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The Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches of Lord Macaulay.

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as their chief, as the rightful heir, by intellectual descent and
by solemn adoption, of their deceased sovereign D'Alembert. In
the same ranks were found Guadet, Isnard, Barbaroux, Buzot,
Louvet, too well known as the author of a very ingenious and very
licentious romance, and more honourably distinguished by the
generosity with which he pleaded for the unfortunate, and by the
intrepidity with which he defied the wicked and powerful. Two
persons whose talents were not brilliant, but who enjoyed a high
reputation for probity and public spirit, Petion and Roland, lent
the whole weight of their names to the Girondist connection. The
wife of Roland brought to the deliberations of her husband's
friends masculine courage and force of thought, tempered by
womanly grace and vivacity. Nor was the splendour of a great
military reputation wanting to this celebrated party. Dumourier,
then victorious over the foreign invaders, and at the height of
popular favour, must be reckoned among the allies of the Gironde.

The errors of the Brissotines were undoubtedly neither few nor
small; but, when we fairly compare their conduct with the conduct
of any other party which acted or suffered during the French
Revolution, we are forced to admit their superiority in every
quality except that single quality which in such times prevails
over every other, decision. They were zealous for the great
social reform which had been effected by the National Assembly;
and they were right. For, though that reform was, in some
respects, carried too far, it was a blessing well worth even the
fearful price which has been paid for it. They were resolved to
maintain the independence of their country against foreign
invaders; and they were right. For the heaviest of all yokes is
the yoke of the stranger. They thought that, if Louis remained
at their head, they could not carry on with the requisite energy
the conflict against the European coalition. They therefore
concurred in establishing a republican government; and here,
again, they were right. For, in that struggle for life and
death, it would have been madness to trust a hostile or even a
half hearted leader.

Thus far they went along with the revolutionary movement. At
this point they stopped; and, in our judgment, they were right in
stopping, as they had been right in moving. For great ends, and
under extraordinary circumstances, they had concurred in measures
which, together with much good, had necessarily produced much
evil; which had unsettled the public mind; which had taken away
from government the sanction of prescription; which had loosened
the very foundations of property and law. They thought that it
was now their duty to prop what it had recently been their duty
to batter. They loved liberty, but liberty associated with
order, with justice, with mercy, and with civilisation. They
were republicans; but they were desirous to adorn their republic
with all that had given grace and dignity to the fallen monarchy.
They hoped that the humanity, the courtesy, the taste, which had
done much in old times to mitigate the slavery of France, would
now lend additional charms to her freedom. They saw with horror
crimes exceeding in atrocity those which had disgraced the
infuriated religious factions of the sixteenth century,
perpetrated in the name of reason and philanthropy. They
demanded, with eloquent vehemence, that the authors of the
lawless massacre, which, just before the meeting of the
Convention, had been committed in the prisons of Paris, should be
brought to condign punishment. They treated with just contempt
the pleas which have been set up for that great crime. They
admitted that the public danger was pressing; but they denied
that it justified a violation of those principles of morality on
which all society rests. The independence and honour of France
were indeed to be vindicated, but to be vindicated by triumphs
and not by murders.

Opposed to the Girondists was a party which, having been long
execrated throughout the civilised world, has of late--such is
the ebb and flow of opinion--found not only apologists, but even
eulogists. We are not disposed to deny that some members of the
Mountain were sincere and public spirited men. But even the best
of them, Carnot, for example, and Cambon, were far too
unscrupulous as to the means which they employed for the purpose
of attaining great ends. In the train of these enthusiasts
followed a crowd, composed of all who, from sensual, sordid, or
malignant motives, wished for a period of boundless license.

When the Convention met, the majority were with the Girondists,
and Barere was with the majority. On the King's trial, indeed,
he quitted the party with which he ordinarily acted, voted with
the Mountain, and spoke against the prisoner with a violence such
as few members even of the Mountain showed.

The conduct of the leading Girondists on that occasion was little
to their honour. Of cruelty, indeed, we fully acquit them; but
it is impossible to acquit them of criminal irresolution and
disingenuousness. They were far, indeed, from thirsting for the
blood of Louis: on the contrary, they were most desirous to
protect him. But they were afraid that, if they went straight
forward to their object, the sincerity of their attachment to
republican institutions would be suspected. They wished to save
the King's life, and yet to obtain all the credit of having been
regicides. Accordingly, they traced out for themselves a crooked
course, by which they hoped to attain both their objects. They
first voted the King guilty. They then voted for referring the
question respecting his fate to the whole body of the people.
Defeated in this attempt to rescue him, they reluctantly, and
with ill-suppressed shame and concern, voted for the capital
sentence. Then they made a last attempt in his favour, and voted
for respiting the execution. These zigzag politics produced the
effect which any man conversant with public affairs might have
foreseen. The Girondists, instead of attaining both their ends,
failed of both. The Mountain justly charged them with having
attempted to save the King by underhand means. Their own
consciences told them, with equal justice, that their hands had
been dipped in the blood of the most inoffensive and most
unfortunate of men. The direct path was here, as usual, the path
not only of honour, but of safety. The principle on which the
Girondists stood as a party was, that the season for
revolutionary violence was over, and that the reign of law and
order ought now to commence. But the proceeding against the King
was clearly revolutionary in its nature. It was not in
conformity with the laws. The only plea for it was, that all
ordinary rules of jurisprudence and morality were suspended by
the extreme public danger. This was the very plea which the
Mountain urged in defence of the massacre of September, and to
which, when so urged, the Girondists refused to listen. They
therefore, by voting for the death of the King, conceded to the
Mountain the chief point at issue between the two parties. Had
they given a manful vote against the capital sentence, the
regicides would have been in a minority. It is probable that
there would have been an immediate appeal to force. The
Girondists might have been victorious. In the worst event, they
would have fallen with unblemished honour. Thus much is certain,
that their boldness and honesty could not possibly have produced
a worse effect than was actually produced by their timidity and
their stratagems.

Barere, as we have said, sided with the Mountain on this
occasion. He voted against the appeal to the people and against
the respite. His demeanour and his language also were widely
different from those of the Girondists. Their hearts were heavy,
and their deportment was that of men oppressed by sorrow. It was
Vergniaud's duty to proclaim the result of the roll-call. His
face was pale, and he trembled with emotion, as in a low and
broken voice he announced that Louis was condemned to death.
Barere had not, it is true, yet attained to full perfection in
the art of mingling jests and conceits with words of death; but
he already gave promise of his future excellence in this high
department of Jacobin oratory. He concluded his speech with a
sentence worthy of his head and heart. "The tree of liberty," he
said, "as an ancient author remarks, flourishes when it is
watered with the blood of all classes of tyrants." M. Hippolyte
Carnot has quoted this passage in order, as we suppose, to do
honour to his hero. We wish that a note had been added to inform
us from what ancient author Barere quoted. In the course of our
own small reading among the Greek and Latin writers, we have not
happened to fall in with trees of liberty and watering-pots full
of blood; nor can we, such is our ignorance of classical
antiquity, even imagine an Attic or Roman orator employing
imagery of that sort. In plain words, when Barere talked about
an ancient author, he was lying, as he generally was when he
asserted any fact, great or small. Why he lied on this occasion
we cannot guess, unless indeed it was to keep his hand in.

It is not improbable that, but for the one circumstance, Barere
would, like most of those with whom he ordinarily acted, have
voted for the appeal to the people and for the respite. But,
just before the commencement of the trial, papers had been
discovered which proved that, while a member of the National
Assembly, he had been in communication with the Court respecting
his Reports on the Woods and Forests. He was acquitted of all
criminality by the Convention; but the fiercer Republicans
considered him as a tool of the fallen monarch; and this reproach
was long repeated in the journal of Marat, and in the speeches at
the Jacobin club. It was natural that a man like Barere should,
under such circumstances, try to distinguish himself among the
crowd of regicides by peculiar ferocity. It was because he had
been a royalist that he was one of the foremost in shedding

The King was no more. The leading Girondists had, by their
conduct towards him, lowered their character in the eyes both of
friends and foes. They still, however, maintained the contest
against the Mountain, called for vengeance on the assassins of
September, and protested against the anarchical and sanguinary
doctrines of Marat. For a time they seemed likely to prevail.
As publicists and orators, they had no rivals in the Convention.
They had with them, beyond all doubt, the great majority both of
the deputies and of the French nation. These advantages, it
should seem, ought to have decided the event of the struggle.
But the opposite party had compensating advantages of a different
kind. The chiefs of the Mountain, though not eminently
distinguished by eloquence or knowledge, had great audacity,
activity, and determination. The Convention and France were
against them; but the mob of Paris, the clubs of Paris, and the
municipal government of Paris, were on their side.

The policy of the Jacobins, in this situation, was to subject
France to an aristocracy infinitely worse than that aristocracy
which had emigrated with the count of Artois--to an aristocracy
not of birth, not of wealth, not of education, but of mere
locality. They would not hear of privileged orders; but they
wished to have a privileged city. That twenty-five millions of
Frenchmen should be ruled by a hundred thousand gentlemen and
clergymen was insufferable; but that twenty-five millions of
Frenchmen should be ruled by a hundred thousand Parisians was as
it should be. The qualification of a member of the new oligarchy
was simply that he should live near the hall where the Convention
met, and should be able to squeeze himself daily into the gallery
during a debate, and now and then to attend with a pike for the
purpose of blockading the doors. It was quite agreeable to the
maxims of the Mountain that a score of draymen from Santerre's
brewery, or of devils from Hebert's printing-house, should be
permitted to drown the voices of men commissioned to speak the
sense of such cities as Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Lyons; and that
a rabble of half-naked porters from the Faubourg St Antoine
should have power to annul decrees for which the representatives
of fifty or sixty departments had voted. It was necessary to
find some pretext for so odious and absurd a tyranny. Such a
pretext was found. To the old phrases of liberty and equality
were added the sonorous watchwords, unity and indivisability. A
new crime was invented, and called by the name of federalism.
The object of the Girondists, it was asserted, was to break up
the great nation into little independent commonwealths, bound
together only by a league like that which connects the Swiss
Cantons or the United States of America. The great obstacle in
the way of this pernicious design was the influence of Paris. To
strengthen the influence of Paris ought therefore to be the chief
object of every patriot.

The accusation brought against the leaders of the Girondist party
was a mere calumny. They were undoubtedly desirous to prevent
the capital from domineering over the republic, and would gladly
have seen the Convention removed for a time to some provincial
town, or placed under the protection of a trusty guard, which
might have overawed the Parisian mob; but there is not the
slightest reason to suspect them of any design against the unity
of the state. Barere, however, really was a federalist, and, we
are inclined to believe, the only federalist in the Convention.
As far as a man so unstable and servile can be said to have felt
any preference for any form of government, he felt a preference
for federal government. He was born under the Pyrenees; he was a
Gascon of the Gascons, one of a people strongly distinguished by
intellectual and moral character, by manners, by modes of speech,
by accent, and by physiognomy, from the French of the Seine and
of the Loire; and he had many of the peculiarities of the race to
which he belonged. When he first left his own province he had
attained his thirty-fourth year, and had acquired a high local
reputation for eloquence and literature. He had then visited
Paris for the first time. He had found himself in a new world.
His feelings were those of a banished man. It is clear also that
he had been by no means without his share of the small
disappointments and humiliations so often experienced by men of
letters who, elated by provincial applause, venture to display
their powers before the fastidious critics of a capital. On the
other hand, whenever he revisited the mountains among which he
had been born, he found himself an object of general admiration.
His dislike of Paris, and his partiality to his native district,
were therefore as strong and durable as any sentiments of a mind
like his could be. He long continued to maintain that the
ascendency of one great city was the bane of France; that the
superiority of taste and intelligence which it was the fashion to
ascribe to the inhabitants of that city were wholly imaginary;
and that the nation would never enjoy a really good government
till the Alsatian people, the Breton people, the people of Bearn,
the people of Provence, should have each an independent
existence, and laws suited to its own tastes and habits. These
communities he proposed to unite by a tie similar to that which
binds together the grave Puritans of Connecticut and the
dissolute slave-drivers of New Orleans. To Paris he was
unwilling to grant even the rank which Washington holds in the
United States. He thought it desirable that the congress of the
French federation should have no fixed place of meeting, but
should sit sometimes at Rouen, sometimes at Bordeaux, sometimes
at his own Toulouse.

