Ernest Belfort Bax

Sketches of the French Revolution

A Short History of the French Revolution for Socialists

(Part 2a)

Part II

The First Paris Commune and the September Massacres.

With the 10th of August and the virtual overthrow of the monarchy the first part of the French Revolution may be considered as ended. The middle-class insurrection proper had done its work. It would be a mistake, too, to underrate the importance of that work from certain points of view. In a word, it had abolished, not, indeed, Feudalism, in its true sense – for that had long since ceased to exist – but the corrupt remains of Feudalism, and the monarchical despotism it left behind it. The beginning of ’89 found France cut up into provinces, each in many respects an independent state, possessing separate customs, separate laws, and sometimes a separate jurisdiction. The end of ’89 even and still more ’92, found it, for good or for evil, a united nationality. The power of to clergy and noblesse was completely broken. Judicial torture and breaking on the wheel were absolutely done away with. Madame Roland has described the dying cries of the victims of “justice,” who, after having been mangled by the latter hideous engine, were left exposed on the market-place, “so long as it shall please God to prolong their lives.” All this, then, was abolished, and in addition the “goods” of the clergy and of the “emigrant” nobility were declared confiscated. The interesting point as yet unsolved was, who should get this precious heritage, the “nationalised” houses and moveable possessions of the recalcitrant first and second estates? To avoid interrupting the narrative we shall devote a chapter to the elucidation of this point later on.

We come now to what we may term the great tidal wave of the revolution. For the time being it swept call before it, but it receded as quickly as it came. The period of the ascendancy, of the proletariat lasted from the 18th of August, 1792, to the 27th of July, 1794, thus in all nearly two years. The political revolution suddenly became transformed into a revolution one of whose objects at least was greater social and economical, as distinguished from political, equality, and as suddenly ceased to be so. The course of the progress and retrogression of this movement we shall trace in the following chapters.

The new revolutionary municipality, or commune of Paris, was now for the time being the most powerful executive body in all France. It dictated the action even of the Assembly. The establishment of an extraordinary tribunal bad been proposed. The Assembly hesitated to agree with it. Thereupon it received a message from the commune that if such a tribunal wire not forthwith constituted, an insurrection should be organised the following night which should overwhelm the elect of France. The Assembly yielded under the pressure, and a Court was formed which condemned a few persons, but was soon after abolished by the Commune as inadequate. At the head of the latter body were Marat, Panis, Collot d’Herbois, Billaud-Varennes, Tallien, &c. but the most prominent. man of all was for the moment, Danton, who was untiring in organising the “sections” (as the different wards of the city were called), and who, from having been the chief agent in the events of the 10th had acquired almost the position of dictator.

Meanwhile the invading army of the Prussians had crossed the frontier, while the French frontier troops at Sedan deserted by Lafayette were disorganised and without a commander. On the 24th of August, the citadel of Longwy capitulated, and by the 30th the enemy were bombarding the town of Verdun. In a few days the road to Paris would lie open before them. Consternation prevailed in the capital at the news. In a conference between the ministry and the recently formed committee of general defence, Danton boldly urged, as against a policy of waiting or of open attack, that one of terrorism should be adopted, to first intimidate the reactionary population of the city, and through them that of the whole country. “The 10th of August,” said he, “has divided France into two parties. ‘The latter, which it is useless to dissemble, constitutes the minority in the State, is the only one on which you can depend when it comes to the combat” The timid and irresolute Committee hesitated; Danton betook himself to the Commune. His project was accepted. The minority had indeed to fight the majority. Domiciliary visits were made during the night, and so large a number of suspected persons arrested that the prisons were filled to overflowing. All citizens fit to carry arms were enrolled on the Champ de Mars, and dispatched to the frontier on the 1st of September. About two o’clock the next day, Sunday, the great bell or tocsin was sounded, the call-drum or générale was beaten along the thoroughfares, the famous September massacres were at hand. Danton, in presenting himself before the Assembly to detail the measures that had been taken (without its consent) for the safety of the country, gave utterance to his celebrated mot – “Il faut de l’audace, de 1’audace, et toujours de 1’audace” (We must have boldness, boldness, and always boldness). The previous night all the gates of the City had been closed by order of the municipality, so that none could leave or enter; to the clanging of the tocsin and the roll of the générale was now added the firing of alarm cannon. Herewith began the summary executions, as they would have been called had they been done in the interests of “established order” by men in uniform, or massacres, as they have been termed since they were effected in the interests of revolution by men in bonnet rouge and Carmagnole costume. The matter originated with the destruction of thirty priests who were being conducted to the Abbaye. The prisons, about seven in number, were then visited, in succession by a band of some three hundred men. Entrance was demanded by an improvised court, who once inside, with the prison-registers open before them, began to adjudicate. The prisoners were severally called by name, their cases decided in a few minutes, after which they were successively removed nominally to another prison or to be released. No sooner, however, had they reached the outer gate than they were met by a forest of pikes and sabres. Those that were deemed innocent of treasonable practices, and were “enlarged” with the cry of “vive la nation” (Long Live the Nation) were received with embracings and acclamation, but woe betide those who were conducted to the entrance in silence. Upon them the pikes and sabres at once fell, in some cases veritably hewing them in pieces. The Princess de Lamballe, the friend and maid of honour to Marie Antoinette, had just gone to bed when the crowd arrived at the Abbaye where she was imprisoned. On being informed that she was about to be removed; she wanted; to arrange her dress, she said; at which the bystanders hinted that from the distance she would have to go it was scarcely worth while to waste much time on the toilette. Arrived at the gate, her head was struck off, and her body stripped and disembowelled. Carlyle goes into an ecstatic frenzy over this incident. “She was beautiful, she was good,” he exclaims (vol. iii. chap. 4), in a style suggestive of an Irish wake, in which whisky has played a leading part. “Oh! worthy of worship, thou king-descended, god-descended,” &c. He pathetically talks about her “fair hind-head,” meaning to imply, I suppose, that she had a long thin neck. But inasmuch as there is no physiological reason for supposing that a long thin neck involves greater suffering in the process of decapitation than a short thick one, the point of the remark is not obvious. Be this as it may, the princesses’ head, with others, was paraded on a pike through the streets and under the windows of the “temple,” where the queen was confined. These summary executions or massacres (according as we choose to call them) outside the prisons continued at intervals from the Sunday afternoon to the Thursday evening. Probably about 1,200 persons in all perished. All contemporary writers agree in depicting the graphic horror of the scene as the bloodstained crowd swept along the streets from prison to prison.

