Page images
PDF
EPUB

articles of daily consumption, which miciliary visits ; and any fraud or connecessarily rose with such prodigious cealment was declared punishable with additions to the circulating medium. death. Commissioners appointed by To effect the object, they had recourse the communes were authorised to fix to new and still more oppressive regu- the price at which all these articles lations. To destroy the competition of were to be sold; and if the necessary rival companies, which prevented the cost of the manufacture was such as to direction of capital towards the pur- render the price beyond the reach of chase of the national domains, they the people, they were still to be exabolished, by decree, all life insurance posed to sale, at such a reduced price societies, and all companies of every as might bring them within their means description of which the shares were -an atrocious edict, pressing with untransferable from hand to hand; they paralleled severity upon the industrious declared traitors to their country all classes, merely to gratify the needy and those who placed their funds in any in- clamorous multitude in towns, on whom vestments in countries with which the the government depended, and which, Republic was at war; and condemned if it had subsisted long in force, would to twenty years in irons every person have destroyed all the industry of convicted of refusing to receive pay. France, and handed over the people to ment of any debt in assignats, or being the unmitigated horrors of actual faconcerned in any transaction in which mine. they were received at less than their no- 66. These extravagant measures had minal value. Any person found guilty not been many months in operation, of buying or selling assignats was to be before they produced the most disaspunished with death, by a decree of trous effects. A great proportion of 5th September. They ordered that the the shops in Paris and all the principal bells of the churches should everywhere towns were shut; business of every be melted down into sou pieces, to an- sort was at a stand; the laws of the swer the immediate wants of the pea- maximum, and against forestallers, had santry; and passed a second decree, spread terror and distrust as much which ranked forestalling with capital among the middle classes, who had crimes. By this last law, it was de commenced the Revolution, as the guilclared that every one was to be con- lotine had among the nobles and priests, sidered as a forestaller, who withdrew who had been its earliest victims. The from circulation merchandise of pri- retail dealers, who had purchased the mary necessity, without immediately articles in which they dealt from wholeexposing it to public sale. The articles sale merchants before the law of the which had been previously declared to maximum, at a price higher than that be of primary necessity, were bread, allowed by the new tariff, were comwine, butcher-meat, grain, oats, vege- pelled, by the terror of death, to sell at tables, fruits, coal, wood, butter, cheese, a loss to themselves, and saw their forlinen, cotton stuffs, and dress of every tunes gradually melting away in their description, except silks. For all these daily transactions. Even those who had articles a tariff of prices was fixed, far laid in their stock after the imposition below what they could be purchased of the maximum were in no better for or produced by the retail dealers, situation, for that regulation had only manufacturers, or farmers. To carry fixed their price when retailed to the into execution this iniquitous decree, public; but as it had not fixed the price the most inquisitorial powers were con- at which the previous manufacture was ferred on the commissaries named by to be accomplished, nor the needful exthe commune. Every merchant was pense of transport and storing it in their obliged, at their summons, to give a warehouses effected, and as their opestateinent of the goods contained in his rations were necessarily paid in proporwarehouses; these declarations were tion to the depreciated value of the liable to be checked at any hour by do- currency, the subsequent sale at the

VOL. III.

[ocr errors]

prices fixed by the maximum entailed | be struck with the sword; he that ruinous losses on the tradesmen. The strikes with poison should be struck consequence was, that the greater part with poison; he thatfamishes the people of the shops were everywhere closed, should die of famine. If subsistence and those who continued to do business and articles of merchandise are wantdid so only by fraud; the worst articles ing, from whom shall the people seize alone were exposed to public sale at the them? From the Convention ? No. legal price, and the best reserved for From the constituted authorities? No. those who were willing in secret to pay They will take them from the shoptheir real value. A sepulchral silence keepers and merchants. It is arms, and reigned in the once gay and joyous ca- not gold, which are wanted to set in pital. In many streets hardly a shop motion our manufactories; the world was open; not a light was to be seen must know that the giant people can in the windows at night; and the doors crush all its mercantile speculations. were all barricaded, to give the inhabi- Rousseau has said, when the people hace tants the means of escape by the back nothing else to eat, they will eat the rich." windows, if the commissaries of the 68. Intimidated by such formidable Convention came to their abodes. * petitioners, the Convention and the mu