Animated by such feelings, he was, till the close of May 1793, a
Girondist, if not an ultra-Girondist. He exclaimed against those
impure and bloodthirsty men who wished to make the public danger
a pretext for cruelty and rapine. "Peril," he said, "could be no
excuse for crime. It is when the wind blows hard, and the waves
run high, that the anchor is most needed; it is when a revolution
is raging, that the great laws of morality are most necessary to
the safety of a state." Of Marat he spoke with abhorrence and
contempt; of the municipal authorities of Paris with just
severity. He loudly complained that there were Frenchmen who
paid to the Mountain that homage which was due to the Convention
alone. When the establishment of the Revolutionary Tribunal was
first proposed, he joined himself to Vergniaud and Buzot, who
strongly objected to that odious measure. "It cannot be,"
exclaimed Barere, "that men really attached to liberty will
imitate the most frightful excesses of despotism!" He proved to
the Convention, after his fashion, out of Sallust, that such
arbitrary courts may indeed, for a time, be severe only on real
criminals, but must inevitably degenerate into instruments of
private cupidity and revenge. When, on the tenth of March, the
worst part of the population of Paris made the first unsuccessful
attempt to destroy the Girondists, Barere eagerly called for
vigorous measures of repression and punishment. On the second of
April, another attempt of the Jacobins of Paris to usurp supreme
dominion over the republic was brought to the knowledge of the
Convention; and again Barere spoke with warmth against the new
tyranny which afflicted France, and declared that the people of
the departments would never crouch beneath the tyranny of one
ambitious city. He even proposed a resolution to the effect that
the Convention would exert against the demagogues of the capital
the same energy which had been exerted against the tyrant Louis.
We are assured that, in private as in public, he at this time
uniformly spoke with strong aversion of the Mountain.

His apparent zeal for the cause of humanity and order had its
reward. Early in April came the tidings of Dumourier's
defection. This was a heavy blow to the Girondists. Dumourier
was their general. His victories had thrown a lustre on the
whole party; his army, it had been hoped, would, in the worst
event, protect the deputies of the nation against the ragged
pikemen of the garrets of Paris. He was now a deserter and an
exile; and those who had lately placed their chief reliance on
his support were compelled to join with their deadliest enemies
in execrating his treason. At this perilous conjuncture, it was
resolved to appoint a Committee of Public Safety, and to arm that
committee with powers, small indeed when compared with those
which it afterwards drew to itself, but still great and
formidable. The moderate party, regarding Barere as a
representative of their feelings and opinions, elected him a
member. In his new situation he soon began to make himself
useful. He brought to the deliberations of the Committee, not
indeed the knowledge or the ability of a great statesman, but a
tongue and a pen which, if others would only supply ideas, never
paused for want of words. His mind was a mere organ of
communication between other minds. It originated nothing; it
retained nothing; but it transmitted everything. The post
assigned to him by his colleagues was not really of the highest
importance; but it was prominent, and drew the attention of all
Europe. When a great measure was to be brought forward, when an
account was to be rendered of an important event, he was
generally the mouthpiece of the administration. He was therefore
not unnaturally considered, by persons who lived at a distance
from the seat of government, and above all by foreigners, who,
while the war raged, knew France only from journals, as the head
of that administration of which, in truth, he was only the
secretary and the spokesman. The author of the History of
Europe, in our own Annual Registers, appears to have been
completely under this delusion.

The conflict between the hostile parties was meanwhile fast
approaching to a crisis. The temper of Paris grew daily fiercer
and fiercer. Delegates appointed by thirty-five of the forty-
eight wards of the city appeared at the bar of the Convention,
and demanded that Vergniaud, Brissot, Guadet, Gensonne,
Barbaroux, Buzot, Petion, Louvet, and many other deputies, should
be expelled. This demand was disapproved by at least three-
fourths of the Assembly, and, when known in the departments,
called forth a general cry of indignation. Bordeaux declared
that it would stand by its representatives, and would, if
necessary, defend them by the sword against the tyranny of Paris.
Lyons and Marseilles were animated by a similar spirit. These
manifestations of public opinion gave courage to the majority of
the Convention. Thanks were voted to the people of Bordeaux for
their patriotic declaration; and a commission consisting of
twelve members was appointed for the purpose of investigating the
conduct of the municipal authorities of Paris, and was empowered
to place under arrest such persons as should appear to have been
concerned in any plot against the authority of the Convention.
This measure was adopted on the motion of Barere.

A few days of stormy excitement and profound anxiety followed;
and then came the crash. On the thirty-first of May the mob of
Paris rose; the palace of the Tuileries was besieged by a vast
array of pikes; the majority of the deputies, after vain
struggles and remonstrances, yielded to violence, and suffered
the Mountain to carry a decree for the suspension and arrest of
the deputies whom the wards of the capital had accused.

During this contest, Barere had been tossed backwards and
forwards between the two raging factions. His feelings, languid
and unsteady as they always were, drew him to the Girondists; but
he was awed by the vigour and determination of the Mountain. At
one moment he held high and firm language, complained that the
Convention was not free, and protested against the validity of
any vote passed under coercion. At another moment he proposed to
conciliate the Parisians by abolishing that commission of twelve
which he had himself proposed only a few days before; and himself
drew up a paper condemning the very measures which had been
adopted at his own instance, and eulogising the public spirit of
the insurgents. To do him justice, it was not without some
symptoms of shame that he read his document from the tribune,
where he had so often expressed very different sentiments. It is
said that, at some passages, he was even seen to blush. It may
have been so; he was still in his novitiate of infamy.

Some days later he proposed that hostages for the personal safety
of the accused deputies should be sent to the departments, and
offered to be himself one of those hostages. Nor do we in the
least doubt that the offer was sincere. He would, we firmly
believe, have thought himself far safer at Bordeaux or Marseilles
than at Paris. His proposition, however, was not carried into
effect; and he remained in the power of the victorious Mountain.

This was the great crisis of his life. Hitherto he had done
nothing inexpiable, nothing which marked him out as a much worse
man than most of his colleagues in the Convention. His voice had
generally been on the side of moderate measures. Had he bravely
cast in his lot with the Girondists, and suffered with them, he
would, like them, have had a not dishonourable place in history.
Had he, like the great body of deputies who meant well, but who
had not the courage to expose themselves to martyrdom, crouched
quietly under the dominion of the triumphant minority, and
suffered every motion of Robespierre and Billaud to pass
unopposed, he would have incurred no peculiar ignominy. But it
is probable that this course was not open to him. He had been
too prominent among the adversaries of the Mountain to be
admitted to quarter without making some atonement. It was
necessary that, if he hoped to find pardon from his new lords, he
should not be merely a silent and passive slave. What passed in
private between him and them cannot be accurately related; but
the result was soon apparent. The Committee of Public Safety was
renewed. Several of the fiercest of the dominant faction,
Couthon for example, and Saint Just, were substituted for more
moderate politicians; but Barere was suffered to retain his seat
at the Board.

The indulgence with which he was treated excited the murmurs of
some stern and ardent zealots. Marat, in the very last words
that he wrote, words not published till the dagger of Charlotte
Corday had avenged France and mankind, complained that a man who
had no principles, who was always on the side of the strongest,
who had been a royalist, and who was ready, in case of a turn of
fortune, to be a royalist again, should be entrusted with an
important share in the administration. (See the "Publiciste" of
the 14th July, 1793. Marat was stabbed on the evening of the
13th.) But the chiefs of the Mountain judged more correctly.
They knew, indeed, as well as Marat, that Barere was a man
utterly without faith or steadiness; that, if he could be said to
have any political leaning, his leaning was not towards them;
that he felt for the Girondist party that faint and wavering sort
of preference of which alone his nature was susceptible; and
that, if he had been at liberty to make his choice, he would
rather have murdered Robespierre and Danton than Vergniaud and
Gensonne. But they justly appreciated that levity which made him
incapable alike of earnest love and of earnest hatred, and that
meanness which made it necessary to him to have a master. In
truth, what the planters of Carolina and Louisiana say of black
men with flat noses and woolly hair was strictly true of Barere.
The curse of Canaan was upon him. He was born a slave. Baseness
was an instinct in him. The impulse which drove him from a party
in adversity to a party in prosperity was as irresistible as that
which drives the cuckoo and the swallow towards the sun when the
dark and cold months are approaching. The law which doomed him
to be the humble attendant of stronger spirits resembled the law
which binds the pilot fish to the shark. "Ken ye," said a shrewd
Scotch lord, who was asked his opinion of James the First--"Ken
ye a John Ape? If I have Jacko by the collar, I can make him
bite you; but, if you have Jacko, you can make him bite me."
Just such a creature was Barere. In the hands of the Girondists
he would have been eager to proscribe the Jacobins; he was just
as ready, in the gripe of the Jacobins, to proscribe the
Girondists. On the fidelity of such a man the heads of the
Mountain could not, of course, reckon; but they valued their
conquest as the very easy and not very delicate lover in
Congreve's lively song valued the conquest of a prostitute of a
different kind. Barere was, like Chloe, false and common; but he
was, like Chloe, constant while possessed; and they asked no
more. They needed a service which he was perfectly competent to
perform. Destitute as he was of all the talents both of an
active and of a speculative statesman, he could with great
facility draw up a report, or make a speech on any subject and on
any side. If other people would furnish facts and thoughts, he
could always furnish phrases; and this talent was absolutely at
the command of his owners for the time being. Nor had he excited
any angry passion among those to whom he had hitherto been
opposed. They felt no more hatred to him than they felt to the
horses which dragged the cannon of the Duke of Brunswick and of
the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. The horses had only done according to
their kind, and would, if they fell into the hands of the French,
drag with equal vigour and equal docility the guns of the
republic, and therefore ought not merely to be spared, but to be
well fed and curried. So was it with Barere. He was of a nature
so low, that it might be doubted whether he could properly be an
object of the hostility of reasonable beings. He had not been an
enemy; he was not now a friend. But he had been an annoyance;
and he would now be a help.

But, though the heads of the Mountain pardoned this man, and
admitted him into partnership with themselves, it was not without
exacting pledges such as made it impossible for him, false and
fickle as he was, ever again to find admission into the ranks
which he had deserted. That was truly a terrible sacrament by
which they admitted the apostate into their communion. They
demanded of him that he should himself take the most prominent
part in murdering his old friends. To refuse was as much as his
life was worth. But what is life worth when it is only one long
agony of remorse and shame? These, however, are feelings of
which it is idle to talk, when we are considering the conduct of
such a man as Barere. He undertook the task, mounted the
tribune, and told the Convention that the time was come for
taking the stern attitude of justice, and for striking at all
conspirators without distinction. He then moved that Buzot,
Barbaroux, Petion, and thirteen other deputies, should be placed
out of the pale of the law, or, in other words, beheaded without
a trial; and that Vergniaud, Guadet, Gensonne, and six others,
should be impeached. The motion was carried without debate.

We have already seen with what effrontery Barere has denied, in
these Memoirs, that he took any part against the Girondists.
This denial, we think, was the only thing wanting to make his
infamy complete. The most impudent of all lies was a fit
companion for the foulest of all murders.

