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

Part 3 out of 4

again become their dictators. I believe it is not unlikely that the
people and the Convention are both endeavouring to make instruments of
each other to destroy the common enemy; for the little popularity the
Convention enjoy is doubtless owing to a superior hatred of the Jacobins:
and the moderation which the former affect towards the people, is equally
influenced by a view of forming a powerful balance against these
obnoxious societies.--While a sort of necessity for this temporizing
continues, we shall go on very tranquilly, and it is become a mode to say
the Convention is "adorable."

Tallien, who has been wrestling with his ill fame for a transient
popularity, has thought it advisable to revive the public attention by
the farce of Pisistratus--at least, an attempt to assassinate him, in
which there seems to have been more eclat than danger, has given rise to
such an opinion. Bulletins of his health are delivered every day in form
to the Convention, and some of the provincial clubs have sent
congratulations on his escape. But the sneers of the incredulous, and
perhaps an internal admonition of the ridicule and disgrace attendant on
the worship of an idol whose reputation is so unpropitious, have much
repressed the customary ardour, and will, I think, prevent these
"hair-breadth 'scapes" from continuing fashionable.--Yours, &c.

[No Date Given]

When I describe the French as a people bending meekly beneath the most
absurd and cruel oppression, transmitted from one set of tyrants to
another, without personal security, without commerce--menaced by famine,
and desolated by a government whose ordinary resources are pillage and
murder; you may perhaps read with some surprize the progress and
successes of their armies. But, divest yourself of the notions you may
have imbibed from interested misrepresentations--forget the revolutionary
common-place of "enthusiams", "soldiers of freedom," and "defenders of
their country"--examine the French armies as acting under the motives
which usually influence such bodies, and I am inclined to believe you
will see nothing very wonderful or supernatural in their victories.

The greater part of the French troops are now composed of young men taken
indiscriminately from all classes, and forced into the service by the
first requisition. They arrive at the army ill-disposed, or at best
indifferent, for it must not be forgotten, that all who could be
prevailed on to go voluntarily had departed before recourse was had to
the measure of a general levy. They are then distributed into different
corps, so that no local connections remain: the natives of the North are
mingled with those of the South, and all provincial combinations are

It is well known that the military branch of espionage is as extended as
the civil, and the certainty of this destroys confidence, and leaves even
the unwilling soldier no resource but to go through his professional duty
with as much zeal as though it were his choice. On the one hand, the
discipline is severe--on the other, licentiousness is permitted beyond
all example; and, half-terrified, half-seduced, principles the most
inimical, and morals the least corrupt, become habituated to fear nothing
but the government, and to relish a life of military indulgence.--The
armies were some time since ill clothed, and often ill fed; but the
requisitions, which are the scourge of the country, supply them, for the
moment, with profusion: the manufacturers, the shops, and the private
individual, are robbed to keep them in good humour--the best wines, the
best clothes, the prime of every thing, is destined to their use; and
men, who before laboured hard to procure a scanty subsistence, now revel
in luxury and comparative idleness.

The rapid promotion acquired in the French army is likewise another cause
of its adherence to the government. Every one is eager to be advanced;
for, by means of requisitions, pillage and perquisites, the most trifling
command is very lucrative.--Vast sums of money are expended in supplying
the camps with newspapers written nearly for that purpose, and no others
are permitted to be publicly circulated.--When troops are quartered in a
town, instead of that cold reception which it is usual to accord such
inmates, the system of terror acts as an excellent Marechal de Logis, and
procures them, if not a cordial, at least a substantial one; and it is
indubitable, that they are no where so well entertained as at the houses
of professed aristocrats. The officers and men live in a familiarity
highly gratifying to the latter; and, indeed, neither are distinguishable
by their language, manners, or appearance. There is, properly speaking,
no subordination except in the field, and a soldier has only to avoid
politics, and cry "Vive la Convention!" to secure plenary indulgence on
all other occasions.--Many who entered the army with regret, continue
there willingly for the sake of a maintenance; besides that a decree
exists, which subjects the parents of those who return, to heavy
punishments. In a word, whatever can operate on the fears, or interests,
or passions, is employed to preserve the allegiance of the armies to the
government, and attach them to their profession.

I am far from intending to detract from the national bravery--the annals
of the French Monarchy abound with the most splendid instances of it--I
only wish you to understand, what I am fully convinced of myself, that
liberty and republicanism have no share in the present successes. The
battle of Gemappe was gained when the Brissotin faction had enthroned
itself on the ruins of a constitution, which the armies were said to
adore with enthusiasm: by what sudden inspiration were their affections
transferred to another form of government? or will any one pretend that
they really understood the democratic Machiavelism which they were to
propagate in Brabant? At the battle of Maubeuge, France was in the first
paroxysm of revolutionary terror--at that of Fleurus, she had become a
scene of carnage and proscription, at once the most wretched and the most
detestable of nations, the sport and the prey of despots so contemptible,
that neither the excess of their crimes, nor the sufferings they
inflicted, could efface the ridicule which was incurred by a submission
to them. Were the French then fighting for liberty, or did they only
move on professionally, with the enemy in front, the Guillotine in the
rear, and the intermediate space filled up with the licentiousness of a
camp?--If the name alone of liberty suffices to animate the French troops
to conquest, and they could imagine it was enjoyed under Brissot or
Robespierre, this is at least a proof that they are rather amateurs than
connoisseurs; and I see no reason why the same impulse might not be given
to an army of Janizaries, or the the legions of Tippoo Saib.

After all, it may be permitted to doubt, whether the sort of enthusiasm
so liberally ascribed to the French, would really contribute more to
their successes, than the thoughtless courage I am willing to allow
them.--It is, I believe, the opinion of military men, that the best
soldiers are those who are most disposed to act mechanically; and we are
certain that the most brilliant victories have been obtained where this
ardour, said to be produced by the new doctrines, could have had no
influence.--The heroes of Pavia, of Narva, or those who administered to
the vain-glory of Louis the Fourteenth, by ravaging the Palatinate, we
may suppose little acquainted with it. The fate of battles frequently
depends on causes which the General, the Statesman, or the Philosopher,
are equally unable to decide upon; and the laurel, "meed of mighty
conquerors," seems oftener to fall at the caprice of the wind, than to be
gathered. It is sometimes the lot of the ablest tactician, at others of
the most voluminous muster-roll; but, I believe, there are few examples
where these political elevations have had an effect, when unaccompanied
by advantages of situation, superior skill, or superior numbers.--_"La
plupart des gens de guerre_ (says Fontenelle) _sont leur metier avec
beaucoup de courage. Il en est peu qui y pensent; leurs bras agissent
aussi vigoureusement que l'on veut, leurs tetes se reposent, et ne
prennent presque part a rieu"_*--

* "Military men in general do their duty with much courage, but few
make it a subject of reflection. With all the bodily activity that
can be expected of them, their minds remain at rest, and partake but
little of the business they are engaged in."

--If this can be applied with truth to any armies, it must be to those of
France. We have seen them successively and implicitly adopting all the
new constitutions and strange gods which faction and extravagance could
devise--we have seen them alternately the dupes and slaves of all
parties: at one period abandoning their King and their religion: at
another adulating Robespierre, and deifying Marat.--These, I confess are
dispositions to make good soldiers, but convey to me no idea of
enthusiasts or republicans.

The bulletin of the Convention is periodically furnished with splendid
feats of heroism performed by individuals of their armies, and I have no
doubt but some of them are true. There are, however, many which have
been very peaceably culled from old memoirs, and that so unskilfully,
that the hero of the present year loses a leg or an arm in the same
exploit, and uttering the self-same sentences, as one who lived two
centuries ago. There is likewise a sort of jobbing in the edifying
scenes which occasionally occur in the Convention--if a soldier happen to
be wounded who has relationship, acquaintance, or connexion, with a
Deputy, a tale of extraordinary valour and extraordinary devotion to the
cause is invented or adopted; the invalid is presented in form at the bar
of the Assembly, receives the fraternal embrace and the promise of a
pension, and the feats of the hero, along with the munificence of the
Convention, are ordered to circulate in the next bulletin. Yet many of
the deeds recorded very deservedly in these annals of glory, have been
performed by men who abhor republican principles, and lament the
disasters their partizans have occasioned. I have known even notorious
aristocrats introduced to the Convention as martyrs to liberty, and who
have, in fact, behaved as gallantly as though they had been so.--These
are paradoxes which a military man may easily reconcile.

Independently of the various secondary causes that contribute to the
success of the French armies, there is one which those persons who wish
to exalt every thing they denominate republican seem to exclude--I mean,
the immense advantage they possess in point of numbers. There has
scarcely been an engagement of importance, in which the French have not
profited by this in a very extraordinary degree.*

* This has been confessed to me by many republicans themselves; and
a disproportion of two or three to one must add considerably to
republican enthusiasm.

--Whenever a point is to be gained, the sacrifice of men is not a matter
of hesitation. One body is dispatched after another; and fresh troops
thus succeeding to oppose those of the enemy already harassed, we must
not wonder that the event has so often proved favourable to them.

A republican, who passes for highly informed, once defended this mode of
warfare by observing, that in the course of several campaigns more troops
perished by sickness than the sword. If then an object could be attained
by such means, so much time was saved, and the loss eventually the same:
but the Generals of other countries dare not risk such philosophical
calculations, and would be accountable to the laws of humanity for their
destructive conquests.

When you estimate the numbers that compose the French armies, you are not
to consider them as an undisciplined multitude, whose sole force is in
their numbers. From the beginning of the revolution, many of them have
been exercised in the National Guard; and though they might not make a
figure on the parade at Potsdam, their inferiority is not so great as to
render the German exactitude a counterbalance for the substantial
inequality of numbers. Yet, powerfully as these considerations favour
the military triumphs of France, there is a period when we may expect
both cause and effect will terminate. That period may still be far
removed, but whenever the assignats* become totally discredited, and it
shall be found requisite to economize in the war department, adieu la
gloire, a bas les armes, and perhaps bon soir la republique; for I do not
reckon it possible, that armies so constituted can ever be persuaded to
subject themselves to the restraints and privations which must be
indispensible, as soon as the government ceases to have the disposal of
an unlimited fund.

* The mandats were, in fact, but a continuation of the assignats,
under another name. The last decree for the emission of assignats,
limited the quantity circulated to forty milliards, which taken at
par, is only about sixteen hundred millions of pounds sterling!

What I have hitherto written you will understand as applicable only to
the troops employed on the frontiers. There are some of another
description, more cherished and not less serviceable, who act as a sort
of police militant and errant, and defend the republic against her
internal enemies--the republicans. Almost every town of importance is
occasionally infested by these servile instruments of despotism, who are
maintained in insolent profusion, to overawe those whom misery and famine
might tempt to revolt. When a government, after imprisoning some hundred
thousands of the most distinguished in every class of life, and disarming
all the rest, is yet obliged to employ such a force for its protection,
we may justifiably conclude, it does not presume on the attachment of the
people. It is not impossible that the agents of different descriptions,
destined to the service of conciliating the interior to republicanism,
might alone form an army equal to that of the Allies; but this is a task,
where the numbers employed only serve to render it more difficult. They,
however, procure submission, if they do not create affection; and the
Convention is not delicate.

Amiens, Sept. 30, 1794.

The domestic politics of France are replete with novelties: the
Convention is at war with the Jacobins--and the people, even to the most
decided aristocrats, have become partizans of the Convention.--My last
letters have explained the origin of these phaenomena, and I will now add
a few words on their progress.

