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There has of late years crept so much confusion into the mind of the student as
well as of the general reader as to the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel with that
of the Gascon Royalist plotter known to history as the Baron de Batz, that the
time seems opportune for setting all doubts on that subject at rest.
The identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is in no way whatever connected with that of
the Baron de Batz, and even superficial reflection will soon bring the mind to the
conclusion that great fundamental differences existed in these two men, in their
personality, in their character, and, above all, in their aims.
According to one or two enthusiastic historians, the Baron de Batz was the chief
agent in a vast network of conspiracy, entirely supported by foreign money--both
English and Austrian--and which had for its object the overthrow of the
Republican Government and the restoration of the monarchy in France.
In order to attain this political goal, it is averred that he set himself the task of
pitting the members of the revolutionary Government one against the other, and
bringing hatred and dissensions amongst them, until the cry of "Traitor!"
resounded from one end of the Assembly of the Convention to the other, and the
Assembly itself became as one vast den of wild beasts wherein wolves and
hyenas devoured one another and, still unsatiated, licked their streaming jaws
hungering for more prey.
Those same enthusiastic historians, who have a firm belief in the so-called
"Foreign Conspiracy," ascribe every important event of the Great Revolution--be
that event the downfall of the Girondins, the escape of the Dauphin from the
Temple, or the death of Robespierre--to the intrigues of Baron de Batz. He it was,
so they say, who egged the Jacobins on against the Mountain, Robespierre
against Danton, Hebert against Robespierre. He it was who instigated the
massacres of September, the atrocities of Nantes, the horrors of Thermidor, the
sacrileges, the noyades: all with the view of causing every section of the National
Assembly to vie with the other in excesses and in cruelty, until the makers of the
Revolution, satiated with their own lust, turned on one another, and
Sardanapalus-like buried themselves and their orgies in the vast hecatomb of a
self-consumed anarchy.
Whether the power thus ascribed to Baron de Batz by his historians is real or
imaginary it is not the purpose of this preface to investigate. Its sole object is to
point out the difference between the career of this plotter and that of the Scarlet
The Baron de Batz himself was an adventurer without substance, save that
which he derived from abroad. He was one of those men who have nothing to
lose and everything to gain by throwing themselves headlong in the seething
cauldron of internal politics.
Though he made several attempts at rescuing King Louis first, and then the
Queen and Royal Family from prison and from death, he never succeeded, as
we know, in any of these undertakings, and he never once so much as attempted
the rescue of other equally innocent, if not quite so distinguished, victims of the