From the Diary of Charles Henri Sanson

Brumaire 26.
Executed to-day, Citizen De Cussy, of Caen, who had taken part in the conspiracy of the federalist deputies, and with him Gilbert de Voisin, late president of the ex-parliament, who, having emigrated, was imprudent enough to return to Paris. During the toilet somebody said aloud that if Cussy, who was an adept in coining gold and silver moneys, was about to be guillotined, it was a certain sign that the Republic wanted no other money than paper. After these two came Houchard, formerly general of the Army of the North, who, like an old soldier, did not tremble.

 

Brumaire 27.
Forgers still give us plenty of work. To-day I led two of them to the Place de la Révolution. Forgery is a misfortune which endangers the lives of many innocent persons. Forgers are so clever that it is difficult to distinguish bad from good paper, and many people who have been deceived cannot resist the temptation of inflicting upon others the loss they have sustained. This evening I met in the Rue de la Tixeranderie a gang of women who were going to the Commune - they wore the red cap; a large crowd followed them, giving cheers which were much like groans. I followed the example, and walked behind the women, for I wanted to know what they intended to complain of. Having met Citizen Nicolas Lelièvre, he took me into the Hôtel-de-Ville. The women also entered, but neither their costume nor their petition were to the taste of Citizen Chaumette, who spoke to them very sensibly, and sent them back to their homes.

 

Brumaire 28.
This morning we went to the Conciergerie. As I was waiting in the prison parlour, two citizens, who were about to be interrogated, passed through the room; one of these, who I was told was Citizen Boisguyon, a soldier, approached me, and with great demonstrations of politeness, he said to me:  

 

'Is it to the citizen executioner I have the honour of speaking? Is not your scaffold like a ball-room, citizen, and does not the knife, like the violins, begin operations in such a way as not to leave time for two words?'  

 

I gave an affirmative answer.  

 

Then turning towards his companion he said to him:

 

'You see, Dupré, that I was right, and that you acted your part very badly. We must ask Fouquier-Tinville to allow the citizen executioner to come and superintend our rehearsals.'

 

The gendarmes led them away, but I heard them laughing. The speaker alluded to a parody of capital punishment which had become the chief amusement of the prisoners.  

 

Executed on this day a late deputy of the Constituante, Nicolas Remi Lesueur, of Saint Menehould, and an old soldier who had recruited for the enemy.1

 

[1] Francois Prix, alias Saint-Prix.

 

Brumaire 29.
Two convicts, Distar de Bellecour, officer, and Charles Duparc, late employé at the Tuileries. Nothing particularly interesting.


The ‘Section de l'Unité’ to-day, Brumaire 30, took away the remnants of the superstition of the Abbey of St. Germain des Prés to the Convention. I saw the procession. At the head of it marched a party of soldiers, then came men wearing sacerdotal vestments over their clothes, and between two files were women and girls dressed in white with tricolour sashes; lastly, I saw hand-barrows wherein were placed vases, pyxes, candlesticks, gold and silver plates, and a box of relics, studded with precious stones. The procession was followed by a band which played the tune of 'Malbrouk' (sic). This booty, it is said, is worth two millions.  


The Tribunal has given us a holiday; such occasions are rare.

Frimaire 1.
We went to take away poor Citizen Boisguyon, who the other day had made fun of the guillotine. When he was brought to me he said:


‘You are in earnest to-day; you will be astonished to see how well I can play my part.’ 

 

With him were Girey-Dupré, Brissot’s accomplice; he had his hair cut before being tried, and had appeared before the Tribunal in proper toilet for the scaffold. He said, turning round several times before me: 'I hope I am all right.' He was very cheerful. A forger of assignats, Colombier, was also to die. They all three took place in the same cart. The forger was in consternation; he tried to prove to Citizen Boisguyon that he was not guilty. The latter attempted to console him and said:

 

‘If my dying twice, instead of once, could save you. I would willingly submit to the experiment, for death is of very little consequence to me; but since this is impossible, keep your reasons for the Lord, in whose presence we shall be two hours hence.’  

