Skip to main content

Full text of "History of the guillotine. Revised from the 'Quarterly review'."

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on Hbrary shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http : //books . google . com/| 











Zl^^ .^.^^^ 




The Bevolution 1 

Subserviency of the press • • . . 1 

The * Moniteur ' 2 

Obscurity of the early history of the Guillotine ... 4 

Silence of historians • . • • 5 

M. Thiers as an historian 5 

Mr. Alison 6 

Original intention of the Guillotine .•*.... 7 

Dr. GuiUotin elected to the National Assembly ... 8 

His proposed sanitary reforms • . . 9 

His propositions regarding capital punishment ... 9 

Objections to decapitation 10 

Guillotin's recommendation of his machine .... 11 

Origin of the name — ' Les Actes des Apdtres ' .... 11 

Bamave— Chapelier — Coupe-tfite 13 

Louison, the first name of the Guillotine ..... 13 

Proceedings on Guillotin's propositions 14 

Bevolutionary sympathy • • 15 

Clermont-Tonn^re's philanthropy and assassination • . 15 

Execution of the Agasses .18 

Proposal for abolishing capital punishment negatived . 19 

Assassination of Le Pelletier de St. Fargeau .... 20 

Eobespierr^'s humane protest . 20 



# Page 

The Duke de Liancourt • ' 21 

New penal code • • 22 

Difficulty as to mo(fe of beheading 23 

M. Duport de Tertre's letter to the Assembly . • . • 24 

Sanson's * Observations on Execution by Beheading,' &c, 25 

Silence as to a machine 27 

Decree of the Assembly 28 

M. Louis's ' Eeport on the Mode of Decollation ' ... 28 

Guillotin consulted by Koederer 81 

His imprisonment and subsequent obscurity .... 33 

His death 33 

English mode of decapitation . • . , 34 

The Halifax Gibbet 35 

The Scottish Maiden 36 

Italian machine in 1702 . 39 

Curious coat-of-arms 40 

Handle Holme's notice of ancient modes of execution • 40 

Ancient instruments for decapitation •«•••• 41 

Execution of de Montmorend , « • • 46 

Laquiante's machine 47 

Estimate for constructing Louis's machine • • • • . 47 

The Guillotine canonized • • • , 48 

Schmidt the inventor of the instrument adopted « • • 49 

Experiments '. ••••••<• 50 

The Guillotine's first victim • • 51 

Its general success . • • • • 52 

Adoption of the name 53 

Voltaire's description of his countrymen • 54 

The Tenth of August • • • • 54 

First Bevolutionary Tribunal 55 





First political victims of the Guillotine ...... 56 

' Liste des Condamn^s' • • , .57 

Inaccuracy of contemporary publications 58 

M. Vemeuil's statement 59 

Imprisonment of the Sansons 60 

Execution of Gorsas 61 

The massacres at the prisons ... * 61 

Execution of Gazette • * 62 

Executions for forgery • • • • 63 

Death of the younger Sanson 63 

Stations of the Guillotine 63 

Suppression of the Tribunal 64 

Probable reason for the suppression 65 

The Tribunal revived 66 

Execution of Louis XVI. 66 

Site of the scaffold 67 

The scene after the execution 68 

Number of victims in 1793-4 69 

Execution of Charlotte Corday 70 

Question as to instantaneousness of death by the 

Guillotine 70 

Dr. Sue's opinion 71 

Story connected with the execution of Sir Everard Digby 71 

Opinion of Lord Bacon 72 

Execution of Marie Antoinette 72 

Statement of Mr. Alison 72 

Character of the Queen 73 

Execution of Madame Elizabeth 73 

Her noble conduct 74 

Execution of Madame Roland 75 

The statue of Liberty 76 

• a* 


Unceasing employment of the Guillotine . . .77 

" Les tricoteuses " • . . . . 77 

The Procureur-G^n^ral's complaint 78 

Chaumette and Gobel— the Goddess of Reason ... 78 

Robespierre's policy , 79 

His acknowledgment of a Supreme Being 79 

The Guillotine's removals .......... 79 

ExeoQtiGn of the Marquise de Feuquieres 80 

Number of victims at the Barri^re du Trdne .... 81 

Creditable conduct of Sanson 81 

Execution of Robespierre 82 

The Guillotine in the Departments 82 

Execution of Fouquier-Tinville . • 83 

The Guillotine after the Restoration, and under Louis- 

PhiUppe 84 

Appendix : — 

Note on Sanson and his family ....... 85 

Sanson's letter on the behaviour of the King at his 

execution I ... 87 


The whole French Eevolution, from the taking of 
the Bastile to the overthrow of the Empire, was in 
fact one long Eeign of Terror. The summary- 
vengeance of the lanteme in the earlier years — 
the systematised murders of the guillotine imder 
the Convention — ^the arbitrary exile to pestilential 
, climates imder the Directory — and the tortures of 
the dimgeon and the military executions under 
Buonaparte — all tended, in their way and for their 
time, to the creation and maintenance of that grand 
imposture — of which, although the events and their 
consequences were but too real, all the motives and 
pretences were the &lsest and most delusive that 
ever audacity forged, credulity believed, or cowardice 
obeyed. Nor have the effects of this protracted 
system of terror yet passed away ; it poisoned in its 
passage the very sources of history, and has left 
posterity, in many respects, under the same delusions 
that it imposed on its contemporaries. 

The subserviency of the press to the dominant 
tyranny of the day was so general and so complete as 
to be now nearly incredible ; those who look to the 



files of newspapers for information will find nothing 
but what, under the overwhelming terror of the 
moment, the ruling faction might choose to dictate to 
the trembling journalists :* and it .is additionally 
important to observe, that, as it is the nature and 
instinct of fear to disguise and conceal itself, so, 
during the whole of this diversified yet unbroken 
reign of terror, there is nothing which all parties, 
both the terrorists and terrified, were so anxious to 
hide as the onmipotent influence imder which thej all 
acted. When we, in a former essay, noticed this 
memorable &ct (and we have good reason to say that 
it camiot be too often repeated), we gave a striking 
example of that palsy of ^e press. It is the fashion 
to call the Momteur the best history of the Eevolu- 
tion, and its pages are universally appealed to as 
indisputable authority — and justly, as &r as it 
goes ; but the Momteur itself is a very imperfect 
chronicle, and, even before it became the official 
paper, never ventured to say a syllable not actually 
dictated, or at least sanctioned, by the predominant 
factiona For instance, on the 22nd of January, 
1793, the day after the king's murder — a some- 
what remarkable event, not unworthy,, we should 
hg-ve supposed, a paragraph in a newspaper — the 
Moniteur does not so much as allude to it ; and ekes 
out its meagre colunm of Parisian intelligence by a 

* The press had a certain degree of freedom during the earlier days 
of the Directory, but on the 18th Fructidor (4th Sept. 1797) forty- 
two journals were violently suppressed, their proprietors and editors 
were all transported, and their properties confiscated. From that till 
the Restoration there was no more liberty of the press in Paris than in 
Constantinople— as little indeed as under the new £mpire. 


• 4 

poor critique on * Amboise — opera comique I* And 
again c the assassination of Marat, which took place 
on the 13th July, 1793, is not mentioned till the 
15th, and then only incidentally, in the report of 
the debates of the Convention; and the trial of 
Charlotte Corday, which took place on the 17th, 
was not reported in any of the journals till the 23rd, 
nor in the Moniteur till the 29th, and then only half 
was given ; it was not concluded till the 30th, though 
the execution had taken place on the evening of the 
trial, almost a fortnight before. We could produce 
hundreds of similar instances; and, in &,ct, the 
Moniteur is, during the days of the National Assem- 
blies and the Convention, of very little value, except 
as a convenient summary of the debates, and even as 
to them it Is not always trustworthy,* — witness the 
following passage of a letter addressed by the editor 
of the day to Robespierre, soliciting a share of the 
secret service fund, and found amongst his papers :— 

" Tou must have remarked that the Moniteur reports the 
speeches of the Mountain aJb greater length than the rest, I 
gave hut a very slight sketch of Louvefs first accusation 
against gou, uMe I gave your answer atfuU length, J re- 
ported the speeches for the Ung*s death almost entire ; and 
I ordy gave some extradite of those on the other side — -just 
as much as was absolutely necessary to show some appearance 
of impartiality^ i*c. '* Grandvillk" 

— ^ii. Papier s de Robespierre^ p, 131. 

* It is but justice to add, that the Moniteur, though thus tram> 
melled by temporary influences, afways preseryed, in what it was 
allowed to say, a creditable degree of moderation and tact. 

B 2 


And^ tb give the finiflhing touch to this reinarkable 
iDstance of &aud and deception, we have to add that 
the Committee of the Convention, to whom the 
examination of Eobespierre's papers was referred, 
suppressed in their report these venal passages, 
which were only revealed when, after the Restora- 
tion, the original paper was brought to light 

These considerations have been recalled to our 
minds by the strange obscurity in wHch, when we 
happened to look into the matter, we found the early 
history of the GhiiUotine involved. We had long 
searched through the Moniteur and the other leading 
journals of the time — ^through the reports of the pro- 
ceedings of the legislative assemblies — ^through the 
Bulletin des Trilmnaux — the Bulletin des LoiXy and 
in short wherever we thought the information most 
likely to be found, as to when and where this for- 
midable engine made its first appearance, by what 
law it was sanctioned, and who were the earliest of 
that innumerable series of victims that perished by it. 
Little or nothing was to be found. It is only of late 
years that any one seems to have ventured to pro- 
duce any details on the subject. In 1830 a paper, 
rather surgical than historical, in the ^Archives 
Curieitsea,' * and in 1835 the publication in the 
* Rew£ Metroapective* of some documents, preserved 
in the Hotel de Ville, threw some scanty light 
on this subject. A recent pamphlet of M. Du 

* Afterwards published in a separate pamphlet of 16 pages, under 
tile title of Notice ffistorique et Physiologique sur le Supplice de la 
Guillotine. Par O. D. F. [i. e. Guyot de Ffere.] Pp. 16. Paris,* 1830. 


Bois* gives a more general sketch of the history of the 
machine itself and of its introduction into modem 
Eevolutionary practice. All these accounts are veiy 
imperfect and unsatisfactory, but they afford us an 
opportunity of bringing into one view all that we have 
been able to collect on a subject so neglected, and yet 
so worthy, we think, of being accurately known and 
deeply considered. 

It seems unaccotintable that the introduction of so 
very remarkable a change in the mode of execution 
should not have been a subject of general curiosity 
and discussdon, but is it not still more strange that 
persons calling themselves historiana — whose atten- 
tion might have been excited, not merely by the 
novelty of the machine, but by the moral and legal 
questions which led to the invention, and by the 
terrible, the gigantic consequences which followed 
its adoption— take little or no notice of it? M. 
Thiers, for instance, mentions cursorily the death of 
the first and second political victims of the Revolu- 
ticnary TrOimaJ. — Lacretelle, in a little more detail, 
names the second and third ; — Mignet merely says, 
* some persons were condemned ;' — and they all, in 
the course of their narrations, report the death of 
the King; but in none of the cases do they allude to 
any machine^ nor employ any phrase that would not 
apply to an ordinary decapitation by the stroke of 
the headsman. It may be said, in explanation of 

* Eecherches ffistoriques et Physiologiques sur la OuUlotine ; et 
Details sur Sanson : ouvrage redigd sur pUces officielles. Par M. 
Louis da Bois, Ancien Bibliothecaire d« TEcole Centrale de TOme. 
Pp. 35, Paris, 1843. 


their silence, that the French writers have been 
naturally reluctant to enter into details so disgraceful 
to the national character, and have therefore al>- 
stained^ through patriotism — as the Bomans used 
to do through superstition — ^fix)m uttering the ill- 
omened word. But we regret to say that Mr. Ali- 
son, who, indeed, is too apt on all occasions to 
copy implicitly his French models, has fallen ^into 
their error, without their patriotic excuse. Of the 
first victims of the Tribunal and the Guillotine he 
only says, in the very words of Mignet, 'several 
persons were eondenmed;* he does not even say 
executed — still less does he give any idea that they 
died in an imusual way ; and even the King's exe- 
cution is described by the words, * the descending 
axe terminated his existence ;' which — there having 
been no preceding allusion to any machine — would 
have equally described that of Charles I.* In short, 
those who are hereafter to learn the French Eevolu- 
tion from what are called Histories'^ will see it very 
much curtailed of many of its more terrible, yet most 
interesting features, and especially of the most pro- 
minent of them all^ — the Guillotine. 

We shall endeavour, as far as our limited space 

* It was said that the attempt of the executioners to bind the 
king to the balance-plank (bascule) was the occasion of a kind of 
struggle between him and them, and the cause that the execution was 
performed with more than usual mutilation, but this was altogether a 
misrepresentation : see in the Appendix the curious evidence of the 
executioner himself. 

t Nor is this neglect to be objected to the historians alone. In 
Dr. Rees's great Encyclopcedia (ed. 1819), neither the man Gttilhtin, 
nor the instrument guillotine , is to be found. The Penny Cyclopoedia 
gives a very good account of the instrument. 


and inadequate means will allow, to do something — 
however little it may be — ^to supply this general 

The Guillotine was not originally designed with 
any view to what turned out to be its most import- 
ant- characteristio — the great numbers of victims 
that it could dispose of in a short space of time i it 
is curious, and ought to be to theorists an instructive 
lesson, that this bloody implement was at first pro- 
posed on a combined principle of justice and mercy. 

It seems almost too ludicrous for belief, but it is 
strictly true, that, amongst the privileffes of the old 
Noblesse of France which the ^^PhUosophes^^ taught 
the people to complain of, was the mode of being put 
to death — ^why should a noble be only beheaded 
when a commoner would be hanged? Shakspeare, 
who penetrated every crevice of human feeling, 
makes the gravedigger in Hamlet open a grievance 
on which the French philosophers improved — * the 
more pity that great folk9 should have countenance in 
this world to drown or hang themselves more than their 
even Christian.* Why, the Philosophies asked, should 
the Noblesse *have countenance' to die otherwise 
than the Tiers Etat ? There was also another liberal 
opinion then afloat on the public mind — ^that the pre- 
Judice which visited on the innocent family of a 
criminal some posthumous portion of his disgrace 
was highly unjust and contrary to the rights of man.* 
Now there happened to be at this time in Paris a 

* As early as 1784 this qaestion was proposed hy the Society of 
Arts at Metz, as the subject of a prize Essay, and it is as a competitor 
for this prize that we first h%ar of Kobespicobe. 



physician, one Dr. GuUlotin, who professed, probably 
sincerely, but somewhat ostentatiously, what it was 
the fiishion to call philanthropy ; and just before the 
election of the States-General he published one or 
two pamphlets in favour of the Tiers Mat — liberal 
and philosophic as he no doubt c(Hisidered them, but 
seditious in the eyes o£ the Parliament of Paris, 
which made som^ show of prosecuting the auljior : 
this was enough in those days to establish any man's 
popularity, and Guillotin, though a person, as it 
turned out, of very moderate ability, was so reccHn- 
mended by his popular pamphlets and by the censure 
of the Parliament, that he was elected as one of the 
representatives of Paris to the National Assembly. 

