The Last Days of Absolute Monarchy - The French Revolution

The rage and cruelty of the Jacobins at length excited the disgust of the chiefs of the Cordeliers, Danton and Camille Desmoulins. The former, who was rather a voluptuary than a tyrant, and who was capable of kindly feelings, had grown weary of slaughter, and had retired into the country for a few months with a young wife, to enjoy the wealth and happiness that the revolution had brought him; but Camille Desmoulins, in his much read paper, 'The Old Cordelier,' applied the passages where the Roman historian, Tacitus, describes the tyranny and cruelty of Tiberius; so appropriately to his own times, that the application to the three chiefs of the committee of safety and their laws against the suspected was not to be mistaken. This enraged the Jacobins; and when, about this time, several friends and adherents of Danton (Fabre d'Eglantine, Chabot, etc.) were guilty of deceit and corruption in connection with the abolition of the East India Company, and others gave offense by their sacrilegious proceedings, the committee of safety made use of the opportunity to destroy the whole party of Danton. For since the Convention had altered the calendar and the names of the months, had made the year commence on the 22d of September, had abolished the observance of Sunday and the festivals, and introduced in their place the decades and sans-culotte feasts, many Dantonists, like Hebert, Chaumette, Momoro, Cloots, and others, had occasioned great scandal by their animosity to priests and Christianity. They desecrated and plundered the churches, ridiculed the mass, vestments and the church utensils, which they carried through the streets in blasphemous processions, raged with the spirit of Vandals against all the monuments of Christianity, and at length carried a resolution through the Convention that the worship of Reason should be introduced in place of the Catholic service of God. A solemn festival, in which Momoro's pretty wife personated the Goddess of Reason in the church of Nôtre Dame, marked the commencement of this new religion. Robespierre, who plumed himself upon his reputation for virtue, because he was not a participator in the excesses or avarice of Danton and his associates, took offense at these proceedings. He determined to destroy their originators, and in their fall to involve the destruction of Desmoulins and Danton, before whose powerful natures his own spirit, which was filled with envy and ambition, stood abashed. Scarcely, therefore, had Danton resumed his seat in the Convention, before St. Just began the violent struggle by a remarkable proposal, in which he divided the enemies of the republic into three classes: the corrupt, the ultrarevolutionary, and the moderates, and insisted upon their punishment. This proposal resulted in nineteen of the ultra-revolutionaries, and among them Cloots, Momoro, Ronsin, and several members of the Common Council , being led to the guillotine on the 19th of March, 1794. On the 31st of April, the corrupt were placed before the Revolutionary Tribunal, and Danton, Camille Desmoulins, Herault de Sechelles, etc., were maliciously distinguished as their partisans and involved in their fate. But Danton and Desmoulins, supported by a raging mob that were devoted to them, de manded with vehemence that their accusers should be confronted with them. For three days, Danton's voice of thunder and the tumult among the populace rendered his condemnation impossible. For the first time, the bloody men of the Revolutionary Tribunal became confused. The Convention, at length, by a law of its own, gave the Tribunal the power of condemning the accused who were endeavoring to subvert the existing order of things by an insurrection, without further hearing; upon which the blood-stained heroes of the 10th of August and the days of September, who during their trial had shown that a lofty spirit might dwell even in the bosom of criminals, were led to the guillotine and beheaded, with a crowd of inferior Hebertists. They died with courage and resolution.