WE have seen Marat emerge from his cellar on the day after the Revolutionary crisis, i.e. on the 11th of August. The Revolution had suddenly taken a leap forward; the Legislative Assembly and the reinstated Girondin Ministry represented the Government of France, but Paris on the eve of the momentous day formed a momentous resolution. The Sections, the Patriotic Societies, all that was politically revolutionary in the capital, were determined to take a decisive step. But to take this step it was necessary that Revolutionary Paris should have its organ: the old Municipal Council of Paris, with all that belonged to it, was hopelessly, and even aggressively, reactionary. The Municipality therefore offered itself for attack. Accordingly, on the night of the 9th to the 10th of August, the old occupants of the Hotel de Ville were driven out or killed, and delegates of Revolutionary Paris were installed in the Municipal headquarters. The Jacobins and the Cordeliers were now masters. It is this new body, ostensibly municipal, but really national in its work, to which accrued the task of tiding France over a period of six weeks which elapsed between the overthrow of the monarchy on the 10th of August and the opening of the National Convention on the 20th of September. It was the new governing power - the old governing power, the Ministry and the Assembly being now looked upon as weak and unsatisfactory. The one man who redeemed this effete ministry from incapacity was the Revolutionary giant Danton. Danton was now officially Minister of justice; unofficially he was the executive itself, as Mr. Belloc has justly observed (Danton, a Study, p. 172). Marat, on appearing once again in the upper daylight of Paris, was almost immediately invited to assist the new governing body with his advice, and, as we are told, he had a special tribune assigned to him. The journal, however, did not appear for the next two days. In the meantime Marat had been granted the right to seize the old royal printing plant of the now defunct Châtelet. The first number of the Ami after the 10th, dated the 13th, treats of the proposed election of a National Convention - a measure which, as we have seen, Marat had been among the first to urge. He claimed for the new Assembly direct election, the exclusion of all those who had held any privileged post and of the members of the existing Legislature from the right of candidature. Marat's great political object was now the close watching of the action of the effete Assembly, which he regarded as the main source of danger. It was above all things hostile to the new Commune. Hence the constant denunciation on the part of the "People's Friend". "You, worthy compatriots of the Sections of Paris, true representatives of the people, beware of the snares that these perfidious deputies lay for you; beware of their honeyed expressions; it is to your enlightened and courageous citizenship that the capital owes in part the success of her inhabitants and the country will owe her triumph" (Ami, No.678). In No.679 we have the following advice: "Guard the King from view, put a price on the heads of the fugitive Capets, arm all the citizens, form a camp near Paris, press forward the sale of the goods of the `emigrants', and recompense the unfortunates who have taken part in the conquest of the Tuileries, invite the troops of the line to name their officers, guard the provisions, do not miss a word of this last advice, press the judgment of the traitors imprisoned in the Abbaye; - if the sword of justice does at last but strike conspirators and prevaricators, we shall no longer hear popular executions spoken of, cruel resource which the law of necessity can alone commend to a people reduced to despair, but which the voluntary sleep of the laws always justifies". Here we have an application of Marat's Rousseauite principles, which was destined to bear fruit a fortnight later, in the September massacres. But Marat was by no means alone in this view. Danton at the same moment was urging from the tribune the necessity of the prompt appointment of a court to try traitors, as the only alternative to the popular justice of the streets.
Marat was now assiduous in his attendance at the Commune, although never formally a member. For a whole month his public activity here and elsewhere prevented him from finding time for the issue of more than four numbers of the Ami du Peuple. In one of these (No.680), bearing date the 17th of August, he denounces vigorously the action of the Legislature, in postponing the trial of the Royalist conspirators of the 10th of August, whose numbers were daily increasing in the prisons. The Commune, doubtless acting on the advice of Marat, seconded his endeavours by sending three deputations to the Assembly, the last of which pointed out, that if the court were not formed in a few days, something serious would happen in Paris. The Assembly did not hurry the matter forward, and the something serious was, as history tells, what came to pass. That the September massacres were directly the result of the efforts of the Moderate party to screen men who were openly plotting the overthrow of the Revolution is plain enough. The Moderatist and Girondist Assembly hesitated at making a few examples of even the most notorious of these plotters. The crisis in the war, long foreseen by Marat and others, was now becoming more acute every day. On the east, the Germans were at the very frontier of France, which lay practically open before them. The peasant insurrection in the west in La Vendée, the aim of which was to restore Royalism and the Ancien Régime generally, had already begun. Between this Scylla and Charybdis lay Paris, the monarchy overthrown indeed, but the city crowded with monarchists, whose one aim in life now was to reestablish the King in all his old functions, even with the aid of foreign bayonets. These conspirators were openly rejoicing in the misfortunes of France, boasting what they would do when the foreign troops had entered Paris and when the King had received his crown again and had bestowed upon them the hoped-for reward for their treachery to the Revolution. Brunswick had issued his insolent manifesto to the French nation. Lafayette had fled across the frontier, and been declared hors de la loi. Both he and Delon were known to be in communication with the enemy, with the view to assisting their march on Paris. News had arrived of the fall of Longwy, that was, of the only obstacle to the march of the victorious allies on Paris. The Ministry was considering the possibility of leaving Paris, which they regarded as hopelessly lost. This would undoubtedly have been carried out, had it not been for the crushing opposition of Danton. The Commune and the Sections of Paris, between them, had established a Comité de Surveillance, with power to add to its numbers. Into this committee Marat was co-opted.
Meanwhile the Commune's activity and Danton's in the arrest of suspected persons had been untiring within the last few days. The prisons were now full; but the Committee, of which Marat was the most influential member, took the step of withdrawing from the prisons those of whose guilt, in its opinion, there was any reasonable doubt. Marat and the rest saw what was coming; the last straw to break the patience of Paris was the acquittal on Friday the 31st of August of Montmarin, the late Governor of Fontainebleau. Montmarin was notoriously and openly a courtier, who wished to see the allies in Paris, and his royal master reinstated, and who was proved, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to have been actively engaged in plotting to this end; yet, incredible as it may seem, on being brought to trial, this man was acquitted, and, as if to lend emphasis to the acquittal, the judge himself, descending from the bench, gave him his arm as he walked out of court. This was, of course, a put-up job of the executive authorities. An unsuccessful attempt was even made to deprive the Commune of its powers. The criminal Girondin Ministry had at last forced the crisis. Forty-eight hours later, the notorious September massacres began. Danton, himself, in disgust at the conduct of his ministerial colleagues, turned aside, and devoted himself to enrolling volunteers on the Champs de Mars to resist the tide of invasion, and, with his "daring, again daring, and ever daring", he was succeeding. Volunteers were indeed rolling up on all hands; but one sentiment was heard among these volunteers also on all hands. "We will go to the front", said they, "but we will not leave enemies behind us!" This sentiment is the key to the acquiescence of all Paris in the popular executions which ensued.
And now as to the part played by Marat in these events. That he did not with one exception, which we shall notice presently, instigate the massacres directly is perfectly clear. The Sections of Paris had begun to act of themselves. Marat and his Committee of Supervision at most took the control of the movement which had already begun spontaneously - But did Marat try to prevent the massacres? Did he express disapproval of them? To the first question it must be answered that to prevent or to dam the powerful movement which had now seized the whole of Revolutionary Paris was beyond the power of any man. Roland, Minister of the Interior, could not have done it; even Danton, the Minister of justice, could not have done it. These functionaries would simply have been disregarded, had they issued orders to the Sections to hold their hand. But it may be said that Marat was more powerful for the moment with the Parisian populace than any official organ of the State; this is in a sense true, but his power lay in his being the focus and embodiment of the dominant Revolutionary feeling carried to its logical conclusion. Marat, like any one else, had he opposed this feeling, this popular instinct of self-preservation, would have once and for ever lost his influence. To the second question we must answer with a decided negative. Under all the circumstances which we have given in a few words, Marat did not, and could not, without being false to his own principles, disapprove of the idea of Justice being meted out by the people themselves to acknowledged traitors, now that governmental justice had by its acts refused to deal with the matter. At the same time, we should emphasise that Marat is only directly responsible for the popular action at one of the prisons, namely, that at the Abbaye. Here is what he says on the subject (Ami, No.680); "What is the duty of the people? The last thing it has to do, and the safest and wisest, is to present itself in arms before the Abbaye, snatch out the traitors, especially the Swiss officers and their accomplices, and put them to the sword. What folly to wish to give them a trial! It is all done; you have taken them in arms against the country, you have massacred the soldiers, why would you spare their officers, incomparably more culpable? The folly is to have listened to the smooth-talkers, who counselled to make of them only prisoners of war. They are traitors whom it is necessary to sacrifice immediately, since they can never be considered in any other light."
The facts as regards the September massacres are familiar to every reader of history. The mysterious band of from two to three hundred Sansculottes, the long dishevelled hair, the red caps, the pikes! How this band passed from prison to prison during the days and nights of the 2nd to the 4th of September, accomplishing its terrible work of wild justice; the improvised tribunal, the gaunt figure of Maillard, the stormer of the Bastille, and his assessors, trying prisoners by candle-light in the vaults and cellars of the ancient buildings, now being used as houses of detention, - all this is familiar not merely in history, but in romance and drama as well. Verdun was known to be on the eve of falling, and as a matter of fact had fallen on the day previously, and while the so-called massacres were taking place, the tocsin was ringing out the call to the defence of the country, and the volunteers were willing to go, provided the lives of those they left behind them were ensured against the traitors of the capital. Such was the position of affairs, and all Paris knew it, on the day that the massacres began. That Marat's committee, the Committee of Supervision, which had been appointed by the Commune, and specially charged with the duty of dealing with conspiracies and conspirators, though it did not originate, did to some extent direct, and hence make itself responsible for, the spontaneously arisen movement, may be regarded as certain. But even at the present day, when so much has been unearthed on the subject of the Revolution, we know next to nothing of the details of the affair. Our only direct evidence is confined to two documents. The first is a circular or rescript, issued by the Committee of Supervision, or Committee of Public Safety, as it was also called (which must not, however, be confounded with the great Committee of Government of that name, instituted by the Convention six months later). This Committee, established, as we have seen, by the Commune of Paris, undoubtedly dominated the latter body at the time of which we are writing, acting, in fact, as a kind of executive committee of the Commune; it sat at the Hotel de Ville, and its members consisted of Marat, Panis (the secretary of Danton), Sergent, Duplais, Lenfant, Jourdeuil, Deforgues, Leclerc, Deuffort, and Cally. The rescript in question, which was on the official paper of the Ministry of justice, was sent in the official envelopes of the same department throughout the provinces, and runs as follows: - "Brothers and friends, a frightful plot has been set on foot by the Court to kill all the patriots of the French empire - a plot in which a large number of Members of the National Assembly are compromised. On the 19th of last month, the Commune of Paris having been reduced to the cruel necessity of seizing again the power of the people to save the nation, it has neglected nothing to merit well of the country, as to which an honourable testimony has been given to this effect by the Assembly itself. Who would have thought it since then new plots not less atrocious have been set on foot in silence; they came to light at the same moment that the National Assembly, forgetting that it had declared that the Commune of Paris had saved the country, was hastening to deprive it of its power as a reward for its burning patriotism. At this news the public clamour raised on all sides made the National Assembly feel the urgent necessity of uniting itself to the people, and of returning to the Commune, by the withdrawal of the decree of dissolution, the powers with which it had invested it. The Commune of Paris hastens to inform its brothers of all departments that a party of ferocious conspirators detained in its prisons has been put to death by the people. These acts of justice have seemed to the people indispensable, in order, by terror, to restrain the legions of traitors hidden within its walls, at the moment when it was about to march on the enemy. Without doubt the entire nation, after the long series of treasons which has brought it to the brink of the abyss, will hasten to adopt a measure so necessary for the public safety, and all Frenchmen will cry with the Parisians; `We will march on the enemy; but we will not leave behind us these brigands, to murder our children and wives.' Brothers and friends, we ourselves expect that a party among you will fly to our aid and assist us to repulse the innumerable satellites of the despot sworn to the destruction of the French nation. Let us join hands in saving the country, and to us will be the glory of having rescued it from the abyss."
This document was signed by all the members of the Committee, and bears date "Paris, the 3rd of September 1792." It clearly proves that the signatories to it had no wish to shirk responsibility for the events of the 2nd and 3rd.