 

As we were crossing the Rue St. Honoré, two women appeared at a window of Duplay's house, where Citizen Robespierre lives. Girey-Dupré, who was showing the house to Boisguyon, cried at the top of his voice:

 

'Down with Cromwell! down with the dictator! down with the tyrant!'

 

Juglet, the officer of gendarmes, tried to silence him, but in vain.  

 

Colombier was executed first, Boisguyon came next. He was quiet to the last. When Girey was on the platform he wanted to address the people, but we had orders to prevent him, and we took hold of him. He cried several times 'Vive la Republique!'

 

Frimaire 4.
We executed Antoine Colnelle de Tontel, late lieutenant-colonel, and Clément Laverdy, formerly superintendent of finances, convicted of having contributed to famine by throwing corn into a pond - nasty day’s work. The first-mentioned convict was seventy-two years old, and the other seventy. Both died with courage.

 

Frimaire 6.
Yesterday the Tribunal tried the individuals accused of having given false evidence; two of the accused were acquitted; the third, Carterau Desormeaux, was condemned to death and executed to-day.

 

Frimaire 7.
Bread is scarce in town; one must wait for hours before the bakers’ shops before one can get some. The women crowd before the shops in the evening, and sometimes wait all night. This sight should be very distressing, but our compatriots turn everything into fun. This evening over five hundred persons were waiting before the baker in our street; although the weather was very chilly, they were singing and laughing. Unfortunately this gaiety is frequently attended with disorder and misconduct, and there are husbands who complain. To-day the Tribunal sent to death Jacques Étienne Marchand, lieutenant of the gendarmes; General Nicolas Pollier-Lamarlière; and Étienne Alexis Jacques Anisson, formerly director of the national press.

And this is my reward for the good I have done to my country!

Frimaire 9.
Five heads fell to-day: two were those of celebrated men, Barnave, and Duport du Tertre, who had been minister of justice. It is said that Citizen Danton tried to save Barnave, but with the new law the denunciation of a child is enough to forfeit a man’s life, and no earthly power could save him. Yesterday I saw Citizen Fouquier as he was entering court. The execution was appointed for to-day, but the sitting ended late, and the weather was so bad that it had to be put off to the next day. At eleven o’clock, Barnave, Duport, Citizen Benoît-Grandel - sentenced for writing ‘Vive le Roi!’ on an assignat - Citizen Vervitch and his sister, were brought in to be cropped. Barnave and Du Tertre were very brave and quiet. The former came up to me, held out his hands, and said:


‘Bind these hands, which were the first to sign the declaration of the rights of man!’  

 

When he was ready, and while Citizeness Vervitch, who was in tears, was being bound, he went up to Duport and spoke to him with animation. Two carts had been provided: the late deputies entered one, with me; the three other convicts occupied the other cart, with Henri.1 On the way Barnave and Du Tertre went on conversing; they spoke of the Republic, and pretended that its forthcoming ruin would kill liberty altogether. Many cries rose around the carts: one man said to Barnave, in a tone of mockery:

 

’So young, so eloquent, so brave! what a pity!'

 

And Barnave answered very proudly: 'You are right, my friend!'  

 

Citizeness Vervitch was executed first; she was carried to the platform half dead with fear. Her brother followed her, then came Benoît-Grandel, Duport Du Tertre, and Barnave. The latter looked at the guillotine and exclaimed:

 

'And this is my reward for the good I have done to my country!'

 

[1]  The narrators son.

 

Frimaire 10.
This morning I had to take two cart-drivers from the Conciergerie to the Place de la Révolution. I had not, as yesterday, to deal with great citizens, but the quantity made up for quality, for there were five in one cart and four in the other - nine in all. In this number I saw a mother and a son. We had to use violence to separate them. When the mother saw her child's hair falling, her shrieks became so heartrending that we could hardly bear to hear them. She spoke to us, saying that the Republic should be content with her head, and that the young man should be reprieved. It was too much for me.  Henri took charge of the first cart, and I went in the other cart, but on the way, despite the noise, I could hear the woman groaning and weeping. The convicts who were in my cart turned away, not to see her. The women in the crowd wept, and many loudly expressed their pity. On the Place, and although she was very faint, she burst out again. The son kept on saying that he was glad to die with his mother. She suffered first, and on the platform she told me: 'I am sure he is to be reprieved.'


