Police Report on a Session of the Cordeliers

In the passage below, a police observer of a Cordelier Club meeting notes the ongoing concern of the participants to identify and then to denounce "conspiracies" against the republic, even when the conspitators had been very recently integral to the club. In this case, the focus is on Hébert, editor of the Père Duchesne.


Police Report on a Session of the Cordelier Club

24 Ventôse Year II (16 March 1794)

At the opening of the session, a member demanded that those Cordeliers who would be missing a session while the Club was in continuous session should be expelled from the society. This motion was vigorously opposed and defeated. . . .

On all sides people asked for correspondence to be read out, but none had arrived. A member who just happened to have Saint-Just's latest report in his pocket mounted the rostrum and read it. This kept the society busy for an hour. Next it was announced that the caretaker had received letters addressed to Vincent. The society had them brought in and decided that a deputation should take them to the Public Prosecutor. . . . The society had only closed its permanent session because several of its members had been arrested, and since no speaker had introduced the topic, the decision was postponed, and there would be sessions only on normal days.

Session closed at 9:30.

Observations

The habitués of the gallery, i.e., those who occupy the front benches, said nothing. They no longer spoke of rescuing the arrested members from prison. The other people in the gallery said openly that the Père Duchesne and the others were knaves who deserved the guillotine. They rejoiced in anticipation of the moment when they would see them suffer. These demonstrations of joy can be found among the whole people of Paris: in the markets; on the street corners; everywhere, they say the same. This desire to see the conspirators punished proves how attached the people are to liberty. They regret that there is no more rigorous form of execution than the guillotine. They say that something should be invented to make them suffer longer. Condemnation is general. The day before yesterday several people took up their defense, but yesterday they were afraid to declare their possible innocence.

Source: W. Markov and Albert Soboul, Die Sanculotten von Paris Dokumente zur Geschichte ver Voksbewegung (1957), no. 69.