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it would have been idle to think of doing what lent the whole weight of their names to the our ancestors did in 1688, and what the French Girondist connection. The wife of Roland Chamber of Deputies did in 1830. Such an brought to the deliberations of her husband's attempt would have failed amidst universal friends masculine courage and force of thought, derision and execration. It would have dis- tempered by womanly grace and vivacity. Nor gusted all zealous men of all opinions; and was the splendour of a great military_reputa there were then few men who were not zeal- tion wanting to this celebrated party. Dumou ous. Parties fatigued by long conflict, and rier, then victorious over the foreign invaders, instructed by the severe discipline of that and at the height of popular favour, must be school in which alone mankind will learn, reckoned among the allies of the Gironde. are disposed to listen to the voice of a mediator. But when they are in their first heady youth, devoid of experience, fresh for exertion, Alushed with hope, burning with animosity, they agree only in spurning out of their way the daysman who strives to take his stand between them and to lay his hand upon them both. Such was in 1792 the state of France. On one side was the great name of the heir of Hugh Capet, the thirty-third king of the third race; on the other side was the great name of the Republic. There was no rallying-point save these two. It was necessary to make a choice; and those, in our opinion, judged well who, waiving for the moment all subordinate puestions, preferred independence to subjugation, the natal soil to the emigrant camp.
As to the abolition of royalty, and as to the vigorous prosecution of the war, the whole Convention seemed to be united as one man. But a deep and broad gulf separated the representative body into two great parties.
On one side were those statesmen who are called, from the name of the department which some of them represented, the Girondists, and. from the name of one of their most conspicuous leaders, the Brissotines. In activity and practical ability, Brissot and Gensonné were the most conspicuous among them. In parliamentary eloquence, no Frenchman of that time can be considered as equal to Vergniaud. In a foreign country, and after the lapse of half a century, some parts of his speeches are still read with mournful admiration. No man, we are inclined to believe, ever rose so rapidly to such a height of oratorical excellence. His whole public life lasted barely two years. This is a circumstance which distinguishes him from our own greatest speakers, Fox, Burke, Pitt, Sheridan, Windham, Canning. Which of these celebrated men would now be remembered as an orator, if he had died two years after he first took his seat in the house of Commons? Condorcet brought to the Girondist party a different kind of strength. The public regarded him with justice as an eminent mathematician, and, with less reason, as a great master of ethical and political science; the philosophers considered him 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 ingenuous 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, Pétion and Roland,
The errors of the Brissotines were undoubt edly 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 zeal. ous 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 for eign 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 revolu tionary 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 associ ated with order, with justice, with mercy, and with civilization. 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
Opposed to the Girondists was a party which, having been long execrated throughout the civilized 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 attain-duced by their timidity and their stratagems. ing 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.
which al society rests. The independence and Girondists refused to listen. They therefore, honour of France were indeed to be vindicated, by voting for the death of the king, conceded but to be vindicated by triumphs aud not by to the Mountain the chief point at issue be murders. tween 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 pro
Barère, 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 When the Convention met, the majority was were widely different from those of the Gironwith the Girondists, and Barère was with the dists. Their hearts were heavy, and their demajority. On the king's trial, indeed, he quit-portment was that of men oppressed by sorrow. ted the party with which he ordinarily acted, It was Vergniand's duty to proclaim the result voted with the Mountain, and spoke against of the roll-call. His face was pale, and he the prisoner with a violence such as few mem- trembled with emotion, as in a low and broken bers even of the Mountain showed. voice he announced that Louis was condemned to death. Barère had not, it is true, yet at
The conduct of the leading Girondists on that occasion was little to their honour. Oftained to full perfection in the art of mingling cruelty, indeed, we fully acquit them; but it is jests and conceits with words of death; but impossible to acquit them of criminal irreso- he already gave promise of his future excel lution and disingenuousness. They were far, lence in this high department of Jacobin oraindeed, far from thirsting for the blood of Louis; tory. He concluded his speech with a sentence on the contrary, they were most desirous to worthy of his head and heart. “The tree of protect him. But they were afraid that, if they liberty," he said, "as an ancient author rewent straight forward to their object, the sin-marks, flourishes when it is watered with the cerity of their attachment to republican insti- blood of all classes of tyrants." M. Hippolyte tutions would be suspected. They wished to Carnot has quoted this passage, in order, as save the king's life, and yet to obtain all the we suppose, to do honour to his hero. We credit of having been regicides. Accordingly, wish that a note had been added to inform us they traced out for themselves a crooked from what ancient author Barère quoted. In course, by which they hoped to attain both the course of our own small reading among their objects. They first voted the king guilty. the Greek and Latin writers, we have not hapThey then voted for referring the question re-pened to fall in with trees of liberty and wa specting his fate to the whole body of the people. tering-pots full of blood; nor can we, such is Defeated in this attempt to rescue him, they our ignorance of classical antiquity, even reluctantly, and with ill-suppressed shame and imagine an Attic or Roman orator employing concern, voted for the capital sentence. Then imagery of that sort. In plain words, when they made a last attempt in his favour, and Barère talked about an ancient author, he was voted for respiting the execution. These zig-lying, as he generally was when he asserted zag politics produced the effect which any man any fact, great or small. Why he lied on this conversant with public affairs might have fore-occasion we cannot guess, unless, indeed, it seen. The Girondists, instead of attaining was to keep his hand in. 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 confor- | mity 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 VOL V.-80
It is not improbable that, but for one circumstance, Barère 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 Barère should, under such circumstances, try to distinguish himself among the crowd of regicides by peculiar ferocity. It was becanse he had been a rovalist that he was one of the foremost in shedding blood.
