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which all society rests. The independence and honour of France were indeed to be vindicated, but to be vindicated by triumphs and not by murders. Opposed to the Girondists was a party which, having been long execrated throughout the civilized world, has of late—such is the ebb and flow of opinion—found not only apologists, but even eulogists. We are not disposed to deny that some members of the Mountain were sincere and public-spirited men. But even the best of them, Carnot, for example, and Cambon, were far too unscrupulous as to the means which they employed for the purpose of attaining great ends. In the train of these enthusiasts followed a crowd, composed of all who, from sensual, sordid or malignant motives, wished for a period of boundless license. When the Convention met, the majority was with the Girondists, and Barère was with the majority. On the king's trial, indeed, he quitted the party with which he ordinarily acted, voted with the Mountain, and spoke against the prisoner with a violence such as few members even of the Mountain showed. The conduct of the leading Girondists on that occasion was little to their honour. Of cruelty, indeed, we fully acquit them; but it is impossible to acquit them of criminal irresolution and disingenuousness. They were far, indeed, far from thirsting for the blood of Louis; on the contrary, they were most desirous to protect him. But they were afraid that, if they went straight forward to their object, the sincerity of their attachment to republican institutions would be suspected. They wished to save the king's life, and yet to obtain all the credit of having been regicides. Accordingly, they traced out for themselves a crooked course, by which they hoped to attain both their objects. They first voted the king guilty. They then voted for referring the question respecting his fate to the whole body of the people. Defeated in this attempt to rescue him, they reluctantly, and with ill-suppressed shame and concern, voted for the capital sentence. Then they made a last attempt in his favour, and voted for respiting the execution. These zigzag politics produced the effect which any man conversant with public affairs might have foreseen. The Girondists, instead of attaining both their ends, failed of both. The Mountain justly charged them with having attempted to save the king by underhand means. Their own consciences told them, with equal justice, that their hands had been dipped in the blood of the most inoffensive and most unfortunate of men. The direct path was here, as usual, the path not only of honour but of safety. The principle on which the Girondists stood as a party was, that the season for revolutionary violence was over, and that the reign of law and order ought now to commence. But the proceeding against the king was clearly revolutionary in its nature. It was not in conformity with the laws. The only plea for it was, that all ordinary rules of jurisprudence and morality were suspended by the extreme public danger. This was the very plea which the Mountain urged in defence of the massacre of September, and to which, when so urged, the Wol. W.-80
|Girondists refused to listen. They therefore, by voting for the death of the king, conceded to the Mountain the chief point at issue between the two parties. Had they given a manful vote against the capital sentence, the regicides would have been in a minority. It is probable that there would have been an 1mmediate appeal to force. The Girondists might have been victorious. In the worst event, they would have fallen with unblemished honour. Thus much is certain, that their boldness and honesty could not possibly have produced a worse effect than was actually produced by their timidity and their stratagems. Barère, as we have said, sided with the Mountain on this occasion. He voted against the appeal to the people, and against the respite. His demeanour and his language also were widely different from those of the Girondists. Their hearts were heavy, and their deportment was that of men oppressed by sorrow. It was Vergniaud's duty to proclaim the result of the roll-call. His face was pale, and he trembled with emotion, as in a low and broken voice he announced that Louis was condemned to death. Barère had not, it is true, yet attained to full perfection in the art of mingling jests and conceits with words of death; but he already gave promise of his future excel. lence in this high department of Jacobin oratory. He concluded his speech with a sentence worthy of his head and heart. “The tree of liberty,” he said, “as an ancient author remarks, flourishes when it is watered with the blood of all classes of tyrants.” M. Hippolyte Carnot has quoted this passage, in order, as we suppose, to do honour to his hero. We wish that a note had been added to inform us from what ancient author Barère quoted. In the course of our own small reading among the Greek and Latin writers, we have not happened to fall in with trees of liberty and watering-pots full of blood; nor can we, such is our ignorance of classical antiquity, even imagine an Attic or Roman orator employing imagery of that sort. In plain words, when Barère talked about an ancient author, he was lying, as he generally was when he asserted any fact, great or small. Why he lied on this occasion we cannot guess, unless, indeed, it was to keep his hand in. It is not improbable that, but for one circumstance, Barère would, like most of those with whom he ordinarily acted, have voted for the appeal to the people and for the respite. But, just before the commencement of the trial, papers had been discovered which proved that, while a member of the National Assembly, he had been in communication with the court respecting his reports on the woods and forests. He was acquitted of all criminality by the Convention; but the fiercer republicans considered him as a tool of the fallen monarch; and this reproach was long repeated in the journal of Marat, and in the speeches at the Jacobin club. It was natural that a man like Barère should, under such circumstances, try to distinguish himself among the crowd of regicides by peculiar ferocity. It was because he had been a royalist that he was one of the foremost in shedding blood.
