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THEIR FAITH IN THE PEOPLE.
mixed with the people, to speak with open doors, and communicate constantly with the crowd. Some of them who had lived the retired and sedentary life of the scholar or writer, pitched their study-camp in the open street, worked amid the crowd, and wrote on a stone post for a desk. Casting aside their books, they studied only that immense volume which, displayed before their eyes every day, was written in characters of fire.
They believed the people, and put faith in their instinct. To justify this faith to themselves, they brought to its service much good sense and a good heart. Nothing is more affecting, for instance, than to behold the charming sensible Camille Desmoulins in the open space before the Odéon and the Comédie Française, going among the masons and carpenters who were philosophising in the evening, discoursing with them on theology, just as Voltaire would have done, and, overjoyed with their wit, exclaiming "They are Athenians!"
This faith in the people caused the Cordeliers to be omnipotent among them. They possessed the three revolutionary powers, and, as it were, the three characters of the thunderbolt: thundering and startling eloquence, a fiery pen, and inextinguishable fury, Danton, Desmoulins, Marat.
This was their power; but it formed also their weakness,— the impossibility of organisation. The people seemed to them entire in each individual. They placed the absolute right of the sovereign in a town, a section, a simple club, a citizen. Any man would have been invested with a veto against France. In order the better to make the people free, they subjected them to the individual.
Marat, furious and blind as he was, seems to have perceived the danger of this anarchical spirit; and proposed very early the dictatorship of a military tribune, and later the creation of three State Inquisitors. He seemed to envy the organisation of the Jacobin society; and, in December, 1790, proposed to institute, doubtless on the plan of that society, a brotherhoo of spies and informers, to watch and denounce the agents of the government. This idea was not carried out; and Marat became alone his own inquisition. Informations and complaints, just or unjust, founded or unfounded, were forwarded to him from every side; and he believed them all, and printed them all.
Fabre d'Eglantine has used the words "Marat's sensitiveness" (sensibilitè), and these words have astonished those who confound sensitiveness with kindness, and know not that overexcited sensitiveness may become furious. Women will occasionally be cruel through sensitiveness. Marat, in his constitution was a woman, nay more womanish, being extremely nervous and plethoric. His physician, M. Bourdier, used to read his newspaper; and when he beheld it more sanguinary than usual, and inclining to red," he went to bleed Marat.* The violent, sudden transition from a life of study to revolutionary commotion, had attacked his brain, and made him like a drunken man. The counterfeiters and imitators of his paper, who, assuming his name and title, forged upon him their own opinions, contributed not a little to increase his fury. He would trust to nobody for prosecuting them; but would go himself in chase of their hawkers, watching for them at the corners of the streets, and sometimes catching them at night. The police, on its side, was in search of Marat, to arrest him; and he was obliged to fly wherever he could. His poor and wretched manner of living and his forced retirement, rendered him the more nervous and irritable; in the violent paroxysms of his indignation and his compassion for the people, he relieved his furious sensitiveness by atrocious accusations, wishes for massacres, and counsels for assassination. His distrust ever increasing, the number of the guilty and of the necessary victims likewise increasing in his mind, this Friend of the People would in time have exterminated the people.
When in presence of nature and grief, Marat became very weak; he was unable, says he, to see an insect suffer; but alone, with his pen and ink, he would have annihilated the world.
Notwithstanding the services he may have done the Revolution by his restless vigilance, his blood-thirsty language and the habitual levity of his accusations had a deplorable influence. His disinterestedness and courage invested his madness with authority; he was a fatal preceptor of the people, perverted their good sense, and often rendered them weak and furious like himself.
Moreover, this strange and exceptional creature cannot enable
This is what M. Bourdier himself related to M. Serres, our illustrious physiologist.
THE CORDELIERS A YOUNG CLUB IN 1790.
us to judge of the Cordeliers in general. No one of them, taken separately, can make us acquainted with the others. We must behold them seated together at their evening meeting, fermenting and raging together like the bottom of a volcano. I will endeavour to lead you thither; be not faint-hearted; but come with me.
I will introduce you to them on the very day when their genius of audacity and anarchy burst forth triumphant among them; the day when, opposing their veto to the laws of the National Assembly, they have just declared that "on their territory" the press is and shall be indefinitely free, and that they will defend Marat.
Let us take them at this hour. Time passes quickly, and they will soon change; but now they still retain something of their primitive nature. Let but one year only pass, and you would not know them for the same. Let us therefore look at them to-day. Moreover, let us not hope to fix definitely the likenesses of these shadows; they change and pass away; and, even as we are following them, a mad impetuous torrent of blood and filth will presently arise and sweep us away.
