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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793, 1794 and 1795, by An English Lady

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A RESIDENCE IN FRANCE,
DURING THE YEARS
1792, 1793, 1794, AND 1795;

DESCRIBED IN A SERIES OF LETTERS
FROM AN ENGLISH LADY;
With General And Incidental Remarks
On The French Character And Manners.

Prepared for the Press
By John Gifford, Esq.
Author of the History of France, Letter to Lord
Lauderdale, Letter to the Hon. T. Erskine, &c.

Second Edition.

_Plus je vis l'Etranger plus j'aimai ma Patrie._
--Du Belloy.

London: Printed for T. N. Longman, Paternoster Row. 1797.

1794

January 6, 1794.

If I had undertaken to follow the French revolution through all its
absurdities and iniquities, my indolence would long since have taken the
alarm, and I should have relinquished a task become too difficult and too
laborious. Events are now too numerous and too complicated to be
described by occasional remarks; and a narrator of no more pretensions
than myself may be allowed to shrink from an abundance of matter which
will hereafter perplex the choice and excite the wonder of the
historian.--Removed from the great scene of intrigues, we are little
acquainted with them--we begin to suffer almost before we begin to
conjecture, and our solicitude to examine causes is lost in the rapidity
with which we feel their effects.

Amidst the more mischievous changes of a philosophic revolution, you will
have learned from the newspapers, that the French have adopted a new aera
and a new calendar, the one dating from the foundation of their republic,
and other descriptive of the climate of Paris, and the productions of the
French territory. I doubt, however, if these new almanack-makers will
create so much confusion as might be supposed, or as they may desire, for
I do not find as yet that their system has made its way beyond the public
offices, and the country people are particularly refractory, for they
persist in holding their fairs, markets, &c. as usual, without any regard
to the hallowed decade of their legislators. As it is to be presumed
that the French do not wish to relinquish all commercial intercourse with
other nations, they mean possibly to tack the republican calendar to the
rights of man, and send their armies to propagate them together;
otherwise the correspondence of a Frenchman will be as difficult to
interpret with mercantile exactness as the characters of the Chinese.

The vanity of these philosophers would, doubtless, be gratified by
forcing the rest of Europe and the civilized world to adopt their useless
and chimerical innovations, and they might think it a triumph to see the
inhabitant of the Hebrides date _"Vendemiaire,"_ [Alluding to the
vintage.] or the parched West-Indian _"Nivose;"_ but vanity is not on
this, as it is on many other occasions, the leading principle.--It was
hoped that a new arrangement of the year, and a different nomenclature of
the months, so as to banish all the commemorations of Christianity, might
prepare the way for abolishing religion itself, and, if it were possible
to impose the use of the new calendar so far as to exclude the old one,
this might certainly assist their more serious atheistical operations;
but as the success of such an introduction might depend on the will of
the people, and is not within the competence of the bayonet, the old year
will maintain its ground, and these pedantic triflers find that they have
laboured to no more extensive a purpose, than to furnish a date to the
newspapers, or to their own decrees, which no one will take the pains to
understand.

Mankind are in general more attached to customs than principles. The
useful despotism of Peter, which subdued so many of the prejudices of his
countrymen, could not achieve the curtailment of their beards; and you
must not imagine that, with all the endurance of the French, these
continual attempts at innovation pass without murmurs: partial revolts
happen very frequently; but, as they are the spontaneous effect of
personal suffering, not of political manoeuvre, they are without concert
or union, of course easily quelled, and only serve to strengthen the
government.--The people of Amiens have lately, in one of these sudden
effusions of discontent, burnt the tree of liberty, and even the
representative, Dumont, has been menaced; but these are only the blows of
a coward who is alarmed at his own temerity, and dreads the chastisement
of it.*

* The whole town of Bedouin, in the south of France, was burnt
pursuant to a decree of the convention, to expiate the imprudence of
some of its inhabitants in having cut down a dead tree of liberty.
Above sixty people were guillotined as accomplices, and their bodies
thrown into pits, dug by order of the representative, Magnet, (then
on mission,) before their death. These executions were succeeded by
a conflagration of all the houses, and the imprisonment or
dispersion of their possessors. It is likewise worthy of remark,
that many of these last were obliged, by express order of Maignet,
to be spectators of the murder of their friends and relations.

This crime in the revolutionary code is of a very serious nature; and
however trifling it may appear to you, it depends only on the will of
Dumont to sacrifice many lives on the occasion. But Dumont, though
erected by circumstances into a tyrant, is not sanguinary--he is by
nature and education passionate and gross, and in other times might only
have been a good natured Polisson. Hitherto he has contented himself
with alarming, and making people tired of their lives, but I do not
believe he has been the direct or intentional cause of anyone's death.
He has so often been the hero of my adventures, that I mention him
familiarly to you, without reflecting, that though the delegate of more
than monarchical power here, he is too insignificant of himself to be
known in England. But the history of Dumont is that of two-thirds of the
Convention. He was originally clerk to an attorney at Abbeville, and
afterwards set up for himself in a neighbouring village. His youth
having been marked by some digressions from the "'haviour of reputation,"
his profession was far from affording him a subsistence; and the
revolution, which seems to have called forth all that was turbulent,
unprincipled, or necessitous in the country, naturally found a partizan
in an attorney without practice.--At the election of 1792, when the
King's fall and the domination of the Jacobins had spread so general a
terror that no man of character could be prevailed upon to be a candidate
for a public situation, Dumont availed himself of this timidity and
supineness in those who ought to have become the representatives of the
people; and, by a talent for intrigue, and a coarse facility of
phrase-making, (for he has no pretensions to eloquence,) prevailed on
the mob to elect him. His local knowledge, active disposition, and
subservient industry, render him an useful kind of drudge to any
prevailing party, and, since the overthrow of the Brissotines, he has
been entrusted with the government of this and some of the neighbouring
departments. He professes himself a zealous republican, and an apostle
of the doctrine of universal equality, yet unites in his person all the
attributes of despotism, and lives with more luxury and expence than
most of the _ci-devant_ gentry. His former habitation at Oisemont is not
much better than a good barn; but patriotism is more profitable here
than in England, and he has lately purchased a large mansion belonging
to an emigrant.

* "Britain no longer pays her patriots with her spoils:" and perhaps
it is matter of congratulation to a country, when the profession of
patriotism is not lucrative. Many agreeable inferences may be made
from it--the sentiment may have become too general for reward,
Ministers too virtuous to fear, or even the people too enlightened
to be deceived.

--His mode of travelling, which used at best to be in the _coche d'eau_
[Passage-boat.] or the diligence, is now in a coach and four, very
frequently accompanied by a led horse, and a party of dragoons. I fear
some of your patriots behold this with envy, and it is not to be wondered
at that they should wish to see a similar revolution in England. What a
seducing prospect for the assertors of liberty, to have the power of
imprisoning and guillotining all their countrymen! What halcyon days,
when the aristocratic palaces* shall be purified by solacing the fatigues
of republican virtue, and the levellers of all distinction travel with
four horses and a military escort!--But, as Robespierre observes, you are
two centuries behind the French in patriotism and information; and I
doubt if English republicanism will ever go beyond a dinner, and toasting
the manes of Hampden and Sydney. I would, therefore, seriously advise
any of my compatriots who may be enamoured of a government founded on the
rights of man, to quit an ungrateful country which seems so little
disposed to reward their labours, and enjoy the supreme delight of men a
systeme, that of seeing their theories in action.

* Many of the emigrants' houses were bought by members of the
Convention, or people in office. At Paris, crouds of inferior
clerks, who could not purchase, found means to get lodged in the
most superb national edifices: Monceaux was the villa of
Robespierre--St. Just occasionally amused himself at Raincy--Couthon
succeed the Comte d'Artois at Bagatelle-and Vliatte, a juryman of
the Revolutionary Tribunal, was lodged at the pavillion of Flora, in
the Tuilleries, which he seems to have occupied as a sort of Maitre
d'Hotel to the Comite de Salut Public.

_A propos_--a decree of the Convention has lately passed to secure the
person of Mr. Thomas Paine, and place seals on his papers. I hope,
however, as he has been installed in all the rights of a French citizen,
in addition to his representative inviolability, that nothing more than a
temporary retreat is intended for him. Perhaps even his personal
sufferings may prove a benefit to mankind. He may, like Raleigh, "in his
prison hours enrich the world," and add new proselytes to the cause of
freedom. Besides, human evils are often only blessings in a questionable
form--Mr. Paine's persecutions in England made him a legislator in
France. Who knows but his persecutions in France may lead to some new
advancement, or at least add another line to the already crouded
title-pages that announce his literary and political distinctions!

--Yours.

January, 1794.

The total suppression of all religious worship in this country is an
event of too singular and important a nature not to have been commented
upon largely by the English papers; but, though I have little new to add
on the subject, my own reflections have been too much occupied in
consequence for me to pass it over in silence.

I am yet in the first emotions of wonder: the vast edifice which had been
raised by the blended efforts of religion and superstition, which had
been consecrated by time, endeared by national taste, and become
necessary by habit, has now disappeared, and scarcely left a vestige of
its ruins. To those who revert only to the genius of the Catholic
religion, and to former periods of the history of France, this event must
seem incredible; and nothing but constant opportunities of marking its
gradual approach can reconcile it to probability. The pious christian
and the insidious philosopher have equally contributed to the general
effect, though with very different intentions: the one, consulting only
his reason, wished to establish a pure and simple mode of worship, which,
divested of the allurements of splendid processions and imposing
ceremonies, should teach the people their duty, without captivating their
senses; the other, better acquainted with French character, knew how
little these views were compatible with it, and hoped, under the specious
pretext of banishing the too numerous ornaments of the Catholic practice,
to shake the foundations of Christianity itself. Thus united in their
efforts, though dissimilar in their motives, all parties were eager at
the beginning of the revolution for a reform in the Church: the wealth of
the Clergy, the monastic establishments, the supernumerary saints, were
devoted and attacked without pity, and without regret; and, in the zeal
and hurry of innovation, the decisive measure, which reduced
ecclesiastics to small pensions dependent on the state, was carried,
before those who really meant well were aware of its consequences. The
next step was, to make the receiving these pensions subject to an oath,
which the selfish philosopher, who can coldly calculate on, and triumph
in, the weakness of human nature, foresaw would be a brand of discord,
certain to destroy the sole force which the Clergy yet possessed--their
union, and the public opinion.

Unfortunately, these views were not disappointed: conviction, interest,
or fear, prevailed on many to take the oath; while doubt, worldly
improvidence, or a scrupulous piety, deterred others. A schism took
place between the jurors and nonjurors--the people became equally
divided, and adhered either to the one or the other, as their habits or
prepossessions directed them. Neither party, as it may be imagined,
could see themselves deprived of any portion of the public esteem,
without concern, perhaps without rancour; and their mutual animosity, far
from gaining proselytes to either, contributed only to the immediate
degradation and future ruin of both. Those, however, who had not taken
the prescribed oath, were in general more popular than what were called
the constitutionalists, and the influence they were supposed to exert in
alienating the minds of their followers from the new form of government,
supplied the republican party with a pretext for proposing their
banishment.*

*The King's exertion of the power vested in him by the constitution,
by putting a temporary negative on this decree, it is well known,
was one of the pretexts for dethroning him.

At the King's deposition this decree took place, and such of the
nonjuring priests as were not massacred in the prisons, or escaped the
search, were to be embarked for Guiana. The wiser and better part of
those whose compliances entitled them to remain, were, I believe, far
from considering this persecution of their opponents as a triumph--to
those who did, it was of short duration. The Convention, which had
hitherto attempted to disguise its hatred of the profession by censure
and abuse of a part of its members, began now to ridicule the profession
itself: some represented it as useless--others as pernicious and
irreconcileable with political freedom; and a discourse* was printed,
under the sanction of the Assembly, to prove, that the only feasible
republic must be supported by pure atheism.

