The French Revolution, Volume 3 The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 4
Hippolyte A. Taine
Part 4 out of 12
runs its own course and becomes complex; to the ambitious delirium
comes the persecution mania. In effect, the evident or demonstrated
truths which he advances should strike the public at once; if they
burn slowly or miss fire, it is owing to their being stamped out by
enemies or the envious; manifestly, they have conspired against him,
and against him plots have never ceased. First came the philosophers'
plot: when his treatise on "Man" was sent to Paris from Amsterdam,
"they felt the blow I struck at their principles and had the book
stopped at the custom-house." Next came the plot of the doctors:
"they ruefully estimated my enormous gains. Were it necessary, I
could prove that they often met together to consider the best way to
destroy my reputation." Finally, came the plot of the Academicians;
"the disgraceful persecution I had to undergo from the Academy of
Sciences for two years, after being satisfied that my discoveries on
Light upset all that it had done for a century, and that I was quite
indifferent about becoming a member of its body . . . . Would it
be believed that these scientific charlatans succeeded in underrating
my discoveries throughout Europe, in exciting every society of savants
against me, and in closing against me all the newspapers?" -
Naturally, the would-be-persecuted man defends himself, that is to
say, he attacks. Naturally, as he is the aggressor, he is repulsed
and put down, and, after creating imaginary enemies, he creates real
ones, especially in politics where, on principle, he daily preaches
insurrection and murder. And finally, he is of course prosecuted,
convicted at the Chatelet court, tracked by the police, obliged to fly
and wander from one hiding-place to another; to live like a bat "in a
cellar, underground, in a dark dungeon;" once, says his friend
Panis, he passed "six weeks sitting on his behind" like a madman in
his cell, face to face with his reveries. - It is not surprising
that, with such a system, the reverie should become more intense, more
and more gloomy, and, at last settle down into a confirmed nightmare;
that, in his distorted brain, objects should appear distorted; that,
even in full daylight men and things should seem awry, as in a
magnifying, dislocating mirror; that, frequently, on the numbers (of
his journal) appearing too blood-thirsty, and his chronic disease too
acute, his physician should bleed him to arrest these attacks and
prevent their return.
But it has become a habit: henceforth, falsehood grow in his brain as
if it was their native soil; planting himself on the irrational he
cultivates the absurd, even physical and mathematical. "If we include
everyone;" he says, "the patriotic tax-contribution of one-quarter
of all income will produce, at the very least, 4,860 millions, and
perhaps twice that sum." With this sum M. Necker may raise five
hundred thousand men, which he calculates on for the subjugation of
France. - Since the taking of the Bastille, "the municipality's waste
alone amount to two hundred millions. The sums pocketed by Bailly are
estimated at more than two millions; what 'Mottié' (Lafayette) has
taken for the past two years is incalculable." - On the 15th of
November, 1791, the gathering of emigrés comprises "at least 120,000
former gentlemen and drilled partisans and soldiers, not counting the
forces of the German princes about to join them." - Consequently,
as with his brethren in Bicêtre, (a lunatic asylum), he raves
incessantly on the horrible and the foul: the procession of terrible
or disgusting phantoms has begun. According to him, the scholars
who do not choose to admire him are fools, charlatans and plagiarists.
Laplace and Monge are even "automatons," so many calculating machines;
Lavoisier, "reputed father of every discovery causing a sensation in
the world, has not an idea of his own;" he steals from others without
comprehending them, and "changes his system as he changes his shoes."
Fourcroy, his disciple and horn-blower, is of still thinner stuff.
All are scamps: "I could cite a hundred instances of dishonesty by the
Academicians of Paris, a hundred breaches of trust;" twelve thousand
francs were entrusted to them for the purpose of ascertaining how to
direct balloons, and "they divided it among themselves, squandering it
at the Rapée, the opera and in brothels." - In the political
world, where debates are battles, it is still worse. Marat's
publication "The Friend of the people" has merely rascals for
adversaries. Praise of Lafayette's courage and disinterestedness, how
absurd If he went to America it was because he was jilted, "cast off
by a Messalina;" he maintained a park of artillery there as "powder-
monkeys look after ammunition-wagons; " these are his only exploits;
besides, he is a thief. Bailly is also a thief, and Mabuet a "clown."
Necker has conceived the "horrible project of starving and poisoning
the people; he has drawn on himself for all eternity the execration of
Frenchmen and the detestation of mankind." - What is the Constituent
Assembly but a set of "low, rampant, mean, stupid fellows?" -
"Infamous legislators, vile scoundrels, monsters athirst for gold and
blood, you traffic with the monarch, with our fortunes, with our
rights, with our liberties, with our lives! " - " The second
legislative corps is no less rotten than the first one." - In the
Convention, Roland, "the officious Gilles and the forger Pasquin, is
the infamous head of the monopolizers." " Isnard is a juggler, Buzot a
Tartuffe, Vergniaud a police spy." - When a madman sees everywhere
around him, on the floor, on the walls, on the ceiling, toads,
scorpions, spiders, swarms of crawling, loathsome vermin, he thinks
only of crushing them, and the disease enters on its last stage: after
the ambitious delirium, the mania for persecution and the settled
nightmare, comes the homicidal mania.
With Marat, this broke out at the very beginning of the Revolution.
The disease was innate; he was inoculated with it beforehand. He had
contracted it in good earnest, on principle; never was there a plainer
case of deliberate insanity. - On the one hand, having derived the
rights of man from physical necessities, he concluded, "that society
owes to those among its members who have no property, and whose labor
scarcely suffices for their support, an assured subsistence, the
wherewithal to feed, lodge and clothe oneself suitably, provision for
attendance in sickness and when old age comes on, and for bringing up
children. Those who wallow in wealth must (then) supply the wants of
those who lack the necessaries of life." Otherwise, "the honest
citizen whom society abandons to poverty and despair, reverts back to
the state of nature and the right of forcibly claiming advantages
which were only alienated by him to procure greater ones. All
authority which is opposed to this is tyrannical, and the judge who
condemns a man to death (through it) is simply a cowardly
Thus do the innumerable riots which the dearth excites, find
justification, and, as the dearth is permanent, the daily riot is
legitimate. - On the other hand, having laid down the principle of
popular sovereignty he deduces from this, "the sacred right of
constituents to dismiss their delegates; " to seize them by the throat
if they prevaricate, to keep them in the right path by fear, and wring
their necks should they attempt to vote wrong or govern badly. Now,
they are always subject to this temptation.
"If there is one eternal truth of which it is important to convince
man, it is that the mortal enemy of the people, the most to be dreaded
by them, is the Government."-- "Any minister who remains more than 2
days in office, once the ministry is able to plot against the country
is 'suspect.' " - Bestir yourselves, then, ye unfortunates in town
and country, workmen without work, street stragglers without fuel or
shelter sleeping under bridges, prowlers along the highways, beggars,
tattered vagabonds, cripples and tramps, and seize your faithless
representatives! - On July 14th and October 5th and 6th, "the people
had the right not only to execute some of the conspirators in military
fashion, but to immolate them all, to put to the sword the entire body
of royal satellites leagued together for our destruction, the whole
herd of traitors to the country, of every condition and degree."
Never go to the Assembly, "without filling your pockets with stones
and throwing them at the impudent scoundrels who preach monarchical
maxims;" "I recommend to you no other precaution but that of telling
their neighbors to look out." - "We do not demand the resignation
of the ministers-we demand their heads. We demand the heads of all
the cabinet officials in the Assembly, your mayor's, your general's,
the heads of most of the staff-officers, of most of the municipal
council, of the principal agents of the executive power in the
kingdom. " - Of what use are half-way measures, like the sack of the
hotel de Castries?
"Avenge yourselves wisely! Death! Death! is the sole penalty for
traitors raging to destroy you It is the only one that strikes terror
into them. Follow the example of your implacable enemies! Keep always
armed, so that they may not escape through the delays of the law! Stab
them on the spot or blow their brains out! " - " Twenty-four millions
of men shout in unison: If the black, gangrened, archi-gangrened
officials dare pass a bill reducing and reorganizing the army,
citizens, then you build eight hundred scaffolds in the Tuileries
garden and hang on them every traitor to his country - that infamous
Riquetti, Comte de Mirabeau, at the head of them - and, at the same
time, erect in the middle of the fountain basin a big pile of logs to
roast the ministers and their tools!" - Could "the Friend of the
People" rally around him two thousand men determined "to save the
country, he would go and tear the heart out of that infernal Mottié in
the very midst of his battalions of slaves; he would go and burn the
monarch and his imps in his palace, impale the deputies on their
benches, and bury them beneath the flaming ruins of their den."-
On the first cannon shot being fired on the frontier,
"it is indispensable that the people should close the gates of the
towns and unhesitatingly make way with every priest, public
functionary and anti-revolutionary, known instigators and their
accomplices." - " It would be wise for the people's magistrates to
keep constantly manufacturing large quantities of strong, sharp,
short-bladed, double-edged knives, so as to arm each citizen known as
a friend of his country. Now, the art of fighting with these terrible
weapons consists in this: Use the left arm as buckler, and cover it up
to the arm-pit with a sleeve quilted with some woollen stuff, filled
with rags and hair, and then rush on the enemy, the right hand
wielding the knife." - Let us use these knives as soon as
possible, for "what means are now remaining for us to put an end to
the problems which overwhelm us? I repeat it, no other but executions
by the people." - The Throne is at last down; but "be careful not
to give way to false pity! . . . . No quarter! I advise you to
decimate the anti-revolutionary members of the municipality, of the
justices of the peace, of the members of the departments and of the
National Assembly." - At the outset, a few lives would have
sufficed: "five hundred heads ought to have fallen when the Bastille
was taken, and all would then have gone on well." But, through lack of
foresight and timidity, the evil was allowed to spread, and the more
it spread the larger the amputation should have been. - With the
sure, keen eye of the surgeon, Marat gives its dimensions; he has made
his calculation beforehand. In September, 1792, in the Council at the
Commune, he estimates forty thousand as the number of heads that
should be laid low. Six weeks later, the social abscess having
enormously increased, the figures swell in proportion; he now demands
two hundred and seventy thousand heads, always on the score of
humanity, "to ensure public tranquility," on condition that the
operation be entrusted to him, as the temporary enforcer of the
justice. - Except for this last point, the rest is granted to him; it
is unfortunate that he could not see with his own eyes the complete
fulfillment of his programme, the batches condemned by the
revolutionary Tribunal, the massacres of Lyons and Toulon, the
drownings of Nantes. - From the beginning to the end, he was in
keeping with the Revolution, lucid on account of his blindness, thanks
to his crazy logic, thanks to the concordance of his personal malady
with the public malady, to the early manifestation of his complete
madness in the midst of the incomplete or tardy madness of the rest,
he alone steadfast, remorseless, triumphant, perched aloft at the
first bound on the sharp pinnacle which his rivals dared not climb or
only stumbled up.
Danton. - Richness of his faculties. - Disparity between his
condition and instincts. - The Barbarian. - His work. - His
There is nothing of the madman about Danton; on the contrary, not only
is his intellect sound, but he possesses political aptitudes to an
eminent degree, and to such an extent that, in this particular, none
of his associates or adversaries compare with him, while, among the
men of the Revolution, only Mirabeau equals or surpasses him. He is
an original, spontaneous genius and not, like most of his
contemporaries, a disputatious, quill-driving theorist, that is to
say, a fanatical pedant, an artificial being composed of his books, a
mill-horse with blinkers, and turning around in a circle without an
issue. His free judgment is not hampered by abstract prejudices: he
does not carry about with him a social contract, like Rousseau, nor,
like Siéyès, a social art and cabinet principles or combinations;
he has kept aloof from these instinctively and, perhaps, through
contempt for them; he had no need of them; he would not have known
what to do with them. Systems are crutches for the impotent, while he
is able-bodied; formulas serve as spectacles for the short-sighted,
while his eyes are good. "He had read and meditated very little,"
says a learned and philosophical witness; "his knowledge was
scanty and he took no pride in investigation; but he observed and saw
. . His native capacity, which was very great and not absorbed by
other things, was naturally closed to vague, complex and false
notions, and naturally open to every notion of experience the truth of
which was made manifest." Consequently, "his perceptions of men and
things, sudden, clear, impartial and true, were instinct with solid,
practical discretion." To form a clear idea of the divergent or
concordant dispositions, fickle or earnest, actual or possible, of
different parties and of twenty-six millions of souls, to justly
estimate probable resistances, and calculate available forces, to
recognize and take advantage of the one decisive moment, to combine
executive means, to find men of action, to measure the effect
produced, to foresee near and remote contingencies, to regret nothing
and take things coolly, to accept crimes in proportion to their
political efficacy, to dodge before insurmountable obstacles, even in
contempt of current maxims, to consider objects and men the same as an
engineer contracting for machinery and calculating horse-power -
such are the faculties of which he gave proof on the 10th of August
and the 2nd of September, during his effective dictatorship between
the 10th of August and the 21st of September, afterwards in the
Convention, on the first Committee of Public Safety, on the 31st of
May and on the 2nd of June: we have seen him busy at work. Up to
the last, in spite of his partisans, he has tried to diminish or, at
least, not add to, the resistance the government had to overcome.