The king was no more.
their character in the eyes both of friends and foes. They still, however, nuaintained the contest against the Mountain, called for vengeance on the assassins of September, and protested against the anarchical and sanguinary doctrines of Marat. For a time they seemed likely to prevail. As publicists and orators they had no rivals in the Convention. They had with them, beyond all doubt, the great majority both of the deputies and of the French nation. These advantages, it should seem, ought to have decided the event of the struggle. But the opposite party had compensating advantages of a different kind. The chiefs of the Mountain, though not eminently distinguished by eloquence or knowledge, had great audacity, activity, and determination. The Convention and France were against them; but the mob of Paris, the clubs of Paris, and the municipal government of Paris, were on their side. The policy of the Jacobins, in this situation, was to subject France to an aristocracy infinitely worse than that aristocracy which had emigrated with the Count of Artois– to an aristocracy not of birth, not of wealth, not of education, but of mere locality.— They would not hear of privileged orders; but they wished to have a privileged city. That twenty-five millions of Frenchmen should be ruled by a hundred thousand gentlemen and clergymen was insufferable; but that twenty-five millions of Frenchmen should be ruled by a hundred thousand Parisians, was as it should be. The qualification of a member of the new oligarchy was simply that he should live near the hall where the Convention met, and should be able to squeeze himself daily into the gallery during a debate, and now and then to attend with a pike for the purpose of blockading the doors. It was quite agreeable to the maxims of the Mountain, that a score of draymen from Santerre's brewery, or of devils from Hébert's printing-house, should be permitted to drown the voices of men commissioned to speak the sense of such cities as Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Lyons; and that a rabble of half-naked porters from the Faubourg St. Antoine, should have power to annul decrees for which the representatives of fifty or sixty departments had voted. It was necessary to find some pretext for so odious and absurd a tyranny. Such a pretext was found. To the old phrases of liberty and equality were added the sonorous watchwords, unity and indivisibility. A new crime was invented, and called by the name of federalism. The object of the Girondists, it was asserted, was to break up the great nation into little independent commonwealths, bound together only by a league like that which connects the Swiss cantons or the United States of America. The great obstacle in the way of this pernicious design was the influence of Paris. To strengthen the influence of Paris ought, therefore, to be the chief object of every patriot. The accusation brought against the leaders of the Girondist party was a mere calumny. They were undoubtedly desirous to prevent the capital from domineering over the Republic,
The leading Girondists had, by their conduct towards him, lowered
and would gladly have seen the Convention removed for a time to some provincial town, or placed under the protection of a trusty guard, which might have overawed the Parisian mob ; but there is not the slightest reason to suspect them of any design against the unity of the state. Barère, however, really was a federalist, and, we are inclined to believe, the only federalist in the Convention. As far as a man so unstable and servile can be said to have felt any preference for any form of government, he felt a preference for federal government. He was born under the Pyrenees; he was a Gascon of the Gascons, one of a people strongly distinguished by intellectual and moral character, by manners, by modes of speech, by accent, and by physiognomy, from the French of the Seine and of the Loire; and he had many of the peculiarities of the race to which he belonged. When he first left his own province he had attained his thirty-fourth year, and had acquired a high local reputation for eloquence and literature. He had then visited Paris for the first time. He had found himself in a new world. His feelings were those of a banished man. It is clear also that he had been by no means without his share of the small disappointments and humiliations so often experienced by men of letters who, elated by provincial applause, venture to display their powers before the fastidious critics of a capital. On the other hand, whenever he revisited the mountains among which he had been born, he found himself an object of general admiration. His dislike of Paris, and his partiality to his native district, were therefore as strong and durable as any sentiments of a mind like his could be. He long continued to maintain that the ascendency of one great city was the bane of France; that the superiority of taste and intelligence which it was the fashion to ascribe to the inhabitants of that city were wholly imaginary; and that the nation would never enjoy a really good government till the Alsatian people, the Breton people, the people of Bearn, the people of Provence, should have