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Sketch Of The French Revolution Of 1789 As Connected With The History Of Persecution

The design of those who were the primary agents in originating the
causes of the French Revolution, was the utter subversion of the
christian religion. Voltaire, the leader in this crusade against
religion, boasted that "with one hand he would pull down, what took
twelve Apostles to build up." The motto on the seal of his letters was,
"Crush the wretch," having reference to Jesus Christ, and the system of
religion, which he promulgated. To effect his object he wrote and
published a great variety of infidel tracts, containing the most
licentious sentiments and the most blasphemous attacks upon the religion
of the Bible. Innumerable copies of these tracts were printed, and
gratuitously circulated in France and other countries. As they were
adapted to the capacity of all classes of persons, they were eagerly
sought after, and read with avidity. The doctrines inculcated in them
were subversive of every principle of morality and religion. The
everlasting distinctions between virtue and vice, were completely broken
down. Marriage was ridiculed--obedience to parents treated as the most
abject slavery--subordination to civil government, the most odious
despotism--and the acknowledgement of a God, the height of folly and
absurdity. Deeply tinged with such sentiments, the revolution of 1789,
found the popular mind in France prepared for all the atrocities which
followed. The public conscience had become so perverted, that scenes of
treachery, cruelty and blood were regarded with indifference, and
sometimes excited the most unbounded applause in the spectators. Such a
change had been effected in the French character, by the propagation of
Infidel and Atheistical opinions, "that from being one of the most light
hearted and kind tempered of nations," says Scott, "the French seemed
upon the revolution to have been animated, not merely with the courage,
but with the rabid fury of wild beasts." When the Bastile was stormed
"Fouton and Berthier, two individuals whom they considered as enemies of
the people, were put to death, with circumstances of cruelty and insult
fitting only at the death stake of an Indian encampment; and in
imitation of literal cannibals, there were men, or rather monsters
found, not only to tear asunder, the limbs of their victims, but to eat
their hearts, and drink their blood."

Croly, in his new interpretation of the Apocalypse, holds the following

The primary cause of the French revolution was the exile of

Its decency of manners had largely restrained the licentious tendencies
of the higher orders; its learning had compelled the Romish
Ecclesiastics to similar labours; and while christianity could appeal to
such a church in France, the progress of the infidel writers was checked
by the living evidence of the purity, peacefulness and wisdom of the
Gospel. It is not even without sanction of scripture and history to
conceive that, the presence of such a body of the servants of God was a
divine protection to their country.

But the fall of the church was followed by the most palpable, immediate,
and ominous change. The great names of the Romish priesthood, the
vigorous literature of Bossnett, the majestic oratory of Massillon, the
pathetic and classic elegance of Fenelon, the mildest of all
enthusiasts; a race of men who towered above the genius of their country
and of their religion; passed away without a successor. In the beginning
of the 18th century, the most profligate man in France was an
ecclesiastic, the Cardinal Dubois, prime minister to the most profligate
prince in Europe, the Regent Orleans. The country was convulsed with
bitter personal disputes between Jesuit and Jansenist, fighting even to
mutual persecution upon points either beyond or beneath the human
intellect. A third party stood by, unseen, occasionally stimulating
each, but equally despising both, a potential fiend, sneering at the
blind zealotry and miserable rage that were doing its unsuspected will.
Rome, that boasts of her freedom from schism should blot the 18th
century from her page.

The French mind, subtle, satirical, and delighting to turn even matters
of seriousness into ridicule, was immeasurably captivated by the true
burlesque of those disputes, the childish virulence, the extravagant
pretensions, and the still more extravagant impostures fabricated in
support of the rival pre-eminence in absurdity; the visions of half-mad
nuns and friars; the Convulsionaries; the miracles at the tomb of the
Abbe Paris, trespasses on the common sense of man, scarcely conceivable
by us if they had not been renewed under our eyes by popery. All France
was in a burst of laughter.