Nearly up to the last, in spite of his adversaries, he tried to
increase or, at least, not destroy the available forces of the
government. In defiance of the outcries of the clubs, which clamor
for the extermination of the Prussians, the capture of the King of
Prussia, the overthrow of all thrones, and the murder of Louis XVI.,
he negotiated the almost pacific withdrawal of Brunswick; he
strove to detach Prussia from the coalition; he wanted to turn a
war of propaganda into one of interests; he caused the Convention
to pass the decree that France would not in any way interfere with
foreign governments; he secured an alliance with Sweden; he prescribed
beforehand the basis of the treaty of Basle, and had an idea of saving
the King. In spite of the distrust and attacks of the Girondists,
who strove to discredit him and put him out of the way, he persists in
offering them his hand; he declared war on them only because they
refused to make peace, and he made efforts to save them when they
were down. Amidst so many ranters and scribblers whose logic is mere
words and whose rage is blind, who grind out phrases like a hand-
organ, or are wound up for murder, his intellect, always capacious and
supple, went right to facts, not to disfigure and pervert them, but to
accept them, to adapt himself to them, and to comprehend them. With a
mind of this quality one goes far no matter in what direction; nothing
remains but to choose one's path. Mandrin, under the ancient régime,
was also, in a similar way, a superior man; only he chose the
Between the demagogue and the highwayman the resemblance is close:
both are leaders of bands and each requires an opportunity to organize
his band. Danton, to organize his band, needed the Revolution. - "Of
low birth, without patronage," penniless, every office being filled,
and "the Paris bar exorbitantly priced," admitted a lawyer after "a
struggle," he for a long time wandered jobless frequenting the coffee-
houses, the same as similar men nowadays frequent the bars. At the
Café de l'École, the proprietor, a good natured old fellow "in a small
round wig, gray coat and a napkin on his arm," circulated among his
tables smiling blandly, while his daughter sat in the rear as
cashier. Danton chatted with her and demanded her hand in
marriage. To obtain her, he had to mend his ways, purchase an
attorneyship in the Court of the Royal Council and find guarantors and
sponsors in his small native town. Once married and lodged in the
gloomy Passage du Commerce, he finds himself "more burdened with debts
than with causes," tied down to a sedentary profession which demands
vigorous application, accuracy, a moderate tone, a respectable style
and blameless deportment; obliged to keep house on so small a scale
that, without the help of a louis regularly advanced to him each week
by his coffee-house father-in-law, he could not make both ends
meet. His free-and-easy tastes, his alternately impetuous and
indolent disposition, his love of enjoyment and of having his own way,
his rude, violent instincts, his expansiveness, creativeness and
activity, all rebel against this life: he is ill-suited for the quiet
routine of our civil careers. It is not the steady discipline of an
old society, but the tumultuous brutality of a society going to pieces
or in a state of formation, that suits him. In temperament and
character he is a barbarian, and a barbarian born to command his
fellow-creatures, like this or that vassal of the sixth century or
baron of the tenth century. A giant with the face of a " Tartar,"
pitted with the small-pox, tragically and terribly ugly, with a mask
convulsed like that of a growling "bull-dog," with small,
cavernous, restless eyes buried under the huge wrinkles of a
threatening brow, with a thundering voice and moving and acting like a
combatant, full-blooded, boiling over with passion and energy. His
strength in its outbursts appears boundless like a force of nature,
when speaking he is roaring like a bull and be heard through closed
windows fifty yards off in the street, employing immoderate imagery,
intensely in earnest, trembling with indignation, revenge and
patriotic sentiments, able to arouse savage instincts in the most
tranquil breast and generous instincts in the most brutal
personalities. He may be profane, using emphatic terms,
cynical, but not monotonous and affected like Hébert, but spontaneous
and to the point, full of crude jests worthy of Rabelais, possessing a
stock of jovial sensuality and good-humor, cordial and familiar in his
ways, frank, friendly in tone. He is, both outwardly and inwardly,
the best fitted for winning the confidence and sympathy of a Gallic,
Parisian populace. His talents all contribute to "his inborn,
practical popularity," and to make of him "a grand-seignior of sans-
cullotterie." - With such talents for acting, there is a strong
temptation to act it out the moment the theatre is ready, whatever the
theatre, even unlawful and murky, whatever the actors rogues,
scoundrels and loose women, whatever the part, ignoble, murderous, and
finally fatal to him who undertakes it. - To hold out against such
temptation, would require a sentiment of repugnance which a refined or
thorough culture develops in both sense and mind, but which was
completely wanting in Danton. Nothing disgusts him physically or
morally: he embraces Marat, fraternizes with drunkards,
congratulates the Septembriseurs, retorts in blackguard terms to the
insults of prostitutes, treats reprobates, thieves and jail-birds as
equals, - Carra, Westermann, Huguenin, Rossignol and the confirmed
scoundrels whom he sends into the departments after the 2nd of
"Eh! What the hell! Do you think we ought to send young misses." -
Garbage men are needed for the collection of garbage; one cannot hold
one's nose when they come for their wages; one must pay them well,
talk to them encouragingly, and leave them plenty of elbow room.
Danton is willing to play the part of the fire, and he humors vices;
he has no scruples, and lets people scratch and take. - He has stolen
as much to give as to keep, to maintain his role as much as to benefit
by it, squaring accounts by spending the money of the Court against
the Court, probably inwardly chuckling, the same as the peasant in a
blouse on getting ahead of his well-duped landlord, or as the Frank,
whom the ancient historian describes as leering on pocketing Roman
gold the better to make war against Rome. - The graft on this
plebeian seedling has not taken; in our modern garden this remains as
in the ancient forest; its vigorous sap preserves its primitive
raciness and produces none of the fine fruits of our civilization, a
moral sense, honor and conscience. Danton has no respect for himself
nor for others; the nice, delicate limitations that circumscribe human
personality, seem to him as legal conventionality and mere drawing-
room courtesy. Like a Clovis, he tramples on this, and like a Clovis,
equal in faculties, in similar expedients, and with a worse horde at
his back, he throws himself athwart society, to stagger along, destroy
and reconstruct it to his own advantage.
At the start, he comprehended the peculiar character and normal
procedure of the Revolution, that is to say, the useful agency of
popular brutality: in 1788 he had already figured in insurrections.
He comprehended from the first the ultimate object and definite result
of the Revolution, that is to say, the dictatorship of the violent
minority. Immediately after the 14th of July," 1789, he organized in
his quarter of the city a small independent republic, aggressive
and predominant, the center of the faction, a refuge for the riff-raff
and a rendezvous for fanatics, a pandemonium composed of every
available madcap, every rogue, visionary, shoulder-hitter, newspaper
scribbler and stump-speaker, either a secret or avowed plotter of
murder, Camille Desmoulins, Fréron, Hébert, Chaumette, Clootz,
Théroigne, Marat, -- while, in this more than Jacobin State, the model
in anticipation of that he is to establish later, he reigns, as he
will afterwards reign, the permanent president of the district,
commander of the battalion, orator of the club, and the concocter of
bold undertakings. Here, usurpation is the rule there is no
recognition of legal authority; they brave the King, the ministers,
the judges, the Assembly, the municipality, the mayor, the commandant
of the National Guard. Nature and principle raise them above the law;
the district takes Marat under its protection, posts two sentinels at
his door to protect him from prosecutions, and uses arms against the
armed force sent with a warrant to arrest him. yet more, in the
name of the city of Paris, "chief sentinel of the nation," they assume
to govern France: Danton betakes himself to the National Assembly and
declares that the citizens of Paris are the natural representatives of
the eighty-three departments, and summons it, on their injunction, to
cancel an act it has passed. - The entire Jacobin conception is
therein expressed: Danton, with his keen insight, took it all in and
proclaimed it in appropriate terms; to apply it at the present time on
a grand scale, he has merely to pass from the small theatre to the
large one, from the Cordeliers club to the Commune, to the Ministry,
and the Committee of Public Safety, and, in all these theatres, he
plays the same part with the same end in view and the same results. A
despotism formed by conquest and maintained by terror, the despotism
of the Jacobin Parisian rabble, is the end to which he directly
marches. He employs no other means and, adapting the means to the end
and the end to the means, manages the important days and instigates
the decisive measures of the Revolution: the 10th of August, the
2nd of September, the 31st of May, the 2nd of June; the decree
providing for an army of paid sans-culottes "to keep down aristocrats
with their pikes;" the decree in each commune where grain is dear,
taxing the rich to put bread within reach of the poor; the decree
giving laborers forty sous for attending the meetings of the Section
Assemblies; the institution of the revolutionary Tribunal; the
proposal to erect the Committee of Public Safety into a provisional
government; the proclamation of Terror; the concentration of Jacobin
zeal on useful works; the employment of the eight thousand delegates
of the primary assemblies, who had been sent home as recruiting agents
for the universal armament; the inflammatory expressions of young
men on the frontier; the wise resolutions for limiting the levy en
masse to men between eighteen and twenty-five, which put an end to the
scandalous songs and dances by the populace in the very hall of the
In order to set the machine up, he cleared the ground, fused the
metal, hammered out the principal pieces, filed off the blisters,
designed the action, adjusted the minor wheels, set it agoing and
indicated what it had to do, and, at the same time, he forged the
armor which guarded it against strangers and outside violence. The
machine being his, why, after constructing it, did he not serve as its
Because, if competent to construct it, he was not qualified to manage
it. In a crisis, he may give a helping hand, win the support of an
assembly or a mob, direct, high-handedly and for a few weeks, an
executive committee. But regular, persistent labor is repugnant to
him; he is not made for bookkeeping, for paper and administrative
work. Never, like Robespierre and Billaud can he attend to both
official and police duties at the same time, carefully reading minute
daily reports, annotating mortuary lists, extemporizing ornate
abstractions, coolly enunciating falsehoods and acting out the
patient, satisfied inquisitor; and especially, he can never become the
systematic executioner. - On the one hand, his eyes are not obscured
by the gray veil of theory: he does not regard men through the
"Contrat-Social" as a sum of arithmetical units, but as they
really are, living, suffering, shedding their blood, especially those
he knows, each with his peculiar physiognomy and demeanor. Compassion
is excited by all this when one has any feeling, and he had. Danton
had a heart; he bad the quick sensibilities of a man of flesh and
blood stirred by the primitive instincts, the good ones along with the
bad ones, instincts which culture had neither impaired nor deadened,
which allowed him to plan and permit the September massacre, but which
did not allow him to practice daily and blindly, systematic and
wholesale murder. Already in September, "cloaking his pity under his
bellowing," he had shielded or saved many eminent men from the
butchers. When the axe is about to fall on the Girondists, he is "ill
with grief" and despair. "I am unable to save them," he exclaimed, "
and big tears streamed down his cheeks." - On the other hand, his eyes
are not covered by the bandage of incapacity or lack of fore-thought.
He detected the innate vice of the system, the inevitable and
approaching suicide of the Revolution.
"The Girondists forced us to throw ourselves upon the sans-culotterie
which has devoured them, which will devour us, and which will eat
itself up." - "Let Robespierre and Saint-Just alone, and there
will soon be nothing left in France but a Thebiad of political
Trappists." -- At the end, he sees more clearly still:
"On a day like this I organized the Revolutionary Tribunal: I ask
pardon for it of God and man. - In Revolutions, authority remains
with the greatest scoundrels. - It is better to be a poor fisherman
than govern men."
