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time, his image, skilfully graven, appeared in master of pure English eloquence, to the con
Poet's Corner. It represents him, as we can conceive him, clad in his dressing-gown, and
summate painter of life and manners. It was due, above all, to the great satirist, who alone
freed from his wig, stepping from his parlour knew how to use ridicule without abusing it,
at Chelsea into his trim little garden, with the account of the Everlasting Club, or the Loves
who, without inflicting a wound, effected a great social reform, and who reconciled wit
of Hilpa and Shalum, just finished for the next and virtue, after a long and disastrous separa
day's Spectator, in his hand. Such a mark of national respect was due to the unsullied statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the
tion, during which wit had been led astray by profligacy, and virtue by fanaticism.
This book has more than one title to our ferious attention. It is an appeal, solemnly made to posterity by a man who played a conspicuous part in great events, and who represents himself as deeply aggrieved by the rash and malevolent censure of his contemporaries. To such an appeal we shall always give ready audience. We can perform no duty more useful to society, or more agreeable to our own feelings, than that of making, as far as our power extends, reparation to the slandered and persecuted benefactors to mankind. We therefore promptly took into our consideration this copious apology for the life of Bertrand Barère. We have made up our minds; and we now propose to do him, by the blessing of God, full and signal justice.
It is to be observed that the appellant in this case does not come into court alone. He is attended to the bar of public opinion by two compurgators who occupy highly honourable stations. One of these is M. David of Angers, member of the Institute, an eminent sculptor, and, if we have been rightly informed, a favourite pupil, though not kinsman, of the painter who bore the same name. The other, to whom we owe the biographical preface, is M. Hippoyte Carnot, member of the Chamber of Deputies, and son of the celebrated Director. In the judgment of M. David, and of M, Hippolyte Carnot, Barère was a deserving and an ill-used man, a man who, though by no means faultless, must yet, when due allowance is made for the force of circumstances and the infirmity of human nature, he considered as on the whole entitled to our esteem. It will be for the public to determine, aster a full hearing, whether the editors have, by thus connecting their names with that of Barère, raised his character or lowered their own.
We are not conscious that, when we opened this book, we were under the influence of any feeling likely to pervert our judgment. Undoubtedly we had long entertained a most unfavourable opinion of Barère; but to this opinion we were not tied by any passion or by any interest. Our dislike was a reasonable dislike, and might have been removed by reason. Indeed, our expectation was, that these Memoirs would in some measure clear Barère's fame. That he could vindicate himself from all the charges which had been brought against him, we knew to be impossible: and his editors admit that he has not done so. But we thought it highly probable that some grave accusations would be refuted, and that many offences to which he would have been forced to plead guilty would be greatly extenuated. We were not disposed to be severe. We were fully
* Mémoires de Bertrand Berere; publiés par MM. Hippo Lyte CARNot, Membre de la Chambre des DéWutés, et DAvro d'Angers, Membre de l’Institut: pré*6dés d'une . Notice Historique par II. CARN or 4 Tomes. Paris: 1843.