The other document referred to is an exculpatory article in No. 12 of Marat's Journal de la République, occasioned by the virulent attacks of the Girondins in the Convention on the Commune, the Committee of Supervision, and above all on Marat himself, with reference to the massacres:-
"The disastrous events of the 2nd and 3rd of September, which perfidious and venal persons attribute to the Municipality, has been solely promoted by the denial of justice on the part of the Criminal tribunal which whitewashed the conspirator Montmarin, by the protection thus proclaimed to all others conspirators, and by the indignation of the people, fearing to find itself the slave of all the traitors who have for so long abused its misfortunes and its disasters. They call those brigands who massacred the traitors and scoundrels confined in the prisons. If that were so, Pétion would be criminal for having peaceably left brigands to perpetrate their crimes during two consecutive days in all the prisons of Paris. His culpable inaction would be the most serious crime, and he would merit the loss of his head for not having mobilised his whole armed force to oppose them. He will doubtless tell you, in order to exculpate himself, that the armed force would not have obeyed him, and that all Paris was involved, which is indeed a fact. Let us agree, then, that it is an imposture to make brigands responsible for an operation unhappily only too necessary. It is then because the conspirators have escaped the sword of justice that they have fallen under the axe of the people. Is it necessary to say more to refute the dishonest insinuation, which would make the Committee of Supervision of the Commune responsible for these popular executions? But its justification does not end there. We shall see what the principal members of this Committee have done to prevent any innocent person, any debtor, any one culpable of a trivial offence, being involved in the dangers which threatened great criminals. I was at the Committee of Supervision, when the announcement was made that the people had just seized from the hands of the Guard, and put to death, several refractory priests, accused of plotting, destined by the Committee for La Force, and that the people threatened to enter the prisons. At this news, Panis and myself exclaimed together, as if by inspiration, ' Save the small delinquents, the poor debtors, those accused of trivial assaults! ' The Committee immediately ordered the different jailers to separate these from the serious malefactors and the counter-revolutionary traitors, lest the people should be exposed to the risk of sacrificing some innocent persons. The separation was already made when the prisons were forced, but the precaution was unnecessary, owing to the care taken by the judges appointed by the people, who exercised the functions of tribunes during the expedition, to inquire into each case and to release all those whom the Committee of Supervision had separated. This is a discrimination the despot would certainly not have exercised had he triumphed on the 10th of August. Such are the facts which oppose themselves to the calumny that has distorted the narrative of the events of the 2nd and 3rd of September."
The foregoing article is given in extenso in this place, owing to the interest attached to this much-debated question, and as tending to show how spontaneous was the action of the Parisian populace on the days in question. The hypocrisy or bad faith of the Girondins, in using the September massacres as a weapon with which to attack Marat, is shown by a speech made on the evening of the 3rd of September by Roland, the Minister of the Interior, in the Assembly. "Yesterday was a day over the events of which it is necessary perhaps to draw a veil. I know that the people, terrible in its vengeance, Nevertheless carries with it a kind of justice. It does not take as its victim the first who presents himself to its fury, but it directs the latter upon those whom it believes to have been a long time spared by the sword of the law, and who the peril of the situation persuades it ought to be sacrificed without delay." This speech is reported in the Moniteur for the 5th of September. It must be acknowledged that the above utterance expresses little else than Marat's own position in cautious and chosen language. As a matter of fact, no one who has impartially studied the question can for a moment be in doubt that the summary executions of conspirators, outside of the prisons of Paris, on the 2nd and 3rd of September 1792, saved the Revolution and saved France from being crushed and enslaved by the European coalition; saved France from the wholesale butchery of all holding progressive views, which had been many times threatened by the reactionary press, and which was more than hinted at in Brunswick's manifesto. The number of persons killed in the massacre is usually estimated at 1089, though other statements make it 969; putting it at the highest figure, it can hardly in any case have reached 1200. It was an application of Marat's principle of striking 500 guilty heads to save 5000 innocent ones. But who were these, at most a thousand odd, "victims" of popular justice? On this point hinges nine-tenths of the horror which the September massacres have excited. They were the noble and the wealthy, and the hangers-on of the noble and the wealthy; most if not all of them had been, directly or indirectly, conspiring to reinstate the deposed King with the aid of an invading army; prepared avowedly not merely to destroy the newly-won liberty, but to take the lives of all who advocated popular freedom and who deprecated a return to the old oppression and corruption. Such as these it was for whom it has been the endeavour of prejudiced historians to excite the sympathy of subsequent generations.
From the Paris of 1792 to the Paris of 1871 is a far cry, but let us compare notes. In the Paris of 1871 there were also massacres, not of a thousand odd, but of a number variously estimated at from twenty to thirty thousand. Here in the enormous majority of cases there was not even the semblance of a trial. In the latter case there was no imminent danger, no army marching on Paris, no plotters inside the city in collusion with that army, but a movement that had been hopelessly crushed. This last-named massacre had not been preceded by newspaper articles, however truculent, or by threats merely, but by the systematic butchery of prisoners of war for a month previously, on the part of the perpetrators of it. Of Marat, as we have seen, it can at most be said that he approved up to a certain point, and endeavoured to control an act which we have no evidence that he directly organised. But who was the official organising personality of the massacre with which we are comparing it? Louis Adolphe Thiers, who made a boast, for weeks before, of the vengeance he was preparing for Paris, and who, when compromise was proposed to the effect that the Government should enter Paris, and not the army, replied, that though it should cost a river of blood, the army should enter first; and yet Louis Adolphe Thiers has never been regarded by "the world" otherwise than as an honourable statesman, whose acts might perhaps be open to criticism, but scarcely to severe censure, let alone to virulent denunciation, such as has been accorded to Jean-Paul Marat for his share in the affair of September 1792. We have seen to what class the victims of 1792 belonged. The thousand odd victims were almost wholly well-to-do hangers-on of the Court. But who were the twenty or thirty thousand victims of 1871? Almost wholly workmen, partisans of a cause avowedly hostile to wealth and privilege, and therefore hated by wealth and privilege. Herein lies the ground of the divergence in the world's judgment of the two events. If the "world" would only be candid in the matter, and avow openly that it likes well-to-do Royalist plotters and dislikes Proletarian insurgents, we should know where we were, and the issue would at least be clear. But the canting hypocrisy of him who pretends on moral grounds to denounce Marat and his colleagues, without denouncing Thiers and the scoundrels who carried out his policy, in terms a hundred-fold as severe, convicts himself of being a conscious humbug, upon whom argument would be wasted.
The enemy without and the enemy within now alike had been successfully combated, the leading spirit being, as we have seen, in the one case Danton, and in the other Marat. A few days after Danton's enrolments and the September massacres, the ragged, ill-equipped, raw levies of the Revolution were on their way to the front. The same levies a fortnight later drove the Prussian army back over the frontier in the great cannonade at Valmy on the 20th of September. The volunteers went boldly forward, once they were convinced that they were not leaving traitors behind to endanger the lives of their families. Meanwhile preparations were being made for the elections for the new National Convention.
On the 11th of September, the nomination of Marat was announced as one of the group of Parisian candidates for the forthcoming Legislative body. In vain the Girondins, headed by the Minister of the Interior, Roland himself, threw every obstacle in the way, by means of abuse and otherwise. In vain Roland, on the 13th, issued an address detailing all the offences of which Marat had been guilty - how he had abused the existing Parliament, excited to revolt, denounced ministers and all in authority as traitors, and other things of alike nature. In vain Roland's wife, in conjunction with other members of the Girondist party, organised paid agents to tear down Marat's election-addresses. Marat's candidature was confirmed, and his triumphant election duly followed, he being returned fifth on the Paris list. And now the Ami du Peuple, which since, as for some weeks before the 10th of August, though for different reasons, had only appeared sporadically, definitively ceased to exist, its place being taken by a new publication, entitled Journal de la République française, par Marat, l'Ami du Peuple, député à la Convention nationale, with a new motto, Ut redeat miseria, abeat fortuna superbis (That misery may be relieved, let the fortune of the wealthiest be reduced). The Girondins, having failed to prevent Marat's election, now resolved to leave no stone unturned to destroy his political influence abroad, by stifling him in the newly-elected body. The party-constitution of the National Convention was as follows. The Girondin party, which now occupied the extreme right, was returned in considerable force by certain of the departments, besides that of the Gironde, whence it took its name. Over against the Girondins, constituting the left, was what was afterwards called the Mountain, from the position it occupied on the upper benches in the great Salle de Manège, where the Convention at first held its sittings. It was mainly composed of the members for Paris, the Parisian Deputation, as it was termed, and it was identical in tone and policy with the popular clubs of Paris, especially the Jacobin Club, of which those composing it were all members. Between these two parties were the Moderates, the so-called party of the "Plain", or, as they were termed in derision, "Frogs of the marsh". They did not formally side with either Gironde or Mountain, but professed to keep open minds, and vote on every question as it arose, unshackled by the fetters of party spirit. Their open-mindedness showed itself in the main, as the result proved, by the safe plan of voting for the party which was for the moment in the ascendant. The bulk of them were at heart constitutional bourgeois; but, as stated, they were willing to become the tools of every dominant influence by turn. At first they supported the Girondins, who continued in power under the Convention. This was probably their most genuine attitude so far as the majority of them were concerned, but later on fear led the very same men to support the Mountain against the Girondins, and to sanction by their acquiescence, if not by their active support, every procedure of the dominant man or section of the Mountain in turn. Their chief speaker for the first six months was Barrère, who subsequently became reporter to the Committee of Public Safety. The Plain formed by far the most numerous party, if such it can be called, in the Convention, that of the Mountain being the smallest.
The Convention was constituted on the 20th of September, in the great Salle of the Tuileries, subsequently adjourning to the Riding School. Marat's colleagues in the Paris Deputation were Robespierre, Danton, Collot d'Herbois, Manuel, Billaud-Varenne, Camille Desmoulins, Lavicomterie, the butcher Legendre, Raffron du Trouillet; Panis, Sergent, Robert, Dussault, Fréron, Beauvais de Préau, the dramatist Fabre d'Eglantine, Osselin, Augustin Robespierre (the younger brother of Maximilien), the painter David, Boucher, Laignelot, Thomas, and Philippe de Bourbon (Duke of Orleans), who now called himself Philippe Egalité. The first sitting was held the following day. It was short, and the principal work done was the formal abolition of Royalty and declaration of the Républic. The sitting of Wednesday the 25th of September was the occasion chosen by the Girondins for their first attack on Marat. It arose on a discussion respecting a decree as to the formation of a body-guard for the defence of the National Convention. The deputy Merlin stated that there had been talk of certain men perverse enough to advocate a triumvirate or dictatorship, and challenged the Girondin Lasource, whom he stated had made the assertion, to name those to whom he referred. This was the first conflict between the two parties. Lasource took up the challenge, and in a long speech alleged having heard remarks to the effect that two-thirds of the Convention were unworthy of the confidence of the people, also of threats of Parisian Jacobins to poniard certain Girondin deputies, himself included. On this he based his opinion that it was very necessary to have a Guard, composed of men of the departments, to protect the majority of the Assembly against the ferocious populace of Paris. He ended by a plain denunciation of the Mountain. Barbaroux rose and denounced the party of Robespierre by name. Danton then made a speech, attacking Marat for his excesses, and stating his belief that his cellar-life had "ulcerated his soul"; he deprecated, however, denouncing the whole of the Paris Deputation on the ground of the injudicious conduct of one of its members. Other deputies having taken part, Robespierre made a long speech, listened to with great impatience, designed to exculpate himself of the charge of factiousness, and of desiring dictatorship for himself or others. The Marseillais Girondin, Barbaroux, reiterated the accusation against Robespierre, and urging the necessity of the departmental guard for the Convention, accused Panis of having proposed Robespierre for a dictatorship. Panis rose to explain, vehemently denying the accusation of Barbaroux, and justifying his own action and that of the Committee of Supervision.
Finally, Marat demanded to be heard. Thereupon a violent tumult arose with threatening cries. At this moment Marat seemed to be completely isolated, for his colleagues of the Paris Deputation were by no means indisposed take the hint thrown out by Danton, and send him into the wilderness as the scapegoat, on the ground of his vehemence and injudicious utterances prejudicing the whole party of the Left, alike in the Convention and in the country. Amid gesticulating Moderates of all shades, Marat mounted the tribune, and in the face of deafening cries, boldly read out an article in the final number of the Ami du Peuple, in which the "People's Friend" declares that all his efforts to save the people would seem to be useless without a fresh insurrection. "When I look at the stamp of the majority of the deputies to the National Convention", says he, "I despair of the public safety. If in the first eight sittings the complete basis of the Constitution is not laid, expect nothing more from your representatives. You are crushed for ever. Fifty years of anarchy await you, and you will not be relieved from it except by a dictator, a true patriot and statesman. Oh people of talkers", he concludes, "if you only knew how to act!" The few words of this article which Marat could cause to be heard in the general commotion were sufficient to raise a tempest. The whole Convention was thrown into confusion, the Girondins shouting "To the guillotine!" till their throats were hoarse. Amid the general hubbub, a proposition for a decree of accusation against the speaker was understood to have been made. Marat, however, strong in the sense of his honesty, clung to the tribune. Finally Lacroix, on the ground that it was essential that the Convention should have all the light possible on the question before it, obtained a grudging silence for Marat. "Gentleman" began Marat, "I have in this Assembly a great number of personal enemies." At these words there was renewed tumult, three quarters of the deputies composing the Convention again rising from their seats, yelling, amid violent gesticulations, "All of us! All of us!" Marat calmly waited till there was a lull, when he repeated, "I have in this Assembly a great number of personal enemies. I recall them to modesty. It is not by clamours, menaces, and outrages that you prove an accused man to be guilty; it is not in shouting down a defender of the people that you show him to be a criminal. I return thanks to the hidden hand that has thrown in the midst of you an idle phantom to frighten timid men, dividing good citizens and making odious the Parisian Deputation. I return thanks to my persecutors for having furnished me with an opportunity of opening my mind fully. They accuse certain members of the Paris Deputation of aspiring to the dictatorship, to the triumvirate, to the tribunate. This absurd accusation is only able to find partisans because I form part of this deputation. Well! gentlemen, I owe it to justice to declare that my colleagues, notably Danton and Robespierre, have constantly repudiated all idea of dictatorship, of triumvirate, or of tribunate, when I put it before them; I have myself token many lances with them on this subject." Marat goes on to remark that he was the first, and probably the only man since the opening of the Revolution, who had openly declared for a triumvirate or dictatorship, as the only means of crushing conspirators. If the opinion is reprehensible, he alone is culpable, and upon him alone should vengeance fall. But at least let him be heard before he is condemned. These objectionable opinions had been printed and freely circulated for three years, and it is now for the first time they are discovered to be so criminal. He has never made any secret of these opinions, but always proclaimed them alike from cellar and from house-top. He goes on to justify them in reviewing the political conditions since the fall of the Bastille. Coming to the accusation of personal ambition, he points out the wealth he might have had from the Court and others, had he been prepared to sell his silence, let alone his pen. In what condition is he now? His appearance is enough to show that during the last three years he had sacrificed health, rest, means, in short, all that makes life worth living. As Mr. Morse Stephens justly observes (French Revolution, vol. ii. p.163), "Jean-Paul Marat who came to sit on the benches of the Convention was a very different man from the Dr. Marat, possessed of a good fortune and a high reputation in scientific circles, the Court physician and the friend of great ladies, who had hailed with joy the convocation of the States-General; and in his slovenly dress and diseased frame could hardly be perceived the former sprucely-attired ladies' doctor. Only three years had passed since the establishment of the Ami du Peuple, yet a mighty change had been wrought in Marat's appearance." "In order to better serve the country, I have braved misery, danger, suffering", exclaims Marat; "I have been pursued every day by legions of assassins; during three years I have been condemned to a subterranean life; I have pleaded the cause of liberty with my head on the block!" Marat concludes with an exhortation to the Convention not to consume precious time in these scandalous discussions, but to begin at once laying the foundation of the Constitution, of just and free government, which will assure the welfare of the people, "for whom", says he, I am prepared at any instant to give my life."
