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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 5


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The Girondists, terrified at the aspect of affairs, sent to Danton, to persuade him to abandon the jacobin party, and join them in saving the State; but Danton was too sensible of the hopeless condition of the Gironde, and too truculent himself. He turned his back on the messenger, and said it was impossible; the Girondists had no confidence in him, nor he in them. On the 30th of May the drums beat to arms, the tocsins began to peal out all over Paris. The Girondists fled and concealed themselves. That day passed over in the utmost confusion and terror, but nothing took place. The next morning, the last of May, some of the Girondists ventured into the convention armed, and Garat, the minister of the interior, appeared, and announced that Paris was in full insurrection in consequence of the committee of twelve not having been abolished. Mayor Pache soon after arrived, and informed them that the deputies from the sections had appeared, and he commanded the municipal officers to surrender their authority to the convention, and to resume it in the name of the sovereign people. This was telling them that the mob was the supreme authority, at this moment, in Paris. He informed them also that the sections, with the concurrence of the commune, had appointed Henriot, a low ruffian, notorious for his activity in riots, and for his conspicuous part amongst the Septembrists, as commandant-general of the national guards. At this moment a note was received from the officer serving at the Pont Neuf, saying that Henriot had commanded him to fire the alarm-gun there. Pache said this must be a mistake, as he had himself ordered that the gun should not be fired. It was fired the next moment. At this there was a strange alarm and confusion in the convention; and in the midst of this state of things there was a loud demand for the dissolution of the committee of twelve, and the arrest of all the Girondist leaders. A long contention followed, Vergniaud and other Girondists denouncing the jacobins as the assassins of liberty. Robespierre rose, and demanded a decree against all the accomplices of the traitor Dumouriez. At ten o'clock at night this motion was carried, being seconded by Barrère.

It was Friday night: all Saturday Marat was going to and fro between the Hôtel de Ville, the Evêché, and the Tuileries, where the convention now sate, like a fiend, rousing them to action, and to the entire seizure and destruction of the Girondists. On the Sunday morning - Sundays were always the great days for massacre - Marat rushed to the belfry of the Hôtel de Ville, and began violently sounding the tocsin. This set all the alarm-bells of Paris in motion. The streets were quickly thronged with armed mobs, and bands of national guards. The Mountain met in force at the Convention, and voted the arrest of twenty-seven Girondists by name. Hassenfratz, a doctor of medicine, and a savage, declared that every one of them must fall under the guillotine, without any consideration - " They must all bite the dust! "

Lanjuinais, Barbaroux, Isnard, Fauchet, Lanthenas, and one or two other Girondists, now ventured from their hiding- places, and dared to oppose this bloody proscription of their party. Lanjuinais mounted the tribune, and protested against the Mountain, which was setting itself above all authority, and seeking to deluge the country in blood; but he was laid hold of amidst the most infuriate cries, and his very clothes torn from his back. Whilst he still held firm by the iron railing, and continued his indignant harangue, he was interrupted by the entrance of a deputation from the re- publican union, demanding no more talk, but instant action. Amidst scenes of the wildest disorder the decree was carried, and Henriot, at the head of the guards and the mob, surrounded the Tuileries, as that palace had been surrounded on the 10th of August, to secure the victims. The decree being passed, Henriot appeared in the hall at the head of his soldiers, and was received with acclamations. Being informed that the accused were to be considered as under arrest in their own houses, until the convention shouid other wise determine, he marched away with his soldiers and the crowd, singing " Ca ira! "

This decree was the open signal for the reign of the guillotine. The Mountain declared itself in the act of commencing the massacre of the Girondists. They fled, such as were not too well guarded in their houses. Petion, Salles, Louvet, and a number of others, escaped into the country, and repaired, in the first place, to Caen; there they were joined by some of the insurgents from Brittany, and, making a sort of hollow truce with the royalists, determined there to make a stand against the convention. They styled themselves the "assembly of the departments reunited at Caen." But they received news of the rapid approach of troops from the convention and seeing no sufficient support against them, they again fled to Bourdeaux.