each an independent existence, and laws suited to its own tastes and habits. These communities he proposed to unite by a tie similar to that which binds together the grave Puritans of Connecticut, and the dissolute slave-drivers of New Orleans. To Paris he was unwilling to grant even the rank which Washington holds in the United States. He thought it desirable that the congress of the French federation should have no fixed place of meeting, but should sit sometimes at Rouen, sometimes at Bordeaux, sometimes at his own Toulouse. Animated by such feelings, he was, till the close of May, 1793, a Girondist, if not an ultraGirondist. He exclaimed against those impure and blood-thirsty men who wished to make the public danger a pretext for cruelty and rapine, “Peril,” he said, “could be no excuse for crime. It is when the wind blows hard, and the waves run high, that the anchor is most needed; it is when a revolution is raging, that the great laws of morality are most necessary to the safety of a state.” Of Marat he spoke with abhorrence and contempt; of the municipal authorities of Paris with just severity. He loudly complained that there were Frenchmen who paid to the Mountain that homage which was due to the Convention alone. When the establishment of the Revolutionary Tribunal was first proposed, he joined himself to Vergniaud and Buzot, who strongly objected to that odious measure. “It cannot be,” exclaimed Barère, “that men really attached to liberty will imitate the most frightful excesses of despotism " He proved to the Convention, after his fashion, out of Sallust, that such arbitrary courts may indeed, for a time, be severe only on real criminals, but must inevitably degenerate into instruments of private cupidity and revenge. When, on the tenth of March, the worst part of the population of Paris made the first unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Giron
dists, Barère eagerly called for vigorous mea
sures of repression and punishment. On the second of April, another attempt of the Jacobins of Paris to usurp supreme dominion over the Republic, was brought to the knowledge of the Convention; and again Barère spoke with warmth against the new tyranny which afflicted France, and declared that the people of the departments would never crouch beneath the tyranny of one ambitious city. He even proposed a resolution to the effect, that the Convention would exert against the demagogues of the capital the same energy which had been exerted against the tyrant Louis. We are assured that, in private as in public, he at this time uniformly spoke with strong aversion of the Mountain. His apparent zeal for the cause of humanity and order had its reward. Early in April, came the tidings of Dumourier's defection. This was a heavy blow to the Girondists. Dumourier was their general. His victories had thrown a lustre on the whole party; his army, it had been hoped, would, in the worst event, protect the deputies of the nation against the ragged pikemen of the garrets of Paris. He was now a deserter and an exile; and those who had lately placed their chief reliance on his support, were compelled to join with their aeadliest enemies in execrating his treason. At this perilous conjuncture, it was resolved to appoint a committee of public safety, and to arm that committee with powers, small indeed when compared with those which it afterwards crew to itself, but still great and formidable. The moderate party, regarding Barère as a representative of their feelings and opinions, elected him a member. In his new situation he soon began to make himself useful. He brought to the deliberations of the committee, not indeed the knowledge or the ability of a great statesman, but a tongue and a pen which, if others would only supply ideas, never paused for want of words. His mind was a mere organ of communication between other minds. It originated nothing; it retained nothing; but it transmitted every thing. The post assigned to him by his colleagues was not really of the highest importance; but it was prominent, and drew the attention of all Europe. When a great measure was to be brought forward, when an account was to be rendered of an important event, he was generally the mouthpiece of the administration. He was therefore not unna
turally considered, by persons who lived at a | distance from the seat of government, and above all by foreigners who, while the war raged, knew France only from journals, as the head of that administration of which, in truth, he was only the secretary and the spokesman. The author of the History of Europe, in our own Annual Registers, appears to have been completely under this delusion. The conflict between the hostile parties was meanwhile fast approaching to a crisis. The temper of Paris grew daily fiercer and fiercer. Delegates appointed by thirty-five of the fortyeight wards of the city appeared at the bar of the Convention, and demanded that Vergniaud, Brissot, Gaudet, Gensonné, Barbaroux, Buzot, Pétion, Louvet, and many other deputies, should be expelled. This demand was disapproved by at least three-fourths of the Assembly, and, when known in the departments, called forth a general cry of indignation. Bordeaux declared that it would stand by its representatives, and would, if necessary, defend them by the sword against the tyranny of Paris. Lyons and Marseilles were animated by a similar spirit. These manifestations of public opinion gave courage to the majority of the Convention. Thanks were voted to the people of Bordeaux for their *.