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passed tho decree, ordering into arrest the leading members of the Gironde, and of the commission of twelve. The original list of twenty-two was swelled to thirty, besides the ministers of finance and foreign affairs.
Such was the first epuration, or purge, of the national assembly. It was proposed by the leading Jacobins; though effected through the medium of the municipality, by a more obscure set of agitators, over whom the celebrated triumvirate, Robespierre, Marat, and Danton, were far from having supreme influence. These, indeed, succeeded in placing themselves at the head of an insurrection, which they had by no means led in the hour of action. The puissant men who overthrew liberty on the 2d of June, 1793, very much resembled, and in some instances were the same, as those who overthrew the monarchy on the 10th of August, being a knot of obscure ruffians, whom, however influential, Fame so blushed to see on her registers, that history has scarcely named them. Many were foreigners, such as Clootz, Guzman, Lazouski. Yet these were the men that wrenched the sceptre of power from Vergniaud, from Condorcet, from Barbaroux, from Dumouriez; the mere force of ignominy and obscurity overcoming eloquence, philosophy, political vehemence itself, and military talent. The superiority of all four was paralyzed, merely because combined with humanity.
THE REIGN OF TERROR.
It is surprising to observe, that in revolutionary struggles fought parliamentary-wise by the tongue and pen, in the proper arena of intellect, genius and noble endowments are found universally to succumb; whilst in those fought with the sword, where physical force seems especially intrusted with the award, intellect infallibly obtains the sway, and talent vindicates its claim to superiority. War gave to France Napoleon for a sovereign. Her representative assemblies placed her at the foot of Robespierre.
This paradox, that mediocrity bears away the prize in popular and tumultuous revolutions, is partially explained by observing, that the first and front ranks filled by talent are swept away, whilst those in the rear naturally press on to seize the victoEV that better men have wTon. The secret of 1793. REIGN OF TERROR 51
success is to come late: for political characters are ephemeral in time of revolution, short-lived as the opinions which they represent. The chosen talents of a generation start up intc sudden ripeness, like the productions of the field, and, like these enjoying the honors of an autumn, are mown down, and give place to another and another, until the exhausted soil can afford but a stunted and pigmy crop. It is then abandoned as a sterile waste, to pursue the metaphor, and at length rise the forest and its lord, the natural and lofty monarchs of a region where signs of culture are no more visible, nor the broad daylight of freedom allowed to penetrate.
Robespierre, though no exception to this rule, was still an extraordinary personage. He was the very perfection, the type of triumphant mediocrity. Talents he had none—nor ideas, although by dint of exertion he acquired the semblance of the one, and purloined the others notoriously from all around him. His speeches were written for him; and the debates of the Jacobin clubs, at first philosophical and given to the discussion of principles, supplied him with a political vocabulary at least Thus his friends, his future enemies being included in that class, lent to this hawk the feathers that imped his wing, and taught him at length to soar. He was totally without passion, unless vanity deserve the name; but his vanity was wise, and wore all the loftiness of pride. Then he had honesty and consistency, two qualities that cannot be denied him, however he might have adopted them in calculation. From his first vote in the constituent assembly he had been the rank democrat that he ever was, professing all those extreme opinions to which others tended. His private morals were irreproachable. He held to his condition, lodged to the last with the same humble carpenter's family that at first housed him. Unlike his colleague Danton, no bribe, no peculation, no expense, no licentiousness, considered as such in that day at least, could be laid to his charge. No petty ambition distracted his views, or blemished his character for disinterestedness. He was never minister, nor even commissary. After the fall of the Gironde, when he was all-powerful, he did not become member of the sovereign committee till it pleased the convention and the Jacobins of their own accord to appoint him. With this there was no affectation in his sansculottism. He neither shaved his head, nor wore tattered garments, nor mounted the red night-cap. Robespierre alone wore powder, and preserved the dress and demeanor of respectability. Political courage he certainly did not want, though physically he was, with Marat, the most arrant of cowIIL—4
ards. Ruthless as a tiger, at first reckless, then greeay of blood ;—such was the tyrant of the day.
The Gironde had now fallen before the party of Robespierre and the Parisians. The dignity of the national assembly had been violated, and its freedom destroyed. It remained for the provinces to fulfil their menaces, support and avenge the Girondists, and resist the tumultuous tyranny of the capital. To this resistance many were previously disposed and partially prepared. The escape of some of the proscribed deputies, and their appearance in the provinces, communicated enthusiasm and gave leaders to the revolt, that now became general. The northern departments, with those immediately around Paris, remained alone true to the convention. The former, menaced by the foreign enemy, and occupied by the republican armies, had neither power nor leisure to rise. But Normandy, whither most of the fugitive Gironde had bent their steps, at once declared against the anarchists. The province summoned a representative assembly to meet at Caen, raised an army, appointed general Wimpfeu to the command, and pushed forward its advanced post to Evreux, within a day's journey of the capital. Brittany strove to imitate La Vendee; whilst the victorious insurgents of this region were at this moment marching upon Nantes, in order to procure themselves a stronghold and a seaport. Nantes, though Girondist, prepared to resist the royalists to the last; and, in the middle of June, a gallant and general attack upon the town by the Vendeans was repulsed. Both parties were, however, equally hostile to the convention. Continuing the circuit of France, Bordeaux was naturally indignant at the arrest of its deputies. It instantly dispatched a remonstrance to Paris, and began to levy an army to support it. Toulouse followed the example. Marseilles, the hyper-revolutionary Marseilles, had anticipated the crisis. The Jacobins and moderate republicans had come to blows, and the former had succumbed. Lyons presented the same scene, save that the struggle was more fierce. Lyons, from its manufacture of silk, gold and silver embroidery, and other articles of high luxury, had depended on the rich. It therefore contained an aristocratic and royalist party, which naturally generated the other extreme, a Jacobin club; and this club had its Marat in Chalier. The parties fought; the Jacobins were beaten; their club destroyed; and Chalier, after a time, tried and executed.
