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


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But, if France had long resembled a hell, it now bore a likeness only to its very lowest regions. In the words of Hazlitt, " The whole country seemed one vast conflagration of revolt and vengeance. The shrieks of death were blended with the yell of the assassin and the laughter of buffoons. Never were the finest affections more warmly excited, or pierced with more cruel wounds. Whole families were led to the scaffold for no other crime than their relationship; sisters for shedding tears for the death of their brothers in the emigrant armies; wives for lamenting the fate of their husbands; innocent peasant girls for dancing with the Prussian soldiers; and a woman, giving suck, whose milk spirted in the face of the executioner at the fatal stroke, for merely saying, as a group were being conducted to slaughter, " Here is much bloodshed for a trifling cause! "

During the months of November and December, no les s than a hundred and twenty-six persons perished by the guillotine. Such was the state of France, that the place of execution was almost the only one where people dared to appear; almost the only one which afforded this sanguinary people any amusement. The goddess of Nature had been set up - the goddess of Reason was about to be set up; but Terror was the only real deity of the French. Terror reigned universally over town, and village, and field. Terror conducted the only trade that was left. Trade was not carried on: it was driven by terror, and terror alone. The continual upturning of everything - the continual seizures on property and proscriptions of people of any substance, were such that both trade and agriculture were ruined. The consequent excessive price of ail articles of life had made the mob furious against bakers, butchers, and shopkeepers, and had led the government to decree a maximum rate of all such articles. The retailers were not to charge more than a certain sum fixed by tariff for any article; but, as there was no tariff for the wholesale dealers of whom they purchased, they were soon ruined, or hastened to shut their shops to avoid ruin. Then it was made death to shut up shops; people must trade and be ruined, or go to the guillotine. Then the tariff was extended to the wholesale dealer, the merchant, and manufacturer; then to the producer of the raw material. But all these regulations did not mend matters. The assignats were fallen to only one-fifth of their original value; people hoarded their coin; then it was made death to hoard coin; so people paid it in to government for taxes, and the assignats, left alone in the field, acquired a fictitious value nearly equal to their original one. But the bankers and the stock-jobbers were nearly all ruined. The bankers were declared friends and agents of the emigrants; and, as all dealings in paper securities were suspected, and foreign paper was branded with reprobation, the stock-jobbers were deprived of their trade, or carried it on under terror of death. There was nothing going on but supplying the people with the necessary food, and this was carried on by force and compulsorily. To make any profit, every article that possibly could be adulterated was so, and then adulteration was made death. The bread being still most fearfully adulterated, a law was passed that there should be but one kind, consisting of three-fourths of wheaten flour, and one-fourth of rye. None was even then to be sold till after it had been inspected by government commissioners, nor could be purchased except by tickets issued by the commune. The process caused such delays, that the doors of bakers were besieged by the crowds awaiting their turn, and many had to wait all night. Spite of all this, every possible thing was adulterated. The butchers and porkmen bought up diseased cattle, and cattle which had died accidentally. Drugs, wine, everything was adulterated, spite of the guillotine. Such was the condition which this people had reduced themselves to by their reckless destruction of all former government, instead of carrying rational reforms. They had put themselves under a tyranny ten times worse than the one they had put down - the tyranny of a grossly ignorant, uneducated, and brutal mob. The dregs of society, stirred up from the very bottom, were poisoning the whole community. Even their own historian, Thiers, is compelled to declare, that, " to threaten all lives, to decimate all fortunes, to fix compulsorily the standard of exchanges, to give new names to all things, to abolish the ceremonies of religion, is indisputably the most atrocious of tyrannies."