aware that temptations such as those to which the members of the Convention and of the committee of public-safety were exposed, must try severely the strength of the firmest virtue. Indeed, our inclination has always been to regard with an indulgence, which to some rigid moralists appears excessive, those faults into which o and noble spirits are sometimes hurried by the excitement of conflict, by the maddening influence of sympathy, and by illregulated zeal for a public cause. With such feelings we read this book, and compared it with other accounts of the events in which Barère bore a part. It is now our duty to express the opinion to which this investigation has led us. Our opinion then is this, that Barère approached nearer than any person mentioned in history or fiction, whether man or devil, to the idea of consummate and universal depravity. In him the qualities which are the proper objects of hatred, and the qualities which are the proper objects of contempt, preserve an exquisite and absolute harmony. In almost every particular sort of wickedness he has had rivals. His sensuality was immoderate; but this was a failing common to him with many great and amiable men. There have been many men as cowardly as he, some as cruel, a few as mean, a few as impudent. There may also have been as great liars, though we never met with them or read of them. But when we put every thing together, sensuality, poltroonery, baseness, effrontery, mendacity, barbarity, the result is something which in a novel we should condemn as caricature, and to which we venture to say, no parallel can be found in history. It would be grossly unjust, we acknowledge, to try a man situated as Barère was by a severe standard. Nor have we done so. We have formed our opinion of him by comparing him, not with politicians of stainless character, not with Chancellor D'Aguesseau, or General Wash. ington, or Mr. Wilberforce, or Earl Gray, but with his own colleagues of the Mountain. That party included a considerable number of the worst men that ever lived; but we see in it nothing like Barère. Compared with him, Fouché seems honest; Billaud seems humane; Hébert seems to rise into dignity. Every other chief of a party, says M. Hippolyte Carnot, has found apologists; one set of men exalts the Girondists; another set justifies Danton; a third deifies Robespierre; but Barère remains without a defender. We venture to suggest a very simple solution of this phenomenon. All the other chiefs of parties had some good qualities, and Barère had none. The genius, courage, patriotism, and humanity of the Girondist statesmen, more than atoned for what was culpable in their conduct, and should have protected them from the insult of being compared with such a thing as Barère. Danton
and Robespierre were, indeed, bad men; but in both of them some important parts of the mind remained sound. Danton was brave and resclute, fond of pleasure, of power, and of distinction, with vehement passions, with lax principles, but with some kind and manly feelings, capable of great crimes, but capable also of friendship and of compassion. He, therefore, naturally finds admirers among persons of bold and sanguine dispositions. Robespierre was a vain, envious, and suspicious man, with a hard heart, weak nerves, and a gloomy temper. But we cannot with truth deny that he was, in the vulgar sense of the word, disinterested, that his private life was correct, or that he was sincerely zealous for his own system of politics and morals. He therefore naturally finds admirers among honest but moody and bitter democrats. If no class has taken the reputation of Barère under its patronage, the reason is plain: Barère had not a single virtue, nor even the semblance of one. It is true that he was not, as far as we are able to judge, originally of a savage disposition; but this circumstance seems to us only to aggravate his guilt. There are some unhappy men constitutionally prone to the darker passions, men all whose blood is gall, and to whom bitter words and harsh actions are as natural as snarling and biting to a ferocious dog. To come into the world with this wretched mental disease is a greater calamity than to be born blind or deaf. A man who, having such a temper, keeps it in subjection, and constrains himself to behave habitually with justice and humanity towards those who are in his power, seems to us worthy of the highest admiration. There have been instances of this self-command; and they are among the most signal triumphs of philosophy and religion. On the other hand, a man who, having been blessed by nature with a bland disposition, gradually brings himself to inflict misery on his fellowcreatures with indifference, with satisfaction, and at length with a hideous rapture, deserves to be regarded as a portent of wickedness; and such a man was Barère. The history of his downward progressis full of instruction. Weakness, cowardice, and fickleness were born with him; the best quality which he received from nature was a good temper. These, it is true, are not very promising materials; yet out of materials as unpromising, high sentiments of piety and of honour have sometimes made martyrs and heroes. Rigid principles often do for feeble minds what stays do for feeble bodies. But Barère had no principles at all. His character was equally destitute of natural and of acquired strength. Neither in the commerce of life, nor in books, did we ever become acquainted with any mind so unstable, so utterly destitute of tone, so incapable of independent thought and earnest preserence, so ready to take impressions and so ready to lose them. He resembled those creepers which must lean on something, and which as soon as their prop is removed, sall down in utter helplessness. He could no more stand up, erect and self-supported, in any cause, than the ivy can rear itself uke the oak, or the wild vine shoot to heaven Vol. V, -79