But he has aspired to govern them; he constructed a new machine for
the purpose, and, deaf to its squeals, it worked in conformity with
the structure and the impulse he gave to it. It towers before him,
this sinister machine, with its vast wheel and iron cogs grinding all
France, their multiplied teeth pressing out each individual life, its
steel blade constantly rising and falling, and, as it plays faster and
faster, daily exacting a larger and larger supply of human material,
while those who furnish this supply are held to be as insensible and
as senseless as itself. This Danton cannot, will not be. - He gets
out of the way, diverts himself, gambles, forgets; he supposes
that the titular decapitators will probably consent to take no notice
of him; in any event they do not pursue him; "they would not dare do
it." " No one must lay hands on me, I am the ark." At the worst, he
prefers "to be guillotined rather than guillotine." - Having said or
thought this, he is ripe for the scaffold.
Robespierre. - Mediocrity of his faculties. - The Pedant. -
Absence of ideas. - Study of phrases. - Wounded self-esteem. - His
infatuation. - He plays victim. - His gloomy fancies. - His
resemblance to Marat. -Difference between him and Marat. - The
sincere hypocrite. - The festival in honor of the Supreme Being, and
the law of Prairial 22. - The external and internal characters of
Robespierre and the Revolution.
Even with the firm determination to remain decapitator-in-chief,
Danton could never be a perfect representative of the Revolution. It
is an armed but philosophical robbery; its creed includes robbery and
assassination, but only as a knife in its sheath; the showy, polished
sheath is for public display, and not the sharp and bloody blade.
Danton, like Marat, lets the blade be too plainly visible. At the
mere sight of Marat, filthy and slovenly, with his livid, frog-like
face, with his round, gleaming and fixed eyeballs, and his bold,
maniacal stare and steady monotonous rage, common-sense rebels; no-one
selects a homicidal maniac as a guide. At the mere sight of Danton,
with his porter's vocabulary, his voice like an alarm bell of
insurrection, his cyclopean features and air of an exterminator,
humanity takes alarm; one does not surrender oneself to a political
butcher without repugnance. The Revolution demands another
interpreter, like itself captivatingly fitted out, and Robespierre
fits the bill, with his irreproachable attire, well-powdered hair,
carefully brushed coat, strict habits, dogmatic tone, and formal,
studied manner of speaking. No mind, in its mediocrity and
incompetence, so well harmonizes with the spirit of the epoch. The
reverse of the statesman, he soars in empty space, amongst
abstractions, always mounted on a principle and incapable of
dismounting so as to see things practically.
"That bastard there," exclaims Danton, "is not even able to boil an
"The vague generalities of his preaching," writes another
contemporary, "rarely culminated in any specific measure or legal
provision. He combated everything and proposed nothing; the secret of
his policy happily accorded with his intellectual impotence and with
the nullity of his legislative conceptions." Once he has rattled his
revolutionary pedantry off, he no longer knows what to say. - As to
financial matters and military art, he knows nothing and risks
nothing, except to underrate or calumniate Carnot and Cambon who did
know and who took risks. - In relation to a foreign policy his
speech on the state of Europe is the amplification of a schoolboy; on
exposing the plans of the English minister he reaches the pinnacle of
chimerical nonsense; eliminate the rhetorical passages, and it is
not the head of a government who speaks, but the porter of the Jacobin
club. On contemporary France, as it actually exists, he has not one
sound or specific idea: instead of men, he sees only twenty-six
millions simple robots, who, when duly led and organized, will work
together in peace and harmony. Basically they are good, and will,
after a little necessary purification, become good again.
Accordingly, their collective will is "the voice of reason and public
interest," hence, on meeting together, they are wise. "The people's
assembly of delegates should deliberate, if possible, in the presence
of the whole body of the people;" the Legislative body, at least,
should hold its sittings "in a vast, majestic edifice open to twenty
thousand spectators." Note that for the past four years, in the
Constituent Assembly, in the Legislative Assembly, in the Convention,
at the Hotel de-Ville, in the Jacobin Club, wherever Robespierre
speaks, the galleries have never ceased to shout, yell and express
their opinion. Such a positive, palpable experience would open
anybody's eyes; his are closed through prejudice or interest; even
physical truth finds no access to his mind, because he is unable to
comprehend it, or because he has to keep it out. He must,
accordingly, be either obtuse or a charlatan. Actually he is both,
for both combine to form the pedant (cuistre), that is to say, the
hollow, inflated mind which, filled with words and imagining that
these are ideas, revels in its own declamation and dupes itself that
it may dictate to others.
Such is his title, his personality and role. In this artificial and
declamatory tragedy of the Revolution he takes the leading part; the
maniac and the barbarian slowly retire in the background on the
appearance of the cuistre; Marat and Danton finally become effaced, or
efface themselves, and the stage is left to Robespierre who attracts
all the attention. - If we want to understand him we must look at
him as he stands in the midst of his surroundings. At the last stage
of a dying intellectual vegetation, on the last branch of the
eighteenth century, he is the final freak and dried fruit of the
classical spirit. He has retained nothing of a worn-out system of
philosophy but its lifeless dregs and well-conned formulae, the
formulae of Rousseau, Mably, and Raynal, concerning "the people,
nature, reason, liberty, tyrants, factions, virtue, morality," a
ready-made vocabulary, expressions too ample, the meaning of
which, ill-defined by the masters, evaporates in the hands of the
disciple. He never tries to get at this; his writings and speeches
are merely long strings of vague abstract periods; there is no telling
fact in them, no distinct, characteristic detail, no appeal to the eye
evoking a living image, no personal, special observation, no clear,
frank original impression. It might be said of him that he never saw
anything with his own eyes, that he neither could nor would see, that
false conceptions have intervened and fixed themselves between him and
the object; he combines these in logical sequence, and simulates
the absent thought by an affected jargon, and this is all. The other
Jacobins alongside of him likewise use the same scholastic jargon; but
none of them spout and spread out so complacently and lengthily as he.
For hours, we grope after him in the vague shadows of political
speculation, in the cold and perplexing mist of didactic generalities,
trying in vain to make something out of his colorless tirades, and we
grasp nothing. When we, in astonishment, ask ourselves what all
this talk amounts to, and why he talks at all; the answer is, that he
has said nothing and that he talks only for the sake of talking, the
same as a sectarian preaching to his congregation, neither the
preacher nor his audience ever wearying, the one of turning the
dogmatic crank, and the other of listening. So much the better if the
container is empty; the emptier it is the easier and faster the crank
turns. And better still, if the empty term he selects is used in a
contrary sense; the sonorous words justice, humanity, mean to him
piles of human heads, the same as a text from the gospels means to a
grand inquisitor the burning of heretics. - Through this extreme
perversity, the cuistre spoils his own mental instrument; thenceforth
he employs it as he likes, as his passions dictate, believing that he
serves truth in serving these.
Now, his first passion, his principal passion, is literary vanity.
Never was the chief of a party, sect or government, even at critical
moments, such an incurable, insignificant rhetorician, so formal, so
pompous, and so dull. - On the eve of the 9th of Thermidor, when it
was a question of life or death, he enters the tribune with a set
speech, written and re-written, polished and re-polished,
overloaded with studied ornaments and bits for effect, coated by
dint of time and labor, with the academic varnish, the glitter of
symmetrical antitheses, rounded periods, exclamations, omissions,
apostrophes and other tricks of the pen. - In the most famous and
important of his reports, I have counted eighty-four instances of
personifications imitated from Rousseau and the antique, many of
them largely expanded, some addressed to the dead, to Brutus, to young
Barra, and others to absentees, priests, and aristocrats, to the
unfortunate, to French women, and finally to abstract substantives
like Liberty and Friendship. With unshaken conviction and intense
satisfaction, he deems himself an orator because he harps on the same
old tune. There is not one true tone in his elaborate eloquence,
nothing but recipes and only those of a worn-out art, Greek and Roman
common-places, Socrates and the hemlock, Brutus and his dagger,
classic metaphors like "the flambeaux of discord," and "the vessel of
State,"s coupled together and beauties of style which a pupil in
rhetoric aims at on the college bench;times a grand bravura air,
so essential for parade in public; centimes a delicate strain of
the flute, for, in those days, one must have a tender heart; in
short, Marmontel's method in " Belisarius," or that of Thomas in his
"Eloges," all borrowed from Rousseau, but of inferior quality, like a
sharp, thin voice strained to imitate a rich, powerful voice. All is
a sort of involuntary parody, and the more repulsive because a word
ends in a blow, because a sentimental, declamatory Trissotin poses as
statesman, because the studied elegance of the closet become pistol
shots aimed at living breasts, because an epithet skillfully directed
sends a man to the guillotine. - The contrast is too great between
his talent and the part he plays. With such a talent, as mediocre and
false as his intellect, there is no employment for which he is less
suited than that of governing men; he was cut out for another, which,
in a peaceable community, he would have been able to do. Suppress the
Revolution, and Marat would have probably ended his days in an asylum.
Danton might possibly have become a legal filibuster, a highwayman or
gangster, and finally throttled or hung. Robespierre, on the
contrary, might have continued as he began, a busy, hard-working
lawyer of good standing, member of the Arras Academy, winner of
competitive prizes, author of literary eulogies, moral essays and
philanthropic pamphlets; his little lamp, lighted like hundreds of
others of equal capacity at the focus of the new philosophy, would
have burned moderately without doing harm to any one, and diffused
over a provincial circle a dim, commonplace illumination proportionate
to the little oil his lamp would hold.
But the Revolution bore him into the Constituent Assembly, where, for
a long time on this great stage, his amour propre, the dominant
feeling of the pedant, suffered terribly. He had already suffered on
this score from his earliest youth, and his wounds being still fresh
made him only the more sensitive. - Born in Arras in 1758, orphaned
and poor, protégé of his bishop, a bursar through favor at the college
Louis-le-Grand, later a clerk with Brissot under the revolutionary
system of law-practice, and at length settled down in his gloomy rue
des Rapporteurs as a pettifogger. Living with a bad-tempered sister,
he has adopts Rousseau, whom he had once seen and whom he ardently
studies, for his master in philosophy, politics and style. Fancying,
probably, like other young men of his age and condition, that he could
play a similar part and thus emerge from his blind alley, he published
law pleadings for effect, contended for Academy prizes, and read
papers before his Arras colleagues. His success was moderate: one of
his harangues obtained a notice in the Artois Almanac; the Academy of
Metz awarded him only a second prize; that of Amiens gave him no
prize, while the critic of the "Mercure" spoke of his style as
smacking of the provinces. - In the National Assembly, eclipsed by
men of great and spontaneous ability, he remains a long time in the
shade, and, more than once, through obstination or lack of tact, makes
himself ridiculous. With his sharp, thin, attorney's visage, "dull,
monotonous, coarse voice and wearisome delivery," - " an artesian
accent " and constrained air, his constantly putting himself
forward, his elaboration of commonplaces, his evident determination to
impose on cultivated people, still a body of intelligent listeners,
and the intolerable boredom he caused them - all this is not
calculated to render the Assembly indulgent to errors of sense and
taste. One day, referring to certain acts of the "Conseil:" "It
is necessary that a noble and simple formula should announce national
rights and carry respect for law into the hearts of the people.
Consequently, in the decrees as promulgated, after the words Louis, by
the grace of God," etc., these words should follow:
"People, behold the law imposed on you! Let this law be considered
sacred and inviolable for all!" Upon this, a Gascon deputy arises and
remarks in his southern accent, "Gentlemen, this style is unsuitable -
there is no need for sermons. (cantique)."
