Felix Farley's Bristol Journal
23 August 1794
Downfall of Robespierre.
Barrere reported that the army of Italy had beaten 10,000 of the Piedmontese mass, and the army of the Pyrennes obtained an advantage over a small corps of Emigrants, 100 of whom were put to the sword, and the rest shot; their camp, ammunition, tents for two new battalions, and 6000 livres in money, were seized.
He then announced an attempt made by 40 persons to set at liberty the prisoners in the Bicetre, three of whom were seized and the rest escaped.
Decreed, that every publick functionary dismissed or suspended, who may find it necessary to come to Paris, shall present himself before the Committees.
That forging, or distributing false Assignats shall be deemed conspiracy against the State.
In a speech of Barrere's on the Banquets of the Sections, he inveighed against them as injurious to morals, and to true patriotism: He observed, the moment chosen for them was precisely that in which a new crisis seems to be preparing. He exhorted the Convention to be no longer dazzled by these pretended fraternal banquets, which have always been the prelude of all Conspiracies: And which would prove dangerous and fatal if they afforded only an opportunity for collecting and combining the counter Revolutionists. "The Storm," he added, "gathers in the horizon;–The Tempest approaches nearer;–The symptoms have been felt by your two Committees, which have received News from within and without. We have learnt that in the Sections and in the popular Societies some movements are on the eve of taking place. Your Committees have taken the necessary measures. It is on Paris that the Enemies of Liberty wish to pour the effects of their despair, but the Republic shall be as triumphant at Paris, as in every other part.
July 25. Barrere in a report of the proceedings of the Committees declared, that while Liberty gave a fatal blow to the new Conspiracies of Traitors, it should be his office to hold up to the misguided citizens the comparison of their present situation, with that into which they had been successively plunged by the different factions, which one after another have endeavoured to destroy the labours of the Patriots.
July 26. This Sitting was more tumultuous than that of the preceding day.
Robespierre mounted the Tribunal.–He pronounced a long speech respecting the Revolutionary Government, and replied to the reproaches made against him of aspiring to the Dictatorship.–He said, that since the period of his having proclaimed the existence of a Supreme Being, the successors of Hebert and Danton had become more inveterate against him. He then endeavoured to shew the falsehood of the reports circulated in the Convention and in Paris, of his having proposed to cause 30 Members to be arrested. He next touched on the situation of the Republic. "The Committees of Public Safety and General Safety," said he, "contain the pillars of Liberty, but the greater number are crushed. The decree against the English is not carried into execution. The system of Dumourier continues to be pursued in Belgium. They are replanting in that country the Trees of Liberty.–They are driving to a distance the cannoneers of Paris. They are wishing to produce a change in the situation of the Republic. It is necessary that the Committees should act, but it is likewise necessary to superintend their operations. It is incumbent on the Convention to assume the dignity which belongs to its character."
Bourdon–I demand that this speech be referred to the Committees of General Surety and of Public Safety, in order that they may examine its contents, previous to its being printed; on the ground that, in all probability, some errors may have crept into the statements which have just now been made.
Barrere–"And I also duly estimate the privileges of a French Citizen. In a free country, every thing ou[gh]t to be known."
Couthon thought it would be degrading the Convention to apply to a Committee to determine whether a speech ought to be printed. He demanded not only the printing of Robespierre's Speech, but sending it to all the Communes; and inveighed against intrigues.
Vadier and Chambon accused Robespierre of attacking a report respecting Catherine Theos, and the present system of the finances. Robespierre defended himself. The dispute became warm, when Trevor demanded the rescinding a decree granting the Committees the power of apprehending the Members of the Convention. — Applauses.
Billaud Varennes opposed and Freron supported the motion. The Convention passed to the order of the day, and decreed that Robespierre's Speech should be printed.
July 27 and 28. St. Just attempting to support the sentiments of Robespierre was interrupted by shouts of disapprobation from all quarters.
