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

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* In some instances servants or tenants have been known to seize on
portions of land for their own use--in others the country
municipalities exacted as the price of a certificate of civism,
(without which no release from prison could be obtained,) such
leases, lands, or privileges, as they thought the embarrassments of
their landlords would induce them to grant. Almost every where the
houses of persons arrested were pilfered either by their own
servants or the agents of the republic. I have known an elegant
house put in requisition to erect blacksmiths' forges in for the use
of the army, and another filled with tailors employed in making
soldiers' clothes.--Houses were likewise not unfrequently abandoned
by the servants through fear of sharing the fate of their masters,
and sometimes exposed equally by the arrest of those who had been
left in charge, in order to extort discoveries of plate, money, &c.
the concealment of which they might be supposed privy to.

--So that I have no resource, either for myself or Mrs. D____, but the
sale of a few trinkets, which I had fortunately secreted on my first
arrest. How are we to exist, and what an existence to be solicitous
about! In gayer moments, and, perhaps, a little tinctured by romantic
refinement, I have thought Dr. Johnson made poverty too exclusively the
subject of compassion: indeed I believe he used to say, it was the only
evil he really felt for. This, to one who has known only mental
suffering, appears the notion of a coarse mind; but I doubt whether, the
first time we are alarmed by the fear of want, the dread of dependence
does not render us in part his converts. The opinion of our English sage
is more natural than we may at first imagine; or why is it that we are
affected by the simple distresses of Jane Shore, beyond those of any
other heroine?--Yours.

April 22, 1794.

Our abode becomes daily more crouded; and I observe, that the greater
part of those now arrested are farmers. This appears strange enough,
when we consider how much the revolutionary persecution has hitherto
spared this class of people; and you will naturally enquire why it has at
length reached them.

It has been often observed, that the two extremes of society are nearly
the same in all countries; the great resemble each other from education,
the little from nature. Comparisons, therefore, of morals and manners
should be drawn from the intervening classes; yet from this comparison
also I believe we must exclude farmers, who are every where the same, and
who seem always more marked by professional similitude than national

The French farmer exhibits the same acuteness in all that regards his own
interest, and the same stupidity on most other occasions, as the mere
English one; and the same objects which enlarge the understanding and
dilate the heart of other people, seem to have a contrary effect on both.
They contemplate the objects of nature as the stock-jobber does the
vicissitudes of the public funds: "the dews of heaven," and the
enlivening orb by which they are dispelled, are to the farmer only
objects of avaricious speculation; and the scarcity, which is partially
profitable, is but too often more welcome than a general abundance.--They
consider nothing beyond the limits of their own farms, except for the
purpose of making envious comparisons with those of their neighbours; and
being fed and clothed almost without intermediate commerce, they have
little necessity for communication, and are nearly as isolated a part of
society as sailors themselves.

The French revolutionists have not been unobserving of these
circumstances, nor scrupulous of profiting by them: they knew they might
have discussed for ever their metaphysical definitions of the rights of
man, without reaching the comprehension, or exciting the interest, of the
country people; but that if they would not understand the propagation of
the rights of man, they would very easily comprehend an abolition of the
rights of their landlords. Accordingly, the first principle of liberty
they were taught from the new code was, that they had a right to assemble
in arms, to force the surrender of title-deeds; and their first
revolutionary notions of equality and property seem to have been
manifested by the burning of chateaux, and refusing to pay their rents.
They were permitted to intimidate their landlords, in order to force them
to emigration, and either to sell their estates at a low price, or leave
them to the mercy of the tenants.

At a time when the necessities of the state had been great enough to be
made the pretext of a dreadful revolution, they were not only almost
exempt from contributing to its relief, but were enriched by the common
distress; and while the rest of their countrymen beheld with unavailing
regret their property gradually replaced by scraps of paper, the peasants
became insolent and daring by impunity, refused to sell but for specie,
and were daily amassing wealth. It is not therefore to be wondered at,
that they were partial to the new order of things. The prisons might
have overflowed or been thinned by the miseries of those with whom they
had been crowded--the Revolutionary Tribunal might have sacrificed half
France, and these selfish citizens, I fear, would have beheld it
tranquilly, had not the requisition forced their labourers to the army,
and the "maximum" lowered the price of their corn. The exigency of the
war, and an internal scarcity, having rendered these measures necessary,
and it being found impossible to persuade the farmers into a peaceful
compliance with them, the government has had recourse to its usual
summary mode of expostulation--a prison or the Guillotine.*

* The avarice of the farmers was doubtless to be condemned, but the
cruel despotism of the government almost weakened our sense of
rectitude; for by confounding error with guilt, and guilt with
innocence, they habituated us to indiscriminate pity, and obliged us
to transfer our hatred of a crime to those who in punishing it,
observed neither mercy nor justice. A farmer was guillotined,
because some blades of corn appeared growing in one of his ponds;
from which circumstance it was inferred, he had thrown in a large
quantity, in order to promote a scarcity--though it was
substantially proved on his trial, that at the preceding harvest the
grain of an adjoining field had been got in during a high wind, and
that in all probability some scattered ears which reached the water
had produced what was deemed sufficient testimony to convict him.--
Another underwent the same punishment for pursuing his usual course
of tillage, and sowing part of his ground with lucerne, instead of
employing the whole for wheat; and every where these people became
the objects of persecution, both in their persons and property.

"Almost all our considerable farmers have been thrown into prison;
the consequence is, that their capital is eat up, their stock gone
to ruin, and our lands have lost the almost incalculable effect of
their industry. In La Vendee six million acres of land lie
uncultivated, and five hundred thousand oxen have been turned
astray, without shelter and without an owner."
Speech of Dubois Crance, Sept. 22, 1794.

--Amazed to find themselves the objects of a tyranny they had hitherto
contributed to support, and sharing the misfortune of their Lords and
Clergy, these ignorant and mistaken people wander up and down with a
vacant sort of ruefulness, which seems to bespeak that they are far from
comprehending or being satisfied with this new specimen of
republicanism.--It has been a fatality attending the French through the
whole revolution, that the different classes have too readily facilitated
the sacrifice of each other; and the Nobility, the Clergy, the Merchant,
and the Farmer, have the mortification of experiencing, that their
selfish and illiberal policy has answered no purpose but to involve all
in one common ruin.

Angelique has contrived to-day to negotiate the sale of some bracelets,
which a lady, with whom I was acquainted previous to our detention, has
very obligingly given almost half their value for, though not without
many injunctions to secresy, and as many implied panegyrics on her
benevolence, in risking the odium of affording assistance to a foreigner.
We are, I assure you, under the necessity of being oeconomists, where the
most abundant wealth could not render us externally comfortable: and the
little we procure, by a clandestine disposal of my unnecessary trinkets,
is considerably diminished,* by arbitrary impositions of the guard and
the poor,** and a voluntary tax from the misery that surrounds us.

* I am aware of Mr. Burke's pleasantry on the expression of very
little, being greatly diminished; but my exchequer at this time was
as well calculated to prove the infinite divisibility of matter, as
that of the Welch principality.

** The guards of the republican Bastilles were paid by the prisoners
they contained; and, in many places, the tax for this purpose was
levied with indecent rigour. It might indeed be supposed, that
people already in prison could have little to apprehend from an
inability or unwillingness to submit to such an imposition; yet
those who refused were menaced with a dungeon; and I was informed,
from undoubted authority, of two instances of the sort among the
English--the one a young woman, the other a person with a large
family of children, who were on the point of suffering this
treatment, but that the humanity of some of their companions
interfered and paid the sum exacted of them. The tax for supporting
the imprisoned poor was more willingly complied with, though not
less iniquitous in its principle; numbers of inoffensive and
industrious people were taken from their homes on account of their
religion, or other frivolous pretexts, and not having the
wherewithal to maintain themselves in confinement, instead of being
kept by the republic, were supported by their fellow-prisoners, in
consequence of a decree to that purpose. Families who inherited
nothing from their noble ancestors but their names, were dragged
from obscurity only to become objects of persecution; and one in
particular, consisting of nine persons, who lived in extreme
indigence, but were notwithstanding of the proscribed class; the
sons were brought wounded from the army and lodged with the father,
mother, and five younger children in a prison, where they had
scarcely food to support, or clothing to cover them.

I take this opportunity of doing justice to the Comte d'Artois,
whose youthful errors did not extinguish his benevolence--the
unfortunate people in question having enjoyed a pension from him
until the revolution deprived them of it.

Our male companions are for the most part transferred to other prisons,
and among the number are two young Englishmen, with whom I used sometimes
to converse in French, without acknowledging our compatriotism. They
have told me, that when the decree for arresting the English was received
at Amiens, they happened to be on a visit, a few miles from the town; and
having notice that a party of horse were on the road to take them,
willing to gain time at least, they escaped by another route, and got
home. The republican constables, for I can call the military employed in
the interior by no better appellation, finding their prey had taken
flight, adopted the impartial justice of the men of Charles Town,* and
carried off the old couple (both above seventy) at whose house they had

* "But they maturely having weigh'd
"They had no more but him o'th'trade,
"Resolved to spare him, yet to do
"The Indian Hoghan-Moghan too
"Impartial justice--in his stead did
"Hang an old weaver that was bed-rid."

The good man, who was probably not versed in the etiquette of the
revolution, conceived nothing of the matter, and when at the end of their
journey they were deposited at the Bicetre, his head was so totally
deranged, that he imagined himself still in his own house, and continued
for some days addressing all the prisoners as though they were his
guests--at one moment congratulating them on their arrival, the next
apologizing for want of room and accommodation.--The evasion of the young
men, as you will conclude, availed them nothing, except a delay of their
captivity for a few hours.

A report has circulated amongst us to-day, that all who are not detained
on specific charges are soon to be liberated. This is eagerly believed
by the new-comers, and those who are not the "pale converts of
experience." I am myself so far from crediting it, that I dread lest it
should be the harbinger of some new evil, for I know not whether it be
from the effect of chance, or a refinement in atrocity, but I have
generally found every measure which tended to make our situation more
miserable preceded by these flattering rumours.

You would smile to see with what anxious credulity intelligence of this
sort is propagated: we stop each other on the stairs and listen while our
palled dinner, just arrived from the traiteur, is cooling; and the bucket
of the draw-well hangs suspended while a history is finished, of which
the relator knows as little as the hearer, and which, after all, proves
to have originated in some ambiguous phrase of our keeper, uttered in a
good-humoured paroxysm while receiving a douceur.

We occasionally lose some of our associates, who, having obtained their
discharge, _depart a la Francaise,_ forget their suffering, and praise the
clemency of Dumont, and the virtue of the Convention; while those who
remain still unconverted amuse themselves in conjecturing the channel
through which such favours were solicited, and alleging reasons why such
preferences were partial and unjust.

Dumont visits us, as usual, receives an hundred or two of petitions,
which he does not deign to read, and reserves his indulgence for those
who have the means of assailing him through the smiles of a favourite
mistress, or propitiating him by more substantial advantages.--Many of
the emigrants' wives have procured their liberty by being divorced, and
in this there is nothing blameable, for I imagine the greater number
consider it only as a temporary expedient, indifferent in itself, and
which they are justified in having recourse to for the protection of
their persons and property. But these domestic alienations are not
confined to those who once moved in the higher orders of society--the
monthly registers announce almost as many divorces as marriages, and the
facility of separation has rendered the one little more than a licentious
compact, which the other is considered as a means of dissolving. The
effect of the revolution has in this, as in many other cases, been to
make the little emulate the vices of the great, and to introduce a more
gross and destructive policy among the people at large, than existed in
the narrow circle of courtiers, imitators of the Regent, or Louis the
fifteenth. Immorality, now consecrated as a principle, is far more
pernicious than when, though practised, it was condemned, and, though
suffered, not sanctioned.