We abstract from a work published in the^ height 
of republican enthusiasm (1796), and certainly with 
no bias against the Bevolution or its founders, the 
following account of Dr. Gxdllotin :— * 

** By what accident has a inaA without either talents or 
reputation obtained for his name a frightful immortality ? 
HefatJiered a work really written by a lawyer — Hardouin 
—who had too much character to produce it in his own 
name ; and this work having been censured by the Parlia- 
ment, Gruillotin, who assumed the responsibility of it, 
became the man of the day^ and owed to it that gleam of 
reputation which ensured his election to the States-General. 
He was in truth a nobody ^ who made himself a bttsybocfy — 
and by meddling with everything, d tort et d travers, was at 
opce mischievous and ridiculous." — Portraits des Personnes 
Celehres, 1796. 

He made several small attempts at senatorial 


notoriety by proposing reforms in matters of health 
and morals, on which he might be supposed to have 
some kind of professional authority, and amongst 
others he took up the question of capital punishment 
— ^first, with the moral but visionary object of putting 
down by law the popular prejudice against the fami- 
lies of criminals; secondly, on the political ground 
that punishments should be equaliz^; and thirdly, 
he contended that hanging was a lingering and 
therefore cruel punislunent, while death by decapi- 
tation must be immediate. 

Small circiHnstances mix themselves with great 
results. On the 9th of October, 1789, the National 
Assembly, in^ consequence of the tragic exodus of 
the Court from VeisaiUes, resolved to transfer itself 
to Paris, and Dr. Guillotin, being one of the repre- 
sentatives of that city y thought it expedient to pre^ 
pare for himself a good reception from his eonsti- 
tuents, and on that very day he gave notice of, and 
on the next — the 10th — ^pioduced, the fbUowing 
series of propositions: — - 

** I. Crimes of the same kind shall be punished by the 
same kind of punishment, whatever be the rank of the 

** n. In all cases (whatever be the crime) of capital 
ptmishment, it shall be of the same kind -i- that is, behead- 
ings and it shall be executed by means of a machine 
{Teffet d^un simple micanisme], 

** in. Crime being personal, the punishment, whatever 
it may be, of a criminal shall inflict no disgrace on his 



*• IV. No one shall be allowed to reproach any citiz^i 
with the punishment of one of his relations. He that shall 
dare to do so shall be reprimanded by the Judge, and this 
reprimand shall be posted up at the door of the delinquent; 
and moreover shall be posted against the pillory for three 

" V. The property ol a convict shall never nor in any 
case be confiscated. 

** VI. The bodies of executed criminals shall be delivered 
to their families if they demand it. In all cases the body 
shall be buried in the usual manner, and the registry shall 
contain no mention of the nature of the death.'' 

These propositions — embodying the pTiiloBophe 
theories, and at best unseasonable — were adjourned, 
somewhat contemptuously as it seems, without a 
debate; but on the 1st of December the Doctor 
brought them forward again — preceding his motion 
by reading a long and detailed report in their favour, 
to which — ^unluckily for the history of the guillotine 
— the Assembly did not pay the usual compliment of 
printing it, and no copy was found amongst Guillotines 
papers. The account of the debate in the journals* 
is peculiarly meagre, but we gather from them and 
other quarters some curious circumstances. 

The first proposition was voted with little or no 
opposition. On the second a discussion arose, and 
the Abb^ Maury, with prophetic sagacity, objected 
to the adoption of decapitation as a general punish- 
ment, " because it might tend to deprave the people 
hj familiarizing them with the fight of blood;-* but 


Maury's objection seems to have made no great im- 
pression at a time when no one — not even the saga- 
cious and eloquent Abbe himself — could have foreseen 
such a prodigality of legal murders — such a deluge 
of blood as afterwards afforded so pn^ctical and so 
frightful a corroboration of his theoretical suggestion. 

But the debate was brought to a sudden conclu- 
sion on that day by an imlucky inadvertence of 
Guillotin himself; who, answering some objections 
to the 2nd Article, and having represented hanging 
as evidently a tedious and torturing process, ex- 
claimed in a tone of triumph, ** JVW, with my ma- 
chine, I strike you off your head \je vouafaia sauter 
la tetel in the ttoinkUng of an eye^ and you never 
feel it J*' " Solvuntur risu tabulsQ " — a general laugh 
terminated the debate — ^and amongst the laughers 
there were scores who were destined to be early 
victims of the yet unborn cause of their merriment. 

Though Dr. Guillotin had talked so peremptorily 
and indiscreetly about " his machine," it does not 
appear that he had as yet prepared even a model, 
and it is nearly certain that he had no concern in 
the actual construction of the instrument that was 
eventually — three years later — adopted ; but to 
which, while yet in embryo, this unlucky burst of 
surgical enthusiasm was the occasion of aJBBbcing his 
name. It happened thus :— The celebrated Koyalist 
Journal, Les Actea dea Apotrea, conducted with 
great zeal and considerable wit by Peltier (afterwards 
so well known in London), assisted by Bivarol and 
others, seized on this phrase of GuiUotin's as the 


subject of a song — ^which, as being the real baptism 
of the future instrument, is worth quoting : — 

"iSfwr TimmitahU Machine du Midedn GviLuyris, prc^re 
d oouper les tSteSy et dite de son nom Guillotine. 



Iinagine, un bean matin, 
Que pendre est inhumain 
£t pen patrfotique ; 


n lui fait 

Un snpplioe 
Qni sans corde ni potean, 
. Sapprime du bourreau 


Le Romain 


Qui s'apprdte, 
Gonsulte gens du metier— 
Bamafie et Chapelier, 
M^me Coup€'tete; — 

Et sa main 

Fait soudain 

La machine, 
Qui ' simplement ' nous tuera, 
Et que I'on nommera 

Guillotine ! " 

It is singular enough that this song should have 
given its immortal name to the instrument three 
years before it actually existed; but it is also re- 
markable in another way — " Bamave and Ohapelier" 
were two of the most violent demociatic members 

OBiam OF THE NAME. 13 

of the National Assembly, and had been guilty of 
some indiscreet (to say the least of it) encourage- 
ment to the early massacres; Coupe-tete was one 
Jourdain (afterwards more widely celebrated for his 
diare in the massacres of Avignon), who derived his 
title of OoupC'tete from having cut off the heads of 
the two Gardes du Corps, Messrs, Des Huttes and 
Varicourt, who were murdered in the pala6e of 
Versailles on the Gth of October. But — 0, divine 
Justice! — these very patrcms of massacre — Bamave, 
and Chapelier^ and Coupe-tete — ^were themselves all 
massacred by the Guillotine : Bamave, a deep and 
interesting penitent, on the 29th of November, 1793; 
Chapelier, 17th of April, 1794; and Jourdain, 
covered with the blood of human hecatombs, 27th 
May, 1794. 

The name, however, of Gtdlhtmey thus given in 
derision and by anticipation, stuck, as the phrase is, 
in spite of a momentary attempt to call it the 
Louison, after M. Louis, the secretary of the College 
of Surgeons, who did actually preside over the con- 
struction of the machine which Guillotin had only 
indicated. But it was at first chiefly used as a term 
of reproach and ridicule ; aiid we read in the Mom- 
tear of the 18th of December, 1789, some * Ob- 
servations on the motion of Dr. Guillotin for the 
adoption of a machine which should behead animals 
in the tmnkling of an eye,' censuring the " levity 
with which some periodical papers have made trivial 
and indecent remarks," &c., alluding, no doubt, to 
the song of the Actes des Apotres, which had a great 

;: — r 



^^ Tr2 j- 

f llt^ 3. ^ 

ar-tS^ T S' 



^ T" «*rr -^^ ^ttrrr- 

Silr lie Sri azri 4ir srais ic G-dllnfr's 

tS •- : jcad a tbzrd a- lie 21^ JizisEnr, 17^3, at 


re Ktfc^ B)>:ci arrrre^ A lezsizlabie catnm- 
ttstfy^e ia tie detnse of lie 2irl Xtecesaba- ins, 
trutt tJje Oxmx de Genkjot T^aiiere, cue of the 
ntf/j^M MtA jurist aimabSe mcsnbeis of ^)e AsEemblr, 
\}Ui wV/^ like 8r> manr other wdl-meauung peisonSy 
WJM at th^:; oatT't a dnpe to that giddj ntania ol 
iftA^/ratWi and that wild pmsoit d[ afastzact plana- 

* ^/r/M 4frm tffU^t mtp^ rkieat icroliitioiiistB dMiyw ed Gml- 
h/tii/i^ W0U^,ft mvi »tiUiii tU ttbet of the aoag :— Cctte motioa (que 
|«« fj,it4MntJt4 fuutnti <Ucapit^ par reflet (fa* mpii^ M^jamsmf) 
» irU tH4tM \m U ihniUur Ouillotio. La madiiiie qa*3 a propowe 
M iri/t «i/|m)4U( (iidlhtiM, Oa a (kit i ce aajet one dianson sur I'air 
Ah ** Vluinnd d*Kimt^Ui," Ceit une douce correction qnele public 
)mI lHrtii;#| VUomrtiUUt ni«inl>r« a donn^ des preares auet fortes de 
«</M |H(H'/U«r/iM |)^»tir f(iM I'on doive oublier sa motion et la chanaon, — 
i^rtuthtifitnn, J(0V, dp Parity 20 D^otn^re, 1789. 


bilities which blasted the first fair promises of the 
young Eevolution — M, de Clermont Tonnfere, we 
say, took occasion, on the topic of the injustice of 
the prejudices which attached to the families of 
criminals, to invoke the sympathy of the Assembly 
for two o^er dasaes of ^IAo were stiU inj J 
ously affected by the same kind of prejudice — he 
meant Actors and Sooecutioners ! If satire had been 
devising how to ridicule these philosophical legis- 
lators, it could scarcely have hit on anything better 
than an attempt to class Actors and Executioners in 
the same category, and to extirpate such prejudices 
by statute law. 

It is but justice to M. de Clermont Tonnere to 
say that he saw very soon, though still too late, the 
danger of the many liberal and silly impulses to 
which he had at first given way, and endea- 
voured, but in vain, to stay the plague which he 
unintentionally had helped to propagate; by the 
recovery of his good sense he lost his popularity, 
and was massacred on the evening of the 10th of 
August in a garret where he had taken refuge, by 
the people whose idol he had been as long as he 
advocated the dignity of players and the sensibilities 
of the hangman. 

The National Assembly seems to have been re- 
luctant to renew the discussion on Guillotin's pro- 
positions, but a case which arose about the middle 
of January, 1790, proves that, although Guillotin 
and his machine found little favour in the Assembly, 
the proposition which he and M. de Clermont had 


advocated, of remoYing from a criminal's &milj aaj 
share in his disgrace — false in principle, and impos-* . 
sible in &ct — had made, as such plausibilities gene«« : 
rally do when the public mind is excited, a gi»at 
popular impression. The case, very characteristic in 
all its circumstances, was this. 

There were three brothers of a respectable family 
in Paris of the name of Agaase, the two eldest of 
whom, printers and proprietors of the Moniteur, were 
convicted for forgery of bank-notes, and sentenced to 
be hanged. This condemnation excited — ^fromthe 
youth and antecedent respectability of the parties — 
great public interest. It might be naturally expected 
that this sympathy woidd have exerted itself in 
trying to procure a pardon, or at least some com- 
mutation of punishment, for these young men, whose 
crime was really nothing compared with those of 
which Paris was the daily and hourly scene; but 
no ! There seems, on the contrary, to have been 
a pretty general desire that they should suffer the 
full sentence of the law; in order that the National 
Assembly and the good people of Paris might have a 
practical opportunity of carrying out the new prin- 
ciple that the ** crime does not disgrace the family.*^ 
In ths evening sitting of the 21st January (a date 
soon to become still more remarkable in the history 
of the Guillotine) an Abbe Pepin mounted hastily 
the tribune of the National Assembly, recalled to its 
attention Guillotin's propositions, which had been, 
he said, too long neglected, and stated that a case 
had now occurred which required the instant passing ' 


of the three articles which related to the abolition of 
the prejudice and of confiscation of property, and to 
the restoring the body to the family. That most 
foolish of the National Assemblies loved to act by 
impulses, and the three articles were enthusiastically 
passed for the avowed purpose of being applied to 
the individual case — as they, in fact, were in the 
following extraordinary manner : — Three days after 
the passing of the decree the battalion of National 
Ouards of the district of St. Horiore, where the 
Agasses resided, assembled in grand parade; they 
voted an address to M. Agasse, the uncle of the 
criminals, first, to condole with his affliction, and^ 
secondly, to announce their adoption of the whole 
surviving family as friends and brothers ; and, as a 
first step, they elected the young brother and 
younger cousin of the culprits to be lieutenants of 
the Grenadier company of the battalion, and then, 
the battalion being drawn up in front of the Louvre, 
these young men were marched forth, and compli- 
mented on their new rank by M. de Lafayette, the 
Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by a numerous 
staff. Nor was this all : a deputation of the bat- 
talion were formally introduced into the National 
Assembly, and were harangued and complimented 
by the President on this touching occasion. They 
were afterwards entertained at a banquet, at which 
Lafayette — then in more than royal power and 
glory — placed them at his sides, and ^^ frequently 
embraced them,^* They were also led in procession 
to St. Eustache and other churches, and paraded^ 



of the committee, who warmly advocated their views 
and his own for the abolition, was Le Pelhtiet de 
St. Fargeau, an ex-president of the Parliament of 
Paris, where he had been a leading frondeur : at the 
outset of the States-General he seemed inclined to 
the Royalist party, but, either from terror or a desire 
of popularity, soon became a Jacobin.* This strenu- 
ous advocate for the abolition of the punishment of 
death in any case voted for the murder of the King, 
and was himself on the same day assassinated by one 
PiLris, an ex-Garde du Corps, in a cafe of the Palais 
Royal ; f but a still more remarkable circumstance 
was, that the member who distinguished himself by 
the most zealous, argumentative, and feeling protest 
against the shedding of human blood, in any pombk 
case or under any pretext whatsoever , was, as the 
reports call him, " Monsieur DE Robespierre!" 

The fundamental question being thus decided for 
the retention of capital punishment, the mode of 

* " Homme faible et riche, qui s'etait donn^ H la Montagne par 
peur! " — Memoirea de Madame Boland, vol. ii. p. 296. 

f The name of the coffee-house keeper was Fevrier, and it shows 
the temper of the times that at this moment of complicated horroi^ 
the public was amused with the following burlesque epitaph on Le 
Pelletier : — 

" Ci-git Le Pelletier, 
Assassin^ en Janvier 

Chez Fevrier, , 

A Paris, 
Par Paris." 