I wish to behold them to-day. They are still a young assembly in 1790, relatively, at least, to the ages that will heads before 1794.
pass over their Yes, even Marat is young at this moment. Notwithstanding his long and sad career of forty-five years, and although consumed by work, passion, and vigil, he is young with vengeance and hope. This doctor without a patient, takes France for his patient, and will bleed her; this slighted physician will annihilate his enemies; and the Friend of the People hopes to avenge the people and himself, both ill-treated and despised.* But their turn is beginning. Nothing will stop Marat; he will fly and conceal himself, and, carrying his pen and his press from cellar to cellar, will live a stranger to the light of day. In that gloomy existence, a woman, his printer's wife, who has left her husband to make herself the companion of this lawless
I shall deeply examine this character. Marat, Marat as a Cordelier, Marat in 1790.
Here I give only an outward
how this scientific terrorist, who expected to annihilate Newton, Franklin, and Voltaire, became the political terrorist. exterminating tyrant of 1793.
Later, I shall show him as the
ENTHUSIASM OF THE MOMENT.
being, beyond the pale of nature and daylight, is obstinately resolved to follow him. She comforts and takes care of him, however filthy, hideous, and poor he may be; and she prefers to everything else to be Marat's servant, even in the bowels of the earth.
O generous instinct of woman! It is also this same instinct that bestows, at this moment, his charming and beloved Lucile on Camille Desmoulins. He is poor, and in danger; that is the reason why she will have him. The parents would gladly have seen their daughter choose a name less compromised; but it was precisely the danger that tempted Lucile. She used every morning to read his fervent articles, so full of earnest passion and genius, those satirical, eloquent pages inspired by the fleeting events of the day, and yet stamped with immortality. She accepted every chance,-life or death with Camille obtained at length the consent of her parents, and herself, laughing and weeping, informed him of his happiness. The witnesses of their marriage were Mirabeau and Danton.
Many others acted like Lucile. The more uncertain the future appeared, or the more cloudy the horizon, the more did those who loved, hasten to unite their destiny, run the same risk, and place and stake their lives on the same card,-the self-same die! A moment of tumultuous emotion, mingled with delight, like the eve of a battle, or of an interesting, amusing, and terrible drama..
This feeling pervaded everybody in Europe. If many Frenchmen departed, yet many foreigners came to visit us; they sympathised heartily in all our agitations, and espoused. the cause of France; and even though they were to die here, they preferred doing so to living elsewhere; for, at least, if they died here, they were sure of having lived.,
Thus, the witty and cynical German, Anarcharsis Clootz, a wandering philosopher (like his namesake the Scythian), who spent his hundred and fifty thousand francs (60007.) a-year on the high roads of Europe, halted, and settled here, and was only to be removed hence by death. Thus, Gusman, the Spaniard, a grandee of Spain, turned Sans-Culotte; and, in order to remain always in that atmosphere of insurrection which caused his delight, he took lodgings in an attic, in the heart of the faubourg Saint-Antoine.
MARAT AT THE TRIBUNE OF THE CORDELIERS.
But why did I halt? Let us hasten to the Cordeliers. What a crowd! Shall we be able to enter? Citizens, make a little room for us; comrades, you see I have brought a stranger. The noise is deafening; and by way of compensation, one can scarcely see! Those smoking little lamps seem there only to render darkness visible. What a mist envelopes the crowd! The air is dense with the hum and shouting of men!
At the first glance everything appears strange and unusual. Nothing can be more fantastical than this motley crowd of well-dressed men, workmen, students (among whom, observe Chaumette) and even priests and monks; for, at this period, several of the ancient Franciscans visit the very place of their servitude, to relish liberty. Here we behold an abundance of writers. Look at that affected Fabre d'Eglantine,—the author of Philinte; and that dark-haired man, Robert the republican, a journalist who has just married Mademoiselle Keralio,—a fellow-journalist. This other, with a vulgar-looking countenance, is the future Père Duchesne (Hébert). Beside him, is the patriotic printer, Momoro, the husband of the pretty woman who will one day become the Goddess of Reason. Alas! poor Reason, she will perish with Lucile. Ah! if all here did but know their fate!
But who presides yonder? Surely, the King of Terrors himself! What a frightful visage has that Danton! Is this a cyclop or some goblin? That large face, so awfully seared by the small-pox, with its small dull eyes, looks like a brooding volcano. No, that is not a man, but the very element of confusion, swayed by madness, fury, and fatality! Awful genius, thou frightenest me! Art thou to save or ruin France?
Look, he has distorted his mouth, and all the windows have shaken at his voice!
"La parole est à Marat!"
What is that Marat? that livid creature in green clothes, with those yellow and prominent grey eyes... It must surely belong to the batrachian genus rather than to the human species.* What marsh has produced this hideous creature?
The only important likeness of Marat is that by Boze. Those done by