There is no doubt that the principal actors in these events were either under the orders, or were at least in communication with the Commune, but the precise nature of the connection has not been, and probably now never will be known. That those concerned were no mere wanton or mercenary ruffians, but fanatics, possessed by a frenzy of despair, is amply proved by several incidents which are admitted even by Royalist writers. Their enthusiasm at the discovery of a “patriot” in one whom they believed to have been a “plotter,” as in the case of M. de Sombreuil, and their refusal of money from such, their evident desire to avoid by any accident the death of an innocent person, show the executioners to have been at least genuinely disinterested. There has never in all history been more excuse for the shedding of blood than there was in Paris, at the beginning of September, 1792. Foreign troops were marching on the capital to destroy the Revolution, and all favourable to it. The city itself was honeycombed with Royalist plotters, who almost openly expressed their joy at the prospect of an approaching restoration and the extermination of the popular leaders. The so-called massacres were strictly a measure of self-defence, and as such were justified by the result; which was, in a word, to strike terror into the reaction, and to stimulate the Revolution throughout France; and yet there are bourgeois who pretend to view this strictly defensive act of a populace driven to desperation, with shuddering horror, while regarding as “necessary,” or at most mildly disapproving the wanton and cold-blooded massacres of the Versailles soldiers after the Commune of 1871. Such verily is class blindness! As in all great crises in history, so in the French Revolution, an active minority had to fight and terrorise the stolid mass of reaction and indifference, which, alas is always in the majority.

The National Convention

While these events were going on in Paris, Dumouriez, the successor of Lafayette as commander-in-chief of the French army, was in the east organising the resistance to the invasion. Verdun was taken by the Prussians almost without resistance. But the new commander, who, whatever else he may have been, was a man of military genius, saw at a glance the strategical situation and, in opposition to the council of war, decided to lose no time in occupying the passes of the mountainous district of the Argonne, He circumvented the enemy by forced marches, and they soon found the road to Paris barred by precipitous rocks and well-guarded passes. The Prussians, notwithstanding, forced one of the more feebly defended of the positions, and were on the point of surrounding the French army when Dumouriez, by a dexterous retreat, succeeded in evading them till the arrival of his reinforcements. Meanwhile, the weather helped the defendants. Heavy rains converted the bad roads into rivers of mud knee deep, and it was not until the 20th of the month that the main body of the invaders reached the heights of Valmy, where General Kellerman was in command, and which they attempted to storm. The result decided the fate of the invasion. The Prussians and Austrians were completely defeated to the cry of “Vive La Nation,” and retired in disorder. Up to this time the fortunes of war had been unremittingly adverse to the French. But the turning point had come. Henceforward the revolutionary army, who from this moment assumed the offensive, went forth with little intermission conquering and to conquer. The present sketch not being a history of the revolutionary war, but of the revolution itself, I shall in future only allude to the military situation in so far as it affects the course of internal affairs.

The moribund Legislative Assembly lingered on during the election of the Convention; which did not open its deliberations till then 21st of the month. After the usual preliminaries it formally abolished Royalty and proclaimed the Republic. Its next measure was to declare the new era date from the current year as the first year of the French Republic. These measures were carried by acclamation. But the Convention almost immediately became the prey of internal dissension. This most remarkable of legislative bodies embraced every shade of opinion and almost all the men of any prominence in public life. Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Desmoulins, David Roland, Barbaroux, Sièyes, Barrere; &c.; were all now to the fore with many others, such as Tallien, Collot d’Herbois, Billaud, Varennes, Barras, &, hitherto less known to fame, but shortly to come into unmistakable prominence. One feature of the Convention is especially remarkable. It embodied the first conscious recognition of the principle of Internationalism. The German atheist, internationalist, and humanitarian, Anarchis Clootz, and the English, freethinking and republican Thomas Paine were among its members. Priestley, of Birmingham, the great chemist, had also been elected, but declined to sit.

The two great parties in the Convention were the Girondists and the Mountainists. The Girondists were the party of orderly progress, sweetness and light the men who dreaded all violent, i.e., energetic measures, in short, the Karl Pearsons of the Revolution. Such men, however well-intentioned they may be, must always in the long run become the tools of reaction from their timidity and hesitancy. The Girondists desired a doctrinaire republic, led by the professional middle-classes, the lawyers and literateurs. Their main strength lay in the provinces, the name being derived from the department of the Gironde, whence some, of their chief men came. Among the leaders of the Girondist Party may be mentioned Condorcet, Roland, Petion, Barbaroux; Vergniaud and Brissot. Some of them had been, in spite of their generally mild attitude, active in preparing the 10th of August. It was Barbaroux who sent to his native town for the Marsellais, and directed this remarkable body of men on the day of the insurrection.

The other leading party in the Convention were the Mountainists, as they were termed, because they sat on the benches at the top of the left, comprising the leaders of Paris and virtually identical in policy with Commune, many of whose members sat in both the municipal and the legislative bodies. Robespierre, Danton and Marat and all the most advanced Revolutionary leaders belonged to the “Mountain”, which had its strength in the 48 “sections,” and in the faubourgs, or outlying suburbs, in which the populace of Paris found voice. The Mountainists advocated uncompromising revolutionary principles (besides aiming to some extent, at economic equality) a vigorous policy and strong centralisation in, opposition to the Girondists, who favoured strictly middle-class republicanism, a timid and vacillating policy, and federalisation, or local autonomy. The struggle between the Mountain and the Gironde was in part a struggle for supremacy between Paris and the departments. Besides the Mountainists and Girondists proper – i.e., those who represented any definite principles at all, who both together constituted a minority in the Convention, notwithstanding that they decided its character and policy there was the actual majority which was called the Plain, its members being sometimes designated in ridicule, “frogs of the marsh”. Like most majorities, the Plain, was an inchoate mass of floating indifferentism and muddle-headedness, with more or less reactionary instincts, which; naturally inclined it to the side of the Girondists as the “moderate” party, but whose first concern being self preservation was open to outside pressure from the armed “sections” of Paris and the faubourgs as we shall presently see. These “men of the plain” or “frogs of the marsh” included many persons of ability who subsequently came to the front under the Directorate after all danger of popular insurrection was at an end.

