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

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much as the fiercest republican, and with as much reason--for there is no
more difference between domestic occupation performed in one coat or
another, than there is between the party-coloured habit and the jacket.

If the luxury of carriages be an evil, it must be because the horses
employed in them consume the produce of land which might be more
beneficially cultivated: but the gilding, fringe, salamanders, and lions,
in all their heraldic positions, afford an easy livelihood to
manufacturers and artisans, who might not be capable of more laborious

I believe it will generally be found, that most of the republican reforms
are of this description--calculated only to impose on the people, and
disguising, by frivolous prohibitions, their real inutility. The
affectation of simplicity in a nation already familiarized with luxury,
only tends to divert the wealth of the rich to purposes which render it
more destructive. Vanity and ostentation, when they are excluded from
one means of gratification, will always seek another; and those who,
having the means, cannot distinguish themselves by ostensible splendour,
will often do so by domestic profusion.*

* "Sectaries (says Walpole in his Anecdotes of Painting, speaking of
the republicans under Cromwell) have no ostensible enjoyments; their
pleasures are private, comfortable and gross. The arts of civilized
society are not calculated for men who mean to rise on the ruins of
established order." Judging by comparison, I am persuaded these
observations are yet more applicable to the political, than the
religious opinions of the English republicans of that period; for,
in these respects, there is no difference between them and the
French of the present day, though there is a wide one between an
Anabaptist and the disciples of Boulanger and Voltaire.

--Nor can it well be disputed, that a gross luxury is more pernicious
than an elegant one; for the former consumes the necessaries of life
wantonly, while the latter maintains numerous hands in rendering things
valuable by the workmanship which are little so in themselves.

Every one who has been a reflecting spectator of the revolution will
acknowledge the justice of these observations. The agents and retainers
of government are the general monopolizers of the markets, and these men,
who are enriched by peculation, and are on all occasions retailing the
cant phrases of the Convention, on the _purete des moeurs republicains,
et la luxe de la ci-devant Noblesse,_ [The purity of republican manners,
and the luxury of the ci-devant Noblesse.] exhibit scandalous exceptions
to the national habits of oeconomy, at a time too when others more
deserving are often compelled to sacrifice even their essential
accommodations to a more rigid compliance with them.*

* Lindet, in a report on the situation of the republic, declares,
that since the revolution the consumption of wines and every article
of luxury has been such, that very little has been left for
exportation. I have selected the following specimens of republican
manners, from many others equally authentic, as they may be of some
utility to those who would wish to estimate what the French have
gained in this respect by a change of government.

"In the name of the French people the Representatives sent to
Commune Affranchie (Lyons) to promote the felicity of its
inhabitants, order the Committee of Sequestration to send them
immediately two hundred bottles of the best wine that can be
procured, also five hundred bottles of claret, of prime quality, for
their own table. For this purpose the commission are authorized to
take of the sequestration, wherever the above wine can be found.

Done at Commune Affranchie, thirteenth Nivose, second year.
(Signed) "Albitte,
"Deputies of the National Convention."

Extract of a denunciation of Citizen Boismartin against Citizen
Laplanche, member of the National Convention:

"The twenty-fourth of Brumaire, in the second year of the republic,
the Administrators of the district of St. Lo gave orders to the
municipality over which I at that time presided, to lodge the
Representative of the people, Laplanche, and General Siphert, in the
house of Citizen Lemonnier, who was then under arrest at Thorigni.
In introducing one of the founders of the republic, and a French
General, into this hospitable mansion, we thought to put the
property of our fellow-citizen under the safeguard of all the
virtues; but, alas, how were we mistaken! They had no sooner
entered the house, than the provisions of every sort, the linen,
clothes, furniture, trinkets, books, plate, carriages, and even
title-deeds, all disappeared; and, as if they purposely insulted our
wretchedness, while we were reduced to the sad necessity of
distributing with a parsimonious hand a few ounces of black bread to
our fellow-citizens, the best bread, pillaged from Citizen
Lemonnier, was lavished by buckets full to the horses of General
Siphert, and the Representative Laplanche.--The Citizen Lemonnier,
who is seventy years of age, having now recovered his liberty, which
he never deserved to lose, finds himself so entirely despoiled, that
he is at present obliged to live at an inn; and, of property to the
amount of sixty thousand livres, he has nothing left but a single
spoon, which he took with him when carried to one of the Bastilles
in the department de la Manche."

The chief defence of Laplanche consisted in allegations that the
said Citizen Lemonnier was rich, and a royalist, and that he had
found emblems of royalism and fanaticism about the house.

At the house of one of our common friends, I met --------, and so little
did I imagine that he had escaped all the revolutionary perils to which
he had been exposed, that I could almost have supposed myself in the
regions of the dead, or that he had been permitted to quit them, for his
being alive scarcely seemed less miraculous or incredible. As I had not
seen him since 1792, he gave me a very interesting detail of his
adventures, and his testimony corroborates the opinion generally
entertained by those who knew the late King, that he had much personal
courage, and that he lost his crown and his life by political indecision,
and an humane, but ill-judged, unwillingness to reduce his enemies by
force. He assured me, the Queen might have been conveyed out of France
previous to the tenth of August, if she would have agreed to leave the
King and her children behind; that she had twice consulted him on the
subject; but, persisting in her resolution not to depart unaccompanied by
her family, nothing practicable could be devised, and she determined to
share their fate.*

* The gentleman here alluded to has great talents, and is
particularly well acquainted with some of the most obscure and
disastrous periods of the French revolution. I have reason to
believe, whenever it is consistent with his own safety, he will, by
a genuine relation, expose many of the popular falsehoods by which
the public have been misled.

This, as well as many other instances of tenderness and heroism, which
distinguished the Queen under her misfortunes, accord but ill with the
vices imputed to her; and were not such imputations encouraged to serve
the cause of faction, rather than that of morality, these inconsistencies
would have been interpreted in her favour, and candour have palliated or
forgotten the levities of her youth, and remembered only the sorrows and
the virtues by which they were succeeded.

