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Scenes At Marseilles And Lyons








Marseilles, Toulon, and Lyons, had declared themselves against the
Jacobin supremacy. Rich from commerce and their maratime situation,
and, in the case of Lyons, from their command of internal navigation,
the wealthy merchants and manufacturers of those cities foresaw the
total insecurity of property, and in consequence of their own ruin, in
the system of arbitrary spoliation and murder upon which the government
of the Jacobins was founded. But property, for which they were
solicitous, though, if its natural force is used in time, the most
powerful barrier to withstand revolution, becomes, after a certain
period of delay, its helpless victim. If the rich are in due season
liberal of their means, they have the power of enlisting in their cause,
and as adherents, those among the lower orders, who, if they see their
superiors dejected and despairing, will be tempted to consider them as
objects of plunder. But this must be done early, or those who might be
made the most active defenders of property, will join with such as are
prepared to make a prey of it.

Marseilles showed at once her good will and her impotency of means. The
utmost exertions of that wealthy city, whose revolutionary band had
contributed so much to the downfall of the monarchy in the attack on the
Tuilleries, were able to equip only a small and doubtful army of about
3000 men, who were despatched to the relief of Lyons. This
inconsiderable army threw themselves into Avignon, and were defeated
with the utmost ease, by the republican general Cartaux, despicable as a
military officer, and whose forces would not have stood a single
engaillement of Vendean sharp-shooters. Marseilles received the
victors, and bowed her head to the subsequent horrors which it pleased
Cartaux, with two formidable Jacobins, Barras and Ferron, to inflict on
that flourishing city. The place underwent the usual terrors of Jacobin
purifaction, and was for a time affectedly called "nameless commune."

Lyons made a more honourable stand. That noble city had been subjected
for some time to the domination of Chalier, one of the most ferocious,
and at the same time one of the most extravagantly absurd, of the
Jacobins. He was at the head of a formidable club, which was worthy of
being affiliated with the mother society, and ambitious of treading in
its footsteps; and he was supported by a garrison of two revolutionary
regiments, besides a numerous artillery, and a large addition of
volunteers, amounting in all to about ten thousand men, forming what was
called a revolutionary army. This Chalier, was an apostate priest, an
atheist, and a thorough-paced pupil in the school of terror. He had been
procureur of the community, and had imposed on the wealthy citizens a
tax, which was raised from six to thirty millions of livres. But blood
as well as gold was his object. The massacre of a few priests and
aristocrats confined in the fortress of Pierre-Scixe, was a pitiful
sacrifice; and Chalier, ambitious of deeds more decisive, caused a
general arrest of an hundred principal citizens, whom he destined as a
hecatomb more worthy of the demon whom he served.

This sacrifice was prevented by the courage of the Lyonnois; a courage
which, if assumed by the Parisians, might have prevented most of the
horrors which disgraced the revolution. The meditated slaughter was
already announced by Chalier to the Jacobin club. "Three hundred heads,"
he said, "are marked for slaughter. Let us lose no time in seizing the
members of the departmental office-bearers, the presidents and
secretaries of the sections, all the local authorities who obstruct our
revolutionary measures. Let us make one fagot of the whole, and deliver
them at once to the guillotine."

But ere he could execute his threat, terror was awakened into the
courage of despair. The citizens rose in arms and besieged the Hotel de
Ville, in which Chalier, with his revolutionary troops, made a
desperate, and for some time a successful, yet ultimately a vain
defence. But the Lyonnois unhappily knew not how to avail themselves of
their triumph. They were not sufficiently aware of the nature of the
vengeance which they had provoked, or of the necessity of supporting the
bold step which they had taken, by measures which precluded a
compromise. Their resistance to the violence and atrocity of the
Jacobins had no political character, any more than that offered by the
traveller against robbers who threaten him with plunder and murder. They
were not sufficiently aware, that, having done so much, they must
necessarily do more. They ought, by declaring themselves royalists, to
have endeavoured to prevail on the troops of Savoy, if not on the Swiss,
(who had embraced a species of neutrality, which, after the 10th of
August, was dishonourable to their ancient reputation,) to send in all
haste, soldiery to the assistance of a city which had no fortifications
or regular troops to defend it; but which possessed, nevertheless,
treasures to pay their auxiliaries, and strong hands and able officers
to avail themselves of the localities of their situation, which, when
well defended, are sometimes as formidable as the regular protection
erected by scientific engineers.