You have seen that, at the fall of Robespierre, the revolutionary
government had reached the very summit of despotism, and that the
Convention found themselves under the necessity of appearing to be
directed by a new impulse, or of acknowledging their participation in the
crimes they affected to deplore.--In consequence, almost without the
direct repeal of any law, (except some which affected their own
security,) a more moderate system has been gradually adopted, or, to
speak more correctly, the revolutionary one is suffered to relax. The
Jacobins behold these popular measures with extreme jealousy, as a means
which may in time render the legislature independent of them; and it is
certainly not the least of their discontents, that, after all their
labours in the common cause, they find themselves excluded both from
power and emoluments. Accustomed to carry every thing by violence, and
more ferocious than politic, they have, by insisting on the
reincarceration of suspected people, attached a numerous party to the
Convention, which is thus warned that its own safety depends on
repressing the influence of clubs, which not only loudly demand that the
prisons may be again filled, but frequently debate on the project of
transporting all the "enemies of the republic" together.

The liberty of the press, also, is a theme of discord not less important
than the emancipation of aristocrats. The Jacobins are decidedly adverse
to it; and it is a sort of revolutionary solecism, that those who boast
of having been the original destroyers of despotism, are now the
advocates of arbitrary imprisonment, and restraints on the freedom of the
press. The Convention itself is divided on the latter subject; and,
after a revolution of five years, founded on the doctrine of the rights
of man, it has become matter of dispute--whether so principal an article
of them ought really to exist or not. They seem, indeed, willing to
allow it, provided restrictions can be devised which may prevent calumny
from reaching their own persons; but as that cannot easily be atchieved,
they not only contend against the liberty of the press in practice, but
have hitherto refused to sanction it by decree, even as a principle.

It is perhaps reluctantly that the Convention opposes these powerful and
extended combinations which have so long been its support, and it may
dread the consequences of being left without the means of overawing or
influencing the people; but the example of the Brissotins, who, by
attempting to profit by the services of the Jacobins, without submitting
to their domination, fell a sacrifice, has warned their survivors of the
danger of employing such instruments. It is evident that the clubs will
not act subordinately, and that they must either be subdued to
insignificance, or regain their authority entirely; and as neither the
people nor Convention are disposed to acquiesce in the latter, they are
politicly joining their efforts to accelerate the former.

Yet, notwithstanding these reciprocal cajoleries, the return of justice
is slow and mutable; an instinctive or habitual preference of evil
appears at times to direct the Convention, even in opposition to their
own interests. They have as yet done little towards repairing the
calamities of which they are the authors; and we welcome the little they
have done, not for its intrinsic value, but as we do the first spring
flowers--which, though of no great sweetness or beauty, we consider as
pledges that the storms of winter are over, and that a milder season is
approaching.--It is true, the revolutionary Committees are diminished in
number, the prisons are disencumbered, and a man is not liable to be
arrested because a Jacobin suspects his features: yet there is a wide
difference between such toleration and freedom and security; and it is a
circumstance not favourable to those who look beyond the moment, that the
tyrannical laws which authorized all the late enormities are still
unrepealed. The Revolutionary Tribunal continues to sentence people to
death, on pretexts as frivolous as those which were employed in the time
of Robespierre; they have only the advantage of being tried more
formally, and of forfeiting their lives upon proof, instead of without
it, for actions that a strictly administered justice would not punish by
a month's imprisonment.*

* For instance, a young monk, for writing fanatic letters, and
signing resolutions in favour of foederalism--a hosier, for
facilitating the return of an emigrant--a man of ninety, for
speaking against the revolution, and discrediting the assignats--a
contractor, for embezzling forage--people of various descriptions,
for obstructing the recruitment, or insulting the tree of liberty.
These, and many similar condemnations, will be found in the
proceedings of the Revolutionary Tribunal, long after the death of
Robespierre, and when justice and humanity were said to be restored.

A ceremony has lately taken place, the object of which was to deposit the
ashes of Marat in the Pantheon, and to dislodge the bust of Mirabeau--
who, notwithstanding two years notice to quit this mansion of
immortality, still remained there. The ashes of Marat being escorted to
the Convention by a detachment of Jacobins, and the President having
properly descanted on the virtues which once animated the said ashes,
they were conveyed to the place destined for their reception; and the
excommunicated Mirabeau being delivered over to the secular arm of a
beadle, these remains of the divine Marat were placed among the rest of
the republican deities. To have obliged the Convention in a body to
attend and consecrate the crimes of this monster, though it could not
degrade them, was a momentary triumph for the Jacobins, nor could the
royalists behold without satisfaction the same men deploring the death of
Marat, who, a month before, had celebrated the fall of Louis the
Sixteenth! To have been so deplored, and so celebrated, are, methinks,
the very extremes of infamy and glory.

I must explain to you, that the Jacobins have lately been composed of two
parties--the avowed adherents of Collot, Billaud, &c. and the concealed
remains of those attached to Robespierre; but party has now given way to
principle, a circumstance not usual; and the whole club of Paris, with
several of the affiliated ones, join in censuring the innovating
tendencies of the Convention.--It is curious to read the debates of the
parent society, which pass in afflicting details of the persecutions
experienced by the patriots on the parts of the moderates and
aristocrats, who, they assert, are become so daring as even to call in
question the purity of the immortal Marat. You will suppose, of course,
that this cruel persecution is nothing more than an interdiction to
persecute others; and their notions of patriotism and moderation may be
conceived by their having just expelled Tallien and Freron as moderates.*

* Freron endeavoured, on this occasion, to disculpate himself from
the charge of "moderantisme," by alledging he had opposed
Lecointre's denunciation of Barrere, &c.--and certainly one who
piques himself on being the pupil of the divine Marat, was worthy of
remaining in the fraternity from which he was now expelled.--Freron
is a veteran journalist of the revolution, of better talents, though
not of better fame, than the generality of his contemporaries: or,
rather, his early efforts in exciting the people to rebellion
entitle him to a preeminence of infamy.

Amiens, October 4, 1794.

We have had our guard withdrawn for some days; and I am just now returned
from Peronne, where we had been in order to see the seals taken off the
papers, &c. which I left there last year. I am much struck with the
alteration observable in people's countenances. Every person I meet
seems to have contracted a sort of revolutionary aspect: many walk with
their heads down, and with half-shut eyes measure the whole length of a
street, as though they were still intent on avoiding greetings from the
suspicious; some look grave and sorrow-worn; some apprehensive, as if in
hourly expectation of a _mandat d'arret;_ and others absolutely ferocious,
from a habit of affecting the barbarity of the times.

Their language is nearly as much changed as their appearance--the
revolutionary jargon is universal, and the most distinguished aristocrats
converse in the style of Barrere's reports. The common people are not
less proficients in this fashionable dialect, than their superiors; and,
as far as I can judge, are become so from similar motives. While I was
waiting this morning at a shop-door, I listened to a beggar who was
cheapening a slice of pumpkin, and on some disagreement about the price,
the beggar told the old _revendeuse_ [Market-woman.] that she was
_"gangrenee d'aristocratie."_ ["Eat up with aristocracy."] _"Je vous en
defie,"_ ["I defy you."] retorted the pumpkin-merchant; but turning pale
as she spoke, _"Mon civisme est a toute epreuve, mais prenez donc ta
citrouille,"_ ["My civism is unquestionable; but here take your pumpkin."]
take it then." _"Ah, te voila bonne republicaine,_ ["Ah! Now I see you
are a good republican."] says the beggar, carrying off her bargain; while
the old woman muttered, _"Oui, oui, l'on a beau etre republicaine tandis
qu'on n'a pas de pain a manger."_ ["Yes, in troth, it's a fine thing to
be a republican, and have no bread to eat."]

I hear little of the positive merits of the convention, but the hope is
general that they will soon suppress the Jacobin clubs; yet their attacks
continue so cold and cautious, that their intentions are at least
doubtful: they know the voice of the nation at large would be in favour
of such a measure, and they might, if sincere, act more decisively,
without risk to themselves.--The truth is, they would willingly proscribe
the persons of the Jacobins, while they cling to their principles, and
still hesitate whether they shall confide in a people whose resentment
they have so much deserved, and have so much reason to dread. Conscious
guilt appears to shackle all their proceedings, and though the punishment
of some subordinate agents cannot, in the present state of things, be
dispensed with, yet the Assembly unveil the register of their crimes very
reluctantly, as if each member expected to see his own name inscribed on
it. Thus, even delinquents, who would otherwise be sacrificed
voluntarily to public justice, are in a manner protected by delays and
chicane, because an investigation might implicate the Convention as the
example and authoriser of their enormities.--Fouquier Tinville devoted a
thousand innocent people to death in less time than it has already taken
to bring him to a trial, where he will benefit by all those judicial
forms which he has so often refused to others. This man, who is much the
subject of conversation at present, was Public Accuser to the
Revolutionary Tribunal--an office which, at best, in this instance, only
served to give an air of regularity to assassination: but, by a sort of
genius in turpitude, he contrived to render it odious beyond its original
perversion, in giving to the most elaborate and revolting cruelties a
turn of spontaneous pleasantry, or legal procedure.--The prisoners were
insulted with sarcasms, intimidated by threats, and still oftener
silenced by arbitrary declarations, that they were not entitled to speak;
and those who were taken to the scaffold, after no other ceremony than
calling over their names, had less reason to complain, than if they had
previously been exposed to the barbarities of such trials.--Yet this
wretch might, for a time at least, have escaped punishment, had he not,
in defending himself, criminated the remains of the Committee, whom it
was intended to screen. When he appeared at the bar of the Convention,
every word he uttered seemed to fill its members with alarm, and he was
ordered away before he could finish his declaration. It must be
acknowledged, that, however he may be condemned by justice and humanity,
nothing could legally attach to him: he was only the agent of the
Convention, and the utmost horrors of the Tribunal were not merely
sanctioned, but enjoined by specific decrees.

I have been told by a gentleman who was at school with Fouquier, and has
had frequent occasions of observing him at different periods since, that
he always appeared to him to be a man of mild manners, and by no means
likely to become the instrument of these atrocities; but a strong
addiction to gaming having involved him in embarrassments, he was induced
to accept the office of Public Accuser to the Tribunal, and was
progressively led on from administering to the iniquity of his employers,
to find a gratification in it himself.

I have often thought, that the habit of watching with selfish avidity for
those turns of fortune which enrich one individual by the misery of
another, must imperceptibly tend to harden the heart. How can the
gamester, accustomed both to suffer and inflict ruin with indifference,
preserve that benevolent frame of mind, which, in the ordinary and less
censurable pursuits of common life, is but too prone to become impaired,
and to leave humanity more a duty than a feeling?

The conduct of Fouquier Tinville has led me to some reflections on a
subject which I know the French consider as matter of triumph, and as a
peculiar advantage which their national character enjoys over the
English--I mean that smoothness of manner and guardedness of expression
which they call "aimable," and which they have the faculty of attaining
and preserving distinctly from a correspondent temper of the mind. It
accompanies them through the most irritating vicissitudes, and enables
them to deceive, even without deceit: for though this suavity is
habitual, of course frequently undesigning, the stranger is nevertheless
thrown off his guard by it, and tempted to place confidence, or expect
services, which a less conciliating deportment would not have been
suggested. A Frenchman may be an unkind husband, a severe parent, or an
arrogant master, yet never contract his features, or asperate his voice,
and for this reason is, in the national sense, "un homme bien doux." His
heart may become corrupt, his principles immoral, and his disposition
ferocious--yet he shall still retain his equability of tone and
complacent phraseology, and be "un homme bien aimable."

The revolution has tended much to develope this peculiarity of the French
character, and has, by various examples in public life, confirmed the
opinions I had formed from previous observation. Fouquier Tinville, as I
have already noticed, was a man of gentle exterior.--Couthon, the
execrable associate of Robespierre, was mildness itself--Robespierre's
harangues are in a style of distinguished sensibility--and even Carrier,
the destroyer of thirty thousand Nantais, is attested by his
fellow-students to have been of an amiable disposition. I know a man of
most insinuating address, who has been the means of conducting his own
brother to the Guillotine; and another nearly as prepossessing, who,
without losing his courteous demeanor, was, during the late
revolutionary excesses, the intimate of an executioner.

