« PreviousContinue »
river to the place where the Orleans road branches off from the southern boulevard. Two travelling carriages stood there. In one of them was Billand, attended by two officers; in the other, two more officers were waiting to receive Barère. Collot was already on the road. At Orleans, a city which had suffered cruelly from the Jacobin tyranny, the three deputies were surrounded by a mob bent on tearing them to pieces. All the national guards of the neighbourhood were assembled; and this force was not greater than the emergency required; for the multitude pursued the carriages far on the road to Blois. At Amboise the prisoners learned that Tours was ready to receive them. The stately bridge was occupied by a throng of people, who swore that the men under whose rule the Loire had been choked with corpses, should have full ersonal experience of the nature of a noyade. n consequence of this news, the officers who had charge of the criminals made such arrangements that the carriages reached Tours at two in the morning, and drove straight to the posthouse. Fresh horses were instantly ordered, and the travellers started again at full gallop. They had in truth not a moment to lose; for the alarm had been given: lights were seen in motion ; and the yells of a great multitude, disappointed of its revenge, mingled with the sound of the departing wheels. . "At Poitiers there was another narrow escape. As the prisoners quitted the post-house, they saw the whole population pouring in fury down the steep declivity on which the city is built. They passed near Niort, but could not venture to enter it. The inhabitants came forth with threatening aspect, and vehemently cried to the postilions to stop; but the postitions urged the horses to full speed, and soon left the town behind. Through such dangers the men of blood were brought in safety to Rochelle. Oléron was the place of their destination, a dreary island beaten by the raging waves of the Bay of Biscay. The prisoners were confined in the castle; each had a single chamber, at the door of which a guard was placed; and each was allowed the ration of a single soldier. They were not allowed to communicate either with he garrison or with the population or the island; and soon after their arrival they were denied the indulgence of walking on the ram. -> parts. The only place where they were sus. fered to take exercise was the esplanade where the troops were drilled. They had not been long in this situation when news came that the Jacobins of paris had made a last attempt to regain ascendency in the state, that the hall of the Convention had been forced by a furious crowd, that one of the deputies had been murdered and his head fix. on a pike, that the life of the President had been for a time in imminent danger, and that some members of the legislature had not been ashamed to join the rioters. But troops had arrived in time to prevent a massacre. The insurgents had been put to flight; the inhabit. ants of the disaffected quarters of the capital had been disarmed; the guilty deputies had suffered the just punishment of their treason; *nd the power of the Mountain was broken or
ever. These events strengthened the aversion with which the system of Terror and the authors of that system were regarded. One member of the Convention had moved, that the three prisoners of Oléron should be put to death; another, that they should be brought back to Paris, and tried by a council of war. These propositions were rejected. But something was conceded to the party which called for severity. A vessel which had been fitted out with great expedition at Rochefort touched at Oléron, and it was announced to Collot and Billaud that they must instantly go on board. They were forthwith conveyed to Guiana, where. Collot soon drank himself to death with brandy. Billaud lived many years, shunning his fellow creatures and shunned by them; and diverted his lonely hours by teaching parrots to talk. Why a distinction was made between Barère and his companions in guilt, neither he nor any other writer, as far as we know, has explained. It does not appear that the distinetion was meant to be at all in his favour; for orders soon arrived from Paris, that he should be brought to trial for his crimes before the criminal court of the department of the Upper Charente. He was accordingly brought back to the Continent, and confined during some months at Saintes, in an old convent which had lately been turned into the jail. While he lingered here, the reaction which had followed the great crisis of Thermidor met with a temporary check. The friends of the house of Bourbon, presuming on the indulgence with which they had been treated after the fall of Robespierre, not only ventured to avow their opinions with little disguise, but at length took arms against the Convention, and were not put down till much blood had been shed in the streets of Paris. The vigilance of the public anthorities was therefore now directed chiefly against the royalists, and the rigour with which the Jacobins had lately been" treated was somewhat relaxed. The Convention, indeed, again resolved