You must forgive me if I ennuye you a little sententiously--I was more
partial to the lower ranks of life in France, than to those who were
deemed their superiors; and I cannot help beholding with indignant regret
the last asylums of national morals thus invaded by the general
corruption.--I believe no one will dispute that the revolution has
rendered the people more vicious; and, without considering the matter
either in a moral or religious point of view, it is impossible to assert
that they are not less happy. How many times, when I was at liberty,
have I heard the old wish for an accession of years, or envy those yet
too young to be sensible of "the miseries of a revolution!"--Were the
vanity of the self-sufficient philosopher susceptible of remorse, would
he not, when he beholds this country, lament his presumption, in
supposing he had a right to cancel the wisdom of past ages; or that the
happiness of mankind might be promoted by the destruction of their
morals, and the depravation of their social affections?--Yours, &c.

April 30, 1794.

For some years previous to the revolution, there were several points in
which the French ascribed to themselves a superiority not very distant
from perfection. Amongst these were philosophy, politeness, the
refinements of society, and, above all, the art of living.--I have
sometimes, as you know, been inclined to dispute these claims; yet, if it
be true that in our sublunary career perfection is not stationary, and
that, having reached the apex of the pyramid on one side, we must
necessarily descend on the other, I might, on this ground, allow such
pretensions to be more reasonable than I then thought them. Whatever
progress might have been attained in these respects, or however near our
neighbours might have approached to one extreme, it is but too certain
they are now rapidly declining to the other. This boasted philosophy is
become a horrid compound of all that is offensive to Heaven, and
disgraceful to man--this politeness, a ferocious incivility--and this
social elegance and exclusive science in the enjoyment of life, are now
reduced to suspicious intercourse, and the want of common necessaries.

If the national vanity only were wounded, perhaps I might smile, though I
hope I should not triumph; but when I see so much misery accompany so
profound a degradation, my heart does not accord with my language, if I
seem to do either one or the other.

I should ineffectually attempt to describe the circumstances and
situation which have given rise to these reflections. Imagine to
yourself whatever tyranny can inflict, or human nature submit to--
whatever can be the result of unrestrained wickedness and unresisting
despair--all that can scourge or disgrace a people--and you may form some
idea of the actual state of this country: but do not search your books
for comparisons, or expect to find in the proscriptions and
extravagancies of former periods any examples by which to judge the
present.--Tiberius and Nero are on the road to oblivion, and the subjects
of the Lama may boast comparative pretensions to rank as a free and
enlightened nation.

The frantic ebullitions of the revolutionary government are now as it
were subsided, and instead of appearing the temporary resources of
"despotism in distress," [Burke.] have assumed the form of a permanent
and regular system. The agitation occasioned by so many unexampled
scenes is succeeded by an habitual terror, and this depressing sentiment
has so pervaded all ranks, that it would be difficult to find an
individual, however obscure or inoffensive, who deems his property, or
even his existence, secure only for a moment. The sound of a bell or a
knocker at the close of the evening is the signal of dismay. The
inhabitants of the house regard each other with looks of fearful
interrogation--all the precautions hitherto taken appear insufficient--
every one recollects something yet to be secreted--a prayer-book, an
unburied silver spoon, or a few assignats "a face royale," are hastily
scrambled together, and if the visit prove nothing more than an amicable
domiciliary one, in search of arms and corn, it forms matter of
congratulation for a week after. Yet such is the submission of the
people to a government they abhor, that it is scarcely thought requisite
now to arrest any person formally: those whom it is intended to secure
often receive nothing more than a written mandate* to betake themselves
to a certain prison, and such unpleasant rendezvous are attended with
more punctuality than the most ceremonious visit, or the most gallant

* These rescripts were usually couched in the following terms:--
"Citizen, you are desired to betake yourself immediately to ------,
(naming the prison,) under pain of being conveyed there by an armed
force in case of delay."

--A few necessaries are hastily packed together, the adieus are made,
and, after a walk to their prison, they lay their beds down in the corner
allotted, just as if it were a thing of course.

It was a general observation with travellers, that the roads in France
were solitary, and had rather the deserted appearance of the route of a
caravan, than of the communications between different parts of a rich and
populous kingdom. This, however, is no longer true, and, as far as I can
learn, they are now sufficiently crowded--not, indeed, by curious
itinerants, parties of pleasure, or commercial industry, but by Deputies
of the Convention,* agents of subsistence,** committee men, Jacobin
missionaries,*** troops posting from places where insurrection is just
quelled to where it has just begun, besides the great and never-failing
source of activity, that of conveying suspected people from their homes
to prison, and from one prison to another.--

* Every department was infested by one, two, or more of these
strolling Deputies; and, it must be confessed, the constant tendency
of the people to revolt in many places afforded them sufficient
employment. Sometimes they acted as legislators, making laws on the
spot--sometimes, both as judges and constables--or, if occasion
required, they amused themselves in assisting the executioner.--The
migrations of obscure men, armed with unlimited powers, and whose
persons were unknown, was a strong temptation to imposture, and in
several places adventurers were detected assuming the character of
Deputies, for various purposes of fraud and depredation.--The
following instance may appear ludicrous, but I shall be excused
mentioning it, as it is a fact on record, and conveys an idea of
what the people supposed a Deputy might do, consistent with the
"dignity" of his executive functions.

An itinerant of this sort, whose object seems to have been no more
than to procure a daily maintenance, arriving hungry in a village,
entered the first farm-house that presented itself, and immediately
put a pig in requisition, ordered it to be killed, and some sausages
to be made, with all speed. In the meanwhile our mock-legislator,
who seems to have acted his part perfectly well, talked of liberty,
l'amour de la Patrie, of Pitt and the coalesced tyrants, of
arresting suspicious people and rewarding patriots; so that the
whole village thought themselves highly fortunate in the presence of
a Deputy who did no worse than harangue and put their pork in
requisiton.--Unfortunately, however, before the repast of sausages
could be prepared, a hue and cry reached the place, that this
gracious Representant was an impostor! He was bereft of his
dignities, conveyed to prison, and afterwards tried by the Tribunal
Revolutionnaire at Paris; but his Counsel, by insisting on the
mildness with which he had "borne his faculties," contrived to get
his punishment mitigated to a short imprisonment.--Another suffered
death on a somewhat similar account; or, as the sentence expressed
it, for degrading the character of a National Representative.--Just
Heaven! for degrading the character of a National Representative!!!
--and this too after the return of Carrier from Nantes, and the
publication of Collot d'Herbois' massacres at Lyons!

**The agents employed by government in the purchase of subsistence
amounted, by official confession, to ten thousand. In all parts
they were to be seen, rivalling each other, and creating scarcity
and famine, by requisitions and exactions, which they did not
convert to the profit of the republic, but to their own.--These
privileged locusts, besides what they seized upon, occasioned a
total stagnation of commerce, by laying embargoes on what they did
not want; so that it frequently occurred that an unfortunate
tradesman might have half the articles in his shop under requisition
for a month together, and sometimes under different requisitions
from deputies, commissaries of war, and agents of subsistence, all
at once; nor could any thing be disposed of till such claims were
satisfied or relinquished.

*** Jacobin missionaries were sent from Paris, and other great
towns, to keep up the spirits of the people, to explain the benefits
of the revolution, (which, indeed, were not very apparent,) and to
maintain the connection between the provincial and metropolitan
societies.--I remember the Deputies on mission at Perpignan writing
to the Club at Paris for a reinforcement of civic apostles, _"pour
evangeliser les habitans et les mettre dans la voie de salut"_--("to
convert the inhabitants, and put them in the road to salvation").

--These movements are almost entirely confined to the official travellers
of the republic; for, besides the scarcity of horses, the increase of
expence, and the diminution of means, few people are willing to incur the
suspicion or hazard* attendant on quitting their homes, and every
possible obstacle is thrown in the way of a too general intercourse
between the inhabitants of large towns.

* There were moments when an application for a passport was certain
of being followed by a mandat d'arret--(a writ of arrest). The
applicant was examined minutely as to the business he was going
upon, the persons he was to transact it with, and whether the
journey was to be performed on horseback or in a carriage, and any
signs of impatience or distaste at those democratic ceremonies were
sufficient to constitute _"un homme suspect"_--("a suspicious
person"), or at least one _"soupconne d'etre suspect,"_ that is, a man
suspected of being suspicious. In either case it was usually deemed
expedient to prevent the dissemination of his supposed principles,
by laying an embargo on his person.--I knew a man under persecution
six months together, for having gone from one department to another
to see his family.

The committee of Public Welfare is making rapid advances to an absolute
concentration of the supreme power, and the convention, while they are
the instruments of oppressing the whole country, are themselves become
insignificant, and, perhaps, less secure than those over whom they
tyrannize. They cease to debate, or even to speak; but if a member of
the Committee ascends the tribune, they overwhelm him with applauses
before they know what he has to say, and then pass all the decrees
presented to them more implicitly than the most obsequious Parliament
ever enregistered an arrete of the Court; happy if, by way of
compensation, they attract a smile from Barrere, or escape the ominous
glances of Robespierre.*

* When a member of the committee looked inauspiciously at a
subordinate accomplice, the latter scarce ventured to approach his
home for some time.--Legendre, who has since boasted so continually
about his courage, is said to have kept his bed, and Bourdon de
l'Oise, to have lost his senses for a considerable time, from
frights, the consequence of such menaces.

Having so far described the situation of public affairs, I proceed as
usual, and for which I have the example of Pope, who never quits a
subject without introducing himself, to some notice of my own. It is not
only bad in itself, but worse in perspective than ever: yet I learn not
to murmur, and derive patience from the certainty, that almost every part
of France is more oppressed and wretched than we are.--Yours, etc.

June 3, 1794.

The individual sufferings of the French may perhaps yet admit of
increase; but their humiliation as a people can go no farther; and if it
were not certain that the acts of the government are congenial to its
principles, one might suppose this tyranny rather a moral experiment on
the extent of human endurance, than a political system.

Either the vanity or cowardice of Robespierre is continually suggesting
to him plots for his assassination; and on pretexts, at once absurd and
atrocious, a whole family, with near seventy other innocent people as
accomplices, have been sentenced to death by a formal decree of the

One might be inclined to pity a people obliged to suppress their
indignation on such an event, but the mind revolts when addresses are
presented from all quarters to congratulate this monster's pretended
escape, and to solicit a farther sacrifice of victims to his revenge.--
The assassins of Henry the Fourth had all the benefit of the laws, and
suffered only after a legal condemnation; yet the unfortunate Cecilia
Renaud, though evidently in a state of mental derangement, was hurried to
the scaffold without a hearing, for the vague utterance of a truth, to
which every heart in France, not lost to humanity, must assent. Brooding
over the miseries of her country, till her imagination became heated and
disordered, this young woman seems to have conceived some hopeless plan
of redress from expostulation with Robespierre, whom she regarded as a
principal in all the evils she deplored. The difficulty of obtaining an
audience of him irritated her to make some comparison between an
hereditary sovereign and a republican despot; and she avowed, that, in
desiring to see Robespierre, she was actuated only by a curiosity to
"contemplate the features of a tyrant."--On being examined by the
Committee, she still persisted that her design was "seulement pour voir
comment etoit fait un tyrant;" and no instrument nor possible means of
destruction was found upon her to justify a charge of any thing more than
the wild and enthusiastic attachment to royalism, which she did not
attempt to disguise. The influence of a feminine propensity, which often
survives even the wreck of reason and beauty, had induced her to dress
with peculiar neatness, when she went in search of Robespierre; and, from
the complexion of the times, supposing it very probable a visit of this
nature might end in imprisonment and death, she had also provided herself
with a change of clothes to wear in her last moments.