*.*...". and a commission consisting of twelve members was appointed for the purpose of investigating the conduct of the municipal authorities of Paris; and was empowered to place under arrest such persons as should appear to have been concerned in any plot against the authority of the Convention. This measure was adopted on the motion of Barère. A few days of stormy excitement and profound anxiety followed; and then came the crash. On the thirty-first of May, the mob of Paris rose ; the Palace of the Tuileries was besieged by a vast array of pikes; the majority of the deputies, after vain struggles and remonstrances, yielded to violence, and suffered the Mountain to carry a decree for the suspension and arrest of the deputies whom the wards of the capital had accused. During this contest, Barère had been tossed backwards and forwards between the two raging factions. His feelings, languid and unsteady as they always were, drew him to the Girondists; but he was awed by the vigour and determination of the Mountain. At one moment he held high and firm language, complained that the Convention was not free, and protested against the validity of any vote passed under coercion. At another moment he proposed to concilitate the Parisians by abolishing that commission of twelve which he had himself proposed only a few days before; and himself drew up a paper condemning the very measures which had been adopted at his own instance, and eulogizing the public spirit of the insurgents. To do him justice, it was not without some symptoms of shame that he read this document from the tribune, where he had so often expressed very different sentiments. It is said that, at some passages, he was even seen to blush. It may have been so; he was still in his noviciate of infamy. Some days iater he proposed that hostages for the personal safety of the accused deputies should be sent to the departments, and offered to be himself one of those hostages. Nor do we in the least doubt that the offer was sincere. He would, we firmly believe, have thought himself far safer at Bordeaux or Marseilles than at Paris. His proposition, however, was not carried into effect; and he remained in the hands of the victorious Mountain. This was the great crisis of his life. Hitherto he had done nothing inexpiable, nothing which marked him out as a much worse man than that of his colleagues in the Convention. His voice had generally been on the side of moderate measures. Had he bravely cast in his lot with the Girondists, and suffered with them, he would, like thern, have had a not dishonourable place in history. Had he, like the great body of deputies who meant well, but who had not the courage to expose themselves to martyrdom, crouched quietly under the dominion of the triumphant minority, and suffered every motion of Robespierre and Billaud to pass unopposed, he would have incurred no peculiar ignominy. But it is probable that this course was not open to him. He had been too prominent among the adversaries of the Mountain to be admitted to quarter without making some atonement. It was necessary thot, if he hoped to find pardon from his new sords, he should not be merely a silent and passive slave. What passed in private between him and them cannot be accurately related; but the result was soon apparent. The committee of public safety was renewed. Several of the fiercest of the dominant faction, Couthon for example, and St. Just, were substituted for more moderate politicians; but Barère was suffered to retain his seat at the board. The indulgence with which he was treated excited the murmurs of some stern and ardent zealots. Marat, in the very last words that he wrote, words not published till the dagger of Charlotte Corday had avenged France and mankind, complained that a man who had no principles, who was always on the side of the strongest, who had been a royalist, and who was ready, in case of a turn of fortune, to be a royalist again, should be entrusted with an important share in the administration." But the chiefs of the Mountain judged more correctly. They knew indeed, as well as Marat, that Barère was a man utterly without faith or steadiness; that, if he could be said to have any political leaning, his leaning was not towards them ; that he felt for the Girondist party that faint and wavering sort of preference of which alone his nature was susceptible; and that, if he had been at liberty to make his choice, he would rather have murdered Robespierre and Danton, than Vergniaud and Gensonné. But they justly appreciated that levity which made him incapable alike of earnest love and of earnest hatred, and that meanness which made it necessary to him to have a master. In truth, what the planters of Carolina and Louisiana say of black men with flat noses and woolly hair, was strictly true of
* See the Publiciste of the 14th of July, 1793. Marat was stabbed on the evening of the 13th.