that Barère should be sent to Guiana. But this decree was not carried into effect. The prisoner, probably with the connivance of some powerful persons, made his escape from Saintes and fled to Bordeaux, where he remained in concealment during some years. There seems to have been a kind of understanding between him and the government, that, as long as he hid himself, he should not be found, but that, if he obtruded himself on the public eye, he must take the consequences of his rashness. While the constitution of t?95, with its Executive Directory, its Council of Elders, and its Council of Five Hundred, was in operation, he eontinued to live under the ban of the law. It was in vain that he solicited, even at moments when the politics of the Mountain seemed to be again in the ascendant, a remission of the sentence pronounced by the Convention. Even his fellow regicides, even the authors of the slaughter of Vendémiaire and : the arrests of Fructidor, were ashamed of inn. About eighteen months after his escape from prison, his name was again brought before the world. In his own province he still retained
some of his early popularity. He had, indeed, never been in that province since the downfall of the monarchy. The mountaineers of Gascony were far removed from the seat of government, and were but imperfectly informed of what passed there. They knew that their countryman had played an important part, and that he had on some occasions promoted their local interests; and they stood by him in his adversity and in his disgrace, with a constancy which presents a singular contrast to his own abject fickleness. All France was amazed to learn, that the department of the Upper Pyrenees had chosen the proscribed tyrant a member of the Council of Five Hundred. The council which, like our House of Commons, was the judge of the election of its own members, refused to admit him. When his name was read from the roll, a cry of indignation rose from the benches. “Which of you,” exclaimed one of the members, “would sit by the side of such a monster?”—“Not I, not I?” answered a crowd of voices. One deputy declared that he would vacate his seat if the hall were polluted by the presence of such a wretch. The election was declared null, on the ground that the person elected was a criminal skulking from justice; and many severe reflections were thrown on the lenity which suffered him to be still at large. He tried to make his peace with the Directory by writing a bulky libel on England, entitled, The Liberty of the Seas. He seems to have confidently expected that this work would produce a great effect. He printed three thousand copies, and, in order to defray the expense of publication, sold one of his farms for the sum of ten thousand francs. The book came out; but nobody bought it, in consequence, if Barère is to be believed, of the villainy of Mr. Pitt, who bribed the Directory to order the reviewers not to notice so formidable an 'attack on the maritime greatness of perfidious Albion. Barère had been about three years at Bordeaux when he received intelligence that the mob of the town designed him the honour of a visit on the ninth of Thermidor, and would probably administer to him what he had, in his defence of his friend Lebon, described as substantial justice under forms a little harsh. It was necessary for him to disguise himself in clothes such as were worn by the carpenters of the dock. In this garb, with a bundle of wood shavings under his arm, he made his escape into the vineyards which surround the city, lurked during some days in a peasant's hut, and, when the dreaded anniversary was over, stole back into the city. A few months later he was again in danger. He now thought that he should be nowhere so safe as in the neighbourhood of Paris. He quitted Bordeaux, hastened undetected through those towns where four years before his life had been in extreme danger, passed through the capital ‘in the morning twilight, when none were in the streets except shopboys taking down the *: ters, and arrived safe at the pleasant village of St. Ouen on the Seine. Here he remained in seclusion during some months. In the mean
time Bonaparte returned from Egypt, placed Wo. W.-82
himself at the head of a coalition of discontented parties, covered: his designs with the authority of the Elders, drove the Five Hundred out of their hall at the point of the bayonet, and became absolute monarch of France under the name of First Consul. Barère assures us that these events almost broke his heart; that he could not bear to see France again subject to a master; and that, if the representatives had been worthy of that honourable name, they would have arrested the ambitious general who insulted them. These feelings, however, did not prevent him from soliciting the protection of the new government, and from sending to the First Consul a handsome copy of the Essay on the Liberty of the Seas. The policy of Bonaparte was to cover all the past with a general oblivion. He belonged half to the Revolution and half to the reaction. He was an upstart, and a sovereign; and had, therefore, something in common with the Jacobin, and