* Extracts from the Report of Anacharsis Cloots, member of the
Committee of Public Instruction, printed by order of the National
Convention:

"Our _Sans-culottes_ want no other sermon but the rights of man, no
other doctrine but the constitutional precepts and practice, nor any
other church than where the section or the club hold their meetings,
&c.

"The propagation of the rights of man ought to be presented to the
astonished world pure and without stain. It is not by offering
strange gods to our neighbours that we shall operate their
conversion. We can never raise them from their abject state by
erecting one altar in opposition to another. A trifling heresy is
infinitely more revolting than having no religion at all. Nature,
like the sun, diffuses her light without the assistance of priests
and vestals. While we were constitutional heretics, we maintained
an army of an hundred thousand priests, who waged war equally with
the Pope and the disciples of Calvin. We crushed the old priesthood
by means of the new, and while we compelled every sect to contribute
to the payment of a pretended national religion, we became at once
the abhorrence of all the Catholics and Protestants in Europe. The
repulsion of our religious belief counteracted the attraction of our
political principles.--But truth is at length triumphant, and all
the ill-intentioned shall no more be able to detach our neighbours
from the dominion of the rights of man, under pretext of a religious
dominion which no longer exists.--The purpose of religion is no how
so well answered as by presenting carte blanche to the abused world.
Every one will then be at liberty to form his spiritual regimen to
his own taste, till in the end the invincible ascendant of reason
shall teach him that the Supreme Being, the Eternal Being, is no
other than Nature uncreated and uncreatable; and that the only
Providence is the association of mankind in freedom and equality!--
This sovereign providence affords comfort to the afflicted, rewards
the good, and punishes the wicked. It exercises no unjust
partialities, like the providence of knaves and fools. Man, when
free, wants no other divinity than himself. This god will not cost
us a single farthing, not a single tear, nor a drop of blood. From
the summit of our mountain he hath promulgated his laws, traced in
evident characters on the tables of nature. From the East to the
West they will be understood without the aid of interpreters,
comments, or miracles. Every other ritual will be torn in pieces at
the appearance of that of reason. Reason dethrones both the Kings
of the earth, and the Kings of heaven.--No monarch above, if we wish
to preserve our republic below.

"Volumes have been written to determine whether or no a republic of
Atheists could exist. I maintain that every other republic is a
chimera. If you once admit the existence of a heavenly Sovereign,
you introduce the wooden horse within your walls!--What you adore by
day will be your destruction at night.

"A people of theists necessarily become revelationists, that is to
say, slaves of priests, who are but religious go-betweens, and
physicians of damned souls.

"If I were a scoundrel, I should make a point of exclaiming against
atheism, for a religious mask is very convenient to a traitor.

"The intolerance of truth will one day proscribe the very name of
temple 'fanum,' the etymology of fanaticism.

"We shall instantly see the monarchy of heaven condemned in its turn
by the revolutionary tribunal of victorious Reason; for Truth,
exalted on the throne of Nature, is sovereignly intolerant.

"The republic of the rights of man is, properly speaking, neither
theistical nor atheistical--it is nihilistical."

Many of the most eminent conforming Prelates and Clergy were arrested,
and even individuals, who had the reputation of being particularly
devout, were marked as objects of persecution. A new calendar was
devised, which excluded the ancient festivals, and limited public worship
to the decade, or tenth day, and all observance of the Sabbath was
interdicted. The prisons were crouded with sufferers in the cause of
religion, and all who had not the zeal or the courage of martyrs,
abstained from manifesting any attachment to the Christian faith.

While this consternation was yet recent, the Deputies on mission in the
departments shut up the churches entirely: the refuse of low clubs were
paid and encouraged to break the windows and destroy the monuments; and
these outrages, which, it was previously concerted, should at first
assume the appearance of popular tumult, were soon regulated and directed
by the mandates of the Convention themselves. The churches were again
opened, an atheistic ritual, and licentious homilies,* were substituted
for the proscribed service--and an absurd and ludicrous imitation of the
Greek mythology was exhibited, under the title of the Religion of
Reason.--

* I have read a discourse pronounced in a church at Paris, on the
decade, so indecent and profane, that the most humble audience of a
country-puppet show in England would not have tolerated it.

On the principal church of every town was inscribed, "The Temple of
Reason;" and a tutelary goddess was installed with a ceremony equally
pedantic, ridiculous, and profane.*

* At Havre, the goddess of Reason was drawn on a car by four
cart-horses, and as it was judged necessary, to prevent accidents,
that the horses should be conducted by those they were accustomed
to, the carters were likewise put in requisition and furnished with
cuirasses a l'antique from the theatre. The men, it seems, being
neither martial nor learned, were not au fait at this equipment,
and concluding it was only a waistcoat of ceremony, invested
themselves with the front behind, and the back part laced before,
to the great amusement of the few who were sensible of the mistake.

Yet the philosophers did not on this occasion disdain those adventitious
aids, the use of which they had so much declaimed against while they were
the auxiliaries of Christianity.*

* Mr. Gibbon reproaches the Christians with their adoption of the
allurements of the Greek mythology.--The Catholics have been more
hostilely despoiled by their modern persecutors, and may retort that
the religion of reason is a more gross appeal to the senses than the
darkest ages of superstition would have ventured on.

Music, processions, and decorations, which had been banished from the
ancient worship, were introduced in the new one, and the philosophical
reformer, even in the very attempt to establish a religion purely
metaphysical, found himself obliged to inculcate it by a gross and
material idolatry.*--

* The French do not yet annex any other idea to the religion of
reason than that of the female who performs the part of the goddess.

Thus, by submitting his abstractions to the genius of the people, and the
imperfections of our nature, perhaps the best apology was offered for the
errors of that worship which had been proscribed, persecuted, and
ridiculed.

Previous to the tenth day, on which a celebration of this kind was to
take place, a Deputy arrived, accompanied by the female goddess:* that
is, (if the town itself did not produce one for the purpose,) a Roman
dress of white satin was hired from the theatre, with which she was
invested--her head covered with a red cap, ornamented with oak leaves--
one arm was reclined on a plough, the other grasped a spear--and her feet
were supported by a globe, and environed by mutilated emblems of
seodality. [It is not possible to explain this costume as appropriate.]

* The females who personated the new divinity were usually selected
from amongst those who "might make sectaries of whom they bid but
follow," but who were more conspicuous for beauty than any other
celestial attribute.--The itinerant goddess of the principal towns
in the department de la Somme was the mistress of one Taillefer, a
republican General, brother to the Deputy of the same name.--I know
not, in this military government, whether the General's services on
the occasion were included in his other appointments. At Amiens, he
not only provided the deity, but commanded the detachment that
secured her a submissive adoration.

Thus equipped, the divinity and her appendages were borne on the
shoulders of Jacobins "en bonnet rouge," and escorted by the National
Guard, Mayor, Judges, and all the constituted authorities, who, whether
diverted or indignant, were obliged to preserve a respectful gravity of
exterior. When the whole cavalcade arrived at the place appointed, the
goddess was placed on an altar erected for the occasion, from whence she
harangued the people, who, in return, proffered their adoration, and sung
the Carmagnole, and other republican hymns of the same kind. They then
proceeded in the same order to the principal church, in the choir of
which the same ceremonies were renewed: a priest was procured to abjure
his faith and avow the whole of Christianity an imposture;* and the
festival concluded with the burning of prayer-books, saints,
confessionals, and every thing appropriated to the use of public
worship.**--

*It must be observed, in justice to the French Clergy, that it was
seldom possible to procure any who would consent to this infamy. In
such cases, the part was exhibited by a man hired and dressed for
the purpose.--The end of degrading the profession in the eyes of the
people was equally answered.

** In many places, valuable paintings and statues were burnt or
disfigured. The communion cups, and other church plate, were, after
being exorcised in Jacobin revels, sent to the Convention, and the
gold and silver, (as the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire invidiously expresses himself,) the pearls and jewels, were
wickedly converted to the service of mankind; as if any thing whose
value is merely fictitious, could render more service to mankind
than when dedicated to an use which is equally the solace of the
rich and the poor--which gratifies the eye without exciting
cupidity, soothes the bed of sickness, and heals the wounds of
conscience. Yet I am no advocate for the profuse decorations of
Catholic churches; and if I seem to plead in their behalf, it is
that I recollect no instance where the depredators of them have
appropriated the spoil to more laudable purposes.

The greater part of the attendants looked on in silent terror and
astonishment; whilst others, intoxicated, or probably paid to act this
scandalous farce, danced round the flames with an appearance of frantic
and savage mirth.--It is not to be forgotten, that representatives of the
people often presided as the high priests of these rites; and their
official dispatches to the convention, in which these ceremonies were
minutely described, were always heard with bursts of applause, and
sanctioned by decrees of insertion in the bulletin.*

* A kind of official newspaper distributed periodically at the
expence of Government in large towns, and pasted up in public
places--it contained such news as the convention chose to impart,
which was given with the exact measure of truth or falsehood that
suited the purpose of the day.

I have now conducted you to the period in which I am contemplating France
in possession of all the advantages which a total dereliction of
religious establishments can bestow--at that consummation to which the
labours of modern philosophers have so long tended.

Ye Shaftesburys, Bolingbrokes, Voltaires, and must I add the name of
Gibbon,* behold yourselves inscribed on the registers of fame with a
Laplanche, a Chenier, an Andre Dumont, or a Fouche!**--

* The elegant satirist of Christianity will smile at the presumption
of so humble a censurer.--It is certain, the misapplication only of
such splendid talents could embolden me to mention the name of the
possessor with diminished respect.

** These are names too contemptible for notice, but for the mischief
to which they were instrumental--they were among the first and most
remarkable persecutors of religion.

Do not blush at the association; your views have been the same; and the
subtle underminer of man's best comfort in the principles of his
religion, is even more criminal than him who prohibits the external
exercise of it. Ridicule of the sacred writings is more dangerous than
burning them, and a sneer at the miracles of the gospel more mischievous
than disfiguring the statues of the evangelists; and it must be confessed
that these Anti-christian Iconoclasts themselves might probably have been
content to "believe and say their prayers," had not the intolerance of
philosophy made them atheists and persecutors.--The coarse legend of
"death is the sleep of eternity,"* is only a compendium of the fine-drawn
theories of the more elaborate materialist, and the depositaries of the
dead will not corrupt more by the exhibition of this desolating standard,
than the libraries of the living by the volumes which hold out the same
oblivion to vice, and discouragement to virtue.--

* Posts, bearing the inscription "la mort est un sommeil eternel,"
were erected in many public burying-grounds.--No other ceremony is
observed with the dead than enclosing the body in some rough boards,
and sending it off by a couple of porters, (in their usual garb,)
attended by a municipal officer. The latter inscribes on a register
the name of the deceased, who is thrown into a grave generally
prepared for half a score, and the whole business is finished.

The great experiment of governing a civilized people without religion
will now be made; and should the morals, the manners, or happiness of the
French, be improved by it, the sectaries of modern philosophy may
triumph. Should it happen otherwise, the Christian will have an
additional motive for cherishing his faith: but even the afflictions of
humanity will not, I fear, produce either regret or conviction in his
adversary; for the prejudices of philosophers and systemists are
incorrigible.*

* _"Ce ne sont point les philosophes qui connoissent le mieux les
hommes. Ils ne les voient qu'a travers les prejuges, et je ne fache
aucun etat ou l'on en ait tant."_--J. J. Rousseau. ["It is not among
philosophers that we are to look for the most perfect knowledge of
human nature.--They view it only through the prejudices of
philosophy, and I know of no profession where prejudices are more
abundant."]