War was declared within the Convention, before many days were over, by the Gironde, on the ostensible pretext of the September massacres which they accused the partisans of the Mountain of having instigated. The individuals attacked were Robespierie, and Marat. It was the turn of Robespierre first, He was accused of aspiring to the dictatorship, and the whole force of Girondist eloquence was brought to bear upon the form and cadaverous ex-advocate of Arras, though without result. No definite charges could be formulated against him. It is significant nevertheless, that before Robespierre had attained any especial prominence he should have excited feelings of such keen personal animosity. As a matter of fact, Danton had had far more directly, to do with the so-called massacre than Robespierre. It was Marat’s turn next. Marat, whose single-mindedness and absolute self-sacrifice are almost unique in history, had the misfortune to be physically an unattractive personality. He suffered from an unpleasant skin malady; which, as it happens, was not syphilis as many writers have hinted, but seems to have been of the nature of the sheep-disease, known as scabies. It was very possibly contracted, and without doubt considerably aggravated through the starvation and cellar-life he was compelled to lead during the early part of the Revolution. However this may be, Marat was denounced in the Convention by the Girondins, and when are arose, to defend himself he was for a moment basely deserted by even his colleagues of the Mountain. “I have a great many enemies in this Assembly,” he said, as he rose to reply to his accusers. “All! All!” shouted the Convention as one man. However, Marat proceeded amidst uproar and howls to exculpate himself, till in the end the simple earnestness of his eloquence prevailed and he sat down amid a storm of applause. But the Girondists though discomfited for, the time, did not lose sight of their designs to destroy Marat. In the midst of these recriminations and internal squabbles, the Mountain succeeded in getting the unity of the Republic decreed, a heavy blow to the Federalist Girondins.

The Trial and Execution of the King

A truce to personal questions having been for a moment agreed upon the Convention was proceeding to discuss the new constitution when, op the motion of the Mountain, the question of the disposal of the King was declared urgent. The popular resentment against the dethroned monarch had been growing for some time past. Continual addresses from the departments, as well as from the Paris sections, were being received praying for his condemnation. The usual legal questions being raised as to the power of any tribunal to try the sovereign, it was agreed by the Committee appointed to consider the matter that though Louis had been inviolable as King of France, he was no longer so as the private individual Louis Capet. The Mountain vehemently attacked this view. St. Just, Robespierre, and others declared that these legal quibbles were an insult to the people’s sovereignty, that the King had already been judged by virtue of the insurrection, and that nothing remained but his condemnation and execution. Just at this time an iron chest was found behind a panel of the Tuilleries, containing damning proofs of Court intrigues with Mirabeau, and with the “emigrant” aristocrats, also indicating that the war with Austria had been declared with a view to betraying the country and the Revolution. This naturally gave force to the demand for the immediate condemnation of Louis as a “traitor to the French and guilty towards humanity.” The agitation was vigorously sustained in the Jacobins’ club and in the sections, and the “moderate” party in the Assembly found itself compelled to give heed to the popular outcry, at least up to a certain point. The Convention by a considerable majority decided against the extreme right, who urged the inviolability of the King, and also against those Mountainists who pressed for a condemnation without trial. It was determined to bring the ex-King to the bar of the Convention. The Act declaratory of the Royal crimes was then prepared.

Meanwhile Louis was being strictly guarded in the “Temple,” where he had now been confined nearly four months. He had recently been separated from his family, the Commune fearing the concerting of plots of escape, &c. Only one servant was allotted to the whole family. Louis amused himself at this time with reading Hume’s History of England, especially the parts relating to Charles I. On the vote of the Convention being declared, Santerre, the commandant of the National Guard was commissioned to conduct Louis to the bar of the National Assembly. This took place on the 11th of December. The coach passed through drizzling rain, scowling crowds, and through streets filled with troops. Arrived at the Hall of the Convention, the Mayor of Paris, Chabot, and the Procureur, Chaumette, who had sat with the King in the vehicle, delivered him over to Santerre, who had been in attendance outside. The latter, laying hold of Louis by the arm, led him to the bar of the Convention. Barriere, the president, after a moment’s delay, greeted him with the words, “Louis, the French nation accuses you; you are now about to hear the act of accusation. Louis, you may sit down.” There were fifty-seven counts of the indictment relating to acts of despotism, conspiracies, secret intrigues, the flight to Varennes, and what not. On the conclusion of the speech for the prosecution, which lasted three hours, Louis was removed back to his prison. He had demanded legal counsel, so the Convention decided after some discussion to allow his old friend Malesherbes, with two others, Tronchetand Désezé, to undertake the office. It was the latter who delivered the speech on the day of the defence, which consisted partly in the old arguments anent royal inviolability and partly in a statement of Louis’s services to the people “The people,” said Désezé, desired that a disastrous impost should abolished, and Louis abolished it; the people asked for the abolition of servitudes, and Louis abolished them; they demanded reforms, and he consented to them,” &c., &c. The speech concluded with an eloquent peroration calling history to judge the decision of the assembly. The cowardly Girondins, although it was well-known they had previously been in favour of the King’s life, did not have the courage at this moment to make a definite stand one way or the other. They contented themselves with proposing to declare Louis guilty, but to leave the question of punishment to the primary assemblies of the people. This proposition, which would probably have meant civil war, was vehemently opposed by the Mountain and rejected, and the Convention, after having unanimously voted Louis guilty, resolved on considering the question of punishment. The popular ferment outside the Convention was immense, and sentence of death was loudly demanded. After forty hours, the final vote was taken, and Louis condemned to “death without respite,” i.e., within twenty-four hours, by a majority of 26 in an assembly of 721. In vain did the defenders urge the smallness of the majority; the Mountain, which now for the first time dominated the Convention, showed itself inexorable.

On Monday, the 21st of January, 1793, the execution took place. Louis, who had taken leave of his family the previous day, was awakened at five o’clock. Shortly after, Santerre arrived to announce that it was the hour to depart. At the same time the murmur of crowds and the rumbling of cannon was heard outside. The carriage took upwards of an hour to pass through the streets lined with military. At length the Place de la Revolution was reached, and Louis ascended the scaffold. He was beginning to protest his innocence, when on the signal of Santerre his voice was drowned by the beating of drums, the executioners seized him, and in a moment all was over. The death of Louis was probably necessary for the safety of the Republic at the time, but one cannot help having a certain pity for one whose worst offences were a certain feebleness and good nature which made him the ready tool of a cruel, unscrupulous, and designing woman. It should be noted, as regards the decree in the Convention, that, unlike the Girondins, plucky Tom Paine, up to the last, manfully voted in the sense in which he had always spoken, viz., for the life of the King, and this at the imminent risk of his own. Notwithstanding this act a grateful Respectability (which afterwards tried to exalt the feeble idiot Louis into a hero and a martyr) has ever since heaped every vile calumny on poor Paine’s memory.