something in common with the royalist. All, whether Jacobins or royalists, who were disposed to support his government, were readily received—all, whether Jacobins or royalists, who showed hostility to his government, were put down and punished. Men who had borne a part in the worst crimes of the Reign of Terror, and men who had fought in the army of Condé, were to be found close together, both in his antechambers and in his dungeons. He decorated Fouché and Maury with the same cross. He sent Aréna and Georges Cadoudal to the same scaffold. From a government acting on such principles Barère easily obtained the indulgence which the Directory had constantly refused to grant. The sentence passed by the Convention was remitted, and he was allowed to reside at Paris. His pardon, it is true, was not granted in the most honourable form; and he remained, during some time, under the special supervision of the police, He hastened, however, to pay his court at the Luxembourg palace, where Bonaparte then resided, and was honoured with a few dry and careless words by the master of France. Here begins a new chapter of Bärere's history. What passed between him and the con sular government cannot, of course, be so accurately known to us as the speeches and reports which he made in the Convention. It 1s, however, not difficult, from notorious facts, and from the admissions scattered over these lying Memoirs, to form a tolerably accurate notion of what took place. Bonaparte wanted to buy Barère: Barère wanted to sell himself to Bonaparte. The only question was one of price; and there was an immense interval between what was offered and what was demanded. Bonaparte, whose vehemence of will, fixedness of purpose, and reliance on his own genius, were not only great, but extravagant, looked with scorn on the most effeminate and dependent of human minds. He was quite capable of perpetrating crimes under the influence either of ambition or of revenge; but he had no touch of that accursed monomania, that craving for blood and tears, which raged in some of the Jacobin chiefs. To proscribe the Terrorists would have been wholly inconsistent with his policy; but of all the classes of men whom his comprehensive system included, he liked them the least; and Barère was the worst of them. This wretch had been branded with infamy, first by the Convention, and then by the Council of Five Hundred. The inhabitants of four or five great cities had attempted to tear him limb from limb. Nor were his vices redeemed by eminent talents for administration or iegislation. It would be unwise to place in any honourable or important post a man so wicked, so odious, and so little qualified to discharge high political duties. At the same time, there was a way in which it seemed likely that he might be of use to the government. The First Consul, as he afterwards acknowledged, greatly overrated Barère's powers as a writer. The effect which the reports of the committee of public safety had produced by the camp-fires of the republican armies had been great. Napoleon himself, when a young soldier, had been delighted by those compositions, which had much in common with the rhapsodies of his favourite poet, Macpherson. The taste, indeed, of the great warrior and statesman was never very pure. His bulletins, his general orders, and his proclamations, are sometimes, it is true, masterpieces in their kind; but we too often detect, even in his best writing, traces of Fingal, and of the Carmagnoles. It is not strange, therefore, that he should have been desirous to secure the aid of Barère's pen. Nor was this the only kind of assistance which the old member of the committee of public safety might render to the consular government. He was likely to find admission into the gloomy dens in which those Jacobins whose constancy was to be overcome by no reverse, or whose crimes admitted of no expiation, hid themselves from the curses of mankind. No enterprise was too bold or too atrocious for minds crazed by fanaticism, and familiar with misery and death. The government was anxious to have information of what passed in their secret councils; and no man was better qualified to furnish such information than Barère. For these reasons the First Consul was disposed to employ Barère as a writer and as a spy. But Barère—was it possible that he would submit to such a degradation? Bad as he was, he had played a great part. He had belonged to that class of criminals who fill the world with the renown of their crimes; he had been one of a cabinet which had ruled France with absolute power, and made war on all Europe with signal success. Nay, he had been, though not the most powerful, yet, with the single exception of Robespierre, the most conspicuous member of that cabinet. His name had been a household word at Moscow and at Philadelphia, at Edinburgh and at Cadiz. The blood of the Queen of France, the blood of the greatest orators and philosophers of France, was on his hands. had been decreed, that the plough should pass over the great city of Lyons. He had spoken again, and it had been decreed, that the streets of Toulon should be razed to the ground.