Providence, Jan. 29.

We are now quite domesticated here, though in a very miserable way,
without fire, and with our mattresses, on the boards; but we nevertheless
adopt the spirit of the country, and a total absence of comfort does not
prevent us from amusing ourselves. My friend knits, and draws landscapes
on the backs of cards; and I have established a correspondence with an
old bookseller, who sends me treatises of chemistry and fortifications,
instead of poetry and memoirs. I endeavoured at first to borrow books of
our companions, but this resource was soon exhausted, and the whole
prison supplied little more than a novel of Florian's, _Le Voyage du jeune
Anarcharsis,_ and some of the philosophical romances of Voltaire.--They
say it ennuyes them to read; and I observe, that those who read at all,
take their books into the garden, and prefer the most crowded walks.
These studious persons, who seem to surpass Crambe himself in the faculty
of abstraction, smile and bow at every comma, without any appearance of
derangement from such frequent interruptions.

Time passes sorrowly, rather than slowly; and my thoughts, without being
amused, are employed. The novelty of our situation, the past, the
future, all offer so many subjects of reflection, that my mind has more
occasion for repose than amusement. My only external resource is
conversing with our fellow-prisoners, and learning the causes of their
detention. These relations furnish me with a sort of "abstract of the
times," and mark the character of the government better than
circumstances of more apparent consequence; for what are battles, sieges,
and political machinations, but as they ultimately affect the happiness
of society? And when I learn that the lives, the liberty, and property
of no class are secure from violation, it is not necessary one should be
at Paris to form an opinion of this period of the revolution, and of
those who conduct it.

The persecution which has hitherto been chiefly directed against the
Noblesse, has now a little subsided, and seems turned against religion
and commerce. People are daily arrested for assisting at private masses,
concealing images, or even for being possessors of religious books.
Merchants are sent here as monopolizers, and retailers, under various
pretexts, in order to give the committees an opportunity of pillaging
their shops. It is not uncommon to see people of the town who are our
guards one day, become our fellow-prisoners the next; and a few weeks
since, the son of an old gentleman who has been some time here, after
being on guard the whole day, instead of being relieved at the usual
hour, was joined by his wife and children, under the escort of a couple
of dragoons, who delivered the whole family into the custody of our
keeper; and this appears to have happened without any other motive than
his having presented a petition to Dumont in behalf of his father.

An old man was lately taken from his house in the night, and brought
here, because he was said to have worn the cross of St. Louis.--The fact
is, however, that he never did wear this obnoxious distinction; and
though his daughter has proved this incontrovertibly to Dumont, she
cannot obtain his liberty: and the poor young woman, after making two or
three fruitless journeys to Paris, is obliged to content herself with
seeing her father occasionally at the gate.

The refectory of the convent is inhabited by hospital nuns. Many of the
hospitals in France had a sort of religious order annexed to them, whose
business it was to attend the sick; and habit, perhaps too the
association of the offices of humanity with the duties of religion, had
made them so useful in their profession, that they were suffered to
remain, even after the abolition of the regular monasteries. But the
devastating torrent of the revolution at length reached them: they were
accused of bestowing a more tender solicitude on their aristocratic
patients than on the wounded volunteers and republicans; and, upon these
curious charges, they have been heaped into carts, without a single
necessary, almost without covering, sent from one department to another,
and distributed in different prisons, where they are perishing with cold,
sickness, and want! Some people are here only because they happened to
be accidentally at a house when the owner was arrested;* and we have one
family who were taken at dinner, with their guests, and the plate they
were using!

* It was not uncommon for a mandate of arrest to direct the taking
"Citizen Such-a-one, and all persons found in his house."

A grand-daughter of the celebrated De Witt, who resided thirty leagues
from hence, was arrested in the night, put in an open cart, without any
regard to her age, her sex, or her infirmities, though the rain fell in
torrents; and, after sleeping on straw in different prisons on the road,
was deposited here. As a Fleming, the law places her in the same
predicament with a very pretty young woman who has lived some months at
Amiens; but Dumont, who is at once the maker, the interpreter, and
executor of the laws, has exempted the latter from the general
proscription, and appears daily with her in public; whereas poor Madame
De Witt is excluded from such indulgence, being above seventy years old--
and is accused, moreover, of having been most exemplarily charitable,
and, what is still worse, very religious.--I have given these instances
not as any way remarkable, and only that you may form some idea of the
pretexts which have served to cover France with prisons, and to conduct
so many of its inhabitants to the scaffold.

It is impossible to reflect on a country in such a situation, without
abhorring the authors of it, and dreading the propagation of their
doctrines. I hope they neither have imitators nor admirers in England;
yet the convention in their debates, the Jacobins, and all the French
newspapers, seem so sanguine in their expectation, and so positive in
their assertions of an English revolution, that I occasionally, and in
spite of myself, feel a vague but serious solicitude, which I should not
have supposed the apprehension of any political evil could inspre. I
know the good sense and information of my countrymen offer a powerful
resource against the love of change and metaphysical subtilties; but, it
is certain, the French government have much depended on the spirit of
party, and the zeal of their propagandistes. They talk of a British
convention, of a conventional army, and, in short, all France seem
prepared to see their neighbours involved in the same disastrous system
with themselves. The people are not a little supported in this error by
the extracts that are given them from your orators in the House of
Commons, which teem with nothing but complaints against the oppression of
their own country, and enthusiastic admiration of French liberty. We
read and wonder--collate the Bill of Rights with the Code
Revolutionnaire, and again fear what we cannot give credit to.

Since the reports I allude to have gained ground, I have been forcibly
stricken by a difference in the character of the two nations. At the
prospect of a revolution, all the French who could conveniently leave the
country, fled; and those that remained (except adventurers and the
banditti that were their accomplices) studiously avoided taking any part.
But so little are our countrymen affected with this selfish apathy, that
I am told there is scarcely one here who, amidst all his present
sufferings, does not seem to regret his absence from England, more on
account of not being able to oppose this threatened attack on our
constitution, than for any personal motive.--The example before them
must, doubtless, tend to increase this sentiment of genuine patriotism;
for whoever came to France with but a single grain of it in his
composition, must return with more than enough to constitute an hundred
patriots, whose hatred of despotism is only a principle, and who have
never felt its effects.--Adieu.

February 2, 1794.

The factions which have chosen to give France the appellation of a
republic, seem to have judged, and with some reason, that though it might
answer their purpose to amuse the people with specious theories of
freedom, their habits and ideas were far from requiring that these fine
schemes should be carried into practice. I know of no example equal to
the submission of the French at this moment; and if "departed spirits
were permitted to review the world," the shades of Richelieu or Louvois
might hover with envy round the Committee of Public Welfare, and regret
the undaring moderation of their own politics.

How shall I explain to an Englishman the doctrine of universal
requisition? I rejoice that you can imagine nothing like it.--After
establishing, as a general principle, that the whole country is at the
disposal of government, succeeding decrees have made specific claims on
almost every body, and every thing. The tailors, shoemakers,* bakers,
smiths, sadlers, and many other trades, are all in requisition--carts,
horses, and carriages of every kind, are in requisition--the stables and
cellars are put in requisition for the extraction of saltpetre, and the
houses to lodge soldiers, or to be converted into prisons.

* In order to prevent frauds, the shoemakers were obliged to make
only square-toed shoes, and every person not in the army was
forbidden to wear them of this form. Indeed, people of any
pretentions to patriotism (that is to say, who were much afraid) did
not venture to wear any thing but wooden shoes; as it had been
declared anti-civique, if not suspicious, to walk in leather.

--Sometimes shopkeepers are forbidden to sell their cloth, nails, wine,
bread, meat, &c. There are instances where whole towns have been kept
without the necessaries of life for several days together, in consequence
of these interdictions; and I have known it proclaimed by beat of drum,
that whoever possessed two uniforms, two hats, or two pair of shoes,
should relinquish one for the use of the army! Yet with all these
efforts of despotism, the republican troops are in many respects ill
supplied, the produce being too often converted to the use of the agents
of government, who are all Jacobins, and whose peculations are suffered
with impunity, because they are too necessary, or perhaps too formidable
for punishment.

These proceedings, which are not the less mischievous for being absurd,
must end in a total destruction of commerce: the merchant will not import
what he may be obliged to sell exclusively to government at an arbitrary
and inadequate valuation.--Those who are not imprisoned, and have it in
their power, are for the most part retired from business, or at least
avoid all foreign speculations; so that France may in a few months depend
only on her internal resources. The same measures which ruin one class,
serve as a pretext to oppress and levy contributions on the rest.--In
order to make this right of seizure still more productive, almost every
village has its spies, and the domiciliary visits are become so frequent,
that a man is less secure in his own house, than in a desert amidst
Arabs. On these occasions, a band of Jacobins, with a municipal officer
at their head, enter sans ceremonie, over-run your apartments, and if
they find a few pounds of sugar, soap, or any other article which they
choose to judge more than sufficient for immediate consumption, they take
possession of the whole as a monopoly, which they claim for the use of
the republic, and the terrified owner, far from expostulating, thinks
himself happy if he escapes so well.--But this is mere vulgar tyranny:
a less powerful despotism might invade the security of social life, and
banish its comforts. We are prone to suffer, and it requires often
little more than the will to do evil to give us a command over the
happiness of others. The Convention are more original, and, not
satisfied with having reduced the people to the most abject slavery,
they exact a semblance of content, and dictate at stated periods the
chastisement which awaits those who refuse to smile.

The splendid ceremonies at Paris, which pass for popular rejoicings,
merit that appellation less than an auto de fe. Every movement is
previously regulated by a Commissioner appointed for the purpose,
(to whom en passant these fetes are very lucrative jobs,) a plan of the
whole is distributed, in which is prescribed with great exactness, that
at such and such parts the people are to "melt into tears," at others
they are to be seized with a holy enthusiasm, and at the conclusion of
the whole they are to rend the air with the cry of "Vive la Convention!"
--These celebrations are always attended by a military force, sufficient
to ensure their observance, besides a plentiful mixture of spies to
notice refractory countenances or faint acclamations.

The departments which cannot imitate the magnificence of Paris, are
obliged, nevertheless, to manifest their satisfaction. At every occasion
on which a rejoicing is ordered, the same kind of discipline is
preserved; and the aristocrats, whose fears in general overcome their
principles, are often not the least zealous attendants.

At the retaking of Toulon, when abandoned by our countrymen, the National
Guards were every where assembled to participate in the festivity, under
a menace of three days imprisonment. Those persons who did not
illuminate their houses were to be considered as suspicious, and treated
as such: yet, even with all these precautions, I am informed the business
was universally cold, and the balls thinly attended, except by
aristocrats and relations of emigrants, who, in some places, with a
baseness not excused even by their terrors, exhibited themselves as a
public spectacle, and sang the defeats of that country which was armed in
their defence.

I must here remark to you a circumstance which does still less honour to
the French character; and which you will be unwilling to believe. In
several towns the officers and others, under whose care the English were
placed during their confinement, were desirous sometimes on account of
the peculiar hardship of their situation as foreigners, to grant them
little indulgences, and even more liberty than to the French prisoners;
and in this they were justified on several considerations, as well as
that of humanity.--They knew an Englishman could not escape, whatever
facility might be given him, without being immediately retaken; and that
if his imprisonment were made severe, he had fewer external resources and
alleviations than the natives of the country: but these favourable
dispositions were of no avail--for whenever any of our countrymen
obtained an accommodation, the jealousy of the French took umbrage, and
they were obliged to relinquish it, or hazard the drawing embarrassment
on the individual who had served them.