General laughter; Robespierre keeps silent and bleeds internally: two
or three such mishaps nettle such a man from head to foot. It is not
that his stupid remarks seem silly to him; no pedant taken in the act
and hissed would avow that he deserved such treatment; on the
contrary, he is content to have spoken as becomes a philosophic and
moral legislator, and so much the worse for the narrow minds and
corrupt hearts unable to comprehend him.- Thrown back upon himself,
his wounded vanity seeks inward nourishment and takes what it can find
in the sterile uniformity of his bourgeois moderation. Robespierre,
unlike Danton, has no cravings. He is sober; he is not tormented by
his senses; if he gives way to them, it is only no further than he can
help, and with a bad grace. In the rue Saintonge in Paris, "for seven
months," says his secretary, "I knew of but one woman that he
kept company with, and he did not treat her very well. . . very
often he would not let her enter his room": when busy, he must not be
disturbed. He is naturally steady, hard-working, studious and fond of
seclusion, at college a model pupil, at home in his province an
attentive advocate, a punctual deputy in the Assembly, everywhere free
of temptation and incapable of going astray. - "Irreproachable" is
the word which from early youth an inward voice constantly repeats to
him in low tones to console him for obscurity and patience. Thus has
he ever been, is now, and ever will be; he says this to himself, tells
others so, and on this foundation, all of a piece, he builds up his
character. He is not, like Desmoulins, to be seduced by dinners, like
Barnave, by flattery, like Mirabeau and Danton, by money, like the
Girondists, by the insinuating charm of ancient politeness and select
society, like the Dantonists, by the bait of joviality and unbounded
license - he is the incorruptible. He is not to be deterred or
diverted, like the Feuillants, Girondists, and Dantonists, like
statesmen or specialists, by considerations of a lower order, by
regard for interests or respect for acquired positions, by the danger
of undertaking too much at once, by the necessity of not disorganizing
the service and of giving play to human passions, motives of utility
and opportunity: he is the uncompromising champion of the right.
"Alone, or nearly alone, I do not allow myself to be corrupted; alone
or nearly alone, I do not compromise justice; which two merits I
possess in the highest degree. A few others may live correctly, but
they oppose or betray principles; a few others profess to have
principles, but they do not live correctly. No one else leads so pure
a life or is so loyal to principles; no one else joins to so fervent a
worship of truth so strict a practice of virtue: I am the unique." -
What can be more agreeable than this mute soliloquy? From the very
first day it can be heard toned down in Robespierre's address to the
Third-Estate of Arras; the last day it is spoken aloud in his
great speech in the Convention; during the interval, it crops out
and shines through all his compositions, harangues, or reports, in
exordiums, parentheses and perorations, permeating every sentence like
the drone of a bag-pipe. - Through the delight he takes in this
he can listen to nothing else, and it is just here that the outward
echoes supervene and sustain with their accompaniment the inward
cantata which he sings to his own glory. Towards the end of the
Constituent Assembly, through the withdrawal or the elimination of
every man at all able or competent, he becomes one of the conspicuous
tenors on the political stage, while in the Jacobin Club he is
decidedly the tenor most in vogue. - "Unique competitor of the Roman
Fabricius," writes the branch club at Marseilles to him; "immortal
defender of popular rights," says the Jacobin crew of Bourges.
One of two portraits of him in the exhibition of 1791 bears the
inscription: "The Incorruptible." At the Moliere Theatre a drama of
the day represents him as launching the thunderbolts of his logic and
virtue at Rohan and Condé. On his way, at Bapaume, the patriots of
the place, the National Guard on the road and the authorities, come in
a body to honor the great man. The town of Arras is illuminated on
his arrival. On the adjournment of the Constituent Assembly the
people in the street greet him with shouts, crown him with oak
wreaths, take the horses from his cab and drag him in triumph to the
rue St. Honoré, where he lodges with the carpenter Duplay. - Here,
in one of those families in which the semi-bourgeois class borders on
the people, whose minds are unsophisticated, and on whom glittering
generalities and oratorical tirades take full hold, he finds his
worshippers; they drink in his words; they have the same opinion of
him that he has of himself; to every person in the house, husband,
wife and daughter, he is the great patriot, the infallible sage; he
bestows benedictions night and morning; he inhales clouds of incense;
he is a god at home. The faithful, to obtain access to him form a
line in the court. One by one they are admitted into the
reception room, where they gather around portraits of him drawn with
pencil, in stump, in sepia and in water color, and before miniature
busts in red or gray plaster. Then, on the signal being given by him,
they penetrate through a glass door into the sanctuary where he
presides, into the private closet in which the best bust of him, with
verses and mottoes, replaces him during his absence. - His
worshippers adore him on their knees, and the women more than the men.
On the day he delivers his apology before the Convention "the passages
are lined with women . . . . seven or eight hundred of them
in the galleries, and but two hundred men at most;" and how
frantically they cheer him! He is a priest surrounded by
devotees." In the Jacobin club, when he delivers his "amphigory,"
there are sobs of emotion, "outcries and stamping of feet almost
making the house tumble." An onlooker who shows no emotion is
greeted with murmurs and obliged to slip out, like a heretic that has
strayed into a church on the elevation of the Host. - The faster the
revolutionary thunderbolts fall on other heads, so does Robespierre
mount higher and higher in glory and deification. Letters are
addressed to him as "the founder of the Republic, the incorruptible
genius who foresees all and saves all, who can neither be deceived nor
seduced;" who has "the energy of a Spartan and the eloquence of
an Athenian;" "who shields the Republic with the aegis of his
eloquence;" who "illuminates the universe with his writings,
fills the world with his renown and regenerates the human species here
below;" whose" name is now, and will be, held in veneration for
all ages, present and to come;" who is "the Messiah promised by
the Eternal for universal reform." An extraordinary popularity,"
says Billaud-Varennes, a popularity which, founded under the
Constituent Assembly, "only increased during the Legislative
Assembly," and, later on, so much more, that, "in the National
Convention he soon found himself the only one able to fix attention on
his person. . . . and control public opinion. . . . With this
ascendancy over public opinion, with this irresistible preponderance,
when he reached the Committee of Public Safety, he was already the
most important being in France." After three years, a chorus of a
thousand voices, which he formed and directs, repeats again and
again in unison his litany, his personal creed, a hymn of three
stanzas composed by him in his own honor, and which he daily recites
to himself in a low tone of voice, and often in a loud one:
"Robespierre alone has discovered the best type of citizen!
Robespierre alone, modestly and without shortcomings, fits the
description! Robespierre alone is worthy of and able to lead the
Cool infatuation carried thus far is equivalent to a raging fever, and
Robespierre almost attains to the ideas and the ravings of Marat.
First, in his own eyes, he, like Marat, is a persecuted man, and, like
Marat, he poses himself as a "martyr," but more skillfully and keeping
within bounds, affecting the resigned and tender air of an innocent
victim, who, offering himself as a sacrifice, ascends to Heaven,
bequeathing to mankind the imperishable souvenir of his virtues.
"I arouse against me the pride of everybody; I sharpen against
me a thousand daggers. I am a sacrifice to every species of hatred.
. . . It is certain that my head will atone for the truths I have
uttered. I have given my life, and shall welcome death almost as a
boon. It is, perhaps, Heaven's will that my blood should indicate the
pathway of my country to happiness and freedom. With what joy I
accept this glorious destiny!" -
"It is hardly in order to live that one declares war against tyrants,
and, what is still more dangerous, against miscreants. . . . The
greater their eagerness to put an end to my career here below, the
more eager I shall be to fill it with actions serving the welfare of
"All these offenders outrage me; actions which to others may
appear insignificant or completely legitimate are for me crimes. As
soon as someone becomes acquainted with me he is at once calumniated.
Others are forgiven for their fortune, my zeal is considered a crime.
Deprive me of my conscience and I am the most wretched of men. I do
not even enjoy the rights of a citizen. I am not even allowed to
perform my duty as a representative of the people. . . . To the
enemies of my country, to whom my existence seems an obstacle to their
heinous plots, I am ready to sacrifice it, if their odious empire is
to endure. . . . . Let their road to the scaffold be the pathway
of crime, ours shall be that of virtue; let the hemlock be got ready
for me, I await it on this hallowed spot. I shall at least bequeath
to my country an example of constant affection for it, and to the
enemies of humanity the disgrace of my death."
Naturally, and always just like Marat, he sees around himself only "
the perverted, the plotters, the traitors." - Naturally, as with
Marat, common sense with him is perverted, and, like Marat again, he
thinks at random.
"I am not obliged to reflect," said he to Garat, "I always rely on
"For him," says the same authority, "the best reasons are
suspicions," and naught makes headway against suspicions, not
even the most positive evidence. On September 4, 1792, talking
confidentially with Pétion, and hard pressed with the questions that
he put to him, he ends by saying, "Very well, I think that Brissot is
on Brunswick's side." - Naturally, finally, he, like Marat,
imagines the darkest fictions, but they are less improvised, less
grossly absurd, more slowly worked out and more industriously
interwoven in his calculating inquisitorial brain.
"Evidently," he says to Garat, "the Girondists are conspiring."
"And where?" demands Garat.
"Everywhere," Robespierre replies, "in Paris, throughout France, over
all Europe. Gensonné, at Paris, is plotting in the Faubourg St.
Antoine, going about among the shopkeepers and persuading them that we
patriots mean to pillage their shops. The Gironde (department) has
for a long time been plotting its separation from France so as to join
England; the chiefs of its deputation are at the head of the plot, and
mean to carry it out at any cost. Gensonné makes no secret of it; he
tells all among them who will listen to him that they are not
representatives of the nation, but plenipotentiaries of the Gironde.
Brissot is plotting in his journal, which is simply a tocsin of civil
war; we know of his going to England, and why he went; we know all
about his intimacy with that Lebrun, minister of foreign affairs, a
Liegois and creature of the Austrian house. Brissot's best friend is
Clavière, and Clavière has plotted wherever he could breathe. Rabaut,
treacherous like the Protestant and philosopher that he is, was not
clever enough to conceal his correspondence with that courtier and
traitor Montesquiou; six months ago they were working together to open
Savoy and France to the Piedmontese. Servan was made general of the
Pyrenean army only to give the keys of France to the Spaniards."
"Is there no doubt of this in your mind?" asks Garat.
Such assurance, equal to that of Marat, is terrible and worse in its
effect, for Robespierre's list of conspirators is longer than that of
Marat. Political and social, in Marat's mind, the list comprehends
only aristocrats and the rich; theological and moral in Robespierre's
mind, it comprehends all atheists and dishonest persons, that is to
say, nearly the whole of his party. In this narrow mind, given up to
abstractions and habitually classifying men under two opposite
headings, whoever is not with him on the good side is against him on
the bad side, and, on the bad side, the common understanding between
the factious of every flag and the rogues of every degree, is natural.
"All aristocrats are corrupt, and every corrupt man is an aristocrat;"
for, "republican government and public morality are one and the same
Not only do evil-doers of both species tend through instinct and
interest to league together, but their league is already perfected.
One has only to open one's eyes to detect "in all its extent" the plot
they have hatched, "the frightful system of destruction of public
morality." Guadet, Vergniaud, Gensonné, Danton, Hébert, "all of
them artificial characters," had no other end in view : "they
felt that, to destroy liberty, it was necessary to favor by every
means whatever tended to justify egoism, wither the heart and efface
that idea of moral beauty, which affords the only rule for public
reason in its judgment of the defenders and enemies of humanity." -
Their heirs remain; but let those be careful. Immorality is a
political offense; one conspires against the State merely by making a
parade of materialism or by preaching indulgence, by acting
scandalously, or by following evil courses, by stock-jobbing, by
dining too sumptuously; by being vicious, scheming, given to
exaggeration, or "on the fence;" by exciting or perverting the people,
by deceiving the people, by finding fault with the people, by
distrusting the people, short, when one does not march straight
along on the prescribed path marked out by Robespierre according to
principles: whoever stumbles or turns aside is a scoundrel, a traitor.
Now, not counting the Royalists, Feuillantists, Girondists,
Hébertists, Dantonists, and others already decapitated or imprisoned
according to their merit, how many traitors still remain in the
Convention, on the Committees, amongst the representatives on mission,
in the administrative bodies not properly weeded out, amongst petty
tyrannical underlings and the entire ruling, influential class at
Paris and in the provinces? Outside of "about twenty political
Trappists in the Convention," outside of a small devoted group of pure
Jacobins in Paris, outside of a faithful few scattered among the
popular clubs of the departments, how many Fouchés, Vadiers, Talliens,
Bourdons, Collots, remain amongst the so-called revolutionaries? How
many dissidents are there, disguised as orthodox, charlatans disguised
as patriots, and pashas disguised as sans-culottes? Add all this
vermin to that which Marat seeks to crush out; it is no longer by
hundreds of thousands, but by millions. exclaim Baudot, Jeanbon-
Saint-André and Guffroy, that the guilty must be counted and cut off
their heads! - And all these heads, Robespierre, according to his
maxims, must strike off. He is well aware of this; hostile as his
intellect may be to precise ideas, he, when alone in his closet, face
to face with himself, sees clearly, as clearly as Marat. Marat's
chimera, on first spreading out its wings, bore its frenzied rider
swiftly onward to the charnel house; that of Robespierre, fluttering
and hobbling along, reaches the goal in its turn; in its turn, it
demands something to feed on, and the rhetorician, the professor of
principles, begins to assess the voracity of the monstrous brute on
which he is mounted. Slower than the other, this one is still more
ravenous, for, with similar claws and teeth, it has a vaster appetite.