Thus did the exaggerated mutual reproaches of the Mountain and the Gironde realize each other. Robespierre, accused of aspiring to the dictatorship, became marked as fit for this supremacy, and attained it. The moderates, accused of aim«
1793. KKACTION OP THE PROVINCES. 53
ing at federalism, and projecting to organize the provinces separately and independently of the capital, were driven at length to attempt this in their own defence as well as in that of freedom. Divided and declared as parties now were, it seemed almost inevitable that the Jacobins would be crushed. More than two thirds of the provinces declared against them; whilst the English and Austrians pressed them from the north and east. The Mountainists were, however, the central power, holding immediately in hand the army, the revenue, the administration. On the standard, which they held up, were all the old symbols of the revolution; whilst the pro* vincials, separated widely in space, and as widely in ideas, were under the impossibility of concerting either a plan of campaign, or a principle of resistance. In many places the resistance gradually threw off the republican mask, and became avowed royalism. This terrified and disgusted others, however ill disposed to the convention, from taking part against it. But the chief cause of the failure of the provincial reaction in favor of the Gironde against Paris was, that the Girondists were essentially a burgess party, supported by the middle classes only; that is, by the townsmen of the provinces. The peasant population could never be made to comprehend a medium betwixt the royalist and the ultra-revolutionist; and thus, when they refused to assume the white cockade, they equally refused to take arms against the tricolor. This state of things the convention, however at first alarmed, in time was able to perceive. On the first rumor of the wide-spread resistance, proposals were entertained of conciliating the provinces, of sending them hostages from the bosom of the assembly itself. A new constitution was prepared, discussed in preference to measures of defence, which nevertheless appeared more pressing, and the convention seemed ready to deprecate the odium of France by dissolving itself. But with a clearer view courage returned; and Jean Bon St. Andre, in the name of the committee of public safety, pronounced that the "counter-revolution was confined to some few opulent towns," and that "the present was a war of merely some few shopkeepers against the liberty of the country."
In fact La Vendee alone fought, and at this time with ill success. The league of Lower Normandy, formidable by the debates and votes, and proces verbals of its representative assembly, conducted its military efforts with all the irresolution and neglect characteristic of the Gironde. The only expedition which it attempted was against the town of Vernon. The first cannon-shot fired by the conventionalist, gendarmes routed tha hesitating army of the federals. They retreated. The Girondist deputies fled through Brittany to Bordeaux; and Normandy submitted to the sovereign authorities of Paris. A young Norman girl showed more heroism than the united party. Well-born, and inheriting competence, she became, like madame Roland, and many talented females of the time, deeply interested in political events. She came to worship with enthusiasm the idea of a republic, such as that which illustrated the ancient world, in which patriotism inspired the mass, in which virtues and genius were the undisputed titles to influence and power. This halcyon political state she saw in the predominance of the Gironde; and she was enamoured of the philosophy, the eloquence, the varied talents of its leaders. Mortified and indignant at their fall, Charlotte Corday made personal acquaintances with her admired statesmen then fugitives at Caen; and her feelings inspired her with heroic resolve. Imparting her purposes to none, she set out alone to Paris, and spent some days in seeking the abodes and learning the motions of the sanguinary triumvirate. She determined to immolate one of them; and Marat appeared to her to be the most guilty and most atrocious. But he no longer went abroad to the convention; suffering under a continual fever, which he allayed by frequent baths, and indulged by denunciations and proscriptions, sent forth either in his daily journal, or in letters to the convention. He was then clamorous, like a hound for his meal delayed, that Cnstines and Biron, the two generals in command, were aristocrats worthy of condemnation and the guillotine. Charlotte Corday went to the abode of the monster; a female with whom he lived denied her entrance: she insisted, saying she had matters of importance to communicate, having just arrived from Caen. Marat, who was extended in his bath in an adjoining chamber, caught the word, cried out that the young girl should be admitted, and eagerly commenced inquiries relating to the Girondist deputies then at Caen. He carefully noted down her replies, muttering, "they shall all go to the guillotine," when Charlotte Corday approached and plunged a knife into his breast. His cry for help brought his mistress; and she, a crowd. The monster had expired, the words of blood still in his mouth. Charlotte Corday stood by unmoved, in the calm serenity of heroism, avowing and glorying in the deed. Such was her countenance at her trial: such did it continue at her execution, which took place in a few days after, amidst the execrations of the mob; whilst Marat waa borne to his tomb lamented by thousands, and actually adored and addressed by many as a god.