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To receive
the degrading submission of a distressed and subjugated people, and
insultingly permit them to live, made the chief triumph of former
conquerors; but to receive them with fraternity, to break their chains,
to tell them they are free, and teach them to be so, make a new volume
in the history of man.

Amidst those national honours, and when only two enemies remained, both
of whom had solicited peace, and one of them had signed preliminaries,
the election of the new third commenced. Every thing was made easy to
them. All difficulties had been conquered before they arrived at the
government. They came in the olive days of the revolution, and all they
had to do was not to do mischief.

It was, however, not difficult to foresee, that the elections would not
be generally good. The horrid days of Robespierre were still remembered,
and the gratitude due to those who had put an end to them was forgotten.

Thousands who, by passive approbation during that tremendous scene, had
experienced no suffering, assumed the merit of being the loudest against
it. Their cowardice in not opposing it, became courage when it was over.
They exclaimed against Terrorism as if they had been the heroes that
overthrew it, and rendered themselves ridiculous by fantastically
overacting moderation. The most noisy of this class, that I have met
with, are those who suffered nothing. They became all things, at all
times, to all men; till at last they laughed at principle. It was the
real republicans who suffered most during the time of Robespierre. The
persecution began upon them on the 31st of May, 1793, and ceased only
by the exertions of the remnant that survived.

In such a confused state of things as preceded the late elections the
public mind was put into a condition of being easily deceived; and it
was almost natural that the hypocrite would stand the best chance of
being elected into the new third. Had those who, since their election,
have thrown the public affairs into confusion by counter-revolutionary
measures, declared themselves beforehand, they would have been denounced
instead of being chosen. Deception was necessary to their success.
The Constitution obtained a full establishment; the revolution was
considered as complete; and the war on the eve of termination. In such a
situation, the mass of the people, fatigued by a long revolution, sought
repose; and in their elections they looked out for quiet men. They
unfortunately found hypocrites. Would any of the primary assemblies
have voted for a civil war? Certainly they would not. But the electoral
assemblies of some departments have chosen men whose measures, since
their election, tended to no other end but to provoke it. Either those
electors have deceived their constituents of the primary assemblies, or
they have been themselves deceived in the choice they made of deputies.

That there were some direct but secret conspirators in the new third can
scarcely admit of a doubt; but it is most reasonable to suppose that a
great part were seduced by the vanity of thinking they could do better
than those whom they succeeded. Instead of trusting to experience, they
attempted experiments. This counter-disposition prepared them to fall in
with any measures contrary to former measures, and that without seeing,
and probably without suspecting, the end to which they led.

No sooner were the members of the new third arrived at the seat of
government, than expectation was excited to see how they would act.
Their motions were watched by all parties, and it was impossible for
them to steal a march unobserved. They had it in their power to do great
good, or great mischief. A firm and manly conduct on their part, uniting
with that of the Directory and their colleagues, would have terminated
the war. But the moment before them was not the moment of hesitation. He
that hesitates in such situation is lost.

The first public act of the Council of Five Hundred was the election of
Pichegru to the presidency of that Council. He arrived at it by a very
large majority, and the public voice was in his favour. I among the rest
was one who rejoiced at it. But if the defection of Pichegru was at that
time known to Condé, and consequently to Pitt, it unveils the cause that
retarded all negotiations for peace.(1) They interpreted that election
into a signal of a counter-revolution, and were waiting for it; and they
mistook the respect shown to Pichegru, founded on the supposition of his
integrity, as a symptom of national revolt. Judging of things by their
own foolish ideas of government, they ascribed appearances to causes
between which there was no connection. Every thing on their part has
been a comedy of errors, and the actors have been chased from the stage.

