Saturday, June 29, 2013




Who were the men that the leaders succeeded in enlisting for the hideous task ? Very great pains have been taken, Dr. John Moore wrote on the 10th of September, to urge the notion " that the assassins were no other than a promiscuous crowd of the citizens of Paris." x This was absolutely untrue. The assassins formed an organized band of not more than 300 men—a point on which all contemporaries not in collusion with the leaders agree.2 Nor is there any mystery concerning their identity, for the names and professions of the greater number are known, and have been published by M. Granier de Cassagnac.3 There were then, in addition to the Marseillais and released convicts who formed the nucleus of the gang, a certain number of men who might be described as citizens of Paris, and, strangely enough, these were not mostly rough brutes from, the barges on the Seine or the hovels of Saint-Marceau, but boutiquiers or small trades­men, bootmakers, jewellers, tailors—two of these were Germans— some, indeed, appear to have been men of education.4 It is this latter class that seems to have lent itself most willingly to the hideous work ; the rest were persuaded by various methods to co-operate. The greater number undoubtedly yielded, merely to the lust, for gold, to the promise of wine and booty in addition to their salary ; others, the more ignorant no doubt, believed the story told them of the plot hatched by the prisoners to massacre their wives and children, and went forth in all good faith to destroy the supposed enemies of their country. As to the ferocity they displayed once they had set themselves to the task, it is to be explained in the same way as the outrages com­mitted at the Tuileries on the ioth of August, by the effect of fiery liquor working on overwrought brains. Moreover, this time it was not merely alcohol that had been given to them, but something more insidious that had been purposely introduced into the drink with which they were plied incessantly.   
1  Journal of a Residence in France, i. 374.
2   " The number of assassins did not exceed 300 " (Roch Marcandier (an. eye-witness), Histoire des Homines de Proie) ; Louvet said about 200 (Accusation contre Maximilien Robespierre, Seance de la Convention du 29 Octobre 1792); " 300," says Mercier (Le Nouveau Paris, i. 94); M. Granier de Cassagnac gives 235 as the approximate number (Histoire des Girondins
". 30).
3  Histoire des Girondins, ii. 502-516.
4  " They were not all of the dregs of the people," the Abbe Barruel says of the massacrers at the Carmes; "their accent, their speeches be­trayed amongst them adepts whom the philosophy of the Clubs and the schools of the day, far more than boorish ignorance, had inflamed against the priests" (Histoire du Clerge, p. 248).


Maton de la Varenne says that Manuel had ordered gunpowder to be mixed with their brandy, so as to keep them in a state of frenzy ; but the Two Friends of Liberty declare that they were drugged :
" It is incontestable that the drink that had been distributed to the assassins was mingled with a particular drug that inspired terrible fury, and left to those who took it no possibility of a return to reason. We knew a porter who for twenty years had carried out errands ... in the Rue des Noyers. He had always enjoyed the highest reputation, and every inhabitant of the district blindly confided the most valuable parcels to him. . . . He was dragged off on the 3rd of September to the Convent of Saint-Firmin, where he was forced to do the work of executioner. We saw him six days later when we were ourselves proscribed, and, needing a man who could be trusted to help us move secretly, we addressed ourselves to him. He had returned to his post ; he was trembling in every limb, foaming at the mouth, asking incessantly for wine, without ever slaking his thirst and without falling a victim to ordinary drunkenness. ' They gave me plenty to drink,' he said, ' but I worked well; I killed more than twenty priests on my own account.' A thousand other speeches of this kind escaped him, and each sentence was interrupted by these words, 'I am thirsty.' In order that he might not feel inclined to slake his thirst with our blood, we gave him as much wine as he wished. He died a month later without ever having slept, in the interval." 1
This circumstance explains the fact that at moments the assassins showed themselves capable of humanity—evidently, when the first effects of the drug had begun to wear off, they returned more or less to a normal frame of mind. Thus the two cut-throats, who conducted the Chevalier de Bertrand safely home, insisted on going upstairs with him to contemplate the joy of his family. The rescuers of Jourgniac de St. Meard—a Marseillais, a mason, and a wig-maker—refused the reward offered them with the words, " We do not do this for money." 2 Later on Beaulieu met these men at the house of St. Meard. " What struck me," he says, " was that through all their ferocious remarks I perceived generous sentiments, men determined to undertake anything to protect those whose cause they had embraced. The greater number of these maniacs, dupes of the Machiavellian beings who set them in motion, are dead or dying in misery." 3

1 Deux Amis, viii. 296.
3 Mon Agonie de trente-huit Heures, by Jourgniac de St. Meard.
3 Beaulieu. iv. 109.