You are to notice, that the people in general, far from being averse to
seeing the English treated with a comparative indulgence, were even
pleased at it; and the invidious comparisons and complaints which
prevented it, proceeded from the gentry, from the families of those who
had found refuge in England, and who were involved in the common
persecution.--I have, more than once, been reproached by a female
aristocrat with the ill success of the English army; and many, with whom
I formerly lived on terms of intimacy, would refuse me now the most
trifling service.--I have heard of a lady, whose husband and brother are
both in London, who amuses herself in teaching a bird to repeat abuse of
the English.

It has been said, that the day a man becomes a slave, he loses half his
virtue; and if this be true as to personal slavery, judging from the
examples before me, I conclude it equally so of political bondage.--The
extreme despotism of the government seems to have confounded every
principle of right and wrong, every distinction of honour and dishonour
and the individual, of whatever class, alive only to the sense of
personal danger, embraces without reluctance meanness or disgrace, if it
insure his safety.--A tailor or shoemaker, whose reputation perhaps is
too bad to gain him a livelihood by any trade but that of a patriot,
shall be besieged by the flatteries of people of rank, and have levees as
numerous as Choiseul or Calonne in their meridian of power.

When a Deputy of the Convention is sent to a town on mission, sadness
takes possession of every heart, and gaiety of every countenance. He is
beset with adulatory petitions, and propitiating gifts; the Noblesse who
have escaped confinement form a sort of court about his person; and
thrice happy is the owner of that habitation at which he condescends to
reside.--*

* When a Deputy arrives, the gentry of the town contend with jealous
rivalship for the honour of lodging him; and the most eloquent
eulogist of republican simplicity in the Convention does not fail to
prefer a large house and a good table, even though the unhallowed
property of an aristocrat.--It is to be observed, that these
Missionaries travel in a very patriarchal style, accompanied by
their wives, children, and a numerous train of followers, who are
not delicate in availing themselves of this hospitality, and are
sometimes accused of carrying off the linen, or any thing else
portable--even the most decent behave on these occasions as though
they were at an inn.

--A Representative of gallantry has no reason to envy either the
authority of the Grand Signor, or the licence of his seraglio--he is
arbiter of the fate of every woman that pleases him; and, it is supposed,
that many a fair captive has owed her liberty to her charms, and that the
philosophy of a French husband has sometimes opened the doors of his
prison.

Dumont, who is married, and has besides the countenance of a white Negro,
never visits us without occasioning a general commotion amongst all the
females, especially those who are young and pretty. As soon as it is
known that he is expected, the toilettes are all in activity, a
renovation of rouge and an adjustment of curls take place, and, though
performed with more haste, not with less solicitude, than the preparatory
splendour of a first introduction.--When the great man arrives, he finds
the court by which he enters crowded by these formidable prisoners, and
each with a petition in her hand endeavours, with the insidious coquetry
of plaintive smiles and judicious tears, that brighten the eye without
deranging the features, to attract his notice and conciliate his favour.
Happy those who obtain a promise, a look of complacence, or even of
curiosity!--But the attention of this apostle of republicanism is not
often bestowed, except on high rank, or beauty; and a woman who is old,
or ill dressed, that ventures to approach him, is usually repulsed with
vulgar brutality--while the very sight of a male suppliant renders him
furious. The first half hour he walks about, surrounded by his fair
cortege, and is tolerably civil; but at length, fatigued, I suppose by
continual importunity, he loses his temper, departs, and throws all the
petitions he has received unopened into the fire.

Adieu--the subject is too humiliating to dwell on. I feel for myself, I
feel for human nature, when I see the fastidiousness of wealth, the more
liberal pride of birth, and the yet more allowable pretensions of beauty,
degraded into the most abject submission to such a being as Dumont. Are
our principles every where the mere children of circumstance, or is it in
this country only that nothing is stable? For my own part I love
inflexibility of character; and pride, even when ill founded, seems more
respectable while it sustains itself, than concessions which, refused to
the suggestions of reason, are yielded to the dictates of fear.--Yours.

February 12, 1794.

I was too much occupied by my personal distresses to make any remarks on
the revolutionary government at the time of its adoption. The text of
this political phoenomenon must be well known in England--I shall,
therefore, confine myself to giving you a general idea of its spirit and
tendency,--It is, compared to regular government, what force is to
mechanism, or the usual and peaceful operations of nature to the ravages
of a storm--it substitutes violence for conciliation, and sweeps with
precipitate fury all that opposes its devastating progress. It refers
every thing to a single principle, which is in itself not susceptible of
definition, and, like all undefined power, is continually vibrating
between despotism and anarchy. It is the execrable shape of Milton's
Death, "which shape hath none," and which can be described only by its
effects.--For instance, the revolutionary tribunal condemns without
evidence, the revolutionary committees imprison without a charge, and
whatever assumes the title of revolutionary is exonerated from all
subjection to humanity, decency, reason, or justice.--Drowning the
insurgents, their wives and children, by boatloads, is called, in the
dispatch to the Convention, a revolutionary measure--*

* The detail of the horrors committed in La Vendee and at Nantes
were not at this time fully known. Carrier had, however,
acknowledged, in a report read to the Convention, that a boat-load
of refractory priests had been drowned, and children of twelve years
old condemned by a military commission! One Fabre Marat, a
republican General, wrote, about the same period, I think from
Angers, that the Guillotine was too slow, and powder scarce, so that
it was concluded more expedient to drown the rebels, which he calls
a patriotic baptism!--The following is a copy of a letter addressed
to the Mayor of Paris by a Commissary of the Government:

"You will give us pleasure by transmitting the details of your fete at
Paris last decade, with the hymns that were sung. Here we all cried
_"Vive la Republique!"_ as we ever do, when our holy mother Guillotine is
at work. Within these three days she has shaved eleven priests, one
_ci-devant_ noble, a nun, a general, and a superb Englishman, six feet high,
and as he was too tall by a head, we have put that into the sack! At the
same time eight hundred rebels were shot at the Pont du Ce, and their
carcases thrown into the Loire!--I understand the army is on the track of
the runaways. All we overtake we shoot on the spot, and in such numbers
that the ways are heaped with them!"

--At Lyons, it is revolutionary to chain three hundred victims together
before the mouths of loaded cannon, and massacre those who escape the
discharge with clubs and bayonets;* and at Paris, revolutionary juries
guillotine all who come before them.--**

* The Convention formally voted their approbation of this measure,
and Collot d'Herbois, in a report on the subject, makes a kind of
apostrophical panegyric on the humanity of his colleagues. "Which
of you, Citizens, (says he,) would not have fired the cannon? Which
of you would not joyfully have destroyed all these traitors at a
blow?"

** About this time a woman who sold newspapers, and the printer of
them, were guillotined for paragraphs deemed incivique.

--Yet this government is not more terrible than it is minutely vexations.
One's property is as little secure as one's existence. Revolutionary
committees every where sequestrate in the gross, in order to plunder in
detail.*

* The revolutionary committees, when they arrested any one,
pretended to affix seals in form. The seal was often, however, no
other than the private one of some individual employed--sometimes
only a button or a halfpenny, which was broken as often as the
Committee wanted access to the wine or other effects. Camille
Desmoulins, in an address to Freron, his fellow-deputy, describes
with some humour the mode of proceeding of these revolutionary
pilferers:

_"Avant hier, deux Commissaires de la section de Mutius Scaevola, montent
chez lui--ils trouvent dans la bibliotheque des livres de droit; et
non-obstant le decret qui porte qu'on ne touchera point Domat ni a Charles
Dumoulin, bien qu'ils traitent de matieres feodales, ils sont main basse
sur la moitie de la bibliotheque, et chargent deux Chrocheteurs des
livres paternels. Ils trouvent une pendule, don't la pointe de Paiguille
etoit, comme la plupart des pointes d'aiguilles, terminee en trefle: il
leur semble que cette pointe a quelque chose d'approchant d'une fleur de
lys; et non-obstant le decret qui ordonne de respecter les monumens des
arts, il confisquent la pendule.--Notez bien qu'il y avoit a cote une
malle sur laquelle etoit l'adresse fleurdelisee du marchand.--Ici il n'y
avoit pas moyen de aier que ce fut une belle et bonne fleur de lys; mais
comme la malle ne valoit pas un corset, les Commissaires se contentent de
rayer les lys, au lieu que la malheureuse pendule, qui vaut bien 1200
livres, est, malgre son trefle, emportee par eux-memes, qui ne se fioient
pas aux Chrocheteurs d'un poid si precieux--et ce, en vertu du droit que
Barrere a appelle si heureusement le droit de prehension, quoique le
decret s'opposat, dans l'espece, a l'application de ce droit.--Enfin,
notre decemvirat sectionnaire, qui se mettoit ainsi au-dessus des
decrets, trouve le brevet de pension de mon beau-pere, qui, comme tous
les brevets de pension, n'etant pas de nature a etre porte sur le grand
livre de la republique, etoit demeure dans le porte-feuille, et qui,
comme tous les brevets de pension possibles, commencoit par ce protocole;
Louis, &c. Ciel! s'ecrient les Commissaires, le nom du tyran!--Et apres
avoir retrouve leur haleine, suffoquee d'abord par l'indignation, ils
mettent en poche le brevet de pension, c'est a dire 1000 livres de rente,
et emportent la marmite. Autre crime, le Citoyen Duplessis, qui etoit
premier commis des finances, sous Clugny, avoit conserve, comme c'etoit
l'usage, la cachet du controle general d'alors--un vieux porte-feuille de
commis, qui etoit au rebut, ouble au dessus d'une armoire, dans un tas de
poussiere, et auquel il n'avoit pas touche ne meme pense depuis dix ans
peutetre, et sur le quel on parvint a decouvrir l'empreinte de quelques
fleurs de lys, sous deux doigts de crasse, acheva de completer la preuve
que le Citoyen Duplessis etoit suspect--et la voila, lui, enferme jusqu'a
la paix, et le scelle mis sur toutes les portes de cette campagne, ou, tu
te souviens, mon cher Freroa--que, decretes tous deux de prise de corps,
apres le massacre du Champ de Mars, nous trouvions un asyle que le tyran
n'osoit violer."_

"The day before yesterday, two Commissaries belonging to the section of
Mutius Scaevola, entered my father-in-law's apartments; they found some
law-books in the library, and, notwithstanding the decree which exempts
from seizure the works of Domat and Charles Dumouin, (although they treat
of feudal matters,) they proceeded to lay violent hands on one half of
the collection, and loaded two porters with paternal spoils. The next
object that attracted their attention was a clock, the hand of which,
like the hands of most other clocks, terminated in a point, in the form
of a trefoil, which seemed to them to bear some resemblance to a fleur de
lys; and, notwithstanding the decree which ordains that the monuments of
the arts shall be respected, they immediately passed sentence of
confiscation on the clock. I should observe to you, that hard by lay a
portmanteau, having on it the maker's address, encircled with lilies.--
Here there was no disputing the fact, but as the trunk was not worth five
livres, the Commissaries contented themselves with erasing the lilies;
but the unfortunate clock, being worth twelve hundred, was,
notwithstanding its trefoil, carried off by themselves, for they would
not trust the porters with so precious a load.--And all this was done in
virtue of the law, which Barrere aptly denominated the law of prehension,
and which, according to the terms of the decree itself, was not
applicable to the case in question.