67. The people, who perceived these nicipality adopted still more rigorous frauds, and witnessed the closing of so measures. Hitherto they had only fixed great a number of shops, were trans- the price of articles of necessity in a ported with fury, and besieged the manufactured state, now they resolved Convention with the most violent peti- to fix the price of the raw material ; tions, insisting that the dealers should and the idea was even entertained of be compelled to reopen their shops, seizing the material and the workmen and continue to sell as usual, in spite of alike for the service of the state, and any loss they might sustain. They de converting all France into one vast nounced the butchers, who were accused manufactory in the employment of of selling unwholesome meat; the bak- government. The communes declared ers, who furnished coarse bread for the that every merchant who had been enpoor, and fine for the rich ; the wine- gaged in business for above a year, merchants, who diluted their liquors who either abandoned or diminished it, by the most noxious drugs; the salt- should be sent to prison as a suspected merchants, the grocers, the confection- person; the prices which the merchant ers, who conspired together to adulte- could exact from the retailer, and the rate the articles in which they dealt in retailer from the customer, were mia thousand different ways. Chaumette, nutely fixed; the revolutionary comthe procureur-général, supported their inittees were alone permitted to issue demands in a violent speech. “We tickets, authorising purchases of any sympathise,” said he, “with the evils sort; only one species of bread, of coarse of the people, because we are the people quality, was allowed to be baked ; and ourselves; the whole council is com- to prevent the scandalous scenes which posed of Sans-culottes; it is the sove- daily occurred at the bakers' shops, reign multitude. We care not though where a number of the poor passed a our heads fall, provided posterity will part of the night with the cord in their deign to collect our skulls. It is not hands, it was enactedt that the distributhe Gospel which I invoke—it is Plato. He that strikes with the sword should

t"I demand that, in order to put a stop

to the mobs at the doors of the bakers, to * “Instead of the bustle of active life, and save mothers of families from the severe inthe striking splendour which formerly dis- convenience they have so long endured, in tinguished Paris, a funereal silence reigns in having to seek their bread as early as four in all quarters of the town; all the shops are the morning-the municipality of Paris cause already shut, every man bastens to barricade

a table to be drawn up, with twelve columns himself in his own house; every breathing for each month of the year, at the bottom thing seemed shadowed by the emblems of of which there shall be a certificate for the the tomb."Forty-eight hours at Paris in the quantity to which each applicant is entimonth of September 1793; Deux Amis, xii. 146, tled." -- Paroles de GUEROULT; Débats des Jaco147.

bins, Oct. 30, 1793.

tion should commence with the last ar- | ments pressed with severity; they were rived —a regulation which only changed equally oppressive to the poorest. Nethe direction of the tumult. These ver, in truth, had the labouring poor regulations were speedily adopted from been subjected to so many and such themunicipality of Parisoverall France. vexatious restraints, or obedience to Soon after, the Convention adopted the them enforced by such numerous and still more hazardous step of fixing the sanguinary punishments. No one venprime cost of all articles of rude pro- tured to indulge in any luxury, or allow duce. The price was fixed on the basis himself any gratification. Metallic curof the prices of 1790, augmented by rency had almost disappeared, and the certain fixed rates for the profit of the poor received their wages merely in different hands through which they paper assignats, with which they were passed, before reaching the consumer. unable to purchase even the necessaries To carry into execution the numerous of life, from the enormous extent of regulations on this subject, a commis- their depreciation. Liable to the guilsion of subsistence and provisioning lotine if they either sold above the was appointed, with absolute powers, maximum, or refused to take the assig. extending overall France: it was charged nats at their legal and forced value with the execution of the tariffs, with ten times their intrinsic worth—the the superintendence of the conduct of dealers had no resource but to close the municipalities in that particular; their shops, and become mendicants with continually receiving statements like their customers, at the offices where of the quantity of subsistence in the provisions were distributed. If they country, and the places where it exist were shopkeepers, they were compelled ed; with transporting it from one quar- to sell at a fictitious price; if they were ter to another, and providing for the purchasers, they were under the necessubsistence of the armies, and the fur-sity of buying the most wretched arnishing them with the means of trans- ticles, because the best were withdrawn port.

