Englishmen in the French Revolution/Chapter IX

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"The character of this tyranny was...in the name of liberty
to erect into civic virtues anarchy, debauch, delation, ferocity."
CARNOT, July 28th, 1797.




It is sad to find Englishmen among the Terrorists, even though foreign birth or long absence had made them English only in name. George Grieve, who hunted Madame Dubarry to death, was an hereditary agitator. His grandfather Ralph, a scrivener, at a contested election of a clergyman in 1694 headed the unsuccessful party, and was expelled from the Common Council of Alnwick. Ralph's son Richard, also an attorney, was agent for Lord Ossulston, the Whig candidate at the election of 1748, and he headed a mob which stormed the town hall, thus frustrating the attempt of the Council to procure an unfair return. Ossulston was, however, unseated, while Grieve—his conduct denounced as "partial and villainous, and in defiance of all ties, both human and divine"—was expelled from the Council. This happened only a few weeks before George's birth. With such a lineage George Grieve could scarcely fail to be an ardent politician; yet his elder brother, Davidson Richard, was a quiet country gentleman, high sheriff of Northumberland in 1788. He must have taken after his mother, Elizabeth Davidson. George, on coming of age, had to sue the Common Council for the right to take up his freedom, the Council arguing that he was not a freeman's son, inasmuch as at the time of his birth his father had been disfranchised, though subsequently readmitted. George won his case, and in 1774 he headed the opposition to the Duke of Northumberland's attempt to fill up both seats for the county, in lieu of being content with one. The opposition secured a narrow majority of sixteen, Alnwick itself pronouncing for the Duke, who, as he told Dutens, spent £7000 on the election. Four years later Grieve led a mob which levelled the fences of part of the moor wrongfully presented by the corporation to the Duke's agent. He was of course a fervent admirer of Wilkes, and a zealous advocate of parliamentary reform. His affairs, however, became involved, and like Pigott he fancied England to be on the brink of ruin. Accordingly, about 1780 he sold his patrimony, crossed the Atlantic, made acquaintance with Washington and Paine, and is said to have partly supported himself by his pen. He appears to have been sent on a mission to Holland, and then, about 1783, settled in Paris.

That such a man would throw himself into the revolutionary movement is evident; but although he knew Mirabeau, there is no trace of Grieve's activity till 1792, when he took up his quarters at an inn at Louveciennes, the hamlet inhabited by Madame Dubarry. Here he formed a club, which, the lady being in England in quest of her stolen jewels, audaciously met in her drawing-room. Her Hindoo servant Zamore, whom she had brought up, had stood sponsor to, and had named after one of Voltaire's tragedies, proved unfaithful. She had loaded him with kindness, and as a boy he used, dressed like Cupid, to hold a parasol over her as she went to meet Louis XV. in the garden; but Grieve wormed all her secrets out of him, got an order for seals to be placed on her property, and inserted her name at the head of a list of persons to be arrested. The power of the municipality to make arrests was, however, questioned, and for four months Madame Dubarry remained free, though in perpetual anxiety.

On July 1st, 1793, Grieve escorted the municipality to the bar of the Convention, vehemently denounced her, and obtained authority to apprehend her, but a petition from the villagers, who had profited by her bounty, procured her release. Thereupon Grieve issued a pamphlet describing her luxurious life, and holding her up to odium' as a conspirator. He signed himself "Man of Letters, officieux defender of the brave sans-culottes of Louveciennes, friend of Franklin and Marat,[1] factious (factieux) and anarchist of the first water, and disorganiser of despotism for twenty years in both hemispheres." Madame Dubarry, who had already dismissed one treacherous servant, now dismissed Zamore also. In September, Grieve secured a fresh warrant against her, and singularly enough rode part of the way to Paris in the hackney carriage with her. What passed between them is a mystery. Was he enamoured of her, and repelled with horror, or did he offer life and liberty if she disgorged? In any case it is strange that Madame Dubarry, whose last lover but one had been an Englishman—Henry Seymour, nephew of the Duke of Somerset, the Sunday evening dancing in whose park at Prunay was remembered by old women still living in 1870—should have been hunted to death by another Englishman. The inhabitants again obtained her release, but in November she was a third time arrested. Grieve superintended the search for her jewels concealed in dungheaps, and got up the case against her. Not merely did he collect evidence, but he was himself a witness, and had it not been for his relentless persecution it seems likely that she would have been left unmolested.