I think she had an idea that her son had been brought with her merely to frighten her, but that he was not to be executed. I thought it was of no use to contradict her.

The prettiest woman in Paris came forward to act as our new divinity - Reason.

 

I read in a paper, yesterday, that the goddess is likely to be like a general without soldiers.

 

Frimaire 11.
Executed Jean Vincenot, innkeeper; Pierre Nicolas Aubry, schoolmaster; and Sebastian Mauduit, wine merchant.

 

The prettiest woman in Paris came forward to act as our new divinity - Reason. I read in a paper, yesterday, that the goddess is likely to be like a general without soldiers.

 

Frimaire 12.
Two convicts this morning: Barthélemy Soudre, bootmaker, and Guillaume Jean Flament. They were much insulted and laughed at.

 

Frimaire 13.
Executed Antoine Pierre Léon Dufresne, doctor, for conspiring against the Republic, and Étienne Pierre Garneau for the same crime.  

 

To-day a decree of the Commune has been made known, which enumerates the requisite qualifications for a certificate of civism. To obtain such a certificate is now more difficult than to enter Paradise. One must show that one has been a member of the National Guard since 1790, produce receipts of patriotic contributions from 1791 to 1792; one must have held only one situation for the last two years, &c., &c. Citizen Chaumette is more exacting than St. Peter.

 

Frimaire 15.
Another deputy has been sent to the guillotine - Kersaint, formerly of the navy. He died bravely, as he had lived. Prayed on the way. A rebel priest, Baptiste Guérin, was executed with him.

 

Frimaire 16.
To-day, as I was going to the Conciergerie to take Jacques Auguste Rassay, Bernard d’Escourt, and Charlotte Félicité Lappé, the citizen prosecutor asked me to wait. Rivière, the turnkey, told me that they had just arrested Citizen Rabaut Saint Étienne, and his brother Rabaut Pommier, and that Fouquier had immediately ordered the first, who was outlawed, to be identified. The two Rabauts were concealed in the Rue Poissonnière, at a citizen's employed in the offices of the Committee of Public Safety. This citizen had caused to be constructed in his room a wall which so entirely concealed the apartment in which the two brothers were concealed, that it was next to impossible to find them. But he was foolish enough to employ an upholsterer who was working in the offices of the Committee. When he heard Billaud, Amar, and Vouland, who spoke of nothing but death and massacre, the upholsterer became frightened; he thought his life was in jeopardy, and he revealed the secret to Amar, who immediately directed the two brothers to be arrested. Half-an-hour after, the gendarmes returned with Rabaut Saint Étienne and Tirasse. Rabaut was handed over to me without more ado. He died with the greatest pluck.

She often spoke to me, begging for mercy. I was more moved than any one, for this unfortunate woman reminded me of my young days, of the time when I knew her, of her worthy father...

Frimaire 17.
Madame Dubarry was sentenced to death last night, and executed this morning. We arrived at the hall of justice punctually at nine, but we had to wait, as the convict was with Citizen Denizot, judge, and Citizen Royer, who were taking down her confession. At ten o'clock Citizens Vandenyver, who were three in number - the father and the two sons - all accomplices of Madame Dubarry, and Citizen Bonnardot and Joseph Bruniot, forgers, were brought in. While the above named were being 'arranged’1 Madame Dubarry came in; her legs could hardly carry her. It was some twenty years since I had seen her, and I could hardly have known her. Her features had become coarse. When she saw me she shrieked, covered her eyes with her hands, and sank down on her knees, crying: 'Do not kill me!'  


She rose to her feet again: ‘Where are the judges?' she exclaimed; 'I have not confessed everything; I want to see them!'  

