Page images

we admit this summary denial, even as diluted by the subsequent admission, we should be curious to know by whose order, and at whose expense,

a certain M. Maillard laid in, about the first of the month, a stock of brooms, bludgeons, assommoirs, sponges, and quick-lime, which were so soon and so opportunely employed in murdering the victims and making away with the corpses.

M. Le Vasseur, without enlightening us on this head, proceeds to give a somewhat vague genealogy or affiliation of these massacres, from which it would appear that they were children of Anarchy, which Anarchy was the offspring of Danton, Billaud de Varennes, &c., lawfully' begotten for the purpose of producing resistance to the Prussian invasion. This theory brings the said patriots at least into the relation of grandfathers to the massacres, and in that degree of consanguinity we leave them, preferring to dwell on those events of which Le Vasseur might have been a nearer spectator, if not a more credible witness.

The character and situation of the Girondists at the opening of the National Convention are depicted in the first chapter :

that celebrated party, which, with excellent intentions and great talents, dragged us,' says the author, towards complete ruin by its narrow ambition and vindictive obstinacy. After a severe, and, at last, successful opposition to the court, the king, by a strange concurrence of circumstances, was obliged to accept them as ministers: they got into power and place, and wielded, to their own purposes, and with all the insolence that belongs to the masters of majorities, the powers of the Legislative Assembly; the dissolution of that body, and the election of that reformed chamber, the National Convention, were made under their auspices. And on the meeting of the Convention, the cheers of a majority equally awaited them.

• Brilliant in talent, learned in theories, skilful in intrigues, masters not only of the Convention, not only of public opinion, but of that which governed both—the club of the Jacobins, they deemed, after the 10th of August, that France was in their hands. Flushed with the triumphs of the past, and without an apprehension for the future, in calling together the National Convention,—that assembly which they had modelled at their pleasure,—they never dreamed that a party independent of themselves could ever count a majority on the lists of its members.'- vol. i., p. 53.

The Feuillans,—the Tories of the hour,—had fallen before them. That tardy conservative, Mirabeau, was already in the Pantheon, whence his body was so soon torn, to make room for Marat. A few men, undistinguished for talent, as yet unpractised in debate, with no qualifications but those of energy and patriotism,—by which is meant a thirst of blood and a craving for absolute power, were all that could be mustered to oppose the eloquence of Vergniaud,


the rigid virtue of Roland, and the political ability of Brissot. The Mountain were yet as comparatively inferior in importance, as far as the Convention was concerned, to Messrs. Hume and O'Connell, as Vergniaud was superior in eloquence to Lord Althorp. And yet these able leaders of opposition, these practised declaimers against corruption, these Prototypes of all modern Reformers, when placed by their own reformed parliament at the helm of the state, found themselves, and were found by the country, utterly unable to manage it. Fast runners as they had been in the race of patriotism, they were yet to be surpassed by men of swifter foot and better wind. A few months !-and the vote of that assembly, which they now ruled with absolute sway, consigned their heads to the executioner, and their memory to the execration of all true patriots, and, we must seriously add, to the contempt of posterity.

How did all this happen? The solution is to be found in the next paragraph :

• The club of the Jacobins was the thermometer of public opinion. After the 10th of August, they (the Girondists) almost to a man abandoned that society, whose services they had extolled as long as it had applauded their views, but which they now regarded only as a resort of faction from the moment it had ceased to think as they did.' - vol. i. p. 59. More of the Jacobins anon. We


to another event of the French Revolution, with respect to which we anticipated, with some curiosity, the observations of M. Le Vasseur-an event at which, we know, he assisted, and on which we expected him to rest a strong claim on the respect of all patriots-we mean the trial and condemnation of Louis XVI. Great, then, was our surprise when, instead of a demonstration of the propriety of that measure, or even a vague eulogy of its wisdom and justice, we found that it did not come within his canvass-qu'il n'entrait pas

dans son cadre-to advert to it. Is it that the glory of this exploit was shared by other than the professed men of the Mountain ? Can any jealousy of Vergniaud's vote for blood, that vote which astonished to stupefaction' even the galleries by which it was dictated, have induced this silence? The writer might have recollected, if this be his reason, that Vergniaud's vote was no more than sufficient to counterbalance the criminal weakness' he had displayed on the previous question of the appel au peuple. He might have quoted from his speech on that question such passages as these, which would appear, did not his subsequent conduct belie the supposition, to have been uttered with a sincere and sacrilegious intention of defrauding the great altar of pa