I had, in compliance with your request on my first arrival in France,
made a collection of prints of all the most conspicuous actors in the
revolution; but as they could not be secreted so easily as other papers,
my fears overcame my desire of obliging you, and I destroyed them
successively, as the originals became proscribed or were sacrificed.
Desirous of repairing my loss, I persuaded some friends to accompany me
to a shop, kept by a man of whom they frequently purchased, and whom, as
his principles were known to them, I might safely ask for the articles I
wanted. He shook his head, while he ran over my list, and then told me,
that having preferred his safety to his property, he had disposed of his
prints in the same way I had disposed of mine. "At the accession of a
new party, (continued he,) I always prepare for a domiciliary visit,
clear my windows and shelves of the exploded heads, and replace them by
those of their rivals. Nay, I assure you, since the revolution, our
trade is become as precarious as that of a gamester. The
Constitutionalists, indeed, held out pretty well, but then I was half
ruined by the fall of the Brissotins; and, before I could retrieve a
little by the Hebertists and Dantonists, the too were out of fashion."--
"Well, but the Robespierrians--you must have gained by them?"--"Why,
true; Robespierre and Marat, and Chalier, answered well enough, because
the royalists generally placed them in their houses to give themselves an
air of patriotism, yet they are gone after the rest.--Here, however,
(says he, taking down an engraving of the Abbe Sieyes,) is a piece of
merchandize that I have kept through all parties, religions, and
constitutions--_et le voila encore a la mode,_ ["And now you see him in
fashion again."] mounted on the wrecks, and supported by the remnants of
both his friends and enemies. _Ah! c'est un fin matois."_ ["Ah! He's a
knowing one."]

This conversation passed in a gay tone, though the man added, very
seriously, that the instability of popular factions, and their
intolerance towards each other, had obliged him to destroy to the amount
of some thousand livres, and that he intended, if affairs did not change,
to quit business.

Of all the prints I enquired for, I only got Barrere, Sieyes, and a few
others of less note. Your last commissions I have executed more
successfully, for though the necessaries of life are almost
unpurchaseable, articles of taste, books, perfumery, &c. are cheaper than
ever. This is unfortunately the reverse of what ought to be the case,
but the augmentation in the price of provisions is to be accounted for in
various ways, and that things of the description I allude to do not bear
a price in proportion is doubtless to be attributed to the present
poverty of those who used to be the purchasers of them; while the people
who are become rich under the new government are of a description to seek
for more substantial luxuries than books and essences.--I should however
observe, that the venders of any thing not perishable, and who are not
forced to sell for their daily subsistence, are solicitous to evade every
demand for any article which is to be paid for in assignats.

I was looking at some trinkets in a shop at the Palais Royal, and on my
asking the mistress of it if the ornaments were silver, she smiled
significantly, and replied, she had nothing silver nor gold in the shop,
but if I chose to purchase _en espece,_ she would show me whatever I
desired: _"Mais pour le papier nous n'en avons que trop."_ ["In coin, but
for paper we have already too much of it."]

Many of the old shops are nearly empty, and the little trade which yet
exists is carried on by a sort of adventurers who, without being bred to
any one trade, set up half a dozen, and perhaps disappear three months
afterwards. They are, I believe, chiefly men who have speculated on the
assignats, and as soon as they have turned their capital in a mercantile
way a short time, become apprehensive of the paper, realize it, and
retire; or, becoming bankrupts by some unlucky monopoly, begin a new
career of patriotism.

There is, properly speaking, no money in circulation, yet a vast quantity
is bought and sold. Annuitants, possessors of moderate landed property,
&c., finding it impossible to subsist on their incomes, are forced to
have recourse to the little specie they have reserved, and exchange it
for paper. Immense sums in coin are purchased by the government, to make
good the balance of their trade with the neutral countries for
provisions, so that I should suppose, if this continue a few months, very
little will be left in the country.

One might be tempted to fancy there is something in the atmosphere of
Paris which adapts the minds of its inhabitants to their political
situation. They talk of the day appointed for a revolt a fortnight
before, as though it were a fete, and the most timid begin to be inured
to a state of agitation and apprehension, and to consider it as a natural
vicissitude that their lives should be endangered periodically.

A commission has been employed for some time in devising another new
constitution, which is to be proposed to the Assembly on the thirteenth
of this month; and on that day, it is said, an effort is to be made by
the royalists. They are certainly very numerous, and the interest taken
in the young King is universal. In vain have the journalists been
forbidden to cherish these sentiments, by publishing details concerning
him: whatever escapes the walls of his prison is circulated in impatient
whispers, and requires neither printing nor gazettes a la main to give it

* Under the monarchy people disseminated anecdotes or intelligence
which they did not think it safe to print, by means of these written
gazettes.--I doubt if any one would venture to have recourse to them
at present.

--The child is reported to be ill, and in a kind of stupefaction, so as
to sit whole days without speaking or moving: this is not natural at his
age, and must be the consequence of neglect, or barbarous treatment.

The Committees of Government, and indeed most of the Convention who have
occasionally appeared to give tacit indications of favouring the
royalists, in order to secure their support against the Jacobins, having
now crushed the latter, begin to be seriously alarmed at the projects of
the former.--Sevestre, in the name of the Committee of Public Safety,
has announced that a formidable insurrection may be expected on the
twenty-fifth of Prairial, (thirteenth June,) the Deputies on mission are
ordered to return, and the Assembly propose to die under the ruins of the
republic. They have, notwithstanding, judged it expedient to fortify
these heroic dispositions by the aid of a military force, and a large
number of regular troops are in Paris and the environs. We shall
certainly depart before this menacing epoch: the application for our
passports was made on our first arrival, and Citizen Liebault, Principal
of the Office for Foreign Affairs, who is really very civil, has promised
them in a day or two.