 

Citizens Denizot and Royer were talking with two or three deputies who wished to see the poor woman; they came forward and told her to speak out. She said she had concealed several objects of value in her country house at Luciennes, but she sobbed and broke down at every word. Citizen Royer, who held the pen, kept on saying, 'Is that all?' and tried to make her sign the procès-verbal, but she pushed the paper away, saying that she had something to add. She perhaps thought that, in reason of the immense wealth she was giving up, she might be reprieved. At length Citizens Denizot and Royer rose, and said she must submit to the decision of her judges, and make up by her courage for the ignominy of her past life. One of my assistants approached and attempted to cut her hair, but she offered resistance, and the other assistants had great difficulty in binding her hands. She at last submitted, but she cried as I never saw a woman cry before. As many people crowded the quays as when the Queen and the Girondins were executed. Many cries were raised, but her shrieks were louder than any. She said: ' Good citizens, free me! I am innocent; I am of the people, good citizens, do not let them kill me!' No one moved, but men and women hung their heads, and silence prevailed at last; I never saw the people in a more merciful humour. Jacot's grimaces and taunts were of no avail. Dubarry was so faint that my son had to support her. She often spoke to me, begging for mercy. I was more moved than any one, for this unfortunate woman reminded me of my young days, of the time when I knew her, of her worthy father... When she saw the guillotine she became quite excited, and struggled with my assistants and tried to bite them. She was very strong, and three minutes elapsed before they could carry her up to the platform. She was frightful to look at, and to the very last second she struggled. The others were executed after her.

 

[1]  By "arranged" the narrator means being made ready for the scaffold.

 

Frimaire 18.
To-day we guillotined Jean-Baptiste Noël, deputy of Les Vosges, outlawed. On the way he spoke of Madame Dubarry, and asked me if the knife had been well cleaned, because it would be disgraceful that a republican's blood should mingle with that of a prostitute. A forger of assignats was executed with him. To-day Clavière, ex-minister, stabbed himself in his cell.

 

Frimaire 20.
Executed six public purveyors for fraud.

It is no easy matter to get shoes now-a-days.  The Convention has decided that shoemakers shall henceforth work for the defenders of the country only. 


Two convicts to-day.

Frimaire 21.
It is no easy matter to get shoes now-a-days. The Convention has decided that shoemakers shall henceforth work for the defenders of the country only. Two convicts to-day.

 

Frimaire 22.
Citizen Chaumette pursues women of loose life with energy.  He ought to begin by allaying public misery, which leads them into the life they lead.  To-day we had to deal with two of these women, named Claire Sevin and Catherine Loriot.

 

Frimaire 23.
Executed one of the great lords of the defunct Monarchy, the ci-devant Duc du Châtelet. He did more harm to the Monarchy than its most inveterate enemies. The King gave him the command of the French Guards, in lieu of Biron; Du Châtelet treated them so severely that he facilitated the work of those who were trying to disaffect the soldiers.  He was carried to the prison parlour, for in the night he had attempted to destroy himself: having neither knife nor dagger, he tried to kill himself with a sharp piece of glass, but the glass broke, and only made a slight wound; then, thinking that he could die by losing all his blood, he cut his breast several times with the piece which still remained in his possession, but he only succeeded in weakening himself so that his legs could not carry him. Nevertheless, his heart was firm. I proposed in the cart to bind his wounds, and thereby prevent the blood from flowing, but he answered:


'Never mind; it's only saving you work!'  

 

He recovered some strength in the Place de la Révolution, and cried 'Vive le Roi!

 

Frimaire 25.
Two men - François Xavier Bruniau, and ex-royalist magistrate; and Pierre Charles Jacques Pouchon, an émigré.

 

Frimaire 26.
The servants of Montmorency, who has emigrated, were executed to-day.

 

Frimaire 28.
Executed to-day three priests and two ci-devants.