Madmne Roland suspected, and we incline to believe, that he was ziot 
murdered by P&ris, but by his own party, to increase the exasperation 
of the public mind, and ensure the execution of the King. — M^moires 
de Madame Molomd, uhi anpra. 


execution came next into discussion^ and on the 3id 
of June, 1791, the following article was proposed :•«*«« 

« Every criminal condemned to death shall be beheaded 
[aura la tSte trancJiee]" 

In the debate on this question there were also 
some noticeable circumstances. M. La Cheze re* 
produced, rather more diffusely, the Abbe Maury's 
original objection to familiarising the people to the 
sight of blood ; and it seemed now to produce more 
impression than it had formerly done. Two years of 
bloody anarchy had, we presume, a little sobered all 
jninds capable of sobriety ; but the Duke de Lian- 
court, a distinguished professor of philanthropy, 
employed the recent murders h la lanteme as an 
argument in favour of the new proposition : — 

** There was one consideration," he said, ** which ought 
to incline the Assembly to adopt the proposal for beheading 
— the necessity of effecing from the social system all traces 
of a pmiishment [hanging'] which has lately been so irregu" 
larly applied, and which has, during the course of the Revo- 
lution, so unfortunately lent itself to poptdar vengeance,** 

. Irregularly applied I What a designation of a 
series of most atrocious murders ! But the ultra- 
liberal Duke had soon to learn that these irregular 
applieations of popular vengeance were not to be 
controlled by fine-spun theories. He too was pur- 
sued, after the 10th of August, by the fury of a 
bloodthirsty populace ; but, more fortunate than 



M. de Clermont Tounere, he escaped from their 
hands, and passed over into England.* 

The article, however, notwithstanding M. de 
Liancourt's humane argument in its favour, was not 
passed without some difficulty, and only after two 
doubtful trials. 

Still, however, this was a mere vote without ttfiy 
immediate legal effect till the whole constitution 
should be ratified : nor, be it observed, was anything 
said — either in the discussions or in the decrees — 
about a machine ; and indeed it seems certain, fixjm 
documents which we shall quote presently, that it 
was not yet decided that a .machine should be em- 
ployed at all, and that, on the Contrary, the iise of 
the sword (not even the axe and block) was still 
uppermost in men's minds. 

At length, however, on the 21st of September, 
1791, the new penal code was adopted ; and on the 
6th of October became, and still continues to be, the 
law of France. Its 2nd and 3rd articles, tit. 1, are 
as follow : — 

** II. The punishment of death shall consist in the mere 
privation of life, and no kind of torture shall be ever in- 
flicted on the condemned. 

**IIL Every person condemned [to a capital punish- 
ment] shall be beheaded." 

* He afterwards went to America, where he remained several yearp, 
and publistied his Travels in the United States. He obtained permis- 
sion from Buonaparte to return to France ; whence, on the faU of the 
BmjNre, lie was one of the first who hurried over to Dover to kiss the 
hands of Louis XVIII., who, however, had not forgotten, and never 
forgave, his early countenance of the Revolution, 


. Diiring- all these legislative discussions the old 
practice of hanging seems to have been going on — 
sometimes, as M. de Liancourt said, ^^irregularly 
^ppUedy^ under the popular cry of " Les aristo^ 
eratesa la lanteme!** — sometimes also in the regular 
course of justice ; but this last decree now put an 
end to the judicial practice, without having substi- 
tuted any other. 

At length, however, on the 24th of January, 1792, 
a person of the name of Nicholas Jacques Pelletier 
was condemned to death by the criminal tribunal of 
Paris, for robbery and murder. This event (decapi- 
tation being now the only legal punishment) brought 
the question of the precise mode of death to a practical 
crisis. The magistrates inquired of the Minister how 
the sentence was to be executed ; and, after the delay 
of a month, the Minister himself and the Directory 
of the Department of Paris were obliged to have 
recourse to the Legislative Assembly for instructions. 
The letter of the Minister — Duport du Tertre — is 
remarkable for the reluctance with which he enters 
on the subject, and the deep and almost prophetic 
horror he expresses at having had to examine its 
odious details. " It was," he said^ " a kind of execu- 
tion [espece de supplieel^ to which he had felt him- 
self condemned" This, alas ! was but an anticipation 
of a fatal reality. On the 28th of November, 1793, 
he himself was condemned by the revolutionary tri- 
bunal, and suffered on the 29th, by the machine 
, first used under his involuntary auspices, and in 
company with that same Bamave, the first and 


most prominent patron of revolutionary Blood- 
shedding ! * 

The concluding part of Duport'a letter will show 
that at this date there was not only no adoption of, 
but only a very slight allusion to, a machine — the 
idea of which seems to have made its way very 
slowly ; and all parties appear to have understood 
that the decapitation intended by the law was that 
which had been the usage in the case oi noble criminals 
— ^by the mvorcL Duport states :— 

'• Srd March, 1792. 

'* It appears from the communications made to me bj the 
executioners themselves, that, without some precautions of 
the nature of those which attracted for a moment the atten- 
tion of the Constituent AssemUy^ the act of decollation 
will be horrible to the spectators. It will either prove the 
spectators to be monsters if they are able to bear such a 
spectacle; or the executioner, terrified himself, will be 
exposed to the fury of the people, whose very humanity 
may exasperate them, however cruelly and unjustly, against 
the executioner. 

'T must solicit from the National Assembly an im* 
mediate decision ; for a case at the moment presses for 
execution, which, however, is suspended' by the humanity 
of the judges and the fright \yeffroi] of the executioner.*' 

The representation of the BipartemenA is to the 
same efiPect, and, making no allusion whatever to me* 
chanism, implies that death was to be by the iword : — 

^ It was he, who, in extenuation of the earlier masBacres, had 
made the famous ezclamatioB, ** Qe sang ^tait-Udonc tipurV 


SANSON'S * observations/ 25 

-^^ JiA r 

" 3rd March, 1792. 
" The executioner represents to us that he fears he can- 
,,^ not fulfil the intentions of the law, which is, that the 
, criminal shall suffer nothing beyond the simple privation of 
life. The executioner fears that from want of experience 
he may make decollation a frightful torture, and we enter- 
tain the same apprehensions." 

These letters, we see, refer to the opinion of the 
JExeeutioner himself; and as that opinion has been 
preserved, our readers will not, we think, be sorry to 
see, as a literary curiosity, an essay by such a hand 
on such a subject 

** Memorandum of Observations on the Execution of Crimi* 

nals by Beheading; with the nature of the various 

ofc^tions which it presents, and to which it is really 

liable — « rru i. • x 

" That IS to say : — 

" In order that the execution may be performed accord- 
ing to the intention of law [simple privation of life], it is 
necessary that, even without any obstacle on the part of 
the criminal, the executioner himself should be very expert, 
and the criminal very firm, without which one could never 
get through an execution by the sword without the cer- 
tainty of dangerous accidents. 

'* Af);er one execution, the sword will be no longer in a 
condition to perform another : being liable to get notched, 
it is absolutely necessary, if there are many persons to exe- 
cute at the same time, that it should be ground and 
sharpened anew. It would be necessary then to have a 
sufficient number of swords all ready. That would lead 
to great and almost insurmountable difficulties. 

" It is also to be remarked that swords have been very 
oflen broken in executions of this kind. 


*' The executioner of Paris possesses only two, whicfc 
were given him by the ci-devant Parliament of Paris. 
They cost 600 livres [24?.] apiece. 

** It is to be considered that, when there shall be several 
criminals to execute at the same time, the terror that such 
an execution presents, by the immensity of blood which it 
produces and which is scattered all about, will carry fright 
and weakness into the most intrepid hearts of those whose 
turn is to come. Such weaknesses would present an in- 
vincible obstacle to the execution. The patient being no 
longer able to support himself, the execution, if persisted 
in, will become a struggle and a massacre. 

" Even in executions of another class [hanging], which 
do not need anything like the precision that this kind re- 
(Juires, we have seen criminals grow sick at the sight of 
the execution of their companions — at least they are liable 
to that weakness : all that is against beheading with the 
sword. In feet, who could bear the sight of so bloody an 
execution without feeling and showing some such weak- 
ness ? 

" In the other kind of execution it is easy to conceal 
those weaknesses from the public, because, in order to 
complete the operation, there is no necessity that the 
patient should continue firm and without fear; but in this, 
if the criminal falters, the execution must fail also. 

"How can the executioner have the necessary power 
6veT a man who will not or cannot keep himself in a con- 
venient posture ? 

** It seems, however, that the National Assembly only 
devised this species of execution for the purpose of pre- 
venting the length to which executions in the old way were 

" It is in furtherance of their humane views that I have 

sansok's 'observations.* 27 

■ . . : , --, 

1^ honour of giving this forewarning of the many acci- 
dents that these executions may produce if attempted by 
the sword. 

. ** It is therefore indispensable that, in order to fulfil the 
humane intentions of the National Assembly, some means 
should be found to avoid delays and assure certainty, by 
fixing the patient so that the success of the operation shall 
not be doubtful. 

'' By this the intention of the legislature will be fulfilled* 
and the executioner himself protected from any accidental 
effervescence of the pubHc— Charles Henry Sanson." 

We think our readers will be surprised at the good 
sense and decency of M. Sanson's * observations on ft 
very delicate subject, and they will have noticed the 
gentle hint that he gives that the National Assem- 
bly had legislated on a matter they did not under- 
stand, and passed a law that would have defeated its 
own object ; but what is most strange is that here is 
T-not only no mention of the machine which had 
made so much noise three years before, but — deci- 
sive evidence that it was understood by the exe- 
cutioner himself, as it at first sight seems to have 
been by eveiybody else, that the law contemplated 
execution by the sword. But the truth, we believe, 
was that Guillotines proposition had been smothered 
by ridicule and by the detected insignificance of the 
proposer, and no one was desirous of openly associat- 
ing himself to this odious invention ; but that it was 
all along intended to adopt it seems evident from 

* See in the Appendix a note relatire to Sanson, g 


the care with which all allusion to the more obyious 
use of the bloek and axe was omitted. 

The appeal, however, of the Minister of Justice 
obliged the Legislative Assembly to solve the ques- 
tion, and they referred it to a committee, who them- 
selves consulted M. Louis, the Secretary of the 
Academy of Surgery, and, on the 20th of March, 
Carlier (of the same name as the" excutioner of 
1684, who preceded the Sanson family in the 
office), brought up the report of the Committee, and 
on the same day the Assembly decreed — 

*' That the mode of execution proposed by M, Louis, the 
Secretary of the Academy of Surgeons (which proposal is 
annexed to the present decree), shall be adopted through- 
out the kingdom." 

The following is M. ^Louis's report, which, not- 
withstanding its length, we think worth reproducing 
•^— it is in truth the main feature in the history of the 
guillotine, and its conclusions are still the existing 
law of France on the subject : — 

" Report on the Mode of Decollation. 

"The Committee of Legislation having done me the 
honour to consult me on two letters addressed to the 
National Assembly concerning the execution of the 3rd 
Art. of the 1st Title of the Penal Code, which directs that 
every crimndl capitaUy convicted shall be decapitated (aura 
la tSte tranchee) ; by these letters the Minister of Justice 
and the Directory of the Department of Paris, in conse- 
quence of representations made to them, are of opinion that 
it is imstantly necessary to determine the precise mode of 

m; loths*s report. 29 

|x<oceedmg io the execatioa of this law, lest, by the defect 
of the means, or inexperience or awkwardness, the ezeca* 
tion should become cruel to the patient and ofiensive to 
the spectators, in which case it might be feared that the 
people, out of mere humanity, might be led to take yen* 
geance on the executioner himself->-a result which it is 
important to preyent. I belieye that these representations 
and fears are well founded. Experience and reason alike 
proye that the mode of beheading hitherto practised ex- 
poses the patient to a more frightful punishment than the 
mere depriyation of life, which is all the law directs. To 
obey strictly the law, the execution should be performed 
in a single moment and at one blow. All experience 
proyes how difficult it is to accomplish this. 

" We should recollect what passed at the execution of 
M. de Lally. He was on his knees — his eyes coyered — the 
executioner struck him on the back of the neck — the blow 
did not seyer the head, and could not haye done so. The 
body, which had nothing to uphold it, fell on the face, and 
it was by three or four cuts of a sabre that the head was 
at length seyered from the body. This hackery [^hacherie]^ 
if I may be allowed to inyent the word, excited the horror 
of the spectators. ' 

^' In Germany the executioners are more expert from the 
frequency of this class of execution, principally because 
females of whateyer rank undergo no other. But eyen 
there the execution is frequently imperfect, eyen though 
they take the precaution of tying the patient in a chair. 

** In Denmark there are two positions and two instru- 
ments for decapitation. The mode of execution which 
may be supposed to be the more honourable is by the 
sword, the patient kneeling with his eyes coyered and his 
bands free. In the other, which is supposed to attach 



additional infamy, the patient is bound, and, lying on his 
face, the head is severed by the hatchet, 

** Everybody knows that catting instraments have littie 
effect when they strike perpendicularly. If examined with 
a microscope it will be seen that the edges are nothing but 
a saw, more or less fine, which act only by sliding, as it 
were, over the body that they are to divide. It would be 
impossible to decapitate at one blow with a straight-edged 
axe ; but with a convex edge, like the ancient battle-axes, 
the blow acts perpendicularly only at the very centre of 
the segment of the circle, but the sides have an obHque and 
sliding action which succeeds in separating the parts. In 
considering the structure of the human neck, of which the 
centre is the vertebral column, composed of several bones^ 
the connexion of which forms a series of sockets, so that 
there can be no hitting of a joint, it is not possible to en- 
sure a quick and perfect separation by any means which 
shall be liable to moral or physical variations in strength or 
dexterity. For such a result there is no certainty but in 
an invariable mechanism, of which the force and effect can 
be regulated and directed* This is the mode adopted in 
England, The body of the criminal is laid on its stomach 
between two posts connected at top by a cross beam, whence 
a convex hatchet is made to fall suddenly on the patient by 
the removal of a peg. The back of the hatchet should be 
strong and heavy enough to perform the object like the 
weight with which piles are driven. The force, of course, 
will be in proportion to the height from which it may 

" It is easy to construct such an instrument, of which 
the effect would be certain, and the decapitation will be 
performed in an instant according to the letter and the spirit 
of the new law. It will be easy to make experiments on 


dead bodies, or even on a living sheep* We should then 
see whetlier it might not be necessary to fix the neck of the 
patient in a semicircle, which should confine the neck just 
where it joins the hinder bone of the skull ; the extremitiea 
of this semicircle might be fastened by bolts to the solid 
parts of the scaifold. This addition, if it shall appear 
necessary, would create no observation, and would bQ 
scarcely perceivable. 

" Given in consultation at Paris, this 7th of March, 

" Louis." 