Our journey here was, in fact, unnecessary; but we have few republican
acquaintance, and those who are called aristocrats do not execute
commission of this kind zealously, nor without some apprehensions of
committing themselves.--You will wonder that I find time to write to you,
nor do I pretend to assume much merit from it. We have not often courage
to frequent public places in the evening, and, when we do, I continually
dread some unlucky accident: either a riot between the Terrorists and
Muscadins, within, or a military investment without. The last time we
were at the theatre, a French gentleman, who was our escort, entered into
a trifling altercation with a rude vulgar-looking man, in the box, who
seemed to speak in a very authoritative tone, and I know not how the
matter might have ended, had not a friend in the next box silenced our
companion, by conveying a penciled card, which informed him the person he
was disputing with was a Deputy of the Convention. We took an early
opportunity of retreating, not perfectly at ease about the consequences
which might ensue from Mr. -------- having ventured to differ in opinion
from a Member of the Republican Legislature. Since that time we have
passed our evenings in private societies, or at home; and while Mr.
D-------- devours new pamphlets, and Mrs. D-------- and the lady we lodge
with recount their mutual sufferings at Arras and St. Pelagie, I take the
opportunity of writing.


Paris, June 12, 1795.

The hopes and fears, plots and counterplots, of both royalists and
republicans, are now suspended by the death of the young King. This
event was announced on Tuesday last, and since that time the minds and
conversation of the public have been entirely occupied by it. Latent
suspicion, and regret unwillingly suppressed, are every where visible;
and, in the fond interest taken in this child's life, it seems to be
forgotten that it is the lot of man "to pass through nature to eternity,"
and that it was possible for him to die without being sacrificed by human

All that has been said and written on original equality has not yet
persuaded the people that the fate of Kings is regulated only by the
ordinary dispensations of Providence; and they seem to persist in
believing, that royalty, if it has not a more fortunate pre-eminence, is
at least distinguished by an unusual portion of calamities.

When we recollect the various and absurd stories which have been
propagated and believed at the death of Monarchs or their offspring,
without even a single ground either political or physical to justify
them, we cannot now wonder, when so many circumstances of every kind tend
to excite suspicion, that the public opinion should be influenced, and
attribute the death of the King to poison. The child is allowed to have
been of a lively disposition, and, even long after his seclusion from his
family, to have frequently amused himself by singing at the window of his
prison, until the interest he was observed to create in those who
listened under it, occasioned an order to prevent him. It is therefore
extraordinary, that he should lately have appeared in a state of
stupefaction, which is by no means a symptom of the disorder he is
alledged to have died of, but a very common one of opiates improperly

* In order to account in some way for the state in which the young
King had lately appeared, it was reported that he had been in the
habit of drinking strong liquors to excess. Admitting this to be
true, they must have been furnished for him, for he could have no
means of procuring them.--It is not inapposite to record, that on a
petition being formerly presented to the legislature from the
Jacobin societies, praying that the "son of the tyrant" might be put
to death, an honourable mention in the national bulletin was
unanimously decreed!!!

Though this presumption, if supported by the evidence of external
appearances, may seem but of little weight; when combined with others, of
a moral and political nature, it becomes of considerable importance. The
people, long amused by a supposed design of the Convention to place the
Dauphin on the throne, were now become impatient to see their wishes
realized; or, they hoped that a renewal of the representative body,
which, if conducted with freedom, must infallibly lead to the
accomplishment of this object, would at least deliver them from an
Assembly which they considered as exhausted in talents and degraded in
reputation.--These dispositions were not attempted to be concealed; they
were manifested on all occasions: and a general and successful effort in
favour of the Royal Prisoner was expected to take place on the

* That there were such designs, and such expectations on the part of
the people, is indubitable. The following extract, written and
signed by one of the editors of the _Moniteur,_ is sufficiently
expressive of the temper of the public at this period; and I must
observe here, that the _Moniteur_ is to be considered as nearly
equivalent to an official paper, and is always supposed to express
the sense of government, by whom it is supported and paid, whatever
party or system may happen to prevail:

_"Les esperances les plus folles se manifestent de toutes parts.--
C'est a qui jettera plus promptement le masque--on dirait, a lire
les ecrits qui paraissent, a entendre les conversations des gens qui
se croient dans les confidences, que c'en est fait de la republique:
la Convention, secondee, poussee meme par le zele et l'energie des
bons citoyens a remporte une grande victoire sur les Terroristes,
sur les successeurs de Robespierre, il semble qu'elle n'ait plus
qu'a proclamer la royaute. Ce qui donne lieu a toutes les
conjectures plus ou moins absurdes aux quelles chacun se livre,
c'est l'approche du 25 Prairial."_ (13th June, the day on which the
new constitution was to be presented).

"The most extravagant hopes, and a general impatience to throw off
the mask are manifested on all sides.--To witness the publications
that appear, and to hear what is said by those who believe
themselves in the secret, one would suppose that it was all over
with the republic.--The Convention seconded, impelled even, by the
good citizens, has gained a victory over the Terrorists and the
successors of Robespierre, and now it should seem that nothing
remained to be done by to proclaim royalty--what particularly gives
rise to these absurdities, which exist more or less in the minds of
all, is the approach of the 25th Prairial."
_Moniteur,_ June 6, 1795.

Perhaps the majority of the Convention, under the hope of securing
impunity for their past crimes, might have yielded to the popular
impulse; but the government is no longer in the hands of those men who,
having shared the power of Robespierre before they succeeded him, might,
as Rabaut St. Etienne expressed himself, "be wearied of their portion of

* -"Je suis las de la portion de tyrannie que j'exerce."---"I am
weary of the portion of tyranny which I exercise."
Rabaut de St. Etienne

--The remains of the Brissotins, with their newly-acquired authority,
have vanity, interest, and revenge, to satiate; and there is no reason to
suppose that a crime, which should favour these views, would, in their
estimation, be considered otherwise than venial. To these are added
Sieyes, Louvet, &c. men not only eager to retain their power, but known
to have been of the Orleans faction, and who, if they are royalists, are
not loyalists, and the last persons to whose care a son of Louis the
Sixteenth ought to have been intrusted.