 

Frimaire 31.
The Club des Jacobins continues its purification.  It has excluded noblemen and financiers.  Antonnelle and Dix-Août, members of the jury; Royer, substitute of the prosecutor; Barrère, Dubois-Crancé, Montant, and many others must be in a predicament.  A Jacobin certificate is now more valuable than all possible documents.  To-day, as I was passing before Chrétien’s café, I was hailed by Citizen Geoffroy, a journalist.  I think he must have been very drunk, for he treated me with familiarity, and asked me to drink with him.

Nivôse 1.
I have begun the month by taking three convicts to the guillotine - a priest and two women. These were Julien d'Herville, priest and Jesuit; Marie Anne Poulain, a nun; and Marguerite Bernard, Anne Poulain's servant. They lived together in a house of the Faubourg d'Orléans. The priest said mass in one of the rooms, and several old women came every day to hear it. The local committee had suspicions; it sent a woman to Citizeness Poulain, who told the latter that she knew a priest was concealed in the house, and asked that he should call on her husband who was dying. Poulain denied that a priest was in hiding in her apartment, and told Julien d'Herville not to go, as she knew that the visitor was republican. But the priest would not listen to her, and was arrested in the house of the creature who had wanted to betray him.

Only one execution to-day.

Nivôse 2.
Only one execution to-day.

 

Nivôse 3.
It appears that Collot d’Herbois, on mission at Lyons, has discarded the guillotine, because it only kills one man at a time, and taken to shooting enemies of the Republic wholesale. A deputation of Lyonese citizens have denounced these doings to the Convention; but their brief has been ill received. Robespierre spoke first; he began by thundering against the aristocracy; but he concluded by proposing that local committees should appoint delegates in order to seek the means of setting at liberty the patriots who might be under lock and key. This is something, and people are grateful for what Robespierre has done.

 

Nivôse 4.
Madame Dubarry's confession did not save her life, but forfeited that of two persons. This morning I executed Jacques Étienne Laboudie, formerly of the navy, and Denis Morin, Madame Dubarry's valet-de-chambre, sentenced to death, the first for high treason, the second for having concealed money and jewels belonging to the nation. Two other persons, a woman and a plebeian, were executed in their company.

Five executions to-day. 

 

It is curious that those whose life is the most tedious and plodding should regret it more than others who have far more reason for caring for it.

Nivôse 5.
Five executions to-day: Étienne Teyssier, high treason; Michael Kurtz, Pierre Vetzel, Michel Bourg, and Bernard Hourtz. The four last named were Alsatians. With the exception of Bourg, who encouraged his companions, all were frightened. It is curious that those whose life is the most tedious and plodding should regret it more than others who have far more reason for caring for it.

Executed a dishonest baker, Nicolas Gornot, of the Rue St. Jacques.

 

All the citizens of his section were around the scaffold and insulted him.

Nivôse 6.
Executed a dishonest baker, Nicolas Gornot, of the Rue St. Jacques. All the citizens of his section were around the scaffold and insulted him. With him, Prevost Lacroix, captain in the navy, and Jean Marie Allard, curate of Bagneux...

 

Nivôse 9.
Dietricht, formerly mayor of Strasburg, was guillotined to-day. While I was binding him he said:
'You have already guillotined many good republicans, but none that were more devoted to the country than I am.'

 

He was calm and very plucky. He said more than once that his dying wish was that Alsace should never be separated from France. He cried ' Vive la République!' on the scaffold.

Last month, at the bidding of the prosecutor of the Commune, I had been ordered to remove the blood which oozed through the boards of the guillotine. A hole had been made which had been covered with a trellis-work. But the blood dried too rapidly and could not be absorbed by the earth, and an unbearable smell came from the pit. Last night I directed my assistants to dig deeper.

Nivôse 10.
Last month, at the bidding of the prosecutor of the Commune, I had been ordered to remove the blood which oozed through the boards of the guillotine. A hole had been made which had been covered with a trellis-work. But the blood dried too rapidly and could not be absorbed by the earth, and an unbearable smell came from the pit. Last night I directed my assistants to dig deeper. It is said that Chabot, member of the Convention, who was lately arrested, poisoned himself, but that his sufferings were so great that he could not bear them any longer; he called for help, and he has still a few days to live.