Barère. The curse of Canaan was upon him. He was born a slave. Baseness was an instinct in him. The impulse which drove him from a party in adversity to a party in prosperity, was as irresistible as that which drives the cuckoo and the swallow towards the sun when the dark and cold months are approaching. The law which doomed him to be the humble attendant of stronger spirits resembled the law which binds the pilot-fish to the shark. “Ken ye,” said a shrewd Scotch lord, who was asked his opinion of James the First; “Ken ye a John Ape If I have Jacko by the collar, I can make him bite you; but if you have Jacko, you can make him bite me.” Just such a creature was Barère. In the hands of the Girondists he would have been eager to proscribe the Jacobins; he was just as ready, in the gripe of the Jacobins, to proscribe the Girondists. On the fidelity of such a man, the heads of the Mountain could not, of course, reckon; but they valued their conquest as the very easy and not very delicate lover in Congreve's lively song valued the conquest of a prostitute of a different kind. Barère was, like Chloe, false and common; but he was, like Chloe, constant while possessed; and they asked no more. They needed a service which he was perfectly o to perform. Destitute as he was of all the talents both of an active and of a speculative statesman, he could with great facility draw up a report, or make a speech on any subject and on any side. If other people would furnish facts and thoughts, he could always furnish phrases; and this talent was absolutely at the command of his owners for the time being. Nor had he excited any angry passion among those to whom he had hitherto been opposed. They felt no more hatred to him than they felt to the horses which dragged the cannon of the Duke of Brunswick and of the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. The horses had only done according to their kind, and would, if they fell into the hands of the French, drag with equal vigour and equal docility the guns of the Republic, and therefore ought not merely to be spared, but to be well fed and curried. So was it with Barère. He was of a nature so low, that it might be doubted whether he could properly be an object of the hostility of reasonable beings. He had not been an enemy; he was not now a friend. But he had been an annoyance; and he would now be a help. But though the heads of the Mountain pardoned this man, and admitted him into partnership with themselves, it was not without exacting pledges such as made it impossible for him, false and fickle as he was, ever again to find admission into the ranks which he had deserted. That was truly a terrible sacrament by which they admitted the apostate into their communion. They demanded of him that he should himself take the most prominent part in murdering his old friends. To refuse was as much as his life was worth. But what is life worth when it is only one long agony of remorse and shame? These, however, are feelings of which it is idle to talk, when we at . considering the conduct of such a man He undertook the task, mounted
tribune, and told the Convention that the time was come for taking the stern attitude of justice, and for striking at all conspirators without distinction. He then moved that Buzot, Barbaroux, Pétion, and thirteen other deputies, should be placed out of the pale of the law, or, in other words, beheaded without a trial; and that Vergniaud, Guadet, Gensonné, and six others, should be impeached. The motion was carried without debate. We have already seen with what effrontery Barère has denied, in these Memoirs, that he took any part against the Girondists. This denial, we think, was the only thing wanting to make his infamy complete. The most impudent of all lies was a fit companion for the foulest of all murders. Barere, however, had not yet earned his pardon. The Jacobin party contained one gang which, even in that party, was pre-eminent in every mean and every savage vice, a gang so low-minded and so inhuman, that, compared with them, Robespierre might be called magnanimous and merciful. Of these wretches Hébert was perhaps the best representative. His favourite amusement was to torment and insult the miserable remains of that great family which, having ruled France during eight hundred years, had now become an object of pity to the humblest artisan or peasant. The influence of this man, and of men like him, induced the committee of public safety to determine that Marie Antoinette should be sent to the scaffold. Barère was again summoned to his duty. Only four days after he had proposed the decrees against the Girondist deputies, he again mounted the tribune, in