"At length our sectionary decemvirs, who thus placed themselves above the
law, discovered the grant of my father-in-law's pension, which, like all
similar grants, being excluded from the privilege of inscription on the
great register of public debts, had been left in his port-folio; and
which began, as all such grants necessarily must, with the words, Louis,
&c. "Heaven!" exclaimed the Commissaries, "here is the very name of the
tyrant!" And, as soon as they recovered their breaths, which had been
nearly stopped by the violence of the indignation, they coolly pocketed
the grant, that is to say, an annuity of one thousand livres, and sent
off the porridge-pot. Nor did these constitute all the crimes of Citizen
Duplessis, who, having served as first clerk of the revenue board under
Clugny, had, as was usual, kept the official seal of that day. An old
port-folio, which had been thrown aside, and long forgotten, under a
wardrobe, where it was buried in dust, and had, in all probability, not
been touched for ten years, but, which with much difficulty, was
discovered to bear the impression of a fleur de lys, completed the proof
that Citizen Duplessis was a suspicious character. And now behold him
shut up in a prison until peace shall be concluded, and the seals put
upon all the doors of that country seat, where, you may remember, my dear
Freron, that at the time when warrants were issued for apprehending us
both, after the massacre in the Champ de Mars, we found an asylum which
the tyrant did not dare to violate."

--In a word, you must generally understand, that the revolutionary system
supersedes law, religion, and morality; and that it invests the
Committees of Public Welfare and General Safety, their agents, the
Jacobin clubs, and subsidiary banditti, with the disposal of the whole
country and its inhabitants.

This gloomy aera of the revolution has its frivolities as well as the
less disastrous periods, and the barbarism of the moment is rendered
additionally disgusting by a mixture of levity and pedantry.--It is a
fashion for people at present to abandon their baptismal and family
names, and to assume that of some Greek or Roman, which the debates of
the Convention have made familiar.--France swarms with Gracchus's and
Publicolas, who by imaginary assimilations of acts, which a change of
manners has rendered different, fancy themselves more than equal to their
prototypes.*

* The vicissitudes of the revolution, and the vengeance of party,
have brought half the sages of Greece, and patriots of Rome, to the
Guillotine or the pillory. The Newgate Calendar of Paris contains
as many illustrious names as the index to Plutarch's Lives; and I
believe there are now many Brutus's and Gracchus's in durance vile,
besides a Mutius Scaevola condemned to twenty years imprisonment for
an unskilful theft.--A man of Amiens, whose name is Le Roy,
signified to the public, through the channel of a newspaper, that he
had adopted that of Republic.

--A man who solicits to be the executioner of his own brother ycleps
himself Brutus, and a zealous preacher of the right of universal pillage
cites the Agrarian law, and signs himself Lycurgus. Some of the Deputies
have discovered, that the French mode of dressing is not characteristic
of republicanism, and a project is now in agitation to drill the whole
country into the use of a Roman costume.--You may perhaps suspect, that
the Romans had at least more bodily sedateness than their imitators, and
that the shrugs, jerks, and carracoles of a French petit maitre, however
republicanized, will not assort with the grave drapery of the toga. But
on your side of the water you have a habit of reasoning and deliberating
--here they have that of talking and obeying.

Our whole community are in despair to-day. Dumont has been here, and
those who accosted him, as well as those who only ventured to interpret
his looks, all agree in their reports that he is in a "bad humour."--The
brightest eyes in France have supplicated in vain--not one grace of any
sort has been accorded--and we begin to cherish even our present
situation, in the apprehension that it may become worse.--Alas! you know
not of what evil portent is the "bad humour" of a Representant. We are
half of us now, like the Persian Lord, feeling if our heads are still on
our shoulders.--I could add much to the conclusion of one of my last
letters. Surely this incessant solicitude for mere existence debilitates
the mind, and impairs even its passive faculty of suffering. We intrigue
for the favour of the keeper, smile complacently at the gross
pleasantries of a Jacobin, and tremble at the frown of a Dumont.--I am
ashamed to be the chronicler of such humiliation: but, "tush, Hal; men,
mortal men!" I can add no better apology, and quit you to moralize on
it.--Yours.

[No date given.]

Were I a mere spectator, without fear for myself or compassion for
others, the situation of this country would be sufficiently amusing. The
effects produced (many perhaps unavoidably) by a state of revolution--the
strange remedies devised to obviate them--the alternate neglect and
severity with which the laws are executed--the mixture of want and
profusion that distinguish the lower classes of people--and the distress
and humiliation of the higher; all offer scenes so new and unaccountable,
as not to be imagined by a person who has lived only under a regular
government, where the limits of authority are defined, the necessaries of
life plentiful, and the people rational and subordinate. The
consequences of a general spirit of monopoly, which I formerly described,
have lately been so oppressive, that the Convention thought it necessary
to interfere, and in so extraordinary a way, that I doubt if (as usual)
"the distemper of their remedies" will not make us regret the original
disease. Almost every article, by having passed through a variety of
hands, had become enormously dear; which, operating with a real scarcity
of many things, occasioned by the war, had excited universal murmurings
and inquietude. The Convention, who know the real source of the evil
(the discredit of assignats) to be unattainable, and who are more
solicitous to divert the clamours of the people, than to supply their
wants, have adopted a measure which, according to the present
appearances, will ruin one half of the nation, and starve the other. A
maximum, or highest price, beyond which nothing is to be sold, is now
promulgated under very severe penalties for all who shall infringe it.
Such a regulation as this, must, in its nature, be highly complex, and,
by way of simplifying it, the price of every kind of merchandise is fixed
at a third above what it bore in 1791: but as no distinction is made
between the produce of the country, and articles imported--between the
small retailer, who has purchased perhaps at double the rate he is
allowed to sell at, and the wholesale speculator, this very
simplification renders the whole absurd and inexecutable.--The result was
such as might have been expected; previous to the day on which the decree
was to take place, shopkeepers secreted as many of their goods as they
could; and, when the day arrived, the people laid siege to them in
crowds, some buying at the maximum, others less ceremonious, and in a few
hours little remained in the shop beyond the fixtures. The farmers have
since brought neither butter nor eggs to market, the butchers refuse to
kill as usual, and, in short, nothing is to be purchased openly. The
country people, instead of selling provisions publicly, take them to
private houses; and, in addition to the former exorbitant prices, we are
taxed for the risk that is incurred by evading the law. A dozen of eggs,
or a leg of mutton, are now conveyed from house to house with as much
mystery, as a case of fire-arms, or a treasonable correspondence; the
whole republic is in a sort of training like the Spartan youth; and we
are obliged to have recourse to dexterity and intrigue to procure us a
dinner.

Our legislators, aware of what they term the "aristocratie marchande,"--
that is to say, that tradesmen would naturally shut up their shops when
nothing was to be gained--provided, by a clause in the above law, that no
one should do this in less time than a year; but as the injunction only
obliged them to keep the shops open, and not to have goods to sell, every
demand is at first always answered in the negative, till a sort of
intelligence becomes established betwixt the buyer and seller, when the
former, if he may be trusted, is informed in a low key, that certain
articles may be had, but not au maximum.--Thus even the rich cannot
obtain the necessaries of life without difficulty and submitting to
imposition--and the decent poor, who will not pillage nor intimidate the
tradesmen, are more embarrassed than ever.

The above species of contraband commerce is carried on, indeed, with
great circumspection, and no avowed hostilities are attempted in the
towns. The great war of the maximum was waged with the farmers and
higlers, as soon as it was discovered that they took their commodities
privily to such people as they knew would buy at any price, rather than
not be supplied. In consequence, the guards were ordered to stop all
refractory butter-women at the gates, and conduct them to the town-house,
where their merchandize was distributed, without pity or appeal, au
maximum, to those of the populace who could clamour loudest.

These proceedings alarmed the peasants, and our markets became deserted.
New stratagems, on one side, new attacks on the other. The servants were
forced to supply themselves at private rendezvous in the night, until
some were fined, and others arrested; and the searching all comers from
the country became more intolerable than the vexations of the ancient
Gabelle.--Detachments of dragoons are sent to scour the farm-yards,
arrest the farmers, and bring off in triumph whatever the restive
housewives have amassed, to be more profitably disposed of.

In this situation we remain, and I suppose shall remain, while the law of
the maximum continues in force. The principle of it was certainly good,
but it is found impossible to reduce it to practice so equitably as to
affect all alike: and as laws which are not executed are for the most
part rather pernicious than nugatory, informations, arrests, imposition,
and scarcity are the only ends which this measure seems to have answered.

The houses of detention, before insupportable, are now yet more crouded
with farmers and shopkeepers suspected of opposing the law.--Many of the
former are so ignorant, as not to conceive that any circumstances ought
to deprive them of the right to sell the produce of their farms at the
highest price they can get, and regard the maximum much in the same light
as they would a law to authorize robbing or housebreaking: as for the
latter, they are chiefly small dealers, who bought dearer than they have
sold, and are now imprisoned for not selling articles which they have not
got. An informer by trade, or a personal enemy, lodges an accusation
against a particular tradesman for concealing goods, or not selling au
maximum; and whether the accusation be true or false, if the accused is
not in office, or a Jacobin, he has very little chance of escaping
imprisonment.--It is certain, that if the persecution of these classes of
people continue, and commerce (already nearly annihilated by the war) be
thus shackled, an absolute want of various articles of primary
consumption must ensue; but if Paris and the armies can be supplied, the
starving the departments will be a mere pleasurable experiment to their
humane representatives!

March 1, 1794.

The freedom of the press is so perfectly well regulated, that it is not
surprizing we are indulged with the permission of seeing the public
papers: yet this indulgence is often, I assure you, a source of much
perplexity to me--our more intimate associates know that I am a native of
England, and as often as any debates of our House of Commons are
published, they apply to me for explanations which it is not always in my
power to give them. I have in vain endeavoured to make them comprehend
the nature of an opposition from system, so that when they see any thing
advanced by a member exactly the reverse of truth, they are wondering how
he can be so ill informed, and never suspect him of saying what he does
not believe himself. It must be confessed, however, that our extracts
from the English papers often form so complete a contrast with facts,
that a foreigner unacquainted with the tactics of professional
patriotism, may very naturally read them with some surprize. A noble
Peer, for example, (whose wisdom is not to be disputed, since the Abbe
Mably calls him the English Socrates,*) asserts that the French troops
are the best clothed in Europe; yet letters, of nearly the same date with
the Earl's speech, from two Generals and a Deputy at the head of
different armies intreat a supply of covering for their denudated
legions, and add, that they are obliged to march in wooden shoes!**

* It is surely a reflection on the English discernment not to have
adopted this happy appellation, in which, however, as well as in
many other parts of "the rights of Man and the Citizen," the Abbe
seems to have consulted his own zeal, rather than the noble Peer's
modesty.

** If the French troops are now better clothed, it is the effect of
requisitions and pre-emptions, which have ruined the manufacturers.
--Patriots of the North, would you wish to see our soldiers clothed
by the same means?

--On another occasion, your British Sage describes, with great eloquence,
the enthusiasm with which the youth of France "start to arms at the call
of the Convention;" while the peaceful citizen anticipates, with equal
eagerness, the less glorious injunction to extract saltpetre.--The
revolts, and the coercion, necessary to enforce the departure of the
first levies (however fear, shame, and discipline, may have since made
them soldiers, though not republicans) might have corrected the ardour of
the orator's inventive talents; and the zeal of the French in
manufacturing salpetre, has been of so slow a growth, that any reference
to it is peculiarly unlucky. For several months the Convention has
recommended, invited, intreated, and ordered the whole country to occupy
themselves in the process necessary for obtaining nitre; but the
republican enthusiasm was so tardy, that scarcely an ounce appeared, till
a long list of sound penal laws, with fines and imprisonments in every
line, roused the public spirit more effectually.*

* Two years imprisonment was the punishment assigned to a Citizen
who should be found to obstruct in any way the fabricating
saltpetre. If you had a house that was adjudged to contain the
materials required, and expostulated against pulling it down, the
penalty was incurred.--I believe something of this kind existed
under the old government, the abuses of which are the only parts the
republic seems to have preserved.

