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had bought over against us all the police officers and all the chief judges?
Can good sense listen for a moment to such arguments? Would any one have dared to suggest such even in the days of our barbarism, when we had neither laws, nor manners, nor cultivated reason?
If I may credit the very circumstantial memorials of the general, the Perrons, when put in prison upon his accusation, at first persisted in the confession of their crime. They wrote two letters to the person whom they had made the depository of the bills extorted from the general; they were terrified at the contemplation of their guilt, which they saw might conduct them to the galleys or to the gibbet. They afterwards gain more firmness and confidence. The persons with whom they were to divide the fruit of their villany encourage and support them; and the attractions of the vast sum in their contemplation seduce, hurry, and urge them on to persevere in the original charge. They call into their assistance all the dark frauds and pettifogging chicanery to which they can gain access, to clear them from a crime which they had themselves actually admitted. They avail themselves with dexterity of the distresses to which the involved officer was occasionally reduced, to give a colour of probability to his attempting the reestablishment of his affairs by the robbery or theft of a hundred thousand crowns. They rouse the commiseration of the populace, who at Paris are easily stimulated and frenzied. They appeal successfully for compassion to the members of the bar, who make it a point of indispensible duty to employ their eloquence in their behalf, and to support the weak against the powerful, the people against the nobility. The clearest case becomes in time the most obscure. A simple cause, which the police magistrate would have terminated in four days, goes on increasing for more than a whole year by the mire and filth introduced into it through all the numberless channels of chicanery, interest, and party spirit. You will perceive that the
whole of this statement is a summary of memorials or documents that appeared in this celebrated cause.
Presumptions in Favour of the Perron Family.
We shall here consider the defence of the grandmother, the mother, and the grandson (the doctor of laws) against these strong presumptions.
1. The hundred thousand crowns (or very nearly that sum) which it is pretended the widow Perron never was possessed of, were formerly made over to her by her husband, in trust, together with the silver plate. This deposit was secretly' brought to her six months after her husband's death, by a man of the name of Chotard. She placed them out, and always 'secretly,' with a notary called Gilet, who restored them to her, still 'secretly,' in 1760. She had therefore, in fact, the hundred thousand crowns which her adversary pretends she never possessed.
2. She died in extreme old age, while the cause was going on, protesting, after receiving the sacrament, that these hundred thousand crowns were carried in gold to the general officer by her grandson, in twentysix journeys on foot, on the twenty-third of September in 1771.
3. It is not at all probable, that an officer accustomed to borrowing, and broken down in circumstances, should have given bills payable to order for the sum of three thousand livres, to a person unknown to him, unless he had actually received that sum.
4. There are witnesses who saw counted out and ranged in order the bags filled with this gold, and who saw the doctor of laws carry it to the general on foot, under his great coat, in twenty-six journeys, occupying the space of five hours. And he made these twenty-six astonishing journeys merely to satisfy the general, who had particularly requested secrecy.
5. The doctor of laws adds,-Our grandmother and ourselves lived, it is true, in a garret, and we lent a little money upon pledges; but we lived so merely upon a principle of judicious economy; the object was to buy
for me the office of a counsellor of parliament, at a time when the magistracy was purchasable. It is true that my three sisters gain their subsistence by needlework and embroidery; the reason of which was, that my grandmother kept all her property for me. It is true that I have kept company only with procuresses, coachmen, and lacqueys; I acknowledge that I speak and that I write in their style; but I might not on that account be less worthy of becoming a magistrate, by making, after all, a good use of my time."
6. All worthy persons have commiserated our misfortune. M. Auburg, a farmer-general, as respectable as any in Paris, has generously taken our side, and his voice has obtained for us that of the public.
This defence appears in some part of it plausible. Their adversary refutes it in the following manner:Arguments of the Major-General against those of the Perron Family.