On the 10th of August, Manuel, who had been procureur- general of the commune, and had gone great lengths himself, was executed on the charge of having favoured the massacres of September; on the 25th, general Brunet was guillotined for not having sent off part of his army from Nice to Toulon, according to instructions; and on the following day general Houchard, for not having managed to capture the army of the duke of York, before Dunkirk. To these followed rapidly a number of other generals: Custine the younger, Beauharnais, the husband of Josephine, and Barnave, and the ex-minister Duport-Dutertré. suffered on the 29th of November. Clavières, late minister of finance, only escaped the same fate by committing suicide in prison, and his wife poisoned herself. Lebrun, who had been minister of foreign affairs, was beheaded on the 27th of December; Kersaint, who had spoken so boldly against the death of Louis, fell at the same time; and old madame Dubarry, the last mistress of Louis XV., a vulgar and most immoral woman, was dragged shrieking and struggling to the fatal machine. Besides these were a host of ex-legislators, lawyers, journalists, and men of letters, perishing from day to day. As the property of all the condemned was confiscated Barrere said, gaily, " The guillotine is an excellent mint; we are coining money bravely in the Place de la Revolution! "

A still more melancholy fate befell most of the leading Girondists who had fled to Caen. Some of them had returned to hide themselves in Paris, but one after another they were dragged from their concealment and put to death. Amongst these was Rabaut St. Etienne, the descendant of a Camisard chief. The rest set out with some battalions of Bretons, and others who were returning home. They marched in the ranks of these as privates, to escape detection. When the Bretons filed off towards their own country, they then marched with the battalion of Cape Finisterre. But this battalion was attacked by the armed jacobins of the south, and refused any longer to protect the deputies. The Girondists, therefore, quitted the battalion at Dinan, and set out to reach Brest, where they hoped to escape by ship abroad. They were Louvet, Petion, Barbaroux, Salles, Brizot, Cussy, Lesage, Bergoing, Girey-Dupré, Riouffe, and some others. Theirs is a long and melancholy story of hiding in. barns and caves, of constant terror, and rejection by friends from fear of complication. Barbaroux shot himself on the road; Petion and Brizot were found dead near St. Emilion; Gaudet, Salles, and Valady, who had joined them, were caught and guillotined. Condorcet, who had gone off in another direction, was thrown into prison at Bourg-la-Reine, and there poisoned himself in the spring of 1794. Louvet managed to get back to Paris, and to hide himself; but all except himself, Lesage, and about four others, perished after many months of the most terrible wanderings and concealments, in hunger, rags, filth, and daily terrors worse than death.

Whilst blood was thus flowing by the guillotine, not only in Paris, but, under the management of jacobin commissioners, in nearly all the large towns of France, especially Lyons, Bourdeaux, and Nantes, a terrible work of extermination was going on against the royalists of La Vendee. The simple people of that province, derived from an origin different from the French in general, primitive in their habits and sincere in their faith, desired no republic. Their aristocracy, for the most part, of only moderate possessions, lived amongst them rather like a race of kindly country squires than great lords, and the people were accordingly cordially attached to them. They wanted, therefore, no republic, no sans-culotteism, no atheism, no goddess of Nature or of Reason. But the jacobins determined that they should possess all these blessings, and they sent first missionaries of the new doctrines, and then commissioners to enforce them. When the decree passed ordering all priests to take the civic oaths, and all who did not to be superseded, they paid no attention to the decree. When their pastors were turned out of their churches and livings, they followed them to the fields and hills, and supported them from their own stores. When the convention ordered them to pay no more feudal dues to their seigneurs, and made it death to do it, they still paid them; and when they were ordered to form national guards, they would have none but their seigneurs for their officers. The country was placed in exactly the same situation as Scotland under the Stuarts - their ancient loyalty to God and king was attacked, and, like the Covenanters, the Vendeans flew to arms to defend their opinions, their pastors, and their rights. There were many local battles when the soldiers of the convention came to drive out the pastors and put in the new-sworn priests, many of whom, like their patrons in Paris, were men of the loosest lives and principles. But the great event which called out the Vendeans en masse, was the seizure of the king on the 10th of August, and his deposition and imprisonment. There were two young Vendean noblemen present at the assault on the Tuileries on the 10th of August, who narrowly escaped with their lives. These were the marquis de Lescure and count Charles D'Antichamp. They returned to their native province, and D’Antichamp remained with Lescure at his house at Clisson. Hither the other loyal nobles flocked, and amongst them the count Henri de la Roche-Jaquelein, only just arrived at his majority, and overflowing with patriotism, but not of the kind so called by the jacobins. The nobles became immediately the objects of the vengeance of the republican government; several of them were arrested and thrown into prison at Bressuire. In March of the year 1793, the convention called for a conscription of three hundred thousand, and the Vendeans, to a man, refused to serve under a government which had persecuted both their priests and their seigneurs. This was the certain signal of civil war. Troops were ordered to march into La Vendee, and compel obedience. Then the peasants flew to arms, and called on the nobles and priests to join them. Amongst the first who took the field were the inhabitants of St. Florent, on the banks of the Loire. The republican commander had fired on the young men who refused to serve; but these, headed by Jacques Cathelinau, a wool-dealer, rushed on the republicans, dispersed them, and seized their gun. They were soon joined by Nicolas Stofflet, a German, who was huntsman to the marquis de Maulevrier, and these united forces marched on Chollet, and took it from the republicans. They then elected MM. D'Elbée and De Bonchamp as their generals. In another quarter a barber, named Gaston, headed a body of insurgents against Challans and Machecoul, and, taking these places, inflicted a bloody vengeance on the republicans. Gaston was soon killed, and the insurgents chose M. Charette de la Couterie as their commander.