like the cedar of Lebanon. It is barely possible that, under good guidance and in favourable circumstances, such a man might have slipped through life without discredit. But the unseaworthy craft, which even in still water would have been in danger of going down from its own rottenness, was launched on a raging ocean, amidst a storm in which a whole armada of gallant ships were cast away. The weakest and most servile of human beings found himself on a sudden an actor in a Revolution which convulsed the whole civilized world. At first he fell under the influence of humane and moderate men, and talked the language of humanity and moderation. But he soon found himself surrounded by fierce and resolute spirits, scared by no danger and restrained by no scruple. He had to choose whether he would be their victim ortheir accomplice. His choice was soon made. He tasted blood, and felt no loathing: he tasted it again, and liked it well. Cruelty became with him, first a habit, then a passion, at last a madness. So complete and rapid was the degeneracy of his nature, that within a very few months after the time when he passed for a good-natured man, he had brought himself to look on the despair and misery of his fellow-creatures with a glee resembling that of the fiends whom Dante saw watching the pool of seething pitch in Malebolge. He had many associates in guilt; but he distinguished himself from them all by the Bacchanalian exultation which he seemed to feel in the work of death. He was drunk with innocent and noble blood, laughed and shouted as he butchered, and howled strange songs and reeled in strange dances amidst the carnage. Then came a sudden and violent turn of fortune. The miserable man was hurled down from the height of power to hopeless ruin and infamy. The shock sobered him at once. The fumes of his horrible intoxication passed away. But he was now so irrecoverably depraved, that the discipline of adversity only drove him further into wickedness. Ferocious vices, of which he had never been suspected, had been developed in him by power. Another class of vices, less hatefus, perhaps, but more despicable, was now developed in him by poverty and disgrace. Having appalled the whole world by great crimes perpetrated under the pretence of zeal for liberty, he became the meanest of all the tools of despotism. It is not easy to settle th: order of precedence among his vices; but we are inclined to think that his baseness was, on the whole, a rarer and more marvellous thing than his cruelty. This is the view which we have long taken of Barère's character; but, till we read these Memoirs, we held our opinion with the diffi: dence which becomes a judge who has heard only one side. The case seemed strong, and in parts unanswerable; yet we did not know what the accused party might have to say for him self; and, not being much inclined to take our fellow-creatures either for angels of light or for angels of darkness, we could not but feet some suspicion that his offences had "een ev. aggerated. That suspicion is now at an end. The vindication is before us. It occupies ion: volumes. It was the work of forty years. "
would be absurd to suppose that it does not be brought to trial before the Revolutionary refute every serious charge which admitted of Tribunal. He would have been better em
refutation. How many serious charges, then,
are here refuted? Not a single one. Most of the imputations which have been thrown on Barère he does not even notice. In such cases, of course, judgment must go against him by default. The fact is, that nothing can be more meagre and uninteresting than his account of the great public transactions in which he was cngaged. He gives us hardly a word of new information respecting the proceedings of the Committee of Public Safety; and, by way of compensation, tells us long stories about things which happened before he emerged from obscurity, and after he had again sunk into it. Nor is this the worst. As soon as he ceases to write trifles, he begins to write lies; and such lies! A man who has never been within the tropics does not know what a thunder-storm means; a man who has never looked on Niagara has but a faint idea of a cataract; and he who has not read Barère's Memoirs may be said not to know what it is to lie. Among the numerous classes which make up the great genus Mendacium, the Mendacium Vasconicum, or Gascon lie, has, during some centuries, been highly esteemed as peculiarly circumstantial and peculiarly impudent; and among the Mendacia Vasconica, the Mendacium Barerianum is, without doubt, the finest species. It is, indeed, a superb variety, and quite throws into the shade some Mendacia which we were used to regard