1. The story of the deposit must be considered by every man of sense as equally false and ridiculous with that of the six and twenty journeys on foot. If the poor jobber, the husband of the old woman, had intended to give at his death so much money to his wife, he might have done it in a direct way from hand to hand, without the intervention of a third person.
If he had been possessed of the pretended silver plate, one half of it must have belonged to the wife, as equal owner of their united goods. She would not have remained quiet for the space of six months, in a paltry lodging of two hundred francs a year, without reclaiming her plate, and exerting her utmost efforts to obtain her right. Chotard also, the alleged friend of her husband and herself, would not have suffered her to remain for six long months in a state of such great indigence and anxiety.
There was, in reality, a person of the name of Chotard; but he was a man ruined by debts and debauchery, a fraudulent bankrupt who embezzled forty
* A pleasant satire upon the sale of offices.-T.
thousand crowns from the tax office of the farmersgeneral, in which he held a situation,* and who is not likely to have given up a hundred thousand crowns to the grandmother of the doctor in laws.
The widow Perron pretends, that she employed her money at interest, always it appears in secrecy, with a notary of the name of Gilet, but no trace of this fact can be found in the office of that notary.
She declares, that this notary returned her the money, still secretly, in the year 1760: he was at that time dead.
If all these facts be true, it must be admitted that the cause of du Jonquay and la Perron, built on a foundation of such ridiculous lies, must inevitably fall to the ground.
2. The will of la Perron, made half an hour before her death, when God and death were at the same instant on her lips, is, to all appearance, in itself a respectable and even pious document. But if it be really in the number of those pious things which are every day observed to be merely instrumental to crime-if this lender upon pledges, while recommending her soul to God, manifestly lied to God, what importance or weight can the document bring with it? Is it not rather the strongest proof of imposture and villainy?
The old woman had always been made to state, while the suit was carried on in her name, that she possessed only this sum of one hundred thousand crowns which it was intended to rob her of; that she never had more than that sum; and yet, behold! in her will she mentions five hundred thousand livres of her property! Here are two hundred thousand francs more than any one expected, and here is the widow Perron convicted out of her own mouth. Thus, in this singular cause, does the at once atrocious and ridiculous imposture of the family break out on every side, during the woman's life, and even when she is within the grasp of death.
This appears from the evidence of MM. de Mazieres and Dangé, two farmers-general.
3. It is probable, and it is even in evidence, that the general would not trust his bills for a hundred thousand crowns to a doctor of whom he knew little or nothing, without having an acknowledgment from him. He did however commit this inadvertence, which is the fault of an unsuspecting and noble heart; he was led astray by the youth, by the candour, by the apparent generosity of a man not more than twenty-seven years of age, who was on the point of being raised to the magistracy, who actually, upon an urgent occasion, lent him twelve hundred francs, and who promised in the course of a few days to obtain for him, from an opulent company, the sum of a hundred thousand crowns. Here is the knot and difficulty of the cause. We must strictly examine whether it be probable, that a man, who is admitted to have received nearly a hundred thousand crowns in gold, should on the very morning after come in great haste, as for a most indispensable occasion, to the man who the evening before had advanced him twelve thousand four hundred and twentyfive louis-d'or.
There is not the slightest probability of his doing so. It is still less probable, as we have already observed, that a man of distinction, a general officer, and the father of a family, in return for the invaluable and almost unprecedented kindness of lending him a hundred thousand crowns, should, instead of the sincerest gratitude to his benefactor, absolutely endeavour to get him hanged; and this on the part of a man who had nothing more to do than to await quietly the distant expirations of the periods of payment; who was under no temptation, in order to gain time, to commit such profligate and atrocious villainy, and who had never in fact committed any villainy at all. Surely it is more natural to think that the man, whose grandfather was a pettifogging, paltry jobber, and whose grandmother was a wretched lender of small sums upon the pledges of absolute misery, should have availed himself of the blind confidence of an unsuspecting soldier, to extort from him a hundred thousand crowns, and that he promised to divide this sum with