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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 11


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Chaumette, Hébert, and L'Huillier, the principal officials of the commune, assisted by the majority of their colleagues, by the members of the Cordelier club, by the journalists and pamphleteers, nearly all atheists of the wickedest character - atheists whose fanaticism was far more fierce and malignant than the fanaticism of religion - in conjunction with Anacharsis Clootz, commenced the war on Christianity and on God in the commune. They first obtained a decree that no worship should be allowed outside the churches appropriated to it. This was passed on the 14th of October. All external signs of religion, or of belief in immortality, must be suppressed, and Chaumette took upon himself to suppress, in the streets, " all kinds of jugglery, St. Veronica's handkerchiefs, Ecce Homos, crosses, Agnus Deis, virgins, bodies and rings of St. Hubert," &c. Everywhere the madonnas were hurled from off their niches, and the busts of Marat and Lepelletier were put in their places. Chaumette carried the same iconoclastic reform into the cemeteries. There were to be no ceremonies or prayers over the graves at funerals. All crosses, and Christian emblems, and inscriptions, were to be stripped or erased from tombs. Instead of cypresses and gloomy shrubs, roses and fragrant and gay flowers were to be planted. " I would fain," said Chaumette, " if it were possible, inhale, in the scent of the rose, the spirit of my father." Fouché, when commissioner in the department of Allier, had set up over the cemeteries there an image of Sleep, and this was quickly adopted generally; and inscriptions of " Death is eternal Sleep," and the like, were placed far and wide over the gates of burying places. Chaumette introduced it at Paris, and recommended it to all France, and France was only too ready to embrace the materialist dogma. To a people so sunk in murder, in villany, and in every species of uncleanness, nothing could be so desirable as to persuade themselves that there was no hereafter, and therefore no avenger in it.

Anacharsis Clootz, more mad than ever, appeared before the convention, and told it that it was high time to assert that " there was no other God but Nature, no other sovereign but the human race, the people-god. The people is sufficient for itself. It will subsist for ever. Nature kneels not before herself." He kindly informed them that the getting rid of " the pretended sovereigns of earth and heaven " would supersede any necessity for public officers, taxes, or executioners. Reason would unite all people in harmony; religion was the only obstacle to this utopia. Clootz proceeded from the convention to Gobel, the archbishop of Paris, and assured him that the time was come for him to set an example to the clergy of publicly renouncing the ancient superstitions. Whilst Gobel hesitated at this bold step, one Parens, a country cure, wrote to the convention, saying that he was ashamed of preaching a lie, and, therefore, he renounced his cure, but trusted the government would give him a pension instead of his stipend. The letter was well received, so that it was clear to Gobel that the act of renunciation of Christianity was by no means hazardous, and that, if he delayed, some one might snatch this honour from him. Accordingly, on the 7th of November, he appeared in his pontificals at the bar of the convention, attended by many of his clergy, and also by mayor Paclie, Chaumette, L'Huillier, Momoro, the printer, and others. Chaumette announced that the bishop and clergy of Paris had come to strip themselves of the badges of superstition, and to do a sincere homage to Reason.

On this, Gobel stepped forward, with a red nightcap on his head, his mitre and crozier in his band, and said, " Born a plebeian, curé of Porentruy, sent by my clergy to the first assembly, then raised to the archbishopric of Paris, I have never ceased to obey the people. I suffered myself to be made a bishop, when the people wanted bishops; I cease to be so now, when the people no longer desire them." " Here," says Thiers, " Gobel stripped himself of his mitre, his crozier, and his ring, and laid them down on the table of the house. He had not," says this historian, " abjured either the priesthood or Catholicism. He had not dared to declare himself an impostor who had come to confess his lies." But this is not true. Gobel did not close his speech where it suits M. Thiers to close it. He went on: " Now, when the revolution is advancing to its happy end, and bringing all opinions round one political centre, I think there can be no public and national worship but that of liberty and holy equality; because the sovereign people have so willed it." If that be not an avowal that he had been living in imposture, and that he was an atheist, there is no truth in language.

Then his vicars, and canons, and other priests, followed his example, laid down their letters of ordination, their clerical titles and insignia, declaring that henceforth they would always worship liberty, equality, and reason. They then flung away their clerical hats, and put on red nightcaps. The president praised the conduct of Gobel and the priests, and gave the fraternal embrace to the ex-bishop. Chaumette was in ecstasies, and led the renegade priests in procession through the hall. In the midst of this scene, Gregoire, bishop of Blois, came in, and, informed of what had been done, he refused to abandon his faith. " Is it," he asked, " the income attached to the Episcopal functions that you wish me to resign? I resign it without regret. Is it my quality of priest and bishop? I cannot strip myself of that; my religion forbids me. I appeal to the freedom of religion." Gregoire stood like Abdiel -

" Amid the faithless, faithful only found."