with admiration. The Mendacium Wrarallianum, for example, though by no means to be despised, will not sustain the comparison for a moment. Seriously, we think that M. Hippolyte Carnot is much to blame in this matter. We can hardly suppose him to be worse read than ourselves in the history of the Convention, a history which must interest him deeply, not only as a Frenchman, but also as a son. He must, therefore, be perfectly aware that many of the most important statements which these volumes contain are falsehoods, such as Corneille's Dorante, or Molière's Scapin, or Colin d'Harleville's Monsieur de Crac would have been ashamed to utter. We are far, indeed, from holding M. Hippolyte Carnot answerable for Barère's want of veracity. But M. Hippolyte Carnot has arranged these Memoirs, has introduced them to the world by a laudatory preface, has described them as documents of great historical value, and has illustrated them by notes. We cannot but think that, by acting thus, he contracted some obligations of which he does not seem to have been at all aware; and that he ought not to have suffered any monstrous fiction to go forth under the sanction of his name, without adding a line at the foot of the page for the purpose of cautioning the reader. We will content ourselves at present with Pointing out two instances of Barère's wilful and deliberate mendacity; namely, his account of the death of Marie Antoinette, and his account of the death of the Girondists. His acSount of the death of Marie Antoinette is as follows:– “Robespierre in his turn proposed that the members of the Capet family should *hanished, and that Marie Antoinette should
ployed in concerting military measures which might have repaired our disasters in Belgium, and might have arrested the progress of the enemies of the Revolution in the west.”—(Vol. ii. p. 3.12.) Now it is notorious that Marie Antoinette was sent before the Revolutionary Tribunal, not at Robespierre's instance, but in direct opposition to Robespierre's wishes. We will cite a single authority, which is quite decisive. Buonaparte, who had no conceivable motive to disguise the truth, who had the best opportunities of knowing the truth, and who, after his marriage with the Archduchess, naturally felt an interest in the fate of his wife's kinswoman, distinctly affirmed that Robespierre opposed the trying of the queen.” Who, then, was the person who really did propose that the Capet family should be banished, and that Marie Antoinette should be tried? Full information will be found in the Moniteur:f From that valuable record it appears that, on the first of August 1793, an orator deputed by the Committee of Public Safety addressed the Convention in a long and elaborate discourse. He asked, in passionate language, how it happened that the enemies of the Republic still continued to hope for success. “Is it,” he cried, “be-. cause we have too long forgotten the crimes of the Austrian woman? Is it because we have shown so strange an indulgence to the race of our ancient tyrants It is time that this unwise apathy should cease; it is time to extirpate from the soil of the Republic the last roots of royalty. As for the children of Louis the conspirator, they are hostages for the Republic. The charge of their maintenance shall be reduced to what is necessary for the food and keep of two individuals. The public treasure shall no longer be lavished on creatures who have too long been considered as privileged. But behind them lurks a woman who has been the cause of all the disasters of France, and whose share in every project adverse to the Revolution has long been kaown. National justice claims its right over her. It is to the tribunal appointed for the trial of conspirators that she ougnt to be sent. It is only by striking the Austrian woman that you can make Francis and George, Charles and Wil. liam, sensible of the crimes which their ministers and their armies have committed.” The speaker concluded by moving that Marie Antoinette should be brought to judgment, and should, for that end, be forthwith transferred to the Conciergerie; and that all the members of the house of Capet, with the exception of those who were under the sword of the law, and of the two children of Louis, should be banished from the French territory. The mo. tion was carried without debate. Now, who was the person who made this speech and this motion? It was Barère him. self. It is clear, then, that Barère attributed his own mean insolence and barbarity to one who whatever his crimes may have been, was in
this matter innocent. The only question remaining is, whether Barère was misled by his memory, or wrote a deliberate falsehood. We are convinced that he wrote a deliberate falsehood. His memory is described by editors as remarkably good, and must have been bad indeed if he could not remember such a fact as this. It is true that the number of murders in which he subsequently bore a part was so great, that he might well confound one with another, that he might well forget what part of the daily hecatomb was consigned to death by himself, and what part by his colleagues. But two circumstances make it quite incredible that the share which he took in the death of Marie Antoinette should have escaped his recollection. She was one of his earliest victims. She was one of his most illustrious victims. The most hardened assassin remembers the first time that he shed blood; and the widow of Louis was no ordinary sufferer. If the question had been about some milliner butchered for hiding in her garret her brother who had let drop a word against the Jacobin club—if the question had been about some old nun, dragged to death for having mumbled what were called fanatical words over her beads—Barère's memory might well have deceived him. It would be as unreasonable to
