Page:History of the Guillotine.djvu/61

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more strange that they should not have recollected its existence in their own comparatively modern history. We read, in the 'Mémoires de Puysegur,' that the great Marshal de Montmorenci was beheaded at Toulouse in 1632 by such an instrument:—

"In that province they make use [for capital executions] of a kind of hatchet, which runs between two pieces of wood; and when the head is placed on the block below, the cord is let go, and the hatchet descends and severs the head from the body. When he [M. de M.] had put his head on the block, his wound [received in the fight in which he was taken] hurt him, and he moved his head, but said, ' I don't do so from fear, but from the soreness of my wound.' Father Arnoul was close to him when they let go the cord of the hatchet: the head was separated clean from the body, and they fell one on one side and the other on the other."—Mem. de Puys., vol. i. p. 137.

We conclude from all this that this mode of execution was common on the Continent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and yet had passed into such entire desuetude and oblivion as to have appeared as a perfect novelty when proposed by Dr. Guillotin; and this is still more surprising, because it seems that an execution by a similar instrument had been a year or two before the Revolution exhibited in Paris, at one of the minor theatres of the Boulevard, in a harlequin farce called 'Les Quatre Fils Aymon.'[1]

This is certainly a striking illustration of the pro-

  1. Dictionnaire National (1790), p. 80, which quotes Camille Desmoulins.—Portraits des Hommes Celebres, voce Guillotin.—But M. Ouyot doubts the fact, p. 6.