*It would be too voluminous to enumerate all the contrasts of
manners and character exhibited during the French revolution--The
philosophic Condorcet, pursuing with malignancy his patron, the Duc
de la Rochefoucault, and hesitating with atrocious mildness on the
sentence of the King--The massacres of the prisons connived at by
the gentle Petion--Collot d'Herbois dispatching, by one discharge of
cannon, three hundred people together, "to spare his sensibility"
the talk of executions in detail--And St. Just, the deviser of a
thousand enormities, when he left the Committee, after his last
interview, with the project of sending them all to the Guillotine,
telling them, in a tone of tender reproach, like a lover of romance,
"Vous avez fletri mon coeur, je vais l'ouvrir a la Convention."--
Madame Roland, in spite of the tenderness of her sex, could coldly
reason on the expediency of a civil war, which she acknowledged
might become necessary to establish the republic. Let those who
disapprove this censure of a female, whom it is a sort of mode to
lament, recollect that Madame Roland was the victim of a celebrity
she had acquired in assisting the efforts of faction to dethrone the
King--that her literary bureau was dedicated to the purpose of
exasperating the people against him--and that she was considerably
instrumental to the events which occasioned his death. If her
talents and accomplishments make her an object of regret, it was to
the unnatural misapplication of those talents and accomplishments in
the service of party, that she owed her fate. Her own opinion was,
that thousands might justifiably be devoted to the establishment of
a favourite system; or, to speak truly, to the aggrandisement of
those who were its partizans. The same selfish principle actuated
an opposite faction, and she became the sacrifice.--"Oh even-handed

I do not pretend to decide whether the English are virtually more gentle
in their nature than the French; but I am persuaded this douceur, on
which the latter pride themselves, affords no proof of the contrary. An
Englishman is seldom out of humour, without proclaiming it to all the
world; and the most forcible motives of interest, or expediency, cannot
always prevail on him to assume a more engaging external than that which
delineates his feelings.

If he has a matter to refuse, he usually begins by fortifying himself
with a little ruggedness of manner, by way of prefacing a denial he might
otherwise not have resolution to persevere in. "The hows and whens of
life" corrugate his features, and disharmonize his periods; contradiction
sours, and passion ruffles him--and, in short, an Englishman displeased,
from whatever cause, is neither "un homme bien doux," nor "un homme bien
aimable;" but such as nature has made him, subject to infirmities and
sorrows, and unable to disguise the one, or appear indifferent to the
other. Our country, like every other, has doubtless produced too many
examples of human depravity; but I scarcely recollect any, where a
ferocious disposition was not accompanied by corresponding manners--or
where men, who would plunder or massacre, affected to retain at the same
time habits of softness, and a conciliating physiognomy.

We are, I think, on the whole, authorized to conclude, that, in
determining the claims to national superiority, the boasted and unvarying
controul which the French exercise over their features and accents, is
not a merit; nor those indications of what passes within, to which the
English are subject, an imperfection. If the French sometimes supply
their want of kindness, or render disappointment less acute at the
moment, by a sterile complacency, the English harshness is often only the
alloy to an efficient benevolence, and a sympathizing mind. In France
they have no humourists who seem impelled by their nature to do good, in
spite of their temperament--nor have we in England many people who are
cold and unfeeling, yet systematically aimable: but I must still persist
in not thinking it a defect that we are too impetuous, or perhaps too
ingenuous, to unite contradictions.

There is a cause, that doubtless has its effects in representing the
English disadvantageously, and which I have never heard properly allowed
for. The liberty of the press, and the great interest taken by all ranks
of people in public affairs, have occasioned a more numerous circulation
of periodical prints of every kind in England, than in any other country
in Europe. Now, as it is impossible to fill them constantly with
politics, and as the taste of different readers must be consulted, every
barbarous adventure, suicide, murder, robbery, domestic fracas, assaults,
and batteries of the lower orders, with the duels and divorces of the
higher, are all chronicled in various publications, disseminated over
Europe, and convey an idea that we are a very miserable, ferocious, and
dissolute nation. The foreign gazettes being chiefly appropriated to
public affairs, seldom record either the vices, the crimes, or
misfortunes of individuals; so that they are thereby at least prevented
from fixing an unfavourable judgement on the national character.

Mercier observes, that the number of suicides committed in Paris was
supposed to exceed greatly that of similar disasters in London; and that
murders in France were always accompanied by circumstances of peculiar
horror, though policy and custom had rendered the publication of such
events less general than with us.--Our divorces, at which the Gallic
purity of manners used to be so much scandalized, are, no doubt, to be
regretted; but that such separations were not then allowed, or desired in
France, may perhaps be attributed, at least as justly, to the
complaisance of husbands, as to the discretion of wives, or the national

* At present, in the monthly statement, the number of divorces in
France, is often nearly equal to that of the marriages.

I should reproach myself if I could feel impartial when I contemplate the
English character; yet I certainly endeavour to write as though I were
so. If I have erred, it has been rather in allowing too much to received
opinions on the subject of this country, than in suffering my affections
to make me unjust; for though I am far from affecting the fashion of the
day, which censures all prejudices as illiberal, except those in
disfavour of our own country, yet I am warranted, I hope, in saying, that
however partial I may appear to England, I have not been so at the
expence of truth.--Yours, &c.

October 6, 1794.

The sufferings of individuals have often been the means of destroying or
reforming the most powerful tyrannies; reason has been convinced by
argument, and passion appealed to by declamation in vain--when some
unvarnished tale, or simple exposure of facts, has at once rouzed the
feelings, and conquered the supineness of an oppressed people.

The revolutionary government, in spite of the clamorous and weekly
swearings of the Convention to perpetuate it, has received a check from
an event of this nature, which I trust it will never recover.--By an
order of the Revolutionary Committee of Nantes, in November 1793, all
prisoners accused of political crimes were to be transferred to Paris,
where the tribunal being more immediately under the direction of
government, there would be no chance of their acquittal. In consequence
of this order, an hundred and thirty-two inhabitants of Nantes, arrested
on the usual pretexts of foederalism, or as suspected, or being
Muscadins, were, some months after, conducted to Paris. Forty of the
number died through the hardships and ill treatment they encountered on
the way, the rest remained in prison until after the death of

The evidence produced on their trial, which lately took place, has
revealed but too circumstantially all the horrors of the revolutionary
system. Destruction in every form, most shocking to morals or humanity,
has depopulated the countries of the Loire; and republican Pizarro's and
Almagro's seem to have rivalled each other in the invention and
perpetration of crimes.

When the prisons of Nantes overflowed, many hundreds of their miserable
inhabitants had been conducted by night, and chained together, to the
river side; where, being first stripped of their clothes, they were
crouded into vessels with false bottoms, constructed for the purpose, and

* Though the horror excited by such atrocious details must be
serviceable to humanity, I am constrained by decency to spare the
reader a part of them. Let the imagination, however repugnant,
pause for a moment over these scenes--Five, eight hundred people of
different sexes, ages, and conditions, are taken from their prisons,
in the dreary months of December and January, and conducted, during
the silence of the night, to the banks of the Loire. The agents of
the Republic there despoil them of their clothes, and force them,
shivering and defenceless, to enter the machines prepared for their
destruction--they are chained down, to prevent their escape by
swimming, and then the bottom is detached for the upper part, and
sunk.--On some occasions the miserable victims contrived to loose
themselves, and clinging to the boards near them, shrieked in the
agonies of despair and death, "O save us! it is not even now too
late: in mercy save us!" But they appealed to wretches to whom
mercy was a stranger; and, being cut away from their hold by strokes
of the sabre, perished with their companions. That nothing might be
wanting to these outrages against nature, they were escribed as
jests, and called "Noyades, water parties," and "civic baptisms"!
Carrier, a Deputy of the Convention, used to dine and make parties
of pleasure, accompanied by music and every species of gross luxury,
on board the barges appropriated to these execrable purposes.

--At one time, six hundred children appear to have been destroyed in this
manner;--young people of different sexes were tied in pairs and thrown
into the river;--thousands were shot in the high roads and in the fields;
and vast numbers were guillotined, without a trial!*

* Six young women, (the _Mesdemoiselles la Meterie,_) in particular,
sisters, and all under four-and-twenty, were ordered to the
Guillotine together: the youngest died instantly of fear, the rest
were executed successively.--A child eleven years old, who had
previously told the executioner, with affecting simplicity, that he
hoped he would not hurt him much, received three strokes of the
Guillotine before his head was severed from his body.

--Two thousand died, in less than two months, of a pestilence, occasioned
by this carnage: the air became infected, and the waters of the Loire
empoisoned, by dead bodies; and those whom tyranny yet spared, perished
by the elements which nature intended for their support.*

* Vast sums were exacted from the Nantais for purifying the air, and
taking precautions against epidemical disorders.

But I will not dwell on horrors, which, if not already known to all
Europe, I should be unequal to describe: suffice it to say, that whatever
could disgrace or afflict mankind, whatever could add disgust to
detestation, and render cruelty, if possible, less odious than the
circumstances by which it was accompanied, has been exhibited in this
unfortunate city.--Both the accused and their witnesses were at first
timid through apprehension, but by degrees the monstrous mysteries of the
government were laid open, and it appeared, beyond denial or palliation,
that these enormities were either devised, assisted, or connived at, by
Deputies of the Convention, celebrated for their ardent republicanism and
revolutionary zeal.--The danger of confiding unlimited power to such men
as composed the majority of the Assembly, was now displayed in a manner
that penetrated the dullest imagination, and the coldest heart; and it
was found, that, armed with decrees, aided by revolutionary committees,
revolutionary troops, and revolutionary vehicles of destruction,*
missionaries selected by choice from the whole representation, had, in
the city of Nantes alone, and under the mask of enthusiastic patriotism,
sacrificed thirty thousand people!

* A company was formed of all the ruffians that could be collected
together. They were styled the Company of Marat, and were specially
empowered to arrest whomsoever they chose, and to enter houses by
night or day--in fine, to proscribe and pillage at their pleasure.

Facts like these require no comment. The nation may be intimidated, and
habits of obedience, or despair of redress, prolong its submission; but
it can no longer be deceived: and patriotism, revolutionary liberty, and
philosophy, are for ever associated with the drowning machines of
Carrier, and the precepts and calculations of a Herault de Sechelles,* or
a Lequinio.**--

* Herault de Sechelles was distinguished by birth, talents, and
fortune, above most of his colleagues in the Convention; yet we find
him in correspondence with Carrier, applauding his enormities, and
advising him how to continue them with effect.--Herault was of a
noble family, and had been a president in the Parliament of Paris.
He was one of Robespierre's Committee of Public Welfare, and being
in some way implicated in a charge of treachery brought against
Simon, another Deputy, was guillotined at the same time with Danton.

** Lequinio is a philosopher by profession, who has endeavoured to
enlighten his countrymen by a publication entitled "_Les Prejuges
Detruits,_" and since by proving it advantageous to make no prisoners
of war.

--The ninety Nantais, against whom there existed no serious charge, and
who had already suffered more than death, were acquitted. Yet, though
the people were gratified by this verdict, and the general indignation
appeased by an immediate arrest of those who had been most notoriously
active in these dreadful operations, a deep and salutary impression
remains, and we may hope it will be found impracticable either to renew
the same scenes, or for the Convention to shelter (as they seemed
disposed to do) the principal criminals, who are members of their own
body. Yet, how are these delinquents to be brought to condemnation?
They all acted under competent authority, and their dispatches to the
Convention, which sufficiently indicated their proceedings, were always
sanctioned by circulation, and applauded, according to the excess of
their flagitiousness.