His courage and sincerity, his generosity in boldly taking upon himself the responsibility for an opinion to the utterance of which crowds of deputies were clamouring for the death-penalty to be attached, were not without their effect on the impressionable audience. Murmurs of approbation began to be heard, but were speedily cut short by Vergniaud returning to the charge on ascending the tribune, declaring that he occupied it unwillingly after a man who had several unpurged criminal writs out against him. This remark, which obviously referred to the old mandates of the Châtelet in the Lafayette days, was not discreet on the part of Vergniaud, for sympathy was immediately evoked for the victim of the old tyrannous regime. Finding his sally did not have happy results, Vergniaud tried something else and read over the address already given (pp.207-9) to the departments, issued by the Committee of Supervision on the September massacres. At this there were some cries of "To the Abbaye!" from different sides. Marat once more rises with the greatest coolness, begging the Assembly not to give itself over to an excess of madness. A deputy demands that he should be interpolated purely and simply to avow or disavow the document in question. Continuing, Marat denies the necessity of an interpolation; the old decrees which had been launched against him, at the instance of the Constituent and Legislative Assemblies respectively, had been quashed, said he, by the people themselves in electing him to the Convention; for the rest, he finds his glory and not his shame in them; they were issued against him by the friends of traitors because he had denounced traitors and the enemies of the people. He goes on to demand that the leading articles in the first number of his Journal de la République should be read. This is done by one of the official secretaries present. Marat flatters himself that, having heard this formal expression of his views, the Convention will no longer be in doubt as to the purity of his intentions. As for a retraction of the letter to the departments, and of his principles, no power on earth would be capable of forcing him to this; he can answer for the purity of his heart, but he cannot change his ideas. "Your fury is unworthy of free men, but I fear nothing under the sun"; and at this moment drawing a pistol from his pocket and placing the muzzle to his forehead, Marat declares, "If a decree of accusation had been launched against me, I would have blown my brains out at the foot of this tribune." This was the result of three years of cellar-life, persecution, and misery. A decree was demanded, forsooth, against those who proposed a dictatorship, triumvirate, or a tribunate - a measure which in the last resort depends upon the people itself, and which, if deemed necessary by the people, will be carried out in spite of the decrees of that or any other Assembly. In voting a law against the sovereign rights of the people, the Convention would only compromise its authority fruitlessly. He concludes by demanding that the Convention should pass to the order of the day pure and simple. The speech, which had been greeted throughout its course with the expression of varied emotions from the Convention itself, but at times with vehement applause from the public galleries, was received with a perfect ovation at its close. Tallien, the Mountain deputy, supporting Marat's motion for the order of the day pure and simple, it was carried amid prolonged applause. Thus terminated in Marat's favour the first pitched battle between him and the Girondists. The manly and courageous attitude of the part played by Marat contrasts favourably with the meanness of the conduct pursued by Danton and Robespierre, in deserting the man who for three years past had championed them through thick and thin, alike against their monarchist enemies and their Girondist opponents. However, in his account of the affair in his journal, we find not a trace of bitterness on the part of the "People's Friend". The action of Danton and Robespierre is described in a few absolutely impartial lines, without a word or suggestion of reproach, and this from the man who is described by his enemies as a coagulated mass of envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness.
Here, perhaps, is the most suitable place to give the description of Marat by one of his colleagues in the Paris Deputation of the National Convention, Danton's friend, the dramatist, Fabre d'Eglantine. We can well imagine it to represent him as he lived and spoke at the memorable séance on the 25th of September we have just been describing. Marat, writes Fabre d'Eglantine, "was of short stature, scarcely five feet high. He was nevertheless of a firm, thick-set figure, without being stout. The shoulders and bust were broad, the lower part of the body thin, thighs short and wide, the legs bowed, strong arms, which he employed with much vigour and grace. Upon a rather short neck he carried a head of a very pronounced character; he had a large and bony face, aquiline nose, flat and slightly depressed, the under part of the nose prominent; the mouth medium-sized and curled at one corner by a frequent contraction; the lips were thin, the forehead large, the eyes of a yellowish grey colour, spirituel, animated, piercing, clear, naturally soft and even gracious, and with a confident look; the eyebrows thin, the complexion thick and skin withered, chin unshaven, the hair brown and neglected. He was accustomed to walk with head erect, straight and thrown back, with a measured tread which kept time with the movement of his hips. His ordinary carriage was with his two arms firmly crossed upon his chest. In speaking in society he always appeared much agitated, and almost invariably ended the expression of a sentiment by a movement of his foot, which he thrust rapidly forward, stamping with it at the same time on the ground, and then rising on tiptoe, as though to lift his short stature to the height of his opinion. The tone of his voice was thin, sonorous, slightly hoarse, and of a ringing quality. A defect of the tongue rendered it difficult for him to pronounce clearly the letters c and l, to which he was accustomed to give the sound of g [in French]. There was no other perceptible peculiarity, excepting a rather heavy mode of utterance; but the beauty of his thought, the fulness of his eloquence, the simplicity of his elocution, and the point of his speeches absolutely effaced this maxillary heaviness. At the tribune, he rose without obstacle or excitement, he stood with assurance and dignity, his right hand upon his hip, his left arm extended upon the desk in front of him, his head thrown back, turned towards his audience at three-quarters, and a little inclined towards his right shoulder. If, on the contrary, he had to vanquish at the tribune the shrieking of chicanery and bad faith, or the despotism of the president, he awaited the re-establishment of order with quietness, and resuming his speech with firmness, he adopted a bold attitude, his arms crossed diagonally upon his breast, his figure bent towards the left. His physiognomy and his look at such times acquired an almost sardonic character, which was not belied by the cynicism of his speech. He dressed in a careless manner; indeed, his negligence in this particular announced a complete neglect of the conventionalities of custom and of taste, and, one might almost say, gave him an air of uncleanliness."
On leaving the Salle de Manège at the close of the sitting on the 25th, Marat was acclaimed by a large crowd, who followed him to his house. If Marat was generous to Danton and his friends of the Mountain, in spite of their shabby treatment of him on this occasion, he took care not to let his Girondin opponents off without exposing the real object of their machinations. "Let friends of the country know", he writes (Journal de la République, No. 5), "that, on the 25th of this month, the Guadet-Brissot faction had plotted to cause me to perish by the sword of tyranny or the poniard of brigands. If I fall beneath the stroke of assassins, these friends will hold the clue for tracing the deed to its source." Once again, one of those marvellous intuitions of Marat which look so much like prophecy!
Foiled as were the "Brissot-faction" on this occasion, their hatred and their fear of Marat caused them to continue their intrigues unabated. Foremost among them in the bitterness of his attacks was Barbaroux, Marat's old pupil in the days of his physical researches. This young dandy, so much admired by Carlyle, with certain of his colleagues, among whom was Rebecqui, the same who subsequently killed himself on hearing of the destruction of his party, drew up and signed a large placard denouncing Marat. To this Marat replied (Journal No.15): "In spite of their insults, I know none of these gentlemen personally, not even Rebecqui, whose gall is so bitter. I have had certain private relations with Barbaroux, at a time when he was not tormented with the rage for playing a rôle. He was a good young man who used to like studying with me." The Girondins were the more incensed by Marat at his time throwing suspicion on the officers of the army, especially upon their favourite General, Dumouriez. In doing this just now Marat risked his popularity even among the "patriots", the victories of Valmy and Mainz had made the Generals concerned, and especially Dumouriez, for the nonce popular heroes. Marat's keen insight and ready suspicion already discovered the traitor even in the subsequent conqueror of Jemmapes. Marat saw the latter with most of his staff in close alliance with his arch-enemies, the Girondins, who were still at the helm of affairs. In the course of October Dumouriez returned to Paris, to be fêted by all parties, not excepting the Jacobins and the Mountain, as the saviour of the nation. Custine had hurled the invasion back over the Rhine, following on Dumouriez's action in the Argonne in September. All hopes were therefore still concentrated in Dumouriez for clearing the situation in Brabant. The popular General arrived in Paris on the 12th of October. The social functions instituted in his honour culminated in a grand fête given by the actor Talma and his wife at their house in the Rue Chanteraine on the 16th of October.
Now it so happened that a little before this time an official report had reached the Convention from Dumouriez, respecting two battalions of Parisian volunteers, who, he alleged, had murdered four Prussian deserters, who had come to serve in their ranks, at a place called Ratel. The Girondins, always ready to make the most of anything to discredit Paris, affected great indignation, and induced the majority of the Convention to pass a resolution supporting the order made by Dumouriez for the inculpated battalions to be interned in a fortress pending an investigation into the affair. Meanwhile no details of the incident were to hand. Now Marat, partly from information which had leaked out and partly from his natural scent for treachery, was convinced that the four alleged deserters were in reality spies in Prussian interest, and that the battalions were fully justified in summarily dealing with them. So the "People's Friend", who cared for neither personalities nor social functions, thought it would be an excellent opportunity to beard Dumouriez and challenge him to an explanation of the affair in the brilliant salon of the famous pillar of Parisian high-life. It should be said that Marat had already been to the Ministry of War and taken all the other steps necessary to obtain a complete version of the facts without success. Accordingly, accompanied by two Jacobin friends, Marat presented himself on the evening in question at Talma's house. Santerre, the Commandant of the armed force of Paris, who was acting as gentleman-usher on the occasion, announced his arrival in a loud voice. On entering he could see that most of the lights of Girondism were present. Pressing through the crowd of modish toilettes, he stepped up to the guest of the evening. "We are members of the National Convention", said he, "and we come, sir, to beg you to give us some explanation relative to the affair of the two battalions, the Mauconseil and the Republican, accused by you of having murdered four Prussian deserters in cold blood. We have searched the offices of the Military Committee and those of the War Department; we cannot there find the least proof of the crime, and nobody can furnish information on the subject but yourself." "I sent all the documents to the Minister", replied Dumouriez. "We assure you, sir, that we have in our hands a memoir made in his offices and in his name, stating that he lacked absolutely facts to pronounce on this pretended crime, and that we must apply to you to get them." "But, gentlemen, I have informed the Convention, and I refer you to it." "Allow us, sir, to observe to you that the information given is not enough, since the Committee of the Convention, to which this affair has been referred, have declared in their report that they were unable to decide, for want of information and proofs of the alleged crime. We beg you to say whether you know all the circumstances of the affair." "But, gentlemen, when I assert a thing I think I ought to be believed." "We have, sir, great reason to doubt; several members of the Military Committee have informed us that these four pretended Prussian deserters are four French emigrants." "Well, gentlemen, if that were the case?" "That, sir, would absolutely change the state of the matter, and without approving beforehand the conduct of the battalions, we maintain that possibly they are innocent." "What, sir, would you then approve of the insubordination of soldiers? " "No, sir, but I detest the tyranny of officers; and the manner in which you have treated them is revolting." Here Dumouriez, feeling too hotly pressed, to get out of the embarrassment left them, observing as he went, "M. Marat, you are too warm, I cannot enter into explanations with you." (Journal, No.27).
A striking scene this for a genre painter! The brilliantly lighted ballroom, the fashionably attired company, the shabby, uncouth figure of the "People's Friend", pressing up with his two Jacobin companions to the great man in uniform, seizing him by the coat sleeve as he attempts to turn on his heel with an arrogant retort at the intruder! The visit had its effect, for, it is stated, a gloom fell upon the assembly after Marat's departure, all fearing the penetration and the power of the "Keeper of the People's conscience", as Marat had by this time come to be called. Dumouriez, especially, doubtless felt uncomfortable in the capital, for he left the following day for the front. But, nevertheless, within the next few weeks a still higher pinnacle of popularity was in store for him, for on the 5th of the following month Jemmapes was fought, and the Austrians driven back. The popularity was, however, short-lived, for it was soon followed by a general conviction of his treachery. The defeat of Neerwinden preluded the desertion of Dumouriez and his disappearance from history, which took place less than five months after the crowning victory which had opened up the Netherlands to the Revolutionary armies of France.
