British Newspaper Coverage of the French Revolution:
The September Massacres

(index to this archive)

NextLondon Times
Monday, Sept. 10, 1792

France. [page 1]

On Saturday morning Mr. Lindsay, Secretary to Lord Gower, arrived at the Secretary of State's Office from France, which place he left on Wednesday, though not without some difficulty, as there was much hesitation shewn in deliver him his passport. Mr. Lindsay may congratulate himself on having escaped with safety.

As the affairs of France very naturally engross the whole of the public attention, we have made it our business to collect the occurrences that have happened with as much precision as circumstances would admit. In the history of mankind, we have no precedent of such wanton and disgraceful excesses.

The GOTHS and VANDALS, when they levelled the gates of Rome, and triumphantly entered into the capitol, yet still retained those feelings which distinguished the mind of man from the ungovernable appetite of the brute creation. It is true, they commanded the Roman ladies to attend them with wine under the Plantain Trees, and insisted on the solders acting as slaves—but they neither violated the chastity of the one, nor deprived the others of life. Far otherwise has been the conduct of the French barbarians. They delight in that kind of murder, which is attended with cruelty, and rejoice in every occurrence which can debase and unsex the feelings of man.

We have very good authority for the detail that follows. Many of the facts have been related to us by a gentleman who was an eye-witness to them, and left Paris on Tuesday—and other channels of information furnish us with the news of Paris up to last Thursday noon—These facts stand not in need of exaggeration. It is impossible to add to a cup of iniquity already filled to the brim.

When Mr. Lindsay left Paris on Wednesday, the MASSACRE continued without abatement. The city had been a scene of bloodshed and violence without intermission since Sunday noon, and although it is difficult and indeed impossible to ascertain with any precision the number that had fallen victims to the fury of the mob during these three days, we believe the account will not be exaggerated when we state it at TWELVE THOUSAND PERSONS—(We state it as a fact, which we derive from the best information, that during the Massacre on the 2d instant, from SIX to EIGHT THOUSAND Persons perished).

To those whose situations do not lead them to enquiry, or who have not an opportunity to do so, this number will be considered as a gross exaggeration, and even an impossibility; but we are well warranted to believe the truth of this statement, after having been at very great pains to enquire into it. We rather think the calculation is under than over stated; and it will be more credible, when we assert on the authority of those whose business and duty it was to collect every information on the subject, that on the 19th of August last only, ELEVEN THOUSAND PERSONS were MASSACRED in Paris.[ * ] Those who were not on the spot, can have no idea of the slaughter or the cruelties that happened on that memorable day; and Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last were merely a revival of them, though somewhat in a different shape. On the 10th of August, thousands died in defending their lives—but in this last massacre, there was no resistance; the unhappy victims were butchered like sheep at a slaughter house.

But if the mob were excited to arms on the first of these days on the supposition of treachery in the Court, they had no such pretext in this latter instance. There was no new circumstance to excite them to these excesses; they could spring only from a base, cruel and degenerate nature.

When the mob went to the prison de la Force, where the Royal attendants were chiefly confined, the Princess DE LAMBALLE went down on her knees to implore a suspension of her fate for 24 hours. This was at first granted, until a second mob more ferocious than the first, forced her apartments, and decapitated her. The circumstances which attended her death were such as makes humanity shudder, and which decency forbids us to repeat:—Previous to her death, the mob offered her every insult. Her thighs were cut across, and her bowels and heart torn from her, and for two days her mangled body was dragged through the streets.

It is said, though this report seems dubious, that every Lady and state prisoner was murdered, with only two exceptions—Madame de TOURZELLE, and Madame de SAINT BRICE, who were saved by the Commissioners of the National Assembly, the latter being pregnant. The heads and bodies of the Princess and other Ladies—those of the principal Clergy and Gentlemen—among whom we learn the names of the Cardinal de la ROCHEFAUCOULT, the Archbishop of ARLES, M. BOTIN, Vicar of St. Ferrol, &c. have been since particularly marked as trophies of victory and justice!!! Their trunkless heads and mangled bodies were carried about the streets on pikes in regular calvacade. At the Palais Royal, the procession stopped, and these lifeless victims were made the mockery of the mob.

Are these "the Rights of Man"? Is this the LIBERTY of Human Nature? The most savage four footed tyrants that range the unexplored desarts of Africa, in point of tenderness, rise superior to these two legged Parisian animals.—Common Brutes do not prey upon each other.

The number of Clergy found in the Carmelite Convent was about 220. They were handed out of the prison door two by two into the Rue Vaugerard, where their throats were cut. Their bodies were fixed on pikes and exhibited to the wretched victims who were next to suffer. The mangled bodies of others are piled against the houses in the streets; and in the quarters of Paris near to which the prisons are, the carcases lie scattered in hundreds, diffusing pestilence all around.