by the effect of the forced sales enjoined 69. Speculation of every sort—even by government. Only one kind of bread, the gambling of the Bourse—was to- of the blackest and coarsest kind, was wards the close of the Reign of Terror to be had, and that could be obtained almost at an end. The bankers and in no other way but by receiving tickets merchants, accused on all sides of ele- from the revolutionary committees, and vating prices, and seeing some of their waiting half the night, or for hours number daily led out to the scaffold, during the day, at the doors of the deserted the Exchange, and sought for bakers, with a rope in the hand. The an asylum in the solitude of their names of the weights and measures, of homes. Industry and activity entirely the days and months, were changed ; ceased : every one, intent only on self- the labouring poor had only three Sunpreservation, and fearful of endanger- days in the month instead of four; the ing life if he was thought to be making consolations of religion, the worship of money, remained in sullen inactivity, the Deity, were at an end. either enduring or affecting poverty. 71. All the efforts of the Committee The aspect of France was that of uni- of Public Salvation, after some time, versal destitution. One would have became insufficient to procure an adethought that the whole wealth, which quate supply of subsistence. Commerce centuries of industry had accumulated, escaped the ruinous law of the maxihad suddenly been swallowed up. The mum, and it escaped it in the most disCompany of the Indies, the last existing astrous of all ways—by a total cessamercantile establishment, was abolish- tion. Want of the severest kind was ed; government resolved to leave no experienced in every branch of human investment for capital but the purchase consumption; the ordinary supplies of of the national domains.

butcher-meat failed, and as it could still 70. Nor was it only on the opulent be publicly sold only at the maximum, classes that the revolutionary enact- the butchers exposed only the most unwholesome kind of food, and reserved | days half a pound of meat to each the better sort for clandestine sale.* family for each head. The same cartes The evil soon extended to otherarticles; de sûreté were issued by the revoluvegetables, fruits, eggs, butter, and fish, tionary committees for this scanty aid, disappeared from the markets. Bands as for the rations of bread. Shortly of persons travelled far on the high- after, the supply of wood and charcoal roads, and met them as they were ap- was found to fail, and laws were passed, proaching Paris, where they were clan- preventing any one from having in destinely purchased at prices far above store more than a very limited quanthe maximum, for the use of the opu- tity of these necessary articles. Lastly, lent classes. The people were animated the Convention, in February 1794, prowith the most violent indignation at claimed a general fast for six weeks 80 these practices, and, to put a stop to far as butcher-meat was concerned. them, the Commune enacted that no “Decree the fast I propose,” said Barbutchers should be permitted to go out ère, “or it will come in spite of you. to meet the cattle on their way to the We shall soon have neither meat nor markets; that no meat should be bought candles. The oxen which are killed or sold but at the established stalls; and just now, have not enough of suet in that no crowd should be allowed to them to make candles for their own collect round the bakers' doors before slaughtering." + six in the morning, instead of three, 73. The preceding details, all purthe time when they usually began to posely taken from official documents assemble. These regulations, like all and decrees of the Republican writers the others, failed of effect; the crowds of France, and especially from their were just as great and as clamorous avowed and able leader and historian, round the bakers' shops as before: vio- M. Thiers, demonstrate that the picture lent tumults constantly arose among drawn by a contemporary writer was those who had got possession of the not overcharged; and that the genius ropes at their doors; and, as a last re- of Mr Burke had justly discerned, amid source, the government was preparing the transports of democracy, the galling to lay out the gardens of the Tuileries, bondage it was inflicting on mankind. of the Luxembourg, and of all the opu- “The state of France," says he,"is lent persons round Paris, in the culti- perfectly simple. It consists of but two vation of garden stuffs.

descriptions — the oppressors and the 72. At length the evils arising from oppressed. The first have the whole the maximum became so excessive, authority of the state in their hands ; that the inhabitants of Paris were ob- all the arms, all the revenues of the liged to be put on a limited allowance public, all the confiscations of indivi. of animal food. The Commission for duals and corporations. They have Provisions fixed the daily consumption taken the lower sort from their occuat 75 oxen, 150 quintals of mutton and pations, and have put them into pay, veal, and 200 högs. All the animals that they may form them into a body intended for the consumption of the of janissaries to overrule and awe prometropolis were brought to a public perty. The heads of these wretches market-place, where alone meat was they have never suffered to cool. They allowed to be sold; and the butchers supply them with a food for fury varied were only allowed to deliver every five by the day, besides the sensual state of

