History of the Girondists


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B. XLn. 5.] COMMITTEE OP PUBLIC SAFETT. 27 croix, a fanatical member of the Cordeliers’ club, devoted to Danton, as the genius of the republic, did not venture to give an opinion before his master had spoken; and even Danton seemed for the first time undecided. Garnt lamented the imminence of the peril, and the fatal consequences of such a sacrifice made to the brutal force of the mob. Then, as if suddenly illuminated by one of those bright Hashes which dispels darkness and difficulty, — “I see but one means of saving them,” exclaimed he; “ but it demands a degree of heroism for which I dare not hope in these corrupt times.” “ Speak,” replied Danton; “ our souls are worthy those of antiquity; the Revolution has not de- graded human nature.” “ Well, then,” returned Garat, with the hesitation of a man who sounds the abysses of the heart of another, without knowing whether he will find crime or virtue; “remember the quarrels of Themistocles and Aristides, which threatened the destruction of their country, bj dividing it into two factions; Aristides saved his country bj his greatness of soul. ‘ Athenians,’ said he to the people, who wavered between himself and his rival, ‘ you will never be happy and tranquil until you have cast Themistocles and myself into the gulf into which you cast your criminals/ ” “ You are right,” cried Danton, seizing the allusion before Garat had applied it to the present circumstances. “ You are right;*the unity of the republic must, if necessary, triumph over our corpses. We and our enemies must exile ourselves in an equal number from the Convention, in order to restore to it strength and peace. I will hasten to propose this to our heroic friends of the Montagne, and I will offer to go as a hostage to Bordeaux.” The whole committee, carried away by the generosity of Danton, adopted this plan; which, whilst it left the honour of the sacrifice to the Montagne, saved the Girondists, and gave the victory to patriotism only. But enthusiasm soon grows cold. Danton carried away a few of his friends by his example ; the rest demanded time for reflection. He caused Robespierre to be sounded; but the latter, more politic and less generous, dissipated the illu- sions of Danton in the eyes of his friends. “ His logic did not permit him to abdicate,” he said, “ not his power, for he had none, but the mandate of the people, which had as-

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