D 2


triotism of its fairest sacrifice, -of actually saving the life which he afterwards voted away.

· Have you not heard,' said Vergniaud, here and elsewhere, persons exclaim, if bread be dear, the cause is in the Temple !-if money be rare, if our armies are unsupplied, the cause is in the Temple! Those,' said Vergniaud,

who hold this language, know that all these evils spring from other causes ; ' which he might have added—have as much to do with the Temple and its inmate, as the grievances of England have to do with rotten boroughs or bishops. He told his hearers that bread would be as dear, and the advocates of revolution and blood be as numerous and as loud, after the death of Louis, as before, but that the object of their clamour would then be the Convention itself. Yet the deliverer of the speech, from which these sentences are extracted—voted for the death of Louis! Contrasting that speech with that vote, Le Vasseur might have proved that the conduct of the Mountain and of Robespierre was honour, courage, and consistency, compared to that of the orator of the Girunde; and that the man who could hire and command the voices of the real judges of Louis XVI.,—the men of the gallery,-was a greater, and not much a wickeder, man than the wretch who crouched beneath them. Be this as it may, we fear that the admirers of the Mountain will hardly be satisfied with Le Vasseur's summary dismissal of an event which, though it will doubtless redound to the lasting glory of its perpretators, has nevertheless been exposed to some of that misconstruction, and even obloquy, which it is the express object of this work to remove.

Jean Paul Marat, l’ami du peuple. Even the strong stomachs of the Mountain appear to have felt qualmish at the personal appearance, more than at the opinions or writings, of this their coadjutor. Prejudices, however, soon melted away; and when this worthy person had perished, with the word guillotine' on his lips, and had been buried within the sacred precincts of the Cor-deliers, and while the flowers, scattered by a grateful populace, were fresh upon his grave, his loss was deeply felt, and his virtues duly appreciated. Of these virtues, the first, according to our author, was that which the first criminal judge (we had almost said-such is our respect for office--the first lawyer) in England considers an effective bar to prosecution for any description of libel, blasphemy, or sedition* -sincerity. Marat entertained a sincere conviction that it was not only expedient, but necessary, to cut off the heads of half a million of persons in France, neither more nor less, and he said so. To be sure, this expression of opinion was communicated to men anxious to carry it into effect, and who had recently tried their hand on some six thousand, or, as others say, eleven thousand, in that affair of September, with which, as we have seen, the Mountain had really so little connexion. Marat was sincere ; which means, if it means anything, that he really wished to cut off all the heads which he denounced. - Were we, then,' asks our author, to repel him from our bosom because his exaggeration was an object of our antipathy, or to persecute him because he had the misfortune to be irascible and suspicious ?'

* "With regard to the general question of libels, my opinion is, that as long as a writer honestly expresses his opinions, and his opinions only—as long as it is possible to give him credit for sincerity-I should be greatly disinclined to prosecute.'(Speech of Sir T. Denman. Mirror of Parliament, May 21, 1832, p. 2109.)

*The doctrine which has been laid down by the honourable and learned gentleman is simply this—that no man onght to be prosecuted for the publication of his opinions, provided those opinions be sincere.'-(Speech of Sir Robert Peel, ibid. p. 2113.).


