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1792. GIRONDISTS AN3 JACOBINS. 15
creed. There scarcely remained a public principle on which two republican parties could differ. Personal hatred, however, supplied any want of the kind; and royalty and republicanism never worked each other such mutual ill as did these parties, the colors of whose political creeds differed but by a shade. The Girondists were aristocratic in comparison with the Mountain they were men of education and of talent; men who did no scorn society, and who would have adorned it even in the re finement of monarchic days. This alone was sufficient to ex cite the hatred of Robespierre and Marat, whose only principle was a deep and rancorous jealousy of all social distinction. Both parties courted popular favor, and pretended to lead the popular cause. But the Girondists were merely amateur democrats, would-be rabble, not tbe actual rabble itself, as Marat and his tribe were. And these were indignant that men respectable in birth and profession should dare to assume the place of representatives of the people. Favorers, as the Gironde were to a certain degree, of law and social order, they required some more certain and congenial support than that of the mob. The middle classes, united, organized, and armed, would have been their natural auxiliaries; but the middle classes of the capital had supported the constitutionalists, or feuillans, and with them had been crushed by the Jacobins and Girondists themselves, during the latter months of the legislative assembly. The Gironde had favored the insurrection of the 20th of June; and by having done so, by having fatally condescended to make use of the popular arm, had rendered themselves powerless to resist the movements of either the 10th of August or the 2d of September. By the same fault they had alienated the middle classes of the Parisians, who thenceforth had, either in timidity or zeal, become blended in the ranks of the Jacobins. Thus had the Girondists left themselves without any support in the capital, except their talents and the Tightness of their views. For to compete with Robespierre and Danton for the favor of the populace was now a vain attempt, most vain, since these leaders had indulged the mob, even to satiety, in riot, plunder, and blood. The Girondists had, however, a numerous body of partisans of the middle classes in the provinces; and to bring a chosen band of these to protect them against the insurrectionary spirit of the lower orders in Paris, became one of theii early endeavors.
Of the ministry, or the executive council, established on the king's suspension, the Girondists were indeed the majority; but the honest simplicity of Roland and his friends was overmatched by the energy of Danton. In vain did Roland protest against the daily repeated scene of massacre and spoliation: he was powerless, minister of the interior but in name; for the municipality had usurped the whole of the judicial and administrative authority. We have seen the legislative assembly, in its last sittings, cower and shrink before a menace of the commune. During the interval of the elections, this body ruled uncontrolled; and those friends of order and of law, who* were determined to combat its usurpations, deferred the bold attempt until the convention should have assembled.
The Gironde was indignant at the massacre which had been perpetrated, and at the criminal stain cast by such deeds upon the revolution. To wipe this away, to prevent the recurrence of these acts of blood, to disarm and reprove at least, if not to punish the perpetrators, was the first effort of the party now seated on the right of the assembly. In the third sitting of the convention, Roland read his report, as home minister, on the state of the country, the disorders of which, as well as the inevitable weakness of the government, he forcibly described: "The confidence of a free people in its governors must prove ever the chief strength and safeguard of the latter: it will be sufficient in ordinary times, in days of peace and order; but the present, unfortunately, is neither a peaceful nor an ordinary epoch. Around the national convention the influence of Brunswick is felt ;* it is he who produces tumults, which no administration can possess confidence sufficient to obviate or quell. There is need then of force: force alone can put down treason. I think, therefore, that the National Convention ought to surround itself with an armed troop, composed of professional soldiers, disciplined and paid."
On the following day tidings arrived that assassinations, similar to those of the capital, were commencing in the provinces, no doubt produced by the circulars and instructions of the Jacobins. The choler of the Gironde instantly burst forth: and, on the proposal of Buzot, a triple decree was passed, appointing a committeee to inquire into the state of France and of the capital; to prepare a law against the provocation to murder; and also a plan for providing a guard, to be drawn from the eighty-three departments, for the protection of the national convention.
In this first outbreaking of the storm against them in the convention, Robespierre and his friends preserved silence. They raised some trifling objections, but dared not to oppose
* This politic use of Brunswick's name, in order to cast odium upon the agitators, was imitated by the Jacobins, who assailed every enemy as an emissary of Pitt. There was little need of the bribes of either Pitt ot Brunswick to incite the Paris' an rabble to insurrection and massacre
1792. GIRONDISTS A VD JACOBINS. 17
the decree: they rather seemed to affect moderation, and to deprecate the wrath of the Gironde. In this party were several who thought it wisest to abandon recrimination, and to establish a kind of amnesty for the past and peace for the future, which might reclaim the men of blood to the path of order and of patriotism. Petion advised this plan of conduct; which was certainly pusillanimous, though, perhaps, not unwise, considering that it fell in perfectly with the pacific and timid views of the deputies of the centre or Plain. It was little practicable, however; for the anarchists who quailed and remained silent in the convention, recovered audacity and speech in the Jacobin club, and gave free vent to their vindictive fury.