"expect him to remember all the wretches whom
he slew, as all the pinches of snuff that he took. But though Barère murdered many hundreds of human beings, he murdered only one queen. That he, a small country lawyer, who, a few years before, would have thought himself honoured by a glance or a word from the daughter of so many Caesars, should call her the Austrian woman, should send her from jail to jail, should deliver her over to the executioner, was surely a great event in his life. Whether he had reason to be proud of it or ashamed of it, is a question on which we may perhaps differ from his editors; but they will admit, we think, that he could not have forgotten it. We, therefore, confidently charge Barère with having written a deliberate falsehood; and we have no hesitation in saying that we never, in the course of any historical researches that we have happened to make, fell in with a falsehood so audacious, except only the falsehood which we are about to expose. Of the proceeding against the Girondists, Barère speaks with just severity. He calls it an atrocious injustice perpetrated against the legislators of the Republic. He complains that distinguished deputies, who ought to have been re-admitted to their seats in the Convention, were sent to the scaffold as conspirators. The day, he exclaims, was a day of mourning for France. It mutilated the national representation; it weakened the sacred principle, that the deiegates of the people were inviolabie. He protests that he had no share in the guilt. “I have had,” he says, “the patience to go through the Moniteur, extracting all the charges brought against deputies, and all the decrees for arresting and impeaching deputies. Nowhere will you find my name. I never brought a charge against any of my colleagues,
or made a report against any, or drew up an impeachment against any.” Now, we affirm that this is a lie. We affirm that Barère himself took the lead in the proceedings of the convention against the Giron. dists. We affirm that he, on the twenty-eighth of July, 1793, proposed a decree for bringing nine Girondist deputies to trial, and for putting to death sixteen other Girondist deputies without any trial at all. We affirm that, when the accused deputies had been brought to trial, and when some apprehension arose that their elo. quence might produce an effect even on the revoluntary tribunal, Barère did, on the 8th of Brumaire, second a motion for a decree authorizing the tribunal to decide without hearing out the defence; and, for the truth of every one of these things so affirmed by us, we appeal to that very Moniteur to which Barère has dared to W.;; What M. Hyppolyte Carnot, knowing, as he must know, that this book contains such falsehoods as those which we have exposed, can have meant, when he described it as a valuable addition to our stock of historical information, passes our comprehension. When a man is not ashamed to tell lies about events which took place before hundreds of witnesses, and which are recorded in well-known and accessible books, what credit can we give to his account of things done in corners ? No historian who does not wish to be laughed at will ever cite the unsupported authority of Barère as sufficient to prove any fact whatever. The only thing, as far as we can see, on which these volumes throw any light, is the exceeding baseness of the author. So much for the veracity of the Memoirs. In a literary point of view, they are beneath criticism. They are as shallow, flippant and af. fected as Barère's oratory in the convention. They are also, what his oratory in the convention was not, utterly insipid. In fact, they are the mere dregs and rinsings of a bottle, of which even the first froth was but of very questionable flavour. We will now try to present our readers with a sketch of this man's life. We shall, of course, make very sparing use, indeed, of his own memoirs; and never without distrust, except where they are confirmed by other evidence. Bertrand Barère was born in the year 1755, at Tarbes in Gascony. His father was the proprietor of a small estate at Vieuzac, in the beautiful vale of Argelès. Bertrand always loved to be called Barère de Vieuzac, and flattered himself with the hope that, by the help of this feudal addition to his name, he might pass for a gentleman. He was educated for the bar at Toulouse, the seat of one of the most celebrated parliaments of the kingdom, practised as an advocate with considerable success, and wrote some small pieces, which he sent to the p. literary societies in the south of rance. Among provincial towns, Toulouse seems to have been remarkably rich in indifferent versifiers and critics. It gloried especially
* Vol. ii. 407. #. Moniteur, 31st of July, 1793, and Nonidi, first Decade
of Brumaire, in the year 2.