In the midst of this tempest of scorn an extraordinary man arose, to
guide and deepen it into public ruin, VOLTAIRE; a personal profligate;
possessing a vast variety of that superficial knowledge which gives
importance to folly; frantic for popularity, which he solicited at all
hazards; and sufficiently opulent to relieve him from the necessity of
any labours but those of national undoing. Holding but an inferior and
struggling rank in all the manlier provinces of the mind, in science,
poetry, and philosophy; he was the prince of scorners. The splenetic
pleasantry which stimulates the wearied tastes of high life; the
grossness which half concealed captivates the loose, without offence to
their feeble decorum; and the easy brilliancy which throws what colours
it will on the darker features of its purpose; made Voltaire, the very
genius of France. But under this smooth and sparkling surface,
reflecting like ice all the lights flung upon it, there was a dark
fathomless depth of malignity. He hated government; he hated morals; he
hated man, he hated religion. He sometimes bursts out into exclamations
of rage and insane fury against all that we honour as best and holiest,
that sound less the voice of human lips than the echoes of the final
place of agony and despair.

A tribe worthy of his succession, showy, ambitious, and malignant,
followed; each with some vivid literary contribution, some powerful and
popular work, a new despotic of combustion in that mighty mine on which
stood in thin and fatal security the throne of France. Rousseau, the
most impassioned of all romancers, the great corrupter of the female
mind. Buffon, a lofty and splendid speculator, who dazzled the whole
multitude of the minor philosophers, and fixed the creed of
Materialism. Moutesquieu, eminent for knowledge and sagacity in his
"Spirit of Laws" striking all the establishments of his country into
contempt; and in his "Persian Letters," levelling the same blow at her
morals. D'Alembert, the first mathematician of his day, an eloquent
writer, the declared pupil of Voltaire, and, by his secretary-ship of
the French academy, furnished with all the facilities for propagating
his master's opinions. And Diderot, the projector and chief conductor of
the Encyclopedia, a work justly exciting the admiration of Europe, by
the novelty and magnificence of its design, and by the comprehensive and
solid extent of its knowledge; but in its principles utterly evil, a
condensation of all the treasons of the school of anarchy, the lex
scripta of the Revolution.

All those men were open infidels; and their attacks on religion, such as
they saw it before them, roused the Gallican church. But the warfare was
totally unequal. The priesthood came armed with the antiquated and
unwieldy weapons of old controversy, forgotten traditions and exhausted
legends. They could have conquered them only by the bible; they fought
them only with the breviary. The histories of the saints, and the
wonders of images were but fresh food for the most overwhelming scorn.
The bible itself, which popery has always laboured to close, was brought
into the contest, and used resistlessly against the priesthood. They
were contemptuously asked, in what part of the sacred volume had they
found the worship of the Virgin, of the Saints, or of the Host? where
was the privilege that conferred Saintship at the hands of the pope?
where was the prohibition of the general use of scripture by every man
who had a soul to be saved? where was the revelation of that purgatory,
from which a monk and a mass could extract a sinner? where was the
command to imprison, torture, and slay men for their difference of
opinion with an Italian priest and the college of cardinals? To those
formidable questions the clerics answered by fragments from the fathers,
angry harangues, and more legends of more miracles. They tried to enlist
the nobles and the court in a crusade. But the nobles were already among
the most zealous, though secret, converts to the Encyclopedia; and the
gentle spirit of the monarch was not to be urged into a civil war. The
threat of force only inflamed contempt into vengeance. The populace of
Paris, like all mobs, licentious, restless, and fickle; but beyond all,
taking an interest in public matters, had not been neglected by the deep
designers who saw in the quarrel of the pen the growing quarrel of the
sword. The Fronde was not yet out of their minds; the barrier days of
Paris; the municipal council which in 1648, had levied war against the
government; the mob-army which had fought, and terrified that government
into forgiveness; were the strong memorials on which the anarchists of
1793 founded their seduction. The perpetual ridicule of the national
belief was kept alive among them. The populace of the provinces, whose
religion was in their rosary, were prepared for rebellion by similar
means and the terrible and fated visitation of France began.