At this crisis, then, when the Convention could no longer temporize with
the expectations it raised--when the government was divided between one
party who had deposed the King to gratify their own ambition, and another
who had lent their assistance in order to facilitate the pretensions of
an usurper--and when the hopes of the country were anxiously fixed on
him, died Louis the Seventeenth. At an age which, in common life, is
perhaps the only portion of our existence unalloyed by misery, this
innocent child had suffered more than is often the lot of extended years
and mature guilt. He lived to see his father sent to the scaffold--to be
torn from his mother and family--to drudge in the service of brutality
and insolence--and to want those cares and necessaries which are not
refused even to the infant mendicant, whose wretchedness contributes to
the support of his parents.*

* It is unnecessary to remind the reader, that the Dauphin had been
under the care of one Simon, a shoemaker, who employed him to clean
his (Simon's) shoes, and in any other drudgery of which his close
confinement admitted.

--When his death was announced to the Convention, Sevestre, the reporter,
acknowledged that Dessault, the surgeon, had some time since declared the
case to be dangerous; yet, notwithstanding policy as well as humanity
required that every appearance of mystery and harshness should, on such
an occasion, be avoided, the poor child continued to be secluded with the
same barbarous jealousy--nor was the Princess, his sister, whose evidence
on the subject would have been so conclusive, ever suffered to approach

No report of Dessault's opinion had till now been made public; and
Dessault himself, who was an honest man, died of an inflammatory disorder
four days before the Dauphin.--It is possible, he might have expressed
himself too freely, respecting his patient, to those who employed him--
his future discretion might be doubted--or, perhaps, he was only called
in at first, that his character might give a sanction to the future
operations of those who were more confided in. But whether this event is
to be ascribed to natural causes, or to that of opiates, the times and
circumstances render it peculiarly liable to suspicions, and the
reputation of those who are involved, is not calculated to repel them.
Indeed, so conscious are the advocates of government, that the imputation
cannot be obviated by pleading the integrity of the parties, that they
seem to rest their sole defence on the inutility of a murder, which only
transfers whatever rights the House of Bourbon may be supposed to
possess, from one branch of it to another. Yet those who make use of
this argument are well aware of its fallaciousness: the shades of
political opinion in France are extremely diversified, and a considerable
part of the Royalists are also Constitutionalists, whom it will require
time and necessity to reconcile to the emigrant Princes. But the young
King had neither enemies nor errors--and his claims would have united the
efforts and affections of all parties, from the friends of the monarchy,
as it existed under Louis the Fourteenth, down to the converted
Republican, who compromises with his principles, and stipulates for the
title of Perpetual President.

That the removal of this child has been fortunate for those who govern,
is proved by the effect: insurrections are no longer talked of, the
royalists are confounded, the point of interest is no more, and a sort of
despondency and confusion prevails, which is highly favourable to a
continuance of the present system.--There is no doubt, but that when
men's minds become more settled, the advantage of having a Prince who is
capable of acting, and whose success will not be accompanied by a long
minority, will conciliate all the reflecting part of the constitutional
royalists, in spite of their political objections. But the people who
are more under the influence of their feelings, and yield less to
expediency, may not, till urged by distress and anarchy, be brought to
take the same interest in the absent claimant of the throne, that they
did in their infant Prince.

It is to be regretted, that an habitual and unconquerable deference for
the law which excludes females from the Crown of France, should have
survived monarchy itself; otherwise the tender compassion excited by the
youth, beauty and sufferings of the Princess, might yet have been the
means of procuring peace to this distracted country. But the French
admire, lament, and leave her to her fate--

"O, shame of Gallia, in one sullen tower
"She wets with royal tears her daily cell;
"She finds keen anguish every rose devour,
"They spring, they bloom, then bid the world farewell.
"Illustrious mourner! will no gallant mind
"The cause of love, the cause of justice own?
"Such claims! such charms! And is no life resign'd
"To see them sparkle from their parent throne?"

How inconsistent do we often become through prejudices! The French are
at this moment governed by adventurers and courtezans--by whatever is
base, degraded, or mean, in both sexes; yet, perhaps, would they blush to
see enrolled among their Sovereigns an innocent and beautiful Princess,
the descendant of Henry the Fourth.

Nothing since our arrival at Paris has seemed more strange than the
eagerness with which every one recounts some atrocity, either committed
or suffered by his fellow-citizens; and all seem to conclude, that the
guilt or shame of these scenes is so divided by being general, that no
share of either attaches to any individual. They are never tired of the
details of popular or judicial massacres; and so zealous are they to do
the honours of the place, that I might, but for disinclination on my
part, pass half my time in visiting the spots where they were
perpetrated. It was but to-day I was requested to go and examine a kind
of sewer, lately described by Louvet, in the Convention, where the blood
of those who suffered at the Guillotine was daily carried in buckets, by
men employed for the purpose.*

* "At the gate of St. Antoine an immense aqueduct had been
constructed for the purpose of carrying off the blood that was shed
at the executions, and every day four men were employed in taking it
up in buckets, and conveying it to this horrid reservoir of
Louvet's Report, 2d May.

--These barbarous propensities have long been the theme of French
satyrists; and though I do not pretend to infer that they are national,
yet certainly the revolution has produced instances of ferocity not to be
paralleled in any country that ever had been civilized, and still less in
one that had not.*

* It would be too shocking, both to decency and humanity, to recite
the more serious enormities alluded to; and I only add, to those I
have formerly mentioned, a few examples which particularly describe
the manners of the revolution.--

At Metz, the heads of the guillotined were placed on the tops of
their own houses. The Guillotine was stationary, fronting the
Town-house, for months; and whoever was observed to pass it with
looks of disapprobation, was marked as an object of suspicion. A
popular Commission, instituted for receiving the revolutionary tax
at this place, held their meetings in a room hung with stripes of
red and black, lighted only with sepulchral lamps; and on the desk
was placed a small Guillotine, surrounded by daggers and swords. In
this vault, and amidst this gloomy apparatus, the inhabitants of
Metz brought their patriotic gifts, (that is, the arbitrary and
exorbitant contributions to which they were condemned,) and laid
them on the altar of the Guillotine, like the sacrifice of fear to
the infernal deities; and, that the keeping of the whole business
might be preserved, the receipts were signed with red ink, avowedly
intended as expressive of the reigning system.

