The Life and Works of Thomas Paine - Vol. 7

By Thomas Paine; William M. Van der Weyde | Go to book overview

SHALL LOUIS XVI BE IRESPITED?

PAINE,who was not an orator and who could not speak French fluently, deputized a fellow member of the French National Convention named Bancal to translate and read this address of his, January 19, 1793. It is taken from contemporarily French reports, which also state that when Paine voted against submitting the fate of Louis XVI to a popular vote, it was believed that the King's doom was sealed.

Gouverneur Morris, the American Minister to France, who was in close touch with the King, had written to President Washington on January 6, 1793: "The King's fate is to be decided next Monday, the 14th. That unhappy man, conversing with one of his counsel, calmly summed up the motives of every kind, and concluded that a majority of the council would vote for referring his case to the people, and that in consequence he should be massacred." Writing to Washington nine days earlier, Morris quotes Paine as saying that he planned to move the banishment of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to America.

THE decision come to in the Convention yesterday in favor of death has filled me with genuine sorrow--

Marat (interrupting)

--I deny the right of Thomas Paine to vote on such a subject; as he is a Quaker, of course his religious views run counter to the infliction of capital punishment. (There is considerable disorder, which, however, is allayed by shouts for "free speech." Then Bancal continues the reading of the translation.)

I may lay claim to the possession of a certain amount of experience; I have taken no inconsiderable part in the struggle for freedom during the Revolution of the United

-309-

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