Here is no mention of nor allusion to Gkiillotin or 
any previous machine, except one supposed to be in 
use in England ; and however strong might be the 
desire of keeping Guillotin out of sight, it seems 
hardly possible to imagine that, if he had made any 
model or given any distinct description of a machine, 
M. Louis could have treated the matter as he did. 
We find, however, that, while it was thus pending, 
Eoederer, then Procureur-General (chief legal autho- 
rity) of the D^partementy wrote the following private 
note to Dr. Guillotin : — 

** Dear Sir and Ex- Colleague ^ — I should be very much 
obliged if you would be so good as to come to the ofBce of 
the Department, No. 4, Place Vend6me, at your earliest 
convenience. The Directory [of the Department of Paris] 
is unfortunately about to be called upon to determine the 
mode of decapitation which will be henceforward employed 
for the execution of the 3rd article of the Penal Code. 1 
am instructed to invite you to communicate to me the im- 
portant ideas which you have collected and compared with 


- ■' ■ ■ ■ ■ ' ■ .1.1 >. ■ J 

a view of mitigatiDg a punishment which the law does not 
intend to be cmeL "RcEDEREfi. 

« lOth March, 1792J^-^Itevue Retrospective, p. 14. 

It does not appear whether Gulllotin waited on 
the Procureur-General : at all events, the interview 
produced nothing, for we see that Louis's report had 
been made three days earlier, and was finally adopted 
without variation by the Convention 20 th March. 

Here then concludes all that we have been able to 
find of the connexion of Guillotin with the terrible 
instrumeivt to which he unfortunately became god- 
father. We shall add a few words on his subsequent 
life. Our readers have seen that Eoederer addresses 
him as " Ex-Colleague." The Constituent Assembly 
had been dissolved in the preceding autumn; and 
Guillotin's last labours in that assembly were of a 
nature that exposed him to an additional degree of 
ridicule and contempt; and he who had been so 
lately cried up as a patriate philosophe was now by 
the very same voices denounced as an aristocrat. 

•* Guillotin le m^decin aristocrate a depens6 1,200,000 
livres a remuer les plfttres, a placer et d^placer des ven- 
touses et des latrines." — (JPrudhomme^ Rev. de Faris^ 
10. 643.) 

Certain it is that he was not thought of for any 
of the subsequent assemblies. His ephemeral and 
accidental popularity had vanished, and the instru- 
ment which has *' damned him to everlasting fame" 
had not yet appeared — so he seems to have simk 


back into more than his original obscurity, to which 
vas soon superadded the increasing horror of the 
times. His retreat, indeed, was so profound, that it 
was said> and readily believed, that he too had fallen 
a victim to his own invention.* . But it was not so ; 
he was indeed imprisoned during the Jacobin reign 
pf terror — his crime being, it is said (Ghiyot^ p. 8), 
that he testified an indiscreet indignation at a 
proposition made to him hy Banton to superintend 
the construction of a triple guillotine. There is no 
doubt that a double and perhaps a triple instrument 
was thought of, and it is said that such a machine 
was made and intended to be erected in the great 
hall of the Palais de Justice, bvit it was certainly 
never used,t 

The general gaol delivery of the 9th Thermidor 
released GuiUotin, and he afterwards lived in a 
decent mediocrity of fortune at Paris, esteemed, it is 
said, by a small circle of friends, but overwhelmed 
by a deep sensibility to the great, though we can- 
not say wholly undeserved, misforttme which had 
rendered his name ignominious and his very existence 
a subject of fearful curiosity. He just lived to see 
the Eestoration, and died in his bed, in Paris, on thie 
26th of May, 1814, at the age of seventy-six. 

* This was so generally believed, that Mr. Todd, in introducing the 
word QuittotiM into his edition of Johnson's Dictionary, states it as 
a fact. 

f Fouquier-Tinyille himself stated, at his trial, that, though he 
frequently tried and condemned above 250 within the decade (nine 
days), the Committee of Public Safety complained that it was too 
slow, and it was intended that four ambulatory criminal tribunals 
should be created, each to be accompanied by a loconlotive guillotine ! 
— iVoces de Fouqaier^ No. 29, 


THE Halifax gikbet. 

Camden's 'Britannia,' 1722. The following i 
cop^ of Hoyle's print :• — 

Jtkn ffvyle, M. 1950. 

The accuracy of Hoyle's repiesentation ia addition- 
ally attested by tlie recent discovery of tlie pedestal 
or stone scaflFoId, whicK had been concealed under a 
long accumulatioQ of rubbish and soil which had 
formed a grassy mound, commonly supposed to be 
a natural hill, on which the temporary scaffold for 
the ^bbet was &om time to t^e erected ; but the 

■ Tt is alio to be found in Uie mupa of an old map of Torksfiirc 
^tuch w« oometpcs h^ve seen), ud frhich ii copied into Hdtmi'i 
Every-day Book, toI. i, p, 147, where alae will be fonod MViial 
of ttle partieoIaM meslioced in the t«it, 

D 2 


town trustees haying, d feW years sincej pur^bafieS 
the Gibbet Hill, and having determined to reduce it 
to the level of the surrounding fields, this cuiiouB 
relic of antiquity was brought to light, and has been 
since carefully developed; and except some dikpi- 
dation of the upper surface and of one of the steps, 
it presents a perfect corroboration of the evidence of 
the prints. The ancient axe is still in the possession 
of the lord of the manor of Wakefield, to which this 
extraordinary jurisdiction belonged, Mr. Pennant 
had so recently as 1774 published an account of the 
Halifax gibbet, as we have described it, and adds, — 

** This machine of death is now destroyed ; but I saw 
one of the same kind in a room under the Parliament House 
at Edinburgh, where it was introduced by the Regent 
Morton, who took a model of it as he passed through 
Halifax, and at length suffered by it himself. It is in the 
form of a painter's easel, and about ten feet high : at four 
feet from the bottom, is a crossbar, on which the felon places 
his head, which is kept down by another placed above. 
In the inner edges of the frame are grooves ; in these are 
placed a sharp axe, with a vast weight of lead^ supported 
at the very summit by a peg ; to that peg is fastened 
a cord, which the executioner cutting, the axe falls, and does 
the aflSur effectually,'* — Pennanfs Tour, vol, iii, p, 366. 

This instrument, strangely atUed the JUaiden^ is 
still in existence in Edinburgh, and as it has never, 
that we know of, been engraved, we think the ac- 
companying representation will not be tmacceptabld 
to our readers. It will be observed that, in lS[SsM^^ 


model, the cord, instead of being cut, as stated bj 
f ennant, was released by a kind of latoh. 

Near thirty years prior to Fennaiit's publication, 
the execution of the Scotch loids for the Rebelli'^'' 


of 1745 by the axe and block seems to Have recalled 
tte obsolete maiden to notipe, for we find in tie 
' London Magazine ' for April, 1747, the following 
representation of it ; — 

Neither Guillotin nor Louis seema to have seen any , 
of these drawings ; nor, as ne have said, can we guess 
on what authority the latter supposes that this mode 
of decapitation was in actual me m JSngland ; for 
there had been no execution by the Halifax gibbet 
since 1650, and the last of the very few by the Scottish 


maiden were the Marquis of Argyle, in 1661,* and 
his son the Earl, in 1685, — the latter declaring, as 
he pressed his lips on the block, that it was the 
sweetest maiden he had ever kissed.f 

An anonymous friend of Dr. Guillotin's, quoted 
by Guyot, states that his ideas were formed, not 
from these English precedents — about which he 
probably knew nothing, though recalled to public 
attention in the then so recent work of Pennant — 
but from a passage in an anonymous work called 
* Voyage Historique et Politique de Suisse, d'ltalie, 
et d'Allemagne,' printed from 1736 to 1743, in 
which is found the following account of the exe- 
cution at Milan, in 1702, of a Count Bpzelli : — 

" A large scaffold was prepared in the great square, and 
covered with black. In the middle of it was placed a great 
block, of the height to allow the criminal, when kneeling, 
to lay his neck on it between a kind of gibbet which sup- 
ported a hatchet one foot deep and one and a half wide, 
which was confined by a groove. The hatchet vras loaded 
with an hundred pounds weight of lead, and was sus- 
pended by a rope made fast to the gibbet. After the 
criminal had confessed himself, the penitents, who are for 
the most part of nobfe families, led him up on the scaffold, 
and, making him kneel before the block, one of the peni- 
tents held the head under the hatchet; the priest then 
reading the prayers usual on such occasions, the executioner 
had nothing to do but cut the cord that held up the 
hatchet, which, descending with violence, severed the 'head^ 
which the penitent still held in his hands, so that the exe- 

* *^ His head was separated from his body by the descent of the 
maiden,** — 4 Laing, p. 11. 
' t Scott's Prose Works, vol. xziy., p. 280. 



cntdoner never touched it This mode of executing is so 
sure that Gte hatchet eotered the block above two inches." 
—Ch^t, p. 5. 

Tliis Tras tlie same machine wMcb, under the 
name of " mannaia," was common in Italy, and is 
described very minutely and teclmic^y by Le Perft 
Labat in his ' Voyage en Italic,' 1730, as tlie more 
honorific mode of capital pimishment. 

But the most curious, though not the most exact, 
of all the precedents for the guillotine is that which 
13 found in Randle Holme's ' Academy of Armoury,' 
1678, in which he describes a family (whose name 
is not giveu) aa bearing heraldically, — 

" Guks, a headiog-block fixed between two supporters, 
and au axe placed therein ; on the sinister side a maule : 
aH proper." 

And this strange coat-of-arms is thus figured : — 

Holme adds, — 
"That this was the Jews' and Romans' way of beheading 
offenders, as some write, though others say that t^ey uaed 
to cut off the heads of such with a sharp two-handed sword. 
However, this way of decollation was by laying the neck 
of the malefactor tm the block, and then setting the axe 
upon it, which lay in a ri^et [groove] on the two side- 
posts or supporters. The executioner, with the violence of 


^— ■ r -1-11 ^ I 111! ■ nw^r-^M—iMMiwi j l 

a blow on the head of the axe with his heavy maule 
[mallet], forced it through the man's neck into the block. 
I have seen a draught of the like heading instrument, where 
the weighty axe (made heavy for that purpose) was raised 
up, and fell down in such a riggeted frame, which being 
suddenly let to fall, the weight of it was suflScient to cut 
off a man's head at one blow." — p. 312. 

We know not where it is written by anjr con- 
temporaneous authority that this was a mode of 
execution among the Jews and Eomans, but there 
are engravings and woodcuts of the sixteenth 
century which carry back guillotines of great 
elaboration to the times of antiquity. We have 
now before us two copperplate engravings of the 
German school, the one by George Pencz (who 
died in 1550), and the other by Henry Aide- 
graver, which bears the date of 1553, both repre- 
i^enting the death of the son of IJitus Manlivs, by an 
instrument in principle identical with the guillotine, 
though somewhat more decorated. 

The frontispiece of these pages is a copy of 
Aldegraver's print, which we have selected for that 
purpose, because it carries its own date. 

We have also in our possession * SyrriboUcoe Ques^ 
tiones de universo Gienerey by Achilles Bocchi, quarto, 
1555, of which the eighteenth symbol represents a 
Spartan about to die by a kind of guillotine. 

The metrical legend of the symbol runs : — 

*• Damnatus ab Ephoris, Laoon 

Cum duceretur ad necem, et vultu admodum 
Hilar! esset ac laeto, &c. &C.'' 


In Lucas Cranach's woodcuta of the 'Martyr- 
dom of the Apostles,' printed at Wittenberg in 
1539, and re^irinted in 1549, there is the M- 
lowing representation of the death of St. Matthew 




by the guillotine, with a legend to this effect — 
**it is saijd that his head was chopped off by 
a falling-axe (falUnel)^ after the mmner of the 

We find in a joumal of the late Mr, J. G, Children, 
F.R.S., dated in 1840, that he found **on one 
of the walls of the Kathhaus of Nuremberg, a 
painting of a man being beheaded by a gmllotine 
— ^the painting is 319 years oli*' Mr. Children 
unluckily does not mention the subject of the 
fresco, but, as the Bathhaus was painted by Albert 
Durer, it may have been that of the German 
prints of Titus Manlius, which are much in his 

The representation of the martyrdom of St. Mat- 
thew may have been Handle Holme's authority 
for saying that it was a *^ Jewish and Roman** 
practice, though the usual symbol of that Evangelist 
is a hatchet or haHert, such as the attendants carry 
in the preceding cut, with one of which it is 
generally said he was beheaded. 

But it has surprised us still more to find that 
Ireland is represented as having had her guillotine 
as early as 1307, 

The following cut is an illustration of a passage 
in Hollinshed's * Chronicles of Ireland,* (Edition 
1577) :— 

« In the yeere 1307, the first of Aprils Murood BaOagh 
vxis beheaded near to Merton by Sir David Caunton^ 


The foregoing prints or cuts are, of course, uoi 
evidence that sach & mode of execution was practised 
at the assigned dates. They only prove that it was 
known to the illusttatots of the works where they 

It is sufficiently cimoua that none of the French 
literati oi Isolators who ori^nally busied themselves 
'With this subject should have happened to meet with 
any of tJiese representations of the maclune, which ' 
aiC] as we see, by no means lare; but it is still 


■ I ' I I !■ I ■ I I .1 II I ■! * I I .1 aa 

more strange that they should not have recollected 
its existence in their own comparatively modem 
history. We read, in the • Memoires de Puysegur,* 
that the great Marshal de Montmorenci was beheaded 
at Toulouse in 1632 by such an instrument : — 

•^In that province they make use [for capital execu- 
tions] of a kind of hatchet, which runs between two pieces 
of wood ; and when the head is placed on the block below, 
the cord is let go, and the hatchet descends and severs the 
head from the body. When he [M. de M.] bad put his 
head on the block, his wound [received in the fight in 
which he was taken] hurt him, and he moved his head, 
bat said, 'I don't do so from fear, but from the' soreness 
of my wound.' Father Amool was close to him when 
they let go the cord of the hatchet : the head was separated 
clean from the body, and they fell one on one side and the 
other on the other." — Mem* de Pvys.^ yd. i. p, 137. 

We conclude fix)m all this that this mode of exe- 
cution was conmion on^e Continent in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries ; and yet had passed into 
such entire desuetude and oblivion as to have appeared 
as a perfect novelty when proposed by Dr. Guillotin ; 
and this is still more surprising, because it seems that 
an execution by a similar instrument had been a year 
or two before the Eevolution exhibited in Paris, 
at one of the minor theatres of the Boulevard, in 
a harlequin farce called * Le9 Quatre Fih Aymon'* 

This is certainly a striking iUustration of the pro- 


Dictionnaire National (1790), p. 80, which quotes Camflle Des- 
moulins. — Portraits des Hommes C^lfebres, voce Guillotin.— But M. 
Gayot doubts the iact, p. 6. 

laquiante's machine. 47 

verb that there is nothing new under tlie sun ; and 
we are at a loss to account for the negligence of both 
Guillotin and Louis, who, being aware that such an 
mstrument had been in use in Italy and England, 
seem to have made no inquiry after plans or drawings ; 
though we have little doubt that all we have men- 
tioned, and perhaps many more, were to be found in 
the Bibliotheque of the Eue de Eichelieu, 

But, after all, it was neither Guillotin nor Louis 
who constructed (invention is out of the question) the 
instrument which was actually adopted : for while 
all these proceedings were going on in Paris, the 
s^ne difficulties as to the execution of malefactors had 
occurred in the departmental tribunals, and an officer 
df the criminal court at Strasburgh, named Laquiante, 
had made a design of a machine h decapiter, and 
employed one Sehmidty a forte-piano maker, to exe- 
cute it. Dubois gives a copy of this design, which 
was very ill-contrived, being more like Bundle 
Holme's armorial bearings than the perfect guillotine. 