--Another cause also has much favoured the extension of this manufacture:
the necessity of procuring gunpowder at any rate has secured an exemption
from serving in the army to those who shall be employed in making it.--*

* Many, under this pretext, even procured their discharge from the
army; and it was eventually found requisite to stop this commutation
of service by a decree.

--On this account vast numbers of young men, whose martial propensities
are not too vehement for calculation, considering the extraction of
saltpetre as more safe than the use of it, have seriously devoted
themselves to the business. Thus, between fear of the Convention and of
the enemy, has been produced that enthusiasm which seems so grateful to
Lord S____. Yet, if the French are struck by the dissimilitude of facts
with the language of your English patriots, there are other circumstances
which appear still more unaccountable to them. I acknowledge the word
patriotism is not perfectly understood any where in France, nor do my
prison-associates abound in it; but still they find it difficult to
reconcile the love of their country, so exclusively boasted by certain
senators, with their eulogiums on a government, and on men who avow an
implacable hatred to it, and are the professed agents of its future
destruction. The Houses of Lords and Commons resound with panegyrics on
France; the Convention with _"delenda est Carthate"--"ces vils
Insulaires"--de peuple marchand, boutiquier"--"ces laches Anglois"--_ &c.
&c. ("Carthage must be destroyed"--"those vile Islanders"--"that nation
of shopkeepers"--"those cowardly Englishmen"--&c.)

The efforts of the English patriots overtly tend to the consolidation of
the French republic, while the demagogues of France are yet more
strenuous for the abolition of monarchy in England. The virtues of
certain people called Muir and Palmer,* are at once the theme of Mr. Fox
and Robespierre,** of Mr. Grey and Barrere,***, of Collot d'Herbois****
and Mr. Sheridan; and their fate is lamented as much at the Jacobins as
at St. Stephen's.*****

* If I have not mentioned these gentlemen with the respect due to
their celebrity, their friends must pardon me. To say truth, I did
not at this time think of them with much complacence, as I had heard
of them only from the Jacobins, by whom they were represented as the
leaders of a Convention, which was to arm ninety thousand men, for
the establishment of a system similar to that existing in France.

**The French were so much misled by the eloquence of these gentlemen
in their favour, that they were all exhibited on the stage in red
caps and cropped heads, welcoming the arrival of their Gallic
friends in England, and triumphing in the overthrow of the British
constitution, and the dethronement of the King.

*** If we may credit the assertions of Barrere, the friendship of
the Committee of Public Welfare was not merely verbal. He says, the
secret register of the Committee furnishes proofs of their having
sent three frigates to intercept these distinguished victims, whom
their ungrateful country had so ignominiously banished.

**** This humane and ingenious gentleman, by profession a player, is
known likewise as the author of several farces and vaudevilles, and
of the executions at Lyons.--It is asserted, that many of the
inhabitants of this unfortunate city expiated under the Guillotine
the crime of having formerly hissed Collot's successful attempts on
the stage.

***** The printing of a particular speech was interdicted on account
of its containing allusions to certain circumstances, the knowledge
of which might be of disservice to their unfortunate friends during
their trial.

--The conduct of Mr. Pitt is not more acrimoniously discussed at the
Palais National than by a part of his colleagues; and the censure of the
British government, which is now the order of the day at the Jacobins, is
nearly the echo of your parliamentary debates.*

* Allowing for the difference of education in the orators, a
journeyman shoemaker was, I think, as eloquent, and not more
abusive, than the facetious _ci-devant_ protege of Lord T____d.

--All this, however, does not appear to me out of the natural order of
things; it is the sorry history of opposition for a century and an half,
and our political rectitude, I fear, is not increasing: but the French,
who are in their way the most corrupt people in Europe, have not
hitherto, from the nature of their government, been familiar with this
particular mode of provoking corruption, nor are they at present likely
to become so. Indeed, I must here observe, that your English Jacobins,
if they are wise, should not attempt to introduce the revolutionary
system; for though the total possession of such a government is very
alluring, yet the prudence, which looks to futurity, and the incertitude
of sublunary events, must acknowledge it is "Caesar or nothing;" and that
it offers no resource in case of those segregations, which the jealousy
of power, or the appropriation of spoil, may occasion, even amongst the
most virtuous associates.--The eloquence of a discontented orator is here
silenced, not by a pension, but by a mandat d'arret; and the obstinate
patriotism, which with you could not be softened with less than a
participation of authority, is more cheaply secured by the Guillotine. A
menace is more efficacious than a bribe, and in this respect I agree with
Mr. Thomas Paine,* that a republic is undoubtedly more oeconomical than a
monarchy; besides, that being conducted on such principles, it has the
advantage of simplifying the science of government, as it consults
neither the interests nor weaknesses of mankind; and, disdaining to
administer either to avarice or vanity, subdues its enemies by the sole
influence of terror.--*

* This gentleman's fate is truly to be pitied. After rejecting, as
his friends assert, two hundred a year from the English Ministry, he
is obliged now to be silent gratis, with the additional desagrement
of occupying a corner in the Luxembourg.

--Adieu!--Heaven knows how often I may have to repeat the word thus
unmeaningly. I sit here, like Pope's bard "lulled by soft zephyrs
through the broken pane," and scribbling high-sounding phrases of
monarchy, patriotism, and republics, while I forget the humbler subject
of our wants and embarrassments. We can scarcely procure either bread,
meat, or any thing else: the house is crouded by an importation of
prisoners from Abbeville, and we are more strictly guarded than ever. My
friend ennuyes as usual, and I grow impatient, not having sang froid
enough for a true French ennuie in a situation that would tempt one to
hang one's self.

March, 1794.

The aspect of the times promises no change in our favour; on the
contrary, every day seems to bring its attendant evil. The gentry who
had escaped the comprehensive decree against suspected people, are now
swept away in this and the three neighbouring departments by a private
order of the representatives, St. Just, Lebas, and Dumont.*

* The order was to arrest, without exception, all the ci-devant
Noblessse, men, women, and children, in the departments of the
Somme, North, and Pas de Calais, and to exclude them rigourously
from all external communication--(mettre au secret).

--A severer regimen is to be adopted in the prisons, and husbands are
already separated from their wives, and fathers from their daughters, for
the purpose, as it is alledged, of preserving good morals. Both this
place and the Bicetre being too full to admit of more inhabitants, two
large buildings in the town are now appropriated to the male prisoners.--
My friends continue at Arras, and, I fear, in extreme distress. I
understand they have been plundered of what things they had with them,
and the little supply I was able to send them was intercepted by some of
the harpies of the prisons. Mrs. D____'s health has not been able to
sustain these accumulated misfortunes, and she is at present at the
hospital. All this is far from enlivening, even had I a larger share of
the national philosophy; and did I not oftener make what I observe, than
what I suffer, the subject of my letters, I should tax your patience as
much by repetition, as I may by dullness.

When I enumerated in my last letters a few of the obligations the French
have to their friends in England, I ought also to have observed, with how
little gratitude they behave to those who are here. Without mentioning
Mr. Thomas Paine, whose persecution will doubtless be recorded by abler
pens, nothing, I assure you, can be more unpleasant than the situation of
one of these Anglo-Gallican patriots. The republicans, supposing that an
Englishman who affects a partiality for them can be only a spy, execute
all the laws, which concern foreigners, upon him with additional rigour;*
and when an English Jacobin arrives in prison, far from meeting with
consolation or sympathy, his distresses are beheld with triumph, and his
person avoided with abhorrence. They talk much here of a gentleman, of
very democratic principles, who left the prison before I came. It seems,
that, notwithstanding Dumont condescended to visit at his house, and was
on terms of intimacy with him, he was arrested, and not distinguished
from the rest of his countrymen, except by being more harshly treated.
The case of this unfortunate gentleman was rendered peculiarly amusing to
his companions, and mortifying to himself, by his having a very pretty
mistress, who had sufficient influence over Dumont to obtain any thing
but the liberation of her protector. The Deputy was on this head
inflexible; doubtless, as a proof of his impartial observance of the
laws, and to show that, like the just man in Horace, he despised the
clamour of the vulgar, who did not scruple to hint, that the crime of our
countryman was rather of a moral than a political nature--that he was
unaccommodating, and recalcitrant--addicted to suspicions and jealousies,
which it was thought charitable to cure him of, by a little wholesome
seclusion. In fact, the summary of this gentleman's history is not
calculated to tempt his fellow societists on your side of the water to
imitate his example.--After taking refuge in France from the tyranny and
disappointments he experienced in England, and purchasing a large
national property to secure himself the rights of a citizen, he is
awakened from his dream of freedom, to find himself lodged in a prison,
his estate under sequestration, and his mistress in requisition.--Let us
leave this Coriolanus among the Volscians--it is a persecution to make
converts, rather than martyrs, and

_"Quand le malheur ne seroit bon,
"Qu'a mettre un sot a la raison,
"Toujours seroit-ce a juste cause
"Qu'on le dit bon a quelque chose."_*

* If calamity were only good to restore a fool to his senses, still
we might justly say, "that it was good for some thing."

Yours, &c.

March 5, 1794.

Of what strange influence is this word revolution, that it should thus,
like a talisman of romance, keep inchained, as it were, the reasoning
faculties of twenty millions of people! France is at this moment looking
for the decision of its fate in the quarrels of two miserable clubs,
composed of individuals who are either despised or detested. The
municipality of Paris favours the Cordeliers, the Convention the
Jacobins; and it is easy to perceive, that in this cafe the auxiliaries
are principals, and must shortly come to such an open rupture, as will
end in the destruction of either one or the other. The world would be
uninhabitable, could the combinations of the wicked be permanent; and it
is fortunate for the tranquil and upright part of mankind, that the
attainment of the purposes for which such combinations are formed, is
usually the signal of their dissolution.

The municipality of Paris had been the iniquitous drudges of the Jacobin
party in the legislative assembly--they were made the instruments of
massacring the prisoners,* of dethroning and executing the king,** and
successively of destroying the Brissotine faction,*** filling the prisons
with all who were obnoxious to the republicans,**** and of involving a
repentant nation in the irremidiable guilt of the Queen's death.--*****

* It is well known that the assassins were hired and paid by the
municipality, and that some of the members presided at these horrors
in their scarfs of office.

** The whole of what is called the revolution of the 10th of August
may very justly be ascribed to the municipality of Paris--I mean the
active part of it. The planning and political part has been so
often disputed by different members of the Convention, that it is
not easy to decide on any thing, except that the very terms of these
disputes fully evince, that the people at large, and more
particularly the departments, were both innocent, and, until it took
place, ignorant of an event which has plunged the country into so
many crimes and calamities.

*** A former imprisonment of Hebert formed a principal charge
against the Brissotines, and, indeed, the one that was most insisted
on at their trial, if we except that of having precipitated France
into a war with England.--It must be difficult for the English
Jacobins to decide on this occasion between the virtues of their
dead friends and those of their living ones.

**** The famous definition of suspected persons originated with the
municipality of Paris.

***** It is certain that those who, deceived by the calumnies of
faction, permitted, if not assented to, the King's death, at this
time regretted it; and I believe I have before observed, that one of
the reasons urged in support of the expediency of putting the Queen
to death, was, that it would make the army and people decisive, by
banishing all hope of peace or accommodation. See the _Moniteur_ of
that time, which, as I have elsewhere observed, may be always
considered as official.