The Death Struggle Between Mountain and Gironde

On the evening of the final vote in the Convention on the matter of the King. Lepelletier de St. Fargeaur, the deputy and ex-noble, who had voted with the majority, was assassinated by an ex-royal guard in a cafe. On the Thursday following he received a public funeral, his remains being interred in the Pantheon of great men. The Convention, Municipality, and all the revolutionary societies followed in a body. This was the last united action of the various parties.

The feud between Mountain and Gironde broke out with renewed fury after the temporary cessation. The quarrel was intensified out of doors by the old but ever-increasing lack of the necessaries of life, especially of bread. The queues at the bakers’ shops assumed more formidable dimensions, developing into mobs and devastating provision shops. Marat had suggested in his journal that a few of the forestallers who were helping to keep up the price of bread should be hanged at the doors of the bakers’ shops. The crowds, dressed in carmagnole, or merely sans-culotte maddened by hunger; danced the more wildly to the well-known strains, “Vive le son du canon.” Day and night groups or these revolutionary revellers, might be met along the thoroughfares. Meanwhile “the sound of the cannon” was t going on with vigour and to the honour and glory of France. Dumouriez had invaded and conquered the Netherlands, and the Jacobins and other revolutionary bodies had sent missionaries to the newly-annexed provinces. But the powers, great and small, finding themselves and the aristocratic-monarchic order they represented being beaten all along the line, drew close together and made new levies. England, Spain, Italy, Austria Prussia the small German States, even Russia, hurled new and gigantic armaments into the breach. The Convention answered in its turn by a fresh levy of 300,000 men. But the Mountain demanded at the same moment that while external enemies were being fought internal enemies should not be neglected. They proposed that a tribunal composed o: nine members should judge without jury and without appeal. The tribunal was instituted but the jury added. Dumouriez now sustained some reverses in his invasion of Holland. He was ordered back into Belgium, but this did not satisfy the Mountain and the Jacobins, who had for long looked askance at Dumouriez as a Girondist partisan, and became now more convinced than ever that he was working in the interest of the faction, and that the defeat was due to treachery, The Girondin ministers and generals were the objects of the bitterest resentment. So high did the feeling run that a conspiracy was set on foot to assassinate the leading men of the party in the Convention on the night of the 10th of March. The conspirators, it is alleged, actually set out, but the plan miscarried, owing to its betrayal beforehand to the persons threatened. Vergniaud, the great Girondin orator denounced the plot next day in the Assembly, and the advanced parties were for a moment checked. But the news of the spread of the aristocratic revolt it the district of the Loire known as La Vendée, quickly enabled them to regain their ascendancy. The Vendée was a district in which there were no large towns and, consequently hardly any middle-class or proletariat. It was a district inhabited almost exclusively by peasants, priests, and nobles, and consequently altogether out of touch with the objects of the Revolution. The peasantry still venerated their old masters, and hated the new middle-class. The immediate cause of the outbreak however, was the fresh levy in Paris. The feeling against “Moderates” and half-hearted friends of the Republic waxed greater than ever. The new Revolutionary Tribunal redoubled its activity. Following upon the bad news from the Vendée came that of further and still more serious reverses in Belgium on the part of Dumouriez, and; what was worse, indisputable evidence of intrigues with the Austrians to establish the monarchy in the person of the Duc de Chartres, the young son of Phillipe d’Orleans Egalité (the King’s cousin and a member of the Mountain party). This Duc de Chartres, at that time a lieutenant of Dumouriez, became subsequently “Louis Philippe, King of the French.” Dumouriez almost immediately after openly proclaimed his intention of marching upon Paris to subdue the Revolution. But he did not succeed any better than Lafayette, his predecessor in the same course. His troops, although attached to him personally, hesitated at treachery to the Republic. The same with the officers. Meanwhile the Convention was energetic; it sent four commissioners, among them the Minister of War, to summon the traitor general to the bar of the Convention. He not only refused to come, but handed over the commissioners as hostages to the Austrians. After a further fruitless attempt to seduce the army he sought refuge with the Duc de Chartres and a few other officers in the Austrian camp, and from this time history knows him no more. Dumouriez’s defection drove the last nail into the coffin of the Girondist power. There is a well-known proverb that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. This was certainly exemplified in the present case. For the Girondins had already, before their General Dumouriez’s escape had become known, alienated the leading Mountainist who had been in favour of reconciliation. between the parties – Danton, to wit – by unsubstantiated insinuations. And note, when Dumouriez’s desertion had been for days past a topic of discussion and declamation amongst the Paris sections. They succeeded amid scenes of violent disorder in the Convention in getting a decree of indictment launched against Marat on the ground of the paragraph about the forestallers. The “People’s Friend” was accordingly brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal, the Girondists vainly attempting to pack the jury. After a trial lasting two days he was acquitted amid the acclamations of the audience, and carried in triumph by the populace into the hall of the Convention. Girondism was henceforth plainly a lost cause so far as peaceful and legal action was concerned. Its only hope lay in an insurrection of the departments. This also, as we shall see, was destined to failure. Meanwhile Custine, Damprière, and their generals were sent to reorganise the armies of Dumouiiez, but for the next few weeks the main attention of all patriots was directed to one object – the destruction of the Girondist faction.

Concerning Matters Economic

Amid all this contention the Mountain, aided by economic pressure, succeeded in forcing through some important administration, and two great economic measures. In addition to the “Revolutionary Tribunal” two powerful committees were established which, in the end, practically assumed all the executive functions of a dictatorial ministry. These were the “Committee of General Security,” consisting of twenty-one members, and the “Committee of Public Safety,” consisting of nine members. The economic measures referred: to were, first, the Law of Maximum, by means of which, at a stroke, the starvation and misery previously existing were allayed. The law of maximum enacted a fixed price for bread-stuffs, above which it was penal to sell them. To avert the possibility of the dealers refusing to sell at all, it was made compulsory upon them to do so. They were, moreover, obliged to furnish accurate accounts of their stock, which could, if desirable be peremptorily “checked” by the authorities. The law was subsequently extended to all the necessaries of life. The other economic measure forced through the Convention by the Jacobins and the Mountain was a progressive income-tax on an ascending scale. In, addition to these there was a forced loan of a milliard for war purposes, levied on the wealthy classes. The Girondists and the Plain, of course, shrieked and kicked at these glaring infringements of the “laws” of political economy and the rights of property; but the middle-class factions, though nominally dominant, were not really so, and were hence unable to resist the force of the popular demand for decisive steps in the direction of greater economic equality.