Two days after the incident at Talma's another violent scene occurred in the Convention, caused by Marat's return to the charge respecting the two battalions, accusing the Minister of War of suppressing documents, and reiterating his charges against Dumouriez and Chabot, on whose denunciation Dumouriez had acted. Marat alleged the existence of a plot among the Generals to get rid of the patriot battalions as an obstacle to their schemes. In the course of his remarks a scene arose between Marat and a Moderate deputy named Rouyer, who had uttered threats against him. But these scenes in the Convention, in which the man who owed most obligations to Marat, his old pupil Barbaroux, almost invariably took a leading part in the attack on his old master and friend, were now well-nigh of daily occurrence, and to refer to them in detail would be monotonous and purposeless. Marat's frankness and open-heartedness often gave his enemies a handle by which to attack him. After a conclusive speech, the logic and force of which had made some impression on the Assembly, he would by an incautious observation set the wavering section of the Convention against him. He laboured under the misfortune of being no diplomat. What he thought and felt at the moment he uttered as freely at the tribune of the Convention as he wrote it in his journal. Fabre d'Eglantine observes (Portrait de Marat) that "these scenes many times repeated had taught the enemies of the country, his adversaries, how to lay their traps for him. More than once they have abused his overflowing and impetuous frankness, to forge their arms against him, and by careful preparation of the circumstances to make his truthfulness a crime." Thus it was that the Girondins and their allies would often allow Marat to occupy the tribune when they would prevent other members of the Mountain from doing so. But it was not in the Convention alone, nor was it by tricks of debate or calumny merely, that the war was waged. Already, before Charlotte Corday was heard of, attempts were made by his implacable enemies on the life of the "People's Friend." More than once it was only thanks to the presence of Jacobin defenders that he was not murderously assaulted. A placard advocating his assassination was posted on the walls of the Palais Royal, but this the Commune ordered to be torn down, and those arrested who should attempt to replace it.
The personality of Marat was now, in fact, the burning question in Paris. There were even loyal Revolutionists, like Anacharsis Clootz, who, in his pamphlet Ni Roland ni Marat, took up the position that all discussion as to the merits of leaders ought to be sunk before the great ideals of liberty and solidarity with it was the task of Revolutionary France to realise for the human race. Not that Clootz was in the least hostile to Marat. He merely failed to see that it was not Marat himself who thrust his personality into the foreground of political life, but his enemies, who by their attacks and ceaseless calumnies obliged him to be continually defending himself. The "People's Friend" had indeed at one time suspected this honest and single-minded enthusiast, owing to his being a Prussian nobleman, but he afterwards acknowledged his mistake, and shook hands with the generous hearted "orator of the human race", calling him a bon enfant. Meanwhile, during these last weeks of the year 1792, the fury of the Girondins and their supporters, men of order as they professed themselves to be, developed into the worst kind of rowdyism. Bands of the provincial soldiery, dragoons and Marseillais, in Girondist pay, paraded the streets of Paris, in a more or less drunken condition, singing an anti-Jacobin song, with the refrain
La tête de Marat, Robespierre et Danton,
Et de tous ceux qui les defendront.
O hué !
They would stop under Marat's windows, threatening to set fire to the house where he was living. So great was the danger at one time, that Marat was compelled to suspend the publication of his journal for some days. In the Chamber the Girondins, having apparently abandoned for the nonce the tactics spoken by Fabre d'Eglantine, of exciting Marat to injudicious utterances in the heat of debate, and then using them to excite the feeling of the Convention against him, seemed to have resumed the policy of refusing him a hearing, since on the 26th of November Marat writes, "I am obliged to refrain from mounting the tribune to explain my views, because, however good they might be, it would suffice that they came from me to ensure their rejection." He further observes that he must, under the circumstances, confine himself to appearing on important occasions, in order to unmask and render abortive the nefarious plots of the "criminal faction", namely, the Girondins, and to "defend the rights the people."
The following extract from the minutes of the sitting of the Jacobins' Club, on Sunday the 23rd of December, will show how completely isolated Marat was at this time, even within the Mountain itself. Robert. - "It is very astonishing that the names of Marat and Robespierre are always coupled together. Marat is a patriot; he has excellent qualities, I admit, but how different is he from Robespierre! The latter is discreet, moderate in his means, whereas Marat is exaggerated, and has not that discretion which characterises Robespierre. It is not sufficient to be a patriot; in order to serve the people usefully it is necessary to be reserved in the means of execution, and most assuredly Robespierre surpasses Marat in the means of execution", Bourdon. "We ought long since to have acquainted the affiliated societies with our opinions of Marat. How could they ever connect Robespierre and Marat together? Robespierre is a truly virtuous man, with whom we have no fault to find from the commencement of the Revolution. Robespierre is moderate in his means, whereas Marat is a violent writer, who does great harm to the Jacobins (murmurs); and besides, it is right to observe that Marat does us great injury with the National Convention. The deputies imagine that we are partisans of Marat, we are called Maratists; if we show that we duly appreciate Marat, then you will see the deputies draw nearer to the Mountain where we sit, you will see the affiliated societies which have gone astray rally around the cradle of liberty. If Marat is a patriot he will accede to the motion I am going to make; Marat ought to sacrifice himself to the cause of liberty. I move that his name be erased from the list of members of this society." This motion excited some applause, violent murmurs in part of the hall, and vehement agitation in the tribunes. Dufourny. - "I oppose the motion for expelling Marat from the society (vehement applause). I will not deny the difference that exists between Marat and Robespierre. These two writers, who may resemble one another in patriotism, have very striking differences. They have both served the cause of the people, but in different ways. Robespierre has defended the true with method, with firmness, and with all becoming discretion; Marat, on the contrary, has frequently passed the bounds of sound treason and prudence. Still, though admitting the difference that exists between Marat and Robespierre, I am not in favour of the erasure. It is possible to be just without being ungrateful to Marat - he has been useful to us, he has served the Revolution with courage (vehement applause from the society and the galleries). There would be ingratitude in striking him out of the list, ('Yes, yes,' from all quarters). I conclude with proposing that the motion of Bourdon be rejected, and that merely a letter be written to the affiliated societies to acquaint them with the difference that we make between Marat and Robespierre" (applause). This motion was in the end adopted.
As an instance of this debatable Jacobin's influence with the people, I may cite, on the other hand, another incident of a different kind. "It is some days now since I was addressed by some Marseillais (who did not evidently follow their compatriots in the devious paths of Girondism) with the words; `Marat, your party increases every day - we belong to it.' I replied; `Comrades, I have no party, I do not wish any; only be happy and free, that is all I desire.'" (Journal de la République, No. 89).
Marat's good-humoured generosity towards the man who was foremost among his persecutors, Barbaroux, is worthy of notice. "Young man", he writes (Journal, No. 33), "you are too young for your heart to be thoroughly bad. I prefer to believe that you are misled by some evil passion. A day will come when you will blush at the baseness of the part you are playing with regard to me. Who would believe that it is only three months ago since, despairing at the way things were going and believing liberty to be lost, I had an interview with Barbaroux, who then called himself my disciple, and boasted of having shown himself a little Marat at Marseilles? I possess a letter of this period, that any one may come and verify who likes, which concludes thus: -'My friend, I am incapable of breaking my word to you; tomorrow, the day after, perhaps later still, I shall visit the person who has always accompanied me to your house. I shall then communicate to you all my observations and all my views; but whether I am right or wrong, the error or the correctness of my judgment will never influence my heart; I shall always remain at once your friend and your companion in misfortune.'
It was the man who wrote these words a few months before who was now foremost in seeking not merely the political extinction of his old friend, but his very life.
The time for the trial of the King, Louis Capet, at the bar of the Convention was now rapidly approaching, and the importance of the issue naturally overshadowed the acrimonious hatred of the Girondins and their backers, against Marat and the Mountain, for the time being. The various questions which arose relating to this occupied several numbers of the Journal de la République. The Girondins, notwithstanding their swelling periods on the subject of tyrants and tyranny, with references to Cato, Brutus, and the rest of the classical exemplars, fearing now the people of Paris much more than the King, were anxious to save Louis as far as might be. That he should be acquitted was hardly to be thought of in face of the events of the 10th of August, and became altogether out of the question on the documentary proof of his machinations with the enemy, contained in the secret press of the Tuileries, coming to light. But they were willing to postpone matters, and, at least, save the King's head. The question having been raised as to the legality of the nation's trying the King, whom the Constitution of 1790 had declared inviolable, Marat has some observations in his Journal (No.65) which display equally his lawyer-like capacity of pulverising an argument of this kind and his commonsense. After the usual reference to the Rousseauite doctrine of the Social Contract, as to the delegation of public function by the nation to this or that person for the common weal, and the people's right to withdraw their mandate the moment they felt the common weal to be threatened by its continuance, he points out that, even admitting the binding validity of the Constitution in question, the contention as to inviolability was absurd. "The Constitution", says he, "declares the person of the King inviolable and sacred. But this inviolability can only refer to the legal acts of Royalty. It only meant the privilege of not being personally responsible for the choice of means of putting the laws into execution. One would hardly go so far as to say that in rendering Louis Capet inviolable, the Legislature wished to confer on him the privilege of conspiring without danger for the ruin of the country, and to secure him the means of achieving it with impunity, by letting him thus enjoy peaceably the fruit of his crimes. And supposing the Legislature had had the design, would it have had the right? You, gentlemen, whom the nation has commissioned to replace this perfidious Constitution by wise laws, you will not participate in the revolting vices of such a shameful monument of slavery in judging the despot. It is by the unwritten Law of Nations that you will judge him."
This article of Marat's effectually silenced the inviolability argument, which even without it could hardly have imposed upon any reasonable person. It was decided that the trial should take place, and Malesherbes, having expressed his willingness, was named as Louis' defender. The actual speech for the defence was made by Desèze. The trial was to be before the National Convention, and the verdict by simple majority, each member to respond to the question of "Guilty or Not Guilty", on his name being called. Many sittings of the Convention were occupied in discussing the preliminaries.
Now that the right of the people, through its representation, to judge and pronounce sentence upon the ex-monarch could no longer be effectively gainsaid, a volte-face was made by Louis' supporters, secret and avowed, and it was suggested to invoke the sacred right of the people to clemency. It was even proposed to make a direct appeal to the people in this sense. This monstrous proposition, considering the acts of which Louis had been avowed guilty, was travestied by Marat in a supposititious letter from a man convicted of common theft. "Gentlemen", it runs (Journal, No.77), "it is true I am only a poor stealer of handkerchiefs, and have neither the honour to be a conspirator nor a crowned assassin. Nevertheless I am a man, like any other, and have equal rights with any number of Capets. They talk of sending me to the bagne of Toulon, and since the greatest crime is to call in question the rights of the sovereignty of the people, I have no intention of endeavouring to frustrate them. But I beg of you to weigh the following point. Is it not incontestable that the people as sovereign has the right to pardon me, even supposing that I deserve the galleys?" Sentimental appeals for mercy did not, in fact, prove more effective with any whose interest was not already engaged in favour of the culprit than had the invocation of the technical point of law anent inviolability.
But technicalities and sentimental appeals were not the only means resorted to by the sympathisers with the ex-King, now reduced to their wits' ends to save their favourite. Attempts were made to excite disturbances in Paris between adherents of the rival parties. Thus on New Year's Eve, far into the night, pro-royalist plotters succeeded in creating sanguinary scenes in various quarters, especially at the Pont Neuf and at the Porcherons. In the Popincourt section an ex-police agent of Lafayette began shouting "Vive le Roi!" and insulting citizens. He was, however, lynched by the populace. Within the Convention no stone was left unturned by the dominant faction to prevent Marat and the Mountain from expressing their views. Marat, who had prepared a discourse setting forth in logical sequence his opinions on the necessity of allowing the trial and the inevitable penalty to take their natural course, was prevented delivering it in the Assembly by the arbitrary application of the closure - Barbaroux, with his insensate hatred of the man to whom he owed so much, being, as always, to the fore in the work of stifling discussion. The undelivered speech of Marat was subsequently published in pamphlet form. The trial of the King and the discussions preceding it showed conclusively the calibre of the Republicanism of the Gironde and its adherents. Rather than sacrifice the one man who was responsible nominally, and in part really, for so many treacheries and so much public disaster, the bulk of the party were prepared up to the very last to risk civil war, and that too when the enemy, beaten back for a moment, was already preparing to renew his invasion on three sides. The Girondin proposal to submit the matter as a referendum to the primary assemblies, as Marat pointed out, could mean nothing less than civil war.