But their sojourn at Caen had one great result: it insured the death of the monster Marat. There was living there at that time Charlotte Corday, a young lady, the daughter of one of the old and now abolished noblesse. Living in the Calvados, she had early imbibed the same republican sentiments as madame Roland, and from the same sources - the study of the Roman and Greek histories, and the revolutionary writers of the preceding age. Glowing with all the enthusiasm of youth for liberty and the regeneration of mankind, she was, like madame Roland, instantly and intensely enamoured of the révolution. She had left the residence of her father in the country to live with a relative or friend, madame de Bretville, in Caen. She was handsome, witty, and of great ability. Her education had been received in a convent; but the perusal or freer writers than penetrate usually into convents had excited her imagination vividly on the subject of freedom. She was, in particular, a great admirer of the writings of the abbé Raynal. She had many youthful worshippers and offers of marriage, and was attached to a young officer, M. Belzunce, major of the regiment of Bourbon. Marat had denounced major Belzunce repeatedly in his journal as a counter-revolutionist; and hence, probably, he became particularly marked out by Charlotte Corday, from amongst the hideous group of the Mountain, as an object of pre-eminent abhorrence. The arrival of the persecuted Girondists in Caen was an event calculated to excite a deep interest in the heart of this ardent young republican of twenty-five. They seemed to her the apostles of the very political creed she had adopted; that they sought the establishment of a pure republic, in which virtue and freedom might flourish together; and where men might embody all the ideal excellencies of a purified society. To her the jacobins were, on the contrary, monsters of anarchy and diabolic cruelty, whose ascendancy would be the reign of infernals - the destruction of human happiness and progress.

Charlotte Corday became acquainted with the leaders of the Girondist party, and deeply sympathised in their plans and misfortunes. She had many conversations with Petion, Barbaroux, and others. These conversations roused all the fire of her nature. She saw war commencing in the Calvados; she heard of it raging in La Vendée; she heard with indignation the accounts of the atrocities of the jacobins, and especially of the sanguinary, murderous nature of Marat. She conceived the idea of ridding France of this monster. In her inexperience, she trusted that, if he were removed, the greatest spring of popular instigation would be annihilated; there would be an end of the blasting, immolating fire that he was perpetually scattering from his journal all over France. She trusted that the terror of such an example would awe the rest of the jacobins, who had always been as notorious for their personal cowardice as for their inhuman ferocity. She resolved, therefore, to sacrifice herself for her country. She wrote to her father to say that, as the troubles of France were daily becoming more alarming, and as war and its many terrors were now threatening the Calvados, she was setting off to England, where she purposed to remain till better times in France.

She informed Barbaroux and Petion that she was going to Paris to endeavour to obtain some papers from Garat, the minister of the interior, for a friend of hers, Alexandine Forbin, who had been a canoness of the Calvados, which were of consequence to her. Barbaroux gave her a letter to M. Duperret, a Girondist deputy, who had escaped the attacks of the Mountain, and who would introduce her to the minister.

On the 9th of July Charlotte took her place in the diligence for Paris, and, arriving on the 11th, she took up her quarters at the Hôtel La Providence, in the Rue des Vieux Augustins. The next morning she delivered Barbaroux's letter to Duperret, who, as well as his friends, were greatly Struck with the beauty and intelligence of the young devotee, and Duperret at once accompanied her to the minister. Having executed her mission for her friend, she next entered on the discharge of her own great design. She wrote a letter to Marat, saying that she was just come from Calvados, and could give him important information regarding the movements of the fugitive Girondists there. She then proceeded, on the morning of the 13th, to a shop in the Palais Royal, where she purchased a large sheath- knife, with which she entered a hackney coach, and ordered the man to drive her to the Rue de l'École de Méde'cine, in which Marat lived, in a miserable third storey. She was there informed that he was ill, and could not be seen. She drove back to her hotel, and there wrote another note, which she intended to deliver herself. In this note she said, " I hope to-morrow you will grant me an interview. I repeat to you that I have just arrived from Caen. I have to reveal to you secrets the most important to the salvation of the republic. Besides, I am persecuted for the cause of liberty; I am unhappy, and this should suffice to give me a right to your protection."

