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enemy as when torn by civil dissensions in the midst of enemies at home, they daringly threw down the gauntlet to Europe, and proved, by 1,200,000 men in arms, that their means and their boasts were equal.
There are two historians who, dazzled, as it appears to me, by the courage and character which these men displayed, in circumstances so critical, have veiled their crimes under a pedantic fatalism, have connected by a horrid necessity their massacres with their victories, and imagined that the new principles of liberty could not have been defended at that time from the hostile cabals of the aristocracy, but by the most infernal system of illegality, espionage, and blood. I respect the character, I respect the valour of the French
I nation more than either of these authors: I do not think that the descendants of those men who fought under Bayard and Du Guesclin—I do not think that the same race which furnished the brave soldiers of Henry IV., and filled the armies in the brilliant days of Louis the Great--I do not, I cannot think that the French, known in every period of their history for their bravery, their enthusiasm, their hatred of a foreign yoke, were obliged to derive their valour from their fears. The Romans were better judges of the sentiment which animates, and ought to animate, an army-when they left honour even to defeat. They felt that we humiliate those whom we threaten or whom we punish, and that the way to make men capable of great actions is to show a great generosity for their weaknesses.
As for liberty, it does not consist in planting trees, and signing decrees with the names symbolic of a republic. When Danton said, “We are few in number --we must show no mercy, for the sake of liberty, to those who are opposed to us,” he did not simply establish a momentary despotism among his fellow-citizens, he said that which will favour despotism through all ages-he did not merely inflict an injury upon his countrymen, he inflicted a severer injury upon his principles, upon the principles professed by him and his; for he sullied and rendered suspicious those great words which the Romans had left us, and which up to that time were fresh in all their antique purity-and thus it is hardly wonderful that the crimes of Jacobinism were said to be paid by royal gold.
No one would willingly pause long upon the events of this mysterious and awful epoch. I pass them gladly by—but there was one man who, when politics were a game at which the loser laid down his head, took a prominent part in that terrible amusement.
You who declaim against the vice and venality of Mirabeau will be delighted to know that this man was surnamed the pure, the incorruptible, the just. No follies had disfigured his youth ; severe, neat, careful in his carriage and his costume, there was none of that easy negligence, of that nervous susceptibility in his character or his person, which marks and makes a man forgetful of himself. In the preciseness of his dress, you saw what was uppermost in his opinion. In every thing about him you read the egotism which reigned in his heart, and that firm and unconquerable will, superior to all things, even to genius, which elevated him above Vergniaud and Danton, chiefs of a party like himself-more capable of great enterprises -but less active, less intriguing—their views were more vast than his, but their views were also more obscure, for they knew not frequently at what they. aimed.
He never doubted, never for one moment doubted as to the object of his endeavours. It was circumscribed, concentrated, clear: amid all the misery, all the terror, all the victories, and all the glories which stupified the world, that man saw nothing but the success, the power of one little individual—that individual was himself, was Robespierre. More evil has been said of this triumvir than perhaps he merited. The most powerful of the terrible Mountain, he has frequently been taken as its representative. The slayer of those by whom so many had been slaughtered; the sole possessor for a time of the terrible machine which then dictated the law; the vanquisher of the Gironde, which
had vanquished the monarchy; the vanquisher of C. Desmoulins, who had commenced the revolution, of Danton, whose name was so terrible in its annals; he has been considered as a person at once more marvellous and more monstrous than he really was.
Robespierre had this great advantage in the revolution, he arrived late in it. Too insignificant in the national assembly for the part he took there to be attached to his career, he entered the convention at the head of a new party, whose ungratified ambition panted for action, when the Girondists, having succeeded in their object, were disposed to enjoy in quiet the fruits of the victory they had obtained. But the Girondists could not have gone so far as they had gone without strongly exciting the passions of the people: and when the passions of the people are thoroughly excited, that faction the most violent soon becomes the most powerful. In order to understand the real character, the crimes, and the talents of Robespierre, it is necessary to say two or three words more of the views of that party with which he acted.
When St. Just talked of making justice and virtue “ the order of the day,” he was sincere according to his comprehension of those terms. His idea was to banish misery and wealth from society, which he considered the origin of all vice. The St. Simonians of the present day say the same thing. But that which the St. Simonians wish to arrive at by means of the pulpit and the press, St. Just and Marat were determined to arrive at by the guillotine. They did not blind themselves to the necessity of establishing a tyranny for this, but they justified their means by their end : and to sanction the one, made perpetual references to the other.
These two men were fanatics, who united the most horrible crimes with the most benevolent intentions. Robespierre was more of an egotist than a fanatic, and adopting the views of his faction less from general principles than private ambition, did not carry them to the same insatiate extent. We find him mild at times when his comrades are implacable, and it is only during the last two months of his reign, when he saw a system of blood indissolubly connected with himself, that he sent his fellow-citizens by groups of fifty per day down to execution. Even then, however, he was meditating a compromise ; and having sent his brother on an expedition into the provinces, would most probably have regulated himself by his advice. Once sensible of the reaction in favour of order, he would probably, if he had lived, have attempted to restore it, and accomplished the part with energy and economy which the Directory discharged with feebleness and waste.
The march towards a new“ régime” begun-The government of III.
-A system of energy succeeded by a system of repose-Up to a certain time fortunate--Could not continue so when its armies were defeated, its overthrow certain, and its successor sought for Bonaparte supplied the man whom Sièges was in search
ROBESPIERRE was destroyed, but the guillotine was still furnished with victims; and the conquest made in the name of peace supported itself by terror; and “ the golden youth," their long hair dressed à la victime, were seen running up and down the Boulevards, and hunting their enemies with the same cry of “Liberty!" that had presided over the noyades of Nantes, and the executions of Paris. But the march towards a new régime now began; after the committee fell the Mountain; the Jacobins were cast down; the Faubourgs disarmed ; and the bust of Marat removed from the Pantheon, as the bust of Mirabeau had been before it. The reaction which commenced by depriving the people of power ended by the appeal of the royalists to arms, and from the double defeat of the populace and the sections rose the constitution of III., the government of the Directory. The government of the Directory was the regency of the republic. To the system which had been adopted as the means of awaking all the energies of the nation, succeeded a system intended to lull those energies to repose. The city was wooed to pleasure in the balls of the luxurious Barras, and the army employed in suppressing the tumults which the Faubourgs had formerly been instigated to create.
This government had one merit-exposed to the attacks of two different factions, it spilled little blood. Pichegru and his party, with a humanity rare in those times, were transported to Cayenne, and the conspiracy which Babæuf had denounced as so formidable was suffered to disperse in quiet after the death of its leader. Up to a certain time the Directory was fortunate. At home the royalists and the democrats were alike subdued. Abroad, the peace of Campo Formio and the treaty of Radstadt proclaimed in Germany and Italy the power of the republic. But a government perpetually obliged to conquer must be constituted on a system of concentration and force, and the constitution of III. was purposely weak, purposely divided ; such a government could not always be victorious, and on its first failure its fall was certain. No sooner, then, were its armies on the retreat, than its overthrow was foreseen, and its successor sought for. Bonaparte supplied the man whom Sièyes was in search of his mind, endowed with all the elements of order and force, was the very type of that genius which the country, turbulent and dissatisfied under the irregular and enfeebled sway of the quintumvirate, desired.
Long torn by factions, accustomed to no particular form of freedom, the people sighed for stability, and did not feel repugnant to change. They knew not that agitation is the necessity of a free state, and that when their general exclaimed, “ Je ne veux point de factions,” he said in reality, “ Je ne veux point de liberté.”