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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 7

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St. Just, who had returned from his commissionership, on the 26th of February, took up Robespierre's game in the convention, and denounced as suspects the most extensive varieties of men and women. He declared that the idea of a republic included the destruction of every one who was not altogether for it; that the number of suspects was yet infinite; that there could not be too much suspicion; that Hèbertists and Dantonists were all alike traitors. He declared that they were engaged alike in selling France to the foreign powers. He shouted to Danton, " Your last hour is approaching! - all! all! I say, ail! " He ridiculed the idea that the French revolution was inhuman. What was cutting off the heads of three or four hundred scoundrels? it was nothing to the Spanish inquisition. He denounced England for having transported the virtuous Margarott, and declared that they would have him from Botany Bay. This sanguinary fanatic, who would have liked to sacrifice every one but himself in France, demanded powers for the committee of public safety, and that an inquest should be made amongst the five thousand suspects in the prisons of Paris -, that if any patriots should be found amongst them, they should be liberated, but all the rest should be detained till peace, and then sent out of France for ever. Meantime, all their property should be seized and Bold, and divided amongst indigent patriots. All this was decreed as a matter of course.

The Hèbertists, in alarm, endeavoured to raise the faubourgs in their support, but they failed. The execrations of St. Just daunted them, and made mayor Pache, and even the four thousand soldiers of Ronsin, give up the cause. Then St. Just, on the 13th of March, Robespierre and Couthon being present, denounced, in savage terms, both Hèbertists and Dantonists, as well as the neutral followers of Chabot, and demanded first the arrest of the Hèbertists and the insignificant party of Chabot. At once Fouquier-Tinville seized Hébert, Ronsin, Vincent, Momoro, Kook, a Dutch banker, and fourteen others of that party. The same night he secured also Chabot, Bazire, and Baron de Batz, another foreign banker, on the plea that they had been agents of treason. The next day seizures were made of Chaumette, Clootz, archbishop Gobel, and others. Nineteen of these, including Hébert, Clootz, Ronsin, and Vincent, were beheaded on the 24th of March. Chaumette, Gobel, and some others were reserved for another occasion.

These having fallen, the friends of Danton warned him that his turn would come next. Herault de Sechelles, the author of the short-lived constitution of 1793, an especial friend of Desmoulins and Danton, was arrested; but Danton could not be persuaded that Robespierre would dare to touch him - Robespierre, who had long marked him for the axe. His friends advised him to fly, but he truly asked where he could fly to. There was no part of France where there were not plenty of people who had seen him, and would point him out to the authorities. Abroad, his long and prominent connection with the revolution would send him to a dungeon. He declared that he was tired of life, and had rather be guillotined than guillotine any one else. Had he had the courage yet to draw his party around him, and seize the monster who was dooming all within his reach, it is possible that he might have sent Robespierre to his death first; but he and his party appeared paralysed, like animals under the eye of the boa-constrictor. On the 30th of March, but six days after the execution of the Hèbertists, one of the jurymen of the revolutionary committee gave him certain information that his warrant was made out. But still he refused to fly, declaring that they dared not touch him; that Robespierre would have his house raised to the ground, and be execrated as a tyrant, if he touched him. In this half confidence, half Stupor of terror, Danton went that night to bed, and, before morning, found himself, Camille Desmoulins, Philippeaux, Lacroix, his fellow-commissioner in the Netherlands, and a number more, arrested and conveyed to the Luxembourg. There they found Paine, who had been persecuted by Robespierre ever since the dared to write his letter to save, if possible, Louis XVI. He had caused him to be ejected from the convention as a foreigner, though he had been long naturalised, and thrust in here, where he was now writing his "Age of Reason." If anything could have disenchanted Paine of his ideas of the beauty of republics and the odiousness of Christianity, it was the scenes that now surrounded him. Daily he saw the very men who had laboured with him to build up the system of man's self-sufficiency paying the forfeit of their empty speculations with their lives. When Paine and the other prisoners crowded around Danton in wonder, he said, "Ah, messieurs! I hoped to have brought you all out of this place, and now I am here myself, and I cannot see the end of it." If he could not see the end, he was the only man who did not. From the Luxembourg to the block was only a step.

The rest of the prisoners appeared more astonished at the audacity of Robespierre in arresting them than Danton himself. " Arrest us! " exclaimed Lacroix; " I never should have thought it! " " Thou shouldst never have thought it! " replied Danton; "I knew it; I had been warned of it." "And, knowing this, thou hast not acted!" exclaimed Lacroix. " This is the effect of thine accustomed indolence; it has undone us! " "I did not believe," replied Danton, " they would ever dare to execute their design."

When Danton saw Paine, he said, " What thou hast done for the liberty and happiness of thy country, I have attempted in vain for mine. I have been less fortunate, but not more guilty. They are sending me to the scaffold. Well, my friends, we must go to it gaily! " He added, "At length I perceive that, in revolutions, the supreme power ultimately rests with the most abandoned! " Had that truth never been demonstrated before, certainly the French revolution would have left no uncertainty about it.

