OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 6

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11

Fauchet and Duperret were called in and interrogated in her presence. Fauchet said that he had never seen Charlotte Corday at any time. Duperret said that she had confided no single idea of her intentions to him, and that he had perceived nothing in her conversation unworthy of a good citizeness. They showed her the knife; she at once owned that it was the one she had killed Marat with. Throughout the whole time of the trial she preserved the utmost calmness and self-possession. She observed some artists attempting to take her portrait, and she immediately altered her position, to give them a better chance.

She had singularly, when told that she could appoint an advocate to plead for her, named Montegnard, and said, in a letter to Barbaroux, that she thought, for a moment, of naming Robespierre or Chabot, so well did she know that an advocate was useless, and she there- fore treated the matter satirically. M. Chaveau - a man of reputation and honour - was then named by the tribunal, and he came forward boldly, and did ail that he could, which was to say that the political fanaticism of the young woman seemed to amount to a species of insanity, and he entreated the jury to bear that in mind. Of course, she was at once condemned. She heard the sentence with a smile, and was conducted back to the Conciergerie. A priest offered his services, but she declined them, saying she knew how to die. At seven o'clock that evening she was summoned to attend the executioner to the scaffold. She was at the moment writing a note to the advocate who had been appointed to defend her, but who had not appeared, in which she upbraided him with his cowardice. She finished the note, and sealed it, and then followed the executioner. She was led through the streets in an open cart, clad in a red shirt, as a condemned criminal; yet her calm demeanour and her beauty moved even the savage mob. Arrived at the scaffold, she laid herself down voluntarily under the guillotine, placed her head right, and it was severed from the body in a moment. Legros, one of the executioners, as he held up the head to the populace, gave it several cuffs on the cheeks. This excited a general murmur: it offended the politeness of the French at the moment of gratifying their love of blood. It could not be said to offend their delicacy, or their real respect to woman, for they had, in Cliarlotte's own case, shown none; and their general conduct towards ladies during the whole révolution was the most brutish imaginable. There were individuals who were at once Struck by the grace and heroism of this young disciple of Brutus; and one of them, Adam Luxe, a deputy extraordinary from Mayence, composed a poem in her honour, in which he declared her greater than Brutus, and demanded a statue in her honour. Such language, addressed to the French nation in the midst of its rabies for blood, was inevitably fatal. He was seized and guillotined himself.

The jacobins did not fail to propagate the rumour that Charlotte Corday had been instigated to this murder by the Girondists at Caen. General Wimpfen, who, at that time, was employed by the insurgent Girondists at Caen, but who soon turned against them, declared that Petion, Barbaroux, and the other Girondist leaders there were at the bottom of this plot; but Charlotte Corday declared that it was solely her own conception, and there does not appear any satisfactory evidence to the contrary. The rumour served its end to whet on the rancour of the people against the Gironde.

Marat's body was laid in state in the church of the Cordeliers, and then it was carried in procession to the garden of the Cordeliers' convent, and buried under a tree. The body had been first embalmed - it had great need of it, for it was a mass of disgusting disease, the result of as disgusting vice. His heart was contended for by several churches, but that of the Cordeliers retained the worthless prize. Women strewed flowers on the coffin as it passed, and the convention attended the funeral in a body, and the président made a flowery discourse over the grave. A pension was voted to his mistress, whom the convention dignified by the sacred title of wife. The Rue de Cordeliers was changed into the Rue de la Marat, and the square near it into the Place de l'Ami du Peuple, in his honour. Marat was about fifty years old, and, notwithstanding the charges of greed made against him by madame Roland and others, no money was found after his death. His printing presses were purchased by order of the convention, and his journal continued by some of his coadjutors. Buste were ordered in vast quantities, and of ail sizes and qualities; and so this monster was honoured by a nation m whom he had so effectually evoked the passion for whole- sale murder! That murder was now fully inaugurated. Blood flowed in torrents, not soon to be stayed, as if in honour of this modem Moloch. It flowed everywhere, and at the command of ail parties. On the day following that on which Charlotte Corday perished by the guillotine in Paris by the hands of the jacobins, Chalier, the président of the jacobin club at Lyons, had his head lopped off by the Girondists in that city, along with the head of his jacobin friend, Riard.