Barere, however, had not yet earned his pardon. The Jacobin
party contained one gang which, even in that party, was pre-
eminent in every mean and every savage vice; a gang so low-minded
and so inhuman that, compared with them, Robespierre might be
called magnanimous and merciful. Of these wretches Hebert was
perhaps the best representative. His favourite amusement was to
torment and insult the miserable remains of that great family
which, having ruled France during eight hundred years, had now
become an object of pity to the humblest artisan or peasant. The
influence of this man, and of men like him, induced the Committee
of Public Safety to determine that Marie Antoinette should be
sent to the scaffold. Barere was again summoned to his duty.
Only four days after he had proposed the decrees against the
Girondist deputies he again mounted the tribune, in order to move
that the Queen should be brought before the Revolutionary
Tribunal. He was improving fast in the society of his new
allies. When he asked for the heads of Vergniaud and Petion he
had spoken like a man who had some slight sense of his own guilt
and degradation: he had said little; and that little had not
been violent. The office of expatiating on the guilt of his old
friends he had left to Saint Just. Very different was Barere's
second appearance in the character of an accuser. He now cried
out for blood in the eager tones of the true and burning thirst,
and raved against the Austrian woman with the virulence natural
to a coward who finds himself at liberty to outrage that which he
has feared and envied. We have already exposed the shameless
mendacity with which, in these Memoirs, he attempts to throw the
blame of his own guilt on the guiltless.

On the day on which the fallen Queen was dragged, already more
than half dead, to her doom, Barere regaled Robespierre and some
other Jacobins at a tavern. Robespierre's acceptance of the
invitation caused some surprise to those who knew how long and
how bitterly it was his nature to hate. "Robespierre of the
party!" muttered Saint Just. "Barere is the only man whom
Robespierre has forgiven." We have an account of this singular
repast from one of the guests. Robespierre condemned the
senseless brutality with which Hebert had conducted the
proceedings against the Austrian woman, and, in talking on that
subject, became so much excited that he broke his plate in the
violence of his gesticulation. Barere exclaimed that the
guillotine had cut a diplomatic knot which it might have been
difficult to untie. In the intervals between the Beaune and the
Champagne, between the ragout of thrushes and the partridge with
truffles, he fervently preached his new political creed. "The
vessel of the revolution," he said, "can float into port only on
waves of blood. We must begin with the members of the National
Assembly and of the Legislative Assembly. That rubbish must be
swept away."

As he talked at table he talked in the Convention. His peculiar
style of oratory was now formed. It was not altogether without
ingenuity and liveliness. But in any other age or country it
would have been thought unfit for the deliberations of a grave
assembly, and still more unfit for state papers. It might,
perhaps, succeed at a meeting of a Protestant Association in
Exeter Hall, at a Repeal dinner in Ireland, after men had well
drunk, or in an American oration on the fourth of July. No
legislative body would now endure it. But in France, during the
reign of the Convention, the old laws of composition were held in
as much contempt as the old government or the old creed. Correct
and noble diction belonged, like the etiquette of Versailles and
the solemnities of Notre Dame, to an age which had passed away.
Just as a swarm of ephemeral constitutions, democratic,
directorial, and consular, sprang from the decay of the ancient
monarchy; just as a swarm of new superstitions, the worship of
the Goddess of Reason, and the fooleries of the Theo-
philanthropists, sprang from the decay of the ancient Church;
even so, out of the decay of the ancient French eloquence sprang
new fashions of eloquence, for the understanding of which new
grammars and dictionaries were necessary. The same innovating
spirit which altered the common phrases of salutation, which
turned hundreds of Johns and Peters into Scaevolas and
Aristogitons, and which expelled Sunday and Monday, January and
February, Lady-day and Christmas, from the calendar, in order to
substitute Decadi and Primidi, Nivose and Pluviose, Feasts of
Opinion and Feasts of the Supreme Being, changed all the forms of
official correspondence. For the calm, guarded, and sternly
courteous language which governments had long been accustomed to
employ, were substituted puns, interjections, Ossianic rants,
rhetoric worthy only of a schoolboy, scurrility worthy only of a
fishwife. Of the phraseology which was now thought to be
peculiarly well suited to a report or a manifesto Barere had a
greater command than any man of his time, and, during the short
and sharp paroxysm of the revolutionary delirium, passed for a
great orator. When the fit was over, he was considered as what
he really was, a man of quick apprehension and fluent elocution,
with no originality, with little information, and with a taste as
bad as his heart. His Reports were popularly called Carmagnoles.
A few months ago we should have had some difficulty in conveying
to an English reader an exact notion of the state papers to which
this appellation was given. Fortunately a noble and
distinguished person, whom her Majesty's Ministers have thought
qualified to fill the most important post in the empire, has made
our task easy. Whoever has read Lord Ellenborough's
proclamations is able to form a complete idea of a Carmagnole.

The effect which Barere's discourses at one time produced is not
to be wholly attributed to the perversion of the national taste.
The occasions on which he rose were frequently such as would have
secured to the worst speaker a favourable hearing. When any
military advantage had been gained, he was generally deputed by
the Committee of Public Safety to announce the good news. The
hall resounded with applause as he mounted the tribune, holding
the despatches in his hand. Deputies and strangers listened with
delight while he told them that victory was the order of the day;
that the guineas of Pitt had been vainly lavished to hire
machines six feet high, carrying guns; that the flight of the
English leopard deserved to be celebrated by Tyrtaeus; and that
the saltpetre dug out of the cellars of Paris had been turned
into thunder, which would crush the Titan brethren, George and

Meanwhile the trial of the accused Girondists, who were under
arrest in Paris, came on. They flattered themselves with a vain
hope of escape. They placed some reliance on their innocence,
and some reliance on their eloquence. They thought that shame
would suffice to restrain any man, however violent and cruel,
from publicly committing the flagrant iniquity of condemning them
to death. The Revolutionary Tribunal was new to its functions.
No member of the Convention had yet been executed; and it was
probable that the boldest Jacobin would shrink from being the
first to violate the sanctity which was supposed to belong to the
representatives of the people.

The proceedings lasted some days. Gensonne and Brissot defended
themselves with great ability and presence of mind against the
vile Hebert and Chaumette, who appeared as accusers. The
eloquent voice of Vergniaud was heard for the last time. He
pleaded his own cause and that of his friends, with such force of
reason and elevation of sentiment that a murmur of pity and
admiration rose from the audience. Nay, the court itself, not
yet accustomed to riot in daily carnage, showed signs of emotion.
The sitting was adjourned; and a rumour went forth that there
would be an acquittal. The Jacobins met, breathing vengeance.
Robespierre undertook to be their organ. He rose on the
following day in the Convention, and proposed a decree of such
atrocity that even among the acts of that year it can hardly be
paralleled. By this decree the tribunal was empowered to cut
short the defence of the prisoners, to pronounce the case clear,
and to pass immediate judgment. One deputy made a faint
opposition. Barere instantly sprang up to support Robespierre--
Barere, the federalist; Barere, the author of that Commission of
Twelve which was among the chief causes of the hatred borne by
Paris to the Girondists; Barere, who in these Memoirs denies that
he ever took any part against the Girondists; Barere, who has the
effrontery to declare that he greatly loved and esteemed
Vergniaud. The decree was passed; and the tribunal, without
suffering the prisoners to conclude what they had to say,
pronounced them guilty.

The following day was the saddest in the sad history of the
Revolution. The sufferers were so innocent, so brave, so
eloquent, so accomplished, so young. Some of them were graceful
and handsome youths of six or seven and twenty. Vergniaud and
Gensonne were little more than thirty. They had been only a few
months engaged in public affairs. In a few months the fame of
their genius had filled Europe; and they were to die for no crime
but this, that they had wished to combine order, justice, and
mercy with freedom. Their great fault was want of courage. We
mean want of political courage--of that courage which is proof to
clamour and obloquy, and which meets great emergencies by daring
and decisive measures. Alas! they had but too good an
opportunity of proving that they did not want courage to endure
with manly cheerfulness the worst that could be inflicted by such
tyrants as Saint Just, and such slaves as Barere.

They were not the only victims of the noble cause. Madame Roland
followed them to the scaffold with a spirit as heroic as their
own. Her husband was in a safe hiding-place, but could not bear
to survive her. His body was found on the high road near Rouen.
He had fallen on his sword. Condorcet swallowed opium. At
Bordeaux the steel fell on the necks of the bold and quick-witted
Guadet and of Barbaroux, the chief of those enthusiasts from the
Rhone whose valour, in the great crisis of the tenth of August,
had turned back the tide of battle from the Louvre to the
Tuileries. In a field near the Garonne was found all that the
wolves had left of Petion, once honoured, greatly indeed beyond
his deserts, as the model of republican virtue. We are far from
regarding even the best of the Girondists with unmixed
admiration; but history owes to them this honourable testimony,
that, being free to choose whether they would be oppressors or
victims, they deliberately and firmly resolved rather to suffer
injustice than to inflict it.

And now began that strange period known by the name of the Reign
of Terror. The Jacobins had prevailed. This was their hour, and
the power of darkness. The Convention was subjugated and reduced
to profound silence on the highest questions of state. The
sovereignty passed to the Committee of Public Safety. To the
edicts framed by that Committee the representative assembly did
not venture to offer even the species of opposition which the
ancient parliament had frequently offered to the mandates of the
ancient kings. Six persons held the chief power in the small
cabinet which now domineered over France--Robespierre, Saint
Just, Couthon, Collot, Billaud, and Barere.

To some of these men, and of those who adhered to them, it is due
to say that the fanaticism which had emancipated them from the
restraints of justice and compassion had emancipated them also
from the dominion of vulgar cupidity and of vulgar fear; that,
while hardly knowing where to find an assignat of a few francs to
pay for a dinner, they expended with strict integrity the immense
revenue which they collected by every art of rapine; and that
they were ready, in support of their cause, to mount the scaffold
with as much indifference as they showed when they signed the
death-warrants of aristocrats and priests. But no great party
can be composed of such materials as these. It is the inevitable
law that such zealots as we have described shall collect around
them a multitude of slaves, of cowards, and of libertines, whose
savage tempers and licentious appetites, withheld only by the
dread of law and magistracy from the worst excesses, are called
into full activity by the hope of immunity. A faction which,
from whatever motive, relaxes the great laws of morality is
certain to be joined by the most immoral part of the community.
This has been repeatedly proved in religious wars. The war of
the Holy Sepulchre, the Albigensian war, the Huguenot war, the
Thirty Years' war, all originated in pious zeal. That zeal
inflamed the champions of the Church to such a point that they
regarded all generosity to the vanquished as a sinful weakness.
The infidel, the heretic, was to be run down like a mad dog. No
outrage committed by the Catholic warrior on the miscreant enemy
could deserve punishment. As soon as it was known that boundless
license was thus given to barbarity and dissoluteness, thousands
of wretches who cared nothing for the sacred cause, but who were
eager to be exempted from the police of peaceful cities, and the
discipline of well-governed camps, flocked to the standard of the
faith. The men who had set up that statute were sincere, chaste,
regardless of lucre, and perhaps, where only themselves were
concerned, not unforgiving; but round that standard were
assembled such gangs of rogues, ravishers, plunderers, and
ferocious bravoes, as were scarcely ever found under the flag of
any state engaged in a mere temporal quarrel. In a very similar
way was the Jacobin party composed. There was a small nucleus of
enthusiasts; round that nucleus was gathered a vast mass of
ignoble depravity; and in all that mass there was nothing so
depraved and so ignoble as Barere.