1 Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé (1736-1818),
organized the French emigrants on the Rhine into an army
which was incorporated with that of Austria but paid by
England. He converted Pichegru into a secret partisan of the
Bourbons. He ultimately returned to France with Louis
XVIII., who made him colonel of infantry and master of the
royal household.--_Editor._,

Two or three decades of the new sessions passed away without any
thing very material taking place; but matters soon began to explain
themselves. The first thing that struck the public mind was, that no
more was heard of negotiations for peace, and that public business stood
still. It was not the object of the conspirators that there should be
peace; but as it was necessary to conceal their object, the Constitution
was ransacked to find pretences for delays. In vain did the Directory
explain to them the state of the finances and the wants of the army. The
committee, charged with that business, trifled away its time by a series
of unproductive reports, and continued to sit only to produce more.
Every thing necessary to be done was neglected, and every thing improper
was attempted. Pichegru occupied himself about forming a national guard
for the Councils--the suspicious signal of war,--Camille Jordan about
priests and bells, and the emigrants, with whom he had associated
during the two years he was in England.1 Willot and Delarue attacked the
Directory: their object was to displace some one of the directors, to
get in another of their own. Their motives with respect to the age of
Barras (who is as old as he wishes to be, and has been a little too old
for them) were too obvious not to be seen through.(2)

1 Paine's pamphlet, addressed to Jordan, deals mainly with
religions matters, and is reserved for oar fourth volume.--
_Editor._.

2 Paul François Jean Nicolas Barras (1755-1899) was
President of the Directory at this time, 1797.--_Editor._.

In this suspensive state of things, the public mind, filled with
apprehensions, became agitated, and without knowing what it might be,
looked for some extraordinary event. It saw, for it could not avoid
seeing, that things could not remain long in the state they were in,
but it dreaded a convulsion. That spirit of triflingness which it
had indulged too freely when in a state of security, and which it is
probable the new agents had interpreted into indifference about the
success of the Republic, assumed a serious aspect that afforded to
conspiracy no hope of aid; but still it went on. It plunged itself into
new measures with the same ill success, and the further it went the
further the public mind retired. The conspiracy saw nothing around it to
give it encouragement.

The obstinacy, however, with which it persevered in its repeated
attacks upon the Directory, in framing laws in favour of emigrants and
refractory priests, and in every thing inconsistent with the immediate
safety of the Republic, and which served to encourage the enemy to
prolong the war, admitted of no other direct interpretation than that
something was rotten in the Council of Five Hundred. The evidence of
circumstances became every day too visible not to be seen, and too
strong to be explained away. Even as errors, (to say no worse of
them,) they are not entitled to apology; for where knowledge is a duty,
ignorance is a crime.

The more serious republicans, who had better opportunities than the
generality had, of knowing the state of politics, began to take
the alarm, and formed themselves into a Society, by the name of the
Constitutional Club. It is the only Society of which I have been a
member in France; and I went to this because it was become necessary
that the friends of the Republic should rally round the standard of
the constitution. I met there several of the original patriots of the
revolution; I do not mean of the last order of Jacobins, but of the
first of that name. The faction in the Council of Five Hundred,
who, finding no counsel from the public, began to be frightened at
appearances, fortified itself against the dread of this Society, by
passing a law to dissolve it. The constitutionality of the law was at
least doubtful: but the Society, that it might not give the example of
exasperating matters already too much inflamed, suspended its meetings.

A matter, however, of much greater moment soon after presented itself.
It was the march of four regiments, some of whom, in the line of their
route, had to pass within about twelve leagues of Paris, which is the
boundary the Constitution had fixed as the distance of any armed
force from the legislative body. In another state of things, such a
circumstance would not have been noticed. But conspiracy is quick of
suspicion, and the fear which the faction in the Council of Five
Hundred manifested upon this occasion could not have suggested itself
to innocent men; neither would innocent men have expostulated with the
Directory upon the case, in the manner these men did. The question they
urged went to extort from the Directory, and to make known to the enemy,
what the destination of the troops was. The leaders of the faction
conceived that the troops were marching against them; and the conduct
they adopted in consequence of it was sufficient to justify the measure,
even if it had been so.



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