Grieve was to have dined with Marat the very day the latter was assassinated. To dine with Marat sounds anything but tempting. Marat's squalor was, however, all external, an affair of parade, for he liked comfort and good fare. Grieve unwarrantably denounced the Jacobin ex-priest, Jacques Roux, as Charlotte Corday's accomplice, on the ground of having met him at Marat's house and seen him "look furious."[2] Evidently

"His mind
Had grown suspicion's sanctuary."

This denunciation had no effect; but Roux, who had pretended to continue Marat's newspaper, was forced by his relict's protestations to renounce the enterprise. Grieve is said to have boasted that he had brought seventeen persons to the guillotine. If the vaunt was true, it can only be hoped that his reason was temporarily impaired. Five months after Robespierre's fall he was arrested at Amiens and taken to Versailles, where twenty-two depositions were taken against him, but on unknown grounds the prosecution was stopped. In 1796 he was back in America, where he published a translation of the Marquis de Chatellux's Travels, unaware perhaps that John Kent, likewise an eye-witness of and pamphleteer on the Revolution, had brought out a translation in London nine years earlier. He eventually settled in Brussels, and died there February 22, 1809. He was apparently unmarried, and had broken off all relations with Northumberland. The entry of death described him as a native of "Newcastel, Amérique," instead of Alnwick, England. His manuscripts, still preserved at the National Archives, Paris, are in irreproachable French, and his pamphlet, the copy of which in the Paris Library contains autograph corrections in a bold hand, is sprinkled with classical quotations. His tool and confederate Zamore, also arrested after Robespierre's fall, but said to have been released on Grieve's representations, lived, morose, miserable, and a vilifier of his benefactress, till 1820.

John James Arthur,[3] a member of the Paris Commune, was a much more prominent personage than Grieve, but though he was often spoken of as "l'Anglais," he was born in Paris, and had probably never quitted France. He does not therefore call for any lengthy notice. He may have been descended from a Jacobite banker named Arthur, or from an Irish refugee who served in the French army. He was a manufacturer of paper-hangings, at that time used only by the rich, and mostly imported from England. He also made cameo fans and other ornamental articles, and was employed by the Court, for in 1791 the Assembly paid him 13,000 francs, a debt due by the Crown prior to 1789. No man had therefore less to gain from a Revolution which drove away wealthy residents from Paris, but of course nobody at the outset foresaw this result. Arthur, moreover, had suffered under the injustice of the old system of government. About 1786 he bought a house on the boulevard, at the corner of the Rue Louis-le-Grand. At the opposite corner stood the wing added to his mansion by the notorious roué the Maréchal de Richelieu, great-nephew of the famous Cardinal. The municipality had allowed the Marshal to encroach on the street for this corner building, which commanded a view of the boulevard, and which the Parisian wits or populace had nicknamed the "Pavilion de Hanovre." The nickname implied that the money expended on it was a bribe received by the Marshal at the capitulation of Closterseven in Hanover. The old man seems to have cynically accepted the title, which remains to this day, for though the rest of the mansion, converted into an hotel after the Revolution—Fox stayed there in 1802—has long disappeared, the Pavilion de Hanovre is unaltered, still projects into the Rue Louis-le-Grand, is occupied by the jeweller Christofle, and was renovated two years ago. Arthur began adding another story to his house, but Richelieu, whether because it would really have spoilt his view, or whether displeased at his consent not having been asked, objected. Litigation commenced, and Richelieu even claimed Arthur's house, alleging that the Duc d'Antin, of whom Arthur bought it, had had no title to it. Exercising, moreover, a privilege of the nobility, he had the case transferred from the ordinary tribunals to the Intendant, where he was sure of indefinite delay, if not of a favourable decision. Arthur, after vainly trying to conciliate the old man, induced friends to threaten him with odium or lampoons. Richelieu at length withdrew his opposition, and had he not done so his death in 1788, at the age of ninety-two, would have settled the matter.