He had spoken; and it
When depravity is placed so high as his, the hatred which it inspires is mingled with awe. His place was with great tyrants, with Critias and Sylla, with Eccelino and Borgia; not with hireling scribblers and police runners. “Wirtue, I grant you, is an empty boast; But shall the dignity of vice be lost?” So sang Pope; and so felt Barère. When it was proposed to him to publish a journal in defence of the consular government, rage and shame inspired him for the first and last time with something like courage. He had filled as large a space in the eyes of mankind as Mr. Pitt or General Washington; and he was coolly invited to descend at once to the level of Mr. Lewis Goldsmith. He saw, too, with agonies. of envy, that a wide distinction was made between himself and the other statesmen of the Revolution who were summoned to the aid of the government. Those statesmen were required, indeed, to make large sacrifices of prin-, ciple; but they were not called on to sacrifice what, in the opinion of the vulgar, constitutes personal dignity. They were made tribunes and legislators, ambassadors and counsellors of state, ministers, senators, and consuls. They might reasonably expect to rise with the rising fortunes of their master; and, in truth, many of them were destined to wear the badge of his Legion of Honour and of his order of the Iron Crown; to be arch-chancellors and archtreasurers, counts, dukes, and princes. Barère, only six years before, had been far more powerful, far more widely renowned, than any of them; and now, while they were thought worthy to represent the majesty of France at foreign courts, while they received crowds of suitors in gilded ante-chambers, he was to pass his life in measuring paragraphs, and scolding correctors of the press. It was too much. Those lips which had never before been able to fashion themselves to a No, now murmured expostulation and refusal. “I could not”— these are his own words—“abase myself to such a point as to serve the First Consul merely in the capacity of a journalist, while so many insignificant, low, and servile people, such as the Treilhards, the Roederers, the Lebruns, the Marets, and others whom it is superfluous to name, held the first place in this government of upstarts.” This outbreak of spirit was of short duration. Napoleon was inexorable. It is said indeed that he was, for a moment, half inclined to admit Barère into the Council of State; but the members of that body remonstrated in the
strongest terms, and declared that such a nomi-
nation would be a disgrace to them all. This }. was therefore relinquished. Thenceforth arère's only chance of obtaining the patronage of the government was to subdue his pride, to forget that there had been a time when, with three words, he might have had the heads of the three consuls, and to betake himself, humbly and industriously, to the task of composing lampoons on England and panegyrics oil Bonaparte. It has often been asserted, we know not on what grounds, that Barère was employed by the government, not only as a writer, but as a censor of the writings of other men. This im
putation he vehemently denies in his Memoirs; but our readers will probably agree with us in thinking, that his denial leaves the question exactly where it was. Thus much is certain, that he was not restrained from exercising the office of censor by any scruple of conscience or honour; for he did accept an office, compared with which that of censor, odious as it is, may be called an august and beneficent magistracy. He began to have what are delicately called relations with the police. We are not sure that we have formed, or that we can convey, an exact notion of the nature of Barère's new calling. It is a calling unknown in our country. It "has, indeed, often happened in England, that a plot has been revealed to the government by one of the conspirators. The informer has sometimes been directed to carry it fair towards his accomplices, and to let the evil de'sign come to full maturity. As soon as his work is done, he is generally snatched from the public gaze, and sent to some obscure village, or to some remote colony. The use of spies, even to this extent, is in the highest degree unpopular in England; but a political spy by profession, is a creature from which our island is as free as it is from wolves. In France the race is well known, and was never more numerous, more greedy, more cunning, or more savage, than under the government of Bonaparte. Our idea of a gentleman in relations with the consular and imperial police may perhaps be incorrect. Such as it is, we will try to convey it to our readers. We image to ourselves a well-dressed person, with a soft voice and affable manners. His opinions are those of the society in which he finds himself, but a little stronger. He often complains, in the language of honest indignation, that what passes in private conversation finds its way strangely to the government, and cautions his associates to take care what they say when they are not sure of their company. As for himself, he owns that he is indiscreet. He can never refrain from speaking his mind; and that is the reason that he is not presect of a department. In a gallery of the Palais Royal he overhears two friends talking earnestly about the king and the Count of Artois. He follows them into a coffee-house, sits at the table next to them, calls for his half-dish and his small glass of cognac, takes up a journal, and seems occupied with the news. His neighbours go on talking without restraint, and in the style of persons warmly attached to the exiled family. They depart, and he follows them half round the ooulevards till he fairly tracks them to their apartments, and learns their names from the porters. From that day every letter addressed to either of them is sent from the post-office to the police, and opened. Their correspondents become known to the government, and are carefully watched. Six or eight honest families, in different parts of France, find themselves at once under the frown of power, without being able to guess what offence they have given. One person is dismissed from a public office; another learns with dismay that his romising son has been turned out of the Poytechnic school.