Lasource a Protestant clergyman, and member of the moderate party, attended the jacobin meeting, and heard these denunciations, in which the majority of the convention were represented as seeking to excite the departments against the capital, and to check the progress of liberty. He made an instant remark thereon to his neighbor Merlin; observing, that those agitators aspired to establish a dictatorship in their own favor. Merlin of Thionville, having been a huissier, or bailiff, of that town, was a bold, uncompromising Jacobin, a very Ajax, as the revolutionists called him in their tongue. He "stood up on the following day in the convention, and challenged Lasource to state openly and prove his accusation. Lasource did not shrink from avowing his opinion. He dreaded, he said, the despotism of the capital and its agitators; he feared to see Paris become, what Rome was in the empire, the tyrant of the world, while itself was the slave of sedition. Osselin rose, and treated the fears of Lasource as chimerical: "The idea is absurd: that any one here should aspire to the dictatorship is impossible."
"'Tis not, 'tis not impossible!" exclaimed Rebecqui, deputy for Marseilles. "I assert that there does exist a party in this assembly which aspires to establish the dictatorship: and the chief of this party—I will name him—is Robespierre!"
Amidst the tumult caused by this denunciation, Danton obtained possession of the tribune,* and endeavored to prevent these dissensions from going further. To avert the attack from Robespierre, he spoke of himself, "who had served the cause of liberty with all the energy of his temperament;" nd of Marat, with whom indeed he affected not to be on terms of friendship; but whose violence he represented as
* A kind of lo»v pulpit, from which the orator addrssses ali Trench as semMiea.
excusable, since his long concealment from vexation and arrest, in caverns, and subterraneous hiding-places, had soured and corrupted his temper. To counterbalance the accusation brought against the Mountain, Danton insinuated that there was another party in the assembly, whose object was to partition France into as many republics as provinces, and thus to destroy the unity of the country. This was aimed at the Gi ronde. Danton proposed to decree the pain of death against whosoever should entertain either of these projects, whether the dictatorship or federalism.
The accusation, thus adroitly parried by Danton, might have been set at rest, had not Robespierre thought proper to undertake his own defence. He enumerated the acts of his past life with a cold arrogance, and in a speech so tedious and dull, that even his own friends called out to him, in impatience, to have done with his kyrielle.
As Marat was alluded to in the debate, he, too, thought it necessary to enter upon his exculpation. His appearance at the tribune excited such an acclamation of disgust, that to make himself heard was impossible. But the accusations against him were redoubled. CamboH produced a kind of placard, signed Marat, in which a dictatorship, or despotic triumvirate, is called for as the only means of public safety. It became necessary to hear the monster's defence. Taking a. cap from his head, such as is worn by the people, Marat placed it on the tribune, and facing the general outcry, with distorted and nervous smile, he began:—"I have a great many personal enemies in this assembly."—" All of us! all of us!" was the clamorous interruption and reply of the greater part of the members. Marat undauntedly continued— "I have many personal enemies in this assembly. I recall them to a sense of shame. I exhort them to cease their furibund clamors. The members for the city of Paris are accused of aspiring to the triumvirate, or the dictatorship. It is merely because I am one of them that this accusation is made. I owe it to Danton, and to Robespierre, to declare, that they have always opposed the project of a dictatorship, which I have never ceased to recommend in my writings. I have a lajice to break with them on that point. I am myself the first and the only writer in France who has proposed and supported the dictatorship, as the sole means of crushing traitors and conpirators. I am alone to blame or to be condemned for this. But first hear me.
"Amidst the machinations of a perfidious king, an abominable court, and of false patriots, who sold the cause of liberty in two successive assemblies, can you reproach me with hav
J 792. ACCUSATION OF MAUAT. 19
ing imagined the only means of public safety, with having invoked the hatchet of popular vengeance on the guilty heads? No, you dare not. The people would disavow you—the people, who, at length, in order to escape from tyrants and traitors, felt the necessity of turning dictator itself.
"Believe me, I shuddered as much as any of you at these terrible insurrections; and it was to obviate the necessity of their recurrence, that I wished to see the popular force guided by one firm hand. Had this been understood at the taking of the Bastile, five huntlred heads would have fallen, and tranquillity would have been secured. But no; events were left to themselves, and vengeance abandoned to the people. And what has been the consequence] A hundred thousand patriots have been slaughtered, and a hundred thousand more are menaced with a similar fate. At any rate, to prove to you that the dictator, or the triumvir, which I recommended, was not to answer to the vulgar idea of a tyrant, my proposal was, that his authority should last but for a few days; that his only office should be to condemn traitors; and that this dread magistrate himself should have always a cannon-ball attached to his leg, in order that he might continue under the hand of the people. Such was the dream of my patriotism; and if your intellects have not elevation enough to comprehend it, so much the worse for you."
Whilst some were disgusted with the arrogance and bloodthirstiness of this speech, and others amused even to laughter by its impertinence, the too flexible majority were struck by the ferocious energy of Marat's character and views. The new deputies of the Plain, who had hitherto looked with abhorrence on the monster, here submitted to listen and learned to tolerate him.
Vergniaud, the famous orator of the Gironde, rose immediately, in order to counteract the favor excited towards Marat. His first expressions of abhorrence against the man of blood were interrupted by murmurs. Vergniaud then read the famous circular, in which the massacres of September were avowed, and held up to the imitation of the provinces. Boileau succeeded him at the tribune, and commenced reading an address to the people, signed Marat, and published that very morning. Its tenor was as follows:—
"One reflection oppresses me; it is, that all my efforts to erve the people must fail without a new insurrection. Seeing the temper of the majority of the national convention, I despair of the public safety. Fifty years of anarchy are before us; and the only way of avoiding them is by appointing a III.—2