Such an attention in a beautiful girl of eighteen was not very unnatural;
yet the mean and cruel wretches who were her judges, had the littleness
to endeavour at mortifying, by divesting her of her ornaments, and
covering her with the most loathsome rags. But a mind tortured to
madness by the sufferings of her country, was not likely to be shaken by
such puerile malice; and, when interrogated under this disguise, she
still preserved the same firmness, mingled with contempt, which she had
displayed when first apprehended. No accusation, nor even implication,
of any person could be drawn from her, and her only confession was that
of a passionate loyalty: yet an universal conspiracy was nevertheless
decreed by the Convention to exist, and Miss Renaud, with sixty-nine
others,* were sentenced to the guillotine, without farther trial than
merely calling over their names.

* It is worthy of remark, that the sixty-nine people executed as
accomplices of Miss Renaud, except her father, mother, and aunt,
were totally unconnected with her, or with each other, and had been
collected from different prisons, between which no communication
could have subsisted.

--They were conducted to the scaffold in a sort of red frocks, intended,
as was alleged, to mark them as assassins--but, in reality, to prevent
the crowd from distinguishing or receiving any impression from the number
of young and interesting females who were comprised in this dreadful
slaughter.--They met death with a courage which seemed almost to
disappoint the malice of their tyrants, who, in an original excess of
barbarity, are said to have lamented that their power of inflicting could
not reach those mental faculties which enabled their victims to suffer
with fortitude.*

* Fouquier Tinville, public accuser of the Revolutionary Tribunal,
enraged at the courage with which his victims submitted to their
fate, had formed the design of having them bled previous to their
execution; hoping by this means to weaken their spirits, and that
they might, by a pusillanimous behaviour in their last moments,
appear less interesting to the people.

Such are the horrors now common to almost every part of France: the
prisons are daily thinned by the ravages of the executioner, and again
repeopled by inhabitants destined to the fate of their predecessors. A
gloomy reserve, and a sort of uncertain foreboding, have taken possession
of every body--no one ventures to communicate his thoughts, even to his
nearest friend--relations avoid each other--and the whole social system
seems on the point of being dissolved. Those who have yet preserved
their freedom take the longest circuit, rather than pass a republican
Bastille; or, if obliged by necessity to approach one, it is with
downcast or averted looks, which bespeak their dread of incurring the
suspicion of humanity.

I say little of my own feelings; they are not of a nature to be relieved
by pathetic expressions: "I am e'en sick at heart." For some time I have
struggled both against my own evils, and the share I take in the general
calamity, but my mortal part gives way, and I can no longer resist the
despondency which at times depresses me, and which indeed, more than the
danger attending it, has occasioned my abandoning my pen for the last
month.--Several circumstances have occurred within these few days, to add
to the uneasiness of our situation, and my own apprehensions. Le Bon,*
whose cruelties at Arras seem to have endeared him to his colleagues in
the Convention, has had his powers extended to this department, and Andre
Dumont is recalled; so that we are hourly menaced with the presence of a
monster, compared to whom our own representative is amiable.--

* I have already noticed the cruel and ferocious temper of Le Bon,
and the massacres of his tribunals are already well known. I will
only add some circumstances which not only may be considered as
characteristic of this tyrant, but of the times--and I fear I may
add of the people, who suffered and even applauded them. They are
selected from many others not susceptible of being described in
language fit for an English reader.

As he was one day enjoying his customary amusement of superintending
an execution, where several had already suffered, one of the victims
having, from a very natural emotion, averted his eyes while he
placed his body in the posture required, the executioner perceived
it, and going to the sack which contained the heads of those just
sacrificed, took one out, and with the most horrible imprecations
obliged the unhappy wretch to kiss it: yet Le Bon not only
permitted, but sanctioned this, by dining daily with the hangman.
He was afterwards reproached with this familiarity in the
Convention, but defended himself by saying, "A similar act of
Lequinio's was inserted by your orders in the bulletin with
'honourable mention;' and your decrees have invariably consecrated
the principles on which I acted." They all felt for a moment the
dominion of conscience, and were silent.--On another occasion he
suspended an execution, while the savages he kept in pay threw dirt
on the prisoners, and even got on the scaffold and insulted them
previous to their suffering.

When any of his colleagues passed through Arras, he always proposed
their joining with him in a _"partie de Guillotine,"_ and the
executions were perpetrated on a small square at Arras, rather than
the great one, that he, his wife, and relations might more
commodiously enjoy the spectacle from the balcony of the theatre,
where they took their coffee, attended by a band of music, which
played while this human butchery lasted.

The following circumstance, though something less horrid, yet
sufficiently so to excite the indignation of feeling people,
happened to some friends of my own.--They had been brought with many
others from a distant town in open carts to Arras, and, worn out
with fatigue, were going to be deposited in the prison to which they
were destined. At the moment of their arrival several persons were
on the point of being executed. Le Bon, presiding as usual at the
spectacle, observed the cavalcade passing, and ordered it to stop,
that the prisoners might likewise be witnesses. He was, of course,
obeyed; and my terrified friends and their companions were obliged
not only to appear attentive to the scene before them, but to join
in the cry of _"Vive la Republique!"_ at the severing of each head.--
One of them, a young lady, did not recover the shock she received
for months.

The Convention, the Committees, all France, were well acquainted
with the conduct of Le Bon. He himself began to fear he might have
exceeded the limits of his commission; and, upon communicating some
scruples of this kind to his employers, received the following
letters, which, though they do not exculpate him, certainly render
the Committee of Public Welfare more criminal than himself.


"The Committee of Public Welfare approve the measures you have
adopted, at the same time that they judge the warrant you solicit
unnecessary--such measures being not only allowable, but enjoined by
the very nature of your mission. No consideration ought to stand in
the way of your revolutionary progress--give free scope therefore to
your energy; the powers you are invested with are unlimited, and
whatever you may deem conducive to the public good, you are free,
you are even called upon by duty, to carry into execution without
delay.--We here transmit you an order of the Committee, by which
your powers are extended to the neighbouring departments. Armed
with such means, and with your energy, you will go on to confound
the enemies of the republic, with the very schemes they have
projected for its destruction.

"R. Lindet."

Extract from another letter, signed Billaud Varenne, Carnot,

"There is no commutation for offences against a republic. Death
alone can expiate them!--Pursue the traitors with fire and sword,
and continue to march with courage in the revolutionary track you
have described."

--Merciful Heaven! are there yet positive distinctions betwixt bad and
worse that we thus regret a Dumont, and deem ourselves fortunate in being
at the mercy of a tyrant who is only brutal and profligate? But so it
is; and Dumont himself, fearful that he has not exercised his mission
with sufficient severity, has ordered every kind of indulgence to cease,
the prisons to be more strictly guarded, and, if possible, more crowded;
and he is now gone to Paris, trembling lest he should be accused of
justice or moderation!

The pretended plots for assassinating Robespierre are, as usual,
attributed to Mr. Pitt; and a decree has just passed, that no quarter
shall be given to English prisoners. I know not what such inhuman
politics tend to, but my contempt, and the conscious pride of national
superiority; certain, that when Providence sees fit to vindicate itself,
by bestowing victory on our countrymen, the most welcome

"Laurels that adorn their brows
"Will be from living, not dead boughs."

The recollection of England, and its generous inhabitants, has animated
me with pleasure; yet I must for the present quit this agreeable
contemplation, to take precautions which remind me that I am separated
from both, and in a land of despotism and misery!

--Yours affectionately.

June 11, 1794.

The immorality of Hebert, and the base compliances of the Convention, for
some months turned the churches into "temples of reason."--The ambition,
perhaps the vanity, of Robespierre, has now permitted them to be
dedicated to the "Supreme Being," and the people, under such auspices,
are to be conducted from atheism to deism. Desirous of distinguishing
his presidency, and of exhibiting himself in a conspicuous and
interesting light, Robespierre, on the last decade, appeared as the hero
of a ceremony which we are told is to restore morals, destroy all the
mischiefs introduced by the abolition of religion, and finally to defeat
the machinations of Mr. Pitt. A gay and splendid festival has been
exhibited at Paris, and imitated in the provinces: flags of the
republican colours, branches of trees, and wreaths of flowers, were
ordered to be suspended from the houses--every countenance was to wear
the prescribed smile, and the whole country, forgetting the pressure of
sorrow and famine, was to rejoice. A sort of monster was prepared,
which, by some unaccountable ingenuity, at once represented Atheism and
the English, Cobourg and the Austrians--in short, all the enemies of the
Convention.--This external phantom, being burned with proper form,
discovered a statue, which was understood to be that of Liberty, and the
inauguration of this divinity, with placing the busts of Chalier* and
Marat in the temple of the Supreme Being, by way of attendant saints,
concluded the ceremony.--

* Chalier had been sent from the municipality of Paris after the
dethronement of the King, to revolutionize the people of Lyons, and
to excite a massacre. In consequence, the first days of September
presented the same scenes at Lyons as were presented in the capital.
For near a year he continued to scourge this unfortunate city, by
urging the lower classes of people to murder and pillage; till, at
the insurrection which took place in the spring of 1793, he was
arrested by the insurgents, tried, and sentenced to the guillotine.
--The Convention, however, whose calendar of saints is as
extraordinary as their criminal code, chose to beatify Chalier,
while they executed Malesherbes; and, accordingly, decreed him a
lodging in the Pantheon, pensioning his mistress, and set up his
bust in their own Hall as an associate for Brutus, whom, by the way,
one should not have expected to find in such company.

The good citizens of the republic, not to be behind hand with their
representatives, placed Chalier in the cathedrals, in their
public-houses, on fans and snuff-boxes--in short, wherever they thought
his appearance would proclaim their patriotism.--I can only exclaim as
Poultier, a deputy, did, on a similar occasion--"Francais, Francais,
serez vous toujours Francais?"--(Frenchmen, Frenchmen, will you never
cease to be Frenchmen?)

--But the mandates for such celebrations reach not the heart: flowers
were gathered, and flags planted, with the scrupulous exactitude of
fear;* yet all was cold and heavy, and a discerning government must have
read in this anxious and literal obedience the indication of terror and

* I have more than once had occasion to remark the singularity of
popular festivities solemnized on the part of the people with no
other intention but that of exact obedience to the edicts of
government. This is so generally understood, that Richard, a deputy
on mission at Lyons, writes to the Convention, as a circumstance
extraordinary, and worthy of remark, that, at the repeal of a decree
which was to have razed their city to the ground, a rejoicing took
place, _"dirigee et executee par le peuple, les autorites
constitutees n'ayant fait en quelque sorte qu'y assister,"_--
(directed and executed by the people, the constituted authorities
having merely assisted at the ceremony).

--Even the prisons were insultingly decorated with the mockery of
colours, which, we are told, are the emblems of freedom; and those whose
relations have expired on the scaffold, or who are pining in dungeons for
having heard a mass, were obliged to listen with apparent admiration to a
discourse on the charms of religious liberty.--The people, who, for the
most part, took little interest in the rest of this pantomime, and
insensible of the national disgrace it implied, beheld with stupid
satisfaction* the inscription on the temple of reason replaced by a
legend, signifying that, in this age of science and information, the
French find it necessary to declare their acknowledgment of a God, and
their belief in the immortality of the soul.