At half-past seven in the evening she presented herself again at the door of Marat, and asked for an answer to the note she had already delivered. The same woman whom she had seen before reappeared, and repeated that citizen Marat was ill, and could not be seen; that he was, at that moment, in his bath. But Marat, who was within hearing, as soon as he understood that it was the young woman who had written to him, ordered her to be immediately admitted. She was conducted into the room where he sate in his bath, having by its side a stool, on which he had ink and papers. Being left alone with him, he inquired eagerly about affairs at Caen. She told him what she had seen, and during this time took a steady survey of the hideous and diseased wretch who had contrived to raise himself to so terrible an influence in the country. He asked which of the Girondists were at Caen; and, as she named them one by one, he wrote down their names. " Very good," said he; " they shall all go to the guillotine! " " To the guillotine! " exclaimed Charlotte Corday, drawing the knife from her bosom and plunging it into his side. It passed right through the lungs; he had only time to exclaim, " Help, my dear! " and fell dead, bathed in his blood.

At his cry, in rushed the woman who had admitted Charlotte, who was his housekeeper (or rather his mistress), followed by a man who was then folding Marat's journal for circulation. They saw the great agitator dead, and the young stranger standing calmly surveying her victim. The man knocked her down with the stool; the woman, like a fury, trampled upon her. The tumult and shrieking of the woman brought in fresh persons. The young assassin was assailed, and in danger of being torn to pieces; but these people were quickly followed by police, who beat them back and secured Charlotte, who, undismayed by the treatment she had received, continued calm, exhibiting a quiet satisfaction in her accomplished object. The police and a number of national guards conducted her through the infuriated crowds, which ran together at the rumour, to the Abbaye. Even the enraged people could not help being Struck by her beauty, and the dignified calm of her demeanour, as she replied to those who upbraided her with her deed, " I have done it for the salvation of my country, and for the suppression of the civil war that is breaking out."

She was lodged in the cell which had been lately occupied by Brissot, but who had escaped thence, had been recaptured, and put into another prison. She immediately sate down and wrote to Barbaroux, to inform him of what she had done, for she seems to have kept locked in her bosom her design, even from the Girondists. She declared, in this letter, that she meant to kill Marat on the very summit of the Mountain, but that his illness had prevented the carrying out her plan. She declared that she sacrificed her own life without regret, because a lively imagination and a too sensitive heart were productive only of a stormy existence. She complained that she was kept in view, both day and night, by gendarmes, and that such indecent conduct could only be the invention of Chabot, for nobody but a Capuchin could be so indelicate. She added that she endeavoured to beguile the time by writing patriotic songs; and that she had given the two last couplets of the charming song Valazé composed at Caen, to ail who would accept them.

No sooner was it known that Duperret had introduced her to the minister, than he was arrested, as well as Fauchet, from something which fell from those who had seen Charlotte before her arrest. After one or two examinations by the committee of public safety, she was removed from the Abbaye to the Conciergerie, which was the next regular step to the guillotine. On the 16th of July, the very day before her death, she concluded her long letter to Barbaroux, in which she informed him of the minute examination that she had undergone; that probably she should die the next day. She also wrote to her father, entreating his pardon for having disposed of her life without his consent; that she had avenged many victims, and that the service she had rendered her country would one day be acknowledged. She said that, for his sake, she wished to have preserved her incognito, but that it was impossible, and she yet hoped that her act would not bring any injury to him. She concluded by begging him to remember the line of Corneille, his great ancestor - "It is not the scaffold, but crime, which makes the shame."

The next morning she was brought before the revolutionary tribunal. Fouquier-Tourville, destined to leave a terrible memory, read the act of accusation, and then Marat's chère amie was called in. Before she could say many words, Charlotte Corday interrupted her, saying, " It was I who killed Marat! " The président asked what induced her to commit that act. She replied, " It was his climes that induced me." When asked what crimes, she replied, "The miseries he bas caused since the révolution." "But who are your instigators?" "I have none," she replied; "it was my own idea." As the witnesses proceeded, she continued to say, "That is true; that is very true." But when it was deposed that she had been at the Mairie the night before she killed Marat, and that it was believed that she meant to kill mayor Pache, she said that was wholly false; she had never been at the Mairie in her life, and did not know where it was. She made the same denial of having seen Fauchet as well as Duperret, and was indignant when they charged her with being the mistress of Barbaroux. The président asked her how she could imagine Marat such a wretch when he so readily admitted her on her plea that she was unhappy; but she replied, "What would it have mattered had he been kind to me when he was a monster to others?" "But," added the président, "do you think that you have killed ail the Marats?" "No!" she replied, regretfully; "no, certainly not! "

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Sir Sidney Smith
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