Then came those days when the most barbarous of all codes was
administered by the most barbarous of all tribunals; when no man
could greet his neighbours, or say his prayers, or dress his
hair, without danger of committing a capital crime; when spies
lurked in every corner; when the guillotine was long and hard at
work every morning; when the jails were filled as close as the
hold of a slave-ship; when the gutters ran foaming with blood
into the Seine; when it was death to be great-niece of a captain
of the royal guards, or half-brother of a doctor of the Sorbonne,
to express a doubt whether assignats would not fall, to hint that
the English had been victorious in the action of the first of
June, to have a copy of one of Burke's pamphlets locked up in a
desk, to laugh at a Jacobin for taking the name of Cassius or
Timoleon, or to call the Fifth Sansculottide by its old
superstitious name of St Matthew's Day. While the daily waggon-
loads of victims were carried to their doom through the streets
of Paris, the Proconsuls whom the sovereign Committee had sent
forth to the departments revelled in an extravagance of cruelty
unknown even in the capital. The knife of the deadly machine
rose and fell too slow for their work of slaughter. Long rows of
captives were mowed down with grapeshot. Holes were made in the
bottom of crowded barges. Lyons was turned into a desert. At
Arras even the cruel mercy of a speedy death was denied to the
prisoners. All down the Loire, from Saumur to the sea, great
flocks of crows and kites feasted on naked corpses, twined
together in hideous embraces. No mercy was shown to sex or age.
The number of young lads and of girls of seventeen who were
murdered by that execrable government is to be reckoned by
hundreds. Babies torn from the breast were tossed from pike to
pike along the Jacobin ranks. One champion of liberty had his
pockets well stuffed with ears. Another swaggered about with the
finger of a little child in his hat. A few months had sufficed
to degrade France below the level of New Zealand.

It is absurd to say that any amount of public danger can justify
a system like this, we do not say on Christian principles, we do
not say on the principles of a high morality, but even on
principles of Machiavellian policy. It is true that great
emergencies call for activity and vigilance; it is true that they
justify severity which, in ordinary times, would deserve the name
of cruelty. But indiscriminate severity can never, under any
circumstances, be useful. It is plain that the whole efficacy of
punishment depends on the care with which the guilty are
distinguished. Punishment which strikes the guilty and the
innocent promiscuously, operates merely like a pestilence or a
great convulsion of nature, and has no more tendency to prevent
offences than the cholera, or an earthquake like that of Lisbon,
would have. The energy for which the Jacobin administration is
praised was merely the energy of the Malay who maddens himself
with opium, draws his knife, and runs amuck through the streets,
slashing right and left at friends and foes. Such has never been
the energy of truly great rulers; of Elizabeth, for example, of
Oliver, or of Frederick. They were not, indeed, scrupulous.
But, had they been less scrupulous than they were, the strength
and amplitude of their minds would have preserved them from
crimes such as those which the small men of the Committee of
Public Safety took for daring strokes of policy. The great Queen
who so long held her own against foreign and domestic enemies,
against temporal and spiritual arms; the great Protector who
governed with more than regal power, in despite both of royalists
and republicans; the great King who, with a beaten army and an
exhausted treasury, defended his little dominions to the last
against the united efforts of Russia, Austria, and France; with
what scorn would they have heard that it was impossible for them
to strike a salutary terror into the disaffected without sending
school-boys and school-girls to death by cart-loads and boat-

The popular notion is, we believe, that the leading Terrorists
were wicked men, but, at the same time, great men. We can see
nothing great about them but their wickedness. That their policy
was daringly original is a vulgar error. Their policy is as old
as the oldest accounts which we have of human misgovernment. It
seemed new in France and in the eighteenth century only because
it had been long disused, for excellent reasons, by the
enlightened part of mankind. But it has always prevailed, and
still prevails, in savage and half-savage nations, and is the
chief cause which prevents such nations from making advances
towards civilisation. Thousands of deys, of beys, of pachas, of
rajahs, of nabobs, have shown themselves as great masters of
statecraft as the members of the Committee of Public Safety.
Djezzar, we imagine, was superior to any of them in their new
line. In fact, there is not a petty tyrant in Asia or Africa so
dull or so unlearned as not to be fully qualified for the
business of Jacobin police and Jacobin finance. To behead people
by scores without caring whether they are guilty or innocent; to
wring money out of the rich by the help of jailers and
executioners; to rob the public creditor, and to put him to death
if he remonstrates; to take loaves by force out of the bakers'
shops; to clothe and mount soldiers by seizing on one man's wool
and linen, and on another man's horses and saddles, without
compensation; is of all modes of governing the simplest and most
obvious. Of its morality we at present say nothing. But surely
it requires no capacity beyond that of a barbarian or a child.
By means like those which we have described, the Committee of
Public Safety undoubtedly succeeded, for a short time, in
enforcing profound submission, and in raising immense funds. But
to en force submission by butchery, and to raise funds by
spoliation, is not statesmanship. The real statesman is he who,
in troubled times, keeps down the turbulent without unnecessarily
harrassing the well-affected; and who, when great pecuniary
resources are needed, provides for the public exigencies without
violating the security of property and drying up the sources of
future prosperity. Such a statesman, we are confident, might, in
1793, have preserved the independence of France without shedding
a drop of innocent blood, without plundering a single warehouse.
Unhappily, the Republic was subject to men who were mere
demagogues and in no sense statesmen. They could declaim at a
club. They could lead a rabble to mischief. But they had no
skill to conduct the affairs of an empire. The want of skill
they supplied for a time by atrocity and blind violence. For
legislative ability, fiscal ability, military ability, diplomatic
ability, they had one substitute, the guillotine. Indeed their
exceeding ignorance, and the barrenness of their invention, are
the best excuse for their murders and robberies. We really
believe that they would not have cut so many throats, and picked
so many pockets, if they had known how to govern in any other

That under their administration the war against the European
Coalition was successfully conducted is true. But that war had
been successfully conducted before their elevation, and continued
to be successfully conducted after their fall. Terror was not
the order of the day when Brussels opened its gates to Dumourier.
Terror had ceased to be the order of the day when Piedmont and
Lombardy were conquered by Bonaparte. The truth is, that France
was saved, not by the Committee of Public Safety, but by the
energy, patriotism, and valour of the French people. Those high
qualities were victorious in spite of the incapacity of rulers
whose administration was a tissue, not merely of crimes, but of

We have not time to tell how the leaders of the savage faction at
length began to avenge mankind on each other: how the craven
Hebert was dragged wailing and trembling to his doom; how the
nobler Danton, moved by a late repentance, strove in vain to
repair the evil which he had wrought, and half redeemed the great
crime of September by man fully encountering death in the cause
of mercy.

Our business is with Barere. In all those things he was not only
consenting, but eagerly and joyously forward. Not merely was he
one of the guilty administration. He was the man to whom was
especially assigned the office of proposing and defending
outrages on justice and humanity, and of furnishing to atrocious
schemes an appropriate garb of atrocious rodomontade. Barere
first proclaimed from the tribune of the Convention that terror
must be the order of the day. It was by Barere that the
Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris was provided with the aid of a
public accuser worthy of such a court, the infamous Fouquier
Tinville. It was Barere who, when one of the old members of the
National Assembly had been absolved by the Revolutionary
Tribunal, gave orders that a fresh jury should be summoned.
"Acquit one of the National Assembly!" he cried. "The Tribunal
is turning against the Revolution." It is unnecessary to say
that the prisoner's head was soon in the basket. It was Barere
who moved that the city of Lyons should be destroyed. "Let the
plough," he cried from the tribune, "pass over her. Let her name
cease to exist. The rebels are conquered; but are they all
exterminated? No weakness. No mercy. Let every one be smitten.
Two words will suffice to tell the whole. Lyons made war on
liberty; Lyons is no more." When Toulon was taken Barere came
forward to announce the event. "The conquest," said the apostate
Brissotine, "won by the Mountain over the Brissotines must be
commemorated by a mark set on the place where Toulon once stood.
The national thunder must crush the house of every trader in the
town. When Camille Desmoulins, long distinguished among the
republicans by zeal and ability, dared to raise his eloquent
voice against the Reign of Terror, and to point out the close
analogy between the government which then oppressed France and
the government of the worst of the Caesars, Barere rose to
complain of the weak compassion which tried to revive the hopes
of the aristocracy. "Whoever," he said, "is nobly born is a man
to be suspected. Every priest, every frequenter of the old
court, every lawyer, every banker, is a man to be suspected.
Every person who grumbles at the course which the Revolution
takes is a man to be suspected. There are whole castes already
tried and condemned. There are callings which carry their doom
with them. There are relations of blood which the law regards
with an evil eye. Republicans of France!" yelled the renegade
Girondist, the old enemy of the Mountain--"Republicans of France!
the Brissotines led you by gentle means to slavery. The Mountain
leads you by strong measures to freedom. Oh! who can count the
evils which a false compassion may produce?" When the friends of
Danton mustered courage to express a wish that the Convention
would at least hear him in his own defence before it sent him to
certain death, the voice of Barere was the loudest in opposition
to their prayer. When the crimes of Lebon, one of the worst, if
not the very worst, of the viceregents of the Committee of Public
Safety, had so maddened the people of the Department of the North
that they resorted to the desperate expedient of imploring the
protection of the Convention, Barere pleaded the cause of the
accused tyrant, and threatened the petitioners with the utmost
vengeance of the government. "These charges," he said, "have
been suggested by wily aristocrats. The man who crushes the
enemies of the people, though he may be hurried by his zeal into
some excesses, can never be a proper object of censure. The
proceedings of Lebon may have been a little harsh as to form."
One of the small irregularities thus gently censured was this:
Lebon kept a wretched man a quarter of an hour under the knife of
the guillotine, in order to torment him, by reading to him,
before he was despatched, a letter, the contents of which were
supposed to be such as would aggravate even the bitterness of
death. "But what," proceeded Barere, "is not permitted to the
hatred of a republican against aristocracy? How many generous
sentiments atone for what may perhaps seem acrimonious in the
prosecution of public enemies? Revolutionary measures are always
to be spoken of with respect. Liberty is a virgin whose veil it
is not lawful to lift."

After this, it would be idle to dwell on facts which would
indeed, of themselves, suffice to render a name infamous, but
which make no perceptible addition to the great infamy of Barere.
It would be idle, for example, to relate how he, a man of
letters, a member of an Academy of Inscriptions, was foremost in
that war against learning, art, and history which disgraced the
Jacobin government; how he recommended a general conflagration of
libraries; how he proclaimed that all records of events anterior
to the Revolution ought to be destroyed; how he laid waste the
Abbey of St Denis, pulled down monuments consecrated by the
veneration of ages, and scattered on the wind the dust of ancient
kings. He was, in truth, seldom so well employed as when he
turned for a moment from making war on the living to make war on
the dead.

Equally idle would it be to dilate on his sensual excesses. That
in Barere as in the whole breed of Neros, Caligulas, and
Domitians whom he resembled, voluptuousness was mingled with
cruelty; that he withdrew, twice in every decade, from the work
of blood, to the smiling gardens of Clichy, and there forgot
public cares in the madness of wine and in the arms of
courtesans, has often been repeated. M. Hippolyte Carnot does
not altogether deny the truth of these stories, but justly
observes that Barere's dissipation was not carried to such a
point as to interfere with his industry. Nothing can be more
true. Barere was by no means so much addicted to debauchery as
to neglect the work of murder. It was his boast that, even
during his hours of recreation, he cut out work for the
Revolutionary Tribunal. To those who expressed a fear that his
exertions would hurt his health, he gaily answered that he was
less busy than they thought. "The guillotine," he said, "does
all; the guillotine governs." For ourselves, we are much more
disposed to look indulgently on the pleasures which he allowed to
himself than on the pain which he inflicted on his neighbours.

"Atque utinam his potius nugis tota illa dedisset
Tempora saevitiae, claras quibus abstulit urbi
Illustresque animas, impune ac vindice nullo."

An immoderate appetite for sensual gratifications is undoubtedly
a blemish on the fame of Henry the Fourth, of Lord Somers, of Mr
Fox. But the vices of honest men are the virtues of Barere.