* “But you, unfeeling men, called butchers, intoxication from which they are rarely you make yourselves the instruments of the free. They have made the priests and anti-revolutionists. The poor man who comes people formally abjure the Divinity ; fuse of the meat; while the rich man, who they have estranged them from every laughs at the sufferings of others, is received civil, moral, and social, or even natural with fawning politeness, is favoured with the and instinctive sentiment, habit, and best cuts and most delicate morsels, because practice, and have rendered them syshe pays."-Proclamation du Comité de Surveillance de Paris, March 5, 1794; Hist. Parl. † The cattle in Paris, by a regulation of the xxxii. 4, 5.

police, are all slaughtered at four A.M.

tematically savages, to make it impos- | quity to the supreme sovereign authosible for them to be the instruments of rity, which no monarch has been able any sober and virtuous arrangement, yet to give to any representative of his. or to be reconciled to any state of The commissioners of the National order, under any name whatsoever. Convention, who are the members of The other description—the oppressed the Convention itself, and really exer-are people of some property : they cise all its powers, make continual cirare the small relics of the persecuted cuits through every province, and visits landed interest; they are the burghers to every army. There they supersede and the farmers. By the very circum- all the ordinary authorities, civil and stance of their being of some property, military, and change and alter everythough numerous in some points of thing at their pleasure. So that, in view, they cannot be very considerable effect, no deliberative capacity exists as a number. In cities, the nature of in any portion of the inhabitants." + their occupations renders them domestic and feeble; in the country, it con 74. In the midst of all these extrafines them to their farm for subsistence. ordinary and unprecedented changes in The national guards are all changed society, however, the moral laws of and reformed. Everything suspicious nature were unceasingly working, and in the description of which they were preparing, amid the present triumph of composed is rigorously disarmed. Com- wickedness, its final and condign pun. mittees, called of vigilance and safety, ishment. Divisions, as usual, had are everywhere formed—a most severe sprung up in the victorious body on the and scrutinising inquisition, far more destruction of their opponents. Two rigid than anything ever known or parties remained opposed, on different imagined. Two persons cannot meet principles, to the Decemvirs, whose deand confer without hazard to their struction was indispensable to the full liberty, and even to their lives. Num- establishment of their despotic authobers scarcely credible have been exe- rity. These parties were the Moderates cuted, and their property confiscated. and the Anarchists. At the head of At Paris, and in most other towns, the the former were Danton and Camille bread they buy is a daily dole, which Desmoulins; the latter was supported they cannot obtain without a daily by the powerful municipality of Paris. ticket delivered to them by their mas- It has been already observed, that ters. Multitudes of all ages and sexes Danton and his party were strangers are actually imprisoned. I have reason to the real objects of the revolt on 31st to believe, that in France there are May. They aided the populace in the not, for various state crimes, so few as struggle with the Convention; but they twenty thousand actually in jail —a had no intention of establishing the large proportion of people of property oligarchy which directed, and finally in any state. * If a father of a family triumphed by their exertions. After should show any disposition to resist, the overthrow of the Girondists, Robesor to withdraw himself from their pierre urged Danton to retire to the power, his wife and children are cruelly country. A tempest is arising,” said to answer for it. It is by means of he; “the Jacobins have not forgot these hostages that they keep the your relations with Dumourier. They troops, which they force by masses (as hate your manners ; your voluptuous they call it) into the field, true to their and indolent habits are at variance with colours. Another of their resources is their austere disposition and undying not to be forgotten. They have lately energy. Withdraw for a little ; trust found a way of giving a sort of ubi- to a friend, who will watch over your

* How much was this within the truth! danger, and warn you of the first moWhen Mr Burke said this, in spring 1794, the ment to return.” Danton followed his prisoners in France exceeded 200,000. Even advice, nothing loth to get quit of a short of the real atrocities of the Reign of faction of which he began to dread the

+ Burke on the Policy of the Allies.

[ocr errors]

Terror.

« PreviousContinue »