These executions seemed to be the signal for the rush of the jacobin forces on the city of Lyons. It was speedily invested by numerous troops, under the command of Dubois-Crancé, one of the commissioners of the convention. On the 21st of August he summoned the place to surrender, but the Lyonese held out till the 2nd of October, when Couthon, one of the most ruthless of the jacobin deputies, arrived, with twenty-eight thousand armed peasants, from Auvergne. He demanded that the city should be instantly bombarded, and, if necessary, reduced to ruins. Dubois- Crancé said there was no need for this merciless alternative, as the place must very soon yield from famine. Couthon there- upon obtained an order from the convention to supersede Dubois- Crancé, as devoid of proper republican zeal; and, on the 7th of October, commenced a terrible bombardment. The inhabitants came to a parley with Couthon, and Precy took that opportunity to get out of the city at an opposite gate, with two thousand Sardinians and royalists, who endeavoured to escape to Switzerland, but were attacked on all sides, and cut down to about eighty men before they reached the mountains.

As these fugitives rushed out of Lyons, the republicans rushed in, and then commenced such a scene of butcherings, wholesale drownings, murders, and tortures of all imaginable kinds, as only Hell and France have ever witnessed. Couthon immediately appointed a committee to try all rebels, and he sent his opinion of the population at large to the convention, describing the people as of three kinds - the wicked rich, the proud rich, and the ignorant poor, who were too stupid to be good republicans. He proposed to guillotine the first class, to seize all the property of the second, and to remove all the last into different quarters of France. The convention adopted his views cordially, and passed a decree that Lyons should be destroyed; that nothing should be left but the houses of the poor, the manufactories, the hospitals, the school of arts, the public schools, and public monuments; that the name of Lyons should be buried for ever, and that on its ruins should be erected a monument bearing this inscription: - " Lyons made war against liberty: Lyons is no more!" The name of the spot ever after was to be the Liberated Commune.

To carry out the will of the convention and of Couthon, eight hundred workmen, attended by crowds of the most imbruted of the Paris mob, were dispatched to the doomed city; and whilst the committee of terror sent the inhabitants to the guillotine one after another with wonderful dispatch, these fellows pulled down their houses. Couthon was soon called away, but he left behind three spirits like his own to complete the work - namely, Collot D'Herbois, Maribon-Montaut, and Fouche, a native of Nantes, hitherto little heard of, but destined to achieve his own share of the national infamy. Collot D'Herbois is said to have never forgiven the Lyonese for hissing him off the stage when he acted there. He now took an ample revenge. From fifty to sixty persons were sent daily to the guillotine; but, as this did not keep pace with the desire of the commissioners, the people were brought out in masses, and shot down with musketry and grape-shot. Two hundred and sixty-nine were thus dispatched in one day, and the carnage was continued for nearly five months, with some pauses. From five to six thousand people were thus destroyed, and by other means, Collot D'Herbois superintending the massacre, and often killing them with his own hand. When they had slaughtered their human hecatombs to the manes of Chalier, the jacobin, and his friend Riard, these commissioners went in state, preceded by a movable guillotine, and executioners carrying swords dipped in blood, to take up the remains of these jacobin martyrs, and transport them to more honourable sepulchres, with all the usual ceremonies of music, speeches, and scattering of flowers!

The same scenes, but on a still larger scale, were exhibiting in the capital. The Reign of Terror was fully inaugurated, and rapidly extending itself. At first, on the expulsion of the Girondists - that is, in June - the guillotinings were only fourteen. In July it was about the same; but in August Robespierre became a member of the committee of public safety, and then the work went on swimmingly. Moloch was on his throne: the incorruptible had come out of his hiding-place, and stood publicly displayed as the genius of human destruction. From the moment that Robespierre took his place in the committee, the stream of blood flowed freely and steadily. His friend - if such monsters can be said to have any friends - Barrère, who belonged to the timid Plain till the Girondists were overthrown, now became his active agent. He proposed, on the 7th of August, that William Pitt should be proclaimed the enemy of the whole human race, and that a decree should be passed that every man had a right to assassinate him. On the 9th it was announced that the republic w as completed; that Hérault de Sechelles had produced a new and perfect constitution, which was at once adopted by the convention. It was a constitution containing all the doctrines of the Mountain, in the florid bombast of that truculent faction. As it was quickly again set aside, we need not detail its principles. Then this prodigy of a constitution was celebrated on the 10th of August, the anniversary of the day sacred to the downfall of monarchy. Sechelles and the painter David were the most prominent personages in all the ridiculous and blasphemous tomfoolery of the day. A plaster statue of Nature was erected on the Place de la Bastille, having two streams of water spouting from her breasts. In front of the pedestal of this statue was inscribed, " We are all her children; " and all around it were other mottoes, such as " Hell vomited kings; " " Hell vomited priests!" To this female Pan the members of the convention, of the commune, and of the committee of public safety kneeled; and Sechelles made a grand address, commencing, " Oh, Nature, sovereign of the savage and of enlightened nations! " and praying her to receive the expression of the eternal attachment of the French. There was the usual firing of cannon, scattering of flowers, and embracing and kissing. The authorities of all kinds mingled miscellaneously amongst the mobs, to show that Nature had no distinctions. The nurses of the great foundling hospital carried the infants of that establishment in their arms, to show that Nature was the mother of them all. There were numerous other fooleries, such as addressing and crowning with wreaths the dames de la Halle, or market women. Then they marched to the Place de la Revolution, where, on or near the spot where Louis XVI. had lately been executed, David had erected a statue of Liberty, still larger than that of Nature at the Place de la Bastille. This statue was surrounded by a very forest of poles, bearing red caps; and here Sechelles made another pompous harangue, and then three thousand birds were let loose, having each a label round its neck, inscribed, "Imitate us; we are free! " This time, not a tree, but a mountain of the emblems of feudalism was set fire to; and, when these silly sentimentalities were ended, the crowd turned again to the scent of blood.