We will not linger over the oft-repeated story of the trial and execution of Louis XVI. Suffice it to say that, when called upon to give his vote, on the occasion of the memorable sitting, Marat did so in the following terms: "In the firm conviction that Louis is the principal author of the crimes which caused the blood of the 10th of August to flow, and of all the massacres which have stained France since the Revolution, I vote for the death of the tyrant within the twenty-four hours." At the same time that Marat voted in the majority for death without respite, believing the crimes of Louis to merit the last penalty, and its infliction to be necessary for the safety of France and the Revolution, he could show not only fairness, but even pity for the condemned. The following day he writes in the Journal de la République (No.95); "He behaved at the bar with decency. How great would he have been in my eyes in his humiliation had he but been innocent!" Whatever we may think as to the King having been urged to his acts of treachery and cruelty by persons, of stronger character than himself, who surrounded him, we must not forget that these acts were done in his name and with his consent, even where they were not effected by his express orders. The failure of the Gironde and its Moderate supporters to save the life of the King was the first distinct sign of the warning of their influence. It was the first decided victory of the ideas and policy of the Mountain in the Convention. The next day Kersaint, the Girondin, gave in his resignation, on the ground that he would no longer sit in an Assembly where Marat could carry the day against Petion. During the trial the "People's Friend" received numerous letters from Royalists, offering him money if he would but say one word in favour of the accused. One letter alone offered him as much as a hundred thousand crowns. Marat's only reply was, "I belong to the people, I shall never belong to any other party; that is my profession of faith."
The last act performed in unison by all the parties in the Convention was the attendance at the funeral of Lepelletier St. Fargeau, who was assassinated in a café by a Royalist, as one of those who had voted "death" on the evening of the King's condemnation. In this ceremony singular unanimity was displayed, deputies of various shades - Marat among them - making speeches on the occasion. This over, the battle was renewed in the Salle de Manège with unabated fury.
As for Marat, satisfied with the victory of his party in the matter of the King's trial, and hoping that the momentary unanimity shown at Lepelletier's funeral might prove the beginning of a reconciliation of the parties on a working basis, he adopted a more conciliatory tone in his Journal, but to no effect. The event soon proved that he was wrong - that, as he expressed it, "these men cannot change their heart as the serpent can his skin." "Hence", says he, "there is no longer any question of living in peace with them, but rather of declaring an eternal war." Before beginning it, he devoted the number of his Journal (109) in which he makes the above statement to exculpating himself from the more plausible accusations brought against him. Marat at this time practically held the majority of the forty-eight Paris Sections in the hollow of his hand. Even within the Convention, deputies were accused by the Girondins of being Maratists - a term of reproach invented by them, but which, as the want of such sobriquets, soon became an honourable designation among the Paris Sections. The Moderates seemed now to have definitely organised disturbances, spiced with cries of "To the Abbaye! To the bar! To the guillotine!" whenever the "People's Friend" mounted the tribune to oppose some reactionary measure or to urge some necessary reform.
Having failed to carry a decree of accusation against Marat on the ground of advocating a dictatorship, the Girondists sought about for other pretexts. They had charged him, without success, of endeavouring to stir up the troops to insubordination. Finally, an incident occurred which afforded them the desired opportunity. The bread-famine in Paris had been for weeks past increasing in intensity. Long files, composed mostly of half-starved-looking women, were to be seen daily at certain hours outside the bakers' shops, awaiting their turn to be supplied with bad bread at an exorbitant price. On the 24th of February, Chaumette, Procureur of the Commune, made a report on the subject of the want of means of subsistence in Paris before the Council-General. He demanded an immediate advance of four millions to cope with the situation. The Council decided to refer the matter to the Convention. On the report being read, the Girondins, with the hatred of Paris ever in their hearts, objected to this necessary subvention as a special favour shown to one town. On the morning of the next day, the 25th, an article appeared in Marat's Journal on the famine, in which occurred the following passage: -"In every country where the rights of the people is not an empty phrase, ostentatiously recorded on paper, the sacking of a few shops, at the doors of which the `forestallers' were hanged, would soon put a stop to those malversations which are driving five millions of men to despair, and causing thousands to perish of want! Will the deputies of the people do nothing more than prate about their sufferings, and never propose any remedy to relieve them?" This advice, it is needless to say, was only the practical application of the Rousseauite thesis so clearly expounded by Marat in his Plan de Constitution and Plan de Législation Criminelle, the two works which, as already said, formed the theoretical basis of all Marat's political Faction. In the latter work mentioned, Marat had, twelve years before, categorically laid down the Thesis that, "in a world full of the possessions of others, where the indigent have nothing to call their own, they are obviously reduced to perish of hunger. Now, since they derive nothing but disadvantage from society, are they obliged to respect its laws? Doubtless, no! If society abandons them, they reenter the state of nature, and when they reclaim by force those rights which they could only alienate in order to ensure for themselves greater advantages, all authority that opposes them is tyrannical, and the judge who condemns them to death is no lesser than a cowardly assassin."
This was just what the Girondins wanted. It mattered not that bread riots had occurred some days before this was written; it sufficed that, on the afternoon and evening of that day, a general pillaging of provision shops went on in the streets of more than one quarter of Paris. Here was proof positive that Marat had not merely incited to unlawful acts, but successfully incited to them, this notwithstanding that Marat's chief point, the making of an example of a few of the "forestallers", i.e. of those who were buying up the available supply of bread and selling at exorbitant prices, was not acted upon. The following day, the 26th, a deputation appeared before the Convention, to protest against the riotous scenes of the previous day. Barrère, who led the debate ensuing, spoke of all the trouble as the work of ultra-patriots, hinted at a particularly mischievous ultra-patriot; but did not venture to mention names. The Girondin Sallis then rose. "I come to denounce to you", said he, "one of the instigators of these troubles, - it is Marat." He then read the article containing the passage about the "forestallers." No sooner had he concluded than it seemed as though the whole Assembly rose in indignation. Marat rushed to the tribune, and repeated in substance what he had written the previous day in his Journal. "It is incontestable", he said, "that the capitalists, agents, and monopolisers are nearly all supporters of the Ancien Regime. As I see no chance of changing their hearts, I see nothing that can give tranquillity to the State but the total destruction of this accursed conspiracy. Today it redoubles its energies to distress the people by the exorbitant price of bread, the first necessary of life. Since there is no law to punish monopolisers, the people has the right to take justice into its own hands". However dreadful it may sound when enunciated by Marat, this is a principle practically adopted under all circumstances where ordinary law is ineffective, but usually in the interest of "rights of property", rather than against their abuse. It should be remembered too, by those who shudder at the words of Marat, that at this very period, and for long afterwards, the common law of England caused dozens of human beings to be hanged every week for trivial offences, such as stealing a loaf of bread; and yet the supporters of these laws are not execrated as monsters, but are, at most, mildly censured as having been unnecessarily severe in their views of justice. Marat, on the other hand, because under extraordinary circumstances he thought an exceptional example necessary from among those who were reducing the people of Paris to starvation, is by these hypocrites denounced as a sanguinary demagogue.
On the conclusion of his speech, Buzot moved that "M. Marat be decreed accused." "The law is precise", he said, "but M. Marat quibbles about its expressions; the jury will be embarrassed how to act, and we have no wish to give M. Marat a triumph in the very face of justice." Several propositions were then made, a resolution being ultimately passed that all the instigators of riots should be, without distinction, cited before the ordinary tribunals. "Good! "exclaimed Marat; "then pass an act of accusation" against myself, that the Convention may prove it is devoid of all shame." It was finally declared adopted, amid great excitement, that the case should be referred to the ordinary tribunals; though the executive power knew better, in the excited state of public feeling, than to proceed further in the matter. Had they done so, they could not well have succeeded, for not only was there no law against the expression of an opinion, whatever might be the indirect consequences supposed to flow from it, but the liberty of the press, which the Revolution had won, definitely, guaranteed the right to free discussion of public matters. The next two numbers of the Journal de la République are devoted by Marat to defence of his views and a further discussion of the origin of the famine. "The cause of this scourge which distresses us", writes Marat, "lies in the enormous mass of assignats (paper money) the value of which necessarily diminishes with its multiplication, both in a legal way and by forgery. Now diminution of value unfailingly carries with it an augmentation of the price of provisions. These have already reached an exorbitant figure, soon they will become so dear that it will really be impossible for the poorer classes to acquire them, and these constitute two-thirds of the nation. You may expect therefore to see the most frightful disorders, and perhaps the overturning of all government, for a famished people knows no laws, save the primary law of seeking the means of living. I have foreseen these disorders for three years, and have done all I could to oppose the system of assignats, above all of assignats of small value". The only effectual means of averting the crisis, Marat declared, was his old proposal to extinguish the public debt, paying the creditors of the State with national bonds, to be issued on the guarantee of the ecclesiastical and other property which had been nationalised. The emission of a vast mass of small paper money had proved, as predicted, a suicidal proceeding. He goes on to show that his own proposal would have obviated all the evil results from which they were then suffering. In another number Marat points out that the confiscation of the Church property, one of the functions of which had been to relieve necessitous persons, had increased the general misery. "The property of the Church", says Marat, "was the patrimony of the poor; in depriving them of this resource, the Constituent Assembly exposed them to die of hunger. On confiscation, the Church property ought to have been divided into three portions; the first to be used for the payment of priests' salaries; the second sold, so as to form a sinking fund to pay off Government debts; the third portion, Church lands, should have been divided in small lots amongst the peasantry."
Meanwhile the unstable "men of the Plain", the centre party of the Convention, were becoming gradually detached from their loyalty to the "right", the Governmental party of the Girondins. The vacillation and want of statesmanship of the latter in the conduct of affairs had led to deep distrust on the part of those outside their immediate party, who at first had been disposed to take them at their own valuation. Marat wrote an eloquent appeal to the "Plain" in his Journal on the 2nd of March; he pointed out that the dictates of humanity, pity, and philanthropy were as dear to him as to them, but that to exercise them towards traitors and conspirators, in a moment of imminent public danger, was nothing less than a crime. "Indulgence to these criminals is barbarity to the people. We must crush them or we shall be crushed by them."
Early in March the Journal de la République ceased to exist, owing to a resolution, on a motion by Lacroix, in effect forbidding deputies to carry on simultaneously with their legislative functions the occupation of journalist. In consequence of this decree, Marat, on the 14th March, changed the title of his paper to that of Publiciste de la République française, ou Observations aux Français, par Marat, l'Ami du Peuple, deputé a la Convention! No one could, of course object to a deputy merely publishing his observations to his constituents.
But the wiles of reaction were not yet exhausted. What seems to have been a dexterously conceived trap for the Mountain, and especially Marat, was laid on the 12th of March. A section of volunteers presented themselves at the bar of the Convention, demanding a decree of accusation against Dumouriez and his Etat Major; this at a time when, whatever the character and ultimate intentions of Dumouriez were, he was just entering Holland to effect an important diversion by which to relieve French troops and outmanoeuvre the enemy. Another article in the petition demanded the heads of Gensonné, Vergniaud, and Guadet. Marat was fully equal to the occasion. In commenting on the object of the deputation, he observed, "I have already exposed these atrocious plots, the political liaisons of Dumouriez, his relations with the Court; nevertheless I regard him as intimately bound up with the public safety since the 10th August, and more particularly since the head of the tyrant has fallen beneath the sword of the law. He is bound to us by the success of his arms, and I appear in this tribune to combat this insensate motion, as well as to raise my voice against perfidy towards a General. If the proposition were adopted, it would be equivalent to opening our doors to the enemy." Then passing on to another part of the petition, "I demand that the petitioners read the article of their petition, in which they desire the heads of Gensonné, Vergniaud, and Guadet the Girondist deputies - an atrocious crime tending to the dissolution of the Convention and the loss of the country (unanimous applause). I have already raised my voice against these assassins. I have been to the popular society of the Cordeliers, and have there preached, and confounded these agitators led on by the aristocracy." Marat, in fact saw the deputation simply as agents provocateurs of the Girondist party, and in the proposition a trap.
About a fortnight later news arrived of the defeat at Neerwinden and of the defection of Dumouriez, after arresting Camus and three other commissioners sent by the Convention. This came on the top of a manifesto from the General threatening to hand them over to the enemy, and, to crown all, to march on Paris, to annihilate the Mountain and dissolve the Convention, in the ostensible interests of Girondism. Accordingly a manifesto was issued by Marat "Friends, we are betrayed", he writes. "To arms! To arms! The hour has come when the defenders of the country must either conquer or bury themselves beneath the ashes of the Republic. Frenchmen, never was your liberty in greater peril! Our enemies have now put the finishing stroke to their perfidies, and to consummate them, Dumouriez and his accomplices are about to march upon Paris. The manifest treason of the Generals in league with him has never admitted of a doubt, no more than that the plan of rebellion, inspired by his insolent boldness, is directed by the criminal faction, which has, until the decisive moment; maintained him, and which has deceived us as to his conduct. The menaces, the defeats, the plots of this traitor - his villainy in placing under arrest four commissioners of the Convention, which he would have attempted to dissolve - are sufficiently well known. But, brothers and friends, your greatest dangers are in the midst of you. It is in the Senate that parricidal hands would tear out your vitals! Yes, the counter-revolution is the Government, in the National Convention! But already indignation inflames your courageous citizenship. Come then, Republicans, let us arm! Let us all rise and arrest the enemies of the Revolution! Let us exterminate without pity all the conspirators, if we would not be exterminated ourselves! Such delegates are either traitors or Royalists, or incapable men. The Republic repudiates the friends of kings! It is they who partition her, who ruin her, and who have sworn to destroy her. With them liberty is hopeless, and only by their prompt expulsion can the country be saved!"