As soon as the Legislative Assembly had decided 
to adopt M. Louis's proposition^ we presume that he 
set about preparing a model (his report distinctly 
negatives tfie idea that he had as yet done so), and 
Eoederer, having pbtained the sanction of the Minis^ 
ter of Finance for the expense, called upon a person 
of the name of Guidon, who had, it seems, the office 
or contract ^^ pour laf&wmiture des hois dejustic^y^ 
tp give an estimate for the construction of Louis's 
machine. Guidon (5th April, 1792) estimated the 
work at 5660 francs (about 226?.), and, when remon-* 


iiitir iiiTTics u^j^-fi ly a: 

— ■! ■•* I 


1 r - - 'I - - iL .JL -Jl 

« iT' 


i^../i. ifi-rc & j^rw zmniiis' crr3n2=ev becuae the 

.Zk^t -sdic^d En lie pLilo- 




Tzz-Ts* s§ i-i S^fJ'.^'i (?»i7 


l^fCStzr^ iLe Ei',«ifei cf cnMcasis fir rnxzooi, and of 
kyr» f'T cLiI-ir?n. Tbeae were stil H- psnussioii 
fA the j>:!:oe: in iLe strees, loi ite tovufeoi fonushed 
firing fpanoirs to be decap:ta?ed bj tbe instru- 
iwrnU. Just beibre tbe trial cf the Qaeea, one of 
tb^;jK ^« was presented to her son, then a prisoner 
in thi& Temple, bj the notocions Chaomette, whq^ 
within a few months, died by the object of his pre- 

In the mean time it seems that Sehmidt, who had 
ho/*n employed by the officer at Strasburgh, offered 
V) make a machine for 960 francs (38Z.) ; this offer 
wa« w/'XJptcd, and he was put in communication with 
M. IiOui« ; and Schnudt became, in fact, the inveTUor 


and constructor of the instrument that was finally 
^opted. This is proved incontestably, because, 
Schimidt's price of 960 francs having been found to 
be also exorbitant, " the real value not being above 
305 livres, exclusive of the leather bag which was 
to receive the head, or 329 livres including the 
bag," it was resolved, in consideration that there 
were eighty-three instruments to be furnished, one 
to each department, that 500 francs (20^.) would 
be a liberal recompence : but it was thought fair to 
give M. Schmidt, " as the inventory^ the preference 
of the new contract. And again ; when Schmidt 
refused the contract at so low a rate, he was recom- 
mended to favour as being " Vinventeur de la ma- 
chine a decapiter ;" and when at last the order for 
the Departments was about to be transferred to the 
other contractor, Schmidt took out, or at least threat- 
ened to take out, an exclusive patent as the invefntor 
of the machine^ to the exclusion of both the Grovem- 
ment and the contractor. {Lettre de Roederer h 
Olaviere^ Rev. Bet., p. 29.) We know not how this 
by-battle ended — the last letter on the subject is 
dated the 6th of August, 1792 — ^but then came the 
10th of August, and in the anarchy which ensued 
all questions of right or property — even those con- 
nected with the triumphant Guillotine herself — ^were 
confounded and lost. In all these transactions there 
is no mention of, nor allusion to, Gruillotin ; and as 
we have before said, the instrument was, at its 
first actual appearance, called the Louison — ^but this 
name had no success; iodeed M. Louis made no 


pretence to* the invention, and he was soon forgot-^ 
ten ; for, by another strange fatality attending the 
ominous machine, M. Louis himself died within a 
month of the day that it was first brought into actual 

While aU this was going on, convicts for various 
crimes were accumulating in the different prisons of 
the kingdom, and the local authorities in the Depart* 
ments pressed to have their respective machines with 
a savage eagerness of which many of themselves had 
soon to repent in tears and blood. At last, on the 
17th of April, 1792, after a great many delays and 
postpopements, an actual experiment was made of 
Schmidt's instrument, under the inspection of San- 
son^ in the great hospital of Bicetre, on several dead 
bodies, which was so entirely successful that the 
order was issued for the execution, on Monday the 
23rd, of the wretched Pelletier, whose case had led 
to all these proceedings, and who had been lingering 
tmder his sentence for near three months. It seems, 
however, that he was not executed till the 25th, as 
Boederer writes a letter dated that day to La&yette, 
to say that, as the execution by the mode of behead- 
ing will no doubt occasion a great crowd in the 
Place de Greve, he begs the General will direct the 
gm%d^armeB who are to attend the execution not to 
leave the place till the scaffold, &c., shall be removed ; 
and we find, in a Revolutionary journal called the 
^ Odurier Extraordinaire^ par M. Bwplainy of the 
date of the 27th April, 1792, the following para- 
ragraph :^- 


^ Paris, — They made yesterday the first trial of the 
little Lomson, and cut off a head. One PeUetier — not him* 
of the Actes des Apotres — was the subject of the melan- 
choly experiment. I never in my life could bear to see a 
man hanged ; but I own I feel a still greater aversion to 
this species of execution. The preparations make one 
shudder, and increase the moral suffering ; as to the phy- 
sical pain, I caused a person to attend, who repeats to me 
that it was the matter of the twinkle of an eye. The 
people seemed to wish that M. Sanson had his dd gaUows 
and were inclined to say, — 

Rendez-moi ma potence de bois, 
Rendez'moi ma potence. f 

The date of articles in a paper published the 27th 
would be the 26 th, and of course the ^yesterday* of 
this extract would be the 25th ; and we have found 
passages to the same effect in one or two other journals; 
and yet it is not absolutely certain that PeUetier was 
the first living body that the guillotine struck ; for 
though he was certainly the first who suffered at 

* M. Peltier (whose name was frequently mis-spelled PeUetier) 
luckily escaped to England soon afler the 10th of August, or his exe- 
cution would assuredly have very soon gratified M. Duplain's evident 
wish that he had been the saflerer. J)upiain himself uhu gviUotmid 
9ih July, 1794. 

f A parody of the burden of a popular song — 

Rendez-moi mon ecuelle de bois, 
Jiende^-moi mon t'cuelle — 

which had lately been rendered still more popular by a witty parody 
of it by Peltier against the Jacobin journalist Gorsas, who had said 
that the very shi^ of the King's aunts — which had been seized from 
than in a> popular riot — belonged to the people — 

Bendez'moi Us chemises de QorsoBy 
Rendez-moi les chemises. 



^m ■III—— • ■■■ ■ i _ I I I ' — .^— ^iii^B^ 

ParU, there seems some doubt whether the Procu- 
reur-Gdn&al of Versailles did not anticipate Eoederer 
by a day. We have evidence in the papers published 
by the ' Eevue Retrospective * that one Challan, the 
Procureur-General of Versailles, was exceedingly 
anxious for the machine, and had used every means 
to obtain an early specimen; and we find in the 
* Journal of Perlet/ 25th April, 1792, p. 198, the 
foUowing passage ;— 

'^ It is supposed that the punishment of death was yes- 
terday '\either the 23rd or 24th] inflicted at Versailles on 
two criminals by the new mode of decollation, and that 
it wiH be immediately employed in this capital on a joiu- 
neyman butcher convicted of murder (assassinat)." 

This seems almost decisive ; but we stili suspect 
that Perlet's anticipation that the two men had been 
executed the day before, meaning either the 23rd or 
24th, was erroneous, and that the execution at Paris 
was the first ; for on the 19th of April Eoederer 
acquaints his impatient colleague of Versailles that, 
although he had bespoken him an instrument, it could 
not be ready for some days, and directs him not to 
fix the day for the first execution. It is, therefore, 
hardly possible that the zeal of M. Challan could have 
outrun Eoederer by two days. 

However that may be, it is clear that in the exe- 
cution of Pelletier, on the 25th of April at Paris, 
and in several others which soon followed, the new 
machine performied its terrible duty with complete 
success, and amidst, as far as appears from the press, 


an almost incredible degree of public indifference, 
pur surprise, however, at the general silence as to so 
portentous an exhibition is in a slight degree modified 
when we recollect that at this time the instrument 
was not, as it afterwards became, a permanent 
spectacle ; it was kept in store, and brought forth and 
fitted together for each special occasion ; it was erected 
very early in the morning, and removed immediately 
after the execution, so that in fact few saw it but 
those who were greedy of such sights ; and it chal- 
lenged little more notice than the ordinary gibbets 
of M. Guidon '^foumiBseur des bais de justice'* 

We know, however, that on the 27th of July there 
was an imperfect execution, which created some 
public disapprobation ; the swelling of the wooden 
grooves having prevented the proper fall of the axe. 
After this accident the grooves were made of metal ; 
and we believe there never after occurred any in- 
stance of failure — we, at least, have heard of none. 

And now we find the machine taking officially, 
imiversally, and irrevocably, the name of Chiillotine ; 
and a few days after the execution of Pelletier we 
meet it in Prudhomme^s* Journal of LeB M^olutions 
de Paris (28th April, 1792), in a way that would 
remove all doubt, if any indeed could still exist, that 

* We must say, however, for Prudhomme the second, that he 
repented and made some amends, bat not antil after the Revolution 
had pillaged his house, broken his presses, suppressed bis &mous 

.journal, turned his fomilj into the street, and put himself into 
prison, for some slight phrase in one of his numbers at which some 
of his fellow-Jacobins took o£fence. Prudhomme, like the risst, 

• ^rew reasonable when he found the general madness dangerous to 


long before the 10th August the Jacobins avowed their 
intentions of bringing the King to that species of 
death ; two lines of Malherbe's beautiful ode on the 
death of Rose Duperier, descriptive of the mortality 
of all mankind, being applied (alas I too prophetic- 
ally) to threaten the Kinff with his impending fiite 
from^the new machine : — 

** Inscription propose pour la Guillotine, 

** Et la garde qui veille aux barrieres du Louvre 

N'en defend pas nos Rois/ — Rev, de Par,^ No. 146. 

And now, just as the machine had attained its 
mechanical perfection, occurred that event which was 
to call it into full activity as a political engine, and 
to develop in it that aptitude for wholesale murder 
which was, we are satisfied, one of the main causes of 
the maniacal cruelty with which it was employed ; 
facility begat use, and multitudes were sent to the 
other world merely because it had become so very 
easy to send them I Voltaire had already charac- 
terised his countrymen as a mixture of the monkey 
and the tiger ; that the tiger predominated was suffi- 
ciently proved even before the gvMlotine came into 
operation ; but without this massacre-made-easy in- 
vention the tiger would have much sooner become, 
if not satiated, at least wearied, with slaughter. 

The Tenth of August cama We shall say no 
more about that fatal day than to observe, in reference 
to our present subject, that it affords a characteristic 
instance of the effrontery and falsehood by which the 
whole Revolution was conducted, and the most re- 


Yolting exemplification of that peculiarly French 
proverb — les vaincM <mt toajaurs tort. For while 
the two hostile parties — Girondists and Jacobins — 
that divided the Assembly were each claiming to 
themselves the exclusive merit of having concerted 
and conducted that glorious day, they for a moment 
suspended their mutual enmities and recriminations 
to create a special Tribunal to punish tlie Hoyalists 
as being, forsooth, the instigators and perpetrators of 
those very events which they zealously claimed as 
the result of their own patriotic coimcils and exer- 

The Legislative Assembly, indeed, at first ^owed 
some prudent apprehension of this extraordinary 
tribunal, and seemed inclined to limit its powers to 
the single question of what it called the " Crimes of 
the IQth of August " — but this hesitation was not 
to the taste of the victorious populace, and produced 
a supplementary insurrection, which menaced the 
Mcmege * with the fate of the Chateau. Robespierre 
(who was not of this Assembly) headed a deputation 
of the Commune of Paris, and threatened the legis- 
lators in plain terms with the vengeance of the people 
if they did not institute a tribunal with, what he 
called, adequate powers: the inconsistent and in- 
timidated Assembly submitted ; and Vergniaud and 
Brissot, already cowering under the superior art and 

* The Constitaant and L^slatire Assemblies (as well as the 
Convention, for a few months) sat in what had been the VMoi^e ait 
riding-honse of the Chateau des Tuileries. This manege stood in the 
centre of what is now the Rue de Rivoli, nearly in front of tlie site 
of the weU-known H^el Mewrice, 


_■ _ ... I ■ ■■■ ■ ■ ■ 11 , . . I ■ „— I* 

aiidacity of Bobespiene and Danton, coiu^^ted to .the 
creation of a power that, with an impartiality wortl;^ 
of its origin, sent successively to the guillotine not 
Hoyalists only, but Brissot and Yergniaud, and, in 
due time, Danton and Eobespieire themselves. 

The logic on this occasion, as well as the force, 
was on the side of Eobespierre ; for, the " lO^A of 
AugusV* having been now adopted and canonised as a 
patriotic conception and triumph, the treating any of 
the circumstances that had brought it about as crimes 
would have been preposterous ; and it turned out, in 
point of fact, that the tribunal, after it had convicted 
one Swiss officer, and acquitted another, no more in- 
quired into the IQth of Atiffust than it did into the 
St. Barthikmiy and became eventually nothing more 
or less than — as the ConvmtijonalJ)\ipm energetically 
called it — * * the jirat step to the scaffold^ From this 
moment the Guillotine became, not an instrument of 
justice, but the murderous weapon of political factions, 
of private enmities — nay, when factions and enmities 
had been killed off, of the wanton spontaneities of 
blood-dnmken insanity. 

The first political victims were MM. Dangremont, 
La Porte, and Durosoi. Their fate is scarcely men- 
tioned by the most communicative of the historians^ 
and, by the rest, not at aU ; and yet we must think 
that the first feats of this tiger-tribunal, the first steps 
in this ocean of blood, are matters not merely of deep 
tragic interest, but of some historical importance. 
This is not an occasion in which we can pretend to 
supply such deficiencies ; all we can do is to indicate 


them, and to notice incidentally the loose and slovenly 
way in which the events of the Eevolution are 
generally recorded. We have before xis that very 
curious publication, lAste G^iraU des Condamn^s 
par le Tribunal Rivolutiormaire — an almost official 
list of all the sufferers by the Paris Tribunal, This 
list opens with the three names we have quoted. 

1. " Louis David CoUenot, (dit) D'Angremont, accused 
of enlisting [eiribauchage], executed 26th August, 1792. 

2. '* La Porte, superintendent of the civil list, convicted 
of complicity in counter-revolutionary conspiracies, executed 
28th August. 

