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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793,

By contributing to the overthrow of Robespierre


Robespierre

possessed neither the talents nor merits of Nicolas Riezi; but they are both conspicuous instances of the mutability of popular support, and there is a striking similitude in the last events of their history. They both degraded their ambition by cowardice--they were both deserted by the populace, whom they began by flattering, and ended by oppressing; and the death of both was painful and ignominious--borne without dignity, and embittered by reproach and insult.*

* Robespierre lay for some hours in one of the committee-rooms, writhing with the pain of his wound, and abandoned to despair; while many of his colleagues, perhaps those who had been the particular agents and applauders of his crimes, passed and repassed him, glorying and jesting at his sufferings. The reader may compare the death of Robespierre with that of Rienzi; but if the people of Rome revenged the tyranny of the Tribune, they were neither so mean nor so ferocious as the Parisians.

You will perceive by this summary that the overthrow of Robespierre was chiefly occasioned by the rivalship of his colleagues in the Committee, assisted by the fears of the Convention at large for themselves.--Another circumstance, at which I have already hinted, as having some share in this event, shall be the subject of my next letter.

Providence, Aug.

13, 1794.

_Amour, tu perdis Troye_ [Love! thou occasionedst the destruction of Troy.]:--yet, among the various mischiefs ascribed to the influence of this capricious Sovereign, amidst the wrecks of sieges, and the slaughter of battles, perhaps we may not unjustly record in his praise, that he was instrumental to the solace of humanity, by contributing to the overthrow of Robespierre. It is at least pleasing to turn from the general horrors of the revolution, and suppose, for a moment, that the social affections were not yet entirely banished, and that gallantry still retained some empire, when every other vestige of civilization was almost annihilated.

After such an exordium, I feel a little ashamed of my hero, and could wish, for the credit of my tale, it were not more necessary to invoke the historic muse of Fielding, than that of Homer or Tasso; but imperious Truth obliges me to confess, that Tallien, who is to be the subject of this letter, was first introduced to celebrity by circumstances not favourable for the comment of my poetical text.

At the beginning of the revolution he was known only as an eminent orator en plain vent; that is, as a preacher of sedition to the mob, whom he used to harangue with great applause at the Palais Royal. Having no profession or means of subsistence, he, as Dr. Johnson observes of one of our poets, necessarily became an author. He was, however, no farther entitled to this appellation, than as a periodical scribbler in the cause of insurrection; but in this he was so successful, that it recommended him to the care of Petion and the municipality, to whom his talents and principles were so acceptable, that they made him Secretary to the Committee.

On the second and third of September 1792, he superintended the massacre of the prisons, and is alledged to have paid the assassins according to the number of victims they dispatched with great regularity; and he himself seems to have little to say in his defence, except that he acted officially. Yet even the imputation of such a claim could not be overlooked by the citizens of Paris; and at the election of the Convention he was distinguished by being chosen one of their representatives.


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