« PreviousContinue »
TWO FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY ORATORS
ASSASSINATION OF A FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY ORATOR Jean Paul Marat whose portrait is shown, was a popular leader in the French Revolution. This picture shows his assassination by Charlotte Corday, who in turn suffered death by the guillotine. His career was marked by blood-shed and violence. His oratory was of a type suited to such troublesome times.
COUNT DE MIRABEAU
whether any men have, in modern times, exercised such vast personal influence over stormy and divided assemblies.” Mirabeau did not live till the whirlwind of the Revolution reached its height. The rein fell from his hands on April 2, 1791, when he lay down in death, his last words a prose poem of the materialistic faith : “Envelop me with perfumes and crown me with flowers, that I may pass away into everlasting sleep."
AND YET YOU DELIBERATE [Of Mirabeau's orations, one of the most characteristic was that upon a project of Necker, the distinguished financier, for tiding over the financial difficulties which troubled alike the Court and the States-General. We give the peroration of this famous and powerful speech.]
In the midst of this tumultous debate can I not bring you back to the question of the deliberation by a few simple questions. Deign, gentlemen, to hear me and to vouchsafe a reply.
Have we any other plan to substitute for the one he proposes ? Yes,” cries some one in the assembly! I conjure the one making this reply of “ Yes” to consider that this plan is unknown; that it would take time to develop, examine, and demonstrate it; that even were it at once submitted to our deliberation, its author may be mistaken ; were he even free of all error, it might be thought he was wrong, for when the whole world is wrong, the whole world makes wrong right. The author of this other project in being right might be wrong against the world, since without the assent of public opinion the greatest talents could not triumph over such circumstances.
And I-I myself—do not believe the methods of M. Necker the very best possible. But Heaven preserve me in such a critical situation from opposing my views to his ! Vainly I might hold them preferable! One does not in a moment rival an immense popularity achieved by brilliant services; a long experience, the reputation of the highest talent as a financier, and, it can be added, a destiny such as has been achieved by no other man !
Let us then return to this plan of M. Necker. But have we the time to examine, to prove its foundation, to verify its calculations ? No, no, a thousand times no! Insignificant questions, hazardous conjectures, doubts and gropings, these are all that at this moment are in our power. What shall we accomplish by rejecting this deliberation ? Miss' our deci. sive moment, injure our self-esteem by changing something we neither know nor understand, and diminish by our indiscreet intervention the influence of a minister whose financial credit is, and ought to be, much
JEAN PAUL MARAT (1743–1793)
* THE FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE"
ERHAPS no man in all history has won the more universal P
reprobation of mankind than the bloodthirsty Marat, the fero
cious enemy alike of royalists and his political opponents, for whose opinions he had but one cure—the guillotine. In 1789 he stirred
up the passions of the mob by his journal, “ The Friend of the People,” and was long obliged to live in cellars and sewers to escape the officers of the law, charged to arrest him for his incendiary utterances.
He was elected to the Convention in 1792, and in conjunction with Danton and Robespierre, inaugurated the “Reign of Terror,” he acting as a public accuser of all whom he wished to remove by death. Tried on a charge of outrages against the Convention in May, 1793, he was triumphantly acquitted ; but two months afterward the patriotic hand of Charlotte Corday ended the career of this monster in human form. The only charitable view that can be taken of Marat's conduct is that he was the victim of a diseased mind. Certainly his body was so deeply diseased that the knife of the avenger only shortly anticipated his death from natural causes.
A DEFENCE FROM IMPEACHMENT [Threatened with impeachment for his course, Marat defended himself before the Convention in the following specious words, in which he seemed to indicate that his plan for settling the affairs of the state was to give increased activity to the guillotine.]
shuddered at the vehement and disorderly movements of the people, when I saw them prolonged beyond the necessary point. In order that these movements should not forever fail, and to avoid the necessity of their recommencement, I proposed that some wise and just citizen should be named, known for his attachment to freedom, to take the direction of