The law of maximum and the progressive income-tax are the only two measures of a directly Socialist tendency which have ever been practically applied, and with complete success. And yet it is strange that at least the first of these measures, when proposed now-a-days, is viewed by many Socialists with indifference, not to say suspicion. It only shows how, in economics, as in other things, the rags of old superstitions unconsciously survive in us. Those who have triumphed over the old-fashioned bourgeois fallacies of the wickedness and inutility of interfering with the sacred laws of political economy by direct legislative interference with the freedom of production, still wince at the notion of direct legislative interference with freedom (so-called) of exchange. An eight-hour law is an excellent thing, but a maximum, by which the eight-hour workman is protected from the extortions of monopoly and the power of industrial and commercial capital to raise prices, guarding itself against the effects of competition by “rings” and “corners” – this is a very doubtful thing indeed! .In the present day of course, a law of maximum would be of very little use unless supplemented by a law of minimum, i.e. a law fixing a minimum wage, and, we may add, parenthetically, the, eight hours working day would in all probability also prove itself a questionable boon if unaccompanied by both these provisos. But in France at the end of the last century it was not so. That petite industrie, prevailed everywhere except in the large towns where the workshop system had obtained a footing, though even there without having by any means entirely supplanted the smaller production. The law of maximum alone was therefore sufficient to meet all requirements. Scarcity and want there was still, but it was a scarcity and want due, for the most part to other than remediable social conditions. Bad harvests, the devastations of foreign invasion and civil war had reduced France to the lowest ebb. The law of maximum saved it. With the two francs a day which was voted at a subsequent period as the allowance of every attendant at the primary assemblies of the sections or wardships of which there were 44,000 in all France the problem of the unemployed was solved, for the nonce, Th, number of the unemployed in all trades ministering to the luxuries of the rich may be imagined, and a measure of this kind absolutely essential.

The net result of the interference by the Convention with the “laws of Political Economy” is well expressed by Carlyle (vii. 6), where he declares that “there is no period to be met with, in which the general 25,000,000 of France suffered less than in this period, which they name reign of terror.” Time was as yet not ripe for the great constructive movement of modern Socialism; and hence the merely remedial treatment here explained was all that could even be attempted. The great fact to be noted is that for the first time in history the cry for material and. social equality as opposed to mere political and legal equality became definitely articulate. That cry has often enough since been smothered, but has always made itself heard again at short intervals. The party of the Mountain and Sanscullottism, the Babeuf conspiracy, the Chartist movement the days of June, 1848, the Commune of 1871 are all so many stages in the awakening of the Proletariat to the full consciousness of itself which it attains in Modern Socialism.

The Fall of the Gironde

Apart from the laws referred to in the last chapter, which were with difficulty forced through the Legislature by the Mountain, the six weeks which elapsed between the acquittal of Marat and the 2nd of June, the day of the extinction of the Girondist power, were fruitful in nothing but a progressive mutual exacerbation of the two parties. Petitions and deputations began to pour in praying for the expulsion and even condemnation of some twenty-two of the leading Girondists. On the 10th of May the Convention shifted its quarters from the old Riding School to the Tuilleries. The avenues to the new convention hall were continually blocked by sansculottes (the breechless), the name given to the party of the people since the émeute of the 21st of June, 1792, when a pair of black breeches was paraded in token of the want of these commodities by the working classes of France. At last the Girondins made up their .minds for a dashing stroke. Guadet suddenly moved the immediate suppression of the Commune, its piece to be filled ad interim by the presidents of the sections, the transference of the legislation to Bourges with the smallest possible delay, and the despatch of the decree into the provinces by expresses. The Mountain was taken unawares, and it is possible, if the Girondists had had the courage to proceed to action immediately, they might have been successful. But this they did not dare do in face of the urgency of the situation on the frontier, well-knowing that civil war would be the outcome. Indeed, it is doubtful whether they could have in any case obtained a majority in the Assembly under the circumstances. Barrere proposed, as a compromise, the establishment of a commission of twelve members to enquire into the conduct of the municipality, to search out the plots of the Jacobins, and to arrest suspected persons. The proposition was accepted, and the commission established. Under the pretence of having discovered a new conspiracy it immediately proceeded to imprison several prominent persons, among them being the secretary of the Commune, Hébert, editor of the Père Duchesne newspaper, This at once excited immense popular indignation. Deputation followed deputation demanding Hébert’s release. The Commune, the Mountainist mayor, Paché, at its head, placed itself in permanent connection with the committees of the sections, which, together with the clubs of the Jacobins and Cordeliers; declared themselves in permanent session.

On the 27th of May the rising of Paris against the Convention began. The Commune presented itself before the Convention in a body, demanding the release of its chief secretary, and the suppression of the Girondist commission. Deputies from the sections followed, all calling for its suppression, and some for the arrest of its members. The Girondist president, Isnard, met these demands with the threat that the departmems should be raised and Pacts annihilates, so that “the wayfarer would have to enquire on which side of the Seine Paris had stood,” a reply which became the signal for a general revolt of the Mountain.

The hall was now the scene of violent confusion in which swords and pistols were drawn (and during which the crowd poured in, the upshot being that Isnard was compelled to leave the chair and make way for the Mountainist and friend of Danton, Hérault de Séchelles. Hérault at once replied, conceding the demands of the petitioners.

The Mountain had won the day, Hébert’s arrest was annulled, sad the commission suppressed amid the acclamation of the populace. The next day the Girondists, with suicidal folly, succeeded by a scratch majority in re-establishing the Commission on the ground that the proceedings of the previous day had been irregular. A veritable yell of indignation from clubs, sections and municipality greeted this resolution. Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Chaumette .and Paché constituted themselves into an informal committee to organise anew the movement. On the 30th the clubs and sections publicly declared themselves in a state of insurrection, their delegates, to the number of ninety-six, entering the Hotel de Ville, and as a matter of form annulling the municipality (as a legally constituted body), but immediately reinstating its members in their functions under insurrectionary auspices. Mayor Paché was sent to report the matter to the Convention, while Henriot, the new commandant of the National Guard, called upon the sections to be ready for action at any moment, the sansculottes to be allowed two francs a day so long as they remained under orders. Early the following morning, the 31st, the tocsin was rung and the générale beat and the armed sections were assembled and marched upon the Tuilleries.