He stood firm amid the roar of execration at his conduct, and Thuriot said, "Let citizen Gregoire be left to consult his conscience, in order to discover whether superstition, the parent of despotism, could be favourable to the progress of liberty and equality." Gregoire was left in a small minority of the bishops and clergy; for the most part, they hastened, both in town and country, to renounce Christianity. Sièyes was amongst these, and even a Calvinistic dissenting minister, Julien of Toulouse.

The commune adopted the example of the clergy, renounced the Christian religion, and adopted that of reason. The different sections of Paris voted every worship but that of Reason and Liberty absurd, and ordered bonfires to be made of confessionals, and church books, and the churches to be shut up, or to remain open only that the people might pay homage to the busts of Marat, Lepelletier, and Mutius Scaevola, elevated to the places where those of the saints had been.

It was decreed by the council of the commune, at the suggestion of Chaumette, that a public festival should be celebrated on the 10th of November, in the cathedral of Notre Dame, in honour of the goddesses of Liberty and Reason. This was accordingly attended by the municipal officers and national guards, when a ballet-girl from the opera represented the goddess of Liberty, and the wife of Momoro the printer, the goddess of Reason. Then, one after another, Liberty and Reason were enthroned and worshipped, and hymns were sung in their honour, and they were worshipped by troops of opera girls and other young women dressed in white, crowned with oak-leaves, and bearing torches - the torches of Truth - in their hands. It was a genuine theatrical scene, burlesquing scandalously the rites of worship.

From the cathedral this pagan rout marched to the convention, bearing the goddess of Reason aloft on their shoulders; they carried her to the very front of the president's chair, and then Chaumette addressed the president thus: - "Sir, fanaticism has given way to reason. Its bleared eyes could not endure the brilliancy of the light. This day an immense concourse has assembled beneath those gothic vaults, which, for the first time, re-echoed the truth. There the French have celebrated the only true worship, that of Liberty, that of Reason. There we have formed wishes for the prosperity of the arms of the republic. There we have abandoned inanimate idols for that animate image, that master piece of Nature; " pointing, as he spoke, to the goddess of Reason, madame Momoro.

At these words the lady descended from her seat, advanced to the president, and gave him the fraternal kiss, amid loud shouts of " The republic for ever!" " Reason for ever!" " Down with fanaticism! " It was then voted that Notre Dame should be the temple of Reason; that every decade her worship should be solemnised there by the reading of the Rights of Man, and by the publication of the news from the army, or other important public intelligence. There was to be a box kept, called the mouth of Truth, in imitation of the terrible lion's mouth at Venice, into which any one might put denunciations against false patriots, or advice for the better management of the affairs of the city and the republic. These were to be taken out and read, and then the worship! was to be concluded with music and republican songs. Such was the religion of France at the close of the year 1793.

The last restraint being now removed, that plunder of the churches, which had been carried pretty far before, was now everywhere completed. Hébert, indeed, demanded that all church towers and spires should be pulled down, as inconsistent with the principles of equality, which he would have carried even into buildings. But the interiors of the churches were now ransacked, and everything of value was carried off or destroyed. The rich vessels, and reliquaries, and costly shrines, were seized, and deposited in carts. Only one bell was left in each church to ring the tocsin. The most beautiful statues of bronze and silver were melted down; those of marble were mutilated or destroyed, or were appropriated, with the valuable pictures, by the authorities of the neighbourhood. Cart loads of these articles arrived in Paris, and were driven to the convention, and men wearing surplices and copes entered, singing hallelujahs, and dancing the Carmagnole, in contempt of the exploded rites of Catholicism. They deposited the host, the boxes in which it was kept, with statues of gold and silver; made satirical speeches; and a deputation with such articles from St. Denis, exclaimed, apostrophising the images, " Oh, you! instruments of fanaticism, blessed saints of all kinds', be at length patriots; rise en masse, serve the country by going to the mint to be melted, and thus give us in this world the felicity you promised us in the other! "

The tombs of ancient kings and warriors were everywhere broken up, and their remains desecrated. Those in the abbey of St. Denis, the burying-place of the kings of France, suffered an especial tempest of destruction. The royal remains were thrown out and kicked about; whether the bones of good kings or bad ones, they had perfect equality dealt out to them. The remains of marshal Turenne now suffered a singular nemesis for the desecration of the German kings, whose bones his soldiers formerly flung about at Speir, making bowls and ninepins of their skulls! Petrarch's Laura, at Avignon, suffered the same indignities. Such was the infernal bacchanal which the French now rioted in! The whole country appeared one great madhouse of bloody and raving maniacs. It was, indeed, a lunatic and devil-inspired nation; the fair advent of liberty being converted into the wild orgie of besotted licence. Instead of the images of the Madonna, you now saw the hideous busts of Marat. Everything Christian was swept away from the names of their towns, streets, and public buildings; and the people now only named their children after the great pagans of Rome and Greece: Solons, Brutuses, Catos, Mutius Scaevolas, and the like.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 11

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