The people of Lyons vainly endeavoured to establish a revolutionary
character for themselves upon the system of Gironde; two of whose
proscribed deputies tried to draw them over to their unpopular and
hopeless cause: and they inconsistently sought protection by affecting a
republican zeal, even while resisting the decrees, and defeating the
troops of the Jacobins. There were undoubtedly many of royalist
principles among the insurgents, and some of their leaders were
decidedly such; but these were not numerous or influential enough to
establish the true principle of open resistance, and the ultimate chance
of rescue, by a bold proclamation of the king's interest. They still
appealed to the convention as their legitimate sovereign, in whose eyes
they endeavoured to vindicate themselves, and at the same time tried to
secure the interest of two Jacobin deputies, who had countenanced every
violation attempted by Chalier, that they might prevail upon them to
represent their conduct favourably. Of course they had enough of
promises to this effect, while Messrs. Guathier and Nioche, the deputies
in question, remained in their power; promises, doubtless the more
readily given, that the Lyonnois, though desirous to conciliate the
favour of the convention, did not hesitate in proceeding to the
punishment of the Jacobin Chalier. He was condemned and executed, along
with one of his principal associates, termed Reard.

To defend these vigourous proceedings, the unhappy insurgents placed
themselves under the interim government of a council, who, still
desirous to temporize and maintain the revolutionary character, termed
themselves "the popular and republican commission of public safety of
the department of the Rhine and Loire;" a title which, while it excited
no popular enthusiasm, and attracted no foreign aid, no ways soothed,
but rather exasperated, the resentment of the convention, now under the
absolute domination of the Jacobins, by whom every thing short of
complete fraternization was accounted presumptuous defiance. Those who
were not with them, it was their policy to hold as their most decided
enemies.

The Lyonnois had indeed letters of encouragement, and promised
concurrence, from several departments; but no effectual support was ever
directed to their city, excepting the petty reinforcement from
Marseilles, which we have seen was intercepted and dispersed with little
trouble by the Jacobin general, Cartaux.

Lyons had expected to become the patroness and focus of an Anti-Jacobin
league, formed by the great commercial towns, against Paris and the
predominant part of the convention. She found herself isolated and
unsupported, and left to oppose her own proper forces and means of
defence, to an army of sixty thousand men, and to the numerous Jacobins
contained within her own walls. About the end of July, after a lapse of
an interval of two months, a regular blockade was formed around the
city, and in the first week of August, hostilities took place. The
besieging army was directed in its military character by general
Kellerman, who, with other distinguished soldiers, had now began to hold
an eminent rank in the republican armies. But for the purpose of
executing the vengeance for which they thirsted, the Jacobins relied
chiefly on the exertions of the deputies they had sent along with the
commander, and especially of the representative, Dubois Crance, a man
whose sole merit appears to have been his frantic Jacobinism. General
Percy, formerly an officer in the royal service, undertook the almost
hopeless task of defence, and by forming redoubts on the most commanding
situations around the town, commenced a resistance against the immensely
superior force of the besiegers, which was honourable if it could have
been useful. The Lyonnois, at the same time, still endeavoured to make
fair weather with the besieging army, by representing themselves as firm
republicans. They celebrated as a public festival the anniversary of the
10th of August, while Dubois Crance, to show the credit he gave them for
their republican zeal, fixed the same day for commencing his fire on the
place, and caused the first gun to be discharged by his own concubine, a
female born in Lyons. Bombs and red-hot bullets were next resorted to,
against the second city of the French empire; while the besieged
sustained the attack with a constancy, and on many parts repelled it
with a courage highly honourable to their character. But their fate was
determined. The deputies announced to the convention their purpose of
pouring their instruments of havoc on every quarter of the town at once,
and when it was on fire in several places, to attempt a general storm.
"The city," they said, "must surrender, or there shall not remain one
stone upon another, and this we hope to accomplish in spite of the
suggestions of false compassion. Do not then be surprised when you hear
that Lyons exists no longer." The fury of the attack threatened to make
good these promises.

