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

Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 11

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <11> 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33

The next day an immense crowd assembled to see the prisoners carried to the guillotine. It had lately been erected in the Place de la Bastille, but it was now ordered again to the Place de la Revolution, where the king and queen, and so many of Robespierre's own victims, had suffered. As they went along, throngs crowded about the cart to see the fallen tyrant, and the gendarmes pointed him out with their swords. He was pursued by the howling mob, who had formerly yelled as fiercely at his victims, and now charged him with the blood of them all. Troops of women who had danced at the deaths of those that he had sent to the scaffold, now danced the Carmagnole round the cart as it paused before the house of Duplaix, where he had lived. A woman, breaking from the crowd, rushed close to him, exclaiming, " Murderer of all my kindred, your agony fills me with transport! Descend to hell, pursued by the curses of every mother in France! " When they reached the place of execution, Robespierre was first shown to the people, and then laid down on the scaffold with the bloody and nearly dead bodies of his brother and Henriot. The batch consisted of twenty-one, and Robespierre was executed last of all. When he was raised up to be led to the guillotine, he presented a most ghastly figure - his sky-blue coat covered with blood and dirt, his stockings slipped down about his heels, his face livid as death, and tied up in a bandage. The executioner plucked the bandage away, and let the jaw fall. He gave a dreadful yell, which Struck every heart with horror, and the next moment was put under the axe. Samson held up the hideous head to the people, who shouted with delight, and then went away singing. One poor man, as he gazed on that head, said, " Yes, Robespierre, you said true - there is a God! "

Amongst those who perished with this human tiger, this vampire insatiable of blood, and whose name represents all that is smooth, hypocritical, and terrible in history, fell Fleuriot, the mayor, Payan, the procureur, St. Just, Couthon, and last, though not least of a villain, Simon, the shoemaker, who had so barbarously treated the poor little dauphin, having not only reduced him to idiocy by his unheard-of atrocities, but who had taken a delight in making him pronounced the most horrible oaths and obscene expressions, as becoming a sans culotte, to which class he told him he belonged.

At the announcement that Robespierre had fallen, a wild Joy flew through Paris, which penetrated into the prisons, where the thousands immured there danced in their chains and sang in exultation. People embraced each other in the streets, and such was the rush for newspapers containing an account of the execution, that as much as thirty francs were paid for a copy. Robespierre had so concentrated in himself the horrors of the reign of terror, that it was fondly hoped that it had now closed; but this was not yet true. No sooner had Collot d'Herbois, Barrère, and that party triumphed over Robespierre than they summoned the members of the tribunal to their bar - ay, on the very morning of the day of his execution - and voted them honours amid much applause. The tribunal replied, that though a few traitors like Coffinhal and Dumas had found their way into the tribunal, the majority of them were sound and devoted to the convention. Accordingly, the next day the convention handed over to Fouquier-Tinville and his colleagues a list of fresh proscriptions of sixty-nine municipals, and a few days afterwards - namely, the 12th of Thermidor, being the 30th of July - they added twelve more, completing eighty-one victims! These were all executed within twenty-four hours. The convention then fell into new divisions, some members contending for its being time to cease these tragedies, others insisting on maintaining them. Billaud-Varennes, Barrère, and Collot d'Herbois, defended the guillotine and Fouquier-Tinville, but the greater number of the enemies of Robespierre, including Tallien, Legendre, Lecointre, Frèron, Thuriot, Bourdon de l'Oise, Barras, &c., denounced them, declared themselves the overthrowers of Robespierre, and assumed the name of Thermidorians, in honour of the month in which they had destroyed him. On the 1st of August they arrested Tinville, and on the 10th they appointed a new batch of judges, accusers, and jurymen for the tribunal. They took care, moreover, to put themselves into the places of those they had murdered. Tallien, Thuriot, and others, took their posts in the committee of public welfare; Legendre, Dumont, Goupilleau, and others, in the committee of public safety. They turned out David, the painter, without ceremony, though this wretch declared now how dreadfully he had been deceived by Robespierre. His sudden enlightenment did not, however, save him from the sharpest reminders of his creeping servility to that insatiable horse-leech, and his so recently boasting that he would drink the hemlock with him.