At the end of three years Robespierre has overtaken Marat, at that
distant end of the line, at the station where Marat had established
himself from the very beginning, and the theoretician now adopts the
policy, the aim, the means, the work, and almost the vocabulary of a
armed dictatorship of the urban mob,
systematic perturbation of the bribed rabble,
war against the bourgeoisie,
extermination of the rich,
placing opposition writers, administrators and deputies outside the
Both monsters get the same food; only, to the ration of his monster,
Robespierre adds "vicious men" as its special and favorite prey.
Henceforth, he may in vain abstain from action, take refuge in his
rhetoric, stop his chaste ears, and raise his hypocritical eyes to
heaven, he cannot avoid seeing or hearing under his immaculate feet
the streaming gore, and the bones crashing in the open jaws of the
insatiable monster which he has fashioned and on which he rides.
These ever open and hungry jaws must be daily fed with an ampler
supply of human flesh; not only is he bound to let it eat, but to
furnish the food, often with his own hands, except that he must
afterwards wash them, declaring, and even believing, that no spot of
blood has ever soiled them. He is generally content to caress and
flatter the brute, to excuse it, to let it go on. Nevertheless, more
than once, tempted by the opportunity, he has launched it against his
designated victim. He is now himself starting off in quest of
living prey; he casts the net of his rhetoric around it; he
fetches it bound to the open jaws; he thrusts aside with an
uncompromising air the arms of friends, wives and mothers, the
outstretched hands of suppliants begging for lives; he suddenly
throttles the struggling victims and, for fear that they might
escape, he strangles them in time. Near the end, this is no longer
enough; the brute must have grander quarries, and, accordingly, a pack
of hounds, beaters-up, and, willingly or not, it is Robespierre who
equips, directs and urges them on, at Orange, at Paris, ordering
them to empty the prison's, and be expeditious in doing their work. -
In this profession of slaughtering, destructive instincts, long
repressed by civilization, become aroused. His feline physiognomy, at
first "that of a domestic cat, restless but mild, changes into the
savage appearance of the wildcat, and close to the ferocious exterior
of the tiger. In the Constituent Assembly he speaks with a whine, in
the Convention he froths at the mouth." The monotonous drone of
a stiff sub-professor changes into the personal accent of furious
passion; he hisses and grinds his teeth; Sometimes, on a change
of scene, he affects to shed tears. But his wildest outbursts
are less alarming than his affected sensibility. The festering
grudges, corrosive envies and bitter scheming which have accumulated
in his breast are astonishing. The gall bladder is full, and the
extravasated gall overflows on the dead. He never tires of re-
executing his guillotined adversaries, the Girondists, Chaumette,
Hébert and especially Danton, probably because Danton was the
active agent in the Revolution of which he was simply the incapable
pedagogue; he vents his posthumous hatred on this still warm corpse in
artful insinuations and obvious misrepresentations. Thus, inwardly
corroded by the venom it distills, his physical machine gets out of
order, like that of Marat, but with other symptoms. When speaking in
the tribune "his hands crisp with a sort of nervous contraction;"
sudden tremors agitate "his shoulders and neck, shaking him
convulsively to and fro." "His bilious complexion becomes livid,"
his eyelids quiver under his spectacles, and how he looks! "Ah," said
a Montagnard, "you would have voted as we did on the 9th of Thermidor,
had you seen his green eyeballs !" "Physically as well as morally," he
becomes a second Marat, suffering all the more because his delirium is
not steady, and because his policy, being a moral one, forces him to
exterminate on a grander scale.
But he is a discreet Marat, of a timid temperament, anxious,
keeping his thoughts to himself, made for a school-master or a
pleader, but not for taking the lead or for governing, always acting
hesitatingly, and ambitious to be rather the pope, than the dictator
of the Revolution. Above all, he wants to remain a political
Grandison; until the very end, he keeps his mask, not only in
public but also to himself and in his inmost conscience. The mask,
indeed, has adhered to his skin; he can no longer distinguish one from
the other; never did an impostor more carefully conceal intentions and
acts under sophisms, and persuade himself that the mask was his face,
and that in telling a lie, he told the truth.
Taking his word for it, he had nothing to do with the September
events. "Previous to these events, he had ceased to attend the
General Council of the Commune. . . He no longer went there." He
was not charged with any duty, he had no influence there; he had not
provoked the arrest and murder of the Girondists. All he did was
to "speak frankly concerning certain members of the Committee of
Twenty-one;" as "a magistrate" and "one of a municipal assembly."
Should he not" explain himself freely on the authors of a dangerous
plot?" Besides, the Commune "far from provoking the 2nd of September
did all in its power to prevent it." After all, only one innocent
person perished, "which is undoubtedly one too many. Citizens, mourn
over this cruel mistake; we too have long mourned over it! But, as all
things human come to an end, let your tears cease to flow." When the
sovereign people resumes its delegated power and exercises its
inalienable rights, we have only to bow our heads. - Moreover, it is
just, wise and good "in all that it undertakes, all is virtue and
truth; nothing can be excess, error or crime." It must intervene
when its true representatives are hampered by the law "let it assemble
in its sections and compel the arrest of faithless deputies."
What is more legal than such a motion, which is the only part
Robespierre took on the 31st of May. He is too scrupulous to commit
or prescribe an illegal act. That will do for the Dantons, the
Marats, men of relaxed morals or excited brains, who if need be, tramp
in the gutters and roll up their shirt-sleeves; as to himself, he can
do nothing that would ostensibly derange or soil the dress proper to
an honest man and irreproachable citizen. In the Committee of Public
Safety, he merely executes the decrees of the Convention, and the
Convention is always free. He a dictator! He is merely one of seven
hundred deputies, and his authority, if he has any, is simply the
legitimate ascendancy of reason and virtue. He a murderer! If he
has denounced conspirators, it is the Convention which summons these
before the revolutionary Tribunal, and the revolutionary Tribunal
pronounces judgment on them. He a terrorist! He merely seeks to
simplify the established proceedings, so as to secure a speedier
release of the innocent, the punishment of the guilty, and the final
purgation that is to render liberty and morals the order of the
day. - Before uttering all this he almost believes it, and, when
he has uttered it he believes it fully. When nature and history
combine, to produce a character, they succeed better than man's
imagination. Neither Molière in his "Tartuffe," nor Shakespeare in
his " Richard III.," dared bring on the stage a hypocrite believing
himself sincere, and a Cain that regarded himself as an Abel.
There he stands on a colossal stage, in the presence of a hundred
thousand spectators, on the 8th of June, 1794, the most glorious day
of his life, at that fête in honor of the Supreme Being, which is the
glorious triumph of his doctrine and the official consecration of his
papacy. Two characters are found in Robespierre, as in the Revolution
which he represents: one, apparent, paraded, external, and the other
hidden, dissembled, inward, the latter being overlaid by the former.
- The first one all for show, fashioned out of purely cerebral
cogitations, is as artificial as the solemn farce going on around him.
According to David's programme, the cavalcade of supernumeraries who
file in front of an allegorical mountain, gesticulate and shout at the
command, and under the eyes, of Henriot and his gendarmes,
manifesting at the appointed time the emotions which are prescribed
for them. At five o'clock in the morning
"friends, husbands, wives, relations and children will embrace . . .
. The old man, his eyes streaming with tears of joy, feels himself
At two o'clock, on the turf-laid terraces of the sacred mountain,
"all will show a state of commotion and excitement: mothers here
press to their bosoms the infants they suckle, and there offer them up
in homage to the author of Nature, while youths, aglow with the ardor
of battle, simultaneously draw their swords and hand them to their
venerable fathers. Sharing in the enthusiasm of their sons, the
deported old men embrace them and bestow on them the paternal
benediction. . . . . All the men distributed around the 'Field of
Reunion' sing in chorus the (first) refrain. . . . All the Women
distributed around the 'Field of Reunion' sing in unison the (second)
refrain . . . . All Frenchmen partake of each other's sentiments
in one grand fraternal embrace."
What could better than such an idyll, ruled with an iron hand, in the
presence of moral symbols and colored pasteboard divinities, could
better please the counterfeit moralist, unable to distinguish the
false from the true, and whose skin-deep sensibility is borrowed from
sentimental authors! "For the first time" his glowing countenance
beams with joy, while "the enthusiasm" of the scribe overflows,
as usual, in book phraseology.
"Behold!" he exclaims, "that which is most interesting in humanity!
The Universe is here assembled! O, Nature, how sublime, how exquisite
is thy power! How tyrants must quail at the contemplation of this
Is not he himself its most dazzling ornament? Was not he unanimously
chosen to preside over the Convention and conduct the ceremonies? Is
he not the founder of the new cult, the only pure worship on the face
of the earth, approved of by morality and reason? Wearing the uniform
of a representative, nankeen breeches, blue coat, tri-colored sash and
plumed hat, holding in his hand a bouquet of flowers and grain,
he marches at the head of the Convention and officiates on the
platform; he sets fire to the veil which hides from view the idol
representing "Atheism," and suddenly, through an ingenious
contrivance, the majestic statue of "Wisdom" appears in its place. He
then addresses the crowd, over and over again, exhorting,
apostrophizing, preaching, elevating his soul to the Supreme Being,
and with what oratorical combinations! What an academic swell of
bombastic cadences, strung together to enforce his tirades! How
cunning the even balance of adjective and substantive! From these
faded rhetorical flowers, arranged as if for a prize distribution or a
funeral oration, exhales a sanctimonious, collegiate odor which he
complacently breathes, and which intoxicates him. At this moment, he
must certainly be in earnest; there is no hesitation or reserve in his
self-admiration; he is not only in his own eyes a great writer and
great orator, but a great statesman and great citizen his artificial,
philosophic conscience awards him only praise. - But look underneath,
or rather wait a moment. Signs of impatience and antipathy appear
behind his back: Lecointre has braved him openly; numerous insults,
and, worse than these, sarcasms, reach his ears. On such an occasion,
and in such a place! Against the pontiff of Truth, the apostle of
Virtue! The miscreants, how dare they! Silent and pale, he suppresses
his rage, and, losing his balance, closing his eyes, he plunges
headlong on the path of murder: cost what it will, the miscreants must
perish and without loss of time. To expedite matters, he must get
their heads off quietly, and as "up to this time things have been
managed confidentially in the Committee of Public Safety," he, alone
with Couthon, two days after, without informing his colleagues,
draws up, brings to the Convention, and has passed the terrible act of
Prairial which places everybody's life at his disposal. - In his
crafty, blundering haste, he has demanded too much; each one, on
reflection, becomes alarmed for himself; he is compelled to back out,
to protest that he is misunderstood, admit that representatives are
excepted, and, accordingly, to sheathe the knife he has already
applied to his adversaries throats. But he still holds it in his
grasp. He watches them, and, pretending to retreat, affects a
renunciation, crouched in his corner, waiting until they
discredit themselves, so as to spring upon them a second time. He
has not to wait long, for the exterminating machine he set up on the
22nd of Prairial, is in their hands, and it has to work as he planned
it, namely, by making rapid turns and almost haphazard: the odium of a
blind sweeping massacre rests with them; he not only makes no
opposition to this, but, while pretending to abstain from it, he urges
it on. Secluded in the private office of his secret police, he orders
arrests; he sends out his principal bloodhound, Herman; he first
signs and then dispatches the resolution by which it is supposed that
there are conspirators among those in confinement and which,
authorizing spies or paid informers, is to provide the guillotine with
those vast batches which purge and clean prisons out in a trice."
- "I am not responsible," he states later on . . . ." My lack of
power to do any good, to arrest the evil, forced me for more than six
weeks to abandon my post on the Committee of Public Safety." To
ruin his adversaries by murders committed by him, by those which he
makes them commit and which he imputes to them, to whitewash himself
and blacken them with the same stroke of the brush, what intense
delight! If the natural conscience murmurs in whispers at moments, the
acquired superposed conscience immediately imposes silence, concealing
personal hatreds under public pretexts: the guillotined, after all,
were aristocrats, and whoever comes under the guillotine is immoral.