3. " Durosoi, editor of the Gazette de Paris, and of 
another journal called Le Moydlisme, convicted of con- 
spiracy, executed 29th August." 

Dangremont was a clerk in a public office, of no 
weight or character, and the emiaucJiagey on pretence 
of which he was executed, was the alleged employ- 
ment of persons who were to distribute Royalist 
publications, and take the Eoyalist side in groups and 
coffee-houses, and so forth. M. La Porte was the 
Minister of the Civil List; and the chief allegation 
against him was that he had paid, out of the privy 
purse, for the printing and distribution of certain 
Royalist placards and pamphlets — ^a practice which 
Roland — whom the Assembly had forced upon the 
King as Minister of the Interior—r-had been employ- 
ing against his master at the same time, and to an in- 
finitely greater extent ; but the real motive of M. La 
Porte's condemnation was to appease and gratify the 


— — ■ ■ ■ ■ — — ^— — — ^ ] — ^— ^— m ill . .— ^i^ 

populace by the execution of one who was officially 
so near the King's person, and so much in his con- 
fidence; and whose condemnation was therpfoie a 
piomiise and a pledge that his royal master should 
undergo the same fate. Poor Durosoi was one of the 
few Boyalist journalists, and he was therefore thought 
a fit victim for the new tribunal His last hours are 
pathetically recorded by M. Joumiac de St. M&txd, 
in his interesting work — one of the most interesting 
that ever was published — * Mom, Agonie de Trente- 
huit Heures f but we cannot enter into such details, 
and we only notice these three first condemnations to 
show how little they had to do with what could be 
called the crimes of the 10 th of August, and to 
mark the strange inaccuracies with which they have 
been recorded. 

We will first observe that the dates of the three 
executions, as given in the ' lAste des Condanrnes^* 
are all erroneous by four or five days. Dangremont 
suffered, not on the 26th but, on the 2l8t ; La Porte 
not on the 28th, but on the 24th ; and Durosoi not 
on the 29th, but on the 25th ; and these misdates 
are the more remarkable,. because Durosoi, in mount- 
ing the scaffold, took pride in *^ dying as a Royalist 
on St Louis's day," the 25th of August. In the 
Moniteur, which does not venture to mention the 
death of the first of these political victims of the 
guillotine till nine days after the fact (30th August), 
he is miscalled '' Danglemovt^** and a second time 
doubly misnamed " Gonnot Danglemont :" and La- 
cretelle, in his * Freds Chrondogiqmy makes the same 

M. verneuil's statement. 59 

mistake. M. du Bois states also that Durosoi's name 
was really De Eosoy ; and we find that Peltier, who 
knew him well, so calls him ; as does Deschiens in his 
^Sihliographie des Joumaux,^ under the title of his 
Journal, ' Q-azette de France ; ' but he was certainly 
condemned and executed as DuroBoi, and so the 
name has passed into all the biographies, and into such 
of the histories as deign to mention such trifling 
details. We admit that, amidst the gigantic horrors 
of those scenes, such small circumstantial mistakes 
may appear entitled to little regard ; but they appear 
to us worthy of this passing notice as indicative of 
the laxity and indifference with which these legal 
murders were conducted, witnessed, and recorded. 
We find in the * Souvenirs de Soixante-^reize Ans* 
by M. Vemeuil, a member of the Assembly, the fol- 
lowing passage relative to these executions, which, 
we think, in so great a dearth of contemporaneous 
information, worth quoting, particularly as the book, 
which seems to have been only printed in a country 
town (Limoges), is little known : — 

" After the 10th August they had organised an extraor- 
dinary tribunal for judging the pretended conspirators of 
that day. The first* victim was a literary man, editor of 
a Royalist journal ; he was executed in my neighbourhood 
— Place du Carrousel. I was invited to go into a house 

* Here was a member of the Assembly — and of the Committee 
which had decided the adoption of the guillotine — resident close to 
the place of execution, who thought that Durosoi was the first victim 
of the tribunal, though Dangremont had been executed four dajs 


bard by, whence I should see the fiay of the new instru- 
ment of death. I excused myself; but from the window 
of ray own entresol I was curious to observe, as the spec- 
tators were returning, the impression that it made upon 
the public. It appeared to me that in general they said, 
* Mais ce rHest riejC [*7ts nothing at (iH\ in allusion, no 
doubt, to the quickness of the execution. M. Guillotiii 
does not deserve the sad honour of giving his name to this 
new instrument, but rather M. Louis, perpetual secretary 
of the Academy of Sm^eons." — Souoemrsde Sotxante-treize 
Jm (Limoges, 1836), pp. 168, 169. 

We have here to observe that Sanson, the chief 
executioner, and his two brothers, had been them- 
selves sent to prison after the 10 th of August, on the 
monstrous hypothesis that, " if the Court had suc- 
ceeded on that day. the Sansons were to have hanged 
the patriots." Their real offence was that they had 
somehow offended the patriot Gorsas, the newspaper 
jsditor before-mentioned, whose Jacobinical violence, 
in a few days after, procured his election into the 
Convention — a woful elevation, as we shall see pre- 
sently I The assistance, however, of the Sansons 
was necessary to the executions ; and the three bro- 
thers were brought in a hackney-coach, and in cus- 
tody, from the Conciergerie to the Carrousel, for the 
execution of Dangremont, and taken back again. 
They were again brought forth for the execution of 
La Porte, and again taken back ; after the execution 
of Durosoi they were released, but they were again 
arrested within a few days, and were only removed 
from the Abbaye just before the massacre began; 

iiAssACRE AT TflE prisons: 61 

1— — — — i ■ II I ■ I 

and then the absurdity of the pretence for which 
they had been sent to prison and the necessary value 
of their services, becoming more apparent, they were 
8et at liberty, and in the course of the ensuing year 
were called upon to exercise their ministry upon 
their old antagonist, Gorsas, who was the first memr 
ber of the Convention sent to the scaffold. 

The new Tribunal, having gratified the populace 
with these executions, and being at first desirous of 
keeping up some show of justice, ventured to acquit 
two or three persons, and amongst them the Mar^ 
quia de Montmorin, mistaken for his cousin the 
Comte de Montmorin, the ex-Minister of Foreign 
Affairs. At this moment the elections for the 
Convention were about to take place, and it was 
determined by the Jacobin candidates — Danton, 
Robespierre, and Co. — to strike a blow of such terror 
as should put all opposition to flight, and ensure the 
return of their own list for the city and neighbour- 
hood of Paris, and indeed for the rest of France—^ 
but Paris was the first object. For this purpose, the 
celebrated domiciliary visits of 29th and 30th 
August, and the massacre of the prisons, were re- 
solved on, and the supposed acquittal of M. de Mont- 
morin, " one of the last ministers of the ISfrantj^ 
was one of the pretences employed to exasperate the 
people.* Instead, therefore, of being set at liberty, 
the Marquis — still mistaken for the Comte — was 
sent back to prison amidst prodigious popular ex- 
citement; other inflammatory circumstances were 

♦ M. Thiers,, in his (History (v. ii. p. 39), makes the same hlmider.. 


artfully superadded, the massacres commenced, and 
both the MM. de Montmoriu perished — the Mar« 
quis at Iia Force, and the Count at the Abbaye,--^ 
with many hundred others as innocent as they ; and 
Danton, Bobespierre, Maiat, EgaliU, Osselin the 
first President of the Tribunal, and their atrocious 
associates, were elected, without a dissentient voice, 
representatives of the city of Paris — 'oll to be massa- 
cred in their turns, by their mutual animosities and 
the retributive justice of Heaven. 
^ On the very days of the massacres, the Tribunal, 
terrified like the rest of Paris, condemned two per- 
sons who would probably have been also acquitted a 
day or two before. One was a Swiss officer of the 
name of Bachman — why singled out for trial, or for 
what offence, does not appear ; the other a poor wag* 
gcmer, who, having been sentenced to exposition (a 
kind of pillory) for some minor offence, had ex- 
claimed, '* Vive le Mai ! — - Vive M. Lafayette ! — ajig 
for the nation ! '* The massacres had for the mo* 
ment deprived the tribunal of its natural aliment; 
and the only other political execution we find 
about this time is that of old Gazette, the poet, 
who, at the age of seventy^our years, had been 
arrested on accoimt of some private letters of his jto 
La Porte, his old and intimate friend, found in the 
possession of the latter. He had been thrown, into 
prison, and was about to perish in the massacres of 
September, when he was saved by the courage and 
piety of his daughter, who exposed her own person 
to ^e pikes of the assassins, and actually awed and 


■*— ^— I I i f ■ I — J>— III! ■ ————.—«■ II I ■ I „,^^^,|.aM— — 

melted them into mercy ; but in a few days he was 
again arrested, and brought before the new tribunal, 
which was now become more inexorable than even 
the mob of murderers, and on the 25th of Septem* 
ber the Guillotine left the heroic Elizabeth Gazette 

We have scanty records of the ordinary execution 
of justice during the. revolutionary paroxysm* W© 
suspect that there were comparatively few punish- 
ments but those of a political natures. We find that on 
the 14th July, an Abb^ Geoffroi, ci-devant Vicaire- 
General, was executed on the Place de Greve for 
forgery of assignats ; and again, on the 27th of Au- 
gust, 1792, three persons, who seem to have been 
of a superior rank in life, and are designated in 
the Moniteur as '^ Messieurs Vimal^ UAhhi Sav^ 
vade, and OuUhty* were executed as accomplices 
in the same, or a similar forgery. These parties 
had been tried in the ordinary courts, before the new 
tribunal was created, but they had appealed, and the 
appeal had been decided against them, though their 
guilt is very doubtful; they were now executed, 
and it was in exhibiting one of these heads to the 
people that the younger Sanson fell off the scaffold 
and was killed. Some other executions of the same 
class seem also to have given employment to the 
guillotine, but we have no details. 

From the time of the installation of the Bevolu- 
tionary Tribunal, it seems that the Guillotine was not 
removed, as it at first used to be, after each execu- 
tion, but was for some time kept stationary in the 


Carrousel;* about the middle of October it appears 
to have been removed for one day to the Place de 
Oreve for the execution of nine emigrants con<> 
demned by a military commission^ but it was again 
remoyed on the 30th of October to the Place Louis 
XV.» now called de la Mevolutum^ for the execution 
of two of the robbers of the Garde-Meubley which 
our readers know was situated on the north side of 
that square. 

It is quite clear that the Massacres had done what 
the Tribunal had been intended to do, and had in truth 
superseded it — those whom it. was meant to tjpj 
had been more expeditiously murdered — and, there- 
fine, in order that it might have something to 
occupy its time, the ordinary criminal business 
of the metropolis was, by a decree of the 11th 
of September, 1792, transferred to it; and it was 
in consequence of this decree that it tried and sent 
to the guillotine the robbers of the Garde-Meuhle^ 
and was busy with the trial of many minor offences^ 
when suddenly, without notice or reason given, 
on the morning of the 1st of December (misdated, 
with the usual inaccuracy of the bulletins of these 
revolutionary courts, 31st of November), the tri- 
bunal found itself dissolved by a decree of the pre* 
ceding day. This sudden suppression of this forzni* 
dable tribunal, tiie creation of which had occasioned 
such violent discussions, seems to have taken place 

'^ So it would seem from the evidence of Peltier and others, bai[ 
we rather believe that it was in general, if not always, during thii$ 
earlier period^ removed and put up again on each occasion. See 
Dalaure's ^^m., Beo, Set. iii. 3, 6, 12. 



without debate, and almost without notice. It is 
scarcely alluded to in any of the histories, not even 
in that especially calling itself a * History of the 
Mevolutianafy Tribunal^' published in 1815, in two 
volumes ; nay, not in the periodical publications of 
the day; and, in fact, this tribunal of the 17 th of 
August, 1792, has been always treated as if it and 
the still more celebrated Eevolutionary Tribunal 
created 10th of March, 1793, were the same, — onljr 
that at the latter date larger powers were conferred 
on it. No doubt the spirit that created the two tri- 
bunals, and many of the members that composed 
them, were the same, but in point of fact they were 
wholly distinct. The suppression of the first took 
place in the height of the agitation preliminary to 
the trial of the King, and wc are satisfied that it 
must have had some urgent and most important 
motive, and one probably connected with the court, 
though we have never seen any assigned, nor indeed 
inquired after — for the fact itself was, as we have 
said, scarcely mentioned. We have no means of 
solving this historical mystery, but we cannot avoid 
noticing it to account for the total inaction of the 
Guillotine for near four months. Our own conjecture 
is twofold — first, that it was abolished lest some 
attempt should be made to employ it, instead of the 
Convention itself, for the trial of the King; or, 
secondly, that, during the deadly struggle then car- 
rying on between the Girondins and Jacobins, each 
party, doubtful of the result, was afraid of leaving 
in the hands of its triumphant antagonists so terrible 



an es^me as this ready-constituted and well-oigamzed 
tribunal, and both therefore concurred in its aboli- 
tion, almost 8ui iHentio, while on every other subjept 
their contention was maintained with increasing 

The first advantage in this struggle was to thp 
Jacobins— when the Girondins were terrified into 
voting the death of the King, contrary to their 
pledges, their principles, their honour, and their 
consciences : that base and cruel cowardice was their 
own death-warrant. The next advantage was stiU 
more immediately decisive in favour of the Jacobins 
-^it was the revival of the first Tribunal, by a 
decree of the 10th March, 1793, extorted from tbQ 
Convention under the instant terror of wholesale 
assassination, and on which subsequently, under thp 
more comprehensive title of Revolvtionary Tribunal^ 
unlimited jurisdiction and extravagant powers were 
conferred. Though the Girondins struggled on for 
a few weeks more, this blow was decisive and pro- 
phetic of their tdtimate fate. Let us add that this 
iniquitous proceeding was carried on the motion and 
under the sanguinary menaces of Danton — the same 
Danton who a year after was led to execution, ex- 
claiming, " This time twelvemonth I proposed that 
infamous tribunal by which we die, and for which I 
beg pardon of God and men." 
• In the midst of these contentions came the execu* 
tion of the King. In the centre of the Place Louis 
Quinze* — then called Place de la Revolution, and 

<-' * We have again tp wonder that Mr. Alison does not make ai^ 


since Place de la Concorde — and on the spot where 
now stands the Luxor obelisk, there had stood e 
statue of Louis XV. ; this statue was overthrown on 
the 11th of August, but the magnificent pedestal, 
though a little dilapidated about the summit, re* 
mained. There has been some doubt as to the exact 
spot where the scaffold for the execution of the King 
was erected. Historians never descend to such mi- 
nutiae, and painters and engravers are sometimes lax 
in their perspective, but we think we may say, 
chiefly on the authority of a fine print, " presented 
to the Convention" by its publisher, Helman, that 
the eoMxct site of the scaffold was a few yards west of 
this pedestal, that is, towards the Champs Elysees, 
and the steps were from the westward, so that the 
King when he mounted the scaffold looked over the 
pedestal of his grandfather's statue to the centre 
pavilion of his own devastated palace. When he 
endeavoured to address the people, he turned to 
the left towards the Eue Eoyale, and, Mercier 
tells us, Nouveau Tableau de JParis^ ch. 82, 
that he was, at a signal from Santerre — who com- 
manded the troops and directed the execution-— 
seized firom behind by two executioners, and, in 
spite of his desire to be allowed to finish what he 
had to say, he was bound to the bascule, or balanced 

mention of the guiihtine on this occasion, nor does he even say where 
the esEecation took place. He tells us the procession lasted two hours, 
but whether it went north, east, west, or south — or whether the King 
might not have been executed at Versailles or St. Denis— not a word ; 
.bad, when he comes to speak of the Queen's death, he merely tells 
us that " she was executed where the King had been " — which is true 
as to the great Fhce itself, but not as to Sie exact spot. 