But the Thermidorians saw that the better part of the public was become sick of blood, and they set about contracting the reign of terror. They reduced the powers of the two governing committees; they decreed that one-fourth of the members should go out every month; they reduced the revolutionary sections of Paris from forty-eight to twelve, and abolished the forty sous per diem to the sans-culotte patriots for their attendance - a certain means of diminishing the attendance. A month after the execution of Robespierre, Tallien made a tierce onslaught on the terrorist system, and declared that there were numbers yet living aviio had been equally merciless with Robespierre, Couthon, and St. Just; and the next day Lecointre denounced by name Barrère, Billaud-Varennes, and Collot d’Herbois. They did not succeed in securing at once the condemnation of this triumvirate, but the time being arrived for the monthly change of one-fourth of the committees, they were removed, and Vadier and Vouland, another of the Thermidorians, stepped into their places. They now also began to call to account Carrier, Lebon, and other proconsuls, though this required nice management, for Tallien and other Thermidorians had been nearly as truculent in the provinces as any of them. Carrier had sent one hundred and thirty-two Nantese republicans for trial before the revolutionary tribunal. These were now brought up and acquitted - at least, such of them as remained alive after their terrible treatment. There were only ninety-four. Their evidence was fully gone into, because it told frightful stories of wholesale drownings and fusillading?, and prepared Carrier's fate. The jacobins, seeing their enemies in the ascendant, armed themselves with clubs, which they carried in their pockets for self-defence, and Frèron, in his journal L'Orateur du Peuple, advised the young men of the Thermidorian faction to arm themselves in like manner. Those who followed his advice were called Frèron's Jeunesse Dorée, or the Golden Youth of Frèron. Frequent combats took place betwixt these clubbists in the streets, one party crying, " Vive la Montagne!" the other, " Vive la Convention!" When Carrier was accused in the convention, great numbers of jacobin ladies, as well as men, assembled in the galleries of the convention. As they went out at the close of the debate, the golden youth fell on the women, and publicly and most indecently whipped them in the streets. Others turned the very members down from their own mountain. To put an end to the jacobin resistance, the convention sent and closed the jacobin club altogether, which had thus only survived the fall of Robespierre about four months. Hereupon the jacobins began to denounce the Thermidorians as anti-republicans, but they retorted that they were republicans of the purest school - that of Marat.

Amid these tolerably harmless conflicts, Carrier was accused before the convention. He defended himself by declaring that he had done nothing but what was ordered by the convention; and he asked hardily whether the convention meant to condemn itself. In reply, Rewbell brought up a report on the acts of the jacobins, which asked, "Who covered France with mourning, carried despair into families, peopled the republic with Bastilles, rendered the republican regime so odious, that a slave, bending under the weight of his chains, would have refused to live under it? - The jacobins! Who regret the loss of the frightful regime under which we have been living? - The jacobins! If you have not the courage to pronounce their condemnation at this moment," it added, "you will have no republic, for a republic cannot exist with jacobins! " Carrier was condemned, as well as two members of the revolutionary committee of Nantes, and were executed on the 16th of December. The rest of the committee, though condemned too, were soon after set at liberty, as only having acted under the terror of Carrier's guillotine and threats.

On the 1st of December Dulaux, one of the seventy- three members who had been imprisoned on the 31st of May, 1793, for protesting against the expulsion of the Girondists, addressed a letter to the convention, demanding a trial. They were liberated and restored to their seats by acclamation; but when, in their turn, they demanded the restoration of the surviving Girondists, this was refused; but it was decreed that neither Louvet, Lanjuinais, Isnard, nor any other remaining Girondist, should be henceforth molested on account of their principles or past conduct. Amongst the liberated members was Thomas Paine, who had, on one occasion, only escaped the guillotine by a very slight accident. When the turnkey, with the list of the condemned in his hand, had made the usual chalk- mark on the doors of their cells, the cell of Paine having two doors, only the inner one was closed. On this the turnkey left his mark; but the outer door being soon after closed, it was not seen when the men came in the morning to bring out the victims. The remains of his friend Marat did not fare so well. The golden youth of Frèron burst into his tomb in the Pantheon, dragged out his body, and flung it into an open sewer, as the jacobins had done the remains of Mirabeau before.