Thus, the means are good and the end better; in employing the means,
as well as in pursuing the end, the function is sacerdotal.
Such is the scenic exterior of the Revolution, a specious mask with a
hideous visage beneath it, under the reign of a nominal humanitarian
theory, covering over the effective dictatorship of evil and low
passions. In its true representative, as in itself, we see ferocity
issuing from philanthropy, and, from the pedant (cuistre), the executioner.
 Harmand (de la Meuse): "Anecdotes relatives à la Revolution." "He
was dressed like a tough cab-driver. He had a disturbed look and an
eye always in motion; he acted in an abrupt, quick and jerky way. A
constant restlessness gave a convulsive contraction to his muscles and
features which likewise affected his manner of walking so that he
didn't walk but hopped."
 Chevremont, "Jean Paul Marat;" also Alfred Bougeard, "Marat"
passim. These two works, with numerous documents, are panegyrics of
Marat.- Bougeat, I., II (description of Marat by Fabre d'Eglantine);
II., 259 and I., 83. - "Journal de la Republique Française," by
Marat, No.93, January 9, 1793. " I devote only two out of the twenty
four hours to sleep, and only one hour to my meals, toilette and
domestic necessities. . . I have not taken fifteen minutes
recreation for more than three years."
 Chevremont, I., pp. I and 2. His family, on the father's side,
was Spanish, long settled in Sardinia. The father, Dr. Jean Mara,
had abandoned Catholicism and removed to Geneva where he married a
woman of that city; he afterwards established himself in the canton of
 "Journal de la République Française" No.98, description of "l'Ami
du peuple" by himself.
 Read his novel "Les Aventures du jeune comte Potowski," letter 5,
by Lucile: "I think of Potowski only. My imagination, inflamed at the
torch of love, ever presents to me his sweet image." Letter of
Potowski after his marriage. "Lucile now grants to love all that
modesty permits . . . enjoying such transports of bliss, I believe
that the gods are jealous of my lot."
 Preface, XX. "Descartes, Helvetius, Haller, Lelat all ignored
great principles; Man, with them, is an enigma, an impenetrable
secret." He says in a foot-note, "We find evidence of this in the
works of Hume, Voltaire, Bonnet, Racine and Pascal."
 "Mémoires Académiques sur la Lumière," pref., VII. -- He
especially opposes "the differential refrangibility of heterogeneous
rays" which is "the basis of Newton's theory."
 Chevremont, I., 74. (See the testimony of Arago, Feb.24, 1844).
 Ibid., I., 104. (Sketch of a declaration of the rights of man and
of the citizen).
 See the epigraph of his "Mémoires sur la Lumiere." "They will
force their way against wind and tide." - Ibid., preface, VII.
"Déconvertes de Monsieur Marat," 1780, 2nd ed., p. 140.
 "Recherches physiques sur l'electricité," 1782, pp.13, 17.
 Chevremont, I., 59.
 "De l'Homme," preface VII. and book IV.
 "Journal de la République Française," No 98.
 "Journal de la République Française," by Marat, No. I.
 " L'Ami du Peuple" No. 173. (July 26, 1790). The memories of
conceited persons, given to immoderate self-expansion, are largely at
fault. I have seen patients in asylums who, believing in their
exalted position, have recounted their successes in about the same
vein as Marat. (Chevremont, I., 40, 47, 54). "The reports of
extraordinary cures effected by me brought me a great crowd of the
sick. The street in front of my door was blocked with carriages.
People came to consult me from all quarters. . . . The abstract of
my experiments on Light finally appeared and it created a prodigious
sensation throughout Europe; the newspapers were all filled with it.
I had the court and the town in my house for six months. . . . The
Academy, finding that it could not stifle my discoveries tried to make
it appear that they had emanated from its body." Three academic bodies
came in turn the same day to see if he would not present himself as a
candidate. - "Up to the present time several crowned heads have
sought me and always on account of the fame of my works."
 "Journal de la République Française," July 6 1793.
 Moniteur, (Session of the Convention, Sep.25, 1792). Marat,
indeed, is constantly claiming the post of temporary dictator.
("L'Ami du peuple," Nos. 258, 268, 466, 668 and "Appel à la nation,"
 Moniteur, (Session of the Convention, Sep.25, 1792). Marat,
indeed, is constantly claiming the post of temporary dictator.
("L'Ami du peuple," Nos. 258, 268, 466, 668 and "Appel à la nation,"
 Moniteur, (Session of the Convention, Sep.25, 1792). Marat,
indeed, is constantly claiming the post of temporary dictator.
("L'Ami du peuple," Nos. 258, 268, 466, 668 and "Appel à la nation,"
 Chevremont, I., 40. (Marat's letters, 1793).
 Journal de la Republique Française, No.98.
 The words of Marat and Panes. (Chevremont, I., 197, 203; also
"The Revolution" II., 290, 2nd note).
 Michelet, "Histoire de la Révolution," II., 89. (Narrated by M.
Bourdier, Marat's physician, to M. Serre, the physiologist).
Barbaroux, "Mémoires," 355, (after a visit to Marat): "You should see
how superficially Marat composed his articles. Without any knowledge
of a public man he would ask the first person he met what he thought
of him and this he wrote down, exclaiming 'I'll crush the rascal!'"
 Chevremont, I., 361. (From a pamphlet against Necker, by Marat,
 "L'Ami du Peuple," No.552. (August 30, 1791).
 Ibid., No.626. (Dec. 15, 1791). Cf. "The Revolution," II.,
129, on the number of armed emigrés. At this date the authorized
number as published is four thousand.
 His filthy imputations cannot be quoted. See in Buchez et Roux,
IX., 419 (April 26, 1791), and X., 220 (Nos. for June 17, 19 and 21),
his statement against Lafayette; again, his list with its vile
qualifications of "rascals and rogues," who are canvassing for
election, and his letters on the Academicians.
 Buchez et Roux, X., 407 (Sept., 1791). - Cf. ibid., 473.
According to Marat, "it is useless to measure a degree of the
meridian; the Egyptians having already given this measure. The
Academicians "obtained an appropriation of one thousand crowns for the
expenses of this undertaking, a small cake which they have fraternally
divided amongst themselves."
 Chevremont, I., 238-249. "L'Ami du peuple," Nos. 419, 519, 543,
608, 641. Other falsehoods just as extravagant are nearly all
grotesque. No.630, (April 15, 1792). "Simonneau, mayor of d'Etampes,
is an infamous ministerial monopolizer." - No. 627, (April 12, 1792).
Delessart, the minister, "accepts gold to let a got-up decree be
passed against him." No. 650, (May 10, 1792). "Louis XVI. desired
war only to establish his despotism on an indestructible foundation."
 Chevremont, I., 106. (Draft of a declaration of the rights of
man and of the citizen, 1789). - Ibid., I., 196.
 "L'Ami du peuple," Nos. 24 and 274. - Cf. "Placard de Marat,"
Sept. 18, 1792. "The National Convention should always be under the
eye of the people, so that the people may stone it if it neglects its
 "L'Ami du peuple," Nos. 108-111. (May 20-23, 1790).
 Ibid., No.258. (Oct.22, 1790).
 Ibid., No.286 (Nov. 20, I790).
 Ibid., No. 198 (August 22, 1790).
 Ibid., Nos. 523 and 524 (July 19 and 20, 1791).
 Ibid., No.626 (Dec. 15, 1791).
 Ibid., No.668 (July 8, 1792). - Cf. No. 649 (May 6, 1792). He
approves of the murder of General Dillon by his men, and recommends
the troops everywhere to do the same thing.
 Ibid., No.677 (August 10, 1792). See also subsequent numbers,
especially No. 680, Aug. 19th, for hastening on the massacre of the
Abbaye prisoners. And Aug. 21st: "As to the officers, they deserve
to be quartered like Louis Capet and his manège toadies."
 Buchez et Roux, XXVIII., 105. (Letter of Chevalier Saint-Dizier,
member of the first committee of Surveillance, Sep.10, 1792.) -
Michelet, II., 94. (In December, 1790, he already demands twenty
 Moniteur, Oct. 26, 1792. (Session of the Convention, Oct.
24th.) "N - : I know a member of the convention, who heard Marat say
that, to ensure public tranquility, two hundred and seventy thousand
heads more should fall."
Vermont: "I declare that Marat made that
statement in my presence."
Marat: "Well, I did say so; that's my
opinion and I say it again." -
Up to the last he advocates surgical operations. (No. for July 12,
1793, the eve of his death.) Observe what he says on the anti-
revolutionaries. "To prevent them from entering into any new military
body I had proposed at that time, as an indispensable prudent measure,
cutting off their ears, or rather their thumbs." He likewise had his
imitators. (Buchez et Roux, XXXII., 186, Session of the Convention,
April 4, 1796.) Deputies from the popular club of Cette "regret that
they had not followed his advice and cut off three hundred thousand heads."
 Danton never wrote or printed a speech. "I am no writer," he
says. (Garat, Memoires," 31.)
 Garat, "Memoires," III.: "Danton had given no serious study to
those philosophers who, for a century past, had detected the
principles of social art in human nature. He had not sought in his
own organization for the vast and simple combinations which a great
empire demands. He had that instinct for the grand which constitutes
genius and that silent circumspection which constitutes judgment."
 Garat, ibid., 311, 312.
 The head of a State may be considered in the same light as the
superintendent of an asylum for the sick, the demented and the infirm.
In the government of his asylum he undoubtedly does well to consult
the moralist and the physiologist; but, before following out their
instructions he must remember that in his asylum its inmates,
including the keepers and himself, are more or less ill, demented or
 De Sybel: "Histoire de l'Europe pendant la Revolution Française,"
(Dosquet's translation from the German) II., 303. "It can now be
stated that it was the active operations of Danton and the first
committee of Public Safety which divided the coalition and gave the
Republic the power of opposing Europe . . . We shall soon see, on
the contrary, that the measures of the "Mountain" party, far from
hastening the armaments, hindered them."
 Ibid., I., 558, 562, 585. (The intermediaries were Westermann
 2 Ibid., II., 28, 290, 291, 293.
 Buchez et Roux, XXV., 445. (Session of April 13, 1793.)
 According to a statement made by Count Theodore de Lameth, the
eldest of the four brothers Lameth and a colonel and also deputy in
the Legislative Assembly. During the Assembly he was well acquainted
with Danton. After the September massacre he took refuge in
Switzerland and was put on the list of emigrants. About a month
before the King's death he was desirous of making a last effort and
came to Paris. "I went straight to Danton's house, and, without
giving my name, insisted on seeing him immediately. Finally, I was
admitted and I found Danton in a bath-tub. "You here! "he exclaimed.
"Do you know that I have only to say the word and send you to the
guillotine?" "Danton," I replied, "you are a great criminal, but there
are some vile things you cannot do, and one of them is to denounce
me." " You come to save the King?" "Yes." We then began to talk in a
friendly and confidential way. "I am willing," said Danton, "to try
and save the King, but I must have a million to buy up the necessary
votes and the money must be on hand in eight days. I warn you that
although I may save his life I shall vote for his death; I am quite
willing to save his head but not to lose mine." M. de Lameth set
about raising the money; he saw the Spanish ambassador and had the
matter broached to Pitt who refused. Danton, as he said he would,
voted for the King's death, and then aided or allowed the return of M.
de Lameth to Switzerland. (I have this account through M (probably
Pasquier).. . . who had it from count Theodore de Lameth's own
 Garat. "Memoires," 317. "Twenty times, he said to me one day, I
offered them peace. They did not want it. They refused to believe me
in order to reserve the right of ruining me."
 Cf. the "Ancient Regime," p. 501.
 "Danton," by Dr. Robinet, passim. (Notices by Béon, one of
Danton's fellow-disciples. - Fragment by Saint-Albin.) - " The
Revolution," II., p.35, foot-note.
 Emile Bos, "Les Avocats du conseil du Roi," 515, 520. (See
Danton's marriage-contract and the discussions about his fortune.
From 1787 to 1791, he is found engaged as counsel only in three
 Madame Roland, "Memoires." (Statement of Madame Danton to Madame
 Expressions used by Garat and Rderer. - Larévilliere-Lepaux
calls him "the Cyclop."