* Much has been said of the partial ignorance of the unfortunate
inhabitants of La Vendee, and divers republican scribblers attribute
their attachment to religion and monarchy to that cause: yet at
Havre, a sea-port, where, from commercial communication, I should
suppose the people as informed and civilized as in any other part of
France, the ears of piety and decency were assailed, during the
celebration above-mentioned, by the acclamations of, _"Vive le Pere
Eternel!"--"Vive l'etre Supreme!"_--(I entreat that I may not be
suspected of levity when I translate this; in English it would be
"God Almighty for ever! The Supreme Being for ever!")

--At Avignon the public understanding seems to have been equally
enlightened, if we may judge from the report of a Paris missionary, who
writes in these terms:--"The celebration in honour of the Supreme Being
was performed here yesterday with all possible pomp: all our
country-folks were present, and unspeakably content that there was still
a God--What a fine decree (cried they all) is this!"

My last letter was a record of the most odious barbarities--to-day I am
describing a festival. At one period I have to remark the destruction of
the saints--at another the adoration of Marat. One half of the newspaper
is filled with a list of names of the guillotined, and the other with
that of places of amusement; and every thing now more than ever marks
that detestable association of cruelty and levity, of impiety and
absurdity, which has uniformly characterized the French revolution. It
is become a crime to feel, and a mode to affect a brutality incapable of
feeling--the persecution of Christianity has made atheism a boast, and
the danger of respecting traditional virtues has hurried the weak and
timid into the apotheosis of the most abominable vices. Conscious that
they are no longer animated by enthusiasm,* the Parisians hope to imitate
it by savage fury or ferocious mirth--their patriotism is signalized only
by their zeal to destroy, and their attachment to their government only
by applauding its cruelties.--If Robespierre, St. Just, Collot d'Herbois,
and the Convention as their instruments, desolate and massacre half
France, we may lament, but we can scarcely wonder at it. How should a
set of base and needy adventurers refrain from an abuse of power more
unlimited than that of the most despotic monarch; or how distinguish the
general abhorrence, amid addresses of adulation, which Louis the
Fourteenth would have blushed to appropriate?*

* Louis the Fourteenth, aguerri (steeled) as he was by sixty years
of adulation and prosperity, had yet modesty sufficient to reject a
"dose of incense which he thought too strong." (See D'Alembert's
Apology for Clermont Tonnerre.) Republicanism, it should seem, has
not diminished the national compliasance for men in power, thought
it has lessened the modesty of those who exercise it.--If Louis the
Fourteenth repressed the zeal of the academicians, the Convention
publish, without scruple, addresses more hyperbolical than the
praises that monarch refused.--Letters are addressed to Robespierre
under the appellation of the Messiah, sent by the almighty for the
reform of all things! He is the apostle of one, and the tutelar
deity of another. He is by turns the representative of the virtues
individually, and a compendium of them altogether: and this monster,
whose features are the counterpart of his soul, find republican
parasites who congratulate themselves on resembling him.

The bulletins of the Convention announce, that the whole republic is in a
sort of revolutionary transport at the escape of Robespierre and his
colleague, Collot d'Herbois, from assassination; and that we may not
suppose the legislators at large deficient in sensibility, we learn also
that they not only shed their grateful tears on this affecting occasion,
but have settled a pension on the man who was instrumental in rescuing
the benign Collot.

The members of the Committee are not, however, the exclusive objects of
public adoration--the whole Convention are at times incensed in a style
truly oriental; and if this be sometimes done with more zeal than
judgment, it does not appear to be less acceptable on that account. A
petition from an incarcerated poet assimilates the mountain of the
Jacobins to that of Parnassus--a state-creditor importunes for a small
payment from the Gods of Olympus--and congratulations on the abolition of
Christianity are offered to the legislators of Mount Sinai! Every
instance of baseness calls forth an eulogium on their magnanimity. A
score of orators harangue them daily on their courage, while they are
over-awed by despots as mean as themselves and whom they continue to
reinstal at the stated period with clamorous approbation. They
proscribe, devastate, burn, and massacre--and permit themselves to be
addressed by the title of "Fathers of their Country!"

All this would be inexplicable, if we did not contemplate in the French a
nation where every faculty is absorbed by a terror which involves a
thousand contradictions. The rich now seek protection by becoming
members of clubs,* and are happy if, after various mortifications, they
are finally admitted by the mob who compose them; while families, that
heretofore piqued themselves on a voluminous and illustrious genealogy,**
eagerly endeavour to prove they have no claim to either.

* _Le diplome de Jacobin etait une espece d'amulette, dont les
inities etaient jaloux, et qui frappoit de prestiges ceux qui ne
l'etaient pas_--"The Jacobin diploma was a kind of amulet, which the
initiated were jealous of preserving, and which struck as it were
with witchcraft, those who were not of the number."

Rapport de Courtois sur les Papiers de Robespierre.

** Besides those who, being really noble, were anxious to procure
certificates of sans-cullotism, many who had assumed such honours
without pretensions now relinquished them, except indeed some few,
whose vanity even surmounted their fears. But an express law
included all these seceders in the general proscription; alledging,
with a candour not usual, that those who assumed rank were, in fact,
more criminal than such as were guilty of being born to it.

--Places and employments, which are in most countries the objects of
intrigue and ambition, are here refused or relinquished with such
perfect sincerity, that a decree became requisite to oblige every
one, under pain of durance, to preserve the station to which his ill
stars, mistaken politics, or affectation of patriotism, had called
him. Were it not for this law, such is the dreadful responsibility
and danger attending offices under the government, that even low and
ignorant people, who have got possession of them merely for support,
would prefer their original poverty to emoluments which are
perpetually liable to the commutation of the guillotine.--Some
members of a neighbouring district told me to-day, when I asked them
if they came to release any of our fellow-prisoners, that so far
from it, they had not only brought more, but were not certain twelve
hours together of not being brought themselves.

The visionary equality of metaphysical impostors is become a substantial
one--not constituted by abundance and freedom, but by want and
oppression. The disparities of nature are not repaired, but its whole
surface is levelled by a storm. The rich are become poor, but the poor
still remain so; and both are conducted indiscriminately to the scaffold.
The prisons of the former government were "petty to the ends" of this.
Convents, colleges, palaces, and every building which could any how be
adapted to such a purpose, have been filled with people deemed
suspicious;* and a plan of destruction seems resolved on, more certain
and more execrable than even the general massacre of September 1792.

* Now multiplied to more than four hundred thousand!--The prisons of
Paris and the environs were supposed to contain twenty-seven
thousand. The public papers stated but about seven thousand,
because they included the official returns of Paris only.

--Agents of the police are, under some pretended accusation, sent to the
different prisons; and, from lists previously furnished them, make daily
information of plots and conspiracies, which they alledge to be carrying
on by the persons confined. This charge and this evidence suffice: the
prisoners are sent to the tribunal, their names read over, and they are
conveyed by cart's-full to the republican butchery. Many whom I have
known, and been in habits of intimacy with, have perished in this manner;
and the expectation of Le Bon,* with our numbers which make us of too
much consequence to be forgotten, all contribute to depress and alarm me.

* Le Bon had at this period sent for lists of the prisoners in the
department of the Somme--which lists are said to have been since
found, and many of the names in them marked for destruction.

--Even the levity of the French character yields to this terrible
despotism, and nothing is observed but weariness, silence, and sorrow:--
_"O triste loisir, poids affreux du tems."_ [St. Lambert.] The season
returns with the year, but not to us--the sun shines, but to add to our
miseries that of insupportable heat--and the vicissitudes of nature only
awaken our regret that we cannot enjoy them--

"Now gentle gales o'er all the vallies play,
"Breathe on each flow'r, and bear their sweets away."

Yet what are fresh air and green fields to us, who are immured amidst a
thousand ill scents, and have no prospect but filth and stone walls? It
is difficult to describe how much the mind is depressed by this state of
passive suffering. In common evils, the necessity of action half
relieves them, as a vessel may reach her port by the agitation of a
storm; but this stagnant listless existence is terrible.

Those most to be envied here are the victims of their religious opinions.
The nuns, who are more distressed than any of us,* employ themselves
patiently, and seem to look beyond this world; whilst the once gay deist
wanders about with a volume of philosophy in his hand, unable to endure
the present, and dreading still more the future.

* These poor women, deprived of the little which the rapacity of the
Convention had left them, by it subordinate agents, were in want of
every thing; and though in most prisons they were employed for the
republican armies, they could scarcely procure more than bread and
water. Yet this was not all: they were objects of the meanest and
most cruel persecution.--I knew one who was put in a dungeon, up to
her waist in putrid water, for twelve hours altogether, without
losing her resolution or serenity.

I have already written you a long letter, and bid you adieu with the
reluctance which precedes an uncertain separation. Uneasiness, ill
health, and confinement, besides the danger I am exposed to, render my
life at present more precarious than "the ordinary of nature's tenures."
--God knows when I may address you again!--My friend Mad. de ____ is
returned from the hospital, and I yield to her fears by ceasing to write,
though I am nevertheless determined not to part with what I have hitherto
preserved; being convinced, that if evil be intended us, it will be as
soon without a pretext as with one.--Adieu.

Providence, Aug. 11, 1794.

I have for some days contemplated the fall of Robespierre and his
adherents, only as one of those dispensations of Providence, which were
gradually to pursue all who had engaged in the French revolution. The
late change of parties has, however, taken a turn I did not expect; and,
contrary to what has hitherto occurred, there is a manifest disposition
in the people to avail themselves of the weakness which is necessarily
occasioned by the contentions of their governors.

When the news of this extraordinary event first became public, it was
ever where received with great gravity--I might say, coldness.--Not a
comment was uttered, nor a glance of approbation seen. Things might be
yet in equilibrium, and popular commotions are always uncertain.
Prudence was, therefore, deemed, indispensable; and, until the contest
was finally decided, no one ventured to give an opinion; and many, to be
certain of guarding against verbal indiscretion, abstained from all
intercourse whatever.

By degrees, the execution of Robespierre and above an hundred of his
partizans, convinced even the most timid; the murmurs of suppressed
discontent began to be heard; and all thought they might now with safety
relieve their fears and their sufferings, by execrating the memory of the
departed tyrants. The prisons, which had hitherto been avoided as
endangering all who approached them, were soon visited with less
apprehension; and friendship or affection, no longer exanimate by terror,
solicited, though still with trepidation, the release of those for whom
they were interested. Some of our associates have already left us in
consequence of such intercessions, and we all hope that the tide of
opinion, now avowedly inimical to the detestable system to which we are
victims, will enforce a general liberation.--We are guarded but slightly;
and I think I perceive in the behaviour of the Jacobin Commissaries
something of civility and respect not usual.

Thus an event, which I beheld merely as the justice which one set of
banditti were made the instruments of exercising upon another, may
finally tend to introduce a more humane system of government; or, at
least, suspend proscription and massacre, and give this harassed country
a little repose.

I am in arrears with my epistolary chronicle, and the hope of so
desirable a change will now give me courage to resume it from the
conclusion of my last. To-morrow shall be dedicated to this purpose.--

August 12.

My letters, previous to the time when I judged it necessary to desist
from writing, will have given you some faint sketch of the situation of
the country, and the sufferings of its inhabitants--I say a faint sketch,
because a thousand horrors and iniquities, which are now daily
disclosing, were then confined to the scenes where they were perpetrated;
and we knew little more of them than what we collected from the reports
of the Convention, where they excited a laugh as pleasantries, or
applause as acts of patriotism.

France had become one vast prison, executions were daily multiplied, and
a minute and comprehensive oppression seemed to have placed the lives,
liberty, and fortune of all within the grasp of the single Committee.
Despair itself was subdued, and the people were gradually sinking into a
gloomy and stupid obedience.

