12 APRIL 1873, Page 21

FOUCHE AND COMMUNISM IN 1793.* FOUCHi: is best known to

the present generation as the type of a police minister. The services he rendered to the Imperialist cause, while Napoleon was firm in his seat, the transfer of his allegiance to the Bourbons when his former master was tottering, have given him an unpleasant notoriety. In this book we see him in a different and an even worse light. He is described as one of those representatives of the people who were sent into the various departments for the purpose of spreading revolutionary principles and of crushing the aristocracy, and who often performed this duty by means the most odious, levying contributions, imprisoning without trial, resorting to still greater violence if these measures proved ineffectual. All the charges which the Comte de Martel makes against Fouch6 and his colleagues are sustained by reference to official documents, many of which are as yet unpublished, and in collecting which much diligence and research have been shown. The author has made use of the national archives of France, as well as of the libraries of Paris and Lyons, and of the British Museum, and he has brought to light much that is valuable. We regret that the style of his book is not equally attractive. Owing to an incessant repetition of certain phrases, to an indiscriminate publica- tion of everything connected with his subject, to a constant attempt at stimulating the attention of his readers by the use of italics, the Comte de Martel has produced a work which ou the whole is tedious, and which is not redeemed from this censure by the interest attaching to some of its materials.

The professed object of the book is to show that there is nothing very original in the Communism of 1871. According to the Comte de Martel, the same principles as those which led to the destruction of the Tuileries and of the Vendome Column prevailed extensively during the first Revolution, and bore fruit chiefly in the provinces. It is as a type of the Communists of our day that Fouchd is presented to us here. His letters to the Committee of Public Safety, his proclamations, his general mode of action, testify to an ardent desire for a crusade against the rich in the name, rather than for the benefit, of the poor. How far Fondle was sincere in his denunciation of those who had wealth and did not give up what he then considered their superfluity, may be judged from the fortune he himself amassed while he was preaching poverty, and from the titles and honours which he afterwards coveted. There was certainly a grand profession of virtue in all Fouchd's public acts, but if we were to judge him by the high standard he set up for others, we fear, even on his own showing, be would hardly reach it. We find him proclaiming to the army that a soldier of liberty who acts with such meanness as to give himself up to pillage will be degraded and treated like a brigand. When we come to the private practice of this strict moralist, and hear of the sums he diverted to his private purse from the fines levied ou the rich, we presume there must be some difference between soldiers of liberty and representatives of the people. In a later part of the book Fouche and his colleagues at Lyons issue requisitions for bottles of wine by the hundreds, for dozens of cravats, gloves, and silk stockings. Among the accounts sent in to the Committee of Public Safety from Lyons are bills for such neces- saries as washing, and such luxuries as turkeys, partridges, capons, confectionary, and perfumes which had been supplied either to the Deputies or their wives. A special charge was even made for white bread, which was consumed by these families at the cost of the Republic, while the inhabitants of Lyons were put upon scanty rations of an execrable bread invented by Fouch6, and called the bread of equality. According to Fouche.'s own account, at the time he was signing these requisitions, and when his colleagues at least were indulging in every luxury, it was well known to all who knew him that he ate nothing but the commonest bread and drank nothing but water. We do not find, however, that anyone else vouches for this statement, and by itself it is simply incredible. With the recent experience the French have had of requisitions, there must be many people competent to judge of the moderation and sobriety of those who adopt that method of living, and the admirers of Fouche will, no doubt, be grateful to any German philosopher who can show them what is the exact distinction between requisitions and pillage.

Having observed what was the course prescribed for soldiers of liberty and what was the course followed by their superiors, let us now, with the aid of the Comte de Martel, see how the crusade against the rich was carried on. One of the first acts in this drama is the publication of a notice that all the wealthy citizens of the department are required at once to bring in their offerings

* Elude sur Foueloi et sur le C'ommunisme dans to PratiQue en 1793. Par M. le Comte de Martel. Paris : Lachaud, 1573.

for a voluntary contribution to support the war. Soon after this the rich are warned by a proclamation of Fouchd's that " they have in their hands a potent means of making the reign of liberty popular, and that is their superfluity. If under these circumstances, while citizens are tormented by all the ills of want, this superfluity is not employed for their relief, the Republic has a right to take possession of it for this purpose." The proclamation ends with a delicate suggestion that such a measure of public safety is also a means of insuring the personal security of the rich against the just indignation of the people. As, however, the wealthier classes seem to have been equally blind to such a manifest duty and to such sure protection, we hear shortly afterwards of the formation of a philanthropic committee in each district for the purpose of levying a tax on the rich, the amount to be proportioned to the numbers of the poor. It is con- sistent with this open avowal of the right of the Republic to con- fiscate private property, and to employ any means for taxing those who were reputed to be wealthy, that among the causes for the detention of suspected persons riches figure most extensively. Several persons are said to be detained as rich and egoists, the fact of their not have responded to the call for voluntary contribu- tions being probably that which affixed to them the second

designation. One man, indeed, laboured under the further charge of being a bachelor, while of some it is said that they had not given any proofs of attachment to the Revolution. The vagueness, or as English lawyers would say, the generality, of this last accusation appears when we read that one detenu was of such a character as to lead people to believe that he was indifferent to the events of the Revolution, while another had been put in prison solely because, from his always being in drink, it was impossible to ascertain his political opinions. When such pretexts as these were sufficient for the detention of whole classes of people, the Deputies might well speak of their success in stifling all opposition. We may doubt, however, of the existence of that popular enthu- siasm which, according to Fouche, displayed itself in liberal con- tributions to the public exchequer. The means by which funds were provided speak for themselves, and with threatening procla- mations, with the appointment of committees for the purpose of taxing the rich, with imprisonment as a last resource, there is no need to look for any other source of revenue.

In the earlier part of his career, as described in this book, Fouche appears to have confined himself to class legislation. Having levied contributions upon the rich, he turned his attention to the priesthood, for which he had himself been educated. It is not strictly accurate to describe him as an unfrocked priest, because he was not actually ordained ; but the Comte de Martel, while admitting this, urges that Fouche was a priest in everything save the final ceremony of ordination, and that he showed his conscious- ness of this by extreme bitterness against those with whom he feared to be associated. One of his official acts was to procure a decree that every pensioned priest was either to marry, to adopt a child, or to support a poor old man ; if a month elapsed without this decree being obeyed, the pension was to be forfeited. When we come to Fouche's doings at Lyons, we seem to detect greater impartiality and a wider range of confiscation. The notice requiring all citizens to bring their shoes to their respective municipalities, and to content themselves with wooden sabots, as good enough for those who were not with the army, is sufficiently sweeping, and is of much more general application than the earlier proclamations which were levelled against the wealthy. But this was not the only respect in which Fouche"s practice underwent a change. One of the most noticeable facts in his life as a representa- tive of the people is the independence which he assumed in the later stages, after having been at first subservient to the Conven- tion.

At Nantes, in April, 1793, says the Comte de Martel, Fondle and "%Tillers did not issue a proclamation without at once sending it to Paris for approval. At Lyons, in November of the same year, Fouche and Collot d'Herbois put to death crowds of the wretched beings who choked up the prisons without ever consulting the Convention. However, as this book ends with the recall of Fouche to Paris, and with the disgrace into which he fell with Robes- pierre, it is probable that this change in his practice did not meet with the approval of his masters. The Comte de Martel promises a continuation of this work, giving the details of Fouche's struggle with Robespierre, and of his subsequent rise to power under the Directory.

We can only hope that the continuation will not be on quite so extended a scale as the part with which we have dealt as the subject would gain by being treated with brevity.