This manifesto, which was issued in the form of a circular and sent to all the popular societies, bearing date the 5th of April 1793, was made the subject of a furious Girondin attack on the 12th. Guadet, mounting the tribune, read the circular in full. Marat, on its conclusion, contented himself with rising in his place with the words, "It is true." The remark was followed by the usual storm, accompanied by cries of "To the Abbaye!" and demands for a decree of accusation. This time, however, Marat had the whole of the Mountain behind him, and it was only too apparent that the struggle had now become one of life and death between the two parties. At the first lull, Marat ascended the tribune. "What is the use of this vain talk?" he exclaimed; "they seek to throw dust in your eyes by an imaginary conspiracy, in order to hush up a conspiracy which is only too real. There is no longer any doubt about it. Dumouriez himself has set the seal to it, by threatening to march on Paris, to effect the triumph of the faction which he calls "the sane portion of the Assembly against the patriots of the Mountain." Here vehement applause from the benches where the public sat interrupted the speaker. "But wishing to give the whole of France unequivocal proofs of my loyalty", continued Marat, "I have demanded a decree which shall put a price on the head of the younger Egalité, of the pretended regent of the former Comte d'Artois, and of all the rebel Capets. The Mountain, as you have seen, wished this proposition to be put to the vote, while the conspirators made a horrible clamour, in order to oppose it. It is time that these conspirators should be unmasked, should fall under the sword of the law. I will renew my proposition, and we will see on what side are the supporters of Orleans." Renewed applause from the public tribunes greeted the speaker's peroration. This direct thrust hit the Girondins hard, some of whom had been in direct communication with the now discredited Dumouriez with reference to his favourite scheme of a resuscitated Constitutional monarchy, under the son of Philippe Egalité, who, at a later date; became Louis Philippe, "King of the French." Danton followed in support of Marat's proposition. After a long and stormy debate the Girondins, however, succeeded in carrying their original demand for a decree of accusation against the "People's Friend." The public galleries reserved for whom were now crowded, became furious; meanwhile the sitting was raised and the bulk of the members hastily dispersed. A crowd composed of about fifty deputies of the Mountain and its sympathisers surrounded Marat, who, going towards the door, was confronted by an officer of the Guard with the decree of arrest in his hand. In their hurry, however, "the conspirators" had forgotten to get it signed by the President or the Minister of Justice. Marat, in consequence, refused to allow himself to be arrested. Meanwhile the public descended from the galleries and filled the main body of the hall. In a few minutes Marat left the building with his friends, followed by enormous crowd.
The same evening he incited an address to the Convention, which was read the next day, in which he pointed out that the importance of the persecution to which he was being subjected lay in the fact that it was the first step in an organised conspiracy to effect the political extinction of the Jacobins and the Mountain. If it were mere personal spite which concerned himself alone, it would not matter, but "if they succeed in achieving their criminal projects in my case, soon they will come to Robespierre and Danton and all patriot deputies who have given proof of energy." He concluded: "Before belonging to the Convention, I belong to the country. I am now going to protect myself against their attempts, continuing to support the cause of liberty by my writings, until the eyes of the nation are opened to their criminal projects. Only a little patience, and they will fall beneath the weight of public execration." The reading of the document was greeted with rapturous applause by the Mountain. On the demand of Danton, it was laid upon the table, which was immediately besieged by crowds of Montagnards eager to affix their signatures to it. Prolonged tumult followed, but after sundry propositions and a speech from Robespierre protesting against the decree and cautiously defending Marat, the appel nominal, or roll-call of the names, was ordered. In spite of the enthusiastic expressions of many deputies of the mountain in recording their vote, the Girondins still dominated the Plain sufficiently to secure a majority of twenty-eight votes for the decree of accusation. It should be observed that the Committee, in their report on the question, had found it prudent, in the existing temper of public opinion, to drop the question of the original manifesto, on the occasion of Dumouriez's desertion, which had served as a pretext for the Girondins' attack, the counts of accusation being now based on two articles - the first one in the Journal de la République for the 5th of January, an article written during the dissensions preceding the King's trial, in which Marat had suggested the dissolution of the Convention; and the second, that of the 25th of February, relating to the riots, and containing the passage about the "forestallers". A deputy added to the charge the further count of having demanded a dictator. On the decision of the Convention becoming known, great excitement ensued in the Paris Sections. On the 15th of April, the Mayor of Paris, who was now Pache, a new and zealous recruit of the Mountain - who had previously for a time been Roland's colleague as Minister for War, but had resigned and been elected to the mayoralty on the 14th of February - appeared in person before the Convention to present an address of protest from thirty-five out of the forty-eight Sections. Rousselin, the orator of the deputation which accompanied him, pointed out that, while they did not want a dissolution of the Convention, they wanted the expulsion of twenty-two of the leading Girondist deputies. In truth, the action of the Girondin party in allowing their rancorous hatred of Marat to get such complete control of them was simply suicidal, in view of the suspicion which now fell upon them from all sides of collusion with Dumouriez. It only affords another illustration of the oft-repeated saw "that those whom the gods intend to destroy, they first make mad." Marat continued diligently writing, and superintending the publication of his journal, although daily expecting a summons. This did not arrive until the 22nd, and then only on great pressure, from without, as the Girondists were anxious to postpone the hearing of the case till the time for the renewal of the jury lists, when they could "pack" the tribunal with their own men. On the morning of the 23rd a notice of the situation appeared in the Publiciste. "People, tomorrow your incorruptible defender will present himself before the Revolutionary Tribunal. He has always wished you happiness, his innocence will triumph. His enemies will be confounded. He will come out of the struggle more worthy of you, and will console himself in this new trouble by the hope of the advantages the cause of liberty will derive from it." On the evening of the 23rd, Marat constituted himself a prisoner. He was accompanied by numerous colleagues of the Convention, and by a colonel of the National Guard.
The next day, the 24th of April, the trial came on. The hall of the tribunal was early crowded, many persons having remained over night to ensure for themselves good places. The Revolutionary Tribunal had been established on the 10th of March previously on the motion of Danton, and it was before the Revolutionary Tribunal that Marat was cited. The proceedings began at nine o'clock, Marat introducing himself with the words; "Citizens, it is not a criminal whom you see before you, it is the apostle and martyr of liberty; it is only a group of factious persons and intriguers who have obtained this decree of accusation against me." The presiding judge, Montané by name, calling upon the accused to declare his name, quality, and residence, received the reply: My name is Jean-Paul Marat, aged forty-nine years, a doctor in medicine, and deputy to the National Convention, residing in Paris, Rue des Cordeliers, No. 36." The usher of the court then reads the accusation, as formulated by the Committee, of the decree of the Convention, which states that Marat is declared accused of having in his paper provoked to murder and massacre, the contempt and dissolution of the Convention, and the establishment of a power destructive to liberty, and is ordered to appear before the Revolutionary Tribunal; the Minister of justice to be charged with the execution of this decree. The public prosecutor then reads passages from Marat's writings, tending to support the allegations in the decree as formulated by the Committee. Marat, on interrogation, unhesitatingly avows the incriminated writings. Witnesses are then called, the first being an Englishman, who deposed through an interpreter that, being at the house of Thomas Paine, deputy to the Convention, he had heard an article read which had been inserted in the journal of M. Brissot, and which quoted passages alleged to have been written by Marat, advocating the massacre of all Englishmen. And that about that time a young Englishman named Johnson, who lived in the same house in the Faubourg St. Denis with Paine, stabbed himself, leaving behind him a scrap of paper on which were the words, "Day of liberty! Marat has murdered it by preaching Anarchy, which is much more cruel than despotism. I can no longer endure these atrocities, which are repugnant to the virtue of a Republican." Marat, on the invitation of the judge, asked if the witness had not seen Brissot and others at Paine's house. The witness replied that he had not. The public prosecutor then demands that Brissot should be at once cited to appear before the tribunal as a witness. A letter was accordingly sent to the President of the Convention from the presiding judge of the tribunal. On applause breaking out from the public, the prisoner turned to them and said "Citizens! my cause is yours. I defend my country; I request you to preserve the most profound silence, to deprive our enemies of the opportunity of saying that the court has been influenced in any way." The editor of Brissot's journal, Le Patriot français, who was now under examination, declared that the paragraph had been sent to Brissot by Thomas Paine. The accused then wished to know who had furnished Brissot with articles, since the decree interdicting journalism to deputies. Through the presiding judge Marat again interrogates the witness as to whether he possesses the manuscript of the note he alleges Thomas Paine to have given to Brissot, relative to the young Englishman who he stated had stabbed himself. The witness replies that probably the printer had it. A subpecna, to appear immediately, was issued against the printer, also to the young Englishman Johnson, who according to Brissot's journal was dead, but who was otherwise alleged to be alive. Thomas Paine is next called, and deposes that he had communicated the fact to Brissot without giving him the document. The young Englishman had stabbed himself because he had the impression that Marat was about to denounce his friend Paine as one of those who voted for the King's respite. Paine, on being shown the paragraph as it appeared in the paper, then declared it to have been utterly mutilated and disfigured. The printer now arrived, and deposed that he had been ill for some time, and had had to leave a substitute in his place; he knew nothing of the matter. He had, however, brought with him several slips of copy, which, on the demand of Marat, were handed over to the usher of the court. The public prosecutor, knowing the fact that the law forbade printers to destroy within a certain time manuscripts entrusted to them, procured an order from the court that the particular manuscript in question should in any case be delivered within eight days. The young Englishman Johnson, who had stabbed himself, having entered the court, was then examined, but nothing further of importance was elicited. Without waiting for the arrival of Brissot, the President called upon the prisoner for his defence against the charges contained in the decree of accusation.
Marat began: "Citizens, if the Girondin and Brissotin faction, and the other satellites of despotism - if, I say, this horde of criminals, who do not cease to persecute `patriots', had not accused me of being a man of blood, an inciter to crime, I should never have permitted myself to express such opinions as those contained in the numbers of my journal that have been cited. Citizen jurors, the rectitude of my judgment and purity of my intentions are known, and if I have printed the things that have been read to you, it was with no bad intention. My most earnest solicitude has always been that the Convention should receive the confidence of the people. To wish to dissolve it as I am accused of doing is farthest from my thoughts. Examine my conduct; I ask no mercy of you, still less indulgence, I claim only justice, and to be punished if guilty." He then briefly recalls his various services to Liberty, from the publication of the Chains of Slavery up to that moment. He refutes the idea of there being any criminal intention in aught he had written, and briefly but scathingly exposes the administration of the Girondins, especially their conduct towards the chiefs of the Mountain, the Commune, and the Paris Sections. He also dwells on the fact that his accusers had been compelled by popular pressure to abandon the original basis of the indictment, and to substitute for this two new charges (or rather old charges revived) which had nothing to do with it, thereby exhibiting the malicious intent actuating them. "Full of confidence in the judgment, equity, and good citizenship of the tribunal, I myself desire the most rigid examination of this affair - I claim nevertheless a consecutive reading of the denounced numbers, for it is not from isolated and excised passages that one can judge the meaning of an author; it is only by reading what precedes and what follows that we can estimate his intentions rightly. - If, after such a perusal, there remain any doubts, I am here to dispose of them."
Marat in conclusion expressed his willingness to accept the judgment of the jury on all the incriminated numbers. The public prosecutor then recapitulated the facts contained in the decree of accusation, after which the President summed up, stating the questions for the jury's decision as follows:-
"Is it proved that there are in the writings entitled the Ami du Peuple and the Publiciste Parisien passages provoking to murder, pillage, and the dissolution of the national representation? And further, is it true that Marat the admitted writer of these journals, has published them with counter-revolutionary intent?" The prisoner then withdrew. After a deliberation of three-quarters of an hour, the foreman gave the following verdict of the jury: - "We have examined with care the passages cited from the journals of Marat, and the better to appreciate them, we have not lost sight of the known character of the accused and the time of revolution during which he had written, and we cannot impute criminal intentions to the intrepid defender of the rights of the people. It is difficult for an ardent patriot to keep back his just indignation when he sees his country betrayed on all sides. And we declare that we have observed nothing in these writings of Marat calculated to substantiate the crimes which are imputed to him." All the other jurymen expressed their adhesion to the foregoing statement, which was at once registered as their unanimous verdict. The Presiding judge then announced that, having heard the report of the jury, he acquitted Jean-Paul Marat of the accusations brought against him, and further ordered that he be immediately set at liberty, and that the present judgment be published officially, and placarded in the usual public places. Marat, turning to the court, said, "Citizens, jurors, and judges, who compose the Revolutionary Tribunal, the fate of the traitors to their country is in your hands; protect the innocent, punish the guilty, and the country will be saved!"
