Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/20

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5
SILENCE OF HISTORIANS.

Bois[1] gives a more general sketch of the history of the machine itself and of its introduction into modern Revolutionary practice. All these accounts are very imperfect and unsatisfactory, but they afford us an opportunity of bringing into one view all that we have been able to collect on a subject so neglected, and yet so worthy, we think, of being accurately known and deeply considered.

It seems unaccountable that the introduction of so very remarkable a change in the mode of execution should not have been a subject of general curiosity and discussion, but is it not still more strange that persons calling themselves historians—whose attention might have been excited, not merely by the novelty of the machine, but by the moral and legal questions which led to the invention, and by the terrible, the gigantic consequences which followed its adoption—take little or no notice of it? M. Thiers, for instance, mentions cursorily the death of the first and second political victims of the Revolutionary Tribunal.—Lacretelle, in a little more detail, names the second and third;—Mignet merely says, 'some persons were condemned;'—and they all, in the course of their narrations, report the death of the King; but in none of the cases do they allude to any machine, nor employ any phrase that would not apply to an ordinary decapitation by the stroke of the headsman. It may be said, in explanation of

  1. Recherches Historiques et Physiologiques sur la Guillotine; et Détails sur Sanson: ouvrage rédigé sur pièces officielles. Par M. Louis du Bois, Ancien Bibliothécaire de l'Ecole Centrale de l'Orne. Pp. 35. Paris, 1843.