After passing through many scenes from the recital of which the mind
turns away with loathing and disgust, the reign of terror commenced.
Previous to this, however, there had been dreadful riots, and disorders
in Paris. The Swiss Guards had been cut to pieces, and the king and
royal family imprisoned. The priests had nearly all perished or been
banished from France. The national assembly was divided into desperate
factions, which often turned their arms against one another. When one
party triumphed, proscription followed, and the guillotine was put in
requisition, and blood flowed in torrents. The grossest irreligion
likewise prevailed. Leaders of the atheistical mob would extend their
arms to heaven and dare a God, if he existed, to vindicate his insulted
majesty, and crush them with his thunderbolts. Over the entrance of
their grave yards was placed this inscription, "DEATH AN ETERNAL SLEEP."
Men who dared to think differently from the dominant faction, were
immediately executed, in mockery, often, of all the forms of justice.
The most ferocious of the bloody factions, were the jacobins, so called
from their place of meeting. The leaders of this party were Danton,
Robespierre, and Marat. They are thus described by Scott in his life of

Three men of terror, whose names will long remain, we trust, unmatched
in history by those of any similar miscreants, had now the unrivalled
leading of the jacobins, and were called the Triumvirate.

Danton deserves to be named first, as unrivalled by his colleagues in
talent and audacity. He was a man of gigantic size, and possessed a
voice of thunder. His countenance was that of an Ogre on the shoulders
of a Hercules. He was as fond of the pleasures of vice as of the
practice of cruelty; and it was said there were times when he became
humanized amidst his debauchery, laughed at the terror which his furious
declamation excited, and might be approached with safety like the
Maelstrom at the turn of tide. His profusion was indulged to an extent
hazardous to his popularity, for the populace are jealous of a lavish
expenditure, as raising their favourites too much above their own
degree; and the charge of peculation finds always ready credit with
them, when brought against public men.

Robespierre possessed this advantage over Danton, that he did not seem
to seek for wealth, either for hoarding or expending, but lived in
strict and economical retirement, to justify the name of the
Incorruptible, with which he was honoured by his partisans. He appears
to have possessed little talent, saving a deep fund of hypocrisy,
considerable powers of sophistry, and a cold exaggerated strain of
oratory, as foreign to good taste, as the measures he recommended were
to ordinary humanity. It seemed wonderful, that even the seething and
boiling of the revolutionary cauldron should have sent up from the
bottom, and long supported on the surface, a thing so miserably void of
claims to public distinction; but Robespierre had to impose on the minds
of the vulgar, and he knew how to beguile them, by accommodating his
flattery to their passions and scale of understanding, and by acts of
cunning and hypocrisy, which weigh more with the multitude than the
words of eloquence, or the arguments of wisdom. The people listened as
to their Cicero, when he twanged out his apostrophes of Pauvre Peuple,
Peuple verteueux! and hastened to execute whatever came recommended by
such honied phrases, though devised by the worst of men for the worst
and most inhuman of purposes.

Vanity was Robespierre's ruling passion, and though his countenance was
the image of his mind, he was vain even of his personal appearance, and
never adopted the external habits of a sans culotte. Amongst his fellow
jacobins he was distinguished by the nicety with which his hair was
arranged and powdered; and the neatness of his dress was carefully
attended to, so as to counterbalance, if possible, the vulgarity of his
person. His apartments, though small, were elegant, and vanity had
filled them with representations of the occupant. Robespierre's picture
at length hung in one place, his miniature in another, his bust occupied
a niche, and on the table were disposed a few medallions exhibiting his
head in profile. The vanity which all this indicated was of the coldest
and most selfish character, being such as considers neglect as insult,
and receives homage merely as a tribute; so that, while praise is
received without gratitude, it is withheld at the risk of mortal hate.
Self-love of this dangerous character is closely allied with envy, and
Robespierre was one of the most envious and vindictive men that ever
lived. He never was known to pardon any opposition, affront, or even
rivalry; and to be marked in his tablets on such an account was a sure,
though perhaps not an immediate sentence of death. Danton was a hero,
compared with this cold, calculating, creeping miscreant; for his
passions, though exaggerated, had at least some touch of humanity, and
his brutal ferocity was supported by brutal courage. Robespierre was a
coward, who signed death-warrants with a hand that shook, though his
heart was relentless. He possessed no passions on which to charge his
crimes; they were perpetrated in cold blood, and upon mature