 Fauchet describes him as "the Pluto of Eloquence."
 Riouffe, "Mémoires sur les prisons." In prison every utterance
was mingled with oaths and gross expressions."
 Terms used by Fabre d'Eglantine and Garat. - Beugnot, a very
good observer, had an accurate impression of Danton ("Mémoires", I,
249-252). - M. Dufort de Cheverney, (manuscript memoirs published by
M. Robert de Crèveceur), after the execution of Babeuf, in 1797, had
an opportunity to hear Samson, the executioner, talk with a war
commissary, in an inn between Vendôme and Blois. Samson recounted the
last moments of Danton and Fabre d'Églantine. Danton, on the way to
the scaffold, asked if he might sing. "There is nothing to hinder,"
said Samson. "All right. Try to remember the verses I have just
composed," and he sang the following to a tune in vogue:
Nous sommes menés au trépas We are led to our death
Par quantité de scélérats, by a gang of scoundrels
c'est ce qui nous désole. that makes us sad.
Mais bientot le moment viendra But soon the time shall come
Où chacun d'eux y passera, when all of them shall follow
c'est ce qui nous console." that's our consolation.
 Buchez et Roux, XXI., 108. Speech (printed) by Pétion: "Marat
embraced Danton and Danton embraced him. I certify that this took
place in my presence."
 Buchez et Roux, XXI., 126. ("To Maximilian Robespierre and his
royalists," a pamphlet by Louvet.) - Beugnot, "Mémoires," I., 250, "On
arriving in Paris as deputy from my department (to the Legislative
Assembly) Danton sought me and wanted me to join his party. I dined
with him three times, in the Cour du Commerce, and always went away
frightened at his plans and energy. . . . He contented himself by
remarking to his friend Courtois and my colleague: 'Thy big Beugnot is
nothing but a devotee - you can do nothing with him.'"
 The Cordeliers district. (Buchez et Roux, IV., 27.) Assembly
meeting of the Cordeliers district, November 11th, 1789, to sanction
Danton's permanent presidency. He is always re-elected, and
unanimously. This is the first sign of his ascendancy, although
sometimes, to save the appearance of his dictatorship, he has his
chief clerk Paré elected, whom he subsequently made minister.
 Buchez et Roux, IV., 295, 298, 401; V., 140.
 Ibid., VIII., 28 (October, 1790).
 Ibid., IX., 408: X., 144, 234, 297, 417. - Lafayette "Mémoires,"
I., 359, 366. Immediately after Mirabeau's death (April, 1791)
Danton's plans are apparent, and his initiative is of the highest
 "The Revolution," II., 238 (Note) and 283. - Garat, 309: "After
the 20th of June everybody made mischief at the chateau; the power of
which was daily increasing. Danton arranged the 10th of August and
the chateau was thunderstruck." - Robinet: "Le Procès des
Dantonistes," 224, 229. ("Journal de la Societé des amis de la
Constitution," No. 214, June 5, 1792.) Danton proposes "the law of
Valerius Publicola, passed in Rome after the expulsion of the
Tarquins, permitting every citizen to kill any man convicted of having
expressed opinions opposed to the law of the State, except in case of
proof of the crime." (Ibid., Nos. 230 and 231, July 13, 1792.) Danton
induces the federals present "to swear that they will not leave the
capital until liberty is established, and before the will of the
department is made known on the fate of the executive power." Such are
the principles and the instruments, of "August 10th" and "September
 Garat, 314. "He was present for a moment on the committee of
Public Safety. The outbreaks of May 31st and June 2nd occurred; he
was the author of both these days."
 Decrees of April 6 and 7, 1793.
 Decree of September 5, 1793.
 Decree of March 10, 1793.
 August 1 and 12, 1793.
 See "The Revolution," vol. III., ch. I.-Buchez et Roux, XXV.,
285. (Meeting of Nov.26, 1793.) - Moniteur, XIX., 726. Danton (March
16, 1794) secures the passing of a decree that "hereafter prose only
shall be heard at the rostrum of the house."
 Archives Nationales, Papers of the committee of General Security,
No 134. - Letter of Delacroix to Danton, Lille, March 25, 1793, on
the situation in Belgium, and the retreat of Dumouriez. . . . "My
letter is so long I fear that you will not read it to the end. . .
.Oblige me by forgetting your usual indolence." -- Letter of Chabot to
Danton, Frimaire 12, year II. " I know your genius, my dear
colleague, and consequently your natural indolent disposition. I was
afraid that you would not read me through if I wrote a long letter.
Nevertheless I rely on your friendship to make an exception in my
 Lagrange, the mathematician, and senator under the empire, was
asked how it was that he voted for the terrible annual conscriptions.
"It had no sensible effect on the tables of mortality," he replied.
 Garat, 305, 310, 313. " His friends almost worshipped him."
 Ibid., 317. - Thibeaudeau, "Mémoires," I., 59.
 Quinet, "La Révolution," II., 304. (According to the unpublished
memoirs of Baudot.) These expressions by Danton's friends all bear the
mark of Danton himself. At all events they express exactly his ideas.
 Riouffe, 67.
 Miot de Melito, " Mémoires," I., 40, 42. - Michelet, " Histoire
de la Révolution Française," VI., 34; V. 178, 184. (On the second
marriage of Danton in June, 1793, to a young girl of sixteen. On his
journey to Arcis, March, 1794.) - Riouffe, 68. In prison "He talked
constantly about trees, the country and nature."
 We can trace the effect of his attitude on the public in the
police reports, especially at the end of 1793, and beginning of the
year 1794. (Archives Nationales, F 7, 31167 report of Charmont,
Nivôse 6, year II.) "Robespierre gains singularly in public
estimation, especially since his speech in the Convention, calling on
his colleagues to rally and crush out the monsters in the interior,
also in which he calls on all to support the new revolutionary
government with their intelligence and talents. . . . I have to
state that I have everywhere heard his name mentioned with admiration.
They wound up by saying that it would be well for all members of the
Convention to adopt the measures presented by Robespierre." - (Report
of Robin, Nivôse 8.) "Citizen Robespierre is honored everywhere, in
all groupes and in the cafe's. At the Café Manouri it was given out
that his views of the government were the only ones which, like the
magnet, would attract all citizens to the Revolution. It is not the
same with citizen Billaud-Varennes." (Report of the Purveyor, Nivôse
9.) " In certain clubs and groups there is a rumor that Robespierre is
to be appointed dictator.. . . . The people do justice to his
austere virtues; it is noticed that he has never changed his opinions
since the Revolution began."
 "Souvenirs d'un déporté." by P. Villiers, (Robespierre's
secretary for seven months in 1790,) p. 2. "Of painstaking
cleanliness." - Buchez et Roux, XXXIV., 94. Description of
Robespierre, published in the newspapers after his death: "His clothes
were exquisitely clean and his hair always carefully brushed."
 D'Hericault, "La Revolution du 9 Thermidor," (as stated by
Daunou). - Meillan, "Mémoires," p.4. "His eloquence was nothing but
diffusive declamation without order or method, and especially with no
conclusions. Every time he spoke we were obliged to ask him what he
was driving at..... Never did he propose any remedy. He left the
task of finding expedients to others, and especially to Danton."
 Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 437, 438, 440, 442. (Speech by
Robespierre, Thermidor 8, year II.)
 Ibid., XXX., 225, 226, 227, 228 (Speech, Nov. 17, 1793), and
XXXI., 255 (Speech, Jan.26, '794). "The policy of the London Cabinet
largely contributed to the first movement of our Revolution....
Taking advantage of political tempests (the cabinet) aimed to effect
in exhausted and dismembered France a change of dynasty and to place
tke Duke of York on the throne of Louis XVI. .. . Pitt....is an
imbecile, whatever may be said of a reputation that has been much too
greatly puffed up. A man who, abusing the influence acquired by him
on an island placed haphazard in the ocean, is desirous of contending
with the French people, could not have conceived of such an absurd
plan elsewhere than in a madhouse." - Cf. Ibid., XXX., 465.
 Ibid., XXVI., 433, 441, (Speech on the Constitution, May 10,
1793); XXXI., 275. "Goodness consists in the people preferring itself
to what is not itself; the magistrate, to be good, must sacrifice
himself to the people.". . . . "Let this maxim be first adopted
that the people are good and that its delegates are corruptible.". .
. XXX., 464. (Speech, Dec.25, 1793): "The virtues are the appanages
of the unfortunate and the patrimony of the people."
 Cf. passim, Hamel, "Histoire de Robespierre," 3 vols. An
elaborate panegyric full of details. Although eighty years have
elapsed, Robespierre still makes dupes of people through his attitudes
and rhetorical flourishes. M. Hamel twice intimates his resemblance
to Jesus Christ. The resemblance, indeed, is that of Pascal's Jesuits
to the Jesus of the Gospel.
 "The Ancient Regime," p.262.
 Garat, "Mémoires," 84. Garat who is himself an ideologist, notes
"his eternal twadle about the rights of man, the sovereignty of the
people, and other principles which he was always talking about, and on
which he never gave utterance to one precise or fresh idea."
 Read especially his speech on the constitution, (May 10, 1793),
his report on the principles of Republican Government, (Dec.15, 1793),
his speech on the relationship between religious and national ideas
and republican principles (May 7, 1794) and speech of Thermidor 8.-
Carnot: "Memoires," II., 512. "In all deliberations on affairs he
contributed nothing but vague generalities."
 During this century all important Jacobin leaders, Hitler,
Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Castro etc. have in their turn followed
robespierre's example and bored their captive audiences with their
interminable speeches. (SR).
 Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 406. (Speech delivered Thermidor 8th.)
The printed copy of the manuscript with corrections and erasures.
 Ibid., 420, 422, 427.
 Ibid., 428, 435, 436. "O day forever blessed! What a sight to
behold, the entire French people assembled together and rendering to
the author of nature the only homage worthy of him! How affecting each
object that enchants the eye and touches the heart of man! O honored
old age! O generous ardor of the young of our country! O the innocent,
pure joy of youthful citizens! O the exquisite tears of tender
mothers! O the divine charms of innocence and beauty! What majesty in
a great people happy in its strength, power and virtue!" - "No,
Charmette, No, death is not the sleep of eternity!" - "Remember, O,
People, that in a republic, etc." - "If such truths must be dissembled
then bring me the hemlock!"
 Speech, May 7, 1794. (On moral and religious ideas in relation
to republican principles.)
 Personifications. From Greek to make persons. (SR).
 Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 436. "The verres and Catilines of our
country." (Speech of Thermidor 8th.) - Note especially the speech
delivered March 7, 1794, crammed full of classical reminiscences.
 Ibid., XXXIII., 421. "Truth has touching and terrible accents
which reverberate powerfully in pure hearts as in guilty consciences,
and which falsehood can no more counterfeit than Salome can
counterfeit the thunders of heaven." - 437: "Why do those who
yesterday predicted such frightful tempests now gaze only on the
fleeciest clouds? Why do those who but lately exclaimed 'I affirm that
we are treading on a volcano' now behold themselves sleeping on a bed
 Ibid., XXXII., 360, 361. (Portraits of the encyclopaedists and
 Ibid., XXXIII., 408. "Here, I have to open my heart." - XXXII.,
475-478, the concluding part.
 Hamel: "Histoire de Robespierre," I., 34-76. An attorney at 23,
a member of the Rosati club at Arras at 24, a member of the Arras
Academy at 25. The Royal Society of Metz awarded him a second prize
for his discourse against the prejudice which regards the relatives of
condemned criminals as infamous. His eulogy of Gresset is not crowned
by the Amiens Academy. He reads before the Academy of Arras a
discourse against the civil incapacities of illegitimate children, and
then another on reforms in criminal jurisprudence. In 1789, he is
president of the Arras Academy, and publishes an eulogy of Dupaty and
an address to the people from Artois on the qualities necessary for
 See his eulogy of Rousseau in the speech of May 7, 1794.
(Buchez et Roux, XXXII., 369. - Garat, 85. "I hoped that his
selection of Rousseau for a model of style and the constant reading of
his works would exert some good influence on his character."