And now Barere had become a really cruel man. It was from mere
pusillanimity that he had perpetrated his first great crimes.
But the whole history of our race proves that the taste for the
misery of others is a taste which minds not naturally ferocious
may too easily acquire, and which, when once acquired, is as
strong as any of the propensities with which we are born. A very
few months had sufficed to bring this man into a state of mind in
which images of despair, wailing, and death had an exhilarating
effect on him, and inspired him as wine and love inspire men of
free and joyous natures. The cart creaking under its daily
freight of victims, ancient men and lads, and fair young girls,
the binding of the hands, the thrusting of the head out of the
little national sash-window, the crash of the axe, the pool of
blood beneath the scaffold, the heads rolling by scores in the
panier--these things were to him what Lalage and a cask of
Falernian were to Horace, what Rosette and a bottle of iced
champagne are to De Beranger. As soon as he began to speak of
slaughter his heart seemed to be enlarged, and his fancy to
become unusually fertile of conceits and gasconades.
Robespierre, Saint Just, and Billaud, whose barbarity was the
effect of earnest and gloomy hatred, were, in his view, men who
made a toil of a pleasure. Cruelty was no such melancholy
business, to be gone about with an austere brow and a whining
tone; it was a recreation, fitly accompanied by singing and
laughing. In truth, Robespierre and Barere might be well
compared to the two renowned hangmen of Louis the Eleventh. They
were alike insensible of pity, alike bent on havoc. But, while
they murdered, one of them frowned and canted, the other grinned
and joked. For our own part, we prefer Jean qui pleure to Jean
qui rit.

In the midst of the funeral gloom which overhung Paris, a gaiety
stranger and more ghastly than the horrors of the prison and the
scaffold distinguished the dwelling of Barere. Every morning a
crowd of suitors assembled to implore his protection. He came
forth in his rich dressing-gown, went round the antechamber,
dispensed smiles and promises among the obsequious crowd,
addressed himself with peculiar animation to every handsome woman
who appeared in the circle, and complimented her in the florid
style of Gascony on the bloom of her cheeks and the lustre of her
eyes. When he had enjoyed the fear and anxiety of his suppliants
he dismissed them, and flung all their memorials unread into the
fire. This was the best way, he conceived, to prevent arrears of
business from accumulating. Here he was only an imitator.
Cardinal Dubois had been in the habit of clearing his table of
papers in the same way. Nor was this the only point in which we
could point out a resemblance between the worst statesman of the
monarchy and the worst statesman of the republic.

Of Barere's peculiar vein of pleasantry a notion may be formed
from an anecdote which one of his intimate associates, a juror of
the revolutionary tribunal, has related. A courtesan who bore a
conspicuous part in the orgies of Clichy implored Barere to use
his power against a head-dress which did not suit her style of
face, and which a rival beauty was trying to bring into fashion.
One of the magistrates of the capital was summoned and received
the necessary orders. Aristocracy, Barere said, was again
rearing its front. These new wigs were counter-revolutionary.
He had reason to know that they were made out of the long fair
hair of handsome aristocrats who had died by the national
chopper. Every lady who adorned herself with the relics of
criminals might justly be suspected of incivism. This ridiculous
lie imposed on the authorities of Paris. Female citizens were
solemnly warned against the obnoxious ringlets, and were left to
choose between their head-dresses and their heads. Barere's
delight at the success of this facetious fiction was quite
extravagant: he could not tell the story without going into such
convulsions of laughter as made his hearers hope that he was
about to choke. There was something peculiarly tickling and
exhilarating to his mind in this grotesque combination of the
frivolous with the horrible, of false locks and curling-irons
with spouting arteries and reeking hatchets.

But, though Barere succeeded in earning the honourable nicknames
of the Witling of Terror, and the Anacreon of the Guillotine,
there was one place where it was long remembered to his
disadvantage that he had, for a time, talked the language of
humanity and moderation. That place was the Jacobin club. Even
after he had borne the chief part in the massacre of the
Girondists, in the murder of the Queen, in the destruction of
Lyons, he durst not show himself within that sacred precinct. At
one meeting of the society, a member complained that the
committee to which the supreme direction of affairs was
entrusted, after all the changes which had been made, still
contained one man who was not trustworthy. Robespierre, whose
influence over the Jacobins was boundless, undertook the defence
of his colleague, owned there was some ground for what had been
said, but spoke highly of Barere's industry and aptitude for
business. This seasonable interposition silenced the accuser;
but it was long before the neophyte could venture to appear at
the club.

At length a masterpiece of wickedness, unique, we think, even
among Barere's great achievements, obtained his full pardon even
from that rigid conclave. The insupportable tyranny of the
Committee of Public Safety had at length brought the minds of
men, and even of women, into a fierce and hard temper, which
defied or welcomed death. The life which might be any morning
taken away, in consequence of the whisper of a private enemy,
seemed of little value. It was something to die after smiting
one of the oppressors; it was something to bequeath to the
surviving tyrants a terror not inferior to that which they had
themselves inspired. Human nature, hunted and worried to the
utmost, now turned furiously to bay. Fouquier Tinville was
afraid to walk the streets; a pistol was snapped at Collot
D'Herbois; a young girl, animated apparently by the spirit of
Charlotte Corday, attempted to obtain an interview with
Robespierre. Suspicions arose; she was searched; and two knives
were found about her. She was questioned, and spoke of the
Jacobin domination with resolute scorn and aversion. It is
unnecessary to say that she was sent to the guillotine. Barere
declared from the tribune that the cause of these attempts was
evident. Pitt and his guineas had done the whole. The English
Government had organised a vast system of murder, had armed the
hand of Charlotte Corday, and had now, by similar means, attacked
two of the most eminent friends of liberty in France. It is
needless to say that these imputations were, not only false, but
destitute of all show of truth. Nay, they were demonstrably
absurd: for the assassins to whom Barere referred rushed on
certain death, a sure proof that they were not hirelings. The
whole wealth of England would not have bribed any sane person to
do what Charlotte Corday did. But, when we consider her as an
enthusiast, her conduct is perfectly natural. Even those French
writers who are childish enough to believe that the English
Government contrived the infernal machine and strangled the
Emperor Paul have fully acquitted Mr Pitt of all share in the
death of Marat and in the attempt on Robespierre. Yet on
calumnies so futile as those which we have mentioned did Barere
ground a motion at which all Christendom stood aghast. He
proposed a decree that no quarter should be given to any English
or Hanoverian soldier. (M. Hippolyte Carnot does his best to
excuse this decree. His abuse of England is merely laughable.
England has managed to deal with enemies of a very different sort
from either himself or his hero. One disgraceful blunder,
however, we think it right to notice. M. Hippolyte Carnot
asserts that a motion similar to that of Barere was made in the
English Parliament by the late Lord Fitzwilliam. This assertion
is false. We defy M. Hippolyte Carnot to state the date and
terms of the motion of which he speaks. We do not accuse him of
intentional misrepresentation; but we confidently accuse him of
extreme ignorance and temerity. Our readers will be amused to
learn on what authority he has ventured to publish such a fable.
He quotes, not the journals of the Lords, not the Parliamentary
Debates, but a ranting message of the Executive Directory to the
Five Hundred, a message, too, the whole meaning of which he has
utterly misunderstood.) His Carmagnole was worthy of the
proposition with which it concluded. "That one Englishman should
be spared, that for the slaves of George, for the human machines
of York, the vocabulary of our armies should contain such a word
as generosity, this is what the National Convention cannot
endure. War to the death against every English soldier. If last
year, at Dunkirk, quarter had been refused to them when they
asked it on their knees, if our troops had exterminated them all,
instead of suffering them to infest our fortresses by their
presence, the English government would not have renewed its
attack on our frontiers this year. It is only the dead man who
never comes back. What is this moral pestilence which has
introduced into our armies false ideas of humanity? That the
English were to be treated with indulgence was the philanthropic
notion of the Brissotines; it was the patriotic practice of
Dumourier. But humanity consists in exterminating our enemies.
No mercy to the execrable Englishman. Such are the sentiments of
the true Frenchman; for he knows that he belongs to a nation
revolutionary as nature, powerful as freedom, ardent as the
saltpetre which she has just torn from the entrails of the earth.
Soldiers of liberty, when victory places Englishmen at your
mercy, strike! None of them must return to the servile soil of
Great Britain; none must pollute the free soil of France."

The Convention, thoroughly tamed and silenced, acquiesced in
Barere's motion without debate. And now at last the doors of the
Jacobin Club were thrown open to the disciple who had surpassed
his masters. He was admitted a member by acclamation, and was
soon selected to preside.

For a time he was not without hope that his decree would be
carried into full effect. Intelligence arrived from the seat of
war of a sharp contest between some French and English troops, in
which the Republicans had the advantage, and in which no
prisoners had been made. Such things happen occasionally in all
wars. Barere, however, attributed the ferocity of this combat to
his darling decree, and entertained the Convention with another

"The Republicans," he said, "saw a division in red uniform at a
distance. The red-coats are attacked with the bayonet. Not one
of them escapes the blows of the Republicans. All the red-coats
have been killed. No mercy, no indulgence, has been shown
towards the villains. Not an Englishman whom the Republicans
could reach is now living. How many prisoners should you guess
that we have made? One single prisoner is the result of this
great day."

And now this bad man's craving for blood had become insatiable.
The more he quaffed, the more he thirsted. He had begun with the
English; but soon he came down with a proposition for new
massacres. "All the troops," he said, "of the coalesced tyrants
in garrison at Conde, Valenciennes, Le Quesnoy, and Landrecies,
ought to be put to the sword unless they surrender at discretion
in twenty-four hours. The English, of course, will be admitted
to no capitulation whatever. With the English we have no treaty
but death. As to the rest, surrender at discretion in twenty-
four hours, or death, these are our conditions. If the slaves
resist, let them feel the edge of the sword." And then he waxed
facetious. "On these terms the Republic is willing to give them
a lesson in the art of war." At that jest, some hearers, worthy
of such a speaker, set up a laugh. Then he became serious again.
"Let the enemy perish," he cried, "I have already said it from
this tribune. It is only the dead man who never comes back.
Kings will not conspire against us in the grave. Armies will not
fight against us when they are annihilated. Let our war with
them be a war of extermination. What pity is due to slaves whom
the Emperor leads to war under the cane; whom the King of Prussia
beats to the shambles with the flat of the sword; and whom the
Duke of York makes drunk with rum and gin?" And at the rum and
gin the Mountain and the galleries laughed again.

If Barere had been able to effect his purpose, it is difficult to
estimate the extent of the calamity which he would have brought
on the human race. No government, however averse to cruelty,
could, in justice to its own subjects, have given quarter to
enemies who gave none. Retaliation would have been, not merely
justifiable, but a sacred duty. It would have been necessary for
Howe and Nelson to make every French sailor whom they took walk
the plank. England has no peculiar reason to dread the
introduction of such a system. On the contrary, the operation of
Barere's new law of war would have been more unfavourable to his
countrymen than to ours; for we believe that, from the beginning
to the end of the war, there never was a time at which the number
of French prisoners in England was not greater than the number of
English prisoners in France; and so, we apprehend, it will be in
all wars while England retains her maritime superiority. Had the
murderous decree of the Convention been in force from 1794 to
1815, we are satisfied that, for every Englishman slain by the
French, at least three Frenchmen would have been put to the sword
by the English. It is, therefore, not as Englishmen, but as
members of the great society of mankind, that we speak with
indignation and horror of the change which Barere attempted to
introduce. The mere slaughter would have been the smallest part
of the evil. The butchering of a single unarmed man in cold
blood, under an act of the legislature, would have produced more
evil than the carnage of ten such fields as Albuera. Public law
would have been subverted from the foundations; national enmities
would have been inflamed to a degree of rage which happily it is
not easy for us to conceive; cordial peace would have been
impossible. The moral character of the European nations would
have been rapidly and deeply corrupted; for in all countries
those men whose calling is to put their lives in jeopardy for the
defence of the public weal enjoy high consideration, and are
considered as the best arbitrators on points of honour and manly
bearing. With the standard of morality established in the
military profession the general standard of morality must to a
great extent sink or rise. It is, therefore, a fortunate
circumstance that, during a long course of years, respect for the
weak and clemency towards the vanquished have been considered as
qualities not less essential to the accomplished soldier than
personal courage. How long would this continue to be the case,
if the slaying of prisoners were a part of the daily duty of the
warrior? What man of kind and generous nature would, under such
a system, willingly bear arms? Who, that was compelled to bear
arms, would long continue kind and generous? And is it not
certain that, if barbarity towards the helpless became the
characteristic of military men, the taint must rapidly spread to
civil and to domestic life, and must show itself in all the
dealings of the strong with the weak, of husbands with wives, of
employers with work men, of creditors with debtors?

