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nominated the people; and never did the most wanton despot receive from the most eager courtier adoration so vile and digusting, as the base flattery with which two or three thousand usurpers of the national sovereignty are every day intoxicated thanks to the writers and speakers of these societies !
“As the semblance of patriotism is the only profitable virtue, some men who have been stigmatized by their disgraceful lives run to the club to get a reputation for patriotism, by the violence of their discourses, founding on their riotous declamations and the passions of the multitude, oblivion of the past and hope for the future, and redeeming themselves from disgrace by impudence. At the clubs are daily proclaimed, sentiments and even principles which threaten the fortunes and the property of all. Under the names of forestalling and monopoly, industry and commerce are represented as crimes. Every rich man passes for a public enemy. Neither honor nor reputation is spared; odious suspicions and unbridled slander are called liberty of opinion. He who demands proof of an accusation, is a suspected man, an enemy of the people. At the clubs, every absurdity is admired, if it be only murderous every falsehood cherished, if it be only atrocious. ****** Sometimes, indeed, guilty parties are assailed, but they are assailed with a violence, a ferocity, and an unfairness that make them appear innocent."
About the same time, (its exact date and the medium of its publication are uncertain.) Chénier wrote The Altars of Fear, a sort of last appeal to the lovers of good order. Its title alludes to the practice of the ancients, who made fear a divinity, and erected altars to him.
“To be sure, we have not yet imitated them to the letter, but, as in all ages profundly religious men have observed that the beart is the true altar where the Deity chooses to be honored, and that internal adoration is a thousand times more valuable than all the pomp of a magnificent worship intrusted to a small number of persons, and confined to certain places by express consecration, we may say that fear had never more truly altars erected to it, than now in Paris ; that this whole city is its temple; that all respectable people have become its pontiffs, offering to it the daily sacrifice of their opinions and their conscience."
The mob comnit excesses; personal privacy and personal liberty are invaded; the respectable people say nothing against it or about it, „for fear of being called aristocrats.”
“The simple sound of this word aristocrat stupefies the public
and attacks the very principle of motion in him. He wishes the success of the good, with all his heart; he is making zealous
exertions that way, and would sacrifice all his fortune to it: in the midst of his action, let him hear those four fatal syllables pronounced against him, and he trembles, he groows pale, the sword of the law falls from his grasp. Now it is clear enough, that Cicero will never be anything better than an aristocrat, to take Clodius or Catiline's word for it: if, then Cicero is afraid, what will become of us ?”
It must be pleaded, however, in excuse for these respectable people who said nothing for fear being called aristocrats, that they had pretty urgent motives for silence. To be unpopular at that day, was to have your head cut off: the terms were convertible. There are many among us, to whom such reproaches are infinitely more applicable, men who will not lift up their voices against some popular abuse or injustice or prejudice, for fear of being called federalist or aristocrat; although, thank God! to call a man federalist or aristocrat neither knocks him on the head nor even takes a cent out of his pocket. And when we hear a man complaining of the tyranny of the majority and popular intimidation because his independent conduct has caused his fellow - townsmen to refuse him their voices at an election, or made some honest editor afraid to publish his communications, we would just refer him to Chenier, who was putting his neck under the axe every time he took pen in hand.
The momentous tenth of August came, and that notorious popular potentate whom our saucy friends over the water have facetiously denominated „the Yankee Justinian,” had the supreme jurisdiction in Paris. The Journal de Paris was put down vi et armis, and its conductors and contributors precipitately scattered. Chénier was in imminent danger; many thought that he must have fallen a victim to the popular fury, and Wieland, the German poet, wrote to inquire if he were yet allive. But he was not dead yet, nor even silent; only his writings were now anonymous or pseudonymous. Owing to this fact, nearly all that he published in the autumn and winter of 1792—3 has been lost. It is certain, however, that he was the author of the letter in which Louis after his condemnation vainly appealed to the French people. After the king's death his friends persuaded him to quit Paris for Versailles, where he remained a whole year. By that time most of his personal enemies had disappeared, some torn to pieces by wolves, and some by
their fellow Jacobins. But Collot d'Herbois still lived, and his power nearly equalled Robespierre's.
On the 6th of January, 1794, Chénier was arrested. The immediate and ostensible cause of his arrest was a visit to a suspected lady at Passy. The proceeding was utterly illegal, even according to such scanty remains of law as the Terrorists had preserved for themselves, for Chénier was not under the local jurisdiction of the man who seized him, and had a safe conduct and certificate of good citizenship from the authorities of his quartier.
Indeed the gaoler of the Luxemburg prison refused to receive him, but the functionary at St. Lazare was less scrupulous.