Next, the indefatigable servant of the state falls in with an old republican, who has not changed with the times, who regrets the red cap and the tree of liberty, who has not unlearned the Thee and Thou, and who still subscribes his letters with “Health and Frater. nity.” Into the ears of this sturdy politician our friend pours forth a long series of complaints. What evil times! What a change since the days when the Mountain governed France! What is the First Consul but a king under a new name? What is this Legion of Honour but a new aristocracy? The old su perstition is reviving with the old tyranny. There is a treaty with the Pope, and a provision for the clergy. Emigrant nobles are returning in crowds, and are better received at the Tuileries than the men of the tenth of Au
gust. This cannot last. What is life without liberty? What terrors has death to the true patriot? The old Jacobin catches fire, be
stows and receives the fraternal hug, and hints that there will soon be great news, and that the breed of Harmodius and Brutus is not quite extinct. The next day he is close prisoner, and all his papers are in the hands of the government. To this vocation, a vocation compared with which the life of a beggar, of a pickpocket, of a pimp, is honourable, did Barère now descend. It was his constant practice, as often as he enrolled himself in a new party, to pay his footing with the heads of old friends. He was at first a royalist; and he made atonement by watering the tree of liberty with the blood of Louis. He was then a Girondist; and he made atonement by murdering Vergniaud and Gensonné. He fawned on Robespierre up to the eighth of Thermidor; and he made atonemen: by moving, on the ninth, that Robespierre should be beheaded without a trial. He was now enlisted in the service of the new monarchy; and he proceeded to atone for his republican heresies by sending republican throats to the guillotine. Among his most intimate associates was a Gascon named Demerville, who had been employed in an office of high trust under the committee of public safety. This man was fanatically attached to the Jacobin system of politics, and, in conjunction with other enthu siasts of the same class, formed a design against the First Consul. A hint of this design escaped him in conversation with Barère. Barère carried the intelligence to Lannes, who commanded the Consular Guards. Demerville was arrested, tried, and beheaded; and among the witnesses who appeared against him was his friend Barère. The account which Barère has given of these transactions is studiously confused and grossly dishonest. We think, however, that we can discern, through much falsehood and much artful obscurity, some truths which he labours to conceal. It is clear to us that the government suspected him of what the Italians call a double treason. It was natural that such a suspicion should attach to him. He had, in times not very remote, zealously preached the Jacobin doctrine, that he who smites a tyrant
deserves higher praise than he who saves a citizen. Was it possible that the member of the committee of public safety, the king-killer, the queen-killer, could in earnest mean to deliver his old confederates, his bosom friends, to the executioner, solely because they had lanned an act which, if there were any truth in his own Carmagnoles, was in the highest Segree virtuous and glorious? Was it not more probable that he was really concerned in the plot, and that the information which he gave was merely intended to lull or to mislead the police? Accordingly spies were set on the spy. He was ordered to quit Paris, and not to come within twenty leagues till he received further orders. Nay, he ran no small risk of being sent, with some of his old friends, to Madagascar. He made his peace, however, with the government so far, that he was not only permitted, during some years, to live unmolested, but was employed in the lowest sort of political drudgery. In the summer of 1803, while he was preparing to visit the south of France, he received a letter which deserves to be inserted. It was from Duroc, who is well known to have enjoyed a large share of Napoleon's confidence and favour. “The First Consul, having been informed that Citizen Barère is about to set out for the country, desires that he will stay at Paris. “Citizen Barère will every week draw up a report of the state of public opinion on the proceedings of the government, and generally on every thing which, in his judgment, it will be interesting to the First Consul to learn. “He may write with perfect freedom. “He