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.
and would gladly have seen the Convention
The policy of the Jacobins, in this situation, was to subject France to an aristocracy in finitely worse than that aristocracy which had emigrated with the Count of Artois-man. It is clear also that he had been by no to an aristocracy not of birth, not of wealth, means without his share of the small disapnot of education, but of mere locality.-pointments and humiliations so often experiThey would not hear of privileged orders; but enced by men of letters who, elated by provin they wished to have a privileged city. That cial applause, venture to display their powers twenty-five millions of Frenchmen should before the fastidious critics of a capital. On be ruled by a hundred thousand gentlemen the other hand, whenever he revisited the and clergymen was insufferable; but that mountains among which he had been born, he twenty-five millions of Frenchmen should be found himself an object of general admiration. ruled by a hundred thousand Parisians, was as His dislike of Paris, and his partiality to his it should be. The qualification of a member native district, were therefore as strong and of the new oligarchy was simply that he should durable as any sentiments of a mind like his live near the hall where the Convention met, could be. He long continued to maintain that and should be able to squeeze himself daily the ascendency of one great city was the bane into the gallery during a debate, and now and of France; that the superiority of taste and inthen to attend with a pike for the purpose of telligence which it was the fashion to ascribe blockading the doors. It was quite agreeable to the inhabitants of that city were wholly imato the maxims of the Mountain, that a score ginary; and that the nation would never enjoy of draymen from Santerre's brewery, or of a really good government till the Alsatian peo devils from Hébert's printing-house, should be ple, the Breton people, the people of Bearn, the permitted to drown the voices of men commis- people of Provence, should have each an inde sioned to speak the sense of such cities as pendent existence, and laws suited to its own tastes and habits. These communities he proMarseilles, Bordeaux, and Lyons; and that a rabble of half-naked porters from the Faubourg posed to unite by a tie similar to that which St. Antoine, should have power to annul de- binds together the grave Puritans of Conneccrees for which the representatives of fifty or ticut, and the dissolute slave-drivers of New sixty departments had voted. It was necessary Orleans. To Paris he was unwilling to grant to find some pretext for so odious and absurd even the rank which Washington holds in the a tyranny. Such a pretext was found. To the United States. He thought it desirable that old phrases of liberty and equality were added the congress of the French federation should the sonorous watchwords, unity and indivisi- have no fixed place of meeting, but should sit bility. A new crime was inven ed, and called sometimes at Rouen, sometimes at Bordeaux, by the name of federalism. The object of the sometimes at his own Toulouse. 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 cf Paris. To strengthen the influence of Paris ought, therefore, to be the chief object of every patriot.
Animated by such feelings, he was, till the close of May, 1793, a Girondist, if not an ultraGirondist. He exclaimed against those impure and blood-thirsty men who wished to make the public danger a pretext for cruelty and rapine, 66 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 munic pal authorities of Paris with just severity. He
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,
cidly 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 Barère," 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, Barère 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 Barère spoke with warmth against the new tyranny which afflict ed 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 Barère 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 every thing. 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 unna
turally 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 fortyeight wards of the city appeared at the bar of the Convention, and demanded that Vergniaud, Brissot, Gaudet, Gensonné, Barbaroux, Buzot, Pétion, 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 Barère.
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 strugg.es 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, Barère had been tossed backwards and forwards between the two rag ing 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 concilitate the Parisians by abo lishing 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 eulogizing the public spirit of the insurgents. To do him justice, it was not without some symptoms of shame that he read this 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 noviciate of infamy.
Some days later he proposed that hostag
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 hands of the victorious Mountain.
for the personal safety of the accused deputies | Barère. 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 pros perity, 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, can make him bite you; but if you have Jacko, you can make him bite me." Just such a creature was Barère. 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 ConBarère was, greve's lively song valued the conquest of a prostitute of a different kind. 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. Des titute 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 Barère. 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 annoy ance; and he would now be a help.
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 that of his colleagues in the Convention. His voice had generally been on the side of mode-I 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 St. Just, were substituted for more moderate politicians; but Barère 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. But the chiefs of the Mountain judged more correctly. They knew indeed, as well as Marat, that Barère 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 prefer-nership with themselves, it was not without ence of which alone his nature was suscepti- exacting pledges such as made it impossible ble; and that, if he had been at liberty to make for him, false and fickle as he was. ever again his choice, he would rather have murdered to find admission into the ranks which he had Robespierre and Danton, than Vergniaud and deserted. That was truly a terrible sacrament Gensonné. But they justly appreciated that by which they admitted the apostate into their levity which made him incapable alike of communion. They demanded of him that he earnest love and of earnest hatred, and that should himself take the most prominent part meanness which made it necessary to him to in murdering his old friends. To refuse was have a master. In truth, what the planters of as much as his life was worth. But what is Carolina and Louisiana say of black men with life worth when it is only one long agony of flat noses and woolly hair, was strictly true of remorse and shame? These, however, are feelings of which it is idle to talk, when we considering the conduct of such a man
But though the heads of the Mountain par doned this man, and admitted him into part
See the Publiciste of the 14th of July, 1793. Marat Barère. He undertook the task, mounted
was stabbed on the evening of the 13th.