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Safe out of reach, Paine sent a defiant letter to the English Government, thanking them for extending the popularity of his book by prosecuting it, and sneering at * Mr. Guelph and his debauchee sons as “incapable of
governing a nation. When letter was read at the trial, Erskine, reprobating its tone, could only suggest that it might be a forgery, and urge that in any case it was irrelevant.
When the king's trial came on, Paine voted for his detention during the war, to be followed by banishment. His reasons, a French translation of which was read by Bancal while he stood mute at the tribune, evinced humanity and sagacity. He contrasted the success of the English 1688 with the failure of 1649, excused Louis as the victim of bad training, and warned France of the impolicy of losing her sole ally, America, where universal grief would be caused by the death of a king regarded as its best friend. In a sentence which goes far to redeem Paine's errors he said :
'I know that the public mind in France has been heated and irritated by the dangers to which the country has been exposed; but if we look beyond, to the time when these dangers and the irritation produced by them shall have been forgotten, we shall see that what now appears to us an act of justice will then appear only an act of vengeance.' Marat twice interrupted, first alleging that Paine was a Quaker, and as an objector to capital punishment disentitled to vote, and then pretending that his speech had been mistranslated.
On the fall of the Girondins, Paine discontinued attending the Convention, quietly awaited the impending arrest, and amused himself in the garden and poultry-yard of his house with marbles, battledore, and hopscotch. On Christmas Day, 1793, he was expelled from the Convention as a foreigner, and on New Year's eve was arrested simultaneously with Clootz. An American deputation vainly pleaded for his release, and on his asking for the good offices of the Cordeliers Club, its only reply was to send him a copy of his speech against the king's execution. Gouverneur Morris, the American ambassador, advised him as the safest course to remain quiet, and Paine appears to have acted on the advice. Morris, however, was mistaken in thinking that he would then have nothing to fear. Not that there is any truth in Carlyle's story of Paine's cell door flying open, of the turnkey making the fatal chalk mark on the inside, of the door swinging back with the mark inside, and of another turnkey omitting Paine in the batch of victims; even at the height of the Terror men were not executed without trial, nor without an indictment having been drawn up by Fouquier Tinville and served upon them at least overnight. Not one of these preliminaries had been accomplished in Paine's case. Carlyle, contrary to his practice, cites no authority for the story, but a variation of it appeared in the newspapers in 1823, in a biography of Sampson Perry, likewise a prisoner at the Luxembourg, who may have been accustomed to tell this traveller's tale. Numbers of survivors of the Terror pretended indeed to have been ordered for execution and saved by Robespierre's fall; whereas the tribunal took a holiday on Décadi, the Jacobin sabbath, and of the fifteen cases prepared for trial on the 11th Thermidor there was not one of any note. Paine's death-warrant was really signed, but it consisted in this memorandum, found in Robespierre's notebook :— Demander que Thomas
Payne soit décrété d'accusation, pour les intérêts de l'Amé'rique autant que de la France.'
This animosity can be explained. When Marat was prosecuted in April 1793, Paine gave information to the Jacobin Club that, addressing him once in English in the lobby of the Convention, Marat expressed his desire for a dictatorship, and though the letter was prudently suppressed Robespierre was probably cognisant of it. In May, 1793, moreover, Paine wrote a letter to Danton (found among Danton's papers and still preserved), advocating the removal of the Convention from Paris, in order that provincial deputies might be free from mob insults.
Paine was released in November, 1794, and Gouverneur Morris gave him hospitality for some months, though his dirty and drunken habits necessitated his exclusion from the family table. On December 8, the Convention rescinded his expulsion, and ordered payment of the arrears of parliamentary stipend; but he did not resume his seat till the following July, when he pleaded a malignant fever contracted in prison as his excuse. On his journalistic and pamphleteering activity, his refusal of one of the proposed rewards to literary men, his subscription of 500 francs towards the invasion of England, which Bonaparte intended him to accompany, and his return to America in 1802, it is needless to dwell.