* The words despotism and tyranny are sufficiently expressive of the
nature of the government to which they are applied; yet still they
are words rendered familiar to us only by history, and convey no
precise idea, except that of a bad political system. The condition
of the French at this time, besides its wretchedness, had something
so strange, so original in it, that even those who beheld it with
attention must be content to wonder, without pretending to offer any
description as adequate.

--The following extract from a speech of Bailleul, a member of the
Convention, exhibits a picture nearer the original than I have yet seen--

_"La terreur dominait tous les esprits, comprimait tous les couers--
elle etait la force du gouvernement, et ce gouvernement etait tel,
que les nombreux habitans d'un vaste territoire semblaient avoir
perdu les qualites qui distinguent l'homme de l'animal domestique:
ils semblaient meme n'avoir de vie que ce que le gouvernement
voulait bien leur en accorder.--Le moi humain n'existoit plus;
chaque individu n'etait qu'une machine, allant, venant, pensant ou
ne pensant pas, felon que la tyrannie le pressait ou l'animait."_

Discours de Bailleul, 19 March 1795.

"The minds of all were subdued by terror, and every heart was
compressed beneath its influence.--In this consisted the strength of
the government; and that government was such, that the immense
population of a vast territory, seemed to have lost all the
qualities which distinguish man from the animals attached to him.--
They appeared to exhibit no signs of life but such as their rulers
condescended to permit--the very sense of existence seemed doubtful
or extinct, and each individual was reduced to a mere machine, going
or coming, thinking or not thinking, according as the impulse of
tyranny gave him force or animation."
Speech of Bailleul, 19 March 1795.

On the twenty-second of Prairial, (June 10,) a law, consisting of a
variety of articles for the regulation of the Revolutionary Tribunal, was
introduced to the convention by Couthon, a member of the government; and,
as usual adopted with very little previous discussion.--Though there was
no clause of this act but ought to have given the alarm to humanity,
"knocked at the heart, and bid it not be quiet;" yet the whole appeared
perfectly unexceptionable to the Assembly in general: till, on farther
examination, they found it contained an implied repeal of the law
hitherto observed, according to which, no representative could be
arrested without a preliminary decree for that purpose.--This discovery
awakened their suspicions, and the next day Bourdon de l'Oise, a man of
unsteady principles, (even as a revolutionist,) was spirited up to demand
an explicit renunciation of any power in the Committee to attack the
legislative inviolability except in the accustomed forms.--The clauses
which elected a jury of murderers, that bereft all but guilt of hope, and
offered no prospect to innocence but death, were passed with no other
comment than the usual one of applause.*--

* The baseness, cruelty, and cowardice of the Convention are neither
to be denied, nor palliated. For several months they not only
passed decrees of proscription and murder which might reach every
individual in France except themselves, but they even sacrificed
numbers of their own body; and if, instead of proposing an article
affecting the whole Convention, the Committee had demanded the heads
of as many Deputies as they had occasion for by name, I am persuaded
they would have met no resistance.--This single example of
opposition only renders the convention still more an object of
abhorrence, because it marks that they could subdue their
pusillanimity when their own safety was menaced, and that their
previous acquiescence was voluntary.

--This, and this only, by involving their personal safety, excited their
courage through their fears.--Merlin de Douay, originally a worthless
character, and become yet more so by way of obviating the imputation of
bribery from the court, seconded Bourdon's motion, and the obnoxious
article was repealed instantaneously.

This first and only instance of opposition was highly displeasing to the
Committee, and, on the twenty-fourth, Robespierre, Barrere, Couthon, and
Billaud, animadverted with such severity on the promoters of it, that the
terrified Bourdon* declared, the repeal he had solicited was unnecessary,
and that he believed the Committee were destined to be the saviours of
the country; while Merlin de Douay disclaimed all share in the business--
and, in fine, it was determined, that the law of the twenty-second of
Prairial should remain as first presented to the Convention, and that the
qualification of the succeeding day was void.

* It was on this occasion that the "intrepid" Bourdon kept his bed a
whole month with fear.

So dangerous an infringement on the privileges of the representative
body, dwelt on minds insensible to every other consideration; the
principal members caballed secretly on the perils by which they were
surrounded; and the sullen concord which now marked their deliberations,
was beheld by the Committee rather as the prelude to revolt, than the
indication of continued obedience. In the mean while it was openly
proposed to concentrate still more the functions of government. The
circulation of newspapers was insinuated to be useless; and Robespierre
gave some hints of suppressing all but one, which should be under
particular and official controul.*

* This intended restriction was unnecessary; for the newspapers were
all, not indeed paid by government, but so much subject to the
censure of the guillotine, that they had become, under an "unlimited
freedom of the press," more cautious and insipid than the gazettes
of the proscribed court. Poor Duplain, editor of the "Petit
Courier," and subsequently of the "Echo," whom I remember one of the
first partizans of the revolution, narrowly escaped the massacre of
August 1792, and was afterwards guillotined for publishing the
surrender of Landrecy three days before it was announced officially.

A rumour prevailed, that the refractory members who had excited the late
rebellion were to be sacrificed, a general purification of the Assembly
to take place, and that the committee and a few select adherents were to
be invested with the whole national authority. Lists of proscription
were said to be made; and one of them was secretly communicated as having
been found among the papers of a juryman of the Revolutionary Tribunal
lately arrested.--These apprehensions left the members implicated no
alternative but to anticipate hostilities, or fall a sacrifice; for they
knew the instant of attack would be that of destruction, and that the
people were too indifferent to take any part in the contest.

Things were in this state, when two circumstances of a very different
nature assisted in promoting the final explosion, which so much
astonished, not only the rest of Europe, but France itself.

It is rare that a number of men, however well meaning, perfectly agree in
the exercise of power; and the combinations of the selfish and wicked
must be peculiarly subject to discord and dissolution. The Committee of
Public Welfare, while it enslaved the convention and the people, was torn
by feuds, and undermined by the jealousies of its members. Robespierre,
Couthon, and St. Just, were opposed by Collot and Billaud Varennes; while
Barrere endeavoured to deceive both parties; and Carnot, Lindet, the two
Prieurs, and St. Andre, laboured in the cause of the common tyranny, in
the hope of still dividing it with the conquerors.

For some months this enmity was restrained, by the necessity of
preserving appearances, and conciliated, by a general agreement in the
principles of administration, till Robespierre, relying on his superior
popularity, began to take an ascendant, which alarmed such of his
colleagues as were not his partisans, both for their power and their
safety. Animosities daily increased, and their debates at length became
so violent and noisy, that it was found necessary to remove the business
of the Committee to an upper room, lest people passing under the windows
should overhear these scandalous scenes. Every means were taken to keep
these disputes a profound secret--the revilings which accompanied their
private conferences were turned into smooth panegyrics of each other when
they ascended the tribune, and their unanimity was a favourite theme in
all their reports to the Convention.*

* So late as on the seventh of Thermidor, (25th July,) Barrere made
a pompous eulogium on the virtues of Robespierre; and, in a long
account of the state of the country, he acknowledges "some little
clouds hang over the political horizon, but they will soon be
dispersed, by the union which subsists in the Committees;--above
all, by a more speedy trial and execution of revolutionary
criminals." It is difficult to imagine what new means of dispatch
this airy barbarian had contrived, for in the six weeks preceding
this harangue, twelve hundred and fifty had been guillotined in
Paris only.

The impatience of Robespierre to be released from associates whose views
too much resembled his own to leave him an undivided authority, at length
overcame his prudence; and, after absenting himself for six weeks from
the Committee, on the 8th of Thermidor, (26th July,) he threw off the
mask, and in a speech full of mystery and implications, but containing no
direct charges, proclaimed the divisions which existed in the
government.--On the same evening he repeated this harangue at the
Jacobins, while St. Just, by his orders, menaced the obnoxious part of
the Committee with a formal denunciation to the Convention.--From this
moment Billaud Varennes and Collot d'Herbois concluded their destruction
to be certain. In vain they soothed, expostulated with, and endeavoured
to mollify St. Just, so as to avert an open rupture. The latter, who
probably knew it was not Robespierre's intention to accede to any
arrangement, left them to make his report.

On the morning of the ninth the Convention met, and with internal dread
and affected composure proceeded to their ordinary business.--St. Just
then ascended the tribune, and the curiosity or indecision of the greater
number permitted him to expatiate at large on the intrigues and guilt of
every kind which he imputed to a "part" of the Committee.--At the
conclusion of this speech, Tallien, one of the devoted members, and
Billaud Varennes, the leader of the rival party, opened the trenches, by
some severe remarks on the oration of St. Just, and the conduct of those
with whom he was leagued. This attack encouraged others: the whole
Convention joined in accusing Robespierre of tyranny; and Barrere, who
perceived the business now deciding, ranged himself on the side of the
strongest, though the remaining members of the Committee still appeared
to preserve their neutrality. Robespierre was, for the first time,
refused a hearing, yet, the influence he so lately possessed still seemed
to protect him. The Assembly launched decrees against various of his
subordinate agents, without daring to proceed against himself; and had
not the indignant fury with which he was seized, at the desertion of
those by whom he had been most flattered, urged him to call for arrest
and death, it is probable the whole would have ended in the punishment of
his enemies, and a greater accession of power to himself.

But at this crisis all Robespierre's circumspection abandoned him.
Having provoked the decree for arresting his person, instead of
submitting to it until his party should be able to rally, he resisted;
and by so doing gave the Convention a pretext for putting him out of the
law; or, in other words, to destroy him, without the delay or hazard of a
previous trial.

Having been rescued from the Gens d'Armes, and taken in triumph to the
municipality, the news spread, the Jacobins assembled, and Henriot, the
commander of the National Guard, (who had likewise been arrested, and
again set at liberty by force,) all prepared to act in his defence. But
while they should have secured the Convention, they employed themselves
at the Hotel de Ville in passing frivolous resolutions; and Henriot, with
all the cannoneers decidedly in his favour, exhibited an useless
defiance, by stalking before the windows of the Committee of General
Safety, when he should have been engaged in arresting its members.

All these imprudences gave the Convention time to proclaim that
Robespierre, the municipality, and their adherents, were decreed out of
the protection of the laws, and in circumstances of this nature such a
step has usually been decisive--for however odious a government, if it
does but seem to act on a presumption of its own strength, it has always
an advantage over its enemies; and the timid, the doubtful, or
indifferent, for the most part, determine in favour of whatever wears the
appearance of established authority. The people, indeed, remained
perfectly neuter; but the Jacobins, the Committees of the Sections, and
their dependents, might have composed a force more than sufficient to
oppose the few guards which surrounded the National Palace, had not the
publication of this summary outlawry at once paralyzed all their hopes
and efforts.--They had seen multitudes hurried to the Guillotine, because
they were "hors de la loi;" and this impression now operated so forcibly,
that the cannoneers, the national guard, and those who before were most
devoted to the cause, laid down their arms, and precipitately abandoned
their chiefs to the fate which awaited them. Robespierre was taken at
the Hotel de Ville, after being severely wounded in the face; his brother
broke his thigh, in attempting to escape from a window; Henriot was
dragged from concealment, deprived of an eye; and Couthon, whom nature
had before rendered a cripple, now exhibited a most hideous spectacle,
from an ineffectual effort to shoot himself.--Their wounds were dressed
to prolong their suffering, and their sentence being contained in the
decree that outlawed them, their persons were identified by the same
tribunal which had been the instrument of their crimes.
--On the night of the tenth they were conveyed to the scaffold, amidst
the insults and execrations of a mob, which a few hours before beheld
them with trembling and adoration.--Lebas, also a member of the
convention, and a principal agent of Robespierre, fell by his own hand;
and Couthon, St. Just, and seventeen others, suffered with the two
Robespierres.--The municipality of Paris, &c. to the number of
seventy-two, were guillotined the succeeding day, and about twelve
more the day after.