Such were the deeds which closed the year 1794 in Paris, and, as the bloodiest part of the French revolution, so far as the interior of France is concerned, may now be regarded as over, we may present to view the sum total of the destruction of human life which had attended it to this point. We have it ready summed up by Prudhomme to our hands: -
Nobles 1,278
Noblewomen 750
Wives of labourers and artisans 1,467
Religieuses 350
Priests 1,135
Persons not noble 13,623

Guillotined by sentence of the revolutionary tribunal 18,603
Women who died of premature childbirth 3,400
Ditto in childbirth, from grief 348
Women killed in La Vendée 15,000
Children killed in La Vendée 22,000
Men killed in La Vendée 300,000
Victims of Carrier, at Nantes 32,000
Of whom were:
Children shot 500
Children drowned 1,500
Women shot 264
Women drowned 500
Priests shot 300
Priests drowned 460
Nobles drowned 1,400
Artisans drowned 5,300
Victims at Lyons 31,006
Total 422,351

But this awful account does not include those massacred at Versailles, at the Abbaye, the Carmelites, and other prisons, on the 2nd of September; the victims of the Glacière of Avignon, those of Toulon and Marseilles, nor the whole population of the little town of Bedoin, which was massacred.

Whilst we have been detailing the horrors of this greatest' outbreak of hell that ever took place on earth, Russia, Prussia, and Austria had been completing the extinction of Poland. An ill-advised attempt by the Poles for the recovery of their country had precipitated this event. The Russian minister in Poland had ordered the reduction of the little army of that country, under its now almost nominal king, Stanislaus Augustus, from thirty thousand to fifteen thousand. The Poles resented this, without considering that they were unable, at the moment, to resist it. Considering the flat and open nature of their country, that the few strong places in it were in the hands of their invaders, and that their oppressors could pour down almost innumerable hordes of soldiers upon them, nothing could warrant a resistance but a deliberate and well - organised preparation for it. To have the smallest chance of success, it was necessary to rouse the whole population by careful and secret means; to prepare ample stores of arms and ammunition in quarters where they could be brought into the country at a short notice, and to look whether they could be aided by money or men from other nations. Of such aid, indeed, there was little prospect. England was subsidising their very oppressors, Prussia and Austria, and dared not even express disapprobation of their flagrant conduct, lest they should lose their really worthless alliance; no money was to be expected from that quarter; and France was too busy cutting off the heads of her senators and generals, or planning nearer conquests, to afford them a thought.

Yet, under these hopeless circumstances, the patriots at Warsaw commenced erecting revolutionary clubs, and rousing the people to insurrection, both in the capital and, by similar machinery, throughout the country. This could not escape the observation of their vigilant oppressors, whilst it alarmed other nations, from the obvious imitation of the French system, now so sanguinarily terrible to all Europe. Kosciusko, who had retired with other patriots to Dresden, came back, and, with Madalinski, Dzialinski, and some other generals, resolved on an outbreak. When Madalinski received the order, in March, to disband his brigade of seven hundred cavalry, he rode out of Pultusk, near Warsaw, where he was quartered, and, traversing the provinces awarded to Prussia in the partition, he called on the people to arm, and displayed the standard of revolt at Cracow. Kosciusko was appointed commander-in-chief, and he issued an order for the rising of the people in every quarter of Poland, and for their hastening to his flag. But, to make war, he must have the means of war, and he therefore immediately imposed a property-tax. This at once disgusted the Polish nobles, who, as a body, were extremely corrupt, and by no means patriotic. His next step was to proclaim the enfranchisement of the serfs throughout the kingdom - another step still more irritating to the aristocracy. This class, there is little doubt, would much have preferred the yoke of Prussia or Russia, so that they might keep their own yoke on the necks of the rural population; they therefore became openly lukewarm, and inwardly inimical to the insurrectionary movement. On the other hand, the mass of the people, degraded by long slavery, were not the material for the formation of a successful patriot army. They were at once ignorant, impetuous, and undisciplined. As for a middle class of intelligent and substantial citizens, it bad only the shadow of an existence.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 <11> 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33

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

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About