The streets of Paris, strewed with the carcases of the mangled victims, are become so familiar to the sight, that they are passed by and trod on without any particular notice. The mob think no more of killing a fellow-creature, who is not even an object of suspicion, than wanton boys would of killing a cat or a dog. We have it from a Gentleman who has been but too often an eye witness to the fact. In the massacre last week, every person who had the appearance of a gentleman, whether stranger or not, was run through the body with a pike. He was of course an Aristocrate, and that was a sufficient crime. A ring, a watch chain, a handsome pair of buckles, a new coat, or a good pair of boots in a word, every thing which marked the appearance of a gentleman, and which the mob fancied, was sure to cost the owner his life. EQUALITY was the pistol, and PLUNDER the object.

As every body the mob assassinates, is called an Aristocrate, it is highly dangerous for any one to express himself compassionately at what passes. He would then become himself an object of suspicion.

The army marching from Paris exhibits a very motley group. There are almost as many women as men, many without arms, and very little provision. A principal object with them is to destroy the corn and lay waste the country, so that the confederates may be cramped for want of supplies.

The following report of the massacre on Sunday, has been made by a Member of the National Assembly. Although we know that this report does not state the whole of the facts, which for obvious reasons are concealed, it is however, a very proper article to be here inserted; but it is to be remarked, that this report relates to the prisons only.

"The Commission assembled during the suspension of the night sitting, being informed by several citizens, that the people were continuing to rush in great numbers towards the different prisons, and were there exercising their vengeance, thought it necessary to write to the Council General of the Community, to learn officially the true state of things. The Community sent back word, that they had ordered a deputation to render an account to the commission of what had happened. At two o'clock the deputations, consisting of Mess. Tallion, Tronchon, and Cuiraté, was introduced in to the hall of the Assembly. M. Tronchon then said, that the greater part of the prisons were empty; that about four hundred prisoners were massacred; that he had thought it prudent to release all prisoners confined for debt at the prison La Force, and that he had done the same thing at Saint Pelegíe. That when he returned to the Community, he recollected that he had neglected to visit that part of La Force, where the women were confined; that he immediately returned, and set at liberty twenty-four. That he and his colleague had taken under their particular protection Madame Tourzelle, and Madame Saint Brice, and that they had conducted these two ladies to the Section of the Rights of Man, to be kept there till they are tried.

"Mr. Tallíen added, that when he went to the Abbaye, the people were demanding the registers from the keeper; that the prisoners confined on account of crimes imputed to them on the 10th of August, and those confined for forging assignats, were almost all butchered, and that only eleven of them were saved. The Council of the Community had dispatched a deputation to endeavour to check the brutal fury of the mob: their Solicitor first addressed them, and employed every means to appease them. His efforts, however, were attended with no success, and multitudes around him fell victims to the barbarity of the populace.

"The mob next proceeded to the Chatelet, where they likewise sacrificed all the prisoners. About midnight, they were collected round La Force, to which the Commissioners instantly repaired, but were not able to prevail on the people to desist from their sanguinary proceedings. Several Deputations were successively sent to try if they could restore tranquility, and orders were given to the Commandant General to draw out detachments of the National Guards; but as the service of the barriers required such a great number of men, a sufficiency was not left to repress the audacity of the populace. The Commissioners once more attempted to bring back the ungovernable and infatuated multitude to a sense of justice and humanity; but they could not make the least impression on their minds, or check their ferocity or vengeance.

"M. Guiraud mentioned that the people were searching the bodies at the Pont Neuf, and collecting their money and pocket-books. He added, that he forgot to mention one fact—"In the different prisons, the mob formed a tribunal consisting of twelve persons; after examining the jailor's book, and asking different questions, the judges placed their hands upon the head of the prisoner, and said, 'Do you think that in our consciences we can release this gentleman?'—This word release was his condemnation. When they answered yes, the accused person, apparently set at liberty, was immediately dashed upon the pikes of the surrounding people. If they were judged innocent, they were released amidst the shouts of Vive la Nation!"

[Read this ye ENGLISHMEN, with attention, and ardently pray that your happy Constitution may never be outraged by the despotic tyranny of Equalization.] [ . . . ]

* Besides the bodies which were buried (the returns mention between 4 and 5000) and the carcases that were thrown in the Seine and other places, it appears since, that hundreds of bodies have been thrown into storehouses and cellars, and to this moment lie unburied. It will be for future historians to ascertain these facts, which the circumstances of the times do not permit to be accurately identified.

Alan Liu, English Dept., U. California, Santa Barbara (transcribed 2/17/00)