It is worthy of remark, that Nantes, the principal theatre of these
persecutions and murders, had been early distinguished by the attachment
of its inhabitants to the revolution; insomuch, that, at the memorable
epoch when the short-sighted policy of the Court excluded the Constituent
Assembly from their Hall at Versailles, and they took refuge in the Jeu
de Paume, with a resolution fatal to their country, never to separate
until they had obtained their purposes, an express was sent to Nantes, as
the place they should make choice of, if any violence obliged them to
quit the neighbourhood of Paris.

But it was not only by its principles that Nantes had signalized itself;
at every period of the war, it had contributed largely both in men and
money, and its riches and commerce still rendered it one of the most
important towns of the republic.--What has been its reward?--Barbarous
envoys from the Convention, sent expressly to level the aristocracy of
wealth, to crush its mercantile spirit, and decimate its inhabitants.*--

* When Nantes was reduced almost to a state of famine by the
destruction of commerce, and the supplies drawn for the maintenance
of the armies, Commissioners were sent to Paris, to solicit a supply
of provisions. They applied to Carrier, as being best acquainted
with their distress, and were answered in this language:--_"Demandez,
pour Nantes! je solliciterai qu'on porte le fer et la flamme dans
cette abominable ville. Vous etes tous des coquins, des contre-
revolutionnaires, des brigands, des scelerats, je ferai nommer une
commission par la Convention Nationale.--J'irai moi meme a la tete
de cette commission.--Scelerats, je serai rouler les tetes dans
Nantes--je regenererai Nantes."_--"Is it for Nantes that you
petition? I'll exert my influence to have fire and sword carried
into that abominable city. You are all scoundrels, counter-
revolutionists, thieves, miscreants.--I'll have a commission
appointed by the Convention, and go myself at the head of it.--
Villains, I'll set your heads a rolling about Nantes--I'll
regenerate Nantes."
Report of the Commission of Twenty-one, on the conduct of Carrier.

--Terrible lesson for those discontented and mistaken people, who,
enriched by commerce, are not content with freedom and independence, but
seek for visionary benefits, by becoming the partizans of innovation, or
the tools of faction!*

* The disasters of Nantes ought not to be lost to the republicans of
Birmingham, Manchester, and other great commercial towns, where "men
fall out they know not why;" and where their increasing wealth and
prosperity are the best eulogiums on the constitution they attempt
to undermine.

I have hitherto said little of La Vendee; but the fate of Nantes is so
nearly connected with it, that I shall make it the subject of my next

[No Date or Place Given.]

It appears, that the greater part of the inhabitants of Poitou, Anjou,
and the Southern divisions of Brittany, now distinguished by the general
appellation of the people of La Vendee, (though they include those of
several other departments,) never either comprehended or adopted the
principles of the French revolution. Many different causes contributed
to increase their original aversion from the new system, and to give
their resistance that consistency, which has since become so formidable.
A partiality for their ancient customs, an attachment to their Noblesse,
and a deference for their Priests, are said to characterize the brave
and simple natives of La Vendee. Hence republican writers, with
self-complacent decision, always treat this war as the effect of
ignorance, slavery, and superstition.

The modern reformist, who calls the labourer from the plough, and the
artizan from the loom, to make them statesmen or philosophers, and who
has invaded the abodes of contented industry with the rights of man, that
our fields may be cultivated, and our garments wove, by metaphysicians,
will readily assent to this opinion.--Yet a more enlightened and liberal
philosophy may be tempted to examine how far the Vendeans have really
merited the contempt and persecution of which they have been the objects.
By the confession of the republicans themselves, they are religious,
hospitable, and frugal, humane and merciful towards their enemies, and
easily persuaded to whatever is just and reasonable.

I do not pretend to combat the narrow prejudices of those who suppose the
worth or happiness of mankind compatible but with one set of opinions;
and who, confounding the adventitious with the essential, appreciate only
book learning: but surely, qualities which imply a knowledge of what is
due both to God and man, and information sufficient to yield to what is
right or rational, are not descriptive of barbarians; or at least, we may
say with Phyrrhus, "there is nothing barbarous in their discipline."*

*"The husbandmen of this country are in general men of simple
manners, naturally well inclined, or at least not addicted to
serious vices." Lequinio, Guerre de La Vendee.

Dubois de Crance, speaking of the inhabitants of La Vendee, says,
"They are the most hospitable people I ever saw, and always disposed
to listen to what is just and reasonable, if proffered with mildness
and humanity."

"This unpolished people, whom, however, it is much less difficult to
persuade than to fight." Lequinio, G. de La V.

"They affected towards our prisoners a deceitful humanity,
neglecting no means to draw them over to their own party, and often
sending them back to us with only a simple prohibition to bear arms
against the King or religion."
Report of Richard and Choudieu.

The ignorant Vendeans then could give lessons of policy and
humanity, which the "enlightened" republicans were not capable of
profiting by.

--Their adherence to their ancient institutions, and attachment to their
Gentry and Clergy, when the former were abolished and the latter
proscribed, might warrant a presumption that they were happy under the
one, and kindly treated by the other: for though individuals may
sometimes persevere in affections or habits from which they derive
neither felicity nor advantage, whole bodies of men can scarcely be
supposed eager to risk their lives in defence of privileges that have
oppressed them, or of a religion from which they draw no consolation.

But whatever the cause, the new doctrines, both civil and religious, were
received in La Vendee with a disgust, which was not only expressed by
murmurs, but occasionally by little revolts, by disobedience to the
constitutional authorities, and a rejection of the constitutional clergy.

Some time previous to the deposition of the King, Commissioners were sent
to suppress these disorders; and though I doubt not but all possible
means were taken to conciliate, I can easily believe, that neither the
King nor his Ministers might be desirous of subduing by force a people
who erred only from piety or loyalty. What effect this system of
indulgence might have produced cannot now be decided; because the
subsequent overthrow of the monarchy, and the massacre or banishment of
the priests, must have totally alienated their minds, and precluded all
hope of reconcilement.--Disaffection, therefore, continued to increase,
and the Brissotines are suspected of having rather fostered than
repressed these intestine commotions,* for the same purpose which induced
them to provoke the war with England, and to extend that of the

* Le Brun, one of the Brissotin Ministers, concealed the progress of
this war for six months before he thought fit to report it to the

--It is impossible to assign a good motive to any act of this literary

--Perhaps, while they determined to establish their faction by "braving
all Europe," they might think it equally politic to perplex and overawe
Paris by a near and dangerous enemy, which would render their continuance
in power necessary, or whom they might join, if expelled from it.*

* This last reason might afterwards have given way to their
apprehensions, and the Brissotins have preferred the creation of new
civil wars, to a confidence in the royalists. These men, who
condemned the King for a supposed intention of defending an
authority transmitted to him through whole ages, and recently
sanctioned by the voice of the people, did not scruple to excite a
civil war in defence of their six months' sovereignty over a
republic, proclaimed by a ferocious comedian, and certainly without
the assent of the nation. Had the ill-fated Monarch dared thus to
trifle with the lives of his subjects, he might have saved France
and himself from ruin.

When men gratify their ambition by means so sanguinary and atrocious as
those resorted to by the Brissotines, we are authorized in concluding
they will not be more scrupulous in the use or preservation of power,
than they were in attaining it; and we can have no doubt but that the
fomenting or suppressing the progress of civil discord, was, with them,
a mere question of expediency.

The decree which took place in March, 1793, for raising three hundred
thousand men in the departments, changed the partial insurrections of La
Vendee to an open and connected rebellion; and every where the young
people refused going, and joined in preference the standard of revolt.
In the beginning of the summer, the brigands* (as they were called) grew
so numerous, that the government, now in the hands of Robespierre and his
party, began to take serious measures to combat them.

* Robbers--_banditti_--The name was first given, probably, to the
insurgents of La Vendee, in order to insinuate a belief that the
disorders were but of a slight and predatory nature.

--One body of troops were dispatched after another, who were all
successively defeated, and every where fled before the royalists.

It is not unusual in political concerns to attribute to deep-laid plans
and abstruse combinations, effects which are the natural result of
private passions and isolated interests. Robespierre is said to have
promoted both the destruction of the republican armies and those of La
Vendee, in order to reduce the national population. That he was capable
of imagining such a project is probable--yet we need not, in tracing the
conduct of the war, look farther than to the character of the agents who
were, almost necessarily, employed in it. Nearly every officer qualified
for the command of an army, had either emigrated, or was on service at
the frontiers; and the task of reducing by violence a people who resisted
only because they deemed themselves injured, and who, even in the
estimation of the republicans, could only be mistaken, was naturally
avoided by all men who were not mere adventurers. It might likewise be
the policy of the government to prefer the services of those, who, having
neither reputation nor property, would be more dependent, and whom,
whether they became dangerous by their successes or defeats, it would be
easy to sacrifice.

Either, then, from necessity or choice, the republican armies in La
Vendee were conducted by dissolute and rapacious wretches, at all times
more eager to pillage than fight, and who were engaged in securing their
plunder, when they should have been in pursuit of the enemy. On every
occasion they seemed to retreat, that their ill success might afford them
a pretext for declaring that the next town or village was confederated
with the insurgents, and for delivering it up, in consequence, to murder
and rapine. Such of the soldiers as could fill their pocket-books with
assignats, left their less successful companions, and retired as invalids
to the hospitals: the battalions of Paris (and particularly "the
conquerors of the Bastille") had such ardour for pillage, that every
person possessed of property was, in their sense, an aristocrat, whom it
was lawful to despoil.*

* _"Le pillage a ete porte a son comble--les militaires au lieu de
songer a ce qu'ils avoient a faire, n'ont pense qu'a remplir leurs
sacs, et a voir se perpetuer une guerre aussi avantageuse a leur
interet--beaucoup de simples soldats ont acquis cinquante mille
francs et plus; on en a vu couverts de bijoux, et faisant dans tous
les genres des depenses d'une produgaloite, monstreuse."
Lequinio, Guerre de la Vendee._

"The most unbridled pillage prevailed--officers, instead of
attending to their duty, thought only of filling their portmanteaus,
and of the means to perpetuate a war they found so profitable.--Many
private soldiers made fifty thousand livres, and they have been seen
loaded with trinkets, and exercising the most abominable
prodigalities of every kind."
Lequinio, War of La Vendee.

"The conquerors of the Bastille had unluckily a most unbridled
ardour for pillage--one would have supposed they had come for the
express purpose of plunder, rather than fighting. The stage coaches
for Paris were entirely loaded with their booty."
Report of Benaben, Commissioner of the Department of Maine and

--The carriages of the army were entirely appropriated to the conveyance
of their booty; till, at last, the administrators of some departments
were under the necessity of forbidding such incumbrances: but the
officers, with whom restrictions of this sort were unavailing, put all
the horses and waggons of the country in requisition for similar
purposes, while they relaxed themselves from the serious business of the
war, (which indeed was nearly confined to burning, plundering, and
massacring the defenceless inhabitants,) by a numerous retinue of
mistresses and musicians.

It is not surprizing that generals and troops of this description were
constantly defeated; and their reiterated disasters might probably have
first suggested the idea of totally exterminating a people it was found
so difficult to subdue, and so impracticable to conciliate.--On the first
of October 1793, Barrere, after inveighing against the excessive
population of La Vendee, which he termed "frightful," proposed to the
Convention to proclaim by a decree, that the war of La Vendee "should be
terminated" by the twentieth of the same month. The Convention, with
barbarous folly, obeyed; and the enlightened Parisians, accustomed to
think with contempt on the ignorance of the Vendeans, believed that a
war, which had baffled the efforts of government for so many months, was
to end on a precise day--which Barrere had fixed with as much assurance
as though he had only been ordering a fete.