 Fievée, "correspondance" (introduction). Fievée, who heard him
at the Jacobin Club, said that he resembled a "tailor of the ancient
regime." La Réeveillère-Lepeaux, ´"Mmoires." - Buchez et Roux, XXXIV.,
94. - Malouet, "Mémoires," II., 135. (Session of May 31, 1791, after
the delivery of Abbé Raynal's address.) "This is the first and only
time I found Robespierre clear and even eloquent. . . . He spun
out his opening phrases as usual, which contained the spirit of his
discourse, and which, in spite of his accustomed rigmarole, produced
the effect he intended."
 Courrier de Provence, III., No. 52, (Oct. 7 and 8, 1789). -
Buchez et Roux, VI., 372. (Session of July 10, 1790.) Another similar
blunder was committed by him on the occasion of an American
deputation. The president had made his response, which was
"unanimously applauded." Robespierre wanted to have his say
notwithstanding the objections of the Assembly, impatient at his
verbiage, and which finally put him down. Amidst the laughter, "M.
l'Abbé Maury demands ironically the printing of M. Robespierre's
 L. Villiers, 2.
 Cf. his principal speeches in the constituent Assembly; --
against martial law; against the veto, even suspensive; against the
qualification of the silver marc and in favor of universal suffrage;
in favor of admitting into the National Guard non-acting citizens; of
the marriage of priests; of the abolition of the death penalty; of
granting political rights to colored men; of interdicting the father
from favoring any one of his children; of declaring the "Constituants"
ineligible to the Legislative Assembly, etc. On royalty: "The King is
not the representative but the clerk of the nation." On the danger of
allowing political rights to colored men: "Let the colonies perish if
they cost you your honor, your glory, your liberty!"
 Hamel, I., 76.77, (March, 1789). "My heart is an honest one and
I stand firm; I have never bowed beneath the yoke of baseness and
corruption." He enumerates the virtues that a representative of the
Third Estate should possess (26, 83). He already shows his blubbering
capacity and his disposition to regard himself as a victim: "They
undertake making martyrs of the people's defenders. Had they the
power to deprive me of the advantages they envy, could they snatch
from me my soul and the consciousness of the benefits I desire to
confer on them."
 Buchez et Roux, XXXIII. "Who am I that am thus accused? The
slave of freedom, a living martyr to the Republic, at once the victim
and the enemy of crime!" See this speech in full.
 Especially in his address to the French people, (Aug., 1791),
which, in a justificatory form, is his apotheosis. - Cf. Hamel, II.,
212; Speech in the Jacobin club, (April 27, 1792).
 Hamel, I., 517, 532, 559; II., 5.
 Laréveillère-Lepeaux," Mémoires." - Barbaroux, "Mémoires," 358.
(Both, after a visit to him.)
 Robespierre's devotees constantly attend at the Jacobin club and
in the convention to hear him speak and applaud him, and are called,
from their condition and dress, " the fat petticoats."
 Buchez et Roux, XX., 197. (Meeting of Nov. I, 1792.) -
"Chronique de Paris," Nov. 9, 1792, article by Condorcet. With the
keen insight of the man of the world, he saw clearly into
Robespierre's character. "Robespierre preaches, Robespierre censures;
he is animated, grave, melancholy, deliberately enthusiastic and
systematic in his ideas, and conduct. He thunders against the rich
and the great; he lives on nothing and has no physical necessities.
His sole mission is to talk, and this he does almost constantly. . .
His characteristics are not those of a religious reformer, but of the
chief of a sect. He has won a reputation for austerity approaching
sanctity. He jumps up on a bench and talks about God and Providence.
He styles himself the friend of the poor; he attracts around him a
crowd of women and 'the poor in spirit, and gravely accepts their
homage and worship. . . . Robespierre is a priest and never will
be anything else." Among Robespierre's devotees Madame de Chalabre
must be mentioned, (Hamel, I., 525), a young widow (Hamel, III., 524),
who offers him her hand with an income of forty thousand francs.
"Thou art my supreme deity," she writes to him, "and I know no other
on this earth! I regard thee as my guardian angel, and would live only
under thy laws."
 Fievée, "Correspondance," (introduction).
 Report of Courtois on the papers found in Robespierre's
domicile. Justificatory documents No.20, letter of the Secretary of
the Committee of Surveillance of Saint Calais, Nivôse 15, year II.
 Ibid., No. 18. Letter of V---, former inspector of "droits
reservés," Feb. 5, 1792.
 Ibid., No.8. Letter of P. Brincourt, Sedan, Aug.29, 1793.
 Ibid., No. I. Letter of Besson, with an address of the popular
club of Menosque, Prairial 23, year II
 Ibid., No.14. Letter of D---, member of the Cordeliers Club,
and former mercer, Jan.31, 1792
 Ibid., No.12. Letter by C----, Chateau Thierry, Prairial 30,
 Hamel, III., 682. (Copied from Billaud-Varennes' manuscripts,
in the Archives Nationales).
 Moniteur, XXII., '75. (Session of Vendémiaire i8, year III.
Speech by Laignelot.) "Robespierre had all the popular clubs under his
 Garat, 85. "The most conspicuous sentiment with Robespierre,
and one, indeed, of which he made no mystery, was that the defender of
the people could never see amiss. - (Bailleul, quoted in Carnot's
Memoirs, I. 516.) "He regarded himself as a privileged being,
destined to become the people's regenerator and instructor."
 Speech of May 16, 1794, and of Thermidor 8, year II.
 Buchez et Roux, X., 295, 296. (Session June 22, 1791, of the
Jacobin Club.) - Ibid., 294. - Marat spoke in the same vein: "I have
made myself a curse for all good people in France." He writes, the
same date: "Writers in behalf of the people will be dragged to
dungeons. 'The friend of the people,' whose last sigh is given for
his country, and whose faithful voice still summons you to freedom, is
to find his grave in a fiery furnace." The last expression shows the
difference in their imaginations.
 Hamel, II., 122. (Meeting of the Jacobin Club, Feb.10, 1792.)
"To obtain death at the hands of tyrants is not enough - one must
deserve death. If it be true that the earliest defenders of liberty
became its martyrs they should not suffer death without bearing
tyranny along with them into the grave." - Cf., ibid., II., 215.
(Meeting of April 27, 1792.)
 Hamel, II., 513. (Speech in the Convention, Prairial 7, year
 Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 422, 445, 447, 457. (Speech in the
Convention, Thermidor 8, year II.)
 Buchez et Roux, XX., 11, 18. (Meeting of the Jacobin Club,
Oct.29, 1792.) Speech on Lafayette, the Feuillants and Girondists.
XXXI., 360, 363. (Meeting of the Convention, May 7, 1794.) On
Lafayette, the Girondists, Dantonists and Hébertists. - XXXIII., 427.
(Speech of Thermidor 8, year II.)
 Garat, "Mémoires," 87, 88.
 Buchez et Roux, XXI., 107. (Speech of Pétion on the charges
made against him by Robespierre.) Petion justly objects that
"Brunswick would be the first to cut off Brissot's head, and Brissot
is not fool enough to doubt it."
 Garat, 94. (After the King's death and a little before the 10th
of March, 1793.)
 Ibid., 97. In 1789 Robespierre assured Garat that Necker was
plundering the Treasury, and that people had seen mules loaded with
the gold and silver he was sending off by millions to Geneva. -
Carnot, "Mémoires," I. 512. "Robespierre," say Carnot and Prieur,
"paid very little attention to public business, but a good deal to
public officers; he made himself intolerable with his perpetual
mistrust of these, never seeing any but traitors and conspirators."
 Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 417. (Speech of Thermidor 8, year II.)
 Ibid., XXXII., 361, (Speech May 7, '794,) and 359. "Immorality
is the basis of despotism, as virtue is the essence of the Republic."
 Ibid., 371.
 Buchez et Roux, XXXIII., 195. (Report of Couthon and decree in
conformity therewith, Prairial 22, year II.) "The revolutionary
tribunal is organised for the punishment of the people's enemies . .
. . The penalty for all offences within its jurisdiction is death.
Those are held to be enemies of the people who shall have misled the
people, or the representatives of the people, into measures opposed to
the interests of liberty; those who shall have sought to create
discouragement by favoring the undertakings of tyrants leagued against
the Republic; those who shall have spread false reports to divide or
disturb the people; those who shall have sought to misdirect opinion
and impede popular instruction, produce depravity and corrupt the
public conscience, diminish the energy and purity of revolutionary and
republican principles, or stay their progress Those who, charged
with public functions, abuse them to serve the enemies of the
Revolution, vex patriots, oppress the people, etc."
 Buchez et Roux, XXXV., 290. (" Institutions," by Saint-Just.)
"The Revolution is chilled. Principles have lost their vigor.
Nothing remains but red-caps worn by intrigue." - Report by Courtois,
"Pièces justificatives" No.20. (Letter of Pays and Rompillon,
president and secretary of the committee of Surveillance of Saint-
Calais, to Robespierre, Nivôse 15, year II.) "The Mountain here is
composed of only a dozen or fifteen men on whom you can rely as on
yourself; the rest are either deceived, seduced, corrupted or enticed
away. Public opinion is debauched by the gold and intrigues of honest
 Report by Courtois, N. 43. - Cf. Hamel, III., 43, 71. - (The
following important document is on file in the Archives Nationales, F
7, 4446, and consists of two notes written by Robespierre in June and
July, 1793): "Who are our enemies? The vicious and the rich. . . .
How may the civil war be stopped? Punish traitors and conspirators,
especially guilty deputies and administrators . . . . make
terrible examples . . . . proscribe perfidious writers and anti-
revolutionaries . . . . Internal danger comes from the bourgeois;
to overcome the bourgeois, rally the people. The present insurrection
must be kept up . . . . The insurrection should gradually continue
to spread out . . . The sans-culottes should be paid and remain in
the towns. They ought to be armed, worked up, taught."
 The committee of Public Safety, and Robespierre especially, knew
of and commanded the drownings of Nantes, as well as the principal
massacres by Carrier, Turreau, etc. (De Martel, "Etude sur Fouché,"
257-265.) - Ibid., ("Types revolutionnaires," 41-49.) - Buchez et
Roux, XXXIII., 101 (May 26, 1794.) Report by Barère and decree of the
convention ordering that "No English prisoners should be taken."
Robespierre afterwards speaks in the same sense. Ibid., 458. After
the capture of Newport, where they took five thousand English
prisoners, the French soldiers were unwilling to execute the
convention's decree, on which Robespierre (speech of Thermidor 8)
said: "I warn you that your decree against the English has constantly
been violated; England, so ill-treated in our speeches, is spared by
 On the Girondists, Cf. "The Revolution," II., 216.
 Buchez et Roux, XXX., 157. Sketch of a speech on the Fabre
d'Eglantine factim. - Ibid., 336, Speech at the Jacobin Club against
Clootz. - XXXII., abstract of a report on the Chabot affair, 18.-
Ibid., 69, Speech on maintaining Danton's arrest.
 Ibid., XXX., 378. (Dec.10, 1793.) With respect to the women who
crowd the Convention in order to secure the liberty of their husbands:
"Should the repubican women forget their virtues as citizens whenever
they remembering that they are wives?"
 Hamel, III., 196. - Michelet, V., 394, abstract of the judicial
debates on the disposition of the Girondists: "The minutes of this
decree are found in Robespierre's handwriting."
 De Martel, "Types revolutionnaires," 44. The instructions sent
to the Revolutionary Tribunal at Orange are in Robespierre's
handwriting. - (Archives Nationales, F7 4439.)
 Merlin de Thionville.
 Buchez et Roux, XXXII., 71. (On Danton.) "Before the day is
over we shall see whether the convention will shatter an idol a long
time rotten. . . . In what respect is Danton superior to his
fellow-citizens? . . . . I say that the man who now hesitates is
guilty. . . . . The debate, just begun, is a danger to the
country." - Also the speech in full, against Clootz.
 Ibid., XXX., 338. "Alas, suffering patriots, what can we do,
surrounded by enemies fighting in our own ranks! . . . Let us
watch, for the fall of our country is not far off," etc. - These
cantatas, with the accompaniments of the celestial harp, are terrible
if we consider the circumstances. For instance, on the 3rd of
September, 1792, in the electoral assembly while the massacres are
going on: "M. Robespierre climbs up on the tribune and declares that
he will calmly face the steel of the enemies of public good, and carry
with him to his grave the satisfaction of having served his country,
the certainty of France having preserved its liberty". - (Archives
Nationales, C. II., 58-76.)
 Buchez et Roux, XXXII., 360, 371. (Speech of May 7, 1794.)
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