The signal for the insurrection was an alarm cannon which was fired just as Mayor Paché was making his report, and, it must be admitted, trying to hoodwink the legislature with the pretence that he was not privy to the proceedings. The consternation in the assembly at the ominous sound was general. Danton rushed to the tribune to demand anew the suppression of the Commission. All the leading Mountainists did the same. The majority still hesitated. Deputations now began to arrive thick and fast, till all the gangways were now blocked up by excited crowds. The suppression of the Commission and the arrest of its members, and of the other leading Girondists, was loudly demanded on all sides. Various propositions were being discussed when the report spread that the Tuilleries was surrounded by armed forces and the Convention no longer’ free. Even some members of the Mountain winced at this “outrage” on the “national sovereignty.” At length it was decided that the Assembly should march out in a body and confront the insurgents. This was done, Hérault de Séchelles leading the way. They were met by Henriot on horseback at the head of the armed bands, brandishing a sabre. “The people want not phrases,” said he, “but the arrest of twenty-two traitors.”

Two-cannon were immediately pointed straight at the Convention, which prudently retired. All the other exits from the Tuilleries Gardens were found to bristle equally with pikes and sabres, so there was nothing for it but to go back again into the hall. The popular demands were no longer opposed. Marat, who had been the life and soul of the whole movement throughout, now dictated the names of the proscribed and the form of the resolution from the tribune. All the leading Girondins, including the twelve forming the Commission were placed under arrest. Upon the result being known outside, the insurgents quickly dispersed. Thus perished Girondism. Ever since the 10th of August the nominal power in the state had been in the hands of the Girondist party, although as we have seen, the real power was very far from being so. Henceforth they were a proscribed faction, whose members at last thought themselves lucky if they could find a corner of France in which to conceal themselves.

The Sansculottes in Power

The Girondists, driven successively from the Jacobins Club, the Municipality (where Petion had for long been replaced in the mayoralty by Paché), and finally from the Convention, now played out their last card, the attempt to raise the Provinces, which were largely with them. Never was the position of France more desperate than at this moment. “La Vendée” in open and hitherto successful insurrection on one side, the coalition of Europe again pouring in its levies on three sides, and a Girondist insurrection brewing at several points in the interior. The Girondists, after their defeat in Paris, tried to rally at Caen, in Normandy, which town became the head quarters of the conspiracy as long as it lasted. Negotiations were entered into with General Wimpfen and a Royalist; one Comte Puisaye. Somehow, in spite of the sympathy of the departments, especially the large middle-class towns, the project failed completely as a general movement, partly owing to mismanagement, want of concert and Royalist intrigues which alienated many otherwise sympathetic, partly to the presence of the foreign invader, and partly owing to the vigorous action of the leaders of the Revolution in Paris. The provinces hesitated, the insurgents dispersed, a few towns in the south only remained to the Girondins. The insurrection did not miscarry for want of tall talk, it is certain, or the Girondins as usual were eloquent in threats couched in well-rounded periods.

While this was going on a young woman of “good” family in Caen, who had been largely in the society of Girondins, and had heard much talk of Marat as the leader of the recent movement, without stating her intention to anybody, travelled up to Paris by diligente, and obtaining an interview with the popular leader under the pretext of furnishing information of the conspiracy at Caen, murdered him. Poor Marat, who was almost dying at the time, was in a bath; his helpless condition rendering him an easy prey for the knife of his dastardly assassin. A few sous only were found in his possession.

Thus perished the first great vindicator of the rights of the modern Proletariat, a truly single-minded champion of the oppressed. Of average intellect merely, it is Marat’s unique and titanic. force of character which must make him immortal in history.

Charlotte Corday was tried and condemned before the Revolutionary tribunal; maintaining a theatrical demeanour to the last. She was guillotined on the 17th of July, three days after the assassination. A poor fool, a native of Mainz; Adam Lutz by name, went crazy over her.

The death of the “people’s friend” caused a veritable panic in the ranks of the Revolutionary party. No “patriot” was without some token of him. He was invoked in every revolutionary function, and his bust was crowned in all public assemblies. The convention unanimously granted him the honours of the Pantheon. The fugitive Girondins now found their position harder than ever. They had to fly from Caen before the emissane of the Convention. Jacobin commissions were scouring the country up and down, the Revolutionary power in Paris having developed an almost superhuman activity. The only places where the insurrection still flickered on was in Lyons, Marseilles, and Bordeaux, cities which had compromised themselves too far, to hope for forgiveness from the convention, and which (notably Lyons) were destined before long to feel the heavy hand of Sanscullottic vengeance.

Yet notwithstanding the virtual collapse of the Girondist rebellion the state of affairs had hardly improved. The armies now again everywhere on the defensive were disorganised and dispirited. Things still seemed utterly hopeless. If France was to be saved it could only by a dead lift. The revolutionary power in Paris now consisted of the convention (or rather the Mountain, which dominated the whole assembly), the two committees (of General Security and of Public Safety), the Commune, or Municipality, and, lastly, the clubs of the Jacobins and Cordeliers, especially the former, whose deliberations were hardly second in importance to those of the Convention. The primary assemblies of the forty-eight sections, in which every citizen was free to express his opinion, were also a considerable factor in public affairs.

This agglomeration of popular forces constituted the power which had to raise France and the Revolution out of the abyss into which they had sunk. The consolidation of the new government was the first thing to he attempted. The long talked-of constitution was next put in hand; Hérault de Séchelles being entrusted with the task of drawing it up. This celebrated constitution of ‘93, for long regarded as the sheet-anchor of Sanscullottism, is probably the most thoroughgoing scheme of pure democracy ever devised. It not only formally recognised the people, as the sole primary source of power, but it delegated the exercise of that power directly to them. Every measure was to be submitted to the primary assemblies of which there were forty-four thousand in all France. The magistrates were to be re-elected at the shortest possible intervals by simple majority. The central legislature was to be renewed annually, consisting of delegates from the primary assemblies who were to be furnished with imperative mandates.