Billaud Varennes — "You will shudder with horror when you are apprised that the armed force of Paris is intrusted to parricidal hands. Henriot was denounced by the Revolutionary Tribunal as an accomplice of Hebert. What was the consequence? One man alone had the audacity to support him. Need I name who that individual was?–Robespierre. Lavalette, one of the Chiefs of the armed force, the only Noble who has been retained in a military trust, sharpens the poignards intended to inflict a fatal blow on the Representatives of the people: Under whose auspices has he been protected?–Robespierre's. I might quote many more proofs of the same audacity on the part of Robespierre, and of his infamous designs against Liberty–among others, I need only mention that he has been the author of the imprisonment of the Members of the Revolutionary Committee of the Section of Indivisibility–men of the most unsullied integrity, and of the most distinguished patriotism. I accuse him of having withdrawn himself from the Committee for these four last decades, since the decree with respect to the Revolutionary Tribunal passed on the 22d Prairial, (June 10) which he alone devised–and which was badly received.–
Thus he intended to drive from the Convention every impure man; that is to say, every person who did not please himself, or whom he might suspect to be possessed of sufficient discernment to detect, and integrity to oppose, his ambitious views; and as a preparatory step to the establishing himself in that Dictatorship, which has so long been the object of his wishes, he would have left none in the Convention but his creatures and dependants, men as vile as himself, and ready to forward all his detestable views.–But his designs were discovered by the very means which he took to carry them into execution. From the facts which I have briefly stated, his intentions to corrupt the military, to enslave and to degrade the representation, appear plain and incontrovertible.–Are more facts still necessary in order to substantiate the charges against him? I accuse him of having skreened from justice, a Secretary who had robbed the public of 40,000 livres. Such is the foundation on which stands his pretensions to disinterestedness, which were only assumed to conceal the deep-laid projects of his ambition, and to deceive those whom he afterwards meant to enslave. I accuse him with being surrounded by a band of ruffians, among whom it is only necessary to mention the infamous name of Daubigny. With all his affectation of probity, such were the associates whom alone he could admit into his confidence, or trust for the completion of his designs. I proclaim–I proclaim the tyranny of Robespierre!"–Loud and repeated bursts of applause resounded from all parts of the Hall. Robespierre attempted to speak, but, after different efforts, found himself obliged to desist, in consequence of the most vociferous exclamation, from every quarter, of Down with the Tyrant! Down with the Tyrant!"
Tallien–"In the house of that guilty individual, who now stands humbled with the consciousness of detected guilt, and overwhelmed with that disapprobation which his infamous designs against Liberty have so justly merited, were formed those lists of proscription which have stained with so much blood the altars of rising Liberty; imitating the example of the detestable Sylla, his proscriptions were intended only to pave the way for his own power and the establishment of a perpetual Dictatorship: happily however, his designs have been discovered before he had time to execute them, or to add to that stream of blood which has already deluged France. His long success in villainy made him at last lay aside his wonted caution. He had advanced with such rapidity, in the career of lawless ambition, that he had already conceived himself arrived at the accomplishments of his wishes, and that, like Caesar, the name of King was only wanting to him, for the full establishment of his power. Was it to subject ourselves to so degrading, and so abject a tyranny, that we brought to the scaffold the last of the Capets, and lavished so much blood of French citizens? Was it in order to acknowledge so petty a despot, that we declared eternal war against Kings, and swore to establish Liberty at the price of life? No–the spirit of freedom has not sunk so low: the sense of that duty which virtuous men owe to their country is not yet extinguished.
I invoke the shade of the virtuous Brutus, (fixing his eyes upon the bust,) like him I have a poignard to rid my country of the tyrant, if the Convention do not deliver him to the sword of Justice. The French people, always just, are attached neither to Robespierre, nor any other individual–Liberty is alone the object of their affections, and whoever forms any designs against it, becomes that moment their enemy. That Liberty they will ever pursue amidst the intrigues of domestic traitors, and the opposition of foreign despots. The Republic is to be established not only by the victories of our armies, but by the vigilance of our councils, and the justice of our punishments. After the enumeration of facts which you have heard from the last speaker, is it necessary for me to remind you of the proceedings of that sitting of the Jacobins, where Dumas, President of the Revolutionary Tribunal, the creature and confederate of Robespierre, had the audacity to insult the Representatives of the People? Need I recall to you that expression addressed to the Journalists in one of the last Sittings of the Jacobins? "I prohibit you from inserting my discourses in your papers till you have previously communicated them to me." Here already we find the tone of the Dictator–the people shall know nothing except through my organ, and in the manner in which I shall be pleased to communicate it to them. Well indeed might he court the aid of silence and deception, whose designs were too infamous to be revealed, and whose conduct required to be glossed over with all the artifice of hypocrisy. But the French people were not to be so enslaved, after having shaken off the tyranny of force. The guilt of the traitors now stands revealed, and it now remains only to think of their punishment.–For this purpose, I demand that we declare the Sitting Permanent."