--These services being too great for adequate reward, were not rewarded
at all; and the municipality, tired of the odium of crime, without the
participation of power, has seized on its portion of tyranny; while the
convention, at once jealous and timid, exasperated and doubtful, yet
menaces with the trepidation of a rival, rather than with the security of
a conqueror.

Hebert, the Deputy-solicitor for the commune of Paris, appears on this
occasion as the opponent of the whole legislature; and all the
temporizing eloquence of Barrere, and the mysterious phraseology of
Robespierre, are employed to decry his morals, and to reproach the
ministers with the sums which have been the price of his labours.--*

* Five thousand pounds, two thousand pounds, and other considerable
sums, were paid to Hebert for supplying the army with his paper,
called "La Pere Duchene." Let whoever has read one of them,
conceive the nature of a government to which such support was
necessary, which supposed its interests promoted by a total
extinction of morals, decency, and religion. I could almost wish,
for the sake of exhibiting vice under its most odious colours, that
my sex and my country permitted me to quote one.

--Virtuous republicans! the morals of Hebert were pure when he outraged
humanity in his accusations of the Queen--they were pure when he
prostrated the stupid multitude at the feet of a Goddess of Reason;* they
were pure while his execrable paper served to corrupt the army, and to
eradicate every principle which yet distinguished the French as a
civilized people.

* Madame Momoro, the unfortunate woman who exposed herself in this
pageant, was guillotined as an accomplice of Hebert, together with
the wives of Hebert and Camille Desmoulins.

--Yet, atrocious as his crimes are, they form half the Magna Charta of
the republic,* and the authority of the Convention is still supported by
them.

* What are the death of the King, and the murders of August and
September, 1792, but the Magna Charta of the republicans?

--It is his person, not his guilt, that is proscribed; and if the one be
threatened with the scaffold, the fruits of the other are held sacred.
He will fall a sacrifice--not to offended religion or morality, but to
the fears and resentment of his accomplices!

Amidst the dissentions of two parties, between which neither reason nor
humanity can discover a preference, a third seems to have formed itself,
equally inimical to, and hated by both. At the head of it are Danton,
Camille Desmoulins, Philipeaux, &c.--I own I have no better opinion of
the integrity of these, than of the rest; but they profess themselves the
advocates of a system of mildness and moderation, and, situated as this
country is at present, even the affectation of virtue is captivating.--
As far as they dare, the people are partial to them: bending beneath the
weight of a sanguinary and turbulent despotism, if they sigh not for
freedom, they do for repose; and the harassed mind, bereft of its own
energy, looks up with indolent hope for relief from a change of factions.
They forget that Danton is actuated by ambitious jealousy, that Camille
Desmoulins is hacknied in the atrocities of the revolution, and that
their partizans are adventurers, with neither honour nor morals. Yet,
after all, if they will destroy a few of the guillotines, open our
bastilles, and give us at least the security of servitude, we shall be
content to leave these retrospections to posterity, and be thankful that
in this our day the wicked sometimes perceive it their interest to do
good.

In this state of seclusion, when I remark to you the temper of the public
at any important crisis, you are, perhaps, curious to know my sources of
intelligence; but such details are unnecessary. I might, indeed, write
you a manuel des prisons, and, like Trenck or Latude, by a vain display
of ingenuity, deprive some future victim of a resource. It is enough,
that Providence itself seems to aid our invention, when its object is to
elude tyranny; besides that a constant accession of prisoners from all
parts, who are too numerous to be kept separate, necessarily circulates
among us whatever passes in the world.

The Convention has lately made a sort of _pas retrogade_ [Retrogade
movement.] in the doctrine of holy equality, by decreeing, that every
officer who has a command shall be able to read and write, though it
cannot be denied that their reasons for this lese democratie are of some
weight. All gentlemen, or, as it is expressed here, noblesse, have been
recalled from the army, and replaced by officers chosen by the soldiers
themselves, [Under the rank of field-officers.] whose affections are
often conciliated by qualities not essentially military, though sometimes
professional. A buffoon, or a pot-companion, is, of course, often more
popular than a disciplinarian; and the brightest talents lose their
influence when put in competition with a head that can bear a greater
number of bottles.*

* Hence it happened, that a post was sometimes confided to one who
could not read the parole and countersign; expeditions failed,
because commanding officers mistook on the map a river for a road,
or woods for mountains; and the most secret orders were betrayed
through the inability of those to whom they were entrusted to read
them.

--Yet this reading and writing are a sort of aristocratic distinctions,
and not among the primeval rights of man; so that it is possible your
English patriots will not approve of any regulations founded on them.
But this is not the only point on which there is an apparent discordance
between them and their friends here--the severity of Messrs. Muir and
Palmer's sentence is pathetically lamented in the House of Commons, while
the Tribunal Revolutionnaire (in obedience to private orders) is
petitioning, that any disrespect towards the convention shall be punished
with death. In England, it is asserted, that the people have a right to
decide on the continuation of the war--here it is proposed to declare
suspicious, and treat accordingly, all who shall dare talk of peace.--Mr.
Fox and Robespierre must settle these trifling variations at the general
congress of republicans, when the latter shall (as they profess) have
dethroned all the potentates in Europe!

Do you not read of cart-loads of patriotic gifts,* bales of lint and
bandages, and stockings, knit by the hands of fair citizens, for the use
of the soldiers?

* A sum of money was at this time publicly offered to the Convention
for defraying the expences and repairs of the guillotine.--I know
not if it were intended patriotically or correctionally; but the
legislative delicacy was hurt, and the bearer of the gift ordered
for examination to the Committee of General Safety, who most
probably sent him to expiate either his patriotism or his pleasantry
in a prison.

--Do you not read, and call me calumniator, and ask if these are proofs
that there is no public spirit in France? Yes, the public spirit of an
eastern tributary, who offers, with apprehensive devotion, a part of the
wealth which he fears the hand of despotism may ravish entirely.--The
wives and daughters of husbands and fathers, who are pining in arbitrary
confinement, are employed in these feeble efforts, to deprecate the
malice of their persecutors; and these voluntary tributes are but too
often proportioned, not to the abilities, but the miseries of the donor.*

* A lady, confined in one of the state prisons, made an offering,
through the hands of a Deputy, of ten thousand livres; but the
Convention observed, that this could not properly be deemed a gift--
for, as she was doubtless a suspicious person, all she had belonged
of right to the republic:

_"Elle doit etre a moi, dit il, et la raison,
"C'est que je m'appelle Lion
"A cela l'on n'a rien a dire."_
-- La Fontaine.

Sometimes these _dons patriotiques_ were collected by a band of
Jacobins, at others regularly assessed by a Representative on
mission; but on all occasions the aristocrats were most assiduous
and most liberal:

"Urg'd by th' imperious soldier's fierce command,
"The groaning Greeks break up their golden caverns,
"The accumulated wealth of toiling ages;
. . . . . . . .
"That wealth, too sacred for their country's use;
"That wealth, too pleasing to be lost for freedom,
"That wealth, which, granted to their weeping Prince,
"Had rang'd embattled nations at their gates."
-- Johnson.

Or, what is still better, have relieved the exigencies of the state,
without offering a pretext for the horrors of a revolution.--O
selfish luxury, impolitic avarice, how are ye punished? robbed of
your enjoyments and your wealth--glad even to commute both for a
painful existence!

--The most splendid sacrifices that fill the bulletin of the Convention,
and claim an honourable mention in their registers, are made by the
enemies of the republican government--by those who have already been the
objects of persecution, or are fearful of becoming such.--Ah, your prison
and guillotine are able financiers: they raise, feed, and clothe an army,
in less time than you can procure a tardy vote from the most complaisant
House of Commons!--Your, &c.

March 17, 1794.

After some days of agitation and suspense, we learn that the popularity
of Robespierre is victorious, and that Hebert and his partizans are
arrested. Were the intrinsic claims of either party considered, without
regard to the circumstances of the moment, it might seem strange I should
express myself as though the result of a contest between such men could
excite a general interest: yet a people sadly skilled in the gradations
of evil, and inured to a choice only of what is bad, learn to prefer
comparatively, with no other view than that of adopting what may be least
injurious to themselves; and the merit of the object is out of the
question. Hence it is, that the public wish was in favour of
Robespierre; for, besides that his cautious character has given him an
advantage over the undisguised profligacy of Hebert, it is conjectured by
many, that the more merciful politics professed by Camille Desmoulins,
are secretly suggested, or, at least assented to, by the former.*

* This was the opinion of many.--The Convention and the Jacobins had
taken alarm at a paper called "The Old Cordelier," written by
Camille Desmoulins, apparently with a view to introduce a milder
system of government. The author had been censured at the one,
expelled the other, and defended by Robespierre, who seems not to
have abandoned him until he found the Convention resolved to persist
in the sanguinary plan they had adopted. Robespierre afterwards
sacrificed his friends to retrieve his influence; but could his
views have been answered by humane measures, as certainly as by
cruel ones, I think he would have preferred the first; for I repeat,
that the Convention at large were averse from any thing like reason
or justice, and Robespierre more than once risked his popularity by
professions of moderation.--The most eloquent speech I have seen of
his was previous to the death of Danton, and it seems evidently
intended to sound the principles of his colleagues as to a change of
system.--Camille Desmoulins has excited some interest, and has been
deemed a kind of martyr to humanity. Perhaps nothing marks the
horrors of the time more than such a partiality.--Camille
Desmoulins, under an appearance of simplicity, was an adventurer,
whose pen had been employed to mislead the people from the beginning
of the revolution. He had been very active on the 10th of August;
and even in the papers which have given him a comparative
reputation, he is the panegyrist of Marat, and recommends "une
Guillotine economique;" that is, a discrimination in favour of
himself and his party, who now began to fear they might themselves
be sacrificed by the Convention and deserted by Robespierre--after
being the accomplices and tools of both.

The vicissitudes of the revolution have hitherto offered nothing but a
change of vices and of parties; nor can I regard this defeat of the
municipality of Paris as any thing more: the event is, however,
important, and will probably have great influence on the future.

After having so long authorized, and profited by, the crimes of those
they have now sacrificed, the Convention are willing to have it supposed
they were themselves held in subjection by Hebert and the other
representatives of the Parisian mob.--Admitting this to be true, having
regained their independence, we ought naturally to expect a more rational
and humane system will take place; but this is a mere hope, and the
present occurrences are far from justifying it. We hear much of the
guilt of the fallen party, and little of remedying its effects--much of
punishment, and little of reform; and the people are excited to
vengeance, without being permitted to claim redress. In the meanwhile,
fearful of trusting to the cold preference which they owe to a superior
abhorrence of their adversaries, the Convention have ordered their
colleagues on mission to glean the few arms still remaining in the hands
of the National Guard, and to arrest all who may be suspected of
connection with the adverse party.--Dumont has performed this service
here very diligently; and, by way of supererogation, has sent the
Commandant of Amiens to the Bicetre, his wife, who was ill, to the
hospital, and two young children to this place.

As usual, these proceedings excite secret murmurs, but are nevertheless
yielded to with perfect submission.

One can never, on these occasions, cease admiring the endurance of the
French character. In other countries, at every change of party, the
people are flattered with the prospect of advantage, or conciliated by
indulgences; but here they gain nothing by change, except an accumulation
of oppression--and the success of a new party is always the harbinger of
some new tyranny. While the fall of Hebert is proclaimed as the triumph
of freedom, all the citizens are disarmed by way of collateral security;
and at the instant he is accused by the Convention of atheism and
immorality,* a militant police is sent forth to devastate the churches,
and punish those who are detected in observing the Sabbath--_"mais plutot
souffrir que mourir, c'est la devise des Francois."_ ["To suffer rather
than die is the motto of Frenchmen."]