Since Madame Dubarry's death citizens are milder with the convicts.  If all cried and struggled as she did, the guillotine could not last.

Nivôse 11.
Another general of our armies died to-day on the guillotine. Biron had been sentenced yesterday. This morning I led him to the Place de la Révolution. He was in the head-turnkey's room, and was eating oysters with much appetite. On seeing me, he said:

 

‘Allow me to eat this last dozen of oysters!'  

 

I answered that I was at his orders, which made him laugh; and he said:

 

'No, morbleu! it's just the other way; I am at yours!'  

 

He finished his repast with wonderful tranquility, joking with me, and saying that he should arrive in the other world in time to wish a happy new year to his friends. He was cool to the end. On the way a soldier called out to him:

 

‘Farewell, general!’  

 

Byron answered:

 

‘Good-bye, comrade!’  

 

The soldier was neither beaten nor insulted. Since Madame Dubarry’s death citizens are milder with the convicts. If all cried and struggled as she did, the guillotine could not last.

 

Nivôse 12 (1st of January in the old style) and Nivôse 13.
Executed Charles Marie Barré, one of those who conspired against the unity of the Republic; Pierre François de Roller, Charles Louis de Faverolle, nobleman; Agathe Jolivet, a gentlewoman; and Pierre Joachim Van Clemput, priest.

 

Nivôse 14.
Three women and two men, all belonging to the nobility, were executed to-day.

 

Nivôse 15.
This morning I gave thirty sols for a copy of the 'Vieux Cordelier,' Camille Desmoulins's paper. It is the fifth number. The number of copies issued was not equal to the demand. Hébert has found a master; and everybody wants to read the tremendous drubbing Camille Desmoulins gives him. Since so good a patriot as Desmoulins has dared to speak of clemency, every face looks happier. It is pretty certain that Danton, Camille's friend, is behind him, and that between them they will put down those who wish the Republic to be baptised on the guillotine every morning.

 

Meanwhile executions continue. To-day we guillotined the son of Custine; it had been said yesterday that he would be acquitted, and his conviction has taken everybody by surprise. After him, Citizen Ladevize, formerly knight of St. Louis, was put to death.

 

Nivôse 16.
To-day we executed General Luckner.  He was seventy-two years old, and quite broken by age; but he was brave to the last, and died bravely.

 

Nivôse 17.
To-day I led to the guillotine three individuals of the same name, and yet they were not related to each other. Were they brought together by a mere chance, or was it a joke of one of the secretaries of the prosecution, some of whom are young enough to laugh at what is not funny at all? Their names were Camille Sapi Suschi Bologne, formerly a marquis, and an officer in the army; Jean-Baptiste Bologne, non-commissioned officer in the French Guards; and Nicolas Vincent Bologne, formerly vicar of Bicètre. The ci-devant marquis was seventy-eight years of age. With them, Marie Louise de Camp, wife of Gilbert Grassin, gentleman.

 

Nivôse 19.
Executed Jean Mandrillon, late functionary of the executive power, convicted of treason, in complicity with Brunswick and Dumouriez; Claude Augustin Imbert, member of the Convention, guilty of having fabricated spurious passports; and Catherine Bethringer, convicted of treason.

 

Nivôse 20.
Marie Aimée Leroy, wife of Joseph Faucher, and Jospeh Girouard, printer.

Yes, I embrace in thee humanity; however mad and furious it may be, it is always humanity.

Nivôse 23.
Adrien Lamourette, constitutional bishop of Lyons, was put to death to-day. He showed that he did not fear death. He was much insulted on the way; he blessed the people without showing any bitterness or resentment. People cried to him, in alluding to his speech of July 1792:

 

'Embrace Charlot, Lamourette; come, embrace Charlot!'1  

 

Lamourette turned to me, and said:

 

'Yes, I embrace in thee humanity; however mad and furious it may be, it is always humanity.'  