The sufferings of the citizens became intolerable. Several quarters of
the city were on fire at the same time, immense magazines were burnt to
the ground, and a loss incurred, during two night's bombardment, which
was calculated at two hundred millions of livres. A black flag was
hoisted by the besieged on the Great Hospital, as a sign that the fire
of the assailants should not be directed on that asylum of hopeless
misery. The signal seemed only to draw the republican bombs to the spot
where they could create the most frightful distresses, and outrage in
the highest degree the feelings of humanity. The devastations of famine
were soon added to those of slaughter; and after two months of such
horrors had been sustained, it became obvious that farther resistance
was impossible.

The parylitic Couthon, with Collot D'Herbois, and other deputies were
sent to Lyons by the committee of public safety, to execute the
vengeance which the Jacobins demanded; while Dubois Crance was recalled,
for having put, it was thought, less energy to his proceedings than the
prosecution of the siege required. Collot D'Herbois had a personal
motive of a singular nature for delighting in the task intrusted to him
and his colleagues. In his capacity of a play-actor, he had been hissed
from the stage at Lyons, and the door to revenge was now open. The
instructions of this committee enjoined them to take the most
satisfactory revenge for the death of Chalier and the insurrection of
Lyons, not merely on the citizens, but on the town itself. The principal
streets and buildings were to be levelled with the ground, and a
monument erected where they stood, was to record the cause:--"Lyons
rebelled against the Republic--Lyons is no more." Such fragments of the
town as might be permitted to remain, were to bear the name of Ville
Affranchie. It will scarce be believed that a doom like that which might
have passed the lips of some eastern despot, in all the frantic madness
of arbitrary power and utter ignorance, could have been seriously
pronounced, and as seriously enforced, in one of the most civilized
nations in Europe; and that to the present enlightened age, men who
pretended to wisdom and philosophy, should have considered the labours
of the architect as a proper subject of punishment. So it was, however;
and to give the demolition more effect, the impotent Couthon was carried
from house to house, devoting each to ruin, by striking the door with a
silver hammer, and pronouncing these words--"House of a rebel. I condemn
thee in the name of the law." Workmen followed in great multitudes, who
executed the sentence by pulling the house down to the foundations. This
wanton demolition continued for six months, and is said to have been
carried on at an expense equal to that which the superb military
hospital, the Hotel des Invalides, cost its founder, Louis XIV. But
republican vengeance did not waste itself exclusively upon senseless
lime and stone--it sought out sentient victims.

The deserved death of Chalier had been atoned by an apotheosis executed
after Lyons had surrendered; but Collot D'Herbois declared that every
drop of that patriotic blood fell as if scalding his own heart, and that
the murder demanded atonement. All ordinary process, and every usual
mode of execution, was thought too tardy to avenge the death of a
Jacobin proconsul. The judges of the revolutionary commission were worn
out with fatigue--the arm of the executioner was weary--the very steel
of the guillotine was blunted. Collot D'Herbois devised a more summary
mode of slaughter. A number of from two to three hundred victims at once
were dragged from prison to the place de Baotteaux, one of the largest
squares in Lyons, and there subjected to a fire of grape-shot.
Efficacious as this mode of execution may seem, it was neither speedy
nor merciful. The sufferers fell to the ground like singed flies,
mutilated but not slain, and imploring their executioners to despatch
them speedily. This was done with sabres and bayonets, and with such
haste and zeal, that some of the jailers and assistants were slain along
with those whom they had assisted in dragging to death; and the mistake
was not discerned, until, upon counting the dead bodies, the military
murderers found them to amount to more than the destined tale. The
bodies of the dead were thrown into the Rhone, to carry news of the
republican vengeance, as Collot D'Herbois expressed himself, to Toulon,
then also in a state of revolt. But the sullen stream rejected the
office imposed on it, and headed back the dead in heaps upon the banks;
and the committee of Representatives was compelled at length to allow
the relics of their cruelty to be interred, to prevent the risk of
contagion.





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Previous: Dreadful Scenes In La Vendee



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