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alarm, and Barbaroux, still living, though insensible, was conveyed to Bordeaux, where, his identity having been ascertained before the revolutionary tribunal, he was immediately guillotined, 25th June 1794. Two days afterwards, the bodies of Pétion and Buzot were found in the corn-field, half devoured by dogs. It is gratifying to add that, a few weeks later, the Reign of Terror came to an end in the fall of Robespierre and his miserable companions. When this happy event took place, a general rejoicing prevailed throughout France. The prisons rang with songs, and people embraced each other in a species of intoxication. The activity of the guillotine was now suspended, and calm inquiry succeeded to a period of dire injustice and disorder. Those who had been in dread to speak their mind, even to their nearest relations, now commented freely on the state of public affairs. Unfortunately, before this resumption of reason and order, the excellent Madame Bouquey perished on the scaffold, with almost every member of her family. Her death, however, was to be attributed more to her relationship with Guadet, than to her hospitality towards his companions.
Such was the end of the Girondins. They almost all died on the scaffold : some of them betrayed by treacherous friends, like Rabaud St Etienne; and others, like Valady, through their own rashness. Several, amongst whom was Louvet, survived those eventful times; but few were ever afterwards concerned in public affairs.
The Gironde party became now, in every sense of the word, extinct. France was unworthy of them : it had not the intelligence or the heroism to defend them. Their fate has shown us the utter folly of trusting to theories in a revolution. Commencing with the best intentions, they hastened the fall of monarchy, and fanned a flame which finally and remorselessly devoured them. In proportion as the discord of the Revolution increased, their sentiments became more distasteful to the multitude, which, with passions aroused, could not appreciate principles of moderation. After their fall from power, and the execution of twenty-two of their number, the Dantonists, or party next moderate in degree, tried to quell the violence that had been produced; and they also fell, and were exterminated, leaving the Terrorists for a time in unquestioned authority; and it was only when the most extreme likewise perished, that, as above-mentioned, a public calm was restored. We know of no page in history so well calculated to render men patient under real or fancied wrongs, than that which recounts this ferocious struggle. What could afford a more striking lesson of the necessity for keeping in all cases within the bounds of constitutional moderation? Let us, with these remarks, draw a veil over the errors of the Girondins, whose heroic endurance of suffering in the day of adversity may be supposed to expiate failings which, arising from ignorance and good intention, are not without excuse.
DHE colony of Senegal, on the western coast of Africa,
was captured from the French by the English in the year 1809, but was ceded to its former masters at the
peace of 1815. As soon after this event as the state of affairs would admit, the French government fitted out an expedition, consisting of the newly appointed governor, M. Schmaltz, and other functionaries, civil and military,
to take possession of and colonise the restored settlement. The squadron fitted out on this occasion consisted of four vessels -the Medusa, a frigate of forty-four guns, the Loire store-ship, the Argus brig, and the Echo corvette—the whole carrying upwards of six hundred individuals, of whom two hundred and fifty were soldiers. On board the Medusa, the chief vessel in the squadron, commanded by Captain Lachaumareys, were the governor and other principal functionaries, along with a considerable number of the soldiers, and a number of women and children: the entire number of individuals on board being four. hundred.
Among this large body on board the Medusa, was a family to hom we shall have to advert more particularly in the sequel. It consisted of M. Picard, his wife, two grown-up daughters by a previous marriage, both accomplished young women, and several younger children, with a girl their cousin—the whole nine in number, the youngest of whom was an infant at the breast. M. Picard was by profession an attorney; he had been resident in Senegal previous to 1809, and now, on the resumption of French authority, he was returning, for the purpose of occupying a situation connected with the government of the colony, Provided with a small cabin on the main-deck of the Medusa, and with some valuable goods on board, the family formed a happy group, full of bright anticipations of the future, and having every reason to expect a prosperous voyage to the shores of Africa.
Setting out from the port of Rochefort, in the west of France, all the vessels of the expedition were under sail on the 17th of June 1816, and remained for several days together; at length, from the changeableness of the wind, they were separated, each pursuing its course alone, and the Echo only keeping in sight of the Medusa, as if to guide it on its route. Some tine weather which ensued served to confirm hopes of happiness in the Picards, and on the 28th of June they felt interested in contemplating the lofty peak of Teneriffe, which rose on the horizon. The satisfaction which the passengers now generally felt and expressed, was doomed to be of no long duration. Captain Lachaumareys was apparently so unfit for the trust reposed in him, not only from his ignorance of seamanship and general management, but as regards temper and humanity, that it is impossible to understand how he should have obtained the command of the vessel. One day, when the frigate was going before a fine breeze at the rate of nine knots an hour, a sailor boy fell overboard. Several persons were at the moment standing on the poop, witnessing the gambols of seals, but no effective measures were taken to save the poor boy's life. For some time the unfortunate lad kept hold of a rope which he had caught in his fall, but the vessel was making such way, that he soon lost his hold. A sailor now seized him by the arm, but for the same reason he was forced to let go. To communicate this accident to the Echo, a gun was ordered to be fired, but not a single piece was found charged ; it required also a long time to lower the sails, when the more simple method would have been to put the helm about. It was at last thought of letting down a six-oared boat; into which, in the confusion and hurry, only three men entered. Every effort was unavailing; the boat returned, after rowing a short distance, without having even found the cork buoy which had been thrown overboard when the accident was first announced. The same want of foresight, promptitude, and regularity on the part of the captain and lieutenants, afterwards led to greater disasters.