The fate of these men may be ranked as one of the most dreadful of those
examples which history vainly transmits to discourage the pursuits of
ambition. The tyrant who perishes amidst the imposing fallaciousness of
military glory, mingles admiration with abhorrence, and rescues his
memory from contempt, if not from hatred. Even he who expiates his
crimes on the scaffold, if he die with fortitude, becomes the object of
involuntary compassion, and the award of justice is not often rendered
more terrible by popular outrage. But the fall of Robespierre and his
accomplices was accompanied by every circumstance that could add
poignancy to suffering, or dread to death. The ambitious spirit which
had impelled them to tyrannize over a submissive and defenceless people,
abandoned them in their last moments. Depressed by anguish, exhausted by
fatigue, and without courage, religion, or virtue, to support them, they
were dragged through the savage multitude, wounded and helpless, to
receive that stroke, from which even the pious and the brave sometimes
shrink with dismay.

Robespierre possessed neither the talents nor merits of Nicolas Riezi;
but they are both conspicuous instances of the mutability of popular
support, and there is a striking similitude in the last events of their
history. They both degraded their ambition by cowardice--they were both
deserted by the populace, whom they began by flattering, and ended by
oppressing; and the death of both was painful and ignominious--borne
without dignity, and embittered by reproach and insult.*

* Robespierre lay for some hours in one of the committee-rooms,
writhing with the pain of his wound, and abandoned to despair; while
many of his colleagues, perhaps those who had been the particular
agents and applauders of his crimes, passed and repassed him,
glorying and jesting at his sufferings. The reader may compare the
death of Robespierre with that of Rienzi; but if the people of Rome
revenged the tyranny of the Tribune, they were neither so mean nor
so ferocious as the Parisians.

You will perceive by this summary that the overthrow of Robespierre was
chiefly occasioned by the rivalship of his colleagues in the Committee,
assisted by the fears of the Convention at large for themselves.--Another
circumstance, at which I have already hinted, as having some share in
this event, shall be the subject of my next letter.

Providence, Aug. 13, 1794.

_Amour, tu perdis Troye_ [Love! thou occasionedst the destruction of
Troy.]:--yet, among the various mischiefs ascribed to the influence of
this capricious Sovereign, amidst the wrecks of sieges, and the slaughter
of battles, perhaps we may not unjustly record in his praise, that he was
instrumental to the solace of humanity, by contributing to the overthrow
of Robespierre. It is at least pleasing to turn from the general horrors
of the revolution, and suppose, for a moment, that the social affections
were not yet entirely banished, and that gallantry still retained some
empire, when every other vestige of civilization was almost annihilated.

After such an exordium, I feel a little ashamed of my hero, and could
wish, for the credit of my tale, it were not more necessary to invoke the
historic muse of Fielding, than that of Homer or Tasso; but imperious
Truth obliges me to confess, that Tallien, who is to be the subject of
this letter, was first introduced to celebrity by circumstances not
favourable for the comment of my poetical text.

At the beginning of the revolution he was known only as an eminent orator
en plain vent; that is, as a preacher of sedition to the mob, whom he
used to harangue with great applause at the Palais Royal. Having no
profession or means of subsistence, he, as Dr. Johnson observes of one of
our poets, necessarily became an author. He was, however, no farther
entitled to this appellation, than as a periodical scribbler in the cause
of insurrection; but in this he was so successful, that it recommended
him to the care of Petion and the municipality, to whom his talents and
principles were so acceptable, that they made him Secretary to the

On the second and third of September 1792, he superintended the massacre
of the prisons, and is alledged to have paid the assassins according to
the number of victims they dispatched with great regularity; and he
himself seems to have little to say in his defence, except that he acted
officially. Yet even the imputation of such a claim could not be
overlooked by the citizens of Paris; and at the election of the
Convention he was distinguished by being chosen one of their

It is needless to describe his political career in the Assembly otherwise
than by adding, that when the revolutionary furor was at its acme, he was
deemed by the Committee of Public Welfare worthy of an important mission
in the South. The people of Bourdeaux were, accordingly, for some time
harassed by the usual effects of these visitations--imprisonments and the
Guillotine; and Tallien, though eclipsed by Maignet and Carrier, was by
no means deficient in the patriotic energies of the day.

I think I must before have mentioned to you a Madame de Fontenay, the
wife of an emigrant, whom I occasionally saw at Mad. de C____'s. I then
remarked her for the uncommon attraction of her features, and the
elegance of her person; but was so much disgusted at a tendency to
republicanism I observed in her, and which, in a young woman, I thought
unbecoming, that I did not promote the acquaintance, and our different
pursuits soon separated us entirely. Since this period I have learned,
that her conduct became exceedingly imprudent, or at least suspicious,
and that at the general persecution, finding her republicanism would not
protect her, she fled to Bourdeaux, with the hope of being able to
proceed to Spain. Here, however, being a Spaniard by birth, and the wife
of an emigrant, she was arrested and thrown into prison, where she
remained till the arrival of Tallien on his mission.

The miscellaneous occupations of a deputy-errant, naturally include an
introduction to the female prisoners; and Tallien's presence afforded
Mad. de Fontenay an occasion of pleading her cause with all the success
which such a pleader might, in other times, be supposed to obtain from a
judge of Tallien's age. The effect of the scenes Tallien had been an
actor in, was counteracted by youth, and his heart was not yet
indifferent to the charms of beauty--Mad. de Fontenay was released by the
captivation of her liberator, and a reciprocal attachment ensued.

We must not, however, conclude, all this merely a business of romance.
Mad. de Fontenay was rich, and had connexions in Spain, which might
hereafter procure an asylum, when a regicide may with difficulty find
one: and on the part of the lady, though Tallien's person is agreeable, a
desire of protecting herself and her fortune might be allowed to have
some influence.

From this time the revolutionist is said to have given way: Bourdeaux
became the Capua of Tallien; and its inhabitants were, perhaps, indebted
for a more moderate exercise of his power, to the smiles of Mad. de
Fontenay.--From hanging loose on society, he had now the prospect of
marrying a wife with a large fortune; and Tallien very wisely considered,
that having something at stake, a sort of comparative reputation among
the higher class of people at Bourdeaux, might be of more importance to
him in future, than all the applause the Convention could bestow on a
liberal use of the Guillotine.--The relaxed system which was the
consequence of such policy, soon reached the Committee of Public Welfare,
to whom it was highly displeasing, and Tallien was recalled.

A youth of the name of Julien, particularly in the confidence of
Robespierre, was then sent to Bourdeaux, not officially as his successor,
but as a spy, to collect information concerning him, as well as to watch
the operations of other missionaries, and prevent their imitating
Tallien's schemes of personal advantage, at the expence of scandalizing
the republic by an appearance of lenity.--The disastrous state of Lyons,
the persecutions of Carrier, the conflagrations of Maignet, and the
crimes of various other Deputies, had obliterated the minor
revolutionisms of Tallien:* The citizens of Bourdeaux spoke of him
without horror, which in these times was equal to eulogium; and Julien
transmitted such accounts of his conduct to Robespierre,** as were
equally alarming to the jealousy of his spirit, and repugnant to the
cruelty of his principles.

* It was Tallien's boast to have guillotined only aristocrats, and
of this part of his merit I am willing to leave him in possession.
At Toulon he was charged with the punishment of those who had given
up the town to the English; but finding, as he alledged, nearly all
the inhabitants involved, he selected about two hundred of the
richest, and that the horrid business might wear an appearance of
regularity, the patriots, that is, the most notorious Jacobins, were
ordered to give their opinion on the guilt of these victims, who
were brought out into an open field for that purpose. With such
judges the sentence was soon passed, and a fusillade took place on
the spot.--It was on this occasion that Tallien made particular
boast of his humanity; and in the same publication where he relates
the circumstance, he exposes the "atrocious conduct" of the English
at the surrender of Toulon. The cruelty of these barbarians not
being sufficiently gratified by dispatching the patriots the
shortest way, they hung up many of them by their chins on hooks at
the shambles, and left them to die at their leisure.--See
"Mitraillades, Fusillades," a recriminating pamphlet, addressed by
Tallien to Collot d'Herbois.--The title alludes to Collot's exploits
at Lyons.

** It is not out of the usual course of things that Tallien's
moderation at Bourdeaux might have been profitable; and the wife or
mistress of a Deputy was, on such occasions, a useful medium,
through which the grateful offerings of a rich and favoured
aristocrat might be conveyed, without committing the legislative
reputation.--The following passage from Julien's correspondence with
Robespierre seems to allude to some little arrangements of this

"I think it my duty to transmit you an extract from a letter of
Tallien's, [Which had been intercepted.] to the National Club.--It
coincides with the departure of La Fontenay, whom the Committee of
General Safety have doubtless had arrested. I find some very
curious political details regarding her; and Bourdeaux seems to have
been, until this moment, a labyrinth of intrigue and peculation."

It appears from Robespierre's papers, that not only Tallien, but
Legendre, Bourdon de l'Oise, Thuriot, and others, were incessantly
watched by the spies of the Committee. The profession must have improved
wonderfully under the auspices of the republic, for I doubt if _Mons. le
Noir's Mouchards_ [The spies of the old police, so called in derision.--
Brissot, in this act of accusation, is described as having been an agent
of the Police under the monarchy.--I cannot decide on the certainty of
this, or whether his occupation was immediately that of a spy, but I have
respectable authority for saying, that antecedent to the revolution, his
character was very slightly estimated, and himself considered as "hanging
loose on society."] were as able as Robespierre's.--The reader may judge
from the following specimens:

"The 6th instant, the deputy Thuriot, on quitting the Convention,
went to No. 35, Rue Jaques, section of the Pantheon, to the house of
a pocket-book maker, where he staid talking with a female about ten
minutes. He then went to No. 1220, Rue Fosse St. Bernard, section
of the Sans-Culottes, and dined there at a quarter past two. At a
quarter past seven he left the last place, and meeting a citizen on
the Quay de l'Ecole, section of the Museum, near le Cafe Manoury,
they went in there together, and drank a bottle of beer. From
thence he proceeded to la Maison Memblee de la Providence, No. 16,
Rue d'Orleans Honore, section de la Halle au Bled, whence, after
staying about five-and-twenty minutes, he came out with a citoyenne,
who had on a puce Levite, a great bordered shawl of Japan cotton,
and on her head a white handkerchief, made to look like a cap. They
went together to No. 163, Place Egalite, where after stopping an
instant, they took a turn in the galleries, and then returned to
sup.--They went in at half past nine, and were still there at eleven
o'clock, when we came away, not being certain if they would come out

"Bourdon de l'Oise, on entering the Assembly, shook hands with four
or five Deputies. He was observed to gape while good news was

Tallien was already popular among the Jacobins of Paris; and his
connexion with a beautiful woman, who might enable him to keep a domestic
establishment, and to display any wealth he had acquired, without
endangering his reputation, was a circumstance not to be overlooked; for
Robespierre well knew the efficacy of female intrigue, and dinners,* in
gaining partizans among the subordinate members of the Convention.

* Whoever reads attentively, and in detail, the debates of the
Convention, will observe the influence and envy created by a
superior style of living in any particular member. His dress, his
lodging, or dinners, are a perpetual subject of malignant reproach.
--This is not to be wondered at, when we consider the description of
men the Convention is composed of;--men who, never having been
accustomed to the elegancies of life, behold with a grudging eye the
gay apparel or luxurious table of a colleague, who arrived at Paris
with no other treasure but his patriotism, and has no ostensible
means beyond his eighteen livres a day, now increased to thirty-six.