At Cahors, the deputy, Taillefer, after making a triumphal entry
with several waggons full of people whom he had arrested, ordered a
Guillotine to be erected in the square, and some of the prisoners to
be brought forth and decorated in a mock costume representing Kings,
Queens, and Nobility. He then obliged them successively to pay
homage to the Guillotine, as though it had been a throne, the
executioner manoeuvring the instrument all the while, and exciting
the people to call for the heads of those who were forced to act in
this horrid farce. The attempt, however, did not succeed, and the
spectators retired in silent indignation.

At Laval, the head of Laroche, a deputy of the Constituent Assembly,
was exhibited (by order of Lavallee, a deputy there on mission) on
the house inhabited by his wife.--At Auch, in the department of
Gers, d'Artigoyte, another deputy, obliged some of the people under
arrest to eat out of a manger.--Borie used to amuse himself, and the
inhabitants of Nismes, by dancing what he called a farandole round
the Guillotine in his legislative costume.--The representative
Lejeune solaced his leisure hours in beheading animals with a
miniature Guillotine, the expence of which he had placed to the
account of the nation; and so much was he delighted with it, that
the poultry served at his table were submitted to its operation, as
well as the fruits at his dessert! (Debates, June 1.)

But it would be tedious and disgusting to describe all the _menus
plaisirs_ of these founders of the French republic. Let it suffice
to say, that they comprised whatever is ludicrous, sanguinary, and
licentious, and that such examples were but too successful in
procuring imitators. At Tours, even the women wore Guillotines in
their ears, and it was not unusual for people to seal their letters
with a similar representation!

We have been once at the theatre since the King's death, and the stanza
of the _Reveil du Peuple,_ [The rousing of the people.] which contains a
compliment to the Convention, was hissed pretty generally, while those
expressing an abhorrence of Jacobinism were sung with enthusiasm. But
the sincerity of these musical politics is not always to be relied on: a
popular air is caught and echoed with avidity; and whether the words be
_"Peuple Francais, peuple de Freres,"_ ["Brethren."]--or _"Dansons la
Guillotine,"_ the expression with which it is sung is not very different.
How often have the theatres resounded with _"Dieu de clemence et de
justice."_ ["God of mercy and justice."] and _"Liberte, Liberte,
cherie!"_ ["Liberty, beloved Liberty!"] while the instrument of death was
in a state of unceasing activity--and when the auditors, who joined in
these invocations to Liberty, returned to their homes trembling, lest
they should be arrested in the street, or find a mandate or guard at
their own houses.*

* An acquaintance of mine told me, that he was one evening in
company at Dijon, where, after singing hymns to liberty in the most
energetic style, all the party were arrested, and betook themselves
as tranquilly to prison, as though the name of liberty had been
unknown to them. The municipality of Dijon commonly issued their
writs of arrest in this form--"Such and such a person shall be
arrested, and his wife, if he has one!"

--At present, however, the Parisians really sing the _Reveil_ from
principle, and I doubt if even a new and more agreeable air in the
Jacobin interest would be able to supplant it.

We have had our permission to remain here extended to another Decade; but
Mr. D------, who declares, ten times in an hour, that the French are the
strangest people on earth, besides being the most barbarous and the most
frivolous, is impatient to be gone; and as we now have our passports, I
believe we shall depart the middle of next week.


Paris, June 15, 1795.

I am now, after a residence of more than three years, amidst the chaos of
a revolution, on the eve of my departure from France. Yet, while I
joyfully prepare to revisit my own country, my mind involuntarily traces
the rapid succession of calamities which have filled this period, and
dwells with painful contemplation on those changes in the morals and
condition of the French people that seem hitherto to be the only fruits
which they have produced. In this recurrence to the past, and estimation
of the present, however we may regret the persecution of wealth, the
destruction of commerce, and the general oppression, the most important
and irretrievable mischief of the revolution is, doubtless, the
corruption of manners introduced among the middle and lower classes of
the people.

The labouring poor of France have often been described as frugal,
thoughtless, and happy, earning, indeed, but little, yet spending still
less, and in general able to procure such a subsistence as their habits
and climate rendered agreeable and sufficient.*

* Mr. Young seems to have been persuaded, that the common people of
France worked harder, and were worse fed, than those of the same
description in England. Yet, as far as I have had opportunity of
observing, and from the information I have been able to procure, I
cannot help supposing that this gentleman has drawn his inference
partially, and that he has often compared some particular case of
distress, with the general situation of the peasantry in the rich
counties, which are the scene of his experiments. The peasantry of
many distant parts of England fare as coarsely, and labour harder,
than was common in France; and taking their habits of frugality,
their disposition to be satisfied, and their climate into the
account, the situation of the French perhaps was preferable.

Mr. Young's Tour has been quoted very triumphantly by a Noble Lord,
particularly a passage which laments and ascribes to political
causes the appearance of premature old age, observable in French
women of the lower classes. Yet, for the satisfaction of his
Lordship's benevolence and gallantry, I can assure him, that the
female peasants in France have not more laborious occupations than
those of England, but they wear no stays, and expose themselves to
all weathers without hats; in consequence, lose their shape, tan
their complexions, and harden their features so as to look much
older than they really are.--Mr. Young's book is translated into
French, and I have too high an opinion both of his principles and
his talents to doubt that he must regret the ill effects it may have
had in France, and the use that has been made of it in England.

--They are now become idle, profuse, and gloomy; their poverty is
embittered by fanciful claims to riches and a taste for expence. They
work with despair and unwillingness, because they can no longer live by
their labour; and, alternately the victims of intemperance or want, they
are often to be found in a state of intoxication, when they have not been
able to satisfy their hunger--for, as bread cannot always be purchased
with paper, they procure a temporary support, at the expence of their
health and morals, in the destructive substitute of strong liquors.

