Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/34

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EXECUTION OF THE AGASSES.

firmed in the lucrative property of the Moniteur, which he enjoyed throughout the Revolution, as his widow did after him, under the title of "Madame Veuve Agasse," and as we believe her representative does to this hour; and in the great work of Aubert, printed by Didot, called 'Tableaux Historiques de la Révolution,' there is a plate of the two Agasses going to be hanged, as if it had been a matter of the same historical importance as the Serment du Jeu de Paume, or the execution of the King. We hardly know a stronger instance of the characteristic perversity with which the Revolution, in all its transactions, contrived to transmute the abstract feelings of mercy and benevolence into practical absurdity, mischief, and cruelty.

But all this cruel foolery made no difference in the mode of execution; and indeed it was not yet decided that the punishment of death, in any shape, should be maintained in the new constitution. That great question was debated on the 30th of May, 1791—the committee on the Constitution, to whom the question had been referred, proposed the abolition, which, however, after a warm discussion, was negatived, and capital punishment retained. This discussion was remarkable in several ways. Those who thought the maintenance of capital punishments necessary to the safety of society were the first and greatest sufferers by it; while by those who opposed it on pretended principles of humanity it was very soon perverted to the purposes of the most monstrous and bloody tyranny that the world has yet seen. The chairman