F 2 


plank^ with his &ce towards the Tiiileries ; and that, 
cither from the hurry of this struggle, or from the 
haseule being fitted for a taller person, the axe fell 
closer to the head than was usual, and there was 
more mutilation than ordinary. But Mercier is very- 
loose authority on any subject : the print and the 
letter of Sanson, which we have abready referred to^ 
which will be found in the Appendix, affords decisive 
evidence against Mercier's assertion. 

We transcribe from Prudhomme, a trustworthy 
witness on this point, the following account of the 
scene that immediately followed : — 

"Some individuals steeped their handkerchiefs in his 
blood. A number of arm^ volunteers crowded al$o to 
dip in the blood of the despot their pikes, their bayonets, 
or their sabres. Several officers of the Marseillese bat- 
talion, and others, dipped the covers of letters in this im- 
pure blood, and carried them on the points of their swords 
at the head of their ccnnpanies, exclaiming * This is the 
blood of a tyrant ! * One citizen got up to the guillotine 
itself, and, plunging his whole arm into the blood of Capet, 
of which a great quantity remained, he took up handfals 
of the clotted gore, and sprinkled it over. the crowd below, 
which pressed round the scaffold, each anxious to receive 
a drop on his forehead. ' Friends,' said this citizen, in 
sprinkling them, ' we were threatened that the blood of 
I/ms should be on our heads ; and so you see it is ! I ' "-^ 
MhxHvUom de Parisy No, 185, p. 206.* 

* An atrodoos though ridiculous instance of the malignant credulity 
of the French of that day, and indeed of all revolutionary days, about 
England, is the awertiou that ** an Englishmcm dipped his handkerchief 


After this execution the Guillotine is no more 
heard of, at least as a political engine, till the 7th of 
April, 1793, when, under the auspices of the new 
Tribunal, it made its re-appearance in the Place du 
Carrousel, and began that series of murders which 
has no parallel in the annals of mankind. 

It seems that from this time forward it remained 
in permanent readiness and exposed from one execu- 
tion to another ; but we find that, the Convention 
having resolved to transfer its sittings from the 
Manege to the palace of the Tuileries, a decree was 
passed (8th May, 1793), " that, in consideration of 
the proximity of the Carrousel to the HaU of the 
Convention, the guillotine should be removed to some 
other place," According to the *Liste des Con- 
damnes/ twelve persons were executed on the Car- 
rousel between the 7th of April and 8th of May, on 
or about which day the machine was removed to the 
Place de la Revolution, not to the spot where the 
King's scaffold had stood, but a few yards on the 
eastern side of the pedestal, towards the Tuileries ; 
and there it appears to have permanently remained 
to the 8th of June, 1794, one year and one month, 
during which time it had executed 1256 persons, as 
the * Liste des Condamnes' expressly says : but from 
this should be deducted the eleven executed in the 
Carrousel, and the nine at the Grevc; — so that the 
number really executed in the Place Louis XV, was 

in the King's blood, which he hastened to convey to England, where 
it was ho^ed as a fiag on the Tower of London ! " — {Biblaration du 
CiU Jourdtm, M^moires sur Septemhre^ p. 155.) 


Of dns vast number there is acatoAj one of whom 
some pathetic aneedole might not be toU. Wediatt 
at present caJtj notice fimr ilfaistiioos women, whose 
stoiy inTolves, in addition to the individnal interest 
that each excites, some leferenoe to the mode of 
execution. Mademoiselle Marie Anne Charlotte de 
Coidaj d'Armans (commonly called Charlotte Cor- 
JiAjs though she herself signed her Christian name 
Marie) was executed on the 17th of July, 1793 : 
she had (what was now beoHne) the distinction of 
-being executed alone. Alter the execution, one of 
the executioners* held up her Wely head by its 
beautiful hair, and in a fit of Maratiti delirium 
slapped the cheeks — ^which, it was said, showed 
symptoms of sensibility, and blushed. 

We should hardly have thought it worth while to 
repeat so incredible a story, but that, having be^i 
made a prominent argument in a physiological ques- 
tion that was raised about 1796, whether death by the 
guillotine was or was not instantaneous, it became 
matter of inquiry, and the balance of evidence seemed 
to be that some unusual appearance described as a 
bhish was distinctly visible* Here is the account 
given by Dr. Sue, a physidan of the first eminence 
and authority in Paris, in whose family medical skill 
had been hereditary :— 

* This was not Sanson, M. da Bois tells as, bat one of his helps^ 
whose i^ominioos name — Francois Le Ores — \s as well entitled to 
be preserved in the indignation of mankind as Marat, Egaliti, or 
Robespierre. M. da Bois adds, that eren the cannibal government of 
the daj were forced, by the outcry of the public, to punish the fellow 
^ aahe deserved ;" but he does not state what that punidunent was. 
We suppose a feprimand. 


I" 7 ° ' ' ' - n iii i iiii III ■ I ■■ I . » i I . . _ 

" ^'Th^ countenance of Charlotte Corday expressed the 
itiost uEi«quivocal noarks of indignation. Let us look back 
to the facts : — the executioner held the head suspended in 
fo^ hand; the face was then pale, but had no sooner 
received the slap which the sanguinary wretch gave it than 
both cheeks visibly reddened. Every spectator was struck 
by the change of colour, and with loud murmurs cried out 
for vengeance on this cowardly and atrocious barbarity. It 
cannot be said that the redness was caused by the blow — 
for we all know that no blows will recall anything like 
colour to the cheeks of a corpse ; besides, this blow was 
given on one cheek, and the other equally reddened." — 
Sue, Opimon sur U Supplies de la Guillotine, p, 9. 

Dr. Sue, and some Grerman physicians and sur- 
geons after him, held that there does indubitably 
remain in the brain of a decollated head some de- 
gree (un reste) of thought, and in the nerves some- 
thing of sensibility ; and the case of Mademoiselle de 
Corday was alleged as proving that doctrine. We do 
not believe the fact of any discoloration, nor if it were* 
true, would it prove that the blush arose from con- 
tinuous sensibility, and certainly the other opinion, 
that the extinction of life is instantaneous, is the more 
rational, and it has finally prevailed ; * and all that 

* There is a story that, when the executioners exhibited the heart 
of Sir Everard Digby, executed for the Gunpowder Plot, to the people, 
exclaiming, " This is the heart of a traitor ! " the head articulated 
*^ Thbu liest I " and Lord Bacon believed that after evisceration the 
toague oould pronounce a few words. *' Magis certa (traditio) de 
homine qui de supplicii genere (quod dixirrms) evisceratuSj post quam 
cer avulsum penitus esset et in camificis manu, tria aut quatuor verha 
precum, auditus est proferre" &c. Hist. Vit. et Mort- But this was a 
case of eviscerati(m, and not of decapitation, which makes the whole 
difference as to the credibility of the stoiy. We suppose that the 


we infer from the anecdote is, that public opinion 
was willing to colour with its own indignation the 
cheeks of Mademoiselle de Corday. 

Here also, on the 16th of October, 1793, fell a 
once beauteous head — now whitened by sorrow, not 
by age — and venerable for the angelic purity and 
patience, Xhe royal courage and Christian submission, 
with which it had exchanged the most brillian;t 
crown of the world for a crown of thorns, and that 
again for the crown of martyrdom. Here died th^ 
Queen— one of the noblest and the purest, and yet, 
if human judgments be alone weighed, the most un- 
fortunate of women — tried in almost every possible 
agony^of affliction — except a guilty conscience — and 
in that exception finding the consolation for aU. 
She arrived at this scene of her last and greatest 
triumph, jolted in a common cart,* and ascended 
the scaiFold amidst the vociferations of a crowd of 
furies, whom we hesitate to acknowledge as of her 
own sex. Never in that gorgeous palace, on which 
she now cast a last calm look, did she appear more 
glorious — ^never was she so really admirable as she 
was at that supreme moment of her earthly release. 

We have followed the history of Marie Antoinette 
with the greatest diligence and scrupulosity. We 

sudden rash of air into the head through the severed neck produced 
that kind of sound which suggested to the Fere Duchesne the horrid 
phrase of ** etermter dans le sac** 

* 2ilr. Alison for once departs from his hackneyed French authori- 
ties, and says she was drawn on a hurdle. There is no pretencQ 
for this statement ; and, on the contrary, there is ahundant evidence 
that she came in a cart. 


have lived in those times. We have talked with 
some of her friends and some of her enemies ; we 
have read, certainly not all, but hundreds of the 
libels vrritten against her ; and we have, in short, ex- 
amined her life with — if we may be allowed to say 
so of ourselves — something of the accuracy of con- 
tempqraries, the diligence of inquirers, and the im- 
partiality of historians, all combined ; and we feel it 
our duty to declare, in as solemn a manner as litera- 
ture admits of, our well-matured opinion that every 
reproach against the morals of the Queen was a gross 
calimmy — that she-^as, as we have said, one of the 
purest of human beings. The grandeur of her mind 
— the courageous wisdom of her counsels (seldom 
adopted) — ^the minute and laborious, yet wide and 
lofty, fulfilment of all her duties, and particularly as 
wife and mother — and, finally, the imequalled mag- 
nanimity, and patience — ^the greatest of magnanimi* 
ties — with which she bore such misfortunes as never 
woman before suffered, are matters of history — the 
opprobrium of which, thank God ! brands the French 
Revolution, and never can be effaced. 

Here also died, on the 10th of May 1794, Ma- 
dame Elizabeth, a saint, if it be allowed to any 
mortal to be a saint. Not only innocent but inoffen- 
sive, she lived, in spite of her high birth, in a modest 
obscurity; she was a personification of piety, of 
domestic love, of charity, of hiunility, of self-devo- 
tion. One word of her own, often repeated, but 
never too often, shows her character in all its grand 
and yet soft and mellowed lustre. When the mob 


broke into the Tuileries, on tlie 20th of June, 1792, 
the royal &inily were momentarily dispersed by the 
fiudden iiruptioxL The Queen and the Dauphin 
were in one part of the apartments, the King done 
in another, where his heroic sister hastened to join 
him. The mob, who had been trained to particular 
hostility to the Queen, mistook Madame Elizabeth for 
her, and maltreated her with great grossness of lan- 
guage and serious menaces of violence. One of the 
terrified attendants was about to endeavour to save 
the princess by apprizing the assassins that she was 
not the Queen, when, with equal magnanimity and 
presence of mind, Madame Elizabeth, — desiring that 
if any one should be sacrificed it might be herself^ — 
stopped him by whispering^ " Oh no^ dovCt undeceive 
themy Neither Greek nor Eoman stoiy have any 
superior instance of self-devotion. This noble crea- 
ture had been in close confinement in the Temple 
from the 13th of August, 1792, down to the day of her 
trial, seeing no one but her little niece, and watched 
day and night by her persecutors; yet she was 
doomed to die — the devil only knows why — fot 
some imaginary and impossible conspiracy. During 
the long transit to the scaffold she was seen to en- 
courage with pious gestures her fellow-sufferers, and 
when, on the scaffold, one of the executioners (we 
hope not Sanson) rudely tore off the covering of 
her neck, she turned — ^her own hands being tied 
— to another, and said, softly and sublimely, " I 
implore you, /or the lave of your mother, to cover 
my neck ! " 


- ■— ^-'"^^ 

Here too, on the 9th November, 1793, between 

the deaths of the Queen and Madame Elizabeth was 

sent to the scaffold, by her own former fiiends and 

favourites,* Marie Phlipon, Madame Eoland, a 

woman of humble birth with great ambition, 

narrow education with a great love of literature^ 
strong passions with a cold temper, and possessing 

above all that dangerous species of talent whidi 
decides simimarily and plausibly on the events of 
the moment, without having either the patience 
or the power to inquire whence they spring and 
whither they are tending. Her Memoirs, written in 
prison, in the subdued and conciliatory tone of 
adversity, and with the great charm of an easy yet 
forcible style, have recommended her to general 
sympathy, and to the enthusiastic admiration of all 
who partake her revolutionary opinions. Those 
who wish to think with unmixed admiration of 
Madame Eoland must take her up where she left 
the world — at the guichet of the Ccmekrgerie* Her 
former political life — full of animosity, faction, in- 
tolerance, bad faith, and even cruelty — will engage 
little favour ; and, as happens in so many other cases 
in the history of the Revolution, we should cease to 
pity Madame Roland if we remembered that she 
^ered only what she had been during her reign- 
for she too had reigned — not reluctant to inflict on 
others. She died with great resolution, in company 
with a M. la Maxche, who did not show so much 

* Robespierre had been a peculiar favourite and prot€g€ of hers. 


firmness. It was a favour to be aQowed to die firsts 
in order to be spared the terrible spectade of die 
death of others, and this fayour — doiied to Madame 
Elizabeth — ^was offered to IMadame Roland, bat die 
thought her companion needed it more than herself 
and begged him to precede her; and when the exe- 
cutioner objected, she said with a smile, "You 
won't refuse the last request of a lady?" and La 
Marche was executed first. 