But, thank God, Barere's decree was a mere dead letter. It was
to be executed by men very different from those who, in the
interior of France, were the instruments of the Committee of
Public Safety, who prated at Jacobin Clubs, and ran to Fouquier
Tinville with charges of incivism against women whom they could
not seduce, and bankers from whom they could not extort money.
The warriors who, under Hoche, had guarded the walls of Dunkirk,
and who, under Kleber, had made good the defence of the wood of
Monceaux, shrank with horror from an office more degrading than
that of the hangman. "The Convention," said an officer to his
men, "has sent orders that all the English prisoners shall be
shot." "We will not shoot them" answered a stout-hearted
sergeant. "Send them to the Convention. If the deputies take
pleasure in killing a prisoner, they may kill him themselves, and
eat him too, like savages as they are." This was the sentiment
of the whole army. Bonaparte, who thoroughly understood war, who
at Jaffa and elsewhere gave ample proof that he was not unwilling
to strain the laws of war to their utmost rigour, and whose
hatred of England amounted to a folly, always spoke of Barere's
decree with loathing, and boasted that the army had refused to
obey the Convention.

Such disobedience on the part of any other class of citizens
would have been instantly punished by wholesale massacre; but the
Committee of Public Safety was aware that the discipline which
had tamed the unwarlike population of the fields and cities might
not answer in camps. To fling people by scores out of a boat,
and, when they catch hold of it, to chop off their fingers with a
hatchet, is undoubtedly a very agreeable pastime for a
thoroughbred Jacobin, when the sufferers are, as at Nantes, old
confessors, young girls, or women with child. But such sport
might prove a little dangerous if tried upon grim ranks of
grenadiers, marked with the scars of Hondschoote, and singed by
the smoke of Fleurus.

Barere, however, found some consolation. If he could not succeed
in murdering the English and the Hanoverians, he was amply
indemnified by a new and vast slaughter of his own countrymen and
countrywomen. If the defence which has been set up for the
members of the Committee of Public Safety had been well founded,
if it had been true that they governed with extreme severity only
because the republic was in extreme peril, it is clear that the
severity would have diminished as the peril diminished. But the
fact is, that those cruelties for which the public danger is made
a plea became more and more enormous as the danger became less
and less, and reached the full height when there was no longer
any danger at all. In the autumn of 1793, there was undoubtedly
reason to apprehend that France might be unable to maintain the
struggle against the European coalition. The enemy was
triumphant on the frontiers. More than half the departments
disowned the authority of the Convention. But at that time eight
or ten necks a day were thought an ample allowance for the
guillotine of the capital. In the summer of 1794, Bordeaux,
Toulon, Caen, Lyons, Marseilles, had submitted to the ascendency
of Paris. The French arms were victorious under the Pyrenees and
on the Sambre. Brussels had fallen. Prussia announced her
intention of withdrawing from the contest. The Republic, no
longer content with defending her own independence, was beginning
to meditate conquest beyond the Alps and the Rhine. She was now
more formidable to her neighbours than ever Louis the Fourteenth
had been. And now the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris was not
content with forty, fifty, sixty heads in a morning. It was just
after a series of victories, which destroyed the whole force of
the single argument which has been urged in defence of the system
of terror, that the Committee of Public Safety resolved to infuse
into that system an energy hitherto unknown. It was proposed to
reconstruct the Revolutionary Tribunal, and to collect in the
space of two pages the whole revolutionary jurisprudence. Lists
of twelve judges and fifty jurors were made out from among the
fiercest Jacobins. The substantive law was simply this, that
whatever the tribunal should think pernicious to the republic was
a capital crime. The law of evidence was simply this, that
whatever satisfied the jurors was sufficient proof. The law of
procedure was of a piece with everything else. There was to be
an advocate against the prisoner, and no advocate for him. It
was expressly declared that, if the jurors were in any manner
convinced of the guilt of the prisoner, they might convict him
without hearing a single witness. The only punishment which the
court could inflict was death.

Robespierre proposed this decree. When he had read it, a murmur
rose from the Convention. The fear which had long restrained the
deputies from opposing the Committee was overcome by a stronger
fear. Every man felt the knife at his throat. "The decree,"
said one, "is of grave importance. I move that it be printed and
the debate be adjourned. If such a measure were adopted without
time for consideration, I would blow my brains out at once." The
motion for adjournment was seconded. Then Barere sprang up. "It
is impossible," he said, "that there can be any difference of
opinion among us as to a law like this, a law so favourable in
all respects to patriots; a law which insures the speedy
punishment of conspirators. If there is to be an adjournment, I
must insist that it shall not be for more than three days." The
opposition was overawed; the decree was passed; and, during the
six weeks which followed, the havoc was such as has never been
known before.

And now the evil was beyond endurance. That timid majority which
had for a time supported the Girondists, and which had, after
their fall, contented itself with registering in silence the
decrees of the Committee of Public Safety, at length drew courage
from despair. Leaders of bold and firm character were not
wanting, men such as Fouche and Tallien, who, having been long
conspicuous among the chiefs of the Mountain, now found that
their own lives, or lives still dearer to them than their own,
were in extreme peril. Nor could it be longer kept secret that
there was a schism in the despotic committee. On one side were
Robespierre, Saint Just, and Couthon; on the other, Collot and
Billaud. Barere leaned towards these last, but only leaned
towards them. As was ever his fashion when a great crisis was at
hand, he fawned alternately on both parties, struck alternately
at both, and held himself in readiness to chant the praises or to
sign the death-warrant of either. In any event his Carmagnole
was ready. The tree of liberty, the blood of traitors, the
dagger of Brutus, the guineas of perfidious Albion, would do
equally well for Billaud and for Robespierre.

The first attack which was made on Robespierre was indirect. An
old woman named Catherine Theot, half maniac, half impostor, was
protected by him, and exercised a strange influence over his
mind; for he was naturally prone to superstition, and, having
abjured the faith in which he had been brought up, was looking
about for something to believe. Barere drew up a report against
Catherine, which contained many facetious conceits, and ended, as
might be expected, with a motion for sending her and some other
wretched creatures of both sexes to the Revolutionary Tribunal,
or, in other words, to death. This report, however, he did not
dare to read to the Convention himself. Another member, less
timid, was induced to farther the cruel buffoonery; and the real
author enjoyed in security the dismay and vexation of

Barere now thought that he had done enough on one side, and that
it was time to make his peace with the other. On the seventh of
Thermidor, he pronounced in the Convention a panegyric on
Robespierre. "That representative of the people," he said,
"enjoys a reputation for patriotism, earned by five years of
exertion, and by unalterable fidelity to the principles of
independence and liberty." On the eighth of Thermidor, it became
clear that a decisive struggle was at hand. Robespierre struck
the first blow. He mounted the tribune, and uttered a long
invective on his opponents. It was moved that his discourse
should be printed; and Barere spoke for the printing. The sense
of the Convention soon appeared to be the other way; and Barere
apologised for his former speech, and implored his colleagues to
abstain from disputes which could be agreeable only to Pitt and
York. On the next day, the ever-memorable ninth of Thermidor,
came the real tug of war. Tallien, bravely taking his life in
his hand, led the onset. Billaud followed; and then all that
infinite hatred which had long been kept down by terror burst
forth, and swept every barrier before it. When at length the
voice of Robespierre, drowned by the President's bell, and by
shouts of "Down with the tyrant!" had died away in hoarse
gasping, Barere rose. He began with timid and doubtful phrases,
watched the effect of every word he uttered, and, when the
feeling of the Assembly had been unequivocally manifested,
declared against Robespierre. But it was not till the people out
of doors, and especially the gunners of Paris, had espoused the
cause of the Convention, that Barere felt quite at ease. Then he
sprang to the tribune, poured forth a Carmagnole about
Pisistratus and Catiline, and concluded by moving that the heads
of Robespierre and Robespierre's accomplices should be cut off
without a trial. The motion was carried. On the following
morning the vanquished members of the Committee of Public Safety
and their principal adherents suffered death. It was exactly one
year since Barere had commenced his career of slaughter by moving
the proscription of his old allies the Girondists. We greatly
doubt whether any human being has ever succeeded in packing more
wickedness into the space of three hundred and sixty-five days.

The ninth of Thermidor is one of the great epochs in the history
of Europe. It is true that the three members of the Committee of
Public Safety who triumphed were by no means better men than the
three who fell. Indeed, we are inclined to think that of these
six statesmen the least bad were Robespierre and Saint Just,
whose cruelty was the effect of sincere fanaticism operating on
narrow understandings and acrimonious tempers. The worst of the
six was, beyond all doubt, Barere, who had no faith in any part
of the system which he upheld by persecution; who, while he sent
his fellow-creatures to death for being the third cousins of
royalists, had not in the least made up his mind that a republic
was better than a monarchy; who, while he slew his old friends
for federalism, was himself far more a federalist than any of
them; who had become a murderer merely for his safety, and who
continued to be a murderer merely for his pleasure.

The tendency of the vulgar is to embody everything. Some
individual is selected, and often selected very injudicially, as
the representative of every great movement of the public mind, of
every great revolution in human affairs; and on this individual
are concentrated all the love and all the hatred, all the
admiration and all the contempt, which he ought rightfully to
share with a whole party, a whole sect, a whole nation, a whole
generation. Perhaps no human being has suffered so much from
this propensity of the multitude as Robespierre. He is regarded,
not merely as what he was, an envious, malevolent zealot, but as
the incarnation of Terror, as Jacobinism personified. The truth
is, that it was not by him that the system of terror was carried
to the last extreme. The most horrible days in the history of
the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris were those which immediately
preceded the ninth of Thermidor. Robespierre had then ceased to
attend the meetings of the sovereign Committee; and the direction
of affairs was really in the hands of Billaud, of Collot, and of