This constitution passed the Convention and was accepted by a large majority of the wardships throughout France. The representatives of the said forty-four thousand wardships when they came to the Convention demanded in face of the existing emergency “he arrest of all suspected persons and a general rising of the people.” Danton in a vigorous speech moved that the Commissioners of the primary assemblies should be instructed to report the state of arms, provisions, and ammunition, and to raise a levy of four hundred thousand men, and that the Convention should take the oath of death or victory. This was carried unanimously. A few days after, Barrere, in the name of the committees, proposed still more decisive measures. All the male population from eighteen to twenty-five were placed under arms; and new requisitions were made. Soon there were forty armies, comprising in all 1,200,000 men. The Committee of Public Safety, with Carnot (grandfather. of` the present President of the French Republic) chief of the War Department, were untiring in their energies at home and abroad. Forty sous a day, was enacted as the allowance of every sectionist: The famous Law of Suspects was passed, and wholesale arrests were made of persons thought to be of Girondist or Royalist sympathies. The middle-classes fared now as badly as the aristocracy had previously. The reign of Terror had begun, necessitated by the same exigencies as the September Massacres – imminent foreign invasion combined with domestic treachery. As before, the moment decisive action was taken, matters began to mend on all sides, though Toulon was in the hands of the English, Marseilles and Boulogne was taken from the Girondin immigrants and Lyons besieged. The Constitution, although carried, was suspended in face of the emergency, and as a matter of fact was never put into force.

The Dictatorship of the Commune

The revolutionary power in Paris, as we have said, was nominally divided between the Commune, at the head of which were Hébert and Chaumette, the two committees, which included Robespierre, Danton, Carnot, &c., the Convention, and the – Jacobin’s Club, whose influence, though unofficial and indirect, was in no respect less than that of the representative assembly itself. During the period from August 10th, 1792, to the fall of the Girondins the centre of power lay in the Convention; in the period from the 2nd of June, 1793, to the 24th of March, 1794 (the fall of Hébert), it resided mainly in the Commune; from the 24th of March to the 27th of July, 1794 (the fall of Robespierre), it was the committees especially the Committee of Public Safety, which practically dictated to France. The Jacobin’s club meanwhile reflected for the most part the attitude of the dominant Parisian opinion, and of the governing body. It underwent several épurations, or purifications, in the course of the revolutionary period, on which occasions a batch of members, whose views were out of accord with the prevalent feeling of the hour, would be expelled.

Almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Girondist rising and the entry of the Convention – troops into the cities of the, south, the tide begun to turn in La Vendée; the attempt of the insurgents to take Nantes failed, and though the insurrection lingered on for some time longer it never again became formidable. The evolutionary armies, indeed, were nearly everywhere victorious under the new generals, Moreau, Hoche, Pichegru, Jourdan, Kellermann, &c. The Prussians and Austrians, under the command of the Prince of Coburg, were dislodged from their vantage-ground in the east ; the Spaniards in the south, and the English and Hanoverians in the north. Thus a second time was France, by stupendous dead-lift effort, saved from imminent ruin by the raw levies of the revolution.

The victories of Dumouriez in ’92 were repeated on a grander scale in the great campaign, which the genius of Carnot “organised” in ’93 and ’94. The revolution now was answering the coalition is the spirit of Danton’s defiant menace “the combined kings threaten us, we hurl at their, feet as gage of battle the head of a king.” France was converted into one vast camp. But for many months yet the French were not destined to feel themselves “out of the wood.” The dread of possible reverses followed by invasion and political extinction was ever before their eyes. And hence it was not till the end of July, ’94 that the reaction against “the terror” had gathered strength enough to overthrow the system itself.

So long as danger threatened from without public opinion tolerated the guillotine, and at the period at which we have arrived the greatest activity of that famous instrument began. The “law of the suspect,” which enabled the committees of the sections to arrest all suspected persons and incarcerate them prior to their being brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal, speedily filled the prisons to overflowing. After conviction and death the property of the executed was confiscated to the State. The commune was the virtual head of the revolutionary committees of the sections in the provinces as welt as in Paris. The National Guard was under its orders, and it had flying columns in its pay scouring different parts of the country. The Commune may be taken as the representative in the revolution of the proletarian interest, pure and simple. Though the circumstances of the time caused it to be unhappily an instrument of the Terror, its activity was by no means confined to this. The Commune made it pretty soon evident that in its eyes the existence of a commercial middle-class was quite as incompatible with the welfare of the people as that of an aristocracy.

Economical equality was the avowed end of the revolution for the Commune. Hébert and Chaumette nevertheless busied themselves with various projects of a palliative character, such as hospital and prison reform. They attempted to introduce primary and secular education into every village n France. The law of maximum (and compulsory sale) was at their suggestion enlarged in scope, being applied to almost all articles of common .consumption. Forestalling was forbidden under the heaviest penalties. A maximum was even applied to wages at this time (a proceeding calculated in a society not yet out of the small production to make considerable havoc with what some people call the “rent of ability,” though it was enacted solely with a view to government employment for the national defence. The Bourse was closed. Financial and commercial syndicates were dissolved. The paper money, or assignats, were made compulsory tender at their nominal value.

On the 5th of October the new republican calendar, the joint work of the astronomer Romme, who furnished the calculations, and the clever fuilletonist Fabre d’Eglantine, who supplied the poetical nomenclature, came into operation. The new era was to date from the declaration of the Republic, the 21st of September, 1792, so that the months do riot coincide with those of the ordinary calendar. The three autumn months were Vendemiaire, or the vintage month, Brumaire, or the foggy month, and Frimaire, or the frosty month; the three winter months, Nivose, or the snowy month, Pluviose, or the rainy month, and Ventose, or the windy month; the three spring months, Germinal, or the budding month, Forêal, or the flowery month, and Prairial, or the meadowy month; and the three summer months, Messidor, or the reaping month, Thermidor, or the heating month, and Fructidor, or the fruiting month. The week of seven days was abolished and decades or periods of ten days instituted instead.

