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CHAP. IX. aud, the heroism of Madame Roland, have created a 1793. lasting impression upon the world ; and while history,
which records the dreadful evils which their impetuous declamations produced upon their country, cannot absolve them from the imputation of rash and perilous innovation, of reckless and inconsiderate ambition, it must respect some of the motives which led even to errors, whose consequences were then in a great degree unknown, and venerate the courage with which, in the last extremity, they met their fate.
REIGN OF TERROR-FROM THE FALL OF THE GIRONDISTS
TO THE DEATH OF DANTON,
Formation of a new Government by the Jacobins— Vast Powers conferred upon the Committee of Public Safety-State of the Provinces Of Lyons, Bourdeaux, and Marseilles-General Coalition of Departments against the Con. vention-Measures to meet it: it is Dissolved—Immense Power of the Coin. mittee-Law of suspected Persons, Formation of Revolutionary Committees over all France— Their Immense Numbers and Expense– New Era Established, and Sunday abolished-Charlotte Corday_Her character-She resolves to assassinate Marat-Kills him-Her Trial and Death-Apotheosis of MaratArrest of seventy-three Members of the Convention-Situation of Marie Antoinette-Cruel Treatment and Death of the Dauphin-Trial of the QueenHer heroic Conduct and Execution-And Character-Violation of the Tombs of St Denis – Destruction of Monuments over all France- Abjuration of Christianity by the Municipality—The Goddess of Reason introduced into the Convention-Notre Dame named the Temple of Reason- Universal abandon. ment of Religion, and closing of the Churches General and excessive Dissolution of Manners-Confiscation of the Property of Hospitals and the PoorArrest and Death of Bailly, of Barnave, Condorcet, and Custine—Trial and Execution of the Duke of Orleans-Estrangement of the Dantonists, and ruling Power of the Municipality-Publication of the Old Cordelier-Efforts of Danton to detach Robespierre from the Municipality-Secret Agreement between Robespierre and the Municipality, by which Danton is abandoned to the latter, and Hebert, Chaumette, and others, to the former-Announcement of the Projects in the Convention-Proscription of the Anarchists-Their disgraceful Death-Rupture of Danton and Robespierre—Arrest of the former, with Camille Desmoulins_Violent agitation in the Assembly— Their Trial and Execution-Resistless Power of Robespierre-General Reflections on the successive Destruction of the Revolutionists.
" The rule of a mob,” says Aristotle,“ is the worst CHAP. X. of tyrannies ;'* and so experience has proved it, from
1793. the caprice of the Athenian democracy, to the proscriptions of the French Revolution. The reason is permanent, and must remain unaltered while society * Τυττων των τυραννιδων τελευταια η δημοκρατια.-Arist. de Politica.
CHAP. x. holds together. In contests for power, a monarch 1793.
has, in general, to dread only the efforts of a rival for the throne;, an aristocracy, the ascendency of a faction in the nobility; the populace, the vegeance of all the superior classes in the state. Hence, the safety of the first is usually secured by the destruction of a single rival, and his immediate adherents; the jea. lousy of the second extinguished by the proscription or exile of a limited number of families; but the terrors of the last require the destruction of whole ranks in society. Measures, dictated by the alarm for individuals, become unnecessary when they have perished; those levelled against the influence of classes, require to be pursued till the class itself is destroyed.
It was not a mere thirst for blood which made Marat and Robespierre declare and act upon the principle, that there could be no security for the Republic till two hundred and sixty thousand heads had fallen. Hardly any men are cruel for cruelty's sake; the leaders of the Jacobins were not more so, than the reckless and ambitious of any other country would be if exposed to the influence of similar passions. Ambition is the origin of desperate measures, because it renders men sensible only of the dictates of an insatiable passion ; terror is the real source of cruelty. Men esteem the lives of others lightly when their own are at stake. The revolutionary innovations being directed against the whole aristocratic and influential classes, their vengeance was felt to be implacable, and no security could be expected to the democratical leaders, till their whole opponents were destroyed.
In the strife of contending classes, the sphere of individual vengeance is fearfully augmented. Not one, but fifty leaders have terrors to allay, rivals to extinguish, hatred to gratify; with the multitude of aspirants to power, increase the number of sacrifices CHAP. X. that are required. Amidst the contests for influence,
1793. and the dread of revenge, every man abandons his individual to his political connexions; private friendship, public character, yield to the force of personal apprehension. A forced coalition, between the most dissimilar characters, takes place from the pressure of similar danger ; friends give up friends to the vengeance of political adversaries; individual security, private revenge, are purchased by the sacrifice of ancient attachment.
France experienced the truth of these principles Formation with unmitigated severity, during the later stages of of a new Gothe Revolution. But it was not immediately that the the Jacobins. leaders of the victorious faction ventured upon the practical application of their principles. The admi. nistration had been in the hands of the Girondists; somne central power was indispensably required, on their overthrow, to put a period to the anarchy which threatened the country. The Committee of Public Safety presented the skeleton of a government already formed. Created some months before, it was at first composed of the neutral party; the victorious Jacobins, after the 31st May, placed themselves in possession of its power. Robespierre, St Just, Couthon, Billaud, Varennes, and Collot d'Herbois, were elected members, and speedily ejected Herault de Sechelles, and the other partisans of Danton. To the ruling Jacobins, the different departments of government were assigned ; St Just was intrusted with the duty of denouncing its enemies ; Couthon, with bringing forward its general measures ; Billaud, Varennes, and Collot d'Herbois, with the management of the departments ; Carnot was made minister of war; Barrere,
295, 296. Toul. iv. 98.
CHAP. X. the panegyrist and orator of the government ; Robes
pierre, general dictator over all.
The most extravagant joy prevailed among the Mig. ii.
Jacobins at their decisive triumph. “ The people,” Th. v. 94, said Robespierre," have by their conduct confounded
all their opponents. Eighty thousand men have been under arms nearly a week, and not one shop has been pillaged, not one drop of blood shed ; and they have proved by that, whether the accusation was well founded, that they wished to profit by the disorders to commit murder and pillage. Their insurrection was spontaneous; the result of a universal moral conviction ; and the Mountain, itself feeble and irresolute, showed that it had no hand in producing it. The insurrection was a great moral and popular effort, worthy of the enlightened people among whom it arose.” Under such plausible colours did the revolutionists veil a movement, which destroyed the only virtuous part
of the democracy, and delivered over France in fetters • Th. v. 3. to the Reign of Terror.2
The aspect of the Convention, after this great event, was entirely changed from what it had ever been before. Terror had mastered their resistance; proscription had thinned their ranks. The hall was generally silent. The right, and the majority of the centre, never voted, but seemed, by their withdrawal from any active part, to condemn the whole proceedings of the Jacobins, and await intelligence from the provinces as the signal for action. All the decrees proposed
by the ruling party, were adopted in silence, without 3 Ib. v. 7. any discussion.”
By a decree of the Assembly, the whole power of government was vested in the hands of the Decemvirs, till the conclusion of a general peace. They made no concealment of the despotic nature of the authori