We have not spoken of the dozen Englishmen consigned to the guillotine, for though some, like General Arthur Dillon, were born in this country, they had become to all intents and purposes French ; nor need we speak of the members of the British Club at Paris in 1792, which was soon broken up by internal dissensions. Beyond temporarily misleading the Convention as to public feeling across the Channel, they were merely eyewitnesses of the Revolution, not actors in it. It may seem strange that so many British subjects, or at least those in no danger of molestation at home, should have remained in France during the Terror, but it is easy to be wise after the event. The Revolution was like a day in early spring. It commences with brilliant sunshine, light showers then pass over, black clouds next begin to collect, but there are still occasional gleams of sunshine; presently the hail pelts, the wind howls, there is a rumbling of distant thunder, but there seems still a chance that the sky will clear, till at last the clouds lower, the horizon narrows, the thunder peals, the lightning flashes, the rain falls in sheets, and the day ends in blackness and darkness and tempest. The capture of the Bastille was the brilliant dawn, arousing an enthusiasm in which even the English ambassador, the Duke of Dorset, shared. Before the first anniversary arrived, clouds had chequered the sky, but till the September massacres hope predominated; even after Louis XVI.'s execution it appeared still probable that the Revolution would be appeased by the blood of its foes; and there were alternations of hope and fear till the Terror commenced :France had shown a light to all men, preached a gospel, all men’s
good ; Celtic Demos rose a demon, shrieked, and slaked the light with blood. We see all along what the end was to be, but these English enthusiasts were literally ignorant of the morrow, and did not easily renounce their illusions. Not till they were fairly in the toils did they recognise the gravity of their position. Flight, moreover, became increasingly difficult. Passports were refused or granted grudgingly; to depart without them was perilous in the extreme, and even with them there was constant liability to detention as French aristocrats in disguise. After the occupation of Toulon by the English, all British subjects were actual prisoners of war; and although about February, 1795, there was a general liberation, Lord Malmesbury in 1796 found countrymen in Paris anxious, but still unable, to return home. It is easy to say they should never have gone to Paris during the Revolution or should have left before the Terror commenced, but how natural was it that those whose sympathy bad drawn them thither, like numbers who watched the Revolution from this side the Channel, should hope and believe that every atrocity was the last, and that these excesses were the inevitable transition to the triumph of liberty. The wonder indeed is not that they remained till it was too late to flee, but that they suffered nothing beyond imprisonment, coupled, however, with constant apprehension of another fearful gaol delivery like that of September, 1792. It must be presumed that many of them altered their opinion of their own country's stability and institutions, and learned to prefer even an unreformed Parliament to the French Convention. They cannot at any rate have failed to contrast the revolutionary tribunal with a British jury, and the guillotine with the heaviest English penalties for sedition.
ART. VII.—England under the Anjevin Kinys. By KATE NORGATE. 2 vois. 8vo. London: 1887.
. “THE THE Angevin Kings of England' would perhaps have
been a better title for this admirable history. Every chapter throughout the work is full of valuable results obtained from an exact and conscientious examination of original materials, and rich in lessons enforced with the soundest sobriety of judgement. But it needs some stretching of words to regard these volumes as strictly a history of England under the three sovereigns who were also Counts of Anjou. Such a history would have justified indeed the devoting of a considerable space to the course of events which united in the same person the crown of England, the dukedom of Normandy, and the lordship of Anjou and Aquitaine; but if the proportions would have been different, there is no reason to suppose, so far as our harvest of knowledge is concerned, that we should have been gainers by the change of view.
In whatever light we may regard it, the interval which separates the death of the Red King from that of John is a time of astonishing growth for the English people, a growth designedly fostered by the two sovereigns who distinctly valued above all other glory the reputation which comes from wise legislation and from equal administration of law-a growth not retarded by the terrible anarchy under Stephen, by the indifference of Richard, or by the treachery of John. It is a time during which all that was good in the work of the Conqueror began to yield wholesome fruit, and much that was evil in it was deprived of its power to harm; the most wonderful feature of the age being the success with which the English nation, struggling on towards freedom, surmounted barriers seemingly insuperable, and turned every disaster to its own advantage. The advance thus made was made independently. The fortunes of this country were never dependent on those of the foreign dominions of the English kings. It was not so even in the days of the Conqueror; and the defeat of Robert at Tinchebray really made Normandy a dependency of England, just as, after the wresting of Normandy from John, Aquitaine fell into the same relation with his island realm. But although, as being ruled by sovereigns who were at the same time foreign potentates, England was drawn within the circle of continental politics, her true interests were never endangered by the connexion. The Count of Anjou or Duke of Normandy, who was lord of lands stretching from the Orkneys to the Pyrenees, and who claimed and was acknowledged to be the peer of the Cæsar himself, derived his chief power from the fact that he was King of England, while his island realm in turn derived from his foreign dominion a lustre unknown in the days preceding the enterprise of the Norman William. The good kings helped on this national growth; the bad ones could only in outward seeming retard it. All of them had in greater or less degree to struggle with their barons; but the struggle of the two Henrys was a fight for the establishment of a peace and order which the lawlessness of their tenants in chief would have rendered impossible ; that of John was an effort to free himself from the restraints of law which the barons, who had now become simply Englishmen, were resolved to maintain in the persons of all from the supreme lord to the humblest tiller of the soil. Nor were there wanting battles between other clashing interests, or interests which were supposed to be antagonistic. The rivalry between the secular and the ecclesiastical powers seeined to threaten sometimes a complete disruption, and to open a way for a foreign domination more oppressive and more withering than that of a military conqueror; and here too the lowest degradation reached by any English king marks the beginning of a national resistance to Papal encroachments, which was brought to a head by the revolt of Henry VIII.