Monday, April 5, 2010

"Thou wilt show my head to the people: It is worth showing"

The famous last words of Georges Jacques Danton, the French Revolutionary, were uttered on April 5, 1794.  Danton, who had participated in the storming of the Bastille, was guillotined toward the end of the reign of terror.  Financial improprieties were cited, including an attempt to gain from insider trading related to the French East India Company.

Walter Scott covers Danton in his "Life of Napoleon", considering him in the same breath as Robespierre and Marat; the triumvirate, as Scott referred to them.

"...The Jacobins—the second of these parties —were allies of the Brissotins, with the ulterior purpose of urging the revolutionary force to the uttermost, but using as yet the shelter of their republican mantle. Robespierre, who, by an affectation of a frugal and sequestered course of life, preserved among the multitude the title of the Incorruptible, might be considered as the head of the Jacobins, if they had indeed a leader more than wolves have, which tune their united voices to the cry of him who bays the loudest. Danton, inexorable as Robespierre himself, but less prudent, because he loved gold and pleasure as well as blood and power, was next in authority. Marat, who loved to talk of murder as soldiers do of battles; the wretched Collot d'Herbóte, a broker-down play-actor ; Chabot, an eicapuchin ; with many other men of desperate character, whose moderate talents were eked cut by the most profligate effrontery, formed the advanced guard of this party, soiled with every species of crime, and accustomed to act their parts in the management of those dreadful insurrections, which had at once promoted and dishonoured the Revolution..."

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