The proposition was immediately decreed.
Billaud Varennes–"I denounce, as accomplices of the conspiracy, which was ready to burst forth, and annihilate the National Convention, a person named Boulanger, who, in making out a list of proscribed names, said to Hebert, "write and we will strike;" Dufresne, who was engaged in the conspiracy with Dumourier; Dumas, who yesterday excited the Jacobins to the assassination of the people; and Lavalettes Ex-Noble, one of the Commanders of the Parisian armed force, who was protected by Robespierre. I demand that these individuals be immediately arrested."–Decreed.
Delmas demanded that the Adjutant-Generals and Aids-de-Camp of Henriot, should be arrested.––Decreed.
The Convention likewise decreed the arrest of Daubigny and Sijas.
Barrere made a report, and presented the plan of an Address to the People, which were loudly applauded.
The Convention adopted the address, ordered it to be published and sent to the Departments, and decreed, that in the Parisian armed force, every rank, superior to that of the Chief of a Legion, be suppressed. That armed force is to be restored to its democratic organization. It is to be commanded every month successively by one of the Chiefs of a Legion. The Mayor and National Agent of Paris are to be responsible for the security of the Commune.
Vader then presented a very interesting detail of those different circumstances of tyranny, which so strongly characterised the conduct of Roberspierre, and of that system of spies by which he had contrived to surround the Representatives of the people, and fetter their operations. At the conclusion of this detail, he was loaded with such marks of approbation as strongly marked the concurrence of all present, the suspicions entertained of the designs of Roberspierre, and the detestation in which his character was held.
Tallien, Billaud Varennes, Freron, Elie, Lacoste, Delmas, and several other members, then spoke, after which, the Convention unanimously, and by successive deliberation on each question, decreed the arrest of–Roberspierre, the elder, Roberspierre, junr. St. Just, Couthon, and Lebas, all deputies.
They also decreed, that the Juror Nicholas should be arrested.
The decree was immediately put into execution.–All the arrested Members, except Couthon, went out by the bar.
Collot d'Herbois then pronounced a speech of some length on the measures necessary to be pursued in the present moment, and was listened to with the greatest applause.
The Revolutionary Tribunal passed sentence of death upon the two Robespierres, St. Just, Couthon, Dumas, and Henriot. The people with inconceivable fury, rushed upon the younger Robespierre, and stabbed him with an hundred daggers.
It was with difficulty that the guillotine performed its function for the rest. At length the people were sufficiently appeased to suffer their being led to execution. On the way thither, Robespierre had his shoulder broken by a musket ball. In this agony he was dragged to the scaffold to suffer death under that guillotine by which he had murdered his Sovereign.
When his head was struck off, the infuriated rabble, whose idol and whose terror he was only the day before, rushed upon his body, mutilated it with a thousand gashes, and carried his bleeding members in triumph through the city.
Such has been the fate of this infamous Dictator!
It appears, that Barrere, who had formerly been on but indifferent terms with Robespierre, had attached himself to him for the double purpose of personal safety, and to get more effectually into his views; or perhaps like Billaud Varennes, and Collot d'Herbois, who, with himself are the only leading Members of the late French Government that have escaped the blow, he had perceived in time that the party of Bourdon de l'Oise, and Tallien, was gaining the ascendancy in the public opinion, and took his measures accordingly. Their accession to the new party was of considerable consequence, as without the cooperation of some Members of the Committee of Publick Safety, it would have been extremely difficult to have brought about so important a revolution, with any degree of order or regularity. We hope shortly to be able to lay further particulars before the publick.
During the Sittings of the Convention of the 25th, 26th, and 27th ult. the Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced to death 135 individuals. Among these the most remarkable are the famous Baron Trenck, aged 70 years; Chenier, the Marquis de Montalembert; the Marquis de Roquelaure; C. A. Crequi de Montmorency; Goesmann, Counsellor of the Parliament of Maupeou; Marechal d'Armenieres, born at Seneterre; the Princess de Chimay; the Duke of Clermont-tonnerre; the Marquis de Crussol d'Amboise; the Countess d'Ossun; St. Simon, Bishop of Adge; the Countess of Narbonne Pellett; Count de Thiars; the Princess Grimaldimonaco, native of Stainville; the Marquis d'Usson; the two Brothers Trudaine, Counsellors of Parliament; the Countess de Verigord, native of Viriville, &c. &c.