Scarcely was the acquittal pronounced than shouts of applause resounded from court, from staircase, from antechambers, and from corridors. As the news spread, the crowds outside in the street took up the joyful acclamation, and it was with difficulty the "People's Friend" resisted being then and there borne aloft shoulder-high by enthusiastic patriots. Crowds thronged the streets between the Palais de Justice and the Hall of the Convention. Bouquets of spring flowers and garlands rained upon the people's hero. The cortège was stopped every moment to receive the congratulations of the heads of Sections. A chair had been secured, and the "People's Friend", escorted by National Guards, was carried along amid deafening cheers, crowned with oak garlands. These he was compelled to wear, notwithstanding that he repudiated them when first offered. Rarely was such a triumph known before in Paris. Crowds lined the streets, shouting and waving hats. The crowds reached the Convention doors, forced their way in, and bore Marat to President Lasource's chair. The feelings of this Girondin, the arch-enemy of Marat, may be better imagined than described. A sapper named Rocher took upon himself the part of spokesman, and thus addressed him: "Citizen President, we return to you our brave Marat. We know well how to confound all his enemies. I have already defended him at Lyons, and I shall defend him here, and he who would take the head of Marat must first take the head of the sapper." After an objection of the President's had been over-ruled by the powerful voice of Danton, permission to defile past the President's chair was accorded. Men, women, and children rushed in shouting, "Long live the Republic, the Mountain, and Marat!" Marat ascended the tribune.
"Legislators, the proofs of good citizenship and of joy which resound throughout this building are a homage rendered to the national representation, to a colleague in whose person the sacred rights of a deputy have been violated. I have been perfidiously inculpated; a solemn judgment has assured the triumph of my innocence; I bring you back a pure heart, and I shall continue to defend the 'rights of Man', of the citizen, and of the people, with all the; energy nature has given to me." A roar of applause followed, pikes were flourished, Phrygian caps thrown up, National Guards bearing Marat in triumph to his place in the bosom of the Mountain, after which the concourse gradually dispersed. Marat had become the personification of the French Revolution, the embodiment, in his own short, thick-set, rough, and unkempt figure, of the current ideal of liberty, of the sovereignty of the people. Paris rang with his praises, and congratulations poured in daily from all the departments. From end to end of France the name of the popular tribune was a household word to be loved or feared.
The acquittal of Marat was especially noteworthy as a symptom of public feeling outside the Salle de Manège, in as much as the tribunal was at this time by no means composed, as it was later, of avowed Jacobins. The names of the jury are almost all those of completely unknown men, the only eminent one among them being that of Cabanis, the well-known physiological writer and psychologist, noted for his unhappy analogy between the brain and the stomach, to the effect that the one secreted thought much as the other secreted bile. The presiding judge himself would seem to have been, in fact, an unattached Moderate. Michelet, with the dishonest partiality and perversion of fact which characterise his history of the French Revolution, when it is a question of calumniating the Jacobin leaders, and above all the "People's Friend", represents the tribunal as at this time, as it was later, composed solely of pronounced Jacobins, and hence insists that Marat's acquittal was a foregone conclusion. He even has the effrontery to expressly compose it of the personnel of a year subsequently, although not a single individual composing the tribunal in its phase under the "terror" was functioning upon it in April 1793.
Marat's triumph sounded the death-knell of the Girondins. It was plain that the Convention in its present form would not work. Either the Gironde or the Mountain must conquer, and in its conquest annihilate the opposite party. All could now clearly see that the two parties could not live in the same assembly. The Girondins, however, still retained a certain supremacy over the Plain in the Convention, a fact indicated by their success in getting their own men elected to the post of President. On the 10th of May the sittings ceased to be held at the old Riding School, the Convention transferring itself to the private Royal Theatre in the Tuileries, which had been recently prepared for its reception. It was this building - that a century before had witnessed the first nights of Molière's comedies, to then delectation of high dames and courtiers - which was now about to form the stage of many a tableau of the great drama of the French Revolution. It was here that the final passage in the struggle between Mountain and Gironde took place.
On the 16th of May the attack was begun by the Girondins, their partisan, Isnard, having been voted to the presidency. Once more it was Guadet who led the assault. The question on the order of the day concerned an allegedly illegal arrest of a magistrate by the Commune. Guadet, in an indignant speech, charged the Commune and the Jacobins with being in a conspiracy to destroy the Convention; in consequence, he proposed the immediate dissolution of the Commune, and the transference of the legislative power to Bourges, on the ground that in Paris it was in the midst of a hostile population, at the call of leaders who were actively plotting against it. The Committee of Public Safety, which had been instituted soon after the Revolutionary Tribunal, in March - but which did not at first have the power it subsequently possessed - through the mouth of its spokesman, Barrère, opposed the motion of Guadet as to the transference of the Supreme Assembly to Bourges; and as regards the dissolution of the Commune, posed a middle course, that a commission of twelve members of the Convention should be appointed to examine and report on the illegal acts of which the Commune was accused, before any other measures were adopted. The amendment of the Committee was at once agreed to, and the Commissioners appointed, the reactionary parties carrying the day completely in the election of its personnel. It was composed of six Royalists, three Girondins, and three members of the Plain. Beginning at once to show itself in its true colours, it arrested the chief of a Section, and sequestrated the papers of his Revolutionary Committee. Finding itself supported by the reaction alike within and outside the Chamber, it became bolder, summarily arresting Hébert, the popular substitute of the Procureur of the Commune, the second most important man in the Municipality. Matters now looked serious for the popular party, which, had it not been for the energetic action of the Commune and of the leaders of the Mountain, was in a fair way of being crushed. Reports were already abroad that the Commission of Twelve were contemplating an early remanning of the Revolutionary Tribunal, whereby it should become a fitting instrument of their counter-revolutionary plots. The two great popular clubs, the Jacobins and the Cordeliers, together with the Paris Sections, declared themselves sitting en permanence. On the following day the Commune lodged a protest with the Convention, and the Commission of Twelve doubled the guards at the entrance to the Tuileries.
Marat, who, as we may imagine, had been active the last few days at the Hotel de Ville organising the opposition with his friends of the Commune, opened the Convention sitting of the 27th on behalf of the latter, by moving the suppression of the Commission. "It has been sought", he said, "to deceive the people through making it believe in the existence of a plot to assassinate the Statesmen", the sobriquet for the Girondins, especially for the immediate followers of Brissot. This story of a plot to assassinate the twenty-two previously designated Girondins had been diligently circulated within the last few days by the reactionary party. "The proof that this plot does not exist", continues Marat, "is that not one of you has received so much as a scratch." Marat proceeds to denounce the Commission, adding the significant words, "The mass of the people is patriotic; it detests a senatorial despotism as much as a royal despotism; if patriots are driven to insurrection it will be your work." He concludes by demanding the suppression of the Commission of Twelve as the enemy of liberty, and as tending to provoke the insurrection already threatening. A deputation from one of the interior Sections then Presented itself, demanding not merely the suppression of the Commission, but the trial of its members before the Revolutionary Tribunal. "The Section", it said, "would know how to save the Republic of themselves, if they were forced to do it." The President, Isnard, then pompously rose, and in solemn tones announced, "If the Convention were outraged through any of those disturbances in Paris which had been so frequent since the 10th of March, and which within the last week had become a daily occurrence in all quarters of the city, if they should take the shape of even an attempt to coerce the national representation, I tell you", said he, with melodramatic mien -"I tell you, in the name of the whole of France, that Paris will be annihilated. Yes, France will take such a vengeance on the guilty city, that it would soon be necessary to inquire on which bank of the Seine the capital had once stood." Scarcely were the words uttered when a storm arose throughout the Assembly, in the midst of which Danton's voice was heard crying, "This impudence is beginning to be too much for us; we shall resist you. Let there be no more truce between the Mountain and the cowards who wished to save the tyrant." This attitude of Danton's was significant, for up to this time, although reckoning himself as belonging to the Mountain, he had endeavoured to play the part of peacemaker. The confusion continued; the Mountain and the occupants of the public galleries shook their fists and hurled menaces at the Gironde and its partisans. More Parisian deputations streamed into the house. The Commandant of the Convention Guard then appeared. He alleged that, while he was endeavouring with a posse of men to clear the lobbies, which had become thronged with excited sectionaries, Marat, pointing a pistol at his head, had demanded by whose orders he was acting. He had refused to show them to any but the President, whereupon Marat had ordered some sectionaries to arrest him. Marat only replied that the fellow was lying impudently.
Guadet, the minister of the Interior, then obtained a hearing to report upon the state of Paris. He endeavoured to calm the alarmed deputies by assuring them that the Convention was in no way in danger. Meanwhile, certain of the Moderate deputies had heroically beaten a retreat. Numbers of sectionaries having broken through the bar, were sitting amongst the deputies in the body of the house. A tumultuous demand arose that Isnard should quit the chair; this he was ultimately compelled to do, and was replaced by Danton's friend Hérault de Séchelles. "The force of reason and the force of the people", announced the new President, "are the same thing. You ask for a municipal officer and for justice; the deputies of the people will grant it you". He then put the question as to the suppression of the Commission of Twelve and the release of all persons arrested by it. It was declared carried amid tumult, the tumult on the President's announcement of the result at once changing to enthusiastic cheering, which speedily passed from the crowd within the building to those outside.
The next day the reaction was again victorious within the Convention, and declaring that the vote of the preceding night had been obtained by terrorism and intrusion of outside persons, it procured the reestablishment of the Commission. Hébert, who had been liberated, was now once more at the Hotel de Ville. On the reestablishment of the obnoxious Commission, Robespierre, Danton, Marat, Chaumette the Procureur of the Commune, and Pache the Mayor of Paris, constituted themselves into an informal committee, to organise, with the aid of the Commune and the Revolutionary Committees of the Sections, the insurrection which they now saw to be inevitable.
For the next thirty-six hours the preparations were unremitting. On the 30th, twenty-seven Sections presented themselves at the bar of the Convention. The same day, the Commune, the Clubs, and the Revolutionary Committees of the Sections held a joint meeting, and declared themselves in a state of insurrection. As the result of the deliberations of the preceding day, it had been agreed to model the new movement precisely on that of the 10th of August. This was so strictly carried out that it was considered necessary to go through the farce of formally annulling the then council of the Commune, to be immediately reelected as before, because, forsooth, on the night before the 10th of August, the old reactionary Council of the Municipality had been dissolved in order to be replaced by the new insurrectionary body. Henriot was then constituted Commandant of the armed force of Paris, and the Sansculottes of the Sections had each forty sous per day accorded them.
The sitting of the Convention for the 31st opened at six o'clock in the morning to the sound of the générale and the tocsin. The memorable insurrection destined to annihilate Girondism had at last begun in very deed. The popular forces then started to lay siege to the Tuileries. The Minister of the Interior declared the movement caused the rehabilitation of the Commission three days before. Tremendous excitement ensued in the Convention. Pache was summoned to the bar, to explain the meaning of the ominous sounds outside. He professed to have left no stone unturned to maintain order, assuring the Convention that its guard had been doubled and that he had given orders that no alarm-gun should be fired. He had scarcely finished speaking when an alarm-gun was heard. Great consternation on all sides! Barrère, in the name of the Committee of Public Safety, begs that the Commission of Twelve may be dissolved. The beating of the call-drum, the clanging of the tocsin, with the boom of alarm-guns at intervals, continuing, alarmed the Plain, who abandoned their colleagues of the Gironde and promptly joined the Mountain in voting the abolition of the Commission in accordance with the proposal of Barrère and his Committee. But where is Marat? "I left the Assembly", he says, "to deliberate on several important matters with the Committee of General Security, believing that no measures would be carried in the Convention. From there I went to the house of a citizen, to obtain information respecting some aristocratic leaders of the Section Buttes des Moulins. On my return, I discover a great crowd in the Rue Saint Nicaire; I am recognised and followed by the crowd. From all sides resound cries against the Mountain's want of energy. From all sides I hear demanded the arrest of traitor-deputies and intriguers. From all sides shouts of `Marat, save us!' Arrived at the Carrousel, I observe multitudes of citizens in arms. The crowd increases, always repeating the same cry. I entreat the people not to follow me; I enter the Tuileries and then the pavilion of the Committee of General Security to be quit of them" (Publiciste, No.209.) To the Committee he relates all that has happened, and insists on the pressing importance of an immediate dissolution of the Commission of Twelve. But Marat could not evade the crowds which followed him, for he found it necessary to visit personally the Committee of Public Safety, then assembled together with the ministers, Pache, and other functionaries. Arrived at the Committee, he insists on the inadequacy of the mere suppression of the incriminated Commission, and urges the necessity of the immediate arrest of the twenty-two Girondins, together with the members of the Commission of Twelve. He then returns, at the suggestion of the Committee, to the Municipality, to overlook matters, and avert any premature action. Returning to the Convention in the precincts of the Tuileries, in the corridors and lobbies leading to the theatre, Marat found renewed demands being made by the Mountain, through the mouth of Robespierre, for the indictment of the designated deputies, together with the members of the Commission, the proposition being backed by the acclamations of the public galleries and the sectionaries at the bar. All agreed that liberty was in danger so long as these traitors remained at large. Marat, the implacable, the bloodthirsty, as his enemies represent him, now mounted the tribune, not so much to support the measure demanded by the popular party to clinch its victory, but mainly to secure the erasure of three names from the list of inculpated, the bearers of which he regarded as more weak than sinning. "As to the really guilty", said Marat, "it was not on account of their action with regard to the tyrant that they merited punishment, this would be to attempt to suppress liberty of opinion, without which there can be no public liberty at all. Their real guilt lies in their long series of machinations and slanders against the Parisians, and their complicity with Dumouriez, together with the protection they have always accorded to traitors. "The decree of accusation was not, however, voted on this occasion; but, on the motion of Barrère, a second report on the incriminated deputies was ordered from the Committee of Public Safety. The Convention then adjourned and the populace dispersed.