It was some time, though we do not know exactly 
the day, between the executions of Charlotte Corday 
and the Queen, that a huge plaster statue of Liberty 
—grotesque by its disproportion, and hideous fnna 
its distortion — was erect^ on the pedestal of the 
overthrown statue of Louis XV., in firont of which 
tho new scaffold stood. In a print of the execution 
of Mdllo. de Corday there is no statue on the pedes- 
tal ; but it was there, if we may credit Hehnan's 
print, when the Queen was immolated, and to it 
Madame Koland, with something of characteristie 
pedantry, is said to have addressed her celebrated 
apostrophe, ** Liberty, what crimes are committed 
in thy name I " Crimes enough — crimes enormous — 
had been committed in the name of liberty ever since 
the 14th of July, 1789, and many abominable ones 
during the ministty and with, at least, the connivance ' 
of Madame Roland and her husband, but it was not 
till she was herself sent to prison and brought to the 
scaffold that they struck her so forcibly. When we 
find Danton "begging pardon" — on the scaffold 


■ ■ W . I ■ ■ ■ ■ I ■ ■ 

— " of God and man for the institution of the Eevo- 
lutionaiy Tribunal," and Madame Eoland — aho on 
the scaffold — lamenting "the crimes committed in 
the name of liberty y^ we acknowledge the sincerity, 
but cannot but feel a kind of revulsion and indigna- 
tion at the selfishness, of their tardy and unavailing 

We abstain from any details of the thousands of 
murders conunitted by the Guillotine at that time, 
but one fact will enable our readers to understand 
something of its horrors. It was proved on the trial 
of Fouquier-Tinville that 160 persons, of all ages, 
sexes, and ranks, were tried and executed on acharge 
of conspiracy, not merely false, but absurd, visionary, 
and impossible : — forty-five of these persons, who were 
utterly unknown to each other, were tried and con- 
demned within twenty mimUeSy and executed in the 
same evening in almost as short a space I 

These executions were for many months the amuse- 
ment — the spectacle oixh&people^ we wish we could 
safely say the popfilace^ of Paris ; but, as we before 
stated, chairs were stationed rotmd the instrument, 
where womeuy in a station of life to be able to pay for 
that amusement, used to hire seats, and sit, and chat, 
and work (whence they w6re called les tricoteuses de 
la Guillotine), while waiting for the tragedy which 
they looked at as a &rce. 

• We find in the Hevue Retrospective a curious 
letter incidentally descriptive of this elegant scene of 
Parisian amusement : — 


" The Procureur Genial Ecederer to Citizen Gmdan, 

" l^th May, 1793. 

" I enclose, Citizen, the copy of a letter from Citis^ 
Chanmette, solicitor to the Commune of Paris, bj which 
you will perceive that complaints are made that, after theso 
public executions, the blood of the criminals remains ia 
pools upon the place, that dogs come to drink it, and 
that crowds of men feed their eyes with this spectacle, 
which naturally instigates their hearts to ferocity and 

** I request you, therefore, to take the earliest and most 
convenient measures to remove fix)m the eyes of men a 
sight so afflicting to humanity." 

Our readers will observe the tender regret— not 
that all this blood was shed, but — that it was not 
wiped up ; and they will be startled wh^n they 
recollect that at the date of this letter not above a- 
dozen persons had been yet executed here, but that 
within one year the blood of a tImiBand victims had 
saturated the same small spot of ground. In one lof 
the foolish modern-antique processions of the Con-i. 
yention, the whole cortfege was delayed and thrown 
into confusion because the cattle that were drawing 
some of their theatrical machines could neither be ii)i- 
duced nor forced to traverse this blood-tainted place. 
This Chaumette was one of the most impious and 
sanguinary of the whole tril?e, and we could almoBt 
believe that he envied the dogs the blood they drafiftk. 
He it was that bullied the wretched, idiot Gohel, Ee*- 
volutionary Archbishop of Paris, to come to the bar 
of the Convention to abjure Christianity, and proclaim 

Robespierre's policy,. 79 

Imneelf ^ impostor, at the head of a processioa in 
which asses were insultingly decorated with the sacred 
emblems of religion, Chaumette himself' it was who 
introduced to the Convention a prostitute in tho 
character of the Goddess of Beason. Eobespierre 
sent this whole clique to the Guillotine, and on the 
13th of April, 1794, Chaumette's own blood flowed to 
increase the horrors of which he had complained. 

The Guillotine remained in permanence in the 
Place de la Revolution till the 8th of June, 1794, 
when the inhabitants of the streets through wjbich 
these latches {Jmimeei)^ as they were called, of suf- 
ferers used to pass, became at last tired of that agree- 
able sight, and solicited its removal. This would 
probably have been not much regarded ; but there 
T^ a more potent motive. Robespierre seems at 
this time to have adopted a new policy, and to have 
fermed some design of founding a dictatorial authority 
in his own person on the basis of religion and morals. 
On the 7th June he made his famous report acknow- 
ledging " V litre Suprermy^ and appointing the 20th 
June for the great /e^e in the garden of the Tuileries, 
which was to celebrate this recognition. Of this/e^e 
Robespierre was to be the Pontifex Maximu%^ and it 
can hardly be doubted that it was to remove the 
Cn£ou9 machine from the immediate scene of his 
^riflcation that it was — the day after the decree 
aiid ten days before the fete — removed to the Place 
8t» Antoine, in front of the ruins of the Bastile ; but 
that a day might not be lost, it was removed on a 
Decadi, the republican Sabbath. It stood, however, 


but five days in the Place St. Antoine^ for the 
shopkeepers even of that patriotic quarter did not 
like their new neighbour ; and bo, after having in 
these five days executed ninety-six persons, it was 
removed still fiirther to the Barriere du Trone^ or, 
as it was called in the absurd nomenclature of the 
day, Barrihre Benvers^e, 

There it stood from the 9th of Jtme to the fall of 
Eobeapierre, 9th Thermidor (27th July, 1794). So 
say all the authorities ; but an incident in the trial of 
Fouquier-Tinville seems to prove that, in the early 
part of July at least, the scaffold stood in the 
Place de la Bdvolution^ and that the instrument was 
dismoimted every evening. A lady, the Marquise 
de Feuquieres, was to be tried on the 1st of July : 
the whole evidence against her was a document which 
had been placed under the seals of the law at her 
country-house, near Versailles, and Fouquier sent off 
the night before a special messenger to bring it up ; 
the messenger was delayed by the local authorities, 
and could not get back to Paris till half-past four on 
the evening of the 1st, when, " on arriving at the 
Phice de la B^voltdionj he found the executioner 
dismounting the engine, and was informed that the 
Marquise de Feuquieres ?iad been guillotined an hour 
hefore^^ — having been tried and condemned, without 
a tittle of any kind of evidence ; and this fact, 
attested by his own messenger, Fouquier could not 
deny — though we cannot reconcile it with the other 
evidence as to the locality of the guillotiue at that 
particular period. In ^ the lists de% C(mdamnJk% 


Madame de Feuquieres and twenty-three other per- 
sons are stated to have suffered on thQ 1st of July at 
the Barriere du Trone, 

In the forty-nine days in which it is said to have 
stood at the Barriere du Trone it despatched 1270 
persons of both sexes, and of all ages and ranks, and 
it became necessary to build a kind of sanguiduct, to 
carry off" the streams of blood ; and on the very last 
day, when the tyrant had already fallen, and that the 
smallest interruption would have sufficed to have 
stopped the fatal procession, forty-nine persons passed 
almost unguarded through the stupified streets to the 
place of execution. And here we have the last occasion 
to mention Sanson; and it is to his credit, as indeed all 
the personal details related of him seem to be. On 
the 9th Thermidor there was, about half-past three in 
the afternoon, just as this last batch of victims was 
about to leave the Conciergerie, a considerable com- 
motion in the town, caused by the revolt against 
Eobespierre. At that moment Fouquier, on his way 
to dine with a neighbour, passed through the court 
where the prisoners were ascending the fatal carts. 
Sanson, whose duty it was to conduct the prisoners 
to execution, ventured to stop the Accmateur Public, 
to represent to him that there were some rumours of 
a commotion, and to suggest whetlier it would not be 
prudent to postpone the execution till at least the 
next morning. Fouquier roughly replied that the 
law must take its course. He went to dinner, and 
the forty -nine victims went to the scaffold, whither 
in due time he followed them ! 




The next day the Guillotine was removed back to 
the scene of its longest triumphs — the Place de la 
Bevclution — ^where on the 28 th of July it avenged 
humanity on Eobespierre and twenty-one of his fol- 
lowers ; on the next day sixty-nine, and on the day 
after thirteen more of his associates fell, amongst 
whom were most of the judges, juries, and officers 
of the Eevolutionary Tribunal, and a majority of the 
Commwrn of Paris — ^greater monsters, if possible, 
than the members of the Tribunal. Here indeed the 
trite quotation — 

** Neque enim lex aequior ulla 
Quam necis artifices arte perire sua," — 

may be appHed with incomparable propriety. 

Of the operations of the Gruillotine in the Depart- 
ments during the Parisian Reign of Terror we have 
very scanty information. We only know that in 
most of the great towns it was in permanent activity, 
and that in some remarkable instances, as at Avig- 
non, Nantes, and Lyons, its operations were foimd 
too slow for "the vengeance of the people," and 
were assisted by the wholesale massacres offitsiUadea 
and Twyades, At Nantes, and some other places, 
the Convenfili^ Proconsuls carried M. de Clermont 
Tonnfere's principle to the extreme extent of osten- 
tatiously inviting the Executioner to dinner. 

For some months after the fall of Robespierre the 
Parisian Guillotine was, though not permanently, yet 
actively, employed against his immediate followers ; 
and; subsequently, against the tail (as it was called) 
of his faction, who attempted to revive the Reign of 


Terror ; but we have no distinct details of these pro- 
ceedings; the numbers, though great, were insigni- 
ficant in comparison with the former massacres, and 
no one, we believe, suffered who did not amply 
leserve it — Fouquier-Tinville himself and the re- 
mainder of his colleagues, the judges and jury of 
the tribunal, included. His and their trial is the 
most extraordinary document that the whole re- 
volution has produced, and develops a series of tur- 
pitudes and horrors such as no imagination could 
conceive. But that does not belong to our present 
subject, and we must hasten to conclude. 

Under the Directory, the Consulate, and the Em- 
pire, we do not find that any immoderate use was 
n^de of the Ghiillotine ;* — the very name had be- 
come intolerably odious, and the ruling powers were 
reluctant to use it even on legitimate occasions. 
During the Restoration it was rarely employed, and 
never, as far as we recollect, for any political crime. 
When occasion for its use occurred it was brought 
forth and erected in the Place de Greve, and re- 
moved immediately after the execution; and we 
ourselves can bear witness — ^though we could not 
bring ourselves to see it — that one of these tragedies, 
which occurred while we happened to be in Paris, 
appeared to throw a kind of gloom and uneasiness 
over the whole city, that contrasted very strongly 
and very favourably with our recollection of the 
events of twenty years before. 

* We shoald, perhaps, except Buonaparte's execation of George 
Cadoadal and a batch of thirteen VeniUam in 1804. 

a 2 


After the accession of Louis Philippe, for whom 
the Guillotine must hare been an object of the most 
painful contemplation, sentences of death were also 
very rare, and certainly never executed where there 
ras any possible room for mercy. The executions, 
ioo, when forced upon him, took place at early 
hours and in remote and imcertain places; and 
every himiane art was used to cover the operations 
of the fatal instrument with a modest veil, not 
only from motives of general decency and humanity, 
but also, no doubt, fiom national pride and personal 
sensibility. What Frenchman would not wish that 
the name and memory of the Guillotine could be 
blotted fix)m the history of mankind ? " The word 
CruiUotiney^ says the author of ^ Les Fastes de 
FAnarehie,^ " should be effaced from the language/' 
But the revolutionary horrors which France is natu- 
rally so anxious to forget, it the more behoves us and 
the rest of Europe to remember and meditate. Such 
massacres as we have been describing will probably 
never be repeated ; they will, no doubt, stand \m- 
paralleled in the future, as they do in the former 
annals of the world; but they should never be 
forgotten as an example of the incalculable excesses 
of popular insanity. 


Note on Sanson the Executioner, and his Family. 

OuB readers will be the less surprised at the style and 
spirit of the obselrvations made by M. Sanson, ante, p. 28, 
when they learn the following particulars of him and his 
family. It appears that, when the Bevolution had swept away 
every other trace of feudality, M. Sanson was a gentleman of 
respectable genealogy, exercising a hereditary office derived 
from the ancestors of the monarch whose head fell by his (we 
believe) reluctant hand. 

1. Charles Sanson, a native of Abbeville, and a relation of 
the great geographer of that naiiie, being in 1675 lieutenant 
in a regiment garrisoned at Dieppe, married the daughter of 
the Executioner of Normandy. In 1684, Carlier, the Execu- 
tioner of Paris, being dismissed, Charles Sanson was appointed 
in his room. He died in 1695, and was succeeded by his 
son — 

2. Charles Sanson, who died 12th September, 1726, having 
only the month previous resigned in favour of his son — 

3. Charles John Baptiste Sanson, who was appointed by 
letters patent, dated the 12th September, " ExScuteur des 
arrets et sentences crimineUes de la viUe,priv6t4, et vicomt^ de 
Paris,** but, being very young, he was authorised to excicise 
hisj^ffice by deputy ; the Parliament of Paris appointed one 
Frttdhomme the Deputy, and fixed the majority of the principal 
at the early age of sixteen, when he came into office and filled 
it to his death, on the 4th August, 1778. His son, 

■'•'■a^ • *;:; 


idd an anecdote which puts Charles Henry Sanson in an un- 
expected, and still more favourable light. A few days after 
the execution of the king, a newspaper, called ' Xe Thermo- 
metre du Jour^ produced some invidious observations on the 
King's depprtment on the scaffold, of the kind referred to in 
p. 6, ante. On seeing those observations, Sanson immediately 
addressed to the editor the following letter — the original has 
some faults of orthography, but the substance, besides set- 
tling an historical fact, does credit to Sanson's honesty and 
courage: — 

" TarU^ 20 Feb. 1793 ; \it year of the Fr. JRep. 
" Citizen, ^ 

" A short absence has prevented my sooner replying 
to your article concerning Louis Capet. But here is the 
exact truth as to what passed. On alighting from tl\e car- 
riage for execution, he was told that he must take off his coat ; 
he made some difficulty, saying that they might as well 
execute him as he was. On [our] representation that that was 
impossible, he himself assisted in taking off his coat. He again 
made the same difficulty when his hands were to bo tied, but 
he offered them himself when the person who accompanied him 
[his confe88<yr'\ had told him that it was the last sacrifice [the 
Abbi Edgeworth had suggested to him that the Saviour had 
submitted to the same indignity']. Then he inquired whether 
the drums would go on beating as they were doing. We 
answered that we could not tell. And it was the truth. He 
ascended the scaffold, and advanced to the front, as if he 
intended to speak ; but we again represented to him that the 
thing was impossible : he then allowed himself to be con- 
ducted to the spot, when he was attached to the instrument, 
and from which he exclaimed, in a loud voice, ' Feople, I 
die innocent i' Then, turning round to us, he said, * Sir, I 
die innocent of all that has been imputed to me ; I wis 
that my blood may cement the happiness of the French 
people I' 

" These, citizen, were his last and exact words. The kind 


» I i ■■ I ■■ I. 

of little debate which occurred at the foot of the scaffold 
turned altogether on his not thinking it 'necessary that his 
coat should he taken off, and his hands tied ; he would also 
have, wished to cut off his own hair [he had wished to have 
it done early in the morning by Clery, but the Municipality 
wotdd not aUow him a pair of scissors], 

" And, as an homage to truth, I must add that he bore all 
this with a sangfroid and firmness which astonished us all. 
I am convinced that he had derived this strength of mind 
from the principles of religion, of which no one could appear 
more persuaded and penetrated. 

" You may be assured, citizen, that there is the truth in its 
fullest light. 

" I have the honour to be 

" Your fellow citizen, 

" Sanson."