But the Convention and the government understood this decree in a very
different sense from the good people of Paris. The war was, indeed, to
be ended; not by the usual mode of combating armies, but by a total
extinction of all the inhabitants of the country, both innocent and
guilty--and Merlin de Thionville, with other members, so perfectly
comprehended this detestable project, that they already began to devise
schemes for repeopling La Vendee, when its miserable natives should be

* It is for the credit of humanity to believe, that the decree was
not understood according to its real intention; but the nation has
to choose between the imputation of cruelty, stupidity, or slavery--
for they either approved the sense of the decree, believed what was
not possible, or were obliged to put on an appearance of both, in
spite of their senses and their feelings. A proclamation, in
consequence, to the army, is more explicit--"All the brigands of La
Vendee must be exterminated before the end of October."

From this time, the representatives on mission, commissaries of war,
officers, soldiers, and agents of every kind, vied with each other in the
most abominable outrages. Carrier superintended the fusillades and
noyades at Nantes, while Lequinio dispatched with his own hands a part of
the prisoners taken at La Fontenay, and projected the destruction of the
rest.--After the evacuation of Mans by the insurgents, women were brought
by twenties and thirties, and shot before the house where the deputies
Tureau and Bourbotte had taken up their residence; and it appears to have
been considered as a compliment to these republican Molochs, to surround
their habitation with mountains of the dead. A compliment of the like
nature was paid to the representative Prieur de la Marne,* by a
volunteer, who having learned that his own brother was taken amongst the
enemy, requested, by way of recommending himself to notice, a formal
permission to be his executioner.--The Roman stoicism of Prieur accepted
the implied homage, and granted the request!!

* This representative, who was also a member of the Committee of
Public Welfare, was not only the Brutus, but the Antony of La
Vendee; for we learn from the report of Benaben, that his stern
virtues were accompanied, through the whole of his mission in this
afflicted country, by a cortege of thirty strolling fiddlers!

Fourteen hundred prisoners, who had surrendered at Savenay, among whom
were many women and children, were shot, by order of the deputy
Francastel, who, together with Hentz, Richard, Choudieu, Carpentier, and
others of their colleagues, set an example of rapine and cruelty, but too
zealously imitated by their subordinate agents. In some places, the
inhabitants, without distinction of age or sex, were put indiscriminately
to the sword; in others, they were forced to carry the pillage collected
from their own dwellings, which, after being thus stripped, were
consigned to the flames.*

* "This conflagration accomplished, they had no sooner arrived in
the midst of our army, than the volunteers, in imitation of their
commanders, seized what little they had preserved, and massacred
them.--But this is not all: a whole municipality, in their scarfs of
office, were sacrificed; and at a little village, inhabited by about
fifty good patriots, who had been uniform in their resistance of the
insurgents, news is brought that their brother soldiers are coming
to assist them, and to revenge the wrongs they have suffered. A
friendly repast is provided, the military arrive, embrace their
ill-fated hosts, and devour what they have provided; which is no
sooner done, than they drive all these poor people into the
churchyard, and stab them one after another."
Report of Faure, Vice-President of a Military Commission at

--The heads of the prisoners served occasionally as marks for the
officers to shoot at for trifling wagers, and the soldiers, who imitated
these heinous examples, used to conduct whole hundreds to the place of
execution, singing _"allons enfans de la patrie."_*

* Woe to those who were unable to walk, for, under pretext that
carriages could not be found to convey them, they were shot without

The insurgents had lost Cholet, Chatillon, Mortagne, &c. Yet, far from
being vanquished by the day appointed, they had crossed the Loire in
great force, and, having traversed Brittany, were preparing to make an
attack on Granville. But this did not prevent Barrere from announcing to
the convention, that La Vendee was no more, and the galleries echoed with
applauses, when they were told that the highways were impassable, from
the numbers of the dead, and that a considerable part of France was one
vast cemetery. This intelligence also tranquillized the paternal
solicitude of the legislature, and, for many months, while the system of
depopulation was pursued with the most barbarous fury, it was not
permissible even to suspect that the war was yet unextinguished.

It is only since the trial of the Nantais, that the state of La Vendee
has again become a subject of discussion: truth has now forced its way,
and we learn, that, whatever may be the strength of these unhappy people,
their minds, embittered by suffering, and animated by revenge, are still
less than ever disposed to submit to the republican government. The
design of total extirpation, once so much insisted on, is at present said
to be relinquished, and a plan of instruction and conversion is to be
substituted for bayonets and conflagrations. The revolted countries are
to be enlightened by the doctrines of liberty, fanaticism is to be
exposed, and a love of the republic to succeed the prejudices in favour
of Kings and Nobles.--To promote these objects, is, undoubtedly, the real
interest of the Convention; but a moralist, who observes through another
medium, may compare with regret and indignation the instructors with the
people they are to illumine, and the advantages of philosophy over

Lequinio, one of the most determined reformers of the barbarism of La
Vendee, proposes two methods: the first is, a general massacre of all the
natives--and the only objection it seems susceptible of in his opinion
is, their numbers; but as he thinks on this account it may be attended
with difficulty, he is for establishing a sort of perpetual mission of
Representatives, who, by the influence of good living and a company of
fiddlers and singers, are to restore the whole country to peace.*--

*"The only difficulty that presents itself is, to determine whether
recourse shall be had to the alternative of indulgence, or if it
will not be more advantageous to persist in the plan of total

"If the people that still remain were not more than thirty or forty
thousand, the shortest way would doubtless be, to cut all their
throats (egorger), agreeably to my first opinion; but the population
is immense, amounting still to four hundred thousand souls.--If
there were no hope of succeeding by any other methods, certainly it
were better to kill all (egorger), even were there five hundred

"But what are we to understand by measures of rigour? Is there no
distinction to be made between rigorous and barbarous measures? The
utmost severity is justified on the plea of the general good, but
nothing can justify barbarity. If the welfare of France
necessitated the sacrifice of the four hundred thousand inhabitants
of La Vendee, and the countries in rebellion adjoining, they ought
to be sacrificed: but, even in this case, there would be no excuse
for those atrocities which revolt nature, which are an outrage to
social order, and repugnant equally to feeling (sentiment) and
reason; and in cutting off so many entire generations for the good
of the country, we ought not to suffer the use of barbarous means in
a single instance.

"Now the most effectual way to arrive at this end (converting the
people), would be by joyous and fraternal missions, frank and
familiar harangues, civic repasts, and, above all, dancing.

"I could wish, too, that during their circuits in these countries,
the Representatives were always attended by musicians. The expence
would be trifling, compared with the good effect; if, as I am
strongly persuaded, we could thus succeed in giving a turn to the
public mind, and close the bleeding arteries of these fertile and
unhappy provinces."
Lequinio, Guerre de La Vendee.

And this people, who were either to have their throats cut, or be
republicanized by means of singing, dancing, and revolutionary Pans
and Silenus's, already beheld their property devastated by pillage
or conflagration, and were in danger of a pestilence from the
unburied bodies of their families.--Let the reader, who has seen
Lequinio's pamphlet, compare his account of the sufferings of the
Vendeans, and his project for conciliating them. They convey a
strong idea of the levity of the national character; but, in this
instance, I must suppose, that nature would be superior to local
influence; and I doubt if Lequinio's jocund philosophy will ever
succeed in attaching the Vendeans to the republic.

--Camille Desmouins, a republican reformer, nearly as sanguinary, though
not more liberal, thought the guillotine disgraced by such ignorant prey,
and that it were better to hunt them down like wild beasts; or, if made
prisoners, to exchange them against the cattle of their country!--The
eminently informed Herault de Sechelles was the patron and confidant of
the exterminating reforms of Carrier; and Carnot, when the mode of
reforming by noyades and fusillades was debated at the Committee, pleaded
the cause of Carrier, whom he describes as a good, nay, an excellent
patriot.--Merlin de Thionville, whose philosophy is of a more martial
cast, was desirous that the natives of La Vendee should be completely
annihilated, in order to furnish in their territory and habitations a
recompence for the armies.--Almost every member of the Convention has
individually avowed principles, or committed acts, from which common
turpitude would recoil, and, as a legislative body, their whole code has
been one unvarying subversion of morals and humanity. Such are the men
who value themselves on possessing all the advantages the Vendeans are
pretended to be in want of.--We will now examine what disciples they have
produced, and the benefits which have been derived from their

Every part of France remarkable for an early proselytism to the
revolutionary doctrines has been the theatre of crimes unparalleled in
the annals of human nature. Those who have most boasted their contempt
for religious superstition have been degraded by an idolatry as gross as
any ever practiced on the Nile; and the most enthusiastic republicans
have, without daring to murmur, submitted for two years successively to a
horde of cruel and immoral tyrants.--A pretended enfranchisement from
political and ecclesiastical slavery has been the signal of the lowest
debasement, and the most cruel profligacy: the very Catechumens of
freedom and philosophy have, while yet in their first rudiments,
distinguished themselves as proficients in the arts of oppression and
servility, of intolerance and licentiousness.--Paris, the rendezvous of
all the persecuted patriots and philosophers in Europe, the centre of the
revolutionary system, whose inhabitants were illumined by the first rays
of modern republicanism, and who claim a sort of property in the rights
of man, as being the original inventors, may fairly be quoted as an
example of the benefits that would accrue from a farther dissemination of
the new tenets.

Without reverting to the events of August and September, 1792, presided
by the founders of liberty, and executed by their too apt sectaries, it
is notorious that the legions of Paris, sent to chastise the
unenlightened Vendeans, were the most cruel and rapacious banditti that
ever were let loose to afflict the world. Yet, while they exercised this
savage oppression in the countries near the Loire, their fellow-citizens
on the banks of the Seine crouched at the frown of paltry tyrants, and
were unresistingly dragged to dungeons, or butchered by hundreds on the
scaffold.--At Marseilles, Lyons, Bourdeaux, Arras, wherever these baleful
principles have made converts, they have made criminals and victims; and
those who have been most eager in imbibing or propagating them have, by a
natural and just retribution, been the first sacrificed. The new
discoveries in politics have produced some in ethics not less novel, and
until the adoption of revolutionary doctrines, the extent of human
submission or human depravity was fortunately unknown.

In this source of guilt and misery the people of La Vendee are now to be
instructed--that people, who are acknowledged to be hospitable, humane,
and laborious, and whose ideas of freedom may be better estimated by
their resistance to a despotism which the rest of France has sunk under,
than by the jargon of pretended reformers.--I could wish, that not only
the peasants of La Vendee, but those of all other countries, might for
ever remain strangers to such pernicious knowledge. It is sufficient for
this useful class of men to be taught the simple precepts of religion and
morality, and those who would teach them more, are not their benefactors.
Our age is, indeed, a literary age, and such pursuits are both liberal
and laudable in the rich and idle; but why should volumes of politics or
philosophy be mutilated and frittered into pamphlets, to inspire a
disgust for labour, and a taste for study or pleasure, in those to whom
such disgusts or inclinations are fatal. The spirit of one author is
extracted, and the beauties of another are selected, only to bewilder the
understanding, and engross the time, of those who might be more
profitably employed.

I know I may be censured as illiberal; but I have, during my abode in
this country, sufficiently witnessed the disastrous effects of corrupting
a people through their amusements or curiosity, and of making men neglect
their useful callings to become patriots and philosophers.*--

*This right of directing public affairs, and neglecting their own,
we may suppose essential to republicans of the lower orders, since
we find the following sentence of transportation in the registers of
a popular commission:

"Bergeron, a dealer in skins--suspected--having done nothing in
favour of the revolution--extremely selfish (egoiste,) and blaming
the Sans-Culottes for neglecting their callings, that they may
attend only to public concerns."--Signed by the members of the
Commission and the two Committees.