 

And, in effect, he did embrace me, just as he was about to be strapped to the weigh-plank. After him Jean Joseph Durand, ex-president of the revolutionary committee of Montpellier, was put to death.

 

[1]  Charlot - a contraction of name Charles. In this case that of the narrator Charles Henri Sanson

Firmness does not mollify all citizens, but rather irritates them, as red irritates bulls.

Nivôse 27.
Jean Pierre Thiellard, tradesman; Charles Hollier, vicar of the constitutional church of Bordeaux; and Pierre Ducourman, lawyer, were executed this morning. In the cart the three convicts sang a song they had composed in prison. Their singing excited the anger of the people, who threw mud in their faces. Firmness does not mollify all citizens, but rather irritates them, as red irritates bulls. Some convicts return the taunts, and then it gets worse. I have already witnessed really disgraceful scenes. Tirasse spoke of the matter to Renaudin, asking that Fouquier should give orders to the gendarmes, and that Jacot, my assistant, should be dismissed. Fouquier answered that he had no time to waste over such futilities. Renaudin has promised to speak of the matter to Robespierre.

 

Nivôse 29.
This day has seen the condemnation and execution of the nephew of a man who had much reason to complain of the old régime - Jean Vissec, Baron de Latude.

Many deputies, when they saw the cart, tried to go away; but the people pressed around them, thereby obliging them to witness the execution.

Pluviôse 2.  
A year since to-day we executed the King. This morning my wife was so pale and tired when she awoke that I guessed that her sleep had been troubled.  She knelt down to pray, and I did the same. … I had to lead four to the scaffold to-day - Jean Thibault, labourer; Marc Étienne Quatremère, merchant; Jean Marie de l’Écluse, lieutenant in the navy; and Bernard Sablès, merchant.  The town was merry, on account of the anniversary of the death of the King.  The streets were full of citizens, who sang patriotic choruses.  We reached the Place, and as l’Écluse was going up the steps loud shouts were heard.  The members of the Convention were coming though the garden.  The public, unasked, opened its ranks before the deputies; but the latter neither advanced nor returned on their steps.  A committee of Jacobins had asked the Convention that a deputation of its members should join the Commune in a pilgrimage to the tree of liberty in commemoration of the day.  The motion had excited great enthusiasm, and the Assembly rose in a body to join the cortége.  No doubt they had no idea of the surprise Citizen Fouquier had reserved for them.  Many deputies, when they saw the cart, tried to go away; but the people pressed around them, thereby obliging them to witness the execution.  The tumult was so great that the convict L’Écluse stopped on the steps and turned round.  The assistants stood motionless, and I myself did not care to outrage the majesty of the deputies of the nation by such a sight.  Cries of ‘Proceed with the execution!’ were raised, and we did our duty.  The head of the naval officer fell, and his three companions suffered after him.  The thump of the knife was greeted with tremendous applause.  

 

Pluviôse 3, 4, 5.
Thirteen executions of minor individuals.

 

Pluviôse 13.
Yesterday I returned from Bric, where our country house is. The three days I passed there leave me no desire to return to the place. The word 'fraternity' is inscribed on the mairie, but it is not inscribed on the hearts of the inhabitants. While the poorest in Paris sacrifice whatever they possess, while the most relentless sometimes behave with real generosity, the inhabitants of the country only think of enriching themselves. The sale of the national domains, far from satisfying them, has only excited their cupidity. The law awards death to monopolisers. Were the law carried out, a guillotine should be erected in every village; for almost every peasant conceals his corn, for fear of being compelled to take it to market, and receive assignats in payment. There are, it is true, revolutionary committees in almost every village; but the peasants understand their own interests, and they never denounce each other. They form a secret association, which defies the decrees of the Convention, and which is the real cause of famine. The patriotic vigilance of the said committees is only exercised at the expense of those who are rich enough to be envied. Thus several rich inhabitants of Coulommiers, two of whom I know, were brought to Paris, judged and executed to-day, under pretext of a conspiracy which never existed.