[1.] The "Committee of General Security" was the second of the two Committees of Government. It had in its hand the control of police and "justice". The twin-body, the Committee of Public Safety, was responsible for the initiation of public measures and the general work of government.
Meanwhile the popular forces of Paris remained under arms, patrolling the streets, but in a perfectly orderly manner. Negotiations went on during the whole of the 1st of June, between the Committee of Public Safety and the insurrectionary Commune. The Committee hit upon the brilliant expedient of a voluntary and reciprocal resignation of the leaders of the two parties. Robespierre and the Mountain would have none of it, however. Active preparations were now made, and continued throughout the night. The tocsin sounded and the générale beat in all the principal thoroughfares at break of day, while vast crowds gathered at different points. At eight o'clock on the morning of Sunday the 2nd of June, Henriot presented himself at the Hotel de Ville, to inform the Commune of the measures he had taken, and that all were determined not to lay down their arms till they had obtained the arrest of the designated deputies, together with the Twelve. After having harangued the vast concourse in the square in front, he led his devoted bands to the Place du Carrousel before the Tuileries. They were then deployed around the Palace.
Though most of the obnoxious deputies kept away, Lanjuinais opened the sitting by demanding the annulment of the Revolutionary authorities and the outlawing of their members. He had no sooner finished than the petitioners of the Sections came to demand the arrest of the deputies, himself included. Their address concluded with the ominous words, "The people are tired of having their happiness postponed they leave it but a moment in your hands, save it, or we declare the people will save it themselves!" Instead of considering the petition, the Convention, at the instance of the Right, passed to the order of the day. At this the deputation of the Sections withdrew in a threatening manner, while large numbers of the public quitted the galleries and followed it. Shouts of "To arms!" were heard outside. The Committee of Public Safety, through its spokesman Barrère, made its report on the situation. It now formally recommended that the Convention should ask the incriminated members to voluntarily suspend themselves. Some of those implicated accepted this solution, but the majority refused. Marat, speaking in the discussion, expressed his willingness, for his part, to suspend himself, on condition that the decree of accusation were passed, with the modification that the names of the three persons he had already designated as unjustly included in the list should be eliminated, and those of Fermont and Valazé should be put in their place. At that moment the Dantonist Lacroix, who had been absent for some time, returned in a state of violent agitation, declaring the Convention to be no longer free, that it was surrounded by troops at the order of the Commune, in short, that the Assembly was virtually a prisoner in its own house. At this news even the Mountain was for a moment staggered, the Dantonist section giving vent to expressions of indignation. But who was the soul of this movement? It was Marat. He it was who, the previous evening, had mounted the tower of the Hotel de Ville and sounded the tocsin; who had kept alive the energy of the Commune and its determination to obtain the decree of accusation at all costs - by force if necessary. He it was who, on the morning of the Sunday, had gone up and down the ranks of Henriot's men, exhorting them to be induced neither by threats nor promises lay down their arms until the momentous crisis had actually passed.
The upshot of Lacroix' announcement and the consternation produced was the proposal that the President, Hérault de Séchelles, should pass out at the head of the Convention. This suggestion was adopted. What followed we give in Marat's own words. "He descends from his seat", writes Marat, "nearly all the members following him, forces open the bronze doors, while the guard makes way. Instead of at once returning and demonstrating thereby the falsity of the clamours, he conducts the Convention in procession round the terraces and gardens. I had remained at my post in the company of about thirty other Montagnards. The galleries, impatient at not seeing the Assembly return, began to murmur loudly; I sought to appease them, rushed after the Convention, and found it at the Pont Tournant. I exhort it to return to its post; it returns, and reassumes its functions. The motion for the decree of accusation is made once more, and this time is carried by a large majority, and the people retire peaceably. Thus passed, without the shedding of blood, without outrage of any sort, without even disorder, a day of alarms which saw a hundred thousand citizens assembled in arms, provoked as they were by six months of machination and intrigues, added to atrocious calumnies, fabricated by their cowardly oppressors". (Publiciste No.209.)
Marat, with a modesty which ill accords with the reputation of self-assertion his enemies have sought to fasten on him, omits the fact vouchsafed by other witnesses, that the Convention, on appearing before the armed force, was greeted with unanimous cries of "Long live Marat and the Mountain!" thus constituting him the personification of Jacobin principles. He also omits to mention how at the concluding proceedings within the Convention on that memorable day, he found himself, by the sheer force of circumstances, in the position practical dictator to the august Assembly; how the erasure of the names eliminated by him, and the insertion of that of Valazé, was carried without discussion on his mere demand. Marat at this moment might without exaggeration have been designated the uncrowned King of France.
Such was the end of the Girondin faction - thirty-two placed under arrest and the remainder escaping into the provinces, many of them there to suffer divers fates, if anything worse than that of their brethren in Paris. The names of those arrested were as follows: - Gensonne, Guadet, Brissot, Gorsas, Pétion, Vergniaud, Sallés, Barbaroux, Chamlon, Buzot, Birotteau, Lidon, Rabaud, Lasource, Lanjuinais, Grangeneuve, Lehardi, Lesage, Louvet, Valazé, Lebrun (the Minister for Foreign Affairs), Clavière (Minister for Contributions), Kerleregan, Gardieu, Rabaud-Saint-Etienne, Boileau, Bertrand, Virgée, Molleveau, Henri-Larivière, Gomère, and Bergonin. It is supposed to be the correct thing in a historian to speak of the "courage of the Girondins." Yet, while not denying that individual members of the party, Lanjuinais for instance, on occasion showed some pluck, where the courage of the party as a whole comes in it is difficult to see. It tacitly acquiesced in, and even by the mouth of Roland condoned, the September massacres at the time, while afterwards, when it thought them a convenient stick with which to beat Marat and the Commune, overflowed with horror at them as a monstrous crime. It professed to wish to save the King, at all events his life, and yet, when the time comes, dread of unpopularity induced at least one section to vote - the death-sentence like any ordinary truculent Montagnard. The crucial day of the 2nd of June found the majority of its members absent from their places in the Tuileries theatre. To crown all, there was a disorganised sauve qui peut of the remainder of the party not under arrest into the provinces. On the other hand if we have no evidence of courage on the part of the Girondins as a whole, but rather considerable indications of cowardice, we have distinct proofs of mutual dissension within the party, the only unanimity being shown in perfidious machinations with treacherous generals on the frontiers, in backstairs intrigue at home against the Parisian representation, alike parliamentary and municipal, and last but not least, in the fabrication of the most barefaced and slanderous lies against all who differed from their principles and policy. Yet this wretched assortment of politicians has been patronised by the average writer on the Revolution ever since. And why is this? The reason is not far off. The Girondins were the last bulwark, at this stage of the Revolution, of property, privilege and classorder, against the desperation of the masses.
On the day following the revolution which had destroyed the Girondins as a party, Marat addressed a letter to the Convention, published in the Publiciste (No.209); "Impatient to open the eyes of the nation, abused as to my intentions by so many hired libellers, unwilling to be regarded as an object of discord, and ready to sacrifice all to the return to peace - I hereby renounce the exercise of my function as deputy, until judgment has been passed on the accused representatives. May the late scandalous scenes never be repeated in the Convention! May all its members sacrifice their passions to their duties! May my colleagues of the Mountain let the whole nation see that, if they have not as yet fulfilled all their pledges, it is because their efforts have been thwarted by wicked men!" Thus Marat kept the promise he had made of resignation, after the voting of the decree he regarded as essential to the public welfare.
For some weeks past a change had been noticed in the composition of the Publiciste. Numbers entirely from Marat's pen had become rare, the paper being now mainly composed of letters from outside, to which the "People's Friend" simply added his reflections. M. Bougeart would connect this with the excitement following the acquittal. "It was that the emotion", he says (Marat, vol. i, p. 253), "caused by the judgment, and without doubt by the testimony of public sympathy, had been so deep in a nature so sensitive, that the "People's Friend" had not been able to resist it; he had been taken ill. Since the middle of April he had complained of increased indisposition. Serious symptoms seem to have developed themselves at this time in the left lung. He was seen no more at the Assembly till the time of the indictment of the Girondins; then he only seemed to acquire new vigour from the over-excitement of fever; but this supreme effort sufficed to exhaust him. After the great revolution which established the Jacobins and the Mountain as the supreme power in France, the public saw little more of Marat. Privation, nervous excitement, and overwork had produced their effect. The distressing skin disease from which Marat continued to suffer, though not mortal in itself, no doubt acted on, and in its turn was reacted on by, the state of alternate excitement and prostration produced by the above causes. For a whole fortnight, during this month of June, Marat did not quit his bed, but the publication of the journal continued all the same. As M. Bougeart says (vol. ii. p.254), "The editing of the Publiciste is a veritable bulletin of his health. When the articles are long the invalid is better; when they are but a few lines his prostration is complete." The journal and the reports of the Convention sittings, together with his enormous correspondence, were daily brought to Marat's bedside; and, so far as his strength permitted, were read and commented on. Though he had made up his mind under no circumstances again to attend the sittings of the Convention till the Girondins had been adjudicated upon, Marat continued to address his colleagues of the Convention in writing. In No. 224. of the Publiciste, however, he complains of the lack of attention his communications have received. This being the case, he feels it would be a neglect of his duty to remain longer from his post. "Since the days of my voluntary suspension, I have addressed several letters to the Convention, in which I proposed useful measures on important subjects. They have not been read. Yesterday again the letter that I sent to the President of the Convention has had the same fate. I had flattered myself that I had an alternative to my own presence, but my hopes have been deceived. The danger of the country recalls me to my post. The profound silence that I have kept for a fortnight ought to suffice to dissipate all the clouds that overshadow me. I declare then that I go at once to resume my functions." He did indeed with a great effort raise himself from his bed of sickness to be present in his place in the Convention. But he was only seen there for two days. On the second day he returned to his room, never again to leave it alive. But the journal now once again appeared with almost perfect regularity, forming the only outlet left for this man of truly superhuman energy. From the 23rd of June, the day following his fast visit to the Convention, to the 14th of July, the day after his assassination, only three numbers failed to appear, and assuredly the "People's Friend" must have indeed been ill on those days. Times had changed now with him from the day when, some six months before, he apologised to his readers and excused himself, in No. 93 of the Journal de la République, for the numerous gaps in the publication of the paper. "Several of my readers", he then writes in an introductory note, "have murmured at the interruption of my paper for some days. I owe them an explanation which will show them that I have not had an instant to prepare it, overburdened as I am with the weight of occupation. In the first place, I may tell them that, of the twenty-four hours of the day, I only devote two to sleep, and one only to the table, toilette, and domestic concerns. Outside those that I consecrate to my duties as deputy of the people, I regularly employ six to receive the complaints of a crowd of unfortunate and oppressed, of whom I am the defender, to test and make note on their complaints, to read and reply to a multitude of letters, to overlook the publication of a work I have in the press, to take notes of all the interesting events of the Revolution, to put down my impressions on paper, to receive denunciations, to assure myself of the bona fides of the denunciators, and finally to bring out my paper. These are my daily occupations. I can hardly, I think, be accused, of laziness. For nearly three years I have not had a quarter of an hour of recreation. In addition I have had to find time to work at some speeches for the tribune of the Convention. This I could only do by suspending less urgent occupations, and as such is the reason of the interruption of my journal, it will doubtless find grace in your eyes."
Such was the fearful pressure at which the "People's Friend" lived, so long as it was physically possible. In addition, it must be remembered that he literally starved himself, not merely, as above appears, to save the time of eating for his public work, but through giving away to "patriots" who needed help all he had but the barest pittance. At the beginning of July (Publiciste, No.234), Marat writes respecting a report that the Girondin volunteers of the departments were combining to march on Paris: "Let them come; they will find Thuriot, Lindet, Saint Just, all the brave Montagnards; they will see Danton, Robespierre, Panis, etc., so often calumniated; they will find in them intrepid defenders of the people. Perhaps they will come to see the Dictator Marat. They will behold a poor devil in his bed who would give all the dignities of the earth for a few days' health, but always a hundred times more concerned for the misfortunes of the people than for his malady." This article proves, if nothing else, Marat's complete disinterestedness and the absence of all feelings of petty jealousy as regards his colleagues of the Mountain. The only fault we have to find with it is, in fact, an excessive generosity, which seems to have blinded even Marat to the true character of Robespierre.
Marat, although he had voted for the establishment, with great powers, of the Committee of Public Safety, in accordance with his often expressed views respecting the necessity of a strong Revolutionary Government, was nevertheless much dissatisfied with the existing composition of that body. He had written several articles on the subject, the last appearing in the very number of the Publiciste which he was correcting at the time of his assassination, and which appeared the day following. Speaking of the members of the Committee, he characterises them as "for the most part easy going persons, who are present scarcely two hours in the twenty-four at the sittings of the Committee. They are ignorant of almost everything that is done there... Among their number is one, moreover, whom the Mountain very imprudent nominated, and whom I regard as the most dangerous enemy of the country. It is Barrère, whom Saint-Foix indicated to the monarch as one of those constitutionalists out of whom he could make the most. As regards myself I am convinced that he swims between two streams, to see which one will gain the ascendant; it is he who has paralysed all efforts of vigour; it is he who enchains us with a view to strangling us. I challenge him to furnish proof to the contrary when, in conclusion, I denounce him as a Royalist."
With the foregoing article Marat's political life ends. The closing scene of his personal life belongs to our next chapter.