Those of the next class, such as working tradesmen, artizans, and
domestic servants, though less wretched, are far more dissolute; and it
is not uncommon in great towns to see men of this description unite the
ferociousness of savages with all the vices of systematic profligacy.
The original principles of the revolution, of themselves, naturally
tended to produce such a depravation; but the suspension of religious
worship, the conduct of the Deputies on mission, and the universal
immorality of the existing government, must have considerably hastened
it. When the people were forbidden the exercise of their religion,
though they did not cease to be attached to it, yet they lost the good
effects which even external forms alone are calculated to produce; and
while deism and atheism failed in perverting their faith, they were but
too successful in corrupting their morals.

As in all countries the restraints which religion imposes are more
readily submitted to by the inferior ranks of life, it is these which
must be most affected by its abolition; and we cannot wonder, that when
men have been once accustomed to neglect the duty they consider as most
essential, they should in time become capable of violating every other:
for, however it may be among the learned, _qui s'aveuglent a force de
lumiere,_ [Who blind themselves by excess of light. Destouchet.] with
the ignorant the transition from religious indifference to actual vice is
rapid and certain.

The Missionaries of the Convention, who for two years extended their
destructive depredations over the departments, were every where guilty of
the most odious excesses, and those least culpable offered examples of
licentiousness and intemperance with which, till then, the people had
never been familiar.*

* "When the Convention was elected, (says Durand Maillane, see
Report of the Committee of Legislation, 13th Prairial, 1st June,)
the choice fell upon men who abused the name of patriot, and adopted
it as a cloak for their vices.--Vainly do we inculcate justice, and
expect the Tribunals will bring thieves and assassins to punishment,
if we do not punish those amongst ourselves.--Vainly shall we talk
of republican manners and democratic government, while our
representatives carry into the departments examples of despotism and

The conduct of these civilized banditti has been sufficiently
described. Allard, Lacoste, Mallarme, Milhaud, Laplanche,
Monestier, Guyardin, Sergent, and many others, were not only
ferocious and extravagant, but known to have been guilty of the
meanest thefts. Javoques is alledged to have sacrificed two hundred
people of Montibrison, and to have stolen a vast quantity of their
effects. It was common for him to say, that he acknowledged as true
patriots those only who, like himself, _"etaient capables de boire
une verre de sang,"_--("were capable of drinking a glass of blood.")
D'Artigoyte distinguished himself by such scandalous violations of
morals and decency, that they are not fit to be recited. He often
obliged married women, by menaces, to bring their daughters to the
Jacobin clubs, for the purpose of insulting them with the grossest
obscenities.--Having a project of getting up a play for his
amusement, he caused it to be declared, that those who had any
talents for acting, and did not present themselves, should be
imprisoned as suspects. And it is notorious, that this same Deputy
once insulted all the women present at the theatre, and, after using
the most obscene language for some time, concluded by stripping
himself entirely in presence of the spectators.
Report of the Committee of Legislation, 13th Prairial (1st of

Lacoste and Baudet, when they were on mission at Strasburgh, lived
in daily riot and intoxication with the members of the Revolutionary
Tribunal, who, after qualifying themselves in these orgies,
proceeded to condemn all the prisoners brought before them.--During
the debate following the above quoted report, Dentzel accused
Lacoste, among other larcenies, of having purloined some shirts
belonging to himself; and addressing Lacoste, who was present in the
Assembly, with true democratic frankness, adds, _"Je suis sur qu'il
en a une sur le corps."_--("I am certain he has one of them on at
this moment.") Debate, 1st of June.

The following is a translation of a letter from Piorry,
Representative of the People, to the popular society of Poitiers:--
"My honest and determined _Sans Culottes,_ as you seemed to desire a
Deputy amongst you who has never deviated from the right principles,
that is to say, a true Mountaineeer, I fulfil your wishes in sending
you the Citizen Ingrand.--Remember, honest and determined _Sans
Culottes,_ that with the sanction of the patriot Ingrand, you may do
every thing, obtain every thing, destroy every thing--imprison all,
try all, transport all, or guillotine all. Don't spare him a
moment; and thus, through his means, all may tremble, every thing be
swept away, and, finally, be re-established in lasting order.
(Signed) "Piorry."

The gentleman who translated the above for me, subjoined, that he
had omitted various oaths too bad for translation.--This Piorry
always attended the executions, and as fast as a head fell, used to
wave his hat in the air, and cry, _"Vive la Republique!"_

Such are the founders of the French Republic, and such the means by
which it has been supported!

--It may be admitted, that the lives of the higher Noblesse were not
always edifying; but if their dissipation was public, their vices were
less so, and the scenes of both were for the most part confined to Paris.
What they did not practise themselves, they at least did not discourage
in others; and though they might be too indolent to endeavour at
preserving the morals of their dependents, they knew their own interest
too well to assist in depraving them.

But the Representatives, and their agents, are not to be considered
merely as individuals who have corrupted only by example;--they were
armed with unlimited authority, and made proselytes through fear, where
they failed to produce them from inclination. A contempt for religion or
decency has been considered as the test of an attachment to the
government; and a gross infraction of any moral or social duty as a proof
of civism, and a victory over prejudice. Whoever dreaded an arrest, or
courted an office, affected profaneness and profligacy--and, doubtless,
many who at first assumed an appearance of vice from timidity, in the end
contracted a preference for it. I myself know instances of several who
began by deploring that they were no longer able to practise the duties
of their religion, and ended by ridiculing or fearing them. Industrious
mechanics, who used to go regularly to mass, and bestow their weekly
_liard_ on the poor, after a month's revolutionising, in the suite of a
Deputy, have danced round the flames which consumed the sacred writings,
and become as licentious and dishonest as their leader.

The general principles of the Convention have been adapted to sanction
and accelerate the labours of their itinerant colleagues. The sentences
of felons were often reversed, in consideration of their "patriotism"--
women of scandalous lives have been pensioned, and complimented publicly
--and various decrees passed, all tending to promote a national
dissoluteness of manners.*

* Among others, a decree which gave all illegitimate children a
claim to an equal participation in the property of the father to
whom they should (at the discretion of the mother) be attributed.

--The evil propensities of our nature, which penal laws and moralists
vainly contend against, were fostered by praise, and stimulated by
reward--all the established distinctions of right and wrong confounded--
and a system of revolutionary ethics adopted, not less incompatible with
the happiness of mankind than revolutionary politics.

