Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/39

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

most prominent patron of revolutionary bloodshedding![1]

The concluding part of Duport's letter will show that at this date there was not only no adoption of, but only a very slight allusion to, a machine—the idea of which seems to have made its way very slowly; and all parties appear to have understood that the decapitation intended by the law was that which had been the usage in the case of noble criminals—by the sword. Duport states: —

"3rd March, 1792.

"It appears from the communications made to me by the executioners themselves, that, without some precautions of the nature of those which attracted for a moment the attention of the Constituent Assembly, the act of decollation will be horrible to the spectators. It will either prove the spectators to be monsters if they are able to bear such a spectacle; or the executioner, terrified himself, will be exposed to the fury of the people, whose very humanity may exasperate them, however cruelly and unjustly, against the executioner.

"I must solicit from the National Assembly an immediate decision; for a case at the moment presses for execution, which, however, is suspended by the humanity of the judges and the fright [l'effroi] of the executioner."

The representation of the Département is to the same effect, and, making no allusion whatever to mechanism, implies that death was to be by the sword:—

  1. It was he, who, in extenuation of the earlier massacres, had made the famous exclamation, "Ce sang était-il done si pur?"