Mad. de Fontenay, was, therefore, on her arrival at Paris, whither she
had followed Tallien, (probably in order to procure a divorce and marry
him,) arrested, and conveyed to prison.

An injury of this kind was not to be forgiven; and Robespierre seems to
have acted on the presumption that it could not. He beset Tallien with
spies, menaced him in the Convention, and made Mad. de Fontenay an offer
of liberty, if she would produce a substantial charge against him, which
he imagined her knowledge of his conduct at Bourdeaux might furnish her
grounds for doing. A refusal must doubtless have irritated the tyrant;
and Tallien had every reason to fear she would soon be included in one of
the lists of victims who were daily sacrificed as conspirators in the
prisons. He was himself in continual expectation of being arrested; and
it was generally believed Robespierre would soon openly accuse him.--Thus
situated, he eagerly embraced the opportunity which the schism in the
Committee presented of attacking his adversary, and we certainly must
allow him the merit of being the first who dared to move for the arrest
of Robespierre.--I need not add, that la belle was one of the first whose
prison doors were opened; and I understand that, being divorced from
Mons. de Fontenay, she is either married, or on the point of being so, to

This conclusion spoils my story as a moral one; and had I been the
disposer of events, the Septembriser, the regicide, and the cold assassin
of the Toulonais, should have found other rewards than affluence, and a
wife who might represent one of Mahomet's Houris. Yet, surely, "the time
will come, though it come ne'er so slowly," when Heaven shall separate
guilt from prosperity, and when Tallien and his accomplices shall be
remembered only as monuments of eternal justice. For the lady, her
faults are amply punished in the disgrace of such an alliance--

"A cut-purse of the empire and the rule;
"____ a King of shreds and patches."

Providence, Aug. 14, 1794.

The thirty members whom Robespierre intended to sacrifice, might perhaps
have formed some design of resisting, but it appears evident that the
Convention in general acted without plan, union, or confidence.*--

* The base and selfish timidity of the Convention is strongly
evinced by their suffering fifty innocent people to be guillotined
on the very ninth of Thermidor, for a pretended conspiracy in the
prison of St. Lazare.--A single word from any member might at this
crisis have suspended the execution of the sentence, but that word
no one had the courage or the humanity to utter.

--Tallien and Billaud were rendered desperate by their situation, and it
is likely that, when they ventured to attack Robespierre, they did not
themselves expect to be successful--it was the consternation of the
latter which encouraged them to persist, and the Assembly to support

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
"Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."

And to have been lucky enough to seize on this crisis, is, doubtless, the
whole merit of the convention. There has, it is true, been many
allusions to the dagger of Brutus, and several Deputies are said to have
conceived very heroic projects for the destruction of the tyrant; but as
he was dead before these projects were brought to light, we cannot justly
ascribe any effect to them.

The remains of the Brissotin faction, still at liberty, from whom some
exertions might have been expected, were cautiously inactive; and those
who had been most in the habit of appreciating themselves for their
valour, were now conspicuous only for that discretion which Falstaff
calls the better part of it.--Dubois Crance, who had been at the expence
of buying a Spanish poniard at St. Malo, for the purpose of assassinating
Robespierre, seems to have been calmed by the journey, and to have
finally recovered his temper, before he reached the Convention.--Merlin
de Thionville, Merlin de Douay, and others of equal note, were among the
"passive valiant;" and Bourdon de l'Oise had already experienced such
disastrous effects from inconsiderate exhibitions of courage, that he now
restrained his ardour till the victory should be determined. Even
Legendre, who is occasionally the Brutus, the Curtius, and all the
patriots whose names he has been able to learn, confined his prowess to
an assault on the club-room of the Jacobins, when it was empty, and
carrying off the key, which no one disputed with him, so that he can at
most claim an ovation. It is, in short, remarkable, that all the members
who at present affect to be most vehement against Robespierre's
principles, [And where was the all-politic Sieyes?--At home, writing his
own eulogium.] were the least active in attacking his person; and it is
indisputable, that to Tallien, Billaud, Louchet, Elie Lacoste, Collot
d'Herbois, and a few of the more violent Jacobins, were due those first
efforts which determined his fall.--Had Robespierre, instead of a
querelous harangue, addressed the convention in his usual tone of
authority, and ended by moving for a decree against a few only of those
obnoxious to him, the rest might have been glad to compound for their own
safety, by abandoning a cause no longer personal: but his impolicy, not
his wickedness, hastened his fate; and it is so far fortunate for France,
that it has at least suspended the system of government which is ascribed
to him.

The first days of victory were passed in receiving congratulations, and
taking precautions; and though men do not often adapt their claims to
their merits, yet the members of the Convention seemed in general to be
conscious that none amongst them had very decided pretensions to the
spoils of the vanquished.--Of twelve, which originally composed the
Committee of Public Welfare, seven only remained; yet no one ventured to
suggest a completion of the number, till Barrere, after previously
insinuating how adequate he and his colleagues were to the task of
"saving the country," proposed, in his flippant way, and merely as a
matter of form, that certain persons whom he recommended, should fill up
the vacancies in the government.

This modest Carmagnole* was received with great coolness; the late
implicit acquiescence was changed to demur, and an adjournment
unanimously called for.

* A ludicrous appellation, which Barrere used to give to his reports
in the presence of those who were in the secret of his Charlatanry.
The air of "La Carmagnole" was originally composed when the town of
that name was taken by Prince Eugene, and was adapted to the
indecent words now sung by the French after the 10th of August 1792.

--Such unusual temerity susprised and alarmed the remains of the
Committee, and Billaud Varennes sternly reminded the Convention of the
abject state they were so lately released from. This produced retort and
replication, and the partners of Robespierre's enormities, who had hoped
to be the tranquil inheritors of his power, found, that in destroying a
rival, they had raised themselves masters.

The Assembly persisted in not adopting the members offered to be imposed
upon them; but, as it was easier to reject than to choose, the Committee
were ordered to present a new plan for this part of the executive branch,
and the election of those to be entrusted with it was postponed for
farther consideration.

Having now felt their strength, they next proceeded to renew a part of
the committee of General Safety, several of its members being inculpated
as partizans of Robespierre, and though this Committee had become
entirely subordinate to that of Public Welfare, yet its functions were
too important for it to be neglected, more especially as they comprised a
very favourite branch of the republican government, that of issuing writs
of arrest at pleasure.--The law of the twenty-second of Prairial is also
repealed, but the Revolutionary Tribunal is preserved, and the necessity
of suspending the old jury, as being the creatures of Robespierre, has
not prevented the tender solicitude of the Convention for a renovated
activity in the establishment itself.

This assumption of power has become every day more confirmed, and the
addresses which are received by the Assembly, though yet in a strain of
gross adulation,* express such an abhorrence of the late system, as must
suffice to convince them the people are not disposed to see such a system

* A collection of addresses, presented to the Convention at various
periods, might form a curious history of the progress of despotism.
These effusions of zeal were not, however, all in the "sublime"
style: the legislative dignity sometimes condescended to unbend
itself, and listen to metrical compositions, enlivened by the
accompaniment of fiddles; but the manly and ferocious Danton, to
whom such sprightly interruptions were not congenial, proposed a
decree, that the citizens should, in future, express their
adorations in plain prose, and without any musical accessories.

Billaud Varennes, Collot, and other members of the old Committee, view
these innovations with sullen acquiescence; but Barrere, whose frivolous
and facile spirit is incapable of consistency, even in wickedness,
perseveres and flourishes at the tribune as gaily as ever.--Unabashed by
detection, insensible to contempt, he details his epigrams and antitheses
against Catilines and Cromwells with as much self-sufficiency as when, in
the same tinsel eloquence, he promulgated the murderous edicts of

Many of the prisoners at Paris continue daily to obtain their release,
and, by the exertions of his personal enemies, particularly of our
quondam sovereign, Andre Dumont, (now a member of the Committee of
General Safety,) an examination into the atrocities committed by Le Bon
is decreed.--But, amidst these appearances of justice, a versatility of
principle, or rather an evident tendency to the decried system, is
perceptible. Upon the slightest allusion to the revolutionary
government, the whole Convention rise in a mass to vociferate their
adherence to it:* the tribunal, which was its offspring and support, is
anxiously reinstalled; and the low insolence with which Barrere announces
their victories in the Netherlands, is, as usual, loudly applauded.

* The most moderate, as well as the most violent, were always united
on the subject of this irrational tyranny.--_"Toujours en menageant,
comme la prunelle de ses yeux, le gouvernement revolutionnaire."_--
"Careful always of the revolutionary government, as of the apple of
their eye." _Fragment pour servir a l'Hist. de la Convention, par
J. J. Dussault_.

The brothers of Cecile Renaud, who were sent for by Robespierre from the
army to Paris, in order to follow her to the scaffold, did not arrive
until their persecutor was no more, and a change of government was
avowed. They have presented themselves at the bar of the Convention, to
entreat a revisal of their father's sentence, and some compensation for
his property, so unjustly confiscated.--You will, perhaps, imagine, that,
at the name of these unfortunate young men, every heart anticipated a
consent to their claims, even before the mind could examine the justice
of them, and that one of those bursts of sensibility for which this
legislature is so remarkable instantaneously accorded the petition.
Alas! this was not an occasion to excite the enthusiasm of the
Convention: Coupilleau de Fontenay, one of the "mild and moderate party",
repulsed the petitioners with harshness, and their claim was silenced by
a call for the order of the day. The poor Renauds were afterwards coldly
referred to the Committee of Relief, for a pittance, by way of charity,
instead of the property they have a right to, and which they have been
deprived of, by the base compliance of the Convention with the caprice of
a monster.

Such relapses and aberrations are not consolatory, but the times and
circumstances seem to oppose them--the whole fabric of despotism is
shaken, and we have reason to hope the efforts of tyranny will be
counteracted by its weakness.

We do not yet derive any advantage from the early maturity of the
harvest, and it is still with difficulty we obtain a limited portion of
bad bread. Severe decrees are enacted to defeat the avarice of the
farmers, and prevent monopolies of the new corn; but these people are
invulnerable: they have already been at issue with the system of terror--
and it was found necessary, even before the death of Robespierre, to
release them from prison, or risk the destruction of the harvest for want
of hands to get it in. It is now discovered, that natural causes, and
the selfishness of individuals, are adequate to the creation of a
temporary scarcity; yet when this happened under the King, it was always
ascribed to the machinations of government.--How have the people been
deceived, irritated, and driven to rebellion, by a degree of want, less,
much less, insupportable than that they are obliged to suffer at present,
without daring even to complain!

I have now been in confinement almost twelve months, and my health is
considerably impaired. The weather is oppressively warm, and we have no
shade in the garden but under a mulberry-tree, which is so surrounded by
filth, that it is not approachable. I am, however, told, that in a few
days, on account of my indisposition, I shall be permitted to go home,
though with a proviso of being guarded at my own expence.--My friends are
still at Arras; and if this indulgence be extended to Mad. de la F____,
she will accompany me. Personal accommodation, and an opportunity of
restoring my health, render this desirable; but I associate no idea of
freedom with my residence in this country. The boundary may be extended,
but it is still a prison.--Yours.

Providence, Aug. 15, 1794.

To-morrow I expect to quit this place, and have been wandering over it
for the last time. You will imagine I can have no attachment to it: yet
a retrospect of my sensations when I first arrived, of all I have
experienced, and still more of what I have apprehended since that period,
makes me look forward to my departure with a satisfaction that I might
almost call melancholy. This cell, where I have shivered through the
winter--the long passages, which I have so often traversed in bitter
rumination--the garden, where I have painfully breathed a purer air, at
the risk of sinking beneath the fervid rays of an unmitigated sun, are
not scenes to excite regret; but when I think that I am still subject to
the tyranny which has so long condemned me to them, this reflection, with
a sentiment perhaps of national pride, which is wounded by accepting as a
favour what I have been unjustly deprived of, renders me composed, if not
indifferent, at the prospect of my release.