It had never occurred to those three tyrants that, in
overthrowing Robespierre, they were overthrowing that system of
terror to which they were more attached than he had ever been.
Their object was to go on slaying even more mercilessly than
before. But they had misunderstood the nature of the great
crisis which had at last arrived. The yoke of the Committee was
broken for ever. The Convention had regained its liberty, had
tried its strength, had vanquished and punished its enemies. A
great reaction had commenced. Twenty-four hours after
Robespierre had ceased to live, it was moved and carried, amidst
loud bursts of applause, that the sittings of the Revolutionary
Tribunal should be suspended. Billaud was not at that moment
present. He entered the hall soon after, learned with
indignation what had passed, and moved that the vote should be
rescinded. But loud cries of "No, no!" rose from those benches
which had lately paid mute obedience to his commands. Barere
came forward on the same day, and abjured the Convention not to
relax the system of terror. "Beware, above all things," he
cried, "of that fatal moderation which talks of peace and of
clemency. Let aristocracy know that here she will find only
enemies sternly bent on vengeance, and judges who have no pity."
But the day of the Carmagnoles was over: the restraint of fear
had been relaxed; and the hatred with which the nation regarded
the Jacobin dominion broke forth with ungovernable violence. Not
more strongly did the tide of public opinion run against the old
monarchy and aristocracy, at the time of the taking of the
Bastile, than it now ran against the tyranny of the Mountain.
From every dungeon the prisoners came forth as they had gone in,
by hundreds. The decree which forbade the soldiers of the
republic to give quarter to the English was repealed by an
unanimous vote, amidst loud acclamations; nor, passed as it was,
disobeyed as it was, and rescinded as it was, can it be with
justice considered as a blemish on the fame of the French nation.
The Jacobin Club was refractory. It was suppressed without
resistance. The surviving Girondist deputies, who had concealed
themselves from the vengeance of their enemies in caverns and
garrets, were readmitted to their seats in the Convention. No
day passed without some signal reparation of injustice; no street
in Paris was without some trace of the recent change. In the
theatre, the bust of Marat was pulled down from its pedestal and
broken in pieces, amidst the applause of the audience. His
carcass was ejected from the Pantheon. The celebrated picture of
his death, which had hung in the hall of the Convention, was
removed. The savage inscriptions with which the walls of the
city had been covered disappeared; and, in place of death and
terror, humanity, the watchword of the new rulers, was everywhere
to be seen. In the meantime, the gay spirit of France, recently
subdued by oppression, and now elated by the joy of a great
deliverance, wantoned in a thousand forms. Art, taste, luxury,
revived. Female beauty regained its empire--an empire
strengthened by the remembrance of all the tender and all the
sublime virtues which women, delicately bred and reputed
frivolous, had displayed during the evil days. Refined manners,
chivalrous sentiments, followed in the train of love. The dawn
of the Arctic summer day after the Arctic winter night, the great
unsealing of the waters, the awakening of animal and vegetable
life, the sudden softening of the air, the sudden blooming of the
flowers, the sudden bursting of old forests into verdure, is but
a feeble type of that happiest and most genial of revolutions,
the revolution of the ninth of Thermidor.

But, in the midst of the revival of all kind and generous
sentiments, there was one portion of the community against which
mercy itself seemed to cry out for vengeance. The chiefs of the
late government and their tools were now never named but as the
men of blood, the drinkers of blood, the cannibals. In some
parts of France, where the creatures of the Mountain had acted
with peculiar barbarity, the populace took the law into its own
hands and meted out justice to the Jacobins with the true Jacobin
measure, but at Paris the punishments were inflicted with order
and decency, and were few when compared with the number, and
lenient when compared with the enormity, of the crimes. Soon
after the ninth of Thermidor, two of the vilest of mankind,
Fouquier Tinville, whom Barere had placed at the Revolutionary
Tribunal, and Lebon, whom Barere had defended in the Convention,
were placed under arrest. A third miscreant soon shared their
fate, Carrier, the tyrant of Nantes. The trials of these men
brought to light horrors surpassing anything that Suetonius and
Lampridius have related of the worst Caesars. But it was
impossible to punish subordinate agents, who, bad as they were,
had only acted in accordance with the spirit of the government
which they served, and, at the same time, to grant impunity to
the heads of the wicked administration. A cry was raised, both
within and without the Convention for justice on Collot, Billaud,
and Barere.

Collot and Billaud, with all their vices, appear to have been men
of resolute natures. They made no submission; but opposed to the
hatred of mankind, at first a fierce resistance, and afterwards a
dogged and sullen endurance. Barere, on the other hand, as soon
as he began to understand the real nature of the revolution of
Thermidor, attempted to abandon the Mountain, and to obtain
admission among his old friends of the moderate party. He
declared everywhere that he had never been in favour of severe
measures; that he was a Girondist; that he had always condemned
and lamented the manner in which the Brissotine deputies had been
treated. He now preached mercy from that tribune from which he
had recently preached extermination. "The time," he said, "has
come at which our clemency may be indulged without danger. We
may now safely consider temporary imprisonment as an adequate
punishment for political misdemeanours." It was only a fortnight
since, from the same place, he had declaimed against the
moderation which dared even to talk of clemency; it was only a
fortnight since he had ceased to send men and women to the
guillotine of Paris, at the rate of three hundred a week. He now
wished to make his peace with the moderate party at the expense
of the Terrorists, as he had, a year before, made his peace with
the Terrorists at the expense of the moderate party. But he was
disappointed. He had left himself no retreat. His face, his
voice, his rants, his jokes, had become hateful to the
Convention. When he spoke he was interrupted by murmurs. Bitter
reflections were daily cast on his cowardice and perfidy. On one
occasion Carnot rose to give an account of a victory, and so far
forgot the gravity of his own character as to indulge in the sort
of oratory which Barere had affected on similar occasions. He
was interrupted by cries of "No more Carmagnoles!" "No more of
Barere's puns!"

At length, five months after the revolution of Thermidor, the
Convention resolved that a committee of twenty-one members should
be appointed to examine into the conduct of Billaud, Collot, and
Barere. In some weeks the report was made. From that report we
learn that a paper had been discovered, signed by Barere, and
containing a proposition for adding the last improvement to the
system of terror. France was to be divided into circuits;
itinerant revolutionary tribunals, composed of trusty Jacobins,
were to move from department to department; and the guillotine
was to travel in their train.

Barere, in his defence, insisted that no speech or motion which
he had made in the Convention could, without a violation of the
freedom of debate, be treated as a crime. He was asked how he
could resort to such a mode of defence, after putting to death so
many deputies on account of opinions expressed in the Convention.
He had nothing to say, but that it was much to be regretted that
the sound principle had ever been violated.

He arrogated to himself a large share of the merit of the
revolution in Thermidor. The men who had risked their lives to
effect that revolution, and who knew that, if they had failed,
Barere would, in all probability, have moved the decree for
beheading them without a trial, and have drawn up a proclamation
announcing their guilt and their punishment to all France, were
by no means disposed to acquiesce in his claims. He was reminded
that, only forty-eight hours before the decisive conflict, he
had, in the tribune, been profuse of adulation to Robespierre.
His answer to this reproach is worthy of himself. "It was
necessary," he said, "to dissemble. It was necessary to flatter
Robespierre's vanity, and, by panegyric, to impel him to the
attack. This was the motive which induced me to load him with
those praises of which you complain. Who ever blamed Brutus for
dissembling with Tarquin?"

The accused triumvirs had only one chance of escaping punishment.
There was severe distress at that moment among the working people
of the capital. This distress the Jacobins attributed to the
reaction of Thermidor, to the lenity with which the aristocrats
were now treated, and to the measures which had been adopted
against the chiefs of the late administration. Nothing is too
absurd to be believed by a populace which has not breakfasted,
and which does not know how it is to dine. The rabble of the
Faubourg St Antoine rose, menaced the deputies, and demanded with
loud cries the liberation of the persecuted patriots. But the
Convention was no longer such as it had been, when similar means
were employed too successfully against the Girondists. Its
spirit was roused. Its strength had been proved. Military means
were at its command. The tumult was suppressed: and it was
decreed that same evening that Collot, Billaud, and Barere should
instantly be removed to a distant place of confinement.

The next day the order of the Convention was executed. The
account which Barere has given of his journey is the most
interesting and the most trustworthy part of these Memoirs.
There is no witness so infamous that a court of justice will not
take his word against himself; and even Barere may be believed
when he tells us how much he was hated and despised.

The carriage in which he was to travel passed, surrounded by
armed men, along the street of St Honore. A crowd soon gathered
round it and increased every moment. On the long flight of steps
before the church of St Roch stood rows of eager spectators. It
was with difficulty that the coach could make its way through
those who hung upon it, hooting, cursing, and striving to burst
the doors. Barere thought his life in danger, and was conducted
at his own request to a public office, where he hoped that he
might find shelter till the crowd should disperse. In the
meantime, another discussion on his fate took place in the
Convention. It was proposed to deal with him as he had dealt
with better men, to put him out of the pale of the law, and to
deliver him at once without any trial to the headsman. But the
humanity which, since the ninth of Thermidor, had generally
directed the public councils restrained the deputies from taking
this course.

It was now night; and the streets gradually became quiet. The
clock struck twelve; and Barere, under a strong guard, again set
forth on his journey. He was conducted over the river to the
place where the Orleans road branches off from the southern
boulevard. Two travelling carriages stood there. In one of them
was Billaud, attended by two officers; in the other two more
officers were waiting to receive Barere. Collot was already on
the road.

At Orleans, a city which had suffered cruelly from the Jacobin
tyranny, the three deputies were surrounded by a mob bent on
tearing them to pieces. All the national guards of the
neighbourhood were assembled; and this force was not greater than
the emergency required; for the multitude pursued the carriages
far on the road to Blois.

At Amboise the prisoners learned that Tours was ready to receive
them. The stately bridge was occupied by a throng of people, who
swore that the men under whose rule the Loire had been choked
with corpses should have full personal experience of the nature
of a noyade. In consequence of this news, the officers who had
charge of the criminals made such arrangements that the carriages
reached Tours at two in the morning, and drove straight to the
post-house. Fresh horses were instantly ordered; and the
travellers started again at full gallop. They had, in truth, not
a moment to lose; for the alarm had been given; lights were seen
in motion; and the yells of a great multitude, disappointed of
its revenge, mingled with the sound of the departing wheels.

At Poitiers there was another narrow escape. As the prisoners
quitted the post-house, they saw the whole population pouring in
fury down the steep declivity on which the city is built. They
passed near Niort, but could not venture to enter it. The
inhabitants came forth with threatening aspect, and vehemently
cried to the postillions to stop; but the postillions urged the
horses to full speed, and soon left the town behind. Through
such dangers the men of blood were brought in safety to Rochelle.

Oleron was the place of their destination, a dreary island beaten
by the raging waves of the Bay of Biscay. The prisoners were
confined in the castle; each had a single chamber, at the door of
which a guard was placed; and each was allowed the ration of a
single soldier. They were not allowed to communicate either with
the garrison or with the population of the island; and soon after
their arrival they were denied the indulgence of walking on the
ramparts. The only place where they were suffered to take
exercise was the esplanade where the troops were drilled.

They had not been long in this situation when news came that the
Jacobins of Paris had made a last attempt to regain ascendency in
the state, that the hall of the Convention had been forced by a
furious crowd, that one of the deputies had been murdered and his
head fixed on a pike, that the life of the President had been for
a time in imminent danger, and that some members of the
legislature had not been ashamed to join the rioters. But troops
had arrived in time to prevent a massacre. The insurgents had
been put to flight; the inhabitants of the disaffected quarters
of the capital had been disarmed; the guilty deputies had
suffered the just punishment of their treason; and the power of
the Mountain was broken for ever. These events strengthened the
aversion with which the system of terror and the authors of that
system were regarded. One member of the Convention had moved
that the three prisoners of Oleron should be put to death;
another, that they should be brought back to Paris, and tried by
a council of war. These propositions were rejected. But
something was conceded to the party which called for severity. A
vessel which had been fitted out with great expedition at
Rochefort touched at Oleron; and it was announced to Collot and
Billaud that they must instantly go on board. They were
forthwith conveyed to Guiana, where Collot soon drank himself to
death with brandy. Billaud lived many years, shunning his
fellow-creatures and shunned by them; and diverted his lonely
hours by teaching parrots to talk. Why a distinction was made
between Barere and his companions in guilt, neither he nor any
other writer, as far as we know, has explained. It does not
appear that the distinction was meant to be at all in his favour;
for orders soon arrived from Paris, that he should be brought to
trial for his crimes before the criminal court of the department
of the Upper Charente. He was accordingly brought back to the
continent, and confined during some months at Saintes, in an old
convent which had lately been turned into a jail.