--_"Il est dangereux d'apprendre au peuple a raisonner: il ne faut pas
l'eclairer trop, parce qu'il n'est pas possible de l'eclairer assez."_
["It is dangerous to teach the people to reason--they should not be too
much enlightened, because it is not possible to enlighten them
sufficiently."]--When the enthusiasm of Rousseau's genius was thus
usefully submitted to his good sense and knowledge of mankind, he little
expected every hamlet in France would be inundated with scraps of the
contrat social, and thousands of inoffensive peasants massacred for not
understanding the Profession de Foi.

The arguments of mistaken philanthropists or designing politicians may
divert the order of things, but they cannot change our nature--they may
create an universal taste for literature, but they will never unite it
with habits of industry; and until they prove how men are to live without
labour, they have no right to banish the chearful vacuity which usually
accompanies it, by substituting reflections to make it irksome, and
propensities with which it is incompatible.

The situation of France has amply demonstrated the folly of attempting to
make a whole people reasoners and politicians--there seems to be no
medium; and as it is impossible to make a nation of sages, you let loose
a horde of savages: for the philosophy which teaches a contempt for
accustomed restraints, is not difficult to propagate; but that superior
kind, which enables men to supply them, by subduing the passions that
render restraints necessary, is of slow progress, and never can be

I have made the war of La Vendee more a subject of reflection than
narrative, and have purposely avoided military details, which would be
not only uninteresting, but disgusting. You would learn no more from
these desultory hostilities, than that the defeats of the republican
armies were, if possible, more sanguinary than their victories; that the
royalists, who began the war with humanity, were at length irritated to
reprisals; and that more than two hundred thousand lives have already
been sacrificed in the contest, yet undecided.

Amiens, Oct. 24, 1794.

Revolutions, like every thing else in France, are a mode, and the
Convention already commemorate four since 1789: that of July 1789, which
rendered the monarchical power nugatory; that of August the 10th, 1792,
which subverted it; the expulsion of the Brissotins, in May 1793; and the
death of Robespierre, in July 1794.

The people, accustomed, from their earliest knowledge, to respect the
person and authority of the King, felt that the events of the two first
epochs, which disgraced the one and annihilated the other, were violent
and important revolutions; and, as language which expresses the public
sentiment is readily adopted, it soon became usual to speak of these
events as the revolutions of July and August.

The thirty-first of May has always been viewed in a very different light,
for it was not easy to make the people at large comprehend how the
succession of Robespierre and Danton to Brissot and Roland could be
considered as a revolution, more especially as it appeared evident that
the principles of one party actuated the government of the other. Every
town had its many-headed monster to represent the defeat of the
Foederalists, and its mountain to proclaim the triumph of their enemies
the Mountaineers; but these political hieroglyphics were little
understood, and the merits of the factions they alluded to little
distinguished--so that the revolution of the thirty-first of May was
rather a party aera, than a popular one.

The fall of Robespierre would have made as little impression as that of
the Girondists, if some melioration of the revolutionary system had not
succeeded it; and it is in fact only since the public voice, and the
interest of the Convention, have occasioned a change approaching to
reform, that the death of Robespierre is really considered as a benefit.

But what was in itself no more than a warfare of factions, may now, if
estimated by its consequences, be pronounced a revolution of infinite
importance. The Jacobins, whom their declining power only rendered more
insolent and daring, have at length obliged the Convention to take
decided measures against them, and they are now subject to such
regulations as must effectually diminish their influence, and, in the
end, dissolve their whole combination. They can no longer correspond as
societies, and the mischievous union which constituted their chief force,
can scarcely be supported for any time under the present restrictions.*

* "All affiliations, aggregations, and foederations, as well as
correspondences carried on collectively between societies, under
whatever denomination they may exist, are henceforth prohibited, as
being subversive of government, and contrary to the unity of the

"Those persons who sign as presidents or secretaries, petitions or
addresses in a collective form, shall be arrested and confined as
suspicious, &c. &c.--Whoever offends in any shape against the
present law, will incur the same penalty."

The whole of the decree is in the same spirit. The immediate and
avowed pretext for this measure was, that the popular societies, who
have of late only sent petitions disagreeable to the Convention, did
not express the sense of the people. Yet the deposition of the
King, and the establishment of the republic, had no other sanction
than the adherence of these clubs, who are now allowed not to be the
nation, and whose very existence as then constituted is declared to
be subversive of government.

It is not improbable, that the Convention, by suffering the clubs still
to exist, after reducing them to nullity, may hope to preserve the
institution as a future resource against the people, while it represses
their immediate efforts against itself. The Brissotins would have
attempted a similar policy, but they had nothing to oppose to the
Jacobins, except their personal influence. Brissot and Roland took part
with the clubs, as they approved the massacres of August and September,
just as far as it answered their purpose; and when they were abandoned by
the one, and the other were found to incur an unprofitable odium, they
acted the part which Tallien and Freron act now under the same
circumstances, and would willingly have promoted the destruction of a
power which had become inimical to them.*--

* Brissot and Roland were more pernicious as Jacobins than the most
furious of their successors. If they did not in person excite the
people to the commission of crimes, they corrupted them, and made
them fit instruments for the crimes of others. Brissot might affect
to condemn the massacres of September in the gross, but he is known
to have enquired with eager impatience, and in a tone which implied
he had reasons for expecting it, whether De Morande, an enemy he
wished to be released from, was among the murdered.

--Their imitators, without possessing more honesty, either political or
moral, are more fortunate; and not only Tallien and Freron, who since
their expulsion from the Jacobins have become their most active enemies,
are now in a manner popular, but even the whole Convention is much less
detested than it was before.

It is the singular felicity of the Assembly to derive a sort of
popularity from the very excesses it has occasioned or sanctioned, and
which, it was natural to suppose, would have consigned it for ever to
vengeance or obloquy; but the past sufferings of the people have taught
them to be moderate in their expectations; and the name of their
representation has been so connected with tyranny of every sort, that it
appears an extraordinary forbearance when the usual operations of
guillotines and mandates of arrest are suspended.

Thus, though the Convention have not in effect repaired a thousandth part
of their own acts of injustice, or done any good except from necessity,
they are overwhelmed with applauding addresses, and affectionate
injunctions not to quit their post. What is still more wonderful, many
of these are sincere; and Tallien, Freron, Legendre, &c. with all their
revolutionary enormities on their heads, are now the heroes of the
reviving aristocrats.

Situated as things are at present, there is much sound policy in
flattering the Convention into a proper use of their power, rather than
making a convulsive effort to deprive them of it. The Jacobins would
doubtless avail themselves of such a movement; and this is so much
apprehended, that it has given rise to a general though tacit agreement
to foment the divisions between the Legislature and the Clubs, and to
support the first, at least until it shall have destroyed the latter.

The late decrees, which obstruct the intercourse and affiliation of
popular societies, may be regarded as an event not only beneficial to
this country, but to the world in general; because it is confessed, that
these combinations, by means of which the French monarchy was subverted,
and the King brought to the scaffold, are only reconcileable with a
barbarous and anarchical government.

The Convention are now much occupied on two affairs, which call forth all
their "natural propensities," and afford a farther confirmation of this
fact--that their feelings and principles are always instinctively at war
with justice, however they may find it expedient to affect a regard for
it--_C'est la chatte metamorphosee en femme_ [The cat turned into a

_"En vain de son train ordinaire"
"On la veut desaccoutumer,
"Quelque chose qu'on puisse faire
"On ne fauroit la reformer."_
La Fontaine.

The Deputies who were imprisoned as accomplices of the Girondists, and on
other different pretexts, have petitioned either to be brought to trial
or released; and the abominable conduct of Carrier at Nantes is so fully
substantiated, that the whole country is impatient to have some steps
taken towards bringing him to punishment: yet the Convention are averse
from both these measures--they procrastinate and elude the demand of
their seventy-two colleagues, who were arrested without a specific
charge; while they almost protect Carrier, and declare, that in cases
which tend to deprive a Representative of his liberty, it is better to
reflect thirty times than once. This is curious doctrine with men who
have sent so many people arbitrarily to the scaffold, and who now detain
seventy-two Deputies in confinement, they know not why.

The ashes of Rousseau have recently been deposited with the same
ceremonies, and in the same place, as those of Marat. We should feel for
such a degradation of genius, had not the talents of Rousseau been
frequently misapplied; and it is their misapplication which has levelled
him to an association with Marat. Rousseau might be really a fanatic,
and, though eccentric, honest; yet his power of adorning impracticable
systems, it must be acknowledged, has been more mischievous to society
than a thousand such gross impostors as Marat.

I have learned since my return from the Providence, the death of Madame
Elizabeth. I was ill when it happened, and my friends took some pains to
conceal an event which they knew would affect me. In tracing the motives
of the government for this horrid action, it may perhaps be sufficiently
accounted for in the known piety and virtues of this Princess; but
reasons of another kind have been suggested to me, and which, in all
likelihood, contributed to hasten it. She was the only person of the
royal family of an age competent for political transactions who had not
emigrated, and her character extorted respect even from her enemies. [The
Prince of Conti was too insignificant to be an object of jealousy in this
way.] She must therefore, of course, since the death of the Queen, have
been an object of jealousy to all parties. Robespierre might fear that
she would be led to consent to some arrangement with a rival faction for
placing the King on the throne--the Convention were under similar
apprehensions with regard to him; so that the fate of this illustrious
sufferer was probably gratifying to every part of the republicans.

I find, on reading her trial, (if so it may be called,) a repetition of
one of the principal charges against the Queen--that of trampling on the
national colours at Versailles, during an entertainment given to some
newly-arrived troops. Yet I have been assured by two gentlemen,
perfectly informed on the subject, and who were totally unacquainted with
each other, that this circumstance, which has been so usefully enlarged
upon, is false,* and that the whole calumny originated in the jealousy of
a part of the national guard who had not been invited.

* This infamous calumny (originally fabricated by Lecointre the
linen draper, then an officer of the National Guard, now a member of
the council of 500) was amply confuted by M. Mounier, who was
President of the States-General at the time, in a publication
intitled "_Expose de ma Conduite,_" which appeared soon after the
event--in the autumn of 1789.--Editor.

But this, as well as the taking of the Bastille, and other revolutionary
falsehoods, will, I trust, be elucidated. The people are now undeceived
only by their calamities--the time may come, when it will be safe to
produce their conviction by truth. Heroes of the fourteenth of July, and
patriots of the tenth of August, how will ye shrink from it!--Yours, &c.

Amiens, Nov. 2, 1794.

Every post now brings me letters from England; but I perceive, by the
suppressed congratulations of my friends, that, though they rejoice to
find I am still alive, they are far from thinking me in a state of
security. You, my dear Brother, must more particularly have lamented the
tedious confinement I have endured, and the inconveniencies to which I
have been subjected; I am, however, persuaded that you would not wish me
to have been exempt from a persecution in which all the natives of
England, who are not a disgrace to their country, as well as some that
are so, have shared. Such an exemption would now be deemed a reproach;
for, though it must be confessed that few of us have been voluntary
sufferers, we still claim the honour of martyrdom, and are not very
tolerant towards those who, exposed by their situation, may be supposed
to have owed their protection to their principles.

There are, indeed, many known revolutionists and republicans, who, from
party disputes, personal jealousies, or from being comprised in some
general measure, have undergone a short imprisonment; and these men now
wish to be confounded with their companions who are of a different
description. But such persons are carefully distinguished;* and the
aristocrats have, in their turn, a catalogue of suspicious people--that
is, of people suspected of not having been suspicious.