This dreary epoch of my life has not been without its alleviations. I
have found a chearful companion in Mad. de M____, who, at sixty, was
brought here, because she happened to be the daughter of Count L____, who
has been dead these thirty years!--The graces and silver accents of
Madame de B____, might have assisted in beguiling severer captivity; and
the Countess de C____, and her charming daughters (the eldest of whom is
not to be described in the common place of panegyric), who, though they
have borne their own afflictions with dignity, have been sensible to the
misfortunes of others, and whom I must, in justice, except from all the
imputations of meanness or levity, which I have sometimes had occasion to
notice in those who, like themselves, were objects of republican
persecution, have essentially contributed to diminish the horrors of
confinement.--I reckon it likewise among my satisfactions, that, with the
exception of the Marechalle de Biron,* and General O'Moran, none of our
fellow-prisoners have suffered on the scaffold.--

* The Marechalle de Biron, a very old and infirm woman, was taken
from hence to the Luxembourg at Paris, where her daughter-in-law,
the Duchess, was also confined. A cart arriving at that prison to
convey a number of victims to the tribunal, the list, in the coarse
dialect of republicanism, contained the name of la femme Biron. "But
there are two of them," said the keeper. "Then bring them both."--
The aged Marechalle, who was at supper, finished her meal while the
rest were preparing, then took up her book of devotion, and departed
chearfully.--The next day both mother and daughter were guillotined.

--Dumont has, indeed, virtually occasioned the death of several; in
particular the Duc du Chatelet, the Comte de Bethune, Mons. de
Mancheville, &c.--and it is no merit in him that Mr. Luttrell, with a
poor nun of the name of Pitt,* whom he took from hence to Paris, as a
capture which might give him importance, were not massacred either by the
mob or the tribunal.

* This poor woman, whose intellects, as I am informed, appeared in a
state of derangement, was taken from a convent at Abbeville, and
brought to the Providence, as a relation of Mr. Pitt, though I
believe she has no pretensions to that honour. But the name of Pitt
gave her importance; she was sent to Paris under a military escort,
and Dumont announced the arrival of this miserable victim with all
the airs of a conqueror. I have been since told, she was lodged at
St. Pelagie, where she suffered innumerable hardships, and did not
recover her liberty for many months after the fall of Robespierre.

--If the persecution of this department has not been sanguinary,* it
should be remembered, that it has been covered with prisons; and that the
extreme submission of its inhabitants would scarcely have furnished the
most merciless tyrant with a pretext for a severer regimen.--

* There were some priests guillotined at Amiens, but the
circumstance was concealed from me for some months after it

--Dumont, I know, expects to establish a reputation by not having
guillotined as an amusement, and hopes that he may here find a retreat
when his revolutionary labours shall be finished.

The Convention have not yet chosen the members who are to form the new
Committee. They were yesterday solemnly employed in receiving the
American Ambassador; likewise a brass medal of the tyrant Louis the
Fourteenth, and some marvellous information about the unfortunate
Princess' having dressed herself in mourning at the death of Robespierre.
These legislators remind me of one of Swift's female attendants, who, in
spite of the literary taste he endeavoured to inspire her with, never
could be divested of her original housewifely propensities, but would
quit the most curious anecdote, as he expresses it, "to go seek an old
rag in a closet." Their projects for the revival of their navy seldom go
farther than a transposal in the stripes of the flag, and their vengeance
against regal anthropophagi, and proud islanders, is infallibly diverted
by a denunciation of an aristocratic quartrain, or some new mode, whose
general adoption renders it suspected as the badge of a party.--If,
according to Cardinal de Retz' opinion, elaborate attention to trifles
denote a little mind, these are true Lilliputian sages.--Yours, &c.

August, 1794.

I did not leave the Providence until some days after the date of my last:
there were so many precautions to be taken, and so many formalities to be
observed--such references from the municipality to the district, and from
the district to the Revolutionary Committee, that it is evident
Robespierre's death has not banished the usual apprehension of danger
from the minds of those who became responsible for acts of justice or
humanity. At length, after procuring a house-keeper to answer with his
life and property for our re-appearance, and for our attempting nothing
against the "unity and indivisibility" of the republic, we bade (I hope)
a long adieu to our prison.

Madame de ____ is to remain with me till her house can be repaired; for
it has been in requisition so often, that there is now, we are told,
scarcely a bed left, or a room habitable. We have an old man placed with
us by way of a guard, but he is civil, and is not intended to be a
restraint upon us. In fact, he has a son, a member of the Jacobin club,
and this opportunity is taken to compliment him, by taxing us with the
maintenance of his father. It does not prevent us from seeing our
acquaintance, and we might, I suppose, go out, though we have not yet

The politics of the Convention are fluctuating and versatile, as will
ever be the case where men are impelled by necessity to act in opposition
to their principles. In their eagerness to attribute all the past
excesses to Robespierre, they have, unawares, involved themselves in the
obligation of not continuing the same system. They doubtless expected,
by the fall of the tyrant, to become his successors; but the people,
weary of being dupes, and of hearing that tyrants were fallen, without
feeling any diminution of tyranny, have every where manifested a temper,
which the Convention, in the present relaxed state of its power, is
fearful of making experiments upon. Hence, great numbers of prisoners
are liberated, those that remain are treated more indulgently, and the
fury of revolutionary despotism is in general abated.

The Deputies who most readily assent to these changes have assumed the
appellation of Moderates; (Heaven knows how much they are indebted to
comparison;) and the popularity they have acquired has both offended and
alarmed the more inflexible Jacobins. A motion has just been made by one
Louchet, that a list of all persons lately enlarged should be printed,
with the names of those Deputies who solicited in their favour, annexed;
and that such aristocrats as were thus discovered to have regained their
liberty, should be re-imprisoned.--The decree passed, but was so ill
received by the people, that it was judged prudent to repeal it the next

This circumstance seems to be the signal of dissention between the
Assembly and the Club: the former, apprehensive of revolting the public
opinion on the one hand, and desirous of conciliating the Jacobins on the
other, waver between indulgence and severity; but it is easy to discover,
that their variance with the Jacobins is more a matter of expediency than
principle, and that, were it not for other considerations, they would not
suffer the imprisonment of a few thousand harmless people to interrupt
the amity which has so long subsisted between themselves and their
ancient allies.--It is written, "from their works you shall know them;"
and reasoning from this tenet, which is our best authority, (for who can
boast a science in the human heart?) I am justified in my opinion, and I
know it to be that of many persons more competent to decide than myself.
If I could have had doubts on the subject, the occurrences of the last
few days would have amply satisfied them.

However rejoiced the nation at large might be at the overthrow of
Robespierre, no one was deceived as to the motives which actuated his
colleagues in the Committee. Every day produced new indications not only
of their general concurrence in the enormities of the government, but of
their own personal guilt. The Convention, though it could not be
insensible of this, was willing, with a complaisant prudence, to avoid
the scandal of a public discussion, which must irritate the Jacobins, and
expose its own weakness by a retrospect of the crimes it had applauded
and supported. Laurent Lecointre,* alone, and apparently unconnected
with party, has had the courage to exhibit an accusation against Billaud,
Collot, Barrere, and those of Robespierre's accomplices who were members
of the Committee of General Safety. He gave notice of his design on the
eleventh of Fructidor (28th of August).

* Lecointre is a linen-draper at Versailles, an original
revolutionist, and I believe of more decent character than most
included in that description. If we could be persuaded that there
were any real fanatics in the Convention, I should give Lecointre
the credit of being among the number. He seems, at least, to have
some material circumstances in his favour--such as possessing the
means of living; of not having, in appearance, enriched himself by
the revolution; and, of being the only member who, after a score of
decrees to that purpose, has ventured to produce an account of his
fortune to the public.

--It was received everywhere but in the Convention with applause; and the
public was flattered with the hope that justice would attain another
faction of its oppressors. On the succeeding day, Lecointre appeared at
the tribune to read his charges. They conveyed, even to the most
prejudiced mind, an entire conviction, that the members he accused were
sole authors of a part, and accomplices in all the crimes which had
desolated their country. Each charge was supported by material proof,
which he deposited for the information of his colleagues. But this was
unnecessary--his colleagues had no desire to be convinced; and, after
overpowering him with ridicule and insult, they declared, without
entering into any discussion, that they rejected the charges with
indignation, and that the members implicated had uniformly acted
according to their [own] wishes, and those of the nation.

As soon as this result was known in Paris, the people became enraged and
disgusted, the public walks resounded with murmurs, the fermentation grew
general, and some menaces were uttered of forcing the Convention to give
Lecointre a more respectful hearing.--Intimidated by such unequivocal
proofs of disapprobation, when the Assembly met on the thirteenth, it was
decreed, after much opposition from Tallien, that Lecointre should be
allowed to reproduce his charges, and that they should be solemnly

After all this, Lecointre, whose figure is almost ludicrous, and who is
no orator, was to repeat a voluminous denunciation, amidst the clamour,
abuse, chicane, and derision of the whole Convention. But there are
occasions when the keenest ridicule is pointless; when the mind, armed by
truth and elevated by humanity, rejects its insidious efforts--and,
absorbed by more laudable feelings, despises even the smile of contempt.
The justice of Lecointre's cause supplied his want of external
advantages: and his arguments were so clear and so unanswerable, that the
plain diction in which they were conveyed was more impressive than the
most finished eloquence; and neither the malice nor sarcasms of his
enemies had any effect but on those who were interested in silencing or
confounding him. Yet, in proportion as the force of Lecointre's
denunciation became evident, the Assembly appeared anxious to suppress
it; and, after some hours' scandalous debate, during which it was
frequently asserted that these charges could not be encouraged without
criminating the entire legislative body, they decreed the whole to be
false and defamatory.

The accused members defended themselves with the assurance of delinquents
tried by their avowed accomplices, and who are previously certain of
favour and acquittal; while Lecointre's conduct in the business seems to
have been that of a man determined to persevere in an act of duty, which
he has little reason to hope will be successful.*

* It is said, that, at the conclusion of this disgraceful business,
the members of the convention crouded about the delinquents with
their habitual servility, and appeared gratified that their services
on the occasion had given them a claim to notice and familiarity.

Though the galleries of the Convention were more than usually furnished
on the day with applauders, yet this decision has been universally ill
received. The time is passed when the voice of reason could be silenced
by decrees. The stupendous tyranny of the government, though not
meliorated in principle, is relaxed in practice; and this vote, far from
operating in favour of the culprits, has only served to excite the public
indignation, and to render them more odious. Those who cannot judge of
the logical precision of Lecointre's arguments, or the justness of his
inferences, can feel that his charges are merited. Every heart, every
tongue, acknowledges the guilt of those he has attacked. They are
certain France has been the prey of numberless atrocities--they are
certain, that these were perpetrated by order of the committee; that
eleven members composed it; and that Robespierre and his associates being
but three, did not constitute a majority.

These facts are now commented on with as much freedom as can be expected
among a people whose imaginations are yet haunted by revolutionary
tribunals and Bastilles, and the conclusions are not favourable to the
Convention. The national discontent is, however, suspended by the
hostilities between the legislature and the Jacobin club: the latter
still persists in demanding the revolutionary system in its primitive
severity, while the former are restrained from compliance, not only by
the odium it must draw on them, but from a certainty that it cannot be
supported but through the agency of the popular societies, who would thus

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