It is not surprising, then, that Arthur welcomed the Revolution. In September 1789 he presented 600 francs to the patriotic fund, his partner Robert gave another 600 francs, and his clerks, painters, engravers, &c., contributed 556 francs, which shows that the concern was a large one.[4] In July 1790 Arthur and his men assisted in preparing the Champ de Mars. He became president of his section (Section des Piques, the Rue Louis-le-Grand being rechristened Rue des Piques), and must have known Lavoisier, who was in the same division of the National Guard. He was a member of the Jacobin Club, was a not infrequent speaker there, and was one of the committee which, in December 1793, "purged" away the less extreme members. In 1792 he was elected—it was a sham election by an insignificant minority—on the Paris Commune or municipality, and was placed on the chief or central committee, a kind of Cabinet. There were plenty of foreigners to keep him company, for Pache and Marat were Swiss, Dubuisson and Pereire Belgians, Proly and the two brothers Frey Austrians, Guzman was a Spaniard, and Dufourny an Italian. Foreigners, indeed, formed the majority. It was at Arthur's suggestion that the name of all inmates had to be inscribed on the door of every Paris house. As a "municipal" Arthur took his turn in guarding the royal family in the Temple, and in March 1793 he denounced two of his colleagues for secretly conversing with Marie Antoinette and making her laugh. They were consequently struck off the roll, and one of them confessed long afterwards that he secretly carried newspapers to the Queen, and was plotting her escape.[5]

Delation became habitual with Arthur. He denounced speculators who melted down the copper coinage. He charged Pitt's agents with a plot for slaughtering cows and sheep, so as to starve France, and suggested that every citizen should be required to keep a cow. He accused Delamarche of dishonesty in the manufacture of paper money, alleging that he had in private conversation at his dinner-table advocated national bankruptcy. Arthur's father was cited to confirm this, but Delamarche replied that the old man, whom he much respected, had often groaned over his son's fanaticism. He added that he himself had obtained a grant of 1800 francs a week to enable Arthur to continue employing his 400 men. Delamarche was deprived of his post, and was eventually executed, though on a different charge. Arthur suggested that the Convention should issue an address to the English people, pointing out how they were dishonoured by their Government in conniving at the issue of forged assignats. He was on the list of witnesses against Danton, and though not called at the trial, he at Robespierre's suggestion made his deposition before the Jacobin Club. He charged Danton with complicity with Dumouriez, with having reprobated the execution of Marie Antoinette as destroying all hope of peace, and with having condemned the execution of Custine, because such treatment of the best generals made victories impossible. He would also have given evidence against Clavière but for his suicide before trial.

In Robespierre's notebook Arthur is on the list of "patriots having more or less ability." In the summer of 1794 the Committee of Public Safety sent him to the Haute Marne, ostensibly to stimulate the manufacture of gunpowder, but really, according to Lombard de Langres, to inquire into the civisme of certain ironmasters whose fortunes they coveted. An urgent summons from Robespierre brought him back to Paris on the eve of the 10th Thermidor. He was on the committee of eight appointed by the Commune on the 9th to support Robespierre against the Convention. Six of the eight were foreigners. Robespierre, after much hesitation, was signing an insurrectionary address to the Section des Piques, when he was fired at and disabled. On the triumph of the Convention the "municipals," already outlawed, were executed without trial. Arthur apparently was in hiding till the 11th or 12th Thermidor, for he was guillotined, not with the eleven who accompanied Robespierre on the 10th, nor with the large batch of sixty-eight on the 11th, but with a third batch of ten on the 12th. He was thirty-three years of age, and seems to have been unmarried. One of his partners, Grenard, shared his fate, but Robert continued the business. The house was afterwards demolished in order to widen the street. Fanatic as he was, Arthur may be absolved from the horrible charge of devouring the heart of a Swiss killed in the defence of the Tuileries. This is one of the many legends of the Revolution which will not bear examination.

Arthur must have been confronted at the very climax of the struggle by a man like himself of British extraction, Auguste Rose, one of the ten ushers to the Convention. Stone had his letters from England sent under cover to Rose, perhaps to prevent their being opened at the London post-office. When Robespierre and his confederates were declared under arrest by the Convention, Rose, on account of his firmness and courage, was deputed to conduct them to the Committee of General Safety, who gave him a receipt testifying their safe delivery. In the evening the Convention sent him to the rebellious Commune with a summons to appear at the bar and hear its orders. The Commune, on learning his arrival and errand, had him arrested and brought before them. He showed such boldness that Fleuriot, the president, bade him go back and tell the Convention they would appear arms in hand and enforce their rights. Taking this insolent message as a release, Rose left the room, fought his way on the stairs past two men who tried to stop him, and ran at full speed. He had scarcely left the Hotel de Ville than the Commune on second thoughts decreed his arrest, but it was too late. When the Commune was outlawed, Rose also accompanied several deputies who went and harangued the troops brought by Henriot to the Carrousel to crush the Convention. Let us hope that Merlin de Thionville, to whom Rose sent a statement of his services, secured him the reward due to his intrepidity.