* Mr. Thomas Paine, for instance, notwithstanding his sufferings, is
still thought more worthy of a seat in the Convention or the
Jacobins, than of an apartment in the Luxembourg.--Indeed I have
generally remarked, that the French of all parties hold an English
republican in peculiar abhorrence.

It is now the fashion to talk of a sojourn in a maison d'arret with
triumph; and the more decent people, who from prudence or fear had been
forced to seek refuge in the Jacobin clubs, are now solicitous to
proclaim their real motives. The red cap no longer "rears its hideous
front" by day, but is modestly converted into a night-cap; and the bearer
of a diplome de Jacobin, instead of swinging along, to the annoyance of
all the passengers he meets, paces soberly with a diminished height, and
an air not unlike what in England we call sneaking. The bonnet rouge
begins likewise to be effaced from flags at the doors; and, as though
this emblem of liberty were a very bad neighbour to property, its
relegation seems to encourage the re-appearance of silver forks and
spoons, which are gradually drawn forth from their hiding-places, and
resume their stations at table. The Jacobins represent themselves as
being under the most cruel oppression, declare that the members of the
Convention are aristocrats and royalists, and lament bitterly, that,
instead of fish-women, or female patriots of republican external, the
galleries are filled with auditors in flounces and anti-civic top-knots,
femmes a fontanges.

These imputations and grievances of the Jacobins are not altogether
without foundation. People in general are strongly impressed with an
idea that the Assembly are veering towards royalism; and it is equally
true, that the speeches of Tallien and Freron are occasionally heard and
applauded by fair elegantes, who, two years ago, would have recoiled at
the name of either. It is not that their former deeds are forgotten, but
the French are grown wise by suffering; and it is politic, when bad men
act well, whatever the motive, to give them credit for it, as nothing is
so likely to make them persevere, as the hope that their reputation is
yet retrievable. On this principle the aristocrats are the eulogists of
Tallien, while the Jacobins remind him hourly of the massacres of the
priests, and his official conduct as Secretary to the municipality or

* Tallien was Seecretary to the Commune of Paris in 1792, and on the
thirty-first of August he appeared at the bar of the Legislative
Assembly with an address, in which he told them "he had caused the
refractory priests to be arrested and confined, and that in a few
days the Land of Liberty should be freed of them."--The massacres of
the prisons began two days after!

As soon as a Representative is convicted of harbouring an opinion
unfavourable to pillage or murder, he is immediately declared an
aristocrat; or, if the Convention happen for a moment to be influenced by
reason or justice, the hopes and fears of both parties are awakened by
suspicions that the members are converts to royalism.--For my own part,
I believe they are and will be just what their personal security and
personal interest may suggest, though it is but a sorry sort of panegyric
on republican ethics to conclude, that every one who manifests the least
symptom of probity or decency, must of course be a royalist or an

Notwithstanding the harmony which appears to subsist between the
Convention and the people, the former is much less popular in detail than
in the gross. Almost every member who has been on mission, is accused of
dilapidations and cruelties so heinous, that, if they had not been
committed by Representans du Peuple, the criminal courts would find no
difficulty in deciding upon them.--But as theft or murder does not
deprive a member of his privileges, complaints of this nature are only
cognizable by the Assembly, which, being yet in its first days of
regeneration, is rather scrupulous of defending such amusements overtly.
Alarmed, however, at the number, and averse from the precedent of these
denunciations, it has now passed a variety of decrees, which are termed a
guarantee of the national representation, and which in fact guarantee it
so effectually, that a Deputy may do any thing in future with impunity,
provided it does not affect his colleagues. There are now so many forms,
reports, and examinations, that several months may be employed before the
person of a delinquent, however notorious his guilt, can be secured. The
existence of a fellow-creature should, doubtless, be attacked with
caution; for, though he may have forfeited his claims on our esteem, and
even our pity, religion has preserved him others, of which he should not
be deprived.--But when we recollect that all these merciful ceremonies
are in favour of a Carrier or a Le Bon, and that the King, Madame
Elizabeth, and thousands of innocent people, were hurried to execution,
without being allowed the consolations of piety or affection, which only
a mockery of justice might have afforded them; when, even now, priests
are guillotined for celebrating masses in private, and thoughtless people
for speaking disrespectfully of the Convention--the heart is at variance
with religion and principle, and we regret that mercy is to be the
exclusive portion of those who were never accessible to its dictates.*

* The denunciation being first presented to the Assembly, they are
to decide whether it shall be received. If they determine in the
affirmative, it is sent to the three Committees of Legislation,
Public Welfare, and General Safety, to report whether there may be
room for farther examination. In that case, a commission of
twenty-one members is appointed to receive the proofs of the accuser,
and the defence of the accused. These Commissioners, after as long a
delay as they may think fit to interpose, make known their opinion;
and if it be against the accused, the Convention proceed to
determine finally whether the matter shall be referred to the
ordinary tribunal. All this time the culprit is at large, or, at
worst, and merely for the form, carelessly guarded at his own

I would not "pick bad from bad," but it irks one's spirit to see these
miscreants making "assurance doubly sure," and providing for their own
safety with such solicitude, after sacrificing, without remorse, whatever
was most interesting or respectable in the country.--Yours, &c.

Basse-ville, Arras, Nov. 6, 1794.

Since my own liberation, I have been incessantly employed in endeavouring
to procure the return of my friends to Amiens; who, though released from
prison some time, could not obtain passports to quit Arras. After
numerous difficulties and vexations, we have at length succeeded, and I
am now here to accompany them home.

I found Mr. and Mrs. D____ much altered by the hardships they have
undergone: Mrs. D____, in particular, has been confined some months in a
noisome prison called the Providence, originally intended as a house of
correction, and in which, though built to contain an hundred and fifty
persons, were crouded near five hundred females, chiefly ladies of Arras
and the environs.--The superintendance of this miserable place was
entrusted to a couple of vulgar and vicious women, who, having
distinguished themselves as patriots from the beginning of the
revolution, were now rewarded by Le Bon with an office as profitable
as it was congenial to their natures.

I know not whether it is to be imputed to the national character, or to
that of the French republicans only, but the cruelties which have been
committed are usually so mixed with licentiousness, as to preclude
description. I have already noticed the conduct of Le Bon, and it must
suffice to say, his agents were worthy of him, and that the female
prisoners suffered every thing which brutality, rapaciousness, and
indecency, could inflict. Mr. D____ was, in the mean time, transferred
from prison to prison--the distress of separation was augmented by their
mutual apprehensions and pecuniary embarrassments--and I much fear, the
health and spirits of both are irretrievably injured.

I regret my impatience in coming here, rather than waiting the arrival of
my friends at home; for the changes I observe, and the recollections they
give birth to, oppress my heart, and render the place hateful to me.--All
the families I knew are diminished by executions, and their property is
confiscated--those whom I left in elegant hotels are now in obscure
lodgings, subsisting upon the superfluities of better days--and the
sorrows of the widows and orphans are increased by penury; while the
Convention, which affects to condemn the crimes of Le Bon, is profiting
by the spoils of his victims.

I am the more deeply impressed by these circumstances, because, when I
was here in 1792, several who have thus fallen, though they had nothing
to reproach themselves with, were yet so much intimidated as to propose
emigrating; and I then was of opinion, that such a step would be
impolitic and unnecessary. I hope and believe this opinion did not
influence them, but I lament having given it, for the event has proved
that a great part of the emigrants are justifiable. It always appeared
to me so serious and great an evil to abandon one's country, that when I
have seen it done with indifference or levity, I may perhaps have
sometimes transferred to the measure itself a sentiment of
disapprobation, excited originally by the manner of its adoption. When I
saw people expatiate with calmness, and heard them speak of it as a means
of distinguishing themselves, I did not sufficiently allow for the
tendency of the French to make the best of every thing, or the influence
of vanity on men who allow it to make part of the national
characteristic: and surely, if ever vanity were laudable, that of marking
a detestation for revolutionary principles, and an attachment to loyalty
and religion, may justly be considered so. Many whom I then accused of
being too lightly affected by the prospect of exile, might be animated by
the hope of personally contributing to the establishment of peace and
order, and rescuing their country from the banditti who were oppressing
it; and it is not surprising that such objects should dazzle the
imagination and deceive the judgment in the choice of measures by which
they were to be obtained.

The number of emigrants from fashion or caprice is probably not great;
and whom shall we now dare to include under this description, when the
humble artizan, the laborious peasant, and the village priest, have
ensanguined the scaffold destined for the prince or the prelate?--But if
the emigrants be justifiable, the refugees are yet more so.

By Emigrants, I mean all who, without being immediately in danger, left
their country through apprehension of the future--from attachment to the
persons of the Princes, or to join companions in the army whom they might
deem it a disgrace to abandon.--Those whom I think may with truth be
styled Refugees, are the Nobility and Priests who fled when the people,
irritated by the literary terrorists of the day, the Brissots, Rolands,
Camille Desmoulins, &c. were burning their chateaux and proscribing their
persons, and in whom expatriation cannot properly be deemed the effect of
choice. These, wherever they have sought an asylum, are entitled to our
respect and sympathy.

Yet, I repeat, we are not authorized to discriminate. There is no
reasoning coldly on the subject. The most cautious prudence, the most
liberal sacrifices, and the meanest condescensions, have not insured the
lives and fortunes of those who ventured to remain; and I know not that
the absent require any other apology than the desolation of the country
they have quitted. Had my friends who have been slaughtered by Le Bon's
tribunal persisted in endeavouring to escape, they might have lived, and
their families, though despoiled by the rapacity of the government, have
been comparatively happy.*

* The first horrors of the revolution are well known, and I have
seen no accounts which exaggerate them. The niece of a lady of my
acquaintance, a young woman only seventeen, escaped from her
country-house (whilst already in flames) with her infant at her
breast, and literally without clothes to cover her. In this state
she wandered a whole night, and when she at length reached a place
where she procured assistance, was so exhausted that her life was in
danger.--Another lady, whom I knew, was wounded in the arm by some
peasants assembled to force from her the writings of her husband's
estates. Even after this they still remained in France, submitted
with cheerfulness to all the demands of patriotic gifts, forced
loans, requisitions and impositions of every kind; yet her husband
was nevertheless guillotined, and the whole of their immense
property confiscated.

Retrospections, like these, obliterate many of my former notions on the
subject of the Emigrants; and if I yet condemn emigration, it is only as
a general measure, impolitic, and inadequate to the purposes for which it
was undertaken. But errors of judgment, in circumstances so
unprecedented, cannot be censured consistently with candour, through we
may venture to mark them as a discouragement to imitation; for if any
nation should yet be menaced by the revolutionary scourge, let it beware
of seeking external redress by a temporary abandonment of its interests
to the madness of systemists, or the rapine of needy adventurers. We
must, we ought to, lament the fate of the many gallant men who have
fallen, and the calamities of those who survive; but what in them has
been a mistaken policy, will become guilt in those who, on a similar
occasion, shall not be warned by their example. I am concerned when I
hear these unhappy fugitives are any where objects of suspicion or
persecution, as it is not likely that those who really emigrated from
principle can merit such treatment: and I doubt not, that most of the
instances of treachery or misconduct ascribed to the Emigrants originated
in republican emissaries, who have assumed that character for the double
purpose of discrediting it, and of exercising their trade as spies.

The common people here, who were retained by Le Bon for several months to
attend and applaud his executions, are still dissolute and ferocious, and
openly regret the loss of their pay, and the disuse of the guillotine.

--I came to Arras in mourning, which I have worn since the receipt of
your first letter, but was informed by the lady with whom my friends
lodge, that I must not attempt to walk the streets in black, for that it
was customary to insult those who did so, on a supposition that they were
related to some persons who had been executed; I therefore borrowed a
white undress, and stole out by night to visit my unfortunate
acquaintance, as I found it was also dangerous to be seen entering houses
known to contain the remains of those families which had been dismembered
by Le Bon's cruelties.