order to move that the queen should be brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal. He was improving fast in the society of his new allies. When he asked for the heads of Vergniaud and Pétion, he had spoken like a man who had some slight sense of his own guilt and degradation; he had said little, and that little had not been violent. The office of expatiating on the guilt of his old friends he had left to St. Just. Very different was Barère's second appearance in the character of an accuser. He now cried out for blood in the eager tones of the true and burning thirst, and raved against the Austrian woman with the virulence natural to a coward who finds himself at liberty to outrage that which he has feared and envied. We have already exposed the shameless mendacity with which, in these Memoirs, he attempts to throw the blame of his own guilt on the guiltless. On the day on which the fallen queen was dragged, already more than half dead, to her doom, Barère regaled Robespierre and some other Jacobins at a tavern. Robespierre's acceptance of the invitation caused some surprise to those who knew how long and how bitterly it was his nature to hate. “Robespierre of the party!” muttered St. Just. “Barère is the only man whom Robespierre has forgiven.” We have an account of this singular repast from one of the guests. Robespierre condemned the senseless brutality with which Hébert had conducted the proceedings against the Austrian woman, and, in talking on that subject, became
so much excited that he broke his plate in the violence of his gesticulation. Barère exclaimed that the gullotine had cut a diplomatic knot which it might have been difficult to untie. In the intervals between the Beaune and the Champagne, between the ragout of thrushes and the partridge with trusies, he fervently preached his new political creed. “The vessel of the revolution,” he said, “can float into port only on waves of blood. We must begin with the members of the National Assembly and of the Legislative Assembly. That rubbish must be swept away.” As he talked at table he talked in the Convention. His peculiar style of oratory was now formed. It was not altogether without ingenuity and liveliness. But, in any other age or country, it would have been thought unfit for the deliberations of a grave assembly, and still more unfit for state papers. It might, perhaps, succeed at a meeting of a Protestant association in Exeter Hall, at a repeal dinner in Ireland, after men had well drunk, or in an American oration on the fourth of July. No legislative body would now endure it. But in France, during the reign of the Convention, the old laws of composition were held in as much contempt as the old government or the old creed. Correct and noble diction belonged, like the etiquette of Versailles and the solemnities of Notre Dame, to an age which had passed away. Just as a swarm of ephemeral constitutions, democratic, directorial, and consular, sprang from the decay of the ancient monarchy; just as a swarm of new superstitions, the worship of the Goddess of Reason, and the fooleries of the Theophilanthropists, sprang from the decay of the ancient church; even so, out of the decay of the ancient French eloquence, sprang new fashions of eloquence, for the understanding of which new grammars and dictionaries were necessary. The same innovating spirit which altered the common phrases of salutation, which turned hundreds of Johns and Peters into Scaevolas and Aristogitons, and which expelled Sunday and Monday, January and February, Lady-day and Christmas, from the calendar, in order to substitute Decadi and Primidi, Nivose and Pluviose, Feasts of Opinion and Feasts of the Supreme Being, changed all the forms of official correspondence. For the calm, guarded, and sternly courteous language which governments had long been accustomed to employ, were substituted puns, interjections, Ossianic rants, rhetoric worthy only of a schoolboy, scurrility worthy only of a fishwife. Of the phraseology which was now thought to be peculiarly well suited to a report or a manifesto, Barère had a greater command than any man of his time; and, during the short and sharp paroxysm of the revolutionary delirium, passed for a great orator. When the fit was over, he was considered as what he really was, a man of quick apprehension and fluent elocution, with no originality, with little information, and with a taste as bad as his heart. His reports were popularly called Carmagnoles. A few months ago, we should have had some difficulty in conveving to an English reader an exact notion of the state papers to which this appellation was given. Fortunately a * and distinguished 3