Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/26

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Maury's objection seems to have made no great impression at a time when no one—not even the sagacious and eloquent Abbé himself—could have foreseen such a prodigality of legal murders—such a deluge of blood as afterwards afforded so practical and so frightful a corroboration of his theoretical suggestion.

But the debate was brought to a sudden conclusion on that day by an unlucky inadvertence of Guillotin himself; who, answering some objections to the 2nd Article, and having represented hanging as evidently a tedious and torturing process, exclaimed in a tone of triumph, "Now, with my machine, I strike you off your head [je vous fais sauter la tête] in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it." "Solvuntur risu tabulæ"—a general laugh terminated the debate—and amongst the laughers there were scores who were destined to be early victims of the yet unborn cause of their merriment.

Though Dr. Guillotin had talked so peremptorily and indiscreetly about "his machine," it does not appear that he had as yet prepared even a model, and it is nearly certain that he had no concern in the actual construction of the instrument that was eventually—three years later—adopted; but to which, while yet in embryo, this unlucky burst of surgical enthusiasm was the occasion of affixing his name. It happened thus:—The celebrated Royalist Journal, Les Actes des Apôtres, conducted with great zeal and considerable wit by Peltier (afterwards so well known in London), assisted by Rivarol and others, seized on this phrase of Guillotin's as the