"It is not enough to conquer traitors," answered he, "they must be crushed, before the country can be safe from their treachery."
"Their treason must be crushed, I know."
"Crimes between man and man can be atoned for by minor punishments:
crimes between citizens and their country can only be properly avenged by death. You may teach the murderer or the thief the iniquity of his fault; and when he has learnt to hate the deed he has committed, he may be pardoned. It is not so with traitors. Though the truest child of France should spend his life in the attempt, he would not be able to inspire one aristocrat with a spark of patriotism."
"Must every royalist in La Vendée perish then?" said Eleanor. Robespierre did not answer her immediately, but leaning his elbow on the table, he rested his forehead on his hand, so as nearly to conceal his face. Eleanor thought that he was meditating on her question; and remembering that he had declared that he should be pleased if now and then a victim might be spared, again commenced her difficult task of urging him to mercy.
"They talk of shedding the blood of innocent children--of destroying peasant women, who can only think and feel as their husbands bid them. You will not allow that this should be done, will you?"
"Is the life of a woman more precious to her than that of a man? It is a false sentiment which teaches us to spare the iniquities of women because of their sex. Their weakness entitles them to our protection, their beauty begets our love; but neither their weakness or their beauty should be accepted as an excuse for their crimes."
"But poor innocent babes--it is not possible that they should have committed crimes."
"In the religion of Christ it is declared, that the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the children, to the third and fourth generation. The priests who made these laws, and handed them down to their flocks, as the very words of their God, had closely studied human nature. I do not believe that an Almighty Creator condescended to engrave on stone, with his own finger, these words, as they would feign that he did do; but the law is not the less true; the children must expatiate, to the third and fourth generation, the sins of their fathers. Nature, which
is all benignant, wills that it should be so."
"If this be so, will not nature work out her own law. Will it not be punishment enough that so many women should lose their husbands; so many children their fathers? You, I know, are averse to shedding blood; you would spare life whenever your sense of duty would allow you to do so. Try what clemency will do in La Vendée. Try whether kindness will not put a stop to the bitterness of their enmity. Do, dearest, for my sake."
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Verite pour la Vendee!