The act of accusation was sent the next day, the 12th, to the Luxembourg, and the prisoners were removed to the Conciergerie. Danton was lodged in the room which had so lately been occupied by Hébert. Lacroix appeared astonished at the number and wretched state of the prisoners. " What!" said one of them to him, "did not cart-loads of victims teach you what was passing in Paris? " The prisoners were equally astonished and indignant when they read the act of accusation. Danton, Desmoulins, Sechelles, and others, were mixed up with Bazire, Fabre, Delauny, Chabot, and others accused of the infamous transactions connected with the abolition of the French East India Company, though they had nothing to do with it; but this was to insult and humiliate them. This transaction was, in short, as follows: -

It was determined by the convention to put an end to this company. Baron de Batz, in company with Julien of Thoulouse, Delauny of Angers, and Chabot, had been making fortunes by causing, through means which their connection with government gave them, the shares to fall extremely, by then buying them up, and then, by similar stratagems, causing them to rise, and selling out. When it was decided to put an end to this monstrous jobbing, by abolishing the company, Delauny and Julien promised the directors, for a sum of five hundred thousand francs, to procure them a decree which should leave the winding up of the company's affairs to itself, so that it might prolong its existence as long as it suited them. This bargain was struck, and the sum was to be divided betwixt Delauny, Julien, Chabot, and Bazire.

A decree was accordingly introduced to the convention, and passed, compelling the company to close its books, and to refund to the state the sums it owed. But after the decree was passed, these men and Fabre d'Eglantine, whom they had bribed by one hundred thousand francs, caused certain phrases to be privately inserted in the decree before it was regularly copied out and signed by the commissioners, They managed to get it signed without discovery, and thus published, when it was found that the decree really allowed the company what time it pleased to wind up. The conspirators divided the half million of francs amongst them all, except Bazire, who was not informed till the thing was done, and who refused to have anything to do with it. On the contrary, Chabot had launched out into such extravagance with his share of the one hundred thousand francs as drew violent suspicion on him, and the rest of the conspirators were in mortal terror lest he should betray them. They were all justly arrested for this crime, Bazire alone being unjustly included amongst them. After Robespierre's death, amongst his papers were found all the documents implicating Chabot and his colleagues in this transaction. Well might Danton and his friends resent the being jumbled up with such company.

When the arrest of Danton was announced in the convention, there was a general terror; no man deemed himself safe when even this Titan of the revolution was struck down. Butcher Legendre alone had the courage to spring up and speak in his behalf. He declared that Danton was as pure and honest a republican as himself, and he thought no one dare call his thorough republicanism in question. He demanded that he, Desmoulins, and their friends should be tried by the convention, and the convention only. To this Robespierre - who knew that if the accused were brought to the convention, they would create a dangerous sympathy in their favour - vehemently objected. Why, he asked, should Danton be treated differently to the Girondists, Hébert, and the rest? There must be no partialities; the law must be alike for all. As to what had been said of former services of Danton to the republic, they did not want to hear what men had done, but what they were now doing. It was thought that there was a privilege attached to the name of Danton; but they had done with privileges; they had done with idols. Then the cowardly, trembling senators applauded, in hope of conciliating the tyrant whom no mortal, no consideration, could conciliate, and St. Just read the act of accusation. After making heavy charges against Philippeaux, Desmoulins, and Sechelles, it charged Danton with being greedy, indolent, a liar, and even a coward; that he had sold himself to Mirabeau, and then to the Lameths; had co-operated with Brissot in preparing the fusillade in the Champ de Mars; that he had then retired to Arcis-sur-Aube to enjoy with impunity the produce of his perfidies; that he had concealed himself on the 10th of August, and then got himself made a minister; that he had successively leagued with the Orleans party, with Dumouriez, with the Girondists, and, finally, with the party which wanted to set up Louis XVII.; that he had accepted money from Orleans, the Bourbons, from foreigners and aristocrats; that he had mixed himself up with all kinds of conspiracies and traitors; had, in fact, been a real Cataline - rapacious, debauched, s10thful, a corrupter of public morals, again retiring to Arcis-sur-Aube to revel in the fruits of his treasons, and only coming out to unite with Hébert and his accomplices.

The decree for his trial and that of his friends was passed, not only without opposition, but amid acclamations. On the 2nd of April the trials began, under the management of Fouquier-Tinville. Fifteen were placed in one batch - Danton, Herault-de-Sechelles, Camille, Philippeaux, Lacroix, Chabot, Bazire, Delauny, Fabre-d'Eglantine, Chabot's two brothers-in-law, Julius and Emanuel Frey, D'Espagnac, the contractor Westermann, charged with having participated in the plots of Danton, Gusman the Spaniard, and Diederichs the Dane. To humiliate Danton and his friends the more, Chabot, Bazire, and the fraudulent stockjobbers, were tried first. They were all condemned: it availed Bazire nothing that he had refused to participate in the fraud; he was condemned as a friend of the others, being scarcely heard. When Danton was asked his name, place of abode, &c., he replied that his name was George Jaques Danton; that his abode would soon be in nothingness, but that his name would remain in the Pantheon of history. Camille replied that he was the same age as the good sans-culotte Jesus Christ at his death, thirty-three - an age fatal to revolutionists. It is curious that few of his comrades, on this occasion, were more; some were not thirty, the oldest was not forty.