It might occur to short-sighted people that there were other reasons, for what M. Le Vasseur styles. persecuting' Marat, of the same nature with those which induce a misguided population to

persecute' a mad dog ;—and Charlotte Corday probably acted under a delusion of this description. But our author gives another excellent reason why the Mountain did not only tolerate but hug this associate, as lovingly as the paralytic Couthon did his spaniel :

• His follies were not only without danger, but, at the same time, constituted a kind of democratic maximum, which it was impossible to pass. 6 Yes !” said Camille Desmoulins, “ the aristocrats can only beat us by becoming more revolutionary than we are ; therefore, while I see Marat, on whom we can reckon, among us, I can have no apprehension, for he, at least, cannot be outdone." -vol. i. P.

308. This mode of reasoning has, in all probability, a strong analogy to that which has reconciled Mr. Stanley to remaining in the same cabinet with Lord John Russell, after the ballot-speech of the latter. It is well, in reference to Le Vasseur's opinion, that Marat's follies were without danger, to remind the reader, that 250,000 heads constituted the 'maximum,' within the limits of which it was considered safe and pleasant to abide. And it is, or ought to be, a salutary warning to those who think that revolutions can be stopped by the removal of those who excite them, that the moment Marat was out of the way, Hebert, (a great scape-goat of the Jacobins,) Chabot, and a hundred others, all in the pay of Pitt—all in the pay of Pitt !!made a general rush on the blood-market of Paris, from which, during the existence of that great monopolist-l'ami du peuple-they had been excluded.

Having alluded to the hackneyed subject of the gold of Pitt,' we must observe, that a large portion of these volumes is taken up with a laboured, diffuse, but we admit successful demonstration, that neither Dayton, Marat, nor Robespierre were in the pay of that minister. That many questionable proceedings of other men, and, indeed, all the principal crimes of the Revolution, were regularly ordered, booked, and paid for by Pitt, M. Le Vasseur by no means denies ; but, on the contrary, adds the weight of his testimony to a charge which no French writer of authority has failed to bring forward, and no Englishman has attempted seriously to refute.


In the second volume, our author figures as the representative of the Convention or viceroy over' the commander-in-chief of the army on the north-western frontier. It is probably the part of the work which approaches nearest to authenticity, and is therefore probably really the least accurate, for the author's partiality attributes to the real hero of the relief of Dunkirk,—viz. the author himself—a degree of courage and ability, which in a man-midwife would be equally meritorious and surprising.

We recommend to the perusal of Lord Althorp, Lord J. Russell, and the other correspondents with the Political Unions of England, the passages of the eleventh chapter, in which are described the dealings of successive governments with that assiduous auxiliary of public opinion, and permanent means of publicity, the Club of the Jacobins.'* From Mirabeau and Lameth downwards, for downwards it was, every party in power had called in this assiduous auxiliary' to support and accompany its steps; and, somehow or other, the Club had contrived to leave each successively behind ; and whenever they parted company, the deserted government of the day remained wedged in the mire, complaining bitterly of the increased pace of its quondam auxiliary, and receiving to that complaint the answer of universal derision. Our author denies, however, that the Club of the Jacobins took an active part in any public movements, unless, he adds, by pamphlets, journals, and other organs of publicity. Why, M. Le Vasseur, nobody ever imagined that the brawlers of the Jacobins, any more than the leaders of our own Political Unions, or the editors of our own Père du Chesne, were men to risk their persons in a fray! When our own nameless writers recommend that a candidate should be stoned on the hustings, or the Duke of Wellington torn to pieces in the streets, does anybody imagine that, with any possible advantage of numbers, the wretch who writes the paragraph would show himself within a measured mile of the transaction? In the first months of the Convention, we are told, the mission of the Jacobins was confined to informing the public that the Girondists had lost the confidence of the people. It is remarkable that, soon after this announcement had been made, the Girondists also lost their heads; but, of course, the Jacobins had nothing to do with the latter part of the transaction. Le Vasseur, however, ad* Vol. ii. p. 198.

« PreviousContinue »