There are some who smile when I appear. These smiles produce a singular effect upon me. Experience has made me callous, and I can bear the horror with which we executioners are regarded; but to get accustomed to people who almost say ‘Thank you’ when they are led to the guillotine, is more difficult.

Pluviôse 16.
The jurors of the Revolutionary Tribunal are not very scrupulous as to whom they condemn, and on their side the prisoners care little for life. Never were people more regardless of existence. Formerly, when I used to enter a prison, my appearance frightened the boldest: now among the prisoners I meet in the passages and parlour of the prison, not one seems to think that to-morrow, perhaps, I may call for him. There are some who smile when I appear. These smiles produce a singular effect upon me. Experience has made me callous, and I can bear the horror with which we executioners are regarded; but to get accustomed to people who almost say ‘Thank you’ when they are led to the guillotine, is more difficult. My hand could not have remained firm if it had still to carry out such sentences as the former régime were wont to inflict. Judges, jurors, prisoners seem as if they were taken with a kind of delirium of death. When shall all this end? A prisoner asked me the other day: ‘What could I do in order to be guillotined immediately?’ Those who manifest such impatience perhaps are not the pluckiest. There are others who remain calm and cool, as if they had yet a hundred years to live. Such was Montjourdain, commander of the St. Lazare battalion. During six weeks of incarceration in the Conciergerie he did not betray the slightest sign of fear or sadness. When he was informed that his time was come, he composed a song. He was taken to the scaffold with one Courtonnet, and both kept on joking and laughing up to the last minute.

On the way Madame de Marboeuf exhorted Payen to die courageously. 

She said to him:

 

‘After all, my poor fellow, it is just the same whether we die to-day or twenty years later.’

 

‘If it is just the same,’ answered Payen, who was not at all resigned to his fate, ‘I would rather die in twenty years.’

Pluviôse 17.

To-day we executed some ladies of quality.  They showed almost as much tranquility as Citizen Mountjourdain.  Their names were: Marie Gabrielle Lechapt, widow of the Marquis de Rastignac, convicted of having sent money to her son, who had emigrated; the ci-devant Marchioness de Marboeuf, convicted of having accaparated provisions; and with her Jean Joseph Payen, farmer of Madame de Marboeuf; and two forgers of assignats, Nicholas Armand and Jean Renaud.  On the way Madame de Marboeuf exhorted Payen to die courageously.  She said to him:


‘After all, my poor fellow, it is just the same whether we die to-day or twenty years later.’

‘If it is just the same,’ answered Payen, who was not at all resigned to his fate, ‘I would rather die in twenty years.’

 

Pluviôse 19.
This day, Elisabeth Pauline Gand, wife of Count de Lauraguais; Louis Pierre; Madame de Lauraguais’s steward; Pierre Joseph Petit, constitutional curate of Ménil, guilty of corresponding with the enemy; and Nicolas Pasquin, formerly Princess Elizabeth’s valet, were executed.

The Tribunal to-day sentenced six nuns.  We executed them immediately after their trial.

Pluviôse 22.
Couthon had, it appears, made more noise than harm at Lyons.  He threatened very loudly. But his threats killed no one.  Things considerably altered after he was superseded by Collot and Fouché.  Collot eschewed the guillotine, which he thought was not sufficiently expeditious, and executed with cannon, and thus put to death over two hundred persons every day.  Robespierre and Couthon are indignant at this butchery.  The Convention governs the Republic.  It is itself governed by a dozen sanguinary leaders, who obey the orders of the Club des Cordeliers; so that Hébert, who is the big gun of the Cordeliers, can say with reason that he is the real sovereign of the people.  All this is sad enough.  The Tribunal to-day sentenced six nuns.  We executed them immediately after their trial.

 

Pluviôse 23.
Executed Anne Henriette Bouchevain, Baronne de Valence, and François Amable Chapuy, lieutenant-colonel of the fifth battalion of Saone-et-Loire.

Source

Sanson, Charles Henri. Memoirs of the Sansons: From Private Notes and Documents [1688-1847].  Ed. Henry Sanson. Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly. London, 1876. 90-113.

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