But the work for which the Commune is most famous is the establishment of the new Cultus – the Worship of Reason. The Hébertists, as the party of the Commune were called, and among whom was Anarcharsis Clootz, were rightly convinced that deliverance from the dogmas of supernatural religion was the necessary complement of deliverance from the thraldom of privilege and wealth. In accordance with 18th century habits of thought, and especially French 18th century thought, with its classicism, the idea naturally suggested itself of initiating a worship of Reason as personified, on the ruins of God, Christ and the Virgin. For some time past, stimulated by the missionaries of the Commune, numbers of priests had been sending in their demissions declaring they would no longer preach a lie, and that Liberty and the public welfare was their only God. The church plate in every part of France was melted down for patriotic uses, vestments, bibles, and breviaries made bonfires, to the accompaniment of the “Carmagnole.” Early in November Gobel, the Archbishop of Paris, together with his chapter, entered the Convention-hall to publicly renounce the Christian faith. Christian rites and worship were now proscribed, and a Festival of Reason was decreed by the Commune at the instance proscribed, and a Festival of was decreed by the Commune at the instance of Chaumette. A few days later, and a procession of citizens and citoyennes, in priestly vestments and other fantastic costumes, followed by mules and barrows laden with church furniture, defiled into the Convention, and after chanting strophes to Reason, proceeded to dance the “Carmagnole,” many of the legislators taking part. Later on the same day, Procureur Chaumette, at the head of the Commune and the presidents of sections, arrived bearing in their midst, on a palaquin, Mlle Candeille, the danseuse, in bonnet rouge and blue mantle; garlanded with oak, as the Goddess of Reason. The bulk of the Convention then rose, and after giving the goddess the; formal kiss, proceeded in a body to Notre Dame where the new worship was inaugurated amid music, tricolour, and virgins dressed is white. A similar ceremony with other goddesses, took place at St. Eustache, and other of the principal churches of Paris. Commissioners soon established the new worship throughout the length and breadth of French territory, from Antwerp in the north to Marseilles in the south. In place of the mass the old cathedrals re-echoed to strophes in honour of Reason and in praise of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” Old things had passed away, and all things had become new.

The Terror

By means of its courageous contempt for the so-called lays of political economy and the compulsion exercised on all traders and, farmers, with the aid of its “revolutionary army,” to sell at the maximum price, the fearful want occasioned by the circumstances of the time was kept under to a considerable extent by the Commune. The revolutionary committees established in every section of France, the ambulatory deputies who watched the provinces and were present with the military forces, and last, but not least, the army of the Commune under General Ronsin, nevertheless had hard work to prevent the law of maximum from being violated. Arrests in Paris and the provinces went on apace. The Commune now granted a free allowance of bread for each family. By the end of October 3,000 persons were in the prisons of Paris alone. The revolutionary committees had power to arrest all persons suspected of reactionary tendencies.

On the 14th of October the queen, Marie Antoinette, was brought before the revolutionary tribunal and convicted, after two days hearing, on overwhelming evidence, of the basest treachery towards France, and of the most sanguinary intentions with regard to Paris. It was, indeed, high time that this atrocious woman met her deserts. When the country was at the lowest depths of misery some years before the outbreak of the revolution, all this abandoned wretch could think of was squandering fabulous sums of the nation’s wealth, in conjunction with her friend, the court head prostitute and procuress, the Princess de Lamballe (killed in the September massacres), on jewels, balls, and sinecures for her paramours. If anyone ventured to call attention to some flagrant abuse in her presence he was invariably silenced with the reply, “Yes, but we must amuse ourselves” (Oui mais il faut s’amuser). It was only after her amusements had been curtailed by the utter collapse of the finances, a consummation to which she had contributed so largely by her criminal extravagances, that she began to interest herself in public affairs. Her aim was then to get back the means for her debaucheries, and when the revolution broke out and affairs looked less and less productive of diamond necklaces, &c., her hatred against the new regime which had deprived her of those things knew no bounds, and henceforth her one hope was a foreign invasion, which would quench the revolution in the blood of France, and place the French people once more in her power. As for poor, feeble foolish Louis, he was completely in the toils of this noxious reptile. [1] Many who looked on at the tumbril conveying her to execution must have been inclined to think that the guillotine was too good for the foul Autrichienne.

She was not without certain histrionic ability, and when before the tribunal played out her “womanhood” in a manner which showed that she might have gained an honest living in transpontine melodrama. Much indignation has been expended, on the charge of misconduct towards her son, the little dauphin, which Hébert, brought against her. It is sufficient here to state that there are extant documents which show that the charge was not made without very good grounds; although in the nature of things it could not be certainly proved. The fact is it is a mistake to apply the ordinary canons of motherhood .to a creature like Marie Antoinette. She was altogether an obscene misbirth of the corrupt court-life of the 18th century, the like of which, let us hope, may never be seen again.

Apropos of the dauphin, it is necessary to caution our readers against the lies the reaction anent his treatment, and especially the foul calumnies against the young shoemaker, Simon, in whose care he was placed: All the contemporary evidence goes to show that the poor child received every consideration and kindness, but that having inherited a scrofulous or syphilitic constitution from both parents, which was further weakened in ways unnecessary to go into, it was impossible to rear him, and in spite of every care he died in the Temple, the following year.

On the 24th of October the 22 Girondists were brought to trial.

They were convicted after five days’ proceedings, and guillotined on the 6th. Valaze, one of their number, stabbed himself to death with a dagger on hearing the sentence, but his body was nevertheless sent to be guillotined with the rest. They embraced each other on arriving at the “Place de la Revolution,” and died singing the Marseillaise. Proofs of their complicity in the insurrection of the departments were complete. They had played for high stakes and lost. Seventy-three other Girondist deputies had been for some time under lock and key, having been compromised in some papers found at the house of a deputy whom Charlotte Corday had visited on her first arrival in Paris. With the execution of the 22, however, Girondism, as a distinct party, finally disappears from history. The Girondins, it may here be mentioned, were largely under the influence of Voltaire, just as the Mountain as a party was chiefly under the influence of Rousseau. Meanwhile Lyons, the last stronghold of Royalism and Girondism, had fallen, and Toulon had been recovered from the English, to whom it had been surrendered. Both towns were visited with a fearful vengeance. Collot d’Herbois, who was a member both of the Commune and of the Committee of Public Safety, ordered wholesale massacres of the inhabitants of the former city in his capacity of Commissioner. Billaud-Varennes, a colleague of Collot’s, was also a leading agent of the terror in provinces. At Nantes, Carrier, another Commissioner, inaugurated his horrible Noyades, or drownings, in which those suspected of Royalism or moderation were placed in boats with false bottoms and drowned in the Loire. In some of these cases a man and woman were tied together naked. This was called “republican marriage.” All these things were very infamous, it will be said, and so they were. But they were not any worse, if so bad, as the acts of more than one respectable government in ’48, of the Czar in Poland in ’65, or of the Versaillists in Paris to ’71, events which the middle-classes have complacently swallowed without indignation.



1. The real character of Marie Antoinette, apart from the lies of Royalist historians, may be seen from her correspondence with Maria Theresa, and of the latter with the Comte Mercy d’Argenteau. A good digest of it is given in M. Georges Avenel’s essay, La vrai Marie Antoinette.


Last updated on 6.8.2003