Marat, the third of this infernal triumvirate, had attracted the
attention of the lower orders, by the violence of his sentiments in the
journal which he conducted from the commencement of the revolution, upon
such principles that it took the lead in forwarding its successive
changes. His political exhortations began and ended like the howl of a
blood-hound for murder; or, if a wolf could have written a journal, the
gaunt and famished wretch could not have ravined more eagerly for
slaughter. It was blood which was Marat's constant demand, not in drops

from the breast of an individual, not in puny streams from the slaughter
of families, but blood in the profusion of an ocean. His usual
calculation of the heads which he demanded amounted to two hundred and
sixty thousand; and though he sometimes raised it as high as three
hundred thousand, it never fell beneath the smaller number. It may be
hoped, and, for the honour of human nature, we are inclined to believe,
there was a touch of insanity in this unnatural strain of ferocity; and
the wild and squalid features of the wretch appear to have intimated a
degree of alienation of mind. Marat was, like Robespierre, a coward.
Repeatedly denounced in the Assembly, he skulked instead of defending
himself, and lay concealed in some obscure garret or cellar, among his
cut-throats, until a storm appeared, when, like a bird of ill omen, his
death-screech was again heard. Such was the strange and fatal
triumvirate, in which the same degree of cannibal cruelty existed under
different aspects. Danton murdered to glut his rage; Robespierre to
avenge his injured vanity, or to remove a rival whom he envied! Marat,
from the same instinctive love of blood, which induces a wolf to
continue his ravage of the flocks long after his hunger is appeased.

These monsters ruled France for a time with the most despotic sway. The
most sanguinary laws were enacted--and the most vigilant system of
police maintained. Spies and informers were employed--and every murmur,
and every expression unfavourable to the ruling powers was followed with
the sentence of death and its immediate execution.

"Men," says Scott, "read Livy for the sake of discovering what degree of
private crime might be committed under the mask of public virtue. The
deed of the younger Brutus, served any man as an apology to betray to
ruin and to death, a friend or a patron, whose patriotism might not be
of the pitch which suited the time. Under the example of the elder
Brutus, the nearest ties of blood were repeatedly made to give way
before the ferocity of party zeal--a zeal too often assumed for the most
infamous and selfish purposes. As some fanatics of yore studied the old
testament for the purpose of finding examples of bad actions to
vindicate those which themselves were tempted to commit, so the
republicans of France, we mean the desperate and outrageous bigots of
the revolution, read history to justify, by classical instances, their
public and private crimes. Informers, those scourges of a state, were
encouraged to a degree scarce known in ancient Rome in the time of the
emperors, though Tacitus has hurled his thunders against them, as the
poison and pest of his time. The duty of lodging such informations was
unblushingly urged as indispensable. The safety of the republic being
the supreme charge of every citizen, he was on no account to hesitate in
denouncing, as it was termed, any one whomsoever, or howsoever
connected with him,--the friend of his counsels, or the wife of his
bosom,--providing he had reason to suspect the devoted individual of the
crime of incivism,--a crime the more mysteriously dreadful, as no one
knew exactly its nature."

In this place we shall give an account of some of the scenes to which
France was subject during this awful period. In order to render the
triumph complete, the leaders of the Jacobins determined upon a general
massacre of all the friends of the unfortunate Louis and the
constitution in the kingdom. For this purpose, suspected persons of all
ranks were collected in the prisons and jails, and on the 2d of
September, 1792, the work of death commenced.

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