Thus, all the purposes for which this general demoralization was
promoted, being at length attained, those who were rich having been
pillaged, those who were feared massacred, and a croud of needy and
desperate adventurers attached to the fate of the revolution, the
expediency of a reform has lately been suggested. But the mischief is
already irreparable. Whatever was good in the national character is
vitiated; and I do not scruple to assert, that the revolution has both
destroyed the morals of the people, and rendered their condition less
happy*--that they are not only removed to a greater distance from the
possession of rational liberty, but are become more unfit for it than

* It has been asserted, with a view to serve the purposes of party,
that the condition of the lower classes in France was mended by the
revolution. If those who advance this were not either partial or
ill-informed, they would observe that the largesses of the
Convention are always intended to palliate some misery, the
consequence of the revolution, and not to banish what is said to
have existed before. For the most part, these philanthropic
projects are never carried into effect, and when they are, it is to
answer political purposes.--For instance, many idle people are kept
in pay to applaud at the debates and executions, and assignats are
distributed to those who have sons serving in the army. The
tendency of both these donations needs no comment. The last, which
is the most specious, only affords a means of temporary profusion to
people whose children are no incumbrance to them, while such as have
numerous and helpless families, are left without assistance. Even
the poorest people now regard the national paper with contempt; and,
persuaded it must soon be of no value, they eagerly squander
whatever they receive, without care for the future.

As I have frequently, in the course of these letters, had occasion to
quote from the debates of the Convention, and other recent publications,
I ought to observe that the French language, like every thing else in the
country, has been a subject of innovation--new words have been invented,
the meaning of old ones has been changed, and a sort of jargon,
compounded of the appropriate terms of various arts and sciences,
introduced, which habit alone can render intelligible. There is scarcely
a report read in the Convention that does not exhibit every possible
example of the Bathos, together with more conceits than are to be found
in a writer of the sixteenth century; and I doubt whether any of their
projects of legislation or finance would be understood by Montesquieu or

But the style most difficult to be comprehended by foreigners, is that
of the newspapers; for the dread of offending government so entirely
possesses the imagination of those who compose such publications, that it
is not often easy to distinguish a victory from a defeat, by the language
in which it is conveyed. The common news of the day is worded as
cautiously as though it were to be the subject of judicial disquisition;
and the real tendency of an article is sometimes so much at variance with
its comment, that the whole, to a cursory peruser, may seem destitute of
any meaning at all. Time, however, has produced a sort of intelligence
between news-writers and their readers--and rejoicings, lamentations,
praise, or censure, are, on particular occasions, understood to convey
the reverse of what they express.

The affected moderation of the government, and the ascendency which some
of the Brissotin party are beginning to take in it, seem to flatter the
public with the hope of peace. They forget that these men were the
authors of the war, and that a few months imprisonment has neither
expiated their crimes, nor subdued their ambition. It is the great
advantage of the Brissotins, that the revolutionary tyranny which they
had contributed to establish, was wrested from them before it had taken
its full effect; but those who appreciate their original claims, without
regard to their sufferings under the persecution of a party, are disposed
to expect they will not be less tenacious of power, nor less arbitrary in
the exercise of it than any of the intervening factions. The present
government is composed of such discordant elements, that their very union
betrays that they are in fact actuated by no principle, except the
general one of retaining their authority. Lanjuinais, Louvet, Saladin,
Danou, &c. are now leagued with Tallien, Freron, Dubois de Crance, and
even Carnot.

At the head of this motley assemblage of Brissotins, Orleanists, and
Robespierrians, is Sieyes--who, with perhaps less honesty, though more
cunning, than either, despises and dupes them all. At a moment when the
Convention had fallen into increased contempt, and when the public
affairs could no longer be conducted by fabricators of reports and
framers of decrees, the talents of this sinister politician became
necessary; yet he enjoys neither the confidence of his colleagues nor
that of the people--the vanity and duplicity of his conduct disgust and
alarm the first, while his reputation of partizan of the Duke of Orleans
is a reason for suspicion in the latter. But if Sieyes has never been
able to conciliate esteem, nor attain popularity, he has at length
possessed himself of power, and will not easily be induced to relinquish
it.--Many are of opinion, that he is secretly machinating for the son of
his former patron; but whether he means to govern in the name of the Duke
of Orleans, or in that of the republic, it is certain, had the French any
liberty to lose, it never could have found a more subtle and dangerous

* The Abbe, in his _"notices sur la Vie de Sieyes,"_ declares that
his contempt and detestation of the colleagues "with whom his
unfortunate stars had connected him," were so great, that he
determined, from his first arrival at the Convention, to take no
part in public affairs. As these were his original sentiments of
the Assembly, perhaps he may hereafter explain by which of their
operations his esteem was so much reconciled, that he has
condescended to become their leader.

Paris may, without exaggeration, be described as in a state of famine.
The markets are scantily supplied, and bread, except the little
distributed by order of the government, not to be obtained: yet the
inhabitants, for the most part, are not turbulent--they have learned too
late, that revolutions are not the source of plenty, and, though they
murmur and execrate their rulers, they abstain from violence, and seem
rather inclined to yield to despair, than to seek revenge. This is one
proof, among a variety of others, that the despotism under which the
French have groaned for the last three years, has much subdued the
vivacity and impatience of the national character; for I know of no
period in their history, when such a combination of personal suffering
and political discontent, as exists at present, would not have produced
some serious convulsion.

Amiens, June 18, 1795.

We returned hither yesterday, and on Friday we are to proceed to Havre,
accompanied by an order from the Committee of Public Welfare, stating
that several English families, and ourselves among the number, have been
for some time a burthen on the generosity of the republic, and that for
this reason we are permitted to embark as soon as we can find the means.
This is neither true, nor very gallant; but we are too happy in quitting
the republic, to cavil about terms, and would not exchange our
pauper-like passports for a consignment of all the national domains.

