Posts Tagged ‘Robespierre’

Reminiscences of an Old Northern New York Settler

August 17, 2012


Gouverneur, Aug. 18. —  In the town of Fowler, about seven miles east of this village, there lives the son of an old pioneer, David H. Balmat, son of Joseph Bonaparte’s land servant in this section. Mr. Balmat is more than 80 years of age, but is still active and takes a prominent part in the affairs of his town.

He is one of the few representatives in this section at least, of the original French settlers, his father having come here in 1796, two years before Jean Baptiste Bossout established a ferry across the Black river. It was in the Reign of Terror in France that the pioneer came to this country to avoid the bloodshed there.

David Balmat was born in the town of Carthage in 1822, a little time before his father became land agent to Bonaparte. The Balmats were people of much consequence in France and the older Balmat was the owner of a large vineyard. His mother’s sister was the Duchess of Oldenburg and as he was a moderate revolutionist, fell under the ban of Robespierre. These facts were the cause partly for sending his son to the new country.

A Wonderful Memory.

Mr. Balmat has a wonderful memory and recalls many incidents which occurred early in his time.

“I do not remember Bonaparte, of course,” said the old man, when interviewed, “for he was gone before I was born. My father was his agent and used to often make trips to the southern part of the State to make his reports to him. My father was one of the first settlers of this country and I think there are three or four families now remaining to represent the early Frenchmen who came to this North country. Among them are the Bossouis, and the Devoises while others have passed away.

“My father purchased land of the French company near the mouth of Beaver river, and the land was wet; the settlement was abandoned and given up. At this time the whole of this northern part of the State was a wilderness with only a few log roads here and there. My father at one time with two Indians started out from Utica, which was then a small place, and went to Beaver river. They followed the Oswegatchie to its source, then down it again in search of beaver and sent as far as Heurelton now Is. They then passed through Black lake, up the Indian river, and made a portage into the Black river. They were gone for over three months and returned loaded with beaver skins, as this section abounded in beaver at that early period.

Stories of Bonaparte.

Mr. Balmat remembers distinctly many of the stories which his father told him of Bonaparte. One of these occurred on Bonaparte lake. The ex-King brought up a number of gentlemen and ladies from his home in New Jersey and wanted his agent to accompany them around the head of the lake. They were rounding the head of a point, when two deer were seen on the shore. They rowed near shore and Balmat took a shot. The two deer jumped into the woods, but one was wounded. Bonaparte in his eagerness to get to shore jumped overboard and walked to shore with the mud almost up to his neck. When they found the deer Bonaparte insisted upon Balmat’s putting it on his shoulder, and the ex-King carried it to the shore, with his fine clothes dripping with blood. At another time Bonaparte with a number of guides went up the lake for a day. An old sea captain was along. When they had gone half of their way a heavy south wind sprang up and Balmat said to the ex-King, “Emperor, it looks mighty like rain.” The old sea captain was equally as certain that it was not, but, relying on the agent’s experience the King sought shelter on the shore. Soon it began to rain in torrents, but they had made a shelter from the storm. While it was raining quite hard the ex-King spoke up and said, “Well, captain, you may be a good prophet on the sea, but you’re not worth a d_ _ n on land.”

David Balmat’s grandfather was Major Goodar, who came from France during the Revolutionary war here with Lafayette with aid for the patriots.

“My father used to say,” said Mr. Balmat, “that Bonaparte was one of the commonest and plainest men that he ever met, although he dressed in fine clothes. At one time he met Bonaparte in the woods after burning off a large tract of land. Balmat was black with the ashes. When the ex-King met him he immediately extended his hand and compelled his agent to shake hands. He then sat down on a blackened and charred log and talked, saying that he cared nothing about these clothes, as there were others.”

Mr. Balmat lives on a large farm and is much respected in his old age. He is an unassuming old gentleman and is gifted in his speech. He is rather proud of his physical powers at 84 years, but says that he is not so strong as his cousin, David Hewitt. David is 94.

Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, New York) Aug 19, 1906


GOUVERNEUR, March 1. — David H. Balmat, one of the early pioneers of St. Lawrence County, died yesterday at his house in Talcville, aged 85 years. Around his family hangs the romance of the time of the first Napoleon and of Joseph Bonaparte, who traversed this part of the state during the early part of the nineteenth century.

