French Revolution: The reign of terror

FIVE weeks later, indignant French patriots rush to the grocers' shops; distribute sugar, weighing it out at a just rate of eleven-pence; other things also; the grocer silently wringing his hands. What does this mean? Pitt has a hand in it, the gold of Pitt, all men think; whether it is Marat he has bought, as the Girondins say; or the Girondins, as the Jacobins say.

Moreover, Dumouriez is checked; Custine also in the Rhine country is checked; England and Spain are also taking the field; La Vendee has flamed out again with its war cry of God and the King. Fatherland is in danger! From our own traitors? 'Set up a tribunal for traitors and a maximum for grain,' say patriot Volunteers. Arrest twenty-two Girondins!--though not yet. In every township of France sit revolutionary committees for arrestment of suspects; notable also is the Tribunal Revolutionnaire, and our Supreme Committee of Public Safety.

In the meantime the Girondins have broken with Danton, ranged him against them, and are now at open war with the Mountain. Murat is attacked, acquitted with triumph. On Friday, May 31, we find a new insurrectionary general of the National Guard enveloping the Convention, which in three days, being thus surrounded by friends, ejects under arrestment thirty-two Girondins. Surely the true reign of Fraternity is now not far?

The Girondins are struck down, but in the country follows a ferment of Girondist risings. And on July 9, a fair Charlotte Corday is starting for Paris from Caen, with letter of introduction from Barbaroux to Dupernet, whom she sees, concerning family papers. On July 13, she drives to the residence of Marat, who is sick--a citoyenne who would do France a service; is admitted, plunges a knife into Marat's heart. So ends People's-Friend Marat. She submits, stately, to inevitable doom.

AT Paris is to be a new feature of pikes, over yet a new constitution; statue of Nature, statue of Liberty, unveiled ! Republic one and indivisible--Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death! A new calendar also, with months new-named. But Toulon has thrown itself into the hands of the English, who will make a new Gibraltar of it! We beleaguer Toulon; having in our army there remarkable Artillery-Major Napoleon Buonaparte. Lyons also we beleaguer.

Committe of Public Safety promulgates levy en masse; heroically daring against foreign foes. Against domestic foes it issues the law of the suspects. The guillotine gets always quicker motion. Trial of the 'Widow Capet'; whence Marie Antoinette withdraws to die--not wanting to herself, the imperial woman! After her, the scaffold claims the twenty-two Girondins. Terror is become the order of the day.

THE suspect may well tremble; how much more the open rebels--the Girondin cities of the south! The guillotine goes always, yet not fast enough; you must try fusillading, and perhaps methods still frightfuller. Marseilles is taken, and under martial law. Toulon is once more the Republic's.

Beside which, behold destruction of the Catholic religion; indeed, for the time being, of religion itself; a new religion promulgated of the Goddess of Reason, with the first of the Feasts of Reason, ushered in with carmagnole dance.

Of massacring, altar-robbing Hebertism, is there beginning to be a sickening? Danton, Camille Desmoulins are weary of it; the Hebertists themselves are smitten; nineteen of them travel their last road in the tumbrils. "We should not strike save where it is useful to the Republic," says Danton; quarrels with Robespierre; Danton, Camille, others of the friends of mercy are arrested. At the trial, he shivers the witnesses to ruin thunderously; nevertheless, sentence is passed. On the scaffold he says, "Danton, no weakness! Thou wilt show my head to the people--it is worth showing." So passed this Danton; a very man; fiery-real, from the great fire-bosom of nature herself. Swift, ever swifter, goes the axe of Samson; Death pauses not. But on Prairial 20, the world is in holiday clothes in the Jardin National.

Incorruptible Robespierre, President of the Convention, has decreed the existence of the Supreme Being; will himself be priest and prophet; in sky-blue coat and black breeches! Nowise, however, checking the guillotine, going ever faster.

On July 26, when the Incorruptible addresses the Convention, there is dissonance. Such mutiny is like fire sputtering in the ship's powder-room. The Convention then must be purged, with aid of Henriot. But next day, amid cries of Tyranny! Dictatorship! the Convention decrees that Robespierre 'is accused'; with Couthon and St. Just; decreed 'out of law'; Paris, after brief tumult, sides with Convention. So on July 28, 1794, the tumbrils go with this motley batch of outlaws. This is the end of the Reign of Terror. The nation resolves itself into a committee of mercy.

AND still there is no bread, and no constitution; Paris rises once again, flowing towards the Tuileries; checked in one day with two blank cannon-shots, by Pichegru, conqueror of Holland. Abbe Sieyes provides yet another constitution; unpleasing to sundry who will not be dispersed. To suppress whom, a young artillery officer is named commandant; who with whiff of grape-shot does very promptly suppress them; and the thing we specifically call French Revolution is blown into space.

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