I have been busy to-day in collecting and disposing of my papers, and
though I have taken infinite pains to conceal them, their bulk is so
considerable, that the conveyance must be attended with risk. While I
was thus employed, the casual perusal of some passages in my letters and
notes has led me to consider how much my ideas of the French character
and manners differ from those to be found in the generality of modern
travels. My opinions are not of importance enough to require a defence;
and a consciousness of not having deviated from truth makes me still more
averse from an apology. Yet as I have in several instances varied from
authorities highly respectable, it may not be improper to endeavour to
account for what has almost the appearance of presumption.

If you examine most of the publications describing foreign countries, you
will find them generally written by authors travelling either with the
eclat of birth and riches, or, professionally, as men of science or
letters. They scarcely remain in any place longer than suffices to view
the churches, and to deliver their letters of recommendation; or, if
their stay be protracted at some capital town, it is only to be feted
from one house to another, among that class of people who are every where
alike. As soon as they appear in society, their reputation as authors
sets all the national and personal vanity in it afloat. One is polite,
for the honour of his country--another is brilliant, to recommend
himself; and the traveller cannot ask a question, the answer to which is
not intended for an honourable insertion in his repertory of future fame.

In this manner an author is passed from the literati and fashionable
people of one metropolis to those of the next. He goes post through
small towns and villages, seldom mixes with every-day life, and must in a
great degree depend for information on partial enquiries. He sees, as it
were, only the two extremes of human condition--the splendour of the
rich, and the misery of the poor; but the manners of the intermediate
classes, which are less obtrusive, are not within the notice of a
temporary resident.

It is not therefore extraordinary, that I, who have been domesticated
some years in France, who have lived among its inhabitants without
pretensions, and seen them without disguise, should not think them quite
so polite, elegant, gay, or susceptible, as they endeavour to appear to
the visitant of the day. Where objects of curiosity only are to be
described, I know that a vast number may be viewed in a very rapid
progress; yet national character, I repeat, cannot be properly estimated
but by means of long and familiar intercourse. A person who is every
where a stranger, must see things in their best dress; being the object
of attention, he is naturally disposed to be pleased, and many
circumstances both physical and moral are passed over as novelties in
this transient communication, which might, on repetition, be found
inconvenient or disgusting. When we are stationary, and surrounded by
our connections, we are apt to be difficult and splenetic; but a literary
traveller never thinks of inconvenience, and still less of being out of
humour--curiosity reconciles him to the one, and his fame so smooths all
his intercourse, that he has no plea for the other.

It is probably for these reasons that we have so many panegyrists of our
Gallic neighbours, and there is withal a certain fashion of liberality
that has lately prevailed, by which we think ourselves bound to do them
more than justice, because they [are] our political enemies. For my own
part, I confess I have merely endeavoured to be impartial, and have not
scrupled to give a preference to my own country where I believed it was
due. I make no pretensions to that sort of cosmopolitanism which is
without partialities, and affects to consider the Chicktaw or the Tartars
of Thibet, with the same regard as a fellow-countryman. Such universal
philanthropists, I have often suspected, are people of very cold hearts,
who fancy they love the whole world, because they are incapable of loving
any thing in it, and live in a state of "moral vagabondage," (as it is
happily termed by Gregoire,) in order to be exempted from the ties of a
settled residence. _"Le cosmopolytisme de systeme et de fait n'est qu'un
vagabondage physique ou moral: nous devons un amour de preference a la
societe politique dont nous sommes membres."_ ["Cosmopolytism, either in
theory or in practice, is no better than a moral or physical vagrancy:
the political society of which we are members, is entitled to a
preference in our affections."]

Let it not be imagined, that, in drawing comparisons between France and
England, I have been influenced by personal suffering or personal
resentment. My opinions on the French characters and manners were formed
before the revolution, when, though my judgment might be deficient, my
heart was warm, and my mind unprejudiced; yet whatever credit may be
allowed to my general opinions, those which particularly apply to the
present situation and temper of the French will probably be disputed.
When I describe the immense majority of the nation as royalists, hating
their government, and at once indignant and submissive, those who have
not studied the French character, and the progress of the revolution, may
suspect my veracity. I can only appeal to facts. It is not a new event
in history for the many to be subdued by the few, and this seems to be
the only instance in which such a possibility has been doubted.*

* It is admitted by Brissot, who is in this case competent
authority, that about twenty factious adventurers had oppressed the
Convention and the whole country. A more impartial calculator would
have been less moderate in the number, but the fact is the same; and
it would be difficult to fix the period when this oppression ceased.

--The well-meaning of all classes in France are weak, because they are
divided; while the small, but desperate factions that oppress them, are
strong in their union, and in the possession of all the resources of the

Under these circumstances, no successful effort can be made; and I have
collected from various sources, that the general idea of the French at
present is, to wait till the new constitution appears, and to accept it,
though it should be even more anarchical and tyrannic than the last.
They then hope that the Convention will resign their power without
violence, that a new election of representatives will take place, and
that those representatives, who they intend shall be men of honesty and
property, will restore them to the blessings of a moderate and permanent


Havre, June 22, 1795.

We are now in hourly expectation of sailing for England: we have agreed
with the Captain of a neutral vessel, and are only waiting for a
propitious wind. This good ally of the French seems to be perfectly
sensible of the value of a conveyance out of the republic, and
accordingly we are to pay him about ten times more for our passage than
he would have asked formerly. We chose this port in preference to Calais
or Boulogne, because I wished to see my friend Madame de ------ at Rouen,
and leave Angelique with her relations, who live there.

I walked this morning to the harbour, and seeing some flat-bottomed boats
constructing, asked a French gentleman who accompanied me, perhaps a
little triumphantly, if they were intended for a descent on the English
coast. He replied, with great composure, that government might deem it
expedient (though without any views of succeeding) to sacrifice ten or
twenty thousand men in the attempt.--It is no wonder that governments,
accountable for the lives and treasure they risk, are scarcely equal to a
conflict sustained by such power, and conducted on such principles.--But
I am wearied and disgusted with the contemplation of this despotism, and
I return to my country deeply and gratefully impressed with a sense of
the blessings we enjoy in a free and happy constitution.

--I am, &c.


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