* It is remarkable, that the persecution of religion was never more
violent than at the time when the Convention were anathematizing
Hebert and his party for athiesm.

--Brissot and his companions died singing a paraphrase of my quotation:

_"Plutot la mort que l'esclavage,
"C'est la devise des Francois."_
["Death before slavery, is the Frenchman's motto."]

--Let those who reflect on what France has submitted to under them and
their successors decide, whether the original be not more apposite.

I hope the act of accusation against Chabot has been published in
England, for the benefit of your English patriots: I do not mean by way
of warning, but example. It appears, that the said Chabot, and four or
five of his colleagues in the Convention, had been bribed to serve a
stock-jobbing business at a stipulated sum,* and that the money was to be
divided amongst them.

* Chabot, Fabre d'Eglantine, (author of "l'Intrigue Epistolaire,"
and several other admired dramatic pieces,) Delaunay d'Angers,
Julien de Toulouse, and Bazire, were bribed to procure the passing
certain decrees, tending to enrich particular people, by defrauding
the East India Company.--Delaunay and Julien (both re-elected into
the present Assembly) escaped by flight, the rest were guillotined.
--It is probable, that these little peculations might have passed
unnoticed in patriots of such note, but that the intrigues and
popular character of Chabot made it necessary to dispose of him, and
his accomplices suffered to give a countenance to the measure.

--Chabot, with great reason, insisted on his claim to an extra share, on
account, as he expressed it, of having the reputation of one of the first
patriots in Europe. Now this I look upon to be a very useful hint, as it
tends to establish a tariff of reputations, rather than of talents. In
England, you distinguish too much in favour of the latter; and, in a
question of purchase, a Minister often prefers a "commodity" of
rhetoricians, to one of "good names."--I confess, I am of Chabot's
opinion; and think a vote from a member who has some reputation for
honesty, ought to be better paid for than the eloquence which, weakened
by the vices of the orator, ceases to persuade. How it is that the
patriotic harangues at St. Stephen's serve only to amuse the auditors,
who identify the sentiments they express as little with the speaker, as
they would those of Cato's soliloquy with the actor who personates the
character for the night? I fear the people reason like Chabot, and are
"fools to fame." Perhaps it is fortunate for England, that those whose
talents and principles would make them most dangerous, are become least
so, because both are counteracted by the public contempt. Ought it not
to humble the pride, and correct the errors, which too often accompany
great genius, that the meanest capacity can distinguish between talents
and virtue; and that even in the moment our wonder is excited by the one,
a sort of intrinsic preference is given to the other?--Yours, &c.

Providence, April 15, 1794.

"The friendship of bad men turns to fear:" and in this single phrase of
our popular bard is comprized the history of all the parties who have
succeeded each other during the revolution.--Danton has been sacrificed
to Robespierre's jealousy,* and Camille Desmoulins to support his
popularity;** and both, after sharing in the crimes, and contributing to
the punishment, of Hebert and his associates, have followed them to the
same scaffold.

* The ferocious courage of Danton had, on the 10th of August, the 2d
of September, the 31st of May, and other occasions, been the ductile
instrument of Robespierre; but, in the course of their iniquitous
connection, it should seem, they had committed themselves too much
to each other. Danton had betrayed a desire of more exclusively
profiting by his crimes; and Robespierre's views been equally
ambitious, though less daring, their mutual jealousies had risen to
a height which rendered the sacrifice of one party necessary--and
Robespierre had the address to secure himself, by striking the first
blow. They had supped in the country, and returned together to
Paris, on the night Danton was arrested; and, it may be supposed,
that in this interview, which was intended to produce a
reconciliation, they had been convinced that neither was to be
trusted by the other.

** There can be no doubt but Robespierre had encouraged Camille
Desmoulins to publish his paper, intitled "The Old Cordelier," in
which some translations from Tacitus, descriptive of every kind of
tyranny, were applied to the times, and a change of system
indirectly proposed. The publication became highly popular, except
with the Convention and the Jacobins; these, however, it was
requisite for Robespierre to conciliate; and Camille Desmoulins was
sacrificed, to prove that he did not favour the obnoxious moderation
of his friend.

I know not if one's heart gain any thing by this habitual contemplation
of successive victims, who ought not to inspire pity, and whom justice
and humanity forbid one to regret.--How many parties have fallen, who
seem to have laboured only to transmit a dear-bought tyranny, which they
had not time to enjoy themselves, to their successors: The French
revolutionists may, indeed, adopt the motto of Virgil's Bees, "Not for
ourselves, but for you." The monstrous powers claimed for the Convention
by the Brissotines,* with the hope of exclusively exercising them, were
fatal to themselves--the party that overthrew the Brissotines in its turn
became insignificant--and a small number of them only, under the
description of Committees of Public Welfare and General Safety, gradually
usurped the whole authority.

* The victorious Brissotines, after the 10th of August, availing
themselves of the stupor of one part of the people, and the
fanaticism of the other, required that the new Convention might be
entrusted with unlimited powers. Not a thousandth portion of those
who elected the members, perhaps, comprehended the dreadful extent
of such a demand, as absurd as it has proved fatal.--_"Tout pouvoir
sans bornes ne fauroit etre legitime, parce qu'il n'a jamais pu
avoir d'origine legitime, car nous ne pouvons pas donner a un autre
plus de pouvoir sur nous que nous n'en avons nous-memes"_
[Montesquieu.]:--that is, the power which we accord to others, or
which we have over ourselves, cannot exceed the bounds prescribed by
the immutable laws of truth and justice. The united voice of the
whole French nation could not bestow on their representatives a
right to murder or oppress one innocent man.

--Even of these, several have already perished; and in the hands of
Robespierre, and half a dozen others of equal talents and equal atrocity,
but less cunning, center at present all the fruits of so many miseries,
and so many crimes.

In all these conflicts of party, the victory seems hitherto to have
remained with the most artful, rather than the most able; and it is under
the former title that Robespierre, and his colleagues in the Committee of
Public Welfare, are now left inheritors of a power more despotic than
that exercised in Japan.--Robespierre is certainly not deficient in
abilities, but they are not great in proportion to the influence they
have acquired him. They may, perhaps, be more properly called singular
than great, and consist in the art of appropriating to his own advantage
both the events of chance and the labours of others, and of captivating
the people by an exterior of severe virtue, which a cold heart enables
him to assume, and which a profligacy, not the effect of strong passions,
but of system, is easily subjected to. He is not eloquent, nor are his
speeches, as compositions,* equal to those of Collot d'Herbais, Barrere,
or Billaud Varennes; but, by contriving to reserve himself for
extraordinary occasions, such as announcing plots, victories, and systems
of government, he is heard with an interest which finally becomes
transferred from his subject to himself.**

* The most celebrated members of the Convention are only readers of
speeches, composed with great labour, either by themselves or
others; and I think it is distinguishable, that many are
manufactured by the same hand. The style and spirit of Lindet,
Barrere, and Carnot, seem to be in common.

** The following passages, from a speech of Dubois Crance, who may
be supposed a competent judge, at once furnish an idea of
Robespierre's oratory, exhibit a leading feature in his character,
and expose some of the arts by which the revolutionary despotism was
maintained:

_"Rapportant tout a lui seul, jusqu'a la patrie, il n'en parla
jamais que pour s'en designer comme l'unique defenseur: otez de ses
longs discours tout ce qui n'a rapport qu'a son personnel, vous n'y
trouverez plus que de seches applications de prinipes connus, et
surtout de phrases preparees pour amener encore son eloge. Vous
l'avez juge timide, parce que son imagination, que l'on croyait
ardente, qui n'etait que feroce, parassait exagerer souvent les maux
de son pays. C'etait une jonglerie: il ne croyait ni aux
conspirations don't il faisait tant d'etalage, ni aux poignards
aux-quels il feignoit de sse devouer; mais il vouloit que les
citoyens fusssent constamment en defiance l'un de l'autre," &c._

"Affecting to consider all things, even the fate of the country, as
depending on himself alone, he never spoke of it but with a view to
point himself out its principal defender.--If you take away from his
long harangues all that regards him personally, you will find only
dry applications of familiar principles, and, above all, those
studied turns, which were artfully prepared to introduce his own
eternal panegyric.--You supposed him timid because his imagination
(which was not merely ardent, as was supposed, but ferocious) seemed
often to exaggerate the misfortunes of his country.--This was a mere
trick: he believed neither in the conspiracies he made so great a
parade of, nor in the poignards to which he pretended to devote
himself as a victim.--His real design was to infuse into the minds
of all men an unceasing diffidence of each other."

One cannot study the characters of these men, and the revolution, without
wonder; and, after an hour of such scribbling, I wake to the scene around
me, and my wonder is not a little increased, at the idea that the fate of
such an individual as myself should be at all dependent on either.--My
friend Mad. de ____ is ill,* and taken to the hospital, so that having no
longer the care of dissipating her ennui, I am at full liberty to indulge
my own.

* I have generally made use of the titles and distinctions by which
the people I mention were known before the revolution; for, besides
that I found it difficult to habituate my pen to the republican
system of levelling, the person to whom these letters were addressed
would not have known who was meant by the new appellations. It is,
however, to be observed, that, except in private aristocratic
intercourse, the word Citizen was in general use; and that those who
had titles relinquished them and assumed their family names.

--Yet I know not how it is, but, as I have before observed to you, I do
not ennuye--my mind is constantly occupied, though my heart is vacant--
curiosity serves instead of interest, and I really find it sufficiently
amusing to conjecture how long my head may remain on my shoulders.--You
will, I dare say, agree with me that any doubts on such a subject are
very well calculated to remove the tranquil sort of indifference which
produces ennui; though, to judge by the greater part of my
fellow-prisoners, one would not think so.--There is something surely in
the character of the French, which makes them differ both in prosperity
and adversity from other people. Here are many amongst us who see
little more in the loss of their liberty than a privation of their usual
amusements; and I have known some who had the good fortune to obtain
their release at noon, exhibit themselves at the theatre at night.--God
knows how such minds are constituted: for my part, when some consolatory
illusion restores me to freedom, I associate with it no idea of positive
pleasure, but long for a sort of intermediate state, which may repose my
harassed faculties, and in which mere comfort and security are portrayed
as luxuries. After being so long deprived of the decent accommodations
of life, secluded from the intercourse which constitutes its best
enjoyments, trembling for my own fate, and hourly lamenting that of my
friends, the very thoughts of tumult or gaiety seem oppressive, and the
desire of peace, for the moment, banishes every other. One must have no
heart, after so many sufferings, not to prefer the castle of Indolence
to the palace of Armida.

The coarse organs of an Argus at the door, who is all day employed in
calling to my high-born companions by the republican appellations of
_"Citoyen,"_ and _"Citoyenne,"_ has just interrupted me by a summons to
receive a letter from my unfortunate friends at Arras.--It was given me
open;* of course they say nothing of their situation, though I have
reason to believe it is dreadful.

* The opening of letters was now so generally avowed, that people
who corresponded on business, and were desirous their letters should
be delivered, put them in the post without sealing; otherwise they
were often torn in opening, thrown aside, or detained, to save the
trouble of perusing.

--They have now written to me for assistance, which I have not the means
of affording them. Every thing I have is under sequestration; and the
difficulty which attends the negociating any drafts drawn upon England,
has made it nearly impossible to procure money in the usual way, even if
I were not confined. The friendship of Mad. de ____ will be little
available to me. Her extensive fortune, before frittered to mere
competency by the extortions of the revolution, now scarcely supplies her
own wants; and her tenants humanely take the opportunity of her present
distress to avoid paying their rent.*

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