As Joseph Chénier had been an influential Jacobin and a member of the Convention, there were not wanting persons afterwards to assert that he had neglected to save his brother's life when it was in his power to do so; nay, some even charged him with having contributed to his condemnation. This imputation his friends have indignantly repelled. They maintain that, on the contrary, it was chiefly through his influence that André had remained unmolested for the sixteen months preceding. They affirm, moreover, that Joseph had been for some time virtually disconnected with the Jacobins, having grown wiser as they grew more frantic; that he was then a suspected if not a denounced man, and would himself have shared the fate of André, had the rule of Robespierre lasted a fortnight longer. The two pleas are not perfectly cousistent, and we think that generally the editors and biographers of the brothers have erred in trying to prove too much, and in giving to the accusation a greater importance than it deserved. * For our own part, we do not believe one syllable of it. The Chéniers had that strong family attachment which all families ought to have, and it is absurd to suppose that if Joseph regarded the wishes of his relatives, when the question was only about breaking off a paper war with his brother, he would have disregarded them when that
* Especially do we think M. Arnault to blame, for seriously confuting, in a narration of two pages, a scandalous story of Madame de Genlis, about Mademoiselle Dumesnil's reception of Joseph Chénier; as if a French actress would trouble herself abouth truth, when there was a chance of saying a mot, or making a scene.
brother's life was at stake. The advice he gave his father, who wished him to agitate openly for his brothers, “Rather try to let them be forgotten," was the very best that could have been given, as the event too truly showed. Had nothing been said about André, he might have remained unnoticed for two days longer, which would have been enough to save his life, and actually did save the life of Sauveur; but the memorial which his father addressed to that body called with a mournful irony the Comittee of Public Safety, was his death-warrant. *
And now comes a characteristic specimen of radical inaccuracy. Another of the Cheniers, Sauveur, formerly an officer in the army of the north, had been arrested and imprisoned at Beauvais. In such haste was the indictment against Andre drawn up, that it confounded him with Sauveur; attributed to one brother the acts and writings of both, and designated the poet-editor as ex-adujutant-general and chief of brigade, under Dumouriez! One of Andre's eulogists suggests that he made no allusion to this palpable flaw, in hopes that this confusion of personal identity might be the means of saying his brother. If so, his silence was successful.
There were, indeed, many reasons why Andre Chenier should have made no further opposition to the proceedings against him, than was necessary to expose their injustice and illegality in the eyes of future generations. To one whose patriotic hopes had been so cruelly disappointed, life was of little value. When a man of refined education, liberal principles, hopes of liberal institutions, and freedom from party fanaticism, sees all constitutional landmarks swept away, and the ochlocracy triumphant, his despondency is utter and hopeless. He has “lost the dream of doing and the other dream of done,” and knows not how to help himself or others. In one case only can he be sustained. If his mind has been deeply imbued with the true philosophy the philosophy of Christianity – he may remember that “God fulfils himself in many ways,'
* And yet, after all, must we not say that, in a higher sense, Joseph Chenier was morally guilty of his brother's death ? He had encouraged the Jacobins in their earlier attempts; he had defended or apologized for their excesses; he had given them his pen, his voice, and his influence. In so far, then, as he had contributed to their triumph must he be deemed answerable for the consequences of that triumph. Alas! it is not too well remembered even at the present day, that they who help to open the flood-gates, are responsible for the inundalion.
and faith will illumine for him what, to the eye of reason alone, is thick darkness.
θάρσει μοι θάρσει τέκνον,
ο τάδ' εφορα και κρατύνει. But we very much fear Chenier had not this consolation. His views, lofty and noble as they were, were still bounded by this world and the limits of human ability. And at that time it seemed as if no human ability could do anything for the French. The people from whom the gallows was a more acceptable gift than the right hand of friendship, * had triumphed, and he had long before made up his mind which alternative to choose.
Chenier was guillotined July 25th, 1794. His works were not collected till 1819, and complete editions of them did not appear till 1840.
RECENT ENGLISH HISTORIANS OF
American Review, Feb. 1848.
THE study of Greek History is a very different affair now from what it was when Plutarch was accepted for a standard authority, and “Cecrops, who invented marriage,” was deemed as historical a personage as Alexander of Macedon. Our readers may be presumed
* “S'ils triomphent, ce sont gens par qui il vaut mieux etre pendu que regarde comme ami." Avis aux Français sur leurs veritables Ennemis.
** A History of Greece, by the Right Rev. CONNOP THIRLWALL London: Longman Co. 1835, 1844. A History of Greece, by GEO. GROTE, Esq. London: John Murray. 1846-7.
* Athenæus XIII, 555.