Arthur had two colleagues in the Commune of British birth or extraction. James, doubtless the William Benjamin James who took part in the capture of the Bastille, was a teacher of English. He took his turn in watching poor Louis XVI. at the Temple, and Cléry tells us that once when the King withdrew after dinner to his study to read, James went in, sat down by him, and refused to leave, though the King urged that he could be sufficiently watched from the anteroom through an open door. The unhappy monarch gave up reading for that day. James was one of the secretaries of the Jacobin Club in 1794. He may have been related to the Captain Charles James, "one of the many hundreds who helped to demolish the Bastille," who published in London in 1792 " An Extenuation of the Conduct of the French Revolutionists." He gravely alleged that Marie Antoinette had said she should never be satisfied till she had bathed in the blood of Frenchmen. He insisted, too, that from the 14th July 1789 to the 4th September 1792 there had not, with the single exception of Theobald Dillon's murder, been any case of "unprovoked severity, misnamed barbarity."

Louis Henri Scipio Beauvoir, Comte Duroure, was the grandson of Bolingbroke's sister. Lady Catherlough. The name Scipio, which fitted in so conveniently with Jacobin usages, and in favour of which he dropped his other names, had for several generations been a family one. A Scipio Duroure, probably his grandfather, entered the English army in 1705, and became a colonel. He himself was born at Marseilles in 1763, but was educated in England. He knew Josephine, returning with her in the same vessel from Martinique in 1791. As a "municipal," he proposed and carried a resolution, that the 6th January, the anniversary of Louis XVI.'s death, should be styled the fête des sans-culottes. He did not, however, side with Robespierre, and was imprisoned at St. Lazare during the latter part of the Terror, nor did he again figure in politics. Under the Empire he studied jurisprudence and grammar, and translated Cobbett's English Grammar. He died in 1822 in London, whither he is said to have gone to claim an inheritance.

Joseph Kavanagh, a shoemaker, though a native of Lille, was evidently of Irish extraction. He seems to have been a coward when there was danger, an assassin when there was none. On the 13th July 1789, according to a detective named Blutel, who was guillotined at Arras in 1794, Kavanagh headed a band of roughs who ransacked the Tuileries, seizing twenty-five muskets and a chest of money. Next day he intercepted five carts bearing arms from Metz for the Vincennes garrison. He erected a barricade, on a rumour that the carts would be demanded. Going to the Hotel de Ville, he found the mob, in the belief of a massacre by the soldiers in the Faubourg St. Antoine, talking of going to the Invalides for arms. "Let us march thither," shouted Kavanagh, but after going a short distance he slackened his pace and slunk home. In September 1792 he was one of the butchers of unarmed prisoners. What became of him we do not hear.

Among the revolutionary judges in the provinces were two men apparently of British extraction. Duplessis-Smith, in Finistère, endeavoured in May 1794 to save from the scaffold twenty members of the former Girondin local administration, but his efforts were unavailing. O'Brien, at St. Malo, was more successful in securing the acquittal of six children—two of them only five years old, the others between eight and ten. To such lengths had the Terror gone that even children were not safe. Well might a caricature, seized by the St. Denis municipality and forwarded to Robespierre, represent him as seated on a sarcophagus inscribed, "Noblesse, clergé, Girondins, Hébertistes, peuple," Robespierre and the executioner the only survivors, and Robespierre preparing to guillotine the executioner.

  1. Marat perhaps made his acquaintance at Newcastle, or while teaching French at Edinburgh in 1772.
  2. Roux had been expelled from the Cordeliers' Club on the motion of Marat. He stabbed himself in December 1793, to avoid being guillotined.
  3. Jean Jacques was probably an assumed name, out of admiration of Rousseau.
  4. In May 1792 Arthur's workmen made a second gift of 600 francs.
  5. "Souvenirs de J. F. Lepitre," 1817.