When Danton arose to defend himself, the most profound silence prevailed. The crowd collected to see him was immense, and the sight of him seemed for a moment to rekindle the old enthusiasm. Fouquier-Tinville, the judges and jurors, all of whom had been made what they were by him, seemed to cower under his eye. His haughtiness and assurance seemed to confound them; he appeared rather the accuser than the accused. When told that lie was accused of having conspired with Mirabeau, with Dumouriez, with Orleans, with the Girondists, with foreigners and the faction that wanted to restore Louis XVII., he burst out indignantly, " I accused of having conspired with these men! - of having crawled at the feet of vile despots! Let the cowards who say so show their faces, and I will cover them with infamy; let the committee come forward, I will only answer in their presence; I need them for accusers and for witnesses. For you, I care nothing for your judgment. Life is a burden to me; take it from me; I long to be delivered from it." He called especially for St. Just, Couthon, and Lebas. "Let them appear," he said, "and I will crush them into the nothingness out of which they ought never to have risen."

The president interrupted him, telling him that audacity was the characteristic of guilt; that innocence was calm. "Audacity!" thundered Danton; "mine is a national audacity, which I have employed for the republic against the cowards that accuse me. It is not from a revolutionist such as I that you must expect tameness! " He then ran through the catalogue of his services to the republic, and asked, " Where were they who in all days of danger had hidden themselves? " The president tried to silence him by ringing his bell; Danton thereupon raised his sonorous voice, and cried, " The voice of a man pleading for his honour and his life may well drown your miserable bell. The tribunal, was struck with terror at the audacity, and the demands of Danton to see his accusers, and was still more alarmed at the evidence of their effect on the spectators. They remanded the prisoners, and Herman, the president, and Fouquier-Tinvilie, hurried to the committee of public- safety, and there informed St. Just and Billaud-Varennes of these alarming circumstances. It was rumoured, moreover, that there was great excitement out of doors, on account of Danton and Camille Desmoulins. It was stated that the wife of Camille was scattering money in the faubourgs to arouse them to the rescue. These tools of Robespierre, and Robespierre himself, were in dreadful alarm. At this moment, Lafiotte, a prisoner, who had been employed by some of the revolutionary parties, thought it a good opportunity to save himself by accusing others. He informed the jailor of the Luxembourg, that he had discovered from general Dillon, who was in the same prison, and, when drunk, freely cursed Robespierre and his bloody agents, that there was a plot to murder Robespierre and the members of the governing committee; that the wife of Camille Desmoulins was labouring to this end in the city. This was his reward to the general for condescending to play tric-trac with him. The story was too opportune to be lost. The trial being impeded on the second day, by the daring conduct of Danton, on the morning of the 3rd St. Just appeared before the convention, and declared that, unless it showed instant resolution, all was lost. "Danton," he said, "and the other accused, defy and threaten the judges. They are exciting the people; and, still worse, there is a plot. The wife of Camille has received money to create an insurrection. General Dillon is to be liberated, and to head the people; to butcher the patriots, and liberate the Dantonists." He demanded a decree authorising the judges to condemn Danton before they arose, and condemn all such, without, trial, who should insult the tribunal. This detestable decree was instantly passed, and Vadier and Vouland, two members of the committee of public safety, hurried away with it to the court, They found the prisoners more bold than ever, demanding their accusers, and saw that the judges were confounded. "What is to be done? " said Tinville. " Here," replied Vadier " is your rescue; you have the villains fast." He produced the decree. Fouquier sprang up in delight, and read it aloud Danton, on hearing it, denied indignantly that they had insulted the tribunal, and several voices in the hall shouted that that was true. There appeared a strong sensation of disgust amongst the spectators at these arbitrary proceedings, and the judges again shrank in terror. Danton still insisted on seeing his accusers; demanded that the convention should appoint a commission to receive their denunciations of certain men, who, he said, were preparing a dictatorship for the country. "The truth," he exclaimed, " will one day i be known. I see horrible calamities bursting upon France. There is a dictatorship; it exhibits itself without disguise! " Camille Desmoulins, on hearing what was said concerning the Luxembourg, Dillon, and his wife, exclaimed in agony, " The villains! not content with murdering me, they are determined to murder my wife." Danton, perceiving Vadier and Vouland at the end of the hall, shook his fist at them, and cried, "Look at the cowardly assassins! They follow us; they will not leave us so long as we are alive! " The wretches sneaked out of the hall; and the judges made haste to break up the sitting.

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