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A Residence in France During the Years 1792, 1793,

Lecointre is a linen draper at Versailles


However

rejoiced the nation at large might be at the overthrow of Robespierre, no one was deceived as to the motives which actuated his colleagues in the Committee. Every day produced new indications not only of their general concurrence in the enormities of the government, but of their own personal guilt. The Convention, though it could not be insensible of this, was willing, with a complaisant prudence, to avoid the scandal of a public discussion, which must irritate the Jacobins, and expose its own weakness by a retrospect of the crimes it had applauded and supported. Laurent Lecointre,* alone, and apparently unconnected with party, has had the courage to exhibit an accusation against Billaud, Collot, Barrere, and those of Robespierre's accomplices who were members of the Committee of General Safety. He gave notice of his design on the eleventh of Fructidor (28th of August).

* Lecointre is a linen-draper at Versailles, an original revolutionist, and I believe of more decent character than most included in that description. If we could be persuaded that there were any real fanatics in the Convention, I should give Lecointre the credit of being among the number. He seems, at least, to have some material circumstances in his favour--such as possessing the means of living; of not having, in appearance, enriched himself by the revolution; and, of being the only member who, after a score of decrees to that

purpose, has ventured to produce an account of his fortune to the public.

--It was received everywhere but in the Convention with applause; and the public was flattered with the hope that justice would attain another faction of its oppressors. On the succeeding day, Lecointre appeared at the tribune to read his charges. They conveyed, even to the most prejudiced mind, an entire conviction, that the members he accused were sole authors of a part, and accomplices in all the crimes which had desolated their country. Each charge was supported by material proof, which he deposited for the information of his colleagues. But this was unnecessary--his colleagues had no desire to be convinced; and, after overpowering him with ridicule and insult, they declared, without entering into any discussion, that they rejected the charges with indignation, and that the members implicated had uniformly acted according to their [own] wishes, and those of the nation.

As soon as this result was known in Paris, the people became enraged and disgusted, the public walks resounded with murmurs, the fermentation grew general, and some menaces were uttered of forcing the Convention to give Lecointre a more respectful hearing.--Intimidated by such unequivocal proofs of disapprobation, when the Assembly met on the thirteenth, it was decreed, after much opposition from Tallien, that Lecointre should be allowed to reproduce his charges, and that they should be solemnly examined.

After all this, Lecointre, whose figure is almost ludicrous, and who is no orator, was to repeat a voluminous denunciation, amidst the clamour, abuse, chicane, and derision of the whole Convention. But there are occasions when the keenest ridicule is pointless; when the mind, armed by truth and elevated by humanity, rejects its insidious efforts--and, absorbed by more laudable feelings, despises even the smile of contempt. The justice of Lecointre's cause supplied his want of external advantages: and his arguments were so clear and so unanswerable, that the plain diction in which they were conveyed was more impressive than the most finished eloquence; and neither the malice nor sarcasms of his enemies had any effect but on those who were interested in silencing or confounding him. Yet, in proportion as the force of Lecointre's denunciation became evident, the Assembly appeared anxious to suppress it; and, after some hours' scandalous debate, during which it was frequently asserted that these charges could not be encouraged without criminating the entire legislative body, they decreed the whole to be false and defamatory.


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