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


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