The very next day Robespierre, in the jacobin club, denounced a whole bevy of generals - placing poor old Custine foremost of them - as urgently requiring the operation of the guillotine. From this moment the guillotine became the punishment for almost all offences - the sequel to every law. Atheism was boldly avowed, even by children, and the convention was asked to put an end to the practice of praying to a God, and to command instead the teaching of the Rights of Man. On the 5th of September Merlin carried a decree of death against all who trafficked in or discredited the assignats. Any one thenceforward who refused to take one of these pieces of paper for its nominal value - three times or more its real value - could be dragged to the guillotine. The convention at once abolished all payments to the clergy, postmaster Drouet declaring that, since their virtue, their moderation, and their philosophical ideas were of no use to them, they had better at once become brigands for the happiness of the people! They had been brigands long, but they now redoubled their brigandage, seizing on the revenues of colleges, hospitals, and other charitable institutions without scruple. Barrere also proposed, in the name of the committee of public safety, a new Parisian guard, to be called expressly the Revolutionary Army, which should enable the authorities to sweep away all the enemies of the republic - or, in other words, massacre all who differed in opinion from them, or had property to seize. The tales about the intrigues of Pitt with the royalists were revived, and it was declared that a nephew of his had been discovered concealed in a chateau at Dinan. The convention shouted in triumph at this seizure - which, we believe, was a perfect myth, invented for the occasion - and decreed the revolutionary army. It was also decreed that the members of the revolutionary committee should receive three livres per day per man. As these committees were established all over France, the sum requisite for the pay of all the members was large, and in consequence whetted still more the desire to seize all moneys and properties possible. Every day now developed more fully the machinery of the jacobin reign of terror. On the 17th of September the convention passed the Loi des Suspects, which enabled the committees to seize and condemn any one that had anything, and trump up some charge against him. It was next determined to deal with all young men of property who had not complied with the levy en masse, and it was decreed that all those who did not join the army, when called upon, should be deemed and treated as emigrants. It was next proposed by Barrere to transport to French Guiana all such persons as should be convicted by the revolutionary committee of spreading reports to the injury of the country; but though that was, from the malignant nature of the climate, nearly tantamount to a sentence of death, Collot d'Herbois - who was, in fact, destined to perish there himself - said that was no punishment at all; that they must transport no more, they must kill all conspirators. Thus every day drew closer the meshes of this infernal net of a government which was to sweep up and destroy every man who had any power or property to make him worthy of notice. Nor did all these regulations suffice: Herault de Sechelles' new constitution was declared an obstacle to the free exercise of the authority necessary thoroughly to purge the republic, and it was suspended on the 10th of October, and the government, it was decreed, should be considered revolutionary till there was a general peace. Moreover, the government being declared revolutionary, any remissness in executing its decrees were to be held to be treason. It is in vain to look through history, even where it describes the sway of the most dreadful tyrants, to discover a system so perfectly and awfully demonised as thi8. The apparatus for death was ready, and it was now put into full action.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 <6> 7 8 9 10 11

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 6

Sir Sidney Smith
Sir Sidney Smith >>>>
Nice >>>>
Siege of Toulon
Siege of Toulon >>>>
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette >>>>
Charlotte Corday
Charlotte Corday >>>>
Burial of Marat
Burial of Marat >>>>
Feast of Nature
Feast of Nature >>>>
M. David.
M. David. >>>>
Marie Antoinette going to execution
Marie Antoinette going to execution >>>>
Marie Antoinette summoned to execution
Marie Antoinette summoned to execution >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About