Item of the Day: The History of Jacobinism (1798)

Full Title: The History of Jacobinism, Its Crimes, Cruelties and Perfidies, from the Commencement of the French Revolution, to the Death of Robespierre: Comprising An Inquiry into the Manner of Disseminating, under the Appearance of Philosophy and Virtue, Principles which are equally subversive of Order, Virtue, Religion, Liberty and Happiness. Vol. II. By William Playfair. London: Printed for J. Wright, 1798.

CHAP. X.

This second period of the French revolution which now begun, shews in all its extent the misfortunes and crimes that result from encouraging men to rebel against legitimate authority. The reign of the people was now fairly established, and the first operation was to massacre all the Swiss guards who fell into their hands. Numbers were murdered and mutilated in detail, but the large column which had been taken was conducted to the Hotel de Ville, and, according to the custom (begun with Bertier and Foulon two years ago), they were all massacred at the foot of the stairs, and in presence of the self-created, usurping magistrates. These murders were all approved of and protected upon the great scale, but the assembly pretended to preach respect to persons and property, when any particular occasion occured that might shew something like regard to justice without deranging the main plan of exterminating its enemies. As cruelty and humanity are incompatible with each other, and cannot lodge in the same breast, the assembly, the leaders of the revolt, and those who conducted it, must drop all claim to one or other of these qualities, and certainly it is not to that of cruelty; we are, therefore, justified in considering the cases in which they deviated from their general line of conduct, as unwilling sacrifices made to the shrine of justice and humanity, in order to blind the spectators with respect to the extent of their atrocities.

The new common council of Paris was now become the executive power, with Petion at its head and the rabble at its command; the assembly having consented to act the part of a passive instrument, and to decree whatever the populace, set on by the municipality, demanded, all power might be said to be lodged in the mayor and his consorts, who were the leaders of the Jacobin and Cordelier clubs.

The municipal officers were formidable from their violence of disposition, as well as from their great number; selected from the different quarters of Paris, they had spies, connections, and enemies in every part of that large and populous city. A part of this number remained at the Hotel de Ville to deliberate and send off orders, and the remainder were dispatched to see them executed. The barriers had all been shut at an early hour in the morning to prevent their victims from escaping, as well as to prevent the departments of the kingdom from hearing the history of what was going on till all should be finished. In this they imitated the first leaders of the insurrection, who did precisley the same things on the fourteenth of July; but as the democrats of the present day, they were pursued with unrelenting vengeance, for they had been popular once, and might be formidable now. . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, France, French Revolution, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

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