Meantime, the republican general, Quetineau, had seized the marquis de Lescure and some others of the insurgent chiefs at Clisson, and put them in prison at Bressuire. La Roche-Jaquelein mustered the peasants from the neighbourhood of his estate near Châtillon, marched to their rescue, and effected it. The leaders, Lescure, Jaquelein, Bonchamps, Cathelinau, and Stofflet, now united their forces, amounting to about thirty thousand men, and marched on Thouars, where Quetineau had posted himself. They speedily compelled his surrender, destroyed the tree of liberty, and burnt the official papers of the administration, towards which the Vendean peasantry always evinced a bitter hatred. The republican troops and civil authorities at this defeat raised the wildest cries of alarm. They sent to all the departments round for help, and dispatched letters to the convention, describing the country in general insurrection, and no republican life safe. The convention issued some terrible decrees against the Vendeans, recalled Berruyer, the commander-in- chief of the department, and sent Biron in his place. But Biron found it no easy matter to make head in such a country, and against such a population. The country called the Bocage, or woody district, constitutes more than three- fourths of Vendee. It is a country of low hills and narrow valleys, intersected by perpetual streams and thick hedgerows. All the peasants were admirable marksmen, for there were no game laws in La Vendée, and every one carried a gun at pleasure, and joined in the sports of the gentry. Accordingly, the Vendeans formed ambushes in the narrow woody passes, and, hemming in the republican troops, poured down upon them the most deadly fire from their concealed positions. In the open fields they attacked them from behind the thick hedges, and when driven from one hedge by overwhelming numbers, retired to another. Between the Bocage and the sea lay the Marais - or, as its name indicates, a district of marshes - intersected by dykes and canals. In such a country, the republican troops, for a time, suffered the most terrible losses. La Roche-Jaquelein drove the republican generals Sandos and Chalbos out of Fontenay into Niort, capturing all their artillery and ammunition. Charette, about the same time, defeated the republican general, Boulard, and Constant and Berthier were driven with severe loss from Saumur to Angers. The Vendeans next marched on Nantes, thirty thousand strong, Cathelinau commanding this force on the right bank of the Loire, and Charette coming up with another army, and posting himself opposite the town on the left bank. He forced his way over the bridge into the town, whilst Cathelinau was attacking it on the other side. The united attack continued fiercely for eighteen hours, for the republicans had great force there. Cathelinau, however, was killed as he led on his troops; and his followers, panic- stricken by his loss, carried him away, and retreated in confusion towards the Bocage. They were pursued by Westermann, who burned the châteaux and villages, laid waste the country, and massacred man, woman, and child as he advanced. But he was soon stopped by the nature of the country and the fury of the peasantry, excited by his barbarity. They waylaid him, defeated him, and now, inspired by fury at his cruelties, showed no quarter to his troops, but cut to pieces all but about three hundred horse, with which Westermann managed to escape. These conflicts took place in June. The Vendeans gave the republicans another terrific defeat soon after near Vihiers, where Santerre, the brewer, was in the battle, whom the peasants made desperate efforts to capture. He managed, however, to make his escape by the speed of his horse, and was only too glad to reach Paris again. By the end of July La Vendée was cleared of the troops of the convention, and in the hands of its own people.

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

Sir Sidney Smith
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Siege of Toulon
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Charlotte Corday
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