On the first of July the Medusa entered the tropics, the seamen on the occasion performing the ceremonies whích ordinarily take place in crossing the equinoctial line. In the midst of this fatal merriment the vessel was surrounded by dangers, of which those in command were insensible. For some days the captain had abandoned the entire guidance of the frigate to a person named Richfort, who pretended to a great knowledge of this part of the Atlantic. În vain the passengers remonstrated on this imprudent confidence in a stranger; the commander obstinately persisted in allowing him to steer the vessel in whatever direction he thought proper. Richfort appears to have been a fool as well as an impostor, for, while risking the lives of others, he also risked his own; and in the face of multiplying dangers, he continued his perilous course. In thus abandoning the ship to Richfort's direction, the captain transgressed the written instructions, which enjoined him to steer due west for sixty-six miles after making Cape Blanco, in order to clear the sand-bank of Arguin; instead of which, after proceeding about half that distance, the vessel's head was set to the southward. During the night which followed, the Echo hung out lanterns to warn her consort of her danger; but they were unavailing; the Medusa was kept on her course, and in the morning the Echo was out of sight.
On the morning of this memorable day, July 2, the sea assumed a sandy colour, and the more reflective passengers and naval officers became seriously alarmed; strong representations of the danger the frigate was in were again made to the captain, but with no better success than formerly. Such was his infatuation, that the vessel was at the time actually standing directly for the low sandy shore which it was his duty to avoid. At noon, the officer of the watch asserted that the vessel was getting near the edge of the bank; but no change was permitted in her course. This obstinacy caused a mournful presentiment among the passengers. A species of stupor, approaching to despair, overspread all their spirits. M. Picard, seated in the midst of his family, gave all up for lost; yet he durst not remonstrate; for already one of the officers had been put under arrest for daring to condemn the fallacy of Richfort's proceedings. In the meanwhile, the wind, blowing with violence, impelled the vessel nearer the danger which menaced it. Between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, the lead showed that the frigate was in eighteen fathoms water. This startling intelligence for the first time roused the captain. He gave orders to change the ship's course, by coming closer to the wind. It was too late. The lead was again cast, and showed only six fathoms. The captain, now thoroughly terrified, gave orders to haul the wind as close as possible. It was useless. The frigate had touched the sandy bottom, and almost immediately struck with a strong concussion. This disastrous event took place at a quarter past three o'clock afternoon, in 19 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, and 19 degrees 45 minutes west longitude. The vessel now lay at the mercy of the winds and waves, in less than four fathoms, and this was during high water ; 'when the tide ebbed, the depth would become less.
When the concussion of striking was felt through the vessel, terror and consternation were immediately depicted on every countenance. The crew stood motionless; the passengers gave themselves up to despair. In the midst of this general panic, cries of vengeance were heard against the principal
author of the
misfortune, the greater number wishing to throw him overboard; but some, more generously disposed, endeavoured to calm the excitement, and pointed out how much more fitting it would be to adopt means of safety, than, spend time in vengeful and useless criminations. To ease the pressure on the ship, the sails were hastily lowered, the top-gallant-mast and top-mast taken down, and some other means tried to get her off the bank. They were all, however, only half measures; they did little good; and when night came on, the efforts were suspended.
At dawn of day, July 3, new attempts were made to move the vessel. Anchors were carried, with vast trouble, in boats to a distance, and being dropped into the sea, cables from them were pulled at the capstan; but the anchors presented no sufficient resistance, and the effort proved fruitless. Masts, yards, and booms were now thrown overboard, and a number of casks of water emptied; still the frigate continued fixed. Many wished the cannon also to be tossed overboard ; but this the captain refused to do, on the plea that they belonged to the king! There was a large stock of provision in barrels, which the frigate was carrying to Senegal ; and these barrels the governor, with equal pertinacity, would not allow to be thrown overboard, on the ground that the colony was in want of provisions.
What was now to be done ? All was clamour and confusion; in the midst of which the poor Picards shrunk into their little cabin, consumed with grief and apprehensions of a miserable death on the wreck. The superior officers felt the necessity for providing means of escape, in case all attempts to get off the ship should prove unavailing. A council was called. The lives of four hundred persons were to be saved ; and there were only six boats, into which it would have been impossible to stow so many. In this dilemma M. Schmaltz, the governor, proposed to save a large portion of the passengers on a raft, of which he exhibited a plan. The raft was to be capable of carrying two hundred men, with provisions for all. The boats were to tow the raft, to which their crews were to come at meal times for their rations. The whole crew were to land in a body on the sandy shore of the desert, and, provided with arms and ammunition, which were to be taken from the vessel, were to form a caravan, and proceed to the town of Saint Louis in Senegal. All this, as events afterwards proved, was practicable; for the land, though not visible from the frigate, was only about forty-five miles distant; yet the plan, in the manner proposed, was not carried into execution.
Next day, the 4th, there was a glimpse of hope. At the hour of high water, the frigate, being considerably lightened, was found nearly afloat; and it is believed that if the guns
had now been thrown overboard, the Medusa would have been saved. Even a tow-line would have brought her round; but it was not thought of. When the tide ebbed, the unfortunate vessel again