« PreviousContinue »
arrested, and sent to prison. As an officer was con. ducting her, he asked if she wished to have the windows of the carriage closed. "No," replied she; “ oppressed innocence should not assume the attitude of crime and shame. I do not fear the looks of honest men, and I brave those of my enemies.”
3. "The cowards and ruffians who then had control of public affairs in France were afraid of the talents and the influence of this woman. They determined on her death. They gave her a trial; but it was a mere mockery of justice, a solemn farce. In her address before the Revolutionary Tribunal, on the 8th of November, 1793, she spoke as follows:
4. “ Not to its own times merely does the generous mind feel that it belongs. It comprehends in its regard the whole human race, and extends its care even to posterity. It was my lot to be the friend of men proscribed and sacrificed by those who hated them for their superiority. And I must perish in my turn! I have a double claim to death at your hands.
5. “When Innocence walks to the scaffold at the command of error and of guilt, every step she takes is an advance to glory. Might I be the last victim of that furious spirit of party, by which you are impelled, with what joy would I quit this unfortunate earth, which swallows up the friends of virtue, and drinks the blood of the just!
6. “ Truth! Friendship! Country!— sacred objects, sentiments dear to my heart, — accept my last sacrifice! My life was devoted to you, and you will render my death easy and glorious. Righteous Heaven! enlighten this wretched people, for whom I invoked liberty.
7. “Liberty? Ah! that is for noble minds — not for weak beings who enter into a covenant with guilt, and try to varnish cowardice and selfishness with the name of prudence; - not for corrupt wretches wko rise from the bed of vice, or from the mire of indigence, to feast their eyes on the noble blood that streams from the scaffold.
8. “O, no! Liberty is the portion of a people who delight in humanity, who revere justice, despise flattery, and venerate truth. While you are not such a people, O! my fellow-citizens, in vain will you talk of liberty. Instead of liberty, you will have licentiousness; and to that you will all in your turns fall victims. You will ask for bread, and will gět - dead bodies ! And at length you will bow down your necks to the yoke, and find your vile refuge in the rule of a despot. • 9. “I make no concealment of my sympathies, my opinions. I know that a Roman mother once was sent to the scaffold for lamenting the death of her son. I know that, in times of delusion and party rage, he who dares avow himself the friend of the proscribed, exposes himself to their fate.
10. “But I do not fear death. I never feared any thing but guilt; and I will not purchase life at the price of a lie. Woe to the times ! Woe to the people, among whom to do homage to disregarded truth is to incur their hate! Happy he who, under such circumstances, is bold enough to defy that hate — as I do !"
11. All the eloquence, all the courage, all the femi. wine beauty of Madame Roland, could not save her from the guillotine. She heard herself sentenced to death, with the air of one who saw in her condemnation merely her title to immortality. She rose, and, blightly bowing to her craven judges, said, with an ironical smile, “I thank you for considering me wor. thy to share the fate of the good and great men you have murdered.” .
12. As she passed along the corridor, where the
other prisoners had assembled to greet her return, she looked at them smilingly, and, drawing her right hand across her throat, made a sign expressive of cutting off a head. This was her only farewell; it was tragic as her destiny, joyous as her deliverance; and well was it understood by those who saw it.
13. To the last moment did this remarkable woman preserve her presence of mind, her intrepidity, and even her gayety. A colossal statue of Liberty, composed of clay, like the liberty of the time, stood near the scaffold. Bowing before this statue, as though to do homage to a power for whom she was about to die, she exclaimed, “O Liberty! Liberty ! how many crimes are committed in thy name!" She then resigned her. self to the hands of the executioner, and in a few seconds her head fell into the basket placed to receive
1. It is now ten years, 0 Romans! since my brother, Tiberius Gracchus, was elected your trib'une. In what
a condition did he find you! The great body of tho people pining in ab'ject poverty; thousands suffering for the want of daily bread; eager to labor, but without a clod of earth they could call their own! A few men, rapacious, insatiate, reckless, claiming to be the aristocracy (the aristocracy !), having amassed enormous wealth by extortion and fraud, lorded it over you with remorseless rigor.
2. The class of small landed proprietors had disappeared. Mercenary idlers, their fingers itching for bribes, political tricksters, hungry usurers, desperate gamblers, all the vilest abettors of lawless power, had usurped the places of men once the strength and glory of the republic. Incalculable distress among the millions, unbounded wealth and prodigality among the hundreds, — such was the state of things!
3. The rich might crush and plunder the poor with impunity; for your rulers were corrupt, your judges cowardly and venal, and money could buy them all to aid in any act of spoliation. And bribery at elections - open, unblushing, flagrant — kept in power the men who were thus sapping the life-blood of the country. Do I exaggerate? Do I not rather too faintly picture the deep woe and degradation of the people, — the rapacity, arrogance, and depravity, of their oppressors !
4. It was at such a time that Tiberius Gracchus presented himself to you for the trib'uneship, and was elected. His affectionate heart had been wrung by the spectacle of your distresses. He had seen with indignation the atrocious system under which you were plundered and down-trodden. He resolved upon your rescue He flung defiance at your domestic tyrants. He swiftly put an end to that system of fraud by which they robbed you of the public lands.
5. No shelter of wealth, no privilege of rank or of high place, could save the guilty from his honest
wrath, his fiery denunciation. In vain did they retort with the cheap words “demagogue !" "factionist !”. " an'archist!” There was that truthfulness in his very tones, that simplicity and nobleness in his very bear. ing, that dignity and gentleness in his very rage against wrong, that carried conviction of his sincerity to every heart.
6. O! how they grew pale with anger, those aris'tocrats, as they called themselves, when they felt their power melting away; when they saw the people recovering their rights, under the resistless eloquence of that young, devoted spirit! . He must be silenced, this audacious trib'une, this questioner of the incorruptibility of the privileged classes, this friend and leader of the people ; — he must be silenced! A bloody revenge must be taken for the fears, which he has made these plunderers endure, of being deprived of their illegally-got possessions. .
7. Alas! the foul deed was done. In a tumult, instigated for the purpose, your illustrious trib'une, this champion of the poor, this friend of the friendless, was slain. His very body, which his friends sought from his murderers, was refused them; and your sacred river was made more sacred by receiving in its bosom all of Tiberius Gracchus that could perish.
8. And now, men of Rome, if you ask, as those who fear me have asked, why I have left my quěstorship in Sardinia without leave from the Senate, here is my answer: I must either have come to you without leave, or not at all. And if you ask why I have come at all, here is my reply: I have come to present myself for the office my brother held, and for serving you in which he was brutally murdered.
9. I have come to vindicate bis memory, to reïnau. gurate his policy. I have come — I avow it frankly – to strip the privileged classes of their privileges, to