David H. Balmat was the son of John D. Balmat, born in Paris, France, in 1875 [? 1775] and of Nancy, daughter of Major Goodar, born near Utica. John D. Balmat died in Fowler in 1862 and Major Goodar, the father of his wife, came over from France with Lafayette and was wounded at the battle of Brandywine. To this couple was born the subject of this sketch in 1822.

When Joseph Bonaparte came to this country and sought asylum in the vicinity of the lake, which he afterwards called Lake Bonaparte, he  carried with him letters from the great Napoleon to John D. Balmat, and for a number of years Mr. Balmat was his constant companion and guide, and the son often spoke about his father telling of the grandeur of the surroundings of Bonaparte.

David H. Balmat was the owner of extensive farm lands which are undermined with extensive talc deposits, some of  which are considered the richest in the world, and which are operated by the Union Talc Company. His is survived by four children. The funeral will be held at the family home in Fowler to-morrow.

The Post Standard (Syracuse, New York) Mar 2, 1907

Robespierre’s “Paine”

May 8, 2012

Image from American Patriotism – Success in America

Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine was born 29th of January 1737, at Metford, in the county of Norfolk, England. He was trained to the business of a stay maker, and afterwards obtained a situation in the Customs and the management of a tobacco manufactory; but he fell into debt and was dismissed in 1774. He then came to America and took the side of the colonies against England. In 1776 he published “Common Sense,” which is a strong appeal for the freedom of the colonies. He was appointed by Congress secretary of the committee on Foreign affairs and visited France in 1787 where he made the acquaintance of Buffon, Malesherves and other leading men.

In 1791 he went to England and published his “Rights of Man,” which is a reply to Burke’s “Reflections on the French Revolution.” On his return to France he was elected in 1792 a deputy to the National Convention and acted with the Girondist party. He opposed the execution of Louis XVI and wanted that unhappy monarch exiled to America. This proposition gave offense to Robespierre, who caused Paine to be put in prison where he was detained fourteen months.

During his imprisonment he wrote his famous work “The Age of Reason.” He argues in favor of Deism but against Christianity. He was released from prison at the intercession of the United States Government, and restored to his seat in the Convention. Napoleon said that it was his intention when he conquered England to make Paine introduce a popular form of government there.

In 1802 Paine returned to the United States and devoted the remainder of his days to the study of finance. He died on the 8th of June, 1809.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Jan 28, 1886

Robespierre’s Passion – Literary Vanity

May 8, 2012

Image from – European History


His first and only passion was literary vanity. There never was the chief of a party, sect, or government who, when a crisis had arrived, was so incurably a rhetorician, and a rhetorician of the flattest, muddiest, and dullest kind. On the eve of the 9th Thermidor, when it was a question of conquest or annihilation, he brought to the tribune a prepared speech, which had been written over and over again. It had been polished and repolished; it was tawdry with false ornaments, glazed with academical varnish, heavily draped with the symmetrical antitheses, long-drawn out periods, exclamations, apostrophes, and all those other regulation trappings belonging to the business.

In one of the most celebrated and important of his reports I have counted 24 different figures of speech, imitations of Rousseau and other old writers of antiquity, some of them marvels of prolixity, addressed to the dead, to Brutus, to the young Bars, others to absent persons, to priests, to aristocrats, to the unhappy, to French women, others having for topics abstractions, as Liberty or Friendship. With a conviction which nothing could shake, and with supreme self-conceit, he believed himself to be an orator, because on all occasions he worked the old apparatus, and jerked it with the same old wires. Never is there to be found one single spontaneous accent in all this labored eloquence.

Here are all the worn-out receipts of an art long ago on the decline, references to Greek and Latin, Socrates and his hemlock, Brutus and his dagger, and a jumble of classical metaphors, as “the torch of discord,” “the ship of state,” and a mixing up of words with false attempts at style, exactly like those a shallow rhetorician would use when addressing the benches of his college. Occasionally Robespierre puts on an air of immense bravery, as befits a man who struts when on parade, but then again he pipes a feeble tune on a flute, because at that time it was supposed that he was overflowing with sweetness. — Tain’s Psychologie des Chefs Jacobins, in Revue des Deux Mondes.

The New York Times (New York, New York) Oct 5, 1884