will deliver his reports under seal into General Duroc's own hand, and General Duroc will deliver them to the First Consul. But it is absolutely necessary that nobody should suspect that this species of communication takes place; and, should any such suspicion get abroad, the First Consul will cease to receive the reports of Citizen Barère. “It will also be proper that Citizen Barère should frequently insert in the journals articles tending to animate the public mind, particularly against the English.” During some years Barère continued to dis. charge the functions assigned to him by his master. Secret reports, filled with the talk of coffee-houses, were carried by him every week to the Tuileries. His friends assure us that he took especial pains to do all the harm in his power to the returned emigrants. It was not his fault if Napoleon was not apprised of every murmur and every sarcasm which old marquesses who had lost their estates, and old clergymen who had lost their benefices, uttered against the imperial system. M. Hippolyte Carnot, we grieve to say, is so much binded by party spirit, that he seems to reckon this dirty wickedness among his hero's titles to public esteem. Barère was, at the same time, an indefati. gable journalist and pamphleteer. He set up a paper directed against England, and called the Memorial Antibritannique. He planned a work entitled, “France made great and illustrious by Napoleon.” When the imperial govern"ment was established, the old regicide made
himself conspicuous even among the crowd of flatterers by the peculiar fulsomeness of his adulation. He translated into French a contemptible volume of Italian verses, entitled, “The Poetic Crown, composed on the glorious accession of Napoleon the First, by the Shepherds of Arcadia.” He commenced a new series of Garmagnoles very different from those which had charmed the Mountain. The title of Emperor of the French, he said, was mean; Napoleon ought to be Emperor of Eu. rope. King of Italy was too humble an appellation; Napoleon's style ought to be King of Kings. But Barère laboured to small purpose in both his vocations. Neither as a writer nor ax' a spy was he of much use. He complains bitterly that his paper did not sell. While the Journal des Debats, then flourishing under the able management of Geoffroy, had a circulation of at least twenty thousand copies, the Memorial.Antibritannique never, in its most prosperous times, had more than fifteen hundred subscribers; and these subscribers were, with scarcely an exception, persons residing far from Paris, probably Gascons, among whom the name of Barère had not yet lost its influence. A writer who cannot find readers, generally attributes the public neglect to any cause rather than to the true one; and Barère was no exception to the general rule. His old hatred to Paris revived in all its fury. That city, he says, has no sympathy with France. No Parisian cares to subscribe to a journal which dwells on the real wants and interests of the country. To a Parisian nothing is so ridiculous as patriotism. The higher classes of the capital have always been devoted to England. A corporal from London is better -received among them than a French general. A journal, therefore, which attacks England has no chance of their support. A much better explanation of the failure of the Memorial, was given by Bonaparte at St. Helena. “Barère,” said he to Barry O'Meara, “had the reputation of being a man of talent; but I did not find him so. I employed him to write; but he did not display ability. He used many flowers of rhetoric, but no solid argument; nothing but coglionerie wrapped up in high-sounding language.” The truth is, that though Barère was a man of quick parts, and could do with ease what he could do at all, he had never been a good writer. In the day of his power, he had been in the habit of haranguing an excitable audience on exciting topics. The faults of his style passed uncensured; for it was a time of literary as well as of civil lawlessness, and a patriot was licensed to violate the ordinary rules of composition as well as the ordinary rules of jurisprudence and of social morality. But there had now been a literary as well as a civil reaction. As there was again a throne and a court, a magistracy, a chivalry, and a hierarchy, so was there a revival of classical taste. - Honor was again paid to the prose of Pascal and Masillon, and to the verse of Racine and La Fontaine. The oratory which had delighted the galleries of the Convention, was not only as much out of date as the language of