We return to Amiens to-morrow, though you must not imagine so formidable
a person as myself is permitted to wander about the republic without due
precaution; and I had much difficulty in being allowed to come, even
attended by a guard, who has put me to a considerable expence; but the
man is civil, and as he has business of his own to transact in the town,
he is no embarrassment to me.

Amiens, Nov. 26, 1794.

The Constituent Assembly, the Legislative Assembly, and the National
Convention, all seem to have acted from a persuasion, that their sole
duty as revolutionists was comprised in the destruction of whatever
existed under the monarchy. If an institution were discovered to have
the slightest defect in principle, or to have degenerated a little in
practice, their first step was to abolish it entirely, and leave the
replacing it for the present to chance, and for the future to their
successors. In return for the many new words which they have introduced
into the French language, they have expunged that of reform; and the
havock and devastation, which a Mahometan conqueror might have performed
as successfully, are as yet the only effects of philosophy and

This system of ignorance and violence seems to have persecuted with
peculiar hostility all the ancient establishments for education; and the
same plan of suppressing daily what they have neither leisure nor
abilities to supply, which I remarked to you two years ago, has directed
the Convention ever since. It is true, the interval has produced much
dissertation, and engendered many projects; but those who were so
unanimous in rejecting, were extremely discordant in adopting, and their
own disputes and indecision might have convinced them of their
presumption in condemning what they now found it so difficult to excel.
Some decided in favour of public schools, after the example of Sparta--
this was objected to by others, because, said they, if you have public
schools you must have edifices, and governors, and professors, who will,
to a certainty, be aristocrats, or become so; and, in short, this will
only be a revival of the colleges of the old government--A third party
proposed private seminaries, or that people might be at liberty to
educate their children in the way they thought best; but this, it was
declared, would have a still greater tendency to aristocracy; for the
rich, being better able to pay than the poor, would engross all the
learning to themselves. The Jacobins were of opinion, that there should
be no schools, either public or private, but that the children should
merely be taken to hear the debates of the Clubs, where they would
acquire all the knowledge necessary for republicans; and a few spirits of
a yet sublimer cast were adverse both to schools or clubs, and
recommended, that the rising generation should "study the great book of
Nature alone." It is, however, at length concluded, that there shall be
a certain number of public establishments, and that people shall even be
allowed to have their children instructed at home, under the inspection
of the constituted authorities, who are to prevent the instillation of
aristocratic principles.*

* We may judge of the competency of many of these people to be
official censors of education by the following specimens from a
report of Gregoire's. Since the rage for destruction has a little
subsided, circular letters have been sent to the administrators of
the departments, districts, &c. enquiring what antiquities, or other
objects of curiosity, remain in their neighbourhood.--"From one,
(says Gregoire,) we are informed, that they are possessed of nothing
in this way except four vases, which, as they have been told, are of
porphyry. From a second we learn, that, not having either forge or
manufactory in the neighbourhood, no monument of the arts is to be
found there: and a third announces, that the completion of its
library cataloges has been retarded, because the person employed at
them ne fait pas la diplomatique!"--("does not understand the
science of diplomacy.")

The difficulty as to the mode in which children were to be taught being
got over, another remained, not less liable to dispute--which was, the
choice of what they were to learn. Almost every member had a favourite
article---music, physic, prophylactics, geography, geometry, astronomy,
arithmetic, natural history, and botany, were all pronounced to be
requisites in an eleemosynary system of education, specified to be
chiefly intended for the country people; but as this debate regarded only
the primary schools for children in their earliest years, and as one man
for a stipend of twelve hundred livres a year, was to do it all, a
compromise became necessary, and it has been agreed for the present, that
infants of six years shall be taught only reading, writing, gymnastics,
geometry, geography, natural philosophy, and history of all free nations,
and that of all the tyrants, the rights of man, and the patriotic songs.
--Yet, after these years of consideration, and days of debate, the
Assembly has done no more than a parish-clerk, or an old woman with a
primer, and "a twig whilom of small regard to see," would do better
without its interference.

The students of a more advanced age are still to be disposed of, and the
task of devising an institution will not be easy; because, perhaps a
Collot d'Herbois or a Duhem is not satisfied with the system which
perfectioned the genius of Montesquieu or Descartes. Change, not
improvement, is the object--whatever bears a resemblance to the past must
be proscribed; and while other people study to simplify modes of
instruction, the French legislature is intent on rendering them as
difficult and complex as possible; and at the moment they decree that the
whole country shall become learned, they make it an unfathomable science
to teach urchins of half a dozen years old their letters.

Foreigners, indeed, who judge only from the public prints, may suppose
the French far advanced towards becoming the most erudite nation in
Europe: unfortunately, all these schools, primary, and secondary, and
centrical, and divergent, and normal,* exist as yet but in the
repertories of the Convention, and perhaps may not add "a local
habitation" to their names, till the present race** shall be unfit to
reap the benefit of them.

* _Les Ecoles Normales_ were schools where masters were to be
instructed in the art of teaching. Certain deputies objected to
them, as being of feudal institution, supposing that Normale had
some reference to Normandy.

** This was a mistake, for the French seem to have adopted the
maxim, "that man is never too old to learn;" and, accordingly, at
the opening of the Normal schools, the celebrated Bougainville, now
eighty years of age, became a pupil. This Normal project was,
however, soon relinquished--for by that fatality which has hitherto
attended all the republican institutions, it was found to have
become a mere nursery for aristocrats.

But this revolutionary barbarism, not content with stopping the progress
of the rising generation, has ravaged without mercy the monuments of
departed genius, and persecuted with senseless despotism those who were
capable of replacing them. Pictures have been defaced, statues
mutilated, and libraries burnt, because they reminded the people of their
Kings or their religion; while artists, and men of science or literature,
were wasting their valuable hours in prison, or expiring on the
scaffold.--The moral and gentle Florian died of vexation. A life of
abstraction and utility could not save the celebrated chymist, Lavoisier,
from the Guillotine. La Harpe languished in confinement, probably, that
he might not eclipse Chenier, who writes tragedies himself; and every
author that refused to degrade his talents by the adulation of tyranny
has been proscribed and persecuted. Palissot,* at sixty years old, was
destined to expiate in a prison a satire upon Rousseau, written when he
was only twenty, and escaped, not by the interposition of justice, but by
the efficacity of a bon mot.

* Palissot was author of "The Philosophers," a comedy, written
thirty years ago, to ridicule Rousseau. He wrote to the
municipality, acknowledged his own error, and the merits of
Rousseau; yet, says he, if Rousseau were a god, you ought not to
sacrifice human victims to him.--The expression, which in French is
well tuned, pleased the municipality, and Palissot, I believe, was
not afterwards molested.

--A similar fate would have been awarded Dorat, [Author of "Les Malheurs
de l'Inconstance," and other novels.] for styling himself Chevalier in
the title-pages of his novels, had he not commuted his punishment for
base eulogiums on the Convention, and with the same pen, which has been
the delight of the French boudoir, celebrated Carrier's murders on the
Loire under the appellation of "baptemes civiques." Every province in
France, we are informed by the eloquent pedantry of Gregoire, exhibits
traces of these modern Huns, which, though now exclusively attributed to
the agents of Robespierre and Mr. Pitt,* it is very certain were
authorized by the decrees of the Convention, and executed under the
sanction of Deputies on mission, or their subordinates.

* _"Soyez sur que ces destructions se sont pour la plupart a
l'instigation de nos ennemis--quel triomphe pour l'Anglais si il eul
pu ecraser notre commerce par l'aneantissement des arts dont la
culture enrichit le sien."_--"Rest assured that these demolitions
were, for the most part, effected at the instigation of our enemies
--what a triumph would it have been for the English, if they had
succeeded in crushing our commerce by the annihilation of the arts,
the culture of which enriched their own."

--If the principal monuments of art be yet preserved to gratify the
national taste or vanity, it is owing to the courage and devotion of
individuals, who obeyed with a protecting dilatoriness the destructive
mandates of government.

At some places, orangeries were sold by the foot for fire-wood, because,
as it was alledged, that republicans had more occasion for apples and
potatoes than oranges.--At Mousseaux, the seals were put on the
hot-houses, and all the plants nearly destroyed. Valuable remains of
sculpture were condemned for a crest, a fleur de lys, or a coronet
attached to them; and the deities of the Heathen mythology were made war
upon by the ignorance of the republican executioners, who could not
distinguish them from emblems of feodality.*

* At Anet, a bronze stag, placed as a fountain in a large piece of
water, was on the point of being demolished, because stags are
beasts of chace, and hunting is a feodal privilege, and stags of
course emblems of feodality.--It was with some difficulty preserved
by an amateur, who insisted, that stags of bronze were not included
in the decree.--By a decree of the Convention, which I have formerly
mentioned, all emblems of royalty or feodality were to be demolished
by a particular day; and as the law made no distinction, it could
not be expected that municipalities, &c. often ignorant or timid,
should either venture or desire to spare what in the eyes of the
connoisseur might be precious.

"At St. Dennis, (says the virtuoso Gregoire,) where the National
Club justly struck at the tyrants even in their tombs, that of
Turenne ought to have been spared; yet strokes of the sword are
still visible on it."--He likewise complains, that at the Botanic
Garden the bust of Linnaeus had been destroyed, on a presumption of
its being that of Charles the Ninth; and if it had been that of
Charles the Ninth, it is not easy to discern how the cause of
liberty was served by its mutilation.--The artist or moralist
contemplates with equal profit or curiosity the features of Pliny or
Commodus; and History and Science will appreciate Linnaeus and
Charles the Ninth, without regarding whether their resemblances
occupy a palace, or are scattered in fragments by republican
ignorance.--Long after the death of Robespierre, the people of
Amiens humbly petitioned the Convention, that their cathedral,
perhaps the most beautiful Gothic edifice in Europe, might be
preserved; and to avoid giving offence by the mention of churches or
cathedrals, they called it a Basilique.--But it is unnecessary to
adduce any farther proof, that the spirit of what is now called
Vandalism originated in the Convention. Every one in France must
recollect, that, when dispatches from all corners announced these
ravages, they were heard with as much applause, as though they had
related so many victories gained over the enemy.

--Quantities of curious medals have been melted down for the trifling
value of the metal; and at Abbeville, a silver St. George, of uncommon
workmanship, and which Mr. Garrick is said to have desired to purchase at
a very high price, was condemned to the crucible--

_"----Sur tant de tresors
"Antiques monumens respectes jusqu'alors,
"Par la destruction signalant leur puissance,
"Las barbares etendirent leur stupide vengeance."
"La Religion,"_ Racine.

Yet the people in office who operated these mischiefs were all appointed
by the delegates of the Assembly; for the first towns of the republic
were not trusted even with the choice of a constable. Instead,
therefore, of feeling either surprise or regret at this devastation, we
ought rather to rejoice that it has extended no farther; for such agents,
armed with such decrees, might have reduced France to the primitive state
of ancient Gaul. Several valuable paintings are said to have been
conveyed to England, and it will be curious if the barbarism of France in
the eighteenth century should restore to us what we, with a fanaticism
and ignorance at least more prudent than theirs, sold them in the
seventeenth. The zealots of the Barebones' Parliament are, however, more
respectable than the atheistical Vandals of the Convention; and, besides
the benefit of our example, the interval of a century and an half, with
the boast of a philosophy and a degree of illumination exceeding that of
any other people, have rendered the errors of the French at once more
unpardonable and more ridiculous; for, in assimilating their past
presentations to their present conduct and situation, we do not always
find it possible to regret without a mixture of contempt.


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