While he lingered here, the reaction which had followed the great
crisis of Thermidor met with a temporary check. The friends of
the House of Bourbon, presuming on the indulgence with which they
had been treated after the fall of Robespierre, not only ventured
to avow their opinions with little disguise, but at length took
arms against the Convention, and were not put down till much
blood had been shed in the streets of Paris. The vigilance of
the public authorities was therefore now directed chiefly against
the Royalists; and the rigour with which the Jacobins had lately
been treated was somewhat relaxed. The Convention, indeed, again
resolved that Barere should be sent to Guiana. But this decree
was not carried into effect. The prisoner, probably with the
connivance of some powerful persons, made his escape from Saintes
and fled to Bordeaux, where he remained in concealment during
some years. There seems to have been a kind of understanding
between him and the government, that, as long as he hid himself,
he should not be found, but that, if he obtruded himself on the
public eye, he must take the consequences of his rashness.

While the constitution of 1795, with its Executive Directory, its
Council of Elders, and its Council of Five Hundred, was in
operation, he continued to live under the ban of the law. It was
in vain that he solicited, even at moments when the politics of
the Mountain seemed to be again in the ascendant, a remission of
the sentence pronounced by the Convention. Even his fellow-
regicides, even the authors of the slaughter of Vendemiaire and
of the arrests of Fructidor, were ashamed of him.

About eighteen months after his escape from prison, his name was
again brought before the world. In his own province he still
retained some of his early popularity. He had, indeed, never
been in that province since the downfall of the monarchy. The
mountaineers of Gascony were far removed from the seat of
government, and were but imperfectly informed of what passed
there. They knew that their countryman had played an important
part, and that he had on some occasions promoted their local
interests; and they stood by him in his adversity and in his
disgrace with a constancy which presents a singular contrast to
his own abject fickleness. All France was amazed to learn that
the department of the Upper Pyrenees had chosen the proscribed
tyrant a member of the Council of Five Hundred. The council
which, like our House of Commons, was the judge of the election
of its own members, refused to admit him. When his name was read
from the roll, a cry of indignation rose from the benches.
"Which of you," exclaimed one of the members, "would sit by the
side of such a monster?" "Not I, not I!" answered a crowd of
voices. One deputy declared that he would vacate his seat if the
hall were polluted by the presence of such a wretch. The
election was declared null on the ground that the person elected
was a criminal skulking from justice; and many severe reflections
were thrown on the lenity which suffered him to be still at

He tried to make his peace with the Directory, by writing a bulky
libel on England, entitled, the Liberty of the Seas. He seems to
have confidently expected that this work would produce a great
effect. He printed three thousand copies, and in order to defray
the expense of publication, sold one of his farms for the sum of
ten thousand francs. The book came out; but nobody bought it, in
consequence, if Barere is to be believed, of the villainy of Mr
Pitt, who bribed the Directory to order the Reviewers not to
notice so formidable an attack on the maritime greatness of
perfidious Albion.

Barere had been about three years at Bordeaux when he received
intelligence that the mob of the town designed him the honour of
a visit on the ninth of Thermidor, and would probably administer
to him what he had, in his defence of his friend Lebon, described
as substantial justice under forms a little harsh. It was
necessary for him to disguise himself in clothes such as were
worn by the carpenters of the dock. In this garb, with a bundle
of wood shavings under his arm, he made his escape into the
vineyards which surrounded the city, lurked during some days in a
peasant's hut, and, when the dreaded anniversary was over, stole
back into the city. A few months later he was again in danger.
He now thought that he should be nowhere so safe as in the
neighbourhood of Paris. He quitted Bordeaux, hastened undetected
through those towns where four years before his life had been in
extreme danger, passed through the capital in the morning
twilight, when none were in the streets except shop-boys taking
down the shutters, and arrived safe at the pleasant village of St
Ouen on the Seine. Here he remained in seclusion during some
months. In the meantime Bonaparte returned from Egypt, placed
himself at the had of a coalition of discontented parties,
covered his designs with the authority of the Elders, drove the
Five Hundred out of their hall at the point of the bayonet, and
became absolute monarch of France under the name of First Consul.

Barere assures us that these events almost broke his heart; that
he could not bear to see France again subject to a master; and
that if the representatives had been worthy of that honourable
name, they would have arrested the ambitious general who insulted
them. These feelings, however, did not prevent him from
soliciting the protection of the new government, and from sending
to the First Consul a handsome copy of the essay on the Liberty
of the Seas.

The policy of Bonaparte was to cover all the past with a general
oblivion. He belonged half to the Revolution and half to the
reaction. He was an upstart and a sovereign; and had therefore
something in common with the Jacobin, and something in common
with the Royalist. All, whether Jacobins or Royalists, who were
disposed to support his government, were readily received--all,
whether Jacobins or Royalists, who showed hostility to his
government, were put down and punished. Men who had borne a part
in the worst crimes of the Reign of Terror, and men who had
fought in the army of Conde, were to be found close together,
both in his antechambers and in his dungeons. He decorated
Fouche and Maury with the same cross. He sent Arena and Georges
Cadoudal to the same scaffold. From a government acting on such
principles Barere easily obtained the indulgence which the
Directory had constantly refused to grant. The sentence passed
by the Convention was remitted; and he was allowed to reside at
Paris. His pardon, it is true, was not granted in the most
honourable form; and he remained, during some time, under the
special supervision of the police. He hastened, however, to pay
his court at the Luxembourg palace, where Bonaparte then resided,
and was honoured with a few dry and careless words by the master
of France.

Here begins a new chapter of Barere's history. What passed
between him and the Consular government cannot, of course, be so
accurately known to us as the speeches and reports which he made
in the Convention. It is, however, not difficult, from notorious
facts, and from the admissions scattered over these lying
Memoirs, to form a tolerably accurate notion of what took place.
Bonaparte wanted to buy Barere: Barere wanted to sell himself to
Bonaparte. The only question was one of price; and there was an
immense interval between what was offered and what was demanded.

Bonaparte, whose vehemence of will, fixedness of purpose, and
reliance on his own genius were not only great but extravagant,
looked with scorn on the most effeminate and dependent of human
minds. He was quite capable of perpetrating crimes under the
influence either of ambition or of revenge: but he had no touch
of that accursed monomania, that craving for blood and tears,
which raged in some of the Jacobin chiefs. To proscribe the
Terrorists would have been wholly inconsistent with his policy;
but, of all the classes of men whom his comprehensive system
included, he liked them the least; and Barere was the worst of
them. This wretch had been branded with infamy, first by the
Convention, and then by the Council of Five Hundred. The
inhabitants of four or five great cities had attempted to tear
him limb from limb. Nor were his vices redeemed by eminent
talents for administration or legislation. It would be unwise to
place in any honourable or important post a man so wicked, so
odious, and so little qualified to discharge high political
duties. At the same time there was a way in which it seemed
likely that he might be of use to the government. The First
Consul, as he afterwards acknowledged, greatly overrated Barere's
powers as a writer. The effect which the Reports of the
Committee of Public Safety had produced by the camp fires of the
Republican armies had been great. Napoleon himself, when a young
soldier, had been delighted by those compositions, which had much
in common with the rhapsodies of his favourite poet, Macpherson.
The taste, indeed, of the great warrior and statesman was never
very pure. His bulletins, his general orders, and his
proclamations, are sometimes, it is true, masterpieces in their
kind; but we too often detect, even in his best writing, traces
of Fingal, and of the Carmagnoles. It is not strange, therefore,
that he should have been desirous to secure the aid of Barere's
pen. Nor was this the only kind of assistance which the old
member of the Committee of Public Safety might render to the
Consular government. He was likely to find admission into the
gloomy dens in which those Jacobins whose constancy was to be
overcome by no reverse, or whose crimes admitted of no expiation,
hid themselves from the curses of mankind. No enterprise was too
bold or too atrocious for minds crazed by fanatacism, and
familiar with misery and death. The government was anxious to
have information of what passed in their secret councils; and no
man was better qualified to furnish such information than Barere.

For these reasons the First Consul was disposed to employ Barere
as a writer and as a spy. But Barere--was it possible that he
would submit to such a degradation? Bad as he was, he had played
a great part. He had belonged to that class of criminals who
filled the world with the renown of their crimes; he had been one
of a cabinet which had ruled France with absolute power, and made
war on all Europe with signal success. Nay, he had been, though
not the most powerful, yet, with the single exception of
Robespierre, the most conspicuous member of that cabinet. His
name had been a household word at Moscow and at Philadelphia, at
Edinburgh and at Cadiz. The blood of the Queen of France, the
blood of the greatest orators and philosophers of France, was on
his hands. He had spoken; and it had been decreed that the
plough should pass over the great city of Lyons. He had spoken
again; and it had been decreed that the streets of Toulon should
be razed to the ground. When depravity is placed so high as his,
the hatred which it inspires is mingled with awe. His place was
with great tyrants, with Critias and Sylla, with Eccelino and
Borgia; not with hireling scribblers and police runners.

"Virtue, I grant you, is an empty boast;
But shall the dignity of vice be lost?"

So sang Pope; and so felt Barere. When it was proposed to him to
publish a journal in defence of the Consular government, rage and
shame inspired him for the first and last time with something
like courage. He had filled as large a space in the eyes of
mankind as Mr Pitt or General Washington; and he was coolly
invited to descend at once to the level of Mr Lewis Goldsmith.
He saw, too, with agonies of envy, that a wide distinction was
made between himself and the other statesmen of the Revolution
who were summoned to the aid of the government. Those statesmen
were required, indeed, to make large sacrifices of principle; but
they were not called on to sacrifice what, in the opinion of the
vulgar, constitutes personal dignity. They were made tribunes
and legislators, ambassadors and counsellors of state, ministers,
senators, and consuls. They might reasonably expect to rise with
the rising fortunes of their master; and, in truth, many of them
were destined to wear the badge of his Legion of Honour and of
his order of the Iron Crown; to be arch-chancellors and arch-
treasurers, counts, dukes, and princes. Barere, only six years
before, had been far more powerful, far more widely renowned,
than any of them; and now, while they were thought worthy to
represent the majesty of France at foreign courts, while they
received crowds of suitors in gilded antechambers, he was to pass
his life in measuring paragraphs, and scolding correctors of the
press. It was too much. Those lips which had never before been
able to fashion themselves to a No, now murmured expostulation
and refusal. "I could not"--these are his own words--"abase
myself to such a point as to serve the First Consul merely in the
capacity of a journalist, while so many insignificant, low, and
servile people, such as the Treilhards, the Roederers, the
Lebruns, the Marets, and others whom it is superfluous to name,
held the first place in this government of upstarts."

This outbreak of spirit was of short duration. Napoleon was
inexorable. It is said indeed that he was, for a moment, half
inclined to admit Barere into the Council of State; but the
members of that body remonstrated in the strongest terms, and
declared that such a nomination would be a disgrace to them all.
This plan was therefore relinquished. Thenceforth Barere's only
chance of obtaining the patronage of the government was to subdue
his pride, to forget that there had been a time when, with three
words, he might have had the heads of the three consuls, and to
betake himself, humbly and industriously, to the task of
composing lampoons on England and panegyrics on Bonaparte.

It has been often asserted, we know not on what grounds, that
Barere was employed by the government not only as a writer, but
as a censor of the writings of other men. This imputation he
vehemently denies in his Memoirs; but our readers will probably
agree with us in thinking that his denial leaves the question
exactly where it was.

Thus much is certain, that he was not restrained from exercising
the office of censor by any scruple of conscience or honour; for
he did accept an office, compared with which that of censor,
odious as it is, may be called an august and beneficent
magistracy. He began to have what are delicately called
relations with the police. We are not sure that we have formed,
or that we can convey, an exact notion of the nature of Barere's
new calling. It is a calling unknown in our country. It has
indeed often happened in England that a plot has been revealed to
the government by one of the conspirators. The informer has
sometimes been directed to carry it fair towards his accomplices,
and to let the evil design come to full maturity. As soon as his
work is done, he is generally snatched from the public gaze, and
sent to some obscure village or to some remote colony. The use

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