and disease, fifteen thousand people; but the total number of victims of the reign of terror in Nantes was thirty thousand!

These godless atrocities, these enormous murders, beyond all historic precedent, proclaimed a people which had renounced God as well as humanity; and they soon proceeded to avow this fact, and to establish it by formal decree. In their rage for destroying everything old, there was nothing that escaped them. They altered the mode of computing time, and no longer used the Gregorian calendar, but dated all deeds from the first year of liberty, which they declared to have commenced on the 22nd of September, 1792. They made the decimal-system the system of weights and measures, the very best thing which they introduced, taking for the unit of weights and the unit of measures, natural and invariable quanties of matter in every country. Thus, distilled water was taken as the unity of weight, and a certain part of the meridian for the unity of measures. These units, multiplied or divided by ten, ad infinitum, formed the decimal system.

In endeavouring to reduce everything to this system, however, they found nature too strong for them. They could not reduce the year to ten months, because the moon would persist in making twelve of them; but they reduced the number of days to decimal regularity, by making each consist of thirty. As this left a surplus of five days, these were appointed to be held as popular festivals, called Sans-Culottides, or days of the unbreached. The first of these Sans-Culottides was dedicated to genius, the second to labour, the third to noble actions, the fourth to rewards, the fifth to opinion - which last M. Thiers seems to think very beautiful and French. On this last and very French festival - that of opinion - they imitated the Romans, who allowed the soldiers, on the day of the ovation of their general, to express their opinion freely of their commander's actions. Beautiful as Thiers thinks it, nothing is more certain than that any one employing that liberty of opinion against the jacobin authorities would very quickly have lost his head. As every four years brought a leap-year, there was provided a sixth festival for that year - the festival of the Revolution - on which they were to celebrate its triumphs, if they could not its mercy or its amenities. They, moreover, abolished all the old pagan names of the months, fond as they were of pagan references; and, beginning the year with September, they called that month Vendémiaire, or the vintage month; the second, Brumaire, or month of fogs; the third, Frimaire, or frost month: these were the autumn months. The winter ones were Nivose, Pluviôse, I and Ventose, or the snowy, rainy, and windy months. The three spring months were Germinal, Floréal, and Prairial, or the budding, flowering, and meadow months. The three summer months were Messidor, Thermidor, and Fructidor, or reaping, hot, and fruit months. If these were meant to apply universally to all countries, they were as equally opposed to nature as ten months would have been in the year. These names were originated by Fabre D'Eglantine, the player, and had an eglantine-like fancifulness about them. They had a longer duration than many of these republican inventions, for they continued till 1806.

The next and greatest achievement was to dethrone the Almighty, and erect the goddess of Reason in his place. Under the auspices of the goddess of Reason they did a very unreasonable thing: they deprived all working people and all working animals of one rest-day in every month. Instead of having the four weeks and four Sundays in a month, they decimalised the months, dividing them each into three decades, or terms of ten days each, so that there were only three rest-days, instead of four, in the month.

Robespierre, St. Just, and some other revolutionary leaders, stopped short of atheism. Robespierre was such a coward, that he probably dared not to deny a God, lest it should turn out a truth, and he should suffer for it in the next world. On this account, the atheists, since then, have said that they were the deists, and not the atheists, who committed the dreadful atrocities in France. This is not true; both atheists and deists combined heartily in the work. Robespierre certainly was unsurpassed in fiendish cruelties, but Chaumette, Hébert, Anacharsis Clootz, Fouché, and other atheists, were the colleagues of Robespierre, and, at this moment, the prominent actors in all these abominations. These men, moreover, could have done nothing, had not the nation at large been indoctrinated with atheism. They could not have overthrown Christianity, all public worship, all recognition of a God, and of the immortality of the soul, had they not previously brought the population at large to the pitch of atheism. The nation was atheised, and determined, in the words of Anacharsis Clootz, " to destroy all the pretended sovereigns of earth and heaven! " It was atheism which inspired and performed the dreadful atrocities of the French revolution, and the few deists, like Robespierre and St. Just, went fully along with it and its devotees in the race of blood.

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